Putney Student Travel: Thailand, Laos, & Cambodia | Cultural Exploration

Putney, VT

Overview

From its aromatic cuisine to its rich cultural and religious traditions and stunning landscape, Thailand has held a mythical fascination for travelers for centuries. Explore this beautiful country, trekking in the lush rainforests, traveling Bangkok’s colorful waterways, and relaxing on white-sand beaches.

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Hike, bike, and zipline through the lush mountain rainforests of northern Thailand.
  • Swim and relax on the white-sand beaches of Koh Samet.
  • Spend the night at an elephant conservation center.
  • Make pad thai and other favorite dishes during a traditional cooking class.
  • Barter your way through a maze of vendors at a lively night bazaar.

OVERVIEW

From the Mountains to the Sea in Southeast Asia

This high school summer travel program combines outdoor adventure with cultural immersion in the beautiful and welcoming country of Thailand. Begin your journey in the northern city of Chiang Mai, considered the “cultural capital” of the north, tucked into the foothills of the Chiang Dao mountains. Get oriented to your new surroundings and fellow travelers as you explore the city’s golden temples and lively markets, famous for their tasty Thai delicacies, homemade crafts and clothes, and myriad street performers. Spend the night at an elephant conservation center and discuss the ongoing rehabilitation efforts with local caretakers.  

Next, travel from north to south through the heart of the Kingdom and engage with local communities, explore ancient ruins, wander city markets and relax on picturesque beaches. Explore the nearly 200 ruined temples of the 13th century capital of the Sukhothai Kingdom, spend two days in the rural province of Suphanburi at a local high school, witness the majestic mosaics of the Grand Palace of the King in Bangkok, and  cap your trip with a relaxing stay on the white-sand beaches of Koh Samet.  

Adventure

Your adventures on this program are designed to actively immerse you in the local culture. Spend your days hiking in the jungle, swimming in the crystal-clear waters of the Gulf of Thailand, ziplining through the rainforest canopy, or wandering with free-roaming elephants in the Chiang Dao mountains. Climb the gilded-stairway to Doi Suthep, a mountain-top temple overlooking the city of Chiang Mai, enjoy a bike ride through the countryside of Chiang Rai, or hike through terraced rice fields to swim and picnic at a beautiful waterfall. Test your skills in a traditional Muay Thai boxing class, or climb to the top of Bangkok’s highest temple for breathtaking views of the bustling metropolis.

Cultural Immersion

Ancient history and the tenets of Buddhism are intimately entwined in contemporary Thai culture. Interact with a diverse array of Thai citizens ranging from shopkeepers to chefs, elephant mahouts to muay thai boxers, and attend a Thai high school to learn about the daily lives of your Thai peers. Conduct informal English lessons through vocabulary games and mock interviews, then try your hand at Thai script and learn how to write your name in traditional characters. Discover modern-day Buddhism by meditating under the guidance of novice monks, then spend the afternoon learning about their monastic lives. Make pad thai or tom yum koong during a traditional cooking class, engage with the owner of our family-run guest house, and gain a deeper understanding of the beautiful cultural and Buddhist traditions that guide the daily lives of Thai people.  

Accommodations

Group accommodations are carefully selected by Putney Student Travel to emphasize convenience, a positive group environment, and wholesome interaction with local people and fellow travelers. We stay in various types of accommodations throughout this itinerary ranging from family-run guesthouses to hotels. Depending on the destination, students stay in either bunk-style rooms, or twin rooms with en suite bathrooms. Rooms are separated by gender.  Leaders reside in the same accommodations as students throughout the program, and all accommodations are air conditioned.

Physical Challenge Level

Our programs are physically active. Days are filled with movement — teaching local students in the classroom, strolling the streets of Chiang Mai, swimming in the pool, biking through the ancient city center, or learning the art of Muay Thai boxing. You do not need to be at peak fitness to participate, but it is important that you have a desire to be physically active, and that you are excited about trying all activities. This program includes a moderate day trek. During this time, students should be prepared to hike with small backpacks 5–6 miles.

A Typical Day

Due to the expeditionary nature of this program, each day is different, so although there is no “typical day,” here is an example of how we structure our time. We generally wake up between 7:00 and 7:30 AM to have breakfast and prepare for the day. We head out around 9:00 AM (or earlier depending on the activity), and break for lunch around 12:00 PM. Some of our activities will take a full day (visiting the elephant sanctuary, trekking, etc.) so we may eat lunch on-the-go, or in a local market or restaurant. After lunch we might head out for a hike, walk, bike ride, swim, etc., depending on what the destination offers. Evening activities might include a Muay Thai boxing class, yoga class, a visit to a nearby temple, or a stroll through town as a group. Each day is capped with a group meeting to discuss the day and upcoming schedule.

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