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Jul
07
Colour is the first of Luang Prabang’s virtues to greet travellers.
Pearly frangipanis with their heady perfume, banks of overgrown trees peppered with scarlet flowers, the burnt sienna robes of hundreds of monks and their novices, and resplendent gold and claret wats. The scent of fresh coffee, river activity, produce markets and spicy food soon follows. And then the broader aesthetics begin to unfold. Encircled by mountains, and set 700m above sea level at the confluence of the Nam Khan (Khan River) and the Mekong River, Luang Prabang is now Laos’ foremost tourist showpiece. The brew of gleaming temple roofs, crumbling French provincial architecture and multiethnic inhabitants captivates even the most jaded travellers, and the quiet benevolence of the city’s residents lulls them into a somnambulant bliss.
Aug
08
Laos Mekong Dam Opponents Take Case to Court
Thai opponents of a hydropower dam planned for the Mekong River in Laos are taking their case to court, but not in communist Laos. In a bid to halt the project’s future they have filed a lawsuit against Thai energy authorities to try to cancel an agreement to buy most of the electricity produced by the dam. The lawsuit argues the agreements are unconstitutional and illegal because they did not involve public consultation with villagers or downstream countries. Villagers hope that without the power purchase agreement, the $3.6 billion dam project will not be able to go ahead. Pianporn Deetes, campaign manager with International Rivers, an environmental activist group involved with the lawsuit, says villagers already complain of adverse affects from upstream dams in China. Deetes said they worry about further damage if dams are built on the lower Mekong. “Villagers have experienced negative impacts such as the change of ecosystem, unusual water fluctuations, flash flooding or flash drought, that is not natural any more," Deetes explained. "And, this adversely affected fish migration patterns.” The Mekong River Basin is the biggest inland fishery in the world. About 60 million people depend on the river for their livelihoods. Downstream countries Cambodia and Vietnam also oppose the project out of concern for the effect on fish stocks. But, impoverished Laos wants to build the Xayaburi dam, and several others, as part of plans to become the “battery” of Southeast Asia. The lawsuit, though supported with 1,000 signatures, is likely to face strong opposition from Thailand’s energy authorities as well as Thai companies that are heavily invested in the project. Nonethless, Pianporn says they are optimistic they can win the case and hope to set a precedent for future cross-border projects. “There are lots of Thai companies investing in neighboring countries, particularly Laos, Cambodia, and Burma, without any standards," Pianporn said. "They do not have to follow with Thai laws. We would like to see that this lawsuit would set a new standard with Thai overseas investment that at least they have to follow or respect the law in their home country.” Laos suspended the Xayaburi dam project after strong opposition from Cambodia and Vietnam. But, environmental groups point out project-related construction and deal-making has continued, indicating that Laos plans to go ahead with the dam regardless.
Aug
03
El Al Finalizes Order for Two Additional Boeing 737-900ERs
The Israeli national carrier, El Al, has finalized an order for two additional Next-Generation Boeing 737-900ERs, adding to El Al's previous order in March 2011, bringing the total number to six 737-900ERs on order. The two-airplane order is valued at approximately $179.2 million at current list prices. The Next-Generation 737-900ER replaces the larger, single-aisle Boeing 757, which ceased production in 2004. The 737-900ER can seat up to 215 passengers in a single-class configuration and has a range of up to 3,235 nautical miles (5,990 km). "These additional airplanes will help us expand our fleet to meet the growing demand from our customers and to serve the growing markets in our network," said Elyezer Shkedy, Chief Executive Officer, El Al. El Al's 737-900ERs will also have the Boeing Sky Interior which features new modern sculpted sidewalls and window reveals, LED lighting to enhance the sense of spaciousness and larger pivoting overhead stowage bins.
Aug
02
The appearance of ULUVUS's new album makes heat
ULUVUS, an expatriate rock band that sings in Lao, staged a concert at the Mark Two pub in Vientiane on Wednesday night, to officially launch their new album “55555”. The band’s popularity is legendary and local music fans turned out in force, packing out the venue to hear their favourite falang band play live. The concert certainly kept the crowd entertained, staying true to the theme of the night ma dort, ma den, ma muan – come jump, come dance, and come have fun. ULUVUS’s second album builds on the success of the first they launched back in 2009. Titled tongue in cheek as ‘Seu Soi Dair’ (Buy something and help me) their debut release included several Top 10 hits including Phousao Bor Son Jai Hao, Hak Gan Leo, Gig Mai and Sao Sai Ta Jing Jai. Titled “55555”, their second release is a play on a popular teenage texting phrase, five being hah in Lao and meaning having a laugh. The album was written to be exactly that, a lighthearted attempt to blend into the local culture, play with the language, joke in Lao and have plenty of fun along the way. The five members of the band who fell in love with the charm of the Lao language are guitarists Chris Crash and Mee Wah Wah, drummer Tom O’Hawk, base player Databass and relative newcomer Dr Luv on the keyboards. The album has something for everyone – from a taste of Mor Lam (traditional Lao folk music), to hair-metal, disposable pop and epic rock – alongside the band’s legendary music videos. ULUVUS surprise audiences with an unusual blend of musical styles, mixing pop rock with Mor Lam, which the album’s debut single “Khalam,” features, setting the tone for the rest of the album – upbeat, fun and youthfully exuberant. All the guys in the band like to party, and for this album they have joined forces with well-known R&B artist Sam Intharaphithak, who really knows how to get a crowd on their feet. The band also team up with Ning Nong from the award-winning Lao band Deep Heart to sing “Sou tor pai” (Go). Fans can now see this song on YouTube or the ULUVUS Facebook fanpage. “Sou tor pai” is a spirited single that borrows from the Deep Heart style, designed to cheer up the brokenhearted, reminding them that new love might be just around the corner. They also sing a heartfelt ballad with Sam Intharaphithak “Pouying mak kong yai” (Women like a big heart), which is sure to prove very popular. Foreign fans of ULUVUS like to sing along in Lao as well, but with this song they better be wary of the band’s wordplay, because the lyrics could be misconstrued.
Jul
21
Wedding Celebrations of Laos’ Ethnic Groups, Luang Prabang
From Courtship to Kinship: Wedding Celebrations of Laos’ Ethnic Groups provides a rare insight into the distinct wedding traditions of the Lao people and several of the country’s ethnic minorities such as the Hmong, Tai Phuan and Mien. It features unusual artefacts, such as a ‘wedding crown’ of the Kim Di Mun made of pure silver and human hair, stunning documentary photography of rituals and ceremonies, and explanations of the lore and symbolism of wedding customs in Laos.
Jul
13
The history of the Lao New Year legend
This is an appropriate time to tell the story that lies behind Lao New Year. Friday April 13 is the last day of the Year of Rabbit and Sunday April 15 is Pi Mai Lao – New Year's Day. .... “I won't tell you now because it is past midnight and time for bed.” “No! If you don't tell me now, I will hold my breath until I die.” The seven daughters of the god Phayakabinlaphom carry his symbolic head in a procession on the first day of Pi Mai Lao. (File Photo) “Okay, I'll tell you now! In the morning, a person's sili is in the face. So the first thing they do when they get up is to wash their face. In the aftern oon, a person's sili lies in the breast. As we know, people like to sprinkle water on their breast to ease the heat. In the evening, the sili lies in the feet, which is why we wash our feet before going to bed.” As we noted earlier, Thammabarnkoummarn could understand the language of birds. This was the conversation between two vultures that he overheard, which ultimately saved his life. He left his place under the palm tree and ran back to the castle overjoyed. The next morning was the seventh day, the day on which Thammabarnkoummarn was supposed to answer the god Phayakabinlaphom's question. When Thammabarnkoummarn was able to provide the correct answer thanks to the vultures' conversation he had overheard, Phayakabinlaphom was asto-nished. The god accepted that he was defeated in his challenge. But this meant Thammabarnkoummarn would now have to behead him, as they had agreed. Phayakabinlaphom was a god with great power, greater than that of the angels and any human being. This meant that if he were beheaded, the whole world would be destroyed. If his head were cut off and his blood flowed on the earth, a fire would ensue that would burn the world. If his blood went int o the air, the oxygen would be consumed and humans and all living things would suffocate. If his blood entered the water, all the rivers and oceans would boil and dry up. To avoid such a dreadful catastrophe, the god summoned his seven daughters, who represent the seven days of the week. The seven daughters each have their own animal and carry their own symbolic items as they ride. Thoungsathevi is Sunday and legend has it that she rides a mythical bird. Kholakhathevi is Monday, and is borne by a tiger. Haksathevi is Tuesday and rides a wild boar. Monthathevi is Wednesday and rides a donkey. Kilinithevi is Thursday and she rides an elephant. Kimithathevi is Friday and rides a water buffalo. The seventh daughter, Mahothonthevi, is Saturday and rides a peacock. By these means did the seven daughters travel to meet their father. Phayakabinlaphom told his daughters “When I am beheaded, take a gold tray and put my head on it. Make sure you catch all my blood so that not one drop falls to the ground. Then take my head and place it in Khaosoumenkailath Cave.” The god told his seven daughters that on the first day of Pi Mai Lao, the daughter who represents that day should ride her animal to the cave and remove the head. Then she should sprinkle it with clean water mixed in a bowl with frangipani flowers and perfume. On the last day of Pi Mai, the daughters were instructed to form a procession to carry their father's head back to the cave. This is why, every Lao New Year, we go to temples to sprinkle Buddha images with water taken from a bowl to which flowers and perfume have been added. We also pour water on older people, our parents, relatives, leaders and friends to wish them good health, happiness, and a long life.
Aug
06
The taste of a Laotian dream
One minute the toddler slept soundly with her five siblings in her family’s hut near the Mekong River in Laos. The next, terrified yet silent, she clung to her 10-year old sister’s torso as the Phoutasen family sped through the woods toward the Thailand border. Close behind were communist soldiers with guns and orders to shoot anyone attempting to flee Laos. Although Baykham Phoutasen was just 3 years old in 1975, the year that Laos fell to communist rule, she remembers that in the weeks before their family’s escape, her mother received a secret letter from her father, a former Laotian soldier who went into hiding rather than enter a communist re-education camp. Afterward, her mother gradually shed many of the family’s possessions. “I remember the day we left, my mother gave away all the dogs to the communists; we were taught not to question,” Baykham Phoutasen, 40, said recently, standing in the Lao-Thai restaurant that she opened with her family near the Virginia Beach courthouse to honor the courage and character of her parents. The 11-table Som Bao Cafe – filled with the scent of kaffir leaves, basil and spice – is named for her parents, Somdee and Bao Phoutasen, and it’s the fourth leg of The Pilot’s summer-long search for authentic ethnic eateries just a car ride away. Other families didn’t make it across the river that night, swept away by the Mekong River current or caught by communist soldiers. The Phoutasen family made it and spent three years in a refugee camp in Thailand, where Baykham’s older sister, Onlakhone, died of pneumonia. Although the Thai government offered refugees citizenship, Somdee Phoutasen wanted freedom for his family and a shot at the American dream. The family made it to Virginia Beach in 1979 with the help of two local churches. As the oldest girl, Baykham helped to cook and care for her siblings, and she held fast to her Laotian heritage, learning to make dishes such as Thom Khem, slow-cooked pork with lemon grass, kaffir leaves, galangal (the Laotian cousin to ginger), whole fishes, sticky rice and papaya salad. After moving from her parents’ home, Baykham set a goal of opening a family restaurant and for years hosted dinner parties to study just how far she could push the American palate into the spicy land of Laotian cuisine. The result of that research is the Som Bao Cafe menu, a carefully curated collection of authentic Laotian dishes, tweaked ever so slightly, “a little more subtle to where everyone can enjoy it,” Baykham said, and supplemented by standards such as pad thai and curry served at the area’s many Thai restaurants. Laotian cooks use little oil and rely heavily on broths and seasonings such as lemongrass, galangal and aromatic leaves from the kaffir lime plant – Baykham tends to one growing out back of the restaurant – and plenty of chilies. The baseline of most Som Bao dishes is mildly spicy, just a slight burn, but servers bring a trio of chili-based seasonings to the table to suit the most adventuresome of appetites. First-time travelers might want to start with Thom Khem, a staple in the Phoutasen family home that features pork, chicken or beef with a hard-boiled egg in a broth with the Laos signature combination of tang, sweet and spice. To journey further into the country’s cuisine, try Laos-Style Fried Rice, a savory, slightly tangy mountain of tender rice studded with crunchy raw peanuts, parsley and basil. A hit of red curry and chile delivers a pleasant burn, yet allows the other flavors to survive. A squeeze of fresh lime rounds out the complexity and other-worldliness of the dish. The waitress called it addictive – and rightfully so. A near-permanent addition to the daily special board is the Lao Platter, a feast for two featuring a flake-off-the bone whole tilapia in a salty-savory broth; Laos Larb, a heap of tangy-spicy minced chicken laced with the fresh, exotic flavor of kaffir leaves; and Lao jerky, thin slices of dried, marinated beef with no heat at all. In the center of the platter sits a small dish of slow-roasted chili sauce. Baykham’s mother, Bao, always makes that smoky, searing condiment, and Baykham said it is well-known among the local Laotian community. Tucked in between the main dishes on the platter are coves filled with savory cabbage, a Laotian staple, and broccoli tips steamed to emerald green, a cooling respite from the heat. Like most of the Laotian entrees on the menu, the platter also comes with a woven basket filled with sticky rice, a seemingly simple side that takes hours and hours to cook. Diners who really want to go Laotian should pinch off a walnut-sized hunk, dip it into Bao’s sauce and use it as a utensil to eat the rest of the meal. “Use chopsticks if you want to be fancy,” Baykham said. “We just use our hands.”
Jul
12
European tourism to Laos in decline
The number of Europeans visiting Laos is falling as the financial crisis in the region continues, the country's deputy minister of information, culture and tourism said yesterday. Speaking to journalists in Vientiane, Chaleune Warinthrasak said that whilst this was true, "the total number of tourists in Laos is not falling because we are now promoting tourism within Asean and the region, for the culture and natural scenic beauty we offer". This year the country is running the Visit Laos Year campaign to attract more tourists. The growth of tourism benefits local people and will help those living in rural areas by providing much needed income to protect historic sites and natural attractions. The revenue generated from tour groups will help the authorities to achieve their vision of sustainable tourism, which will protect the country's cultural heritage and provide a better life for nearby rural communities. Most visitors to Laos at the moment are coming from Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam, and Singapore with significant numbers also from Japan and the Republic of Korea. The ministry of information, culture and tourism is targeting 3.5 million tourist arrivals by 2015. That number would be expected to generate about US$500 million in revenue. Chaleune also said that last year more than 2.7 million tourists overall visited Laos, generating revenue of almost $400 million. Next year, Laos will host the Asean Tourism Forum in Vientiane from January 17-24. Director General of the ministry's Tourism Marketing Department, Saly Phimphinith, said people from the Republic of Korea consider Laos a popular tourist destination because they like to play golf here as it's not expensive. Golf tours from Korea are arriving in Laos on Lao Airlines flights three times per week. Currently, about 70 per cent of all visitors come from neighbouring countries, with only 30 per cent from other regions. "Half of the tourists in Laos are from Thailand. They like to come here because Lao and Thai people speak similar languages so they can understand each other without the need for interpreters," Saly pointed out. According to the ministry, American people of Lao origin are returning in increasing numbers to tour the country. "We have plans to attract more tourists from Europe and the USA because the income derived from these tourists is quite high," he added. Visitors from Europe and the US spend about $72 per day while people from neighbouring countries spend $20-$30 a day. "Actually, Laos hopes that many more people from Europe and the USA will come here because they contribute more," Saly said.
Feb
28
Goddess Of Mercy Statue To Visit Vietnam


Goddess of mercy statueThe 1.1m high, 285kg statue is sculpted from the largest jade block in the world in Canada. In 2008, part of this jade block was used to make a Buddha statue of 2.7m high, 4 tonnes in weight.

The Goddess of Mercy statue will appear at the Chiang Rai Pagoda in Thailand on January 15. It will also appear afterwards at a great celebration held by the Thai royal family in Bangkok. The statue will then be brought to the Quan The Am Pagoda in Danang on January 19.

From January to April, the statue will appear at Hanoi, HCMC, Hai Duong, Nghe An, Ha Tinh and Quang Binh.

Jul
21
Ministry of National Defence celebrates Laos-Vietnam Friendship Year 2012
(KPL) Over 300 soldiers from the Ministry of National Defence yesterday held its rally to celebrate the Laos-Vietnam Friendship Year 2012 in Vientiane. This was a remarkable part of celebration of the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations (1962-2012), and the 35th anniversary of the signing of the Friendship and Cooperation Treaty (1977-2012). The function was attended by Minister of National Defence, Lt General Douangchai Phitchit, Military Attache of Vietnam to Laos, Colonel Nguyen Phu Hai in the presence of high-ranking officials from both sides. At the rally, Deputy Minister of National Defence, Major General Sengnouan Sayalath has highlighted the bilateral friendly cooperation and mutually consistent assistance between Laos and Vietnam in particularly two armed forces. When talk about the specials of two nations, Late President Ho Chi Minh described that"We will remain in mutual affection No matter how many mountains, river and passes we have to cross. For two nations, Vietnam and Laos, Our friendship is deeper than the Red and Mekong rivers". Late President Souphanouvong said that "Laos-Vietnam solidarity is higher than the highest mountain, deeper than the deepest ocean in the world and more fragrant than the most fragrant flower in the world". The meaning of these has became the political mission of Laos and Vietnam revolutionary and also be testament for next generation of two countries to worship forever. Last year, Laos and Vietnam achieved the history book compile project of Laos-Vietnam special relationship from 1930 to 2007 and a science seminar on Laos-Vietnam socio-economic development in the period of 2011-2020. They have signed different significantly documents on cooperation strategy for 2011-2020, a next five-year cooperation agreement (2011-2015), a cooperation agreement in 2011, Laos-Vietnam cooperation project for education improvement and human resources development from now until to 2020. In the human resources development sector, Vietnam has helped improving the education for around 100,000 Lao officials since Indochina War. Presently, more than 5,200 Lao students were on study in Vietnam while almost 500 Vietnamese students were studying in Laos. Two countries have further strengthened mutual cooperation on national defence and security to ensure the political stability and social orderliness of each country, and continued border demarcation and opened up international border checkpoints. The rank of investment in Laos, Vietnam with 424 projects amounting to US$3.57 billion is currently the second one out of 52 countries. Laos and Vietnam have implemented the mechanism priorities for import tax exemption for goods each other. .
Jul
23
Orchestra to tour Laos, Cambodia
VietNamNet Bridge – Viet Nam National Symphony Orchestra will tour Laos and Cambodia next week, returning from its international tour with a concert in HCM City on August 1 and performances in Ha Noi on August 5-6. The programme for its performances abroad will include classical pieces as well as compositions from the host countries. "The programmes will be a bridge of cultural exchange between Viet Nam and neighbouring countries to strengthen the long-lasting friendship," said the orchestra's acting director, Nguyen Tri Dung. The tour will kick off at National Cultural Hall in Vientiane on July 24 at 7pm, featuring works by Lao and Vietnamese composers alongside pieces by Leroy Anderson and Johann Strauss. The concert will open with the overture Nguoi Ve Dem Toi Niem Vui (He Who Brings Happiness to His People) by Vietnamese composer Trong Bang, a work composed to extole President Ho Chi Minh. In the concert, under the baton of principal conductor Tetsuji Honna, Vietnamese musicians will play for the first time two works by Lao composers, including Ha Noi-Vientiane and Praise for the Party. They also share the stage with Lao conductor Duangmixay Likaya, performing his piece Praise for the Homeland. A highlight of the concert will be a song composed by Hoang Ha, entitled Gap Nhau Tren Dinh Truong Son (Meet on the Truong Son Mountains), performed by Vietnamese tenor Trinh Thanh Binh. Ha was sent to Laos by Radio the Voice of Viet Nam in 1970 to help Pathet Laos Radio set up an artistic editorial department. On this occasion, he met some musicians in the Lao liberation army, and the frienship between Vietnamese and Lao soldiers inspired the song, which has come to symbolise that friendship between two nations joined in fighting against the same invaders. Vietnamese and Lao musical influences are blended in the piece. The orchestra will appear in Phnom Penh on July 28, at the Chatomuk Conference Hall. After opening with the same overture as in Vientiane, the concert will feature a Cambodian folk song entitled Svay Chanty and a symphonic piece entitled Apsara composed by Cambodian King Norodom Shihanouk. Binh will sing the Vietnamese song Tinh Ca (Love Song) by Hoang Viet, a piece composed when the country was divided and many Vietnamese couples separated. The HCM City concert will take place on August 1 at the Municipal Theatre, followed by appearances at the Ha Noi Opera House on August 5-6. All of the concerts will feature performances of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony and the composer's Violin Concerto featuring violinist Bui Cong Duy. Toyota Viet Nam, which is sponsoring the tour, will donate all ticket proceeds from the Vietnamese performances to the Toyota Scholarship for Young Vietnamese Musical Talents. Students will also be able to attend the concerts at discounted ticket prices, according to Toyota Viet Nam vice president Dang Phan Thu Huong.
Jul
20
Special stamps was made to tighten Vietnam - Laos relation
New set stamps on Vietnam-Lao relations issued A new set of stamps featuring the close friendship between Vietnam and Laos was issued in Hanoi and Vientiane on July 18 as part of a programme to celebrate Vietnam-Laos Friendship and Solidarity Year 2012. These stamps were designed by Vo Luong Nhi, an artist at the Vietnam Stamps Company. The set include two designing samples. One stamp, costing VND2,000, features the portraits of late Vietnamese President Ho Chi Minh and late Lao President Kayson Phomvihan, with the image of the flags of the two countries behind. A second stamp, on sale for VND12,000, features the image of the One Pillar Pagoda in Hanoi and That Luang Stupa in Vientiane- plus the national flowers of Vietnam (lotus) and Laos (champa). The event aims to consolidate the close friendship between Vietnam and Laos that has been nurtured by generations of leaders and peoples of the two countries./.
Jul
26
Receiving few visitors because of remote jar site
The Plain of Jars in Phakeo village in Kham district of Xieng Khuang province is really beautiful, but many visitors won’t go there as there is currently no road access. About 416 jars are scattered under trees on the low mountain slopes, an official from the Provincial Department of Information, Culture and Tourism Mr Phousavanh Vorasing told Vientiane Times on Friday. However, there is the possibility of building a road which is currently under consideration by the Xieng Khuang provincial authorities, he mentioned. If the road construction goes ahead, this Plain of Jars site will become a major tourist destination in the province. It is already of great interest to tourists from European countries visiting the province but there are not so many of them at the moment, just a few visitors per week, he said. “The European people are there as they like to go trekking,” he pointed out. “They’re very impressed with its diverse natural beauty of forests, limestone mountains, green valleys and rolling grasslands.” Most visitors who visit enjoy a homestay in the households of the Hmong ethnic group, usually for two nights and three days. The Plain of Jars in Phakeo village is located about 27 kilometres from the town of Phonsavanh, Xieng Khuang province. When visitors wish to go there, they should take a motorcycle or car to Kha village, then they need to walk from there to Phakeo village, which takes about three hours. As there is no road access to the Plain of Jars in Phakeo village, many visitors prefer to tour the Plain of Jars Site 1 in Paek district, Xieng Khuang province, because it’s not too far away, about six kilometers from the town. It also has an asphalt road linking it to town. Each year, some 5,000 visitors from Laos and abroad visit the site, traveling mostly in families or as members of tour groups. The larger tour groups typically come with a guide, but smaller groups do not hire a guide as they want to save money, Mr Phousavanh said. According to the tourism information office in the provincial capital Phonsavanh, more than 28,000 tourists have visited Xieng Khuang province over the past few years. The Plain of Jars Site 1 is one of the biggest attractions for local and foreign travelers, and will soon be declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Extensive archaeological studies have established that the large stone jars are about 2,000 years old on average. Xieng Khuang authorities curr ently receive assistance from UNESCO and government agencies to develop sustainable and responsible tourism at the jar sites and other visitor attractions. The goal is to develop locally managed tourism centred on the Plain of Jars, that involves and benefits local people, which will help the provincial authorities collect much needed revenue to protect historic sites and natural attractions. The revenue generated from tour groups will help the authorities to achieve their visions of sustainable tourism, which will protect the cultural heritage of Xieng Khuang and provide a better life for nearby rural communities.
Jul
09
Laos vows to address Mekong dam fears
Laos has pledged to stall construction of a controversial multi-billion dollar dam on the Mekong river until all its neighbours' environmental concerns have been answered, state media said Friday. The $3.8 billion hydroelectric project at Xayaburi, led by Thai group CH Karnchang, has sharply divided the four Mekong nations -- Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand -- who rely on the river system for fish and irrigation. "The Xayaburi project will develop one of the most transparent and modern dams in the world," Deputy Minister of Energy and Mines Viraphonh Viravong told state-run Vientiane Times. He promised that construction would not start until all the concerns of neighboring countries have been resolved. The minister said changes to the project will address the two major issues -- fish migration and sediment flow -- by including a passage to allow 85 percent of fish to travel along the river and a "flushing system" to prevent sediment build up. The mooted 1,260 megawatt dam, the first of 11 on the key waterway, has become a symbol of the potential risks of hydropower projects in the region and the Mekong nations have tussled over its varying impact. Communist Laos, one the most world's under-developed nations, believes the dam will help it become "the battery of Southeast Asia" by selling electricity to its richer neighbours. Thailand has agreed to buy most of the electricity generated by the project, but Cambodia and Vietnam fear the dam could decimate their farming and fishing industries. Environmentalists say the dam would be disastrous for the 60 million people who depend on the river for transportation, food and economy. They fear Mekong fish species will become endangered as vital nutrients are trapped and dozens of species are prevented from swimming upstream to mating grounds. Campaign group International Rivers said the Thai firm had already "undertaken significant resettlement and construction activities", despite calls from the four-nation Mekong River Commission to halt work until further impact studies have been carried out. Laos rejects the accusations and has invited neighbouring governments to visit the project site.
Jul
26
New air plan in Huaphan province is considered
Plans are in place to build an airport in Huaphan province to encourage more domestic and overseas visitors to explore the area. At the moment, not many tourists make it to the province because it’s a two day bus trip from Vientiane. Surveying for the new airport has begun and it is anticipated that ATR72-500 planes, which can hold up to 74 passengers, will be able to land there. Visitors prepare to explore the caves in Viengxay district, Huaphan province. Vientiane residents who go to Huaphan by road joke that they want to return home as soon as they arrive, because they’ve got headaches and are car sick from the long and bumpy journey. “We believe that if there is air transport between Vientiane and Huaphan province, it will attract more and more visitors,” Director General of the Tourism and Marketing Department of the Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism, Mr Saly Phimphinith, told the Vientiane Times last week. The province’s Viengxay district is famous for its caves which harboured revolutionary leaders during the struggle for liberation in the 1960s and 70s. Kaysone Phomvihane, who later became the president of the Lao PDR and is revered as the country’s national hero, spearheaded the revolutionary movement from the caves. Provincial authorities plan to promote the caves as a top tourist attraction, and it is hoped the area will join Vientiane and Luang Prabang as the third major tourist draw in the country. There are about 500 caves altogether. “The caves are amazing; it’s incredible to think that so many people lived in them for more than nine years during the Indochina War,” Mr Saly said. As of 2011, about 13,000 people have visited the caves where Kaysone Phomvihane lived and worked, including 2,800 foreigners, but this figure does not include Vietnamese and Chinese tourists. Every year more and more tourists and study groups visit the caves. Last year more than 2.7 million tourists visited Laos, generating revenue of almost US$400 million. The Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism is targeting 3.5 million tourists per year by 2015. That number is expected to generate about US$500 million in revenue.
