Photo: Classic scenery surrounds Vang Vieng.

Laos forum

Motorbike from Phonsavan to the plain of jars

Posted by PeterW on 18/3/2012 at 07:32

Hi

I am thinking or renting a motorbike tomorrow and going to the plain of jars with just me, a map and my camera. A tour operator was saying the roads are too bad for a motorbike but I'm a little suspect. I am with a German girl who hasn't ridden a bike a lot and this advice has thrown her off the idea just as she was coming round - which is fair enough! I'm not taking her on the back of mine because if I crash I hurt myself and thats it. I don't want to take anyone down with me.

Has anyone been recently who can report on the state of the roads?

Thanks

#1 PeterW has been a member since 29/8/2011. Posts: 31

Posted by busylizzy on 18/3/2012 at 14:37

I was keen to do the same thing when I was there last year, and we heard the same story about the roads. We decided to go with a driver in the end - but only because we also wanted to see some other things further away as well and a driver ended up being an easier option. In reality, I didn't think the roads to the Jar Site #1 were that bad. I didn't go to #2 and #3, so can't comment on that.

If I were going to do it again, I would have stayed for an extra day or two and hired a motor bike to get around to see the Jar Sites. Site #1 would be easy to find - just be sure to get a good map. There is a good info centre about 1-2km out of town on the way to the Site 1 that has helpful info, maps, etc.


If you decide to forfeit the motorbikes and get a driver instead, I'd recommend a drive out to the Craters (and area that was heavily bombed). It's a lovely scenic ride, and the size and quantity of craters is staggering. What made it more fascinating for us when we were there was to see the locals living and farming around the border of the crater site - as the landmine clearance teams were working there way around their land. It really brought home how life must be for the Laos - having to get on with their lives on land that hasn't yet been cleared of mines.

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Posted by PeterJW on 23/3/2012 at 21:49

Thanks Buzylizzy.

Just so you know you can take a motorbike. The roads are OK ish but you need to be carefull. It would have been better than the 5 or so hours in the minivan we spent between 8.30 and 4pm!

However, it is certainly interesting to say the least. The last casualty that I can be certain of was only 4 days ago! The women survived, but apparently 40% do when they unfortunately come into contact with a UXO. Bloody hell. The US should be paying a little more from their overseas aid budgets to clear this up me thinks......

#3 PeterJW has been a member since 30/8/2011. Posts: 19

Posted by MADMAC on 23/3/2012 at 22:52

"The US should be paying a little more from their overseas aid budgets to clear this up me thinks......"

How about the Vietnamese, since they planted most of the mines (by far) and since they started the war by violating the '62 agreement and invading Laos: Why do they get a pass?

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Posted by PeterJW on 24/3/2012 at 07:59

Hello = Sorry didn't mean to offend to USA there. I can't say I'm an expert in this topic but from what I understood landmines were no longer a problem here unlike Cambodia - its mainly cluster bomblets (or whatever they're called) and other ordnance dropped from planes. Apparently all the left over bombs were dropped after bombing raids which is standard because the pilots didn't want to land with them on the plane in case they crashed. Any further info I'll be grateful to hear - always good to learn more. I was only there for a day :) They didn't say much about the Vietnamese either :)

#5 PeterJW has been a member since 30/8/2011. Posts: 19

Posted by MADMAC on 25/3/2012 at 01:01

Peter
I just like to keep some perspective. The NVA maintained some ten divisions in Laos from 62 to 75. That's a lot. They brought in a lot of ordnance as well. And the entire reason that the war in Laos continued after the defeat of the French was Vietnamese aggression. Remove it, and there would have been no American involvement. It wasn't a war of American aggression, which is how it's painted in a lot of circles.
Cluster bombs and a lousy little mine called "dragonseed" was used during the war to interdict the trail. The use of dragonseed was a bad idea (the use of cluster munitions is more complex, because it begs the question if not cluster munitions then what?) as it wasn't effective and it carried undue risk of collateral damage. But standards in the 60s were FAR different from today. The NVA and Vietcong placed tens of millions of land mines, punji sticks and booby traps of all sorts arbitrarily, also a violation of the laws of land warfare as they are understood today and also causing large numbers of civilians casualties. Furthermore, the NVA were fighting in Laos in the service of despotism, and a lot of people ignore that as well.
Having said all that, I do think the US government should do more to assist in the removal of UXOs in Laos via the funding of NGOs for that purpose, just because heretofore participation in that effort has been minimal. There is a mistaken notion that the US has a lot of data on where UXOs are. The bombing was done over a fairly wide area of eastern Laos, and it was not precision bombing, and it was massive. So there isn't much data that would be of service there. It's going to have to be done the old fashion way, by finding, disarming or destroying munitions in place.

