Wearing a smile in Laos


We’ve all been there! Endured those travel moments when language barriers are too big to overcome and the result is an embarrassing scene that one day we’ll laugh about, just like Cindie Schofield’s little misunderstanding in Laos

“Getting a massage in Luang Prabang was quite a memorable experience. It was my first professional massage ever and the female masseuse spoke absolutely no English. She handed me the disposable underwear wrapped in a plastic bag and waived her arms around in front of me while speaking very fast Laotion and then she disappeared out of the change room.

I quickly did as I ‘thought’ I was told. I removed all my clothes and placed the disposable underwear on my head to hold all my hair back, as you do when you think it’s a hair cap that you have been given (with some weird holes in the side that I thought were for pigtails if you wanted to keep your hair styled up throughout the massage – thoughtful is what ran through my head at that moment).

The masseuse returned shortly thereafter, announced herself with a small cough and then opened the change room curtain. The look on her face and not to mention her extremely loud laugh made me realise that something was definitely amiss. Her exclamation then brought all the other women that worked there running towards us. The next thing you know I am surrounded by at least 12 laughing, giggling women all pointing at me and chuckling away. The butt of the joke I was most definitely.

Finally another girl stepped forward, after what felt like a lifetime of standing there. I had absolutely no idea of what I had done wrong, but knew that something was hilarious to all (was it my nail polish on my toes, was it my very fair skin… all kinds of thoughts ran through my head about why they were laughing so hard at my naked body).

The girl spoke a little English, well at least enough to let me know that it was underwear I had on my head and not a hair cap as I had thought. She kindly explained that I needed to take it off my head and put it on my naked body.

I had to walk past that massage place every day for the next two weeks, each time to a fit of giggles from the staff! 🙂 ”

Cindie’s fun story won her an Intrepid trip in Africa! You too can subscribe to Intrepid Express, our free e-newsletter, for more travel inspiration and the chance to WIN a trip in every edition!

* photo by Joe Harrison – Intrepid Photography Competition

About the author

Sue Elliot - Like many of us, Sue contracted a serious travel bug at an early age. She's visited over 90 countries in search of a cure, but her wanderlust just seems to get worse. Thankfully at Intrepid Travel she's amongst people who understand the affliction and since 1998 Sue has enjoyed being our blog and newsletter editor. Here you'll find helpful travel advice and inspiring tales from Sue and other Intrepid travellers.

Similar Posts



Really funny. A good read.

Leave a reply