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Monthly Archives: January 2012


Wonderful mountain village Ban Phakeo


On the way to the village


Lao people collect many medical plants from the forest


Our picnic on banana leaves (sticky rice, buffalo skin, a bird of unknown species, water spinach, chilies, mandarines)

Two weeks ago, I went on a hiking trip to a mountaint village called Ban Phakeo. It is famous for the adjacent jar site 52 in the middle of a lush jungle. A Hmong tour guide named Vang accompanied me on my “undercover trip” – officially, I was doing the trip to do research for a new project connected to CBT, Community-based tourism which involves homestays of tourists in poor rural villages to generate better incomes. It might sound a bit like tourists visiting the villages like an attraction or a zoo, others see it as an opportunity for the villagers to get a glimpse into the world out there. Most of them never get out of their province, like many Lao people don’t get the chance to travel abroad. Many of the older villagers have met American soldiers during the Secret War, so all foreigners are Americans for them (or long-noses).

The short time I stayed in the village left a really strong impression on me – the people were so happy living their simple lives, far away from all the temptations of “civilization”! I felt so sad to leave this haven of communal life the next morning. Unfortunately, my battery died right when we entered the village, but still I managed to take a few pictures. The rest is in my head, many good memories to last a lifetime.

The question is: will improved income really improve their lives? Are our lives “better” because we have all the comforts of a developed society? Other problems would soon arise replacing those solved with money. Stress, depression, burn-out vs. difficult access to education, food and water? I asked my guide about his definition of poverty. He answered: when my neighbour has a motorcycle and I cannot afford to buy one. Ah!

 

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Streets, paths, riverbeds and caves of Phonsavan, Luang Prabang, Vientiane, Sayabouly; September – December 2011



In the beginning of December, we had a very special guest  with us: Kiwi, a couchsurfer from New Zealand (ok, her real name was Shiowan, but that was just too difficult to pronounce/remember). She was not only amazing because of her beautiful long blond hair, but also because she had already been traveling for FIVE years! She left school early, started working hard as a 9-year-old, saved up lots of money which she was spending for her travels. All of us got along so well that she stayed for two weeks instead of two nights. We miss her!