SPORTS, GAMBLING, PETS AND RECREATION IN LAOS

SPORTS IN LAOS

Thai style boxing is big in Laos. The Lao version of the sport is nearly identical to the Thai version. Laotians watch matches broadcast from Bangkok. There isn’t much action for boxers in Laos so boxers with potential usually make their way to Thailand, where the money is. See Thailand.

Bullfights and cockfights are sometimes featured at festivals. Soccer is popular in Laos but Laotian teams are not very good. Occasionally you can see games at Vientiane’ National Stadium or fields or stadiums in the provincial cap itals. The national soccer team doesn’t do very well in Asia-wide competitions, let alone worldwide ones.

Laos hosted the Southeast Asia Games in December 2009.

Takraw

Kataw is the Lao name for takraw. Takraw—a sport played with a rattan ball—is enjoyed by both children and adults. Described as “volleyball for the feet, “ the game is easily set up, as little space is required. Players perform aerial pirouettes, spiking the ball over the net with their feet. Only the feet and head are permitted to touch the ball.

Takraw is played in all regions of Thailand by people from all walks of life. There are takraw championships at national and international levels, especially for sepak takraw, the net version of the game, which is now included in the Southeast Asian Games and Asian Games. Thai players dominate the sport and takraw stars have become national heroes. Thailand won the gold medal in both men’s and women’s sepak takraw in 2002 Asian Games.

Takraw players have to be both physically and mentally fit. They have developed detailed, professional techniques. Players are acrobatic, using their feet and their legs to control the ball. The techniques are categorized into four types: firm reception, accurate service, graceful postures, and flexible kicks.

A variation has players kicking the ball into a hoop 4.5 meters above the ground, which takes on the look of “basketball with the feet,” but without a backboard. Hoop takraw is a popular takraw game in Thailand. The game is played on a circular field, roughly 60 meters in diameter. At the center of the is a goal, usually a cluster of three hoops. The object is to get the bal into the hoop without letting it hit the ground or touch the hands. Points are scored by making a goal, with extra points added of it is done with particular style or flair. The lowest number of points are scored with a simple kick. The highest points are awarded for kicking the ball behind the back with both feet together. A legendary player know as Daeng was said to have had an infinite variety of shots. Perhaps the most spectacular was when he lay down all on the ground on all fours and leap off the ground, hitting the ball in the goal with his rear end.

Sepak Takraw

Sepak Takraw is an interesting sport that you see played all over Southeast Asia. Essentially it is volleyball played without using your hands and arms. It is very exciting to watch a good player leap high into the air, flip around and spike the ball with his foot at 60 miles per hour and then fall on his head and shoulders without hurting himself.

Sepak Takraw is played with a special rattan bag in a badminton court. It is known by different names in different countries: sipak in the Philippines, takraw in Thailand and sepak raga in Malaysia. Sepak Takraw was coined in 1965 at the Southeast Asia Games by combining the Malay word for kick (“speak”) and the Thai word for ball surprisingly “ takraw”). Malaysia has lobbied to get sepak takraw accepted as an Olympic sport

The origin of Sepak Takraw is not known. Malays claim it was invented in Malaysia while Thais claim it was invented in Thailand. The game was reportedly played in royals courts in feudal Malaysia an is associated with the great Malayan hero Hang Tuah. In this version of game participants gathered in a circle and tried to keep the ball from hitting the ground. During the British colonization period, it was played mainly in villages as a s lunchtime pastime by working boys.

Competition sepak takraw is played with three players on a team and has rules similar to volleyball and badminton. Play begins with a served (kicked) and each side is allowed three hits (the same as volleyball) before it is delivered over the net to the other team. The scoring is like badminton. The first team to 15 wins. Laos in the Olympics

Laos has competed in eight Summer Olympic Games. They have not yet appeared at the Winter Olympic Games and also have not yet won an Olympic medal. Before the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, marathoner Sirivanh ketavong trained for four years in the same running shoes he wore at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta.

