A few years ago, I met a Hunan backpacker in a hostel in Kunming, sitting cross-legged on the top bunk of a sixteen-room room, chewing betel, like a preacher telling his story of traveling through Southeast Asia.
He was particularly excited when talking about Laos, his eyes flooding with light, just as Second Brother misses Gaolaozhuang and Kong Ming remembers Wolonggang.
"A Hunan person arriving in Laos feels like going home."
This sense of affinity comes from the Hunan people who can be found everywhere in Laos. According to the Hunan Chamber of Commerce in Laos, there are more than 100,000 Hunan people living in Laos, with Shaodong people being the mainstay.
"I went to Laos for three or four days, and I met more Hunan bosses than Lao bosses."
"Not an exaggeration at all, Shaodong snacks eaten in Laos are more authentic than those eaten in Changsha."
Shaodong people from Hunan province have been located in Laos for many years and are active in whatever industry.
They do not act mainly around the cities, like the Chinese who go to other countries, but carry on the traditional idea of encircling the cities in the countryside, all over the nerve endings of the Lao land.
There is even a legend circulating in Laos that on average there is a Shaodong person doing business in every 10 kilometers of the country.
"Where there is sea water, there are Chaoshan people, and where there is well water, there are Hunan people."
Because there are so many Hunan people in Laos, there have been various statements about how many people there are on the major Internet platforms in the country. But once you go to Laos, you will find that there are really Hunan people everywhere.
"If you get into trouble in Laos, it's easier to just walk into a hardware store and ask for help than it is to find an embassy."
"When I was in Laos before, I heard a saying that in any village in Laos, there is a hardware store owned by a Shaodong person."
Knowing the netizen @ site security gray small machine said: "In the early years, the domestic dozen a motorcycle chains, in Laos can easily sell to about 100 yuan."
"Many domestic objects that are rare, in countries that can not produce their own can get several times or even dozens of times the profit. The lucrative profits attracted businessmen, so the whole of Laos was quickly filled with various small hardware stores run by Shaodong people."
Shaodong pioneers who earned the first bucket of gold from the hardware store, inspiring those who came after.
When they returned to their home village with their business experience, word spread that the slogan "Go to Laos" was as tempting as the cry of "Go to Shenzhen" during the reform and opening-up period.
So more and more people from Shaodong poured into Laos with small hardware, motorcycles, clothes, bags, cell phones, etc.
In Vientiane, the capital of Laos, there is even a "Hunan Street" with more than a hundred stores where the owners and shopkeepers all speak Shaodong.
A friend from Shaodong said he had introduced two friends from the same village to each other, and since they had both been in Laos for a few years, they started to talk about Laotian as they chatted.
And as Shaodong people have entered all walks of life in Laos, there has been a slight change in the way Laotians view China.
"So Chinese food is not all so spicy", a Laotian student studying in Mengzi posted a friend circle after eating iron pot stew from the northeast and boiled rice from Guangdong.
Before coming to China to study, he used to go to the hardware store at the entrance of the village to practice his spoken Mandarin with the Hunan people.
Some Laotians, gradually, have mastered the Hunan accent of Mandarin and even speak Shaodong fluently. This is perfectly normal in the eyes of Shaodong people, and is a product of cultural exchange.
The collision of languages occurs in a variety of settings in Laos, perhaps a nondescript gas station in the countryside with Chinese signs.
When you drive there to fill up your car, the gas station staff will take the opportunity to learn the pronunciation of Chinese numbers from you. A Shaodong boss joked that if things continue like this, Mandarin may be incorporated as an official language by the Lao government.
Because all the daily needs of Laotians are sold in Shaodong stores, Shaodong people are like their Doraemon.
Clothes torn, you have to find Shaodong people to buy needles; broken toilet at home, you have to find Shaodong people to buy wrenches; motorcycle tires waste, you have to find Shaodong people to buy tires; want to buy paint to splash revenge on the door, you have to find Shaodong people to buy paint; even want to find a job, the first thought or ask the village to open a hardware store well-informed Shaodong people.
I read a post on the Internet, a Chinese tourist in Laos, through the deep forest by boat to an island, not surprisingly the island has a Shaodong people open a grocery store.
This feeling is similar to the Tang monk after all the hard work to reach the Tianzhu, the result of the Buddha speak with Tong palm a tone.
Hunan store distribution map of a place in Laos
The Hunan people not only address the needs of their Lao friends, but even their own people, they take care of them in every way.
In addition to Hunan restaurants blossoming throughout Laos, even the Xiangya Hospital, which has been copied in the past, has been opposed by the rightful owner.
Wherever Shaodong people go, they also bring their love-hate relationship with them.
On the morning of Aug. 12, 2018, Li Chaopeng, then 42-year-old president of the Lao Hunan Chamber of Commerce, was killed at his home in Vientiane, the capital of Laos. It was found that Deng Moulin, a Shaodong, Hunan native doing business in Laos, was disgruntled with his fellow countryman Li Chaopeng due to a business dispute, and together with Tang Mouqun, funded 2 million yuan to hire social loafers back home to kill him.
Detective novel-like plot
The French novelist Albert Camus wrote at the beginning of The Plague that perhaps the easiest way to become familiar with a city is to understand how the people who live in it work, love each other and die.
Some made their fortune there, some persevered there, and some left their lives behind. From this perspective, the people of Shaodong, Hunan have truly integrated into the land of Laos.
Today, more than 100,000 Hunan people are still relying on their hands to continue their respective legends and stories there. This is their time, and it should not be the last generation.
Although they have never stood on the big stage of history to shine, they are still a wave that converges into the torrent of history.