Monday, 4 August 2008

Tuesday 10th June Northern Laos By Motorbike: Day Four

Wakey Wakey
A slow start this morning for obvious reasons. My sleep was punctuated by three chirpy boys running around the place playing games and generally 'being boys' and also somewhat unusually the UXO team intermittently detonating mines and bombs one of which was a belter! I thought the hotel had been hit! A mushroom cloud of fall-out rose from behind a limestone karst.

None of us made it up for the 9am tour, instead we opted for the 1pm tour and spent a good few hours with our Laotian tour guide who revealed the caves to us one at a time.
Vieng Xai Cave Tour
For 30,000kip you can take a tour of the caves in which the Pathet Laos government ran the country and fought off the Laos Royalist Government troops backed by the US and indeed the might of the US airforce. The cave tour is highly recommended. Our guide was a boy when the bombing campaign began in the 1960's, he remembers helicopter gunships, T-28 bombers and strike aeroplanes flying overhead. Once he and two friends were playing on a riverbank and two fighter planes came over and attempted to gun him down. 'Close close' he says with a beaming smile. The caves are testament to the resilience and resourcefulness of the Laotian people.

Per capita Laos is the most bombed nation in the world. Did you know that for nine years solid the Americans dropped a plane load of bombs every eight minutes night and day onto Laos - more than all the bombs dropped in WWII? The sad thing is that half of them haven't gone off yet and so the place is littered with unexploded ordinance (UXOs).

I also saw a crater 80m in diameter, the size of a football pitch, the result of a 6 tonne bomb.

Nine years solid my friends, and the Laotians still won! The amazing thing is that Laotians welcome Americans with open arms despite the atrocities. They really are the most humble and forgiving people. I can't help but admire them.

I could ramble all day about the cave tour, but in brief let's just say it's well worth the trip out to this remote part of Laos. If you want to have your eyes opened as to the way the world really works (behind the propaganda, PR and the government sound-bytes) then head here. Go on, it might make you see the world differently, and it only costs 50p.

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