Laos was our first soiree into motorcycle ownership. After finding one to buy, we toured from central northern to central southern Laos, stopping at multiple mechanics along the way and meeting plenty of other travelers.
It was South East Asia’s high tourism season, and we never found ourselves far from other western travelers. Many of the places we would have liked to visit never happened due to the time limit on our visas, but we managed to get a reasonable feel for the culture – fleeting as it was.
The food is something like a mix of Thai and Vietnamese. Noodle soup is the staple, and it’s rare that we would go a day without eating it at least once. A favourite condiment of ours in Thailand was the pickled chili, which is lacking in Laos. However, they make up for it by supplying a plate crammed with limes, beans, mint, and coriander, and the chilli paste often had a wonderful smoky taste from being prepared on a wood burner. Another staple is khao niu (sticky rice), served with all manner of meaty salads and laabs.
Karaoke is big in Laos, but it seems to be the off cuts and rejects from Thailand. Even the ‘professional’ videos have singers that are horribly out of tune, belting ballads and paying homage to K-pop through haircuts. Singing, although well loved by the locals, is certainly not their strong suit.
The people we’ve met are generally quiet and friendly, and they tend to keep a respectful distance. We read somewhere that, “The Vietnamese plant rice, The Cambodians watch it grow, and The Laotians listen to it grow.”
No idea what that means, but it certainly sounds poignant.