Southeast Asia Explorer

A trip to three of SouthEast Asia’s most sought-after destinations; Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam.  Encompassing both conservation & community-based volunteer projects and traditional backpacking, the Southeast Asia adventure is the perfect first-time trip for anyone looking to set out on one of the world’s most iconic travel routes.


  • Explore Bangkok & Chiang Mai
  • Volunteer at an elephant sanctuary
  • Relax on paradise Thai beaches
  • Watch the sunset over amazing temples of Angkor Wat
  • Assist on a vital house-building project in Cambodia
  • Take a boat ride on the infamous Mekong Delta
  • Marvel at the spectacular Halong Bay!


    Week 1: Bangkok & Chiang Mai

    Your adventure starts in Thailand's bustling capital of Bangkok where you’ll spend a few days exploring the markets and canal systems. After a visit to the Erawan National Park, your journey takes you to the Thailand’s northern capital, Chiang Mai, with its hidden backstreets and mind-blowing temples.

    Week 2: Elephant Sanctuary Volunteering

    Next you will spend a week volunteering at an amazing elephant sanctuary where you will assist local staff care for rescued elephants. As well as assisting with the daily routine for the elephants, you will also teach English to the former keepers (Mahouts) to provide them with transferable skills to find new careers.

    Week 3: Jungle Adventure

    For the next stage of your trip, you will experience the lush Thai rainforest around Pai and Kanchanaburi. Enjoy a bike ride through the National Park and past old temple ruins, float downriver on a bamboo raft, and visit the iconic “Bridge over the River Kwai” close to the Thai / Burma border.

    Week 4: Thai Island Exploration

    No visit to Thailand is complete without experiencing the idyllic beaches of the infamous Thai islands. Ko Tao is one of the most popular islands for backpackers and it is no surprise - soak up the atmosphere in the beach towns, explore the rural inland island or just kick back and soak up the sun, sea and sand on one of the many paradise beaches!


    Week 5: Siem Reap & Angkor Wat

    After a bus journey through some of the most rural parts of Thailand, Siem Reap and Angkor Wat will introduce you to Cambodia in true style. Whilst Angkor Wat will wow you with its vast complex of intricate stone buildings, Siem Reap is the epicentre of Cambodia's backpacker scene!

    Week 6: Community Volunteering & Phnom Penh

    Perhaps one of our most rewarding community volunteer projects, you will spend a week working with a local organisation dedicated to providing housing and shelter to some of the most vulnerable people in Cambodia. Your final stop in Cambodia is Phnom Penh & The Killing Fields, one of Cambodia's most important historical sites.  


    Week 7: Southern Vietnam

    Next you head into Southern Vietnam starting in the incredible city of Ho Chi Minh City, then north to the stunning beaches of Nha Trang.  No trip to Vietnam is complete without a visit to Hoi An (seriously!) This is one of the region's most beautiful places and you will fall in love with cycling around this quaint town, surrounded by countryside and rice paddies.

    Week 8: Northern Vietnam

    Continuing north, you will visit the UNESCO World Heritage site of Phong Nha-Ke Bang with its remarkable karst mountains, cave systems, and spectacular underground rivers. After a day tour through the underground caves, get ready for some zip-lining, swimming and kayaking! The final stop on your journey, naturally, is the ancient city of Hanoi. You will have plenty of time to explore and shop and visit the legendary Halong Bay.

    Do you want to know why we chose to support the project in the elephant sanctuary during this tour? Please read the full story and background here: Why elephants in Thailand are in urgent need of protection 

    What is included
    Pre-departure support • Arrival pick up • Gapforce Leader • Local support staff • All accommodation • three meals a day • Program transfers • Project equipment • Trips & activities listed in brochure • Return airport transfer

    What is not Included
    Flights to/from destination • Travel Insurance • Visa & Vaccinations • Spending Money • Tipping & gratuities 

    How much spending money do I need?
    You will need money for extra meals, drinks & snacks, as well as for any activities not on the itinerary. We advise you to budget for £70 / €80 / $100 per week (this is a guideline only)

    Where will I be staying?
    You will stay in a variety of diverse accommodations throughout your trip including local hotels, hostels and volunteer guesthouses. Most accommodations will be dorm style with shared bathrooms.

    What is the food like?
    Three meals a day are included, and these will be a mixture of local and western cuisine. Meals whilst at the volunteering projects are cooked for you, then whilst we are travelling we will either buy food to cook at our accommodation or visit local restaurants and cafes. Vegan and vegetarian diets can eb catered for, please check with us regarding further dietary requirements and/or allergies. 

    What type of transport will I be using?
    You are responsible to getting yourself to and from the start point of the expedition. During the expedition, program transfers are included. Travel is a combination of day and overnight journeys using a range of transport including public and private buses, trains, boats and taxis. Please give us a call for more information on individual journey details.

    Who takes part in this program?
    This program is for anyone looking to volunteer and backpack through Southeast Asia’s most sought-after destinations. There is no prior experience required although the minimum age is 18 and you must also have your doctor sign our medical form confirming you are medically fit to participate. 

