We headed into town in the morning to change some money, buy some more Colin Cotterill Dr. Siri mysteries – I figured that buying the entire series here in Laos would keep some of the profits here – and to wander a little around the main streets.
We spent some time at Wat Sisaket. It is a Buddhist wat, built in 1818. It is built in a Siamese style rather than Lao style, and was spared the destruction that took place to most of the rest of Vientiane in 1827. It is possibly the oldest wat still standing in Vientiane, and has been restored twice in its history. There were more interior restoration works to temple frescoes and decorations going on inside when we visited (funded by a German program). The cloisters hold over 2000 ceramic and silver Buddha images.
We presumed that the couple in these photos was having wedding photos taken. When we spoke to Mike about it he said that traditionally there will be many photos taken of the happy couple prior to the actual wedding ceremony. These photos, taken in a variety of locations with a variety of backdrops, are then on display at the ceremony. I thought that they looked stunning – especially the fabrics in the bride’s outfit. I need to investigate traditional Lao clothing further.
A significant and recurring topic of conversation during the course of the day and the evening was around foreign aid and its effectiveness in the country. I have been mulling this over most of the night, and include some links here for my own reference and for any of you who may be interested. So much of the money that is donated never makes it to the intended recipients. Without proper oversight and accountability, cash is continually siphoned off along the way by people who are involved in the projects. It seems that if there is money to be made, people will make it. Cultural value clashes and differing government priorities add to the complexity of the issues.
How can those of us in wealthy countries NOT help those who need assistance?
But how can we help others effectively without inadvertently causing harmful longer-term consequences?
My priorities are around health and education – to me, without these being addressed, how can a nation effectively manage the needs of the people and build their skill base? How many huge concrete buildings that are basically empty does a country need? When at the same time it doesn’t even have doctors with internationally recognised qualifications?
Jeepers. This is difficult stuff. Further reading:
- Australia’s Aid Program to Laos
- US Overseas Loans and Grants to Laos
- Chinese Aid to Laos – a mixed blessing
- Briefing paper on Foreign Aid to Laos by Meking Watch
- Care Australia – projects in Laos
- Pros and Cons of Foreign Aid – Asia Pacific Economics Blog
- The Dark Side of Foreign Aid – The Diplomat
The Victory Monument, Patuxai, was built between 1957 and 1968. It was built using American funds and concrete – which was actually intended for a runway at the airport. The government of Laos clearly had different plans, and this was the result!
Poor little Stella was the first of us to fall victim to a tummy upset, and spent from 8pm to 2.30am vomiting every hour or so. She seems to be very much on the improve this morning though. One of the reasons we have chosen to spend a number of nights in each location is to accommodate any illnesses that might arise. We figure that with four of us contacting new-to-us germs and even just with the change in food types and daily routines and rhythms, some minor illness was inevitable. Fingers crossed that we’re all fairly well from here on.