29 Jan 2009

Golden Rock Rollercoaster

'Am I allowed to go?'
Its usually the first question you ask here.
'Yes, yes.'
'No foreigner, no problem!' came the confusing reply.
'So I can go?'
'Ok, no.'
'Is that yes or no?'
'Yes or no.'
In describing rough bus journeys in various parts of the world I might have used the term 'rollercoaster' once or twice. But today's experience truly was the closest approximation yet - a real life rollercoaster only without the strapping or safety rules. So let me share with you what it was like to ride a real life rollercoaster on the way to Kyiktiyo, the Golden Rock.

I arrived just in time. The young man was beckoning the final passengers on board and I found myself in the back seat corner where it was more comfortable to stand on the back decking rather than sit.
The bus was essentially a crudely modified cattle truck - seven rows of six bodies all condensed into narrow wooden slats. The hard stell of the back cage like decking had so many protruding edges of niggly bolts it felt like someone had designed the thing to exterminate every ounce of comfort potential.
The ticket boy leapt up beside me and two latecomers were fervently ushered on as well to join the merry throng.
One man squeezed up tightly behind me. After a while I could feel something big and bulging jutting out of his midriff or his crotch area. Only after a good look down did I realise it was the huge knot of his longyi (sarong) that happened to be vigorously rubbing against me.
Being the tourist I am, I was attempting to take photos when a severely crunching section of road saw my own crotch area collide with unavoidable forecfulness into oneo the proitruding metal sections on the cage. Ouch! As I grimmaced, the ticket boy took little time in enthusiastically enquiring after my health before thoughtfully sharing what had happened with the remaining entirety of the truck who collectively craned their necks around to stare and laugh while I was on the verge of tears.
Regaining my lost composure, I told myself to concentrate harder with my hand holds as they really were the difference between me staying onboard the vehicle and ending up in a messy splatter on the dusty road.
The driver was nothing less than an impatient lunatic whoi insisted on lauching the truck over humps, flinging it around tight bends and accelerating over narrow cranking bridges like they were take off runways.
From the back of the vehicle the suspension was gloriously redundant. In my radjusted position (there were many)or rather body contortion I now found myself slumped over the back row with my arm around an old lady. She turned to give me a toothless red gummed grin. My thigh was rubbing against a pink-robed nun. Neither seemed affected in the slightest by drama of the ride.
The nuns had clothed over their shaved heads to fend off the fierce afternoon sun while the old lady took up puffing what looked like a fat cigar but was actually a mild cheroot.

On we hurtled, steaming through hilly jungle, the road never less than torturously twisting. The succession of endlessly bumpy humps strangely reminded me of something I had not done for a very long time: skiing down a mogul field.
And there all of a sudden ahaead of me as I squinted ahead and fought off the intrusion of dust and the mini streams of sweat was the high glinting flicker of gold - the very reason I had chosen to come here, the Golden Rock itself. It was still very far away and necessitated a strenuously steep climb by foot, but it was just about worth it.
You cannot complain or moan, I kept trying to tell myself. You wanted to seek out adventure and now you've well and truly found some.

The return journey was even more full on mainly becasue it was near total darkness by the time we left. I was instructed quite assertively by one man to sit myself down on the back bench. But I simply could not insert the width of my thighs into the meagre space afforded. So I stood and half-crouched like a man on the verge of sitting down on the otilet. Bats swooped in the warm night air. Another old lady was puffing on her cheroot. Every now and then as we roared through it, out of the jungle darkness swung an overhanging vine which thrashed its way backwards with some venom towards the back of the truck. I usually managed to catch the last whack square on my uncovered head. Again this - the sounds of my pain infliction and repeated attempted aversions - seemed to provoke mirth and merriment all round. I looked up at the sky, it seemed so inviting, and I saw the plough. And however much my hands were being worn down from the tight grip pf clinging on, however tired my legs were from being battered, however much my back was aching, for a brief moment I perversely decided there was nowhere else I would rather be. I felt alive.

Here was a country, where amidst all the dire warnings and misinformation, you might well find a quiet slice of travellers' paradise.
In fact I have so many experiences to write about that I simply do not have the time or internet access to do them justice.

28 Jan 2009

This is Burma

"This is Burma," Rudyard Kipling once wrote. "It is quite unlike any land you know about."

