Wednesday, December 28, 2011
Under the agreement, Wan Feng Shanghai will spend 12,000 billion kip (more than US$1.5 billion) to develop the marsh into a tourist attraction and cultural centre.So, what does attract tourists? Let"s have a look on the status quo. There are two main tourists sources, Thai and western foreigners. Thai people visit mainly waterfalls and Wat Phou, some Luang Prabang. They are looking for the nature and landscape. Western tourists are looking for the ancient Laos and culture, that's why most of them go to Luang Prabang. So, what kind of tourists can be atracted by a urban development? The article says:
The development will include open spaces, a public park, lagoon, drainage, roads, a sports centre, and trade and service centres that contain five-star hotels, shopping centres and entertainment venues.The project will also include a residential area and facilities that it is hoped will attract tourists to Laos.Will tourist come for shopping? I don't think so, since there is nothing to buy in Laos that isn't available in other countries and is cheaper there (except wine). Will tourists come for entertainment? I think Singapore, Malaysia and Hongkong are better choices, even Bangkok. There won't be a new Disneyland, instead expect a chinese park for kids, like the current waterpark. Nice for locals, but not a reason to get a plane from Bangkok or even Europe. So, I dont see any tourists coming. I see middle class Lao and expats, in particular Chinese and Korean, moving in there, as it happend in Saigons Phu My Hung area.
Tuesday, December 27, 2011
Monday, December 26, 2011
Gabriel Kuperman, director of the Luang Prabang film festival, a photo by thomaswanhoff on Flickr.
Listen to him in my latest episode of the From Asia With Love podcast wanhoff.com/?p=197
Wednesday, December 21, 2011
These emerging countries will need to transport their goods through Laos so they can increase trade value and economic cooperation. Laos' land-linked status can provide Japanese investors with investment opportunities in the service sector, including international freight operations.This sounds nice, but Laos is quite far away from becoming a freight-hub: No streets, and if so they are not maintained and broken in less than a year. The high-speed railway is in fact on hold, since China seems to demanding way to much (a 10km special chinese business zone along the track). Once the government can assure the assure the consistence of infrastructure, this can indeed become a great income source for Laos.
Laos also has a strong workforce as most of its population is of working age.This is when you look only at numbers. In fact, most of these workforce is unskilled, and the Japanese (and other) government trying to improve the skills. But as long as there is no major change in curriculums in public schools and in business oriented education (more practice, less textbooks), the workforce will be useless.
At present, there are 87 Japanese investment projects in Laos worth about US$540 million, with most in the areas of agriculture, hydropower and construction.Sounds nice, but actually a lot of them failed. It all comes down to two issues: Governance and Education. This has to be improved, then Laos can have a brighter future.
Monday, December 19, 2011
Work is underway to develop the Nam Phou fountain square in Vientiane after local authorities gave the go ahead for a company to build a restaurant, in a bid to attract more tourists. The development project, which will change the face of one of Vientiane’s most popular spots, will see the building of a restaurant which it is hoped will bring more visitors and business to the area. In recent weeks, people passing the fountain have become concerned about the status of this public space and have become worried that they will no longer be allowed access. Their concerns arose after the construction company erected a fence around the area in order to secure the site. A senior official from the Vientiane Administration Office told Vientiane Times yesterday that public access to the area would be allowed to continue even though some parts will become part of a private business venture. People will still be able to sit in the area to enjoy the environment provided by the fountain and there will still be an open space maintaining the overall impression of a public square.Beside the fact that there isn't really a lack of restaurants in this area anyway and no tourist will come to Laos because of a new restaurant at Nam Phou: It is interesting that there was no advance notice about the project. It still has a bad taste. Oh, and maybe it is because mainly foreign restaurants are suffering - and who cares about them?
Sunday, December 18, 2011
Monday, December 12, 2011
Friday, December 9, 2011
Monday, December 5, 2011
Friday, December 2, 2011
Monday, November 28, 2011
The Plain of Jars, the major tourist attraction in Xieng Khuang province, will be the focus of a promotional blitz after reports of lower visitor numbers recently.Not a surprise. First of all the problem with this spot is that you are done in 1 hour. Have seen one jar means you have seem them all. Although there are 3 different spots, the experience is always the same. Then it comes to accessibility: This place is basically not accessible. Not enough flights, and travel by bus or car takes way to long. You are literally trapped there for at least one night. and there is nothing to do. No museu. No restaurants for tourists. No entertainment. Nothing. If the earth would be flat, this is the place were it ends. My concern is that again the Plain Of Jars will be promoted the way local authorities like to see it, not what actually international tourists expect. What is indeed a good development, if real is this:
In the past, tourist numbers averaged almost 3,000 people per month, of whom 80 percent were foreign visitors, but this number has dropped to 2,600 people, most of whom are Lao.If locals really start travelling, then it is a good sign. I know what I am talking about: German people spend most of their holidays in Germany. Now comes the real bad news:
To ensure all visitors have a great time when they are here, especially in the coming Visit Laos Year, we are preparing some special events and also trying to promote the purchase of local products such as wood carvings and silk..I haven't seen a single local event that met international tourist standards. The program is usually boring, you see always the same dances and cultural performances, and when it come sto local singers, it is getting worth. Be prepared of high-pitch-singing-but-never-hitting-the-tone-girls, as well as a moderator that shouts so loud as there wasn't a loudspeaker. Again, if this should attract more local vistors, I am fine with it. But the complain is about the decrease of foreigners, and it is time for those spots, to open up to international standards. (Just in case you expected a well balanced, polite and political correct article: That's the wrong place. I want to provoke, and I like to use irony without placing the irony tag every time when I use it)
Sunday, November 27, 2011
Monday, November 14, 2011
Saturday, November 12, 2011
As a pet lover and dog owner I was wondering what kind of help is needed in Laos?
