Wednesday, 31 August 2016


Laos is hosting ASEAN this year.  There are banners on the road welcoming participants, police boxes are being painted and the government is closing schools and offices for three days next week in an attempt to present an orderly facade to the world.

Today we learnt VIS has to close for the week, causing a few logistical challenges.  Professional learning days will be moved, so we will go into school, but the students will have the week off, no doubt stressing families who don't have childcare and have increased work demands due to the Summit.

Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Buddhas in Niches

The cloister at Wat Sisaket was lined with these small niches containing antique Buddha statues.  The statues were found buried at the site when the French began repairs on the temple in 1900. Prior to their arrival Vientiane (Viang Chan)  had been annihilated by the Siamese (Thailand) and in ruins for 70 years.

Monday, 29 August 2016

Monday Monk at Bagan in Myanmar

A young monk at sunset on a temple at Bagan. Sadly there was an earthquake at Bagan last week and over 200 temples were damaged.   The site is undergoing classification to become a UNESCO World Heritage site, it is a struggle to meet the UNESCO criteria, due to mismanagement, poor or detrimental attempts at restoration  and the lack of any framework to manage, protect and develop the site. There is limited funding and expertise for restoration for Bagan or any archeological site in poverty stricken Myanmar.   Much work needs to be done to protect this truly amazing site.

This will  only be exacerbated after the Earthquake.

Sunday, 28 August 2016

Restoration of Wat Sisaket

Wat Sisaket is a the temple  built by Chao (Prince) Anuvong, the last king of the Lan Xang Kingdom (Laos Kingdom)  It survived the Siamese-Lao war of 1828 and has become the oldest Buddhist monastery in Laos. It was left desolate, with the rest of Vientiane, for nearly 70 years after the Siamese (Thai) conquered the Laos and killed the Prince.

Today (Saturday), I was lucky enough to visit the temple in the company of  Andrea Teufel, German chief restaurator, who has been working with a small team and a small budget to restore the paintings in the temple.  Her work was amazing, as were her stories of the history of the Temple.

Saturday, 27 August 2016

My Photos On Exhibition.

WIG - Women's International Group is an organisation here in Vientiane is a group that supports people to meet, learn about Laos and raises funds for community projects.  One of their major fundraising events is the WIG Calendar.

I supported them through entering two photos into the calendar competition and on Friday night they were exhibited along with about 60 other photos at iCat Gallery.

One photo of blue monk bags in a window at a monastery was purchased by a Korean family from school - they were very excited - and their daughter Jae Rin (aka Diana), in my advisory, won a prize for the best junior entry.

My other photo of colored silk drying was purchased too.  However neither made it into the calendar. 

There were some amazing photos, capturing the richness and diversity of life in Laos. The winning photo was titled Serenity and is shown below.

Friday, 26 August 2016

A Movable Stick

We would call it a rolling pin, but at DMart, the Vientiane equivalent of KMart its called a Movable stick.  Mark and Jo, friends from Beechworth who I work with, were very proud of their new purchase.

Thursday, 25 August 2016

A Wet Ride Home on a Wet Road


I missed the group ride on Sunday morning as I wasn't well (something I ate), but those who went enjoyed riding through puddles, creeks and mud.

The week before I went for a ride on my own out on a sealed road upstream.  It was fine until I stopped for a rest.  The heavens opened.  Luckily I was able to stop at small cafe, but had to head home through showers - arriving drenched an hour later.

I wasn't the only one out in the rain though.   This lady was wheeling her barrow along the road, stopping to collect some form of bamboo sticks.  She seemed totally unfazed by the rain.

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Egg Seller

The egg seller and her ute are parked on the side of the road most afternoons, often with a traffic jam around her as customers just pull up on the road to buy their eggs.  She was busy this afternoon as a stopped to take a few photos.   

