Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Shopping mall dreams in Laos

What looks so nice and shiny is just a dream. Don't even think about starbucks entering Laos anytime soon. This posters are just marketing tools, to lure people into investments they may regret later. If you look at the Sovannah Shopping center in Phnom Penh, you may get an idea what reality is:

Good news for Laos' wildlife

A country that was once called the land of the million elephants has now literarily eaten up a lot of it's wildlife, turned wild elephants into logging machines and monkeys into pets for monks. Now comes good news: Singapore-based animal charity, ACRES, together with the Lao Zoo, announced today the establishment of the first Wildlife Rescue and Education Center in Vientiane, Lao PDR. We will see if authorities are willing to work with ACRES in a sufficient way. Bear bile farms and monkey in captivity might a priority, but will interfere with interests of local businesses. Let's see if at least in this sector some law enforcement is possible. Oh, and one more thing:
As part of the MOU, ACRES will also be providing technical assistancefor the operation and management of the Lao Zoo.
In more clear words, it means: "You foreigners are allowed to operate the center if you help us with the zoo, since we would like to use the money from the entrance fee for our own purpose."

How to carry a dog

I see many times people carry their dog in the wrong way; You do NOT lift the dog with his forlegs. The simpel reason is that his muscles are not strong enough to carry the rest of the body, and his tendon will hurt a lot and will be over streched. This is how to carry a dog properly:
Another example how to lift is seen here:
On you can leanr more about how to lift and carry a dog. Again a warning: Do not lift the dog as you would lift a child! The dog's front legs and shoulders are NOT capable of carrying its weight without a severe risk of permanent damage to the ligaments of the shoulders!

Laos: Welcome to the zoo...

... where you can see Lao natives in their natural habitat: "Continuing its tradition of creating award-winning immersive experiences around the globe, Adventures by Disney announced today an all-new destination for 2013 - Southeast Asia. Featuring Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, the 12-day, 11-night itinerary will give travelers the opportunity to experience some of Asia's most exotic and culturally-rich cities - including Saigon, Hanoi, Hoi An, Luang Prabang, Siem Reap and Angkor Wat - in a way they may not have thought possible; as a family.(...) Families will work together in Laos at an organic rice farm where they will have a hand in each of the 13 stages of rice production" Don't even start telling me this is a good opportunity to see the local life. Organic rice makes a small percentage of Lao rice, and what is nice for a day trip for tourists is hard work for a farmers family. And I actually doubt that the rice farm is real - usually it is a make up, with a safe environment and an American Standard toilet hidden in a bamboo hut.

Sunday, March 25, 2012


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

We adopted a dog from SCAD Bangkok. Yoda was a tempel dog and in pretty bad condition when he was found. Now he is way better, his fur is coming back, parasites are negative and he is already a good friend with our two other dogs.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Tourist numbers face reality

Since a long time I hear reports from Lunag Prabang that business isn't as good as it was a year ago. 4-5 star hotels have occupancy rates that getting close to 20 percent. But no a guesthouse owner also complained about the lack of tourists. Meanwhile the official numbers try to bring sun into the darkness:
Laos welcomed 2,700,000 visits in 2011 and estimated tourism revenue of US$406 million, according to a Tourism Development Department, Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism’s announcement over the weekend. The growth rate declined from 25.13% to 8.34% when compared to 2010 and 2011.
as quoted in the TTR Magazine. Growth declined from 25 to 8 percent? Hello. Some other news mentioned that Luang Prabang is the only place to visit in the world, according to Wanderlust and others. So why nobody goes there anymore? First of all, 30 percent of tourists are Thai or Chinese, using border passes. They rarely make it to the top destinations, and the looking for cheap tours, often not even stay overnight. Thais in total make 58 percent. Visitors form Vietnam grew 30 percent while China just 6 percent. As the report mentions also:
Europe (6.67% share) supplied 181,539 tourists, marginally increasing by 1.91%. Several markets showed declines including key ones such as France (-0.99%), Germany (-5.77%) and UK (-4.43%). Visitors from the Americas (2.57% market share) reached 69,990, up 4%; 71.57% were from the US.
An if you want to see where the money comes from read this:
Regional tourists (passport and border pass holders from Thailand, Vietnam and China, 2,292,319 or 84.17% share), generated US$188,836,858 or US$37 per person per day. International tourists, tallied 431,245, generated US$217,347 million, an average of US$72 per person per day.
So, usually you would start targeting the high value markets, Unfortunatly this is not the case in Laos. Hotel rates are still raising, infrastructure need to be improved a lot, service and English language skills as well. Laos is still a beautiful destination worth a trip, but it has to move forward.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Stealing content - another one in Laos

