I was blessed with a job where I had the opportunity to travel internationally even if it is just around Southeast Asia. However, while I am a jetsetter by the standard of some of my friends, I have yet to see the places that I’ve been.
I never thought that it was possible to visit a place and “never see it.” I think my experience exemplifies this. If you ever heard of some people telling you that you’ve never been to this place unless you’ve visited this place (or something close to this context)—this is my case. To give you a more vivid picture, it is like visiting Quezon City without visiting QC Circle or visiting Sydney without visiting the Sydney Opera House. You’ve been there but never seen it.
In my case, most of my travels were “official” that it felt like hit-and-run trips. I guess I have my thriftiness to blame for this. During my employment, we were saving for our ticket to Perth. And probably the biggest reason—my girls. If I could only take them to each of my trip then it would have been nice to stay a little longer and enjoy. So, there you go, I have a very legit reason for visiting the place and yet not “seeing” it.
For this trip to Cambodia and Laos, I guess I tried hard to insert some recreation in this business trip. I did not have the luxury of doing it in Cambodia but my colleague in Laos made it possible for me to insert a field day to Laos’ famous tourist spots.
The field trip to the plain of jars was quite impressive as it seems to be a natural phenomenon but no one has yet to come up with a definitive answer as to the origins of the jars. Add to the excitement of touring the place was the fear of stepping on unexploded ordinances (UXOs). These war junks were left by Americans at the height of the Vietnam War. Many parts of Laos were bombed including the province that I visited–Xiangkhouang. Xiangkhoung Province is, in fact, one of the world’s most bombed provinces in the most bombed country in the world.
The participation of the US in the clean-up of the war remnants, I think, is only limited to the US-funded UXO-clearance projects through non-government organisations. It was not surprising that the US do not have a post-conflict plan—they did it in Manila where they left a number of areas in their former bases tainted with radio-active wastes among others.
Anyway, the good news is that I can now say that I’ve been to Xiangkhouang and seen it!🙂