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Dalama Adventures Tale of two corporate types ditching their jobs and traveling the world for 14 months... check out all photos, blogs & interesting tid bits at http://www.dalama.net

So Much Potential, So Little Infrastructure

LAOS | Friday, 8 June 2007 | Views [939]

In Northern Laos, there is very limited tourist infrastructure. There were five of us together, wanting to do a trek (Darrin, I, an Argentinean, Italian, and Spaniard) We wandered the streets trying to communicate with people, in search of a trekking guide to take us out into the hill-tribes. our English speaking friend from the bus ride up to Phongsali sent his local buddy down to our hotel, and he was waiting for us when we came down to search for breakfast. his buddy was wanting to start a trekking guide career, but we were looking for someone with a bit more experience. Word of mouth spread through town that we, the only "falang" in town, wanted a guide, and by 9:00am, another guy in a leather jacket (yes in 35 degree celsius heat and 80% humidity) cruised up to our hotel reception on his motorbike, letting us know he was just starting a company for treks, and we could be his first customers... hmmm... we must look like really vulnerable fresh meat that's just walked into town. We met an older guy on the street, "Where you from? Where you go?" he calls out... we told him we needed to find a trekking guide, and he indicated to us to follow him... so blindly we go, walking down the street with him. He paraded us down the main road, proudly waving to his friends and calling out to them, and his friends staring at us with curiosity. We got about 5 minutes down the road, and he turns to us and says, "I go to sleep now, bye bye." Turns around, waves, and heads back up the hill. Dumbfounded, we would later realize that people here are so friendly and curious, and often they may know a phrase or two in English, and want to try out their phrases, and socialize. We would see him several times later during our stay, and he used the same few sentences of English on us then too. It was funny. We finally camped out in front of the tourism office, and finally, around 1:30 p.m., someone shows up for work, but with no key to open the door to the room with the tour binder, so we wait another 30 minutes, the key arrives, as do a few more curious government workers to check out what we want. We discuss what we're looking for: a 3 day, 2 night trek to see as many different (variety of) hill tribes as possible with a relatively easy trek. After Anapurna, we were ready for something a bit more easy, where we could really take in the sights while trekking. We point to pictures of tribes people that were on the wall, indicating the types we'd like to see, and he assures us in his 3 day program we will see them all. He also assures us that our criteria- the guide speaks and comprehends English, and is able to communicate with local tribes in their language, will be met. Our guide and the Tourism manager show up to our guest house well after our 8:00 p.m. planned meeting this evening. The guide is barely over 20 years old, and speaks a little English. We don't notice at the time how limited his actual language skills are, as the Tourism manager keeps answering our questions for him. We just thought it was a cultural rank and file thing, and the manager is the one to answer questions, and the underling keeps quiet. We ask to go over the map for the trek and the manager refuses to show it, saying that if the guide saw it, he could copy it and do the treks as his own business. He and the guide (Souk) assured us we would get the trek we were paying for, and that Souk just took a couple of Canadians on the same trek several days ago. Satisfied with their reply, we were required to then pay for the trek up front in full - we complied, albeit, hesitantly - wanting to only pay 50% up front so the guide has little incentive to ditch us in the middle of the trek, leaving us in the remote jungle and running off with our money. We all went to bed feeling a bit uneasy, but believing our guide would be there in the morning, and that we would get a better trek with him, than we would with the other two guides who we would have been "first" customers with. I was thinking about how fun it would be to set up a real trekking industry here, and establish treks around typical western customer expectations... and how much easier the experience would be for tourists - this part of Laos still relatively undeveloped, but holding a phenomenal potential for some exciting adventure/eco type expeditions.

Tags: Adventures


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