July 28, 2015

Learning About the Past - Lao Refugees

Found some very old television documentary profiles and news clips on Youtube that profiled the Lao refugees who had fled to Thailand.  For those of us who are too young to remember such things, what we do remember are our parents sharing these harrowing stories about those times.  And for those old enough to remember such events, then the following videos are likely scenes you haven't seen in decades.  Very educational!

14 minute video profiling Lao refugees primarily those in Nongkhai, Thailand.
Source and date, unknown.

July 22, 2015

Lao Artist Profile: Marisa Darasavath

Feast your eyes on these sumptuous and gorgeous oil paintings from Lao painter, Ms. Marisa Darasavath.  She finds her inspiration from her environment and the locals with a focus on ethnic minorities and women in society.  She brings a wonderful mix of tones, depth and dimension to her work along with an understated whimsy.  A graduate of the National Institute of Fine Art in Vientiane she continues to showcase her work around Asia and in particular at the M Gallery in Vientiane.

Oil painting by Lao painter and artist Marisa Darasavath
A very stylized oil painting depicting Lao women working the rice fields.

July 16, 2015

China-Laos Military Relations Deepen As Chinese Increase Economic, Infrastructure Investments

By:  Michelle Florcruz, International Business Times, July 8 2015

China and Laos announced closer military ties Wednesday, a development that coincides with China's growing investment in infrastructure and economic influence.

The Laotian defense minister met with Xu Qiliang, the vice chairman of the Central Military Commission, and other Chinese military officials Wednesday in Beijing to affirm increased cooperation between the two nations. The Laotian defense minister, Sengnuan Saiyalath, said, “Laos is willing to learn from China’s experiences in army building and further strengthen bilateral friendship and military relations,” according to China's state-run Global Times.

Saving Laos From Global Warming

By:  Joseph Hincks, Newsweek (US), June 25, 2015

Every May, when commercial airline pilot Benja Henderson flies in and out of Vientiane, the capital city of Laos, he has to navigate a perennial hazard: rockets flying over the great Mekong River. 

These projectiles are not the products of battle, despite the area’s history of sky-borne destruction—a covert war waged by the CIA brought over 2 million tons of ordnance down on Laos between 1964 and 1973. They’re part of an ancient agrarian ritual. At the height of Laos’s dry season, says Henderson, flight paths are modified as thousands of villagers up and down the country fire ballistics at the troposphere during boun bang fai, or rocket festivals. The rockets—PVC tubes packed with charcoal, bat excrement, sulfur and sometimes more than 250 pounds of gunpowder—are meant to provoke the irascible sky god Phaya Thaen into stirring up storms and nudge him to honoring a rain-sending pact he made with the Toad King, an incarnation of the Buddha.

July 14, 2015

Old Photo: A Fishing Dam?

Here's an old photo from 1910 taken in Luangprabang along the Nam Kan River, showing how they created an almost dam like structure made of bamboo to catch fish.  ການໃສ່ລອບທີ່ນ້ຳຄານຫຼວງພະບາງ1910 ການໃສ່ລອບນີ້ຕອ້ງໃສ່ເວລານ້ຳມາກ

Here's an old photo from 1910 taken in Luangprabang along the Nam Kan River, showing how they created an almost dam like structure made of bamboo to catch fish.

July 10, 2015

Old Photo: The Tat Luang in 1889

Old Photo: The Tat Luang in 1889
ສັາງຂຶ້ໃນ1566ຖືກທຳລາຍປຸ້ນສະດົມຈາກກອງທັບພະມ້າແລະພວກສະຫຽາມ ເມື່ອທາ່ນປາວີມາພົບເຫັນອົງພະທາດຍັງເຫຼືອແຕ່ຊາກ ໃນ1896ຖືກຟ້າຜ່າເຮັດໃຫ້ທາດຫຼວງຂຸດໂຊມລົງອີກ

July 08, 2015

So Intense You Can Smell It From Far Away

Here's another excerpt, how another writer characterizes and tries to explain what padek is.  This one is from a book called Food from Northern Laos - The Boat Landing Cookbook by Dorothy Culloty, Galangal Press, 2010.  Page 41.

Book cover of Food From Northern Laos by Dorothy Culloty"This extremely pungent, opaque fermented fish sauce incorporates chunks of fish.  It is eaten raw or cooked in a variety of Lao dishes; it is used extensively in Thailand's Isaan province, home to many Lao.  It is also made and used in northern and central Thailand.  Padek's odour is so

From Cheese to Padek

I thought it'd be interesting to share how other writers characterize or try to explain what padek is to others.

Book cover of Hot Sour Salty Sweet by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi DuguidHere's an excerpt taken from a book entitled Hot Sour Salty Sweet - a culinary journey through southeast Asia by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid, Random House, 2009, page 220.

"Fermented fish:  Raw foods can be intimidating, scary even, especially if they're soured or fermented, or transformed in a way that's unfamiliar.  Those of us who were raised in some blend of European-North American culinary tradition tend to love cheese.  The fact that it's a fermented product doesn't bother us - in fact, for many of us, the smellier, the better.  But for many Southeast Asians, the first reaction to cheese, or yogurt, is an appalled aversion:  "Yuck!" sums it up.

July 02, 2015

China's Strong Investments in Laos Bringing a Transformation

Reported by:  Suwatchai Songwanich (Bangkok Bank) for  The Nation (Thailand), June 8 2015

Until recently, most of China's investments were in energy and raw materials, such as hydroelectric dams, mining and forestry, but now it is diversifying into areas such as real estate and transport.

The biggest planned investment is a rail link between Kunming in China and Vientiane and Thailand. This has been stalled for some years but received a boost last year when Thailand signed an agreement with China to build the Thai section from the Eastern Seaboard to Nong Kai.

The idea is to connect Thailand's major industrial region and ports with China, with part of the route running through Laos. However, how can Laos afford it?

Lao Villagers Must Accept Land Compensation or Face Detention

Reported by:  Ounkeo Souksavanh and Joshua Lipes,  Radio Free Asia, June 22 2015

Authorities in the Lao capital Vientiane have threatened to detain a group of villagers if they do not accept compensation to vacate their land, which the local government has granted as a concession to a development firm owned by the former mayor’s daughter and son-in-law.

According to a complaint letter recently submitted to the Lao National Assembly’s (parliament) petition unit, nearly all of more than 500 families in Vientiane’s Xiengda village were forced to accept compensation of five million kip (U.S. $615) per hectare (one-sixth of an acre) or “face imprisonment.”