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DEC 2009

Henrik Schmith:

New Norwegian Consul

in Laos

December 2009 • ScandAsia.No 1


2 ScandAsia.No • December 2009


The 48-year-old Dane Henrik Schmith has been appointed as the Norwegian consul in the Lao capital Vientiane. It was the Norwegian Ambassador in Hanoi, who asked Henrik if he was interested in the post.

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By Morten Scheelsbeck The 48-year-old Dane Henrik Schmith outside the Norwegian Consulate in Vientiane.

New Norwegian Consul in Laos enrik Schmith, originally from Espergærde in Denmark, is 48 years and has just been appointed as new Norwegian consul in Vientiane in Laos. He has been in Laos for 10 years and is Laotian married and is the father of two children. Initially Henrik Schmith came here as UN volunteer, but has since worked for Mellemfolkeligt Samvirke and World Food Program, and now he works for Norwegian Church Aid, which has its Southeast Asian headquarter in Vientiane.

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An honorary position "It's certainly an exciting new challenge in addition to my regular work. I have a good knowledge of the Laotian authorities through my various posts here in the country, and it will surely benefit me," says the newly appointed consul. "My primary task will be to help Norwegian residents and Norwegian tourists in this country, should

Norwegian Consulate Opened in Phuket Norway’s Minister of the Environment and International Development, Mr. Erik Solheim, has officially opened the Royal Norwegian Consulate in Phuket.

they get in some kind of trouble." The Swedish Embassy in Vientiane closed in July 2008 and since then there has been no representation for the Scandinavian countries. Diplomatic tasks are handled from Hanoi. The post is unpaid because it is described as an honorary position, but Henry was still not in any doubt: "It was the Norwegian ambassador in Hanoi who asked me if I would be consul, and I said yes. Later I have received an official appointment from Norwegian foreign minister," Henrik Schmith says. There are around 30 Norwegians living in Laos, but in addition to that around 30,000 Norwegian tourists come to the country each year. Unfortunately, the Laotian regulations does not permit one person to be the Consul for more than one country, so the Danes can not just tail on and appoint Henrik Schmith as their counsul also.

he official opening of the new consulate in Phuket took place at the consulate on November 26, 2009. The Norwegian Minister of the Environment and International Development, Erik Solheim, attended the gathering, along with Ambassador Merete Fjeld Brattested, the Governors of Phuket, Krabi and Phang Nga, and many other dignitaries and friends of Norway in Thailand. The opening ceremony was hosted by the newly-appointed Honorary Consul, Pornphan Sittichaivijit. The number of Norwegians travelling to Thailand has increased significantly the last decades. About 120000 Norwegians visit Thailand every year, and the need for consular assistance has grown considerably. The newly opened consulate has proven to be of great value to assist Norwegian citizens in Thailand. Mr. Solheim visited Thailand to mark the five year anniversary of the tragic tsunami which struck in 2004. The minister visited several locations in the Phang Nga and Phuket provinces, among them the village of Baan Nam Khem where most Thai citizens lost their life and Khao Lak where most Norwegians died.

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December 2009 • ScandAsia.No 3


Norwegian Church with Focus on Laos Norwegian Church Aid has worked for years with relief work in Southeast Asia. In the nineties they moved their regional headquarters to Laos’s beautiful capital city, Vientiane, to put special focus on the area. By Morten Scheelsbeck

n Laos, Norwegian Church Aid (NCA) is working primarily with development projects. It is about helping local farmers to grow rice, to raise livestock as cows, pigs and goats, to build schools, to train physicians and to provide general education. There is in particular a focus on the poorest areas of Laos. It is primarily in the northeast corner of Laos in what is called Luang Namtha. “We help local people by teaching them new techniques of working and to use new types of crops. We take the local farmers on study tours to other parts of the area so they can learn from others how they do it elsewhere. Best-practice experiences are very important,” explains Henrik Schmith, who is in charge of the local projects in Laos. Although NCA is Norwegian, the employees are not Norwegians only. Henrik Schmith is 48 years and comes from Espergærde in Denmark. He has lived in Laos for 10 years, is Lao married and now has two children. He first came to the country as a UN volunteer with UNDP, and he has also worked for both Danish Refugee Council, Norwegian Refugee Council, and the UN World Food Programme. Now he works for Norwegian Church Aid, which since 1990 has had regional headquarters in Vientiane. Formerly, the regional headquarters were in Bangkok, but as the focus moved away from Thailand, which less and less needed the same help as some of the other countries, the headquarters were moved to Laos.