Laos competed at the 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London. This was the nation's eighth appearance at the Olympics, except the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, because of its partial support to the Soviet boycott. Three Laotian athletes were selected to the team by wild card entries in athletics and swimming, without having qualified. This was also the nation's smallest team after the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney. Sprinter Kilakone Siphonexay was the nation's flag bearer at the opening ceremony. He competed in the men’s 100 meter sprint. His time was 11.30. Laenly Phoutthavong competed in the women’s 100 meter sprint. Her time was 13.15. Pathana Inthavong swam the men's 50 meter freestyle.[Source: Wikipedia]

The National Olympic Committee of Lao was formed in 1975 and officially recognized by the International Olympic Committee in 1979. Laos first appeared in the 1980 Moscow games. It entered six boxers all of whom lost their first fight, and six runners, all of whom finished in last place in their heat, except for one who finished second to last. One set a national record. Thipsamay Chantaphone’s time is the 20-kilometer walk was 21 minutes slower than the next slowest competitor. As of 2000 every Laotian athletes had finished last or next to last or lost his first fight. The exception was marathoner Sirivanh Ketavong who finished 64th out of 66 in 1996. [Source: David Wallechinksy. Parade, August 2004 ><]

David Wallechinksy wrote in Parade: “But these losses must be put into perspective: Even in the final weeks before Athens, the Laotian sprinter Philaylack Sackpraseuth, 17, was still working out just two hours a day several days a week (up from her usual one-hour-a-week workouts). Swimmer Vilayphone Vongphachanh, 18, trains in a 25-meter pool—half the size of Olympic pools—just once a week unless there is a major competition on the horizon...Limited resources like these are the norm.” ><

Khan Bob Malaythong

Vientiane-born Lao-American Khan Bob Malaythong, a member of the USA Badminton Olympic team, competed in the 2008 games in Beijing in Men's Doubles and Mixed Doubles. In the Men’s Doubles he played with 2004 Olympian and 2005 world champion Howard Bach. Malaythong and Bach won the following events in 2007: Irish International Championships, Men's Doubles (Gold), U.S. Open, Men's Doubles (Silver), Pan American Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Men's Doubles (Silver), Pan American Badminton Championships in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, Men's Doubles (Silver) and U.S. Adult National Championships, Men Doubles (Champion). [Source: Rachel Cooper, About.com Guide]

Malaythong was born in 1981 in Vientiene, Laos. His hometown is Rockville, Maryland. He graduated from William Jefferson Palmer High School in Colorado Springs, where he was a resident athlete at the Colorado Springs Olympic Training Center. He attended Santa Ana College, at got an Associate in Arts Degree there in 2006. In 2008 he lived in Orange, California and was a Part-time badminton coach at the Orange County Badminton Club.

Greg Bishop wrote in the New York Times, “Down the street from Disneyland, a 27-year-old who never had a childhood practices a kid’s game that will take him to the Beijing Olympics. Bob Malaythong is home here, on the courts of the Orange County Badminton Club, playing and teaching and living the game that defines him. He is home here, on courts sandwiched between a printing press and a Thai restaurant, smacking shuttlecocks behind his back, over his head, the sound — thwack! — inducing winces from opponents. “Don’t worry,” Malaythong said. “Ortiz flinched exactly the same way.” Ortiz would be David Ortiz, the Boston Red Sox slugger. He teamed with Chicago Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher to play badminton against Malaythong and his partner, Howard Bach, in a national commercial for Vitamin Water. The commercial ends with Ortiz spiking the shuttlecock deep into Malaythong’s leg. Urlacher, the self-proclaimed badminton champion of the Bears’ locker room, came away impressed. “Those dudes could smash it whenever they wanted,” he said. [Source: Greg Bishop, New York Times, July 31, 2008]

Life of Khan Bob Malaythong

Greg Bishop wrote in the New York Times, “Malaythong’s road to Beijing wound from the family home in Laos, from where his sister escaped; to Maryland, where he first settled in the United States; to Colorado, where he cooked for Olympians; to California, where he became one. “He has what we call a fighting spirit,” said Rudy Gunawan, an Olympic silver medalist from Indonesia who helps USA Badminton. [Source: Greg Bishop, New York Times, July 31, 2008 >>>]

