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Explore Thailand, from top to bottom on this whirlwind touring expedition. Delve into Buddhism in some of Thailand’s most famous temples, and venture into holy caves and jungles along the way. Enjoy a healing Thai massage, shop in funky local markets, and gain an appreciation for Thailand’s diversity and beauty. Build new lifelong friendships during this week of non-stop action and adventure.

Program Profile

Country
Thailand
Community Service Component
None
Get to Know
The Sights
Lifestyle
Relax at Hotels
Travel Component
On the Go!

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 4 July 14 Very Limited
July 11 July 21 Available
July 18 July 28 Available
July 25 August 4 Available
August 1 August 11 Available
August 8 August 18 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

    Depart from the USA!

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

    Once you arrive at your international departure city, our Airport Coordinator will help you get checked-in for your flight. Here you’ll meet your Flight Leaders who will escort you all the way to Thailand! Our 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

    Travel Day

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

  • Day 3

    Welcome to Chiang Mai

    Your program begins in earnest when you land in Chiang Mai, Thailand after a brief stopover in Bangkok. Students just meeting up with the group will join those students connecting from the Elephant Conservation Project.

    As you head from the airport to the hotel, start to take in your surroundings. Chiang Mai is the ancient capital of the Lanna Kingdom, which predates the modern kingdom of Thailand by hundreds of years. Keep a lookout for sections of the now-crumbling wall around Chiang Mai’s Old City. This wall once served as protection against invading armies, although today you’re more likely to see Thai teenagers using it as a perch to sit on while they fish. Soak in the beautiful temples and bustling markets that rush past you. You’ll be seeing more of these in the days to come.

    Take the chance to freshen up, rest, or take a dip in the hotel pool. After a fun-filled first dinner, head back to the hotel for some much-needed sleep. It will be a busy week ahead!

  • Day 4

    Chiang Mai

    Today will start with a trip to some of the oldest temples the center of the Old City. You’ll visit Chiang Mai’s oldest temple, Wat Mun, and the beautiful Wat Chedi Luang, which was once the largest structure in the Lanna Kingdom before a large section was knocked down in an earthquake several hundred years ago. Take your chances on the temple’s slot-machine fortuneteller or hang a golden silk banner for good luck before sitting down to chat with a local monk.

    Chiang Mai is home to a thriving artist community, and while in town you will have the chance to learn about many traditional handicrafts that this region has become famous for. After breakfast, you’ll see some of the city’s modern art as well with a visit to one of Chiang Mai’s newest attractions, the Art in Paradise 3D museum. Then, you will head into the rolling mountains to Northern Thailand’s Holiest site, 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. Hear the Legend of the White Elephant that marked this sacred spot as the location for the temple, and climb the dragon-guarded staircase to into the shrine itself. Once inside, be blessed by a monk for a happy and healthy trip before making offerings and getting your fortune read (spoiler alert!).

    Coming down from the mountain, you will stop at a bustling market in front of Chiang Mai University where you will feel the buzz of student life at one of Thailand’s largest universities. The last stop of the day will be the Night Bazaar, where you will shop the night away while practicing your bargaining skills (hint: Don’t be shy!).

  • Day 5

    Heading for the Hills of the North

    Rise early today and set out into the stunning mountains of Northern Thailand. This is the most diverse region of the country, home to more than a dozen hill tribe minorities, each with its own distinct language, history, and culture. Following the Ping River, wind through the mountains to the Chiang Mai area’s most unique waterfall, Nam Dok Bua Thong. Sourced by a mineral spring, this waterfall runs through a forest and over limestone, making it ideal for exploring on a hot day.

    Next, the journey continues into the Chiang Dao Valley, famous for the magnificent mountain that towers over the landscape. The Doi Luang Chiang Dao Mountain is one of the tallest peaks in Thailand and easily the most impressive, with sheer limestone cliffs ascending to the top.

    Settle in for the night at a country eco-resort and take in the view of mountains and rice fields as the sun goes down beyond the mountains. By evening, enjoy a traditional khantoke cultural dance performance while you enjoy a delicious meal.

  • Day 6

    Exploring Chiang Dao

    Enjoy the fresh mountain air as you wake up early to give alms to village monks. Those of you who did not participate in the Thai Elephant Conservation Project will then have the chance to visit a small, locally owned elephant camp to get up close and personal with Asian Elephants. Then, we will begin exploring Chiang Dao by foot and by bicycle. This area is a treasure trove for botanists and biologists, and walking through the lush forest you will see why. Explore a meditation retreat set at the foot of the towering peak of Doi Luang, and then enter the Chiang Dao cave at the foot of the mountain. Local guides will lead you by lantern-light to explore the many hidden passageways. This cave is an important spiritual center filled with flower-laden Buddha statues and the occasional hermit. Next, you will head out into rice fields in a surrounding village to observe the rice-growing process and take some photos of the greenest greens that you will ever see.

    Once you have worked up a proper appetite, we will stop at the Chiang Dao Nest, one of the finest restaurants in the region, for some delicious international cuisine in an idyllic setting. In the evening, you will return to the eco-lodge with your new friends.

