Friday, April 29, 2011

Common people stories - a new blog

I started a new blog. I tell the stories about common people I met and know in Asia. Not the heroes from CNN or newspapers. It is about neighbors, guards, waiters, shop owners - average people. You want your story being told? Message me!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Myanmar bans plastic bags

If Myanmar bans someone or something, we know they are pretty good at it. This time I agree on a ban - of plastic bags.

From AFP

Authorities in Yangon have banned plastic bags, state media said Tuesday, in an attempt to stop non-degradable waste polluting Myanmar's main city.

"Production of polythene bags and ropes, and storage and sale of those items at stores and groceries in the townships are not allowed starting from 22 April," the New Light of Myanmar newspaper said.

It said polythene bag factories which failed to close would lose their operating licenses and face legal action.

The move comes two years after authorities in Myanmar's central city of Mandalay successfully prohibited polythene bags to protect the environment.

"It's a good idea. We use these bags everywhere too easily. Whenever I saw these unrecycled polythene bags in the garbage, I worry for our environment," said Mya Mya, a 60-year-old housewife in Yangon.

Some department stores in Yangon sell recycled shopping bags, but most shoppers still use polythene bags.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Coffee shop stories Part 1

I am spending a lot of time in coffee shops, Mainly because I just love to sit and work there, but it also provides me a kind of insight. Not in the local life, of course. But into the connection between expats and locals. The coffee shop in Laos (or any other country) is a perfect place to watch people and how they act and interact in this environment. I will post some of my observations here, called coffee shop stories.


Was gone for 5 days, staff welcomed me. They speak now mixed Lao and English with me, something I appreciate, cause I trains my Lao skills - and staffs English skills as well. My favorite barista Seuy made beautiful flower decoration, and I showed him a Indian head as coffee art I photographed in Phnom Penh. I guess it is a challenge for him. Dee came out of the kitchen to say hello.

Front desk approach
There are different kind of approaches to the fron desk of the coffeeshop, because there are different barrieres. One is the language barrier, another is the newcomer barrier, and then you have what I call the automat barrier. The latter means that customers dont even recognize a human beiing behind the front desk. They just order, and get easily confused or angry when the human automat replies. While foreigners usually immediatly go into teacher mode, repeating the order v e r y s l o w ly as they talk to a children, until they notice that the barista just asked if it is for take away, locals sometime go in bitch mode. Hierachy is still important in asia, so it is common that people look down on waitresses and cashiers and don't pay any respect. The local hi-so girl today was exactly in that mode. The - I guess German - lady was a full suprise. The body language indicated she is already in teacher mode, in particualr because the first thing she said was "D o y o u s p e a k E n g l i s h?", but this was just to make sure the conversation can start on a certain level. She then ordered some cakes for delivery, bending her tall body over to speak even physically on a same level. She adapted to the situation, something you rarely see here.

... to be continued...

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Sorry for not responding to comments here. its changed now

I did simply not use the notification system, so I nev got informed about new comments. this will change now..

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Blogger in Laos

Following some requests from Bloggers iSE Asia I was askng some friends from the IT BIZ group in Laos about blogger in Laos.There are actually many. Nin (Thanavorakit Kounthawatphinyo) send me tihs list


There is also

A Lao blogging service is wh youncanfind manymore blogs, but expect some outdated .

Lao blogging in general is about technology, entertainment and personal wife. Because of he political system people usually do not publish political views openly.

Friday, April 22, 2011

My current projects

I am working on two projects right now on a volunteer basis.

1. Filmcamp Laos
Since Barcamp was a huge success and I am a big movie and filmmaking fan, I was thinking about starting a Filmcamp in Laos. The goal is to bring together all people interested in filmmaking an TV, cameramen, actors, anchors, whoever is interested and let them share ideas and knowledge in a unformal environment. What I have achieved so far is the support from Lao Star TV, the support from the Luang Prabang Film Festival, a venue (Vientiane College), and some interest from filmmakers in Vietnam and Thailand as well as Cambodia. What is left is a talk to the department of cinema next week - if they agree in general, my plan is to set up a committee to do the final organization.

