november 09-19 | 2019
Welcome to the Land of Smiles! The Kingdom of Thailand receives nearly 34 million tourists annually from around the globe, and even with this high traffic, there are still hidden haunts waiting to be discovered. From sparkling, ornate temples to pristine island beaches, Thailand offers adventures that are paradoxically strange yet familiar. In the steam of this balmy tropical country, you’ll explore how Buddhist traditions shape everyday life while enjoying fresh mangoes, coconuts, and spicy Thai treats. Indulge in all that makes up this never-been-colonized nation. Like the spicy, sweet, sour, salty, and bitter flavors that make up all Thai cuisine, much of Thai life is peppered with contrasts. This program has been especially designed for service travel and is packed with engaging activities. Bathe rescued elephants, snorkel on protected jungle islands and experience traditional Thai art and puppetry in all its majesty. Thailand is a feast for the senses that will leave you wanting to come back for seconds.
Wildlife and Conservation. Bathe elephants at the sustainable and ethically managed Elephant Nature Park. Snorkel and explore the hidden lagoons and other protected natural beauties in the Andaman Sea. Experience the breathtaking natural splendor of Thailand.
Spiritual Practice. Thailand is a majority Buddhist country and you will see the grandeur of Buddhist temples and learn about how traditional Buddhist practices infuse daily life in Thailand— from Spirit Houses to monkhood you’ll see the full range of influence.
Peace Corps Connections. Learn about the impact of Peace Corps and the NPCA community in Thailand, including more about the more than 5,000 volunteers that have served there since 1962, serving in communities on projects in education and youth development. Meet with in-country staff and RPCVs who live in the region working on development projects there.
Accommodations are charming, locally-owned 3- and 4-star hotels. Prices are based on double occupancy. Private accommodations are available for a $799. As a solo traveler, if you prefer, we can also pair you with another traveler (two twin beds, requiring no single supplement, based on availability).
Thailand is known for its bustling cities, lush jungles, and exotic beaches. While this trip is accessible for most healthy travelers, please note that the trip can involve the following: somewhat long days and a good amount of walking (including stairs, varied elevations, and uneven surfaces). Further, Thailand is notorious for humidity, heat, and sometimes unpredictable, weather. It’s critical that all travelers pack appropriate all weather gear and be prepared for hot summer temperatures (additional details and recommendations will be provided after registration in a suggested packing list). If you have any medical conditions or other concerns, there will be opportunity for you to make us aware of them, and then we can determine if the trip is appropriate for you.
- All activities, accommodations, sightseeing, and entry fees listed in the itinerary.
- All meals listed in the itinerary.
- Transportation by private, air-conditioned motor coach, as well as transfers for the group as appropriate.
- Bottled water during all excursions.
- The services of an exceptional bilingual tour guide as described in the itinerary.
- Comprehensive cultural information and reading materials.
WHAT'S NOT INCLUDED
- Flights to and from Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi International Airport (BKK).
- Expenses of a purely personal nature (including cab fares, laundry and other personal items, room service charges, passport application fees, etc.).
- Transportation of luggage in excess of weight allowance.
- Travel insurance.
- Food and beverage other than that specified in the itinerary.
- Costs associated with trip interruption or modification due to weather, travel conditions, political/civil disputes, medical emergencies or other causes beyond our control.
TRIP PRICE - $3,499 ($799 SINGLE SUPPLEMENT)
Maximum travelers: 20
This trip is coordinated by RPCV Mary Bruce of tour operator Insider Expeditions.
Final payment is due 90 days before departure. Reservation fee will be credited towards full ticket.
Day One & Two— November 9 & 10, 2019—โชคดี Chok-di! (Good Luck!)
Depart your home city for an overnight flight, crossing over the international dateline to Bangkok, Thailand’s bustling capital.
Day Three—November 11, 2019—สวัสดี Sawadee, City of Angels!
