Philip Malone

Philip Malone

Ambassador to Lao PDR

Part of UK in Laos

8th July 2013 Vientiane, Laos

Laos through my eyes – Paul Bloxham

This article is part of a series of guest blogs contributed by Brits who have lived and worked in Laos, or who have other interesting links to Laos.

Paul Bloxham
Paul Bloxham

I arrived in Laos as a Voluntary Services Overseas (VSO) volunteer on 28 April 1997 thinking the 2 years I was planning on spending in the country would seem an eternity. Now, 16 years later I am just two days away from leaving Laos. It has been an eventful, sometimes frustrating and life changing experience but it is time to leave, although not forever as my wife is Lao so we will be back for sure.

As a graphic designer and illustrator, my VSO placement involved training someone in basic media production at CHAMPA, a small health project, managed and staffed by 8 Lao people and set up and supported by a consortium of international NGOs to act as a bridge between them and the Ministry of Health.

At that time there really was just a handful of internationally qualified and experienced graphic artists in Laos and the media industry was rudimentary with the largest commissioners of material being the development community.

VSO provided a house behind Tat Luang. A ‘simple place’ – when I opened the bathroom door, I said to John Stops, the VSO Rep., “My mother wouldn’t approve”. “Neither would mine – but there it is,” he replied. Amazingly, the house is still there and with the same gaudy blue paintwork!

The roads were potholed, dusty in the dry season and muddy in the wet and there were rice fields along the road I lived on – now long gone. In Vientiane, bars sold Beer Lao on draft that you could take home in a carrier bag and there were a handful of foreign restaurants.

I remember feeling incredibly lucky to be living and working in such an exotic place. After VSO I thought, I’m not going home yet, so worked at UNICEF for a year and then as a consultant, employed by one of the printing companies in Vientiane. In 2005, with tourism developing, I moved to Luang Prabang, a thing I’d wanted to do since first visiting the town.

Throughout my time in Laos, I have worked on many and varied projects, in many respects reflecting the development of the country over the last 16 years.  Along the way I have met and worked with a lot of fascinating people as well as quite a few eccentric characters.

I’ve had experiences I won’t forget: tracking wild elephants for two days in Phou Khao Khuay Protected Area with Klaus Schwettmann as part of his work at the Tourism Authority; some of the many noisy, boozy Lao parties; and my Lao wedding to name just a few. VSO gave me a good grounding with the language so I soon became quite fluent in Lao and sitting down with complete strangers (as often happens in Laos) and exchanging stories has been great.

Having lived in Laos for a third of my life so far, I am sure this is just the end of Phase 1 (to use development speak), be it a pretty long one. But in many ways, I feel more of a Brit now than I did before I came. I am looking forward to going back to British life and culture and the challenges ahead – beginning with finding a job and getting my wife’s residency sorted out.

3 comments on “Laos through my eyes – Paul Bloxham

  1. I have recently been sent this article and read it with pleasure – and I do remember introducing Paul to his first house! One of the very likeable aspects of Paul’s character was that he was able to take things in his stride and not become phased by challenges that were often too much for other volunteers. Even during my time as CD, Paul was making a good contribution to the development of Lao – despite the challenges that he faced with CHAMPA. And 14 years further on, I’m sure that his time there has been mutually beneficial. I have lost touch with Paul, but should my best wishes ever reach him, I would be pleased to be in contact.

  2. Dear Philip,
    dear Paul,
    my deep and honest congratulations for such an outstanding and proper “Guest-Blog”. Just great ! Looks to me, that you are also (like me) prefer QUALITY instead of QUANTITY.
    Speaks for a very characterfull mind.
    Stay on these road and all the best to both of you.
    Take care and much success- today and in the future !
    Liebe Grüssle, hawyl faur + bora te- keep stiff upper lip (Kopf hoch!),
    Ingo-Steven, Stutengarten /Deutschland, Caerdydd/Cymru

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About Philip Malone

Mr Malone joined the FCO in 1981. He has served in a range of FCO and overseas posts with a particular focus on South East Asia and Europe. Philip Malone…

Mr Malone joined the FCO in 1981. He has served in a range of FCO and
overseas posts with a particular focus on South East Asia and Europe.
Philip Malone LVO took up his appointment in October 2012.
Curriculum Vitae
Full name: Philip Malone LVO

Married, two children
Oct 12: Laos,  Head of MissionJan 08 – Aug 12: Helsinki, Deputy Head of MissionApril 03 – Jan 08: Singapore, Head of ChanceryApril 99 – Sept 02: FCO, Head of France/Benelux Section, EU
Bilateral Department and additionally Deputy Head of Department (March
02- Sept 02)Jan 95 – Feb 99: Bandar Seri Begawan, Second Secretary (Defence/Chancery)May 92 – Nov 94: Luxembourg, Third Secretary (Commercial/Press and Public Affairs)June 89 – Jan 92: FCO, Assistant Parliamentary ClerkOct 86 – May 89: Guatemala City, Third SecretaryOct 83 – Aug 86: Buenos Aires, Attaché1981: Joined FCO, CSCE Unit, East European and Soviet Department

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