Pakse, the second UNESCO world heritage town, founded by the French in 1905.

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Photo of the Big Buddha, Champasak

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Photo of Pakse, Champasak Province

Finally arriving in Pakse, the second UNESCO world heritage town and the fourth largest town in the country, serve as a major transport and commerce hub for southern Laos. The city was founded by the French in 1905 when Laos was part of French Indochina. Some buildings like the Chinese society building still remain from the colonial era. Pakse is the capital of Champasak Province, which was part of the Cambodian Angkor Empire between the 10th and 13th centuries. Wat Phou Champasak, near Champasak town, is the most striking relic of that time. Following the decline of Angkor between the 15th and late 17th centuries, this region was absorbed into the nascent Lane Xang kingdom, but broke away to become an independent Lao kingdom between the beginning of the 18th century and the beginning of the 19th century.

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Photos of beautiful waterfalls, Champasak

The town is a good base for travel to the Bolaven Plateau where coffee fields and waterfalls galore await, the idyllic river islands of Si Phan Don, also known as 4,000 Islands, eco-tours, trekking and village stays in Sepian National Protected Area, the Angkor temple complex Wat Phou, and to the indigenous villages and waterfalls of the Tad Lo area of Lao Ngam district, Salavan province. Pakse itself makes for a great staging point for archaeological tourists in this part of Laos for two reasons. Firstly it is where the Champasak Provincial Museum is located as an introduction to local archaeology. Secondly it is an alternative to Champasak city as a staging point for those wanting to see Wat Phou. Wat Phou is a designated UNESCO site and boasts of as Laos’s counterpart to Angkor Wat, the finest of its type outside Cambodia.

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Photos of Ancient Wat Phou, Champasak

About 150 kilometers South of Pakse is Si Phan Don, a beautiful natural area with hundreds of islands in the Mekong River, which is over 10 kilometers wide at this point. Near the Cambodian border are the Mekong Waterfalls, the largest falls by volume of South East Asia. This area of the Mekong is the home of the rare Irrawaddy dolphin. However, Visitors do not usually spend longer time in Pakse because there is not much do. They normally catch the flight from Pakse to Cambodia.

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Photo of Mekong Waterfall, Champasak

By and large, most of the tourist attractions are in the Northern provinces, besides Luang Prabang, Xieng Khouang, Van Vieng and Vientiane, namely Gibbon Experience in Houay Xai, Akha Tribe in Luang Namtha, Vieng Xai (the biggest attraction of the town are the caves and picturesque natural views).

LAOS TOURS – Laos Travel, Laos Holidays 2014 – 2015 | Laos Tours Expert

Laos- Akha Tribe a Window to a Disappearing Culture

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Vientiane, the capital city, is home to the most significant national monument in Laos.

Wat Sisaket in Vientiane

Photo of old Buddha Images, Vientiane Laos 

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Photo of Lao women in their traditional costume

In 1560, King Saysettha moved the capital city from Luang Prabang to declare Vientiane as the capital city of the Lane Xang kingdom because of the fertility of the surrounding alluvial plains. Vientiane Capital is the home to the most significant national monument in Laos. The city is now the center of administration for politics, socio-economics and culture. An attractive and interesting settlement is situated along the Mekong River bank where the ancient temples, museums, monuments and parks are all located just a short distance apart. The cosmopolitan capital of Laos, Vientiane, has galleries, boutiques, theatres, nightclubs and internet cafe, making it a major attraction for visitors from all around the globe. The city delivers a relaxing riverside break where one of the best things visitors can do is grab a drink and enjoy the sun’s spectacular show as it sets over the Mekong. It offers visitors a great variety of restaurant serving both Lao and foreign cuisine. Despite being the largest city in Laos and the hub of commerce and administration, Vientiane is still refreshingly laid back.

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Photo Night Market on the Mekong River Bank in Vientiane Laos

The most significant highlight in Vientiane is That Luang (the Great Stupa) which is a gold-covered large Buddhist stupa in the centre of Vientiane, Laos. Since its initial establishment, suggested to be built in the 3rd century as a Hindu Temple, the stupa has undergone several reconstructions as recently as the 1930s due to foreign invasions of the area. It is generally regarded as the most important national monument in Laos and a national symbol.