And here we go: Enjoy-Laos seems to enjoy a bit to much what other people work hard on, and just steal it. This time, they copy and paste the text, but just use links to the pictures, as it would make a difference. And again, this is not a poor Lao who needs to survive with a few dollars a day. We are talking about a company that makes money out of content the stole from other people.
What is even more cheeky: Their blog doesn't allow you to just mark text and copy it (although the source code is still available). I think they want prevent people from stealing their content - if it was theirs.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Jobs you better not apply for

So you have experience in general office work, you are fluent in written and spoken Lao and English, you can work autonomously and you have excellent command of Microsoft Office applications - and you are looking for a job. Best places to look for is or Since skilled workers are rare in Laos, all companies offer you a lot - airconditioned office, health insurance, cantine, teambulding, nice co-workers. All companies? No: One just goes the other way. They published an ad that says:
Requirements: Home computer Internet connection Printer Car
Location: Work from home but must be in Sisattanak District, Vientiane This company does not only business consulting (might be experts in cost reduction), but also marketing and it-consulting - stuff that of course doesn't need any constant input from co-workers. What we learned: The demand for skilled labor is high, so you can dictate the rules - not the company that wants to hire you.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Good news: Dog owners found

We have a happy end: The young male dog we found on Sunday at Chao Anouvong Park is back with his family. Someone showed them the posters we distributed around the park area, and they called me yesterday. It seems that Maxi like to walk around and follow people. If he had that leg injury, we wouldn't have picked him up. And since he had no collar, and we couldn't find the owners even we went back Sunday late morning, we decided to keep him as a foster dog while looking for his place. Learning this, just some advice: Get your dog a collar with a name tag and a phone number Get the dog chipped and registered (Dr. Kamdeng is offering this service) Do not let your dog roam around. Dogsnatching happens a lot. Walk your dog and play a lot with him or her.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

The spooke house of Hom 6

Dog found at Chao Anouvong Park!

Young male dog found at Chao Anouvong Park, Sunday morning 8am. The dog has a injury at the right back leg that was treated by a vet before. If you know where the dog belongs, please call 02096572894.
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Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Mega mall - nothing visible yet

With a lot of drumrolls Regal Investment last year announced their MegaMall shopping mall project, a billion Dollar investment. The five floor building is meant to be located close to the airport.

When I went there a few days ago, I could only see a fence and a office building what seems to be the sales office.

MegaMall is planned to open 2013, however, no construction has started yet. When I lived in Cambodia 5 years ago, Korean investors started the Golden Tower project. I predicted it will never be finished, because the market was not ready for a big project like this. Until now it is unfinished.

My concern is that the Megamall will have the same faith. If your concept for a mall is to sell the shops without taking care of what product mix you have, you attract only small retailers, and they are not able to pay the whole investment. Premium brands are not entering Laos yet with outlets or retail stores because the market is too small. So let's wait until we see the first construction workers - I doubt it will happen this year.

Big C in Vientiane end of 2012?

Vientiane Times reported today that Big C management talked with potential Lao suppliers about what they can provide. Big C mentioned it plans to have 50 percent Lao products. I guess mainly fruit, vegetable and fish, maybe local meat as well. The article also says the supermarket located in the 3rd floor of the new Thalat Sao shopping mall will open end of this year - what is another major delay, since a first opening was expected this month.

Monkeys held in Laos for laboratory trade

AFP and several newspapers run a story about monkeys held in Laos for trade: Monkey in Bhutan
Thousands of monkeys are being held in overcrowded and barren farms in Laos and sold for international laboratory research, according to a report from a British animal protection group. Laos has exported nearly 35,000 long-tailed macaques since 2004 as part of a fast-growing trade in the species for research, the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection (BUAV) said in a statement released Monday.
I wonder if this is again called a tradition and untouchable? I see so many young people now in Vientiane having dogs as pets and taking care of them, I just hope this also will change a mindset in the population soon, that animals a creatures as we are, and should be treated with respect.

