Welcome To Laos: Me, Myself, And A Few Cluster Bomb Casings

Truck-ferry-shuttle bus-plane-plane-plane-truck-overnight bus-minivan. About 50 hours total of travel.

I’ve just arrived in Phonsavan, Laos, a small city on the Plain of Jars. I had gotten my bags out of the minivan and got set up in my guesthouse of choice, the Nam Chai. I decided to wander a bit, which, in the afternoons, usually takes me to the Hmong food market. I grabbed my camera and my audio recorder and set off.

I hadn’t even gone 45 paces (yes, I went back and counted them, I’m odd like that) and came across a pile of American cluster bomb casings, courtesy of my country during the Secret War from 1964-1973.

Cluster Bomb Laos

Me, My Shadow, And Some Cluster Bomb Casings

Even with three trips to Laos now under my belt, I’m still surprised at my reaction when I come across the staggering amount of war detritus—much of it Unexploded Ordnance (UXO)—that remains in this country. A country with roughly the same land area as the US State of Utah.*

As an old friend might say You can’t swing a dead cat without hitting UXO in Laos. Of course, you would be wise to, one, not swing things at UXO if you wish to live a long and fruitful life, and, two, leave dead cats alone.

*About 4,000,000,000 pounds dropped on 91,429 sq miles—about 43,750 pounds for each square mile. Of course it wasn’t distributed evenly, but your mental image should be clear.

Welcome To Laos: Me, Myself, And A Few Cluster Bomb Casings

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