THAILAND & LAOS 2013

NORTHERN THAILAND & LAOS ADVENTURE

Planes, Trains and Tuk Tuks 
After several meetings and a lot of behind-the-scenes work by Mr Green our trip to Thailand and Laos was organised. For some group members, it was their first overseas trip as well as being their first travel experience without parents.

We arrived in Bangkok after a nine-hour flight from Brisbane. Bangkok is a city of ten million citizens and has a very distinct aroma. Whilst in Bangkok we had the opportunity to go shopping at the massive MBK Shopping Centre. We visited the first of many, many Buddhist temples such as the Temple of the Emerald Buddha and the Grand Palace.  We also visited the Blind Children’s Centre where we hosted lunch for the students.  The students despite being blind, create many beautiful crafts including beaded key chains and crocheted items that they sell.

With a very early start the next day, we headed to the airport and said good bye to the chaos of Bangkok in favour of the more peaceful city of Chiang Rai, in the northern region of Thailand.

After two days in Chiang Rai, we headed to the border in order to cross in to Laos. We boarded a private slow boat for three days of travel down the mighty Mekong River. This was a very relaxing time looking at the ever changing scenery and river rushing by. Our first overnight stop was at Pakbeng. The next morning we continued down the river to the Kamu Lodge. This was our first experience of camping in tents surrounded by rice paddies. While at the Kamu Lodge, the group tried their hand at traditional fishing and firing traditional crossbows and visited the local village.

The next morning we continued downstream to Luang Prabang, stopping at the Pak Ou Caves. These two caves are set into towering limestone cliffs and contain thousands of gold lacquered Buddha statues. While in Luang Prabang we visited an elephant sanctuary, where many group members tested their skills of elephant mahouting along trails through the village and down to the river Nam Khan. A relaxing long tail boat ride to Tad Sae waterfalls for a refreshing swim was followed by a buffet lunch over looking the river.

Whilst in Luang Prabang we also visited the Living Rice Farm located 5km out of town. This farm is a community enterprise run by a local team of villagers for the benefit of Lao people. At the farm, the group participated in all stages of rice production from ploughing the paddies with Susan the pink water buffalo to planting rice, harvesting the rice and the most important stage, cooking and eating the rice. In Luang Prabang, there was more time for shopping at the night markets, which included an amazing food aisle.

After four days in Luang Prabang, we headed for the airport yet again, this time to fly to the capital of Laos, Vientiane.  It was here that we visited the COPE Centre that promotes awareness of the detrimental effects and impact of the use of cluster bombs in WWII. We also visited the exquisite Wat Sisaket, Vientiane’s oldest original temple built in 1818. Whilst at the temple we had the rare opportunity of witnessing a group of visiting Buddhist nuns from Japan, chanting their prayers. This was another highlight for many in the group. Following our temple visit, we made a stop at the Lao Disabled Women’s Development Centre. This centre aims to bring knowledge and skills to disabled women so that they can become self-sufficient, productive members of the community.

Sadly, our 14 day tour had to come to an end. We were all eager to arrive back in Australia and see our families again and to share our experiences with them.  As a group we would sincerely like to thank Mr Green who went out of his way to make this trip possible and for giving us an experience we will not forget.

CASSANDRA HEGERTY – Year 12 Student