thailand travel tips for backpackers – how to travel thailand

full snapshots of life I'm visiting old friends baby veryplayful and needy local heroes she's really nothappy with me to discover this country's unique connection to water in a wholenew way I've visited a lot of places in Thailandand honestly I didn't even know a place like this existed I'm

starting my tripat the perfect time some connaissance note marks the start of the tiny yearand of the rainy season for three days every April the entire country shutsdown to engage in a nationwide water pipe it's a great mix of people youngThai people tourists from all over the world

if Dina see white showing Khan isThailand's most popular festival I want to go and check out the moretraditional side of Seoul try to get a better sense of the importance of waterto people here in Thailand I'm at king rama ii memorial park and i'm herebecause this is where

families celebrate a more traditional side of some kind this centuries-old festival goes back tothe roots of the thai people tied to farming communities it was a time togive thanks for a good harvest and to mark new beginnings so this is how iimagined some crime like 100 years ago

this is a song a rice farmer is singinghe's trying to flirt with the girl that he likes this is the original way of celebratingthe Thai New Year where water is used as a symbol for both cleansing and renewal and then ask for blessing yeah water isalso used to

honor one's elders and get their blessings in return it's great tobe able to compare and contrast traditional song Kon and what song Khanhas become for a lot of people that's the way Thailand is in Thailand you getthis great mix of tradition and contemporary ways of celebrating andit's all

connected to water the essence of life I first came to Thailand in the1990s to study freshwater fish I spent a lot of time on rivers traveling up anddown rivers and it was clear to me how connected people here are two rivers andwater and that's why I've come back

I'm going to travel Thailand's two majorwaterways starting south at the chao phraya river and then north to themighty Mekong before I end my journey back at the source and the heart ofThailand central plains I want to understand what rivers mean to Thaipeople and how they have influenced and

are still influencing people'sday-to-day lives and the first place to start is the capital like any big city Bangkok has a share ofroads traffic streetlights and skyscrapers but believe it or not in thebeginning Bangkok highways weren't made ofconcrete they were made of water I'm in one of the principal

canals thatruns to Bangkok with travel writer Steve ambi no place better encapsulate howmuch Tyco culture is bound to water than here this is the postman yeah so I'd be calmcan I send a postcard yes yeah so just like a normal post man he has his bag ofmail and

does a couple miles on the riverevery day my friend doesn't live on the river okay seems like this is the side of Bangkokthat most people don't see yes life here is still a bit like it wasn'tbeen talked about thirty years ago in other words boats are still used

toget into these areas that the roads don't reach it's their principle form oftransportation Steve's spent over eleven years livingby the river and has seen how water permeates every facet of life here wateris the lifeblood of the Thais if you understand the importance of water inthe development of Thailand's

agriculture its commerce its history etcand if you look at water values as they take place in daily life and such Ithink you have a pretty good understanding of who the Thais are andwhat's important to them I can see why Bangkok was once called the Venice ofthe east most

of the city once consisted of alabyrinth of canals that were built hundreds of years ago Thais recognizedearly on was that instead of being an obstacle water could actually be afacilitator of the high economic growth transportation today these canals haveall the modern amenities of a normal city from postal

services to evenfloating banks but population growth urbanization and pollution have taken atoll on the health of the river negatively impacting communities andmarine life and not many of these canals havesurvived most of the canals were paved over to make roads once we went to roadtransport we kind of turned

their backs on the river though there arecommunities here who still cherish and celebrate this riverine way of life I just love all of the little moments outon the river all the little snapshots of lifetons of people fishing kids playing in the water I mean literally hundreds ofmoments little

moments like that that just make you smile Highlands waterways aren't just aconduit for transport and trade the rivers themselves are also a source ofsustenance and even in some of the most inhospitable places Thais have managedto find ways to harvest from the land I'm heading south west to anintersection

where the rivers meet the sea this place is a hot muddy swamplandand the salt levels in these intertidal zones would kill an ordinary plant inhours but it's in these mangroves where something remarkable happens on previousresearch trips I've caught everything from giant freshwater stingray to smallblack tip reef sharks

