• 19 . 03 . 11
  • Thoughts, snippets and happenings on our first three countries that didn’t fit into other entries.

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Bits And Pieces: Thailand, Laos, Vietnam

For your trivial amusement, a selection of snippets from our first three countries that didn’t fit anywhere else!

  • The Laos Ministry of Culture only legalised the writing of Laos songs with romantic lyrics in 2003. Prior to that, it was banned as having an unwanted effect on people. Love, presumably. Predictably, pseudo-Britney Spears clones popped up all over the place, proving yet again that we are all the same. (And it’s not racist if you say we.)
  • It is in fact possible to access Facebook in Vietnam despite government attempts to block it. Not that my life depends on accessing a social network, but why should I be prevented from going there or uploading photos to show friends where I am? DNS resolution fails, using Google’s DNS fails and many popular proxies are blocked. Kudos then to the stellar people who created Tor and to those who provide ExitNodes.
  • Worse even than the low grade muzak you get in Western elevators and restaurants, Thailand excels (that can’t be the right verb) at poor lounge versions of the least likely pop music. If I hear another slow, swinging version of No Surprises by Radiohead, or Hazard by Richard Marx, I’ll go mad. Laos, breaking with its neighbour instead does insipid jazz instrumentals of the same.
  • Utopia is an awesome bar in Luang Prabang. Spacious, open-air and full of full length cushions to lie on. Sipping a tall beer here with Joel and Sonia, Stephanie, Mark, Terrence, John and Kristen underneath multi-coloured lantern light and watching the river ease by was one of our best nights here.
  • Flying from Luang Prabang to Hanoi, I noticed a spider living between the two panes of double-glazed glass in my window. How the hell did that get there?
  • The fastest and most sure-fire way to spot autocratic regimes led by dictators and/or a Politburo is to look for the words “People” or “Democratic” in the official country name.
  • The word for Man in Vietnamese is the pleasingly palindromic Nam.
  • Sleeper buses in Vietnam are not designed for people taller than 5’4″. In fact, I would go so far as to say that the bus designers are actively punishing people taller than that. Lying on your back three feet from the ceiling with your legs in an improvised lotus position over the drinks holder, trying not to kick yourself, the window or the person in front of you does not make for the most pleasant form of travel. Not a cruise, you might say. Not a walk in the park. Especially when you have the world’s most impatient bus driver – an impressive accolade in this part of the world – who on the journey from Mui Ne to Saigon, I’m not kidding, was at one point on the horn for a full, continuous, ear-splitting minute. And we were still late.