Well we're not supposed to call it Burma these days - nearly everyone I speak to calls it Myanmar - but his words still ring true. Here indeed is a country very different from any other I have travelled through and that is quite a few.

My flight from Bangkok was delayed. Through a dense early morning mist the mysterious shape of the country finally began to reveal itself. I could pick out the pin gold flashes of religious stupas. There was the very real sense of entering an unknown country. It was exciting and enthralling, the pleasurable tinge of being on the cusp of having new things revealed to me. Here was a country that we really know so little about from the inside.

Yangon used to be called Rangoon under the British. In some ways, architectuarlly at least, its like they never really left. Here is a city which has been fermented by years of neglect and troical rains, still glued to its past. The lifestyles of many of its people are still....

see the photos here:

Should I go?

In case you didnt already know I am now inside Burma. Some people may disagree with me being here (I wonder how many times or how well travelled many might be) but let me address why I believe it is the right thing to come to a country that very few people know much about. For what its worth I met a man who has been visiting this country on and off for nine years. Not once in all that time did any person in the country tell him he shouldn't have come.
Tony Blair - amongst other so-called esteemed (but not informed obviously) experts - called for people to boycott this country. Please remind me how many times he actually visited here. Are we all supposed to unquestioningly defer to such people and lose all ability to think and act independently for ourselves?
Travel - and I write here with a strong weight of conviction - is an incredibly powerful force for good not least in raising awareness, deepening understanding and broadening knowledge and insight. Tourism, if conducted with a sufficiently open well informed mind, independent thought, sensitivity and discretionary purse can do a great deal to open up a country. In particular it affords some people in that country the opportunity to open up their lives to the outside world.
To some people I am effectively contributing to the human rights abuses of the Burmese government. Of course a small amount of money is likely to unavoidably end up in their pockets. But I am extremely discreet and careful where I choose to spend my dollars. I always try to travel as locals do. I eat where they eat. And I talk to people, lots of people. I listen respectfully to what they tell me. I am offering an income to them and an opportunity to opine which they would not otherwise have enjoyed.
How exactly can people ever be free when we keep them isolated? You tell me inwhich other ways are we going to so fully and comprehensively inform ourselves about a country whose regime thrives on being 'isolated'. This country is anything but isolated to those who matter and the sooner we stop pretending that sanctions - over 20 years worth - are working the better. Lives depend on it. They depend on us being well-informed, realistic and genuinely open-minded. The sanctions have been in place for two decades and they patently have not worked.
Under which of the following circumstances do you think a government is more likely to repress its people?
a) with no allowed in to see anything.
or b) with international visitors like me walking around asking awkward questions, probing for answers, taking photos, recording mnemories and conversations, interacting with local people...?
Ultimately, is it not better to be as well informed as possible or to remain in the dark?
How exactly am I legitimising a nasty government when I intend to do no more than share with you what I see, hear and what people I meet tell me?

If poeple want to feel ethically better about themselves for choosing to boycott and to help salve a conscious, thats up to them. But do you know what most boycotts and sanctions do? They make the poor poorer while the rich powerful elite drive fancier cars and live in more luxurious houses.
Who really pays the price of isolation? Who really has to make the big life-changing sacrifices of having sanctions imposed against them. You've guessed it, the people at the bottom. Who really gets punished?
SO why push a country, any country backwards. The only things we end up sanctioning - if we take a long hard cold look at the effectiveness - are the regime's own propaganda when we should be doing all we can to help demolish it. It is just like Iran.
Why not make the country a proper part of the world? Why not just flood it with travellers, trade, but also with information, ideas, technology, journalists, observers and opportunities?
boycotts can never be perfect or consistent anyway. WHose going to tell the French and the Germans that they have no morals for going on package tours? They'll just laugh at you dismissively.
By the same perverse logic are all smokers responsible for the deaths and exploiutation of children in developing countries by big tobacco companies because they purchase cigarettes? Are all American taxpayers responsible for the deaths of innocent civilians in Iraq becasue they happen to pay taxes to the American government?
And it matters very little what we ethically chose to do anyway because of one word: China. China controls much of the economy here already. It quietly got on with asserting itself and because we all stayed away we are near blind to it.
Tourism is anyway a drop in the economic ocean to this government compared to the revenues it generates from selling gas, teak and soon oil to thel ikes of not just China, but also Singapore and Japan.
Through apathy, misguided and ill-informed ideology and complacency we have left an entire people in near muted silence.
We should be encouraging as many people as possible to go and see and listen for themselves.
Its like a man said to me the other day...
"We are alive and I can feed my family because of tourists. Why is my country so neglected and forgotten? Please ask more people to come and speak to us."
"Go and see for yourself. Listen for yourself. Then you can decide. What will you know, or anyone know if you never come and never speak to us and us to you?"

