VnExpress International VnExpress International
The most read Vietnamese newspaper
Contact us |
Follow us on            instagram

How to get high the Vietnamese way

By Pham Van   September 5, 2016 | 03:19 pm PT
When in Vietnam, have fun the native way.

Getting high has long since been a thing for many. Each person has their own way of taking a break from the monotony of everyday life to buy themselves some time away from it all. Try taking a hedonistic journey to find where Vietnamese fly to for a break from the mundane. 

‘Thuoc lao’

The Vietnamese way to get a nicotine hit: smoked in a bong, bamboo or plastic, rather than rolled in paper, and filtered through water instead of, yeah, filters.

The sound of bubbles surfacing as the smoker takes a deep toke on the “inhaler” and the thick fog that follows have opened many eyes and claimed so many tears and, I’m afraid, saliva.

Even its veterans are not excluded. Said to carry three times more nicotine than cigarette tobacco, 'thuoc lao' is absolutely not something to mess with alone. Type 'hut thuoc lao' (literally smoking Vietnamese tobacco) in Google or Youtube, and the videos that show up are no inferior to any on FailArmy, AFV or whatever compilation you have ever encountered.


Look it up if this Asian term is not in your vocabulary, it appears in the Oxford Dictionary, but to be short, it is chewed like gum. Nowadays paan, or 'trau' in Vietnamese, is only chewed by elders in the country, i.e. only those who have spent decades chewing paan and spitting out the red juice it produces still enjoy that traditional high. These days it's only used for ceremonies such as weddings and sacrifices to the ancestors and gods.

Chewing paan, mainly a combination of betel leaves and areca nut, has a mild effect on the mind, but throw in the above-mentioned 'thuoc lao' and you can take it to the next level.

Photo by Fcastello/GFDL

Red juice fills the mouth of a paan chewer. Photo by Fcastello/GFDL


Bill Gates eats paan in 2006 during his visit to Vietnam.


Cassava is an important industrial tree, but dried cassava is also one of the best ways of beating a hangover. Boiled cassava is still eaten as a snack around Vietnam, but not many people know that it can get you high. Cassava contains a toxin called HCN, which, in sufficient doses, can kill. A less lethal amount will lead to nausea, itchiness and dizziness - quite a way from what stimulants offer, but at least it still gives you a break from this miserable life.



The coffee we are talking about is not the kind of coffee you pick up from Starbucks on your way to work in the morning. The mildly sour coffee that comes with milk, cookies and ground ice is Arabica. The Vietnamese version is Robusta, and the name says it all. This kind of coffee contains 2 - 4 percent caffeine, which is double that of Arabica. And with the Vietnamese preferring to have it neat, like on the rocks or espresso, this means a lot. Hardcore drinkers who run on coffee might not feel the heat, but Arabica virgins are in for a bumpy ride. Beware that dizziness, sweating and nausea may replace a feeling of euphoria and a chilled-out session.

‘Hau dong’

Or ‘len dong’, ‘hau bong’ is part of a Vietnamese folk religion that worships the Mother Goddesses. Performers act as mediums to deliver the deities’ message through a practice called 'nhay dong', which is said to involve divine incarnation. A ‘hau dong’ session boasts dancing, fast-paced music, mountains of brightly colored sacrificial offerings, and incense so intense it drowns out religious sites as it envelops worshippers praying to the holy ones. All join forces to create a hypnotizing vibe; visually, aurally and olfactorily, that can even drown a non-worshipper in its ghostly current.

Related news:

Strange religious practices during Vietnam's 'Halloween month'

High in Hanoi: Mermaids, wizards and swimmers on meth

3 clubs that bang in Hanoi

Wishing you an amazing lunar new year $1.99
Use Code "TET2023"
go to top