Monday, 31 August 2015

Scarlet could live here too

This is the gate to the residence of the US Ambassador.  Scarlet could live here too, but from my glimpse through the gate the residence is not as austentacious as the Chinese residence around the corner.  It looks more Asian than southern Antebellum mansion.

The US Embassy is out of town.  A new building it resembles a cross between a gaol and a sports stadium- a huge grey concrete building with wide awnings.  I'm sure it has a bunker for squirrels.

Sunday, 30 August 2015

Scarlet O'Hara could live here

Behind the ornate gate of the Chinese Ambassador's residence is a mansion just like Tara.

This is in the neighbourhood where Jo and Mark live and we drive or walk past it daily.  The embassy is behind a huge grey concrete wall about 100m down the road.


Banners float (hang) from the ceiling in many temples to bring happiness. I liked the delicacy and white and gold in these at Wat Phan Tao.

Saturday, 29 August 2015

Orange robes

The vibrant orange of the monks' robes always captures my eye. On the washing line, hanging out a window the orange always stands out.

Friday, 28 August 2015

The Drum - aka The Alarm

I am sure it is 4am.  I know it's very early. I don't want to be awake!   It is 4 am. The DRUM the DRUM the DRUM. It is this DRUM. It is 4 am.  It is the Wat Ammon DRUM and I am AWAKE - good sound, but not happy.

Thursday, 27 August 2015

The Lads Next Door

Young monks at Wat Ammon cleaning and studying.  I have been surprised by the number of monks at the Wats here and also there youth.  Maybe it is a reflection of the poverty in Laos and also the demographics  some thing like 75% of the population is under 35. (need to check that stat.)

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

The Wat Next Door Part 2

The entrance to a Wat is always marked by an ornate gateway.

This 3D scene of acolytes under a Bodhi tree is unusual and looked good against the sky at dusk.

Monday, 24 August 2015

The Wat Next Door

The sounds from Wat Ammon, next to the compound where Mark and Jo's house is, provide background to the day.  The drums waken us in the morning.  Chanting seems to occur at any time of the day, but particularly early evening.  Asian pop music rings out in the afternoon in conjunction with the sounds of construction.

Sunday, 23 August 2015

Monks Bowls

Another photo from the ordination ceremony at Wat Phan Tao. New bowls for the new monks.

Scooter shopping on a Saturday morning

I surprised the scooter seller on Saturday afternoon, by wanting to go for a test drive. 

We went to the Honda shop first, but they yelled across the road to the Suzuki shop for an English speaking salesperson to come and help us.  Not sure that would happen at home.

However at the next shop it was a flat no to my request for a test drive.  The scooter had no battery and no fuel and the idea of a test drive was seen as bizzarre.

After the test drive I decided the Click  had more power than is needed in Vientiane and hope to get a smaller and groovier Honda Scoop during the week.

Saturday, 22 August 2015

Enjoying a beer after work

I enjoyed a  Gin and Tonic after work tonight - the first full week of school. These workers were enjoying a well earned Beer Lao after a  hard day toil of work making a foot path. Cheers to those at home enjoying a post work ale or beverage.

Friday, 21 August 2015

Beer Lao in Yack

This sign caught my eye.  I'm sure only someone from the Sunny North East would look twice at a sign advertising a restaurant named after Yackandandah.

Thursday, 20 August 2015

Sisaktanak - A suburb of Vientiane

Today  after school I cycled along Boulevard Dongpalan, and beyond, exploring the suburbs and streets of Vientiane.  VIS is in the Sisaktanak District.

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

It must be Lucky Tuesday

Walking home tonight I passed the footpath was cluttered with lotto ticket sellers. The same as last Tuesday, so either Tuesday has good karma or the lotto is drawn on Wednesday.

Monday, 17 August 2015

The Laotian Recycler

There does not seem to be a formal recycling system in Vientiane.  I have seen garbage trucks and I think the garbage is sorted - yukko job.

There is however an informal system.  I watched this  lady  pull her  cart along the street and stop periodically to collect cardboard left out on the street.

Dinner at Kevin's

Saturday Night in Vientiane.  

We went for dinner at Kevin's.  At first I thought we were  going to dine at someone's home.  Well we were, but below his home, Kevin has a restaurant, Ban Moon.

Kevin is an Australian with a Laotian wife, and they have a restaurant with Australian specialties on the menu e.g. Chicken Schnitzel, lamb chops with mash and a range of home made meat pies.  I opted for chunky steak with chips and salad.  

