Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Lao Airlines Crash in Pakse

It is the morning after the horrific news and I am still shocked. All passengers and crew members of the Lao Airlines flight from Vientiane to Pakse on October 16th died will the plane crashed in what the airline calls bad weather conditions. The teen daughter of a friend of mine was on that plane. She was on the way to Vietnam - she just had received a scholarship to study.

Lao Airlines doesn't have a bad record, and the ATR Turbo prop planes are safe and widely used in regional flights. Australian News quoted an expert who said Lao Airlines did not participate in international safety audits.

 I actually like it to fly with an ATR. The route to Pakse isn't particular difficult and the pilots are used to it. What comes into account this time was the bad weather. Tropical Storm Nari just hit Vietnam and was effecting Laos as well (but storms like this are usual as well).

Again, it isn't per se a reason to postpone all flights. But Lao Airlines cancels actually a lot of flights frequently, for several reasons. Weather is one, in particular in the south. Mining people can tell you how many times they have to use the bus because the flight were cancelled. So the question will remain, why this flight was considered safe.

The competence about flying in Laos declines within the hierarchy. That means pilots, crew and ground staff are the most competent workers, while the top management both within the airline, but also within the ministry of transportation, doesn't have a lot of skills when it comes to flying. A friend with a pilot licence once told me there isn't one person with a flying licence working in the ministry.

It is actually a miracle that Laos has just a clean record, and everyone was actually wondering why there were not accidents. Maybe because of the experienced pilots, maybe because of the limited numbers of flights. The frequency is increasing, and this increases the risk of an accident.

I hope that Laos will follow international regulations regarding the investigation of the crash. Pictures showed that the scene was kind of secured with ropes, but I wouldn't be surprised when the hundreds of spectators took debris and/or valuables they found. There is always something to learn from a crash, and thats why a proper investigation is so important. Not to blame someone in the first place, but to know why. That is also important to know for the families of those who lost their lifes.

There are some rather disturbing news that Lao authorities want to cremate all bodies before the buddhist lent ceremonies start on the weekend. I wonder how foreign families will react to this - but maybe foreigners are excluded.

My thoughts are with the families who lost there loved ones.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

A Science Show on radio in Laos!

Science isn't something that comes into ones mind when thinking about Laos. The countrys number of patents is very low - close to zero - and universities focus more on communist ideas and Lao culture than providing knowledge. The Lao education system isn't encouraging young people to be curious - it's more a shut up and write down what I just told you policy.

But this is going to change. One man seems to have enough of the lack of science news and just took things in his own hands. Virasak Viravong is a IT teacher, who is also quite interested in science himself.
So a few months ago he decided to just set up a facebook page and start posting science news. "I think Science it's very hard for general people to understanding but it's very interesting and fun. so I try to share about info that i read, listen, watch... to Laos people by created a Facebook Page name "ວິທະຍາສາດ" ( for write a short article about Science (short, easy to read and easy to understand)", he told me via Facebook message.

 The success is already there. "I started my facebook page on 14 feb 2013 to now I've 2,800 people like the page", he counts. But it goes even further: "In July Vientiane radio Fm98.8MHz (Butterfly Radio) staff saw my page and contracted me for bring science to a radio program name "Science Talk" with the slogan "science is not something distant".

 "Science Talk" is on air every Mon-Sat, starts from 9pm to 10pm at FM98.8MHz (Vientiane Radio) with various topics such as healthy, biology, physic, Astronomy, technology, scientist biography, etc. For me this is just an amazing thing to see. I always believed (and still do) that people should take education and sharing of knowledge into their own hands. Virasak (nickname Mee) is also part of the Barcamp organizers team, and maybe it was there when he saw that you don't need superiors or much of an institution to share knowledge.

 Of course I asked him if the program is already available as podcast, but he told be the radio station doesn't even record it. But he may think about doing it himself.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Lao - NZ movie looking for initial funding

Sometimes you support friends even if you still have questions left. But I believe in the talent of Anysay Keola and the power of Vannaphone Sitthirath so please support this project!!! Heart People is an exciting international collaboration between a collective of filmmakers from New Zealand and Laos PDR. They aim to produce a heartfelt and dramatic story of the human spirit - set in the dangerous underworld of illegal logging and mining in the picturesque provence of Xiengkhouang, Laos.
We share a love of filmmaking and are joining forces to create something special and unique. We are looking at getting this project up and running in two stages. Stage 1: research and development of the story Stage 2: Sourcing production and post production funding. We are being realistic about this process and certainly won't be looking to Boosted to fund the production of this film. We are turning to Boosted for stage 1 only.
Twitter: @heartpeoplefilm Facebook: Crowdfunding site:

Monday, July 15, 2013

Another goodbye, this time from the Animal Rescue Center

When we moved to Bangkok, I was quite sad to leave the Animal Rescue Center behind. Although I wasn't legally in charge and just doing some PR work, I was emotionally involved. It was always a dream to support, or even run a center like this. So I was quite happy that Trevor Freeman told me he wants to open one. It took a while to find a suitable place, and even longer to set up at least basic infrastructure there. When I left Laos, it was just good enough to take in emergency cases (it has changed over time, facilities are much better). But there was always some disagreement about priorities. While I was insisting it is a rescue center, the owners were focussing on the commercial part, the dog hotel. It made some sense, since donations were really low, and the dog hotel brought some income. Also, I didn't like the way the hotel dogs were kept, most of the time on a leash or in a small cage, and adressed this before we left Laos. It seems now that the Rescue part totally failed. There are some kittens, but thats it. The focus is now on not only the hotel, but also breeding, something I never wanted (the first puppies I was told were an accident. Now I know it was intentional). I don't think that money went into the wrong channels. As you can see at the center, a lot of work was done. Also, Foxy, the small dog who didn't make it and the kittens needed medical care, that doesn't come for free. But, I never had an insight to the accounting books. Beside the "you can see whenever you want" no other action was taken to actually show me the numbers. Still, I believe that the donations were used for the center (I know it at least for the time when I was still there). But I think the focus shifted from a rescue center to a business (what it is formally, a company, but that was done to set it up quickly and not having some greedy officials sitting next to you). Recent developments and the way they were handled by the owner and manager of the center raised concerns. Doubts came about integrity, but also about my role. It doesn't make sense to be involved in something when you only have to execute. So I decided to leave this project. It is up to you, dear reader, to support the center or not. But before you do it, go there, have a look by yourself, and ask what the money is specifically used for. Just to get a better picture. Or insist on the use of the money. Laos doesn't have a center like this, and it needs one. The US Embassy support the WWF Wildlife Center with 50.000 USD, while the LARC never got a single dollar from them. Dogs are left to die when they are sick in Laos, and that should not be the case. Also, we just had not enough money to start educational programs. I know that Paws4thoughts are working on that, and wish them Good Luck with it.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Laos Best Tourism Destination awarded: Who is behind it?

It went all over the news in Laos, and even neighboring countries. Laos awarded as best Tourist Destination in 2013. The awards was handed over by the "European Union Council on Tourism and Trade". That sounds quite impressive. But in case you think that has anything to do with the European Union, you are wrong. The EUROPEAN COUNCIL ON TOURISM AND TRADE( ECTT )is, according to its website, "a non-profit making organization with its headquarters in Bucharest . Its members are from 27 European Union Tourism Organizations , whose role is to market and promote tourism and investment opportunities outside the European Union in general, and to individual countries in particular." Sounds still good, but the next paragraph makes the real goal a bit more clear: "This is ECTT's corporate website, which is aimed at industry, government and educational personnel interested in obtaining tourists from European Union to their countries." A screenshot shows that the Visit Laos Logos are well placed on the websites right sidebar. If you scroll a bit further down, you will see the winner of 2012, Trinidad and Tobago. The council resides in Bucharest, not really the melting pot of the tourism industry in Europe, and not really the best place for lobbyists. Asking who is behind this, it is a bit difficult to get answers.
"WHO ARE THE MEMBERS ? The European Tourist Organizations insuring the outgoing of national tourism on non European Union destinations . They elect a President, two Vice-Presidents as members of Board of Directors for revolving six years terms."
Let's get some names: Vice-President for Marketing & PR Technology Task Force: Nicoale Nicolae Mr. Nicolae Nicolae was Vice president of UGIR 1903 (General Confederation of Romanian Industrialists), a national multi-sector organization that represents businesses of all sizes and more than 16% of Romania’s employment base. Mr. Nicolae was or still is also the owner of a commercial printing company. Other names are Dr. Mircea Constantinescu, Senator Ionel Agrigoroaiei, Prof. Dr. Anton Caragea, at least in 2012 Director of Institute of International Relations and Economic Cooperation in Bucharest. All of these names are Romaina, and all of them work for some Romanian companies, institutes or organisations. In September 2011 the same Prof. Dr Anton Garagea, also President of the European Council on International Relations, opened a military trade show which appears to have been organized by the ECIR. A better idea of who is who gives the European Tourism Academy, also fully staffed with Romanians. One would wonder since when Romania has become the place to go for tourism training. Trinidad Express wrote an interesting article about the way Trinidad got awarded last year.
However, Prof Anton Caragea, president of the Bucharest, Romania- based organisation, said that the Minister had approached the organisation in April to find out more about the award. Speaking to reporters at the same event, he said, "The Minister of Tourism asked us—I think it was in April—how can Trinidad and Tobago obtain this award for next year? We gave them the guidelines and started the selection process. When this was completed, only three countries remained: Cuba, Nigeria and T&T.
The only problem is that the Tourism Minister Rupert Griffith recalls the story a bit different:
"We did not woo them—this did not cost us a penny. They informed us that they were doing a study of Trinidad and Tobago in terms of its tourism, culture and environment to relate to people around the world. They got copies of our tourism policy documents and plans...
To make it a point: This award is not known in the tourism industry. The ECTT is not affiliated with any part of the European Unions Institutions. It is questionable where the money is coming from, and in Trinidad rumours spread fast that despite a deny from ECTT money was given to receive the reward. ECTT says on its website:
ECTT is entirely financed by members contributions and with additional financial support for specific campaigns is raised overseas. Long-standing foreign industry support for ECTT activities is proof of its credibility and stability in the field of tourism .
But it doesn't name any of the donors of contributors. It is quite common that for awards like this that a kind of fee is paid, either for travel expenses to hand over the awards (totally overpriced of course), or some operational and administration costs. The whole story reminds me of the New 7 Wonders awards. GooSeeWrite has a nice summery of this. It looks like the Lao government just fell for the ECTT, mainly because of their desperate need to get good news, and unfortunately many media organisations got fooled as well. I understand that Lao people are proud of any news about their country, but sometimes it is quite embarrassing. And I also understand that me, the messenger, will blamed by some for the bad news.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Laos Travel Video - Finally Found Love, Finally Found Laos

