30 May 2007


I have been sick for the past week and had to take 4-days off work. Here it is more involved than at home- it involves making a trip to the doctor at the Embassy soon after getting a fever and then having blood taken and instantly tested for indications of dengue fever and malaria. My fever didn’t go away so I went back a couple of days later so I was tested for signs of dengue again and my blood sample was sent to Bangkok so I could be tested for other nasties. Luckily it was all ok. So I haven’t done anything that exciting over the week. I have watched a lot the American version of ‘The Office’ though- they manage to make up some good boxed sets here.

Last week, I noticed one or two fireflies in our yards. A couple of nights ago, there were a hundred or more fireflies flickering in our yard. It was beautiful and will be one of the best experiences of living in Laos. Next door there is an empty block of land. The vegetation is thicker there so there are many fireflies there too. Upon looking at them closer with my entomologist housemate, I have been made aware that they are actually beetles.

I noticed a squiggle under my bed and I thought it was a parasitic worm. I picked it up with my pencil and discovered that it was a baby snake!

The internet wasn’t working in my office. When the internet guy came he discovered that it was cut off because we didn’t pay the bill. This because we never received the bill because the bill printing machine was broken at the internet company.

My memory stick and computer has a virus so I wasn’t able to upload the photos I wanted to during the weekend. It has made my computer screen go blue.

22 May 2007


How much?
One of the challenges here is working out how to answer questions about how much you pay for things. Eg. how much was it to stay at the guesthouse, how much rent is your house, how much was your camera, how much are your language lessons. I just don't want to admit how expensive our lifestyles are compare to the locals. It seems that if possible, the volunteers I know will avoid the question by changing the subject or giving a vague response such as 'expensive' or 'not expensive'. When closer work friends try to ask you or are persistent, you are pressured to give an answer. I have tried halving the real price, but the person said it was still expensive, so I felt bad. I've heard responding that the cost was 'reasonable' seems to stop further questions. When asked several times how much her camera was by a close colleague, my friend replied 'more than your motorbike'. I think this was a good response because it made it relative but still did not give an upper end of what the camera was worth! In reality, her camera was worth 7 motorbikes of the cheap Chinese variety.

Earthquake in Laos!
Last week there was an earthquake in Laos. How did I hear about it? A's dad messaged him. I did see a headline in the Vientiane Times the next day, but I couldn't read the full online article because I haven't subscribed and this newspaper is not readily available. I cannot name a single shop in my neighbourhood that sells it. It did not make front page news so I assumed it was minor and didn't bother looking it up. I actually managed to look it up in the news yesterday and found out it was over 6 on the Richter scale. It happened in the north of Laos in the Bokeo Province on the border of Thailand. It was felt quite strongly in Bangkok and in some of the larger hotels in Vientiane. I've only heard of one person feeling it in Laos, my friend's colleague who thought she was dizzy so she had something to eat. In the paper I read that a Lao official said that Laos does not have any seismographs, but will be getting two from China. He said that to find out the scale of the earthquake he only had to go on the internet to find out. Actually many of the government departments do not have internet access which must be challenging at times.

I thought I would try to learn about Communism this year, seeing as I'm living in a Communist country. Eg how do the concepts of socialism and communism relate? I will start by listing all the Communist countries in the world.

  • Cuba
  • North Korea
  • Laos
  • Vietnam
  • China

Vietnam is Laos' best friend probably due to them both being socialist, even though Laos is more similar to Thailand in language and culture. I'm certainly not one to know anything about political economy, or history for that matter, so hopefully being here will help me learn and retain some new stuff.

Students in Australia
A colleague of mine studied in Australia on an Ausaid scholarship. Like other students on Ausaid scholarships the must not return to Australia for two years after they have finished studying in Australia. It is not a bad idea to return the students home so that they will apply their new skills to their home country. On the individual student level it does seem harsh as they probably cannot see their new found Australia friends for at least two years. I think the Australian government likes it when the graduands go back home to work for the government. In Laos this would mean accepting $30 US per month, when in Australia they probably had a job that would pay that in one, 3-4 hour shift. The other alternative is working for an international NGO which probably pay several times more than the government. I suppose the government would look upon this as ok because at least the country would benefit. If the person went to work overseas then the Australian government would not be so happy but you couldn't blame them for doing so!

