Laos - South to North
The mighty Mekong is one of the longest rivers in the world and one of the least spoiled. It is the heart and soul of South East Asia with more that 50 million people depending on it and its tributaries for food, water, transport and other important aspects of daily life. Its flood plains are bursting with food crops during the dry season and the river supports one of the world's most diverse fisheries.
A boat trip down the Mekong through Lao will give you insight into the river's importance to communities who live along its banks. It is their only means of transport in a landscape of mountains and thick jungle. The Mekong is a rich source of fish and crops are planted all along the riverside. Everyone washes, plays and swims in the river and daily life revolves around it. A trip along the Mekong with its rapids is relaxing, exhilarating and fascinating offering you a glimpse into another way of life.
Ban Faen village is home to our guide Khen Phetxayphone, most of the villagers are farmers who work in the surrounding rice fields, it has no running water or electricity, a generator provides 2 hours electricity a night. When redspokes started to work with Khen in 2001, we talked to the Headman and Elders to determine what support the village needed and where our support would have the greatest effect. After some discussion, it was agreed that the 2 main issues facing the village was access to clean drinking water and the school. We decided to start by helping the school. This decision was not unanimous, as there were mixed opinions about the value of education, particularly for girls. Nonetheless, our first donation went towards concreting the school floor.
In 2003 redspokes and supporters started a charity LVCF. Shortly after we ran our first project building a school in Ban Faen. This school is now complete, we have went on to build a second (basic) school in one of the rural Hmong villages we visit.
The LVCT decided in 2006 to look at issue of clean water and the issue of land mines, a major issue in this poor country.
Luang Prabang is a stunning city; its architecture a combines ancient Lao monasteries dating back over 500 hundred years with French Colonial styles from the 19th and 20th centuries. Nestled in mountains at the confluence of the Nam Khan and the mighty Mekong, Luang Prabang's location could not be more perfect. With over 32 ancient temples in easy walking distance, Luang Prabang was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1995, in order to preserve the temples and ensure that new development is limited and in keeping with the magical city.
Wat Xieng Thong is unmissable, and undoubtedly one of Luang Prabang's finest temples. It was constructed in 1559 by King Say Setthathirath, and is a beautiful monastery in typical Laoation style. The old Royal Palace, now a National Museum houses many religious and royal treasures, not to mention the King's collection of old American 50's and 60's automobiles.
With many restaurants, stunning views, great markets and a chilled out atmosphere, Luang Prabang is definitely Lao's hidden treasure.