Friday, March 2, 2012

A MAP Volunteer's experience in visiting Koh Libong and Krabi

On my way from Koh Libong to the mainland
 Raghav Mettakhun, MAP volunteer intern
Trang Province, Southern Thailand
Friday 24th February
I had an opportunity to attend a 4-day study tour to Koh Libong (Koh meands ‘Island’ in Thai) in Trang Province and Krabi Province (located next to Trang). MAP organized the trip for the Community-based Tourism (CBT) groups for Lion village on Koh Pra Thong where MAP has established a Coastal Community Resourse Centre (CCRC) and the CBT members from Ta Laenok village. This tour allowed them to absorb new experiences and implement new knowledge into the CBT, natural resource management and sufficiency living for their own villages. I was really excited and looking forward for such an eventful journey. This was because the island caught my attention when I visited a month earlier with delicious cuisine, the nature and friendliness of the locals there made me so eager to visit again. After swiftly packing my bags with an hour van ride to the pier meeting the villagers from Phra Tong Island, Phang Nga Province and Baan Talae Nok, Ranong Pronvince for a half an hour boat trip, we have arrived in Libong Island.
Koh Libong is the largest island in Trang and it’s home to a thriving Muslim population that earns their its livelihood almost exclusively from fishing and rubber plantation. After a few minutes ride into the Batu Butae village we were greeted by the village coordinator and a few members. We were allocated to stay with different host families and were lucky enough to get a room with a spectacular view of receding seawater and mangroves. The view was to- die-for and with the price of only $5 per night! Best for watching sunset!

Saturday 25th February
After a good night sleep I woke up to sea breeze passing through our bedroom. The talks from Community-Based Tourism (CBT) coordinator and other village representatives came to share their community management strategies and local wisdoms. Then, we were taken by a double deck wooden boat for a tour around the island, which was made by a 78-year-old man. He assembled every single piece by hand and we are the first group to use it.  Bang Maan our young witty guide was eager to ensure we all had a wonderful experience. He pointed out the dugongs swimming in the sea. It was breathtaking and we were told we were very lucky as it is a rare chance to see them, as dugong are a characteristically shy and reserved sea mammal. In the evening, I participated in an activity that I would remember for the rest of my life, shrimp hunting. After sunset, the villagers, MAP staffs headed to the muddy beach with torchlights on our heads and spears on our hands ready for the mission. However, I caught nothing but a shellfish.

Presenting a calendar to a village representative in Krabi Province

Sunday 26th February
I think the dinner last night caused me difficulties going to the bathroom in the morning, blaming my overindulgence of shellfish OOPS! After saying Good Byes to the locals, we left the island to Krabi Province as early as 8.30am. In Krabi, we went to a sustainable farming village and observed how they plant hydroponic vegetables. Interestingly, an alternative method of rice cultivation for household consumption was demonstrated utilising used car tyres, which helped saving irrigation costs and prevents the spread of leeches and pests like in the paddy fields. We saw bananas planted upside down to speed up the growth. Also, we learned using ash water from firewood is good for disinfecting and brushing teeth, so no need for toothpaste. I have managed to learn a good amount from this village, which demonstrated many examples of sustainable living. At night, another MAP volunteer from Spain, Alba and I went to the night market in town, where we found plenty of food and cheap clothes!

Monday 27th February
Back at the office, I usually write the list of ‘First Times’ onto a sheet of paper as part of my time as a volunteer at MAP. Another item to be added to my list were eating Roti with curry for breakfast at a Muslim restaurant. It was really yummy! We took a 10-minute boat ride by Krabi River from the town along with mangrove forests and then we arrived in Klong Prasong village, located on an Island in the Krabi River estuary. Bang Non, a retired NGO worker and village coordinator welcomed us. I was impressed by the waste bank scheme he founded. Plastics, paper, metal and glasses were separated and collected for sale in the mainland Krabi town. The overall trip gave me a clearer idea on the CBT that is created as a supplementary income to local people, not the sole income. CBT could not be organised if they did not protect their own natural resources from destruction since they come hand-in-hand. CBT is different from a tour package that it gives the community spirit to allow them to build a better future for the mangroves and their people. It was a great experience and has inspired me to take more interest not only in nature but their livelihood too.

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