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.


  1. Garbage collection is like a lucky draw now, you never if they come 1 x per week or not (but pay for the full month of course) - something that worked well 2.5 years ago. Burning of garbage has increased, people burn plastic and everything else - and let us enjoy inhaling toxic fumes.
    Plus the quality of the existing roads is degrading extremely, just see what became of our once good paved road in our street. Now we need a Marsrover to manage the driving there. Funny that they "improved" good roads with no need for improvement for the ASEM Meeting at the same time for their "make up" circus for this meeting.

  2. to a certain extent it is true, but why would you ave Vientiane becoming american in 2 years. There are foods that are not in supermarket and are healthy and tasty. Personnally I an NOT looking forward to having Kentucky F... Chicken or Mac Do or any of those dreadfull expensive polluting chemicals around Vientiane. But they will come and the Lao will buy, part of status symbol.
    Roads, in 20 yrs all the main roads have been (re) built in '90. Every time I come back I see more new roads, 450, sithong, asean, T2 T3, T4. The road to Sayabury being built.
    Not to mention all the roads in the suburdbs. It seems that the main activity is moving soils (earth) from one place to another. Mainly from holes in the forest to fill rice fields.
    Entertainement: Who need more my 10 neighbours are Kompeting for the loudest Sound system and American or Thai movies. And that is the same even 20 km from VTE.
    Garbage is better and there is a degree of recycling, unfortunately not glass. Indeed plastic bags are buring and the level of dioxine in the air is probably a cause for chronic respiratory diseases, Skin rash, pimples, and reproduction disorders.
    As far as I am concerned I see fast changes, concreting, inflation, corruption, criminality, traffic, accidents, palaces (hotels and private), Castles (public and private), deforstation, disappearance of all the trees in VTE to be replaced by TV set. The city is definitely developing fast.
    In 2 year bangkokians will feel at home and in 10 it will be little NewYork....Or little Shanghai rather. But I won't come back to see it.

  3. #Progress
    WTC or VTC: https://www.facebook.com/VientianeCenter?ref=br_tf

  4. OK construction started. still want to see it opening and running. look at the mess at Thalat Sao mall.

  5. If they'd only spend some effort into cleaning the place, the streets, the sidewalks,- and the places of business and dwelling, then they'd have something. But even paved streets go unmaintained, unkept and unswept. Trash is strewn about like this place is a garbage dump, which in parts of the city, it is.

    Now that Google is photographing for its street view project here, the world will be able to see what a pig sty of a place this is, and avoid it. Temples can be seen in Bangkok, although the numerous statuary of communist party holders from the Pathet Lao can only be seen here in country.

    That there are no western business establishments here is part of its charm,- yet the country is fast falling behind in the dust of its industrializing neighbors. Perhaps the next generation will clean up the place, and then get started on some modernization (ie. repair and maintenance) of infrastructure. But here in Lao PRD, we don't talk about those things, lest we are afraid of disappearing.