In our introduction we begin by talking about how Sinxay first entered my consciousness. Bai grew up in the village of Ban Na Ang in Muang Fuang district, in Vientiane Province, located about 3-4 hours northwest of Vientiane. It’s a rural village in a beautiful valley surrounded by dramatic limestone karsts. It’s a farming village in the midst of rice paddies. It’s especially gorgeous in the summer during rainy season when rice is being planted (actually transplanted), and in the fall when the rice is being harvested. We include one photo taken during the rainy season and you can see the new transplanted rice seedlings in the paddies with the dramatic karsts in the background. What’s also fun about this photo is the tiang, the small building where the groups of workers (often times mostly extended family/relatives) gather for meals, and to rest, as seen in this photo. The second photo shows the rice stalks heavy with the ripe grains of rice, ready to be harvested. Again with the dramatic karsts in the background.
Back to the image at the top of the post. This was taken one early evening as Bai and I were walking back to her parent’s village from a neighboring village where Bai’s aunt lives (and the location of Wat Sinxay). The road is partially graveled, and during the rainy season if fairly muddy and in the dry season extremely dusty. Thankfully the traffic on the road is sporadic so one can enjoy the marvelous scenery.While we were enjoying the sunset, Bai pointed to where a section of rock seemed to be missing. She told me that according to a local legend, it had been knocked out during a battle between a famous Lao epic hero, named Sinxay, and an evil ogre, named Nyak Koumphan. Hmm, I wondered who this heroic figure was, and I immediately wanted to know more about the story of Sinxay. Bai told me there was an older man in the village who knew all the old stories and we could ask him to see if he would retell the story.
As I gazed at the cut in the limestone cliffs, silhouetted against the blazing orange and red sky, my imagination was already running wild with pictures of what the fighting might have looked like. I was eager to learn more about this legendary hero.
About six years later when we were committed to publishing Sinxay, I had one of the artists working with us illustrate the scene I had created in my imagination. Below you can see the same image of the sunset at the top of this post on the left, and on the right is the illustration I might have seen in my imagination of Sinxay fighting Nyak Koumphan. You can see the karsts in the background of the illustration are similar to the ones in the sunset photo.