Chiang Mai – Xam Nua Return

TonyBKK

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Dec 27, 2007
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Absolutely fantastic trip report and gorgeous pictures too!
Happy Trails!
Tony
 

DavidFL

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Jan 16, 2003
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www.thegtrider.com
Davidfl;264369 wrote: HOUEI XAI - THE GOLDEN TRIANGLE

DON XAO
The Lao island in the Mekong

264369=588-img_2627.jpg


I've been to Don Sao many times by boat from the Golden Triangle on the Thai side, delivering maps with Happy-Go-Lucky & stocking up on Beer Laos.
Actually getting my bike onto the island has always been one of my "dreams."
And it was no big deal. The Chinese are taking over & there is a dry season causeway out to the island (from the Laos side of course.)

264369=589-img_2631.jpg


The river road on the Laos side is just about all asphalt to the GT except for a few kms of stony dirt / gravel.

264369=591-img_2652.jpg


264369=590-img_2649.jpg


Then once you get to the GT you are in the Chinese Casino & Entertainment city.

264369=592-img_2668.jpg


264369=593-img_2635.jpg


264369=594-img_2672.jpg


264369=595-img_2673.jpg


It is almost like being in another world!

264369=596-img_2675.jpg


but it is a work in progress.
Housing being built for the masses who will eventually live & settle there.

264369=597-img_2695.jpg


264369=621-img_2676.jpg


The new immigration checkpoint

264369=598-img_2637.jpg

ready a bit before it's time

264369=599-img_2648.jpg

and not for farang to use!

The Golden Triangle view from the Laos side

264369=600-img_2640.jpg


Need a taxi to get around

264369=601-img_2694.jpg

I saw stretch limos on the road between Houei Xai & The Golden Triangle. No doubt running punters up & down from HX.

The AT was in a class of it's own in the car park & attracted a few admirers!

264369=602-img_2688.jpg

Ho. Ho.

Eventually you wont need to use the limo to get to the GT from HX, but fly straight in. The new airstrip.

264369=603-img_2666.jpg


Progress & it is full speed ahead in N Laos with the Chinese "taking over."
Eventually even the tourist shops on Don Sao island will have to go & everybody move out. Go see it now while you can & it is still there.

See
Asia Times Online :: Southeast Asia news and business from Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia and Vietnam
and
Asia Times Online :: Southeast Asia news and business from Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia and Vietnam
for info on the almighty Chinese investments.
Bump for Moto-Rex's post
The Golden Triangle on the Laos side.
 
Last edited:

Rhodie

Ol'Timer
Mar 5, 2006
847
3
18
Davidfl;265859 wrote:

265859=1586-img_4004.jpg
AT's still looking great - a forum headline pic here.

Great report and pix, but that high-speed train service is going to be an ethnic game-changer.
As you say ride those roads before things change completely.
 

DavidFL

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Davidfl;265965 wrote: VANG VIENG Contd

another couple of breakfast snaps from the Ban Sabai

265965=1640-img_4241.jpg


265965=1641-img_4242.jpg


Actually the best views must now be from the hot air balloon service

265965=1643-img_4245.jpg

Yep that's right Vang Vieng now has hot air balloon rides.
Run by Chinese company. There's a link here
http://www.vangviengtour.com/balloon-over-vangvieng/
to some info.
Also try this one
http://www.travelblog.org/Asia/Laos/West/Vang-Vieng/blog-559104.html

My only snap

265965=1637-img_4223.jpg

grabbed quickly as it caught me by surprise landing just upstream from where I was quietly imbibing.

A little further downstream, at "the end of town" there's a superb new resort being built.
The Villa Vang Vieng

265965=1638-img_4191.jpg


265965=1639-img_4198.jpg


The riverside bungalows look inviting & inexpensive. This place is also somewhere I'd like to take happy-go-lucky.

265965=1642-image-74villavangvieng.jpg


My stay in VV was only spoiled by the group of noisy Chinese staying at the Vilayvong guesthouse. A large group they had 15 rooms booked

265965=1644-img_4209.jpg

all the bungalows, plus riverside rooms on the car park side were theirs. Plus they had vehicles to spare.

265965=1645-img_4210.jpg


and what was it all about

265965=1646-img_4211.jpg

The high speed China - Laos railway. Announced last year with a completion date set for 2014!

