George and his partner were fatigued from jungle trips to Montagnard villages for inspection and organization of Auto-Defense groups. They returned to Vientiane and requested time to recuperate.
Vientiane in the mid-50s was a fairly large city, but there were no high buildings. The only large buildings were a few old, gray stone pagodas, which were decrepit and ungainly-looking. Most buildings of the city were built of wooden or bamboo construction, with either tin or thatched roofs. Only a few of the streets were paved with asphalt , whereas the rest were mostly dirt.
Except for the paved streets, the dirt roads were paralleled with ditches and culverts used for drainage and misused as sewers. In summer, the stench was insupportable, and during the rainy season the filth would spill over the roads and form a stinking quagmire which had to be covered with wooden planks on bamboo stakes to make them passable.
There was only one main road through the center of the city, which housed all the available stores, many little restaurants, and a few French-style cafes. There was no possible attraction for tourists and very little merchandise for sale. However, in the summer, there was a local large open-air market where fresh fruits and vegetables were sold, but also, locally weaved scarves and sarongs made very beautiful with a multitude of gold thread.
The market always amazed George. There were live ducks and chickens for sale, as well as pork, beef, buffalo, goat, and sometime venison. Then, there were always the half-pound packages of opium wrapped in leaves, sold at the normal price of tobacco but cheaper than imported American or French cigarettes. Many Laotian men and some women smoked an opium pipe after their dinner.
George and his partner had a tent set on a platform, covered with doubled canvas to keep the rain out. It was not perfect for recuperation, but it was far better than sleeping in the jungles.
I write of George’s Laotian service in my book: Observer: The Colonel George Trofimoff Story, the tale of America’s highest ranking military officer convicted of spying.
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