A Travellerspoint blog

A Tale of Two Brothers

Making a Living in Laos, the Poorest Country in Asia

sunny 82 °F
View December to Remember on GardenLeave's travel map.

“He feels very embarrassed,” Dee, our tour guide, said of his brother, who chose the career of teaching after college, a job that now pays the equivalent of $90 per month compared to $220 per month three years ago, a result of the steep inflation that Laos is experiencing along with other countries.

Dee’s brother, supports a wife and four kids on that salary and relies on growing his own food and raising cows and in order to sustain his family in the northern countryside of Laos, where Dee is from-- a Hmong tribal village.

Dee is paid in American dollars, which don’t have the volatility of the Laos currency, the Kip. Dee, who also studied to be a teacher, feels like he dodged a bullet when he began to learn English and found work as a tour guide as Laos continued to open up more and more after the country shifted in the direction of socialism over communism.

“I feel very lucky,” he said.

Living In Laos
Inside of Luang Prabang (LP), we saw everything from seemingly (but very few) opulent mansions with huge bronze elephants adorning the entry gates, to extremely rudimentary flats and houses with thatched roofs. Like his brother, Dee is also raising four kids, but he lives closer to the city- just on the outskirts of LP. (The closer you get to the city center, the more expensive the living is, which comparably to the U.S. and other western countries is extremely inexpensive.)

(Dee and his family)

Just outside of LP, across the Mekong River, we biked on a UNESCO-built pathway running alongside the river, where we witnessed what in America might be described as people living in hovels, where families and friends congregated on a Saturday afternoon listening to festive music, chatting animatedly and cooking over wood fires. If you closed your eyes, you might believe you are at an SEC tailgate. A ferry ride from LP across the Mekong River, this area is presumably a very desirable address.

(Ferry across the Mekong)

And yet, the living conditions would be considered sub-standard by Americans. Chickens, goats, dogs and even water buffalo roam the clusters of homesteads that comprise neighborhoods, all easily reachable to any number of temples, where children are sent to sell marigolds (and then recycle them to sell again) as a gift to Buddha before prayer. We, of course, couldn't resist and negotiated a photo as part of the bargain.

Marigold sales ladies outside a Buddhist temple, opposite side of the Mekong River from Luang Prabang

A few days later we visited a traditional Hmong tribe village, much farther outside the city center. There, it's children who seem to be doing most of the work. After school, they are tasked with winning over the few tourists who venture through, selling the handiwork of their mothers- from bracelets and small satchels to hats and aprons. The work was lovely and the children lovelier. It was very difficult to pass any of them up, especially when we saw the conditions they live in. These videos speak for themselves:


Posted by GardenLeave 08:55 Archived in Laos Tagged laos unesco luang_prabang buddhist hmong mekong_river inflation kip hmong_tribe hmong_village

Email this entryFacebookStumbleUpon

Table of contents

Be the first to comment on this entry.

This blog requires you to be a logged in member of Travellerspoint to place comments.