Yesterday was a disaster averted. We all grouped together, about ten people in total, to get a tuk tuk to the waterfall outside of town, which everyone I met raved about. When it seemed like we had finally hashed out a deal with one of the drivers, they split us up into another tuk tuk. Didn't seem to be a good idea at the time but we rolled with it; the people in the other tuk tuk got scammed for more money. Although we didn't fare much better, ours broke down half way to the waterfall and we had to wait to be picked up by another one.
It turned out to be all good though, the waterfall was amazing and we the continuous shooting feature on my SLR was put to great use making action shots of all of us on the rope swing and jumping off the waterfall (pics will come with wifi). All in all, Luang Prabang was mediocre in my opinion. The city itself is very nice, with a great Wat and museum in the center, but the inhabitants themselves, not so much. We were constantly involved in attempted scamming, and the accommodation wasn't cheap. One of my friends even had his wallet pick pocketed the first night.
Today we jumped on a bus in the morning to Phonsavan, a city in the eastern part of Laos, a UXO (Unexploded Ordnance) hotspot and home to the Mine Advisory Group, an organization for the clearance of unexploded ordnance. We took a look at the information center today. It was pretty grim to see the statistics on how many bombs and submunitions they clear out of this country every month; in January alone over six hundred bombs and submunitions were cleared. Just walking around this city gives you an idea of how many bombs fell here; there are old bomb casings and scrap everywhere! One restaurant, Craters, has two one thousand pound bomb casings and four other smaller ones as its entryway. Being a war history buff, I'm stoked to get out into the countryside tomorrow and see some of the fields of craters.
Also, something that cannot go unmentioned is the powerful moment we had at dinner today. All of our dishes came with quite a bit more food than expected, so we were happy to give some to three young kids that were obviously homeless and hadn't eaten all day. It was pretty powerful to watch them mow through those plates of food in seconds, and even more powerful when they put their hands together and gave a big, polite thank you. I saw a lot of poverty in India but this one hit home tremendously more so. It really makes a person be thankful for what we have, and especially thankful that I never had a day in my life where I had to go to bed hungry.