Hard to believe? Then take a look at this

some more info from Lao Voices
When I first read the reports, I thought yeah yeah, maybe in 10 more years, but after seeing the staff & vehicles in Vang Vieng it is full speed ahead & I don't doubt that it will happen in just a few years, although the 2014 date still seems unrealistic. But then again. There are a few thousand Chinese in the country working non-stop on the project. West of Phou Khoun supposedly they are digging the tunnels already & there are huge camps of Burmese? labourers out there doing the heavy work. How fast time changes in Laos. Best ride & go there asap.
An Update on the controversial train project

2013-0415 - Time - Laos’ Mammoth Train Project a Fast Track to Debt and Despair

http://world.time.com/2013/04/15/laoss-mammoth-train-project-a-fast-track-to-debt-and-despair/
TIME World Laos

Laos’ Mammoth Train Project a Fast Track to Debt and Despair

By Charlie Campbell
April 15, 2013

Change is coming to sleepy Laos in the form of a $7.2 billion railway, set to carve its way through this war-ravaged nation. The costs are to be borne by the Laotian government, courtesy of a Chinese loan amounting to a staggering 86% of Laos’ annual $8.3 billion GDP. The level of indebtedness has led some to condemn the scheme as the latest example of Beijing’s inexorable expansion into Southeast Asia. Aghast economists fear that such exorbitant spending could saddle an already impoverished nation with an insurmountable deficit. Moreover, in Laos’ shadowy police state, where even household-name dissidents are “disappeared” without a murmur of explanation, there are serious doubts on whether ordinary Lao could influence the course of a deal inked by their communist government, however unfavorable it may prove.

Pockmarked by decades of war in the 20th century (per capita, it is the most bombed nation on the planet, according to the U.N.), Laos remains caught in a time warp, and by almost every indicator it is one of the world’s poorest countries. Some progress is being made — Laos finally sealed World Trade Organization membership in February, and is eagerly awaiting the launch of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Economic Community, expected by 2015 — but most people live on less than $5 a day. Agriculture, generally subsistence rice farming, dominates the economy, employing four-fifths of the population and taking up half of GDP. “Laos is perhaps more than ever before looking for ways to increase its foreign direct investment and strengthen its economic standing in the region and beyond,” Gretchen A. Kunze, Laos representative for the nonprofit Asia Foundation, tells TIME.

Lack of infrastructure remains a massive headache, however. The country has only ever boasted 6.5 km of antiquated railway, and so its population of 6 million makes do with a dilapidated road network that is little more than a chain of muddy potholes. To remedy this, a train route linking Kunming, in China’s southwestern Yunnan province, with the Laotian capital Vientiane, and then going south through Thailand to Singapore, was first touted three years ago. As Laos is a landlocked country with a jagged mountainous terrain, facilitating the movement of goods and reducing transportation costs are seen as key components toward future prosperity. Construction was originally due to be completed by 2015.

However, Beijing pulled out from funding the project directly last year after a series of feasibility studies showed the numbers just did not add up. It is little secret why. The 420-km track would require burrowing 76 tunnels and constructing 152 bridges — representing two-thirds of the entire route — plus two extra crossings to traverse the mighty Mekong River. Twenty stations would initially be opened with an additional 11 to be added at a later date. By any stretch of the imagination it is a colossal feat of engineering, and so China decided to instead make do with a new road skirting the Mekong as it forms the border between Laos and Burma and entering Thailand farther south. This, however, offers little benefit for Laos itself.

And so to achieve a miraculous transformation from landlocked backwoods to globally linked manufacturing hub, Laos was left to push forward with the project alone — albeit with borrowed Chinese cash. Buoyed by talk of a new Thai express railway to link Nong Khai, by the Laos border, with Bangkok, Laos’ 11-member Politburo unanimously approved negotiating the $7.2 billion loan from the state-owned Export-Import Bank of China. Chinese state media quoted the Laos Minister for Energy and Mines in October saying the deal would involve 5 million metric tons of minerals, mainly potash, being imported from Laos every year until 2020, as well as timber and agricultural concessions.

The state’s view is that the deal represents the dawn of Laos’ economic transformation. “Lao people consider the high-speed railway as a symbol of the modernization as they see on foreign TV,” says Ekaphone Phouthonesy, deputy editor of the government-owned Vientiane Times. “The business sector has also welcomed the development project as they believe cheap transportation will make cost of production low.” Beijing, unsurprisingly, has also been vocal at rebutting disapproval of the railway deal. A recent article in the Global Times, an English-language newspaper published by the People’s Daily, the official mouthpiece of the Chinese Communist Party, bemoaned Western criticism of the project, and argued that Laos had an estimated GDP of $17.4 billion in 2011 when calculated by purchasing-power parity, thereby making the total bill appear slightly more palatable.

