Most travel information about Thailand that we think you should know before starting your tour with us is detailed on our Practicalities and Background pages, but these can’t possibly cover every situation. So we created this page to post answers to some frequently (and infrequently) asked questions that we think you might find useful when planning a Thailand tour. We’ll add to the list as the opportunity arises.
We feel a nice Shiraz or a couple of glasses of champagne go down really well after a tiring day. What is the recommendation on wine: Is it available out there and what is the quality like?
Wine can be found throughout much of Isan, but this is rice whiskey territory so the quality and choice are poor. But Khon Kaen city is one of the exceptions and there are several supermarkets with a good selection of imported wines and even a few trendy wine bars (though they don’t actually sell much wine) so it’s best to purchase some here before you depart on your tour. Supermarkets in all other big cities will also have a variety of wines. Thailand’s most respected wineries are found in the Khao Yai area and there is also the long-running Chateau de Loei winery in Loei province, so in these areas you’ll be able purchase local vintages in some shops and restaurants; though don’t get too excited about it.
On a related note, alcohol can only be sold from 11am to 2pm and 5pm to midnight. While small local shops don’t follow this law, they rarely stock wine.
We have some extra space in our luggage and we’d like to make some donations at schools or orphanages. What do you suggest we bring?
Isan Explorer is happy to help you make donations during your trip, but for several reasons it’s best to donate to a temple rather than directly to a school or orphanage. However, if you spend time volunteering at a particular school, then it would be appropriate to make the donation there. And there are a few orphanages that we trust, including Sarnelli House.
As for what to bring, school supplies like pencils, pens, and notebooks are probably best. Books and flashcards (vocabulary and math) are also good. ESL books with vocabulary in the margins (such as the Oxford Bookworms series) are great, though picture dictionaries and regular children’s story books are also a good choice. Try to make sure the stories are culturally appropriate: the students will have no understanding of, or interest in, books about baseball or Easter. If you will do your shopping in Thailand rather than at home, every bookstore has a big selection of bi-lingual books. Soccer balls, volleyballs, basketballs, jump ropes, and frisbees are convenient because they are light and pack easily. Finally, basic medical supplies like bandages, cotton swabs, and gauze (but not medicines) are also welcomed.
On a related note, you should never randomly hand out candy, coins, pens, or anything else to kids. This makes tourists feel good, but it does more harm than good because it encourages begging and often brings shame to their parents.
Do we need to buy things in the handicraft villages?
Absolutely not – though it’s great if you do. Unlike most handicraft tours in tourist areas, we visit people’s homes rather than stores and factories. You will see just how happy our hosts are to welcome visitors and share their culture; especially since these days so many young people in Thailand have little interest in the traditional ways.
Of course, buying products from our hosts, most of whom are quite poor, does help them, so we hope you will, but nobody is expecting it. In fact, in most of the villages we go to, we had to tell the families that they should have some of their products available in case the guests are interested in buying.
And, just for the record: Isan Explorer and its guides never get a commission for visiting places.