7 Jaw-Dropping Architectural Masterpieces

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TRIP TRIVIA)

 

7 Jaw-Dropping Architectural Masterpieces

Of all the artistic works we humans have come up with over the years, our architectural achievements may be the most powerful. Great architecture combines form and function; it serves a purpose while acting as a symbol of the culture that created it. Much of our understanding of ancient cultures comes from the architecture they left behind, making it a crucial part of world history and our understanding of civilization as a whole.

If you get a chance, pay a visit to a few of these jaw-dropping masterpieces to get a full idea of how powerful architecture can be.

Wat Rong Khun (White Temple), Chiang Rai, Thailand

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Created in 1997 by Thai artist Chalermchai Kositpipat, the White Temple is one of the newest architectural wonders on this list, though it certainly deserves its place. A sparkling wonder of white plaster and glass, the White Temple is an artistic expression that combines traditional Thai beliefs with modern culture.

Though the exterior of the temple was designed in the Buddhist fashion common in Thai temples, the interior contains an expansive series of pop culture imagery, including depictions of Spider-Man, The Terminator, Michael Jackson, and more. Yes, really. And while photos of the inside of the temple are prohibited by Thai law, seeing the exterior alone should be enough to give you an idea of the grandeur of this bizarre project.

Great Wall of China

Credit: SeanPavonePhoto / iStock

Yes, China’s Great Wall certainly makes our list. And while it’s not the easiest architectural wonder for Americans to reach, it’s worth the trip. Sections of the 13,000+ mile wall were built as far back as the 7th century BCE, with new additions and revisions made over the next several thousand years.

There’s not much else to say about this one, because you already know it! The Great Wall of China is one of the most enduring works out there, with historians agreeing that it’s one of the most impressive architectural feats in human history.

Nasir al-Mulk Mosque, Shiraz, Iran

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Known casually as “the Pink Mosque,” the design of the Nasir al-Mulk Mosque is stunning.

This isn’t your grandma’s mosque; rather than the plain grays and slates typical of religious buildings, the Pink Mosque features a kaleidoscope of color, with pink floor tiles, rainbow stained glass, and painted geometric patterns adorning every interior wall. The outside is similarly impressive, but for this one, you really need to go inside to see its most impressive elements.

Colosseum, Rome, Italy

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Another architectural favorite, the Colosseum is one of those ancient works that always seems to capture our imaginations. Completed around 80 AD, modern scholars believe that the Colosseum represents the brutality of Imperial Rome, noting its dark history of public executions, gladiator matches, and violent chariot races.

Despite its brutal history, it’s hard to ignore the Colosseum’s beauty as an architectural achievement. Reported to hold anywhere from 50,000 to 80,000 spectators in its prime, it dwarfs many modern arenas and serves as a constant (and fragmented) reminder of a lost world.

Santorini/Thera, Greece

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If you ever find yourself in Greece, stop by the island of Santorini. One of many islands on the Aegean Sea, Santorini doesn’t feature one specific architectural achievement. Instead, the whole island can be considered an architectural achievement, acting as a modern representation of ancient Cycladic architecture.

On the island, you’ll see a series of white painted villages dotting red island cliffs, with residents adorning their homes in bright yellow, cyan, and red. Combined with the lush greenery of the region and its proximity to the deep blue Aegean, the whole island bursts forth in vivid colors and unique cliffside architecture unlike any you’ll see in the world.

Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco, USA

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The Golden Gate Bridge is a masterpiece of engineering if we’ve ever seen one. The bridge’s impressive length of 1.7 miles is matched by its height, standing a cool 220 feet above the waters of the Golden Gate Strait. Designed primarily by Charles Alton Ellis, the Golden Gate Bridge is one of the most enduring modern architectural works in the United States, even being named one of the “Seven Wonders of the Modern World” by the American Society of Civil Engineers.

Sagrada Familia, Barcelona, Spain

Credit: TomasSereda / iStock

One of the most visually striking buildings on this list, the Sagrada Familia basilica is an unfinished Roman Catholic church designed by Antoni Gaudi in 1852. However, despite Gaudi devoting his life to the building’s creation, he would die with less than a quarter of the project complete. And while a current team of architects is working to finish what Gaudi started, the fact that the church is unfinished is a selling point to many of the basilica’s 2.5 million annual visitors. With a surprisingly modern design approach that blends traditional church architecture with Gothic elements, this one is worth a visit—finished or not.

Monuments to Culture

From China to Italy to right here in the U.S., our architectural monuments are more than just buildings. They’re tributes to our culture. If you ever get a chance to scope out one of these engineering marvels, we suggest you take it. These wonders won’t be around forever, and when they go, they’ll take huge chunks of history with them.

Indian students’ arrests puts focus on underbelly of China medical colleges

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES OF INDIA)

 

Indian students’ arrests puts focus on underbelly of China medical colleges

The agents often become incommunicado after extracting lakhs from the families and a commission from the college, leaving students confused and stranded in a foreign country with no grasp of the local language and without family or peer backup.

