Laos and the REI Adventure Tour

Hello from Laos! I’ve spent the last few days in the town of Luang Prabang, exploring first on my own and then with this REI Adventure tour.

Sunrise over the town

LPB is home to no fewer than 32 wats (temples), which have a distinctive, almost Nordic style.

On the evening of my second day I met up with the tour, putting my vacation on rails for the next 12 days.

This group is interesting – I’ve been struggling a bit with what to write about it. My first instinct is to complain, and I’ve got to let at least a bit of that through. With an average age in the late 50s the group is quite a bit older than I expected, with two big ramifications. First the pace is much slower than I would like, both athletically and of the tour in general. Second I feel like I’m hanging out with a bunch of my parents’ friends – they’re fun people, but we don’t have a whole lot in common.

I think I was hoping I would find “my people”, the next step for those who are footloose and adventurous but old enough that the backpacking game doesn’t appeal, and well off enough that they can afford something a little fancier. People who have got the career thing sorted out but haven’t quite settled down yet. Maybe a nice woman about my age who wants the same things out of life that I do. I don’t know quite what I’ve found instead, but it’s not that.

That said, I’ve been having a pretty darn good time so far. Our guide Choy (Lao for “skinny”, though I think “slim” might be a more flattering translation) is top notch, and he’s done a great job of herding us cats. Most of the activities have an option to extend, like biking both to and from a waterfall instead of taking the van one direction, and I’ve taken them all. My roommate Michael is the one other millennial on the trip (only one decade older than me) and we’ve become quick friends. And honestly, the whole group is pretty darn good.

Choy with his too-cool-for-school dad. (credit: Ron Cohen)
The whole crew.

So what did we do in Laos?

We explored Luang Prabang.
We played piton (bocce), very popular in Laos due to French influence.
We fed a bunch of monks at sunrise.
We rode bikes…
…to a beautiful group of waterfalls.
Credit: Ron Cohen

We took a boat ride (credit: Ron Cohen)…
…then hiked to a remote farming village.

Michael and I climbed the wrong mountain (one of those extra activities), got a great view, then got caught by the sunset and had to hike down in the dark.
We kayaked down the mighty Mekong River.

We saw a cave full of thousands of tiny Buddha statues.
And we found paradise.

I have been incredibly impressed by Laos so far, and would highly recommend it to anyone who is interested in traveling to Southeast Asia. It’s beautiful, culturally rich, and way off the beaten track. I also don’t think it would be too hard to navigate on your own.

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