23 Jan 2009

Border skirmishes

At the Cambodian border post I saw perhaps the funniest thing I had seen in the entire country. It was a hot, sweaty, dusty early afternoon. A slightly rotund policeman was patrolling the entrance channels.
Then out of the dusty nothingness came a galloping herd skinny white cows who were clearly intent on charging or rather sneaking past him and entering into Thailand. For a moment he appeared like the slenderest of rugby fullbacks overwhelmed by the prospect of an entire pack of huge beefy forwards hurtling towards him. And he began to panic.
Like a slumbering matador he stirred into belated action to wave them away. But the cows were having none of it. Only with the overdue assistance of a couple of chuckling colleagues did they manage to cows leaving Cambodia.
In all the frenzy of the excitement - a large crowd of border waitees were watching on riveted by the spectacle -one of the cows started to get promiscuously frisky. Maybe thats what the excitement of a border crossing does to you. It started to climb up onto another cow and proceeded to vigorously hump her from behind. This impromtu display of amorous affection threw all the other cows into disorientated confusion once more and they turned to have another crack at breaking past the wearied customs officals. The fat customs man had his walkie talkie out but that wasnt much use confronted by a herd of frisky cows.
Eventually another officer showed real intent and took off his designer shades and started to shout something in Cambodia which must have translated as something along the lines of the Dad's Army phrase: "Don't Panic! Don't Panic!"
Only the interception of a vehicle coming form the opposite direction was enough to finally deter the cows altogether. The humping became more subdued and off they skipped and frisked back into to dreary dust of the town they had just tried to escape.
I had no such luck, stuck for another two hot sweaty hours at the border before I bordered a sauna like bus (official temperature recorded at 38 degrees Celsius inside!).
But the cows simply trotted around the roundabout and, being the dumb creatures they are, came back again for another try. However, the customs men were fully prepared this time. The walkie talkies had been put away and they were now armed with brooms. Such is the circus of border crossings sometimes.

I now find myself residing at The White House....thats the White House in downtown Yangon, a city which crumbles with British colonial architectural legacies.

20 Jan 2009

Phnom Penh

Cambodia bills itself as the Kingdom of Wonder. It seems a very appropriate word in all its meanings. Cambodia makes you wonder in every sense of the word. From killing fields to Kingdoms of the Gods. From sleek Lexus tanks to wooden carts crammed with large coconuts. From swanky shopping boutiques to stinking sewars. The ugly and the beautiful fused awkwardly together rubbing along side by side. This is Cambodia. It truly is the kingdom of wonder and it is compelling viewing.

It is a relatively small country but with a big heart. The average wage for a hard day's work is probably much less than you would pay for a pint of beer. The rich do very well and the poor, well they just survive. From the sparkling to the seedy, the sleek to the sickening here is a city that bubbles with surprises.
It was around 6:30pm. The waiter had just plonked down my second cold beer onto my streetside table. I had immersed myself in a newspaper. As I glanced casually upwards amidst the lights and flashes or the motorbikes, cars and tuk-tuks I noticed a very large dark shape which caused me to do a double take and reassess the effect and strength of the beer I was consuming. There was a giant elephant nonchalantly plodding along right in front of my nose. Only in Phnom Penh, you might say. Here is a city where so much collides together in one place.