WORLD Updated: Jun 24, 2019 15:50 IST

Sutirtho Patranobis
Sutirtho Patranobis
Hindustan Times, Beijing
Chinese medical colleges,Indian students,MBBS
More than 21,000 Indian students are studying MBBS across 100 Chinese universities. And the number is increasing.(FILE PHOTO.)

The recent arrest, expulsion, and deportation of Indian students studying in medical colleges in China for drug abuse has raised dual concerns about the quality of campus life here and the lack of information available to foreign students about Chinese law.

It also puts the focus on the soft underbelly of Chinese medical colleges where a nexus of interests between a few India-based agents and some university officials has misled students, promising them top facilities but delivering less.

The agents often become incommunicado after extracting lakhs from the families and a commission from the college, leaving students confused and stranded in a foreign country with no grasp of the local language and without family or peer back-up.

It becomes more difficult for “first generational learners” who have moved to China from smaller cities in India and find themselves in a world that is entirely foreign in terms of lifestyle, language, culture and even teaching methodology in colleges.

Several cases of depression, in fact, have been reported among Indian students who have not been able to adjust to life in China.

More than 21,000 Indian students are studying MBBS across 100 Chinese universities. And the number is increasing.

On an average, at least 3000 to 3500 Indian students annually enroll at medical colleges, attracted by less rigorous admission procedures and cheaper tuition fees.

The facilities at some Chinese colleges are also said to be better than Indian universities.

Involvement in drug-related cases, however, is becoming the big worry for families as it attracts strict penalties from authorities here; the numbers aren’t big but the trend is worrying.

A few Indian students were recently deported for using drugs in one university; in another case, passports of a few more were seized by the police and they were expelled from the college.

In May, 15 foreign students were arrested on drug-related charges at the Dalian Medical University; three were Indian.

According to Chinese law, if deported, the student cannot return to China to finish the MBBS degree, adding a hefty financial loss to the mental anguish and stress on them and their families.

The Chinese education ministry didn’t respond to a list of questions sent by HT on the problems faced by Indian students in China.

The email to the ministry mentioned specific issues faced by them.

The ministry remained silent to the question whether its officials had ever looked into the problems faced by the large number of Indian students coming to China to study.

Sources told HT that for many students the world of a Chinese college could well be different from the one promised by agents in India.

Easy availability of drugs is just one of the problems.

The quality of teachers in certain colleges is questionable with many professors unable to teach in English. As a result, the quality of education suffers. Students complain that many professors teach only through power-point presentations, which aren’t backed by discussions and they, the students, are often left to fend for themselves.

At some places, the shocking practice of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) doctors teaching MBBS courses has been reported.

At some others, students get little clinical exposure and a few medical colleges don’t even have attached hospitals where they can complete their mandatory medical attachment or internship.

In one case, a batch of Indian students was flown to Moscow this year to complete their internship at a Russian medical college.

In certain cases, students were promised better facilities like single or double-room accommodation but later made to share one room with a number of students.

For many Indian students, sourcing vegetarian or Indian food becomes a chore though they are promised easy access to Indian food by agents.

Recently, the Indian embassy released an official notification from the Chinese education ministry, a list of 45 Universities in China that are authorized to give admission to foreign students (including Indian students) to undertake MBBS degree course (in the English language) in China for the year 2019.

These 45 colleges are different from the 214, which also offer MBBS but in the Chinese language.

Many Indian students, however, are grappling with some problem or the other at nearly all colleges, HT has learned.

Indian students in China (All-time high): 23198

Indian students studying medicine: 21000+

Number of Indian students in China is fourth after South Korea, Thailand, Pakistan.

Number of foreign students in China: 492185

Source: Education Ministry, the Indian Embassy.

First Published: Jun 23, 2019 17:32 IST

5 Great Places That Are Now Off Limits Because Of Tourism

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TRAVEL TRIVIA)

 

5

Places That Are Now Off Limits Thanks to Tourists

Over tourism is a problem in a lot of places around the globe. Natural places, especially, are susceptible as they can easily see negative human impacts. Some places simply aren’t built to handle so many people, and can be effectively ruined by our simple presence. Of course, littering is another big reason certain places are heavily impacted. Here are five places that are now off limits thanks to tourists.

Mt. Everest Base Camp, Tibet

Mt. Everest Base Camp, Tibet

Credit: Scott Biales/Shutterstock

The Chinese base camp is accessible by car, and has been closed to tourists without hiking permits because of the increased amount of waste left by visitors. The Nepalese base camp is only accessible by a two-week hike, making it difficult to reach for a typical tourist. That’s why so many head to Tibet. Or that’s why they did, at least. Only 300 permits will be issued each year, and with the recent deaths of 11 climbers, it’s not unreasonable to think that number could be chopped down.

