I eagerly arrived in Thailand’s capital, Bangkok, on a Thai AirAsia flight one late Friday evening in December. As soon as I stepped foot on the tarmac the muggy, humid air drifted over me as if I’d opened the door to an oven. I wasn’t fazed though, my heart smiled knowing I was back in the land of pad thai’s and sawadee ka’s.
I was here in Bangkok to participate in some community-based tourism with one of my favourite Thai enterprises TakeMeTour, an ethical and sustainable travel platform dedicated to helping local members of the community share their love for Thailand with travellers from all over the world. The platform offers a number of unique experiences in regions spanning across Thailand providing income generation, through tourism, to local Thai hosts.
The tour I was to participate in was a day trip to Suphan Buri, where I would learn to paint Thai porcelain ceramics, visit a marvellous countryside temple and indulge in a local Thai vegan lunch. Seeing as this was my fourth time in Bangkok I was keen to get outside of the city and spend my tourist dollars in the surrounding suburbs and community. After all, community-based tourism is about diversifying your knowledge of local culture, traditions and people, and what better place to do this than outside of the big city and into the local countryside.
Stay in a sustainable eco-hostel
We were up bright and early for a 7:30 AM pick-up to avoid the traffic out of Bangkok. Nui picked me and fellow responsible travel blogger Lola Mendez up from The Yard Hostel, located in the contemporary, hipster area of Ari. Lola and I chose to stay at The Yard Hostel due to their commitment to sustainability. The hostel is made of old shipping containers with interior furnishings using repurposed and upcycled materials. This quirky, earthy hostel was voted one of the top 3 hostels in Asia – and personally, it is one of my favourites. They offer water refill to avoid the use of plastic, and the bathrooms use refillable soap and shampoo containers while prompting guests to be mindful of their water usage. They also partner with local sustainability and wellness projects including plastic reduction initiatives, art workshops and mindfulness classes.
Use this link to receive $20 AUD off your booking at The Yard Hostel – https://www.booking.com/s/21_8/7438bbf8
The drive to Suphan Buri was about 90 minutes and during this time we got to know more about our host for the day, Nui. After obtaining a bachelor’s degree in Liberal Arts and becoming fluent in English, Nui found a love for tourism and connecting people with her birthplace of Bangkok. She now chauffeurs guests in her bright green veedub, taking them on immersive, impactful and insightful journeys throughout Bangkok and surrounds. “I enjoy taking people on these tours because I learn a lot from all the people I meet. I am also interested to learn about their culture” she explained.
Learn to paint Thai porcelain ceramics
Our first stop for the day was Benjarongthong Phophraya, a Thai ceramics production centre in Suphan Buri. The centre is run by husband and wife Kat and Bird and employs many artisans from the surrounding regions, including painters and potters. Benjarong is a traditional form of Thai porcelain, an art that originated in China throughout the 14th-century. Artisans paint white porcelain with an array of gold-lined designs filled in with watercolours. The result – magnificent masterpieces of exquisitely hand-painted artistry, including homewares, ornaments and fine china.
The tour started in the studio as we observed the process of the ceramic creation from non-solid liquid to white covered porcelain. We even got to try our hand at moulding the clay before it went into the kiln for heating. We watched the professionals do their work, creating perfect designs with their steady hands. It was then our turn as we headed onto the terrace to commence our creative workshop. We were provided with some light refreshments, which included Lod Chong, a Thai dessert consisting of pandan jelly, coconut milk and shaved ice. It was my first time trying such food and I was not disappointed.
Now it was time to let our creativity fly. Lola and I chose the ceramics we would work on while Kat and Bird gave us the utensils and paints we would be using for our designs. You are provided with a gold pen for the outline and a number of watercolour paints to fill in the designs. It’s just like a colouring-in book, we felt like we were exploring our inner child throughout the whole workshop. We ended up pleasantly surprised by what we had created and excited to be able to take our masterpieces home to sit upon a mantelpiece, igniting the memories of the time we became artists in Thailand.
Visit a marvellous countryside temple
The next stop on the tour was a visit to the 13th-century temple and religious shrine Wat Khao Phra Si Sanphet. Thailand has many beautiful temples and if you’re in Bangkok you’re spoiled for choice, however, it was nice to visit one of the lesser known temples outside of Bangkok. For a while, we had the whole place to ourselves aside from a small group of friendly school children who stopped to say hello. The temple is situated above a holy cave, worshipped by Buddhist pilgrims. Lola and Nui participated in some fortune-telling whereby one shakes a packet of sticks at the holy shrine and retrieves one stick labelled with a number associated to the fortune board. Ironically Lola and Nui both picked number 22, also my favourite number. The correlating fortune was a positive one. “There are no real coincidences in life”, I said.
Indulge in a local Thai vegan lunch
By this time our stomachs were rumbling at the thought of the Thai feast we were about to enjoy at one of Suphan Buri’s best and loveliest restaurants. Nui joined us for the vegan feast, as requested by Lola, that consisted of tom kh (Thai coconut soup), fried tofu, rice and morning glory, grown right here in the gardens of the restaurant. We luncheoned the afternoon away in the lush, serene gardens of the restaurant, joined by a little canine puppy and the peaceful sounds of water trickling into the fish pond.
If you’d like to spend a day on one of TakeMeTour’s immersive journeys and support community-based tourism in Thailand you can book using this link.
This tour was provided by the Tourism Authority of Thailand and I was a guest on the AirAsia flight, at The Yard Hostel, and on the TakeMeTour Local Table experience. Dtac provided a 4G sim card for the duration of my time in Thailand.
This article contains affiliate links meaning I may receive a commission should you book using any of these links. I only affiliate myself with companies and organisations that I trust to be ethical and sustainable so I know you’ll be in good hands. Any of the profits I make go towards continuing to share with my readers how they can travel responsibly and help support the causes they care about.