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Minimally invasive ways to glimpse village life near Luang Prabang?

  • glomer

    Joined Travelfish
    23rd February, 2010
    Posts: 86

    Seeking alternatives to tours, etc. For example, would tooling around by bicycle be a good way to glimpse the less touristed areas around Luang Prabang? What other options exist? Thanks...

    #1 Posted: 3/4/2010 - 07:51

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  • MADMAC

    Joined Travelfish
    6th June, 2009
    Posts: 6256
    Total reviews: 10

    If you get a chopper and come tooling into some village, you'll be an even bigger star than you would normally be.

    Villages are interesting for about an hour. After that I find them just boring. So do the inhabitants, which is why they move to the cities as quickly as possible.

    But seriously renting a small motorcycle would be the way to go. Allows you to cover 15 or 20 kilometers reasonably quickly, and you'll need to get back to the city to sleep - well you'll probably want to anyway.

    #2 Posted: 3/4/2010 - 11:37

  • somsai

    Joined Travelfish
    1st March, 2006
    Location United States
    Posts: 563

    Rather than the mode of transport I'd think language and connections are important. If you really want to get a piece of village life without barriers communicating and having an introcuction are key. It's some money but a guide is one of the few ways I've ever seen people interact further than a superficial level. I've noticed a distict difference between when I show up just speaking the language, and when I show up with someone who is known to the villagers.

    Good Luck.

    #3 Posted: 3/4/2010 - 23:59

  • MADMAC

    Joined Travelfish
    6th June, 2009
    Posts: 6256
    Total reviews: 10

    Somsai
    Not to sound jaded here, but even with a guide who speaks the language, it's going to be superficial. Getting to know people in a serious manner takes months, if not years. A few hours with a guide isn't going to cut it.

    #4 Posted: 4/4/2010 - 02:44

  • exacto

    Joined Travelfish
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    Location United States
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    Given that any western tourist is going to stick out anyway, I thought the guide suggestion was a good one. I know that when I've dated local girls anywhere I've lived, they've helped create connections and acted as cultural interpreters, and I've been able to take part in local culture in a much more meaningful way than I could on my own, even in those places where I already spoke the language.

    Glomer said he was just looking for a glimpse, not writing a thesis. I imagine that either of the suggestions above would serve that purpose, but a guide would be the more meaningful option. Regards.

    #5 Posted: 4/4/2010 - 02:59

  • exacto

    Joined Travelfish
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    As a follow up, homestays are usually a good way to gain a better glimpse into local lifestyle and culture than a hotel or guesthouse. If you've got more time, you could also look into volunteer options at local schools or such. Sorry that I don't have specific recommendations for you in the LP area, but I suspect a bit of research before or after you arrive might turn up something. Cheers.

    #6 Posted: 4/4/2010 - 03:02

  • glomer

    Joined Travelfish
    23rd February, 2010
    Posts: 86

    Thanks for the responses. I'm fully aware of the complexity of local life being put on display for tourist consumption, hence the request for ways to be _minimally_ invasive, yet still see more of Laos than LP itself can afford. I guess that's why I was imagining moving through the landscape and getting a view from a distance, rather than inserting myself into village space proper, which, for me, would feel like an imposition (I'll only be visiting for slightly more than a week; no time to cultivate deeper connections or volunteer in a way that I would feel was ethical). Thanks again.

    #7 Posted: 4/4/2010 - 05:01

  • wanderingcat

    Joined Travelfish
    21st October, 2006
    Posts: 726
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    LPB is larger than what's shown in guidebook maps. a lot of village life in the 'blank' areas in guidebook maps - areas that are devoid of map symbols indicating facilities/things of interest to tourists. just get a bicycle & use these non-guidebook maps:
    http://hobomaps.com/LuangPrabangRegionMap.html
    http://hobomaps.com/LuangPrabangAreaMap.html

    #8 Posted: 4/4/2010 - 09:22

  • glomer

    Joined Travelfish
    23rd February, 2010
    Posts: 86

    Thanks, Wanderingcat, that is super helpful!

    #9 Posted: 4/4/2010 - 09:44

  • somsai

    Joined Travelfish
    1st March, 2006
    Location United States
    Posts: 563

    If you're still reading Glomer. . .

    I kind of shot far wide of the mark, and I did know what you were after.

    It does sound like a good plan, a bike draws less attention and isn't so noisy. Even villages on the road are pretty quiet. Anywhere outside of the very center of town village life goes on as it always does for any to see. Sometimes by just watching carefully for a long while you start to see things. What at first seems boring and dull on closer observation shows much activity.

    Village life is lived in public, and everyone expects to be seen, and even noticed.

    Strangers from other cultures and ethnicities are not uncommon. I mean besides tourists there are many other peoples wandering through. Given the right circumstances we are just one more.

    I hope you have a good time in Laos.

