Tourism takes a local turn
With international flights still banned and travel bubble arrangements likely to be delayed, many local tour operators have reimagined tour experiences that they provide, with the local traveller in mind. They aim to offer new perspectives of places that locals might already know of.
There are also several tour operators who have always been offering exciting travel packages targeted at locals who wish to explore Thailand's great outdoors. Here are a few examples of tour operators who seek to bring locals to places, which might have been marketed mainly to tourists in the past, to see them with new eyes.
If you're starting to feel like the shape of your body is beginning to resemble your couch, join Expique on their free walking tours and explore the backstreets of Bangkok. All tours are led by professional guides. A few interesting tours include "The Rattanakosin Story", where the guide enthrals you with the history of Rattanakosin Island as you make your way through Bangkok's most famous landmarks, and "Where East Meets West", which tells the story of European settlements in Bangkok in the 19th century. Other than the free walking tours, Expique also offers "Almost Free", a three-hour journey (requiring a small payment for food and entrance fees at certain places) and "Sunday Scoots" tours where you pay B300 for an electric scooter and insurance.
(Photo © Expique)
Kluk Foon Tour
If being attached to a beach chair all day isn't your holiday scene, Kluk Foon Tour ("cover in dust") offers a range of action-packed activities for those who seek an adrenaline rush. Picture hiking up Khao Luang in Sukhothai, which sits 1,200m above sea level, abseiling down Tat Sakkara waterfall and whitewater rafting 120km in Kaeng Lam Nam Wa, Nan. To make it convenient for people who work regular office hours, most of their trips start on a Friday night. The group departs Bangkok by van and is back in the city on Sunday evening. Tours cost between B2,990-B3,990 per person and is full board, including transportation, activity fees, guides and accident insurance.
(Photos © Kluk Foon Tour)
Find a slice of village life in nearly untouched parts of Thailand with a community-based trip organiser, Local Alike. Run by a small group of young entrepreneurs, the business has the noble goal of providing a much-needed tourism boost and increased income to communities in the far-off countryside. There are a wide range of travel packages with destinations all over the country, as well as local homestays and volunteer trips that let you participate in community-focused activities, such as building bushfire barriers in the dry season. All tours are led by locals in the community, with 70% of the tour money going directly to villages. There are several fascinating tour options in Bangkok too, like the four-hour Midnight Food Tour by Tuk Tuk (B2,140 per person) and the Urban Walking tour that takes you through Bangkok's diverse cultural communities, from old Thai neighbourhoods to colourful Indian markets (B2,950 per guest).
(Photos © Local Alike)
Armed with the mission to create a positive shift in the travel industry, HiveSters is all about meaningful travel experiences. With a focus on sustainable tourism, the operator incorporates local artisans in its travel programmes to help communities gain an income and preserve disappearing cultures. The company offers a range of authentic experiences in local communities across Bangkok and in 13 provinces. They include learning traditional Thai dance from "grandma" in Nang Loeng, whipping up Thai tea at a 60-year-old shophouse café and exploring the 500-year-old canal community of Koh Sarn Chao. Price starts at B1,700 per person, which includes all activity fees in the programme, a local tour guide, transportation and travel insurance. Guests who might be inclined to be extra cautious, given the current pandemic, can arrange for a private tour. However, at least eight people are required to form a group.
(Photos © HiveSters)
Go E-scooter Tours Bangkok
Looking for an unusual way to explore Bangkok's old town? Sign up for this E-Scooter Tour led by a professional guide, who will take you on a four-hour journey starting from Bang Rak to the Taksin Bridge. Operated by Go E-scooter Tours Bangkok, the tour intends to support guides who have been affected by the pandemic, with part of the proceeds going to staff. It costs B490 per person and includes ferry and guide fees, snacks, beverages and insurance. Trips are available twice a day at 9am and 2pm.
(Photos © Go E-scooter Tours Bangkok)
If you are an adventure seeker and wish to experience the wide range of Thailand's terrain, join Konlongpa as they meander through lush Thai forests, as part of their trekking holiday packages. Translated as "man who is lost in the woods", Konlongpa is a casual tour operator that is made up of a small group of trekking enthusiasts. Their specialty lies in arranging trekking tours in Thailand all year round, at affordable prices. Whether you're up for a challenging backpacking trek or a short, scenic one, the tour organiser has plenty of options for you. Just keep yourself updated on new trip schedules that are posted regularly on Konlongpa's FB page. The price of a tour ranges roughly from B2,700-B4,200 per person and typically includes transportation, meals, guides and fees at trekking destinations.
(Photo © Konlongpa)
Bangkok-based adventure tour operator Smiling Albino goes far beyond organising tours for curious travellers who wish to experience Thai culture first-hand. The company aims to invest in local communities, by directing a portion of its revenue towards supporting local projects. Recently, it launched a brand-new travel series designed specifically for local Thais. They will get to cruise through Bangkok's maze-like canals on a longtail boat, explore lesser-known parts of Chinatown, learn the art of making dumplings from a centuries-old recipe and participate in a scavenger hunt in Bangkok's old town via tuk-tuk, accompanied by guide. So pick the activity that excites you the most or customise your own trip and begin your adventure. Price starts at B2,350 per person.
(Photo © Smiling Albino)
With local businesses severely affected by the absence of tourists, local travel operator Gojo Tours has started organising a once-a-month "Urban Secrets: Bangkok Community Tour" to do their part to support independent local businesses. The tour will allow you to get under the skin of the Charoen Krung neighbourhood, learn about its rich history, meet local people and experience their unique culture. You can expect plenty of delicious refuel stops along the way and discover hidden gems that will help you to see the city with new eyes. Price is B1,190 per person, with a guide, breakfast, lunch, boat fee and insurance included. Make sure you book early as spaces are limited to only 10 people.
(Photos © Gojo Tours)
Co Van Kessel Bangkok Tours
Touring the city by bike has two main benefits. It allows you to explore more areas than walking does as it is less tiring and you can also go through narrow alleys that cars or even tuk tuk would not fit into. This is precisely what Co Van Kessle Bangkok Tour offers on its city tours. Starting at B950, the tour fee pays for a guided tour of Bangkok highlights, a bicycle, a helmet, refreshments and a ferry ticket. The tour lasts about three hours. There are also more expensive packages available for longer tour times, like the nine-hour one that will have you cycle 25km on the outskirts of Bangkok (B2,300).
(Photos © Co Van Kessel Bangkok Tours)
Go Running Tours Bangkok
Love running but tired of the same old route near your house or even worse, the treadmill? Go Running Tours Bangkok might just have a solution for you. They organise 5km-21km runs in scenic areas of Bangkok. All the runs have themes. Examples include the 6km Bangkok Temple Night Run that will take participants through Grand Palace, Wat Pho and Temple of Dawn and the 8km Bangkok Street Art to Street Food Run during which runners will explore Bangkok's street art and finish off with local delicacies at Yaowarat street food market. Price starts roughly at B1,420 per person, including tour guide, pickup service and water supply. The tour operator has a "Run Local" campaign during July and August. Thai residents can use promo code RUNLOCAL to get 30% off.
(Photos © Go Running Tours Bangkok)