Boracay Island, Philippines

Boracay Island, Philippines

Credit: haveseen/Shutterstock

While this island in the Philippines has reopened, it’s still undergoing restoration and is under the threat of closing once again. It closed in 2018 to visitors for about six months to recover from heavy tourism and utility issues like sewage running into the ocean from nearby hotels. It was used as a party island, essentially, since the 1980s, and saw 1.7 million visitors in a 10-month span in recent years, many of them from cruise ships passing through. It has strict new rules like “don’t vomit in public.” There are also bans on pets, grilling meat, fireworks after 9 p.m., casinos and single-use plastics.

Komodo Island, Indonesia

Komodo Island, Indonesia

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With the island’s famous inhabitants, the Komodo dragons, being stolen and sold on the black market in recent years, Indonesia’s Komodo Island has been closed to tourists through at least January 2020. Millions of visitors to an island that can’t handle that impact has also been an issue. Other islands that are part of Komodo National Park remain open.

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Maya Bay, Thailand

Maya Bay, Thailand

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Famous for being in Leonardo DiCaprio’s The Beach (2000), Thailand’s Maya Bay saw a massive increase in visitors after the film. Before, it only had some 100 people on its shores every day. By 2018, it was 5,000 a day. In June 2018, the country’s department of national parks, wildlife and plant conservation announced they would be closing the beach temporarily — maybe a couple of months. However, the damage was so severe that it’s still closed today, having been indefinitely off limits to visitors since October 2018. Authorities may not have a set reopen date but are working to determine the true capacity of the beach, which will make human impact more minimal.

Fjadrárgljúfur Canyon, Iceland

Fjadrárgljúfur Canyon, Iceland

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The most recent victim of overtourism is Iceland’s stunning Fjadrárgljúfur Canyon. Blame Justin Bieber. More than 1 million people visited the area since the pop star released a music video filmed there in 2015. The country itself has also received a massive uptick in visitors — up to 2.3 million in 2018 from 600,000 just eight years ago. With that in mind, Gudmundur Ingi Gudbrandsson, the Minister of the Enviroment, said it is “a bit too simplistic to blame the entire situation on Justin Bieber.” But we’re going to anyway, because he added: “Rash behavior by one famous person can dramatically impact an entire area if the mass follows.” And it did. The canyon also requires only a half-mile or so of hiking to reach the panoramic views. Fences, signs and park rangers are in place to keep people out, but the number of people who try to go is still overwhelming.

3 Stunning Palaces You Should See

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TRAVEL TRIVIA)

 

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3 Stunning Palaces You Should See

More often than not the homes of emperors, heads of states, monarchs and other important dignitaries, palaces, are some of the world’s most spectacular works of architecture. Here’s three magnificent examples that you should definitely see in your lifetime. While the dignitaries may not reside there anymore, you can still experience the opulent lifestyles they once lived.

Alhambra, Spain

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Perched on a hilltop above the Andalusian city of Granada, the Alhambra is among Spain’s most exquisite Islamic monuments. Designed by the Nasrid sultans and built in the 1400s, it blends a fortress with Moorish palaces and landscaped gardens. Once the royal palace of Yusuf I, Sultan of Granada, it became the royal court of Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella I in 1492 and was later redeveloped by kings Charles I, Charles V and Philip V. Today this UNESCO-protected monument welcomes over 8,000 visitors on a daily basis.

With so much to see and understand it could be worth booking a guided tour of the Alhambra. There’s the exquisite Moorish-style courtyards and living quarters of the Nasrid Palaces. See the Renaissance Palace of Charles V, home to the thematic exhibitions of the Museum of the Alhambra. Inside the ruins of the Alcazaba citadel, the Torre de la Vela watchtower offers sublime views of Granada and the Sierra Nevada mountains. Wander amid the gardens of the Generalife summer palace, complete with Baroque courtyards, flowerbeds, fountains and ponds.

Plan your visit to the Alhambra.

Château de Chambord, France

Credit: Vladimir Sazonov/Shutterstock

Blending medieval designs with classical Renaissance features, the Château de Chambord is arguably the finest example of French Renaissance architecture on the planet. King François I established the chateau in 1519 as a hunting lodge in the Loire Valley; however, he only stayed here for about 40 days. All-but abandoned for over a century, it wasn’t until the reign of Louis XIV that construction was completed. The sumptuous royal residence features over 400 rooms and 282 fireplaces. Of its 84 staircases, the double-helix staircase was allegedly inspired by Leonardo da Vinci.

Over 60 rooms are open to the public, spread throughout which is a permanent exhibition of 4,500 artifacts and art pieces. Don’t miss the bedchambers, 18th-century kitchens and vaults. The double helix staircase leads to the rooftop and a panoramic view of the cupolas, domes, turrets and surrounding woodland. Drive an electric boat around the chateau’s canal, watch a bird of prey show and attend a joust. Explore the formal gardens along 14 miles of trails on foot, by bike and via horse-drawn carriage rides.

Plan your visit to the Château de Chambord.

The Grand Palace, Thailand

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One of Bangkok’s most recognizable landmarks dates back to 1782, when King Rama I made the city Thailand’s capital and built his royal residence. Until 1925 The Grand Palace was the home of the Thai monarch, the royal court and government. Today it is a location for royal ceremonies, a place of worship and popular tourist attraction. The walled palace sits on the banks of the Chao Phraya River with a majestic fusion of Thai, Asian and European architectural styles.

