Chiang Mai School and University Tours

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Chiang Mai School and University Tours


Green Trails is a specialist in educational Tours. In this article, we elaborate a bit on the tours we have been done and the different tours we offer. We also crafted four sample programs that may serve as an inspiration. Visits and overnights at hill tribe villages are central to tour tours. We made a page where you can find information on the ethnic minorities of North Thailand. We also have pages about each specific group.

Usually, our Chiang Mai School and University study tours are customized. We adjust the program to the specific requirements of each educational institution. We are very much open to suggestions and feedback.

Young trekkers in the forest
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 used to spend 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 Chiang Mai on Three Wheels
Students supporting the samlors of Chiang Mai

Our Chiang Mai School tours

For several years now we have organized Chiang Mai school tours, mostly for tour operators from Europe, the United States and Australia. Usually these were tours for high school students. 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
Students constructing a wall in the Karen village Huay Khao LIp

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. We will make a plan and buy construction materials. 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 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, 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 tours are designed in such a way that local students will benefit as well and will be involved in the experience.

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. Therefor hill tribe students learn to read and speak Thai. At home, they speak their native language. The local 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. It is a lot of fun! In below video Ong of the Dara-ang village Mae Chon counts from one to ten.

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 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 organized Chiang Mai University tours to a limit number of venues, of which we are sure that the animals are being treated very well. The situation of elephants in Thailand is very complicated and we are very much aware of this.

Student touching an elephant
Tong Bai Elephant Camp

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.
People eating at a table
Students 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

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 educational tour
Wiang Kum Kam ruins

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 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.