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The farmer to farmer-principle

“We help local people by teaching them new techniques of working and to use new types of crops,” Henrik Schmith explains. 4 ScandAsia.No • December 2009

The finances for the Norwegian Church Aid’s work come from the Norwegian government and from private donors, who account for approximately 50 percent each when it comes to the work in Laos. Henrik Schmith says that NCA uses the money to work with a particular strategy in their relief work:

“The most practical way to help the locals is to use what we call the farmer to farmer-principle. In short, we help farmers to learn from each other and to learn new and different things from other farmers. Things they can take home with them,” he explains, but states that NCA’s work is often opposed to nature itself: “Alongside this we are fighting against a part of nature in the area. For example, there are so many rats, and that is a very big problem because they eat the crops and are difficult to get rid of.”

Background and strategy Norwegian Margrethe Volden is area manager for the NCA, and her territory covers Laos, Burma, Thailand and Indonesia. She explains the background on just to focus on poor farmers in Laos: “The agriculture project was started to help finding an alternative for the farmers to grow opium. In Laos, it is typically the most disadvantaged farmers who grow opium because they live in the poorest areas, and that is why we chose it as a very important focus. Before we arrived, it was for many the only thing they knew of. We would help them to focus on something else.” The most important work for NCA was, among other things, to improve local infrastructure and hence the local community. If farmers can not get to the nearest market, because the roads are simply too poor, they have no possibilities to sell their goods. Therefore, an improvement of infrastructure in the region is among the main priorities to promoting local trade. “In addition to that, we help them to assess what kind of crops that could be valuable for them to grow. They must grow something that has a good value and obviously can be sold, while it must have a high nutritional value, so they can get as much as possible out of it,” Margrethe Volden says about NCA’s strategy.


The Norwegian Church Aid is focused on the most disadvantaged farmers, because they are the ones that are tempted to grow opium instead of other crops. “Before we arrived, it was for many the only thing they knew of. We would help them to focus on something else,” Margrethe Volden, regional Head of NCA, explains

Stringent authorities As a totalitarian, communist country, the government of Laos put more emphasis on strict management and control. They are not usually enthusiastic about external interference in internal affairs, so it is reasonable to believe that relief organizations also may have problems with local authorities. Margrethe Volden explains that relations with the Laotian authorities basically functions well, but problems can also occur sometimes: “Fundamentally, the government is interested in cooperation because they are extremely dependent on our and other aid organizations’ help. But control is extreme in Laos. When we want to begin a new project, it requires very long and tough negotiations with the authorities. They are accustomed to having control of everything in this country, so we must be careful, and if there is anything in which they disagree, they get their way.” Both Margrethe Volden and Henrik Schmith note however that it usually works out well, once they have a clear agreement in place with

the official Laos. Margrethe Volden elaborates: “The authorities want to have clear and firm agreements for everything we are involved in. It might be a little frustrating that it must be run that cogently, but we have learned to work that way. Here that is the case, and one must be prepared even before starting to work, as we do.”

Young people must be mobilized The various projects will be regularly reviewed and addressed, but in addition to that it is soon time for a whole new round of strategic planning. NCA has been satisfied with their projects until now, but there must be time for looking forward. Margrethe Volden and Henrik Schmith explain that the future strategy will be about helping local farmers with climate adaptation in relation to the future and to collaborate more closely with local organizations around the areas. Another important focus will be on the youngest Laotians: “We must encourage people to

found local movements and associations, so people get used to become more active in their communities. It is central to the democratic development in the area,” Henrik Schmith states. It is not really something that has fallen particularly in the very taste of the Lao government, but demands from the international side and from the many private donors have begun to pay off. The authorities continues to provide a strictly control, and each new movement must be approved by the authorities. But it is moving in the right direction, the two aid workers evaluate. “It’s about mobilizing young people,” Margrethe Volden suggests, and continues: “This is done initially by informing them about opportunities for education, help them understand that they live in a big world, explain to them about today’s possibilities with the internet and mobile phones and of course explain to them about the dangers of diseases such as AIDS. We will keep them at school, and we will try to engage them more in their local communities.

