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Servicemembers load up on trinkets and jewelry like these pieces for sale at a market outside the Ambassador City Hotel near Pattaya, where Gobra Gold is headquartered.
Servicemembers load up on trinkets and jewelry like these pieces for sale at a market outside the Ambassador City Hotel near Pattaya, where Gobra Gold is headquartered. (Juliana Gittler / S&S)

Rubies, pearls, knockoff designer goods and the latest DVDs — an exercise in Thailand means hard work during training, but servicemembers go home with more than great memories.

“Everything is so cheap,” said Marine Sgt. Michael Clark of Brigade Service Support Group 3 from Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii. “I bought sunglasses and watches — a Rolex for my brother.”

Movie titles barely in theaters are already for sale on the street — such as the sequels to “X-Men” and “The Matrix” — although they’re not always great copies. Some are videotaped theater showings.

Clark bought one with a little surprise, he said: “You could see a guy get up and go to the bathroom in the middle.”

In addition to “The Matrix Reloaded,” Clark bought the movie “Tears of the Sun,” which “was filmed at K [Kaneohe] Bay,” he said.

Not all the DVDs servicemembers snatch up work, however. Clark found that ones in plastic seem OK. Those in DVD boxes aren’t.

“It was just the opposite for me — the ones in boxes worked and the ones in plastic didn’t,” said Army Sgt. Barbara Pennicooke, in Thailand for the second time.

Last year, only two of the 12 DVDs Pennicooke bought actually worked. This year, she’s loading up on music CDs and household goods.

“A silk robe, silk pajamas. I’ve got accent pillows, brand-name shirts,” she said. “Last year, I got some designer glasses and watches. They still work.”

According to many servicemembers, the DVDs function on computers but not always on home DVD players.

This year, Pennicooke knew to bring more cash for shopping, “because it’s so much cheaper here.” She’s got a duffel bag full to cart back home to Scoffield Barracks, Hawaii.

Lance Cpl. Ricky Boser, with the 1st MAW at Camp Foster, Okinawa, bought gifts for his family back home — mostly knick- knacks, like a wooden elephant, and T-shirts.

“I get something from each country I go to,” he said.

He also couldn’t pass up the price for new sunglasses and a watch. “It’s cheap,” he said.

But servicemembers say Thailand offers more than just shopping.

“The people here are great. The soldiers, the civilians, everyone here is friendly. They make you feel really welcome,” Pennicooke said.

Clark agreed the people make Thailand a nice place to train. He volunteered to teach nonlethal control tactics to Thai and U.S. Marines.

He found the population more than welcoming. “You can’t beat their hospitality,” he added.

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