Ban Khiet Ngong village
Thanks to some initial legwork done by some development organisations, a community-managed homestay system has been set up in Ban Khiet Ngong and it’s a way to experience life in rural Laos while providing families with some tourism income.
You’ll smell the woodfire and steamed sticky rice wafting from the basket. You’ll see curious faces of children popping into the doorway—teach them games, how to count to ten in English and card tricks. Taste traditional home-cooked Lao food. As you walk through the village, you’ll hear “sabaidee!” (hello), “ma te sai?” (where are you from) and “pai sai?” (where are you going), and yes, before dawn you will hear the crow of roosters.
Homestays are simple to arrange: show up and ask at the elephant stand or the adjacent village office. They most likely won’t speak English but they’ll surely understand “homestay” and if that fails, there are bilingual information signs of each activity so point to the one with homestay. Permission must come from the village chief (nai ban) and then they’ll set you up.
There are 20 families in the village’s homestay group and it works on a roster. Each home can accommodate two guests. The homestay costs 40,000 kip person, with a home cooked Lao meal for 30,000 kip per person. It’s a simple set-up with basic facilities: you’ll be provided a room with a mat for sleeping Lao style, on the floor, and mosquito net.
Some tips for the homestay:
The family won’t speak English but non-verbal communication can work wonders, or try using a phrase book. Do not give gifts to kids as it encourages begging; support the village through their tourism initiatives instead. If it’s rice planting or harvesting season, give it a try (but not for too long, you’ll slow them down!).
Bathing is usually done in the river or village tap at sunset. Men can wear shorts. Women should wear a sarong. Bathrooms are simple. They can be located inside or outside of the house with a squat toilet and a large bucket of water for flushing. Don’t put large amounts of paper down the toilet.
Attitudes in rural Laos are more conservative. People try to be clean and dress neatly; it will make them more comfortable if you do the same. Women should avoid revealing clothing. Public displays of affection (that includes inside the home) are taboo. Unmarried men and women are not supposed to inhabit the same quarters. If you’re an unmarried couple and they try to separate you into two different rooms, please be understanding and respect the cultural mores.
Remove your shoes before entering the house. The feet are considered “low”, so do not touch others with your feet and avoid pointing them at people–difficult, we know, when you’re not used to eating the Lao way of sitting on the floor around a low table. Try crossed legs or tucking legs behind.
By Cindy Fan
Last updated on 19th January, 2017.