THE CONSCIOUS TRAVELER'S PACKING GUIDE FOR THAILAND
Can I fill my water bottle, please?
Thai: Sai nam quad, dai mai, na ka/kup.
I don't need a bag, thanks.
Thai: Mai tong sai toong, na ka/kup.
I don't want a straw, thanks,
Thai: Mai ow laawt, na ka/kup.
I don't need a spoon, thanks.
Thai: Mai tong chaawn, na ka/kup.
Over many years of living in and traveling around Thailand I have created an arsenal of eco-products that I use on a daily basis in order to lesson my impact. I could go on all day about eco-friendly products that I use for everyday jungle life (e.g. avoiding moldy clothes in the rainy season), however this guide is specifically for the traveler, who is conscious of their (mostly plastic) footprint while visiting the wonders of Thailand.
It is common knowledge that Thailand (and many popular Asian tourist destinations) is drowning in plastic.
There remains some debate as to whose responsibility it is, however at Ways of Change we believe in everyone being conscious of their impact and focusing on the positive; what we as individuals can do to create positive change.
WoC’s focus is always on connecting people and places; this guide will cultivate your already conscious attitude towards travel by connecting you with ideas, products and culture so that you are leaving nothing but smiles and positive vibes as you experience the beauty of Thailand.
Read on if you are ready to become the true embodiment of a conscious tourist in Thailand, or anywhere in our global community.
Below is a guide that includes;
- Eco-friendly packing ideas
- A Thai language guide
- Some fun pictures
1. Temperature Regulated Water Bottle
For a surmountable amount of reasons, it is not preferable to drink out of plastic bottles. You won’t have to when you carry your own water bottle, always prepared to fill up at one of Thailand’s many water stations. Many travelers aren’t aware, but, there are water fill-up stations all over Thailand, their intent here is not to dehydrate the tourists!
These machines are as exciting as they look because for 1 baht (3 cents), you can fill up anywhere from 1 – 3 liters (machines may vary) with reverse osmosis treated water. You can even find them in very remote villages. Typically they are out front of, and owned by, small shops, so you are still supporting that small shop when you pay your 1 baht, without the impact of another plastic bottle.
You might even spot one of these beauties, usually near to a market, with free water refills…just follow the rules and don’t try and wash your dishes here.
It is pretty common for many businesses (post office, banks, restaurants, shops) to provide free drinking water. Just ask if you can fill up!
I am going to go ahead and recommend a temperature regulated water bottle. If you plan on relaxing on the beach or leaving your air-conditioned room, ever, you are likely to encounter the Thailand sun. I guarantee a genuinely pleasant surprise every time you drink from your legitimately cold beverage.
If you are preparing for your trip in advance check out S'well. Speaking from experience, the small opening for drinking is preferable to a large one, think bumpy bus ride or bumpy walking terrain. Plus, S'well is supporter of Unicef, working to provide clean water to vulnerable children around the world.
If you are already in Thailand and forgot or lost your water bottle check out Trash Hero and the awesome work they are doing all over Thailand. On their website you can explore all the areas of Thailand that they have a presence, including lists of shops which sell their 200 baht ($6) temperature regulated water bottles and where free water refills are available...that's right, you can save 1 baht!
2. Market Bag
One huge draw to visiting Thailand, in my humble opinion is this...
Perhaps you also enjoy tropical fruit; mangos, bananas, mangosteens, papayas, dragon fruit, things you've never even heard of!
You are about to enter your wildest dreams as far as fresh produce markets; local herbs, chilies, veggies the size of your head!
Come prepared for this gloriousness! Bring your market bag! It is small enough to pack and you will be happy that you brought it on this food adventure, I promise. You might think that you will just throw your just-bought mangos into your day-backpack...you will not, you can not, they will squish all over your camera/tablet/computer/journal. Market bag!
Extra special tip: It is avocado season in the north right now!
3. Glass straw
Straws are nice and useful, especially in Thailand where you can drink coconuts and smoothies until you can't anymore! Personally, I don't care to dirty my beautiful hydrating drinks with plastic in any capacity and of course the impact of the plastic is something to be conscious of.
I have a fancy straw from Glass Dharma with "Love" etched into the glass. It is glorious and comes everywhere with me. It also comes with a lifetime guarantee. I am not gentle with it, do not fear the glass straw.
If you are already in Thailand and getting tired of all the plastic straws, the only place I know selling them is Earth Tone in Pai (also eat and drink everything while you are there and it is a great shop for other eco and wellness products you may need to refill).
Extra special hint (from the jungle): Use a papaya leaf stem as a straw!
4. Wooden utensils
It is so important to me that I wear mine as a necklace. It is symbolic of how vital it is to be conscious of what we feed our bodies.
As you peruse the markets in Thailand you may care to sample some Thai delicacies the likes of mango and sticky rice, northern noodles, endless curries and coconuts. Each one comes with its very own plastic utensil!
Come prepared with your own, they are super cute and always useful. You will be that person on the bus/trek/late-night curry-run who saved the day with your wooden utensil!
If you are ready to save the day with your own set of locally-made wooden utensils, visit Free Bird Cafe in Chiang Mai. You can pick up a set made by Thai craftsmen that come wrapped in cloth (this is very handy for keeping them clean when throwing them into your bag) which is handmade by local refugee students.
5. Menstruation Cup
Tampons in Thailand are few, far between and expensive! If you haven't yet tried out the life-changing menstruation cup, now is your chance!
I have had my Diva Cup for seven ecstatic years!
If you are bored of the endless search for tampons and are already in Thailand, you can pick up a cup at Earth Tone in Pai.
Thailand is made for these; bathrooms with no garbage bins (or toilet paper) but plenty of water.
Menstruation cups mean more time in between bathroom breaks and of course, a decrease in your environmental footprint. You will be thanking me on those long bus rides, endless treks and long days of sight-seeing with few bathroom breaks.
If cups don't sound like your thing, another option to check out is the ground-breaking work of Thinx, period-proof underwear that can back-up or replace your choice of tampons, cups, etc.
Alright, clearly I could go on forever, but I'll leave you here! Keep in mind that you don't need to have any particular products in order to request the absence of the plastic version.
A few more language tips:
Females end a sentence with 'ka' and males with 'kup.'
The 'na' located before the ka/kup, makes you extra polite.
Above, I have used an assortment of "I don't need/want" (mai tong/ mai ow). Either is fine.
'Ai' is pronounced 'eye.'
If you forget almost everything, rely on the power of the present and "mai ow" (I don't want), when the bag/utensil/straw is being given to you.
Chok dee na ka (good luck)!