Thailand Travel: Updates from the Ultimate Service and Adventure Programs
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Thailand Travel: Updates from the Ultimate Service and Adventure Programs

Thailand has always been a perfect country for students looking for adventure, service and cultural immersion. Its lush landscape offers many opportunities for off-road exploration. Plus, the nation has 70 ethnic groups, giving students multiple perspectives on day-to-day life in other cultures.

This combination prompted dozens of Rustic Pathways students to take the opportunity to travel to the Land of Smiles this summer for a variety of programs. These were the first Rustic trips to Thailand in a couple of years. So far, it’s been an exciting educational journey for our students.

Here’s a look at the program happenings so far:

Come with Nothing – The Rustic Expedition

This is one of Rustic’s longest programs with the most service hours. It challenges students to bring only one small backpack for the trip.

The program takes students to remote regions of Thailand to provide service for local indigenous groups. Along the way they enjoy their share of adventure activities. The program lasts more than three weeks, providing ample opportunities to be immersed in the local culture. The current session has been on the road for a couple of weeks.

After touching down in Bangkok this group headed to the mountainous northern part of the country.  Using Chiang Mai as a home base, students learned the finer details of Thai cuisine with a cooking class. Students also visited a local market to purchase supplies for their three week expedition.

Then the group headed to the scenic Chiang Dao valley and their first village Maae Mae. Staying in a unique treehouse eco resort, the students were immersed in a traditional mountain village for four nights. In addition to excursions and activities, the group spent their days at the local school which houses 80+ Lahu and Lisu Hill Tribe boarding students from villages in the surrounding mountains.

At the Maae Mae school students painted the boys’ dormitory and installed a new 1,200 L steel water tank so that the school has a sufficient water supply through the dry season when water in the mountains becomes scarce.

After completing these projects, the students returned to Chiang Mai for a rest day. Then they helped with local reforestation efforts on Doi Sutep mountain and visited a local water park.

Afterwards they continued on the Mae Hong Son Loop and had a four night stay in the second village, the Karen village of Baan Tung Luang in Mae Wang district. Working during the week at the local school, students constructed a new fence and led English activities with the local students. They mastered the art of the bucket shower, played soccer in the rain, and made fireside sticky rice.

The students also have had time for fun – white water rafting, hiking and playing in a waterfall.

Next they get a day of rest and then it’s time for service in a third village. It’s bound to be a life changing experience!

Read more: Why Students Picked a Trip That Challenged Them to Pack Virtually Nothing

Southeast Asian Adventurer

This program enables students to see several parts of the country, and as the name suggests is packed with adventure activities. The students begin their journey by learning about Muy Thai boxing.

Later the students enjoy visiting Bua Tong waterfall, also called the Sticky Falls since you can actually climb up the waterfall.

Read more: Traveling to Thailand for an Outdoor Adventure

They also went rafting and learned a lot about Thai culture. They visited temples and caves and spent time at an elephant sanctuary.

A second session is in Thailand now and is getting the journey started, so there are more travel stories that await.

Marine & Rainforest Conservation

This program is popular for animal lovers. This summer our Rustic group began their trip with a seaside orientation in Trang province. Then they traveled across the bay to the Muslim fishing village of Ban Mot Tanoi, where we participated in a three-day homestay and learned about their host families’ approaches to conserving mangroves, seagrasses, and the organisms that call them home and that serve as the bedrock for Ban Mot Tanoi ‘s livelihood.

Following an emotional farewell (complete with dressing up in traditional Muslim attire and eating delicious seafood), they made their way to Ao Nang, in Krabi province. Along the way, they explored how Chiang Mai University’s FORRU (Forest Restoration and Research Unit) is working with a local parks department to diversify the region’s forest cover with local flora, combating the increasing biodiversity loss brought on by the farming of rubber and palm oil.

Once in Ao Nang, they hit the open seas on a longtail boat, hopping from island to island and snorkeling above an active coral reef.

Later, they were treated to a beachside dinner and an evening of shopping at a nearby street market. Then they settled into rainforest bungalows at Khao Sok National Park. They enjoyed a farm-to-table cooking lesson and got ready for the second half of the program.

During this portion, they saw elephants, explored the rainforest, went snorkeling for the second time in crystal clear waters, along with spending time on the beach.

Read more: Why Students Who Love Marine Conservation Will Want to Take This Trip

About the Author

Mary Rogelstad

Content Writer

Mary is a Content Writer at Rustic Pathways. She has been a writer and editor for nearly 20 years. Prior to covering student travel, Mary created content for the music education company J.W. Pepper & Son. She also was a writer and producer at CNN International and a communications director for a social service agency and a K-12 private school.