Tuesday 28 May 2013

"Voluntourism" in Chiang Rai, Thailand

What is "Voluntourism"?
"Voluntourism" is an emerging trend in the tourism industry, and it has been growing in recent years. Visitors who go for voluntourism want to explore a slice of tourism beyond the traditional, cliche means of leisure and entertainment - they want to give a part of themselves back to the host community/country. It is a type of tourism that allows total involvement and to make an sustainable impact on the lives of the local people, culture, traditions and environment.

Community Development for Hill Tribes and Children
Helping the hill tribes in Chiang Rai, Thailand is a golden opportunity for voluntourists to lend a hand. Hands-on work such as working with nature, agriculture, construction, and teaching children can help improve the lives of the Akha minority tribe, especially among younger children.

This Volunteer Project and activities are part of a joint effort between ISV Foundation Thailand and the Mae Kok Foundation. The ultimate goal is to improve the life of underprivileged children by providing housing, food, education and other vocational training to them.

The training activities which the volunteers will perform with them include improving agricultural knowledge and working skills in the areas of vegetable gardening, welding, building and embroidery, as a way to provide the children with better opportunities for their future independence and livelihood.

Volunteers will be involved in teaching English and running an English camp for a variety of children with different levels of English knowledge. Volunteer teams will spend time preparing lessons and teaching English-speaking and listening skills to primary school aged children using informal approaches, such as activities and games.

Additional daily activities will include: manual labor around the foundation, assisting with preparation and cleanup before and after meals, and attending vocational and artistic workshops, such as embroidery, as a way to enhance life experience at Mae Kok Foundation.

As usual, there are many exciting, rewarding, and educational leisure activities available to the volunteers during their time off including: Visiting the children’s families at a local Akha village; exploring local hot springs and waterfalls; and walking through local tea plantations where some of the children’s families work.

Please go to www.thelittlebigprojectthailand.com to learn more about this very special project and other voluntourism projects supported by the TAT.

Article written by Tourism Authority of Thailand. Pictures by Tourism Authority of Thailand. Credits to Tourism Authority of Thailand.

Monday 13 May 2013

Malaysia Homestay Programme – Life in the Country

If you want a break away from the hustle and bustle of city life, don't head for the beach immediately. There are many other choices besides sun, sand and sea vacations. To see how locals truly live, you need to know and appreciate their culture and heritage.

By participating in the Malaysia Homestay Programme, visitors will take part in activities such like plucking tropical fruits in an orchard and learn to play a traditional musical instrument or the steps to a cultural dance.Other interesting pursuits include harvesting local crops, visiting a fish farm, and indulging in traditional pastimes such as kite-flying and top spinning. The locals might stage a mock-wedding that showcases the local customs and rituals especially for visitors.

The Malaysia Homestay Programme which won the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) 2012 Ulysses Award for Innovation in Public Policy and Governance enables tourists to experience kampung village lifestyle, culture, agriculture and cuisine. This programme is a good opportunity for children to find out a side of life that they do not get to experience - waking up to the call of birds early in the morning and playing traditional games like top-spinning - things that are different from the city life that they are used to.

Tourists will live with a local family throughout their stay in the programme. There are homestays available in every state of the country.

The Banghuris, Sungai Sireh and Sungai Haji Dorani homestays for instance, are situated only an hour’s drive from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia’s capital city.

Visitors to Kampung Pelegong in Negeri Sembilan can savour tropical fruits freshly plucked from the orchard, while a stay at Kampung Seri Tanjung, Melaka, enables visitors to make a trip to the many Dutch and Portuguese historical landmarks there.

For a taste of island life, visitors can head to the Desa Wang Tok Rendong and Pulau Tuba homestays in Langkawi. Cottage industries such as batik-painting and songket-weaving are commonly found at homestays in the east coast states of Kelantan and Terengganu.

Experience genuine Malaysian warmth and let the homespun hospitality work its charm!

Article from Tourism Malaysia. 2012. For more information about this article, click HERE. All credits to Tourism Malaysia.

