Laos Journal

This is a brand new feature for this blog: I’m transcribing selected entries from my old travel journals. Currently I’m working on a batch of new posts set in Laos. I hauled out the journal I kept on our first visit to make sure that my memories match up with the facts. My descriptions from that trip are raw. I use a travel diary to record first impressions and get down the details to go over later (like now, years later). I’ve decided to post some of them here for your amusement.  — Jadi

“13 March. The heat and humidity are too huge to move quickly. Despite them we’ve kept up an ambitious sight-seeing program.

A 1,000-year-old site we visited with our guide on yesterday’s tour:

Buddhas in the Angkor Wat style carved out of boulders in the jungle. And, not twenty feet away, a spirit altar by a tall tree. [1]

No one’s allowed to build anything on or near the site. But the locals come there for ceremonies and celebrations. It had a rather hushed and holy air as we stood on the jungle (forest) floor in the welter of the afternoon heat at Vang Sang. An elephant graveyard was once found nearby!

90 kilometers north of Vientiane we stopped for a boat trip on Ang Nam Ngum, an artificial dammed lake.

A long boat of Laos with packages waited on the adjacent boat docked there. They were from one of the many islands and had come in on a once-a-week boat trip to do their shopping.

The buildings all high on stilts for the rainy times. We had my favorite meal so far in this trip: a soup with fresh Chinese vegetables and tofu and vermicelli noodles – it may be the freshest ingredients in a soup of this kind I can remember. And a lake fish grilled whole with garlic and ginger and lemon grass and cilantro; and it was all just too delicious for words.

… I’m quite intrigued with the very old spiritual energy this country possesses. Little spirit houses beside trees. Sticky rice offerings on tree trunks.…

Now we’re down at an open pavilion-style café on the Mekong River. It’s receded with the dry season, almost to Thailand. Weird to think Thailand is so close. The river’s so low you could practically walk there.”

NOTES: [1] The Lao believe spirits called phi (similar to nats in Myanmar) inhabit certain places such as rivers, mountains, rice fields and groves of trees. animism in Laos ©Jadi Campbell 2018. All photos © Uwe Hartmann. To see more of Uwe’s photos and pics from our trips go to

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7 thoughts on “Laos Journal”

  1. I love this account of your trip Judi, and am really looking forward to your next instalments… it’s really refreshing to read a travel story that isn’t about the obvious places, and tourist hot spots, and I love the little out of way touches like the little jungle shrine, those things that so often go unnoticed unless a seeing eye like yours can record them…

    1. Hi Valerie, it is surprisingly fun all these years later to go through the old travel diaries. I write them in quick strokes, fast sketches to be filled out later. Memory often plays tricks with us, so I’m glad I have Uwe’s photographs to refer to as well.

  2. What a great idea for fascinating posts! My son and his wife just returned to Australia from a trip to Thailand and Cambodia. They enjoyed every part of the trip, but what impressed him most was how nice all the people were!
    I look forward to more of your stories from the past.

      1. Oh, I greatly enjoy your ramblings. I realize that I don’t comment very often on your posts, the resulting curse of not having enough time in the day to properly appreciate the many blogs I follow, but I always relish seeing what you’ve been up to lately…

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