Jul
25
Thai-Laos rail link to be extended
The Thai government has approved a 1.6 billion baht budget to help the Lao government extend the railway service from Tha Na Laeng to Vientiane. The rail route from Nong Khai to Tha Na Laeng station in Laos will be extended to Vientiane in the next two years. The service will be the second phase of the Nong Khai-Tha Na Laeng service, which has linked Thailand and Laos since 2008, according to Acksiri Buranasiri, president of the Neighbouring Countries Economic Development Cooperation Agency (Neda), a public agency under the Ministry of Finance. About 30% of the budget (495 million baht) will be financial aid, while the rest will be a loan. The extension will add 7.75km to the existing rail system and will also include a train station and office in Vientiane. Neda expects the service to improve logistics speed between the two countries, as well as facilitate travellers. The project is expected to be completed within the next two years, Acksiri noted. Founded in 2005, Neda has granted financial assistance, soft loans and technical support worth 9.42 billion baht to 23 projects, mainly for infrastructure development, in neighbouring countries, such as the R3A route linking Chiang Rai, Laos and Kunming in China and the expansion of Pakse Airport. Facebook no match for F2F contact Air miles are still needed for both business and leisure travellers for face-to-face conversation rather than using social media, according to the latest survey by Airbus. "Aviation is the real World Wide Web," said Airbus executive vice-president Charles Champion. Nearly two-thirds (60%) of people polled do not think that social media platforms like Facebook will replace the need to see friends and family physically. For business purposes, 74% still need face-to-face contact. "There is nothing better than face-to-face contact. The world is woven together by a web of flights that creates ever-expanding social and economic networks, including 57 million jobs, 35% of world trade, and $2.2 trillion in global GDP," he said. The survey, which was conducted among 10,000 people across 10 countries, also found that the top three annoying aspects of travel are flight delays, slow check-in service and spending time waiting for baggage. About one-third of those surveyed also wanted to spend less time at airports. About 85% wanted airlines to release fewer carbon emissions and 70% of them wanted to see aircraft powered by non-fossil fuels such as bio-fuels. In the future, more than half of passengers wanted to have more space while seated, simpler and quicker bag drops and connections, flights that use less fuel and quieter planes. About 40% wanted to have a seat that could give a massage and 38% wanted to have more varied entertainment, including virtual games. Airlines update - Thai Airways International has slipped down the ranking of the World Best's Airline from 5th to 9th this year. Based on Skytrax's World Airline Awards 2012, the survey was conducted between July last year and June with the help of 18 million airline customers from 100 different nationalities. It measured more than 38 factors such as check-in, boarding, onboard seating and covered about 200 airlines. The results showed that Qatar Airways was the Best Airline in the World for the second year, followed by Asiana Airlines, Singapore Airlines, Cathay Pacific Airways, All Nippon Airways (ANA), Etihad Airways, Turkish Airlines, Emirates, Thai and Malaysia Airlines. One of the reasons for the drop in Thai's position was using old aircraft such as B747-400s, which do not have private TV screens in economy class. Another factor was a poorly-angled long-haul business class seat. However, Thai had a good rating for its lounges at Suvarnabhumi Airport and friendly staff. The airline surprisingly won World's Best Airport Services. Other airlines which came out on top in other categories include: The World's Best Inflight Entertainment: Emirates The World's Best Cabin Staff: Malaysia Airlines The World's Best Regional Airlines: Garuda Indonesia The World's Best Low-Cost Airlines: AirAsia. Hotels update - Le Meridien Khao Lak Beach & Spa Resort has opened 13 new Premium Villas. Situated on a private 10-rai area adjacent to the main hotel, the new villas consist of six beach front villas and seven garden villas. The sizes range from 188m2 to 550m2 for one to two bedrooms respectively. Each villa has a living room with a kitchenette, dining area, a private pool, jacuzzi, a patio and gazebo. Other facilities in the private zone include two swimming pools, a fitness centre, a sauna and a steam room. Guests can also use other facilities such as spa and restaurants of the hotel. - Banyan Tree Spa was named the World's Best Luxury Spa Group at the World Luxury Spa Awards. The awards are regarded as the world's luxury spa benchmark. They comprise 10 categories such as Best Luxury Spa Hotel, Best Luxury Resort Spa and Best Luxury Destination Spa. The winners were selected through an annual online voting process from guests and site visits. The awards also announced the list of 2012 World Luxury Spa Awards Country Winners. Six spas in Thailand named in the list are: Best Luxurious Hotel Spa: Pathways Spa by the Sarojin in Khao Lak, Phangnga. Best Luxury Emerging Spa: Spa Cenvaree, Centara Grand Beach Resort Phuket Best Luxury Destination Spa: RarinJinda Wellness Spa Resort in Chiang Mai Best Luxury Spa Group: Devarana Spas of Dusit Thani Hotel Best Luxury Medical/Wellness Spa: St Carlos Medical Spa in Krung Siam and the St Carlos Medical Centre in Muang district in Pathum Thani Best Luxury Resort Spa: Coqoon Spa in Indigo Pearl, Phuket - Bali Hotels Association has announced a 23% reduction in plastic bag use among hotels on the island. The drive is part of its environmental campaign, in which about 30 member hotels participated. The programme encouraged the hotels to replace disposable plastics with biodegradable plastics or other environmentally friendly alternatives such as glass. It is estimated that Bali generated 750 tonnes of plastic garbage per day, almost 50% more than Jakarta, according to BHA chairman Jean-Charles LeCoz. "This is great news. The results have been encouraging," he said.
Jul
06
Sisaket Temple in Laos
This temple is located in the center of the old city and was built in 1818 by King Anouvong and is Vientiane’s oldest remaining temple having survived the destination of the city by the Siamese in 1828. The oldest monastery stands intact in its original from and certainly is one of the most interesting in the country. Inside the main hall, the courtyard walls house hundreds of little niches and shelves containing a total of 6,840 Buddha images. Ho Trai is a hall containing many Buddhist manuscripts, which were published in the 18th century. The temple is also renowned after featuring as the Lao national emblem at the 1970 Expo Osaka in Japan. The temple is opened daily from 08:00H to 12:00H and 13:00H to 16:00H.
Jul
04
Explore the splendours of Phou Khao Khouay
To mark Visit Laos Year 2012, Vientiane Times is running a series of articles about natural, historical and cultural tourism sites in Laos Locals and travellers can enjoy a relaxing time with a weekend trip to one of the jewels of Phou Khao Khouay National Protected Area in Borikhamxay province. This site starts with a seven tier drop of about 30 metres where water flows as if going down a massive flight of steps. Tad Xay waterfall in Phou Khao Khouay, Vientiane province. This waterfall is called Tad Xay and flows from the crystal clear waters of the Houay Xay stream. From there the water curves to the left through a picturesque small valley just before running 800 metres downstream over a 50 metre drop into a breathtaking forested gorge, Pha Xay. People come to picnic and swim at the foot of the falls. On a fine day you can see white orchids set against the verdant backdrop of the Pa Khamkhiew (‘the green forest’). Tour guide Mr Khammoun Chanthalangsy says the site has been open to guests since 2003 and is now popular with visitors who like adventure. October to April is the best time to visit Tad Xay and Pha Xay before the waters become too turbulent. Park authorities in collaboration with donor agencies have been promoting Tad Xay as part of a guided camping site and homestay with the residents of nearby Hat Khai village. Travel agencies, namely Green Discovery, Exotissimo and Dorkpheung, bring guests to explore the area with local villagers who have been trained as guides. The trips are aimed at promoting ecotourism and conservation, and maintaining an environmental balance. One volunteer guide, who trained with the Dorkpheung travel agency, said Tad Xay and Pha Xay are considered to be the most spectacular waterfalls in the Phou Khao Khouay National Protected Area. People come here to see the orchids, go for a swim, and take a boat ride. Some people can be seen canoeing upstream to the most navigable point. Then they trek north for two hours to reach the falls. Boats are available at the villages of Hat Khai and Houay Leuk. Local authorities now ban locals and visitors from picking orchids to protect the species and encourage concervation. City dwellers should take time off one weekend to come here to absorb the smell of nature and get to know the area on foot. So come and immerse yourself in this calming place and discover a special experience on the doorstep of Vientiane. Visitors can reach Houay Xay directly from Vientiane starting with a left turn shortly before entering Thabok (at Km 90 on Road 13 south). Next go towards Houay Leuk village (5 Km). Then follow the road signs that say “National Park”. After crossing the metal bridge over the Nam Leuk turn right after 1 kilometre. A further 2 kilometres on, you’ll pass another small village, Hat Khai, which is the “gateway” to the park.
Jul
17
Meeting marks Laos-VN ties
(KPL/VNA) A get-together was held in Hanoi on July 15 to welcome delegates to the third Vietnam - Laos People Friendship Festival, which is underway in the capital city, and the northern provinces of Tuyen Quang and Ninh Binh from now until July 21. The function was jointly organised by the Vietnam Union of Friendship Organisations (VUFO) and the Vietnam-Laos Friendship Association. Addressing the event, VUFO President Vu Xuan Hong said the festival is one of major activities to celebrate the Vietnam - Laos Solidarity and Friendship Year 2012. It offers the two peoples a chance to share experience in carrying out friendship activities. He said he hopes the delegates from both countries will make active contributions to the success of the festival, meeting the expectations of the two Parties, States and peoples. Mr. Phankham Viphavanh, a Politburo member of the Lao People's Revolutionary Party and Lao Minister of Education and Sports cum President of the Laos � Vietnam Friendship Association said the festival is a venue to review bilateral traditional ties fostered by generations of Parties and State leaders and people of the two countries. It is also an opportunity to discuss how to boost bilateral cooperation with a view to further deepening the Laos - Vietnam, Vietnam - Laos special solidarity, he said.
Jul
06
Get information about Events and Festivals Official Holidays in Laos
In Laos, working days are from Monday to Saturday, from 8:00 AM to 12:00 AM. and form 2:00 PM till 5:00 PM. Official holidays include the following days: International New Year (January 1) Lao New Year (mid April) International Labour Day (May 1) National Day (December 2) Festival and Major Events A variety of festivals and religious ceremonies are observed throughout the whole year. The most important ones are listed below. January: Boun Khoun Khao: Harvest festival in villages. A ceremony is performed giving thanks to the spirit of the land. February: Boun Khao Chi: a ceremony held at the wat (temple) in the morning, when a special “bread made of sticky rice” is offered. Sikhottabong Festival in Khammouan: This religious festival is held at Sikhottabong stupa, located about 6 km south of Thakhek. Historically, it was built in the 8th and 10th centuries by King Nanthasene. Then the stupa was restored as its original design in the 1950′s. Wat Phu Festival in Champasak: Wat phu festival is annually held in the full moon of the 3rd month of lunar calendar, on the grounds of the enchanting pre-Angkorian Wat Phu remains in Champasak. Festivities are elephants racing, buffaloes fighting, cocks fighting and performances of Lao traditional music and dance. The trade fair showcasing the products from the southern province of Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam is also held. March: Boun Pha Vet: a ceremony of offering donations to have one’s future read from a piece of paper drawn, during the three day-three night festival. April: Lao New Year Parade in Luang PrabangBoun Pimai: the Lao New Year, is celebrated in mid April. On the first day of the festival, Buddha images are taken out of the temples to be cleaned with scented water. The water which drops from the images is collected and taken home in order to pour it on friends and relatives as an act of cleaning and purification. On the evening of the final day, the Buddha images are returned to their proper shrines. In Luang Prabang the festival also features a beauty contest with the crowning of Miss Pimai. Lao New Year in Vientiane: Lao New Year,Pi Mai Lao, usually performed on April 14-16, or lunar new year, is the time when the entire country celebrates; citizens remove Buddha images from the temples to clean with scented water, then take to the streets to dowse one another with this water, an act of clean and purification in anticipation of the end of the dry season. Lao New Year in Luang Prabang: In Luang Prabang, the new year celebration is especially beautified amd the most colorful parade describing the traditional Lao costumes, music and dance, the procession of the sacred Prabang Buddha image, and the Miss New Year beauty contest will be shown. May: Boun Bangfai: the rocket festival, is held at the beginning of the rainy season. The festival is a call for rain and a celebration of fertility. In the morning a religious ceremony is performed. In the afternoon, people gather in the fields on the outskirts of villages and towns to launch self-made firework rockets. Different communities compete for the best decorated and the highest travelling rocket. Men disguised as women perform vaudeville acts using wooden phalli in order to anger the gods. As revenge, the gods are expected to send thunderstorms. Beginning around the middle of May, the rocket festivals are staggered from place to place to enable greater participation and attendance. June: This is time when an offering to the spirits can be made in a corner of one’s garden, very early in the morning July: Boun Khao Phansa: the beginning of the Buddhist lent. During the next three-month period. Monks spend most of their time in prayer and meditation and are restricted from spending nights in other vats other than their own. August: Boun Kao Padabdinh: the observation of a practice of making offerings to the dead. Boat Racing Festival in Luangprabang: This festival includes boat racing on the NamKhane River and a trade fair in Luangprabang city. September: Boun Khao Salak: At the Khao Salak ceremony day, people visit local temples to make offering to the dead as well to share merits making. October: Boun Ok Phansa: that marks the end of the monks’ three-month-fast and retreat during the rainy season. At dawn, donations and offerings are made at the temples. Prayers are chanted by the monks, and at dusk candlelight processions wind round the temples. Concurrently, hundreds of decorated candlelit-floats, made of paper, are set adrift in the rivers. These carry offerings and incense, transforming the river into a fragrant snake of sparkling. This ceremonial part is called Boun Lay Heua fai. The biggest event of the Phansa festival, Boun Souang Heua, is a boat race on the Mekong river between competing communities the next day. Boat Racing Festival in Khammouan: Boat Racing is held in Sebangfai river. At the same occasion a trade fair of agricultural products, local handicrafts, traditional Lao music and dance performance; at the same time, citizens donate the offering to the dead in to share merits. Boat Racing Festival in Vientiane: In Vientiane, the water festival held during k Pansa is spectacular; on the first day at dawn, donations and offerings are made at temples around the city; in the evening, candlelight processions are held around the temples and hundred of colorful flosta decoated with flower; incense and candle are set adrift down the Mekong river in thanksgiving to the river spirit; the next day, a popular and exciting boat racing competition is held on the Mekong. November: Boun That Luang Festival and Trade Fair: This religious festival is held in and around That Luang stupa, the national sysmbol of Laos. It is a three-day religious festival celebrated at full moon in November. It begins with pre-dawn gathering of ten thousands of pilgrims from Laos and Thailand at That Luang who listen to prayers and sermons chanted by hundreds of monks representing all Lao wats. During the following days a fair is held nearby, showcasing tourism in Laos and other countries in ASEAN and the Great Mekong Sub region,will take place during the day. The festival ends with a huge fireworks display. December: That Inhang Festival in Savannakhet: This festival will be held on the grounds of the splendid That Inhang stupa, located just outside the city of Savannkakhet; an international trade fair will include exhibitions of tourism products from Laos, Thailand and Vietnam and performance of traditional Lao, Thai and Vietnamese music and dance; the fair will also include a sports competition, complete with foorball, boxing and tennis matchs and local traditions like a drumming competition. Hmong New Year: Between mid December until January, the Hmong New Year celebration features colorful displays of traditional costumes made from green, red and white silk and ornate silver jewelry. Music from traditional Hmong instruments such as the teun-flute, Hmong-style khene pipe and leave blowing is enjoyed. Other festivities include the Makkhon (cotton-ball) throwing ceremony, ox fighting, spinning-top races and crossbow demonstrations. The festival takes place in Oudomxay, Xieng Khouang, Luang Prabang and Vientiane Province.
Jul
14
Culture in Laos
Lao people boast a plethora of distinctive monuments and architectural styles. One of the most notable structures is That Luang , the Great Sacred Stupa, in Vientiane. Its dome like stupa and four-cornered superstructure is the model for similar monuments throughout Laos. Stupas serve to commemorate the life of the Buddha and many stupas are said to house sacred relics (parts of Buddha’s body). Generally, Hinayana Buddhists cremate the dead body then collect the bone and put in the stupa which set around the temple. Different styles of architecture are evident in the numerous Buddhist vats. Three architectural styles can be distinguished, corresponding to the geographical location of the temples and monasteries. Vats built in Vientiane are large rectangular structures constructed of brick and covered with stucco and high-peaked roofs. In Luang Prabang the roofs sweep very low and, unlike in Vientiane, almost reach the ground. These two styles are different from the vats of Xieng Khouang where the temple roofs are not tiered. Lao religious images and art are also distinctive and set Laos apart from its neighbours. The “Calling for Rain” posture of Buddha images in Lao, for example, which depicts the Buddha standing with his hands held rigidly at his side, fingers pointing to the ground, cannot be found in other South East Asian Buddhist art traditions. Religious influences are also pervasive in classical Lao literature, especially in the Pha Lak Pha Lam, the Lao version of India’s epic Ramayana. Projects are underway to preserve classic Lao religious scripts which were transcribed onto palm leaf manuscripts hundreds of years ago and stored in vats. Another excellent example for the richness of Lao culture is its folk music, which is extremely popular with the people throughout the whole country. The principle instrument is the khaen, a wind instrument which comprises a double row of Bamboo-like reeds fitted into a hardwood soundbox. The khaen is often accompanied by a bowed string instrument or saw. The national folk dance is the lamvong, a circle dance in which people dance circles around each other so that ultimately there are three circles: a circle danced by the individual, another one by the couple, and a third one danced by the whole party.
Jul
24
Off the air in Laos
VIENTIANE - Amid an unprecedented flurry of public debate and critique of government policies and actions, Lao authorities abruptly canceled a popular call-in radio program in late January without any public explanation. The program, Talk of the News, ran for four consecutive years and encouraged the public to comment on issues of the day through often anonymous phone calls. The host, Ounkeo Souksavanh, an urbane ex-print journalist found himself uniquely enmeshed in the Lao population's complaints and grievances. Social justice, overt corruption and land grabs were daily fare on Talk of the News, a rarity in Laos' authoritarian context. While many wondered when the boot would drop on the program, Lao listeners had grown accustomed to this point of light in the Summoned by the director of Lao National Radio, Ounkeo was told that Minister of Information, Culture and Tourism Bosengkham Vongdara had issued the cancellation order. "I was shocked. I had no warning," said Ounkeo. "Suddenly I was told by the head of national radio that he had been told to cancel my show. I think the order came from high up in the Ministry of Information and Culture," Ounkeo said. "I take my program from the daily news. I open the show by reading out segments from the Lao press and then open the lines for people to comment. Recently people have been saying strange things. When many nightclubs were re-opened, someone called to say, 'well what do you expect - you know who owns them' and then he hung up." The rub was that they are likely owned by senior government officials. "Later, someone called me and warned me not to give space to the public. But it's an open line program, so people complain about many things; the Vietnamese taking land from veterans for a golf course, the loss of farming land on Don Chang [an island outside of Vientiane]. What can I do?" Hopes that Laos may emulate Myanmar's recent tentative moves to greater press freedom, or that the ruling Communist Party might begin to move towards more enlightened policies, have been snuffed out with the program's closure. The cancelation and continued human-rights abuses indicate that democracy is still elusive. "Who [demanded the closure] is not the issue here, but there is no legal reasons at all. There is no warning about the mistakes. This case reflects that the Lao government limits on people's freedom expression [and is] violating the national constitution. It expresses that the power belongs to only the government. In fact that the constitution says power belong to people, by people and for people [sic]" one anonymous fan posted to the program's website. Many Lao used the anonymity of radio to bring into question what one long time Vientiane observer has called "patrimonial politics", referring to the dominance of several influential families in Laos' politics and economy. Some suggest the last straw may have been a live-to-air interview with a delegation of farmers from the Boloven plateau, a well-known coffee growing region in the south. They insisted that a Vietnamese coffee company had been given permission to plant 150 hectares of coffee. Over time, however, the area had expanded into 1,000 hectares. The farmers alleged the district governor had taken bribes from the company to look the other way, and that he had recently been seen driving a new luxury car, which they insinuated was part of his pay-off. That particular program attracted a huge audience and might have contributed to the subsequent deluge of the National Assembly's hot-line with similar land-grabbing complaints. Before the program's airing, Ounkeo had already achieved a degree of Robin Hood-like fame for giving voice to poor versus rich social justice issues. For instance, he took his microphone into the city's jail to interview a woman wrongly accused of arson following a neighborhood feud with a wealthy Lao family. The woman was subsequently released. The show's cancelation caused unprecedented commentary among Laos' online community. Members of Lao Links, a Lao language online bulletin board, expressed dismay and regret that "society won't be able to listen to this program anymore because it is as same as a big microphone to speak out about social problems", one online contributor wrote. "It's the hot issue on Lao Links right now," engineer Khantone Soumiphone said. "We are all wondering why it happened and we are very concerned. It was the only source of interesting news and discussion about important development issues ... The government says it is pro-development but closes the only program that discusses the results. It doesn't make sense." After the program's closure, Ounkeo held discussions with European Union charge d'affaires Michel Goffin, who apparently told him that the issue of press freedom would be raised at the forthcoming 9th Asia-Europe Summit (ASEM) to be held in Vientiane in November. Goffin did not answer this correspondent's request for confirmation that he made the comment. Ironically, some of the complaints raised on Ounkeo's radio show were about the agricultural land on Don Chang. A luxury hotel is scheduled to be constructed in time for the ASEM meeting on land that previously provided much of Vientiane's fresh produce. Meanwhile, less than a week after the program's cancelation, the front page headline in Laos English language daily newspaper, Vientiane Times, announced that the party was poised to "bolster propaganda at grassroots level". The Ministry of Information and Culture's Propaganda and Training Board is "to accelerate the establishment of mobile propaganda teams ... to penetrate grassroots communities". The new propaganda drive, some suggest, is a government reaction to the open public hostility to its policies and actions often aired on Ounkeo's program. Those grievances are apparently mounting. It is an open secret that many Lao provinces still function as modern-day fiefdoms for Lao political leaders to extract money and privilege. "Gate keeping, influence peddling and rent seeking are national sports disguised as development," said agro-economist Jeff Casey from Bangkok. While Laos' gross domestic product has grown in recent years, so too has the national Gini coefficient, a statistical measure of economic inequality. Laos remains one of the world's poorest countries and mushrooming mansions owned by government officials and the sheer number of new luxury cars on Vientiane's roads have raised uncomfortable questions about who are the real beneficiaries of the communist leadership's development agenda. Some Lao residents believe that the party is rattled by the spate of demonstrations against official abuse in neighboring Vietnam and the rise in local complaints lodged via the National Assembly's hot-line. Most of those complaints have focused on a lack of government transparency, particularly on land issues, and systemic corruption that Ounkeo's program not so subtly suggested taints all levels of government.
Jul
16
Vinh Phuc repatriates martyrs' remains from Laos
(KPL ) On the occasion of the 65th anniversary of War Invalids and Martyrs' Day (July 27), the Military Command of northern Vinh Phuc province of Vietnam has received three sets of remains of Vietnamese experts and voluntary soldiers who laid down their lives on the Lao battlefield. Found by the Defence Ministrys search group, the remains were identified as natives to the province, including Le Cong Trinh and Do Van Hanh born in 1950 in Tam Dao and Lap Thach districts, and Nguyen Van Quang born in 1947 in Vinh Yen district. The provincial Military Command will hand over the remains to their families and hold a reburial ceremony in the near future. On the occasion, the provincial chapter of the Ho Chi Minh Communist Youth Union called on the community to lighten 10,000 martyrs' graves at 130 cemeteries across the locality by installing more solar lamps.
Jul
25
A cultural hall will be constructed in Xieng Khuai
The construction of a culture hall in Xieng Khuang province, which is being jointly funded by the Lao and Vietnamese governments, is expected to commence soon. A model of the cultural hall. The hall will cost in excess of 31 billion kip to construct, and take around 18 months to complete. The information was revealed at the ground breaking ceremony, held in the province on July 18. The ceremony was attended by provincial Governor Prof. Dr Somkot Mangnomek, the Secretary of Vietnam’s Nghe-An Provincial Party Committee, Mr Phan Dinh Trac, alongside other representatives from both sides and officials concerned. Locally-based PPC Design and Architecture Company will build the hall at a total cost of 31.5 billion kip. The Vietnamese government is providing over 15.8 billion kip (US$1.9 million) towards the cost of construction, while the remainder will be funded by the Lao government. The two-storey building will be 100 metres long and 80 metres wide, and will be fully furnished and decorated. Mr Phan Dinh Trac and his delegation’s attendance at the ceremony formed part of their short-working visit to the province from July 16-19. Speaking at the ceremony, Dr Somkot said the hall will be used for holding meetings, exchanging ideas on art and culture and conducting many other activities between the two countries. On the same day, the delegations of the two countries gathered to cut the ribbon to open the Xieng Khuang-Nghe-An Friendship Road from Phonkham to Phonngam villages in Paek district. The road is 1,500 metres in length, while its width varies between 10 and 18 metres, including an additional 500 meters of newly cut road, officials revealed. The new road includes a pavement for pedestrians, large flower pots, street lighting, memorial signs and other features. The road was constructed by the two locally-based construction companies of Daophuan and Somchanh at a cost of over 20 billion kip, funded by the Lao government. The Vietnam-Laos Friendship Road will be built in Ving city of Nghe-An province, funded by the Vietnamese government. T he cooperation between Laos and Vietnam in building the culture hall and roads is part of the celebration of the 50th anniversary of Vietnam-Laos diplomatic ties and the 35th anniversary of the signing the Laos-Vietnam Friendship and Cooperation Treaty. The two countries have a long shared history and have provided assistance to each other in many areas over an extended period. Cultural exchange and assistance in the fields of information, culture, education and tourism are among the areas where they have cooperated closely over the years. The two countries regularly exchange experts to supply each other with information and expertise, as they consider information and culture as central to national protection and development, and essential to enhancing their special friendship.
Jul
04
Memorized vacation In Laos
The Southeast Asian country of Laos has seen an extended bad times during several war affected period. The consistent bombarding shattered the country in many different ways, But things are getting normal and Laos is evolving as a major tourist destination. Like some tortured human souls, some countries of the world also has to under go the ruthless battering of time and history which leaves a scar on its image and psyche. Laos, a landlocked country in Southeast Asia, bordered by Burma and China has a story to tell with lots of bomb attacks in different turns of history. Buddha statue at Vientiane But, rising from the ashes, Laos has now made its way to become one of the most attractive countries from traveller point of view with lots to do and see. You can start out with a riverboat sail along the water channels of Laos meandering ways through the roadless hamlets, pristine environment and diverse cultures. Or you can head towards the cave series of Vieng Xai, that used to be the shelter fro the locals from aerial bombardment during the 20th-century Indochina wars. Not to be missed the "bomb-shelter caves" that are seated amid dramatic karst outcrops. The karst cliffs and mountains of Khammuan in central Laos are something that makes vacation a worth in this part of the nation. Turquoise streams, monsoon forests and striking karst topography marks this region that deserves serious mention while talking about the natural resources of Laos. To give your vacation a novel and off the beat touch, you can go out on a bicycle excursion along the streets of the capital- Vientiane. Or if you are night creature, then no other place can better the experience of a night out in the town of Vang Vieng. It has a limestone cliff backdrop that mixes well with the parties in open-air raves-slash-amusement parks and in the clubs. In addition to all these, former royal capital of Luang Prabang and Si Phan Don are the places that retains the laid back look with lots to offer for some backpacking. Today, Laos has come a long way from its dubious distinction as a tormented destination that it used to be till some time ago.
Jul
23
Youth of Laos and worry of AEC
Final year university students are very concerned about job security in Laos once the Asean Economic Community (AEC) is established in 2015, allowing the free flow of labour within member nations. They worry that the good jobs available in the country will be taken by skillful workers from other countries including Singapore and the Philippines. Meantime more Lao labourers could be forced to leave their country to seek employment in neighbouring Thailand. A senior Lao economist Dr Liber Libuapao from the National Economic Research Institute said that the government needs to focus more on the quality of the education system in Laos so that the graduates do not lose out from the regional integration. "We need to focus more on the quality of the education, not just the quantity. We need to be strict in exams and crack down on the process of buying certificates as part of producing qualified graduates to compete with those in other Asean countries," he said. Vice President of the National University of Laos, Associate Prof Dr Phetsamone Khounsavath, said recently that Laos needs to improve English skills in the country to develop its human resources. He said the government has introduced English into the curriculum from the third grade of primary school to allow Lao children the chance to study the language when they are young but the implementation of the project mostly takes place in urban areas. "Our English skill is not good right now," Dr Phetsamone said, saying that his university planned to introduce a programme where English is taught in various faculties to enhance the English skills of all university students. "The challenge is that many Lao people don't like to read and we need to change this mindset." The Asean Economic Community will provide challenges and opportunities for Laos but a brain drain is possible. Many more Lao people may go out to find jobs in other countries while skillful workers from other countries may come to work in Laos to cover the shortfall. Dr Liber said the most important thing for Laos is to improve labour management to ensure the inflow of foreign workers contributes to economic growth. A lack of labour management could result in social disorder with more criminals, drug abuse and trafficking, and other problems. Another concern was that the free flow of foreign labour could impact on the traditional culture and ways of life for Lao people. But the opportunity is that Lao people can learn from the lessons and experiences of others. There will be more transfer of knowledge and technology in the country as regional integration proceeds. Asean – Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, Myanmar, Thailand, Singapore, Brunei, Malaysia, Singapore and the Philippines – is a market of nearly 600 million people. The main objective of the AEC is to create a single market and production base, a highly competitive economic region, a region of equitable economic development, and a region fully integrated into the global economy. The AEC will allow the free flow of goods, services, capital, investment and skilled labour within member countries.
Jul
21
Khamkoun Hotel in Laos
This hotel has such a great location. It is right down the street from the morning market, The Patuxai monument and a short jog to the stadium which was home to the Asian Games in 2010. Khamkoun Hotel is a charming hotel with a friendly staff easy transportation to the airport or the Friendship Bridge. There is also a restaurant with good local fare and ice cold Lao beer.
