Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Lao Girlfriends

Disclaimer: I am far from an authority on this subject, but judging by the popularity of this blog’s posts relating to Lao girls and women, I will address the subject of Lao GF’s as best I can:

Actually, there’s really no such thing as a “Lao girlfriend” for a Western guy; at least in the way that Falang understand the term. You either know girls through guys or families, or you have a relationship that is more serious and formalized – either a wife or a mia noi. Both are financial arrangements and even if they don’t have a ceremony or paper to back it up, they will consider themselves your wife.

It’s not hard to find a young, beautiful Lao girl. The hard thing is not to.

By that, I mean, unless you either have a lot of money (for a minor or major wife and usually both) or you are just absolutely committed to having a Lao wife, it’s best to keep a distance; you can get close, but do not touch. A beautiful young girl will make an older man’s head spin; believe me; been there.

There are women and girls who will have sex with you on an informal basis. These are most always freelancers who you can find and often find you. You’ll need to have a room where it will be fun for both of you to enjoy and plenty of cash on hand. Just keep in mind Lao Family Law:
"Relationship with Lao citizens: Lao law prohibits sexual contact between foreign citizens and Lao nationals except when the two parties have been married in accordance with Lao Family Law. Any foreigner who enters into a sexual relationship with a Lao national risks being interrogated, detained, arrested, or fined. Lao police have confiscated passports and imposed fines of up to $5,000 on foreigners who enter into unapproved sexual relationships. The Lao party to the relationship may be jailed without trial. Foreigners are not permitted to invite Lao nationals of the opposite sex to their hotel rooms; police may raid hotel rooms without notice or consent."
Some interesting comments I’ve read concerning this law are as follows:
“It isn't enforced so much nowadays. Back when Vientiane was a large village rather than a city it was risky to be in the same house in the evening. Nowadays it's a bit different as the city has grown, along with foreign investment, meaning a lot more foreigners here."
"Around 8 years ago I was caught with a Lao girlfriend staying at my place, fined 500USD (after much negotiation) and held for a few hours in a cell. The stories of being deported etc... are mainly old barstool fairytales.”
 “The law is still in place… and you still hear of occasional arrests, but it's not as risky as it used to be.... unfortunately.” 
 According to a foreigner friend residing in Vientiane, his gf arrives at midnight and leaves before 6 am.”
I’ve also read that if you’re on the bad side of the police or military, they are apt to watch you, to catch you violating this law. Also, it’s not just a city thing. There are guys up-country who make sure to stay on good terms with the local Pooyai Bann (village headman) for fear he may want to make some kick-back money at your expense. No matter what you're doing or not, always stay on good terms with your guesthouse manager/owner and all authorities.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Lao Trip 12.5 - Borr Pen Yang

How many times have I climbed these stairs? I think this was my fifth time going up.

Although it lasted all of about 10 seconds, I’ll never forget one of the most beautiful women I’ve ever seen in my life, coming down these stairs as I was coming up on my first trip here. For all the good it did me, I still found myself “Looking Back.”

They spell their bar “Borr Pen Yang” (alternatively, “Bor Pen Yang”), but I use this expression a lot, back in The Isaan, and pronounce it: bor pen yong. The differences in spelling could be due to local accent or transliteration. It means: no problem.

I had been turned on to the Borr Pen Yang by a Falang forum poster. I had written a simple question, like where do the freelancers (girls/women for hire; not associated with a particular place of business) hang out in Vientiane? Oh, man, did I get a bunch of attack replies insinuating I was a sex tourist or “sexpat” and why would I want to ruin Lao like Thailand? Hey, I’m just asking a question. Chill.

Gettin' some rest at 9 Rai/Bann Nah before going out and rustling me up some babes.

I’ve come to discover – upon personal inspection before the night life gets under way, here – that this bar has draft Beer Lao and great views of the Mekong and west end of the Riverside Vendors.

The previous times I’ve visited the Borr Pen Yang were all during the afternoon, well before the bar’s prime time. In part, that was on purpose because – at age 66 soon to be 67 – I’m no longer a night person. With some notable exceptions for rather short periods of time, I haven’t been much of a bar goer, either.

So, here I was operating somewhat out of my comfort zone: I was moving around at night in a foreign country – in a city, no less; going to a bar and; looking to check out the freelancers.

The Borr Pen Yang is totally different in the night time than in the day. What a Meat Market! I quickly realized that just about everyone (approximately 100 Lao and Falang) in the packed bar was looking to get hooked up.

It did not take long for a woman in her late 20s to come join me at my small table at the top of the stairs. I bought her a beer and although I admired her thinness, command of English and friendliness, I had to let her know that my guesthouse does not permit non-registered guests inside. Actually, I found this a good excuse (and true), because the longer I was in Borr Pen Yang, the more stunning girls kept walking past us. I mean, really, really beautiful girls and women all made and dressed up for the occasion.

I found myself wishing I could just be in a darkened corner by myself, to admire the beauties. Instead, I was being politely hustled and it took some time to extract myself. Next time I’m here, at night, I think I’ll find that corner over by the pool table…

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Lao Trip 12.4 - Samyek Pakpasack

Moving off from the Sunset Bar, along Th Fa Ngoum, going easterly, I stopped at a riverside vendor for another beer and bar-b-que, rice and veggies. Here, I enjoyed the fading light of the late afternoon, watching the movement of people and boats along The Mekong.

