Drugs in Laos? How Stupid Can You Get?

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Image: HKmPUA

While looking through the Lonely Planet Thorn Tree travel message boards the other day, I came across this posting on Vang Vieng, Laos:

I have just returned from Laos and want to warn travellers about the police in Vang Viang. We were there for 2 days. Vang Viang has a real party atmosphere and the impression that is given is that the police turn a blind eye to drug taking and drugs being sold i.e on menus – mushy shakes, happy pizza. We were arrested by 3 intimidating and threatening police officers for smoking a cigarette with a very small amount of cannabis in it. We had nothing else on us. They took us to the police station. They forced us to write and sign a “confession”. Most of the page was written in Laos which, obviously, we could not read.

When we questioned anything they would say that they would take us to the jail. They made us get our passports from our guesthouse and then told us that we had 2 options. Option 1 = go to jail for one and a half years, option two = pay them $600 per person to “make the problem go away”. They would keep our passports until we paid.

Whilst we were in the police station we saw around 10 other people who the same thing had happened to.
The point of this post is not about whether it is right, wrong or stupid to take drugs in Laos. The point is that these police are arresting and blackmailing tourists for very large amounts of money. The money is going into their pockets. They are not targetting the people selling drugs. It is all about the money, not preventing drugs being taken in Vang Vieng.

Are you effing kidding me?

That was the attitude of most of the respondents, as you can see here.

Seriously, how stupid can you be to do drugs in Southeast Asia?  Haven’t you seen Brokedown Palace?

And you have the nerve to go online and whine about the mean, mean police and the very, very small amount of cannabis in your cigarette?

Buddy, you got caught smoking a joint and you thought nothing would happen because it was Laos, and it was such a chill place, mano.  Admit it.  But thanks to incredible — incredible! — luck, you just avoided a year and a half in prison.  I wouldn’t be complaining if I were you.

I do plan on visiting Vang Vieng on my eventual trip to Southeast Asia.  And in that backpacker town, I plan on going tubing, trekking to waterfalls, and dancing to Lady Gaga at various Aussie-filled riverside bars.  With no happy shakes in sight.

Seriously, how stupid can you get?

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84 thoughts on “Drugs in Laos? How Stupid Can You Get?”

  1. I have to disagree. This is not a story about drugs in Laos. It is a story about open and accepted public corruption to fleece tourists. These travelers were not out looking for thai stick or opium dens. SE Asia has a terrible situation where “dealers” and “police” collude to fleece young European/Aussie tourists (and I guess their parents if the bribe is $600!) of their money.

    P.S. how could “police” have known there was cannabis mixed with the Marlboro? The laotian who sold them the cigarette told the cops one minute after the sale.

    P.P.S. Thanks for “Brokedown Palace” reminder. Headed to BKK, Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai and doing a little Netflix Thai Film Festival.

    1. I hear you, I totally hear you.

      But first — do not say THEIR PARENTS!! One of my biggest pet peeves is when people assume that people who take around-the-world trips are rich kids bankrolled by their parents! SO not true. Most of us, myself included, spend years living far below our means and sacking away every spare penny so we can afford long-term budget travel — and wouldn’t dream of asking our parents for money. (Most yearlong budget RTW trips cost in the neighborhood of $20,000; some can be quite cheaper.)

      And I agree…police corruption is a huge, huge problem in Laos. But if you’re going to do drugs in a country that has notoriously harsh punishments for drug possession, you should be prepared for the consequences. These guys got off SO easy, and yet they’re whining about it.

      Let me know when you’re going…I’m thinking of going to Thailand this Christmas!

      1. I’m leaving on Christmas Day. NYE in Chiang Mai, then Rai, Siem Reap and Phnom Pehn. Wanted to squeeze in Laos, but no way with just 2 weeks. Next time Saigon, DaLat, Laos and that Vietnamese beach you posted in “Wanderlust”.

        I was NOT saying their parents bankroll the trip. I was just saying if your get hit with a $600 bribe, you probably don’t have that many immediate resources to cover it, making a call to the parents a high probability.

        PS. If you take the Christmas Day Cathay Pacific with the Vancouver stop (for airport yoga) we’ll look forward to buying you a drink.

        1. Oh, good. Sorry about that!!

          Absolutely. 🙂 And I love the sound of airport yoga! Where can I get in on that?! I’ll keep you posted!

      2. Why else would you go to Laos, but to enjoy ganja? You are going to go eight thousand miles to go tubing and to watch ‘Friends’? Really? Say home, then. It is widely available at numerous dispensaries legally in my home state. Laos has nothing much else to do. Luang Prabang has many nice temples but is ridiculously overrun with tourists and is a joke.
        People just don’t understand the good old days in Asia. Maybe best to give it a miss entirely if it no longer has anything to offer.