The weekend

A few friends and I were catching a tuk tuk home from a club last night. We saw our friend who had called the tuk tuk for us slowly walking his motorbike down the road. We called out and asked him what was wrong. The road is awful at the moment- there is work being done on it so it has been dug up. He had been riding down the road the wrong way, probably on the side of the road you weren’t supposed to be on. The cops took the keys out of his motorbike, and he didn’t want to pay the ‘fine’. I don’t think he had much money on him anyway. Usually you can put your motorbike on the bigger tuk tuks but only the small ones were around. Only he could think of taking it to the guesthouse we had stayed in for 2 weeks when we arrived in Vientiane. He woke the staff up and asked to store his bike here. The kind staff there let him borrow his motorbike so he could go home, as long as he returned it by 7am when his shift finished. Yay for Mali Namphu in Vientiane- it is the best guesthouse ever!

A few of us had been to the opening of a new gay club/ bar in town. I think it’s the second one in Vientiane. It’s not big but already seems to have a lot of character. The boys behind the bar were wearing matching cut- off jeans and white shirts with their collars up. They were playing quite a bit of English music for a change. It was good to go along for a few hours.

Earlier in the night we had caught a tuk tuk to dinner with friends. Something didn’t seem quite right with our tuk tuk driver, he kept repeating himself and laughing. After a few minutes, we concluded he was quite drunk. He was driving so slowly, it took us about half an hour to travel 4kms. I was scared and didn’t feel comfortable, I thought he would run a red light or swerve or something, but my friends in the tuk tuk didn’t seem to mind so much so we went all the way to our intended destination. It was a bit strange that he appeared to be talking to something sitting right next to him. I was very glad when the ride was over!

I went to a herbal sauna for the first time here in the afternoon yesterday. It is quite relaxing because it is on the grounds of a temple and it is in rainforest surroundings. It is a small hut with wooden stilts. It had 4 benches inside and not many more than 15 people can fit inside. You splash yourself with water, then enter the sauna wrapped in a sarong. It was scented with lemongrass and eucalyptus that day. They give you tea afterwards. I noticed a women carefully applying yoghurt under her eyes and to her arms before going into the sauna. People here believe that putting it on your skin will whiten your skin. Actually my housemate went to Thailand yesterday and received a request to buy yoghurt for her skin. There are many skin whitening products available on the market here. There is not much sunscreen on the market, and it if is, it costs 4x as much as it does at home!

I’d had a nice lunch that day. A and I went to a French style restaurant for $6.50 US for a three course meal called La Silapa. The atmosphere and service is very good. The food is quite nice, nothing I couldn’t have made at home myself, but it had food that is not readily available here. I chose a cous- cous salad for entrĂ©e. I had a spaghetti bolognaise for my main meal. I would not normally order this kind of thing at a restaurant, but I think I eat spaghetti bolognaise at least once every 2-3 weeks at home and did miss it so I took the opportunity to eat it! I couldn’t get through the whole plate and was scared I was forgetting how to eat pasta! The spiced banana gelato for dessert was great, and so was their coffee. There was a picture of John Howard on the wall- I’m guessing he went there one time.

I have had quite a good week, there have been a few things going on at work. It was a little frustrating also. I was torn between the Lao way of doing things and the foreigner way of doing things. The foreigner way means you have to meet their requirements ie meet the deadlines if you want the money. The Lao way means you need approval from several levels of authority to have anything done, doing everything at the last minute but still having it done in the end. Luckily we somehow met in the middle and got things done.

17 May 2007

Tropical fruits

I am eating the most interesting fruit right now. On the outside it looks like a mini mango, a mostly green skin. Inside it is bright yellow, exactly the colour of tumeric. Like tumeric, it stains my hands yellow when I touch it too. I ask my collegue what it's called in Lao. It has a relatively large single black seed inside. He said mak mon khai which translates to 'egg fruit'. I don't know how I'm going to get the English name of this one. Now that he mentions it, it is the colour of egg yolk. The texture is similar too a cooked egg yolk- powdery in texture. It's slightly sweet.

I bought a bag of those strange palm seed things. They are not the same and the palm seeds I get at home so they must be something else. It looks young coconut, a transluscent white colour, but doesn't really have a taste. It is watery, but not sweet.

Another fruit which are in abundant supply is the wax apple. We have a large tree outside the office. M said it's like the lilli pillis we have at home. I think she's right because they're both from the Myrtaceae of plants. The fruit is pink when ripe and looks like a bell. The texture and flavour is similar to a star fruit.