“Malaythong’s sister Mary escaped communist Laos in 1980 at age 18. “I was the oldest,” Mary said. “The family was getting poor. It was hard for me, but I didn’t see any future for my family. I had to escape.” She first crossed into Thailand, but not before swimming across a river and not before authorities held her at gunpoint. Six months in Thailand led to five months in the Philippines, until she received sponsorship to move to the United States.Mary landed in Chicago, moved to Rockville, Md., and has not stopped working. For decades, she worked seven days a week, 12 to 15 hours a day, up to three jobs at a time. She nursed the elderly, worked on assembly lines. She never called in sick. >>>

“Back in Laos, Bob, the family’s youngest child, was born in 1981. He remembers only snippets from the nine years he lived there. He remembers the winding dirt roads, the single pair of spandex underwear and the lonely pair of donated sneakers. He wore the shoes only for pictures. Mostly, he remembers his father, Nath, who drove a taxi and waxed philosophically during hot, windless nights on the porch. “If you whistle, the trees will start blowing and the wind will follow,” Nath told Bob. >>>

“In 1990, Malaythong and his mother moved from Laos to Mary’s house in Maryland. Expectations included a college education, a good job, a family of his own. Hobbies stopped at two — baby-sitting for Mary’s kids and badminton, the sport that consumed his dreams. Malaythong drew different emotions from his sister’s path, from her work ethic, from the family still in Laos. He drew strength. And he drew guilt. “I do feel guilty,” he said. “Badminton is just a game. It’s not life or death. Sometimes, if I’m unmotivated, I think about people dying out there, living without shoes, without anything to eat. I consider myself lucky.” >>>

“Six years later, Malaythong, 14, moved to the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, where he lived for four years. He lived there on a tourist visa, training for badminton, going to high school and working a variety of jobs. He washed dishes, cleared plates, manned the front counter. He took additional work baking cookies and making burritos at restaurants in town. He made more money there than he ever dreamed of — $6, $7 an hour, enough to buy CDs and more than his father made driving cabs in Laos. >>>

“Malaythong moved to California with USA Badminton in 2000. There he was on his own, and admits he took the ease of his life in Colorado Springs for granted. The burden grew. Each advancement in badminton served only to advance his guilt. Five siblings remained in Laos, all with families of their own. He wanted to help, but he made enough only to support himself. He had come to America to study, to make money and send it home. And here he was: single, living for free with a family, chasing a dream he was not sure his family would understand. “They don’t say it, but I feel it,” he said. “The burden.” An Olympic-size burden, one that kept Malaythong awake at night, kept him worried, quiet and reserved. Worse still, his father died of pancreatic cancer in March. Malaythong had promised Nath that he would make the Olympic team. He spoke dreamily of visiting Laos, triumphant, with something to show for all those years of smacking shuttlecocks instead of studying. >>>

“Nath was living in Maryland by then, and after Malaythong found out that his father had cancer, he went to see him. Nath died seven hours before his son arrived. He was 73. “I always have a feeling he’s looking over me,” Malaythong said. “I have a feeling that he’ll give me the strength when the time comes.” >>>

Malaythong recently went to a sports psychologist to talk about his burdens. More than anything, though, he needed to make the Olympic team, to prove to his father — and his family — that the sacrifices meant something. When he did, Malaythong said he felt like Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning after he won the Super Bowl — as if 50,000 monkeys were flying off his back. He started to redefine success, worrying less about the degrees he did not earn and the money he did not make, focusing on recognition and respect. Along the way, he learned to play badminton for the one person he found in this whole process — himself. “Now, I am an Olympian,” said Malaythong, who is not considered a medal favorite. “And I’m an Olympian for life.” >>>

“Bach noticed a chance in his partner, a loosening, a man emerging from his shell. But it would be too easy to say the burden lifted. For instance, Malaythong did not tell his family about the commercial. Not enough time to watch it. But Mary, tipped by a co-worker, did see it. “I’m so proud,” she said. >>>

“Two versions of the perfect ending loom. In one, Malaythong stands next to Bach atop the podium, overwhelmed by pride, remembering the sacrifices — of his sister, of his father, of the family he now lives with — it took for him to get there. He shares the medal with everyone, family in Laos and in Maryland, coaches and supporters. In the other, he loses in the Olympics, but no one can remove the fact that he made it there. He moves to Boston, where he has signed a contract to coach a youth badminton program, at once making money to send home and growing the kid’s game that gave him the life he knows today. Then he returns home, full circle, unburdened for the first time since childhood, an Olympian to boot. >>>

Recreation and Entertainment

Laos currently has no golf course but there are plans to build two courses to attract affluent foreign tourists.

