The Bars Today: Thai Inquisitive Nature + Lady Drinks
The past two weeks Stickman weekly columns have struck a chord with me. Especially the reader's article in last week's article about why he will never marry a Thai girl but also your note about lady drinks. This contains points about both items.
I have been to Thailand many times but I am sad to say that the novelty now appears to be wearing off. Though I love the girls and having a bit of a laugh with them I am from a very reserved background and don’t feel comfortable with one sat on my knee in a bar and am not obsessed with constantly touching them or talking about bedroom activity with them.
In December, 2014, I came to Thailand for over 3 weeks and started to spot some behavioural traits that became increasingly annoying. Phuket was the worst for lady drinks and also the “vibe” quickly becoming poor in a bar. I like to sit behind my sunglasses with a beer and watch the goings on as people walk past the bars – most of the time I like to do this with my thoughts and without repeating the same conversation over and over again about what my name is and where I am from. I stayed in Phuket for 6 nights and used to visit most of the bars in Patong. I had been in one bar the night before and one girl came and sat with me and said “you want to take me now?” as her opener. I politely refused and then she backed down to “one drink for me then?” which I also refused. Later another girl came and sat with me and said exactly the same things – with the same results. I drank my beers, departed and thought nothing of it.
A few nights later I returned. This time I sat with my beer watching highlights of English football on TV. There was an exchange of words between the handful of girls in the bar (in Thai) and then one came over and turned the TV off! I asked what was going on and a with a sweep of the waitresses hair and a further Thai rant I got the impression I was not particularly welcome. I asked one of the other girls in the bar that I hadn’t spoken to a few days previous if there was a problem. More Thai conversations ensued and I was asked why I don’t take any of the girls from the bar? I explained I was just here for a beer or so and didn’t want any problems. More Thai conversations followed between the girls and this time I decided to use an old tactic. I chuckled along with their conversations. This they don’t like, I have noticed before – this completely changed the dynamic as they thought I understood Thai. They all disappeared into the back and a ladyboy sat at the front of the bar turned to me, apologised and said I was welcome in her country and bar at any time – bless her!
But perhaps the key point that amazed me the most was how much the girls in the bars appear to let wash over them. The world they live in is so small and this only dawned on me on my last trip. Their room, their phone, their bar, their customers – anything over and above that they really have no interest in or knowledge of. I noticed in a bar in Phuket that at 5 PM every day a man arrived in a truck, connected a pipe to the roof and stood around for 30 minutes or so whilst something drained or filled up – now I think it’s a septic tank that is being emptied – anyway, I didn’t know that at the time so I asked a lady in the bar that I had been speaking to a few days previous that said she had been working in that bar for 5 years who this guy was and what he is doing? Her answer? Quite simply – she didn’t know. I said to her but her comes here every day at 5 PM? She said yes I know he does. So I said to her he comes here every day at 5 PM and you don’t know who he is or what he does? She said yes, I see him every day but I have no idea why he visits. This absolutely amazed me that someone’s mind wouldn’t ever think “Who is this guy and what is he doing?” after such a long time.
When I returned to Bangkok I used to sit in Big Dogs bar at the front of Nana Plaza and watch it all unfolding, the stalls setting up and the girls arriving for work. When I go away I like to make sure I am up and out at 9 AM regardless of what time I got in the night before. I don’t go abroad to sleep or sit in my hotel room. But what I also don’t do is go into the bars and sit drinking beer at 10 AM. So quite often I would go to various bars and drink bottles of water or Diet Coke, Fanta etc. I did this every day up until around 7 PM when I changed to Singha. However, I noticed that in a couple of bars this started to become a problem for them as time wore on. In my “viewing” bars where I sit I made a commitment to myself to never take a girl from these select bars because I didn’t want any problems further down the line. This also started to become a problem later in the week! Day 2 or 3 as I was stepping into Big Dogs the waitress would say “here's Mr. Boring” then come and sit with me and grill me about why I am drinking water – I explained I am not an alcoholic and don’t want to drink beer or whiskey in the morning. This perplexed them and as I looked around the bar and the other bars, I can understand why. Everyone else was drinking alcohol!
