THE LAOS HISTORIC COLLECTIONS
Dr Iwan Suwandy
Private limites E-Book in CD-ROM Edition
Copyright @ Dr Iwan suwandy 2011
When I visit Laos in 2011, very difficult to get the Laos Hsitoric and modern Informations, after seeking everywhere i have found some info,and when back to Jakarta I am starting to seeking more info to write some articles about Laos such as Pathet Lao Historic Collections,Laos during Indochina,now other info will put in this E-BOOK
This is onle the sample ,If you want to geet the complete info please subscribed as premiuj member via comment
Jakarta Janary 2012
Dr Iwan suwandy
Note: be patient the info still on upload processing
I write this E-Book special for traveler and someone who interest about Laos
TRAVELLING AROUND LAOS
After my arrival in Laos my perception of South East Asia would be changed forever, as would my way of thinking and seeing the broader world.
4 days in Bangkok had left me a tad overawed as to what I had got myself into (a 6 month project travelling the length and breadth of Laos); I was not the type of person who wanted to be thrown into the deep end in an ever changing fast paced metropolitan society.
As the Laos Airways ATR-72 (2nd hand from Vietnam Air I was assured?!) descended through the sparse cloud covering into Luang Prabang I was left wondering as to the whereabouts of town. As far as I could see it was large rolling hills covered in lush green rainforest and red soil. It was at this stage I regretted not researching more about Laos. A check and US$30 handed to customs later I had my first (of six) Laos visas stuck into my passport. Upon stepping out of the airport I became very confused very quickly, what I had become accustomed to in Bangkok, the constant touting of anyone slightly tourist looking, was completely absent. It then struck me, how would I get to where I was going without a tuk-tuk? I quickly spied the tuk-tuk rank 100m away from the entrance I made my way over where I discovered it was more like an impromptu siesta stop. After finding one tuk-tuk driver that was willing to take me into town I took a deep breath, threw my back pack on the tray of the tuk-tuk and had one of those ‘well here goes nothing’ moments.
After one month of getting used to the lifestyle in Laos it was time to get out and explore what this magnificent country had to offer. Of the six months I was in Laos I was travelling / exploring for four of them both on public transport and an old brown land cruiser which I named Piripi. I had a couple of guide books which I promptly threw out as information held within these tomes was often different from what was on the ground or even obsolete. The locals of Laos are by far the best guides as they will always take you that step further to some amazing off the beaten path places.
Slowly getting accustomed to Laos is the only thing you can do. And slowly (read Lazy) is the most apt way to explain how things get done in Laos. This is by far from a negative though, as it provides respite from what can often be seen as the blur and fury of activity of South East Asia. So with a lack of tourist infrastructure and this laid back nature you get one of the most charming and generous countries you will ever visit as well as one of the final bastions of true explorative travel.
Laos is a country that people know little about and they often ask why they should go. The main reason is that Laos has not been exposed to tourism and western culture (and often many other local cultures) for so long. This gives Laos a very undiscovered and natural fell to it, uncommon in large parts of South East Asia. In 1975 the country became communist and tourism was stopped and it was not until the mid 90’s that the government allowed people into the country, even then it was only Luang Prabang, Vang Vieng and Vientiane that people were allowed to visit. This is why 90% of travellers will only travel this route as it is all that is well know (really taking the emphasis out of a unique Lao adventure). It reminds me of a quote from Alex Garland (who wrote The Beach): “everyone tries to do something different, but you always wind up doing the same thing.” The countries south opened up in the early 2000’s and is now becoming a more popular tourist destination and as a gateway to Cambodia and Vietnam as well now drawing travellers to this region. However, it is the unknown that keeps drawing voyagers to Laos.
I decided to write this section before any other information as keeping Laos the way it is now will be the only way to sustain it as the jewel of the Mekong (people are always saying this is what Thailand was like before the tourists arrived!). Like the rest of South East Asia many people can see that a flood of tourists could potentially do more harm than good. There are a number of actions that you as travellers can do to protect these ideals. Firstly, is to learn the cultural do’s and don’ts of Laos, this as a bare minimum will help to maintain the local culture, you can find these at the Tourism Laos website.
Secondly, where you can you should support local markets and goods as this puts money back into the community and keeps the real ‘old world’ feel about Laos. Supporting local and government backed projects are also a really good way to help out the local communities (Laos is consistently rated as one of the poorer countries in the world). One of the better and karma inducing projects is the Big Brother Mouse Group. Picking up a bunch of these books and giving them out to local children is far better than handing out money as the former often encourages begging.
Much like the rest of South East Asia, Laos can be divided up into two main seasons, wet and dry.
The wet season usually lasts from May through to August. The dry season is November through to March. In between the seasons there are shoulder months which can go either way depending on weather patterns. The busiest season to travel in Laos is definitely the high season but often the better season is the wet season owing to fewer travellers. Also, the rain rejuvenates the rainforest bringing out the full flourish of the flora and fauna. The rain is always a welcome relief for the hot weather as well!
As a general rule any mountainous regions north of Luang Prabang can get quite cool during the winter (as low as 5 degrees) so be prepared for that if you are considering trekking and down the south during summer can see the temperature pushing 40 degrees centigrade with almost 100% humidity.
I decided to just write about the main points that I know here otherwise I would just be paraphrasing a majority of information from other well-known publications.
The history of Laos is long and varied. So long and varied that I don’t want to repeat most of it here so I will just talk about the main points. Laos, as a country has been the site and often centre for many of South East Asia’s conflicts for the past 600 years or so and this could be the reason for the dozens of different cultural groups which are present all through Laos and what gives it the patchwork like ethnic and social make up it has to this very day.