Jul
13
Finding the feeling after cruising along the Mekong in Laos
One of my favorite features at our hotel in Luang Prabang, La Residence Phou Vao (an Orient Express hotel), was their day tour service. Instead of just helping facilitate tours with local providers, they’re one of the few hotels I’ve seen that creates tailor made experiences for guests, a fact I didn’t realize until we actually went on a day tour with them. There were a lot of choices when it came to decide how to spend a day outside of Luang Prabang, but being on the water always appeals to me so it was an easy decision to chose a trip to the Pak Ou Caves alongside the Mekong River in Laos. I admit that I didn’t know a lot about the day trip before we left early in the morning. I knew that there were caves filled with thousands of Buddha images, that a river was involved and that we were likely to get lunch. That was the full extent of my knowledge, sad to say. I was luckily brought up to speed quickly and in high style. Our personal guide met us at the hotel and we transferred to the nearby dock on the Mekong River where our own private riverboat was waiting for us. That’s right, private boat. We were immediately offered a beverage (Diet Coke please) and off we went. The journey began in the wrong direction, literally not metaphorically, towards a small village. I anticipated a tourist trap village, by which I mean a contrived village experience built around selling things to tourists. That would actually come later in the day, but this first stop wasn’t that at all. In fact, unless I missed something entirely, it was just a stop at a local village in order to see what life is like. I never felt more colonial as we wandered through the buildings, but at the same time I was grateful for the experience. I was grateful to meet some real people other than doormen and the nice ladies who sold Oreo milkshakes to me at the night market. We sat and watched as a craftsman made some pots, marveling at the expertise needed for the craft. The guide showed us around town, I pet a couple of dogs and before I knew it we were back on the boat for the two-hour journey up-river to Pak Ou. The village was a strange stop, but did indeed set the tone of the day that we would be discovering a little more about what makes Laos tick. Boiled down to its essence, the caves function as an island for misfit toys, but in a much more respectful and religious context. The caves have served as Buddhist temples for more than 600 years and most of the Buddha statues and images are there because they were damaged or otherwise found unfit for veneration in a proper temple. But the caves have long held immense importance for the Laotians and when the country still had a king, he made an annual pilgrimage to the caves to perform ritualized bathing of the old statues. Today the caves are still an important religious destination, but they’re also an importance tourist spot thanks in large part to their relative proximity to the tourist town of Luang Prabang. We were told that it was unusually hot the week we were in Laos, but that didn’t really make us feel any better. I was tired of sweating all day, every day and the boat ride was the perfect escape from the city doldrums. As soon as I stepped out of the traditional river boat onto the dock at the Pak Ou caves though, the heat fell upon me in waves, forcing a quicker than normal climb into the dark cave system. We were between tourist boats, which meant we essentially had the caves to ourselves, a brief moment of travel bliss in what can sometimes be a crowded attraction. I looked up, around, down and true to my expectations; there were Buddha images everywhere, of all ages in all sizes. We walked around, admiring the pieces and listening to our guide share the history of the location. Then he pointed to a nearby island and announced “And that is where you will have lunch.” Charming, the sandbar in the middle of the Mekong with no shade when the temperatures mimicked the surface of the sun? Couldn’t wait. As usual, Orient Express was one step ahead of me and by the time we stepped out of the boat onto our private island, a table with white linen service, silver and a giant umbrella providing shade was readied for our noontime repast. My jaw hung wide open, allowing the pterodactyl sized Mekong bugs to enter my corpus and I stood there staring at the set up. I felt like a character in an Agatha Christie novel except the obvious lack of strange murders amongst the upper crust tourists. In all honesty, I was expecting a boxed lunch to be enjoyed while sitting on the boat. A full, British royal style set up had never crossed my mind. It was a lovely lunch, of that there can be no doubt. But I felt a bit awkward, not being used to butler service on a day trip. The staff ate on the boat and glanced over every few seconds to make sure we didn’t want for anything. They even gave us a damn bell to ring in case I needed something. But after a few moments my level of discomfort decreased and I sat there enjoying the very unique and romantic moment the hotel had created for us. The lunch was delicious and refreshing, absolutely necessary on a hot day in the tropics. As we finished our dessert and coffees, we noticed a disturbance across the river. Elephants, part of a mahout tour, were approaching the river to drink. I know, I know, I hate the practice of using elephants on tours, but I have to tell you, it was striking to see them there with the mountains in the distance as they snorted each other with water from their giant trunks. Truly a memory to savor for a lifetime. By that time we were ready to be back in our air-conditioned bungalow at the hotel. The day had been great, but all the sights had been seen and we were exhausted from the heat. A cold drink next to the pool sounded like nirvana. But there was one last stop to make and it’s a feature on just about every day tour in the world – the tourist stop. I’ve written about this phenomenon before and I understand why it exists and the need for it, but it’s still annoying. However, not wanting to screw over our guide we grudgingly agreed to stop at the whiskey village. Turns out what was dubbed as the whiskey village was actually an almost vacant series of buildings and one stand where the vendor was selling bottles of Lao-Lao with or without dead animals inside. Snake Lao Lao For the uninitiated (and you’re a lucky bunch), Lao-Lao is a Laotian rice whiskey and for all intents and purposes is just moonshine. If you haven’t had it, it’s a cross between turpentine and rubbing alcohol. The animals are included for a variety of reasons, to interest tourists but also to capture the energy of the animal inside. Either way I made it known immediately that we were in no way interested and we were thankfully allowed to leave quickly. That was the only hiccup though on an otherwise wonderful tour. I’ve been on tours organized with the assistance of hotels before, but never have I been on one so well branded and customized as the one with the Orient Express property La Residence Phou Vao. They could have easily just contracted out these services and made the same amount of money, more probably, but they didn’t. Instead they have put the experience of their guests ahead of pure profit and in doing so have built a veritable army of loyal and happy customers. I know, I’m one of them.
Jul
18
Lao Tourism Forms PPP Working Groups
Lao tourism enterprises, government officials, and donor development agencies agreed to join hands to establish working groups for marketing and human resource development (HRD) with the aim of forging public-private sector partnerships (PPPs) to boost the nation’s tourism industry. The 50-some invited attendees unanimously agreed to form the working groups during the 6th Lanith Quarterly Symposium held in association with the German Development Cooperation (GIZ) on 23 March at Vientiane’s Lao Plaza hotel. Symposium panellist, Oudet Souvannavong, founder of the 17-year-old Lao Hotel and Restaurant Association and owner of Best Western Vientiane, will take the helm of the marketing working group, and will coordinate with Lao Tourism Marketing Board (LTMB) Advisor Kirsten Focken representing GIZ. Their first goal is to pinpoint the early steps needed to organise all stakeholders to collectively market Laos. Another panellist, Inthy Deuansavan, the managing director of Laos’ leading domestic tour operator, Green Discovery, will oversee the HRD working group with support from Lanith Chief Technical Advisor Peter Semone representing Luxembourg Development. Their initial aim is to identify key HRD issues and the best direction for the industry to take to advance service quality. The two-hour event’s moderator Mr Semone kicked off the symposium, themed “Partnerships for Tourism Development” by telling attendees, “I asked our three speakers and four panellists to focus on solutions and instigate the audience into participating in the discussion, even if what the speaker says is contentious.” He stated. “We need to come together in a synchronised partnership, and Lanith joining with GIZ to organise this symposium hopes to set an example.” Keynote speaker Bert van Walbeek, from the Bangkok-based tourism consultancy firm, The Winning Edge, presented “Towards Target 2020”, and he questioned whether Laos will be ready to handle the number of visitors needed to reach the billion-dollar tourism revenue goal. Mr van Walbeek suggested a demand-led marketing approach that seeks to raise visitors’ average daily spend, which requires cooperation in destination marketing, especially among the private sector. Lao Tourism Marketing Board (LTMB) Advisor Kirsten Focken, whose position is funded by GIZ, then presented a case study, during which she agreed that more focus is needed on attracting the higher-spending long-haul market, and she called for a “collective marketing” approach in which stakeholders pool their resources. Ms Focken compared Laos’ small display at major global trade event, ITB Berlin, to the much larger exhibitions from deeper-pocketed neighbours, Myanmar and Vietnam, and concluded, “We must maximize the private sector’s involvement and advice to better promote Laos…and this requires a strategy that uses collective marketing.” Professor Tom Baum from Scotland’s University of Strathclyde, the world’s leading authority on tourism and hospitality HRD and author of “Achieving Service Quality through People” based on Lanith’s (Lao National Institute of Tourism and Hospitality) research, presented his case study, “The Current State of Play” based on his previous two visits to Laos. “Tourism education presents diverse and complex challenges…and no one alone can solve the problems. Partnership has to be the keyword.” Professor Baum added, “Lanith is taking the first step in creating a partnership model…If it works, it will be a global first, but it demands responsibility from the private sector, as they play a vital role in the education and training process.” Lanith’s “Passport to Success” skills training programme recently won the Pacific Asia Travel Association’s 2012 Grand Award for Education and Training. During the panel session, “Making Partnerships Work for Lao Tourism”, Mr Semone challenged the audience. “Let’s walk away with something tangible. We need one idea…What can we easily accomplish in two-to-four months? The development partners are ready to help. Tell us what you want us to do.” Panellist Armin Hofmann, GIZ Director in Laos, agreed, and suggested, “We need a more systematic alliance to avoid fragmentation. Whatever we do must be done in a systematic way.” Mr Hofmann then called for a meeting of like-minded people. Ms Focken concurred, especially since the country will be hosting the ASEAN Tourism Forum (ATF) with its TRAVEX trade exhibition in January 2013. “We need to get together and talk about what we are going to do for ATF,” Ms Fokken stressed. Mr Deuansavan noted, “Marketing on a small scale is easy, but it takes a large-scale effort to promote a destination. To compete, we need the private sector to get together.” The attendees also proposed solutions including internships at businesses for tourism teachers lacking practical experience, tour operators and hotels teaming to market Lao tourism rather than relying on the government, and forming a multi-donor advisory panel. Long-time Lao resident Steven Schipani, a panellist representing the Asian Development Bank (ADB) then offered to create and present a policy paper for approval that would commit the ADB to assist Laos in marketing ATF, and write an expression of interest for supporting PPPs “if you (attendees) show you are serious.” Mr Semone concluded the symposium by making a motion to establish the two working groups with Mr Deuansavan and Mr Souvannavong as their leaders. After the motion passed it was agreed the working groups would meet shortly after April’s Lao New Year, and all interested parties are invited to attend.
Jul
25
Laos, Cambodia further cooperation on culture
(KPL) Prof Dr Bosengkham Vongdara, Minister of Information, Culture and Tourism received at his office in Vientiane on 20 July a courtesy visit of Mr. Khim Sarith, Deputy Ministrer of Culture and Fine Arts of Cambodia. At the reception, Prof Dr Bosengkham Vongdara praised and highly valued the results of the bilateral cooperation on culture made in the past between Laos and Cambodia, especially the information exchange on culture and the exchange of visit between the high ranking delegation from the two countries which is considered as a big contribution to develop and enhance the cooperation on culture and fine arts of Laos and Cambodia. Mr. Khim Sarith led his delegation to visit Laos last week, aiming to hold discussions with relevant Lao officials on heritage management, especially the management of historical museums. Prof Dr Bosengkham Vongdara briefed the delegation on the division of cultural heritage management responsibilities and cooperation among authorities at all levels in Laos, believing the current structure has allowed for successful management of heritage issues. Meanwhile, he expressed the pleasure of the Lao side that further cooperation between the two neighbouring countries will continue in this area. The Cambodian delegation on 21 July held a working session with Kaysone Phomvihane Museum's delegation where the bilateral cooperation MoU was signed by two sides.
Jul
02
Laos Elephant Festival 2012
In Sayaboury, elephants are sacred. They have been man's best friend since time immemorial. Traditionally used for work in the forest, these magnificent animals are now looking forward to meeting you at this sixth elephant festival, giving you the chance to discover the riches and marvels of the cultural and natural world surrounding them. So, come and meet the elephants and their masters at the 2012 Elephant Festival... where past and present meet... Note : Visas on Arrival: AVAILABLE in Muang Ngeun for visitors crossing from Thailand into Laos.
Jul
20
Coffee colonialism in Laos
VIENTIANE - It is an increasingly familiar tale in Laos: poor farmers are pushed off their ancestral lands by corrupt local officials to make way for capital-rich, foreign-invested plantation agriculture. But the tenacity of one small group of agrarians who are fighting back has revealed the abuse of power that attends many Lao land dealings, representing a landmark case in the country's often opaque and obscure authoritarian politics. In a classic David versus Goliath struggle, farmers in Paksong, southern Laos find themselves pitted against Singaporean coffee company Outspan Boloven, a subsidiary of agribusiness giant Olam International. The company won a government con to plant coffee on what the protesting agrarians claim were illegally seized lands. The farmers have staged rare protests in communist-run Laos, bringing national attention to their grass roots plight and perceived high level corruption in the land deal. Puan, a thin, angular-faced man involved in the fight, said during a recent trip to the national capital to air grievances, "We will die for our land." A Vientiane-based Lao lawyer, who declined to be named because he is providing informal legal advice to the group, agrees that violence is often the only recourse for farmers victimized by state-backed land-grabbing. "Maybe some have to die so that the world takes notice of what is happening in this country - the misuse of power, the suppression of protest," he said. A delegation of the aggrieved farmers first came to Vientiane in late February and by several accounts were heavily harassed by officials, forcing them to move between safe houses. An interview on national radio with the group's members is believed to have triggered one popular call-in program's cancellation (see Off the air in Laos, Asia Times Online, February 22, '12). Apart from protests, the group has twice pleaded for intervention with the legal department of Laos' National Assembly, each time presenting detailed dossiers of their claims to the land to the Petitions Office. Both times officials' have made empty promises to investigate the situation, they claim. The Vientiane-based Land Issues Working Group (LIWG), a nongovernmental organization that has supported the case, is known to have mediated with Outspan Boloven representatives and on behalf of the group approached the local Singapore Embassy. Those efforts, however, have so far failed to cool grass roots passions. "We don't want an agreement; we want our land back. They [company representatives] came to the area last week but no one talked to us. They should leave," Puan insisted, the rest of his group nodding in agreement. Profitable brew Lao coffee, like Lao beer, is now internationally renowned. The organic coffee grown by smallholder farmers on the Boloven Plateau commands premium prices in global markets, and has fueled a surge of trendy coffee shops in Lao cities. The rich volcanic soils and conducive climate of the country's southern plateau has recently attracted foreign investors to the organic growing region. In 2010, Sonexay Siphandone, Governor of Champasak province and former Communist Party Secretary, granted Outspan Boloven the use of 150 hectares of prime agricultural land on a 30 year concession basis. Siphandone hails from one of the country's most powerful political families, with known commercial interests spanning hydropower, hotels and land holdings. The concession represented the maximum amount of land that could be legally granted by a provincial authority; larger concession land areas require national level approval. LIWG noted in a report that under such concessions companies often start clearing land after receiving the maximum plots allowed by the provincial government while their request for more land is pending in Vientiane. In the case of Outspan Boloven, LIWG notes, the clearing had been ongoing while national approval was still pending. Over the protests of local farmers, the company expanded its original 150-hectare plantation to more than 1,100 hectares, impinging on over 140 hectares of productive village lands, burning high value trees such as rosewoods and teak, and desecrating graveyards and ancestral shrines in the clearing process, according to aggrieved farmers. Already 1,460 hectares have been planted with coffee, and the company has announced plans to expand its holdings to 3,000 hectares. "Companies often destroy graveyards and shrines to eradicate claims of ancestral ownership and demoralize communities," said Scotland-based filmmaker Serge Marti, drawing parallels between what is happening now in Laos to palm oil development in Indonesia. Video shot in the contested area in Paksong a week before the delegation arrived in Vientiane showed piles of burnt and smoking timber and bamboo clumps. Bare earth exposed by company bulldozers is ringed by openly distraught villagers. "Outspan gave the villagers 20 tons of rice three years ago. That was for over 1,000 people. But in the long run how can the families of Nong Mek, Nong Tua Nong Hin and Nong Tiem [villages] live?" asked the filmmaker who declined to be named for reasons of security. "We will have to send emergency food aid down to the families that are starving." Puan, an unofficial delegation leader, opened a red ledger that accounts for the local losses incurred by the Outspan Boloven plantation: 205 hectares of productive forest, 10 hectares of encroached housing land, 71 hectares of watershed forest and 14 hectares of specialty incense bark trees felled to make way for the Singaporean company's coffee trees. His accounting shows that some 52 families have lost all of their land and income sources, including the uprooting of their own coffee trees. None of the affected families were compensated for the land or their loss of livelihoods, nor were any formal agreements or contracts signed with village leaders, he says. Soon after the agreement with the governor's office came into force, Outspan Boloven brought in tractors and leveled the ground without any local consultations. "They worked day and night. The noise and light did not allow us to sleep," Puan grumbled. "We went out and tried to stop them, but they told us we had no rights anymore as the land had been granted by the governor." Soumpheng, a village head in the area settled by the ethnic Nya Hitun/Yahern minority, takes issue with that interpretation. He says attempts to get an explanation from the local district and provincial offices were met variously with obfuscation, lies and threats. "The land was granted to us by the (former) Royal Lao Government in 1901…The French colonials brought coffee in 1954 [and] later we fought to make them leave our land, just like we fought against the Americans. So we are veterans of fighting and are unafraid," he said. "After the socialist government forbade shifting cultivation, we had no trouble diversifying. We planted lots of commercial trees and other subsistence crops. The money we got enabled us to pay our land tax. We have been awarded certificates of appreciation because we always paid our taxes on time," he added. LIWG's analysis supports the basis of these complaints. "Clearance of crops appears to have taken place before permission was given by village leaders in regard of private and crop-cultivated communal land, although the survey report said that Outspan [Boloven] should obtain permission from village leaders first before clearing." Damage control Olam International, an integrated agricultural produce supply company, is among Singapore's top 40 largest companies, with a multinational presence in 65 countries worldwide. The company claims to be among the world's largest suppliers of coffee, sesame, cocoa, rice, spices, peanuts, cotton and tropical hardwood products, supplying over 11,000 different customers. Coffee from the first harvested Outspan Boloven crop has already been exported to California, according to the company. The company's local office could not be reached for comment, but its central office in Singapore responded to queries about the controversy through Gong Communications, a London-based public relations company. Sara Firouzyar, a Gong Communications representative, said Olam International was concerned about the local protests against the plantation. "We believed in good faith that we had followed national laws and relevant processes," she said. Firouzyar said the company first learned about the protests from LIWG, rather than the subsidiary's representatives, and that an independent three-person team - comprised of one Lao and two Dutch nationals - had since been engaged to investigate and perform an audit on the situation. Firouzyar said that Olam also promised to hold 12 stakeholder meetings, which, if they happen, mused long-time Lao resident Richard Hollis, in an email, "may cast unwanted light on government corruption and ineptitude." At the same time, she maintained that the project was consistent with "Olam's Livelihood Charter", which states the company aims "to bring prosperity to our farming and rural communities. We build long-term relationships based on fairness and trust. We seek to transfer skills and knowledge through partnerships." Olam International declined to respond to how the company would meet the demands of protesting farmers who are fighting for a return of their seized ancestral lands. "We are also actively recruiting a qualified, local community specialist to be based in Laos to ensure that we are able to build strong local relationships going forward," said Firouzyar. At the time of this writing, the composition of those committees was still being negotiated. Some hope that Olam International's apparent willingness to negotiate might provide Lao civil society with a much needed fillip, as well as provide a lightning rod for land rights reform. Laos ranks 158th out of 180 countries surveyed on Transparency International's global corruption perception index, a ranking influenced by a recent surge in official land grabbing. Although not reported in the state-controlled press, land grabbing is fueling rising rural unrest across the country, according to NGOs monitoring the situation. They feel that Governor Siphandone's role in granting the controversial Outspan Boloven concession, as well as similar land concessions he has given in the area to Vietnamese agribusiness investors, should be opened to public scrutiny. Farmers like Puan, however, have lost all faith in official channels for transparency and justice. "This is our dignity and our lives" he said. "We are not afraid to die."
Jul
13
Lao artists to give performance in Vietnam
A company of 47 artists of the Lao National Art Troupe will pay a performing visit to Vietnam in the framework of the “Lao culture days in Vietnam” program from July 16-20. This is one of the important cultural events to mark the Vietnam-Laos Friendship and Solidarity Year 2012 and the 50th anniversary of diplomatic ties between the two countries. The company will join Vietnamese artists at the opening of the program at the Hanoi Opera Theatre on July 17th, giving performances in a musical concert, dancing, modeling new fashion and singing many Vietnamese songs. Lao artists will also sing a song composed by Lao musicians to praise President Ho Chi Minh. The gathering is expected to feature special characteristics of Lao culture as well as highlight the special solidarity and friendship between Vietnam and Laos. This year, the Vietnamese Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism and the Laos ’ Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism plan to organize simultaneously the Laos and Vietnamese culture days in both countries during five days. The two events will include a series of activities such as works of art, acting performances, film screenings, exhibitions and workshops to promote culture and popular tourism destinations in both countries.
Jul
23
Remote jar site receives few visitors
The Plain of Jars in Phakeo village in Kham district of Xieng Khuang province is really beautiful, but many visitors won't go there as there is currently no road access. About 416 jars are scattered under trees on the low mountain slopes, an official from the Provincial Department of Information, Culture and Tourism Mr Phousavanh Vorasing told Vientiane Times on Friday. However, there is the possibility of building a road which is currently under consideration by the Xieng Khuang provincial authorities, he mentioned. If the road construction goes ahead, this Plain of Jars site will become a major tourist destination in the province. It is already of great interest to tourists from European countries visiting the province but there are not so many of them at the moment, just a few visitors per week, he said. “The European people are there as they like to go trekking,” he pointed out. “They're very impressed with its diverse natural beauty of forests, limestone mountains, green valleys and rolling grasslands.” Most visitors who visit enjoy a homestay in the households of the Hmong ethnic group, usually for two nights and three days. The Plain of Jars in Phakeo village is located about 27 kilometres from the town of Phonsavanh, Xieng Khuang province. When visitors wish to go there, they should take a motorcycle or car to Kha village, then they need to walk from there to Phakeo village, which takes about three hours. As there is no road access to the Plain of Jars in Phakeo village, many visitors prefer to tour the Plain of Jars Site 1 in Paek district, Xieng Khuang province, because it's not too far away, about six kilometers from the town. It also has an asphalt road linking it to town. Each year, some 5,000 visitors from Laos and abroad visit the site, traveling mostly in families or as members of tour groups. The larger tour groups typically come with a guide, but smaller groups do not hire a guide as they want to save money, Mr Phousavanh said. According to the tourism information office in the provincial capital Phonsavanh, more than 28,000 tourists have visited Xieng Khuang province over the past few years. The Plain of Jars Site 1 is one of the biggest attractions for local and foreign travelers, and will soon be declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Extensive archaeological studies have established that the large stone jars are about 2,000 years old on average. Xieng Khuang authorities curr ently receive assistance from UNESCO and government agencies to develop sustainable and responsible tourism at the jar sites and other visitor attractions. The goal is to develop locally managed tourism centred on the Plain of Jars, that involves and benefits local people, which will help the provincial authorities collect much needed revenue to protect historic sites and natural attractions. The revenue generated from tour groups will help the authorities to achieve their visions of sustainable tourism, which will protect the cultural heritage of Xieng Khuang and provide a better life for nearby rural communities.
Jul
18
Passport to Success Lands PATA Grand Award
Lanith’s “Passport to Success” skills training programme has pulled in the coveted Pacific Asia Travel Association’s (PATA) Grand Award for Education and Training for 2012, and will receive the prize at a ceremony during the PATA Annual Conference in Kuala Lumpur on 21 April. This year, PATA presented Grand Awards for its four primary categories – education and training, marketing, environment, and heritage and culture – to outstanding entries for its 23 annual Gold Awards, which recognize achievements in a range of sub-sections. “This award recognises that local trainers can effectively teach international-level tourism and hospitality skills to their own country’s staff, who have low levels of expertise,” said Passport to Success architect Mike Loose, Lanith’s Technical Advisor, Industry Training. He added, “This is an achievement for all of Lao tourism and its people, including the Lanith core team, Luxembourg Development which is funding the project, Passport to Success participants, and the country’s education system.” Lanith Chief Technical Advisor Peter Semone said, “What makes this PATA Grand Award particularly gratifying is that we took an idea and turned it into an operational reality in about a year.” Mr Loose noted that the achievement awards system built into the Passport to Success’s module-based programme plays a crucial role in motivating its participants, and stressed that only those who prove their competence in a skill receive “Statements of Attainment”. He also stressed that the PATA Grand Award is a testament to the Passport to Success’s internationally trained, dedicated core teaching team, who are training enthusiastic hospitality staff, many with limited knowledge, and lifting their skill levels to international standards. Core team trainer, Vilasa Chanthalangsy, pointed out the need for flexibility in his teaching approach. “The food and beverage staff in Luang Prabang have the basic knowledge. They know how to take orders and set tables, but they lack skills in new techniques, so I need to build on the skills they have to show them how to work better.” However, for a less-developed province like Xieng Khouang, he needed to work harder. “They have never seen proper F&B methods before, and taking training modules in the Passport to Success was very exciting for them. They want to know why we do things like set tables in a certain way, and they learn fast.” Chounlachan “Nickie” Phengdy, another core team member, agreed. “Passport participants are eager to learn and highly motivated…They like to exchange experiences and try to come up with solutions.” Mr Semone pointed out that Lanith’s Passport to Success will not rest on this laurel. “We are continuing to create more three-to-four-day modules with accompanying videos, we’ve broken ground on the Lanith Restaurant and Inn in Luang Prabang as part of a Passport to Success training facility, and we are even stepping outside the travel industry due to diverse demand.” He also noted interest in the Passport to Success programme from other countries including Myanmar and Cape Verde in Africa. “The beauty of the Passport to Success is that it can be adapted to the natural hospitality of any culture.” The awards have long been supported and sponsored by the Macau Government Tourist Office (MGTO). MGTO Director Mr Joao Manuel Costa Antunes said, “Our applause goes to all the winners for their remarkable achievements…It is no easy task for the judges to determine the winners, given the number and quality of the entries…who have done their best in the sustainable development and promotion of the travel and tourism industry.”
Jul
28
Team visits controversial Laos dam
The Laos government has for the first time taken international observers on a site visit of a controversial dam on the Mekong River. Scientists say the dam at Xayaburi would threaten both fish stocks and the livelihoods of the tens of millions of people who live downstream. Neighbouring Cambodia and Vietnam have asked for construction on the dam to stop pending further research. There are already four dams on the Upper Mekong in China but Xayaburi would be the first on the lower part of the river, with at least 10 more being proposed
Jul
13
Take a visit to temple's crowning glory
There are many sacred aspects of the temples in Laos, and among the most revered are the finial gables, fingerlike hooks that protect the temple from malevolent spirits in the sky. The main temple hall, known as the sim, is traditionally adorned with finial gables or yotxorfa, which safeguard them from evil spirits. Whenever a temple is under construction, a ceremony is performed to hoist the finial gable into position when the sim is almost finished, giving devotees the chance to pray and make merit. Buddhists believe that attending a hoisting ceremony or donating towards the construction of the finial gable will earn them much merit. The finial gable on Ongteu temple has three levels, representing Buddha, monks and morality. During the ceremony, merit-makers listen to monks chanting, and make offerings of flowers and incense around the finial gable, to pay homage to Buddha, the monks, and morality. Later in the day, a temple will hold an almsgiving ceremony to invite devotees to make merit for themselves and their relatives. Yotxorfa appear on sim in both Laos and Thailand and other buildings with a Buddhist connection. Their design and significance vary depending on local people's faith and the materials available for construction. Monk Daosaded Leumany, a teacher at the Sangha College in Vientiane's Ongteu temple, explained a little about the architecture of temples in Laos. The high peaked roofs are layered to represent several levels – they are always odd in number, having three, five or seven. The number of layers on the high peaked roofs corresponds to Buddhist doctrines, such as the three characteristics of Buddha and his teachings, or the five and seven levels of enlightenment. Yotxorfa in Laos are often built with three levels of peaked roofs. Sims in Laos are typically built in three different architectural styles and are distinctive to Vientiane, Luang Prabang and Xieng Khuang, and the members of the finial gable vary. Temples in Vientiane are typically rectangular in shape, built of bricks and covered in stucco, with the whole structure resembling that of an elegant pyramid. The edges of sim roofs almost always feature a repeated flame motif, with long, finger-like hooks at the corners called chao fa (sky lords). Legend has it that these hooks are for catching evil spirits that descend on the sim from above. Sims usually have only one entrance, which is guarded by two nagas. The number of windows they have differs depending on the size of the hall but each window is adorned with wooden carvings and artistic sculptures. Inside the hall one can often find murals portraying the Phravetsandon story, depicting the different stages of the life of Lord Buddha. Sim were first built in Laos in the 14th century following the unification of the Lane Xang Kingdom under King Fa Ngum. Unfortunately pure Lao architectural styles can only be seen in older temples, where the carvings have been well preserved. Vat Sisaket in Vientiane and Xieng Thong temple in Luang Prabang province are two such examples. Newer temples or those that have undergone extensive renovation are more likely to be influenced by Thai or Cambodian architectural styles, despite the fact that most of the craftsmen involved are Lao. Sims are the places where archaeological treasures such as gold and silver Buddha images and ancient Buddhist scriptures are usually stored. Women are sometimes not allowed to enter sims as it felt they may cause monks to lose their concentration. However, they are usually allowed to enter during Lao New Year to pay homage and pour water on Buddha images. When men and women enter a sim, they should remember they are in a sacred place and respect the nation's traditions and culture, by showing humility. They should take off their shoes; women should dress in silk blouses and traditional long skirts, whilst men should also take off their hats.
