Well, here we go, the first ever issue of my new column, the Stickman Weekly. This idea has been sitting in my mind for over a year, but only now have I decided to actually go ahead with it. This column fills a gap in my site whereby I can report on the comings and goings in our favourite metropolis, but without having to insert info or new into the main area of the site that will date quickly, or that is merely topical. Not only will you get my thoughts, ravings and rantings about life in Bangers, I'll also throw in a few pictures each week too.
Let me know what you think. I'm endeavouring to publish the new column each week, some time on Sunday, Bangkok time. Any feedback can be directed to the usual email address: firstname.lastname@example.org Don't worry, nothing from any emails received will be published here without first seeking the sender's permission.
If you are a local resident or happen to find yourself in the City Of Angels and know of any interesting things going on, please do let me know as my eyes and ears can only travel so far. We'll just have to see how this all goes, and how the column develops. If people think its crap, then I'll stop doing it. If I feel that I am unable to make an honest effort at it, then down it will go. Having said that, I really am committed to making it work.
Burger King Siam Square has disappeared off the face of the earth. This land mark at one of the busiest places in the city is now but a hollow shell. One day it was there, next day it was gone. Pissed me and a friend of no end one day when off we went for a greasy burger lunch and low and behold, Burger King had gone! Still, we jumped on the 54 bus up to World Trade and then went for a stroll up around the corner on to Petchaburi and past Panthip before we hit the BK Pratunam branch for our helping of grease. So Burger King seems to still be alive, but the Siam Square branch seems to be history. I wonder what happened? High rents? Lease run out? Or is this just the latest in the Tricon / Pizza Hut / Pizza company / Bill Heinecke saga? It doesn't look as though they are renovating as all of the Burger King signs have been taken away as you can see from the photo here.
Ye olde Burger King, Siam Square branch.
What will it be transformed into? Pizza Hut perhaps?
On the subject of Siam Square, is it just me or does that loud speaker system that fires out the latest pop hits right across the entire Siam Square area get on your nerves too? The other morning I had staggered out of bed and was wandering through the myriad of sois in Siam Square trying to find my bank, all the while being forced to listen to Ricky Martin screaming out about something or other. I can see what they are trying to do with this sound system, attempting to create a sort of party atmosphere for the chic Thais who dominate Siam Square but really, sometimes one is just not in the mood to have Ricky, or whoever else, forced upon them – especially not much after 9:00 PM in the morning after a Heineken or two too many the previous night.
What is going on at the Thermae? Everything seems incredibly unclear and visits to the Cheap Charlies favourite underground den of inequity, including several questions fired at the staff came up with absolutely nothing. At 2:30 AM each and every day, the house lights come on in the Thermae, giving the indication that the bar is closing, or even that it has closed. The sensation is not dis-similar to the lights coming on at the end of a movie and you get that feeling that while five minutes ago they were happy to have you, you are suddenly no longer welcome. A few of the local boys in brown, proudly resplendent in their uniforms with the words POLICE conspicuous by the fact that it is displayed in English, wander through, but don't really seem to do anything. A good percentage of the girls leave, as do a few of the guys. The favourable ratio of more women than men, suddenly swings the other way and anyone who is in the mood to misbehave suddenly finds at least ten other sets of lecherous eyes on the girl that they are talking to. Interestingly enough, for those with a few baht in their pocket, drinks can still be bought, no problem at all. However, the moment is lost as the brighter lighting suddenly allows you to see that the exotic Asian beauty that you had been considering misbehaving with is not quite the stunner you thought she was. Aware that you are looking at her in a different light (pun very much intended), she is at a loss to describe your sudden loss of interest and wonders if a ghost has crept in with the police and is responsible for her apparent bad luck.
On the subject of the coffee house with the bad coffee, a friend was in the Thermae the other night and took some lass back to his apartment. The fellow admittedly had had a lot to drink and when he got in door of his apartment, he just conked out. He later woke up to find that the wicked wench had stolen his mobile, his CD player, a watch and a sizeable amount of money. Don't lower your guard with these girls as there are a few bad nuts out there who will fleece you at the first opportunity. I guess this proves that given the chance and the temptation, these girls can be opportunistically light fingered and that perhaps there is some value in meeting girls from a proper bar establishment where if a problem is experienced, you know where to go back and find them. The girl involved will no doubt do a great disappearing trick and not be seen for a while. But she will resurface eventually, and if he sees her, she is going to get a shock. But how many other guys will she fleece before then? The closest pawn shop to her apartment will no doubt be doing a good trade!