Laos was once known as Lan Xang, the land of a million elephants and it was the cultural centre of South East Asia. Since the mid fifteen-hundreds Laos has been fought over and the one time capital Luang Prabang used to be the capital of a larger South East Asian region. It was also home to the famed emerald Buddha which now resides (after stolen by the Siamese) in Bangkok. Throughout the last 500 years Laos has been the site of many a battle and a few wars. The latest leaving the longest and largest scars on the people and the Landscape. During the Vietnam war Laos (under the Geneva Convention) declared itself neutral, but this did not stop both sides (Vietnamese and USA) courting the Laos government with aid and all sorts of other gifts. At one stage the USA even gifted the Laos government enough concrete to build an international airport runway which the Laos people then went and used to build a large national memorial with. After the Vietnamese war ended the Pathet Laos took over the government restricted tourism to virtually nothing until the mid nineties giving Laos, today, its old school charm.
Previous, during and after my travel to Laos I have heard some really good stories from people about their visas for Laos. One of the most common stories is that people only receive 15 days for Laos on entry. This is not true. Most visas are (at the time of writing) 35 USD for 30 days. You can get these visas at your local Laotian embassy or the much easier option is to get them on entry to Laos. It doesn’t matter whether you come by bus, train, boat or plane all visas are for 30 days. Be aware the relaxed Laos customs workers don’t like working on weekends so you will be charged 1 USD extra for entering Laos.
Transport in Laos can often be worrying and bordering on death defying but does not need to be. There are three main ways of travelling between local centres, flying, boat and bussing. All of these have there positives and negatives and I will try and lay them out below
There are three international airports in Laos – Vientiane, Luang Prabang and Pakse. For these airports most of a South East Asia’s main hubs can be reached from these airports. You can also reach many of the smaller centres internally by flight as well. It’s definitely the quickest way to get from one place to another in Laos (a very un-Lao way of getting around) but with few airlines operating in and out of Laos this means flying is expensive. The worst part about flying in Laos is the fact that you will miss out on all the amazing things in between towns which you fly over.
The river systems in Laos are often the next best way of getting around locally in Laos. For some really amazing places this is frequently the only way to get these places. During dry season some of the boat routes may not be passable due to low river levels. However, the Mekong River and its main tributaries are navigable almost all year round many people will get a 2 day long boat from Huay Xai in the North West to Luang Prabang. This journey (as with public busses) often has a 50% success rate. What I mean here is that 50% of the people that you talk to have said they thought the boat was a good idea, 50% said sitting on a small wooden slat for two days rated as one of the worst experiences they ever had. A quicker speed boat which travels the same route but only takes only takes one day is available; this is definitely a very dangerous way to travel. I have done this once which resulted in a minor boat accident that resulted in me using my backpack as a flotation device.
Public busses most common form of transport within Laos. Again, if you have a group of people standing in front of you, as with the boats about 50% of them will say they had an ok time and 50% would say they had a horrible experience and never do it again. Busses are commonly divided into three groups – express, Bus and VIP. The good thing about these busses is that they are cheap. But that’s about where the good ends.
A common occurrence is busses not leaving until they are full and timetables changing minute before busses leave. The worst I found was the fact that they were point-to-point direct busses, stopping once along the way for a combined food and toilet stop. This means missing out on some amazing stuff along the way. The busses are large and on small windy roads this does nothing for motion sickness. It should also be noted that almost all Bus stations are out of town and you will have to pay for a tuk-tuk to your guest house or other destination. The smaller minivans are definitely the better way to travel. Unfortunately for anyone over 182cm in height they aren’t that great as the mini in minivan really means that – Laotian minivans built for Laotian sized people.
There are a number of private tours you can do with fixed itinerary and guides with companies such as Intrepid, Gap, Kamuka and Exetissimo through the main destinations. A flexible, guided, hop-on hop-off style bus (Stray Asia) has also recently started operating through Thailand, Laos and Cambodia which seems like the best way to visit some out of the tourist limelight destinations and it’s something that I would really recommend.
Most towns will offer up the option of motorbike/scooter hire. This is often a popular option for day trips and multi-day trips should only be experienced by experienced riders as the roads (and sometimes trails) in some parts could be described by the phrase ‘poor at best’.
Luang Prabang is a UNESCO world heritage area famed for its blend of beautiful old Buddhist temples and nineteenth century French architecture. This town quickly becomes a favourite in most people’s eyes throughout the entire globe. From the daily alms ceremony at dawn every morning to the morning meat markets which follow just south east of town on the main road (Pothisalath) to the stunning waterfalls and Asiatic Black Bear at Kuang Si this town can easily waste away your days and weeks.
Phou Si Mountain is a great place to invest in locally produced goods and just to see what the ladies bring in from in villages all around Luang Prabang. This market springs up around dusk every day. Another thing to check out while in Luang Prabang is the myriad of villages accessed by boat both up and down the Mekong River. Aptly named examples such as the Paper making village and Whisky village can be reached by the boat jetty near the amazing Wat Xieng Thong (well worth two hours walking around and exploring in itself). Be careful when touting a boat ride that your captain gives you a fair price (ask around other captains and travel agencies in town) and is not drunk.
This reminds me as well about the tuk-tuk mafia. These guys are all around town and sit around the main tourist haunts. While these guys can give you a really good price for a trip out to Kuang Si waterfall park they are less than ideal for getting about town. For getting about town I would recommend using the New York City Taxi approach and just flag one down on the side of the road.
