None of these are particularly great 'pictures' but thay are very indicative of things I saw that really piqued my interest as being soooo different from my world. We had gotten into a reasonably sized town in Northern Laos. It had changed markedly since I had been there 7 years before and some of the landmarks I remembered were gone. It was an active Lao town but, compared to anything in the West, it was the developing world. More small guesthouses, even a bank and atms but the streets were still mostly dirt or pebbles over tar. The town was Luang Nam Tha and was near a very large nature preserve and just a few miles from China, 4 hours by bus from the Thai border and about 12 hours, also bus, from Viet nam. The entry to Vietnam is near Dien Bien Phu. DBP is a landmark for a French tourists because the defeat of teh French there represents the tide turning against colonialism in SE Asia. There are ~8,000 kip to the dollar so 2.2 lbs of laundry done for $1.75 There are strange contrast; some cars, some buses and trucks, then water buffalos pulling carts and people carrying loads - the same as for the last 1000 years - except wearing rubber flip-flops. Children seem to be adored and cared for and handled by everyone. The children are generally sweet and charming and friendly and beautiful. This is a picture from 2007 and I was showing an Akha woman a collage of my grandchildren. She called other women over to see. Western children are very rare in Laos today and in 2007 even more so.. In a strange twist, this woman and her sisters are still selling trinkets - and pot and hash and opium - in that same town and I saw them. These diesel donkey engines are everywhere, pulling implements or loads or actually built into erectorset-like trucks. Just as we in Western languages often spell Asian names in different ways because of the difficulty in translating sounds we don't use into our spelling, the Lao have some trouble with English words. Any town that big enough to have tourists is large by Lao standards and thus has a large market to serve people from surrounding villages. Food is difficult to identify and I tend to stick to things that are cooked while I watch. I do make an exception for baked foods and Laos seems to have inherited the taste for pastries from the French because the pastries are excellent and Lao coffee is superb, very strong but served with sweetened condensed milk. Entire families - and a bag of stuff - fit on the small motorcycles. There isn't a country or people that I like and enjoy more than the Lao. I will carry the memories from there forever.