Thursday, 28 May 2015

Contiki Big Indochina Adventure #7 | Vientiane

After a long drive we arrived in the capital. You could tell instantly it was the capital city as it was a lot more westernised then anywhere else we visited. Vientiane was the administrative capital during French rule and due to economic growth in recent times it is now the economic centre of Laos. The architecture is very much French influenced, which is most apparent with the Patuxai or "Victory Gate" which bares great resemblance of the Arch De Triomphe in Paris. It is typically Laotian in it's design featuring mythical creatures such as Kinnari or "Half female, half bird".  We climbed to the top and were met with the most incredible views of the city. I'm a city girl at heart so I loved being back in hustle and bustle! We took a tour around the local landmarks, my favourites being the Patuxai and Pha That Luang.

Phat That Luang

After sightseeing, we were brought to the Cope Centre. The Cope Centre . It was incredibly moving, and incredibly upsetting at the same time. Laos is the most bombed country per capita in history. During 1964 and 1974 the United States dropped more than 2 MILLION tons of ordinance on Laos during 580,000 bombing missions. It's not broadcasted as much or as loudly as it should be. Laos is nearly forgotten. Today was the first day of the trip that I got upset, upset that I didn't know to the extent of what happened. 30% of the bombs dropped during the Vietnam War didn't go off, meaning some are still active today. What's shocking that even though people know bombs were dropped in certain area's they've little choice to still farm the land, as they need to make a living. The main income in Laos comes from agriculture, so it's a catch 22. The devastation of a bomb going off affects the whole family.  If the Father is killed or looses limbs, the family is more or less screwed. Another concern is for children playing on the land, as if they find one they'd assume it was a toy. It's so devastating, and it still doesn't sit right with me that the U.S did what they did and aren't contributing enough to Laos - but if we're honest what is enough?

Patuxai

  I did Vietnam History in school and touched on it in University but Laos was only ever mentioned in passing, only briefly discussing what happened to Laos. I was aware of it, and I knew it was heavily bombed during the Vietnam War, but I didn't know to what extent, and I didn't know how much it was affecting the Laotian people today. The Cope Centre are a wonderful organisation that was created in response to the need to provide UXO (unexploded Ordinance)  survivors with the care and support they required, namely by way of orthotic and prostethic devices. The rehabilitation centre provide access to prosthetic devices as well as rehabilitation centres, including physiotherapy, occupational therapy and paediatric services to people with disabilities. It was a pleasure to visit such a wonderful organisation. After a short movie we were shown around. As well as a visitor centre the complex also hosts a Rehabilitation Hospital. The whole experience was enlightening to say the least. A lot of the group made donations as well. It moved a lot of us. I donated a leg online as I didn't have any cash on me at the time, and I was so touched that I couldn't not do something to help.  It was so easy to do it through the website. It's something that touched my heart and something that I'd like to continue to donate to for many years to come.

The Cope Centre 
It was then back onto the bus to make our way to our hotel. The hotel was a cool boutique, with funky corridors. It was here the first accident of my trip happened. We were flying to Phnom Pehn the next day and after packing I wanted to weight my case. What I didn't realise was that my suitcase weighing scale was on the dodgy side. Upon trying to lift it up it snapped and went flying into my lip! I'm so lucky my mouth was closed or that it didn't hit my eye. My lip started bleeding and man it swelled up! My lovely friend Stephie came to my aid and was the perfect nurse to the biggest baby on the trip. I walked around Vientiane with a cold can of Diet Coke to my lip for the rest of the evening. We all split up for dinner all a bit tired and deflated from the day before. We had a quick look at the night market before hitting the hay, as it was an early enough start the next day.

Next Stop Cambodia!
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