Archive for Laos

Vientiane / Laos

Posted in Latest of Asienreisender, Places with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 9, 2014 by Thim Kwai

Vientiane is Laos capital city. Just a few years ago it was a sleepy, laid-back place at the banks of the Mekong River opposite Thailand. In the last years, due to massive investment from abroad (namely Chinese), the city is booming representatively for the whole country. Vientiane’s development is mirroring the rapid changes which goes on in whole Southeast Asia. As a touristic destination it is of minor interest. There are few sights to visit, and none of them is of any greater significance. However, many Westerners who live in neighbouring Thailand are doomed to do their ‘visa-runs’ to the Thai consulate in Vientiane.

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Xieng Kok / Laos

Posted in Latest of Asienreisender, Places with tags , , , , , , , , on July 8, 2014 by Thim Kwai

Xieng Kok is a border town situated at the left banks of the Mekong River in north Laos. It’s a remote place and kind of a dead end when approaching it per road. Though, in the rainy season there is much boat traffic on the river, who is the traditional travel route. However, the place’s surroundings are not fully save. It is drug gang territory and much smuggling is going on to and fro the border to Burma/Myanmar.

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Boten Golden City / Laos

Posted in Latest of Asienreisender, Places with tags , , , , , , , on July 5, 2014 by Thim Kwai

The case of ‘Golden Boten City Ltd.’ is exemplarily for land grabbing practices of big foreign investors, for the passion for gambling and, last but not least, for the bancrupcy of a multi million dollar project. Chinese companies lease a part of Laos and built a whole new casino city in the rainforest, which, after violent trouble appeared too apparently, was shut down due to pressure from the Chinese authorities. Now the brandnew ruins are forsaken and awaiting either a new investment or the comeback of the jungle.

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Oudomxay (Muang Xay) / Laos

Posted in Latest of Asienreisender, Places with tags , , , , , , , , , on July 1, 2014 by Thim Kwai

Oudomxay refers to a province in north Laos as well as to it’s capital (actually: Muang Xay). It’s a central traffic hub for all who head north from Luang Prabang. Oudomxay is not a tourist destination, but it’s typical for Laos’ mountainous north and the rural life of a great number of tribal people. One of the province tribal towns is Muang La, some 25km north of Muang Xay on the road up to Phongsali.

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Boun Neua / Laos

Posted in Latest of Asienreisender, Places with tags , , , , , on June 29, 2014 by Thim Kwai

Boun Neua, a tiny village in the very north of Laos (Phongsali Province) is for most travellers merely a bus stop on the way between Phongsali and Oudomxai. However, it’s worth to stay here for a day or two to experience village life and to do some trekking in the mountainous surroundings.

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Phongsali / Laos

Posted in Latest of Asienreisender, Places with tags , , , , , , , , on June 28, 2014 by Thim Kwai

Phongsali is Laos’ northernmost province and a province capital as well. Situated in a mountainous surrounding it’s very similar to the landscapes of the neighbouring Chinese province Yunnan. The people of Phongsali are mostly hill tribes and their architecture is unique and luckily wasn’t destroyed in the American Vietnam War. Since Phongsali is a ‘dead end’ in travelling, means there is no borderpassing for foreigners to China possible, few international tourists take the exertions to come here…

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Hintang Archaeological Landscape / Park

Posted in Landscapes, Latest of Asienreisender with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 25, 2014 by Thim Kwai

Another mysterious ancient site like the enigmatic Plain of Jars lies in the very east of north Laos: it’s the megalithic menhirs of Hintang Archaeological Park. The park consists of 72 different sites in the jungle with alltogether around 1,500 menhirs – that’s upright standing, long-shaped, pillar-like stones, hewn of schist. Additionally there are huge stone discs placed on the ground. The discs serve as closing lids for the entrances to underground chambers. It’s supposed by archeologists that the site was an ancient burial place.

Map of Hintang Archeaological Landscape

Map of Hintang Archaeological Landscape / Park

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Bombs on Laos

Posted in Countries, Latest of Asienreisender with tags , , , , , , , , , , on March 20, 2014 by Thim Kwai

The American Vietnam War

The American Vietnam War (1964 – 1975) was the third biggest war in the 20th century. 3.000.000 million Vietnamese lost their lives during the war, while 75.000 GI’s American GI’s were killed. There was also a lot of unrest in America itself, for millions of Americans were mobilizing against this war, and further millions of people in other western countries. There are a lot of documentaries and movies about this war – Apocalypse Now and Rescue Dawn are just two examples.

Not many people know that the war did not only happen in Vietnam, but also in Cambodia and Laos. That is because the war against Vietnam’s two smaller neighbours has never officially been declared. But it caused more destruction there than in Vietnam itself. The consequence in Cambodia was the total breakdown of civil society and the four years lasting rule of Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge terror regime, which committed a genocide against the Cambodian population, killing two of the eight million Cambodian people. Before the American intervention Cambodia was among the most peaceful countries in the world.

(…)

The Secret War in Laos

The American Secret Service CIA (Central Intelligence Agency) infiltrated Laos already after the French Indochina War. The CIA initiated from 1960 on a secret war here with a huge impact on the Laotian people in long term. Military air bases were built, among them infamous Long Cheng and others as e.g. the one in Vang Vieng. The Secret War was one of the biggest CIA operations in history and it’s official target was, among others, the destruction of the Ho-Chi-Minh-Trail, who was leading through parts of the Laotian-Vietnamese border region in the jungle. The Ho-Chi-Minh-Trail was the supply line for the north-Vietnamese troops leading to south Vietnam. The Secret War also targeted the Laotian communist resistance movement ‘Pathet Lao’.

