The Most Secret Place On Earth

Hanoi Cinematheque during July and August featured “Vietnam on Film” every night.  We decided to stop over one evening and see a film they were showing on Laos, “The Most Secret Place On Earth”.  Here is the short bio on the film:

“The Vietnam War was the most intensely mediated war ever.  However, next door in neighboring Laos, the longest and largest air war in human history was underway, which eventually made Laos the most bombed country on earth.  This “secret war” was the largest operation ever conducted by the CIA, yet to this day, hardly anyone knows anything about it.  Candid interviews with past and present players combined with previously unseen footage from the war as well as the current struggle in Laos tell a story that hasn’t been documented in history books. As we journey into Long Cheng for the first time since the end of the war in 1975, the film tells the gripping story of the operation.  The film features interviews with State Department, CIA and Air America officials, as well as Hmong general Van Pao and some of his critics – Fred Branfman and Professor Alfred McCoy.”

For anyone at all interested in Southeast Asian history, has been to Laos, or curious as to why at one point Laos had the most remote, yet busiest airport on the planet, I recommend the film (made in 2008).  However I’ll need to follow up with more reading when I get home because it left me with a lot more questions than answers. 

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Pakse, Laos to Siem Reap, Cambodia

We have gone from one lovely country to another.  Although instead of the quiet calm that the Laos people exhibit, Cambodians are incredibly friendly and engaging.  Granted Siem Reap is a bit of Disneyland for adults, but mostly because the infrastructure is so developed and the city well manicured thanks to the tourism dollars. Still it was nice to see Cambodians also visiting and taking pride in their great temples. Maybe we’ll encounter something different in Phenom Penh tomorrow.  For now, we enjoyed a lovely 3 days here, $1 street food, beautiful temples at Angkor (more coming soon!), and country, despite its haunting recent history, recovering well.

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Korp Jai Laos!

We love Laos.  The clouds, the mountains, the rice fields.  The thundering rains.  The jungle and waterfalls.  The tin roofs.  The people!  The food!  Its been a great country.  Lao people are probably the most chill and relaxed of anywhere in Southeast Asia.  Three weeks have gone by way too fast and it hasn’t been nearly long enough.  If you come to this part of the world, carve out some time for this wonderful, welcoming country.

p.s. Saludos a nuestra familia en Dos Caminos!

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Kong Lor….The 7km Long Cave

Our tractor ride with our new friends

After a lovely 5 hour ride in a half empty bus with leg room (yeah!), we were told the bus wasn’t going any further.  All of us jumped out of the bus to see why it had stopped.  As we stood there in the rain we saw that the road twisted up ahead and was flooded as far as we could see.  The town of Thom Kong Lo lay just 45 minutes away and beyond that Kong Lor cave; the whole reason for our visit to this part of Central Laos. A 7.5km-long subterranean tunnel, 30m wide and between 20 and 100m high, located in the National Protected Area Forest Area of Hinboun Mountain (the cave was formed by the Nam Hinboun river), this seemed like the perfect place to get just a bit more off the beaten path. But wait, there’s more!

Pictures from Vientiene, Laos

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Just a few snapshots from our days in Vientiene. *Travel Tip: We stayed at Mali Namphu guesthouse near Nam Phou fountain.  Rooms were 200,000 kip/night (includes breakfast).  JOMA is just right around the corner and our chosen breakfast spot.  Travel … Continue reading

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Sunset on our first night in Luang Prabang

The sky parted in two, one side overcast, the other a stirring mess of charcoal ominously getting closer. The winds picked up, and right away we knew we had to return our bikes or be stuck walking in what looked like a serious shower. We raced, I returned mine, and it turns out Erika had forgotten her bike lock key. She heads back and I started to jog a three block French colonial stretch of Luang Prabang. I get to the corner of our street, only 100 meters from our place, when I hear a commotion and see people running in all directions. Just half a street down you could see the rain pummeling people racing towards cover. Anyone caught for just five seconds in the open would be soaked. But wait, there’s more!

Foodie Friday from Laos

Near Inle Lake, they eat and sell every single part of the chicken.

Waking up at Inle Lake a month ago, I admired the view as I made my way to Shane and Arielle for breakfast.  With a nod I said, “Good morning,” and we start chatting about the previous evening as a hostess sets a cup of coffee in front of me. In Myanmar sugar doesn’t help mask the luke warm cup of dirt water, nor does the room temperature milk help. I take a sip of coffee and my brain does a double take. What? It’s been so long, I let out an, “Awww my goodness,” and Arielle, anticipating this moment, clearly not having taken her eyes off my face exclaims, “Yes! It’s real coffee right!  I was waiting for you to take your first sip!” We’re both seriously happy. But wait, there’s more!

Two Day Slow Boat Down the Mekong to Luang Prabang

The taxi boat you take from Chang Khong in Thailand to Laos. 40 Baht/person

We were picked up from our hotel and then driven 1 hour outside of the city to meet up with our minibus which was coming in from Pai.  The van was almost full when it arrived which meant we got the leftover seats, including the middle seat next to the driver. But wait, there’s more!