  • Day 7

    Chiang Rai and the White Temple

    After breakfast, we will depart for Chiang Rai. Here, we will visit two of the most unique structures in Thailand, created by two of the country’s most renowned artists. First, the White Temple, an intricate frosting-like edifice takes visitors on a journey through heaven and hell showing the karmic path away from temptation. Next we will head to the White Temple’s darker twin, the Black House. This complex contains massive teak halls where snakes and skeletons abound. Wander through the forested grounds and inside unique buildings, a fusion of Thai, Balinese and Burmese styles laden with modern paintings and ancient relics.

    In the late afternoon, we will check into the hotel and enjoy some poolside relaxing time before heading out to explore the town. Walking through the back alleys and fresh markets of this charming and sleepy city, you will see what a “real” Thai town looks like.

  • Day 8

    Muay Thai in the Big Mango

    Today, you will catch a mid-day flight down to Bangkok, the capital of Thailand. You will check in you your hotel, get refreshed, and get ready to head out for a night of excitement in the city. Tonight, you will experience a championship Muay Thai (Thai kick-boxing) fight at the most prestigious stadium in Thailand, Lumpini Stadium. Muay Thai is an ancient art and a huge source of pride for Thai people, and experiencing a match in person is quite an experience. Later, we’ll return to the hotel to get some rest for a big day exploring Bangkok tomorrow!

  • Day 9

    The Highlights of Bangkok

    After a nice breakfast at the hotel, get ready to see it all in a day here in Bangkok! You’ll start the day with a refreshing traditional Thai massage to get in the right state of mind. After that, you will hop on the bus and start working your way towards the the Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew, the King’s most official residence and the home of the famed Emerald Buddha. You will have some time to wander the beautiful grounds here before heading around the corner to Wat Pho, another of Bangkok’s most famous temples and home of the ‘Reclining Buddha,’ the largest such Buddha in the world. Next, you will walk out to the banks of the Chao Phraya River, or the ‘River of Kings.’ Here you’ll hop on a long-tail boat and go for a cruise upstream. Viewing Bangkok from the river – away from the busy streets and with a cool breeze on your face – is truly the best way to see it. Finally, you will cap off your final day with an evening dinner through the heart of modern Bangkok. This will be an awesome way to talking about all that you’ve seen on this memorable trip, and enjoy your final evening with your new friends.

  • Day 10

    Chock Dee, and Safe Travels!

    Today, you’ll have time to relax at the pool before checking out and heading to the airport. Whatever is next for you, we hope that you always cherish the warm memories of Thailand you have made this week. Safe travels and chock dee!

    **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

  • This is our signature touring program in Thailand, designed to give students the chance to experience all of Thailand’s must-see sights as well as its most hidden gems. Most of our students come to Thailand to delve into the many service projects across the country, and we have designed Amazing Thailand as an easy one-week add-on to allow students to have a good look around while in this part of the world. In just one short week, students can expect to see it all, from ancient temples and lush jungles, to cosmopolitan Bangkok and remote Hill Tribe villages. Students will stay in nice hotels, ride an elephant, and shop at eclectic markets. In short, this is an action-packed week of the best that Thailand has to offer!

  • Students like the diverse highlights featured on this program. Students who combine Elephants and Amazing Thailand really like spending the two weeks with the same group.

  • The Amazing Thailand Adventure will enjoy a few of the most beautiful four-star hotels Thailand has to offer, complete with stunning swimming pools and all the amenities you could hope for.

  • Students will have the chance to do laundry 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 insect repellent containing at least 15%-20% DEET.

  • There will be ample opportunities to shop! Our staff will take you through some of the finest stalls, malls, and markets of Thailand. 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 Thai culture and a great way to support the local economy. 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.

  • Rural Thailand is still quite conservative, and Rustic Pathways expects our students to be upstanding ambassadors of our home countries. As a blanket rule, we ask that shorts are at least fingertip-length and any tank-top straps are at least the width of three fingers. Especially during this program, however, there will be several days of “temple attire,” which requires your shoulders and knees to be covered.

  • Phones are always available on an emergency basis. Students will be able to use phones and internet in their free time almost every day, although we encourage our students to use the internet only for a limited time, and only for corresponding with their family and friends.

  • 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.

  • Safety is a top priority at Rustic Pathways, and for that reason we ensure that all of our staff is certified at the very least 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.

  • Thailand is the only country in SE Asia not to be colonized by a European power, just one factor that helps Thailand maintain its unique, cultural charm.

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
  • 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.

Clothes

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

Toiletries

(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

Miscellaneous

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

Optional

  • 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
    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.

  2. b
    Jomkere Village, Chiang Dao, Thailand

    A one-night stay at the Pink Lotus Resort, home of our famous local guide – P’Koko; this eco-resort is nestled at the base of Chiang Dao mountain surrounded by organic rice fields.

  3. c
    Chiang Rai, Thailand

    Welcome to the northern tip of Thailand near the infamous Golden Triangle; where Laos, Thailand and Burma all share one border.

  4. d
    Chiang Saen, Thailand

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

  5. e
    Bangkok, Thailand

    The capital of Thailand and the economic center of SE Asia with a population of over 14 million. This is home to the historic Grand Palace, famous river canals and some of the best cuisine in the world.