Wednesday 8 May 2013

Spring in Thailand Means Loads of Summertime Fun

In fun-loving Thailand, even the seasons are vulnerable to a little bit of sanook.  While most people consider April as the showery middle of springtime, here in the Land of Smiles it’s called summer.  School’s out, the heat cranks up, and so do the opportunities to enjoy a happy vacation.

Any account of the Siamese summer would be lacking if it didn’t mention Songkran, the Thai New Year festival marking the traditional calendar’s “astrological passage”, which is celebrated by dousing with water anyone within splashing range.  Observed nationwide during the hottest part of the year, the holiday is famous for people wandering the streets carrying containers of water or water guns like dripping-wet soldiers, or simply settling themselves down at the sides of roads and intersections with buckets and garden hoses, soaking each other and passersby with glee.

If wet and wild is your idea of a good time, then this time of year is perfect for visiting any of Thailand’s seemingly endless selection of beautiful beaches.  Phuket is the world-renowned resort destination where holiday-goers can relax amid picturesque white sand beauty, head out on the crystal clear Andaman Sea for a snorkel or scuba trip, and enjoy a seemingly limitless array of great food and nightlife.  The best thing about the early summer months in the islands, April and May, is that it’s the “low season” for visitors from many Western countries.  Hotels and restaurants run promotions and things tend to be a bit cheaper and less crowded.  But shhhhhhh, that’s between you and me.

For an even more laid-back beach experience in low season, head to another Andaman island, Ko Lanta. The reduced number of travellers visiting there in summer means they are rewarded with long stretches of beach to themselves and the serenity of an uncrowded island paradise, and while the island 'slows down' around the end of April each year because of the oncoming green season, it is possible to enjoy weeks at a time with little or no rain.  Roughly 80% of the population there practices Islam, and fishing and chilling on the beach are a way of life.  Due to this Muslim influence, the local cuisine is based firmly in Malay and Indian traditions.  Local favourites include southern-style dishes like Muslim curry (massaman), rice noodles in fish curry sauce (khanom chin), and chicken birayani (chicken on yellow curried rice).   A distinctive Southern dialect of Thai is spoken there, and the Old Lanta Town is rich in history, local customs, and traditional festivals. 

A popular summertime activity in Thailand is the Chiang Mai Night Safari, one of only a handful of nature parks of its kind, and a unique sight for people of all ages.  Many travellers familiar with this type of theme park consider Chiang Mai’s the most beautiful Night Safari in the world, plus, in summer, any nighttime excursion offers a welcome respite from the daytime weather.  The Night Safari is basically an aesthetically pleasing zoo set out like a theme park, with the animal viewing separated into three main areas:  the Jaguar Trail, featuring a 1.2km walking trail which provides glimpses of a wide variety of exotic mammals and birds; the Savanna Safari and its 300+ animals covering everything from white rhinos to kangaroos; and the Predator Prowl, where the big hunters roam.

For those looking for big-city action, you can beat the heat by sampling Bangkok's superlative selection of A/C-chilled shopping malls.  All the leading international brands are available in places like Siam Paragon and Gaysorn Plaza, which emphasize fashionable luxury living and host a wide selection of registered dealers of top names like Gucci, Louis Vuitton and Tiffany, among others.  In nearby Ratchaprasong, the Central World and Central Chitlom malls provide an oasis with the former hosting nearly 500 shops which are highly popular among affluent Thais and expats.

The other main downtown shopping destination is the Sukhumvit area, with Terminal 21 and Emporium, both also easily accessed by Bangkok’s convenient Sky Train system.  Terminal 21, a “Market Street” theme with an international flair, is a 9-floor complex with each level named for an international destination like Rome, Tokyo or Istanbul.

So, for anyone interested in a world-famous festival, beautiful uncrowded beaches, outdoor wildlife, and a shopping paradise, summer in Thailand might be the thing to do this spring!

Article written by Tourism Authority of Thailand. Pictures by Tourism Authority of Thailand. Credits to Tourism Authority of Thailand.