Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Preliminary notes on supernatural locales of Laos

The following are some preliminary notes on supernatural and unusual locales in Laos.

As can be expected, boundaries and territories for phi, weretigers, Nak and Nyak, and other entities are certainly NOT set in stone. We have attempted to restrict entries to the most persistent reports.

Some locales, such as Vientiane and Luang Prabang have far too many individual sites reputedly haunted or occupied to supply a complete listing at this time.

Suggestions are welcome.

1. Attapeu: ອັດຕະປື Once part of the Lan Xang Kingdom under King Saysethathirath, and a famed home to wild buffaloes. Locations of interest include Wat Sakae, which houses a particularly ancient Buddha. King Setthathirat is buried at the temple of Wat Pha Saysettha. Alak, Katang, Kaleum, Katou, Suay, Nge, Lave, Tahoy, and Nyajeung villages can be found here, along with prowling tigers and cloud leopards.

2. Bokèo: ບໍ່ແກ້ວ Previously known as Hua Khong, meaning "Head of the Mekong." It is the smallest and least populous province in Laos. Currently named after the sapphires mined in Houay Xai District. A stele dated to 1458 is located in Wat Jom Kao Manilat. The Bokeo Nature Reserve was created to protect the black-crested gibbon, previously thought to be extinct but rediscovered in 1997.

3. Bolikhamsai: ບໍລິຄໍາໄຊ is a province of Laos, located in the middle of the country. The province is home to Nam Theun 2 Dam. The province endured many invasions throughout its history. The Saola (spindle horn) or Vii Quang Ox, has often been sighted here. At Wat Phabath a very large “footprint” of Lord Buddha and numerous murals can be found here.

4. Champasak: ຈຳປາສັກ has a rich cultural heritage including ancient temple ruins and French colonial architecture. At least 20 wats are here. Its ancient history is traced to the 9th century, associated with the Funan and Chenla kingdoms. By 1349, it was under the control of King Fa Ngum. The Li Phi Falls are believed to trap ghosts and spirits in the rapids, alternating between stunningly beautiful and scorching depending on the season. Many corpses floated through the Li Phi Falls from the north during various wars.

5. Houaphanh: ແຂວງ ຫົວພັນ is the home to the Viengxay caves, an extensive network of caves, and fine textile traditions.The Viengxay caves are also referred to as a “Hidden Cave City.” Hintang Archaeological Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site nominee, is dotted with about 2,000 years old menhirs and megaliths considered "the Stonehenge of Laos,” referred to locally as Sao Hin Tang. Funerary burial sites with artifacts of ancient trinkets and other evidence of ancient rites have been unearthed here. Overall, these archaeological discoveries suggest cultures older than those found at the Plain of Jars. Local animists believe stone discs at the site once fed Jahn Han, a sky spirit.

6. Khammouane: ຄໍາມ່ວນ is mostly forested mountainous terrain. Many streams flow through the province to join the Mekong River. Tham Khonglor Cave (meaning: “Beauty in the Dark”) in Hinboun Mountain extends almost 7.4 kilometers. A branch of the nomadic Tongluong forest people reside here.

7. Luang Namtha: ຫລວງນໍ້າທາ, literally "Royal Sugar Palm"or "Royal Green River". From 1966 to 1976 it formed with Bokeo the province of Houakhong. The history of Luang Namtha Province is traced to inhabitants from 6,000 years ago, evidenced by archaeological finds of stone implements discovered from the Nam Jook River Valley in Vieng Phoukha. There are some 20 temples in Muang Sing.

8. Luang Prabang: ຫຼວງພຣະບາງ was the capital of Lane Xang Kingdom during the 13th to 16th centuries. It is listed since 1975 by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site for unique architectural, religious and cultural heritage, a blend of the rural and urban developments over several centuries, including the French colonial influences during the 19th and 20th centuries. Many Nak and other entities are reputed to dwell here or in the nearby caves and jungles.

9. Oudomxay: ອຸດົມໄຊ has long been the home to many of the Khmu. Muang La is an important Buddhist pilgrimage for Theravada Buddhists in the province. Saymoungkhoune Rattana Stupa located here has a highly revered Buddha image, which is 400 years old and reportedly hassupernatural powers. Chom Ong Cave, the longest cave in Laos, was explored by a team of cave researchers during between 2009-2011 and reported to be 18.4 km long. The cave is considered the second longest in Laos and 9th longest in South East Asia.

10. Phôngsali: ຜົ້ງສາລີ Its culture is historically heavily influenced by China and was relatively untouched by the wars of the 20th century. Many undiscovered species are suspected to live among the remote rugged mountains and lush forests. Over 28 different ethnic groups live here, notably Khmu, Phounoy, Akha, Tai Lue and Hor. The Nam Ou is the largest tributary to the Mekong River. At 1,400 meters above sea level, Phôngsali Town is considered the highest town in the entire nation.The province is acclaimed for its green tea.

11. Salavan: ສາລະວັນ has significant mountains and wide valleys formed by volcanic activity. It is home to the Bolaven Plateau, a key agricultural area with coffee as the dominant crop. Tahoy town is where 30,000 Tahoy reside, who practice shamanism and animism. During Tahoy festivals, they erect totems in the form of a diamond to warn outsiders not to enter the town.Tigers are a common sight, which keeps residents indoors during nightfall.

12. Savannakhét: ສະຫວັນນະເຂດ derives from Savanh Nakhone, "City of Paradise" or "Land of Fertility." Prehistoric culture is evidenced by stone tools dating between 100,000 and 12,000 years old, with bronze tools from 2000 BCE. The Pha That Sikhottabong stupa is situated on the grounds of a 19th century monastery. At least five fossil sites are in the province, including one dating back 110 million years ago.

13. Vientiane: ວຽງຈັນ The great Laotian epic, the Phra Lak Phra Lam, claims Prince Thattaradtha founded the city when he left the legendary Lao kingdom of Muong Inthapatha Maha Nakhone. The Vangxang Cave also called the "Elephant Court" contains remnants of an ancient sanctuary of the Lan Xang Kingdom. The That Luang Stupa was initially built in 1566 during the reign of King Saysethathirath. The Xieng Khouan Buddha Park built in 1958 has Buddhist and Hindu sculptures created by Bunleua Sulilat. Reputedly, if you accepted a drink from him, you would one day give him all of your money. That Dam stupa is rumored to be the home of a sleeping Nak who once awoke to drive off invaders.

14. Sainyabuli: ໄຊຍະບູລີ; is home to Laos’ majority of domesticated Asian elephants. Approximately 75% of the nation's 560 domesticated elephants work in Sainyabuli. Wat Simungkhun in Hongsa is reputed to have a hole "'leading to the end of the world". Rumors of Yeti persist in the region.

15. Sekong: ເຊກອງ is the second smallest province in Laos and among the most remote areas of Laos. Many of its largest villages are virtually inaccessible by road for at least half of the year. Home to the Dakchung Plateau, five Lao Teung cultures make their home here, many citing spiritual links to the land. Sekong Souk Samlane Hotel is particularly rumored to be haunted.

16. Xieng Khouang: ຊຽງຂວາງ, the “Horizontal City" found on the Xieng Khouang Plateau, home to the Plain of Jars. The creators of the massive jars are unknown. Many ghosts reside here from various conflicts over the centuries. Some histories of Xieng Khouang suggests links with the Tai Phuan.

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