Wednesday, December 29, 2010

New Years Eve events in Vientiane

I am quite impressed about what is going on in Vientiane between Christmas and New Year. There is a the Tiger Beer Event at Nam Phou Square, which is on of the most professional organized events I have seen in SE Asia so far. What I like is that the music fits the audience, both foreigners and locals, the bands are really good and now there business (means no playback), the sound is awesome (applause to the guy on the mixer, great job). Food is available, not that much, but enough for a small dinner, and of course beer is there for a fair price (11.000 KIP a big bottle). The organizers changed the program every day, from DJ to Guitar player to rock bands. Looking forward to today's and tomorrows program.

There is also an event at the cultural hall, sponsored by Beer Lao and the Government. The stage is bigger, of course, but the band seems to be from one of the hotels: Nice, but nothing special. So expect an atmosphere where people just sitting on tables and listing to a older guy singing Lionel Richie songs. Food is local, but well organized, and you can order your drinks with the beer girls. Again, it is not too bad, but it is not exciting, and this is something that you may expect for the end of the year.

So no wonder that the modern middle and upper class locals are more into the Tiger Beer event, while some of the average citizens are joining Beer Lao. But I believe that the Nam Phou event is more popular and just better done.

Sidenote: even if the Government sponsored events still lack international standards, they are much closer to that that any of the official Vietnamese events I attended.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Mekong Robot Competition 2010

The first Robot Competition has been organized in Laos in 2002 at the Faculty of Engineering, National University of Laos (NUOL) with financial supports from the Embassy of Japan in Laos. Since then the competition has been held every year by the NUOL with all participating teams coming from state-funded Universities/colleges and became very popular among the students nationwide. The Soutsaka College of Management and Technology (SCMT) has been the first and only private college in Laos participating in the National Robot Competition since 2005 and won the competition in 2008. To support the robot development activities in Laos and enhance students’ creativity as well as cooperation among educational institutions in the Mekong Sub-region, SCMT, in cooperation with the Ministry of Education and NUOL, organizes the Mekong Region Robot Competition in Laos, which provides an avenue where students of participating institutions from the Mekong Sub-region can learn from each other. The participating institutions for this event are expected to come from Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Vietnam and Yunnan province of China. The Competition will be held on 23 December 2010 in Vientiane capital city.

II. Objectives
Key objectives of this event are:

* To promote robot development activities and enhance students’ creativity in robot designs;
* To create an opportunity for students from Laos and Mekong region to learn latest techniques in robot development from each other;
* To impart the students with capability to work as a team and put lesson learnt from the classes into practices;
* ​To provide an avenue for teachers and management of the participating educational institutions to meet with their counterparts from the region and discuss about possible future cooperation.

III. Participat teams
The participants come from following educational institutions:

* Soutsaka College of Management and Technology;
* Faculty of Mechanical Engineering, the National University of Laos;
* Faculty of Computer Science, the National University of Laos;
* Faculty of Computer Engineering and Information Technology, the National University of Laos;
* Faculty of Electrical Engineering, the National University of Laos;
* Lao-German Technical School;
* Lao-Japan Human Resource Development Center, the National University of Laos;
* Luangprabang Technical School;
* Vientiane-Hanoi Friendship Vocational School;
* Students teams coming from Thailand’s educational institutions;

Riverview Resort Xaythany

Originally uploaded by thomaswanhoff
A nice weekend retreat place, one hour from downtown Vientiane, on the river. Quads, speedboats and bicycles are available. Quite luxury place

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Mindmapping best practise - Part I

I am addicted to mindmaps. I think that's the best tool ever, in particular since it is available as software. So in this little series I want to introduce you to some best practise of how to use mindmaps.

Mindmaps are basically pictures of your thoughts or notes, in a node-based structure. The advantage is that you can move these nodes around as you like. And you do not have to care about hierarchies when you taking these nodes. But it goes further: You can add links, pictures, due dates für project management, notes and documents to mindmaps. I used it e times for project management With collaboration features you can use it together with co-workers and friends. Mindmaps can be used in a wide range of things, from planning party to managing a project. In the upcoming posts I will show you some public mindmaps I find interesting and worth sharing. Let me know if you are interested in using mindmaps...

Best online collaboration tools (Mindmeister Map) by Robin Good

Nirvana vegan restaurant

Close to Wat Simuang.. delicious lunch buffet for 20.000 KIP

Who CARE's about the money

I just received a job offer from CARE. If anyone wants to know, what happens with all the money NGOs get from their donors, here you can see another example of the answer: It goes to administration and consultants.

