100% Proof – Lao Khao is a Knockout Drink

Thai man bombed lao khao whiskey

The Lao Khao Brain Drain

The top photograph shows a Thai woman hurriedly steering her children past a Thai man bombed out on Thailand’s cheap rocket fuel lao khao.

Don’t be fooled by the soft drinks bottle on the floor. It’s filled with rural Thailand’s favourite drink, rice whiskey, branded as Lao Khao. The energy drink bottle is a cheap way for Thailand’s rural working-class men to get a few low-cost shots of the hard stuff from their local village store.

On this particular day, Wonderful Wi and I were visiting one of Wilai’s aunts in Ban Miang Yai (Big Panda Village), about 12 kilometres from Nong Khai city.

The village is on the banks of the Mekong River which separates Thailand from Laos and runs through Nong Khai. Today was one of the biggest days of the year for Ban Miang Yai as it was holding its annual longboat race day.

Wilai’s aunt was laying on a barbecue and drinks for some of her family at her village home. Mid-afternoon the longboat races would be taking place on the Mekong River. It sounded like a perfect day.

BBQ & Boat Races

By one in the afternoon the barbecue was sizzling away and nine or ten of us were enjoying ourselves with grilled meats, soft drinks and for the men a few shots of Scotch Whiskey heavily topped up with ice and soda water.

I’d been there for two hours and not spent one baht. My perfect day was getting even better. For me, Thai hospitality in Nong Khai had broken new grounds. I was the one getting free food and drink, excellent.

We were all sat at the side of the house, and it had a driveway about 10 metres long. The driveway rose to the main road running through the village.

Twenty metres to the left of the driveway entrance was a very sharp incline which dropped from the main highway to a street leading to the banks of the River Mekong and the spot where the afternoon’s longboat races would reach the finishing line. I walked down to the riverfront and checked it out. Thai singers were singing and dancing on a small stage, and food, drink and souvenir stalls were aplenty. I was looking forward to the boat races.

Back at the BBQ – Whiskey and Lao Khao

On my way down from the highway road I’d passed a Thai man in his early forties stood at the junction of the highway and main village street. He had been standing there rooted to the spot, and on my return a half-hour later, I passed him again in the same place. I guessed his lift to work must be late.

I settled back down to the food, whiskey and jovial banter which was bouncing back and forth among Wilai and her family. A good while later the man was still rooted to the same spot. I wanted to know why.

‘Wilai, why is that man over there just standing on the road and not going anywhere’.

‘Hus…band, I ask aunt same before. She speaks he ding dong (not all there) and dunk (drunk). He like dink (drink) lao khao too much’.

Amazingly, as if by magic, the ding dong and dunk man started to move the 20 metres along the highway toward the top of our driveway. It was painful to watch. It was ten paces forward and nine back. Indecision imprinted on the soles of his feet, either that or wankered.

Eventually, he staggered to the top of the driveway, billowing in an imaginary wind. He then collapsed. Wilai’s aunt got up from where she was sat and approached him. She spoke in a stern voice.

My understanding of the Thai language is limited; my knowledge of the strange Thai and Lao mix they speak in Isaan is even less. Even I knew she had told the man to get up and bugger off.

Then a sea of apathy drenched the tarmac road. The man somehow got to his feet and for the next, ten minutes or so staggered back and forth over a five-metre trail before he collapsed once again, his lao khao filled head just missing the bodywork of our rented car.

A Paramedic and a Prostrate Man

For the next 20 minutes, he lay motionless, making strange wailing and moaning noises. It was as if an invisible gang of thugs were continually kicking and punching him. Then silence broke out. The only sound was the sizzling of beef and vegetables grilling on a barbecue.

After ten minutes of hush and still from the drunkard man, Wilai turned to me and spoke words which shook and shocked me. It was like listening to the winning speech from someone who had won an English tongue twister contest.

‘Hus…band, I want you check ding dong dunk man not dead’.

So there I was, a British tourist in Thailand, suddenly turned into a Nong Khai highway paramedic stood over a very still and prostrate body. And before you ask, no, it wasn’t me who pulled his trousers down.

Without my glasses, it took me a few minutes to see the shallow breathing coming from his mouth. He was one of two, alive, or the invisible thugs were now jumping up and down on his lifeless body.

The Tongue Twister Queen 

Lao khao is a powerful and potent drink. It also tastes like crap. I know because I once had a lao khao drinking contest with an on-duty police officer at a carnival in Tak. I wrote Carnival Time way back in November 2008.