Peter Lloyd of ABC News wrote: “Vientiane is a capital with more bowling allies than nightclubs, and in a city with precious little to offer in the way of after hours entertainment, this is a pastime that has captivated locals. The fact that the bowling alley bar does a roaring trade in whiskey helps keep the crowed enthusiastic, if not precise.” One Vientiane resident told Lloyd: “I have nothing to do, so I start playing the bowling in Vientiane.” When asked why people bowl, the resident said, “ I think they have nothing to do at nighttime.” [Source: Peter Lloyd, ABC, November 28, 2004]

There are virtually no movie theaters in Laos. There used to be. Most people watch pirated Hollywood and Hong Kong films on video or DVD at home or in video halls.

For the most part entertainment means sitting around at home and drining lao-lao. There are some karaokes and, in the cities and bigger towns, dance halls called disco where people drink and dance and listen to I’ve bands.

See Karaoke, Prostitutes, Pop Music, Drinking, Drinking Customs

Chinese Gambling Haven on the Mekong River in Laos

Andrew R.C. Marshall of Reuters wrote: “On the Laotian bank of the Mekong, clearly visible from where the ill-fated Chinese ships stopped, an enormous crown rises above the tree line. It belongs to a casino, part of a burgeoning gambling empire hacked from the Laotian jungle by a Chinese company called Kings Romans in English and, in Chinese, Jin Mu Mian ("golden kapok"), after the kapok trees that carpet the area with flame-red flowers. [Source: Andrew R.C. Marshall, Reuters, January 27, 2012 /=/]

“Kings Romans controls a 102-sq-km (39-sq-mile) special economic zone (SEZ) which occupies seven kilometer (four miles) of prime Mekong riverbank overlooking Myanmar and Thailand. The company's chairman is also the SEZ's president: Zhao Wei, a casino tycoon who hails from a poor peasant family in China's northeastern Heilongjang province. Zhao was unable to talk to Reuters because he was preparing to welcome Laotian president Choummaly Sayasone to a Chinese New Year festival, said Li Linjun, Kings Romans tourism manager. Li offered a tour of a Special Economic Zone into which he said the company had so far sunk $800 million./=/

“Fountains and golden statues flank the main road from the pier to the casino. Across the road is a banner in Chinese exhorting people to "join hands to beat drugs." Two gargantuan lion statues guard the entrance to the casino. Inside, beyond the security gates, a marble staircase lit by a giant chandelier sweeps up to a golden statue of a nameless, bare-chested Roman emperor. The ceilings are decorated with reproductions of Renaissance frescoes. Under construction nearby is a karaoke and massage complex, fashioned after a Chinese temple. The resort also offers a shooting range, complete with AK47 and M16 assault rifles, and a petting zoo. /=/

“An average of about 1,000 people visit the casino every day, said Li. (Gambling is illegal in both Laos and China.) But Zhao Wei didn't intend to create a "little Macau," mimicking China's casino-stuffed enclave on the Pearl River estuary. Li notes that Kings Romans controls an area "bigger than Macau" - three times bigger, in fact - and plans to build an industrial park and ecotourism facilities. In February 2012, said Li, construction began on what will be the second-largest airport in Laos after Wattay International Airport in the capital Vientiane. /=/

“Perhaps aware of anti-Chinese resentment, Li hailed Kings Romans as a model of responsible investment. About 40 percent of the complex's 3,000 workers were Chinese, he said, but the rest came from Thailand, Myanmar and Laos. He then showed off a compound with scores of modest concrete houses which he said were given free to local Laotians who had once lived in wooden shacks. "These might be the happiest people in Laos," he said. Li called Laos "our second homeland." The SEZ certainly felt a lot like China. Most croupiers are Chinese. Most gamblers pay in Chinese yuan or Thai baht. The mobile phone signal is provided by a Chinese company. Street signs are in Chinese and English. The passports of visitors are processed by Chinese and Laotian immigration officers. The area is protected by the Lao People's Army, said Li, but when Reuters visited, the only car patrolling the streets belonged to the Chinese police. /=/

