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Community-based Tourism (CBT) and Sufficiency Economy at Ban Rai Kong Khing

Community-based Tourism (CBT) benefits grass-roots communities by building links between visitors and locals and providing vital income for investment

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His Majesty the Late King Bhumibol Adulyadej will always be revered by the Thai people for his dedication to improving their lives.

But it is King Bhumibol’s theories on self-sufficiency that could have the most positive impact. He believed that the economy benefits from balance and moderation and that any long-term goals must take into account environmental balance.

Part of his philosophy was the idea that traditional knowledge and wisdom, built up in local communities over centuries, should be used to address modern problems, enhance sustainability and increase the happiness of the people.

The most famous activity at Ban Rai Kong Khing Community is a unique form of massage known as Yam Khang

To put into practice some of King Bhumibol’s ideas, communities around Thailand are pursuing sustainable ways of living and trying to preserve ancient farming practices, as well as traditional medicines, foods and handicrafts. Many of these communities welcome tourists, who get to enjoy a unique Thai experience while playing their own part in sustaining the kingdom’s culture.

Community-based Tourism (CBT) benefits grass-roots communities by building links between visitors and locals and providing vital income for investment. This means young people from the community feel less pressure to leave and work further afield, so traditional ways of living continue to be passed down through the generations.

A good example of community-based tourism is Ban Rai Kong Khing village in Chiang Mai, which in 2015 won the PATA Tourism InSPIRE Award as the best CBT tourism initiative.

The community is a collective enterprise with over 700 families working together and has adopted King Bhumibol’s ideas on sustainable development with the aim of improving the lives of the people in the surrounding areas.

Worried about the use of pesticides, in 2003, the village chief persuaded the farmers to grow organic vegetables for local consumption and neighbourhood exchange to improve the community’s health and well-being. They also started looking at ways to preserve the knowledge of the local people. Now they are inviting tourists in to learn about their lives.

Visitors to the Ban Rai Kong Khing Community are given a traditional welcome reception.

Tourists can get to know more about the village with a one-day or overnight tour. There’s a lot to see and do, with cycling tours around the community being popular. Many people come here to learn to cook local Thai dishes and to make handicrafts guided by community teachers. But the most fascinating tradition still carried out at the Ban Rai Kong Khing community, and one passed down from father to son, is a unique form of massage known as “Yam Khang.” This is exciting to watch being performed, as it is invigorating to experience for unlike most massages, carried out in scented rooms, accompanied by soothing music, “Yam Khang” takes place in the community courtyard and involves flaming hot coals and masseurs walking on your limbs with heated feet. It’s not an experience for the faint-hearted, but it leaves your body tingling and supple.

The Yam Khang massage involves flaming hot coals and masseurs walking on your limbs with their heated feet to soothe away tension

The Yam Khang massage starts with the masseur dipping his feet into a blend of healing herbs, sesame, rice whisky, and ginger infused oils before resting it (with an audible sizzle) on a red hot, curved plough blade (the khang) that hangs just above a stove of flaming coals.

Then, using a staff for balance, the masseur begins to walk across the client’s body, his toes expertly locating and soothing away blockages and tensions. Yam Khang takes years to master, and there are currently only a few practitioners around: an example of local expertise attracting tourists by offering an experience unique to the region.

Cooking classes are among popular activities at the Ban Rai Kong Khing Community

Once supple and stress free, visitors can tour the community’s gardens and see the enterprising ways that crops are grown and pests controlled without the use of fertilisers and pesticides. Produce includes basil, lemongrass, chillies and vegetables all of which are eaten by the community or used in herbal teas and soaps. This abundance of fresh ingredients means that cooking classes are popular at Ban Rai Kong Khing. Visitors can learn to make khai pam, an egg menu cooked in coconut leaves over a stove and khanom jok, a rice and coconut dessert.

Visitors can learn how to cook one of the favourite local dishes, Khai Pam, an egg treat cooked in banana leaves over a stove

If you don’t feel like undergoing the rigours of a massage, or slaving over a stove, there are plenty of enjoyable cycle rides around the local hills. The Royal Park Rajapruek with its botanical gardens is nearby and don’t miss out on the wooden temple of Wat Intharawat, one of the most charming Lanna style temples in Thailand.

