The Latest Adventure
Having just returned from my 17th tour of duty in Thailand over the last 12 years, several experiences I had are worth mentioning in the Stickman reader submission forum.
Firstly Thai Airways:
My numerous experiences with Thai Airways have up to this date been quite mixed however this occasion I think the poor service is worth a mention. The McDonnell Douglas MD3 is not a particularly impressive plane but it generally does the job, except in this case the MD3 was not equipped with stewardess call bells on the passenger seats. I have never been on a plane that did not have a stewardess call bell on the passenger seat. Even the prehistoric propeller driven planes from Bangkok Airways have a stewardess call bell on the seat. And speaking of seats I found that no matter what I did my seat would not stay in the upright position, it would always slide back to the declined position and the back of the chair was crookedly bent to one side which made it incredibly uncomfortable. This situation was particularly annoying when meal times came around on the full flight. I was considering complaining to the apathetic flight crew about the problem when half way through the flight I looked around the cabin and observed that nearly every row had a number of crooked seats in exactly the same off-centered position as mine!
I should also note that the passengers boarded the plane at the usual time from 30 minutes prior to take off but we were left sitting there on the tarmac for what seemed like an eternity and the plane did not take off until 25 minutes after the scheduled departure time. I am a very experienced traveller and I know this is par for the course and I know that I should just squeeze into cattle class, shut up and prey that my bags meet me at my destination. I expect to encounter hassles in the air but I also expect to be kept informed about the situation. In true Thai fashion no announcement was made about the delay or the reason for the delay or how long the delay might take and what passengers should expect. In fact the only announcement forthcoming was a very brief message from the co-pilot once we were airborne that lasted about 10 seconds. He welcomed us aboard Thai Airways International and hoped we enjoyed the in-flight service (in our broken seats) but made no mention of the reason of, or apology for the delayed take off.
Thai resorts are a ghost town:
I have a great deal of experience traveling to the resort and entertainment areas of Thailand and I have never seen it quite this deserted ever (no matter what the TAT claims). I even traveled to Thailand 6 times in the last two years, also during low season and at the height of SARS and the Iraq war and I just can’t understand where everybody has gone. Does my memory serve me correctly? I gotta stay off that Red Bull / Vodka / Heineken cocktail I think. Bangkok’s red light districts were all empty of sex tourists (I used to be a sex tourist and probably will be again in the future), Phuket was the worst and Samui was not far behind. Even the full moon party on Pang Gang was less than half the usual 15,000 partygoers that make the monthly pilgrimage (you could actually get accommodation on Pang Gang and didn’t have to sleep on the beach as usual).
In Patong Beach the bars and clubs were teeming with very high quality talent and if I was single then I could have feasted on the multitude of available Thai women. At 11pm I would walk down an alley with perhaps 2 dozen bars full of 80 to 100 women and I would find less than half a dozen farangs drinking there. I have seen a lot in Thailand but I would go so far as to say I found it to be shockingly empty. I cannot begin to guess the reason for the lack of tourists in the Western frequented areas of Thailand. Perhaps SARS, chicken flu & terrorism or perhaps the effects of the government’s social order policy are finally beginning to take their effect: who knows? (one thing is for sure: TAT doesn’t know). I am highly doubtful that it is just due to the low season.
It seems the governor of Phuket has decided that enough is enough and he has turned his nose up at the government’s closing time policy. Phuket parties all night every night way past 2am until the early hours. So Pattaya is not the only place where the government’s policies are having little effect on the nightlife. I should also add that I managed to rent a room in an amazing hotel for a fraction of its regular price. We received excellent standards of service at 1250 baht a night for a hotel in a prime location that should have fetched more than double that amount. I also noticed that this particular hotel’s occupancy rate would have been below 30%!
