We read some sad stories about survivors of UneXploded Ordnance at the UXO Survivor Centre in Phonsavan. Then we went next door to the Visitors Centre and watched some short disturbing documentaries about the atrocities and ongoing tragedies of the war.
I never realized the Secret War existed and that the Americans were just dropping bombs willy nilly all over Laos to combat communism that threatened the USA’s affiliation with Vietnam. The country is still a minefield with undetonated bombs lying around and under roads, rice fields, playgrounds, and homes. People are getting severely injured and dying just going about their daily business. President Obama has invested some of his country’s money into cleaning this up but the problem is so big that, at the rate they’re going, they won’t be finished demining the millions of bombs for thousands of years. I can’t even imagine the horror …
The next day we arrived at the first site of Plain of Jars on the Xieng Khouang Plateau in central Laos. In the small information centre, we learned that the thousands of stone jars scattered about had something to do with prehistoric burial practices. Then we walked up the hill to see them. It was a really nice view of the countryside; the jars varied in size and shape. One was about as tall as me! There were also craters from dropped bombs.
We went to see some stupas at the Old Capital. These were cylindrical-shaped Buddhist temples. The first one had been damaged by some Chinese rebels so they dug a tunnel through the middle so you can now walk through. The second one was more overgrown with grass, but there was a lady who had climbed up it and was shouting in Lao. We heard her from down below and figured she was talking to someone, but she wasn’t … or maybe she was praying? Shouting at the gods?