For those who missed it: Finally, there is a professional tourism video about Laos available. Made by Ideasquest for their client ispot Travel information Center, it is in the tradition of the Incredible India campaign, follows a couple through their different experiences in Laos. Well produced, well written, and I kinda like the claim "Finally found love, finally found Laos".

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

One more thing...

Just a few days after I arrived in Bangkok, good news came from Laos. The best Lao movie ever, At The Horizon, is now available online. The uncensored version costs 9 USD, and don't even think about complaining. This movie was done by volunteers, the few dollars they had were sound for some food for the actors and to rent equipment. And yes, YOU expat in Vientiane, it is time to prove that supporting the Lao art is more than attending some fancy exhibition or the after show party in Luang Prabang. 9 Dollar is nothing for the expats in Laos (including the teachers), but it is a big motivation for the film makers. So, CLICK AND BUY!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Time to say "Good Bye Laos"

Tuktuk When I came to Laos I had no idea about my future home. Although I was here as a tourist about 13 years ago, I lost most memories beside Luang Prabang and Phonesavanh. But since it was the 4th country to live, I wasn't expecting anything. My basic rules to survives as an expat: Don't expect anything, be open and don't look back. Settling down was kind of easy, I started learning Lao by book first, then with my teacher Noot (I was actually her first student): She took me to an acceptable level of Lao - but I was caught by the plateau problem, what means you stay on a certain and mostly low level. Anyway, it was enough to start communications with my Lao neighbours. I cannot thank my puan ban enough: Metu Champa, Kiao, San, Khuan, Joy, Noy, Ung, Jee and Mai are wonderful and kind people. Without them, life wouldn't have been as good as it was here. As a member of the Barcamp movement, I was lucky enough to had John Berns here for his visa run a month after I moved to Laos. He suggested to schedule a Barcamp meeting - three days later we had already an organisation committee. At this event I met my friend Nin, at this time still more into IT than film making, but that changed a lot. He is one of the people I admire the most and I am proud and honoured that he worked with me on my award winning short movie "Forever". I also got in contact with Day, Os, Air, Thip and Manichanh - still people I call friends in Laos. I turned a bit from IT to film, mainly to just try to organize a film camp - and it was successful. It was just once, but my mission is to plant the seed, and maybe water it a bit. This years Barcamp 2013 is organised solely by the Lao team - time to move on. The film camp got me in touch with the film community, and I was pleased to meet people like Anysay Keola, Thon, Thou, Kino, Ding, Hans, Chris and Mattie as well as Bounchao, the director of the Cinema Department and Gabriel Kuperman, Director of the Luang Prabang Film Festival. To fulfil my parents wish I studied economy after I finished my civil service, and although I changed to history and politics later, economy is always a topic of interest for me. I attended the Webwednesdays in Saigon a lot, a gathering for the internet marketing community. Since Vientiane was lacking of informal events like that, I started the Laos Business Meeting. It lasted at least 6 month, but then less participants were attending and I decided to stop it. I still think Vientiane needs it, maybe it was too early for me. So, what will I take with me and what will I leave behind in Laos? I take some language skills I can use in Thailand, a big plus. Also, cultural differences are not that big, Laos prepares me quite good for the move. I have good memories and experiences. I also got insights to the life of average Lao people in the city - something many foreigners rarely get. And I got even more convinced that the international aid business is just a business, but not designed to make a significant change. Laos, as most developing countries, is in this situation because of the way it's ruled. This system proved to be wrong in most countries in the world, and the opening in Vietnam, China and Laos to markets shows I am right. Also, as long as eduction, and it's core, the curriculum, isn't changed radically, Laos will remain a developing country. Teachers need to change their rules and behaviour, and students need to understand how important learning is (not