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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.

Dates listed reflect travel time departing from and returning to the USA. International clients click here.

With our No-Stress Travel 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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Program Profile

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

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 find your room (hong) and get a sense of your surroundings. Once you have met your new hong mats, you can grab a snack, jump in the pool, or take a refreshing shower.

    After dinner, we will take a walk to the local market. The market has an amazing variety of foods, smells, spices, and is buzzing with activity. After the walk to the market, you can get to meet your fellow travelers back at the base.

  • Day 4

    This morning we will have a thorough orientation for the week. This will answer any lingering questions you may have and give you a chance to learn more about why your fellow students are on the program.

    After orientation, we will walk to the local temple. The temple serves as the center of Thai communities. This is a great opportunity to learn more about Buddhism, which has a major influence on Thai culture. You will even get a chance to chat with a monk and learn more about his daily life.

    Lunch will be served at the base. After a delicious meal you will jump into your first service project. You will be able to work with local children by participating in either our Education Exchange Project help to increase English competency or help teach swim lessons with Bobbing & Floating.

    Once service concludes you will make your way back to the base and we will have Thai Games! This is a series of relay races and team building exercises inspired by Thai school games.

    In the evening we will have Ricefields University. You will get a chance to get hands-on and learn about either Thai music, Muay Thai boxing, or Thai Language.

  • Day 5

    On Saturday, we have alternating activities that change every week. You can expect either a visit to a Muay Thai Gym, a food tour, a photo scavenger hunt, a trip to a water park, or a trip the silk market. We will have lunch outside the Case at a delicious local restaurant!

    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 later afternoon.

    On Sunday night you will sign up for your service projects for the rest of the week and start to prepare for the next three days of service.

  • 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.

Here is a detailed packing list for your trip to Southeast Asia this summer. Remember that you will be responsible for carrying your belongings everywhere you go, so PACK LIGHT! We recommend using a medium-sized wheeled duffel bag or a backpacking backpack as your checked luggage. If your bag weigh more than 35 pounds you have probably over-packed!

Weather in Southeast Asia
The summer time is known as the “rainy season” or the “green season” in Southeast Asia–days are generally hot and humid, with brief and refreshing showers that keep everything lush and green. Temperatures cool off once the sun goes down making for pleasant evenings. Because of the heat, you will need to drink a lot more water than you are used to drinking to stay hydrated!

Temple Visits
When visiting temples you will need to dress appropriately. Wearing clean, modest clothes that cover the knees and shoulders is a must. Being respectful is the name of the game!

A Note to Females About Attire in Rural Southeast Asia
Southeast Asian cultures are very conservative. Despite the hot climate, you will almost never see women with their shoulders exposed or wearing low cut shirts or short shorts. As we seek to respect and preserve the culture of the communities we work with, we strongly urge you to dress respectfully. Students and staff must realize that when they dress improperly, they are embarrassing everyone around them. If you are not wearing proper attire, you may need to change your clothes or abstain from the service project of the day.

To dress respectfully in Southeast Asia, please don’t wear short shorts, low cut tops, or tank tops while out in public areas. In most cases, shorts that cover just above the knees are fine. As mentioned above, yoga pants and leggings are not appropriate.

Access to laundry can vary, but you will have access to laundry at least once a week while on the program. Expect to pay between $8-$22 per load.


A school backpack or daypack is ideal as it will be used for hiking/ day trips.

  • Passport
  • Photocopy of passport
  • Wallet/money/ATM card
  • Book and/or journal
  • Pens (2)
  • Phone
  • Camera
  • Chargers
  • Ear buds
  • Change of clothes
  • Sunglasses
  • Water bottle
  • Medications
  • Additional community service forms
  • Visa documentation
  • Outlet power converter (for transit only! Thailand uses the same plugs as
  • the USA–just make sure all electronics are compatible with 220v)
  • Consent to Travel form
  • Rustic Pathways emergency contacts
  • Extra t-shirt and underwear

Checked Luggage

A 50-70 Liter duffel bag or backpack is ideal.

Clothing Items

  • 2-3 pairs of lightweight pants, jeans (hot!) or capris. Activewear/yoga pants are acceptable while being active (or while on the Base), but not suitable at the village, market, temple, etc. Many of our students and staff end up in “elephant pants” very soon after they arrive, so don’t fret if you need help in this area–inexpensive solutions await you in country!
  • 2-3 pairs of shorts/skirts Shorts and skirts for the women must go to the knees or longer!
  • 8-10 pairs of underwear – Quick-dry material is best
  • 3-4 pairs of socks – lightweight cotton or quick dry athletic socks are best.  
  • 5-7 tops (t-shirts and sports shirts)-they can be cotton, or quick dry shirts like capilene or polypropylene. Tank tops are generally not acceptable unless for time at the pool/beach. Keep in mind you will find cool T-shirts and clothes at markets you will be visiting throughout the summer, which can supplement the tops you bring over.
  • 2-3 light, long sleeve t-shirt–breathable is best for the sun and certain areas of the region can get buggy or chilly (if you’re lucky!) at night
  • 1 lightweight hoodie–most likely needed on flights, in movie theaters, and in airports. Most people will be fine without one.
  • 2 swimsuits –for females, two piece suits are fine but no skimpy bikinis please.
  • 1 Sarong/shawl/lightweight towel (not white!)–Many accommodations will have towels for you to use, but it is handy to have something of your own for sitting poolside or visiting a waterfall
  • A nice casual outfit–for special end of program dinners.

Important Items

  • Flashlight or headlamp (rechargeable batteries are preferable)
  • Ultra-lightweight rainproof jacket–fear not if you don’t have one, ponchos are widely available and do a better job!
  • Hat–for the sun
  • Comfortable flip-flops or crocs–Footwear that is easy to clean and easy to take on and off. You’ll be amazed at how often you’ll be taking on and off your shoes. Cheap flip-flops and crocs are widely available in Asia for a fraction of the cost.
  • Closed-toed athletic shoes – shoes that dry quickly, that you can hike short distances in and that protect your feet are best. Shoes will get muddy and dirty, so don’t get too attached to your footwear.
  • A color photocopy of your Passport.

Most general toiletries are available throughout the region. We suggest packing all items that could leak in a plastic or ziploc bag

  • Deodorant
  • Shampoo and soap – you may want to bring biodegradable or natural soap and shampoo, but they are not required
  • Toothpaste and toothbrush
  • Insect repellent–we suggest a natural option or something with DEET
  • Hydrocortisone/anti-itch cream or after bite
  • Hand sanitizer -1 small bottles. We don’t want you getting sick this summer!
  • Contact lenses and solution (widely available and inexpensive in SE Asia)
  • Sunscreen + Aloe Vera (good quality sunscreen is not readily available in SE Asia and is expensive!)
  • Feminine hygiene supplies-tampons are not widely available in SE Asia. Past staff have suggested trying a diva cup. We recommend you bring what you think you will need for the duration of the summer.

Additional and Optional Items:

  • Phrasebook, guidebook
  • Lip balm
  • Deck of cards
  • Digital camera – Waterproof style shock resistant cameras are great for our trips.  Again, do not depend on your phone–we encourage our students to disconnect from their phones while on program.
  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.