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.