500 x 500mm
Initially a Khmer state, Lao being a mountainous and landlocked country was later used by the French as a buffer state to protect Vietnam. During the Vietnam War the United States dropped 1.9 million tonnes of bombs on Lao, mostly in the northeast. I remember walking through a field to see some nearby caves when villages started waving and yelling at me, then I realised - UXOs and quickly found well trodden path down the fence line, what an idiot. There are huge bomb shells everywhere used for home decoration and drinking troughs for livestock. The country opened its borders to tourism in 1998 and I was there just 5 years later, I met just 5 other travellers in the 2 weeks I was allowed in the country. With no roads going where I wanted to go, I took a leaky canoe upriver with 3 other locals, the inquisitive young girl beside me stroked my arm examining it's golden hairs and freckles - something new for her. I was invited to a wedding and a Woman's Day party, dancing with every man, woman and baby in the village, great food(dog), beer's staying cool in the river, distorted music blaring in the relentless thick, heavy heat, these guys really know how to party. The people of Loa have endured years of war, are one of the poorest nations in Southeast Asia and have 49 ethnic groups, yet looking back over all my travels, they remain the friendliest, happiest people I've met and I believe it has something to do with Buddhism.