Discover a mystical land of elephants, ancient Buddhist temples, tropical islands, secluded jungles, and tempting spices. Earn 30 hours of community service while working in rural Thai villages and an elephant sanctuary. Scuba dive tropical blue waters, rock climb in the jungle-covered foothills of the Himalayas, and cook tasty Thai meals on an organic farm. Build cultural connections and lifelong memories in Southeast Asia’s most enchanting and welcoming country.
Our programs offer a wide variety of activity options. Explore the activities specific to this program below.
Your adventure will begin in Los Angeles, where you’ll meet up for the first time as a group. Your trip leaders will help you check in to your international group flight, and you’ll make the overnight journey to Bangkok, Thailand.
Upon your arrival in Southeast Asia, you’ll get out of the city and head to Ayutthaya. There is no better place to wrap yourself in the fabric of Thai culture and customs than in the rich tapestry of Ayutthaya. Between 1350 and the late 1700s, the Ayutthaya Kingdom was the center of power and culture for much of southeast Asia. The historic old city of Ayutthaya (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) was a destination of commerce for early Dutch, French, British, and Portuguese traders. Connecting the present with the past, you’ll tour the historic old town, visit important Buddhist temples of the region, and immerse yourselves in basic language classes. Simply getting a feel for Thai language and script will enable you to develop meaningful connections with locals throughout your journey. Applying your newfound language skills each evening will come naturally while in the company of gracious local hosts during your authentic homestay experience with local Ayutthaya families.
Next you’ll embark on an exciting overnight train journey across the country to the northern mountainous city of Chiang Mai. Founded in 1296, Chiang Mai was the capital of the independent Lanna Kingdom until 1558. This small vibrant city is a launching point for a number of outdoor adventures.
You will spend the next few days in the Mae Teng district of Chiang Mai. You and your group will partner with local expert guides to learn the basics of rock climbing at the region’s famous limestone crags. The climbing site of Lampeng, known as Crazy Horse, has a variety of routes available and is the perfect place to learn proper climbing technique, necessary knots, and the basics of rappelling and top-roping.
Having grown accustomed to and comfortable with Thai language and culture, it will be the perfect time to roll up your sleeves and give back to this beautiful landscape and its people. Over the next three days, you will volunteer with the Hin Lad Nai community.
The Hin Lad Nai community saw their forest cut down in the 1980s but in 1989, the Thai government stopped giving out logging concessions. The villagers of Hin Lad Nai decided to regenerate their destroyed forest in the only way they knew how: by practicing Karen rotational farming. Within that system, they would protect their land against wildfires and illegal hunting, and let the trees grow and the wild animals return and thrive again. The Karen’s rotational farming is a form of cultivation that balances human needs with wildlife and the forest.
You will work alongside these innovative villagers, learn their methods, and help with their sustainable agricultural projects. Exact projects vary from year to year, but your work will be a blend of cultural contributions and infrastructure improvement initiatives. One of the most fundamental parts of your service-learning work will be connecting with local villagers.
Following your first sustainable service project, you will head to the Chiang Dao Valley to the Mae Ping River for a day of kayaking. Your route will wind through the bamboo jungle and offer stunning views of Northern Thailand’s mountainous terrain. You will paddle beneath overhanging trees and see abundant foreign birds and fish along the way.
Your next service project is a once in a lifetime experiencing: working with elephants! Staying on-site in a unique elephant conservation center and rehabilitation park, you’ll divide your time between hands-on learning about elephant biology and active service work where you’ll have the chance to take care of these beloved creatures. As part of your educational experience, you’ll learn from trained park staff about elephant care, hygiene, behavior, biology, and emotional sensitivity. Your service work will involve guiding elephants to and from their jungle environment for feeding and bathing, administering important medicines, and rehabilitating elephants in need. Few people are fortunate enough to have the opportunity to interact with elephants in such a constructive and enriching setting.
You will head south as you travel from the northern part of the country to Bangkok and then to shores of Koh Tao. Here, over the next few days, you will learn to SCUBA dive. Koh Tao Island, literally “Turtle Island,” is Thailand’s premiere SCUBA diving destination; it will be the perfect instructional environment for you to learn diving proficiency and earn your PADI Open Water Diver certifications. While the small, tranquil island was named for its turtle-like shape, the warm, off-shore waters are also home to abundant populations of Hawksbill and Green sea turtles. Your private dive instruction will take place in a specialized dive resort and dive education center where you’ll progress from the classroom to the marine-life-rich ocean waters. You’ll have the opportunity to see moray eels, butterfly fish, stingrays, clown fish, and countless other species in their natural habitat.
Upon your return to Bangkok, you’ll notice your perspectives are deeply enriched with a heightened appreciation for the landscape and culture. Entering Bangkok from the neo-Renaissance style Hua Lamphong Railway station, you’ll enjoy one final day and your traditional end-of-summer banquet before boarding your flight back home as a group.
The Thailand service trip was amazing! I had some of the best experiences of my life with an amazing group of people. The leaders were awesome. Every day we had new adventures, from scuba diving to hanging out with elephants. The service projects were fun to do. We went to marketplaces, where we ordered in Thai, to the island in Nangyuan where we all learned to scuba dive. I will never forget my amazing summer in Thailand and I am so glad I went.
-Ella, 2019 Thailand Service Student
Trip Price Includes
- Group gear
- Personal gear and clothing
- Airfare to and form the trip start and end