Although also the USA accepted Laos on the Genevaer conference of 1962 being a neutral country, President Kennedy ordered in the same year a grand operation there. The CIA built the huge air force base in Long Cheng / Laos, what was growing up quickly. Long Cheng, built inmiddle of the jungle somewhere northeast of Vientiane, became with 40.000 inhabitants the second biggest city in the country, after the capital. It was the largest airport in Southeast Asia at the time. The starting and landing of up to 400 bombers and air freighters per day made it for a time the most busy airport in the world – although it didn’t appear on any map, was never mentioned in the news and was even a secret kept against the US congress. This war, officially seen, didn’t exist. The CIA led it’s own war here.

For it’s shadow war the American Intelligence recruited a bizarre mixture of mercenaries, anit-communists, arms dealers, extrem right-wing adventurers, veterans of the pigbay invasion (Cuba), Laotian military and – drug dealers. They recruited also big parts of the Hmong people, a mountain people of the region, as soldiers in a secret guerilla armee. The Hmong lost thousands of people in the fights against Laotian communists and Vietcongs. Their war continued for several more decades after the Americans left the region, while they were now under attack of the Laotian army. Laos’ war against the Hmong is another dark chapter of the American Vietnam War. It’s another genozide and a direct result of the American intervention.

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This is only a part of the richly illustrated article ‘Bombs on Laos’. Read here the whole article on Bombs on Laos.

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The Plain of Jars

Posted in Landscapes, Latest of Asienreisender with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on March 19, 2014 by Thim Kwai

An Enigmatic Landscape

Avery peculiar sight is the Plain of Jars on the Xieng Khouang Plateau in north Laos. It’s a large landscape in the wider mountainous surroundings of Phonsavan town, covering an area of about 5,500 km2. There are now a total of 85 registered sites where each between one up to hundreds of huge megalithic stone urns are spread irregularly, without any pattern, over the countryside. The urns or jars are hewn out of solid rock. Few of them have a simple decoration, and only one single piece shows a human figure (the anthropomorphic disc, see below). The shape at the urn’s openings indicate that they had lids, and there are some few lids left. Their size varies considerably; the smallest have the size of an average dustbin, the biggest reach a height of 3 meters and weight up to 6,000kg. The Plain of Jars is one of the oldest archeological sites in Southeast Asia. And one of the most enigmatic.

Jars on the Plain of Jars by Asienreisender

A variety of some of the jars on the Plain of Jars. All images and photocomposition by Asienreisender

The Plain of Jars is situated on an average altitude of 1,200m above sea level. It’s therefore not so hot here as it is in lower places in Southeast Asia; in winter it can be pretty cool, also several degrees celsius below zero. The landscape, as it looks nowadays, is widely deforestated. That’s, in this case, not due to the rampant logging activities in Laos, but a long-term effect of the American chemical warfare in the Vietnam War. The agent orange didn’t wash completely out of the soil, because there is not as much rainfall here as it is usually in the sub-tropes.

The Plain of Jars is not a mass-tourist destination. It’s off the road between Vientiane – Vang Vieng – Luang Prabang and few tourists find their way to the site.

Since years there is a pending application to make the Plain of Jars a UNESCO World Heritage.

But, what is the truly strange site about?

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This is only a part of the richly illustrated article ‘The Plain of Jars’. Read here the whole article on The Plain of Jars.

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People: Henri Mouhot

Posted in Latest of Asienreisender, People with tags , , , , , on January 4, 2014 by Thim Kwai

Travelling in the 19th century was by no means comparable to nowadays. There was for example almost no roadnet in the Siam/Thailand of the time. Even the capital Bangkok didn’t have a single decent road in 1858, only some dirt tracks along the many canals (klongs), who served as the main transport network.

Mouhot’s first trip then, after being introduced into the Western society in Bangkok and an invitation from king Mongkut of Siam, was a boattrip the Chao Phraya River upwards to visit the ruins of Siam’s former and legendary capital Ayutthaya. The worst thing he describes were the mosquitoes who were around in great amounts at day and night.

Ayutthaya was an easy starter for travelling inner Indochina, because it is close to Bangkok and was already known by Westerners. After coming back to Bangkok he prepared for a second journey along the coasts east of Bangkok, travelling via Chantaburi passing by Koh Kong on boat and entering the port of Kampot. I placed three quotations on the Kampot page where he described the place and met the king of Cambodia in an audience.

After visiting Kampot Mouhot travelled the land road to Phnom Penh and Udong, where he met the second king of Cambodia in another audience. Next he visited some mountain tribes somewhat riverupwards the Mekong River. In one of his letters to the Royal Geographical Society he describes the area as close to Laos and Vietnam. That sounds much for the area what is now Ratanakiri. He spent two month among the Stieng people, apparently one of the hill tribes, before he turned to Angkor. Mouhot spent only three weeks in Angkor and went on then via Battambang back to Bangkok.

Mouhot, Henri:
Travels in the central parts of Indochina,
London 1864
Volume I and II

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