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A TASTE of LAOS - The Land of a Million Elephants

Thanks wongmo r and Debra

Just typed 'Laos' into the search bar - "No result matches your query"

So continuing the 'A Taste of...' series I offer my favourite country...Laos.

Did you know?:-
- Laos is the most heavily bombed country per capita in the history of warfare.
- Over 2 million tons of ordnance were dropped on Laos between 1964 and 1973
- that's one B-52 every 8 minutes, 24hrs/day for 9 years!
- 25% of villages are contaminated with UXO
- there are 80 million unexploded 'bombies' remaining
- 70,000+ people have been killed by UXO accidents to date
- only 1% of the land has been cleared
- More than a quarter of Laos residents live on less than $1.25 a day.

This was the CIA's 'Secret War' which went under the name of Air America in their aim to stop the spread of communism in the region. Vietnam was used in the media as the cause, so that a PR successful sea assault could be made to the region.

The budget for clearing these UXO is staggeringly small, with America STILL not acknowledging officially what they actually did there - thereby having no grounds to donate funds to clear their up mess.

Laos' borders were closed until around 1995, and tourism really started to get going after 2006. The development and construction work can be seen everywhere, and there is lots of foreign trade investment - however VERY little money goes to clearing up the UXO (no profit in that!). With all this development there is also a very real threat of HIV spreading, and with Laos being part of the Golden Triangle drug production is there. Laos needs help on so many levels.

I just wanted to promote this cause here, which is close to my heart, to the TED community in the hope that at least one person takes note and passes this very real story on, so that the very proud and beautiful people of Laos may be able to go about their lives free from this evil problem.

  • Jun 13 2011: - 5min atmospheric video of Luang Prabang - A hill tribe village - 5x10min documentary on the CIA's Covert War in Laos (re-posted from below)

    This next clip was shown at the Amnesty International Film Festival - IT IS GRAPHIC - and you will not feel good after watching. To do so is a choice that living in the West gives you. Open your eyes? Here it is:-

    So here I leave it for now - I hope people get to visit this beautiful country.
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      • Jun 13 2011: I can certainly add more. It's been fun browsing You Tube - SO much on there, and it's brought back a lot of old memories, butI must say there is also a load of rubbish to filter through too.

        I might try to find some other sites also. :)
  • Jun 8 2011: I wanted to show this map image to put into perspective the extent of the bombing missions. - I have also posted some of my Laos photos there for those interested.

    Culture - The Traditional Arts and Ethnology Centre - see links page - nice site> -The National Tourism Site - this is a really nice blog, and some great photos showing Lao life.

    Dancing and Music - many tears have been shed laughing at them, with them, and by them at me! It doesn't matter if you can't dance, however bad - it will be 'good good' said with a big smile.
    I am posting a few of these links as I believe it sums up their attitude in life :) - Traditional style music video - Traditional style music video - typical countryside wedding dancing - note the speakers! - typical city wedding dancing - wedding ceremony
    ----------- - this isn't the best videography (more for audio), but I like the way this guy heard the monks chanting through the trees just as I had done years ago and went to investigate - very magical and quite overwhelming as the sound gets louder as he enters. I challenge anyone not to be at peace upon those steps, its even more powerful while thinking about all those bombs!

    If anyone has questions or requests for links please ask :)
  • Jun 8 2011: It seems TED has a time limit for staying logged in, I've lost 3 posts filled with info just now after hitting submit then losing the text - will try to remember to make a copy first!

    Firstly I really want to say...Laos is pronounced 'LAO', it has a SILENT 's' ! It's a small point, but ask a native Laotian. No doubt the 's' sound was an Americanism.

    Anyway I have found Laos to be such a friendly place, yes crime is on the increase, but that is to be expected with increased tourism, and development etc. I remember the time you could leave your bag in the street and people wouldn't touch it, money, passport and camera have been returned to me too once. I think the Lao people's positive attitude is partly due to their religion, and also because of their horrific past - where they want to put it aside and look to the future.

    Life expectancy is up by 10 yrs to 64years. 50% of the population is under 18, and families are large! this leads to LOTS of wedding parties. Also parties for new born babies, parties for a new house, parties for a new business etc and this is celebrated with lots of food, dancing and music (which for some reason is always seriously LOUD).

    Indeed dancing and music are an integral part of Lao culture, no one needs an excuse to start singing or dancing wherever they may be. The traditional style is prevalent, however expect anything! Traditional dancing can be mixed with a form of line dancing, and I have even seen it used with heavy rap/metal. Hip hop is also becoming ever popular. Physical contact and public shows of affection are usually not very common.

    Ecotourism in Laos is very much being promoted, as it has huge national parks, and a very rich tribal mix such as the Akkha, Khmu, Tai Dam, Hmong etc

    I've always found the 'image search' in Google to be highly useful, but I will post several links below to get you started (mostly You Tube) as it really does have practically everything :D

    Ah can't reply to my own posts :P please see above :)
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    Jun 7 2011: Thank you Alexander ....for wakingme up some more cry!

    I think that Wongmo has done us all a huge service in helping us to see the world as it is through eyes of people who love the lands and call them either 'home' or 'friend'.

    As a naive person it breaks my heart and strengthens my spine all at once.

    I'll look forward to reading every entry!
    • Jun 8 2011: Thanks Debra for taking note :D
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    • Jun 7 2011: Thanks wongmo :) I will also add some links sometime tomorrow on its culture etc.

      The link you provide is VERY interesting indeed - particularly the bit on Laos' Foreign Relations section. I think there is some serious information missing there! ;)

      Here is just one documentary (5 parts - but I'm wondering if the US internet servers blocked it too though)