SOUTHERN LAOS PHOTOSET
In the Laos PDR, no one is going anywhere fast. Morning flows into afternoon, which flows into evening. There's no place for exact timing or punctuality, when all that is essential in life can be determined by the intensity of the heat. Productivity thrives before the sun can expose its full capability, and wanes as the heat lulls every man, woman, and child into an afternoon nap.
Resistance is futile, and perhaps even inexpedient.
Can we learn instead? Can we get to know each other and ourselves again by just being? Yes.
What awaits you in the southern river delta region of Laos is not available in superficial terms. You, traveler, will see more beautiful places than this. You will see landscapes with more contour, texture, and colour. You will see places that are more pristine. You may even consider passing it over for the north's commanding views and challenging road trips. I wonder, though, if all places can push us to look for more as this one does. I wonder if lustrous surroundings distract us from everyday beauty. I wonder if the act of just being can push us to look closer.
When you arrive in Laos, you will at once be asked to wait. You will wait for your visa, you'll wait for your bags, and you'll eventually find a comfy place to sit down for a local coffee and wait for that too.
What will you do when you're waiting? What will you find around you, or within yourself?
After some time in the region, I adjust to a slower pace of life with less agitation than I used to. However, I've noticed that intentional and practiced waiting doesn't follow me back to Saigon, where our pace is breakneck compared to the Don Det region. Here, I sometimes find myself waiting with inner ire. Searching for my phone. Nail biting. Don't they know I have somewhere to be?
I don't know, but to me, Laos has an undeniable allure. It's my paradise in Southeast Asia. I've been fortunate enough to be amongst its villages and through its Northern mountain passes, as well as laze beside its lazy southern rivers... none of which would have revealed themselves completely had we not slowed down to do more than just view them, but be with them.
In Laos, I've also been the recipient of unmatched kindness. When I got the call that my father was dying, I was in Laos. Remote, Northern Laos. I'll never forget the people who, without hesitation, expertly and seamlessly arranged for us to fly back to Saigon and eventually on to Canada.
I'll try to honour my love for Laos by viewing wait time as downtime, or quiet intervals in which to just be. I'll try.
I returned to this post, which sat idle for months, after hearing devastating news from Laos that a dam had collapsed and flooded six villages, leaving 6000 people homeless and causing many deaths and injuries.
I've had many opportunities to wait and observe local life in Laos, which gave me a small but personally significant insight into life there. I have always been curious about how a life of simplicity and true self sufficiency looks. I have absolutely no idea how it feels to be a subsistence farmer as 80% of Laotians do, but I know that it makes rural communities extra vulnerable to disaster. I am absolutely sure that rebuilding will be difficult, arduous, and lengthy.
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