Monthly Archives: June 2013

20. Senglao

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Falang may scorn corruption but pirating of DVDs is one illegal activity that they enthusiastically condone. It allows them to keep up with the Oscar nominees and their guilty pleasure shows from back home while trapped in a country with internet too slow for streaming.  When the Hollywood dubbed in Thai becomes too much to bear, falang turn to Senglao for their primetime fix. Senglao is one of the essential first stops on the Vientiane tour for newly-arrived falang, and seasoned falang love to show new arrivals the folders and databases filled with movies and TV shows, for little more than a dollar per disc.  Falang greedily sweep up whole series of shows at a time, as cheap entertainment to make up for there being “nothing to do” in town. Some will spend their entire tenure in Laos not knowing its real name, and simply referring to it as “the DVD shop.”

By the end of their time in Laos, many falang own their own veritable DVD shops in the form of unmarked discs and plastic sleeves littering their living rooms. Cheap falang may try to pawn off these heaps at a discounted rate during going away parties, preying on new arrivals who will inevitably inherit piles of mismatched discs. Others try to bring home their collections as gifts–conversations about how many DVDs falang have managed to take through Australian customs is a staple happy hour conversation.

The DVD shop is safe small talk material among falang who often ask one another what’s new there, or speculate about how long it is until the latest blockbuster becomes available.  Experienced falang can be overheard complaining about how much longer it takes to get TV series than in the good old days.

Looking for some new falang acquaintances?  Head to the DVD shop on a Saturday or Sunday after brunch at Kung’s and they’ll probably be there, thumbing through folder 112 for some weekend entertainment.

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19. Escaping to Bangkok

photo credit: guardian.co.uk

When the list of complaints gets too long and the mean streets of Vientiane get become too much to bear, falang skip town for a few days for the closest thing they can get to a taste of ‘civilization’ in…Bangkok.  BKK, as falang often fondly refer to it in their text messages and Facebook posts, is a haven for the creature comforts and commercialism falang are deprived of while ‘roughing it’ in Laos.

What is it that draws falang to the Thai capital en masse?  The shopping (shoes in falang sizes!), the food (Mexican, Middle Eastern, McDonald’s!), the healthcare (the nicest hospitals they’ve ever seen!). The convenience of the big city brings falang in regularly for work trips, meetings, transit, weekend getaways, frisbee tournaments, health appointments, and meeting out of town guests, and they crave it like mosquitoes crave falang blood.  In Bangkok, falang can indulge in the guilty pleasures of Starbucks, KFC and other chain restaurant fare that they would otherwise turn their nose up at in their home countries, all while marveling over the ultra-fast internet speed.  The movie theaters in BKK have films that won’t appear in Senglao’s folders for months, and falang like to post about them on Facebook to remind friends at home that they are normally deprived of such things in their exotic life abroad.

After a few years of living in Laos, falang consider themselves intimately acquainted with Bangkok.  They pride themselves in knowing the city well, but not actually living there, and maintain a sense of superiority over the farang, who probably aren’t “brave” enough to live in Laos.  Advanced falang like to brag about their knowledge of BKK and debate where the best burger or steak can be found (although it’s likely their expertise would dissolve anywhere a few Skytrain stops beyond Siam Square).

Trying to meet up with a falang friend in BKK, but don’t know their Thai SIM number? Try checking:

  • Siam Paragon
  • Chatuchack Market
  • Central World Cineplex
  • Bumrungrad Hospital
  • Sukhumvit Soi 11
  • Terminal 21
  • A skybar

If they can’t be found at any of these locations, they are probably already stocking up at duty free in Suvarnabhumi, indulging in their last bit of luxury on their way back to Laos.

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