An Epic Journey of a Volunteer in Laos – Travel Adventures

An Epic Journey of a Volunteer in Laos – Travel Adventures

The kids look up to you with intrigue in their eye, sitting on the dusty concrete floor, slowly eating their lunches as curiosity floats through their mind as to what these strange foreigners are doing in their school.

They have seen foreigners before, it’s not unusual to the school kids to see a volunteer teach english in Laos, but to wander through the school grounds with fellow volunteers from abroad is an experience to saviour.

They stare at you with curious eyes, some smile, a few frown and some of the kids run up to you as if you are a Rock star here to perform a hit concert.

However I am far from Rock stars, not even close, I am a volunteer in Laos here to lend a helping hand and hopefull y make another persons day better.

However, you wave, smile and hand out a few high fives, and it instantly hits you at what you’re doing in Laos and you have sudden pride in the decision to volunteer abroad.

It’s an experience like no other to be volunteering in Laos, travelling into an undeveloped country with little infrastructure and dodgy roads full of pot holes.

The smell in the air is different to what you are used to at home and their way of living comes unique to the standards of western civilisation.

Yet, you don’t let it deter you. It’s why you choose to do volunteering in Laos duties and to support those who need it most.

Of course, you can’t change the world, but for a fleeting moment, you can change the experience of someone’s life and bring happiness to others.

The life changing moments are achieved by doing little things in life, and you create a lasting memory which will last a lifetime.

 

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Volunteer in Laos

A group shot with monks and volunteers in Laos.

 

An Epic Journey of a Volunteer in Laos – Travel Adventures

 

 

What triggered the decision to do Volunteer Work in Laos?

I have travelled to some fabulous destinations throughout Southeast Asia, stayed in some luxury resorts, drinking booze by the pool and have been on some incredible adventures through a variety stunning scenery.

I felt the need to do something different this time, to give back to a community that needed a helping hand. Therefore, I made the decision to do some volunteer work overseas and the only decision to make next, was which organisation to volunteer with? And which country to visit?

I searched a few voluntary services overseas on the internet, studied the many countries available, the prices and the programs on offer. Some organisations were quite hefty in price, so I went with the more affordable International Volunteer Headquarters (IVHQ).

At the end of the day, the IVHQ organisations were professional and thorough; the only thing to do was to pay the fees and choose which country to do my volunteer travel experience.

Amongst several eye-catching destinations, I narrowed it down to Nepal and Laos, and for no particular reason, I chose to volunteer in Laos.

 

Vientiane, Laos

A view of Vientiane, Laos

 

The Green Lion Volunteer Organisations

Once your dealings with IVHQ are concluded, you are more or less handed over to the organisation running the organisation in Laos, which is The Green Lion, tot that contact with IVHQ is ever lost. Two great guys run the Green Lion in Laos, brothers, in fact, Micky and Ticky.
They pick you up from the airport and help prepare plans for a weekend away. Micky and Ticky also work through any translations required with the locals and provide the schools or monasteries to teach English during your volunteering work.

The accommodation is a little away from the Laos Capital, Vientiane and there is not a great deal to do at the placement, except to visit a few local markets and play sport with the locals and other volunteers.

The rooms are dorm style, with three bunk beds in each room and a small bathroom. Thankfully, it’s not fully occupied, although you’re still not alone in the dorms.

In the placement area on the Green Lion grounds, there is a kitchen and dining area. A common social area under a terrace that overlooks the fields and a small water feature. There is occasional WIFI, and a boutique sports field made entirely of a gravel playing field.

 

The Green Lion

Volunteer in Laos at The Green Lion.

Volunteer in Laos

Playing sport is a popular past time during volunteering.

 

A Splash of Culture when you Volunteer

Entering the Green Lion organisation, it’s not just about getting into the nitty and gritty of your volunteering work.

The program begins with a step through a little educational Laos Culture, starting with making flowers for the monks and delivering it to their very own temple where they lived their every day lives at the Vat Pana Khoun Temple.

Not only did we offer the monks the hand-made flowers but we received a spiritual and deep meditation lesson from the gracious monks themselves. Learning and doing new things had well and truly began.

