Wildlife souvenirs for sale: Laos has become a hub for tourists eager to sample wildlife dishes, or buy trinkets made from animal products. Photo: D.Starin
Tourism has a negative impact on Laos' wildlife
Tourists eager to try exotic meat and buy wildlife souvenirs in Laos are helping destroy the country's natural heritage. The consequences for both people and environment are worrying, reports Dawn Starin
Sandwiched between two wannabe titans — Vietnam and Thailand — landlocked, mountainous Lao People’s Democratic Republic is the poorest country in Southeast Asia. Louangphabang, an ancient Lao royal town of great historical, architectural, cultural, and religious significance, lies in the north-central part of Laos on the banks of the mighty, muddy Mekong and its tributary the Nam Khan river.
With a population of 58,641 and designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995, Louangphabang has often been described as a gentle backwater, an oasis of peace and tranquility, a real-life 'Shangri-la' lost in time and space. I have even heard tourists describe it as 'the most magical place in the most mysterious country on earth.'
Arriving late at night I am anxious to explore this sleepy settlement, and so I head for the night market. I have visions of local traders selling local goods to local residents. I hope to see home-grown fruits and vegetables vying for space with freshly caught fish and homemade baskets and brooms and well-crafted, locally produced, simple cloth. I was totally unprepared.
The night market — a market mentioned in every guidebook, frequently...
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