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Photos of That Luang (the Great Stupa) Vientiane Laos

Situated at the end of one of the capital’s grand avenues, the Patuxai Victory Monument, reminiscent of the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, was built between 1957 and 1968. The monument was dedicated to the Lao who were killed in the fight to gain independence from France, as well as from the nation’s earlier occupiers, Siam and Japan. Its exterior embellishments feature both Buddhist religious symbols.

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Photos of the Patuxai Victory Monument Vientiane Laos

The Lao National Museum is housed in the old French Governor’s mansion, which was built in 1925. A visit to the Lao National Museum, also known as the Lao National History Museum, is an excellent way to learn about the history, culture and people of Laos while spending a couple of hours out of the sun. Many of the exhibits are a bit faded and the old French colonial building is falling apart, but the museum covers a lot of ground, from prehistoric times to the modern day

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Photo of Lao National Museum Vientiane Laos 

Sisaket Temple was built in 1818 by Chao Anou in the Bangkok style and hence left unsacked when much of Vientiane was destroyed by Siamese in 1828. Within the cloister walls are hundreds of niches housing Buddha images large and small, made of wood, stone, silver and bronze. Crossing the street, visitors will see Hophakaew Museum, which housed the magical Emerald Buddha (Phra Kaew) after it was taken from Lanna (Chiang Mai). The Siamese took it back in 1779. The image is now housed in Bangkok’s Wat Phra Kaew.

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Photos of Sisaket Temple Vientiane Laos

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Photos of Phra KaewTemple Vientiane Laos

Located 24 km from the city, it’s about 6 km to the east of the Friendship Bridge to Thailand. The Buddha Park was built in 1958 by Buddhist a monk who studied both Buddhism and Hinduism. This explains why his park is full not only of Buddha images but also of Hindu gods as well as demons and animals from both beliefs.

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Photos of Buddha Park in Vientiane Laos 

The Cooperative Orthotic and Prosthetic Enterprise, or COPE, is a local not for profit organisation that provides orthotic, prosthetic, rehabilitation and advocacy services for survivors of unexploded ordnance (UXO) accidents and other people with disabilities in Laos. During the Vietnam War (1964-1973), conflict spilled over into Laos in a secret war where more than 500,000 bombing missions dropped over two million tons of ordnance on the country. The COPE Visitor Centre provides visitors with the opportunity to understand the impact of UXO on Lao Laos, issues related to disability in developing countries and the work of the COPE project through a free permanent exhibition.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop visits the UXO Visitor Centre of the Cooperative Orthotic and Prosthetic Enterprise (COPE). Photo: Bart Verweij

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (3rd R) visits the Cooperative Orthotic and Prosthetic Enterprise (COPE) visitor center in Vientiane July 11, 2012. COPE is a non-profit organisation that provides access to orthotic and prosthetic devices and rehabilitation services, in partnership with the National Rehabilitation Centre and provincial rehabilitation centres, according to its website. REUTERS/Phoonsab Thevongsa  (LAOS - Tags: HEALTH SOCIETY POLITICS)

Photos of Government Delegates to Laos, visiting COPE Vientiane Laos

SHORT VIDEO OF VIENTIANE

ONE DAY IN VIENTIANE

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Vang Vieng, a paradise for backpackers !

Travelling by road about four hours from Luang Prabang, travellers usually stops at Phou Khoun Observation Site, which stands 1700 metres above the sea level. The site is popular among the bike motorists. Turning left to the East at Phou Koun, travellers will head towards Xiengkhouang while heading Southwards on route 13 will be Vang Vieng.

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Photos of Phou Khoun Observation Site, 1700 metres above sea level

Xieng Khouang enjoys a remarkable geographical location, surrounded by mountain ranges with Phou Bia (2,700 meters) the highest peak in Lao PDR. Xieng Khouang is home to the Plain of Jars, the prehistoric stone megaliths which attract thousands of tourists to the province each year. The Lao government is currently finalising an application for the World Heritage Committee to consider listing the Plain of Jars as a World Heritage Monument. The area is of significant archaeological importance on account also of the standing stones in nearby Houaphanh Province. Until briefly after World War II, the French used Xieng Khouang Town, present-day Muang Khoun town, as their provincial capital. A few ruinous colonial public buildings remain to these days, such as the governor’s residence, church and French school. A total of 63 tourist sites were recorded in Xieng Khouang in 2010, consisting of 32 natural sites, 18 cultural sites and 13 historical sites.

