Vang Vieng,Pen and ink wash sketch

karst outcrops, Vang Vieng Laos
Karst outcrops and rice fields lying fallow under stubble.

laos children
Vang Vieng - my companions while doing the sketch
main street vang vieng
Vang Vieng - One of the main streets

Rice fields lying fallow in the shadow of the Karst (limestone) outcrops.  Vang Vieng, slap bang on the backpacker trail, Northern Laos.  This sketch has the signatures of three 10 year old boys on it, and one little lad who was so shy and wouldn't put his name down, that I guessed he couldn't write, so I got him to put his thumbprint on instead.  One of these kids saw me from a distance and started running to me an yelling for his mates, who seemed to appear out of nowhere.  We had a great chat for an hour or so.

It's funny, everyone wants to go to and see these magic places that others talk about, and the more of us who go there the more it changes and the less attractive the place and the people get.  The Lonely Planet guides, email, the Internet all compound the issue.
Vang Vieng reminded me of a town in an old wild west movie.  When I was there in early 2006 the place was in turmoil, trenches and excavations everywhere, they were putting in storm water drains and possibly a bit of sewerage too.  Every third house seemed to be newly rebuilt or under renovation.

The people that become dependant on the tourist trade also seem to change too.  They become harder and less friendly.  They see us as walking cash sources.  On my first afternoon in town I tried to hire a bicycle and was asked for my passport as security for a cheap Chinese clunker.   Needless to say I went elsewhere and got one with just a small deposit.

In spite of what I have just said, I thoroughly enjoyed my stay there, the scenery was absolutely stunning.

"The art of drawing which is of more real importance to the human race than that of writing... should be taught to every child just as writing is... " John Ruskin 1819-1900

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