Wilai and I had a great time watching the afternoon boat races, and we left Ban Miang Yai with the lao khao man still sleeping next to our car, and me wondering how I’d whiled away over five hours with a Thai family and only spent about 30 baht. I also wondered how the English tongue twister Queen might get on with this one.

‘Wilai can you say Roland rode in a red Rolls Royce’.

‘Hus…band. I want try speak same you. Loland lode in a led Lolls Loyce‘.

‘Wilai, bloody brilliant, that was leally good’.

Best wishes from Beyond The Mango Juice and cheers with a Chang, not a lao khao.


I'm a sixty-year-old Englishman living in the town of Swindon in rural Wiltshire and I have a real deep desire to retire in Thailand one day. If you don't have a dream then you won't have a dream come true.

28 Responses

  1. Snap says:

    Martyn…you’re tellible! I am sure the wonderful Wi will get the hang of the R’s. My cousin’s Japanese wife realised early on in their marriage that it just wouldn’t be right to call her new husband Lobert…or Lob for short 😉 She’s doing fine now.

  2. Hoo Don says:

    Snap I just happen to have a mate who goes to Thailand called Rob. Wilai has met him and calls him Lob. Sometimes when I call Wi I am having a drink with him and I always say ” Now I am drinking with Lob.”

    Wi’s English isn’t too bad but it does seem to have stagnated at a certain point, I guess I’m to blame for that. Mind you my Thai is absolutely lousy in comparison.

  3. Talen says:

    Martyn, that rice whiskey is some awful stuff. I’ve seen a few guys like the one pictured above while in rural Thailand. One guy in NP was in his 30’s or so and would stand in the middle of the road by the Mekong and pray as cars swerved around him…he did this daily from what I was told.

    I love a good tongue twister 🙂 I was recently made fun of because I pronounced a Thai word wrong so I asked the particular young lady to say ” Ralph’s really rare rabbit rode round and round.” She couldn’t understand why I was laughing.

  4. Hoo Don says:

    Talen rice whiskey is lethal stuff, it really is a strong liquor. I’ve tried it on a few occasions and have never got used to the taste. It’s bloody awful. The drink is big in Isaan because of its obvious cheapness and I do wonder what kind of mental damage it does to over the top drinkers of it. Your story is evidence of its capabilities to carpet bomb the brain cells.

    Let’s hope Thai girls never learn to pronounce their R’s properly, otherwise it will take a lot of fun out of going to Thailand.

  5. Camille says:


    Lao Kao or the local diesel is to be enjoyed with absolute carefulness.

    Besides Lob I also get the giggles out of;
    Sateve is eating sepagetti in the sapeedboat.

  6. Hoo Don says:

    Camille nice one. You’ve reminded me of my many past futile attempts in trying to order a Spy wine cooler.

    “A bottle of Spy please”
    No response
    “A bottle of Spy please”
    Blank expression
    “A bottle of SPY please”

    It used to annoy me like crazy. Now I don’t drink the stuff. Problem solved.

  7. Jimbo says:

    You could have rolled the dunk man into the recovery position – just to make sure he didn’t choke on his own vimto!

  8. Hoo Don says:

    Jimbo I must admit I didn’t think of that, I was more concerned about him waking up, getting up and collapsing onto our rented car. I’d have found it hard to make an insurance claim on that one.

  9. Mike says:

    Martyn that was funny, No doubt there’s more to come about the boat race-which makes me think you could start teaching WW Cockney rhyming slang.

    I went into a 7/11 yesterday:

    me: Paracetamol krap

    girl blank look

    me: Paracetomol krap…..while rubbing head.

    girl para….cet…tomol ka

    I smiled pleasantly and took the tablets.

    BTW great photos, the one with the guys pants at half mast would be a passing lady-boys dream come true.

  10. Hoo Don says:

    Mike I do intend doing a post on the boat race as I have a few photos on my saved disc. The problem is my camera HAD a pretty crap zoom and the photos aren’t that good krap.

    I worked with a lady from Goa and I used to teach her some Cockney ryhming slang, she picked it up pretty quick.

    Trying to get simple English type Thai words over to Thais can be very frustrating at times.

    I’m not sure how his trousers came down but I wasn’t going to wake him to let him know.

    My statcounter shows you up as being in Buriram. How many kilometres is it out.

  11. Hoo Don says:

    Mike – Buriram is on the lower end of the north-eastern region of Thailand, quite a few kilometres from you.

    Being a Crewe Alexandra fan I really should edit out your Stoke on Trent bit, but as we won at the weekend I’ll leave it as it is.

    Back Super Dario’s Crewe For Saturday Football Fixed Odds Profit…..

  12. Mike says:

    Martyn I haven’t a clue were Buriram is unless its that place near Stoke on Trent?

