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The Mekong’s rushing wide kilometre; Laos on the far bank, a thousand miles from the sea. In the soap operas, everything is expensive: houses, interiors, clothes, the strikingly separate heroes and villains; in early sunshine, father interviews son beside the wide river with vegetation flowing; girl-next-door’s with boy-next-door whose mother’s died expansively, her funeral broadcast over two whole episodes. The actor playing the girl is only fifteen. The actors all shed tears with real facility. Melodrama, expensive interiors and lashings of winsome, that and a good shoot-out. How early the men rise on a Sunday morning, to sit on the back of a Hilux with the others, their heads swathed in towels. They stand with garlands of jasmine at traffic lights, or wave traffic towards them to sell yam, rice and coconut packed in bamboo, that’s made since five, in the hut five hundred metres from the highway; how they run to get the prime spot in front of the other four. *

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