      3. So it’s perfectly acceptable for a string of restaurants to quite openly display a menu with every single drug available, but equally reasonable for backpackers to be ‘scammed’ out of cash by the police; as and when they feel like making a bit of extra pocket money?

        To be fair, there are a number of unspoken rules which you need to follow if you are to partake in the drug scene in Vang Vieng ie the happy pizzas, mushroom shakes ect can be consumed in the cafes (not so sure about joints) whilst other substances should probably be discretely taken back to your room and used there. As I say, these are ‘unspoken’ rules and for many travellers who have yet to understand the Laos outlook, they could easily believe these things are more accepted then they are.

        An interesting story. When I went to Vang Vieng several years back I was chatting to a young guy who had recently got married to a Laos girl and had opened a restaurant. On his wedding day he invited most of the town, including several high ranking police officers to the party and weed was smoked all day by practically everybody, no questions asked.

        For many confused backpackers, Vang Vieng is like finding loads of drugs on a supermarket shelf, walking out with their purchases and getting arrested.

        I get the feeling that you don’t take drugs Kate? Though I could be wrong. Btw how exactly do you travel the world easily, safely and yet adventurously at the same time?

    2. elbuen samaratin

      This “writer” (LOL) is a naive fool who doesn’t know shit from Shinola. What gumption.

      1. Matthew Motherfuckin Davis.

        Why is she naïve? Yes this type of thing happens all the time, shes just informing people. I live in Detroit and the biggest open air drug market is just down the street. Cops dont bust the dealers, they bust the customers so they can take the car under forfeiture law. The busted has to pay $700 to get the car back. The drug dealers are pretty much left alone. Shame on you for calling her naïve and a fool. We are not all as wonderful as you elbuen.

    3. The police actually IS all about money in SEA countries. The cops are paid peanuts but their status gives them a tacit licence to ransom people. For small or imaginary offences wether it’s for smoking a joint or passing an invisible one way sign. you’ll save yourself time saying how sorry you are and asking right away if you can pay a fine to close the matter… This way they save face and get their cash fast and you pay less than if you dont get the point when they stop you or start bitching you’ll end up following them to the police station and you’ll waste time to pay more in the end. If your offense is real and linked to possetion of a small amount of hard drugs, it is a must to solve it ASAP because if you end up at the station and the amount rises to a price you cant pay you’ll probably end up in jail for a few year.

  2. Went to Tangier years ago. Was warned about being sold hash. A young boy, age 10 or so, very American looking approached us with a softball of hashish for $5. I declined, but knew the cops were watching us. He would have taken $5 from us for the hash and $5 from t he cops for turning us in. Then the cops get their money too. I was warned and heeded that warning. It happens every day!

      1. If tales about drugs interest you, why not get them from reliable sources rather than relying on gossip, urban myth and Hollywood movies?

  3. … do you remember the story of Beth in Spain and the guy who’s friend across the street “likes girls with pretty eyes”?

  4. I have to agree that no matter who is paying the eventual bill taking drugs anywhere in South East Asia is a pretty bad idea. Expected the police to treat a “very small amount of cannabis” in the same way they would at home is naive, as is expecting them not to look at this is a great way to take a lot of money from you!

  5. Hmmm. I completely agree on both counts – ie of police blackmail being very bad, but also of the stupidity of doing drugs – even just a tiny bit of weed – in southeast Asia. Like you say, Kate, they were very lucky to have been blackmailed rather than locked up…or worse. It’s stupid, and its irresponsible. Laos has a history of drug problems, and the last thing it needs is backpackers coming along and encouraging it – regardless of the fact that it was weed and not opium, it’s just a bad idea.

    The trouble with Vang Vieng is that it’s developed a reputation for its party scene, its drugs, its drink etc. Backpackers go there just to go tubing and get drunk/high. And there will always be people, in any country in the world, who are going to use a situation like that to make money, so it’s hardly surprising. I was in Laos for over a month and I never had any run ins with the police. But then, I didn’t do any drugs so….it’s not like it was completely undeserved that this happened to these guys. Vang Vieng is not very indicative of the rest of Laos, thank goodness….let’s just hope it stays like that, because it’s a really special place.

    1. You don’t do any drugs? You mean you don’t drink alcohol, or tea, or coffee – or cigarettes, or aspirin etc.? Come on, this is the 21st century. Spare us the Victorian platitudes!

      Why not reserve your contempt for the drug laws we are subject to, instead of singling out the victims of these laws for your scorn?

      Do you realise how Vang Vieng works?

