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 Post subject: travel warnings
PostPosted: Sun Jan 11, 2004 5:12 pm 
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Joined: Sun Jun 29, 2003 1:42 pm
Posts: 1989
Location: Canterbury, UK
Thought that forum members might find a couple of links useful to check out in-country security situations when planning travel. Unfortunately this is something that we all need to take note of these days if for no other reason than travel insurance can be invalidated if there is a stong anti-travel warning in place by the government of the country which governs the insurance policy (and you will not get any insurance money back if you cancel travel unless such a prohibition warming has been posted).

For the Brits see the FCO travel information page and select your country of intended travel http://www.fco.gov.uk/servlet/Front?pag ... 7029390572

For the Americans see http://travel.state.gov/ and find your country under the relevant initial letter.

I am happy to add any other links which members may wish to supply me with.

Unfortunately both the UK and US have recently posted negative security warnings for Laos although thankfully with no prohibition of travel. (Thanks to one of our forum members for mailing me the latest US warning which motivated me to post these links.)

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PostPosted: Mon Jan 12, 2004 1:31 am 
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Joined: Tue Jul 01, 2003 4:52 am
Posts: 162
Location: California, USA
Travel warning for Southern Thailand:

The US Embassy in Bangkok has orange-lined the three most southern provinces of Thailand for insurrection for many years. While Yala, Pattani & Naratiwat are little visited, bombing has occured in Hat Yai, and in areas of Songkla province near the US base.

While my husband Chris Court worked at Prince of Songkla University, (Pattani Campus) three missonaries were held for ransom, and finally beheaded by Muslim insurgents. (1977)

When we were doing fieldwork there, the French anthropologists would not travel at night and carried guns.

The Thai government has attempted to deny the extent of Islamic turmoil in this area since the 70s. The point is, trust your own government not the propaganda of others.

Also, the area is not poor-it is the richest in Thailand, despite what the Thai say. Alas, the textile traditions are very rich, with influences from the Malay world and China. The first weavers for Jim Thompson came from here as well.


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PostPosted: Mon Jan 12, 2004 7:39 pm 
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I am not sure that I am as sanguine as you are, Sandie, at 'trusting your own government' since sometimes political and commercial agendas of 'even' UK and US governments override unbiased public statements and advice! But then, I am a born cynic and I see too much in my daily business life of overseas members of embassy cultural and commercial staff 'talking their own book' to be anything else!

Still, setting that aside, checking out the public government advice before travel is a sensible course of action especially as the media often does not report information on the parts of the world which us textiles obsessives like to visit!

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PostPosted: Tue Jan 13, 2004 2:27 am 
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Joined: Tue Jul 01, 2003 4:52 am
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Location: California, USA
Pamela,

I must defend myself from a charge of "sanguinity"(?). The only US anything I know and trust is the Embassy in Bangkok, which for many years has produced highly accurate warnings regarding Thailand and its neighbors. The only reason to trust what they say is so you won't get into trouble which they won't help you out of if you don't follow their advice.

Cheers,

Sandie


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 Post subject: Travel Warnings
PostPosted: Thu Jan 15, 2004 12:12 am 
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Joined: Thu Dec 18, 2003 5:45 pm
Posts: 12
Location: Washington State
I am sorry to say that the warnings concerning Laos seem to be quite accurate. I will not go into great detail in this post, but many times the Lao government shuts down the email system when unfavorable events take place, and they do all the time. Most of this information does not get out to the rest of the world. I suppose we were lucky, but be aware that Laos is much more difficult to navigate in almost all ways than the rest of Southeast Asia. However, we loved it and the rewards were well worth it. It is unfortunate that travelers only go from Vientanne to Luang Prabang. Investing the time and energy to travel up north is well worth it for anyone interested in textiles and cultural experiences that are not staged or spoiled. There are many people in Laos who are working very hard to open their country up in a responsible and manageable way. I urge you to visit the Boat Landing website and to visit them in person if you have the opportunity. If you are uncomfortable going without an organized tour but would still like to do so, I can probably tell you exactly how to do it, how we did it, and we are still here to tell the tales. But I must caution you, it is not a safe country in any sense of the word...even traveling from Vientanne to Luang Prabang and back can be quite risky.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Jan 15, 2004 11:02 am 
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Location: Canterbury, UK
Very many thanks, Shelley, for a considered comment on the safety aspect of travel in Laos endorsed by personal experience in the county.

