A different kind of Christmas

As I rush around like a mad thing, worrying that I haven’t bought the right gifts, or enough gifts while spending hours trying to juggle work and traffic to buy these gifts I’ve cast my mind back 10 years and a simpler Christmas.

24th December 2011

It’s Christmas Eve. It doesn’t feel very Christmassy. Laos being a Communist and Buddhist country doesn’t do Christmas. There have been a few Christmas trees in places where more Westerner’s hang out, but off the beaten track not a pine tree or a piece of tinsel to be seen. Today we are heading to the Xe Champhone Wetlands to Ban Don Ling, Village Forrest Monkey, or Monkey Forrest Village of you put it in English order, for a home stay. After learning from a previous night spent in close quarters with our tour group, we have come prepared and have earplugs to combat the German snoring champs!

On the way to Ban Don Ling we stop to pick up some supplies. Six year old Christian had an up close encounter with a Laos lady. A group of women were pointing to him asking me, I think, if he was a boy or girl. While I was trying to work out how to communicate that he is a boy one of the women took the situation into her own hands, literally, and grabbed a shocked Christian in the groin to find out for herself!

After our lunch stop we ditched our Stray bus and took to a tuk tuk as the roads were so bad.

We made 2 other stops on the way to our night stop, one to see soft shell turtles and feed them popcorn?! They are very unattractive creatures, but don’t say that to their face as the locals believe they are spirits or something and it’s very very bad to speak ill of them. The next stop was at a 200 year old temple that was bombed during the ‘Secret War’, or as the Laos call it the ‘American War’.

The tuk tuk dropped us beside a wide river. The village we were heading to was on the other side. To get there we needed to traverse a treacherous bamboo ‘bridge’. Entertaining I’m sure for the locals to watch us ‘Falang’ (westerners) tottering over while the locals skip across with ease.

Our accommodation for the night was in a village which is home to 810 people and far too many roosters. We stayed in the Chiefs sisters house, a fascinating experience but not at all conducive for a good nights sleep.

The houses in the village are built high on stilts to stop them getting flooded in the rainy season when the river rises. The inside of the house is reached via steep, rickety stairs. There are no toilets inside the houses. There are communal toilet blocks centrally located for the village to share. What with the stairs, the lack of any lighting and the roaming roosters I took my life in my hands getting down to get to the community loo’s in the middle of the night.

25th December 2011

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanucha and Happy Hmong New Year, so many ways to celebrate today!

We started the day early, i.e. 4 (insert swear word) am when the roosters and the locals get up for the day. As expected Santa did not get a Visa to get into Laos, the cover story we’d made up for what was going to be a Christmas with very few gifts for our offspring. The German snoring champs gave our children a lovely Christmas decoration each and the trainee Tour Manager also gave them a gift. When we got back to the Stray bus after visiting a library that houses ancient Laos texts and that Kennedy and I had to wear a Laos outfit to get in to, the kids found some pressies from Murray and I. Christian’s favorite gift a Takraw ball, the sport he’s enjoyed watching in Laos. Kennedy’s, a Laos bag.

A long driving day for Christmas day, the kids constantly amaze us with how well they chill out and get through each journey, each strange meal and each toilet situation. We’ve arrived at our night stop and watched an elephant have a bath. Christmas dinner was a steak ordered from the guesthouse…

10 years on it’s nearly the Christmas of 2021. Both our children have lost all their baby teeth and had braces on their adult ones. They both now drive and I’m the now the shortest member of the family. We still hang the Christmas decorations from the German snoring champs on our tree every year and remember our Christmas in Laos with fond memories.

While gifts are great, driving yourself crazy to get them isn’t. The most important thing during the festive season isn’t a thing at all, it’s the people you’re with.

Have a safe and happy festive season whether you’re celebrating Christmas, Hanukkah or Hmong New Year.

Published by Gillian Scott Creative

Adding colour and humour from the mundane around us.

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