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Combine four fascinating countries into one spectacular adventure featuring amazing attractions and premier hotels. In Thailand, visit jaw-dropping temples, enjoy ringside Muay Thai seats, and ride elephants through the jungle. In Laos, explore UNESCO World Heritage site Luang Prabang. In Cambodia, marvel at Angkor Wat and tour the floating villages of the Tonle Sap. In Vietnam, lose yourself in the wonders of Old Hanoi and cruise Ha Long Bay.

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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2018 Departures

Departs (USA) Returns (USA) Availability
June 12 June 29 Sold Out
July 10 July 27 Very Limited

Program Profile

Countries
Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam
Community Service Component
None
Get to Know
The Sights
Lifestyle
Relax at Hotels
Travel Component
On the Go!

  • Day 1

    Relax and prepare for a world-class trip on Singapore Airlines. Prior to your departure, you will receive your pre-departure packet, which includes your Rustic T-shirts, airline tickets, and important contact information. Once you arrive at your international departure city, our Airport Coordinator will help you get checked in to your international flight. Here you’ll meet your Flight Leader 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

    Today is lost as you cross the international dateline. Don’t worry – you will get this day back on your way home.

  • Day 3

    Welcome to Thailand! You’ll be met at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport by our all-star team of staff. Throughout this adventure, you will be joined by the very best leaders of the Rustic Pathways family. This gives you the best of both worlds – empowering leaders with deep experience leading groups across Asia, combined with the best of our local managers and trip leaders who will join you in each of the countries you visit to ensure you have the best possible visit to their country. Mr. Pattiya Taedaengpetch, our beloved Southeast Asia Director, will join you in Thailand. Pat has been leading fantastic programs around Southeast Asia for nearly twenty years! His goofy sense of humor and extensive knowledge of Asian culture make him a favorite among students. As you have come off a long flight today, there will be no formal activities after our welcome dinner and orientation meeting. Students will have the chance to swim, work out, chill out, or sleep.

  • Day 4

    On your first full day in Bangkok you will head to a private tailor, allowing you the opportunity to order clothing and then have it fitted two or three times while in town. Students – even non-shoppers – love their trip to the tailor. Here you can order a shirt, an Italian wool suit, or a designer dress cut and made to fit you perfectly. Many girls bring pictures of clothing from magazines that they want made, or actual samples of clothing they want copied. Guys end up with beautiful suits, cool shirts, and the occasional pair of bright green golf pants. It’s fun to order, and very interesting to watch the level of customer service provided as tailors then visit students over the next three days fitting and adjusting their clothing until they’re perfect. Once the tailor is done, you will head out to MBK Mall. Our trip is all about showing students the wonders and the riches of Southeast Asia, and also highlighting for them the differences and unique attributes of each culture. Visiting MBK Mall with 30,000 Thai teenagers is a wonderful cross-cultural experience. Dinner tonight will be at Asiatique, one of Bangkok’s hippest new culinary and entertainment locations, after which you will see one of Bangkok’s most well-known cabaret shows. By the end of the day, you will be ready to sink into their feather beds at The Millennium Hilton.

  • Day 5

    After a delicious breakfast, a long-tail boat will pick you up right at the hotel pier and whisk you away down the Chao Phraya River to discover old Bangkok city. You will visit the Grand Palace in all its glittering glory, along with the infamous Emerald Buddha.

    Learn about Buddhism and the Thai monarchy on the palace grounds before heading next door to Wat Pho, home of the 160 ft. golden Reclining Buddha. Your long-tail boat will continue floating along the canals of Bangkok, and you’ll see why the city is known as “the Venice of the East.” This afternoon, return to the tailor for a final fitting, and head back to the hotel to relax by the infinity pool overlooking the entire city. Tonight we will dine out and visit one of Bangkok’s many night markets.

