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Laos: The Last Paradise

Click on the image above
for details of Denise's new book
on Luang Prabang

Hilltribe woman, Laos
Hilltribe woman, Laos
2021 Denise Heywood

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That Luang, Laos
2021 Denise Heywood

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Monks in Luang Prabang
2021 Denise Heywood

High in the mist-shrouded mountains of northern Laos, cut through by the broad Mekong river, is Luang Prabang, a town of glittering Buddhist temples and barefoot monks. Remote and serene, Luang Prabang is often referred to as a Shangri La. It is a treasure-trove of Laos's artistic heritage, with ornately carved wooden temples covered in golden frescoes dating back to the 14th century Kingdom of Lane Xang, the 'Land of a Million Elephants', and colonial architecture from the French protectorate, a unique fusion of the urban styles of 19th century Europe with Lao motifs.

Denise visited Laos numerous times while living in Cambodia, exploring Vientiane, the quiet riverine capital, and travelling to the far north and the border with China. She visited villages where hill-tribes such as the Hmong, Yao and Akha live traditional lives, the women adorned with silver head-dresses and heavy necklaces, and silk and linen costumes woven by hand.

But this was almost a lost paradise. In the 1970s Laos was drawn into the war with Vietnam, and this landlocked country, with a population of only 4.5 million, became the most heavily bombed nation on earth. After the communist takeover in 1975, it was closed to visitors.

In the 1990s Laos cautiously reopened and Denise was among the first visitors to discover its fragile culture, spectacular scenery, and a way of life hardly touched by the modern world

'Your lecture was without any doubt one of the very best I have had the pleasure to introduce in 15 years of presenting Sixth Specials here.'
Leighton Park School
'A wonderful lecture with beautiful slides.'
Asia House

'Your subject, Laos, was extremely well received and opened our eyes to a completely new horizon. You wove a fascinating picture of people, places and culture … your enchanting presentation was splendidly illustrated with captivating slides'
Royal Scottish Geographical Society

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