Most Bombed Country in the World
Pausing for a photo, we then walk under an archway that tells us ‘Welcome to Indo China.’
Polly and I met on a beach in Malaysia two months ago. Hearing travellers extolling the beauty, the friendliness and non-tourist-like qualities of Laos, we succumb to the temptation to visit ‘the most bombed country in the world’ and two days ago we met as arranged in northern Thailand. We’re about to cross into a country that neither of us knows about except those good reports.
A borrowed guidebook has given me a few facts: during the late sixties and early seventies, American B-52s dropped some 6000 tonnes of bombs on this narrow country in an attempt to destroy the Ho Chi Minh Trail. Special guerrilla units, trained by the CIA, caused such havoc that locals planted and harvested their rice at night and 300,000 people fled to refuge camps in Thailand: it’s the heaviest bombing any country has ever encountered. Although one of the poorest nations in the world and with a life expectancy of only 52 years, these five million, mainly Buddhist people, remain resilient.
‘Can I take my gun?’ I ask the guard. Crossing borders can be fraught with problems but I smile and hope all will be well as she holds out her hands and I hand it over. Solemnly taking it, she looks at her fellow officer, lines the barrel with his chest and fires!
We laugh; his uniform is covered with water. For the first time I witness humour from customs officials but in spite of our shared laughter I’m not allowed to take a photo of them having fun. Nevertheless I can take my new, bright-green, double-barrelled, pump action water pistol with me: Polly takes her red and yellow one.
Read more in Naked in Budapest: travels with a passionate nomad by Heather Hapeta