Work with your hands, give from your heart, and laugh until your sides hurt as the sun sets over the rice fields. This is an enriching service program with a strong cross-cultural learning component. Life here is fun and exotic (very Thai!), the service initiatives are exciting and really help the villagers, and the sense of teamwork is powerful and motivating. Village life is easy going, and locals go out of their way to welcome you. The Ricefields Base itself is one of the coolest places in Thailand and a hive of happy activity. We have an awesome host family, great Thai and American leaders, and enough fun activities to keep everyone laughing all day long. Past students have often used their experiences here as a basis for their college essays. They tell us repeatedly that this program changed their outlook on life and their view of the world.
You’ll be welcomed like one of the family in this traditional village. The friendly, gracious nature of the Thai villagers catches many students off guard, and the warmth of village life is often one of their most memorable experiences. Everyone here says hello, offers you water, shows you their newborn, ties string around your wrist to bless you, and welcomes you into their life in the most sincere way. You’ll be part of the village as soon as you arrive!
Your room will be comfortable and full of Thai antiques, funky artwork, photos from around Thailand, and handmade wooden furniture. You’ll have a big teak-wood chest to store your stuff, and you’ll sleep on a traditional Thai platform bed. It will quickly become ‘normal’ for you to wake up to buffaloes
grazing in your backyard, monks chanting in your front yard, and neighborhood children singing at your window! The longer you stay, the deeper your attachment to the people here will become, and few students want to leave at the end of their program. Many students come back year after year.
You’ll share a big room with several new friends, and together you’ll form a hong. A Rustic Pathways counselor, or Hua Naa Hong (Head of the Room), will meet with you and your roommates every day to talk about your experiences, attend to housekeeping matters, and track your service activities. Your Hua Naa Hong will also organize social activities for your hong such as special dinners or shopping excursions. The friendly rivalry between hongs often results in various interhong games and competitions that keep everyone laughing.
Many students who come to The Ricefields Base stay for two weeks, four weeks, or even the whole summer. To allow extended-stay students the chance to take a break from The Base and experience other parts of this beautiful country, we also offer incredibly popular weekend side trips. For students who stay at The Base for two weeks or more, there are now four exciting optional weekend side trips available.
Nine different service projects are offered at The Base each week. You will select one core project for each week of your stay and join other exciting projects for the balance of your service hours. Each project has between three and twelve students who work alongside both Western and Thai leaders, and the projects are meaningful, rewarding, and fun. The Ricefields Base operates year round and is open for school groups, families, and special-interest travel.
Want to continue your summer adventure? This program easily connects with our other great trips in Southeast Asia, China, and India.
9 Service Projects at the Ricefields Base!
Students staying at the Ricefields Base for two or more weeks have the option of joining a weekend side trip after their first full week of service. We offer four different side trips throughout the summer, with two or three options operating most weeks depending on interest levels. Side trips allow students to leave the Base and explore different areas of Southeast Asia. Students are eligible to sign up for these side trips once they arrive, and almost all students who stay for two or more weeks take advantage of these exciting excursions.
3 days, 2 nights | $595
3 days, 2 nights | $465
3 days, 2 nights | $465
3 days, 2 nights | $285
Relax and prepare for a world-class trip on Singapore Airlines. Prior to your departure, you will have received your pre-departure packet, which will include your Rustic T-shirts, airline tickets, and important contact information.
Once you arrive at your international departure city, our Flight Liaison will help you get checked in to your international flight. Working with our Flight Liaison will be your Flight Leader, who will escort you all the way to Thailand! Our Flight Leaders are most often schoolteachers or good friends of our organization who happily fill this role for us each year. Once you’re checked in, feel free to relax and get acquainted with your new friends before boarding your flight to Thailand!
Today is lost as you cross the international dateline. Fear not – you will get this time back on your way home.
Sawat dee and welcome to Thailand! Rustic Pathways staff will welcome you in Bangkok with an assortment of Thai food, fruit and drinks to keep you happy until your flight up to Udon Thani. In the meantime, stretch your legs and enjoy one of the world’s nicest airports for a couple of hours. You will soon board another plane and head to The Ricefields Base.
