Northwest of Luang Nam Ta, on the broad river plains of the Nam La (River) lies the small town of Muang Sing. Villages dot the countryside and cultures are still mostly intact. It’s worth taking a motorbike into the countryside, passing rice fields as mountains give accent to the distant views. The villages are a great place to get to know the Laotian people. The following photographs were made around Muang Sing and Luang Nam Ta.
I had read something in the Lonely Planet about the mysterious plain of jars and I had to make time for it. It’s interesting how when you travel you might not of heard of many places, but then you hear a conversation about a place, or a traveler who drops the name on a bus, and suddenly it becomes the most important place in the world to see. You realize that the more you travel, the more there is to see in this world.
I remember two things about Phonsavan, the town near the Plain of Jars. It was remarkably cold that day and there’s an NGO called MAG International, a de-mining group that educates visitors about the dangers of unexploded ordinance in Laotian villages. As an American it could be a little tough to take, learning just how many bombs we dropped over Laos during the Vietnam War era. MAG works to remove land mines and unexploded ordinance, helping the people in those communities live more safely.
The plain of jars near Phonsavan, Laos in which hundreds of jars are spread across the northern region remains a mystery. Anthropologists and archeologists have theorized that the jars may have been used as funeral urns or perhaps storage for food. Lao stories and legends claim that there was a race of giants who once inhabited the area. Local legend tells of an ancient king called Khun Cheung, who fought a long, victorious battle against his enemy. He supposedly created the jars to brew and store huge amounts of lao lao rice wine to celebrate his victory. No matter what the true story, the mysterious plain of jars make for an interesting visit.
After Phonsavan it was time to visit the famed Vang Vieng. Famed perhaps for all the wrong reasons. It’s a town mostly full of young, 20-something Australians who sit in cafes and watch Friends episodes in repeating loops all day. There must be a drug that makes people do that.
The countryside, however, is quite beautiful. There are limestone cliffs that line the lovely Nam Song (Song River). Due to it’s reputation for getting quite rowdy with the above mentioned young, me and few friends took to the river by inter tube in the early morning. We drifted lazily by limestone formations and it turned out to be another memorable part of my trip to Laos. I spent the rest of the day just taking in scenes on the river.
It was then time to take in the capital of Vientiane. Famous for the national monument Pha That Luang and the temple Wat Si Saket, it’s also worth taking a motorbike along the dirt roads leading from the city along the Mekong River.
When I travel, I want to see every road in the country. I’m continually grieved that I can’t go here or there. But alas, choices must be made. So from Vientiane it was another long bus ride, this time all the way south to the Bolaven plateau. That’s coffee growing country. I was to meet up with another traveler and cross the plateau by motorbike. Due to our pace of exploration we wouldn’t make it back to town one night and had to stop by a family home and ask for a place to stay. Those often prove to be the best times in the country as you get to experience the real Laos. There were occasional sudden downpours, peaceful evenings along rivers, and plenty of good coffee. Photos from that portion of the trip follow.
And then it was time to visit the southernmost part of Laos, Don Det and the Ten Thousand Islands. Here the Mekong flows lazily by and on into Cambodia. It’s the last stop before crossing the border by land. It was worth a couple of days just hanging out before traveling to a new land.
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Vivid images, full of life and human spirit. Incredible country life!
Very envious looking at these.
I definitely got remote.
Great shots! 🙂
A great photo-essay–glimpses of real people, living their real lives in a real place. I like the way you travel.
Makes you appreciate the wonder of this beautiful world filled with such varied and interesting people and places. Thanks for sharing your experiences.
Thanks, it nice to be able to share it this way…
stunning, these pictures really capture the spirit of these people
glad you like them, appreciate it!
Your photos are incredible, I love the country and the beautiful people in it, your photos capture it all perfectly!!
Thank you so much, I appreciate you taking the time with it and for the kind words!
Beautiful photos, you really know how to capture the raw moment, full of life. I’m very envious of your travels, you travel in magnificent way, I always think the ‘behind the scenes’ of countries are the best parts. I feel like I went there with you.
Hearing that you felt like you went there with me, that’s a great compliment, thanks!
I very much like how you allow your reader to travel with you along your journey. The photos are wonderful. I sensed the friendliness of the people. I enjoyed the beauty of the scenery. And I felt immersed in the culture. Very exciting. Thanks for the experience.
Thanks for dropping by and taking it all in, I truly appreciate sharing it!
This is Fab I Love it, those shots were breath taking
Thanks! Appreciate it.
Wow what gorgeous photos! Especially of all the happy people. I need to go to Laos, looks amazing.
The Laotian people are great, I could easily spend more time there. And yes, you should go…
The photography is amazing, I just can’t wait to travel and see the world, Laos will be added to my sights to see!
I’m glad, it’s a wonderful country!
It’s funny how one explores things farther away from home first… But traveling around the world for so long has made me also realize the riches near home. This post has urged me even further to go from my homeland Thailand across the border and see the beauty of Laos. Real amazing photography, some of the best I’ve seen
Thanks so much. I agree, traveling the world has made me see the riches near home through new eyes too…
Beautifully done, Russ. We’re really captivated by the country and people of Laos. Our last trip was to explore Pakse and points south from there. In a part of the world that is magical everywhere anyway, Laos still stands out! Your images bring it all back. But, as you so aptly put it, “You realize that the more you travel, the more there is to see in this world.” Our sentiments exactly.
I haven’t had the occasion to return to too many countries over again, but I would certainly be glad to return to Laos…