the certificate). Finally, I learned a lot about the so called Lao culture. While it is important for any society to preserve it's heritage, culture is used quite often as an excuse for avoiding change. Unfortunately this is supported by a lot of NGOs as well. Arts never really developed, creativity isn't known here and so is invention. Laos has very few patents, and science is still in it's infancy. Laos doesn't need more farmers nor MBAs, it needs people with skills, with passion and commitment. My advice to the 20 somethings in Laos: Quit school or college, learn and PRACTISE English and/or Chinese, travel around Asia and get experience in foreign companies. I will be just an hour by flight away from Laos, so I am pretty sure I will come back from time to time (and if it is only for the food I like so much). But I am looking forward to Bangkok, to be in a much more developed environment. I don't blame Lao people for the status of the country, but personally, there are not many (intellectual) challenges for me. Since I want to do more in the film business, I think Thailand has more to offer. Laos has become a home country for a certain type of falang we know from Pattaya and the Isaan and we tried to avoid. There is a certain risk that you start lower your standards, sometimes just because you have to (just say: Mahosot). It is also still a playground for too many NGOs (and foreign aid agencies) who want to make change, but only in small projects. As long as you work close with those who are causing the problem, you can't solve it. Last but not least, the decision to move is based on the promotion of my wife Nataly. She got a new job at Diethelm Travel in the head office in Bangkok. So we will leave Laos for good, but with no regrets. Khop Chai Lai Lai, and Sok Dee Lao. Below a video of Anouxay and Sukhan playing Lao and Western guitar. Sukhan was our guard, but he and his family became good friends. I will miss them a lot.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Barcamp Vientiane 2013

Some impression from this years Barcamp.

BarCamp is an international network of user-generated conferences (or better unconferences). They are open, participatory workshop-events, whose content is provided by participants. The first BarCamps focused on early-stage web applications, and were related to open source technologies, social protocols, and open data formats. The format has also been used for a variety of other topics. In Asia, you will find also topics about culture.

Venues typically provide basic services. Free network access, usually WiFi, is crucial. In Vientiane  provided free food and drinking water.

Attendance is monetarily free and restricted only by space constraints. Participants encouraged to sign up in advance.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Trailer Handful Of Love

The trailer for a new short movie I made, in post-production now.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Barcamp Vientiane coming - gathering of tech experts, nerds and geeks

There was a break, mainly because of some international conferences in Vientiane, but the Barcamp Vientiane is back. It will be held on March 23rd at the National University of Laos, Campus Sokpaluang, Department of Science and Technology ('opposute Korean Embassy, just follow the signs). A Barcamp is a gathering of people interested in technology. You don't need to be a programmer or developer, but you need to be interested (or even passionate) about technology. There is no pre-agenda, a barcamp organize itself. So if there is a topic you want to talk about, just show up in the morning, grab a pen and write down your topic on the time table. Registration is open already, and its free! For some more information (maps etc) go the the website and/or watch this video

Friday, March 8, 2013

Lao Fashion Show

Fashion designer NITHAYA SOMSANITH showed his collection he designed with students from the French school in Vientiane.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Vientianale 2013 is over and I won the 2nd prize

That was quite a surprise: My short movie "Forever" won the 2nd prize in the Vientianale Short Film contest 2013 (thanks to the organisers  a great festival!). Below is the video. But first I want to write about about the movie.

I had the idea of that movie a while ago when I learned about a novice committed suicide in our temple.  Although it was even in the newspaper, I thought suicide is still something people in Laos don't want to talk about. (For example my neighbours didn't tell me because they thought it's bad luck to even talk about).