But the thing that I liked about Phnom Penh was that you could really see so much in such a short time. There was plenty to wonder at. It only required a weaving motorbike ride from one part of the city to another. A sleek black luxury car beside the grubby cripple desperately crawling through the dust and dirt of the streets pawing at passers by. Another cripple wriggles along like a severed worm. The city feels like a labyrinthe with multiple entrances and you can never enter all of them simultaneously.
Phnom Penh pulsates with same relentless flow and drive of the Mekong River. It wearies you and it beguiles you. The orange flashes of monks. A limbless beggar hobbles to your feet. Children playing merrily. Bright vivid bouginvillea flowers and gleaming gold palaces. The high rise skyscrapers and the the flimsy rotting wooden shacks. There was always something to make you raise an eyebrow in passin or cast a second glance. The city owned a defiant vibrancy and from the seat of a motorbike you really felt like part of its momentum.
I glanced across at the motorbike next to me. The man had a wide basket strapped to the back. Looking more closely at the basket's contents becasue they apperaed to be moving I confirmed that there were several large piglets snuggled together inside. On another motorbike I ocunted six human bodies squeezed together. Another maniac motorbike driver charging up the street on the wrong side. I watched someone get half run over.
The people without homes could be seen eating off the streets with the scavenging dogs. They washed their children outside while the women huddled into a corner of shade to cook or just sit. Children fending for scraps just across the road from the golden royal palace.

Another morning stroll, another bombardment of enthralling images. The World Toilet Association (no I didnt know there was such a thing but there is and it is based in South korea for some reason)were financing the construction of some proper public toilets. There looked a long way to go. A discarded pair of 'Dior' heels lie abandoned in the sandy dust. A man borrows a stool over a motorbike to help himself over a barrier which had been implemented to stop motorbikes clogging up the pavements.

And the hasslers can wear you down.
A news report in the Phnom Penh post caught my eye recently concerning the cold weather:
"The temperature hovered between 13 and 16 degrees Celsius and even dropped to a frosty 8 to 11 degrees during the night. This is the coldest year ever.
"People are wearing sweaters, gloves, hats and socks both during the day and even in the night to keep them warm. The Red Cross has had to supply sweaters to some parts..."
And I remember cycling in roughly similar temperatures in the far north of Scotland in the middle of July and the locals told me what a warm summer it was. Everything is relative, I suppose.
At the time of writing they were planning to launch a stock exhange here in Cambodia's capital. I wonder what Pol Pot and his brothers would have made of that.

I will write more on Cambodia when I can, but soon I shall be entering another mysterious country, Burma.

10 Jan 2009

Killing Fields of Cambodia

Choeung Ek. The name probably, almost certainly, means nothing to you. Add on 'Genocide Centre' or 'Killing Fields' and a bell of faint familiarity might begin to ring. This was once a wretched country where the hunger to kill was unprecedented. Untangling the tapesty of tragedy in this country takes some doing.
Pol Pot and his band of murderous Khmer Rouge accomplices only lasted less than four years but, in the name of the world's most illiterate and brutal revolutions of recent times, they managed to wipe out nearly one in five of Cambodia's population. They came to power in 1975, partly as a result of spillover from the Vietnam war rivalries and secretive American bombing of rural areas, before they were overthrown by Vietnamese backed forces in 1979. In that time around 1.7 million people lost their lives - thats little short of the entire population of a large city - and the country was near reversed back in history to the Stone Age. An entire nation was kidnapped and then besieged form within.
A large blinding white and innocuous tower stands in a field some 16 km outside the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh. Inside the tower are several layers of shelving. There is nothing remarkable about it at all. Until you notice that each shelf has been crammed with human skulls, sometimes piled on top of each other, several thousand of them.