Sep
14
Mayor apologises for road repair delays
Vientiane Mayor Mr Soukanh Mahalath yesterday asked Vientiane residents to sympathise with the difficulty of simultaneously managing widescale road building and repairs and the resulting traffic delays. “We hoped the roads we're working on in Vientiane would be finished by October, but there have been some delays. We apologise for the inconvenience. However, we will attempt to make things better,” Mr Soukanh said. Vientiane Mayor Mr Soukanh Mahalath. One example is the road from That Luang market to Nakhuay village linking to the 450 Year Road, which was expected to be finished a year ago. The road will now be finished after the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) Summit in November, the mayor said. Prior to the 7th Asia-Europe Parliamentary Partnership Meeting (ASEP7) in Vientiane next month and the ASEM meeting in November, the dirt road will be temporarily surfaced with large stones, and later with smaller ones. This will help drivers on this road, who are used to negotiating potholes and dust, until the paving begins. Currently, the road between That Luang market and Nakhuay village is muddy when it rains and dusty when it's dry. Mr Soukanh told the press that most road works are on schedule, and some are nearly complete. He said Vientiane residents can expect to be travelling on a number of new roads by next month. He singled out the construction of a concrete road that starts at the junction outside Lao National Television, to Nongnieng village and through to the National Convention Centre, which will be finished by the end of September. Vientiane authorities are working to clean and tidy up roads and public parks in order to beautify the capital in the lead up to the ASEM Summit. To transform Vientiane into a permanent clean and green city – not just for ASEP7 and ASEM – the Vientiane authorities are encouraging locals to assist with the beautification process. “We believe that everyone can contribute to making the city clean and garbage free, in a bid to not only impress ASEM delegates and visitors with a beautiful and healthy city, but to provide a pleasant and healthy environment for residents and visitors alike,” Mr Soukanh said. Residents have been asked to repaint and repair their houses if they are old or in disrepair. It is not mandatory, as authorities understand that not all families can afford the repairs, but they are still encouraged to keep their houses as clean as possible. Authorities are also encouraging households to plant shrubs, fruit trees or flowers around their houses. They're also campaigning for Vientiane residents to separate their household rubbish into recyclable and non-recyclable garbage. This is an important step in making Vientiane a sustainable city. During the ASEP7 and ASEM meetings, the Vientiane authorities will plant flowering shrubs along sidewalks, and install special lighting, as well as hanging up the flags of the countries attending the meetings.
Jul
18
Holidays in Laos
A short word "Laos" is translated from ancient Thai language as "the kingdom of a million elephants". This charming small country in Southeast Asia, although it is the least developed of the three former French colonies of Indochina, but perhaps the most mysterious. The rich Buddhist culture, long history, natural beauty, unusual traditions and lifestyles of local people - just a small part of what awaits travelers who choose tours to Laos. You will get acquainted with stunning Vientiane, the capital of Laos - a city-feast, with Luang Prabang - the ancient capital, which was buried in the UNESCO list of World Heritage Site, visit the mysterious Valley of Jars. Many travel to Laos in search of peace. Time is flowing slowly, and the people extremely friendly and peacefully. There is always a smile and serenity reign. Tours to Laos - not only familiarity with the ancient culture and wonderful people, but the real Klondike for adventurers, explorers, lovers of rafting on the rivers and the descent into the cave. If you are looking for new experiences, you can be sure - this trip will not leave you indifferent. Activities Because of the underdeveloped tourism infrastructure in Laos there is practically no organized tourism. But for those who love adventure and a fantasy, given the wide field of activity. The hilly terrain provides opportunities for hiking, but to spend the night in tents is not permitted, you should also make sure that you have had a local guide. Walking, mountain biking - this is another opportunity to use the natural landscape, in Vientiane and Luang Prabang can rent a bicycle. On Don Khon, an island on the Mekong River, you can make an interesting trip along the southern tip of the island, during which time late at night from December to May you can enjoy the dolphins. Prices Accommodation in Vientiane will cost considerably more expensive than in other places, expect to spend from $ 5 a day for a regular room in the capital and from 1.75 in another city. In a comfortable tourist hotel you have to pay per night from 15 to 60 dollars. Meals are on average less than $ 2 a: a cup of coffee costs about 15 cents a plate of rice soup - from 50 cents to a dollar a liter of beer - about 70 cents. In general, you can count on eight dollars a day in the big cities, at 6 dollars a day - in small provincial towns, but this is the most economical budget. If you want a room with air conditioning, hot water and a book of foreign cuisine, count on 25-75 dollars a day. Lao kip - the only legal currency in the country, but the Thai baht and U.S. dollars are also widely accepted, especially in urban areas. Most often you will be bale to ask for small purchases, buying baht at an average cost and dollars if you want to buy something expensive. In Vientiane you can exchange most currencies, but in provincial cities, you should have to exchange dollars or baht. Outside the capital you can have problems with the exchange of travelers' checks. The banks will offer you a more favorable rate than the exchange offices. Traveler's checks you will exchange for more favorable rate than cash. In Laos, there is no need to tip, with the exception of upscale restaurants, where tipping is 10%. If you buy a thing on the market or lease a vehicle, you need to haggle. Should try to bargain and in stores. But do not be too pushy, Laotians usually respond only to peaceful persuasion. Customs Duty-free imports from countries that do not have common borders with Laos: cigarettes - 500 pcs., Or 100 cigars or 500g of tobacco, alcoholic drinks - a bottle of wine - up to 2 bottles, personal jewelery - up to 500 gr. Import and export of foreign currency is unlimited (the amount over $ 2,000 in cash or travelers' checks must be presented to customs officials when crossing the border and declare). Import and export of local currency is prohibited. The import of weapons, explosives and flammable substances and narcotic drugs and their precursors. The export of art objects and antiquities, which are a national treasure, Buddha images (only allowed to export gift options), weapons, explosives, and toxic and flammable substances, drugs and money to produce them. Departing from the country's airport tax is charged (international flights - $ 10 per person, local - LAK5000 per person). On payment of the fee exempt children less than 2 years, transit passengers who leave the country on the same day and did not go beyond the transit hall, as well as holders of certificates of exemption from the collection, released by the Ministry of Finance of Laos. Holidays January 1 - New Year's Eve. January 6 - Day Patet Lao. January 20 - Armed Forces Day. February-March - Chinese New Year. March 8 - International Women's Day. March 22 - Day of the People's Party of Laos. March-April - Lao New Year (Pi Mai). April-May - Buddha's Birthday. May 1 - Labor Day. June 1 - Children's Day. June-July - Khao Pansa. August 13 - Issar Lao (Lao Liberation Day). September-October - Beech approx Panza. October 12 - Day of Liberation of Laos. December 2 - National Day. The timing of the majority of Lao festivals are on the lunar calendar, depending on the stage lights at night. Most local festivities begin on the day of full moon. In January, celebrate Tet (Chinese New Year) and Bun Pha Wet - a holiday incarnation of the Buddha as a king Vessantary (the date of floating). February marked Magha Puja festivities in honor of Buddha's first sermon - "Owada patimoka" as well as religious holidays and Wat Pu Sikhottabong. In March, on a national scale, with parades and numerous cultural events, celebrated International Women's Day, and Day of the People's Party of Laos (national holiday) and Bun Khao Khon - the local version of Thanksgiving Day. In April noteworthy Bun Pi Mai or Pim - a traditional Lao New Year. A whole series of celebrations lasts 3-7 days, during which the Lao pour water on each other, let the will of the bird, build sand castles, spend a lot of festivals and concerts, and in the New Year's Day visit the temple. International Labour Day (1 May) is celebrated as a national holiday, with numerous parades in Vientiane and other cities. But the main event in May - Visakha Puja (celebration of birth, enlightenment and death of Buddha). Across the country, a religious ceremony, tribute is paid to religious shrines and candle procession pass. During this period usually takes one of the oldest festivals of the country - a festival of Boon Bang Fai rain or the "Feast of missiles," when people start rockets and firecrackers remind the gods that the earth needs rain. During this period, in Vientiane is a competition for the best rocket, and across the country hosts many theatrical performances. June 1 mark Children's Day (national holiday). In June and July the whole country celebrates Khao Pansa - the beginning of the Buddhist obedience, when young people become monks, and the rivers allowed thousands of floating lanterns. August 13 note Issar Lao (Lao Liberation Day, national holiday), and in accordance with the lunar calendar on a national scale - Ho Dinh Khao Padap (Festival of the Dead), a sort of Laotian, All Saints Day. In September and October, the entire country celebrates Beech ok Pansa - the end of Buddhist obedience. From 2 to 21 October, held to mark the event this Contest Rowing Beech ok Pansa in Vientiane. And October 12 is celebrated Liberation Day of Laos to the French colonization of the (national holiday). November - the most eventful period in the life of Laos. At this time the harvest festival held Tat Luang with a huge number of various activities in Vientiane, "the Great Stupa Festival" Khao Thap Luang in honor of the largest national monument in Laos - Great Stupa in Vientiane, and dedicated it to the Fall Festival of the water from the river Boone us rowing regattas. December 2 mark Independence Day - a national holiday with many military parades. And at the end of December the New Year celebration colorful Hmong.
Jul
06
Vientiane: Attractions and more...
However today the city has less French influence in its architecture than other towns as for example Saigon and Phnom Penh, but Vientiane is strongly characterized by Thai. There are two real seasons in the town: a rainy one which goes from May / June to September / October and a dry and cool season from October to February. The average temperature during the day is about 30°C and during the night about 15°C. In March / April the temperature rises even to 40°C until the cooling, rainy season starts.
Jul
24
Lao Airlines takes delivery of first jet aircraft
Lao Airlines has taken delivery of the first of two A320 aircraft ordered from Airbus - its first jet aircraft. The new aircraft was welcomed in the Lao capital Vientiane at a special ceremony this week, attended by Somsavat Lengsavad, Deputy Prime Minister of Laos and Thierry Mariani, the French Minister of Transport. The airline’s second A320 is scheduled to arrive in Vientiane next month. The two new aircraft will be put into service on routes to key destinations in Southeast Asia, including Bangkok and Singapore. The A320s feature a two-class layout seating 126 passengers in the main cabin and 16 in Business Class. “The A320 will see Lao Airlines introduce a new level of premium service as we expand our international route network,” said Somphone Douangdara, President of Lao Airlines. “In addition to the highest standards of in-flight comfort, Lao Airlines will also benefit from the extremely low operating costs offered by these modern, fuel-efficient aircraft.” “We are pleased to welcome Lao Airlines as a new Airbus operator," said John Leahy, Airbus’ Chief Operating Officer for Customers. “With the A320 in its fleet, Lao Airlines joins over 260 airlines worldwide operating the industry’s best-selling single aisle product line, offering proven passenger appeal, outstanding reliability and unbeatable operating costs.”
Jul
04
Laos with a life of love
VIETNAM — Nguyen Manh Tan, also known as Khamteum Southideth, looks younger than his 63 years. Having lived in Laos since the age of four, Tan can speak both Vietnamese and Lao fluently. He told me that he was sad when a diplomat asked if he could speak Vietnamese. “Overseas Vietnamese always remember where their home is,” he explained. Plain of Jars in Laos, one of the former battlefields where Nguyen Manh Tan, or Khamteum used to fight. When I asked him about his limited hearing capacity, he explained it was because of artillery shelling. Tan revealed that when he joined the Lao liberation army, he was admitted as a cook because he was only 17 and small. “When I asked them why I had to be a cook for so long they said: ‘Because I cooked well’,” he recalled. After begging many times and even threatening to burn the army kitchen, Tan was sent to a battlefield in Xieng Khuang province, more than 400km from the capital of Laos. “Unfortunately my leg was wounded on the very first day I served as a real soldier,” he said bitterly. “I was hospitalised for 25 days and I couldn’t move two of my toes as a result.” Tan was injured twice more before he was demobilised from the army. “Once my truck was shot by the US army and upended,” he said. “I was lucky I didn’t die but I sustained a serious injury to my arm.” On the third occasion, he broke several ribs. Tan remembers the time when he passed out following heavy shelling. Regaining consciousness, he realised he was at a Vietnamese field hospital. “When I was well enough to return my unit, my comrades were holding a funeral for me, and thought I was a ghost.” The highlight of Tan’s military career was the day he gunned down an enemy aircraft in 1970. He was rewarded with a trip to his motherland where he was reunited with his first love. However, the love was just a sweet memory, he said, since there was no cross-border marriage at that time. “We bade farewell to each other and I came back to Laos,” Tan said with regret. Tan said that his case was not isolated. Many soldiers from Laos who came to study in Vietnam fell in love with Vietnamese girls, but few of those relationships had a happy ending. “I know one soldier who put his girlfriend in a tank and smuggled her across the border. Luckily, customs didn’t spot her and they lived together in Laos, he said. “I was not as clever as that soldier.” Highlighting absurdity Tan admitted he was named “silly” and “crazy”, maybe because he interfered in other people’s work. One example was when he visited his wife’s hometown in the central province of Quang Binh. Tan was sad to see a beautiful area being demolished by miners. He immediately phoned local authorities to ask why they had let such a thing happen. In Ha Long Bay, he told local tourism authorities to cut the traffic chaos near the wharf and control the spiralling service prices, because otherwise no-one would return. He also advised them to look at tourism in Laos, where they knew how to make customers happy so they’d keep coming back for more. While Tan considers it his responsibility to speak out against the absurdity in society, other people call him a “crazy man”. Tan is even called “mad man” for carrying a tube with him to siphon petrol out of his own motorbike to help those who run out. Above all, Tan’s real weakness is women. Despite earning a large sum of money from making rock-gardens, which he learnt in Australia, he has little property left after six marriages and five divorces. Property doesn’t seem important to Tan, and that explains why he has been willing to set aside his business to help Vietnamese people trace their loved ones in Laos. Pointing at a picture he took with a soldier in Hanoi, Tan said sadly that the man had died recently, but he also had a friend who went missing in Laos. “Recently, the missing man’s daughter contacted me and asked for help to find her father.” “If she comes I will accompany her to central Laos to trace her father,” Tan affirmed. He went on to explain about a girl named Luong Thi Thuy, a Lao-Vietnamese girl with a pitiful fate. “Thuy’s father was a military engineer. Her parents met each other in Vietnam where they studied together. However, as with many other couples, the couples’ parents opposed the union. When Thuy’s mother became pregnant, the couple attempted to take the family to Laos, but she was not allowed to cross the border. Thuy’s mother died when she was eight. Living in loneliness, Thuy longed to meet her father. Together with Vietnamese patrons, Tan tracked down Thuy’s father’s home in Laos, but it was too late, he had died. Tan was determined to help the girl, and raised money for her settle down in Laos, as was her wish. He used his own money to buy her a motorbike and helped her to find a suitable job. Tan has composed hundreds of poems and songs in Vietnamese and Lao. Responding to the call of the Vietnamese People’s Association in Australia, he composed a song for New Year 2000. His song, which highlighted mutual support among Vietnamese people, received great applause from the community. A choir of 800 people performed the song on New Year’s Eve. The song Tham Tinh Lao-Viet (Laos-Vietnam Deep Affection), which he wrote for the occasion of the 40th anniversary of Vietnam-Laos diplomatic relations, won him a prize. The Vietnamese embassy in Laos awarded him a trip to Do Son Beach in the northern city of Hai Phong. The ministries of culture of Vietnam and Laos presented Tan certificates of merit for his song President Ho Chi Minh in the Hearts of Indochinese Peoples. In his home in Vientiane, Tan sings his self-composed songs and points at his rock garden, telling me that he spent nearly a hundred million dong to create a cool place to entertain his friends. I have done all these things just because my philosophy is to enjoy life and help as many people as I can, Tan says with a smile.
Aug
06
Vietnam, Laos, Thailand development tourism programme
Tourism authorities from the provinces of Vietnam's Quang Tri, Laos' Savannakhet, and Thailand's Mukdahan met in central Vietnam recently to review implementation of an agreement they had signed last year. Speaking at the 8th conference on tourism cooperation in Dong Ha city, Quang Tri, Director of the province's Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism Nguyen Huu Thang said since the previous meeting in Savanakhet last June the three border provinces had eased immigration formalities. Mukdahan had organised familiarisation trips to Thailand's north-eastern provinces while Quang Tri and Savannakhet had agreed to do surveys to organise tours between Laos and Vietnam for travellers from the two countries, he said. Many international-standard facilities have been built along the Trans-Asia Highway, also known as the East-West Economic Corridor (EWEC), which runs from central Vietnam through Laos and the north-east of Thailand to Myanmar. But more facilities such as gas stations, motels, souvenir shops, restaurants, money changers, and information booths were needed there, especially in sections in Quang Tri and Savannakhet, he said. The conference also agreed to expand the programme from the current three provinces to seven in Vietnam, six in Laos plus its capital Vientiane, and 11 in Thailand. The newcomers include Vietnam's Nghe An, Ha Tinh, Quang Binh, Thua Thien–Hue, Quang Nam and Da Nang city. Delegates at the conference agreed to adopt and use an EWEC tourism logo that was recommended at the last conference. The Lao representatives proposed that tourism cooperation should be incorporated into bilateral Laos-Thailand, Laos-Vietnam, and other relations for better coordination. According to Vietnam's border guard agency at Lao Bao in Quang Tri Province, last year about 379,000 travellers entered Vietnam and 395,540 left through the border gate.
Aug
02
Get more information about Xieng Khouang
In the northeast of Laos, lying across a flat high plateau is the province of Xieng-Khouang, most commonly known for the intriguing ‘Plain of Jars’. From the early 19th century until 1975, central Xieng-Khouang and the plain of jars was a recurring battle zone. It's estimated that more bombs where dropped on Laos between 1964 and 1973, than in the Second World War. As a result, visitors are advised to stick close to guided trails as unexploded ordinance still litter the plain. The hundreds of giant stone jars, some as large as 3.25 metres high are strewn all over the plateau –carved out of solid hunks of rock from surrounding mountains, no one really knows why they are there. Theories range from the view that they were made to store wine for a huge party to celebrate the conquest of Pakhanh City (Xieng Khouang). Other archeologists believe they were made to store dead human bodies, as was the practice of ancient believers. No one really knows. The hot springs at Meuang Kham district are worth visiting, and Tham Piu cave is a sobering historical site, used as a bomb shelter by the villages during the Vietnam War. The province has a total population of around 200,000. Because of the altitude (average 1,200m) in Xieng Khouang, the climate is not too hot in the cool season and not too wet in the rainy season. Consisting of elevated green mountains and luxuriant valleys, the beautiful landscape is somewhat marred by the bomb craters. The war debris and unexploded bombs that are spread across the central and eastern areas of the province are the deadly legacy of the Vietnam War.
Jul
17
Toyota concert tours Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia
(KPL/VOV) - The Toyota Concert Tour 2012 will be held in Vientiane, Phnom Penh, and HCM City and Hanoi from July 24 to August 6. The concerts will be performed by the Vietnam National Symphony Orchestra (VNSO) under the baton of Japanese conductor Honna Tetsuji. At the concerts in Vietnam, violinist Bui Cong Duy will perform pieces by Beethoven and in Laos and Cambodia, Vietnamese artist Trinh Thanh Binh will sing famous songs written by musicians Hoang Ha and Hoang Viet. This year's event is part of the activities to commemorate the 45th anniversary of Vietnam-Cambodia diplomatic ties, the 50th anniversary of Vietnam-Laos diplomatic ties, and the 35th anniversary of the Vietnam-Laos Friendship and Cooperation Treaty.
Jul
18
Lao Airlines Orders 2 ATR 72-600s
Vientiane-based carrier Lao Airlines has signed a contract for the purchase of 2 ATR 72-600s, valued at US$ 47 million at catalogue price. These two new aircraft will be added to Lao Airlines' current fleet of 4 ATR 72-500s. The airline is in the midst of expanding its fleet in order to increase frequency on existing routes and to open new destinations in the surrounding region. The arrival of these two 70-seat ATR 72-600s will help the airline to maintain its position as the preferred premium airline in Laos. The ATR 72-600 will be equipped with a new full-glass cockpit and new Giugiaro-designed cabin interiors, and will be powered by PW 127M engines. Deliveries of these two aircraft will take place late in 2012 and in 2013. The President of Lao Airlines, Dr Somphone Douangdara, said, “The acquisition of these two aircraft aims at maintaining a modern fleet and upgrading the level of onboard services. In addition to superb services, the airline saves time and money by having a young fleet. With the ATR 72-600's operational reliability and cabin comfort, we want to offer better access for the Laotian travelling public and make them feel easy to fly.”
Jul
21
Get more information about Champasak
Champasak was once, 1400 years ago, the centre of power in the lower Mekong basin, later a revered outpost of the Khmer Angkor empire and later still one of the three kingdoms to rule over the remains of Lane Xang. A fine heritage that, according to the last prince of Champassak, was brought to hard times by a former queen's indiscretion. The beautiful Nang Pao ruled over Champasak in the mid-17th century. But it's lonely at the top and the queen found comfort in the arms of a prince from a neighbouring kingdom. Alas, for the lady's pennyroyal was ineffective, and Nang Pao fell pregnant. A great scandal ensued and, though the queen remained in power and was succeeded by her illegitimate daughter, Nang Peng, the unhappy Nang Pao decreed that all unmarried mothers in the kingdom must sacrifice a buffalo for their sins. The practice survived in some local communities until the 1980s, the unfortunate women being known as 'Nang Pao's Daughters.' Though the Kingdom of Champasak prospered for a while after the final dissolution of Lane Xang, at the beginning the 18th century, its fortunes faltered quickly and it was reduced to a vassal state of Siam before the century had passed. For its part in Chao Anou's abortive attempt to win freedom from the Siamese for the Lao kingdoms, Champasak lost all of its territory east of the Mekong. Under French rule the once mighty kingdom became a mere administrative block; its royalty stripped of many of its privileges. "With an unmarried mother as queen," Prince Boun Oum na Champasak, the last of the kingdom's royal line, once said. "Everything started so badly that the game was lost before it began." Boun Oum, who died in French exile in 1980, may have griped about his family's downfall (though he was not a direct descendent of Nang Pao), but it did not stop him from using his remaining royal privileges to loot the nearby Wat Phu. The magnificent Angkorian temple complex was recently made a UNESCO heritage site and is considered one of the finest Angkor-inspired edifices outside of Cambodia.
Jul
23
Take a visit toLuang Nam Tha
Located on the banks of the Nam Tha River, Luang Nam Tha means ‘The area around the Tha river’. Luang Nam Tha is the largest city in the province of the same name, in the northern part of Laos. Like Huay Xai, Laung Nam Tha is primarily perceived as a stopover point. Most visitors who come from China to Laos use this city as a starting point instead of taking the uncomfortable and crowded boat ride between Luang Prabang and Huay Xai. The city has two distinct parts; one which is referred to as the old town was bombed during the 1970s and the new town, six km away and which was built as a replacement of sorts for the old one has most of the trekkers’ huts and guesthouses.
Jul
24
Vietnamese high-ranking delegation visit specific economic zone in Laos
(KPL) A Politburo member of the Communist Party of Vietnam, Mr Le Hong Anh and his delegation, along with Lao delegation last Friday visited the Dongphosy Specific Economic Zone in Vientiane during he participated the celebration of "Laos-Vietnam Friendship Year 2012" in Laos. The visit of high-ranking delegation of Vietnam was coincided with 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations and the 35th anniversary of the signing of the Friendship and Cooperation Treaty. The specific economic zone was conducted by KN Vientiane Group of Vietnam for 99 years of land concession on 557 hectares. The company is building the golf course-36 holes, a club house, staff-store house, luxury apartment, five stars hotel, a supermarket, clinic centre, pre-school, the international school and the villas. The total investment of all facilities construction is US$1 billion. Presently, the construction of golf course-18 holes has been completed.
Jul
18
Vietnam cultural week was held
(KPL) Vietnam's 'cultural week in Laos, and Laos' 'cultural week' in Vietnam are currently being held through July 21, as part of the celebration of the 50th anniversary of diplomatic ties and the signing of the Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation between the two countries. Laos' 'cultural days' in Vietnam will begin in Hanoi on July 17, with numerous concerts, dance routines and a fashion show taking place. Also, as part of the celebrations, several painting exhibitions and film screenings will be held. In addition, the Vietnam Union of Friendship Organisations (VUFO) and the Vietnam-Laos Friendship Association will host the third Vietnam-Laos People's Friendship Festival in the capital city, as well as the northern provinces of Tuyen Quang and Ninh Binh, from July 15-21. Delegates from both countries will also pay tribute to President Ho Chi Minh at his mausoleum and later attend meetings marking the 50th anniversary of diplomatic ties and the 35 years of signing the Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation. While in Laos, an array of concerts, fashion shows and exhibitions of sculptures and paintings will portray Vietnam, its countryside and people to its close neighbours. A lot of tourism promotions have been organised to promote Laos to Vietnamese holiday makers. Vietnam will also present several films which feature Vietnam and Vietnam - Laos traditional friendship. Up to 10 feature films and documentaries are listed for viewing.
Jul
16
DPRK delegation visits Luangprabang province
(KPL) A delegation of the Central Committee of the Democratic Front for the Reunification of Korea led by Kim Wan Su, director of the Secretariat of the Committee, visited the world heritage town of Luangprabang. The delegation was warmly received by Mr. Kaysone Chanthayot, Chairman of the Lao Front for National Construction of the Luangprabang province. The visit to Luangprabang province of the DPRK delegation aimed to further strengthen the friendship relation and cooperation between Laos and DPRK, especially between the Lao Front for National Construction and its counterpart from DPRK. While in Luangprabang province, the DPRK delegation visited a number of cultural and social-economic development sites including National Museum and Phousy temple in Luangprabang province. .
Jul
06
The 3rd Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge in Khammouane will be officially opened soon
The third Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge across the Mekong River is now 99 percent complete and will be officially opened on 11 November. The bridge connects Ban Veun Tai, 13 kilometres South of Thakhek district in Khammouane province with Ban Hom in Nakhon Phanom’s Muang district. It spans 780 meters across the Mekong River and the entire length of the project is 5.2 km including exit and entrance ramps.
Aug
08
The return of Sam Intharaphithak
So what is up with Sam these days. He is very busy for sure, but very little is heard about him unless you are in Laos. Just a brief update for his fans. Sam had just released a neurw single called “I’m Sorry”. According to Sam, “it is a fast track and it may remind you of Mariah Carrey’s We Belong Together. But it’s got this kinda Chris Brown fast singing style”. The song is based on his personal experience. The next single has already been chosen. Unlike the first single, it is slow and sad. The song is called “Bor Mi Wan Ja Dai Huk Kun” (We Could Never Be Together). Both songs will be part of his upcoming sophomore album which is slated for release in June (his birthday). Also congratulations to Sam on winning the “Best R&B Artist” and “Best R&B Song” at the 2nd Lao Music Awards.
Jul
16
Lao Airlines welcoms ATRs
FARNBOROUGH, 13 July 2012: Lao Airlines signed off on a contract for the purchase of two ATR 72-600s, valued at US$47 million on list prices. One of the aircraft will join the fleet November this year and another in June, 2013. Currently, Lao Airlines has four ATR72-500 aircraft. Lao Airlines president, Dr Somphone Douangdara, said: “The acquisition of these two aircraft will help us to maintain a modern fleet and upgrade the level of onboard services.” “We want to offer better access for the Laotian travelling public and make them feel at ease flying.” He added: “These new airplanes will be introduced at an important stage of our country’s development to meet growing demand in transport and tourism.” The ATR 72-600 will be equipped with new Giugiaro cabin interiors and will be powered by PW 127M engines. Also, the ATR 72-600s feature more baggage space for the passengers.
Aug
01
A program will be organize to promote Vietnam-Laos ties
(KPL) - A Vietnam-Laos friendship bicycle tour was launched in Hanoi on July 29 to promote bilateral cooperation in investment and environment protection, said VOV. The event, co-organized by the Vietnam-Laos-Cambodia Association for Economic Cooperation Development (VILACAED) and the Vietnam Association for the Conservation of Nature and Environment (VACNE), aim to mark the 50th anniversary of diplomatic ties between Vietnam and Laos and the 35th anniversary of signing the bilateral Friendship and Cooperation Treaty. VACNE president Nguyen Ngoc Sinh said the tour aims to help people and businesses from both countries understand the necessity of economic and investment cooperation. It also hopes to raise awareness of environmental protection, as well as the proper conservation and economical use of natural resources. In addition, it will contribute to promoting solidarity and friendship between the two countries and educate the younger generations about national development and defence. Participants in the week-long cycling tour will ride 700km from Hanoi through Ha Nam, Ninh Binh, Thanh Hoa, Nghe An, and Ha Tinh provinces in Vietnam and finish in the capital of Laos, Vientiane.