The culture trip in our Loas travel continued through the week with a day trip into the capital city in Vientiane, where we learnt about the tragic tale of the cluster bombs, a tragic tale that destroyed many innocent lives long after they were ejected from a U.S war plane during the Vietnam War.

We wandered the streets of Vientiane, making our way into a few low-key markets, shopping malls and the Patuxai War Monument which is a proud landmark of the country.

The best bit, however, was entering the Golden Palace, a stunning Buddhist temple, decorated with symbolic statues seen regularly throughout the South East Asian countries. Laos tourism has a lot to work with to get more travellers into the country.

 

COPE museum

A display of cluster bombs at COPE museum in Vientiane, Laos.

 

Further into the week we ventured deep into a local village, a real highlight of work in Laos, as we walked down the dusty gravel road and witnessed how the locals lived during a typical day.

The houses are made of wood, and there are no windows. Everyone is smiling, and the kids are playing on the streets without a care in the world. It’s terrific to see a different world to what you’re used to.

A hike through some beautiful Laos bush-lands in humid conditions capped off culture week, finishing on top of a rock with a great view of the countryside in Laos.

It was the perfect spot for a picnic lunch with the fellow volunteers, although there was no respite from the heat. The food prepared was a treat with a variety of different Lao meals to go around.

 

Laos Village

Hard work in Laos Village.

Lying Buddha at Golden Palace, Laos

Lying Buddha at the Golden Palace.

 

 

Teaching English to the Monks

From an outside perspective, I have always viewed the monks as extraordinary people, and they are exactly that, special and fantastic gentlemen.

To approach a monk, to even communicate or to even shake one’s hand, from my perspective, I always thought it would be on the forbidden side.

Not that I had previous dealings with monks beforehand, and any knowledge I did obtain was simply a guess. I had to volunteer in Laos to change that perspective and how wrong I had been.

It was a privilege to be in the presence of the monks, to talk with them, to teach them and to even laugh with these great men.

In life, no matter the person or their position in the world, everyone is a human being first a that is a great lesson to know. That rule is no exception to the monks.

They have a great sense of humour, full of wit, character and at times, even a little cheeky. If that’s not enough, the monks in Laos also go on Facebook, and if you befriend a couple, you’ll see they’re quite active throughout their day.

Besides their excellent character, sense of humour and their obsession with Facebook, the monk’s willingness to learn English was astounding and they were simply a pleasure to teach.

Communicating at times was quite tricky, but they never shied away from the challenge of learning English and their development over time gradually improved. Even if our time as a global volunteer in Laos was short-lived.

 

Volunteer in Laos

Teaching Monks, a great way to Volunteer in Laos.

Teaching English to the monks

Teaching English to the monks.

 

The Challenge of teaching English to the primary-aged kids

I always knew this journey would be a challenge, I mean not one of the volunteers are teachers by profession, we only know how to speak English.

The kids idolised the volunteers from the moment you walk into the school grounds, but to maintain the focus of a child who couldn’t speak our language, was another challenge completely. Although that’s the life of an international volunteer abroad and that’s the challenge to overcome such obstacles.

They had the fundamentals of English, in terms of counting, shapes and the alphabet, but to go further than the basics was when the roadblocks began.

All over again, I had to learn kid songs and basic games to hold their attention(my kids had passed that stage). To the best of my ability to teach English, I tried to entertain the kids when boredom started to sink in, trying being the keyword.

It was these kinds of challenges that made me sign up for the Laos volunteer programs in the first place.

The unbridled joy came when everything clicked together, and the students would burst out in full voice, to make everything seem worthwhile. It was hard work but high reward daily.

 

teaching English

School kids look on in the classroom.

teaching English

Teaching the primary kids is a lot of fun.

 

 

Getting along with fellow volunteers from all over the world

An unknown when volunteering abroad is who will be joining you on the adventure.

Upon entering the program, you anticipate a lot of things, and you expect volunteers to be of different nationalities and different age groups.

You can imagine my surprise when I rocked up at the Green Lion Organisation, and a majority of the volunteers were university students. At the tender age of 35, I was the oldest at the program by a considerable margin.

