10 October 2015.
At the end of the afternoon it was time to leave South Korea and move on to our next destination: Laos. Or in full, Lao People’s Democratic Republic. Very democratic really, with an amazing number of parties to vote on. That is one. With an average GDP per capita of about 1600 euro it belongs to one of the poorest countries in Asia (many African countries are much worse BTW), so we expected a lot of misery.
When our plane arrived in Vientiane, first we had to go through the usual hassle of going through customs and pay for our fine (also called Visa). We where standing in line at the customs and I was called forward, when I almost tripped on something. It appeared to be a piece of woman underwear, a string, lying just in front of desk of the customs. We almost could not help laughing out loud, but managed to keep a serious face. Of course we didn’t dare to take photographs at the customs, they usually have little sense of humour and don’t like that sort of stuff. After paying 30 dollars each for our precious stamps, we got into the country in a record time, so it seems there is really no reason to bribe the customs with a string between your passport to get into the country. From disembarking to collecting our bags and going through customs took only 15 minutes or so.
The local time now is half past eleven in the evening, so we where a little anxious to arrive safe at our hotel so late at night. Luckily they had a way to make it reasonable safe. At the airport it was possible to get a pre-booked taxi with a reputable driver. So we just ignored the armada of taxi driver scum that probably would robe you, rape you and left you for death in some unknown ally. The taxi was a whopping 6 dollar and extremely efficient. Just before a traffic light he would dive into an ally on the right only to appear on the other side before all other traffic. It was as he was driving in a game of Grand Theft Auto. In no time we were at our guesthouse, in which they were aware of our late arrival. A boy showed us our room, and we slept like a charm until late in the morning.
When we arrived it was raining and the next day was not any different. We decided to take our umbrellas and go for a walk to the COPE museum. COPE stands for Cooperative Orthotic and Prosthetic Enterprise. What they do is help people with physical disabilities and give them free access to things like prostetics and rehabilitation. The most interesting thing in the museum were the documentaries about the terrible things that happened during the war and what is done at the moment with the help of volunteers to recover from the mess they are still in due to the 270 million (!) cluster bombs which America dropped on Laos (what they denied BTW). Laos is still littered with unexploded bombs and much of the land is unusable because of the dangers. In one of the documentaries it is shown how Australian military try to teach the locals to dismantle unexploded bombs. The sad thing is that when a bomb in a village is found, the villagers actually do not want the bomb to be taken away or destroyed, because for these people the bomb has much value for its scrap metal that they can sell. They appear to be totally unaware of the dangers, risking their lives for a few tens of dollars.
After leaving we were a little depressed and in a sad mood. A girl looking creepy at us at a shop where we had some noodles, as if we were the ones that were responsible for the bombs, and a little boy with only one leg at the side of the street didn’t help to improve our mood.
We had dinner at the That Dam Wine house, a luxurious restaurant nearby, but it was full of loud noisy drunken people in a room with lots of echo in it, the airco was set on minus fifteen degrees and it featured "ongezellige" TL lighting, as is the norm in Asia. A fitting end to a somewhat depressing first day in Laos.