From my observation there are not many streetdogs, at least in Vientiane. if there are strays, they are often in a good shape, since food is available everywhere. Yes diseases like rabies are there, but I did not hear of a significant outbreak.
In fact, what you see is that more and more people get the idea of a pet instead of a watchdog. I see more and more people walking a dog, and when you see how busy Dr. Kamdeng is these days, you see that there is a significant change in the way dogs are treatet.
For sure there is still more to do. For example, people here still don't spay and neuter there dogs. "Cannot" is what they say if I ask them. However, some give female dogs an injection to prevent them getting pregnant.
It seems that Lao people pretty good learn from each other. Treating a dog well has bacone a fashion, and this akey for success. There are to many organisations trying to educate, instead giving just support and a bit if advice when needed.
When I showed people in my street that my dogs listen to commands, they said uts because they are foreign dogs. When I showed them that it takes me five minutes toteach their dog the command "sit" they started thinking. In particular kids now trying to train their dogs, pet them, hug them and watching them if they want to run on the street.
That is another problem: since people are used to just open the gate and let the dogs out in the morning, they are at great risk getting hit by are car (or stolen by either people who want a dog or dog meat sellers).
So another afford might be to change behavior from open the gate to walk the dog, what is, as i said, already happening, but of course with the Lao pace.
I was thinking about starting dog classes where they learn commands, but where owners also learn about dog behavior, diseases and how to handle dogs well.
Another stereotype is that dogs in laos are afraid if people. they are actually not, they are just careful. If you waita bit, they will come closer, because they want to know who you are. I always show people my patience with dogs and many are surprised that at the end the dogs isn't scared at all.
What's your experience with dogs in Laos?
Monday, November 7, 2011
No doubt they see a lot of strange things come down the river at Chiang Saeng, but the two Chinese cargo boats rudderless, crewless, and turning with the currents of the Mekong no doubt caught the attention of anyone watching the river earlier this month. Chiang Saeng is just downstream from the border of Burma, it is what passes for the beginning civilization in that part of the Wild East known as the Golden Triangle. Competing casinos in Burma and Laos vie for the baht of eager Thai gamblers. Though no longer the center of world opium production the poppy is still widely grown and the lawless Shan State in Burma is a large supplier of methamphetamine (ya ma) for South East Asia.
I have a lot of photos of this part of the river because I like to take the fast boat down from Xiengkok to where there are roads at Muang Mom. Despite what it sounds like this portion of Laos is generally pretty quiet. Mostly the river sees few foreigners, there are no roads, no ATMs, no airports, or internet. The wide photo up on the header of this blog is actually looking up the river in the direction of China from Xiengkok.
For a couple hundred or more kilometers above Chaing Saeng the Mekong runs between Laos and Burma on it's way from China to the sea. Xiengkok half way up has a Lao border patrol man watching the river with a very tired eye. The "port" is simply a place where the rocks jut out into the river giving boats a place to anchor in slack water.
Leaving the slack water in Xienkok early 09
The Chinese blasted a channel in the rapids deep enough to run cargo boats most of the year, and it's a regular roller coster ride between the mountains. Chinese cargo boats for now are more profitable than trucking cargo the long way around from Jihong to Chang Rai vial Mengla, then somehow across the river at Huay Xai. Maybe once the bridge outside of Huay Xai is complete boats will stop running.
For the unfortunate crewmen on the two cargo boats that ride was their last, a dozen Chinese crew were tied up, executed, and thrown in the river.
Above the same Lao freight boat we saw leaving Xiengkok about to enter the rapids below Xieng Dao (I think)
Newspaper accounts attribute the violence to a warlord not receiving protection money from the Chinese. They sure were quick to add a name to the crime too, but a name with freinds at the highest levels within the Burmese military. Who knows, I sure don't.
From the Irrawaddy:
Over the past two decades, three ethnic armed groups from Burma have attempted to control the Mekong River route through the Golden Triangle. The first group was drug lord Khun Sa’s Mong Tai Army, followed by the UWSA and the Shan State Army (South) led by Yawd Serk.I have a hard time keeping all the names and armies straight, all I know is that I've never had an inclination to step foot on that part of Burma. The closest I've come is fueling up on a fast boat.
