So far . . We’re loving Laos! 😀
We left Thailand early this morning . . Crossed the border and joined our Laos guide and van! It was pretty official at the border – but it went relatively smoothly! Much easier than border controls in Africa with 23 people and lots of little kids! 😀. We were able to purchase our visas at the border and we’re now officially in Laos!
We met our guide, Laing at the border. He is going to be awesome! Speaks great English and he comes from the hill country, where we will be going! Looking good! So we loaded our luggage in the van and we headed for Vientiane, our first stop in this country. Unlike our last guide, Laing is using van time to tell us about his country! There are 7 million people in Laos. As opposed to 70 million in Thailand. The Hmong people live up in the mountains, the Khmer people live in the middle of the country, and the Lao people make up the rest of the population (about 53 percent). Laos is a communist country and if you profess a belief in Christianity, you could get thrown in jail! 75 percent of the folks who live here are farmers. They grow rice (mostly by hand) and some corn as well as hops.
On our way to the Buddhist park, Laing gave us a brief history lesson on Laos! So interesting. They have been controlled by so many other countries – it’s really awful! During the secret war (US inspired) the Lao countryside was literally bombarded by the US and the land mines shattered their fields. The US was determined to cut off supplies that were heading to North Vietnam via the Ho Chi Minh Trail . . So many innocent people were killed and maimed because of this action. Folks turned to living in caves to protect themselves from these bombs. On one particular day, 374 people (who had taken refuge in one huge cave) were killed by a large bomb. Laing was not one bit accusatory as he talked about this. The Lao people are loving and peaceful and have no animosity towards the Americans. It’s really pretty cool.
So – President Obama visited Laos before he left office. The people here loved him and were so appreciative of his visit. He pledged a good sum of money to help the Lao government get rid of the 270 million land mines that were left here. Children are still killed and maimed by these devices . .
And then we went to visit this very cool Buddha park which is located outside the city. Such a cool space! Many Buddha statues sprinkled around the park. The big one represents Hell, the Earth, and Heaven. We climbed in the statue. Had so much fun . The steps were stone and very narrow . . It was easy to hit your head as you crawled around. You’ll understand from the pictures .
After checking in to our wonderful hotel (which even has a bar! Imagine that?) we went to visit the textile workshop. Run by Carol Cassidy. She is an American who visited here in the 1980s, fell in love with Laos, and decided to support the women of this country who had perfected the art of weaving with silk! This place was amazing. These Lao women have learned this craft from their families. Their complex stylised designs have for a century attracted admirers and customers from throughout the world! Cassidy has singlehandedly revived silk weaving. Today, 40 weavers operate hand looms and 3000 farmers supply the silk from their mulberry trees. They make wall hangings and scarfs and many one of a kind pieces. It was fascinating to watch these women working at their looms! We also had fun at the shop, which sells their products. We all bought something and Carol and her husband thanked us for helping them make payroll this week! 😀 D and I have commissioned a table runner, which they will send to us. . . Probably will take several weeks to make . Cost us $150! Crazy! An experienced weaver can earn many times the salary of a university professor . . . They also get benefits, including health insurance!
And then it was time for lunch! We had spotted this Irish pub right across from our lovely hotel. We were ready for lovely! 😀. Lots of wonderful draft beer and real hamburgers! French fries as well! Fun to be eating regular food for a bit!
After some time off in the afternoon, we met downstairs for happy hour! Imagine that? 😀. John and Laurie had a glass of house red wine – they think it had been sitting around for awhile . . . 😖. The rest of us thoroughly enjoyed gin/vodka tonics! It’s not so much the alcohol – but the opportunity to sit and relax and discuss the days activities . . . Wonderful! And then, we met our tuktuk driver who took us on yet another foodie tour! This fellow was very proud of his homemade vehicle! Room for six people – we sped off into town – alongside lots of motorbikes, cars, vans – you name it! Eventually, we came to the food market . . . .just open stalls with people making food and people purchasing food – mostly to take home to share with their families!
Our guide explained what everything was and we chose what we wanted to sample .. .every part of the chicken – flattened and grilled. Gizzards Wings. The neck. Quail. They waste nothing here! Salads. Stir fries. A multitude of sauces! Crickets! 😳. Yummy sausages. We were eventually running out of room . . .and then we drove to the corner of a busy street for a beverage. I had a passion fruit shake which was wonderful! We finished up with coconut ice cream So good! The proprietor was a 79 year old woman, who had been making and serving this ice cream for 50 some odd years. A fun evening!