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Post Info TOPIC: When in Laos, do as Laotian do ! Lao lao alcohol


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When in Laos, do as Laotian do ! Lao lao alcohol

Sippin' on Lao Lao

Lao lao is the traditional rice whiskey made in Laos. It's cheap, strong, and abundant.

In Laos, it is considered polite to offer someone you've just met a shot of lao lao and it is impolite for that person to refuse. This is all well and good until you end up with a group of people you don't know and they all want you to drink a shot and you have to get up early the next morning to go hiking. At odds with my desire to be polite, my western stomach has gotten the better of me on several occasions and I've had to gracefully decline.

Upon saying “no, thank you” I stumbled across another interesting aspect of the Lao culture: saying “no” to a shot of lao lao is not an option. I've tried many times and although no one ever gets upset, to date I haven't been able to avoid drinking a single shot of lao lao offered to me.

My fiancé and I recently went on a trek to visit the Lanten people, an indigenous tribe scattered across a few small villages within the jungles of northern Laos. We were lucky enough to arrive on a day that a new house was being built. When houses are built in the village, everyone gets together to help out and the entire structure is finished in a single day. Even though the whole thing is only a one-room bamboo hut on stilts, anyone who's had a house built in the United States would be awed by how fast a group of people can put together a building suitable for living.

When the house is finished, shortly before sunset, the entire village begins a three-day celebration, which we were able to attend. The celebration involves everyone coming together, piling inside, outside, and underneath the new house. A gong and a pair of cymbals are played constantly inside the house and can be heard throughout the village.

It is a noisy, smoky, chaotic affair and everyone, from the children to the oldest men supported on their sons' arms, drinks lao lao and lao lai, the local rice wine. Lao lao is passed out by a few men making rounds throughout the party, giving shots to everyone. Lao lai is drunk from large ceramic jugs filled with fermented rice. Water buffalo horns are used to pour water into the jugs and groups of five or six people drink the wine from straws placed in the jug. Each group that comes to a jug of lao lai must drink two water buffalo horns full of wine before they are allowed to stop.

Before this village party I had wondered whether my inability to say no to a shot of lao lao was because I am a foreigner. Perhaps the locals knew I would eventually give in with enough pressure or perhaps there was a way of politely saying no that I was unaware of. This party dissolved all doubt I had about that.

Thinking about the long trek back to civilization we had in the morning, I tried numerous times to decline shots of lao lao and eventually had to sit far away from the jugs of rice wine to avoid being caught up in another chugging contest. As the night went on, I realized that I wasn't the only one doing these things.

The men passing out shots of lao lao were impossible to avoid, as they would somehow end up handing me a shot before I even noticed they were next to me. Apparently they were also doing this to everyone else. I saw many men say “no,” wave their hands, shake their heads, put their hands on their stomachs and try to decline in every other way imaginable. Like me, they always ended up taking the shot.

One man tried to say no to a go at the rice wine and amid much laughter and joking, was eventually dragged to the jug where, resigned, he took his straw and drank his share. Laughing as he finished, he received many pats on the back and a few claps from those that had participated in dragging him over. Luckily for him, he was able to get a reprieve from drinking for at least a while after that.

Although I'm not sure how I feel about not being able to turn down a shot of alcohol in Laos, I really do like the way the people here view drinking. For them it's about celebrating and having a good time. In a small village like that of the Lanten there is no danger of anyone getting into trouble after a night of heavy drinking.

The absence of cars and bikes makes stumbling home at night reasonably safe and even if someone were to fall asleep at a neighbor's, their family would be there to make sure they're alright. In this aspect, I'm jealous I didn't get to grow up in the same kind of atmosphere, where no one is afraid of letting down their guard.


When offered, this traditional rice whiskey is literally By Coral Waters
Daily Record Columnist

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Mao lao kin krao lol :)

Khoy tcha pay meuang Lao !
PS : Sorry for my pathetic English :)
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