The small country of Laos, sandwiched between Vietnam and Cambodia, is primitive and often overlooked by tourists. After all, it has to compete with the famous ancient temples at Angkor Wat, the busy allure of Bangkok and the rapid growth of Vietnam. I have to say, if you are going to make a trip to SE Asia, it is well worth the extra time to plan a visit to Laos –specifically, southern Laos which is a treasure of untouched beauty.
Laos is by far the biggest surprise on my trip. Primitive here means untouched natural beauty in the form of magnificent waterfalls, plush vegetation, tea and coffee plantations and the smell of fresh lemongrass wafting in the air. The country has pristine cleanliness and the people are welcoming and friendly, even those in tribal villages who rarely see visitors—let alone, Americans.
I walk along a green tea plantation and smell the tea leaves which are harvested every 2-3 weeks. I walk the rows of a coffee plantation and delight in the chance to pull a ripe Arabica bean from a branch and taste it. I have never experienced anything like it. Since I am a coffee lover, I had to rest with a hot cup of coffee at the Sinouk Coffee Plantation. Sitting in their outdoor café is like sitting in a private garden as the quiet stream flowing nearby subtly reminds me of the small pleasures of life.
As perfect as the outdoor beauty is here, the demeanor of the people of Laos is as gentle and innocent as the natural land that surrounds them. As I visited several villages, the people and especially the children were eager to greet me. They are busy with daily activities like pounding rice that is used as feed for the animals and weaving scarves. The children here are playful and LOVE to have their picture taken. They are so precious and innocent and I had a ball photographing them.
While most of Laos is Buddhist, the villagers practice a religion called Aminism in which they worship the spirits of their village, crops, house and mountains. Every small collection of huts shares a community house where they offer worship of hold community meetings and festivals.
I envisioned Laos to be primitive in the way that is uncomfortable…dirty, unkept and no amenities. I don’t know why I felt that way. Perhaps it is because I had no other information to use as a filter. Laos is a country that loves their land and they use the natural gifts of what the land provides for their living. The care very much about their country, and it shows.