Follow monks in red-colored robes to the Temple of the Emerald Buddha (Wat Phra Kaew), where worshippers pray at a revered Buddha statue. See opulent royal thrones in the Amarind Hall and Dusit Maha Prasat audience hall. The Boromabiman Hall displays French influences and the Chakri Maha Prasat Hall is a neoclassical royal residence. Don’t miss the model of Cambodia’s Angkor Wat, the imposing Demon Guardians and the statue of Cheewok Komaraphat, who was the father of Thai herbal medicine.

How preserving folktales and legends help raise environment awareness in the Mekong

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF GLOBAL VOICES)

 

How preserving folktales and legends help raise environment awareness in the Mekong

The Mekong Basin. Photo from the website of The People’s Stories project. Used with permission

In 2014, several indigenous communities in the Mekong started recording their stories and legends with the help of a group of researchers who are exploring how these narratives can help exposing the destructive impact of large-scale projects in the region.

The Mekong is one of Asia’s great river systems which flows through six countries: China, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam. It is rich in biodiversity and a vital source of livelihood for millions of farmers and fisherfolk.

In recent years, several large-scale projects such as hydropower dams have displaced residents while threatening the river basin’s ecosystem. Despite protests, the construction of dams has continued, especially in Laos and Thailand.

In partnership with Mekong Watch, a Japan-based group advocating sustainable development in the region, several community elders in the Mekong began recording some of their stories and legends in 2014 that revolve around nature. Mekong Watch believes that these stories “have played an important role in protecting nature by avoiding the over-exploitation of natural resources.”

Mekong Watch asserts that part of the commons that need to be protected are not just natural resources but also “intangible heritages” that can be shared and accessed by the local community. Toshiyuki Doi, senior adviser of Mekong watch, adds:

People’s stories should be regarded, recognized, and respected as Mekong’s commons, especially these days when they are losing their place in local communities to more modern media, and are not passed on to next generations.

Areas in the Mekong where researchers conducted fieldwork. 1. Kmhmu’ in northern and central Laos; 2. Siphandon in southern Laos; 3. Akha in northern Thailand; 4. Thai So and Isan in northeastern Thailand; 5. Bunong in northeastern Cambodia. Used with permission.

The group was able to collect a total of 102 stories in Cambodia, Laos, and Thailand. Stories were recorded, transcribed, and translated into the national languages of Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia before an English version was made. Mekong Watch published these stories as pamphlets in both printed and digital formats, and used them during environment workshops they conducted at the communities.

Since late 2016, we have used people’s stories to provide environmental education to children in rural Laos and Thailand. We have hosted workshops in schools and local communities to guide children, and sometimes adults, to collect stories from elderly people, learn from the stories, and turn them into reading materials.

An example of a workshop involves the retelling of the story of ‘The Owl and the Deer ’from Kmhmu’ people in central and northern Laos. The story is about an owl who lost his ability to see during the day after cheating a deer.

During a workshop, young participants are asked: “What kinds of animals appear in the story?”, “Can you see these animals in your village?”, and “If there are fewer of these animals in your village than before, why do you think this has happened?”

After this, participants are encouraged to connect the story to the deterioration of the environment in their communities.

In Champasak Province, south Laos, the legend of the endangered Irrawaddy dolphin and the Sida bird is used to highlight how a dam project is disrupting the seasonal migration of Mekong River fisheries.

Another story also from southern Laos is instructive on the value of resource management:

The story about the Rhino Head was recorded on November 16, 2014, at the Songkram River bank in northeast Thailand. The narrator was Mun Kimprasert, aged 68. Photo by Mekong Watch, used with permission.

Once, a soldier stepped into a spirit forest. He discovered a lot of tobacco leaves there and collected them. However, when trying to leave the forest, he could not find an exit. It was because he took more tobacco leaves than he could possibly consume for himself. No matter how hard he searched, he could not find a way out of the forest. Realizing what might have been the problem, he finally decided to return the tobacco leaves to the forest. The moment he dropped them on the ground, he was able to see an exit in front of him.

In northern Thailand, a story by the Akha people about the origin of the swingteaches self-sacrifice through a heroic episode of a brother and a sister who put the world in order.

In northeast Thailand, a folktale about Ta Sorn narrated by Tongsin Tanakanya promotes unity among neighbors in a farming community. Another story recalls how the hunting of a rhinoceros led to the formation of salt trading in this part of the country.

In Bunong, located in northeast Cambodia, there are stories about rituals to fix bad marriages and planting and harvest ceremonies narrated by Khoeuk Keosineam. There is also the legend of the elephant as retold by Chhot Pich which reveals how villagers who once poisoned a river were punished by the gods and turned into elephants. It explains why elephants were comfortable living with humans but, after several generations, they forgot their origins and went to live in the forest.

