Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Sabai Dee!!

The UWE program organized a trip to Vientiane, the capital of Laos where those who participated will have to do community service and visit a couple of other places.. I joined the this trip thinking it'll be similar to Vietnam and Thailand since I am really interested in historical architectures like the Angkor Wat and ancient Buddhist temples. I was really motivated to go when I heard that the majority of Laosians are Buddhist and even more enthralled when I found out about the French influence it has due to historical French Occupation there. However, there were problems and suspicions due to the cost which is Rm1500 for a 4D3N trip. We were told that we're basically doing community service, staying in a Boutique Hotel and eating normal food (the country practices moderation.... kononnya). So why the high costs? It's not even a tour for crying out loud!! This issue was brought out by other students and the explanation given by the organizer wasn't convincing... but at the end of the trip, we agreed that it was all worthwhile.


Day 1




With all my stuff packed and changed my money to USD currencies (ya they accept USD there), I'm set to go and explore the foreign land! Everyone met up in TBS and chartered a bus to LCCT where we could checked-in our luggages and fly to Vientiane .



*Things to do during the 2.5 hour flight*

*The menu on the plane*

*You compare the picture in the menu and the actual one..cheapo*

When we were reaching, we saw the overall landscape and infrastructure of Laos from the plane.. it wasn't really developed since it's still a third world country but it looked a lot like Langkawi. Nonetheless, I shall not make any reservations until the end of the trip. When we reached the airport, the first advertisement they had was Beerlao, the local beer company they have in the country which is suppose to be very thin and damn damn nice! Can't wait to try!

After checking out from the airport, we were greeted by our tour-guide, Ah-Da who was very friendly and hospitable! He speaks good English and was really funny.. taught us a few words of Lao and explained the culture to us. On the way to the hotel, the place was okay if you asked me.. it's like what I said earlier....Langkawi-ish feel but my other friends said it reminded them a lot like Thailand. I thought Thailand would be more advanced, but it's probably the outskirts of Thailand as well....
'


*Ah Da, our tour-guide*



When we reached the hotel, I was kinda disappointed because the hotel was below our expectation... quite 'chan', like those Petaling Street motels.....Again I wonder where our money went....and again, I was wrong... I judged the book by its cover, literally...... because the interior of the hotel was gorgeous! With cozy lighting and zen-ish deco, I was in awe... The rooms were fine as well.... I wouldn't say it is on par with the lobby, but it's at an acceptable level... Was kinda jealous because there were other rooms which were much nicer than ours...... unfair right!! But on the other hand, there were also rooms worse than ours..... Conclusion, bad management!!!









*Other bathrooms got bath-tubs...wtf*

*Do other things in bed =P*

*No, we do not 'smoking'*

After leaving our luggages in the hotel, we went to the Khop Chai Deu restaurant for a buffet lunch. The food was alright, with stewed pork, laap chicken (dunno what's laap), spicy papaya salad, soup noodles, grilled meat (should be pork and chicken) and cendol & jelly desserts. I wouldn't say its really good, but rather similar to Chinese cookings. The only good food I found was the pork/beef soup noodles which allows us to add pound chilly seed and gives the noodle a real kick to it! Also with the vegetables, lime and mint leaves, it offers an overall fresh taste to it. I rate it a 8 out of 10! The others, probably 5/10. bleh.......


*noodle station*

*sweet lady making spicy papaya salad*

*Sweet lady's outcome*

*Rice, Laap Chicken & Vege*

*Grilled Chicken and Pork Kebab*

*Pork/Beef Soup Noodles..Yummy!*

*Ya they have sushi too... international ma..*

*Corn Bun*

*Dessert*

After lunch we headed to the That Luang Stupa, a golden temple which I considered to be one of the best place throughout the entire trip. I was totally captivated by the structure and architecture of the building. The whole building was gold in colour and when the sun shined on it, it practically lights up! No kidding! I wonder how was it built during those days.... You can feel a sense of calm and spiritual presence there, along with monks chanting in the temple beside it. The day was extremely hot and unfortunately I wasn't able to concentrate when the tour-guide was describing the history of the stupa. Regardless, I thought it was an eye-opener.... I remembered the story where a creature known as a Naga (no, its not a dragon....it's in Lao... looks more like an Eel with a scary head) approached Buddha hoping to convert into a Buddhist. However, Buddha declined because it wasn't human. Without feeling rejected, it simply rested beside Buddha protecting him....ahh...so touching... :)

