December 25: Northern Laos (Phonsavan, Xam Neua, Vieng Xai and Muang Xing)
We took a twelve hour overnight bus up to the north east, where we learned quite a bit about Lao and Hmong culture and history. We took another exciting bus ride to go even further east, where we learned a lot about the war and we met some really fun Dutch travellers. Then we travelled for two days to have Christmas Eve dinner in a village not far from China.
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This marks our journey. We left Vientiane on Saturday night and went to Phonsavan, then on to Xam Neua and Vieng Xai. Then journeyed across the country to Muang Xing and back down to Luang Nam Tha. So much travelling!
We waited all day at the bus station in Vientiane for the night bus north.
This is how you ensure you have a way to get around at the city you are visiting.
This is the bus station in Vientiane. We visited the ice cream man four times while waiting! Tauru couldn't help himself.
We arrived in Phonsavan at 4:30 in the morning! It was very cold.
Here is Christi sleeping on the bench waiting for the world to wake up.
At last, the sun is coming up! We can walk into town (which turned out to be more than five kilometers away!)
Mid December starts the Hmong festival which lasts 20 days. People came from all over, including Thailand, China, and other countries to attend.
This festival is a time of dating and courtship. (Wedding season is in January and February.)
It seems these girls aren't finding any suitable companions. "Where are all the cute guys?" they wonder.
"Get a load of this guy."
"Yeah, I wish he'd get the hint and leave us alone!"
This is the dating game. You toss the ball back and forth to make conversation.
If they like each other and their parents agree, perhaps they get married.
This is the Hmong traditional costume. These are ornately embroidered and hand-made. They jingle when they walk.
They carry hand-made parasols, but the more modern folk use western umbrellas, which look rather funny.
"He's okay, but I just can't see spending the rest of my life with him."
Her costume is different but the head-dress is the same. She may be a Hmong who came to the festival from China.
What does she think of this guy?
Little kids just come to the festival to play.
They are from different worlds, but a best friend comes in any clothes.
He may not be interested in girls yet, but one day he'll be tossing that ball.
Maybe he'll even be juggling!
Maybe she will be the lucky one to catch that ball.
Mother to daughter: "I just don't think he has enough pigs and buffalos. Look for a guy who puts a nice spin on the ball."
Cellphones have hit Laos.
"I'm so sure! There are no cute guys in this place!" she says to her girlfriend.
Another kind of head dress.
Tauru loves carnivals! Here he is throwing darts at balloons. $0.10 for three throws. He manages to hit two balloons only, claiming that "he couldn't see them." Pulling the blind card again. Hahaha.
After checking out the festival, we walked around town and found this market. This is the "Phonsavan Supermarket."
The following day, we took a tour around Phonsavan. It included seeing bomb craters made by the Americans during the secret war in Laos, visiting a Hmong Village, trekking to a waterfall, and seeing the Plain of Jars. Here is one of many bomb craters left by America during the "secret war" (it took some time before Congress found out about it).
SIDE NOTE: A LITTLE ABOUT AMERICA'S "SECRET WAR IN LAOS."
From the 1964 to 1973, America waged a secret war on Laos' communist party, the Pathet Lao. The Americans dropped more bombs on Laos during this time than they had dropped on both Germany and Japan during WWII. The reason? To bomb the Ho Chi Minh Trail, which was used by the North Vietnamese to transport equipment and people from North Vietnam down to South Vietnam; and also to stop the influence of communism in Laos. It was a "secret war" because Laos was supposed to be neutral after the signing of the Geneva Accords in the mid-50's. But both North Vietnam and America violated it by using Laos for their wars purposes.
Nevertheless, war is an unfortunate thing and we hope we can learn from it rather than making the same mistakes. Aside from the war issue, the main impact here in Laos are the "bombies." These are the undetonated bombs from the cluster bombs dropped in this area. Cluster bombs (manufactured by Honeywell) are 5 ft long bombs that split apart mid-air to release up to 300 small bombies the size of a tennis ball. Unfortunately, about 30% of them did not explode upon impact, and so they are littered all over in this part of Laos. They are then like mines ready to explode. It is estimated that 10-30 million bombies are scattered all over the place. Even as of 2007, there are still thousands of denotations each year. 12,000 deaths occurred in 2001, mostly by children who didn't know any better and thought they were either things to play with or fruits (they looked like fruits). To date, America still has not fully acknowledged this war. It's very sad.
We went to visit a Hmong Village nearby. They collect these bombshells for metal scrap (either for themselves or to sell to Vietnam). These bombshells are used for everything.
On a lighter note... This Bombshell is all goodness. She's all-American goodness.
This bombshell has a warhead made in Vietnam. Worth at least an IQ of 72, not laser guided whatsoever.
Walking through the village we came across this water buffalo.
Here's a bombshell used as an herbal garden.
On the trek to the waterfall... view of rice fields below. It's not rice season, so it's brown. But during the rainy season, this is all lush greenery.
Finally at the waterfall.
25: Not Much
21: Vacation in Thailand
21: Back in The Sierras
16: Rock Climbing in J-Tree
29: Onward to Mt. Shasta
10: Onward to Mt. Rainier
21: Touristing Seattle
30: Through The Al-Can
26: Christi on Denali
Back in AZ, No Update
Back in AZ, No Update
17: Across The Country
17: Rock Climbing in CA
End: Before The Traveling
10: Starting Travels in Thailand
19: More of Thailand
26: In Northern Thailand
11: Traveling in Laos
13: Touristing Vientiane, Laos
25: Touristing Northern Laos
25: More of The Festival