Stickman Weekly 1/7/2001
We are now officially into the tourist low season, the time when folks from the northern hemisphere holiday locally rather than trek all the way over to tropical Asia only to find the rain bucketing down. In the time that I have been in Thailand, things have slowly got busier and busier, as the number of tourists to Thailand increases along with the number of expats residing in the city, but at the moment, things seem very quiet.
What is happening at Nana Plaza? During week nights, things seem unusually quiet there. Imagine walking around Nana Plaza at 9:25 PM and into three of the biggest and most popular bars, Fantasia, Playskool and Rainbow 1 and seeing that not one girl had been barfined in ALL three bars! Not one! Imagine walking into Rainbow 1 and seeing less than ten customers – and more than 70 girls dancing, all looking frustrated at the lack of customers, the lack of possible candidates to take them home. I've never seen it like this before. Cowboy and Patpong are quieter than they were a couple of months ago, but not to the extent that Nana is.
Nana Plaza bar owners will deny it but there has been a definite swing from Nana Plaza to Cowboy. Sure, Nana still gets more punters than Cowboy, but Cowboy is getting noticeably busier. Quiet season in Cowboy usually means things are really quiet – but for now, there are still plenty of customers around. For the past few years, Nana Plaza has been the expats favourite bar area, but it feels as though Cowboy is slowly catching up. Why is that? Probably several things have contributed including some Nana bars increasing their drink prices and a noticeable decline in the attitude of staff at Nana. On top of this, Cowboy is no longer a collection of grotty old bars like it was a year or two back. There are the recently refurbished bars like My Lady and Bacarra and then there are the bars where the staff have a great attitude like Tilac and especially Midnite Bar, currently my favourite place to drink.
The Plaza Entertainment Complex off Makkasan Road caught fire on Friday afternoon and caused traffic chaos as fire engines fought their way through the nightmare of Friday rush hour traffic to the location of the blaze. At around 5:00 PM, a friend passing by on his way home said that there were four fire appliances in attendance and another one stuck in traffic but an article in the Bangkok Post the next day said that the fire was attended by twenty fire engines. It's probably just as well that the fire happened when it did as if it had happened at night when the place was busy, who knows how many may have perished? There were no casualties.
A piece of sheer brilliance from one of my students this week. Given a brief writing assignment about his family, the following is an excerpt from the work that he submitted – and it has not been edited in any way. Needless to say, this 15 year old got a top grade for his piece!
English teachers take note. There was an advert in this week's Bangkok Post from Go Chulalongkorn looking for native speaking English teachers. The salary was listed as a minimum of 33,000 baht which on the surface does not sound that special until you read the fine print, that you only have to work two days, Saturday and Sunday. Given that many teachers in Bangkok barely make this much for a five or sometimes even six day week, this is a more than reasonable salary. And it is exactly double what one unscrupulous school over in Thonburi is offering. That school is offering 16,500 baht per month for a six day week… I dare say Go Chulalongkorn will be fighting away applicants.
A reader emails me saying that Ansell condoms bought in Australia are also made in Thailand, just like the Australian Durex. What about other countries? We can probably assume that condoms bought in New Zealand are also made in Thailand, but what about Europe and the States? Would it be cheaper to make them in Thailand than in those markets too?
I received the following email and possibly against my better judgement decided to fulfil the girl's wishes…
Friends of mine tried two of Thailand's lesser known dishes this week. The first tried duck fried noodles with rubber band and the second tried pork fried rice with whole eggshell. I guess that these must be two specialities of the house because I have never seen them anywhere else. Perhaps the great thing about these two dishes is that while the fellows concerned didn't order the extras with their dish, they were included free of charge!
The latest edition of Lonely Planet's guide book to Thailand is now available in Bangkok but at 995 baht, (200 baht more expensive than the previous edition) it is one expensive guide book! Flicking through it briefly, it's hard to say how much has been changed from previous editions, which themselves hadn't been updated in what seemed like a long, long time. I had a quiet chuckle when I read Joe Cummings's words of wisdom about the internet which read something like, "while there may be a lot of sites with information about Thailand, many of them have paid advertisements from websites where you can book hotels and tours and therefore you should take their info with a grain of salt". Obviously Joe doesn't realise that unlike his guidebooks which are often out of date by the time they appear in bookshops, it is websites that have the most to date information all without the need to comply with the editor's and publisher's guidelines. Sorry Joe but it is the websites that tell you how it really is – and that's what people want to know. The Lonely Planet Guide is still useful, but for folks living in the Kingdom, or anyone with a recent edition, I can't see any reason to buy the latest edition.
