Jun 23, 2007

Online Stuff

I’ve gone commercial. If you didn’t notice way down the sidebar near my profile I added a google adsense ad. Last month I made two cents, I don’t know how I made this money, if it was because someone clicked on a link or just by volume alone. When my earnings top a hundred dollars, adsense is going to send me a check. I’ll keep my day job for now.

My General Vang Pao posting has generated a lot of hits via google searches. My hit counter has doubled to about a whopping forty per day! I expect things will settle down once a trial is scheduled. I assume Hmong people are thirsty for news of the General and the ongoing investigation. I also got some flames submitted that I didn’t post. The comments are moderated and now you have to register with google or something. If anyone has anything to add please email via link in profile, I’d be glad to post, but please no political flames. You can specify anonymous or not. I reserve the right to edit and completely change your original meaning.

How can I tell people are googling looking for information about Vang Pao? It’s that little thing down the bottom of the right sidebar called site meter. It tells how many people have viewed the web site, what pages they looked at, the geographic area of the server that they used to enter the blog, the link they used to go to the blog, and even which page they looked at first and last.

That’s right, a lot of information about who looks at the site. Every other web page in the world can do this too. If you live in a big town or your server is connected to a lot of computers you could be anyone. If your server is linked to only a few computers your anonymity isn’t as protected.

Also contributing to my hit count, was a complimentary at-a-boy from the Travelfish site. My first thought was, “cool what a compliment”, my second thought was, what do you mean I don’t use a guidebook? When I thought about it I realized Ban Wa Tai and Ou Tai, aren’t in the guidebook. I do take the Lonely Planet Guidebook with me, I just don’t use it for hotels, restaurants, or ideas on where to go, or even maps. What I do use it for is the background about all the towns and the history and peoples of the area. Often it’s the only thing I have to read in English, away from the internet that book gets thumbed through pretty well.

While I’ve been back checking out Travelfish site a few things have caught my eye. A list of ten ways to make your trip cost a lot less that is interesting. It suggests you buy a digital camera and don’t drink so much, suggestions I’d certainly agree with. I also liked a sober look at the safety of Lao Airlines from a logic or statistical viewpoint. Travelfish also has a blog that’s fun to check out for a less official look at South East Asian travel. From a travellers perspective the new downloadable e-guides look like an improvement over conventional guide books, you pay a couple dollars and get sent a link to a PDF guide that you can download and print or just look at on the net. Kind of a way to save you from doing all the cutting and pasting from his site. Less weight than a guidebook and area specific.

Joe’s gone and Andrew’s in. Over the years between the Thai guide and the Lao guide I’ve come to appreciate the writer Joe Cumings, the guy who used to write the Lao guide. He has spent a long time in the area and knew a lot about the language, food and towns in Laos. Often when the only thing written about a town is five paragraphs, and you are the only English speaker there, you read those five paragraphs very thoroughly. If three of the five paragraphs are about the a Wat, well maybe it’s worth going and taking a look. A lot of his information about what types of foods are local specialties and what part of town to look for them in, is as current now as when it was written.

The new writer, who actually wrote the part about Southern Laos in the old book, which I didn’t take with me for my brief mosey down to Pakse with the family, because we were headed to Thailand and my wife thought taking that brick of a bible of a book, was just a little too much, just this one time, if you please, is named Andrew Burke.

I’ve already read something by Mr. Burke on the Lonely Planet Web Site, it’s just the sort of thing I like to read, a short motorcycle adventure into the Xaysambon special zone and the old CIA/Hmong airbase at Long Chen. Andrew also wrote some thoughts about the abduction of Pawn, the co owner of The Boat Landing Eco Lodge. I wish more people would write about Pawn until he is released by whoever took him. If anyone is headed to Luang Namtha please make a point of stopping by the Boat Landing Guest house, and get some food at their restaurant, it will help support Pawn’s family and also eco tourism in Northern Laos. I strongly recomend the jeao macpet, or young chili peppers jeao. I’m hoping more of Mr. Burke’s writing also makes it’s way into the lonely planet guide, so to save it from becoming only a list of restaurants, and guest houses.

I check a trio of personal blogs of Vientiane expats regularly, but they are mostly about expat living. I also check the blog of Jo the physical therapist who kind of invented her own work while visiting Laos as a tourist. She managed to fund herself and has gone back to do a lot of good work. She seldom posts, I think she works a lot. An excerpt of her latest entry.

Through contacts in Muang Sing that work for Health Frontiers we were asked to see a family in another village who were trying to find help for their son who had lost a leg. They told us about another boy that they had heard about, all they knew was that a trekking guide who worked in the town might know where he lived. The directions were vague but eventually we arrived at the village. Santar was sitting on a small wooden stool. His younger brother was wearing a traditional Yao hat and sat silently on his grandmothers knee. We stared at each other for a while.

Link to Jo's Story of Santar

Straycat/Lao Meow continues to post even better accounts of her trip down the Nam Ou from Phongsali Province. If anything her posts have become even more detailed, my favourite of late, is called Wat Sikhounuang, there are actually four parts to this one post, scroll back. I too saw this Wat and took detailed photos, but had no idea what I was looking at. Fun to have it explained. For anyone interested in Buddhism or Lao culture, you have to take a look. It’s still the only blog about Laos that I go back and re read three times.

On the right hand side of my blog I’ve added a new links list called “maps” it includes the largest scale Vientiane map I’ve yet to see. It clearly shows the airport and the Southern bus station, two things usually left off maps as they are outside the city centre. The best part is in the upper right corner where the square walls of the jail at Somke are clearly shown as well as the water tower at Ban Amone. This is the area where I have many in-laws, mostly outside the confines of Somke.

The other map is even better, it shows Northern Laos as well as fifty or a hundred kilometres into the adjacent countries. It’s great for maintaining a perspective on just where the heck you are at, and for border crossings.

Speaking of which, the crossing from Muang Kuah to Dien Bien Phu is now open, which hopefully will bring some much needed traffic to Phongsali province. now if they could just open a border to China up, like that one over by Boun Neua and Boun Tai, there would be some through traffic generated. Also China and Thailand have committed to building the bridge at Hway Xai, making the Kunming to Chiang Rai route, all good roads, and no boats. According to the Bangkok Post the villagers on either side are already being bought out, real estate speculators have bought up adjoining land and work on the roads leading to the bridge are set to begin, with completion of the whole thing for 2011. Makes sense, otherwise why spend all that money for the highway to Luang Namtha. Certainly no reason for a modern highway in that part of Laos to go to the Boat Landing.

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