Stickman's Weekly Column June 24th, 2001

Problems In The Naughty Nightlife Industry



Last week I closed the column with the following multiple choice question:

The numbers 14, 15, 16, 16, 17, 17 were followed by four multiple choice answers, the correct answer being answer B.

B. The real ages of six girls working in a farang orientated gogo bar in Bangkok.

Stories of high STD rates, HIV+ girls, underage girls, bar girl pregnancies, low condom usage, and girls forced to work against their will frequently appear in the Western press and each year, these reporters and journalists find a new slant to recycle such stories. One year it's AIDS, then underage sex, then indentured slavery and so on. I wonder what they will report next? So many Westerners indulging in Thailand's famous naughty nightlife dismiss these stories as irresponsible sensationalism and go about their merry way, pursuing carnal pleasure with girls who they believe do not suffer from any of these issues. After all, this sort of thing only goes on in the Thai scene and the far smaller scene that caters primarily to Westerners is free of such problems. WRONG!

Fortunately, most Westerners seem to agree that there is a line that should not be crossed and issues such as no condom use, underage girls and girls being forced to work against their will are generally considered to be on the wrong side of the line. It's a sad fact that the farang orientated bar scene has ALL of the same problems and the idea that many have that the most shocking issues are exclusive to the Thai scene is utter nonsense.

STDs: Many farangs resident in Thailand will happily look you in the eye and say, "I do not use condoms". More farangs than care to admit have had STDs that many times that they are able to diagnose what they have caught and know exactly what antibiotics to buy and the length of the course required to kill the disease. Funny thing is, these guys probably know almost as much about STDs as a GP in the West. Many of those who do not use condoms seem to believe that HIV+ / AIDS can not be caught sexually. Read Trink for too long and see what happens… While the AIDS debate is still very much up in the air, these non condom users neglect to consider diseases such as Hepatitis C that can be caught sexually and that while it may not hit you straight away, it might lie dormant for 20 odd years before coming at you hard and killing you! You can't buy a new liver at 7 Eleven!

BARGIRL PREGNANCIES: Well, it goes without saying that if these girls are shagging sans sheath, they are eventually going to find a bun in the oven, and with the Buddhist attitude of not killing anything, this little bun will soon become something a lot bigger. The number of guys floating around the bar scene who have children with bar girls is far from insignificant. What ever will happen to these poor kids? Maybe when they reach their teens they'll be recruited into a bar like the one mentioned in the paragraph above?

UNDERAGE GIRLS: What do you do when you talk with a 13 year old girl working in a farang oriented bar? You look into the girl's eyes and you see a girl who is totally confused as to what is going on, a girl who you just know is going to be screwed up mentally in a matter of weeks. The answer to that multiple choice question is not an urban myth. It is true and that bar is operating right now. Six underage girls working in a bar of around 30 or so girls is not a case of error, it is exploitation. But to make matters worse, there are folks in the bars pawing these girls, oblivious to the truth. After establishing that this girl was all of 13 years old, we then learned that most of the girls in the bar came from the same village in a certain E-sarn province. Further questioning revealed a horrible story of a girl who had been FORCED by the mamasan to go with guys who she really didn't want to go with – and she too was underage. Yet another girl was not allowed out of the bar alone. There are some seriously young girls out there working through many dark nights in Bangkok, and many of them are still children.

INDENTURED SLAVERY: It's no secret that there are indentured girls in massage parlours in the Thai scene – but they are still available to, and indeed patronised by, farangs as well as Thais and Japanese and Koreans and Chinese and…the whole world. Worst of all, there are girls in these establishments who are pressured into having sex with a customer without a condom, often by the mamasans because it has been a request from "preferential customer".

So what's the point here? Thailand is a great place to visit, even better to live – and the commercial sex industry is enjoyed by many people. But do spare a thought for the girls who find themselves involved in something that many of them actually really hate, but simply do not have the ability to extricate themselves from. Don't think that because it is the farang scene that it is free of problems. Don't fool yourself into thinking that just because you found her in a gogo bar that she is 18. And whatever you do, don't think that because Thailand's most popular columnist says that AIDS isn't spread heterosexually, that this is a fact. Spare a thought for the girls. While the scene can be a lot of fun, try to make sure that you are on the right side of the line.

The rain is starting to fall more often, a sign that the monsoon season isn't far away. Perhaps of more interest is that we are now officially into the tourist (s)low season. There are less tourists wandering around Bangkok, most hotels have lots of space and you can see it in many of the bar areas where the number of customers has dropped away significantly. Bangkok is never much of a worry when it rains as there are a million places to take shelter but down in Pattaya it is a little different. You can only walk around Royun escaping the rain so many times before boredom sets in.

An old Pussy Galore business card with price list circa 1986.
Prices have only increased 80% over 15 years, which isn't too bad.