Ban Rai Kong Khing does feel like a community, not a staged show for tourists. Everyone helps with different tasks from farming, working as guides, cooking and raising livestock: they know that by pulling together, so the community will thrive.

So if you’re around Chiang Mai and want to experience a Yam Khang massage or a traditional way of life, you should stop by. Communities; such as, Ban Rai Kong Khing will ensure Thailand remains a fascinating land of infinite variety for centuries to come.

For more information visit the banraikongking.com (Thai language) or the BanRaiKongKhing Facebook page

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Tourism

Can border reopening revive tourism in South-East Asia?

In Thailand, where pre-pandemic tourism accounted for 11-12% of GDP, the country lost an estimated $50bn last year as Covid-19 restrictions led to an 82% fall in arrival numbers.

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Ko Samed deserted pier

After 18 months of travel restrictions, a number of countries in South-east Asia have begun opening their borders to foreign visitors to stoke recovery in their respective tourism industries.

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Tourism

Thailand to lift quarantine for vaccinated visitors from low-risk countries from November

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Thailand to lift quarantine for vaccinated visitors from low-risk countries from November

Bangkok, 12 October, 2021

Thai Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha in a nationally televised broadcast last night announced that Thailand planned to allow fully vaccinated foreign visitors to enter Thailand by air with no quarantine requirements from 1 November.

In the initial phase, Thailand will allow fully vaccinated travellers from at least 10 low-risk countries, including China, Germany, Singapore, the UK and USA. The list will be expanded from 1 December, and further enhanced to a very extensive list from 1 January.

Under the plan, fully vaccinated foreign visitors from the approved countries will need to show that they are COVID-free at their time of travel with an RT-PCR test undertaken before they leave their home country, and do a test in Thailand, after which they will be free to move around Thailand in the same way that any Thai citizen can do, the Prime Minister said.

Visitors from countries not on the list, will, of course, still be much welcomed, but with quarantine and other requirements.

In addition, the Prime Minister said consumption of alcoholic beverages in restaurants as well as the operation of entertainment venues under appropriate health precautions would be allowed from 1 December.

Below is the full speech by the Prime Minister.

National Address of the Prime Minister of Thailand

“THAILAND WILL WELCOME QUARANTINE-FREE VISITORS”

Monday 11 October, 2021

My fellow citizens, brothers and sisters:

In the last one-and-half years, we have lived with some of the greatest peacetime challenges our country has ever faced in its history, brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, and one that has left nobody untouched and no country in the world undamaged.

It has been one of the most painful experiences in my life, too: to make decisions that balance the saving of lives with the saving of livelihoods – a choice that is not always clearly separate, and where we may save lives, but commit those lives to the unbearable pain of trying to survive with little or no income; or where we may save livelihoods but commit one’s family, friends and neighbours to loss of life and the loss of their breadwinner.

In facing this terrible choice, it was my decision that we could not allow a slow, wait-and-see approach to confronting the pandemic and let it claim the lives of so many of our countrymen and women, as we, ultimately, saw happen in so many other countries.

As a result, I acted decisively on the advice of many of our outstanding public health experts to make our country one of the first in the world to move quickly with lockdowns and tight regulations.

With the collaboration of all sectors of society, and with everyone joining hands to face this crisis together, we have been among the most successful countries in the world in saving lives. 

But it has come at very great sacrifices of lost livelihoods, lost savings, and destroyed businesses – what we have all given up so that our mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, children, friends and neighbours may live for today.

The threat of a large scale, lethal spread of the virus in Thailand is now diminishing, even though the risk of resurgence is always there, and even though there are still serious constraints on our hospital and medical staff capacities. 

The time has come for us to ready ourselves to face the coronavirus and live with it as with other endemic infections and diseases, much as we have learnt to live with other diseases with treatments and vaccinations.

Today, I would like to announce the first small but important step in decisively beginning the process of trying to restore our livelihoods.

