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821 Incoming Students

Bush school photoWe are hosting 821 students during our 2015-2016 High Season (November-February). For perspective, last season we hosted 637 and in 2011 when I first arrived at CMRCA, we had 424 student participants. We have nearly doubled our participant numbers, but most notably we greatly expanded the areas we travel and types of adventure, culture, and leadership programs we facilitate for young people.

We ask our student participants – What Kind of Experience Will You Create? We believe that student leadership has a foundation in self awareness – who am I? what do I feel challenged by? how do I behave in times of challenge?

As we enter into our biggest season yet, it is important for our program team to consider the experiences that we choose to create. The growth of CMRCA Group Program department has been a journey of experimentation, failure, celebration, and intention building. It has always remained important to find our footing and ensure that our growing programs remain aligned with our core values.

We are at a very exciting point in our progression. Over the last year we have been focusing on developing new areas, cultivating new partnerships, and building intentional curriculum. There are too many successes to name, but a two notable highlights from 2015 were…Forru Planting

Continuing to coach clients towards Learning Service programming and less, traditional Service Learning models. CMRCA has partnered with numerous established NGOs and community organizations in Northern Thailand to host student groups for 1-3 days. The framing is to learn about the local, regional, or global issue at play, the NGOs mission, and how they are working to maximize their impact. The focus is learning and observing these issues and considering how these issues do or do not have impact with students’ home communities. The programs are informative, hands-on and allow CMRCA to support local organizations financially. As an example, 120 students from Stamford American International School (Singapore) in January 2016 are focusing on ecoliteracy and environmental sustainability. They are visiting four organizations in Chiang Mai that will focus on global climate change/sustainable agriculture, forest restoration, green urban planning and stream / river ecology.

We have continued to focus on providing staff and facilitator professional development opportunities in Thailand and abroad. Check out what we did in 2015…

  • In February 2015, Phi went to NCCPS, international conference in Boulder, CO. He also skied and ice climbed for the first time (picture proof!).
  • In October 2015, Tune, Pui, Phi and myself traveled to Portland, OR for the NOLS Risk Management Conference and Association of Experiential Education (AEE) International Conference. We wanted to share some brief reflections of that trip (below) from our staff.
  • In November 2015, Jim Cain of Teamwork and Teamplay facilitated a staff training with energizers, challenges, and activities for our facilitation toolkits.
  • In December 2015, Tim Walther of Grand Dynamics International led an intentional program design session with our full admin and delivery team.

As we move forward, we will continue to innovate, develop, and deliver the highest quality in student programming. Here’s to creating 821 unique, student experiences this season.

We can’t wait to discover, explore and adventure with all of you.

Climb ON!

Katie, Program Director


Reflections from our recent USA trip for the NOLS Risk Management Conference and Association of Experiential Education:

aee 2Pui Klaptung, Program Coordinator – Development & Design

The most memorable part of my experience in the US was that experiential educators were together and sharing their experience and knowledge with others. The group was really interested in making connections with us. Everyone really inspired and motivated me.

The most important thing I learned was about risk management – how to manage in the outdoors and report incidents internally. At the AEE conference, I learned a lot more about debriefing and the value of reflection in our programs. I learned a variety of techniques that allowed the participants to take the lead in reflection.

In the coming year, I am looking forward to using what I have learned from these conferences and apply and practice them on program in CMRCA. I also looking forward to see myself grow and develop in any skills with CMRCA. So excited to be back here and to learn from everyone.

Tune Chaisangwon, Program Coordinator – Logistics

Going to AEE and the NOLS Risk Management conference allowed me the opportunity to learn the theory behind experiential education and learning new perpectives from guest speakers and international attendees. I like to hear other perspectives on risk management and experiential education from teachers and third providers. It helped increase my understanding of client needs and concerns.

I learned the most about human behavior and learning styles of in youth and adult development. It will help me design intentional curriculum with key outcomes. I learned about how to intergrate  risk management in design, not only physical safety but also emotional safety which I already tried to experiment on working with my work mates. I like to talk about risk management with CMRCA staff.

In the coming year, I look forward to seeing CMRCA staff to focus on risk management, deliver intentional programs, and talk more about how we can integrate emotional safety.

Phi Munsawang, Program Coordinator – Development & Design

The most memorable was seeing a different part of the U.S. The Pacific Northwest felt like a similar environment to Thailand, but much drier and colder. On the trip I had the opportunity to learn about risk management and experience education from the international perspective and how to apply to my personal and my professional lifestyle. I can see how much they care to their participants and the activities that they provide for the people all around the world to keep them safe and enjoy their time.

