Let me go on the record as saying I made a big mistake in my initial impression of Lao people, in May 2012. When I went back six months later, I discovered that Lao people are very friendly and have great good hearts (jai dee).
I’m not sure, but I think my first opinions of lowland Lao (Lao Loum) were tainted by my travelling with my wife Thip on that first trip. Not that Thip tainted them, but maybe Lao people took her for being Pathet Lao (Lao national) and not Thai-Lao. If so, they might have looked down on our travelling together or maybe just assumed we knew what we were doing.
Travelling alone was a whole different story. It wasn’t like I didn’t know what I was doing, but people assumed there were lots for me to learn.
The response from Lao people was completely different when I was by myself vs. with another person. At every turn, people were open to me and wanted to help me out or get to know me or practice their English with me or even flirt with me! Really, it was fantastic. There were times when I “felt like a ‘Rock Star.’”
One time particularly stands out. I was shopping in a village market and came upon a group of merchants gathered together having a beer towards end of work day. I was invited to join in and declined, as is my usual, but one person was so insistent, that I ended up caving in and having some beer with some very friendly mostly middle-aged women. One woman (Took Tah) was in her 20s – very small, very attractive and probably very married – and wore a traditional Lao silk skirt and top. I ended-up being invited over to a house next door to the market and it turned out to be the home and of the local Beer Lao distributor, an important man in that village.
I didn't stay too long, but came away feeling I had made some friends and it was all because I said "yes" to a number of invites.