This morning, we started at 5:30AM with giving alms to the monks. We all sat in a row on the side of the street with a bucket of sticky rice and we waited for the monks arrive. When they came in line, we quickly pulled out small balls of rice for distribution – there were monks from five temples in total. From our seats, we could see monks of different age groups- they range from teenagers to men in their sixties.
We later learnt from the tour guide that there are three types of monks in Laos: firstly, every boy must enter the temple when they are young, and they can choose to stay and serve in the temple for a period ranging from 3 months to 10 years. Secondly, when a family member passes away, the family must choose another member to serve in the temple after the memorial. Thirdly, some would choose to become permanent monks, and they would stay in their temples forever, studying Buddhist wisdoms and books. These monks could never get married, but they can still contact their parents and family. All the monks have sacrifices to their lives- they are restricted to certain activities, and they are only allowed two meals a day.
After arriving at Bangkok, we went to collect our bags and checked in again. Then we walked back to the gate where we all sat down to share and reflect on feelings about this trip. While reflecting on the trip, we all felt that this was a really great experience and we are very lucky to be living in a comfortable environment in Hong Kong. Also, we shared some ideas on what we felt about the community, where we compared it with Hong Kong; the people in Laos were really friendly and they are willing to be helping people out no matter what, but most of the people in Hong Kong would be counting on how much they would receive rather than how much they would give. Overall this trip is a great opportunity for us to see how lucky we are and to cherish the things we have now.
Bloggers: Spring Cheng and Mimi Chung
We woke relatively late this morning, which was then followed by a good breakfast. We then set off to the Royal Palace Museum of Luang Prabang, where we visited a temple, allowing us to comprehend the religion culture of the locals in Laos. We also visited the King’s house which was huge, which further allowed us to know about the system in Laos in the past. After that, we went up a long flight of stairs where we witnessed one of the best sceneries of Luang Prabang. All of us took a couple of photos before heading back to the hotel to get ready for a swim in the waterfall. We took an hour ride to the waterfall park, where we had lunch with a spectacular view. After taking a rest, we took a 10-minute walk to the waterfall. We went for a swim after changing our clothes. Despite the freezing water, we enjoyed ourselves and had a good bonding time with the others. We then changed our clothes and headed back to the hotel. We were given free time to enjoy our last dinner and walked around the places nearby the hotel such as the night market where we bought some souvenirs and enjoyed the cultural vibes. Some of us went to get a massage to relieve the stress and get ready to go back to school on Monday.
By: Helen Choi, Jody Ho and Hoi Ming Kee
Today was the day that we left the village. We woke up early for breakfast before participating in a farewell ritual with the local villagers. We sat around a steel plate that had different kinds of food. The villagers said their thanks to us for coming along to their village before starting the ritual
The ritual consisted of us being given a bowl of food from the steel plate and a cup of Pepsi, then the villagers wrapped our wrists with different strands of string to show gratitude and good luck moving forward.
We then took a relaxing 2 hour truck ride, including a quick stop to say goodbye to some Laotian girls that caught an interest to some members of our group, to another local town where we swapped to a boat ride. We stopped by a series of caves filed with Buddhist statues before setting sail for another small town that sold handmade paper and handmade buddha statues. After a quick shop around, we went back to our comfortable hotel
Once we got back, we spent some time cleaning and fixing up before heading to a nearby local BBQ restaurant. We ended off the night with some free time where some people decided to walk the night market again and some decided to go back to the hotel.
Overall, it was an experience to remember, the truck ride was relaxing and the boat ride was amazing. The BBQ dinner could have been better but it was good enough.
Writers: Anson Ng and Wilton Chik
Today was truly one of the most enjoyable and unique days of our lives. Even though we weren’t living in 5 star hotels or dining at 3 Michelin star restaurants, we were able to achieve something unique attained only by stepping out of our comfort zones.
We woke up feeling refreshed as we were a little under the weather the day before. Not knowing what was in store for us, we set off to build dormitories in a nearby high school. We weren’t very skilled but we worked hard and achieved the goals set. The afternoon was more fun as we played volleyball with some locals.
At night, despite the pouring rain and soaked clothing, we trekked to the high school where a large audience awaited us. They had many performances in store and we participated in many of them. Our favourite activity during the night had to the banana football game. We tied bananas around our waists and tried to use them to hit a ball on the floor. We won thanks to a last minute penalty from Mr Devries. We ended the night with a fun community dance and took photos with many of the performers.
We might not have had ideal living and weather conditions, but our experiences today is worth every discomfort we faced.
