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Laos: Vang Vieng
May 13-15, 2006

We arrived at Vang Vieng in the afternoon, and as we were eating lunch, we noticed some rockets and explosions in the distance. After eating, we headed upstream to see what was going on. 

What we found was a local festival.  There were all these villagers, with canisters of explosives tied onto long bamboo poles Ė giant homemade bottle rockets.  The largest ones were twenty feet long!  Some of the teenager boys were dressed up like women, and everyone was going around comparing who had the biggest rocket and whose went the farthest and/or highest. 

There were two launching ladders, where they shot off the rockets in some sort of contest, while children frolicked in the stream below.  Occasionally the rockets exploded right on the stand.  It was delightfully dangerous and everybody was having a good time.

We discovered later that the town was celebrating the annual rocket festival, to ask the gods for rain.  We really enjoyed watching an actual cultural event (one not staged half-heartedly for tourists); we were extremely lucky to have stumbled upon it, as it only occurs during the full moon in May.

limestone karst hills in Vang Vieng Laos
great views at lunch

limestone karst hills in Vang Vieng Laos
a boy waits on the bridge while a rocket goes off in the distance

two men walk toward the festival

bamboo pole rockets

cross-dressing in Laos

whose rocket is bigger?
limestone karst hills in Vang Vieng Laos
the launching ladder

a rocket heads for the clouds

a rocket explodes immediately after launching
Nam Xong river
children swim in the Nam Xong river

women watch the rockets

a girl eats corn at the rocket festival

rocket festival float
Nam Xong river

We were planning on going tubing down the river the next day, but alas, the rocket festival had been successful because it rained all day.  We just sat around reading books and enjoying the magnificent scenery. 

Nam Xong river
monks walk through the streets of Vang Vieng
Zac reads on the porch of our guesthouse during the rainy day

women walking toward town

crossing the river at a shallow place

U.S. airstrip in Vang Vieng

An interesting thing about Vang Vieng is that itís just this little town in Laos, but right in the middle thereís an airstrip that was built by the U.S.  We donít know why it was built, but it probably wasnít a humanitarian effort.  Laos, it turns out, is the most heavily bombed country in the world, courtesy of secret American efforts to eradicate the North Vietnamese carting guns down the Ho Chi Minh Trail during the Vietnam war.

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