“All were pushed back by the Burmese army,” Khunsai Jaiyen said. “Unless they had the support of the local Burmese authorities, Naw Kham and his men could not survive in this area.”
It used to be that you could catch a ride on the freighters if you wanted a slow, cheap, way to go to Jihnong China that didn't involve airplanes or the long go around to Boten.
Now there is a fast ferry that looks like below.
167km from the border of China 1/09 early morning fog
In that same article a journalist tells of being extorted for money by the same folks.
“At the time, Naw Kham’s men were on three speedboats. They cut off our boat and boarded it,” he said. “They were well armed, and some of them wore masks. They made us kneel with our hands on our heads. Then they took all our money.”The speed boats are very fast, basically an auto engine with a propeller at the end of a long shaft pushing a very light weight flat bottomed boat.
The wind in the face is strong.
And lastly a very short video to get an idea of the speed of the things.
The striped bag is some of my new designer luggage.
Friday, November 4, 2011
Monday, October 31, 2011
Sunday, October 30, 2011
"Bamboo umbrellas made in Xieng Khuang province are finding markets
further afield, and are now on sale in popular tourist spots in Luang
Prabang, Vangvieng and even across the border.
The colourful umbrellas, which are individually crafted by villagers
in Phoukoud district, are proving increasingly popular with tourists,
according to Mr Thanongsone Xaisongkham, who is the marketing officer
for the Rural Income through Sustainable Energy project.
“What I know is that traders from these places come to us to buy the
umbrellas to sell. But because most of the people who make them are
farmers, they don't have enough time to make umbrellas in large
quantities and are unable to keep up with demand,” Mr Thanongsone
The colourful umbrellas with bamboo handles are mostly sold in tourist
destinations because they are more artistic than functional.
They can be used to provide shade but are not sturdy enough to be
waterproof in heavy rain, and might also get damaged.
They are used mainly for decoration and are mostly bought by tourists
as a souvenir of Laos.
Mr Thanongsone said umbrella making is an old tradition in Xieng
Khuang province and the pastime dates back to long before the project
“There are currently about 10 people in the province who make
umbrellas and our project encourages them to find new markets for
Mr Thanongsone said the venture has generated a good income for the
umbrella makers and some families can earn up to 20 million kip a
Bamboo is plentiful in the northern provinces, especially in Phoukoud
Umbrella production is supported by the Rural Income through
Sustainable Energy project, which began in 2001, and operates in
Phonesaarth Tai village, Paek district, Xieng Khuang province."
So, 10 people producing umbrellas and cannot even meet the demand. Beside of not mentioning how big this demand is, I ask myself why this is even called a project. How much money was wasted for the programm and the programm officer?
To make it clear: There might be a souvenir market for these umbrellas, bu but for now Luang Prabang is actually lacking tourists. And other destinations have the same problem. So if you really want to sell this umbrellas, make sure the supply change is in place and the market as well.
Saturday, October 29, 2011
Wednesday, October 26, 2011
Total average annual fuelwood production in developing countries increased=approximately 16.5% over the past decade to about 1.55 billion cubic meters. Worldwide, it is estimated that nearly 3 billion people use fuelwood as their primary source of energy. In developing countries, especially in rural areas, 2 billion people rely solely on fuelwood for heating and cooking.There are actually different threats for climate and health:
Empirical studies have shown that cooking stove smoke can contain hundreds of chemicals components. The most well-studied products include total suspended particulates (TSP), polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH), and carbon monoxide (CO).... mConsiderable evidence has been accumulated linking indoor air pollution from biomass cooking stoves to a variety of different diseases. Tobacco research suggests that cooking smoke might also cause peptic ulcer disease, cardio-vascular diseases, otitis media and other ailments.So if you really want to improve environment, tell people to stop open fire. Don't burn trash or waste from the garden. Use gas or electricity for cooking, not charcoal. It might be a Lao tradition to use open fire, but the consequences are sickness and pollution. So maybe time for a change.
Tuesday, October 25, 2011
Below are select highlights for the data included in the profile. Laos is ranked 171st out of 183 economies in Doing Business 2011. According to the latest Enterprise Surveys (2009), Tax Rates, Access to Finance and Inadequately Educated Workforce constitute the top constraints to firm investment in Laos. Among the firms surveyed, 43% of them identify tax rates as a major constraint to investment. Only 18% of the local firms report having a line of credit or loans from financial institutions, compared to 40% regionally, and 34% for all countries surveyed. Laos’s economic freedom score is 51.3, making its economy the 141st freest out of 183 countries in the 2011 Index. Its overall score is 0.2 point better than last year, with improvements in monetary freedom and property rights offsetting a large drop in labor freedom. Laos is ranked 31st out of 41 countries in the Asia–Pacific region, and its overall score is below the world and regional averages. The economy is growing quickly, in part because of large inflows of Chinese and Vietnamese investment into its mining sector.Laovoices just quoted and article about spare parts for automobiles.
