Roadworks in Vientiane

One morning, upon leaving the house in the car, a friend in Vientiane discovered that the road outside her house was missing. Or rather, that the part of the road connecting her driveway to the road was missing. It had been replaced by a moat. It looked something like this.

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After some conversing, the construction workers then measured the width of her car and knocked up a bridge with about one inch leeway either side. Unfortunately, they didn't take into consideration that it was a typical narrow road and the car had to turn out of the driveway, and so that bridge was scrapped and they had to start afresh. Over the next few weeks, the makeshift driveway appeared in many forms - sometimes a single plank, sometimes nothing at all so that she and her husband had to stand on either side and practically toss their small children over the moat.

I am half expecting to find myself in the same situation one day soon. There are roadworks going on all around Vientiane at the moment, updating the roads and drainage systems. Basically, they are changing the current open drainage system to a closed one, which is a good, if temporarily inconvenient, thing.

The discarded old drains

The discarded old drains

In the wet season, flash flooding is common around Vientiane and people can be literally trapped in their homes for days with waist-deep water lapping through the front door. It's not particularly clean water either. This is a typical problem in developing country cities, where urban planning can't keep pace with rapid population growth. When I lived in Hanoi, flooding could last for hours or days. Every year, the streets flood in nearby Phnom Penh, Cambodia too.

Eventually, you just need to fix the problem.

Every morning, I take Lara to her nearby school. It's just far enough for small legs to get tired so we take the pram. Walking is a great way to see life on the streets, and more recently, to watch the daily unfolding of the local roadworks. I took all these photos surreptitiously; hence the random nature.

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This road changes on almost a daily basis. Sometimes it's passable, sometimes not. Sometimes it's blocked by wet and mud puddles, piles of earth, discarded rubble or dangling electricity wires. On occasion, you have to follow slowly behind a steamroller. The motorbikes never fail to try their luck on the road regardless.

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First they dug out all the existing drains, then they're fitting the new, bigger, concrete pipes. Once that's done, I guess they'll start on the other side of the road.

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Life goes on

Life goes on

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The new drains. Ignore the magnificent tiger, if you can; he's just part of that shopfront

The new drains. Ignore the magnificent tiger, if you can; he's just part of that shopfront

Some of the electricity poles came down when they dug out the drains and the cables may have to be replaced. But for the moment, they seem to just be untangling them.

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This man is cutting down the dead vines draped around the electricity cables with a bamboo pole and a machete

This man is cutting down the dead vines draped around the electricity cables with a bamboo pole and a machete

Typically, there are a lot of workers (labour is cheap). And while there are also trucks, diggers and concrete mixers, the actual labourers seem to have little in the way of tools. I saw two men digging with tin cans, another breaking up concrete with a hammer, and others pulling down electrical cords with bamboo poles. An unlike any roadworks I've seen in the developed world, there's no overweight guy leaning languorously on a traffic sign; these guys are lean and tough.

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Our road has unexpectedly became a cul de sac, which also means a parking lot, depending on your perspective.

Our road is on the left. I assume they're going to raise the road though at last count, the piles of dirt has gone but the road isn't any higher.

Our road is on the left. I assume they're going to raise the road though at last count, the piles of dirt has gone but the road isn't any higher.

This lovely big tree got the chop. I fear for the big old trees on my very narrow street if they decide to do our road as well

This lovely big tree got the chop. I fear for the big old trees on my very narrow street if they decide to do our road as well

5 years, 4 countries, 2 kids and still going strong - the best parenting investment we ever made

5 years, 4 countries, 2 kids and still going strong - the best parenting investment we ever made

But though the road from A to B is dubious from time to time, in Vientiane, there's always another side street, another way to get around and back on your way. And for us, that means walking through a temple.

Vientiane should be called the city of temples; they're everywhere, and there's one behind this green and gold encrusted wall

Vientiane should be called the city of temples; they're everywhere, and there's one behind this green and gold encrusted wall

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It's not a bad view of a morning and likely to be a familiar one; there's no end in sight for the roadworks.