Right now, I am working to share my experience and new activities that I learned on this trip. I am sharing my experience through conversation and sharing activities. I hope that all of the staff learned something new.  For the coming year I would like to support the staff to grow in the leadership development curriculum because in my opinion these skills will help the staff grow CMRCA / Progression in a professional way.It also applies to their personal life as well and for me has been very powerful.




During July of 2014 thirteen students and two teachers from the International School of Milan embarked on a three week expedition throughout Thailand. The focus of the expedition was to create an exciting and authentic experience which facilitated personal and group development as well as exposed participants to the Thai way of life. Students were challenged to take on leadership roles, step out of their comfort zone, and think critically about how an experience in a faraway, foreign place could translate back to their lives at home.



2557_07_05_is_milan_2375Armed with CMRCA facilitator firepower — Phi, Tune, and Ethan — the group hit the ground running and never lost steam. We experienced adventure, in the form of climbing, trekking, kayaking, and camping. We exchanged culture, through daily market visits, meditation, long days on the bus, and a week spent living and working alongside two Pwa Ka Nyaw (Karen) communities deep in the forested mountains of Mae Hong Son. We learned about ourselves and the communities around us with daily reflections and rituals, lectures by local experts about Thai environmental issues, and visits to observe how NGOs around Chiang Mai are making the difference. The journey took us through the streets of Chiang Mai and the surrounding farm valleys, up and around the mountains of Pang Mapha and Huay Puling (Mae Hong Son) and finally down to the gulf coast of Sam Roi Yot in Prachuap.













Highlights from the trip include…

Reaching the top of Growth Peak on a full day trek through the forests of Mae Hong Son. The weather was rainy and the trail slippery. We had to cross several rivers balancing on tree trunks and battling hungry leeches along the way. To top it off we encountered an enormous lightning green snake hanging out in the canopy above our lunch spot! We got out of there quickly…



Getting the chance to practice meditation and have a question and answer session with a Burmese monk studying in Chiang Mai. It was a time of reflection for us all, a moment to step back and contemplate ideas of happiness and peacefulness.


Conducting apprenticeships in Baan Huay Thong Kor. We learned about traditional medicine, bamboo carving and weaving, sword dancing, clothes weaving, and even got to make our own knives with the village blacksmiths! (for chopping up fresh and organic vegetables, of course…)











Buying breakfast at the local market in Chiang Mai every morning. At the beginning it was difficult to figure out what to buy and how to communicate with the shopkeepers, especially while trying to be sustainable with a reusable plastic box. By the end the entire group was able to buy everything they wanted and without using any plastic bags. The change in attitude and market expertise throughout the trip was exponential.2557_07_04_is_milan_15962557_07_04_is_milan_1562


The students said…

“I will never forget the bucket showers, not because I found them uncomfortable (because that wasn’t the case at all) but because I finally understood what “wasting” means. Bringing these experiences home improves both my understanding and opens my horizons to new situations.”


“The most meaningful activity was the home-stays because I learned how to enjoy simplicity in life. I learned that most of the things that I have, I don’t need.”


“I changed greatly after the trip and everyday since coming back I reflect on my life and the trip. The different, more calm lifestyle impacted me and I became a more relaxed and thoughtful person on a day-to-day basis.”


This program was extra special for us at CMRCA, because it was the longest trip we have ever run, 21 days. Both our capacity and passion to run longer and more in depth programs is growing exponentially. This trip proved to us we are well grounded and ready to push the boundaries of what we can accomplish. How many students can we inspire on long term expeditions in 2015?


With CMRCA, the adventure never ends…


More images from the trip!

Wrapping Up Our Busiest Season EVER!

The seasonal heat has quietly built up and settled over Chiang Mai and we are gearing up for another Songkran Holiday. Compasses and sleeping bags have been stashed away, along with climbing equipment and team building supplies. CMRCA staff seem to be well rested and enjoying some personal time to exercise and relax. Our last bag of trail mix has met its demise…

It must be the end of the student program season! And what a season it was. Oct 2013 – Feb 2014 was the busiest and most successful period in CMRCA experiential education history. We facilitated 21 student programs including schools/organizations from: Singapore, Hong Kong, Australia, Thailand, Indonesia, New Zealand, USA, Cambodia, Bangladesh, China, and UAE. We had the chance to meet, educate, explore, converse, inspire, and adventure with 938 total students. Not bad for a few months!

