• About Julie

    NJ native without the accent or the big hair. Currently residing in Beijing. Teaching English. Absorbing all things China. Exploring SE Asia.

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    Feel free to drop me a message: juliekhull at gmail

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Photo submission to BBC news “In Pictures”

BBC News has a page called In Pictures and they publish reader’s submissions at the bottom of the page under the appropriately-named Your Pictures.  Each week they publish a gallery of submissions based around a different theme.  This week’s theme is “Comfort”: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/in_pictures/8480321.stm

During the week of February 16 the theme is “water” and I have submitted this picture, taken in Laos on my backpacking trip last winter:

Who: Julie K. Hull
What: Mekong River Sunset
Where: Mekong River – Vientiane, Laos (Lao/Thai border)
When: January 11, 2009

With a population of just half a million people, Vientiane is the capital of Laos, Southeast Asia’s most sparsely populated country and the most bombed nation on earth.  Many people die each year from unexploded ordnance (UXO) left over from the Indochina War.  Located on the banks of the Mekong River, Vientiane is full of rich contrast which hints at the country’s troubled past: noodles and baguettes, Buddhist monasteries and French architecture, rice paddies and tree-lined streets.  Life is decidedly slower in this skyscraper-less corner of the world that has been called ‘Southeast Asia’s biggest village,’ but steer clear of the Mekong River’s Lao-Thai border at night because Lao militia have been known to shoot at boats after dark!

If you see it up there, let me know!  🙂

Amy & Evie to Beijing

I haven’t really written much about the trip I took during Spring Festival.  We took a bus from Kunming (southern China) through northern Laos to Luang Prabang.  That sounds relatively simple and uneventful, but I assure you it doesn’t even begin to describe the weaving and winding mountain roads through this rugged, breathtaking, and utterly poor corner of the world.

  • Laos (the “s” is silent), a communist land-locked former French colony, is the least-populated country in Asia.  The Japanese also occupied its capital during WWII.  It’s slightly larger than Utah.
  • The average age is 19.  Literacy is 69%.  8,700 kip = 1 US dollar.
  • Laos is the most bombed country on earth.  Between 1964 and 1973 Laos was hit by an average of one B-52 bomb-load every eight minutes for twenty-four hours every day.  The U.S. dropped more ordnance in Laos during this time than its sum total during WWII.  The effects of this bombing campaign are far-reaching: there are eighty million unexploded ordnance (UXO) and for this reason the northern part of the country is covered in jungle with very few people.

This 27-hour bus trip from H-E-double-hockey-sticks was complete with motion sickness, vomiting, chickens and giant rats on the floor of the bus (for someone’s dinner), bad Thai action movies, ear-grating karaoke music videos, washed-out roads, and sharing bunks with Chinese men.  But scenery like this is eroding the memories of the not-so-nice parts of the trip:

Okay, so maybe I lied. The bus experience still lingers. But it was pretty.

Me, Amy, Evie, Anna

Me, Amy, Evie, Anna

We also befriended some fellow travelers, four Americans teaching English in Qinhuangdao.  They do work similar to ours, and our shared China experiences combined with the extended bus situation makes me feel like they are fast friends even though I barely know them.  One of them, Amy, and her friend Evie came to visit us in Beijing this weekend!  We moved our furniture out of the apartment to make room for them to camp out on our living/dining room floor.  We enjoyed hanging out with them and not going to bed early at all.  🙂  They left this afternoon to go home but Anna and I hope to visit them in Qinhuangdao one weekend.