I am writing to you from my hammock overlooking the Nam Ou river.
The views are incredible and the guest houses cheap. If I ever do plan a knitting retreat, here would be a pretty incredible place to host it (of course, despite the humidity, heat and lack of wifi, that is). Not to mention the spotty electricity. It’s been a full day so far with no electricity, which we (fingers crossed) are hoping to get back by tonight.
My time here in Laos has been much too short to get much more than a “small feel” of the people and culture. However, here are a few things I’ve picked up from my short stay here.
First impressions of Laotian culture:
- The people here can be extremely laid back …
- … even sometimes to a fault, like that time my tuk tuk driver never showed up to take me to the bus station. Luckily, my bus waited an extra hour or so for me to show up (and not so lucky for the others inside the bus)
- On that same note, buses and boats do not leave until they are mostly full, even if that means waiting an extra one (or two) hours
- Weaving is a huge part of their culture, and each region has it’s own unique weaving styles and traditions. When traveling by bus through the backcountry of Laos I noticed at least one weaving loom in practically every village we drove through!
- There are only about 7 million Laotians in the whole country.
- Laos is one of the most beautiful countries I have ever been to. Since entering this country via the Thailand border I haven’t stopped being amazed by the beautiful hilltops, valleys and rivers everywhere.
Safety and Hygiene
- As you can see from the picture above, the roads in Laos (especially during the rainy season) can sometimes be blocked due to landslides. Also, expect many potholes and windy muddy roads on any travel by bus.
- The guest houses I’ve stayed at in Laos are among the worst I’ve seen on my trip so far (in terms of cleanliness). Surprisingly, the standard of cleanliness improved in the smaller villages (such as Nong Khiaw and Muang Ngoy) compared to the UNESCO Heritage site in Luang Prabang.
- Be prepared to walk down narrow and shady wooden planks for any type of boat travel. I saw one unlucky backpacker miss his step and fall into the Nam Ou River. Luckily, only his pride was hurt (and maybe his laptop).
In Laos I stuck mainly to the Banana Pancake Trail and ate with other Westerners! As a result, my review of the food likely isn’t the most representative of true Laotian cuisine but rather dishes that are made to please the Western palate. But I’ll share a few of my thoughts anyways …
- Laos has quite a few similar dishes to Thailand on their menus (Pad Thai, fried rice, fried noodles), but cooked with different vegetables, spices, noodles, etc. It also seems like they like their food more flavorful, because everything here tastes extra salty!
- Also, since many Laotians believe that all Westerners don’t like spicy, the food at the Western restaurants are not spicy at all! If you want spicy, you have to specifically request it (much to their surprise).
- They love their sticky rice! (Khao Niaw) I’ve grown pretty fond of it as well. You can eat it with your hands and it goes with pretty much anything.
- Another nice addition in Lao are the baguettes! In Luang Prabang my go-to lunchtime meal was a chicken avocado sandwich (okay, maybe not “traditional” Lao, but oh-so-good!)
- Crepes can also easily be found while walking through the streets of Luang Prabang. Sweet crepes with condensed milk and mangos, salty crepes with cheese and ham, however you want it, they can make it!
- Laos also has a lot of fruit shakes available on the street as well, that they make up fresh for you! I loved drinking a mix of mango and passion fruit.
- For a more traditional and unique Laotian dish, try the Laap. It’s a minced meat (choice of fish, pork, chicken or beef) salad tossed with fresh herbs such as mint, coriander, cilantro and a nice lime dressing. It might have a few different ingredients depending on where you order it.
As for the knitting:
- Currently working on finishing what I like to call a “freestyle” toque (top photo). I’m basically knitting without any pattern while experimenting with cables. It’s a bit too small for me to wear (the cables made it tighter than expected), so hopefully the next version will be better (one of the numerous reasons you should always swatch before starting a project, although I don’t always practice what I preach 😉 ).
- Still haven’t finished my baby booties using the Magic Loop method for two at a time. This project is currently on standby …
- I also finished the Kakano hat pattern, a free pattern from Aroha Knits!
- I still have a ton of yarn left from my yarn shopping spree back in Malaysia! And only a few more months to knit with it all …
Overall, Laos was an incredible country and I definitely want to return to explore the south of the country! In just a few days, I leave for Vietnam! Can’t wait to see what it will have in store for me. 🙂
Have you ever been to Laos? What was your favorite part?
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