Observers remain unconvinced. “No Chinese investment deal comes without strings,” says Jonah Blank, a senior political scientist specializing in Southeast Asia for the Rand Corp., a global-policy think tank. “In political terms, no country that owes 86% of its GDP to another can be said to have a truly unfettered foreign policy.” Meanwhile, a Laos Finance Ministry official was quoted by Radio Free Asia in December estimating that his government would have to stump up a whopping $3 billion in interest payments alone (calculated by 2% per annum compounded over 30 years). And there are question marks over what benefits the railway would bring in the short term. “At present, Laos is not manufacturing much, in large part because of its low human-resource development and lack of skilled workers,” explains Kunze. “So the idea of Laos utilizing a rail system to export its own goods is still a way off.”

Why would the Laos government bank on such a scheme? “It seems like a gamble on rising commodity prices,” says Tim Forsyth, a lecturer on international development at the London School of Economics who specializes in Southeast Asia. The idea is that Laos’ mineral wealth will rise in value over the payment period, thus enabling the debt to be paid off more quickly than it presently appears. “It also sounds like an indirect form of landgrabbing because China gets access in return for its financial resources,” he adds. Beijing’s record in this regard is hardly exemplary. Comparable developments in Burma, Indonesia and Sri Lanka using vast quantities of imported labor have all met fierce local opposition. The Laos railway project would likely follow a similar pattern with 50,000 workers brought in for the five-year construction.

Aside from potentially crippling national debt for a white-elephant project, there are other serious objections. Railway construction would require, at minimum, a 50-m-wide section of land cleared on both sides of the entire route, as well as 100-m sections for tunnels and 3,000-by-250-m plots for station developments. There would also have to be additional space for construction equipment, storage and worker habitations. Laos is already notorious for illegal landgrabs made in support of local and foreign investments, and local NGOs have few doubts that the railway would gravely exacerbate this problem.

Many Lao, even in government, feel an aversion to dealing with the Middle Kingdom, with some preferring to protectively cement long-established relations with the Vietnamese. “I know that the Lao are not of one mind when it comes to how far to go with the Chinese,” Ernie Bower, head of the Southeast Asia program for the Center for Strategic and International Studies, tells TIME. “And Vietnam has been fighting tooth and nail for the hearts and minds of the Lao over the last decade.”

Lao who disagree with the project likely face grave risks. On Dec. 15, Sombath Somphone, an award-winning civil-society activist and land-rights campaigner, vanished without a trace. Security-camera footage shows him seemingly being detained by security officials in Vientiane. His whereabouts remain a mystery. Even more shocking is that, unlike other disappeared activists, Sombath was never considered a particularly divisive figure, and generally worked in a conciliatory manner with local officials to negotiate the best possible deal for farmers and the rural poor.

Phil Robertson, deputy director of Human Rights Watch’s Asia division, tells TIME that he has “no doubt whatsoever” that the Laotian authorities are behind Sombath’s disappearance and continued detention. “They are warning other people: ‘Look what we can do — if we can take down someone of his repute, then what are we going to do with smaller land activists?’” he says. “It has had a chilling effect on the ground, and people are very scared to speak out.” It looks like Laos’ grandiose train project could be very costly in human as well as financial terms.
 

DavidFL

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Davidfl;264336 wrote: Houei Xai it was then for 3 nights.

There was a Buddhist ceremony in honour of a recently departed senior citizen, right in the centre of town on the main street.

264336=558-img_2531.jpg


264336=559-img_2533.jpg


There's a new bakery in town owned by Ms Bakery

264336=560-img_2559.jpg


Years ago on my first Laos ride we ate at a small wood & bamboo shack beside the road. The owners have progressed a bit & now have the Riverside Houei Xai hotel. The best accommodation in town.

264336=561-img_2537.jpg


264336=562-img_2534.jpg


And the best? restaurant.
The terrace beside the Mekong.

264336=563-img_2540.jpg


Sunset over The Mekong.

264336=564-img_2548.jpg


Wat Jom Kao Manilat is up on the hill overlooking Houei Xai & Chiang Khong.

You can walk up the steps

264336=565-img_2569.jpg

or ride up the back way, if you have a bike.

264336=566-img_2568.jpg


264336=567-img_2576.jpg


The main viharn is under going renovation

264336=568-img_2577.jpg

on the front side

264336=569-img_2605.jpg


The Chiang Khong - Houei Xai border crossing is very busy with scores of vehicles being ferried across every day. Often 80-100 per cars / trucks a day according to Customs, & the car ferries run till late most days.

264336=570-img_2579.jpg

The ferry operators are making good money, & so they should before the new bridge is built & they lose their source of income.
From 2011 to 2013 ....& looking for somewhere to place some Houei Xai photos.
These photos taken on 11-12.12.13, waiting for the 4th Mekong Friendship Bridge to open.

