By Karen J. Coates / Photo by Jerry Redfern
April 4, 2010
Sabaidee Pimai! Happy Lao New Year (and Khmer and Thai and Burmese and, and, and…) Much of Southeast Asia is sweating and celebrating in this hottest, most festive of seasons. Here in Laos, it’s drinking time. In the northern villages, it’s lao hai time.
Lao hai is fermented rice wine, the elixir of choice in rural lands, especially on holidays. It’s sweet on the intake (Jerry thinks it tastes like Sprite) but harsh on the uptake—with a quick kick to the skull. It’s a communal affair, drunk through long, curved bamboo straws that stretch inside one giant jar of frothy, bubbling alcohol with a powerful scent. When a party happens (as it did above–pig boil in the forest, an annual shindig honoring the local spirits) each player takes a turn at the straw. READ MORE