Culinary Explorations in Thailand

10 Days

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Days 1-2: Arrival

Today's long transpacific flight takes you across the International Dateline causing you to lose a day in the process.

You will arrive at Bangkok's huge new Suvarnabhumi International Airport and transfer to your hotel where you will spend your first night recovering from your long flight and gathering your strength for the exciting week ahead.

Day 3: Travel to Mae Sot

Your coach will take you through the picturesque Thai countryside to the exotic and exciting border town of Mae Sot, a town with a huge open air market (selling varieties of edibles you could not even have previously imagined people actually eat) and a veritable melting pot of multi-cultural people including Thais, Burmese, Karen, Shan, Indian and Chinese to name a just a few.

Upon arrival, and after checking in to your guesthouse, you will visit a local NGO (Non-Governmental Organization) where you will receive an orientation briefing outlining the week's program and explaining why there are so many Burmese people living in Thailand.

After experiencing your first Burmese meal and learning about the ingredients and preparation that went into each dish, you will have the evening free to explore the town.

Day 4: One Dream One World

After an early morning traditional Burmese breakfast at a local tea shop, you will visit a cafe run by ethnic Palaung women to learn about their culture and traditions and what makes their food unique. You will learn to prepare their most popular dish and share a meal with a handful of their members.

Later in the afternoon, you will pay your first visit to the One Dream One World child care center. After meeting the children and the folks who operate this life saving and life giving facility, you'll determine outstanding tasks and projects and begin to lend a hand. Helping to get their organic vegetable garden in shape or teaching the children basic English skills will be among several projects that will keep those of us who are interested in helping busy for part of the upcoming week.

Dinner tonight at Casa Mia, which serves Burmese, Thai and Western food. You will rotate into the kitchen in small groups in order to observe and learn first hand some of the cooking techniques that have made Casa Mia such a popular spot in Mae Sot.

Day 5: Scavenger Hunt, One Dream One World, Kyaung Thit Monastery

This morning (very early), enjoy a scavenger hunt through the seemingly other-worldly Mae Sot morning market. Again, you may be a little shocked to learn what some people consider their daily fare. A prize will be awarded not only for the winner of the hunt but also to the one who is willing to try what the group considers to be the most outrageous and to us, inedible, dish or item.

Later this morning you will assist a local NGO (Non-Governmental Organization) with the cooking of lunches for some of the hundreds of children who attend migrant schools in Mae Sot. Learn why so many people from Burma have left their homes to work in Thailand and how this is affecting their children. For lunch you will enjoy the dishes that you helped to prepare.

This afternoon, you will have the option of returning to One Dream One World for some additional work on projects that seem never ending. Or you may visit another community organization to learn about their culture, ethnicity, traditions and struggles while at the same time learning about the food consumed by this ethnic group, the ingredients used as well as the process of preparing these dishes. By now, you will have evolved a much more adventuresome palate than the one you left home with.

In the late afternoon, you will meet with Buddhist monks at Mae Sot's Kyaung Thit Monastery, where you will learn about the role of food in Buddhism and the ancient tradition of early morning alms giving.

Tonight, you will dine at a small Burmese restaurant owned by U Aung, a former political prisoner from Burma and his Thai wife, Khemitsara, who incidentally are the founders of One Dream One World and were the facility's sole source of support until Burma Border Projects began funding the school. Khemitsara will only be too happy to demonstrate for you her culinary magic by showing you how to prepare your first Burmese food, which will be your own dinner. You will only have yourself to blame if you don't like the meal.

Day 6: Mae Tao Clinic, One Dream One World, Cooking Class

For breakfast, visit the shop of an ethnic Shan family to learn about their culture and traditions and what makes their early morning noodles so popular.

