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Play ball and make friends along the Thai-Myanmar border and deep into Laos. Overcome cultural and linguistic barriers as you travel throughout the mountains playing soccer with your peers. Learn how ethnic minorities and displaced peoples live along the fringe between Thailand and Myanmar. Hop up to Laos where you’ll enjoy a scenic village stay and lush landscapes.  Along the way you’ll visit local communities to assist on ongoing service initiatives related to education enrichment and community infrastructure.

Program Profile

Thailand, Laos
Community Service Component
Next Level
Community Service Focus
Education, Infrastructure
Get to Know
The People
A Little Bit of Everything
Travel Component
On the Go!

2017 Departures

Departs (USA) Returns (USA) Availability
June 13 June 30 Available
July 18 August 4 Available

Connecting Programs

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

This program connects especially well with:

  • Day 1

    Today you will depart from either New York or Los Angeles aboard one of our Escorted Group Flights on Singapore Airlines, so sit back and enjoy the ride! Singapore is consistently rated as one of the top airlines in the world, and today you will see why!

  • Day 2

    Today is lost as you cross the International Date Line, but fear not – you will get this time back on your way home!

  • Day 3

    Upon arrival in Bangkok, you will be welcomed with an assortment of exotic fruit, authentic Thai food, and cool refreshments while you get ready to transfer to your program. Once you meet the rest of your group and hydrate a bit, it will be time to catch the easy 40-minute flight up to Mae Sot, where your program begins. Take a shower and relax before you begin a short tour around this fascinating town just a few miles from the Myanmar border. You are likely to see members of half a dozen different ethnic groups walking down the same street: Thai, Myanmar, various ethnic minority groups, even American or European aid workers for human rights and non-profit organizations. Keep your eyes peeled for men dressed in a traditional Burmese longyi, or women with yellow thanaka adorning their faces. Grab a bite to eat at a local Thai-Myanmar restaurant before digging into your program orientation. Once orientation is finished, head back to the hotel for some well-deserved sleep.

  • Day 4

    This morning will be your first formal introduction to the program and life in this part of the world. In the morning head out on a scenic drive to a local waterfall to get a taste of the natural jungle environment that surrounds Mae Sot. Get back to town around lunchtime to visit the Rim Moei market. It is right on the border and packed with colourful goods that display the mixture of Thai and Myanmar culture in the area. Mae Sot is a center for international aid for people from Myanmar who have come across the border to seek opportunity and education in Thailand.

    In the late afternoon, head back to the soccer facility for your first game against a local Myanmar migrant school in Ban Huay Kralok. If you can match their enthusiasm and determination, it will be a great experience to chat with the students and hold your own on their bumpy soccer pitch!

  • Day 5

    The next day will be spent getting to know the students at Minnmahaw School, which aims to help children of Myanmar migrants to achieve their future goals. They follow a structured program that prepares them for further education and maintain strong life skills. In the morning you will have the opportunity to work alongside them as they complete their assigned responsibilities, which include cooking, cleaning, gardening and maintenance of the school building.

    In the afternoon, play a soccer game or two with and against your new friends. The day is designed to give everyone the chance to spend some social time with the students, who will show you what it is like to call this place home.

  • Day 6

    This morning we will continue our cultural exploration around Mae Sot, visiting the local hot springs, Buddhist temples and craft shops. In the afternoon visit The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, another non-profit working in Mae Sot. This organization brings awareness to the plight of political prisoners still being held in captivity inside Burma. After the AAPP, head back to the hotel for a traditional Thai massage – and an opportunity to rest before another soccer game with a team from the Hospitality and Catering Training Center (HCTC), a college offering training for young people hoping to pursue careers in the hospitality industry. If you are lucky they might invite us to dinner at their restaurant!

  • Day 7

    After a final breakfast at one of Mae Sot’s bustling tea shops, hit the road bound for Mae Sariang. This fascinating route runs along the border, and gives you a glimpse of the rugged mountains and jungle that has long been home to the Karen people.

    On arrival in the afternoon, settle into your base for the next couple of days, the Rustic Pathways Children’s Home. Rustic has been running programs in this region since 1999, and passing through you will see the amazing amount of progress our partnerships here have achieved. Stretch your legs with a game against our local staff, then get some rest in the idyllic surroundings.

  • Day 8

    Mae Sariang is a beautiful town nestled in the mountains of northwest Thailand, and this day will be packed with activities in and around the town. In the morning we will visit Mae Sawan Noi waterfall, Wat Tam Ngao (aka the temple inside a cave!), and a village that is home for some of our local staff.

    Then you will head to Ban Hoi Sing High School, home to one of the most quality soccer pitches in Northern Thailand. Be prepared for a competitive and fun match in front of all of your new friends from RPCH. The students and teachers at the school are incredibly welcoming, and will love for us to join them for dinner after the game, and maybe even a bit of karaoke!

