A new photo and caption appear every 5 seconds. There are 108 slides in this slide show. You can stop a slide from moving by hovering your mouse pointer over it. This slide shows Reed Resnikoff, the owner/operator of ASIAN MOTORCYCLE ADVENTURES.
The locals along the Ho Chi Minh Trail (HCMT) make use of all the war debris laying around. Here is a planter made from a bomb casing and supported on bomb casings.
The Beast, a 2001, expedition-ready 4x4 Toyota HiLux pickup, turbocharged diesel with a lifted suspension.
It is hard to keep your hat on when riding in the back of a pickup truck.
A friendly cow on the HCMT.
Contrary to widely-held belief, the HCMT is found solely in Laos. It is not a single trail but actually a network of interconnected trails and roads that by the end of the Vietnam War totaled over 12,000 miles in length.
This is one of hundreds of bypass roads that connects with a half-dozon or so HCMT main routes.THE BEAST is just barely visable down one of the main routes.
Most parts of the HCMT meander through scenes of outstanding natural beauty. Here we are in karst country. Karsts are limestone massifs, remnants of a prehistoric coral reef.
More than 100 ethnic minority groups live in the areas surrounding the HCMT. For the most part they live a primitive existance as subsistence farmers, practising slash and burn (swidden) agriculture.
The land along the HCMT is pockmarked by craters from B-52 saturation bombing. Here is one in he middle of a village.
The villagers, quick to take advantege of anything in their environment, here are using war debris as house posts. Each pillar is one half of a cluster bomb.
Another view of war debris used for house posts.
One more view of war debris used as house posts.
From 1966 through the end of the war, U.S.-led forces, fighting within the political limitations set forth by the Geneva Accords, tried to bomb the HCMT to smithereens. One particularly huge land battle, Lam Son 719, was fought along the Trail by ARVN troops (the South Vietnamese army), and this destroyed tank is one remnant of the not-so-secret war that raged inside Laos.
There is still tons of war debris lying around the HCMT,as the next few photos will show.
Helicopter hulk in front of a government building.
Cannon lying in the jungle.
Cannon barrel showing bullet gouge marks.
Large bomb lying just off the HCMT.
Another bomb in the HCMT area.
This shows the awesome power of a bomb only partially exploded.
There aren't many ways to earn money in Laos, but hunting for war debris to sell for scrap metal is one of them. Here is a local man with a cheap (USD30), Chinese-made, battery-powered, metal detector. Notice the earphones around his neck, the detecting disc behind him, and one of his finds strapped across his back.
Two men busy digging up a truck. Forty-plus years after the fighting, see how deep nature has buried it.
A piece of ground after a metal hunter got through with it. This shows you how much war debris rained down upon the HCMT.
Inspecting a partially-uncovered bomb. Some bombs had delay fuses and would explode from hours to weeks after being dropped, very devious indeed.
Laos is a poor country, and it is made poorer still because huge tracts of good, arable land is unusable because of the dangers from unexploded ordnance (UXO). Many aid organizations from around the world donate technicians, equipment, money, and training to remove UXO. On this piece of land, this team has alleady located 20 bombs, some of them 2,000 pounders. Next step will be proper disposal.
Clearing land of UXO is a meticulous, expensive, and time-consuming activity.
First an area is staked out in a grid with colored sticks, then every square inch is gone over by metal detectors before it can be declared safe. Notice the bomb craters abutting the field.
Every family living near the HCMT has been touched by a personal tragedy. This mother's son was killed by UXO when he was 15: There was no body to bury. The boys father, A Bru tribesman was a porter for the North Vietnamese when they were building the trail. Most persons of around his age worked as porters on the HCMT.
The yellow object at this lad's feet is a bouncing betty, one of the most lethal types of UXO. These bombs were designed to hit the ground and then spin up in the air and spit out white hot pellets at speeds that would tear you apart.
Not only is the yellow color of Bouncing Bettys attractive to children, but the pellets inside are irresistable for use as slingshot ammunition. Thousands have been killed and maimed trying to extract the BBs.
These nexx four slides show other samples of war debris we found in the HCMT area. This piece looks like part of an jet engine except that it is made out of very heavy metal.
Defused bombs lined up at a UXO removal office.
Closeup of split bomb.
A pile of defused bombs behind one of our guesthouses awaiting pickup by the scrap metal dealers.
A mortar shell sitting on a junk pile along with old oil filters and other war debris.
The most frequent use of war debris by the locals is for planters. Most of them are halves of cluster bombs. This type of non-cluster bomb planter is also common but we don't know what it's original use was.
This planter is made from a cluster bomb.
And still another cluster bomb planter.
last photo of a cluster bomb planter.
Speaking about cluster bombs, here's an individual cluster bomb unit lying near the trail. The locals call them bombies, and these are responsible for a good percentage of all UXO-related injuries and deaths. It looked exactly like a rock and our trekking guide pointed it out to us.
One of the main efforts of all the UXO removal organizations in Laos is educating the locals on what to do and what NOT to do when a piece of UXO is discovered. These are educational UXO posters in a primary school.
Closeup of a UXO poster. The message is usually conveyed using cartoons because the literacy rate is so low in Laos.
With so much war debris around, the villagers have figured out all kinds of uses for it. Here one house has erected an impregnable fence.
A more decorative style of UXO fencing around one of our guesthouse's grounds.
An aluminum house ladder made from downed airplane parts. The following nine photos show other instances of recycled war debris.
