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Tha Bak, Laos

Tha Bak Bomb Boats

Villagers have recycled bomber fuel tanks from the Vietnam War and turned them into very, very strong boats. 

If you’re familiar with Lao villages, there isn’t much at Tha Bak that stands out from all the others. Yet, if you take your time to stop by the bridge over the Namkading River and look around, you may be able to spot some missile-like boats in the river.

They are not missiles, but their shape is no coincidence, for they used to be fuel tanks on U.S. B-52 bombers, which dropped a massive amount of ordnance all over the region in the 1960s and ’70s, at the height of the Vietnam War. 

The high quality of this wartime scrap metal didn’t go unnoticed, and Tha Bak villagers started turning the spherical debris into boats—very, very durable boats.

It is possible to pay to take a spin in one of these so-called bomb boats. Of note, northwest of Tha Bak is Nam Kading National Diversity Park, and Nam Kading River is a major entry point.  Bomb boats will probably be unable to go past the rapids, but up to that point, it can be an interesting ride.