Sunday, December 30, 2012

Happy New Year from Laos

Dear readers, thanks for your support and your comments and/or just reading my blog. Another year in Laos passed by, and pessimistic as I am, it wasn't the best year for Laos. Although the make-up department was quite busy with paving already paved roads and building nice villas for a one-night-stand stay of some very important people, I haven't see much progress for the average people.

As expected, once the (few) representatives form foreign media left the country after the ASEM summit, times for those not always happy were getting tougher. One had to leave, one disappeared. Reasons for the latter are unclear, as fog is.

My lookout for 2013: Neighboring countries will get more influence, while those far away will still waste money for useless projects, while disturbing the market for human ressources by overpaying. We will not see any construcution significantly started on Khouvieng, and I am in doubt about the projects on the Mekong river and the That Luang marsh as well. Big C will still remain in Thailand, so that Lao people will still spend a lot across the bridge.


Anyway, everyone have a happy New Year 2013 (it will be the year of the snake, but she will be inaugurated in February)

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Two short stories from Vientiane

My friend Noy is a Meban (maid) in an apartment building, and I got her another job at a foreigner house to clean 3 times a week. Her husband is a painter and a handyman. They do have a simple small house outside Vientiane, one dog, two kids and some chicken. And they had an old cheap pick-up car, that was broken down many times and barely running. Since it is a bit difficult to get the car to their house (its more a walkway then a road), they park the car sometimes on the main street. Three days ago, when they came to the street in the morning, the car was gone. Stolen. It was worth a lot, but for the family its a nightmare. They do have insurance, but only third part liability. They always went by car to the city, dropped the kids at kindergarden and school, Noy at the apartment building, and then her husband went to work, having his equipment (and his co-workers) on the back of the car.
They make enough money to pay for the school for the kids and have enough to eat. But they can't save a lot, if anything. Now, they have to borrow money for a car, but no bank gives them any loan. So they either have to go to a loan shark, or ask family. Lets hope the latter works.

______

Today I saw a lot of police between the VIS and the small Japanese restaurant. They were even blocking the street for a while. I was think about something bad happend. When I passed by later, the street was open for traffic again, but police were still sitting there, but not doing much. I was thinking about some serious crime, like murder. But when I asked my Lao neighbours, they told me that a house owner could not pay his debt with the bank, so the bank took over the house and later in the afternoon, crews started demolishing it. Sounds like a horror story from a capitalist country.




Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Sombath Somphone still missing - government issues statement

UPDATE 21.12.2012

German Ambassador to Laos Robert von Rimscha issued a statement about Sombaths disappearance in his yearly address to the German community, raising concerns about the case and promising to work on the issue with high priority.


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The Lao authorities have issued a statement regarding the disappearance of Sombath Somphone, a well known and respected Lao who works with Patetc and Saonban.

"(KPL) After having received a notice on the mission of Mr. Sombath Somphone and received the CCTV footage on the incidence from his wife, the authorities concerned of the Lao PDR have checked the initial information obtained, and therefore would like to inform as follows:

On 15 December 2012, the traffic police were conducting their routine random checks on cars at the police outpost on Thadeu road in the vicinity of Watnak village, Sisattanak district, Vientiane Capital. According to the CCTV footage, at 6:00 pm the traffic police stopped the Jeep of Mr Sombath in order to check for driving license and car documents as normal procedures. Being stopped, Mr Sombath walked out from his car to the police to present documents. After the police had checked the documents they returned them to Mr Sombath and continued their duty of checking other cars. Then, a man came on a motorbike parked it near Sombath's car and rushed to the police outpost direction. A little while after, a man walked to Sombath's car and was driving it away slowly, according to statement of the Spokesman of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on the Missing of Mr. Sombath Somphone, on 19 December.

About 10 minutes later, a pickup truck came with hazard lights flashing. The pickup truck stopped near the police outpost. One man entered the pickup truck and shortly after that another person got on and then got off the pickup truck and then got on the vehicle again. There was no sign of these two men being forced while getting on the vehicle and it was not possible to identify who they were. Then the pickup truck went away to an unknown destination.

Following the preliminary assessment of the incidence from the CCTV footage, the authorities concerned viewed that, it may be possible Mr. Sombath has been kidnapped perhaps because of a personal conflict or a conflict in business or some other reasons and at this stage the authorities are not in a position to say exactly what has actually happened, why Mr. Sombath has gone missing and who have been involved in the incidence.

In this connection, the authorities concerned are currently and seriously investigating the incidence in order to find out the truth and whereabouts of Mr Sombath."

Questions still remain why the police did nothing when they witnessed that someone stole the car and Sombath was forced into the car. He certainly would have informed the police officers if he had been kidnapped.


The Video is available on Youtube:

Monday, December 17, 2012

A very kind and brave Lao man has gone missing

Sombath Somphone has gone missing. If you have any information that may help find him, please contact
the US or the French Embassy immedietely. 

Sombath was last seen in Vientiane at 6:00pm on the evening of
Saturday 15th when he was driving home in his jeep. His family and friends have contacted the police, visited hospitals, and contacted Embassies.

Sombath is founder of http://www.saobancrafts.com/, but also part of PADETC, a Lao NGO that integrates socially sustainable programs in education, agriculture, micro-finance, handcrafts and community leadership.. There might be a political background in his disappearance. And this would be very sad.



UPDATE: friends posted an ad on Facebook. This is the text:
Who know or have seen this man: his name is Mr. Sombath Somphone, 60 ys old, has white hair. He live at Ban Khok Nin, Sisat ta nak district, Vientiane. He left office (from Ban Nakham) with the green car, he left office on 15th Dec 2012 at 5pm and he was disappeared, if you guys have seen him plz do contact: M.s Phetsamai 22419900, Mr. Vatthana phunkham 23022091, Ms. Somchit phunkham 55669074 and Ms Chanthalangsy 55616651

UPDATE 2: Radio free asia is reporting about it:
http://www.rfa.org/english/news/laos/sombath-somphone-12172012191356.html

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Film festivals in Laos and Cambodia

The Luang Prabang Film Festival is over, and the next has already started: The Cambodian Film Festival. It shows movies in many cinemas (yes, Cambodia has cinemas other than Laos), it is in the capital, all screenings are free. The best Lao movie so far, At The Horizon, will be screen there as well.

It is sometimes good to see whats going on in neighboring countries and maybe learn from this. For example, I still don't understand why the Luang Prabang Film Festival is not in Vientiane, where the film industry is and where the audience is. In Cambodia, people go to the movies because the want to see it. In Luang Prabang, most of the audience are tourists who are there anyway - and last year the screening beside the night market were quite empty.


