Welcome to Luang Prabang, most peaceful ancient capital of most peaceful of countries, Laos!
Phu Si mountain smack in the middle of the town offers breathtaking views of the capital and the surrounding mountains. A small temple guards the mount.
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From Bangkok I went on to discover the part of South East Asia where I had not been before. My first stop was Laos, country number 69 on my list. I took a flight from Bangkok to Vientiane and received a quick visa on arrival. Which told me immediately this ain’t Bangkok baby: the lady carelessly put the Laotian visa on top of some other stamps in my passport. And there I was, in the capital of Communist Laos.
Laos is the Bolivia of South East Asia. Landlocked, repeatedly defeated by various neighbours, having passed through the jaws of the American war machine and today lagging far behind its more populous and lucky neighbours, ethnically extremely diverse, possessing a number of still hard to access areas of natural beauty. And very very poor. Just like in Bolivia elementary transactions, such as printing out some pages or getting a haircut, suddenly become a challenge. And just like Bolivia, Laos has its special charm that you begin to appreciate in time.
After Bangkok, Vientiane slows you down with its non-existent rhythm and – let’s be honest – its paucity of attractions. Its main streets sport quite a few names in French and in the morning the smell of fresh croissants wafts from street cafés. But apart from that, Vientiane has little to charm a visitor. The main history museum demonstrates a Lenin and a Ho Chi Minh covered with dust. In the mixture of mangled propaganda statements coming straight from the pages of “1984” you can determine precisely zero clear facts of the actual history of Laos. The main message is that the communism won here. But the victory did not follow the North Korean script of totalitarian control. Rather, it was the victory of total indifference. In the museum you can enjoy such important objects as the radio transmitter of Comrade Phomvihane (the first and eternal communist leader), his very modest costume used in the trenches and for example a fan he used on the road.
The entrance to the museum:
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