14 May 2007

Two months

I just had a Korean bbq for dinner which is my local favourite. For less than $4 AUD ($2.70 US) you can select raw meats and vegetables out of the fridge and cook them yourself. There is range of fried foods and noodles available, but I don’t like them very much because I know they have been sitting there a while. The dessert is good too, those icy chendol/ ice kachang type things. You mix your own grass jelly with strands of agar jelly, palm seeds, thin coconut cream, syrup and ice. I make these at home very occasionally- they’re quite refreshing. Actually, I think it’s palm seed season here, although I’m not sure whether they’re palm seeds because I haven’t eaten them yet. The palm seeds are from this thing that looks like a small purple coconut. It looks hard and fibrous like a coconut, and people use a sharp knife to hack it open. M said at work they took 15 minutes to split it open and get the seeds out. I’ve only ever eaten the tinned ones and they taste like the inside of a jelly bean and are about 6 times bigger but look a bit like a jelly bean come to think of it. There’s a tuk- tuk at the end of my street that has been selling them for the past week. I am fascinated because they’re only available in a tin at home and I can see the real thing! Same with straw mushrooms and baby corn- I’d only had them from a can before I came here and am excited that I can get them fresh here.

A bought an imitation Nintendo console so I played Supermario today. Cost just less than $10 AUD ($7 USD) including console, cable and controls. I played a few levels of Super Mario Brothers. I used to play it at my cousins house when I was young and its funny, I could still remember where most of the mushrooms and flowers were! I’m really bad though and give up too easily- I don’t think I got very far in the game- I’m just not good at gaming!

It’s nice that I’m going to have a few visitors during the year. I forget how much my friends travel- there are just quite a few coming to this area which is fantastic. It sounds like they are going to make some fun trips around here- I really wish I could join them for all of them. If I did though, I would be off for at least 6 weeks before October which unfortunately in excess of my 4 weeks leave.

There are a few Korean people in Vientiane working as volunteers. I haven’t met any yet, but I hear a few of them opt to do development work in lieu of compulsory military service. They have to spend two years here if they are doing it instead of being in the military. I’d like to find out more about how that system works.

My bike is working well despite me having a few troubles with it this morning due to my ignorance. When I was trying to pump up my tyre I completely deflated it instead. Luckily my housemate M came to my rescue and managed to operate the foot pump correctly and pumped up my tyre good. I can balance better on my bike now and can indicate without nearly having an accident. My next challenges include having good enough balance to have no hands when cycling straight, but what I really want to be able to do is have a running start with one foot on the pedal and swinging the other leg over.

I left home exactly 2 months ago today. It has gone fast when I glance back, but when I look back more closely, I really have done heaps in two months. It’s odd how established I’ve become here in this ‘least developed’ country that I had never visited before. I managed to find a house to rent with a mango tree, a cat with two new housemates. I have a new job, employ two staff, 1.6 full-time equivalent who speak little English. I have arranged language lessons, and get around on a bicycle. I have had good coffee and bad coffee. So many more adventures to come!

First jep tong

My two- month run of non- sickness came to an end yesterday when I got a jep tong (sore stomach). It improved quickly though, and I didn’t have to go home from work, though I wasn’t particularly productive, and ended up going clubbing that night. It helped that the office air conditioner was working for the first time in days so the temperature in the office keeping the temperature under 30 degrees.

I went to Stickies, an expat hangout, to meet my Lao uni friend. No cocktails for my weak stomach this time. Then went to a Lao restaurant called ‘Moon the Night’ on the Mekong which I’ve been to a couple of times now. It’s a big open restaurant. Uni friend got the Lao menu which is a book with several hundred items in it. I wonder what they all are. There are a couple of English menu’s I’ve been given and both were different- one was a couple of pages, the other around four pages. I noticed a lot of commercial activity going on. There were people selling phone cards, and a couple of girls that went around selling small bottles of ‘Wakie’ drink designed to make you feel fresh in the morning. There were the usual beer Lao girls there who pour your beers. I heard that there was a commercial activity going on in the men’s toilet. A, who was with another guy we met came back from the toilets smiling. Uni friend noticed and asked ‘what’. There are men in the men’s toilets to help people relax. Just as you’ve become pant less at the urinal they will come up behind you and start massaging your shoulders. Apparently some of them will ask first, but some just ambush you.