The Versys working as a model

295335=17901-IMG_2781.jpg


The Mekong river

295335=17902-IMG_2816.jpg


295335=17903-IMG_2819.jpg


295335=17904-IMG_8680.jpg


Wat Jom Manilat

295335=17908-IMG_8674.jpg


295335=17905-IMG_8665.jpg


295335=17907-IMG_8672.jpg


295335=17906-IMG_8668.jpg


Wat Thad Suvannaphakham, downstream from town

295335=17912-IMG_8634.jpg


295335=17909-IMG_8627.jpg


295335=17910-IMG_8629.jpg


295335=17911-IMG_8632.jpg
 

DavidFL

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Jan 16, 2003
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Davidfl;264369 wrote: HOUEI XAI - THE GOLDEN TRIANGLE

DON XAO
The Lao island in the Mekong

264369=588-img_2627.jpg


I've been to Don Sao many times by boat from the Golden Triangle on the Thai side, delivering maps with Happy-Go-Lucky & stocking up on Beer Laos.
Actually getting my bike onto the island has always been one of my "dreams."
And it was no big deal. The Chinese are taking over & there is a dry season causeway out to the island (from the Laos side of course.)

264369=589-img_2631.jpg


The river road on the Laos side is just about all asphalt to the GT except for a few kms of stony dirt / gravel.

264369=591-img_2652.jpg


264369=590-img_2649.jpg


Then once you get to the GT you are in the Chinese Casino & Entertainment city.

264369=592-img_2668.jpg


264369=593-img_2635.jpg


264369=594-img_2672.jpg


264369=595-img_2673.jpg


It is almost like being in another world!

264369=596-img_2675.jpg


but it is a work in progress.
Housing being built for the masses who will eventually live & settle there.

264369=597-img_2695.jpg


264369=621-img_2676.jpg


The new immigration checkpoint

264369=598-img_2637.jpg

ready a bit before it's time

264369=599-img_2648.jpg

and not for farang to use!

The Golden Triangle view from the Laos side

264369=600-img_2640.jpg


Need a taxi to get around

264369=601-img_2694.jpg

I saw stretch limos on the road between Houei Xai & The Golden Triangle. No doubt running punters up & down from HX.

The AT was in a class of it's own in the car park & attracted a few admirers!

264369=602-img_2688.jpg

Ho. Ho.

Eventually you wont need to use the limo to get to the GT from HX, but fly straight in. The new airstrip.

264369=603-img_2666.jpg


Progress & it is full speed ahead in N Laos with the Chinese "taking over."
Eventually even the tourist shops on Don Sao island will have to go & everybody move out. Go see it now while you can & it is still there.

See
http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Southeast_Asia/LL23Ae01.html
and
http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Southeast_Asia/MA08Ae01.html
for info on the almighty Chinese investments.
An interesting update on The Kings Roman Casino city development complex
2014-0122 - Radio Free Asia - Lao Rice Farmers Defy Police Orders to Give Up Land to Chinese Firm

http://www.rfa.org/english/news/laos/landgrab-01222014215351.html

Lao Rice Farmers Defy Police Orders to Give Up Land to Chinese Firm

2014-01-22

In a rare act of resistance, dozens of rice farmers in northern Laos have defied armed police orders to vacate land seized by a Chinese company wanting to build an airport as part of a casino-driven special economic zone, according to villagers .

The 50-odd farmers refused to budge when policemen, armed with AK-47 assault rifles, moved on Friday to enforce an order by the King Romans (Dok Ngiew Kham) Group for the farmers to leave their rice fields to pave way for the construction of the airport in Tonpheung district in Bokeo province.

The farmers, who have been cultivating paddy in the area for generations, defiantly stood in front of bulldozers sent to flatten their rice fields, forcing the company to seek police intervention.

"When the policemen arrived and told the villagers, 'Move out! Move out!,' the villagers angrily replied,'No way, No way,'" a villager told RFA's Lao Service.

"Why are the police and military, instead of helping the people, helping the 'Tiao Nai' traitors who are selling the nation’s land away,"
the villager asked, apparently referring to local high officials involved in the land deal with King Romans which is building the airport as part of a Golden Triangle Special Economic Zone project almost exclusively catering to Chinese investors.

”We do not have money to buy land to cultivate a new rice field," one farmer was quoted saying to the police. "Once the rice fields have been taken away, we will have nothing left. It’s like having our hands and feet cut off.”

Following the farmers' refusal to budge, the police retreated at the weekend.

Not taking chances

But the farmers, who come from six villages in Tonpheung district, are not taking any chances. They are taking turns daily to guard their land round-the-clock to prevent the bulldozers from entering their rice fields.