Luang Prabang is where I spent a majority of my time and every time I returned I was able to be entertained by something different. If heading out of town try and find a restaurant in Ban Khoy. Here you can try and catch your fish for dinner in the ponds at the rear of the building then try your hand at on of the fiercest Petang (the national sport, similar to Pentanque or Boules) courts in all of Laos.
Most things you may wish to do in Laos can be done in Luang Prabang or at least accessed from here any way. Another popular attraction is Phou Si Mountain. A rather large hill (the highest point) in the idle of town, this can be climbed (for around 20,000 Kip) and is well worth the view. However, everybody knows about this place and consequently goes there at sunset.
If you are going to get up for the morning Alms ceremony with the monks, get up about half an hour earlier and head up here for sunrise, all to your self. The food in Luang Prabang can be either western based (I say this with a word of caution, nothing will be quite the same as home) or local. The best local fares are to be had down a side alley of the night market. Always fresh and cooked on the spot you can eat whatever you want and like a king.
For a more restaurant style of food check the restaurants at the Phou Vao end of Manomai (particularly the amazing Lao BBQ) and for desert you have to hit up my best bud old man crepes, who sells crepes from his mobile kitchen here most nights.
Where to from here?
You can get Nong Khiaw or Phonsovan from Luang Prabang but beyond here in the northeast you will most likely struggle to find consistent and safe public transport to the amazingly isolated towns of Vieng Xai, Sam Neua, Vieng Thong and Muang Khoun. These places really are the heart of Laos and are not really geared up for tourism (except for Phonsovan) so are truly eye opening and humbling to any regular backpacker.
Most people come down the river from Huay Xai via Long boat but miss the amazing North West of Laos. Huay Xai is home to the original Gibbon Experience and although you may not necessersarily get to see them you will get to hear what David Attenborough describes as the voice of the jungle.
However, they will miss out on the amazing country that is there. Up here is the highest (reported) diversity of ethnic groups (numbers range from 30-130) which makes this place the best for any trekking to hill tribes in Laos. You may also want to access Phongsali, from Odoumxai which again is a very secluded beautiful mountainous area exploding with home stay and trekking opportunities.
Vang Vieng definitely knows what it is. It is the most Thai like of any of the towns in Laos. If you haven’t already heard about tubing there then you probably haven’t heard much about Laos. It was this tubing attraction that initially attracted tourist here in the early 2000’s (with some getting a tubing trip with out any bars?!).
Basically the main attraction in town is a 2km section of the Nam Song River. After surrendering around 100,000 kip you will be given a tube and a tuk-tuk ride to the Bar 2. Here starts a very vibrant and sometimes hazy trip down a river. During this two kilometre section of river there are a dozen bars in which you should expect to find buckets, beers, loud music, mud football, mud volleyball, slides, jumps, and a lot of partying. Just remember if you get to the red bridge you need to get out of the river as it’s quite a long float back into town.
There are many other things to do in Vang Vieng now thanks to the tourism. Rock Climbing, kayaking, rafting, trekking, hot air ballooning, motorbike hire or even just checking out one of the many caves to the west of the town.
When walking down the main street of town you will grow accustomed to the sound of canned laughter as constant reruns of Friends, The Simpsons and Family Guy echo down the road. One also needs to be acutely aware of the word ‘happy’ prefixing a meal or drink choice as this normally leads to a mind altering experience. A beautiful place to relax during the day is the north end of Don Khang but this is will quickly turn into a Thai style party area come nightfall.
If you want to avoid all this then it is very easy to do by crossing the permanent bridge just south of town towards the west where you will find a number of small, cosy and most importantly quiet, guest houses.
Where to from here?
It’s either north or south from Vang Vieng as Route 13 is the only road that services it. To the north lies Luang Prabang and just before this lies the turn off for Phonsovan and the amazing heritage rich north east area along Routes, 7, 6 and 1C. Have your cameras ready along this route though as it winds it way up through stunning kaarst landscape. South lies the capital Vientiane as well as the large man made lake of Nam Ngum Dam.
The 450 year old Lao capital that sits on the side of the Mekong isn’t exactly the most exciting prospect on the face of it, however, a little delving and there are some fairly interesting things that can be done in and around this city.
Vientiane and Luang Prabang both pay homage to the French Indochina time period, Luang Prabang has retained a lot of the buildings where Vientiane has retained a large portion of the Culture. To get in and out of Laos to Thailand from Nong Khai (from the train) requires about a 20 min tuk-tuk ride. Most overnight busses from Thailand will take you to the bus station in Vientiane.
A few things that are a must to check out and do in Vientiane are Xieng Khuan (the Buddha Park), Patuxai, That Dam, Pha That Luang, Thong Khan Kham Market and the Mekong night food markets.
Xieng Khuan is one two Buddha parks the other is on the opposite side of the Mekong river) built in the 1950’s. A crash course in the Lao Buddhist culture and Buddhism statues in general for the uninitiated.
Patuxai is the national memorial built of concrete that was intended to be an airport runway. It harks back to the French influenced times.
That Dam is one of the oldest standing stupa in the city. It provides a stark contrast to that of the busy motorcycle filled roads of the capital.
Pha That Luang on the other hand is a more modern and far larger complex. It consists of a number of large golden temples as well as one of the largest stupa you will ever lay your eyes on. As you walk in to your left you will see a large open concrete area that most likely used to be a runway at some point.
Thong Khan Kham market is a large local market with just about everything under the sun in it. Particularly interesting for its live food fare which (not for the squeamish) can often be prepared for you right on the spot.