  • Day 9

    In the morning, we will begin the trip north to Chiang Mai. First we will stop at another local village, where you will have the chance to contribute to one of Rustic Pathways’ ongoing service partnerships. After a good morning’s work, complete the rest of the journey and arrive in Chiang Mai in time for a game against another team of Rustic staff and friends. Then head out for dinner and some souvenir shopping at the famous Chiang Mai Night Bazaar.

  • Day 10

    Today will be a chance for you to catch your breath a bit after a whirlwind start to the trip. After breakfast, drive up through the misty mountain forest to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep. With panoramic views of the lush Chiang Mai valley below, learn about the unique religious traditions of the area, a fusion of Buddhist, Hindu and Animist traditions. Get blessed by a monk for a happy and healthy trip before making offerings and getting your fortune read.

  • Day 11

    This morning will be your chance to sleep in and catch up on some well-deserved rest. In the afternoon, catch the short flight over to Luang Prabang, Laos, and check in to our charming base house property on the bank of the Mekong river in time for dinner. Get acquainted with our all-star Lao team, and start learning a bit about the history of Laos and some important differences between here and Thailand.

  • Day 12

    Luang Prabang is a fascinating city that has had a somewhat turbulent history – since it’s founding in the 11th century, it has been subjected to multiple invasions, colonizations, annexations, and bombings. Today, however, this resilient UNESCO World Heritage town is world renowned for its richly artistic architectural styles, which pay tribute to both classical Lao style and French influences from its colonial period. Luang Prabang is a spiritual center for Lao Buddhism, and its clergy have shown dedication to their city’s value and beauty by passing building restoration techniques down to younger generations of monks.

    On your first day here take a ride on a slow boat down the Mekong to take in the amazing views and visit the Pak Ou caves, home to over two thousand precious Buddha statues. Then in the afternoon learn more about the country’s troubled past at the Lao National Unexploded Ordnance Program office (UXO), which co-ordinates demining efforts in the area. Once the heat has subsided a bit play our first game in Laos at a surprisingly high-quality stadium.

  • Day 13 - 14

    Head off into the mountains of northern Laos with a one-hour drive to your homestay experience in Nong Tok village, which serves as the base for the main component of our service efforts on this trip. Rustic Pathways has worked in this community for many years, and you are sure to be welcomed here with open arms by the Khmu villagers here who trace their roots to Cambodia. After a hard day of work on our service project see if you can keep going with a pick-up game against the Nong Tok locals. The next day will be spent entirely on the service project and at the local school, where you will have the opportunity to play with the kids and help them practice their English.

  • Day 15

    Say goodbye to Nong Tok, and trek (weather permitting…) through the rolling hills and jungle to Kuang Si waterfall. The going can be tough, but it will be worth it as this is one of the best swimming holes in all of Southeast Asia, with cascading pools and brilliant turquoise water. After cooling off and resting at the waterfall, you will return to Luang Prabang for another game at Phu Thong stadium with a local university team!

  • Day 16

    The next morning we will take one last walk around through the old colonial streets of Luang Prabang, stopping at some of the more renowned temples and bakeries, before heading out to the airport for our flight back to Thailand. All Laos programs finish with a night in Bangkok, which gives the perfect chance to celebrate at dinner with your group, sharing memories and photos of all you have learned and accomplished over the past two weeks.

  • Day 17

    Laos programs connect easily with all other Southeast Asia programs, so consider staying a week or longer to explore more of this incredible part of the world! Heading home? You will transfer to Bangkok airport to meet up with your Flight Leader who will lead our escorted group flight back to the US.
    Whatever is next for you, we hope that you always keep the warm memories of Laos with you!

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

  • Soccer Beyond Borders focuses on cultural immersion. The program features a trip along the Thai-Burmese border region, a village home-stay, waterfalls, engaging service, and most importantly, soccer tying it all together. The result should be an incredibly rewarding and immersive experience where the students have formed amazing relationships and played the game they love along the way.

  • Expect to play on fields of all kinds, ranging from village fields to small-sized futsal pitches. These are micro-pitches designed specifically for 7v7, and they are a lot of fun!

  • The relationships that students form on the trip are far and away the most powerful. By playing soccer and having a common passion, students connect with locals, their peers, and the staff in a way that other trips strive to achieve through other means. It is amazing how soccer can engender powerful relationships with people you can’t even speak with. The games are not overly physical and the competitive spirit, while welcomed, is much less important then just having fun with those around you. Rustic Pathways has developed long-standing relationships with NGOs in Mae Sot that work directly with Burmese Refugees and Migrants and our students will have the opportunity to work in collaboration with these organizations to complete service projects.

  • If you enjoy the game of soccer you are qualified for the trip. Are staff are prepared to accommodate all abilities. Whether you are a competitive player or simply enjoy playing the game and staying fit, this program will be wonderful for you. The soccer is supposed to be fun and we always remain flexible with all abilities.

