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Laos - The Internet Travel Guide (FAQ) (part 2/2)

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Archive-name: travel/laos-guide/part2
Url: http://www.pmgeiser.ch/laos
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LAOS - Peter M. Geiser's Hotel and Travel Guide
 

Laos is not too well known among tourists, but this is one of the
attractions of this quiet country. Vientiane, capital of Laos, has
a wonderfully relaxed atmosphere. Many temples are home to numerours
monks, all of them friendly and eager to learn. Luang Phabang, Laos'
old royal capital, is a UNESCO world heritage site and has some of the
most beautiful temples in the world.


Places
 Attapeu
 Bolaven Plateau
 Champasak
 Don Khong Island
 Ho Chi Minh Trail
 Luang Namtha
 Luang Phabang
 Muang Phin
 Pakbeng
 Pakse
 Plain of Jars
 Salavan
 Savannakhet
 Tadlo Resort
 Vang Vieng
 Vieng Xai
 Vientiane
 Wat Phu
 Xieng Khouane


Transportation
 Flying
 Boat
 Bus
 Roads


General Information
 Geographical Information
 Climate
 People
 Events
 Visa
 Embassies
 Border Crossing
 Getting Around
 Money
 Mail
 Internet
 Food
 Opium
 Health

 
**************************************************************************

LAOS - Peter M. Geiser's Hotel and Travel Guide

Copyright (c) 1995 - 2004, Peter M. Geiser

http://www.pmgeiser.ch
http://www.pmgeiser.com
http://www.mineralwaters.org
http://www.dussy.ch

**************************************************************************

BOOKS

For books, please have a look at the online version at
http://www.pmgeiser.ch/laos

**************************************************************************

FLYING

http://www.pmgeiser.ch/laos/transport/plane.htm

International Flights

Vientiane is connected with numerous foreign cities, such as Hanoi,
Ho Chi Minh City, Pnomh Penh, Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Kuala Lumpur and
Singapore.

International departure tax is USD 10. Domestic airport tax is
LAK 1000.


Domestic Flights

Flying in Laos is easy and relatively cheap. Inquire at Lao Aviation,
just opposite Raintree Bookstore in Vientiane. Lao Aviation uses
Chinese Y-7 and Y-12 and French ATR-42.

The flight between Vientiane and Luang Phabang lasts 40 minutes. There
are three flights per day.

There is a flight between Vientiane and the Plain of Jars (Xieng
Khouang). It leaves at least every second day.

Prices from Vientiane to
Attapeu        USD 130
Huay Xai       USD  88
Luang Namtha   USD  80
Luang Phabang  USD  55
Pakse          USD  95
Phongsaly      USD  87
Sam Neua       USD  70
Saravan        USD  91
Savannakhet    USD  61
Tha Khaek      USD  57
Udomxai        USD  71
Xieng Khuang   USD  35

Prices from Luang Phabang to
Huay Xai       USD  46
Luang Namtha   USD  37
Phongsaly      USD  46
Sam Neua       USD  47
Udomxai        USD  28
Xieng Khuang   USD  35

Prices from Pakse to
Attapeu        USD  26
Khong Island   USD  29
Lasko          USD  78
Saravan        USD  33
Savannakhet    USD  44

Prices from Nantha to
Huay Xai       USD  37

Prices from Savannakhet to
Laksao         USD  44


**************************************************************************

BOAT

http://www.pmgeiser.ch/laos/transport/boat.htm


An easy way to get from Vientiane to Savannakhet is by boat. However,
this depends very much on the season. I was there in September, and I
could use it. But in December already the trip was not possible
anymore.

The boat leaves twice a week (normally Tuesday and Friday, but this
sometimes change. Ask at Lao Tourism) at 5 am. Since the boat leaves
about 4 km south of the center of Vientiane, I boarded the ship the
previous evening. There are two decks, one is 'inside' (all windows
and doors are open or rather nonexistent anymore) with some benches
and no space, the other is the upper deck with only the steel floor to
sit upon. Laotians bring big sheets of plasic with them to sit and lay
upon. Bring enough to drink, since you cannot buy water on the ship.
It was possible to buy some food (rice, eggs, some vegetables), but to
be sure bring some food with you.

