Published: September 9th 2010September 9th 2010
When mooching about in Asia you always hear these horror tails of docile tourist drug abusers being thrown in jail for simply getting high. Possession is equal to being under the influence so if you are caught smashed out your head your gonna get dragged to a dirty cell across town and have hell unleashed on your arse, often physically and certainly mentally. Ending up in a Thai prison is probably the worst thing that could happen to you. Tales you hear of include severe beatings, being starved to death, taunted by guards and deliberately sectioned with psychotic monster rape convicts and other such undesirable and inescapable situations. If you get arrested in Laos the prison will not even feed you. You have to wait til your parents come, which in some cases could be weeks. In some cases, never. And the law shows no mercy. It is because of this gossip that I stay well clear of all narcotics. When I was in Vang Vieng a French dude (ha) staying at the same guest house as me, bought an eighth of weed off the manager of the same establishment. He invited an Israeli guy and two other girls, origin unknown, to smoke a few cones down by the lagoon. Sounds innocent enough, hell if I even toked I woulda probably joined em. Im glad I didn’t mind. While they were swimming innocently, local children caught a wiff of their hash and decided to tell their parents who then called the boys in blue. The cops turn up, plain clothed, and watched them for ten minutes or so. The cops were too late to catch em smoking herb, by the time they got there the weed was all toked up. The police booked them all anyway. They even booked a further two girls, who weren’t even with the stoner crew but happened to be on the next table. Two very unlucky girls who had to cough up 2 and a half million kip, around 190 quid, just for being there. The stoner crew even stuck up for the two girls but the police ignored them. It was all back pocket sheets for them and two million kip is a lot of fucking money in Laos. The stoner dude, admitting it was him who originally had the weed in the first place was fined 5 million kip. From the whole crowd, the pigs had pocketed seventeen and a half million kip in one bust. Probably divided between three maybe four officers of the law completely tax free. Let me put this amount in perspective for you. The average café worker in Loas earns 20,000 kip a day. Say that café employee works full time, that equals 100,000 kip a week, multiply that by 52 (weeks) that totals a yearly wage of 5,200,000 kip. Converted to GBP that’s around 500 pounds… A YEAR! I don’t know how much cops make in Laos but when they’re making busts like that under the table a few times a month, my bet is they are living it pretty cushty. The most ironic, and probably funniest part of this tale, was the same French stoner got caught the very next day with weed again and was charged a further 5 million kip! All in all, 10 million kip! In two days. I can’t imagine the consequences had it been some harder substance such as cocaine. The poor Frenchy didn’t have enough cash so the cops made him trade in his ipod, camera (which was brand new) and some other techno paraphernalia just to settle his debt. Buddha wasn’t looking out for that cat that week.
That same week the police cracked down on English tourists who were working for the bars in the centre as touts. Young kids straight outta college or Uni who think they know it all stand outside said bar dishing out free shots to attract business, in return the bar manager looks after their accomadation and plies them with as much free drink as they want all night every night. A sweet sounding deal to any naïve first time travelling teenager. But this is also illegal and carries a few million kip price tag too for both the employees and the bar owners. To combat this, the bars pay back handers to the police force to turn a blind eye to such activities. But the cops got greedy. They got sick of English, American, Australian and Canadian piss heads taking advantage of the streets, getting people all messed up on free liquor forcing violence and unadulterated behavior on the community. They called a bust anyway. Several tourists arrested and charged and the rest fled. In one night Vang Vieng had been vaporized of party shinnagans. I left Vang Vieng a few days after all this so I have no idea how it all played out in the end. Although I did bump in to two girls in Vientienne only a few days later who had been at the middle of all this chaos and they said they skipped town cause the police went nuts. They were gonna return there regardless after the dust had settled to work there again. Idiots.
All this reminded me of when I was younger doing exactly the same shit in Europe. I too was working illegally and wrapped up in some pretty hardcore business. I was lucky to leave unscathed with only wisdom and experience gained. Back then I was a solid risk taker. Looking back I was just naïve. But I wouldn’t change my past for anything. Every challenge over come is another lesson learnt.
Anyway, back to youths and drugs.
On my way to pick up my dry cleaning this morning, I spotted a tall skinny and scruffy looking dude standing outside the 7/11 holding a cup with coins in it. This dude was not Thai. I knew straight away he was begging on the street because he’d fucked up some where along the line. I was instantly intrigued. I walked in the 7/11 to get water and watched through the window as he pathetically held out his change cup. He wore scruffy unlaced white Nike air Jordans and a basketball shirt, possibly the Bulls, I can’t remember. His old dirty shorts revealed legs that were full of cuts and he looked like he hadn’t shaved for a while. He was black skinned, around 6ft 5 inch, and around 24 years young. I was intrigued. As I walked out the 7/11 he looked at me and thrusted the cup at me, ‘Any change mate?’ he said. I bypassed his question rudely. ‘Whats your story?’ I asked.
‘You do not wanna know’ he replied. Too embarrassed to explain his story I delved deeper. ‘You saving for a flight home?’
‘You been inside or on the run?
‘Yeah I fucked up.’
His look was that of embarrassment and understandable shame. He went on to explain he was from Canada and he’d been in jail five months and had no money at all. Well actually he had 50 baht, in his cup. About one English pound. I knew I’d crossed the line when asking him about his time and I thought it best to not question the poor kid anymore. He looked like he’d endured enough inside. I wished him luck and threw him a sympathetic smile. As I turned away he asked again if I had any change. ‘Sorry mate, Im broke’ I lied. I’d just drawn out 5000 baht round the corner and it was burning a hole in my pocket. I regretted the lie for all of two seconds and continued my way down Khao San road to complete my laundry spree and gift shopping.
Today was a good day.