Growing in Laos: Mr Don and the Wild Man

There was still a good week to go, or so I thought, before the end of the long wait when Mr Don knocked on the window of my hut again. It was about 7 in the morning; he looked a little bit concerned and he was motioning for me to follow him:

There was still a good week to go, or so I thought, before the end of the long wait when Mr Don knocked on the window of my hut again. It was about 7 in the morning; he looked a little bit concerned and he was motioning for me to follow him:

“Nah, man, it's too early, you gotta leave them another week.”

He shook his head…

“Cannot, people come, steal two plants, only four left.”


He laughed…

“It's ok, have a bigger crop, more plants…” He raised his fist and wrapped his hand around his forearm, indicating the size of the stalks, “I not tell you before!”

He held the flame to the bowl and inhaled as hard as if he was sucking his first breath of air after being held underwater for five minutes!


I jumped into my shorts and followed him down the path into the jungle of the island. When we got to the last house at the end of the track he led me upstairs, where the plants had all been stacked on top of each other. The wild man was there as well, still grinning his wild grin, but this time without the machete in his hand. They both looked incredibly proud of themselves. Mr Don ripped a branch from one of the plants, wrapped his forefinger and thumb around the bottom end of the branch and then, very aggressively, pulled the branch through the tight hole he'd made in his hand, ripping all the leaves off, squashing the buds and taking a good portion of the precious trichomes off with it all – I couldn't believe what I'd just seen! Still holding the branch, he grabbed my wrist and led me briskly down into the yard again; he broke off a bud, put it on a flat stone, picked up another stone and then bashed it into a soggy green mess, he was still looking very proud of himself! He told me to roll it up and try it. I did what he asked but I was laughing at him and shaking my head:

“Won't burn, not dry, need to dry…”

I led the confused looking Mr Don upstairs again to rescue the rest of the plants before the wild man set to work ripping them to shreds. I showed them how to hang the plants and stressed the need for gentle treatment… They were big, heavy plants as well, there looked to be at least kilo on the smallest ones and the bigger ones were twice the size – there were 10 of them all together.

Mr Don ripped off a good-looking branch from one of the bigger plants and gave it to me to take back to my hut. I told him I'd use it as a time gauge and when it had dried out properly I'd give him a shout and we'd set to work trimming the rest of it. We didn't have to wait long – the heat and the breeze of the river dried the branch out in five days. I took the two pairs of nail scissors I had with me, went down to the stash house again and met up with the wild man where we set to work trimming the plants as we sampled the harvest… It was great smoke, not a seed to be found and I doubt the extra week I'd have given them would've made much difference – it was fully mature, pure sativa, organic sensimellia that had been grown under the tropical sun and fertilised with some local chicken shit. Read and weep my friends!! After trimming a couple of plants with those pathetic little scissors our hands were aching badly and we decided to ditch the work for the day and spent the next few hours getting mashed in the back yard under the banana trees. Smoking in that environment just adds to the amazing sativa high. They gave me several bags to take and sell to the other lucky travellers knocking around, I wasn't particularly sure about that but they assured me I wouldn't get into any trouble…
Back in Bangkok, it was over a month before I caught up with the friend who promised me she'd come out:

“What happened to you?”

“Yeah, sorry mate, I got stuck here and went there late, I was hoping you'd still be there – I've only just got back. Do you know a guy there called Mr Don? He's got some fucking good weed!”

I laughed; “Yeah man, that's the shit I've been talking about!”

“Really! Don't tell anyone, but I brought a kilo back, I'm gonna make some good money from that, I'm going back in a couple of weeks' time to get another one as well!”

“Be careful babe!”

She was a sharp little Thai girl and I didn't worry too much about her smuggling between the two borders, she knew the risks and she knew the game. That was the icing on the cake for me – I'd had a great experience out there, I'd helped a couple of locals get a financial step up in a very poor country, one of my best Thai mates was lining her pockets with proceeds from the crop and several of my mates in Bangkok were getting to sample it courtesy of her efforts…

Two years later I was back in South East Asia and I wanted to go and see how Mr Don was doing; I was curious to know if they'd expanded their operation and I was hoping for some new improved smoke! I managed to find him easily enough, he'd built a big new restaurant thanks to getting a lot tourist dollar for the crop and his kids were lazing about watching films on portable DVD players and enjoying a lot of luxuries that none of the other kids on the island could afford – I felt a twinge of guilt when I saw that. I asked Mr Don if he had any spare smoke and he gave me a handful of stalky, seeded crap…

“What's this? What happened?”

He shrugged his shoulders and grinned his shifty grin.

“I take you on a fishing trip tomorrow?” He told me, with a subtle nod of his head.

“Er, ok mate, give me a shout when yer ready.”

