“Lao language very easy!”, many locals told me when I came here. And I really believed it. The thing is, some parts of the language are really easy (like the times for example, you basically use present tense most of the time and then add time-related words. The verbs always remain the same throughout the whole declination. There are no articles and you can basically drop all the complicated politeness-phrases we use. BUUUT: the procounciation is a tough one, particularly because one word can have so many meanings and even after asking 20 times “can you repeat?” I still don’t hear the difference between the minimalistic tonal differences. Makes me want to cry or scream sometimes. I always thought I had a good ear but my ears seem to have hit a limit regarding their capabilities. It is like those ultrasound dog whistles we humans can’t hear).
Another fun phenomenon is when I try to talk a bit in Lao (like ordering something or buying something in a shop) this usually causes the reaction that the locals answer in machine-gun speed and I am completely lost;).
I started taking Lao lessons 6 weeks ago with a private teacher, every week 2 hours one-on-one training. He is a really good teacher and is able to explain many “why’s” to me. But sometimes I struggle with creating sentences as you just can’t translate them word by word from English to Lao.
But despite all the challenges I love it when locals give you a rewarding smile or laugh when you say a few phrases in Lao. It also makes it easier to exchange a few words with those of my students who hardly speak any English…so putting together some English and some Lao words usually gets us somewhere 😉
Oh, I also wanted to give you a little insight into the food-situation here.
Generally I like Lao food. It is quite light, a lot of veggies and a nice spice to it. Depending on how brave you are you can either eat “falang spicy” or “Lao spicy” (the former being the wimpy foreigner spiciness level and the latter being the serious burn-a-whole-into-your-esophagus spiciness). I still end up being too courageous (or stupid) to put too much chili powder into my breakfast rice porridge every other day at the hotel, bringing tears of spiciness (=pain) to my eyes. I have this really great noodle shop just 50 meters down my road, the place here you only get one kind of noodle soup and everyone goes there, no matter if falang or local. 10.000 Kip for a big bowl of pork soop with noodles, egg, soy sprouts, some yummie fresh ginger and – the viciously spicy chili on the side. I love this place. 2 tables outside, 2 inside, no decoration, no “schnick-schnack”, just a fresh bowl of soup. For 1 Euro. Laos and particularly Luang Prabang are by far not as cheap as I thought it would be. But places like this noodle shop or the famous night market food alley are the exception. Another fun experience is going to the morning market or the Phousi Market which is the biggest market in town where you get pretty much everything. It is really nice to see all the fresh herbs and vegetables and it is by far more appealing to buy a big bunch of coriander or parsley for 10 cents than going to a Billa in Austria and paying 1.8 Euros for a few sad leaves. Except for locally grown stuff like tamarinds or mandarins many of the fruits are imported from other countries like Vietnam or Thailand so they are relatively expensive. After not having cooked for about 2 years it is really fun again to go to the market and do groceries, sometimes I simply buy some greenies where I have no clue what they are and how they taste. And every now and then when I (and most other expats) have a craving to really BITE on something harder than rice and soup we go to PIZZA night, a private venue where Andrea, an Italian expat, has built his own pizza oven to cook up delicious crunchy pizza every Friday. And when I really get homesick in terms of food, I go to the German butcher who has wonderful Bratwürste, Schinkenspeck, Salami and other yummie stuff. The only thing that is sometimes missing here is a goooood chocolate shop:)