right in this region it's one of the most biologicallyrich and complex ecosystems on earth over the last 20 years the localcommunity here has actively been replanting mangrove forests that wereonce cleared for development and as the forest has come back lights in thisareas come back too and with the

life people's livelihood during high tide this entire area isunderwater even so local people have found some ingenious ways to make use ofthis piece of real estate and it all happens at low tide as the ocean watersrecede they leave behind mud flats that extend far out to the horizon

impossibleto cross my boat or on foot people here use these giant wooden skis oursurfboards the same way that you might usesnowshoes to move across the snow people use these big boards to mud surf to moveacross the mud to collect small clams clams are a vital source of income

forthe community here and an amazing example of how ties use the riversystems both during the dry and the wet season and I'm gonna find out just howit's done okay let's give this a try time to get dirty so surf board in themud pail to collect clams Oh Oh

my lick my lick my legs all walkhere okay here just gonna be easy it's difficult to turn watch the professionaldo it well there we go it's like swimming in a big bowl of chocolatepudding how do you find where the clams are how do you know hunt ammuluI'm at

a meat I am I to rule out among him down a bit so I'm just looking forholes and then where there's a whole field down reaching down in the holemore often than not I didn't get a clam I got a crap and I grabbed on to thecrab they

grabbed on to me gotta watch rye but my fingers the clams werecollecting in Thailand's intertidal zone our blood cockles small edible shellfishthat grow to about two inches this is hard work it's about 95 degreesand the Sun is pounding down on us in four or five hours how many

can you geta bucket full take photo but you don't ten 10 kilos 20 pounds of clams in fourhours if you're good so far I only have six you look at this area it seems soinhospitable just thick thick mud and to think that people make a living out herecollecting

20 pounds of clams on one low tide that's pretty impressive the tideis coming in so we head back to shore to wash and count our catch so how much can you sell these for a lotI'll write up 100 bucks so about a hundred baht so about three dollars

forone kilo I've only collected half that a dollar50 on the market but now that my works done it's time to cool off this whole location has become adestination for eco-tourists people that come out they want to see them storemangrove they want to see the monkeys they want to

play in the mud and evensurfboards they found a way to use it not only for work but also to have agood time after hearing what's happened out hereit's a real success story family moving from cities back out here to start ecotourism businesses just goes to show me how

resilient these mangrove ecosystemscan be if given half a chance next I'm hitching a ride on the river to theancient capital of a UTI the chao praya is Thailand's principal river system andit's helped shaped high civilization kingdoms were founded on its shores andthe river connected ancient cities royal barges

were the equivalent of the horseand carriage for Thai kings artisans typically handcrafted these hundred andthirty foot long boats from a single teak tree adorning them with goldlacquer and glass jewels originally built as warships over seven centuriesago today they are used in official state ceremonies and one has even

beendeclared a maritime world heritage the river was also the main highway forcommerce and trade for centuries barges like this have beentransporting construction materials like sand and gypsum and goods like sugar andrice up and down Thailand's rivers these rivers were the economic super highwaysof the pre 20th century and

barges like these helped build the country I want tofind out why these barges are still needed today so I figured the best wayis to jump on board one first thing I saw when I get on the barge is a dogI guess he's feeling territorial because I'm on his

boat now that we're all loaded up we have along slow journey ahead of us it's going to take us over 20 hours to cover just62 miles which is pretty crazy if you think about it because a truck coverthat same distance in about two hours we're heading toward the

city of a UTIonly a hundred years ago this river was filled with thousands of barges nowadaysas roads become the more popular method of transportation the barges are dyingout I wanted to ask steersman for more what kinds of goods he carries and whyincluding fouling yeah well nobody why I

got them on black and so people stilluse the river like they did before I guess it makes senseyou can move more Goods more cheaply if you're not in a rush promote let's mehave a go at the wheel but not before a crash course in towing 392 foot longbarges

carrying over a thousand tons of soil what happens if I need to stop thebarges if I turn the wrong way I have to stop the barges how do I stop them thatone really big well that's a big okay Zoila says no brake so you imagine allof that weight

all of the nur sure it's impossible to stop so go slow just driveslow be patient tight I am how long have you been driving the bargewell nice I think meet Adel I'm a happily over so you assume here therewere nine long mile run in granite with only a

