Laos is known for its fascinating ancient history and thriving Buddhist culture, and is one of the least developed nations in the world. We arrive in the capital of Vientiane, and continue our journey to the World Heritage listed Luang Prabang. Here we learn about the rich Buddhist culture, visit both natural and historical sites and enjoy the laid back atmosphere as the Mekong River drifts by. Just 30 minutes by long boat up the Mekong River from Luang Prabang is the village of Ban Nong Jong. This farming subsistence community is made up of a mixture of Lao Loum and Hmong minorities - all of whom live in poor conditions. We will help the local High School community to build a dormitory residence that will enable 40 students from surrounding villages to stay in the village during the school week and avoid the long walks to and from school each day. The current dormitory residences are very basic and uncomfortable. We guarantee that your contribution will create a lasting change for the students of this Laotian school.
Our service learning adventures can be undertaken by anyone with a reasonable level of health and fitness. For the community project part of your trip you will not require a certain level of strength or physical ability, just an enthusiastic and positive attitude. A project manager will direct and distribute the workloads among participants on a daily basis. There is no pressure to exert yourself physically beyond your limits during the project but you should be prepared to give 6-8 hours of physical labour each day.
Sabaidee! Welcome to Vientiane, Laos. Upon arrival, you will be greeted by your World Youth Adventures representative in the arrivals hall. Since the group arrives into Vientiane later in the evening, you will drive first to a restaurant for a quick light meal and then to the hotel.
Overnight: Vientiane Golden Sun Hotel, Vientiane
After breakfast, we will take a private transfer to the airport for the short flight to Luang Prabang. On arrival, you will be welcomed by your World Youth Adventures guide (Mr Choy) and driver and transferred by private vehicle to check in at the Sala Prabang. You will have the trip briefing at the Sala Prabang. We visit the National Museum at the former Royal Palace which displays a lovely collection of the artifacts reflecting the richness of Lao culture dating from the days of the early kings right through the last sovereign; the magnificent Wat Xiengthong with its roofs sweeping low to the ground, which represents classical Laotian architecture. We enjoy lunch at local restaurant on the banks of the Mekong River. In the afternoon, we visit the Traditional Arts and Ethnology Center where we learn more about local hill tribes in Laos before climbing up 328 steps of Mount Phousi for an enjoyable exploration of the sacred, gilded stupa as well as a beautiful sunset view of the city and the Mekong River. After dinner we explore the Night Markets, to find a lovely selection of handmade textiles made by the hill tribe and local people surrounding Luang Prabang.
Overnight: Sala Prabang, Luang Prabang
After breakfast at our hotel, we walk down to the pier to access the Mekong River. The group is to be at the pier by 8:30am, where we board a traditional Laotian long boat (the entire group can ride on one long boat) and cruise upstream for approximately 30 minutes to reach Ban Nong Jong village. It is here where we we’ll spend the next three days assisting in the build of an adobe based construction that will be the dormitory for forty students from surrounding villages. Currently the students stay in very basic bamboo huts with no electricity or running water. The new dormitories will have a significant impact on the living standards of these students, making their home environment during the week much more conducive and complimentary to study and learning.
When we arrive in the village on the first day we will take a tour of the village and the project site where we will get an introduction to the building process and our work objectives. The community started the dormitory construction a few months ago and they are looking forward to our help to complete the next stage. We’ll be divided into working groups that rotate at the various working stations as the day progresses. We have a fruit break mid morning and a two hour lunch break. We get back to the work site again in the afternoon stopping at 3:30pm for an early dinner, so that we are in the long boats no later than 5pm, arriving in Luang Prabang by 5:30pm.
Overnight: Sala Prabang, Luang Prabang
In your backpack on service days pack:
> Water Bottle/s full with water (filtered water will be available for you to top up your water throughout the day in Ban Nong Jong village)
> Wet weather jacket
> Sun hat
> Sun screen
> Sun glasses
> sturdy work gloves
And wear old clothes, joggers/runners or walking boots
The group will be hosted for lunch and dinner by a number of families from the community. Students will be put into groups of 4 with a teacher or guide and allocated to a family for these meals. The homes where the meals will be taken are within close proximity of each other.
