Laid Low

By: leelefever on July 3, 2006 - 1:59am

After India, even places known for unsanitary conditions seem all the more worry-free.  This may have been the case with Laos, which was much nicer than I expected, but lacks infrastructure nonetheless.  We jettisoned the hand sanitizing lotion in Thailand/Japan and did not look back. Perhaps we should have as we've both been laid low by minor ailments lately.  Just a little head cold and some digestive troubles to welcome us to Cambodia.

I'm hoping Sachi will have some words for you about Laos soon, but in the mean time, I'd like to talk about currency.  First of all, I didn't realize until we were already there that Laos (or the People's Democratic Republic of Laos) is a communist country with an almost free-market enconomy (a bit like China).  Anyway, much like Cambodia, multiple currencies can be used.  The Lao "kip" is joined with the US Dollar and the Thai Baht.  There are 10,000 kip for each American dollar, making for wallet-bulging stacks of change. 

Officially, the Lao government says that the Kip is the only and required currency.  However, Lao Airlines, the government-owned carrier will only accept payment in US dollars.  Such is the state of affairs in Laos.

Here in Cambodia, the defacto currency is the US Dollar ($1 to about 4000r).  The Cambodian Riel is often given for change to the dollar, but at a grocery store today I noticed a cash register that looked just as it would at home- stocked with US money. I used 10 minutes (US$.20) of Internet time today, payed with a one dollar bill and received 8 bills of change back in the Cambodian Riel.  Wallet bulging.

I fulfilled a couple of my trip-long goals today by visiting the Killing Fields and the Tuol Seng Prinson here in Phnom Penh, both big parts of the murderous Khmer Rouge regime in 1975-1979.  I'll have a lot to say about that soon.

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