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 located in Muang Khoun, only 30 kilometers from Phonsavan, Laos. Muang Khoun was previously the region’s capital city, but all that remains of the capital today are the fragments of Wat Phia Wat, as well as a few stupas.

Given rugged dirt roads we’d encountered just days earlier on a tour of the Plain of Jars, we were not eager to hop back into a tuktuk and endure more bumpiness to get to Wat Phia Wat. (During that earlier drive, we’d felt like kernels of corn being tossed in a popcorn popper!) Nevertheless, to better understand the American Secret War in Laos, Shawn and I felt it was important to see Wat Phia Wat, so we pressed on. 

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