There were lots of dogs wandering around ‘Moon the Night’, and actually there are way too many dogs wandering around when I’m eating in restaurants in general. Apparently the small dogs are the Lao ones, and the bigger dogs are falang, or foreign, dogs. Dog is generally thought here to be a very good meat. Usually it’s imported from China or Vietnam. It’s quite a fatty meat and supposedly warms you up in winter, though I question, what winter, it’s only wet and dry here! This means dogs go missing. A friend said his mum had had two of her dogs taken, much to her sadness, she cried at the loss. I heard another person say their friend’s dog went missing and when they went looking they found it tied up at a pho restaurant.

I ate some dried buffalo skin. It’s about 1cm thick and very hard to chew- you have to chew it at the right angle to make sure you’re with the grain. You eat it dipped it in a think chilli fermented fish paste. People find it a good beer snack, and it tastes ok, but I don’t see the huge attraction. The fish I ate last night was farmed from Thailand. It is 60% bigger than natural because they use hormones to make the fish change to a male and stay that way so it grows. Fish change their sex throughout their life, but I can’t remember whether all types do and what prompts the sex change. This fish isn’t bad for unhealthy because no one has yet proven otherwise.

I went to a fairly new club called Romeo last night. It’s actually really nice, as nice as one of the better clubs in Sydney would be. There are three staff there to help you park your car. I saw a yellow Porsche out the front which is so out of proportion in cost to the other cars around here- I wonder where they got the money from and why they wanted to spend it on a car! There are people to greet you at the door. There are heaps of wait staff giving good table service and shine a torch on the bill so you can see it. It’s quite a young crowd, they play hip hop and the music is quite loud even for a club. Not many people were dancing though, they were concentrating on drinking. They play football on some of the screens for the boys that have been dragged there by their girlfriends. There is a large Johnny Walker sign at the front. Its interesting here, you can’t really buy a glass of scotch and cola. Usually you would buy the whole bottle of scotch at the restaurant, bar or club, and colas separately and you mix it yourself or have the waiter mix it. Most supermarkets will stock the full Johnny Walkers range- red, black, green, gold and maybe the $90US blue in various sizes.

Random stuff

I haven’t ever this much Celine Dion and Britney since the 90s

The rocket festival is on soon. Legend has it that if you shoot the rockets up to the clouds it will bring the rain. My friend has been to a rocket festival already and some are made of a 2 metre long pipe. They usually shoot it off a tower.

Don Chan hotel is haunted! Some construction workers died on site. I think Lao people generally believe it.

’The Economist’ magazine- although I’ve heard they argue its newspaper- is only around ($1.5 USD) or $2 AUD. This beats the $9.50 AUD I would no way pay at home. I was convinced we bought it second hand because it has a stain but A thinks its new.

09 May 2007

Two types of cricket

For dinner last night, I ate two distinct species of cricket. M had brought them home for dinner from the market.It must be insect season at the moment because D and A both had mashed insect for lunch yesterday at their respective work places. One type of cricket was rather large. Probably the size of a small- medium sized prawn. They were deep fried with lime leaves. I didn't think they really have much of a flavour of their own, just a crunch. They tended to pick up some lime flavour. It's like eating an entire prawn with all it's shell but with less meat. The exoskeleton does taste similar to prawns. After dinner I had a closer inspection before I threw them in the compost. They didn't smell too good. M said that's what her insect lab smells like. The key was just to stick the whole thing in my mouth. Once it was in my mouth I didn't seem to care what it was which is quite unlike what happens when I eat other odd things like snails.

The smaller crickets weren't as nice as the big ones. They were deep fried with lime leaves and dried shrimps. They were too dry for my liking and they tended to get stuck in the throat. Also, they disintegrate easily and we were left with a pile of legs, heads and bodies. We had a look through these when we'd finished eating too. We found several stink bugs in the mix, which M picked out and ate because she much prefers them to crickets. We spotted a mini cockroach which D promptly put in his mouth and swallowed- brave man!

Thousand year old eggs, or preserved eggs turn up in a lot of salads here. I've eaten them in Chinese restaurants in Hong Kong before and have experienced them at home on the rare occasion. The egg is wrapped in lime and wood for up to 4 months and the white becomes brown and transparent. The egg yolk becomes a very odd grey- blue colour and is creamy in texture. It don't think there are any other foods I've eaten that come near that colour apart from blue bubblegum ice cream. I wouldn't generally eat these eggs at home, but because they're there, and no one else is a fan, I eat them here. I had heard they were traditionally made using horse urine, but information on Wikipedia says this is a myth but did suggest they could be made of toxic lead.

