Laos is a lovely, lush, landlocked country, which to me is the crown jewel of Southeast Asia. It is an amalgam of unique culture, stunning scenery, delectable food, interesting history and a relaxed yet purposeful way of life.
In our current world of geotags and Instagram models itching to get that next epic shot, beautiful destinations which were once off the radar are making their way onto tourist circuits… for better or for worse (I’d say the latter most of the time).
My absolute favorite aspect of traveling with Wild Frontiers is that opportunities abound to get off this new beaten path and engage in a destination in an authentic and meaningful way.
Here are my five favorite ways to get off the beaten track and authentically engage in Luang Prabang, my most loved destination in Laos.
1. Life Along the Mekong
Take the opportunity to escape the tourist hubs in town and see what life is really like along the Mekong River. You’ll see how the cooperatives weave the beautiful textiles sold at the markets, check fish traps with fishermen, enjoy a tasty home-cooked lunch with a village chief, learn about the process of local whiskey-making, and visit the Pak Ou Caves which are famous for the thousands of Buddha statues left inside.
You’ll feel good about this tour, too – as a portion of the tour fees contributes to a fund which helps the village primary school and students with needed materials and supplies.
2. Homestyle Lao Cooking
Though plentiful restaurants in town offer cooking classes, none quite compare to this grassroots experience in a village outside of the main city center.
After learning the basics of traditional Lao cooking, just like a typical Lao family, you will be responsible for cooking one of the dishes for dinner. No pressure though, as your guide and Lao chef are nearby to provide any assistance needed!
You’ll enjoy the fruits of your labor by having dinner the typical Lao way by sitting on the floor and eating family style. After dinner, kick back and enjoy some homemade rice whiskey with your hosts under the breezy outdoor sala.
3. Giving alms at sunrise as a participant (rather than as a bystander)
Though witnessing the almsgiving in Luang Prabang is a popular activity for tourists, very few engage in the ceremony (which is good - as this should only be done with a high level of respect and etiquette).
With that in mind, our guide will demonstrate the proper method of almsgiving and explain this daily Buddhist ceremony, wherein monks walk around the city to collect rice for the temples. This is a very special moment which you will not soon forget.
4. Traditional Baci ceremony
The Baci ceremony, which is referred to as su kwan or “calling of the soul,” is performed by a local village elder and is meant to welcome you by giving you a blessing to bring harmony and balance to your body and soul.
The Lao believe that this blessing will bring the believed 32 kwan (souls) that watch over you back to your body so that you may be blessed and healthy. During the ceremony there will be blessings, chanting and Pook kwan - the tying of white baci threads on each of your wrists from the elders. The white cotton is a symbol of peace, good fortune, honesty and comfort.
After the closing of the ceremony, you will have the opportunity to ask any questions about the ceremony with your guide and your ceremony’s hosts.
5. Village School Sponsorship
Take the opportunity to give back to the vibrant communities surrounding Luang Prabang by visiting the Phik Noy primary school, which our non-profit organization “Journeys Within Our Community” supports through donations like yours.
After preparation and briefing, you will be introduced to the students and assist the teachers and Laos team with the day’s activities (such as a short English lesson or an arts and crafts project). Once the activity has been completed, you will present the school with some supplies that have been purchased from your tour’s donation.
This is a great way to support local communities and ensure that you are making a positive and meaningful impact in the destinations in which you travel to.
Check out some of our sample tours or contact us to set up a custom itinerary that includes all these amazing experiences!