Chiangrai Times –Asian Oasis looks at promoting only sustainable tourism in a way to empower ethnic communities in Northern Thailand. A successful example is Lanjia Lodge located in Chiang Kong, in Chiang Rai province.
It takes approximately an hour from Chiang Rai to reach the hilly landscapes surrounding the small city of Chiang Khong. The Mekong River can be seen in a distance, forming the border with Laos. With ASEAN turning into a single economic community in 2015, the border between Laos and Thailandis becoming increasingly opened to locals from both sides of the river.
Today, Hmong people represent a community strong of 155,000 individuals, representing 16% of all ethnicities living in Thailand. Most of them have been granted Thai citizenship, except older generations. Their citizenship status did not however empower them until the nineties.
This is where we intervened with the Population and Community Development Association which looks at ways to grant economic autonomy to ethnic communities, explains Rachet Wapeetha, Sales and Marketing Manager of Lodges for Asian Oasis.
Asian Oasis vows to create only tourism products which can be labeled as sustainable community-based. The company has a range of four eco-friendly lodges, three located in Chiang Mai Province (Lisu Lodge, Lahu Outpost and Khum Lanna) and one located in Chiang Rai Province (Lanjia Lodge).
“Our aim is to bring here travellers who want to have a real interacting experience with local communities. The product so far has been especially well received by European travellers who are the keenest at looking at authenticity,” says Mr. Wapeetha. Lanjia Lodge is nestled on a hill with stunning views of green mountains, paddy fields and the Mekong River. Four pavilions have been built offering twin-bed or double rooms at Lanjia Lodges, all built with natural materials such as wood, bamboo or rattan. The only concession to modernity is electricity and hot water! There is no air-con and no internet- probably a deterrent element for younger generations of Asian travellers unable to locate themselves on facebook !!
What would be a typical stay at Lanjia Lodge? It is all about knowing the local Hmong villagers by visiting the school, visiting a shaman’s home who will initiate visitors about ways to deal with spirits. It is also about trekking in the surrounding for the fittest, making batik or other handicraft for the most talented or simply enjoy Hmong-style food and traditional dances and songs from the villagers in the evening.
“We want to make locals proud of their identity and show them that by keeping their traditions, arts and way of life, they are able to make a living. The majority of the proceeds from the Lodge are reinvested into the community. This represents something between three and four million Baht per year [US$ 97,000 to US$ 129,000]. Only a small amount will be kept for marketing and sales purposes,” tells Rachet Wapeetha. A stay at Lanjia Lodge costs around THB 2,500 per night. Some travellers might find it relatively expensive. But this is also for a good cause.