When you arrive, the Western and Thai staff will welcome you to The Base, help you to find your room (hong) and to get a sense of your surroundings. Once you have had a chance to meet your new hong mates and hua naa hong (room leader), you can grab a snack, jump in the pool or take a long-awaited shower.
In the afternoon, staff will escort you to the local market where you can sample local foods and familiarize yourself with Ban Chan. After a buffet-style dinner, we will hold a formal orientation and explain everything you need to know about our nine community service projects and day-to-day life at the Base. You will have the rest of the evening to make yourself at home, make some new friends, play a game of pick-up soccer, or recover from jet lag. Welcome to life at the Ricefields Base!
Days begin early in the village of Ban Chan, and you will likely wake up to the sound of the morning gong calling the monks to begin collecting alms throughout the village.
After a buffet-style breakfast, our local staff will lead an introduction to Thai culture, followed by a tour of the local temple. If they are not meditating, a monk will likely give you a bracelet for good luck in a traditional string ceremony.
Lunch will be served at The Base and will introduce you to the exotic and diverse flavors of Thailand, plus a few reliable American staple foods. After lunch it will be time to dive right into your afternoon service project. Typically, you will choose between five or six projects each day and we usually offer each of the nine options at least once a week.
Our students really love the service projects here because of how involved they get with the surrounding communities. The projects will also give you the chance to work alongside students from across the world, as well as with our Thai staff. Depending on the project you choose, you might expect to teach English, art or music to the kids from the local primary school, work alongside local villagers in the rice fields, cook meals with our local staff to give to families in need, or help vaccinate the village dogs. Whichever project you choose, everyone will be excited to meet you and show his or her appreciation for your hard work. For more information about each service project, please see the bottom of this section.
On Friday afternoon, the Thai staff will lead a series of Thai games that always generate friendly rivalry between the different teams and help create new friendships. We won’t ruin the surprise, but students often want to hose off and jump in the pool together after the final race. After dinner, you will have the chance to help your hongwin Fear Factor, where we sample some local delicacies. The winner will get a prize…perhaps his or her own bag of salted crickets to eat on Hong Night Out!
The days are always busy here, and you will likely sleep well after a day of hard work. Lap fun dee, na! (Have sweet dreams!)
Your hong leader will wake you up for breakfast before we depart as a group on the Orphans and Open Arms service project. At the orphanage, you will have the choice between teaching an art project, teaching English or playing sports. The girls who live at the orphanage are always excited to see us, and their enthusiasm is contagious. You may have a new friend holding your hand before even stepping off the song tao (our main mode of transport throughout your stay).
After eating lunch at the orphanage, we will head to the Big C, which is the Thai equivalent of Walmart or Target. Here you will have the chance to pick up anything you may have forgotten from home, some snacks for your hong, donations for the schools we will work with or souvenirs to bring home.
The Saturday night activity will vary, but in the past we have had a pool party, game night, capture the flag or a scavenger hunt around the village.
Sunday is our excursion day! The activity varies each week, but could include a trip to the Buddha Cave, visiting a local waterfall, banana boating, touring the celebrated temples of Udon Thani province, learning Muay Thai or attending a cobra show. We will eat lunch in town and return to The Base in the late afternoon.
Sunday evenings are relaxed, but we will screen a movie in the Ricefields house, or else you are welcome to try and beat the local staff in ping pong or Uno. Be sure to get your rest tonight to prepare for the first full day of service.
On Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday your hong leader will wake you each morning to sign up for your service project and eat breakfast. You will continue to work on our nine ongoing projects for the rest of the week.
While the exact schedule may vary, the following projects are generally offered during the morning hours: Buddhist Life & Service, Swing Sets, Coloring Books & Kiddies, Welcome Homes, and Hands in the Dirt.