On our third night in Bangkok (Tuesday 25th May) we were getting sick of being kicked out of Q Bar at 2am with a half finished 220 baht Bacardi Breezer, so we hooked up with a few of the trendier locals and they escorted us to an after-hours illegal club. The club was a four level club with 2 dance floors and pool tables on another level. It was a genuine club rather than a brothel / massage parlor with drinking area but it was fairly makeshift and was a fairly low budget operation. By 3am the club got rather busy and I noticed that most of the Westerners looked to be in their mid to late 20’s or thereabouts. As to be expected there was a number of freelance girls who pursue these types of farang men, there was also a number of regular Thai guys & girls in their mid 20’s. I also noticed that the DJs CD player skipped on average 2 to 3 times per song which I found particularly amusing because it seemed that by this stage nobody could really dance in time with the music and nobody really noticed anyway.
Half an hour later at precisely 3:30am high spirits were suddenly dampened when about 50 police raided the club in a SWAT style bust. The police took it very seriously and had the place shut down and sealed up in a matter of minutes with all the patrons stuck inside like sardines. I had to laugh when a couple of minutes later the cameras rolled in. There were news crews everywhere and with bright lights on they stuck cameras in everyone’s faces. Many patrons objected to the exposure but there was simply nowhere to go to escape. The next thing I observed was the police removed the club’s DJ equipment and sound system right before our very eyes. This club was being shut down permanently.
We were moved to the lower floors whilst the upper floors were sealed off. This was a stupid idea because the lower floors became very cramped and with their low roofs they became hot and stuffy with little oxygen. Downstairs on the ground floor the police were conducting urine drug testing and with the camera crews in full swing the police were in no hurry to make the process speedy and efficient. Women were permitted to take the test and leave prior to men and I had to wait over 90 minutes before I was allowed to take the test.
During this 90 minute wait in extremely uncomfortable conditions I was not thinking particularly kind thoughts for the police or the government that controls them. I thought to myself that this was the government propaganda machine at its best and I couldn’t take the situation seriously. Whilst stuck in the queue I constantly pushed and shoved and shouted anonymous insults at the police and other punters some distance ahead of me. On numerous occasions tempers flared up between different groups for whatever reason and I did my best to agitate the situation.
When the cameras were around I tried to jump in front of the camera and as they turned from side to side I stayed in front of the camera so that they could not see anything but me poking my tongue out in front of the lens. Then I would sneak up behind the camera operators and continually bump into them whilst they were attempting to film or I would just tickle them and force them to put their camera down. I am a very big 6ft 2” farang and nobody was going to argue with me. Some guys got pissed off at me but most of my fellow inmates found my antics hilarious. I have had a lot of experience with mentally unstable people and I spent most of the time acting like a deranged manic person in a heightened state of reality. Pacing back and forth talking gibberish to the police and others around me. I don’t know why but I just felt like doing it, I guess subconsciously it was my means of protest at the government’s inhumanity to its invited foreign guests.
When I finally got to take the test I was given the all clear but I looked carefully around and observed that out of a club of approximately 200 patrons, 17 Thai women were found to be positive and 9 Farang men were found to be positive. What was even more interesting was their respective ways of dealing with the situation. The Thai women simply sat around on chairs and chatted happily amongst themselves and appeared quite unperturbed by their predicament. However the 9 farang men positioned in the corner (in the sin bin) put up quite a protest. The numerous camera crews spent a great deal of time filming these shamed evil men and they grew tired of trying to hide themselves from view. It was interesting to observe their negotiating technique with the police. The police tried to ignore the men so on an individual basis the men continually made quite a scene until they got some police attention. The men generally talked down to the police and I could see there was no respect for the Thai police. They generally acted as a larger more “superior” European would act when they come to colonize the inferior Asian race. I don’t think it would have mattered how the farangs dealt with the police, one way or another they were going in the back of the police wagon down to the station, but not before the film crews had got their footage of the spectacle.
It was after 5am when we were finally permitted to leave the club. I did not enjoy my McDonalds breakfast that morning but then again I never enjoy McDonalds breakfast no matter how drunk I am.