  • Day 6

    Breakfast is served at the hotel this morning, and then you are off for a very Thai adventure as you depart for Chatuchak Weekend market. The largest single market in the world, Chatuchak has more than 10,000 vendors and is open only on Saturday and Sunday. More than 500,000 people visit the market on any given weekend, and you will love the adventure of exploring the aisles of Chatuchak where you can buy traditional art, buffalo bells, used jeans, handmade incense, or – well – anything. We ask only that you don’t buy any puppies or kittens! We’ll hang at Chatuchak until early afternoon, when you will depart for a nationally televised Muay Thai match. Through special connections we secure VIP seats for our students at this huge event on Sunday afternoon, and this is an experience that you won’t soon forget. Muay Thai is a mixture of sport, art, and religion, and you will sit ringside at the matches that are watched by millions of Thais each week. Students also have the chance to meet the boxers if they wish, and get some amazing photos of the champions of Thailand’s most famous sport. The Thai boxing finishes mid-afternoon, and you will then head to the airport to catch the easy one-hour flight up to Chiang Mai. After a nice dinner, you will be treated to a massage a one of Chiang Mai’s premier spas – the perfect ending to an epic day!

  • Day 7

    Much smaller than Bangkok, Chiang Mai is full of old ruins and classic Buddhist temples. The former capital of the ancient Lanna Kingdom, Chiang Mai is surrounded by an ancient moat and populated by a rich and fascinating blend of northern Thai and hill tribe people from more than a dozen ethnic groups. Chiang Mai food is very different than classic Thai food, the dress is distinct, the language is populated with words not heard in central Thailand, and the climate is cooler and cleaner. After breakfast, you will head north into the mountains. Here we will spend much of the day with Thailand’s famous elephants. Students will have the chance to ride the elephants and play with them as well. Rustic Pathways knows the owners of this elephant camp well, and the mahouts (elephant handlers) here allow us to hang around and get fun photos with their 3-ton friends. Also out in the mountains you will take a peaceful rafting trip through some local villages, hop on an ox cart ride, and eat a northern Thai luncheon. On the way back to Chiang Mai in the afternoon, you will stop to see local artisans crafting jewelry, working with local gems and stones. Tonight, you will dine by the Ping River on northern Thai cuisine, and enjoy a traditional Khantoke cultural dinner and dance presentation.

  • Day 8

    After a late breakfast, you will check out and head to the airport to catch the flight to Luang Prabang, via Bangkok. Luang Prabang is one of the most beautiful old towns in all of Southeast Asia. Named by The New York Times a few years ago as the Destination of the Year, Luang Prabang is charming, peaceful, welcoming, and addictive. Landing in Luang Prabang, you will meet a number of Rustic Pathways’ Lao program leaders and country managers who will be traveling with you while in Laos. It’s a short trip from the airport to your hotel where you will have a swim and then head out to Phu Si Mountain to catch the sunset, before enjoying a beautiful meal at Lao Lao Garden, one of the best restaurants in town. Then, you will head to the Night Market. This market is unique in Southeast Asia and a great place to shop for handmade crafts created by tribal women from the ethnic minority groups that surround Luang Prabang. Students bargain for funky slippers, cool bracelets, sweet t-shirts, handmade jewelry, and hand-stitched blankets made by local Hmong and Khmu ladies.

  • Day 9

    After breakfast, hop on a private slow-boat down the Mekong River to the Pak Ou caves. These ancient Buddhist caves date back almost six hundred years, and over that time, pilgrims to the site have left more than 4,000 images of the Buddha in the area. As you float along watch fisherman casting their nets off the riverbank, excited children plunging from rocks into the chilly waters, and women paddling boats to their villages carrying vegetables for the day. This is also a wonderful place to view the incredible landscape of Laos. Relax while the river carries you downstream where life has remained almost completely unchanged by outside influences for generations.

    After grabbing lunch in town, head to the beautiful Kuang XI waterfalls, just outside of Luang Prabang. These falls are famous for their bright aqua color, beautiful surroundings, and Free the Bears’ rescue center along the river. Climb up to the top of the falls for a breathtaking view or rope swing into the bright blue lagoon. Dinner tonight is at a funky local restaurant renowned for its great Lao food and groovy music. You will enjoy sampling Lao dishes, listening to tunes, and watching the vibe of this chilled-out town. Then it’s back to your beautiful hotel where you will enjoy stunning mountain views and a peaceful night’s sleep.