They should do sports such as football, and they must learn to be active in associations and organizations that can strengthen their networks, their unity and their prospects for the future.” Henrik Schmith nods affirmatively and concludes: “It is a priority we will focus on in future relief work in Laos, and we have high expectations.”

About Norwegian Church Aid A church based organisation owned by churches and congregations on Norway. One of the largest humanitarian organizations in Norway, supporting work in more than 60 countries. Representative offices in more than 20 countries worldwide, employing around 500 people from a wide variety of backgrounds. Representative offices in Asia in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, and Lao PDR. Working with church based, faith based, and secular partners around the world.

December 2009 • ScandAsia.No 5


A Good Life in Phnom Penh Edvin Engeland worked for more than 15 years at a gasoline station in Norway but when it was possible, he went for vacation in Cambodia. One day he met Thida. Together they have turned a private home close to the Riverfront in Phnom Penh into at bar, restaurant and guesthouse, called Velkommen Inn.. By Bjarne Wildau

n just over two years, Velkommen Inn has turned into a sort of Norwegian centre in Phnom Penh. Five nice rooms, a restaurant with a Norwegian and International menu, and live music every Friday. An important part of the positive development of the place is also the regular Christ services by the Norwegian priest. Edvin Engeland and his Khmer wife Thida have both been working extremely hard to make the combined private home and business to into a profitable dynamo of their lives. “I met Thida more than three years a go, when she worked at Flamingo Hotel. Around 10 months later, we started to look for a place, where we could start something together,” say Edvin. “It’s actually very funny, because I have always said, that I would never ever be so stupid to open anything up in Asia. For every 100 new Scandinavian companies here, only one or two survives,” says Edvin, who mainly changed his mind about starting own business in Asia, to avoid going back home. “The place we found was a private home. We walked in, and when I saw the best out of six rooms, with a huge bathtub, I just said wow. And

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only 10 minutes later, we had rented the place”, explains Edvin. The couple decided to make the coming guesthouse and restaurant there own house, they would live in a rather small room just behind the coming bar. “So you see, my bar and restaurant is my living room. I am only sleeping in my bedroom. That’s why I had to make the place so nice,” Edvin is laughing. And he is right. From the barstools to the decorations on the walls, it’s most definitely a beautiful place. Two days before the opening, the hard working couple still had no menu. During the preparations Edvin had pushed the problem in front of him. “But al of a sudden, a Cambodian guy came in and asked me if we needed a chef. He told me he had worked in one of the well known restaurant I Phnom Penh before. I asked him if he could make a menu and he did. I only added the special Norwegian food like meatballs. Since then, we never changed it!”

First time 25 years ago Edvin came to the Far East for the first time 25 years ago. He was a part of the Norwegian Dragon Boat

6 ScandAsia.No • December 2009

team, competing in Singapore. “Since then, I have been completely in love with Asia, and it even got worse when I started travelling in Cambodia in 1998. Every time it was possible to take vacation from my job on a gasoline station, I went straight to Cambodia”, the Norwegian admits. While in Cambodia, he always participated in The Hash House Harrier run when it was possible. That became important during the first months of Velkommen Inn. Edvins friends from the Hash showed up from the opening day, and they stayed as efficient supporters for the first and important months. The next huge step in the development of Velkommen Inn, was the arrival of a guest, a lady who asked him, if he knew www.tripadviser. com. She wrote a review about the guesthouse and since then, many guests have found Velkommen Inn through this website.

Christ service welcome One day an e-mail arrived from the Norwegian ambulance priest covering Cambodia. The Norwegian Seaman’s Church has seven priests travelling in all countries in the world, which do not have a permanent Norwegian Church, and in the e-

mail the priest for South East Asia asked if it was possible to make his services in Velkommen Inn. “Since then, he has been here to make his service three times. And more and more people are attending the services. It can seems a little strange with a priest in full ornate, preaching while some guest are having a gin and tonic, but it works. We are very happy that the priest is honouring us with his services,” says Edvin. If you give Velkommen Inn a try, you will experience that there is no music disturbing a good talk among friends. That is except Fridays, when there is live music from approximately 8 PM. “I was one of the first who started with live music. At that time it was a little difficult to find bands or musicians. Now it’s much easier,” he adds. “Things are running well. We will never get rich, but we are doing well,” says Edvin, who has taken another decision, very few people knew about until this moment. “I try not to drink alcohol at least three days a week. I would hate myself, if I turned into one more of those sad stories about westerners, who can’t make a proper and good life in the wonderful Far East”.