2. Young Leadership Challenge - a TV reality show
Seila Prum from Cambodia, who did this show on CTN, contacted me and we were talking about the idea to bring the show to Laos. I like the concept of this show - developing leadership skills for young people and using them as a role model for others. In a country like Laos that lacks of skilled people that should fit perfectly. What I need know is finding sponsors.
I do have already support from Lao Star TV as the shows host and some students and Lao people interested in bringing this forward. Meetings will start soon!

so stay tuned...

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Pi Mai (New Year) in Laos: One of the best parties ever

If there is something Lao people are really good at it, then it is having parties. Not only that January and February are considered "wedding season", when it comes to Pi Mai, nothing beats it. Nearly every house has it's own party, having music, beer, buckets full of water. Another advantage to live in a country with such a young population!

Today we went to the Mekong river, where Beer Lao and Namkhong Beer hat parties. The latter had a quite promising foam party, but it was actually boring. Not sure if (and why) they target families and kids, but this was mainly the audience.
Namkhong Party - for kids

In the meantime, just 300 meter up, was one of the best events I ever attended. Beer Lao had not only good DJs, but also a lot of water, thanks to a kind of sprinkler system and the guys with the water trucks. We got totally soaked, but the music was great and the people as well - Lao and foreigners.
Beer Lao party - thumbs up!

So the result is: Namkhong 0, Beer Lao 1. Let's see if there is any change in the next days. But what I now for sure is, that it is just a lot of fun to celebrate with the Lao people - whatever is to celebrate !

Saturday, April 9, 2011

A round trip to Nam Ngum Lake

The usual spots for tourists to see in Laos are Vientiane for one night, then Luang Prabang and maybe Pakse. But there are many more places to visit. For example, Nam Ngum lake. Okay, the lake itself isn't a highlight, but you can have a nice half day excursion if you do the round trip.

Leave Vientiane on Highway 13 east and follow then Highway 10. On the way, you can make some nice stops.

First is the Lao Zoo. It might be not as big as the ones in your home country, but it is actually worth a visit. First of all, it is a cosy shady place with a lot of trees giving shelter and shadow. Second, the living conditions of most of the animals are not too bad. They have crocodiles and deers, gibbons, bears, many different species of birds. Spend there up to an hour and feed the elephant (yes she is on chains, but as far as we understood during opening hours for security).
Green crocodiles

After the visit at the zoo, go ahead to the Salt Village. It is a small salt factory on the right where you can see how slat is made in Laos. They actually pump salty water from 100 meter in the ground up to the surface, boil it then in small ponds and then add iodine cause it isn't available in natural salt in this landlocked country. Wholesale price of 10 kg of salt is 10.000 KIP (a bit more than a dollar), so imagine how much they have to produce to make an income.

Making Salt

You heading now to the Nam Ngum Lake (the "ng" is pronounced like the "ng" in "hunger"). Visit the power plant ad take a boat trip on the lake. You can spend hours on the lake, but be aware of changing weather conditions. After, have lunch at one of the restaurants there. Since you are at a lake, fish should be the dish of your choice.
Nam Ngum Lake

Rest a while and then head back on Highway 10 until you reach Highway 13 again. Turn right north then. The Coordinates are roughly, 18.448021, 102.419357, look for the Ban Phon Hong village. If you don't have a driver/guide, try to ask the locals for the way to the caves. The last few meters you have to walk since it is hidden in the forest. Be careful during rainy weather.
Vang Xang

After this visit, turn back to Highway 13 and go south about 63 Kilometers back to Vientiane.

If you don't want to go by yourself, you can book this trip also through Diethelm Travel (go to the office at Nam Phou Square in Vientiane)

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Kuang Si waterfall

Kuang Si waterfall by thomaswanhoff
Kuang Si waterfall, a photo by thomaswanhoff on Flickr.

This is one of the most beautiful places I aver been.