This photo-blog is designed to work either as a standard blog with images or - by clicking any image - a photo-album. To see an image in full resolution in the 2006 journey, click to the left or right of an image in blog mode.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Phou Bia and Vang Vieng

We left Luang Prabang on Saturday managing to score a 10 am minibus, with only four of us, for a sumptuous relaxed trip through powerful scenery, sweeping from valley to misty mountain top, with copious opportunities for photo stops.

Local Hmong dress

Hmong women on the road into Phoukhon

This area is one where disaffected Hmong tribesmen, remnants of the decades-ago 'Secret War' against the Pathet Lao in Laos have occasionally staged bus bombings, as a form of protest against their continued persecution. The story of the Hmong diaspora has become an infamous episode of the Vietnam war. After being inveigled into fighting for the CIA, when the US then pulled out of Vietnam, thousands of Hmong fled to Thailand. Some were eventually given refugee status in the US and other countries, however many thousands more ended up in miserable conditions in Thai refugee camps. While some Hmong in Laos endeavoured to resettle, over ten thousand went into isolation in the high country around Phou Bia (Beer Mountain) the highest and most inaccessible region in Laos, which we shall see shortly.

The Lao authorities have continued to persecute these Hmong using land mines and attacks with heavy artillery and subjecting both repatriated Hmong refugees to incarceration in re-education camps and those caught in the mountains to possible rape, torture and execution.

Apocalypse Now Laos - there are many more YouTube accounts.

A series of images of and from Phoukhon in the mist

A series of images of Phou Bia the highest mountain in Laos
and the hideout for Hmong descendants of the CIA's Secret war.

Panorama of the mountain now well-covered in cloud

Internet image of a closer cloudless view

As we approached Vang Vieng, from Phou Bia on, the hills became Karst limestone pinnacles.

Vang Vieng itself was a disappointment, fit only for kayakers and tubers (floating down river on inner tubes), a two horse town with cheap guest houses and expensive identical restaurants. Fortunately we got a guest house called Thavisouk off the main road and yet a block away from the river celebrations with good security (barred and providing a padlock hasp for our combination lock) as the town has reputation of tops for thefts and rip offs in Laos.

Van Vieng main street and the remnants of the boat races

The two guest houses advertised by the lonely planet as having superb river views (in the distance above) looked both insecure and hard to roll our luggage to over a muddy bumpy side alley down to the water.

The river celebrations were a drunken loud nightmare of marquees in the mud, with only a few candle offerings to float on the river in a couple of hawker's carts. We may have missed the best evening because the days of the festival here were slightly out of synch with those in Luang Prabang.

Panorama of the river boat race course

A lake on the road to Vientiane

1 comment:

  1. Dear Dhushara:

    You took beautiful pictures of Laos.
    I was wondering if I can get permission from you to use one of your Phou Bia pictures for my 2013 Hmong San Diego New Year Celebration poster.