Thailand, Laos, & Cambodia | Cultural Exploration


From its famously delicious cuisine to its rich cultural and religious traditions and stunning landscapes, Southeast Asia has held a mythical fascination for travelers for centuries. Explore the diversity and magic of Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia as you trek through lush rainforests, learn about elephant conservation efforts, and bike alongside ancient ruins in iconic Angkor Wat. Cap your student travel in Southeast Asia with a relaxing stay on the white-sand beaches of Koh Samet.

July 4, 2018  –  July 24, 2018
At A Glance:
  • Adventure
    Outdoor exploration, hiking, biking, swimming, and other active pursuits
  • Cuisine
    Focus on the culinary arts, culture, and food production
  • Wildlife
    Exploration of flora and fauna in natural habitats, national parks, or wildlife reserves
Completing grades 9 – 12
US Gateway City:
Los Angeles
Cultural Exploration
21 days
Typical Group:
16 – 18 students, 2 leaders
$ 5,790 + airfare


  • Visit an elephant conservation and research center in Thailand
  • Experience Lao village life and trek through the jungle to a waterfall
  • Photograph the sunrise over the majestic ruins of Angkor Wat
  • Swim and relax on the white-sand beaches of Koh Samet

Leader Profile: JENN BROWN

Education: Wesleyan University, B.A., East Asian Studies, B.A., International Relations

Jenn first became enamored with Asia in college when she headed to China to study Mandarin language and conduct research on the effects of economic… read more

Jenn first became enamored with Asia in college when she headed to China to study Mandarin language and conduct research on the effects of economic development on rural-to-urban migration patterns. After graduation she spent a year conducting foreign policy research in Washington, D.C., before returning to Beijing as a Princeton-in-Asia fellow with WildChina, a boutique adventure travel company. While there, she organized logistics for specialized trips across China for groups as diverse as World Wildlife Fund, Disney, and National Geographic. She then relocated to Southeast Asia to work full-time as a trip leader, taking groups on journeys around Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, and China. Following a tenure at a microfinance institution in rural Sichuan province, she returned to the Mekong Region and has been based in Laos for the past five years as a project manager in both the private and NGO sectors. She first oversaw a foreign investment project setting up Laos country offices for a global travel services provider. Following that, she shifted to the non-profit sector to help open the Lao Friends Hospital for Children, a pediatric hospital providing free medical care to children in northern Laos. She stayed on as the Deputy Director, helping plan for and expand medical services offered, managing government and NGO partnerships, and overseeing monitoring and evaluation of grants from institutional donors. Jenn is fluent in Chinese, proficient in Spanish and French, and can speak basic Lao and Thai. She has led Putney’s Community Service Vietnam, Language Learning China, Global Awareness in Action Cambodia, and Pre-College China programs.


Departure • Travel Days • 2 days • Meet your fellow high school student travelers and one or more of your leaders in Los Angeles, and fly together to Chiang Mai, Thailand. To learn more about how we organize travel, click here.

Chiang Mai, Thailand • 5 days • Begin in the UNESCO Creative City of Chiang Mai, tucked into the mountains of Northern Thailand. Get to know your fellow group members and learn about Thai culture in an in-depth orientation. Experience majestic Buddhist artistry and architecture as you visit Wat Chedi Luang, Wat Umong, and other stunning temples in and around the ancient walled city. Learn to make your favorite Thai recipes at a local cooking school, attend a boxing match and witness the ancient sport of Muay Thai (Thai kickboxing) , and spend a day with Thai high school students during a school exchange. Cap your time in Chiang Mai learning about the complexities of elephant conservation. Meet with elephant veterinarians and researchers and walk alongside these majestic pachyderms in a sanctuary in lush mountains outside the city.

Students visit an elephant conservation center on our cultural exploration program in Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia

Luang Prabang, Laos • 6 days • Travel from Thailand to the relaxed and slow-paced town of Luang Prabang, Laos, one of Southeast Asia’s most charming and alluring cities. Walk through streets lined with French villas, wander colorful and vibrant markets, and learn rice farming techniques at a local farm. Stay in a welcoming village and learn about the traditional Lao way of life, trek through the verdant jungle, and swim under an aquamarine waterfall.