Minister of Industry and Commerce Dr Nam Vinhaket said last week the government had no intention of resuming the import of used vehicle spare parts for the purpose of reassembly, after finding the business is having a negative impact on consumers and the environment.I am sure this was not because of the pressure of automakers who want to sell new cars. Oh, and also very important and urgent is the degree, that you cannot say Laos anymore in your company name. It must be Lao. I guess that will cause a huge boom in business.
Sunday, October 16, 2011
Wednesday, October 5, 2011
Thursday, September 15, 2011
It is sad to hear that another twentysomething considered fun more important than common sense and his own life. Riding drunken in a truck tube on a river you don't know in a country you may have never heard about 2 years ago isn't a good idea. Unfortunately he isn't the only one. Although official numbers are not available of how many foreigners die, just my Google alerts give at least one a month. In Thailand, 50 Canadians die every year (source: canadian ambassador).
Tuesday, September 13, 2011
Saturday, September 10, 2011
Friday, September 9, 2011
Thursday, September 8, 2011
Tuesday, August 30, 2011
While this is in general not bad at all, it sounds a bit familiar. In East Germany you heard that a lot (I am from the western part). So now people looking for a bank job while still believing whatever they do will bring the country forward. I do agree that the more people have good jobs, the better the economy is and this is of course good for the country.
But I think people are in fact looking for a good paid job (as all of us do), and do not really care about what the advantage for society is.
It seems the become just something you have to say.
It is already quite difficult for foreigners to get a work permit there, but now the government makes it even worst.
The decree stipulates that 30 days before recruiting foreign workers for some posts, employers must notify the needs of recruiting Vietnamese workers for the same posts on local and central newspapers. When applying for granting work permits to foreigners, enterprises have to present the documents to prove the job information publishing.
The problem is that degrees like that are actually targeted on the illegal chinese workers in construction and mining. But of course you cannot make a law just for Chinese workers. So the law covers all foreigners. and here starts the problem.
First of all, the reason why you hire a foreigner, who is more expensive than local staff, is because you cannot find a local who can do the job. So you already DID the homework searching desperately for skilled people. There are just not enough of them.
That leads to the VN education system. People with a certificate, diploma or whatever think they are skilled, but usually they are not. It is in many times not worth the paper it is printed on. You have to train people all the time in your company, and often enough once the received proper training, they quit and start their own business, becoming a competitor (not much successful usually, but that is a different story).
While the gov takes no real efforts in lifting the standards of education significantly (for example by reducing the hours teaching socialism and Uncle Ho's history), they now leave it to the private sector to solve the problem.
Meanwhile, the Article No 132 of the Labor Code stipulates that FIEs in Vietnam can recruit foreign workers for the posts that require high qualifications for certain periods, provided that the enterprises have plans on training Vietnamese workers who can replace the foreign workers.
So even if you finally hired a foreigner, you have to train local staff to get this persons knowledge. Do they really believe this works?
It seems that Vietnam do not want openly offend their brothers in Bejing, so they rather offend western companies. They may have forgotten where the money came for the boom. And that this western companies already start to pull the money out since it is becoming more risky and dangerous. State owned companies are either bankrupt already or close to. So what's left then are some Russian and Chinese (also Japanese and Korean) companies. But they will have the same foreigner problem. If they pull out as well, it will be a major bump for the VN economy. There is already not much innovation and market developing going on my local businesses, and VN - as World bank reports and others mentioned many time - will rely on foreign support for more years. They put this on risk now.
Thursday, August 25, 2011
Thailand's new government unveiled a revised plan for the country's high-speed train network Tuesday, prioritizing domestic rail expansion over an ambitious regional connectivity plan being spearheaded by China.
Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra announced during her inaugural policy speech to parliament that three routes would be constructed linking Bangkok with urban centers in the north, northeast and upper south.
That means also a No for the train through Laos, is my guess, because first of all without access to Thailand it makes no sense for China and second in China are some train projects already on hold.
At least the people living at the proposed track might be happy.
Monday, August 22, 2011
Someone else pointed out that supermarkets will kill the small shops and markets.
First of all, Seven Eleven proves that there is a market for small shops if they are part of a chain that can compete with its purchasing power. Laos is far from developing it's own supermarket chain, for several reasons (mainly lack of investors and no benefits like tax exception). For the suppliers, supermarkets buy usually as close as possible if the price is compatible. If they can save money (and tax) with Lao eggs, they would buy Lao eggs - if the quantity and quality is guaranteed. But this might be an issue.
In general, I think foreigners should be careful to deny Lao people any development. I haven"t seen a better model than regulated capitalism and open markets right know, and as far as I know the system in East Germany failed. So, it is nice dream to have a country of happy people and small shops, but reality is different. Lao people want to participate in consumption, as they do every week when they go to Thailand. Just some cannot afford that. But should they denied having access to local supermarkets then?
