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Explore the Golden Triangle region of Thailand, Myanmar, and Laos on this unique program. Visit rarely-seen villages in the Shan state area of Myanmar and in the rural hill tribe region of northern Thailand. You’ll also take a long-tail boat ride to an island in Laos. See beautiful temples and rural villages, sample exotic local foods, and interact with locals on this culturally-rich program.

Program Profile

Countries
Myanmar, Laos, Thailand

2017 Departures

Departs (USA) Returns (USA) Availability
June 20 June 30 Available
July 4 July 14 Available
July 18 July 28 Available

  • Day 1

    Departure Day

    Prepare for a world-class trip on Singapore Airlines. Prior to your departure, you will have received your pre-departure packet, which includes your Rustic T-shirts, airline tickets, and important contact information.

    Once you arrive at your international departure city, our Airport Coordinator will help you check-in to your international flight. Here you’ll meet your Flight Leader who will escort you all the way to Southeast Asia!

  • Day 2

    In Transit

    Today is ‘lost’ as you cross the international dateline, but don’t worry too much, you will get it back on your way home!

  • Day 3

    When you arrive in Bangkok, you will be greeted by Rustic Pathways program leaders eagerly preparing for your adventure. From Bangkok, you will fly to Chiang Rai, where the Golden Triangle Adventure officially begins.

    This graceful city is the seat of Chiang Rai Province, the northernmost province in Thailand.  Forming one side of the infamous Golden Triangle, Chiang Rai was once notorious for supplying most of the world’s opium.  Chiang Rai has since redefined itself as a center for culture, art, and unparalleled natural beauty.

    After a refreshing shower, venture out for a delicious Thai feast and a much-needed foot massage.  You’ll call it an early night to rest up for the exciting week ahead!

  • Day 4

    Today you’ll head up to the true geographic Golden Triangle of Chiang Saen, the point at which Thailand, Laos, and Myanmar all converge. Dig deep into some fascinating history at the Opium Museum to get a grasp of the region’s unique background. See the Golden Buddha before hopping aboard a chartered long-tail boat ride that will take you between the three countries. Stop off at an island in Laos, the second of three countries you’ll visit this week. Shop for some Lao gifts, listen to the distinctly different language dialect, and take some photos to prove you’ve made it this far.

  • Day 5

    Once everything is ready, it’s off to the north on a drive through the region’s incredible scenery. This journey will take you through some of the most striking places you’ve ever seen. As you head towards the Yunnan plateau of  southern China, the elevation rises steadily and the air gets progressively cooler. Passing through Tarlay, stop for a cup of tea before continuing on to the village of Ba Hote. Rustic Pathways students worked in partnership with the village to assist in building the water system still used today. They also support the school children who travel from eight nearby mountain villages to study at the local boarding school. Meet the village headman and share some tea at his house before hitting the road again. Don’t worry; there will be more time to relax here later in the trip.

    After taking some time to clean up back at the hotel, your next stop will be the childhood home of Chit Oo, one of our amazing full-time Shan staff members. Meet Chit Oo’s brothers and his parents, who will treat you to some home- cooked gyat tha hin (chicken curry) and myin kwar uat (vegetable salad).  Over dinner, hear stories from Chit Oo’s family about how life has changed in this area.  You won’t soon forget the food or the hospitality.  With bellies full after a delicious feast, sleep will come easy this evening!

  • Day 6

    After breakfast at the hotel, you’ll stop at the morning market to grab fresh supplies and then head north out of town. Today’s spectacular drive takes you by dozens of tiny settlements and countless water buffaloes. This area is populated by a diverse mix of hill tribe minorities including Akha, Shan, Tai Loi, Akhi, An, Waa, Lisu and Lahu peoples. Towering mountain peaks, rushing rivers, and pristine terraced rice fields abound in this cool high altitude climate. Spend the afternoon visiting the village and childhood home of Ali, an Akha member of Rustic Pathways. Talk to family members and friends, getting a unique perspective into life in this region.

