Just a year ago, the locals got together to organize their first community-operated activity – canoeing. This success inspired the locals to open their homes to visitors for half-day Khao Sok village visits and overnight home-stays.

Community-based efforts are a collective inspiration to organize activities and welcome local participation. It provides job-opportunities for the locals and the profit, rather than benefiting one, is invested in the well-being of the community. Community-based systems can support their own local conservation efforts or invest in local education.

In full support of community-based efforts, we departed with a local taxi at noon to meet our hostfamily. Our group consisted of me and my sister, our mother and niece – a three-generation travel group. In town, we were welcomed by the community coordinators P’Lek and P’Noi, who drove us to our homestay family.

My five-year-old niece Anik showed a big smile on her face when we arrived at our temporary home – they sold icecream in from of the house. The joy continued when we found out they had two lovely kids around the age of Anik. We had a warm welcome and exchanged names, whereby Anik was given her Thai nickname "Nikki" – or better "Nikkiiiiiiii". The kids bonded immediately over a bowl of ice-cream while we adults started preparing lunch.

The following days were full of lovely encounters with the family, friends and neighbors and in the astonishing environment. The afternoon of the first stay we walked through the autumn-like rubber-plantations to the river. We learned the words for fish "bpla", water "naam" and had good laughs while climbing upstream over bamboo "maipbai" fences. We cooked food together and were invited by another family to make local sweets with fresh coconut milk.

Much of the Khao Sok village visit was spent in language exchange or communication attempts. Nikki brought her Thai-learning book and started learning the Thai alphabet while her teachers asked her for the translation into her language. We shared the mutual joy of communicating with hands and grimaces.

On the morning of the second day, we found out that our family sold the best breakfast-bread in town. Although the recipe was kept a family secret, I was offered to try cutting the paste and frying it in the pan. Huuu, I really thought it was as easy as it looked. Luckily, the villagers knew about us as being the first home-stay guests in town and they joyfully bought my half-good looking bread.

The mornings start early, 6:30am is the perfect time to enjoy coffee as the day begins. At lunch it was too hot to spend time under the sun. The afternoon of the second day we went with our family, P’Lek and P’Noi, two canoes and two inner-tubes down the river. We had a fantastic time together and when we departed the next day, we said good bye to friends. At the end of our Thailand trip, as Nikki recalled the friends she made in Thailand, 6 out of 10 were Sapan Tao citizen and included the kids, Fa and View, the parents P’Fern and P’Sit, and community coordinator P’Lek and P’Noi.

Bodhi Garret
Bodhi Garret Bodhi and his family have made Thailand and Khao Sok National Park their home for more than a decade.