First time in Laos was in 1993. Twenty years ago, the country was much less open, it was a challenge to get entry visas and nobody could travel further than a few kilometers around Vientiane without strictly controlled authorisations. The country was under a paramilitary regime applying strict control, severe repression and communist propagand with little openness to the wider world. Attacks could occur on some roads (from supposedly rebels) at these times. The regime has become more flexible the last ten years and an economic turnaround occurred, as a consequence tourism and security improved a lot. Lack of openness has nevertheless probably protected Laos from the negative impacts of mass tourism like in some neighbouring countries. Fortunately, the recent changes did not harm so much the original characteristic Lao experience, a mix of great quietness, beauty, nature and culture. Today is the oppotunity to rediscover this place after a pretty turbulent history, now peaceful and getting increasingly attractive at each visit.

Luang Prabang, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1995, is a must-see typical and preserved Asia city, long protected by its isolation in the middle of the mountains of northern Laos. The city is situated alongside the broad river-scenery of the Mekong and houses many temples, pagodas, Buddha statues, reflecting an artsy side in many ways. The Mekong cruise to Luang Prabang is undoubtedly the next item in the Todo list for another trip.

The Xieng Khouang area, one of the kingdoms that formed Laos, has also an ancient history that probably goes back more than a couple of thousand years. At an average altitude of 1200m, the province is home of antic megalithic jars of imposing dimensions. Their precise history and origin are still unclear but a broad consensus supports the interpretation of prehistoric funeral practices. the Plain of Jars, sometimes referred to as a south-east Asian version of Stonehenge, is therefore considered one of the most important sites for studying Southeast Asian prehistory.

It is even less widely known that Laos is the country that has been the most heavily bombed in the entire history of mankind, more than Vietnam, Afganistan or Irak. Hundreds of bombing raids were carried out each month on Laos during the period between 1964 and 1973, despite its neutral position. The Plain of Jars was particularly subject to these massive air strikes in the secret war americans never reckoned to have had in Laos. Today we know more precisely about the excessiveness of the US Rolling Thunder program. We also know about their total uselessness as it has been proven that the region was not on the Ho Chi Minh trail providing support to the Vietnamese forces. Thousands of UXO and scraps continue to arm and kill innoncent people weekly, among which children, and this for decades to come. One of the most indignant demonstration of the US and CIA hidden facts and out of proportion abuses in the world.

Wet season is usually an overlooked period to visit since roads are at their worst, but it’s also when the scenic landscape is at its best. Most information found stated that rehabilitation of the road and bridges between Phonsavan and Paxsan was completed end of 2012. Actually a great part of the road is somewhat good (by laotian standards), but I doubt this will last considering the exposure to numerous rock, tree slides and thick mud. About 80km to Paxsan, you leave for a narrow and winding route which is pretty impractical to say the least. However busses, minivans and even trucks take this road daily and many end up totally stuck in the mud at some point. A truly long and arduous journey is part of a genuine experience in Laos.

Dead fish

Over-inflated people react, they don’t act. They have no firm hold on their emotions. I found this out years ago from a well known elite academy where I properly observed the ability of these places to be a spot for definitely a few bright minds, but also for a number of wealthy short-minded characters who haven’t got it all figured out. Taking oneself too seriously is probably a part of the problem, lack of life humbling experience is probably the other one. These conceited people deserved a post lately, because this viewpoint is proving to be relevant again. Stimulating environments with great minds are also places full of self-righteous over inflated clowns. They can’t separate, it’s like the other side of the coin. The trouble with them, apart from blowing hot hair and whining all the time, is they also tend to offer cheap lessons to blur their lack of perspective. If you are a folk somewhat a little outside the box, you will inevitably pull at their nerves at some point. You would be surprised how far their bad faith and frustration-directed extend. Not that I really care, I haven’t given a damn to outside opinions for some time now. However there should be an international “asshole” day to recall these specimen to relax a little bit and stop fucking around.

I am not devoting my time to my job. I feel sorry for those guys who do and become pretty frustrated with that. Life is short, there’s a lot more to experiment and following roads that do not lead to Rome is a great (though badly viewed) path forward. I love to waste big amounts of time, like for example to find my monthly share of real waves. Everything comes at a price but the payoff is worth it. Last time was a little bigger, the sun was out and it was nice. As I like to surf hollow waves with a 5’6 fish, I ended up eating a good amount of sand. That’s part of the fun. That’s how the game is out there.

Too big or not too big?

A promising frontal system with gusty SSE winds was expected earlier this month. It finally set up a large swell that rather hit Spain and the western breaks of the french mediterranean. Despite all maps showing 8ft+ on our shores days earlier, it ended up small wrecked by the wind. However here you know the best forecasts result in shitty waves all the time so you learn to appreciate what you have. You can’t really judge from the photo, but it’s 3 foot double-ups and closeouts. Good from afar, far from good, but it was the only game in town.

Declaration of dependence

I am by no means considering myself a core surfer. Surfing isn’t really in my blood, it’s hard to catch a big wave in the Mediterranean. However, there is a kind of addiction in it which is difficult to resist and even more to explain. “Only a surfer knows the feeling”, the usual expression, is a rather grotesque slogan over exploited by corporate advertising bulshit in the unique goal to sell clothes. I guess the reasons have better to do with some kind of perfect visions of nature and the connection that comes from playing with them. I have already spent a fair amount of energy in search of this over the years, sometimes until far remote places of the world. I turned 40 the other day and it seems that getting enough is not for tomorrow. Despite the colossal waste of time it is, like Dora used to say, I intend to keep on doing this for a while, probably as long as I can in fact.

Understand kids?

Storm in a teacup

Interesting to see how pumping waves in the Mediterranean Sea are often associated with weird borderline climatic conditions. Storms lashing especially the French Riviera are rare, but not unheard of. There’s usually a few prominent cases every year, of which only a few deliver actual swell up to our southeastern shores. The Mediterranean provides relatively little surface area making it tough for tropical like storms to develop, however it happens and when it does, storm in a tea cup is really what it’s all about.

This one was generated last week by a 992 HPa depression a hundred miles or so west of Corsica island. This configuration is a best-case scenario as it turns on solid south swells, two magic words for hundreds of desperate guys in this part of Europe.