The fare is LAK 5150. The boat stopped around 7pm for the night. There
was a hotel just next to the harbor with double rooms for USD 12, with
private bath (yes, bath and hot water) and toilette. There are also
some restaurants around.  We started the next day at 6am and arrived
shortly after 10am in Savannakhet.

There are boats between Vientiane and Luang Phabang, but I decided not
to take it, since it took three days downstreem and much longer
upstream. Depending on the season it may not even be possible to make
the trip at all.

The most beautiful part of the Mekong river is supposed to be the part
from Luang Phabang upstream, but I don't know if the sight alone is
worth all the trouble and the long time.

There is a speedboat from Huay Xai to Luang Phabang which takes only
5 - 6 hours. The fare is LAK 24000 or THB 3000. The boats leave in
Luang Phabang from a special jetty some 4 km outside the town beyond
the airport. There is also a cargo boats that is slower with two to
three days and costs only LAK 7000 (?). The price from Luang Phabang
to Huay Xai is LAK 30000 per person, or 100000 for the whole boat.

The boat from Pakse to Ban Muang Sen - Nua costs LAK 5000. The boat
leaves around 9 am and the journey takes all day.

(Anna, Jan 96) The boat from Pakse to Muang Saen on Don Khong leaves
at 8am from the riverbank (near to where the ferry boat docks). Cost:
LAK 2000, and worth every LAK. Arrive at 7am to claim a space on the
floor. Bring enough food and water for 24 hours and a mosquito net as
the boat will stop when darkness falls. You will stay on the boat
overnight, or possibly in a nearby house. The motorbike ride from
Muang Saen to Muang Khong is LAK 1500.

**************************************************************************

BUS

http://www.pmgeiser.ch/laos/transport/bus.htm


Road conditions are bad, with unpaved, dusty streets. During the rainy
season the roads are often flooded or washed away so that
transportation is not possible. During travels, the savest thing to do
in a bus is to hold on to your seat, so as not to bump your head at
the top, or to bounce on your feet and use your legs as natural
springs, since the bus does have none at all.

Normally busses seem to leave major towns at around 5 am, but there
are many exceptions, so better check.

Overland travel from Vientiane to Luang Phabang is possible but still
not a safe undertaking. The bus from Vientiane to Vang Vieng departs
early in the morning (6:30 am) from the Morning Market or the Evening
Market and takes about 4 hours on the good road. To Luang Phabang it
should take 10 hours, but it may also take 17!  There are daily busses
(or trucks) from there to Kasi.
The bus from Luang Phabang to Vientiane leaves at 9:30 am and should
arrive around 3 am (!) in Vientiane. It costs LAK 10500.

Although there are many soldiers around, sometimes evern accompanying
the bus, the road is not safe, especiaaly the 40 km after Kasi. In
December 1994, four local UN drug prevention officers were shot on
this road and just about ten days earlier, six Vietnamese were killed
north of Kasi! In autumn 1995 three foreigners were killed.
On 11 September 1996, a French travel agent and four Laotian men were
killed when their minibus was ambushed some 120 km (75 miles) north of
Vientiane.

The trip from Lung Namtha to Luang Phabang costs LAK 11500 and takes
some 12 hours. You will have to change in Muang Xai.

If you arrive in Savannakhet by bus and intend to go to Pakse, there
is a bus the same day around 12 am. To be sure you don't miss it, take
a TukTuk to the bus station. As soon as it is full it'll leave.

The bus from Savannakhet to Pakse costs LAK 2500. It takes about 8 to
9 hours.

The bus from Pakse to Champasak costs LAK 600 (including the ferry
costing LAK 100). It leaves every couple of hours (we left shortly
before 10 am). There is no bus back from Champasak to Pakse in the
afternoon. You'll probably have to spend the night in Champasak. I was
lucky to get a ride back to Pakse in a private Toyota pickup.

The bus from Don Khong to Pakse leaves at 8 am, takes about 4 to 5
hours and costs LAK 4000.

(Anna, Jan 96) Bus from Pakse bus station to Tadlo Resort/Saravan left
at 8am when full (Timetable: 7am and 10am). Surprisingly, there is an
excellent road from Pakse to Saravan. 3.5 hours to Tadlo, then 40 min
to Saravan.

(Anna, Jan 96) The road from Saravan to Muang Phin (Highway 23) is
unusable as an important bridge is missing. Purportedly, there is a
bus from Saravan to Muang Phin via Xeno leaving every day at 4am.

