coach murdock, laos is a nice place.
TACFIT Field Instructor
I love Laos.
I spent a total of 3 months there and managed to pick up the language... its a damn easy language to speak (much easier than Thai, which I am getting close to fluency in now).
I couldn't help learning it the girls were so incredibly beautiful I just wanted to talk to them....
Something I really enjoyed about Laos was the, ummmm how to put it, unassumingness in the flirting game.
As culturally one needs to be married to be sexual for some reason this has allowed the people to become very flirty without the constant undertones we have in the west that if someone responds to the flirt it is very likely to end in sex.
This allowed for very fun and intimate conversations with no pressure, something I enjoyed immensely.
Where did you stay, Damien? In Vientiane or further inland?
These are great stories you're posting, folks! I wish you'd cross post them over at my blog so other travelers could read them.
I really liked Laos. Of all the Southeast Asian countries I most enjoyed traveling in Laos and in Burma. Life was still very traditional there, the people were kind and open, and it was so easy to get off the track. I'd love the chance to go back. (I've got another short piece about Laos on deck, should be up within a week.)
I have to admit that Thailand didn't win me over. Perhaps because i found it a bit westernized, too modern after having spent several months in the wilds of Mongolia and China's western fronteirs, and coming overland from Cambodia (that says more about me and my hopes for that trip than it does about Thailand). That and I was traveling with my girlfriend, who is Japanese. As a mixed couple we didn't exactly experience great warmth. That wasn't everywhere of course (I had some great experiences in Thailand), but often enough to get tiresome. What's your experience in that regard, Damien?
Still, Bangkok was a good city to recuperate in after Cambodia, and to return to between a month in Burma and time in Laos. All the conveniences and modern facilities you could ever wish for. A great place to rest up and pamper yourself a bit.
In Laos I have stayed mostly in Vientiene, Luang Prabang and Vang Vieng. Also did a trip up to ummmmm I forget what it was called, a little river town accessible only by boat.
Vang Vieng was ruined by tourists and had become a sort of party town with rafting on big rubber tyres and these bamboo makeshift bars dotting the river. People would take the day getting drunk floating down the river.
Proudly I never did this once... I did, however, make friends with a number of the bar owners and used to walk up and down the banks of the river. I also made friends with a bunch of young kids who impressed my so greatly.
At 6 years old they would go out in groups and catch small fish by hand in the river, then on the shore they would start a fire and barbeque them eating with sticky rice and sharing with poor me who couldn't catch any (I did catch one, actually).
The older the kids, the more fish and faster they could catch them.
I went out a couple of times with some older kids (around 10-14 years old) who brought homemade spear guns (using nails, rubber bands and a bit of wood) and speared bigger fish... again bbq'ing them on the side of the river.
Luang Prabang is a beautiful city but again very touristy. I had my favourite coffee shop there where I would drink the stewed coffee sweetened with condensed milk and look out over the mekong river and then follow it with a buffalo burger bageutte.
I did the slow boat trip from Huay Xai (border of Thailand right up north) to Luang Prabang down the mekong once, and once again going the opposite direction. If one can get over the constant roar of the engine this is an absolutely beautiful trip. The mekong outside of the towns is a wild jungle.... green upon green upon green occasionally broken by a small village. I looked upon these river villages with envy, were I to do this trip again I would stop at one and spend a couple of weeks just experiencing that kind of life.
The place in the north, accessible by river, was so incredibly beautiful. The river life in Laos to me was like something out of a fantasy. Even more unfortunately this town had been hit by tourists and turned to accommodate them. The entire town was make-shift guesthouses and the locals both now hated and relied upon tourists. This was the most unfriendly place I ever visited in South East Asia.... I felt so sad at these peoples gentle existence being ruined by gawking photo taking tourists, and that I was one of them.
Vientiene was another story altogether. A capital city and big enough to embrace some modern thinking but small enough to be quaint I had a lot of fun here. The girls were forward and flirty (and I got asked at least once daily for my phone number) and the disco-techs were a heap of fun. The Laos beer was very refreshing after the horrible Thai stuff.
I actually worked for a month here helping a tourist agent with some marketing.... I had a motorbike and a phone number and after a couple of weeks the city felt like home.
Hmmm Thailand. Thailand still has that Asian city feeling yet all modern conveniences are available. It is possible to shop at a local market or a supermarket. You can go to a handicraft market or a shopping mall. Chiang Mai is significantly smaller than Bangkok and is overlooked by a great big, green mountain. I like to go up the mountain and look back upon Chiang Mai.
Thailand can be mixed, some people will be warm and friendly and others openly hostile. There is a lot of hidden violence in this country.
Knowing the language opens up some things.... but I am always, and will always be a foreigner to these people.
In Laos I didn't have the same feeling. They were more openly curious and much more willing to look past the different colour of my skin and see that I'm just a person with different experiences to them. I found many of them genuinely curious to find out where I was from and what it was like there.
In Thailand when people look at me I usually see them calculating a dollar figure in their heads, how much am I worth.
I think Thailand has developed too quickly for the people to catch up with it, and in their own way they are still reeling from the shock of this development.
However life is easy here, very easy. So much so that even though I find myself becoming bored with the country.... the thought of going back to the hustle and bustle of Australia quite honestly frightens me.
I've been here in South East Asia 3 years now.
Yeah, Vang Vieng was pretty much ruined when I was there - though it hadn't degenerated into the approximation of Khao San Road that it has since become. It's such a shame. The setting, with those karst hills riddled with caverns, is really beautiful.Vang Vieng was ruined by tourists and had become a sort of party town
Yeah, completely agree. But it's funny, even though the place attracted quite a few tourists, it still managed not to feel overrun or exploitative, at least when i was there.Luang Prabang is a beautiful city but again very touristy.
