We decided to finish our trip to Laos in the national capital: Ventiane. This capital, very much like the rest of Laos, is rather modest and more influenced by its French roots rather than by the major Western trends. Honestly, we stayed there for four days and felt that a day or two would probably have been enough to visit everything there was to see. We took advantage of our free time there to caught up with some important elements. First, it was of the up most importance to go to see the new episode of our favorite space opera, Rogue One! Seriously, we went more often to the movies in the last 6 months than in the last two years. At $40 for four movie tickets, four popcorn and four soft drinks, it’s a pleasure we can afford without breaking the bank like in Canada.
Second, we got up to date in the school work, blog and other paperwork. Our boys will enjoy a well-earned school break for the holiday season. We also managed to find a small French oasis, L’Institut Français where our children spent hours reading comics and where Karine finished reading the last chapters of her novel.
Finally, we did our best to get in the Christmas mood by listening to christmas music and by watching classic holiday movies. Without the snow and the frenzy around Christmas, it’s hard to get into the holiday spirit even though there are a few Christmas trees here and there.
Still, we have done some noteworthy activities that we are happy to share below.
Walk in Ventiane
The attractions in Ventiane are mainly temples and some large statues. Since we feel that we have seen enough temple already for a lifetime, we spent our time looking for the statues and the famous Patuxai. The Patuxai is a memorial to honor soldiers who died during the Laos war. It actually has some similarities with the Arch of triumph of Paris, another wink to the old colony. Some giant statues are also scattered around Ventiane and are at the image of the great mens who influenced the history of this country. One of them is at the image of King Anouvong, a symbol of resistance to Thailand and China and which represents well what we have seen from Laos so far, ie a country that seems to remain a little apart from its neighbors and which has preserved its roots.
The Cope Center
Certainly one of the museums that we will remember for a long time and which is, in our opinion, a must see in Ventiane is the Cope Center. To put you in context, during the Vietnam War or as it is called here, the American War, Laos was bombed by more than 260 million cluster bombs, that represented 8 bombs per minute, for 9 years. This country was recognized by President Obama last September as the most bombed country in history. Cluster bombs are special bombs because they are in fact large bombs that disperse hundreds of smaller bombs to maximize the area of impact. The use of it is forbidden today in most countries. Unfortunately, it is estimated that about 30% of the bombs dispersed did not detonate during the war and are still present on a large area of Laos, in villages, fields, jungle, etc. Since the end of the war, more than 20,000 people have died or been seriously injured by these bombs, about half of these were children, and only 1% of the bombs who are still posing risks have been defused. Many of these bombs remain on a large area of Laos and place the population at risk. In addition to their mandate to raise awareness about cluster bombs, the Cope Center has the primary objective of providing prostheses for people who have been injured by bombs or other causes. The visit of this center reminded us all that the effects of the war are horrible and that we are truly privileged to live in a country that has been spared from the horrors of modern warfare.
We could have visited some beautiful Wat or the Buddha Park during our stay in Ventiane to give a description of this city that would be more complete, but we honestly did not feel like we had missed much. We are all excited to spend Christmas in Vietnam and New Year’s Day drinking coktails at the beach!