8 January 2013
Another fairly early start as we set off in our trusty bus (complete with a bird that squawked from somewhere beside the driver from time to time) over the last set of hills to the capital.
Unfortunately Sa left us to escort another group back to the border so we are joined today by Mr Tuoy. He is a very enthusiastic character regaling us with all manner of stories and even singing. I found it somewhat exhausting but enjoyed finding out more about industry and farming: we see many rubber plantations on the hillsides and as we reach the end of the hills and start across the flat plains there are rice paddies as far as the eye can see where the farmers are planting a second crop if they have irrigation for the dry season. About 65% of Lao people are farmers.
In Vientiane we check into the Family hotel and head off to the Scandinavian bakery for lunch. Some of us visit the National Museum and struggle to get our heads around the timelines of all various conflicts these peaceful have found themselves caught up in whether or not they were even at war themselves.
Laos is a democratic country: you get to cast your political vote choosing from pre-selected candidates all belonging to the same party.
Then we visit the COPE centre that provides free prosthetic limbs and related treatments to get them as fully functional as possible. It is certainly a confronting and deeply moving experience as we understand the enormity of their plight: more bombs were dropped on Laos (when they weren’t at war) than were dropped by both sides during the second world war. 260 million bombs were dropped and 30% are estimated to have not exploded leaving 80 million bombs that need to be identified and disposed of. Most are in rural areas and the villagers face this risk every time they light a fire (even in their homes), or go about their daily tasks. Many have to choose between starvation and the risks involved in expanding their farmed area. It is estimated that 70% of farmers do not have food all of the year and the psychological damage is unimaginable.
Next stop was the night market along the riverbank which seemed to be a vast wasteland but perhaps it is just the dry season. We watched the sun set over the telecommunication towers and then set off in search of beerlao. We found a bar 3 storeys up that offered magnificent views and a cooling breeze. Our dinner was at a restaurant set up to be a training restaurant for street kids to give them a trade. The meals were amazing although most came piled high with chillies. I scraped the chillies off my “ancient fish with tamarind sauce” and devoured the lot much to the amazement of others who found it so hot they couldn’t finish it.
For this and other similar tours see:
Peregrine Adventures (Comfort tours)
Geckos Adventures (for 18 to 30s)
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