During our October break we went to Laos, the lush,
mountainous, landlocked country surrounded by
Myanmar, Thailand, China, Vietnam, and Cambodia.
We made three stops: Vientiane (capital),
Xieng Khuang, and Luang Prabang.
|The Golden Stupa, Vientiane. Even at sunset it shimmers.|
There are hundreds of monks in Laos.
|The Patuxai (a.k.a. Arc du Triumph of Vientiane) was finished in 1968 to symbolize independence from France.|
|We climbed up 400 steps to the top of the ginormous, concrete monument and had a great view of the city.|
|After exploring the night market in Vientiane, we flew to Xieng Khuang the next morning. We opted for the 40-minute flight because driving would have taken over 10 hours!|
|"Why go to Xieng Kuang?" you ask?|
Well, this is where you can find the Plain of Jars.
There are hundreds of 2,000-year-old stone jars and millions of unexploded ordinance from bombings in the 1970s. I felt a strange mix of awe and sadness while doing a quick watercolor sketch...and yes, I'm sitting on a broken jar.
|It's not often that you get to launch rocks with a borrowed sling shot on a mysterious archeological site.|
|Despite all the bombing and looting, some ancient relics remain, like this 17th century seated Buddha in Muang Khoun.|
|These children are taking straw to the fields to feed the water buffalo.|
|This stupa, called That Chomsi, was built in 1576 and is nearly 100 feet tall.|
Ten minutes before this picture was taken, it was stormy and gray.
|There's nothing like sampling a red hot chili pepper that is drying on the roof of a thatched-roof house in the Laotian mountains.|
|During the 8-hour drive from Xieng Khuang to Luang Prabang, we stopped for a brief rest at this mountainside cafe. Imagine the sound of chickens and their chicks, wind rustling through the trees, and birds chirping a sweet song.|
|This modern temple fresco in Luang Prabang represents the hundreds of Buddhist monks whose only means of eating is to collect alms from villagers and tourists.|
|You won't see sports jerseys, Levi's jeans, or polo shirts hanging on laundry lines around here!|
|You wouldn't know that Laos suffered through several decades of strife, war, and brutality because there is such a sense of tranquility both in the statues and people.|
|Kuang Si Falls features several cascading waterfalls. We were told that this is the "dry" season and that the falls we are standing under are small. Imagine getting sprayed by a thousand spray bottles every 5 seconds! There is also an Asiatic Black Bear sanctuary on this site.|
|I really admired the multi-tiered roof architecture of Laotian temples.|
|When in Laos, one must travel along the Mekong River. We traveled north for two hours to see some Buddhist caves.|
|The Buddha images range from new plastic models, to bronze statues, to this termite-ridden wooden figure. Although damaged, it still has a beautiful, natural quality to it. (They probably should have called Terminex ages ago.)|
|Deep inside one of the caves, the only available light was from this shrine candle.|
|We decided to have lunch...prepared by us! So we joined a cooking class and visited the local market.|
|I didn't know there were so many varieties of rice.|
|There is no styrofoam or plastic packaging used in this market.|
|Ahhhhh. Barbecuing a green chili while rice steams in a palm-woven basket.|
|You won't find cans of Del Monte veggies here!|
|This sweet concoction of sugar and coconut milk will go perfectly with my mangosteen and bananas.|
|Fried lemon grass chicken. The bottom of the lemon grass is thinly sliced to create a basket to hold minced chicken. Try ordering that at KFC.|
|Minced water buffalo, steamed fish mok, chicken satay, sticky rice, and Laotian salsa.|
|Remember the temple fresco earlier? Here's the live version at dawn.|
The night market, temple tours, mountain views, fresh food, Plain of Jars, and Mekong River were just a few of the highlights of this trip. I added another country to my haircutting checklist, finished my watercolor sketchbook, took many pictures, and saw several more incredible sunsets. Another fantastic October break!