You mention the 'Boat Landing' website. I have updated the link in the travel links on the main www.tribaltextiles.info/links site page. Your comment gives me the excuse to make a direct post of a link to the site here: http://www.theboatlanding.com/ I found the website absolutely fascinating and very much wetted my appetite to visit 'on the ground'.

(I say 'gives me the excuse to make a direct post' as I do not want this forum to be a direct sales site. However, I think that one of the most important contributions that the forum can make is the sharing of direct experiences to assist those wanting to dip their toes (or go up to their necks but not drown) in the water. I would encourage members to share direct experiences and even invite local parties in country to contribute to the site on an 'invited' not 'advertising' basis. We already have a couple of members who are directly involved in the travel business as a matter of livelihood and I am very keen for them to share information and also to be able to benefit in their business from that - as long as they do not get carried away and blatently advertise or I will be right in there with my moderator's delete button! I take the same view in the case of our members who deal in textiles. I am very pleased indeed if they see increased business as a bi-product of their contributions to the forum but again do not use it as a direct vehicle for advertising - which is exactly the professional way in which our current dealer members are behaving! End of lecture....!!!)

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 Post subject: Laos
PostPosted: Wed Apr 07, 2004 3:59 am 
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I arrived home yesterday after wandering around in Laos on a 2 week tourist visa. Before I got there I had no idea what a wonderful deep seated weaving culture it has. I found this forum while trying to find information on the web about weavings I bought while I was there.

If anyone is thinking of going to Laos my suggestion is don't worry about the travel warnings. Forget them, just go. You're a lot more likely to die trying to cross the street in Bangkok or New York. In the end I did just about everything the embassies tell you not to do, certain I was a darned sight safer than if I had taken their advice about anything but avoiding the fast boats on the Mekong.

My experience of a night bus full of Hmong on the "don't go" section of route 13 is that it was much friendlier and safer than taking to the air with a grumbling bunch of packaged tourists in a country with pocket handkerchief sized airfields surrounded by massive mountains when visibility on the ground was down to 80 metres because of the smoke from the hill fires.

The embassy staff catch the plane but not the bus. If safety were the sole criterion it's hard to see why they would set foot on the plane. The smoke isn't any thinner above the ground than it is on the ground. But there's no warnings about flying into mountains the pilots can't see.

Equally, if you aren't the foolhardy type it's quite wrong to think you need to give up all creature comforts to find beautiful pieces of weaving. The hotels and guesthouses are clean and comfortable, the food is fresh and good. I came across less dirty foodhandling than I find at home. My water sterilising tablets remain viertually intact. Bottled water was available even in the remote villages I went to.

Often I had breakfast with a man from Vermont who has been going to Laos for years. He was there buying small weavings for quilters to use in their quilts in the US. He had just returned from the remote weaving villages in the north and he said everything has changed.

When he started buying weavings ten years ago the villages were the best places to buy them. Now Vientienne traders were buying the best pieces and the he'd found the weavings hall in the Vientienne market was full of better pieces than he'd been able to pick up anywhere in the provinces.

This is the market referred to in the dire warnings about a bombing. What the warning leaves out is that the market is now awash with police making sure there is no second attempt and that the area that was of interest to the would be bomber was the gold hall. The gold hall is two buildings and a considerable distance away from the weavings hall.

What I know about weaving could be written on a small postage stamp but after wandering the backblocks and sharing buses with pigs and chickens I was glad I'd taken his advice and bought in Vientienne the pieces I brought home. The pieces I saw in the Vientienne market were more beautiful and appeared to be better made than anything I saw anywhere other than in some small collections in shops in Luang Prubang.

Hope this helps someone,
R McInnes, South Australia.


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