paddleit's a 400-mile journey that back then would have taken over a month todaypromote lives a waterborne life much like his parents and grandparents didit's a solitary lifestyle and he could be the last of his family legacy wecouldn't play by McGee one lever neither law but is that your

daughter wasalanine in the middle what are your kids doing nowno Leah never you in college do you think your children will take overyou want me madam yeah oh yeah come but don't come roadmap Wow I'm curious to understand what motivateshim to keep doing this what do you like

about being on the boatyou need my new TV d salaa human and accurately let love us and I go dudemother might overlook a cow you know being out there I got a sensefor what that life is like in many ways life on the river is like taking a

stepback in time things seem more calm more relaxed life seems to move at a slowerpace and that that feels good having said that I need to reach a UTIbefore dark so I say my goodbyes to promote and hopon a slightly faster mode of transport barges transported materials up

and downrivers and help build the Thai nation but once Goods got to port there were notrucks or cars to get materials to their final destination so people look for thebiggest strongest thing they could find elephants I want to get a sense for justhow these mighty pachyderms help build

the Thai nation so I help them withboots we brought a few elephants down the river for their evening bath elephants they're just seized massiveintelligent animals there's just something about an animal that big andthat strong that you have to respect you very playful even though we mightcriticize it now

I can see how these elephants wereessential to moving heavy goods nothing else in their day could beat them northern Thailand the logs would be cutand elephants would carry them down to the river the logs would be floated allthe way down to Bangkok a journey that could take up

to five years whenThailand banned logging in the late 1980s the elephants and their Moo hooveswere left without a source of income and there was a problem until recently inThailand the moots would take elephants into big cities and keep them up longhours a lot of times all night to

beg for food from tourists so the camp thatI visited rescued elephants from unhealthy situations and provided themwith the food and the care that they need to keep them healthy consideringthere aren't a lot of other alternatives it's one solution it's the late rainyseason in AU Tia Thailand and surrounding

this ancient capital isanother key reason why the Thai Kingdom thrive rice is at the center of life inThailand this ancient grain has shaped thehistory the culture and the economy of this country I'm heading out to thecentral flood plains to find out how these rice fields provide a seasonalbounty

all of this fertile land around me is part of the chao praya river basinand these fields produce enough to feed almost half the type ovulation but it'snot just rice you can find in these fields I met a woman named Molly whooffered to show me how to catch fish

out of rice fields yeah sounds crazy fish infields the first step was to catch small frogs we were running through the mudlooking for small frogs there were little frogs in the mud on the edge ofthe water and Molly was just yelling at me but it was harder than

a lot they'reso sneaky aren't they Maui well he's teaching me how to catch baitthe bait that she uses for snake heads and this is one of the snake headsfavorite prey but she's really not happy with me thank you the one and only oneit's an SAP kit making how

many frogs do we need for bait we have five she saidthat we need at least 20 we good we finally got enough frogs to startfishing that song it's very simple just a small piece of bamboo a string and ahook and Molly makes these herself at home deputed I

bet ya sorry buddy mediumma'am we're fishing for snakehead it's one of the more common fish in the ricefield it'll sneak up it'll sense the movement of the prey of these frogs onthe surface of the water and to ambush predators so it'll send some movementand then strike Molly snakeheads

Arroyo my I like the wholeprocess it's just so simple molly is someone she doesn't have a lot ofresources and yet she's come up with a way to get the food that she needs bothfor her family and a cell from very simple instruments Molly Shane duringthe rainy season all

of these areas are connected from the river to the ricefields and the fish that she relies on spread out all over the rice fields soit's that cycle of the rainy season that connects most of the lands around here and it looks like we finally got a biteit's amazing

to me that we've just hooked a fish in the middle of a ricefield in Thailand Oh big one look at thatso a striped snakehead this is one of the most common rice field fish and thisone's over a footlong Molly says that in a night she can catch ten

or in a goodnight even 20 of these striped snake heads good catch it's a good oneme too I'm soaked my yeah in the bags go check the other the other rods you knowthink of all the things that she's getting from the water she's gettingfish the rice frog snails

