Vientiane, Laos

I was in Khon Kaen for 9 days learning about the life of being a rice farmer. After a 5 hours bus ride from Khon Kaen to the Thai-Lao Friendship bridge, and a mishap with my visa, I am in Laos. It is one of the poorest countries in SE Asia, and I have already learned a lot. I have been in Vientiane, the capitol of Laos, for 2 days and I will stay one more, then I will head 3 hours north to Vang Vieng in Laos. I will stay there for about a week then head further north to Luang Prabang. Vientiane is the smallest capitol in Asia, and it has French influence, in the architecture, because it once was a French protectorate, but gained independence in 1954. Laos is one of the last remaining Communist states in the world. There are communist flags everywhere.

Laos flag, and in the bottom left corner, you can kind of see the communist flag.
The Mekong river
A Buddhist temple

Today was not an easy day, not for the reasons you might be thinking, it was a hard day because I was faced with the reality of the negative impact war has. I went to the COPE center for rehabilitation, where they make prosthetic limbs for victims of accidental explosions from US bombs. During the Vietnam war, the US dropped 2 million tons of bombs on Laos from 1964 to 1973. More than 580,000 bombing missions were conducted on Laos. That is one bombing mission every 8 minutes, 24 hours a day, for 9 years in a row. The US never declared war on Laos, but merely used it to dispose of the unused bombs, that were never dropped on Vietnam, because it was unsafe to land with the bombs. After the war was over in 1975, 80 million unexploded bombs remained, waiting to take more innocent lives. Post war, more than 20,000 people where killed from UXOs and even today 100 people die annually from UXOs. It is sad to see that even though the US/ Vietnam war ended 44 years ago, the past is still haunting the lives of Laotians even today.

Prosthetic limbs

Most of the people still affected today are the poorest villages in Laos, where farmers trying to grow crops to feed their families could suddenly have an arm blown off by a UXOS. I am sure I was the only American there today, and it felt weird seeing other people view the remains of what the US left behind. I felt guilt the rest of the day.

Sign made with prosthetic limbs

If you want more information visit You can donate here and read more about what COPE does.

Other than this sad history lesson, Laos is treating me well.

In Laos there is a very strong Chinese influence, from high rise buildings being built, to the Chinese railway that is currently being built, that will eventually make its way to Singapore. One can only wonder why China is moving in and expanding in Laos, a country that would never win against the power of China.

A Chinese company moving forward with construction

NPR article on Chinese railway being built in Laos.

A lady I got a pedicure from on the street.

8 thoughts on “Vientiane, Laos

  1. Wow….It is hard to know that the US left so much destruction behind. Is there any U S presence there trying to help with the uxos? What a contrast. China building their country. The US still blowing it up. Stay on the trails Clayton. Wishing you safe travels with a bit of a twist now.
    Love, Aunt Sandy

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you for your insights on the tragedy of war. My opposition to the Vietnam war resulted in my support for Bobby Kennedy, George McGovern and Dr. King.
    For the backstory on how we got in, why we stayed and how it ended is in the book by an Army officer who reports it all factually and with extensive references: A Bright And Shining Lie.
    Isn’t SE Asia beautiful – and its people?


  3. It must be a odd feeling to experience guilt for an event that occurred so many years before you were born. Guilt for being an American in Laos. I appreciate the history lesson though as I never knew that. You seem such a kind hearted man and your compassion for what those people went through 40 years ago, and today with China ‘moving in’ is touching. I’m getting to know you in a whole new way. Plus, your writing is very engaging. Love you cousin. Keep doing you.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Clayton,

    I have been reading your posts with interest and I found the last one very moving. Writing down your thoughts is a great way to process what you’re seeing and experiencing – and it makes for terrific reading too!
    Safe travels.
    Wes Martin

    Liked by 1 person

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