In this Teaching English interview with Annabel Candy we’ll discover what it is like to work, live and travel in Laos. Laos was one of our favourite backpacking destinations on our first trip in Southeast Asia together, so we’re thrilled to hear more about the country from the perspective of someone who got to actually be there for a significant amount of time.
Where did you teach?
In the People’s Democratic Republic of Lao
What are the perks of teaching here?
The people are just gorgeous, so friendly and even the capital, Vientianne is small and has a small town feel. Lao is also a very traditional country so you get to really experience life in another culture.
Do you have a funny memory from the classroom?
Oh yes, so many. Lao people love to laugh and I always try to make my lessons fun because people learn more when they’re having fun.
One time I found a great travel article in a British newspaper about a tourist visiting Lao and getting drunk on the local rice wine. It was all about how Lao is a backwater and the inference was that the people were also backwards.
We read the article as a class then discussed it. Next we created a play based on the article with the tourist and various villagers as key players. We made very slight alterations so it was the tourist, not the locals, who came across as backwards. Then we showed the play to the whole school which caused much merriment.
What were the biggest cultural adjustments?
At that time there was very little imported foods and since I was a vegetarian I ate just rice and vegetables. I lost a lot of weight because there was no crisps or chocolate for me to eat and I cycled everywhere in extreme heat. The weight loss was a real problem but I finally found some chocolate flavoured soy drinks which stopped me from getting too thin.
What did your average weekend in this country look like?
My students really welcomed me and I tended to hang out with them at the weekends. There always seemed to be some festival or other going on. Typically we’d start by going to the temple on Friday evenings where vast amounts of incense were burnt and prayers made. Then we’d head straight to the bar with the rest of the weekend spent eating, drinking and socialising. Simple, easy and fun.
Could you briefly describe your hiring and Visa process?
The best way to get a job is to turn up in the country. I always find it hard otherwise so that’s what I did in Lao. Once the school has met you and hired you for a trial period they should organise visas after that. It makes things much easier and both parties know what they’re getting into.
Are there any noteworthy places or destinations worth exploring nearby?
You have to take a plane to Luang Prabang in northern Laos. It’s one of the best travel destinations in the world with amazing temples and markets. It’s not just me who loves Luang Prabang either. I’ve seem so many other travel writers recommend it.
Can you tell us a bit about your travel blog and what readers can expect to find?
Get In the Hot Spot puts the fun back into travel because so much travel writing in print is boring. I try to give my readers useful travel tips and also share stories about the silly things that happen on the road, the crazy people you meet and the challenging situations you find yourself in. That’s what I love most about travel so I hope those stories will inspire other people to take the plunge and follow their travel dreams.
Can you briefly tell us about your upcoming travel plans?
No! I tend to wing. I didn’t think I’d be travelling anywhere this year but I’ve ended up going to Japan, Canada and Australia’s Red Centre. You have to be open to all opportunities and ready to go at a moments notice.
My husband and I hope to uproot our three children and take them on a big African safari next year or the year after. They are aged 7, 11 and 14 so it gets harder to take them out of school and find things which everyone enjoys but we’re determined to carry on doing it and I know Africa would blow their tiny little minds in a good way:)
Annabel Candy is a freelance writer. Born in England, she’s traveled in over 40 countries, lived in eight of them and has both British and Kiwi passports. But don’t hold that against her. Annabel now bashes her keyboard in Noosa, Australia, writing travel stories and travel tips on Get In the Hot Spot and sharing blogging tips at Successful Blogging.