Aug
09
Laos hosts Trade Exhibition and Tourism Fair 2012
VIENTIANE, Savannakhet province, in central Laos will host the Trade Exhibition and Tourism Fair 2012, 27 to 31 October, at Savan-ITECC in the Kaysone Phomvihane district. Savan-ITECC is part of a casino and hotel located just outside Savannakhet town. The event will promote tourism and trade in Laos, Vietnam, Thailand and Myanmar. The fair is just one of many activities supporting Visit Laos Year 2012 that lead up to hosting the Asean Tourism Forum in Vientiane next January. During the five-day event, visitors will enjoy cultural performances from Laos’ Savannakhet province, Vietnam’s Quang Tri province, and Thailand’s Mukdahan province. A seminar on cooperation for the development and promotion of East-West Economic Corridor and tourism integration in the five central provinces in the corridor that links Laos, Vietnam and Thailand. The Asian Development Bank has backed the East-West corridor project financially through loans to build new highways and studies on how tourism and trade could be expanded on a network of road routes that will ultimately connect Myanmar, Thailand, Laos and Vietnam.
Aug
06
Lamb of God singer from Chesapeake released
The lead singer of a Richmond-based heavy metal band who attended Western Branch High School in Chesapeake said he will clear his name after spending more than a month in a Czech Republic jail, even if it means going back to Prague to fight the allegation that his actions caused the death of a fan. "I'm an international touring artist, I have to clear my name," Lamb of God singer Randy Blythe said in an interview with a Czech television station after being released from jail. Several times in the interview, he said: "I'm not a flight risk." The entire five-member band was arrested June 27 after arriving in Prague for a show. Blythe was detained in the death of a fan who died from head injuries apparently sustained at a May 2010 Lamb of God concert in Prague. Blythe has not been charged with a crime, but he was jailed. The other band members were freed and directed by U.S. Embassy employees to leave the country immediately, which they did. Blythe twice posted bail, first of $200,000 and then of $400,000. But each time, the prosecutor challenged his release — as is allowed under Czech law — in part on the theory that he would not return to face trial. A panel of judges set him free Thursday. In an interview outside the airport in Prague, Blythe said he was unaware that he had done anything wrong. He was "very surprised to be arrested," he said, calling the fan's death "a tragic coincidence." "It is very tragic," he said. "I feel very bad that a fan of my band is dead." He said he spent his time in jail reading, writing songs, exercising and talking to his fellow inmates. He also signed autographs. "I try to make the best of my time in any situation," he said. "Prison is not exactly a fun place to be." He said he had been treated well, though, and did not have any problems with inmates or guards. Blythe's lawyer, Martin Radvan, said a police investigation of the incident likely will not be completed until winter. "We don't know yet if (the death) was caused by our client or in a different way," Radvan said. Radvan said police believe that during the 2010 concert, the audience member climbed onto the stage and Blythe pushed him off. The fan's head hit the floor, and he later died of the injuries, police said. Martina Lhotakova, a spokeswoman for Prague's Municipal Court, said Blythe was released when the court upheld a lower court's decision that had rejected a request by prosecutors to keep Blythe in custody. After the ruling, Blythe left Prague for the United States. A friend of the band said Blythe was expected back in Richmond on Friday, but that could not be confirmed. After canceling several shows because of Blythe's absence, the band will resume playing Aug. 17-18 at Knotfest, a new heavy metal festival in Iowa and Wisconsin. The band will resume touring with U.S. dates beginning in late October. Blythe said he would return to Prague for a court date if he's charged.
Jul
19
Commemorative house of Laos students inaugurated in Bac Giang province
On the 50th anniversary of Vietnam – Laos diplomatic ties (Sept. 5, 1962 – Sept. 5, 2012) and 35th anniversary of signing the bilateral Friendship and Co-operation Treaty (July 18, 1977 – July 18, 2012), a delegation of former Lao students on July 17 had an exchange, inaugurated and handed over the Commemorative house of Lao students to the Border Guard College Number 1 in Tan Yen district, Bac Giang province. Over the past 50 years, the Border Guard College Number 1 has trained over 8,000 Lao students, significantly contributing to human resources for the cause of building and development of the country. The generations of former Lao students have been working effectively in Lao, many of them has become professors, doctors, engineers, scientists and high-ranking leaders of the Party and State of Lao. At the event, Deputy Minister of Education and Sports of Lao expressed his deep gratitude to the college and teachers who has trained generations of Lao students as well as affirmed the close tradition between Vietnamese and Lao people. The commemorative house of Lao students is built on the area of 500 square meters and it had been designed in Lao’s traditional architecture by Mr. Khampheng Saysompheng, governor of Luangprabang and former student of the college. All expenditure for the building had been contributed by generations of former Lao students. Speaking at the event, Chairman of the Bac Giang provincial People’s Committee Bui Van Hai affirmed that the commemorative house of Lao students is a very significant work and he suggested that the college should continue to develop the solidarity tradition between the two countries, preserve and collect documents, materials and photos about generations of Laoation teachers and students who has been worked there in order to continue to educate about the traditional and special friendship relation of the Party and State leaders of the two nations have taken great pains to build./.
Jul
04
The Fight to Preserve Lao Traditional Dress, the spetacular of Laos
Traditional dress key to preserving culture Though many countries’ dress standards have been adapted or lost, Laos is one country that has been able to conserve the culture handed down by our parents, Deputy Minister of Information and Culture Mr Bouangeun Saphouvong told the participants at a recent meeting at the Lao Women’s Union. The Ms Aphone Lao contest is a chance to display Lao dress styles and customs. Mr Bouangeun, who was speaking during a discussion on preservation of culture by encouraging women to dress appropriately on each occasion, said he was proud of our motherland and its artwork and weaving skills. He is also head of the artistic team which performs overseas or welcomes guests from other countries, and he pointed out that these shows not only focus on dance and music, but also display the traditional clothes that represent Lao identity and culture. Many issues related to traditional clothing and Lao customs were raised for discussion during a meeting of officials from the Ministry of Information and Culture, Ministry of Education and other departments. The Women’s Union works actively to minimise detrimental trends through training and disseminating information to Lao women throughout the country. The union has various activities to raise awareness in the younger generation of their culture, including exhibitions, textile collection drives, ancient textile shows, trade fairs, ethnic dress shows, and the Ms Aphone Lao contest. Union Vice President Ms Khamchanh Phomsengsavanh told the meeting that some people dressed inappropriately, or in ways not in keeping with Lao tradition. “This can lead to social problems including rape, human trafficking, a rise in entertainment workers and family problems that tarnish the country’s culture as well as the image of women,” she said. She outlined the union’s views on regulations for appropriate dress codes on special occasions in order to conserve and encourage Lao culture. “Our regulations won’t force people to dress appropriately, but the directives should be aimed at public figures, such as singers, presenters and performers, in order to set a good example to others,” Mr Bouangeun said. His team of cultural performers have played at important conferences for foreign guests, including the Thai Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej, who visited Laos last week. They use the stage to showcase Lao culture through their performances. “Although we don’t have dress regulations yet, Lao people are able to follow their traditions and they can choose what they should be wearing on each occasion,” he said. The Deputy Minister explained that it is obvious some countries have changed and lost their culture, while Laos has been able to preserve it. “I say from the bottom of my heart that Lao women still appreciate their beautiful culture of dress. It shows when girls from kindergarten up to women office workers wear the sinh , they look beautiful,” he said. “Traditional clothing represents Lao women of each ethnic group, their beauty, charms and attractions in line with tradition. “In fact our aunts, mothers and sisters are the ones who make and wear the clothes, while it seems to be the man’s task is to admire their beauty. This makes it difficult for me to advise women what to wear; it is like the proverb says: don’t teach your grandmother how to suck eggs. However, the government has requested our ministry to oversee this work, so we have come to share our views on the issue. “Dressmaking is a dominant art of which we are proud and its heritage has been handed down through the generations. The styles not only represent the variety and abundance of our natural resources, but also the inner hearts and minds of the people, expressed through their gentle manner, attitude and behaviour. These make our dress outstanding and different from other countries.” Mr Bouangeun said that how people dressed could also represent the fortunes of their families and, consequently, appropriate clothing, on the right occasion, not only showed respect to Lao culture, but also their guests and hosts. “To avoid the intrusion of inappropriate cultural values, we have to produce inexpensive, high-quality clothing for Lao consumers, to encourage them not to purchase unsuitable products from neighbouring countries,” he added. Local clothing producers agreed that local prices could be high. “I admit that our skirt prices are quite expensive,” the owner of Taykeo Textile Gallery Ms Taykeo Sayavongkhamdy said. “But you have to understand the difficult, time consuming process involved, as we don’t use machines like other countries. The process includes spinning the silk or cotton, dyeing the textiles, and weaving the patterns and designs. All these processes are reliant on raw materials and the skilful hands of the weavers, so the investment in each piece is quite high.” Ms Taykeo, who teaches weaving skills to Lao women, explained that wearing traditional dress helped maintain the local weaving industry, “but we are concerned for consumers as well, some Lao people simply can’t afford to buy a silk sinh, which is why they don’t wear them all the time,” she said. “For nearly 300 years our people have felt comfortable wearing the sinh. They wore them all the time, but nowadays it depends on the occasion, for instance people find it difficult to travel on long journeys wearing one.”
Aug
07
Performances From Lao Ent Awards
The anticipated Lao Entertainment Awards is finally over. The inaugural event which took place today (live broadcast from Laostar Channel) went smoothly. The ceremony was pretty fast and efficient, quick to the point. Thus there were not many performances. There were three performances. The first performance was first part of a play called “Legend Of Naka” (Legend Of The Water-Dragon), theme of the award ceremony. The trophy design was based on this mythical creature, a character popular in Lao story-telling & literature. Next performance was a singing duet by various Lao artists including Alexandra Bounxouei, Ton Aniloud, Tar A’pacts, Nuan (Namtao), Olay (Blackeyes), Jip, etc. The song (Sai Sa Na or Victory) was written by Tee Oudalai. He was one of the organizers for this event. Lastly, the last performance was the second part of the “Legend Of Naka”. Because the theme was based on “old tradition”, many guests and partakers wore traditional outfits (sin). There were four major categories: Print, Music, Radio and TV. Some winners from music category are Blackeyes, Buratino, Genii, Ton Aniloud, and Aluna. Videos
Sep
14
Dien Bien hosts Vietnam-Lao tourism and trade fair
(KPL) - The 2012 Vietnam-Lao tourism and trade fair opened in the north-western province of Dien Bien on September 10, VOV report. Involved in the week-long event are 150 businesses with a total of more than 200 booths showcasing their latest products, mostly on garment and textile, footwear, electronics, home appliances, cement, timber, cosmetics, beverage, handicrafts, rice, coffee, tea, coffee, and various kinds of food. The fair aims to create a good opportunity for local businesses to strengthen cooperation with Lao counterparts, especially those from northern provinces such as Phongsaly, Luangprabang, Oudomxay, Bokeo, Luangnamtha and Xayabouri. Le Thanh Do, Deputy Chairman of the Dien Bien provincial People's Committee, said that Dien Bien has many advantages to boost trade and tourism cooperation with Lao localities. The province is co-ordinating with Lao neighbouring localities to organize numerous activities during two countries� friendship year 2012.
Jul
23
Get more information about Savannakhet
Savannakhetis located in the south of Laos on the banks of the Mekong River, neighboring Thailand and Vietnam. Its name originally comes from Savanh Nakhone, meaning ‘City of Paradise’. Savannakhet is approximately a six to seven-hour drive from Vientiane. The road trip is an opportunity to view the Mekong River scenery and the spectacular hills along the way. On the other hand, the city can also be reached via the Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge from Mukdahan, Thailand. Kaysone Phomvihane, the capital province, was named to honour the greatest leader of Laos (its former name was Khanthabouli). Savannakhet is the second largest city of Laos and home to various ethnic groups including Laotian, Thai, Chinese, Vietnamese and more. The city features a number of tourist attractions like the famous sacred Buddhist site – That Ing Hang Stupa and most the town's architecture is French Colonial. There are some small restaurants and cafés alongside the Mekong River downtown, and even in smaller villages upriver. The National Provincial Protected Area at Dong Natad is one of the 20 national protected land parcels in this province. A large tract of tropical monsoon forest hosting many ethnic minority groups, this area has a diverse wildlife population and offers eco-tours for Nature lovers. Although, Savannakhet and its surrounding areas have not developed as rapidly and prosperously as Vientiane and Luang Prabang, it is one of the country’s most popular provinces for communication and commerce. The province acts as a commercial buffer zone between Thailand and Vietnam and is a very active location for trade between neighboring countries. Moreover, Savannakhet represents Laos' only Special Economic Zone (SEZ) or the Savan-Seno.
Jul
07
Joint hands to attract more tourists to Laos
(KPL) The Lao Association of Tourist will create favourable conditions to attract more tourists by putting advertisement process via website, brochures, print media and other tourist place. The move is to ensure the strategic implementation of the Visit Lao Year 2012, all hotels, guesthouses and restaurants should bring logo of Visit Lao Year 2012 and other activity that will be arranged for tourists in the whole year, said President of Lao Association of Tourist, Mr Bouakhao Phonsouvanh, last week. However, the infrastructure to support tourism, including hotels, guesthouses and restaurants will also be continued improving, he commented. Number of foreign tourists visiting Laos is currently noticed to gradually surge, which our country is a new destination of tourists in Southeast Asia but the tourism service is limited, added Mr Bouakhao. In order to attract more tourists come to visit Laos in the Visit Lao Year 2012 by focusing on featuring culture, tradition, nature and history that are unique character of nation. The Lao Association of Tourist in cooperation with the Department of Advertising and Tourism Promotion and other relevant sector have discussed and laid out a guideline on improvement of hospitality service as the international standard. They have unanimously agreed to step on the infrastructure to support the tourism including roads access to tourist places, tourist signs and information. Coupling with the improvement of other accommodation are hotels, guesthouses, restaurants, transport vehicles, guides, receptionist, driver and hotel with food. But the most significance is security and saving tourists lives. To magnetize tourists who have traveled in Asia and then enter Laos this year, the advertisement and publication via logo of visit Lao year and other activity in the whole year of 2012 on website, posters, brochures and other print medias, Mr Bouakhao went on. Currently, the number of tourists visit Laos has constantly grown, which averaged 25% yearly. It obviously noticed the number of tourists in 2010, amounting to 2.5 million and 2011 estimated to 2.6 million.
Jul
06
The Lao New Year legend
The history of the Lao New Year celebrations Continued from Saturday’s issue …. This is an appropriate time to tell the story that lies behind Lao New Year. Friday April 13 is the last day of the Year of Rabbit and Sunday April 15 is Pi Mai Lao – New Year’s Day. …. “I won’t tell you now because it is past midnight and time for bed.” “No! If you don’t tell me now, I will hold my breath until I die.” The seven daughters of the god Phayakabinlaphom carry his symbolic head in a procession on the first day of Pi Mai Lao. (File Photo) “Okay, I’ll tell you now! In the morning, a person’s sili is in the face. So the first thing they do when they get up is to wash their face. In the aftern oon, a person’s sili lies in the breast. As we know, people like to sprinkle water on their breast to ease the heat. In the evening, the sili lies in the feet, which is why we wash our feet before going to bed.” As we noted earlier, Thammabarnkoummarn could understand the language of birds. This was the conversation between two vultures that he overheard, which ultimately saved his life. He left his place under the palm tree and ran back to the castle overjoyed. The next morning was the seventh day, the day on which Thammabarnkoummarn was supposed to answer the god Phayakabinlaphom’s question. When Thammabarnkoummarn was able to provide the correct answer thanks to the vultures’ conversation he had overheard, Phayakabinlaphom was asto-nished. The god accepted that he was defeated in his challenge. But this meant Thammabarnkoummarn would now have to behead him, as they had agreed. Phayakabinlaphom was a god with great power, greater than that of the angels and any human being. This meant that if he were beheaded, the whole world would be destroyed. If his head were cut off and his blood flowed on the earth, a fire would ensue that would burn the world. If his blood went int o the air, the oxygen would be consumed and humans and all living things would suffocate. If his blood entered the water, all the rivers and oceans would boil and dry up. To avoid such a dreadful catastrophe, the god summoned his seven daughters, who represent the seven days of the week. The seven daughters each have their own animal and carry their own symbolic items as they ride. Thoungsathevi is Sunday and legend has it that she rides a mythical bird. Kholakhathevi is Monday, and is borne by a tiger. Haksathevi is Tuesday and rides a wild boar. Monthathevi is Wednesday and rides a donkey. Kilinithevi is Thursday and she rides an elephant. Kimithathevi is Friday and rides a water buffalo. The seventh daughter, Mahothonthevi, is Saturday and rides a peacock. By these means did the seven daughters travel to meet their father. Phayakabinlaphom told his daughters “When I am beheaded, take a gold tray and put my head on it. Make sure you catch all my blood so that not one drop falls to the ground. Then take my head and place it in Khaosoumenkailath Cave.” The god told his seven daughters that on the first day of Pi Mai Lao, the daughter who represents that day should ride her animal to the cave and remove the head. Then she should sprinkle it with clean water mixed in a bowl with frangipani flowers and perfume. On the last day of Pi Mai, the daughters were instructed to form a procession to carry their father’s head back to the cave. This is why, every Lao New Year, we go to temples to sprinkle Buddha images with water taken from a bowl to which flowers and perfume have been added. We also pour water on older people, our parents, relatives, leaders and friends to wish them good health, happiness, and a long life.
Sep
14
Lao dancers display talent in regional spotlight
Young Lao dancer C-Lil recently made a big splash in the regional break dance scene when he won the Airtrack competition in the Challenge Cup Final 2012 in Taiwan. Phayviboune Silimoung-khoun, known as C-Lil, along with Paseuth Lousengsy, or Joker O’Tee, and Tommy Ditthavong, known as Tomizuka, who are both from the Lao Bangfai dance troupe represented Laos at the regional dance event. The competition took place from August 18-19, and the Bangfai duo were competing with 200 other dancers from Taiwan, Thailand, China, Hong Kong, Korea, Japan, the United States and Malaysia. “Since break dancing is my passion I was very happy to win this event as it is our dream to show off our ability on stage,” C-Lil said. “Even though we haven’t had many opportunities to compete at the regional level before, I think we have a good background and try to enjoy the challenge instead of worrying about our performance or the other competitors. We weren’t nervous because we were well-prepared from other events,” C-Lil said. He said this was second time that Lao dancers have been in Taiwan for dance competitions; the first one was in June this year for the R16 Southeast Asia Final. This was the first year of the Challenge Cup Final and the Lao Brewery Company was able to sponsor the Lao Bangfai dancers to attend the event. Tomizuka said the Challenge Cup Final 2012 included several competitions such as solo battles, crew battles, tricks and combo battles as well as seven to smoke power moves. He said C-Lil won the Airtrack contest with 51 rounds, defeating a dancer named RM from Taiwan who did 39 rounds. Airtrack is a move using only your hands and hopping from hand to hand in a circular motion. C-Lil also reached second place in the seven to smoke powermoves competition and tied with dancer Gred from Taiwan with 4 points while the winner of the event was famous South Korean dancer Kill. “C-Lil was a highlight of the event because of his high level of technical dancing skill and has confirmed an invitation to next year’s event from B-boy Choco. After this event, C-Lil has become more famous and more people know about the capacity of Lao break dancers,” Tomizuka said. After this significant achievement for Lao break dancers, C-Lil is headed to join the Red Bull BC ONE Asia Pacific Qualifier that will take place September 1, 2012 in Auckland, New Zealand. Red Bull BC ONE is one of the biggest solo B-boy battles worldwide.
Jul
10
New buses ready to roll in Vientiane
The Vientiane Capital State Bus Enterprise (VCSBE) on Friday put 42 new buses into service, after they were donated by Japan to improve public transport in the capital. The 42 buses, worth 500 million yen or (about US$6 million) were given by the people and government of Japan through the Japanese International Cooperation Agency in Laos. VCSBE Director Mr Khamphoune Temerath said “The buses will run on various routes. Seven will run to Dongdok, 10 to the Lao-Thai Friendship Bridge, six on the Phonetong-Dondok route, while six will service Thangon, and four will run to Thongpong. The other buses will be used on the Dongkhamxang, Nongteng and Nongtha routes which are still under construction. The 45-seater buses have air conditioning and will run from 6am till 5:30pm with services every 15, 25 or 30 minutes. Traffic jams are increasing in Vientiane as the size of the city and its population increases. However, the number of people using public transport remains low. VCSBE plans to use an electronic payment system on the new buses, as part of the projects under the National Strategy on Sustainable Transport and particularly under the Vientiane Urban Transport Master Plan set up with JICA assistance in 2008. These projects are seen as greatly helping national socio-economic development. Mr Khamphoune said “When we get these buses in service on all the routes I’m sure they will not only help to ease traffic congestion, but will also reduce carbon emissions by lowering the number of personal vehicles on the roads. If more people use public transport it might also lead to a reduction in road accidents.” “We believe that having more buses in service in Vientiane will encourage more people to use public transport instead of motorbikes and cars, which are creating traffic jams.”
Jul
13
Brao culture facing modern challenges
The Brao ethnic people's traditional culture is at serious threat of dying out in the near future due to generational changes. A Brao community holds a festival to celebrate getting their crops in the ground. --Photo Attapeu Provincial Tourism Office. Attapeu provincial Information and Culture Department Deputy Director Mr Sisouphanh Sihalath said on Thursday that the original culture of the Brao community has already transformed in many ways. He said Brao traditions could end with the present older generation because youngsters aren't showing an interest in preserving them. The largest Brao community in Laos is in Phouvong district of Attapeu province, with 90 percent of the more than 20,000 locals identifying as Brao. Mr Sisouphanh explained some of the long-held traditions of the Brao people, saying men typically wear a katiew, or loincloth. They tie up their hair, pierce large holes in their ears to wear large earrings of ivory or wood, and tattoo their chest, back and cheeks. He added that Brao men and women have a tradition of cutting their teeth. “However, this practice is dying out as young Brao people won't cut their teeth or wear ivory earrings.” “The Brao culture shares some similarities with various other ethnic groups in many ways, but is really quite unique.” Mr Sisouphanh said women wear kado sinh (long striped skirts) with black and striped blouses. Their hair is worn in a short fringe, then rolled up and tied with red and white strings, using a wooden or ivory comb. Women tattoo their forehead, jaw and their bodies, and also wear large ivory or wooden earrings. He said the younger generation doesn't wear large earrings like their parents do, with young women preferring modern-style earrings as is the trend nationwide. “But the large ivory earrings are still valuable assets that are traded and sold as ornaments.” The earrings are expensive and older people in Phouvong district only wear them, along with brass bracelets, on special occasions such as festivals. “If a woman wears many brass bracelets, it indicates the wealth of her family. Women wear brass bracelets of many shapes and sizes to match the contours of their arms.” Mr Sisouphanh said most Brao people are animists, believing that all things are sacred and contain spirits that create and control the sky, land, rain, water, wind, life and death. The Brao also have their own language and stage various festivals during almost every month of the year. For instance, before they start growing rice, they hold a festival to offer food and offerings to the rice field, household and village spirits to ask for their protection of the crops. “They have a festival every time they finish and begin their farming activities to pass on information and build solidarity by drinking and eating together,” Mr Sisouphanh said. When it comes to weddings, young Brao have freedom in choosing their spouse. The groom is responsible for asking a woman to marry. If a young couple desires to be married they first inform their parents and other relatives of their intentions. But a Brao wedding is quite different from others in Laos. According to Mr Sisouphanh, a Brao man does not have to pay a dowry for his wife, but if he later separates from her, he has to give two large water buffalos, two fat pigs, chickens and locally brewed rice wine (lauw hai) to the woman's family. If the wife instigates the separation, she will have to pay a fine as the guilty party. The wedding ceremony takes place over two days and is held at the bride's house. Afterwards, the husband must live in his wife's house for three years before he can return to his parent's house accompanied by his wife and children, or build his own house. Once back at the husband's family home, the husband, wife and children may stay there indefinitely, if no one falls seriously ill. However, if there is a serious illness in the household, and it is believed the household spirits are not happy, the husband and his family will return to the wife's family home. The Brao people bury their dead in a coffin made from a hollowed log. A funeral party is held where relatives and friends pay their respects by dancing and singing around the coffin. After a few days the body is buried and a small house is built atop the grave. Mr Sisouphanh explained that Brao people like to entertain themselves with interesting songs, rhythmic stories, various dances, musical instruments and folktales such as the Yakeundeuy, Yakoong and Yadauwmarm stories. The most popular instrument is the gong. “The gongs will disappear, however, because more and more people are selling their instruments. The provincial Information, Culture and Tourism Department is worried about the trend and has advised district authorities to do everything they can to preserve the instruments. The intangible Brao culture will come to an end if we don't take serious steps to conserve the tangible part of it,” he sai d.
Aug
18
A new hotel in Laos will be built soon
The Lao tourism industry has seen rapid growth over the past five years, creating a huge potential for the hospitality industry in the country. “We have seen the growth of the tourism industry in Laos therefore we decided to invest more than US$50 million in the hotel project,” Krittaphong Group Director, Ms Orlathay Santikhongkha said in an exclusive interview with Vientiane Times at the end of last month. The interview took place after the company welcomed Prime Minister Thongsing Thammavong and foreign diplomats visiting the construction project of the Landmark Mekong Riverside Hotel at Mekong river front of Don Chan in Vientiane. According to a report from the Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism, from January to March this year Laos welcomed 846,564 international tourists, up 11.34 percent from the same period last year. The country expects to receive about 2.8 million visitors in total this fiscal year and generate revenue of US$427 million. According to the first quar ter report of the tourism officials, Asean countries contributed 78.28 percent of all international arrivals, up 10.92 percent with 662,713 visits. The largest source country, Thailand, continued to grow at 11.04 percent with 479,323 visitors. The second top source country, Vietnam supplied 169,501 tourists, an increase of 9.6 percent. Contributions from the other ASEAN countries were very small, ranging fr om 110 to 4,400 visitors. Lao tourism officials forecast that the number of international tourist arrivals will continue to increase over the next five years as the country has a policy to welcome more foreign investors while a number of tourists want to explore the natural beauty of Laos. The hotel is one of the most luxurious venues in Vientiane, which the government plans to use to accommodate delegates and officials who will attend the 9th Asia-Europe meeting and other related meetings in Vientiane at the end of this year. According to company officials, project progress is 70 percent while construction of the hotel structure is now 90 percent completed and expected to be ready and officially open to the public before the international conference takes place. At present, the building contractor is speeding up the installation of water and air conditioning pipes in the hotel building. To make sure that the hotel will be ready for the 9th Asia-Europe meeting, over next four months, the contractors will complete and furnish half of the hotel rooms with the rest to be completed after the international conference is over. Ms Orlathay said that once construction of the Landmark Mekong Riverside Hotel is completed, the hotel will be one of the luxurious places to stay in most Vientiane. The hotel will be equipped with all facilities needed to meet international five star hotel standards. She said that the hotel management had discussions with Pakpasak Technical College and other schools in Vientiane to supply skilled labour to work in the hotel. The hotel management will also invite a number of hotel specialists from China to train the Lao staff so that they learn how to manage the hotel and welcome guests. “At first, there will be both Lao and Chinese staff working at the hotel,” she said, adding that after the Lao employees had been trained and developed quality working skills, they will be promoted to hold more important positions. One of the hotel’s unique attractions is that it is located along the Mekong river, which flows 4,800 km from China, through Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia before reaching the south China sea in Vietnam. The Mekong River is one of the cleanest rivers in the world, which helps to attract tourists walking or jogging along the riverside to breathe the fresh air. Most of those who visit Vientiane like to spend time near the Mekong riverside especially at sunset to take pictures and experience the peaceful lifestyle of Lao people. The Mekong River is not just a mighty river in Asia but also serves as the border between Laos and Thailand. The river creates a uniqu e relationship for the people who live along its banks on both sides with Lao and Thai people there sharing a similar language and culture. Another attraction of the hotel is that guests who stay there can look at Thailand through its windows as the country is only about 1.5 km across the river. The hotel is also located next to the International Residence Centre, which is now under construction and will be ready for the Asian and European delegates at the end of this year. The International Residence Centre is part of the US$600 million Vientiane New World Project, which is operated under a joint venture between the Lao Krittaphong Group and Chinese CAMCE. The Vientiane New World also consists of business and entertainment centres, which the joint venture is committed to complete within the next six to eight years.
