A Short History of Laos: The land in between by Grant Evans

A very a short history of laosinformative detailed and authoritative history (2002) of the complex background to modern day Laos – now the Lao People’s Democratic Republic – the ‘s’ is absent in the Lao language.  (Laos is the noun, Lao is an adjective).

Evans begins his book “Before Laos” – when much of South East Asia consisted of formations of traditional kingdoms who fought and often absorbed one another.  The ‘mandala’ systems …

model an idea of the cosmos that includes the human body and the state.  In relation to the state, the mandala represented a geopolitical idea used to discuss the the partial configuration and fluctuation of friendly and enemy state, from the point of view of a particular kingdom … The mandala states were focused on sacred centres ruled by a king who had direct access to divine power and used that power to create worldly order” (p6).  

Laos as we know it later emerged at the end of the nineteenth century as a national entity, but prior history is certainly the precursor to contemporary ethnic diversity, and complexities of identity and belonging.

Mountains are destroyed, they have collapsed and are strewn about

The edge of the land is pulverized,

There is great turmoil in the villages, which are dark with smoke; the eart is on fire

A shadow covers the brilliance (of the moon) which disappears in the clouds

The universe is overturned and broken; the land is unbalanced; it quakes and trembles.

(cited from an annotated translation of Leup Pha Sun by Peter Koret, Evans 2002:51)

Evans organises his chapters as follows:

  1. Before Laos
  2. Le Laos Francais
  3. The Royal Lao Government
  4. War, and the destruction of the RLG
  5. The Lao People’s Democratic Republic
  6. Laos in the Modern World

A ‘colonial backwater’ of the French empire of Indochina during the 19th and early 20th century, “by 1954 French colonialism in Indochina had collapsed” (p.39).  Evans discusses colonialism and racism, “White settler societies, founded as they were on the denial of basic political rights to the indigenous population whose land they had usurped…” (p.59).  He also emphasises the lack of ‘Lao Nationalism’ as “even for the French, Laos was, at that time, more a cartographic reality than a social or historical one” (pg71),

World War two, Japanese activities in the region, Thai and Vietnamese neighbours’ own problems, various monarchies, elites, activist groups, created all number of tensions during the 20th century, leading up to the Vietnam war in which Laos gained the notoriety of having more bombs dropped    The Cold War, dependence on American aid, internal corruption and growth of military power, the 1960s growth of a “thoughtful and critical intelligentsia”  that would soon disappear with the communist victory of the 1970s are discussed in detail.

Some subtitles:  A new sensibility; Social change and cultural anxiety; Facing the dilemmas of development; Corruption and familism; Opium politics; The royal family; and the Final coalition give some indication of the key issues of the mid to late 20th century in Laos.

The harsh regime that came to power in late 1975 caused many Laos to flee their  country.  Hmong fought on for several years … the LPDR put in place all the usual trappings of a tightly controlled communist society … in the 1980s market style reforms began.  The 1990s saw considerable relaxation of state control of everyday life … The sate, however, kept tight control over the mass media and political activity, although by the late 1990s there were some signs that this control was slipping. (p.176)

Moving into Laos in the modern day (final chapter), Evans highlights the huge population growth in recent times, and the various ‘knowledges of the past’ that each of the new generations have.  He discusses the various ‘silences’ about the RLG (Royal Lao Government) period ‘almost as if it never existed’ (p.255) and stories that were told were ‘episodic and fragmented’.

Many young Lao are uncomfortably aware that they once had a king, but know little about him or about his demise.  School textbooks in many countries are notorious for their biased, nationalist representation of history, but the need in Laos to place the Communist Party at the centre of its history produces a further distortion. …  these multiple distortions of history produce strange ellipses and silences in the various narratives and discourses found within Laos today. (p.255)

This is admittedly an extreme summary of Evans’ contribution to an overview of Lao history.  The book details many of the political uprisings and complexities over a long history leading to the present day (ok, up to 2002).  I wanted to get a better idea of how this country has formed and asserted its own identity and note its quite different emphasis to that given by Vatthana Pholsena in her book Post war Laos-the Politics of Culture History .and Identity.  Clearly there are other perspectives on this history and I look forward to hearing (or not) those perspectives held by those I will be working and getting to know from within Laos itself.

