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Flint’s Travel Diary

Monday, 17 Oct 2005

Location: Vientiane, Laos

MapWelcome to another 'First world travellers meets third world and gets all humble and philosophical' journal entry. In case you're interested, (yeah right) this is what I've been doing to date.

The bargaining begins right from Sydney Airport where I somehow manage to cram 50 kilo's worth of stuff into an oversized boogy board bag (shapelle style) and only pay for a 5 kilo excess courtesy of a friendly check-in person, some dodgy post-check-in additions to my bike box and one cheesy grin…..

On the flight from Bangkok to Udon Thani a friendly Thai lady silently hands me a mysterious plastic bag with green stuff in it and the word 'Hydroponic' written on it. I think that maybe the whole world thinks Australians are drug dealers before realising that its only lettuce. She must have seen my vegetarian meal and mistaken me for a rabbit.

Lao is lovely and just as I remember it except for two things. 1. You'll be walking along and suddenly a five story hotel just emerges out of the ground. 2. The place has been recently infiltrated with mobile phones during the largely unreported Thai phone invasion of 2003. I'm still holding out, much to the amusement of all…especially UNers.

Currently at the UNDP headquarters in Lao which basically means I get licence to use of load of TLAs (three letter acronyms) and pretend to know that they mean. Here's an exceprt from an email I just received: 'FYI, UNESCO have a VCD of the MDG's courtesy of the ADB to CPO ASAP from MOFA for the OK…'

People at the UNDP all seem pretty cool and UNish. Not quite sure exactly what I'll be doing as yet as they already have someone who makes the coffee and brings the cake. I recon I could take her on with the cake, but her coffee's are unbeatable….

As planned, I should be helping out with editing the UNDP Lao development Journal Juth Kapai, but at the moment all is busy here in preparations for the anniversary of 50 years co-operation between the UNDP and the Lao government, made slightly awkward by the fact that the current Lao PDR government don't like to admit that the country actually existed before the 1975 revolution and have to approve every thumb tack we want to put up in the exhibition in case it even smells remotely of monarchy.

Have been amusing locals with my early morning yoga and attempts to make my bike wheel inflate without a tube in it. Have also discovered there are about ten different ways to say 'bike tube' in Lao (none of which I can pronounce) and only one shop which sells them, open between the hours of 9 - 11 on a Tuesday during a full moon which MIGHT have the ones I need…

Currently living in a lovely dank box with a surfoboard for a bed and a tempremental fan which threatens to wrench itself from the wall and decapitate me every time I turn it on.

As yet unable to find cliffs or dumpsters, so ez, the 'reputation' I was planning to cultivate may not be an option…

Right, I'm off to challenge the UN canteen to a bake off.

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