Many cities in Laos are growing rapidly. So people are often drawn to the city. But the hygienic conditions are bad here. There is no garbage disposal and no developed water system. The expansion of the infrastructure can usually not keep up with the rapidly growing population. The differences between rich and poor are growing, especially in the capital, but also in rural areas.
The beauty of Laos
But whoever travels to Laos usually reports of the calmness of the people there. The country’s nature is beautiful and in parts still untouched. Life takes place by and on the Mekong, the largest and longest river in the country. There is still very little traffic and animals like cattle, goats, pigs and chickens often just walk around on the street. Since there are so few cars, nobody has to fear that the animals would be run over.
Ndsai and Shoa from Laos
Shoa is 7 and has a sister. Her name is Ndsai and she is 10 years old. They both live in a village called Ban Buac Kwai, in the far north of Laos, a country located in Asia according to homeagerly. They belong to the Hmong people. The Hmong came from China, but have lived in northern Vietnam, Thailand and Laos for 200 years. The Hmong speak different languages. The siblings Ndsai and Shoa also speak one of these languages. This language differs from the national language Laos. But both go to a small village school and learn Lao there too.
Not that easy way home
The village of Ndsai and Shoa is quite high in the mountains at 1600 meters. Here they live with another 60 families. It is not that easy to get to the village, because only a steep path leads there and it takes the children five hours to get to the village. There is also a path for vehicles, but it is much longer and if it rains heavily in the rainy season, it cannot be used at all.
Life in the village
Half of the 450 villagers are younger than 20 years. You can’t buy anything in the village, there are no shops. You can’t eat in a restaurant or get medicine from a pharmacy. Besides the private houses there is only the school. Watching television and reading the newspaper, that doesn’t work either, there is nothing like that in the remote villages. Almost all of the villagers work as farmers, except for the teachers.
Ndsai and Shoa are very happy that they can even go to school because there they learn the national language Lao. They don’t understand why, because in the village the people speak their dialect and not the official language. But if you want to find a job and want to leave your village, you have to learn Lao too.
Working instead of teaching
140 other children live in the village and also go to school. But when it is harvest time, the children have to help in the fields and support their parents and cannot go to school. Even if they wanted to. Imagine not having to go to school! In the beginning it might be very exciting, but over time it would also be boring, especially because Ndsai and Shoa have to work hard, harder than at school. In general, they also have to help a lot in the household, for example doing the laundry, feeding the animals or fetching water. There is no water pipe.
Eating in Laos
More than just getting full
Food is very important in Laos and it’s not just about filling yourself up, but also meeting with the family and eating together. While eating, all family members see each other, chat and enjoy being together. By the way, the most important thing is dinner, which everyone likes to attend together.
The cuisine in Laos influence the neighboring countries and the former colonial makes France. You will find influences from Thailand, but also from neighboring Vietnam. And the French have also left their mark on the kitchen in Laos. Despite the outside influences, Laotian cuisine differs in many ways from Asian cuisine. Although it uses the staple foods and spices that are also known otherwise, it also has some special features.
The Lao national dish
Not a day without sticky rice. Eating out without this special rice, which is more sticky than the rice you may know at home, is almost unthinkable in Laos. In Laos it is not customary to serve starters or desserts, everything that has been cooked and prepared comes together on the table here. Those who live near the Mekong River are in luck, because there are a lot of fish here that like to end up on the plate. The national dish of the country is called Laap, sometimes you can see it written as Larb. It’s a salad. This consists of pickled meat or fish – depending on what you have – and vegetables with delicious herbs.
Why not sometimes raw?
Incidentally, the Laotians eat both meat and fish raw. This is often seasoned with a special fish sauce, which is a popular seasoning in all of Southeast Asian cuisine. There is usually a bowl of hot chili sauce with the meal, for everyone who appreciates spicy food. Other condiments and herbs such as shallots, lemongrass, coriander, basil, mint or dill are very popular.
Different countries have different customs. While one cannot imagine eating a roast beef in India – quite normal for us – there are ingredients here that you might call “Yuck”. This is how the Laotians prepare lizards, snakes, bats and rats. Frogs are also on the menu, but that is something that is also traded as a specialty in Europe. The food in Laos does not taste sweet and sour, as we know it in China, for example, but often bitter. It is served lukewarm. Again, there is a good reason for this, because since you mostly eat with your fingers, you cannot burn yourself.
And to drink?
Laotians usually drink water or lemongrass tea with their meals. There is also a special coffee that is grown and exported in the country. You drink it with a little splash of condensed milk and green tea. Beer is also very popular in Laos and is home-brewed there. And as in most countries in the world, well-known brands of the world have found their way into Laos. So you can just as easily buy cola and lemonade in the cities.