Jul
21
Laos, Vietnam tourism and cultural cooperation mapped out
The ministers in charge of tourism and culture in Laos and Vietnam have agreed in principle to make their newly-initiated tourism forum a yearly event, as a platform to boost tourism growth in both countries. The Lao Minister of Information, Culture and Tourism, Prof. Dr Bosengkham Vongdara, and Minister of Culture, Sport and Tourism of Vietnam, Mr Hoang Tuan Anh, agreed at their meeting in Vientiane on Thursday to organise the Laos-Vietnam Tourism Forum every year, after both parties expressed satisfaction with the successful outcomes of their first tourism forum held in Vientiane on July18. Prof. Dr Bosengkham Vongdara ( second left, left row ) and Mr Hoang Tuan Anh ( third right, right row ) lead delegations from both sides at the talks. Prof. Dr Bosengkham agreed with his Vietnamese counterpart's proposal that relevant sectors of both sides should hold further talks, in an effort to create better conditions to smooth travel for Lao and Vietnamese tourists throughout each other's countries. The two ministers agreed to compile Laos-Vietnam tourist brochures detailing attractive and historical sites and other associated tourist activities, to boost arrivals between the two neighbours. Through an interpreter, Minister Anh accepted Prof. Dr Bosengkham's proposal seeking Vietnamese agreement for a Lao delegation in charge of tourism affairs to visit Vietnam. The delegation will undertake a study tour to seek lessons learned by Vietnam in relation to tourism industry development and management as well as the Vietnamese experience in hosting the Asean Tourism Forum, which Laos will host next year for the second time. Both sides agreed to increase cooperation on personnel training in the fields under their responsibility, including cultural matters. In response to Dr Bosengkham's request, Minister Anh said he would do his best to help formulate higher-level and bachelor's degree curricula for the Lao School of Arts, as well as addressing the teacher shortage for some subjects at the school. However, he suggested that the relevant sectors should hold further talks to draw up a plan of cooperation on the matter. “We will do our utmost to assist and cooperate with the Lao side,” he told the meeting. The Vietnamese side was pleased to continue providing scholarships at bachelor's and masters degree levels for Lao students and officials in cultural fields such as music and drama. Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Vietnam, Mr Nguyen Thanh Son, who also attended the meeting, welcomed the pact and confirmed that his ministry would fully assist to help smooth the cooperation. In addition, both sides will encourage neighbouring provinces to continue organising activities to mark Laos-Vietnam Solidarity and Friendship Year 2012, a year that celebrates the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations (1962-2012), and the 35th anniversary of the signing of the Friendship and Cooperation Treaty (1977-2012). The two sides successfully organised national-level meetings and associated activities this week in both countries. To continue marking the event in Vientiane, the Vietnamese Orchestra will perform at the National Culture Hall on Tuesday. They also touched upon the progress of joint efforts for granite sculpturing entitled ‘Laos-Vietnam Special Solidarity.' The crafted stone is expected to be exhibited at the end of the year that will mark Lao National Day, which falls on December 2. Dr Bosengkham informed the guests that Laos was pleased to attend the International Tourism Exposition to be held in Ho Chi Minh City in September.
Jul
26
Take a visit to Ban Phanom village
Ban Phanom textiles Close to the Phon Phau Temple, the village of Ban Phanom makes a popular tourist stop and is similar to the villages of Luang Namtha and Sam Neua as there you can observe the female textile makers at work on their looms, dyeing and then weaving. Years ago Ban Phanom was the village of choice for royal textiles, with each reigning monarch continuing to use village weavers as their preferred suppliers. The village itself is rich in history and offers a fantastic insight into an ancient art that is still very much alive today, thanks to tourism. Many sightseers visit the village, so it can get quite busy, especially when coaches arrive between 09:00 and 10:00, so avoid these times and you'll probably experience a much more relaxed trip. If you’re interested in buying some textiles as a souvenir then it’s definitely worth visiting here instead of buying at the night market. How to get there: To get to Ban Phanom takes about 10 minutes by tuk tuk from the centre of Luang Prabang on the banks of the Nam Khan River. You can also make the trip by bike although be warned it is quite a hilly ride and only for experienced riders. A tuk tuk will cost in the region of 100,000 kip and this includes waiting time and the return journey. Tour companies also run excursions to the village and usually include a side visit to French explorer Henri Mouhout’s grave.
Aug
02
Cheap Eats: Thai Lao Restaurant serves dishes that will get you out of your Asian food rut
Can pad thai become as boring and predictable as chicken French? Can spring rolls or pho ever be ho-hum? Lovers of Asian food, even you have to admit that sometimes the answer is yes. It’s not that you need to change cuisines, but a few new dishes would be nice to mix things up. That’s what Thai Lao Restaurant, the latest tenant at 309 University Ave., has done. You will find the usual suspects on the menu, but more frequently you’ll see something you may not have heard of before — just in time to get you out of that spring roll and pad thai rut that I know some of you are in. Born in Laos, parked in Thailand for a couple years and then transported all the way to America by age 12, owner and chef Tom Xomvimane wants to tutor Rochester in classic Laotian cooking with a Thai slant, the stuff he grew up with and learned from his parents and was cooking for himself by age 8. He often comes out of the kitchen to the table to explain what it is you’re eating, as well as what you’re not eating. That was the case when I stopped in for lunch last week. I was just giving the last heave-ho to a bowl of kao-phoon ($7.95), a chewy rice noodle dish with this grainy red coconut curry with chicken (whoops, the menu promises Cornish game hen) that has been pulverized to an intriguing texture somewhere between shredded and extruded. If the sauce was spicy just below the line of terror, then the fresh herbs (spearmint and Thai basil) brought cool comfort, and fresh mung bean sprouts even more so. A white cabbage and mesclun salad mix made it all feel healthy. So here comes our earnest chef, asking me if I had ever tried beef jerky. I had, but not happily, I told him. As he described the way he marinates thinly sliced beef and dries in on the grill, then hangs it and dries it more with a fan, then fries it and serves it with hot sauce and sticky rice, I knew already what my next Thai Lao meal would be. But I will have to call ahead, because Lao beef jerky has not yet moved from the specials list to the daily menu. Where Xomvimane grew up, refrigeration was rare, so you had to preserve your protein by other means. Other tried-and-true techniques are also adapted for the modern restaurant kitchen, such as steaming sticky rice in a bamboo basket or grinding the ingredients for som tum, or green papaya salad, in a clay mortar and pestle. Barbecue lovers, you will find common ground here at Thai Lao, where Xomvimane takes his sweet time marinating and cooking brisket, baby back ribs and pork. Vegetarians, come claim your tofu stir-fry. Soup lovers, the pho is on. For good measure, I did try the spring rolls with shrimp, cabbage and cilantro and a sweet and sour peanut sauce (Xomvimane was kind enough to split the order, usually four for $5.99, in half). Maybe not the most exciting, but they were as comforting as a basket of fresh rolls and butter. After all, some ruts are worth being stuck in.
Aug
06
Gipsy Kings would prefer not to wander
The two bands of brothers that make up the Gipsy Kings grew up roaming the South of France working harvests with their extended families. Several decades later, the brothers still live a nomadic life, but the caravans and horses of their youth have been replaced with planes, trains and automobiles. The Gipsy Kings' wandering-gypsy story line makes for a rather romantic tale, but as it turns out, the world music superstars actually don't like to travel. "It's all part of the legend of the gypsy," confided the band's manager, Michel Crupel, the only English-speaking member of the Gipsy Kings' entourage. "They'd rather stay home, so it would be better if people would come to France to see them. But music is their life, so they must go to the people." One of the band's more enthusiastic audiences is found right here in the U.S, which contributes more than its share of points to the Gipsy Kings' active frequent-flier program. "We have come to America two times a year for 25 years now," said Crupel. "It is such a large mix of people; young and old, but they all come for the same thing; the passion and the energy. The band may tire of touring but the response they receive when they arrive never gets old. "People dance, and we love that," said Crupel. "The more they get from the people the more they give onstage." The Gipsy Kings, who play the Sandler Center for the Performing Arts in Virginia Beach on Saturday, gained their following by putting a pop-music spin on traditional Latin rhythms and updating the sound by mixing old-world flamenco guitars with modern instruments like synthesizers. The formula outraged purists but has made the Gipsy Kings one of the most popular world music acts . Even so, the magnitude of the band's achievements is a bit much to take in. "They just play the music and don't think about all the other things," Crupel said of the enthusiastic accolades the Gipsy Kings have earned throughout the journey. That musical odyssey began when the Reyes brothers hooked up with their cousins the Baliardos boys in the 1970s. The families are the descendants of Spanish gypsies who fled to France in the '30s to escape the Spanish Civil War - which explains why these Frenchmen sing in Spanish. The band's major-label debut was released in 1987 and was a hit in Europe. Their follow-up became a worldwide smash three years later, and included the band's inventive flamenco-soaked version of the Italian classic "Volare," one of their more popular hits. The Gipsy Kings have worn the world music crown ever since. They've sold more than 14 million albums, and their 1998 greatest-hits collection remained on the Billboard music chart for over a year. More recently, the band has been in the studio finishing up an album planned for release by the end of this year. In the end, the Gipsy Kings' broad appeal is straightforward, says their manager: "It's just good music. There is no political message. It's all about love, life and rhythm."
Jul
31
Vientiane, Lao capital removes poverty
Vientiane has been able to graduate all 483 villages and nine districts from poverty, making the capital the first among the provinces that is able to remove poverty, based on the government criteria. The initial 2012 Annual Statistics on Poverty and Development report stated that the capital has achieved complete poverty removal from its villages and districts. Last year the official report already showed that there were no poor villages or districts in the capital. To graduate from poverty status, a village is required to reduce the number of poor families to less than 51 per cent of the total families in the village, while a district is also required to reduce the number of poor villages to less than 51 per cent, a senior official of the National Committee for Rural Development and Poverty Eradication (NCRDPE) explained. However, 100 families out of a total of more than 136,000 families in Vientiane are still living below the poverty line, according to the initial report received by the NCRDPE on July 9 which was submitted by Vientiane and provincial authorities. Deputy Director General of the NCRDPE's Personnel and Administration Department Dr Soubanh Sengsoulivong stated that the initial report will be analysed further by relevant ministries and organisations before submitting a final version to the government for approval. Northwestern Xayaboury pro vince ranks second in the number of poor families with 2,555 after first place was taken by Vientiane with only 100 poor families. Southern Champassak province is third with more than 3,000 poor families. Northern Oudomxay province was listed as having the highest number of poor families with more than 22,000, followed by northern Huaphanh province with more than 20,000. Southern Savannakhet has more than 15,000, placing it third from the bottom. Xayaboury also ranks second after Vientiane in the number of poor villages as it has been able to reduce them to only 18 out of a total of 445 villages, followed by southern Champassak province with 41 out of 644 in total. Northern Huaphan province had the highest number of poor villages with more than 500 villages out of 720 still categorised as poor, followed by northern Phongsaly province, which has 353 poor villages out of 540 in total. Oudomxay province has 296 poor villages out of 474. So far, only Vientiane and the province of Champassak have been able to remove poverty from all districts. Of the four provinces of Xayaboury, Xieng Khuang, Borikhamxay and Khammuan, each has only one poor district left. Huaphan has eight poor districts, making the northern province the one with the highest number in this regard, followed by Oudomxay that has seven and then Phongsaly, which has five poor districts.
Jul
13
Phravet festival recalls life of Lord Buddha
Each year, Ms Vongsavan, 45, puts on a traditional skirt (sinh) and sash and presents a money tree (kanlon) to monks who are chanting to commemorate the birth, death and enlightenment of Buddha during the annual Phravet Festival. A monk who has received a money tree is carried three times around the temple's main hall of worship. At her house she prepares food and drinks to welcome friends and relatives who are visiting her family. Lao people believe that serving food and drinks to their guests during festivals shows a generous spirit and builds solidarity among family, especially serving khao poon (noodle soup), as noodles represent longlasting friendship. “It may be tiring, but I am happy to see them and for us to have a party together,” Ms Vongsavan says with a smile. The day before the festival, Ms Vongsavanh carries out the same rituals as her parents before her. She gets up at 2am to join old and young people in her community as they invite Pha Ouphakoud to emerge from the river and the woods and place him in a corner of their temple. Lao people believe he will protect them from evil spirits during the festival. On the day of the festival, she decorates her money tree with perfume, candles, books and pens. She also takes part in a procession, dancing and singing with her friends and neighbours on the streets in her village before gathering to listen to the Phavetsandone - the tale of Lord Buddha's early life at the temple. She believes that dancing and offering a kanlon will help her find happiness in her next life. What is Boun Phravet? Boun Phravet is an annual traditional festival and is celebrated sometime between the second and fourth months of the Buddhist calendar (between January and March). It is held to commemorate the birth, death and enlightenment of Buddha, with monks gathering at temples to recite the ‘Phavetsandone', the tale of Lord Buddha's early life. Vetsandone was born to Pha Nha Sisonxay and Phanan g Phousadee in Pasexay. When he grew up he married and had two children. When he replaced his father as ruler, King Vetsandone became known for donating royal treasures such as silver, gold, elephants and horses to his citizens. He had a white elephant named Pachayanakhen, which was born on the same day as him and considered to be a symbol of luck and fortune for everyone in the kingdom. One day, eight wise men from Kalingka City came to ask Vetsandone if they could have the white elephant, believing it would help to bring them rain. Vetsandone agreed to their request, but this angered his people who felt he was too generous and not qualified to be their king, so they expelled him from the city. He went to live in the forest nearby and gave his children to a couple named Lousaka and Amittata, who thought that adopting the former ruler's children would bring them luck. Vetsandone also gave away his wife to an old man, who was actually God in disguise. God revealed his identity to Vetsandone and told him he did not have the right to give away his wife or children, who loved him. Too much of a good thing, including generosity, can lead to grief, God told him. When Lousaka returned to Pasexay and told people about his encounter with Vetsandone, people remembered how happy they had been before they expelled their king. They sent a delegation to the forest and invited Vetsandone to return with his wife and children. Why do Lao people celebrate Phravet? Boun Phravet comme-morates the story of Lord Buddha and his great generosity in his last life. Those who listen to monks chanting the 13 verses of the Phavetsandone story can earn merit. This belief stems from a Buddhist tale that a man called Phra Malai went to heaven and met the god Phasi-Aligymethai, believed to be the next Lord Buddha. He told Phra Malai that if people want to be born into his religion they should listen to the story of Phavetsandone on a single day. When Phra Malai returned to the world, he told people what he had learned and so the Boun Phravet festival was created. During the festival, people gather to watch monks perform a ritual to divide the Phavetsandone story into a thousand parts to be chanted. Some families prepare money trees and offer them to monks when they have finished chanting. The monk is then raised on a bed and carried three times around the temple's main hall of worship. To bring the festival to a close, people donate rice, fruit, candy and money to monks and novices, as they believe this will bring them good luck and happiness in this life and the next.
Aug
04
96 candidates won prize at multiple-choice quiz on Vietnam-Laos ties
On August 2nd, in Hanoi, the Party Central Committee Commission of Popularization and Education held the first awards ceremony with 96 candidates who won a prize at a multiple choice contest on the history of the special ties between Vietnam and Laos on the Internet. The contest was launched in Hanoi in April 2012 and in Vientiane in June 2012. After nearly four months, the contest drew the participation of nearly 150,000 people. According to Truong Minh Tuan, deputy head of the Party Central Committee Commission of Popularization and Education, with great significance as well as special marks in the history of the special ties between Vietnam and Laos, the contest attracted not only people who experience hardship but also young people, especially students at universities, cadres, soldiers and people of all walks in the society. The contest also drew the participation of Lao students in Vietnam. The contest has also been carried out in both countries in writing. Entries must demonstrate comprehensive knowledge of the special Vietnam-Laos ties in the past and at present and the role of predecessors of the two countries, including President Ho Chi Minh of Vietnam and Presidents Cayson Phomvihan and Souphanouvong of Laos, in developing this close knit bond. The contest provides a good chance for the two Parties and States to disseminate information and educate their people, particularly the young generations, about their special ties./.
Jul
23
Nam Tha Riverside Lodge Opens in Nalae
A rugged, three-hour drive from Luang Namtha Town to Nalae District in the province's southeast can now end with a refreshing 90-minute boat ride down the Nam Tha River to Ban Khone Kham and its newly opened village lodge. Integrated into the hillside village of 64 Tai Lue homes sitting on tiers supported by cobblestones, the two-storey lodge, constructed by the community, rises right on the riverside. The upper floor holds three bedrooms, though the sizeable veranda, surrounded by lattice, offers a more open-air, yet still comfortable sleeping quarters. Balconies on both sides present peaceful perches to take in the surrounding nature or read a book. Ban Khone Kham's English-speaking guide, Mr Boraphan, will walk you around the village, where almost every home on stilts sports several looms underneath. The number of looms depends on how many women live in the household, though they all churn out cotton sins (traditional skirts) sold in Luang Namtha Town. Villagers also produce lao lao rice alcohol and lao hai jar wine.
Jul
25
Laos, Vietnam tourism and cultural cooperation mapped out
The ministers in charge of tourism and culture in Laos and Vietnam have agreed in principle to make their newly-initiated tourism forum a yearly event, as a platform to boost tourism growth in both countries. The Lao Minister of Information, Culture and Tourism, Prof. Dr Bosengkham Vongdara, and Minister of Culture, Sport and Tourism of Vietnam, Mr Hoang Tuan Anh, agreed at their meeting in Vientiane on Thursday to organise the Laos-Vietnam Tourism Forum every year, after both parties expressed satisfaction with the successful outcomes of their first tourism forum held in Vientiane on July18. Prof. Dr Bosengkham Vongdara ( second left, left row ) and Mr Hoang Tuan Anh ( third right, right row ) lead delegations from both sides at the talks. Prof. Dr Bosengkham agreed with his Vietnamese counterpart's proposal that relevant sectors of both sides should hold further talks, in an effort to create better conditions to smooth travel for Lao and Vietnamese tourists throughout each other's countries. The two ministers agreed to compile Laos-Vietnam tourist brochures detailing attractive and historical sites and other associated tourist activities, to boost arrivals between the two neighbours. Through an interpreter, Minister Anh accepted Prof. Dr Bosengkham's proposal seeking Vietnamese agreement for a Lao delegation in charge of tourism affairs to visit Vietnam. The delegation will undertake a study tour to seek lessons learned by Vietnam in relation to tourism industry development and management as well as the Vietnamese experience in hosting the Asean Tourism Forum, which Laos will host next year for the second time. Both sides agreed to increase cooperation on personnel training in the fields under their responsibility, including cultural matters. In response to Dr Bosengkham's request, Minister Anh said he would do his best to help formulate higher-level and bachelor's degree curricula for the Lao School of Arts, as well as addressing the teacher shortage for some subjects at the school. However, he suggested that the relevant sectors should hold further talks to draw up a plan of cooperation on the matter. “We will do our utmost to assist and cooperate with the Lao side,” he told the meeting. The Vietnamese side was pleased to continue providing scholarships at bachelor's and masters degree levels for Lao students and officials in cultural fields such as music and drama. Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Vietnam, Mr Nguyen Thanh Son, who also attended the meeting, welcomed the pact and confirmed that his ministry would fully assist to help smooth the cooperation. In addition, both sides will encourage neighbouring provinces to continue organising activities to mark Laos-Vietnam Solidarity and Friendship Year 2012, a year that celebrates the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations (1962-2012), and the 35th anniversary of the signing of the Friendship and Cooperation Treaty (1977-2012). The two sides successfully organised national-level meetings and associated activities this week in both countries. To continue marking the event in Vientiane, the Vietnamese Orchestra will perform at the National Culture Hall on Tuesday. They also touched upon the progress of joint efforts for granite sculpturing entitled ‘Laos-Vietnam Special Solidarity.' The crafted stone is expected to be exhibited at the end of the year that will mark Lao National Day, which falls on December 2. Dr Bosengkham informed the guests that Laos was pleased to attend the International Tourism Exposition to be held in Ho Chi Minh City in September.
Feb
28
More foreigners visit HCMC


Besides, about 4,000 Vietnamese people have travelled to other countries through HCMC during the Lunar New Year Festival (Tet), an increase of 10% over last year. The city’s tourism destinations have also attracted more than 75,000 domestic visitors.

In 2011, HCMC aims to receive 3.5 million travellers and earn VND49,000 billion. To reach the target, the city will continue to improve the quality of tourism products also through promotion and international cooperation.

La Quoc Khanh, Deputy Director of HCM Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism said the sector would focus on four main areas, including diversifying and developing products; promoting the quality of cultural events; controlling the illegal activities; and training staff.

Aug
07
Four countries start fifth Mekong River patrol
XISHUANGBANNA, Yunnan, Aug. 6 (Xinhua) -- Another joint patrol on the Mekong River was kicked off on Monday by Chinese police and their counterparts from Laos, Myanmar and Thailand, according to local public security authorities. The joint patrol is the fifth of its kind since last December. The patrol fleet set sail at 6:30 a.m. from Guanlei Port, which is located in Xishuangbanna prefecture in southwest China's Yunnan Province. Joint patrols and reinforced cooperation have effectively safeguarded stability and shipping safety in the Mekong River area, said a statement released after a Sunday meeting of the four nations' joint commanders. Although the area is safe for the time being, further law enforcement cooperation is still needed, the statement said. Senior cabinet members from the four countries met in Beijing last October and agreed to take joint action to crack down on cross-border crime and secure transportation along the Mekong River following the murder of 13 Chinese sailors on the river. In May, Naw Kham, a drug lord suspected of masterminding the attack on the Chinese sailors, was detained and sent to Beijing.
Sep
13
Bangkok Airways to start flying to Vientiane
The carrier has been operating a daily flight to the UNESCO World Heritage town of Luang Prabang since 2001. It also started a flight to Pakse during 2007 and halted it due to poor traffic. The new service will depart Bangkok at 0815 and arrive in Vientiane at 0930. The return flight will depart at 1010 and arrive in Bangkok at 1125. Reservations are now available with the lowest fare under its Web Saver category priced at Bt7,615 all inclusive and its business Blue Ribbon Class fare priced at Bt19,825. Three carriers are now operating flights to the capital city, Vientiane — Thai Airways International, Lao Airlines (double daily each) and the new Lao private carrier, Lao Central Airlines (daily). There are no low-cost airlines serving the route mainly because of a reluctance of the Lao government to allow budget airlines access to routes that are profitable for its national airline. Lao Central sells the cheapest fare at Bt2,400 for a roundtrip fare for the first 20 seats, but this will end 30 September. After the promotion the lowest fare will be Bt4,800 until the end of October. The regular fares start from Bt6,045. THAI’s 52nd Anniversary promotion ending 30 September quotes Bt8,055 for an economy class fare and Bt14,180, for business class. After the promotional period, the economy fares will start from Bt10,880 for economy class and Bt15,855 for business class. Laos’ national carrier, Lao Airlines sells at around Bt8,200. In addition, Bangkok Airways is running a ‘Fly Mid-Week, Receive Double Points’ campaign for frequent flyers who travel to Chiang Mai and Phuket on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday during September and November.
Jul
19
Laos Culture Days opens in Vietnam
On July 17th, a troupe of Lao artists presented a special show of music, dance and arts at Hanoi Opera House to open Laos Culture Days in Vietnam. The event is being held to celebrate Vietnam-Laos Friendship and Solidarity Year 2012, the 50th anniversary of diplomatic ties between the two countries and the 35th anniversary of the signing of the Vietnam-Laos Friendship Treaty. Taking place on July 16-20, the programme includes a fine arts exhibition and film screenings to introduce features of Lao culture and enhance the long-standing and close friendship between Vietnam and Laos. The art performance drew the participation of 47-strong troupe that performed Laoatian songs, instrumental music and dances, praising the beautiful landscape and culture of the country. The Laoatian singers sang several Vietnamese songs and one song composed by a Laoation musician that honours President Ho Chi Minh. Traditional dresses of ethnic groups in Laos are also on display at the event. In addition, the Vietnam Union of Friendship Organisations (VUFO) and the Vietnam-Laos Friendship Association are organizing the third Vietnam-Laos People’s Friendship Festival in the capital city, as well as the northern provinces of Tuyen Quang and Ninh Binh, from July 15-21./.
Jul
12
Environmentalists spread global message on climate change
After 26 years of travelling to all continents during seven world tours to spread the word on the dangers of global warming, two Indian environmentalists, Mr R. Gnana-sekaran and Mr T. Srinivasa Rao and members of their family are now in Asia on their eighth world tour. As determined as ever, they are spreading the message “Unite the world to save the earth from global warming.” Their new 2012 tour, supported by Hyundai Santa Fe of India, began in Malaysia. They then travelled through Thailand, explored Champassak province and drove north to Vientiane. Their journey next takes them to Cambodia, Vietnam and Singapore followed by an 80-day sea passage to London. Srinivasa and Gnanasekaran are on a return visit to Laos, having previously fallen in love with its green spaces and natural beauty. They wanted to come back to build awareness of the value of Laos' forests and the need to protect them. When they talk about the global warming issue the pair begin to look serious. They explain that the threat of climate change is caused by rising global temperatures and is the most significant environmental challenge the Earth faces in the 21st century. To avoid the most catastrophic impacts, any temperature increase must be less than 2 degrees Celsius. This is still possible, but time is running out, they say. To stay within this limit, the amount of greenhouse gas emissions will need to reach its peak by 2015 and then rapidly decline. It must reach as close to zero as possible by the middle of this century. The travellers want to see developed countries provide more funding for developing nations to protect their natural resources and maintain better environmental conditions, to prevent further global warming. When they finish their tour of the region at the end of 2013, Srinivasa and Gnanasekaran plan to send their message to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in New York. Since 1986 the two activists have been promoting environmental awareness and covered 600,000km in the process. They have visited 120 countries and attended two summits in Copenhagen, Denmark, on the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. The environmentalists' first world tour was undertaken on bicycles starting in New Delhi and crossing every continent, championing world peace and nuclear disarmament. Their other missions have included saving Antarctica, saving the rainforests, environmental protection, and saving the planet. After riding through all the continents, the two have developed a greater understanding of the issue and say that Mother Earth is in urgent need because of global warming. They say a worldwide campaign to call for people to join hands to save the Earth from disaster is essential.
Jul
20
Sunrise In Laos
Pam Houston directs the Creative Writing Program at U.C. Davis. Her most recent novel is Contents May Have Shifted. Luang Prabang, Laos, is so close to the equator that daybreak happens at the same time each day. Also each day, a few dozen women set up rice cookers on small collapsible tables on street corners next to the more than 30 monasteries that grace this riverside town. If you get up with them and walk the silent streets in the misty Mekong predawn, you smell, under the sweetness of the frangipani blossoms, the thick odor of cooked starch. I am a mountain girl, and my first love in Asia are the monasteries tucked between the snow-covered razor ridges of the high Himalayas. But I've been drawn south into these humid lowlands by the reported kindness of the Laotian people and the early morning ritual that is about the begin. A rooster crows. A peacock screams. And then the bells of the monasteries begin to have their morning conversation. When the monks come pouring down the stone steps of the prayer halls, they appear first as a river of color, a ribbon of saffron silk, shockingly vibrant against the chalky streets, the dusty footpath, the gray — almost mercuried — sky. All over Asia, monks wear robes the color of spices: curry, cumin, paprika. In Luang Prabang, every robe is brightest saffron, the cloth wrapped complicatedly around their torsos and hanging to their ankles, tied at the waist with a bright yellow sash. As they approach it becomes possible to distinguish one monk from another, hands clasped in front of the belly, echoing the shape of the wooden begging bowl they hold. Author Pam Houston thinks you must see dawn in Luang Prabang. Enlarge Russell Kaye Author Pam Houston thinks you must see dawn in Luang Prabang. Like the Mekong they live beside, this river of men never stops moving; they pass in a quiet, contemplative gait that is two parts walking, one part floating. One by one they drift past the woman, who also keeps a kind of time with her motions: one large scoop of steaming rice into each hand-carved bowl, refill, release, refill again. Every monk bows to her deeply and moves on. Every few streets the same thing is happening: different woman, different monks; same bright, graceful river passing in front of her. And again a few streets over, an unmistakable flash of color, and again, a few streets beyond that. This is what happens here every morning, 365 days, year in, year out. The women up early, cooking in the dark, carrying their little tables in the milky first light. Then the monks, a small fire in the gray light, lightening their rice cookers, lightening their burdens. The sun strengthens slightly. In an hour, the fog will lift and the heat will begin to press down. There is a flick of fire, a swirl of a saffron sleeve as a monk moves around the corner, back up the stairs and into the dormitory, like a magic trick of compassion, of generosity, of prayers offered and received.
Aug
01
Meeting to mark Laos-Vietnam friendship and Solidarity Year held in Luangnamtha
(KPL) The authority of the Luangnamtha province organized on 24 July a meeting to mark the Laos-Vietnam Friendship and Solidarity Year 2012: the 50th anniversary of Laos-Vietnam diplomatic ties and the 35 years since the signing of the Friendship and Cooperation Treaty. Attending at the ceremony was Mr. Phimmasone Leunagkhamma, Member of the Party CC and governor of Luangnamtha province, representatives from Vinh Phu, Son La, Dien Bien provinces of Vietnam and Vietnamese Consul General to Luangprabang province and senior officials in Luangnamtha, Bokeo, Oudomsay and Phongsaly provinces. Speaking at the function, Mr. Phimmasone highlighted about history and background of the traditional special friendship relations and all round cooperation between the two parties, states and people of Laos and Vietnam.
