Drugs

Erica and I are lazing on floor cushions, having late afternoon samosas.

We’re with Bea and Cris, two Spanish girls who we met on the boat to Muang Ngoi a few days ago.

Bea’s telling us about how she came to be arrested in Vientiane.

“There was a group of us. We were down by the river, passing round a spliff. Suddenly we’re surrounded by police. They arrested us all.

“I don’t even smoke dope, but it didn’t matter. They took us all”.

The police said that they’d get at least a year in jail for this. Maybe a year and a half.

Bea started to cry.

She was in a foreign country, a long way from home. She didn’t speak the language.

One of her group, Phillipe, comforted her.

“Don’t worry, they just want money, it’ll be OK”.

He put his arm round her while she sobbed.

But the police were adamant. They were going to jail.

They were kept in a cell for hours.

Phillipe talked again to the police. They talked about money.

A price of 350 Euros was agreed.

The police took him to the bank and he handed over the money.

The group was freed.

Bea has met Philippe a few times since then, on her journey round Laos. There’s a spark between them.

So tonight she’s seeing him and they are going to share a room.

It’s the first time they will have been together.

I hope it goes well for them.

* * *

We’ve heard stories of travellers being sold drugs by guesthouse owners.

Then they shop them to the police in return for a payment.

But it doesn’t always end with a payment and freedom.

“One guy we knew was put in jail for a year. His friends had to supply money and food to feed him while he was in jail. It cost them thousands,” said Bea.

Whether it’s cannabis or man-made drugs, they are all available in Laos. But there’s a serious risk attached, for those who are tempted.

* * *

Northern Laos was once one of the world’s prime sources of opium.

During the sixties and seventies, when America enlisted the help of the Hmong hilltribe to fight against the communist forces, opium was transported in military aircraft as part-payment.

It still is grown here, but not in such great quantities.

Twenty years ago, you could smoke it with hilltribes in the Golden Triangle area, where Laos, Thailand and Burma meet. You probably still can.

It’s a sweet, lazy and somewhat addictive drug, which was popular among artists during the 19th century.

These days, most of it is turned into heroin.

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