Laos is excited to be hosting the 25th Southeast Asian Games this December. Preparations are well under way and Intrepid’s Nicki Gibson was recently enjoying the pre-games events when she was surprised to see an old friend…
“This is the first time Laos has been the host country and with Vientiane full of colour and buzzing with activity, it looks as if this will be a fantastic place to witness the celebrations from 09-18 December 2009.
Laos, formally known as ‘the kingdom of a million elephants’ (Lan Xang), has chosen two white elephants as its mascots, named Ms Champee and Mr Champa – representing the national flower. The locals of Vientiane are getting in on the action in the lead-up to event and the Thanon Fa Ngum riverfront running along the mighty Mekong is lined with street vendors, fair games, live performances and food stalls… attracting crowds of locals and tourists alike.
We’ve already had a taste of the fun, as my Trail of the Khmer group was extremely fortunate to witness September’s ‘Tour de Laos’ cycle race from Vientiane to Luang Prabang. Many of the participants used this event to train for the SEA Games and it was fantastic to see an Intrepid face amongst them.
We met the cyclists in Vang Vieng and then followed them for 40km up into the mountains on their onward journey. Finally we were able to cheer the winners over the finishing line in Luang Prabang. Our journey with the cyclists through the breathtaking scenery was memorable and unique, as we were caught in the tailing line of support vehicles and as we crept up the mountains many children and adults from the surrounding tribal villages came out to wave and cheer!
Eleven countries currently take part in this ASEAN biennial multi-sport event: Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, Myanmar, Indonesia, Philippines, Timor Leste and Brunei Darussalam. The 25 sports include aquatic contests, archery, athletics, boxing, cycling, football, golf, judo, pentanque, shuttlecock kicking, weight lifting and more, with a total of 390 medals at stake.
Laos is hoping to win at least 25 of these medals, but if Maes Samnang (Lucky) has his way, Cambodia will be snatching two from the host country. Lucky worked for Intrepid as a cycle guide for 4 years and from a young age has loved travelling through his homeland on his bike. He is representing Cambodia with his four other team mates in the 40 and 160km cycle races at the SEA Games.
Lucky was born in Kampong Cham in 1980 and is one of ten children in his family. Since finishing high school in 1998, he has found employment driving tourists around on his tuk tuk and working as a cycle guide. In preparation for the Games, Lucky has been cycling up to 80km per day and this month will be participating in a 1300km cycling event that starts in Vietnam and chases the Mekong River into Laos, Thailand and finishes in Cambodia. We wish Lucky all the best for the race and will be cheering him on in the SEA Games!
The excitement in Laos and Vientiane is positively infectious and if the lead-up to the main event is anything to go by, the SEA Games in Laos will be an exhilarating and colourful spectacle to witness in the land of hospitality and smiles!”