Backpacking in Laos

by Stefan Schnell

This story is part of our 'Unforgettable hotel nights' series, featuring tales from luxury hotel guests which were sent in for our recent travel writing competition.


In November 2009 I and a good friend of mine went backpacking through Laos for three weeks. First and foremost I would like to say, that Laos is the loveliest place to be in the world. The people are laid back, the climate is nice and the nature is just blowing you away. Our trip all in all has been a bit of an adventure. There had been missed flights, lost credit-cards, a total breakdown, a bus accident and a massive pain in my back on the flight back to Germany. But the pictures we took and those we have in our minds made it worth and we will return some day.

Anyway, during our little Odyssey we passed the “town” of Luang Namtha where the story starts. The decision of going on a small trekking-trip was made early back in Germany and Luang Namtha seemed to be the perfect place for it. After we arrived there with our local bus, together with 29 other Laotians in this 13-Seater, we searched for a guided tour for 2 maybe 3 days. Since we were on low budget it had to be good effort for price. We met a couple from the Netherlands and booked a tour starting on the next day. The more people you have, the lower the price for any individual, so an Italian guy joined us.

The next day the European “fab five” started on a trip through the rough wilderness of the jungle. Our goal was to reach a village deep in the jungle and stay there for one night before leaving it. We as Europeans expected bears, snakes, brutal beasts that try to slice us with their teeth. On our way we would explore thousands of new creatures, getting in a total parallel dimension by falling in a lake and saving hostages out of the hands of some really bad guys. Our food we would hunt ourselves and then cook it with open fire that our parents never allowed us to do.

As you can imagine none of this happened. The only “beast” we saw were birds that flew away and seemed to laugh at us and the only hostages we saved were probably the germs we protected by getting the birds to fly away. The food was already prepared and carried by our guide and the only kick we got was eating it from leaves, really mad leaves, really.

After six hours of walking, slipping and falling we arrived at the village. Kids were playing, chickens were walking as well as pig and dogs and all that other creatures you find on a farm. It was nice to see the excited kids and playing soccer with them. Just for the record-The German team won. It turned out to be a really nice day. After we had a awesome meal cook by the villagers and us and chatting with those friendly people afterwards me and my buddy went to bed. It was already dark and there was no electricity. Live and die with the sun. Our beds were in a small wooden house and we shared it with a family.

I guess we went to bed at approximately 8pm and as soon as we got in our sleeping-bags the door got locked. The sound of that locker made my mind do some thinking: “What when you have to go to the “Restroom”, a little whole covered by some would.”

I was just praying for quick sleep. God, Manitu or Buddha must have been with me, because the sleep came quick.

After some hours of sleep I woke up by the barking of a dog right below our house. The dog was barking followed by braking and then again baking. Remember what I said about God, Manitu or Buddha? Forget it.

I thought it was around 1 or 2am, but it was just 10pm. I asked my fellow if he would be sleeping, but he just said “Yes”. My mind was running again. After a while the dog stopped barking. Maybe his voice was gone. I was about to fall asleep as I heard some growling. I just thought “Yeah, right. At least my fear of going to toilet is gone. ” I was told on the next day, that it was a bear who was trying to get some good stuff. Anyway I felt asleep again after a while.

I was deep in my dreams as approximately a whole battalion of roosters was starting an orchestra usually set in the Madison-Square-Garden. Only good thing was that this animally night was over and breakfast was about to come.

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