I’ve chosen to eat like the locals do. It wasn’t really intentional. I was walking along the riverfront and the young boy thrust a menu into my hands. I realized I was hungry. I order shrimp fried rice and a beer. He points to makeshift stairs leading down to the river. I navigate them carefully, making my way to the low wooden platform next to the river. I slip off my shoes, walk across the platform, and sit cross legged at the low table. I look around. I am the only non-Laotian. I pull out my book and begin to read.
He brings me a glass with five large ice cubes and a BeerLao. I study the glass. I notice there is a small ant crawling around the inside edge. I gently try to nudge it out and instead it slips and falls to the bottom, drowning in a tiny puddle of melted ice. I notice that it joins six other ants with a similar fate. I ponder. Do I pour the ice cubes out and wipe the inside of the glass, getting rid of the ants? I put my hand around the large bottle of BeerLao. It’s not cold. It would definitely be better over ice. I could hold the glass in my warm hands, melting a bit more of the ice, creating more liquid which I could then pour from the glass, hoping the ants poured out as well. I swish the liquid around. It seems like the ants are staying at the bottom of the glass. I could just pour the beer and drink it. The ants really are small, would I really notice them if I drank them? I opt for this last option. I pour the beer and an inch or so of head forms. And to my amazement, the ants float to the top of the foam. I can’t believe my good fortune. I carefully dab each one with my finger and wipe it on a napkin. And then proceed to enjoy a chilled, ant-free, refreshing BeerLao along the Mekong River.