Bloggers: Morris Lam and Andy Xu
This morning we went to a primary school located around 15 km from the village where we are staying. At the primary school we did many fun activities we had prepared beforehand. Some groups did sports and games, one painting and origami, another Chinese and one Sign Language. After 4 rounds of leading activities, we played a game with secondary students. We played soccer and volleyball and actually lost both. However, the friendship we gained is precious and priceless. Afterward we returned to our home stay village for lunch and then headed out to another secondary school where we worked on digging and shoveling ground. After taking a short break from the hard work, we separated into groups and visited 4 local families to learn how to cook traditional Laos food from the moms. We made pork salad with banana flower, a delicious steamed fish dish, vegetable curry with sticky rice and stir-fry vegetables. While we were waiting for all the dishes to be ready, we visited houses of the friendly villagers and chatted about their life in the village. After having a big dinner, we enjoyed learning and making bamboo baskets —which are wonderful souvenirs with the locals, and this marks the end of our fruitful day.
Bloggers: Jessica Fang and Tiara ASA
Our first activity day in Laos was full of events and excitement. We started off the day with a visit to an elephant sanctuary, where we were able to get up close and personal with elephants by feeding, training and riding them. For a lot of us, it was a very surreal experience since we don’t really get the chance to interact with elephants. This was also an opportunity to learn about the dangers these animals face against poachers and destruction of their habitats. Next, we hopped onto the back of an open truck which drove us 2 hours away from Luang Prabang to a small village where we will be spending the next 3 nights. The 2-hour ride passed by in a blink of an eye. We were able to witness the natural beauty of Laos as we drove along the Mekong River, with luscious greenery all around us.
When we arrived at the village, the villagers greeted us with a warm welcome along with big smiles and we each received a boquet of flowers. We were able to meet the families we were staying with as well as walk around the village. Walking around the village really showed us how privileged we are. We realised that this is their norm, and it was a reality check for us all that we should be grateful for what we have. For those who showered, the experience was one that we could never forget, with nothing more than a tub of water and bucket to wash ourselves with. Most of us either ended up having to shower as a group of people or not shower at all.
During dinner, we got a taste of a Laotian dinner and were able to perform both a song and a dance to the people living in the village as a way to socialise with the locals by inviting them to join us. They also performed multiple cultural dances and encouraged us to take part with them. It was interesting to see the dances and the outfits as it allowed us get a glimpse into their culture. Overall, we are all very satisfied with today’s activities and are looking forward to what comes our way tomorrow. Let’s hope no scorpions crawl into our shoes tonight .
Bloggers: Danielle Tsang and Julia Chia
What an incredible day – it seems like we experienced a whole week. This morning we visited an elephant sanctuary and then ventured out into our village in the back of trucks, where we were welcomed by the children with flowers:
breakfast at the hotel
feeding bananas to the elephants
Yes. You read it right. We got to see how they make paper out of elephant dung.
beautiful landscape and river
our group with certificates of how to give commands to the elephant
gotta pull logs somehow
the children lined up to welcome us with flowers
the an in the middle is the village chief
our students performed a dance too!
the whole village welcomed us tonight
This is a hut at the school we visited. The kids that live in these huts hike 7 hours home on Friday, stock up with food for the week, then hike back 7 hours to attend school for the week. This brings encouragement to me that people long to better themselves and our world.
this girl is maybe 10 years old and makes the 14 hour round trip every weekend
Today mostly consisted of the group walking back and forth the Bangkok airport, trying to figure out how we could retrieve our bags as our stop off at Bangkok had been for transit purposes. Thankfully with the help of the airport staff, we were able to successfully get to our departure gate with all our bags and boarding passes. We even got enough time to stop for a quick lunch!
Finally we arrived at Luang Prabang, Laos at 5pm and made our way to the tour guides that would be leading us for the majority of this trip. As the saying goes: “when in Rome, do what Romans do”, we all piled into the backs of trucks and got to experience what Laotian people would mostly travel on.
Prior to the trip, our first impression on Laos was just a developing country that no one knows too much about. The city is actually filled with friendly locals, delicious food and tourists. Our hotel was cozy and there is spa service as well. We look forward to the village homestay tomorrow!
Bloggers: Meagan Ng, Coco Li
The 15 Laos trippers met bright and early this morning and are excited for their trip! They have been preparing by researching the places they will go, preparing activities to teach the school children and practicing an amazing song and dance to entertain the villagers where they will stay. They are looking forward to many things: teaching the school children, going to the waterfall, fully experiencing the Laotian culture and learning how it is different, and seeing if they can help in the long-term. While they look forward to a great deal of fun and reflection, they also know there will be challenges. Most notably, the language barrier and spending time in the home and village with families from a different culture. Spirits are high and smiles bright despite the early morning flight- Luang Prabang here we come!
by Veronica Baker, Trip Leader