All history, even recent history, is subject to interpretation.  Different historians offer varying perspectives on the past, sometimes due to different political persuasion or theoretical approaches.  The rule for historians in liberal democracies is that everything we know about the past is potentially open for discussion, and no facts should be suppressed.  Historians may differ about the relevant facts, or the weight given to them, but they agree on their open and free discussion.  (Evans, 2002: 256)

Mihn Mihn – review

I said I’d give a review of the most accessible Lao restaurant for Eastern Suburbs – Minh Minh in Victoria St, Richmond.  Sandy is an incredible host and certainly is a great representative of her home region – Paske, in Laos.  She was very helpful in organising the night, and giving me a quick intro into how to prepare’sticky rice’ and a delicious salad – I got to go into the kitchen and have a go with the mortar and pestle (helpful for my planned lunch party coming up this Sunday), and somewhat reminiscent of my cooking class in Siem Reap, Cambodia.  Those flavour combinations are incredible!

When the food came, I don’t knominhminh photo2w whether it was the beer and/or the company, but I was overwhelmed by a constant supply of rather carelessly served delicious dishes and mostly I had no idea what was being served.  I felt for my friends with various food preferences – does this have meat?  MSG?   What is this one?  I have to say, a bit disappointing after the great welcome and introduction to Laos specialties, when it came, I only managed a few gulped mouthfuls of who knows what…  Not the relaxed and instructive serving I was hoping for, particularly as my party was the majority of clientele on the night.

We were served a banquet which was a good choice – but it would have been good to have been given more of an idea what to expect.  After the mains, a few of us were left waiting in vain for a non-existent dessert.

I don’t know why, but I was left with a surprising bill after a number of my wonderful friends and colleagues made a point of leaving extra $$ to cover my kids.  By that stage I was honestly not up to questioning it, and Sandy did say she’d given me a discount ‘for going to help people in my country’, but it seemed quite excessive and unexpected.

So I’d say yes, good food and service, but next time I’d be more wary about what was ordered and what I was eating/paying for.

Language & Culture: Laos (& workplace communication)

Language & Culture: Laos  Background notes for teachers in the Adult Migrant Education Program by Jean Brick (1984)  

Book produced by the NSW Adult Migrant Education Service (borrowed from Deakin University Library)

Interesting reading!  Clearly some changes may have happened in the 30+ intervening years but I imagine that knowing the older or more traditional forms of address and a bit of history remains useful.

Some items of particular interest to me in regards to cultural expectations and relationships – I am somewhat nervous about establishing relationships with my work colleagues as I have a fundamentally (privileged) Western ideal and expectation that hierarchies and level of respect ought to depend on actions rather than given titles, which can of course take some time.

An interesting aspect relates to obligation and use of please/thank you, that helps to make sense of why my automated sense of ‘manners’ – ie everyone deserves to be thanked or spoken to politely – is not directly translatable in other cultural/ethnic contexts.

When speaking to shopkeepers or market sellers it was usual to say ‘Get X’, omitting pronouns and using command forms.  Respect was not necessary as payment was involved (p28)

The concept of obligation plays an important part in determining the level of politeness used in speaking.  Children are bound to their parents, students to their teachers and employees to their employers by a network of reciprocal obligations which are continuously renewed and reinforced.  Words such as ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ are seldom used in such relationships as services rendered or accepted are part of the network of obligation.  This obligation must be discharged by service or payment of respect and support.  Thanking in this context would appear insincere.  Nor is thanking appropriate in situations where service is part of a job, for example, in a shop.

Lao students may find the Australian system of politeness which is largely determined by the degree of difficulty or disruption involved, difficult to master.  They may unwittingly give offence by omitting polite forms or ‘please’ or ‘thank you’ when speaking to younger people, subordinates, Australian friends or people whose job it is to serve because in Laos such forms would sound insincere.  

Conversely, when speaking to older people or people of higher status, (eg teachers, employers, managers, etc) they may sound obsequious or over-polite because they attempt to translate Lao respect into English politeness.  (p40)

I found this section particularly interesting because I’d just read an interesting article Cultural orientation to Australian workplaces by Dr Lynda Achren (fine print vol 36#2 2013) in which she discusses the ‘hidden hierarchy‘ in Australia’s apparent egalitarian workplaces, and how CALD learners [culturally and linguistically diverse] find this aspect of Australian culture very difficult to understand unless taught/explained quite explicitly.

