Laos is the current darling of Southeast Asia and it’s not hard to figure out why.

Sure the scenery is stunning, thick tropical jungle and fast-flowing rivers, and there’s certainly plenty of culture in this temple-dotted land, but what really makes the country stand out is its people.

The Lao people are friendly and warm and surely among  the most gentle on the planet.  And for cyclists, they’re always ready with a big smile and an enthusiastic SAWAIDEE!!!!!

Hope you enjoy the photos, I know we had a wonderful time meeting so many interesting people while cycling the highlands of northern Laos.


#1  Pet Monkey
We came across this little girl and her pet monkey early one morning cycling through the highlands.  The baby is in pretty rough condition, probably diseased and unlikely to live long.  Any guesses on what happened to mama monkey?



#2  Father and Son Hunting Party
This father and son were off to the forest to catch some dinner.  Hill tribe people in Laos still hunt using very  traditional methods, as you can see from the photo.



#3  Women at Work
Women spend their days looking after children, cooking, working in the fields, weaving and making baskets.



#4  Hmong Woman and Children
The Hmong living in the highlands of Laos usually have large families–6-8 children is not uncommon.  This woman probably has more children at home


#5  A Warm Welcome!
Even toddlers manage a wave and a greeting as we pass.



#6  Girls at Play
While many girls are stuck tending younger siblings or helping out in the home, these girls were just having fun being kids.  Toys are almost non-existent in the highlands, but resourceful Hmong children have no problem keeping themselves amused.



#7  Woman at Home
This woman watches the world go by as she crouches in the doorway of her thatched home on stilts in the Laos highlands.



#8  Surrogate Mother
In large Hmong families, it’s up to the older girls to look after the younger children.



#9  Novice Monk
Novice monks are young boys who temporarily commit to monkhood, shaving their heads and donning the orange robe. All Lao boys are expected to become novice monks for at least three months of their lives.  Many of the boys come to bigger towns with temples from poor farming villages without adequate schools.



#10  Betelnut Lady
Many older people chew betelnut, a mild narcotic.   This woman’s teeth are stained a brilliant red from years and years of use.



#11  Woman and Baby
This woman was working hard in the fields with her baby slung on her back.  Dental care is obviously not widely available in the highlands of Laos.



#12  Curiosity!
Kids are everywhere as we ride through villages in northern Laos.  Older ones laugh and smile, but younger ones often just stare in wonder.



#13  Bicycle Boys
The humble bicycle is well-loved in Laos.  These boys were flying across the bridge over the Nam Ou River in Nong Khiaw just as the sun was getting low in the sky.


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Sawaidee–why everybody loves Laos: a photo essay

7 thoughts on “Sawaidee–why everybody loves Laos: a photo essay

  • February 10, 2012 at 1:28 PM

    Great photos Amaya… I’d especially would like to know what the little boy’s shirt says in #5. Thanks for sharing as always!

    • February 10, 2012 at 6:45 PM

      #5 is a mystery to me..glad you enjoyed the photos and hope all is well in Guatemala…you guys sure were fast.

      • February 10, 2012 at 8:31 PM

        Got the answer to #5 translation…we are children of angels

  • February 16, 2012 at 6:31 PM

    Still going strong, I see! I love reading your reports and am still with you since you pedalled through Africa (Eric took some postal pictures for me in Sierra Leone)
    Don’t you think Laos is the Africa of Asia?
    Take care,

    • February 17, 2012 at 8:54 AM

      Yes, many parts of Laos are surprisingly similar to Africa. In particular the exuberant kids.
      And the poverty, of course. I’m really shocked to see basic sanitation lacking in some villages and to see kids obviously malnourished.

  • June 23, 2012 at 4:32 PM

    Actually, #5 says “puag rao loog tewada”, lit. “we are angel’s children”, as in “we’re so spoiled, we can’t be punished, treat us like treasures”, along those lines. You’d say something like “you’re such an angel’s child” if you were berating a child for being so pampered and immune to punishment.

    Also, the word is “sa-bai-dee”, which is literally “feeling good”. Thai greeting is “sa what dee”, and Cambodian is “sa was sa dai”.

    Basic utilities are lacking in most parts of Laos, so water comes from natural sources, and electricity (if any) comes from generators, diesel or water-powered.


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