Another thing I eat here that I don't eat at home is pigs blood jelly. It is left to coagulate in a tray and then cut into cubes so it resembles cubes of meat. If you eat kao phiat, noodles with pork, they will usually add some. The small bits are easy for me to eat, but the larger chunks are more confronting. There was a vegetarian in our group who was horrified when she got these in her noodles after asking for no meat. I always assumed Buddhist cultures understood vegetarianism because some Buddhists are vegetarian, but I don't think any Buddhists here are vegetarian. Interestingly, here they rewrote Buddhist texts to be consistent with Marxist ideals. This means I don't think they're allowed to import Buddhist texts from Thailand.

07 May 2007

Corn Juice

My stomach felt really full last night as I was going to sleep. That corn juice might have had something to do with it. There are street stalls with tubs of coloured, exotic drinks. Each has a little bag of ice in it to keep the liquid cool. I bought a bag of the corn juice which turned out to be quite nice. It’s like drinking cold sweet corn soup- a similar concept to tomato or vegetable juice. The bag of corn juice could have had a couple of cobs of corn in it and maybe that was why it made me feel full. If you buy a drink off the street they will put it in small plastic bag with ice and a straw. Other drinks you can buy from these stalls include a couple of herb drink, one which is like grass jelly, tea, coconut milk and another I haven’t tried which has slices of lotus root floating in it. You need to take care they don’t put too much sugar syrup in these drinks- the really do like sweet things here! I have also had a cold soy drink with grass jelly which was good, and a hot soy drink which was not very good because I completely scalded the inside of my mouth on it. I just didn’t expect a drink in Lao to be so hot. Here people traditionally eat with their hands so most things that are served to you are only a little hotter than lukewarm. Chinese, Vietnamese and Thai food are usually served piping hot and it does feel unusual but good when I do eat something steaming hot.

I also tried fresh durian for the first time yesterday. The only time I’d had it was in Australia when my grandma gave me a defrosted piece which wasn’t very nice. I was pleasantly surprised. It is notorious for smelling like cat urine and being banned on public transport and in hotels in Singapore. It tastes strong at first but more fragrant as you eat it and has a creamy texture. A had wanted to buy some in Thailand but I’m glad he changed his mind because it probably would have stank out the bus. It is wrapped in plastic and A thinks this keeps the smell in but I don’t think it does! Also, I’ve heard you can feel pretty bloated and sick if you eat durian and drink beer so I will be warning people against that! I’ve also heard tales that you can die but when I tried to check the evidence on the internet it suggested the people that died probably died of other causes.

My housemate introduced me to lemongrass tea. You just need to put a single green lemongrass leaf in a cup of boiling water. It’s very nice and refreshing- like lemon water but not sour! The weather here is cooling down because the rains have started. I was feeling a bit cold at 26 degrees and I’ve noticed that Lao people are starting to get their jumpers out. I went to a bar for some salsa the other night and when I held a Lao girl’s hand as she was teaching me to dance I noticed here hands were freezing even though she had a jumper on and it would have been no less than 26 degrees. It is very unusual for me to be dancing other than being out at a loud, dark club but this girl has been particularly friendly and was very enthusiastic. I’ve been enjoying the fruits here and I’ve never had such delicious rambutans in my life- they are just over $1 US per kilo. In Australia it seems growing any kind of fruit at home takes a lot of effort with constant watering and spraying. Here our mango tree has dropped us some mangos and our friends just picked some very sweet bananas from their tree and we haven’t had to do anything at all. I had a couple more sinhs (Lao skirts) made and for less than $2 US each they were made absolutely perfectly so I’m happy because my other ones didn’t turn out quite as well. I’ve been watching a few DVDs also because they are cheap and during the past few years I’ve hardly had the time to watch any movies. You couldn’t find a legit DVDs if you tried, or software for that matter. DVDs are around $2 US each and the stores offer better service than the DVD stores at home. Any software you like is around $1 per CD.

