Bombs and Butterflies by Jo Carroll

Did you know that Laos is the most bombed country in the world? If Jo Carroll had spent more time with her guidebooks and less with a physiotherapist preparing her creaking knees for squat toilets she’d have been better prepared when she crossed the Mekong in a long boat and stepped into the chaos of Huay Xai. But bombs still lie hidden in Laos’ jungles, in the rice paddies, and in the playgrounds. While young people open their doors to new ideas and possibilities, memories of war are etched on the faces of the old.
What sort of welcome would they give a western woman, wandering around with her notebook? Would they dare let her peer into their secret corners?

 This is the third book in Jo Carroll's Over The Hill series. This time our intrepid explorer heads off to Laos in Thailand. I always enjoy going exploring with Jo because I am far too scared to do what she does but I have a real curiosity of far flung places.
This time Jo is not entirely on her own, she uses guided hop on bus tours which I think was very sensible of her although she may not agree with me. Now some people might say that they never read non fiction books, that they find them boring, I would like to challenge them to read Jo's books and I will be astounded if they don't enjoy them.
 When I read  books I like to finish the story with at least a little knowledge of a subject I know nothing about and Bombs and Butterflies fitted into this category. Jo doesn't bog you down with facts, she tells you things just as they are told to her, things you would want to know about anywhere you visit.

Laos is still suffering the effects of war, landmines are everywhere and people are still being maimed by them. Jo can't understand why the Laos people are so kind and accepting to outsiders, to people from countries that ignored what was happening in Laos and who did nothing about it.
Rice fields in Laos (Wikapedia)
She also struggles with her conscience as she visit the tigers, asleep and bored while visitors have their photos taken with them. She moves on to the elephants providing entertainment and rides, although Jo realises that the people have to making a living from the animals and they also have to earn their keep and there is no alternative you can feel her uneasiness in her words.

With Jo jumping on and off buses she meets all kinds of people, the Aussies, the couple who are there to visit their son who's the tour guide and convince him to come home and the monk she thought she was helping with his English but it was more help of the financial kind he wanted.
There was also the rat who shared a bedroom with her one night (uninvited). I have to say I had to shake my duvet reading that as I was reading in bed, and that's why I can't do what Jo does.
The mighty Mekong River, the streets of Luang Prabang, how it feels to sit on an elephants back,we are taken by the hand and shown all the sights, the sounds and the smells of this country. She makes it all so real and I was disappointed when the book came to an end,but the good thing about the Over The Hill books is you can read them over again and never be bored.

Mekong River, Laung Prabang  (Wikapedia)
It wouldn't be one of Jo's books without the odd disaster or mishap but I'm giving nothing away, you'll have to read her book.
Bombs and butterflies, 97p for kindle Amazon uk

A worthy five start read


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