Mekong

From Holy Mountain to Hidden Kingdom

A 6-week Summer Abroad Program

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Duration
41 Days
Description

Discover the economic, environmental and cultural mosaic of China and Laos, exploring the communities and landscapes along the Mekong River.

Dates

Jun 28 - Aug 8, 2019


Suggested Ages

16-18

Number of Participants

12


Availability

open

Begins In

24 Weeks

Land Cost

$7,955


Estimated Flight Cost

$1,895

Kunming

Xishuangbana

Luang Prabang

Vientiane

Bangkok

Program Overview

FROM THE BASE OF SACRED KAWAGEBO MOUNTAIN THE MIGHTY MEKONG RIVER COURSES THROUGH GORGES AND MEGA-DAMS, GRADUALLY WIDENING INTO THE TROPICAL RAINFORESTS OF LAOS.


The Mekong summer program is an exploration of human, environmental and political ecology in one the world’s most dynamic and fragile regions. Our travels from Yunnan province in China to central Laos attempt to piece together a mosaic of culture, history, geography and politics into a cohesive whole. Like pilgrims, we follow the river as it dances from the Himalaya through mega-dams and terraced rice paddies to the sparsely-habited jungles of western Laos, onto golden Luang Prabang, and ultimately the soul of Southeast Asia.

The Mekong summer program offers a glimpse into a dynamic region in an age of transition. In China’s Yunnan province, we hear the incantations of a people’s diversity of beliefs so often portrayed as sullen, gray and uniform. We hike to sacred waterfalls with pilgrims; we practice taiqi and meditation;…

The Mekong summer program is an exploration of human, environmental and political ecology in one the world’s most dynamic and fragile regions. Our travels from Yunnan province in China to central Laos attempt to piece together a mosaic of culture, history, geography and politics into a cohesive whole. Like pilgrims, we follow the river as it dances from the Himalaya through mega-dams and terraced rice paddies to the sparsely-habited jungles of western Laos, onto golden Luang Prabang, and ultimately the soul of Southeast Asia.

The Mekong summer program offers a glimpse into a dynamic region in an age of transition. In China’s Yunnan province, we hear the incantations of a people’s diversity of beliefs so often portrayed as sullen, gray and uniform. We hike to sacred waterfalls with pilgrims; we practice taiqi and meditation; we plant rice with Dai families whose culture is defined by a linguistic relationship to Thailand and Southeast Asia.

The journey finds its origins in the foothills of the Himalaya. Here we learn about Tibetan Buddhist practices in Kham (eastern Tibet), ethnic diversity, and the crucial conservation efforts to preserve the flora and fauna. Further south we examine the unique history of migration through the valleys, the impacts of China’s controversial mega-dam projects, and rural to urban migration that followed China’s mad dash toward development.

We cross into Laos where we are introduced to the power of geopolitics as we examine the legacy of the Secret War and learn about regional development, economic interplay with China, rice cultivation and cultural preservation. We trek through pristine rainforests surrounding Luang Nam Tha and take a long boat ride through the verdant jungles bordering Thailand.

In Luang Prabang, the picturesque ancient capital, we live with host families and delve into language, art and Theravada Buddhism among hundreds of golden wats (temples). Finally we arrive in Vientiane where our focus towards public health initiatives, visiting the headquarters of the Cooperative Orthotic and Prosthetic Enterprise (COPE) and Mines Advisory Group (MAG), international NGOs working to provide prosthetics and clear unexploded ordinances leftover from the Secret War. Surrounded by hundreds of bizarre sculptures in a park overlooking the Mekong, we say goodbye to Southeast with the languid river flowing before us slowly to the ocean.

Read More Read Less Sample Itinerary

Program Components

3/5
Comparative Religion

Gain insight into Tibetan, Mahayana and Theravada Buddhism, as well as the influence of animist traditions, Islam and Christianity in the Greater Mekong Subregion.

5/5
Development Studies

Examine comprehensively issues pertaining to international aid and development, the effects of damming on fisheries, wildlife conservation, minority status and forced relocation issues, effects of modernization on traditional livelihoods, and the impacts of tourism.

5/5
Focus Of Inquiry

Examine international water resources as relates to mega-dam projects, ecology and biodiversity, cultural ecology, economics, sustainable development, and regional politics.

4/5
Homestay

Live with home-stay families in a Tibetan community in northwest Yunnan and in Catholic and Buddhist villages along the Mekong River in Laos

2/5
Independent Study Project (ISP)

Explore your academic passions through mentored study of water rights, public health, the use of bamboo, comparative studies, leadership and student empowerment focus throughout program.

2/5
Language Study

Build basic proficiency in Mandarin and Laos languages, while exploring the linguistic traditions of ethnic minorities and the migration

2/5
Learning Service

Acquire a more profound and nuanced understanding of complex social and development issues through community-based workshops and activities with organizations in Laos, and through the rhythms of daily life while in home-stays.

4/5
Rugged Travel

Hop on buses, trains, tuk-tuks, boats, trucks and your own two feet to explore the region overland -- from the high mountain passes of the Himalaya to the jungles of Laos

3/5
Trekking

Challenge yourself on short treks in the karst limestone and rain forests of of eastern Laos and within the sacred peaks of the eastern Himalaya.