Monday, November 14, 2011

Good-bye Tigo, I'm making a Beeline for ETL!

Everybody I know is fed up.

A while ago, one of the country’s major cell-phone companies, Tigo was bought by/taken over by/incorporated into an international group called Beeline.

The truth of the matter is I couldn’t give a damn. Then came very strange advertising campaigns showing a chick with a big bee-striped belly standing beside a blue egg (the old Tigo symbol), with its head cocked cutely to the side. Its hands (claws?) are joined together in a respectful Sabeidee as though that would make us forget all the crap that was going to come down on Tigo users.

The reasons for the major screw-up are not clear and I have heard various stories, but the result is that if you have a Tigo phone you can now only call a Tigo phone and if you want to call a phone using a different system you have to have a SIM card from any one of the other providers or a land-line. Also, we cannot call a Tigo phone from any phone that is not Tigo. This means that most people in the country cannot call me at the number on my business card. This also means that I cannot call my wife or other Tigo users using our home phone, only using my Tigo phone which is much more expensive.

So I am losing money and missing calls.

But the worst is Beeline’s attitude. It seems that the casus belli for all of this was their promotion campaign which pissed somebody off. I know not where the responsibility lies but what’s really annoying is that Tigo/Beeline is still sending me promotions by SMS.

Here’s an example:

Visit Beeline booth @ Lao ITECC tonight 11/11/11 to get a chance to win 2 Yamaha FINO, 10 Samsung Galaxy Mini & FREE gifts from Beeline! Call 2010 for details.

I tried to call 2010 just to tell them to fuck off, but I got a busy signal.

Here’s another one:

Win FINO & FREE Gifts @ ThatLuang ITECC, just refill your Beeline balance! @ ITECC today 6 PM: TempleGuys, PullTClub&KeoKung Concert & Dance contest! Info call 2010

Whereas in fact the message I would want to receive from these people is:

We are sorry for screwing up your life. Here are some free calling units to help make up for it.


Our service is interrupted. Here is why (followed by some sort of explanation).

Instead I am getting invitations to dance contests or to hear the Temple Guys (I shudder to imagine…).

And so I am making a beeline for ETL. My choice of ETL is based on the fact that it has the best national coverage and will soon be quoted on the LSX. If I buy shares then I will at least be investing in myself instead of refilling my balance with a company that has proven that it really doesn’t care about me or the inconvenience I have suffered.

Good-Bye Little Chicken

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Voyage to Thakek - A Village

Cities and towns in Asia are not beautiful. As in Vietnam and Thailand, cities like Vientiane are collections of soulless concrete bunkers with ornate flourishing balconies. Hanoi is an exception in that much of the French character has either been maintained or imitated and all of Hanoi is lime-washed in dark ochre.

Towns are worse. Corrugated iron roofs, breeze-block walls, tasteless tiles … You buzz into them and you buzz out again hoping they will leave no trace in your eternal soul. But they do leave a trace and their ugliness is saddening.

Villages, on the other hand, still maintain the genetic memory and genius of ancient times. Houses are built of wood and bamboo; roofs are often thatched. Stilt houses more often than not don’t have private gardens but they are all set off of each other at odd angles, giving them an eccentric feeling of privacy.

Here is a village we discovered by accident, nestled between somewhere here and somewhere else. The Wat is thankfully old and has been spared improvement; the pathways are unpaved and littered with pigs, dogs, bits of garbage and the stuff of life.

Children piss against walls, a sabaidee rings out and strange anomalies encroach, like a cement stairway to a stilt-house covered in bathroom tiles or parabolic antennae with cut cables held in place by pieces of brick.

This is a Laos I love, a land that is still far away, still silent; a land of lonely kitchen fires and solitary monks. This is the Lao in which I yearn to get lost.