Monday, March 5, 2012

A day in Vientiane part 2

U&I Brasserie and Salon: new in town

Ok it is a month already since U&I opened, but this is still considered new in Laos. I recognized the new place on my way to That Luang. It is located at Rue Nongbone, a bit after the street divides (go direction That Luang, a bit left, then it is on the right).
The restaurant, apparently owned by a French-Lao couple, opens at 8am and closes at midnight. It offers Lao food like grilled fish with salt crust as well as western food (the usual suspects, but also cheese plates and a caramelized pie). The interior is contemporary Lao style, what means an old building refurbished, with some bamboo seats and some modern ones (although I never understand why some restaurants use glass tables, it is a nightmare to keep them clean). Also, there is some entertaining: Monday is movie night (A night in Paris for example), Tuesday is Nintendo Wii Game night, and coming soon are Friday Salsa lessons. The restaurant can also be booked for parties. I haven't tried the food yet, but at least my fruit juice was delicious and fopr sure I will come back and give the place a try for dinner. The staff speaks speak Lao, Francais and English.
Attached is a beauty salon with the usual services like shampoo, haircut for men and women, extensions etc.

Controversial article about Vang Vieng, but worth reading

CNNGo has an article about the tubing scence in Vang Vieng, and it is worth reading.
Magic mushroom shake? Opium pizza? Bucket of whiskey anyone? Welcome to Vang Vieng, former traditional farming village, now hot point of drugs, booze, techno and partying and Laos’ hottest backpacker haunt. The rise -- perhaps that should be fall -- of this town sitting on the Nam Song River and surrounded by beautiful karst scenery, has been dramatic, and its notoriety has spread far. You are more likely to see topless tourists vomiting than you are local culture and it has been written: “If teenagers ruled the world, it might resemble Vang Vieng.” It has hit the headlines most dramatically in recent months for the deaths of at least two Australian tourists while tubing on its river. Lee Hudswell and Daniel Eimutis both lost their lives while taking part in the town's most popular activity. So what is it really like to spend a few days here?
I do not agree with the point, that backpackers are good for local income - the same would be true for brothels or bauxite mines. But in general it is an interesting insight about the stupidity of people we thought would be well educated.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Another goal for China

China is already building the villas for the heads of state for the EU-ASEAN summit in November, and they now claimed another piece of premium real estate: the abandoned area opposite Mahosot hospital on the river site.

It reminds me of old western movies, when the gold diggers claimed their land with markers: nowadays the use fences. Blue at Kouviang road, white at riverside.
Rumormill is spinning fast wht will happen there, but so far it seems it will be just a make up for the summit, bacaus the area looks a bit shabby to be presented to the world leaders.
So the question is, why does a Chinese company develop the place?I haven't seen a public bit for it, so it is either a donation by the great people of China or it is part of larger deal, or it will be just a placeholder until the end of the summit. Maybe for another shopping mall?

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Slash and burn: Visit foggy Laos Year 2012

I complained about the trash and burn already, but now is the season for a more serious threat, the slash and burn. Farmers in Thailand, Myanmar and Laos burning down rice fields as well as forests and any other agricultural used land. This results in a large haze. The effects: Transportation is on hold, since pilot do not have enough visibility. People in the area suffering from breathing problems, asthma, etc. Not to mention the huge amount of CO2 that is exposed, and the change for the micro climate because of the small particles the smog contains. The picture shows a satellite image from Nasa, taken over Thailand
Caption: As the 2012 agricultural fire season progressed in Indochina, smoke blanketed the region and aerosol particulates increased to potentially unhealthy levels. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) aboard the Aqua satellite captured this true-color image of the vast amount of smoke and haze hovering over the region on February 23, 2012. The image is centered in northern Thailand, where thick ropes of gray smoke lie in each valley, obscuring the land except for the green lines of mountain ridges. To the west is Myanmar (Burma) and to the east is Laos. Fires also burn in Vietnam (far east) and southern China (northeast). Although the smoke is heaviest in valleys and near the red hot spots that mark heat from fires, no section of sky in this entire region is free of smoke. On February 19, the Bangkok Post reported that the Public Health Ministry had begun to hand out 50,000 face masks to residents of the haze-shrouded northern provinces of Thailand. The masks were to be distributed to eight provinces where the PM10 (particulate matter level of up to 10 micrometers in diameter) were found to be higher than acceptable standards. These provinces were Phayao, Nan, Phrae, Mae Hong Son, Lamphun, Lampang, Chiang Rai, and Chiang Mai. On February 23, the day this image was captured it was reported that the situation had clearly worsened, causing the local airport in Lampang to turn the runway lights on in daylight, to aid in the safe landing of aircraft. All together, it is just as bad as it looks. But of course government in the effected regions are concerned, but are not able to take any action. The yearly blabla, followed by yet another NGO project to develop alternatives for the farmers who do the burning. Flights to Luang Prabang are now extremely delayed or cancelled, flights in other parts of the country are totally cancelled. Great, since this year is called the Visit Laos year 2012 ("if you can make it ever into the country) - should be the subtitle.