Vientiane and The Cope Centre

We enjoyed Laos so much, we loved that it was so undeveloped and the people were lovely.  The landscapes were so diverse and picturesque.  While in Vientiane we were lucky enough to stay with some friends from Perth.  We stayed 3 nights when we flew into Laos and then 3 nights again before we flew out.

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Vientiane is the capital of Laos and therefore the busiest and most developed place in Laos but there are few things that you can do while here.

On our first day we walked into town and visited Patuxay or the Victory Gate.  This icon was built by the French in 1957-1968.  It was dedicated to those that fought for french independence and it also resembles the Arc De Triomp in France.

 We also visited the Mekong river and the kids were very intrigued to know that just over the river was Thailand.   We enjoyed visiting the night markets on the river’s edge and the kids loved the playground that is also located there.

One day we hired bikes from near the riverfront and biked out to see temples and other parts of Vientiane.

Laos has a deep history and rated as number 1 on TripAdvisor as Things to Do in Vientiane is Cope Centre, it definitely deserves that accolade.

The centre was only a 10 minute walk from our house so we walked.  As part of our schooling for the day we learnt a lot about the sad history of the country and how what happened many years ago still affects the country every single day.

The Cope Centre was built as a rehabilitation centre for those who were affected by UXO’s (Unexploded Ordnance) and also has an educational element for tourists and those who want to learn more about the problem.  Laos is the heaviest bombed country in the world.  During the Vietnam war the US dropped millions of bombs on Laos.  Before you ask Laos was never part of the war, they call it the secret war as the US denied bombing Laos.  The US pilots were not allowed to land with planes full of bombs so if they hadn’t dropped them all they would fly into Laos and drop them there.  Each Cluster bomb shell contained hundreds of bombies about the size of a large orange.

The statistics say that there are over 80 million unexploded bombs still in Laos today.  Because of this many people are afraid to farm the land as there could be bombs or fragments of bombs under the earth.  People are still dying or being maimed today as a result of the bombs and the sad reality is that the highest percentage of those affected are children.  

Hundreds of Bombies Display

Hundreds of Bombies Display

We watched 2 documentaries while visiting, one about a young father who was lighting a fire to cook dinner and the heat caused a bombie under the earth to explode which caused him to go blind.  It was sad that his wife now had to go to work and provide for the family and he felt so helpless.  He now has to stay home and look after the children and he can’t even do that because he can’t see them.  It was so sad and this is just one tale of thousands of Laotians that have been affected by this problem.

It was a very educational day for all of us and we left with the kids asking the question why doesn’t the USA do more to clean up their mess?  We were not sure how to answer that but we were happy to see that many countries are contributing to the clean up of the bombs.  Australia has a large role in finding and detonating the remaining bombs and educating many locals ton how to do the job.  The New Zealand government also donates $1 million dollars a year to help get rid of the remaining bombs.

This visit deeply affected our whole family and shaped our experiences and perceptions for the rest of our stay in the country.  We would be going out to the country for day trips and little Mo would say “We have to be careful of the bombs everyone”.  And when we saw people with missing limbs he would exclaim “Oh mum, the poor people who got hurt by the bombs.”

Laos is not a country that many people visit but we are so glad we added it to our itinerary.  We felt deeply for the people in Laos and the problems which they are currently still facing because of the war in Vietnam many years ago.

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