Southeast Asia is a fascinating melting pot of history, peoples, diverse cultures and dramatic landscapes ideally suited to an extraordinary educational travel experience. The program has a strong experiential focus. Students get involved in service learning projects, have opportunities for meaningful connections with local people, gain knowledge of Southeast Asia's history, societies and environments, push personal boundaries and develop their leadership skills.
Thailand was the only country in Southeast Asia not colonized by Europeans during the 16th - 18th Centuries. The monarchy is strong and the King is revered for his social reforms. People are well educated and, as the country moves rapidly into the 21st century, are embracing global culture without discarding their own rich traditions.
Most Thais are Buddhist and it is expected that all men will spend some time as a Buddhist monk during their lives.
It is wonderful to contrast the mega-city bustle and excitement of Bangkok with relaxed and friendly provincial towns and villages. The country is geographically diverse – the mountainous jungle clad north is populated by numerous minority tribal groups and has stunning national parks, while tropical islands in the south have some of
the world’s best beaches, snorkeling and diving. Thailand is an immensely popular travel destination. Travelling with us you’ll have the chance to taste a less-touristy slice of Thailand, and experience what makes it so popular.
“When my daughter Shira decided to take a gap year between high school and college, Pacific Discovery's Southeast Asia Program became part of that plan. What an amazing adventure it has been! The trip was very well thought out, each day packed with extraordinary experiences and meaningful interactions with peoples of different cultures. She saw remarkable things and learned so much. Her whole sense of the world shifted. Shira returned home with greater confidence, sure of her abilities to navigate any challenge. She gained a deeper understanding of other cultures and more clarity and insight about herself. All in all, a tremendously valuable learning experience.”
Ruth Weizman (mother of Shira)
• Rewarding week-long conservation service-learning project working with elephants
• Rock-climbing and caving adventure (no experience needed)
• Hiking, tubing and boating in the amazing jungle, rivers and lakes of Khao Sok National Park
• Hiking trip to stay in a traditional ethnic minority village
• Rewarding service learning working with the Karen Hill Tribe
• Exploring spectacular Railay Peninsula
• Diving certification in the waters of the Andaman Sea
• Hiking trip to stay in a traditional ethnic minority village
• Historical Sukhothai and its superb temples and monuments
• Thailand’s kaleidoscopic markets and temples
• Thai cooking course and Muay Thai (Thai Martial Art) class
• Buddhist meditation retreat run by Thai Monks
• Exploring the best islands and beaches in southern Thailand
• Informal lectures and discussions on history, culture, society and environment
• Very personalized and supportive small group experience – maximum 14 students
• Two experienced and inspiring Pacific Discovery Program Instructors supported by local guides
First up you will head into quarantine to ensure a safe journey. Whilst here, we will be connecting on Zoom with the other students and getting in lots of Thai language lessons and yoga. In an indigenous Colombian tribe, the youth of the society were put into a cave to grow and learn for the first nine years of their life before being exposed to the outside world. Picture yourself as one of these youths; you will be able to catch a glimpse of bustling and shiny Bangkok through the windows and the wafting smells of Penang Curry will temp your nose. Once quarantine is done, you will be let free and appreciate all the little things that bit more!
Connect with your group as we make our way to the first Thai capital, UNESCO world heritage listed Sukhothai, meaning ‘rising of happiness’. We begin our orientation and immerse ourselves in the kaleidoscope of new sensory stimulus. We will explore the ruins of the original capital, consisting of 70 sites within a 3 mile radius about half an hour’s drive from the new town of Sukhothai.
It’s time to venture north into the luscious highlands of Thailand. North Thailand is where the magic is waiting to be found; it has long been considered the place to experience authentic cultural immersion - and delicious food. We head into the countryside and spend a few days working those arms; learning climbing, rappelling and caving. We will be camping in a small rural village and being exposed to the principles of permaculture. There’s a night market to check out when we have some spare time. We’ll also start work on key Thai words and phrases and put these to use at the local market.
Take a few days to relax and get lost in the walking streets of Chiang Mai. To give you some idea, there are 121 temples within the city limits. Enjoy sleeping in a comfortable guest house before we embark on a trekking trip through teak and bamboo forest to camp near ethnic minority villages. You’ll gain insight into traditional tribal village life, which is alive and well in Northern Thailand.
You will see a LOT of elephants around these parts. Fortunately, you will be staying at an ethical elephant conservation park that aims to solve some of the problems surrounding elephant exploitation in Thailand. Despite a ban on logging, elephant habitat is still being lost and as few as 500 wild elephants are left within Thailand and
they are threatened. Over 2,000 domestic elephants, trapped in the traditional elephant tourist industry, have a bleak future. You will be up close and personal with these kind and unforgettable animals, helping care
for them and exploring the complex issue the animal conservation world is currently facing.