After lunch, you will return to work on another service project for the afternoon. The normal afternoon service projects will be: Teaching & Tutoring, Bobbing & Floating, Orphans & Open Arms, Meals on Flip-Flops, and Veterinary Assistance. Around 5:00, you will wrap up work for the day and head back to The Ricefields Base for the evening activity.
Monday night is Hong Night Out. Each hong can choose which activity they want to do, often choosing between kareoke, disco bowling or a thai massage. You may be surprised at how well (or badly) your hong leader can sing! After the organized activity there is often enough time to walk around the local mall, which you can compare to a typical mall at home.
On Tuesday night we go to the Udon Thani night market. You and your friends will have ample time to shop for presents and souvenirs. You should also make sure to try one of the fruit smoothies or a Thai Iced Tea.
Every Wednesday we either have masseuses come to The Base or else we go into town for a traditional Thai massage. This is an optional activity that many students take advantage of after three days of service! On Wednesday night, since many students leave the next day, we will have a bonfire and goodbye party. Thai dancers come from the village to perform and teach traditional Thai dancing before we turn on the Western music and show the local staff how we dance at home. If you are departing the next day, you will leave early in the morning, so make sure to pack your bags.
Your hong leader will wake you early (7:00) this morning to say goodbye. After breakfast, the Thai staff will host a ceremonial string ceremony in honor of the departing students. All of the Thai staff and the whole Sanboon family will line up and tie ceremonial strings on your wrists for good luck and safe travels. This tradition is very heart warming (and sometimes tear jerking), as you say goodbye your new friends.
After the departing students head to the airport, you will go to Nong Khai for the day, a city on the Laos and Thai border. On the way, we will stop at the famous Statue Garden and a local temple, before heading to lunch on the Mekong River and a large, open-air market. You will return to The Base around 5:30, in time to eat dinner and meet the new students!
If you sign up for a weekend side-trip, you will leave on Friday morning and should pack a weekend bag tonight. Otherwise, your schedule will be the same as the week before.
Please see the above schedule.
If you are connecting to one of our Laos programs, you will participate in the excursion day with students on the Ricefields, Monks and Smiling Children program before meeting your new group at The Base and crossing the Mekong to your next adventure. Otherwise, it is your turn to say goodbye. After the string ceremony, you will fly to Bangkok in the morning to connect with your next trip or board the escorted group flight back to the United States.
Rustic Pathways reserves the right to change, alter, or amend the daily itinerary for this trip at any time. Changes can be made for various reasons including changes in flight or program schedules, changes in the schedules of various external tours incorporated in our trips, the addition of new activities into a trip, or the substitution of an old activity for a new activity. The itinerary shown here provides a good outline of the anticipated daily schedule for this program. As with any travel program, some changes may occur.
Notes on What to Wear
Many students come to The Ricefields Base for the opportunity to work with children and get some teaching experience, and to be immersed in the local culture. The village where you will be staying is very friendly and casual, and you will not need to bring any fancy clothing for your service work. However, students must be prepared to bring a couple sets of rather conservative clothing to wear at temples and classrooms.
The main concern when visiting holy places and local schools is covering your shoulders and your knees. Students who do not bring appropriate clothing may not be allowed to participate in certain activities, which may result in a loss of service hours. Our host schools do not permit our students to appear in front of the class unless they are properly dressed, and we always strive to be prepared before they single people out and provide them with alternate clothing. Lightweight pants (linen, thin cotton, etc.), capris, or long skirts are the best items to pack. T-shirts that cover the shoulders and stomach are clean, not ripped and not low-cut are the most appropriate attire for all of our activities. Please make sure that all undergarments are completely covered.
In general, we ask all of our students to be respectful of the conservative nature of our surrounding community. Please leave any crop tops, see-through shirts, and booty shorts at home.
Rules are much less strict for male students. Please make sure that your clothes do not have stains, rips or inappropriate language or graphics on them. Please make sure that all undergarments are completely covered. Tank tops should not be worn while teaching or visiting temples, and it is strongly preferred that you shave and shower before you teach a class.