Jul
31
Laos, a small country with huge potential
The recent visit to Laos by US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton is a sign of the growing interest in a small country with huge potential. Blessed with abundant natural resources and low labour costs, Laos is strategically located near the heart of Southeast Asia and has one of the highest GDP growth rates in the world – 7.9% in 2011 (a growth rate it has enjoyed for most of the past decade.) Laos has similar resources and strengths to Myanmar but is about one-third the size and has one-seventh the population. As less-developed countries, Laos and Myanmar will both have preferential access into Europe and the United States. Compared with Myanmar, which is just opening up after decades of isolation, Laos has the advantage of more developed infrastructure and a more advanced legal system. A foreign investor law has been in place since 1994, and last year Laos opened its first stock market which currently has two listed companies: Laos’s largest commercial bank, BCEL, and the electricity company EDL-GEN. In the near future two more companies are expected to list: Enterprise de Telecommunications Lao and the Lao Indochina Group. The banking sector, also well developed, is regulated by the Bank of the Lao PDR, and includes about 10 foreign banks, mostly Thai. One of the huge advantages of Laos, compared with other countries at a similar level of development, is an ample supply of electricity. Indeed, Laos produces a surplus that is sold to Thailand. This is certainly important for the manufacturing sector and a number of manufacturers, especially in the textile and food industries, are setting up bases in Laos. Meanwhile, transport corridors including high-speed trains are providing comprehensive links between Laos and China and other markets, which will support manufacturers to become integrated into the global supply chain. It is not surprising, then, that Laos is becoming a magnet for Thai companies preparing international expansion plans and looking for alternative production bases with low-cost labour. A few weeks ago I joined a group of around 100 Bualuang SME members on a trip to Laos, where we explored investment and trade opportunities and met with potential partners in Vientiane as well as with the Finance Minister Phouphet Khamphounvong. Thailand is the biggest trading partner of Laos and last year, total trade between our two countries rose by almost 30%. Thailand’s main exports to Laos are fuel, commodities, vehicles, tools, textiles and electronic goods, while Laos’s main exports to Thailand are copper, ready-made cloth, wood and timber and energy. Trade and investment will continue to expand strongly with more and more developments taking place, including the opening of a new bridge at Kum Muan, Nakhon Phanom and the establishment of a new economic zone in the same area. Thailand had 393 investment projects in Laos in 2011, mainly in energy, logistics, telecommunications, hotels and tourism, banks, timber, textiles and handicrafts. With growing interest from Thai entrepreneurs and manufacturers I am sure we will see considerable diversification in the future. Given Laos’s position near the centre of Asean, it will be a major beneficiary once the Asean Economic Community is formed in three years, and it is sure to experience tremendous changes within the next few years. Investors who establish a base early on in this small, stable and high-potential country, are likely to enjoy excellent returns in the future.
Jul
31
A show solidarity with Laos was played by Vietnamese artists
A Vietnamese troupe performed traditional national dances and sang revolutionary songs on Tuesday night, as an act of encouragement to further strengthen relations between the Vietnamese and Lao peoples. The event was part of Vietnam Culture Week in Laos (July 16-20), and was attended by the President of National Assembly and Politburo members, Ms Pany Yathortou, a Politburo member of the Communist Party of Vietnam, Le Hong Anh, as well as soldiers, police, youth union members and the general public. The ceremony opened with a performance by a group of musicians, which delighted the hundreds of people in attendance with songs depicting the friendship relations, special solidarity and comprehensive cooperation between the two nations. Minister of Information, Culture and Tourism, Prof. Dr Bosengkham Vongdara, said just as the Vietnamese troupe will perform in Laos; the Lao troupe will perform in kind in Vietnam to strengthen relations and cooperation between the two nations. Vietnamese Culture, Sports and Tourism Minister, Hoang Tuan Anh, said Vietnam Culture Week marked the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations (1962-2012) between the two neighbours, and the 35th anniversary of the signing of the Friendship and Cooperation Treaty (1977-2012). Upcoming events will include traditional dance performances, a performance of revolutionary songs by the Vietnamese National Music Institute, an exhibition showing 30 artworks depicting Vietnam’s nature and lifestyle, as well as the screening of documentaries about Vietnam, its people, and its relationship with Laos. Mr Hoang said Laos-Vietnam Friendship Year gives both nations’ people the chance to learn about the long history and cooperation between the two countries.
Jul
23
Passport to Success Lands PATA Grand Award
Lanith’s “Passport to Success” skills training programme has pulled in the coveted Pacific Asia Travel Association’s (PATA) Grand Award for Education and Training for 2012, and will receive the prize at a ceremony during the PATA Annual Conference in Kuala Lumpur on 21 April. This year, PATA presented Grand Awards for its four primary categories – education and training, marketing, environment, and heritage and culture – to outstanding entries for its 23 annual Gold Awards, which recognize achievements in a range of sub-sections. “This award recognises that local trainers can effectively teach international-level tourism and hospitality skills to their own country’s staff, who have low levels of expertise,” said Passport to Success architect Mike Loose, Lanith’s Technical Advisor, Industry Training. He added, “This is an achievement for all of Lao tourism and its people, including the Lanith core team, Luxembourg Development which is funding the project, Passport to Success participants, and the country’s education system.” Lanith Chief Technical Advisor Peter Semone said, “What makes this PATA Grand Award particularly gratifying is that we took an idea and turned it into an operational reality in about a year.” Mr Loose noted that the achievement awards system built into the Passport to Success’s module-based programme plays a crucial role in motivating its participants, and stressed that only those who prove their competence in a skill receive “Statements of Attainment”. He also stressed that the PATA Grand Award is a testament to the Passport to Success’s internationally trained, dedicated core teaching team, who are training enthusiastic hospitality staff, many with limited knowledge, and lifting their skill levels to international standards. Core team trainer, Vilasa Chanthalangsy, pointed out the need for flexibility in his teaching approach. “The food and beverage staff in Luang Prabang have the basic knowledge. They know how to take orders and set tables, but they lack skills in new techniques, so I need to build on the skills they have to show them how to work better.” However, for a less-developed province like Xieng Khouang, he needed to work harder. “They have never seen proper F&B methods before, and taking training modules in the Passport to Success was very exciting for them. They want to know why we do things like set tables in a certain way, and they learn fast.” Chounlachan “Nickie” Phengdy, another core team member, agreed. “Passport participants are eager to learn and highly motivated…They like to exchange experiences and try to come up with solutions.” Mr Semone pointed out that Lanith’s Passport to Success will not rest on this laurel. “We are continuing to create more three-to-four-day modules with accompanying videos, we’ve broken ground on the Lanith Restaurant and Inn in Luang Prabang as part of a Passport to Success training facility, and we are even stepping outside the travel industry due to diverse demand.” He also noted interest in the Passport to Success programme from other countries including Myanmar and Cape Verde in Africa. “The beauty of the Passport to Success is that it can be adapted to the natural hospitality of any culture.” The awards have long been supported and sponsored by the Macau Government Tourist Office (MGTO). MGTO Director Mr Joao Manuel Costa Antunes said, “Our applause goes to all the winners for their remarkable achievements…It is no easy task for the judges to determine the winners, given the number and quality of the entries…who have done their best in the sustainable development and promotion of the travel and tourism industry.”
Jul
25
Construction of new Institute of National Science and Social kicked off
(KPL) A groundbreaking ceremony for the construction of new Lao National Science and Social Institute under the grant assistance of over VND154 billion was held at the Party Central Administration Office (at km 6) on 19 July. Head of Party Central Committee for Propaganda, Mr. Cheung Sombounkhanh, President of Vietnamese National Science and Social Institute, Prof. Dr. Ngueng Choane Thang and relevant officials of both institutes attended the ceremony. The Lao National Science and Social Institute was established in 2006 and after that the institute has paid closely cooperation with the Vietnamese institute concerned. The construction of over 1.4-billion kip new institute with a full set of facilities will take for next three year.
Jul
19
Huaphan plans airport to give lift to tourism
Plans are in place to build an airport in Huaphan province to encourage more domestic and overseas visitors to explore the area. At the moment, not many tourists make it to the province because it’s a two day bus trip from Vientiane. Surveying for the new airport has begun and it is anticipated that ATR72-500 planes, which can hold up to 74 passengers, will be able to land there. Visitors prepare to explore the caves in Viengxay district, Huaphan province. Vientiane residents who go to Huaphan by road joke that they want to return home as soon as they arrive, because they’ve got headaches and are car sick from the long and bumpy journey. “We believe that if there is air transport between Vientiane and Huaphan province, it will attract more and more visitors,” Director General of the Tourism and Marketing Department of the Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism, Mr Saly Phimphinith, told the Vientiane Times last week. The province’s Viengxay district is famous for its caves which harboured revolutionary leaders during the struggle for liberation in the 1960s and 70s. Kaysone Phomvihane, who later became the president of the Lao PDR and is revered as the country’s national hero, spearheaded the revolutionary movement from the caves. Provincial authorities plan to promote the caves as a top tourist attraction, and it is hoped the area will join Vientiane and Luang Prabang as the third major tourist draw in the country. There are about 500 caves altogether. “The caves are amazing; it’s incredible to think that so many people lived in them for more than nine years during the Indochina War,” Mr Saly said. As of 2011, about 13,000 people have visited the caves where Kaysone Phomvihane lived and worked, including 2,800 foreigners, but this figure does not include Vietnamese and Chinese tourists. Every year more and more tourists and study groups visit the caves. Last year more than 2.7 million tourists visited Laos, generating revenue of almost US$400 million. The Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism is targeting 3.5 million tourists per year by 2015. That number is expected to generate about US$500 million in revenue.
Aug
03
ADB helps Luangnamtha to develop sustainable tourism
(KPL) ADB Tourism Development Project has recently provided 61,200,000 kip to Ban Pheing-gnam, Luangnamtha district of Luangnamtha province to develop its sustainable tourism. This was a part of the ADB project to help the local people to create income from tourism, said head of information division, department of information, culture and tourism of Luangnamtha province. The supported fund will be used to develop the infrastructure of tourism in the village including the booth building for display and selling the tourism products. Ban Pheing-gnam has now 56 households, 80 families and 251 peoples. Almost of the people here have skills in weaving and raising of mulberry plantations for sericulture activity.
Jul
11
Hotel de la Paix Luang Prabang
Hotel de la Paix is an elegant and spacious all-suite hotel, located just 5 minutes drive from town and 10 minutes drive from the palm-fringed airport, in a peaceful residential area. Once a French colonial fort, delaPaix now blends historic charm with contemporary style. This sleek boutique hotel is built on a UNESCO heritage site in the former royal capital of Laos. The resort boasts 23 luxury suites featuring rich wooden furnishings and beautiful bathrooms with bathtubs. Large, sun-kissed courtyards, shimmering swimming pools and frangipani-fragrant gardens provide a welcome retreat in all seasons. Free Wi-fi is offered throughout the hotel. For added indulgence, the Pool Suites offer private pool in addition to a private terrace and garden. In-suite entertainment includes a flat-screen TV, DVD player and iPod, all of which can be enjoyed from the comfortable lounge chairs. Natural spa therapies and massage treatments are featured at the Spa Indochine. Guests can read about history in the library or experience culture tours arranged by the Recreation Concierge service. The all-day dining restaurant serves gourmet local dishes. The colonial-style bar features a classic fireplace where conversations can be enjoyed over cocktails. Let the hotel collect you from the airport with its vintage limousines and enjoy a taste of the past. CULINARY Dining at The Hotel de la Paix is about experiencing the rich culinary traditions and flavours of Lao cuisine, laced with distinctive French influences. Located in a traditional two-storey Lao-style house, above the Ka-toke Cooking School, Kaipen restaurant serves up an exciting variety of taste sensations, prepared using the freshest, local ingredients. With views over a courtyard and the resort's own organic garden, the restaurant creates just the right mood for your dining pleasure - flowing effortlessly from casual to fine dining, from an intimate indoor setting to romantic evenings in the garden, dining out under the night sky. SPA & WELLNESS At Spa Indochine, we are committed to providing unique treatments from the heart, blending ancient Asian healing techniques with age-old beauty recipes featuring the curative benefits of fresh, natural, quality ingredients. Trained in anatomical physiology, massage, meditation and service, our local therapists combine the latest organic nutrition and health knowledge with the most essential element - warm, genuine care that flows from the heart through the hands, to stimulate, rejuvenate, balance and relax your mind and body. Balancing expertise with an intuitive sense of well-being, and through the contemporary expression of centuries-old therapies, at Spa Indochine we create a natural, heartfelt and surprisingly different experience...
Jul
17
Vietnam - Laos cultural days get underway
Vietnam’s ‘cultural days’ in Laos, and Laos’ ‘cultural days’ in Vietnam are currently underway, from now until July 21, as part of a series of activities to mark the 50th anniversary of diplomatic ties and the signing of the Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation between the two countries. Laos’ ‘cultural days’ in Vietnam will begin in Hanoi on July 17, with numerous concerts, dance routines and a fashion show taking place. Also, as part of the celebrations, several painting exhibitions and film screenings will be held. In addition, the Vietnam Union of Friendship Organisations (VUFO) and the Vietnam-Laos Friendship Association will host the third Vietnam-Laos People’s Friendship Festival in the capital city, as well as the northern provinces of Tuyen Quang and Ninh Binh, from July 15-21. Delegates from both countries will also pay tribute to President Ho Chi Minh at his mausoleum and later attend meetings marking the 50th anniversary of diplomatic ties and the 35 years of signing the Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation. While in Laos, an array of concerts, fashion shows and exhibitions of sculptures and paintings will portray Vietnam, its countryside and people to its close neighbours. A lot of tourism promotions have been organised to promote Laos to Vietnamese holiday makers. Vietnam will also present several films which feature Vietnam and Vietnam - Laos traditional friendship. Up to 10 feature films and documentaries are listed for viewing
Sep
21
Japanese photo exhibition is on display in Talat Sao Shopping Mall 2
(KPL) A photo exhibition entitled"Kumamoto Artpolis" to promote the exchange of the culture and the good understanding between two nations was held in the Talat Sao Shopping Mall 2 in Vientiane yesterday. The exhibition will run till 3 October, according to Japanese embassy press release. It was jointly organised by The Embassy of Japan in Vientiane, the Japanese Foundation and the Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism. Ambassador of Japanese to Laos, Mrs. Junko Yokota, Deputy Minister of Information, Culture and Tourism, Mr. Chaleun Warinthrasak, President of Laos-Japan Friendship Association, Dr. Ponemek Dalaloy and a representative of international organisation to Laos were at present of the opening ceremony. "I hope that this exhibition will not only promote mutual understanding by introducing Japanese culture and architecture, but also provide a hint to urban planning and rural development of Laos," said Ms. Yokota. In addition to this exhibition, we will also organise a Manga (Japanese cartoon) drawing workshop for high school and university students on 23-24 September, and Shodo (Japanese calligraphy) demonstration and workshop for art students and Japanese learners from 26 September to October 1, Ms. Yokota adding that these week as:"Japan Art Weeks"to promote understanding of Japanese culture among all generation and social sectors of Laos and further enhance friendship relations between Laos and Japan. Kumamoto prefecture is medium-scale prefecture with 1.8 million populations, which is situated in the southern part of Japan. "Kumamoto Artpolis" is a programme operated by the local government authorities of Kumamoto since 1988. They called for young and energetic architects to design public buildings such as museums, schools and hospitals to enhance the local culture through architecture and to raise the awareness of local people toward regional development and revitalization. This unique programme as local revitalization method has been widely recognised and highly evaluated in the society, and awarded more than 70 prizes both at home and abroad. More than 70 images and sketches of Kumamoto Artpolis, is now displayed in Vientiane.
Jul
31
Thakhek with the plan to attract tourists by 2015
Khammuan province is increasing the speed of upgrades to its basic infrastructure with the aim of turning Khakhek district into a green tourism destination by 2015. Historic colonial buildings in Thakhek district. Photo Khamphan Deputy Director of the Information, Culture and Tourism Department, Mr Bounthavy Sysombath, told Vientiane Times last week that the province is in the process of converting roads leading to tourist sites from dirt to asphalt or concrete surfaces. “We are doing this as a way for the provincial government to support Visit Laos Year 2012,” he said. The tourist sites in Thakhek district include Sikhottabong stupa, one of the most sacred Buddhist religious sites in Laos, which was constructed during the Sikhottabong Kingdom era in the 6th-8th century AD. The government has approved two billion kip for stupa renovations. Tourists will also be encouraged to visit Kamphaeng Yark (giant wall). Legend says that the 15km wall was built in the 9 th century by the ancient Sikhottabong Kingdom. Others maintain that Kamphaeng Yark is a natural sandstone formation which was incorporated into the kingdom’s defense system. Tourists are also advised to see the many charming French colonial buildings located in the district. Mr Bounthavy said that the improvement of basic infrastructure can allow Thakhek to become an attractive tourist destination and green district because tourism is one of three sectors planned to increase socio-economic development in the area. To achieve the goal, the province has already encouraged Thakhek residents living along main roads to grow flowers and decorate the fronts of their houses as well as make sure that rubbish is properly discarded. The other two potential socio-economic development sectors are agriculture and forestry as well as energy and mines. The three targeted sectors directly support the government’s policy for poverty alleviation. So far the province has recognised 146 tourist sites: 119 natural tourist sites, 25 cultural tourist sites and two historical tourist sites. In 2010, the province recorded approximately 175,000 tourist visits. The number of tourists increased to 250,000 in 2011 after the third Lao-Thai Friendship Bridge opened in September of that year.
Jul
10
Take a visit Attapeu
It has a rich history dating back to the Lane Xang Kingdom in the 16th century, as evidenced by the ancient stupa That Sayasettha, which local people believe to house the remains of King Saysetthathirath. Ther is an extensive river network which includes th XeKong, Xe Kaman and Xe Xou rivers. One can travel the Xe Kong River along the border of Cambodia and then up in the Xe Pian River with access to Xepian National Protected Area (NPA). so you can accessible by trekking or by boating.
Jul
24
Remote jar site receives few visitors
The Plain of Jars in Phakeo village in Kham district of Xieng Khuang province is really beautiful, but many visitors won’t go there as there is currently no road access. About 416 jars are scattered under trees on the low mountain slopes, an official from the Provincial Department of Information, Culture and Tourism Mr Phousavanh Vorasing told Vientiane Times on Friday. However, there is the possibility of building a road which is currently under consideration by the Xieng Khuang provincial authorities, he mentioned. If the road construction goes ahead, this Plain of Jars site will become a major tourist destination in the province. It is already of great interest to tourists from European countries visiting the province but there are not so many of them at the moment, just a few visitors per week, he said. “The European people are there as they like to go trekking,” he pointed out. “They’re very impressed with its diverse natural beauty of forests, limestone mountains, green valleys and rolling grasslands.” Most visitors who visit enjoy a homestay in the households of the Hmong ethnic group, usually for two nights and three days. The Plain of Jars in Phakeo village is located about 27 kilometres from the town of Phonsavanh, Xieng Khuang province. When visitors wish to go there, they should take a motorcycle or car to Kha village, then they need to walk from there to Phakeo village, which takes about three hours. As there is no road access to the Plain of Jars in Phakeo village, many visitors prefer to tour the Plain of Jars Site 1 in Paek district, Xieng Khuang province, because it’s not too far away, about six kilometers from the town. It also has an asphalt road linking it to town. Each year, some 5,000 visitors from Laos and abroad visit the site, traveling mostly in families or as members of tour groups. The larger tour groups typically come with a guide, but smaller groups do not hire a guide as they want to save money, Mr Phousavanh said. According to the tourism information office in the provincial capital Phonsavanh, more than 28,000 tourists have visited Xieng Khuang province over the past few years. The Plain of Jars Site 1 is one of the biggest attractions for local and foreign travelers, and will soon be declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Extensive archaeological studies have established that the large stone jars are about 2,000 years old on average. Xieng Khuang authorities curr ently receive assistance from UNESCO and government agencies to develop sustainable and responsible tourism at the jar sites and other visitor attractions. The goal is to develop locally managed tourism centred on the Plain of Jars, that involves and benefits local people, which will help the provincial authorities collect much needed revenue to protect historic sites and natural attractions. The revenue generated from tour groups will help the authorities to achieve their visions of sustainable tourism, which will protect the cultural heritage of Xieng Khuang and provide a better life for nearby rural communities.
Jul
14
Lao Tourism Takes First ATF Step
Lao tourism businesses, donor agencies, and related government officials are grabbing the reigns of the nation’s destination marketing plans, beginning with the 2013 ASEAN Tourism Forum (ATF) which Laos will be hosting in January, and will present its strategy to the Ministry of Information, Culture, and Tourism (MoICT). The ad hoc tourism marketing group met last week, following its establishment at the 6th Lanith (Lao National Institute of Tourism and Hospitality) Quarterly Symposium in March, to decide on how to better market Laos, while discussing the opportunities and barriers currently facing the sector. “ATF offers a great marketing opportunity, but there are only seven months to go, and none of the major players in the private and public sector invited to attend this meeting, not even relevant government officials, knows of any firm ministry plans for the event,” said Lanith Chief Technical Advisor Peter Semone. Lao Tourism Marketing Board (LTMB) Senior Advisor Kirsten Focken from the German Development Cooperation (GIZ) outlined the most urgent issues surrounding ATF 2013, while emphasizing the need for a marketing campaign to position Lao tourism to visitors and delegates. She also stressed the importance of selecting hosted buyers and media. Lanith and GIZ representatives committed their support for Laos’ tourism marketing efforts if the government provides a mandate and senior decision-maker to work with a task force in developing and implementing a strategy. Representatives from travel agencies Asian Trails and Diethelm showed interest, but noted that their companies already had booths at major trade shows. The meeting’s chairman Oudeth Souvannavong, founder of the 17-year-old Lao Hotel and Restaurant Association (LHRA), said the LHRA, Lao Association of Travel Agents, and Lao Airlines are in discussions with the MoICT concerning public-private sector cooperation, but added that Lao travel associations needed independence from the government. “The private sector cannot wait for the government; we must act together as a group,” he said. Armin Hofmann, GIZ Director in Laos, agreed, adding, “Sometimes, the government doesn’t see the whole picture…Don’t wait for the government to come up with a plan. Let’s do it on our own.” He suggested that the working group take the initiative, and come up with a joint proposal that accounts for the concerns of the private sector, development agencies, and the government, and then take this plan to the ultimate decision maker in the MoICT. Mr Souvannavong said he would communicate the idea of a task force to the MoICT, and call another meeting of the tourism working group
Sep
13
Iphone photo 'art' controversy clicks in
One of photographer Alessandro Vannucci’s favourite photos is of a small boy running towards the camera, Bakong temple standing proud in the background. It is thoughtful, moody and beautifully composed – and shot on an iPhone. The image is part of Vannucci’s “iPhoneography Project” of the temples of Angkor, and reflects the growing trend of Hipstamatic photography. He has had good feedback so far, including from a couple of boutique hotels that have bought some of his Angkor iPhone photos. Hipstamatic is an iPhone app that gives a photograph the look of having been taken with a vintage camera, using filters to create an arty, retro effect. One look on social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook shows just how popular this app is. But Hipstamatic, cynics would argue, makes anyone a good photographer – or worse, makes everybody’s pictures look the same. So what is a professional shutterbug like Vannucci doing using it? “Actually it started like a kind of game, an experiment,” Vannucci, who is also photographer guide, explains. He was taking photographers round the temples, advising them. One of the photographers spent the whole day snapping away on his iPhone, despite having a ‘proper’, SLR camera. Vannucci was surprised but impressed when he saw the photos. He’s now a convert, and for the last three months he has been shooting on just iPhone. “I am very happy with the result,” he says, showing me a striking picture of Ta Prohm. “It is made with Hipstamatic, and then there is some small post-production. The last step was with Instagram to make it a little bit sepia. I think Hipstamatic is very nice, for a very strong contrast.” The other appeal, he says, is the instantaneous element. “I went to Phnom Penh a few weeks ago on the bus and it had wifi. It’s amazing, because we stopped in Kampong Thom, took some photos and got back on the bus. I did some easy post-production to the photo I had just taken and then I put it online on Facebook while on the bus… It’s crazy! And it’s fun. The other bonus, he says, is that with an iPhone you don’t miss anything. With an SLR camera you may lose precious seconds fiddling around getting the exposure and focus right. Using an iPhone you can be sure to ‘catch the moment.’ Vannucci refers me to the photo of the little boy. “This is exactly an example of the kind of photo you can miss. This guy was running to play with me and I was just in time to take my iPhone out. It was already set up so I didn’t have to open the application – just open and click. It’s very easy to compose because you have a big screen. And actually I was just in time because he was almost out of the frame.” Are people surprised when they find out Vannucci’s little secret? Always, he laughs. He describes how a famous photographer in Italy, “the guru of black and white”, was full of praise for Vannucci’s photographs and the quality of his prints. “I thought, ‘Oh my God, how can I tell him?’ I was embarrassed! So I said, ‘Listen I have to tell you, this is made with a telephone.’ Five seconds of blackout, total blackout, and then he said, ‘Well you know, very nice.’ So people are always very surprised. “There is a lot of prejudice. But what is important is the result, not what you are using.” In fact the app is the source of much contention among photojournalists, several of whom were up in arms last year when New York Times photographer Damon Winter came third in Picture of the Year International contest for his Hipstamatic image of troops in Afghanistan. It’s fine for ‘arty’ pictures, the argument raged, but not for serious, journalistic photography. Vannucci can see both sides. “Photography is an art, but photojournalism is a bit different. So I can understand these complaints, but anyway this is the present and the future will be – I mean we are always moving forward…” As for Vanucci’s future with the iPhone, he says, “For me it’s still a kind of a game. Maybe in a year I’ll be bored but for now, most of the photos I’m taking are with iPhone.
Aug
10
Loan to extend Lao railway
BANGKOK, Thailand will offer financial aid to Laos to construct a 7.75 km rail line from Tha Nalaeng to Vientiane city due to be completed in two years. It will allow Thai trains to carry passengers to and from Vientiane and should lead to the first inter-city train services between the two capitals. Last week, the Neighbouring Countries Economic Development Cooperation Agency signed an agreement with the Lao Ministry of Finance on funding worth Bt1.65 billion; 30% of which is a Bt495 million grant-in-aid and the balance Bt1.15 billion, a low-interest loan with a 10-year grace period. The Cabinet approved the NEDA grant and loan to Laos, 10 August 2010, to celebrate the 60th diplomatic relationship between the two countries. Under the first phase, the railway linking Nong Khai province over the First Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge to Tha Nalaeng, about 4 km from the border, was opened in March 2009. The extension will cover the remaining 7.75 km from Tha Nalaeng to Vientiane station on Khamsavath Road, about 5 km short of the city’s famous That Luang Stupa. The track will be one-metre gauge but could be adjusted to standard gauge of 1.46 meters used by high-speed trains later. Other ongoing projects linked to financial aid for Laos are: Pakse Airport development Phase 2, Bt184 million; road construction from Phu Du village, Uttradit province to Paklay district, Sayabouly province in Laos, Bt718 million and a road upgrade around Vientiane city to serve the ASEM Summit in November this year.
Jul
30
Passport to Success Lands PATA Grand Award
Lanith’s “Passport to Success” skills training programme has pulled in the coveted Pacific Asia Travel Association’s (PATA) Grand Award for Education and Training for 2012, and will receive the prize at a ceremony during the PATA Annual Conference in Kuala Lumpur on 21 April. This year, PATA presented Grand Awards for its four primary categories – education and training, marketing, environment, and heritage and culture – to outstanding entries for its 23 annual Gold Awards, which recognize achievements in a range of sub-sections. “This award recognises that local trainers can effectively teach international-level tourism and hospitality skills to their own country’s staff, who have low levels of expertise,” said Passport to Success architect Mike Loose, Lanith’s Technical Advisor, Industry Training. He added, “This is an achievement for all of Lao tourism and its people, including the Lanith core team, Luxembourg Development which is funding the project, Passport to Success participants, and the country’s education system.” Lanith Chief Technical Advisor Peter Semone said, “What makes this PATA Grand Award particularly gratifying is that we took an idea and turned it into an operational reality in about a year.” Mr Loose noted that the achievement awards system built into the Passport to Success’s module-based programme plays a crucial role in motivating its participants, and stressed that only those who prove their competence in a skill receive “Statements of Attainment”. He also stressed that the PATA Grand Award is a testament to the Passport to Success’s internationally trained, dedicated core teaching team, who are training enthusiastic hospitality staff, many with limited knowledge, and lifting their skill levels to international standards. Core team trainer, Vilasa Chanthalangsy, pointed out the need for flexibility in his teaching approach. “The food and beverage staff in Luang Prabang have the basic knowledge. They know how to take orders and set tables, but they lack skills in new techniques, so I need to build on the skills they have to show them how to work better.” However, for a less-developed province like Xieng Khouang, he needed to work harder. “They have never seen proper F&B methods before, and taking training modules in the Passport to Success was very exciting for them. They want to know why we do things like set tables in a certain way, and they learn fast.” Chounlachan “Nickie” Phengdy, another core team member, agreed. “Passport participants are eager to learn and highly motivated…They like to exchange experiences and try to come up with solutions.” Mr Semone pointed out that Lanith’s Passport to Success will not rest on this laurel. “We are continuing to create more three-to-four-day modules with accompanying videos, we’ve broken ground on the Lanith Restaurant and Inn in Luang Prabang as part of a Passport to Success training facility, and we are even stepping outside the travel industry due to diverse demand.” He also noted interest in the Passport to Success programme from other countries including Myanmar and Cape Verde in Africa. “The beauty of the Passport to Success is that it can be adapted to the natural hospitality of any culture.” The awards have long been supported and sponsored by the Macau Government Tourist Office (MGTO). MGTO Director Mr Joao Manuel Costa Antunes said, “Our applause goes to all the winners for their remarkable achievements…It is no easy task for the judges to determine the winners, given the number and quality of the entries…who have done their best in the sustainable development and promotion of the travel and tourism industry.”