"We will continue to keep vigil over our land," one villager said.

This is the second attempt by the Chinese company to clear the villagers' rice fields covering about 1,000 hectares (2,471 acres) for the airport project .

According to sources, King Romans had attempted to clear the land in 2012 but the villagers resisted although the police were not called in at that time.

The one party Lao communist government has conceded to King Romans 10,000 hectares (24,710 acres) of land—3,000 hectares (7,410 acres) of which are dedicated to the SEZ—for 99 years, with the objective of promoting trade, investment and tourism.

The SEZ, which is tax exempt, began construction in the early 2000s and now includes an international border checkpoint and river port, the King Romans Casino, hotels, and a Chinatown market with as many as 70 restaurants and shops selling a variety of retail.

According to the villagers, the Chinese company offered to compensate them 110,000 Thai baht (U.S. $3,340) per rai (1,600 square meters) — 30,000 baht (about U.S. $900) for the land and 80,000 baht (U.S. $2,429) for crop loss but the offer was rejected as extremely low.

"Even 500,000 baht [U.S. $15,190] is still a small sum," one villager said, without stating clearly whether they would accept any higher compensation.

Negotiations

A local Lao official in Bokeo told RFA that the authorities will continue to negotiate with the farmers over the compensation although it is not clear when such talks will be held.

“First, the villagers wanted a compensation of one million baht [U.S. $30,370] per rai, then the figure came down to 500,000 baht [U.S. $15,190] but according to the Prime Minister's decree, the highest compensation the government can give is 114,000 baht [$U.S. 3,460] per rai,” the official said.

He said the villagers have stopped their protests and agreed to meet with officials over the compensation.

Reported by RFA's Lao Service. Translated by Somnet Inthapannha. Written in English by Parameswaran Ponnudurai.
 

mactbkk

Ol'Timer
Jul 18, 2008
86
0
0
Hey, there's already a runway up in that area, altho perhaps a bit overgrown.

Following from the Air America site book for Laos, April 1974:

LS-305 Ban Ton Phung PC 1542

20-16N x 100-06E

Elev 1250 ft 800 x 68 soil 17/35

Soft when wet

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Mac
 

DavidFL

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Davidfl;265965 wrote: VANG VIENG Contd

My stay in VV was only spoiled by the group of noisy Chinese staying at the Vilayvong guesthouse. A large group they had 15 rooms booked

265965=1644-img_4209.jpg

all the bungalows, plus riverside rooms on the car park side were theirs. Plus they had vehicles to spare.

265965=1645-img_4210.jpg


and what was it all about

265965=1646-img_4211.jpg

The high speed China - Laos railway. Announced last year with a completion date set for 2014!

Hard to believe? Then take a look at this

some more info from Lao Voices
When I first read the reports, I thought yeah yeah, maybe in 10 more years, but after seeing the staff & vehicles in Vang Vieng it is full speed ahead & I don't doubt that it will happen in just a few years, although the 2014 date still seems unrealistic. But then again. There are a few thousand Chinese in the country working non-stop on the project. West of Phou Khoun supposedly they are digging the tunnels already & there are huge camps of Burmese? labourers out there doing the heavy work. How fast time changes in Laos. Best ride & go there asap.

Another article on that high speed trail still slated for Laos.

High speed rail could bankrupt Laos, butit’ll keep China happy

http://theconversation.com/high-speed-rail-could-bankrupt-laos-but-itll-keep-china-happy-22657

Despite impressive economic growth rates over the last decade, a third ofLaos’s population still lives below the extreme poverty line of US$1.25 perday. Most of the extreme poor Laos are ethnic minorities…

Author - Keith Barney

Lecturer: Resources, Environment, and Development Group at Australian NationalUniversity

Disclosure Statement

Keith Barney does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive fundingfrom any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and hasno relevant affiliations.

Australian National University Provides funding as a Member of TheConversation.
anu.edu.au

The proposed railway hasn’t got everyone in Laos excited. LUONG THAI LINH/EPA

Despite impressive economic growth rates over the last decade, a third ofLaos’s population still lives below the extreme poverty line of US$1.25 perday. Most of the extreme poor Laos are ethnic minorities living in rural andupland districts, who depend on local ecological resources for cash income andfood.

Expanding transport infrastructure can no doubt be very important for effectivepoverty reduction – but it would be a stretch to argue that the country’s mosturgent human and social development need is a high-speed rail connectionbetween its capital, Vientiane, and its northern neighbour China.

Yet, the Lao government has reiterated its intention to integrate into anemerging ASEAN-China high-speed railway grid. At times, the country’s quest forrail takes on an almost fetishistic quality, with officials simply repeatingthe mantra that the Laos must move “from land-locked to land-linked”. But forall their zeal, the economic case for high speed rail in Laos remains weak.

