Chasing Mirages

Vientiane, Laos – the most easy-going “big city” I’ve ever visited

by on Dec.15, 2011, under Posts

Fans of 2 Live Crew, Rejoice!

I'm not sure if this movement has been effective, or if smoking has never been that popular in Laos, but in general, I noticed that very few people smoke compared to most countries I've visited.

My friend and I were wandering around Khua Din Market, a very typical Asian market selling everything from shoes to pomelos to huge tubs of fermenting fish slop, when I felt an ominous rumbling in my lower intestines.  I dreaded having to use the bathroom in a place like this, but I know my bowels pretty well, and at this point there was no turning back.  After talking to a couple of people (friendly as hell), we found someone who understood a little English.  He patiently stopped what he was doing and walked me to the bathroom.

badass bathroom

“What the hell?  Why are there flip flops outside the bathroom?” I thought to myself.  I didn’t have much time to think, so I took off my trusty Chacos and walked in.  On the way to the stall I passed a middle-aged woman coming out.  No reaction.

To my surprise, the floor was pristine, even the area surrounding the squat toilet.  Incredible.  When I thought about it for another second, it made perfect sense.  Whoever was in charge of this bathroom had an excellent grasp of human nature and how to use incentives to promote good behavior.  When you are forced to walk around in bare feet, you will do your best to keep the floor clean.  You will put forth your greatest effort to discharge all of your piss and shit into the hole and nowhere else, and you will be extra careful about where you place your soiled toilet paper.

This was one of the most unique toilets I’d ever used – co-ed, shoe-less, and super-clean despite being in the middle of a wet market.

Though barefoot toilets are not the general rule in Laos, I did notice that public toilets in Laos are all clean and odor-free, even in the most remote countryside.   Some say that you can sense the quality of a culture and its people by looking at how clean their bathrooms are.  By that measure, Laos is the height of civilization, particularly in comparison to the East Asian behemoth that takes such pride in its 5,000 years of recorded history.

Patuxai, Vientiane's answer to the Arc d'triomphe

Before you move on to the next photo, take note of your first impression of Patuxai.  Now, read the official English description of this monument, posted on the left side of the southern arch:

the brutal (in my opinion, overly brutal) honesty of this description had me chuckling for days

all tuk-tuks are equipped with portable slumber devices

the promenade along the Mekong is a wonderful, well-appreciated public space. every evening, families, couples, individuals and groups of friends gather here to stroll, practice aerobics, chill, cycle, chat, cuddle, play

i loved this stand at the night market - pottery painting

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2 Comments for this entry

  • Yush

    Happy to hear that you’re wearing Chacos. Aren’t they awesome?

    Also, that picture of the pickup truck with the hammock isn’t a tuktuk, is it? Aren’t tuktuks those tiny three-wheeled taxis that run on propane?

    • Chaser

      I love the Chacos. Swear by them, except in leech and mosquito infested areas.

      I think tuk-tuks are different in different cities. Vientiane tuk-tuks are these contraptions, 3-wheeled modified motorcycles. I think they run on gasoline.

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