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When I get off the plane that in just one hour has taken me from the chaotic Bangkok to the peaceful province of Trat, I don't know what I'm going to find. And with the innocence and enthusiasm of those who enter a new territory to explore, I am ready to be surprised. To let me seduce.See 10 photos
Koh Yao Yai, the last paradise
Trat is the name of both the easternmost province of Thailand and the city that serves as capital. Located next to the border with Cambodia, it has 52 paradisiacal islands bathed by the most turquoise waters of the Gulf of Thailand, with small villages where it seems that time was anchored in the past, and with a culture that stands out for respect to nature
Definition of 'green' level Thailand © Getty Images
If we add to all these qualities that, in addition, it is a territory still unknown to most of the tourism - with what this implies: a population overturned with travelers and zero crowds - what more can we ask for?
But to understand what I'm talking about, it is best to stop beating around and get to the point. Where had we left it? Ah, yes: on our arrival at Trat airport, consisting of a small takeoff / landing strip in the middle of a lush landscape in which elephant-shaped bushes welcome us. Great, the thing looks good!
After checking in at the Hotel Toscana Trad, a three star with that Asian air that we like so much and that will serve as our base camp during our days in the province, we will go directly to know one of the communities that inhabit these lares
A three star with an Asian air © Hotel Toscana Trad
The Ban Nam Chiao have a characteristic that makes them admirable: 50% of their population is Buddhist, while the other 50% is Muslim . And, despite what many may think, in this corner of Thailand, living together is absolutely friendly and peaceful .
We dare to walk along its high wooden walkways, those that run a few meters above the channel that serves as the backbone of the town. The colored boats of its fishermen rest quietly in the calm waters. On one side and another, the small houses where the members of the community live leaving their privacy aside. Open doors, lunch on the terraces or naps in the hammocks at the sight of everyone who passes. And what else gives?
Life takes place at a much slower pace in these latitudes. The good atmosphere feels, feels, and that is an added bonus to the experience . Few places are so authentic.
The generosity and hospitality of the Ban Nam Chiao is demonstrated at every step we take, something that is further accentuated when lunch time comes … Has anyone said food? The neighbors will not hesitate a second to show the most representative culinary techniques and flavors of this area for the joy of our palates.
Catching the sunset in Trat © Getty Images
But the culinary side can go further: we ride in the boat of one of the fishermen to throw us at the mouth of the canal and witness the curious technique they have to capture one of the star products: the “clam tongue” -o tongue shells -. So easy - or not - how to dive into the water, dive deeper and return to the surface with clam-laden hands … Can there be anything more surprising? Yes, its flavor, that will have to taste as we set foot on the ground.
And for dessert? Perhaps a bit of tangme krop, the candy they make in the village by hand and that is eaten, especially during Ramadan. This will leave us the best taste, although we can not reject some of its tropical fruits. Papaya, mango or lychee? The list of exotic flavors is endless.
A fresh coconut can never fail © Getty Images
But the experience can still be completed more. A bike ride along the trails that surround the community will be perfect for lowering the food. And on two wheels we stop at the house of Pee-Noy, an elderly lady who continues to elaborate by hand, with palm leaves, the famous ngop hats so typical of the area.
Back to the city of Trat we stop at your market, open until night. Life takes place in the most daily way through its corridors, where huge pieces of meat and vegetables with unpronounceable names rest on the counter. Meanwhile, shopkeepers unfailingly frighten flies with the most effective technique: a stick with a bag attached to the end, in continuous movement, is more than enough.
If we are left wanting to try more flavors, this will be the ideal place to liven up with street food. The difficult thing will be to choose between multiple positions. Just do not say goodbye and, eye to spicy! That which you least suspect will make you feel that you throw real fire through your mouth.
Pee Noy © Tourist Office of Thailand
Chong Changtune is the name of another of the communities that inhabit the area and practice ecotourism . The motto that its members always keep in mind is very simple: "Everything we take from nature, we have to give it back . " And with this philosophy of life they make health and well-being their maximum, with which they demonstrate their passion and dedication for natural and cultural conservation.
The experience with them can begin, for example, by putting us in a human-sized basket for chickens. And no, we have not lost our minds, don't worry.
The Chong Changtune have developed a peculiar type of sauna that will leave you speechless. After 10 minutes -which, we warn, are made eternal- sweating non-stop inside this huge basket, with kettle to which up to 10 types of herbs and medicinal plants have been added inside, and with the only escape that that of a hole through which to get the head out, we will have released all kinds of impurities and toxins from our body. Or, at least, that assures us while we feel the intense heat that we undergo during the experience. Then, a good cold shower and we will be a new person.
Access to the Huai Raeng community © Tourist Office of Thailand
A complete Thai massage performed by the Chong women or an impromptu beauty session with white clay next to the riverbank will be other of the native customs that we can enjoy. Seriously: you'll get out of there feeling 20 years younger.
A menu based on banana stem with curry and fried pork with salt will be the best way to say goodbye to these women - because eye, it is they, and not them, who work on this project to make the virtues known to the rest of the world of his way of life -. After resting in the hotel and taking a good shower, an ideal place to dine will be the Krung Thai Chicken restaurant, where everything is cooked based on organic vegetables .
Before leaving the continental Trat we will meet the Huai Raeng, who live in “The Land of the Three Waters”, a kind of mangrove where fresh water, brackish water and salt water are mixed . The conference takes place in this small village facing its channel, from which they extract all those natural resources that are necessary for their day to day.
Food packages with palm leaves in Huai Raeng © Tourist Office of Thailand
They strive to plant the entire shore of palm trees, of which they take advantage of everything, starting with their thick stems, which they use for constructions, and continuing with the leaves, with which they make the roofs, hats, various utensils and even khanom chack, an exquisite Thai dessert made with flour, coconut and sugar, wrapped in palm leaves and toasted.
In addition, the plantations are the perfect place to place small cages with those that fish lobster, the same with which they prepare many of their most typical dishes. Recipes that subsequently wrapped in palm leaves - once again - perfectly folded: the most peculiar and ecological tupperware you've ever seen.
Aerial view of Koh Chang's paradise © iStock
And, after knowing the culture well, it's time to relax. We head to the pier and ride a ferry that, in just one hour, brings us to the beautiful island of Koh Chang.
Elephant Island, as it is popularly known, is presented to us as an ungovernable jungle universe. From a distance it only looks green and greener: the vegetation is the owner and lady of the place. We predict an unconventional island.
And so it is: the densest jungle we can imagine begins almost along its beaches, the same white and fine sand that could well star in any paradise postcard. Now it's time to choose what lifestyle we want to lead during our days on the island: do we stay in one of the luxurious resorts of northern Koh Chang, such as the Koh Chang Resort Spa, where you can enjoy healthy treatments, detox retreats, Massages and organic food in a unique environment? Or do we go south to one of their cabins for 6 euros a night next to dream beaches?
The spa in the middle of Trat's nature © The SPA Koh Chang
Whatever the choice - also combinable, of course - there will be no need to go on an excursion through the jungle to crown the highest point of the island. Nor should we stop discovering the wonders in the form of waterfalls that hides inside. And, of course, we must spend a day touring the neighboring islands by boat and snorkeling, enjoying the colorful underwater universe.
And in this way, lying in the hammock of any of its beaches while we enjoy, Fresh Singha in hand, a beautiful sunset, will say goodbye to this authentic paradise. From this secret Thailand that today we wanted to share with you.
Snorkeling in the waters of Koh Chang © iStock
Koh Yao Yai, the last paradise