Ethical Tourism in Thailand Won’t Damper Your Travel Plans
When traveling abroad, it’s important to take note of local laws and customs. But it doesn’t stop there: ethical tourism in Thailand takes planning. From choosing the right beaches to only supporting ethical treatment of animals, there’s plenty you can do to preserve the environment. Sustainable tourism takes a village. All you have to do is read on and you’ll be ahead of the curve.
“Take nothing but photos, leave nothing behind.”
Ethical Elephant Sanctuaries in Thailand
Elephants are almost synonymous with Thailand, but they’ve had a controversial history. It’s a delicate situation now that we’re past the centuries of using them for physical labor. While it started as an ancient practice, seemingly essential to life in Southeast Asia, the relationship between man and elephant is overly complex. Elephants were trained for transportation, moving heavy loads and clearing dense forests, despite the permanent damage to their spines. Thailand eventually banned logging in protected areas and using elephants for logging in 1989. Good intentions at heart all around with this decision, but the end result was a large number of ‘unemployed’ elephants.
What could elephants be used for rather than the exhausting and damaging physical labor? Tourism. Elephant tours often involve circus-esque performances as well as carrying around tourists on their backs. You may not have known this, but this causes a huge strain on their spine, leading to permanent damage. Those photos riding elephants may impress friends back home but there’s no denying you’ve partaken in a wicked industry.
Elephants are never domesticated, keeping their wild instincts from birth. I won’t get into the nitty gritty details of the brutal process that elephants go through to become more submissive and docile, but I can paint a picture for you. The Thai word for the elephant ‘training’ process, phajaan, translates to “crushing their wild spirit.”
This may sound desolate and hopeless for these majestic creatures, but that’s because I haven’t gotten to the uplifting part of the story. We’re at the turning point of the treatment of elephants in Thailand and you do your part while on your backpacking trip.
There are a handful of key animal rights organizations that are extremely vocal in their boycott of unethical elephant tours. On top of this, there are some truly amazing ethical elephant sanctuaries in Thailand that are rehabilitating the ‘unemployed’ elephants. They don’t discriminate either, all elephants are welcome: the old, the injured, the retired and liberated. It’s a full family reunion in these sanctuaries, bringing together man and elephant alike. Trainers and owners are offered jobs in the sanctuary and taught ethical treatment of elephants.
PS: We offer an Elephant Sanctuary Tour in Chiang Mai, ask our reception about it!
Support the Locals in Thailand During Your Backpacking Trip
Thailand boasts its generally high levels of happiness, a stark contrast to the extreme poverty. Like any other country that undergoes rapid economic development, it has made life difficult for a large number of lower income households. Coupled along with a minimum wage lower than regional counterparts, it can be absurdly difficult (or impossible) to get ahead in life.
The simplest way you can support the locals in Thailand is to always tip.
$9.71 USD (305 Thai baht): That’s how much Thai people make for a whole day of work at minimum wage. Living costs in Thailand can be cheap, but this just isn’t enough to live well. The most off putting thing about the minimum wage here is that the vast majority of Thai people earn this much. When traveling, it’s easy to assume that staff of resorts and nicer hotels are paid better, but that’s not the case. No matter where you’re staying, your tips will go a long way.
Read more about tipping culture in Thailand in this quick guide we wrote!