The pure, authentic, Asian culture I was craving, I found in Laos. With its best attractions being the vibrant scenery and rural life that exist throughout the country, it is the perfect destination to laze the day away. Laos is an ideal relaxation vacation to string up a hammock, grab a cold drink, and enjoy the view. I found it as a great location to catch up on my reading, writing, and doing absolutely nothing. Absolutely nothing usually became an unexpected (getting lost) tour around town or an intriguing conversation with a temporary friend. To unwind with local and foreign nationalities from around the world, sharing the tales that are life, offers a tranquil pastime. Leisure is one of the most appealing aspects of Laos
So what do I mean by “authentic” Asia? Well, it’s Asian! Hot water, wifi, a toilet that flushes. Ha. All of these are worthy ploys that sell a room. The water heater is there for decoration. The full bars of deception are only present to make one waste time and hope that eventually a webpage will load; however, it will not. A Western toilet is a luxurious comfort, so guest can have a sit instead of a squat. Just be happy a bucket of water is nearby to allow a proper flush. And to keep international peace, make sure to share the one functioning outlet with fellow dorm mates.
Luckily, I met a Kiwi fellow wandering the same uncharted route as I to share the delicacies of Laos. Traveling alone has many perks, but a few disadvantages as well. Accommodation and tours are pricier, yet to share a moment, a sight, or a sound of a strange, new land with a like-minded drifter is simply priceless. I love to travel solo, but some moments lose value when experienced alone. Brendan is a free spirit and a man of science, specializing in invasive species, who happens to share my enthusiasm for the Banana Pancake Trail. What began as a simple exchange on the bus ride from Cambodia into Southern Laos became a friendship that led us to the Chinese border and into Thailand, sampling banana pancakes the entire way.
Banana pancakes are popular, cheap, and readily available across Southeast Asia. They range from full-on cakes to fold-up crepes with chocolate banana being most tasty (in my opinion), serving as a satisfying snack or meal. Crepes were a safe bet of getting what one actually ordered.
Ordering food often times felt like gambling. Will I get meat in this dish or will it be mostly cartilage and bone? Will I even be served what I ordered? Can I even order? If Brendan ordered chicken and I ordered pork, then we are getting one or the other. If the server asked us what we ordered after ten minutes, not once but twice, no worries. A meal of some sort will eventually show up. Oh yes, and a lesson I learned quite quickly was to never go by the picture because you may end up with frozen fish sticks right out of the box. At least Brendan had a good laugh as we both wore sunglasses to shield our eyes from the man welding right next to us, which was more protection than he had.
I am not trying to complain, just detailing my observations of what has been dubbed “Classic Lao.” Granted, with a few differences here and there, I have discovered a lot of these conditions exist throughout Southeast Asia. It is just to what to degree. The easygoing nature of the Lao people overall allowed me to enjoy the country that much more, strengthening my patience along the way. The difficulties of adjusting to another culture are the most fun and memorable. I learned so much about communicating while I was in Asia because of my lacking ability to do so. Communication usually consisted of pointing, smiling, and repeatedly saying thank you in the native language. There is no point in arguing or bitching when all is wrong because only a laugh, smile, or puzzled look will come out of it. In the end, all is well. From my perspective, I am fortunate enough to have been in Laos to begin with, even if the bus driver pisses me off. Be present and savor the moment of freedom.
Tardiness and confusion is essential in Lao travel, so if this irritates you; do not go. With that said, excitement is a crucial strategy to successfully win this amusing guessing game.