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Defused UXO outside a house in Xieng Khouang. Over 30% of the bombs dropped on Laos by the US failed to explode - leaving literally millions of items of ordinance (many of them tiny mine bomblets from cluster bombs) sitting in villages, buried in rice padddies, and scattered over the hillsides. Casualties from UXO are estimated at 12,000 since 1973. A substantial industry in scrap metal has arisen from the abundance of recoverable (but still fused) bombs, both due to its relative lucrativeness (compared with growning rice), and also out of desperation, as thousands of hectares of land has been rendered unfarmable until cleared of UXO. Once defused, much of this war scrap is also put to practical use; cluster bomb casings are used as planters and house stilts, bomb cases for fencing and jettisoned fuel tanks converted into fishing boats. Evidence of this resourcefulness is everywhere in the Plain of Jars region.

Photos of Plain of Jars and defused bombs outside a house in Xieng Khouang 

Vang Vieng is on the main north-south highway, Route 13 from Luang Prabang to the capital city, Vie  ntiane. It is about eight hours by bus from Luang Prabang and four hours to Vientiane Capital (152 km). Vang Vieng has become a backpacker-oriented town, with the main street featuring guest houses, bars, restaurants, internet cafes, tour agencies, and Western tourists attractions of the town include inner tubing and kayaking on the Nam Song River, which, until the third quarter of 2012, was lined with bars selling Beer Lao and Lao-Lao, and equipped with rope swings, zip lines, swimming and diving into blue lagoon, and large decks for socialising.

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Photos of vang Vieng, Laos

Vang Vieng has managed to become a destination both locals from the capital city and Western travellers. While the town still isn’t much more than three streets and a bus station, it is the stunning scenery of river and rock formations surrounding this place that will keep visitors dreaming of Laos long after they have settled back into their real life. Mist-shrouded limestone karsts popping out of endless paddy fields, timeless caves, ancient ruins, mulberry groves and organic mulberry tea, adrenaline-charged river adventures, lazy bike rides are the trademark of Vang Vieng. In addition, there’s Rock climbing with excellent walls for everyone from the first timer to the professional climber. Kayaking the Nam Song River upstream on a more untouched part is a pure delight. Detours to some of the caves, with their cool darkness and occasional flock of bats, giving some the feel of movie scare, may take more than an hour to get through.

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Photos of Vang Vieng, Laos

Vientiane Capital will be the next travel destination prior to heading southwards to Pakse as a final destination. Vientiane became the capital city of Laos around the mid-16th century because of the fertility of the surrounding alluvial plains. Vientiane Capital is the home to the most significant national monument in Laos: That Luang (Great Stupa), which is the symbol of Laos and an icon of Buddhism in Laos.

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Photos of Vang Vieng, Laos 

Most popular things to do in Vang Vieng can be found more on You Tube Videos below:

Luang Prabang, the heart of Lao culture, is Laos’ premier tourist destination

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Luang Prabang, Laos

View of Mekong River in  Luang Prabang from Mount Phousi

As mentioned in my previous post that Luang Prabang, a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995, is located in northern Laos on a peninsula formed by the Mekong and the Nam Khan River at the heart of a mountainous region. Luang Prabang was primarily known as Muang Sua, then Xieng Thong, from the 14th to the 16th century the town became the capital of the powerful Kingdom of Lane Xang (Kingdom of a Million Elephants), whose wealth and influence were related to its strategic location on the Silk Route. The town’s entire historical section is dedicated to tourism, with everything from former royal palaces to nearly 40 Buddhist Temples on the tourist trail. This former royal capital still remains the main centre for Buddhist learning in Laos and is the perfect location for spiritual contemplation. The town is exceptional for both its rich architectural and artistic heritage that reflects the combination of Lao traditional urban architecture with that of the French Protectorate since 1893. Its remarkably well-preserved townscape reflects the alliance of these two distinct cultural traditions.