The Majestic Suite Hotel
Majestic Suite Hotel is probably the best kept secret in Sukumvit. It is a 5 year old very well appointed small luxury hotel located conveniently between Soi 4 and the Landmark. They are actually in the process of building a similar 150 room hotel down past the Marriott which will be finished later in the year. The hotel is owned by two Indian businessmen and is managed by their two sons. I emailed twice and spoke once directly with Anan the owner / manager to confirm my reservation for 5 people in 3 rooms arriving at 11:30pm on the specific date. At their request I even provided my Visa card details to ensure there would be no problems. But this is Thailand and nothing ever goes according to plan. We arrive at the hotel precisely when we said we would and the lady behind reception says that we cannot stay because she has no rooms available. She never once uses the word sorry and I just can’t understand why Thai people never seem to have the ability to empathize with another person’s misfortune. They only seem to care about themselves and their family and nobody else.
I look on the hotel computer and I can see clearly my name and reservation in front of her. I ask the receptionist what has happened to the rooms and she says they were given away yesterday. I asked her why they were given away and she says she does not know and she cannot help me. It also amazes me how Thai people have no compunction about looking you dead in the eye and telling you the most outright dishonest lie. So we had no choice but to accept our defeat and move on in search of another hotel. If you can’t trust an internet hotel booking with credit card at an established classy hotel in Bangkok then what can you trust
Recently Stickman opened his weekly column with a piece about ladyboys. In response I wrote a letter to him which he posted in the following week's column. In my letter I wrote that whilst I was no fan of ladyboys, I still believed in their right to exist and express themselves as they wished. They may be a morally degenerate freak show but we are all immoral in one way or another.
After my recent holiday in Thailand I am not feeling quite as sympathetic towards ladyboys as I previously was. On my first visit to Thailand 12 years ago I noticed many ladyboys and every trip since I have notice more and more ladyboys pop up around the place. It is getting to a point where ladyboys are taking over certain areas but I don’t really mind this because there are always new hidden untouched areas to discover and there are always plenty of genuine real girls to go around.
On my recent trip I traveled with my girlfriend and a number of other friends, we had no intention of having anything to do with the ladyboys and did not anticipate any contact with them whatsoever. What happened was that nearly every night we came in contact with aggressive, obnoxious and hostile ladyboys through no fault of our own and in every case the ladyboys were antagonistic, abusive and looking for trouble. We all experienced this kind of offensive behavior from ladyboys all over Thailand, even my girlfriend was subjected to aggressive insults on two separate occasions thru no fault of her own.
I am really left a bit speechless by my recent experiences with the ladyboys of Thailand. I find that you cannot look at them in any way whatsoever. If your eyes happen to meet then you must smile nicely any quickly look away. Any other reaction to a ladyboy could lead to confrontation. I find that if you are genuinely interested in engaging the services of a ladyboy and want to chat them up then they are extremely friendly and attentive, however if you come across a ladyboy and she guesses you are only in Thailand for the regular women then the ladyboy will not be polite or civilized towards you in any way. And if you dare say a word out of place of show any expression that the ladyboy does not like then she will make a complete scene then and there.
I also noticed that ladyboys tend to be far more aggressive when they are in a group of their friends and have support. When they are on the street by themselves they tend to keep their head down and stay quiet. I generally find that ladyboys hunt in packs but on their own they are rather timid. I am a big guy and I am not afraid of a pack of angry enraged ladyboys but I didn’t come to Thailand to get into fights with ladyboys who want to throw bottles at me and yell at everyone about me and tell the security guards lies about me to have me barred from my favorite club for the duration of my visit.
I assume part of the problem is that ladyboys are a bit mentally unstable due to the overdose of hormones and many ladyboys do other mind altering drugs which can also lead to bouts of paranoia. I also think that the ladyboys think it is “trendy” or cool to act aggressively. They think it is cool to make a scene and they enjoy the attention. Ladyboys are a minority group in society so I guess they feel the need to assert themselves so they do not become exploited or oppressed. And part of the problem is that ladyboys are just fuckwits. What sort of idiot grows tits and puts on a dress?
I found on my holidays that subconsciously I was trying to keep away from ladyboys and if a bar or club had too many ladyboys in or around the area then I felt uncomfortable and often decided to leave. I have decided that the ladyboys do not deserve my patience and understanding. I am no longer as tolerant of the Thai ladyboys as I once was and I think I will be joining the long list of farang men who only speak badly of ladyboys and consider them to be revolting. As far as I am concerned ladyboys are just a pain in the arse.