I chose this photo as it features a common sight on the streets of Vientiane - people with prosthesis due to injuries from Unexploded Ordinances (UXOs).  The lady on the scooter with her wooden leg and crutch is one such person.

Monday, 22 August 2016

Fruit picking - Laos style

I'm not sure what this fruit is  (Muak Dua - I was told when I asked - but that means nothing to me.)  I will have to investigate.





Initially, from a distance, I saw a tree moving, out over the banks of the Mekong. On  closer inspection I found this fellow, hidden high in the branches of a very large tree. There was a small gathering of people below, happily collecting the fruit as he passed them down.

Monday Monks in Myanmar - with Bowls

One morning in Yangon in February 2015, I watched this line of young monks walk the streets near our hotel with their bowls gathering alms from local people.

Sunday, 21 August 2016

New Neighbourhood -New Temple

I am in a new neighbourhood and that means exploration and discovering new temples.  This is Wat Phoxay which is down a lane towards the river.  A very slim Buddha with elegant fingers watches out over the temple grounds.

Saturday, 20 August 2016

Grey Sunset over a Grey Mekong

The Mekong is very full at the moment as it rainy season.  It is flowing fast, with plenty of debris and swirling eddies.

Friday, 19 August 2016

Friday Flowers - Champa Pruning

The Frangipani, known here as the Champa, is the national flower of Laos.

They seem to flower throughout the year.  Yesterday I watched this man use his cleaver to prune this street side frangipani.

Thursday, 18 August 2016

Paddling Upstream

Last night I went for a stroll along the Mekong close to my new neighborhood.  These paddlers were out on the river, training for the October boat races.  They were struggling upstream against a very strong current in a very full river.

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Shopping on a Scooter

Laos has no supermarkets and no labelled parking places for mothers with prams.  This mother was doing an amazing job, balancing three children on a scooter, then stopping to buy greens from a roadside vendor.

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Classes Start

Classes finally started on Monday.  The last ten days have been full of meetings, preparation, parent meetings and introductory activities, but it was great to see the kids today and start teaching.

VIS is celebrating 25 years this year and this sign, above the front gate welcomes all.

Monday, 15 August 2016

Monday Monks from Myanmar

Mondays will be Monday Monks from Myanmar for a while.

It is a bit blurry, but I like this photo of two young (very young) novices, walking along the railway tracks in Yangon.  During my visit in February 2015 I rode the circle line train in Yangon to gain a brief, but amazing insight into the struggle of life in this developing country.

Sunday, 14 August 2016

Relaxing on a Saturday Afternoon

While I was out on the scooter this afternoon I saw this ladies relaxing and chatting.  I liked their wooden platform, built off the road over a small canal.

Saturday, 13 August 2016

Storm Clouds and Palm Trees

I have moved to a new apartment and these trees opposite frame the horizon.

Not long after taking this photo today there was a huge storm - crashes of thunder, lightning cracking overhead and torrential rain.

Friday, 12 August 2016

Baci Flowers

Friday Flowers!

Marigolds feature in most Laos ceremonies and formed the centre piece for Tuesday's baci ceremony.

The baci ceremony this year was a vegetarian, low alcohol version.  No chickens and no whiskey.  There were eggs and a a can coke as offerings.

Thursday, 11 August 2016

Storm Clouds over the Mekong

More clouds, this time over the Mekong, taken when  I was out on a late afternoon stroll.

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Baci Hands

There was a baci ceremony at school today to celebrate the start of the academic year.  

I wrote in more detail about the baci similar ceremony  held last year in another blog post.

Baci means spirit enhancing or calling.  After the main ceremony participants bless each other and tie colored strings around the wrist of another person.  The cotton string is wafted over the wrist, first away from the body, as the person asks for bad things to leave and then towards the body as the person expresses good wishes and blessings for the person to whom they are tying the string.

Rainy Season Storm Clouds

I have been back in Vientiane for 5 days and its the rainy season.

Storm clouds such as these dominate the horizon.