Friday, December 7, 2012

Swiss NGO director thrown out of Laos for criticism

Read the whole story on RFA

http://www.rfa.org/english/news/laos/expulsion-12072012153813.html

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

World Bank grant vs. drowning in debt

So, just imagine that: you are drowning in debt already, your corruption index is high, your doing business index pretty low. You just signed a deal for a railway that has the value of 80 percent of your yearly GDP. But you need more money, mainly for administration. What you do? Go to the World Bank. They don't care much what your credit ranking is. Once they started a project, they will go on and on, ignoring what happens in between.

Thats the prelude for the good news we received today:

"2012 – The World Bank Board of Executive Directors today approved US$ 4 million in grant financing for the Second Trade Development Facility (TDF-2), co-financed with a Multi Donor Trust Fund of US$ 10 million with contributions from Australia, the European Union, Germany, and Ireland. The grant builds on the progress of the original US$ 7.6 million project, which was approved in 2008. "

What is a bit confusing is the headline:

"Firms, entrepreneurs and employees in Lao PDR to benefit from improved business environment"

Main problems for companies here are actually lack of access to financing, labour law, lack of skilled people, lack of laws and security for your assets.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Animal Rescue Center event

Since I am part of the team for the Animal Rescue Center, expect some more posts here. This one is about our first event. On

DECEMBER 15th, starting from 7pm at Kong Khao restaurant

we want to give people a bit more information about our intention and plans. We also want to raise some fund, that's why we have a donation box and will conduct a small auction with gifts from people and companies we received.

We are looking right now for a cheap house with a huge garden, around Don Dok, where we can set up a temporary shelter. We later want to move all the equipment to a place where we can stay forever (a piece of land we want to purchase, we have someone who pays for it already).

In case you know a small house with some land around it, please let me know.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

That Luang procession 2012

Feed the children - the smart and Lao way

We do have numerous NGOs here and consultants, spending tens of hundreds of overpaid well paid hours on project plans and concepts how to ensure that school kids have good food. And then, sometimes things just happens while people take their faith in their own hands and just act.

This happend in a school in Sokpaluang. The kids from a secondary school (so I was told) just didn't like the lunch the school was providing. They complained the food was bad. So they went to a nearby restaurant and talked to the owner. This place isn't a very cheap place, and usually is has a lot of falang guests. Not the first place school kids might choose.

In Fact, they did, maybe because they though if Falang eat there the food must be better than in their school. But there was this budget problem: they just can't afford the dishes from the menu. "No problem" said the owner, a very smart Lao women. Since her shop has a focus on fried chicken, she talked to her supplier if he could deliver smaller chicken wings. He confirmed, and she created a menu for the school kids: Chicken wings, rice and a healthy fruit shake. The dish is sold for 10.000 KIP.

You may think this is too much, and chicken wings aren't the most healthy food. That might be right, but: It is way better than what they get at school. They will spend the money anyway, but maybe for chips, chewing gums and sweets. And: they learn that something good has a value. You pay a bit more, but you get something better.

The kids go there everyday, with permission of teachers and parents. They behave well - or better learn how to behave in a restaurant - and they enjoy the school break and can take a rest. No institution involved, no consultant. Somethings good things just happen.


Monday, November 26, 2012

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Lao IT Dev: A success story of some Lao IT entrepreneurs

Laos isn't well known for it's IT industry, and although the National University educates a lot of IT students, most end up as hardware sellers or sysadmins. Entrepreneurship isn't widely seen here, and receiving international awards is really rare. But there are exceptions, and Outhai Saioudom (Os) one. He is the Manager of a company Lao IT Dev, a startup he founded together with some friends two years ago. While they studied IT they started a forum called Laozaa, which became very popular very fast. "It was just a forum about technology. People asked questions about computers and IT, and we and others answered them", Os describes the early days.

After graduation, the group decided to go more professional. Instead  of answering questions in a forum, they collected the most relevant topics and published the first Lao IT magazine for IT and Electronics, called E-Corner Magazine. It is still the flagship of Lao IT dev. On Thursday they received the Asean ICT award in the Digital Content section. On Thursday, 15/11/2012 Os and the co-founders Thanongsack SouksavatVirasack Viravong, and Air Chanthalavong went to Cebu, Philippines to receive the award.

The e-corner Magazine became fast the number one source for people interested in anything related to IT. From the beginning it had a professional lay-out, 4 color printing for a lot of pages and topics from installing hardware to game reviews. Soon the company started the e-corner weekly news, a IT update that went on air on Lao Start TV last year. And last but not least the even made it into the radio.

While there is still not much revenue coming in from the media activities, Os counts it as successful public relations. "Most people know us from Laozaa or E-Corner. They know our skills, and that's why they hire us." Lao IT Dev develops websites and software, in particular android apps. mainly for a local market. The client list ranges from the Ministry of forest to car dealers like chevrolet.

7 people are working now in the office of Lao IT Dev, with Os taking care of the daily operations. The new daddy who married his wife last year is getting more busy these days. "We build the website and database for 108jobs.la and recently developed an android app that shows you the current screenings at the ITECC cinema", he says.

Beside this, Os is also very active in the open source community, in particular for the Content Management System Joomla. "We made the translation for Joomla 2.5, so Lao people can use it", he explains. They also conduct workshops introducing the use of these free open source solutions. Since companies and government agencies in countries like Laos have only limited fundings, open source is a important basis for IT. Os also want to work more with Ubuntu and do some translations. "But we need funding for that, because there are not so many users in Laos right now who can do that." His experience is that if people start their computer experience with Windows, they stay with it. "But if they start with Linux, they stay with the open source solution", Os says.

His company is just at the beginning. "We are starters, others have more experience. But we are technology experts, and we understand mobile technology. We hope to be in the top five in 5 years from now."

Winning the ASEAN ICT award might be a step closer to this ambitious goal.




Monday, November 19, 2012

ASEAN summit and Obama in Myanmar: An analysis of the current political landscape

The ASEAN summit in Phnom Penh had two important tasks: Human rights and the situation in the South China Sea. Cambodia as the host failed two times: The human rights declaration is far from what is needed and isn't helping activists at all. It basically writes down the status quo for most countries in ASEAN, where torture, unjustice and a weak legal system is still the standard. No wonder that Cambodia, having a long rap sheet in human rights, wasn't pushing for more.

More important for the strategic role of South-East Asia is of course the South China Sea with it's natural ressources. China basically claims the whole area as it's own territory, while the Philippines and Vietnam disagree. But China has it's own way of diplomacy: It won't talk to all, instead it insists in bilateral talks. It tries to outplay the ASEAN countries, and the the way it does it is with pressure and money. That works very well for Cambodia, the ASEAN chair, whose dictator Hun Sen is after the death of former King Sihanouk even closer with his friends in Bejing.

So the Cambodia government failed also with this issue. Instead of bringing the ASEAN countries closer together and unite them, it's role was to support the separation managed by China.

But something else happend: Although President Barack Obama came to the summit for the second time, he made a stop in Myanmar before for the first time. Actually he was the first US-President ever to visit the country. Why he came? To set a statement, mainly to China. It says "We are here and we take the competition".

