Laos - impressions and facts

October 28, 2015

Laos – next impressions (which can be right or wrong), after few days in the country, also outside the capital.

 

– People still seem to be a little bit less open than Thais, which can be a consequence of few things:

  • Lao people generally seem to be rather shy. They like foreigners, doing photo of them, but talking with them is much more challenging.

  • There is not many people in Laos speaking English.

  • There is generally much less tourists. People are not used to the fact that tourists sometimes need help or have strange ideas like sleeping in the temple. The monk in Thailand asked about possibility of spending night in the temple (asked by gestures, he didn’t speak English), simply brought mattress and blankets. In Laos, in the small city in which we tried to use the same method monks send us to guest house, probably mostly because never before nobody asked them similar things and it never occurred in their minds that tourists can sleep somewhere else than in the guest house.

– Hitchhiking here is possible. Although challenging. It can by explained by:

  • The number of cars outside big cities is quite small. There are a lot of motorbikes and bikes, but those are quite difficult to hitchhike with.

  • The concept of hitchhiking is rather unknown here. Thumb sign means nothing, without the board with the name of the city it can be difficult for people to understand what we want.

  • Roads are not in the best conditions. There are or big holes or a lot of slalom between mountain or both. 400 km can take 10 hours by bus, by hitchhiking should be counted two days. Also because day is quite short, at 6 pm is already dark, about 8-9 pm people from villages go to sleep.

  • It happens that the only way which goes from point A to point B is under construction. And you have to wait hard to say how long before workers will clean the building place enough so at least few cars can pass. Checked in real life.

 

– It is extremely beautifully here. Breathtaking are especially sunsets. And foggy mornings. And mountains. And colorful rice fields.

 

– The strength of Laos are organic farms. Rice, coffee, silk, people often keep traditional, natural way of growing things (mainly because a lot of places are not „developed” enough to introduce industrial way of production). Main activities of changemakers here are concentrated on organic sectors.

 

Enough about opinions. Now facts. Laos is the most heavily bombed country in the world per capita in history. Despite the official acceptance of neutrality of Laos during the Vietnam war in  years 1964-1973 USA bombed Laos continuously. More than 580.000 bombing missions were conducted over Lao PDR, that is one bombing mission every 8 minutes, 24 hours per day, for 9 years. What’s more, up to 30% bombs failed to detonate and remained in Lao PDR after the war being still dangerous for people who live here. Inhabitants of regions which suffered mostly during the war, including Xieng Khouang in which we are now, are still afraid of digging the ground or making a fire.

 

This is not Good News or inspirational story. But there are facts which in my opinion have to be heard. Especially because such kind of things are still happening in the world. And nobody is speaking about them loudly enough.

 

 

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We are Anna and Andrea, a Polish-Italian couple traveling around the world. We are looking for changemakers,

in order to describe and share their stories.

Our journey is based on exchange: story telling and other skills in exchange for a place to sleep and food. 
 

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