Vientiane (2)

5 11 2009

Wednesday 4th November 2009

My observation yesterday that Vientiane is a more cosmopolitan city was borne out this morning by finding an Australian owned café come bakery that served ‘real coffee’. I know you’ll think it pretty sad that I can’t find anything more important to report today than having a decent coffee, but after three and a half weeks of withdrawal it was pretty dash good.


No OH&S on this scaffold. Everytime a nail went in the whole thing rocked about a foot.

[What follows is really more of a waffle than usual so if you have anything better to do I suggest you do it. If not read on…]

Thus fortified we headed for ‘Talat Sao’ (literally ‘Morning Market’). It is impossible to describe Asian markets – we were looking for a particular item of clothing and I swear we found more than an acre of stalls all selling pretty much the same lines of clothing – an acre only describes it 2 dimensionally, if you take into account the vertical dimension it must at least treble – and most of what we were after was on high racks. Stall owners would watch the direction of your gaze and, whether you were interested or not, they would have a stick that allowed them to deftly lift down anything they thought your eyes had alighted on so they could offer it to you and display its merits. If your eyes wandered somewhere else, the first item would be dropped and the next grabbed and so on. It is embarrassing to have a dozen or more items of clothing pulled from the racks and unfolded only to be dropped untidily on the counter as they thought your interest may have moved to something else when really we had no interest in the first place and would move on to leave them to tidy it all up.

wat gate

Amazing ornate temples everywhere. This is just a gate.

Another remarkable thing, unlike Australia there seems to be at least 3 to 4 people waiting to serve you whether it is a market stall, a shop, tourist office, or hotel desk staff. But occasionally we did make a purchase:

My wallet is a little on the shabby side so I made the mistake of looking at a few of the millions on display. Of course all claiming name brands in ‘genuine Italian leather’. (Before I go on, for those who are naive in this area, you need to know that in many countries there seems to be no conscience whatever over breach of copywrite or registered brand names. You can buy Omega or Rolex watches for a 50 or 60 dollars.) Anyway, I stopped to look at wallets and had any number thrust toward me for my approval and purchase. The prices are never marked so the deal goes like this: “Look sir, real leather, see!” As a cigarette lighter is applied to the wallet to demonstrate it can’t be plastic because it doesn’t melt. “How much?” I ask the young lady assistant, “300000 Kip sir, genuine Italian import.” And in case I might misunderstand the accent, a calculator is thrust under my nose with the price illuminated on the screen. I feign total disinterest and make as if to walk off. “Wait sir look, and busily types in a new figure, while I look at a different wallet. (Gucci this time) This time the price is 260000. (It’s hard to figure in my head just what the figure means but it’s not important at this point.)  I look doubtful, but she can smell a sale – and so can the other sales persons hanging around who all move closer. A more senior staff person seems to take the lead, someone who obviously the alpha male and has the authority to drop the price further. He types 200000 on the calculator and in case I missed it the first time applies an even bigger flame to the wallet. By this stage I am reasonably impressed with the resilience of the material even if I’m still doubtful about the cowhide bit. Maree rolls her eyes and wanders off to the next stall. This ups the anti because they’re watching for her reaction too, so the price drops on the calculator to 110000 with a spiel about special discount today. I recon this must be his bottom offer and make to move off again. But he won’t let it go and the calculator is pushed toward me to make my own counter offer.

walletThis is usually the second step which we had missed because, in spite of the flame resistant nature of the wallet, I really wasn’t that interested and frankly I still wasn’t so again I made to follow Maree. At this point he typed in 70000. I must say I was pretty amazed at how far the price at this point had fallen so I tried to get Maree’s attention to come back and see the latest price just for the amusement value. Misinterpreting my movement he then typed in 60000 and, well I just couldn’t resist it! 60000 Kip, that’s $8.00 for my genuine flame-proof Levi soft Italian leather wallet.

haircutThat brings me to another thing we did today. I needed my beard trimming, something I would normally do myself so, with some trepidation we entered a clean looking hair salon and in the process woke up two staff and surprised a third who was watching a ‘soapy’. Indicating, as best our limited language allowed what I needed, (and remembering that you never see South East Asians with beards, and rarely with facial hair) the lead hairdresser, with a pronounced ‘mince’ in his step, while gushing over his good fortune in having a customer, led me to the sink. While I was tying to figure out why we might need the sink for a simple beard trim he was, I am sure, fumbling to find his cut-throat razor. Maree being quicker in the uptake than me, overcame her hilarity in time to warn me I was about to loose the beard all together. Anyway once clarified I received the most fussy and neatest beard trim I have ever had.




6 responses

5 11 2009

You can go shopping for me when you ‘re home!

6 11 2009
Roger and Maree

It only works with flame resistant wallets!

5 11 2009

I read your waffle while eating my dinner and found it highly amusing!

5 11 2009
Roger and Maree

Pleased to be of amusement! 🙂

5 11 2009

Something tells me that it should be Levi Strauss, not Levis Strauss. I think perhaps it might not be the bargain you think 😉

6 11 2009
Roger and Maree

You can’t let one little rune spoil a good story. 😉

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