Staying with Locals: Chiang Mai

Are you in the city center of Chiang Mai and looking for an escape? Researching parts of Mae Taeng and looking for a place to spend a few nights? Do you want something real and authentic that doesn’t make you feel like a tourist?

I recently had the opportunity to work with Duara Travels and visit a local Thai village outside of Chiang Mai for 3 nights. If you’re looking for a cushy, touristic experience that’s fluffed up and riddled with western comforts, you’re probably not in the right place. If you’re yearning to be apart of a family or for something real and authentic, welcome. Here is my homestay experience in the magical agricultural village called Tung Lakorn in Mae Taeng.

If you’re already considering visiting Tung Lakorn and are curious as to what you’re going to do there, I’m here to summarize my homestay experience for you. I just want to make it clear that I visited during the hottest time of year during the dry season; I’m eager to go back to this Thai village during November, though I can’t imagine the village being more beautiful than it was!

About Duara

Duara Travels gives you the opportunity to experience and stay in places that you wouldn’t typically come across on the regular tourist path. The host families might not speak English, but that will depend on where you’re staying. That’s why there’s always an English speaking contact within the village to help you get settled.

Everything like food and activities is included in the sticker price, minus transportation and excess things you might need. What you spend on the experience goes to the family, the English-speaking guide, the community, and the company itself. If you’re interested, you can read more about Duara here.

About this Thai Village

Tung Lakorn is about an hour outside of Chiang Mai, tucked away amid elephant sanctuaries, rice fields, organic farms, and palm trees. My English-speaking contact, Duang, explained to me that there are about 200 people in the village and 60 houses; generations of families live in a single home, and many of the people in the village are relatives. There are lots of babies and lots of dogs in this particular village. The host family that I stayed with consists of 3 different generations in one household.

In Tung Lakorn, there is 1 temple, 1 monk, 2 shops to buy goods like snacks, beer, produce, and goods, and if you want to get a massage, someone will walk across the street and be at your service.

My Stay in Tung Lakorn

Day 1: Arriving at the Homestay

I was picked up in the center of Chiang Mai on my own dime; you can get here other ways, but for me, it was easier to catch a ride all the way to where I was going. We arrived at my host’s home around 2pm; it was a bit too hot to really do anything, so Duang told me to rest up, take a nap, and we would go for a walk around the village and make some sticky rice around 4.

I cranked up the AC in the 100-degree heat and rested my head for a bit. A little after 4, we started to make sticky rice; the rice had to steam for 20 minutes and while it was steaming, we made the sauce for the rice; coconut cream, palm sugar, and a touch of salt.

Once we poured that sauce into the rice, I could have just sat there and eaten it for an hour. It’s so tasty; adding mango to it brings it to a whole other level. What was awesome about this village is that I was being taught how to make local dishes by local people; I love anything food oriented, and it was like a cooking class outside of the bustle of Chiang Mai.

Here’s the recipe for the Mango Sticky Rice, if you’re interested!

1000 g. Sticky rice [Soaked 4-6 hrs, rinsed & washed]
600 g. Coconut cream
400 g. White refined sugar
1 tbls. Refined salt.

– Steam sticky rice for a half hour.
– During steaming sticky rice, mix coconut cream, sugar and salt in the mixing bowl, stir until combined to the one mixture, sugar dissolved.
– When the sticky rice cooked suddenly put into the mixing bowl and stir to mix well with the coconut cream, the cover for 10 minutes and stir well again.
– Cover again for 20 minutes and stir again.

Extra: Coconut cream sauce for topping
Mix 400g of Coconut cream with 1 tablespoon of salt and 2-3 tablespoons of corn flour and simmer over low heat, stirring constantly until the sauce is thick.

After we made the sticky rice, we went around the corner to the temple and sat with *the* monk; there is only one monk in this village. I was offered a coconut, and we sat and chatted.

Afterward, we walked through the little village of sunflowers, rice paddies, and farmland; we even stopped for a quick taste of local whiskey; after, we went back to the host’s home and made pad Thai before we tucked into the mango sticky rice we had prepared earlier.