(Anna, Jan 96) Bus from Saravan to Khong Sedon at 7am and 10am each
day. 3.5 hours. If you get off at the T junction 10km before Khong
Sedon you _may_ have a chance to catch the Savannaket bus. We missed
it so hitched instead.

The bus from Pakse to Savannekhet costs LAK 5000.
It was supposed to leave at 5 am. Lucky enough I was at the bus
terminal at 4:30 am. I was able to get the last place. Five minutes
later the bus left, slowly driving towards the center, but at 4:45 am
it turned right to cross the bridge to leave the town. If I'd been at
the terminal at 5 am I'd missed the bus!
Two other travellers were told that the bus was leaving at 4 am, but
since this was not true, they had to wait until 8 am!

From Savanaketh there are direct busses to Vietnam. Some fares are:

Hue              LAK 18000
Da Nang          LAK 22000

I wanted to go to Hue. There was one bus for all people going to
Vietnam. We were supposed to leave at 3 am, but were 15 minutes late.
We should have arrived at 1 pm in Hue. Unfortunately the driver began
to sleep and at 4 am the bus left the street to tumble down a small
board and finally flip oevr. Luckily nobody was seriously hurt.
Around seven o'clock the regular bus came and three Vietnamese and me
got on (I don't know what happened to the others or what they were
waiting for.)

Around 2 pm we arrived at the border to Vietnam, where there was no
problem crossing the border.

Under normal circumstances, the bus from Savannakhet to the border at
Lao Bao passes Muang Phin at 7.30 am.

**************************************************************************

Roads

http://www.pmgeiser.ch/laos/transport/roads.htm


Very few streets in Laos are paved. They are made directly from the
red earth and contain many holes. It is safe to hold on to your seat
so that you don't bump your head at the roof. Of course the earth
turns to very fine red dust. You will have the dust everywhere, on
your clothes, in your clothes, even between your teeth. You will
easily get used to it, and it certainly helps to remind you to drink a
lot. In the evening you'll get a shower and since laundry service is
available in every hotel and for reasonable prices, you can change
your clothing every day.

**************************************************************************

GEOGRAPHICAL INFORMATION

http://www.pmgeiser.ch/laos/general/geography.htm


Area          236'800 km²
Capital       Vientiane
Borders       China (423 km), Vietnam (2130 km), Cambodia (541 km),
              Thailand (1754 km), and Myanmar (Burma, 235 km)
Highest point Phu Bia, 2820 m

Time          GMT plus seven hours

Measures      Metric, local variations in rural areas.
Electricity   220 V, 50 Hz
International telephone code ++856

In the Web-version of the Internet Travel Guide at
http://www.pmgeiser.ch there would be a map right here.

**************************************************************************

CLIMATE

http://www.pmgeiser.ch/laos/general/climate.htm


In Laos the dry season lasts from November to April. The other half of
the year is the rainy monsoon season.

The temperature can reach 40 degrees in the Mekong delta in summer. In
the montains however it is easily 10 degrees colder and can become
very cold during winter.


Vientiane

 Month       Jan  Feb  Mar  Apr  May  Jun  Jul  Aug  Sep  Oct  Nov  Dec

 Air    C     28   31   32   34   33   33   32   32   32   30   30   30
        F     83   87   90   93   91   91   90   90   90   86   85   86

 Water  C     28   28   29   30   29   30   29   29   28   28   28   27
        F     82   82   84   86   84   86   84   84   82   82   82   81

 h sun/day     8    8    8   10    8    6    5    5    5    6    7    8

 days rain     1    2    4    7   15   17   18   18   16    7    1    1


**************************************************************************

PEOPLE

http://www.pmgeiser.ch/laos/general/people.htm


Population      5.4 mio (annual growth rate 2.74%) (est. July 1999
Life expectancy 54.2 years (male: 52.6 y, female: 55.9 y)
                68% Lao Loum (lowland Lao), 22% Lao Theung (lower mountain
                dwellers, Mon-Khmer), Lao Sung (Hmong, the high altitude
                hill tribes), Thais, Chinese, Vietnamese and members of
                68 minority groups.
Language        Lao and Lao dialects, French, English, various ethnic
                languages
Script          Modern variant of the old Khmer script, which in turn
                originated 1700 years ago from the Bhrami script of India.
Literacy        60% (male: 70%, female: 48%)
Religion        85% Buddhist, 15% animist and spiritualist cults


**************************************************************************

EVENTS

http://www.pmgeiser.ch/laos/general/events.htm


In Laos most festival are still celebrated on dates determined by the
lunar calendar, so it is often not possible to give a fixed date in
our Western calendar. In these cases I just indicated the month with
the lunar event (e.g. full moon) in brackets.