So the theme of the movie was given - a suicide. I was first thinking about a documentary about this novice, but wasn't sure if this would fit in a short movie. So I decided to just use the case as a starting point.

In three years I collected a lot of stories here from young people struggling - with their work, parents, partners etc. Some of these stories are part of the movie. I actually don't know a girl that committed suicide in Laos, but do have friends in Germany who did so.  I think it is a universal topic, but it's important to talk about. So I wrote a script about an average girl with kind of average problems she just can't handle. I know that many suicides have a trigger, in my movie it's the grandmas dad.

I want to show that most young people committing suicide have the same problems like you and me - so it's not something special and not worth throwing away your life.

The movie wouldn't have happend without the help of some extraordinary people. First of all my friend Nin  aka Thanavorakit Kounthawatphinyo, the most talented filmmaker in Laos, who did the cinematography and editing for the movie as well as the sound recording for the voice over. And giving me a lot much needed and appreciated advice.

Naphaphone Manoy Phalivong was assisting me in the production, translated the script and put me in touch with Phak, the main actress. She also did the voiceover and gave the movie the film the final touch. Great job!

Phaknapha PHOSITHATH turnded out to be a natural talent as actress (it was her first movie ever) and she helped me also a lot with casting.

A huge Thank you and Khop Chai Lai Lai goes to my neighbours and Lao friends, who took part in the movie. They are listed below.

Soukan Keobuaban ( Father )
Vanphew Thanmainxay( Mother )
Phetkesone SAENGTAHEUANGHOUNG ( little girl)
Anouxa PHOSITHATH ( Investor )
Anousay Keobouaban (Boyfriend)
Suaphaphone Thepbundith (Teacher)

Vilaysone Keobouabane (Student)
Sonelani Sidavong (Student)
Toupor Yangleuxay (Student)
Phiathep (Student)
Champa Meuanphachanh (Grandmother)

Sataphone Sibounheuang was sweating a lot as camera assistant and did a great job as well. Noy was very helpful in providing us her house as a location, her dog Betty as a cast member (and cold drinks).

And finally I have to thank you my wife Nataly, who gave me the time and support to make this short movie. 

The 7 minutes limit was given by the organizers, so I wrote the script accordingly. 

And now, enjoy the movie:

The Winner film is now online: Teddy Jay

And finally "Bad Dream", the 3rd prize

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Lao diplomats are fast - at least in cars

This is the story of the year: BOC asks Laos Embassy to justify importation of 3 exotic sports cars .
It seems that the Lao Embassy in the Philippines tried to import a Ferrari Spider and 2 (!)  Lamborghini Aventadors, claiming these are diplomat cars. Or better not claiming anymore. Because, regarding to the newspapers report "Since they arrived on Nov. 28, nobody has come forward to claim the cars after BOC agents questioned why diplomats would buy fast cars as their service vehicles."

Ferrari f430 SpiderFerrari f430 Spider by Axion23, on Flickr

Just in case you are wondering where all the money goes that is so much needed in Laos and its rural areas - its needed to put diplomats on the fast track...

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Vientianale opened yesterday

It is THE event to go for all film enthusiast and - makers: The 3rd Vientianale opened yesterday at the National Circus. Opening movie was the Lao art media production "Chantaly", with a late screening and premiere of Bang Soun by my friend Nin as the closing.
Until Saturday you can watch movies for free during the day at the Department of Cinema (near PVO Vietnamese Food restaurant) and in the evening at the National Circus.

Saturday from 5pm on will be the most important event: The screening of the short movies from this years contest. I too part in it with "Forever", a short film about a Lao girl struggling with her life and making the wrong decision.

Award ceremony will be at 9pm.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Bored at the weekend? Visit the Animal Rescue Center

The Center will be open every Saturday and Sunday for the public. We have horses (and yes, kids can ride on them), rabbits, guinea pigs, birds, cats and dogs (yes, puppies too). And refreshments. after the good response last weekend we decided to open the center every weekend to the public as kind of a events in particular for families. Just come by.

It is located at Hom 4 in Ban Phone Kham. Go the Chao Anouvon Road to the Russian Circus, on the traffic light there go straight, at the Petrolimex Gas Station turn left, follow the street until there is a tempel wall in front of you, turn left and follow the street until you see two (small, sorry) signs for the Animal Rescue Center on the right. Turn in that street until the sign Hom 4 and follow the small street until you see the Center.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Vietnam takes lead in FDI, China only third

It is a bit like a race: When it comes to FDI in Laos, Vietnam, Thailand and China chasing each other and changing positions quite often. A surprise for many is that China is now only third.

