Day 3 & 4, Traveling to Laos

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Photos by MJ Klein and Hui-chen

Day 3 & 4: Vientiane

Day 3 was our day to travel up to Laos from Thailand.  We decided to take the Thai-Lao International bus, but unlike the last time, this time there was a new bus service from Khonkaen.  This bus left in the afternoon, so Day 3 was rather uneventful, spent mostly on waiting for this bus to leave and then riding it up to Laos.

Day 3 & 4: Vientiane

While walking around Khonkaen, we noticed this car,  cut in 1/2.  Body shops here will cut off the wrecked part of vehicles and then put them back together with pieces from other vehicles.

Day 3 & 4: Vientiane

This is a cab from a van.

Day 3 & 4: Vientiane

We also noticed this motor scooter, with bicycle pedals. I haven’t seen a motorcycle with pedals in decades.  I wasn’t aware that they were still produced!

Day 3 & 4: Vientiane

Eventually we arrived in Vientaine, (photo taken the following day) and met our host, Prince Roy, at this place, known as The “Tat Dam”, a very old stupa in Vientiane.  The Tat Dam is a well known landmark in Vientiane, but as the story goes, no one knows how old it is, or why it was originally built, as the Lao people have no written history.  What we know of the Tat Dam comes from ancient written accounts by visiting Chinese.

Day 3 & 4: Vientiane

This shot shows the entrance to the US embassy, where Price Roy is assigned.

Day 3 & 4: Vientiane

The first order of business on the next day was a Lao breakfast.  Here you can see the soup and the oil bread that is dipped in the soup.  Spicy Girl (on the left) is telling us about Vientiane and her knowledge of the area is impressive!

Day 3 & 4: Vientiane

We took a walk down the main street in Vientiane, where most of the foreigners hang out.

Day 3 & 4: Vientiane

We rented motor cycles for the day.  While Michael Turton and Michael Cannon left for parts unknown, Hui-chen and I visited the COPE Center.

Day 3 & 4: Vientiane

We saw signs of Japanese assistance in quite a few places around Vientiane.  The COPE Center is one of them.

Day 3 & 4: Vientiane

COPE provides a very necessary service for people who have been injured by one of the many unexploded bombs in Laos (UXO).  Many people lose limbs in these encounters with UXOs and COPE provides them with prosthetic limbs and training for free.

Day 3 & 4: Vientiane

This is Mr. Nam who gave us a very good presentation about the role of COPE and the situation in Laos.

Day 3 & 4: Vientiane

This is a depiction of a cluster bomb delivery system.  The bomb shell opens and scatters many small round “bombies” (as the Lao people call them).  These small round bombs scatter BBs when they explode.  They are very dangerous, and the round shape attracts children who pick them up, mistaking them for a ball.

Day 3 & 4: Vientiane

This is another kind of cluster bomb.

Day 3 & 4: Vientiane

Day 3 & 4: Vientiane

Information on cluster bombs.  Click on any photo to go to the Flickr site and view the large size.

Day 3 & 4: Vientiane

Some examples of bomb fragments found in Laos.  The metal is valuable when sold as scrap, so many Lao people risk life and limb to collect either pieces or whole bombs. Day 3 & 4: Vientiane

Day 3 & 4: Vientiane

Day 3 & 4: Vientiane

Mr. Nam explains many of the stories that are found on the wall in photographs and documents.  Each story is tragic.  Some child or adult finds a bomb, and the bomb ends up exploding and either killing or severely maiming people.

Day 3 & 4: Vientiane

This chart tells an amazing story.  More bombs were dropped on Laos, than the entire amount dropped on Europe and Japan in WW II.  The entire time, US politicians were lying to the American people and the world, saying that no activity was going on in Laos.  For 9 years straight, there was a bombing sortie every 8 minutes, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  Nearly all of the bombs dropped are of US origin, but somehow, the Lao people don’t harbor any resentment against the US.  One interview with a Lao young man was very touching, as he said that the bombs came from the US, and how he wished the US would take them all back.  Laos is the most bombed place on our planet, and up to 30% of those bombs did not explode on impact. This has left a devastating legacy behind.

Day 3 & 4: Vientiane

Wheelchair devices provided by COPE to needy persons.

Day 3 & 4: Vientiane

There is a model of a typical Lao village home on display.

Day 3 & 4: Vientiane

Some of the stories are unbelievable.  One that I remember is a man was out fishing with his children.  He found a bomb near the shore of the lake and he reasoned that if he could explode the bomb in the water, he could get more fish.  As he tried to move the bomb, it exploded, taking both his hands in the process.  His children had to drag him back to the village.  COPE has assisted him with new artificial limbs and training on how to use them for daily tasks.

