Thursday, February 12, 2009

A Secret War

Day 335
We were up early but there wasn't anything to eat for breakfast. We ended up having a few of the oranges we had left over from the day before.

In 1960 a neutralist military faction seized Vientine. Rightest forces, backed by the US, forced them to retreat. Fighting continued between the two sides. From 1964 to 1973 Laos was a battlefield in the war between North Vietnam and the US. This was against the Geneva Convention and was therefore kept very quiet. Laos was saturated with bombs. 580,000 bombing missions were flown over the country leaving craters all over the place. Even when the missions ended the explosions continued. About 40% of the ordnance dropped didn't explode. They have turned up in rice fields, next to homes, and basically everywhere. It wasn't until 1994 that the US started to send supplies and manpower to rid Laos of the UXO's. At the rate they are moving they should be done in about 150 years. This isn't really due to lack of money , but rather due to the difficult terrain and the slow pace they are forced to move.

Our tour was headed to the Plain of Jars, one of the hardest hit areas. We had to be very careful about staying on the marked paths so that we didn't accidentally step on anything.

While our guide was organizing our permits to enter the site we had some time to check out a plethora of deactivated bombs and read about the region. That's where I got my little history from.

The first stop was the Plain of Jars Site One. This is the largest site. The jars are of ancient origin and are all different sizes. Most are in good condition, but many have been destroyed by time, bombs and vandalism. No one has figured out their purpose. The leading theories is that they either once held human remains or perhaps stored wine and food. Nicole and I thought that some giants had a big party and left their beer glasses all over the place.

We followed the path past bomb craters and into a cave. It's purpose is unknown. The path then lead us up a hill for a view over everything before heading back down to the car park. Our next stop was site two. This was quite small, but set among trees and very pretty. We also got a great view of the country side.

The third site was small and took some effort to get to as we had to walk across a rickety bridge and then some rice fields. We were a bit bored of jars at this point, but managed to get some good pictures in a partially broken one.

Our lunch was a simple chicken soup. They use all of the chicken here, so it was a bit gross and I couldn't force myself to eat much of it. After lunch we took a quick look at an abandoned Russian tank. The nearby houses were more interesting to me.

Out last stop of the day was a whiskey making home. Every house in Lao has a bottle of the stuff at all time. We had been given a shot after lunch and everyone had laughed at the face I made. When I went to try a shot this time everyone had their cameras ready to capture my grossed out face. There was a little boy checking us out. He stuck out his tongue when I took a picture of him, but giggled a lot when I showed him what he looked like on my camera.

Back at the hotel we showered and then managed to find the place we had wanted for dinner the night before. We had to walk through an unlit lot to get there, but luckily had a flashlight with us. When we got there it looked terrible and we headed back to the main street to pick a different place.

After dinner we joined Aire at a snooker hall. We don't know how to play and the guys working there managed to find regular pool balls for us. Neither of us are good players, but we were terrible on the extra large table. Soon watching us became the evenings attraction. Several of the men bought us beers. We tried to explain that we already had plenty, but they each insisted that we drank theirs first. After a bit we left with Aire to go to a nightclub. I quite like the early curfew in Lao. I was back and in bed before midnight.

1 comment:

Kamiel Verwer said...

Some days ago already, February 12, I have no idea where you are dwelling right now. I bet it must have made quite an impression, the carpet of bombs in Laos.

I salute you from Buenos Aires, where i will work for a while on my writing before touring south America. My rough idea is to take a boat from Panama to cross the Pacific. meeting up with you in India is very possible, I guess,

take care!