CARE International in Lao PDR is seeking for a short-term consultant for End of Project Evaluation Mission - Team Leader.

Terms of References

End of Project Evaluation Mission – Team Leader

Care Australia

Improving Livestock Raising Practices in Remote Upland Areas (Khua District, Phongsaly Province, Lao PDR)


Lao PDR is ranked 133rd by the UNDP Human Development Report in 2009. Approximately half of all rural children are chronically malnourished and significant economic growth within Lao PDR over the last decade has not translated into nutritional gains at the household level. Food and nutritional insecurity in Lao PDR is strongly correlated with ethnicity, and the burden of poverty, including food shortages and insecurity, falls disproportionately on ethnic groups living in remote upland areas.

The northern province of Phongsaly is characterized by its remoteness, poor access to roads and markets, and steeply sloping lands. Rice production per capita, crop diversity, livestock ownership and education are low. Khua district is ranked among the 72 poorest districts in the country with almost 50% of villages classified as ‘poor’. Communities in the project area are predominantly of the Khmu ethnic group. Key challenges to achieving food and nutritional security in the target area are: inefficient production systems and limited income generation (access), poor nutrition practices (utilization), gender relations which limit women’s roles and access to resources, and marginalization of communities, particularly women, in district decision-making and planning processes.

CARE has been operational in Phongsaly province since 2005, implementing a portfolio of projects focusing on food security and livelihoods development for poor rural communities.

The present Gifts ‘06 project began its implementation in January 2008 with student scholarships as a continuation of CARE Australia’s Gifts’ Catalogue funding. The present project has been extended until December 2010. The former Gifts ’05 project ended in December 2008, and the remaining budget was rolled into the Gifts ’06 project,

The project worked in 2 districts, Samphan and Khua. In June 2010, resettlement issues forced CARE to close the programme in Samphan district.

The objectives of the GIFT 2006 project are within the scope of the larger project, which is the EC funded Food and Nutritional Security Project, which has the following overall objective:

To improve the food and nutrition security of women and the rural poor and to empower poor local communities to participate in decision making at the local level for the achievement of a sustainable food and nutrition strategy.

In the GIFT project proposal the objective was formulated:

Food security and livelihood of remote upland the villages is improved through higher family income through improved livestock raising.

The project has the purpose, to provide selected upland communities with livestock and extension services for improved livestock raising practices.

The review period for this consultancy focuses on project implementation from July 2009 to December 2010.

Objectives of the evaluation mission

The overall objective of the evaluation mission is to review and assess comprehensively the management, the implementation progress, the quality and impact of the achievements, and the approaches of project activities after two years of project implementation, and to produce recommendations on follow-up steps to be taken by CARE International Laos in order to obtain the impacts of improved livestock raising.

The main objectives of the evaluation are:

1. to engage with all relevant stakeholders to assess the impact of CARE’s Gift’s ‘06 project

2. to identify the strengths and weakness of the various aspects of the current project

3. recommend any changes to the livestock components arising from the evaluation

4. to engage the CARE team and Government counterparts to build their capacity and understanding of the impacts of the project

Main tasks of the evaluation mission

The main tasks of the evaluation mission include but are not limited to the following aspects:

* A ‘Lessons learned/good practices’ workshop focusing on improved livestock raising with special consideration of gender issues organized by the consultant

· Gender-integrated socio-economic, and technical assessment of the achievements by GIFT funding in Phongsaly province since the beginning of this project (July 2009-Janua\ry 2011)

· Assessment of student sponsorship programme

· Recommendations on necessary follow-up activities to sustain livestock raising including the livestock bank schemes, veterinary services, labour saving technologies and gender issues

· The evaluation will cover CARE Laos’ project activities in Khua and Samphan districts and engagements at local and provincial government level.

Questions related to project impact and benefits


* What has been accomplished by the project vis-à-vis the project’s logframe?
* How do villagers themselves evaluate the activities (strong and weak points)?
* How appropriate have been the household targeting strategies for the respective schemes?
* What have been the expected and unexpected benefits to women by the project?
* Which are the negative effects from this project?