    #10 Posted: 4/4/2010 - 10:42

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  • glomer

    Joined Travelfish
    23rd February, 2010
    Posts: 86

    Thanks, Somsai--I appreciate your perspective. A Lao visitor's guide I read did mention the noisiness of scooters, so it's good to be reminded of that. Cheers!

    #11 Posted: 4/4/2010 - 11:59

  • MADMAC

    Joined Travelfish
    6th June, 2009
    Posts: 6256
    Total reviews: 10

    "Even villages on the road are pretty quiet."

    In this respect they must be really different from Isaan villages. Between the dogs barking (hundreds of them), the roosters crowing in the early (very early) morning, and the kids racing all over the place on motorcycles which need mufflers... it's the noisiest place I've ever stayed.

    #12 Posted: 5/4/2010 - 09:01

  • somsai

    Joined Travelfish
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    Location United States
    Posts: 563

    Luang Prabang is in Laos Mac, it's pretty close to Thailand but different.

    #13 Posted: 5/4/2010 - 21:07

  • MADMAC

    Joined Travelfish
    6th June, 2009
    Posts: 6256
    Total reviews: 10

    In this case they must be really different. Because Thai villages are, without exageration, louder than New York City.

    #14 Posted: 5/4/2010 - 21:41

  • neosho

    Joined Travelfish
    13th August, 2008
    Posts: 386

    Got to agree with you Madmac. The roosters across the street are the village terrorists. They come over to my window every morning at 4:30am and crow. Set your clock to them. At 5 to 5:30 someone will fire up their 5000 watt sterio. Then about 6:30, the headman fires up with music, to make his announcement at 7. By then , like you say, the kids are on their scooters. Then all day it's all kind of vendors with loud speakers on their trucks selling whatever. I am now going to bed earlier than I ever have because I know I will be getting up earlier. Oops, forgot to mention the monks.

    #15 Posted: 6/4/2010 - 14:40

  • somsai

    Joined Travelfish
    1st March, 2006
    Location United States
    Posts: 563

    If you guys are still hearing roosters you haven't moved in yet. Unpack your junk and relax why dontcha?

    One thing to be said for lack of electricity or money is it sure cuts down on the stereos and motorcyles (and cantankerous old expats shouting "get off my lawn")

    Now if you'd mentioned the sound of the big foot powered coke and saht dehusking the day's rice coming from under every house I'd recognise a morning sound. Or in a big town Commie radio (welcome substitution for all the royal baloney) that I hear when I'm already at the market as is every other normal non lazy, non alcoholic, human being.

    Laos and Thailand, so similar, only separated by a river and a few years, I'll take the few years.

    #16 Posted: 6/4/2010 - 19:43

  • MADMAC

    Joined Travelfish
    6th June, 2009
    Posts: 6256
    Total reviews: 10

    My daughter and I are not morning people - although she's going to have to suffer soon enough when she begins to attend first grade. We sleep in. I was the same way and happily am now. Getting up at six in the morning, or even eight, is something I do not prefer doing. The problem in Thai villages is that the animals get up that early, most people get up that early, and they aren't quiet.

    And some noises do become background noises, but roosters aren't among them. They're too loud and too inconsistent. Ditto dogs. My father is law doesn't seem to hear anything - including loud stereos. That guy sleeps through it all. But my wife and myself, it drives us crazy. Of course, we LIVE in the city, not in a dusty village. So we don't have the amount of time it would take to turn roosters into background noise.

    Bottom line is I don't find Thai villages quiet at all. The city is much quieter most of the time (barring a concert or other event).

    #17 Posted: 6/4/2010 - 20:32

  • daawgon

    Joined Travelfish
    17th April, 2007
    Posts: 917
    Total reviews: 2

    wanderingcat - those hobomaps of LP are great. Do they sell printed copies, if I tried to print them out, I'd get something unreadable?

    #18 Posted: 8/5/2010 - 00:08

  • wanderingcat

    Joined Travelfish
    21st October, 2006
    Posts: 726
    Total reviews: 4
    Places visited:
    At least 67

    #18:
    have seen some of their older maps for sale at Monument Books in Vientiane, but not the newer ones. try contacting them directly?
    http://hobomaps.com/MapSellers.html

    #19 Posted: 8/5/2010 - 01:09

  • LaoNow

    Joined Travelfish
    14th May, 2010
    Posts: 38

    The quickest way to get away from the tourist hordes in Luang Prabang is to take your bicycle across the Mekong on the vehicle ferry for 5,000 kip and tour the dirt roads in Chomphet district. Nothing spectacular over there but real Laos without tourists. Hobo Maps has these roads on their regional map but some areas are still blank and fun to explore. Hiking over there is good too but get away from the riverside trail if possible where tour groups sometimes come to see the temples.

    #20 Posted: 14/5/2010 - 09:39

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