Wednesday, February 24, 2010

French and Lao colonial buildings in Vientiane

While touring through Vientiane one will encounter French colonial Villas and administration buildings, old Lao town houses, hidden and forgotten shrines of Vientiane’s guardian deities, small spirit houses and famous temples. Among those last ones are Wat Si Muang - where the city pillar of Vientiane is located -, Wat Sisaket - which miraculously survived the Siamese invasion -, or Wat Ho Phra Keo, the former temple of the revered Emerald Buddha.

Although the French colonial government never had a big budget for impressive and large colonial constructions and buildings as they had in Saigon, Hanoi or to a lesser extend in Phnom Penh, by touring through Vientiane’s present one will experience its French past…

French Colonial Villas (ADB) at the junction Lane Xang - Samsenthai, which belong to the first section of French colonial construction in Vientiane. This first phase of construction took place in 1914 to 1930.

French Colonial Villas right after the junction Samsenthai - Lane Xang on Samsenthai road.

The Sacred Heart Church was constructed between 1914 and 1930 east of the main administrative district.

The church served the French colonists and the Vietnamese administration staff.

Lao colonial houses built for the local elite during the French occupation of Laos. This type of house was built until 1950.

Nowadays many of these houses have disappeared .

Lao housing from the French colonial period is clearly different from other colonial housing styles as well as from traditional Lao housing and architecture.

This Lao colonial house is built on stilts and the walls are made of torchis (mixture of straw, lime and sand) covered with whitewash - another characteristic element of this period.

This Lao colonial house is characterized by the use of architectural structures such as twin gables, a large covered balcony, from the outside visible access points and the significant use of wood.

The use of bricks however is a contribution from the European architecture.

While the French colonial government established national libraries in Vietnam and Cambodia, they only created a small city library in Laos.

In 1956 this library became the Vientiane General Library.

Since then, the Library has been moved several times until it became the Lao National Library in its current building on Samsenthai Road.

The Education Printing Office was first constructed in 1910/11 and used as a school. The school was part of the core establishment of colonial buildings I Vientiane area.

Constructed 1925 as Hôtel du commissariat, was then used as Ministry of Defence. 1980, it was turned into the Revolutionary Exhibition Hall. 1985, it was upgraded to become the Lao Revolutionary Museum.

In 2000 it was re-established as the Lao National Museum.

Namphou Fountain belonged together with the area around That Dam to the second settlement zone during the French colonial area. At the Northeastern corner one can find the former police station, built in 1921 – nowadays the Vietnamese tourism office.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The sala - where the Thais and Laotians meet their friends...

A Sala (Thai: ศาลา), is an open pavilion like construction, which is used as a meeting, resting or relaxation place.
It's main purpose is to protect people from the tropical weather phenomenon, such as intense sun and rain.

Most salas are open on four sides. They can be found throughout Thailand and Laos. Originally salas were built within Buddhist temple areas, also know as Wats, but they can also be located in other places, such as road side shelters, in plantations or in front of private houses.

If a person builds a sala within a temple compound or in another public place, the person will gain merit and the respect of the local community.

A sala located on the ground of a temple is called a sala wat.

While some temples have large salas where the public can hear sermons or receive religious instructions other have only small salas or none at all. In Cambodia, sala also refers to school.

In Thailand's and Laos' more rural areas, travelers can use the salas to rest and reflect. A roadside sala is a sala rim thannon and may be used as a bus stop.

Salas in front of private houses are often constructed from wood, bamboo and thatched with a palm tree roof. This natural material allows the air to freely flow, which is especially helpful during the hotter time of the year. The sala is used by the whole family. It serves as storage, working and resting place, but also to meet friends and other people. The sala is a often used socializing place in Thailand and Laos.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Exploring the Sun... - a laotian joke II

Future Exploration

Four delegates from China, Russia, the United States and Lao PDR attended the United Nations' Meeting. All the nations were discussing about space exploration by the year 2010. Here are some of the conversations:

Chinese Delegate: "By the year 2010, China will start their moon exploration project."

Russian Delegate: "We too, we are going to explore the moon. This time we will see to it that our cosmonauts will step on the moon."

American Delegate: "We, the United States will also explore the moon for second time."

The Lao Delegate announced: "By the year 2010, Laos will explore the sun."

There was a long silence, the American stood up and asked the laotian guy: "Isn't it too hot to explore the sun?"

The Laotian said (smiling): "We had this thought out already. We will do it in the evening."

Friday, February 5, 2010

Interesting places in Vientiane: Nam Pasak Spirit House

Nam Pasak Spirit House of the guardian naga lord Inthachakkhunag, one of the nine guardian naga of Vientiane.

During the French colonization the shrine was owned and cared for by the Vietnamese community,

In 2000 the spirit house reverted back to Lao custodianship.

The shrine houses deities of several different religions and is located at the western end of Vientiane's Mekong riverside.

Usually the small shrine is closed. Best chance to get a glimpse of the interior of the spirit house is in the morning when offerings are made and the shrine is cleaned.