May the Force be with you

When you’re in the presence of a sacred place, I think you could feel it, I know it happened to me. I’ve been in many holy places before, but the one place that has such a strong force to me was the road to Vang Vieng and heading towards Luang Prabang Laos, and might be that it was the guilt that I feel, we didn’t stop to pay our respect.

This place was nothing fancy, it was a place that lies behind the curvy road, and as we drove up the mountain road of Hwy 13, I saw several cars parked along side of the road, and a group of people paying their respect to a spirit house. The smokes from their incense sticks were forming clouds above them, I asked my cousin what they were doing. He said it was Sarn Jao Pou (The Shrine of a Sacred Spirit), they’re paying their respect and asking him for a safe journey .

Our vehicle climbed up the road slowly and we passed without stopping since we didn’t have any incense stick with us, I was mesmerized by the image in front of me that I forgot to take some pictures. I silently said my prayers as we passed Sarn Jao Pou. The name of the road made me feel uneasy and might be that I grew up in the Western society where number 13 is considered unlucky, but I didn’t have a chance to ask my cousin if Lao People living in Laos feel the same way.

I’m a Buddhist, and why do I worry so much about Animism you might ask because worshiping Sarn Jao Pou is an Animistic belief. If I were raised in Laos, this would have made perfect sense because Buddhism in Laos is often closely tied to animist beliefs and belief in ancestral spirits. And here I was raised in the US, but the feeling and belief is equally as strong as Laotians living in Laos, and I’m not sure why. I often thought that having six senses is a gift, but to some that actually have it might think differently, more like a curse I would say, and at that moment as we traveled on this mountain road, I was glad that I don’t have six senses, Hwy 13 looks so treacherous and I couldn’t imagine what I would see along the way.

A long introduction to my next post, I found an interesting article written in Thai language titled “Be careful If you asked for a child from a Sacred Place.”


  1. Hi Nye,
    I would be scared driving along Hwy 13 too, especially if it’s curvy. But the scenery is pretty, especially the mountains.

    When I was visiting my cousins in Hawaii, we drove in this highway that was considered dangerous. But you can ask for safe journey by throwing money out the car window. In this case, he threw out a quarter. The highway was beautiful too, very lush and green with wild bananas everywhere. Imagine how much money collects along the highway. 🙂

    • Cambree, that’s interesting about throwing money out the car window, sort of bribery I guess.

      The views from HWY 13 were beautiful, but after my cousin made about a million turns, I got motion sickness on the way there, but luckily I fell asleep before we got to Luang Prabang, and by the time we got there, it was time to eat and visit the night market. As treacherous as it is, I’m glad that we didn’t fly there. If we did, we would have missed all the scenery, my dad was telling us that he traveled by foot in the olden days, and it took forever to get from one mountain to the next, long journey.

  2. Nye,

    I know exactly where you talking about on Route 13 North. Back in 2005 trip, my grade school buddy who lives in Laos drove me up to Vung Vieng. We stop at the same spot going and coming back. He would lite a cigarette and open a bottle of beer. Asking him for permission to pass by and let us have the safe journey. My buddy had told me stories about this particular stretch of highway, said Jao Pou is a real deal.

    I totally believe in this type of spirit protector. Maybe is the way I was raised and always believe in the forces of unknown. As a kid, I always remembered how my parents used to reminded us.. in lao way of saying… “keun din long nam hai earn sai ya mae nang tor la nee or jao thin jao tharn” and another thing too… when you happen to be at a strange place, before you drink/eat… pour some drink to the ground for jao thin jao tharn:-). This is so bad, i’m mixing english with lao karaoke.. hahaha it is getting late, Nye might have to translate to her english readers:-).

    • Seeharhed, I hope I’m translating this correctly, “keun din long nam hai earn sai ya mae nang tor la nee or jao thin jao tharn” English translation: “On land or by sea to ask permission from mother earth or the superior being protector of the land.” The Thais believe that the water is protected by Jao Mae Kongka, the mother of water and that’s why there are so many ceremonies related to the water, such as Loy Krathong. The beer and cigarette is new to me, but then again I’ve seen some people put it in Prakao Thip (small meals for spirit), I guess it’s for the male spirit like Jao Por on HWY 13.

      • Nye, another famous spiritual spot on Route 13 South, where the bridge cross over Nam Ngiap River. It is the end of Nam Ngiap River, which flows right into MeKhong River. There you will see two different colors of water. Most local travelers would stop before the bridge and prays before continue on to their destinations. Although, the bus I was traveling in did not stop at the bridge, but most locals on the bus would put their hands together (nop) and mumble few words.

        I should blog about my last bus trip in Laos. It was a trip of hell… hahah

        • seeharhed, I also saw the two colors river in Paksan, it’s really a sight and then I found out later that there are many locations that have the two colors river, it’s sad that the Mekong River is so muddy looking, I was told that it’s a lot clearer further South, this I have yet to see.

          As for the bus trip from Hell, I experienced the same, see if this is the same bus (middle of post) , and if it is, then it’s a small world.

          • Nye, yes!!! there are so many rivers flow into MeKhong River. The best way to see it, google earth it and you’ll find lots of twists and turns on each river.

            The bus you took looks lot nicer then what I rode down to Savanhnakhet. I’ll save the story for my later posts:-).

            • seeharhed, I need to visit Google Earth again, the last time that I checked about Laos was right before I left to Laos and I remembered the Mekong River stretches across the country. As for the bus, looks can be deceiving, I do like to hear your version.

  3. Listening to the music and looking at the pictures in Laos that you posted, I feel like crying…. คิดถึงบันอา

    • Hi eerenoon, sorry about that, Paya Soke is a very sad song. They say that Home is where you hang your heart, I guess you must have left it in Thailand, hopefully it won’t be long before you get to visit again. 🙂

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