Spot on Alan and thanks! I ran your original past a friend who lived in Bankok for several years and he produced the reply in Thai. He likened the difference to something like that between Geordie and London English. I've heard the same parallel expressed in terms of Dutch and Belgian Flemish.
YC yeah that's right. Most Lao can speak Thai fluently, generally because the majority of soap operas on TV are in Thai. But generally the Thai can't speak Lao unless the come from the Northeast of Thailand. I speak Lao, but can't seem to get my head round Thai. Shop assistants in Bangkok find it absolutely hilarious when I speak Lao to them. It might be likened to a chinese person speak very very broad west country.
Josh - hope you had a wonderful time in Phuket, I always get a little fearful before Pii Mai, but after a few beers I get into it and just go with the flow ('scuse the pun). Yesterday was the big one for us, thousands of people lining the streets, soaking wet, music blaring and more Beer Lao than you can shake a stick at. I hope the troubles in Bangkok aren't affecting you too much, we are all sad to see the escalation.