I call it the window of foolishness, the time when you are living in Thailand but when you aren't working, either because you intend to have an extended holiday before starting work or simply because you have retired early. The thought of getting a job and leading a more structured, more disciplined and damn it, as much as I hate that word, a more normal life doesn't appeal to anyone, but in Bangkok, a structured lifestyle is very important…
There was this one particular fellow who had lived in Thailand for a couple of years. He spoke fairly reasonable Thai and he simply became fed up in his job. A comfortable financial situation – though he certainly was not rich – meant that he was able to kick back and relax, with no need to work, notwithstanding that he was barely out of his 20's. So, he resigned from his job and he decided to study Thai full time, realising that he had to do something to keep himself busy. Four hours a day in the classroom meant that Thai lessons took up his week day mornings but the rest of the day was his, free to do as he pleased.
It all started off ok, up at the crack of dawn, on to the sky train and down to the language school at the unGodly time of 7:30 AM. But come midday he was free. After that he would head back home, jump on the internet but before long, he would be twiddling his thumbs, more than a little bored. While he had intentions to study hard, he gradually found himself going out more and more often, always straight to Nana or Cowboy, more because he was bored hanging around his apartment than anything else. Obviously down in the bars, he started to spend a bit of money on drinks and occasionally, a lady might accompany him home.
As the Thai studies went on, his interest began to wane and the course started to feel more like a chore than anything else, and this is when the problems started. He had already quit his job and had no interest in returning to the workforce in Thailand and while he realised that studying Thai was beneficial in the long run, he had studied virtually all he could and so he left the language school and became a man of leisure.
When one is bored in Bangkok, or when one does not have anything that needs to get done, one knows that they can go and get seek the company of new, short terms acquaintances in the bars and so this fellow started to spend more and more time in the bar areas, eventually reaching the point where he was drinking and partying every night of the week. He was spending a lot of money and really he was not enjoying himself that much – it was just something to do to keep himself busy. Constant visits from friends from abroad along with a website he was working on provided enough variety for him to try and justify his lifestyle.
Over the course of a few months, his spending started to increase and he started to pile in the weight. Some of the bar girls started to say to him "before you handsome man number one but now you fat man same same other farang". Unexpectedly bumping into some friends and former colleagues he had not seen in a while, he heard exactly the same thing – how did you manage to balloon like that? Suddenly it him. He had been blowing a lot of money, his health was slipping and he really wasn't having that great a time. People around him that he trusted were sending him a clear message: you are starting to lead a sad lifestyle.
But he battled on and in an effort to break the Bangkok routine, he started to visit Pattaya every couple of weeks and he started to become known in bars all over Asia's main city of sin. The ability to drink a lot of alcohol increased and the volume of alcohol consumed increased. Money was disappearing seemingly faster than it would in Vegas.
What do you do when you see friends losing the plot, going off the rails, going so far and pushing the limits to new extremes? There's nothing you can do. This is a sickness that none of us really understand, an addiction so extreme and so compelling that it brings even the most balanced of us to our knees. This is the bar scene of Thailand. It's dangerous and incredibly powerful.
The temptations of Thailand are tremendous, pulling at you, urging you to turn to the dark side. Darth Vader is alive and well in Thailand, and at times, I think he is winning.
Oh, I forgot to tell you his name. It was me… I've been there, I've done it and I was lucky, somehow escaping the slippery slope of sex and alcohol addiction. If things hadn't have gone my way, I could have ended up one very sorry excuse for an individual. I was lucky, very lucky.
This all makes me wonder how long it will be until doctors in the West start diagnosing folks with "Thai addiction syndrome". Really, what some people will do to stay on in Thailand really makes me wonder. One of the Nanapong boys once told me about a fellow in Pattaya who had a Thai girlfriend and his world fell apart. He ended up working as a labourer for 150 baht a day, just so that he could stay on in Thailand…
The window of foolishness is a very dangerous time. I have seen so many people blow a huge amount of money and slowly just fade and waste away. Some manage to get out in time, but others don't. Early retirement in Thailand can be dangerous and if this is something you are contemplating, do something to keep yourself busy, something that requires discipline. And if like me, discipline doesn't seem to come from within, then you may just have to force yourself to get a job and with that, some much needed responsibility in your life. In Thailand, one often needs a reason to get out of bed early.
