Trip Start Sep 18, 2010
86Trip End Jul 27, 2011
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A few sad facts about Laos and the Xien Khung Province in particular:
- 10% of Laos landmass is covered in 'bombies' or UXO (unexploded ordnance), vicious cluster bombs that were dropped but didn't yet explode.
- Walking off paths here is highly inadvisable as only selected areas have been cleared.
- Xien Khung Province in Laos is the most heavily bombed/contaminated area of the world
- The US spends $30 million annually to recover interred bones of their soldiers. They donate less than $5 million to help with UXO clearance. Interesting priorities?!
- Great efforts have been undertaken in the past few decades to educate children about the dangers of UXO. Now it happens less often that they pick up bombs to play with. Many farmers still knowingly expose themselves to the risks, working the fields. The alternative would be starving.
The Plain of Jars is what I came to see here. It's an archeoligal site, or several of them actually with large stone jars scattered all around. There are different theories about their origin. The most common one associates them with burial practices. It sounds the most likely of all the options, though I do wonder, why they are so large. Mass-urns?
It's a beautiful place here, with serene looking mountains and valleys. Sadly their beauty is overshadowed by denuded hills and valleys pockmarked with UXO. Watch the documentary bombies (a Canadian production I believe) for some insight into the sad history of Laos. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uJavG9cW60o
[P.S. Thanks for all the bday wishes. I am writing this from Vetnam, where facebook is blocked, so forgive me for not responding right away.]