Saturday, 3 January 2009

What the French Left Behind in Laos

The French ruled Laos more than a hundred years ago. Despite gaining independence in 1949, Laos still has much French influence till this day.

Take for example the Victory Monument or Patuxai in Vientiane.

It is a replica of the Arc de Triomphe in Paris.

Like they say in Laos: "Same Same But Different"

According to Lonely Planet, the Patuxai was built in 1969 with cement donated by the United States for the construction of a new airport.

Maybe some joker at that time decided to use the cement to fill up that space in Vientiane instead, and used their former conqueror’s Arc de Triomphe for inspiration.

Next, signboards and roadsigns - most of them are in French too apart from Lao:

Being able to read basic French certainly came in handy while I was in Laos.

Another French legacy is the baguette which can be found in every nook and cranny of Laos:

The baguette is usually used to make sandwiches that look like this:

You can choose either chicken or pork filling for your sandwich. And the seller will add lettuce, cucumber, tomato, mayonnaise, chilli sauce and any other ingredients and sauces that you would like. Delicious!

But I think the most distinctive legacy of the French in Laos is the ability of the older generation to converse in fluent French; just like this ice-cream seller whom I met in Luang Prabang. Meeting him has inspired me to continue studying French!

Apparently he learned French while in school eons ago, and he is the last generation who had the opportunity to study the language in school. French is not thought in national schools these days. More emphasis is given to English instead.

So I guess when his generation passes away, what will be left of French legacy in Laos would be the Patuxai ala Arc de Triomphe, signages & roadsigns in French and the ubiquitous baguette, amongst others.


Angie Tan said...

ice cream uncle inspired you to learn french and your this entry has inspired me to go luang prabang ....

Julie Lim said...

It's a pleasure to know that my entry has inspired you :-)

You go gal!

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