Click to enlarge

Two projects

Laos actually has two high-speed railway projects under consideration. The firstand more expensive one, costing about US$7 billion, would form part of anintegrated Kunming-Bangkok-Singapore railway. Extending 420km north fromVientiane, it must cross mountainous terrain and numerous river valleys innorthern Laos.

This is a gargantuan undertaking for a country that’s GDP was US$9.4 billion in2012. Nevertheless, the Laos National Assembly approved the Laos-China railproject in October 2012, proposing a US$6.8 billion loan from China’s Exim Bankto cover its cost. According to a 22-page document submitted to the NationalAssembly, the loan would be guaranteed by all of the income and assets of therailway, and two unspecified mining areas.

There is also a geopolitical angle. The potential for strategic and militaryapplications of high-speed rail projects has been noted, and some argue thatChina is working to push an Asian rail network to extend its power andinfluence throughout the region.

Laos’s second line would run 220km east-west through central Savannakhetprovince. It is still quite unclear how this line would be connected to anysupporting rail infrastructure in either Thailand or Vietnam. At present, itrepresents a rather ambitious commercial venture to link the languid provincialtown of Savannakhet with the small border village of Lao Bao, at a proposedcost to the previously unknown Malaysian firm Giant Consolidated Ltd of someUS$5 billion.

The financier of the Savannakhet railway project is reported to be an entitynamed “Rich Ban-Corp Ltd”, initially reported as “Rich Banco” and based in NewZealand, but now apparently registered in Hong Kong. In the UK, Rich Ban-Corphas been listed as an “unauthorised firm”, and investors are warned not to dobusiness with it.

The last remaining train engine from Laos' French Colonial period. Time for anupgrade? ...your local connection, CC BY-NC-ND

These expensive new railway project proposals have drawn the attention of Laos’development partners. In October 2013 the IMF warned that the Lao-China railwaywould result in Laos’ total external debt leaping from its current level of32.5% of GDP to as high as 125% of GDP.

According to the IMF, this would exceed Laos’ threshold debt levels. Thecountry could suddenly be very vulnerable if, for example, China experienced acredit crisis, or if prices for Laos' key export commodities such as coppertook a sustained downturn.
Mega-preneurs

Given the high stakes – the price tags, the resource-based loan guarantees, theimplications for national sovereignty – one might expect the case for therailways to be spelled out. However it is not at all clear what sort ofanalysis is guiding Lao decision makers.

The pros and cons of rail projects should be assessed through detailed economiccalculations. This could mean examining the potential to actually promoteresource exports, the boost to economic productivity through measures such asthe “value of time travel saved”, or the effect on the labour market ofintegrating second tier cities with the main urban centers. Estimated benefitsfor tourism revenue could be quantified.

In Laos, this sort of analysis is, so far, completely missing. Instead, asignificant part of the Lao railway megaproject game seems to involve effortsby “megaproject entrepreneurs” to convince powerful decision makers and stateinstitutions that their investment plan has momentum, with deep pocketed (yetconveniently obscure) financial backers waiting in the wings.

Laos is particularly susceptible to these sort of opaque dealings throughpersonalised networks. Its state institutions are still a work in progress, andare unable or unwilling to foster a culture of transparency in decision making.The authoritarian nature of the party-state in Laos discourages critical debateor an open competition of ideas.

Perhaps there are defensible economic justifications for high-speed rail inLaos. The boost to regional integration and Laos’ agricultural and mineralexports such as potash, copper, and gold could be significant, although it isnot clear why expensive high speed infrastructure would be required forexporting these resources. Moody’s rating agency seems to accept the positivearguments anyway, indicating the Lao-China railway project will be “creditpositive” for the country.

But what of the opportunity cost? Even if there were a solid business case forhigh speed rail, it would still need to be considered alongside the potentialnational economic benefits of investing that US$7 billion across a range of keydevelopment sectors, from highway upgrades, to child malnutrition, maternalhealth, agricultural extension, and youth education and training programmes.

It is time for Laos’s government to open up and provided some transparency onhow these key decisions around high speed rail are going to being made, throughwhat information and data. The country may be about to commit a significantportion of its wealth to these projects; its citizens deserve to know they aregetting a good deal, and aren’t being used as a pawn by other nations and theircorporate interests.

Moving away from back room wheeling-dealing and towards fuller transparency andthe rule of law could help build confidence in Laos' institutions andgovernance standards. It would also help future, quality investment projectsachieve their full potential for promoting equitable economic growth andreducing poverty.