On two occasions I was forced to call in the assistance of the Thai police. Both instances had remarkably different outcomes. In Phuket a travelling companion of mind put a minor scratch on the faring of his hired Honda CBR900 motorbike (everyone knows that you need the power of a CBR900 in Phuket). I estimated the damage to be 1,000 to 2,000 baht worth and was anticipating a bit of a friendly argument with the owner of the hire business but eventually we would agree to that fair price. The belligerent owner had other ideas. He wanted a ridiculous 12,000 baht and also claimed that we were responsible for some of the other scratches that were on the bike prior to our hiring it. The owner would not budge on the price and would not give back my passport so I reluctantly had no choice but to call in the police. <Panel and paint work in Thailand is VERY cheap so this price is outrageous – Stick>
Every time I throw a piece of rubbish away in Thailand I have got six cops on my backside demanding a 1,000 baht fine (including this holiday) but when I need a cop to help me there is never any to be found. Eventually I found a police officer directing
traffic on the other side of Patong beach and to my surprise he dropped everything and came to rescue immediately. He spoke reasonable English and he explained on the way back to the hire operator that the police spent far too much time dealing
with these unscrupulous hire operators who constantly ripped off the tourists. He went on to say that if tourists kept getting ripped off then they would not come back to Phuket. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing and I thought I was
on another planet or perhaps in a parallel universe where things actually happen the way they should in Thailand and people actually give a shit about one another.
When we reached the dodgy hire operator the officer wasted no time in rectifying the situation. The hire operator recited his bullshit story about how we damaged his “special” bike and it was his own personal bike etc. The officer just looked at him and said give me the passport. The hire operator had no choice but to hand the passport to the officer who looked over it momentarily then handed it to me and asked how much did I want to pay for the damage to the bike. I said a few thousand baht was more than fair and the officer turned and looked straight at the hire operator who had no choice but to accept this compromise. I put an extra thousand baht in the officer’s hand when I shook it just before we left. He certainly was not expecting it but he sure did deserve it.
My second run in with Thailand’s constabulary did not have such a happy ending. Upon arriving at Koh Samui late in the evening we booked a hotel at the airport from the tour operator hotel agent. We explained to the agent in detail that we wanted to book 5 nights accommodation but we planned to travel to Koh Pangang half way thru then return to Koh Samui to complete our 5 nights. We even had the agent call the hotel while we waited to confirm that this was possible. The following day the weather was miserable so we decided to travel to Koh Pangang and we went to the reception at 2:30pm to check out. They insisted that we pay a second full day because it was 2.5 hours after check out time. We said that we were prepared to pay a late check out fee and we would be coming back for the rest of our 5 day stay. This had no effect and the manager insisted we pay a second full stay because he said the room could not be let out again that day and the cleaners had finished. This was total bullshit because the cleaners are there full time and the hotel was only about 30% full. I said to him that we had already organized to check out and come back later in our stay and do you know what the manager's answer to this was? “You organize that with agent, not with hotel”. I tried to explain to him that he had empowered the agent to act on his behalf to make a contract but it was falling on deaf ears.
This wasn’t getting us anywhere so we decided to call the police. After an eternity the two most apathetic police on the island turned up and after we respectfully and delicately explained the situation to them. They turned to us and said paid the hotel bill in full or come down to the station. I said no problem I will accompany you to the station but they said “No. Everybody to the station”. This included all 7 of our party including girls. Clearly the cops were going to make us sweat it out at the station and it was going to take all day to get some justice. So we said bugger it and paid up for the second night.
A few tips for dealing with Thailand’s police:
Obviously keep your cool.
Speak slowly and carefully.
Act deliberately and no sudden aggressive movements.
Only speak when spoken to.
Do not stare out the police.
The police will try not to resolve the situation, they will try to encourage the two parties to seek resolution amongst themselves.
If the cop takes your side and assists you then discreetly hand him 1,000 baht when you shake his hand as he is leaving.