The US knows that the importance of the middle-east is fading. Recent research showed that the US can be independet from Arab oil in a decade. The Palestin-Israel conflict is annoying and doesn't come to any solution. The new markets and big players are in Asia. That's why Obama is looking for allies, trying to strenght assisting ties and reviving old relations.

He can count on the Philippines, a long standing partner. Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei are muslim countries, but moderate, and they don't like China at all. For them, it is Asia first, but second maybe America more than China. Vietnam had already issues with China, and the South China Sea conflict doesn't make it better. They agreed recently to accept military support from the US.

Thailand is trying to be polite and neutral. At least this is what the government does. Laos is already becoming a Chinese puppet, and so is Cambodia. But both are the poorest and least important countries.

Beside the governments, there are the people. Obama mentioned in his speech in Yangon that the most important and difficult job is not being president, but a citizen. Al his remarks about freedom and dignity and respect was targeting the common people.

What America always did very successfully was selling a life style. And it works pretty good. You won't see people standing on the street with signs "I love Hu Jintao" or "We love Wen Jiabao" (unless they are forced to). You won't see local activists demanding the Chinese premier to help them in environmental or human rights issues. But they do it when Obama comes. And they do it because he sells hope and the American way of life. This is what the people want.

Of course, reality in term of human rights isn't anymore what it was in the US. They just renamed "polical prisoners" to "terrorists" and all of a sudden everything is fine. They did not limit the freedom of speeach but instead installed the Patriot Act. The US is becoming more and more repressive, basically for the same reason regimes always become: The ruling relite doesn't want to share it's privilegies with too many others.

But still people trust America more than China. And Myanmar plays an important role. It's government is begging the west for more engagement, because they know if China wins, the old guys will come back and all the efforts for opening and more freedom will be set back.

The common people already made a decision: Their own country first, ASEAN next. But when it comes to a lifestyle, then it is the western way of living. Not just in terms of consumer goods (and safety of products), but also in freedom of speech and human rights.

Again Asia will the stage for the competiton of ideas. Let's just hope this time it will remain a competition and not becoming a fight again.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Have a great sunday everyone

Greetings from Laos

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The famous Xayaburi dam in Laos

There is a lot of controversy and politics involved with the Xayaburi dam in Laos. This first huge dam on the lower Mekong has tracked attention worldwide. While the Lao government sees itself as the manager of the ASEAN battery, NGOs like International Rivers predicting something like the end of the Mekong. The Mekong River Commission, once installed to solve disputes between the Mekong countries (and providing studies and research) shows itself as a toothless Tiger.

The early "No" from Vietnam also showed that ASEAN consensus has it limits - recently Vietnam stepped back and will not veto the dam anymore, although asking Laos to be careful with more projects on the Mekong. Thailand turned silent since it is the investor and will benefit from the electricity purchases. Cambodia says "No", but doesn't make it to a very important bilateral issue.

And then there is the outcry from the international environmental community, mainly NGOs and environmental agencies. The concern is that the dam will effect the life of people downstream, that the fish population can't migrate anymore, and that people have to move from land they were living on for decades.
So some new studies were made especially to improve the damn for the migration of the fish population and regarding the impact of the sediment flow of the river.

The problem I see so far is that it's A against B. Non of the parties is actually looking for consensus. It's clear, Laos needs some income from something. I'm not sure if rubber plantations and mining will be the future and will not do any harm to the environment. Actually I think it's vice versa.
It would have to be a way better idea if the parties have been sitting together and try to get a compromise and a solution that works for both of them instead of just fighting and keeping their own grounds. Anyway construction now has started and below are some impressions from the dam site.




Butterfly

Butterfly by thomaswanhoff
Butterfly, a photo by thomaswanhoff on Flickr.

Today just a nice picture I made while walking the dogs in my street

Monday, November 12, 2012

How stupid are the people?

Before you dear reader start to pull down to the comment section, let me explain why I used this provocative headline. Our night guards son recently went to the doctor because he didn't feel well. at Mahosot hospital they did a lot of checks, including blood checks. After he got handed over the test result prints and a bill. Nobody told him what to do now, what his disease is, what to do next. Even if they asked for. It is a very common thing in Laos that people are treated as they are dumb. Yes, they may not understand medical terms on first hand, but they are also listing to a explanation. Same problem is with any administrative office: People arent' treated very respectfully. Officer like to use their power to scare the people. This habit is something those working in the developing sector know quite well. While the more educated in the city may insist of a proper answer, people on the country side usually shut up. One reason is they are scared, since they experienced many times who the power has. Another reason is indeed lack of education: they just don't understand when some company explains how they want to change their village, environment, landscape etc. Help comes from an initiative that is already working in 300 villages. They basically build 3D models of a village and it's surroundings and explain - inculding landmarks know to the villagers - what the impact of a project might be.
“In former styles of land-use planning meetings, local people would usually just sit at the back of the meeting room waiting for it to end,” said Castella, one of the authors of Toward a land zoning negotiation support platform: Tips and tricks for participatory land use planning in Laos, which appeared recently in the journal Landscape and Urban Planning. As result, villagers often ended up implementing plans that they did not understand and that were doomed to fail. Things changed with the introduction of the 3D maps, which are put together with the help of the residents."
, wrote ZOE CORMIER in a blog post on the CIFOR website. Most people are not stupid. They are just not educated. And sometimes, they are brainwashed and trained to refuse education. This is the real threat. Initiatives like the 3D modelling might change this.

Morning in Ban Phonesavan, Vientiane

This is the village where our night guard Mr. Sukhan lives. Every morning I take his dog home on my scooter , since the dog can't ride with him on this Honda.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

New Lao movie: Huk Aum Lum premiered at ITECC

It was called the press conference, but was actually the premiere already: Huk Aum Lum ist the second feature film produced by Lao New Wave Cinema (co-produced with Hemon Studio), and will be in the cinema from November 17th on (ITECC, of course). For Director Phanumad Disattha (Ton) it is his first feature film, and to make the task even more difficult, he also wrote the script.
Ton studied in Thailand and America, and he knows the business. Former short movies showed already his talent as a director, and with Huk Am Lum he could prove that he is in the premier league in Asia. The story itself caters the taste of a young asian audience, in particular the Lao people. It is a love story, a comedy, sometimes a bit confusing, sometimes a bit long, but in the end everything is fine. It looked a bit that after the huge success of the controversial and on the edge of censorship production At The Horizon Lao Wave Cinema tried to play nice with the authorities with including a lot of Lao culture (aka stereotypes) from almsgiving to Baci ceremonies. At least they didn't travel to Luang Prabang. Also, the stereotype of the city girl they knows nothing about the countryside and the singer who desperately wants back to his hometown is a bit too political correct. But this is a personal taste. The audience at the premier laughed about the story, and the well placed and written jokes make it easy to watch (the film has English subtitles, by the way.) What is more important is Tons achievement as a director. Huk Aum Lum is a highly professional production, from the equipment used to the way it was edited. Even sound, a huge problem with most productions, is well recorded. Credits also go to the director of photography, who made beautiful pictures - a piece of art actually. What is always a challenge in Laos is to find actors. There is no school for acting, so you have to rely either on singers or on amateurs. Huk Aum Lum did both: The main characters do have experience with audience and cameras, since they are singers: Sack of Cells, Alee from “Shawty”, Jear Pacific, and DJ Kaew Kun. But they showed, and this is exceptional, that they are great actors as well. In particular Sack and Jear Pacific did a great job. To include the people in the village were the movie was shot was not only a good idea, it also gave the film some authenticity, without disturbing it. All amateurs played surprisingly well. Congrats to all of them. So, since there are not many Lao movies with English subtitles, go to ITECC and watch the movie. It is nice entertainment, and you may learn something more about the country and its people. Official teaser below:

