On the other hand, it is not like Laotians are not interested in making money. They are, they are just not sure how. There is a bar/restaurant on the sunset side of Don Det called Happy Bar. The place is always packed, which goes in contrast with deserted restaurants on the same side of the island (it is the season ending). The secret of their success is the guy Manny from England, who seemed to be the only one who did any work there. Taking orders, delivering orders, being responsible for the music (Bob Marley and minimal techno instead of Lao pop), entertaining clientele and occasionally preparing food. The rest of Lao stuff just chilled around. It was entertaining to see how Manny taught the place owner such business tricks as making a list of people and taking a deposit for a BBQ boat trip in order to estimate how much food to prepare. The owner seemed to be genuinely surprised that such a thing was possible. On one of those trips the locals in the passing by boat appeared as if they were taking notes on how to make money off foreigners with nothing else than a couple of boats and a portable ice box full of Beerlao. Truly fascinating. I did not feel like spending any money in Laos, because frankly there was nothing to buy. Food is rather bland, local delicacies are almost nonexistent and the selection on local shops and markets is rather strange. Once we made it to a Lao New Year celebration with a fair in the rural Laos. The fair featured such exciting items as light bulbs, batteries, car parts and packaged processed food. Most convenience stores seemed to feature similar assortment. Business is definitely not one of the strongest points of Lao people, but maybe it is better this way.
Ken Wilber in “A Brief History of Everything”, where he argued that the ability to think rationally became a baseline in Western countries only at some point of history (so called Age Of Reason). Prior to that most people were, well, not very rational. It seems that the rational baseline is yet to be reached in the rural Laos.
The situation, however, changed when I got out of tourist places. Only then I realized that Laotians are a very hospitable, smiling, happy lot despite the poverty. I shared food and beer with locals on numerous occasions and once got invited to an wedding (and the only thing I was wearing was swimshorts and sarong). Nobody spoke English and was pretty drunk to communicate anyway, but it was good fun. Vientiane was the turning point for me, where local people were nice and friendly never mind the mass tourism . It might have had something do with Lao New Year, but further south I went people were nicer and nicer. Bolaven Plateau was particularly pleasant. Nobody spoke any English and we did not speak any Laos, but it was counterbalanced by tons of smiles and hospitality. This is the Laos I was told about.