hunter thompson in laos

the lan xang hotel lobby in Vientiane. the hotel is unchanged basically from when it was built by the Soviet government. it sports a cavernous restaurant and a night club with a live band and rotating singers. Vientiane is a wonderful city, not least because it rests on the banks of the Makong River.

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Assuming stories you’ve written will stay active online is always a costly mistake, particularly with newspapers. This strange little story about Hunter Thompson’s (click on the above underlined and it should open PDF files) stay at the Lan Xang Hotel in Vientiane about the time Saigon fell led to a recent post on a Laotian chat group called Samakomlao. A poster named “Communist man” wrote: “Roy Hamric is mad man, now he is in the mad house in Xieng Mai [Chiang Mai].” I don’t know where the Laotians found the article, but it stirred a lively pro and con over whether I had defamed the country by suggesting that illegal drugs could be found in Vientiane today. Of course they can, but you’d  have to be truly mad to pursue that line of inquiry very far, since you never know when the Communist government could make use of a few foreigners arrested for using illegal drugs. Avoid them at all cost, I’d say, the risk is too high. But in Hunter’s days it wasn’t so, and I’m sure he found drugs of all kinds everywhere in Vientiane.  Also, below I’ve posted  a picture of him and David Andelman, who was then a The New York Times correspondent covering the final days. David sent me some memories of their time together. I think one of the things to remember about Hunter, as a person, is something Jerry Hopkins said in an interview I did with him (he lives with his wife in a rice farming community in northeast Thailand). The author of the Jim Morrison biography and a Rolling Stone Magazine alum, he said, “He had a voice like Fred MacMurray’s. My God, I thought, no wonder straights like to talk to him.” MacMurray’s voice had a deep, avuncular tone, a quintessential good-guy quality. If you listen to earlier audio tapes of Thompson’s voice, before his health declined, it’s not the voice of a hipster or madman. Maybe that’s why Bill Murray’s portrayal  has a true ring  to it.

David Andelman, NYTimes, and Thompson in Vientiane

the lan xang hotel has the best billiards tables in Laos.

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