cafe displaying ex-bomb casings
Beyond killing and injuring people, UXO also prevents (delays) development and perpetuates poverty, doesnt it? it’s going to take hundreds of years to finish clearing these cluster bombs
was a little conflicted about this. see, using these aluminium from bombs to make ‘souvenirs’ are beneficial because it’s a source of income, but it also encourages further attempts to pick out these bomb casings, which is highly dangerous and risky for the children / poor families. should we support them and purchase these? (what if it’s a significant source of income?) but by doing so are we only supporting the risktaking efforts? should they be forced to look for alternative sources of income instead, and this shouldn’t be an option at all?
that luang as the sun sets
families, the old, the young
i saw a girl pouring some water out of a little pot
it was explained that she was making a prayer / wish as she poured out the water, and would continue until the water ran out
There is a part of me that misses frolicking around villages in my elephant pants, spamming mosquito repellant, observing plants and trees in the backyard and watching dogs and cats and chickens roam around nonchalantly. Playing with babies as mothers pluck the feathers off chickens, and maybe catching just a tiny, tiny glimpse of another’s way of life.
Met a girl from Beijing – talked about China – one child policy – doesn’t seem to make a difference to her, Beijing? Because people who want a second child would probably be able to afford the fine in the first place. Also if both parents are ‘only child’ they are allowed to have 2 children( which makes quite a significant proportion of people in Beijing.
UNESCO World Heritage site of old town Luang Prabang!
The alms-giving ceremony is one of the most significant aspects of my time here. Early morning 5+am the locals start preparing food offerings for the monks, and can be seen along the streets.
The influence of tourism is highly apparent. (hmm, geog fieldtrip? it’s such an observable impact……)
When we went to the street, locals approached us asking us to buy the sticky rice and offerings for the monks. I had read about it, but I was surprised to see how many ‘stalls’ they were lined along the street. Maybe it’s not all for selling to tourists, but I was nonetheless surprised to see just how many tourists there were. (though i guess i shouldn’t be that surprised, it’s one of the top things on tripadvisor to do)
Tour groups with tour guides brought their tourists here as well. I took this picture, which seemed like a tour guide explaining to the tourists what they should do later when the monks come, and how to present their offerings. Some tourists take picture of each other with their food offerings.
It’s not a bad thing, cultural immersion in local customs. It’s good I suppose, expanding their cultural understandings. Yet I wondered how the monks felt, with these cameras waiting to take their pictures as they had their food offerings. The scene felt a little… commoditized, ‘staged authenticity’
Were they annoyed at the tourists? Or pleased because there’s more food offerings now (presumably)? Both
It would be interesting to speak to one of them, but of course i had no such chances
there were also other monks (in robes of other colours) who excitedly took photos of each other during the food offering, and i saw one requesting for a photo with the monk. it’s cute to see, well, monks holding their smartphones taking pictures. (cause of my stereotype of monks i suppose)
also interesting that monks from (presumably other countries?) coming to see this scene too.
wet and dry season
There were many Koreans in Laos in general, and there would be entire signs in Korean indicating the large numbers of tourists here. I later found out from my host that his wife (a tour guide) was helping a Korean team to film a documentary of sorts about Laos, and that Korea has hired famous stars and idols to visit Laos in order to publicize the destination, as well as its airline. I believe there’s direct flights to Laos from Korea!
mmm, the dusty roads
My favourite part of Vang Vieng is meeting a lovely group of Thai people. Ah, Thais and their hospitality! They practically sweeped me into their open arms and included me in everything, which I’m immensely thankful about :’)
Some things I learnt –
One of my favourite scenes: when I watched the group cycle towards my hostel, picking me up in the tandem bikes and we went for dinner, cycling down the streets to the nearby restaurants
to me, it is the fact that they invited I, a stranger, to their meal, and treated me, a complete stranger, and I feel really lucky, blessed and grateful for that. This reminds me to try to be more friendly towards others and to reach out to them and pass on this kindness!!!
I talked a little about Vang Vieng’s tourism with my host. I was thinking about how beneficial tourism was to the city. It’s definitely brought about a significant source of income, but of course it has its associated impacts. He mentioned that indeed, the way the tourists dress (more skimpy clothing) has influenced some locals to adopt similar styles, triggering unhappiness from other locals due to disrespect of local customs. Also, the demand for drugs might have encouraged a supply for them.
4. Laos is a Buddhist country-
My host says that every men in Laos ‘has to be monks before they die’ (could be subjected to his own opinion/stance), which I was very surprised about. You could choose from 1 week to 3 months or more, not necessarily a lifelong decision.
Reasons: Everyone has to be monks to show respect to parents / thank parents for giving birth to them, raising them (if you don’t become a monk, it suggests a lack of respect / lack of filial piety)
Key aspects of economy:
Now, I lie in the darkness as the bus zooms crazily down the road. I try to sleep as we ride over potholes, and I can’t help giggling as the French girls next to me do the same. The bus SWAYS to the side, and my mind flashes back to La Paz. Goodnight…… I hope.