A Cultural Adventure with Tiger Trail
Tiger Trail is a tour operator based in Luang Prabang, Laos. What separates them from their many competitors is the company’s commitment to sustainable and responsible tourism throughout Laos. Whether you are a hiker, biker, kayaker, or simply adventurous, you can easily find a package that suits both you and your family’s needs. When our good friends at Tiger Trail asked me to join them on one of their treks, I quickly agreed. For me a quick trek around town was what I desired to spice up my week and get to know a bit more about my new home.
Starting early in the morning, I was met by three smiling, bright-eyed employees of Tiger Trail. Two newcomers to the company were going to accompany me on the tour, meaning we were all in this together, which was a good thing considering our first stop was at the UXO Laos Visitors Centre. For many people around the world, the history of bombs dropped in Laos during the Vietnam War is unknown. It is hard to hide the facts, as Laos is the most bombed country per capita, averaging more than two millions tons of ordinances unloaded between 1964 to 1973. Our stop at the centre shed some light on this historical catastrophe and divulged information that was not easy to digest, but significant to the country’s recent history.
Leaving the museum heavy hearted, my three comrades and I were transported up a long, windy dirt mountain road to the base of Tad Thong waterfall. A light drizzle accompanied us on our uphill trek, bringing some relief against the heat and humidity. Passing through lush greenery, tip-toeing across rickety wooden footbridges, and catching each other on muddy paths, we made our way to the Khmu village, about an hour and a half’s journey. Emerging from the jungle into a foggy clearing, we explored the Khmu way of life. We meandered through the village, learning about the different building structures and stopping to talk to whoever approached us. Most Khmu houses are made of bamboo, from the roofs made of thin woven strips to the thicker bamboo side paneling which must replaced once every three years. We watched the villagers build a new bamboo structures right in front of our eyes. Their hard work was inspiring, and the result was a simple house that was beautiful and functional.
As we continued our trek upwards into the mountains, we passed rice field after rice field, all of which had just been harvested. All of those empty rice fields started to make me hungry, and lucky for us we were almost to our third stop, lunch! Out of nowhere, down our dirt trekking path emerged signs for Hillside Resort and Restaurant. Curiosity got the better of me as we wandered down the path leading to the resort. It was hard to imagine what kind of resort could be here, in the middle of nowhere, but alas a beautiful hotel with a swimming pool gracing the front entrance appeared in front of us. While waiting for lunch, our host showed us around the large edible garden on the property and the breathtaking views from the top. To see such a large garden in Luang Prabang was a first for me, and the thought of these vegetables being in my upcoming lunch was thrilling.
Lunch at Hillside Resort and Restaurant was lovely, from the views to the delicacies served on the table. Tom yum soup, vegetable curry, carrot fried rice, refreshing peanut laab and of course sticky rice, entered into my stomach on the notion that I had not eaten in days. Perhaps the trek inflated my hunger, but one thing for certain is that the lunch served by Hillside was one of the best meals I have eaten in Luang Prabang. I felt as I could sip a cold cola from the terrace here for days, and I think in the future I may do so. The resort is an excellent home away from home that is close to the city centre, yet feels far enough away to allow you to recharge and catch up on life.
Our final destination for the day was at a Ock Pop Tok’s Living Craft Centre, located just a few minutes from town. Upon our arrival we were immediately greeted by friendly faces, inviting us in for a tour of the centre. Here we learned about silkworms, the natural dying process of silk and the different weaving techniques. Then, we walked around the weaving studio, studying how the weavers meticulously recreate complex patterns. Even though I work at Ock Pop Tok and walk past the weaving studio each day, I am continuously awestruck by the weavers and their beautiful works of art. I never knew so much work went into creating one scarf, and am now able to fully appreciate the importance fair trade practices. Ock Pop Tok also offers classes in weaving, dyeing and batik. We looked in on students trying their hand at weaving with a master weaver and a translator by their side. Their excitement made me take a mental note to take more classes while I am here. At the end of the tour, we all decided to relax by the Mekong River with a delicious pot of tea from the Silk Road Cafe. Surrounded by lush greenery and great company, it was the perfect way to end a day of exploring and adventure.
The immense amount of information which I learned on this trip was like taking a whole course on the nature, culture and food of Luang Prabang. This trek reiterated that even given a short amount of time, there is so much of the city you are capable of exploring. From city centers, to villages outside of town, I witnessed so many different aspects of Luang Prabang with Tiger Trail and I cannot wait to start planning my text trek!