“Is there a country named Laos?” I remember my 19-year-old nephew asking his mom before our trip to Laos. Well, I couldn’t blame him. I myself didn’t know much about Laos before. It’s not until I had a classmate back in college who had her internship in Laos. It was then when I checked the map and searched which part of the world is Laos. I never expected that one day I would find myself walking on the streets of Laos. It happened to be the first new country that I visited this year 2011. We reached Laos via the overnight sleeper train from Bangkok. It was a long 12-hour journey from Bangkok yet I was glad to set foot in this small but lovely country.
Laos was once known as the Ancient Kingdom of Lane Xang or Land of a Million Elephants. It is a landlocked country in southeast Asia, which I think makes this country unique. It is bordered by Myanmar and China to the north, Thailand to the west, Vietnam to the east and Cambodia to the south. I really think living in Laos would be interesting as you would immediately have a gateway to five countries. It has a population of around 6.8 million, which is extremely low compared with our 92 million population in the Philippines.
I actually booked a roundtrip ticket to Bangkok through Cebu Pacific’s 10-10-10 promo fare last year. It was only a short 6-day trip but when I learned that you could take an overnight sleeper train from Bangkok to Laos. I excitedly included Laos in our itinerary. I split our itinerary into two: 3 days in Bangkok and 3 days in Laos. Thus, our trip seemed like an amazing race as we jumped off from one place to another everyday. It was kinda exhausting and yet it was all worth it. As its tourism slogan says, “Laos-Simply Beautiful.” And I can’t agree more. Laos showed us that it has its own beauty to offer.
Like its neighboring countries, Vietnam and Cambodia, Laos was also colonized by France. It was under French rule from 1893-1954. The country was part of Indochina, known as the French colonial empire in southeast Asia. French colonial influence can still be seen around the country’s capital, Vientiane. One of the distinct French colonial architectures in the city is the Patuxay, which resembles the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. Patuxay park is really beautiful and it is my favorite place in Vientiane.
We were lucky because there was a cultural show at the park when we went there. I think there was an event but we really couldn’t figure out what’s the happening since we couldn’t understand anything. The host was speaking in Lao and I think we were the only foreigners among the audience. Anyway, I grabbed my camera for this wonderful photo opportunity.
After the show, we took a tuktuk to bring us to the city center. Vientiane is just a small city so just a day or two would be enough to stroll around. Before coming to Laos, I had often seen articles and blogs describing Vientiane as a sleepy capital. Well, let’s say the city is not as active as Bangkok and not as bustling as Manila. The atmosphere here is more relaxed and laid-back compared with other capital cities. I think this makes Vientiane more unique and special in its own way. My mom, my sister and I explored the city on our feet. We just headed to where our feet led us. So now, let me give you a glimpse of Vientiane:
I saw these worm creatures being sold in the market. It looks like they were deeply fried. I found out on the net that these are silkworm pupae and they are eaten as a good source of protein of the locals.
Buddhist monks are also normally seen walking around the city.
Theravada Buddhism is the most dominant religion in Laos. Almost 67% of the people are Buddhist. There are many Buddhist temples in Vientiane but due to limited time we were not able to visit all of them. We only visited one temple that is near to the market.
That’s the end of our half-day walking tour around the city. Vientiane is lovely in its own way. It may not be as busy and active as other capital cities in southeast Asia but I definitely enjoyed our time there. It felt so safe walking around the city and it’s absolutely less polluted compared with other cities. You could see that the country is gradually progressing after it had gained it’s independence from France in 1954.
One of my favorite pictures taken in Laos is this photo of a little Lao boy. I saw him at the restaurant where we ate our breakfast. He was busily eating his meal and I was kinda hesitant to ask him if I could take his picture. I’m usually shy to ask people if I could take a snapshot of them. I was afraid that the boy would feel shy and runaway. However, when I approached him he cheerfully posed and smiled for my camera. :-)