  • Day 10

    On your last morning in Laos, wake up on the early side to take part in an amazing daily ritual for people in this part of the world. It will be well worth your while to participate as the monks walk around town just past sunrise collecting alms from the local people for good merit. Afterwards, get a look into real Laos living by visiting the morning market. Then, you will head back to your hotel for a final swim before heading to the airport to fly to Siem Reap, Cambodia. Your first introduction to Cambodia will be Phare, the Cambodian Circus, where you will enjoy special on-site dinner and a close-up VIP look at the show.

  • Day 11

    Today you will explore not only world-famous, breathtaking Angkor Wat, but also equally impressive temples that are very different from Angkor. This is an awesome day for getting some great photos, and learning about the history of this famous World Heritage Site. In the morning, you’ll see renowned Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom. You’ll check out Bayon Temple, made even more famous when it featured prominently in Lara Croft: Tomb Raider. We’ll have lunch at a trendy restaurant in Siem Reap town before continuing our temple adventures in the afternoon. A quick photo op at sandstone Ta Keo can’t be missed as we make our way to Ta Prohm famous for the trees growing literally out of the temple.

    After all of the temple visits, you’ll be hungry for an awesome dinner and time to explore the night markets. After a full day you’ll be ready to sleep in style at the Sofitel Angkor.

  • Day 12

    Today you will visit a Cambodian cultural village as well as a traditional silk farm to learn a bit about local life and industry in this region. You’ll get to see the process of creating Cambodia’s beautiful textiles from start to finish, and this will shed a lot of light into what village life is like here. After that, it’s time to embark on an exciting cruise through the floating village region of Cambodia aboard Rustic Pathways very own boat! This is an eye-opening journey through this fascinating corner of Cambodia where whole villages live in clusters of stilted houses and subsist with very few possessions. This day generally–and this excursion specifically–will certainly provide you with a unique perspective on just how different your life is from the people who were born in this area. In the evening, you will have the chance to reflect on what you have seen and learned so far, and the lessons that you will be taking home with you.

  • Day 13

    This morning, you will get an introduction to Cambodia’s troubled past by hearing about the dark days of the Pol Pot Regime when the Khmer Rouge ruled Cambodia with a visit to the Killing Fields Memorial. It’s an emotional experience, but you’ll leave with a great respect for what the older generation of Cambodians endured and how quickly they have rebuilt their nation. Next you’ll visit a traditional silk farm where you will get to see the process of creating Cambodia’s beautiful textiles from start to finish.

    After a delicious lunch, you’ll jump on the Rustic Pathways’ boat and head out for a few hours of cruising and touring. Staffed by our full-time crew, we’ll cruise through small rivers outside of Siem Reap to see the floating villages and learn about the lives of the people who live here. Here you will have the chance to buy cool local jewelry and handicrafts – or for those of you who are so inclined – perhaps you’d like to purchase a crocodile, a cobra, or a bucket of eels! With the temples of Angkor behind you and our Cambodian team waving you off at the airport, you’ll fly your way north to Hanoi in Northern Vietnam. Landing in Hanoi we clear customs and immigration and you will be introduced to Rustic Pathways’ very cool Vietnamese program leaders. You’ll head from Hanoi Airport across the Red River and then into Hanoi city for dinner. Much more traditional than Ho Chi Minh City in the south, Hanoi is the old capital of communist North Vietnam and our tour today will include many of the most famous sites of this fascinating city.

    After a travel day, your bed at the Melia Hanoi Hotel will be a very welcome sight.

  • Day 14

    One more breakfast at the hotel and then you will head east towards the Vietnamese coastline. The journey takes you across Hanoi and then out among more traditional Vietnamese towns and villages. In the late morning you will arrive in Halong, where the group will trade the coach for a beautiful teak boat – your home for the next 24 hours.

