Tuesday, 3 December 2019

A CHANCE MEETING - IN VIENTIANE, LAOS

Good night see you in the morning 
March 2012 - Lorenza and I had just concluded a hot, frustrating trip to Udon Thani in Thailand to try and sort out some medical help for a young girl from a village close to Vientiane, the capital of Laos (I will save the details of that story for another time).

We took a stroll that evening along the Mekong road, thinking about finding a nice bar for a well earned cold Beer Lao. Our attention was drawn to the window of a night club, the bass player in a band was smiling broadly and beckoning for us to come inside. We looked at each other and thought “why not”. This turned out to be a good decision on many levels.

Lao Cabaret Show


We found a table and ordered some drinks. Rather than a DJ playing dance music, we were entertained by a modern cabaret show. It featured a number of local singers who did renditions of some western pop songs, but mostly Lao pop music. They put on a really good show and gave it their all. One young guy exploded onto the stage with such energy and vigour he had everyone cheering. A look around the mostly Lao crowd also confirmed he was very, very popular with the young ladies. The Lao Justin Beebar?

There was also the Lao version of Tina Turner, Diana Ross and many more, great costumes, lyrics we could not understand, but still a lot of fun. The place was packed.

Do you speak Lao?


Two young Lao ladies asked if they could join us at our table as we had two of the very few spare seats remaining in the place. They were dressed in traditional Lao costumes and looked so elegant.

Within a few minutes they had struck up a conversation with us, with the great opening line “Do you speak any Lao?” I ran through my not so extensive Lao vocab, which had them in fits of laughter, apparently my pronunciation was laughable. 

The young ladies could speak some English and were happy to get a chance to practise with us. We had a hilarious time explaining a simple joke to them …. James Bond was visiting Vientiane. While wandering along the Mekong he came across a chicken. The chicken asked James Bond “what’s your name” the reply being “I am Bond, James Bond”. James Bond then asked the chicken “So, what’s your name” the chicken replied “I am Ken, Chic Ken”.

We found out the young ladies were sisters, Tonoi and Khaek. They had been to a friends wedding and Tonoi had not been to the capital before and asked big sister "please take me to a cocktail bar". Hence they were dressed in such formal Lao traditional clothing.

Closing time


At closing time (which in Vientiane is 11pm) they gave us a lift back to our guesthouse and we all found it very hard to try and stop laughing in the street out front. They kept repeating the James Bond joke to themselves and it must have drove the neighbours mad - sorry. The lame joke sure sounded a lot funnier with a Lao accent, following a few too many cocktails.

As they left they offered to pick us up next day and take us on a tour of Vientiane. Lorenz and I agreed and went off to bed wondering would they remember they promised to collect us at 10am next morning.

A Day on the Town


While eating breakfast I mentioned to Lorenza that Tonoi and Khaek may forget what had been arranged. I was wrong; they arrived ten minutes early, full of smiles and good humour. We had a great day seeing the sights with them, aside from the main tourist spots we also took in a local temple and lunch at a great Pho (or Fer in Lao) restaurant. This was followed by a visit to their family house, then we decided to visit a spa for a massage before meeting again for dinner.
with Khaek on our day tour

We had a great time with these lovely young people. Khaek proved she had a very cheeky side to her by fooling me into eating a whole green chili at lunch time. She was eating them, after dipping them in a sauce and when I asked did they taste OK she promised me “they are not hot at all, you should try one”. Looking at her innocent face I believed everything she said and dipped one in the sauce and munched on it … “oh no, call the fire brigade!” my mouth was on fire. I was coughing and my tongue felt like it was swelling up … Khaek was almost falling off her chair laughing!

Tonoi had us in stitches over dinner, she was losing her voice but kept talking, her voice was getting worse and we had to apologise she sounded so funny. Then her and Khaek teamed up to try and tell us some Lao jokes. This had us all in stitches – the jokes (sorry girls) were lame but the process trying to translate them to English was absolutely hilarious. 

Fast forward to 2019


So, since 2012 we have stayed in contact almost daily - yes daily! Khaek has married, had two handsome boys. We have travelled with Tonoi and her mum, Keo to Vietnam for a holiday. We have travelled through southern Laos on a road trip with Tonoi and her parents, which was an amazing experience visiting and staying with their friends and family, a very personal experience of family life in Laos. 

With Tonoi on our day tour
In 2017, Tonoi and her cousin Ting, visited Australia for three months and stayed with us while they attended an intensive English course at a college in Sydney. That was so lovely to have them come and live with us. So far we have been back to Laos 5 times since 2012, got to know their extended family and have formed such a loving, unique bond with them - it has been a life changing chance meeting - they are our family now too. Our lives are so much richer for that chance meeting.

I agree with Tonoi when she says we must have been family in a past life.




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