Just before sundown, I walked further east, back toward Vientiane’s riverside epicenter, and stopped in at Samyek Pakpasack. I couldn’t resist. They again had live acoustic music going on and I remembered how I had enjoyed it here, last time.

At one point, I toasted – from a distance – one of the older employees who had sat in on a couple of songs that reminded me of Loso and Pongsit. He came over to my table in a rush and this is when I met Mr. Tank, who turned out to be the owner or nominal manager or both. I bought us a Beer Lao and, using my smart phone, showed him pictures of my wife and new home being built. This was helpful as it gave him an idea of what kind of guy I was and also gave us something to do, as he was limited in his English and me in my Lao.

When I decided to leave, Mr. Tank insisted on driving me back to my guesthouse. I initially thanked him but indicated that I would walk, but he would have none of it. So, I rode back to the Mixay on the back of Mr. Tank’s motosai

As the night was still young and prospects of just hanging out in my dreary Mixay room didn’t really appeal to me, I decided to go visit the Borr Pen Yang during its prime time. The two or three times I had been there were always in the afternoon and I knew that this bar was geared for the night time… 

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Lao Trip 12.3 - Heua Pae

As modest as it is, the Heua Pae is the Lao capitol’s staging area for the fast-growing jetski market. The floating restaurant – more a bar, really – has an adjacent section to it where owners can store their jetski’s, along with a seating area, small performance stage, and a flat boat (actually, two longtail boats strapped together with a unified deck ontop) that can go out on the river and be a platform for bar-b-que and beer.

As I’ve come to consider natural, I was the only Falang around. I was treated politely, but distantly – nothing like PL2 or even the Savan Khaim Khong. I ordered my usual 640 ml of Beer Lao, with ice, and sat back to watch the operation and listen to Carabao.

Similar to what was probably also happening back in Nong Khai, the Thai city of Sri Chiang Mai was in the midst of a full day of dragon boat races – the extremely long row boats that, in the distant past, had been reserved strictly for royalty.

To watch the races, it’s best to be on the banks of the river near where the rowers will be stroking. Here I was on the opposite side of The Mekong. I could see the boats, but the rowers were a bit harder. The nice thing about being at the distance I was, I could watch the boats from the beginning of the race to the very end; probably a kilometer or two.

The crew at Heua Pae readied their flatboat, then took it across The Kong to get a better view of the races and share some BBQ and beer with the jetski’ers who were out there riding around and watching, too. I doubt whether they could actually sell the BBQ and beer, it being more or less international waters, but because of the absence of law enforcement and who’s gonna know? They probably did some business along with the spectating. Enjoy it while you can, guys, because before you know it, navies from both countries will be out there – or, at very least – maritime police to tighten things up.

After my typical song kuat (two bottles) of Beer Lao, I left Heua Pae, having been there about two hours, enjoying the races and being out on the Mekong – even if it was only a glorified raft.

I made my way back towards the city’s riverfront epicenter, stopping in at the Sunset Bar along the way. My first impressions of this place were confirmed, this second time around. But, if you are a Westerner and planning to live in Vientiane for any length of time, I’d recommend getting to know the guys here. They look well established, are polite, and friendly with one another.

The place kind of reminded me of a latter version of what was described in the early days of Vientiane’s opening to The West, in the 1990s, in the book Another Quiet American, by Brett Dakin. If you are interested in Lao, visit it, travel through it, or live in the country, it is a book I recommend reading.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Lao Trip 12.2 - Vientiane

On my third day of the trip, I crossed the Thai-Lao border at Nong Khai and went on to the Lao capitol of Vientiane, which is the usual destination for most people crossing from Thailand along this first “Friendship Bridge,”

I didn’t plan to stay long in Vientiane or Lao, this time around, as I was short on cash. Our new ATM card hadn’t arrived from the Unites States, yet, so I had had to leave our village with whatever kip and baht I had loose around.

I checked into the Mixay Guesthouse this time, as it was a budget/backpacker place across the street from the usual place I stay – the Duang Deuane. The Mixay is about half the price, but the next time I stay in Vientiane, I’ll most likely go back to the Duang Deuane. It’s just a better value and in case I want to stay in my room, the rooms are nice enough to do that – some with very good views. The Mixay rooms are really just for sleeping.

Once laundry was done and I had showered and changed clothes, I walked out to the outdoors eatery a block away, adjacent to the big tree opposite the Belgian Beer place and the nightclub. The owner recognized me immediately and invited me to her table. Even so, she was not as friendly as before. That could be because I had been polite but politely distant when she introduced me to her woman friend. I had gotten the impression she was trying to set us up; maybe, maybe not.

I had a 640 ml bottle of Beer Lao, with ice, then moved on down Th Fa Ngoum, heading westerly. I stopped in at the Borr Pen Yang, but the sole guy guarding the place was sleeping. Not wanting to disturb him, I went back down the stairs and continued my westerly walk.

Passing the Samyek Pakpasack, I remembered my enjoyable time here, early this year, listening to live music and meeting the two guys that worked at KP Lao.

Continuing down Th Fa Ngoum, that runs along The Mekong, at a distance, I passed the Sunset Bar and then where the pavement ends. Being a person who likes floating restaurants, I was sure there had to be one somewhere down the road, a little further outside the city’s epicenter.

I was right. Just as my feet were beginning to ache a little and the afternoon sun was bearing down on me a little too much, I came across Heua Pae…