If the cop takes the other person's side then there is not much you can do. You can take it back to the police station and hope that there are more sympathetic cops back there but this usually takes all day and isn’t worth the effort.
When the Thai dude (your adversary) launches into his rave with the cops about his side of the story he is usually lying his arse off and telling the cops you were very rude to him etc. It is a good idea to interrupt his flow a few times and try to derail his attempts to smear you with his dishonest lies.
The Nana Plaza money exchange booth
You can never trust the money changers in The Philippines, Cambodia, Vietnam, Indonesia or Macau. Up until now I have never had any troubles with the Thai money changers until I visited the small money exchange booth at the front of Nana Plaza. The mid 30 year old lady short changed me 1,000 baht on the transaction and when I counted the money I was furious she had even attempted such a scam on me. When I caught her out she immediately corrected her deliberate error and gave me an extra 1000 baht. Once she had paid this money to me I began making a huge scene right there and then in front of the booth. I was yelling and screaming at her with all the bargirls and onlookers watching in disbelief. If the lady in the booth was innocent she would have been violently angry at me in response but she knew she was in the wrong and she just sat there and looked the other way trying to ignore me. I kept at her for about 2 or 3 minutes shouting insults at her through the glass and she just said nothing. Hopefully she will think twice before she tries the same trick again. <I have heard MANY complaints about this particular exchange booth before – Stick>
Koh Samui beach hawkers
There is no nice way to put it. There are simply far too many beach hawkers on Koh Samui. I accept these poor people need to make living somehow but when I get asked every five minutes if I want to buy an ice cream from the same ice cream dude then enough is enough. I would estimate that I get hassled by these pesky would be salesmen at a rate of more than one per minute. By anybody's standard there is simply too many of them. It doesn’t help that the beach is not very busy because that increases the ratio of salesmen to beachgoers. It also make s the salesmen more determined to sell you the Zippo lighter regardless of whether you smoke or not.
Bangkok Airways charges 6,500 baht for a one way BKK-Samui 45 min flight.
Bangkok Airways also charges a 400 baht airport tax because it is a private airport owned by Bangkok airways and only Bangkok Airways planes are permitted to land there.
It is the only domestic airport I know of in the world that charges an airport tax.
Bangkok to Hat Yai in the far South is exactly double the distance as BKK to Samui and the plane actually flies nearly over Samui to get there.
Air Asia airways charges 3,200 baht for a one way BKK-Hat Yai 1.5 hour flight.
The TAT is spending a lot of money promoting Koh Samui and Bangkok Airways certainly is cashing in on it. Koh Samui is the equivalent of a money tree for Bangkok Airways.
Apparently next year there will finally be some changes to the airport fee structure on Koh Samui but I will believe it when I see it.
I feel embarrassed to tell you that I bought some DVDs from street sellers in Thailand. I don’t even know why I bothered to because I have a DVD burner and I can copy anything I want back home. I actually bought 11 of the latest DVD Hollywood movies and they were all dodgy copies that had been recorded with a video camera by some guy who has snuck it into the cinema. You can even see the audience heads bob up and down and you can hear the talking and giggling throughout the movie. I think pretty much all the latest release DVD movies on sale in Thailand are recorded this way. If the DVD is a copy of an officially released DVD then its quality is usually still quite poor anyway. Commercially released DVDs are 9 Gig double layer discs but the Thai copies are always 4.5 Gig single layer discs with only half the memory space. This means that they have all been digitally compressed to fit on the single layer copy disc and the compression method used is usually very poor quality. Often the disc is only half full of data (perhaps only 2.8 Gig of data) and the movie has been very heavily compressed. It really is pointless to watch any of these copy DVDs particularly as the 5.1 Dolby surround soundtrack is non-existent. I would recommend that you don’t ever waste your money on these dodgy DVDs because they simply aren’t worth the 140 baht that they charge you.