The problems for CALD learners in Australia seem very relevant to the problems I envisage in working within a more overtly hierarchical society where lines of command are far more clearly delineated and performed.  “where superiors are treated with deference and addressed verbally in terms that demonstrate respect and mark their place in the hierarchy” (p13) which does not sound like my ‘natural’ way of doing things(!)  Problematic issues may result in discomfort, cultural confusion, loss of face, misunderstandings, unclear roles and responsibilities, knowing how to ask questions or give instructions, appropriate levels of in/directness…

Gaining greater awareness of our own culture and how our language reflects our culture, helps us to recognise that there are other, equally valid cultural perspectives, equally valid ways of thinking and doing.   Being equipped with tools for noticing cultural difference, for being aware that ‘something cultural is going on’ helps provide all language learners and trainees with the intercultural communication skills required for a multicultural society and its multicultural workplaces. (Achren,2013, p16)

The section of the Language and Culture book on Laos entitled Politeness, respect and obligations is of course of particular interest to me.  Not that I’m reading it to learn the ‘rules’ of this society (the book is, after all, 30 years old) but in effect, the author Jean Brick articulates more general ‘cultural’ differences I’ve always been aware of through teaching and intercultural communications, but never quite been able to articulate, and all too often, to understand the whys behind the differences.

As this book was published in the 1980s, it is interesting to recognise that a lot of my TESOL training around this time, and after, has taken a different turn, towards non-essentialising discourses, avoiding cultural generalisations and stereotypes, and the integration of differences within and across, rather than just ‘between’.  One of the consequences of this (I think) was that everything became that little more vague, and less specific.  Many of my students have struggled with what they call my ‘refusal to answer questions directly’ or too much ‘abstract thinking’/unclear instructions (oh how I love student evaluations).  So when Achren (above) mentions ‘explicit instruction’, and this book lists quite explicit functional expressions, I am a little hesitant (but surely all Lao don’t do it this way?  And surely I don’t have to do it that way because someone 30 years ago wrote it in a training manual?) but at the same time, who wouldn’t want some insight into how the following functions may be performed in different and/or more appropriate ways in different contexts?

Part B:  FUNCTIONS

The following sub-titles here include:

  • Harmony,
  • Loss of Face,
  • Feelings …

INFORMATIVE

  • Confirming
  • Predicting
  • Correcting
  • Describing

INSTRUMENTAL

  • Advising,
  • Complaining,
  • Requesting,
  • Giving instructions,
  • Ordering,
  • Promising,
  • Seeking Permission,
  • Suggesting,
  • Warning,
  • Refusing

AFFECTIVE (Expressing)

  • ambition
  • surprise
  • anxiety
  • pleasure
  • anger
  • wants, wishes and needs
  • likes and dislikes
  • preferences
  • satisfaction and dissatisfaction
  • sympathy
  • good wishes

INTELLECTUAL

  • ability/inability
  • opinions, agreement and disagreement

INTEGRATIVE

  • introducing
  • asking for repetition and clarification
  • attracting attention and interrupting
  • greetings, leave-taking
  • apologising
  • complimenting
  • congratulating
  • inviting
  • offering, accepting and refusing
  • thanking
  • exchanging small talk

Some interesting excerpts (to me! – my highlights):

the establishment and maintenance of social harmony is very highly valued … and all things that potentially threaten such harmony are discouraged.  In their dealing with each other people are expected to be respectful, considerate and cheerful.  the overt display of emotions, especially anger or irritation is frowned on.  Given direct opinions or openly disagreeing are also discouraged as they can lead to disharmony (pg41)

The concept of ‘dignity‘ or ‘face‘ is extremely important … avoided by conducting arguments or disagreements at length by giving reasons and by avoiding direct statements of opinion … stress is put on appearing cheerful at all times, regardless of mental state.  Smiling is, therefore, an appropriate reaction covering a wide range of emotions from happiness to anger, embarrassment and sadness … strong displays of emotion, especially negative emotions such as anger or irritation are taken as lack of discipline and can cause loss of face … (pp.41-2)

Laotians tend to avoid correcting others in all but extreme cases …when correction is necessary it will be given in a softened form, roughly translated as ‘I think this is better’.  Alternatively, it can be appropriate to offer to do something for a superior rather than point out his mistake (p 44)

