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The Orphanage Experience The Orphanage Exeperience is a non profit initiative, to take fun, educational & sustainable activities vital for a childs development to children in orphanages across the world. 2005 sees the Orphanage Experience off to Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos and Thailand.

When Tourism Goes Bad

LAOS | Tuesday, 24 January 2006 | Views [2688] | Comments [5]


After 2 days of being on the backs of trucks, tuk tuks, buses, slow boats and speed boats I have finally made it to Thailand from Laos in one piece. Bung foot in stride looking like a leper due to my barefoot meandering around backwater Laos, was quite handy though as I am sure i got better prices at the market with a limp that even the hardest seller felt sorry for.

Fancy and flowery verbs are not needed for nor cannot explain Laos. Got there do it and see it, especially before the tourism really turns bad, and hence the name of this blog, today folks I would like to briefly discuss "Resposnible Tourism".

Responible Tourism as the name suggests is about being a respnsible tourist. In the last 2 months I have met enough losers to last me a life time,  fat old men who have to come to the other side of the world to get a shag with a girl have his age for $2,  people who sit in Vang Vieng, Laos and watch Friends reruns high on happy shakes, oblivious to the stunning scenery outside, girls who sunbathe topless on beaches and at rivers where local people wash full clothed, idiots who complain about having to pay 20 cents for using a bamboo bridge that a local has made, that they wear out from using,  filth who drop there rubbish into streams and seas, I could really have a moan, but I guess you get my picture.

What is  Responsible Tourism?

  • learn key words in the local language
  • be aware of religious and social customs
  • visit the visitors centre on arrival for local information
Know the appropriate cultural behaviour
  • respect the dignity and privacy of others – ask before taking photos
  • dress and behave respectfully especially in villages, religious and cultural areas
  • be careful giving gifts or money to children and beggars
Protect the Enviroment
  • do not buy products made from coral, endangered plants or animals
  • do not stand on, touch or remove any items from the enviroment

Support local initiatives

  • purchase local products, arts, crafts
  • eat local rather than imported food
  • support local tour operators and stay in locally owned accommodation
Pay a fair price
  • 50 cents may not mean much to you, but it may be a meal for the vendor
  • pay a price that reflects what something is worth to you
Minimise environmental impact
  • dispose of rubbish carefully, recycle where possible, reuse your drink bottles, and say "No" to plastic bags
  • minimise water and power use
  • choose environmentally responsible tour operators
Think about your impact
  • remember you are a guest – don't do anything you wouldn't do at home
  • practise safe and responsible sex
  • make your trip a positive experience for both you and the people in the country you visit

Responsible travel was really magnified for me in Vang Vieng in Laos. Vang Vieng was a tiny village on the Mekong util about 5 years ago when tourists started to notice its beautiful natural scener. Vang Vieng is now a so called backpacker haven where you can float down the Mekong on a tube beer in hand past traditional fishing villages. Evenings can be spent dining in TV lounges choosing from menus, sporting  weed, mushrooms, and opium any which way you like. Tourists love it. But why come to Laos if all you are going to do is drink, smoke and watch TV??? Cant you jsut do that at home, its not like taht is what the traditional Lao people do.  

Thankfully 3km down the road we found a breath of fresh air at the Organic Farm, where Mr T runs a organic farm, and resturant from which proceeds go to support the local community. You can work, stay or just dine at the farm, and we spent an evening teaching the kids a bit about NZ and helping with thier English. Finding an orphange in Laos turned out to be a fruitless endevour as the development is just starting to happen and a lack of infrastructure made communication hard. Instead we donated money to help run the school bus for Mr T for a month. If you are ever in Vang Vieng head down to the farm, ceheck it out see what you can do to help. Give something back to yoru destination that gives you so much and remember you being there is not your right. www.loafarm.org

A couple of years ago when I was looking for a volunteer job overseas I looked into working for the Grenheart Foundation in Laos, and low and behold the world being a small place I ran into it up in Northen Laos and met the people that run the show. The founadtion is another great example of how as a tourist you can give back to the community. Check it out at www.WowLao.com

As always the internet is slow and painful, and we are now off to spend a week with the Akha Heritage Founadtion in the very north of Thailand, but i will be home in 2 weeks, wohooooooooo. Get the Vegimite ready.

Love Hanna

Tags: Philosophy of travel



Hi Hanna,
Just read your interesting report on Laos. I am trying to find out the name of a remote, still untouched village in Laos on the Mekong. The sort of place where no foreginers have been seen much. I need the name for my spiritual revolution project, for the location of my global villager in Laos (more under www.rosiejackson.de if you are interested). I would appreciate your help, love Rosie

  Rosie Jackson Feb 17, 2009 6:49 PM


Hi Hanna

Found your blog by Accident looking uo the www.laofarm.org website which appears to be inoprative. I am working in VTE and have visted the farm twice now, last week I took up a rice husk ash burner to transform discarded rice husks into an ash which can be used as cement.
The Farm is a great place to visit and chill with a bunch of unique and interesting individuals.
Just thought I'd leand my support to your comments abouit responsible tourism, all power 2 U



  gordon hirst Nov 17, 2009 2:22 AM


Hanna, you may want to understand the area that you are travelling a wee bit better. If you bothered to look at the map you will find that Vang Vieng is no where near the MeKong. I agree with what you are saying but dont be too pretentious about your travels. By the way how did you travel to asia?? Plane?? The impact of flight carbon miles has a great impact on developing nations that you wont be able to off set by a little bit of volunteering.

  cherie May 28, 2010 6:45 PM


very good!!!!!!!!!!

  madhusudan May 30, 2010 3:18 PM


Hi there, as this blog is very old now, i very rarely check it. I do however still appreciate your comments.

Cherie - I totally agree. The bulk of that trip was overland, and flights here and there are unavoidable when living in NZ.

I really do though agree with your stance on not flying. Over the last few years I made it from Brisbane Australia to Belgrade Serbia overland, because of not wanting to fly.

I try to do what I can, and am sorry if it came across as pretentious! I have spent most of my adult life in developing countries and know exactly what your talking about.

Cheers Hanna

  Hanna Sep 14, 2010 8:35 AM

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