Walking towards the Vientiane Bowling Centre for another volunteer’s birthday celebrations, I spot a bakery along our way. It’s main feature are two glass fronted fridges side by side, filled with colourful cakes. One looks like it’s icing has been made out of watermelon. I suggest that we buy a cake as a birthday gift to our fellow volunteer. At this point a young man pokes his head behind the fridge and comes to assist us. He’s wearing a awfully tight shirt and even tighter short, shorts. We point to a cake and ask “tao dai?” (how much). He quickly darts back to behind the fridges and into the shop, returning with two ladyboy friends to help us. The most knowledgeable one comes forward to help us with the price. He’s dressed in a red mesh shirt that reminds of the villain Bennet from the Arnold Schwarzenegger movie “Commando”.

The lady boys look like they’re off duty. They’ve got the clothes but they don’t have the makeup. The bakery wall is covered with pictures of seemingly thai models and tv/movie female stars. Role models perhaps, looks to aspire to.

The lady boys ask us to write a message on a white board, which they then expertly and perfectly recreate on the cake. They work together in a group, one writes while the others watch to make sure she’s not making any mistakes. They help interpret some letters he doesn’t understand.

We walk out with our 30’000 kip cake (approximately $3 USD) from three very unique bakers.


Ladyboys in Laos

Ladyboys in Laos are not uncommon, and are largely accepted by the community. A Lao guy I met told me that this is a recent change, and that 10yrs ago they would have been unable to so openly show themselves in public for fear of persecution. During the Lao New Year parade 5 ladyboys featured quite prominently, leading the final float. There are some photos of them on my flickr website. They were heavily targetted for water throwing by the crowd, and there was a lot of laughing at them, especially by children.


There is a Ladyboy working girl who hangs around the main fountain in Vientiane’s central area. Two volunteers have been accosted by her, and one was even groped quite aggressively. I told them that instead of saying no and running away, they should have instead asked tao dai (how much?) and peng pawt (too expensive). Another volunteer saw her driving off on the back of a young phalang’s (foreigner) bike one evening. He looked very pissed, and there was a good chance he’d wake up the next morning very regretful. I can imagine a crying game happens every night in this town. This is the story they should tell young Australian volunteers to scare them from getting too drunk while overseas. One volunteer’s friends had joked with him that our pre departure training for our assignments to Laos lacked a “Ladyboy detection” workshop.