Concrete - the sign of affluence and 'having arrived':
Traps an incredible amount of heat during the hot season, poor ventilation compared to bamboo walls, and lacking much in character, but more resistant to insects and storms.
This seems rather characteristic of concrete buildings in Lao - rooftops often have these steel bars poking out, waiting to impale anyone who falls on them:
Makes the building seem incomplete, as if there were once plans for higher storeys to be added on.
Some government building with Western-style columns and an attempt at Lao-style roof finials:
Traditional brick & wood:
Most houses in Phongsaly town seem to be this kind of single-storeyed rectangular zinc-roofed brick and wood affair, with a main door flanked by two sets of windows & holes for ventilation above:
Many also have a round 'symbol' made from short bamboo strips hanging above the front door, which somewhat reminded the cat of the Akha 'asterisk' taboo sign - wonder if it is the mark of a certain ethnic group?
Every open window tells a story, & it is interesting to wander down the little streets past these houses - a granny looking up from her treadle sewing machine, a pile of green vegetables, a wooden cupboard with an assortment of bottles and crockery stacked on top, a rosy-cheeked baby in the arms of a grandparent, a wooden bed piled high with a stack of faded quilts with large flowery patterns...and listen to the sounds - the hiss of heated oil in a frying wok, the plunging of a plastic scoop into a water-filled earthen jar and the accompanying splash of water, the laughter and shrieking of kids playing the 'throwing slippers' game, the rhythmic chopping of firewood, the slow chugging of a tractor climbing upslope, and the occasional bark from a dog...this is Phongsaly's charm =)