Buying a monkey in Thailand is apparently cheaper than buying a Meatloaf album on vinyl
Editor’s Note – Ominocity’s good friend Geraldine Sparklehorse is currently situated in Thailand or thereabouts writing for some pan-Asian newspaper. She submitted this story on record collecting in Thailand, which sounds both amazing and frustrating. Read on sucka foo…
In the land of $1 street food and $2 beers the size of a Big Bear one would assume that all of the vinyl collector’s dreams could be fulfilled in Thailand.
After two months in the madness of Bangkok it was easy to find cheap gems like the swumbrella (both a sword and an umbrella) to shield me from foes and rain and Valiam X (valium knockoff drugs) to help recover from Changovers (Chang beer has 6.4% alcohol) all while spending less than I would in a few weeks in Saskatoon. I began to assume that maybe the packages I sent home shouldn’t be full random weapons and mystery drugs but instead could possibly be full of cheaply priced vinyl. Tellingly, I was very, VERY wrong.
The vinyl treasure hunt began by consulting a very reputable source, Dr.Google. Quickly I was shown the underground hotspots of vinyl collectors and even a fellow employee (Mr.X) had posted on forums. Much like Nicholas Cage in National Treasure (not National Treasure 2) I took my secret map from Mr.X, drawn not on the back of the Declaration of Independence but on an old napkin found in the lunchroom, and hit the malls.
I had been told of one mall famed for its computers, pirated DVDs and its music. After a quick trip on the packed subway trying to go against my character and appear demure beside a monk, I took a breath of the freshly dieseled air outside the mall. Unfortunately it was not an area of town frequented by tourists and was lacking in the usual ‘you stupid tourist’ English directions that are quite necessary to help me find out which of the seven floors packed with shops would bring my vinyl delight. I did eventually find the tiny cluster of vinyl stores packed in the back corner of the top floor.
My heart beating and my palms sweating with the anticipation of cheap finds I gleefully opened the door to the first store. I flipped through the first bin… they should have changed the name from A to ABBA because that was all I could find. The rest of the alphabet was not giving much optimism and my excitement waned until I came to the M bin. The beautiful cover of Bat out of Hell by Meatloaf finally distracted me from the shoulder pads and thick mustaches that had graced the previous covers. Although I am not the number one fan of Meatloaf there is a lady in Saskatoon whose celebrity crush is that luscious man who had boobs in Fight Club. I figured it could be a good gift to send home until I flipped it over. It was 2,500 baht – that is $81! As I struggled to close my gaping jaw I decided to try a different store, they couldn’t all be asking absurd amounts for overweight heart throbs from decades past.
Like National Treasure I couldn’t be dissuaded from my plunder that easily. But each store took away more and more of my Cage strength with the most absurd polka albums, operas that should be forgotten and British acts that didn’t make it to North America for a reason. The occasional album would jump out as one you might pay $5 for at a garage sale but each price tag showed no less than $50.
With the weight of defeat and Irish frugality weighing heavy on my shoulders I was ready to take the 30 escalators to the ground floor until I turned around to see a Joy Division reissue staring at me from a window. I walked in and felt that finally I had found my treasure. Neil Young, Willy Nelson, Wilco, and even Snoop Dogg screamed my name from every corner. Queue the credits…
I walked out empty handed.
A quick phone call to Mr.X confirmed my concerns, in this land where I can probably buy a monkey for $100 I would have to shell out even more for decent vinyl. I asked Mr.X if it was like this everywhere.
“You can go to Chinatown, find some vinyl for cheap. You won’t be able to read the cover or recognize the artist, chances are it won’t play and it’s usually worse if it does,” he said.
I wondered how do vinyl stores survive in Bangkok if you can order it much cheaper online.
“I guess I am a sucker,” said Mr.X. “Plus half the fun of collecting is searching for it.”
My vinyl guide was right. So I spent a beautiful day trapped up in a mall to walk away empty handed but it was pretty exciting. Seeing employees with ridiculous knock off shirts that say “Sid Pistols”, listening to people wail bad Clapton covers on beat up electric guitars, and seeing that still to this day there is a market for pirated Celine Dion CDs or CDs in general was a proper Bangkok experience.
Just like Nicholas Cage in National Treasure I have learned more lessons from the journey than the outcome.
Lesson #1: Don’t buy vinyl in Bangkok, just order it online.
Lesson #2: My friends need to expect way less awesome gifts than previously promised.
Lesson #3: I need to stop eating in restaurants where they play Nicholas Cage movies nonstop.