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


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.

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.


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


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.


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.


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.