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Tour du monde en autostop - Jeremy Marie

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 Travel Diary : Quiet Laos

Crossing the border between Vietnam and Laos, this is a bit like going out of a nightclub and ending up on the parking. Everything seems stopping. The movement, the effervescence and the time. More we are getting into Laos and more the noise recedes to finally become silence.

I lived my crossing of Laos like a hold between two densely populated countries : yesterday Vietnam and tomorrow China. I only stayed ten days in Laos. I will introduce you this country as a first impression; or a contemplation, as this is exactly what I felt doing in this country.
 

A postcard from Laos

Mountains covered by vegetation. In the middle of the valley flows a brownish river, surely a consequence of the last rains that recently fell. Eventually, a winding road goes along the landscape, but few, very few vehicles seem to use it.

Some mountains covered by vegetation

We can find some wood barracks along this road. They are made of wood boards and also sometimes braided bamboos. Those are the homes in the Lao countryside. I can guess that we are not in a typhoon area, as their durability doesn't seem very high.

They are usually aggregated in little settlements, like hamlets.

A Lao home

« Sabadi » !

Some young kids are greeting me while I enter a village with this saying that means as much hello as goodbye.

Every time I go through those “hamlets”, the local life reveals itself. The chickens, roosters and the pigs are wandering freely.

A little pig wandering near a Lao hamlet

The women take publicly their shower, covered with a sarong. The younger sometimes wandered naked, playing some games with some fragments of the nature that they found. Sometimes one of the youngest goes back crying to his mum... He might have had his piece of bamboo stolen by one of his fellows.

In the barracks, that are halfway between the hut and the chalet, the television is usually switched on. A very old and rusty satellite dish proudly stands up on the roof or in front of the house. The family stare at it and stop to move. The “telenovela” fever also reached Laos.

When the show is over, or the electricity cut, the family goes back in front of the house, so on the side of the road. They look at, they contemplate. I pass by, but contrary to other countries, the sight of a “farang” doesn't cause a reaction. It is not necessarily important.

« Sabadi » !

Ah, I had to talk about that, someones greets me a second time. I shouldn't blink my eyes; I already cross the hamlet.

During the 600 kilometers that I traveled in Laos, this landscape and those sights almost never changed. Even in the cities or bigger villages, I got this feeling of calm, of tranquility.

Even in the cities or bigger villages, I got this feeling of calm, of tranquility”, as here in Muang Khua


 

Hitchhiking in Laos

Hitchhiking in Laos, as in Cambodia, is not very easy.

First, I stopped in the tourist office of the first village that had one. I asked to the person who was working there is she could translate the “letter of my project” in Lao. This letter, that I used everywhere in Asia, helps me to explain what hitchhiking means, as it is an unknown concept on this continent.

An employee of the tourist office of Muang Khua that translates the “letter of my project” in Lao

Then, there is very little traffic, at least in the northern part of this country. This surely contributes to the silence, but doesn't really helps to move forward.

I can describe the traffic as follows:

-the SUVs: so the last generation Toyoto pick-ups. They usually don't stop. I don't know why but I guess that the reasons must be quite similar with the ones of its Cambodian neighbor.

-the pick-up vans: they usually proceed as the buses or the non-official taxis. They normally ask for money.

-the trucks: there are some and it is possible to stop them. In my case, it was a good alternative to walking.

A couple that gave me a ride with a truck

Once aboard the vehicle, the destination is still quite far. The roads are generally tortuous and in bad shape. The average speed rarely go over 50km/h. On some part of the road, I was even surprised to cross some ford, as the bridge was still being repaired.

Crossing a ford with a truck

Then, as anywhere else, there is the road safety. As those roads can be dangerous, it is useful to choose well your driver.

Near Udomxay, a truck passes in front of me without stopping. Some kilometers later, I find him upside down on the side of the road. Hopefully, no injuries.


 

Laos : a country located between China, Vietnam, Thailand, France, United States, USSR...

The History of Laos has been influenced, as its neighbors, by some imperial powers that wished to extend themselves or to exploit the resources of this country.

I will not tell again the History of Indochina, of the Vietnam War, of the Cold War, or the recent expansion of the Chinese business, but it is possible today to see some remains of each one of those periods.

A part of the French colonization in a plate. A crepe in Luang Prabang

The Soviet influence during the Cold War. Laos is a communist country since 1975. Here is a sign in Udomxay

The growth of the invasive Chinese neighbor. In the north of Laos, the majority of the businesses are Chinese. Most of the signs are written in sinograms

The Lao communist government tolerates some religions. In Luang Prabang, I could see many Buddhist temples. Buddhism is the biggest religion in Laos.

In Luang Prabang, I could see many Buddhist temples


 

The Laos of today is the result of a History made of colonizations, invasions, cultural shocks and mixes. As Turkey and many other countries, it was interesting to discover a country located in a roundabout of civilizations.

The calm and the tranquility of this country helped me to recharge before to enter the Middle Kingdom, which is the most populated country in the world. I end my journey in Southeast Asia, and leave a tropical climate to soon face a cold and dry winter.

I let you with a picture of Lao kids that I let behind me. They followed me a bit on the road, and avoided me to be wet with their umbrellas

See you soon in China,

Jeremy



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