Stuck in the middle with you

Trip Start Jun 12, 2011
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Trip End Oct 22, 2012


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Where I stayed
Benacam

Flag of Lao Peoples Dem Rep  ,
Saturday, July 9, 2011

On the bus on the way into Vang Vieng I got sick with a fever, so was unable to do much. The part I did see was little to be desired so I didn't really feel like I missed much. It’s too overpopulated with people who are solely there to get wasted which you could do anywhere. The food is just mass produced and mediocre, catering for people who are too drunk to care. I was thankful to take a bus south to Vientiane 2 days later after I’d recovered. 

Our Kiwi friends Chris and Kelly had moved on the day before and found us a great guesthouse in the centre of Vientiane, at equivalent to 12 a night it was double our usual budget but we thought we would splash out for a few days while I recovered.  I had a relapse of fever after a day anyway and a few days later Clare also got a high fever and so it was a good thing we had a nice place to chill out in. We spent a lot of time in Vientiane recuperating, updating blogs, watching films on HBO etc. We also found a great roof top bar with excellent views over the Mekong  (in between the illness) where we sat to watch the sunset and the lightening in the distance, people watching inc. locals flying model aeroplanes and jet skiers, which made a nice change to feeling boxed in the room, sick. We also sampled the delicious street food most nights, Lao Laap and Lao noodle soup the winners.

In amongst the illness we did manage to get out and see some of Vientiane. The 'Buddha Park’ is situated 25km outside of town so we shared a tuk tuk there.  The park has lots of different concrete sculptures of Buddha which were constructed in the 1950’s by a holy man, who claimed to be a disciple of a cave dwelling Hindu hermit in Vietnam, as a way to spread his ideas of life, pictures below.  We also walked to the Victory Gate, which is Laos’ answer to the Arc de Triomphe.  The USA had given money to Laos to build a new city airport in the 1960’s, but instead they constructed this monument in memory of those lost at war.  It is now nicknamed the "vertical runway".

On one day we visited the COPE centre, which is a not for profit organisation that helps to rehabilitate victims of mines and other accidents and injuries (mainly road traffic) that works in partnership with the National Rehabilitation Centre (NRC) and provincial rehabilitation centres COPE provides access to orthotic/prosthetic devices and rehabilitation services, including Physiotherapy and Occupational Therapy.  As well as running free clinics throughout the country they also have an outreach section to ensure that people in remote areas get assistance.  Laos is the most bombed country in the world thanks the secret war launched by the Americans during the Vietnam War.  260 million cluster bombes were dropped at that time and as around 30% of the clusters fail to detonate that has left the country with around 80 million unexploded cluster bombs (UXO).  Many locals and many many children search for these as scrap metalto make a quick buck.  As there is little education on how to handle these it means that death and injury is common.  It was also really sadenning to hear that a lot of those who die could be saved if they had access to medical care but many local hospitals do not have blood or oxygen and so the injured are taken home to die amoung family.  If you want to learn more about what they do visit www.copelaos.org.  We donated what we could but felt a bit helpless at the enormity of the problem.

We decided to walk the 2.5 kilimetres one afternoon to That Luang, which is a temple covered in gold and is Laos national symbol, though I believe the gold is gold leaf.  The sun is meant to illuminate the temple at sun set, though the day was overcast which made for frustrating pictures but made the walk more bearable.

Tonight we get the sleeper bus South and so this morning we went to the local hospital to see if we could have my stitches out.  The bureaucracy is a bit mind boggling here, as they didn’t even look at the stitches to begin with, but wrote out a receipt, sent us to the pharmacy to collect the medical equipment they needed to treat me, then sent us to the cashier to pay, then back to the pharmacy to pick up the wound dressing which we didn’t even use. I’m not sure the nurse taking the stitches out actually bothered checking properly as to whether they were ready to come out, but out they came anyway, so with new dressing on my leg, we continue on our journey on the overnight bus to Pakse.  
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Comments

John Caulfield on

Wonderful write ups so far!! Thanks for sharing, we can travel with you to an extent. All the best with the next steps. Shake it easy :) J

Matthew Lawson on

Man o man, I had a good time on my b'day, 9th July, but you guys piss all over that - I'm dropping in on this blog from time to time, and whilst it's fascinating it also makes me feel quite sick with jealousy :-) ... Keep up with the writing! Loving it! xxx ...

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