An update from Myanmar and Thailand – August 2023

With this newsletter, we continue to give you an introduction on how our mission to inspire you with our love for this part of Asia, with occasional quirky travel experiences, in a sustainable and respectful way, leaving a positive impact and a smile on everybody’s face is going on. 

In today’s edition we take you on the first part of our road trip in Thailand, show you a deeper level of local understanding, and explain why we love to use different modes of transportation. We talk about hidden beliefs in Thailand, show our office and talk about some serious things in Myanmar (and how we help!)

My two cents while travelling back and forward between Thailand and Myanmar……….nothing is black and white.

Obviously, Myanmar is the country suffering from the ongoing violence, an economy in shambles, high inflation and with it an increase in poverty. Yet, despite everything, I also see daily acts of kindness amongst people who all work hard to try to make ends meet, still donate money to the poorest and to the estimated 1 million people in refugee camps within the country. 

While many young people have left the country to look for a better future or to join the resistance, many others are staying because “it’s home” and they try to make the best out of it. Everybody makes their own decision on staying, leaving and how to go on with daily life. These are not easy decisions as the situation is not always as black & white as a 2-minute news item on your TV makes it sound.

At Exploration Travel Myanmar and Lalay Lodge, Lalay Lodge, we decided to stay when Covid started, and we decided to stay when the coup-d’état happened so we could support people in these extremely challenging times. I am very happy and proud of our team (now over 40 staff and paid volunteers) and all achievements so far. We are able to reach and help over 1.000 people each month, through our sister company Counselling Corner Counselling Corner and make people mentally stronger.

Political issue or not, we have to keep on going and that’s what we’re doing! We stay in Myanmar. doing good things with Counselling Corner, while we are fully operational in Thailand to create fantastic travel experiences.

The situation on the ground in Myanmar

Sometimes and for some people, the situation in Yangon looks as nothing has ever changed while for others the constant fear, anger, despair and depression cause heavy burdens.

The exchange rate skyrocketed to 4000 Kyats for 1 Usd which means that all goods are more expensive including for example for example milk, fuel for cars & trucks, fertilizer used by farmers etc.

This makes it difficult also for regular people or sustainable operating businesses just to pay for spare parts for their factory, import raw materials, buy a flight ticket or pay for international school fees.

Recently, many international garment businesses like Primark, Zara and H&M announced to stop buying garments from Myanmar factories under international pressure. These international brands paid peanuts for the production yet it guaranteed tens of thousands young women a regular income. We’re glad that our counsellors from Counselling Corner can enter the factories from one of the international clothing companies to do workshops on how to stay mentally strong. Yet, I feel sad to see tens of thousands of women and their families getting into even tougher situations due to some international social green washing campaigns from well-financed lobby groups.

Daily life in Myanmar is very tough. Yet sometimes we also have time for laughs. Humor, including sarcasm and irony, are good traits to have in a challenging situation because they can help us cope with stress or express our emotions. We also ensure to have enough leisure time and do some self-care. It keeps us motivated!

A Burmese connection in Chiang Mai – guide Min Min

Edwin recently visited Chiang Mai to create some fantastic new, private tours that include beautiful and quiet temples on Doi Suthep mountain yet without the crowds, a sustainable walk with private owned elephants through nature to directly support the family, the elephants and the mahouts, an exhilarating downhill bike ride and a private Songthaew evening tour with temples, street food and live music bars!

While in Chiang Mai he caught up with former Inle Lake guide Min Min. Many of you will remember him doing cooking, biking, kayaking, trekking and all other tours for us on the lake in Myanmar. Together with his wife and son he moved to Chiang Mai where he is hosting Shan/Burmese/Intha influenced dinners and lunches as well as cooking classes. The ancient Lanna kingdom was under Burmese rule for 200 years till the end of the 18th century and there is still many connections visible; the ancient Lanna script is similar to the Myanmar script, some temple architecture is alike and there are food dishes that taste like Burmese Shan food.

All in all, good reasons to include an evening with English speaking chef Min Min in Chiang Mai.

On the Road in Thailand (Part 1)

We believe that travel is so much more than just ticking off the “must- do’s” and the most famous destinations in a country. Isn’t it all about the local culture, the genuine people we encounter, the tasty food and the natural wonders? To find all this, we ventured out into a rather unknown region of Thailand, Southern Isaan, Sakeo and the charming town of Chanthaburi. In this first edition of our road trip story, we want to inspire you with our recent discoveries.

