Bangkok may be Thailand’s capital city but it’s far behind Chiang Mai when it comes to the sustainability movement. Water refill stations are hard to find and there are only a few social enterprises in the city. However, it’s still possible to be a responsible tourist in Bangkok. Here’s how I had a day of sustainable tourism in Bangkok.
Wat Arun views from the river.
HOW TO GET TO BANGKOK
Thai flag flutters in the wind over rural Bangkok.
AirAsia is one of the most budget-friendly airlines in the region and is the most well-connected with over 165 destinations in 25 countries. My rule of thumb is typically to only fly to destinations when a bus ride is over 10-hours, as that’s my mental capacity for being trapped inside a moving vehicle. Flying with AirAsia is the first step in having a sustainable tourism experience in Bangkok.
I flew direct from Siem Reap to Bangkok with AirAsia. The majority of carbon emissions from flights are actually from when a plane lands, waits, and takes off-which makes nonstop flights a more environmentally sound option. In 2016, AirAsia began to let guests use eBoarding Passes
AirAsia is conscious of their negative environmental impact as ai airline and has quite a few admiral green programs in place for energy conservation, recycling, and plastic waste reduction. AirAsia operates a young fuel-efficient fleet of aircraft. They were the first airline in the world to use Sharklet winglets, which reduce aerodynamic drag which saves up to 5% of fuel and 464kg of carbon emissions on every flight. The Airbus A320neo aircraft also elevate fuel efficiency. AirAsia aims to have 19% of their fleet be the neo model by 2020.
They’ve also worked on minimizing the weight of their aircrafts which burns less fuel. 23kg of flight documents went electronic on tablets that weight just 2kg which also cuts back on paper waste. Perhaps in the future, they’ll also swap out print Travel3Sixty° magazines for tablets but for now, they recycle the magazine to klia2 and donate the proceeds to the Red Heart Fund.
AirAsia flies with heart by supporting 17 social enterprises throughout the ASEAN region as a part of the philanthropic AirAsia Foundation which encourages marginalized communities to ‘dare to dream’. They provide grants to impactful businesses to help them launch such as the Zo Project which I visited in Hanoi which used the $20,000 funds to train villagers in traditional paper-making production.
Compare flights costs by using the Skyscanner app to get the best rates.
WHERE TO STAY IN BANGKOK
The lush garden setting at The Yard Bangkok.
Responsible travelers will absolutely love to stay at The Yard which is located in the trendy yet calm district of Ari. The self-described hipster district is brimming with local boutiques, darling coffee shops, unique bars, and street food including an all-veggie stall. The Ari metro station is only a few minutes walk from The Yard making it easy to explore Bangkok. Or you can explore by borrowing one of the bicycles from The Yard free of charge.
Relaxing in the yard of The Yard.
The Yard lives up to its name. Hanging out in the gorgeous outdoor garden community space in a colorful hammock or a cozy bean bag feels like you’re relaxing at a friend’s home. This sensation is exactly what owner Khun Som had in mind. She’s not a hotelier but is a powerful female entrepreneur. She had a wildly successful clothing stall at the world-famous Chatuchak Weekend Market and wound up hosting some foreign friends at her house. She had such a great time that the idea for The Yard was born–she knew she just had to create a welcoming space for travelers.
Genius to use old shipping containers as rooms!
From the beginning, Som had sustainability in mind. This is why she opted to repurpose old recycling containers as guest rooms. Recycled paper was used to insulate the rooms which is healthy for both our bodies and the environment. She only has a lease on the land and loves knowing that she could literally pack up The Yard and drop down at another location if need be. From the little that she did build–stairs, a bar, and furniture within the guest rooms she used repurposed building materials. The Yard is the most eco-friendly hostel in Bangkok making it a great starting point for a day of sustainable tourism.
Sustainable decor and toiletries at The Yard.
The decor in the guest rooms made me incredibly nostalgic. The hodgepodge decor scheme of nick nacks from here and there reminded me of the way I used to adorn my apartments back in the US. I loved to be surrounded by little things that reminded me of happy memories. The quirky decor varies from room to room. The private room ‘Grandchild’ rooms are named for the mission of maintaining the planet to our grandchild. have a living room area complete with throw pillows on the ground and a small desk area making it a great option for digital nomads. The lofted beds feature the softest most luxurious mattress I’ve ever slept in. When I gush to Som about how cozy they are she tells me it’s not the beds that have me feeling so rested–it’s the kind company. I believe that both are surely true.
Equally plush are the thick bathroom towels–that should be reused during a weeklong stay rather than useless daily washes. The ensuite bathroom has reusable shampoo and body wash containers that are labeled with direct instructions on how to be more mindful of water waste. The eco-friendly practices extend to a water refill station. Darling branded water bottles are available to borrow or buy if you haven’t stopped using harmful single-use plastic bottles yet.
Hadou in the zone doing his incredible screen printing work.
The Yard also has daily yoga practices led by an Indian teacher and community events such as movie nights. During my stay, there was a screen print workshop with Japanese artist Hadou. I was gifted one of The Yard’s Bangkok T-shirts which have Bangkok’s massively long full name written on the front. Hadou brought the shirt to life with my selects from his prints–a lotus mixed in with some geometric patterns. The event was free of charge to guests and loads of fun!
Heading to Bangkok? Check rates and availability for The Yard.
WHAT TO DO IN BANGKOK
Lola at Wat Arun, her favorite temple in Bangkok.