Later in the morning you will visit the now world famous Mae Tao Clinic (MTC), established by Dr. Cynthia Maung. Although virtually unknown 10 years ago, "Dr. Cynthia" as she is now known worldwide, receives famous visitors from all over the world including the likes of Laura Bush, Angelina Jolie and Sen. John McCain. There is virtually no health care provided to the people living in eastern Burma and sick people often travel for days, and are always in danger, to cross the border into Thailand to visit the clinic. MTC is the only health service provider and training center in the region, and was established to contribute and promote accessible quality health care among displaced Burmese and ethnic people living along the Thailand-Burma border. Dr. Cynthia's clinic provided health services during 2010 to 111,403 patients. You will enjoy seeing the clinic's new Child Recreation Center, also built, funded and staffed by Burma Border Projects.

This afternoon you will have the option of returning to lend further assistance at One Dream One World or half of your group can participate in a special cooking class conducted by Borderline Collective and Tea Shop. By the time you return home, you will be able to prepare an authentic South East Asian meal for your friends and family. And there is usually so much food leftover enabling the rest of the group to join you at the end of the class so that everyone might eat together. Cooking class can also be held tomorrow for those interested and who missed it today.

Day 7: Rice Harvesting, Work Project, Cooking Class

Today, you will assist local farmers with their rice harvesting. Learn what it's like to perform the same work that literally tens of millions of people worldwide do every day of their lives and if they don't, they and their families don't eat.

Later in the day, you will meet with NGO staff working to protect the rights of migrant workers and discuss the safety issues affecting these workers in the food production industry.

For those interested, there will be the opportunity to continue work at One Dream One World during the late afternoon, or to take some cooking classes for those who missed them yesterday.

Day 8: Visit a Refugee Camp, Cooking Class

By now, you have all heard of refugee camps. Today, you will learn a little about what it's like to live in a refugee camp by actually visiting one, the largest on the border, Mae La Camp. It's not always possible to get outside groups into the camps but you will have the opportunity of seeing one up close and you'll sample an actual "refugee lunch" which consists of low quality rice, fish paste, yellow bean curry and Asia mix. You will meet with NGO staff to learn about nutrition studies that have identified chronic malnutrition among the refugee and migrant populations. After this, you will remember most fondly your meals at Borderline, Casa Mia or at Khemitsara's restaurant, either of which you may elect to return to this evening. Another cooking lesson in the cuisine of a different ethnic group (such as Shan) can be arranged later today.

Day 9: Farewell Dinner

Your last day in Mae Sot will have a number of options for you. You can learn about mushroom farming by assisting teenage migrant students with their farming duties at their school. Or, there may be one CBO (Community Based Organization) or NGO you were particularly impressed with and would like to revisit. You will also have the option of meeting with a community group of organic farmers that educates young leaders and farmers in environmental management. If you want to rise early, you can participate in the giving of alms to the monks you met earlier in the week.

In the afternoon, you could accompany ODOW young students on a field trip to the Thai Science and Technology Park.

You also get to choose the venue for your Farewell Dinner. Feel free to invite any special folks you met this week whom you feel would enjoy the experience.

Day 10: Bangkok, Departure

Today you drive back to Bangkok for your return flight home, this time instead of losing a day, you'll gain your day back and arrive home the same day you left Thailand. The memories of the trip that you share with family and friends will last a lifetime as possibly will your newfound commitment to do what you can with your life in order to make this often-sad world a better place in which to live.


No lesson plans... yet! :(

More Lesson Plans

Bangkok 1  •  Mae Sot 7
Included on this tour
Airplane Transit
Round-trip transportation on scheduled airline  •  Airport arrival transfer on Days 1-2
Shield Included Overseas Medical Insurance
The benefits package conveys high-option life, health, and accident insurance, baggage loss and delay, trip delay and trip interruption coverage.
Hotel Hotels
Accommodations in centrally-located three-star or four-star hotels.  
Cutlery Meals
All breakfasts • Eight lunches • All dinners Special arrangements as noted.
Guide Guides
Certified local guides as noted.
Camera Entrances and Activities
As noted in Day-by-day.