“Kings Romans has brushed against both the drug trade and the drug lord-pirate leader Naw Kham. In April 2011, a casino boat was seized by the freshwater pirate's men near Sam Puu Island and 19 crewmen held for a 22-million-baht ($733,000) ransom, which Zhao Wei paid, the Shan Herald Agency for News reported. Then, in September, an operation by Laotian and Chinese officials found 20 sacks of yaba pills worth $1.6 million in the casino grounds, according to Thai media reports. Li denied all knowledge of the yaba bust or that the kidnapping had even taken place, stressing that Zhao Wei came to the Golden Triangle to build an economic alternative to the narcotics trade. He said he had never heard of Naw Kham. "Maybe it's gossip. That's why they call this place the mysterious Golden Triangle." /=/

Golden Boten City—Chinese Gambling Enclave in Laos

Ron Gluckman wrote in Forbes Asia: “Route 3 in the Lao highlands cuts through rubber plantations and forests, a vast carpet of greenery interrupted only by tiny villages--groups of shacks on stilts and tribal people in bright blue, red and black garments. Then suddenly there's a clearing--and the surreal sight of a dozen enormous buildings erupting from the plateau in blistering shades of pink, orange and yellow. [Source: Ron Gluckman, Forbes Asia, July 27, 2011 <<<]

“This is Golden Boten City, a "Paradise for Freedom and Development," as the investment brochures called it. In 2003 a developer leased the 21-square-kilometer site from Laos for 99 years, and buildings started going up the next year. The plan called for a trade zone in what was expected to be a key growth corridor, with road and rail links from southern China to ports as far away as Bangkok and Singapore. Drawings depict a golf course, a resort and apartment blocks along picturesque lakes and lagoons. Instead, Boten quickly became a Gold Rush-style boomtown and, like many such towns, renowned for gambling, crime and bustling brothels. <<<

“At Boten's peak thousands of people each day poured across the border from China's Yunnan Province, thanks to unprecedented visa-free access. Some 10,000 people a day used to mob Boten. "It was so crowded, you could barely move," says a Golden City official. As gaming halls proliferated, rows of shops sprouted--a ramshackle market serving Sin City. A dozen lingerie shops catered to battalions of Chinese prostitutes, with the finest choice of stiletto heels in Laos. Pharmacies stocked sex potions alongside racks of X-rated DVDs and containers of bile from black bears fresh from a hilltop factory and used in traditional Chinese medicine. Next door to the factory was a massive pink entertainment hall that boasted transvestite shows. The ladyboys hailed from Thailand but everything else came from China: the beer, the police and practically all the dealers, even the currency that made it all possible. Hotel signs were in Chinese, and Boten's clocks didn't run at Laos' sleepy pace, but were set an hour ahead to China time. Boten was completely a Chinese colony. <<<

“Jobs in the casinos were well paid by Laotian standards but few went to locals because they couldn't speak Chinese. Instead, several thousand Chinese workers went across the border to staff Boten's discos, brothels, casinos and hotels. A dozen gaming operators from China, but also Ukraine, Slovenia and the Philippines, arrived in Boten to set up shop. (All were small, low-profile companies that quickly disappeared in May and could not be contacted.) Touts in vans roamed China's border towns, offering free, "sure-fire" get-rich trips. But when their holiday ended, some punters in hock were detained and ransom demands issued to relatives, according to widespread Chinese accounts.” <<<

Collapse of Golden Boten City

Ron Gluckman wrote in Forbes Asia: “Then, just as fast as gamblers from China turned this remote site into the Macau of the jungle, Golden Boten City melted down. Stories in the Chinese media talked about hostages held over gambling debts. Residents told FORBES ASIA of bodies dumped in the river. China cut off electricity and telecom service to the enclave and started requiring visas. "We heard reports of killings, of people disappearing," an official of Golden Boten City Ltd., the developer, told FORBES ASIA during a visit in May. (The developer said it didn't run the casinos; that was done by several little-known operators from abroad.) "We don't disagree that there have been problems here, but we are working to correct them." [Source: Ron Gluckman, Forbes Asia, July 27, 2011 <<<]

