Ramble on Rose (with the usual Dick) travel blog

Villages in the mountains - Northern Laos

Boozy Ladies - Udomxai

An excited gaggle of young Laoasians - Vieng Poukha

Feeding the fish - Luang Nam Tha

The dusty road back to Thailand


The next period in history is a bewildering sequence of events which rather resembles a giant game of the Hokey Cokey between the French and Laos governments - "you put your left foot in, your left foot out,in,out,in,out you shake it all about" It appears that prolonged French presence and brutal suppression of the resistance movement sent many recruits in Ho Chi Minh's direction to gain support for their communist cause. Anxious to counter this growing influence in South East Asia the US government poured aid into Laos to ensure loyalty and dispatched special forces teams to train government troops to fight for the democratic cause. Thus, the war as we know it had begun. So that their orders to release all bombs would be fulfilled, B-52 captains would empty their bomb bays over civilian centres in Eastern Laos when returning from Vetnamese air strikes, making Laos the most heavily bombed nation, on a per capita basis, in the history of warfare. To me it all sounds like some alien fantasy game that left the imagination and became realised in this world.

But the Laos of today! On a brighter note, what is the Laos of today like? Since 1975 it has been governed by the Lao People's Revolutionary Party, the party ideal being a "proletarian dictatorship." It's not quite a socialist reality though, corruption is rife here amongst government officials. Politicians eh? Won't they ever surprise us with a bit of integrity?

The people here are great. Mostly buddhist, human emotions and strong passions are a taboo here. Hence, noone gets worked up about anything and too much work is considered bad for the brain. They feel sorry for people who think too much. The French coined a wonderful saying: "The Vietnamese plant rice, Cambodians watch it grow and the Lao listen to it grow."

Look at the photos above. We stayed in a village for a night and felt like time travellers from the future as we sat next to the temple on the hill and looked down on village life. The huts were bathed in late afternoon light and smoke rose from the chimneys. The brave local boys waved from a distance. We communicated by modelling each other's behaviour. They would do a monkey movement or a star jump and we would repeat. Slowly, slowly they got closer until they reached us for photos as the sun went down. Much showing off and high kicks followed(what is it with young boys and high kicks?)It was the best moment of the trip.

It's the colours and smells in this country that captivate. Feeling like I've been dabbling with the blues and greys in my pallet for too long, to come here is to have all the earthy colours of the spectrum brought to the foreground. And of course, every shade of green imaginable. People don't dominate the landscape here, land the size of Great Britain is home to just 6 million. It's heart warming to see humans in this way because our innocence and goodness are easier to see. The path that we took from those simple villages to this modern city of Saigon, this shining example of our success suddenly becomes painfully clear. There's something inevitable about it I guess. I want to praise our ingenuity but weep for all the things that we've lost along on the way. And, of course my eyes turn towards the future and i wonder if there's another time traveller somewhere gazing down on our giant cities, knowing something we don't. It appears that the head and the heart seek different things. It can be like living with two neighbours squabbling over the garden fence all day and night. But in Laos, for a short while at least and in true Laos fashion, a ceasefire was declared and my heart sang unchecked. Magic.



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