Volunteer in Chiang Mai Thailand: Elephants and Monks
On the banks of the Ping River in northwest Thailand, nestled among some of the highest mountains in Thailand, Chiang Mai is known as the centre of Thai craftwork. Centuries ago the city, which today is home to over 150,000 residents, made a name for itself for the creation of exquisite jade jewellery.
With over 200 temples, Chiang Mai is also a centre of traditional Buddhist life. Although the old trading town is rich in tradition, its name translates as “New City”, and it has already made the leap to become a modern cultural city.
Volunteer in Chiang Mai: Teach Monks / Work with elephants
At a Glance
- Age: 18 and above
- Duration: 2 to 24 weeks
- Language: Good knowledge of English
- Starting Dates: Twice each month
The third-largest city in Thailand, Chiang Mai has its own university (with about 30,000 students), offers all the amenities of modern life, and lures hordes of Thai and foreign visitors each year with its art and cultural treasures, as well as its various shopping areas.
Discover the city before you volunteer in Chiang Mai: go for a stroll through the famous Night Bazaar and try some of the delicious meals on offer. Visit some of the imposing and often brightly-coloured temples, oases of calm in the middle of the lively city.
Take the opportunity to visit the local elephant camp (if you aren’t working there anyway) and maybe even ride an elephant. You won’t want to miss the chance to enjoy a traditional Thai massage before your work as a volunteer in Chiang Mai begins. Chiang Mai is also a great departure-point for excursions in the area. One interesting daytrip is a visit to the Doi Suthep temple on top of a nearby mountain. From here, visitors have a fantastic view over Chiang Mai.
Volunteer in Chiang Mai: Orientation
The weekend after your arrival in Chiang Mai you will take part in an orientation, which will introduce you to the customs of Thailand and offer you important information regarding your health and safety. You will also discuss your volunteer project and prepare to volunteer in Chiang Mai.
Aside from this, you will have a few lessons in Thai and a tour of Chiang Mai, including a visit to the Doi Suthep temple on top of a nearby mountain and a visit to Chiang Mai’s largest market. Cultural activities and a collective dinner will round out the orientation weekend. During the orientation days before you volunteer in Chiang Mai, you will stay in a shared room in the volunteer house and will receive half board.
You will begin to volunteer in Chiang Mai on Monday. You will have two options when you volunteer in Chiang Mai. One option is to work in an elephant camp north of Chiang Mai, caring for elephants and teaching English to the camp workers and children here. The other option is to teach English to monks in a temple school in Chiang Mai.
Volunteer in Chiang Mai
- Activities: Care for elephants, teach English, care for children (see project descriptions).
- Free Time: At the weekend.
- Duration: 2 to 24 weeks.
- Application: At least 2-3 months before departure.
- Starting Dates: Every first and third Monday in the month. Arrival in Chiang Mai must be on the Friday before, on the following dates. This project is booked out for starting dates in August 2011. Please note that the temple schools will be closed from March until the middle of May as well as in October.
- Visa: Tourist visa for stays longer than 30 days (possibly subject to a fee), passport required.
- Practical Experience: Not necessary, but teaching experience is an advantage as you volunteer in Chiang Mai.
- Other: Since you will be surrounded by a completely foreign culture as you volunteer in Chiang Mai, patience, adaptability, independence, and travel experience are very important. Aside from this, you will need to show a great deal of personal initiative. The volunteer work in the elephant project can be physically strenuous. In the temple schools, you will need to obey the rules. You will also need a police background check from your home country (temple school and orphanage projects).