- Travel Topics
And old saying goes
“The Vietnamese plant the rice, the Cambodians watch it grow and the Lao listen to it grow”
Indeed, Laotians might just be the most “relaxed” culture we’ve ever come across. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many people laying around, seemingly enjoying doing nothing – simply meandering about.
Getting someone’s attention in a restaurant can be a feat unto itself. I recall one time when I was looking to get the bill, and saw no less than 8 waiters standing around chatting. After about 5 minutes one of them finally looked over at us (we were one of two couples in the entire restaurant) an came over. This was an upscale restaurant by the way.
Perhaps I should have gotten up?
While relaxation is one thing, the Laotians seem to take it to a new level. I never see anyone reading – ever. If they’re laying in a hammock, or on a couch, or on the ground, it’s never with a book. Often, during midday, you will pass by a restaurant where someone is sleeping. I wonder, is he sleeping because he has no customers, or does he have no customers because he is sleeping?
One of the most intriguing things is that Laotians don’t seem to be motivated by money. On the one hand I applaud this attitude – it’s something we could all learn to do better, myself included. On the other hand, it can be quite frustrating/perplexing. For example, on one occasion we had hired a driver for a group of 8 of us to take us 3 hours away. The price was $10 a person. This meant that the driver would earn $80 over the course of six or so hours (because he would have to drive back afterwards, and let’s assume he picks no one else up for the return journey). By Laotian standards this is a phenomenal deal. It’s easily a week’s pay for a driver in the countryside, maybe a month’s, all done in one – full day’s work.
After arriving 1 hour late the driver picked us up. Instead of driving us the full way, he took us 1 hour closer to the next town, and then found a new driver to take us the rest away. He settled for 1/3 of the total, which was fair for the amount of work he put in, but a lot less than he could have made. It is no doubt that the driver could have made a great deal more money, but for some reason would rather hand us off to another gentlemen and take a fine sum of money for 1/3 the time investment. You can say that he has to pay for gas or that he doesn’t get all the money if he rents the car or things like that – but none of this makes it any less desirable to take us the full way as opposed to only part of the way. In fact, the second driver did the same thing, handing us off to a third driver after another hour (when his incentive structure was exactly the same)!
Could it be that there is some odd 2 hour time limit involved, or is it more likely that they just didn’t feel like driving for more than 2 hours?
Whatever the case, if you’re heading to Lao, prepare to be late, delayed, held up, what have you because nothing, NOTHING starts on time – it’s just not the Lao way.