You can travel on Intrepid’s Great Indochina Loop for probably less cash than you think, but group leader Dara Leonard wonders, “how do you put a price on real life experiences in a world beyond your own?”…
“We are so far from home right now”, was one of the excited comments from my group on our journey through South East Asia. We had set off that morning on what the locals call a “slow boat”, which takes two days to ply the Mekong River from Huay Xai, in northern Laos, to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Luang Prabang, Laos.
We stopped mid-day at a Laos village on the river bank to see a snapshot of what local life is like for many Lao people. This was quite a large village with approximately a thousand residents and as it was summer school holidays the children were there to greet our boat upon arrival. The kids were just as curious about us as we were about them and quickly it was broad smiles all round for the children and our group.
We then followed our local guide into the village, where we were greeted by some of the adults. Many of the adults were around as well because the sticky rice had been planted on the hilly slopes and the rainy season had set in. Now is the time to let Mother Nature do her thing and the villagers have some time to rest.
As we walked around the village we were shown different types of traditional Laos houses, made of weaved wicker walls and thatched roofs and some of the better constructed houses are made of wood. All the houses are on stilts and this allows for space below to be used during the hot hours of the day. Hammocks or benches are set up so people can relax in the cool shade. This village is only a few hours from the Thai border so they have electricity fed from Thailand, but that is not the case for most of the villages along the Mekong and the government is slowly working to bring power to these areas.
Continuing our walk we saw people sitting around tables under their houses sharing a meal and a shot of Lao Lao (rice wine whiskey). Further into the village we spotted turkeys, chickens and pigs, that undoubtedly would become dinner sometime soon. We also saw looms where the women do their weaving and were shown some of the natural ingredients that are used to dye the string.
After our short walk through the village it was time to wave goodbye to our new friends. We again boarded our boat and headed off down river, a million miles from our homes!”