Goat and Pig Banks

* Achievements of animal banks (productivitiy and income generation)
* Assessment/awareness raising of vulnerable household and gender-balanced targeting mechanisms in the villages of Omthan and Moklom (Samphan district) and Khua district (Houaysing, Kunglith, Mokpek, Na, Nambout, Omdeun, Omthap, Onmok, Phuvieng, Senlath, Viengkham)
* Environmental impacts
* Impact of capacity building activities and further capacity building needs
* Recommended strategies for set up of livestock bank schemes as sustainable mechanism

Labour saving technologies

* Achievements of forage planting and penning
* Capacity building and further needs
* Recommended strategies

Veterinary services

* Achievements of veterinary service system
* Cool chain equipment access and maintenance
* Capacity building and further needs
* Recommended strategies

Expected results

The team leader is liable to submit the following results to CARE International in Lao PDR.

* A comprehensive report that summarizes the findings of the mission, including

a. an executive summary, containing the major results and recommendations

b. Findings and detailed recommendations regarding the benefits and impacts

c. An appendix containing relevant references and contacted persons

The final report is to be sent through email. The consultant accepts that, after review of the report by CARE International in Lao PDR, minor corrections may be necessary.

* A lessons learned/best practice workshop in Muang Khua including a brief documentation of the workshop
* A final presentation of major findings and recommendations to CARE International in Vientiane


The evaluation will incorporate retrospective and prospective angles. The former will satisfy the requirements for analyzing the results and lessons learned and the latter will inform future policy and management decisions and strategy. The project evaluation is based on project documents and materials provided by CARE International and field trips to district offices and villages.


The methodology will include a variety of approaches, including participative review activities in communities (focus group discussions, household interviews, etc.), key stakeholder interviews, especially with Government partners and beneficiaries, and desk study. A gender sensitive approach will be used in all evaluation activities, and issues of diversity will also be captured (ie ethnic diversity and people living with disability) wherever possible.

Time frame, personnel and logistics

* The total duration of the assignment (including traveling, preparation/ briefing with CARE International and report writing) does not exceed 20 days.
o The evaluation expert is expected to carry out his/her fieldwork in Phongsaly from February 3 to 10, 2010
o The final report is to be submitted not later than three weeks after the completion of the assignment.
* During the mission, the expert will be supported by CARE International in transport, logistics and interpretation.
* An evaluation team will consist of representatives of the main stakeholders and should include male and female members. A suggested composition of the review team is:

Consultant (lead)

Provincial programme manager

2 staff members from the Khua team and their respective government counterparts

2 village representatives (possibly Kumban volunteers)

Qualifications of the consultant

The consultant should have experience with livestock development and fisheries, food security and rural development issues and extensive experience of working in Lao PDR. He/she should be able to understand the Lao language and able to lead the team, apply participatory approaches.

The consultant should be familiar with the conditions in upland northern Laos and be willing to travel to remote areas. The consultant should have strong report writing skills (in English).

Melinda Gates recently compared Coca Cola with NGO's, and she complained about having no real time data to monitor progress of projects while they are implemented. She quoted someone who said: "NGO projects are like bowling in the dark. You roll the bowl and after it hit the pins we switch on the light and see the result." That's what CARE is doing with this consultancy.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Some advice if you are running a coffeeshop

Coffee art

I am a bit addicted to coffee shops. The reason is that I like coffee and I like to sit in a Cafe. Since many coffee shops are offering Wifi, they became a workplace for me. What sometimes sucks is the management. You seldom see the owner or manager at the front desk, they leave all the work to the mostly untrained stuff. So some advice for coffee shop owners and managers:

1.) Your customers are important, not you and your balance sheets. If there is any trouble, get your ass off your office and assist your staff

2.) You are serving customers, but that doesn't mean you are not allowed to talk to them. Actually, most customers enjoy a little conversation when the come in a coffee shop, in particular if there is not much business.

3.) There NO VIP customers aka friends. Do not treat your friends better in front of other customers. They will understand that as they are not welcomed.

4.) A cafe latte is made of one espresso and milk foam, heated to about 70 degrees. It's is NOT a filtered coffee with some milk.

5.) Explain staff that sleeping or browsing the internet in front of customers is not your understanding of how to to the job.

6.) 20 Degree is the common room temperature all over the world. People do not want to sit in a fridge (and you also save a lot of money if you keep the a/c in that range).

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Group for expats and neighbors in Vientiane

After having good experience with the an Phu Neighbors group in Saigon I founded Phu My Hung Neighbors (a Saigon suburban area where I lived for 2 years), and after moving to Vientiane I think something like this is missing here. A group for private sales, expat questions, local events, information about schools etc. Yes, there is WIG, but you have to be a member and they have their special cause. I wanted to have something
more open. Everyone can join. However, the webmaster (me) has he right to ban people or set the status to moderated, if the abuse the list. This is usually the case with aggressive real estate ads or commercial sales. So let's be just nice and have fun together.


Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Buying furniture in Vientiane

When we arrived in Laos we were quite lucky we took our sofa with us and moved into a complete furnished house. What we discovered so far is that acceptable furniture is either incredible expensive or not available. A few shops sell actually close stuff close to western standards. One is Rossano, next to the Supreme Court on Tadeua Road. They have branches in Phnom Penh and Saigon, the shop in Vientiane is rather small, but has a large selection of sofas, dining tables and a few beds.
Quite new is Winner, a bit far outside town, on Road Number 5 down south. They have good quality matresses, also leather sofas and some accessoires. Worth a visit.
What is supringsingly expensive is rattan furniture. We found a shop with reasonable prices. It is close to Dong Palan road, next to Khiri Travel or the Lao-Singaporean College. The shop also serves food, so don't be confused when you see a restaurant in the front.
Rue Asean has also some furniture shops, one is Phonesavanh furniture close to the airport. They also sell safes.

Do not expect high quality, and no selection like you know from IKEA. It is pretty basic stuff here. Only the wooden tables and beds are quite good. When it comes to chairs, they live for 6 months, then you start repairing and glueing. And be aware of termites.

By the way, if ou have any chance to bring your washing machine, do it. Hot water machnes are arround 1000 USD, what is way to much.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Diapers, Garbage and Dogs

There are actually only two things that annoy me in Laos: One is burning trash and the other thing is placing open baskets full of garbage on the streets. There is NO sense of locking the garbage in a plastic bucket that keeps it safe from dogs. So what happens is that dogs see (or better smell) the trash with all it's eatable contents and distribute it all over the streets. More serious is that since now also diapers are part of the waste, dogs seem to like them the most. The result you can see in the picture below.
I think this may result in a serious public health threat. Open diapers with baby poop in the streets may attract any kind of animals, from rats to viruses.
Oh, and don't blame the dogs. If it's not dogs that pull out that stuff, it will be cats or rats or .... Laos needs a proper waste management. Replace bamboo baskets with lockable plastic boxes and put them only on the street when it is collection day - done. It is easy and not even expensive. It is not a matter of money or culture, it is a matter of will.


Monday, December 6, 2010

LIFPA Concert at Cultural Hall

LIFPA is a NGO that wants to fight poverty, so they ask for any kind of donation. I havent heard from them, but I learned that the wife of the former president is involved, that might be a reason why they got live TV coverage today. Anyway, the concert was good, the fashion show was quite bad because of the models (learn walking in this shoes, honey), but the bands were quite good, although the Lao singers still lack of expression, presence and the will to connect with the audience. Isn't is that hard?
anyway, some pictures:

Lao is included Debian built now

Anousak just send me this mail:

On *daily built* images (not beta!) which you can get from, you'll find Lao and
listed in the available language.

Please note that, as many packages need to be uploaded with your
translation work, if you happen to try starting an install in one of
your languages (you can on any machine, at least up to the
partitioning stage, without any risk), it will be mostly in English.

Thanks to Debian maintainer, Christian, who have been working with me
to bring Lao into the Debian Installer and etc.

Debian is the main distro other Linux derivatives including Ubuntu.

If you want to play with Lao Installer, feel free to do so, and
comments are welcome.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

ICT meetings in Vientiane

We had a gathering in Saturday from ICT enthusiasts aka geeks, and agreed to have bi-weekly informal meetings Barcamp style, where we talk about specific ICT topics. We now look for a name and a venue. If you now a place for 20 people, roof, electricity and chairs, let us know. Next meeting will be December 19th. Location to be announced.Everyone can join!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Nutrition databases and Asian food

I am on a diet again, and I really like to monitor what I ear with a application named Nutrimanager. It counts calories, weight, protein intake, fat, etc. It also has a database with a lot of dishes. The reason why I used it was that it measures in Gramm and litres since most apps use lbs and oz. But the real struggle I had with this program and have with another one for my android phone is, that it does not cover Asian food at all, and of course only a few Asian dishes. While all fast food meals like Chucken McNuggets are present, it lacks of Fish Amok, Chicken laab or Banh Xeo.

So I am thinking right now about a Asian food database, with nutrition in formation. the most common dishes from countries like Burma, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Malaysia and Indonesia.

Anyone knows if these databases are already there?