crabs shrimp all supplied to her from a small bit ofland that she has and from the river and the water it really goes to show thateven floods are turned in to something positive here the abundance and diversity of freshfood from Thailand's rivers has given rise to one of

the most famous cuisinesin the world I've asked local resident Rapp Eudora toshow me how some of these wetland ingredients are used by her family itlooks like we have some typical ingredients for Thai food garlic shrimppaste and pepper plants this is basil basil we use a lot of chilli

oh I loveeating spicy food but I don't do so good with it so okay show me what to do first you sawpepper pepper chili pepper wah kaptara lime yeahsmells like Thai food are these all ingredients that you can grow in yourgarden yes we have a little garden mean

almost any how we can find in thebackyard about everything don't have to pay for I don't think most peoplerealize certainly even for me people living along the water have access toall different kinds of spices all different kinds of vegetables and fruitsall right they're in their backyard and when

families harvest more than bacon River itself provides the space to sellit we almost never feel sticky yeah still sticky now you right to try itsure oh this may seem a bit rough hi I don't know let's not cooking what makes Thai food special pro-bonocharge a hand height they're

a last fuckin one real hitKim some of the ingredients were using are only available in this season fitlaughs it's done Hey very good we're heading out to have ourmeal on a boat with rockies and i want to find out how families here utilizethis seasonal bounty okay thank you

were there a lot of fish in the river backthen fry your mom when I'm good my perch a meat product like I love it just somuch about it and we found it oh my mom and she has some great storiesabout what it was like living on the river

when she was younger there were somany fish and crabs and shrimp that they would get tired of catching them toomany to eat there's some simple ingenuity to life here people harnessingthe river channeling the rice field learning how to get food from around thehouse from the water it's something

that people in cities nowadays we just don'tget to experience we get most of our food from supermarkets I would love tolive in Thailand I love the idea of having a place in Thailand on a riversomewhere growing my own fruit and vegetables raising my own fish orcatching my own

fish I'd love to do that someday it's November and the start of the dryseason in Thailand as the water levels in the river drop it becomes much harderfor people here to make a living planting rice or catching fish but evenas the river recedes it gives birth to new

ways of harvesting from the land myjourney continues on Thailand's other Mighty River that planted the seeds ofThai civilization over 4000 years ago this is the Mekong River it's one of thelargest rivers in the world it flows for over 4,000 kilometres through sixcountries China Mira mark Laos Thailand Cambodia

and Vietnam it's beautiful hereit truly feels like one of the world's great rivers feels more wild more remoteone of the reasons why the mekong river is special is the way the river changesfrom season to season in the dry season there are places alongthe river where you could almost

walk across in the rainy season the waterlevel comes up by over 10 meters flooding huge areas of swampland andforests I've come here in the dry season to see how people have adapted to thechanging cycles of the river as the water levels drop the fish catch becomesmuch smaller but

the Mekong leaves behind rich fertile soil that sustainslocals here throughout the dry season man check this out this is pretty coolduring the dry season people plant vegetable gardens on the exposedriverbanks you can see long bean lettuce cabbage tomatoes cucumbers all in thisone plot everywhere I look I still

see fishermencasting their nets so I join a local fishermen loom song tofind out how even at this time of year people manage to catch fish first up the quintessential cast net just like that it looks easy but it'scomplicated so the idea of a cast net you sort of

twist your body you throw itout the net expands into a large circle and then drops in the water and sinksdown trapping whatever fish are below the water yeah but it's gonna sink intothe river loom son tells me that because the catch is smaller in the dry seasonfishermen will

hedge their bets and set up a whole bunch of different trapsthis is a funnel-shaped trap made with bamboo and there are some strings insidethe trap when the fish swims into the trap it rubs up against the stringtripping the trap door and trapping the fish inside we set the

trap to check back on later next loon Sona and I retrieved the gillnet he set last night we'll just move along the net from one end to the otherlifting it up and feeling for fish I don't feel anything yetfeel something oh here's fish nice check it out look

atthis decent-sized fish this is good size probably one kilo about two pounds threepounds yeah my Bonnie I'm Davey yeah this is big this is big for him ourfinal stop is back at our fish trap let's see what we got one small guy ha ha oh you sure you