As someone who once fractured my skull once, I even started to find it mildly interesting as I never realised there were three main types of trauma to the skull which ended life - blunt force trauma, sharp force trauma and gun shot wounds. Sadly, it was mostly the former two which were more common.
'Chopping or Hacking wound crossing the left lamdoid suture (left side of the back of the head'
'Multiple blunt impact sites with a complex system of skull fractures' And so on...
'Quiet please!' the signs read, but no one needs to be told. A warm wind rustled briskly through the trees, its caressing gentility utterly belying the chilling gruesomeness of what used to take place here.
The Killing Fields of Cambodia are exactly that - just ordinary looking fields where extra-ordinary levels of systematic killing took place.
Look at the skulls more closely and you can see the cracks where they were shattered. Hundreds of them. Every day. Death on the cheap, death on the crude and inhumanly nasty.
I've seen my fair share of the grim and misereable and depressing around the world, particualrly in parts of Africa and Afghanistan (www.alitravelstheworld.com/books/through_afghanistan/) And perhaps I became hardened to a few things. But here, digesting and visualising the very visible effects of organised mass murder, it was impossible not to be numbed, to find your breathing a little rougher and a bad taste envelops your mouth. Extremely sobering. And then you tihnk, 'How?' and 'Why?'
But really thses are simple questions that cannot be meaningfully answered. What I do know is that whenever I hear words like the following I shall be better able to put them into the context of their true perspective:
Devastating. Nightmare. Terror. Horror. Hell. Bloody. Cruel. Wicked. Beaten etc.
I've taken myself to peer into some very bleak cruelty in some other places - I had the same sensation in Auschwitz (www.alitravelstheworld.com/poland/), an Iranian war cemetry in Esfahan (www.alitravelstheworld.com/iran/iran_iraq_war/) Robben Island in South Africa and even when I marched through Bogota around this time last year (www.alitravelstheworld.com/colombia/colombia_against_terrorism/). And also when I was inside the Palestinian West Bank (www.alitravelstheworld.com/books/opening_up_the_middle_east/15_behind_the_wall_inside_palestine as a woman showed me a photo of her martyred nephew - especially poignant in light of recent Middle East events (see below). Can you for a moment imagine the intensity of hatred or anger you would feel to those who destroyed your home of killed someone in your family?
Everywhere you go, I believe you can never stop trying to learn and understand how and why things occurred to know why they happened. Becasue if we cannot learn from the past and know about it fully, then of course we are condemned to see things repeated. (see below)
Cambodian people may have managed to dig up thousands of bodies but you sense that their grisly past will be remain buried within them for a long time to come. And many people are still to dig up clear reasons for why it all happened, almost as if some of the fear is still instilled in them.
Tuol Sleng was a simple concrete school. It still looks like one when you arrive. The leaves of the palm trees tickle themselves around an open courtyard in the sunny wind. From the outside, it is almost pleasant. And then you remember why it is not.
Here under the Khmer Rouge, what were once school classrooms were converted into prison and torture cells. The floors remain tiled and the French style wooden shutters lend a misleading moderation of aesthetic kindness. Then you remember that out of 20,000 - twenty thousand - people who came here, only SEVEN survived with their lives intact.
The cream coloured walls are pockmarked with bullet holes, stains and grafiti. The prison cells were crudely erected with bricks an concrete, all crooked and uneven to divide up the large rooms. They simply couldnt build enough of the prison cells at one point.
Under Pol Pot, people who lived in towns and cities were considered inferior. Families were separarted in the name of collectivisation ideology. Children were forced to work or recruited as soldiers, which reminded me of what is happening now in Zimbabwe (see below), but thats another blog as there are plenty more similarities).
Money was near abolished (clever move that one) and everything was geared to producing spectacular (and tragically unobtainable) amounts of rice in the countryside - the peasants' revolution which nearly finished off all the peasants. Everything was a waste of time unless it was used to produce more rice.
Ultimately, and unsurprisingly, not enough rice was produced to fee everyone - plenty was exported and used to feed the army though. Suspicion and fear pervaded everywhere (again like Zimbabwe). ANyone who happened to be well-educated was out to death. Anyone who wore glasses couldnt risk doing so. People pretended to be illiterate to fit in with the 'brothers' and speaking a foreign language could also cost you your life as Pol Pot sealed off Cambodia to the world.
Rather like China's misguided ideology under Mao, there was a real disdain for education and intellectuals. People were considered enemies for having the wrong background. How ironic it was that Pol Pot (real name Saloth Sar - a man who never worked a rice field in his life and who was a teacher) and his cowardly coterie all hailed from the elite themselves educated men who thought they knew best. When in fact what they executed was, apart form the Taleban in Afghanistan, probably the world's most illiterate revolution or recent decades.
People were simply clubbed to death and shoved into large burial pits

After a while you wonder quite how much information you can absorb. Of course the human stories and factual information are totally compelling. But what impacts more forcefully are the human faces of the men, women and children. Their mug shots stare straight at you. Hundreds and thousands of eyes hinting at a multitude of gruesome stories. The eyes of men tortured to the very edge of imminent death and the eyes of men knowing their fate with a strange sense of almost exhilerated contentment in them that the agony of the punishments will soon be relived by the certainty of death.
The weary and exhasuted eyes, the defiant eyes, the shocked eyes, the disbelieving eyes. All of them, eyes of condemned men, women and children.

Some thirty years on, there is still no real formal justice procedure. Perversely, the men who did the butchering seemingly earned the right to live in freedom for decades without taking full responsibilities for what they did. Another huge failure of the international community (see below) was to allow the Khmer Rouge to retain the United Nations seat until 1991 - which meant that the murderers were representing their victims for well over a decade. Only at the UN could such a thing be possible.
As a statement in Tuol Sleng reads,
'The bones cannot find peace until the truth they hold inside them has been revealed.'