Bangkok Post reported: 

Vietnam leads all foreign investments in Laos, followed by Thailand - with mining becoming the most popular sector for foreign investors, according to the Lao government
The Lao Ministry of Planning and Investment said Vietnam invested in 429 projects in Laos, worth about US$4.9 billion (147 billion baht) from 1989 to 2011, followed by Thailand, which invested in 742 projects worth $4 billion, The Vientiane Times reported on Tuesday.
China came third with 801 projects, with a combined value of $3.9 billion. Other leading investors included South Korea, France, Malaysia, Japan, India, Singapore and the United States.
Mining is still the top investment, raising question how long this will last and how the economy will benefit from. Most money from mining is leaving the country or goes into the state budget as tax or fees - but not really into consumption.
Also many FDIs are announced, but never realised. Look at the shopping malls. 

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Police report on Sombaths disappearance

There only two paragraphs worth quoting from todays Vientiane times article about the police report regarding Sombath Somphones disappearance:

After having interrogated the traffic police who were working at the car checking area on that day, it was reported that there was a regular random check on cars on daily basis and they could not remember whose cars they have checked and which one belongs to whom as they have checked many cars each day. After checking the documents and when all documents were found correct, they then returned them to the car owners and allowed them to go according to the rules and regulations. They also confirmed that in the area under their responsibility during the time of reported incident, the situation was normal and there was no any incident of fighting or violence occurred and no car or individual was detained....

Until now Mr Sombath Somphone the reported missing person, has not yet been found and no further evidence and information concerning his missing obtained.
2. The authority does not detain him. The Police authority has lent its full cooperation starting from authorising the viewing of the CCTV footage to the conduct of the search and investigation. The instructions from the leadership of the Ministry of Public Security demonstrated its sincerity on the case, contrary to the accusation made by some organisations and groups of bad elements. If the missing of Mr Sombath Somphone really happened, it might be due to personal conflict or business conflict or any other conflicts.

So, it means that Sombath wasn't forced and did not inform the police officers. That means he either knew his abductors or he was aware that it would not be helpful to inform the nearby police.

Also we learned the POLICE authority did not detain him. Also we learn, that BAD ELEMENTS make accusations about the "sincerity of the case". Interesting handling of a case like this. The last sentence could be understood as "could not find him, case closed".

Wasn't there another case a few years ago quite similiar to this?

Friday, January 25, 2013

Electric bike shop - sale and rent

i just saw this new electric bike shop not so far from the M-Point in Sihom. It's actually opposite the Mpoint mart in Sihom. Apparently they're selling electric bikes in many different sizes and they have them also for rent, and it seems that they also sell spare parts and recharge batteries. I didn't rent or buy something there, but I think it's worth a visit if you want to have a electric bike.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Please apply for the Mekong ICT camp 2013

Mekong ICT Camp 2013 – Apply Now!

The bi-annual workshop-camp designed for the individuals and groups who are committed for ICT4D (information, communication and technology for development) starts the application for its 2013 camp, the third of its kind after 2008 and 2010.
The 2013 camp is, following the preceding camps, a five-day activity offering three tracks and each is comprised of lectures, hand-on technological workshops, case studies, program initiation and collaboration under the principle of participation, spontaneity, innovation and collaboration. The three tracks of trainings are: Disaster Management, Info-Activism and ICT for Rural Social Development. Each applicant is required to choose one track of the three that best fits your line of work, expertise and experience. Please read course/track description carefully before applying. Should you need clarification, please contact us.

Activity Name: Mekong ICT Camp 2013

Date: May 6-10, 2013

Place/Country: The Sirindhorn Environmental Park

Cha-am, Phetchaburi, Thailand (official English website)

Read the Introduction of Mekong ICT Camp 2013

2010 Camper testimonies

Co-Organized by: Thai Fund Foundation, Open Dream, Thai Netizen Network and
Frontier Foundation.

For the ease of processing, we only accept Online Application

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Hillary Clinton issues statement about Sombath Somphone

The case isn't forgotten. Even if the powerful hoped media attention will fade, it is actually the opposite. After ASEPF parliamentarians issued a blunt statement about their visit with Lao authorities yesterday, now US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton talks about Sombath. It seems the ice is getting thinner for some.

Press Statement: Disappearance of Lao Civil Society Leader Sombath Somphone

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Washington, DC
January 16, 2013

We are deeply concerned about the well-being of Lao civil society leader Sombath Somphone, who disappeared one month ago. Reports indicate that Mr. Sombath went missing on December 15, 2012 after being stopped at a police checkpoint in the capital city of Vientiane. We call upon the Lao government to pursue a transparent investigation of this incident and to do everything in its power to bring about an immediate and safe return home to his family.

