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When the Bolikhamxay Provincial Tourism Department (PTD) invited me to explore its new sites and facilities, I was ready to rock. We met in Lak Xao, in the northeast corner of “The Khammouane Loop” near the Vietnamese border. The PTD got the ball rolling by convincing a dinner restaurant to open for breakfast. Greeting us at the door stood eight giant glass jars brimming with lao khao rice alcohol saturating a choice of eggs, tubers, herbs, and starfish.
“We’ve changed the plan,” Somsavath said after greeting me at Luang Namtha’s airport. I’ve known Somsavath, who runs Phou Iu Travel and works in the Provincial Tourism Office, for several years. His itinerary modifications always add more bang for your buck. “Where are you taking me?”
The six-wheeled Goddess appeared as I was sinking into despair. The sun was setting on Setthathilath Road at the Wattay Airport entrance, and my wait for a sawng taew dimmed with the sky. No money-grubbing tuk-tuk in sight. I was about to surrender, hike to a departure terminal, and eat a hefty cab fare.
“Visit Laos Year 2018” stands out on a banner stretching across a Vientiane road. The Lao script announces a handicraft show at ITECC from 2-11 February. It has all the hallmarks of an event in line with the ongoing tourism campaign...but everything is not as it seems.
22 August 2016 It Is What It Is…Cruising the Mekong in Laos By Bernie Rosenbloom A 7:30 a.m. call from tourism guru, Peter Semone: “I want to cruise the Mekong from the Chinese border to Vientiane. Can you arrange it?” “Sure,” I had no idea.
I stood in a junkyard of rusty, defused bombs dropped from the sky decades before. It occupied a corner of the Xieng Khouang Visitor Information Center parking lot.   I had researched the province and its fields still littered with volatile bombies leftover from the Indochina War. Tino, my guide, knew I wasn’t another Plain of Jars customer. He was grateful. His 15-minute rap for the wannabe UNESCO site had grown weary. And really, how long can you ponder a field of ancient jars?   My calendar boxed out three days to uncover what Xieng Khouang offered beyond the Plain of Jars.

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