As all those determined faces and vibrant smiles rush through our minds, we want to take a moment to thank all those who made the last few months such an exciting and special period for us. All the schools, educators, parents, students, and partners that we work with — you know who you are!

We have already begun prepping for next year and expect to be better, stronger, faster, and climb higher! Below are some of our favorite pictures from the season. Make sure to check out this awesome video footage as well:

Highlights from ISPP Week Without Walls

Adventure ON!

–CMRCA Family

ISPP: Flying High in Chiang Mai


Check out pictures from the adventure on FACEBOOK!

Last week was an exciting one for CMRCA, as we hosted 17 students and two teachers from the International School of Phnom Penh! The students positive attitudes and never ceasing enthusiasm propelled them through an eight day adventure both in the city and countryside. The group started with an orientation day in the old city, including leadership and team building models as well as our amazing race. The day wasn’t quite complete until ice cream bars were shared all around and the Chiang Mai Gate Market thoroughly explored.

After a long day walking on the pavement we were ready to hit Crazy Horse and Mae On for two days of climbing/rappelling and ridgeline trekking. Little did staff members Add and Ethan know that they had a group of natural adventurers on their hands! The ISPP students impressed all around, climbing high and setting record times on the trek without getting lost. Three days in and already exhausted (at least the staff and teachers were!) we all settled in to Mae Kampong Village for a home stay and the most delicious home cooked meals of the trip.

Rejuvenated after a solid night’s sleep, the group set out for a day of zip-lining high in the jungle canopy. After a long day we returned to the city and surprisingly (or maybe not if you familiar with 6-10 graders), the students instantly jumped onto the bouldering wall for some more practice and exercise. After another market dinner and warmer night all were ready to head north to Mae Taeng for some white water rafting and river kayaking!

Deep into the Mae Taeng valley we transitioned to the river life and conquered the “Mother Cucumber” in stunning form. We were kept on our heels by constant commands from our rafting guides: “All forward!”, “Over right!”, “Get down!” and “JUMP!”. It was quite a technical ride, but we had brief moments of recovery amidst elephants bathing in the river. And going number 2 while everyone was swimming. “Get back in the boooaaaatttt!”

It was a long and bumpy ride back to the main road with many sleepy students. The stunning views on the boat ride to our floating guesthouse on the Mae Ngat Reservoir kept everybody going. After a big game of Salad Bowl (won by the Decapitated Llamas) the cool lake air wooed everybody to bed…But as soon as the sun came up the next morning, it was time for a SWIM!

We spent our last day kayaking down the Ping River en-route back to Chiang Mai. Once again the ISPP students inspired us with their energy and determination to paddle hard throughout the day and complete the route. Hopefully some of them learned their lesson and in the future will listen to their guides when told to put sunscreen on. We had some lobsters! 😉

Back in Chiang Mai we had a final feast at the Hanging Legs restaurant and a group discussion about personal and group challenges throughout the trip. Our last morning together was spent atop Doi Suthep where we held an appreciation circle — each student was asked to secretly observe one of their peers and then share something kind about them. It was a great ending to a fantastic adventure! (sorry to Louis who got a little sick that last morning…)

All in all, it was clear to us that these students from Phnom Penh share some of the same values with us at CMRCA…They live adventure, seek growth and development, and definitely think like a family, which can sometimes be difficult when a group ranges from grade 6-10. It was awesome to watch them take initiative and act like leaders — as two students were chosen every day to lead the group and facilitate an evening discussion circle.

Thank you students and teachers for an incredible week of exciting activities, deep discussions, and non-stop laughter and smiles. You are quite the bunch and will not be forgotten! Shout out to James, Chie, Ebeltlje, David, Miriam, Alex, Louis, Darren, Dominic, Solinda, Carter, Yong Jin, Abby, Aiman, Takuya, Carolyn, Conner, Mr. McCombe, and Ms. Her!

Check out pictures from the adventure on FACEBOOK!

What a Weekend With ISDSI and Pacific Discovery!


CMCRA recently had the pleasure of working with two fantastic organisations – ISDSI (The International Sustainable Development Studies Institute) and Pacific Discovery. Both Groups had the opportunity to climb and rappel at Crazy Horse, take part in fun team building exercises and learn a bit of ecology about the lime stone buttress Crazy Horse.