Tuesday, August 16, 2011
Monday, August 15, 2011
How is it possible, that the shareholder is not happy about his revenue (if there was any)? My guess: Too much money doesn't go where it belongs too. But if Thaicom really pulls out, it would send a very bad signal for the Lao economy and investment climate. When it is not possible to make profit in the emerging mobile business in Laos what industry then can be a success (beside mining and hydropower, but even the latter so huge delays in new hydropower plants).
Friday, August 12, 2011
Tuesday, August 2, 2011
Since the venue and free water is confirmed, I am looking now for sponsors for shirts, lunch and printing the marketing materials (A4 posters, banner, stickers).
It seems that many people like the idea of the Filmcamp, however the challenge will be to actually get them to the Filmcamp in October.
Why I am doing this? I believe in the concept of Bar- and other camps to bring people together in a very casual environment and share knowledge and information. I think Laos needs this open environment in particular in the very small and not much developed film industry. so my goal is to bring together the movers and shakers here and let them spend a day together. What will happen after is up to the participants. If they do projects together, or set up a new filmcompany or whatever, it is fine.
Please visit www.filmcamp-laos.org for more information
Monday, August 1, 2011
So how much i spend there? Since competition brought the price down from ridiculous expensive Joma (21.000 KIP large latte) to 10.000 Kip (Ban Tonmali Cake cafe), it is one dollar a day and free water. Also you have a desktop and free internet. So my spending is about 30 Dollar a month. If I make a coffee at home I am not saving that much. One litre milk is 28.000, that is for 6 cups of coffee, what means 5000 KIP plus coffee and gas.. I may save 3000 KIP at home. Not that much.
Monday, July 25, 2011
When we came to Laos one year ago, most of the retail shop followed the Asian way: Just do (and sell) what your neighbor does. The main way in retail business is to buy stock for like 10.000 dollar and wait until it is sold. To show how much products you have you try to put everything into you little shop. and yes, put it also outside, it does'nt matter if it get's dirty from all the trucks passing by.
One year later, you see more and more change. The boutiques at the Khouvieng road are the most obvious change. They are nicely designed, with shelfs showing a selection of products. Nothing outside, instead they have glas doors and aircondition inside.
Also, some coffeeshops that opened recently follow a more modern way. Friends de Cafe, Benoni, Baan Tonmali Cake, Joma, YoQueen, IceBean, just to name some of them. Look at restaurants like Xayoh, Nos, Pizza Company, Swensens, i-Beam, Loft, Kongkhao - all of them do not follow the old hole-in-the-wall-concept. Or the new Meshop. Yes, some of them may not successful yet, since the market is still developing. But you can see a pattern.
The picture above shows the toilet at the Friends de cafe. It is actually a good symbol of what means paying attention to every detail. Toilets are usually the last place you modernize.
I am predicting more change soon. Innovation drives competition, and if you are the most innovative, you can stay ahead of the competitors, at least for a while.
Some people complained that Laos doesn't need modern shopping malls or international clinics. Actually the people just vote with their feet: They go frequently to Udon for shopping and health care.
So we still have exciting times here. And it sees that businesses are going on a fast pace and settings standards. This is a good development.
Tuesday, July 19, 2011
When we moved to Asia four years ago, our biggest concern was about the veterinary services. We were happy to find Agrovet in Phnom Penh as well as pur lovely doctors in Vietnam (also Dr. Nghia), so we never had a problem at all. In Laos it is a bit different since we don't know a foreign veterinarian yet (if there is any). So our choice is Dr. Khamdeng on the way to the friendship bridge. He is actually quite skilled, but also limited in time, that's why sometimes family members work there (and yes, they do not have a university degree).
The environment is local, what means in western standards dirty and a bit messy, but our dogs never got sick because of a visit (and we got our Lao do neutered there, means he had a surgery). Yes it could be more clean and the walls need some paint, but in the end it is better than nothing.
It is a surprise how busy the clinic is, mainly with Lao people. That is an indicator of a cultural development, when people start vaccinating their pets or even get them neutered (the latter is a big issue, since people believe it is a sin to do that, because it is against nature. ) The fees are reasonable, for some injection 40.000 KIP and castration was about 200.000 KIP.
The clinic clearly has it's limits since there is not xray or other sophisticated equipment. Therefore I was told I have to go to Thailand.
The picture above shows the room where some dogs are placed when they get an infusion or need to recover from a surgery.
Adress: Dr. Khamdeng's Veterinary clinic,
ThadeuaRd Thaphalansay Vientiane Cap., Vientiane Cap.
+856-20 5551 6782
Some other services you can find here
Sunday, July 17, 2011
Wednesday, July 13, 2011
For a sustainable development there are some key factors.
1. Transparent laws
Laws need to be enforced equally for everyone. If a law is only applied to a certain type of businesses or a certain group of people, it will be considered unfair and a major obstacle for attracting investments.
2. Tax reduction, not increase
If you want attract businesses and investors, the tax issue is probably the biggest. Companies don't like taxes while governments rely on them as their main income. So there needs to be a balance, but in early economic development stages it is recommended to keep taxes for companies as low as possible.
