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Making a difference in Luang Prabang

Just this last January, two Journeys Within guests, Joanne and David Lockman traveled around SE Asia with a stop in Luang Prabang, Laos. Here Nicole tells us about how they turned one philanthropic tour into so much more …

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While the Lockman’s were in Luang Prabang, they went on a JW custom made tour to lesser visited villages and learned firsthand about some of the culture and traditions that are inherently Lao.

Along with visiting ancient temples, they observed clay pottery artisans and learned local fishing methods from villagers on the Mekong River. They concluded the day with a stop at Ban Xing, a 16th century village on the banks of the Mekong, for a blessing ceremony from the elders of the village. After the ceremony, with the help of their guide, Phaeng, the Lockman’s handed out notebooks and writing utensils purchased in town to the 65 students at Ban Xing Primary School. Even though they had already given items to the school and knew a portion of their tour fees went to a village fund, they felt they could do more.

They inquired what the school needed most and were told that the installation of electricity for lights and fans in the classroom was at the top of the list. The teachers of the school expressed how during the winter and rainy seasons the classrooms would become too dark for the students to see the blackboard, making them incapable of staying focused. In addition to the dark classrooms, the sweltering heat from February to June would also serve as a major distraction for the students.

After returning home, the Lockman’s felt so moved by the gentle and gracious spirit of the village and its residents that they decided to raise funds in order to install electricity at the school. The Lockman’s reached out to friends and family about their experience and asked for help in order to put 2 ceiling fans and lights into each of the 5 rooms as well as to light the outside walkway and the 4 bathrooms. In just one quick week the Lockman’s were able to reach their goal of $1,200 USD, which meant that the entire project could be completed all at once!

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They made their donation to Journeys Within Our Community’s Village School Sponsorship program and installation was quickly underway at Ban Xing Primary School. The week before last, Phaeng and I went to the school to oversee the electrical team’s installation of the lights and fans until its completion. It was a long day with the electricians working from 7:30 until 5:30, but luckily just as the sun was setting behind the mountains of Luang Prabang, all was complete and we had electricity!

Just today the Director of Ban Xing Primary, Mr. Siphanh, contacted Phaeng to express, on behalf of the students and teachers, their sincere gratitude for the Lockman’s efforts in raising funds needed for the installation. He said, The electricity was very important to the school so that the fan could make the room cool and lights made it helpful when rainy or cloudy. The students seem to have fun and more energy to learn than before. The class doesn’t waste time to wait for the rain to stop because of it being dark.

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Most importantly, the teachers and kids are so happy with the cool fans also. All of us at the village would like to say a big thanks to all the donors that supported the Lockman’s goal and made this rural school in Laos cooler and brighter. It makes it easier to encourage the students to continue to pursue their education. The JW teams hope to welcome our friends the Lockmans when they come back in the future. We want to highlight the Lockman’s efforts and thank them along with their friends and family who allowed Journeys Within and Journeys Within Our Community to help give back to the local community. We would not be able to make a difference without the support of these donations. If you would like to join the Lockman’s in supporting projects like this please visit www.journeyswithinourcommunity.org and find out how you can benefit the lives of others.

We hate to say we told you so about the Son Doong Cave experience…

With tours selling out a year in advance, the popularity of Vietnam’s Son Doong Cave is undeniable. 2014 is already booked up and there are only a few spots left for 2015…

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Only recently opened up to the public, Vietnam’s largest cave system  is garnering its fair share of attention. After meeting with Oxalis Adventure Tours, Operations Manager Anna was excited to add the caving experience to our repertoire (and her own bucket list).

It would seems we aren’t the only one dying to catch a glimpse of these caves as Vietnam’s tourism authority has announced that the tours have been fully booked for 2014 with much of 2015 booked as well.

Oxalis is currently the sole tour operator with permission to offer treks into the cave, though the local government is reported to be considering allowing others soon.

In September the rainy season starts in Quang Binh, where the caves are located, and the tours must take a break. The local government and Oxalis will discuss later this year if they should open more tours in the years to come given the huge demand.

If Son Doong Cave experience is something that piques your interest don’t delay! Let us build your Vietnam itinerary around this incredible experience.