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A Trip Around Laos Pt3: Sekong to Attapeu

A photo story from British writer, Peter Alan Lloyd, based in Thailand

SAM-7 Missile on the Ho Chi Minh Trail, near Attapeu


We travelled from Sekong to Attapeu, a very small, quiet town, on the Sekong River, not far from the tri-border area. It’s also near The Bra and Oscar Eight, although I didn’t know that at the time I visited.

We travelled on winding, rural roads, with very little traffic, through some spectacular scenery, the buses becoming smaller and more packed the closer we got to Attapeu.

We also saw some interesting rural sights on the way.

Villager with home-made cigar.

One of the many markets we passed.

Unlucky Hornbills

Busy Buses

I was surprised to see these small children get on the bus, carrying their baby sister. The green plastic bottle was full of drinking water they must have taken from a pond, because there were a lot of mosquito larvae wriggling around in it.

By the time we finally arrived in Attapeu, we were travelling in this, which had broken down where I took this photograph:

On arrival, we went down to the Sekong River for lunch, then tried to arrange a couple of “War remains” trips into the surrounding countryside for the coming days.

Sekong River in Attapeu.

Tourism isn’t very developed in Attapeu, so we had some trouble organising anything, but in the end we were successful and during the following days, having asked to see whatever war remains the guide could show us, we went on some very long walks through the jungle, often walking in the heat of midday, on exposed roads like these:

On one of the days we walked for about six hours along such roads, the guide’s car having broken down, so we abandoned it and walked. Fortunately we had enough water, but we were exhausted and dehydrated at the end of that day.
We were often travelling in such remote areas that we’d go for hours without seeing any other vehicles, and we saw very few people. We didn’t even see many villages, and in those that we came across, when small children saw us, they screamed, burst out crying and ran into their houses, or hid behind older children, and peered out, petrified, waiting until we’d passed.

Here’s one who was only puzzled, not petrified.

On one walk we were taken to a village where there were buckets made out of airplane parts (although looking at the writing on the first one, the “silver” bucket looks like it was made out of a flare?)

The main entrance into the village.

We saw a few cluster bomb pods in the village, being used for different things, here a clothes hanger and herb garden.

We were also told of a family who owned a downed US Airman’s Bowie knife, which they showed us, although the handle is a modern construction.

On another trip, we were taken to see a SAM-7 missile, its electronics removed long ago, still sitting on its launch pad, aimed at the sky,  along the Ho Chi Minh Trail.

After a few days of trekking in baking heat in the Laotian jungle, we decided to relax around Attapeu for a day, and went along to Attapeu’s UXO Laos headquarters to rummage around their metal collection.
I have added some photos below, but in the first one, note in the forgeround the listening device, built to resemble a dead bush. These were dropped along the Trail to detect movement of vehicles and men.
I have only ever seen one in a museum in Vietnam before, so I was particularly pleased to find this one in Attapeu.

Note cluster bomblet (hopefully defused)

Next Instalment – A trip into the jungle with a UXO Laos minesweeping team.

© Peter Alan Lloyd