Well, I’m off to Thailand, Laos and Vietnam until 9 January. I had been planning to buy a motorcycle in Hanoi for my trip down the coast (apparently you can get a reliable Russian-made bike for less than US$500), but Tuesday’s Straits Times cover story was all about fatal motorcycle accidents, which has made me think twice. It seems that every time I get close to becoming a rider, I see a motorcycle accident, or read about one.
Anyway, motorcyclist or not, I’m off now. I’m not anticipating being able to update this blog very often while I’m away, but don’t be a stranger anyway.
Happy holidays my many friends. I love you all.
As a postscript, I registered my trip with the US State Department, and I received the following messages…
Laos Public Announcement
December 6, 2004
This Public Announcement is being issued to advise U.S. citizens of continuing security concerns in Laos. It supersedes the October 21, 2004, public announcement for Laos and will expire on July 30, 2005.
Since 2000, there have been periodic attacks on markets, bus stations, all forms of ground transportation, border checkpoints and other public places. Between February 2003 and November 2004, small-scale bombings occurred throughout Laos. Between February 2003 and April 2004 armed attacks on buses and other vehicles on Route 13 (Vang Vieng to Luang Prabang) and Route 7 (junction Route 13 to Phonsavan) killed at least 12 persons. In addition, several incidents of small-scale clashes between suspected anti-government insurgents and Lao security forces occurred in the Route 13 corridor area in late 2003 and early 2004.
In light of these incidents and threat information, the Department of State recommends that U.S. citizens traveling or residing in Laos exercise extreme caution in public places and be alert to their surroundings, since the locations of future incidents are unpredictable. In particular, the U.S. Embassy does not recommend traveling by road between Vang Vieng and Luang Phrabang and on Route 7 from the Route 13 junction to Phonsavan town and in surrounding areas.
After some attacks, the Lao Government has been known to shut down telecommunications and stop all transport on main roads for up to several days. Travelers should comply with requests to stop at checkpoints and roadblocks. U.S. citizens, especially those considering travel outside urban centers, are advised to contact relevant Lao Government offices, such as Lao Immigration Police Headquarters in Vientiane, local police and customs offices, or the U.S. Embassy for the most current security information. To avoid trouble with the authorities, U.S. citizens traveling outside of normal tourist areas or contemplating any unusual activity (including, but not limited to, engaging in business, extensive photography, or scientific research of any kind) should consider seeking advance permission from the Village Chief, District Head, Provincial Governor, or National Tourism Authority, as appropriate.
American citizens should also be aware that health care standards and public information about infectious diseases are lacking in Laos. In the event of an outbreak of a contagious disease, it is highly probable that delays would occur in making the public aware of the contagion.
U.S. citizens are strongly encouraged to consult the Department of State’s Consular Information Sheet for Laos, and the Worldwide Caution Public Announcement, located at http://travel.state.gov. For further information, U.S. citizens may also contact the Department of State toll-free at 1-888-407-4747, or, if calling from overseas, 317-472-2328. The U.S. Embassy is located at Thanon Bartholonie (near Tat Dam), in Vientiane; from the U.S., mail may be addressed to U.S. Embassy Vientiane, Box V, APO AP 96546; Telephone (856-21) 212-581, 212-582, 212-585; duty officer emergency cellular telephone (856-20) 5502-016; consular section fax number (856-21) 251-624; embassy-wide fax number (856-21) 212-584; internet: http://usembassy.state.gov/laos, e-mail: email@example.com.
Worldwide Caution Public Announcement
September 10, 2004
This Public Announcement is being updated to remind U.S. citizens of the continuing threat of terrorist actions and anti-American violence against U.S. citizens and interests overseas. This supersedes the Worldwide Caution dated April 29, 2004 and expires on March 10, 2005.
The Department of State is deeply concerned about the continued threat of terrorist attacks against U.S. citizens and interests abroad, as well as the potential for demonstrations and violent actions against U.S. citizens and interests overseas. U.S. citizens are reminded that demonstrations and rioting can occur at any time. In reaction to the execution of hostages in Iraq, there have been demonstrations and associated violence in the hostages¿ country of origin. While Americans are generally not the targets in such incidents, U.S. citizens could be caught up in the violence. U.S. citizens are reminded to maintain a high level of vigilance and to take appropriate steps to increase their security awareness.
The Department of State remains concerned by indications that al-Qaida and affiliated groups continue to prepare to strike U.S. interests abroad. Al-Qaida and its associated organizations have struck in Europe, Asia and the Middle East. Future al-Qaida attacks could possibly involve non-conventional weapons such as chemical or biological agents as well as conventional weapons of terror, to include explosive devices.
Terrorist actions may include, but are not limited to, suicide operations, assassinations, hijackings, bombings or kidnappings. These may involve aviation and other transportation and maritime interests. Terrorists do not distinguish between official and civilian targets. These may include facilities where U.S. citizens and other foreigners congregate or visit, including residential areas, business offices, clubs, restaurants, places of worship, schools, hotels and public areas. U.S. citizens are encouraged to maintain a high level of vigilance and to take appropriate steps to increase their security awareness.
U.S. Government facilities worldwide remain at a heightened state of alert. These facilities may temporarily close or suspend public services from time to time to assess their security posture. In those instances, U.S. embassies and consulates will make every effort to provide emergency services to U.S. citizens. Americans abroad are urged to monitor the local news and maintain contact with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.
As the Department continues to develop information on any potential security threats to U.S. citizens overseas, it shares credible threat information through its consular information program documents, available on the Internet at http://travel.state.gov. In addition to information on the Internet, travelers may obtain up-to-date information on security conditions by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the U.S. or outside the U.S. and Canada on a regular toll line at 1-317-472-2 328.