During my time at the placement, there were seven French people, two Danish girls, two Malaysian women, a Dutch woman, an Englishmen and a Canadian. I was the lone Aussie.

All the volunteers were youthful, at least to me, but they’re great young people, who had good intentions. We’re there for a common cause, to volunteer and to lend a helping hand any way we could.

It was a pleasure to meet such fine people, and forever there will be great memories of the time spent together. Especially during those tense volleyball matches against the French.

 

Settling into Volunteering

Settling into Volunteering/

 

An Experience that I will Never forget

To volunteer in Laos, is an experience that I’ll never forget and a journey I am glad I participated in at least once in my life.

Memories were created, friendships were made and I can only hope that I reached out to people who needed a lending hand or to even have a good laugh for a short while.

It was an incredible adventure and there were challenges when venturing into an underdeveloped country.

If you ever have a chance to volunteer, and the finances permit, take the journey into volunteering organisations and give back to travel where you can, because it is a rewarding experience that you will never forget.

 

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Mediatation time

Meditation time.

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A Very Basic Travel Guide to Vang Vieng in Laos

A Very Basic Travel Guide to Vang Vieng in Laos

Vang Vieng in Laos is an area of stunning surrounds that will captivate you immediately as you make your way into the popular tourist town and begin your next adventure in the up and coming Southeast Asia country. It is different to it’s neighbouring city of Vientiane, three-hours down the road, Vang Vieng is a bubbly township, but its lure to the area are the epic mountains that are visible throughout and the flowing rivers are what make Vang Vieng the perfect adventure for those who love the outdoor life and the spice of party life.

In this basic travel guide to Vang Vieng, you will see the major highlights and attractions, that will make you want to get on a bus, tame the bendy roads and make your way to the popular area for what promises to be an epic adventure with thrills and Adrenalin in the country of Laos.

 

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Nam Song River, Vang Vieng Laos.

 

Travel Guide to Vang Vieng in Laos

 

Where is Vang Vieng in Laos

Vang Vieng Laos is situated in the Vientiane Province and is a good three hours drive north of the Capital City of Laos, also known as Vientiane. Although Vientiane to Vang Vieng is only about a hundred kilometres in distance and seems much closer than you think when looking on the map, poor and bendy roads make the trek that little bit longer and car sickness may creep in during the trip.

 

travel guide to Vang Vieng in Laos

Enter the streets of Vang Vieng in Laos.

 

Where to stay in Vang Vieng

Vang Vieng accommodation is very affordable and can be found throughout the town, whether it is crowded hostel for next to nothing, or a budget hotel for around $25 a night, whatever it is you seek you will find the appropriate accommodation to suit any budget.

I strongly recommend the Laos Haven Hotel and Spa, nice hotel that will cost you around 30 bucks a night. The hotel comes with tidy private room, air conditioning, television and a bathroom. There is also a boutique swimming pool which comes in handy when wanting to keep cool in the Laos heat.

You can look for more hotel options in Vang Vieng on Booking.com.

 

Laos haven Hotel

The swimming pool of Laos Haven hotel.

 

Eating and drinking in Vang Vieng

You will not go hungry or thirsty in Vang Vieng with several great bars and restaurants to drink or dine at that won’t break the bank. Whether it is a local meal at one of the restaurants by the river with epic views, or any random restaurant along the busy streets of the city, you’ll find delicious local and international meal to suit any taste bud.

If dancing, drinking and mingling with other party goers then visiting the Vang Vieng Party town is certainly your forte, with the the Sakura Bar needing to be on top of your list. It’s full on entertainment with crazy music, beer ping pong and cocktails to keep those dancing bodies shaking for a great night out in Vang Vieng. Also, the staff love to hand out plenty of complimentary drinks to keep the party going that little bit longer. Perhaps their free drink offers is to compliment the higher price it cost to purchase an alcohol Beveridge, but heck, it all evens out in the end.

 

Sakura Bar Vang Vieng

Get the party started at Sakura Bar.

Vang Vieng

The Riverhill Restaurant in Vang Vieng.

