Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Voyage to Thakek - A Village

Cities and towns in Asia are not beautiful. As in Vietnam and Thailand, cities like Vientiane are collections of soulless concrete bunkers with ornate flourishing balconies. Hanoi is an exception in that much of the French character has either been maintained or imitated and all of Hanoi is lime-washed in dark ochre.

Towns are worse. Corrugated iron roofs, breeze-block walls, tasteless tiles … You buzz into them and you buzz out again hoping they will leave no trace in your eternal soul. But they do leave a trace and their ugliness is saddening.

Villages, on the other hand, still maintain the genetic memory and genius of ancient times. Houses are built of wood and bamboo; roofs are often thatched. Stilt houses more often than not don’t have private gardens but they are all set off of each other at odd angles, giving them an eccentric feeling of privacy.

Here is a village we discovered by accident, nestled between somewhere here and somewhere else. The Wat is thankfully old and has been spared improvement; the pathways are unpaved and littered with pigs, dogs, bits of garbage and the stuff of life.

Children piss against walls, a sabaidee rings out and strange anomalies encroach, like a cement stairway to a stilt-house covered in bathroom tiles or parabolic antennae with cut cables held in place by pieces of brick.

This is a Laos I love, a land that is still far away, still silent; a land of lonely kitchen fires and solitary monks. This is the Lao in which I yearn to get lost.

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