The Road South: Pakse

Right: Friendly Frog Vendor, Pakse Market

Patrick and I caught a bus from Phongsali down to Udomxai where we stayed a night and then parted company. He was heading off to Muang Sing to do some more trekking, I had only about a week left on my visa so I started my run down to Cambodia. I travelled further South to Luang Prabang where I stopped for a couple of nights before taking a bus back down to Vientiane. We ran over a cow just south of Vang Vieng!

Frog Vendor

Then back to Savannakhet where I spent a night in the bus station hostel leaving at the crack of dawn for Pakse. It's an inconvenient fact of life in Laos that because there are few roads and indeed few of decent quality that you have to do a lot of backtracking. In retrospect I probably should have flown.

shell casing

Left: Remnant of a more violent past, Phongsali

I didn't get over to Phonsovan with the mysterious "Plain of Jars" and to see all the houses using bomb casings as fencing which was a minor regret though I'm sure I'll be back in those parts sooner or later. I asked a jaded American backpacker about the Plain of Jars and he told me "Well you's just a plain.....ummm..... with a bunch of jars....." Hmmm....., I'd figured. Another trip for sure.

Right: Hey Hey, We're the Monks!

On the subject of bombs the Lonely Planet guide tells us that Laos is, per capita, the most heavily bombed country on the planet and there is still considerable danger posed by UXO (unexploded ordinances). These UXO stem from 100 years or so of warfare in the region and are of Soviet, American, French, Chinese, Vietnamese manufacture.

The east of the country formed a considerable part of the Ho Chi Minh Trail and sustained heavy bombing as the Vietnam war spilt across the border. This was all completely illegal of course as were the secret bombings of Cambodia. During this time the CIA were also actively involved in Laos training a secret army, largely formed from Hmong tribesmen, to counter the influence of the Pathet Lao (communists). Hmong rebels in some places continue to hold out against the government to this day.