3. Zero corruption
There is still no proof that corruption does anything good to a economy. It needs to be cleared in all levels of governance and businesses. That also leads then to
4. Market rules
If there is no justice for businesses, they will be scared away. In case of business disputes there needs to be a transparent judicial system to oversee them, based on laws.
5. First come, first serve leads the wrong way
It is not true (if ever told) that the first investor is the best because he is bringing money for sure. As we see in many cases in south east Asia, it is often wrong - they fail in the planning stage. So governments should be carefully analyzing investment proposal for the long term impact for the economy as well as for environment and social impacts.
Tuesday, July 12, 2011
Tuesday, July 5, 2011
Now here comes something in play my friend Titi mentioned at the recent Laos Business Meetings in her talk about career pathways. Indeed people do not know what companies require, what a career pathway actually is. Students are just not prepared for the business life. They have certificates, but no clue about what is actua happing in the company they applying for a job. She is looking for ways to change this.
Nearly all foreigners were complaining about the lack of professional skills within the young Lao community. This is true, but I also think that this is quite natural since most people are between 20-25 and have of course not much of an experience. While someone mentioned the need of a education were also internships and trainings are supported as well as craftsmanship (like German system, where you are an apprentice for 2 years with school added), what many people do now is job hopping for getting experience.
So how to solve the problem? I think there is still a need for a major change in (public) education, with a radical change in curriculums. Also, there must be a closer relationship between universities and the business community, so the first can be aware of what the latter actually needs. It might be helpful to use the summer break for mandatory internships (I know internships are already required, but what I learned was that they are over-regulated. Just let the people work in a company for a month). Oh and as long as Manadarin is not taking over yet, more important than using Excel is speaking English. It IS the business language, period.
I really like the idea of the Khan Academy, where you learn online (at home) on your own pace and the classroom becomes the place to reflect and discuss what you learned (formally know as homework). There are also TED talks, so no excuse of "we do not have the materials".
And don't even think the above is a Lao problem or in any way linked to "Lao culture". Vietnam, Thailand and Cambodia have exactly the same issues, and I guess it might even similar in Malaysia, Myanmar and Indonesia.
What is your idea?
Wednesday, June 22, 2011
Thats how they say it works:
The light field is a core concept in imaging science, representing fundamentally more powerful data than in regular photographs. The light field fully defines how a scene appears. It is the amount of light traveling in every direction through every point in space – it’s all the light rays in a scene. Conventional cameras cannot record the light field. By substituting powerful software for many of the internal parts of regular cameras, light field processing introduces new capabilities that were never before possible. Sophisticated algorithms use the full light field to unleash new ways to make and view pictures.
Monday, June 20, 2011
A very good insight delivered Slate Magazine with an excellent article.
Some quotes I really liked while consistent with my own observations:
WA says on its website that it works with villagers who "once were forced to roam the forest as hunters and loggers, diminishing Cambodia's environmental heritage, [and who] now have legal jobs as guides and operators of sustainable trekking, mountain-biking, and river boat tours."..."The wholesale destruction of Cambodia's environment is an important issue, but hunting and poaching by people eking out an existence in the forest isn't the problem," says a Western expatriate with extensive experience in land issues. "The primary causes are the government issuing massive land concessions to developers and wide-scale logging."
"The NGOs desperately want access and the basic equation is that the government grants it to them in exchange for their silence about corruption or anything else remotely controversial,"
Sunday, June 19, 2011
I am doing Barcamps since 4 years for free, and if you tell me the shirts were shit (what happend in Vietnam), then you are right and I appreciate your help. If you can tell me how to improve the wifi-connecton, I propably ask you to take care of it during the next event.
I think there is a divide since the internet allows everyone to publish. The old thinking, coming from the traditional media, but not limited to it, is about control. We have to control what is published, and everyone is a secret in the first place, and we have to decide what piece of our knowledge is intedend to be received by the public. Diskussion have to be internal, and later will be a statement issued.
The new modern way the internet offered us is different. We know can have a public discussion, we invite others to participate, we ask for beiing juged and critized. This discussion is part of the process, even part of the development of a product or events. Call it agile development, since there are cycles of discussion until we find a solution that works. For the barcamps, open source software, but also topics like photography it works really good. The more people are participating the more the quality can improve.
I remember the days in the Germany based Fotocommunity, when you uploaded a picture and others told you not only if they like it or not, but also how to improve. I learned a lot from that.
If you keep discussions private (in particular for events where you need any help you get), then do not wonder about the outcome. And if you can not except and respect that someone just don't like the event, then you may rethink your understanding of opinion and why control is more important than the outcome and improvement.
Saturday, June 18, 2011
When I first saw the World Banks proposal for a Young Entrepreneurship Contest I was quite excited. This is what a country like Laos needs: Young people, motivated to open their own business. Then I read this:
The proposal encourages small size enterprises from various business communities such as handicraft, process foods, agriculture/farming, tourism and other to participate in this exciting event.