Day 2: Activities You Won’t Find in Chiang Mai

For me, I slept in a bit – until about 8am; I headed downstairs for coffee and some breakfast curry before we went out into the forest. I figured it would be best to dress for the heat, but as soon as I came downstairs, Pe Jai looked at my legs and pointed. It was a humorous exchange, but I went back to change into some leggings instead. When I returned, she lent me a pair of tall rainboots and socks to wear for the occasion.

We walked to pick up her neighbor and we were on our way into the forest; chickens were fed, Pe Jai cut some bamboo leaves, and we picked some ‘Phak Kut’ which is a green that doesn’t look like something you would typically eat (but was actually very tasty). After walking around for about an hour or two, we went back; this entire time, no English was spoken. While conversation would have been nice at moments, there were certain moments that did not need commentary, and we were still able to share some laughs. If I had anything specific today, I would just put it into Google translate.

After we got back home, we started preparing bamboo that would later be stuffed with the sticky rice from the night before. The sweet, coconut sticky rice was mixed with peanuts and tucked away into pieces of bamboo before they got steamed.

When we were finished with all of the bamboo and sticky rice, we cooked the greens we had picked earlier in the morning and ate some more curry.

Once we finished lunch, everyone just kind of hung out for a while; it’s hard to be productive in the heat. I went into my room and rested for a while, and at four o’clock, I wanted to go get some pictures of the nearby sunflowers. I started walking and Pe Jai, the host, started walking as well – it wasn’t until I was up the street that I realized she was coming with me! We walked together and ended up at the sunflowers, where I was able to take some gorgeous photos as the sun was just starting to set. When we got back, Duang was there waiting for me so we could go “take the cows home” with another host from Duara; we walked into the farmland and, quite literally, took the cows home.

Once the cows were secured in their spot, Duang took me on a motorbike ride to the nearby villages for an extra taste of Thai life; we stopped at a little pond with gorgeous views and headed back to the temple where he let me ride around on the motorbike for a little while; it was my first time ever being on one by myself!

We rode back to the house, grabbed some beer, and had dinner.

Day 3: Food Market & Birthday Celebrations  

Time flies! I couldn’t believe how fast my third night had come. I woke up early to go to the market with Pe Jai; there were some food vendors, household items, fresh vegetables, and then the random table of watches, Adidas knock offs, and clothing.

We went back to the house and had breakfast before we went to the temple to bring the monks and novices some food. While my western mind was expecting there to be a car seat for Sunday, the baby of the house, there wasn’t, so I got to hold him the whole ride (which I did not mind at all because he is the cutest baby in the world!). When we got back from the temple, it was a pretty easy day; I spent some time with the baby and relaxed until the evening.

Duang came over around 4pm while preparations for Pe Jai’s youngest daughter’s 16th birthday were happening. All through the evening, we were grilling, chilling, drinking beer, and enjoying each other’s company. Even though no one spoke English except for Duang, we were all able to share laughs and enjoy the moments.

Once we sang happy birthday and the evening ended, we retreated to bed and my time at Tung Lakorn in Mae Taeng had come to a close.




Final Thoughts

Since returning to Chiang Mai, I have thought a lot about my host family and my experience outside of Chaing Mai in the small village. It’s truly nothing I will be able to experience again; the family was so welcoming and one of a kind. I am grateful that they opened up their home to a complete stranger who didn’t speak their language, and I am even happier with Duara‘s initiative to make spending time with locals a regular and simplified occurrence. Anyone who knows me or has read my blog over the last few months knows that I love to immerse myself with culture and stray beyond the touristic areas of certain places. 

Interested in a similar experience? Read more about Tung Lakorn village with Duara Travels!

You can watch a video about my stay here:

Please note: While I was not paid for this experience or blog post, I received the experience with Duara for free (apart from my own expenses) in exchange for the blog post. I remain as transparent as possible; I would never promote something I did not wholeheartedly support!

Thank you so much for reading!

Until next time,

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