I was amazed at how big homes people (those with obviously load of money) build nowsadays in the capital; you couldn't see such things few years ago. Now, the fashion is mix of French baroque and Sino-Viet styles and: the grander, the better.
Only a few would still build in traditional Lao style (or at least incorporate Lao detail), or would treat themselve with creative architecture.
The columns, domes and massive stairs toward the main entry... those are now accented features of new homes; they're built of cement or brick, and inside fully furnished with precious red wood. Nowsadays, these now homes remind me to a cathedral which is then of course enclosed by high fence all round and guarded by few mad dogs.
It is all to display power and status... I guess just like anywhere else in the world.
I have so far only visited one day of festival in its 3rd edition. Glad to hear something going on in Lao cinematography - it will definitely help to promote this part of culture here.
It is otherwise quite difficult to find something Lao... New Wave doesn't fill columns of newspaper and doesn't become headline on TV either. Except for propagnada movies there is little else, but things are getting better now. So, it's good to check out this little film festival if you are in town.
I was somehow not surprised that the nearly half if not more of audience was expats since there is virtually no cinemas here.
Being small festival it has its advantage - friendlier atmosphere and closer relation between movie and spectactor. Well, you can now also see Lao films stars here, haha...
It is better to dress modestly when visiting the some of the temples in Vientiane. I have experienced that going into the golden temple wearing short dress (over the knee or shorter) is not allowed. But if you do go around in shorts/short skirts/dresses, don't worry as most temples lend wrap around skirts to visitors.
These two women were selling natural medicines in the form of roots, fungi and some other strange items on the street near the Talat Sao Mall. Even though modern medicines are widely available in the city, there must still be a demand for the more traditional forms.
This is popular snack in South East Asian cities, also in Vieng Chan. The dried squids are sold mostly by Vietnamese women (Vientiane has large Vietnamese community and there were times in history when Vietnamese outnumbered Lao in their capital). Those are mobile workers: they travel city streets on foot and with all they need - the squids and small 'owen' which is usually made from old aluminium pot where coal burns upon which squids are fried in front of your eyes.
The squid sellers are often seen by Mekong promenade and busier streets. It's quite interesting snack, has stronger taste and when eaten one must chew very well. Prices are usually from 10 000 KIP up for middle size squid. Smallest seemed the most tasty and all must be eaten when still hot/warm to enjoy its best taste.
Park behind Patouxay monument is popular public area among Lao. In terms of design it's not very special but large fountain (with music at times) draws population to pose for pics which will hang in Lao living rooms, especially for those visitors who come from other provinces - as they are many of them who will visit their capital once or a few times in their lives. Youngsters, couples, families with children, elders and foreign tourists like to promenade at that park - while Lao seem to prefer it from tourist district by Mekong which is more expensive and somewhat feels exclusive. One can snack at the snack shop or buy fruits from fruit sellers by the road - which normally will charge higher price to foreigner.
There aren't many trees at the park (see them at its north end) - with trimmed bushes and paved platform it's somewhat too hot place to hang out at daytime except on overcast days. For that reason it will get most crowded in evenings between and after sunset... and modest light and water splashing show will be used to draw attention and praise of local visitor. The site is excellent to watch people in their amusement and to meet locals.
Most of the authentic Lao food can be found at the road side stalls. The vendors prepare the food in the most traditional way and they are inexpensive. You might think that it's unhygienic but i assure you that they are cleaner than some food served in restaurants. The set up is usually a make shift cart/trolley - low tables and small stools are provided if you want to sit and eat your food there. Vendors at road side stalls are usually friendlier and more chirpy people.
We were lucky enough to partake in a traditional baci ceremony. It is a ceremony held to celebrate any special event, our return to Singapore in this case. what a great idea to facilitate the outpouring of goodwill and love!
the best part of the ceremony was when the Laotians enthusiastically came up to us and tied cotton threads around our wrists, sincerely wishing us good luck, good health, good fortune, happiness and all the good things that matter in one's life. these came from people whom i had only known for a weekend and hence, it's heartwarming to encounter such warmth. They also informed us that the baci threads had to be wore for at least 3 days. I wore mine for 3 days and now that i paid my dues, I ought to anticipate good things in the future! haha.
this ceremony comes with a feast! we were offered hard boiled eggs, bananas, mandarin oranges, chicken and of course, the ubiquitous whiskey!
When people greet you, they will put their hands together in front of their face and say "Sabai Dee". It is only polite to say that back to them.
Pronounce it as SABAI DEE (they seem to make the EE in "dee" quite long).
Laos is a very quiet country. Rarely do people scream or yell. Therefore, yelling and screaming are out of favour and unacceptable.
Another thing that you cannot do is show affection in public. Kissing and hugging is not forbidden in Lao society, but is not to be displayed on the street.
Keep it in mind.
You often see men playing checkers outdoors in Laos. They use bottlecaps for the pieces and play on makeshift boards just about anywhere. They seem to take it pretty seriously too. No chance for a game for me.
The two men playing here were taking a break from doing the gardening at Sisaket Temple. I don't blame them - it was too hot at that time of the day. The guy on the right seemed to be winning.
Many of the monks live in monasteries at the temple sites. This was also the case for Sisaket, of which the gardens seem to be a popular spot to hang out the laundry. The orange robes make a neat contrast with the green.
It's one thing to visit temples and hear all of the ancient stories, but seeing mundane house chores being done brings everything back to the present. I found that I could look at the monuments in a different way.
The Lao and Thai languages are mutually comprehensible. If you speak Thai you will be able to make yourself understood in Laos. This is also helped by the fact that Lao people are brought up on a diet of Thai TV.
An alternative to tuk-tuks is to get on the back of a motorbike - but be aware that you'll have to do it without a helmet. Good adrenaline sport - as long as you don't fall off.
Cost is around the same as for a tuk tuk, maybe a bit lower.
The Lao people (and a few tourists) seem to be fitness fanatics. If you get up early and walk down the road by the river at around 6.30-7.30am you'll see people doing vigorous aerobics workouts with music blaring out through speakers (techno-style music)
Also you'll see lots of people jogging, stretching etc all over the place.