Since receiving his education in the United States, Mr. Sombath has worked tirelessly to promote sustainable development in Laos and he inspired a new generation of young leaders. He founded the Participatory Development Training Center, which trains Lao youth and local government leaders in community development and poverty reduction. His disappearance has generated a tremendous amount of concern from his family, friends and colleagues around the world. We urge his immediate return home and send our thoughts and prayers to his family and loved ones.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

The Top 5 restaurants in Vientiane (updated 10/2014)

I was thinking about writing this article for a while, but never wrote it. The main reason is that it is hard to find 5 TOP restaurants. It is quite easy to have two or three, but then it gets difficult. So what is my benchmark for a good restaurant? It needs to balance the three main factors well. Those are food, service and ambience. The food must be not only of good quality, but should also show some creativity in preparing and displaying it. The service needs to be customer focussed with at least knowing the basics (and providing this every day). The ambience must be outstanding compared to the mainstream, something special. None of the restaurants in the list below will score highest in all categories, but at least they are close.

1. Acqua Italian Restaurant

The owner Gerado is very ambitious and has high expectations of his staff and work (he co-owned Aria next door before, but opened the new Acqua just recently).  The italian restaurant is fin dining at it's best, from homemade paste to finest lobsters and seafood. The owner has highest expectation to service and food quality, and to show that, he installed a big window to the kitchen, so guest can see how their food is prepared. Acqua also offers a huge selection of wines and private rooms upstairs. 

10 Rue François Ngin, Ban Mixay, Open daily for lunch and dinner

2. Le Silapa (French-Asian Fusion)
In terms of food and creativity Le Silapa is the best place to go. The Menu is very unique in Vientiane, quality of food always on a high level. Le Silapa recently moved form a beautiful small house that gave guests a lot of privacy, to the first floor of I-Beam. although the reasons for the move or understandable from the owners point of view, it lost a bit of it's charme, and suprisingly the level of service dropped significantly. It's still above most places here, but one would expect more for the price they pay for the - again - outstanding food.

Setthathirat Road, opposite Wat Inpeng. Open daily for lunch and dinner.

3. Fujiwara Japanese Restaurant
Fujiwara was one of the first Japanese restaurants in Vientiane and for a long time the most popular. It lost customers to the recently opened Thai owned Fuji, and both are in the same league of quality of food. Yet, Fujiwara still has some advantage when it comes to ambience and dining experience. It is one of the places where you like to sit just a little bit longer.

Rue Setthathilath, Vientiane, Laos

4. L'Adresse
This might be the best french restaurant in town, yet it has it's problems: It is overpriced, if you are not french you don't feel much welcomed, and a sense of arrogance was in the air when I visited it last time (or better try to visit: We came a bit early before opening at 6.30pm, and were told to come back later).
Yet, if it has to be french cuisine, this place is the hot spot for this type of restaurant. Well decorated, it is a nice place to have dinner. The menu contains the usual suspects, from duck liver to lamb with rosemary, but of good quality. 


5. Muzaic Restaurant
This place is a little bit different: It is not fine dining, but something so special that it has to be on this list. They serve outstanding salmon laap, pumkin curry and many other Lao and Asian dishes. It's interior shows that someone cares about it, although it is simple and basic. Its just some special place. For lunch, go to Lao Kitchen, serving Lao food on a higher level.

Manthathoulath street. Open daily for dinner

Those didn't made it to the list:
Le Signature at Ansara Hotel is totally overrated. We always got a terrible service for a place in this category of fine-dining, the menu is boring and the prices are too high. La Scala has quite a nice interior, but service sucks and the menu isn't something special. Yet, the lunch buffet is a pretty good deal.
Makphet is a place where you should eat because they employ street kids. I rather like to eat at a place where they serve good food.
Lao Garden is a very solid place to go, and should be number 6 on this list. Le Opera had it's good times, but the menu is the usual italian dishes, nothing special and for this too expensive. In case you are looking for a good well priced steak, go to Veena Cafe opposite the City Inn Hotel. Avoid the restaurants of the big hotels like Mercure, Green Park, Lao Plaza and Don Chan Palace. Benoni is more Cafe than restaurant, but has a decent and reasonable prices selection of dishes. 

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Help aka money needed for the Animal Rescue Center Laos

So the good news is we found a place for the Animal Rescue Center Laos, a beautiful piece of land, large enough to take also the horses in, with a new small house, a lake and a lot of space to set up kennels.

