Thin Hong is a tiny Hmong village on the banks of the Mekong River some twelve miles upstream from Luang Prabang, Laos. We had come to deliver some much needed school supplies and to get a glimpse of rural life in Laos. Mr. Thongdee Siphanthong, our long boat driver, who also served as our guide and interpreter, was anxious to show us the “Nixon Bomb,” which now serves as the school’s bell and to tell us “Nixon bad man” more than once. He said the “bomb” came from somewhere in the hills beyond the village and that the village itself was not bombed. The villagers had another casing driven into a short log which they used as an anvil for shaping knives and hand tools. The Plain of Jars region of Laos, the most heavily bombed area on the planet, ever, is not too many miles northeast of the village.
Rural life in Laos is very basic. Thin Hong consisted of a dozen or so cobbled together houses. The school is a rather large basic building that seems to serve as a community center as well. Electricity is available and there are a few satellite dishes. No roads lead to the village and therefore there are no motorbikes or cars. Transportation to and from the village is by the Mekong River. Life seems to be centered around substance farming. Rice, corn, etc. is grown in the rich soil on the banks of the Mekong. Other crops, possibly including poppies, are grown in woodland gardens outside the village. Teak logs from the nearby forest were stacked waiting to be rolled down the river bank to large boats that call to purchase the valuable timber.