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Photo of a Former Royal Palace

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Photo of Buddhist Monks collecting alms in the morning

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Photo of Buddhist Monks collecting alms in the morning

The richness of Luang Prabang architecture reflects the mix of styles and materials. The majority of the buildings are wooden structures. Only the temples are in stone, whereas one- or two-storey brick houses characterise the French colonial element of the town.  Many temples or “Wat” in Luang Prabang, which are among the most sophisticated Buddhist temples in Southeast Asia, are richly decorated (sculptures, engravings, paintings, gilding and furniture pieces). Wat Xieng Thong, which dates back to the 16th century, comprises of a joint of the most complex structures of all the temples of the town. The built heritage of Luang Prabang is in perfect congruence with the natural environment. The sacred Mount Phousi stands 700 metres above sea level at the heart of the historic town. Considered by many travellers and writers as being the heart of Lao culture, the town is Laos’ premier tourist destination and (arguably) Southeast Asia’s most beautiful spot, ironically tourists will pay more for the innate pleasures of eating, drinking and sleeping than they would do in the capital city, Vientiane.

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Photo of Xieng Thong Temple, which dates back to the 16th century

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Photo of Prabang Temple and the Night Market

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View of Nam Khan River from Mount Phousi, Luang Prabang

With the influx of tourists, local families have converted their family homes into guesthouses. House after house on street after street have found new lives as guesthouses and this is a benefit for those wanting a comfortable stay in Luang Prabang. A simple walk around the town illustrates Luang Prabang’s charms. It’s very attractive, with all the charm of an old-fashioned European town mixed with the wonderful spice of Asia. With an outstanding range of restaurants, guesthouses, luxury resorts and hotels, a gorgeous location and friendly people, Luang Prabang has a reputation for ruining tightly planned itineraries.

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Photo of ancient French Buildings along the main street

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Photo of a luxury hotel in the center of Luang Prabang

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Photo of a luxury hotel (old French Architure) in the center of Luang Prabang

Apart from its historic attractions, Luang Prabang has a remarkably natural backdrop and it boasts for the two most beautiful and most visited waterfalls in the country. It’s difficult to suggest one over the other as they each have their charms. It takes less than an hour by roads to the waterfalls. Kuang Si Waterfall, clear and cool water, cascades gently over limestone formations and gathers into layers of stunning turquoise pools. Follow the dropping waters uphill for scenic views and a rope swing favoured by backpackers or downstream for a shady and shallow swimming area popular with families. Much like Kuang Si, Tad Sae Waterfall is the swimming pool that many tourists come for and it is truly a great place for a dip. At the entrance of Tad Sae, there are a group of elephants tourists can ride and feed. About few hours by road from Luang Prabang, there is a small town, “Nong Khiaw” on the banks of the Nam Ou River, boasts a gorgeous backdrop of imposing limestone mountains, scenic river views, and genuine local people.

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Photos of  Kuang Si Waterfall, Luang Prabang

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Photos of Tad Sae Waterfall, Luang Prabang

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Photo of Elephants on Nam Khan River, Luang Prabang

After visiting Luang Prabang, most tourists entering Laos from the North will travel southwards to the capital city of Laos, Vientiane. Prior to arriving Vientiane by roads, they normally stop at Vang Vieng for a few days. Vang Vieng is about 8 hours from Luang Prabang and about four hour-drive to Vientiane. My next post will take you to Xieng Khouang – a plain of giant jars and Vang Vieng – an outdoor paradise home with some achingly lovely boutique hotels and a raft of adrenalin-inducing and nature-based activities.

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Photos of Nong Khiaw on Nam Ou River, Luang Prabang

Top 10 things to do in Luang Prabang, Laos (You Tube Video)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a1Ji0SdHxQU

Welcome to a long forgotten land – LAOS

  83189524_1b3f3b5096Picture of Dok Champa ( Plumeria ), the national flower and official symbol of Laos

Thatluang Picture of That Luang Stupa, Vientiane Capital
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 Picture of Mekong River, Northern Laos

Laos, a long forgotten land, has a rich history tracing back to 10,000 years and has a combination of the best elements of Southeast Asia. Many perceive Laos as a “Landlocked” Country as it has no access to the sea and its geographic location is surrounded by China to the North, Vietnam to East, Cambodia to the South, Thailand to the West, and Myanmar to the Northwest. To my personal viewpoint, this perception proves to be wrong because Laos should be labelled as a “Landlinked” Country, where roads are now interconnected through the rest of its neighbouring countries. Laos has 17 provinces with more than 6 million people; Vientiane is capital city of Laos.

