Blogs from Laos, Asia


Asia » Laos August 29th 2022

It's landlocked, it's Asian, it's a 'land of smiles', it's a non stress-inducing nation, it's something of a well-kept secret among travel's Laos! The first visit to Laos back in 2012 intrigued me, as here is a nation where a gloriously unhurried pace of living really tries its utmost to make sure that you are also part of that mindset no matter how busy you think your travel schedule might be! The first port of call this time around happened to be the only familiar part of the nation, the capital city Vientiane, which has a few cultural features but, for the most part, is also part of the entire nation's laidback charm. The French colonial era might have some relation to Patuxai, one of the city's more prominent landmarks, an elaborate-looking arch, possibly best ... read more
Don Det
Khone Phapheng falls

Asia » Laos June 27th 2022

Time rapidly slipped away; flights – flights that were likely to actually be honoured and didn’t necessitate jumping hoops that we weren’t prepared to jump, at a price that we didn’t deem extortionate – were finally sourced and booked, incredibly through a British travel agent who (being a friend of my parents) bent some rules in order to bring their little boy and his girl home. Thus, on May 15th, after 1204 days on the road, passing through twelve countries on three continents (the last 788 of those days admittedly confined to a magnificent, covid-enforced, stasis in Laos) we once again graced the green and pleasant land. Heathrow’s terminal two was an unmasked chaos (transfer at Singapore’s Changi had been a serene masked pleasure) and our first post-Brexit re-entry saw my (not Ali’s) interminable corralled queuing ... read more
The leaving blessing
Als with Namphun and Mi
Mui and Ali's phone

Asia » Laos » South » Tat Lo January 31st 2022

In our last missive I decried the residual resistance to vaccine uptake in parts of the wealthy west, as well as its hesitant roll-out to their juveniles. Even more pertinently we worried about the limited availability and constrained distribution of vaccines within developing countries. Such outcomes were likely to see new, potentially more threatening, variants emerge. And sadly so it proved. Most of Africa trails far behind the rest of the world in terms of vaccination rates, whilst several countries there still have outrageously high numbers of individuals infected with (non-retrovirally controlled) HIV whose defining immunocompromising nature enables other co-infecting viruses to multiply to horrendous densities, thereby, mathematically, increasing the probability of new mutations arising. Thus, from somewhere in the soup, we saw the emergence of mega-mutated Omicron that, whilst it... read more
Woman digging for frogs
Search for a photo opportunity? Nah, sit in your garden and wait for one to appear on the wall.

Asia » Laos » South » Tat Lo August 28th 2021

Early June and a rather miserable Phuang presented with conjunctivitis (pink eye). Ali recommended chloramphenicol eye drops and they were duly sourced and initiated. However, a mere day into their application and Phuang reappeared bearing a small dish of a greyish creamy liquid that had been proposed as a supplementary (traditional) remedy. What was it? Breast milk. OK, I am aware from whence milk originates… it was human milk. And there is no shortage of this commodity, there always being a newborn or two in the vicinity. The idea was to peel a length of turmeric root, excavate one end to form a bowl, add the milk and then float the receptacle in hot water until the human exudate acquired a temperature of optimal potency for purpose. We were both skeptical and Ali somewhat reticent to ... read more
Mui looks out
Same old view different sunset.
Our three - Pak Dam, Lulu (pregnant) and Lola.

Asia » Laos » South » Tat Lo May 22nd 2021

There’s a British phrase, oft rolled-out at times when their acquirement is in the ascendancy (think Christmas and pandemics): that a dog is for life. No such sentiment exists here, at least not rurally. Dogs are not so much owned as inherited; if they choose to live close to you then other humans may consider them yours, although the canine’s allegiance may flip at any time. Equally, if their presence becomes a hindrance there is little saccharinity involved in ridding yourself of the nuisance. Dogs are transient. Our original alpha male here at Sipasert, Chilo (my first Laos love), bit two individuals and was duly exiled. We have never seen him again. The same fate befell Pak Dam when, as a playful young pup, he nipped Ali. However, on that occasion, our impassioned campaigning did see ... read more
The flame trees start to bloom
Somphone's youngest

