28 November, 2020

Perfect Condition

Perfect Condition
The standard reply I got to my query from travel agents in Bangkok on how to get to Laos by rail or road was a snobbish ‘we don’t sell tickets for Nonghkhai’, the railhead and border town for Thailand before you cross the mighty Mekong river into the Lao People’s Democratic Republic capital, Vientiane (pronounced Wiengchang). Do not get deterred by this uncharacteristic Thai indifference because there are inexpensive and excellent overnight air-conditioned trains to the border.

Like Nepal, Laos is landlocked, and what India is to Nepal, Thailand is to Laos. It is a former French colony, which eradicated monarchy in 1975 after the Pathet Lao Communists came to power. They even banished the alphabet ra (from Rasa for raja) from the Lao dictionary. And today blame the rajas for the ills of this impoverished land of 5 million Buddhists. Yet every temple in the country that the present military rulers in civilian garb frequent is a legacy of the monarchy. On the outside, Laos is a very relaxed, even laidback, communist state, a great getaway from the region’s cackle and...



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