.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

Thursday, March 05, 2009


Shopping the Thai way

When I arrived in Bangkok less than two weeks ago my flight arrived early in the morning. Thai Airways served breakfast on board. But Ead had to get up quite early to meet me at the airport. He had not had breakfast so on the way home we stopped at a street market a few blocks from his house. It was so busy we had to park a block and a half away. Ead's comment was 'They can build a big air-conditioned shopping mall with underground parking but Thai people still prefer to park in the street and walk a couple of blocks so they can do their shopping in an open market.'

When I reached Mahasarakham last week I was surprised to see that since my last visit in the early part of last year Big C (so what does the 'C' stand for?) had built a new shopping mall - strategically about halfway between the university and the centre of town. This mall comprises one big shop that sells just about everything from electrical goods, sporting equipment, furniture, clothing to typical grocery items such as fresh fruit and vegetables and a wide range of packaged goods, plus there's a range of specialist stores and a food court. You'd think this would attract many of the university students but my observation was that while the place is busy it is not all that crowded.

On the other hand each evening an open-air market appears on the university campus surrounding the canteen. I often go there for my dinner and to pick up some fresh fruit or other items. A huge range of goods is available such as clothing, watches, hardware, etc, etc and generally at competitive prices. The students vote with their feet. This place can be quite crowded.

Six years ago there was quite a good restaurant in one of the Ajahn's Condo buildings. It was open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. It was very convenient for me, especially for breakfast. But they've closed it now. I've learned that for my simple lifestyle a really easy and healthy breakfast, provided I can boil some water, is instant oats. But oats aren't all that popular in Thailand. You can't buy them at the night market. So, last Saturday morning I took a sorngtheau to the shopping mall to pick some up along with my favourite Thai soymilk that I pour onto my oats each morning.

After I'd made my purchases I crossed the highway to pick up a sorngtheau to take me back to the campus. There was a young woman waiting with a couple of shopping bags on the side of the road.

'Lor sorngtheau mai khap?' (Are you waiting for a sorngtheau?) I asked.

'Ka. Bai nai?' (Yes. Where are you going?')

I assumed she was a student familiar with the university and simply replied, 'Ajahn Condo'.

Shortly I could see a sorngtheau approaching and asked if this was the right one. She said it was so I waved it down. We both got on. It was quite crowded. She got inside but I had to stand on the step at the back.

Off we went, crossed the river and after the river I was expecting we'd turn left but we didn't. I didn't let that worry me because there is another way to get into the university and I figured we would go that way. It is a couple of kilometres further on. But we sailed past that turnoff too. 'Bai Mor Mai?' (Do we go to the new campus?) I asked the girl. No we didn't. She realised I was on the wrong sorngtheau and rang the bell for me. He didn't stop for another 200 metres or so. And then I had to walk with my shopping bags back to the second turnoff. From there I had only another 2 km to go. It was about midday and a hot day.

I had walked about one kilometre. Quite a few cars had passed. In Australia I would have stuck my thumb out. Thai people would happily give a stranger a lift but I don't think they would know what an extended thumb meant so I just walked. I'd gone about halfway and was passing a driveway. A woman was coming out on a motorcycle. She said 'hello' and asked where I was going. I told her and she offered to take me. So I got home safely and not quite so hot and bothered as I might have been. Next time I'll eat some oats first to ensure I have enough energy for a long walk.

Labels: , , ,

Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?