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An unexpected extra day in Can Tho, Vietnam turns into an amazing experience in the depths of the Vietnamese jungle where some of the last monkey bridges.
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The account deals with the considerable riches and power of the Lao kingdom during this period. It provides information, recorded through the eyes of a Jesuit, on the religion, customs, livelihood and natural qualities of the Lao people and on the much talked about splendor of the Court and religious ceremonies in Laos. With an introduction by Luigi Bressan. Trankell, Ing-Britt; On the Road in Laos This study was carried out in and focuses on socio-economic issues in connection with a Swedish road construction program. It demonstrates that road building in many respects has adverse social and economic effects on the rural population of the area.

The questions it raises as to the beneficial effects of development aid for the common population of subsistence farmers may be relevant for issues in development anthropology in general. Unfortunately, it has therefore remained an unknown work in most scholarly circles. This book preceded Izikowitz classic ethnographic work on the Lamet, a Mon-Khmer speaking people in Laos.

Izikowitz, a keen observer, traveled in the late s and studied the various tribal groups on his way to the Lamet and back. He recorded their customs, belief systems, ceremonies, relationships as well as their agriculture, which is partly based on slash and burn cultivation. This more general work is rich in details, for example on the French administrative system in those remote areas.

The work is enriched by period photographs. French expeditions, carried out by a score of prominent researchers under the name Mission Pavie, not only compiled a wealth of new scientific and historical information and details of natural history and drew up maps especially of disputed border areas between Laos, Siam, Cambodia, Yunnan and Vietnam they also produced political results serving the pro-colonial faction in France. This book contains short descriptions of numerous journeys made in Cambodia, the Great Tonle-Sap Lake district between Siam and Cambodia, the Mekong in Cambodia, North Siam and its border areas with Laos, East Laos and its border areas with Tonkin, present-day Vietnam, and the Laotian areas bordering the middle part of Vietnam, then Annam.

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Together with a series of maps and itineraries published in Volume 2 of the series, Atlas of the Pavie Mission, that guide the reader through these still relatively remote areas, period photographs create an image of the adventurous world of nineteenth century Indochina. Central to the study is a detailed description of the acute social, cultural, economic and ecological challenges that locals are facing as a result of the rapid changes now taking place in the region. Taking a political ecology approach, the authors examine the complicated links between livelihoods and development.

The book provides a sobering picture of the potential vulnerability and negative impact upon local cultures, livelihood systems and the natural environment if uncontrolled globalization and outside market forces continue to radically transform the Xekong River Basin. Chazee, Laurant; Peoples of Laos: Rural and Ethnic Diversities This book is the first comprehensive study conducted in Laos combining research on ethnic culture and indigenous values and the present socio-economic development.

Penang Diaries – Savouring the sights, sounds and tastes of Southeast Asia

The identified ethnic groups and sub-groups belong to the four linguistic families represented in Laos: For each linguistic family, a detailed case study shows the ethno-linguistic specificity, as well as the institutional and socio-economic complexity. For 56 ethnic groups and sub-groups, pictures cover people, habitat, agro-ecosystems, production systems and ethnic-related activities and handicrafts.

Specifically, the research, based on inter-disciplinary and participatory approaches—historical, ethno-linguistic, institutional, religious and natural resource management diversities of the rural communities—was conducted for a better understanding of the values and organizations of the rural communities. This work contributes to a better knowledge of the indigenous values and systems of the ethnic groups, who are, or should be, the key partners and decision-makers in conceiving and implementing socio-economic development programs.


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Anti-French nationalism under the Lao Issara banner subsequently emerged in the shadow of war and was greatly stimulated by the eclipse of French by Japanese power. As the French staged their bloody post-war restoration, the two tendencies in the anti-colonial struggle found common cause. But shunned by the international community in exile in the Thailand of Pridi Phanomyong, the Lao Issara withered. While seeking a guerilla rear-base in Vietnam, the Pathet Lao tendency found willing sponsorship from the Viet Minh in a trans-national relationship. At home the Pathet Lao went from strength to strength drawing upon age-old grievances of the minorities in the highlands.

First, the incorporation of Laos into a colonial-capitalist system of surplus accumulation; and, second, the rebellious and non-rebellious responses of the majority and, particularly, the minority peasantry of that country to the fundamental changes in their moral, social, political and economic order. Both areas of exploration are explained with reference to the general phenomenon of world-historical expansion. Nakhonkham Bouphanovong; Sixteen Years in the Land of Death This is the account of the life of Nakhonkham Boupanouvong, a Lao man who survived incarceration from to in the communist run reeducation camps located in the province of Huaphan.