1 January     International New Year

13-16 April   Boun Pimai, the Laotian New Year
Boun Pimai, the national New Year used to be celebrated on the last
day of the waning moon in the fifth lunar month, lasting as much as 14
days. Since 1975 it has been fixed to 13-16 April. Boun Pimai is
celebrated most festively in Luang Phabang.

1 May         International Labour Day

May (full moon) Visakha Puja celebrated on the 15th day of the 6th
lunar month. On this day Buddha was born, enlightened and has passed
away. At the same time Bun Bang Fai (the Rocket Festival), a
pre-Buddhist ceremony is celebrated.

The Festivals of the Rain and Fasting are Buddhist festivals. They
take place between the full moon of the eight and eleventh lunar month
(July, and October, respectively).

At the end of the rainy season is the festival of Boun Ok Pansa. There
are boatraces on the Mekong.

November (full moon)  The That Luang Festival takes place at its namesake
in Vientiane and lasts a week.

**************************************************************************

EMBASSIES

http://www.pmgeiser.ch/laos/general/_embassy.htm


**************************************************************************

BORDER CROSSING

http://www.pmgeiser.ch/laos/general/border.htm


Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam and Thailand have now an agreement about
border crossing for tourists. There is no need to apply for a
particular crossing when filling out your visa application form. It
still seems to be a bit unusual, though, to choose any other crossing
as the friendship bridge or Vientiane airport.

Vientiane, Wattay International Airport
Vientiane's Wattay airport is connected to Bangkok, Ho Chi Minh City,
Hanoi, Phnom Penh, Guangzhou and Kunming.
There is a USD 5 departure tax on international flights.


Thailand

There are several border points open to Thailand: Tha Khaek - Non Khai
(the Vientiane Friendship Bridge), Huay Xai - Chiang Khong,
Savannakhet - Mukdahan, Ubon Ratchathani - Chong Mek. For all, except
the first, you have to have a valid permit.

Vientiane Friendship Bridge
The Friendship Bridge is the "standard" way to enter Laos by land. It
is located conveniently near Vientiane. There are minibusses leaving
to and from the bridge every 30 to 60 minutes.
(Sebastian) We left Laos over the friendship bridge.
Unfortunately, it opens too late (at 8:00) to catch the 7:40 train to
Bangkok. (Reservations for trains and buses can be made in Vientiane.
Apparently, there are only three trains to Bangkok a day, two in the
evening and the one in the morning.) Bus No. 14 will take you right to
the bridge.

Pakse
(Sebastian) The immigration people had probably never seen a Malaysian
passport before and it took us some time to convince them that it was
a valid document even though it wasn't issued in Kuala Lumpur. From
what I heard, it's definitely no problem leaving the country wherever
you choose. Since it was Sunday, we had to pay 50 Baht extra for
crossing the border. I've been told that it's the same at the
friendship bridge.
Anna had to pay 60 Baht extra in Jan 96 when she wanted to cross
during lunchtime.

Huay Xai
The border at Huay Xai / Chiang Khong is open from 8 to 17. It is now
possible to obtain a visa on the spot. There are reports of travellers
having to pay THB 50 to the Laotian immigration officers on Sunday,
but this could be a temporary scam.


Vietnam

Most roads between Laos and Vietnam are now open for crossing.

Lao Bao
It is easy to leave Laos by way of Lao Bao. Since Jan 96, it is
possible to cross both ways, into and out of Laos. On the Vietnamese
side, the busses don't go all the way to the border, you either have
to walk the last 3 km or pay one USD for a motortaxi.

I decided to return to Vietnam by land at Lao Bao. Arriving at the
border there were many people trying to 'help' me. Ignoring them I
headed straight to a small hut on the left side of the street (a
Vietnamese from the same bus I came with pointed it out to me, I would
have missed it). There a very friendly lady, that didn't speak any
English was examining my passport. I had to fill in yet another
arrival/departure card. After some stamping I was free to go on.


