“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only a page.” – St. Augustine.
Travelling gives us a lot of great memories that we can always look back on. Getting out of our comfort zone opens the mind to more ideas and possibilities. With this in mind I wanted to do something different on my yearly vacation this time around and we stumbled upon Nomadic Road. They offer off-road, off-beat destination packages among which we chose LAOS. It perfectly fit in to what I was looking for.
Our group consisted of nine members who were mostly from Bombay. Four of us started the vacation a few days prior to the original travel schedule as we wanted to explore the enigmatic capital city - Vientiane by ourselves and get accustomed to the climate which was not very different from Mumbai. The expedition started from the capital city, where we were offered Ford Rangers 4WD vehicles for our expedition and it was a left hand drive. We had a briefing session the night before where we were shown all the aspects that was needed to drive through the country and one important instruction was to try and not get into any accident.
Our group was split in to four
pickups, the expedition lead and a professional
film maker (Charles Schiele) occupied the Lead vehicle and expedition hospitality team were part of the Sweep car to form a convoy, which was professionally managed
throughout the expedition. Each car had a walkie-talkie to communicate with each other. This was the second unique experience to drive in a
convoy, where the lead would keep a tab on the speed and sweep that would
ensure nobody is left behind.
The first stop was Sainyabuli - a good ride along the tarmac road and most of it being off-road, the ride was slow the first day as we were getting acquainted with the car, the communication systems and the roads. We spent the whole day driving through the muddy jungle roads to reach our destination. We stopped in the evening for a short break and Charles with his drone took some amazing shots from the air.
For the second part of the journey we drove through Laos to Luang Prabang, where we stayed for a couple of nights and had an amazing time. The travel through the jungle at a snail’s pace was an exhilarating off road experience. Crossing the mighty Mekong River in the ferry along with the cars was an awesome adventure and the off-roading through the jungle was the cherry on the top. We stopped at the Kuang Si Falls which had an amazing view. Being a football fanatic, we had a friendly match with a local team and I had a wonderful time with the locals.
The next stop of our journey was XiangKhouang, where we visited the famous heritage site - Plain of Jars. The drive towards XiangKhouang was along the tarmac and through mountains which had some awesome scenic views. Our last stop was Vang Vieng which is a happening tourist destination with an active night life. We stopped here to experience the unique hot-air balloon rides. We left Vang Vieng to return to the capital Vientiane to end our amazing journey with a departing dinner.
Along the way we traveled through remote villages with amazing landscapes, jungles, crossed rivers, had ample local food to eat. We met some amazing local people who even though do not speak English were quiet friendly and the hospitality they offered was remarkable. LAOS runs as a country mostly on foreign aid and many countries have been tweaking in to it. Though Laos was a French colony earlier we still would see communist flags on most of the houses and shops. One prominent fact we observed was there are no industries and tourism and agriculture is the only source of income, But the country is remarkable making progress towards development with good initiatives which we were briefed by the Tourism Minister in our meeting.
We started as strangers at the start of the journey and we became part of a family by the end of the expedition. And while this experience gave me a peek into how the rest of the world lives, it also made me appreciate more what I had back home. This is once in a lifetime experience would be cherished for rest of my life and hopefully will go on a similar offbeat expedition again.