During that time he suffered through hard labor, torture and near starvation along with many other high-ranking Royal Lao government and army officials, many of whom did not live to tell their own experience. Prior to his imprisonment Nakhonkham endured three decades of civil war in Laos. Having come full circle, by Nakhonkham found himself on the losing side of the civil war and lived in Laos as a political prisoner until emigrating to the United States in I was surprised to meet so many! Once you get out there and start traveling, you quickly figure out how to haggle, how to detect scams, how to stay safe.

Southeast Asia is a great place to start. Thanks for the sharing. Might try out some of the recomended places like Tonsai and Don Det next year. I have been toying with the idea of booking some kind of tour to start me off, would you recommend this? Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated!

Hi Hayley, I think a tour in Southeast Asia is a bad call too. Thanks Kristin, I think I will have to follow everyones advice then and not book a tour! Would you be able to give me some pointers in what to book in advance? Any tips on how to plan travel between destinations? I have booked my first hostel in bangkok so far and that is it! In your experience do you end up travelling around with people that you meet along the way? I met people very easily. Staying in hostels is the easiest way to do so.

So after reading your reply I went with your advice and just booked one flight and one hostel in Bangkok and winged the rest of my trip! Your blog was not only an inspiration for me but it gave me the confidence that I could do this! I have decided to pitch up in Sydney and try Aussie life for a while! Heading up the east coast for three weeks later in the month…..

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So glad that it worked out for you and that you had a great time. It made my day to read this! I loved Pai and Don Det. Those are two of my all-time favourite places! I have to say, though, that Otres Beach was far too quiet for me. Koh Rong is a better bet at that time of year. Back when I went Koh Rong was so small and quiet. I made a lot of friends and I love swimming. Hi Kristin, thanks for sharing this one. I must salute to you for traveling solo all over different places. I wanna visit Bali because it is a great place to experience.

The Mekong River: Laos to China Upstream (Sabaidee Pandaw)

For sure, it will be another awesome journey for me. Again, congrats for traveling solo and having that confidence on yours. Cheers to solo travel! Have a great time during your travels around the surrounding countries! I have just found and read your blog post about South East Asia which sounds and looks amazing. But this being the first time I have ever done anything like this I am struggling of knowing where and how to start the planning and organising of my trip.

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This website can help you! I have country pages for each of those countries. Just go back to the home page and click on the map or destinations. You can do a lot once you arrive and it allows you to be flexible. I tend to research as I go. Before, i had a plan to solo travel.

But i still fear of something will happen if i go alone. But actually, when i read your blog, it gives me courage to do. It make me think that i must travel to experience this world. It is also my dream that i should do when i am young…. On the one hand, by dropping people off 10 kilometres out of town and forcing them to hire a driver into town, jobs are being created for locals.

Our local sources in town explained that as little as a year ago the slow boat used to travel all the way into Luang Prabang , however, several months ago the captains started dropping foreigners off in the outskirts of town and this became the new norm. I was wearing a hoodie, a fleece, socks and sandals classy, I know , and I was still shivering when we set off in the morning. Books, an iPod stocked with your favourite music, a deck of playing cards, a journal to write or doodle in.

You may not be able to get a good seat on the first day, but if you get up early on day 2 of the boat journey and make it down to the pier at least 1 hour in advance, you should be able to snag first pick. You can get hot tea and coffee, ramen noodles in a cup, chips, cookies, light snacks and beer. I booked the regular budget tour: 2, baht with 2 nights accommodations included. Audrey is the creator of That Backpacker and has spent the past few years crisscrossing the globe with a notebook in one hand and a camera in the other.

She likes to travel, make YouTube videos, and drink spicy soup! Ahhh…I took the upscale slow boat with Mekong Cruises. Fantastic food, first class service, a sun deck atop, luxurious cushioned seats, and fantastic tour stops along the way, not to mention an overnight in Pakbeng at the sumptuous Luang Say Lodge, with teak cabins overlooking the river and Hemingway-esque furnishings.

VERY worth the extra cost. Sounds amazing, Barbara! Bought the ticket at the dock and then used Trivago to get a cheap and comfortable room for the overnight. Oh no! I have read sooo many horrific accounts on this trip that I decided against it… and I am again, glad I did. Sorry that this happened Audrey, however I know you are a seasoned person in dealing with these everyday issues, surprises, and adventure of a traveler. I too would have be upset because of the principle and the lying. I hope you enjoy the rest of your Laos trip! I can laugh about it now — maybe not when I first got off the boat after 3 days without a shower oh my!