*That Luang Stupa*



*The Naga protecting me*

*Rm1 ice cream...that guy accepted Rm and we went crazy like those suaku, malufying*

The next place we went was the Morning Market, where many stalls were set up selling everything under the sun. Mostly souvenirs, clothings and female accessories were sold there..there wasn't enough time, so we left after an hour or so.... We were lucky as we had enough time to go back there on the third day...so pics will be posted later...

The following itinerary was a visit to the garment factory. This is the place where they make shirts, uniforms, and other clothings for export purposes. The place was very humid and stuffy, and I pitied the employees there. We were briefed by the floor manager who told us the cost of the shirt......and we were dead shocked.......a nice striped collar T-Shirt only cost approximately Rm1.00 ....WTF la...we are paying so much more........... Then again I observed the surroundings of the place...and I realised why the cost was so cheap. The working condition was really bad. Minimal ventilation and minimum wages if you ask me... USD70-80 per month.... thats like Rm300 per month.... can die la like that... That's the dilemma of profit maximisation and CSR; which side are you on? Ask yourself truthfully and don't lie!



The last place we went before going back to the hotel was the Victory Gate. It's a large monument in the middle of the city. No history about it but if you go right up, you can practically see the whole of Vientiane. The view wasn't that nice because the city's similar with Langkawi... nothing to shout about except seeing the That Luang Stupa. Gold gold colour wtf.


*I like this pic....haha*


We headed back to the hotel to shower and then to attend a very important dinner, so they say. It was a gala dinner with many businessmen and the Ambassador of Malaysia in Laos. It was an opportunity for us to expand our network and we were told that we might even get job offers if the businessmen liked us, so they say. The food was sooooooo normal.. I'm complaining because we were at a restaurant in a high-class hotel but it's like coffeeshop food.... I didn't even take pics...let the menu speak for itself... I rate it a 2 out of 10. Also with the entertainer in the restaurant singing the Lao songs so loud, it was at the verge of shouting.... quite irritating because we were trying to speak with the businessman in our table. His name is Kevin Pereirra, started Yellow Pages in Spore and now in Lao. Also the sole distributor of Panasonic to other countries like Thailand, Vietnam, China and etc. Bottomline he's blardy rich. After that, Vinz gave a short speech and was asked to sing Rasa Sayang, wtf. Luckily 2 other girls joined him but they can't really remember the lyrics...it's quite funny...the night ended when they invited everyone to go up to the stage to dance. We were just moving in circles, turning our wrists.....it was fun initially, but after a while it got kinda old....so sien....




*si-beh napek*

Day 2

The day started with breakfast at the hotel restaurant. I gotta admit it was above my expectation because I was expecting just plain bread with butter or normal fried noodles (since they emphasized on moderation ma). Instead, they have white bread, baguette, fried noodles, soup noodles, rice, sausages, ham, bacon, omelette, juices, coffee and tea. The only thing they didn't have was cereals but that's fine with me. I rate it a 9 out of 10. What a great way to start the day!!





Today we will go to the rehabilitation center for the blind and deaf. There we would play games with the children and clean their facility. The first half of the day we played many games with the children such as basketball, some circle-tag game, London-bridge-is-falling-down, the obscene brinjal-lime game and balloon blowing-popping game. We also watched the national Paralympic players of Goal Ball demonstrated the game. It was basically 3 players blindfolded, throwing the ball to the goal on the other side. The other team would then defend the goal by blocking the ball. The difficult part of the game is the unavailability of sight since they're all blind or partially blind. So they can only depend on their hearing. I was impressed!!!!