      The owners of the cafes where ganja, opium, mushrooms etc. are sold all pay their bribes to the administrative head of the Vang Vieng area. As such, nobody will ever be busted by the police while taking drugs while at the bar or cafes where they buy them. Anybody who does get arrested has left themselves vulnerable by smoking on the street or somewhere else in public. Simple as that.

      Yes, this is a crap situation to put it mildly. But it is a situation created by international drug law. And it will remain this way as long as the US can keep it like this. And ignorant posts like on the net pouring scorn on the victims of those laws – in this case backpacker brats, but still victims nevertheless – are all part and parcel of making it easier for these cruel, misguided laws to stay in place…

      I find it staggering to read Kate’s blog pouring scorn on people for getting busted, and not on the legal system that allows police to get away with what is nothing more than theft… it’s beneath contempt…

    2. Many of you don’t mind getting getting obliterated on alcohol and burning brain cells by the thousands and getting stupid, but a harmless, innocuous substance like ganja, oh, no! Bunch of hypocrites!

  6. So true. Same thing in Thailand. At the full moon party, there are undercover cops who are just waiting for the kill. And special shakes all over the place.

    Just say NO.

  7. I’d be interested to hear if anyone has first-hand experience with being busted for happy-shakes or other goodies consumed in restaurants. As far as I observed in Vang Vieng when I was there in 2007, the police agree to look the other way when it comes to happy menus in restaurants and it’s only when someone is foolish enough to mess with drugs outside the confines of the restaurants that trouble starts. Makes perfect sense in a town where corruption is so entrenched and everyone’s out to profit off the vulnerability of naive backpackers.

    I spent a night in the police station there myself. Didn’t get busted for anything, but a couple of friends did and I went along for moral support (and ultimately to help them bribe their way out). Only cost them $300 between the two of ’em, and we met some guys the next day who got off with $200, so negotiating well makes a difference. Obviously the most important moral here though is that it’s an incredibly bad idea to mess with drugs in SE Asia.

  8. I agree with you 100% Kate. If you do drugs in any of these countries, you deserve whatever punishment you get. Not only if you do drugs in SE Asian countries, but ANY country. Isn’t it time to grow up!? 😉

    1. Wow Ryan – does that apply to the 500,000 plus non-violent drugs offenders locked up in jails in the US?

      Did you know that 54% of those prisoners are black?

      Did you know that more white people do drugs in the US than blacks?

      Isn’t it time to grow up?

      Isn’t it time you realised that the War on Drugs is a war on black people, a war to roll back the gains of the civil rights movement, and to wage war on liberty and freedom of choice.

      Educate yourself. Start by reading ‘The New Jim Crow’ by Michelle Alexander… on the NY Times bestseller list for several weeks now.

    2. and does that apply in countries that regularly execute people caught smuggling drugs – like Malaysia, Vietnam and Thailand

      if you knew that the people were mostly poorly educated vulnerable and malnourished people from the countryside, would you still champion their murder on the net?

        1. MH: The discussion is about drugs and drug use *and* Angus made a relevant reply to an ignorant post made by Ryan, who seems to feel that it is OK to use “whatever punishment” is dreamed up, even violent punishments (such as incarceration – yes, incarceration *is* violence) for completely non-violent acts, such as taking a non-socially acceptable drug and putting it into one’s own body (FYI, that carcass you are hauling around belongs to you, not the nation state in which you happen to reside). What is more, he was also pointing out the fact that US drug policies are inherently racist and are fuelling the growth of the largest prison gulag on the planet.

  9. I had exactly the same thing happen to me about 10 hours ago and i wasn’t even smoking, i happened to be walking back from a bar behind some people who were smoking and yet i got treated exactly the same. This isnt about whether you were or werent doing drugs, its about being a tourist and therefore a $sign in alot of these places. Also, these guys are thugs – they manhandle you and intimidate you and dnt answer any of your questions. I wasn;t even allowed to got to the toilet.

    So anyway, even if you are careful or discreet or dont even partke in any drug taking, it can still happen 🙁

  10. I did alot of drugs in Laos, Smoked Jaba, Injected and smoked heroin, smoked ganja and opium. even the mushroom shakes in Vang Vien in daytime. Nothing happend and no one i heard of got busted. I think if you have a positive outlook instead of a paranoid vibe then the police wont get so curious ?
    Anyways what happens in a motel room cant be seen by the police. relax and have fun, the country is still perfect for that !

  11. If your only basis for your opinion is Brokedown Palace, you need to stop posting ridiculous things like this on the internet.
    I have been in laos for 2 months and spent a month and a half in Vang Vieng.
    Here is the reality:

    1. There are VERY FEW Australians in Vang Vieng. 80% of people here are English, 5% Canadian and 15% from other countries. I have met about 15 Australians and over 200 English people… sorry to burst your bubble.

