• Lydia Chu

All the amazing people we met in Thailand and Laos

It's been four days since we got back from our trip to Thailand and Laos. It was definitely the most memorable trip we have ever taken.

Our hosts, Nee and Aoy, at their homestay in Chiang Rai

Two years ago, my husband and I decided to take a month off every year in February for longer vacations. So, last year, we went to Patagonia including Chile and Argentina. This year, we decided to go to Thailand and Laos.

Two summers ago, my daughter had gone to do a voulnteer program in Thailand and spent 10 days there. She told us that it was the best trip she had ever taken and had recommended it. Before my daughter's visit to Thailand, I knew very little about the countries in Southeast Asia and never had the interest. So, when we decided to go to Thailand and Laos this year, I was kind of skeptical and didn't really know what to expect.

We also wanted to try to travel on a lower budget so when we heard that it was very affordable to travel there, we were sold. We had a budget of $3500 for both of us which was to include everything from plane tickets to food for 17 days of backpacking through Thailand and Laos. Our main focus was Thailand so we decided to visit three different cities in Thailand which included Bangkok, Chiang Mai, and Chiang Rai, and since we were going to be close to Laos, we decided to include Luang Prabang to our itinerary.

Nee's amazing breakfast in Chiang Rai

In all the cities we had visited, we were really impressed by how kind and genuine everybody was particularily in Thailand. Even though most people spoke very little English and we didn't speak any Thai, they all went out of their way to be helpful with a genuine generosity and a smile. Everybody we met at restaurants to bike shops were all friendly and very helpful even at bus stations! I can never forget our hosts, Nee and her husband, Aoy, who took care of us at their homestay. They would work all day to provide us with nice homemade meals and make us comfortable, and they treated all her guests like a family.

Aside from very friendly local people, we also met a lot of backpackers and tourists from all over the world. There were people of all ages, from younger people in their twenties to older people in their fifties and sixties backpacking through different parts of the world. Most of them were traveling for longer period of time from 3 to 6 months and sometimes even longer. We met people from Belgium, England, Australia, New Zealand, US, Israel, Canada and Japan to name a few.

Our backpacker friends from around the world

In Chiang Mai, we met three young women from Belgium who were traveling together for three months, and a young man from San Francisco who had dropped out of college to travel around the world. There were also a lot of young people both men and women who were traveling alone. Often, many of these solo travelers would partner up with other solo travelers to travel together that would form a friendship that would transform their lives in a very special way.

In Luang Prabang, while staying at a guesthouse, we met three older women from Germany who were traveling through Southeast Asia for 6 weeks. Many of these older people were expert travelers and had traveled to many different parts of the world. We were told that since most people in many parts of Europe are given a minimum of 6 weeks to three months vacation time a year, it's possible for them to travel for a longer period of time. It was fascinating to hear their stories about their adventures and all the exciting places they have been to.

Our new friends, Trice and her husband, in Luang Prabang

We also met an older American woman at a coffee shop who has been living in Laos for the last four years. We chatted for more than an hour and before we got up to leave, she gave us her email address inviting us to stay in touch. She even invited us to stay at her and her husband's house next time we're in Laos. Even though we didn't know each other for very long, she opened up to us and showed us how kind people can be in the world. Later, she even sent us pictures of her house in Laos with an invitation to visit.

In Chiang Rai, our last stop in Thailand, we met two lovely couples from Canada and Japan who were also staying at the guesthouse where we were staying at. Since our wonderful host, Nee, was an excellent cook as well as a baker, we all got together and chose to eat there instead of going out to eat at other restaurants (The food tasted much better and were significantly less expensive). Even though we were there for only three nights, we all had a great time getting to know each other. On our last day there, we all exchanged our email addresses to stay in touch.

The most interesting part of it all was the fact that even though we were all strangers from different parts of the world with different backgrounds, we all bonded instantly in a very special way. When I almost got sick on the sleeper bus going to Luang Prabang, one of our fellow backpackers offered me a dramamine that saved me from getting really sick. Even though we met on the bus and knew each other for only few hours to few days, I felt like we all had this common interest to look out for one another as fellow travelers. Their concern for my well-being and generosity made me feel safe and secure even though I was far away from home.

No matter what race we were or where we had come from, we were all there to enjoy our moments of new discoveries and adventures. Many of these travelers were young people traveling on a budget staying at hostels for little as $3/night (It's true and there are many out there) and eating cheap street food. They were able to travel not because they had a lot of money but because they wanted to discover something greater than the world they were living in. For all the travelers we crossed path with, I have no doubt that their travel experiences will be a valuable part of their life forever.

I can happily say that we had stuck to our budget (some left over), saw some awesome temples, had an amazing tours, got to travel on a motorbike, and learned a lot about the culture and the local people in Thailand and Laos, but the best part about this trip was meeting all the interesting people from different parts of the world. Their kindness and friendship have enriched my life in so many ways and given me a new perspective on life. It has definitely been one of the best trips I have ever taken, and I'm looking forward to doing it all over again. What a wonderful world we live in!

(Locals in Thailand) (cute girl we met on our hike) (Ladies at our guesthouse)



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