Some Basic Guidelines To Use While Packing
Items To Pack in Your Checked Luggage
* Basic items such as soap, shampoo, razors, toothpaste, etc., are readily accessible near the Base. We suggest you bring a small amount from home, but large amounts will just make your bag heavier.
Notes About Gifts and Donations
Local students, staff members, and our host family all love receiving gifts from our students, and they certainly go a long way toward helping people in this humble part of the world. We generally encourage students to bring things that can be easily shared and that will last. Many simple items (pencils, paper, soccer balls, medical supplies) can be bought in Thailand cheaply, so it is likely better to bring some extra money to buy these items in country, rather than incurring baggage fees if you plan to donate these types of things.
Things you might want to bring along:
*If you are packing nothing else for your stay here, make sure that you bring your kindness and your gentleness and a big smile. Before packing your material gifts, prepare your thoughts and your heart to live in a place that places infinite value on thoughtfulness, laughter, generosity of spirit, and showing care for others.
You can do as many different service projects as you’d like. You can sign up for the projects on a first come, first served basis the night before.
Students have a little free time after lunch (a great time to dip in the pool!), and again when you get home from your service projects in the evening. There are always pick-up soccer and volleyball games, dozens of little Thai kids to play with, hammocks, musical instruments, ping-pong, and all kinds of other activities going on before dinner. After dinner, depending on the night, we arrange trips to local markets, trips to the city, bowling nights, movie nights, slideshows, traditional dance performances, multi-cultural music jam sessions, and much more.
The cooking staff at the Ricefields Base are well accustomed to preparing food that our students like. Expect dishes to include a great assortment of mild Thai food, lots of fresh fruit, and plenty of favorites at home. They also do a great job of offering vegetarian options at every meal!
Students can expect to stay with 4-6 other students in their room. Generally, boys sleep in one zone, while girls sleep in another area. The rooms all have comfortable mattresses and air conditioning, which is only turned on in the early evening.
In short, yes. During most weeks there will be about 20 Western (mostly American) staff, and about 30 Thai staff, so there are plenty of us around. We’re usually the ones trying to organize a walk around the village, a pick-up soccer or ultimate Frisbee game, or a movie night. And you can expect your Hua Na Hong (The Boss of your Room) to make sure you keep your room in good shape, your air conditioning stays off during the day, and that you’re up and at ‘em bright and early each morning!
Yes – you will have access to the internet, but we do try to encourage our students to use the internet only for a limited time, and only for corresponding with their family and friends. Students can pay for their internet usage, laundry, and phone calls directly out of their allowance account.
The Weekend Side Trips run only on demand – there must be enough students signed up for the trip, or it will not run!! Places in these Trips are available on a first come, first served basis. NOTE: STUDENTS MUST PAY FOR THEIR WEEKEND SIDE TRIPS OUT OF THEIR ALLOWANCE ACCOUNT OR IN CASH! Rustic Pathways will not bill you for these trips – you must pay for them with your money before you go!
Yes! These trips are supervised by staff from the Ricefields Service Base.
Yes! You may choose to do Side Trips on your second and third weekends at the Base.
Contact Us: For more information about Ricefields, Monks, and Smiling Children you can email email@example.com.
Ricefields, Monks, and Smiling Children combines well with the following programs.
Ages: 14 to 18 years old
Length: 18 to 74 days from the USA
Hours: Up to 64 hours awarded
Cost: $2,895 + $265 Internal Airfare
International airfare is not included in the above cost. Please check our Travel Desk for airfare pricing and specifics.
|Departs Tue||Returns Fri||Availability|
|11 Jun||28 Jun||Available|
|18 Jun||5 Jul||Limited|
|25 Jun||12 Jul||Very Limited|
|2 Jul||19 Jul||Very Limited|
|9 Jul||26 Jul||Limited|
|16 Jul||2 Aug||Limited|
|23 Jul||9 Aug||Very Limited|
|30 Jul||16 Aug||Limited|
Dates shown are inclusive of travel time from the United States. Most Rustic Pathways trips interconnect, allowing you to design your own perfect summer program.Apply Now