Friday, January 24

For many of the ISDSI Nak Suk Sa (college students) this was their first experience rock climbing, not to mention belaying. It takes a respectable amount of trust to set foot on the rock for the first time when your fellow student belayer has their hands on the rope for the first time as well. But not to worry, with a bit of guidance and instruction from the CMRCA guides the ISDSI students were pro belayers and enthusiastic climbers in no time. ISDSI spent the morning working the routes in the Crazy Horse Area, then after lunch headed for the Tyrolean Traverse — a 20-meter long journey across a rope bridge in midair! Then they switched over to the 35-meter rappel down to the cave floor. By four o’clock everyone had achieved their goal and some had exceeded it: “have fun” “take lots of pictures” “Conquer fears” “Push my boundaries”. Every semester the ISDSI students blow us away with their enthusiasm and this group was no exception! Thanks ISDSI for another solid program!

Saturday – Sunday, January 25-26

Fourteen hours later the CMRCA guide team was back at the crag setting up for the arrival of another group of young adults. As the sun was just beginning to warm the rock, students from Pacific Discovery arrived at the crag. After introductions and energisers everyone got geared up for a day of climbing and rappelling. The students learned how to properly tie the figure eight knot and some climbing lingo as well. For the morning activities one group set out for the 40 M rappel from the gate keeper into a cave and the others went to try their hands (and feet) at rock climbing. Then the groups reconvened in the bamboo lunch huts to swap stories and enjoy a meal of fried rice. For the afternoon the groups switched locations and continued their adventures. Around four o’clock everyone returned to the camp site for dinner and some free time.

At 7:30pm Pi Add facilitated an introductory Thai language lesson where students learned how to great each other and introduce themselves. Everyone had a good laugh as they helped each other around the unfamiliar words. Then everyone gathered around the beautiful bed of coals Pi Taw had prepared and roasted Thai marshmallows – toasted sticky rice dipped in coconut milk and salt. Happy conversations filled the air as the climbing guides and students alike mingled about the fire coaching one another on the best technique for toasting their sticky rice. To bring the day to a close students lit Thai paper lanterns and sent them off into the clear night sky before turning into their tents for a well-deserved rest.

Sunday morning was another early one. Breakfast at 7:00am then lunch packing and gear preparing. Before taking off for Crazy Horse students participated in two team building challenges: friends in handcuffs and helium stick. This time upon arriving at Crazy Horse the students prepared for something a little different than yesterday – caving! For the entire day students explored the caves inside crazy horse with the CMRCA guides. They learned about the different features and ecosystems inside the caves and even got to get a little muddy! Half way through the caving expedition everyone stood in silence with their headlamps turned off, marvelling at the darkness and listening to the sounds of the bats. The two groups reunited for lunch inside one of the larger rooms before continuing on their respective journeys through the dark. In the afternoon on their way out of the lower caves students braved the gigantic Anxiety State Crisis Cave. There they traveled across the Tyrollean Traverse and down the big rappel.

In addition to visiting the caves inside Crazy horse students took a trip to Muang On cave, about a 5 minute drive down the road. This cave is much more developed and complete with stair cases and huge Buddha statues. Then it was back to base camp where Pacific Discovery packed up camp and said good bye to CMRCA. Thanks Pacific Discovery for all the laughs, smiles, great climbing and enthusiastic participation all weekend long! Come back and see us soon!

For more photos, check out our facebook page!

Shrewsbury Year 9!

Last week, CMRCA hosted students from Shrewsbury International School (Bangkok). On the day of their arrival, students began the program by participating in a Team Building Amazing Race. Along the way they took pictures with topiary dinosaurs, crawled through webs of terrifying plastic spiders, and braved fake minefields! Students then spent the next few days amongst the botanical gardens at Horizon Resort and rotating through three activities: climbing and rappelling at Crazy Horse Buttress, creating crafts at Lanna Wisdom School, and learning about Karen culture and sustainable agriculture at Fair Earth Farm.


Climbing and Rappelling

Each day, a group went to Crazy Horse Buttress where they were welcomed by the CMRCA guiding staff. Once fully equipped with gear, students set out to rock climb at the “Tamarind Village” and rappel inside the gigantic Anxiety State Crisis Cave. Inside the cave, they braved the Tyrolean Traverse – a 20-meter long journey across a rope bridge in midair! Since that wasn’t exciting enough, students then took on the 35-meter rappel down to the cave floor. Happy, accomplished, and a little dirty, by four o’clock the students loaded back into the red trucks and waved good-bye to the CMRCA climbing team.


