Travelling through Laos you’ll find a lot of flyer’s and posters on what is, and what is not expected from you “The Falang” in their Country. So we, as thoughtful as ever thought that we could combine all the information we were told from the patient Laos people we asked.
“Falang, Falang!” is something you will hear children ‘whisper’ to their parents as you walk past and the tuk tuk drivers scream out loud for no other reason then the potential for a job opportunity with someone outside of Laos and from me writing this post to you, beloved reader… cough cough… Falang! I initially started getting annoyed and almost started to get offended when the words were bellowed from, well almost everyone and when I finally asked our elated tuk tuk driver; whom was selected over his colleagues for his incredibly over excited tone as we got off our bus at Luang Prabang station we asked him what exactly a ‘Falang’ was. He laughed and informed us that it actually came from the colonial days where the term Falang was used for the French. Then I was offended… French?!?! (Allow me this jibe, I’m English). So don’t be offended when the word is thrown around, yes they are talking about you but as soon as you throw a smile or a wave many more will be thrown back in your direction.
Walking/cycling around ‘naked’ or scarcely clad… This was a big one and written in most restaurant’s and bar’s and comes with a bit of sense and a little salt. I’ll explain. Laos Peoples have a certain culture of covering up and being discreet with their… nakedness. That said (and here’s where the salt comes into play) we saw plenty of naked women and their children in the river in broad daylight! “Discreet culture my ar#e” you would instantly think and then parade through town in your swimmers defiantly, as you’ve seen plenty of naked Laos women having a skinny dip in the river themselves… please bear in mind that this river could actually be their shower/bath and that you staring and pointing is much worse than donning your mankini through Vang Vieng at rush hour. Put a T-shirt/shorts/vest… clothes on.
Laos roads are rubbish. Long bus journey’s are tough, even for the most rugged of travellers. The less you eat, the less you’ll have to throw up. The views are stunning and almost make up for the ride… almost.
You have to pay for everything! Want ice with that? Want to use this toilet? Want to cross a bamboo bridge that may or may not hold its end of the bargain as you cross? Then it’s going to cost you. In an attempt to cut this long point short here are the facts.
- Laos is one of the poorest Countries in the world (there is a reason you haven’t/won’t see any birds in the sky… protein).
- That 10,000 kip you argue over is worth $1.2… that would only buy you a coke back home but that money lasts a local a whole day.
No money, no honey is adorned on the vest in the markets of Thailand. Laos vest should say “DON’T BLOODY DO IT!”. The Laos Government (in an attempt to distance themselves from their liberal neighbour and stop sex tourism) has made fornication with the locals illegal. The punishment is a jail term without trial and a $5000 fine, if you were discreet and slipped below laws net we heard rumours of exploitation and other such nasties… keep it in your pant’s or find another traveller… if you don’t have the features or personality for consenting, non transactional sex then marry the local and all will be fine.
Most places close early, this is enforced by the government, if you forget this after a night bowling in chaos (Luang Prabang) you might feel so guilty for waking the receptionist at barely midnight that you feel obliged to tip… heavily. As he did actually warn us.
From their notorious sticky rice, to steamed and fried the Laos people know their rice. But rather than sitting on their laurels they also offer Lao Lao. Whiskey. Made from rice. Rice may be in abundance out here but I can’t help but be impressed by the ingenious Laos people for finding another use for their staple diet. We drank a few glasses and don’t remember much else, it’s that good (read here). To really show off they also have BEERLAO. Beer made with rice rather than yeast I believe and it tastes great. I loved it. If you’re looking at drinking on a budget these local drinks (not imported) will save you a few dollars and will do just as much, if not more.
Just be patient. Laos and it’s wonderful (if not a little stern at times) people are more chilled out then Bob Marley after a game of football and a few “cigarettes”. Food comes out in an order that seems to intentionally ensure that you won’t eat at the same time and here is where my favorite fact about Laos comes into play…
Laos word for “MINE” is the same word they use for “YOURS”, in Laos culture everyone tucks into each others food and they seem to just tapas along as the Spanish do.
Have we missed anything out? Please comment below so that we can add them in for the benefit of anyone reading.