    Who will be supervising me?
    Throughout your expedition you will be accompanied by a Gapforce Expedition Leader. At various stages of your expedition we utilize the services of local support staff including project coordinators, drivers and guides

    Incredible trip

    Taking part in this trip was the best decision I made for my gap year and I would recommend it to anyone wishing to travel around Asia and explore new cultures , experience beautiful landscapes, meet new people from all over the world who become like family by the end and really find yourself while doing it all. The best part about the programme is while doing all this , with activities planned nearly every day for you you have an experienced trip leader who ensures you get the most unique authentic experiences and your safe while doing it all. Our leader Terence was the best leader we could have had he prioritized our experience , feelings and safety throughout and became a good friend as well . Also for young people who wish to travel alone and meet new people but find going completely solo scary this is a great form of travelling to meet a bunch of new people, many who haven’t met before and travel around together - you form strong friendships with these people and go through a lot together which is a huge part of the trip, even if it makes the good byes pretty tough! Definitely recommend!

    Cerys, 19

    Best Trip Evaaaaa

    If you're looking for a trip to introduce you to the world of backpacking then this is the trip for you. I seriously just had the best 2 months of my life travelling around Southeast Asia with 12 other strangers whom I now consider my family. Before starting this trip the thought of travelling alone seemed daunting but now I am so much more confident in my abilities in travelling and it is all thanks to our star leader, Terence. Throughout all of our excursions, T was exceptional at making sure we were all safe. I never once felt at risk while in his care. He was also very patient with answering our questions to the best of his ability while also encouraging us to be more independent and find out answers for ourselves. T was much more than just a leader however, he was our friend. When other members were going through hardships, he'd reach out to them to help them feel better. He'd show us the best places to eat, cute thrift stores, book shops, etc. Having T as our group leader was a big bonus as the trip really wouldn't have been the same without him.Be prepared for the busiest 2 months of your life. From bathing with elephants, to rock climbing in caves, and partying in the streets of Bangkok, there was never a dull moment. I have learnt so much about other cultures and lifestyles that I will continue to apply back in my life at home. Its cliche but I really did find myself in SEA. I'm much more confident and assertive day-to-day and I have a better understanding of what I want to do with my life. I would highly recommend this program to anyone of my friends and anyone who wants to change their life for the better.

    Emily Ann

    Best 2 months of my life :)

    I’m not exaggerating at all when I say choosing the SE Asia Expedition is probably the best decision I’ve ever made! The people I’ve met and the things I have experienced have changed me as a person for the better- I am more confident, happy and up for trying new things. Between jumping into rivers full of elephants, eating club sandwiches on boat roofs in exotic Thai islands and building a house for a poor Khmer family, this trip is both incredibly fun and also extremely eye opening. Our leader Terence couldn’t have done a better job at making me feel safe, providing emotional support when I needed it and making sure everyone was enjoying their trip to the best of their abilities- thank you T you the man!!The people I was with on this trip became family to me- choosing this trip means choosing to make friends for life.Thank you Gapforce for providing this awesome adventure for young travellers, it truly is a once in a lifetime opportunity.

    Tori, 18

    Southeast Asia Explorer

    I wasn't quite sure what to expect this trip to be like, but I am so glad I decided to go with a group like this. It was a very authentic, backpacking experience, which was fun but also character building. Staying in loud busy hostels, being constantly in the heat, and frequently taking night buses creates a sense of adventure, but it also isn't for the faint of heart. It's easily exhausting, but the locations we visited were worth it all. We saw a lot of Thailand in a relatively short time, and every place was unique and amazing in it's own way. Cambodia was also a very eye opening and life changing experience. There was a good balance between it feeling like a vacation while on the Thai islands, and productive while building a house in Cambodia for a family in need. While being abroad, I was able to create relationships with people from around the world, and the smaller group size allowed for great friendships to be created. I also enjoyed the sense of freedom this program creates. Our leader was there for us as needed and organized where we were going and staying, but we always had free time to find our own adventures. I definitely recommend this program for anyone that's looking for a true and authentic trip, able to be responsible for themselves but also able to be a positive and enthusiastic group member.

    Emily, 19

    Thailand adventure

    This was one of the most emotional experiences in my life. Traveling for the first time alone and learning so much about myself and also about other cultures.It was a good decision to travel with an organisation, because you do not have to book hostels or think about where you go or what to do. These tasks are taken from you, your guide knows the country well and you just can enjoy the trip. The safety of the trip was good overall, also because most of the time we were in groups.Thailand is such a beautiful Country.The volunteer project at elephants world in Kanchanaburi was amazing.I probably will never forget seeing my first elephant and the amazing Erewan waterfalls..We did so many funny activities, like white water rafting, tubing... and also saw and learned a lot of Thai culture (I (personally) would have liked to see a few more temples). [...] I would say this program is perfect for everyone, who don't wanna travel alone.I really would recommend doing it, because this is something you will never forget in your entire life.

    Ari, 19

    Southeast Asia

    This was one of the most amazing experiences in my life. I got to meet some amazing people from around the world and travel to 3 different countries all whilst learning new things and having fun. The leaders were really nice and funny. They were always available if you needed help or even just if you needed someone to talk to. The volunteering was so rewarding and humbling. It was also really hard work but in the end, it was totally worth it. The places we visited were also very varied and so were the activities. We went to several big cities, had some outdoor activities such as hiking, we went to some museums and also several beaches.I really recommend this trip to anyone who wants to travel and discover a new culture all whilst having fun.

    Emilie, 18, gap year student from Europe

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    View dates
    • Thailand
    • Duration: 4 to 8 weeks
    • Departures: January, April, July, October

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