Hea Phoeun from the Laoka Village, Senmonorom, Mondulkiri Province in Cambodia shares a village ritual on how to fix an ‘unfit’ marriage. Photo by Mekong Watch, used with permission.

For Mekong Watch and the threatened communities in the region, preserving these stories is integral in the campaign to resist projects that would displace thousands of people living in the Mekong:

These stories can help form their identity as a community member and identify with the environment. By means of stories, the communities search for ways to accommodate and/or resist changes that are taking place in the Mekong river basin.

Laos: Truth, Knowledge, History Of This South-East Asian Nation

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CIA WORLD FACT BOOK)

 

Laos

Introduction Modern-day Laos has its roots in the ancient Lao kingdom of Lan Xang, established in the 14th Century under King FA NGUM. For three hundred years Lan Xang had influence reaching into present-day Cambodia and Thailand, as well as over all of what is now Laos. After centuries of gradual decline, Laos came under the domination of Siam (Thailand) from the late 18th century until the late 19th century when it became part of French Indochina. The Franco-Siamese Treaty of 1907 defined the current Lao border with Thailand. In 1975, the Communist Pathet Lao took control of the government ending a six-century-old monarchy and instituting a strict socialist regime closely aligned to Vietnam. A gradual return to private enterprise and the liberalization of foreign investment laws began in 1986. Laos became a member of ASEAN in 1997.
History Laos traces its history to the kingdom of Lan Xang, founded in the fourteenth century by Fa Ngum, himself descended from a long line of Lao kings, tracking back to Khun Borom. Lan-Xang prospered until the eighteenth century, when the kingdom was divided into three principalities, which eventually came under Siamese suzerainty. In the 19th century, Luang Prabang was incorporated into the ‘Protectorate’ of French Indochina, and shortly thereafter, the kingdom of Champassack and the territory of Vientiane were also added to the protectorate. The French saw Laos as a useful buffer state between the two expanding empires of France and Britain. Under the French, Vientiane once again became the capital of a unified Lao state. Following a brief Japanese occupation during World War II, the country declared its independence in 1945, but the French re-asserted their control and only in 1950 was Laos granted semi-autonomy as an “associated state” within the French Union. Moreover, the French remained in de facto control until 1954, when Laos gained full independence as a constitutional monarchy. Under a special exemption to the Geneva Convention, a French military training mission continued to support the Royal Laos Army. In 1955, the U.S. Department of Defense created a special Programs Evaluation Office to replace French support of the Royal Lao Army against the communist Pathet Lao as part of the U.S. containment policy.

Laos was dragged into the Vietnam War, and the eastern parts of the country were invaded and occupied by the North Vietnamese Army (NVA), which used Laotian territory as a staging ground and supply route for its war against the South. In response, the United States initiated a bombing campaign against the North Vietnamese, supported regular and irregular anticommunist forces in Laos and supported a South Vietnamese invasion of Laos. The result of these actions were a series of coups d’état and, ultimately, the Laotian Civil War between the Royal Laotian government and the communist Pathet Lao.

In the Civil War, the NVA, with its heavy artillery and tanks, was the real power behind the Pathet Lao insurgency. In 1968, the North Vietnamese Army launched a multi-division attack against the Royal Lao Army. The attack resulted in the army largely demobilizing and leaving the conflict to irregular forces raised by the United States and Thailand.

Massive aerial bombardment by the United States followed as it attempted to eliminate North Vietnamese bases in Laos in order to disrupt supply lines on the Ho Chi Minh/Trường Sơn Trail. Between 1971 and 1973 the USAF dropped more ordnance on Laos than was dropped worldwide during World War II (1939−45). In total more than 2 million tonnes of bombs were dropped (almost 1/2 a tonne per head of population at the time).

Pha That Luang in Vientiane, the national symbol of Laos.

In 1975, the communist Pathet Lao, backed by the Soviet Union and the North Vietnamese Army (justified by the communist ideology of “proletarian internationalism”), overthrew the royalist government, forcing King Savang Vatthana to abdicate on December 2, 1975. He later died in captivity.

After taking control of the country, Pathet Lao’s government renamed the country as the “Lao People’s Democratic Republic” and signed agreements giving Vietnam the right to station military forces and to appoint advisers to assist in overseeing the country. Laos was ordered in the late 1970s by Vietnam to end relations with the People’s Republic of China which cut the country off from trade with any country but Vietnam. Control by Vietnam and socialization were slowly replaced by a relaxation of economic restrictions in the 1980s and admission into ASEAN in 1997.

The Tai Dam are an ethnic group from Laos that escaped the country as a group. After thousands of years of political oppression, the Tai Dam people vowed to unite as one group and find a country they could call their own. The Tai Dam are known as “the people without a country.” More than 90 percent of Tai Dam refugees emigrated to the state of Iowa after the governor agreed to take the Tai Dam as a group and have organizations sponsor families. In 2005, the United States established Normal Trade Relations with Laos, ending a protracted period of punitive import taxes.

