Ubon Ratchathani Shopping Combat Zone Alternative

When I first came to Ubon Ratchathani there was no Tesco Lotus. All shopping for food items was done at the local markets, Tops (on the ground
floor of Robinson’s), Yang Song Wan, or Makro.

Then on February 8, 2000, Tesco Lotus opened on Chayangul Road to much fanfare. That day it seemed the entire population of Ubon was present on the grounds.

Since that time Lotus has served me well. It has been mostly convenient and carried most of the items I wanted or needed. All was offered at a reasonable price.

Thus began a love-hate relationship. I loved being able to go there and get most of the things on my shopping list but also hated seeing the total at the check-out.

Not long after Lotus opened Tops at Robinsons started fading and it didn’t take long for it to take its final breath. It didn’t help much that not too long after the birth of Lotus Ubon Ratchathani another child came along, Big C.

Time passed and I spent most of my shopping time and money at Lotus. But lately I have been noticing a change of feeling and attitude when I find I must go there. It has been more like entering a combat zone than a pleasant shopping experience.

I used to drive my motorcycle for a quick in and out activity. But no matter where I parked when I returned to my transportation it had been surrounded and my escape blocked. Getting out of the parking lot was like Mario trying to
cross the street. I have since taken to walking instead.

The parking lot is now occupied by hostile forces. Excessive amounts of motorcycle parking and vendors. When navigating the parking lot there is a constant threat of scuds and snipers camouflaged as scooters and autos.

The pedestrian safety zone at the entrance should be a no-fly zone but I feel like I am there for moving target practice.

Enter the store and walk along the hall it is like MIG Alley with vendor ambushes waiting for you to come along. The only way to survive is pick up the pace and stay alert.

As I make my way to the main battlefield I am constantly watching out for the armored personnel carriers that bare a striking resemblance to shopping carts. There are also the supply trains that could be easily mistaken for pallet jacks.

While on patrol for the targets I have identified I try hard to ignore the ongoing psyops (psychological operations). There is Tesco Rose, usually broadcasting from her bunker in the deli. She has lung capacity the size of Thailand and can go for five minutes on one breath. Loud and long is her battle cry.

Working in conjunction with Tesco Rose are the Bakery Boys and Tesco FM. Their strategy works. They often are able to penetrate my brain forcing me into a hasty retreat, oft times even before I complete my mission.

Another threat I have learned to look out for are the mine sweepers. The tool is made in the likeness of a dust mop and is implemented with haste and focus. Though the intent is to find hidden mines they have been known to find my combat boots.

I am jubilant when my patrol has ended and I am making my way to safety. On my way back to camp I always say a prayer of thanksgiving for
surviving yet another patrol behind enemy lines.

I got to thinking there must be a better way to restock provisions than this.

Then I remembered that City Mall and Sunee Grand Hotel had opened Fresh Mart in the rear area. When it first opened it was no much more than an oversized 7eleven. It would be a waste of time to head there for planned shopping.

That was months ago. On a recent recon I noticed that the facility had expanded. They now carry fresh produce and a a selection of fresh meats.  Be advised that the meat department though it has beef, pork, and seafood is dominated by chicken and chicken products. This is good intelligence.

A rear exit was opened and just before that entrance exit are two check-out stands. What this means is I can make my way to the rear parking lot and be a few meters away from being inside.

Once inside there are few hazards. I found I can enter, complete my mission and be out in minutes. That, in addition, to being able to drive my motorcycle there in less time than it takes to walk to Lotus are huge pluses for me.

Fresh Mart is not the universal shopping  solution but it is an alternative  place to stock up on certain provisions. You do lose some selection and some prices are higher but you gain peace of mind and have a more pleasant experience. I am always looking for ways to make living in Ubon better.

If you have had similar shopping experience or feelings when you are trying to get your shopping completed at Lotus you might want to consider Fresh Mart and give it a try. Stay alert, stay alive.

Wish all who visit and read a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year from Ubon Ratchathani, Thailand.

Comments

  1. Great post. That describes my experience at Lotus every time. Shopping at the end of the month when everyone gets paid is even worse than described above. ha!

  2. Michael Hare says:

    Nice to read your blog again Darwin after a very quiet period.

    For foreigners living in Ubon we have never had it so good in regard to choice of supermarkets and big stores. When I settled permanently in Ubon in 1994 there was very little choice, and most of the small mini-markets offered the same sort of thing. All supermarkets in the 3 larger stores, Ying Yong, Ubon Plasa and Sakun Thai offered the same sort of goods as did Yong Sa-nguan at their big store in the old movie theatre near the river. The latter had an underground car park!

    Robinson bought into Ying Yong, changed the shop with Ubon’s first escalator, Tops opened on the ground floor and Makro opened up. Makro’s opening saw huge crowds coming from all over southern Isarn.

    And it was here that Mrs Sunee made a pile. She owned the Makro land. Sold it for about 20 million baht to Makro (also earned a friend of ours at Krung Thai bank a nice retirement commission as he engineered the sale). From there Mrs Sunee was able to expand her chicken businesses and of course we know she owns the Sunee complex.

    Lotus opened up and then Big C. In the past few years Yong Sa-nguan has upgraded its group of Saveland shops to compete with the big stores and 7-11.

    So where do I shop? I have never encountered the problems you experience Darwin but then I drive a car. I don’t like Big C Ubon because of the congested area to get up the escalotors, the dark smelly fumes in the carpark and the very loud music in the shop. It is over 2 years since I been to Big C Ubon. I have never gone to any of the shops etc outside Big C because of the crowds.

    But I like Big C Warin because it is convenient for me to pop into on the way back from the university and it is never crowded. I go to Lotus because it always has what I want to buy. I often go early (8am) on Saturday to Makro for certain items that only Makro has. I frequently pop into Yong Sa-nguan on Changsanit Road (next to PTT petrol station) because it is very convenient and close to my home.

    The only major complain I have about Lotus, Makro and Big C Warin is that they don’t open enough check-out counters. It really annoys me because by going early in the morning I can breeze around in 15 minutes only to be held up at the check-outs because only 3 are open. I have complained about this many times to managers and the reply is more will be open shortly!

    I haven’t been to City Mall or the Sunee store. I try to avoid Chayangkun Road as much as possible. I make a list when I go shopping and if I am not out in 20 minutes I get annoyed. I certainly don’t like the SK shopping centre.

    In summary, Ubon is a much better place to live in these days because of the range of goods the large Big stores have bought into the city.

  3. Micheal,

    It’s good to be back. Thank you. It took me some time to correct my technical difficulties. Finding the answer was the hard part. The process of the fix was simple and easy.

    Thanks for the Ubon history as usual. I was here when Makro was the only show in town and was normally crowded. You sound like me. Don’t do shopping for enjoyment, just want to get in, get your purchases and get out. I have heard that Big C Warin is nice to shop but it is not convenient for me. Glad you have a solution to shopping hell.

    Thanks for the comment.

  4. Jon,

    Thanks for reading and thanks for commenting. It is good to know I am not alone in my experiences. I was thinking maybe it is just me.

    Hope you come back and visit soon.

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