(For further evidence and the definitive piece on the power of Thailand's nightlife, no one explains it better than Nick Nostitz in his superb "Patpong: Bangkok's Twilight Zone" book.)
Soi Cowboy, home sweet home. This photo is a few months old
– Suzie Wong has since closed down and Shirtz has changed name.
In answer to the question of introduction services and their merits that I raised in last week's weekly, this reader mistook it for internet based dating, which is a little different:
I recently visited two girls from different areas of the country, during my latest visit to the land of smiles…after seeing both of them, I made my evaluation of which one I preferred. As it turned out, the one who I preferred was due to visit Australia shortly after my trip, so we have continued the relationship.
She has been here for quite a while now, and we are both very happy together – so hopefully we can be testament to the fact that the site (and the principle of meeting people via the internet) works.
I met my lady after a number of months of corresponding by email and post. She is everything that her bio said she was which is a lovely lady who wants a better life in America.
I have got to say however that this site has the least attractive (and that is being polite) of any Thai girls listed with any introduction service on the net. – Stick
The set ended, girls dispersed, no XXX. After a few minutes, I saw a young woman wending her way toward me. Didn't recognize her. She kept coming and sat beside me. Up close I saw it was certainly XXX – only younger, darker, prettier than the photograph on the website had conveyed.
After a drink, she changed and we proceeded up Sukhumvit to the Nana Hotel, she grasping my hand tightly the whole time. Now wearing glasses, XXX out on the street looked even younger than she did in the bar. What I found wonderful is that no one in the crowd we threaded our way through gave a smile to the sight of a septuagenarian paired for sex with a teenager.
Conclusion: The bar websites can make a difference.
Will the Asoke BTS station connect with the new station that is being built right next to it? And is there any truth in the rumour that the new station on that line will be named the Soi Cowboy station? A sensible name like this sure make things easier for a lot of people. I mean, who's idea was it to call that other station Sala Daeng? Patpong would be a far better name for it and would eliminate a lot of confusion…
Work continues on the new BTS station right next to the existing Asoke
station. Soi Cowboy is between two white buildings in the background.
7 Eleven stores are convenient and it really does seem that you are never more than a stone's throw away from the local branch. But there is something about them that I don't like, a sterility that makes me want to do my shopping elsewhere and I find the only time I go there is to break a 1000 baht note. Over the last few nights, I have watched a constant stream of beggars entering a certain 7 Eleven store and instead of buying the cheapest product in the store to break their crisp 1000 baht note, they simply dump their coins on the table and ask to change their coins into bigger notes. I asked at this particular store how much money they make each day and was told that one beggar changes money twice a day, and each time it is 500 baht +! Given the difficulty that one faces trying to get change from one of the local banks, the beggars are providing a helpful service for the 7 Eleven!
Dean Barrett, author of THAILAND: LAND OF BEAUTIFUL WOMEN is holding the first official sighing of this book at the Texas Lone Star Saloon, Washington Square, on Saturday afternoon, 18 August, between 2:30 and 4:30. He'll be signing "Thailand: Land of Beautiful Women" as well as one of his novels, "Kingdom of Make Believe". The Texas also serves free food at 3:00 PM sharp and Richard, the night manager, has said that this time it will be something special. If you haven't picked up your copy of the book, get your A into G and get over to the Texas Lone Star on the 18th. I'm sure you'll find Dean to be a very personable and interesting fellow. For now, his book is still available at Bookazine's branch on Sukumvit Road, not far away from Soi 5.
Why do I give English teachers so much stick when I am in fact one of that clan? Well, I note the following excerpts from two jobs advertised recently, which just add fuel to the argument that the industry is run by a bunch of plonkers.
