Falang! Falang!

South Americans use the term Gringo. Here it’s Falang. The first pantsless kid (kids never wear pants) to spot you announces your arrival with ‘Falang! Falang’. Lonely planet describes the restaurants by the river as ‘Falang style’ and whenever anybody talks about us in Lao, the word pops up. I was asked how hot I wanted papaya salad the other day and replied ‘Falang hot’, she understood.
Last night we had a cultural experience and found out Falang means ‘French’ not foreigner. Now we have a chicken and the egg question to unravel about the French and Foreigners in Laos.
Last night Ryan and I fell into the boys and egos trap, for the second time. We had planned a slightly shorter day and thought it would be nice to knock off another 20km towards Luang Prabang to make the next day shorter. We got some reliable advice that there was a guesthouse in . . . 20 km down the road. But that town was only 10km down the road, so there must be another guesthouse at the 20km mark, right?
Just at the tail end of dusk and 30 something km down the road, Ryan stopped in a village and asked if there was somewhere we could sleep. When I arrived he looked confused but said people had run in ten directions and thought they were organizing something. We then got the follow me from an old guy who spoke zero English but was pretty sharp at charades.
His house consisted of Himself and the grandma, a grand kid and wife and two other miscellaneous late teen children. More people seemed to appear and disappear every time you looked around. The father popped in at some point but apparently lived elsewhere.
With English words being sparse, The saviours of the night were the lonely planet phrase book and Point It, the picture book for travelers that has pictures of everything you may or may not want (For instance, It has pictures of a pig and a dog, so you can clarify). The books were brilliant and got us though small talk and dinner.
The phrase book let us down with the Laos to English translation of ‘Would you like to leave?’ which left Ryan and I feeling a touch unwelcome, but apparently should have been ‘Would you like to come and get beer?’. We then got beer but through an accident of communcications got twice the desired number and proceeded to get our hosts tipsy and disapproving looks from his wife.
Point It was 99% great and turned into the basis of an English lesson for an 11 year old that had morphed into the room at some point, who seemed to be the star English student in the village. In return Ryan and I got to practice counting to 20.
Where Point It came up 1% short was in culturally appropriate photos. It’s useful to know if a place has a shower, therefore it’s a good picture to have, but the liberal minded French/German/Falang makers of the book could have selected a better picture of a woman in the shower. The book has now been opened so many times to that page that it naturally falls open to it. I think there may have been a shower down the street because the boys would look at the photo and point that way.
After good food and lots of laughs we bedded down for a good nights sleep, terminated pre-dawn sometime by every rooster and person in Laos waking up. We were serenaded to sleep and awoken by grandad watching music videos, I’m not sure if he liked the music of the ladies. We were smiling as we hit the road. It was a fun way to spend a night.

About shuttrjames

I`m riding a bike through SE Asia. i come from a country where we only speak english, have good maps and no hills. Here. I am in trouble! Follow me to get lost in the back roads of Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. james
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