Laap, LaoBeer and Love

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It’s not your typical fairy tale marriage. Dirty pigs grunt around in packs, dogs are nestled under plastic chairs, waiting for food to accidentally be dropped. Women are huddled around small fire pits while the whole scene takes place in the center of bamboo stilt homes.

There are, however, more signs of a wedding than not. A center table is covered with food. Entire ice chests, four of them all bright yellow, are filled with sticky rice (the most important dish). Plastic buckets that resemble something I would throw my laundry in back home are loaded with fresh greens. Lettuce, cabbage and green beans mostly. The main dish is laap, a minced beef with whatever herbs they can get their hands on and spice. All ingredients are meant to be eaten together and with your fingers.

There’s a group of farang, mostly French visitors, that I was ushered to sit next to. I couldn’t help but chuckle when I saw one fellow picking up the sticky rice with chopsticks that were placed on the table just for the naive foreigners. It’s all in good fun as the local Lao continues to bring bowls of various minced meat.

At another table is the predictable gang of men with bottles of BeerLao. Some bottles are actually full of the cheap beer, while others have been filled with Lao Lao, a rice whiskey made in a village nearby that’s extremely strong. A wily man with a crazed look in his eyes informed he was sip (ten) glasses deep. After two, I was ready for a long nap.

But Lao parties never end early as melodic music plays from a huge speaker. Women, who clearly run the show, begin packing up leftovers in plastic bags. The couple, by the way, was nowhere to be seen when we arrived at noon. The celebration had kicked off around 7 a.m. anyway. But women had their beautifully handwoven skirts on, generally black with a colored stripe at the bottom.

I left knowing that people in Laos marry for happiness, not money. And that’s something special and different in its own.

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