Life in Laos through the lens of a diplomatic wife raising twin toddlers.

My Nagging Curiosity

Driving around Vientiane I often see something and ask myself, “What IS that?” and I don’t have enough time to stop and find out, nor do I always have my camera with me (shame on me), nor possess the gumption to pepper strangers (in Lao) about what they’re doing and why and what is it and where does it come from etc., and on top of the interrogation to ask permission for photos. It requires a certain personality that doesn’t come easily to me. I don’t always have the gumption to match my curiosity.


I’ve passed these street vendors countless times and always thought they sold the inside of young coconuts. What I wanted to know was why they roasted the coconuts before taking the meat out since the shells looked dark with char. Did it make them taste better? Or are the shells so hard that it needs to cook first to crack open? It has been nagging at me for some time now about these “coconuts”.


Another reason why I haven’t stopped is because when I think about it none of it really matters, except for the possibility of finding something super delicious to eat. Little things like this are just a part of the overall mystery of living in a foreign country. It’s hard enough sometimes merely navigating my way through the necessary daily life stuff never mind trying to figure out the inconsequential mundane. Even as I’m writing this post I’m asking myself why any of this would be interesting to anybody.

So maybe I’m a terribly bored expat wife or I have way too much time on my hands or I’m irresponsibly procrastinating from filling out mind numbing government job application forms or all of the above, but today I finally stopped to ask.


And all they turned out to be are sugar palm fruits that come off the tree already in that blackened charred color which the vendors buy from some poor folks who bring them in from the countryside. All the hard work of climbing the super tall trees, cutting down the fruit, and hauling them for hours into town end up selling for very little: 15,000 kip a bag for me (~ $2 because I drove up in a car with diplomatic plates), probably 10,000 kip or less for locals.


The fruit has a very watery jelly-like consistency and wasn’t as sweet as I expected. The taste doesn’t appeal to me at all. So in the end it was pretty anticlimactic and uninteresting, except that now I know and I can stop wondering. Hopefully I can save up that gumption for something a little more interesting to discover next time.

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2 comments on “My Nagging Curiosity

  1. Dani
    March 17, 2013

    Isn’t it funny how sometimes the things that we assume to be the most exciting or most interesting little mysteries always end up being the most anti-climatic? I have this problem with food especially, especially here. The neon orange fried sweets are so visually stunning I wish I could like them, but I really, really don’t. Oh well! IT’s nice to ask though. I find people usually don’t mind when I’m asking them about their trade or their craft, it’s something to break up the monotony of routine–as long as I ended up buying something from them of course.

    • Wanderlustress
      March 17, 2013

      And then there are things that I see out of my rear view mirror while driving that I wish I could take a photo of, like the guy in a cowboy hat driving a motorbike with a rigged sidecar stacked with bright yellow Beer Lao crates. I think he’s on the same delivery schedule as when I pick up my kids from school so if I go a little early and park on a certain corner I’ll get that shot of him zipping towards me with his eyes squinted in the dust and wind – not that I want to ask him anything, I just want that motion shot.

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This entry was posted on March 15, 2013 by in Laos and tagged , , , , , .

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