Stickman's Weekly Column September 9th, 2001

The Cost Of Living


How much does it cost the average expat to live in Bangkok? It's a bit of a hard question to answer but the general consensus is that compared to just about anywhere else, Bangkok is not that expensive. In an effort to find out what some locals spend in an average month, I did a survey of a few friends, each of whom have quite different income levels, and also included one retiree. The variety of jobs held by these people include the obligatory English teacher, a highly paid teacher, a computer professional and a retiree. The only criteria was that they had to be honest about how much they spent and that they were able to explain any seemingly low or high figures with reasons for spending the amount that they do. The respondents were of four different nationalities, all male aged between 29 and 40, and have lived in Thailand for between one and six years.

The figures here may not be an exact average of what people in each particular job / income bracket spend, but I believe they provide a fair indication.

Computer Professional – B 130,000 per month
Internet free
Mobile Phone 1,400
Food 10,000
Entertainment 2,000
Transport 5,000
Computer / software 1,500
Miscellaneous 15,000
Wife 25,000
Rent and all utilities 16,000

The entertainment figure will always be a lot lower for a married man than for a single man, but you have got to wonder about this guy who doesn't give anything to his mia noi… The figure for rent and utilities is for a decent sized house in a surprisingly central area. The transport figure is also quite high, reflecting a preference of shirking public transport where you ride with others. The miscellaneous figure is high, but reflects that there is always something to buy in Bangkok – or maybe that is the mia noi component and he was too embarrassed to admit it?!

The figure of 25,000 for the wife is relatively high, but is commensurate with the salary that this fellow earns. An expat on a lower salary would obviously be unable to give his wife or girlfriend this much.

Highly Paid Teacher – B 75,000 per month
Internet 200
Mobile Phone x 2 1,200
Food, beer, entertainment, transport 15,000
One big monthly purchase (TV, sofa etc) 5,000 – 8,000
UBC 1,200
Rent and all utilities 9,000

These figures are not actually that good an example of a highly paid teacher, as most teachers on a good whack tend to live no differently to their lowly paid brethren and blow everything, usually timing it to perfection so that by lunch time on the last day of the month, they have nothing left. The figure for rent represents a studio apartment in a very central area.

This teacher is one of the more sensible folks in Bangkok, preferring to think about his future and save a good percentage of his salary. He could easily live in a bigger, more plush, but also more expensive apartment and could dine in flash restaurants every night if he wished, but he is quite happy with his current lifestyle and doesn't find the need to unnecessarily splurge. As he has a girlfriend who he is very fond of – and faithful to (what – in Bangkok?!), he doesn't spend (waste?) anything on working girls.

Regular English Teacher – B 35,000 per month
Rent and all utilities 11,500
Internet 700
Mobile 400
Entertainment (going out and girls) 10,000
Food 5,000
Transport 2,000
Computer hardware / software 5,000
Miscellaneous 5,000
Girlfriend 4,000

English teacher, possibly the most common, but certainly not the most popular job for Westerners in the Kingdom. These figures are probably fairly standard for the average teacher although most teachers do tend to spend less than this on digs. The entertainment figure here of 10,000 baht includes regular partying with friends along with the occasional working girl. The transport figure is low, reflecting that he is happy to use the bus, or at least be judicious about using cheaper forms of transport. Like the highly paid teacher, the figure for rent represents a studio apartment in a very central area.

This fellow has other income from outside of teaching hence his expenditure in this table is greater than the income that he gets from his teaching job.

Retiree (40 years old) – investment income
Internet 2,000
Mobile Phone 1,500
Food (average 700 X 30) 21,000
Entertainment 40,000
Transport 2,000
Travel / Trips 15,000
Miscellaneous 5,000
Girlfriend 15,000
Rent and all utilities 28,000

This expat lives 99% of the world's male population's dream life and estimates that these figures are probably conservative! The rent is for a 2 bedroom, 3 bathroom apartment near Thong Lo. The Internet figure is high as he is often in internet cafes away from home. The daily food cost is high but it represents food for two and they go to nicer restaurants far too often! The money spent on entertainment varies depending on how much time is spent in Bangkok (when he doesn't go out as often). He doesn't drink much, but spends a lot on girls and no, he does not overpay, just sees lots of girls.

Damn, that totals about 130,000 per month, or around $US 3,000. That probably explains why he won't be able to do this forever! He says he is having fun while it lasts, though. Still, I do not know how much fun it would be for a 40 year old retiree who retired, led a hedonistic lifestyle and had to go back to work again!

