Saturday, April 25, 2009

The Laos wrap-up

The trip to Laos and Isan is not obvsiouly over, with me melting in the heat of Bangkok and my friend resting in the bangkokbitch bed before leaving tonight to go back to London. I cant wait to finally sleep in my bed again, after over two weeks of sleeping on couches, non-existing mattresses, on the floor of embassies and nearly constantly sharing my bed with a girl. I wanna sleep with a (my) boy again! And I dont mean sex here:)

How did I enjoy the trip? Whoever has been to Laos will know that it is hard not to fall in love - if only a little bit - with this country and its people. Laos is an extremely poor country, but the people are humble and somewhat more honest and endearing than Thais.

This trip, much more than any other trip I had ever done was a festival of social encounters, which has to do with both, the friendly and open Lao people but also with my own attitude an language skills.

I noticed that, like never before, I am not shy to talk to almost anyone, not just to ask how to get somewhere but also to strike up some conversation. Thanks to this opennness, I had encounters with tuk-tuk drivers, market ladies, waiters, local college students, Western tourists, Thai tourists, cooks, sellers at stalls etc.

I am discovering more and more that making a first step, such as saying "hello", smiling at someone or striking up a conversation can work wonders in breaking the ice between people!

A, if not THE key to breaking the barriers between people is language. Speaking someone else's language eases a great deal of the tention and, in the case of Laos and Thailand, endears a foreigner to the locals like nothing else. I think that Thais and Laotians feel extremely honoured of anyone who is visiting their country, wanting to know more about them and learning their language. So if you want to become popular with the locals, learn their language, quickly!

I noticed and I am still noticing that even knowing a special word for a region, you can make someone's day and change his attitude towards you, it's like you extend your hand towards him/her so it's easier for them to reach you!

Obvsiouly, as you can read from the previous post, my social behaviour got me into many interesting situations with the local gay populace. I can still not believe how many times I ended up in (sometimes flirty) conversations with locals - it was incredible. In each and every town and also in a few buses, I made some sort of gay contact. Now of course, I have the eyes of a gay hawk and I also do not shy away from showing someone if I think they look interesting, but nevertheless, it was astonishing.

After having slept in the same bed/room with a girl for over 2 weeks, I was of course also feeling a little bit like being a bit closer to a man, but it did not happen - resisting was fairly easy, except maybe in the last case. The simultaneous discussion on this blog about my attitudes towards relationships couldnt coincide better with all the temptation and opportunities presented to me on the trip.

For me, the first step is to confront myself and accept that I just like to check out and admire people and get to know them a bit. This is my character and it will probably never change.

The next step then is to think consciously and realistically about these encounters. What do they mean? Most of the time, nothing more but attraction. I can flirt with someone in Thai but my vocabulary is bound to run out after some time - and then what? Even with the waiter guy from Korat, where we had an instant and very strong connection, I quickly realised that this is not more than a little flirt and were I single, I would have probably ended up in bed with him, only to never see him again. So what's the point? Of course, I wouldnt have minded to have sex with him, in fact I wanted it badly, but comparing a bit of sex with the magnitude of a 3 year relationship, it is obvious what is more important.

Reader Joey commented: "That was close." Yes it was a bit, also because I was drunk, but actually it was not because I was always aware of the big picture...

Lastly, I just want to say a few words about gays in Laos, as I am sure, many of you are interested. You will not meet as many out gay guys as here in Thailand, in fact the Laotian society is conservative and most people live in villages, where everyone knows everyone. However, Thai youth culture is very present, especially in border towns and you will see some guys dressing like Thai teenagers. Obvsiouly, the same also applies to Thai gay youth culture.

If anyone has experience with Laos, or lives in Laos, I would love to hear more, or maybe even feature you here on the blog, if you wish to contribute something.

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