Westmont Magazine Destination Thailand
To better serve alumni and parents and extend Westmont’s Christian mission, the Alumni Association has launched a new study/travel program for lifelong learners. The maiden voyage for this enterprise is an adventure in exotic Thailand May 13-27, 2004.<‘/p>
Led by St. Olaf Professors Michael ’70 and Ann Lundquist ’70 Leming, the study program will focus on the history and culture of Thailand and its unique position in Southeast Asia. The Lemings serve as directors of the Spring Semester in Thailand program and have spent much time in the country.
Westmont Campus Pastor Ben Patterson and his wife, Lauretta, will travel with the group, and Ben will lead devotions. He is the author of three books, including “Deepening Your Conversation with God.”
Seminars during the trip will highlight the Christian church’s mission work among the Thai and tribal people and the contemporary role of Buddhism in Thai society. Other topics include ethnic identity and attempts by the Thai government to assimilate tribal minorities, contemporary social issues related to HIV/AIDS, and a cultural appreciation for Southeast Asian art and architecture.
The journey begins in Bangkok, known as the Venice of the East. From the capital city, the group will head to Ayuttaya, Thailand’s ancient capital city. Two days later the travelers take the night train to the 700-year-old city of Chiang Mai, Thailand’s second largest city and most exciting tourist attraction.
“We will watch the elephants bathe in the river and demonstrate the skills they have learned as beasts of burden in the teak industry,” Mike says. “We will then take an hour ride into the jungle (two people per elephant) followed by an hour bamboo raft trip on a slow-moving mountain stream. It reminds me of the Jungle Boat ride at Disneyland without the wild (save the elephants) animals. After our raft trip we will eat lunch and visit the Queen’s botanical gardens where there are exotic tropical plants and beautiful waterfalls.”
After five days in Chiang Mai, participants travel 120 miles into the Himalayas and live for three days among the Christian Karen tribal people. While there, members of the group will provide humanitarian assistance to villagers and teach English in village schools. People may skip the village and stay in the city, if they wish. The last stop is the luxurious Amari Orchid Resort at Pattaya Beach.
“Everyone with an open mind and a sense of adventure loves Thailand,” Mike says. “I have brought more than 200 people ranging from ages 8 to 92, and all have found Thailand to be their favorite country in Asia. There is so much to do and see that is unlike anything in America. The country is exotic, beautiful, mysterious and easy to get around. The people study English beginning in third grade, so language barriers are not difficult to overcome.
“Last year each person on our trip brought one suitcase or backpack and one box filled with things for people of the village. We brought school supplies, warm clothes, eyeglasses and yarn for knitting. Every day we played with the children of the village, put on sport clinics in the schools, taught English in the village schools, sang, danced, planted rice, and visited with the Karen people. Some of the people in our group also helped me dispense eyeglasses to village people. By coming to the village and taking an interest in their culture, we honor the Karen people.”
The cost of the 15-day trip is $2,950 per person and includes round-trip airfare from Los Angeles ($250 more for business class), accommodations, three meals a day, admission fees, seminars, ground transportation and tips. Any passport fees and pre-departure medical expenses are not included.