Gladrags to Handbags

Mekong River

Think before you drink, before you write….The average Thai village girl looks upon a visit to the big city shopping mall as a rare treat, window shopping, a low-cost meal and a discounted sale bargain being the order of the day. An iced coffee and a food stall snack make the bus journey home the perfect end to their big city excursion.

WeaponryA village girl’s wardrobe is mostly made up of cheap designer copies bought at local markets and in Issan country many of these wash friendly items come from over the border in neighbouring Laos and its partner in mime China.

The Thai city of Nongkhai has in the past had a well trampled route made by tourists and expats on visa runs to Laos. Nongkhai sees many farang come and go, ebb and flow, like the Mekong river that separates the two countries. Has the visa run taken the fun from the Nongkhai smile, too many hello’s and goodbyes, pooying mee yim noi. Beyond The Mango Juice replaces à la carte with talart (market)and with a bucketful of baht heads to Nong Khai and its famous Tha Sadet Indo-China market on the banks of the Mekong River.

I’ve never fallen in love with Nong Khai, sure she’s prettier than her sister Udon but where’s the smile. She’s a bit like the good time girl that everyone had, have your fun and get out before the sun rises and the neighbours turn their backs on you once more.

Tony, Maloney and only the lonely…..You don’t care about a broken heart or a marriage ripped apart….You won’t do dat to me.

The Indo-China market lacks a smile but from gladrags to handbags it has it all. Souvenirs, clothing, watches, woodcraft, jigsaw or dinsaw, you name it and they’ve probably framed it, plus enough weaponry to make a Colombian drug baron calculate his sums.

Boy oh boy, dog and soi….You ain’t no glamour queen…..Cheap perfume on a faded costume…..Jaded and paraded, you never kinda of made it…..Stop dreaming, you ain’t for me.

Fish restaurantThe market is one long stretch and from Boules to jewels it’s all there. The handbags and shoes are the jewel in the crown for the women and whilst for the men the fashion might only turn the heads of the dead, there’s plenty to lure the baht from the fat wallet. 

I love the carved woodcraft and have bought many figurines for our village home, but if you can carve a smile on the lips of the mainly Laos and Chinese descendant pitchers then you’re a better man than me.

The echo from the gecko, says you’re from the ghetto…..A botox wreck in a spray on dress…..An officers mess and SAS…Sweet and Sour….You ain’t got no power over me.

Food is a focal point of any large Thai market and the Indo-China talart has a handful of excellent fish restaurants. We sat down to  a meal of banin (fish), prawns, spicy salad, spring rolls, a mound of salad , sauces and dips, which in no way could we finish. accompanied with a bottle of beer and nam plao (bottled water) our bill came with a pasted on smile at under 600 baht. With a view overlooking the Mekong River and Laos it was worth every hard-earned baht.

At four in the morning, you’re kind of boring….A wench with the stench of whisky and fags….Gladrags to handbags…..I’ll leave it at dat.

Footnote….I’m having problems at the moment with my internet access and I will get back to your wonderful blogs ASAP and also reply to your much appreciated comments.



I'm a sixty-year-old Englishman living in the town of Swindon in rural Wiltshire and I have a real deep desire to retire in Thailand one day. If you don't have a dream then you won't have a dream come true.

12 Responses

  1. Mike says:

    Martyn you are clearly enjoying your break! Whenever I have visited the Mekong I have always stood in awe at how big it is and the colour of the water as well.

    I take it your bucket was less full on your return since I am sure WW got a few treats.

    Mike’s last blog post..A Thai Boy and the Premiership.

  2. Cross Nongkhai off my list of possible alternatives to Chiang Mai to live, then!

    Great blog, really conveys the smells that are not always Chanel’s, the unsmiling glitz that’s not for the more sceptical Brits.

    But now that they have put the tax up on ciggies, what else do they sell in the Nongkhai market that you’ve been smoking! 😉

    Pete, FrogBlogger’s last blog post..That old chestnut… farang men, Thai girls

  3. Hoo Don says:

    Pete I’m one that leaves that sort of smoke well alone, fags, booze and gambling are enough for me, but as always excess is my downfall. Nong Khai is a sweet city but it never seems to have that ultra friendly Thai feel. Too many people coming and going.

  4. Hoo Don says:

    Nam tan always seems to be the colour and yes as always WW had a few treats to take home. The bucket takes a lot of emptying up this way, it’s so cheap. Will catch up with all your blogs on my return to England, will pop in here as and when I can. Best wishes.

  5. Didn’t realise you were heading back soon Martyn, have a good trip. One of these days we’ll catch up somewhere in LOS…

    Pete, FrogBlogger’s last blog post..Thai sense of humour?

  6. Catherine Wentworth says:

    ‘Think before you drink, before you write…’

    Along those same lines… ‘write drunk; edit sober’, by the late great Ernest Hemingway.

    I’ve never been on a visa run to Nongkhai, but it sure is an interesting read you’ve given us 🙂

    Catherine Wentworth’s last blog post..Quick & Dirty Thai Language Learning with Myke Hawke

  7. Hoo Don says:

    Catherine – I think you would like Nong Khai if you love handbags and gladrags, it just seems a little hollow to me, I much prefer Udon Thani. Thanks and you’d best get back to your dirty Thai talking.

  8. Martin In Bulgaria says:

    I must say I am always impressed with the Thai food I see on tables and your menu choice is no different. I agree wtihn others, you seems to be in your element there and your break over too quickly. One day, one day!

    Martin In Bulgaria’s last blog post..Bulgarian Graduation Party – A Family Affair

  9. Talen says:

    Sounds similar to my experiences at the Mukdahan night markets…not much smiling going on and lots of comings and goings.

    Talen’s last blog post..Mekong Bug Invasion

  10. Catherine Wentworth says:

    ‘dirty Thai talking’

    There won’t be a dirty word in the whole bunch (I don’t know any 🙂

    Catherine Wentworth’s last blog post..Quick & Dirty Thai Language Learning with Myke Hawke

  11. john says:

    the market in nong khai is just for show with the od novelty but most of all cheap Chinese toys that break down after a week
    forget the market head to the Vietnamese restaurant on the river front great food great setting
    another stone cold sober post well today anyway s

  12. Hoo Don says:

    John I think I know the Vietnamese restaurant you are talking about as Wilai often gets food from there to take back to the village. Thanks for the read.

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