There’s not even a doubt that the best way how to get to know a country is through the locals. And how about if you had a local friend anywhere in Thailand, wherever you’d choose to go within the country? We recently learned how to make it happen. Plus we got to discover new aspects of eco-friendly living in Chiang Mai and overall options on ecotourism in Thailand.
No popular tourist attractions and big group tours will ever expose you to the values, culture, and lifestyle of the people as much as actually spending time with locals will!
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Why travel with a local?
We are usually not that type of travelers who are doing organized tours when we go to a new destination. That’s just because organized tours mostly associates with super crowded sightseeing spots, tourist shops, and touristic food places. And that’s definitely what we don’t want. So normally we opt for discovering the place on our own.
After spending a few months in Chiang Mai, Thailand we already started to feel like we’re getting to know the city. A few things that we noticed that really stands out in this city are the eco-friendly living, eating healthy, and using organically grown products. Before this, we didn’t even know about the sustainable initiatives nor the options for ecotourism in Thailand.
DID YOU KNOW THAT CHIANG MAI IS ONE OF THE EASIEST CITIES IN ASIA WHERE TO FIND VEGETARIAN FOOD?
Now for the second year traveling the world full time, we try to maintain a responsible and eco-friendly lifestyle wherever we go. So having this healthy-eating and healthy-living mindset, we were looking for ways how to learn more about it here in Thailand and to share these options with you.
Luckily we came across „Take Me Tour”, which is an absolutely awesome project. They offer the visitors of Thailand to have different experiences all across the country accompanied by a Thai local as a guide. It’s kind of like having a local friend who can show you all their favorite local, non-touristic, unknown spots around the area.
As the „local friend” concept is such an appealing idea, we gladly tried it out! We went on a bicycle tour, that would take us around Mae Tang – a rural village that’s about 40 min outside of Chiang Mai. That kind of village means seeing the real local life with no other foreigner around. Just a bunch of smiling, friendly locals, cheerfully greeting us and making us feel welcome.
IT’S THE KIND OF EXPERIENCE THAT TOURISTS WOULD NOT BE ABLE TO SEE BY THEMSELVES EVER! HOW COOL IS THAT?!
If you’re looking for more fun ideas of what to do in the city, read here about visiting the Umbrella Village in Chiang Mai.
We picked the Mae Tang cycling tour as the itinerary promised 3 very nice things. The first – getting to see the organic home garden of a local Thai family and learning about different locally grown fruit and veggies, that they eat.
IT’S BASICALLY LEARNING ABOUT A HEALTHY LIFESTYLE FROM THE PERSPECTIVE OF A NEW CULTURE.
The second – getting to bike around the areas filled with rice paddies, banana trees, small roads, and local life.
The third – to have a picnic in a scenic place, with home-grown and home-cooked food fully out of healthy ingredients. As we’ve had a chance to try quite a lot of Thai food, we knew that this has to be epic. And it so was!
If you’re spending a longer time in the city, check out this guide on top things to do in Chiang Mai.
The first part of the tour was a visit to our guide’s parent’s house in a village outside Chiang Mai. The house is special as their family grows most of the food they eat in their garden. They grow different kinds of greens, chili and other kinds of veggies. All of these fruits are grown naturally without any chemicals.
And just like everywhere in the world, when there’s gardening, there are also lots of insects and creatures, for example, snails who like to eat all the veggies and fruit from the garden. It’s the case also here in Thailand. To fight that, they only use natural repellers. Egg shells are good to keep snails away. Or they just pick the snails off the garden and bring them away. But the snails tend to come back, as everything that grows in the garden is super delicious.
They have also plenty of fruit trees, including bananas, Thai cherries, starfruit, jackfruit, pomelo, and more. There were also different berries and fruit that we saw and tasted for the first time in our lives. Super exciting!
It’s such a unique experience, to be able to see all these fruits and try them by picking them right of the tree.
Oh, and no garden is complete without big beautiful butterflies and their caterpillars. Feels like a bit of an eco-paradise!
MORNING SMOOTHIE, THE HEALTH BOMB!
Benefits of eating only from an eco-garden
This family always starts their mornings with a healthy smoothie made out of the things from their garden.
Did you know that each fruit and vegetable makes has a special effect on your organs and overall health?
And if you are aware what health benefits each of them can offer, quite often you don’t even need to use the medicine, as a certain fruit or vegetable can sort your problem out.