Cambodia

Tha Boei
Currently, there is still an occasional Khmer Rouge activity, so it's
not absolutely safe.


China

Nam Tha
The border to China is also open. It is, however, also subject to
Chinese regulations, meaning, that if the officials there want to make
some extra money, the crossing is more expensive...

Mohan-Borten
There is no problem to cross from China into Laos. There are tuktuks
waiting on the Laotian side.

**************************************************************************

GETTING AROUND

http://www.pmgeiser.ch/laos/general/getaround.htm


It is necessary that you go to the immigration office in every town in
order to let them stamp your passport. This is usually done at the
point of your immigration (e.g. airport, river bank, etc.) However,
nobody seems really interested in the details.

(Steve) Who knows what happens to all the information they copy from
your passport; if you can see the names written down they are often
things like "Mr Blue Eyes" or "Mr Cambridge England"!

(Sebastian) The travel permits which used to be necessary for
travelling from one province to another were abolished (April
94). However, you still need to register with the police wherever you
go (this only applies to the northern parts of Laos, i.e. anything
north of Vientiane). If you fail to do so, you will be charged 5$ per
day as a penalty. It's entirely up to you to look for the police
office, nobody will tell you that you have to go and register! The
police will stamp your departure card for a small fee and you're free
of any hassle. Apparently, this does not only apply if you move from
one province to another but also when you spend a night in a different
village of the same province. The only exception is at airports where
you can have your card stamped upon arrival. However, you'd better ask
twice whether that's all which is needed: We got into problems with
our business-visas in Luang Phabang. We flew there and registered at
the airport. Apparently, that wasn't enough as we found out when we
wanted to fly out again: business people have to register a second
time at the immigration office in town.... It took me 20 minutes of
hot (but restrained) discussion to convince the chap behind the
counter that I wasn't prepared to pay 30 dollars as penalty. I had,
however, to go back into town and register before he let us fly
off...

**************************************************************************

MONEY

http://www.pmgeiser.ch/laos/general/money.htm


The currency of Laos is the Kip (ISO code LAK).

Exchange Rate: 1 USD = 7300 LAK (Jan 2003).
Historical development: 7600 (Dec 2001) 7700 (Jan 2000), 9350 (Nov
1999), 7680 (Sep 1999), 4270 (Apr 1999), 4330 (Feb 1999), 3680 (Oct
1998), 2500 (Jun 1998), 1705 (Nov 1997), 1170 (Jul 1997), 920 (Oct
1996), 930 (Sep 1995), 714 (Sep 1994).

To get a nice small conversion table that you can put in you pocket,
look at the Currency Cheat Sheet at
http://www.oanda.com/convert/cheatsheet?user=pmgitg.

Sometimes small amounts lower the rate drastically. Shopping around
is recommended. Anna got better rates at jewellery shops (Jan 96).

Traveller's cheques are well known and every bank changes them.


Visa and American Express are accepted at some of the better hotels
and restaurants.

(Sebastian) Kip, baht and US dollars can be used all over the country.
Even for big transactions it is, however, usually best to pay in kip.
If you pay in baht or dollar they usually calculate the price with a
slightly less favourable exchange rate than what you get at the banks.
Kip are available in denominations of 1000, 500, 100 and 50. I once
got a 20 kip note as "small change" at the post office but it's not
generally in use anymore. One dollar equals approx. 725 kip [94], one
baht will get you about 29.15 kip. In Vientiane you can now change a
great number of currencies both in cash as well as in travellers
cheques. For the cheques you will be charged an enormous amount as
commision (at least 3%, I met a British couple who paid 6 pounds on a
cheque of 100 pounds!) The bank mentioned in the lonely planet guide
is definitely not the best place anymore to change your money. I found
that the money changers inside the morning market gave the best rates.
Credit card cash advances are also available at various banks in the
city, usually for at least 3% extra charge.  As soon as you leave
Vientiane you'd better take baht or dollars CASH with you. I heard
that the bank in Luang Phabang changes travellers cheques but I
wouldn't count on it....


**************************************************************************

MAIL

http://www.pmgeiser.ch/laos/general/mail.htm


Postcards to Europe cost LAK 800, a letter is LAK 1200.

**************************************************************************

INTERNET

http://www.pmgeiser.ch/laos/general/internet.htm


Internet access in Laos is not exactly common, the best choice is to
get an independent provider that lets you access the internet all over
the world for the price of a local phone call.



