MovieChat Forums > The Rocket (2013) Discussion > 10 Million Lao Kip - what does that buy?

10 Million Lao Kip - what does that buy?

The prize at the rocket festival is 10 million Lao Kip. That is about $1200 US as I write this - which is presumably an enormous sum in rural Laos. In neighboring Thailand, whole rural villages are poorer than one upper-middle-class family in Bangkok; the price of a dress in a Bangkok department store can instead buy enough rice to keep rural Grandma alive for two more years - true story!

"Average per-capita income" is meaningless in countries with vast disparities in wealth and power, where the rulers and military and upper middle class own 95% of the country, and the other 95% of the population gets the 5% that is left. Which is why young women from the countryside fight to get the few "low" wage exported-garment jobs to earn their dowry; it pays better than prostitution!

The main thing Ahlo won for his family was farmland and the welcoming respect of the village. But what would the money buy? A brace of oxen, and a house? Schooling for the children? Way too much Mekong whiskey for the adults? Conversion rates aside, does anyone here know rural Laos well enough to put a human face on this large but abstract sum of money?


Well, no idea about laos. But i am from india and the purchasing power of the currency and the inflation should be somewhat similar. The amount mentioned equals approximately INR 80K. And it a decent amount for rural areas. If nothing this can easily help you in starting a farm atleast given that you have some land. Which they had at the end of the film.

So the amount though not astronomical is pretty good aa per rural standard of living.


Thanks, Subrat! That is a good way of thinking about it, especially because India is much better documented than Laos, and is so incredibly varied as a country - India has billionaire enclaves (and a few rupee trillionaires), and people poor enough to starve, rural armed insurgencies, and the largest democracy on Earth. Oh, and the Satish Dhawan launch center is the best "rocket festival" in south Asia - they put an orbiter around Mars!

So, the next question is not what INR 80K will buy in the average poor farming community somewhere among 500M rural Indians, but in the poorest communities with many displaced people? I would guess northeast India is a good model, where there is insurgency, many hydro projects, and the national capital is far away. Manipur state is geographically closest to northern Laos, separated by Myanmar (Burma), and it is probably ethnically closest, too.

What can INR 80K purchase in rural Manipur? Still not "astronomical", but better than "pretty good", probably very, very good.


I've lived in northern Thailand for about 12 years and been visiting Laos frequently since the late 90s. 10 million Kip at current exchange rates comes out to $1250 or 40,000 Thai Baht. In this neck of the woods it would buy you something like a Honda Wave 125cc scooter, which is one of the most coveted items for rural farmers who otherwise will be walking for hours on long dusty or muddy roads depending on season. One of the distinguishing features of northern Laos road travel is you see lots of mostly hilltribe (Hmong, Akha, etc.) folks walking down roads to/from farmlands and marketplaces often carrying baskets of produce on their backs. If they're lucky they have a cheapo bicycle. This reality of daily life where a motorbike is an un-affordable luxury for thousands of subsistence farmers makes it a sought-after prize. In northern Thailand that sum wouldn't get you any decent size plot of land but maybe in a very rural corner of northern Laos it might buy enough space to build a shack and plant a garden. Another good example is the Laos minimum monthly wage which is currently 900,000 Kip ($112) so 10 million Kip equates to about a year of this lowly wage. It's a nice prize but not exactly life-altering.


Thanks, that is what I wanted to know. Where in northern Thailand?

The festival town was near a road, hence land near the village would be really expensive. In real life, would our protagonists be allowed to linger on expensive cleared farmland near a road and build rockets?


Where in northern Thailand?
Downtown old city Chiang Mai and farmland to the north.

Many of the filming locations for this are familiar, especially that thumb-shaped wedge of limestone rising from the Naam Song river north of Vang Vieng.

I agree it's unrealistic that the bat sh*t rocket gang were not only given the 10 million Kip prize, but also the piece of land near route-13 which is Laos' main north-south arterial road. A decent piece of land in that location could be worth 10 times the prize money, but the village elder probably didn't "give" it to them, more like allowed them to continue squatting there until it was convenient and face-saving enough to move them on, or until he was no longer village elder which could be just a year or two.

I was at the rocket festival in Vang Vieng in 1999 and what blew me away (no pun intended haha) was how accurately this was portrayed in the movie. It was as though they filmed the actual festival (probably did) except for the end when Ahlo fires his winning rocket a bit of creative license is added (and some CGI for the colorful finale). But the cheap carnival rides, every adult male drunk on lao-lao, gambling fever and superstitions, etc. I was so convincingly taken back to the real thing. =)


Thanks, Bob! My wife and I briefly visited Thailand in 1995. Some time in Koh Samui, and a few days in Yasothon (Isan, northwest region) for the rocket festival there. A bigger event than shown the movie, but the same spirit. At that time, farang were so scarce the locals didn't even know how to properly overcharge us. 5 times rural price and 1/5th of Bangkok price is a wasted opportunity.

We took the Orange Crush from Khon Kaen to get there, sharing a tiny seat with a Thai who had worked at the US Air Force base in Udon Thani during the Vietnam War. We wisely chose the spacious Aircon from Roi Et back to Bangkok and home. On that bus, we encountered a Thai-Canadian on his way home from the festival. He was the roommate of the screenwriter for the Disney movie "Operation Dumbo Drop". He told us lots of stories about the filming that had just completed up near Chiang Mai, as well as the actual story the screenplay was vaguely related to. The real story was far funnier, and too "R" rated for Disney.

The story was about parachuting a replacement elephant from a cargo plane into a remote village during the Vietnam war. In Real Life, cargo planes are unpressurized at altitude, and elephants are pressure vessels with relief valves at both ends. The aft releases involved entrained solids, which decorated the fuselage. Mission complete, the aircraft returned to a blazing hot summertime airfield, perfumed with Eu de Pachyderm. The daytime ground crew decided the night ground crew could clean the cabin when it was cooler and the aroma abated. They did not know that elephant effluent has a high pH, like sodium hydroxide, which etches aircraft aluminum. By nightfall, the aircraft fuselage was swiss cheese.


Thnx Bob
I also immediately recognized the karst terrain to the north of Vang Vieng.
I spent a few days there in October 2000, it was a small place then with a few guesthouses a wooden footbridge across the river and a couple of small cafes one with internet. I walked out west to a big cave not unlike the one in the movie... such memories for privileged Australian!
Now it's a tourism mecca with dozens of guesthouses and I'm told hundreds of badly behaved tourists ... mores the pity.
The earlier scenes reminded me of Muang Ngoi much further north.
A beautiful movie and pretty reflective of rural Laos.
Ahlo with his open honest face and inquisitive cheeky manner reminded me of kids I met all over Laos Sabay dee!