On our 6 month journey, Phi and I have had some amazing experiences, some unforgettable treks and soaked in so many different cultures. Our experience trekking in the Laos jungle ranks really near the top. When we arrived in Laos, we really wanted to do something away from as many tourists as possible that allowed us to really experience what life and culture is really like in Laos. We discovered much more than we ever could of hoped for.
The trek we decided on was a 3 day, 2 night trek. Each night we were to stay in a different village with a local village family. These villages were said to be remote and we’d get to experience daily life for most Laotians. Our food was supposed to come from each village along the way.
Meeting at the tour office around 8 AM on Day 1, we were introduced to Chansi (our guide) and the other trekkers, Bernard/Julia (Switzerland). We had about a 90 minute bus ride to the trail head and a short boat ride across a river before we set off.
What was so great about this trek?
- Getting to experience how Laotians live: We were exposed to life in remote villages. There was basically no electricity, no mattresses or beds, no running water or any other western comforts we are accustomed to. Yet, everybody was so happy. There were many farm animals including cows, pigs, horses, chickens and roosters (they wake everyone up around 4:30 each morning). Everyone had dogs. Everyone grew vegetables. People went to bed shortly after the sun went down and rose as the roosters started calling in the morning. It was great to share their lives for a short 3 days.
- Beautiful people: Everyone was so happy and welcoming of us visiting their village. Through our guide translating, many people asked where we were from, what we did and how we enjoy Laos. They invited us to dinner, encouraged us to eat with them and loved to be photographed! It’s really eye opening how happy everyone we encountered was. We were so moved by the people we met in Laos, we published a separate post: Faces of Laos.
- Our guide: Chansi was easily the best guide we’ve ever had. He was genuinely interested in making our experience memorable. He also spoke great English and was really dedicated to continuing to learn and practice. Chansi was from a nearby village and attended school in one of the villages we slept in. He spent so much time and effort talking to us about education, medicine, religious beliefs, the differences between each tribe we visited, food preparation and opportunities within the villages. He didn’t rush us anywhere and gave us freedom to explore on our own too. Since finishing the trek, we have kept in touch with him.
- Food: All of our meals were true farm to table experiences. The rice, vegetables, eggs and meat (when available) all came from the villages. This is how they eat every day. Everything was also really delicious. We got to experience sugar cane, buffalo skin and eating rice and eggs with our hands.
- Trekking: The trekking was phenomenal, but really was secondary to the experience we had. Our days had us trekking 5-7 hours through beautiful jungle environments. We got to experience so many sights and sounds that we don’t have in the U.S.
- Fellow trekkers: Bernard and Julia are traveling for 8 months. They spent 3 months biking in Europe and are spending 5 months traveling in Asia. They were very like minded to us. It was great talking to them about their travels as well as comparing Switzerland to the United States.
- Escaping tourists: Other than Bernard and Julia in our group, we are really happy to report that didn’t see any other tourists for the entire 3 days.