AND

2014-0408 - Xinhua - China, Laos ready to launch negotiations on railway cooperation deal

http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/china/2014-04/08/c_126368506.htm

China, Laos ready to launch negotiations on railway cooperation deal

English.news.cn | 2014-04-08 22:47:23 | Editor: Mu Xuequan

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang (R) shakes hands with Lao Prime Minister Thongsing Thammavong before their talks in Sanya, capital of south China's Hainan Province, April 8, 2014. (Xinhua/Li Xueren)

SANYA, Hainan, April 8 (Xinhua) -- China and Laos announced they were willing to launch negotiations on a railway cooperation agreement on Tuesday in the southern Chinese city of Sanya during talks between the two prime ministers.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang held talks with Prime Minister of Laos Thongsing Thammavong, who is on a visit to China and will attend the annual conference of the Boao Forum for Asia (BFA) later this week.

Railway cooperation constitutes an important part in bilateral cooperation on major projects, Li said, adding that China will seek an early signing of the deal in order to lay the foundation for next-step cooperation.

Both China and Laos stand at a critical moment of deepening reform, which will bring opportunities for developing bilateral ties, Li said. Li noted that China will take continuous measures to stabilize economic growth, restructure the economy and benefit the country's people, and added that Laos is also accelerating efforts to advance the economy and living standards.

Thongsing thanked China for its assistance and hailed the development of bilateral ties in recent years that have brought substantial benefit to the two peoples.

He said Laos is committed to reform and opening-up and is ready to grasp the opportunity brought by China's development. He also called on the two countries to strengthen their exchanges on national governance and experience sharing, expand cooperation in all areas, promote railway cooperation to achieve early progress, and jointly maintain regional peace, stability and development.

Thongsing hailed China's efforts in searching for missing flight MH370 and expressed sympathy to relatives of the Chinese passengers. Li appreciated the message of condolences sent by Thongsing after the event, saying China will keep close contact and cooperation with all relevant parties.

After the talks, the two prime ministers witnessed the signing of a bilateral financial cooperation deal. Chinese State Councilor Yang Jing also attended the talks.

Thongsing is paying an official visit to China at the invitation of Li. He will also attend the opening ceremony of the BFA annual conference on Thursday in Boao, a coastal town in China's southernmost island province of Hainan.

Founded in 2001, the BFA is a non-governmental and non-profit international organization committed to regional economic integration and bringing Asian countries closer to their development goals.

A vdo clip
 

DavidFL

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Davidfl;264369 wrote: HOUEI XAI - THE GOLDEN TRIANGLE

DON XAO
The Lao island in the Mekong
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I've been to Don Sao many times by boat from the Golden Triangle on the Thai side, delivering maps with Happy-Go-Lucky & stocking up on Beer Laos.
Actually getting my bike onto the island has always been one of my "dreams."
And it was no big deal. The Chinese are taking over & there is a dry season causeway out to the island (from the Laos side of course.)
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The river road on the Laos side is just about all asphalt to the GT except for a few kms of stony dirt / gravel.
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Then once you get to the GT you are in the Chinese Casino & Entertainment city.
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It is almost like being in another world!

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but it is a work in progress.
Housing being built for the masses who will eventually live & settle there.
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The new immigration checkpoint
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ready a bit before it's time
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and not for farang to use!

The Golden Triangle view from the Laos side
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Need a taxi to get around
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I saw stretch limos on the road between Houei Xai & The Golden Triangle. No doubt running punters up & down from HX.

The AT was in a class of it's own in the car park & attracted a few admirers!
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Ho. Ho.

Eventually you wont need to use the limo to get to the GT from HX, but fly straight in. The new airstrip.
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Progress & it is full speed ahead in N Laos with the Chinese "taking over."
Eventually even the tourist shops on Don Sao island will have to go & everybody move out. Go see it now while you can & it is still there.

See
http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Southeast_Asia/LL23Ae01.html
and
http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Southeast_Asia/MA08Ae01.html
for info on the almighty Chinese investments.

Want to know more about Kings Roman & the Chinese Golden Triangle Casino city, go here
https://www.gt-rider.com/thailand-motorcycle-forum/showthread.php/34817-ON-THE-TRAIL-OF-A-quot-MULE-quot-A-Drug-Run-Through-The-Golden-Triangle/page2?p=304506#post304506
 

DavidFL

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Another article on that high speed trail still slated for Laos.