After your flight, say sawadee, or hello, to Bangkok at Suvarnabhumi International Airport. In the evening, gather with other Next Step Travelers to enjoy a welcome dinner. Sleep well tonight at your boutique hotel in the heart of the city. Meals: Welcome Dinner
Day Four—November 12, 2019—Rose of the North and Sky Lanterns
Make the most of your jetlag this morning. Since you’ll likely be up anyway, have an early breakfast and then head to the airport, boarding our flight to the Lanna Kingdom in Northern Thailand. Our first visit in the region is to a Women’s Empowerment Organization where you will help them with everything from office tasks to childcare. Whatever they need on that day, you’ll be there for them, working directly with women making their own way in the world. This evening, explore Chiang Mai’s famous night market, where you can get everything from clocks made out of soda cans to hand-painted celadon pottery. Haggling for mementos is very much encouraged! Meals: Breakfast, Lunch
Day Five—November 13, 2019—Silver and Gold Temples and Sky Lanterns
We’ll have lunch of a local Chiang Mai specialty of khao soi—you’ll be joined at lunch with a former Peace Corps Volunteer who has lived in Thailand for decades. Temples are integrated into everyday in Thailand and you’ll get to experience the beauty of the Wat Sri Suphan and Wat Phra That Doi Suthep. Join Thais as they give thanks to the water for giving them life through the year by releasing floating lanterns as an offering for the Loy Krathong Holiday. Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day Six—November 14, 2019—Pachyderm Pals
Take a picturesque ride through the Thai countryside, along Mae Taeng Valley to the Elephant Nature Park. Learn the challenges elephants face in Southeast Asia, and how the nature park is helping treat and care for Thailand’s dwindling elephant population. Feed and bath our pachyderm friends! Late in the day, we will bid farewell to our colossal companions at the Elephant Nature Park before the hour-long drive back to Chiang Mai. Settle in and spend the rest of the day relaxing as the enjoy a classic Thai massage or splash in the pool, before turning in early. Meals: Breakfast, Lunch
Day Seven—November 15, 2019—Sunset Dinner on a Junk Boat
Say sawadee, which also means goodbye, to Chiang Mai then fly to Krabi Province on the west coast of southern Thailand. Board our private junk boat, a traditional trading vessel with distinctive ridged sails, and cruise out into the glittering Andaman Sea. We will watch the sun dip between the pincushion islands and eye-popping limestone formations as we relish a hearty dinner of som tum, pad thai, and mango sticky rice. After the voyage, return to our hotel for a night dip in the pool. Meals: Breakfast, Dinner
Day Eight—November 16, 2019—Snorkeling on Room Island
Set out again for the sea. Explore the stunning natural beauty of southern Thailand’s islands. Marvel at the bright white beaches surrounded by towering limestone cliffs, the blue of the Andaman Sea, and the green of the islands’ lush vegetation. “Room Island,” or Koh Hong, is one of the most beautiful islands in the south of Thailand. The cove on the island provides a ripe opportunity for snorkeling, where you can come face-to-face with the brightly-colored fish of the area in clear waters. Return to the hotel late in the day, taking the evening to enjoy a Thai massage or short walk into the center of Ao Nang—souvenir shopping awaits. Meals: Breakfast, Lunch
Day Nine—November 17, 2019—Mighty Muay Thai
Say goodbye to the beach and fly back to Bangkok. Visit Wat Saket, known more popularly as the Golden Mountain Temple. Ponder the meaning of life as you walk the 300-steps spiraling to the top like the loosely-coiled naga that lifted the Buddha above flooding waters. At some point in his life, each Thai male is expected to serve time as a monk and many monasteries act as schools for young men and boys who do not have anywhere else to turn. Practice English with these monks and share across cultures. From there, we’ll walk to the Rajadamnern Boxing Stadium for an evening of Muay Thai. Muay Thai is steeped in traditional practices, from the rhythmic sarama music played during the matches to the dance ritual performed by the fighters to bless the ring—it is a uniquely Thai experience. Meals: Breakfast, Dinner
Day Ten—November 18, 2019—Venice of the East
Float down to the Chao Phraya river—the serpentine heart of Bangkok—where we will board a longtail boat to canals situated on the opposite bank in Thonburi. Bangkok was once known as the Venice of the East for its extensive network of canals used for transportation rather than roads. In the past 50 years, many of the old waterways have been paved over, but there are still areas of town that evoke the nostalgia of a bygone time.After a tour of the canals, we’ll stop at Baan Silapin, “the Artist’s House,” a traditional gallery keeping the art of Thai puppetry alive for the next generation. We’ll take our longtail back to the Bangkok side of the Chao Phraya, and tour Wat Pho, a cultural marvel and must see in Bangkok. As the sun dips behind Wat Arun (The Temple of Dawn) on the Thonburi bank, have a farewell dinner of red and green curries and pomelo salad. At dinner, you’ll be joined by a local activist who can speak to the struggles of life under a junta government and the democracy movement in a nation whose elections have been pushed off for three years and counting. Meals: Breakfast, Dinner
Day Eleven—November 19, 2019—ขอบคณุ Khap khun krup, Thailand!
This morning after breakfast, we’ll wai, traditional Thai bow of respect, to the spirits in Bangkok and say khap khun krup, or thank you, to them for their hospitality. We’ll leave for the airport with colorful memories and new lifelong friends and depart homeward. Meals: Breakfast
Cancellation by Traveler
The $250 trip deposit is non-refundable.
- 25% non-refundable 120 days or more prior to departure
- 50% non-refundable 119 to 90 days prior to departure
- 75% non-refundable 89 to 60 days prior to departure
- 100% non-refundable 59 days or less prior to departure
If a traveler leaves the trip for any reason after it has commenced, we are not obligated to make any refunds for unused services. If a travelers fails to join a tour, join it after departure, or leave it prior to its completion, no refund will be made.
Cancellation by Trip Operator - Insider Expeditions (IE)
IE may cancel a trip at any time prior to departure if, due to terrorism, natural disasters, political instability or other external events, it is not viable for us to operate the planned itinerary. If IE cancels the trip, traveler can transfer amounts paid to an alternate departure date or alternatively receive a full refund. In circumstances where the cancellation is due to external events outside our reasonable control, refunds will be less any unrecoverable costs. We are not responsible for any incidental expenses that you may have incurred as a result of your booking including but not limited to visas, vaccinations, travel insurance excess or non-refundable flights.
This particular tour has been designed with specific Thai individuals and events in mind, whose schedules and availabilities may change without notice. While we do our best to adhere to the itinerary, traveling to Thailand requires flexibility, and changes to specific interactions and other activities may occur. In addition, some changes may occur in our itineraries due to inclement weather and changes to timetables and transport routes, which can happen with little notice. The order and timing of included activities in each location may also vary from time to time. Each day we will update you on the program and keep you informed throughout the trip.