“Off the Well-Trodden Rut” – A Travel Writer’s Impressions

Andaman Discoveries was happy to host Farang Untamed Travel magazine writer Jim Algie, who spent a few days with us in Kuraburi and in Ban Talae Nok this month. Jim provided us with the following excerpt from his forthcoming article:

If I live through another 100 reincarnations I never want to visit, or write about, the big glitzy beach resorts of Thailand again, which could be almost anywhere in the Andaman or the Costa del Samui, or Bali or Hawaii: take your pick and it’s mostly the same franchised, five-star shtick. For the last few years I’ve preferred to venture down the less-traveled routes of small hamlets and bed down in home-stays. Having heard and read many recommendations about Andaman Discoveries (firstly from a colleague at Farang Untamed Travel magazine, Kelly May, the virtual shepherd for this stray wanderer) I decided that for my first eco-tourism column, “Go Green,” for 2 Magazine in Bangkok, I would try one of their itineraries, binding the story together with the fourth mourning of the tsunami and some of the life-saver projects thrown to locals to keep their heads above the rising tide of red ink as the waves receded and international aid dried up.

It was a wise move. What I’ve come to relish most about community-based tours is that they open a gateway into rarely visited parts of the country, and traditional cultures, where locals are still welcoming and touts are non-existent. Sea-straddling towns like Baan Talae Nok rarely show up on tourist maps, and the sights like jellyfish farms, mosques in houses, and goats chewing up the greenery are not often seen in mainstream guidebooks or daily newspapers.

One of the most memorable aspects of home-stays is the interactions with the locals. No longer are you simply a voyeur; you’re a direct participant. That was the case when we careened through the mangrove forest on a long-tailed boat and Captain Ibrahim handed me the pole and the throttle hooked up to a string to navigate through the canals. Later on we went fishing on the beach, spreading out a net some 10-metres wide to drag it from chest-deep water onto the beach, snaring fish as we walked. It was a bit embarrassing to be out-fished by an eight-year-old boy, but I was out of my depth and he was right in his natural element.

In this friendly, Muslim village, any visitor ends up feeling less like an intruder and more like a part of the extended family.

Thanks to all the Andaman Discoveries crew for a fantastic voyage, Mai the translator for his running commentaries, and serenading us on the nature trail hike, not to mention my main boatman Ibrahim for not letting me crash the long-tail into a mangrove tree.

Jim Algie, Bangkok