I literally have just returned home from the 4-week Gap 360 Thai Adventure and I can honestly say it was the best money I have ever spent in my life! It is such an amazing and well thought out trip with full coverage of Thailand's best cultural landmarks and a variety of activities that I would not have experienced had I gone independently.
To begin with, the two guides in Thailand, Mickey and Yo were so knowledgeable of Thailand (temples, the Buddhist religion, local customs and the main sites to visit) that it helped us all to fully integrate into the Thai community. They were such kind and interesting people that made us feel so welcome and safe throughout the 4 weeks.
The first two weeks are the most active where you will be trekking, doing the community work (painting at a local school and dam building), where you will really learn your team working skills and visiting temples. The second two weeks are the R&R weeks where you are free to do whatever you want to do whenever but the guides usually recommended particular excursions that may be of interest to you.
The group that I was in had 20 people that ranged from 18 to 25 with a mixture of boys and girls from all over the UK and two from America, making it the perfect balance for everyone to enjoy. It was generally 2 same-sex people in the same rooms at the hostels and then for the Elephant sanctuary and for the trek, we were in 2 large rooms of 8 and 12 people. I noticed also that they arranged rooms according to the relationships formed during the trip, which was very comforting as well (although there wasn't a single person I didn't get along with and would have objected to staying with).
There are a huge selection of activities (at an extra cost) for you to choose from: total wipeout courses, zip lines, Mui Tai boxing events to watch and to participate in, snorkelling (a must!), diving and night safaris with plenty more.
Things to be aware of (but not negatives at all!):
There were a lot of long journeys (some of up to 15 hours by coach/ boat) that also took about 4/5 days off the trip so be prepared with travel bands/ tablets if you don't travel well.
There are a few additional costs that we were not expecting so always carry some extra cash with you for taxis etc.
Bring long baggy trousers (although they sell elephant pants in the market for a cheap price) and t-shirts that cover the shoulders (and chest for girls) when visiting the temples to respect the country's culture.
The trek varies according to different groups (some are easier than others) but it is during the peak heat of the day so be prepared for it to be mentally and physically challenging. Don't worry about not being able to do it quickly, as I was one of the stragglers at the back but we all went at our own pace and it was a very rewarding experience.
You will need to drink a lot of water (make sure it has a plastic seal) as you can get very dehydrated but it is unbelievably cheap (not even 10p!).
I'd recommend bringing a travel towel for certain accommodation or for the beach/pool, however, every hostel we went to provided a proper bath towel for showering.
Shoes-wise, bring flip flops and maybe some sandals for the nights out. I bought some walking trainers from Mountain Warehouse with proper grip and some brought converse/nike trainers for the trek but mine seriously saved me when going up steep slopes and muddy areas and some regretted their choice!
Laundry is very easy and incredibly cheap out there and they wash and iron everything for you. It's usually around £1 for 1kg of clothing and they wash your shoes too (which helped after the trek) for around £2 a pair.
Money to take out varied according to each person. Some only spent around £600 whereas others spent nearly £1000 so have some money set aside just in case. Nowhere accepts cards other than 7-11 so always have cash on you.
I used Caxton FX as a travel currency card and that was brilliant, as it was easy to transfer money in through the app and is accepted at all atm machines. Only use the YELLOW, PURPLE, and PINK atm machines as they are the most reliable for foreign cards. Also, they charge you 200 baht (£4-£5) per bank withdrawal so I'd recommend taking out fewer large sums (5,000 baht maybe, which is around £119 with the charge) each time you withdraw.
The taxi back to the airport at the end of the trip is your responsibility to arrange and pay for but that is incredibly easy and safe to do through the hotel in Bangkok. I paid 525 baht (£12) for a 45-minte taxi to BKK and I felt very safe.
Most people brought bum bags with them to keep all valuables (money, phone etc) but I brought a neck pouch (from Mountain Warehouse) that kept everything I needed close to me and it saved carrying a clutch on nights out.
I bought most items from Mountain Warehouse (rucksack, neck pouch, travel towels, walking shorts, walking shoes, travel pillow- a lifesaver!) as it is very good quality and very cheap and then bought lots of cheap t-shirts, crop tops, socks, flip flops, bikinis and vest tops from Primark. Nothing is dressy out there, very casual as it is hot and often humid so go for comfort over style girls!
Also for phone SIM cards, a few people got one at the airport for around £12 to get their data and calls on their phones for the month with the TRUE phone provider, which I wish I had bought. However, wifi is literally everywhere you go (restaurants, bars, hotels, in the rooms, even in the jungle sometimes!)
I hope you don't take these last points as negatives at all, as they certainly aren't! I just would've been interested to hear them before I left so I was prepared that's all. It honestly was the best month of my life and you will make such good friendships out there that will last for a very long time.
Don't worry if you haven't done anything like this before on your own because I hadn't and I wouldn't have changed it for anything! I would advise that you go alone and not with someone you know so that you can fully experience it for yourself and get the most out of it. I felt completely safe at all times but just be sensible and don't go off by yourself and keep your valuables close at all times.
Have the most amazing experience and enjoy every moment of it because there is so much to enjoy and you won't regret it! I hope this helps a lot of you and good luck on your travels!