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Top 5 coffee shops in Vientiane

Coffee shops are essential for big cities this days, and even a small capital like Vientiane. So here is a list of the best 5 coffee shops in the city. It is based on my experience (I basically live in coffee shops) and these factors: Coffee quality, service, opening hours, food, wifi, location. Best coffee shops in Vientiane:

  1. JOMA Cafe Ponthan Joma ponthan coffeeshop Not only has Joma the most experience in Vientiane (they are here for 12 years already), what makes them outstanding is the fact that they always keep the quality of food and service at the same level. Although Joma Ponthan is not in downtown, it is less crowded, has more seats and parking as well as a kids play room. Opens early at 7am, closing 9pm.

2. Cafe Nomad Located close to the Thai embassy, this little gem has everything you need: Good coffee, delicious paninis, free and fast wifi. Opening 9.30am, every day.

3. Benoni Cafe They do have the best coffee in town, and this place is the number one to go for lunch. Breakfast isn't really available, and they open late at 10am. Parking is difficult, staff doesn't speak English well enough (but the owner do), and Wifi is unreliable. Located in the heart of Vientiane, on Setthathirat road, next to Joma.

 4. Baan Tonmali Cake Cafe Not too many people know this place since it isn't located in downtown. But if you pass by Lao-Top College then you will find this coffee oasis on the right. It got it's ranking because of the nice decoration, the cheap and delicious lunch (Lao food), the best chocolate cake in town and the fact, that it is the place where young Lao filmmakers come together. Opens at 8am, close at 6pm.

5. Espresso Cafe Get a bit of a New York coffee shop feeling in this little coffe shop, located next to the cultural hall Not many seats available, but the coffee is outstanding, the crossant the best in town, and wifi is free and fast. Open early at 8am, closed on Sunday.

Good morning from Vientiane

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Some pictures, impressions and links from ASEM 9

Vientiane is occupied by foreign countries, but this time for good: 60 something leaders (or their delegates) gathering in Laos capital for the ASEM 9 summit. Not much outcome is expected, since the size is too big for a workshop meeting, but at least some bilateral talks might be successful here and there. Also, the Europeans want to convince their Chinese and some other major Asian business partners that everything is under control in Europe. So, the mainstream story reads like that:
Dozens of European and Asian leaders gathered in impoverished Laos on Monday for a major summit dominated by the eurozone debt crisis and growing territorial tensions in the region. Top European officials including French President Francois Hollande and Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti were due to spearhead efforts to reassure Asia that the long-running eurozone crisis is finally coming under control. The diplomatic offensive is seen as a sign of the growing importance that debt-laden Europe places on Asia's fast-growing economies, and its desire to counter increased US engagement in the region.
Then, there is some concern about the venue (or better the place where the leaders are supposed to sleep. And there are the side stories, like Austria's State Secretary of Finance Andreas Schieder (turns his back to the street in the picture, but yes, it's him) who decided to stop his convoy right in front of the Joma Cafe to get - a coffee. Police was a bit surprised since they were told parking isn't allowed at Setthathirat road, but nobody was thinking about if this rule applies to the delegates as well.
The Russian Prime Minister Medvedev arrived in his own bullet proof limousine (a quite old one, actually), while the German foreign Minister Westerwelle came in a regular Mercedes (I think all this Mercedes purchased for the summit aren't bullet proof at all). Yinluck from Thailand came quite early, while some Finish delegates were seen cruising around for quite a while. What is a big surprise so far is the work of the traffic police: Haven't seen traffic going so smooth like in this days. The fact that school are closed and many government officials are working for the summit eases the traffic already, but even the rehearsals done last week had a pretty good outcome. So Kudos this time for the Lao Traffic police. The fact that we have a curfew from 10pm on is something I can handle. There isn't nothing to after 10pm anyway, in particular Monday and Tuesday. (Not that I think there is a vibrant nightlife on weekends). So as proud the Lao people are these days because of the summit, the even more quiet is the city, it is actually quite nice again to sit outside in the Benoni Cafe without having an hourlong traffic jam in front of you. More links about the summit: http://www.asem9.la/ (Official Website) Press release from the European Union Wikipedia about ASEM Official Theme Song, in Lao, no subtitles, so much about the international spirit (Video)

Modern Laos: Sinh and hot pants

Took this picture this morning. It actually shows quite good the current situation in Laos. The family that lives in the house I took the picture is poor.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Naked Espresso - new coffee shop in Vientiane

Coffee shops are just great: First, you get coffee there, something I need at least 3 times a day.

Then, since Starbucks replaced the Vienna style Cafe, it is also a cozy place to spend some time. With Benoni, Tonmali Cake, Espresso Cafe and Friends de Cafe we already have some nice, individually designed places, and now we have a new kid in town.

Naked Espresso is located at Dongpalan Street, not far from the roundabout. Just pass by the flower shops and then it is on the right side.

It offers the usual suspects from Latte to Americano, while its signature dish is Totally Naked - a multiple shots iced coffee drink.

They also offer some food, from scambled eggs, ham and cheese sandwich to Bruschetta, Fettuccini Meatballs and Roasted Atlantic Samlon with mashed potatoes. Homemade cakes are available as well.

Prices are quite fair, and the coffee (they have their own supplier) is in the same league as Benoni. A relief for expat is the fact that the owner Ariya speaks fluent English.

Opening hours are Tuesday to Sunday from 8am to 7pm.

Vientiane on fire

I complained before, and I will not rest to rant about these fires in Vientiane. The Lao capital is already a quite dusty and dirty city, but the fires (mainly organic waste like leafs, but always mixed with some plastic parts) make it even worst. Although there is a garbage collection service, people burn like crazy. Why? Because they always did it.

And here comes one of the biggest problems Laos is facing: the refusal of change. People still like to excuse themselfs with referring to Lao tradition, culture and education. Change is only possible if there are huge benefits. Like having a mobile phone - people had no problem at all to switch to a mobile phone from landlines in short time. Or using a motobike instead of a buffalo.
Not burning trash means paying for garbage collection (what in the city they have to do anyway), but also to get rid of it in a different way.

