Southeast Asia 2023 – Laos: Luang Prabang Trek

After several days of peaceful relaxation in the beautiful city of Luang Prabang, it was time to head out on another trek. I found an experienced local guide to take me as a solo traveler off the beaten track to nearby ethnic villages by visiting Luang Prabang‘s ethnology museum. Staff members at the Traditional Arts and Ethnology Centre referred me to Mr. Khankeo Indavong, nicknamed AK, a spirited young independent tour operator who pulled together an itinerary to meet my request and introduced me to Gone, a Lowland Lao, and the perfect guide.

We visited villages of Lao Loum (Lowland Lao), Khmu, and Hmong tribes by various modes of transport: hiking, riverboat, and 4×4 jeep. The Hmong village, Phouluang Tai, at the summit of the aptly named “Big Mountain,” is particularly fascinating. It is inaccessible by vehicles (even motorbikes!) since part of the road was washed away a few years ago. The authorities insist that its residents move to the “new” village down the mountain, with tempting offers of water, electricity, roads, a school, and a clinic. I learned that it’s not an easy choice for everyone, so even families are now split between the old and new village sites.

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Southeast Asia 2023 – Thailand: Chiang Rai Trek

My next multiday trek in Thailand started in Chiang Rai with a long-tail boat ride up the Kok River to the village of Ban Ruammit. While still fairly close to “civilization,” the ominously growing cloud cover reminded me of Charles Marlow‘s voyage up the Congo River in Joseph Conrad‘s Heart of Darkness. After buying and packing our food for the trip, we hiked mostly along farm roads and paths, which was a nice contrast to all the bushwhacking of my first trek in the Mae Wang Area. The terrain and variety of weather were familiar to me now but only a bit less challenging: many climbs and descents, both heavy rainfall and dry sunshine, and a wide range of temperatures. My guide and I stayed overnight in the villages of two ethnic tribes that I mentioned in my previous post: Lahu and Akha.

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Southeast Asia 2023 – Thailand: Mae Wang Area Trek

A full year after my long walk across southern France and northern Spain, I was anxious for another long trekking adventure to close out an active 2023. I had recently read about hill tribes in Southeast Asia, so I decided to focus my efforts on hiking among some of their villages in the northern mountains of Thailand, Laos, and Vietnam. In this and upcoming posts, I will share stories, photos, and videos from my trip. As always, this blog is intended to document the experience for posterity and to share with anyone interested in my visit to this beautiful and fascinating corner of the globe. I hope you enjoy it!

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Utah 2023 – Zion National Park: Angels Landing

Shortly after I returned from Thailand, Joanie and I left home for our first trekking holiday of the year: to the American Southwest and, in particular, to Southern Utah for a couple of weeks of pre-planned trails and impromptu adventures. The winter was longer than usual this year, so inclement weather altered some of our plans. But with every bit of “bad luck” we also found unexpected rewards.

As we had done in the English Lake District last year, we moved in a large loop through five “bases,” where we could unpack and settle for a few days in each while enjoying nearby day hikes. Most were in or near National Parks, National Monuments and State Parks, and reminded me of a quote often attributed to one of my favorite authors about the American West:

National parks are the best idea we ever had. Absolutely American, absolutely democratic, they reflect us at our best rather than our worst.

Wallace Stegner, 1983

For some fun literary research about “who said this first?” check out this article.

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Thailand – March 2023

When you’re not a big fan of cold and wet weather and your home state gets hit with rare winter “atmospheric rivers” that allow your son to snowboard from the front door of his home and bring snow to your favorite beach volleyball courts, you know it’s time to search for warmth.

For me, in March, that meant returning to Thailand where I hoped to hike in the mountains of the north and scuba dive in the islands of the south. It was a wonderful trip even if circumstances forced me to alter many of my original plans. Here are a few pics to start off what will I expect to be a year filled with many adventures that I want to share with you all on this blog.

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UK 2022 -The Langdale Pikes

When I began my research about a trekking holiday in the Lake District, a full 18 months before our trip (extended, of course, by Covid), the first location I studied was Great Langdale. Thus, I thought it would be fitting finale as our last hiking base. Alfred Wainwright’s descriptions of the nearby Langdale Pikes made it sound like a Disneyland for fell walkers. It involved a lot of climbing over a fairly short distance, but the weather gods were supportive and we were not disappointed with bagging four Wainwright peaks in one day!

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UK 2022 -Mickledon Valley and Side Pike

It was again time to drive, this time from Coniston to our next base, our seventh and final stopping point in the Lake District: Great Langdale. Like on our other travel days, we enjoyed some tourist stops along the way but couldn’t wait to get back on the trails, if the weather cooperated.

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UK 2022 -The Old Man of Coniston

We got lucky with the weather on the day we made one of the biggest hikes of our trip: to the summit of the Old Man of Coniston, also known as Coniston Old Man or simply The Old Man, England’s 12th highest peak and a popular destination with its many routes up, spectacular terrain, and extensive views in all directions. It was a day we reached five peaks and bagged three Wainwrights!

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UK 2022 -Another Travel Day, to Coniston

After our fill of Buttermere, it was time to load up the car and drive again. Just as we had done a few days before, we took a route out of the Lake District National Park and played tourists as we drove to our next base back in the Park at Coniston Village, alongside Coniston Water. We had some fun along the way at a castle, watching birds of prey, and getting over a couple of white knuckle mountain passes in our rental car obviously not designed for those conditions.

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UK 2022 -Rannerdale Knotts Circular

For many years, it has been our practice and preference to start our hikes in the morning – it’s usually cooler, with fewer people on the trails, and it allows us time later in the day to take care of our other tasks. This routine didn’t always serve us well in the Lake District – but it was a hard habit to break. It was particularly tough when we awoke to this views like this…

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