Making complaints is rare… The high status of teachers means that complaints about schooling are avoided.  In Australia, students are likely to drop out of class rather than complain … In general, complaints are avoided because they create disharmony and because it is usually felt that nothing can be done to alter the state of affairs and complaining is a waste of time (pp47-8)

It is rare to make a direct request … A request from an older person or a superior sounds very brusque if translated into English.  Requests from subordinates or younger people are frequently implicit rather than explicit …If the request is made explicit, the reasons for making the request are always given first… (pp48-9)

Commitments to do something are often not seen as binding and time limits are very seldom put on expressions of willingness to do something.  If a person says that he will do something is usually means that if he can, he will and if he cannot, he will not.  If a person, having said that he will do something, subsequently fails to do it, then he might say:  ‘I’m sorry, I forgot’ and this would be accepted as an adequate reason for failure to do the promised action.”  (pp50-1)

While it is possible to refuse a request, the way that this is done varies according to the strength of the ties of friendship or obligation that exist between the two people…  might suggest a later date on which the person making the request could talk to him [which is] understood as a refusal.  … For small things, such as being asked to a party, it is usual to refuse by citing a prior engagement.  (pp53-4)

Expressing anxiety … There is no distinction between fear and nervousness.  Expressions of pleasure are muted and are primarily conveyed through intonation … it is not usual to open gifts in front of the give or to express pleasure … A gift produces an obligation which will be repaid at a future date … Pleasure [in relation to food] is shown by eating the food … (p.55-6)

Rather than stating boldly that something is liked or disliked, it is usual to approach the subject indirectly.  The reason for linking or disliking something is stated rather than the fact of like or dislike … others will remain silent rather than disagree … People seldom talk about their personal likes and dislikes because it is felt that such things are of no interest to others (p.57)

People usually tend to downgrade their abilities and achievements as to do otherwise would be interpreted as boasting or immodest behaviour and as such would be severely criticised … It is rare to state opinions or to agree or disagree directly.  Instead, reasons are given for or against a particular opinion and the listener is left to draw his own conclusions … On all occasions, being forced to admit fault involves loss of face.  People avoid putting themselves or others in a situation that involves admitting being wrong … The appropriate response to the query ‘do you understand?’ is to smile and say nothing. (pp59-63)

In general, Laos do not apologise as much as Australians, especially for minor offences.  For major offences, restitution is expected… Relative age and status is more important in determining the depth of the apology than the degree of the offence… It is very rare to pay anyone a compliment [or to congratulate] … People never comment on how beautiful a baby is.  Instead it is usual to say that the baby is ugly as this discourages the spirits from taking the baby[!]  (p.66-8)

It is not normal to offer either food or drink to a visitor; rather it is assumed that a visitor will drink and it is automatically provided.  The guest would be asked, ‘have you eaten?’  It is usual to give a negative answer, and it is expected that the guest would then either join the family in eating or if the family had already eaten, to eat by himself…   (p.69)

And finally …

Exchanging small-talk

In general, people tend not to talk about themselves, their own activities or problems.  It is also unusual to ask people about their interests or to talk about personal interests as the assumption tends to be that personal interests are of no interest to others.  People do, however, talk about other people’s activities, often in a critical way.  This acts as an important regulator of social activity as people are often reluctant to do things that might result in others criticising them.  …  questions on age, marital status … number of children and whether or not contraception is used[!] …

People also talk about jobs but mainly in relation to wages and promotion prospects … common to ask about the cost of an item … An account of the cost of various things bought for children can function as a way to showing degree of affection for the children 

Educated men might talk about politics but few women would do so.  Sport is a popular topic among men but not women who tend to talk about traditional women’s concerns – fashion, cooking, handicrafts and the family.  … It is not polite to express lack of interest in a topic of conversation nor to attempt to change the subject.  Both can be accomplished by falling silent and not commenting on what the speaker is saying.  (pp71-2)

Wow, it will be really interesting to reflect back on this further down the track.  I suppose I’ve highlighted (without commenting ‘directly’ as such – see, I’m learning) particular points that I envisage having some personal difficulties with.  As I stated above, my own fundamentally (privileged) Western ideals and expectations, combined with a feminist and (I hope) socially just perspective, may well have to take on some new forms of agency and performance over the ensuing 12 months!

