Chiang Mai School and University Tours

Table of Contents

Chiang Mai School and University Tours

Introduction to our Thailand Educational tours

Green Trails is a specialist in Thailand educational Tours. In this article, we elaborate a bit on the tours we have been done and on the different tours we offer. We also crafted four sample programs that may serve as an inspiration. Usually, our Chiang Mai School and University study tours are customized. We adjust the program to the specific requirements of each school or university. We are open to suggestions and feedback.

Our tours always abide to our mission statement. They should be a mutual beneficial experience. We have to learn from each other.

Young trekkers in the forest Thailand educational tour
Students trekking group in the jungle

A bit of history of school and university tours

Over the years Green Trails has gained a lot of experience with school and university tours. It started way back in 1998 when we began organizing tours for Tanglin Trust School from Singapore. That tour included an elephant experience, a visit to the buffalo training center, an educational bicycle ride, trekking and bamboo rafting on the Pai River. We also spent two days doing activities and interacting with students in a Karenni refugee camp on the Thailand-Myanmar border near Mae Hong Son. We organized these tours from 1998 until 2003. The tours for Tanglin Trust were our first steps on the path of educational experiences for schools and universities. For both Karenni and Tanglin Trust students, these trips were life-changing experiences.

Three bicycle taxis Thailand educational tours
Students supporting the samlors of Chiang Mai

Our Chiang Mai School tours

For several years now we have organized Chiang Mai school and university tours, mostly for tour operators from Europe, the United States and Australia. Chiang Mai University Tours we have organized for universities from the UK and Australia. Requirements for high school or university students are slightly different. Since a couple of years, we cooperate with USAC, the United States Abroad Consortium. USAC is a non-profit organization that offers study abroad programs for students from universities, mainly from the US. We have been responsible for the hill tribe field study, which is a more academic program focusing on anthropology. For USAC students we also take care of a three day/two night trekking in the Mae Wang area.

Student group constructing a wall Thailand school tours
Students constructing a wall in the Karen village Huay Khao LIp

Ethnic Minorities of North Thailand

Visits to communities of the ethnic minorities or hill tribes of North Thailand are very important components of our tours. We are dedicated to the preservation of the culture and languages of these groups. During our tours we pay a lot attention to the extraordinary traditions and lifestyles of the Akha, Hmong, Lisu and other groups.

Many of our tours include at least one overnight in a tribal community. I have made a page where you can find a lot of information on the ethnic minorities of North Thailand. We also have pages about each specific group. We are adding content to these pages on a regular basis.

Five Akha people with tourist
Tourist with Akha people

Chiang Mai Tribal Textile tours

Over the years we have organized several tours focusing on tribal textiles. Seeing people in traditional dress used to be one of reasons tourists went on multiple day trekkings in the North of Thailand. Photographs, taken in the 1970s, still show most of the people in tribal villages wearing beautiful, colorful traditional dress. People wore the clothes they or someone in the village had handcrafted.

For students of textiles we can organize tribal textile tours to villages of the Hmong, Palong, Lisu, Akha, Yao and Karen people. You will learn traditional weaving and embroidery  techniques, batik, natural dying and so on. We love traditional dress! Through our tours we hope to contribute to the preservation of the work of traditional textile artisans.

Chiang Dao Dara-Ang weaving project Tribal Textile Weaving Palong Hill Tribe
Dara-Ang weaving project

Teambuilding community service

We offer Chiang Mai university tours that include team building community service activities in ethnic minority villages. These tours usually take four or five days. In consultation with the community, we select a suitable project. After that we will make a plan and buy construction materials. Part of the tour costs will fund the project which could be a public utility project, a play ground of a school and so on.

During their stay in the village, students will learn about the customs, religion, traditions, language and way of living of the villagers. We have been working with a small number of communities for many years. Our guides know the local people very well. We have made many very successful Chiang Mai school trips to Karen communities near Doi Inthanon, Thailand’s highest mountain. Our Community Immersion trip is a good example.

students visit school
Students visiting a primary school

Evaluation and impact

There is a constant process of evaluation of our tours and our impact in the community. We try to keep our impact as low as possible and to maximize the benefits for all involved. Quite often, these kind of tours turns into a one-sided experience during which only the visiting students benefit. Our Thailand Educational tours are designed in such a way that local students will benefit as well and will be involved in the experience. We realize that this is not an easy task. Before we organize a tour there is a process of lengthy discussion with representatives of the community.

Young student learning to weave
Student enjoying weaving at a Palong village

Holistic approach of Chiang Mai university tours

We will teach students about different ways of life, unknown religions and other interesting aspects of the host community.  We will pay attention to the history of communities and issues concerning ethnic and indigenous groups such as land ownership, education, healthcare, discrimination and legal status.

