Friday, November 17, 2017

VIENTIANE'S VERTICAL RUNWAY

Once upon a time in Laos, the Americans thought an airport is needed and gave funds to the Lao Royal Government to build one.

But instead of an airport, the government decided to build a Laotian Arc de Triomphe, the Anousavary Monument, to honor those who died fighting against the Siamese, Japanese and French colonizers and invaders.

Thus was the story of the Vertical Runway, built between 1957 and 1968, and later renamed as the Patuxai Monument to commemorate the rise to power of the Pathet Lao in 1975.





Vientiane is a small city and points of interest can easily be reached by foot which is perfect for a morning walker like me.

So the next day and armed with a map, I set on foot for the Patuxai Monument which I thought is the nearest historical landmark from my hotel. 

From Rue Pangkham, I turned left to what I thought was Avenue Lanexang [it was Boulevard Khounboulum] and got lost before being directed by a hotel receptionist then by store guard to a big road [Rue Samsenthai] where I should turn left. 

It was in Samsenthai that I "discovered" the new Lao National Cultural Hall and the old Lao National Museum along with the realization that I actually walked a full circle through fully preserved examples of French colonial architecture, and that Avenue Lanexang is actually just behind my hotel.

And at the intersect of Samsenthai and Lanexang, the first point of interest is actually the Wat Si Saket, Vientiane's oldest standing museum, and right across the temple is the Palais Presidentiel, the unoccupied official residence of the Lao president.

On the opposite end of Lanexang 1.4 kilometers away near the Naga-guarded entrance to the Wat Phra That Phoun is the Vertical Runway AKA Patuxai Monument.      



It was while walking lost that I also did a reconnaissance of Lao street food but it was while searching for the That Dam, the legendary gold gilded home of a seven headed serpent, that I stumbled into an open barbecue strip along Rue Phainam and fell in love with grilled Sai Oua, that ubiquitous Lao sausage that undoubtedly is a manifestation of the French colonial era and yet so oriental in taste with hints of lemongrass, galangal, kaffir and fish sauce.



There were of course river fish from the Mekong River and bits of meat [pork, beef, chicken] but it was the Sai Oua and that daily bowl of hot Lao noodles from the Family Boutique breakfast buffet that I raised my glass of red wine [and ate my fried chicken wings, spring rolls and chicken satay] during the reception cocktails at the Settha Palace Hotel.       



My Vientiane however is not about airports, monuments, temples and sausages.

It was for me a spread of keynotes, plenaries, parallel sessions and a petite vape-smoking French lawyer expounding on international legal frameworks for responsible agriculture investments.

That was such a day and with an unofficial "reception" Spanish dinner [after the official cocktail reception] of salad, calamari and grilled meat at Pimenton's along Rue Nokeokoumman.    


Monday, November 13, 2017

THE 31st ASEAN SUMMIT COMES TO MANILA

but during the dry runs and before the orange barriers came, the women of ASEAN wove stories in their purple shawls 


Bulan too came and went from the ASEAN Youth Forum, told his story in between hazy brews and burnt meat from Maginhawa   



there was SEAFish for Justice convening in Ferzal except Thien, a discourse on life with dignity in blurry lines   


went home to a Convention that got struck by a tropical depression, came back to a Sunday market for the schublig and grilled squid


then the leaders came in blazing sirens and armed escorts, corporate greed squeezing their people out of places to go    



Monday, November 06, 2017

NANA ONE-LINERS

i was supposed to be cleaning tombs instead of walking through the sleaze of Nana


i am supposed to be feeding hungry ghosts instead of being laughed at by a squashed jack-o-lantern


i should have been enjoying home in Bacal 2 instead of being in Ploenchit for table discussions and workshops 


so i searched in the edges of Soi 4 for beer and peace, and walked to the railroad tracks in Sukhumvit for food


i am glad that San Miguel has made it to the world's beer parade although Chang is my lager in Bangkok


i took the train to Ratchaprarop, ate fried pork for lunch, and almost had a duck dinner in Prachak


every night, i passed makeshift cafes where zombies from Nana Plaza become alive for a while


boy, am i glad to be home and drunk on Saturday, and enjoy the ride to Maangol on Sunday