Last week we took a short jaunt into Southern Laos. We have both been to Laos before but never this particular area in the South known as the 4000 islands. Situated on the Mekong River the area is dotted with many small (and some larger) islands. Depending on the season (rainy or dry) the number of islands visible fluctuates.
Laos is known for its quiet, calm atmosphere and people. It is a much poorer country than Thailand, which is obvious as soon you cross the border. The country is very rural and agricultural (mostly rice). Some Laotions grow crops and fish commercially but many live day to day harvesting or fishing for their daily family needs. Of course with the growing tourist industry some have found new careers as boat taxis, restaurant or guesthouse owners. But for most Laotions life has been pretty much the same for many generations.
More recent conveniences like motorbikes and boat motors have made life a little easier. And like almost everywhere in Asia it seems like most people have a cell phone. (people who live in the a tiny thatch hut with no water or electricity still have a cell phone?!)
To get to the port we took a local ‘bus’. Basically a truck with wood bench seats in the back. You get can get about 30 people in the back of this. It’s 90km from the border town to the port town. It took 3.5 hours on the ‘bus’ which included many stops for people to get on and off. Or unload goods to be delivered.
At stops along the way women will come up to the truck with snacks and drinks to sell. This woman had whole BBQ chicken on a stick. (that’s the feet at the top). The flies and the ants on it probably indicate it is not too safe for ‘foreign stomachs’.
This is the ferry that took us to the island.
With all the different islands, the river is wide and slow in some spots and faster with rapids in others.
Here, the other side of the river is Cambodia.
It was pretty hot, 30-34C, and the water can looking inviting for cooling off. Not sure I'd want to float into a water buffalo who also like to cool off in the river with just their heads above water. (not to mention the Mekong is known for it's river flukes.)
These kids were having a blast paying with this boat. No clothes and, at this moment, no worries. Truly kids being kids, no video games or tvs in sight.
Laos is about 60% Buddhist. The remaining practice animism or ancestry worship and a very small minority are Christians and Muslims This is the entrance to a Buddhist temple. This temple was built on the site of a Khmer temple, you can still see some of the ruins of the original 1000+ year old temple.
Laos was occupied by the French from the late 1800's until it was given independence in 1953. Some French Colonial buildings are still around, most in ruins like this one. The local school is located behind this building so the kids were playing games out front.
Since Independence Laos has struggled politically and financially and is officially a communist country. Laos holds a record not to be proud of. It is the most bombed country in the world. During the Vietnam war Northern Laos was heavily bombed. According to official figures, the US dropped 2,093,100 tons of bombs on 580,944 sorties. The total cost was US$7.2 billion, or US$2 million a day for nine years. (wow)
As with most undeveloped countries people are usually quite industrious. This man is 'sewing' his fishing net. I also found the hammock ,made from a single piece of bamboo, pretty ingenious.
The traditional fishing method on this part of the Mekong is to stand at the front of a small boat and throw a net with a weighted edge out into the water, then gather it in; hopefully with a fish or 2 caught in it. I can only imagine it take a bit of practice to be able to throw the net and be successful.
These women are peeling yaro to dry for food.
The yaro laid out on the ground to dry. A safe (?) distance has been left around the water buffalo paddy. yum?
Sunset on the Mekong River.
Seeing new sites, meeting new people, experiencing new food and seeing first hand local traditions. To me, the best part of any trip.