Monday, November 14, 2016

INDOCHINA: Travel Beyond Tourism

At one of the bus stopovers in Vietnam en route to Phonsavan
When the bus pulled over at a restaurant I looked for food in the shelves. But all I saw were tables with set meals. I thought they were for the drivers and their crew. Then they invited me over. I remembered Vietnam is a communist country! It was a feast for free.
Things like this are the highlights of my Indochina backpacking. While many people would imagine Angkor Wat, Wat Pho, The Royal Palace and the Floating Market when they hear Indochina backpacking, I devoted most of my time to things that are intangible like the stories behind Tuol Sleng in Cambodia and the bombs in Laos. As a matter of fact, I only spent 3 hours on my bike in the 25 sq.km. complex of Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom and Ta Phrom; but I spent 2 hours at the small COPE Visitor Center in Laos trying to know the horrors and impact of the atrocities of the US in Indochina. And while many would think that my Indochina itinerary is a wild rush, I actually almost always had a beer in one hand. It was a slow yet fun trip. If I wanted to linger at a spot, I'd do that in the mountains in the Philippines. Why would I waste 3 days (like the tourists recommended) staring at the temples in Siem Reap? When I saw the temples, yes I was amazed by the work of the human hands. But that's the case for all the other temples! The same loss of excitement that I felt two years ago upon seeing the Royal Palace. Actually the jungle in Siem Reap was the one that caught my attention. I enjoyed riding my bicycle under its canopy more than immersing myself among the tourists in the temples.
Of all the beers I tried in Indochina, Saigon Special is the best

And I loved the bus rides too. They were comfortable and they double as your hotel room too. It felt good to be the only non-Vietnamese or non-Lao on one inter-country bus ride. Most tourists would take the Dien Bien Phu - Muang Khua border or the Mekong River crossing. My objective was not to take a selfie at the temples nor to have an immersion. My objective was to find stories. And I'll share one with you.
Laos is the most heavily bombed country in the world. And whose bombs? The US--in their desperate attempt to win over Vietnam. The unexploded ordnance that they have left in Laos have killed more than THIRTY THOUSAND (and counting) innocent civilians in Laos since the end of the Vietnam war. And of course, we always disregard the injured! But the injured have more haunting stories to tell. And only 3 percent of these unexploded bomblets have been neutralized. COPE says that with the amount of support and manpower they have, trying to rid Lao lands of these bombs, it will take more than a hundred years to completely declare these farming lands safe! Now you know why Laos is poor.
These neutralized bomblets are the centerpiece of the CORE Visitor's Center in Vientiane
And the US has the audacity to bitch about Duterte's 3000 dead drug addicts! WTF?!!! And did you also know that the US supplied Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge with arms that killed an estimated 1.7 million Cambodians in 4 years? Why? You might ask. Because Pol Pot helped the US subdue the Vietnamese forces. You see this vendetta of the US against Vietnam has made the US volunteer to be instrumental in a genocide in Cambodia and a continuing massacre in Laos without even being there. Experiences like these are the ones I look for in a trip. Something that can improve my worldview. I don't think I'd get these stories in the temples. When you're traveling beyond tourism in Indochina, ten days is actually more than enough. If you're collecting temples and heritage sites, 10 days is too short and yes, in that sense, Indochina is actually already very common.

2 comments:

  1. Hi sir Adonis,
    Ten days for four countries, crossing border by buses lahat?Ang budget na 20K kasama na ba doon ang airfare? Ang entry point mo ba sir ay Laos then exit sa Thai?Saan hotel ka usually nag-e-stay? Thanks

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. all the answers are here
      http://www.lagataw.com/2016/11/vietnam-laos-thailand-cambodia-for-less.html

      Delete

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