Dec 5, 2018

Travelling local in Laos

An inspiring read for adventurous families considering a trip to Laos

BAck to blogs

This post is a contribution from GOOD traveller, Jessica Jenkins. We are keen to encourage more travellers to reflect on their travel experiences while providing suggestions and tips for future GOOD travellers to the area. If you'd like to share a travel reflection that you believe incorporates GOOD values and practices, please email us at info@good-travel.org. We look forward to sharing more community posts like this one!

Travel has been a big part of my husband and my life and when given the opportunity to live in Bangkok for a couple years, we of course took it. It’s exciting to travel as a family.

As that time drew to an end, we wanted to take our children on one last adventure to parts of Asia where we hadn’t yet been. A plan was made and we stopped in Hong Kong, Vietnam and finally Laos.

We’ve always been explorative travellers, preferring to stay in smaller local places which may be a little more difficult to find but we’ve often found much more rewarding. Travelling with kids has been no different.

Our children, aged 5 & 7, are brave, excited and embracing of travel in all its elements. Of course we all get tired, sick and a bit over it at times but making time to chill out has always been essential. Over time I've realised that we tend to underestimate kids, they are capable of so much and open to the world in a way us, as adults, just can’t see.

I've realised that we tend to underestimate kids, they are capable of so much and open to the world in a way us, as adults, just can’t see.

We’d already been to two other countries and when we arrived in Luang Prabang, Laos it was delightfully warm after the chilly north of Vietnam. A pleasant stay in a small, local hotel by the river was just the ticket. We found the hotel online and loved the remoteness of it - and by golly it was remote! I stuffed up the arrival time of our flight and missed our free transfer. Hmmm - $US50 for a van to take us 15km dampened our excitement, but 30 bumpy minutes later we arrived. It was a little ramshackle but had the bones of a great couple days stay. The rooms and suites all tipped down the hill from the fresh water pool (very fresh by the kids account). Our luggage was dragged and lugged down to a fabulous family suite looking just like a Laos home over-looking the Nam Khan river. Peace and quiet. We watched long boats race up and down, water buffalo wander the banks and we could hear (and on occasion see) the elephants from the neighbouring elephant park along the edges.

A couple days of nothing was perfect. The kids and us explored the surroundings, and the kids swam and played with other guests at the open fire pit. The staff took care of our kids while we had massages including a honey and coffee ground facial made by the owner.

Next, we moved to town and into a small local place by the Mekong River. We took a sunset cruise (with dozens of other boats) on a local boat with a friendly fellow. However, later that night we realised the kids were sick: fevers, snotty noses and tired kids. We cycled up to the local pharmacist for paracetamol and cough syrup. A quiet night was needed for all of us.


A couple days later we were lined up to begin a two day tour we’d booked before leaving Bangkok. After two days of fevers and colds, our son in particular was feeling a little weak. The first section was a cycle ride. And at that a 15km cycle along the road? In 30 degree heat? Hmmm not quite what our slightly ill 7 year old was up for. We managed the first 5km out of town and to the first temple with our daughter Indi on the back of Dad’s bike. But by the first stop to visit some local weavers it was time to call in the truck for myself and our son. Our daughter, the backseat driver, kept the pace up with Dad. Our son was in good spirits and a truck trip along the rest of the road was definitely worth it. The road got very steep at one point (I was pleased to be in the truck too!).


The next adventure was a short boat ride and hike through the forest into a local village for the night. Our 5 year old daughter hit a wall. It was all too much for her. With coaxing, carrying and assuring, our patient but pained looking guide helped us make the 3km. Yes it was only 3km but certainly felt A LOT further! By the time we arrived in the village it was late afternoon and cooling down. The village itself was large in most terms, and we were shown the school and village town hall that have been funded through these tours. After a run down of village life, the role of women in the town management and the effects of progress, we grabbed a drink (no electricity so on the warm side but welcome all the same) and headed through the village out to the valley and the rice paddies. A quiet and peaceful place.

We then headed back to our allotted village home where the family was working hard to create a delicious meal whilst balancing grand-kids and life around them. Not a jot of English was spoken, and frankly that was fine - we were visiting their home. There was lots of smiling and nodding, and we always endeavor to learn at least hello and thank you in the language of every country. And the Laos people, like most of Asia, love kids especially those with pale skin, and red curly hair!


