I’ve traveled a lot. Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know, I’ve said that before, but let’s be clear: I’ve lived in a lot of places. So I’ve had the good fortune to get to know something of the people amongst whom I’ve lived. Well, on a superficial farang level, at least. My point is: I knows of what I speaks (occasionally), and I’m telling you: the Lao people are the most gentle, peaceful, and kind people I have ever met.
Over-generalizing? Of course! I’m not completely naïve—one finds jackasses wherever one goes. But in Laos, you’re going to have to look for them. It’s not like [pick your favorite city to hate here], where the jackasses grow like grass and just come up to you on the sidewalk and do jackass things.
In Laos—generally!—you’ve gotta be proactive in your search to find them.
I remember a poignant moment in my childhood that has become something of a family joke (at my expense). You see, my head sweats. Not the gentle, “glowing perspiration” that one reads about in novels involving vague southern accents. Nope: my head sweats. Copiously! Always has, which explains why I’ve had very short hair for most of my life.
It’s not a fashion statement; it’s self-defence!
Anyway, I must have been about eight years old, and my head and I were out and about somewhere in Vientiane. A young girl of about my own age walked up to me, looking slightly concerned. Shyly, she reached out and gently wiped my wet brow with her hand.
That sweet encounter has stayed with me for years, exemplifying the gentle and kind ways of the Lao people.
Remember this when you are travelling in this beautiful country and you have the urge to blow up about whatever it is you think you need to blow up about. You may superficially feel better for the venting, but you’ll look like a bully. Worse, you will have lost face, and that means everything in Laos. In most parts of S.E. Asia, really, but especially so in Laos.
So be nice, dammit!