Day Two (Continued from December 2007 issue)
This was a time of great puzzlement. How to find the Thai - Laos friendship bridge (สะพานมิตรภาพไทยลาว). At 1.8 kilometers long it was easy to see the great expanse from the bus. But where was the entrance to cross over the river to Vientiane?? The driver repeatedly missed turns and made many U-turns back and forth. Finally, at the entrance, two Thai guides and a charming Laotian woman guide got on the bus. It was time for after-lunch exercise. Getting off the bus, we were handed a visa document (All documents had the same person’s photograph); each gave the document to border officers and we got back on the bus. Then again, off the bus with the luggage and we boarded a new bus equipped for driving in Laotian traffic.
The Lao guide educated us on the “straightness” of the Lao language. Also, at that point we were physically-- 22 kilometers to Vientiane; 12 kilometers to a 9-hole golf course; 22 kilometers to an 18-hole course; and 65 kilometers to a casino.
It was near dinnertime so we stopped at a local market for snacks to fight off gnawing hunger pains. Many locals were buying fresh ingredients for dinner. However, deep-fried whole squirrel or, an assortment of cooked insects did not lresemble our regular menu. Most of us chose ice cream and bags of Thai snack food. Back on the bus we all eagerly looked forward to dinner. Before our meal, a raft ride on a small river was the next adventure.
While the sun was setting, we boarded a large raft with comfortable triangle pillows on the floor. A long low serving table was holding glasses of cool Lao beeer. The gentle cruise brought back pleasant memories of the evening river cruise on Chiangmai‘s Mae Ping. In the dark, we boarded the floating restaurant for an evening meal complete with a “Cabaret” show performed by the two Thai guides decked out in appropriate ruffles, sequins and bouffant wigs.
After checking in the Royal Red Flower Hotel (โรงแรมรอยัล"อกไม้แ"ง) in Vientiane, Editor Goson and colleagues ventured out for a city nightlife tour. Looking back on a visit ten years ago to two cities then small and quiet. Now Luang Prabang, a World Heritage site is growing due to increased tourism, meanwhile, Vientiane has changed in that same direction. However, Vientiane may survive because of considerable vacant land outside the city and its small population.
Next morning, the kind attention of a young Laotian waitress added to the nice breakfast buffet in the hotel. We were entertained with live piano music. This must have been popular in the days of graceful journeys.
Outside the hotel around 9 am, a noisy traffic jam was at its zenith. Several motorbikes came over the footpath while we were cuing to get in the bus.
In the countryside, we viewed wild grass, cows and pastures. Nearly every official building had a sign in English language identifying the agency’s name. Before arriving at the Royal Project, we learned about former President Graisorn Promwiharn of Laos who asked our king for assistance after a visit the Royal Project at Huay Hong Krai, Chiangmai on January 10, 1992.
The following year, H.M. King assigned a team from both countries to select a suitable site for the Agricultural Development Service Project at Huay Zorn-Huay Zua (ห้วยซอน _ ห้วยซั้ว), Nayang Village, Na Zaithong township about 22 kilometers north of Vientiane. The parameters were based on the successful model project at Poopaan, Sakornnakorn province a royal project not far from Vientiane. The similar needs were water resource, ponds and reservoirs, fish farm, cattle raising, land and soil development, and technical studies. This project of King Bhumibol was started 19 years ago.
On April 8, 1994, Their Majesties King and Queen, and Princess Srindhorn presided at the opening ceremony, inspected and observed the area of Huay Zorn and Huay Zua. Succinctly, the King’s philosophy is when people are happy the country is peaceful. All these projects were initiated with the hope that the citizens would live happily. No emphasis is placed on a particular citizen group or nationality, Thai or Laotian. As long as any citizen of any country is happy and peaceful, that country will be stable.
At that time major problems in agriculture, fishery, husbandry, cattle raising, soil development for farmers were solved by introducing effective methods to produce animal feed, fishmeal, raise vegetables and plants. Controlling water supply to overcome insufficient water supply has been successful. Seven years later, the Crown Princess visited and evaluated the project.
Presently, the villagers have hybrid fish, animal, vegetable; have cottage handicraft industry; increased education in agriculture; and ongoing village fund and cooperative. Big income earners for villagers are bamboo weaving and tailoring. To date, 142 ponds have been excavated. Constant water supply comes from lake, waterfall and rainfall. This successful project is due to the cooperation of two countries, Thailand and Laos. Potential development will be building another reservoir for additional water source to collect and store water.
Over the years, the staff has increased to 40 employees. Students come from all over Laos to study while villagers come to practice working techniques. Previously villagers on site earned Baht 690 before the royal project, The income has increased to Baht 7,100 in the 9 villages or 859 people who benefit.
The Cultural Orphanage School (โรงเรียนวั'นธรรม เ"็กกำพร้า หลัก 67) located in Muang Pone Hoang township about 67 kilometers north of Vientiane was founded on 7 November 1976. After the Indochina war, the school started with 100 orphans rescued from the jungle. Later 200 underprivileged children from other cities were brought to this school. By 1980 nearly 400 students attended primary, secondary and high school levels, the Laotian government asked aid from neighboring governments to support the school.
In 1991 Crown Princess visited and donated 12 million Geeb (Kip) to construct the Sirinthorn Building officially opened on 16 October 1992. Nutrition program, health care, water supply and farm programs were instituted. In 1984, Crown Princess donated another building and two dormitories. During the King’s visit, an inspection of the pond digging and fish raising was undertaken.
In 2000, Crown Princess returned to inspect and donated funds for training and repairs. She saw the need for long distance education resulting in both citizens and government workers benefiting from the education programs.
We walked into the hall still decorated in colorful banners and flags for the Crown Princess who had visited the school the previous day with over 2,000 people and children gathering to see her. It was the first time she had lunch there.
Before the arriving at the orphanage, the Laotian guide suggested, we, as a group bring the children some goodies. We stopped at a local shop and purchased milk, custard cakes and fruit. Two musicians in our group later played guitar and sang folk songs for the children who were delighted to clap along.
Continued in Next issue
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