    My server is TOT so it should be Krung Threp

  13. Catherine says:

    Martyn, Good grief! My stomach is feeling queasy just at the sight of that guy. OOOF! A good reason not to partake of the lao khao…

    When I was looking at those photos it reminded me of the time you took snaps of the stuffed security guard. Remember? And I could almost hear Wi’s relatives asking her what the farang was up to as you followed him down the road – drunk man on knees, drunk man crawling, drunk man flat on ground with pants down. So funny. And so TiT.

  14. Hoo Don says:

    Catherine the security guard post got a very good reaction and this one seems to be following suit. I’ve had about 50 individual hits on it in one day which is good for BTMJ.

    I’m still a bit confused as to how his pants got down but like you say TIT. The security guard had a lot more packed into his pants than this guy did.

  15. Talen says:

    Martyn, during Songkran in Issan Thai whiskey is everywehere and they are all drinking it. I kept wondering why everyone was walking around with those clay jars and then I was offered a swig…it is bloody awful but after a few swigs you just don’t care 🙂

  16. Hoo Don says:

    Talen I’ve drank from a few of the clay jars myself and it tastes a bit sweeter than the bottled lao khao, in fact the jars I got from Loei and also Nong Khai tasted 100% better than bottled lao khao. However both are potent brews.

  17. Lawrence says:

    Martyn, a great story. I like “ding dong dunk man” (very descriptive) better than your “lao khao man” though. The one good thing about him passing out is that it put a stop to his intake of lao khao (temporarily, at least).

    As for your low expenditure that day, I’m sure it will happen more often the more you are around. But see how good it made you feel? That’s how you make others feel when you shell out. See it as being given an opportunity to exercise your generosity. And have another shot of the whiskey, not the lao khao.

  18. Hoo Don says:

    Lawrence as you probably know, ding dong dunk man is a fairly high level of English language in Isaan.

    The thing that got me with the man was when he collapsed near our car he kept making these strange wailing noises. I reckon he must have been suffering a lot of mental pain. Possibly a king sized headache.

    I will try and look at my future generosity as being good for me and others although I think the latter gets the better deal. Cheers.

  19. Paul says:

    Hi Martyn, I had a few nights on rice whiskey during my drunken days – terrible stuff. I remember one night at a party with my father-in-law got really up at it. He appeared at our door at about three in the morning after falling off his motorbike. We took him to the local clinic. He claimed that a ghost pushed him of the motorbike – the amazing thing was that everyone acted as if they believed him.

  20. Hoo Don says:

    Paul there must be many cracking tales to tell about lao khao. My experience of a drinking contest with a Thai policeman during a carnival in Tak is my most memorable one. I bet you’re glad your dark days are over and you haven’t got to taste the awful brew any more. God it tastes like crap.

    Thanks for the ghost story, that would make a good post.

  21. Siam.Rick says:

    I somehow feel left behind, never having had lao khao. But I let the feeling pass quickly and will stick with my Jameson, thank you!

    Those sure are funny photos of ding don dunk man, mostly because it’s him who has to suffer the awakening blow.

    As I said in a comment on your previous post, hope to see you around Christmas.

  22. Adullamite says:

    I’m sure the neds in the west of Scotland drink that stuff!

  23. Jon says:

    Great post – remember my first encounter with lao was when I first arrived in TH, headed straight to father in law’s bday party. Safe to say I got destroyed but somehow survived and did ok the next day without embarrassing myself.

    I’ll enjoy a cheeky dram or two of the in-laws home-spiced version from time to time but strictly within moderation.

  24. Hoo Don says:

    Rick believe me the only thing you’ve missed is a real rotten taste in your mouth, and I mean real rotten. Stick with your Jameson, quality might be more expensive but in this case it’s worth it.

  25. Hoo Don says:

    Adullamite I’m sure there’s plenty of Englishmen who’d drink the stuff. Most of them would be found on park benches and cardboard city come night time. It’s certainly a drink which warms up your insides.

  26. Hoo Don says:

    Jon are you in Australia because my statcounter showed you up as being there.

    I thought you’d know better than to drink lao khao, and at a policeman’s house as well. I hope the home spiced version tastes better than the real McCoy.

  27. Talad says:

    The Lao Khao rice whiskey is better used as fuel for vehicles than for humans to consume it. I think no one can say they think it tastes good without getting a longer nose.

  28. Hoo Don says:

    Talad – Were you named after a Thai salad (only joking).

    The problem with fueling Thai vehicles with lao khao would be that the drivers would drink half of it. The roads would be even more dangerous.

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