Beware! Bring “Nung” without License into America and Fined $300

This is a translated article based on a real life story from Koosang Koosom Magazine, written by Mr. Nhandom from Lampang in Thai Language, translated by Nye.

[Definition: “Nung” in Thai and Lao language has two meanings, one being the DVD movies, or another as dried Buffalo skin, the usage of the word “Nung” can be confusing, the meaning depends on how it’s being used.]

I live in San Diego California, and have a friend that’s a young lady from Laos, her name is Vankeo.  At the end of 2008 (Thai year 2551) Vankeo had to return to Laos after only been living in America for 2 years because her father became very ill, he was diagnosed with the last stage of cancer.  She had so many obstacles prior to returning home, and the worst part was the plane ticket.

She bought her plane ticket from a Lao tour company that she saw their commercial on Lao TV broadcast from California.  On the day of her traveling, she arrived at the airport but couldn’t check in because the last name on her plane ticket and her passport didn’t match.  It’s true that she lacked the experience, and the tour company didn’t help her any.

At the end, she had to return the plane ticket without any refund and had to purchase another ticket from another company, which this time the owners of the Thai restaurant that she works for had helped made the arrangement to purchase the plane ticket for her, even then, her travel was delayed for 4-5 days and she missed her only chance that she couldn’t turn back the time.  Her father passed away while she was on the airplane, but if she were to travel the day of her first booked ticket, then she would have enough time to say her final goodbye.  She didn’t want anyone to make the same mistake as her and be the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th…case because when she returned to her birthplace this time, she thought that she would get to see her father for the last time.   But things happened, she took care of her business then returned back to America.

Vankeo arrived at the Los Angeles International Airport with 2 briefcases, she went through the immigration check point with much difficulty since she is very petite and traveled by herself, even though she was 27 years old, but she looks 19-20.  They checked her luggage, but no one knew what had happened to her that day until she returned to her home in San Diego.  She then came back to work the following day.

Vankeo brought back souvenirs from Laos for all of her coworkers, but when it was time to give to the owners of the restaurant, the two brother and sister, Pi Nouy and Pi On (Pi means brother or sister in Thai language) that she loves and respects, she started to cry and said, “Pi..I’m sorry that I didn’t have any gifts for the both of you.”

The two brother and sister then said to her, “Uh…its okay, hmm, we’re glad that you came back safe and sound.”  Vankeo then said, “I brought back  a lot of “Nung” for Pi, but they checked my luggage at the immigration and saw, they took the whole thing, and even fined me $300.”

Pi Nouy who loves to watch “Nung” (meaning movies, Lakorn or Thai Dramas) can talk to Vankeo all day about it.  When he found out that the “Nung” that she brought back was confiscated, even fined her $300 on top of it, he then asked her to clarify his suspicion.

“What the heck, it’s only “Nung”, they did that? Just “Nung” the flat kind?”

Vankeo replied, “Yes, “Nung” the flat kind.”

Pi Nouy then said, “It’s probably doesn’t have a license.”

Vankeo replied, frankly said, “Have or don’t have, I’m not sure.”

Pi Nouy continued to ask because he was curious, “Then which “Nung” was it, who played in it?”

Vankeo shook her head and replied loud enough for everyone to hear, she said “No Pi, it’s not “Nung” Lakorn (movie), it’s “Nung Kwoy”! (dried buffalo skin)” she said it with a slight Lao accent.

Everyone started to laugh, but the one person that didn’t think it was funny was Sao Vankeo who was fined $300 for the licensing of the “Nung”

I’m not sure if this story is supposed to be funny or sad.


  1. That story of her is so sad. Reminds me of my aunt Linda who had to go to Laos because my grandpa got ill and he passed away right before she made it. She was married to a Laotian citizen but since she had to leave the country so bad she’s now banned because she had over extended her stay here in America. I think my grandpa was the only filipino man in Laos the home place was, Pha Khao (Fabric, White?) last name Aspera. I absolutely love your blog!

    • Hi jankobot, thanks for the visit and comment. Sorry to hear about your Aunt and Grandpa, a story like this should be a reminder for us to visit our loved ones more often, not just when they become ill, it’s more rewarding to spend a quality time with them when they’re well, then to spend sorrowful time at their death bed.

      And thanks for liking my blog. 🙂

  2. Nye, I find it funny.. hahhaha The focus of the story is more about “nung”.. It’s just like the old saying..”thai bor hu xaow(20), lao bor hu yee zip).. hahah

    jankobot – back in laos.. we had a filipino man rented a house from my parents. i always remember my parents would say his name.. Ai Tony..

    • seeharhed, I feel that the first message is about the Lao tour company, almost qualify as a scam imo because if you’ve made a mistake with the last name, you should be eager to help but I feel it’s intentional and she didn’t even get her refund back, how many people are a victim of this, I’ve a feeling there are many, this is like Lao taking advantage of another Lao person.

      The second part was funny, I had a hard time translating, not sure what term to use to make it funny, but using the word ‘Nung’ seems to work. 🙂

  3. If only customs knew how delicious buffalo skin in Jeow-bong is, they would let it in… It’s better to sew the buffalo skin into a purse. Eat it as snack along the way.

    • Zeddicus, great idea, a new purse design with dried Buffalo skins as tassels, I need to try this the next time I visit Laos. As for eating it as snack, you might finish one on your flight back, that stuff is tough and it’d take over 20 hours to finish one. 🙂

  4. I hope i dont sound so ignorant, but at the end of the story it was funny, althought the beginning of this story was pretty sad.

    • mozemoua, I find it funny also, I guess lesson learned for Vankeo, and the rest of us that don’t know. It’s not worth it to sneak stuff like that in your luggage, Bo’s mom brought a bunch of ‘Nung Kwoy’ (dried Buffalo skin) back with her from Laos, but she checked her luggage and they didn’t find the ‘Nung Kwoy’.

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