Slow Down, You Move Too Fast

By Stephen Ewashkiw | March 3, 2014

10,809 km so far.

Laos’ official name is Lao PDR, as in People’s Democratic Republic. Travellers joke that this stands for Please Don’t Rush. Things take longer here, people move more slowly.

Industry isn’t a big part of the north of Laos. This definitely isn’t China, and it isn’t even Vietnam. The most industry we have seen is one quarry.

Slow boats on the Nam Ou, Nong Khiaw.

Slow boats on the Nam Ou, Nong Khiaw.

Laos is in the bottom 20 poorest countries in the world. Partly this explains the slow nature of life here. People are farmers and basket weavers. They work at the loom making beautiful skirts, they run small shops from the front of their woven bamboo-walled homes.

Lao woman outside her home, Nong Khiaw.

Lao woman outside her home, Nong Khiaw.

There is no need to rush when there is no factory or assembly line, and life is based on the rhythms of nature: planting, growing, and harvest.

We’re Going Nowhere

When we checked in to our cabana yesterday, there were a couple in the cabin next to ours who told me they had been in Nong Khiaw for a week, although they hadn’t planned on it. It is just so relaxed and peaceful that they decided to stay a while.

This seems common here. There are several adventure travel companies and restaurants run by expats who presumably showed up one day, fell in love with the speed of life, and decided to stay.

We have also decided to spend a couple of nights here. Our bamboo hut overlooking the river is beautiful, the bed is comfortable, and despite the abundance of dreadlocked backpackers in town, we like it here.

Hello rock, Nong Khiaw.

Hello rock, Nong Khiaw.

It is an incredible setting at the base of karst mountains, with the Nam Ou river cutting the town into two halves.

Slow Food

The restaurant we chose for lunch today had a sign outside saying they serve Slow Food. They use locally grown produce, produced in traditional, time-honoured ways, by a group of local women.

Perfect drink for a hot morning, Nong Khiaw.

Perfect drink for a hot morning, Nong Khiaw.

It also took about 45 minutes for them to make our simple meal of a salad and an omelette.

eating laos food with fingers

Stephen eating Lao-style. First you take the sticky rice…

We were in no rush, and they had warned us, so no complaints. We did think that maybe they had always been this slow, and the Slow Food sign was just a way of making the tourists stop whining.

Slow Day

This morning, we wandered slowly through town, admiring the elephants…

wooden elephant carving in laos

Elephant carving, Nong Khiaw.

…patting the puppies…

puppy trying to climb a curb

This little one couldn’t make it up the curb, Nong Khiaw.

…and meeting the monkeys.

woman holding a small monkey laos

A meeting of minds, Nong Khiaw.

The monkey seems to be a pet of some French expats, but it runs freely around the town.

We spent the afternoon in the hammock, drinking cold Beerlao, reading, writing, and watching the world of the river flow by.

As a great man once said:

Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.

Here in Laos everyone is looking around, seeing life, embracing it, and living it.

Evening TV time, Nong Khiaw.

Evening TV time, Nong Khiaw.

Yes, it may be poor in terms if GDP and democracy, but people’s lives seem rich, full, and happy.  


  1. Comment by Taina

    Taina March 11, 2014 at 6:53 am

    That seems like heaven! Incredible. Living vicariously through your posts while life flies by in a frenzy over here.

    • Comment by Stephen

      Stephen March 11, 2014 at 7:31 am

      Laos was amazing. We kinda fell in love with the place.

  2. Comment by Scot

    Scot March 9, 2014 at 7:54 am

    Anyone? Bueller? Bueller? Nice to see you quoting the greats ;-)

    • Comment by Stephen

      Stephen March 9, 2014 at 8:36 am

      I try and keep it high-brow Scot.

  3. Comment by Kimberly

    Kimberly March 7, 2014 at 5:45 am

    Thank you for this post – the emphasis on slow and introspection created a little pause in my work morning so that I could do the same. Namaste!

    • Comment by Stephen

      Stephen March 9, 2014 at 8:35 am

      Wonderful. Glad to hear it Kimberly. Namaste!

  4. Comment by Ariel

    Ariel March 6, 2014 at 5:04 pm

    Oh my goodness gracious! That monkey!!! Looks like an incredible place.

    • Comment by Stephen

      Stephen March 9, 2014 at 8:35 am

      So cute, right?

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