Finnish Luxury

in Southern Thailand

A young Finnish couple has big dreams and has invested 100 million baht in their very own brand new luxury resort in Khanom. The grand opening is only for February, but already for Christmas is full house.

According to Kati, the many foreign employees help raise the standard: “Scandinavians are working hard, they are targeted, they are quickly accepting and understanding messages, and they work independently. This is all something that makes it much easier for Atte and me,” she explains, continuing: “They are clearly paid some more in wages than the Thais, but we think it is money well spent.”

By Morten Scheelsbeck

wo Finns, 29-year-old Kati Häkkinen and her husband, 31-year-old Atte Savisalo is right now getting ready for the grand opening of their new dream, the five-star resort Aava Resort & Spa on the eastern side of Thailand’s southernmost tip off the city Khanom. They have so far invested more than 100 million baht in the project and they have high hopes that the resort will be a success and earn the investment back home. “Just to start with, we are not here to make money. First we need to have it running while we are

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enjoying life down here, but in the longer term we are off course very ambitious about the project,” Kati Häkkinen explains. She is responsible for marketing and communications, while her husband Atte is managing director and has control of the finances. The couple is from eastern Finland and was on holiday in Thailand in October 2007 on Koh Samui and Koh Phangan. Kati and Atte met a Finnish woman who suggested them to visit Khanom.

Scandinavian way to build and furnish is a world-famous guarantee of high standard and here Aava Resort & Spa will also be the guarantor. Additionally, the Scandinavian elements specifically address to the two most important groups of potential visitors to the resort. One group is the Scandinavians, who are not willing to gamble with standards when they travel far away and spend a lot of money. Another is Asian families who also want to try something a little different.

Scandinavian design

Changed strategy

It was always envisaged that the design had to be Scandinavian. The

“Originally it was our intention that we would invest in a resort for better-off couples. But that all changed since we early this year became parents of our first child. Now we want to go after smaller families as our customers. Now we know even more what a small family will look for when they go on holiday – and that is precisely what we want to achieve with Aava Resort & Spa,” the new father explains with a smile.

Scandinavian employees Kati’s and Atte’s staff at the resort will also help to appeal to the Scandinavian customers. The chef is Finnish, the baker is Finnish, the front office manager is Swedish, the customer service manager is Finnish, the tour manager is Thai-British, and besides that the interior design-

ers who have helped to equip and design the 28 bungalows, are also Finnish. They all have experience in restaurants or hotels in the past. Although Aava Resort & Spa not officially opens before in midFebruary 2010, most of bungalows are ready to live in already from mid-December, and a promotion at home in Finland has meant that all the bungalows are rented out over Christmas and New Year.

The Khanom area The beach is about nine kilometres long, but besides the new Finnishowned resort, there are only four other resorts. That means a lot of space, and the area is very quiet and peaceful. Khanom is the nearest town. It is a small fishing village with about 20,000 inhabitants. In the areas around the city, the magnificent nature features many exciting experiences. Drive up the mountain and look at waterfalls or find a hidden beach, where you can enjoy an afternoon alone. The water off the Khanom is also known as a place where pink dolphins breed, so there are good chances of winning a beautiful and unique sight. Moreover, Aava Resort & Spa offer tours containing kayaking and tours to nearby caves.

December 2009 • ScandAsia.No 7


A “Norway House” N Mormors Hus is located on the outskirts of Legian, south Bali, in a traditional, Javanese building. The dark brown, wooden house is tall and long with a pointy roof. “It actually looks very similar to a traditional Norwegian Stave Church,” says Marie Anne. By Ingebjørg Helland Scarpello

orwegians holidaying in Bali no longer have to worry about missing their favorite food, since the first Norwegian restaurant in Indonesia—and probably in Southeast Asia—recently opened on the ‘Island of the Gods’. Behind the restaurant is Mari Anne Feet, who settled down in Bali after living and travelling throughout the world for two decades. For Mari Anne, “Mormors Hus” - or grandmother’s house - as the restaurant is called, is more than a business idea. “This has always been my dream,” she said. “I love cooking!” Mari Anne chose the name, Mormors Hus, in recognition of the happy days of her childhood, spent at her grandmother house, savoring salmon, meatballs and waffles. “No one cooked like granny! However, it wasn’t just about the food - it was so pleasant to spend time there too. I hope to recreate a similar oasis here, a sweet escape, somewhere people feel at home and want to stay a while, relax and share experiences.”