    2. If you smoke in a restaurant with a happy menu, FOR THE MOST PART you have nothing to worry about. It’s when you smoke on the streets or non-discretely that you can run into trouble.

    3. If you pay off a cop to make the problenm go away, you are not lucky. This is standard routine. $600.00 is a big fine but the point is that every cop has a price and you will not go to jail if you are willing to pay it.

    4. Brokedown Palace was set in Thailand, not Laos and they weren’t charged with possesion or even trafficking. They were charged with smugglin narcotics across the border. This is a much more serious crime.

    5. I have been here for a month and a half and NONE of the bars play Lady Gaga… sorry to burst your bubble.

    Be smart, but have fun. This city is built on tourism because of the mushrooms, pot, opium and MASS amount of alcohol they sell. The cops don’t give a fuck about drug use. They do, however want tourists money which is why they “arrest” you. Trust me, those cops don’t want you to go to jail either, they just want your money.

    PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE stop posting uninformed articles like this on the internet. Come to Vang Vieng and see how it is and until then, stop posting about Laos like you know how it is here. You don’t.
    Thank you.

    1. Thank YOU Kyle and Harry ^^.

      I was almost put off going there because of these goodie goods.
      Salt Sugar Caffeine Tobacco and Alcohol are drugs too. Tobacco kills half a million Americans EVERY YEAR, Hemp kills no-one.
      My point is that Hemp is illegal around the world because of economics. It’s a plant. Not brewed chemicals like heroin, tobacco, alcohol etc.
      As for people getting arrested and blackmailed, well that is hard luck, maybe stupidity and part of being scammed.
      I’m going there in a couple of years and I’m going to buy the handfuls of the shit. Out of the city, smoke all day, every day.

      1. Yes – wouldn’t it be nice if Lao people were able to sell Fair Trade cannabis?

        The majority of the problems in Vang Vieng – drowning etc. – are caused by alcohol abuse… a legal drug, but a drug nevertheless.

        From having a look around this blog, I wouldn’t expect any informed or enlightened comments by Adventurous Kate on the drug situation in Lao PDR.

    2. Im here now, your sooooo wrong about the Australian thing, there are LOADS of Australians here, more than any other nationality!

      Everything else you say is correct

      Like you said, get your facts straight!


  12. Was in Vang Vieng last week. And how dissapointed I left! After experiencing the bogan-redneck party style in Kuta a month ago, thought that VV would be the ‘real deal’, a chilled village near the river with people looking for drugs, good music and some river tubing. As it once was. How wrong or idealistic..
    Reality is that nowadays is the same shit that in Kuta, replace the cement clubs for bamboo huts and the sunburnt in bintang shirts for sunburned in beerlao or “i tubed in vv” shirts.Only drunk morons with buckets, no ganja or opium ‘atmospere’ as it once had and made that place famous.

    1. If you’re looking for the chilled village feel, go to Lonely Beach on Koh Chang. Its the opposite of Kuta and any big spots in Thailand. Cheap living, great beach, and your favorite special items sold at the restaurant/bars.

    2. NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!! no doobies?? I’m heading there in December and that’s all i want to do. Smoke doobies and tube.

      how devo.

    3. Vang Vien was a complete waste of time for us. Nothing there-nothing. Makes me happy I have my hometown and my country. Bunch of people doing nothing but watching Friends all day!!!

    4. You went to the wrong places man, I’ve been going to VV every year since 2010, that atmosphere is still definately there, just not at the rowdy river bars

  13. I can’t believe I haven’t seen that movie! It actually looks really good I need to see it.
    Anyway…I think anyone stupid enough to do drugs in SE Asia then you can’t complain when you get caught. Personally, I have an irrational fear that I’ll go there, be drunk and stupid, and somehow end up in jail for the rest of my life lol.
    I guess you just have to be smart I mean with everything in the media and all these kids getting caught and sent away, I don’t know why anyone would risk it.

  14. I’ve lived in Thailand for 15 years. Been to Laos, Cambodia, Burma, Indonesia, just about everywhere in SE Asia. Never, ever had a problem with cops busting me. I’ve done drugs in all the countries but Burma. In Cambodia I bought an ounce of grass for $3, smoked some, left some in the hotel, and came back home. In Laos I done shrooms and opiium. If you simply go to someone who’s offering drugs, then you are asking for trouble. Your chances of getting thrown in jail in Laos are slim to none but worst case scenario you might have to be a couple hundred US. People have used drugs from the beginning of time and not all laws are good or deserved. Personally I think I should be able to do what I want without anyone (especially someone on a website who’s never even been here) telling me what an idiot I am for choosing to smoke some opium. I don’t need to be policed for morality.