*Obscene Brinjal-Lime game*


*London Bridge*

*Balloon Blowing-Popping Game*

*Goal Ball*

*Damn Cool....*




The second half of the day was cleaning up the facilities. We were broken up into 3 groups which

1) Cleans and Paints the kitchen
2) Cleans the toilets
3) Cleans the classrooms

I was in team 1 and we cleaned the kitchen first before painting it. This will prevent marks or potential difference in the tone of the layer of the wall once painted. I am confident the kitchen was never thoroughly cleaned before as the layer of dust is damnn thick!!! Besides, the walls were also damn dirty.....with black patches..... Luckily we're here to help... ahaha... hidung tinggi wtf. At the end of the day, the satisfaction was there since we're able to help the less-fortunate. I didn't really feel liberated though......don't know why but maybe it's because I wasn't able to help out much...only clean clean clean....dunno la... or maybe it's because I have to sacrifice my shirt and shorts since kena paint..... lol... wuuuuuuuu........






After the work done, we headed back to hotel to shower. Later, we went to the shopping mall in Vientiane; Lao-Itecc! It's not like 1U or Sunway Pyramid, but rather like Pasar Seni. Only a big ground with many partitioned spaces for stalls to sell their things. There aren't any FCUKs, or MnG or even Giordano also......only random stuffs... We bought alot of their local snacks, mostly chips and dodol... quite nice la but nothing special lo......



*Hello Kitty Shop*

*Doreamon Shop*



We went to a very nice restaurant for dinner. It was by the Mekong River but unfortunately the food wasn't good, at all. It was a form of catering with seafood fried rice (yucks), normal stir fried vege, chicken with cashewnuts and some fish.... I didn't bother taking any pics of it.... the lighting was bad anyway... The fun part of the night was when the organizer provided us with Lao delicacy. INSECTS & BUGS!!! Luckily it was dark with bad lighting, that's why we are all brave enough to eat them... Yes I ate too!! Quite proud of myself...hahaha ....Altogether there were 6 types... Crickets, Grasshoppers, Silkworms, Cicada, Beetles and Cockroaches. I have never dared to touch cockroaches before.... I can't believe that I actually ate a few that night..... The taste wasn't that bad though... crispy and salty....except the silkworms which was the worst among all. It's like something bursting inside your mouth when you bite them.... spliittzzzzzzzz .... yucks!



*Crickets & Grasshoppers*

*SilkWorms*

*Cicada*

*Beetles*

*Cockroach*

Day 3

Another day of community service. This time we're going to the government primary school to teach and play with the children there. THEY WERE SO CUTE! When we arrived at the school, the children were already lined up waiting for us. When we stepped out from the bus, they gave us a giant SABAIDEE greeting along with... etc etc ( i dunno what else they said). It wasn't really synchronized...so it echoed....so gutee!!!!!!! I never really liked children....but they are just different... unlike kids in Malaysia who are materialistic rascals! Without any PSP or handphones, the children here are rather content with themselves. You can see pure joy when they play among themselves; the sincere look and genuine laughter, I really miss my childhood days.. seriously.



*whatever this means... lol*




*I know it's mean, but one of these girl's name is Puki... gomen but i can't help it*

The first thing we taught them was art. The way to do it was rather simple where you take magic colour pens to colour the paper, then take a black crayon to colour above it. Finally use a ruler to scrape off the crayon and form a nice pattern or message. It was very suitable for the children since it's rather easy to do. And we didn't have to explain much to them but only to demonstrate. They didn't have any difficulty understanding it and had a blast doing it. The next activity was an outdoor one. It wasn't academic since all we did was playing the 'Hen guarding chicks from eagle' game and London Bridge. The kids had soooo much fun and it automatically made my day! I was so so so satisfied. Ahh the outcome of community service. I have got to do more!! Now I know why Angelina adopted kids... haha..








We had another buffet lunch..... I was still full from breakfast, so didn't eat much. I had salad and a bit of here and there... overall the food was alright....but my friend saw a worm in his food... so marks deducted!! I rate it 5 out of 10.





