On the trail of the great Henri Mouhot

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via Bangkok Post, 05 April 2018: Visiting Luang Prabang and finding the tomb of Henri Mouhot. I featured the tomb in one of my Instagram photos previously.

If you have been to Luang Prabang, you probably have climbed the 300 steps up Phousi, the hill that stands in the middle of the town. From the top, you can see not just the breadth and length of the former Lao capital and a Unesco World Heritage site but also the Mekong River a stone’s throw to the west and the smaller Khan River nearby to the east. The two waterways meet just north of Phousi.

Source: On the trail of the great Henri Mouhot

Categories: Laos


China’s plan for a commercial port at Luang Prabang

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Asia Times, 16 May 2017: A proposed Chinese plan to develop Luang Prabang into a commercial port that can accommodate 500-ton cargo ships has severe repercussions for the environment and cultural status of the World Heritage site.

China’s plan for the Mekong River envisions a big new commercial port at Luang Prabang, a United Nations designated World Heritage site and heart of the Lao tourism industry

Source: Lao cultural treasure faces river trade dilemma | Asia Times

Lecture: Sacred Caves of Tam Ting, Laos

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Readers in Canberra may be interested in this public lecture by Brian Egloff on the Pak Ou Caves at Luang Prabang, Laos.

Sacred Caves of Tam Ting (Pak Ou), Luang Prabang, Laos: Mystery, Splendor and Desecration

The discussion follows more than two decades of investigation and conservation at the Tam Ting Caves, a Lao national heritage monument. The talk is set within the context of the role of UNESCO and ICOMOS in the protection of World Heritage and the illicit trade in cultural property.

Egloff is but one of the many heritage professionals concerned with the conservation of Tam Ting including the Director General Thongsa Sayavongkhamdy, Benita Johnson the head of the conservation program from the University of Canberra, Samelane Luangaphay of the Department of Heritage, Bounarith of the National Art School, and Kristin Kelly co-author. Brian Egloff is Adjunct Professor in the Faculty of Arts and Design, University of Canberra and Honorary Associate Professor at The Australian National University. Past roles were Deputy Directory of the Papua New Guinea National Museum and Art Gallery; Director of the Port Arthur Conservation and Development Project; Associate Professor, University of Canberra; President of ICOMOS ICAHM; and a major input with NSW Indigenous communities regarding their land rights

Members and the public are welcome: This is part of a series of talks organised by Australia ICOMOS. Please do pass this on to those who might be interested.

Refreshments are available appropriate to the talk’s topic! ($5.00 donation appreciated)

Time & Date: 5.00-7.00pm, Thursday 16 March 2017 – Note we start at 5.30pm

Venue – Menzies Room, National Archives of Australia, East Block, Queen Victoria Terrace, Parkes (enter from Kings Avenue side)
RSVP Marilyn Truscott: mct-oz@bigpond.net.au

In Luang Prabang, world heritage listing may have destroyed its soul

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The Haw Pha Bang temple. Source: Skift.com 20160128

Luang Prabang is one of my favourite places in Southeast Asia, but the increased tourism caused by its World Heritage site status is one of the things that is destroying its essence. It’s not just Luang Prabang, however, this article is a critique of tourism management at World Heritage sites.

The Haw Pha Bang temple. Source: Skift.com 20160128

The Haw Pha Bang temple. Source: Skift.com 20160128

UNESCO World Heritage Sites and the Downside of Cultural Tourism
AP, via Skift, 28 January 2016

It is officially described as the best-preserved city in Southeast Asia, a bygone seat of kings tucked into a remote river valley of Laos. Luang Prabang weaves a never-never land spell on many a visitor with its tapestry of French colonial villas and Buddhist temples draped in a languid atmosphere.

But most of the locals don’t live here anymore. They began an exodus from this seeming Shangri-La after their hometown was listed a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995, and sold itself wholesale to tourism.

It’s not an uncommon pattern at some of the 1,031 sites worldwide designated as places of “outstanding universal value” by the U.N. cultural agency: The international branding sparks mass tourism, residents move out as prices escalate or grab at new business opportunities, hastening the loss of their hometown’s authentic character to hyper-commercialization. But locals may also prosper and some moribund communities are injected with renewed energy.

Full story here.

Categories: Laos Tourism


Rock art and sacred sites in Mainland Southeast Asia

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Starting off the week with a post about what I’ve been up to the last six weeks – I’ve been in Thailand and Laos to conduct some fieldwork at rock art sites. I was particularly interested in the connection of rock art with religious (typically Buddhist) sites.

The team at Khao Chan Ngam, in Nakhon Ratchasima province in Thailand

The team at Khao Chan Ngam, in Nakhon Ratchasima province in Thailand

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Bagan and Luang Prabang – sister cities

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Two ancient capitals are named sister cities, following an agreement signed by Myanmar and Laos. Founded around the 8th century, Luang Prabang is a World Heritage Site that was the royal capital of the kingdom with the same name. Bagan was founded in the 9th century but did not become the capital of the Burmese empire until the turn of the firt millenium. It is not a World Heritage Site because the military junta decided to muck up a lot of the restoration work on the many ancient structures that dot the landscape. The agreement to be sister cities is aimed at increasing tourist numbers.

photo credit: poida.smith

photo credit: amsfrank

Bagan, Luang Prabang named sister cities
Myanmar Times & Business Review, 1-7 June 2009
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