Ambassador Opening Norwegian Ambassador to Indonesia, Eivind S. Homme, who flew with several other diplomats from Jakarta just to be present at the opening, said he hoped Mormors Hus will be more than a restaurant. “I hope this can become a gathering place for all Scandinavians in Bali, as well as a sort of ‘Norway House,’ where people from Indonesia and other countries can experience Norwegian food and culture. Because, this is after all what life is really about - such moments of togetherness over eating and drinking,” he said. Previously posted in the Philippines, Italy, USA and China, the ambassador said he had once come across a Norwegian bar in Beijing but had never before had the pleasure of dining in a proper Norwegian restaurant abroad. He did not want to miss this opportunity and has already reserved a table for the next time he visits the island.

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in the Heart of Bali Simple but quality food The dishes will be simple, based on quality ingredients and natural taste. “I grew up in the countryside and have always felt that food and nature go together,” Mari Anne explained. On the menu is typical Norwegian food such as poached salmon, smoked salmon and meatballs - the way her grandmother made them, with just the right mix of pork and beef - as well as waffles, potato cakes, cinnamon rolls and pancakes with blueberry jam, plus some Italian and Indian dishes. “Since Norwegian food is not as spicy as Indonesian food, you can taste the ingredients better - the naturalness of the food,” Mari Anne said, promising to invite everyone who wants for a traditional Christmas dinner.

I hope this can become a gathering place for all Scandinavians in Bali, as well as a sort of ‘Norway House.’

In Legian, south Bali Mormors Hus is located on the outskirts of Legian, south Bali, in a traditional, Javanese building. The dark brown, wooden house is tall and long with a pointy roof. “It actually looks very similar to a traditional Norwegian Stave Church,” Marie Anne claimed. “I fell madly in love with this place the first time I saw it, and I managed to convince the owner to rent it to me, even though other

people were offering him more money.” The roughly seventy people present at the opening—including Italians, Germans, Indonesians, Danish and English, as well as Norwegians—were impressed by the ambiance Mari Anne had managed to create. The restaurant’s main feature is the open-air, inner courtyard consisting of a small area of rice terraces, lit up by a sea of candles flickering inside rolled up banana leaves. The terraces are surrounded by a ring of Balinese bales, with tables and chairs in light, pine-looking wood. “The furniture is from a Scandinavian furniture producer based in Bali,” said Mari Anne proudly. In this peaceful sanctuary, far from the tourist resort’s busy streets, guests are invited to take refuge, mingle and relax over Norwegian home cooking, as well as newspapers, Wi Fi internet and of course, lots of coffee. Bali does not have a large Norwegian expat community, but those that reside here are joined by the thousands more who every year make the trip to Southeast Asia on holiday, as well as the hundreds of students who choose one of the

four Norwegian schools in Bali for their compulsory pre-university course.

Guest comments Agnes Christiansen, head of GOstudy, one such school, said she thinks Mormors Hus will become a popular gathering spot for the students. “This is a place they can come when they miss the familiar,” she said, adding that she is likely to become a frequent customer herself. “I will definitely bring my five year old daughter, Tess, here to enjoy proper, Norwegian food”. Other Norwegian expats, including Hanne Refsnes, Espen Lode Tønnesen and Daniel Pladsgård Warren were also keen, while several non-Norwegians said they were curious to get to know the Norwegian culinary tradition. In addition to running Mormors Hus, Mari Anne also works as a hotel director. “I don’t really have time to start a restaurant - but I just had to do it anyway,” she laughed. “It’s my dream!”

December 2009 • ScandAsia.No 9


Great Nordcham HCMC Christmas Party ordcham Ho Chi Minh City held on Friday 4 December 2009 a great Xmas Party for its members and their guests. A total of 112 people participated, including 8 children. The venue for the party was this year Hotel Equatorial where the Vikings were served traditional Nordic food including herring, meatballs and snaps. A Charity Auction was held as part of the event. “The members were very generous and 3,400 USD were collected for our Charity Fund,” says Nick Jonsson, one of the organizers from the Nordcham Board. People only had warm comments.

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Next event is Nordcham Viking Fest. More details on Nordcham HCMC website soon.

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ScandAsia Norway - December 2009