As it was at Kevin's I had to have a Guinness - Ohhhhmmm Guru.  

Not quite what I was expecting for Laos food, but tasty.  

Love the Sherrin sauce container.

Sunday, 16 August 2015

D Mart

A change of letter and a change in stock levels and arrangments,  but still a Mart of many things.
D Mart is the Vientiane equivalent of K Mart.  A one stop shop for cereal, furniture, cleaning products, electrical appliances and frozen meat.

Saturday, 15 August 2015

Lucky Number?

Lucky numbers.  The lotto is big here and on Tuesday evening the main street was lined with small tables like this with people selling tickets. On Wednesday there were no ticket sellers.  I am not sure if this is because the lotto was drawn on Tuesday night or because ten is a lucky number.

Friday, 14 August 2015

Snails for dinner

This lady comes into Vientiane from a nearby village to sell her snails of an afternoon.  I have seen her several times sitting on the roadside on Khouvieng Boulevard.

Thursday, 13 August 2015


Yesterday at school we held a Baci ceremony which means “spirit enhancing or spirit calling”. It is tradition practiced for hundreds of years. It can be held for for both happy and sad times.  For V.I.S. it is held to celebrate the start of the academic year.

A pha khuan, marigold pyramid formed the centre of the space and we gathered around it.  Food such as eggs, fruit, nuts, beer and a chicken were placed around it.  A key times those or us closest touched the container and those around us touched our elbows. There was also a section where we held the string. 

The ceremony involves the tying of cotton strings (orange and white) around a person’s wrists. Here you can see the village chief tying a string around the wrist of our Director Jane McGee.  He had commenced the ceremony by chanting prayers in Laos and Pali.

As people tie the string the bless you and make statements of hope -  moving the string towards you may you have .... and away from you may .... be washed away.

It was very moving and even though I have only been here a short time I ended up with at least a dozen baci strings given with insightful and wise words from colleagues and friends.

FYI from the internet
Lao people believe that a human being is a union of thirty-two organs, each has a spirit or khuan (Lao word for spirit) to protect them. These spirits often wander outside the body causing unbalance of the soul which might lead to an illness. The tying of the white string represents tying of the 32 spirits to the body putting them back in harmony as well as bringing good luck and prosperity.
The baci ceremony is held on many different occasions or events through out the year. It can be held any day of the week though it has to be on a good day in the lunar calendar. These good days are known to elders, senior monks, or ex-monks. The ceremony can be held for both sad times and happy times.
The baci ceremony is held for happy occasions like weddings, welcoming guests, Lao New Year, house warmings, home comings and other such occasions. A mother and her new born baby are given a baci, after the mother has recovered, to welcome the baby as well as to call back the spirits of the mother’s that might be wandering away through the child baring.
The ceremony is also held to raise spirits when someone is weak (physically and spiritually). After someone in the family has passed away a baci ceremony is held as it is believed to enhance the spirits and reinforce the harmony of the rest of family members after having been through sad time.
The pha khuan is placed on a white cloth at the center of the room and everyone gathers round it. The host or the persons that the baci is intended for sit closest to the pha kuan facing the mor phon (master of ceremony usually a respected and knowledgeable person in the community), and other participants sit behind.
Starting by “mor phon inviting” session which is usually performed by one of the elderly men. He places a glass of Lao whisky and small amount of money, wrapped in banana leaf together with a pair of candles and flowers, on one hand and ties a white string around the wrist of the mor phon while murmuring words to invite good wishes.
After that, the mor phon starts by lighting the candle on the top of the maak beng and asks the host or the persons to receive the blessing to lay their hands (palms down) on the edge of the pha khuan. He brushes their hands with the white strings saying "hai kuard nee, dee kuard kao" meaning "bad is swept out, good is swept in".
After this he takes the white thread connecting the pha khuan, placing one end in his hand and the other in the hand of the person who is to receive the blessing.
They place the string between their palms and pray while the mor phon is chanting in the religious Pali language, sometimes quoting from Lao poetry and proverbs. During this time everyone is supposed to be quiet.
At some point during the chanting, the ceremony attendants say together “ma der khuan euy” meaning “please come spirits”. At the same time someone throws rice in the air so the rice grains fall down on everyone’s head. These rice grains represent the spirits and good luck that have been asked for.
After the mor phon has finished his chanting, he ties the first white blessing strings around the wrists of the main person being honoured. Then everyone else joins in to tie strings around the wrists of the main celebrants and other family members as well as among the guests themselves, while murmuring good wishes for receivers of the strings.




