Top Travel Days of 2019, Hanging with the Monks and Buffalo in Luang Prabang, Laos

Guest Post and Photos by Amy Perry Basseches

I started this Dream Day in January giving early morning alms to the novice monks, then I headed to the Traditional Ethnology and Arts Centre in Luang Prabang, a local enterprise founded in 2006 to promote the appreciation and transmission of Laos’ ethnic cultural heritage and livelihoods. It was fascinating to grow in my understanding of crafts from over 20 different Lao ethnic groups!

A picnic at the famous Kuang Si Falls followed, getting damp from the mist. Finally, I was off to Laos Buffalo Dairy: a socially responsible sustainable farm and business whose aim is to improve rural prosperity and the health of the local population. The story behind this place is very unusual — people in Laos did not milk their water buffalo as was done in other places. So Susie (an Australian corporate executive who moved from Hong Kong) showed local people how, and is now helping the region. “We cooperate with people from villages in and around Luang Prabang by renting their buffalo, which provides the families with a regular income stream from an underutilized resource. We built a facility for milking their buffalo and keeping them well fed, healthy and safe.” Oh my: the delicious cheeses, ice creams, and cheesecakes!

Both of my guides in Luang Prabang were former monks. Nick had been a monk for 7 years, starting at age 13, and, while we climbed Mt. Phousi after the Laos Buffalo Dairy, he told me that 70% of Lao boys become novices because it is the way to an education. One can stop being a monk at any time. Nick left to attend university, obtain a business and tourism degree, get married, and have a child. A few generations back, his family were opium farmers, he said. I loved hearing his personal story and talking to him.

At the end of my Dream Travel Day, I ended up back at the lovely Sofitel. The hotel was originally built as the French Governor’s residence in the 1900s, on the outskirts of town. I had an enormous outdoor tub in my patio area which was definitely enjoyed. Contact ActiveTravels if you too would like a Dream Travel Day in Laos.