NEWSLETTER SEPTEMBER 2023
Exploration Travel wants to inspire you and your clients 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.
And we are glad we are achieving this, as one of our clients recently said: “I forgot how fantastic the country is and visiting the remote areas made me re-discover again the friendliness and fun of meeting ordinary Thai people around the country”.
Our Thailand office in a heritage town house in the middle of old town Bangkok
The old town in Bangkok has traditionally housed staff working at the nearby Grand Palace and the area around the new Exploration Travel office used to be occupied by gold smiths migrating from Laos. Nowadays it’s still a very traditional neighborhood, home to one of the most colorful wet markets in Bangkok, families living in the street for a 100 years and not a single high rise building in sight.
The result is stunning (if we may say) and we’re happy to have created a unique working environment for the team in a vibrant and historical area. Come and visit us!
The online visa application was processed very fast (once you know which documents to upload), arrival at Yangon airport and visiting the city very much seemed as a few years ago before Covid and the Coup d’état, yet with considerably less other tourists.
There are less flights to Bagan (just twice a week) and less choice of hotels or restaurants, yet visiting the UNESCO heritage site of Bagan without any other tourists is a special experience. The balloons are flying again over the temples, it’s possible to do a boat ride on the river or visit the beautiful town Salay just south of Bagan. But, as this agent mentioned, it is sad to see the poverty that visibly increased, especially in a town like Bagan that depends on tourism but also in Yangon downtown.
Although some European travel advisories give a different impression, we can arrange trips safely through the country to destinations like Yangon, Mandalay, Bagan, Salay, Kalaw, Inle Lake and Ngapali. Certain areas in Mon & Kayin State and Hsipaw could be visited but situation can change easily. Exploration Travel continue to work with all our station around the country and we know the local situation on the ground in-depth.
Want to support but not visit at the moment? Support our Food campaign to provide food packages for the poorest in the country. For just 100 USD we can provide enough food for a family of 4 to eat for an entire month: https://www.gofundme.com/f/food-for-families-in-myanmar
How to explore Bangkok best?
Rather than sitting in a car and stopping for different sites there are so much more fun ways to get around Bangkok. Edwin recently joined together with colleague Mozz the Bangkok e-scooter tour, a fantastic way to see, smell, hear, taste and experience Bangkok. No worries, the guide gives a good explanation and time to practice and it’s very easy to go around by e-scooter (the average speed is just 15-20 km / hour).
Are your clients more active? Try the excellent experiential biking tours through the quieter parts of Bangkok in the morning or the evening.
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 second edition of our road trip story, we want to inspire you with our recent discoveries.
After our first edition of this road trip diary having ended at a rural Isaan village, we continue with a scenic drive along small country roads, rice paddies and grazing water buffaloes towards the province of Buriram.
Just as golden hour hit, we approached the ancient Khmer temple ruins of Phanomg Rung. What a moment to arrive to this absolutely stunning site at the end of the day, when the sun slowly set behind the ruins, that are part of the “Royal Way”, an ancient link between Angkor Wat in Cambodia and the smaller, lesser known ruins of Phi Mai in Nakhon Rachasima province. This spot is simply magic! We did not see a single tourist, only locals going for a evening stroll or exercise and playing kids here and there. As temples are not something we usually get overexcited about – spending some quiet time in Phanom Rung is another story!
After Phanom Rung, we only had a few minutes drive to a small family run resort. The family has welcomed us to their little oasis, we checked into small but cozy bungalows and spend the evening chatting with the owner, who once was a film maker, definitely a character!
The next morning it was time for some scouting, meeting local connections and designing a beautiful bike route along temple ruins, including a unique (and very colorful!) ride for the hilly parts of the tour.
Time to move on. We stopped to visit a small national park in the border area with Cambodia, a stunning view point and a leisurely walk before heading south. Passing limestone formations popping out of nowhere, small scenic roads (that we always prefer over busy highways), we have arrived in the land of fruits!
We got to know Khun Dream, she has recently moved back to her hometown from Bangkok where she is taking care of her family’s fruit orchard. An excellent opportunity to enjoy a delicious home cooked lunch in the middle of the farm. Her dad happens to be a passionate cook – what else could we have asked for? After lunch we walked around the orchard, getting introduced to the sheer variety of tropical fruits. Fruit tasting! It became a spectacle for our taste buds! Sour, sweet, creamy, with chili or salt, sugar or fermented, we had our senses bright awake and were stunned about the variety of fruits and tastes – not your regular fruit platter.
Chanthaburi is the perfect gateway to the islands of Koh Kood, Koh Mak and Koh Chang, with the pier only being 1,5 hours away.
We are constantly exploring new routes to show Thai culture, food, architecture and meet ordinary people. To understand Thai temple life, Buddhism and other beliefs in Thai life you don’t need to visit the most important temple of a region as you’re often better off in the second or third most important temple that is not overloaded by tourist.
It’s not an easy task to convince your clients to skip some of the main tourist sites that are the Google algorithm favourites as people always have the fear of missing out. We try to get away from “staged tourism” as the country has so many good things to offer naturally.
Through a former Lonely Planet writer we came across this article that calculated the most over touristed destinations in the world. The top 3 cities on this list are all in Thailand: Phuket, Pattaya and Krabi.
We do agree that Thailand is an excellent tourist destination that has so much to offer. But while visiting, can we please try to spread out a bit! Hence our aim to show your clients highlights of Thailand in the secondary destinations. Because, as we said earlier; if you’re not on a pilgrimage it might actually be better to skip the most visited temple and opt for a quieter one that is architecturally equally impression and experientially far more memorable – and anothr good reason: you will be meeting locals, not the scammers, tour groups or ques to wait in.
Edwin will be visiting the Netherlands, Germany and Belgium to talk with new and existing tour operators about Myanmar and Thailand. As we have experienced pre-Covid, attending trade shows is often a very quick and costly affair so instead we prefer to visit agents at their office and take time to discuss products & values, give training to staff and find good ways to work together. Do you want to meet? Send me a message.
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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