First, for Lao people isn't a different way available. At least in their mind (beside a undeveloped neighboring plot that can be turned instantly into a waste dump site).

Composting? Not known, and more important, not taught. And there again is the education system. In some textbook it is actually taught not to burn your organic waste, but childs cant cope with their parents opinions when it comes to changes.

So change in education doesn't mean writing something nice in the textpooks of primary school students. Education - in particular in developing countries - needs to be done in all segments of society.

A government that is able to give security advice for important events like the ASEM summit down to village level has already the tool and channels for communication.

If for example the village could fine those who start fires and the fine is later used for improvments everyone on the village is benefiting from, there would be an incentive to report violations.

But maybe only when the last Laotion died of cancer or respiratory diseases, people will understand that not every tradition is something you want to keep.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Crime map of my street

Just to give a bit more details about the crime rate. My street is a small and quiet street, but also a short cut between Kouhviang and Lao-Thai-Road. It is usually busy at rush hour, but relatively quiet in the evening. All the break-ins happened at night, the dog hits in the morning. This crimes all happend within the last 8 months.


View Crimes in my street in a larger map

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Friday, October 26, 2012

Landmark Mekong Riverside Hotel soon to be finished?

Wasn't it meant to be the hotel for the delegates of the ASEM summit that will take place in two weeks from now? Although from the outside the Landmark Mekong Riverside Hotel (formerly know as Grand Mekong?) looks pretty inside, I have no idea how it looks from the inside. I heard that 50 percent of the roms will be ready for the summit, guessing from the progress so far it might be even more.



In a country where it took 5 years to build a city pillar it is quite impressive to get a hotel this size build in 78 months. Since the recently opened Dork Jumpa Hotel (!) caters toatally the Chinese market, I am wondering what the Landmark is targeting at.

In August Laovoices had a story about the progress, where the owner was quoted :
"Ms Orlathay said that once construction of the Landmark Mekong Riverside Hotel is completed, the hotel will be one of the luxurious places to stay in most Vientiane. The hotel will be equipped with all facilities needed to meet international five star hotel standards."

I just wonder how they will assure that the service is five star as well - this is actually the bigger challenge. It is mentioned, that "At first, there will be both Lao and Chinese staff working at the hotel,” she said, adding that after the Lao employees had been trained and developed quality working skills, they will be promoted to hold more important positions." but I am not sure that the Chinese staff is able to train the locals properly (in what language, for example?)

Anyway, I am still positive to get a first five star hotel to town, with international standard. Let's see when ordinary people are allowed to visit it.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Laos slightly better in doing business, but still bad

Just saw the new index for the ease of doing business. Laos made it 3 ranks up, but it is still bad. Improvement came mainly from the parameter of starting a business (but ask myself if this is meant for a 100% FDI?) and trading across borders. Rank for protecting investors is 185, and in all other fields Laos actually dropped.

Of course the relevant organs will praise the jump. If you are interested in starting a business, better have a closer look at the data here. This site gives also some good information about the processes of doing business here. What you need to know is that this tables just mention the official data. For example, even if you can go to court in a dispute, it doesn't mean this court has the same standards as in other countries. Also, the tax department can be quite creative in what kind of taxes apply to you, and expect a lot of expenses for lawyers.

If you take a look at the contributors you will see that these are the most competent ones you can find here: http://www.doingbusiness.org/contributors/doing-business/lao-pdr


Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Social marketing Lao style

So I received this email today. (I anonymised the name of the place, it doesn't matter who it is).

"Dear.....
We need you to help us decide what has to change at XXXX. You have the power !

Let us know what you like and don t like about the restaurant and we will do the modifications accordingly.

No taboos, tell us the blank truth......

1. Do you like XXXXX Restaurant?
2. Why?
3. What would you change to the current restaurant?
4. Do you think we should change the concept (yyyyyyy food)?
5. What type of restaurant is missing in Vientiane and could work instead of XXXXX?"

I was asking myself how desperate the people in charge must be. They just publicly (all recepients in cc instead of bcc) admitted that they are in such trouble that they even consider to change the concept of the venue.

You think it's smart to be that honest?

Statement of the Asian People Forum

So 1000 delegates signed a declaration. And they speak for all European and Asian People, although never selected, but carefully supported by NGOs and government agencies.

The statement:
*Asia-Europe People's Forum gathered 1000 citizens in Vientiane
(Laos): "We demand a people-centered world not a system based around
deregulation of markets and increasing power of multinational cooperations"

Not a word that the deregulation was actually done by governments. Companies can only go as far as the law allows. But politicians who bow to lobbyists instead of voters may create laws in favor of those who give them
money instead of those who elected them. As you can see in the US and Europe now.

And of course NGOs and government agencies criticise companies, because guess who is paying them? Right, governments.

These summits are a waste of money, they have no impact at all. (Beside the fact that the participants had a nice trip and time here, at least I hope so)

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Mega mall falls first

just got that from RFA:

"Construction of a mega mall that was set to be Laos’s largest shopping complex has been suspended after the project’s international developer ran out of funds despite having collected advance rent from retailers, sources in the city said Tuesday. "

So they are running out of money. Or away with it. I predicted this already.

The same concept is behind the World Trade Center and the Vientiane Center project. Shiny sales buildings to distract people from the fact that they dont have big investors behind.

So be careful with investing.

http://www.rfa.org/english/news/laos/mall-10232012170127.html

Sunday, October 21, 2012

How Lao people treat their dogs

Of course, there is no The Lao people. That is actually my point. I see people loving their dogs and treat them as pets. I see people who don't respect dogs at all and treat them like shit. I see people who are scared of dogs and those who over humanize them. Not so different from western countries.

Pimmy

But there is on difference: You rarely see dogs suffering in Western countries. If someone sees a sick dog, they try to help. In Laos, still only a few people really care about the dogs health. Although the number of patients at Dr. Khamdengs clinic is increasing, it is just not enough. Many people claim the lack of money as a reason, but that is just an typical excuse: they have enough money for other less important things, even if they are poor. (and yes, I am aware I am talking mainly about city people. In rural areas it is a different story).

I observed people in my Lao peer group how they handle dogs. One neighbour cares, but no cation, not even a tick collar. They really love the dog and even try to keep it away form the street. But no way they get him to the vet.

Other neighbours care a lot: They took their Cocker Spaniel to the vet for a surgery when she lost a lot of blood. They are not rich at all, not even middle class.

A quite wealthy family loves their dogs as well, but you always see them disappearing after a while. They get hit by a car or die by untreated diseases. Same goes for a poor family - sometimes I even think they eat the dogs since they mainly disappear when they are 1.5 - 2 years old.

