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Get involved with a variety of powerful service initiatives that benefit your host community in northeastern Thailand. Help local students practice their English, build homes, cook delicious Thai food, and contribute to sustainable development near The Ricefields Base in Udon Thani. Dig into the culture with expeditions and side-trips in Thailand and nearby Laos, and learn more about the religion, history, and personality of the region.

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. Home to some of our most popular programs, 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 seven 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.

Seven 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

  • Go to a local market, practice your Thai language, and buy supplies that you will then cook to make a healthy meal and distribute that food to members of the local community.
  • Gain unique insight into the hearts and histories of these inspiring Thai villagers as you visit various families and elderly couples.

English Camp

  • Collaborate with the local students on our existing service projects all over the community in the morning.
  • Work with students for an afternoon of fun games and activities that will promote leadership, teamwork, and boost confidence of local students to use their English language skills..

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

  • Serve as an English language conversation partner to a Thai student at an 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.

Buddhist Life

  • Help maintain a local temple — the centerpiece of a Thai community.
  • Practice meditation and mindfulness as your complete your service work at the temple.

Weekend Side Trips!

For students staying two or more weeks, we offer four popular weekend side trips. These excursions allow students the chance to explore nearby places of interest and delve into the culture.

Laos Weekend Escape

3 days, 2 nights | $495

Head north and hop across the Mekong River into the Land of a Million Elephants. Photograph incredible landscapes, swim in a celestial lagoon, and hike to a mystical cave. Learn about traditional Hmong culture and leave with a new perspective on history in this laid-back country.

Escape to Paradise

4 days, 3 nights | $695

Relax on some of Thailand’s most pristine and stunning beaches in Phuket. Snorkel and swim amid coral and colorful fish in clear, warm water. Hop from beach to beach, enjoying fruit smoothies and fresh coconuts as you go. Climb up jungle-covered hills and take in the wonders of the South.


Buddhist Retreat

3 days, 2 nights | $395

Spend three days living like a Buddhist monk or nun while learning how meditation and mindfulness are a part of daily life in Thailand. Get acquainted with the basic tenets of Buddhism and leave the temple refreshed and grounded.

  • 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

    Sawat dee and welcome to Thailand! Rustic Pathways staff will welcome you in Bangkok with an assortment of Thai food, fresh fruit and drinks to snack on until your flight up to Udon Thani. In the meantime, stretch your legs and enjoy modern Suvarnabhumi airport before boarding another plane to Baan Chiang Yuan, home of The Ricefields Service Base.

    The slow-paced northeastern Thai lifestyle will welcome you even before you arrive as you drive by cozy wooden houses, through winding side streets, and past the gorgeous temple next door. Set just outside Udon Thani city, The Base includes a number of houses decorated in traditional Thai style, common areas for relaxing and playing games, a swimming pool, a gym, a family of water buffalo, and, of course, rice fields!

    When you arrive, the Western 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.

    In the afternoon, staff will lead you to the local market where you can sample local foods and familiarize yourself with Baan Chiang Yuen. After a buffet-style dinner, we will hold a formal orientation and explain everything you need to know about our eight community service projects and day-to-day life at The Base. You will have the rest of the evening to make yourself at home, meet some new friends, play a game of pick-up soccer, or recover from jetlag. Welcome to life at The Ricefields Base!

  • Day 4

    Days begin early in the village of Baan Chiang Yuen, and you will likely wake up to the sound of the morning gong calling the monks to collect alms throughout the village.

    After breakfast our local staff will lead an introduction to Thai culture so you can begin to feel more at home. Then you will take a short walk to tour the local temple, where a friendly monk will likely give you a bracelet for good luck in a traditional string ceremony.

    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.

    Rustic students love the service projects at Ricefields because of how involved they get with the surrounding communities. The projects also give you a chance to work alongside students from across the world, as well as with our Thai staff. Depending on the project you choose, you might teach English to the kids from a local primary school, work alongside villagers in the rice fields, or teach small children how to swim in our pool with our local staff. Whichever project you choose, everyone will be excited to meet you and show his or her appreciation for your hard work. For more information about each service project, please see the bottom of this section.