So women are good in farming, handicraft, tourism? WTF? Why not engeneering, computer science, investment?
Anyway, at least two teams made it with computer related ideas to the finals, while the others are all related to farming or handicraft. One exception is a wedding service.
So I went to the Culturall Hall this morning an talked to the contestants. Tehy came from Vientiane, Luang Prabang or Champasak. First of all I was surprised about the level of English: Most of them were able to explain me their concept in English. Thumbs up!
Some observations: One business wants to grow mushrooms on large scale. I like it, since I think Laos needs more businesses who think big rather than family business. The same goes for a salad producer, who goes on step further and showed a concept of plastic tubes where he can grow the salad. 350 Kilo a month is the expected production. Another woman wants to make organic fertilizer: She wants to collect wet garbage from the market, feed this to earth worms and they produce the fertilizer then. She had the best marketing concept in my opinion.
There were more than 20 booths, and I did not count the handicraft ones - they were too many.
What my concern is: although the business ideas wasn't bad for most of them, nearly all of them are entering a existing market with partly strong competition (e.g. silk or handicrafts). And most of them are focussing on the Lao market, what is also wrong, since this market is too small. Laos needs to export goods, and therefore it needs middle size businesses who are able to compete in markets of the neighboring countries. Vietnam is better in silk and Thailand is better in handicraft, while China already imports cheap vegetables.
I will update this blogpost with the winner later, but at least it was a good start for entrepreneurs. I hope this spirit last longer than the competition.
Some more pictures here.
Friday, June 17, 2011
Only when I got more in touch with different cultures and languages I never even heard of (like Laotian), I started to realize why English is so important: It establishes a communication. And it is the beginning of learning from each other.
Most people who refuse to learn English say that they do not want to follow the American dictate. They don't have too (although they drink Coke and eat burgers and use mobile phones). First there is a reason why it is called English, and second, we just use the language, we do not adapt to the culture (that's why I am very bad in idioms).
Yes, Lao brings me even more insight. That's why I am trying to learn the language. But English is an easy start for all of us. Instead of complaining that a language is taking over we should see the huge advantage that we are able to communicate, to understand each other and to learn from each other.
Just some thoughts...
Saturday, June 11, 2011
So all bands did a great performance, but some did better. Babyrock was the favorite already, and they brought again a huge fan group, so no wonder they won at the end. But they actually can do better than they did yesterday, and my advice is: don"t stop improving, and figure out why cover songs sound way better than your own.
Rock music has to be loud, but there is a difference between loud and noisy. You could here that clearly yesterday when bands performed cover songs and when they played their own. Whats up and Zombie were performed clearly and good.
When Deep Heart performed, it was actually below their capability: Screaming isn't singing, and if every artist in the band want's to get the same level of volume, it will end up in a messy soup of noise. And Ning Nöng is a good singer, and her band can play well, so it was just not a good arrangement.
Babyrock did well with starting their performance with traditional Lao instrument and song, and also with some drum solo of her singer. Well arranged, well planned, the victory well deserved.
The surprise for me were Dominoes: Great performance, good singing, well played, the bassist was my favorite at the evening; This band should be watched, they have a great future.
So the overall experience: Please do it again!!!
Friday, June 10, 2011
What I really really liked in Vietnam were the many tiny cute coffee shops. I am not talking about the street stalls with a small plastic chair. I mean the fancy hidden ones, in small streets nobody knows, like Yeu, where a popular singer was performing regularly. These coffee shops were visited by young Vietnamese people, many of them couples try to get out of their homes to get a bit of intimacy.
Now we have something similar in Vientiane. Yesterday opened the Baan Tonmali Cake Cafe, a small cute shop near the Lao Top College. They are targeting "Filmmakers and photographers" so you can imagine who the customers are. Expect a creative community, an well decorated place, good coffee an nice talks.
Monday, May 30, 2011
German people have the wedding ring in the right hand, will most other countries have on the left hand.
In Laos people always ask you where you coming from (or where have you been - Jao pai sai maa). This is not just pure curiosity. In former times, before big cities were established, every traveller was also provider of news. So it was always interesting to know where they come from and then ask for news. By the way, How is it going or the GEran "Wie geht es" is close to it as well.
Saturday, May 28, 2011
But first things first: At the Horizon is a feature action movie about two different worlds in Laos colliding: The wealthy influential people on the one hand and the poor and honest on the other hand. There is a death, anger, pain and kind of vendetta included. So far, it is something that happens in Laos (and other Southeast-Asian countries) quite often.
The plot is described as the following:
"Sin, a wealthy boy in his early twenties who was born with a good fortune, had been spoiled by his parents that he had never realized the importance of self-dependence and had become an irresponsible man. The boy lived his useless life relying on his parents wealth and power,
making him even more arrogant and pompous.