Geography Location: Southeastern Asia, northeast of Thailand, west of Vietnam
Geographic coordinates: 18 00 N, 105 00 E
Map references: Southeast Asia
Area: total: 236,800 sq km
land: 230,800 sq km
water: 6,000 sq km
Area – comparative: slightly larger than Utah
Land boundaries: total: 5,083 km
border countries: Burma 235 km, Cambodia 541 km, China 423 km, Thailand 1,754 km, Vietnam 2,130 km
Coastline: 0 km (landlocked)
Maritime claims: none (landlocked)
Climate: tropical monsoon; rainy season (May to November); dry season (December to April)
Terrain: mostly rugged mountains; some plains and plateaus
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Mekong River 70 m
highest point: Phou Bia 2,817 m
Natural resources: timber, hydropower, gypsum, tin, gold, gemstones
Land use: arable land: 4.01%
permanent crops: 0.34%
other: 95.65% (2005)
Irrigated land: 1,750 sq km (2003)
Total renewable water resources: 333.6 cu km (2003)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural): total: 3 cu km/yr (4%/6%/90%)
per capita: 507 cu m/yr (2000)
Natural hazards: floods, droughts
Environment – current issues: unexploded ordnance; deforestation; soil erosion; most of the population does not have access to potable water
Environment – international agreements: party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Law of the Sea, Ozone Layer Protection
signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements
Geography – note: landlocked; most of the country is mountainous and thickly forested; the Mekong River forms a large part of the western boundary with Thailand
Demographics 69% of the country’s people are ethnic Lao, the principal lowland inhabitants and the politically and culturally dominant group. The Lao belong to the Tai linguistic group who began migrating southward from China in the first millennium AD. A further 8% belong to other “lowland” groups, which together with the Lao people make up the Lao Loum.

Hill people and minority cultures of Laos such as the Hmong (Miao), Yao (Mien), Tai dumm, Dao, Shan, and several Tibeto-Burman speaking peoples have lived in isolated regions of Laos for many years. Mountain/hill tribes of mixed ethno/cultural-linguistic heritage are found in northern Laos which include the Lua (Lua) and Khammu people who are indigenous to Laos. Today, the Lua people are considered endangered. Collectively, they are known as Lao Soung or highland Laotians. In the central and southern mountains, Mon-Khmer tribes, known as Lao Theung or mid-slope Laotians, predominate. Some Vietnamese and Chinese minorities remain, particularly in the towns, but many left in two waves; after independence in the late 1940s and again after 1975.

The term “Laotian” does not necessarily refer to the ethnic Lao language, ethnic Lao people, language or customs, but is a political term that also includes the non-ethnic Lao groups within Laos and identifies them as “Laotian” because of their political citizenship. In a similar vein, the word “Lao” can also describe the people, cuisine, language and culture of the people of Northeast Thailand (Isan) who are ethnic Lao.

The predominant religion in Laos is Theravada Buddhism which, along with the common Animism practiced among the mountain tribes, coexists peacefully with spirit worship. There also are a small number of Christians, mostly restricted to the Vientiane area, and Muslims, mostly restricted to the Myanmar border region. Christian missionary work is regulated by the government.

The official and dominant language is Lao, a tonal language of the Tai linguistic group. Midslope and highland Lao speak an assortment of tribal languages. French, still common in government and commerce, has declined in usage, while knowledge of English, the language of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), has increased in recent years.

People Population: 6,677,534 (July 2008 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 41% (male 1,374,966/female 1,362,945)
15-64 years: 55.9% (male 1,846,375/female 1,885,029)
65 years and over: 3.1% (male 91,028/female 117,191) (2008 est.)
Median age: total: 19.2 years
male: 18.9 years
female: 19.5 years (2008 est.)
Population growth rate: 2.344% (2008 est.)
Birth rate: 34.46 births/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Death rate: 11.02 deaths/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Net migration rate: NA (2008 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.01 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 0.98 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.78 male(s)/female
total population: 0.98 male(s)/female (2008 est.)
Infant mortality rate: total: 79.61 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 88.9 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 69.88 deaths/1,000 live births (2008 est.)
Life expectancy at birth: total population: 56.29 years
male: 54.19 years
female: 58.47 years (2008 est.)
Total fertility rate: 4.5 children born

China marks Japan’s WWII surrender

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SHANGHAI CHINA NEWS AGENCY ‘SHINE’)

 

China marks Japan’s WWII surrender

Xinhua

A peace assembly was held in Nanjing, capital of east China’s Jiangsu Province, yesterday to commemorate the 73rd anniversary of Japan’s surrender in World War II.

Representatives from countries, including China, Japan, the United States and Thailand, attended the event held at the Memorial Hall of the Victims in Nanjing Massacre by Japanese Invaders, mourning the 300,000 people who were killed in one of the most barbaric episodes of World War II.

Japanese invaders slaughtered about 300,000 Chinese during a six-week rampage after they captured the city, which was then China’s capital, on December 13, 1937.

Members of an anti-war NGO based in Kobe, Japan, laid wreaths and paid tribute to the victims in silence. It was the 22nd time the group had attended the peace assembly in Nanjing.

