Please bear in mind that I am here for work and therefore not every week will have adventures to share. Some weeks I'm going to struggle for observations as I fall into the basic work rhythms. I guess have a couple of thing to share, though. 

There was an article in The Age this week about the stigmas of dining alone. (I do try and keep abreast of the news back home.) I've been going out alone 3-6 times a week for 2 months now and I hardly even notice it now. I have no choice. Mostly I listen to podcasts to help pass the time. I have no commute now that used to be my listening time and so the walk into town and dinner adds up to about the same amount of time each day to be filled. It's still a pretty solitary lifestyle which is probably why I latch onto any English speaker within earshot in a restaurant.

For example, last night I met a older, retired couple from Canada who were here as representatives of the Mormon Church. They teach English and he was formerly a hydro geologist so he shows the locals how to sink wells for schools and villages. They were really nice to talk to and we shared restaurant finds and pitfalls. They also told me they were staying at the Mekong Hotel and I nearly did a spit take. The Mekong is over the road from my home base in the Parkview. It is a venue with what seems to be a well deserved reputation as the home for a large number of Vientiane's working girls with one particular bar on the premises being ground zero for the seedier side of town. It is pretty obvious from my balcony observations of the place. The contrast between my dinner companions and the other clientele was comical to say the least. 

I also traveled to a new golf destination this weekend in the form of the SEAGames course. It is built as part of a complex that hosted the SE Asia games in 2009. As we drove past the stadium it seemed like another example of the Lao way of doing things. Build a monument with someone else's money and then not maintain it. The carparks had grass a metre high in them and the road from the city is in as poor a state as so many others. They closed one side of the divided road as it was in such poor repair. I guess someone will provide some cash and manpower at some point to restore it.

All this changes once you get through the gates of the golf club which is clearly still active and well maintained. SEAGames has a massive edifice of a clubhouse, with a surprisingly tiny and poorly stocked pro shop. The KM6 pro shop had 5 times as much on offer. It was a strangely sterile little thing. A young law student named Nan was to be my caddy for the day and we hit off at 7:40AM. It had rained heavily overnight and it was already 30 degrees at this time. I was dripping in sweat before I'd even had a chance to swing a club. Time sheets are kind of random and there was a large group from the BCEL bank having some sort of corporate day. They had a camera crew and an entourage of pretty girls in pink polos watching them mill around and get organised so we jumped ahead a couple of holes to beat the rush. SEAGames feels a lot like Sea Temple and Paradise Palms in Cairns, in both architectural style as well as agronomy. The place is clearly reclaimed swamp or rice paddies and is flat as the proverbial pancake, so mounding and pushup greens are expected. It was pretty wet underfoot most of the way and bunkers were quite compacted. It was a pretty good course. My play was pretty good from tee to green but my short game did not adjust to the conditions at all well. I made 4 x 3 putt bogies which started to piss me off towards the end. Oh well. It was still good to be out and about.

I will admit to being a bit skeptical about what I might find here with respect to golf courses, but both SEAGames and KM6 have really surprised me. Lao Country Club is next on the list I think. I'm looking forward to it.

AuthorBruce Hardie