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LAOS: a far away place (Part I)

My first time to Southeast Asia.

I’ve imagined this day many times. The colors, the elephants, the spiritual mysticism. Something captured my imagination before I ever arrived (probably as a kid reading “A Little Princess”).

Some things were as I expected, others much greater. It’s as though a part of me was missing before I arrived in this place. I’ve been waiting for this, without being completely conscious of it.

But, I didn’t expect to go to Laos. To be honest, I didn’t know much about the country until recently. That is part of the beauty of traveling, the beauty of the work I am privileged to do. I don’t necessarily plan where I’ll end up. The stories find me. And they take me places I never expected. My job is to listen.

Laos. Where do I start? The country is magical. And complicated.

Of course one of the most beautiful parts of the culture can be found in the tradition of Buddhism. The colors, the festivals, the traditions (one of my favorite parts of the trip was when I got up at 6 am to witness the tradition of “alms giving” when the monks go on their morning ritual of collecting food—see below in the photos). And yet, there is also so much fear wrapped in these traditions, especially in the rural parts of the country where life is more primal. It’s complicated.

Wealth. This is another complication in Laos. The disparity of wealth is staggering. I’ve never seen poverty as I did in Laos. During our motorbike tour of the countryside we stayed in a village with only one toilet and slept on the floor of a wooden hut. But as we traveled there we passed a Bentley along the road. It’s hard to really grasp.

One thing I know for sure, Laos is a rich and beautiful country, and in order to keep it that way, we (the consumer) must all be aware of our consumer decisions and how they impact places like Laos. Natural resources always come with a price. What are we willing to pay?

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Addendum: I didn’t touch on one particularly important fact in Laos’ history—the “Secret War” during which the United States dropped over 2 million bombs on this country–secretly. Bombs that continue to kill people everyday. If you don’t know anything about this, I urge you to learn. Find out more HERE.

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Posted in: Documentary Travel

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