Energy drinks

In the 1990s, one of my farang bosses was concerned by the curious behavior that Bangkok taxi and tuk-tuk drivers had of making quick stops into little shops and coming back with a small brown bottle. At first he was worried that all of the taxi drivers in Bangkok were alcoholics and he declared that employees that need to travel in taxis must wear seat belts. Eventually, someone told him that the little brown bottles were not alcoholic drinks, but they were energy drinks. He was intrigued by these energy drinks and some of the girls in the office made fun of his interest, telling him it was a drink for taxi drivers, not high powered businessmen.

Maybe back then they didn’t realize that a European partner would help make Red Bull (gives you wings!) a leading brand name in more than 100 countries and the Thai owner of Krating Daeng (Red Bull) would soon be included in every “world’s richest” list. In Thailand, it was not only taxi drivers that drank this. Late night partiers mixed energy drinks with their alcohol, keeping them going all night (back when the bars were open all night). The energy drinks are also used by many Thais as a hangover cure.

These drinks are packed with a combination of vitamins (mostly B-complex vitamins), caffeine, and other ingredients that are known for boosting energy and mental alertness. I don’t think that any of the ingredients are dangerous but I also believe there is such a thing as too much of a good thing so I am cautious about using energy drinks. I’m pretty sensitive to caffeine; a nice cup of green tea is enough to keep me happy.

14 responses to “Energy drinks

  1. The American version of Red Bulls in the silvery cans is a LOT tamer than what you get in the brown bottle.

    Before the silver can landed here, Red Bulls were novelty for dot com programmers. We used to buy the imported brown bottle Red Bulls from Korean drugstore on 3rd Street Promenade, next to their ginseng drinks.

    The original label in Thai reads something like: Do not exceed 4 bottles a day. American distributor slapped on an English warning label that said: Do not exceed 2 bottles a day. I thought that was kind of funny.

    And then, the silver can becomes available everywhere especially in the bar mixing with vodka. And it just took off from there.

  2. Is YaKult (I think that’s how you spell it) an energy drink as well? Maybe this is the “office” people’s energy drink since they even make deliverys to the office. Why is is that you can only have one per day? Is it really ya= (medicine)?

  3. Yakult is Japanese and it means yoghurt. It is not an energy drink, but it helps with digestion because it contains lactobacillus (friendly bacteria), which helps destroy harmful bacteria. I don’t know if you can only have one per day, but I guess one per day is supposed to be enough to help maintain a healthy digestive system.

  4. Hello from Canada!

    I tried the RedBull in the silver can. I was very dissapointed. With all the hype I thought it would be something great but I felt very little change in my energy level and the taste was not welcome. I’ll try the imported glass bottle next time I find it. Bawls is a good energy drink, I like it because it doesn’t taste so foul!


  5. I don’t think that any of the ingredients are dangerous

    Folks in Europe think otherwise. Sweden banned serving Red Bull in establishments that also serve alcohol, while France and Denmark implemented an outright nationwide ban on this energy drink.

    In fact, Red Bull, M-150 and the rest of these “wonder-drinks” are synthetically produced pseudo-drugs with adverse physiological effects on the body; but because of the millions of dollars involved, few countries bother looking at these side-effects seriously.

    Now, I couldn’t care less if some folks make an informed decision to forgo their own health for a short-time energy boost, but as the matter is now, their decision is hardly “informed”. 🙁

    I don’t feel sorry for people who just drink it to pull an all-nighter in the bars and dance-clubs (som nam naa), but for the folks who need more energy for work, study etc. and are lead to think that this “miracle-drink” is the answer.

    a nice cup of green tea is enough to keep me happy.

    Same here, Nal. Thanks for the blog… 🙂

  6. The Red Bull drink has been around here in India for an year. everytime I go to buys something, it struck my eyes. And typically since its evening after office, I am tired, and tempted to pick one. But I always gave it a skip. Not sure of the worth of packaged stuff! So, I was brought up to believe. But I did not know it originated in Thailand. Else, I would sure give it a try.

    Recently, we get a lot of stuff from Thailand and I always pick a sample of it, for kicks. A few days back I picked some canned coconut water… and it tasted awful. Not like true conconut water at all. But the snacks are real tasty and tangy!

  7. Firstly I have been consuming these energy drinks in Thailand for about six years. I find them in the hot mornings more suitable than coffee. No visible side affects but many people say beware. They have been known to assist in heart attacks. Mainly from people drinking them all night with alcohol. AS for the taxi drivers stopping in shops….the boss got it right. Yaa dong and lao kow{rice whiskeys} . 20bahts worth please! It’s poured from the larger bottle into the empty brown energy drink bottle. I would have to say if a man comes out of a little Mama and Papa shops with one of these bottles it’s more than likely a bottle of whiskey. I also found an increase in the sales of this drink when the yaa baa{speed} was drastically reduced in the society. These drinks are a lower class affair as the marketers approached the Thai boxing scene in a huge way and started with this market. The sport is loved by more so-called lower class people.

  8. Actually, your boss’ original perception that the bottles drunk were full of rice whiskey was also quite right.

    Rice whiskey is bought by retailers in large bottles and then siphoned off in re-usable energy drink bottles.

    Most of the stuff is awful and is favoured by the alcoholics cause its so darned strong but cheap. Rice whiskey sold in small energy drinks bottles sell here in Suphan at 15 baht.

    So, may be the next time you think you see someone drinking a Red Bull when he is in fact drinking rice whiskey.

  9. One more comment here.

    Your right, the founder of Red Bull is Thailand’s richest man alongside Thanin Chearavont of CP co. (7-11). Only these two guys according to Forbes are Thailand’s only US dollar billionaires.

    Do you know of any other country besides Thailand where the wife of the prime minister is the richest women in the country?

  10. I seen the red bull also in Jakarta, the same there, drank by taxi driver, trucks driver and etc..

  11. As far as I remember, the small brown bottles are called something like Lipo-Vitan

    Chok dee

  12. I prefer Guru energy drink, more smooth BUZZ!

  13. Hi, just I wanted to ask trangam, where in India, this drink is available. I never find any ads of this product here in India or any shops selling it.

    If u know it is available in India please let me know it.

  14. ‘Folks in Europe think otherwise. Sweden banned serving Red Bull in establishments that also serve alcohol, while France and Denmark implemented an outright nationwide ban on this energy drink.’

    I don’t know about Denmark, but last time I was in France they still sold it everywhere. The import regulations are worse.