The eagle has landed. In Laos, that is.
Apologies in advance for lack of photos. I will start taking more soon!
It’s really surprising how different a place can become in 2 years. What I have noticed so far:
- A lot more cars on the road. Big cars, many driven by women. A lot of traffic. It’s impossible to cross the road on foot. No one walks anywhere. The footpath is overtaken by parked vehicles and vendor’s stalls. No one actually uses it for walking.
- A lot of massive, huge, multi-storey buildings have sprung up all over town. Most seem to be virtually empty. They’ve started construction on a new university library building, with 4 levels! It won’t be done until 2013 but it’s still exciting.
- Prices have gone up. A lot. For everything.
- Internet access is much more widespread. A lot of people have internet in their homes now. A lot of restaurants, cafes, and bars have free wi-fi. The University library still doesn’t, but they’re working on it!
- Crime rates have gone up. A lot. While I haven’t personally experienced any crime since I got here 5 days ago, I have heard a lot of stories. There are a lot more muggings, thefts, and motor-bike jackings happening. People have told me this may be drug related crime. They have also told me the police don’t seem to do anything about it, and maybe even run away if they see somebody attacked. A Lao person actually told me they hate the government and the police, which would have been unheard of 2 years ago!
- Literally dozens of expensive clothing shops have opened up. I don’t know who has the money to buy clothes there but they are everywhere.
- Lao people are getting fatter! I see a lot of young people bigger than a size a zero. A lot bigger! My friend told me some of her students from more wealthy families are so fat they can’t fit in their chairs.
- Brand new road and park along the Mekong river, complete with giant statue of the last Lao king. No more river-front restaurants!
- International businesses like Swensen’s & The Pizza Company are now operating in Vientiane. I’m assuming KFC & McDonalds are also on their way.
- New developments everywhere. My very good friend’s family home and his family’s vegetable garden that they have farmed for over 20 years is now being razed and developed into river-front condominiums. The government is moving all the residents 30 kms out of town and giving them a pittance for their homes and land, and they can’t do anything about it.
Overall I would say Laos seems to be having an economic boom. In many ways this might be good for Laos, however, it does seem to be having a negative impact as well. I’ve only been here a few days so it’s a bit too early to tell, but thing have definitely changed. A lot.