* Guaranteed 10 – 29 hours a week, we target 25. – what does this mean?
* Tutors will have to teach 4 hours a day, start from 4:00 to 7:30. – umm, glad they don't teach maths.
There's a very nice girl that used to work in The Dollhouse until the end of last month. She is strikingly attractive and she is currently juggling five boyfriends, or should that be five sponsors? Three are from the States, one is from Switzerland and one from Germany. All send money but she thinks she can get them ALL to DOUBLE how much they send her. Oh, and someone I know is bonking her virtually for free. Why did I include this? Hell, it's not even news. It happens all the time. Just a reminder, ok. If you think it may be your girlfriend or God forbid, your future wife, all I'll say is that she comes from Roi Et.
English teaching is one of the favoured employment options for foreigners in Thailand. But what are the chances of meeting a nice girl while working at a school? After all, you have both the female students to choose from (if that does not pose an ethical dilemma) as well as the female staff. For starters, the chances of a romantic liaison with a student are much higher than with a Thai member of staff. If I was to pick a school where the chances are best, then it would have to be the main branch of AUA in Rajadamri Road where one consistently hears tales that more than a few of the students sign up for the very reason that they want to meet a foreigner. The problem with the Thai staff at schools, particularly at government schools as opposed to language schools, is that these positions are often for life. They start the job as a pretty young university graduate and stay there until they are fat, grey, old and often STILL single – sad, but true. The number of single older ladies at such schools is higher than one would expect. These teachers do not want to risk going out with a foreign teacher and then having the relationship fall over, for no doubt they would be gossiped about for the duration of their employment. And I can just hear the incessant old Thai ducks nattering away in the staff room, warning the younger ones that "all that those foreign teachers want is a slag to shag – they'll never respect you". Worst thing is that the old ducks are probably right…
AUA, the place to go for teachers who are prepared to cross the line
and bed one of their students. Many pretty, available, female students…
Big news coming out of TEFL International, Thailand's leading English teacher training centre. Certificate courses offered through TEFL International are now eligible for university credit at the University of Washington in the US. In fact, TEFL International courses are now listed as courses on the University of Washington class schedule and graduates of TEFL International will be eligible to receive TWO certificates – one from TEFL International and one from University of Washington. In order to meet the higher demand anticipated by this new relationship, TEFL International will offer twice as many courses in Thailand in 2002 – 20 courses per year instead of just 10 as currently offered.
You can pay many of your bills at the local bank. For bills with some sort of metered payment, you will often end up with an odd number like 1,415.44 baht (the .44 being 44 satang or 44/100 baht). When you pay this bill, you would pay 1,415.50 baht, that being the closest denomination that one can pay in cash. Now, a lot of people pay their bills this way and the bank makes money on it virtually every time. What's more, the Thai banks are apparently in a shocking state. So, where are all of these extra satang going? The banks must have one hell of a lot of rogue satang…
In my eyes, the nicest Thai girls are those in university uniform, the classic look of a black skirt and white blouse matched with a brown belt gets me every time. But what's the deal with the belt? Is it there to hold up the skirt or is it there for decoration? There are no "belt loops" (hell, I'm supposedly an English teacher yet I have no idea what you call them) on the skirt and more often than not, the belt is attached to the skirt by a bull clip! Sometimes it isn't attached and from time to time, you may even spot a large paper clip used to keep it attached! Don't let this detract from the uniform though, it's still a great look.
Thailand's ladies of the night are prostitutes, it's as simple as that. They certainly don't see themselves as such, but they are. Telling them that they are prostitutes (using the Thai word) will not endear them with you at all. Sure, they are perhaps a lot better than a prostitute in the West, but in my book sex + money = prostitution. What makes me chuckle is the way that many punters unsuccessfully attempt to legitimise the transaction by using terms that defy the business nature of the relationship. The girl is often referred to as their date and the money paid is often referred to as a tip, not a payment for sex. Hearing these terms really grates on my nerves. My feelings are that these girls are prostitutes and the folks using their services, us, are johns. It's Asia and frankly, it's the done thing. There's no need to try and sugar coat it.
