Just a few observations from the last few days:
Half of Bangkok is wearing yellow. This is the 60th anniversary of King Bhumibol's ascension to the throne and his subjects are honoring him by wearing "his" color. Each day of the week has its own color and people often wear the color of the day on which they were born. Monday's color is yellow and since the king was born on a Monday, wearing yellow is a sign of respect for him. Yellow polo shirts with the royal crest on the breast where the crocodile or polo player might more typically be found hang from all the stalls in the street markets; yellow windbreakers are all the rage. It's a remarkable example of the relationship the people have to their king. Signs all over town say "Long Live the King" and posters showing him at various times of his life and in various activities cover billboards and banners. It really appears to be a heartfelt tribute rather than a political statement.
Lao people are, on the whole, some of the most beautiful I've ever seen. The face of the young officer behind the immigration desk at what is laughingly called Luang Prabang International Airport was stunningly perfect. The old women have bone structure to die for, the young men have gorgeous eyes and the children are adorable.
There are Israeli tourists everywhere.
Our guide here in Luang Prabang, Sompong, is a writer who used to work for the Ministry of Culture in the 1980s as part of the staff of a magazine. In this capacity he traveled to many Socialist cities and countries, including Moscow, Azerbaijan, Beijing, Prague, Budapest, Hanoi, and many others. His favorite city, he tells us, is Kiev.