- I have lots of wonderful memories of yet another fantastic holiday through Explore. The Spirit of Laos tour was great because it took you away from the usual tourist itinerary - well off the beaten track right into the north and included the Plain of Jars. I was delighted that we ended up with 2 nights in Phonsavan rather than the scheduled 1. This gave us time to see sites 1, 2 and 3 rather than the anticipated site 2 only. We also attended a family wedding, dropped in on a local festival and ate with a local family - thanks to our Tour Leader - Khamla (a great guy with a wonderful sense of humour and highly infectious laugh).
The south was also wonderful. Lots of time spent on the water - and a great sighting of Irrawaddy River Dolphins - we were very lucky.
Group size was good - 7 plus our TL. Great food (if you like chilli!), wonderful experiences including Laos ballet and story telling (both in Luang Prabang); up early for sunrise, monks gathering alms, morning markets; wonderful sunsets over the Mekong. The list goes on.
I learnt so much - not just a new country, different culture and customs but the more sobering aspects of the ongoing impact of war on the daily life of the people and how development of this beautiful part of the world is hampered as a result.
The one thing I would change is the amount of time in Vientiane. So very glad this was reduced from 3 to 2 nights but even 2 was too many. We could have arrived as we did, visited the main sites that afternoon and left the next morning giving us more time at any of the other destinations would have been preferable to wasted time in the capital.
I think the itinerary could be clearer about the amount of time spent travelling. I appreciate that it is not always easy to get around but 'this morning is free in charming Tad Lo before heading back to Thailand for our evening flight' doesn't really indicate that you will be leaving at 10.00 and travelling all day arriving at the hotel in Bangkok about 12 hours later. Not a major issue, we're there to explore which includes travelling - it could just be a bit clearer. And we did drop in on a museum village on the way demonstrating different styles of housing, clothing and crafts. :)
Unfortunately day 13 didn't live up to expectations. I was really looking forward to what sounded like a wonderful day - boat trip, Wat Phu, village life, Ou Mong temple. However, our Wat Phu visit felt rushed and we didn't have time to visit Ou Mong temple - yet we did go to Don Daeng island for half an hour where we walked across burning hot sand, along a street, spoke to a few villagers, had a quick look at a temple and back across burning hot sand. Didn't understand the purpose of that and hope that the locals benefited in some way - otherwise it felt a bit voyeuristic. Do they receive payment for visitors? Maybe it's a requirement that tours visit? It didn't seem to make sense, especially when we missed out Ou Mong as a result. I think the itinerary for that day was ambitious. I think this was also the hottest day (close to 40 degrees) which probably didn't help.
All of that said, I'm now going to sit down and go through the far too many photos taken and relive what was an amazing and educational experience.
Thank you Explore. I'm counting down to my next trip already! (Fitzroy & Torres del Paine in November - can't wait!)
Published on: 21 April 2016