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On 6/27/22, The Economist asked, “Will Laos be the next Sri Lanka?” The main reasons for its economic crisis were high inflation (17%), higher oil price “caused in part by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine” and more expensive imports due to rising American interest rates.
Not mentioned were the evils of the Covid hysteria, such as the collapse of tourism and asphyxiation of private businesses. Without travel restrictions, Thai, Chinese and Vietnamese stream into Laos, and visitors from Australia, Europe and the US were increasing rapidly before Covid. Since Western countries are going broke themselves, their citizens are only trickling back.
Another threat to Laos, and the entire world, is the rise in food prices due to Uncle Sam’s proxy war in Ukraine. At least in the tropics, no one freezes to death, though it does get cold in the mountains.
Five of the last six months, I’ve spent in Laos. I was also in Laos for all of January, 2020, so I experienced it before Covid madness was imposed. Has this poor, tiny and landlocked country collapsed? Do I see beggars and empty shops everywhere?
Let’s have some context here. From 1995 to 2001, I spent nearly three years in Vietnam. Traveling all over, I encountered so many beggars and prostitutes, for the country was only easing out of hardcore Communism. As you eat noodle soup, child beggars would stand at your table, waiting for you to finish, so they could slurp the broth. A whore would block your motorbike or even yank you onto hers. There’s nothing like that in Laos now. As for Vietnam, skyscrapers are still being erected in Saigon and Hanoi, and stylish cafes and restaurants can even be found in remote towns.
As in Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand, Lao streets are still filled with viable businesses. Visiting Ukraine in early 2016, I saw so many empty shops, with signs for deep discounts everywhere. Tugging at me, a woman begged for money. Memorials for dead soldiers blanketed downtown Kiev. Wandering around, live ones solicited donations for their self-destructive war, as staged by Jews and Uncle Sam. Old and/or defective Americans swooped in for cheap pussies. Ukrainians who could, fled. Its refugee crisis started way before 2022. Vengeance stoked, Victoria lusts after many more mounds of corpses.
Planting flags and slapping on bumper stickers, Americans dutifully fund this kosher holocaust, even as they’re canceled, in turn. Their only resistance is some feeble circle jerking online. Anonymously, of course. It’s a capsized nation of tough talking no shows. God forbid they should dox themselves. Seeing the one who gave them Jewjabs, they cheer, “USA! USA!”
On paper, Laos is dirt poor. In Pakse, a common laborer earns just $5 a day, but keep in mind an excellent lunch at a cheap restaurant can be had for only $1, or you can buy enough freshly made noodles for two meals. Living with their family in a home owned outright, most Laos don’t pay for housing, and there’s no property tax. Rent is also cheap enough. There are no zoning laws to prevent landlords from packing people into a room, so it’s hard to be without a roof. As for food, there is charity, or you can go to any Buddhist temple and offer to clean. If you make the round of eateries, of which there are so many, someone will hire you to wash dishes and clean for roughly $2.50 that day, and they’ll feed you.
During lockdowns, most city dwelling Laos returned to their villages, so they could eat off the land, and there are still fish in the Mekong. Not that long ago, you could feel small fish striking or biting your calves if you just stood in the water. Fish too large were even thrown back to replenish their stock, a weird folk belief. Sometimes they even jumped into your tin tub of laundry.
There’s a Vietnamese here who makes $25 a day selling homemade noodles in plastic bags. From 6 to 9AM, customers, mostly regulars, approach a table set up outside his house. If you want to buy after this morning rush, just go to his door. Someone will be there until 10PM, even if you have to holler. Needing no business license, he also pays no taxes.
Hearing I had spent decades in Philadelphia, he blurted, “I have an aunt there!”
She used to return to Pakse each year, but hasn’t been seen since Covid. In her mid 70’s, she may be too tired, dead or just broke. Maybe she got suckered by the Fauci, Trump, Biden and Wallensky bullshit and got Jewjabbed four, five or six times. You can’t be too careful these days.
Leaving Vietnam last November, I was hoping to stay away just two months, but visa complications have prevented my return. Under the latest rules, I need a photo ID on top of my passport, which means I must go back to the USA, with Guam the nearest territory. Since that’s where I landed in 1975, there’s an appealing symmetry, but I’m in no hurry.
In Pakse, I pay $272 a month for a comfortable room with air conditioning, a fridge, a TV I don’t watch and daily room service, which I only request twice a week. I used to clean apartments and offices in Philly. There’s no need to subject anyone to extra work.
Since I wouldn’t mind seeing Honolulu, Seattle, Portland, the Bay Area, El Paso, New York or Philly again, I checked their room prices but had to laugh, both in astonishment and at my good fortune.
Even in ghastly San Bernardino, CA, it costs $5,280 to stay 30 days at a dumpy Rodeway Inn, two miles from downtown. A typical review, “First the stuff are rude, when I was talking he always cut me off. Poor English and hard to communicate. The place is noisy, our next door was smoking a dope. Our room supposedly non smoking but it was stunk inside, it bothered me a lot. The floor is dirty like you can see some trash.”
For two thousand dollars less, I can stay in the heart of Taipei, within strolling distance of the Hidden Girl in Golden House Vietnamese restaurant. Manila and Penang are also cheaper and more inviting, or I can just linger in Laos. It costs but $750 to get a one-year residency. Not just for me, East Asia is a sane and civil oasis. I’d rather not get murdered for no reason.
When the dollar assumes its true value, soon enough, foreign peasants can strut into five-star hotels in Midtown Manhattan.
Speaking of hotels, the most popular American song ever must be “Hotel California.” I’ve heard it in the most unlikely places in at least a dozen countries. Though few foreigners can grasp most of its lyrics, they can catch an evocative bit here and there, “This could be heaven or this could be hell,” “They stab it with their steely knives, but they just can’t kill the beast,” “You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave,” etc. A song of false expectation and doom, it’s America’s exit anthem.
A year ago, Saudi TV had a skit mocking Biden and Kamala Harris, and Sky News Australia makes fun of Biden almost daily. There are also YouTube videos in all languages tracking America’s astounding collapse.
A six-minute segment on India’s WION begins, “You must have heard of America’s gun problem, also its drug problem, but have you heard of America’s rat problem? Now, there was a time when people visited New York to see the Statue of Liberty, to visit Times Square, but now tourists are flocking to the Big Apple to see rats.”
As the global situation deteriorates, everyone will suffer, including, of course, people in Laos, but there is a much lower propensity for violence here, as compared to chronically nasty locales that have become even more barbaric, with innocents randomly stabbed, shot or shoved onto the path of a train. Trusting their TV, they still believe there’s a safe and orderly exit, just around the bend.
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