After visiting the Philippines, the IVHQ Video Tour moves onto Laos. IVHQ’s videographer, Andrew Ahmed, shares his experience…
Laos was incredible. Arriving at the airport, I was greeted, taken to the volunteer guesthouse in Vientiane, and showed around. It’s a great spot right in the midst of the city, with air conditioned rooms, and free meals for the volunteers at the restaurant next door (tom yum is yum). A 5 minute walk around the corner brings you to Patuxay Monument – one of the most recognizable landmarks of Laos. A 10 minute bike ride brings you to the night market – rows of red tents set up along the riverside selling various things such as clothing and souvenirs, with street food vendors lining the roadside. My favourite food came from one of these vendors – pad thai with mussels. The best. Som tam (AKA papaya salad) is a great dish there too – just maybe ask for it with 1-2 chillis instead of 5-6.
The next day I went for a massage with some of the volunteers, and it was a great way to spend the afternoon – for a very low price, as are most things in Laos. Other adventures included walking through a couple labyrinths of local markets, and enjoying a night on the town – starting as a comically quiet Monday night at the club, progressing into a bizarre combination of karaoke and a hip hop show. Some of the volunteers also did some riverside zumba, while I opted for a drink nearby, with a beautiful sunset view across the river to Thailand on the other side.
Fun extra-curriculars aside, it was the projects that I found really inspiring. There was teaching – though since the regular schools were out at this time of year, it meant teaching the monks. The volunteers would gather at a temple and teach some very intelligent young monks English. The monks were very attentive, and eager to fill their brains with as much knowledge as possible. The volunteers were very professional in their teaching styles, and managed to make the lessons enjoyable for everyone.
Childcare here was one of the most inspiring projects I’ve seen. It involved the volunteers taking care of the children with cerebral palsy – feeding them, bathing them, playing with them, and keeping them happy and healthy. They would do various therapeutic exercises with the kids. It was a challenging yet rewarding project to witness.
Construction was taking place on the same site as medical – on the COPE grounds. The construction looked like fun – repairing broken chairs was the current task at hand on my visit. Lots of hands-on work for the kinesthetically-interested.
On the COPE grounds there is also the medical placement, where the volunteers worked their skills to improve the lives of others through different methods of physical therapy and hands-on patient interaction.
So glad I was able to spend some time here enjoying the culture, food, and see the amazing things the volunteers are up to. Vientiane is such a charming city, with many charming people. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t currently craving a riverside pad thai.
Interested in where the IVHQ Video Tour has taken me? Follow my journey from where it all began…