Fair trade trekking in Laos

Posted on May 28, 2013

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Laos affected me as deeply as Cambodia but in a different way. It’s one of the world’s poorest nations but many tourists visiting Luang Prabang only see the beautiful temples, caves and lush banks of the Mekong.

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I was lucky to get on to a 3 day trek with Tiger Trails that takes you through Hmong and Khmer villages, learning about the different cultures and way of life. 20% of the price paid went back into the villages.Admittedly for much of the first day I cursed my choice – hiking 50kms over 7 mountains in 40 degree heat wasn’t the easy option when I could have been swimming in waterfalls, kayaking and riding elephants – but it was one of the highlights of my sabbatical. The villages are poor and work hard. People have a great deal of pride and were often happy to show up their way of life. It became a watching exchange.

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Each time we walked into a village the first child that saw us would run back to the village giggling and shouting ‘falang, falang’ (the word for foreigner). People would come out of their houses to observe the two white skinned flat noses that arrived. Always cautious at first, a smile was returned with a beaming face. I can’t describe the
All adults went worked in the fields by day, the woman coming back to cook at night. Grandmothers would stay home and take care of your children. Older children (5-12years old) would go to school. In small villages, children would walk a few hours to their local school on a Sunday, returning home on a Sunday night.feeling when surround by small children laughing and giggling at you, it was contagious.

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On this trip we stayed with families, our guide cooking with their facilities and eating with us. Delicious and simple, often more (and better) food than the locals would have, being treated as guests. We used their amenities – everywhere outside the village is your toilet, smiled the guide; and one woman showed us how to wash in the open village stream under our sarongs.

I can’t recommend this trip highly enough. An incredibly experience and put my own life into perspective.

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If you go, make sure you have good walking shoes bit also take flip flops for walking around village. A sarong for washing and a pack of wet wipes are useful too.

People from Laos are incredibly kind. They are respectful and humble. Surprisingly to me, every Laotian that I had the pleasure to get to know had a wicked sense of humour.

Lao is a conservative country and visitors should observe a few basic rules:
– Take your shoes off whenever you go inside. Anywhere.
– Cover your shoulders and knees – it’s a tourist town but respect the local culture.
– Don’t touch anyone’s head, very rude.
– Never ever point the soles of your fret towards anyone, especially a monk
– Tipping isn’t expected but if you get good service it’s good to how gratitude and it’s always appreciated

And a couple of Laos words go a long way:DSCN0761 Sa bai dee – hello
Kop chai (lei lei) – thank you (very much)

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Posted in: Asia, Destinations