“The one thing in the world, of value, is the active soul.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson
Bangkok in Thailand is not new to travellers, and there is always something new (and possibly shiny) to explore in the capital of the Land of Smiles. However, while everyone is busy pursuing modern comforts and instant gratifications, I decided to follow the wise words of Emerson, and seek the active ‘soul’ of the vibrant city with HiveSters - a hub for real Thai experiences.
Walking along the back alleys of Nang Loeng, the hidden gems of the city came alive with smiles of the friendly locals. From wafts of food aroma to jasmine fragrance, we ate our way from the local market to a cultural house and learnt to dance “Lam Sud Chatree” - a traditional Thai performance.
In case you are wondering if it is worth to join a HiveSters tour, here’s sharing my personal experience on the Nang Loeng Neighbourhood Discovery tour:
Getting acquainted with Nang Loeng and her people
Located in central Bangkok’s historic district, Nang Loeng is one of the hidden neighbourhoods that HiveSters are trying to revive with a community tour. Upon arrival, we were given a warm welcome by the community leader at the neighbourhood’s temple. Whilst Bangkok foodies are no stranger to the Nang Loeng Market, many may not know that this old town used to be the home of Thailand’s version of Elvis Presley!
“Humans, not places, make memories.” ― Ama Ata Aidoo
Walking along narrow alleys and corridors, keep a lookout for the now defunct Sala Chaloem Chani or the Nang Loeng Cinema, built in 1918. You may find nonchalant locals sitting idyllic by their door, reflecting a slower pace of life as compared to that of life in Pathumwan. Keep your eyes and ears open, for that was how we found Sam, the python that was caught and adopted as a community pet, according to the joking locals.
Hands-on interactive fun and learning
Making som tum (papaya salad)
What sets a HiveSters tour apart from the conventional tour must be the interactive activities that visitors can partake in the local community. While many have tried the popular Thai dish ‘som tum’ (papaya salad), has anyone ever tried learning how to make this traditional appetizer from a local chef? Encouragement from our friendly guide and community members had us dancing in joy after preparing our own first ever papaya salad!
Creating local crafts and Lam Sud Chatree
A visit to the cultural house also imparted us some skills in making traditional Thai vintage powder garland (Pang Puang) - a natural concoction of rose water and herbs, which can be used in places of worship as offerings or hair accessories for ladies. Most interestingly, tour participants get to learn dance movements of ‘Lam Sud Chatree’ - a traditional Thai performance that reflects the story of a lady washing up and putting on makeup while waiting for her husband to return home. This is a fading culture, and it gives auntie a sense of satisfaction to impart her skills.
Bangkok foodies, rejoice!
Nang Leong is the place for (possibly the best) street food in Bangkok. During the tour, participants can expect a fine sampling of snacks and desserts at the Nang Loeng market. Each tour is limited to 12 people, making it a good size to navigate the neighbourhood and to share bite-size food. The tour ends with lunch at a local restaurant, and dessert is included!
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HiveSters Tour - social innovation for sustainable tourism
Sustainable tourism involves various aspect including social and community development as well as economic considerations. It seems the enterprising founders of HiveSters has given much thought to these, and what came in place after three years of operation was that of amazing tours that benefit both visitors and the local community. By going on a HiveSters tour, it means you are contributing a direct income for the local community members. More than that, it also boosts a sense of pride and gives meaning of life for some.
There’s more to Bangkok than shopping
To friends who make the annual ‘shopping pilgrimage’ to Bangkok, there are plenty of reasons to allocate ½ day of your time for a HiveSters tour. The foremost being there is much to learn about this fun capital.
For example, did you know the official title of Bangkok is actually ‘Krungthep mahanakhon amonrattanakosin mahintara ayuthaya mahadilok popnopparat ratchathani burirom udomratchaniwet mahasathan amonpiman avatansathit sakkathattiya visnukamprasit’? Thanks to our friendly HiveSters guide, Boe, who sang the capital’s name, we were finally enlightened. This beloved shopping city win hands down for the capital with the longest name in the world!
To discover the active soul of the city, one needs to see beyond its usual sights and there’s no better place than to retrace history to where it all began. Help HiveSters in their APPEAR project to make disappearing communities appear again.
HiveSters: Nang Loeng Neighbourhood Discovery
Price: from 1,700 THB (~50 USD) per person
Contact: (+66) 090 678 4695
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