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Laos Groceries, Blessed Shopping, The Bike Crash and No Lady Love Allowed

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How do the Laos people go grocery shopping? They take a trip to the market where other locals sell the freshest fish, meat, fruits and vegetables…and by freshest I mean still alive. At the Morning Market in Luang Prabang everything is ultra fresh. Fish still flapping about on damp banana leaves.
Laos, ladies fry up some of the tastiest little fried bean balls; crouched down and almost motionless they’re easy to trip over. Delicacies like ox and pig’s hooves, crab wreathes and the stinky-sock-smelling durian are also on offer by the plenty.

Cruising the colourfully tarped stalls of the night market where hundreds of locals tent up and display their handicrafts to sell. While baby sleeps, local women work their sales skills on shop-happy tourists to earn their living. Bartering and haggling in Luang Prabang is nothing compared to that of other parts of Asia. I thought Thailand was bad, but it wouldn’t be until I’d get assaulted by a vendor in Hong Kong that I’d recognize the very serious business that is haggling. The Laos ladies in Luang Prabang hand make everything they display and it really seems sad to even haggle with someone of a third world country; we’re arguing over a few pennies here. The Yank prides himself in being the supreme barterer, attributing the quality to genes. I on the other hand have a problem with figuring out an appropriate price…my logic is simply, if I like it…I’ll buy it. Things are just so much easier when there’s a price tag. When you do purchase something you are taking part in your first blessed shopping experience. Before pocketing the cash, vendors will fan their money out and proceed to tap and sweep the cast over their crafts, blessing them. It’s a ritual done for good luck to the vendor.
Laos has one of the highest vehicle accident rates in the world, and considering the size of the country, it equates to a rather high incident rate per capita. All accidents involve some combination of motorcycle, car, tuk-tuk or bicycle. Strolling back to our guesthouse we’d  notice a motorist come barreling out from a side alley without stopping. We’d notice him, number one because he’d whizzed past use without flinching and second, because he’d then nook a cyclist. Like many tourists do in Luang Prabang, this guy had rented a bike to get around. For one US dollar, it’s a splurge everyone indulges in here. Of course though, this doesn’t include a helmet. Helmet? Asking for one will leave your bike rental guy looking at you like you’ve got a boog hanging out. Mr. Biker came cruising down the very open road while Mr. Moped did the same from his side alley. BAM! Mr. Biker did a mid air double sow cow over Mr. Moped. This was about to get very interesting. What do you do? Again, like Thailand, Laos people are known for their non-confrontational demeanor. And there was a good chance Mr. Biker didn’t speak any Lao. So, here’s the breakdown of what happened. Mr. Biker landed flat on his face, but luckily momentum propelled him to his feet. He’d rush over and grab Mr. Moped’s bike to show his upset and then began to pantomime his frustration. With no signs of blood or protruding bones, he brushed himself off and then in slow and irritable English that was loud, but decibels still not reaching a yelling category, Mr. Biker said simply “You. Stop! You. Look!”
There were rumours circulating of a bowling alley was open till the wee hours, but sadly it had been closed down. Instead we’d head to the town’s only nightclub. After a few buckets, we’d end up cramming 15 people into a 7 person tuk-tuk. When the driver saw how many we were trying to cram into the little cubby he waved up a hand and said no no no, but we flashed some extra George Washingtons at him and he’d get on board. The nightclub clearly wasn’t catered to heavy tourist drinkers and the function of  what a “bar” actually is evaded them. There was indeed a bar, but that’s not where you’d bought drinks. Instead you’d order off a very minimal menu list at a take-out window next to the bar…but still inside the nightclub. It’s still foggy what was ordered, but we’d hit the dance floor where a random Laos girl found it amusing to use a white girl as her stripper pole and began bumping and grinding all up and down my leg. I guess the girl-on-girl thing doesn’t make pages in the Laos gentlemen’s dirty magazines because the girl’s boyfriend was none too pleased. I guess it was the hate stares I was getting, but maybe this was Laos love? Either way Laos Lady Love scampered off. Utopia bar was a favourite with its indoor volleyball court that more than made up for the sketchy bamboo constructed deck with no railing.
The Limey

One comment on “Laos Groceries, Blessed Shopping, The Bike Crash and No Lady Love Allowed

  1. Gavin
    November 28, 2013

    Great article.

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