Millionaires!

Trip Start Jan 02, 2013
1
17
32
Trip End Apr 25, 2013


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Where I stayed

Flag of Lao Peoples Dem Rep  ,
Wednesday, February 13, 2013

We were quite lucky to enter Laos at all as immigration was a bit tricky. After coughing up for the visa, I sailed through with ease but Jonny wasn't so lucky and it wasn't the terrorist beard this time.
Turns out that the Malaysian passport control officer didn't stamp his passport on exiting KL which doesn't look all too good. After looking at the passport, looking at Jon, looking at the passport, looking at Jon x20, they eventually let him pass, phew!

Ventiane is the capital city of Laos although I can barely believe it. It seems so quiet, laid back and incredibly small but there are a lot of nice cars (starting to pine for my Mercedes!). The first thing that struck us about Laos was that a nights accommodation cost less than an evening meal. Almost all food is imported and hotels are cheap. We spend six pounds a night in the capital city!
As Laos was a former French colony, there is a fair amount of Gaelic influence still evident. The road signs and building names are in both Lao and French and there are several French restaurants and bakeries to our extreme delight. We had Baguette and croissants for breakfast with Lao coffee which is something else. As thick as tar and dark as coal, no amount of milk will lighten Lao coffee, and it's strong too. I can't believe that the natives drink the stuff as they seem to spend the entire day in first gear or sitting around doing absolutely nothing.

Laos is now an independent communist ruled country, the red hammer and sickle flags subtly flying on state buildings. It reserves the title of most bombed country on the planet thanks to the US assault during the Vietnam war. The Ho Chi Min trail passes along the border of Laos and Vietnam and the Vietnamese frequently used to sneak through Laos so when the Americans found out they just carpet bombed the whole of East Laos. Unfortunately, not all the bombs exploded when they made contact with the ground and these weapons still lie dormant today until someone accidentally set their house fire on top of it or digs it up. Countless lives and limbs are lost each year thanks to unexploded bombs. They estimate that 30% didn't exploded which leaves approximately 80 million devices waiting to be discovered. The problem is made worse by the fact that scrap metal holds value so the Lao people will try to dismantle bombs themselves, selling the casing which as you can imagine, often ends in tears if the detonator is still active. We spent the afternoon in a museum learning about the organisation which has been set up to try to diffuse and clear the bombs but it takes so long to train the bomb disposal experts and raise funds. No mention was made of the US contributing to the efforts.

In the evening We took a strike along the Mekong in the South of Vientiane. Across the river lies Thailand and there looked to be a surprising number of people by the water on the Laos side. Most things are imported from Thailand and if you need medical care, you better hope you're near the border as most Lao hospitals don't even stock blood or oxygen. Along the river front promenade there are lots of open air aerobics classes, belting out music whilst instructors on platforms lead groups of perhaps seventy women. Spectators are mainly male.
  
The currency is a bit confusing, there are roughly 10,000 kip to a pound so we are millionaires here. The biggest note is a tenner and there are no coins.
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