Down the Dirt Road: An Unexpected Glimpse of Human Trafficking in Laos

It was around 3pm while I was sitting in my hotel room that I decided fatigue’s lure to the bed needed to end— how often would I be in Laos after all? With only two nights and three days in the country’s capital, my time was limited, and of course, I had to see some of the sites while in town for an unexpected visa run (a print error on my old visa nulled two months of my stay in Thailand). On this particular Friday, I had just picked up my newly issued visa from the Thai consulate and headed back to the hotel room. I drank one of the delicious and dark BeerLao’s that was left over in my fridge from the previous night and looked through the ripped Lonely Planet pages I managed to scrounge about everything Vientiane (though the information was dated~ 5years, it was still useful in finding my way around). The only thing that really piqued my interested in the “attractions” section was the Buddha Park, a site containing over 200 Hindu and Buddhist inspired statues. It was recommended that traveling on an empty stomach would be best, as the road is quite bumpy. I had a sizable breakfast and thought I wouldn’t have a problem making the 45-minute journey without lunch or another large meal.

I hopped on a local bus bound for the Friendship Bridge after getting a bit of guidance from my tuk-tuk driver, and after many local stops, we finally made it to the Thai/Laos border crossing where I asked around about ways to get to the park. I was informed that a minibus leaves on a random schedule. After hopping in the rickety bus, I began reading my book, and after waiting for about 20 minutes with no signs of leaving, I asked another driver about ways to get to the park. I was the only one sitting in the bus and I assumed the driver was waiting for more passengers before heading out. It was about 4:45PM and the sun would be going down shortly. Not wanting to miss my chance to see the park, I took up the offer of the other driver for the higher price of 8,000 Kip ($1 US). His vehicle was much nicer than the one I was sitting in and the price was fine by me! I knew more Thai than he did English (most Laos people have a very good grasp on Thai, as Lao and Thai are very similar languages), which made for a great opportunity for me to practice my Thai skills, something I was eager to try, as communication would have been impossible without my limited knowledge of the language.

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