The sun was starting to set, but there was still daylight out, and there were also plenty of travellers stuck in the same situation so everyone teamed up when it came time to get transportation into town. I feel so bad for you right now! I took the boat the other way, from Luang Prabang to the border of Thailand, in March last year so ca 1 year. And the family who owned the boat was super cute.

I really enjoyed the scenery too, but it does get tiering spending two full days on a slow boat. Considering that scams like these, trying to squeeze as much as possible from western tourists, happens all the time and everywhere you could end up spending almost twice of what you could have! Especially if you are not working and traveling for months. But at least in the bitterness you know that it probably put food on someones table that day. I was fortunate on my trip, except for the sometimes overprised tuk tuk. Although reading your tips on what to bring on a slow boat would have made the journey a bit smoother.

And I do hope you enjoy Laos! It is my faveourite country in SE Asia, it is so beautiful and laid-back and the sunset in Vang Vieng is incredible! Thanks for the great report on your trip. We were going to to Lung Prabang by slow boat but got put off by stories like yours. We did the east route through Nong Khaki -Vientanne ,Not as exciting as your trip but trouble free. Thanks for all your great blogs,David. Oh, Audrey, I am just feeling that wind on the boat, sun on your face and freaking strong disappointment that we had basically in the same situations.

To be honest, after we arrived to the pink prison and we saw the room, we better went to dine to the village. It looks also that each boat has its own superstar! Well, am happy you survived, and all we can just laugh now! It was such a relief to finaaaaally arrive in Luang Prabang. Wow, that actually sounds pretty horrible. Yikes, this sounds like a nightmare! After reading this, I am very thankful we flew into and out of Luang Prabang and just took an hour-long ride on the Mekong from there. Even though its a way of job creation, there is dishonesty that will definitely cost both Captains and Locals.

Visitors will avoid being dropped 10 km outside the city thus choosing other safe modes of transport. Of course captains and the locals will loose. Oh wow. Well I hate that you had such a negative experience. But thanks for sharing your experience and tips. Oh my goodness, this sounds awful!!!!

I must have been on one of the lucky boats because we pulled right into the dock in Luang Prabang! Did you do the same trip recently? Honestly, it sounds painful! I hate the level of dishonestly and scamming that comes with the tourist trail in SE Asia. I can understand the overwhelming need to let everyone earn a few extra bucks but a rip-off is still a rip-off no matter how small the amount. The Thai borders with Laos and Cambodia are a nightmare. Letting your passport out of your sight in a place that is utterly chaotic and corrupt is not a pleasant experience! That sounds rough.

I would have stayed on out of principle too! What an annoying scam…. I had no idea that last stop was a scam! I remember thinking how strange it was that we were dropped off so far from Luang Prabang, and then throwing a fit about the couple of bucks we had to pay for the taxi into town! The state of tourism in that region is pretty poor. My journey was a little different, uncomfortable but ok! I did have a horrendous bus journey from Laos to Vietnam though. The men were horrible! Glad you got there ok!!! Better luck next time! Thanks but no thanks; what a horror story indeed!

Yes, your pics are still gorgeous. I really try to avoid these experiences now. Although you will always run into them here and there. Gosh, that sounds like an awful boat ride! I definitely agree with you about the principle of it all though, irrelevant of whether or not the cost of an extra ride into town is low to a Westerner or not.

We have considered this, so thank you for giving an honest depiction. Certainly an adventure! I was gonna take the same route in Jan , but the Mekong was very low at that time; so I nixed the trip. I had heard of some nightmare trips on Trip advisor, so I figured my time was better spent in Luang Prabang touring the temples. I was in LP back in … but there was a very hot war in progress; so I had to get my tourist derriere out of there ASAPTook me 38 years to get back there.

Audrey, that sounds like a nightmare. I did it in reverse in November. We were dropped off outside LP to get on the boats, including the locals, and we were told by all the agencies in town that this was because the boats no longer went all the way. And none will arrange a hostel — you just have to fight! Regarding the strangers on the first boat, this is probably people who stayed in Houay Xai overnight, most likely coming back from the Gibbon Experience.