Day 3 & 4: Vientiane

Day 3 & 4: Vientiane

Mr. Nam explains that some of the people make their own artificial limbs in the village, and he showed us many examples of them, shown here. Day 3 & 4: Vientiane

This is a shot of the type of products that COPE provides patients.

Day 3 & 4: Vientiane

This rig allows someone to put their leg into it, to see what it’s like to walk with an artificial limb.  The stairs are part of the training course.

Day 3 & 4: Vientiane

More COPE products. Hui-chen and I recommend a visit to the COPE Center if you are in Vientiane.  It’s well worth it, and the admission is totally free.  Please leave them a donation!

Day 3 & 4: Vientiane

Later in the evening, when the 2 other Michaels had returned from their adventure (I’ll let them tell you what happened, in their own blogs), they went in search of a traditional Lao massage.

Day 3 & 4: Vientiane

Day 3 & 4: Vientiane

Not having ridden a motorcycle for 100+ kilometers, I wasn’t in need of a massage, so I went walking about, checking out the streets.

Day 3 & 4: Vientiane

Day 3 & 4: Vientiane

I eventually ended up in this bar.  This photo was  taken (by accident) by the owner, as I was showing him the camera and the optically stabilized lens. I know these 2 days weren’t very interesting as things went on our trip, but I promise you that things are going to get very interesting as we explore new places and visit new sites!

Thanks for reading.  Be sure to leave us your comments, recommendations, and please feel free to re-Tweet this article.

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8 comments

  1. Pingback: MJ Klein
  2. Not interesting, that’s a bit tough. I thought they were. The museum looks like a great way to see the problem faced by villagers and the umexploded bombs and what various governments across the world are failing to offer enough support to try and rid Lao of the mines and bombs.

    Some countries have been generous and paid for clearances but it isn’t enough. As you said, many of the stories are terrible and so sad when involving children.

    The morning breakfast pictures, that wasn’t beer on the table in the mugs, was it? Maybe apple juice..

    I read Michael’s adventure of their ride, what an adventure they had.

    I am looking forward to more in the series.

    Thanks mate.

    Brunty
    .-= Brunty´s last blog ..Thai Niece Nong Ja, Isaan Thailand. =-.

    1. hi Brunty. well the COPE Center was one of the high points of the trip for HC and I. we got to see the movie “Bomb Harvest” in its 80 minute entirety, and that was a real eye opener. interestingly, the mine clearing teams are being lead by an Australian and an Englishman. The US is contributing money (not enough of course) but there are few, if any Americans who are active in the actual clearing activities.

      shortly, we’ll be talking about the MAG (Mine Advisory Group) and some other sites that have been cleared by them. we’ll show you some genuine bomb craters and damage to the archeological sites by the bombs. personally i felt a mixture of disgust, remorse and embarrassment as i toured the sites. The Secret War is yet another blotch on the US’s reputation.

      thanks Brunty.

      1. I feel like Brunty there – looking at the photograph at that bomb, and imagining a child picking up one of these balls … it’s quite haunting.

        Not a nice topic but one which is quite valuable to contemplate, I think.

        1. Stefan, when we watched the movie “Bomb Harvest” it showed a couple of kids picking up the small round cluster bombs, and it was absolutely chilling! no wonder a large percentage of the maimed and injured are children! yes, it’s quite something to contemplate and i will never forget it. thanks Stefan.

  3. So… a scooter with pedals. Hmmmm… I don’t think I’ve seen any motorized scooter with pedals since like the late 70’s when mopeds were getting kind of popular in this area.

    Even tho I’m not quite old enough to really remember the Vietnam War (with the bulk of it occuring between 1961 and 1975 and me born in 1966)… I have seen shows on the Miltary Channel and/or Military History Channel where various former U.S. military personal talking about what went on there… even tho the government was telling the U.S. people something else. I don’t know how much was done under Kennedy and Johnson… but they talked about how Nixon had ordered a “secret mission” that included boming in Laos.
    .-= mike01905´s last blog ..New Years Eve 2009 – Boston =-.

    1. hi Mike. i also haven’t seen motorcycles with pedals on them, for a long time. when i was about 12 years old, one of my friend’s older brothers had one.

      to this day, that era is called “The Secret War.” the movie that we saw at the COPE Center touched on that, with a video clip of Nixon lying to the American public, saying that there were no US “combat servicemen” in Laos. i’m glad it’s all out in the open now, but I feel like the US isn’t doing enough about the problems left over from The Secret War.

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