This is a complex part of the world. There are heavy influences from China and in turn Russia. To balance this the USA spent a lot of time and money here in the past.
Three disturbing things we have experienced here.
The first was quick, we were walking past the market at the Vientiane bus station and stumbled across two stalls selling rhino horn. Yes rhino, the worldwide protected, CITES listed rhino. If you look at the photo you will agree it is undoubtedly rhino. Laos relies heavily on foreign aid from various countries, it's time to ask our governments if they want to continue to support a country that allows this trade! Please write to your appropriate government body.
The second shock was learning of the secret war in Laos. Loas was declared neutral in the 50's. However the USA disregarded their obligations and supported the right wing fighters in the laos civil war in the late fifties and early sixties. Then in the 60's there was the Vietnam war where the Russians and USA played out their differences. During this time the USA dropped approx 2,000,000 tonnes of bombs on Laos, more than the total dropped on Germany and Japan in ww2! This was a tonne for every man, woman and child in Laos at that time! The real shock is that almost fifty years after the end of the Vietnam war unexploded bombs are still maiming and killing Laos people, about 80 people are killed each year. Most of the unexploded ammunition still here are bomblets, tiny bombs 2" in diameter designed to kill people. There was an international agreement in the noughties that these bombs should never again be used in combat, sadly the USA refused to sign the agreement.
The third shock was the sight of massive areas of slash and burn when we went trekking to the local villages in a national protected area (NPA). I thought the NPA status would mean that the jungle was protected from being cleared. However there appears to be no protection at all. Our guide explained that the villages within the NPA are allowed to live as they did in the past. In addition more rice is needed to feed the increasing population, so forest and jungle is being turned into paddy fields. Consequently, there is very little jungle left in the area around Luang Probang. There is no wildlife as the villagers eat any monkeys, moles, rats, birds and even butterflies.
An important part of travel is to learn.
Happier blogs to come! Love C & V.