“The best trips are usually unplanned, random, spontaneous and most importantly fun.”
This is the most accurate quote for my trip to Laos last weekend. Two friends and I last minute (and I mean the day of) booked a night bus to the capitol city: Vientiene, Laos. Our friend Logan had just visited Laos a few weekends before and told us all the amazing things he did and saw, so I knew I had to travel there. From Vientiene we took a van 3 hours through the windy underdeveloped roads to a little backpacker town named Vang Vieng. Laos opened my eyes in ways I never thought possible. Coming to Thailand I thought it was pretty underdeveloped, but Laos took it to a whole new level. I saw many adults walking around barefoot and ripped clothing selling fruit or little trinkets they made themselves just to put dinner on the table at the end of the day. Just the venue of the village showed you how underdeveloped the country was with the shacks serving as houses, dirt roads, and the amount of poverty I saw. But despite all of this, I met the most genuine and happy people I have ever met in my life here. This trip to Laos really made me take a step back and realize how easy we have things in the States. We take even the simplest things for granted and Laos really taught me to become more aware of the way I live life and that the things I worry about are minuscule compared to the things going on there.
I took a 3 ½ mile bike ride through the village to a blue lagoon at the base of a mountain. As I was biking through the village I could see very clearly inside the houses because none of them had doors. One house I remember vividly had only two blankets on the floor serving as a bed, and a fan. Nothing else. I also saw the owner of the house boiling water outside over a fire since none of the water there was safe to drink. This is when I really got a sense of the culture here and how I wanted to show my respect here and prove myself not to be the typical American that everyone has a stereotype for. The woman noticed me biking by and gave me the most beautiful and happy smile and waved, and I smiled back and greeted her by saying “sabadee.”
Children were walking back home from school on the side of the road and that showed me how safe this village is. One thing I kept thinking about when I saw all these things was, “wow. What a way of life. What an amazing way to grow up.” Children were actually enjoying themselves playing soccer with each other and running around having fun outside. Today that’s becoming very uncommon back in the states.
After the blue lagoon we biked back to our hostel located on the main road of Vang Vieng. We went to bed pretty early because we planned a pretty exciting and packed day the next day. When we woke up, we ate breakfast and got picked up by the bus that took us about 30 minutes up the mountain to a spot by a river where we went tubing through the caves. This was one of the scariest yet most exciting things I’ve done for the fact of my huge fear of being in water when it’s dark. The cave was pitch black, and the only way we could see where we were going was from a head light our tour guide provided us with. At first I was doing alright and not really thinking about the fact that I had no idea what was swimming under me until I felt something slimy and warm slide across my back. I lost it after that. My tour guide couldn’t quit laughing at how scared I was how much I was freaking out. I tried lying on top of my tube to where no parts of my body touched the water until we reached sunlight again.
After our tube tour through the cave we stopped for lunch before our next adventure. We were sitting on a big rock near the river watching 5 little boys play in the water and catch fish with a water bottle. Someone handed them a plate of rice and all of them were fighting over it and scarfing it down. When I saw this my heart fell to my stomach and I thought about anything I could do to give them more food. My friends and I had leftover bread and bananas from our lunch so I grabbed them from our table and brought them down to the boys. They snatched them up so quick I don’t think they even had a chance to see what kind of food it was. This brought tears to my eyes. It immediately made me regret every bite I had just taken of my own lunch because there are others that need it way more than I did.
After we hung out with the boys for a little bit we had to leave for our next adventure: kayaking. This was my first time kayaking so I was pretty nervous but I was in the kayak with my friend Sami who was pretty much an expert kayaker so that helped a lot. The view while kayaking was unbelievable. Huge mountains in the backgrounds with beautiful trees lining the river. The water was so clear and in some shallow spots you could see all of the colorful rocks beneath.
We ended our trip with a hot air balloon ride over Vang Vieng before catching our bus back to Bangkok. This was absolutely breathtaking. It was completely silent and peaceful looking out at the mountains and village under us.
I will remember my trip to Laos and all the feelings I had and things I saw forever. This trip made me so thankful for all of the things I have and experiences I get to do. It also taught me to chill out and not worry about the things that I think are a big deal because there are much bigger things others are worrying about and I saw that first hand.