Asia » Laos February 17th 2021

Well… This month’s missive begins with mixed feelings. It has been related to us that within the village (outside of the children who universally call us “teacher”, whether we teach them or not) we are now generally referred to, obviously in Laos, as Grandma and Grandpa falang (foreigner). Whilst such titles reflect poorly on our aging you do have to bear in mind that elders are very much respected here in Laos and so, maybe, it’s simply an honourific term of endearment. That’s what we’re choosing to believe. Anyway, the decrepits are well known for their alcohol consumption and the bankside New Year celebrations didn’t change that opinion as, following one Lao Lao shot too many, 3a.m. saw me hauling my sodden muddy self onto terra ferma after an unplanned venture into the river. Of course ... read more
Harvesting manioc
On the edge of the Mekong
Namphun reflects

Asia » Laos December 30th 2020

Several days before leaving Vang Vieng we rose to find Roger, Dave and Grandma behaving most peculiarly. The pups were lolling in the shade with heavy lids over bloodshot eyes, they had no interest in ongoing events and were, seemingly, unable/uninclined to stand. It appeared for all the world as if they were stoned. And so it materialized: someone had been preparing THC oil and someone else, unknowing of its nature, had dipped some bread into the herbal infusion and fed it to the dogs. They must have had quite some dose. Throughout the morning several of us tried to coax them to drink water, to walk it off; but all seemed happy enough to merely laze the day away, especially when Pink Floyd found its way onto the garden’s sound system. Antonio’s Spanish friend Marta, ... read more
Pished again
Namphun and friend
A last moon over Van Vieng

Asia » Laos November 16th 2020

Midway between Vientiane and Luang Prabang on the Nam Song River, Vang Vieng is situated amidst gorgeous karst scenery. Although for some fifteen years or so at the turn of the millennium the inter-spliced limestone hills, their isolated monoliths and associated caves, the patchwork of rice fields and profusion of meandering streams, were not its primary attraction. That lure was the abundance of drugs, “happy menus”, sand-castle buckets of semi-free liquor and the opportunity to prematurely end your stint on this mortal coil. The “must do” activity during this period was to hire an inflated tractor inner-tube and be whisked several kilometers up-stream from whence you could float back towards town. This genteel sounding practice was spiced by the river banks being lined with bars who would throw you a line and haul you into their ... read more
Mekong at Luang Prabang
Vang Vieng viewpoint
Lazing in, on, in the Nam Song

Asia » Laos » South October 15th 2020

Which country has the most festivals? With its seemingly endless number of Hindu deities, not to mention the mélange of other religions, I’d have guessed India. However, the Philippines – almost exclusively Christian (predominantly Catholic) - purportedly celebrates some 42,000 all-be-they, typically, at a local village level. And why do I ponder the like? Because Buddhist Laos itself has very many indeed. Only days after our last it was time to knock up some prayer boats. The official festival of light occurs on October 3rd, but our little wat was encouraging their launching in early September. Moo, Hoi and Pancake were a hive of activity assembled around various structural elements of our old perennial herb friend, the banana. The body of the “boat” is a three inch cross-section of what we’d consider to be the trunk, ... read more
Sivilay preps half-time refreshments

Asia » Laos » South » Tat Lo August 28th 2020

I finish a blog and, once posted, have absolutely no inclination to type any new thoughts for at least a week. Of course you do, typically, have to wait for something mildly of interest to actually occur before you can write about it. But, with current inevitable time on our hands, I re-read our previous blogs from Laos and they bring the pandemic’s projection very much into real-time focus, revealing the shocking reality of quite what can happen, has happened, in such a short period of time. In little more than 5 months (since the WHO announced the outbreak as a pandemic on the 11th of March) we’ve gone from 126,214 cases and 4,628 deaths worldwide to a position where several countries are independently recording half that number of new infections per day and globally we’ve ... read more
At the Wat's fringe
Hunting shrimp

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