I'm super cranky today for various reasons so am I inspired to jot down the things that aren't so great around here. No matter how trivial they may be.

1 - The perforations in the plastic seal around every single bottle of Tigerhead water (the only brand here) are a LIE!! They look like they will facilitate the easy removal of the seal but they never work properly and so you have to risk breaking a nail to scuff, flick and tear the seal off so you can open your water. The first couple of times you think maybe you are doing it wrong and there is a technique for getting it open quickly and easily. But I have now done this maybe a hundred times, sometimes in the dark, but also calmly and slowly in bright light in an attempt to find a technique that works. But it doesn't - BECAUSE THEY ARE ALL BROKEN.

2 - Waiters are mostly useless. I've been eating out at least once a day for months now and have seen a lot of wait staff in that time. 90% of them have no idea. Maybe this is a training issue or a Lao attitude thing, but their inattentiveness is frustrating. Occasionally they go the other way and after seating you and handing you a menu, they will stand at your shoulder with their pen poised waiting for your order. To be honest, I'm not sure which is worse. They often seem incapable of seeing anything. A good waiter can catch your eye and immediately know that some level of interaction is required. Sometimes a subtle wave if things are busy. Far too often around here it requires semaphore flags or a flare to be sent up to get the attention of a waiter who is only a couple of metres away. It's not like they are run off their feet. I am yet to sit in a restaurant that is more than 2/3 full and often I am sitting at the only occupied table in the place and yet still I have to yell at these people to get their attention. This is not a language barrier issue as the problem is about a failure to get to the point where language is required as part of our interaction. I'm eating out so often and I just don't want to have to yell at waiters as a part of my daily life.

3 - And this is the big one. Attitude. Everyone wants to talk about how easy going and friendly the Lao people are, and that's great. Up to a point. The problem comes when you have to have a difficult or grown up conversation about something and it only ever seems to go straight into full scale culture clash from there. I'm genuinely trying to find the right way to have a direct conversation with Lao people, but so far the only response when difficult subjects are raised is prissy, passive-aggressive resistance. I'd love to hear possible ways to engage the locals on this stuff, but "don't bring it up like that" is NOT an option.

AuthorBruce Hardie