  • Day 7

    After breakfast at the hotel, drive further north across the spectacular Kentung valley towards the surrounding mountains. Park at the foot of the mountain and trek into villages, stopping along the way for tea with local villagers.  You’ll visit one of only a handful of An villages left in the world.   The An people are known for their animist traditions and fascinating customs, including bead-laden dress and black stained teeth.  Interview the village shaman and have tea and lunch in his house overlooking the fertile valley below. With our local staff acting as translators, you will be able to ask your own questions and learn about the fascinating customs of these people who are still living as they have for thousands of years.

    Trekking further, stop in an Akha village for more tea and roasted peanuts. Back at the bottom of the mountain, visit a Lisu village and the local school that teaches students from the diverse surrounding villages.

    Back in Kentung, sit down at one of the many teashops surrounding the central lake, a favorite pastime of the town’s residents.  Discuss all that you have seen today while tasting the many snacks on offer, including milk tea, green tea salad and Burmese-style French toast. At night, have a feast at the local Chinese restaurant, hands down one of the best meals in Southeast Asia!

     

  • Day 8

    Checking out of the hotel, visit the Kentung market one last time for a chance to try the Burmese staple breakfast, mohinga, a delicious bowl of noodles mixed with fish, chicken and other goodies. Hit the road back to Tachilek and Thailand, where you’ll stop again at the Ba Hote village to see Ahi Kham and Boon Mee. This time, you will have time to distribute some of the goods you purchased before heading to Myanmar. Crossing back into Thailand, make your way down to Chiang Rai city, where you will be staying for the last couple days of the trip. This evening, you’ll have the chance to relax with a foot massage, enjoy a Thai feast, and peruse the Chiang Rai Night Bazaar.

  • Day 9

    On your last full day of this amazing adventure, head out to explore the countryside surrounding Chiang Rai. Driving south out of the city you will stop at the famous Wat Rong Khun or the “White Temple.” This one-of-a kind temple is the life’s work of one of Thailand’s most celebrated modern artists, Chalermchai Kositpipat.   The temple’s delicate white sculptures and facades seem to be made out of ice or cake frosting, and the interior walls intricately depict the artist’s criticisms of modern society. You will learn about the meaning of the detailed iconography and the importance of Buddhism to the people of the Golden Triangle. From the White Temple, you will continue on to the “Black House,” created by artist Thawan Duchanee. In sharp contrast to the White Temple, this impressive array of teak and stone buildings would not be out of place in the Lord of the Rings movie trilogy.

    After a traditional northern Thai lunch of sticky rice, barbecue, and papaya salad, you will pay a visit to Doi Tung. Perched on a mountain overlooking a broad valley, this Swiss-style chalet was the home of the Queen Mother, Mae Fah Luang. Learn about the fascinating story of King Bumhibol, the longest-serving monarch in the world, who is revered by Thais and a symbol of national identity. Travelling back toward Chiang Rai, stop at Huay Sai waterfall. Here, crystal-clear waters tumble into a fantastic limestone swimming hole. Swim, relax, and enjoy the scenery as you build up your appetite.

    On your journey back to Chiang Rai for your final evening, reflect on all that you have accomplished this week! Get together for a final feast and share some of the amazing memories and photos you’ve gathered on this program.

  • Day 10

    Grab breakfast at the hotel and depart for the Chiang Rai airport. Students heading home will fly to Bangkok and onwards, while students connecting to other regional programs will drive to Chiang Mai to meet their next group.  Safe travels! Your friends in the Golden Triangle will be eagerly awaiting your return!

    **All students on our group flights arrive home on Fridays, regardless of whether they return to JFK or LAX. **

An Important Note About Schedule Changes

Rustic Pathways reserves the right to change, alter, or amend the daily itinerary for this trip at any time. Changes can be made for various reasons including changes in flight or program schedules, changes in the schedules of various external tours incorporated in our trips, the addition of new activities into a trip, or the substitution of an old activity for a new activity.

