an outdoor treat

On the way back to Vientiane we stopped at a local market where my colleagues bought some treats for dinner: snails, frogs, fresh bamboo and the like. In fact, we had to open the boot every time we stopped for a pee break and shake the bags of living crickets so that they wouldn’t suffocate or die of heat before it was time to throw them in boiling oil. Yammie…. I have already seen quite a bit of ‘unusual’ meat on the markets but here, I encountered endangered wildlife for the first time. Well, at least I am pretty sure that it means nothing good when the market women hide their catch as soon as they see me approach with my camera… Half of those animals were still alive, people seem to like fresh meat. Makes sense when you cannot cool it properly…

But here’s what I don’t get:

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brainy business

I spent the last five days in Thakhek, a rather sleepy little town in the South. Remember how I claimed it was only about 5h away from Vientiane? Well, I was wrong. It took us decent 8h to get there. First of all, because our bus was much slower than the Pickups that usually belt down the roads here. Plus, we stopped like every hour for pee breaks because my colleagues drank so much Beerlao on the way. You see, the workshop we were heading to is part of a 2year program called “Training of Master Trainers”. The roundabout 40 participants, who are all working in (non-)formal education sectors, take part in workshops about various topics every few months and when everyone gets together, it’s a merry reunion. The innocent might call the little bender “team-building”.

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Some quick geography

Just to briefly show you some Lao geography. The country has the shape of a shooting star, don’t you think? Up north, that’s where the big mountains and really remote villages are and where the infrastructure is still pretty bad. From Vientiane, it would take me more than 24h by bus to reach Phongsali for example. All the green areas are the plains around the Mekong. This does not indicate, however, that there is no rainforest in the brown areas! On the contrary!

Before my departure, some people actually asked me questions like ” Oh Laos, isn’t that a Thai island?” or “Mhhh I have to confess I have no idea where that is… Africa?”. So I figured this little map won’t bore you too much 😉

  • Red arrow – where I live and work (Vientiane, the capital)
  • Purple arrow – where I went this weekend (Nam Ngum Reservoir, where Lao’s first hydropower dam was  built)
  • Blue arrow – where I’ll head first thing tomorrow morning (Thakhek in the Khammouane Province, about a 5h journey away)



Nam Ngum Lake

So after a really busy week and lots of progress, I figured I had earned myself a little treat. And since the other girls wanted to participate in a DVV workshop I simply set off on my own. Yes, I’ve heard the questions “Hey Lady, where is your husband?” like a million times in the last couple of days but as a matter of fact, I actually like to travel by myself. This way, you are almost forced to meet new people.

A destination was quickly found: Nam Ngum lake is located about 2h North from Vientiane and quite easily accessable by bus and tuk tuk. I scored a good deal for a hotel there – as you can see, my balcony and the pool ROCKED! Spent my first day just swimming, reading, napping and sipping on treaclesweet ice-coffee. Had dinner on a swimming restaurant and watched the sun set over the lake. The large beer I had with my sticky rice and veggies gave me enough courage to then ignore all the curious stares of the locals: I started playing on the incredibly old pool table – the queues were broken and crooked and 5 balls were missing but it was fun. Still I could feel everyones’ eyes on me: White, female, alone, billiard!? Soon the Thai receptionist challenged me and and broke the ice – after that, 7 more guests (aged between 5 and 60) came up to me. Working at Bata is finally paying off, I won every single game except the one against a little Lao boy. Had a soft spot for that little man 😉 Frankly, all of my opponents had rarely ever played before so those were no victories I am proud of… They were fairly impressed and bought me a can of beer for each win and well, I got drunk pretty quickly (being sick for so long has made me an extreme lightweight). After another quick nocturnal jump into the pool and an embarrassing karaoke incident later, I was fast asleep that night 😀

Unfortunately, rain woke me the next day but since I couldn’t find a single hiking trail in the area anyways, I wasn’t even sad to return to Vientiane around noon. All in all, a fantastic and very relaxing getaway 🙂

Note: Sorry for writing half-arsed, but I am actually just packing my bags for the next trip. I’ll be in Thakhek (a town in a southern district about 4h away) for work until at least Friday! Yeih!

CLCs in Lao PDR

Sometimes, I do extra work for the DVV. Like this short interview with Ms. Dokkham last week which got published in the current newsletter (page 4). Next time, I will actually talk to the head of DVV International, one of the really big fish. Might have to prepare myself properly this time 😀

So those of you who are interested in non-formal education in Lao PDR and, more precisely, Community Learning Centres (CLCs), click here!


Buddha Park

Truth be told, there was no magic healing last week. At least none that lasted very long… I got sick again, had to see a doctor again, had to take antibiotics again and hey, I am feeling better (again).The good news is: I did not have worms, that was a wrong diagnosis. Thank f%&!

You can imagine how gutted I was to miss out on yet another weekend bike trip with Khanthong, but at least I felt strong enough to visit a local sight by bus today. Buddha Park aka Xieng Khuan contains over 200 Buddhist and Hindu statues that look ancient. They are not though. Although sometimes referred to as “Wat”, Buddha Park is not a temple but a piece of art built by a Thai artist in the 1950s. I was lucky enough to meet a couple of Lao students who explained a lot of the religious meanings to me. Unfortunately, I have forgotten most of the gods’ names by now though…

Plan for tomorrow: Full-body massage… Oh yes.

President “Yes, we can”

Indeed, I mean Obama. He is going to visit Vientiane next week for the 11th ASEAN Summit. As the first American President EVER. The summit is usually big enough by itself but with the additional, immense security effort concerning Mr.Obama, Vientiane’s main roads will all be locked down for a week and even schools will be closed. This will be interesting…

Anyway, this circumstance made me deal with the Republic’s politics sooner than I had expected. In fact, I just found two short articles in the Laotian Times that I consider worth sharing. Read here if you want to know why America is interested in strengthening the bond to this small nation:





Sabaidee, Vientiane!

Sabaidee means “Hello!” in Lao 😉

I figured it was about time that I showed you some pictures of the city. They are a bit random, but more will follow soonish! Now that I’m finally able to leave my bed again, I promise I will take my camera with me whereever I go.


all clear

Finally. Today is the first day on which I’m feeling significantly better. I never imagined that it would take me so long to regain my strength. I’m fairly slim now and constantly hungry. A good sign, I guess.

But don’t worry, I’ll give it another couple of days of rest and bland diet before chasing after the next adventure. Promised 😉