Lao people generally tend to stay in the same area or home that they grew up in. With the exception of younger people who move to Vientiane for school or work or those who have moved abroad, most families stay where they have always lived and raised kids at. And the kids then tend to live and buy homes close to their parents or other family members, usually in the same baan (town/village). Though this is not always the case, it is in fact quite typical in Laos.
So here are a few my suggestions of what you should have in hand before going there to search for someone.
- The first thing is to find out which baan they live or lived in.
- Knowing their full name and nickname helps.
- It's also useful if you could find out any of their parents or relatives names.
- Any place of previous work could prove helpful as well.
Once you have as much info as possible, you can then go asking around in the last known baan of the person you're looking for. Additionally, finding out who the head of the baan and speaking to him/her could prove helpful as they usually know who/where most families are in their area. Further, you should always find the nearest temple. Lao life generally involves contact with the temple on some level. The temples become unofficial community centers. Suffice it to say, the people there usually know who is who along with background details.
Of course with any search there can be difficulties. Such as, incomplete information to go on, people's memories not being perfect, people may be unwilling to help or quite simply they may not have the info you're looking for. As with any challenge, you'll need plenty of perseverance and patience.
Story to Share: Personal Experience of Mine in Trying to Find Someone
When I was in Laos I had to do this a few times trying to find people or places. One instance that comes to mind was when I visited Laos and I had deliver a gift to someone, keeping in mind I didn't know my way around yet. The gift was from a family friend in Canada who wanted to send along some money to her father who was quite old. First thing was to visit the last known baan of where he lived. I drove there on a motorcycle with one of my cousins. When we arrived in the vicinity of the village/town I asked the neighbors where he was or where he lived now. They seemed unsure. Unfortunately the last house he was known to reside was no longer the case. The search continued. One person said he was at the temple. It was on to the local temple. Those at the temple said that he was no longer a monk there but was now residing with his eldest daughter. At this point I knew we were getting closer to finding him. As we drove our motocycle further down the unpaved road, we eventually found the house of where he was residing. On arrival to the house, I was met by 2 guard dogs and a lady who turned out to be the eldest daughter. Once I knew it was safe to approach them further, I explained to them who I was and why I was looking for this gentlemen. They invited me in and I met up with her father. I explained again who I was to the father and that this gift was from his daughter in Canada. Mission accomplished. They seemed really thankful that I came all that way to deliver the gift.
In hindsight, I was surprised I was able to succesfully complete that. It made me realize the challenge but also the somewhat ease it is to find someone in Laos because on some level everyone knows everyone.
Also worth mentioning is that the internet is becoming a useful resource to finding people even those in Laos. Although there are no whitepages or 411 directories like there are in western countries to find people (however there are yellow pages to find companies).
- Submitted by VM