My bicycle wheel had a puncture because I was using a faulty bicycle pump which didn’t depress the valve properly. I hadn’t used a bicycle pump for so long I couldn’t tell anything was wrong so I burst the valve part of the tyre. I bought a new pump and an inner tube which was very cheap. This morning I tried to pump it up but the valve of my inner tube was such poor quality it broke. I was a bit annoyed because I wanted to have a go at fixing the tyre myself but had to accept I couldn’t. I took my wheel to my local motorbike repair shop. They fixed it for about $2.50 US including a new inner tube. The first new inner tube he put in was faulty so he put in another one. I will be letting the professionals fix my bike from now on I think- it’s seems not worth doing myself since I’ve had no luck or skill with pumps and inner tubes. Now my bicycle is going much better!

Using computers without vision

A few people in the office started an IT group for people with disabilities. They have hired a small room that has 4 computers. I visited one of their sessions and two girls around 13- years- old were learning to use the computer. One had low vision, and the other had no vision. They were being taught by a guy who had no vision. These people with no vision can use a computer using software called Jaws. It reads out each letter as you type it. If you press the down arrow, it will read everything you’ve written. S my friend from work who does have vision had taught this guy without vision. He can now operate a computer way and above what S taught him. To me, he appeared to operate the internet as well as I could. He could use email and browse the internet. He used a lot of the shortcut keys. If you want to browse the internet it will read out what you click. If you want to use the menus on Windows it will read what is on the menu if you put the curser over the text.

This software reads English so these Lao speakers need to understand a bit of English. Funnily enough, S said that these people that use Jaws can’t understand very well if foreigners speak to them. I think they just pick up sounds and the most important words from what Jaws says. Also, Jaws would be easier to understand than someone chatting away because it is clear, consistent, monotone voice. It was good that they appeared so keen to learn, and I hope that being able to use computers helps them learn more. S said this kind of software is available in Thai which they could probably understand, but were granted the English version and training and support for it. They received 4 licences for this software from a Japanese organisation, and at $500 US per licence, this is quite generous. The have also been granted a Braille embossing machine and the 40 boxes of paper are due to arrive soon from Japan.

Udon Thani

We made our first trip over the border to Thailand on Saturday. We did this so we could get a visa to stay for a year. We went a bit further than we had to so we could do some shopping. The customs process took a while on each side and it took around 2.5 hours to get from Vientiane to Udon Thani. Udon Thani was quite good for shopping. We went to a 4-level shopping mall and it had some familiar Asian chain stores such as Robinson’s and Watson’s. I bought some things which are hard to find in Laos, or more expensive in Laos because they are imported from Thailand. We stopped at Nongkhai on the way home which is right on the Thai border and happens to have a Tescos. It’s a big shopping centre and apparently they are from the UK and are everywhere there. It was very obvious that just over the border of Laos in Thailand, it is so much wealthier and more developed. I wonder what the main reasons for Laos being so poor compared to Thailand which is so close and so similar in language and culture. A different government? Better natural resources?

Later that night I went to a Dutch party, celebrating the Dutch queen’s birthday. All the expats from Western countries were out again. It was outside in a garden which was actually just a large patch of dirt. The music was loud and they played Ricky Martin and the like, and they also played bad covers of bad songs. There was free beer Lao. I went to a club after at the Don Chan hotel and danced tiredly until 3am. I was dancing with a group of people and one boy got out a tiny tub that glowed blue. He opened the lid and inhaled. ‘Tiger balm’ he said and I could confirm that it was from the smell. It must give him energy to keep going.

I had my first Lao lesson the next morning on 4 hours sleep, but I felt fine. A and I joined with another couple for a lesson at house which is not far from ours. I like our teacher, he is really friendly and explains the tones of the language really well and seems to have a good system for learners like us to learn them properly. Lao is spoken by about 3 million people in Laos, which is around half the population. Not many, I first thought. In the north-eastern Isan region of Thailand people speak Isan language which is virtually the same as the Language. 20 million people speak this Isan language which makes it much more worthwhile learning Lao, I think. I think Lao is very similar to Thai which has many speakers- I’ll have to test how well I’m understood there outside the Isan region.

I saw a scorpion the other day as I was walking along the road. It was about 10cm long which is by far the biggest one I’ve seen alive. I wonder how poisonous it is. Our friends who live down the road saw some people kill a cobra with a stick to be eaten. Also, I discovered I have been using squat toilets backwards. I have been using squat toilets for years in various different Asian countries. Why didn’t someone tell me! I’m not as good as one of Ms friends who said her friend got down on all fours to use a squat toilet in Turkey- apparently some are sparkling clean there.