12 January 2007

One Way Ticket to Vientiane

The trip to Lao was harder on us then we would have liked it to be; so rather than complain about the pointlessness and cruelty of a certain country's bureaucracy, and the ineptness of said country's own citizens at successfully negotiating that bureaucracy, I present you with many many pretty pictures instead:

We took a Lao Airlines prop plane. A first for J.

We were lucky enough to notice that we were flying over our neighborhood, upper center, below the construction site.

J reaps the fruits of French colonialism: watercress soup, frites, and steak à point. Serendipitously, I had just read Roland Barthes nice little essay "Steak and Chips" the day before.

Patuxai, a concrete monster built for PDR Lao by PDR China.

A nifty, and extensive, herbal "pharmacy" at the morning market.

Extensive. This is half of it. We looked for agarwood, but no luck.

While there was no agarwood, there were plenty of rhinoceros horns. Poor rhinos.

That Dam, called the Black Stupa, is allegedly the home of of the Seven Headed Naga, which protects Vientiane. It is just down the street from the US Embassy.

Vat Sisaket, the oldest vat (wat/temple) in Lao.

When Siam invaded in the 1800s Vat Sisaket was sacked. Afterwards the monks went around and gathered up all the melted and beheaded Buddhas and stored them together.

4/7ths of a seven headed naga.

Just a nice looking Buddha.

Vat Sisaket has over 6000 niches in both the temple and the cloisters.

Messy murals. Always a favorite.

Pha That Luang, the national symbol of Lao.

The Seven Headed Naga, all in one piece.

Grrrrrrrr, singha!

Therianthropic singhas wrestling.

Fishes are naga food.

The ubiquity of marigolds reminds us of Central America and Mexico. The other day I read a kooky article that postulates the existence of a proto-Kemi(Egyptian)-Mesoamerican language. Perhaps more compelling are theories that treat the entire Pacific rim as a single cultural continuum. Anyhow, that's what the marigolds remind me of.

After all theses lovely sites, and loads of fun running back and forth between the Thai Consulate and the fax machine, we got to travel back to Chiang Mai. Seventeen hours by three, four, and six wheeled conveyance. The plane took less than two hours, and that was with a 30 minute layover in Luang Prabang. And J still doesn't have the right visa, so we'll get to do it all again in three months.


  1. great photos, can't wait for you to add to the lot when you go back in three...

  2. Maybe we'll go to Cambodia instead.

  3. You make all these photos look so natural! I don't know if the shots would have turned out so well in my hands... I like the one of the herbal pharmacy the best!

  4. Hey, Photoshop is a wonderful thing. Same with big memory cards (or lacking that, lots of them), you just shoot until it's right. For most of the pictures I just do auto levels (command+shift+L), some get cropped, and sometimes I adjust the levels by hand. I have to look at so many other people's crappy photos on-line, that I figure the least I can do is make sure mine look kinda OK (and I don't do anything with Photoshop that you can't do for free with Gimp).