**************************************************************************

FOOD

http://www.pmgeiser.ch/laos/general/food.htm


It is possible to eat for one or two dollars, but you also can pig out
for several times this amount.

For breakfast try Lao coffee and ba-tan-gho, fried dough available from
street vendors. A filling breakfast can be had for under LAK 1000.

Sticky rice and chicken or laap (delicious chopped spicy meat), and
spicy soup are great introductions to Lao food, as is waterfall beef.

Don't drink tap water. Even in the smallest guest houses in the
remotest villages there are thermos bottles with boiled water. It is
used to drink tea. Instead drink tea, mineral water, or soft drinks.
Apart from the well known American products like Coca Cola, Pepsi
Cola, etc. there are many local versions of sweet lemonade. They are
much cheaper and cause no health problems.

Beer Lao
Tha Beer Lao tastes very well. It contains about 5% alcohol and is
served either in bottles of 3 dl and 6 dl, or in 2 l jugs. In Thalat,
north of Vientiane they sell 4-5 litre bags for a few thousand LAK.

Eating on the bus
Since busses leave very early and somtimes arrive late in the evning
it might be a problem to get a decent meal in a restaurant. However,
there are many people selling food when a bus happens to stop near
their food stall. They sell for LAK 50 to 200 eggs, rice, fried
chicken, fried bananas, fresh fruit, bread, etc.  Most of the time the
food is cold. They also sell drinks in bottles and cans (cans are much
more expensive than bottles). The bottles must be paid or left back.
If you don't want to drink all of a bottle they are happy to fill the
drink into a plastic bag which they give to you to drink with a straw.
Generally this is a very  cheap way to get to know some typical Lao
food, although it is not outstanding quality. As for hygene, I never
encountered any stomach problems, although the food was kept in the
open and got dusty and cold.

**************************************************************************

OPIUM

http://www.pmgeiser.ch/laos/general/opium.htm


THE WHITE GOLD OF LAOS

by Michael Buckley

The material is excerpted from VIETNAM, CAMBODIA & LAOS HANDBOOK, by
Michael Buckley, (c) copyright 1998, all rights reserved, reprinted with
permission.


Reprinted here with permission of Moon Travel Handbooks, California
(www.moon.com).


Laos is the world's third-largest producer of opium. The notorious
"Golden Triangle," defined by Laos, Burma, and Thailand, provides 60%
of the world's heroin supply. Opium growing is associated with the
hilltribes that descended from southern China, particularly the Hmong
and Mien. The opium poppy is grown all over northern Laos, even on
steep slopes and in poor soil, and cash returns are high. Some
hilltribes use opium in traditional medicine. There is significant
opium addiction in Phong Saly, Hua Phan, Luang Prabang, and Xieng
Khuang Provinces. Most opium in Laos is smoke--nearly all refined
opium is earmarked for export.

The opium poppy (Papaver somniferum) is one of more than 250 species
of poppy. When the petals fall, the seed pod is sliced to release a
milk-white juice that dries to a brown fudge that can be stored for
years without losing its potency. The brown substance can be refined
into heroin for easier transport--there are thought to be hidden labs
in the north of Laos that handle this process. Opium is grown in 10
Laotian provinces (marijuana is planted in provinces along the Mekong
River). The annual opium yield in Laos is upwards of 200 tons (puny
compared to Burma, where annual production is estimated at over 2,200
tons). Some is used locally by hilltribe addicts; the rest is smuggled
through to Thailand or China. Opium and heroin are used in bartering
for Thai consumer goods. According to an official report by the
National Commission for Drug Control, Laos seized 53 kg of heroin, 292
kg of opium, and 9,402 kg of marijuana in 1994. Most of the heroin was
intercepted at Vientiane's Wattay Airport; the cannabis was seized in
Savannakhet Province.

The opium trade was once legal in Laos. The practice of growing opium
was forced upon the Hmong by the French government of Indochina, which
secretly sold opium to Marseilles gangsters to finance the war against
the Vietminh. Later the CIA became involved in the trade, using the
profits to finance US operations in Indochina. Opium dens were
permitted until the Pathet Lao takeover in 1975. These were small
places, similar to a country pub, where patrons would drop by for a
few pipes. In 1975, Vientiane featured 60 licensed dens, and a lot
more unlicensed houses. There is some evidence that even after 1975,
Lao Army elements and provincial officials continued a clandestine
role in opium and heroin production to ameliorate the disastrous
financial situation of the late 1970s and 1980s.

