Coffee: The French Legacy in Laos.
Zoot Alors! This is how the French are remembered in the Communist propaganda art of their former colony, Laos.
When I was doing my research for BACK, it came as a surprise to discover the French were dropping napalm on Asians long before the Americans, and that the hard-pressed citizens of Laos and Vietnam were booby trapping trails and killing Frenchmen in asymmetrical warfare well before they honed their techniques on the American Army.
It would be true to say the French role in Asia isn’t particularly fondly remembered by many; although the Commie art currently hanging in Laotian museums makes the French look like the Khmer Rouge.
The French did leave some enduring, positive legacies in the region, which include some wonderful colonial architecture, great bread and fantastic coffee, and, I’m pleased to say, as a result, Laos grows some of the best coffee in the world.
When I’m here, I always want coffee like the locals have it – rough and ready, in a glass, and strong enough to stand on, but up in Luang Prabang, the place has become so posh that it’s actually very difficult to find Laotian coffee in its basic state in the tourist centre.
I grew increasingly irritated as I ordered “Lao Coffee” time and again in cafes and retaurants, only to have it turn up, weak and served in poncified (small) cups, or, WORSE they gave me effing Nescafe, or other granulated crap, because they must think the full hit of industrial strength Lao coffee might be too much for a dainty foreigner in sophisticated Luang Prabang.
Eventually we found a basic breakfast shack that not only served it as I love it, but also served poached eggs in a glass too, which was delicious for breakfast. And everything was topped off with a beer glass full of delicious-tasting Laotian tea in which thick pieces of stem floated then sunk to the bottom.
The tea was on the house; and you can’t say that very often in tourist-swamped Luang Prabang.
This local place was very popular with holidaying Thais, and my wife said it had been featured on a travel food programme in Thailand a while back. Some mornings, after their busy period had ended, because the stall was right opposite the Mekong, we could even enjoy all this right on the river.
And better still?
It was all at non-Luang Prabang prices, which was also important for us, as we’re bumming around the Secret War Sites and Sights of Laos on a backpacker budget, as usual…
Our new film, M.I.A. A Greater Evil. Set in the jungles of Laos and Vietnam, the film deals with the possible fate of US servicemen left behind after the US pulled out of the Vietnam War.
See the trailer for our new film, M.I.A. A Greater Evil.
And for POWs left behind in Laos:
© Peter Alan Lloyd
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