    This afternoon, the Thai staff will lead a series of Thai games that always generate friendly rivalry between the different teams and help create new friendships. We won’t ruin the surprise, but students often want to hose off and jump in the pool together after the final race. After dinner, choose amongst a few aspects of Thai culture to learn about – you could learn traditional Thai dancing with villagers, how to cook with our chefs, or a little bit of the lingo with our amazing local staff.

    The days are always busy here, and you will probably sleep well after a day of hard work. Lap fun dee, na! (Sweet dreams!)

  • Day 5

    Today you will have a fun excursion around Udon Thani.  You will see, taste, and smell no many new things! We have a great day planned that encourages students to try all types of delicacies.  We also have a photo-scavenger hunt full with prizes and bragging rights for the winner!  We will have a traditional lunch and cool off with a visit to a nearby water park.

    After a long day out on the town some free time at the base will be well-deserved!  You can play volleyball, soccer, spikeball, or swim in the pool.

    In the evening we will have an activity called “No Reservations” where you are able to sample some local delicacies which may get you a bit out of comfort zone!  You may look at fried crickets a bit differently after this activity!

  • 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

    Your hong leader will wake you up early this morning to say goodbye to the students leaving today.

    After the departing students leave, spend your day in Nong Khai, a beautiful riverside town on the Laos/Thailand border. Students will visit the incredible sculpture garden Sala Kaew Ku where they will see the impressive and gigantic statues inspired by ancient Buddhist and Hindu traditions. Afterwards, a trip to a local smugglers market will allow for students to purchase beautiful souvenirs to take with them home.

    Students return in the afternoon to the base, greeting newly arrived students and showing them the ropes. If you are leaving for an additional side trip, you need to pack and get ready for your great adventure!

  • Day 11

    Those students not going on side trips will spend the morning with the newly arrived students, getting to know them and sharing with them your experiences as they begin to learn about Thailand and service projects offered at the base.

    After lunch choose from the available afternoon service projects and then come back to base for another chance to win Thai Games!

    After dinner, learn even more about Thailand during Ricefields University – make sure to choose a new topic to delve into!

  • Day 12

    Wake up early and return to the Nong Khai Boys Home, where you will continue with the service projects you began last week. After a delicious lunch, stop at the market and Tesco before returning to the Ricefields Base.

    Don’t worry – we won’t make you participate in Fear Factor again! Instead, you will go out in Udon Thani to one of our staff member’s favorite restaurants for a nice dinner. Will it be Mexican food? Pizza? Italian? Its a surprise!

  • Day 13 - 16

    Sunday is excursion day! You will spend the day at Phu Foi Lom, a beautiful national park just an hour outside the city.

    You’ll spend the whole day at the park hiking, relaxing and taking in the unbelievable views over the region. Stop along the way at the Big Buddha statue, one of the largest in the area, and grab lunch at one of the local staff’s favorite restaurants before heading back to Ricefields.

    After dinner, welcome back the students who left on a side trip, and get ready for a full three days of service!

  • Day 17

    After two weeks 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!

    **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

  • You can do as many different service projects as you’d like. You can sign up for the projects in small groups the night before. We do our best to give everyone a chance to try each project.

  • 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 4-8 other students in their room. Generally, boys sleep in one house, while girls sleep in another area. The rooms all have comfortable mattresses and air conditioning, which is only turned on in the early evening.

  • 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.

  • The Weekend Side Trips run only on demand – there must be enough students signed up for the trip, or it will not run!

    Side Trips can be paid by either cash at the base or credit cards through the Ohio Office.  Please note: payment cannot be accepted until confirmation that the side trip will run, which will be shortly after the program starts.

  • Yes! These trips are supervised by staff from the Ricefields Service Base.

  • Yes! You may choose to do Side Trips on your second and third weekends at the Base.

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

    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.