Israel and Gaza

And so with a weary familiarity, the world sighs as the Middle East combusts into flames of self-destruction and suffering once more.
Lets try to search for some answers. The Israeli leaders are being nakedly opportunistic. They have an election to fight next month and they have taken calculating advantage of both the distraction of the festive season in the west and the impotence of an outgoing American president in his final weeks in office. They are posturing with lives of innocent people.
But then when it came to the Middle East, of course, George Bush has always been the president who did nothing when he really needed to, and always did too much when he didn't need to act. You sense he probably still doesnt really know where the Gaza strip is, let alone have the slightest inclination what day to day life has been like there for Palestinians both before and after Israeli cranked up the aggressive exploitation.
You wonder what George Bush will (or can) do exactly when he retires. He could go and work for the Israeli government as their puppet spokesman. Oh hang on, that's already Tony Blair's job isn't it?
So what does Tony Blair do exactly, you might wonder. He is officially the ambassador of the so-called quartet of the EU, America, the UN and Russia. Shouldnt he be really earning his shekkels at this critical time? But no he seems content to sit on his hands in his palatial Jerusalem residence (when he is actually there at least and not spending his seven figure salary from JP Morgan for advising on banking - again didnt seem to earn his money there either did he really?). And George Bush sits with his feet on the desk in the White House. Both of them very clearly taking sides. Both of them having no conscience whatsoever about fiddling while the lives of innocent people burn.
I find it unfathomable why so many people keep blindingly swallowing the justifiactions of the Israeli government for doing what it is doing. Their slick media spokesmen protest that by smashing a city, and shattering the lives of hundreds of thousands of innocent people, they are 'just defending the Israeli people'. Really? By their logic, one injured Israeli is equivalent to a hundred dead Palestinians. How and why exactly is that the case? What has taken place is wholely preventable. Bombing an entire people just to stop a few rocket attacks is not only disgustingly disproportionate. It is also highly ineffective and very counter-productive.
Israel is now effectively creating a whole new generation of suicide bombers and rocket launchers, perhaps even more hard-line and militant than before, and for decades to come, sadly, that is how it will be. Bombing wedding parties, schools and clinics, even by accident, is extremely dumb, very wrong and doesnt work.
Keeping the media away is also a very calculating tactic. It is censorship becasue the Israeli government are afraid of the ugly truths that might be revealed and they dont want to be made accountable for murdering scores of innocent people. The lame excuse that anyone innocent who is perceived as an enemy is a lame and morally weak justification. Perhaps a political leader of any calibre (is there one of stature in office anywhere now in the world?) might have the political courage to say this.
The policy of military war-making for Israel has not exactly been successful i nrecent times, has it? If it was then they wouldnt need to keep doing. So maybe they should think harder and more thoroughly about the causes of their unsatisfactory security. The solutions to this part of the world have to be political and economic. After my travels through the region, this was very much the conclusion I found myself reaffirming.
Ultimately, Israel will need to talk to people, understand their concerns and deal with them and compromise. And the world needs to stop viewing the Middle EAst in such patronising and simplistic terms. It is a labyrinthe with many entrances. But as long as Israel maintains the Palestianian people under an oppressive economic siege (to say nothing of the military siege funded and equipped by America remember) then its security will always be undermined.
I happen to know some good and likeable Israeli people, but there are too many Israeli's who are one-eyed and badly informed about parts of their world which are afterall right on their own doorstep and they can never travel too. A proper sense of proprortional perspective might be more useful, especially for a people for whom the destructive consequences of war should in no way require any reminders. Smashing up innocent peoples lives and shattering their homes wont work 'Never again'. We keep hearing those words when it comes to war. Think Rwanda, Sudan, Iraq even. But the words seem empty, meaningless and easily forgotten. Is there not a better alternative? Dont bank on the world's lame politicians to come up with one anytime soon.

Laos, the sleepy country wakes up

Laos is the sleepy country and it is waking up. It is the country that feels like it has been left on standby mode, a little slow to rouse itself.
Laos is the country that you may unashamedly never have heard of. Some might place it somewhere in Africa. But it is a country we might be hearing a lot more about.

more to follow....