“Days later the last casinos shut down. The shops closed for a lack of customers, leaving behind a huge supply of stiletto heels along with a giant picture of American actor George Clooney gazing forlornly from an unopened luxury goods emporium, one of a half-dozen grandiose structures that had been completed but now stand unused. The bears were still packed in cages, milked of bile, but the ladyboys returned to Thailand, and Boten was left a ghost town. <<<

“Today new casinos, hotels and multistory gem warehouses with exterior detailing of Greek goddesses all stand completed, but most are vacant. Now a few dozen visit each day. "We are shut down until we find new financing," the official says on a tour of sites for a potential golf course and luxury housing. "We're waiting for investment to come." Says Huang Minxuan to FORBES ASIA: "Please be patient. When we finalize our modifications and come up with a new development plan around September or October, we will invite you to come over for an interview." <<<

The new plan may be close to the original, which didn't emphasize gambling and instead promised a huge economic center to nurture a new growth corridor. Laos cleared villages to provide land not only for the concession but also for the nearby rubber plantations and tobacco-processing plants that have lured Chinese investment. The original town of Boten was relocated, its farmers moved to new roadside settlements 20 kilometers south. "They took the land, we had to go--we had no choice," says one vendor at a grocery shop in ramshackle New Boten. Like many villagers, she concedes they received compensation that seemed fair, but adds: "If we could go back, we'd do it in a minute." Now, she says, they have no rice, no fields. "No life." She adds: "When they told us about the project, they said they were going to make things better. They needed the land to make gardens and pig farms. They said they wanted to do something to help people, to provide jobs." <<<

“Golden City officials concede that China issued numerous complaints and warnings. It shut off Boten's electricity and telecom service. This was meant to restrict gambling by proxy, in which minions could play cards for godfathers back in China who barked out instructions over the phone. If they racked up big debts, the Chinese bosses could abandon the hapless gambling mule and simply compensate his relatives. In May, days before the casinos closed, gamblers could be observed operating by mobile phone and over the Internet, using the more expensive Lao telecoms. <<<

“The final blow for Boten came when most Chinese again started needing visas. When the economic zone was marked out, Laos moved its customs posts south, creating a lawless land in between China and Laos where Golden Boten City ruled and policed itself, rather ineffectively. But China severely tightened access in April as part of a campaign against border casinos, according to Qi Yongjiang of the Yunnan Provincial Tourism Administration. <<<

Laos Government and the Man Behind Golden Boten City

Ron Gluckman wrote in Forbes Asia: “The man behind Golden Boten City is Huang Minxuan, 56, who had been involved in a casino in Myanmar before it was shut down in a crackdown by Beijing on just-over-the-border gambling. (Gambling is banned in China outside of Macau.) Originally from Fujian Province, he operated a business in Yunnan for some years before registering a slew of companies in Hong Kong in 1997 and 1998--all long dissolved--and gaining Hong Kong citizenship; he's still the honorary chairman of the Fujian Chamber of Commerce in Yunnan. [Source: Ron Gluckman, Forbes Asia, July 27, 2011 <<<]

“Huang says between $200 million and $300 million was spent on Boten, but he doesn't say where it came from or how much of it was his money. Chinese media reports indicate that he served as the executive director of a Hong Kong company that pumped $36 million into the project when it began, but no record of the company can be found. The second-in-command, George Huang, 55, a Taiwanese national who worked with Huang Minxuan at the Myanmar casino, has said small investments came from Thailand, Singapore, the U.K., Russia and Ukraine. George could not be contacted; he is believed to have left for a job in Thailand after Boten collapsed. <<<

Laos had been eyeing the Myanmar tourist traffic and started touting its special economic zones to investors. "I was talked into the idea," says Huang Minxuan. That won't mollify critics. "Nobody knows why this was allowed, or what they paid," says Sounh Manivong, director general of the Lao Planning and Operation Department. The best estimate of what the Huangs pay in concession fees was $700,000 a year until 2010, then $2 million a year for 2011–13 and $2.4 million a year in 2014–15, according to Pingkaew Luangaransri, a professor at Chiang Mai University. Officials with Laos' office for economic zones decline to comment.

