When you live in Thailand, travelling to Laos is very easy. With a friend, who incidentally is also a collector and a contributor to Yankee Air Pirates, we flew from Bangkok to Ubon, then took a bus to the Laotian border, heading for Pakse. The purpose of our trip was to drive to Saravane, and the Ho Chi Minh Trail and to go for a trek in the Boloven Plateau. There, we rented small local motorbikes, 125cc, and headed for Saravane. We were about to leave Saravane when by chance we spotted two huge bombs indicating the entrance of the office of UXO Lao.
Rocket motor assembly for the U.S. 3.5" bazooka round. It was found at the edge of a coffee plantation, during the trek.
Between 1964 and 1973, Laos was (and still is) the most heavily bombed country in the world per capita. It is acknowledged that more than 2 million tons of bombs were dropped, that is than one ton for every man, woman, and child in Laos at the time. The USAF and the RLAF flew more than 580,000 bombing missions, an average of one raid every eight minutes for nine years. Over 270 million cluster munitions were used, and about 80 million malfunctioned, yet still contaminates most of the country, including the forests, rice fields, but can also be found in villages or under the roads. An estimation of 50,000 people have been killed or injured by the UXO in Laos since the beginning of the operations in 1964. Most of the accidents that happened since 1973 occurred when farmers cleared their lands or when people collected metal for resale. Both UXO Lao and MAG organisations are clearing the lands.
The trek itself proved to be very rewarding. The landscape of the Boloven and Sin Xay plateaux are really great, including superb waterfalls. On the history side, many bomb craters are visible.
At the time, jungle was on the mountain, but the lands have been cleared to grow coffee. It was not difficult to imagine that troops, either NVA or Pathet Lao must have been dug in at certain locations when the craters were numerous and rather close one from another.