The alms ceremony of the monks in Luang Prabang is a highly controversial topic amongst travelers, tourists and bloggers. Even the most aware and open minded travelers and tourists make mistakes. Prevent yourself from adding to the circus of being another crazy tourist that takes photos of the monks, points their toes at Buddha and is an all around asshole. The last thing you want to do is be a complete dickhead in a foreign country and leave everyone with a bad taste in their mouths. These are things you should know before traveling to Laos.
Most people in Laos don’t touch or show affection in public. Be respectful and put your hands together when you bow or greet people. It is acceptable for men to shake hands. If you’re a woman, don’t do it. Also, never touch the head of someone in Laos as that is also considered rude.
Women shouldn’t touch Monks
This is a huge no-no for all women. When I was in Laos, a monk approached me to speak English. I’m pretty sure the only reason he did this is because my head was lower than his as I was sitting on the curb. I also read on local temples that making eye contact with monks as a woman is rude. Monks are respected and revered because of the deep spirituality of some Lao people.
Related: Luang Prabang Itinerary
Head High Feet Low
Using your feet for anything other than day to day activities, sports, etc is considered super rude. Also, don’t step over people because this rule also applies. If you have to move through people sitting down, crouch, but never step over them. If you’re in a temple, sit down so your feet are never pointed toward Buddha.
Dress Neatly and Appropriately
I learned the hard way in Thailand that I couldn’t go into temples wearing shorts or short sleeved shirts. I should have done my research, but alas, I’m bringing you the news so you don’t make the same mistakes I did. Wear your ye old trusty ele-pants and bring a scarf or kimono top to cover up.
Related: The Perfect Vientiane Itinerary
Watch What You Buy
Over the years, buying sacred items like antique Buddhas has become a large problem in Laos. These belong to the country and should never be removed. Do your best to support local craftsmen by buying new and quality handcrafts like at the night market in Luang Prabang or from the indigenous people on the Bolaven Plateau.
Laos is Dusty
One of the things I noticed about Laos is all the dirt in every crevice of my body. Many of the roads, especially in Vang Vieng are unpaved so you’ll be finding dust in places you never dreamed about. A lot of people wear masks and sunglasses to keep from breathing in all the particles. Do yourself a favor and get used to your feet being super dry.
Vang Vieng isn’t a Wild Party
A lot of people have heard of the former glory days of the town and go there hoping to catch a glimpse of foreigners walking around in swim suits with body paint while simultaneously smoking joints and swigging Beer Lao. Where there were once many riverside bars blasting loud music now there are only two. You can bring your own beverages on the river but don’t expect to go crazy. Vang Vieng is in the process of establishing a more eco-touristic feel. Now a days, you’ll just see many drunk Koreans at the Sakura Bar.
Related: Ten Things to do in Vang Vieng
I personally did not know some of these things, but after reading the website of the official Laos Tourism Board and witnessing these things myself, we were able to have a pleasant trip while enjoying the local culture. The people of Laos are so nice and kind so the last thing you want to be known as is a dickhead that came in and disrespected everything and everyone. Knowing a little bit goes a long way.