It was quiet one day and one girl came and sat next to me, explaining it had been a big party last night and she was very tired. Would I barfine her so she could go home and sleep? I laughed it off and said no – but she wasn’t joking. She then started rolling the convincers out. Her mobile phone came out and photos of shots, her and some random farang, everything, I should feel so sorry for her and she desperately needed to go home and sleep. Again, I said sorry but she’d have to battle on.
In the evening I returned to Big Dogs and ordered a beer. A more mature lady came and sat with me and I bought her a drink as I had spoken with her previously and she was good conversation. The girl from earlier that afternoon was sat just behind us and not happy I had engaged another lady even though she was already sat with a customer. The more mature lady sat and told me stories about the farang regulars, their behaviour, the girls they like – all very interesting. I then asked her about the food on the stalls, what it was, how it was cooked etc. She told me some stories about the girls that wait outside Nana Hotel, what they will do, prices, how much they make etc. We had a decent conversation for about an hour or so. Because of this I decided to have another beer. As she got up to get me another beer I noticed the girl from earlier that day was now sat alone as her customer had left. As my beer was coming over she stood up, stopped the lady that had been keeping me company and said to me, “Oh, you drink beer now?” I said yes it's evening now I will drink beer – then a big rant followed – every day you come my bar! You sit here and drink water! You never want to party! You never take girl from this bar! Now I hear you yak yak my friend and ask her many questions!! For what?! For what!?! – I apologised to the more mature lady and said I am sorry I didn’t realise I was hassling you. She kind of shrugged, put my beer down, picked up her drink and walked off. Then the girl from earlier that afternoon came and sat with me – why do you want to know all this? You ask my friend many questions, I hear you. Are you police? Why do you want to know about stalls, about girls, about bars, about farang – why you ask so many questions about Thailand? I slid my Singha out of its tube, and by this time it was nearly empty. Earlier in the day I had told the girl I went to Soi 5 last night and had a few drinks there. I paid up and left, a little traumatised in all honesty as she shouted, “Go to Soi 5 again because Soi 4 doesn’t want you!”
Later it dawned on me – I think it's unusual for these girls to meet someone so inquisitive. It isn’t their nature and day to day it isn’t the nature of 99% of the men they meet. If you’re asking questions over and above the standard discussions about drinking or bedroom activity YOU are considered the weird person!
As a follow up to that and also your reader's letter last week, one of the things that frustrated me on my trip was the constant repetition of the same conversations but even when I found a nice girl and chose to stay with her a few days they never really offered anything in conversation. One night I said to a girl in Phuket what do YOU want to do tonight – as we’d previously done things I wanted on the tourist zones and perhaps naively I thought she was going to bring up some little gem backstreet restaurants or something. Her response? “Up to you.” I said, No I asked what YOU want to do tonight, it's not up to me, you decide – her response? “Let's go to my bar.” I think I genuinely sighed. I think they are afraid of offering up an opinion or saying something you might not like in case you decide to drop them on a whim and take another girl – ultimately I guess it’s a situation we have created for ourselves!
Once I got my work phone out and started to look at e-mails. Cue immediate bargirl suspicion “Why you have two phone?” I explained one is my personal phone and the other is for my work – I think ANYWHERE else in the world the next question would have been “what is your job?” or at very least the Thai classic “what do you do?” but no – she got her own phone out of her back and fired up Candy Crush!
I am afraid we are witnessing an industry in what I think is terminal decline.
I have been steadfast in my comments in recent years that the industry has deteriorated markedly and has now reached the point that being in the bars is often not very enjoyable at all. Unless you are a guy with a very high sex drive and are looking to barfine someone, you are so drunk that you don't know what's going on around you, or you're showing around mates from home or people who have never seen it before.
I don't like what it has all become. The attitudes are dreadful, comments are openly hostile, confrontational even – and you don't want to be drawn into confrontation in this country, especially in the bar environment. For me it has a struggle just to spend time in the bar areas now. And I am not the only one – I get a lot of notes like this…