Friday, February 24, 2012

Soul kitchen: new pizza venue in town

So it's not that Vientiane has a lack of good (and bad) pizza venues. But some fresh blood is always good, and this shot is provided by Soul Kitchen. Andrea is the Italian boss and chef and runs this contemporary decorated restaurant with his wife.
It is located at Thadeua road, right after the crossroad that lead to either Kouviang or Riverside.
Soul kitchen offers a variety of Pizzas, and hell they are delicious. There is a Papaya, Cheese, Chilli and a Lunag Prabang sausage option available. I started classic with funghi e prociutto, and did not regret it. Pasta and gnocchi are available as well as a small selection of wine (the red house wine is not bad).
Soul kitchen has a Facebook page (just search for soul kitchen vientiane) and is open daily for lunch (11.30-2.30) and dinner 5.30-open end.
Soon there will be jazz live music and also an open balcony upstairs.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

China injects massive amounts of money into Lao public sector

Quote from Vientiane Times:
Under the agreements, China will provide 150 million yuan of grant aid to build the International Convention Centre in Laos. China will also provide an interest free loan of 50 million yuan to the Lao government and another special loan for the construction of a police command centre. Another agreement signed between the two countries was for a project to repair and upgrade the National Culture Hall
It wasn't mentioned what China got in return. China is a major foreign investor in Laos, with Chinese investmentin total over US$4.46 billion in 742 projects.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Beeing an expat means you are like a child

This post is about expats who actually leave their compounds and cars to get at least a glimpse of the local life.
The biggest challenge for me in all three countries I lived so far (Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia) was always the language. As a western foreigner from Europe, my mother tongue is German, and English is my second language. We use English as a communication tool (until google translate is really ready). So we may expect others to do as well.
But they don't, for several reasons. Cambodians speak Khmer, Vietnamese Vietnamese and Laotions Lao. And we as a foreigner have not clue what they are talking about.
That's when some expats feel the first frustration and staty complaining. Sure, I complain about the English skills here as well, but for another reason: It makes Lao less competitive in the region.
But back to the expats. Most of them are well paid, have a management position and are used to have control. Take them to a local market and it is hell for them (and me as well in the first years). You are like a child, that needs help and assistant everywhere. You can't even say that you need to go to the toilet ("Hong nam yu say" may show you the way).
You are totally depending on local people and their ability and will to help you. That's when expats hire staff to go to the market for them. But one day, your water pump is broken, and your maid only says "I dont know where to repair". Then you are back to zero. You can't read any of the signs of the shops, and you think it is to embarrasing to ask in a motobike shop if they can repair the water pump.
Actually, sometimes they can or know someone who knows someone who has a repairman in his family (but has left to attend a funeral on the countryside, but will be back soon).
So even if you speak the language a bit, you will still experience pitfalls.
The good news: I always got help from locals here. and not just because they are good business people (in Laos, they are actually not, sometimes they prefer chatting over a deal), but because of the general kindness of people in South-East-Asia.
Even if they may not "like" foreigners too much, you always get kind of help and assistance. Sometimes you will also get a laugh, but this is part of the deal and just just laugh even louder, when you open one door after another just to discover there is no western toilet seat at the rest stop.
I think for most expats this might be the most important lesson to learn: To be helpless and dealing with it. In the western culture control became so important, and it is a tabu already to admit that you have no control.
In Laos, it is unavoidable to be out of control. The locals can do better than you, and this is sometimes a fact hard to accept for people coming here to teach, advise and develop.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

ASEAN web radio

I was thinking about starting a web based radio for the ASEAN region. Question is, where should it be located? The idea is, that we can play music from all ASEAN countries (modern mainly), but people can also record reports and publish it, as well as we can record and broadcast skype conference calls. Anyone into this?

Monday, February 13, 2012

What if your staff is sick?

This is just an example, and i think it can happen in every company where the foreign owners and managers are not present every time. Today, at Joma, one staff was pressing her hand against the right site of her belly. I asked her if she has pain and she said yes, since yesterday. Judging from her face expression, it is a lot of pain. She bows over every 2 minutes. I told her to go to the hospital, but she says she want to wait until her shift is finished. I asked her if she told her supervisor. No, she said, she didn't dare So i did. The supervisor was very surprised to learn one staff is sick, although she was working with her all morning. It was obvious that the waitress was is very sick I tried to explain if it is a appendix infection, it can be life threatening to wait to long for a hospital visit. The supervisor then agreed and let her go.. will check later how she is doing..UPDATE: She went to the doctor and received treatment, her co-workers told me. They said she is fine..