There is no better way to finish of a day in Vientiane than going down to the Mekong waterfront in the centre of town and chowing down on some local fare on the sand then cruising up to the 3rd story bar Bor Pen Yang for a cool, refreshing Beerlao. The old sector of town just back from Bor Pen Yang is also a really cool little hideaway from the hustle and bustle of the city.
Where to from here?
I have travelled to some amazing places outside of Vientiane. Two of them lie to the east and I tried desperately to reach them on public transport (twice!) proved impossible so I had to make a trip back with my trusty Land Cruiser. The first spot is nestled in the Phu Khao Khuay national protected area, a little spot called Tad Leuk. It’s a really cool little waterfall campsite with a few little treks around the area. Stunningly peaceful during the dry season and powerfully forceful during the wet season makes this waterfall a real pleasure to visit.
Just down the road from Tad Leuk but also in the Phu Khao Khuay national park is the well known village Ban Na. The locals have constructed a large tree top platform with cooking and sleeping facilities cool enough by itself, but when the local elephants come to taste the salt lick it becomes incredible. It should be noted that of the two times I visited I only saw the elephants once. Its nature, nobody can control it.
The second area that I was astounded by was Kong Lor. This translates to something like 7km cave and the locals don’t lie. This huge cave structure (7 km long fondly enough) has a large cathedral like open area in the middle. For a fee of around 50,000 kip the local boat man can take you through the cave, have a feed with the local tribe on the other side then take you back through. Truly an amazing experience.
Pakse is really just a gate way to some of the most amazing sites in Laos. It is quite far removed from the tourist hub of the north. The Mekong is the life and soul of this town and it winds its way through the centre. Most people consider Pakse a transit point for Cambodia, Vietnam and Thailand but there are definitely a few things you must check out while around the region.
The Wat Phou complex is Laos’ second UNESCO world heritage area and dates back 1,500 years. It is rarely visited as again it’s off the track where most travellers fail to visit but you can get there by boat from Pakse or further south at Muang. I heard that the Lao were building a bridge across the Mekong down so access may become a lot easier.
The Bolaven Plateau is also has a really good few days in it with some cool spots to check out along the way. My favourite place to reside while here is either the quaint dusty road settlement of Tad Lo or the more upmarket places hidden amongst the jungles around Tad Fan. Tad Lo is home to a constantly flowing water fall, thanks to a dam further up stream and an elephant ride through the waterfall always feels really good. In the middle of Tad Fan and Tad Lo are plantations of some of the strongest coffee beans on the planet. These bad boys will have you seeing straight and true for kilometres and there are a few plantations where you can join a tour that lets you pick your own beans and take them through the entire roasting process right up to the drinking the coffee itself.
For those tea people out there many of the coffee plantations also have tea trees growing on site and for those of you that don’t enjoy hot drinks a cold Beerlao is never far away. As well as the plantations there are a few interesting villages along the way, one which slightly escapes my mind but I have a feeling they worship the dead (maybe) and some other villages that produce some really nice textiles and weaves and such.
The best place close to Pakse however is Si Pha Don or in English, the four thousand islands. This area of the Mekong is up to four kilometres wide in sections and during the dry season there really are four thousand islands. There are three main islands that you can stay on (read; dry all year round), the well structured and larger of the three Don Khong, and Don Det and Don Khon which are connected by an old French bridge. The former two have much older world charm to the and better access the dolphin spotting areas as well as the Li Phi and Koh Phapeng water falls. The people here are so laid back it’s really refreshing. These islands are a perfect place to relax as well with almost every guest house having access to a hammock over looking the Mekong. The highlight of this area is the presence of the Irrawaddy river dolphins. These dolphins are super rare and you can take sight seeing trips from most of the islands. Again, it is nature so it’s not guaranteed that you will see them but if you are there between the months of November and March you have the best chance due to the lower water levels. Another awesome thing to do down here is hire a boat guide to take you and your mates fishing in the afternoon, then after getting enough for a feed he can take you to your own island, you can sit back and relax while dinner is prepared and cooked with a satisfying Beerlao and then watch the sun go down on the way home.
Where to from here?
From Pakse you can easily get into Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam. Remember for Thai visas you need to present your transport out of Thailand to get in, Cambodian visas are best applied for in advance however you can get them on entry into Cambodia as well. Vietnam requires you must have a tourist visa prior to entry so that must be applied for before you start travelling.
For reference sake, this was also the era of the Hongzhi Emperor, Zhu Youcheng, who reigned between 1470-1505, and just a few years after Columbus reached the Americas in 1492, while Henry VII rules England. Ramathibodhi II rules Autthaya and Sukhothai. In Cambodia, they are ruled by Thommareachea I in the Charktomok era.
The ancient Khmer religious complex of Wat Phu is one of the highlights of any trip to Laos. Stretching 1400 m up to the lower slopes of the Phu Pasak range (also known more colloquially as Phu Khuai or Mt Penis), Wat Phu is small compared with the monumental Angkor-era sites near Siem Reap in Cambodia. But the tumbledown pavilions, ornate Shiva-lingam sanctuary, enigmatic crocodile stone and tall trees that shroud much of the site in soothing shade give Wat Phu an almost mystical atmosphere. These, and a site layout that is unique in Khmer architecture, led to Unesco declaring the Wat Phu complex a World Heritage Site in 2001.
Sanskrit inscriptions and Chinese sources confirm the site has been worshiped since the mid 5th century. The temple complex was designed as a worldly imitation of heaven and fitted into a larger plan that evolved to include a network of roads, cities, settlement and other temples. What you see today is the product of centuries of building, rebuilding, alteration and addition, with the most recent structures dating from the late Angkorian period.
