formerly "The View From Up Here"

Formerly titled "The View From Up Here" this column began in the Liberty Gazette June 26, 2007.

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April 3, 2018 The Bookseller (part XI in a series)

The Liberty Gazette
April 3, 2018
Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely

Mike: His name is Douk. He’s a street peddler. He isn’t a beggar, and he doesn’t want to be. On our last full day in Cambodia, Douk approached us among the busy markets of Pub Street. On the bin of books strapped over his neck and shoulders was a sign that told his story in English. Severely injured when a long–buried landmine exploded, he is doing what he can to support his family. His entire body is scarred; his arms were blown off, his bronze skin a patchwork of pieces used to sew him back together.

Tragically, this is not uncommon. Many unexploded landmines are still quite prevalent in rural farming areas, posing great danger to farmers and children. About half of the country’s minefields have been cleared, but beautiful Cambodia remains one of the most landmine–impacted countries in the world.

Douk is an honorable man. In my small way, I wanted him to know he blessed me. I picked a book on Cambodian history. This book I hold dear because of its own history, carried to me by a man who will not allow horrific circumstances to stop him.

Linda: People who have suffered so much for so long yet persevere with kindness are the ones we wish the world would emulate. Not that pain is what we wish for others, yet those who suffer greatly often have a greater capacity to live and love. I’ve experienced this throughout much of Central Africa, and we witnessed it all over Southeast Asia. And the contrast is everywhere in our own country.

Mike: We’d say good-bye to our wonderful hosts in Siem Reap and board Alex’s tuk tuk for one more ride—to the airport where Vietnam Airlines would whisk us north in an Airbus A320 to the provincial capital of Laos, Luang Prabang.

Our friend Lance calls Luang Prabang “Shangri-La,” as it is the most beautiful place on earth to him, and a place he stayed for a time during the Vietnam War. The city has lots to offer. While we don’t recommend group tours, such as to the gorgeous waterfalls or ancient caves, it’s only because the tour buses seat sixteen, but the Chinese business owners crammed in eighteen. The unfriendly non-natives drove furiously over pitted roads, and never once smiled at customers. Private tours with native Laotians resulted in a much better experience.

On our first night in “Shangri-La” we strolled along clean cobble-stoned sidewalks in front of a mix of architecture in French Colonial, Chinese, and Vietnamese design. Impeccable landscaping incorporated the most beautiful flowers and greenery. Mod coffee shops, small restaurants with local cuisine, and other businesses filled one side of the main but winding road that followed the meandering Nam Khan River to where it meets the Mekong. We would call Villa Sayada our home for a few days full of wonderful sights, each day ending with an awe-inspiring sunset behind jungle mountains.

See you next week with more on amazing Laos.

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