Scala in Siam Square Soi 1 is in my mind, Bangkok's best cinema. It's a real cinema with a classic staircase leading up to foyer area where one can find ornate wall carvings and murals along with some fancy chandeliers. The price of tickets is only 80 baht and as the cinema is getting on a bit, it (fortunately!) doesn't appeal to the young, chic crowd who want computerised ticketing, an air-conditioned foyer area and young trendy ushers and usherettes with colourful hairdos. Without the crowds, you don't get the gossip during the movie and the inevitable use of one's mobile phone. Anyway, just opposite the cinema, I notice that Dunkin Donuts has set up a new branch right next to the existing Mister Donut branch and that Dunkin Donuts is due to open soon. Donuts don't seem to be big sellers in Thailand so in the donut wars, who will survive?
The battle of the donuts and the battle for the movie
goers loose change in Siam Square.
The baht continues to slide, hitting 45.6 to the $US at Friday's close. Folks just arriving will love it as will those local expats who are paid in the king of currencies, the almighty greenback. But what about the other expats? No-one knows what will happen but the general consensus is that it will slide a little further – and if Prime Minister Taksin, who is currently up before the Corruption Commission gets the boot, then it could really start to go. And if he does go, could it be that Chevalit returns to his former throne? He seems to be waiting in the wings and has not been shy to raise his profile. Back to the baht, 50 is the magic number on many people's lips and the prediction of 50 baht to the $US by September have been heard several times this week. While the $US continues to soar against all major currencies, a lot of the expats who took early retirement and dumped all of their retirement dosh in the NASDAQ are looking remarkably green at the moment. This time last year they were over the moon, talking about doubling their monthly spend as the NASDAQ hit record high after record high, but now the very same folks seem to be in hiding, hoarding what little they have left after the NASDAQ has turned their lifestyles upside down. There is a lesson to be learnt here if early retirement in Thailand is your goal.
Songkran is coming next week and the exodus of expats queuing up to jump over to a neighbouring country and avoid this mad celebration is getting longer and longer. I don't care what anyone says, in my opinion, Songkran in Bangkok is most definitely not sanuk. In the provinces and at the beach resorts it's a complete different story however. In the capital, expect to see a few farangs who don't know the meaning of jai yen to go berserk and lash out at the well wishers, the results of which could be most interesting. There will be some excellent opportunities for video footage and photos during this "festival" but make sure that you have a very sturdy, waterproof bag to protect your photographic equipment. And at this time of year, totally disregard the Thai way of wearing trousers and a shirt as a way of dressing politely. A singlet, a pair of quick dry shorts accompanied by that Thai fashion favourite, the 39 baht pair of flip flops, will suffice in most places over the few days of madness. Call me a spoil sport but I hope that like the last couple of years, it rains at Songkran.
I had to make it out to our glorious international airport twice this week, to pick up a couple of friends who were flying into town to party hard at the super cheap prices that the baht affords them. The second time I had to go out there, khun kup rot imitated Mario Andretti and got me there in record time. Take my advice and never ask a taxi driver how fast he thinks the taxi can go… With my early arrival to the airport , I had stacks of time so just went for a wander in search of a newspaper and a bite to eat. I had the misfortune to witness the truly horrible site of Mr Sex Tourist X 5 saying goodbye to his little tee-ruk. A couple of the fellows just sat there looking drab, there minds no doubt fast forwarding to their return to work in less than 48 hours. One fellow actually had a smile on his face and was firing off shot after shot with his digital camera, doing everything to build up a library of memories of this little Isaan love machine. The final two were the problematic fellows, at least problematic as far as I was concerned. One had teary eyes and the other was downright howling. All Thais within a short radius gazed at these gentlemen, both who were somewhat elderly. Now perhaps I got it all wrong and they had just received bad news from home like someone had died, someone had been diagnosed with a serious illness or perhaps they had just found out that New Zealand had lost a rugby match, and thus, the tears were warranted. I'll have to remember on my next trip out to the airport to take a few Stickman Bar Girl Investigations business cards and hand them out to these potential customers.
Stephen Leather (author of "The Solitary Man" and "Private Dancer" amongst many other super thrillers) and Jake Needham (author of the thoroughly enjoyable "The Big Mango" and "Tea Money") can be met at Bookazine branches on April 21st. They will be in the Bookazine Sukumvit branch, which is located close to soi 5 from 1:30 – 3:00 PM and will be at the Pattaya branch from 4:30 – 6:00 PM. Let's hope that they don't get stuck in traffic on the way down!
DTAC continues to assault the city and the company's adverts can be seen just about everywhere, most notably on the Baiyoke 2 tower! Why is it then that no-one seems to be buying a phone and getting it hooked up to their network? Although it may be digital and I would have therefore thought similar to the GSM network operated by AIS, there seem to be very few farangs signing up to the system. Everyone tells me that DTAC is no good and that when using a phone connected to the DTAC network, the clarity is not at all good. Can this be right? I always thought that digital is digital and thus it would be clear. Comments are welcome from those in the know regarding mobile phone digital networks. In their efforts to seemingly blanket the city with an advertising campaign covering every last little nook and cranny, I have been unreliably informed that their advertising manager will be contacting me to place a banner ad soon…. I mean, where DON'T you see their ads?
Your Bangkok commentator,