    1. Joe, I’ve spent over a month in Laos in the past year, as well as travel all over Southeast Asia, and I concur with what I wrote here before visiting.

      The clincher was seeing a Western guy with a broken arm in Vang Vieng after he was caught by cops with weed and was told to pay $1000 instead of the “standard” caught-with-drugs fee of $500. He refused to pay the extra. They broke his arm.

      Keep doing this if it makes you happy. Don’t expect smooth sailing in Asia forever.

      1. It does make me happy and yes, I will continue to do so. I rarely smoke pot and opium but if I do, I’m not going to be carrying it around, following the instructions of a tuk-tuk or moto driver, or skipping merrily along with the first guy who asks me if I want anything. If you’re hard up/desperate to use, you’re going to get caught. In my 15+ years in SE Asia I’ve been to Cambodia 50+ times and Laos 25 or so. I make it a point to travel and see Asia. If it feels wrong, I don’t do it. But claiming that all the police are corrupt or asking for bribes is extreme. Go to Arizona or Texas or somewhere harsh on drugs in the US. If you get busted it’s going to cost you alot more than a few hundred bucks. I respect your desire to refrain from smoking pot or opium Kate but at 51, I’m going to keep doing things the way I have (successfully I might add) for 15+ years. Now trafficking drugs across the border is stupid; smoking a joint in the privacy of your own hotel is a different matter.

      2. Kate, I have seen all kinds of shit in SE Asia and a guy with a broken arm is not shit. You are not a traveler but simply a tourist. Let me guess, you had a giant backpack with maybe a suitcase.

        The locals laugh at you and take you for what little money you had.

        Stop writing travel blogs when you are just a novice. After you have been through a couple of coup attempts and some wars then maybe someone will listen to you.

        Anyone can buy the Lonely Planet and follow it, it most certainly does not make them an adventurer.

    2. I agree I want to go to Laos & smoke opium. Stay in a hut that I have heard are offered very cheap. I am a grown man & should be able to do as I please.

  15. Dear Kate,

    You wrote: “I do plan on visiting Vang Vieng on my eventual trip to Southeast Asia.”

    I see from you comments that you have now actually been to Laos. Now that you have visited, do you realise how misguided and mistaken your comments are?

    I live in Lao PDR and have and can read and speak the Lao language. I know the country and the people very well.

    The situation you have described is an example of the endemic corruption in the country, and of young backpackers being exploited by the police as a source of bribe money.

    I hope you have since taken the time to educate yourself about the realities of life in this country as from what you wrote above I, like a lot of readers, will only assume that Laos is a place you don’t understand and know next to nothing about.



  16. The only problem I have with your post and many of the comments here is that you guys make it look like as if smoking weed is the worst thing in the world… like seriously???? You must have grown up in a very cushy world where you are from.

    And isn’t Brokedown Palace about people smuggling drugs, not actually being caught smoking weed?

    There are definitely some naive and stupid people out there who are just asking to be busted by the police. But they exist anywhere. And well, the police around the world in many countries play out corruption with tourists in many different ways, not just when it comes to drugs.

    I’ve smoked a fair bit of weed around the world and in SEA and no, I don’t think I’m as stupid as you portray it here. But thanks for making a highly general judgement.

  17. Enough, people. It is her blog, and she’s allowed to broadcast whatever thoughts she feels like on it. You want the laws changed? Be cordial about it, and talk about the opinions rather than the people who have the opinions.

  18. I have been living in thailand for 3 years and smoke weed now and again here. The police are actually really relaxed about weed when not in places like bangkok.
    I live in Ratchaburi and when their are bike shows n stuff all the locals are smoking openly with police wlaking by. no problem!

  19. I’ve gotten baked in almost every country I’ve ever traveled to. I wouldn’t have done any of it differently.

    There are two lessons to learn from this story.

    1) Don’t be a moron. That he also got ripped off buying a joint with “just a little bit of cannabis” in it just adds insult to injury.

    2) Corrupt cops are out to screw you over world-wide. Don’t give them an opening.

  20. @Anon

    there are several other lessons to be learnt from this story, at least one of which you seem to have missed


    1) don’t pour scorn on the victims of these sickening US-led drug laws (‘morons’ as you call them, or ‘stupid’ in Kate’s words)

    2) don’t pour scorn on the victims of police corruption and violent physical abuse

    3) direct your anger at the politicians, police, and the ignorance that allows these laws to stay in place

    4) get informed about the monumental human rights abuses taking place on US soil in the name of the War on Drugs by reading The New Jim Crow (750,000 non-violent offenders are currently imprisoned under US drug law, 54% of whom are African-Americans; 1 in 6 of whom are there for enjoying cannabis)

    5) get informed about the massive human rights abuse taking place in Asia in the name of the War on Drugs


    In China, authorities estimate that there are 216,000 drug users detained in drug detention camps:

    Upon testing positive for drug use, these men and women are detained for up to five years and forced to work without pay as part of their “treatment.” In Vietnam, a recent estimate placed the number of detainees in forced labor camps at 35,000. Cambodia and Laos also use compulsory drug detention, without medical assessment or right of appeal for those locked up. Children are locked up too.