makefermented fish so this kind of fish she uses to make a local delicacy aroundhere fermented fish our fermented fish pastelucky me bloom sone brought along a sample so this is a jar of fermentedfish this fish here once insulted and spiced it could sit for as long as ayear

oh yeah how do you do it on and on it it's a full-bodied taste it's really salty when I'm having memory now I'maway bidding in there Michael how mean Cowan Castle hey man so saying that thelonger it sits the better it tastes so you think about a cheese

or a fine wineand longer it sits the more full body to get got when you're working hard my Igot yours I need to buy so bye Jackie no Michael Jackson bathroom cone that'sabided by there for young boy are you watching in there Kapoor it'sfascinating to see at any

moment whether it's the wet or the dry seasonpeople here have learned to make the best of a situation the Mekong River isthe rice bowl of Asia and I really get the sense that people eat Pray Love andlive with the ebb and flow of the Mekong River over the

centuries the ties hadharmonized their lives with the seasons in recent years though dams builtupriver have made the flow of water highly unpredictable disrupting therivers ecology and affecting people's livelihoods so to make sure that theycan survive when times get tough the ty Department of Fisheries worked out asolution I'm

heading to the chiang rai fisheries research center to find outhow they're engineering the nation's huge supply of fish inside this pond are tilapia an Africanfreshwater fish known for its quick growth and plentiful meat it's probablythe most popular cultured fish in Thailand about two hundred thousand tonsof tilapia are

produced in Thailand every year and the process for breedingthem is quite unusual the breeding program is part of a royal initiative inThailand tilapia is an easy aquaculture fish but to maximize their yieldresearchers use an extraordinary trick career though Wowdunja the female fish their mouths is filled with eggs

so these fish actuallykeep the fertilized eggs in their mouth this is a process that I've never seenbefore and so what we're doing is we're removing these young fish from themouths of the adults as part of the breeding process crazyso just shaking the eggs out of the fish's mouth

I mean 2 or 3 hundred youngfish in one adults mountain the whole point of this process is tocollect the young fry and introduce hormones into their feet to change thesex of the fish to male male tilapia grow much quicker and larger thanfemales which equals more fish for farmers

to eat or sellthis Center is an amazing example of just how much type Ebel rely on fish andwater and it's this sense of connection that has led to the call to preserve thecountry's wild water havens I'm heading back to the central plains to look at aconservation project at

the heart of Thailand's river systems right now I'mout on a huge expanse of water it's a big lake that's part of Thailand'slargest wetland it's called boom bara pet and it's closeto where four of Thailand's rivers come together to form the chao praya andhistorically this is a location that

was used for hunting and fishing but morerecently it's been protected as a national park I'm here with some sockdong-hoon from the Fisheries Department to find out more about why this place isso important Dona Joana Nam hi come on lupa hamachi little toefungus I'm hanging up tuna monka Poppa

Tokido nobody cutting me no comanobody human some con toda vato Yemen man saw crank and boom wore a pet ishome to dozens of indigenous and migratory bird and fish specieseverything from Siberian Ruby throat to ducks that flew here all the way fromPakistan but I'm here to see something

with more teeth this area used to behome to over 30,000 Siamese crocodiles but because of over hunting in the 1960sthere are now only about a hundred left in the wild here our crocodile is important to the lumbarpad ecosystem Donna cane and a half support evening era have been

suckedinto a calm love of you being young into a teachable kid in Guam with also moonthankfully conservation efforts here are helping their numbers rebound I've visited a lot of places in Thailandbeen to a lot of different rivers but I've never been here and honestly Ididn't even know a

place like this existed and it feels like a place wherewater is very important the most essential element you know as I travel up and down theriver I feel like each stretch of river captures a different moment in time andI put that time line together I can see the

past present and futurepossibilities for this country and I've learned the vital role that water andrivers play in the Thai economy in Thai culture and religion here in nakhonsawan I've seen how people are starting to think about the river in new ways howimportant it is and taking steps to

protect their national heritage there's one last thing I've got to dobefore I end my journey

Leave a Comment