Vientiane Day 2

Another en-chanting morning. The drums started at 4.45am.
Still a magical light with the halogen street lights adding to the glow.




This morning the monks were accompanied by a pack of dogs.




After breakfast the team headed off to work while I decided to walk around the city.


I asked about a cab to the National Museum and it was pointed out that it was only a short walk away. So off I went.


Opposite the National Museum is the National Cultural Hall. A truly ugly, monumental building that was built by the Chinese Government as a "gift for the people of Laos". It was opened in 2000 but unfortunately the Chinese Government didn't include in their gift an operating budget. This means it is rarely opened and is only used for visiting artists and government conferences.


I feel they would have done a much better job by investing in an upgrade of the National Museum. I couldn't photograph inside the museum and I'm not sure why. It is an interesting museum but it is very, very sad. The photographs are fading and are suffering water damage and insect infestation. The dioramas are rather dusty. The exhibition labelling is occasionally in French, occasionally in English and occasionally in Lao, these are also fading and hard to read.

Whenever America  is mentioned it is as "the American imperialists and their puppets". The Lao story is so dramatic that money spent on making it all so much more engaging would be wonderful.



After the museum I walked to the Nam Phou Fountain as I had been told that there were plenty of restaurants around a lovely fountain. I found a few cafes facing a walled-off, dusty construction site. I ended up at Khop Chai Deu for lunch.

I knew it was time to leave when a group of young Australian males sat down at the next table and ordered a bottle of bourbon for lunch.



Before the trip I had been asked to buy a traditional silk sarong. So that was the next task. I went into many small shops, tourist and non-tourist and could only find tat. I got on the web and found Mixay, which was recommended for using local weavers, it close to the hotel so I dropped in. I asked the owner about sarongs and she directed me to the local markets. I explained that I was after a traditional sarong. She only had two and I bought one. The design was exquisite.


We had an interesting conversation that should be a lesson for tourists in developing countries. She told me that her local products supported women's groups in Laos, but that traditional weaving was expensive by Lao standards, and tourists were after bargains. What they were buying was brought in from China and Thailand. The fabrics were of a lower standard (I can attest to that), the profits went out of the country and local industry was not supported. So please  when you want some object to remind you of a particular trip, find locally produced goods. Don't send your money to another country.

I bought a few other things that demonstrated the beautiful embroidery and weaving of Laos.


Another thing for travellers is the idea of having to bargain for everything. If you are in a high-end shop go for it and good luck. But if you are at a street stall or market think about it. In Laos, $Aus1.00 equals approximately Kip 8,500.

So when you spend fifteen minutes bargaining an item down from Kip 17,000 to 8,500, you've wasted fifteen minutes for the bragging rights of saving $1.00, that you could well afford, and probably means an awful lot to the vendor.

Remember that you are probably buying counterfeit or illegally downloaded material yourself. Don't get ripped off but don't be an ugly tourist.

I meandered back to the hotel.



That night our client took us to a charming French Restaurant that could have been anywhere in the world. The food was delicious, the wine wonderful and the company entertaining.



As I retire for the night I ponder that the British left their colonies with the Westminster system of government and law, brass bands and cricket.

The French left their colonies with a taste for fine wine, great cuisine and the ability to make melt in the mouth croissants.

Hmmm… which would I prefer?


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