Thursday, 28th January 2016
How to live like a local in Laos
While it’s wonderful to be on holiday, there’s nothing like getting into the local way of life and experiencing the culture of a country first hand. In order to do this, it’s good to get off the tourist route and do the things the people who live there do every day. Here are some of the true Laotian experiences that may not be found in a guidebook, but are seen throughout the country every day.
Share a bowl of fer
The noodle soup of choice for many Laotians is fer, which is filled with chunks or meat, green vegetables and chilli. Slurp your way through a bowl with fellow diners at a roadside shack and you will be enjoying the same meal as many of those who live in this stunning country.
Stop along the road for local specialities
Villages across Laos are known for different types of food and travelling along a road means you should stop at each one you pass. Whether it is purchase barbecued chicken in Na Pong or specific fruit and vegetables at all the hamlets between Pakse and Sekong, it would be rude not to stop.
Embark on laidback bargaining
Bargaining is present throughout Southeast Asia, but in Laos, it is generally a fairly gentle affair. Prices do not tend to be too inflated, so getting a little knocked off is good enough. Tourists should always appear relaxed and with a smile when striking a deal.
Tap or shake durian fruit to determine its freshness
Durian is a popular fruit in Laos and can be purchased just about everywhere. Picking the right specimen is a fine art and one local people take very seriously. First, opt for a relatively light durian and shake it to see if you can hear the seed move, which is a good sign. Tapping it with a stick or the flat side of the knife also helps to determine its quality before it’s cut open.
Join in on the karaoke
While you can’t be expected to know any of the Laotian or Thai karaoke standards, it’s a good idea to have some well-known Western classics up your sleeve. You never know when the microphone will be passed your way and belting out a tune is a national pastime.
People who have travelled to Southeast Asia before may be surprised that handshaking is widespread in Laos, unlike in neighbouring Thailand. This is attributed to the French having colonised the country. Always opt for a handshake over a kiss or a hug when greeting a Laotian.
Related news stories:
The Laos reading list (6th October 2015)
Modes of transport in Laos (23rd October 2015)
Why has Laotian food not been widely exported to the rest of the world? (2nd April 2015)
4 ways to keep active in Laos (14th January 2016)