 

 

Things to do in Vang Vieng

A Vang Vieng travel guide is not complete without discussing the outdoors and this area is a must for any traveller who loves the thrills of  great outdoors. With the stunning mountains and the beautiful Nam Song River at your mercy, these stunning attractions are well utilised with many day trips available in area which can include a little Laos river tubing, zip-lining and kayaking.

You can do all these things at a very affordable price and create many crazy adventures of various activities during your time in Vang Vieng. Let’s check out a list of awesome activities you can do and don’t forget to book awesome Vang Vieng Tours through Klook and save big!!!

 

Here is a list of activities you can do in Vang Vieng

 

Kayaking the Nam Song River

A kayaking session creates stunning views, but the rapid waters give you a kayaking experience to remember on the Nam Song River. At one stage, you are admiring the views around you and next you are paddling furiously through the shallow water and trying to remain upright on the kayak.

Picturesque Vang Vieng

Kayaking the Nam Song River in Picturesque Vang Vieng.

 

Hot air Ballooning

Witness picturesque Vang Vieng with a glorious bird’s eye view of the surrounding area and whatever you do, don’t forget your camera as memories are bound to be made and captured while navigating the friendly skies.

 

Get an Adrenalin rush with Zip-lining

Get ready for a rush at high speeds with a zip-lining adventure that will get the blood pumping and maybe for a few of you, the lungs screaming. Many hairy moments will come your way while participating in the zip-lining course that is simply amazing, don’t forget to pause for a moment and admire the amazing views that are simply breathtaking.

 

Vang vieng travel guide

Zip-line and witness some thrills and glorious scenery.

 

Adventures in a dark water cave

I hope you are not afraid of the dark as you embark on an adventure that Indiana Jones would be proud to compete in. Swim in cold water, slide down muddy slides and crawl in dark caves as you conquer the darkness with a headlight being your only companion. Beware of all the spiders during your adventure, they are everywhere in the dark Vang Vieng caves, but it’s not as scary as you think.

 

Vang Vieng

Have an adventure in the caves.

 

The Magic of Blue Lagoon

You will fall in love with The Blue Lagoon upon arrival, even if the large crowds may make it a little disparaging. Clean fresh water, welcome shade from the heat and a chance to chill and relax in the refreshing water, makes your time at the Blue lagoon a perfect pit-stop when you need a break from other strenuous activities in the surrounding the township.

That’s a wrap of the very basic travel guide to Vang Vieng in Laos, be sure to get there through your travels in the country and enjoy a new kind of experience in South East Asia. It will be different, but quite memorable nonetheless.

 

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Blue Lagoon, Vang Vieng

Blue Lagoon in Vang Vieng

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Active and Busy Walking the Streets of Vientiane in Laos

Active and Busy Walking the Streets of Vientiane in Laos

There is something a little different about walking the streets of Vientiane in Laos, it’s not your usual Southeast Asian city.

Sure, it still has the food stalls that spread out through the streets, where you remain unsure whether the food is safe to eat (with the consequences being a week on the toilet), I know that I’m always wary of street food.

Laos still has the vibrant marketplaces where a bargain is sure to be found, and the strong Buddhism flavour that is the main strength of religion in Southeast Asia, and the values that the locals live strongly by every day.

Visiting the Laos Capital in Vientiane? Check out great prices for hotels at Booking.com!

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King Anouvong statue

King Anouvong statue, Vientiane.

 

Furthermore, Vientiane has other familiarities of their Asian counterparts, for instance, stray dogs that are busy wandering the streets and at times will join you at the dining table.

There are the taxis and tuc-tucs drivers on the side of the road that are willing to take you around the city to earn a buck or two, and of course, Vientiane has that familiar smell in the air that lets you know you are very much in the heart of Southeast Asiaand I’m not saying that’s a bad thing either, at least in my opinion.

The obvious difference when walking the streets of Vientiane compared to its neighbouring Southeast Asian cities in the likes of Bangkok and Hanoi, is the population. The hustle and bustle does not exist in Vientiane, or at least to a much lesser extent, and how awesome is that during your Vientiane City tour.

