Saturday, 9 July 2005

after the chaos of Bangkok...a more sedate Laos

I hope you all can read this, else I'll be wasting my time. My testing blog seemed to publish successfully although I am unable to view my blog at the moment. I'm hoping it's just this computer and not a government initiative, but in Laos, who knows!

Anywho... having just about survived the roads, nightlife, smog and general hectic atmos of Bangkok, I have arrived in the rather more sedate Vientiane in Laos. As a capital city it is absolutely tiny- on a par with St Helier in Jersey...well almost!! I was met at the airport by Tim who I'll be working with and his wife (I think her name in Son - oops!)and they drove me to the guesthouse they'd booked for me to stay in. All I can say is WOW!!! I have a beautiful double room with TV (I get the BBC) overlooking the Mekong River, five mins walk from the Mekong River Commission where I'll be working and on a quiet dirt track- all for 8 quid a night. The dirt track is perfect for jogging, so that is going to be my early morning past time once I finally shake off the jet lag.

The track basically runs all the way along the river through the town and continues for some distance out of town. In the afternoon small stall holder set up stalls along it with small bbqs and hot pans where they grill fish and cook noodles for people who want to watch the sun go down over the river.

My first impression is that this is a seriously chilled out place. It resembles, to some extent, the small town I was based in, in Peru last year called Puerto Maldonado...except this is supposed to be a capital city. There are no buildings above 7 floors high as they are not allowed to be taller than the most sacred temple in the city. Planning permission must have gone amiss though, when it came to building a huge luxury hotel on the river bank. This city feels like it is undergoing change. I imagine it'll be a very different place in a few years time, which will be a shame as it will no doubt lose its rustic charm.

I went for lunch at a local Vietnamese restaurant with Tim and his wife- absolutely delicious food. It involves piling noodles salad and pieces of meat onto wafer thin sheets of rice....yep sheets of rice....don't know how they do it but it resembles plastic, has a similar consistency and is as chewable...although in a weird way it is quite tasty. You then top it all off with some spicy sauces and attempt to eat elegantly...I failed at the last hurdle!

Tomorrow, I am meeting Tim and Son(?) to go to the ominously named 'Rock Sunday' concert. Live Lao rock bands...It'll be an experience if nothing else. In the meantime I'm trying to get some dissertation work done...unfortunately the heat and the jetlag are conspiring against me and I keep dosing off!! I am planning a good night's kip tonight...hopefully a quiet night's sleep compared to Khao San with drunken lager louts staggering about at all hours.

Off to find Lao noodles by the river!

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