The bottom line here being that Bangkok allows you to live how you want to live. If you would like to live the quiet life without spending too much money, then this is very possible, but if you would like to live the high life, with super flash apartment, fine dining and unlimited entertainment, then this is just as available. Contrast this with the West where in most major centres you are simply unable to get cheap digs, or cut a few corners here and there. This is just another reason why Bangkok is such a great place to live. You can choose to live exactly how you want to and Bangkok allows you to do that.

While I do not know of anyone farangs living this way, you could actually live for less than 10,000 baht per month in Bangkok – which could possibly be broken down as follows: rent and utils 4,000, food 3,000, transport 1,000, other 2,000. It wouldn't be easy watching all of the other foreigners having a merry time, but you COULD do it, if you so wished.

California Dan says this about Bangkok's reputation:

As to the situation in Bangkok…well my take on it is this….the city receives a helluva lot of baht from the sex tourists…The name has and probably always will have the tag-line as the 'sex capital' of the free world…as you said…"they just have to learn to live with it"…….or get rid of it…it's that simple….
It seems the katoeys are back but instead of operating up near soi 7, they have moved a little further down Sukumvit.
Note it may be worthwhile pointing out to visitors to be careful about pickpockets around the Asoke station / Asoke Plaza area. My son had his wallet stolen by ladyboy who was pretending to cuddle him. He picked his pocket and was off with it. We noticed within seconds but by this time he was / off off. In the same area last month my wife had her bag snatched by a biker. It seems that this is a bit of a problem area late at night.
About the story of people being robbed for their kidney's in Pattaya, a reader says:
It can be that two men were killed at soi 8. But not for their kidneys. Cannot happen in Pattaya as well. Cannot happen in any place, at the street. For a very simple reason,
which sounds very clinical and without emotion. If a person is killed at the street, it leaves no time to remove organs to be transplanted. If blood circulation stops a kidney will have within a few seconds, very small but for transplantation of the organ fatal, emboli (blood stalles, or how is this called in English?) occurs. Robbing anyone's organs on the street is nonsense.
Forrest Gump sent in the following piece, which is quite amusing.
At first I was dismayed by the crackdown, but now on second thought I am not sure it is such a bad thing. Being middle-aged and not in perfect health I cannot stay out all night drinking like a younger man. Especially if I have to perform with the ladies. It also saves me money on bar bills. In fact I had one girl, the one from Monet whose strategy was to keep me out as long as possible and get me as drunk as possible so that I would not be able to do anything when we got to bed!
There might be a nightlife crackdown but the effect is much less so in Pattaya than in Bangkok.
My route home took me through Walking Street and I was surprised to see several bars advertising the England game, kick off 2 AM, as being shown live. Stopping for a drink I asked one of the ladies why they could advertise the game when they were supposed to stop selling alcohol at 2. 'No problem' she told me. 'Only the music stops at 2. As long as we turn the lights down low the police leave us alone.' 'And you can still serve drinks?' I asked. Usual answer, 'No problem.'
There's no such thing as a free lunch – or is it free dinner?
I met a very beautiful young lady, mother Thai and father Chinese, who was running a small bar at Loikhro road around the Thai boxing ring for tourists (all fights are fixed). She was classy and spoke very good English; I don't have to tell you how it developed. Next morning I tried to make her understand that I would be happy to make a small present, but she says no, she is very happy to have such a nice boyfriend. Hmmm I am 55 and should have remembered what you said about freebies. Next evening she decides to introduce me to her family. We go together to a nice Chinese seafood restaurant where three cousins were already waiting for us. Excellent dinner and atmosphere until the check arrived: 4500 baht !
Ripoff or BS? The following story arrived just as the column was about to go online. I have had no chance to attempt to verify this story and to be honest, it does sound a bit unlikely, especially given that Camelot has been closed recently. But true or not, it serves as a reminder that one must check their bills, especially when drinking heavily.
Very disappointing then when I was recently told of an incident involving two other long term residents being savagely gouged at one of the KG bars.

The bar in question is Camelot. The two residents WERE regular customers there. Very good customers. But neither of them are likely to ever step through the door (or spend their money there) ever again after the presentation on a recent night of an B18,000 bill to one and a B27,000 bill to the other.

Now these two like a drink and buy many Lady Drinks as well, but at an average price of B100 / drink, this works out at a combined total of 450 drinks within a two to three hour time frame!

