Community-Based Tourism Pilot Tour: The Real Value of a Home

It’s hard to explain what makes a home inviting and exude warmth. Is it the comfy sofa, the pictures on the wall, or a manicured lawn?

I believe that people create the feel of a place (okay, so architecture is a big player too, but if you fill the most beautiful building in the world with grumps, it’s not going to be a fun place).

Have you ever walked into a work place, and felt tension so thick, you could cut it with a knife? No one is talking, but yet you feel the emotion of the people.

Ban Lion Village

Ban Lion showed me what makes a place. The people, with genuine warmth in their eyes, a smile and the kindness to share their lives made their residences inviting, not the homes lined up like an Excel spreadsheet.

Our destination for a two-day pilot tour in June was Ban Lion, a village located on the northwest side of Koh Prathong in Phang Nga Province. The residents are a collective of people from different villages who were affected by the tsunami in 2004. The homes in the village were built with the support of Lions Club International.

We were greeted while unloading from the boat. I was instantly impressed that the villagers came to us, versus waiting for us to come to them.

The home style in Ban Lion likely contrasts the image of Thai homes most foreigners have in their heads. My first thought upon arrival was, “Am I in an American suburb?” Completely identical homes are in clean, distinct lines.

Any confusion I had was replaced and trumped ten-fold by the people. They were so determined to make us feel at home. Our homestay hosts were two, 20-year-old girls, who work at the nearby Golden Buddha Beach Resort.

The first day we explored sea grass at low tide where pools were full of more star fish than I’d ever seen at once. We visited the old village, called Pak Jok. The tsunami devastated Pak Jok Village, leaving only small sections of concrete road and the bases of a few buildings. From there, we walked to the beach for sunset.

Sun Dew Plant

On day two, we took a short tractor ride to the golden grass fields. Our energetic guides’ passion for the area was contagious. They took special care to point out each detail. My favorite plant was the sun dew, which has a trap for insects to fall into to provide the plant with nutrients.

There was a brief discussion at the end of the tour where we gave our feedback on everything from the food to activities. My overall feedback was that it’s the seemingly small stuff that makes a tour, a restaurant, a hotel or the world work. Life is all about the difference between someone pointing down the street, when you’re new in town and ask where post office is, versus someone walking you there and buying you a cup of coffee.

-Leslie Welshimer