We embark on an overnight rafting trip through 40 miles of deep jungle, enjoying some 60 rapids up to class 4. We’ll discover hot- springs, waterfalls and gorges on the way and spend a great night camping beside the river.
On our return from trekking we will stay two nights in Pai, a relaxing town nestled in a forested valley. Changing gears, we then have 3 days of reflection and insight at a peaceful Buddhist Meditation Retreat taught by Thai monks.
This week is all about empathy and understanding. We will be based in the forest just outside of Chiang Mai and work to support one of the minority tribes in northern Thailand. We will work alongside a transparent NGO which takes an intersectional feminist, sex-positive, grassroots approach to working with at-risk populations and underserved ethnic minority communities.
This is a big week crammed with activity. Travel south to a permaculture education center with the motto ‘nature is our teacher’. Get your hands dirty and explore this concept of environmental sustainability through practical application. From here, we will hike through the beautiful Khao Yi National Park since you simply cannot miss it. It’s just a hop and a bit of time travel over to the majestic ruins of Ayutthaya, built in 1350.
Certifications in Phuket In Bangkok, cultures entwine in a symphony of sounds, scents, sights and tastes – it is sensory overload! We will explore the weekend markets, temples and markets over a few days. Just when you’ve had enough of the city fix, we travel from Bangkok to Southern Thailand. Jump on a boat and check out some of the most amazing karst limestone islands planet earth has to offer and then get your learning on while we get PADI open water dive certified. These first glimpses of the islands around Phuket are truly mindblowing. Luckily, we’ve got you covered and you’ll be experiencing a balance of the best bits. Sweat it out with a bit of muay thai in Phuket and we will be ready for our next destination.
We uncover the tragic history of the Khmer Rouge regime with a We travel overland to Khao Sok National Park. Based from a jungle lodge we spend three days hiking, kayaking and exploring this amazing jungle environment.
Khao Sok National Park is a remnant of the oldest and most diverse rainforest in the world, and is home to the largest flower in the world, a carnivorous species with a diameter measuring 2-3 feet!
Railay is a peninsula on the mainland only accessible by boat, surrounded by stunning limestone cliffs, dense jungle and the clear emerald waters of the Andaman Sea. This is a world-class area for rock climbing, snorkeling and diving. We settle into our accommodation for a few days of relaxation and reflection. One day we go snorkeling, where you can see colorful soft and hard corals and an astounding diversity of fish. There will be optional kayaking and rock climbing. There’s time for relaxing on the beach, swimming, and reminiscing about our adventures.
Now it’s time to truly relax and reflect. We will be able to compare Railay with a more obscure island destination – Ko Lanta - where we head to in order to have a final dive and wrap up the program. Your last days will be spent digesting your experiences and sharing your final beach days with your fellow participants. Celebrate all
your accomplishments at the Final Dinner before packing your things and departing this fabulous country. A short boat ride back to Krabi and flight to Bangkok signals our return home. We depart Bangkok for home having had an unforgettable month in the ‘land of smiles’.
Note: Each week there will be some designated free time in a town or city so that you can catch up on email and laundry, relax and explore independently with others in the group.
Open to high school graduates, university students and graduates, ideally 18-24 years. This is an excellent experiential study abroad semester or gap year option for students and graduates wanting to be exposed to and immersed in cultures very different to their own. This program is ideal for anyone of average fitness with an interest in conservation, humanitarian work, new experiences and different cultures. You need to be open-minded, and committed to and prepared for some physical work whilst on the volunteer components of the program. You don’t need to have had previous experience with international travel or any of the activities offered.
The program is a shared group experience. We expect you to join the program with an open mind and a willingness to work together with your group mates to make the program an amazing experience for the whole group. Additionally, the program will be as much about the inner journey of personal growth and learning about yourself as it is about what you will experience in the outer physical journey. We expect you to be open to learning and challenging your ideas and assumptions.
Our accommodation will vary from tents under the stars and simple share accommodation with shared facilities to modern hotels and guesthouses with private bathrooms. Laundry and WiFi will be available most days except while at the elephant conservation project. Accommodation is diverse, comfortable and carefully chosen to fit our needs.
Meals are fresh, tasty, healthy and varied. Special dietary requirements and vegetarians are catered for. Food is a highlight when travelling in Asia and throughout there will be the opportunity to eat authentic Asian or Western style food. 100% of meals are included in the program cost. We recommend you budget the sum of $10 per day for snacks and drinks not included in the program cost (approximately $300 for the program).
Experience an enriching 70 day program in Thailand with one two weeks of volunteer service work and eight weeks of amazing educational adventure travel