    People who use drugs in such facilities have been beaten, starved, forced to work in the service of private companies, systematically humiliated, and brutally punished when they tried to escape. Nonetheless, governments continue to describe these detention camps as treatment and rehabilitation centers, and aid agencies have been hesitant to directly challenge this characterization. In some cases, donors have even worked to “build capacity” of center staff in drug treatment methods, as if staff who beat and torture detainees in the morning could be effective counselors in the afternoon. UN representatives have privately condemned these abuses, but in the past felt no ability to publicly confront governments on these practices. “We all know these places are concentration camps,” one UN official confided during our coffee together. “But really, what do you expect us to do?”

    1. Stop lying. I work with drug treatment ngos and no UN officials would ever say “But really, what do you expect us to do?”
      That just demonstrates your complete lack of credibility and honesty. You’re just trying to make it appear you have some connections.

  21. I’m thinking about going back to Laos again soon – from Hanoi. I was there in 2007 and loved Vang Vieng then. I felt comfortable smoking in the cafe and could smoke my own stuff in my hotel room. I met a cool Belgian guy and we discretely smoked together in our rooms. No problems. But I feel nervous about it now after reading some of this hysteria. I think, I want to try another town next, with a different vibe – I don’t want the new VV by the sounds of things. I don’t drink much. I like to smoke with some coffee or a shake or whatever, and meet interesting people with no paranoia or intimidation. So, I’ll be avoiding good ‘ol VV this time round I think.

    1. @McNostro123 — it’s fine, ignore the crap – if you like VV the bars are still there with the menus, and they still pay their bribes so that you can sit in there and smoke un-bothered by any police… just don’t smoke out on the street in public or you are asking for trouble – as was the case back in 2007… keep it to the right bars, or your room, or out in the countryside away from people or the village, or with any Lao friends who accept ganja in their home… 50 years ago most families grew at least one plant in their garden…

      these so-called ‘plain clothes’ cops are just looking for bribe money – they are most likely off duty and supplementing their meager wages… this idea that anything has changed is all just hysteria fanned by bigots and people with no real understanding of how the country works… the problems VV has almost entirely relate to binge drinking, which doesn’t really happen in Lao, so the are not easily able to deal with it…

      my only advice is that is you want to smoke decent quality ganja it takes a bit more effort to track down – the stuff in the bars in VV is often mediocre at best… there are other areas of the country with a better quality

      the bottom line is that Lao is a small state with very little resources to enforce the law – that is why thousands and thousands of acres of ganja and opium are planted there each year to be exported to foreign markets from Thailand to Malaysia, Australia, China, Europe etc…. most ‘Thai’ grass comes from Lao, same as back in the Vietnam War… it is an easily corruptible state, easy prey for trafficking organisations in Thailand etc.

      for similar reasons, unless you insult people by acting like a prat in public taking ‘drugs’ or by trying to buy a kilo of heroin (like that British girl a while back) you are very unlikely to attract any attention from the cops, least of all end up in jail — and in the highly unlikely event you are unlucky you will be able to buy your freedom for a small price – less than an oz of green back home, that’s for sure

      1. just to be clear – I thought the ganja in VV in 2007 was mostly crap as well – I doubt that has changed… the only places I found good ganja were out of town – they had good seedless sativa buds, very sweet and pretty strong, with a lovely high out in some villages… I never saw anything like that in the VV bars

  22. Dont go to vang vieng, i just came out of lao jail after five months… Because I got caught with yaba some kind of meth popular in this area…

  23. I think the easy availability of drugs was one of the main attractions of Vang Vieng, if police insists in threatening and robbing consumers they will kill the whole tourism business (if they haven’t done already)

  24. Keep enjoying your alcohol, Kate. Keep burning those brain cells and making wild and insulting statements. In my family, we were taught never to use the word ‘stupid’, and we never did. It is a word which is low class. Your vocabulary and arrogance show your ignorance.

    1. oh my, this blog is beyond parody!

      just noticed that Kate’s profile picture shows her slurping on some booze – dear oh dear – none too bright, clearly… we can but try!

      re. the opening question – drugs in Laos? how stupid can you get?

