Getting back to roots with community-based tourism in southern Thailand
Husband and wife Matt and Muna are living a comfortable life in the city, earning good money. Matt is an architect while Muna is running a bakery. But just like their love story, going back to their roots in Koh Klang seems like a work of destiny.
Matt, 36, and Muna, 31, got married five years ago after meeting through Matt’s sister. No courtship happened. As a matter of fact, three days after their first meeting, they already decided to get married.
“Everything was going smooth in our relationship. Her mom liked me the moment she saw me. And we learned that our dads knew each other from the past,” Matt told Inquirer.net.
Four years into the marriage and after spending a while in the city, the couple decided to go back to Matt’s roots on the island of Klang in the southern Thai province of Krabi, where they are now taking part in an initiative called community-based tourism (CBT) through their homestay business called “Kidthung Cottage”.
“It’s my home, it’s my root, it’s my story. In Phuket and Bangkok, I feel like I have to rush to work for other people. I think it’s not right. So I came back to Koh Klang, and here I can serve my people,” said Matt, adding that his wife fully supports his decision.
Upon returning to the island, they renovated the family home to offer rooms for tourists who would like to experience how it is to live like a local. Aptly, they called their homestay “Kidthung” which means “missing” in Thai.
“I missed this place a lot. I mean I can live in the big cities but I feel like I am not meant to be there. I’m happy about going back here. This is where I would like to raise our kids,” said Matt.
Matt feels that he is just following the footsteps of his father, who was a teacher on the island and who also helped set up the tourism industry there.
Koh Klang, or Klang Island, is a community of about 5,000 people, 90% of which are Muslims. People here are into fishing and rice farming—activities which tourists can experience themselves when they visit the island.
Why visit Koh Klang?
Koh Klang is not your typical island getaway wherein you can enjoy white sand beaches, pristine waters and five-star amenities. But this untouched hideaway has its own charms—healthy mangrove forests, unspoiled natural habitats for birds and other animals, delicious seafood, and the warm smiles of its people.
Aside from staying at a homestay and trying their local staple, tourists can also join the villagers in planting or harvesting rice and digging clam and shellfish. They can also learn how to design a batik cloth and build a “hua tong” or the traditional long-tailed fishing boat.
Currently, Koh Klang is one of the four communities being supported by “Journey D” or Journey of Development, a corporate social responsibility program of leading low-cost airline Thai AirAsia.
Through the help of its partners like the UNDP (United Nations Development Program) and Local Alike (a social enterprise specialized in community-based tourism), Journey D aims to uplift the standards of living of local communities through sustainable community-based tourism promotion and development.
Through this project, the residents of Koh Klang are being trained how to improve their tour programs, the quality of accommodations and hospitality services. Their English skills are also being honed by volunteers who come to the island to help strengthen the villagers’ tourism capabilities.
Equipped with the basic knowledge of community-based tourism, the locals of Koh Klang are able to offer their attractions to visitors, local and foreign alike, without damaging their natural and cultural assets.
As for Matt and Muna, they couldn’t be happier with the way the tourism industry is flourishing on their home island.
“We are very happy that we have community-based tourism in Koh Klang that tries to protect what we have, what we do and what we are,” said Matt.