Great story, Audrey. I love how you write about these weird and crazy situations and make us all feel your pain, but laugh along with you too. The drug-obsessed Aussie girl is hilarious! Ah, brings back memories! One german girl was feeling ill, and the only place she could lie down was next to the engine in the back… with gas fumes. After several hours she had a fever of Fortunately the boat pulled over at a police checkpoint on a muddy bank soon thereafter. She got off, and I went along to look after her. We found a guy with a speed boat who took us back up to Huay Xi, where she crossed over into Thailand for proper medical care.

The next day I hopped a speed boat down to Luang Prabang which are as dangerous as everyone says. On the way we stopped in Pak Beng and picked up another traveler from the slow boat who was sick and had stayed behind. Your explanation is precisely how I feel when these things happen to me. Thanks for sharing your horrors with us Audrey! That sounds like an awful trip. There are so many scams going these days you really have to be on your toes to catch them all.

Sounds great! Yeah, sure, uncomfortable, a bit of bribery, things not as they were described, a mutiny! Sure, you could have flown and had a completely comfortable, quick trip but look at the memories you would have missed! We did it without a tour, which must be why our experiences differ so much.

There was no one else at the border so we walked right through. On the other side we had to take another tuk tuk to the pier for baht. At the pier we purchased our tickets all the way to luang prabang for baht. We stopped at Pakbeng and found an amazing hotel for baht for two people with super comfy beds and hot water showers. We paid for our own food from the restaurant and bought lots of snacks for the boatride at the pier.

So all in all I paid less than 2, baht to come all the way from Bangkok and stay in a really nice hotel. I highly highly recommend doing it this way. Sorry you had a rough experience!! Hi American Girl! Do you remember the name of the hotel you stayed at in Pakbeng? Did you find the hotel when you arrived or did you book it in advance? Planning to do the slow boats in March and would love to find a hotel with comfy beds and hot water.

Thanks a bunch! After reading this it almost sounds like we were on the exact same boat ride! We also stayed on the boat for an additional 30 minutes, everyone standing their ground. However, eventually all of our bags got thrown out and we were forced to pay for the 10km tuk tuk ride into town. This whole situation must happen very, very regularly! We too, had no power at the halfway mark, it was quite creepy. I hate the scam! I did something similar in Koh Chang getting a taxi into town from the ferry.

They wanted to charge us double the price, because we were on the 2nd songthaew with 9 people rather than In the end the driver stormed away and the 9 of us were stranded. Eventually someone else came along and we paid a bit more than the norm, but not double. We are thinking of doing this boat ride with 2 kids in November.

Probably a really bad idea. I am still on the fence about it. Hi Audrey! How did you get to Laos? I am planning to travel Cambodia and from there I would like to cross the board.. Sort order. Dec 23, Tom rated it really liked it. Published in it naturally does not bring the reader up to date on all the rapid changes that have taken place in the region in the last years, but that is not a criticism.

Thus the Chinese pressure to change, or wipe out, Tibetan culture; the effect of American and French wars and influences and damage, and the destructive and even catastrophic damage done by the Chinese government, the Pathet Lao, the Khmer Rouge and the Northern dominated Vietnam government. Perhaps not for every reader, but for me it was a reminder of how little I have known about Tibet, Cambodia and Laos partly, I suppose, because Thailand and Vietnam are so much larger and have been so much more in our news. Some of his experiences and descriptions of the damage done and consequences for Laos and Cambodia were simply awful to read, and important to read.

Nevertheless, a good read. Jun 22, Jeff Clay rated it really liked it. This is a big book, or, at least the topic -- traveling down a 2, mile river -- is big.

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In fact, for a year's journey, the book is surprising slim. I know the author took copious notes, and I don't need to have a description of every meal he ate or flophouse he crashed in, but at times I craved a bit more detail. This is a very minor criticism of what was clearly a labor of love for him. And labor it surely was. Not just based on his ordeals but at times his 'voice' sounded weary as well. Par This is a big book, or, at least the topic -- traveling down a 2, mile river -- is big. Part of this though I interpret as concern for the peoples, lands, and cultures he touched.

I would love to sit over a BeerLao or two and chat with Mr. Gargan about the changes wrought in the last decade-and-a-half. His journey -- completed sometime around Y2K -- is necessarily a snapshot. Having traveled to three of the countries he visited -- Burma Myanmar , Cambodia, and most recently Laos -- I have seen both the invasive and enabling effects of globalization.

There has been some political progress: Lao PDR is no longer the paranoid state as described and the generals are finally not completely ruling Myanmar. But, incredibly, Hun Sen is still the Cambodian P. The more things change the more they stay the same. China too has bloomed into a global infrastructure-creating juggernaut. This is alluded to in Gargan's book, but what a difference 15 years makes!

