I have reached the state in expatdom(1) where I find myself inserting local jokes into my speech and writing. I apologise if the irony in today’s post title escapes all but those who regularly read the Vientiane Times, Lao PDR’s one and only English language newspaper. In any case, I think I may have found a piece of coffee heaven on this short work trip to Pakse in the southern province of Champasak.
Pakse is located on the edge of Bolaven plateau, the country’s prime coffee growing region. Much of the Bolaven coffee is grown by small-scale farmers using organic farming methods. Soil and climatic conditions on the elevated plateau are ideal for coffee growing and the industry is growing in line with increasing demand. In 2009, 70% of the 20,000 million tonnes of coffee produced in the region was exported mainly to Europe and Vietnam (as reported by Sinouk Coffee, whose owner is also president of the Lao Coffee Association). The future outlook is not, however, all positive for the coffee producers in this area. Much of the same area has vast mineral resources, primarily bauxite (the raw material for alumina) and the mining industry is closing in with increasing prospecting activities by Chinese, Vietnamese and Australian mining companies. Will the markets pay enough to keep the coffee growing on the Bolaven plateau?
Lao coffee in my humble opinion is exceptionally good and if I’m ever to operate any business involving coffee it would be my choice of coffee to serve. In the meantime I will make myself and my friends happy by planning to haul bags of it back home. My favourite comes from Bolaven farms whose coffee has kept me humming for the last three days (and will continue to do so as I’m taking as many bags as I can afford home with me).
Whilst writing this: Pakse is protecting itself from flooding as the Mekong river level rises by the hour. Today we came across hundreds of soldiers piling sandbags on the road bordering the river as we climbed over the bags to reach one of the floating restaurants for lunch. I would upload a picture but this excuse of a computer that is my rental work laptop refuses to recognise the memory card I inserted into its SD-card slot. Oh well, next time.
Currently reading: Girl Who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson. Since last taking stock of my bookshelf I have also read the first book in Larsson’s Millennium trilogy and Stella Rimington’s new book Rip Tide brought to me by Amazon’s brilliant Kindle for PC app. Living in a country with less than functional postal service no longer means that access to new books is restricted to trips to Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur where one can find decent bookshops.
(1) Yes I know it’s not a real word (although it may refer to an area or a city in China primarily populated by expats if you believe Google) but for lack of a better one I choose to keep it to describe a state of expatriation.