My son and I took a few strolls around the village taking in life. We found it fascinating watching the animals and children moving around unmonitored. The pig snuffling and shoving the girl trying to feed it without letting him into the house. What made me proud and encouraged was Zac’s fascination and curiosity about everything around him. We loved seeing the houses, the gardens with huge fences to keep the pigs and chickens out and the kids playing with whatever they found.

What made me proud and encouraged was Zac’s fascination and curiosity about everything around him.


What sticks with me is a young child carrying what at first glance seemed to be a doll but on closer inspection was a dead chick! This image has stuck with me. It unsettled me but I knew it shouldn’t. These kids live this life. And I must remember not to put my life ideals on them. And not to push them onto my kids either.

I must remember not to put my life ideals on them. And not to push them onto my kids either.

Back at home we played some card games and were served a simple, yet amazing meal, although it might have been a push too far for the kids. Rice and bananas were available for filling bellies though. As with anywhere you stay with no electricity, it gets dark quickly and it was soon time for bed. The local hosts were friendly but didn’t speak English and our guide after giving us the run down left us to enjoy our surroundings.

Our beds were in a small bamboo hut. Simple blankets, mosquito nets and not much in the way of walls. To keep the kids warm with the temperature was dropping quickly, it was one parent to a child. Let’s just say there wasn’t much sleeping. The noises of the village enveloped us and the complete dark was unsettling - as was the short walk to the toilet!

Up with the rooster the next morning and a huge omelette breakfast, we started the walk out. Apprehensive after our appalling walk in, we were relieved when our kids resumed their usual walking and we steamed through the jungle, river and waterfall (at its lowest point of the year). We were confronted with an elephant camp, chains and seats. It was upsetting to see this, but after time in this region it is reassuring that there is change afoot and as tourists are educated, the change will quicken.

We were confronted with an elephant camp, chains and seats. It was upsetting to see this, but after time in this region it is reassuring that there is change afoot and as tourists are educated, the change will quicken.


Once back down to the river, we began kayaking down river and enjoying the beautiful idyll of Laos countryside. As we headed back towards town major changes were very apparent. A huge highway and rail system is charging through Laos to China opening up the country. The imminent concrete landscape is sliding over the hills and pushing aside the jungle. Progress is essential, but at what cost? Our guide was philosophical about the future and keeping people in the country, but the loss of the green and jungle obviously hurt.

Right at the end, with possibly the only small rapid all day I managed to turn our kayak into the mangroves. Yelling at Indi to stay down so she didn’t come out, I pulled leaves, branches and trees off us, eventually righting us. Within minutes I was shaking and itchy up and down my arms and Indi was crying. Luckily we were right at the finish. Next thing I was on the ground shaking with tiny hairs sticking out of my arms. After a chat with our local driver, we discovered that we'd upset the local hairy caterpillar community and in response they had deposited hundreds of spiny hairs on us. Brushing and pulling them out we were assured that it should go down in a couple hours?! Better than the initial 4 day diagnoses. Indi confirmed that she would be never trust me to kayak her anywhere again.

We were deposited in our final hotel, a bit of a step up and just as well: comfy beds, a balcony and lots of space. The kids both got colds and fevers so it was a quiet last evening for us.

This trip was an adventure for all of us, as a family and individually. We’re very proud of our kids: their approach to new people, experiences, food and life is inspiring. Their openness to all that travel offers, their reduced social barriers and their exposure to these experiences has encouraged them to be brave, to be curious, to ask questions and to acknowledge people’s differences, but not see any difference between themselves and others. This spills over to life in general: embracing new languages and experiences. They’re already asking where our next adventure will be. If we can teach them about the privilege of their life in New Zealand and how they can improve others lives all the better.

We’re very proud of our kids: their approach to new people, experiences, food and life is inspiring. Their openness to all that travel offers, their reduced social barriers and their exposure to these experiences has encouraged them to be brave, to be curious, to ask questions.

Top tips for GOOD Travellers


Travelling with kids takes practice, but don't underestimate your kids! They might moan, they might get sick, and you'll all get tired, hot and annoyed at times. But those are only moments in an adventure that will shape your lives together, be life long memories, and grow and stretch those young minds to become aware, global citizens.

See More:

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GOOD Travel blog author

Jessica Jenkins

Travel has been a big part of my adult life including stints in London and Bangkok. Now with kids in tow things have changed a little, but the thirst for travel and new experiences hasn't!

This post is a contribution from GOOD traveller, Jessica Jenkins. We are keen to encourage more travellers to reflect on their travel experiences while providing suggestions and tips for future GOOD travellers to the area. If you'd like to share a travel reflection that you believe incorporates GOOD values and practices, please email us at info@good-travel.org. We look forward to sharing more community posts like this one!