We will see much more of this in the years to come as with the election we have abdicated our role and responsibility of being a global leader and China is eager to fill that gap. Back to the book Only on occasion does he get 'poetic' and with the exception of one clunker something about a boat's engine being as greased up as a California sunbather , his writing produces no winces.

This is neither a travel book nor a travelogue. Yes, he travels -- all miles and them-some considering his various mainly unexpected deviations -- and he does 'document' and comment upon what he sees and finds. He is aided by this in his fluency in the Chinese language. He is quite vocal in his skepticism of the various powers that play chess on the Southeast Asia board and his concern for all whom he meets is persistent and true. To his credit he acknowledges but does not harp on our America's deleterious impact truly, no pun intended on this patch of the world.

Every player -- from the French to the Americans to Mao, Pol Pot and the current SE Asian governments have contributed to the general mess, poverty and ruination of the region. At least that is the take-away. Things have changed since the year of publication and are continuing to do so, for better and worse. Having spent the intervening time resting up, I, for one, would encourage Mr.

One can hope! May 10, Colin rated it really liked it. An excellent read - and extremely well-written. It was very nice to read such an elegant travelogue, though as the cover says it is far more than just some thrown-together notes from a journalist's sabbatical.

Laos - Luang Prabang (Beautiful Mekong River) Part 4

Gargan is thorough and engaging in his description of the Mekong's journey from its source to the Delta and weaves a vivid tapestry through incorporation of history and personal experiences both far in the past and closer to the present. The only thing that kept putting me off was his need An excellent read - and extremely well-written.

The only thing that kept putting me off was his need to remind us that his time there was far too short - he kept on writing "I must away It got a little frustrating after a bit not only because I wanted to hear more about the places he had visited, but also after the first few times it became quite Also, he is quite fond of that rhetorical term where you pair two words of opposite meanings to describe the same phenomenon paradox? I've forgotten what exactly it is called. But, he would describe things usually in trios "Harsh and sensuous, glamorous and seedy, rollicking and sedate, the Blah Blah was It was very nice the first few times, but like the " Other that those small rhetorical things, I thoroughly enjoyed this book and sincerely hope that Gargan continues to produce such works.

Nov 04, Annette rated it really liked it Shelves: , travel , memoirs. A perfect book to read while traveling in Southeast Asia. Also a reminder of how quickly things are changing in Vietnam and Cambodia Oct 30, Carole rated it really liked it Shelves: non-fiction , memoir. Gargan, a New York Times reporter and bureau chief, was always fascinated with Asia and studied Chinese in college. He also served a couple of years in a Kentucky prison for anti war actions during the Viet Nam era.

Gargan back-packed his way thousands of miles, using local iffy transportation sources and making contact with nati A literate memoir of a year's solo journey down the length of the Mekong River, from Tibet, through southern China, Laos, Cambodia, and Viet Nam to the South China Sea.


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Gargan back-packed his way thousands of miles, using local iffy transportation sources and making contact with natives along the way. Food and transportation were often a challenge. The contacts were often dispiriting, with poverty, government corruption, and a crushing lack of services suppressing hope. Gargan came away with apprehension about the future of the area, but with an appreciation for its beauty and complexity, which he often described in lyrical language.

An excellent personalized introduction and overview of a not well understood part of the world. Dec 02, Patricia rated it really liked it Shelves: armchair-travel. A friend recommended this book as he knew I had travelled to about three-quarters of the destinations travelled by the author. Perhaps that is why I was less excited than I thought I would be when I finished it.

Some of the sites along the Mekong I had travelled twenty-odd years ago, others as recently as last month Luang Prabang , so there was a mix of both romantic nostalgia and small irritations. This is perhaps unfair to the author as The River's Tale is a personal travel diary and therefor A friend recommended this book as he knew I had travelled to about three-quarters of the destinations travelled by the author. I am specifically thinking here of Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam which have all exploded with tourism and its accoutrements. A decent read, but author Edward Gargan never seems passionate about his pilgrimage.

It's an adventure, through some of the biggest hot spots in recent history, but that dynamic seldom comes across. For someone writing about a river, he seems to spend precious little time on the water. In the hands of another writer, this could be much livelier. I do appreciate his thoughts on the disappearance of native cultures, arts and ways of life. But Gargan seems tired of the topic long before the end of A decent read, but author Edward Gargan never seems passionate about his pilgrimage.