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Southeast Asia forum

Biggest culture shock areas in Vietnam and Laos

Posted by johnkitchener on 24/9/2010 at 15:15

Biggest culture shock areas in Vietnam and Laos
Hey,
My girlfirend and I are travelling for 1 month through Vietnam and Loas. We want to base our trip on culture, natural landscapes and adventure. Does anyone recommend anywhere where culture is bursting from the seams or anywhere else that might take our fancy?
Cheers,

John Kitchener

#1 johnkitchener has been a member since 19/9/2010. Posts: 7

Posted by MADMAC on 24/9/2010 at 17:08

honestly I don't know what that means - culture bursting at the seams. But I would guess you mean places that are VERY removed from western influence. Cultures are not stagnant, not ours and not theirs either, and western influence is very pervasive in many places. The more rural you get, the less that is true. But, of course, the more rugged you live and, frankly, the more boring things tend to be.

I have always said that language is culture, and I believe that. To understand why certain peoples behave the way they do requires a lot of verbal interaction. So if you really want to understand a culture, then you have to start working on the language. You don't have time for that, and certainly not if you are going to two countries - that's two weeks each, which is enough to absorb no culture in either. Some people would say that eating local food and visiting some more interesting architectural and natural sites as culture - I view culture as more behavioral, but if that is truly where you interest lies, then there are the obvious choices of places like Luang Prabang, Vientiane, perhaps Tha Khek... Halong Bay, Hanoi, Hue...

Was there a reason you chose Vietnam and Laos vice, say Thailand or Cambodia?

#2 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957


Posted by johnkitchener on 24/9/2010 at 20:22

hey madmac
cheers for the info. Well ill be cycling cambodia for a month beforehand and touring Vietnam a bit before that aswell so most of the month i was referring to will be spent in Laos but possibly a week and a bit in Vietnam again. So Cambodia was my first choice and i guess i needed to lose a country and i chose Thailand because it seemed more commercial, although im sure it would be amazing aswell.
have u or anyone else been to Luang Nam Tha? it seems a great place for trekking and different cultures?

#3 johnkitchener has been a member since 19/9/2010. Posts: 7

Posted by MADMAC on 24/9/2010 at 21:41

The guys to ask about Laos are Rufus and Somsai. I would post questions about that place to them in the Laos section which they check reasonably often. I live in Thailand and am not a huge fan of Laos, although to be fair I haven't spent a lot of time there and my exposure was in a narrow range.

As for Thailand, it is a VERY varied place. It has areas that are VERY commercial and areas that are very rural and simple and pretty much everything in between. I like Thailand and Thai people, and I like modernity as well - I am not a naturalist or anything approaching it. So commercial works OK for me. But where my in-laws live there isn't much of it (but they do have power and running water all the time, or most of the time, and phone service now as well) and I find the place incredibly boring after a day or so. I've always found it interesting how some people here will wax eloquent about some dusty place in Laos with no regular electricity, no nightlife, no consistent hot water... and not much protection from the elements (elements I am particularly averse to are scorpions, centipedes, dengue carrying mosquitos and lethal snakes).

But yeah, I would recommend those two guys for Laos. They know what they're talking about reference that place.

#4 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957

Posted by 5acrefarmer on 25/9/2010 at 06:12

Madmac, you're right about the boring bit! I sort of like boring at times so can endure or enjoy those times. And right about the language, my OK grasp of Japanese helps a huge amount when I go there.

When I see overseas visitors travelling where I live I often wonder what they find so interesting. Next to nothing happens here but I guess for them it is 'exotic' in some way and they can enjoy it for their short visit. So is it the same when we go to some 'exotic' destination? Totally different to what we are used to but for the locals it is just another day of many many days.
I have found the best cultural experiences are ones I stumbled across by chance. They are small, local events and not written up in any guidebook. One unique experience can make a whole trip worthwhile.

#5 5acrefarmer has been a member since 10/6/2009. Location: Australia. Posts: 61
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Posted by Tilapia on 25/9/2010 at 07:22

Is your name really Kitchener, or are you from Kitchener, Ontario, or both?

#6 Tilapia has been a member since 21/4/2006. Location: Canada. Posts: 1,485
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Posted by johnkitchener on 25/9/2010 at 10:23

hahah yeah its Kitchener. Im from Woy Woy near Sydney, Australia. Come visit!
Cheers for the advice everyone!

#7 johnkitchener has been a member since 19/9/2010. Posts: 7

Posted by MADMAC on 25/9/2010 at 10:52

Not related to Lord Kitchener by chance are you?

#8 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957

Posted by 5acrefarmer on 25/9/2010 at 11:13

Woy Woy. My mum lives in Umina. I once lived in Copacabana (Central Coast)!

#9 5acrefarmer has been a member since 10/6/2009. Location: Australia. Posts: 61
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Posted by travellingsarah on 25/9/2010 at 12:39 TF writer

Posted from within Vietnam.

I'd recommend heading up to NW Vietnam - some of the most amazing scenery I've seen and hardly another Westerner in sight. Apart from in Sapa and Lao Cai of course, but they have their charms too. Travelling around there is pretty tough at times but the rewards are worth it.

#10 travellingsarah has been a member since 23/3/2010. Location: Vietnam. Posts: 679
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Posted by travellingsarah on 25/9/2010 at 12:39 TF writer

Posted from within Vietnam.

I'd recommend heading up to NW Vietnam - some of the most amazing scenery I've seen and hardly another Westerner in sight. Apart from in Sapa and Lao Cai of course, but they have their charms too. Travelling around there is pretty tough at times but the rewards are worth it.

#11 travellingsarah has been a member since 23/3/2010. Location: Vietnam. Posts: 679
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