Thailand is incredibly diverse – the mountainous jungle up 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 and snorkeling spots. It is wonderful to contrast the mega-city bustle and excitement of Bangkok with relaxed and friendly provincial towns and villages. Traveling with us you’ll have the chance to taste a less-touristy slice of the country and uncover the true essence of Thailand.
We take you to the north where you take a deep dive into the hill-tribe culture and an elephant sanctuary for the beginning of the program and are rewarded with some of the most stunning beaches in the world for the final portion of the trip. Immerse yourself in elephant conservation learning; discover Thailand’s fascinating cities and culture; explore the incredible jungle, islands, and beaches; gain skills with lessons in Buddhist meditation, Thai cooking, Muay Thai and rock climbing. Join us on a journey to the heart of Thailand for a life-changing summer abroad!
This summer program is perfect for high school graduates, college students and graduates, and gap year students, ideally 18 to 22 years old. Optional transferable academic credit is available to all participants.
From Bangkok, we fly straight into Chiang Mai, the heart of northern Thailand. We begin our orientation and immerse ourselves in the kaleidoscope of new sensory stimuli.
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. 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 facing.
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 an NGO which takes an intersectional feminist, gender-neutral, grassroots approach to working with at-risk populations in ethnic minority communities.
Afterwards, you can spend a day to relax, enjoy and suss out your favorite temple/cafe combo. To give you some idea, there are 121 temples within the city limits of Chiang Mai. Enjoy sleeping in a comfortable guesthouse here before we embark on a trekking trip through teak and bamboo forest to camp near ethnic minority villages on a 2 night, 3-day unforgettable hiking experience. You’ll gain insight into traditional tribal village life, which is alive and well in Northern Thailand.
We head into the countryside and spend a few days working those arms; learning climbing and canyoning in a unique climbing landscape. We will be camping in a small rural village and being exposed to the principles of permaculture concurrently. There’s a night market to check out when we have some spare time, but trust us you will be feeling ready for bed after the climbing sessions!
After this workout, it's time to explore the capital of Bangkok. In Bangkok, cultures entwine in a symphony of sounds, scents, sights, and tastes – it is sensory overload! We will explore temples and markets via e-scooter whilst here, making sure we cram in as much excitement as possible. Just when you’ve had enough of the city fix, we travel from Bangkok to Southern Thailand.
Changing gears, we take on a half-day hike and a half-day of reflection and insight at a peaceful Buddhist Meditation Retreat. 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 and snorkeling. These first glimpses of the islands around Railay are truly mind-blowing. Get high with a bit of rock climbing before taking out a kayak to explore the islands.
We will be able to compare Railay with a more obscure island destination – Ko Lanta. We settle into our accommodation for a few days of relaxation and reflection. Sweat it out with two days jam-packed with muay thai (martial arts) classes. There will be a Thai cooking course so that you can take something home from this sensory journey. There’s time for relaxing on the beach, swimming and reminiscing about our adventures.
Your last days will be spent digesting your experiences and sharing your final days with your fellow participants. Celebrate all your accomplishments at the Final Dinner before packing your things and departing this fabulous country. Depart Bangkok for home having had an unforgettable month in the ‘land of smiles’.
*Each week there will be some designated free time so that you can catch up on email, laundry, rest, and explore independently with others in the group.
**Pacific Discovery reserves the right to alter and/or change the order of the itinerary, the focus of the projects or the activities themselves due to dates, availability, and safety precautions.
This gap year program is perfect for high school graduates, college students and graduates, and non-students, ideally 18-22 years old. Anyone with an average fitness level and an interest in conservation, humanitarian work, new experiences and different cultures will have a great time on this gap semester! You need to be openminded, and prepared for some physical work during the volunteer projects on 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. Join this 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 simple guesthouses and community homestays with shared facilities, to modern hotels with private bathrooms. Laundry and Wi-Fi will be available often, except while on expeditions or on homestays. Accommodation is diverse, comfortable and carefully chosen to fit our needs.
Food is undoubtedly a highlight when travelling in Asia and throughout there will be the opportunity to eat authentic Asian food. Special dietary requirements and vegetarians are catered for. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are included in the program cost. Any snacks are at an additional cost, which we recommend budgeting around $10 per day for.
All meals are eaten out at restaurants due to the local culture and accommodation. An average day on program would consist of the following:
Camping meals will be adjusted to the cooking equipment at hand