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January 16, 2004

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For us tourism means living like the locals and so we catch sun in the rice fields of Vang Vieng. Approximately 80% of the population works in agriculture, fishing, or forestry. The rest work for the civil service. Unemployment affects the last 10%, officially, although we're not sure how a communist country can claim any unemployment. According to Marxism, capitalism leads to socialism. Historians claim that nationalism inspired the Laos Communist Revolution rather than ideology. In Laos, the communists quickly abandoned forced collectivisation and religious repression. Villagers practice collective farming and donate 2/3 of their harvest to the national and local rice banks, however, they keep the remainder for private sale and consumption. Private land ownership and small businesses are permitted. Many farmers and even a few aristocrats have reclaimed some land and property. Yet corruption dominates and foreign aid comprises the bulk of the GDP. Laos remains one of the 10 poorest countries of the world, 50% living below the poverty line, and the average income is $263 per capita ($1723 if measured on "purchasing power").
Some bright local person decided to charge tourists a bridge toll. This person must have had relatives in Delaware. All tourists must pay 50 cents to cross this rickety bamboo bridge. Other bridges in the area followed suit. Building a bamboo bridge is a booming business in Vang Vieng.