The Last Lao-Lao Party
We pedalled our bicycles over Don Det’s hard-pressed dirt roads, the river always in view. One day we rode over the old railway bridge connecting to Don Khon to see some waterfalls. Another time, we pedalled to a dock where a man took us out in his fishing boat for a few dollars for the chance to see the bubble-nosed Irawaddy river dolphins. Liam saw one in the distance; I didn’t see any.
The Laotian people we met were always bubbling over with happiness and hospitality, so it was a delight but not altogether a surprise when, during one of our bike rides, a family partying in front of their house waved at us to join them. The boom box was turned up, and one of the women pulled me over to join the dancing. They hitched up their sinh skirts to move more freely and we all bobbed back and forth in time to the music.
Out came the food — little baskets of sticky rice and a shared plate of blood laab, which was surprisingly tasty (and unsurprisingly, the likeliest culprit for a case of giardia that later erupted on an overnight bus ride). Out came the lao-lao, the ubiquitous rice whiskey that marks every happy occasion in Laos. Out came meemaw.
“She can drink more lao-lao than anyone,” one of her sons boasted.
Toothless meemaw grinned wildly at this and tossed back another shot.
Someone then handed me a smudged glass of lao-lao, and I swallowed the fiery drink in delicate sips. If I’d drunk half as much as meemaw had that afternoon, I wouldn’t have been able to find my way back home after the party. In fact, I’d still probably be in Laos today.
And I guess that wouldn’t have been such a bad thing.