The itinerary shown here provides a good outline of the anticipated daily schedule for this program. As with any travel program, some changes may occur.

“Optional Activities” are fully included in the cost of your program, but you can choose to not do these activities.

“Add-On Activities” are not included in the cost of your program and must be paid for separately. Add-on activities are rare, but include things like skydiving, bungee jumping, or weekend side-trips. Not every program has add-on activities.

For more information, email burma@rusticpathways.com

Program-Specific FAQs

  • This is a touring program, but it is edgy and adventurous as you cross into seldom-seen Burma to visit one of the most untouched, pure lands and peoples on the earth. This is an amazing opportunity to see some of the last remaining cultures still existing outside mainstream globalization.

  • Students like touring and experiencing these gems that are unknown to the world and the tourists that come to SE Asia.

  • No. A temporary visa is given to you at the border.

  • We’ll be in nice clean rooms with hot water showers and western style beds. At the base house we sleep on comfortable mattresses on the floor.

  • No. But be prepared to do quite a bit of walking while exploring the country and perhaps a bit of swimming.

  • Students will have the chance to wash their clothes at least once during the trip.

  • There are mosquitoes. They’re usually not too bad, but you will want to have a long sleeve shirt and long pants in the evenings. Students are also advised to bring a small bottle of insect repellent containing DEET at least 15%-20% DEET.

  • There will be ample opportunities to shop! You’ll see all kinds of souvenirs and fun stuff to buy, so budget accordingly. Prices in Asia are on average significantly cheaper than in the West, but be wary that a lot of great deals can add up. Markets and local crafts are huge part of the culture and a great way to support the local community. Here are some approximate, sample prices (listed in US dollars) that should help you prepare a budget: hand-woven scarf = $3; hand-woven shoulder bag = $6; T-shirt = $6; small wood carving = $5; soccer ball = $10.

  • It’s hot, and humid in the day and a little cooler in the mountains at night. Daily downpours are short and give way to sunny skies. Be prepared for heat and dampness. Synthetic fiber clothes are great because they dry fast much faster than cotton can.

  • Phones are available nearly every day but we will have limited access to internet during most of the week.

  • Each trip is staffed by a combination of western (American) and Thai leaders, and in most cases each team will include a nationally licensed guide, a western man and a western woman. We never have fewer than one staff member for every five students.

  • We’ll eat a wide variety of Thai and ethnic food, as well as a good deal of Western food. Thailand is famous for its food, and this trip will awaken your tastes to flavors you didn’t even know existed. Almost all dietary concerns can be accommodated, but please alert us of any relevant restrictions beforehand just to make sure. Vegetarians Welcome!

  • We will be drinking all bottled water. Bottled water is safe and readily available.

  • Every city we visit has a hospital with reliable medical care that caters to hundreds of Westerners every year. For the short time we will be in more rural areas farther from top-quality medical care, our staff will have a clear plan and route to the nearest healthcare depending on the severity of the situation.

  • Because safety is our number one priority, all of our programs have staff that is certified with First Aid and CPR training. Many of our guides are also qualified Wilderness First Responders, EMTs, Wilderness EMTs, or Life Guards.

  • Rustic Pathways does not make recommendations regarding immunizations. You will need to visit your local travel clinic and discuss your specific itinerary with a physician so that they can make medical recommendations for you. For general information about travel around the world, please see the Center for Disease Control website at http://www.cdc.gov

  • All flights departing from and returning to the United States will have flight leaders. In the event a student is connecting from another country, they may or may not have a flight leader. In such instances, we generally have coordinated with the airlines to escort the students from check-in through customs, and delivered to a verified Rustic Pathways staff member.

  • All of our programs within Asia connect seamlessly. All trips begin and end on Thursday, thus allowing for easy connectivity and convenience.