      I don’t know – last time I did drugs with friends in Laos it was with two other folks – between us we had two Oxbridge degrees, at least two businesses, and one of us was one of the highest paid ad creatives in NYC…

      we were mostly drinking wine though…

      but later on there were some seriously dangerous drugs going round – there was even one that kills about 5 million people a year… serious stuff… you’ve probably heard of it too – it’s called tobacco…

      on and by the way – there is a massive world opiate shortage – 80% of the world population doesn’t have access to sufficient pain killers…

      what’s more important to you Kate – your confused morality or other people’s agony?

      never too late to engage your brain you know – or to have a heart

        1. in all sincerity Kate – is that genuinely the best reply you can make to the points I and several people have raised above?

          speaks volumes really, doesn’t it?

  25. Hi all peace and love it’s okay to smoke a bit maybe try and keep it for the jungle and out of town if u can better buss and not so many cops to gat ya its good to have a few beers and dance,,,, I try to travel out and away from the most trodden paths I don’t smoke mutch but had set h a good stone on a jungle trek with the whole famliy carefully were u smoke my freaks and enjoy your travel no person should insult anyone else I’m on way to malsha now to islands there to chill peace out danny

  26. the police not just blackmailing tourist! they blackmailing all people the can blackmail.. i know, coz i i’m from Laos

  27. Guilty Pleasure, you call this a “great post”? LOL.

    The initial LP post cited here is actually a very reasonable warning to other travelers. They even said, “The point of this post is not about whether it is right, wrong or stupid to take drugs in Laos”, but Adventurous Kate jumped on the stupid side of things with a childish, self-righteous and uninformed rant. Of course it’s stupid — that’s not the point. The point is that (probably) thousands of travelers get nabbed in the same way every year in Laos, and it’s helpful to know how that might go down. Well, here’s another story to add to the pile:

    I’m currently in Vientiane and just met a guy who was shaken down last night (new years eve) while smoking down by the river. Stupid, yes, I agree, but everything the LP poster said is true. I’ve been taking notice over the last few days here — the tuk-tuk drivers all seem to offer weed and it’s pretty obvious. The cops obviously know. But my sense is that, for the most part, the cops leave the dealers alone because travelers with weed means money in their pockets. Apparently, the dude was smoking by the river and plain clothes cops came up. He had nothing but the one roach on him but that was all it took. They marched him to the ATM and he’s $1,000 less rich now. Rough, but at least he’s free.

    Today I walked around on the river walkway and saw how the place is just crawling with plain clothes police (or just average Joes who report to police in order to make a quick buck). I was just sitting on the step, not smoking or anything, and on three different occasions over the course of 20 minutes, guys came up behind me either on motorbikes or on foot and just stood there for a minute, apparently trying to smell the air. I saw them do the same thing to practically every foreigner down there. If you come to Vientiane, don’t puff by the river.

  28. I used to live on Koh Phi Phi, I am a divemaster. TBH, there was quite a lot of pot smoking going on there, not very strong stuff and there was definetely no heroin at the time. Locals and long time tourists/backpackers used to tell me that you were more likely to get caught on the mainland of Thailand. I did not try smoking cannabis on the mainland, instead I only smoked it on the island and at a secluded beach in Krabe.

  29. mmm, doesnt sound like vv up to much for decent substance abuse, only filled with rucksacked 18-30 jarheads … personally i don’t have morality when it comes to the drugs, am just a dark side head .. so the question is …

    for pot, pills and powders wheres the easy going spots in laos? or is the scene finished there now? or is it best to head for the hills, find the traditional heads?

  30. We all take risks travelling, we take risks crossing the street. Drugs are a part of life that can be enjoyed in moderation. The war on drugs is the problem that has created situations like these that give opportunity to crooked people, poor people, cops as they may be. When I go to a foreign country I like to indulge but I recommend that you have some cash stuffed away for the po po’s in case you are busted. Bribes are just part of the culture. As long as the cops are not taking bribes for violent crimes Im not going to complain.
    Adventurous Kate, your kind of tight. Will not be coming back for your accounts of tubing.

    Want to hear of some travelling tales involving drugs google Junky Says or buy the book Junky Chronicles at softsculpture.org..

  31. Whether or not u decide to dope in an Asian country (or anywhere else) is u r own choice. But thing is, in Asia in general, if u get apprehended, the LAST thing u wanna do is allow the situation to escalate to a point where u wind up in the police station. A FAR more sensible thing to do is to settle it w. the cop apprehending u right there on the street. This would get completed for $50.

    Once u go to the police station, there are lots of cops, and each cop needs to get bribed, hence they asked for $600.

