Khao Sok National Park exudes a sort of uncommon beauty that attracts travelers year-round from all over the planet. With massive karsts and serene rivers, unspoiled rain forest and the unique wildlife within, Khao Sok provides unforgettable outdoor experiences in hiking, canoeing, and camping while still offering a space to slow down, relax, and breathe. After all, that is why you are staying at Our Jungle House - to have fun, to connect with nature, and to do so in a responsible way that ensures this land's survival in the future.
As amazing as Khao Sok is, there is more to the story. Though the National Park status protects these forests from the expansion of palm oil and rubber plantations, there are nine other villages in the surrounding area that are experiencing little help. While Khao Sok has seen an explosion of tourist lodging, these other villages have yet to benefit from this flow of eco-dollars.
By participating in the Community-Based Tourism (CBT) Khao Sok homestay program, you have the opportunity to make a real difference while learning from a unique cultural experience.
What You Will See and Do:
On a typical Khao Sok homestay, you will have the chance to connect with your host family through a variety of activities. First and foremost, your cultural connection starts where most good conversations begin: with food. During your stay, your meals with the family are an essential (and delicious!) way for you to learn about Thai customs and language while gaining an understanding about topics ranging from family to the rapid changes in rural life that these villages have experienced in recent years. You will smile and laugh together as you share and compare worldviews and traditions. The conversations while you sit and eat will be ones that you remember for years to come.
Beyond your meals with your hosts you can: go on a hike to a bat cave, have a one-on-one cooking class where you can learn to make Thai dishes (curries, mango sticky rice, steamed rice desserts wrapped in banana leaves, green papaya salad, banana crisps, and other main courses and side dishes), swim in the river, collect food from the forest to cook later, go on a night safari, learn how to make a Thai-style broom that you can keep, learn how to tap rubber, drink local whisky, eat local honey, hike to a fish temple where you can feed the fish and see carved Buddha statues in a cave, canoe on the river between epic karsts, practice your Thai while they practice their English using our handy language booklets, play with the pets and children, and even go frog hunting.
And did we mention food?
Why CBT Matters:
By participating in a Khao Sok homestay, you are making a positive economic and ecological difference for the villages surrounding Khao Sok. When you stay with a host family, you are enabling a new source of income that encourages all the benefits of eco-tourism: protection of forested areas, protection of wildlife, and the proliferation of biodiversity on their land. When the benefits of tourism reach communities like these, we are slowing deforestation to palm oil and rubber by providing an economic option that adds value to the forest. Instead of cutting it down, the villagers will be able to benefit even more by guiding you through its trails.
Community-Based Tourism also is an organic way to grow the economic potential of these villages. Khao Sok Homestay families want to host you, and they will be doing so in their own homes. Instead of being developed by tourism, the communities can expand their economic potential with tourism on their own terms. Moreover, by expanding the program, more and more homes will see the opportunity and join in on the experience. That is, CBT has nowhere to go but up!
How to Prepare for Your Khao Sok Homestay Experience So you have decided to join a host family for a homestay. Great! Here are some things to keep in mind to make this the best experience possible...
Privacy may not be what you are used to in a hotel or your own home. In a homestay, you should expect to spend most of your time with your host family. Aside from napping or sleeping, you will likely be around somebody from the family the rest of the time. You should expect to eat together and hang out together in between meals and activities. Remember, this is not a hotel - you are in someone's home who wants to learn about you!
Eat up! The meals will be large and communal, so don't be shy! Nothing will make your host mother happier than your full belly. Don't be afraid to make requests about your preferences on spicy food, meat, seafood, et cetera, but remember to do so before they start preparing the food. It is best not to leave food you have taken uneaten, so try taking smaller portions at a time so you can clear your plate.
Be grateful and go with the flow! You might not have the comfiest mattress or the fluffiest pillow, but you are here to experience their home and should be thankful for their hospitality - there is certainly no shortage of that! Just relax, have fun, and, as your host mother will tell you, make yourself at home. This is your home away from home, after all!
Learning a little Thai will go a long way and will be much appreciated by your host family. Consult your handbook for many useful words and phrases!
Be mindful of Thai customs:
Try not to show the bottoms of your feet when you are sitting - instead sit cross-legged or Thai-style (feet tucked under and slightly to the side). It is best not to point with your feet, too, as this is seen as disrespectful.
When passing between others or in front of someone, try to bend forward a little as you pass.
Try to avoid using your left hand when picking up food or handing something to someone else.
Take off your shoes before you enter the home.
You should dress conservatively - covering to the knee (including while swimming!) is normal here. Women should not wear bikinis.
And don't forget to smile :)