Community-based tourism offerings in Thailand
Published on : Wednesday, October 25, 2017
The Akha Swing, named after the Akha hill tribe that calls Doi Pha Mee home, is much more than simply a thrill-seeking instrument. It forms the basis of one of Thailand’s most interesting cultural rituals – the Akha Swing Festival.
This festival happening in August brings together the community in celebration of the harvest season. It is also a time for women in the tribe to look for prospective husbands.
“Men show off how strong they are by swinging as hard as they can. The higher the men swing, the better they are as husbands,” says guide Ms. Patomporn. During the festival, Akha women are decked in elaborate ornaments and colourful indigenous clothes that they themselves stitch and prepare.
The community tourism initiative in Doi Pha Mee, which took off in October last year, is something that the villagers are excited to participate in. Tourist arrivals allow the village to shake off the mistaken belief that comes with the proximity to its border with Myanmar. Here guests are greeted by bright smiles and a genuine attempt by the villagers to make them feel at home.
But if there is one thing the folks of Doi Pha Mee love to share more than their way of life, it would be the story of the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s visit to the village in January 1970. The king died in October 2016, and Thailand is currently observing a one-year mourning period.
Community leader Chanyuth Rungtaweepittayakul recounts how the village used to be a hub for opium cultivation in the late 1960s. “All that changed when the king visited and brought with him lychee and coffee to grow,” says the man who is referred to as por luang (village head) by the villagers. He adds that many residents wanted to flee from the village back then because it was not considered as safe due to its proximity to the border. But the monarch managed to convince the villagers to stay and to start planting coffee.
“We have been growing coffee here for almost 50 years now,” the village head says proudly. Today, that legacy stands tall in the form of a two-storey coffee house made of natural materials such as bamboo and attap leaves. Visitors will find an array of beverages: espresso, latte, cappuccino, mocha and the home-grown brew – Doi Pha Mee coffee.
Another commendable community-based tourism initiative in Thailand is in Krabi province. Located about five minutes by boat from the tourist-packed Krabi town, Koh Klang is an idyllic fishing village.
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