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Delve into the warm culture of rural northeastern Thailand as you participate in eight meaningful service projects designed to benefit students, the elderly, and families in your host village and the surrounding communities. Find your second home at the Ricefields Base in Udon Thani, where you will learn about Buddhism, cook tasty Thai food, and soak up local culture.

With our No Anxiety Escrow Policy, you cancel for any reason up until the day of travel, and escrow 100% of the program fees for up to two years from the cancellation date.

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2017 Departures

Departs (USA) Returns (USA) Availability
June 6 June 16 Available
June 13 June 23 Available
June 20 June 30 Available
June 27 July 7 Available
July 11 July 21 Available
July 25 August 4 Available

Program Profile

Community Service Component
Community Service Focus
Education, Infrastructure
Get to Know
The People
Settle in at the Base
Travel Component
Stationary Program

Connecting Programs

Schedule two or more programs in a row to create your ideal Rustic Pathways experience.

This program connects especially well with:

A Place that Changes Lives

Welcome to the Ricefields Service Base! Located in the heart of a rural farming village in northeast Thailand, the Ricefields Base is a modern oasis amidst traditional Thai life. Surrounded by expansive rice fields with the village temple only steps outside of our gates, students have the opportunity to witness life the way it has been for generations. Because of our long-standing relationship with our host family, the Sanboons, and the local community, we are able to offer our guests a truly immersive experience! You will feel a strong sense of community here and become a part of our very special family that began in 1999.including Introduction to Community Service and Community Health and Wilderness First Aid, it provides a comfortable setting to ease visitors into international travel. Our programs here offer nine community service initiatives that serve as the perfect introduction to Thai life, customs, and language. Each project aims to tackle a need or issue in the village and surrounding communities. Many students choose to start their adventure at the Ricefields Base before connecting to other programs in Southeast Asia.

Eight Service Projects at the Ricefields Base

Welcome Homes

  • Work alongside local carpenters to build a home for a disadvantaged family in one of the rural villages that surround The Ricefields Base.
  • Build friendships and a sense of community as you create a new home for a family in need.

Bobbing and Floating

  • Provide basic swimming instruction and teach water safety to local children in a fun and cheerful setting.
  • Help to prevent drowning fatalities that occur in this region when children fall into ponds and flooded rice fields without the skills to save themselves.

Meals on Flip-Flops

  • Create fishponds and livestock enclosures that will provide sustainable food sources for local families.
  • Gain unique insight into the hearts and histories of these inspiring Thai villagers as you visit various families and elderly couples.

Swing Sets & Coloring Books

  • Build and maintain school facilities and play areas at local schools to enhance educational opportunities for children now and for years to come.
  • Help improve basic hygiene and sanitation at early education centers and elementary schools.

Language Exchange

  • Empower teenage Thai students aspiring for university acceptance and coveted jobs by sharpening their conversational English skills.
  • Share your culture and language with students while learning some local lingo and experiencing life as a teenager in rural Thailand.

Hands in the Dirt

  • Plant and tend to native Thai herbs, organic vegetables, and fruit trees on local farms and household or community gardens.
  • Dig in and get your hands dirty alongside local Thai people to cultivate a sustainable food source and learn about their lives and fresh Thai ingredients.

Teaching and Tutoring

  • Teach English to Thai students at a partner elementary school in a nearby village.
  • Develop a love of learning English in your students through activities, races and games that are fun and engaging.

Youth Leadership Exchange

  • Design and share in games and activities that develop teamwork and leadership skills with a group of young Thai students from disadvantaged backgrounds.
  • Build and improve facilities at the center that cares for this group of talented kids.
  • Day 1

    Relax and prepare for a world-class trip on Singapore Airlines. Before traveling you will receive your pre-departure packet, which includes your Rustic T-shirts, luggage tags, country books, airline tickets, and important contact information.