In 1990, Laos agreed to cooperate with the US and UN in narcotics
control. The main thrust of the program is to substitute cash crops
like coffee or mulberry trees for opium poppies. There have been
arrests of drug traffickers, but in the unruly Golden Triangle,
enforcement is difficult.  The Counter-Narcotics Unit, Laos'
enforcement agency, was set up in 1992. It employs only 26 officials
and relies heavily on foreign support.


**************************************************************************

HEALTH

http://www.pmgeiser.ch/general/health.htm


This section intends to give some advice on health issues in South
East Asia. It does not cover all possibilities and in case of problems
you certainly still should visit a qualified medical doctor. This is
especially true for vaccinations.

Depending on the country you are travelling, medical facilities may
not be widely available. This is true especially for Cambodia, Laos
and Myanmar. China and Vietnam does have a wide variety of medicines,
but you may not be familiar with them. In case of serious troubles
consider leaving the country and going to a place with good facilites
(e.g. Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong, etc.)

Chinese people are very aware of health problems. The Chinese medicine
is world famous and obtainable even in the smallest villages and also
many of the surrounding countries (e.g. Vietnam). However, Western
medicine is not very widely available. 

Doctors and hospitals normally expect immediate cash payment.

If you regularly need some medicine, bring enough of it with you since
chances are that you will not get the same or a replacement for it. It
is also recommended to bring one or two clean needles in case of an
emergency.

Be carful not to drink water directly from the tap. Although it is not
a problem anymore in big cities like Shanghai, depending on your
resistance it is better to be safe than sorry. Especially in China,
even the smallest guest houses in the remotest villages there are
thermos bottles with boiled water. It is used to drink tea. However,
if you follow the rule of "cook it , boil it, peel it, or forget it",
you can eat and drink from any restaurant or street stall and
ridiculous things (at least for people with an average stomach) like
bringing your own chopsticks is really not necessary.


AIDS

AIDS is a serious threat in many countries.

According to recent figures by UNAIDS, the United Nations program,
about half of Cambodia's prostitutes are HIV positive. The total
figure of the population with the disease is estimated at 120'000,
with the most explosive growth in Asia. Aids iis also increasing
rapidly in other countries.


Malaria

The four essential steps when dealing with malaria are:
Awareness: know about the risk of malaria.
Bites by mosquitoes: prevent or avoid.
Compliance with appropriate chemoprophylaxis.
Diagnose breakthrough malaria swiftly and obtain treatment promptly.

Malaria (from Italian 'mala aira', bad air) is a life-threatening
disease and a major health risk for travelers visiting tropical
countries. It occurs when small parasites are passed from one person
to another by the bites of certain mosquitoes (Anopheles). The
parasites use red blood cells to breed and finally cause their
decay. This decay causes fever and eventually a lack of oxygen which
can, in case of a malaria cerebral, cause brain damage. Depending on
the type of malaria these fever shocks appear every three (malaria
tertiana) or four (malaria quartana) days. Death rate of malaria can
be up to 2%.

There have been many discussions on how to best deal with it and even
the doctors have not yet agreed on a single opinion.

Probably the best paper describing malaria and its prevention and cure
is from the PHLS Malaria Reference Laboratory of the London School of
Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and can be found at:
http://www.phls.co.uk/publications/CDRreview/cdrr1097.pdf

Dr. Arlene Goldman published an excellent guide to the various drugs
used in malaria treatment and lists region with malaria resistance.
The URL is http://www.publinet.it/pol/malaria.htm


Bilharzia

The parasitic infection bilharzia (schistosomiasis) is caught by
contact with river water. You do not have to drink the water or swim
in the river, just getting wet may be enough. The microscopic
parasites in the water burrow into your skin and cause a damage to the
liver and other organs. It is a chronic debilitation disease. The most
dangerous region is in south Laos (south of Pakse) and in Cambodia.


**************************************************************************

LAOS - Peter M. Geiser's Hotel and Travel Guide

Copyright (c) 1995 - 2004, Peter M. Geiser

http://www.pmgeiser.ch
http://www.pmgeiser.com
http://www.mineralwaters.org
http://www.dussy.ch

**************************************************************************



 


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