One wealthy family has a dog who has distemper. He shows all the signs, he looks really sick. The family just extended the big house, they have 4 cars, one of them with a government plate. When I asked the daughter if they ever took the dog to a vet, she said no. She did not even understand why.

We spend some money to get neighbours dogs spayed and neutered and vaccinated. The owners appreciated the help, but would never ever do it themselves. Maybe they are spoiled by foreigners who pay for it. Paws4Thoughts is doing good work with vaccinations, but I have doubts about the return rate for the follow ups as longs as it is not free.

Is it faith, that people here give up so easily?

So some advice for the few Lao people reading this and caring:

  • Get you dog vaccinated, no matter how old he or she is.
  • Get the dog neutered/spayed - there are still enough dogs in Laos, no need to get more.
  • Keep the dogs in your yard, and walk them on a leash so they can't get hit by a car - and can't get infected by other dogs that easy.



Monday, October 8, 2012

Ban Kai: new small and nice restaurant in Sokpaluang

So we living around VIS have a new restaurant to go: It is called Ban Kai (or Ban Gai) and as the name says it is about chicken. But it is actually more.


Not only it looks nice and clean and the owner speaks English, it also has an outstanding menu.

For Breakfast (examples):

  •  Vanilla and Cinamon French Toast





  • Ban Gai Biscut Egger Sandwich (Hot buttermilk biscuit sandwich with scrambled egg, sausage and cheese with Fresh Cream Gravey) 


They also serve a perfect coffee latte (made with the famous Benoni aka Le Trio coffee beans)

Breakfast is served all day, by the way.

Lunch special for now is 25.000 KIP including Fried Chicken Strips or Hot Wings, Sweet potato French Fries or Fried Rice or Sausage Bacon Cream Gravy and softdrink for 5000 extra.

I tried the Fresh Roasted Chicken baguette with fresh cream sauce, and it was amazing.

Give this place a try, it is worth a visit and they have for now promotions, like a latte for 12.000 KIP.

It is located opposite HHI appartments, a few meters from the German Embassy.

Rare modern art from Laos

Welcome to the neighborhood,asshole

So finally we got our fair share of high-so-dumb-ass-rich kids in our street. How I know? He is driving a sportscar around as if he would train for a formula one race. The classic thing, you know: open windows, loud music, white muscle shirt (although no muscles), and this Thai style "you earthlings are so boring" look.
When I told him that this is not a racetrack, he just raised his shoulders meaning "i dont give a shit". This are the moments when I am happy that guns are not available here. I may have used it. He knows that he is protected and basically above the law. A hit and run would have no consequences for him, beside the hassle of bringing the car to the carwash.
The rich jobless kids of the government officials and big business families are the raising problem in Asia. Look at the bitch that killed a bunch of people in Thailand, the Hun Sen Nephew in BKK1 in Phnom Penh, who is violent and untouchable, the recently crashed son of a high ranking Chinese official who stopped his Ferrari in a wall. So Laos just fits in. In case you have seen the movie "At the horizon": it is just reality. And the original script saw the killer-turned-father going away as usual, but reality in Laos is written by authorities, so they insisted of a (ridicilous) jail scene.
The problem in developing countries is not hunger or poverty. It is the lack of law and civil society. Nothing will ever change as long as corrupt regimes will protect their siblings and BFFs. And still, local people are raised to just suffer, laying under the thumb for so long and trained to obey. Until a fruit seller can't make enough money anymore...

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

ASEP: Food security and issue

So the big ASEP summit is happening, and with surprisingly few disturbances for ordinary people like me. Just a few soldiers on the riverside with very new machine guns (from China?)

Today VT write about the goals of the ASEP summit.

"Parliamentarians from Asia and Europe met yesterday in Vientiane to
discuss ways to ensure food security, public debt management and development"

Food security? Thats interesting. Laos do have labs for testing food, but food tests are rarely done. And more important, usually not published. So we dont know about the levels of mercury and lead in the Catfish or Tilapa we buy at the market. Or about pesticides and insecticides in vegetables. Not to talk about the formalin in the meat.
When there are rare reports, it is never mentioned where. Like the recent water scandal. Thanks for telling us that a certain amount of drinking water producers are dirty, but not who. So how do I know where to buy and where not?

I am looking forward to results of the ASEP meeting to improve food security in Laos.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Vientiane: No improvement in 2 years

The title is a bit provocative, because there are some things that improved in the 2 years I am living in Vientiane now. But in total, they are just not enough. So I decided to start a list of things that in my opinion improved, and things they did not improved. So lets start in the good old expat tradition with the complains.

What did not improve:

Business climate: I started the Laos Business Meetings, so I tried, but I failed because of the lack of interest of the business community. But even worst, new labour laws, new taxes and the special treatment of investments from some neighbouring countries makes business in Laos  for everyone else really difficult.

Traffic infrastructure: There is zero improvement in roads all over the country. Luang Prabang and Pakse still lack of a proper connection (aka Highway) to the capital. Flights into and out of Laos are a few, and overpriced. Public transport, in particular overland, ist still dangerous without proper safety standards.

Electricity: We never had so many power cuts as in the last 3 months. And the numbers of fires from malfunctioning cables are increasing - at least in my village.

Entertainment: Still no entertainment that at least meets regional standards. Waterpark closed, ITECC getting more dirty every day, and fewer concerts and cultural events in the Culturall Hall. Beside the 3 expat bands we all know already, nothing to do in the evening or on weekends.

Education: Haven't seen much progress, in particular changes to the standard curriculum. Level of English is still poor, even for those learning it in school. Exception is Lao-American College.

Lao businesses: The major visible investments happened in the restaurant business, and were done by Thai: Fuji, Black Canyon and Mix. Can't remember any Lao business that improved life here, but maybe I am just getting old, so please correct me.

Law enforcement: No improvement at all. Traffic police still looks for girls instead of traffic violations, and corruption level is still high.

Shopping: We got the D-Mart, a dirty rotten place with food we already have. The big Big C announcement was just this, and announcement. Thalat Sao Mall 2 is screwed already, Regal Mall not even started, That Luang Mall a ruin and Asean Mall empty. I don't think that New World and World Trade Center will ever build.

TV: Lao cable seems to be dead, Digital TV has a bad quality and poor selection of international channels.

Improved:
Public transport: We do have taxis now and new buses.

Border crossing: It seems that Lao authorities work faster now, or let's say, it doesn't take that long anymore as before.

Vet service: Dr. Kamdeng has a x-ray machine now.

Minimarts: M-Point is really expanding. Lets hope supply will expand as well.


I know that this is a list written by an expat. Lao people will see this totally different. And I may be wrong, or forget things. Feel free to comment.










Friday, September 28, 2012

Trash bins!!!

Saw these bins on the river side and a  truck unloading lots of them. I'm wondering how long they will be there.


