Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, & Cambodia

START Bangkok, Thailand |
FINISH Krabi, Thailand |
DURATION 10 weeks |
AGES 17 - 22 |

Get Off The Beaten Track Exploring Jungles, Rivers and Elephant Sanctuaries

Southeast Asia can’t be beaten for the sheer diversity of cultures, histories and landscapes in a geographically small area. Your days will be as varied as the countries you visit, with a fusion of hands-on volunteer work with elephants, connecting with locals during community volunteer projects, trekking through ethnic minority villages, and healthy doses of jungles and beaches.

Join us on this epic journey through the remote minority villages of Laos, the diverse landscapes of Vietnam, the world-famous Cambodian temples of Angkor Wat, all the way to the stunning beaches of Southern Thailand. This program offers you an enriching fusion of community and animal rescue volunteer projects, cultural immersion, Vietnamese cooking, Buddhist meditation, kayaking, and of course, non-stop adventure!


Embrace the gentle giants of Southeast Asia during your a volunteer project at an elephant sanctuary. Here, you'll contribute to the well-being of rescued elephants by assisting with their care, forging a bond with these magnificent creatures, and learning about conservation efforts. It's a chance to give back and create unforgettable memories while supporting the future of these gentle giants.

This unforgettable leg of your Southeast Asian gap program will have you cruising past charming villages, lush jungles, and ancient temples. Soak up the vibrant cultures lining the banks as you explore local markets and witness the timeless rhythm of life on the Mekong.

Step back in time and immerse yourself in a simpler way of life in a traditional hill tribe village in northern Thailand. Live alongside a local family, observing their daily routines and age-old traditions. Witness firsthand the beauty of self-sufficiency and harmony with nature as you learn about their unique culture and handicrafts. This experience offers a profound escape from the ordinary, allowing you to truly connect with the heart of northern Thailand.


This is a guide to what you can expect to do on program. The order in which the activities occur might vary.

Click download to view the full 10 week sample itinerary.

Download Sample Itinerary

Bustling Bangkok & Ancient Temples

We arrived in Bangkok, having journeyed from the West to the East. In Bangkok, cultures entwine in a symphony of sounds, scents, sights and tastes – it’s a sensory overload! Our first few days will focus on getting to know each other and creating a positive and reflective group culture to support us in realizing our program goals. Then enjoy a yummy meal at the market, where we can sit back and watch the hustle and bustle of market life around us. Hidden in the busy Bangkok streets are some of Thailand’s most beautiful religious and cultural sites, and this week we get to visit them and see their beauty in person. Including Wat Pho, The Grand Palace, The Temple of the Emerald Buddha, Wat Arun, and many more!

After orientation, we take the train to the jungles and ruins of Ayutthaya, a historic city and kingdom in Thailand. This UNESCO World Heritage site was the capital of Siam for around 400 years and holds many grand monuments and temples. In Ayutthaya, we will head out on a tour of this magical city, seeing all of the sights and wonders that it has to hold, and all from a mountain bike!

Departing Ayutthaya, we journey to Sukhothai, another UNESCO World Heritage site that is famous for its ancient temples. 1000 years ago, Sukhothai was the capital of Thailand. Today it is a tranquil quintessential Thai town. We will explore the complex of temple ruins before continuing by minivan, north to Chiang Rai.

Living in a Traditional Hill Tribe Village

We make our way further north to the hills of Thailand, where we have some time to explore the sights of Chiang Rai. This city is a lot smaller and less developed than neighboring Chiang Mai, and has the added advantage of featuring the striking all-white Buddhist temple Wat Rong Khun.

From Chiang Rai, we head to the countryside! We will spend a few days in a small hill tribe village to observe their simple way of life. A member of the Lahu community will talk us through the history of the village, their distinct traditional clothing, and the strong commitment to maintaining the Lahu way of life. We will also get hands-on by building a coffee nursery to help the community, head into the jungle, and learn about the irrigation purposes of the local dams. To end this immersive stay, we can join in a dance and cultural exchange during a traditional Lahu dance performance, also called the ‘Ka Kuk We’.

After we have said goodbye to our host families, we make our way to Chiang Mai. Although Chiang Mai is the third largest city in the country, it has the appearance of a large village. We explore the historic center during the day, and spend the evening browsing, shopping and snacking in Chiang Mai’s night markets. We‘ll even visit monks while they are at Buddhist University and chat with them about what a monk’s life is like, Thai culture and Tradition, Buddhism, Meditation, and anything else we are curious about!

Elephant Conservation & Community Volunteering

Everyone's favorite, we 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. We will be up close and personal with these kind and unforgettable animals for a few days, helping care for them and exploring the complex issue the animal conservation world is currently facing.

By the time we leave the sanctuary, we will have learned an enormous amount about elephant conservation, will be very sad to bid farewell to these gentle giants, and will feel incredibly satisfied at the rewarding work we have done to ensure their protection.

The rest of the 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 that helps to empower at-risk girls to end trafficking and exploitation within their communities and works to break the cycle of poverty in Thailand.

Program Details

What's Included?
  • All in-program travel and transport, excluding flights
  • All accommodation
  • All meals
  • All expeditions, activities, excursions, volunteer projects and entry fees as described in the itinerary
  • Experienced Program Instructors and local guides
  • Informal lectures from resident experts on conservation and eco-tourism
  • Experiential core curriculum that pushes students to reflect and ask questions of themselves
  • Certificate of Program Completion


For full program details, please request the information booklet.

Request Information Booklet

Medium Activity Level

Anyone with an average fitness level and an enthusiasm for the outdoors and new experiences will have a great time on this gap semester! You will need to be prepared for some physical work during the volunteer projects on the program, like trail building or the removal of invasive plants.

Low Camping Level

You will spend your nights on this gap year program in comfortable guesthouses and modern hotels.

Medium Service Learning Level

You will be able to make a difference to the local community during your stay. Be prepared to get your hands dirty and do some hands-on learning about local issues.

Have you got any questions before applying?

Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, & Cambodia