Lao Kids: Still Freakin Adorable

Not much has changed since I rode through Laos four months ago. That time, it was from the Chinese border (north-north) to the Thai border (central), and this time it’s Thai border (west-northwest) to Vietnam border (north-northeast), but I’ve still got the same bike and even the same outfit, if a slightly more aerodynamic hairdo. The mountains are still endless, the food sparse, the villages picturesque, and the children – yes, still f*cking adorable.

They wave out from inside unlit houses. They shout from the hills that overlook the roads. They cheer from behind tree trunks and between branches. They cluster together in the streets. They drop their games of jump rope and “roll the old tire along with a stick” to run out to the road, scream “SABAIDEE” (“hello”), and stick their hands out for a high five. They laugh, giggle, and beam.

Almost every shop in the countryside here has a big, yellow, bilingual sign out front announcing whether the building in question is a restaurant, a guesthouse, a night club, a beer distributor, a sundry shop, or some combination of the above. I assume that this is part of some government effort to make life easier for tourists. In my more cynical moments, I imagine that the same is true of the children – that their joy is feigned, that the government has trained them all to be perfect little tourist traps. After all, what’s better than coming to a place where you don’t in the least belong, and being greeted like a native son?

Everything seems so perfect here, though, that it has to be real. Nobody, and certainly not millions of children age 6 months – 12 years, could fake the joy and enthusiasm that cyclists encounter every couple of kilometers here. Long after I’ve forgotten about Lao food (highlight: baguettes), and long after memories of Himalayan landscapes have overwritten my memories of Laos’, I’m pretty sure I’ll still remember the friendly and immensely lovable Laos children that we ran into every day, in almost every village. I’ll probably never know whether it’s thanks to the parents, the families, the villages, the schools (or lack thereof?), or some other mystery factor. Regardless, it’d be crime not to share.

A few of these shots are mine, but credit for most of these photos goes to Mingyu Lee, who’s great with kids and admirably un-neurotic about his camera and when and where it’s ok to use it. I should pay him a million dollars for these priceless photos. I certainly will if I ever earn anything from them. Then again, the children never charged us anything for their smiles.

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2 Responses to Lao Kids: Still Freakin Adorable

  1. julio kim says:

    i never knew you would find smiles of kids generally so adorable…
    i think the cynical version of you is the better you.
    but whatever, it’s good to see those quality pictures.

    • Michael Roy says:

      Even a stone-cold heart can melt like butter sometimes.

      Doesn’t mean it can’t congeal again!

      Just please God don’t put me in a classroom with them.