Oh man. Google will be the death of me. I was like “teehee, this is a great title to lead into my post, how catchy and interesting!” and then I Googled ‘wood smuggling Vietnam’ and the results that came up have me worried. Our overnight bus driver really might have been a wood smuggler!
I was going to write about our overnight bus trip and how completely hellish it was, but this is actually waaay more interesting. Plus I’m sure my mother will write a post about it soon and I’ll be able to add a link for you guys to read. Long story short, we booked the night bus from Luang Prabang, Laos to Hanoi, Vietnam. It was such an awful journey, but once we were in Vietnam, we were all waiting for the home stretch so it would all be over. Then we pulled over at some random place, and waited for five minutes. Then, the bus driver started ordering us on, then off, then on, and then off again! These directions were hazy because all he did was yell in Lao/Vietnamese and wave his hands like a madman.
So we all jumped off and then watched, astounded, as they unloaded wood from the bus.
Now, I’m not just talking a couple of planks of wood in the baggage hold under the bus. I’m talking huge, long slabs of wood, of all shapes and sizes, coming out from every imaginable area on the bus. From the luggage area. From under the seats on the bus. From in the FLOOR in the bus. FROM THE ROOF! I was amazed. And we must have stood around for at least fifteen minutes, probably more, while we waited for them to unload everything and let us back on board.
So being funny, we all made jokes about wood smuggling and how we were accessories to crime, ha ha ha. But omg. Turns out we were right! The things you learn from Google…
From the articles I read here, here, here, here, and here, I learnt that wood smuggling actually does happen, and from Laos to Vietnam it happens a lot! I don’t know about you guys, but I’m pretty shocked by that. I mean, Iget drug smuggling, people smuggling, I kind of get animal smuggling, but wood? Didn’t make much sense.
Apparently, the Vietnamese army actualy heads up the company responsible for the biggest logging activities in Laos. Because of the lack of enforcement -reminds me of a time when our friend Hassan said “lots of law, but no enforcement!” – and of course, corruption, forestry officials are letting 150 million dollars worth of timber be smuggled into Vietnam EVERY YEAR.
Vietnam closed their own forests to logging in 1997, and yet somehow manages to export about 4 billion dollars worth of wood products. Work that out. Wood smuggling is illegal, so of course Vietnam is denying it – shocker!
The reality of the issue is though, Vietnam is causing deforestation in the Mekong region in Laos, where the forested regions have dropped from 70% to below 41% – that’s scary.
My computer is dying so I can’t really write a whole heap more, but I can’t really get over the fact that we were spot on about wood smuggling!! So now I have something to research a little bit (productivity = win) and I can run upstairs and tell my mother we were right all along!
Has any0ne heard of wood smuggling before? Or have you had other really weird stuff happen on what is supposed to be an innocent trip?? Let me know!