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The original world nomad "Real knowledge is to know the extent of one's ignorance." - Confucius.

Something in the air?

LAOS | Wednesday, 1 February 2006 | Views [1685] | Comments [4]

Sunset on the Mekong

Sunset on the Mekong

There has to be something in the air, the water or the food, like Koala's with Eucalyptus. How else do you explain a country that is semi-permanently asleep? The only time you see anyone striding around purposefully is perhaps at 7:30am in the morning when you see all the monks in their saffron robes, having finished their alms collection, heading back to their monastries and temples ... and I'd stride purposefully if I hadn't eaten since lunch the day before and had a sack of booty waiting to be tucked into.

These guys have good self discipline.

The only other time I have experienced an exchange rate so wrong was in Algeria years ago. In my ignorance back then, I couldn't work out why the crappiest and foulest 'hotel' room cost about USD30. (I also left the country with a since blue note thinking I could change it back later ... only to discover it was worthless outside Algeria.) Laos isn't that bad, in that at least the rooms are OK even if the 'service' is pretty weird. But in this, one of the bottom 20 pooest countries in the world, a single mango in the markets is about $1, hotel rooms are frequently US$50 and a mediocre meal in restaurant can easily be knocking on the door of A$20 - 30.

It just doesn't stack up, even in the peak tourist season. Fortunately I'm not complaining, as that is just the way it is. But if does rather highlight what would happen if they were ever going to try to float their currency, or heaven forbid, actually have to work to earn the $ they charge.

Vientienne is much as we remember it: an undistinguished, depressing soviet-era town with no buzz or character. Why is this? How come, barely 1km away, are there minor towns in Thailand that can turn parking lots into thriving night markets buzzing with excitement? Is it because Thailand has always been a nation, culurally, while Laos has been invented from a collection of people and tribes?

We're curious to hear from anyone else who understands such differences and their causes.

Tags: adventures, capitalism, family, laid back, on the road, travel with children, wonderful

 

Comments

1

Since you have visited my site a few times and left a comment or two, i thought i would do the same - it seems as if you are a real nomad! I agree with you about Vientiane, but I did travel there from Thailand, so I kind of enjoyed just doing nothing, relaxing by the riverside eating the grilled salty fish that they make so well.....im in tokyo now, loving it, yet shattering my daily budget every single day......

  dan_in_japan Feb 5, 2006 2:08 PM

2

if you paid a dollar for a mango you got ripped off, mate.

  noah Apr 10, 2006 9:30 PM

3

Farang prices. Learn to barter. I love Vientiane and am moving there to live in two weeks. Nong Khai is ok too, if you like the noise of Thailand. Guest houses run about $4-$6 a night with a great meal for under a dollar in the morning market. I am renting a 3 bedroom house for a year for $1000 US. The best coffee in the world is in Lao. Nice people, little crime...a great place to visit and live.

  david May 12, 2006 5:45 AM

4

I've been living in VTE as an expat for two years now, after having visited Laos twice before. I wonder if the Vientiane you describe (and not VientiENNE) is the same one...

Meals in local places run for 2-3 dollars (soups, lao typical salads, noodles with vegetables, mékong fish ... You can get a 1st classe lunch menu in any of the EXCELLENT expats restaurants in town (Silapa, Central, Full Moon...) for 5-6!

I normally buy my mangos by kilos and it amounts to 1-2 dollars...

Guest houses around the Nam Phu (fountain) area are around 10 to 15USd!

In two years, new shops, restaurants and guesthouses have openend up all over.

But, yes, the atmosphere is laid back, the people are not commercially oriented, lots of problems with vocational training.

But still, the town vaut le detour and is still one of the cheapest venues in Asia...

  Liana Oct 14, 2006 3:09 AM

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