Why celebrate the start of a new year only once? If you time your trip right, you could enjoy another chance to start afresh and feel cleansed, plus have a whole lot of fun in the process.
My friend Catie and I went on an epic 9-week adventure through Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. The trip was one of the best I have taken and included everything from snorkeling off Phu Quoc Island in South Vietnam, to staying with a local family in the country side of Cambodia and timing our trip to coincide with a fantastic local festival in Laos.
We’ve all been there! Endured those travel moments when language barriers are too big to overcome and the result is an embarrassing scene that one day we’ll laugh about, just like Cindie Schofield’s little misunderstanding in Laos…
“Getting a massage in Luang Prabang was quite a memorable experience. It was my first professional massage ever and the female masseuse spoke absolutely no English. She handed me the disposable underwear wrapped in a plastic bag and waived her arms around in front of me while speaking very fast Laotion and then she disappeared out of the change room.
Bringing home souvenirs is a wonderful way to keep your travel memories alive, but when shopping for precious mementos it’s important to make responsible purchases. For example, be certain that products are not made from endangered species and try to buy locally produced items. Intrepid’s Carl Needham shares his tips on responsible shopping in Laos…
“When we go on holiday we all love to shop for souvenirs and handcrafted products. A really good way to support local communities and to put money back into the countries we visit is to buy handicrafts from local villages or cooperatives.
As a child, Miss Chanh felt hopeless. She was born with clubfeet and could not run around like the other kids. She had great difficulty walking and had to use crutches to move around. Chanh lives in the very beautiful and mountainous Oudomxay province in the north west of Laos.
Although the treatment now offered through the centres for babies born with clubfoot is non-invasive and highly successful, it was not available 20 years ago when Chanh was born. During her teens, Chanh received an orthotic, but over time it broke and was painful.
A challenge for vulnerable youth in many communities is finding the opportunity to forge their future. If you have been raised in poverty, homelessness or suffering other disadvantages, finding a right fit might simply be having your eyes opened to possibility. Such possibilities were recently presented to a group of young Laotian men, who are training in mechanics with Peuan Mit, a project supported by The Intrepid Foundation and based in Vientiane.
The 14 young men went on a study trip to a large Kolao workshop accompanied by their teachers. At Kolao, they met the head of the mechanics garage and the manager. Kolao is a Korean brand of motorcycle that is extremely popular in Laos, so the mechanics students learn every possible way to repair and service them because in their future job, they are most likely to see these models.
We are pleased to share some news with you from our friends at one of the most popular Intrepid Foundation supported projects of them all, the Tat Kuang Si Bear Rescue Centre. Their Laos program managers, Jane and Jude write:
“We have had a busy few months with the completion of our fantastic bear nursery area and bear house refurbishment. Our five cubs, confiscated by the Laos government last year, are now happily settled in their new home packed with all kinds of fun enrichment items, such as a pool, twig boxes and lots of hammocks! These bears have had a lucky escape and would almost certainly have been sold to bile farms in neighbouring China or Vietnam had they not been rescued and brought here. These cubs bring the current number of bears rescued to 23, all of which keep us very busy and constantly expanding our facilities so that we can provide safe sanctuary for them.
When travelling through South East Asia you’ll come across many amazing highlights and hidden gems. Jack Horder spent a few months doing just that and he’s whittled the list of wonders down to his top 5…
“With the strong Aussie dollar continuing to linger and the reeling international tourism industry offering unprecedented deals, there has never been a better time to travel through South East Asia. A budget traveller’s paradise, South East Asia offers a taste of the exotic as well as being a historical and culinary treasure. Here are just a few of my must-see destinations:
Ever wondered what it’s like to travel through South East Asia with no sound? Earlier this year Intrepid’s Nicola Gibson and fellow leader Savath had the pleasure of leading a group of 12 deaf travellers on the Great Indochina Loop. The trip gave them the opportunity to experience new pleasures and emotions throughout South East Asia, that may have otherwise gone unnoticed…
“When you travel through Indochina, try covering your ears and let your other senses override to experience the following… Spring rolls, Pad Thai, pancakes, even crickets and silk worms, the smell of street food cooking fills the air in Bangkok. Absorb the atmosphere of the vibrant non-stop city, as the bright lights of bars and tuk tuks whiz past you in the street.
While we are enjoying the grand temples of Vientiane, the mighty Mekong region and the towering limestone karst scenery of Laos, there is a big problem that needs our attention. Where there is poverty and large numbers of relatively affluent visitors, sadly there are also opportunistic exploiters of children.
Intrepid is a proud supporter of the ChildSafe network in South East Asia and their work to protect children from all kinds of abuse. Part of the Intrepid Foundation’s 2009 donation to Peuan Mit in Laos is contributing towards ChildSafe training for hotel staff.