16 March 2007

SE Asia

My first SE Asian experience this time around was traffic related. During my layover inn Bangkok where the taxi driver was hooning around at 140kms per hour swerving from lane to lane, tailgating. This driver didn't believe in using indicators or checking blind spots. I arrived in Laos for the first time a few days ago. It is like the big country town I was told. Half the roads here are red dirt which will make it interesting when I ride on a bike. Apparently it gets pot- holed and muddy in the wet season. We got an idea of the program manager’s attitude towards risk when she let two guys ride on the back of a ute to keep the luggage from flying off.

We have been treated quite well in the first week. I have already had a massage. The food here is great, I'm just glad I have had some reasonable experience with chillies and stinky fish sauce. There are a lot of fried meats and hot salads. we have already been trained They've two Avian flu deaths in Vientiane within recent weeks, so I'll have to be careful what I eat. The chicken farmers only get 50% compensation when their chickens are taken away to be slaughtered so obviously they'd prefer to hide the chooks when the officials come around. The beer and drinks flow a bit too freely. Apparently at any wedding and other big function they will insist you drink a shot of Johnny Walker as you step through the door. They will go around a circle with a drink and if you don't drink you could offend them. So you can make up an excuse eg I have a headache, I'm an alcoholic, you can have some else drink your share, I have my periods 'lady sickness', or you can sip and spit or pour out your glass into a potplant. I've had my first sip of Lao Lao, the home- brewed rice wine they have here. It came in a dodgy looking recycled plastic bottle. It's like 50c for 600ml, and it tastes as cheap as it is. The thing about it is that I have no idea what the alcohol content is, but I suspect it's not too high like sake. Also, one of the other Aussies bought a home brew kit over so they could have Coopers. I think that's a bit excessive!

I'm glad that the people here are friendly, and the atmosphere is quite relaxed. I think I will enjoy living here. When meals are <$2, a longneck of beer is just over a dollar, and you can hire a maid to clean your house and your clothes for $40 per month, I can see how some Aussies come here with the intention of staying for a year but end up staying for years. You can choose to have an easy life here as an Aussie expat, but I think I'd like be a bit challenged by getting to know the Lao people and their culture, and the Communist regime they live under.

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