References:

Language & Culture: Laos  Background notes for teachers in the Adult Migrant Education Program by Jean Brick (1984)  Book produced by the NSW Adult Migrant Education Service (borrowed from Deakin University Library)

Cultural orientation to Australian workplaces by Dr Lynda Achren (Fine Print vol 36#2 2013)

Post-war Laos: The Politics of Culture, History and Identity

Post-war Laos : The Politics of Culture, Hist9788776940058ory and Identity

By (author) Vatthana Pholsena More than a quarter of century after the end of the war in 1975, the Lao leadership is still in search for a compelling nationalist narration. Its politics of culture and representation appear to be caught between the rhetoric of preservation and the desire for modernity. Meanwhile, originating from the periphery where ethnic minorities had hitherto been symbolically, politically and administratively confined, the participation of some of their members in the Indochina Wars (1945-75) exposed these individuals to socialization and politicization processes. This rigorously researched and cogently argued book is a fine-grained analysis of substantial ethnographic material, showing the politics of identity, the geographies of memory and the power of narratives of some members of ethnic minority groups who fought during the Vietnam War in the Lao People’s Liberation Army and/or were educated within the revolutionary administration. No study has ever been conducted on the latter’s views on the national(ist) project of the late socialist era. Their own perceptions of their membership of the nation have been overlooked. “Post-war Laos” is a set to be a landmark study, and an original contribution that refines established theories of nationalism, such as Anderson’s “imagined community”, by addressing a common weakness: namely, their tendency to deny agency to individuals, who in fact interpret their relationship to, and place within, the nation in a variety of ways that may change according to time and circumstance.

Link to original text from BookDepository.com

My Thoughts

As with many books based on PhD research, it can be rather heavy going, depending on how much historical, contextual and methodological content you are interested in.  So after a quick skim through, I ended up really enjoying the final chapter entitled 7: From Inclusion to Re-marginalization – the crux of the original contribution of the author’s study and experiences in Laos.  The chapter explores the “idea of fluidity and plurality of identities within the context of ideological, cultural and economic change in today’s Lao society” (p180) after previously demonstrating the workings of political mechanisms used by Lao authorities to attempt to “forge an orderly and bounded representation of the country’s culturally and linguistically diverse population with the support of state-controlled ethnographic research and the census” (p181).

Focussing on ‘identities’ and drawing from ideas of some of my favourite theorists (Homi Bhabha, Stuart Hall), notions of essentialisms and ‘dislocation or de-centring of the subject’ (Hall, 1994, p.275), conflations of ethnicity, national identity and citizenship, and conflicting senses of ‘belonging’, the author’s stories are thought-provoking and demonstrative of the complexities that have evolved through multiple changes brought on by migration, colonialism, boundary and border shifting, nationalisms, politics…

My reading interest however, is to get a broad understanding of some of this complex history, and what is meant by the ‘diversity’ within the Lao population and its ordained’ethnic minorities‘.  My own home of Melbourne, Australia, has long prided itself on its “multiculturally diverse population” but it is a version of multiculturalism that is generally left unquestioned.  I ask my students how they understand diversity in terms of culture and all too often it comes down to racial characteristics signifying ‘difference‘, a conflation between culture and ethnicity (and religious beliefs) and language (English) deficits of those designated ‘other’.   I recognise my own views come from just such a place – and that my own role in, and perspective on ‘diversity’ was only really informed when I went elsewhere and was designated ‘other’, and began to recognise the many ‘differences’ that exist between members of every designated ‘group’.

Truth is, I went to Laos and saw many Lao people.  I saw men/women, rich/poor, monks/laypeople, and some tourist outsiders.  I went from Cambodia, through Vietnam, Laos, Burma.  But ethnic or cultural diversity?  I have no idea!  Hence, a big learning curve for me.

One Week Pre-departure

I have just spent four days at my ‘pre-departure briefing’ – information, advice, networking, and an absolute brain overload!  And too much food.

Aug 2016 Briefing2.JPG

As the departure date looms, I just have to maintain the pace – fill in all those little bits, tick off the ‘to do’ list (that really only exists in my overloaded head) and go through all the doubts, worries, trepidations and fears that are to be expected before setting off on a big journey.

During the four days of the briefing I learnt all of the rules for what I (we volunteers and ‘representatives of the government of Australia’) should and shouldn’t do, say or think.  What to say and what not to say, how to behave and how not to behave.  We learnt that there are people employed to support us on our ‘missions’ (my word, not theirs) and there is in-country, international and support from home if we find ourselves in need.  I learnt that our roles involve ‘capacity building‘ (the new catch cry for international aid).

