The Hmong Festival
Now that I'm home and have time to play with the thousands of photos I took while traveling, I will finish up my posts in a more leisurely way than during my sojourn in Asia. Eventually I would like to re-upload photographs, now that I have the opportunity to edit them on a calibrated monitor, and to add photos to previous posts. All in good time.
The additional time to dedicate to my travelogue has come at an opportune moment. Phonsavon demands a long and considered treatment, and even though we were there only a few days, my reaction to it is complicated. I liked it from my first drive up its rather ugly main street to our hotel, the Anoulak Lodge (which is not ugly at all and which provided a clean, comfortable stay, with a couple of young people at the front desk who were more than helpful). The town is -- in its way -- a happening kind of place. It is not that you will find a sulfurous night life, disco-a-go-go, or burgeoning opportunities for self indulgent sinning, but you will see buildings going up everywhere and almost as much construction on those already built. There is a lot going on, even if as an uninformed first-time visitor I was hard pressed most of the time to know where it is all headed.
It is just busy. I won't insult the place by speaking of its "gritty" realities, but the city does insinuate itself into your consciousness with a kind of quiet, unsentimental optimism in the face of obvious economic challenges. I do not believe that my overall sense of the place was unduly influenced by the fact that there was a carnival going on quite close to our hotel, and a Hmong Festival on the outskirts of town. The latter was apparently at one time a venue for young woman to dress up and present themselves as possible brides. How much match-making actually goes on these days is open to question, but I would guess less and less. One of the few young men I saw dolled up in traditional finery, who approached our group with a similarly attired friend, broke our conversation short because his girlfriend had summoned him by cell phone. The times they are a changin' I imagine. And the National Holiday arrived the day that we left for Vientiane.
I will begin my Phonsavon posts with photos of the Hmong Festival. It was our first stop after breakfast on our first full day in the city, and its good natured display of tradition among the obvious complexities of modernization set the tone for me for much of my subsequent stay. The last post on Phonsavon will be about Mulberries, a silk producing establishment shown to us by a very sweet man who obviously takes much pride in the work being done there. In between, though, the sad history of war and its legacy of unexploded ordnance, with its continuing destruction of life and limb, will have to be dealt with: We will take a trip to the Plain of Jars, where megalithic stone jars share a vast plain with thousands upon thousands of dangerous munitions from 40 years ago. Only three sites out of almost twenty have been cleared i for the public visits, and those are clearly pock-marked with bomb craters.
Group of young women entering the festival