Some villages such as the Dara-ang (Palong or Palaung) and the Hmong offer opportunities to learn traditional weaving or batik techniques. Check out our Dara-ang trip.

Tribal woman busy with batik
Hmong batik

The beauty of languages

We love languages and they play a very important part in our tours. The Hmong, Karen, Dara-ang (Palong or Palaung), Lisu, Lahu, Akha and Yao people each have their own language. Most of these languages belong to different language groups and are often mutually unintelligible. We value this fascinating diversity and will do our best to help in its preservation. Please have a look in our hill tribe section for more information about these languages.

The ethnic minority groups have been more and more integrated into the Thai school system over the past fifty years. Hill tribe students now learn to read, write and speak Thai at school. At home, they speak the language of their ethnic group. These languages are spoken less and less, which will eventually lead to the disappearance of many of these languages. We will teach students some words in the language of the host community and explain the source. This is a lot of fun but it is also a great way to interact with the local people. In below video Ong of the Dara-ang village Mae Chon counts from one to ten in her language. These languages are absolutely fascinating.

The national animal of Thailand

The elephant is the official national animal of Thailand. The species prevalent in Thailand is the Indian elephant, which is a subspecies of the Asian elephant. Allegedly there were about 100,000 elephants in Thailand about one hundred years ago. At this moment there are between 3,500 and 4,000 wild and domesticated elephants in the country. The World Conservation Union has listed the Asian Elephant as an endangered species.

We want to keep encounters with animals during our Chiang Mai school tours to the minimum, for ethical and health reasons. Upon request, we will make an exception for elephants. Up to now, we have organized Chiang Mai University tours to a limited number of venues, of which we are sure that the animals are being treated very well. We realize that visiting elephant “sanctuaries” can be a sensitive issue. In all cases, we will make sure that your visit will have a positive impact on the conservation of these magnificent animals.

two elephants at Kantha Elephant Camp
Kantha two elephants

Chiang Mai International School Tours

We have organized several Chiang Mai International school tours that combine experiences in communities with educational tours in Chiang Mai itself. Green Trails has good relations with Buddhist learning centers in Chiang Mai such as the Buddhist University at Wat Suan Dok. An introduction to Buddhism is always good to include in any visit to Thailand. Short meditation courses  or even an hour-long meeting with a monk are worthwhile experiences.
Student touching an elephant Thailand educational tours
Tong Bai Elephant Camp
People eating at a table
Food at the San Pakoy Market

The religions of Chiang Mai

We can include a half-day walk during which you will pass or visit different places of worship. Students will pass the First Christian Church, a Sikh Gurdwara, a Chinese pagoda, a Buddhist temple and the biggest mosque of Chiang Mai. People of different religions live close to each other peacefully. That is one of the things that make Chiang Mai such a special place. This educational walk is great for Chiang Mai school tours.

Group of people at old hotel
Student group at Sri Prakad Hotel

Markets and cooking courses

Healthy food and agriculture play an important part in our Thailand educational tours. Fresh markets are learning centres, and Chiang Mai has plenty of them. You can wander for hours learning about herbs, delicacies, cooking ingredients, curry pastes and lots of other things you probably have never seen before. Each product has its own story. You will find Vietnamese pancakes, Indian curries, Burmese cakes, Chinese dumplings, and so on. The Thai kitchen is one of the most famous in the world. Without a doubt, Chiang Mai is the best place in Thailand for a cooking course. We included market visits in our Chiang Mai Educational Tour.

Cyclist in front of ruin Chiang Mai Thailand educational tour
Wiang Kum Kam ruins

Chiang Mai History

History is an important component of our Thailand Educational Tours. Chiang Mai History is not only about visiting Buddhist temples. For centuries the city was part of a Burmese kingdom. The Burmese influences are still visible but they are a bit under the surface. In the early 19th century Chiang Mai was virtually depopulated after decades of war and unrest. Its ancient temples were in ruins. Under King Kawila Chiang Mai rose from the ashes: the city was “repopulated” and temples were reconstructed. It is an interesting story that you will not find in guidebooks.

In the 19th century, Christian missionaries and other westerners started to arrive in Chiang Mai. They left a legacy such as the McKean Senior Center. This beautiful property on the Ping River should be on the list of Chiang Mai heritage sites. We take students on a bicycle ride through this former leprosy colony. The ride ends in Wiang Kum Kam, a ruined city that predates Chiang Mai. In short, we will show aspects of Chiang Mai history that most visitors miss out on, simply because no one takes them there.

These are our sample Thailand Educational Tours: