A Laotian sits to smoke on a demolished building

It Was All Yellow

English Pop-Rock band, Coldplay, described Laos very well with the lyric, “It was all yellow”. While it was probably not their intention to do so, Laos fits the bill very well.

Written by: Audrey Leong

From the dust on the road, to the dirt that you wipe off your faces after a long trek, everything seems to have at least a slight tint of yellow. The only thing that stands out from all of that are the Laotians. In contrast to the hazy yellow skies, and the low skylines that would not be seen in urban jungles such as Singapore, the people’s faces are covered with sweat, dust or dirt that has always been a constant for them.

The dust and dirt from the roads can often be found everywhere- on clothes, behind ears and sometimes, even up noses.

Being a tourist in Laos, especially in the village area, makes you an oddity. Especially if the entire group of you collectively possess about $5,000 worth of camera gear strapped to your backs. As an outsider looking in, the village life feels like a whole other world away, a breath of fresh (but dusty) air. The people dress in worn shirts and pants that they wear to the fields, and the children run around barefoot and play in the dust and in the wake of half finished buildings, and piles of dirt left in front of their concrete castles.

The adults busy themselves with watching over the children, making things to sell in the big city or tending to their crops. During the evenings, they gather at someone’s house to celebrate the day with Beer Lao, and dancing to music from the one radio that the village shares.

Most of the Farmers are sustainment Farmers, they only grow what is enough for their families to eat and maybe to sell to the provision shops that every village has near the main road leading into the village. It is said that 80 per cent of the population lives in rural or underdeveloped areas, according to Bigbrothernouse.com. While it was not uncommon to see chicken or fish at the tables of the villagers during meal times, most of their dishes contained vegetables and a generous helping of sticky rice, so it was no surprise that their gardens grew crop like cabbages and Long beans. In Ban Tha Qui, an elderly lady sat while running her hands through what looked like a green patch of hair.

Some are illiterate, their entire education curriculum done on the fields with no formal education. They know their name and how to speak the language, when to bring in crops and when to sow their seeds, but they know not of pens and written essays. However, while they lack in a literary skill, many of the village people have deft hands to catch birds to sell to temple-goers in the main city or are able to weave spools of thread into beautiful pieces of artwork.

The Hmong people, who are situated in a village roughly two hours off main city, boast sun kissed skin and their weaving skills, many of whom sell their hand woven fabrics to larger corporations such as Ock Pop Tock, who give the women a reasonable salary for their work and help to support the villages there. Should you have the privilege of sitting with the villagers for a meal at their table, they will gladly be the first to try their best to overcome the language barrier by using sign language or offering you food. Songs that you sing while walking through the villages will be picked up by them, and their warmth and welcoming demeanours will make you miss the village even before you leave.

All of this amounts to a great experience that will stay with you for a very long time.

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