Here I am – right now – in Luang Prabang, Laos, a stunning historical slice of French Colonial architecture, a town that could double for a movie set it’s so perfect, filled with the chanting of monks, a spiritual peaceful city by the hypnotic Mekong River.
So much to see, so little to do. Culture and scenery everywhere. Just take it in. Yet what has struck me most since arriving is the volume of older tourists walking the pretty streets, sitting in the cafes, eating in the restaurants.
You know, your parents; grey hair and backpacks. Baby Boomers, long heralded as the future of tourism (apart from the Chinese and Indian of course, wouldn’t want to steal their thunder).
The are hundreds if not thousands of Grey Nomads from Germany, France, Australia, Britain, USA, traipsing all over Luang Prabang dressed in the sort of modern camouflage gear a certain type of well-prepared tourist wears. Baggy, light with lots of pockets and zips.
Well that’s the men I’m talking about. As for the women, they look great – for 70-year-olds. Stylish, well-dressed, thoughtful – looking for a little adventure.
They outnumber the younger, more ‘traditional’ backpackers by about 2-1. And most are doing it as independent travellers, not part of a group. It’s quite something – and the trend will only accelerate.
Maybe it’s not the future of travel. Perhaps we are already there. Anyway, I have to say, it’s great to see, though it does take some getting used to – 20 years ago it would have been all young people. How the balance has changed.
Here are some images I’ve shot over the past couple of days in Luang Prabang while researching the next edition of No Vacancy Southeast Asia, which is happening in Bangkok on June 18. You should come here (whatever your age!) – it’s a great place.