Laos, or officially, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic has a population of slightly over six million and shares borders with Burma, China, Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam. Though there are periodic elections, there is only one political party, the Communist Party. Although a socialist state, free enterprise is thriving as it is in Vietnam and Cambodia.
Luang Prabang, a UNESCO World Heritage Site is a beautiful city located in northern Laos at the confluence of the Mekong and Nam Khan rivers. Until the Communist take over in 1975 it was the capital of the Kingdom of Laos. The city is well known for its numerous temples and monasteries.
Where there are monasteries there are Monks and every morning starting at dawn hundreds of monks from the various monasteries walk through the streets collecting alms of sticky rice from the faithful.
The vibrant, colorful Night Market extends for many blocks in the heart of town every evening. Beautiful handmade silks, Hmong weavings, sterling jewelry, paper umbrellas, and lanterns at amazingly low prices.
Once one leaves the tourist area the real Laos become evident. We bought some school supplies to take to a small Hmong village a few miles up the Mekong from Luang Prabang by long boat and found a totally different world.