    Once you arrive at your international departure city, our Airport Coordinator will help you check-in for your flight. Here you’ll meet your Flight Leader who will escort you all the way to Thailand! Rustic Pathways’ Flight Leaders are most often schoolteachers or good friends of our organization who happily fill this role for us each year. Once you’re checked in, feel free to relax and get acquainted with your new friends before boarding your flight to Thailand!

  • Day 2

    Today is lost as you cross the international dateline. Fear not – you will get this time back on your way home.

  • Day 3

    When you arrive, the International and Thai staff will help you to find your room (hong) and get a sense of your surroundings. Once you have met your new hong mates and hua naa hong (room leader), you can grab a snack, jump in the pool or take a refreshing shower.

  • Day 4

    Lunch is be served at The Base, and you will get the chance to sample the exotic and diverse flavors of Thai food, plus a few reliable American staples. After lunch, dive right into your afternoon service project. Typically, you will choose between four or five projects each day and we usually offer each of the eight options at least once a week.

  • Day 5

    The Saturday night activity might take you outside of your comfort zone and empower you to sample some local delicacies –not weird, just different! The winner will get a prize…perhaps his or her own bag of salted crickets to eat on Hong Night Out!

  • Day 6

    Sunday is excursion day! The activity varies each week, but could include a trip to the Buddha Cave, visiting a local waterfall, a food tour and photo-scavenger hunt of the city, or touring the celebrated temples of Udon Thani province. Eat lunch in town and return to the base in the late afternoon.

    On Sunday nights, your Burmese staff host a program that goes into the history and culture of their own country. Learn to wear a Longyi (a traditional Burmese kilt), paint your face with Thanaka (a natural cream worn for decoration) and some basic greetings like ‘Hello’ and ‘Thank You’. After the program, be sure to relax and get your rest tonight to prepare for the first full day of service tomorrow!

  • Day 7 - 9

    On Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday your hong leader will wake you each morning to eat breakfast and sign up for your service project. You will continue to work on our eight ongoing projects for the rest of the week.

    While the exact schedule may vary, the following projects are generally offered during the morning hours: Welcome Homes and Hands in the Dirt.

    After lunch, you will return to work on a different service project in the afternoon. The typical afternoon service projects offered are: Teaching & Tutoring, Bobbing & Floating and Meals on Flip-Flops. Around 4 p.m. wrap up work for the day and head back to The Ricefields Service Base for some time free time to relax, play volleyball, or chill by the pool.

    Monday night is massage night! Enjoy a traditional Thai massage and relax after a full day of service.

    On Tuesday night, take a trip to the Udon Thani night market. You and your friends will have ample time to shop for presents and souvenirs among the small stalls filled with local fashion and handicrafts. Make sure to try one of the fruit smoothies or a Thai iced tea!

    On Wednesday night, since many students leave the next day, we will have a bonfire and goodbye party.

    Thai dancers come from the village to perform and teach traditional Thai dancing before we turn on the Western music and show the local staff how we dance back home.

  • Day 10

    After an amazing week at the amazing Ricefields Base, it is time for you to say goodbye.

    Have a final breakfast with your new Thai family before flying to Bangkok to connect to your next trip*, or board the escorted group flight back to the United States. We wish you safe onward travels, and hope to see you again in Thailand soon!

    *If you are connecting to one of our Laos programs, you will participate in the excursion day with students on the Ricefields, Monks and Smiling Children program before meeting your new group at The Base and crossing the Mekong to your next adventure.

    **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 thailand@rusticpathways.com

Program-Specific FAQs

  • Yes! The Introduction to Community Service is a one-week version of our popular ‘Ricefields, Monks and Smiling Children’ program.

  • No, you can try as many different projects as you’d like.

  • Yes. Most days you will choose two different projects

  • Students have a little free time after lunch (a great time to dip in the pool!), and again when you get home from your service projects in the evening. There are always pick-up soccer and volleyball games, dozens of little Thai kids to play with, hammocks, musical instruments, ping-pong, and all kinds of other activities going on before dinner. After dinner, depending on the night, we arrange trips to local markets, trips to the city, bowling nights, movie nights, slideshows, traditional dance performances, multi-cultural music jam sessions, and much more.

