Tuesday, 3 June 2008

Homestay Experience in Thailand?

So you’re interested in a homestay experience with a rural hilltribe community in northern Thailand? Sounds Great! Just remember, don’t be expecting luxury or hotel type accommodations. Be prepared for rather basic accommodations without too much amenities. Most likely your shower will be very rudimentary and consist of a bucket of cool water that you empty on yourself, and your toilet will be the traditional Thai squat toilet, which is low to the ground and does not flush by itself; you’ll have to pour a bucket or two of water to induce the toilet to flush. Don’t worry; if you have chosen the right homestay, you’ll get a very rustic but clean room with a functional bed. Don’t be anticipating gourmet restaurant style food, however meals should be very tasty and healthfully prepared. The ladies in the village who prepare your meals will most likely be very experienced cooks and well versed in their own culinary traditions. If you’re a vegetarian, they should be able to accommodate you.

Just a tip - if you’re staying with a hilltribe community - i.e. Akha, Hmong, Lisu, Lahu, Karen or Mien, it wouldn’t hurt to do some research in advance on their culture and history.

While I have no personal experience with homestays in Thailand per se, I had the opportunity to do a site inspection of a relatively new homestay in the mountains, about an hour drive from Chiang Mai, the tourist hub of Northern Thailand . Rooms were simple and small as expected but very clean and had a small outdoor verandah with chairs in addition to a small area inside the room to lay your personal belongings.

The villagers grow both tea and coffee in the immediate vicinity and many people in the community were engaged in farming and other agricultural pursuits. While perusing the merchandise in their community’s gift shop, I bought a special neck collar-pillow stuffed with aromatic green tea. For some strange reason, I thought that US Customs might tear it apart looking for marijuana but they didn’t even bat an eye.

Bus Goldberg is a seasoned world traveler and the director of Calypso Island Tours, a travel company that specializes in botanical adventures and nature tours to such diverse destinations as Costa Rica, Thailand and the Caribbean. He also maintains his own travel blog, Calypso Island Chronicles

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