Well, I'm in the "other theatre" at the moment (10 Foreign Policy Adventure points if you get that reference), and I have to say it's confronting and comforting in equal measure.

Confronting because everywhere you turn you're hit with the same old brands and catchy theme songs. Except for Beer Lao and M-150, one of which is an energy drink produced by the "Central Thailand Islamic Society". The other of which is what it says.

Comforting because nothing changes the laid-back Lao. Nothing at all, be it French, American, Chinese, Thai or Vietnamese.

The internet cafe that I'm in is beside a fairly busy road in Vientiane; motorcycles pass by every 10 seconds or so. It seems anyone who's anyone has a motorcycle - that or a Mercedes with a uniformed (and I mean military) driver.

Earlier today rode out in a fine example of the ubiquitous SE Asian "tuk tuk" to a "Buddha Park" which had a huge, fat, concrete Buddha head that you could actually walk inside (through his gaping mouth). You could then take the (pitch dark) stairs down to hell, or ascend to heaven.

I chose hell.

It took a while for my eyes to adjust, and when they did I kind of wished they hadn't - on all sides I was surrounded by hideous scenes of actually scary concrete statuary.

Heaven was less terrifying at least - when you got to the crown of Buddha's head you could look through his third eye out over the other assorted concrete gods in the park, some of which looked suspiciously like former Presidents of Laos, all the way to and across the mighty Mekong River. It took me a little while, but finally I gained enlightenment.

But of course! Heaven.


Oy! Read the pipelinks you mooks!