Travel has been a big part of my husband and my life and when given the opportunity to live in Bangkok for a couple years, we of course took it. It’s exciting to travel as a family.

As that time drew to an end, we wanted to take our children on one last adventure to parts of Asia where we hadn’t yet been. A plan was made and we stopped in Hong Kong, Vietnam and finally Laos.

We’ve always been explorative travellers, preferring to stay in smaller local places which may be a little more difficult to find but we’ve often found much more rewarding. Travelling with kids has been no different.

Our children, aged 5 & 7, are brave, excited and embracing of travel in all its elements. Of course we all get tired, sick and a bit over it at times but making time to chill out has always been essential. Over time I've realised that we tend to underestimate kids, they are capable of so much and open to the world in a way us, as adults, just can’t see.

I've realised that we tend to underestimate kids, they are capable of so much and open to the world in a way us, as adults, just can’t see.

We’d already been to two other countries and when we arrived in Luang Prabang, Laos it was delightfully warm after the chilly north of Vietnam. A pleasant stay in a small, local hotel by the river was just the ticket. We found the hotel online and loved the remoteness of it - and by golly it was remote! I stuffed up the arrival time of our flight and missed our free transfer. Hmmm - $US50 for a van to take us 15km dampened our excitement, but 30 bumpy minutes later we arrived. It was a little ramshackle but had the bones of a great couple days stay. The rooms and suites all tipped down the hill from the fresh water pool (very fresh by the kids account). Our luggage was dragged and lugged down to a fabulous family suite looking just like a Laos home over-looking the Nam Khan river. Peace and quiet. We watched long boats race up and down, water buffalo wander the banks and we could hear (and on occasion see) the elephants from the neighbouring elephant park along the edges.

A couple days of nothing was perfect. The kids and us explored the surroundings, and the kids swam and played with other guests at the open fire pit. The staff took care of our kids while we had massages including a honey and coffee ground facial made by the owner.

Next, we moved to town and into a small local place by the Mekong River. We took a sunset cruise (with dozens of other boats) on a local boat with a friendly fellow. However, later that night we realised the kids were sick: fevers, snotty noses and tired kids. We cycled up to the local pharmacist for paracetamol and cough syrup. A quiet night was needed for all of us.


A couple days later we were lined up to begin a two day tour we’d booked before leaving Bangkok. After two days of fevers and colds, our son in particular was feeling a little weak. The first section was a cycle ride. And at that a 15km cycle along the road? In 30 degree heat? Hmmm not quite what our slightly ill 7 year old was up for. We managed the first 5km out of town and to the first temple with our daughter Indi on the back of Dad’s bike. But by the first stop to visit some local weavers it was time to call in the truck for myself and our son. Our daughter, the backseat driver, kept the pace up with Dad. Our son was in good spirits and a truck trip along the rest of the road was definitely worth it. The road got very steep at one point (I was pleased to be in the truck too!).


The next adventure was a short boat ride and hike through the forest into a local village for the night. Our 5 year old daughter hit a wall. It was all too much for her. With coaxing, carrying and assuring, our patient but pained looking guide helped us make the 3km. Yes it was only 3km but certainly felt A LOT further! By the time we arrived in the village it was late afternoon and cooling down. The village itself was large in most terms, and we were shown the school and village town hall that have been funded through these tours. After a run down of village life, the role of women in the town management and the effects of progress, we grabbed a drink (no electricity so on the warm side but welcome all the same) and headed through the village out to the valley and the rice paddies. A quiet and peaceful place.

We then headed back to our allotted village home where the family was working hard to create a delicious meal whilst balancing grand-kids and life around them. Not a jot of English was spoken, and frankly that was fine - we were visiting their home. There was lots of smiling and nodding, and we always endeavor to learn at least hello and thank you in the language of every country. And the Laos people, like most of Asia, love kids especially those with pale skin, and red curly hair!


My son and I took a few strolls around the village taking in life. We found it fascinating watching the animals and children moving around unmonitored. The pig snuffling and shoving the girl trying to feed it without letting him into the house. What made me proud and encouraged was Zac’s fascination and curiosity about everything around him. We loved seeing the houses, the gardens with huge fences to keep the pigs and chickens out and the kids playing with whatever they found.

What made me proud and encouraged was Zac’s fascination and curiosity about everything around him.


