What is the difference between trekking and hiking or backpacking? I do not know. Hiking seems to be something you do for the day and it becomes backpacking when you stay out overnight. Based on our experience today, trekking seems to entail being lead around the jungle for the day by three local teenagers with machetes on a barely discernible trail and it requires a bamboo walking stick to stay on your feet. This "trek" was advertised as an opportunity to see local ethnic tribespeoples' way of life. John and I weren't that interested in the 'human zoo' aspect of the tour, but as it turned out, it only entailed being led through the forest by a young kid wearing flip flops and whacking at vegetation with a machete. Apparently he and his no-socks-and-dress-shoes-wearing friend who brought up the rear were the local tribespeople? We "trekked" for about six hours with two Korean girls and an Israeli couple, up and down, slipping and sliding and falling, while our guides traipsed along and hardly broke a sweat. After we ate a buffet of local Laos cuisine with our fingers off and wads of sticky rice off of a table of banana leaves laid on the ground, the Israeli man asked us if there are trekking opportunities in the United States and I didn't really know what to say. People, myself included, hike and backpack in the US, but what defines trekking exactly? Maybe trekking is to hiking as torches are to flashlights or some other example of two words for the same thing; I am always really confuesed when I read or hear that I need to bring a "torch" with me somewhere, which doesn't happen all that often. In conclusion, we did not see any tigers and perhaps that is a good thing, but we didn't see much wildlife at all. I am starting to realize that Costa Rica is an extremely unique place where monkeys howl and throw poop at you and wild boars, giant guinea pigs, crocodiles, birds, and butterflies all wander around on your ordinary everyday hike (and in Costa Rica they never call it trekking). After study abroad in Central America, I figured jungles across the world teamed with wildlife, but based on my jungle experiences in Peru and Laos, that is apparently not the case! I hear Ecuador might also team with wildlife, but I am not sure if or when I will be able to verify that rumor.
Tomorrow we will try to catch a bus down to Luang Prabang. I think they eat baguettes there.