Sa bai dee – Alison’s Final Blog Post in Laos

Sa bai dee or BanSaune! It’s hard to believe that 2 weeks have gone by and that this will be my final blog post. The old expression “time fly’s when you are having fun” has never been truer.

The last stop on our journey in Lao required 8hrs of travel on a night bus from Vientiene to Savannakhet and then another 4hrs on a tuk tuk followed by an 8km hike to Ban Vongsikeo, village of the Katang people. This sounds like a lot of travel but it is for a very special reason. VWB has been asked by the group Ecotourism, to work along side of the Katang people to study and set up a survey of their scared forest. The main reason for the study is to survey the wildlife that lives there, specifically the silver-leaf langurs (maybe the last population in Laos). Lao is home to many unique species of animals but unfortunately the forest areas are slowly diminishing due to over cutting. Ecotourism is working to protect some of the forest areas in this region. It hasn’t been easy to implement as many of villages throughout Lao do not have electricity and the only means they have to cook or heat their homes is from burning wood.

We were lucky enough to be part of a special tour to help plan the beginning stages of this project. The sacred forest is a protective area which has a legend associated with it that if you cut down any trees in this forest, you will die. There is no path in this forest so we literally bush wacked our way through it. Although it was the wrong time of day to see monkeys, walking through this forest area was a special experience. At one point a few of us fell behind in the group and it made me realize just how easy it would be to become lost in a jungle as we couldn’t see the others even though we knew they were close. Thankfully we were still with one of the two guides and they were able to guide us back to the group. One particularly fascinating part of the trek was when we came across a vary special tree, that when burned for several minutes and then extinguished, creates an oil that the Katang people use for oil lamps.

After our trek through the scared forest was over, we headed back to the village to have lunch and to meet with the chief of the village to start planning the logistics to begin the study. VWB has a couple of volunteers that will be starting the survey of the forest in May of this year.

We headed back to Vientiene the same way we arrived and after a couple hours of sleep we were into our last day in Laos. We decided to visit the COPE visitor center. COPE stands for Cooperative Orthotic and Prosthetic Enterprise. The services that are provided by COPE are truly amazing and are so worthwhile as well as needed. Lao has had more bombs dropped on them then any other country in the world. For more information please visit http://www.copelaos.org/ Most of us are back now and I know for myself that if I ever have the chance to visit Lao again in the future, I will jump at the opportunity. I would like to thank Aeroplan and VWB for making this trip happen. There is a lot of planning and logistics that go into a trip like this and I would just like to say that it was all worth it and I feel very grateful to have been part of this trip! VWB is doing some amazing work on the ground to which they are starting to see some progress which is always rewarding. They are getting ready to introduce next steps. The next step is the poultry project. To find out more about Aeroplan’s work with VWB or to make a donation please visit www.aeroplan.com/donate or http://www.vwb-vsf.ca Most of all, I would like to thank the people of Lao for making us feel so welcome in your country. Khop Chai lai lai ( Thank you very much)

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