When comparing the prices of drinks in Patpong in 1986 with now, we see that they really haven't gone up by an unrealistic amount. Pussy Galore charges 90 baht for a beer, making it 80% more expensive than 16 years ago, which represents an increase of around 3.5% per annum, which is hard to argue against. But we won't talk about the rates with which the girls prices have gone up by… If we assume that long time in 1986 was around 500 baht and that now in Patpong it is more like 3000 – 4000 baht, that's an increase of 600 – 800%. Ouch!

Wandering around a few electrical appliance stores looking for a new sound system, I note that there isn't a great deal of variety in the types of systems available. The most popular models seem to be those which double as Christmas trees, where the designer seems to have put more emphasis on lots of flashing lights than anything else. Whatever happened to those compact Sony FH series systems with punchy sound that were so popular for years and years? They are still available elsewhere so why aren't they available here in Thailand? Searching for a compact sound system that delivers good sound, and not one that looks more like the inside of the space shuttle isn't easy. I don't care if it is suay or not! Try explaining that to your average Thai appliance salesman and he'll look at you as if you have three heads.

One Bangkok based expat went down to Australia for a brief holiday recently and before he went he asked one of his Bangkok based friends if he would like any goodies brought back from Kangarooland. "Some good Australia condoms, Durex no less" was his friend's request. A week or so later, the globetrotting expat returns and hands over the boxes of condoms to his friend, Durex extra safe. His friend was most grateful. Looking at the box, he is pleased to see that everything is in English. Ah, Australian condoms, a treat! Turning the box over, he notices those three magic words at the bottom, "Made in Thailand"!

On the subject of condoms, I notice that 3 packs of Durex N2 condom have gone up in price from 50 to 55 baht. I wonder what was responsible for the price increase?

On Monday morning all over the capital, staff rooms are abuzz as expats trade their sordid tales of sin and debauchery committed at the weekend. Remember that it is seriously uncool for your reputation, and that of your colleagues, if other staff, particularly the Thais, know what you got up to. A little discretion goes a long way and someone finding themselves labelled as a whoremonger or sex tourist will lose the respect of the Thai staff immediately. It might be sin city, but you don't have to broadcast it.

Is it just me or does canned rambuttan really taste a lot better than the variety bought fresh from a market? Why is that?

Another of these new pocket sized Bangkok guides has been launched. It can be found in many hotel lobbies and this one is called "Welcome To Bangkok" and the cover states that it offers information regarding entertainment, dining, shopping, travel and hotels. I can only deduce that the guide's entertainment manager is the most efficient of all of the staff because the entire guide is full of ads for massage parlours, escorts and hostesses and little else. But what is funniest is that you can actually pick up this guide in some of the lobbies of the better hotels – hotels that discourage ladies of the night entering!

There was mention in last week's column about the mass exodus of service staff from Woodstock bar in Nana and the reason why has come to light. It seems that the manager introduced a policy whereby all tips given to the service staff, whether left on the change tray or put into the girls hand, had to be pooled so that all of the service staff got an equal share of the tips. Some of the girls in Woodstock had worked there for quite a while and some had long term customers who tipped them handsomely, in many cases 100 baht. This money was often given directly to the girl, specifically for her, not intended to be put into the kitty. But the boss compelled all service staff to put all tips into the kitty to be divvied up at the end of the night for all of the staff. Quite a few of the girls found this effected their income and they got so fed up that they left. Many of the former Woodstock waitresses now work at Big Blue bar, the recently refurbished pool bar on Sukumvit Road, not far away from the Ambassador Hotel. Incidentally, Woodstock is as consistent as ever, with appallingly bad service and fantastic food.

At 90 baht, the Sex Tourist Express (the Bangkok to Pattaya bus) still represents excellent value for money. While those of us struggling to put rice on the table baulk at the constant price increases across the capital, it is reassuring to know that just a couple of hours away, Pattaya remains the price buster's best friend.

The "Sex Tourist Express".

English teachers are always sought after in Thailand, especially upcountry. But one needs to be very careful when applying for one of these upcountry jobs with a job description which often misleads the applicant. Here is a quick guide as to what is said in adverts and what they really mean!

What they say.
What they really mean!
Low crime rate. No-one has any money there so locals make more money begging than stealing.
No pollution. With buffaloes walking up and down the main street, why would there be any pollution?
Quiet, rural location. Dirt track roads, buffaloes in the main street and you're a million miles from civilization.
Friendly locals. They smile in puzzlement because they've never seen anyone that looks as strange as you before!
Low cost of living. There isn't anything to spend your money on apart from the local food stalls!
Accommodation provided. You get the one apartment within 100 miles with a Western style toilet.
Teach six days a week. Well, there isn't anything else to do at the weekend around here!

Also for the English teachers amongst us, contrary to what many schools tell you, you DO NOT NEED A DEGREE TO GET A WORK PERMIT! From what I can gather, and this is from fairly extensive research, there doesn't appear to be any legislation stating that you need a degree to be a teacher. And if you do have a degree and / or any other qualifications, think twice about giving the originals to your school when you apply for the work permit. There seems to be a big black hole somewhere in Thailand where a lot of people have lost their paperwork. Ok if you have a degree with a university which can usually be replaced, but if the university is now defunct, as has happened to the former place of study of a friend of mine, then it becomes somewhat more difficult.