Lud, a mute middle-aged man, he came from a rural area to be a motorcycle mechanic in Vientiane. His wife worked as a market woman and had a six-year-old daughter with him. Though, Luds life was not gaudy, his family was warm and sufficient. However, one day, Lud unexpectedly faced the greatest loss of his life caused by Sin"
"We don't just tell the story. We want to create a different Lao movie. That's why we call us Lao New Wave Cinema Production", Xaisongkham, one of the team members, says. New things, in particular when it comes to media, are not that much to be welcomed in Laos. When they submitted the script, the government wasn't really excited and refused approval. After some discussons they now have the permission to shoot the movie, but no permission to screen it. Xaisongkham is still opptimistic: "We are sure the movie will be good, and they will like it once it is finished."
Most Lao movies like "Sabeidee Luang Prabang" or "Only Love" are melodramas. At the horizonn wants to go into another direction. There will be a lot of action, but, as director Anysay Keola mentions, this isn't the focus of the movie. "I want to go close to the characters" he says. But with the actions scenes will will also try a new approach in Lao movies.
The schedule is tight. at present the team of 10 people is preparing everything for the shooting that shall take place in June. In the recent days Anysay Keola and his co-workers invited actors for the casting. Since there is not a tradtion of movie actors, it is not that easy to find the right ones. "We deal with what we have and improve from there" Fabiola says. She is responsible for the actors training and wants to support the project with her skills in theater play.
The whole team isn't working for money. "We recently found a sponsor, but this will be mainly for food and expenses for the actors." Producing a movie isn't easy in Laos, since everyone has a dayjob. "That's why we cancelled shooting in the provinces, becaus eit is to far to go there. We would waste to much time we need for shooting." In October, that is the schedule, At The Horizon should be finished. "We hope to screen it at the Vientianale", Ansay says. Until then, so the team's hope, they will received the approval of the government.
If you want to follow the project, "like" it on Facebook. The group posts regulary updates about the progress. http://www.facebook.com/atthehorizon
Wednesday, May 25, 2011
For real estate there is a huge competiton right now. Look for Laohomes or for http://www.rentsbuy.com/, they know the market for houses and apartments quite good.
Monday, May 23, 2011
I really enjoy trips into the nature, and while doing the usual temple tour during my last stay in Luang Prabang, it was now time for going wild. We had the nice offer to try the Shangri Lao Expedition, what is a one day excursion on an elephant, but also trekking and a boat trip.
The elephant ride goes through the river, but you won't get wet. The expedition begins with an 1.5 hours long elephant ride across the river through the Huay Sae Valley. Along the way you can stop to see the amazing scenery of the Nam Khan River Valley. After we had quite delicious lunch at a jungle Sala - they served even wine. Depending on the water level you can refresh and swim in the natural pools. Then it is time to get up and walk through the forest for about 1.5 hours. Here and there you will signs on the trees giving you botanical explanations.
Down at the Nam Khan River, a luxury bamboo raft is waiting to take you back. Have a coffee break, relax and watch the traditional village life of farmers and fishermen along the river. Slowly floating down the river, the relaxing 1.5 hour journey, plus an optional 30 min stop at the Tad Sae Waterfall, will bring you back to the camp.
You can book the tour in Vientiane with Diethelm Travel. Email them firstname.lastname@example.org or just pass by the office at Nam Phou Square. Telefon (+856-21) 213 833 and 215 920.
Sunday, May 15, 2011
Monday, May 9, 2011
But does it help to give an awards to a movie that is just not good? How does this help?
There will be workshops at the Vientianale, I hope they will take Lao film making further up the road.
I think the biggest problem is creativity and story writing. I hope Filmcamp Laos will be helpful with this.
Sunday, May 8, 2011
For me, it is the respect of others cultural background. It also means, that if you live in different country, you have to be a bit open about different cultural behavior.
After one year, I can speak Lao on a very basic level, but at least I can, I know how to cook sticky rice and laap as well as Bamboo soup, I went to a Lao wedding, to my neighbors birthday, a Lao friends birthday and celebrated Pi Mai with our Lao neighborhood. I don't say I am an expert in Lao culture, but I try to adapt a bit and to learn. That does not mean that I will forget where I am coming from.
So what about the other culture? Are my Lao friends enjoying foreigner parties and food? Unfortunately not that much. It seems that especially food is an issue. I am not talking about German food, even Vietnamse food seems to be an obstacle. My friends stay with their food. And with their Lao music. And with their language. It seems still hard to get closer as a foreigner.
I still don't give up.
From Wikipedia: Momordica cochinchinensis is a Southeast Asian fruit found throughout the region from Southern China to Northeastern Australia.It is commonly known as gac, from the Vietnamese gấc (pronounced [ʒə́k]) or quả gấc (quả meaning "fruit"). It is known as mùbiēguǒ (木鳖果) in Chinese, and variously as Baby Jackfruit, Spiny Bitter Gourd, Sweet Gourd, or Cochinchin Gourd in English. The fruit contains by far the highest content of beta-carotene of any known fruit or vegetable.