Ecoclub Member Blogs
Responsible Tourism in NE Thailand: Having Fun & Making Friends
Whilst mass tourism to Thailand is one of the mainstays of the Kingdom's economy, individuals and small groups who are keen to promote responsible, sustainable tourism in the country are starting to offer experiences to the increasing number of visitors who want their holiday to make a difference.
At Gecko Villa a fully catered private pool villa set on working rice paddies in Udon Thani province, a warm welcome is extended to visitors who wish to get off the beaten track and immerse themselves in a resolutely authentic region of Thailand. Here, a natural symbiosis exists, whereby:
- Guests enjoy unusual, fun & experiential holidays, and direct interaction with the locals, and
- The local community benefits directly via the creation of sustainable local employment, funding to protect its eco-systems, and the preservation and promotion of its culture.
Making Responsible Tourism Fun
The small scale of Gecko Villa ensures that all holidays at this vacation rental will always be imbued with the personal touch. Whilst some guests may wish to simply relax by the private pool, whilst enjoying a traditional Thai massage as they look forward to the Thai dinner that will be prepared for them by the villa's team, others will want to get out and about, immersing themselves in the local ways of Thai village life. Depending on the season, possible activities at or around the villa include:
- Visiting local wet markets with villa staff before Thai cooking demonstrations at the property, using fresh ingredients both from the markets and the villa's own organic gardens
- Boat trips on the stunning and dramatic Pink Lotus Sea
- A visit to the UNESCO World Heritage site at Ban Chiang and to its arts and crafts stalls that offer unique pottery
- Attending a local village school to bring English lessons to life
- Giving alms to the monks on their morning rounds or spending time in the nearby forest temple
- Participating in rice planting or harvesting - and trying to outdo the Thais as they smile and laugh through what can be backbreaking work to the uninitiated
- Helping with reforestation work - Visiting a village home to witness local living conditions first hand
- Visiting unusual sights such as the market town of Kumphawapee where wild monkeys seem more numerous than townsfolk; impromptu markets where one can snack on grasshoppers and water beetles; enjoying village festivals where the lilting tones of Isan Morlam predominate; visiting a village where almost each household breeds King Cobra snakes...and much more.
In turn, proceeds from holidays at the villa have helped to fund the education of children, medical care for villagers and donations to village schools, whilst creating local employment - and thereby playing a role in reducing economic migration to the capital. So, to all our past and future guests, a very big thank you!
Eco Initiatives at the Villa
The property itself was designed to incorporate certain traditional aspects that minimize its environmental impact, whilst other initiatives have been financed and made possible purely as a result of guest stays. Just some of the issues that the villa supports are:
- Rainwater harvesting
- Moves against deforestation, and deliberate reforestation
- The promotion of organic farming and local suppliers
- Waste management programmes
- Natural saltwater chlorination in the swimming pool
- Power saving appliances
Bringing Thai hospitality to your villa holiday
A world away from a hotel stay, holidays at Gecko Villa are much more personal than a traditional holiday rental let, and are tailored to the specific interest of visitors. Stays at the villa include:
- Transfers to and from Udon Thani airport or train station
- Local assistance from Thai families living in nearby villages
- Daily maid and laundry services
- Daily breakfast, lunch and dinner that highlight Thai cuisine from across the kingdom, as well as indigenous dishes, cooked either in the zingy Isan style or moderated for those more susceptible to fiery chillis
- Local visits
How the Internet Brought People Together
Ultimately, it was the growth of internet penetration that made such a model possible, allowing potential guests to discover and book a holiday directly from the local Thai families that operate the villa, without the need to pass via travel agents or tour operators who, by their very nature, tend to deal only in "products" that may be sold in volume. From the first inquiry via this Thai villa's website, to collection upon arrival in Udon Thani, and through to their departure, guests interact directly with the same players at the property, ensuring a direct and personal relationship throughout. As such, the world wide web has shown its power to connect people from across the globe, becoming, arguably, the most powerful ally of those interested in sustainable travel and small scale eco initiatives. Technology, ironically, has shown its ability to be not cold and clinical but warm and personal.
A Virtual Visit for Holidaymakers
We invite you to visit our website (http://www.geckovilla.com) for a virtual visit to the villa and our surroundings. We look forward to hearing from anyone keen to experience Gecko Villa, or from trade professionals who may be interested in offering their clients a unique and unusual opportunity to discover the property itself and the team behind the villa.