What sticks with me is a young child carrying what at first glance seemed to be a doll but on closer inspection was a dead chick! This image has stuck with me. It unsettled me but I knew it shouldn’t. These kids live this life. And I must remember not to put my life ideals on them. And not to push them onto my kids either.

I must remember not to put my life ideals on them. And not to push them onto my kids either.

Back at home we played some card games and were served a simple, yet amazing meal, although it might have been a push too far for the kids. Rice and bananas were available for filling bellies though. As with anywhere you stay with no electricity, it gets dark quickly and it was soon time for bed. The local hosts were friendly but didn’t speak English and our guide after giving us the run down left us to enjoy our surroundings.

Our beds were in a small bamboo hut. Simple blankets, mosquito nets and not much in the way of walls. To keep the kids warm with the temperature was dropping quickly, it was one parent to a child. Let’s just say there wasn’t much sleeping. The noises of the village enveloped us and the complete dark was unsettling - as was the short walk to the toilet!

Up with the rooster the next morning and a huge omelette breakfast, we started the walk out. Apprehensive after our appalling walk in, we were relieved when our kids resumed their usual walking and we steamed through the jungle, river and waterfall (at its lowest point of the year). We were confronted with an elephant camp, chains and seats. It was upsetting to see this, but after time in this region it is reassuring that there is change afoot and as tourists are educated, the change will quicken.

We were confronted with an elephant camp, chains and seats. It was upsetting to see this, but after time in this region it is reassuring that there is change afoot and as tourists are educated, the change will quicken.


Once back down to the river, we began kayaking down river and enjoying the beautiful idyll of Laos countryside. As we headed back towards town major changes were very apparent. A huge highway and rail system is charging through Laos to China opening up the country. The imminent concrete landscape is sliding over the hills and pushing aside the jungle. Progress is essential, but at what cost? Our guide was philosophical about the future and keeping people in the country, but the loss of the green and jungle obviously hurt.

Right at the end, with possibly the only small rapid all day I managed to turn our kayak into the mangroves. Yelling at Indi to stay down so she didn’t come out, I pulled leaves, branches and trees off us, eventually righting us. Within minutes I was shaking and itchy up and down my arms and Indi was crying. Luckily we were right at the finish. Next thing I was on the ground shaking with tiny hairs sticking out of my arms. After a chat with our local driver, we discovered that we'd upset the local hairy caterpillar community and in response they had deposited hundreds of spiny hairs on us. Brushing and pulling them out we were assured that it should go down in a couple hours?! Better than the initial 4 day diagnoses. Indi confirmed that she would be never trust me to kayak her anywhere again.

We were deposited in our final hotel, a bit of a step up and just as well: comfy beds, a balcony and lots of space. The kids both got colds and fevers so it was a quiet last evening for us.

This trip was an adventure for all of us, as a family and individually. We’re very proud of our kids: their approach to new people, experiences, food and life is inspiring. Their openness to all that travel offers, their reduced social barriers and their exposure to these experiences has encouraged them to be brave, to be curious, to ask questions and to acknowledge people’s differences, but not see any difference between themselves and others. This spills over to life in general: embracing new languages and experiences. They’re already asking where our next adventure will be. If we can teach them about the privilege of their life in New Zealand and how they can improve others lives all the better.

We’re very proud of our kids: their approach to new people, experiences, food and life is inspiring. Their openness to all that travel offers, their reduced social barriers and their exposure to these experiences has encouraged them to be brave, to be curious, to ask questions.

Top tips for GOOD Travellers

  • Travel in Laos is still 'off the beaten track', but this is changing quickly. If you love an adventure, go soon, and be sure to support locally-owned tourism businesses.
  • Be aware that travel is not fast, easy or necessarily cheap - but if you scratch below the surface, get away from the crowds and stay local, you'll be highly rewarded.
  • Travelling with kids takes practice, but don't underestimate your kids! They might moan, they might get sick, you'll all get tired, hot and annoyed at times. But those are only moments in an adventure that will shape your lives together, be life long memories, and grow and stretch those young minds to become aware, global citizens.


Travelling with kids takes practice, but don't underestimate your kids! They might moan, they might get sick, and you'll all get tired, hot and annoyed at times. But those are only moments in an adventure that will shape your lives together, be life long memories, and grow and stretch those young minds to become aware, global citizens.

MORE BLOGS

Jessica Jenkins

Travel has been a big part of my adult life including stints in London and Bangkok. Now with kids in tow things have changed a little, but the thirst for travel and new experiences hasn't!

Recent Posts

SEE MORE

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