 

walking the streets of Vientiane

the laid back nature of Vientiane.

 

Walking the Streets of Vientiane in Laos

 

The Laid back Southeast Asian City for a casual Stroll

To stroll through the Laos Capital means no dodging motorbikes on either the road or the footpath, and crossing the road is not as stressful as it is in Vietnam’s Ho Chi Minh City, although you’ll still need to exercise caution by looking left or right before taking that next step.

Walking along the footpath is a leisurely experience too, with a lot less obstacles and pedestrians getting in the way, which means going from point A to point B is not too much of a hassle when travelling by foot. It truly is a great city wander through and greet the friendly locals at will.

 

Vientiane City

The streets of Vientiane, Laos.

 

To me, being in Vientiane is like going back in time, the modern world has yet to catch up with this little city, with any new polished buildings being a rarity (although they do exist). I can honestly say it is not a bad thing to visit a destination that has a change of pace.

The Vientiane Night markets is another wonderful stroll and is easily the best markets I have seen in Southeast Asia, not that I have been to them all. It is a festive attitude at these markets with great entertainment and quality goods on sale. Even better with the Mekong River and the border into Thailand nearby. Being an Aussie, I just love the fact you can stare into another country from the other side.

 

Night Markets

Night Markets from above on a wet Laos Day.

 

Check out the Vientiane Attractions 

Of course, there are the stunning Palaces, temples and museums to gaze your eyes upon and marvel at the history and culture of the country’s work. Every visitor to the region knows that Southeast Asia get it right with their beautifully designed buildings.

Walking the streets of this beautiful city, you will stumble across some precious buildings like the Sisaket Museum and Wat Phra Keow. Although the popular Golden Palace (Pha That Luang) and the surrounding structures will knock your feet off, the golden texture is indeed brilliant and youll enjoy walking the grounds for a couple of hours and taking memorable photos of your trip.

 

Sisaket Museum

Sisaket Museum.

 

Then there is the Patuxai War Monument, the locals are so proud of this mighty landmark that stands out in the capital city ofLaos for everyone to witness. It celebrates the country’s independence from the French.

I remember the first time I saw this iconic structure from several hundred metres away, it’s presence was simply superior to anything around it. No doubt it was built to show its country’s strength. As I stepped closer to the monument, the magnificent structure just blew me away, and then I climbed the steps to the top and the 360 views of the city just capped it off nicely.

 

Patuxai Monument, Laos

The stunning Patuxai War Monument.

 

It was the walking streets of Vientiane, the laidback city full of heart and with a proud culture. A city on the rise, but one I hope that doesn’t change too much, because I enjoyed stepping into a city that simply wasn’t in any rush.

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The Tragic War Story of the Devastating Clusters Bombs in Laos

The Tragic War Story of the Devastating Clusters Bombs in Laos

Every country in the entire world has a story to tell in its long history, whether it is the good, the bad or simply tragic beyond any words. War has divided the world for years and the sad truth is, that it will continue down that sorrow path for the remainder of time as peace will never be resolved. For the land locked country of Laos in Southeast Asia, cluster bombs were tragic tale of war that claimed innocent lives and sadly is still doing so to this day.

If you visit Vientiane City in Laos, be sure to stop by the COPE visitor centre, not only is it a source of artificial limbs and walking aids in the country, it holds a detailed museum that discusses the tragedy of Laos and its people during the Vietnam war and the following years. It is compulsory viewing to enter the movie room and watch feature length documentary on how the bombs in Laos destroyed villagers and their children.

Heading to Vientiane City in Laos? Check out TripAdvisor for hotels.

 

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bombs in laos

COPE Visitor Centre.

 

The Tragic War Story of the Devastating Clusters Bombs in Laos

 

 

What are the Cluster Bombs?

A single Cluster bomb is about the size of a tennis ball, the bomblets are then cased together into a larger bomb and ready to be air-dropped. Upon being released from the War planes, hundreds of bomblets are separated from their casing and cause explosion on impact, fatally destroying their intended target. Check out WIKI for more details on the cluster bombs in Laos.