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Posted by PeterJW on 2/4/2012 at 11:53

Sorry for staying mute on this. I can't really respond succinctly - I don't know much about it apart from the fact its just tragic. Thanks for the info though

#7 PeterJW has been a member since 30/8/2011. Posts: 19

Posted by MADMAC on 3/4/2012 at 00:18

That's OK man. No worries. Like I said, I just like to keep it real. I have seen all kinds of contortions with place all of the blame for the war in SEA on American policy, who blame the emmergence of prostitution in SEA on American involvement in the war... who basically belong to the "blame America first" club.

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Posted by neosho on 4/4/2012 at 07:38

Whoa Madmac
You seem to be blindly accepting the militarys version of that war. The original war was for independence from the French. The Vietnamese came to us for aid and we turned them down. The sole reason for all the bombings in the Plain of Jars is because the Ho Chi Min trail ran through there. Nothing else. Kennedy spoke on tv in early 61 and said we would not get involved. As he spoke, American special forces were headed that way. I think that's a little before the 62 incident you speak of. The esclation of the war during the Johnson administration was because of the Gulf on Tonkin incident which has long been proven to be false. The whole thing was the "domino theory". Well, over 58,000 young Americans later, the dominos still fell and our government walked away without giving a tinkers damm about it or the boys that fought it. There are still many vets that take issue with that war and I for one do not accept the govenrments version.

#9 neosho has been a member since 13/8/2008. Posts: 386

Posted by MADMAC on 4/4/2012 at 08:52

Neosho
Not simple hombre - and no, I do own homework. I don't blindly believe anyone on this planet when it comes to history.

The American government was highly sympathetic to the Viet Minh, but the Viet Minh made a conscious decision to align itself with the Soviet Union. To forget that all this took place in the middle of the most significant ideological war in global history (and one in which the US represented without question the side of right) is to distort events. The Viet Ming defacto turned it's back on the US when it turned towards the Soviets. We were NOT sympathetic with the French returning to Indochina, but Viet Ming intransigience, Soviet machinations and French intransigience brought about the circumstances. Had Uncle Ho turned his back on communism and the Soviet Union we would not have supported the French (as indeed we did not for the first two years).

"The sole reason for all the bombings in the Plain of Jars is because the Ho Chi Min trail ran through there. "

This is absolutely wrong. The NVA presense on the Plain of Jars was because Vietnamese policy was to ensure Laos was a Vietnamese client state (which it remains today). Not to mention the fact that the trail itself was illegitimate. The Vietnamese HAD ZERO RIGHT to run a logisitcs trail through Laos. No trail, no Vietnamese aggression, no American bombing. That simple.

"Kennedy spoke on tv in early 61 and said we would not get involved. As he spoke, American special forces were headed that way. "

He did not mean we would not support the government of Laos. He meant we would not send ground combat troops - which we did not. Again, the Vietnamese signed the 62 agreement and they violated it with a 100,000 man presense in Laos. Why are they off the hook?

"The esclation of the war during the Johnson administration was because of the Gulf on Tonkin incident which has long been proven to be false."

This is again wrong. The real escalation of the war began when the Dong made a conscious decision to up the stakes in South Vietnam and commit the NVA. No commitment of the NVA, no commitment of American ground troops. It's that simple. They wanted escalation. Johnson did not, and the historical record clearly demonstrates that.

Again, this must be seen in the light of the post Korean conflict, where US troops made a stand against aggression and defeated a violent attempt at communist expansion. That same attempt was going on in SEA (Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia). It was defeated in three countries, it won in three countries - to the detriment of the three it won in.

"The whole thing was the "domino theory". Well, over 58,000 young Americans later, the dominos still fell and our government walked away without giving a tinkers damm about it or the boys that fought it. "

Again, this is wrong. Thailand and the nations south of it, defeated their communist threats because of the war fought in Vietnam. Why do you think "Thai mercanries" fought in Laos (one is a friend of mine now - chess player). The war in Laos did have the positive effect of saving Thailand from communist expansion.

"There are still many vets that take issue with that war and I for one do not accept the govenrments version."

Again, why are the communists off the hook? I don't get it. Communism is fascism in red clothing. It's autocracy, it's evil, it's wrong... it's a crime against humanity. And it's defeated. It's onlyt a matter of time before the last holdouts become multi-party representative states.

The US made some mistakes without a doubt, but in the aggregate the US was THE principal party that defended the world against autocratic expansion.

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