Singing Goodbye in Vientiane

Even though I’d had just about enough of daily bus-induced motion sickness, I had grown quite attached to my Stray Bus mates and was truly sad to say goodbye to the other Cold War Kids – Amber, Franz & Anna.

We’re so excited, we just can’t hide it.

The last stop of the journey (at least my part) lead us to the capital city of Vientiane, where New Year’s celebrations had come to a halt. It was surface-of-the-sun hot when we arrived though, so I wouldn’t have minded a good bucket of water to the face.

Patuxay, The Victory Gate, commemorates those who fought to free Laos from French rule

So we wandered around the town a bit, eye-digesting a few more temples, Buddhas and landmarks before checking in to the guesthouse. A few more travelers joined up with the group and you’ll never guess what they were down to do to celebrate my last night in Laos…

KARAOKE! In a bowling alley!

Naturally I was stoked. It had been way too long since I warbled in public. Aside from a too-brief stint singing a Bieber song with an Indonesian cover band, I don’t think I’ve uttered one karaoke note this whole RTW adventure. So I was overdue.

Of all the places to get back into the swing of the karaoke scene… I had to pick Laos? I couldn’t have gone to Japan where everyone is down to get their all night karaoke on. Let’s just say at the bowling alley karaoke bar in Vientiane, we faced a few hurdles.

1. Everyone hated us. If there were slushees to slosh in our faces, they would’ve been sloshed. Violently, I’d guess. At best, no one in the building was impressed with our efforts, and at worst, I think some were plotting to kill us in the bathroom. It was a small crowd of maybe 30 other than our newly augmented Stray Bus crew and they made it known we were not in their Laotian glee club. Our singing wasn’t that bad, so I couldn’t quite wrap my head around the people who were either disdainfully staring us down or pretending to sleep when it was our turn. They weren’t just tilting their heads in “oh-I’m-just-joshin’-ya” mock-boredom. They were lying full out on the couches with their eyes closed, awaiting the end of our songs with obvious annoyance. In the words of Stephanie Tanner, “How rude!” We listened with rapt attention to whatever the heck it was they were singing, and watched intently and without remark as Laos actresses strutted through 3 minutes of random b-roll all the while making determined faces to go along with the emotive song. We even cheered at the end! Hmmph. Apparently karaoke etiquette varies from country to country.

2. The song selection hosed us. There were only about 30 songs in English and of those, the USA karaoke favorites were not on tap. No Bon Jovi, no Bohemian Rhapsody, no musicals. We were relegated to Celine Dion, Stevie Wonder and the Backstreet Boys for the majority of the night. For our part, I would like to say we nailed it… but our nailing it was lost in translation. My Heart Will Go On just doesn’t get the crowd going, no matter where you are. Even with excitable fist pumps and timely pointing.

Even if the Laotians weren’t feeling it, Rose & Jack would’ve been honored by the vocal tribute

On a trip back from the bathroom, I found that there were private karaoke rooms, so we nabbed one before we were booed (or thrown) off stage. There’s nothing like singing The Shape of my Heart in a 5×5 room to people you barely know to remind you why traveling is so, so worth the trouble.

Up next… The Trouble.

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