The Luang Prabang branch of the Red Cross has been open since 1993 and is now a well established organization that is doing great work throughout Laos. Their mission is to work for the improvement of the health situation of the most vulnerable sections in society, following the seven fundamental principles of the Red Cross i.e. humanity, impartiality, neutrality, independence, voluntary service and universality. Beyond their official mission statement they are doing much needed work in one of the poorest countries in the world such as building latrines and gravity fed water systems, training villagers in first aid and recruiting blood donors to help patients. So, why should you visit the Red Cross in Luang Prabang on your next trip?
Top 5 Reasons to visit the Lao Red Cross
1. Fantastic Massages, the Lao Red Cross was the best massage that I have had in Asia thus far. A wonderful deep tissue style massage administered by a small Lao woman that had the strongest hands that I have experienced in a long time. She kneaded out all of my knots with an aromatic massage lotion that smelled delicious. The massages are only 40,000 kip (about $5 at 8,000 kip to the dollar) and while the atmosphere is basic when you close your eyes and enjoy it doesn’t make a difference.
2. Experience the magic of Mr. Pheng, by taking a healthy and hot steam bath. Mr. Pheng is “the steam bath man,” he is experienced in using traditional herbs grown locally that he collects himself to create the concoction of 25 herbs that makes the steam bath so wonderful and goes into the delicious tea served to rehydrate you after your steam bath. This is a very hot experience, so be prepared to sweat!
3. Mingle with locals, during my visit to the Lao Red Cross I didn’t see another falang (Lao for foreigner) in sight. It seems that the secrets of Mr. Pheng are only known by the locals, so if you are interested in what local people do hang out with them at the steam bath. Late at night they will gather to take a steam bath with friends and watch Lao soap operas on T.V. when they’re not in the sauna. Even if you don’t understand the soap opera it is fun to watch the women giggle as they watch.
4. Your money goes to a good cause, the money that you pay for a massage or a steam bath goes toward the Lao Red Cross’s many aid projects. The Red Cross helps at least 100 severely sick patients from remote villages each year, which may not sound like a lot, but these villages are difficult to get to. They also train village health volunteers; they have trained over 500 volunteers to provide medical attention in over 200 villages. They also finance the treatment of poor patients in Nambek province in the North of Laos.
5. Make a donation, if you are not one for pampering make a much needed donation of blood if you are well and able (you may want to consult a doctor before doing this in a foreign country). You can also make a donation of money or clothes you no longer need, books you’re not reading anymore etc. Below is a short list of current prices for needed items that might help guide you in how much you would like to contribute.
- Cost for one poor patient (treatment, food, transport to hospital) is US $5
- One set kitchen utensils (pots, bowls, spoons and knife) cost US $10
- One mosquito net cost US $7
- One safe blood bag (350 mL in case of malaria or severe operations) costs US $8
- One blanket costs US $5
Whatever your plans are for Luang Prabang take an hour for yourself at the Red Cross and get a great massage that gives back!
IF YOU GO:
The Lao Red Cross is located on Visounalat Road (phone number 071/252856, you can have your guesthouse call if you want to make an appointment) and is open from 9 am to 9 pm. You can make an appointment, but you should have no trouble simply walking in and getting a massage. The cost is only 40,000 kip about $5 for a massage and 10,000 kip about $1.25 at 8,000 kip to the dollar.