Wednesday, 12 August 2015

View From My Window

Currently I am staying with my friends Mark and Jo Loiterton (ex Beechworth residents and Mark taught at Galen with me).  Jo is now the Principal at V.I.S and doing an amazing job.

Their house is a spacious three bedroom, five bathroom mansion, with very western features - eg gas cook top and an oven, bathtubs and shower heads, hot and cold water at the kitchen sink. Luxury!!!

This is the view from my bedroom window.  

Barbed wire and spikes are a common site in Vientiane, especially in this area where there are embassies and a considerable ex pat community.

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Our Taxes at Work

On Saturday I went over the Australia-Thai-Laos friendship bridge which crosses the Mekong River to link Vientiane in Laos, to Nong Khai in Thailand.

I travelled in a luxurious, ten seater van.  Just me, the driver and his wife, Jiap who works at school.

I went to Nong Khai to meet up with a friend from APIS who had kindly made the ten hour drive from Chiang Mai to deliver my stuff (boxes, bike, chair).  

The amazing part of the journey was the loop in the road where you change from driving on the right hand side of the road in Laos to the left hand side in Thailand and vice versa on the way back.

The other amazing part was the Mekong itself.  Broad, full and fast flowing after heavy rains in the north of Laos.

Monday, 10 August 2015

Monks playing

Yesterday you saw the elephant at the front of Wat Amphonh, today we move inside.
I enjoyed watching these two young monks paying on the deer statues.  They were riding them and patting them.  They seemed very young, I doubt either were teenagers

Sunday, 9 August 2015

Sunday morning Elephant

I have yet to see a real elephant, and I am missing being able to ride up to the waterfall on a Sunday morning to visit with some.
This golden elephant will suffice at the moment.  He/she is outside Wat Ammon, the wat next to Jo and Mark's house.

Saturday, 8 August 2015

Riding home in the rain

Some scooter riders have umbrellas, some ponchos, others don't even have a waterproof jacket.
Wearing a coat back to front seems to be a trend.  But what about the toddler on the front of the scooter with no protection from the rain?

Friday, 7 August 2015

Tuk Tuk Delivery Truck

I liked the bright striped umbrella on this delivery tuk tuk.   A mini mart for laundry items on wheels with a bright way of keeping dry.

Thursday, 6 August 2015

A long stroll - or wandering while lost

 Yesterday I decided to walk home from school, BUT:
it rained after I had been walking for about 10 minutes,
So I sheltered under the awning of a minimart for 20 minutes;
I confused reference landmarks,
So I took the wrong left turn,
I arrived at a set of traffic lights that were a surprise as there a few here,
So I rang Mark "where I am?"
He had no idea,
So I started walking again and hailed this friendly Tuk Tuk driver and his Tuk Tuk.

My Lao is non existent, and of course I have a broad Australian accent,
So he couldn't understand my pronunciation of Wat Amphonh,
We drove somewhat aimlessly around the streets
So he asked for help and also stopped at a police box
Using the USSR embassy as a reference point was more easily understood,
So we finally headed in the right direction;
It had been raining
So of course there were many large potholes and bumps- not so good for the bum or back
Eventually I arrived home, paid 50,000kip or about $8AUS and was happy with my adventure

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

The Local Hangout

Cafe Fiore, known as Dennis' after the American bar owner, is the local hangout.
Less than a two minute walk from school, it is sure to be the place for some beer lao with my friend Mark (he seems to be very comfortable there).
Dennis is know to serve a mean gin and tonic.

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Same message, Different Script

Lao script is similar to Thai script, but different.  It doesn't matter though as I can't understand either.

Monday, 3 August 2015


Yesterday I met Dodo, a Laotian grade 12 student.  After a brief chat he walked through the car park to get into his white mercedes sports car and leave.
I don't think he lives in this street in Laos.

Sunday, 2 August 2015

Landed in Laos

Landed in Laos.
It is wet.  Therefore potholes are prolific and deep.
Its warm, but not stinking hot.
I am staying in a mansion with Mark and Jo.
Spent yesterday afternoon looking at houses and apartments.
Quote of the day. "We can put a window in if you want" .  In response to my statement that I couldn't live with a bedroom with no windows.