From Bangkok to Isaan

Let’s move on! We take a few steps towards the train station, where we jump on a wagon that slowly winds up the Korat Plateau towards the rice basked of Thailand, also called Isaan. Enjoying the breeze through the open windows, observing joking grannies on the opposite bench and slowly feeling that we really have left the metropolitan area behind. 

We arrive at a cute little station, where we meet up with our driver to further explore this part of the country. We drive through green paddy fields and other agricultural lands, before turning left into a smaller road that will soon bring us to a village called Baan Nang Luaeng. We are greeted by a bunch of happy ladies, who soon arrange a cool local ride, a “salaeng”, a motorbike with a sidecar. We cruise through the village, saying hello to a couple more neighbors, before leaving the village on the other side, cruising into the wide green of the paddy fields. 

Lunch is served! In the middle of a field, in a little farmers hut, surrounded by rice paddies, fields of onions and chilies, cultivated by the villagers that have agreed to host us for an amazing home cooked lunch. The ladies have put together a mouthwatering feast – obviously with a lot of love, and chilies.  This casual setting is the perfect introduction to Isaan. Laughter, delicious food and the rural vibe that comes with this part of the country.

Continue reading in our next newsletter – stay curious!

Hidden Local Beliefs 

While traveling is so much about understanding the “other”, it sometimes is important to look a bit deeper into certain topics that are so relevant and multi-present in everyday life. 

With our today’s pick of interesting and extraordinary things to do in Thailand, we want to introduce you to the tour “Hidden Local Beliefs”. This walking tour in Thonburi (on the other side of the Chao Phraya River) is an educational yet fun way to learn about the different beliefs in Thai society. We will explore the different religions that have influenced today’s believes, how Buddhism, animism and local folk beliefs play a part in daily rituals or practices. What are supernatural forces? What are spiritual beings and why are Thais so much into their ghost stories? We want to give you a deeper understanding on some of the more intangible cultural heritage that is so influential and is still very present in today’s Thailand and modern Bangkok. 

That’s the Way we Roll! 

Hold onto your hats, wanderlusters! We’re taking travel to a whole new level in Thailand, where transportation isn’t just a ride, it’s a joyride through experiences.

Picture this: comfy private cars that pamper you, local trains that turn your journey into a picturesque postcard, boats gliding through charming canals, and motorbike-sidecars making you the star of local villages. But wait, there’s more! Ever hopped onto an electric-powered tuk-tuk in Bangkok’s old town? It’s like stepping into a time machine that’s also eco-friendly!

Say goodbye to excessive air travel – sustainability, diversity, and unforgettable moments are our transportation superpowers.

The Exploration Travel Thailand team in front of our office.
From left: Mozz,  Aan,  Edwin, Allyssa (and Stefan in the picture inside our office).

What to watch, listen or read

This time a great about Thailand available on Netflix or here on YouTube: 

Step into the captivating world of Thailand’s cultural riches and breathtaking landscapes with “Ong Bak 2: The Journey Begins.” Join Tien, a resolute warrior, as he traverses through the heart of Thailand, from the majestic grandeur of ancient temples to the vibrant energy of bustling markets, and into the enigmatic depths of lush jungles. As Tien’s personal voyage unfolds, you’ll find yourself not just watching a movie, but embarking on a vicarious adventure, where Thai traditions, martial arts, and travel seamlessly intertwine. Experience the essence of Thailand’s charm and spirit, as Tien’s journey becomes a visual testament to the country’s allure and its capacity to ignite the traveler’s soul. Not the newest film, but definitely a Thailand classic always worth recommending.

I am very excited about the opening of Exploration Travel Thailand showing new things to see, do and experience is this country that is a champion of hospitality and offer great infrastructure for travellers. Get in touch and work with us to create new sample itineraries for your clients: or  

Edwin Briels and his team have been creating experiences for travellers for over 20 years. Edwin Briels continuously finds new paths to travel and new experiences to show clients the story of Myanmar and Thailand and engages you in a fascinating journey through this part of Asia with the most fascinating stories. 

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