weigh-stations along Route 9. Near the Vietnamese border
actually found trucks being X-rayed for contraband. EVERYWHERE,
trucks. At least 16-wheelers, many tandem trailers. Filled with
rocks. Looks like the major export to Vietnam. Around 30 miles
west of Tchepone (Xepon? Sepon? look it up on the
Internet...names change) all the way to the Vietnamese border
the road was well-maintained gravel and concrete. I guess
Spectre had removed all the dirt from that part of Laos.
"New" Xepon is about three
miles from "old" Xepon. The Laos government discourages visits
to "old". Nothing there except an old bank vault and a hell of a
lot of unexploded bombs. Lao government puts out pamphlets; Dave
picked up a few. "New" Xepon is a wide spot in the road, about
one-half mile long. At least five guest houses, a few
restaurants, village stores. Dave picked the best hotel in town;
mainly because the front door was flanked by 1000-pounders. Room
with a fan, hot water, TV, was 200 Baht. Room with AC, 300 baht.
We splurged. The rooms show the old French influence. Ceilings
12 or more feet high, no shower stall in bathroom (take the hose
from the wall and spray...yourself, commode, sink, etc. ) At
least the sink had a plug. Of course, when you finished with the
sink and pulled the plug you found the sink drained down a
funnel DIRECTLY onto your feet.
Dave had brought an extra
Spectre shirt to give to a samlor driver. We couldn't find a
samlor driver. Dave did leave a souvenir though; he left his
favorite Spectre hat in his room and didn't realize his mistake
until we were halfway back to Savannakhet. Maybe there's now a
Lao wearing a Spectre emblem.
Dave got me on a coin
check; I'd forgotten mine in Hotel room at Ubon. So he's got
bragging rights. And he'll never let me forget it. Dave picked
up a red and yellow hammer and sickle flag.
Lao flag and hammer/sickle
hang from all buildings. Don't ask me how Dave got the flag; I
don't know the statute of limitations in that country. And I
wouldn't be surprised if he smuggled a freezer bag of dirt out
of the country either.
Next AM, 8 December, we
drove east on route 9. Couldn't find any signs leading to "old"
Tchepone. Got all the way to the Vietnam border but couldn't
take any photos. Vietnamese guards made THAT perfectly clear.
At one point just west of the border we came across many, many
parked trucks. Dave counted 150 at least. Road was so twisted we
couldn't get a good photo. The gaggle of trucks looked like a
gunner's dream, lined up nose to tail. And we were Winchester.
In all, about 30 hours
in-country. Might try it again sometime; maybe go back and get
Dave Burns Additions:
Morrie wrote a report on
our trip to Tchepone, This is just to expand on it a little.
Once we got there it was just a hole in the wall, but a very
important hole in the wall. As Morrie said, there was not much
there, just about five guest houses and one Vietnamese
restaurant and three small Lao restaurant. We pulled up to a
"special" guest house, holding up the patio in front of the
rooms were two thousand pound bombs! No shit! The Photo's will
be on the web site! Fell in love with the place right off.
However there was no evidence that the bombs had been sawed in
half so the thought crossed my mind that they may still have the
explosive in them. Did not check further!
After we checked in we
walked about half a block and saw many big Vietnamese trucks
parked alongside the trail.(14, 16, 18 wheelers) Went a little
further and saw a Vietnamese restaurant where the Truck Drivers
were having lunch. The place was packed with truck drivers, so
we walked in wearing out Spectre Shirts and Spectre hat and sat
down! It was surreal! Sitting right among them scarfing gomer
grunts! Most of them just looked at us as an oddity, but a few
stared. Had a few Lao beers and then walked around for awhile.
Turned in early as we were
beat. Around o dark thirty I went out to the trail and it was
very dark but the trucks were still running! Looked at the
mountains, (Tchepone is surrounded by mountains) could not help
but think about our men who were shot down, the mountains were
unforgiving and after some reflection I just don't see how
anyone could have walked out of there if they were not picked up
by Jolly Green. Off in the distance I heard the soi dogs barking
and a few roosters in the wrong time zone crowing. It took us
seven hours to drive here and I just don't see how anyone could
walk out without being captured or killed. It was a sad time.
The next morning we kept
driving east toward the North Vietnamese border. The road was
twisting and turning at the same time rolling up and down. Saw a
whole bunch of trucks parked taking up the right side of the
road, at least 150 waiting to get into North Vietnam. We got to
the border and had to stop and turn back as the NVA and police
wouldn't let us get close or take any pictures. But we did
manage to get within 100feet of the border. The trip back was
very bumpy and I had a lot of time to think about this place.
I'm glad I came here but I don't know if I would come back. To
much paperwork and some of the Vietnamese and Lao's still
remember the war. Could see it in a few eyes. Of course I was
wearing an American flag on my hat and shirt so they knew who we
were! About half way back to Thailand I noticed that I left my
Spectre hat in the hotel room! I've had that hat over 15 years
but if I had to lose it what better place to do it. Somewhere in
that town a gomer is wearing a Spectre gunner hat with an
Israeli, a Thai Flag, An American Flag and a POW/MIA flag!
Photo's will appear on the web site.
- Dave B