  • The Golden Triangle is a region overlapping the mountains of Thailand, Burma, and Laos, making it one of the most ethnically diverse regions of SE Asia.

Packing the right gear (and the right amounts) is the first step to an incredible travel experience. Follow these tips to pack like a pro:

Travel light. Pack only the essentials. You’ll need less than you think!
Bring the right clothes. Pack clothes that are culturally appropriate for your destination and acceptable for service projects. This means bringing long shorts (think Bermuda and basketball shorts), t-shirts with sleeves to cover shoulders, and appropriate footwear.
Leave your valuables behind. While traveling, it’s easier for things to get lost, stolen, or damaged. Keep any prized possessions safe at home.
Check with TSA. Make sure your luggage complies with TSA regulations, especially your carry-on. Useful tip: Pack an empty water bottle and fill it up after security.
Extra paperwork? If you need additional forms filled out to get credit for your service hours, no problem! Bring these forms with you so they can be completed in-country.

Rustic Gear. Want to get all your shopping done for your program in one place? We’ve got you covered. Check out Rustic Gear and get all the essentials sent right to your door.

Carry-On

A school backpack is ideal as it will be used for day trips.

  • Passport w/Thai and/or Burmese Visa
  • Rustic Pathways emergency contacts
  • Wallet & money
  • Photo copies of your passport
  • Phone
  • Camera
  • Chargers
  • Sunglasses
  • Toothpaste (under 3 oz.)
  • Toothbrush
  • Medications
  • Journal and pens
  • Reusable water bottle
  • Snacks
  • Books
  • Additional community service forms

Checked Luggage

A 50-70 Liter duffel bag or backpack is ideal. Wheeled bags are acceptable as long as they can be carried like a duffel bag over rough terrain.

Clothes

  • Underwear (7-10)
  • Socks (5-7)
  • T-Shirts with sleeves (7-10)
  • Long sleeve t-shirt (1-2)
  • Lightweight rain jacket
  • Long shorts (3-4)
  • Pants (1, lightweight)
  • Pajamas
  • Sandals (like Chacos or Tevas)
  • Flip flops
  • Sneakers
  • Hat (for sun)
  • Towel

Toiletries

  • Soap or body wash
  • Shampoo & conditioner
  • Toothbrush & toothpaste
  • Deodorant
  • Contact lenses and solution
  • Sunscreen
  • Lip balm
  • Sunburn cream or aloe
  • Insect repellant (2 cans)
  • Hand sanitizer (1-2 small bottles)
  • Wet-wipes
  • Small packs of tissues

Miscellaneous

  • Flashlight/headlamp with extra batteries
  • Watch or clock with an alarm
  • Bag for dirty clothes
  • Large resealable bags
  • Small personal first aid kit

Optional

  • Burmese/Shan & Thai phrasebook
  • Deck of cards
  • Pictures of friends and family
  • Frisbee, aerobee, hacky sack, etc.

Important Reminders

  • If you used the eVisa system for your Burmese Visa, be sure to bring a printed copy of the confirmation with you.
  • When visiting temples, you must wear clothes that cover your knees, shoulders and stomach. Please come prepared.
  • Shorts should not be too tight or too short, as this is offensive in Burmese culture. Bermuda or basketball shorts are best.
  1. a
    Chiang Rai, Thailand

    Here you will find yourself in the northern tip of Thailand near the infamous Golden Triangle; where Laos, Thailand and Myanmar all share one border.

  2. b
    Kengtung, Myanmar

    Crossing into the country of Myanmar, travel several hours to the mountainous areas of Kengtung. Throughout your drive and stay in the area you will visit various homes of friends ands staff of Rustic Pathways; sit down for a cup a tea, share a meal and hear their incredible stories and soak in this great culture.

  3. c
    Chiang Saen, Thailand

    The true geographic Golden Triangle of Chiang Saen, the point at which Thailand, Laos, and Myanmar converge.