At the time, i'd gotten pretty burned out. Statues of the Bhudda weren't calling up feelings of peace - rather, they were beginning to enrage me. I was so sick of temples and related objects I was contemplating hopping a flight to another region entirely. But Luang Prabang re-interested me in Southeast Asian cultures. The temples there were different, the architecture unique. And the people were incredibly nice. I found it a refreshing break from so many of the more touristy places in Southeast Asia.
Great comments on your Mekong journeys! That's something I'd like to return for. Just journey down the river, drifting wherever the current takes you. That and a motorbike trip through the interior of the country, and down that long bit that stretches towards Cambodia. I rented motorcycles a couple times in Laos and drove around the countryside, and it was so easy to get off the track. Even on the outskirts of Luang Prabang, it only took about 20 minutes to reach a place where people looked startled to see a foreigner.
Re: Vientiane, I really liked it too. There was a really good feeling about the place. The Lao coffee with condensed milk was wonderful, and I had many nice dinners of sticky rice (and what's that minced beef dish they do so well?) beside the Mekong.
Yes, you've nailed it exactly. That was my feeling too. I didn't sense that undercurrent of violence and extreme psychological damage that I felt in Cambodia, but beneath the placid surface of Thailand there was definitely a feeling of hidden violence simmering there.Thailand can be mixed, some people will be warm and friendly and others openly hostile. There is a lot of hidden violence in this country.
Yep. And I found that multiplied a hundredfold in Vietnam. That was a common feeling throughout Southeast Asia. I guess I liked Burma and Laos so much (and especially Mongolia) because that feeling was entirely absent there.In Thailand when people look at me I usually see them calculating a dollar figure in their heads, how much am I worth.
Again, you've nailed it precisely.In Laos I didn't have the same feeling. They were more openly curious and much more willing to look past the different colour of my skin and see that I'm just a person with different experiences to them. I found many of them genuinely curious to find out where I was from and what it was like there.
I hear ya, brother. Life was good there. The variety of fresh fruit alone was worth hanging out for. I completely fell in love with jackfruit there, and custard apples. And got a pretty good taste for durian as well.However life is easy here, very easy. So much so that even though I find myself becoming bored with the country.... the thought of going back to the hustle and bustle of Australia quite honestly frightens me.
Jeez, you've sparked my interest in going back!
Oh man I looooove durian!
First time I ate it I literally retched it out, second time wasn't much better.... but I kept giving it a chance again and again and it seriously grew on me to the point where I totally understand the durian fanatics point.
Jackfruit, custard apples, mangosteen.... and right now, mangoes! Probably less than one of your dollars a kilo at the moment.
In a couple of months avocadoes will hit. Yeah in the north here they grow these weird really huge smooth avocadoes. Some of them are really bland but some of them are good. In peak season again less than one of your dollars a kilo.
I make a smoothie with avocado, mixed greens, apple and burdock root for breakfast sometimes.
When traveling on my own I have a strange penchant for finding myself with the crazies and weirdos and being pulled into extra-ordinary (for tourists anyway) situations.
Experiencing many times in both Laos and Thailand local villages and festivals... and local liquor.
I would love to go to the '4000 islands' in Laos, natural islands in the mekong delta. I have heard, however, that it is overrun by weed smoking backpackers, nevertheless I can still imagine it would be beautiful and I do have that knack for avoiding tourists even in the most overrun of places (I managed to stay on kaosarn road for over a week spending 90% of my time with locals).
When I travel I tend to like to stay in a single place for longer than a week, I don't like the move-move-move type of go....
But I like your style too, rent a motorbike and just ride. Never done that before.
Let me know if you ever end up over here again.
That is truly impressive.I managed to stay on kaosarn road for over a week spending 90% of my time with locals
I stayed there several times too - it was the cheapest place - but spent all my waking hours someplace else.
I don't think I explained myself very well above. I see those as two sides of the same style.When I travel I tend to like to stay in a single place for longer than a week, I don't like the move-move-move type of go....
But I like your style too, rent a motorbike and just ride. Never done that before.
Like you, I tend to find a place that "feels right" and stay there for a while, just soaking it up. I think that's absolutely necessary. It may look like a lot of sitting around, loafing in cafes, etc, but there's so much going on below the surface. You can't impose an agenda on a place. You've got to sit back, watch and wait. If you do, that place will reveal itself to you. People will show up, strange things will happen to you, you'll see things that look surreal and you'll take it all in. And "opportunity threads" will appear. That's what the waiting is for. You're waiting for those "threads" to present themselves, and when they do, you follow your gut and go along with them. (It's just like martial art really.)
The flipside of that is the motorbike example I gave above. Just setting out with no particular agenda, save perhaps a vague direction. Just go wherever you feel compelled to go, following those faint stirrings of instinct. If you remain open to The Road, it'll lead you to some prettty interesting experiences. Even pivotal ones.
I see both styles or practices as the yin and yang of each other because the common bond is that neither tries to impose a pre-conceived agenda. In both cases, you're receiving, non judging, going with the flow.
Definitely.Let me know if you ever end up over here again.
Whenever I have done this kind of travel I always find myself getting some kind of experience in some way or another.... sometimes weird, sometimes fun, sometimes exciting, sometimes even a bit scary.
Nevertheless an experience.
I think you must be the travel guru, when is your book coming out?
There are currently 1 users browsing this thread. (0 members and 1 guests)