  • The cooking staff at the Ricefields Base are well accustomed to preparing food that our students like. Expect dishes to include a great assortment of mild Thai food, lots of fresh fruit, and plenty of favorites at home. They also do a great job of offering vegetarian options at every meal!

  • Students can expect to stay with 4-6 other students in their room. Generally, boys sleep in one zone, while girls sleep in another area. The rooms all have comfortable mattresses and air conditioning, which is only turned on in the early evening.

  • In short, yes. During most weeks there will be about 20 Western (mostly American) staff, and about 30 Thai staff, so there are plenty of us around. We’re usually the ones trying to organize a walk around the village, a pick-up soccer or ultimate Frisbee game, or a movie night. And you can expect your Hua Na Hong (The Boss of your Room) to make sure you keep your room in good shape, your air conditioning stays off during the day, and that you’re up and at ‘em bright and early each morning!

  • Yes – you will have access to internet at the base in our Golden Burma Cafe, which has a couple computers that you can use to email home.  We do try to encourage students to use the internet only for a limited time, and only for corresponding with their friends and family.

  • Only students doing at least 2 weeks at the Ricefields Service Base can do a Weekend Side Trip.

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.


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

  • Passport
  • Photocopy of passport
  • Wallet/money
  • Book and/or journal
  • Pen
  • Phone
  • Chargers
  • Camera
  • Ear buds
  • Change of clothes
  • Reusable water bottle
  • Medication
  • Additional community service forms
  • Outlet power converter
  • Consent to Travel form
  • Rustic Pathways emergency contacts

Checked Luggage

A 50-70 Liter duffel bag or backpack is ideal. A wheeled bag is acceptable if it can be carried like a duffel bag over rough terrain.


  • Socks (2-4)
  • Underwear (7)
  • Pants/capris (1-2, lightweight)
  • Knee-length shorts (4-5)
  • Athletic shorts/leggings (1-2)
  • T-shirts (6-8)
  • Long sleeved shirt (1-2, lightweight)
  • Pajamas
  • Swimsuit
  • Rain jacket
  • Strappy sandals (like Tevas or Chacos)
  • Sneakers
  • Flip-flops
  • Sunglasses
  • Hat (for sun)
  • Quick dry towel


(Travel size bottles in Ziploc bags)

  • Shampoo
  • Conditioner
  • Body wash
  • Face wash
  • Toothbrush
  • Toothpaste
  • Sunscreen
  • Lip balm w/sunscreen
  • Bug spray
  • Feminine hygiene products
  • Contacts
  • Contact solution
  • Foam earplugs
  • Personal med kit
  • Deodorant
  • Hand Sanitizer
  • Wet wipes
  • Small packs of tissues
  • Razor/shaving cream


  • Headlamp/flashlight with extra batteries
  • A bag for dirty clothes


  • Portable games (Bananagrams, cards, etc.)
  • Pictures of friends and family to share with your new friends in Thailand.
  • Travel pillow

Important Reminders

  • SE Asia is a conservative culture with ancient customs based mostly on Buddhism. Dressing respectfully is very important. You will not be allowed to wear short shorts and low cuts tops. Everyone will be expected to respect the people and culture by dressing appropriately.
  • Carry-On Luggage cannot weigh more than 7 kilos (15 lbs.)
  • Check-In Luggage cannot weigh more than 15 kilos (33 lbs.)
  • If your bags weigh more than the amounts specified above, the airlines in Southeast Asia will charge you an excess baggage fee for every kilo over the allowed limit. In past years, we have had students incur significant charges for excess baggage. These fees must be paid in cash at the check-in counter (no USD accepted), so this is a situation that we always try to avoid!
  1. a
    Udon Thani (Chiang Yuen Village)

    Welcome to Thailand! You’ve reached the northeast region and home to the Rustic Pathways Ricefields Base House.

  2. b
    Nong Khai, Thailand

    A tiny border town on the Mekong River across Laos, this is home to many markets, temples and restaurants that serves as a day trip for all programs based at the Ricefields.