Laos is a landlocked country predominantly covered by lush unspoilt jungle, With a population of around 6 million this communist state is one of the ten poorest countries in the world, with a per capita income of around US$320. Quite literally propped up by it richer, larger neighbour Thailand with it’s 68 million people and per capita of around $2,840 they share a rich and complicated history as well as a long Buddhist tradition.
Another distinction Laos shares is the most bombed country in the history of the world, between 1954 and 1974 during a 20 year ‘secret war’ with the US who dropped over 2 million tonnes of ordnance on them.
I wanted to go somewhere with some sun, to relax, find something interesting.
We started in Thailand, Bangkok and traveled to the north, where we crossed the border into Laos.
Bangkok is very big, it’s very hard to understand such a large city if you are there for only a few days. It’s much more expensive than I expected. The first few days in Bangkok, I thought, wow, Thailand is not so cheap. I prefer the villages.
We took a map, a Lonely Planet and then someone would tell us a story and we would go to that place. So no plan actually.
We are riding in a tuktuk. We were riding them all the time. In the traffic it’s all noise and pollution. A taxi is much better in Bangkok. In small places it is very good in a tuktuk. But not Bangkok.
It’s very relaxing looking at the jungle traveling for a couple of days from Thailand through Laos. There were also speedboats which take only 6 hours. With helmets on and the pilot just ‘raaaaaaa’ traveling fast up the river. You can’t really see anything this way, so the long boat is much better.
On the long boat you have time to take it in. Lots of great sandy beaches to camp, the nature is incredible. And the boat stopped all the time to collect supplies, pick up and drop people off. Young girls came selling shawls and blankets. Handmade and done really well.
And of course there was a lot of great food. Actually Thai food was a little bit better than the food in Laos. They are both good although Thai food is more interesting with more ingredients. At Christmas time, it’s the same music and they also have Halloween. Even more than in Tallinn the lights and Christmas music are visible everywhere.
It was interesting to observe the monks walking around before seven o’clock in the mornings. They walk from house to house and ask for food, people come out with their dishes and feed the monks, receiving blessings in return. The monks perform their rituals and sing. If you ask nicely then the monks allow you to take a photo, but normally they are not very interested in being photographed by the hoards of tourists.
It was also interesting to see how people live in little villages in Laos. Life is very primitive and it feels as if you have ended up in a different time – the homes are simple huts, oftentimes without electricity and with a fireplace in the middle of the room. The children run around half-naked, play in the middle of the road, since in the mountains there is hardly any more room than a couple of metres on either side of the road, beyond which there is a gorge. But they still seem very happy.
In Laos. Traveling 6 hours in the bus across many mountains as the road twist and turns.
So many children everywhere and we didn’t see any one crying, not one child on the whole trip, no crying children, and there was a lot everywhere always smiling and looking happy. A bit startled by a camera if you had a camera. Older people were always smiling too.
The cheapest guest house was something like 3 Euros. Very simple and always clean with a bathroom. In restaurants and guest houses people speak a little English but where there are no tourists, then no English is spoken. People are very friendly. Absolutely.
It’s such a big country with a lot to see.You meet backpackers there for 3 or 6 months. You have to take time.
I'm a freelance artist. I have been doing mainly hyper-realistic pen- and pencil drawings and been active in photography and sculpture.