Welcome to Far East Adventure Travel-The Podcast brought to you by Far East Adventure Travel Magazine-The May issue is now on the iTunes new stand checkout-Trekking extreme Northern Laos to Akha Hill Tribe Villages-app store-search far east adventure travel-download the app and subscribe today….
Hi there, this is John Saboe the publisher of Far East Adventure Travel Magazine
It was a month of discovery for me recently visiting Laos-first off let’s get the pronunciation straight-most people say Lao(s), but in the Lao language you don’t pronounce the s so it actually comes out Lao-and actually what you’ll see in many official government signs-PDR-People’s Democratic Republic of Lao with the s dropped.
OK now that’s out of the way I was actually in the country for 37 days-going 7 days past my visa and unable to extend due to government offices closed for Pi Mai, the Laos new year. I had to pay 10USD per day as a penalty when I left the country. All about planning and logistics and unfortunately I had none of those going for me on this trip.
I really like Laos and feel this will be the first of many visits. What do I like? For me it’s always the people first, and I really liked the people and their attitude for life. I met some travelers that said they didn’t find the people as friendly as some other countries in Southeast Asia. I didn’t find that at all. They have a little bit of a different attitude-they are not as outgoing or forwardly friendly sometimes. But they really don’t take anything too seriously. And maybe more humble, shy and don’t express their feelings the same way as other cultures. On my last day in Vientiane I was walking around the city and I had so many people greet me with smiles on the street-it was amazing-it was almost like they knew I was leaving and they were giving me a warm send-off.
The country itself is one of the least commercialized I have seen is most of Asia. You will not find the global fast food joints or brands, even in the capital of Vientiane, which I found completely refreshing.
And the pace is slow, even in the capital-I was so surprised when I first got to Vientiane-I rented a motorbike for a couple of my days there and had no problem driving around through traffic and the city.
I loved the pace, the cafe’s and little restaurant’s and bars. There are so many and I was surprised that there were so many obviously geared towards Westerners, which I found surprising as Laos is one of the least visited countries in this part of Southeast Asia. There are a lot of NGO’s here, there is also a United Nations’ office so quite a large expat community which I think explains why there are so many places catering to this group. It’s great if you are a traveler!
It’s a real bargain in my opinion especially if you want to feel like you are travelling in high style. There are so many options in some of the cities, especially Vientiane, Vang Vieng now, and Luang Prabang for boutique hotels. Typically you can pay less than 35USD a night to stay in a lovely boutique hotel. To stay in a decent inn or guesthouse with attached bathroom, wifi can go for less than 20USD and in some cases 10USD. A 5 course meal with 2 glasses of wine less than $25 per person.
I focused my travels and exploration north of Vientiane saving the south for another trip. This part of the country has the most potential for adventure travel and I have lots to talk about and share
In this months edition of Far East Adventure Travel Magazine I focused on my trek to a couple of remote Akha villages in the extreme north walking out of the town of Phongsoli
The Akha hill tribe people originate from China but due to various wars throughout the last couple of centuries they have spread out and are now found in China, Thailand, Vietnam, Burma, and Laos.
The villages in and around Phongsoli in Northern Laos are some of the most authentic in all of Southeast Asia- meaning they cannot be accessed by roads. The people especially the women wear the traditional clothing everyday and they are not geared to tourists other than having a host family or two in the village where you’ll sleep and eat.
Very challenging getting to the town of Phongsoli from where I was staying in Luang Prabang Laos. My only option was to take local buses which were very uncomfortable, overcrowded. It did show me how challenging it is for local people travelling to and from home in the north.
Once I did reach Phongsoli we started the trek on a trail built by the French during the Vietnam war. We also had to cross a couple of rivers during our trek over 3 days one of which was waist deep.
That along with the thick bamboo filled jungle, negotiating around areas of slash and burn, knowing tigers lived in the region but unlikely to cross their path as their numbers were so small definitely will give you a great adventure high, some cool stories to tell. We actually did confirm later that villagers had spotted tigers in the past.
Of course the highlight and purpose of the trek was to see the Akha villages and I was not disappointed.It truly was an authentic experience right from spotting the chiefs private opium garden to my first encounter with some Ahka women working in the fields. It really was interesting when I first saw them.They just didn’t seem real at first. There they were in their traditional clothes that were adorned with silver and coins, barefoot picking at the dirt with their hoes. I felt like I was dropped right into a National Geographic documentary.
Growing up with TV as your reference for these kind of images probably explains why I felt this way.
It was very challenging getting pictures of the Akha, particularly the women. They were quite often not interested or just simply refused to have their pictures taken. I was also surprised that a lot of the children were the same.
I did manage to get some interesting images of the Akha, women, men and children, and they are all part of this months issue of Far East Adventure Travel Magazine.
That’s it for this week’s edition of Far East Adventure Travel-The Podcast brought to you by Far East Adventure Travel Magazine. You can find the app by simply going to the itunes app store, search far east adventure travel and download either the iphone or ipad app or both, then subscribe, previous issues are also now available individually.
Till next time this is John Saboe, safe travels and Namaste!
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