Sunday, August 11, 2013

Shopping in Laos: Quick Note on How People Say "Ten Thousand" and Higher

This entry is a part of my Thailand and Laos summer trip in 2013.

It took me about 10 hours to ride a tour bus from Chonburi province, Thailand to Nongkhai province, Northeastern Thailand. Nongkhai was where I crossed the Mekong river to Vientiane, the capital city of Laos. The trip costed me about $25. I left Chonburi around 8pm and got to Nongkhai in the morning.

"Why did you travel at night? It's dangerous, you know?" A friend asked, "People are sleepy. Your driver could have been sleepy. Accidents happen when people are sleepy."

"I wanted to get to Vientiane in the morning, not at night," I said, "Getting around a foreign place at night is also dangerous, you know."

Once I crossed the border, I stayed at a small hotel near the morning market (Talat Sao)--a popular shopping place in Vientiane. This was the place which everyone visiting Vientiane goes to.

The hotel was in a good location, and the price was reasonable for the location. Not only could I walk to the morning market, but I could also walk to Patuxay, aka the Victory Monument, a gate dedicated to those who fought in the struggle for independence from France. It costed me about $25 pay night at the hotel.

Shopping at the morning market was exciting. People visiting Laos typically buy textiles. I bought a pha biang, aka sabai, for myself, and a bunch of sinhs for other people. For those who don't know what they are: pha biang is a part of the traditional Lao outfit called "xout lao", (cf. traditional Thai outfit, "chut thai"). It's a sash-like cloth typically worn on the left shoulder. It can be worn by both men and women in ceremonial events. Sinh is a type of traditional skirt worn exclusively by women. In Laos, a lot of women wear sinhs walking on the streets.

When I was done with the textiles, I went straight to a bunch of bookstores and bought about 40 books.

"Alif, you're crazy! Why did you buy so many freaking books?" A friend asked.

"First of all, I love books, and I love the Lao language," I replied, "And second of all, books written in Lao are extremely hard to find outside of Laos. And don't even think of buying them via the internet because there are none due to many reasons such as the postal services in Laos etc."

"Sabaidee," the owner of a bookstore greeted me.
"Sabaidee," I replied, "An nii thaw dai?" I asked him how much a book I was holding costed.
"Sip haa phan kip," he said fifteen thousand kips.
Sip haa phan? (สิบห้าพัน) I thought. Oh he meant nueng muen haa phan (หนึ่งหมื่นห้าพัน), as that is how you'd say fifteen thousand in Thai.

"Chaw (เจ้า)," I replied, then I asked him how much it was in bahts, knowing that they accepted Thai money too.
"Hok sip baht," he said sixty bahts.

Then I went on buying a bunch more from this store and also from other stores.

Lesson to be learned
If you're not familiar with the numbering system in Thai and Lao, I'm afraid you won't understand this part. In both Thai and Lao, muen means ten thousand, but at least in Vientiane, it is uncommon for people use muen. So, instead of saying neung muen haa phan, one says "sip haa phan".

Another note for Thai and Lao beginners: there are A LOT of Thai books in the bookstores in Laos. So, for those who want to buy Lao books but can't tell Thai and Lao scripts apart, do ask them.


Me standing in front of Patuxay, Vientiane, Laos.

Some of the Lao books I bought.


John Doe said...

Thanks for the blog post. I enjoyed it. I have not been deep into Lao but I have been to ช่องเม็ก at the Ubon Ratchathani-Lao border. I would like to go to Laos it seems like a very beautiful country. สาวลาวยังนุ่งผ้าซิ่นอยู่เลย

Alex Wei said...

I'd like to know if that's due to influence from the West.

Wayan's kaos said...

Finding books in Lao through the internet seems very difficult. I tried a few searches to find something to read to practice reading Lao. The best I could find so far was where you can download some of their books for free. The Sherlock Holmes story I started reading was actually quite good. Apart from that Voice of America has some material, but reading news articles is not always interesting enough. Since I cannot see all the books you bought from the store, I'm wondering whether they have crime/thriller books of the most famous western authors translated to Lao there? In Thai these are not difficult to find, but I have never been to Lao before.