Lanna Wisdoms School

The Lanna Wisdom School group started their day with some morning energizers. After the students were all warmed up and excited (the ChiangMai “chill” came as quite a surprise!), they learned about how Lanna folk wisdom and knowledge can be preserved through interaction with the Lanna community. The rest of the day was spent decorating star lanterns, creating Lanna flags and making colorful tie-dyed cloths with traditional colorings. Everyone left with a beautiful souvenir in each hand.


Fair Earth Farm

Students at Fair Earth Farm were greeted in the morning by fresh khao lam (grilled sticky rice) and a group of Pwa Ka Nyaw (Karen) Villagers from Ban Huay Thong Goh located in the pristine forests of Mae Hong Son Province. Students began the day’s activities discussing traditional farming and sustainability. They then broke into small groups for a local plant hunt, during which they learned about agro-ecology and ate fistfuls of mulberries. Afterwards, they rotated through activities including fishing, a cultural exchange, and a lesson in herbal medicine. During the second half of the day, students watched Pwa Ka Nyaw sword dancing and ate a meal prepared with organic Huay Thong Goh produce. After much anticipation, they got the chance to jump in the canal and get muddy! After fishing and slopping mud to fertilize the surrounding plants, they ended the day with a dirty but amiable mud fight.

A big CMRCA thank you to everyone who made this program a great experience: Horizon Village and Resort, Shrewsbury Teachers, Fair Earth Farm, Villagers from Huay Thong Goh, and Lanna Wisdom School.

Check out more photos from the Shrewsbury program on Facebook!


NIST Week on the Wild Side 2013

Another year and another incredible NIST Week on the Wild Side experience!

Last week CMRCA hosted the NIST International School’s Year 10 students for 4 days of adventure and learning. With the Sam Kampaeng Hot Springs serving as our base camp, the week was set for a thrilling and memorable experience.

The program was split into three components: Trekking, Climbing & Rappelling, and Leadership and Team Building. Our two-day one-night trekking and camping trip pushed students mentally and physically to work together to achieve their goal. In preparation for the Bronze Level of the International Youth Award, students had to navigate with a map and compass through the Mae On valley and over a ridge-line to successfully reach their camp site and return to base camp. In addition, they faced the challenge of dividing resources, sharing the burden of carrying tents, sleeping bags, food, and cooking supplies. It was both tough and exciting, and in the end all students were up to the task.

Student’s also spent a day at Crazy Horse, participating in CMRCA’s signature Ultimate Rope & Rock Adventure. Comprised of climbing, rappelling and a tyrolean traverse over the mouth of a huge cave, the experience pushed students to step outside their comfort zones while having a great time climbing high and learning about the history of local rock formations.

The last component, Lead on the Wild Side, required a little bit more thought and reflection. CMRCA facilitators led students through a series of models and activities to encourage discussion and reflection about individual awareness and team dynamics.

All in all, the program surpassed all of our expectations and we hope it was a positive experience for all our participants. And since we can’t hold back mentioning, the discovery of the combination of grilled sticky rice and toasted marshmallows may have been life changing.

See you next year!

NIST Week On the Wild Side 2012

U.S. Consulate Returns to the Crag

Our friends at the U.S. Consulate in Chiang Mai returned for a second year of conquering fears and climbing to new heights at Crazy Horse Buttress.  In the morning, Consulate employees and their friends and families climbed at Tamarind Village and Hanging Gardens.

After a delicious local lunch, the group piled into the red trucks for a relaxing afternoon at the San Kamphaeng Hot Springs.  It was fun to see old friends, including Kids Climbing Veterans Emma and Liam, and meet new additions to the greater Consulate community.

Climb ON!




ISB Global Citizenship Week 2012

CMRCA staff just returned from an amazing 7-day adventure with students from the International School of Bangkok (ISB) in the Huay Puling District.  Three CMRCA facilitators, two ISB teachers and ten students packed their hiking packs for an exciting week that included trekking, homestays, local trade studies and other activities designed to get students out of their comfort zone and thinking about what it means to think globally.  This is the second year we’ve worked with ISB in the Huay Puling District which is a collection of 5 Karen villages just south of Mae Hong Son near the Burmese border.  The Karen have lived in this region for hundreds of years and practice sustainable farming and community development.

Thank you to the amazing staff and students of ISB!  We never ceased to be entertained with your singing and your positivity was contagious. We already can’t wait until Global Citizenship Week 2013!


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