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:

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).

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.

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.


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.

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.