Canoe made from a jet fighter wing tip fuel tank.
These aluminum wall panels will last a hell of a lot longer than the split bamboo side.
Planter made from a cluster bomb canister.
Electronic sensing devices like these were dropped along the trail. They were designed to pick up NVN troop movements. When they did, they beamed out signals to an airbase in Thailand and airstrikes were directed against those coordinates. Efforts like this were some of the first instances of electronic devices used in warfare.
Closeup of sensing device. This one picked up accoustical signals
Traditional basket hanging next to a more modern-style aluminum bucket crafted from war debris.
Aluminum still for making rice whisky.
Assorted cowbells made from war debris.
Buffalo wearing a war debris cowbell. Makes a nice sound as well.
Even the animals get into the war remnant act. Here a herd of water buffalos are using a bomb crater as a mud wallow.
Twin bomb craters. The locals use them for fish and duck ponds.
During the war the villagers were forced to live in caves in the karsts. They could not see or hear the B-52s when they flew overhead to drop their bombs. For many years no one could raise crops or animals and most people went hungry. It was the North Vietnamese trailbuilders who fed them.
One day we stopped in a village and hired guides to show us some of the UXO in their neck of the woods.
They pointed out this hand grenade to us lying in the grass, as well as the following two cluster bomblets.
Cluster bomblet partially uncovered.
A bomblet right on top of the trail.
The HCMT twists and turns below. To stay hidden from aerial observation, the North Vietnamese trailbuilders tied the tops of the trees together along both sides of the road. They also moved most of their supplies down the HCMT at night and ran their trucks without headlights.
One thing we did determine is that the HCMT is going to be fantastic for off-road motorcycle and 4x4 tours.
Hardly any other road users on the HCMT, but we did pass several of these Chinese-made walking tractors per day. These tractors are used for farmwork and are also used as buses between villages and towns.
We also encountered a couple of dump trucks like this one each day. All were always filled with firewood material gathered from the forest, never newly-cut timber.
Whenever the choice arose, I always selected terra firma instead of a bridge.
But oftentimes there was no choice. The logs on the left looked like they could not hold the weight of The Beast.
On our way back, one of the dump trucks must have broken through these same logs. This must be a frequent occurance, and fortunately, each dump truck carries a log-bridge repair kit consisting of metal straps and spare planks to lash across the old ones, as this crew is doing when we arrived on the scene.
By the end of the war, the main parts of the HCMT were paved, asphalted, and three-lanes wide. In this section are remnants of bedrock. It makes for real bumpy going.
Each day we were faced with several stream and river crossings. The month was April and the rivers are dead low. During, and just before and after the rainy season, the water level comes up to the vegetation in the background, and a crossing like is impossible.
Another water crossing. Many times we stopped and went for a dip. The rivers always ran crystal clear.
These riverine settings were always teaming with butterflies. Here I am approaching cautiously for a closeup.
The result of my stalk.
This is one strange bug. If anyone out there knows what it is, please send me an email.
Beautiful HCMT scenery.
Another pretty HCMT scene.
We're driving along the HCMT deep in the forest, and all of a sudden we come to this enormous destoryed bridge. We find out from the village next to it that it was built by the Lao government just before the war and it was one of the first things destroyed when fighting started. My question is: Why in the world would anyone build such a huge structure like this in the middle of nowhere?
Another view of this massive bridge.
Destroyed bridge from another angle.
Last view of the destroyed bridge.
It was Songkran Festival, and next to the bridge a wat was having a temple fair. These two young monks are sitting on a bench with the destroyed bridge in the background.
During Songkran, Buddhists go to their temple and pour water over a Buda image to cleanse it, as this man is doing using a bamboo conduit.
Songkran is the biggest holiday of the year in Laos and in Thailand, and it lasts for three days. It is a combination of New Years and Halloween, and the main fun-making activity is throwing water on people. The original intent behind this practise is to cool people off during the height of the hot season. In modern times, mishief and partymaking play a large role. These young imps were having the greatest of times.
Jason gets into the Songkran act suckng down home-made rice-husk beer through a reed straw during a village celebration.
Nick and Kevin outdo Jason by buying a case of Russian vodka for 1$ per bottle at the Vietnam border.
Notwithstanding the stunning scenery, the remnants of a crucial war, and the outstanding roads and driving on the HCMT, the highlight of any trip into Laos are the people. None finer, gentler, or friendlier live anywhere else. The last part of this slideshow hopes to convey this to you.
Granny with grandkids.
Look at the camera!
Young girl in front of her house.
The baby is wearing a necklace with an old French piaster silver coin, still highly valued by the ethnic minorities.
Four sisters in a row.
Tot in a pot. They taste especially good when cooked with chiliis and vegetables.
91 year-old man and still going strong.
This teenager is blossoming into a stunning beauty.
I like this proud-looking women's star earrings.
A hunter with his old carbine. The wooden stock shines with loving care.
Cute as a button.
Having a good time with the beer jug.
First steps in weaving a basket.
Preparing dinner on the front porch.
This villager figured out how to beat the high price of fuel; his motorcycle seems to be powered by a sweet potato.
This girl is selling lizard meat in one of the markets.
Scenes like these are fast disappearing from our planet.
Mother and her kids go for a bathe.
If any slide show viewers want to tour the HO CHI MINH TRAIL either by motorcycle or by 4x4, please contact ASIAN MOTORCYCLE ADVENTURES (firstname.lastname@example.org) for details.