I came to realize a strange phenomenon about young farang women who make it to the Thai islands for a holiday. You’re really gonna laugh when I explain it to you. It seems to me that when farang girls come to Thailand their jealousy, bitchyness and spiteful conceited ways are exponentially multiplied. Every time we hooked up with a group of single white European females (I had a girlfriend so I was just a spectator) the guys would do some ground work and talk some fancy talk and buy the girls a few drinks. Now we are on an island far away from home but a girl's friends will not let their sister forget that she must at all times maintain her virtuous ways. What happened night after night is that my male friends would automatically try to pick up the best looking girl of the bunch provided she was amenable to their advances. When things started to get a bit steamy the girl’s jealous (and usually ugly) friend would intervene and prevent the situation from reaching the bedroom.
On one occasion a Belgian girl interrupted her friend and my friend kissing passionately on the dance floor of Green Mango and actually dragged her friend out of the club, insisting that she was too afraid to go back to her hotel to sleep alone (she had other friends who could have helped her with her problem). On another occasion my friend and an English girl were on the beach together after the bars & clubs had closed. They were getting into it on the beach when the girl's friend came upon them and decided to throw a tantrum then and there on the beach in order to break up the action. I should have shoved a firecracker up her bum.
There really seems no limit to a farang girl’s jealousy and in the end my friends usually had to settle for local girls because they were far less trouble. The guys all wanted to shack up with European girls on the islands but it just wasn’t worth the effort and the problems. I often hear European girls complain that they can’t compete with the local girls for the affections of men on Thai islands. Personally I think these confused misguided women are their own worst enemy.
On this particular trip to Thailand I was traveling with a large number of friends including my girlfriend. At some points there was over ten of us and we always went everywhere together. When it came time to meals we dined in many restaurants all over the country. We dined at over 40 restaurants in 2 weeks and never once did the waiters or waitresses manage to get the order correct and serve us the food we asked for until the very last night. It was 5:30am in the restaurant downstairs in Nana Hotel where 9 of us stumbled through the door in a pissed state and demanded to be fed. Nana has a new menu and the prices have increased somewhat (which tends to happen in Thailand when business isn’t too good) but it’s the same old décor and trashy environment. At least in Nana they know that most customers are not expecting breakfast menu at 5:30am in the morning, unlike McDonalds who expect you to eat a stupid egg McMuffin when you are dieing for a Big Mac to finish off a good night.
It had been a memorable holiday and we had a flight to catch in a few hours at 8:00am so we only had time for a quick bite, perhaps a buffalo burger or a rubber gristle steak. The waiter turned up to take our orders and I was feeling quite confrontational so I told the little fellow that if he could get our order correct the I would give him a 200 Baht tip (reasonable incentive I thought) but if he got it wrong then I wasn’t gonna pay for my buffalo burger. The cocky little waiter was up to the challenge and do you know what? He got the order perfect to the very last request. I was happy to pay him his well earned tip because the experience taught me that Thai people are not stupid and they can get it right when they really want to.
Thailand is not as much fun and not as good value as it was 5 to 10 years ago but it still represents good value and for a number of my traveling companions who were experiencing it for the first time, I saw the feeling of Disneyland for adults in their eyes just the same as I had 12 years ago on my first venture to the East.
The first timers spent the whole of the flight back to Australia making plans and discussing itineraries for the next trip to Thailand. I have noticed that they also can’t get their body clocks back to normal and a week later they are still getting up at 2 in the afternoon. They are not used to jet-lag and time zones. They also promised prior to the trip that they were not going to fly on planes with propellers, they were not going to ride drunk on motorbikes with no helmets and they were not going to shag any locals without protection. Needless to say they broke every rule without any encouragement from me.
Funnily enough a week after our return to Australia I asked them all what was their most memorable part of the holiday…the girls? The full moon parties? The markets? The food? The people? The motorbikes?……Answer: FIREWORKS! Every night they blew Chaweng beach apart with earth shaking fireworks and this represented the single biggest expense on the holiday. These crazy guys individually spent more on fireworks than the cost of the air fare getting to Thailand.
Great report, but in many ways, this is damning to Thailand. There are countless complaints in it and frankly, few compliments. Operators in the tourist centres of Thailand had better pull their socks up or else the farangs really will stop coming….but then in their minds, it would be the farangs' fault of course!