Sabaidee to Blog #2!
The last 2 weeks in Vientiane and Khammouan (a province in Lao) were great and very insightful to the Laotian culture. I will try and keep my experience of 2 weeks (=336 hours) short albeit I have a lot to share!
On Wednesday, 19th July, my work team and I were invited to attend a Kong Boun, a traditional Laotian memorial service held in remembrance of the deceased.
What is unique about this ceremony is that there are beds (one for each deceased person) called Gong Bung with items for the deceased in their afterlife. The Buddhists believe that in their afterlife, they still require the basic necessities such as pillows, blankets, fans, etc. Guests attending this ceremony generally offer monetary amounts. (notice the fans and the dollar bills!)
On 24th July, my team and I departed for Khammouane (KHM) to support the province with their annual tender pool-procurement process. KHM is approx. 428km south-east of Vientiane and would take you about 7 hours to get there. The drive, although slightly bumpy, is pretty scenic. (the featured image of this blog is a glimpse of that)
We spent a working week in KHM which mainly involved working with the Ministry of Public Health and the FDD teams to organize and run the Bidding Week. The week started with the Bid-Opening day which had 21 pharmaceutical companies participate and compete for 600 drugs and medical equipment. The days after, involved the core evaluation committee come together, evaluate and award contracts to the bidders whose bid determined to be the lowest evaluated bid and met all other specific requirements.
The process of pool-procurement being carried out by the Ministry is extremely manual and time-consuming mainly because of the lack of technology and/or tech-savvy know-hows. The steps that generally take several weeks to complete can definitely be shortened to a few days. Some colleagues have been keen on learning basic analytical methods on MS Excel to reduce their manual workload and hence, it has been quite pleasant to work with them, share feedback and propose room for improvement in their daily tasks.
On our last night in KHM, the team took us to a local restaurant (apologies for not remembering the name but you could ask around) in Paksimung Village popular for serving the best duck-dishes in the city. UPF #3 – If you ever visit KHM and are a duck-meat lover, then this is a place to visit (vouch for it based on my colleagues’ feedback since all I ate were some crackers 😉 )
That’s all from me for Blog #2! The next blog will be about the cost-of-living in Laos (as requested by one of my readers – Thanks Christos for the ask) and a few more updates about work.
Khob Chai for reading and stay tuned!