After the Lao Cotton Company party, Villa, the driver, took a nap in his tuk tuk while we rested in our room. Later that night we toured the city under the lights.
Villa, it turns out, is not just a tuk tuk driver. His other job is finding unexploded ordinances that had been dumped onto Lao by the millions during the Viet Nam War by CIA pilots dressed in T-Shirts and shorts. Of course at the time Nixon insisted we weren’t in Lao or Cambodia during the war. We weren’t…officially. But ask any Lao whether we were and you will get your answer. Before any new thing can be constructed…like a new dam that is being built now in the south of Lao, unexploded bombs have to be found before people get their bodies blown to bits. This will be going on for years and years to come.
Villa’s father fought in the war against the French and he was quite knowledgable about his country’s history. “As long as we are not disturbed by any other country we will be able to develop economically,” he says. “We are at peace now, he adds and I think the future looks good.” I agree.
I spent two days on this trip trying to find the old neighborhood in the city center where I had stayed two years ago and couldn’t figure out why I didn’t recognize anything. It turns out the streets have been paved, street lights put up and new businesses put up by the dozens!