During the last weeks some of Thailand’s most important tourist source countries have begun to ease their travel restrictions on their citizens – countries like the UK, that now allow convenient travel to our country, as well as countries like Singapore and Australia that have started to ease travel restrictions on their citizens visiting other countries.

With these developments, we must act quickly but still cautiously, and not miss the opportunity to entice some of the year-end and New Year holiday season travellers during the next few months to support the many millions of people who earn a living from our tourism, travel and entertainment sectors as well as the many other related sectors.

I have, therefore, instructed the CCSA and the Ministry of Public Health to urgently consider within this week to allow, as of 1 November, international visitors to enter Thailand without any requirement for quarantine if they are fully vaccinated and arrive by air from low-risk countries.

All that visitors will need do is to show that they are COVID-free at their time of travel with an RT-PCR test undertaken before they leave their home country, and do a test in Thailand, after which they will be free to move around Thailand in the same way that any Thai citizen can do.

Initially, we will begin with at least 10 countries on our low-risk, no-quarantine list, including the United Kingdom, Singapore, Germany, China, and the United States of America, and enlarge that list by 1 December, and, by 1 January move to a very extensive list.

Visitors from countries not on the list, will, of course, still be much welcomed, but with quarantine and other requirements.

By 1 December, we will also consider allowing the consumption of alcoholic beverages in restaurants as well as the operation of entertainment venues under appropriate health precautions to support the revitalisation of the tourism and leisure sectors, especially as we approach the New Year period.

I know this decision comes with some risk.  It is almost certain that we will see a temporary rise in serious cases as we relax these restrictions.  We will have to track the situation very carefully, and see how to contain and live with that situation because I do not think that the many millions who depend on the income generated by the travel, leisure, and entertainment sector can possibly afford the devastating blow of a second lost new year holiday period. 

But if, in the months ahead, we see an unexpected emergence of a highly dangerous new variant of the virus, then, of course, we must also act accordingly and proportionately when we see the threat.  We know that this virus has surprised the world several times, and we must be ready for it to do so again. 

In mid-June of this year, I had set a 120-day goal for quarantine-free entry into Thailand and to accelerate our vaccinations.

I would like to take this opportunity to recognise the extraordinary achievements of our public health workers, other officials and all citizens for their response to my appeal in June.

After we adopted the 120-day goal, extraordinary efforts were made to increase our supply of vaccines and compete with many other countries to get deliveries.  And they were very successful.  Our vaccine deliveries jumped threefold, from around 4 million doses in May to almost 12 million in July… then to almost 14 million in August, and will now run at over 20 million a month until the end of the year, totalling over 170 million doses, far ahead of the goals I had set.

Similarly, our public health staff worked tirelessly to accelerate vaccinations to support our 120-day goal, and the public gave great cooperation to register for vaccinations despite the inconveniences that may have been caused in scheduling.  As a result, our daily vaccinations, which were running at around 80,000 doses a day in May, shot up immediately.  One month after our goal-setting, our public health team tripled the number of shots being administering a day, and they kept increasing that number until Thailand rose to be among the fastest ten countries in the world for administering shots!  Currently, they have frequently been administering more than 700,000 shots a day, and sometimes even exceeding one million shots a day.

Shortly after my address to the nation in mid-June setting our goal for quarantine-free entry into Thailand in 120 days, the world was struck by the highly infectious Delta variant.  Worldwide cases spiked up and peaked in August, just as they did in Thailand, and few thought that it would be possible to achieve any quarantine-free entry into Thailand this year.

The fact that we can begin quarantine-free entry in November, and despite many countries still trying to contain Delta variant infections with restrictions on the travel of their citizens is a great tribute to the unity of purpose and determined response to my appeal by the public health services, by many other government departments, by the private sector, and by the cooperation given by citizens in all matters.

Our nation has performed an extraordinary feat in the last months that we can all be very proud about everyone’s enormous contributions to those achievements.  These achievements, coupled with the gradual relaxation of other countries’ travel restrictions, now enables us to begin the process of quarantine-free entry into Thailand.

Thank you.

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