Thursday, October 18, 2012

The Children of Laos

On a road trip to North Eastern Laos in September 2011, what I noticed everywhere I went was the children. They seemed to be everywhere, on the roads, in the mountains, markets, rice paddies, schools, workplaces, restaurants and on their bicycles.

Many of the children I encountered were living precariously along the side of the highways (if you could call almost single road lanes that) with their parents in houses made from Bamboo and whatever local jungle products they could use. Many of them had been moved to these roadside villages by the Government of Laos from their villages deep within the jungles and mountains.

It seemed that the poorest were the Hmong people, who seemed to have paid a high price for their resistance to the Laos Communist Party and Government and tacit support of Americans during the Vietnam War.

However, what I have noticed right across Laos and most underdeveloped countries I have visited is the resilience of the people and children in particular.

They may have traffic passing by within centimetres of their homes, but they find somewhere to play and create their own games and are often tasked with the care of younger siblings as you will see in these photographs.

Another thing I noticed was that Laos seemed to be on the move, a lot of children were in school, riding new bicycles, dressed relatively well and seemed to be enjoying some sort of 'normal child lifestyle', that many in more developed countries take for granted. However, this seemed to be isolated to the bigger towns and villages and the further out we got from these the poor the children and their families seemed to be.

What I remember most and what these photographs have brought back to me, is the smiles, sometimes fear and wonder, joy and willingness to approach me and say 'Sabai Dee'.

I also remember the trepidation of some, who may not have seen a foreigner before or at least not one not passing by on a bus. Some were genuinely scared while others just seemed real interested and wanted to touch my skin, hair and especially the hair on my legs and arms which they found to be a real novelty!

All seemed unblemished by the pace of the modern world, which has barely touched many of them, hence their playgrounds are fields, mountains, streams and rivers, not play stations, junk food outlets and tv, which many children in developed nations are subjected to.

The one memory of this trip that will stay with me forever is the little girl below, who was struggling while walking uphill carrying a load of logs in a bag on her back held on by a headstrap. I could not even lift the logs myself.

Anyway enjoy this journey with me through the eyes of The Children of Laos and let me know what you think...

Rob Steer

More Pics on Flickr


  1. Wow...the things we take for granted!!! I just couldn't imagine HKS n RJS carrying ONE log let alone a load of logs!!! Amazing photos Rob, I particularly love 4th one down from top. Well done!

    1. Thanks Gab, much appreciated! Yes the children in some countries do it very very hard, a reality check is always a good thing, but in this case was hard to witness.

  2. Rob, these pics are amazing and your experiences wonderful. These people are so resilient and the children beautiful. Although it would be hard to have to carry those logs, it just goes to show how strong these people are, it was the same in Nepal, seeing kids carrying 10 kilo sacks of rice I could barely hold, I'm not sure it's such a bad thing (that part of it anyway). Thanks for the beautiful look see and the memories that come back.

    1. Thanks Ag for the kind comment and for taking the time. It has been really good starting to look thru these pics, many I have not seen since I first shot them. I have so many photographs to get thru but am getting there. I agree with what you say about the strength of the people and their resilience. It makes me realise just how lucky I am.