Reviving Golden Boten City?

Ron Gluckman wrote in Forbes Asia: “Golden Boten City recently hired a Singapore firm, FBI365, to help with rebranding and bring in new investors. The goal, according to Kan Goh, the firm's chief operating officer, is to remodel Boten as more of a trading hub. "Development now is paused," he says. "At this stage they are trying to clean up and advance the project. We want to bring in duty-free shops and more hotel operators. This is all the original plan." [Source: Ron Gluckman, Forbes Asia, July 27, 2011 <<<]

“A $7 billion China-financed rail line from Kunming to Bangkok that would pass near Boten is on the drawing board. "This is the entrance to Asean," says one official still in Boten, looking over the overbuilt but deserted jungle site. "In the original plan, casinos were just a small part of our goal." <<<

“But the casinos could certainly be back. Huang Minxuan says the casinos are now merely "shut down temporarily for modifications and new planning." Asked whether his company will recruit new casino operators, he says, "Can't tell for now." But some observers think Boten--the buildings and the concession--will likely be sold. Offers have come from Chinese investors, but on the low side, say Boten officials. Still, Boten may have little choice but to sell if it can't find new investors, or it may simply slide back into the jungle. "Now we want to move on," says one official. "It's like we are closing one door and opening a new window." <<<

Dogs and Pets in Laos

Many people keep monkeys and other wild animals as pets. Sometimes they are cruelly confined to cages or kept tied up with a rope or chain. VM posted on Laoconnection.com: “In Laos, a lot people (although certainly not all Lao people) have a low opinion of animals. There's no real idea of animal protection or rights as compared to more developed countries. Depending on where you stand on this issue, you may or may not agree with that situation. Dogs and cats are the most common pets, with chickens being a third favorite though they are raised as livestock so perhaps they might not count. [Source: VM, Laoconnection.com *-*]

“Having pets inside the house is seen as being dirty. Pets are often kept outside the home. I've only ever seen cats come inside inside the home. Pets freely roam the streets and neighborhoods. So you'll see dogs wondering the streets. For the most part these dogs are usually docile. However, the more protective or aggressive dogs are what you have to be careful about. In particular, I've experienced a few times while driving my motorcycle and they try to run up and bit your leg. Never slow down if they try to attack. You have to speed up and outrun them. It's difficult for them to bite while trying to run quickly as well. *-*

“Lots of petting and spending quality time with ones pet was not the norm from what I can see. Some petting but not a lot. Medical or veterinarian care for pets is typically not done unless there's something wrong. Vet doctors do exist in Laos. If a dog attacks a person, you can complain to the owner or the village leader. I've seen in cases like this, you can pay the person off or agree to put the dog down (euthanize) it. If a person is bitten, they're usually taken to the doctor to get a rabies shot. *-*

“Dogs are typically kept only to help protect the home and act as a deterrent to would be robbers. Hitting an animal is accepted if there's a reason like defending yourself or if you're trying to scare it away or attempting to make it obedient. Eating dog? Though this exists in Laos, it's not common. It tends to be Vietnamese or Chinese people who eat dog or offer dog meat for food.

Water buffalo are popular livestock as well. They produce a lot of meat and can help on the rice paddy fields in plowing the fields. I've heard, though I cannot be 100 percent sure, that the method for slaughter is gunshot through the head. All the meat and parts that are consumed by buyers is in part why it's such a valuable animal. In the old days, if you had a lot of buffaloes you were considered rich. Even to this day, there's still a bit of that perception that still exists.

Fighting cocks (chickens) raising and using them in fights and gambling still exists widely in Laos and Southeast Asia.

Image Sources:

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Laos-Guide-999.com, Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Global Viewpoint (Christian Science Monitor), Foreign Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, NBC News, Fox News and various books and other publications.

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© 2008 Jeffrey Hays

Last updated May 2014

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