John Fago      
 

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In Laos I heard an expression that follows the Mekong River north.  It goes, The French colonized Vietnam for the mining and manufacturing, Cambodia for the agriculture, but they saved Laos for vacation.

There's a traffic roundabout in Vientiane with a story.  In the early 1960s, as the United States was wading into the Vietnam war, we sent the Laotians a shipload of cement believing they would build a runway for us to refuel our U2 spy planes.  Being good Buddhists, the Laotians decided instead to use the cement to build a huge monument in the middle of the roundabout.  It was known as The Vertical Runway.

I was there twice in 1991, the waning days of this former Soviet client state's isolation.  I discovered things like an abandoned Lenin-themed bowling alley and a temple full of old folks singing songs of love they knew when they were young and carefree.  No matter what unstoppable change appeared, Laotians seemed adept in giving it their own spin.  Perhaps the French simply realized it would be more fun to be there without an agenda.

 
 
     
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