Don't you just love it when you have been hunting for ages for that almost impossible to find computer programme and when you least expect it, you stumble upon it. You buy the CD and rush home to install it, only to find that while the name of the programmes was printed on the CD insert, that programme just happens to be missing. Everything else is there, except for that single title! OK if you live here as you can take it back, but a pain if are on holiday and don't realise until you get home. Pirate software may be cheap, but often you get what you pay for.

The Bonking Baron ran out of things to say in his column so he decided to include a picture in his latest column with a gogo girl dancing and someone gazing at her from the background. If you want to see how ugly Stickman really is, that's me in the background of the picture in his latest article.

Lots of rumours coming out of Clinton Plaza about their being serious amounts of money owing on leases. It's not 100% clear but it seems that some of the bar owners stepped in on Friday to settle up the outstanding bill, which was apparently over 1.2 million baht. At the same time, some of the smaller bars had their electricity cut. As the rain hosed down in Bangkok on Friday afternoon, a local electrician stood ankle deep in the rising water with the electricity cable in his hand. With the world's biggest grin and without a care in the world, he cut the cable, oblivious to the potential dangers of electrocution.

Could the future of Clinton Plaza be in doubt?
I hope not because both Rock Hard and Dollhouse are great!

For residents, whether married or on a work permit, you are supposed to notify Immigration every 90 days with details of your current residence. In actual fact, very, very few expats do this but you can get fined for failing to do it, though again, seemingly few expats do. I hear rumours that in certain situations, folks that have not notified immigration have found that they have less rights than otherwise – but this is just a rumour and has not yet been verified. In the past one had to go down to Immigration and complete a form but now it can be done through the post and more details can be found online here: http://www.imm.police.go.th/report90.html

The Nanapong Dance contest #5 was held last night in Clinton Plaza despite all the financial problems that Clinton is apparently facing. The contest was due to kick off at 8:30 PM so I thought I'd wander in about 15 minutes earlier to try and get a seat. Bzzzz – mistake! Even 15 minutes before show time, the bar was absolutely packed – and Rock Hard Bangkok is a fairly sizeable bar. Thailand's best gogo bar MC, Big Bill of Rock Hard Phuket was flown up especially for the event and his presence (believe me, his name is apt) and his commentary and organisation added to the event, contributing to the event being run in a most professional manner.

Dubbed "The Dirty Dancing Contest", the three hours of entertainment that followed eclipsed the previous four shows all put together. The contestants were a mix of seasoned dance show veterans including the famous #33 from The Dollhouse, the winner from the last contest whose name escapes me and a dark horse, #69 from DC 10 bar in Nana Plaza who won a similar contest that was held at Woodstock bar in Nana Plaza, ten or so years ago. It started off much the same as the previous contests but some of the contestants must have thought they were required to get dirty as before too long, bikinis were discarded in favour of their birthday suits. As the night went on, the girls went wild in their pursuit of the 10,000 baht winner's purse and various accessories were pulled up on stage including beer bottles and at one time a champagne bottle, though I don't know if you could classify what they did with those bottles as dancing per se. It may have been a dance contest but at times it deteriorated into a full on lesbian show, with groups of girls from certain bars doing everything that they could to attract the judge's attention. Even the spectators were not off limits, and those nearby the central stage at times became props for the girls. While I'm not a fan of sex shows, what transpired was initiated by the girls and everything was in good taste.

As the night went on and the alcohol kept flowing, the crowd became more and more involved and it all felt more like being at the World Cup Final than sitting in a Bangkok gogo bar. The atmosphere really was that good.

While there may have been some pretty young things entered in the contest, the eventual winner was entrant #69, the lady from DC 10 bar who defied her age with bundles of energy and some incredible dancing and she brought the house down with some of the most amazing things that I have ever seen done on stage – and that really is saying something. At 49 years of age (YES, REALLY!) this lady taught the young ones more than a new trick or two and she was the deserved winner.

I had previously mentioned in this column that I thought the staging of such events every month was a mistake and that that was just too often, but judging by the size of the crowd, these events are sure to pack out any gogo bar and it may even get to the stage that they have to look for a bigger venue to accommodate everyone. It's nice to hear that they actually broke even on this event too. There were a few other bar owners present and you could see these guys excited at the thought of holding the next contest – though if I was one of the Nanapong guys, I'd give it to the guy with the biggest bar because they are going to fill ANY bar, no problem at all. Speaking with some of the Nanapong guys, I can confirm that their plans for the next event are very bold. If you were in Bangkok on Saturday night and you didn't go to the dance contest, all I can say is that I hope you had one hell of an excuse, because you missed the best night out of the year.

Your Bangkok commentator,

Stick

suay – Thai word meaning beautiful or attractive looking.

Royun – The way many Thais pronounce Royal, meaning Royal Garden Plaza, the shopping centre in Pattaya.