Lao and Thailand: Same same, but different

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Thailand and Laos have long been considered as sibling countries, having had a shared history before the colonial era. Here are some of the ...

Thailand and Laos have long been considered as sibling countries, having had a shared history before the colonial era. Here are some of the ways the two places are almost the same...

By Karn G. Bulsuk

If you've lived in Thailand for a period of time, stepping into Vientiane in Laos is like stepping into another dimension. Vientiane has the feel of a small country rural town in Thailand, but there are still subtle differences that remind you that you're in a former French colony.

Crossing over the Mekong River, Vientiane is literally a 30 minute drive away from the nearest Thai city. The people on both sides of the border look the same, speak a similar dialect and even the food is similar.

Listening casually, you could almost swear that people in Laos were speaking Thai. When you actually listen carefully though, you do realize that although it sounds similar, you can only pick up bits and pieces of the conversation. Some of the words are similar or the same, but there are enough differences to throw you off the meaning.

Even the written language, if just at a glance, looks similar to Thai. If not for the French written below the signs of ministry buildings, you would be forgiven for forgetting you were no longer in the Kingdom of Thailand.

Like Thailand, the roads are covered in a fine layer of red dust. The only reason you remember that you're in Vientiane is when a car almost runs you over: unlike Thailand, Laos retains the vestiges of it's French heritage and they drive on the wrong side of the road. The right side is, naturally, the right.

Laos has it's own unique charms though, and although getting there is expensive, it might be worth paying a visit for a few days to visit one of the more sleepy capitals this part of the world.



Photo credit: Samnang Danou

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Karn G. Bulsuk: Full Speed Ahead: Lao and Thailand: Same same, but different
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Karn G. Bulsuk: Full Speed Ahead
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