Laos: Legacies of War and a Promising Future

Riding through the countryside of Laos’ remote Xieng Khouang province, we spied verdant rolling hills, villagers of all ages escorting livestock on the dusty roadside, and giant craters disfiguring the landscape. For an instant, these cavities in the red earth evoked images of sand traps on golf courses. However, with Laos’ unfortunate distinction of being the world’s most bombed country per capita, not much golf is being played here.

Guided by a local father-and-son team, we had embarked on a day trip to visit the country’s mysterious archaeological treasure: the Plain of Jars. We would also visit two villages: Ban Naphia and Ban Tajok, nicknamed ‘Spoon Village’ and ‘Bomb Village,’ respectively.

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The Enduring Buddha at War-Ravaged Wat Phia Wat, Laos

Wat Phia Wat and its focal point — a war-scarred Buddha statue — are only 30 kilometers from Phonsavan. Given Laos’ rugged dirt roads, we were not eager to hop into a tuktuk and endure more bumpiness to get to this now-destroyed Laotian Buddhist temple. During an all-day tour of the Plain of Jars just a few days earlier, we’d felt like human kernels of corn being tossed in a popcorn popper! Nevertheless, to better understand the so-called American Secret War in Laos, Shawn and I felt it was important to see this Laotian region’s former capital city in Muang Khoun. (It was previously known as Xieng Khuang.)

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