In Luang Prabang, Utopia is a very nice relaxing bar, but only Falangs (white Foreigner) are coming there. As in many town or cities, everything must close at 23:30 sharp in LP, so the after party was in a bowling avenue. Quite surrealist to play bowling in the middle of Laos with only drunk Westerns!
We arrived in the capital Vientiane on Saturday the 9th of February. We are lucky to get a CS host, Noy, who brings us straight to a private party for the Chinese and Vietnamese New Year. The day after, we party with many Friends of him in a quite fancy place having restaurant, karaoke, live bands and night-club! With Noy, we experience the Lao style of drinking (Beerlao is the national drink) on a longer term: forget your own drink you ordered: we get as many beers as necessary to get drunk, everybody drinks the beer on the rocks in his glass, and when it gets empty, it get refilled. Every time one wants to drink, all cheer (“niok-niok”) and drink together. The main advantage is that everybody get happy and after drunk pretty much on the same time! At the end, we simply share the bill. The next crazy part is that everybody drive back home when drunk.
Noy and their friends belong to the upper middle class in Lao, “hi-so” as he says. They all are in the late 20ies, got pretty good jobs, and enough money. They all have fancy smart phones: iPhone 4 or 5 for all but one who has a Samsung Galaxy Note 2. Noy is working as graphic Designer in the marketing department of Beerlao. He has a very good position in the biggest private company in the country, which belongs to Carlsberg. His boss is the daughter of the company CEO, but makes party with Noy and other the other Friends. She is probably the richest in the group. Another girl is working for the government as her father who has some high responsibilities in Savanaketh region, the most populated in Lao.
Noy also explains us that he and his kind of people don’t get rich by their salary which remains quite low (< $800 a month for him), but thanks to all commissions he get from the partners. For instance, when he chose one company to print all advertisement flyers, this company gives him quite a big amount of money under the table. Nothing shall be asked, it is quite deep in the culture. I think it is the same in many different countries, but much less (and illegal) in our much regulated western countries. With such a system, the government does not raise so many taxes from the workers, and get less money for the development of infrastructures and co. But even in our western countries, the politics are the first who get such commissions e.g. from the infrastructure companies.