P r e f a c e
“Soothing and gentle, the great Laos fills me with serenity”
(André Escoffier, cited in the book)
This author certainly doesn’t escape from having the deep attachement to the country that Laos knows so well how to produce out of its citizens. His keys are akin to wonderful and complex tableaux that reveal his deep knowledge of the country that has been his home for so many years. The perfumes, flowers, houses, music and dancing, the influence of buddhism, the “bo pen yang”, the gastronomy, the elephants, the artisanal crafts, the festivities, the Mekong, the street of Vientiane, so many “keys” that the author describes with a fervent simplicity that paints a colorful, poetic and thoughtful portrait of the country’s history and culture. Furthermore, the generous and in-depth amount of bibliographic ressources that Michel Treutenaere has assembled should also be mentionned for all the details they add to the essay.
This “stroll” around Vientiane rehabilitates a city that has been too often ignored . Indeed, as while the country has opened to tourism, the world’s eyes have been focused on UNESCO World Heritage Site Luang Prabang. While Vientiane’s artchitecture can’t pretend to be at the same rank as his rivial, the city is full of numerous treasures to be discovered. Many of them count among what Unesco calls immaterial heritage, meaning that it’s based upon arts and artisanal crafts, oral traditions, social customs, cultural festivities, and everything else that constitutes in itself a certain vision of the world and humanity. Even more than immaterial heritage, one can talk of spiritual heritage.
The dilemna between tradition and modernity is one that many countries have already had to face. Other asian cities have seen spectacular transformations during the last few decades, but not without serious inconvenients. The final question to ask is what development model will allow the country to modernize, while still preserving its soul? However, the answer belongs to laotians, who will answer it, however they feel appropriate.
Dr. Sisaliao Svengsuksa *.
President of the Association of Support to the Development of Peasant Societies,
Former parliamentarian of the district of the capital, Vientiane.
* Former Deputy Director of the Social Science Research Institute,
President of the Lao Fair Trade Company « Lao Farmers’ Products »
Founder of the first local micro-finance institution: « Credit Union for the Support of Small Production Units »
Literary prize in 2009 for the story in Lao « Thao Kampé », translator of « The Little Prince » of Saint-Exupery,
And the biography of the legendary Prince Maha Ouparaj Chao Phetsarath, Renovator of Lao culture.