Phonhong, Laos – The city of Phonhong, situated in Viangchan Province, is a bustling city and home to thousands of Hmong and Lao people. The name Phonhong, however, might be unknown to many. It’s more commonly known in Hmong simply as Lav 52. For Hmong-Americans, the word “lav” translates to “easy lay,” with the direct translation of Lav 52 being “easy lay 52,” denoting the number of times a Hmong man can get laid there in a single night.
Lav 52 is a juxtaposition of old tradition and new technology; it’s normal to see a homeless person begging foreign visitors for money by using his Iphone as a translator. Open markets sell a variety of things, from lychee and guava to dubbed American DVDs to partial UXO fragments, all of which are perused daily by locals and foreign visitors alike.
However, the most prominent of all places for visitors is the Hai Ker Pleasure Palace.
Hai Ker Pleasure Palace is the first of its kind. With the official backing of Royal Prince Panang Currisatang, HKPP is a government-run and royally financed new business venture created solely to draw in more foreign tourists, mainly Hmong-American men.
Owner Kham Sisathong says, “Our researchers found something very interesting these past 10 years. The majority of foreign visitors to this region have been Hmong-American men. Divorced, separated, single, married, or old as balls. It does not matter their age or marital state. They come here, they look for young, pretty girls. They have a little Beerlao, some laughs, a massage, and don’t stop until they get a happy ending.”
Based on the statistics of their government-funded research, Sisathong then approached Royal Prince Panang with his idea for the Pleasure Palace. “His Royal Highness was skeptical at first, but after reviewing the research I collected, he immediately threw some gold coins at me and told me to build the palace, since he never had one of his own,” says Sisathong. His Royal Highness Panang Currisatang could not be reached by ZQ staff for comment.
HKPP has many pleasurable activities for its visitors, however its biggest draw is a new vending machine that was recently installed. Sisathong calls it the Young and Pretty Girl Vending Machine. “The Young and Pretty Girl Vending Machine,” Sisathong explains, “is a 5 meter high contraption with several compartments, one for each girl to stand in. The buyer stands in front, deposits the correct number of coins, and watches as the girl he chose is dropped into a container and then delivered to him.”
According to Palace policy, the buyer has until the next morning to enjoy his wares. There is also a refund policy, which was established when a buyer realized that the girl he bought was actually a boy in disguise the morning after.
The number of coins needed to buy a girl depends on several factors. “Beautiful, attractive girls cost more, obviously,” chuckles Sisathong, “while those who are on the ugly side cost less.” In addition, girls cost more if they have the following attributes: if they speak English, give good massages, giggle at appropriate moments, gaze at the buyer in awe at all times, are knowledgeable about nothing, and can praise the buyer for everything and anything including how he puts on his socks.
So far, the vending machine has been successful. Hmong-American visitor, Danny Vang, 38, was shocked at first when he saw the vending machine. But when he saw it in action, and also when he experienced it for himself, his opinion quickly changed. “It was awesome,” says Vang. “I put in a few coins, the girl dropped down, and it was a good night. I don’t have any complaints at all.” When asked if he would tell his wife about the vending machine, Vang was quick to deny. “Nothing happened, okay? What happens in Lav 52, stays in Lav 52.”
That may be a catchy mantra, but news of the Young and Pretty Girl Vending Machine has already made its way to St. Paul, MN, where certain ZQ staffers heard a prominent Hmong millionaire businessman declare that he would build his own version at his nightclub turned daycare.
Will we be seeing that vending machine in the States soon? Only time, and potential legal action, will tell. ■