Social gathering at the village chief’s home, remote Akha Erpa village in northern Laos. The alcohol is a local moonshine they brew themselves that, depending on the batch, can taste like either a cheap vodka or kerosene. It is consumed before (during and after!) each meal, including breakfast, which is usually around 6am.
The chief is the man in the blue shirt, center image. He is also the district chief covering 6 villages, 47 families and 333 people in total, 19 of which are family members who live in the village with him, and he has 9 children of his own. He was very hospitable and always smiling (except when he got into an argument with his brother to his immediate right in the picture, which ultimately shut down the party). Opium is still very common in northern Laos and elderly villagers will often smoke it before bed to help ease the bodily pains brought on from working the fields from dust to dawn.
The pointing finger with the watch on the wrist was...supposed to be my fixer. He ended up more concerned with his own entertainment and pretty useless to me. Not only did he photobomb a lot of my pictures, but he also ended up doing opium on more than one occasion, disappearing and leaving me to try and communicate with the locals on my own (no English spoken and typically only the chief and a few elderly men can speak Lao). More than once did it leave me in a challenging position when I was wasn’t sure if had overstayed my welcome wasn’t sure what to do.
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