At its height the temple and nearby city formed the most important economic and political center in the region. But despite its historic importance, the 84 ha site remains in considerable danger from the elements. Detailed studies reveal that water erosion is pressuring the site and without a systematic water management plan the buildings will eventually collapse. Italian and Japanese funded the projects have helped stabilize the southern of two ancient canals built to channel water away from the central structures. However, the equally important northern side of the site. To see it, compare the relatively intact terraced steps and pavilions on the south of the site with those on the north, With about 1 million needed to repaired the northern canal and terrace, Wat Phu’s future is by no means secure.
But it’s not all doom and gloom. Years of work by the Italian Archaeological Mission and the inimitable Dr Patrizia Zolese, the leading expert on Wat Phu who has been working at the site since 1990, have resulted in the first detailed map on the site and surrounding 400 sq km, revealing much about way the ancients lived. During the last two years the local and falang archaeologists have restored the ceremonial causeway, replacing slabs and re-erecting stone makers that had been scattered across the site. Restoration of the Nandi Hall is underway and is expected to be finished in 2009.
Don’t miss the museum ( 8am – 4.30 pm) beside the ticket office. Extensive cataloging work has recently been completed on the dozens of lintels, nagas (mythical water serpents), Buddhas and other stone work from Wat Phu and it associated sites. Descriptions are in English.
CHAMPASAK IN ANTIQUITY
Under the palm trees and rice paddies 4km south of Champasak town is the remains of a city
that was about 1500 years ago, the capital of the Mon-Khmer Chenla kingdom. The site is known today as Muang Kao (Old City), but scholars believe It was called Shreitapura.
Aerial photographs show the remains of rectangular city measuring by 2.3km bay 1.8 km, surrounded bay double earthen walls on three sides and protected on the east by the Mekong river. Other traces of the old city include small baray, stone implements and ceramics. The sum of all this is an extremely rare example of an ancient urban settlement in the southeast Asia, one whose design reveals how important religious belief was in the workings of everyday life.
The original of the city remained a mystery until Southeast Asia’s oldest Sankrit inscription was discovered here. The 5th century stele stated the city was founded by king Devanika and was called Kuruksetra and also mentions the auspicious Sri Lingaparvata nearby, A clear reference to the mountain near Wat Phu Champasak. The “Honoured since antiquity” the mountain was believed to be the residence or the manifestation of the Hindu god Shiva, and even today local people honoured the mountain as the place of Phi Intha (the soul of protecting spirit of the mountain)
By the end of the 5th century the city was thriving. It continues as a major regional center until at least the 7th century, as showed by two Nandi Pedestal ( Shiva’s bull mount ) sculptures discovered in 1994-1995 bearing inscriptions by king Citrasena- Mahendaravarman, the conqueror who later shifted the kingdom’s capital to Sambor Prei Kuk in northeast Cambodia. Archaelogical material suggest the city was inhabited until the 16th century.
On going research bay Dr Zolese and her team has reveal that a second city was built near the Wat Phu after the 9th century. She believes the Nang Sida temple was at the centre of this city, which was probably Lingapura, a place mentioned in many ancient inscriptions but which has not been categorically identified by modern scholars.
The centre of Pakse retains the sort of Mekong river – town lethargy found in Savanakhet and Tha Khaek futher north. Fewer conolial – era buildings remain, though do look for the Franco – Chinese – style Chinese society building on Th 10 in the centre of town.
The vast Talat Dao Heung ( new market ) near the Lao – Japanese Bridge is one of the biggest in the country. Famous for its selection of fresh produce of coffee from the fertile Bolaven Plateau. Short day trips from the Pakse can made to Ban Saphai and Don Kho weaving centres 15 km north of town.
SIGHTS & ACTIVITIES
Champasak historical Heritage
Has a few artifacts and a lot of boring documents chronicling history of the province. Once you get past the Lao and communist hammer – and – sickle flags at the entrance you are in the best part of the museum – three very old Dong Son bronze drums and striking 7th –century sandstone lintels found at Uo Moung (Tomo Temple). The simple textile and jewellery collection from the Nyaheun, Suay, and Laven groups is also interesting for its large iron ankle bracelets and ivory ear plugs since these are rarely worn nowadays.
Also on the ground floor are musical instruments, stelae in the Tham script dating from the 15th to 18th centuries, a water jar from the 11th or 12th century, a small lingam ( Shiva phallus ), plus a model of Wat Phu Champasak.
One you head upstairs you’ll be beginning you last five minutes in the museum. Apart a small collection of Buddha images and forlorn – looking American weaponry. It’s all headshots of party members.
There are about 20 wats in the city, of which Wat Luang and Wat Tham Fai ( both founded in 1935 ) are the largest.
A monastic school at Wat Luang features ornate concrete pillars whimsy departs from canonical art without losing the traditional effect. Behind the sim is a monk’s school in an original wooden building. A thaat on the ground contains the ashes of
Khamtay Loun Sasothit,a former prime minister in the Royal Lao Government.
Wat Tham Fai, near the Champasak Palace Hotel is undistinguished except for its spacious ground, making it a prime site for temple festival. It’s also known as Wat Pha Baht because there is a small Buddha footprint shrine. The stupas and Pepsi billboard near Rte 13 make good photos in the afternoon.
It will be 21 years before Magellan reaches the Philippines and 11 years before Malacca is conquered by Portugal, ending almost 100 years of the Malacca sultanate, which at the time was led by the sultan Mahmud Shah. Mahmud Shah is connected with the Malay legend of Puteri Gunung Ledang, which is about his failed courtship of a fairy princess.