Both had expected something in the realm of a combined B5,000 – B10,000 bill. But it was only after they had left that they realized that the crafty Mama-san had practised the old Roman strategy of “Divide and Conquer” presenting the bills to them separately while the other was otherwise engaged and insisting that the other had not yet paid. Now, the devious Mama-san has pocketed something in excess of B30,000; the bar has lost two high spending customers forever; and the word of mouth damage, not only to that particular bar, but to the entire King’s Group is exponential.

Lumpini Park, on Rajadamri Road, the lungs of Bangkok.

The Hard Rock Cafe will open their second Thailand branch in Pattaya on the 15th of October. The outstanding Philippines band that is currently playing at the Bangkok branch (called something Ice?) will be at the new Pattaya branch for the opening. Will this be the start of a new upmarket Pattaya freelancer scene?

Walking past that wise old Thai man in the street he mutters the two dreaded words, fon dok. Yep, he predicted that it will rain soon and one thing Thais are very good at is accurately predicting the weather. If you had to be caught somewhere in the rain, where would you pick? My pick would be MBK because you have got just about everything in there. You can get a bite to eat, wander around some shops and if the rain is relentless, you can go and catch a movie. And surely there must be several shops in there that sell umbrellas. Must be! Somewhere that sells umbrellas! Well funnily enough, from what I can make out, there isn't! So, if you want to make a bit of money, especially right now, set up a stand selling brollies and you'll make a packet overnight.

The next time you are down at the exchange rate office, don't be perturbed if the money that they gives you looks a little unusual. The new 500 baht notes have been released and they are not dis-similar to the new 1000 baht notes and feature a lot more security features that make them much harder to counterfeit.

Panthip Plaza is under the microscope again and all of the software shops are well and truly closed. This crackdown will blow over as they always do and within a few days, everything will revert back to normal. Each crackdown has rumours as to why it is happening and in the past they have included noise made by the US Embassy on behalf of Microsoft through to the former Thai finance minister's appointment within the WTO. The rumour this time is that it is being led by Grammy Records who are struggling to sell CDs, due to the huge numbers of MP3 CDs available.

Farang magazine, the newest English language monthly, is available now. The target market is backpackers and the initial distribution is in Khao Sarn Road and other backpacker areas. They also have sales girls out selling them directly on the street. It will be in Siem Reap as of next week as well, and will shortly be branched out into Chiang Mai, the islands, etc. So far sales are going well and building every day as the word gets out.
Eventually they will sort out deals with Asia books and presumably other retailers. As I've yet to see it, no word yet as to how it compared with the likes of Metro and The Big Chilli.

Dean Barrett's book "Thailand: Land of Beautiful Women" is now available at Amazon.com so if you are in the US and want to grab a copy, do a search on Amazon for it.

Midnite Bar in Soi Cowboy has a new manager starting on Tuesday. Richard, an affable Englishman will take over the reigns where Mike left off. It's good to see that this bar is continuing the trend of having a farang manager in place – something that more bars could learn from.

Contrary to what I indicated a couple of weeks ago, the Thermae is yet to get painted but what has happened is that new lights have been installed along the side walls and a new air-conditioning system has been installed too. The multi-coloured lights erected along the walls give it a slightly different, almost flowery feel, like you are sitting in a garden. I don't know if I like it or not and find myself harping back to the old saying, why fix it if it isn't broken?

Speaking of farang managers, I can't say I'm a fan of the bars in Hollywood Strip in Nana Plaza (top floor on the left as you walk in). These bars STILL have the frog show and on Friday night, the same women put presumably the same frog up inside her vagina while the farang manager got as excited as always about it all. This show is horrible and I'm surprised that they are still doing it, in light of the uncertainty of the recent crackdown and the high profile that the bars are getting. The Thai press had a field day about a topless competition at a regular disco on Rachada Road so I can only wonder how they would feel about a frog show.

If Bangkok is your playground and not your home, you are simply spoiled for choice when it comes to hotels, and the prices are fairly good too. The bigger hotels and some of the hotel chains may have policies that prevent you from taking women of the night back to your hotel, or may even attempt to add a supplementary charge for unregistered guests. In the nightlife areas, many of the hotels make an exception as quite simply, if they didn't, the number of guests would drop. Sukumvit soi 33 is home to a good number of bars and the big hotel in that soi is the Novotel Lotus. With so many girls in the soi, do you think they would make an exception or soften their policy? No way! 700 baht to get an unregistered guest in late at night. If your guest is not registered and you want to avoid the ripoff charges that many hotels attempt to enforce, walk in like you own the place and if challenged, claim that the girl on your shoulder is your wife as you charge for the lift. Do not pause for a second and give whoever challenges you a look of utter disdain and indignation that they suggested this sultry temptress is anyone other than your wife. If she is the only girl that you have taken back there, she hasn't been in that hotel before and she is wearing reasonable clothes, it might just work.