Overall, I learnt that a hell of a lot has changed since I volunteered 22 years ago.  That changes in line with neo-conservative government have far flung consequences that have a significant role in how we might attempt to live a meaningful life.  That our ‘freedom’ only extends so far in what we are able to do, to say, to choose.  Or to share.

I have organised two ‘see you later’ parties to share with friends and family.  I have spent time with my gorgeous children and organised for their trip to come and see me for Christmas.  I have said farewell to my dog, my house, and my life in its current state.  One of my colleagues at the briefing said ‘oh, but it’s only a year’!  I think of a year in my child’s life and it is huge.  I want my year to be huge too.  We only have so much time in this life – I want to make the most of all of it.

Bye.jpg

One Month Pre-departure

Got my motorcycle (scooter) licence

DSC_0279 DSC_0280

Ready for the op-shop pickup

op shop.jpg

All vaccinations completed…

Put on weight (thanks dad)

Read up on Laos history

Met up with my new Lao volunteer colleagues 🙂

Laos AVID group.JPG

Joined Savannakhet expats Facebook group

Burned 20 yeDSC_0283ars of tax returns, bank statements, bill payments

Celebrated my son’s 21st birthday

Rani & me.jpg

Lao Food Collection

Looking online for a local restaurant serving Lao food to invite friends and family to before I go.  Most establishments seem to offer combinations of Vietnamese-Thai-Lao-Burma.  Salivating now…  Here are some excerpts (+source links) from what I found:

1.  Minh Minh

minhminh photo2

Lao restaurant Richmond

https://www.zomato.com/melbourne/minh-minh-richmond

Google Map Directions

Mmmmm, yum – central, easy to get to, mostly good reviews, this is it!  … Stay tuned for review!

Minh Minh menu

https://www.zomato.com/melbourne/minh-minh-richmond/menu#

2.  LAOS  (foodie excerpt from Radio show transcript)

I don’t think I ate ANYTHING in Laos that I didn’t enjoy. The nicest surprise was the absence of oily, wet curries, and the much bigger emphasis on fresh, light, spicy salads or meat/seafood dishes; lashings of supremely fresh herbs, a huge array of vegetables, and a good variety of meats and fish.

Common dishes
Laap (Larb in Thailand): Minced chicken, pork, fish with onion, chilli, mint.
Papaya Salad – Always spicy, even when you ask for the mild version! Strips of green papaya, garlic, chili, peanuts, sugar, lime juice and more chili.
Pho – From Vietnam, that tasty broth with beef or pork, meatballs, thai basil, Sprouts, chilli – awesome for breakfast.

Sticky rice – that glutinous version served with almost every meal in Laos – be it salad, stirfry or soup. The idea is to take a couple of fingers full, roll it into a ball, and dip it into your dish to eat the two together.
My best meals in Laos:
Eggplant and fish with thai basil at Vilayvak restaurant in Vientiane – mushy and tangy and wonderful.
Breakfast Pork Pho at Kungs Café in a hidden little laneway in Vientiane.
Dried, fried beef with sesame seeds and spicy salsa at Spirit House by the Mekong River.

Where you can get it here:
YIM YAM – 12 Margaret Street Moonee Ponds   http://www.yimyam.com.au

A busy restaurant just off the buzzing Puckle Street, Yim Yam is an absolute gem. The highlight here is without a doubt the Yum – warm salads with bags of herbs, spices, vegies and texture.  The Goy Guy Chicken Salad is basically a laap, so a good one to try, but the stand out is the signature dish – Yum Yim Yam. Available with either Prawns or Tofu, it’s a dish full of strips of carrot, lettuce, red onion, spring onion, with toasted coconut and garlic and banana blossom. Absolute bliss.

Other good Laos staples to try include the spicy Laos sausage, Laos Beef Curry; and you can get sticky rice here. Importantly, Yim Yam offers unbelievable value for money, with most mains between $13 and $18. (Note: they have a sister restaurant in Ballarat Street Yarraville).

3.  Lao Food Blog

Lao food blog

 

http://www.foodfromnorthernlaos.com/

4. …National Dish of Laos – with live crabs!

Check out the complexities of preparing Laos food flavours – mmm, yum, I’d forgotten.

http://laosforums.com/viewtopic.php?f=14&t=229