Virtual meanderings

Tag Archives: National Museum

Ho-Lao-Graphic Image

        I came across the “Laos National Museum in Luang Prabang” by accident. Not that there was any chance I’d walk by it and miss it, once I was on the main street – I just mean to say that I did not know it was there and I was not looking for it on purpose. On the main street I was doing the usual first rites for a new country – changing money, getting a new SIM card, having a lunch. It was truly a beautiful day – perfect for strolling. And this is how I ended up walking by a high wall with an open gate behind which one could see a big building with a beautiful garden.

        I am the first one to agree that reading an account of a museum visit is as interesting as watching the grass grow (the one thing more boring is writing such an account, actually). Yet here follows a post – a long one, yet really the shortest I could make it! – about – yes, a museum visit.

        In an earlier post about Angkor I played with the idea that inside the complex one could discern – as if it was a holographic image of sorts – Cambodia’s history from the past to the very present. Their markings were right before the visitors’ eyes, yet few seemed to take notice. What about this museum? Well – since here, unlike Angkor, one was not allowed to take photos, it will be more difficult to make a point. But let’s try…


         First some trivia – entrance fee for foreigners was 30,000 kip (3 euros) – by no means a small sum by Lao standards. To make it look like a sweet deal the ticket comprised of three parts – 10,000 kip each – that granted access to separate areas – the museum itself, a Buddhist wat in the garden, and, believe it or not, the King’s Car Collection (hosted in a separate building). Getting a ticket for just one or two of the three? Not possible, of course.

           More trivia: Upon entering I had to take off my shoes – as is commonly done in Thailand and Laos not just when going inside temples, but even when entering shops, etc. (In Thailand I once even had to take my shoes off when entering a bar, as well as – believe it or not – a public restroom). Some places which require you to take off your shoes are so unusual (to the foreigner) that I later set out to find the origins of the custom. Turns out the answer was simple: it was a “relic of the times when taking one’s helmet off meant there was no danger nigh” or perhaps because “in the middle ages garbage and waste was thrown out the window and men would walk outside with very large hats that would catch whatever would be thrown out of the window, so when they went inside they would take their hats off and dump everything out.”

         Oops. Those were in fact the explanations for the Western tradition of taking one’s hat off. As for shoes in Asia – go figure…?!

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