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Saturday, 7 December 2013

In Love with Laos

In November I was lucky enough to spend a few days in Laos. It’s a fascinating country and hard not to fall for with its beautiful temples, miles and miles of the spectacular Mekong River and fabulous mountain scenery, mostly clad in deep jungle green. The population is young – 41% are under 14 and everyone we met was warm and friendly. Tragically, the country’s strategic importance in Indochina has caused it great suffering in recent history – at one time it had the terrible distinction of being one of the most bombed countries on Earth. Inevitably, recovery takes time.

Little Girl in Traditional Hmong Costume 

Consumerism hasn’t really caught up on Laos yet which makes it attractive in many ways. Most shopping is still done in local markets on a daily basis. The colours and smells of these markets are amazing with lots of exotic fruits and vegetables on offer as well as those more familiar to us. There's also a lot of tempting street food made from very fresh and tasty ingredients.

 Buddhist monks in their striking orange robes are part of the everyday scene. At dawn each day they stream through the streets collecting the traditional alms of rice.

The situation is less good where literacy is concerned; the rate has much improved in the last decade or so but it’s still only around 60%. It’s hard to find books anyway outside the capital, Vientiane, so Etranger Books and Tea in World Heritage city, Luang Prabang, is an oasis for book lovers. Founded by a French woman, it sells mainly second-hand books in a plethora of language as well as great cakes!

If you’d like to know more about what’s being done to promote literacy in Laos, why not take a look at They also have a wish list on         

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