In the century before, movable type printing has also been developed in Asia. Under the rule of Yongle Emperor, the Ming Dynasty territory reaches its pinnacle, the Forbidden City is built and Zhenghe has been commanded to explore the world overseas. Tamerlane established a major empire in the Middle East and Central Asia, in order to revive the Mongolian Empire. Also, the Inca Empire has risen to prominence in South America.
Possible steampunk or alternate history directions could be: What if Wan Hu didn’t make it to the moon, but made it to Lan Xang. (Or made it to the moon and found a way back to earth, landing in Lan Xang?) Or perhaps, what happens if Wan Hu’s experiment is still a failure but news of it inspires others to try, and perhaps someone in Lan Xang figures it out. Or thinks of something more interesting to do than try to go to the moon.
As the old saying goes, “Aim for the moon, hit the cow.”
“Court forms of dance theatre were established as Lao kings copied customs of powerful neighboring monarchs. Tradition holds that Cambodian (Khmer) court dance, along with the Ramayana and Jataka repertoire were introduced to Laos by Prince Fa Nguan in 1353. During the 14th century the Lao kingdom of Lan Sang (‘Million Elephants’) was established and in this time the Khmer monarchs with their troupe of female wives-dancers were the epitome of potent kingship in the region. Keeping up with the Khmer meant establishing female court dance with movement and repertoire modeled on Khmer practice. The Lao kings were never as rich as the rulers of Angkor. Nor could the Lao compete later in the 15th century with Thai rulers who, first at Ayutthaya and later in Bangkok, emulated Khmer practice… Just as Lan Sang in the early period aped Angkor, the small courts established by partition in 1700- Luang Prabang, Wiangjun and Chapassak – imitated Thai models: Thai female court dance LAKON FAI NAI, male masked dance drama KHON and shadow play NANG yai were taught and performed at court. The Lao chose not to alter the forms: the Royal Lao Ballet of the 1960s in Luang Prabang included only female dancers, the best of whom had trained in Bangkok. Rather than staging full dance dramas like the Thai and Cambodians, this smaller court favoured solo and small group dances” (Brandon, 191)
Malacca, or what we know as Malaysia, is under Dutch control, with a recent transition in power from David Boelen to Thomas Schippers. The Dutch have ruled for 123 years now, after ousting the Portuguese in 1641.
To the north, in China, we see the reign of the Qianlong Emperor, Hongli, who ruled between 1735–1796, during the height of the Qing Dynasty’s power as they ruled over 13 million square kilometers of territory. In 1755, or nine years earlier, the tallest wodden Bodhisattva statue in the world has been erected at the Puning Temple in Chengde.
In Japan, the 117th emperor is the Empress Go-Sakuramachi. She is two years into her reign as regent after her brother, the Emperor Momozono abdicated in 1762 and died later that year at the age of 21.
Meanwhile in 1764, historically, we see the Battle of Buxar, where the British East India Company defeats the combined armies of Mir Kasim, the Nawab of Bengal, the Nawab of Awadh, and Mughal Emperor Shah Alam II. King George the III rules Britain and is dealing with some rascal colonists abroad talking about liberty and other notions. Among European nations, muzzle-loaded flintlock muskets are the primary firearms used in conflicts at this time (and will be until approximately 1840.)
This entry is obviously approaching 20 years old, but it’s an interesting start to consider how we discuss the journey of Lao theater and where we might see it go in the years ahead.
after 1893 when Vientiane and Champassak had been bundled together with Luang Prabang to create a state that was a French protectorate called Laos, and a Lao narrator who worked often enough with the falang that he might reasonably refer to it as Laos. For stories set earlier than 1893, we have to be even more aware of anachronisms that take us out of a story, that suspension of disbelief.
In fiction, when we write place names, do we employ French or US/English romanization to keep it authentic? It’s not always cut and dry. For a historical example, many Americans secretly stationed in Laos during the civil war in the 1960s commonly referred to the Plain of Jars as the PDJ, an abbreviation of Plaines des Jarres.
When we’re using an ethnic Lao narrator, one might argue, it may not matter and you could even use a non-standard romanization instead of Long Tieng (Long Cheng), or Luang Prabang (Luang Phrabang).
Radically, there could be great power in this: Lao names and geography written by Lao the way Lao themselves feel it should be spelled, and not just the way some falang missionary or policy wonk decided we should write the names of our cities and landmarks. That would be significant step towards decolonization.
But we also need to decolonize time. Not everyone uses the solar calendar, after all.
LAOS Culinary arts
Approaching 40 years in the US, we know Lao Americans love science fiction, fantasy, horror, myths and legends. Now we’re looking your stories and art for the first full-length anthology of Lao American speculative art and literature.
Whether it’s a story of Lao astronauts in a distant future, nak or phi in ancient Lan Xang, the missing adventures of Sithong or Xieng Mieng, or wild weretigers and kinnali in Laotown, we want to hear about it! Tales of time-traveling silapin, Lao cyborgs and superheroes, or visitors to haunted villages are all encouraged and welcomed.
Send us your best original stories between 250 to 5,555 words in length. We also accept up to 10 poems, up to 255 words per poem. For longer or shorter works, please inquire. We are also looking for examples of visual art: painting, illustrations, textiles, mixed media, photography. Visual artists can submit between 5 to 10 pieces.
All genres and sub-genres such as steampunk are welcomed, but no “fan fiction” or use of characters and settings you do not have the rights to. No glittering vampires. Work should have a reasonably clear Lao connection.
This anthology is requesting one-time electronic and print rights, after which further publication rights revert to the creator. A physical contributor’s copy and e-book copy are provided.
