Dervla Murphy had planned to trek through the high mountains of Laos, far from the country's few motor roads, but she soon encountered complications. In Laos, however, the people compensated for all that went wrong. Murphy presents her glimpse of a unique culture in this account of her journey.
When Dervla Murphy mentioned that Laos was to be her next destination, most people looked a little puzzled. For this country hardly ever hits the headlines, although its small population played a significant part during the Secret War (the covert operation carried out by the US, running parallel to the Vietnam War). In 1975, at the end of the Vietnam War, a Communist government took over and tourists were excluded until 1990 - not that many had ever put Laos on their itinerary. Dervla's plans to trek though the high mountains, far from the country's few motor roads, soon run into complications, for which a variety of explanations are given, both comic and sinister. After injuring her foot she buys a Thai-manufactured bicycle, which purchase spawns new complications and a few hazards in the mountainous provinces of Xam Nuea and Xieng Khouang. However, the machine proves useful as a bag carrier while Dervla goes on her one-footed way. Frustrated trekking plans, torn ligaments and a defective bicycle might, in any other country, induce gloom and despondency. Not so in Laos, where the people more than compensate for everything that goes wrong. Kindly, gentle and welcoming, Dervla finds their laid-back nature infectious. However, Laos is no Shangri-La. The persisting problems bequeathed by its recent past are tragic and other problems loom, threatening its immediate future. Dervla leaves Laos in a melancholy mood, but grateful for having been privileged to glimpse a unique culture on the verge of extinction.
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'To call Dervla Murphy a travel-writer is a serious understatement' Donald Woods, Sunday Times
About Dervla Murphy
Dervla Murphy was born in County Waterford, Ireland, of Dublin parents in 1931. Since 1964 she has been regularly publishing descriptions of her journeys by bicycle or on foot in the remoter areas of four continents. She has also written about the problems of Northern Ireland, the hazards of the nuclear power industry and race relations in Britain.
One Foot in Laos by Dervla Murphy
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