Parking and law enforcment

Big announcement  in the VT recently about crackdown on illegal parking. A joke as you can see here. This car parks on the pavement right in front of a police post. They just don't care.


Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Last call 11.30 pm - or so

Midnight is when the vampires come out, so everyone has to be at home at this time. At least this is what my grandmother told me - just to scare me, of course. Anyway, local authorities here think the same:

Vientiane authorities are warning entertainment venues to strictly follow the regulations, in particular the midnight closing time, to maintain social order. The proclamation is one of many efforts the government is making in preparation for the 7th Asia-Europe Parliamentary Partnership Meeting and the 9th Asia-Europe Meeting Summit to be held in the capital in October and November respectively.

I am very sure that all participants of the summits will never ever be out later then midnight. Oh, wait, some venues, not mentioned in the article, have a special permit to open late. Guess for whom? 

Friday, September 21, 2012

Everything is gonna be ok: Limousines arrive in Laos

I wasn't sure if this was a test run for the ASEP and ASEM summit today, or if they got the new Mercedes Limousines from the Friendship Bridge. What I saw was police motobikes with sirens in front, then a government car with blue number plate, then some more motobikes left and right of a brand new mercedes without a number plate. all the persons sitting inside didn't look as they have to do some serious work, more that they have fun driving around.

120 Mercedes Limousines are purchased by the Lao government for transport of head of states during the ASEM summit. After they will be used by government officials.

In other stories, government officials often use cars related to their job or a project for private reasons.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Do Language schools need native speakers?

A school here is looking for "native English" teachers. Ok, beside the fun part that they actually mean native English speakers as teachers, I think they are wrong for another reason. It isn't always good to learn from a native speaker, because he doesn't really understand your problem. People need English to communicate, and if some Australian comes with an strong accent, they won't understand him. Native speakers do have the problem they they can't put them selves in your shoes. But for most of the private schools in Asia it doesn't matter if the students can speak English afterwards. It is more important to have native speakers and shiny certificates.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Rich middle class vs. The Poor in Laos

I had a conversation about a recently opened new fancy restaurant and someone mentioned, it is "for the rich middle class". Let me work on this expression a bit.
First of all, question is what "rich middle class" means. Is it upper middle class? Or lower upper class? Anyway, it sounds a bit jealous, like "the ones with money". But it reveals something I hear a lot from the developing sector (the ones usually friend with every farmer out there): The scepticism about the middle class.

MIX restaurant inside

So what is the middle class in the US? They are white collar workers, owning a house (still), living in suburbs, and they are the majority of the American people.

"Depending on class model used, the middle class may constitute anywhere from 25% to 66% of households" says the almighty Wikipedia.

What is for sure is that the middle class is the driving factor in the US when it comes to consumption, but more important to influence.
Considering the overwhelming presence of professional middle-class persons in post secondary education, another essential instrument in regards to shaping public opinion, it should come as no surprise that the lifestyle exclusive to this quasi-elite has become indicative of the American mainstream itself. In addition to setting trends, the professional middle class also holds occupations which include managerial duties, meaning that middle-class professionals spend much of their work-life directing others and conceptualizing the workday for the average worker.
In Germany the middle class follows the same concept, adding the middle class enterprises who are still responsible for the Made in Germany label and the overall positive economic outlook. And the trend of a shrinking middle class is already a threat there.

So what about Laos (and other emerging countries)? They usually lack of a middle class. Either communist or autocratic or monarchy, the do have a rich elite and a poor majority. While the elites interest is in just keeping power and money, the poor just look for enough food. No development possible.

This is where the middle class comes in. One of the few advantages of NGOs is that they basically help to create this class by offering over well paid office jobs and education. Only these young people are able to develop a country, seeing a chance to earn money without being part of the elite. They create start-ups, they are the entrepreneurs a country like Laos needs. And they create (or copy) a new urban lifestyle. This is what happens in Vientiane right now.

Those who complain about it just want to keep the poor poor (and don't want to create a middle class, what is quite revealing). It saves their jobs in the developing sector, and doesn't piss off the elite, who usually has to agree to set up a development project.

There is NO WAY for a country like Laos to get out of misery without a lively functional middle class. It is yet too small, and a bit to much in consumption and less in working hard, but that just may take some time. As usual here.




Rice growing festival in Laos



My neighbor Khuan and her friend at the temple.

On Saturday morning my village got busy. Evert Lao family dressed up and went to the Wat. The reason: Rice growing festival. At least that's what told me one person. Another one said it is to honour the ancestors. They at least agreed on the name Hok Kao Padapdin. Lao Voices explains it this way:

Many Lao people believe that each year the guardians of hell let the ancestral spirits return to their hometowns during the Horkhaopadapdin festival to collect food offerings from their relatives... This tradition follows a legend from the era of Buddha. One day, Phra Chao (Lord) Phimphisane had his relatives become Phed (spirits who have to take care of temples because of their bad deeds). Later he dreamt of his relatives crying in pain and hunger. The morning after, he asked Buddha what the dream meant, and was told that the spirits wanted him to donate something and make merit for them to enable them to be reborn.


Offerings for the spirits
I was told it is to honour the rice growing, kind of a Thanksgiving Day. Anyway, too feed the spirits people place little offerings along the streets. They contain food (rice and fruits), sometimes money and cigarettes. All is placed in a banana leaf, and that looks quite nice. Unfortunately people are too lazy now to even fold a banana leaf, and use styrofoam boxes instead. Shows pretty good that culture if not related to education goes the wrong way. People should be aware that using natural ressources is part of this culture, and that the festival is not just to make sure you will be okay once you are dead.
New way
Old way


SEA Games stadium

This is a sad but not unusual story in Laos. It is not even a long story. Years ago, Laos was the host of the ASEAN Games. Since it was lacking the necessary infrastructure, it got loans and support from other countries and constructed the SEA Games facilities outside town. We know from the Olympic Games that these facilities sometimes aren't used much anymore once the events is over.

But for Laos it could have been a different story, because that was the first time ever they had a proper swimming stadium etc.. Now, only the National Stadium is occasionally used for football games and propaganda events. Usually, it is closed. and of course, nobody maintains anything. It is just rotting, plants take over, two more years and wildlife will be populating it (could be just a different use, unintended).

This happens to nearly everything Laos gets paid from other country. Lao authorities don't maintain anything, they let it run down and then ask for a new one. And donor countries are stupid enough to listen.

Dragonfly (no zoom)

Dragonfly (no zoom) by thomaswanhoff
Dragonfly (no zoom), a photo by thomaswanhoff on Flickr.

This picture was taken today with my Galaxy S 3 phone, no zoom used. Not too bad for a phone, isn't it?

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Electricity box burned out

  by thomaswanhoff
, a photo by thomaswanhoff on Flickr.

Moste fires at least in Vientiane are caused by bad wiring and faulty electricity boxes. This one in my street burned totally down. In 2 years we saw at least 5 boxes burning in our street. At least it is just the box, no house was damaged.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Interview with an awesome Lao photographer

My friend Divon interviewed my friend Nin, a very talented photographer and IT-guy. 