AND



A vdo clip

The train project is still going ahead

Luang Prabang Awaits Decision on Mekong Railway Bridge

A Chinese construction company will soon visit Luang Prabang to decide on suitable locations for a railway bridge across the Mekong River and a port that will be used to handle the construction materials needed to build the railway.
The railway bridge is part of the planned 427-km Laos-China railway that will run from the Chinese border to Vientiane.
The construction company and provincial authorities will look at possible sites for the bridge and the port, which will receive construction equipment shipped in by river.
A provincial official, who asked not to be named, told Vientiane Times on Thursday “The railway bridge may be built in the town of Luang Prabang, not far from a new bridge that will be built across the Mekong to link the town to Chomphet district.”
This site is not thought to be within the Luang Prabang World Heritage Site, for which a preservation order exists.
The provincial Public Works and Transport Department and provincial Natural Resources and Environment Department will consider whether the sites proposed by the construction company are suitable.
It is not known when construction of either the bridge or the port would begin as the Chinese company has not yet supplied any details.
Minister of Planning and Investment Dr Souphanh Keomixay addressed the issue at the National Assembly this week, answering questions put by Assembly members concerning the railway, with construction scheduled to begin in December.
The Laos-China Railway Project is estimated to cost about US$6 billion and will run from the border area of Boten in Luang Namtha province to Vientiane. It is scheduled for completion in 2021. The project is 70 percent owned by China and 30 percent by Laos.
Minister of Public Works and Transport Dr Bounchan Sinthavong told the National Assembly that the railway will run from the Chinese border to Vientiane and the next phase will extend the track to Thailand.
A railway will also be built to connect Khammuan province’s Thakhaek district to the Vietnamese border, from where it will run to a coastal port in Vietnam. Another track will be built from Thakhaek to the Cambodian border.
The Laos-China railway will have a 1.435-metre standard-gauge track. There will be 33 stations, 21 of which will be operational initially.
There will be 72 tunnels with a total length of 183.9 km, representing 43 percent of the railway’s total length. The line will also have 170 bridges totalling 69.2 km in length, accounting for 15.8 percent of the total. Passenger trains will travel at 160 km per hour, while the speed of rail freight will be 120 km per hour.
Source: Vientiane Times
 

DavidFL

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Another King Roman Update - the airport project is no more.

264369-603-img_2666-jpg.jpg


Chinese Developers Abandon International Airport Project in Laos SEZ

An international airport project scheduled for construction by a Chinese developer in northwestern Laos’s Bokeo province has been canceled so that an airport built earlier in the province may be upgraded instead, sources say.

The abandoned project was to have been built on land taken by the King Romans Group from local villagers in 2014, a move leading to standoffs between angry farmers and armed guards sent to enforce the order to seize the land.

Speaking to RFA’s Lao Service this week, a Lao government official confirmed the project had been canceled.

“[Project owners] will not pursue construction and are canceling the work because the government plans to upgrade the provincial airport in Bokeo,” Somboun Daosawan, a manager in charge of airports at the Ministry of Public Works and Transport, said.

“We have proposed that only that airport can be used in Bokeo,” he said.

A Lao official responsible for the Chinese-developed special economic zone the new airport would have served also said that work on the project would now stop.

“Technical officials in the Civil Aviation Department now see that the [proposed] airport is not in the right location,” Chanthavy Phothisane, vice chairman of the provincial committee for special economic zones, said.

“Instead, they are planning to improve the provincial airport,” he said.

Villagers displaced

The King Romans special economic zone (SEZ), incorporating land granted for 99 years in concession by the Lao government, began construction in the early 2000s and now includes an international border checkpoint and river port, a casino, hotels, and a Chinatown market with around 70 restaurants and shops selling a variety of retail goods.

Plans for the international airport project, which affected several villages in Bokeo’s Tonepheung district, were not made public until early 2013, after the Lao government signed a memorandum of understanding with the company.

In January 2014, farmers fearing displacement defied orders to vacate their land, standing in front of bulldozers sent to flatten their rice fields and forcing armed police deployed by King Romans to retreat.

Chinese workers favored

Villagers uprooted by the project were poorly compensated and were refused employment in the SEZ, which favors workers brought in from China, Bounphone Heuangmany—a representative for Bokeo in Laos’s National Assembly—said on Oct. 26.

“I have said many times that the special economic zone has taken villagers’ farmland so that they have no means of livelihood left to them, and I have provided lists of names of local villagers who would like to work in the zone,” she said.

“But they are not recruited, because the SEZ gives priority in hiring to Chinese workers.”

Only about 300 Lao workers are now employed in the zone, while workers brought in from China and neighboring Myanmar number at least 6,000, Chanthavy Phothisane said.

“Some say that local villagers are not good workers, but they are,” he said.

“It’s just that foreign workers are not choosy about the work they do, especially in the casino construction sites.”

Source: Radio Free Asia 8 November 2017