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Destination Laos: Spiritual Travel, Especially for ‘Americans’, Atonement, Adventure, Friends

Updated: Feb 23

November, 2020. I say 'Americans' because the U.S.’s bombed Laos from 1964 through 1973, killing at least 1 in 10 people in the country. The temple to the Buddha at Wat Phia Wat near Phonsaven, is only one, especially poignant example of what the US did to Laos over almost a decade, the two little Buddhas, one entirely singed and the other nearly unscathed, symbolic of the loss to the nation as a whole. Visiting Laos in and of itself makes a contribution to the economy in desperate times. Being generous with people could make an important difference in the lives of some of them. It is an especially nice touch for Americans whose tax dollars funded the War on Laos. Redemption I like to call it, Redemption Travel or Antonement Travel. It can be found and it can be done, Laos might be a good place to start, or at least include on your list.

One third of the bombs dropped did not explode upon impact and 80 million unexploded ordnance (UXO) remained, of which around only one percent have now been located and detonated. The recent play This Little Land of Mines explores the impact of the U.S.’s “secret war” in Laos during the Vietnam War, the impact on the lives of a group of Laotians who struggle with the physical and emotional traumas they continue to bear. People in Laos continue to work at the detonation of 80 million remaining UXOs but the going remains slow. Perhaps the depth of the tragedy is best captured in the use of shell casings as prosthetic devices, not an uncommon sight in Laos.

As of this writing, November 24, 2000, Laos is reporting a grand total of 39 cases of COVID-19, of which 24 are listed as recovered, with 0 deaths. This is very low, as is the case in neighboring Vietnam, where tourism appears to be changing things, however. Laos might prove to be a calm destination where one could get their head together in a safe and beautiful place with friendly people - and not die of COVID-19. The Chinese appear to be the first group of tourists that are arranging their return in large numbers. Tests are probably given at the airport, or an individual might have to provide this recent documentation. Throughout Southeast Asia generally speaking, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, in a Post-COVID-19 world, many may choose to at least try to sidestep the throngs of Chinese tourists that will soon return, as never before. If you move quickly, very quickly, you could get their first.

Merely making friends in Laos, as with the developing world more generally speaking, has been greatly aided by the invention of the translation machine, now highly portable, fits in your hand. You type it or speak it in English and they read it in Laotian, or listen to it. Keep in mind that you can talk to them now, something that would have been most difficult only a few years before.

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