Lao-Lao (Rice Whisky) – Who Needs Petrol Anyways?

Rice WineLao-Lao is definitely one of the stronger spirits out there. Last week I went back to Laos. For those of you who don’t know where it is, it’s a beautiful country filled with mountains and smiling people located between Thailand, Burma, China and Vietnam.
In my memory Laos was the cherry on the cake in the long list of countries I’ve visited in my travel to Asia 8 years ago. Although it is a poor country and not as developed as its neighboring countries it holds true magic in it and tons of friendly people.
I don’t consider myself a big alcohol drinker. As a matter of fact, most strong spirit drinks taste to me like petrol. But from some sort of reason, when alcohol such as rice wine is not being sold in liquor shops, rather home made by locals in simple ways is a bit charming….and that’s what Lao-Lao is all about!
When walking the streets of Vietnam and Laos one might easily pump into something that might shock your or make your draw your camera and shoot 500 photos of it. For those of you been to those countries you probably know that I am referring to ‘Snake wine’. Basically, snakes are grown in snake farms, placed into tiny bottles and drowned in rice wine. The color of these rice whiskeys is a bit yellowish.  Years ago I’ve tried Cobra wine (which turned to be as revolting as normal strong rice wine)…gosh, the things I would do it the sake of curiosity.
Back to the ‘normal’ rice whiskey, last week I went with some friends to the waterfalls of Louang Parbang which is a charming old colonial town in Laos sitting on the Mekong. On the way back I felt like buying some Lao-Lao (the local rice whisky/ rice wine) to spice up our dinner.  Since the tuk-tuk driver told me in broken English that there are nowhere to buy such a thing in the villages rather in the town of Louang Parbang itself, my image of big pottery with rice wine made by local farmers was shred into pieces.
When we all got to back into town, I asked the driver if he could point a place I could get some rice whiskey. With a huge smile on his face he offered to take me there free of charge and bring me back to my guest house. I was thrilled! The adventure was ‘ON’ again.
After 15 min of driving in small alleys we ended up in a small shop that looked like a local convenient store with one tiny difference. On the counter in the front of the store were rows and rows of small plastic bottles the kind you use in mineral water. Only this time, they came in 3 main colors: clear, yellow and red.
I was positive that it was petrol being sold to the mopeds in town which is quite normal (gas could be sold ANYWHERE!, don’t expect to find it only in the petrol stations).
After long debate what should I take. The people at the store offered me to try each of the colors of the Lao-Lao (rice whiskey). The herbs in the big container gave the rice whiskey it’s color and flavor but it all seemed to be as strong as petrol.
I ended up buying 3 little ½ a liter bottles for about $2.35 USD (for ‘good times’ or just in case we will be out of fuel on the way back) and ended up drinking one with my friends, giving another as a gift and the 3rd one is still kept for a special occasion.
So if you are in the area, I still have one extra bottle with me. Take a sip and decide for yourself.

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