 

cluster bombs

Cluster Bombs on Dispaly at COPE.

 

How it affected the lives of the Local Villagers

The problem, apart from the cruel act of war, was during the Vietnam war of the 1960’s and 70’s, the US dropped the cluster bombs over Laos, largely because they didn’t want to bring them back to base in Thailand. Millions of the cluster bombs didn’t detonate on impact and tragically the bombs remained live, buried and hidden from the locals who continued to live and farm in the area.

The villagers needed to farm and the children needed to play and in the years following the War, many lives were lost due to impact with the bomb with gardening tools such as a gardening rake or a shovel. Even uneducated children out having fun had contacted the bomb and were tragically killed or injured in the explosion.

If the bombs didn’t kill, at times the limbs were lost from the explosion and that is how the COPE Visitor Centre came about in 1997. A dedicated area for those who need artificial limbs and help in getting back to some sort of function with walking aids and wheelchairs.

 

bombs in laos

Artificial limbs on display at Cope.

 

What has been done to make it right through the years

To the United States credit, in the following years after the war, a lot of money was put into the project and teams were sent in to recover the undetonated bombs. The good news is the detonation rate has improved, but still to this day many cluster bombs remain live and buried in the soils of Laos.

To end the sombre article on a positive note, in 2016, Barack Obama became the first American President to visit Laos for the Southeast Asia summit and made a $90 million-dollar pledge to clear the unexploded bombs. You can discover more about Laos during a Vientiane City Tour through Klook.

For great facts about the Cluster Bombs, check out this detailed website, or even better visit the COPE Museum in Vientiane and find out the tragic details for yourself. I know it left an ache in my own heart but it was great to learn about the history of a nation.

 

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The Blue Lagoon in Vang Vieng – Laos

The Blue Lagoon in Vang Vieng – Laos

It’s the perfect healing therapy from the unforgiving Laos heat, relaxing in the cool fresh waters of The Blue Lagoon in the stunning Vang Vieng area. It refreshes the body and the mind like no other, cooling off in the shade of the overhanging trees that keeps the water refreshing at all times and quite a chill when you first step in.

The Blue Lagoon caps off most day trips that take place in Vang Vieng, whether it is kayaking the Nam Song River, ziplining in the hills or hiking the fabulous outdoors. After a hard slog during the peak of the heat during the day, The Blue Lagoon is the perfect conclusion before heading back to the town at night for a couple of cold Lao’ beers.

 

The blue Lagoon

The Blue Lagoon in Vang Vieng, Laos.

 

Getting there the Blue Lagoon in Vang Vieng

As previously mentioned, The Blue Lagoon can be included on any, very affordable, day trips that are on offer in Vang Vieng. Get down to a travel agent, there are plenty in the area, and check out any deals that include or only include The Blue Lagoon. Either that or get your own way there with various taxis, tuc tuc’s or bikes available in the area.

Staying in Vang Vieng? Check out TripAdvisor for hotels.

 

Blue Lagoon Vang Vieng

Cooling off in the Blue Lagoon.

 

What to do at The Blue Lagoon

  • Chill in the fresh water: It may come as a horrific fright when you first touch the cold water, but you soon get used to it as you take in the crowds of nationalities around you and marvel in the scenery, then you can sit back and take in the nature around you.
    Blue Lagoon

    Blue Lagoon

  • Splash around: Swinging on the rope and landing in the water, jumping on the tyre, or conquering your fear of heights and jumping off the big branch while making a splash in the water, there is plenty of splash to be had in The Blue Lagoon, whether you’re an adult or a kid in the shallower waters.
    splashing at the Lagoon

    Having a splash.

     

  • Sunbake in the huts: Had enough of the water in the overcrowded Lagoon and need a little siesta in the Laos sun. Get in quick and grab a hut, roll out the large beach towel and have a little snooze in the afternoon sun, just don’t forget to apply the sunscreen.

    Heading to Vang Vieng? Check out this guide to the picturesque town.

Vang Vieng

Picturesque Views of Vang Vieng.


Lagoon Vang Vieng

Get ready to jump off a tree.

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