March was one of the most memorable months so far. In early March my brother and his girlfriend came to visit and travel with me. We spend a week in Thailand, including Bangkok, Chiang Mai, and Chiang Rai before entering Laos. It was great to show them some of the beauty that Northern Thailand has to offer. This included a day tour to the Sticky Waterfalls close by Chiang Mai and a visit to the famous “White Temple” in Chiang Rai.
But our adventure just got started. From Chiang Rai we took the bus to travel to the border, where we crossed the Friendship bridge and entered Laos. The next morning, we got on the Slow boat that takes 2 days to Luang Prabang. We spent one night in a small village where we were able to get a sense of how living in rural Laos looks like. We continued the trip the next morning. It is a once in a lifetime experience driving 2 days on the Mekong River. It is a slow and peaceful way to travel. You can spot many things across the way. One of the most memorable things was seeing locals fishing and searching for seaweed or other stuff that is edible. Because of the remote location, most villagers are completely self-independent from any forms of civilization. I remember writing a geography examen about Laos and this phenomenon, so it was even more special seeing it in real life.
We reached Luang Prabang in the late afternoon. It is a city of unique beauty where you can get an insight into Buddhism and old traditions. While the world is constantly moving and developing, this city was able to keep its authenticity. We really enjoyed our stay here.
We continued to Vang Vieng in central Laos by using the newly built Lao-Chinese railway system. Vang Vieng is known to be home to the most picturesque landscapes all across Laos. The nature surrounding Vang Vieng is characterized by dozens of karst rocks and some lagoons. So we decided to get on a bike and cycle across the area, while stopping at some Lagoons to cool down. We also visited a beautiful viewpoint from which we were able to overview this beautiful area. It was incredibly hot during these days in Laos but the cold and fresh water of the lagoons was really helpful.
Beside exploring the area, we didn´t miss to indulge on some local specialties and making new friends. Our Laos adventure came to an end in the capital: Vientiane. While my brother and his girlfriend headed to Koh Phangan, an island in the south of Thailand, I boarded the plane to Vietnam.
I was very excited to visit Vietnam for the first time. After arriving late in the evening and quickly devouring a first bowl of Pho, I feel asleep quickly. The next days I explored the cities with my fellow German volunteer friends, that are teaching in Vietnam. It was such a great chance to exchange some stories and thoughts after 6 months of volunteering and living abroad. I fell in love with Vietnam quickly. The friendliness of the people, the beauty of the architecture, the best coffee in the world and some amazing street foods. All these and much more aspects made this place so special to me after just a short time. This country grabs you and doesn´t let you go. Once you love it, you love it forever. I must come back here again for sure.
To reflect on my travel experiences: Travelling truly changes you. As you move through different places you change things slightly, you leave marks behind, however small. And in return travel leaves some marks on you.
Just be open to experience everything that you can on your travels and volunteering. That is my main advice to future volunteers at VSA.