A Laos story by Señor © 2002
I admit it, I felt totally let down and I was bumming! After all, I had just left paradise in Cambodia, how could anything compare? It really wasn’t the fault of Laos’ capital city, Vientiane. Like many of my failed relationships in my life, I chalk this up to bad timing. Cambodia was wonderful. I’ve traveled to over 30 countries covering several continents. I’ve had many unbelievable experiences, but I was never more happy than the time I spent in Cambodia. I arrived in Laos with the harsh realization that Laos was no Cambodia! Happily, shortly after this realization, another one came my way: No Laos is no Cambodia, but Laos is Laos. And what a wonderful Laos it turned out to be!
For my first night out, I entered a dance club and was greeted by the host, "Would you like a beer and a lady?"
Hell yeah! I’d like a beer and a lady! Too funny! I never experienced hospitality to a fault, until that night that is. After a few beers and a few ladies, nature called and off to the men’s room I went. The club was a bit of a dive so I was surprised to find a bathroom attendant. "Whatever," I thought as I headed for the urinal to take care of business. The next thing I know the attendant tapped me on my shoulder and hands me a hot towel. A little pre-mature but a nice gesture none-the-less. I brought the towel to my forehead and all of a sudden I feel two hands on my shoulders! The attendant began giving me a massage while I’m taking a piss! Now this was getting a little carried away! Is this guy gay, living his dream job? Or are the Laotian people just this friendly? In broken Laotian I told him no thank you and was able to finish my piss in peace. What do you tip a guy for this service? I gave him a buck and he seemed happy. Later that night, I saw the attendant leave with a beautiful girl on each arm. I was relieved to discover that I was not his "love interest". He was just doing his job!
I quickly learned when it comes to hospitality the Laotians have no equal. A few days later I arrived in a wonderfully picturesque village called Luang Prabang. Again it was bad timing on my part. "Happy New Year Laos" was just a few days away and apparently Luang Prabang is the place to be for New Years celebrations. I was able to find a room for just one night but after that the entire village was fully booked solid for a week! SHIT! I checked into my hotel and headed straight for the Laos Aviation office. I had heard some good things about a small town called La Phang Na, which lies a few miles from where the Laotian border meets the Chinese, Thai and Burmese borders. Seems like a funky place to check out. I asked if they had any flights there leaving the next day. The Laos Aviation worker looked at me with a dead panned expression and said, "Would you like to go there tomorrow?"
I nodded yes and he arranged for a plane to take me there. Wait just a minute... a flight just for me? How much was this gonna set me back? I found the deal of the century: $30, yep thirty bucks! I’ll take it!
The next day I went to the airport. I was waiting for my flight at the bar, when it was announced over the loud speaker that, "Those travelers on Flight 83 to Vientiane should begin to board their aircraft."
Next they announced, "Those passengers travelling on Flight 63 to Chiang Mai, Thailand should begin to board their aircraft."
The next announcement really caught my attention, "Will passenger Señor please walk out to the runway. Señor, your plane is waiting for you."
That was a first for me! When all was said and done Laos was a beautiful country with friendly accommodating people. No it was no Cambodia, yet I was bumming no longer! I still left the country with a big smile on my face.
Laos is Señor's third story in his collection of Southeast Asian stories.