Map of Thailand

Destination Overview

Aptly nicknamed “The Land of Smiles,” Thailand and its people radiate a feeling of goodwill and happiness. From the picturesque villages in remote forests to the historic temples in the city centers – the Thai people are notoriously obliging and seem to want nothing more than to share their beautiful country and vibrant culture. Even in the darkness of Bangkok’s largest slum, you can find proof that kindness is everywhere when it comes to this remarkable country.

In the late 1980s, Thailand’s economy experienced an unprecedented boom. Though it has been cited as Southeast Asia’s developmental success story, such rapid growth always comes with a price. Rural populations were forced to move to the city for work and built temporary housing near construction sites. The resulting communities and squalid conditions became the only home some families knew. As the city grew, the people in the slums lived under constant threat of eviction.

Today, about twenty percent of Bangkok residents live in illegal squatter settlements all around the city. Since the settlements are not part of the official city, residents live without access to basic amenities such as water, electricity, and sewage. Against the backdrop of tropical heat, unmanaged waste creates serious health risks for residents. The impoverished conditions also give way for social illnesses including drug addiction, familial abuse, and petty crime.

Dating back to the 1950s, Klong Toey is Thailand’s largest and most well known slum community. While the neighborhood still fosters many informal impoverished houses, it has become something of a worldwide poverty-eradication model with ongoing social initiatives and infrastructural improvements. Each summer, GoBeyond students have the opportunity to help contribute to this success story and experience first hand why it’s called “the land of smiles.”

“Our group headed to the sky train to go to Siam. From there, we visited the floating market, a local marketplace built over the water, via Chao Phraya River tourist boats. At the floating market, we had the experience of trying new fruits such as durians, mangosteens, rambutan, and longan(lam yai). After tasting exotic fruits we headed to the Grand Palace, where we got to see eye opening temples and Buddha statues. We were able to experience first hand the culture of Thailand.”
-Ryan L. - South Korea