Following breakfast we travel south of town to the famous of Kuang Si waterfall. Once we arrive, we enjoy a short walk through the beautiful forest to Kuang Si Waterfall. The turquoise colour of the water with a backdrop of white limestone cliffs gives the waterfall a magical appearance. Depending on the season the water level varies and swimming may not always be possible. While there, you also have chance to see the Sun Bear Reserve, a conservation centre that rescues animals from the wildlife trade. We hope to enjoy a swim in the beautiful natural pools, walk around the falls, climb up to the top of the falls and take a picnic lunch in front of the falls. On return, you stop to visit local villages of Lao ethnic groups. Visit Ban Thapane (Kamu), Ban Ou (Lao loum) and Ban Na Ouane (Hmong) villages. You will learn more about the lifestyle of these people. En route to Luang Prabang we stop to visit the Living Crafts Centre “Ock Pop Tok” a place where you can meet weavers and learn about textiles, while helping keep these local traditions alive.
Overnight: Sala Prabang, Luang Prabang
We wake early to participate in the Alms Giving Ceremony on the streets of Luang Prabang – an awe-inspiring sight. Hundreds of monks from the 35 temples of Luang Prabang walk in silence, meditating as they collect their daily alms from devotees. This is the Buddhist practice of making merit, a symbiotic relationship between the monks and alms givers. Tell your guide a day in advance if you wish to make an offering so that they can prepare some food for you to hand over to the monks.
Here are a few things to keep in mind to respect the ritual -
> If you do not wish to make an offering, please keep an appropriate distance to observe the ritual in silence.
> Remove your shoes during the ceremony. Dress conservatively. Cover your shoulders, chest, and legs.
> Do not make eye contact with the monks or touch them. Bow your head to show respect to the monks.
> Be silent and keep your phone on silent.
We return to the hotel for breakfast, or the group may decide to join the locals for a bowl of delicious noodle soup after the alms giving ritual. After breakfast we head to the morning markets, to see the local people showcase their products such diverse offerings as dried buffalo skin, local tea, vegetables and hill tribe weaving. After lunch we take a private group transfer to the airport to take the flight to Vientiane and connect with the flight to South Korea at 9:55pm
Per Person, Twin Share
Location: Vientiane, Laos.
Activity: The group arrived into Vientiane late in the evening.
Weather: 23 to 36 degrees Celsius, slight rain.
Local guides comments: The group arrived into Vientiane, they transferred to the hotel, where they has a meal, and checked into their rooms for sleep.
Destination Leader / Teacher comments: Teachers will send comments tomorrow.
Note: because of the late arrival into Laos we did not take a group photo. A photo will be loaded tomorrow.
Location: Vientiane to Luang Prabang.
Activity: Vientiane to Luang Prabang, city tour.
Weather: 22 to 36 degrees Celsius, some rain, humid.
Local guides comments: The group departed Vientiane after an early breakfast and flew to Luang Prabang. On arrival they had a group briefing followed by tour of Wat Xiengthong (where the picture was taken). They enjoyed lunch watching the Mekong River pass by, followed by a visit to the National Museum at the former Royal Palace. They checked into the hotel for a rest and then visited the Traditional Arts and Ethnology Center and then climbed up 328 steps of Mount Phousi. We will soon enjoy dinner followed by the Night Markets.
Destination Leader / Teacher comments: Today was a wonderful opportunity for the students to gain an insight in the beautiful Laos culture. Our guide Mr. Choy is wonderful, very accommodating and informative.
Location: Ban Jong Nong Village, Laos
Activity: The group traveled 30 mins down the Mekong River, followed by a 20 mins drive to reach the village where they will conduct 3 days of service helping to build a dormitory for the school students who live far from the school.
Weather: 19-33 degrees Celsius, sunny.
Local guides comments: Today the students learned many things by experiencing life in the countryside, especially when they ate their lunch and dinner in the homes of villagers. They were very excited to start on the project work, and full of energy when it came to working.
Destination Leader / Teacher comments: Today the students experienced the kindness of the Laos people, when they entered their homes for meals. The project work is keeping them engaged and interested because it is varied. They can see the immediate impact of their efforts.They are curious to visit the classrooms tomorrow.