Editor’s note: Our volunteer teams in the bi-directional learning and teaching project in Laos work hard, with a lot of verve and dedication. They study and learn interculturally, teach and tandem-teach, write weekly reports and blog posts, and carry out an individual “Special Task“. As the interviews with the returnees and their final reports reveal, they feel they have made significant progress professionally and personally through this project.
However, they also get time off to travel and explore Laos, a wildly beautiful country – so there is even more adventure and intercultural learning to be had in the process. Here is the account of Fabian‘s personal highlight.
My name is Fabian Stober and I was part of Team VI. When preparing for this adventure I started to look into activities and short trips that I could take during my time off work while in Laos. I found the following very interesting sites: Official Lao Tourism – website, 15 Best Places to Visit in Laos, Things to do in Laos.
I also came across this very nice video of an official campaign for the Year of Tourism in Laos 2018 to promote travels to Laos – and my special thanks goes to Ms Alexandra Bounxouei for kindly allowing me to use her video here:
There is also a whole Youtube Channel dedicated to this topic: Laos – Simply Beautiful.1
Once you start searching the Internet, you will find more and more videos that will fill you with wonderlust. During my search I stumbled across a tour called “Vang Vieng Challenge”. This seemed to be the perfect way to experience the vast Lao fauna as well as get some guaranteed adrenaline rushes…
Vang Vieng is a town in the north of Laos where the countryside starts to include mountains. It is about a six-hour bus ride from the capital Vientiane. Apart from activities in nature like hiking and zip-lining, the town and area around it are also very well known for river-tubing.
My teammate Julia Gruettner and I decided to take on this challenge, a two-day hiking/ zip lining/ abseiling experience. After one night in a hostel in Vang Vieng we were picked up by a very nice tuk-tuk, hammock included. We were dropped off at the tour agency and got our briefing for the upcoming two days. We had booked an open tour, which meant that other people would have been able to join us. But nobody else did – so we ended up having two tour guides just to ourselves, which was great.
Here you can have a look at the gradient of the tour.
Day 1 started with the hiking part of the tour, followed by the ascent to the camp for the night. After the first little mountain we hiked through a big valley, crossed fields and little streams – untouched nature and quiet at its best.
When the ascent began we got an idea why this is called a challenge. Within only two kilometers we hiked up 500 meters. The guides took care of everything. They brought lunch, kept warm rolled up in banana leaves. The leaves kept the food warm even after we had hiked for at least four hours – very impressive – so who needs an isolated bag or aluminium foil if you have those useful banana leaves! Also, they make a perfect plate and table cloth.
When we had eaten and strengthened ourselves again on this much-needed energy source, we did one zipline across a waterfall and onto the via ferrata (see picture below), which we climbed up to reach the camp. What a view from the top! After a little rest, we climbed up on the side of a 50-meter waterfall and did abseiling on the wall right through the water – what a feeling!
In the evening we enjoyed an amazing Lao dinner, freshly prepared by the guides, and we spent the night outside. It was so peaceful up there – and the sunrise on the next morning was spectacular.
When we had had a nice breakfast and packed up our hiking gear, we started our route back down. 11 ziplines later, and after some more abseiling and hiking, we arrived back at the starting point of our tour. Again the banana leaves proved most useful – before we left camp in the morning, our guide had prepared a nice lunch including rice and hot sauce. They kept it warm until we were back down.
We really had an amazing tour, a great adventure – and I highly recommend it. Laos has so much to offer and the only way is to jump right in and experience it yourself first hand!
1 Youtube “Laos Simply Beautiful” Channel at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yvBqepTXV4g and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mmdmo8QBMr0 (last accessed on 4 January 2020). Further videos to watch at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WO33nx7Clw4 (Lao version) and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pagU5-YKJ48 (English version).