- Travel Topics
When we arrived in Luang Prabang, the capital of Laos, we were amazed at how touristy it was. There were restaurants…everywhere, and all of the sudden the meals that we had grown accustomed to were 2-3 times more expensive for seemingly no apparent reason. It was hot, and our tuk tuk driver took us for a 45 minute ride around town, not because we wanted to go site seeing but because he had no idea where our hostel was but didn’t want to admit it.
Still it was charming in a way and we made the most of it. We connected with David from That Gay Backpacker, who we recently interviewed on our blog, to grab a meal. Vicky took a cooking class, her first one in Laos, and being the social butterfly that she is met a few students and all of us including David went hiking just outside the city to see some nearby waterfalls.
Our real treat, however, came when we volunteered at Big Brother Mouse. Big Brother Mouse is an organization that sells children’s books, encouraging people to buy the books and distribute among Laotian villages where the children may have never owned books before. On top of that it is a place where Laotians go and talk with foreigner volunteers to practice their English. It’s completely voluntary and you can simply walk right in on any evening. The conversations usually last for one to two hours and it mostly consists of helping with their English homework and exchanging cultural knowledge.
Usually with these things Vicky and I are always excited about the idea, but when the time comes we drag our feet a bit because we’re lazy and it’s something extra to do, however after we’ve done it we feel great.
In this case it worked out even better than usual.
Vicky and I split up and I had two girls to talk to and Vicky had two guys, all of college age. While I had a nice chat with my group, Vicky and her pupils really hit it off and they invited both of us to join them the following day for a sort of class day party on the beach. We’re always on the hunt for local activities so we were definitely on board.
We arrived the next day a bit apprehensive and unsure of what to expect. It would be us and about 30 other Laotians hanging out and playing games on the beach. Not to sound full of myself but when you’re the sole foreigner in a group of 30 locals you tend to be the center of attention. A lot of people watch you to see what you’re doing and how you react and you have to be prepared to answer dozens of questions.
Luckily our two friends Noy and Khen, who Vicky met the previously night, didn’t leave us hanging and were stellar about introducing us to their friends. Class day at the beach started off with a bang. In typical Lao fashion there was a lot of dancing, which mostly involves walking around in a circle and moving your hands gracefully – or in my case clumsy steps and nervous twitches. Long gone are the days of dancing in Chengdu Park – in those times I had the moves.
One of the more peculiar things of the day was the dressware. All of the girls were dressed rather fashionably, and fully clothed head to toe despite it being about 40 degrees Celsius and sunny. Yet again, I don’t know how they could stand it. To top it off, we all went swimming in the river and basically not a single person removed any of their clothing – imagine diving into a pool in your Sunday’s best.
For lunch we had a real local meal with a lot of rice and fish, which we ate with our hands.
What’s a day at the beach without volleyball? We set up a net and picked teams. I was nominated captain, probably because I was about a foot taller than everyone else. I played about 5 games with multiple teams and despite my confidence that this was going to be a walk in the park, I didn’t win a single game. I blame my supporting cast though as there were a few girls who rather than hit the ball liked to watch it crash into the sand and then giggle while covering their mouths. Sigh.
I redeemed myself with the balloon popping game however, which consisted of running up to a net, which had tapioca-filled balloons tied to it, and popping them with a toothpick in your mouth – pretty ingenious actually. My height surely didn’t let me down this time – Vicky struggled hardcore though.
Overall Luang Prabang is really a fantastic city and we spent nearly a week there, which is quite long for us. It’s definitely not off the beaten path but it has a great market and some neat things to do in the city and the surrounding area. Moreover, it’s definitely worth checking out Big Brother Mouse when you’re there. These are exactly the types of things that lead to unforgettable experiences – so don’t pass them up if you have the time!