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Neighbors talk

had a serious argument with my korean neighbor. she doesn't care much about her dog, no water during the day for example, so the dog always comes to my place when outside. yesterday i discovered the dog had a cut at her paw and was bleeding. I gave betadin, took the dog back to her house and told the husband to see a doctor with the dog. Today the dog came back to my house, untreated. I cleaned the wound again, and when the Korean bitch came, I explained her (she speaks Lao), but she didnt listen and insisted to get her dog back (I never keep the dog, by the way, she is frre to go if she wants or the owner asked for her). So I told her she needs to losten first about the status of her dog, but she went nuts and tried to open my gate. I then took the dog out as usual and told her again the dogs isn't well. She kept shouting, and called someone. some
months before she threw a puppy away and didn't even pick ip the cadaver when it was in fill decay and stinking. #meanwhileinLaos

Thursday, February 9, 2012

How entrepreneurship sometimes fails in Laos

The Worldbank failed recently with a young entrepreneurship contest (not a single business was realized), the NUOAL is trying hard to get anyone setting up a business in their incubator, but without any success so far (now they will conduct a contest, as the World Bank did). So no local people interested in setting up a business in Laos? Actually, a lot do, but also fail. For some reasons. One is lack of experience and knowledge about a business. The coffeeshop where I am writing this post is in Phonthan village, and it is called Chilltime. On the door is a Gecko Wine sign and a FREE WIFI Planet sign as well. Inside, four girls sitting on a sofa watching TV. Of course, nobody speaks English. Not a single word. Once I ordered and got the coffee, the totally bored looking waitress went back to the sofa watching TV with her co-workers. Why will this coffeeshop fail? Overstaffed: The have 15 seats and 5 serving staff and maybe 3 more in the kitchen. Too much. No skills: There are already enough restaurants where the waitress task is bringing a menu and food to the table. No up-selling, no welcoming. But a lot of boredom. No USP: This shop offers the same (bad) service and products as any other. Nothing special. No knowledge: If you have English signs, you targeting English speaking customers. So don't be surprised if some show up. A TV is NOT for entertaining the staff, but for customers. So let the news run on it instead of soap operas. No business plan: It is nice that your niece works for free in the afternoon (as if she had a choice), but that doesn't make you a successful business. Without a strategy, you will fail. That's what most small enterprises are lacking of. Steve Jobs could afford to not do any market research, but not the average Lao business man. Bor pen yang: It might be Lao culture, but actually business DOES matter. If you are not totally into what you do, no wonder it will fail soon. A business owners duty is not just taking the money off the cashiers drawer and head to Udon for shopping. There is hard work to do. A good example of entrepreneurship as far as I know is ME SHOP (www.Macinlao.com): Clear concept, strategy and (I hope) business plan.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Gay community in Vientiane

I am not gay, but that doesn't mean I am not open to at least know something about the gay community in Vientiane. First of all, it is bigger and way more public than expected. Actually, you may see more often often gay people than even prostitutes here. So, let's go for the night out in the gay community: Vientiane has (at least) three bars that are popular within the gay community. CCC is right next to the Wind West Pub on the corner where the gas station is and offers cocktails, drinks and a Saturday Cabaret show. GQ is located in one of the side streets that connects Rue Settathirat with the riverside. It is also a bar. Most popular from reports I got from some gay friends is the Pack Luck Pub on the way to the airport. Open from 8:00 until closing...cabaret show and theme parties most evenings at 9:30. Downstairs bar with disco music, upstairs lounge for quieter conversation. Soradith, a reported gay friendly guest house with a interesting gay disco just besides should be located on Dongpalan road 244 13 DongpalanRd Dongpalan Thon, but I haven't seen it.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

New Magazine about Laos: Sabaidee Lifestyle and Travel

So there is another Magazine available, in Lao and English, targeting the young and not so young but mioddle and upper class professionals. Read it at http://sabaidee-magazine.com/ with the crappy issuu reader or go hunting for a printed issue. Although a iphone app was mentioned on the cover I could not find it in the app store. In their own words, "Sabaidee Travel & Lifestyle Magazine is a bi-monthly English-Laotian language publication. It features articles on travel destinations, lifestyle, arts and cultures in Laos along with news and updates on hospitality, products, business, tourism and trade."
When I was browsing through it, I couldn't find a lot use- and helpful content. It is actually a advertorial magazine, pleasing the advertisers, and praising the country. Selling Luang Prabang is a nice effort, but with insane hotel rates the best story can't cover that. The mag seems to be written to satisfy the customers who pay the ads. But, since it is distributed in "hotels, corporate offices, embassies, coffee places and other tourist gathering places in Vientiane, Luang Prabang, Pakse, Hauy Xai, Vang Vieng, Savannaket", it is at least worth skiping through the pages. The layout and design is state of the art and well done. Sabaidee is sold as well for 25.000 KIP, but I wouldn't pay any money for advertorials and stories already told (how many "off the beaten track" stories we have now in Laos?) like the culture of Lao coffee (never told before), Lao street food (wow!) and for sure totally honest and objective hotel reviews. I am not sure if this really fits to the expat market (I actually doubt it), but it might be nice for some tourists coming the first time to Laos and want some prove that the country is what the guide books say.