Monthly Archives: December 2011

Green papayasalad, homemade in the Jars’ kitchen;

Sticky rice: so sticky that you can form small balls with your hands and dip it in your food.

Papayasalad with sticky rice in a restaurant in Vientiane (the rice is always served in a special bamboo container). Hmm.

Pho: Huge bowls of noodle soup. This one is the best in town, close to the Tourism Office.

It’s been some time since I last posted food pictures. Well, there is several reasons – since I am currently residing at the same place and working instead of traveling, I stopped taking pictures of all I was about to eat because it started to be sort of boring (same backgrounds – terrace table, dining room table, and the three to four restaurants where we usually eat; oh, and same food – sandwiches, noodle soup, fried rice, fried rice, noodle soup, sandwiches, …).

Anyways, I would like to loose some words on Lao food (and ONE post I will allow myself of all the food pics in Laos BEFORE I stopped taking them! 😛 Coming soon, needs some sorting time…). Khoi mak ahan Lao! (meaning: I like Lao food!). It might be a little repetitive, but the ingredients are always fresh and healthy, consisting of lots of fresh herbs, vegetables, (meat I guess, but not for mehee!) and sticky rice (my new love, so good!).

There are a few dishes that are very typical for Laos – Pho (noodle soup), Khao niao (sticky rice), and Tam mak hoong (papaya salad). Pho is always served in a huge bowl filled with hot broth, in which a nest of rice noodles and vegetables are floating. Fresh salad and herbs, green beans, lemon, chili and sometimes even peanut paste are served seperately and can be added as wished. It is actually a Vietnamese dish, but there is no lunch in Laos without it.




Haha, so funny! Especially the parts about weddings and vegetarian orders! Thanks T. for showing me this! 😀

Tourism in Laos is still quite underdeveloped, and to develop tourism in a sustainable way is quite challenging (some parts developed too fast and cannot take all the tourists). What is nice about this country is its seemingly untouched beauty and the naivity of its tourism – as a tourist, you don’t feel like a walking cash machine, and contacts with locals are often and always very pleasant.
The main tourist attraction in the province we are working in is the plain of jars, three sites sprinkled with stone jars supposed to be over 3,000 years old. Really fascinating and worth the visit.

Ban Napia, or the ‘War Spoon Village’, is, as the name suggests, a village producing spoons from the aluminum contained in war scrap from the Secret War. They buy the metal from scrap collectors, melt it and use simple moulds to produce the new objects (by now, they don’t only make spoons, but also chopsticks and bracelets). The objects are truly beautiful and rough, and knowing the story behind them gives them a mystic and slightly scary character. In my opinion, it is good to make something useful out of a once lethal material, it only shows that people are dealing with the past in a positive and pragmatic way. Many critics object the concept because they think it gives warfare a too positive touch. My only objection rather goes towards the acquisition of the metal used – many children and poor illegally collect all metal they can find and ignite unexploded bombs, injuring or even killing themselves by accident  – all that for a piece of metal.

One of the first persons I got introduced to in this town, and he seems to be the one who has all the visions for this place: Mr. Njai (his name means ‘big’ in Lao, which is often given to the first-born children). Like his name suggests, he really likes to think big. But he also does things immediately after he says out loud an idea. After our first meeting, I was already part of the family, and after sharing the first meal (which was maybe our second meeting?), I truly felt like part of the clan (which seems to be huge!). If we have any question or need, all you need to do is call to Mr. Jai. What a guy.

After 62 days of non-stop traveling, there is nothing better than to plunge into the cold waters of a new work environment with a bunch of new colleagues, places, and start working non-stop for 5 days! After T. introduced me shortly to a zillion new things, we had a true marathon of concept-making, measuring, making drawings, model-building and presenting our ideas. The work here is incredibly fun and inspiring with all the new surroundings, people, stories, cultures, materials and inputs. It feels like our work is actually needed and it is not only about beautifying things to sell more for profit. Where is this going to lead?

It has been quiet on Phoenix & Finch, for several reasons – first of all: lots of work. Second: To stop traveling and find myself working 7 days a week somehow didn’t fit the concept of this blog. But traveling is a word with flexible meaning, and even while settling it feels like I encounter new things every day. It’s been great two months in Laos, and there is a lot of things to tell. I will start with UXO…

Ever heard about the Secret War? No? Well, then the name seems to still be suitable. I never knew about UXO and what had caused it before digging into some reading material about Lao. The US army dropped more than 2 million tons of ordnance (which equals about 500.000 Asian elephants) on Laos between 1964 and 1973 in a secret mission. The bombing was part of the U.S. Secret War in Laos to support the Royal Lao Government against the Pathet Lao and the North Vietnamese Army. Today, more than 30 years later, the legacy of the war is still a huge problem – more than 30 percent of the bombs never exploded (UXO= UneXploded Ordnance) . According to MAG statistics, more than 20,000 people have been killed or injured as a result of UXO accidents in the post‐war period from 1974. The UXO-problem is a major cause of Lao’s underdevelopment because it hinders people to work more land for agricultural use, build streets, etc. etc.

The province where I am based at the moment, was one of the areas most heavily bombed, so the UXO-problem is a major issue. Therefore, a visitor centre for, about and by UXO-survivors has been established a few years ago with fundings from different sources. Together with my friend T. and our consultant A., we have been working on a redesign of the whole centre, including the exhibition and the establishment of a souvenir shop. In the following weeks, there will be sewing- trainings in some of the UXO-affected communities to enable them to produce a range of products that will be sold in the shop. More to come about this!