Friday, January 4, 2008

An intro to Lao

(By Joe)

I'm going to tell you all about Laos. We arrived here with our friends from America, Charlie and Rebecca, who are two of the greatest travel buddies a young carefree couple could ask for. Rebecca is chok full of interesting and applicable facts and has taught us about everything from the reproductive cycle of the banyan tree to the national language of Denmark. You may be thinking, "These things are applicable to what?" To traveling in Southeast Asia. Charlie has a knack for conversing with the locals. What he lacks in vocabulary he more than makes up for in energy, good humor, and enthusiasm, which instantly galvanise him with cab drivers, waitresses, people passing on the streets... everyone.

Some quick yet interesting facts. Laos is in the bottom 25% of the world's countries as far as finances are concerned. The have very little in the way of modern developments. The International Hospital in the capital boasts 100 beds, trained staff, and an X-Ray machine (according to an advertizement in the Vientiane Times). I read in the paper that the main hospital is going to start making improvements to allow them to test for and some day treat diabetes and high blood pressure! Of the few national monuments and community gathering areas they have, most have been built for them by friendly neighboring countries with a large sign declaring the name of the benefactor. Instead of posters of the king like the Thai people proudly display, every house sports a collection of pinup posters of sexy Asian women sponsored by BeerLao or cell phones. The country also holds the record of being the most bombed country EVER! It didn't even do anything, it was just in the wrong place during the Vietnam war.

Our first day here we we took a walking and bike tour of Vientiane, the capital. The tour mainly consisted of Swedish and Scandinavian bakeries, (which were both crazy good) and the Lao version of the Arch de Triumph- a project that was started in the 1960's but was never completed. A plaque on the wall describes the partly finished building as what could have been beautiful but now looks like "A Monster of Concrete". They never got around to putting on the decorative veneer.

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