Arriving at the Karen hill-tribe village of Ban Muang Pam in picturesque Mae Hong Son province, I’m welcomed by local guide, Khun Ball. The amiable Thai man believes passionately in the power of Community Based Tourism (CBT) and he offers this advice: “Arrive with an empty cup; let the community fill up your cup”. It’s the perfect advice for anybody visiting any of the numerous CBT projects in Thailand. Travel with an open mind and open heart and you will be enriched by your experiences with the local community.
The Power of Community Based Tourism
Community Based Tourism (CBT) initiatives in Thailand are owned and managed by the community, for the community. At the core of all CBT projects is the need for cultural, environmental and social sustainability.
Visit Ban Muang Pam, Mae Hong Son
At Ban Muang Pam, you are welcomed as a guest and able to observe daily life in the village without intruding. You can join in with the artisans as they weave textiles and make bamboo baskets. These are traditional skills that have been handed down from generation to generation and it is this local wisdom that CBT initiatives help to preserve.
The influences of the modern world and the limited number of employment opportunities in remote villages puts pressure on the traditional way of life. Some younger people seek to move away from the village in search of work, but successful CBT initiatives in rural communities prove that there is a viable alternative. The various Community Based Tourism projects in northern Thailand bring revenue to rural communities which in turn helps to keep families together and encourages local pride.
On a visit to Ban Muang Pam, you will be accompanied by local guides who will take you on hikes over hills and through rice paddies to discover the natural beauty of Mae Hong Son. And at the end of a tiring, but rewarding day in the hills, you will be treated to a home-cooked meal eaten together with your host family. Don’t worry about language barriers. Families in the village may only speak a few words of English, but smiles and laughter are an international language.
Ban Muang Pam is an authentic hill-tribe village so don’t expect city luxuries or special concessions for tourists. But that is all part of what makes a visit to Ban Muang Pam so special. This is a genuinely local experience. Although the outdoor shower may be cold, you will be receiving the warmest of welcomes from your homestay hosts. If you visit any Community Based Tourism project in Thailand the words of wisdom from local guide, Khun Ball, are all you need to know: “Arrive with an empty cup; let the community fill up your cup”.