We accept RTF files by e-mail only. Put the words: LAO ANTHOLOGY in the subject line with your name. Double spaced manuscript in Times New Roman. Use italics, not underlines when necessary. Use of Laoglish is fine and encouraged, but absolutely NO italicizing Lao words. Have your contact information of the first page of the manuscript including e-mail address. Good grammar and spelling appreciated. No simultaneous submissions.
Visual art submissions should be able to be reproduced well in black and white and sent as a digital file at 600 dpi or higher. Portrait orientation preferred, but landscape orientation accepted.
The fourth anniversary issues of CHA has arrived.
It’s hard to believe it’s been four years already, but a big congratulations to all of them in Hong Kong. This issue was guest edited by Robert E. Wood (poetry) and Royston Tester (prose).
This issue, they have poetry from Christopher Barnes, Robert Masterson, John McKernan, Tristan Coleshaw, Chris Santiago, Sonia Saikaley, DeWitt Clinton, Kenneth Alewine, Dena Rash Guzman, Samuel Arizpe, Judith Toler, Rheea Mukherjee, David W. Landrum, W.F. Lantry, Mia Ayumi Malhotra, Anuradha Vijayakrishnan, Nicholas Y.B. Wong, Bernard Henrie, Mike Ladd, and Louis Marvin.
In Fiction, they have pieces from Alzo David-West, Gun G. Ayurzana, Matthew Davis, John David Harding, Sharon Hashimoto, Shivani Sivagurunathan, and Genevieve Yim.
They are accepting submissions for Issue #16, which is scheduled for February 2012. Ankur Agarwal (poetry) and Mag Tan (prose) will act as guest editors and read the submissions with them. Deadline is set at 15 December.
Decolonizing Space and Time
23:00 – 01:00: 子 Rat
01:00 – 03:00: 丑 Ox
03:00 – 05:00: 寅 Tiger
05:00 – 07:00: 卯 Rabbit
07:00 – 09:00: 辰 Dragon
09:00 – 11:00: 巳 Snake
11:00 – 13:00: 午 Horse
13:00 – 15:00: 未 Goat
15:00 – 17:00: 申 Monkey
17:00 – 19:00: 酉 Rooster
19:00 – 21:00: 戌 Dog
21:00 – 23:00: 亥 Pig
Talking about time in a truly multicultural Steampunk world should take this into account. Time travel a la H.G. Wells’ classic ‘The Time Machine’ now becomes interestingly complicated when we consider whose sense of time applies. The visitor, or the visited?
But let’s look at an additional challenge for the role of time in Lao fiction: In Laos, we can run into big headaches because time is not homogeneous among the 100+ cultures who live within its frequently shifting borders.
To elaborate on the importance of this question, consider that in the mountains and jungles of Laos, highlanders such as the Hmong used time as the measure of distance. “It’s two days of walking to the next village.” Miles, kilometers, etc. are very abstract concepts to them in the old days, let alone 20,000 leagues under a sea to people born in a landlocked nation.
This is, of course, just the tip of the temporal iceberg, but I think it opens up some very intriguing questions for better Steampunk set among Southeast Asian cultures. And I hope it raises the bar for anyone who decides to use a English protagonist using a modified Mayan time travel device to visit ancient Mayao in the highlands of Annam to discover the secret to immortality or some other fantastic scenario.
The preferred diet of the phi kra-hang is filth, but other than that, little is know of its ecology and habits. Some say it’s touchy about people touching his behind, for fear of his true nature being discovered if you see his stump of a tail. There are some accounts that connect him to the krasue, but this may be a stretch. A few claim these beings are restricted to central Thailand for the most part.
There is some dispute as to whether he hurts people, or is merely ambivalent towards them. Most consider it a phi to avoid in any case. There are accounts that at night, he gives off a glowing aura. But of course, it might be a different phi in the shape of a phi kra-hang. You never can be too certain with this sort of thing.
What stories do you know about the phi kra-hang?
Naturally, for a Lovecraftian anthology, there’s all manner of potential angles you can approach with this one. William Hope Hodgson’s “The Voice in the Night”, and its Japanese film adaptation, Matango have already been cited as inspirations, and naturally, “The Fungi from Yuggoth”. But let’s see some stories and works that really go beyond with this one.
I would add the advice that the editors really appreciate non-traditional perspectives and settings. Take them places we’ve never been as readers. They’re also interested in steampunk entries involving fungi if you have them. Good luck! They want to release it by October 2012, so keep an eye out for more details!
Laos is proceeding with the potentially environmentally disastrous Xayaburi Dam. Studies calculate it will “block fish migration on the Mekong, threaten between 23 and 200 fish species, have damaging effects on sediment flows and put unpredictable pressures on ecosystems around the river. More than 60 million people live in the river basin of the lower Mekong and about two-thirds of those depend on fishing for all or part of their livelihood.” What’s not to love?
Laos and the World Bank celebrated 50 years of “partnership”. Said one official, “Today we can take pride in the achievements of our enduring partnership. Laos has seen remarkable success in lifting millions of people out of poverty and improving their lives. In less than a generation, the incidence of poverty in Laos has dropped from about 50 per cent to just a little over 25 per cent.”
Laos faces challenges in creating productive jobs, said an expert from the International Labour Organization at a national workshop in Vientiane to discuss the Rural Employment Strategy for Poverty Reduction. With a population of 6.3 million, and 60 percent of the population is under 25 years old, Laos has opportunities but also challenges.
Meanwhile, Lao officials have been urged to actively lead local people in undertaking commercial ventures, so they can find their way out of poverty, saying “the growing of crops and livestock rearing should tie in with local needs.”
