by Phairis Sajan
We were walking along the main drag in Luang Prabang, trying to decide if we should rent bicycles to tour old town with our two children. I must say I didn’t want to, thinking our seven year old would be a danger to herself, and others, on the road. My husband insisted on gathering the information though, and he stopped in at several places that rented bikes. But it was something at White Elephant Adventures that really caught his eye. A list of Do’s and Don’ts. He called me over. 23 Do’s and Don’ts in all. Many specific to the astonishing Luang Prabang, but some are really quite appropriate for any traveler visiting elsewhere in Laos:
Do check your money at exchanges (particularly nearby).
Do exercise caution and wear helmets renting bikes.
Do observe a colourful monk procession.
Do brave the heights of the communist era bridge.
Do cross the Mekong and visit an abandoned temple.
Do dance and drink at a Lao disco.
Do eat at a Lao sindad. (BBQ)
Do leave your comfort zone and visit a Lao hospital.
Do give back and donate some books for Lao children.
Not many Don’t’s, right? But there were a few. And they are:
Don’t walk the streets alone at night.
Don’t stay less than 3 nights in Luang Prabang.
Don’t engage in undesirable behaviour with local females.
Number 22: Do respect Lao culture, tradition and customs by.. wearing more and thinking more..
This really resonated, having just come from Vang Vieng where we had seen so many tourists walking around shirtless or in bikinis, spraying beer over the roads.. swearing loudly to each other.
And the final item on the list:
Do photograph this board for future reference. Obviously a good idea.
Now, what would you add, if you could? What would your Do’s and Don’ts for travel in Laos look like? For me, it would be:
Do try Beerlao. It’s got to be one of the best beers I’ve tasted anywhere in the world. Seriously.
Do visit the COPE Visitor Centre in Vientiane. Powerful and informative, it might just move you to tears.
Do join the big aerobics classes held at sunset on Vientiane’s Mekong Riverfront. Just listen for the music and you’ll find one.
Do go tubing in Vang Vieng. As my husband told the young backpackers partying at the riverside bars,“the fun doesn’t have to stop when you have kids”. And it doesn’t. Just be sensible and respect Lao culture. There I go, adding to the list.