Category Archives: sustainable tourism

Elephant Nature Park, Chiang Mai – washing, feeding and making a difference

As Jokia ambles down the riverbank, the crowd of bucket-wielding tourists grows silent. Parting into two groups, we watch and wait as this huge, 55-year-old Asian elephant, wades into the shallows and eases herself onto her mud-covered side, her trunk snuffling through the water. Continue reading

Tagged , , , ,

Cameron Highlands, Malaysia – getting the most out of wildlife in this stunning corner of South East Asia

Despite an unerring (some would say worrying) devotion to the BBC’s endlessly wholesome Springwatch and a penchant for lengthy country walks, my wildlife spotting skills are distinctly average. I try to put it down to bad eyesight, but the fact is I’m just not properly clued in on birds and other fauna to be able to tell a cuckoo from a chiff chaff at one hundred paces.

That’s not to say this isn’t something I’ve been desperate to remedy for a long time. And fortunately, in Malaysia’s gorgeous Cameron Highlands, I was afforded the opportunity to do so courtesy of some lush rainforest and guides with an encyclopaedic knowledge of the area’s plant and bird life. Continue reading

Tagged , , , , , , ,

Biking to Beng Melea – off the beaten track in Siem Reap, Cambodia

Turning off the main road out of Siem Reap, our bikes crunch across wet gravel towards one of the many small local villages that surround Cambodia’s biggest tourist town. Turning around, our guide Samnang points to four uniformed men and a white Land Rover in the adjacent field. ‘Training to clear land mines,’ he says. ‘They’ve already cleared many temple sites, but there’s much work left to do.’

It’s a stark reminder that this area, and this country, are still suffering the horrific after effects of the Khmer Rouge’s brief but brutal rule. We’re on the road to Beng Melea, an ancient temple site that sits over 50km north of the main attractions of Angkor. Our ride though, which has only just begun, will cover 75km, through lush paddy fields, arid landscapes and tiny villages, as we get off the beaten track and try to find the real Cambodia. Continue reading

Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

Mekong Delta tour – how to do it yourself in Vietnam’s rice bowl

Finding a Mekong Delta tour is the least challenging thing a backpacker can do in Saigon. Operators from Sinh Tourist to Hanh Cafe offer similar variations on a theme.  A bleary-eyed 5am start on day one, visits to handicraft stores and various local industries and a whistle stop trip around a floating market. This is largely repeated on days two (and three), with the hours punctuated by hotel meals and little chance to interact with the locals that make the area tick.

Continue reading

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Sapa – how Vietnam’s trekking hotspot has become a byword for unsustainable tourism

The fog clung hard to the hills as we made our way out of Lao Cai and towards Sapa, Northern Vietnam’s prime destination for those after hilly treks and tribal encounters. Having not managed to reach this town and its surrounding villages on my last visit to Vietnam nine years ago, I was excited and intrigued to take in the views and see how the people dealt with an endless influx of tourists.

It became clear very quickly that the answer to the last question would be both complex and leave me with a sour taste in my mouth. Both about how this area has been affected by the hundreds of tourists who take the overnight train here from Hanoi every day and the agencies which arrange these trips. As our bus made its first stop, it was surrounded by local women, dressed in a mix of ethnic headgear and counterfeit sportswear. They smiled as they shouted, “Looking, shopping,” at the tired and bewildered batch of foreigners on board.

Continue reading

Tagged ,
%d bloggers like this: