Thursday, October 1, 2009

Being a responsible tourist in Thailand

Benjakitti ParkResponsible, eco-tourism is about appreciating the economic, environmental, cultural and social issues of an area. It is important for us to all work towards providing a sustainable future. Whether you are on a short break or taking a year out, you should do all you can to minimize any negative effects that you will have on the country you visit. Below are some tips to help make your stay in Thailand a responsible one:

Transport – Your flight will probably be the most polluting aspect of your travel. It is estimated that air traffic accounts for 10% of greenhouse gases worldwide. Whenever possible, plan your trip so that you minimize air travel; opt for more environmentally friendly transport such as trains, buses or boats. Once at your destination get a local tourist map and work out routes for walking, cycling etc.

Staying in Thailand – Choose to stay in a hotel or resort that is environmentally friendly (this information will be available on their website). Wherever you stay be sure to switch of air con, electricity etc. when leaving your room. Also, remember the higher your air conditioner’s temperature setting the more energy you will save (aim for 78°F/25°C).

Water – Most of the water in Thailand is untreated, don’t drink straight from the tap. Water is a very precious natural resource, so don’t waste it, keep showers to a minimum and re-use your towels – both you and your towels will dry quickly in Thailand’s warm climate.

Restrooms – Do not flush paper, chewing gum etc. down the toilet. There are few water treatment plants in Thailand and none in rural areas. The Thais have an ingenious solution to this problem; located next to all Western style toilets is a small hose, the idea is before you flush, you use this hose to spray yourself clean. You then use the toilet paper to pat yourself dry, and this is disposed of in the waste bin provided.

Garbage – Up until a few years ago all of Thailand’s packaging was re-useable (cane baskets) or bio-degradable (paper, banana leaves), but then came the introduction of plastic. Many Thais don’t understand that plastic doesn’t degrade like natural products do and so they litter. It’s up to Western travelers to lead by example and you can do you bit; take your garbage with you and pick up any that you come across.

Plastic – Thailand has yet to react to the global concerns about plastic in the environment. Even after stating that you don’t need a plastic bag many shop assistants will insist on giving you one. Companies like 7-Eleven even double bag and include straws and plastic cutlery with almost every purchase. It is worth repeating the Thai for ‘not want’, (‘my ow kap’ if you are a man and ‘my ow kah’ if you are a woman), but if this is not successful, be sure to dispose of any garbage responsibly.

Animal products – Never buy crafts or products made from ivory, turtle shell or any protected or endangered species. Refuse shark’s fin soup and exotic ‘jungle food’, which is actually meat from endangered animals such as Asiatic black bears and Malaysian sun bears. Report any trade in endangered wildlife to the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW):

Diving and snorkeling – Don’t interact with the flora and fauna in the under water world. Touching or ‘playing’ with marine life can stress the animal and even a slight touch can cause some corals harm, so avoid touching, grabbing, or accidentally grazing the reef with your fins.

Elephant tourism – Elephant or ‘jumbo’ tourism is giving these great beasts a new lease of life and helping to reverse the worrying decline in their number. Keep an elephant employed and earning his keep by taking a jumbo safari.

Article by Christine Oatley, copyright 2008 Asia Products LLC. All Rights Reserved. Christopher Snyder is the Founder and Managing Director of Asia Products LLC and currently is living in Bangkok, Thailand. He writes on a variety of topics including current events, politics, and travel ideas. He manages an e-commerce store buying products to sell on He is documenting some of his more interesting travels in his Thailand Travel Pages website.

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