I asked about his friend, the wild man and his face dropped – he told me that they weren't friends anymore because the wild man had gone crazy on Lao Lao and started fighting people and causing trouble. I was sorry to hear that, I'd got on well with the guy despite our total lack of verbal communication.


This year we all grow together, everyone share, good for the island, good for everyone.


The next day he came and told me to get ready to leave in the evening, we were going for the whole night. This time he piloted the boat through the river for a good 30 minutes before we got to where we were going; another island a lot further away from the one we were staying on. He told me it was the fishermen's island and that I was the first non-local that'd ever been there… There were a few fishermen milling about, some of them giving me a wary once-over and others happily coming up and shaking hands. Mr Don led me to a little bamboo platform where the local wreckhead, a guy I recognised from the island we were staying on, was getting stuck into a bamboo bong; he was off his face and sprawled, grinning and glassy-eyed, on the floor of the platform but when he saw me he sprung to life and between Mr Don pushing and him pulling I was up on the platform with him and the bong in no time at all. Seeing the state he was in, I was a bit apprehensive about having a go on the bong – I'd given bongs up years ago but I wasn't exactly in the position to turn it down!

The wreckhead loaded it for me; I took the lighter and gave it some welly… I took my finger off the shotty and the smoke flew down my throat as smoothly as glass of Baileys after a 3 hour walk in the desert! Mr Don asked me how it was;

“Yeah man! Nice, smooth!”

He laughed and translated for the small crowd that was gathering to watch the white man smoke the bong; they all burst out laughing and started chattering amongst themselves. The wreckhead loaded the bong again and we had a few more each – I insisted he took a hit for every hit that I had, and after a few bongs each we'd become the evening's entertainment for the growing crowd of fishermen. I'd had enough after several big hits when a young, clean cut local guy came along – he'd heard all the commotion but he was too late – I was trashed and I wasn't going to smoke anymore just to amuse him. He was insistent though, and so was the crowd… I negotiated with him; I told him I'd do another one if he did one after me, he didn't want that but as soon as I mentioned the idea the rest of the fishermen started howling with laughter and slapping him on the back – there was no way either of us was going to getting out of this now! I took my bong, held it, enjoyed it, exhaled and then loaded it for the newcomer… I didn't want to stitch him up though so I only half-filled the bowl and told him to keep his thumb over the shotty and pull hard. I don't think this guy had ever smoked anything before, certainly not a bong, because he held the flame to the bowl and inhaled as hard as if he was sucking his first breath of air after being held underwater for five minutes! The weed in the bowl burnt through so fast he didn't have time to take his thumb of the shotty before the ash sucked through into the water and the air that flew in behind it forced the smoke into his lungs at a rapid rate of knots! The poor guy exploded into a desperate cloud of coughing, spluttering and smoke before he rushed down the little slope of the river bank and started throwing handfuls of water down his throat. The rest of the crowd were howling with laughter, a few of them went down to slap him on the back and congratulate him and I jumped down from the platform to shake his hand and make sure he was ok – he was, but he was just starting the ride of his life! His bug-eyes were rolling and he was laughing along with everyone else, but he didn't have a clue what had just hit him!

After all the excitement died down Mr Don told me to follow him – it'd be getting dark very soon and he wanted to show me something… I followed him through the trees and just as we were getting close to the shelter we were going to be sleeping under he stopped me;


“Look at what” I said, looking around.

“Look” he said again, pointing at the ground.

I looked down and realised we were standing right in the middle of a big patch of about 60 little ganja plants…

“Last year we have more security trouble, people steal the plants, not good, no trust and lots of fighting, bad for the island. This year we all grow together, everyone share, good for the island, good for everyone.”

I was over the moon, the nagging feeling of guilt I'd had when I'd seen the size of his new restaurant and the hi-tech toys his kids had (that no one else on the island could afford) disappeared; the whole community were in it together now…

“You talk about security, but now many people know, what if someone talks? Don't you worry about Laos police?”

Mr Don grinned his usual shifty grin, we were still standing in the middle of the young plantation…

“I am Laos police!”

That was a bombshell I never expected! I scoffed in disbelief and he laughed at me…

“It's ok, no problem!” he said to me, enjoying his ultimate moment of glory.

That night about 12 of us pitched our hammocks under the small shelter that had been made from metal posts and bits of corrugated iron that'd been left over from the American war in Vietnam. We smoked till long after dark and listened to Hallucinogen – The Lone Deranger through my small speakers – one old guy in particular loved it, he was staring at the speakers and I could see him floating on every sound that came out of them. When the album finished he looked at me with stoned, happy eyes and a big smile, he grabbed my hand in a firm handshake and didn't say a word, just nodded his approval before we all drifted off to the white noise of the waterfall a few hundred metres away.

Do you need help with a drugs related problem? Contact your local supportline as soon as possible. In case of immediate life threatening circumstances call 911 now!

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