19 July 2007


I spent just over 4 days in Bangkok to see the Socceroos play in the Asia Cup and generally hang out with a few of my friends from Australia. It was a fun place to hang out and really good to see my friends. I’ve never seen my friends shop so much, and I did quite a bit too. A went particularly crazy and probably tripled his existing modest wardrobe. I stayed a block from Khao San road, the short but busy road where most backpackers stay. It was easy to catch taxis around town, and 20km trip where we spent nearly an hour cost around $5 AUD.

I found it less of a culture shock than I imagined because it seems just like much bigger, crazier, tidier Lao. Also, I managed to pretend to know some Thai from the limited knowledge of Lao because its nearly the same language. I just substituted some key words and hoped for the best for the rest. Also I heard Cantonese for the first time for months and my brain couldn’t process it properly. All I could say was ‘ko tod’, ‘sorry’ in Lao, when some Cantonese speaking girl grabbed the underwear I was holding because she wanted to find the same thing while I was in the store.

The soccer

I saw Australia play two games of the Asia Cup. The Australia vs Iraq game was on a very hot day. The stadium was pretty much empty. There were mostly Aussie fans, a few Iraqi fans and not many Thai people there at all. It was not a good game- Australia lost 2-1. Even with my limited knowledge of football, I could see that they didn’t play very well. We were sitting a few rows from where the players come out onto the field so it was really good to see the players up really close. My friends took this opportunity to yell some non- complimentary comments to the players after the game and I’m certain they heard.

The Australia vs Thailand game was on a rainy evening. We weren’t sure whether the locals care about their national football team at all, but before the game we could tell that the turnout was going to be good. The game was on a Monday which they probably would have thought would be a lucky day as Monday is the day the King was born and most people wear a lemon yellow shirt in recognition. Their king seems to have achieved some superhuman status there and you have to make sure you don’t say anything bad about him. When we talked about him we used the name ‘Cyril’ instead just in case. So the audience was a sea of yellow- Thai’s wearing their Monday shirt and the Aussies wearing golden yellow. The stadium was just over a third full when the game started, but quite soon it was pretty much full.

The Socceroos looked a much better team than during the Iraqi game. It was like they were a different team. My friends had calculated that Australia needed to beat Thailand with a difference of 3 goals to get through to the quarters. It was great they managed to achieve this. What an exciting game!


I didn’t bring over many clothes to Vientiane so some are getting seriously worn and/ or covered in mud stains from bike riding or charcoal from new years. This was a good opportunity to replace some clothes. I only visited just a few markets and shopping centres of the many around.

Chatuchuk markets

There is a massive 9,000 stall weekend market called Chatuchuk market that has everything. I spent two hours there and probably didn’t even see half of it. I’m glad I missed the live monkey section my friends came across. Not the cheapest for clothes, but the prices aren’t bad and they do have some really nice clothes. Like Paddington markets in Sydney, they had some young people starting up a fashion label particularly in T-shirts which usually refuse to bargain with you.

Pratanum markets, Platinum and Central World Plaza

I recommend doing the three in that order as they are along the same road. Start with the cheapest and go up otherwise you’ll probably find the same cheap clothes at higher prices in the department store. Pratanum markets has lots of wholesale outlets where the clothes are really cheap and good, probably before being labelled, shipped off and sold in Australia for up to 10x the price. You can’t try some of the clothes on though, and for some reason some clothes are ‘free size’ and tend to be on the very small side.

Platinum is one step up from Pratanum these markets. They are cheap clothing stalls arranged in a compact air- conditioned mall. Easier to navigate than Pratanum markets but prices are probably slightly higher. Here you might not be able to try the clothes on.

Central World Plaza This is new and has lots of shops and a couple of Japanese department stores. It is seriously nice, probably nicer than Bondi Junction back at home but things are affordable. You can try on the clothes there.

The drinking

I’d heard people talk about doing ‘buckets’ in Thailand but never actually knew what it was. You can buy drinks in a small bucket, which is an ice- bucket. You can get pretty much any cocktail or mixer in them, but usually ‘buckets’ refer to a mixture of Thai whiskey, Red Bull and coke. When we tried to order individual glasses the waitress insisted we share buckets as the cheaper option. Classy!

I did experience a small range of drinking establishments. One was set up at a derelict Shell service station. Another was tables and chairs set up with drinks served out of a van. I also experienced another couple of backpacker hangouts.

The foodcourts

We really got into the food courts in Bangkok- they are wonderful. It seems most shopping malls will have at least a couple of food courts. The nice ones are a chain and managed by a particular company. They give you a credit card with about $30AUD on it to use when you’re in the food court. You pay it off when you’ve finished. There is a huge range of food- Japanese, pizza, Malaysian, Indian, dessert, drinks… all of very high quality. The highlights were the wonton noodle soup for less than $3AUD and the perfect slice of pizza above the quality of most Australian pizzas for around $1 Australian. They use proper crockery and cutlery is laid down on the table before you sit down. One food court had service where they seated you. I think Australian food courts and eateries in general really need to pick up their game- how come a Bangkok food court can do an awesome pizza but a regular Sydney cafĂ© can’t?

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