Lao People’s Democratic Republic
“After years of war and isolation, Southeast Asia’s most pristine environment, intact cultures and quite possibly the most chilled-out people on earth mean destination Laos is fast earning cult status among travellers. It is developing quickly but still has much of the tradition that has sadly disappeared elsewhere in the region,” say Lonely Planet‘s authors.
“Away from the cities, there is so much more to see; the Plain of Jars in Xieng Khuang Province, the forested mountains of Northern Laos, the gothic limestone karsts around the backpacker-haven Vang Vieng and in the deep south, past the market town Pakse, is Si Phan Don (Four Thousand Islands), where the mighty Mekong spreads out and all the hammocks are taken. The Lao wilderness is drawing travellers looking for nature, adventure or both.”
The Ho Chi Minh Trail
The Hồ Chí Minh trail was a logistical system that ran from North to South Vietnam through the neighboring kingdoms of Laos and Cambodia to provide support, in the form of manpower and resources, to the National Front for the Liberation of South Vietnam (called the Vietcong or “VC” by its opponents) and the People’s Army of Vietnam (PAVN), or North Vietnamese Army, during the Vietnam War.
Named by the Americans for North Vietnamese president Hồ Chí Minh, the trail was mostly in Laos, and according to the United States National Security Agency’s official history of the war, was “one of the great achievements of military engineering of the 20th century.” The system developed into an intricate maze of 18-foot (5.5 m) wide dirt roads, foot and bicycle paths, and truck parks, all concealed from aerial observation by an intricate system of natural and man-made camouflage. By 1973, trucks could drive the entire length of the trail without emerging from the canopy except to ford streams or cross them on crude bridges built beneath the water’s surface.
On 14 December 1964, the U.S. Air Force’s “Operation Barrel Roll” carried out the first systematic bombardment of the trail. From 1964 to 1973, the U.S. dropped more than two million tons of ordnance on Laos during 580,000 bombing missions—equal to a planeload of bombs every 8 minutes, 24-hours a day, for 9 years – making Laos the most heavily bombed country per capita in history.
Ho Chi Minh Trail Motorcycle Tours
With the ‘Secret’ war over, Laos faded into further obscurity, and it was only in the late 1990s that its borders began to open to tourists. To this day, most visitors see little more than the capital, Vientiane, and the former royal capital, Luang Prabang. But those who are driven by adventure and curiosity, who love the wind on their face and the excitement of fresh encounters, can now take a guided motorcycle tour to discover for themselves the secrets of the Ho Chi Minh Trail, as well as all those other forgotten areas in Laos that are there for the exploring.
Ho Chi Minh Trail Motorcycle Tours offer tailor-made, small-group tours of exploration on select sections of the trail as well as to the most scenic, remote and historically significant areas of Laos.
See Tours and Booking for more information.
The man known as the Midnight Mapper has spent the past ten years exploring the region, mostly by motorcycle. With the combination of great offroad riding and the lure of ancient temples and war-time finds in the jungles, he set to GPS mapping, discovering many ancient temples and ancient road networks that had become lost to obscurity. Using US Military maps to find the old trails that were still intact, he also found lots of war junk along the way. Some of which is still there. And he’s keen to show it to you, and to introduce you to some of the nearly 100 minority people groups who still live simple, traditional lives along the trail and throughout Laos.