Lao-lloween


Yep. They do Halloween here…and with a vengeance. Thankfully, it’s still all about the little things for this 16-month-old.


Being that Noe just turned sixteen months old this week, this will be the Mister’s second Halloween. Given that we spent most of last fall on the road (not to mention that Noe was just four months old) we didn’t do much to mark the occasion in 2016. This year, with the spirit of the season all around us, it was hard to avoid.

Now why on Earth folks in Vientiane celebrate Halloween in the first place is beyond me. We knew there might be a smattering of expat parties and such, but had no idea that everywhere we’d turn there’d be costumes, jack-o-lanterns, haunted houses, and ghoulish decor throughout the city. Would it have been too much to import a holiday with some substance to it instead, like Dia de los Muertos? Yay for American cultural imperialism…

All that to say, we’re here at That Luang getting Noe a costume. We wanted something he could use in the future instead of a one-off that he won’t remember. Lori’s been wanting to get him one of the traditional outfits we see in the markets, so it was a perfect opportunity to kill two birds. The shirt and pants set us back a whopping US$2.40—incidentally, a dollar less than our entry fee to the Halloween event we were taking Noe to on Saturday night.

 

 

 

A year after the first one, I videotaped a day-in-the-life with Noe. We did a lot of our usual stuff we do on Daddy Days, including an afternoon outing to the neighborhood temple and the Chinese shopping center down the street (ITECC Mall).

Temple was in session so we hung around a bit listening to the chanting and enjoying some pleasant weather.

Good idea in theory, I guess.

Noe and I have a special back way we go to the mall to avoid the crazy cars and motorbikes in the parking lot. Our path often takes us by this confoundedly decorated booth selling sunglasses and watches. Me thinks they got a good deal on the fabric.

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The three of us came here about a week ago to stock up on a few things and noticed one of the anchor department stores (the only one, actually) had shut down overnight. Later, we began to notice what appeared to be sections of the store popping up in various stalls throughout the mall. Apparently the department store model wasn’t working and the company decided to emulate what everyone else was doing. Safety in conformity here in Laos…

Lately, Noe’s had an obsession with mylar balloons. He makes an unmistakable grunt of enthusiasm whenever he spots one. Thankfully, he’s not gotten to the point where he throws a tantrum to have one—they’re just cool right now. So, we were at the mall, riding the escalator and he was enthusiastically grunting and pointing toward the ceiling. There’s a huge mural of the solar system up there so I assumed he was really interested in it. That’s cute, I thought. We’ve got a little astronomer on our hands. When we arrived on the fifth floor, however, I realized what had captured his attention all the way from the ground floor. You guessed it…

 

On the way back down, he was less distracted by the Halloween decorations, which was a good thing as they scared the heck out of me.

 

 

I’ve been meaning to take pic of this new place for months for Lori (she doesn’t come here as often as Noe and me)—Lao Milk Cafe. Milk, done every way imaginable in a country where dairy just isn’t really a thing. Great concept, right? I’m glad I finally snapped the pic because a couple weeks later it had shut down. Such is business in Vientiane—here today, gone tomorrow.

 

 

Speaking of here today, gone tomorrow, Vientiane is full of really beautiful old colonial properties in varying states of decay. While some have been successfully repurposed I’m fearful that most will not make it to the end of the decade. I recognize they are relics of a painful colonial past, but they sure beat the plastic block facades the fledgling colonial Chinese future is offering up to the city.

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Halloween party night finally arrives and the Mister is all ready to go, complete with the ever-present Lao sticky rice basket.

 

 

Thirsty, are we?

 

Lori’s going as a dirty hippie backpacker…a roll she seems strangely comfortable in. If she hadn’t just gotten her hair done, I would have tried to convince her to try dreadlocks, but alas.

So, tonight we’re taking Noe to Lao-lloween at the “blue roofs.” We’ve never been to the blue roofs but have heard a lot about the Green Zone-esque compound of U.S. diplomatic housing just south of the city center. We often forget how different our living situation is to many other foreigners in Vientiane, though it’s a natural fit for us. We initially felt a bit uneasy about the size of our house (3-bedroom, two-story concrete house), and that it has a wall around it in a country with one of the lowest crime rates anywhere. But most Lao in the city have walls around their house for privacy (they are a very private people) and the house is similar to many Lao we know. We’re also one of only two falang families we know in our predominately Lao neighborhood, which is within walking distance of many local amenities—a must-have for us.

Tonight we leave our Lao bubble to visit Americaland—and, ironically, experience perhaps the biggest culture shock we have in a while.

First up, a stop for candy at the ambassador’s residence.

Next, a stroll down the main drag. Each house here is huge—much larger than any U.S. diplomatic housing I’ve seen in other countries. It would just be surreal to live and work among other Americans 24/7. We rarely see other Americans, and if we do, it’s out and about in the city. It would be a strange thing to move clear across the world but have all the creature comforts (and social and cultural comforts) of “home.” I’m not sure what the point of that is. Back to Hallo…oops, sorry, Lao-lloween!

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It was pretty cool (if every bit surreal) what they had going on here—totally open to the public for a nominal fee. Each residence had a different theme or activity, from haunted houses to mazes, games to photo booths. They even had grilled hot dogs! (but ran out just before I got to them).

 

 

 

Noe seemed to enjoy himself and thought the party was a’ight. His biggest thrill of the evening, however, came after we left Lao-lloween. For ten straight minutes, we realized he was pointing skyward incessantly. Streetlights? Decorations? A wayward mylar balloon? Then it dawned on us—he was pointed to the bright moon directly above.

It was eery and exciting all at once how he instantly seemed to recognize it as something special, apart from streetlamps or anything else. Maybe because he’s rarely out after dark, or the moon hasn’t been out much for the past six months on account of the rainy season. Maybe he was associating it with the Goodnight Moon book Lori reads to him before he goes to bed. The reason wasn’t exactly clear to us. What is clear is that the most exciting thing on Halloween for Noe wasn’t candy, or gigantic animatronic cats, or even dressing up. It was being chased by the big bright moon in the sky.

The rest will surely come, but it can take it’s time as far as I’m concerned.

West, Son, Along the Mekong
Out on the Farm
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