Saturday, December 10, 2011

Two years of mapping in Laos

After more than two years of OpenStreetMapping in Laos I want to look back and give a short review. Two years ago the OpenStreetMap in Vientiane but also in whole Laos was quite empty, as I illustrated in a previous post.
I started mapping Vientiane downtown rather unsystematic till I met another mapper and we decided to initiate the probably first mapping party in Vientiane end of October 2009!

Thanks to this party I got in touch with the Laozaa IT community, which proved to be a big support of OSM. At the Ubuntu 10.04 release and Laozaa birthday party I could introduce OSM to a wider audience of young and IT-interested people. The interest in OSM was big and a lot of questions raised concerning the use of OSM on mobile devices. We agreed to do another mapping party soon. Shortly after this event I registered the domain with the intention to create a Lao OSM portal.

The next mapping party in June 2010 was rather a technical introduction to OSM and the JOSM editor than an outdoor data collection.

Introduction to the JOSM editor

During Summer 2010 I developed the first version of the website, that I presented later to a wider audience at the Barcamp in Vientiane. Since this first version I implemented a lot of improvements like minimization of data traffic (due to slow internet connections in Laos), places and points of interest search, routing and W3C compliance.

For reasons of limited server capacity I hardly accomplished a regularly updated map rendering, that's why I got in touch (first online, later also offline) with user Stephankn, maintainer and developer of, who rendered at this time a bilingual map of Thailand in Thai and English. He kindly agreed to expand the bilingual map rendering to Laos (and even to Vietnam and Cambodia), therefore currently uses these map tiles. The tiles are now updated within a few minutes after data edits, thanks to Stephankn for this big support!

In 2011 I increasingly started armchair mapping in Laos when I realized that a lot of bigger important features, mainly waterbodies, are still missing on the map. For the first time I downloaded Landsat imagery to map newly built hydro power reservoirs like Nam Ngum 2 or Nam Theun 2 with its countless islands. OSM is as far as I know still the only dataset that maps the currently largest reservoir in Laos.

Nam Theun 2

Last but not least the OpenStreetMap wiki states on its main page, that the project was started to allow people using maps (and map data) in creative, productive, or unexpected ways. The wall clock that pictures Vientiane downtown uses OpenStreetMap in one of those unexpected ways.

Vientiane wall clock


  1. dear webrian,
    I really like the watch ;-) this was done using some 3D printer systems? Unfortunately, my house is just cut off on the far left.

  2. I'm sorry about cutting off your home ;)
    Not sure about the processing workflow, but I assume they use a template and cut out the streets from a acrylic pane.