Laos, Thailand, & Cambodia

From Hidden Kingdom to the Temples of Angkor

A 6-week Summer Abroad Program

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Duration
42 Days
Description

Discover the historic, economic, environmental, and cultural mosaic of Laos, Thailand and Cambodia by exploring the communities and landscapes along the upper stretches of the Mekong River.

Dates

Jun 28 - Aug 8, 2020


Suggested Ages

16-18

Number of Participants

12


Availability

Closed

Begins In

12 Weeks

Land Cost

$7,955


Estimated Flight Cost

$1,945

Luang Prabang

Vientiane

Phnom Penh

Siem Reap

Thakhet

Ubon Ratchathani

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 AND FLOODPLAINS OF THAILAND AND CAMBODIA.


The Laos, Thailand and Cambodia “Mekong” 6-week Summer program splits time between the three countries as we explore the diverse landscapes, spiritual traditions, and critical issues connected to life along the Mekong River.

PROGRAM HIGHLIGHTS
  • Meet with local artists and take part in traditional Hmong weaving or Kmhmu Bamboo Weaving class at The Traditional Arts and Ethnology Centre (TAEC) in Luang Prabang, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, to understand the fascinating and rich ethnic diversity in the region.
  • Experience the difference in daily life in two rural homestays in Laos and Thailand and visit hidden caves and aqua blue lagoons in the lower Mekong. 
  • Speak with environmental activists and community members…

The Laos, Thailand and Cambodia “Mekong” 6-week Summer program splits time between the three countries as we explore the diverse landscapes, spiritual traditions, and critical issues connected to life along the Mekong River.

PROGRAM HIGHLIGHTS
  • Meet with local artists and take part in traditional Hmong weaving or Kmhmu Bamboo Weaving class at The Traditional Arts and Ethnology Centre (TAEC) in Luang Prabang, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, to understand the fascinating and rich ethnic diversity in the region.
  • Experience the difference in daily life in two rural homestays in Laos and Thailand and visit hidden caves and aqua blue lagoons in the lower Mekong. 
  • Speak with environmental activists and community members to learn about the disastrous ecological and social impacts of large-scale hydropower dams along the Mekong River and beyond.
  • Understand the impact of the USA’s Secret War in Laos, where the US dropped more bombs than all of the Allied Forces in WW1 and WW2 combined.
  • Meet Khmer Rouge survivors in Phnom Penh, whose harrowing stories and resilience will humble and inspire you.

Our course begins in Luang Prabang, a UNESCO World Heritage Site known for its Buddhist temples and monasteries, biodiversity and rich ethnic diversity. Here, we orient ourselves to the pace of life and cultural complexities of Laos culture while learning about Theravada Buddhism, which is the prominent belief system in mainland Southeast Asia that is woven into daily life. In this tranquil setting we brief students on current events and cultural mores while initiating survival language classes and exploring local markets.

The next stop is Vientiane, Laos’ quaint “capital-village”. Constructed with an array of medieval temples, French colonial architecture, Socialist monuments and 21st century construction projects that will change the face of the city, Vientiane is the perfect place to understand the interplay between modernization efforts and traditional values. While in the capital we visit environmental and humanitarian NGOs and also delve into the US’ Secret War (1964-1973) and the affects it has had on rural development.

From Vientiane we head south to Thakhek where we live with homestay families on the island of Don Donn. While settled on that idyllic isle in the Mekong, we learn about rice cultivation, traditional fishing practices and comparative religion, and we engage in discourses on a diverse range of topics including identity studies and mindfulness. Then, crossing the Mekong to to Nakon Phanom, Thailand, students travel downstream to meet and live with a Thai fishing community who were relocated in the late 1990s due to dam developments. We compare standards of living between Laos and Thailand (healthcare, education, infrastructure etc.) and question the ethics of borders and the privilege of movement.

We cross to Cambodia to spend time exploring Siem Reap and the Temples of Angkor by bicycle and tuk-tuk while witnessing the impact of tourism on this sacred Great Wonder of the World. While in the city we meet with pro-education and anti-orphanage tourism activists as well as visit the UXO museum to understand war campaign in this part of the country. From Siem Reap we follow the Tonle Sap down to Phomn Penh to meet with Khmer Rouge (1975-1979) survivors and pay hommage to those who lost their lives at S21 and Killing Field genocide museums. In the capital we also meet with environmental NGOs also working to stop development of the Mekong River before finally heading to the we coast to reflect on our journey where the river meets the sea.

Offering students an opportunity to explore the region through a transnational lens, the Mekong 6-week summer program delves into the historical, economic, environmental, and cultural mosaic of Laos (2.5 weeks), Thailand (1 week) and Cambodia (2.5 weeks).

Read More Read Less Sample Itinerary

Program Components

3/5
Comparative Religion

Gain insight into 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.

3/5
Homestay

Live with homestay families in a rural village along the Mekong River in Laos and a relocated fishing community in Thailand.

2/5
Independent Study Project (ISP)

Learn traditional crafts such as bamboo weaving, embroidery, martial arts (Muay Lao), and traditional silk dying from master teachers in Laos' art and cultural hub, Luang Prabang. Explore your academic passions through mentored comparative studies on a topic such as: water rights, public health, education, gender etc. throughout program.

2/5
Language Study

Build basic proficiency in Lao and Cambodian languages, while exploring the linguistic traditions of ethnic minorities groups.

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 homestays.

5/5
Rugged Travel

Hop on buses, trains, tuk-tuks, boats, trucks and your own two feet to explore the region overland - from the mountains of Luang Prabang to jungles and floodplains of central Laos, NE Thailand and western and central Cambodia.

3/5
Trekking

Challenge yourself on day hikes and multi-day adventures to explore the karst limestone formations and rainforests of northern and central Laos and western Cambodia.