[Another travelogue from Joe–yes, Joe works in education for the DOD and has off in the summers. I don’t know too many people who make the most of their time off like Joe does. I’m jealous! (no, I work during the summer for my school, contrary to popular belief)]

Laos ( The Lao People’s Democratic Republic) has been called by many a collection of peoples more than a country of people. There are four major tribes and variousethnic minorities in the Lao. In this sense it helps to blur the markedly strong line between China and its southern neighbors. It has special meaning to me since it completes the progression from mainland ancestors to the Marianas Islands.

Luang Prubang, is the old capital of Lao PDR. It was named “the best preserved city in SE Asia” by UNESCO, and it must be… Sitting in the jungle on the banks of the Mekong with mountains around it…It looks something like Dehong, China along the Burmese border but it much lighter on opium trafficking (jeez, did I forget to mention that in my last email from China?) and it is nice to stroll at night without being covered with insects with attitude. The town has mucho dollars flowing in (literally…they use USD, Thai Baht and Lao Kip as common currency). Most are European tourists, with the exception of the guy who sat next to me at the theatre who was from Ridley Park…no kidding [Joe and I grew up in Ridley Park, PA. –Dave].

This place looks like its frozen in time…the people are so mellow….the whole town looks like they put ritalin in the water supply, they are always smiling and itlooks like they are ready to fall asleep with that smile…its as if they are still sighing from the civil war and the French colonization being over. Got high blood pressure? Deadlines at work? Trouble sleeping? Forget tricyclic antidepressants and check out the action here.

I’m overlooking the Mekong River in an all hardwood, six roomlodge for 3 dollars a night (I was proud of averaging $8 a night in China)…eating French/Laotian Food, sticky rice and Beerlao… Life is good. If you haven’t been here and want to go to SE Asia, this is the place to do it in style…Some of the more high brow restaurants have French menus and speak French, as many of the older people do. I have to give credit to the French, they really made an impression on the Laotions to excel in fine cuisine. Every meal here is an odyssey.

Vientianne next, then Pongsovang, then Pakse, then Siem Reap, Cambodia to see the great ruins of Angkor.., something I’ve been waiting intently over 5 years to see.

I spent a couple days in Chiang Mai with an old friends from Guam (Doc Kaufman and his girlfriend) and it was so great to catch up with him. I could have sat up talking about his travels for weeks…the guy is a machine. He just got back from India and spent 2 months in Tibet last year hiking all over… People like him and John Breckinridge aren’t travelers, they are adventurers… What I would give to wander the earthfull time, on a whimlike these guys… Yim treated us to homecooked Thai food and it wasso good I still can taste it when I close my eyes… Suchhospitality…I feel like a homebody talking with these guys…we did themandatory elephant show and ride throught the jungles outside ChiangMai, then I had to catch a flight to Laos. I can’t wait to catch up with them again soon.

Tonight I went to a Laotian Ramayanan Ballet (dance theatre). It is starting to seem like all of SE Asia is somesort of mix of Indian and Chinese with a historical spin on it. Ironically (as my trip sort of began there) everything seems to go back to Everest and the Himalayas. The Mekong gets its start there in China as does the Brahmaputra, Indus, Yangtzee… And India, though seemingly unable to hoistitself above water, seems to have profoundly influenced the rest of Asia. Much of the language throughout here is based largely on Sandskrit. The Southern tribes of Yunnan in China are significant presence here in Laos, they had spread to Thailand where they became the Thai’s and (genetic evidence suggests…) were the people who originally inhabited Guam thousands of years ago and became the Chamorros.

Well, it’s Internet blackout for awhile…hope all is well with you.


“One of the grandest moments in human life, methinks, is the departure upon a distant journey into unknown lands. Shaking off with one mighty effort the fetters of habit, the leaden weights of Routine, the cloak of many Cares and the Slavery of Home, man feels once more happy.” Richard Burton, Journal

Borrowed from a narrative by Dr. Jay D. Kaufman, 26 Nov. to 16 Dec. 20