What is needed now, is money. We need donations to pay the rent, to buy construction material and food for the animals. We can't pay that just by ourself (we are just 4 people anyway right now and pay a lot already). We NEED you.

Please use our donation boxes at
Dr. Khamdengs Vet Clinic, 
Lao Garden Restaurant, 
Suite 21 bar and
Diethelm Travel (Nam Phou Square).

 Or use bank transfer

Bank Name: Banque Franco Lao Ltd. (BFL)
Account number: 00106962110101
Account holders name: Animal Rescue Center Laos Sole Ltd.

Or Paypal through our website

Or just contact me and you can handover money to me. We are also looking for construction material donations, like fence, poles, electric cable...

Friday, January 4, 2013

South-East-Asia a perfect place for start-ups

Jon Russell, much admired writer about tech stuff in Asia, wrote a piece on TheNextWeb about how South-East-Asia is a good place for start-ups.

Some quotes:
(...) Let’s not be simplistic, Southeast Asia is a hugely complicated market thanks to its diversity. Language, culture and ethnicity vary across the region, even if you just assess the biggest countries. Yet, a new wave of successful startups have shown that employing a regional mindset from day one can reap big rewards.

(...) Irrespective of big company involvement, Internet access rates and regional thinking, Southeast Asia’s startup scene has grown at a fast clip, and that’s certain to continue on in 2013, regardless of any other factors. One big reason behind that is the grow in opportunities.
(...) Much as I despise the word, ‘startup hubs’ have emerged across Asia. Bangkok, for example, now boasts at least three top co-working spaces (from around zero a year ago), while TNW regularly hears from startups in thriving communities in places such as Vietnam, Cambodia and other off-beat areas. 

Unfortunately, Laos isn't playing any role in it, and that's not Jon's fault. The country still lacks inspired and passionate people, in particular in the tech business. Although it offers at least some key features: Young workforce, two campuses to study IT, cheap office space in houses, affordable internet connection. And for Lao citizens it is quite easy to set up a business and keep taxes low. But JICA is still failing with it's incubator concept at NUOL, and meetups like the Google Developer Group have quite low response. It may take more time for Laos to keep up with neighbors, but it needs to hurry. I haven't seen much progress here in the last two years.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Metal Destruction II Concert at Mark Two

I case you are not a big fan of traditional Lao music or you just want to take a break from it after all the New Year parties in your neighbourhood, this event might give you a different perspective of the Lao music scene.

Relatively unknown to foreigners (and even many Lao people), there is a quite active and vibrant Metal scene in Vientiane. Wind West Pub was famous for Dark Metal concerts, and it seems that Mark Two (right behind the Mercure hotel) is the new place to go for some the friends of the Prince of Darkness.

So here is the event information

Saturday January 12th, 1pm (yes early afternoon)

At Mark Two Pub

For more info and reserve the ticket call: 020 23040 666

Band List:
 1. Sapanakith (Laos)
2. Dictator (Laos)
3. Killerz Virginal (Laos)
4. Carnivora ( Thailand)
5. Hereafter ( Malaysia)
6. Killing Fields (Thailand)
7. Psychotrain (Thailand)

Ticket Price: 65,000kip+1 beer (at door) 55.000kip for pre-order+beer+poster

To get an idea what to expect, here some videos:
Carnivora (Thailand)

Hereafter (Malaysia)

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Lao workforce not in private companies

So the 2011 census is there and, it is quite interesting: In a country that is, following World Bank and other reports, booming and growing fast,  "only 174,000 people or 4.33 percent of the total population within the working age group of 15 to 64, work for private companies" according to a Report by the local newspaper Vientiane Times.

So that means all this new businesses aren't creating jobs?

But it comes even better: 1.4 million people, or 35 percent of the working population, are self employed. That means they sell noodle soup, run a 4x4m grocery shop, work as handy man. Not much income from that, and of course they don't have any social insurance at all.

But it's not the end: 1.1 million people or 28.57 percent of the working age population work for their own families without payment, 218,342 or 5.42 percent are home makers, and 558,905 people or 13.87 percent are students.

Ok, let's do the math: 28.57 percent at home, plus 35 self-employed in mainly very low paid jobs, 13.87 percent students without a job, 6.8 work for state agencies. More than 70 percent of the work force. And don't even think calling Laos a paradise for entrepreneurs - the self-employed are mainly quite poor people with very low profit (if any) in what they sell. 

I wonder how a country can develop with nobody working in the private sector?