Read it here

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

MIX - a new fancy place in the heart of Vientiane

Untitled

Rumors where there a lot when suddenly Nam Phou Square was fenced of a year ago. Nobody knew anything, and both authorities and new owners failed to inform the public. Now, a year later, all concerns are gone. Nam Phou Square, or fountain place, in the heart of Vientiane, is more beautiful than ever, and got not only a nice facelift but also a restaurant.

MIX is a franchise from Thailand, with restaurants in Chang Mai and Bangkoks Terminal 21 shopping center. The concept is delicious Thai and Lao food, well presented in a fancy atmosphere.
Untitled

Although the whole menu will be available a bit later, what is offered already gives more than hope. The presentation of the food is outstanding, haven't seen something like this beside La Silapa and occasionally at Ansara. Don't get me wrong: Most dishes are straight forward, stuff you expect in a Thai restaurant. Although the Salmon with spicy miso sauce might be an exeption.

Salmon with spicy miso sauce

MIX has two buildings, the left has a stage with live music every evening, the right one confortable leather sofas. Both buildings have a rooftop areas as well, with a nice view on Nam Phou.
MIX inside
The fountain itself has now some more water games and color-ful lights, expect the local and foreign photographer here soon for shootings.

Untitled

What I like with MIX so far is that is a long needed modern restaurant. For those who want to sit on a plastic chair in a oh so authentic local place, there are hundreds already. But something a bit more upscale, that fits the need of the young middle class people, was not there for a long time. Too many places did't improve their interior, and the new ones just followed the old pub style.

So let's hope MIX can improve to it's full standards soon (give them a month), and the food will remain as good as it is right now.



Just some pictures from Laos

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This is a banana flower. Usually it is upside down, but this particular species grows all the way up in the air. It is a tiny one, so more for the beauty than actually for fruits.


Untitled

This picture was taken in the early morning near Wat Phonesavanh. I pass by there every morning when I take our guards dog back home. The dog is too big now to fit in the basket of his Honda motobike, but still fits on my scooter.


Untitled

Same village, just another view. At 6 ion the morning it isn't fog what you see but smoke from all the BBQs that are already fired up. There is a garment factory in this street, so I guess they make early breakfast for the workers.


Thursday, August 30, 2012

More money for policemen

I borrowed this list of violations directly enforced in Thailand, from the popular Bangkok blogger Richard Barrow, as an example how the notorious underpaid and underchallegend Lao policemen can get more money and do something for road safety (but still have to get up, walking a few meters to stop a car):

แข่งรถในทาง – road racing
ขับรถเร็ว – speeding
แซงในที่คับขัน – dangerous overtaking
เมาแล้วขับ – drink driving
ขับย้อนศร – driving against traffic flow
ไม่สวมหมวกนิรภัย – not wearing helmet
จอดรถซ้อนคัน – double parking
ไม่ติดแผ่นป้ายทะเบียน – car has no license plates
มลพิษควันดำ – black smoke from exhaust
จอดรถในที่ห้ามจอด – parking in forbidden zones
จอดรถบนทางเท้า – parking on sidewalks
ขับรถบนทางเท้า – driving on sidewalks
แท็กซี่ปฏิเสธไม่รับผู้โดยสาร – taxis refusing to take passengers

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

One more time a motobike hits a dog (CCTV footage)

This is the second time in a few months when a motobike hits a dog right in front of my house. This time again, the driver didn't even slow down a bit, clearly seeing that 4 dogs are on the street. I haven't seen so many dumb people on motobikes since I am in Laos. Is this the buddhist thing that they don't care? What other excuse are there? (This idiot didn't even had a helmet, so it's pure luck he didn't get hurt more)

The street I live is a short cut between Khouviang and Lao Thai road, so the traffic is much more than it should be in a residential area. And people are driving to fast (including the NGO people in their big SUVs). And yes, we do have kids playing here, and it is just a matter of time when one them got hit.



Crackdown on (certain) foreigners in Laos

So here we are, the big clean up starts: Yesterday the VT reported that beggars will be brought to a certain center before and during the ASEM summit, to clean up the streets and put some rouge on it.

Now the crackdown on foreigners starts:

Hawkers, nail cutters, beauticians, scrap metal collectors, vegetable and seafood vendors in markets or doing other informal work will not be allowed to stay.
Most of them are Vietnamese. Interesting is, that the Chinese workers for the ASEM facilities are under special regulations.

Also, Foreigners found owning and operating businesses such as wholesale or retail shops, tailors and livestock farms without business licences can apply for legal documents if the value of the business amounts to at least one billion kip.

What isn't mentioned in the recent VT is the new law that will take place soon, where foreigners can only stay 4 years and have then to return to their home country (so the Lao government can force me to go to Germany?).

I wonder what kind of consultants wrote this laws? It reminds me a bit to the Vietnamese Labour Law.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Students on a chicken farm

Bangkok Post had an article about CP Laos, the local branch of the successful Thai food company, known for its chicken, poultry and pig. It says :" He said C.P Laos now employed about 600 local workers and 30 Thai
staff. Some of the local staff were former university students who had
been undergoing training with the company."
I was just wondering why you need - beside some specialists and administration staff - university graduates on a chicken farm?

Government urges land reforms

Vientiane Times reported about land reforms:
"During a
riveting keynote speech given at a international land and forestry
conference in Vientiane today, Dr. Souvanhpheng Bouphanouvong,
President of the National Assembly of Lao's Committee on Economic
Planning and Finance, announced the government's intention to undergo
a nationwide formal process of large scale land reform, and prioritize
the need for increased local land management, given that access to
land for rural households is fundamental to sustained poverty
alleviation."
Later on it is said that the gov is concerned about land disputes. I just wonder how this new policy will fit to the practise to give land to people working in the government. And if Vietnam and China will still get concessions and leases.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Old Thalat Sao to be demolished soon

Everyone was asking why the hell they started building a new shopping mall around a old one. But thats they way they do planning in Laos. Anyway, now they decided to finally demolish the old Thalat Sao, forcing 400 sellers to move into the Malls 1+2. I am wondering where these 400 shops are since Mall 1 is full already and in Mall 2 I can't see this ammount of empty shops. Anyway, selection of products will remain small, quality extreme low.

Vientiane Times told us some numbers about the rent today (for the new Mall):

"Vientiane authorities, Talat Sao Shopping Mall Company, and merchants met to discuss contracts and rental fees at the mall. At the meeting they agreed to exempt the rental fees for relocated retailers for the first six months, but after that they will be required to pay US$150 per month.

In the second year, the company will charge US$200 per month and US$ 300 per month for the third year. The rental fees for the following years will be adjusted according to GDP of the country. The investors will be required to pay the government about US$1.7 million for property compensation."