Young trekkers in the forest
Students trekking in the forest

Chiang Mai School and University Tours

Introduction

Green Trails pride itself that we have become a specialist in Chiang Mai School and University Tours. We are still improving in this essential, exciting and rewarding specialisation. In this article, we elaborate a bit on the tours we have been done and the different options there are. We also crafted four sample programs that may serve as an inspiration. All our Chiang Mai School and University study tours are customised. We adjust the program to the specific requirements of each educational institution. We are open to suggestions and feedback.

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 organising tours for Tanglin Trust School from Singapore. That tour included an elephant experience, a bicycle ride and bamboo rafting on the Pai River. We used to spend two days doing activities and interacting with students in a Karenni refugee camp on the border near Mae Hong Son. For many years we had several groups per year. For both Karenni and Tanglin Trust students, these trips were life-changing experiences. In short, that is what it is all about: to offer life-changing experiences to all people involved.

Our Chiang Mai School tours

For several years now we have organised Chiang Mai school tours for companies from Europe, the United States and Australia. These are tours for high school students. Chiang Mai University Tours we have organised 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. It is the abbreviation of United States Abroad Consortium. USAC organises study abroad programs for universities from the US. We are responsible for the hill tribe field study, which is a more academic, anthropological program than the usual tours we do.

Teambuilding community service

We offer Chiang Mai university tours that include teambuilding construction activities in ethnic minority communities. These tours usually take four or five days. In consultation with the community, we select a suitable project. We will make a plan and buy construction materials. During their stay in the village, students will learn about the customs, religion, traditions and way of living of the villagers. We have been working with these 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. Our Community Immersion trip is a good example.

Group of students working in a village Chiang Mai University Tours
Community work in the village

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 maximise the benefits for all involved. Quite often, these kind of tours turns into a one-sided experience. That is something that we want to avoid. We don’t want to offer a touristic experience to students and in return only leave money in the community.

Holistic approach of Chiang Mai university tours

We will try to teach students about different ways of life, unknown religions and other interesting aspects of the host community. We aim to widen the scope of their knowledge and experience beyond anything that would be possible from a classroom. The people are our focus. 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.

Young student learning to weave
Student enjoying Palong weaving

The beauty of languages

Green Trails loves languages. A mesmerising variety of languages are being spoken in Thailand. The Hmong, Karen, Dara-ang (Palong or Palaung), Lisu, Lahu, Akha and Yao each have their language. Most of these languages belong to different language groups and are often mutually unintelligible. We find this wealth of different languages extremely fascinating. The ethnic minority groups have been more and more integrated into the Thai school system over the past fifty years. Students learn to read and speak Thai. At home, they speak their native language. The local languages are spoken less and less, which could lead to the extinction of these languages. We will teach students some words in the language of the host community and explain the source.

The national animal of Thailand

The elephant is the official national animal of Thailand. The species in Thailand is the Indian elephant which is a subspecies of the Asian elephant. Allegedly there were about 100,000 domesticated or captive elephants in Thailand about one hundred years ago. We want to keep encounters with animals during our Chiang Mai school tours to the minimum, for ethical and health reasons.

Upon request, we make an exception for elephants. Up to now, we have organised Chiang Mai University tours to only two different elephant venues: the Tong Bai Elephant Camp and Elephant Paradise. In both these places, the elephants are being treated very well. We have good experiences and received excellent feedback with both these places. The situation of elephants in Thailand is very complicated. We are very much aware of this.

Student touching an elephant
Tong Bai Elephant Camp

Chiang Mai International School Tours

We have organised several Chiang Mai International school tours that combine experiences in communities with educational tours in the city proper. Green Trails has good relations with Buddhist learning centres 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 are worthwhile or even an hour-long meeting with a monk.

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.

Markets and cooking courses

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.

People eating at a table
Students at the San Pakoy Market

Chiang Mai History

Chiang Mai History is not only limited to the history of Buddhist temples. For centuries the city was part of a Burmese kingdom. The Burmese influences are still visible but you need an expert eye to differentiate this. In the early 19th century Chiang Mai was virtually depopulated; 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. The McKean Senior Center is part of that legacy. 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.