Thursday, March 12, 2009

A Snapshot of Laos

Barely two weeks ago, I embarked on my second media trip to observe and feature the work of Singaporean volunteers overseas under the Singapore International Foundation's SVO programme. It was during my first trip in December last year where I was introduced to Singaporeans who were devoting their time, energy, resources and literally their life in Cambodia. This time, my eyes were opened in the Laotian capital of Vientiane.

Rural and rustic, some compare the city to the Singapore of the 60s. Landing at their airport, only three conveyor belts conveyed passenger baggage. The air was heavy, yet it wasn't so for the heart; there was an unhurried charm in the city. No metred taxis ply the roads, only three-wheelers or what resembled 'tuks-tuks' of Thailand.

The city's compact. No high-rise building attempted to pierce the sky. Apparently, there is a historical monument there of which no other building can surpass its height. However. work's begun in erecting the tallest building in the area - an eight storey shopping mall presently being built by Singapore investors, of which would be three quarters complete by the time Laos hosts the SEA Games at the end of the year.

About 60 Singaporeans are registered with the Singapore High Commission in Vientiane, but Singapore's Ambassador to Laos Benjamin Williams believes Singaporeans there number about a hundred. Apart from the new mall being built at the morning markets, there are also visual symbols that you can 'taste' Singapore right there. Notice APB's Tiger Beer brand on the sidewalk?

In fact, high-level state visits between the leaders of Singapore and Laos have intensified in recent years, suggesting that bilateral ties are surely improving. At the KuaLao Restaurant where I had local fare, there was a framed photograph of our President and the first lady atop a wine cabinet. What tickled my palate at dinner was the deep-fried Luang Prabang riverweed sprinkled with sesame seed and mak nam nom, or the 'milk' fruit - a name given to it due to the colour of the meat and juice. The peach-size fruit that looks purple or green on the outside, tastes like a cross between the mangosteen and duku langsat.

1 comment:

Cedric Tan said...

Thanks for sharing the experience!