December 20, 2007

251206 Nong Khiaw tourism info centre

KS, who runs this place at the top of the Nong Khiaw boat landing, hanging out with 2 Nong Khiaw guys:


The cat had excused itself to walk away & take this photo (which it would have taken anyway) in order to get away from endless invitations to join a big fat Lao Lao drinking session with not just these 3 guys, but all the rest of the Nong Khiaw boatmen too. It worked, & when the cat stepped back into the verandah they asked it to join them for their evening drinking session instead, if it was free later on.

It was noon, & the wave of backpackers rushing from Muang Ngoi Neua to Luang Prabang had swept through & been carted off by a waiting songthaew. A lone tourist who wanted to do this journey by slow boat had parted with 1 million kip to charter an entire boat & set off. There was nothing else for the boatmen to do but sit on the boat landing steps to drink & play cards & then crash out in the shade.

Efforts by SNV (Netherlands Development Organisation) to develop tourism in the Ngoi & Vieng Kham districts (where PS' village is) of Luang Prabang province, & Houa Phanh province:


Days later in Luang Prabang, the cat would meet some university students from Houa Phanh, & its guesthouse owner would ask it to visit Sam Neua (capital of Houa Phanh) together with her to see some of the best & most intricate weaving that Laos has to offer...this video of Tai Daeng weaving will make you think hard before you bargain with a weaver when buying her work ;) Unfortunately that invitation has to wait till another trip.

There are 2 NBCAs (National Biodiversity Conservation Areas) where Luang Prabang & Houa Phanh provinces meet, Phou Loei & Nam Et, & perhaps some day they will become trekking destinations when places like Muang Sing & Luang Namtha have been 'trekked out'...

The beautiful posters with the Lao National Tourism Authority & SNV logos:


Similar posters sponsored by other NGOs hang in the Muang Sing tourism info centre. Behind this wall is a little room that serves as KS's office. KS had studied in Bangkok & Pattaya & landed this job with his above (Lao) average command of spoken English. There were maps & a bus/songthaew timetable on the wall, info on the Na Meo border crossing to Vietnam, & a big fat pyramidal metal rack with tourist info brochures, the printing of which were sponsored by even more NGOs (save for those that were leaflets advertising hotels & tour companies).

KS spent quite some time showing the cat around & pointing out how much the posters & metal rack & other stuff had cost, as well as the expense involved in transporting the metal rack here from the city...the cat lost track of the number of zeros in the large sums of kip mentioned. An interesting thing is how most Lao the cat has met or overheard tend to use 'sip phaan' instead of 'meun' when saying 10,000 e.g. 'haa sip phaan' instead of 'haa meun' for 50,000.

We laughed over how much easier, faster & cheaper it would have been to craft a 100% rust-proof (albeit not as insect-proof) rack out of bamboo or wood on the spot, & how they had provided him with a desk - but no chair =P Maybe that's a way to make him sit at the verandah & try to attract the attention of passing tourists ;)

A school girl reading about what falangs shouldn't do, as illustrated in the 'Ecotourist dos & don'ts' cartoon poster:


View from KS' workplace:


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