Jul
09
JW Marriott Resort & Spa
The flagship hotel of JW Marriott in Southeast Asia, the resort has a total of 265 rooms. In its 11 hectares, it can easily accommodate hundreds of guest within a tropical environ and entertain them with a number of facilities. Though the hotel is around 10 years old, the building is well maintained. As the hotel mainly caters to families on holiday, the staff are attentive to super-active kids. Parents can be sure that their children are in good hands with the hotel nanny while they enjoy a romantic dinner. For a complete family holiday, the hotel offers batik painting, cooking classes and "circus training", where children are encouraged to jump, use the trapeze, and learn to juggle.
Aug
07
New publishing and distribution in Laos
A new building will be constructed to house the State Publishing and Books Distribution House, allowing it to improve the services it offers to the Party and government. Lao and Vietnamese officials at a ground-breaking ceremony. The construction was made possible through funding assistance from Vietnam. A ground-breaking ceremony was held yesterday in Vientiane, with construction expected to be completed in December. The ceremony was attended by Deputy Minister of the Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism Mr Buangeun Saphouvong and the Vietnamese Ambassador to Laos, Mr Ta Minh Chau and included representatives from the relevant sectors in Laos and Vietnam. This building will be a modern 3-floor facility of around 510 square metres in size, constructed by the Vietnamese 36 Corporation. The total cost of construction is 10.2 billion dong (about 4 billion kip) granted by the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Vietnam. The new building will have offices for staff and will be a place where government and Party materials can be edited, published, and distributed, Editor in Chief of the National Political Publishing House of Vietnam, Dr Nguyen Duy Hung, said at the ceremony. The building will also have facilities to welcome guests, in order to facilitate cooperation with foreign publishing houses and international organisations interested in working with the State Publishing and Books Distribution House. The new building will be able to meet a growing demand for printed materials and will become a cultural centre in Vientiane in the future, Dr Nguyen said. The publishing and distribution sector is vital for disseminating important ideas of the Party, government and people. The printing of educational materials makes it a centre for education and is important for the development of future scholars, he said. The building will also have a role demonstrating the policies, ideas and vision of the Party and government as well educating the people to increase the nation's development, Dr Nguyen said. For 30 years, the National Political Publishing House of Vietnam has always provided assistance to the State Publishing and Books Distribution House in Laos, said the department Director, Mr Vivanh Chanthakhot. Each year, the National Political Publishing House has provided books to Laos, at a total cost of hundreds of millions of dong. In 2003, the National Political Publishing House, with financial support from the Central Administration Committee of the Communist Party of Vietnam, presented a printing machine and equipment to Laos at a cost of more than three billion dong (more than one billion kip). “The assistance greatly helped our development,” Mr Vivanh said. He hopes that this new facility will allow the publishing sector to be of even greater service to the Party and the government. This project forms one of many activities undertaken as part of the close cooperation and special relationship between the two nations of Laos and Vietnam.
Aug
08
Luxuriate and laze around Luang Prabang
It is always the same scenario: You go on a trip, excited about your adventure, you go sightseeing, shopping, find the best food, make new friends. Then you leave. Luang Prabang in Laos does not follow that pattern. It drowns you irresistibly. After you return to wherever you came from, you will spend your time thinking about going back. The charming and French-influenced Luang Prabang will stay in your mind forever. When you fall in love with a place, you just know it. The feeling is so strong that it overflows your system; your eyes sparkle with love, the glow of happiness is plastered on your face. That was the reaction I had when I encountered Luang Prabang on a beautiful sunny late afternoon. Everything was gold and orange in the sunset. The French-style town, the golden temples, monasteries, thousand-year-old trees and narrow streets were bathing in the sun. Monks in orange robes were preparing their evening prayer session. I seemed to stop breathing, drawn in by the sense of calm antiquity. Laos is probably one of the last places on most mainstream travel lists. But different from other Chinese tourists favored destinations like Thailand and Malaysia, Laos has been well preserved after it opened to tourism in 1989. Luang Prabang, which literally means "royal Buddha image," is now a foremost tourist showpiece. It is notable as an UNESCO World Heritage Site. It has now emerged as the next potential global hot spot. Even British actor Jude Law and then-girlfriend Sienna Miller were spotted in Luang Prabang. Grab your passport, a map, a sense of adventure and go to Luang Prabang before tourists take it over! Wat Xieng Thong temple Wat Xieng Thong temple Walk the day away When you get to Luang Prabang, you will want to slow down and spend time around town. One minute you are at an Internet café, and the next you are traveling down the Mekong River on a boat to a cave that shelters hundreds of images of Buddha. A typical day in town starts with a strong roasted Laotian coffee and fresh French bread. The streets are filled with small coffee shops, restaurants and bars. I know many tourists are not morning people. But I assure you that the scene of giving alms to a line of monks makes it worth getting up at 6 am. Ask locals where the best lookout spot is. Visitors can buy a package of sticky rice and biscuits to feed monks. A basket of sticky rice is only $1. Local people recommend not taking pictures of them. If you can't get up that early, skip the morning coffee and take a leisurely walk to examine the magical place. One of the best things to do is to walk down small alleys in town. You can observe local life and find interesting shops that sell hand-made jewelry, handcraft, painting and Laos-style skirts. If you're not a walker, get a tuk tuk - easily found everywhere - and check out major tour sites and temples. There are many tour operators in the street, you can just pop in and tell them where to go. There are more than 30 temples in Luang Prabang. As a Buddhist, I recommend at least a walk on your own. After the walk, grab lunch at a local restaurant. Sticky rice, chicken and fish are musts. A cheaper option is street food. Fruit shakes, tuna crepes and roasted fish are strongly recommended. Eat with locals for an authentic experience! Some Laotian women sell Laos cuisine wrapped with plastic bags on the street. They might not look good, but they taste good. Sit along the bank of the Mekong River, enjoy the sunshine and the food, and let the river relax you. While the more expensive choice is to go to a French restaurant, you can enjoy amazing street food at a local fare. No matter what, be sure to try the delicious local beer, Beer Lao. Alternatively you can spend the whole afternoon strolling down the Mekong and Nam Khan rivers, watching boats and kids play in the water. A local woman in front of Wat Xieng Thong temple A local woman in front of Wat Xieng Thong temple Caves, bikes, hikes We took a boat to a cave across the river to check out the Pak Ou cave located 25 kilometers from Luang Prabang. Bring a flashlight, as the cave is pretty deep and completely dark. And it is very slippery inside! I had to tightly hold the hand of the tour guide. Luang Prabang is a fantastic place for biking. The town is small, cozy and easy to bike around even without a map in hand. The owner of guesthouse we were staying at offered up a free bike. There are also many shops around where you can rent a bike for about $5 a day. If you have one more day, you should check out the Kouang Si waterfall, one of the most popular sites in Luang Prabang. You can go there by bike to save money. A tuk tuk might take one hour to get there. It charges about $5-10 per person. You can also rent a tuk tuk for about $15 for half-day to follow your own schedule. There are also two mini buses that depart daily. Lazybones as we are, we took a tuk tuk. It was raining that afternoon. But no one cared about getting wet, as we were swimming in the pools at the bottom of the waterfall. The site is well maintained. It is a good place for family outgoing and picnic. A flat form was set up for tourists to get pictures of the waterfall. There is a simple wooden changing room near the pool and trails leading to the top the falls. The trails are slippery in a rainy season though. On the top of the falls are huge pools. Prepare proper shoes and bottles of water! Some tourists and exhausted bikers love to jump into the pools at the bottom of the waterfall to cool off. If the tour to Kouang Si waterfall does not tire you out, climb up Phu Si, the highest point on central Luang Prabang to see the beautiful sunset. There are about 330 steps to the top. Go early to grab an optimal seat to see the greatest view. Relaxing time When the heat cools, you can finally shop! The sprawling night market is a must-go-to place in the evening. You can buy amazing silk textiles, Buddha statues and artwork at a relatively cheap price. I went there every night and could not stop shopping. Be nice to the Laotians while bargaining. They will be embarrassed by your anger. If you are in the mood for partying in the ancient town, head to Dao Fa nightclub or Duang Champa, where Lao young people gather and party. The former is smaller and the latter is larger with DJs playing hip-hop and Lao pop songs. A Lao traditional massage or spa helps you relax after a tiring day. You can get this from a local massage place or luxury hotel, and it will be cheap. The little massage place we went to had two floors, with a beautiful night view. I couldn't communicate with the massage therapists, as they understood little English, but they were enthusiastic about their craft. After that, a walk along the Mekong River in the summer breeze is one of the most relaxing thing you could do. There, you can kiss Luang Prabang goodnight. If you are planning to stay longer, there are still plenty of things to do. You can join a cooking class, learn how to cook Lao cuisine, or ride an elephant. Check out Haw Kham, the former royal palace, now a national museum, for a history lesson. Go out of town to a bear rescue center located by the Kuang Si waterfalls, which houses endangered black bears that have been saved from poachers. Joining a "Rice Experience" tour provided by Living Land Farm will give you a glimpse of old-school instruments used to grow rice.
Aug
10
Tourism fair in Laos
Savannakhet province, in central Laos will host the Trade Exhibition and Tourism Fair 2012, 27 to 31 October, at Savan-ITECC in the Kaysone Phomvihane district. Savan-ITECC is part of a casino and hotel located just outside Savannakhet town. The event will promote tourism and trade in Laos, Vietnam, Thailand and Myanmar. The fair is just one of many activities supporting Visit Laos Year 2012 that lead up to hosting the Asean Tourism Forum in Vientiane next January. During the five-day event, visitors will enjoy cultural performances from Laos’ Savannakhet province, Vietnam’s Quang Tri province, and Thailand’s Mukdahan province. A seminar on cooperation for the development and promotion of East-West Economic Corridor and tourism integration in the five central provinces in the corridor that links Laos, Vietnam and Thailand. The Asian Development Bank has backed the East-West corridor project financially through loans to build new highways and studies on how tourism and trade could be expanded on a network of road routes that will ultimately connect Myanmar, Thailand, Laos and Vietnam.
Sep
13
Phnom Penh City Hall Organizes a Workshop on Gender Issue
Phnom Penh Municipality organizes a workshop on gender issue here on Sept. 11 under the presidency of its Deputy Governor Mrs.Touch Sarom with the participation of 172 female counselors from communes and districts across Phnom Penh Capital City.
Aug
06
Prog-rockers Yes keep on progressing
It's easy to define a rock band's eras by its singers. Take, for instance, Van Halen. The popular rock act had the David Lee Roth years, the Sammy Hagar period and the brief Gary Cherone phase. Then there's Yes. The prog-rock band has been adored by musical technicians since the late 1960s. It's had four lead vocalists since then, ranging from original frontman Jon Anderson to its current singer, Jon Davison. While it's common for fans to divide the group's legacy by vocalist, drummer Alan White sees his band's history differently. He categorizes Yes' phases by album. White said "Fly From Here," the group's 2011 album, reflected the return of keyboardist Geoff Downes and producer Trevor Horn. Horn and Downes had been in pop duo The Buggles - famous for the song "Video Killed the Radio Star" - in the late 1970s, and they joined Yes for the 1980 album, "Drama." Although both left the band after that, Horn returned to produce the band's popular 1983 album, "90125," which features the hit single "Owner of a Lonely Heart." Now Horn and Downes are back, with longtime members White, Steve Howe (guitar) and Chris Squire (bass), along with Davison. With Horn and Downes involved with Yes again, White defines what they bring to the group. "I always sensed some things when Trevor and Geoff got involved in the era around 'Drama,' " the drummer said. "The band seems to take a notch up in the sound of the band, and it became a little bit more modern, if it could be. It was just more modern sounding to me. I guess he (Horn) has a knack of doing that. That's what I find with this ("Fly From Here") album here." The song "Fly From Here" actually dates to the "Drama" era. It was a fairly concise pop song then, but in reuniting with Horn and Downes, Yes transformed it into a six-part epic, with the kind of flow and stylistic variation Yes has become known for. The epic "Fly From Here" suite has gone on to become a key part of the Yes live set and likely will be heard when the band performs at nTelos Wireless Pavilion in Portsmouth on Friday evening. That title song is really what makes "Fly From Here" sound like a Yes album and connects the record to the progressive-rock roots Yes established on its career-defining trio of early albums, "The Yes Album" (1971), "Fragile" (1971) and "Close to the Edge" (1972). Since those albums, it's not just the vocalists that have come and gone and come back. Yes has been through enough personnel changes to fill multiple lineup cards. It's likely that the comings and goings of the 18 musicians who have been part of the Yes saga have had a good deal to do with the shifting musical personality that White sees in the group's 20 albums. One other member who helps give "Fly From Here" its own sound is vocalist Benoit David, who joined in 2008 after longtime singer Jon Anderson developed respiratory problems that prevented him from touring with Yes. Then David's own respiratory issues forced Yes to move on without him. So it was time to find another lead singer. As it turned out, Yes' tour manager ran across a YouTube video of Jon Davison singing with Glass Hammer and tracked him down. "He (Davison) said it would be like his lifetime thing to sing with Yes, and it was one of his favorite bands ever and all of that kind of stuff," White said. "So we tried him out. And we didn't have to do much work at all. He knew all of the songs pretty much. Some of the songs he knew better than we did. So it was all positive, and it's been great, just really having somebody who's so into the band and the music. So we're having fun."
Aug
28
Artifact items discovered in Vientiane
( KPL) Some artifact items aged about 400s were found in Xieng Ngeun village, Chanthaboury district, Vientiane Capital on August 15. The artifacts have been found accidentally in the construction site of a new building of World Bank to Laos when workers were removing land for the construction. After discovering, the constructors reported to the Heritage Department, Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism. Head of Archeological Research Division, Mr. Thonglith Luangkhod said that the artifacts including some bricks of ruined wall of old town, a Buddha seat, ceramic bowls, jars and pipers. At present, the department will continue excavating this area. The found artifact items are under anlysis at the Archeological Research Division before displaying at the National Museum.
Jul
26
Make experience by visiting Laos
My interest was the UNESCO World Heritage-listed city of Luang Prabang. It's called a city but it's more like a big, old, sleepy town that attracts people from all over the world. It is in the central north of Laos, where the Nam Khan River meets the mighty Mekong River. I was told by a local that Luang Prabang translates as "Peaceful Buddha". Or was it "Divine Buddha"? Either way, the name is fitting. In saffron robes, monks walk in line and collect alms early every morning. It is an extraordinary sight. Full Digital Access - $10 for the first 28 Days Tourists are allowed to join in the morning ritual but are urged to observe custom and participate only if they have genuine intentions. Getting around Luang Prabang is easy. Hiring a bike gives you flexibility and a sense of romantic adventure. There are many cute, hidden cafes to quench your thirst once the midday sun starts to beat down. The iced coffees are a winner. Out in the villages, life is even sleepier, and not even the children are in a rush to go anywhere. Whiskey village fits the bill. Here, whiskey is distilled from fermented rice. You can sample it with all sorts of creepy crawlies added to ward off a range of ailments. But play it safe and you'll be rewarded with clear, unadulterated moonshine. A baby was hanging lazily in a hammock in the corner of the distillery, suspended between two poles. Families in Laos are generally close-knit, and all members help look after the youngest ones. It's difficult not to be affected by the measured pace of life. I could feel myself changing down a gear and getting more in tune with my surroundings.From Whiskey, I boarded a long dragon boat and motored up the Mekong to the Pak Ou caves. They're full of thousands of Buddha statues left over the years by pilgrims who have travelled the Mekong to make their offering. A green praying mantis in the boat didn't bother me and I was considering moving it to a tree so it wouldn't get trampled until my guide told me a hard worm would come out of its bottom and bore into my body. I think he meant it had a stinger. The exact meaning was lost in translation but I steered clear of the insect. A 30-minute, somewhat bumpy drive from Luang Prabang is a sanctuary for rescued elephants known as Elephant Village. Laos is known as the land of a million elephants but today there are fewer than 1000 left and I was keen to help them out with my tourist dollar. This was the feel-good part of my holiday. On this day, there were nine elephants at the sanctuary. Most of them had been rescued from the logging industry. Each elephant has its own mahout, or handler. But it's hard to tell exactly who the boss is here. The elephants have to accept their mahout. If they reject a candidate, another person is put forward, and so it goes until the elephant is happy. Elephant Village employs people from the surrounding area, so tourists dollars spent here support more than just the elephants. Standing on the banks of the river, I was surprised at just how large the elephants were as they lumbered down the muddy path from the jungle. The mahouts perched on their backs bantered with each other as they brought the elephants to a standstill. My elephant, Mae Uak or "Eated at the Buffet", named so for her ravenous appetite bent her leg so I could use it as a step. It was very kind of her but it didn't stop me being rather ungraceful as I climbed aboard. Once secure on her neck, her mahout directed Mae Uak's five-tonne body into the river for her daily scrub. Armed with a brush and a lot of energy, we walked deeper into the river until she was almost immersed. I scrubbed the mud on her, and braced myself as she ducked her head and then her backside beneath the surface, leaving us holding on.
Jul
14
Lanith Teachers Earn Tourism and Hospitality Diplomas
H.E. Mr Borsengkham Vongdara, Minister of the Ministry of Information, Culture, and Tourism, presented Hospitality and Tourism Business Diplomas, earned at Singapore’s Temasek Polytechnic, to the Lanith (Lao National Institute of Tourism and Hospitality) core teaching team during a ceremony at Lanith’s 7th Quarterly Symposium held on 6 June, at Vientiane’s Settha Palace. These teachers will be instructing participants from schools and the private sector during Lanith’s Curriculum Pilot Phase (CPP) from June-September 2012, which will offer 20-hour courses in 14 subjects from the Lanith Diploma’s four theory-based certificate programs. “Earlier, I had the opportunity to meet some of the core team members, and I am very impressed by their professional appearance and attitude,” Minister Vongdara said. He added that their role in leading the drive to strengthen human resources in the hospitality and tourism sector “must be a focus of our national tourism development plans.” Minister Vongdara pointed out, “With the right mix of regional and international visitor arrivals and an increased focus on yield, Lao PDR could earn USD1 billion in tourism revenues in 2020.” He emphasized this would require more staff with international-level service skills and managers with a much a broader education base, noting the Lao PDR Tourism Strategy 2006-2020 stresses the development of teachers and teaching materials, a refined curricula, and the establishment of training centres. Minister Vongdara said the Luxembourg-funded Lanith initiative, which aims to advance service quality in Lao PDR, “is our answer to solving these major challenges we currently face in hospitality and tourism education and training.” The Lanith Diploma will offer four, two-year international-level hospitality and tourism certificates at its under-construction Vientiane campus. Lanith’s Passport to Success industry skills training programme, which recently won the Pacific Asia Travel Association’s 2012 Grand Award for Education and Training, presents short modules aimed at Laos’ current tourism and hospitality workforce. Construction of Lanith’s Luang Prabang training centre, with a restaurant and lodge, should be completed by the end of this year. Also addressing the symposium, Scotland’s University of Strathclyde Professor Tom Baum, the world’s leading authority in human resource development for tourism and hospitality and a consultant to the Asian Development Bank, presented his case study, “The Current State of Play” based on his previous visits to Lao PDR. “Tourism education presents diverse and complex challenges…and no one alone can solve the problems. Partnership has to be the keyword,” he said. Professor Baum added, “Lanith is taking the first step in creating a partnership model…If it works, it will be a global first, but it demands responsibility from the private sector, as they play a vital role in the education and training process.” He compared the current Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) method used in Lao PDR to being “locked in a box”, and stated, “This system has no impact on the quality of the tourism experience in this country.” Also taking part in the event was Claude Jentgen, representing Luxembourg’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and Temasek Polytechnic’s Lee Li Ng. In 2009, Lao PDR’s Ministry of Education and the Lao National Tourism Administration secured an 8,100-square-metre plot of land on the Pakpasak Technical College’s campus to build the Luxembourg-funded Lanith educational facility, the operation of which will be financed in part by a public-private sector partnership with a four-star hotel built on a portion of the land.
Aug
01
Laos Airport isbeing Upgraded
An upgrade to Pakse's airport in nearby Laos is being funded by the Thai government. Improvements will include work to parking bays, lengthening of the runway and an upgrade of the control tower. One of the caveats of the project is that Thai-listed development firm Italian-Thai (Italthai) will be carrying out the works. In 2010 an expansion was completed to accommodate single body Airbus and Boeing aircraft
Jul
04
Laos and a natural paradise
To mark Visit Laos Year 2012, Vientiane Times is running a series of articles about natural, historical and cultural tourism sites in Laos Anyone looking for a great place to relax and enjoy the peace and quiet of a tranquil environment should go to the deep south of the country. Known as Si Phan Don (Four Thousand Islands), the area is familiar to tourists, and Khong district in Champassak province should certainly be high on any list of places to visit. Khonphapheng waterfall is one of many scenic attractions in the south of Laos. The local lifestyle, hospitality and the generosity of local people combine with natural beauty and historical and cultural attractions to form a lasting impression of peace and harmony. A few hours on a bus from the provincial capital Pakxe to Khong district in the far south rewards the traveller with scenic views and an intimate look at daily life in villages along the route. After arriving at Nakasang village, a long-tailed boat ride takes you to the island of Don Det where you truly start to experience village life in this small community. You may have guessed by now – I’m a native of Champassak province. Having spent a lot of time in Vientiane my assumption was that Vangvieng and Luang Prabang were the major tourist destinations, but having had the chance to revisit my roots, it’s clear that Si Phan Don is a strong competitor and definitely should be included on any traveller’s itinerary. Don Det and Don Khone are the two islands best known for their scenic charm and the simple, relaxed lifestyle of local residents. Locals operate restaurants, guesthouses and resorts and prices compare favourably with other places. Recently, I spent a couple of days visiting my family. It was a wonderful stress-reducing experience and I went cycling around the area, observing how the villages have improved over the past few years since my last visit in 2006. Mr San, 25, one of my close friends, joined me on the trip which was his first visit to the south. Prior to our departure we had discussed where we should go while we were there and decided to spend most of our time on Don Det and Don Khon. San told me he had been to almost every province in Laos and most had similarities in terms of scenic splendour, but now he says Si Phan Don is high on his list of favourite places to go. “I feel like my trip was made more special when I experienced the warmth and friendliness of the southern residents. I will come back again and again whenever I have the time,” he said. He commented that travelling to the south of Laos was like a breath of fresh air and gave him time to chat with locals on the bus or in restaurants. “To anyone who has not yet visited the south of Laos, I would strongly recommend they try it as they will never forge t the truly enjoyable experience,” he said. The many tourist attractions in the area make it difficult to decide which ones are ‘must-see’ places as almost all of them are known for their fascinating character and bucolic setting. After my last visit six years ago to Don Det and Don Khone, much has changed. Guesthouses, resorts and restaurants, along with other facilities, have sprung up to cater to the ever increasing number of visitors. The number of foreign visitors has doubled over the past few years with the majority coming from Thailand and Europe. Ms Charlotte Smith, 26, a British tourist, told me she was on a three-month holiday in the region. “I’ve already spent a month in Vietnam, three weeks in Thailand and a week in Laos. I’m really enjoying myself, cycling from the guesthouse to visit several waterfalls and other places,” she told us. She said that like the rest of the region, wandering around Si Phan Don was great for relaxing amongst friendly people in a peaceful environment. She especially liked the islands’ laid-back lifestyle and rustic charm. Like so many others, no doubt, this visitor will also dream of a return visit some day.
Aug
25
Film week celebrates friendship with Laos
DIEN BIEN — A film week was launched on Tuesday in the northwestern province of Dien Bien to welcome the 2012 Viet Nam-Laos Friendship Year. The event is part of activities to mark the 50th anniversary of bilateral diplomatic ties and the 35th anniversary of the signing of the Viet Nam-Laos Friendship and Co-operation Treaty. Pham Van Hung, director of the Dien Bien Provincial Department of Culture, Tourism and Sports, said the film week highlights the traditional friendship and special solidarity between Viet Nam and Laos in past struggles against foreign invaders and the present process of national construction and defence. The film week began with the screening of the Vietnamese film Cau Ong Tuong (Elephant Bridge), which brings Vietnamese and Lao people closer together during the resistance war against American imperialists. The film, directed by Phi Tien Son in 2005, demonstrates the solidarity between generations of Vietnamese and Lao people who stood shoulder-to-shoulder in the struggle for national liberation. — VNS
Feb
28
The Elephant Festival 15-17 February 2008, Paklay, Sayabouly Province, Laos

Paklay town has always been famous for elephants. The expert training and handling capabilities of local mahouts have made Paklay the focal point of Lao elephant-lore. In Paklay, elephants are sacred. They have been man’s best friend since time immemorial. Traditionally used for work in the forest, these magnificent animals are now looking forward to meeting you at this second elephant festival, giving you the chance to discover the riches and marvels of the cultural and natural world surrounding them. Who could pretend to have visited Laos, the “Land of a Million Elephants”, without meeting one of these superb animals? So, come and meet the elephants and their masters at the Elephant Festival…

Aug
09
Lao Airlines buys ATRs
FARNBOROUGH, Lao Airlines signed off on a contract for the purchase of two ATR 72-600s, valued at US$47 million on list prices. One of the aircraft will join the fleet November this year and another in June, 2013. Currently, Lao Airlines has four ATR72-500 aircraft. Lao Airlines president, Dr Somphone Douangdara, said: “The acquisition of these two aircraft will help us to maintain a modern fleet and upgrade the level of onboard services.” “We want to offer better access for the Laotian travelling public and make them feel at ease flying.” He added: “These new airplanes will be introduced at an important stage of our country’s development to meet growing demand in transport and tourism.” The ATR 72-600 will be equipped with new Giugiaro cabin interiors and will be powered by PW 127M engines. Also, the ATR 72-600s feature more baggage space for the passengers.
Jul
06
Finial gable: a temple’s crowning glory
There are many sacred aspects of the temples in Laos, and among the most revered are the finial gables, fingerlike hooks that protect the temple from malevolent spirits in the sky. The main temple hall, known as the sim, is traditionally adorned with finial gables or yotxorfa, which safeguard them from evil spirits. The finial gable on Ongteu temple has three levels, representing Buddha, monks and morality. Whenever a temple is under construction, a ceremony is performed to hoist the finial gable into position when the sim is almost finished, giving devotees the chance to pray and make merit. Buddhists believe that attending a hoisting ceremony or donating towards the construction of the finial gable will earn them much merit. During the ceremony, merit-makers listen to monks chanting, and make offerings of flowers and incense around the finial gable, to pay homage to Buddha, the monks, and morality. Later in the day, a temple will hold an almsgiving ceremony to invite devotees to make merit for themselves and their relatives. Yotxorfa appear on sim in both Laos and Thailand and other buildings with a Buddhist connection. Their design and significance vary depending on local people’s faith and the materials available for construction. Monk Daosaded Leumany, a teacher at the Sangha College in Vientiane’s Ongteu temple, explained a little about the architecture of temples in Laos. The high peaked roofs are layered to represent several levels – they are always odd in number, having three, five or seven. The number of layers on the high peaked roofs corresponds to Buddhist doctrines, such as the three characteristics of Buddha and his teachings, or the five and seven levels of enlightenment. Yotxorfa in Laos are often built with three levels of peaked roofs. Sims in Laos are typically built in three different architectural styles and are distinctive to Vientiane, Luang Prabang and Xieng Khuang, and the members of the finial gable vary. Temples in Vientiane are typically rectangular in shape, built of bricks and covered in stucco, with the whole structure resembling that of an elegant pyramid. The edges of sim roofs almost always feature a repeated flame motif, with long, finger-like hooks at the corners called chao fa (sky lords). Legend has it that these hooks are for catching evil spirits that descend on the sim from above. Sims usually have only one entrance, which is guarded by two nagas. The number of windows they have differs depending on the size of the hall but each window is adorned with wooden carvings and artistic sculptures. Inside the hall one can often find murals portraying the Phravetsandon story, depicting the different stages of the life of Lord Buddha. Sim were first built in Laos in the 14th century following the unification of the Lane Xang Kingdom under King Fa Ngum. Unfortunately pure Lao architectural styles can only be seen in older temples, where the carvings have been well preserved. Vat Sisaket in Vientiane and Xieng Thong temple in Luang Prabang province are two such examples. Newer temples or those that have undergone extensive renovation are more likely to be influenced by Thai or Cambodian architectural styles, despite the fact that most of the craftsmen involved are Lao. Sims are the places where archaeological treasures such as gold and silver Buddha images and ancient Buddhist scriptures are usually stored. Women are sometimes not allowed to enter sims as it felt they may cause monks to lose their concentration. However, they are usually allowed to enter during Lao New Year to pay homage and pour water on Buddha images. When men and women enter a sim, they should remember they are in a sacred place and respect the nation’s traditions and culture, by showing humility. They should take off their shoes; women should dress in silk blouses and traditional long skirts, whilst men should also take off their hats.
Aug
01
Savannakhet will host four - country tourism fair