The giant is Stray Asia (http://www.straytravel.asia/
We’ll be staying in someone’s home tonight – no hotels here. Our accommodations will be the floor of a simple home. Village life is an integral part of Lao culture and society, and this homestay will allow us to experience how the majority of people in this developing country live.
The home is a hive of activity. Old women – petite and wiry – are busy setting out mattresses and sheets for us. The men are outside chopping the vegetables for dinner while pounding back potent lao-lao whiskey infused with the earthy herbs that are said to increase longevity (wink wink, nudge nudge). They take turns pouring and drinking, pouring and drinking, the task of cooking becoming less and less important as the shot tally increases. I pray that the women will come rescue this cooking operation gone awry or else we’ll never have dinner.
Children from the entire village have come to observe the giant falang named Bazza. Bazza accidentally smacks his head on a low Lao-sized doorframe. We play games with the kids. Neighbours drop by to chat. Baby chicks – bright peeping puffballs – roam freely about the yard but scurry to the safety of their mother when the black puppy appears. The pup sniffs my dusty ankles with a wet, inquisitive nose. The sun sets behind the rooftops. Cows mosey on down the dirt road. Ban sabai sabai, I think: peaceful, peaceful home.
For those who are new to the idea of homestays (http://www.thetravelword.com/
On the contrary, homestays are about your host’s experience; you are immersing yourself in their way of life. What you’ll gain is an appreciation for their challenges, the simplicity and hard work of rural living and the feeling of family and community in a village, the legs on which the country stands. This is Laos.
A homestay is one of the highlights of Stray Asia’s seven-day “Phone Noy” tour (http://www.straytravel.asia/)
Village stays are also an integral part of hill tribe treks (http://www.luang-
Tips for Your Homestay in Laos
Have an open mind and relax.They’ve welcomed you into their home and are probably anxious to please you. They will be sensitive to your reactions. Try the food they’ve offered you. Compliment the chef.
Ask permission before taking a photo (note: you’ll get better responses if you smile when asking). Then share. Show the photos you’ve taken of them, of your trip and even photos you’ve brought of your family and country.
Give a small gift to your host or the village chief (ask your guide what’s appropriate)
Learn! This is a great opportunity to learn a few words. Point at objects and find out what things are called. A phrasebook can also be handy.
Both men and women should dress modestly.
You’ll almost certainly be offered a shot of lao-lao, homemade rice whiskey. While you can politely decline, if you can handle the firewater, have a few. You’ll be lauded and make instant friends.
Don’t forget to thank your host and leave no trace. Take all your rubbish with you.
What to Bring
• a sleeping mattress and blanket will most likely be provided, you may want to bring your own sleep sheet
• sarong, for bathing at public taps or rivers
• travel mosquito net; flashlight
• earplugs, if you don’t want to wake with the roosters
• pictures of your country and family
• enthusiasm & smiles
The Travel Word is the online mouthpiece of the WHL Group and draws on a vast pool of ideas generated by local tour operators, partners, suppliers and more. Our blog - http://www.thetravelword.com - showcases responsible, sustainable and local travel. We are committed to inspiring mindful and independent travellers headed off the beaten path with local businesses making responsible and sustainable decisions about their destinations. Through anecdotes, articles, profiles, opinion pieces and news, our local voices aim to inform travellers about unique and ethical ways to experience a destination, travel responsibly and help sustain the distinctive qualities of a place.