“We choose to come to China to mark the event because Chinese people were the victims of the war and they deserve tribute and remembrance,” said Miyauchi Yoko, head of the group.

“Ordinary people suffer the most in times of war,” said a student from Thailand. “Everyone should make contributions to world peace.”

Ge Daorong, a survivor of the massacre, was only 10 years old when Nanjing fell to the Japanese. During the massacre, he and his close family took refuge in a safety zone and survived the onslaught, but his three uncles did not.

“We look back at sad episodes of history in order to cherish today’s peace,” Ge said at a forum held after the assembly.

In northeastern Heilongjiang Province, nearly 100 teenagers from China and Russia took part in a historical reenactment to mark the anniversary of Japan’s WWII surrender.

The activity was held at Shengshan Stronghold, a war relic that has now been turned into a base for patriotic education of young people from China and Russia.

“Both China and Russia suffered great losses during WWII,” said Yulia Ablova, an education official from the Russian city of Blagoveshchensk. “We need to remember the history and cherish the peace.”

In the southwestern city of Chengdu in Sichuan Province, 1,207 hand prints of WWII Chinese veterans were donated to the Jianchuan Museum Cluster, the largest private museum complex in China, to commemorate the anniversary.

The hand prints were from surviving soldiers in Hunan Province who fought during the Chinese People’s War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression (1931-1945).

During the ceremony on Tuesday, Fan Jianchuan, curator of the museum, said the veteran hand-print installation was expanding. More than 4,800 red hand prints have been imprinted on tempered glass slabs arranged in a V-shape to symbolize victory.

“Seventy-three years ago, these hands held broadswords and spears, threw hand grenades and buried landmines to safeguard our country and rescue our people,” Fan said. “They should be remembered.”

Thailand: 9th Boy Rescued From Cave, 3 Boys And Their Coach Remain Trapped

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF ABC NEWS)

 

The final push to bring home four boys and their soccer coach by a crew of international and Thai divers began in earnest on Tuesday. Eight boys have already been brought out of the cave after over two weeks in the darkness.

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The ninth boy was brought out of the cave at about 4 p.m. local time, according to the Thai navy SEALs.

Officials confirmed they had restarted the rescue effort for the third day at 10 a.m. local time, or 11 p.m. Eastern time the prior night. As with the previous rescue efforts, 19 divers have gone into the cave, with two divers escorting each of the boys out of the cave with tethers.

“If everything goes to plan, all will come out today,” an official said at a Tuesday midday press conference.

Rescuers walk toward the entrance to a cave complex where five were still trapped, in Mae Sai, Chiang Rai province, northern Thailand Tuesday, July 10, 2018. The eight boys were rescued from the flooded cave. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)The Associated Press
Rescuers walk toward the entrance to a cave complex where five were still trapped, in Mae Sai, Chiang Rai province, northern Thailand Tuesday, July 10, 2018. The eight boys were rescued from the flooded cave. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)more +

“We are ready to operate completely today,” Chiang Rai Province Gov. Narongsak Osatanakorn said Tuesday. “The first time it took 11 hours to take care of the four boys. Yesterday it took nine hours to take out the boys. Today, I expect it to be faster or at least the same amount of time, if nothing unusual comes up, and the conditions are good.”

The rescue operation was expected to take about nine hours, though the Thai navy SEALs posted on their Facebook page “it will be longer than previous ones.” In addition to the coach and four boys, the doctor and three SEALs who have remained in the chamber with the boys will also emerge.

The four boys left in the cave range in age from 12 to 14, along with their 25-year-old soccer coach.

Eight boys were rescued in the first two days of the operation — four on each day.

Rescuers stand at a checkpoint near the entrance to a cave complex where five were still trapped, in Mae Sai, Chiang Rai province, northern Thailand Tuesday, July 10, 2018. The eight boys were rescued from the flooded cave. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)The Associated Press
Rescuers stand at a checkpoint near the entrance to a cave complex where five were still trapped, in Mae Sai, Chiang Rai province, northern Thailand Tuesday, July 10, 2018. The eight boys were rescued from the flooded cave. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)more +

“From the first day to the second day, we were faster by two hours,” Osatanakorn said. “And today we are better prepared. In the weather you can see that it’s raining today. Authorities who cover the mountain area and are pumping water insist that the water is still at a good level — close to the situation to the day before yesterday, and yesterday.”

Officials said all eight of the boys were healthy, though two of the four brought out Monday did have swollen lungs.

“They are good physically and mentally,” a health official said at a separate press conference from Chiang Rai Prachanukroh Hospital.

According to a statement from the hospital, two of the boys already taken out of the cave are suffering from pneumonia.

Early tests indicate all of the boys could be suffering from lung infections, but only two of the first four boys were confirmed. They expected full blood test results in about 24 hours.

