I rented a motorcycle in Thakek, Laos to tour around the surrounding area which hosted sites such as caves, streams, rice patties, mountains and villages.
On my way back to Thakek after a long day of touring I pulled off for some gas. I took a photo of a boy and his sister working at the stop. I hopped back on the main road and shortly after pulled off again to check out a stream called, Tha Falang, which was about 6km off the highway.
When I arrived at the stream I was greeted by a group of Lao children that insisted I join their parents for a picnic. Although I speak pretty much no Lao other than ‘thank you’ and ‘hello’, and they spoke no English, we some how managed to communicate. I was immediately handed a glass of Beer Lao and offered food. As I drank the kids started poking me and gesturing for me to take their photos.
At this point it was about 2:45pm and I was about 25km outside of Thakek, where my guesthouse was. I tried to mime to the parents that I would make prints and bring them back at 4pm to the spot where we were. It seemed they understood so I hopped on my rented motorbike and ripped back to my guesthouse to make prints.
After making the prints I hurried back to the stream. It was about 3:30pm when I arrived but they were nowhere to be found! I thought about the predicament for a for a minute or two.. A light bulb suddenly went on! I remembered that in our earlier interaction, I had tried to find out where they were from and one of the fathers mentioned a village called Ban Lao Pho Sai. It wasn’t much of a lead but it was enough to go on.
It was a struggle with the language barrier but from trying to talk with the girl, I got the impression that the town I was looking for was very close to Thakek.
I pulled over a couple more times closer to Thakek. There was a lot of confusion as Ban Lao is a common prefix (Ban meaning village) in Laos. Some people were telling me it was 100km North. Others saying 50km to the East. I decided to continue back to Thakek. As I got to the main roundabout in town I pulled over to ask a police lady if she knew.
She checked with her partner and confirmed it was close to Thakek and gave me directions. I drove for another 15-minutes and reached the small village on the outskirts of Thakek.
After asking three random shop owners, I finally found one that recognized one of the people from the photos. He took me to their home. No one was home so I left the prints just inside the door and headed back to Thakek for dinner.
I found an outdoor Lao BBQ and sat down ordering a beer and a plate of grilled meat. Two locals who were also in their 20s cheers’ed me and I invited them to join me. After sitting and eating and chatting for about 40-minutes, who drives by in a pick up truck full of kids in the back?? The family from the stream.
They saw me and pulled over. One of the locals I was with spoke a little English and he helped to translate. They hadn’t been home yet and had no idea I had printed the photos for them. They immediately invited me and my two new Lao friends over for dinner and drinks.
When we got to their home they were ecstatic. The children were hugging me and giving me high fives and the parents were smiling from ear to ear looking at new their photos.
We drank, ate and sang karaoke until about midnight when I wished them farewell and headed back to my guesthouse, as I had a 8am bus the following morning. While we were partying, I snapped a few more photos of them. I printed them off when I got home and dropped them off at 7am the next morning before catching my bus.
This was quite the adventure to say the least but it was definitely worth the effort.