I say this about everywhere I go, but I love Laos. I know I’m optimistic, but I’m also a realist. How can you fall in love with every city, every destination? How can they all have something different to offer? But seriously, I love each place I visit. I may change my mind afterwards (Nha Trang, Ho Chi Minh City), but I honestly always really like where I end up.
I was truly surprised with how much I liked – loved – Vietnam. I had no idea it would be as beautiful, the food as delicious, or as friendly as it was. I had no idea that the Cambodian landscape would be so flat, the country so full of culture and all around so damn happy. I didn’t think I’d like Thailand, being that I didn’t like Bangkok on my previous visit, everyone goes there and it’s full of international companies and commercialism, but the north changed my mind. It truly is the land of smiles.
And then Laos… yes, it’s only been nine nights, but wow. There is something about this country. It has an unrivalled chill out feeling to it. I’ve never felt so little pressure or such pure relaxation. And I’ve only had one massage!
Laos is the country I knew least about, and for that I am thankful. Yes, it’s always a good idea to do some sort of research before you go to a place; it’s really important to be aware of local customs and familiar with laws and rules that are different to your usual. But for Laos, my thoughts on here were simply based on word of mouth. I was told to spend two or three nights in Luang Prabang, same in Vang Vieng and max two nights in Vientiane. Well, I spent seven nights in Luang Prabang, have so far booked three nights in Vang Vieng and am likely to extend.
The people of Lao are experts in chilling out. There is no need to rush. Officially Laos is Lao, People’s Democratic Republic. Curious in itself as it is actually a communist country (what?!?!). I read somewhere that the PDR affectionately means ‘please don’t rush’. And apart from our tuk tuk driver to Kuangsi Falls and our minivan driver to Vang Vieng, nothing here is rushed.
You’re given your food when it’s ready, you’re given your bill when it’s ready and you check in and out as it suits. There is no need to rush. You will not miss out on anything.
At lunch today, I took my time. I ordered a sandwich (baguette) with fries and a mango banana smoothie. The smoothie came out within minutes, throwing me by surprise. It took about 15minutes for the sandwich to arrive. Once handed to me, the older lady sat back down in front of the TV and the two younger girls also sat down. After having my head buried in my phone, I looked up and noticed that all three did as well. I sat there for about an hour and all four of us sat on our phones the entire time.
As I got up to pay, the younger girl took my money and cleared my table. The others stayed in their seats, glued to their phones, the TV still crackling in the background.
Laos is something else. The scenery, the people, the weather. South East Asia is full of motorbikes and scooters, tuk tuks and manic drivers. In the rain, Vietnamese riders will wear ponchos: ponchos that cover not only themselves, but their bikes as well. Thailand has plastic lining for tuk tuks so that passengers remain somewhat dry. But Laos – when it rains, they hold umbrellas. Protection from the rain is more important than protection from a potential head injury or gravel rash. Passengers will sit there and hold a large umbrella over themselves and the driver – they stay dry and get to their destination. Back home, bikes will stay at home and cars will be driven instead.
I take so many things for granted back home and don’t take enough time to enjoy the small things. I get frustrated when things may not go the way I’d hoped; when it rains and I have to take an umbrella; when I have to wait for my bill to be prepared so I can pay. These and so many other things that get in the way of me doing stuff and moving on. Here, I relish the time it takes to do things. I can sit and do nothing, I can watch the locals interact; I can try and make sense of the weird soap operas on the TV. I can enjoy the views.
The view from my hostel rooftop here in Vang Vieng is spectacular. I don’t know how anything gets done here – slowly I guess. Rocky carsts covered in lush greenery and high stretching trees rise from the bright green rice paddies. The clouds dance over, in front and behind them. The sun makes an appearance at its leisure. Rain comes and goes and the sky changes colour. How can you not enjoy it, take it all in?
I wonder if I could ever tire of these views, of this relaxed lifestyle? Thank you Laos for everything you are.
Please don’t rush. Appreciate the chilled vibe; be thankful that it takes a few minutes for your bill, for your drink or food. Enjoy the scenery and views.