This was my first big trip after taking my photography class, and I want you to know I shot all of these photos on manual. Some of them aren’t as great as I’d hoped, but I’m learning!
We met up with a friend of my dad’s who lives in Vientiane and teaches English. She had to teach later in the day, so she’s wearing a traditional Lao shirt. Unlike Vietnam or China, many Laotians still wear their traditional clothing as daily wear. The school girl’s uniforms included similar skirts. For the most part, women only wear skirts, and they drop below the knee. They also cover their shoulders in most situations, so there was a big contrast with the tourists running around in short shorts and bikini tops.
Even the political heroes get a bow and a prayer, and probably some snacks and a few candles, too. Don’t be like me; take your shoes off before walking up to the shrine.
The interesting thing about Vientiane (and very much in contrast with Ho Chi Minh City), is that there are modern coffee shops, restaurants and shops, but none of them are the international chains. Instead, they all appear to be independently run, local businesses. We sampled mango smoothies and free wifi at a local coffee shop/bakery (and, let’s be honest, the occasional chocolate chip cookie) almost every day. In the morning it would be full of tourist backpackers and expats, but in the afternoons it would fill up with school kids (in private school uniforms, because this kind of a place wouldn’t be accessible to the average Laotian) and young and upcoming urban professionals, a horde of scooters parked out front.
And yet, in the hustle and bustle of modern life, there are the temple complexes sprinkled around the city. This is the largest, with something like six temples tucked around a terracotta tile mall.
That pillow does not look very comfortable. I’d take my tiny piece of hotel foam over that.
Everything was so inexpensive, but needed to be paid in Lao kip. Our hotel was something like $18 a night. It had hot water, a/c, and a rock hard mattress that left me with bruised hips. But it was clean!
If I ever lived in Laos, I’d probably go into the power-washing business. At little water pressure would do wonders for the gray on the shrines.
After a while, all the gold and ornate-ness becomes overwhelming to the senses.
This was a working monastery; where the monks lived in the building next door, and ate and worshiped here.
So here’s what I learned in photography class:
In a lighting situation like this, you can either expose for the outside light or the shadowed interior area, but not both.