Siem Reap, Cambodia • 3 days • Fly to Siem Reap, Cambodia and discover the otherworldly grandeur of Angkor Wat or the “City of Temples.” The largest religious monument in the world, and arguably the most important archaeological site in Southeast Asia, Angkor Wat is a UNESCO World Heritage Site famous for its incredible detail, stunning design, and grand scale. Bike along quiet paths past iconic temples, and photograph the ancient ruins at sunrise or sunset. Learn about the Khmer Rouge and Cambodia’s long road to recovery.

Koh Samet, Thailand • 3 days • Return to Thailand to explore the tropical paradise and popular Thai weekend destination of Koh Samet. Spend three days on an island famous for its beautiful, white-sand beaches. Explore coves and hidden inlets as a group, watch the sun set over the water, and relax at a beachside cafe.

Bangkok, Thailand • 1 day • Cap off your Southeast Asian adventure with a final group dinner in Thailand’s lively modern capital, Bangkok. Reflect on your journey as you take a riverboat ride down the Chao Phraya, and experience the glow of the city at night.

Return • Travel Day • Fly from Bangkok to Los Angeles with your group and a leader, then continue on to your final destination. To learn more about how we organize travel, click here.

This itinerary represents our best projection of the group’s schedule. However, we may implement changes designed to improve the quality of the program.

While many things are different about the way kids my age live across the world, many things are similar as well. I learned a new way of life.

— Hannah S., Edgemont High School, Scarsdale, NY


Due to the traveling nature of this summer program abroad, each day is different. Here is a snapshot of a day in Chiang Mai.

8 AM Breakfast of traditional Thai rice soup or jok
9 AM Visit ancient temples in the old city and learn about Buddhism
12 PM Eat a lunch of freshly made pad thai in the city center
2 PM Stroll through the afternoon market in search of fresh herbs and vegetables
4 PM Create delicious, traditional dishes during a Thai cooking class
6 PM Enjoy your culinary creations at a group dinner
8 PM Visit Anusarn Market and the famous Chiang Mai Night Bazaar
10 PM  Return to your guesthouse and discuss the next day’s plan with your group 

Sample delicious pad thai on our cultural exploration program in Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia

What to Expect

Independent Project • Pursue an independent project and explore an aspect of local culture of particular interest to you — become an expert on Southeast Asian cuisine and create a recipe book of your favorite dishes, interview Buddhist monks and learn about their daily routines, or create a travel blog detailing temple architecture styles throughout history.

Physical Activity • This is a physically active summer program. You can expect to walk, teach, cycle, swim, and kickbox. This program includes a 5-mile hike with daypacks. You do not need to be at peak fitness to participate, but it is important that you have a desire to be physically active, and that you are excited about trying all activities.

Accommodations • We stay in various types of accommodations throughout Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia, ranging from bamboo huts to small, family-run guesthouses or hotels. Students stay in bunk-style rooms or in twin or triple rooms with ensuite bathrooms. Leaders reside together with the students throughout the program.

Meals • Meals are eaten as a group and are often shared family-style. Rice is often served for breakfast, although bread, cereal, yogurt, and fruit, is usually available. Lunches and dinners are eaten at restaurants, food stalls, and night markets, and typically feature rice, noodles, soups, or curries as well as chicken, beef, pork, and seafood. Plentiful, fresh tropical fruits such as pineapple, mango, papaya, and bananas help to round out meals for vegetarians.

This experience was unforgettable. The locals in the country were incredibly inviting and accepting of us. There was a lot of beautiful scenery to take in, and overall, this trip was a blast to be a part of. I am honored to have been a part of it.

— Timothy W., Perkiomen Valley High School, Collegeville, PA

Ask Us

Call Tim at 802.387.5000 or email

The Cultural Exploration Southeast Asia summer program is directed by Tim Porter-DeVriese. If you have questions, are interested in receiving more detailed information, or would like to talk further about the program or any of our summer student travel programs, please get in touch!

Tim Porter-DeVriese

Massachusetts College of Art, B.F.A., Painting

Hailing from a small Massachusetts hilltown just a stone’s throw away from Putney, Tim took backpacking trips throughout the South Pacific, Central America, and Asia, inspired by passions for visual art, music, street food, and the outdoors. Having seen firsthand how travel and cultural exchange can positively impact young people’s lives and ultimately make the world a better place, he launched a gap year program and served as its director for a decade before joining the Putney team in 2017. He and his family lived in Thailand for five years before settling in the Putney area.