Further afield in the village of Pa-am is a piece of fascinating war junk—a Soviet-made North Vietnam SAM missile (that would be surface-to-air missile to us civilians) mounted on the original launcher can be found 30 km east of town.
It’s worth seeking out if you’re in Attapeu, a good half-day trip that’s straightforward now that the road is sealed and there is a bridge over the Nam Pa. Unfortunately someone decided that the rusty, authentic war artefact needed to be gussied up and it’s received a fresh coat of paint, erasing the original Russian and Vietnamese stencilling—the letters have been badly repainted on. This does take a little bit away from the historic value, though the fence made of rusted bomb casings and barbed wire add some character.
The eastern part of Attapeu was pivotal to the Ho Chi Minh Trail, the axis of the trail east to Vietnam and the Sihanouk Trail south to Cambodia. A sign gives a rambling overview of where the missile rambled through before finally arriving in North Vietnamese occupied Attapeu on 8 January 1974. It was abandoned in Pa-Am when the war ended in 1975.
To get here, head east from Attapeu crossing the bridge. Travel east for 13 km until a bend in the road. If you continue along the main road, this is the way to the Vietnam border; at the fork, veer left onto the smaller sealed road to Xanxay (San Xai) District.
It’s then another 16 km—cross Nam Pa Bridge 1 and it is in the village of Pa-am on the righthand side. If you see a sign for Ban Somboun, you’ve gone too far. Information at the Tourism Centre indicated there would be traditional handicrafts in the village but after several turns through, we didn’t see any.
Those curious about what lies further on, the paved road abruptly ends in 1 km and a difficult rocky track leads steeply up. Signs say “47 km to Cha Lern Xai” and we spotted one pick-up truck using the road. This is definitely only for dirt bikes or 4x4 in the dry season.
By Cindy Fan.
Last updated on 2nd March, 2017.
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