Rise of Alternative Tourism

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Rise of Alternative Tourism

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  • Embrace the chaos and complexity of Bangkok – from the hustle and bustle of its cosmopolitan streets to the tranquility of its ornate temples.
  • Live with homestays in northern hill tribe communities to learn about one of Thailand’s most successful volunteer- and community-based tourism initiatives.
  • Glimpse at the life of the endangered Asian elephant as we spend a day at a new conservation and ecotourism project in Chiang Rai.
  • Feast your way through the streets of Chiang Mai, trying savoury, sweet, and spicy delights… and everything in between!


14-DAY ↑

Fees + Community Contribution  

$2,060 + $170 USD
$2,150 + $175 CAD

Program Dates

March 10 – 23, 2018

September 1 – 14, 2018

September 22 – October 5, 2018

Sample Itinerary

*This itinerary is based on our previous experience with the region. Programs change every year based on the needs of our partners. This should give you a sense of what our program may look like.

Orientation in the Big Mango

Following airport pickups, our group will be introduced to Thailand’s bustling capital, Bangkok. Hitting the ground running, we’ll get to know the sights, sounds, smells, and tastes of this modern yet distinctively Thai city. We will check out some of the best food stalls, markets, and temples!

While Bangkok is one of the world’s most visited cities, we’ll escape from the crowds as we jet out on a bike tour. We’ll quickly head off to Bang Krachao, also known as the city’s “Green Lung”, due to its lush, forested landscape. While urbanization is rapidly affecting the area, there is some hope that ecotourism may be a tool for preserving this oasis. We will dig into the possibilities and challenges of this kind of tourism development – all while mounted on bikes and being guided by a local friend who has grown up in the area.

Into the Hills with the Mirror Foundation

We will take a comfortable night bus from Bangkok to the far northern province of Chiang Rai where we’ll be met by our friends from the Mirror Foundation. A long-term partner of ours, the Mirror Foundation is an NGO working towards improving the livelihoods of underprivileged ethnic minority groups in the country.

Our team will get a firsthand look at the Mirror Foundation’s projects while hearing the behind-the-scenes stories straight from the Mirror staff and the villagers they work alongside. Our first stop will be the village of Pak La where the Akha community receive support from Mirror towards the development of local infrastructure. Get ready to mix some cement during our time there!

We will then travel to the village of Baan Kwai, a Thai community of buffalo herders and organic farmers living along a scenic marsh nestled in the hills of Chiang Rai. Joining the villagers in the fields doing a variety of agricultural tasks, we will learn about farming, buffalos, and so much more. We’ll be exposed to what “community-based tourism” (CBT), a popular buzzword, really looks like and how it can promote immersive experiences while ensuring the hosts benefit from tourism development and preserve their culture, traditions, and environment.

Elephant Conservation in Chiang Rai

After our time spent with the Mirror Foundation, we will take some time to get to know the city of Chiang Rai. Famous for its night bazar and northern-style cuisine, we will take some time to take it easy and enjoy the ambiance of this quiet town.

The highlight in Chiang Rai will certainly be a visit to a nearby elephant sanctuary where we will have the chance to learn about their mission to put an end to the mistreatment of elephants in the tourism industry. We will, of course, also have a chance to meet the resident elephants and hear their individual stories from the dedicated staff. No riding and no bathing with these gentle giants though! This is all about letting elephants be elephants in a setting as close to their natural environment as possible.

Chiang Mai

We’ll jump on a short bus ride to Chiang Mai, the cultural capital of the north, where we’ll spend time visiting glittering spiritual sites, learning about Buddhism, checking out trendy markets, and, of course, eating lots of delicious Thai food! After a busy week, taking it easy in Chiang Mai will be a welcome change of pace. As Chiang Mai has become a very popular tourist destination, we’ll be putting on our anthropology hats and observing the ways in which tourism is affecting the cityscape and people living within it.

Disorientation in Bangkok

Our group will head back down to Bangkok for a final debrief session known as ‘disorientation’ prior to flying home. We’ll learn that it is possible to take it easy in this restless city and re-live memories of the program, recap the lessons that we’ve learned, discuss how to stay connected, and collaborate on projects in the future. Then off to the airport for some tearful goodbyes!

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What’s Included?

A comprehensive program itinerary and educational curriculum focused on the issues facing your specific region

Experienced and caring program leaders with you 24 hours a day

All lodging and accommodations throughout the program

Three local meals a day

All group tours, entrance fees, and excursions

All group transportation on the ground

Regular discussions and workshops to help you internalize and reflect on your experience

Support from OGHQ whenever you need it


With OG, you live like the locals.
Traveling as much as we do on the Southeast Asia program, there will be a number of different styles of accommodation. In cities, we’ll usually be sleeping at clean, safe, and secure guesthouses. When we’re out in rural communities we’ll be hosted by local families and we might just sleep under the stars for a few nights (with mosquito nets of course). Being welcomed by local families is an incredible way for the team to become integrated with the communities we visit. Cold bucket showers are common while continuous electricity can’t always be guaranteed – so come prepared! Though Western comforts should not be assumed, you can expect to better connect with locals and their culture.

Meet Our Regional Director

After hearing about OG while sweating in a sauna in northern Ontario in 2010, and subsequently going on a Southeast Asia program, Sidney quickly got hooked on backpacktivism. Since then. he has led four years of programs in Southeast Asia. His favorite part of the job (if he had to choose) is getting people to fall in love with this part of the world and understanding it through a critical and educational lens. Sid lives in Bangkok where, besides operating as Regional Director for OG, he is pursuing a Masters in Tourism Management. Previously, Sid was an archaeologist, a passion he continues to cultivate when time permits. Eating is another big hobby, which is easy to maintain in a place like Thailand.

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