Today I had lunch at my work colleagues house. He brought out a bottle of Lao Ha for us to drink. I’m not sure what it is made from, but it looks like a wine bottle with a root stuck in it. I was very strong, with a flavour reminiscent of Johnnie Walker and a smell similar to burning tires. He said that his brother sent the root to him from another province, and he made the drink himself. He drinks a shot every day or two, and people say that it makes you strong – which I think really means it’s a natural Viagra.

My friend’s brother is returning from Canada to retire to Laos and marry my friend’s niece (I assumed it was his wife’s niece).  He told me that his brother’s wife ran off with a Canadian 5 years ago, and that in the five years since that happened he was very sad and drank a lot. Now he isn’t sad anymore and is returning to Lao to get married. I saw his niece and she looked like she couldn’t have been much older than 30. Her future husband will be over 50.

My Lao language teacher told me that he has $45 in his bank. He use to make up to $900, but he had to spend most of it to take his wife to the hospital in Thailand. She had a sore arm, but I couldn’t work out what exactly was wrong with her.  Another Lao girl I’ve met said that she recently went to the hospital in Thailand because she had pains in her stomach and it cost over $500 USD.