An ambulance believed to be carrying one of the rescued boys from the flooded cave heads to the hospital in Chiang Rai as divers evacuated some of the 12 boys and their coach trapped at Tham Luang cave, northern Thailand, Monday, July 9, 2018.AP
An ambulance believed to be carrying one of the rescued boys from the flooded cave heads to the hospital in Chiang Rai as divers evacuated some of the 12 boys and their coach trapped at Tham Luang cave, northern Thailand, Monday, July 9, 2018.more +

“The second four, we moved them yesterday from the cave, the age is from 12 to 14,” the commission commander of the medical department said Tuesday. “[They] were alert, and able to identify themselves. When they arrived at Chiang Rai hospital there was a primary medical examination conducted on all four of them. All four are healthy.”

The parents are able to see their kids through a glass window, but they are not allowed to make physical contact with them because docs are concern about infection.

The boys can all eat bland foods, but they can’t eat anything spicy. The boys are still requesting the Thai basil fried rice, but they’re not allowed to eat it yet.

The boys have been in the cave since June 23 when they were exploring the cave and unexpected rain flooded the tunnels. It was 10 days before the boys were miraculously located, and the remaining five have been in the cave for eight days.

Thailand: Operation underway to bring boys out of cave

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CBS NEWS)

 

Thailand Cave Rescue: Boys Found Alive After Nine Days Trapped In Flooded Cave

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE BBC)

 

Thailand cave rescue: Boys found alive after nine days

The boys being foundImage copyrightTHAI NAVY SEAL
Image caption Divers released images of the group being found

All 12 boys and their football coach have been found alive after nine days missing in caves in Thailand, in a drama that gripped the nation.

All of them are safe, an official confirmed, speaking after the mammoth search operation in the Tham Luang caves in Chiang Rai.

The challenge now will be to extract the party safely, with rising water and mud impeding access.

Families of the missing group were ecstatic at news of the rescue.

Media captionJonathan Head reports from the scene on the obstacles rescuers will need to overcome

Live updates

The missing group were discovered by naval special forces, Chiang Rai governor Narongsak Osottanakorn said.

Rescuers had hoped they would find safety on a ledge in an underground chamber nicknamed Pattaya Beach but they were found 400 metres (440 yards) away having moved to higher ground to avoid the rising water.

In video posted on Facebook by Thai Navy SEAL, one of the rescuers can be heard speaking in English to the group, as they sit on a ledge above water in a cavern, picked out by torchlight.

“How many of you?” the rescuer, who appears to be English, asks.

“Thirteen!”

“Thirteen? Brilliant!”

Family members celebrate while camping out near Than Luang cave following news all members of children's football team and their coach were alive in the cave at Khun Nam Nang, 2 JulyImage copyrightAFP
Image captionThere was jubilation among family members camping near the caves

The group’s plight has gripped the country and led to an outpouring of support.

The boys aged 11 to 16 and their coach went to explore the caves on 23 June.


An uplifting breakthrough

By Jonathan Head, BBC News, Tham Luang

There are scenes of jubilation here at the cave entrance – drowned out by the generators powering the water pumps and filling the air tanks for the dozens of divers whose persistence in the toughest of underground conditions has paid off.

Family members celebrate while camping out near Than Luang cave following news all members of children's football team and their coach were alive in the cave at Khun Nam Nang, 2 JulyImage copyrightAFP
Image captionFamily members celebrated near the cave

Now the authorities must figure out how to extract them. The first priority is to get them medical treatment and food where they are, to rebuild their strength.

The whole country has watched every stage of this operation, holding its breath for what seemed an increasingly unlikely happy ending.

They are not out yet but this is an uplifting breakthrough after the Thai government threw everything it could to try to save these boys’ lives.


Who are the group in the cave?

Group of teenage boys with coachImage copyrightFACEBOOK/EKATOL
Image captionA Facebook photo shows the coach with some of the missing children
  • The 12 boys are members of the Moo Pa – or Wild Boar – football team.
  • Their 25-year-old assistant coach, Ekkapol Janthawong, is known to have occasionally taken them out on day trips – including a trip to the same cave two years ago.
  • The youngest member, Chanin “Titan” Wibrunrungrueang, is 11 – he started playing football aged seven.
  • Duangpet “Dom” Promtep, 13, is the team captain and said to be the motivator of the group.
  • The club’s head coach Nopparat Kantawong who did not join the group on their excursion, says he believes the boys, who dream of becoming professional football players in the future, will stick together.
  • “I believe they won’t abandon each other,” he told media outlets. “They will take care of each other.”

“They are all safe but the mission is not completed,” the Chiang Rai governor told a press conference at the command centre at the cave entrance.

Media captionFootage from the Thai Navy shows rescuers at the Tham Luang caves in Chiang Rai

“Our mission is to search, rescue and return. So far we just found them. Next mission is to bring them out from the cave and send them home.”

BBC graphic

The governor said they would continue to drain water out of the cave while sending doctors and nurses to dive into the cave to check the health of the boys and their coach.

“If the doctors say their physical condition is strong enough to be moved, they will take them out from the cave,” he said.

“We will look after them until they can return to school.”

More than 1,000 people have been involved in the rescue operation, including teams from China, Myanmar, Laos, Australia and the US.

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