Everything moves slowly in Laos

And I love it here. In a little more than a week I’ve met countless great people,¬†attended two wedding parties, one funeral, and finally reached the zenith of traveling: not knowing what day it is.

I entered Laos by way of the slow boat, a two-day long cruise downstream the Mekong river. It meanders heavily, each turn revealing the same but ever-wonderful sight: grey rocks rising sharply above the waterline, light sand along the banks, and lush green hills vanishing into the grey tropical haze. I dipped my toes into the water and watched the landscape pass by, with the occasional fishermen working along the banks but outside that nothing but beautiful, relaxing nature.

And then, at sunset of the second day, the slow boat dumps you on the shores of Luang Prabang, an absolute gem of a town. French colonial architecture mixes with South East Asian wooden houses, all slowly decaying. It smells of a mixture of incense and woodfires. I enjoy my morning croissant and my baguette for lunch, listening to jazz in a riverside cafe. In the afternoon I wander over to Utopia, a little paradise of a bar so incredibly relaxed it becomes difficult even to string thoughts together.

I’m supposed to heading South, to Cambodia, but I’m also supposed to do whatever I want, so I ended up in Nong Khiaw, a little town to the north of Luang Prabang. As soon as I got in, the guesthouse owners insisted I join them for drinks. Turns out their son’s wedding was last week, and today was the first day that his bride was living at their house. So cue the shots of Lao whiskey, uncles telling me which Dutch football players they know, and traditional Lao drinking: one glass for a table, refilled and passed around over and over again.

The next day I was invited to another wedding party, so with a little posse from the guesthouse we went over bearing presents of beer and money. To beat the awkwardness we did Lao drinking at triple speed, with three glasses, while the wedding photographer fed us shots of whiskey. Soon we were doing the Lao wedding dance (swaying for side to side in a big rotating circle, waving your hands) and trying to introduce some disco moves when the party got wilder later on. Then it was time for a quick dip in the river and watching the sunset.

By 10 pm I couldn’t see another beer and crashed hard, only to wake up again at 6am for the finale of the festivities: a funeral. All night the mourners had stayed up, drinking and making music, and I kicked off my flipflops and joined them. There wasn’t a casket, there was a tiny house decorated with gifts and money, with a small fake casket inside, which would be presented to the monks of the temple later in the morning. Absolutely fascinating.

So now I’m back in Luang Prabang (this time only a six hour boat ride) to soak in the atmosphere for a few more days. Laos is rapidly entering the ‘favorite country’ discussion. It’s incredibly gorgeous and relaxing, and I’ve been lucky enough to experience local life here like I haven’t anywhere else. We’ll see what the south has to offer for the upcoming week or so, before making my way into Cambodia.

Here are some of my favorite photos of this week:

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One Response to Everything moves slowly in Laos

  1. Gary says:

    Cracking story mate! I know exactly why Laos entered your favourite country category. I only spent a week in Luang Prabang and I could have spent my whole holiday there.
    Rock on!!!

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