    The balance of the day is spent cruising on our private yacht. You will explore the beautiful islands that dot Halong Bay, considered by many to be the most beautiful place in Southeast Asia. A crew of 14 staff takes care of your group on the boat, and the chef churns out beautiful seafood luncheon as you leave shore and head into the heart of Halong. You’ll explore islands, swim in the Bay, and cruise past traditional fishing villages. In the late afternoon you will kayak and swim alongside the boat, and at sunset our chef runs a private cooking class for us, certifying you as a professional Vietnamese Spring Roller by the time it’s all done. Enjoy eating your creations as an appetizer for tonight’s meal! This evening you can play cards or have a dance party on the 4th floor roof of the boat. We sleep in two-person staterooms on the boat, each with air conditioning and its own private bathroom. Halong Bay is very sheltered, so it’s very smooth on the water. After a day of cruising and swimming and exploring this UNESCO World Heritage Area, it will be very easy to fall asleep on Halong Bay.

  • Day 15

    Breakfast is served on the boat this morning, and you then head to an island that boasts a magical cave. You will exit the boat and explore the cave, and work up a great appetite for brunch when you return. As the boat sails back to Halong port, you will enjoy our last meal on-board and take group photos with the spectacular islands of Halong Bay as a background. After a bus ride back to your hotel in Hanoi, you will head out for an afternoon on the town. Stroll around famous Hoan Kiem Lake and then head to the Old Quarter of Hanoi – a maze of crazy streets that forms one of the strangest and most exotic shopping environments you’ll probably ever see. Each street has it’s own special product, so you can wander down streets where everyone is selling firecrackers, then connect to a street where the vendors are all selling Vietnamese clothing, and then wander down an alley packed with ducks for sale. You’ll have time in the Old Quarter to shop on your own, and this is a great time to grab cool art, funky clothing, wartime propaganda posters, or inexpensive jewelry. You can also get an eye exam and a new pair of glasses and lenses for less than $50, all done in an hour. Experience The Old Quarter in your own private rickshaw, and then you’ll be free to wander and shop (and graze in the coffee shops and patisseries) on foot. You’ll certainly work up an appetite in The Old Quarter, so we’ll have a great dinner before calling it a night back at Melia Hanoi Hilton.

  • Day 16

    You will start your day at the Temple of Literature, where you’ll see and learn about the magical powers of the giant turtles. Rub their heads and you may find your chances of getting into your top-choice university improves. Next on the agenda: Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum. Rather than waiting in line with 2000 people to see the preserved body of The Father of Modern Vietnam, you will bypass the lines and explore the mausoleum with a private honor guard as you present a wreathe on the tomb of Ho Chi Minh in a specially arranged ceremony. While you’re here we’ll learn the basics of Vietnam’s history, and see how “Uncle Ho” brought together a group of people who had been occupied by foreign powers for more than 1,000 years and formed a nation. From here you head to The Hanoi Hilton – a legendary and quite frightening prison that was used first to incarcerate local Vietnamese who agitated against the French colonial leaders, and later to hold American fighters who were shot down during the Vietnam War. Spending a few minutes in the cells here is a chilling lesson in history. Your final dinner is a celebration of two weeks of amazing adventures all shared over a wonderful meal. After dinner, you’ll stroll the Hanoi night market for your last chance for souvenirs (airports don’t count!) and have the rest of the evening to get suitcases packed and closed, swap photos, and make sure everyone is organized for the flight tomorrow.

  • Day 17

    It’s tough to say “goodbye” after two amazing weeks of travel together. After breakfast on your last morning, those heading home will fly directly from Hanoi to Singapore where you will meet up with our escorted international flight home. Those connecting to another program will travel with program staff to Bangkok and then to their next adventure.

  • Day 18

    Return Home!

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

  • Flights to Thailand generally depart from Los Angeles International Airport via Singapore. The total flight time LAX-Singapore-Bangkok is about 21 hours.