  • The accommodation will include Guest Houses, Village Homestays, and Hotels

  • Nothing extreme but you will be playing soccer everyday. Also, be prepared to do quite a bit of walking while exploring the country and some swimming as well.

  • Life in the villages is very simple, relaxing and slow paced. Many of these people are farmers and they spend long days in the rice fields or farms. Many elders stay at home with the young kids and lounge around all day. Students will be able to help out with family chores, cooking, cleaning, and a lot of soccer games and playing with the local children.

  • Bathrooms in the villages are very small and simple. All of them have squat toilets that need to be flushed by hand (pouring a small bit of water into the toilet). Also there are no hot showers in the villages. Showers are cold water “bucket showers”. There is a big tub of water where students take a bucket and pour the water over them. Don’t worry, everyone gets used to these types of showers and after a while they are fun (but they also make you appreciate a hot water shower in our guesthouse in between villages a lot more)!

  • There will be several opportunities during the trip to have your laundry washed and folded.

  • There are mosquitoes. They’re usually not too bad, but you will want to have a light-weight long sleeve shirt and long pants for the evenings. Also bring a small bottle of insect repellent containing DEET.

  • You’ll want money to buy hand made crafts in the markets and villages we visit. Most importantly, you will want to have some money in hand for the Chiang Mai Night Bazaar. There will be all kinds of souvenirs and fun stuff to buy, so budget some money for that. You also may become victim to the Thai cultural trait of constantly buying ‘Ka-Nom’ – little snacks or sweets. You may want to donate some school supplies, sports equipment, or clothes to kids along the way and these items can be bought in Thailand.

  • We usually recommend about $150 / week. This money can be used to buy souvenirs in local markets. You will also need money for Internet, laundry, phone calls home, massage tips, and snacks for road trips.

  • 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. Make sure that your soccer gear is for warmer weather conditions as well. Would recommend having light fabric dri-fit clothes for athletic activities along the way.

  • Phones and email will be accessible periodically throughout the trip when we are not in Village Homestays. We encourage our students to use the Internet only for a limited time for corresponding with their family and friends. It is highly recommended that the students disengage from technology as much as possible on the trip and immerse themselves in Thailand. Your time here will be far more valuable interacting with the people and environment around you.

  • Students will be eating local Thai food, which is delicious! We are able to accommodate dietary restrictions. When we are staying in villages we will be cooking our own meals. Be prepared to eat a lot of rice, vegetables, delicious curries, basil chicken, stir fried morning glory, fresh vegetables, fried chicken, and cashew chicken. The students will also be treated with a western meal at the end of the trip and students will also have an opportunity to cook themselves.

  • 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 risk management plan and know the route to the nearest healthcare depending on the severity of the situation.

  • 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 athttp://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.

  • You’ll be amazed at how far sign language and body gestures go. Also, don’t worry, you will have bilingual staff to help you communicate to the locals. Along the way, you will also be taking a few lessons in Thai that will help you get by and make friends with the locals.

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

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
  • 2 passport-sized photos
  • 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 (3-4)
  • Underwear (7)
  • Pants/capris (1-2, lightweight)
  • Knee-length shorts (3-4)
  • Athletic shorts/leggings (1-2)
  • T-shirts (4-6)
  • Long sleeved shirt (1-2, lightweight)
  • Lightweight fleece/hoodie
  • Pajamas
  • Swimsuit
  • Rain jacket
  • Strappy sandals (like Tevas or Chacos)
  • Sneakers
  • Flip-flops
  • Soccer cleats
  • 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 family and friends
  • 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
    Mae Sot, Thailand

    Hello Thailand! You’ve reached the largest town along the remote border between Thailand and Burma. Visit with local NGOs and schools for migrant Burmese students, play pick-up games of soccer, and facilitate skills seminars.

  2. b
    Mae Sariang, Thailand

    Mae Sariang is a quaint little mountain town that is home to the Rustic Pathways Children’s Home. From here you will play pick-up soccer games with the resident students of RPCH and visit the school of Huay Sing, which has one of the finest soccer pitches in the area.

  3. c
    Chiang Mai, Thailand

    The largest and most populated city in northern Thailand, Chiang Mai is the former capital of the Kingdom of Lanna. Its history dates back over 700 years. Rustic Pathways Thailand has a Base House, an office and serves as the headquarters for almost all programs that operate in Thailand. Here you will train at Everton Academy, one of Chiang Mai’s premier soccer organizations.

  4. d
    Luang Prabang, Laos

    This city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the former capital of Laos Kingdom. A mountainous region where the Mekong and Nam Khan Rivers converge, it is well known for its numerous Buddhist temples and monasteries with a rich history of French colonialism.

  5. e
    Nong Tok Village, Laos

    A remote Khmu ethnic village located about 45 minutes outside of the town of Luang Prabang. Students will partake in an on-going service project and facilitate soccer camps for the local students.