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 The map of Laos 

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 Picture of Lao Elephants 

In the ancient times, Laos was known as “Lane Xang Kingdom” or “Land of a Million Elephants”. The country had long been occupied by the French. During the Vietnam War, Laos was heavily bombed by the American to stop the spread of the Communism into the region. According to the CIA, Laos was the most heavily bombed country per capita in the world history. However, since its declaration of independence from the French in 1975, Laos is increasingly becoming a relevant tourist destination for all types of travellers. The country has a mixture of diverse cultures, untouched environment, and possibly one of the friendliest people on earth. The country still retains some of the French influence it absorbed during colonial days: the familiar smell of freshly baked bread and coffee mingles with exotic local aromas in morning markets, and many of the old French buildings in its larger towns now house French restaurants.

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 Picture of Luang Prabang, Northern Laos

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 Picture of Luang Prabang, Northern Laos

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 Picture of a slow boat on the Mekong River, Northern Laos

Laos’ lifeline is the Mekong River, which runs from the North to the South of the country and at times dividing it and at others serving as a boundary with Thailand. Most travellers start their journey in Laos from Huay Xai in the north taking a ferryboat along the snaky Mekong River further south to Luang Prabang. The trip of leisurely sailing down the Mekong past incredibly beautiful scenery usually takes two days by slow boats while speed boats normally take about 10 hours. This is one of the most popular journeys in Laos. For many visitors Luang Prabang, a World Heritage Town, truly represents Laos but more intrepid travellers will discover a country untainted by mass tourism. However, there are several tourist attractions throughout the country. On the way from Luang Prabang to Vientiane Capital, Vang Vieng claims to be the most stunning view of natural scenery and eco-tourist site. Travelers usually stop by Xiengkhouang on the Southeast of Luang Prabang prior to exploring Vang Vieng. The most prominent and popular sites in Xiengkhouang are Plain of Jars which consist of urns of large stone of height varying from 1–3 metres, which indicate by Archaeological studies that these were funerary sites of Bronze and Iron Age (2,000 to 2,500 years old). The capital city of Laos also has a  mix of modern and ancient architecture. Further down to the South of Laos, Pakse is a second UNESCO World Heritage town equips with natural beauty and ancient ruined stone Khmer Temples.

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Picture of Plain of Jars, Xiengkhouang – Northern Laos

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 Picture of Nam Song River, Vang Vieng, Central Laos

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Picture of Patouxay, Vientiane Capital – Central Laos

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Picture of Mekong Waterfall, Pakse – Southern Laos

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Picture of Wat Phou, Pakse – Southern Laos

Lao people are wonderfully welcoming hosts and there is no better way to get to know Lao culture than by sharing their lives. A community-based trekking is also very popular among tourists in Laos. It combines spectacular natural attractions with the chance to experience the ‘real Laos’ with a village homestay. Laos can offer a spectrum of activities for adrenaline junkies to lose themselves in underground river caves, white-water rapids or jungle ziplines. Wildlife lovers can trek through some of Southeast Asia’s most pristine forests, still home to rare creatures. Foodies can experiment with the mixture of flavours that is Lao cuisine. Colourfully dressed hill tribes can be found at the higher elevations while the dominant ethnic Lao live in the low land river valleys where coconut palms sway over the Buddhist temples.

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Next I will take you to explore Luang Prabang, one of the World Heritage Towns in Laos, where I had been living for six years as a Buddhist monk. This ancient town of Luang Prabang, located in northern Laos, was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995. The town’s entire historical section is dedicated to tourism, with everything from former royal palaces to over 33 Buddhist Temples on the tourist trail. This former Royal capital still remains the main centre for Buddhist learning in Laos and is the perfect location for spiritual contemplation.

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Picture of Buddhist Monks in Luang Prabang

Photos source: Laos Pictures

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