Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Waiting to experience Laotian hospitality

"Sa Bai Dee"

This is Laotian for hello which I will say to the customs officers on arrival at the Wattay International Airport in Vientiane on Monday.

As a first time user of the Laotian greeting, I hope to pronounce it properly as I do not want to offend the people there.

The Laos government will probably be feeling the same way when the Sea Games is officially opened on Dec 9.

Laos will be hosting the Sea Games for the first time and the nation will be hoping that its best effort will be enough to satisfy the hordes of foreign competitors, officials and sports journalists.

Practice makes perfect ... and Laos should expect glitches during the Games.

The Sea Games will be Laos' first big sporting event and foreign athletes should not expect new state-of-the-art facilities when they arrive in Vientiane.

National Sports Council (NSC) director general Datuk Zolkples Embong had stated that athletes and the Malaysian media should expect major glitches in Laos.

I have heard that the Laos government has prepared basic necessities, just enough to stage the Games.

As for me, I am thrilled to be covering the Sea Games in a country which is hosting it for the first time.

I have to admit though, that I know very little about Laos except that many elements of Lao culture predate Buddhism.

Though I am an avid traveller to countries in this region, I have never considered holidaying in Laos.

And when I was selected to cover the Games, I tried acquiring information about Laos from my friends.

As I would have guessed, only a few of them have visited the country but all had only good things to say about the country.

The one thing all of them made me promise was to try its exotic food.

I am a person who loves all kinds of food except dishes containing beef, and I would definitely try some of their dishes.

I have heard that Laotians, especially those in the interior, like to eat their meat and vegetable raw... trying that would probably give me an upset stomach but never mind I will taste it anyway.

In terms of pricing, local traders will likely mark up the prices of food and goods despite the Laos Government declaring the practice as illegal.

I don't blame the locals if they opt to hike up prices by a few kip (local currency). Laos is hardly a rich country, so it's understandable that the people will take the opportunity to make some extra money whenever it hosts a big event like the Sea Games.

Laos, which has never won more than five gold medals in a single Sea Games, is optimistic of winning 25 gold medals this time.

Previous editions have seen the host country winning a huge chunk of the gold medals and I am confident Laos will be able to achieve its target. NST

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