If you ever come across a man smoking out of a long bamboo pipe, don’t be alarm. The bamboo pipe–điếu as people call it here - pictured above - is a common sight in Vietnam, particularly in the north.

If you’re wondering if people are using it to smoke drugs or narcotics, you’re wrong. Vietnamese use the bamboo pipe to enjoy tobacco.


However it isn’t your regular ol’ tobacco, this Aztec tobacco is a very potent variety of tobacco with a very high concentration of nicotine. In fact this type of tobacco contains up to nine times the level of nicotine compared to a regular cigarette. In Vietnam, this tobacco is smoked after a meal, which is believed to aid with digestion or with green tea or local beer among the men particularly in northern Vietnam like Hanoi. Typically on the streets of Hanoi, you can readily find thuoclao being smoked and sold at very cheap prices, ranging from VND20,000 or ~USD1.


Many tourists travelling to Hanoi have been persuaded to try thuoclao but you have been forewarned. Why there are no detrimental effects to you or your body that a cigarette wouldn’t cause, the feeling can be quite intense. If you smoke tobacco, there’s no harm in trying it and here’s how.

First the bamboo pipe, which is hallowed on the inside, filled with a little bit of water. Next the thuoclao or Aztec tobacco is place into the metal pipe along the side near the bottom. Be careful not to put too much as it is very potent. You then proceed to ignite the tobacco and inhale from the top creating a body of smoke inside the pipe. You then blow into the pipe in order to pop the tobacco out and sharply inhale the rest of the smoke sitting in the chamber.

Generous amounts of nicotine then flow into the bloodstream inducing strong dizziness and lightheadedness, which should last for several moments. It is not advisable to try if you have never smoked cigarettes, but even then you should be careful. So if you visit Vietnam and feel in the mood for a kick to the brain, a bamboo pipe and thuoclao is your answer.


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