  • Yes. All flights between the USA and Bangkok, and the return, will have a flight leader.

  • Students from the United States will be issued a visa on arrival to every country this program visits. Please remember to bring multiple passport-sized photos (at least 3) with you when you travel for your visa on arrival in Laos and Cambodia. Students from all other countries should check with their consulate for visa information.

  • Please contact your family physician or see the CDC or WHO websites. (http://www.cdc.g0v)

  • Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos.

  • Students will begin and end this program at Bangkok International Airport. Staff members from their next trip will meet any student transferring to another program in Thailand, Vietnam, or Cambodia, at the Bangkok international Airport. Students transferring to China, Australia, Fiji, or New Zealand will fly out from BIA. Flight leaders for the trip home will meet students returning to the United States.

  • Extra costs on this trip are any type of extra shopping, souvenirs, large amounts of snacks (i.e. if you cannot live without Red Bull and you drink six a day, that will be on you.) Extra activities that may occasionally arise, like deluxe movies tickets and long karaoke sessions. Spa treatments, room service, and the like. Anything you charge in your room is your responsibility to pay for.

  • You will eat at a variety of establishments, including some of the nicest restaurants in each region. Please bring at least one outfit that is sutiable for nice dinner wear. We will also sample some local delicacies, and eat at a variety of levels of restaurants. You will be fed well. In big cities, we do try stop in and have some more Western food for a taste of home. If you are a vegetarian, prepare for a lot of rice, vegetables and fruit. If you have any nut allegies, please tell us so we can make sure that the food is prepared in a certain way for you.

  • Yes.

  • You will be staying at the best accommodations available in each of the regions of these countries. Keep in mind that you are traveling to some rural and underdeveloped regions and that accommodations may be a little different than the W Hotel in New York. However, you will always be comfortable and staying in the best place the region has to offer. Students love where we stay—in Bangkok, we stay at some of the top hotels in the world.

  • Students will have the chance to do laundry about every three days or so. Prepare to go five days if necessary without laundry. We use local laundry services and rarely use the hotel service. Usually it takes about 24 hours. Costs vary in each country and region. But if you have a regular washer load full, your cost should be around 3-5 dollars to wash, dry, fold and iron.

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
  • 4 passport-sized photos for Visas
  • 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 only if it can be carried like a duffel bag over rough terrain.

Clothes

  • Socks (2-4)
  • Underwear (6-8)
  • Pants/capris (1-2, lightweight)
  • Knee-length shorts (4-5)
  • Athletic shorts/leggings (1-2)
  • T-shirts (4-6)
  • Casual shirts/tops (3-4)
  • Long sleeved shirt (1-2, lightweight)
  • Fleece/hoodie
  • 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
    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. Students will shop at MBK Mall which is one of Bangkok largest shopping malls and Chatuchak market, which some say is the world’s largest outdoor market.

  2. b
    Chiang Mai, Thailand

    The largest and most populated city in northern Thailand, Chiang Mai is the former capital of the Kingdon of Lanna. Its history dates back over 700 years. Students will explore ancient temples, ride elephants in the mountains, and shop at the famous Night Bazaar.

  3. c
    Luang Prabang, Laos

    Welcome to 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.

  4. d
    Siem Reap, Cambodia

    Take a quick flight up to the north to the bustling tourist town of Siem Reap. Students will visit one of the wonders of the world: Angor Wat. Students will also cruise on the Rustic Pathways boat through the floating villages on the Tonle Sap.

  5. e
    Hanoi, Vietnam

    Formerly the capital of French Indochina, today Hanoi is a bustling symbol of modern Vietnam. It is a fascinating fusion of East and West, old and new, with tree-lined lakes, aromas of delectable street food wafting from every direction, and rivers of motorbikes.

  6. f
    Halong Bay, Vietnam

    You’ll explore islands, swim in the Bay, and cruise past traditional fishing villages. In the late afternoon we kayak and swim alongside the boat, and at sunset our chef runs a private cooking class for the students. Spend one night on our very own private cruise liner.