Articles appeared in Thailand's two major English dailies this week about how the police would be visiting the Siam Hotel. The Siam Hotel is located on Petchaburi Road, close to a lot of Thai style massage parlours and is known as a late night pick up place where massage parlour girls go after work, looking for some extra trade. The articles also mentioned that some housewives and even some students may be found milling around, hunting for a few extra baht. The two newspapers gave slightly different reasons for the police visit. The Nation quoted a policeman as saying that the comings and goings at the coffee shop at the Siam Hotel are ruining Thailand's reputation! Really? Obviously, the hundreds of thousands of people that walk through the Patpong night market each year don't notice that the market is adjacent to what is possibly the world's most famous sex for sale location. The Bangkok Post took a slightly different slant and quoted a policeman as saying that neighbours in the area found the area had complained that the area was very noisy at night! Hmmm, why is it that I can't see many apartment buildings or houses in that area? Maybe because there aren't any! The reasons for the police visit mentioned in each paper seem a little unlikely and one can only deduce that the good folks at the Siam Hotel coffee shop forgot to pay their ummm, errr, what do you call it? Tax, that's it! They forgot to pay their local tax…
Chatting with Christopher Moore in the Thermae, he says that he is currently working away on his seventh Vincent Calvino novel and it is due out towards the end of the year. Let's hope it is as good as his last book, "Chairs" which was excellent.
Amongst all of the other beauties, there used to be two really pretty girls working in Fantasia Bar in Nana Plaza. These two girls were really attractive but were also a lot of fun to chat with. About a month or so ago, they just disappeared from Fantasia and I thought that they had joined the growing number of girls who had been rescued by the Knight in Shining Armour – or should that be the Farang with a Big Wallet? Well, I discovered that they hadn't left the scene but had moved to another bar. Strangely enough, it seems that these two girls moved to Playskool because they didn't like the new uniform – the one I mentioned a couple of weeks ago as being a cracker! They didn't like the new uniform so much that they even took a pay reduction to move to the new bar – and for a Thai bar girl, that is really saying something.
In response to my piece last week about people who do not use condoms, a reader writes that herpes and warts are the STDs that the bareback riders need to look out for. No doubt if what this reader says is correct, more than a few folks will be worrying for a few more years as they examine their private parts every morning, looking for a sign that one of the dreaded non curable STDs has arrived. Incubate for years? Now that is scary… Wake up your bareback riding fools!
years without any symptoms. These never go away and I bet 90% of the girls have one or the other. I know a few married folks who learned the hard way.
Posters have been erected at the BTS stations stating that people about to get on the train should allow passengers to alight before they attempt to get on. These posters will have about as much effect as the signs saying that STDs can be caught from unprotected sex and I bet most people won't take any notice.
Get ready for the stampede as passengers try to get off the sky train
as others fight their way onboard in the rush to get a seat.
So many foreigners live in Sukumvit Road. They live their entire life there and don't go anywhere else. They live there, work there and more often than not, they party there too. They are easy to spot. Where do you live? Soi 55. Where do you work? Soi 24. Where do you party? Soi 4. Anyone farang who answers a question just with soi followed by a number is one of the Sukumvit clan. Don't they realise that there is actually life outside of Sukumvit Road?
From July 5th, the Telephone Organisation of Thailand will start making its changes to telephone numbers in Thailand. Numbers will become 8 digits and when dialling, you have to precede the number with a "0" and the area code, even if you are within the local calling area. So for example, if you are in Bangkok and the number you currently dial is 555-5555, it will change to 02-555-5555, the "2" being the new. There will be an interim period of 3 weeks when dialling either number will work, but after that, only the new number will work. So, if you were thinking of getting any business cards printed, think about printing the new number. And if you are calling your little teeruk from abroad, don't worry if you can't get through because no doubt the number transition will be fraught with problems.
The latest from the Woodstock file – and they must really hate me there – is the sign outside that says "special – Cheeseburger and fries only 115 baht". The funny thing being that the regular price as stated in the menu is, guess what, 115 baht – and has been for a long time! And asking for the special gets the waitresses really confused!
The latest from the Thermae file – just what time does it close? On Wednesday, the Thermae was emptied out at 2:30 AM, and the lights turned off. Could Bangkok's reputation as a true 24 hour city now in jeopardy? Funnily enough, that very same night, Bottoms Up Bar in Nana Plaza was still going AFTER 2:30 AM with the girls dancing and beers still available. All other bars in Nana Plaza had closed for the night.
From August 1, the cable TV provider UBC will increase their monthly charge by 190 baht. The reasons for the increase in price have been quoted as the decrease in value of the baht and the regulations that state that they are not allowed to screen any advertising and are therefore missing out on potential revenue. Many folks seem to be upset about this, but I have yet to meet anyone who will actually cancel their subscription.
Shirtz Bar in Soi Cowboy is up for sale and the asking price is rumoured to be in the region of 2,500,000 baht. They better get a few customers in there though because that bar seems awfully quiet at present – and thus the price seems awfully steep.
The renovation of Shadow Bar in Soi Cowboy are still in progress and it now has a nice new awning covering the entrance. While it looks as though a lot of work still needs to be done, word on the street is that the refurbished bar will open before the end of July.
