MontanaRon

An English teacher's blog about his travels and his digital art.

Month: May 2013

Return to Vang Vieng?

I really love the fantastic scenery of Vang Vieng, Laos. The last time I was there was in June of 2009, and, as I posted then, I was quite loathe to return, due to the extreme frat/high school drunk-party atmosphere of the town. The backpacker crowd had taken over, completely lacking any respect for the local culture, running around half naked, noisy, and totally out of control. The laid-back vibe of Vang Vieng had disappeared, perhaps never to return.

Salvation has come, though, in a report posted on a Travefish blog. It seems that last August, the Lao authorities stepped in and closed the bars lining the area of the Nam Song River where most of the party crowd began their day by kayaking or tubing. They also shut down the all-night party spots, and most of the bars now close around midnight. The blog reports that

Vang Vieng is returning to its roots as a place where people came to chill out, have a couple of beers and take in the natural beauty of the surrounding area. If you were tossing up over whether to come or not because of Vang Vieng’s reputation, don’t deliberate any longer. Vang Vieng is now back on the map as a top spot for those seeking to experience the natural beauty of Laos and interact with the local people. But for those seeking a serious party — the party is over.

From my point of view, all I can say is Hallelujah!

My Lao traveling companion and good friend, Nai, has been having some family troubles lately. We had been planning to go to Phuket, Thailand, but with the troubles, he may, perhaps, want to travel somewhere that’s closer to his family. If that’s the case, perhaps we’ll head north to Vang Vieng rather than to Phuket. I don’t know yet if our plans will change, but I’d be quite happy to return to Vang Vieng.

End of the Semester

Well, it’s that time of the year. I’m pretty busy with end-of-the-semester exams, grading and paperwork, but the light at the end of the tunnel is that I’m taking off for Thailand and Laos on June 14th, returning on July 7th, a nice 3-week vacation of fun in the sun, I hope.

That’ll be a change of pace from the past few days, when we were drenched with 6 inches of rain from noon Monday until early Tuesday morning. Things are still pretty wet, and the students are attending and participating in the university’s annual 3-day festival down on the soaked, muddy grounds just below the campus. Just lucky it didn’t start Monday!

I’ve been going to the Expo site almost every weekend to check out any changes to the area, and I’m happy to report that a small Japanese restaurant, a mini-mart and a couple of outdoor food stands have opened. Hopefully, this is the beginning of bigger and better things for the area.

I’ll try to get some more posts and photos up before I go on vacation, but, as tardy as I’ve been lately (sorry ’bout that), I’m not gonna promise anything. But, I’ll try. More later.

Laos Awarded World’s Best Tourist Destination

Recently, the European Council on Tourism and Trade (ECTT) awarded Laos the “World’s Best Tourist Destination” for 2012. In part, the award presentation stated that:

I must say what a privilege is for our delegation to honor a country that is becoming a WORLD BEST TOURIST DESTINATION.

It is also a great pleasure to address our salute to the great people of Lao, a people that had build throughout centuries a perfect civilization, with hundreds of monuments of historical and civilization relevance ,a people that had offered to humanity countless riches: from religious temple and scriptures to literary texts and historical writings.

You can read more about the award at the ECCT website here and here. Coincidentally, I’ll be traveling to Laos (and Thailand) next month, and I’m really looking forward to getting back there. I guess the continuing popularity of Laos, and its people and culture, is a double-edged sword. Hopefully, the influx of tourists will help increase the standard of living of the population and raise cultural awareness, but, alas, more tourists and more money coming into the country means, many times, an increase of traffic, pollution and infrastructure problems, as well as a loss of the old values and charm that have made the country such an attractive area to visit.

As an example, my first visit to “The Land of a Million Elephants” was in 2005. I remember Vientiane as being a very laid-back city (it still is, in many ways) with bicycles and motorbikes outnumbering cars by a wide margin. Now, traffic jams are common in many places and life seems more frenetic. Still, it’s a great place to visit–succulent, spicy cuisine, stupendous scenery and friendly, welcoming Laotians. Give it a try if you’re ever in the area.

Congratulations to Lao PDR!

Yeosu Mural Alley

I’d been hearing about the Yeosu Mural Alley for a while, ever since before the Expo began last year. A few reports that people published online stated that the alley begins near the Expo site and continues for about a kilometer. I searched everywhere near the Expo, but could never find the Alley. I recently found it, however, and it’s actually about a kilometer or so from the Expo. In fact, the entrance had been staring me in the face, more or less. It’s near the Jinnamgwan site, across a pedestrian overpass, which was built about a year ago. So, if you’re visiting Yeosu and you want to spend a pleasant few hours walking down the Mural Alley (a.k.a. Angel Alley), here’s a photo showing you the location.

Mural alley entrance

Mural Alley Entrance

To the left you can see part of Jinnamgwan. If you look closely, just to the left of the blue information sign in the bottom middle of the photo there’s a short road up to the pedestrian overpass. Cross the overpass and follow the road and the arrows, and you’re on Mural Alley. Pretty simple, really.

As I said, it’s a nice way to spend a few hours, strolling through the Alley and taking in the dozens of paintings along the way. Let’s take a walk and see some of the artwork, shall we?

Yeosu mural

Yeosu Mural

Yeosu mural

Yeosu Mural

Yeosu mural

Yeosu Mural

Yeosu mural

Yeosu Mural

In some places the route gets a bit narrow and the paintings are actually on the sides of the homes in the area.

Mural alley

Narrow Going

Mural alley

Another Narrow Alley

Mural alley

Tight Squeeze

In addition to featuring historical scenes and depictions of everyday life, many of the murals are quite whimsical.

Yeosu mural

Hitching a Ride

Yeosu mural

Sending a Letter

Mural alley

Mural Alley

Mural alley

Running Chair

About halfway through the walk you can take a break and catch a nice view of the city.

Yeosu Overlook

Yeosu Overlook

In this same area nature shows off its own mural skills.

Nature's mural

Nature’s Mural

Let’s continue with the walk.

Yeosu mural

Yeosu Mural

The Alley draws quite a few interested people, but in the few days that I’ve visited, it hasn’t been overly crowded.

Yeosu mural

Yeosu Mural

Looks like someone is trying to take a shortcut out of the Alley.

Mural alley

Wall Climber

Mural alley

Butterfly Wall

Mural alley

Mural Alley

Mural alley

Mural Alley

Mural alley

Who’s Watching Whom

Mural alley

Mural Alley

Mural alley

Tiger, Tiger

Finally, near the end of the walk, across from the tiger, are these wings. Perhaps some people think these look like angel wings, hence the nickname of “Angel Alley.” They could be bird wings, too–I guess it depends on your point of view.

Mural alley

Wings

That’s the end of our walk, but there are dozens more pieces of artwork here. So, the next time your in Yeosu, take a few hours to visit Mural Alley.

Yeosu’s Turtle Ship Festival

Starting with a parade and fireworks this evening, the Turtle Ship Festival, held every year in conjunction with Children’s Day (Sunday, this year) will run through Monday. I’ve posted about it before, but I’ve never been able to take in the parade, which begins at 6:30 p.m. Hopefully, I’ll get down there this evening to see that, and I’ll be watching some of the other events over the next few days. So, if you’re going to be in Yeosu this weekend, be sure to take in the festival. Most of the events will be held near Jinnamgwan at the Jongpo Ocean Park Walkway. See you there!

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