You’ll need a day or two dedicated to exploring the incredible Buddhist pagodas in the city center such as Wat Pho, Wat Arun, Golden Mount, and The Royal Palace. But be sure to save a full-day for a community-based experience from locally run TakeMeTour Local Table experience that aligns with your personal interests. Supporting local tour operators is an easy way to ensure that you have a sustainable tourism experience in Bangkok.
As I’m forever curious about local handicrafts, food, and architecture I decided to go on the Learn to Paint Thai Porcelains, See Ancient Temple and Enjoy Local Lunch in Suphan Buri and was joined by my friend Bianca of The Altruistic Traveller who took most of these photos of me.
The dragon statue was absolutely gigantic.
Our guide Nui is a Bangkok native and picked us in her darling neon green car. We headed to through the outskirts of Bangkok past farmland and beautiful temples including this gigantic Chinese dragon statue that I can’t believe I haven’t seen plastered all over Instagram.
Benjarong Tong Pho Phra Ya Thai porcelain.
Once we reached Suphan Buri we visited our first destination, Benjarongthong Phophraya. The local business has been employing artisans to handcraft Benjarong Tong Pho Phra Ya Thai porcelain for three generations and is currently operated by a young Thai couple–Kat and Bird. Those are their real names, a match made in heaven!
Benjarong porcelain ware that initiated in China and usually calls for bone. The majority of the products made at Benharongthong Phophraya are actually made from hand-cast clay and therefore vegan-friendly. Overtime artisans in Thailand have created their own design patterns that fit local aesthetic and philosophies. The common motifs include flowers, plants, and animals and Thai patterns that symbolize power, fortune, wealth, and longevity.
The intricate artwork of Benjarong.
Traditionally only 5 colors of paint are used as Benjarong means five colors. Today it’s common for up to 8 colors to be used such as orange, yellow, green, pink, purple, and blue. Each piece has real gold paint which is actually quite hard to apply.
Benjarong ware is incredibly beautiful and is usually reserved for special occasions or decorative purposes. Someday when I own a home I will only drink soy lattes from handcrafted and painted Benjarong ware.
Learning the step-by-step process of creating Benjarong.
We toured the on-site warehouse and chatted with artisans who each have a step in the production line that they’re incredibly skilled in–from spinning the clay into plates to freehand drawing designs in real gold paint.
Designing my own Benjarong.
We were invited to try to create our own Benjarog designs and opted to make tiny boxes rather than the usual coffee mugs as we have very limited space in our backpacks. We both found it very healing and restorative to focus all of our energy on creating tiny colorful designs on the beautiful ceramics.
Enjoying the creative energy with Bianca.
Ever the perfectionist I was giving myself a hard time about how uneven my lines were while Bianca rooted me on with sentiments of “if you think you can do it, you can!” Ultimately, I was amazed at how beautiful my design came out. I hope it survives being shipped back to the States!
My Benjarong box in all it’s glory!
As the TakeMeTour Local Table trip was centered around traditional food we were invited to cool down with a bowl of a traditional chilled dessert–lod chong. The refreshing sweet treat calls for shaved ice, coconut milk, pandan noodles, and more!
Exploring the beautiful Wat Khao Phra Si Sanphet.
There are nearly 40,000 Buddhist temples in Thailand so naturally, we had to visit at least one. The temples in Bangkok are phenomenal–as are the quirky ones in Chiang Rai and the traditional ones in Chaing Mai–but there’s something extraordinary about walking the ancient grounds of a sacred site without another soul in sight. That’s exactly what happened when we visited Wat Khao Phra Si Sanphet (Google Maps).
A reclining Buddha in a cave.
Wat Khao Phra Si Sanphet was built during the first Thai Kingdon, the Dvaravati period, which was around the 13th-14th century making it one of the oldest temples in Thailand. The beautiful gilded temple grounds featured numerous Buddha statues–some covered in gold leaf and tucked away in a cave opening.
Nui reading me my fortune.
There was also the traditional fortune-telling shrine where you shake sticks until one falls out and then redeem the fortune associated with the number on your stick. Both Nui and I got number 22, which is also Bianca’s lucky number. The fortune was entirely positive and promised us a prosperous future for our careers, love lives, health, family, and not to worry too much about anything. If you know me I love an auspicious activity or wish making so I’ll keep this message near and dear to my heart as we embark on a new year.
The largest Buddha in the making.
From behind the ancient brick stupa at Wat Khao Phra Si Sanphet there is a vantage point that overlooks a giant valley below–it’s so big it almost makes the Big Buddha at Bhutsaya Khiri Suvarnabhumi (Google Maps) look small. Currently, efforts are undergoing to carve the largest Buddha image in the world on the side of this cliff. This is obviously not a very environmentally kind thing to do. 3 other larger-than-life will also be carved here.
The most delicious snack–fried morning glory!
After getting our fill of culture and creative activities we finally arrived for lunch. We went to an authentic local restaurant that was set in a lush garden patio.
A Thai feast is served!
They flubbed up the menu a bit that was supposed to be fully vegan by serving us tofu that’s made from egg–which I had never even heard of! Now I know a food to look out for though, so that was the silver lining of not being able to try the fried tofu with herbs.
Sustainably packaged Thai desserts.
The highlight of the meal for me was the fried morning glory which I had never had before and would love to eat every day for the rest of my life! We were also treated to a massive bowl of herbal coconut soup and sweet sticky rice desserts wrapped in banana leaf and a fantastic coconut sponge cake.
Lola enchanted by Wat Pho.
I was hosted by the Tourism Authority of Thailand and a guest on the AirAsia flight, at The Yard Hostel, and on the TakeMeTour Local Table experience. I stayed connected during my trip thanks to a 4G unlimited data sim card provided by dtac.