I would like to offer some friendly advice derived from my own experiences in Laos and Thailand for if you ever find yourself there.
Manners and Etiquette:
1. Thai and Lao people are very soft-spoken and gentle (generally). Don’t show too much emotion! Overt anger, sadness, affection or other emotions can cause embarrassment to people
2. On that note: if you happen to be with your partner while traveling, as I am, be keen on not giving public displays of affection. Don’t hold hands, kiss or hug in public, as it will make people uncomfortable and embarrassed.
3. On Monks: Buddhist monks are very revered people in Lao and Thai society. Respect that! If you’re a woman do not touch a monk as they have to go through cleansing rituals afterwards.
4. Also be wary if you want to attend a aums ceremony (where monks receive their food) or a wat. If you go to one of these places make sure your shoulders are covered as well as your legs down to your ankles. Even if you are not Buddhist its important to respect other peoples religions and cultures.
5. In Thai and Lao culture, feet are considered to be the lowest part of the body (both literally and figuratively) and heads as the highest. Therefore, certain rules apply.
- Do not point your feet at people when you are sitting as it is considered rude. Rather sit on your knees or with your ankles crossed behind you.
- If you are in a temple do not point your feet at the Buddha, as it is quite rude.
- Do not touch another person’s head, even a child’s.
6. Try to learn some of the language; people will like you for it! People here get a kick if you can speak Thai or Lao and quite enjoy it. On the other hand, you might encounter some people who really want to practice their English with you and that’s okay too. People here are generally super friendly and meeting new people is wonderful.
Puppies we saw at a Kahmu village
Advice for your First Trip to Southeast Asia:
If you haven’t been here before, don’t be surprised if your body decides to not adjust well (as mine has) particularly if you’re not used to hot climates (like me).
1. Most importantly: Drink a lot of water! It’s easier to get dehydrated than you would think and one of the tell tale signs of dehydration is a headache in the back of your head or thirstiness that just won’t go away. I recommend constantly carrying water with you and taking little sips as often as possible. Even if you have to go to the bathroom a lot, it’s better than feeling really sick.
2. Make sure you bring Imodium, Tums and maybe some sort of Traveller’s Diarrhea Medicine. If you’ve never been exposed to some of the food you’ve been eating you can’t be surprised if your body does not react kindly.
3. Sunscreen is a must. Even if you’re not as white as me, sunscreen protects from harmful UVA and UVB rays that can cause cancer. Make sure you bring some and apply it liberally.
4. Although mosquito spray is stinky and a little toxic, you do need it. Even if you apply it all over your body you might still get bit. Mosquitoes can carry harmful diseases and if you’re not protected you can get really sick so make sure you have some “Off” handy!
5. Ants, ants, and more ants. Before I came here, Benjamin told me a story about tiny ants invading his computer and I didn’t believe him. Until I went to Laos and realized how many ants there are.
- If you leave any food around or anything of the sort don’t be surprised if you come back a half hour later and find it teeming with ants.
- Keep your electronics high and covered so ants don’t find a home in your laptop or kindle.
- Watch out where you step or you may be like me and get about twenty ant bites while taking a pretty picture.
6. Be careful of the animals! Dogs and chickens seem to rule the land of Southeast Asia. Make sure you’re very cautious before you pet anything as some of the dogs have worms and may bite.
7. If you go in rainy season like I did don’t be afraid to carry around an umbrella or rain poncho. Monsoon rains can start within seconds and last for twenty minutes.
That’s all I have for now; I might update this if I think of something else.
- Leia Atkinson