Sep 03 2011
As much as a complimentary foot massage, free cookies, and a wide screen at Siam Paragon sound appealing, sometimes you just want to watch a DVD from the comfort of your own bed. There is no Blockbuster, Netflix, or Hulu in Thailand, and WiFi, even at its prime, can be as slow as a food vendor pushing her noodle cart down the street.
Bangkok dabbles in a variety of unchaste industries, one of its more benign being DVD pirating — though it remains illegal, and there are occasional raids and crackdowns, traders still do a roaring trade. Do remember that if you buy a pirated DVD, artists don’t get any money from your purchase, and customs in your own country may question you importing such goods, even for private use.
MBK, the electronics haven (…or hell) of Bangkok, is the prime spot for pirated DVDs, including movies, TV series, and software. Amid the bedazzled iPad cases and phones shaped like hot dogs on the fourth floor, are many stores with inventive names like “Magic 2” and “Magic 3”. Hanging from the ceiling, on the wall, and across the table, are thousands of empty DVD covers. Don’t be deceived by the vast inventory – many are duplicates or generally fall into one of two genres: Katherine Heigl in a bridesmaid dress or Denzel Washington with a gun. Dig down deep enough, and you may very well find a pregnant Ellen Page or a teary-eyed Zach Braff.
Buyers pick out their movies (typically 1 for 100 baht, or 6 for 500 baht) and pay, and in return are handed a very unofficial-looking slip of paper with the name of their movies. They come back 15-20 minutes later, and voila! DVDs are fresh out of the DVD burner and ready to join their permanent collection. Quality varies and in general, one gets what one pays for.
MBK is located at the National Stadium BTS station, directly off exit 4. The complex is open daily, from 10:00 until 22:00. www.mbk-center.co.th/th/
On the street
Interspersed throughout Bangkok and under most BTS stations, including Nana, Phrom Pong, Victory Monument and Ari, are table vendors with DVDs and music for sale. The DVDs are already in their boxes (ahem, I mean plastic bags), so there’s no waiting required, and they charge 60 to 200 baht per disc. Buyers will often bargain, but quality may be sub-par. If the movie is still in theatres, those in the know wait until it’s past the official release date: a sneak-peak version may look like it was filmed on an iPhone, and have the sound of some guy munching on popcorn as part of its soundtrack.
If you want to err on the safe side with quality, or have a personal stake in protecting intellectual property rights, B2S is the legal place to go. The stores are difficult to avoid; there are 37 in Bangkok proper alone, most in Central and Big C department stores. Taking a very long series of escalator rides to B2S on the seventh floor of Central Department Store at Chit Lom, I found a generous selection of both Blu-ray and Hi-def Hollywood, Thai, Korean, Japanese, and British films and TV series, including a shelf dedicated to the Harry Potter franchise. Most films are either in English or offer English subtitles – check the back of the box. While at MBK and on the street DVDs are priced equally, in B2S they are priced according to their release date and level of obscurity. The prices are steep, at around 300-500 baht a pop.
B2S is located at most Central Department Store and Big C locations. The biggest franchise is at Central Bang Na. Hours are 10:00 until 22:00. www.b2s.co.th
Mangpong may have monopolised the DVD and CD industry of Thailand – one haunts every mall and BTS station in Bangkok. Their wide selection is comparable to B2S, with a noticeable surfeit of kitschy documentaries like Food, Inc. The prices range from 200 to 300 baht per movie, and 600 to 800 baht for TV series, but look out for “buy 5, get 1 free” and “buy 9, get 2 free” deals on releases past their prime. If you’re loading up on your personal collection of James Franco movies and spend more than 2,000 baht, remember to get your VAT refund upon leaving the country.
Mangpong is located inside the Chit Lom and Phrom Pong BTS, on the fourth floor of Central World Plaza, on the second floor of Siam Paragon, and plenty of other locations. www.mangpong.co.th
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