Leeled & Khlong Noi: A CBT-I Tour Inspection
Leeled and Khlong Noi are two subdistricts, close to Surat Thani town, in the mangrove, or coastal area of the province.
In the past there were no roads and people mainly traveled by boat through the rivers and canals. The main livelihood of the people living in the marsh land is coconut palm plantation, while villagers residing in the areas near the sea engage in traditional fishing.
At present, apart from these two main occupations, villagers also practice shrimp farming.
In the past few decades, coastal forests had been devastated by villagers cutting nipa palm and other trees to make charcoal and fishing stakes, and by shrimp farmers who fouled the marshlands and polluted the water.…
Since then, community members have successfully undertaken conservation activities to preserve and expand the forest, control fishing methods and introduce waste management.
The villagers harvest nipa palms, catch fiddler crabs and mollusks, plant crab traps, and set up different types of fishing nets in the forest.
Nowadays local people also serve as community guides, homestay hosts, and boat and car drivers.
On our inspection we combined both programs and first visited Leeled. After an introduction about the history of Leeled and its problems we went by longtail boat through a maze of quiet canals winding through a mangrove forest that a few years ago was open sea, an amazing experience. The forest is rapidly growing due to enforcing waste management and specific fishing methods. Also the hunting of birds and animals is prohibited and as a result the whole area is like a sanctuary, we saw plenty of kingfishers, herons, crab-eating macaques and even a sea eagle.
In the afternoon we went by car to Khlong Noi and after a nice lunch embarked on visiting local small enterprises, again by longtail boat.
First we stopped at the Monkey Training Center, a serious business of already two generations, nothing touristy about it. Local villagers come here to have their monkeys trained to collect coconuts, a 40 to 50 day course, where in 4 steps of 10 days the monkeys practice twisting the coconuts loose and untying themselves in case their ropes get tangled up.
Once trained, a good monkey can collect up to 1000 coconuts per day for which the owner charges 3 baht per coconut!
Next was a small boat yard where both standard canal longtails as well as much bigger seafaring boats are built. We had a good look at the working place, chatted with the owner, again a family business of 3 generations.
Nipa palms have many uses as we discovered at the next stop. The fruit is used in quite a few Thai desserts and the leaves for roof thatching as well as cigarette rolling paper!
Back at the homestay — a nice concrete and wooden building — we had dinner and spent some time with our Thai hosts until bedtime.
The next day we looked at some of the other homestays (similar style and quite OK) and integrated fruit orchards where varieties of fruit trees are grown; e.g., rose apple, santol, and guava.
We also visited a family who still make fishing rods (real works of art!) and other fishing equipment.
The strangest part was kept for the last, we stopped at a farm where they feed blow fish with small pieces of raw pork! The pieces of pork are hung on a line about 10 cm above the water level. The blowfish (quite small, about 10 to 15 cm) swim to the surface directly underneath and ‘shoot’ with water the pork pieces loose!
Back at the homestay we discussed program possibilities with the representatives of both communities and the CBT-I representative, Khun Nutchanat. After some talking we decided on one 2D1N program each per community and a joint 3D2N program, including roundtrip transfers to/from Surat Thani railway station or airport.
Previously the home stays mainly welcomed student groups and few tourists, the largest group was 50 pax! They have enough homestays to take care of such a number of clients, also the distance between the two subdistricts is only a few kilometers.