*worm in vege*

The next itinerary was to visit the beer factory, Lao Brewery Co., Ltd. Maybe my expectation was too high but I felt the trip was sooooooooo boring and irrelevant! We only watched a presentation on the company's history and tour the filling up of the beer bottles and its packaging into boxes.. bleh damn sien... I was expecting to see the process of producing the beer (e.g the fermentation of yeast...etc etc). No, we did not get free beers home but only drank there and a complimentary calender... the only thing I thought was informative was their unique marketing strategy to compete against Tiger Beer; organizing annual pageant competition and popularized a LaoBeer ringtone amongst the locals, I heard the ringtone and man was it funny.




We then went to the Laos private college to meet the local students there. Everyone was excited because we are meeting people of our age. A clash of culture and a mix of opinions. The guys were keen to see how the girls were like and the girls were pretending they don't care even though I know they were curious of the local guys as well =P. It was nice seeing a different set of students and they were all in their uniform. I never knew college students here have their compulsory uniforms.... they should have more freedom since it's a private entity but man do they look hot in uniforms.... hahahah... They were also business students but they take 5 years to complete their degree... I don't know why.... We took many pictures and exchange emails for the sake of friendship. This is the first time I do such things.... a form of networking? ...... maybe.


*Good*

*Very Good*

*Very very good*

*Chun Chick*


We headed back to the Morning Market since we have spare time and the organizers thought we should have more shopping time. It was already late in the evening and don't ask me why it's named the Morning Market. Just accept it like I did. This time we didn't waste much time, we quickly head to buy the things we wanted to get. As for me, I was only keen to get Lao Coffee and tea for my dad. At night, I was left out in going for the foot and shoulder massage and ended up going to the Chinese Market with Pei Yan. It was fun because we get to see familiar food like yau char kwai and chicken rice. We also saw a shop selling grilled pork and spring rolls. There were so many people and we just had to try some even though dinner was about half an hour to go. It was definitely the right decision because it was so delicious!!! The best food throughout the entire trip. I rate it 10 out of 10!!! We had dinner in a Pakistani restaurant and the food was so so..... like normal Indian food if you ask me. I wouldn't say it's not nice but it's weird eating Indian food in Laos... not relevant.... so I rate it 5 out of 10. bleh...




*Super yummy grilled pork!!*

*Super yummy Springrolls*

*Yau Char Kwai and etc*

*Indian food*



Day 4

It was the last day of the trip.... nothing much to update as the itinerary is only to have breakfast and go to the airport. We woke up earlier to walk around the area and saw a stall selling baguette sandwiches. It looks nice but I was too full from breakfast to eat. After gathering at the hotel lobby at 8 a.m, we headed to the airport and fly home at 11.


*Baguette Sandwich ingredients*


*Thailand is just across the river*


*Never sleep when your friends are awake..cibai*

*Heading Home*

Reflection


I realized 2 things throughout this trip. The first thing was my enjoyment when helping others. I seriously felt genuinely happy and proud when helping the children especially. I also pledge of not taking things for granted after seeing what they have in Laos. What I have may not be complete, but it is sufficient. I have got to make full use of what I have and be contented about it. No point complaining as it will not change. Instead it will only make me weak. This is what I took home from this trip!

The second thing I observed is the changes in people when facing others and the different expectations of friendships. I can see how people change when meeting different people and this lead me to be suspicious of how they truly feel when facing me. I don't know if this is a good thing, but this is simply how I feel. I fear hypocrisy. The different expectation of friendship is something I really thought of as I felt disappointed by the actions of others. But at the end, I concluded it to be the different expectations of friendship from one another. For me, I expect others to do the same of what I would do for them. But maybe it isn't the same for them. They might feel that it was alright and therefore didn't care. So it's not about who's right or wrong but rather adjusting the level of expectations. No point staying angry. To forgive and forget.

I'm so glad I joined this trip, I believe I grew emotionally and spiritually. Really.

1 comment:

binbin said...

okie...when you said it's gonna be long i didn't expect it to be soooooooo long...and wtf?? next time please put a warning sign before you put pic of insects!!!!OMG...somemore took close shot..i was startled by them..damn geli...anyway..glad that you had fun..there are so many things selling at the market and you only bought back coffee..=.=" did you get doraemon for ws n hello kitty for june?

conclusion: too long didn't read the whole thing...but the pics of bugs are still haunting me...