So you prefer soi 33 girls because they are more classier, and more pleasant? And you over there, you prefer Eden Club girls because they go for a couple of hours like a bunny with overcharged batteries? And you in the third corner, you prefer gogo girls because they have the nicest bodies? Give me a break! All of these girls come from Isaan and really, they are all much the same. This week I heard of a girl who used to work at the pleasure palace known as the Eden Club. The work there was too hard so she moved on to one of the more popular massage parlours. For whatever reason, she didn't like that place too much and now she can be found in one of the bars on soi 33. Yep, you soi 33 lovers who forever brag about how the girls in your favoured area are more classy, how do you explain this?
Does anyone listen to the government propaganda Radio Thailand news on the radio? What purpose does it serve if no-one listen to it? And isn't three hours a day a bit excessive?!
A nice anecdote from a reader in an email about long term relationships with bar girls.
An upcoming Playstation 2 game set in China – but featuring a tuktuk!
Could it be called "Invasion Of The Ya-Ba Crazed Isaan Farmer"?
The picture here was taken from www.ign.com, a video games site. It features an upcoming Playstation 2 game set in China. But there is only one problem, is that not a tuktuk, i.e. a vehicle from Thailand, flying across the sky?! Someone involved with this game has never been to Asia before methinks. Yep, to all of you video game developers, China and Thailand are a little different…
I'm frequently asked what gogo bar I think is the best in Bangkok and usually answer that determining which bar is best is difficult, but prefer to talk about my favourite bar, which is still Midnite Bar in Soi Cowboy. However, I now think I can safely say that I have found a gogo bar that can truly qualify as the best gogo bar in Bangkok. If I was responsible for giving out that award, I would give it to The Dollhouse at Clinton Plaza. Everything is new and it is all well laid out. The music is good and the bar is never too smoky, unlike some of the places with older air-con systems. But perhaps most importantly, this bar shirks the practice of hiring the more well rounded ladies. With just about every girl in the bar being slim and trim, the girls in this bar are extremely attractive – so much so that at last week's Nanapong dance contest, I often found myself gazing at Dollhouse girls who were not in the show! So for now, that is early August 2001, I'll stick my neck out and say that The Dollhouse is Bangkok's best gogo bar.
It's Queen's Birthday today in Thailand so that means that that most of the bars will likely be closed. Patpong would again be the best bet for those who just have to go to a gogo bar.
The Thermae was open until after 4:00 AM on Monday night / Tuesday morning and it was apparently still going strong at that time…what is happening now? I'm getting really confused. My guess is that the cops forgot to come along to close it and that the management just kept on selling booze. Every other night it was closed at 2:00 AM or just after to the usual screams and yells of the girls.
Soi 33 is closing at 1:00 AM some nights, the local police enforcing the apparent laws that state that that is the closing time…? Yep, now I am getting REALLY confused. Bars in Pattaya remain open late, many beer bars are still open well beyond the 2:00 AM official closing time and the Marine Disco is still pumping well after 3:0O PM. But word from Pattaya is coming in that in some of the gogo bars, the girls cannot dance topless… Could this be the beginning of the end? The end of the golden age?
The next Nanapong dance contest, #7, will be held on September 9th at Playskool A Gogo, Nana Plaza. This will be the first one held in Nana and it'll be interesting to see how busy it is. My initial impression is that it could do VERY well, as Nana has more genuine customers than other areas. But why oh why does it have to be on a Sunday night? For so many of us locals, this makes it difficult to attend. Oh well, economic decision on the part of the bar owners I suppose, but Sunday night ain't good at all.
This is Stickman Weekly #19 and I'm still finding my way with the column. I'm becoming a little concerned that it may be getting too long as I include more and more pieces from readers. I receive so many interesting emails and I really want to include what people have to say. I will continue to write about the same amount of material myself so the net effect with contributions from readers is that the column will become longer. What do you think? Is it too long or what?
Your Bangkok commentator,