  32. Would you rather …

    Know that you can have your shakes and ur ganja – and if u get caught pay at most $1000……

    Know you WILL get arrested, be processed by the law. Added to the system and suffer some drawn out legal process / Likely career threatening… I cud go on.

    Life is full of rules. But if you’re smart enuf u will know when they can be bent… And where.


  33. Ok so I came across this forum this morning when researching for my friend who last night was arrested for saying no to a lady boy in club 101. He walked out of the club for some air and two men not dressed in uniform grabbed him violently and arrested him. They took his passport from him and made him write a statement that he had slept with a lady boy. (This is illegal) they then demanded £250 or 3 million kip for his problem to go away and to retrieve his passport or spend a year and half in jail. this is a clearly bribery and is one of the biggest scams in Laos. It’s not drug related it’s a case of if you’re in the wrong place at the wrong time. So please fellow travellers have your wits about you and don’t give anyone your passport. My friend was forced to and was escorted to get it.

    Vang vieng is a beautiful place but in my opinion but it’s also very dangerous, if you travel and you Live by the laws of your home country you won’t go far wrong. Don’t be silly just stay safe.

    I completely agree with Daves comment about jumping on the drug bandwagon. I hate them but I won’t judge anyone for trying them. It’s each to there own. But the original post was a warning to people travelling hear and to help people. It’s not a sob story it’s a heads up and you should be greatful for people posting their problems and ordeals for fellow travellers to read and learn.

  34. Smoked opium in Vang Vieng at Jaydee’s bar in November 2015. As long as you partake in “illegal” substances IN the establishment they are purchased you will not have a problem with the authorities. With that being said Vang Vieng is fun for a party stopover between Vientiane and Luang Prabang, but Luang Prabang is where you want to be. Rent motorbikes and get out of town to really experience the country for yourself. See the temples and night market but otherwise try to avoid the tourist trap and you will have the time of your life.

    1. Visited Vientiane and VV last year. Missed Luang Prabang. Planning on returning there to catch it in a few weeks. I found Laos to be the most relaxed and serene place I’ve ever seen. Even tried the Happy Pizza but felt no effect. My attitude was to make a judgment about the risk when I was on the ground and use my instincts. I’d say I made the right call. Will do the same this time. Thanks Unanimous, that’s just what I needed to read. Will do.

  35. Yeah if you are asked for a bribe, be patient and always negociate it, the police are better off with a little bit of easy cash than nothing or a long and gruelling extortion process.

  36. I’m planning on going to Laos and would LOVE to try some happy food, or mushy milkshakes. Does anyone know if these are available in Vientiane or Luang Prabang? I’d rather not go to smaller, out of the way towns if I don’t have to.

  37. Yes they were daft, but who hasn’t done something a bit stupid at least once in their life? The story is what it is and serves as a good warning to other travelers. So the moral of the story is “don’t do drugs in tourist hotspots”

    In a lot of these kinds of places it seems as though the police are keen to extract tea money from tourists. I was in Luang Prabang and the tuk-tuk drivers would often approach and ask “do you want something? ganja? lady?” I just smiled and said one word “no” and carried on. A good general thing to go by is if someone approaches you in the street, then they’re probably not offering anything worth having. Better to approach people than to be approached.

  38. This happened to me as well. What pisses me off is that you can go into a bar there and buy a joint. They actually advertise happy this, that and the other outside the bars.

    As a result, I don’t think it’s particularly stupid to assume that weed is highly illegal (if illegal at all). The corruption is the problem…not a little bit of weed.

  39. Pretty closed-minded, sensationalist post dude. I’ve been traveling SEA for 9 months and I’ve scored weed (if not more) in all countries I’ve visited (even Thailand and Malaysia) moral of the story should be don’t be an idiot and keep your shit to yourself, maybe you shoul’ve titled your post “doing drugs in public in laos? how stupid could you be” instead of talking shit (because you obivously don’t do drugs).

    Now, don’t be such a closed-minded traveler (it’s kinda contradictory), and embrace cannabis because, I’m sure you’ve heard, it’s even part of traditional khmer cuisine in Cambodia, reason why it’s widely used and accepted all over that country.

  40. $600 joint wow. Look really backpackers
    in that place have lost respect, so it’s hardly surprising the police are taking advantage of t he situation
    Smoking marijuana in the presence of someone else hold a 1 year jail sentence
    . ie do it discretely. Perfect climate for growing weed here. must be a good business for people in the hills. the weed is everywhere in LUANGPRABANG and I’ve been offered it everywhere but until now have declined and not because I’m in Asia or its not northern lights or a sativa or something. I don’t smoke pot at this point.
    Asia can have some nasty surprises so be careful. I’d say you were unlucky.

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