Laos is flooded with babies. Every second vendor at the night market in Luang Prabang held a scarf for sale in one hand and a baby against a breast with the other.
I observed something right away about the youngsters in Laos: The children are tough.
In fact, Laotian kids are Chuck Norris tough.
On my way back from Koung Si waterfalls, I spotted a toddler walking down the side of a highway. He was alone. The kid was probably still wetting his pants, yet his parents thought nothing of this stroll along this major road. Back home, a kid walking along the highway would have brought traffic to a standstill and lead to the parents’ arrest. The event would have made the nation’s nightly news.
A few miles later, a pack of Laotian mothers drove by on motorbikes with their half-naked pre-schoolers. They had to hold on to their mothers’ love handles because their arms were too short to reach around their mothers’ paunches. I teach high school kids and they can’t even sit still for five minutes. How does a Laos tot have the attention span necessary to hold on to a motorbike driver for even one block? We trailed them for miles and not one little Laotian kid ended up as a speed bump in the road.
“Do you notice that the mothers are wearing helmets and the kids are not,” I said to Marissa. Do Laotian kids have skulls made of adamantium?
Finally, by day eight, my final day traveling Laos, I heard a child cry. I was in shock. During my first month in Southeast Asia, all I heard was crying. In Laos, tears were as foreign as bagels with cream cheese and lox. Laotian kids just do not cry. (In fact, the little girl in the black and white dress in the photo below got car sick on this bus, vomited out the window, and then sat there as if it were just another day at the office.)
The cry took place in Vientiane, while we were dining in an alleyway restaurant. The crying kid was whisked away by motorbike as if she had screamed blasphemy in a church or synagogue during the Middle Ages. Was she being excommunicated from the country? Dumped into the Mekong so she could be deported across to cry-baby Thailand.
“Do you think it’s something in the water that prevents the kids from crying?” I asked Marissa. “It can’t be. Laotians don’t even drink their filthy water. Breast milk? Air? Blood?”
Whatever it is, Laos is missing a great opportunity in the tourism sector. They should stop trying to appeal to travelers looking for beautiful sites and culture (though they do have all of that) and instead build up their baby-rearing tourism. The entire world will be indebted to your great country. Anyone who’s ever been on a long flight with an infant nearby knows what I’m talking about.
What mother and baby pair have you encountered that you would sponsor for a baby-rearing travel trip to Laos?