1 Million Kip

Vientiane (Vientiane), Laos

February 1996 – February 1998

One of the many activities I engaged in was working with the WIG (Women’s International Group), in both the Philippines and Laos.  I started the group in Cebu, Philippines, but that is another story.  Here, in Vientiane (Vientiane) I became involved because I enjoyed writing and started a Newsletter but later got involved in the financial aspects of Wig.

We were involved in several projects in Vientiane (Vientiane), but one of our most active endeavors was in the field of education.  We raised money for schools.  One of the committees was the education committee which contributed money towards simple school structures, primarily, flooring, roof, desks and chairs.  We managed to put quite a bit into an account, but through some investigations discovered that we could change to another bank, which charged us less for our transactions, and gave us a higher interest rate.  Great, the treasurer and I, after presenting this idea to the group for their acceptance,  set a date and time to transfer the money from the present bank to the new bank.

The currency in Laos is called a Kip.  Now in those days the Kip was not worth a lot against foreign currencies.  That situation does not seem to have changed as I have discovered by looking up the exchange rate as of this date (May 2013), the exchange rate is/was ca.  LAK 1,000 for US$1.31 or LAK 5,000 for DKR 3.71.  Keep this rate in mind as I continue with my story.

The treasurer and I drove to the new bank in my little Kia and told them we would be transferring some money on this particular morning. The teller smiled and, “No, problem. We are here until noon, then we close for lunch and open again 2.00 p.m.” At this time it was 10:00 a.m. which is when the banks open. So into the car again, drove to the old bank and told the teller that we would like to transfer our funds into the new bank account. “Oh, we do not transfer money. You have to transport your money yourselves, which right now is over LAK 1,000,000 in your account. We will count the money, put it in plastic bags and you can take it to the new bank!” Oh, my gosh. We were stymied.

After about an hour, the tellers were still counting Kip and we began to worry about getting to the new bank before it closed.  We did not relish the thought of driving around Vientiane (Viantiane) in a little Kia and storing over KAO 1,000,000 in a private house if we did not get to the new bank before it closed.

O.K.  into the car again, drove to the new bank and asked them to please not go for lunch and would they, please, have their armed guard at the door when we came to assure us of safe entry.  No problem, we were assured and the guard smiling, nodded and assured us he would wait for us.

We hopped into the Kia again and drove over to the old bank to see how the counting was coming along.  Still counting.  Meantime, the stack of Kip was growing.  KAO 1,000,000 makes quite a stack.  Finally, at about 11:55 a.m. – and talk about cutting it close.  The counting was complete.  “Do you have plastic bags?! the teller queried.  Shock.  Out to the car again to see how many plastic bags we had.  Fortunately, the bank was alsowilling to donate a couple of plastic bags and all the money was accounted for.  We received a receipt and the cancelled bank book, the two of us grabbed the plastic bags and headed for the door.  We both stood there – millionaires!  We checked the streets to see if anyone suspicious was lurking nearby, and we ran to the car.  I unlocked the front doors, we both jumped in, locked the doors again, with shaking hands started the motor and I raced over to the new bank.  I sent our treasurer up to the door to tell the personnel in new bank to have the guard on standby and then ran with our bags into the bank, as the guard locked the door behind us.

 

Our big concern was when were they going to count the money and was it safe to leave that much cash sitting behind the counter.  We were assured that the bank was responsible (whatever that might mean), and we could come back later in the afternoon to pick up our new bank book and receipt.  Relieved that we were no longer responsible for all that money, exhausted from the stress and quite hungry, we headed home for lunch.   Oh, I might mention that it was spring and the temperatures at that time were around 32° C / 90° F.

Yes, after checking with the bank and receiving our new bank book, everything seemed to be in order and we continued our school building projects.