So with this in mind, this family always eat and drink the right vegetable and fruit to stay in a good health. And if you would have seen how smooth and healthy their skins look like at the elderly age, you’d totally be convinced how a healthy lifestyle makes you feel better and look better.
The smoothie shots that we got to try were made of a mix of fruits and vegetables. It was a bit of jackfruit, passion fruit, basil, green salad, kale, onions and other things that seemed not to be the greatest idea to be put together. But once we tried it, the taste was perfect. It’s just because some flavors block out other strong flavors, for example, onions, so the overall taste of a drink is all balanced out.
Biking through the rural village
After the home garden visit, we went on a cycling tour with our local guide and her mother. We biked through the village, learning a lot about the local lives here.
ALL THE PEOPLE WHO WE MET ON THE WAY WERE SO POSITIVE, ALWAYS SMILING AND GREETING US.
What a nice feeling! I’m sure we were one of the very few foreigners who has ever been there.
ONE OF THE STOPS ALONG THE WAY WAS A COMMUNAL GARDEN, WHERE PEOPLE OF THE VILLAGE GROW DIFFERENT FRUITS IN THE TREES.
It’s communal as everyone pitches in to keep the garden going and share the yield when it’s ready to be harvested. They grow many different kinds of fruit. Some of them were pretty familiar, as mangos or jackfruit, but some will definitely be something that you’ve never seen or tried before.
Part of the garden is also where the local gardening expert practices unique ways of growing grapes, figs and other fruit. He treats the fruit trees in a special way to get the maximum possible production out of them.
THIS IS ANOTHER THAI SPECIFIC PRACTICE WE HADN’T SEEN ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD BEFORE.
And the fruit picked from the trees tasted epic!
Other spots along the way included a bee farm, local barbershop to get some fresh coconuts and just taking the most scenic routes of the village.
The picnic & best Thai vegetarian dishes
Final and the most delicious part of our Thai rural village cycling trip was a picnic by the water. Our guide and her mother brought the meal with us from their home, where everything was cooked.
WE HAD AGREED BEFORE THAT WE’LL HAVE A VEGETARIAN PICNIC, SO WE WERE VERY MUCH INTERESTED TO SEE WHAT KIND OF DISHES ARE WE GOING TO HAVE.
Thinking of the Pad Thai with chicken, Tom Yum soup with meat and minced meat with basil, most of the popular Thai dishes might seem to be containing meat. But we were proven wrong here!
Our picnic menu consisted of veggies cooked in different ways, some light chili sauces, and rice. As everything was super delicious we ended up eating as much as we could, feeling happy and full.
Some of the vegetables we had were just like the ones we’d eat in Europe. But we also got to try some, that we saw and tested for the first time in our lives. By the way, we left the tour with some new and exciting recipes in the pocket, as we were not ready to leave these tastes behind. While we are in the area, we’ll definitely try and recreate them ourselves.
What an awesome discovery we had, seeing shitake mushroom stems cooked in the way that it looks like meat and tastes like meat.
SO BASICALLY IF YOU’RE A VEGETARIAN OR VEGAN IN THAILAND, YOU WILL NOT BE MISSING OUT ON FOOD, AS THAIS HAVE SUCH A WIDE VARIETY OF VEGGIES.
Plus, Thais know some very creative ways how to cook them. We are 100% impressed by the large variety of vegetarian dishes in Chaing Mai and the surrounding area. Each of these cool vegetarian finds inspired us to try and cook it ourselves. So that’s what we’ve been doing at every chance.
Another discovery during this tour was the Butterfly pea flower, that you can find all over our newly discovered village.
THIS UNIQUE FLOWER IS NOT JUST AN IMPORTANT INGREDIENT IN THAI COOKING, BUT ALSO A SUPERPOWER IN HEALTH & BEAUTY.
By adding these flowers to the water or a cocktail, it’s going to turn the drink in a magical blue color.
Interesting that sometimes mothers use these blue flowers to highlight the shape of the eyebrows of their little daughters. There’s a belief that doing this will help the eyebrows grow beautiful and dark. That’s one of the beauty etalons in Thailand.
When thinking back on this whole tour experience, we couldn’t be happier having seen this all. And we have to admit that we wouldn’t be able to have such an insider experience if we didn’t have a local showing us around.
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