Lao: A step Back in Time

LAO: A step Back in Time.

Having lived in Thailand's Isan area for a few years, visiting Lao for my visa extensions was a regular occurrence for me. Coming from driving on the left side and once crossing over into Lao, the sign announced to drivers that there is driving on the right side of the street. Visiting Lao also afforded me the opportunity to hang out with my very,very cute Laotian male friend who made this visa ritual much more fun for me. We would share a bed together in a small guest house in various places like Vientiane and at times we would go to Vang Vieng which is a town in an exotic location. Him being very playful, would even cross the border to Nong Khai, and arranging a room to spend a naughty night with me if I wasn't travelling back to my town so quickly.

Travelling to Lao was especially easy and convenient as tourist visas were issued on the Thai/ Lao border when ready to cross over.

 Most of the time I would go to Vientiane, the Lao capital city. It was an interesting place with dusty streets, and a sluggish frontier town feel. It's colonial influences from the French meant nice wine,French coffee, and French bread could be enjoyed, as well as good Vietnamese Pho.  There are flags sporting the hammer and sickle in prominent places and buildings like there used to be in places like Moscow, as Lao is one of the few " Soviet Style Socialist" nations left in the world. There are many kinds of old Lao temples scattered throughout the city and the surrounding area. Ancient artifacts such as an old Buddhist stupa, or some ruins which are blended in with the regular city buildings, and one in the centre of a roundabout! There are a few gay dance clubs in Vientiane which are small but amusing and a lot of fun, well, I had fun anyway! Lao has a gentle and familial tolerance toward gay people like Thailand does.

I would go to a town called Vang Vieng, which at the time I went still had an idyllic setting. I am aware that the tourism boom effected this town in a big way, but I choose to remember it for how I experienced it. 

To reach Vang Vieng, I would take a local Lao bus from Vientiane on a four hour ride through exotic mountain villages. The temperature would get very cold during that part of the journey. Vendors would hold up exotic food like eggs, sausages, even a dried field rat, all impaled on long sticks. Passengers could buy these from outside the window and never leaving the bus.

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Now that I am away from South East Asia, Lao very much seems like the remote and backwater nation it really is, but I will also miss that refreshing feeling of Laotian people keeping their traditional culture strong, which has greatly diminished among most of the other Asian countries.
 From at one time being a convenient location for "visa runs", I feel that Lao has now been disconnected from me. 

                                                           visa pages from bygone days

Finally, an even more entertaining thought for my mind is the premise of when my next opportunity to visit Lao again would be. Only the universe has the ability to answer that question for me.


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