A press release arrived at Stickman HQ this week from AIE, an English language school that is now offering tuition in the local lingo. Here is a couple of brief excerpts from the release:
classroom memorizing material not needed by a beginning speaker. So we cut it to the bare minimum. But this minimum certainly goes beyond mere survival.”
The daily task of learning a few new words and phrases can prove daunting. James Nil, co-developer of the AIE course, knows from personal experience how difficult this can be, “I must have the world's worst memory because I have to relearn
a new word or phrase five, six, or seven times before I can remember it. I feel like I've relearned Japanese a dozen times and I still forget it as soon as I leave Japan.”
Back in my little corner of Farangland, I used to always order drinks without ice, the logic being that I didn't want my drink to be watered down, and most of the year it was cold enough that I didn't require my drink to be any colder than it already was. Note that the Thais ALWAYS put ice in their drinks and in fact some of the drinks are made a little stronger to compensate for the fact that they will be sitting in ice, and that as it slowly melts, the drink will reach a nice equilibrium. Case in point is ice coffee from just about any of the fast food outlets. Without ice, it really is quite sweet.
Lots of rumours coming through about these dodgy financial consultant firms facing problems with the law. The latest rumour is that one firm got raided but were tipped off 20 minutes before the police arrived and all the staff were sent home. Of course they all returned the next day and it was business as usual… The second rumour, and it is unverified, is that a different firm was raided, and all of the foreigners working there were rounded up, presumably charged with working illegally and subsequently deported.
The number of foreigners retiring in Thailand continues to increase and a lot of these people are retiring at a very young age. While they may go to Thai lessons, eat food at street vendors and do many other things that allow them to develop their understanding of Thai culture, they still miss out by having not worked in a Thai workplace. Watching Thais at work is fascinating and a quick way to learn more about Thais and Thai culture. But don't think your understanding will ever be complete, EVER!
For those in the Kingdom, there are plenty of different ways to connect to the internet – but notice how most farangs seem to have a Loxinfo address. Whenever I get one of these forwarded emails, I notice that everyone seems to have either a hotmail or Loxinfo email address. Is Loxinfo the best ISP locally? Hard to say, but most folks who use Loxinfo seem to be fairly content.
The Pizza Delivery Company claims to guarantee that their pizzas will be delivered within 30 minutes, but have the forethought to quote a delivery time of 45 minutes if it is raining. I had one delivered the other day and it arrived more than an hour after it was originally ordered, though this didn't bother me in the least. But just to find out what they meant by guarantee, I gave them a call. It seems that the guarantee is but a service pledge and while they strive to deliver it faster than that, that there is no guarantee, nor compensation if the pizza is delivered later… I could have guessed! Domino's Pizza which closed down around two years ago had a better system whereby it was guaranteed that your pizza would be delivered within 30 minutes or you got a 50 baht voucher which could be used on your next pizza. Now that's more like a guarantee.
Workers from the power company just sitting on the power
lines in Pratunam on Saturday. Mai Pen Rai!
What's the story with this ad that forever appears in the classifieds of the Bangkok Post from Sawasdee Thai restaurants in New Zealand. They have been advertising fairly regularly for at least the last three years for staff to go and work down in NZ. Now perhaps it is my mind racing, but could this be some sort of way of recruiting people to work in NZ in businesses other than what is being purported? One would not think the Bangkok Post would be the best place to advertise, but it does seem a little strange.
After the massive success and ever growing interest in the last dance contest, I predict that the Nanapong boys are going to have problems finding suitable venues to hold future events. The next contest, dance contest #6, will be held on Sunday August 5th at the Dollhouse in Clinton Plaza and will be a dance off between girls from Bangkok and girls from Pattaya. This promises to be a cracker but make sure you get there REALLY early because the bar is a lot smaller than Rock Hard. If I was Nanapong, I would seriously consider getting on to one Mr W. of the Crown Group and look at Carnival as a potential venue or perhaps even Johnny Frog in that big double bar (Carousel and what I think was known as Beverly Hills) over at Hollywood Strip, opposite Carnival on the top floor of Nana. With some people now planning their trips to Thailand around these dance contests, by the time Christmas comes, every taxi driver in Bangkok will surely be taking us all to Lumpini Stadium for Dance Contest X! Apparently business was so good for Rock Hard during last week's contest that they ran out of Heineken and Carlsberg – good to see people have good taste in beers!
Next week's a long weekend and for those of us amongst the workforce in Thailand and we get 4 days off work, yippee! I can never work out whether the bars will be open or closed but as this is one of the Buddhist holidays, I think the bars will be closed on one of the days. I think it's Friday though am not entirely sure! However, for those who absolutely must spend the evening in a gogo bar, note that most bars in Patpong remain open, irrespective of such significant holidays.
Your Bangkok commentator,