Highlights of Vietnam and Laos

shaolin temple

By Christopher Williams

About 10 years ago, when I was about to embark upon my first trip to Vietnam, a colleague shared with me that there was so much to see and do in Vietnam that even a month would not be sufficient time. Well, I gained some more insight into her assessment during my recent sojourn.

During the recent Lunar year celebrations, I traveled to Vietnam and Laos. My sixteen day journey began with a non-stop flight from Guangzhou to Hanoi. After three days in Hanoi, I made my way to Sapa, Dien Bien Phu, Luangprabang, Pakse, Champasak, and Da Nang. I returned to China flying back from Ho Chi Minh City. Each of these places that I visited possessed its own history with many stories to understand.

In China, the Lunar New Year is called the Spring Festival. However, the Vietnamese call their Lunar New Year festivities Tet. Although both the Spring Festival and Tet follow the lunar calendar, both of these annual commemorations take on the particular national characteristics of the two respective countries. In accordance with the lunar calendar, these holidays do not have a fixed date and change each year. Generally, the lunar New Year falls between late January and mid February. Both the Spring Festival and Tet are the most important dates on the Chinese and Vietnamese calendars.

Each day, my trip was an adventure, an exploration into unfamiliar worlds and cultures. Moreover, what I continued to learn in each place that I visited was what historian John Henrik Clarke often described as some of the missing pages of world history. Clarke would usually make this statement in the context of African history. However, I have learned that the missing pages of world history can also be applied to Asia.

Clarke’ observations were especially true when I visited Wat Phou, a Khmer temple in Southern Laos and My Son, the Cham temple ruins in Da Nang. These and many other the monuments and artifacts, especially those that I viewed at the Da Nang’s Cham Museum, provided me with a great amount of intellectual stimulation, greatly enriching my overall experience. Without a doubt, encountering these missing pages of world history tickled my imagination, leaving me with many unanswered questions, more books to read and even more places to visit.

The photographs presented here are just a small part of what I experienced.