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  • When it came time to decide what bikes to hire we had a choice; cheap, nasty and available immediately or the deluxe option costing tens of thousands of Kip more and located on the other side of town. Those large multiples of Lao Kip confused us, the price hike seemed much more than its true exchange value in our own currencies and we were blind to the fact that it was only a few dollars more a day. What the heck, we were riding motorcycles, lets be reckless. Cheap and nasty coming right up.

    It wasn't long before the pitfalls of our decision revealed itself. Those bikes were held together with glue, gaffer tap and stripped screws and the stops were frequent. But there is a beauty to the cheap south east asian style of bike, they are simple and in Laos everyone is a mechanic. As we made our journey around what is known to backpackers as 'the Loop' in the central Lao province of Khammouane our misbehaving bikes and frequent stops were adding something to our adventure, it was unpredictable and felt like an adventure of sorts. It was also time consuming and with the impending deadline of nightfall approaching we needed to get a move on, within reason of course.

    Well, what you possibly predicted to happen, did indeed happen. There was an accident (some scrapes but luckily no breaks), we got lost and found ourselves riding those sad and sorrowful motorcycles along dirt tracks well and truly into nightfall with no end in sight. For even a romantic traveller this was time to worry, especially as our fuel was running out.

    Luck how ever was on our side, Lao people are not only all mechanics but they are also very hospitable. We stopped at a village and the first bike that arrived invited us to their home, gave us some local whisky and noodles and more importantly a bed to sleep on.

    The picture you see is of our host, its the morning after and what he's holding in his hand is the point to this story. Its a bomb.

    For those that aren't aware Laos was fighting a civil war in the 60's and 70's and also the victim to the largest bombing campaign per capita in history. But for Laos it is not just history it's the present, across the country lies an incalculable but enormously large amount of unexploded ordinance (UXO). Still killing, still maiming people throughout the country each day.

    This bombie was safe apparently, demonstrated by our host by tapping it against the giant metallic structure lying next to him, what turn out to be the inner casing of a cluster bomb making up the furniture of the room.

    Before fleeing the hut I took this photo. It put our situation well and truly into perspective.

    Our bikes got repaired, refuelled and my friend got bandaged up but war is not so easy to repair. Its consequences are felt decades and even generations after. My heart goes out to those living each day with the deadly remains of conflict.
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