Air America veteran Richard O’Hara of Northville, Michigan and his service in Laos were discussed in the Observer & Eccentric.
In West Virginia, the story of Master Sergeant Edward Ziobron’s bravery in Laos was discussed.
In the Daily Hampshire Gazette, Lee Hines shared his experiences in Laos in “Lessons we must learn again.”
The mayor of Frisco, Bill Pelham shared his story as a Forward Air Controller near the Laotian border in the Summit Daily.
The Gilroy Patch has an article on Joe Kline, who served in Vietnam and a mission in Laos to fly South Vietnamese troops in to cut off the Ho Chi Minh Trail.
Bill Flittie was profiled in the Shoreview Press. Flittie was in the navy and later joined International Volunteer Services, stationed in Savannakhet.
Newsweek has a story on “What Made the Spooks Disappear,” covering CIA operatives like Tony Poe who served in Laos with the Hmong.
USAID has a press release on 80-year old Hal Freeman, who was an education Foreign Service Officer with service around the world including Laos with the Hmong.
And, Justin Bieber is auctioning off his snake to help a charity that builds schools in Laos, Nicaragua and Guatemala. His baby boa constrictor, Johnson.
The Last War Poem
I tell you, this is the last word for this war.
This little side war we were the center of.
There is no justice from poetry-
Any veteran can tell you that.
They want their land, their lives
Their livestock back.
Grenade fishing in the aftermath of Phou Pha Thi
Has lost its novelty
To the man with a bullet fragment rattling
In his body, slowly tearing him apart.
Write, they tell me. Write what?
We lost, we were forgotten, we are ghosts.
We are victims of fat tigers and foreign policy.
This jungle was filthy.
There was shit. There was blood.
There were refugees
Who to this day can not explain why they were the enemy
When the war came.
Their sons fought. Their brothers died.
Their uncles, maimed, were hauled screaming into the shadows of the PDJ.
Write, they tell me, so people won’t forget.
So someone will know.
Lift the broken bodies with my words, bring them out
And say ‘we did not die in vain’.
For every bullet hole, let there be a word to stand as a monument.
For every lost limb let there be a sonnet to stitch the truth back together.
For every eye gone blind, let there be something to take its place.
How can you not have words for the war of whispers?
How can you not shout, now that the whispering is done?
And I swear, each time I break this promise, that the next time
Will be the last word I write about this damn war.
Saymoukda Duangphouxay Vongsay is the Lao American author of No Regrets, a collection of poetry and haikus published by Baby Rabbit Publishing.
Her work has been published by Altra Magazine, the Journal of Southeast Asian American Education and Advancement, and Bakka Literary Journal, to name a few. A Minnesota-based spoken word poet, she has performed and taught creative writing workshops nationally across the United States and internationally in Italy and Japan.
She has worked with the Anchorage Urban League of Young Professionals lecturing and performing at the university-level and local high schools to urge voter registration and civic engagement and also served as liaison between local government and the Southeast Asian community regarding public policy.
Vongsay is a co-founding member of The Unit, a collective of emerging playwrights of color. Her short plays are staged at The Playwrights Center. Her piece, Yellowtail Sashimi, was part of the 2010 MN Fringe Festival. She was a co-chair of the first Lao American Writers Summit in Minnesota and has worked actively to support the work of Lao women writers and artists across the country to celebrate heritage, diversity and community development.
A multidisciplinary, multicultural arts center, Intermedia Arts supports a broad spectrum of artists, with a particular focus on voices you are unlikely to hear anywhere else. They were gracious hosts to the groundbreaking Legacies of War: Refugee Nation exhibit we held in Minnesota in 2010.
Their Queer Voices reading series is the longest running GLBT literary series in the nation. Their multimedia festival, B-Girl Be: A Celebration of Women in Hip-Hop, is the first of its kind worldwide, showcasing and celebrating the contributions of women to a revolutionary art form. Their annual performance series, Indigenous Voices, (co-presented with Pangea World Theater), explores First Nation issues of identity and human rights; and their youth media programs allow at-risk youth to create films and TV shows about issues in their lives and communities.
Intermedia Arts is a nationally recognized leader in empowering artists and community leaders to use arts-based approaches to solve community issues. Their leadership program, The Creative Community Leadership Institute, is one of only a few programs in the country to provide comprehensive, professional-level training and support for local community-engaged artists and community developers. Led by a core faculty of four of the leading thinkers in the field of community cultural development, Intermedia Arts’ Creative Community Leadership Institute has trained over 62 of the Twin Cities’ most active community artists, organizers and developers.
Again, a big congratulations to Saymoukda Vongsay for her much deserved recognition, and here’s to many more great things ahead from both her and Intermedia Arts!
The New Yorker has new piece by Daniel Mendelsohn contemplating a slimmer, faster Iliad, based on Stephen Mitchell’s new translation, which, among other things, completely cuts out Chapter 10, or the Doloneia. The abstract is extremely truncated, but the actual article is filled with some very interesting observations that would also apply for Lao American writers as we wrestle with our own literary traditions, for epics such as that of Sinxay.
We can spend so much time focused on the preservation and historicity of the classical Lao texts that we forget to make them living, breathing texts for ourselves. But that’s for a larger discussion in the years ahead, I suppose.
I haven’t found any resources highlighting the service of a Colonel Marchand being stationed in Indochina around this time, but that does not wholly rule out the possibility. Proper, serious research of Southeast Asian metaphysics and the supernatural was not extensive among Europeans at the time, so we can only speculate what exactly they had encountered.
The floating fanged faces could have been any number of phi, including krasue, but there may be other possibilities. What do you think?