Ok, so I will start by saying I LOVE LAOS. The people are among the nicest is Southeast Asia, the landscape is luscious, and the towns are quaint. However, my experience being a not-so-great one has nothing to do with the people of Laos, rather the foreigners that owned the tour company we booked through (who will remain anonymous).
Anyway, prior to our arrival, I arranged for our hotel to pick us up from the airport in Luang Prabang. He (one of the members of the family that owned the hotel) was sooooo nice! Side note: A handful of Asian hotels will require you to send information similar to that on Visa Cards like passport info, career, etc. So, they already knew I was a teacher before getting there. And I loved that he felt comfortable enough to ask me how to name and pronounce things in English. Not to mention, they really went out of their way to make us feel at home!
Now, fast forward to our Jungle Trek Tour. I had arranged for our tour online before arriving in Luang Prabang. BIG MISTAKE! If you plan on jungle trekking in Laos, wait to book until you get there! There are so many companies on the main road, and I could have better judged who and what we were working with in person. Instead, I jumped-the-gun and booked a $150/pp tour and personally felt the company did NOT deliver. Our tour guide was super informative along the trek, and really sweet, but here are the questions I wish I had asked before our trek:
Ok…ok…based on my questions you’re probably thinking what did you expect? You’re in the middle of the jungle! But when you pay a lot of USD in a poor country… you expect to get some of your money’s worth! I’m not sure where our $450 went to, but it wasn’t our meals.
Our meals were primarily empty calories with a few veggies but no protein, which led to illnesses and fatigue. And when you’re hiking through the hot jungle for 7 hours a day, you kinda want some nutrition to keep you going. We were told water would be provided and carried by the guide. It wasn’t. And, I should have asked about the bedding. I don’t think the sheets had ever been washed, and some had rat feces in them. A tent on the ground would have been cleaner and more comfortable.
Again, this is my fault for not asking the right questions. I could have better prepared myself by bringing protein snacks like jerky or protein bars. I also would have brought a day pack and my own sleeping bag. So these are the things I learned the hard way, and that you can learn from me! Here is a suggested list of items to bring on your Jungle Adventure:
That being said….. nothing can take away from the amazing views we saw and experiences we had with the tribes!
Here’s what I mean:
Our last couple of days were kind of a blur. I became extremely ill with a high fever, upset stomach… it was terrible! But there was a festival going on, …., which lifted my spirits!
PEAK: Being in the jungle! It was so surreal to see the tribes and scenery that looked like it came straight-out-of National Geographic! Seeing the way they lived, survived, and thrived on the land was very humbling. It truly made us grateful for what we saw and what we have. And, truth be told, made us reevaluate the things we truly need and what we could do without. Running water = necessity $15 taxi ride = luxury. Our perspective is completely different. These people live with the bare minimum! And they are ok! They are happy and somewhat healthy. (I’m still confused as to why they had so much livestock but never ate it?)
PIT: Hmmm… well, getting sick reallllllly sucked! But to be honest, my mom and Joey complaining the whole time. Joey complaining: I don’t understand. Why did they say they’d be responsible for carrying water if they aren’t. Do they expect us to just live off rice? Why are we sleeping in these huts and they’re in a fully functional house? And Mom complaining about how exhausted she was: Ugh, this water bottle is too heavy! Can you fit this in your bag? I don’t think I can go on. Oh my God, this is so hard. I can’t climb up this ladder, could you lift me over? (Mind you, the water bottle being the ONLY thing she had to carry, as I had both of our belonging on my back.) And, my mom is very, physically capable of walking! She may have Alzheimer’s but she isn’t helpless…. yet. Needless to say, it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience…. literally. I’m never doing a trip like this with them again, haha.
Wheew! That was a lot of information… thank you for staying with me!! Haha. If you have any questions, feel free to ask!