Thailand is best known for its beaches, astonishing street food, markets and diverse south-east Asian culture. But how many people get out of the cities and tourist traps and get to experience the real Thailand? How many expats, living in Thailand, even get to experience the real Thailand?
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Thailand is the fourth most popular holiday destination in the world and the country received a record 38.3 million tourists in 2018 and collected $62 billion in tourism revenue.
Chan Kaithong lives in Bangkok’s largest slum. Near the city’s port, but just a stone’s throw from luxury shopping malls and hotels, the Khlong Toei district is home to 100,000 people.
But the attraction of the well-trodden tourist hot spots often hides the real Thailand experience for tourists to the Land of Smiles. In 2012 Somsak Boonsam established Local Alike, a company which promotes “community-based tourism.” Via its online platform, Local Alike offers tourists the chance to leave the resorts and visit over 100 communities, from hill tribes to fishing villages.
Tourists, who visit for the day to relax, enjoy a seafood lunch and try their hand at shellfish farming, have no problem catching the cockles, which swim free in the water, but the prawns are another matter!
His aim was to address the situation by funneling tourism dollars “to the people who need it most,” while giving tourists the chance to “have new experiences and make personal connections with local people.”