At the top of the escalator on the first floor of Nana are a troop of girls trying to lure you into their respective bars. Three bars, the newly opened Rock Hard, Silver Dragon Club and Nancy all have girls standing outside trying to lure you in and they are every bit as aggressive as the most offensive touts from Patpong. Three bars bidding for the punter's baht. I wonder how long it is until the girls get their knickers in a twist and we see a cat fight? Not long at all, I reckon…

At the top of the stairs on the right in this picture, expect to
run the gauntlet as overly aggressive girls try to drag you into their bar.

Reading the major English language dailies, I'm still flabbergasted at the ad that English First runs each day. This is some sort of new English language school and they are running huge ads, either half or full page. What is so unusual about the ads is that a good half of it is taken up by this photo of what can only be described as one hot looking farang girl! Sure, the photo is from behind, but for someone with a serious dose of yellow fever, I still find her hot! But I still can't figure out the relevance of this to a language school?

One of Bangkok's supposedly better English language schools has cashflow problems. Nothing new in that, but the problem must be fairly bad as this particular school only paid their teachers the first 10,000 baht out of their salary on the last day of August, and told teachers that they would have to wait another week for the rest which was duly paid. This is totally unacceptable but what is worse is that the school in question is actually part of a large group, so surely there must be more money floating around the group. Personally, if this sort of thing happened to me, I'd start looking for something else as such financial strife and cashflow difficulty is usually a sign that the writing is on the wall…

Fed up with English teaching? I'm not, but I am just about fed up with the number of people who email me saying that they want a job that is computer related. OK, here is your chance! This one would suit either IT guys or someone from a teaching background. The email address to forward applications to is [email protected] and a full job description follows:

The successful candidate will be a native speaker of English and have superior expertise in speaking and writing the language. Familiarity with technical and business writing styles and Internet terminology is preferred. The position involves review and correction of all types of technical analysis and design documents, quality control of all internal and external documentation and authoring of user manuals, web based help documentation,
internal policies / procedures, marketing materials and presentations. Specifically, initial assignments will focus on current product development. User level proficiency with Windows and familiarity with the Microsoft Office suite of products is required. Individuals that are detail oriented, motivated, who show initiative and are team spirited will be given top consideration.

– Bachelor's or Master's Degree in a Liberal Arts or Technical field of study, English Literature or similar preferred. Candidates with TEFL certification and A.A. degree will be considered in lieu of a four year degree.
– 3-5 years experience with the Microsoft Office product suite, specifically MS Word, MS Excel and MS PowerPoint.
– The candidate is expected to pass oral and written screening examinations.
– The ability to work in a multinational team environment.
– Currently living in Bangkok, Thailand or expecting to move here by 21 Seep 2001.
– The salary for this position is flexible. A lot depends on the qualifications of the applicant and his bargaining skills. (Bargain like a bastard, like there is no tomorrow!Stick)

It's been far too long since I said something derogatory about Woodstock bar…so with this in mind, I feel that it is my duty to let you know that the rotten so and so's have put up the prices of food. The word from the bar itself is that they were actually losing money on the food and were forced to raise prices (and a bunch of buffaloes just flew past my window!). But seriously, the price increase of around 25% is a bit on the steep side. Every business has to make money, but I have always thought a small increase of say 5% or so a year, each year, is better than hitting customers with a big increase every now and then. And anyone who tells me that it is still cheap is out of their mind. The grease ball at the entrance to Nana Plaza sells burgers almost as good for half the price – and he even gives you a free portion of sweat with your burger too. (Watch that towel that he uses and what he does with it!) Woodstock is also restructuring the discount system that they had in place so more details of that here soon.

English teachers who like to puff away on a cigarette take note. A teacher who I know fairly well who was ideal for a more senior, high paying role in his school was recently not even considered for the role because he is a heavy smoker, and some students had complained that he smells bad. Tough call or tough luck?

If only that bloody Isaan farmer had listened to me… Jumping into a cab to go to work on Thursday morning, I jumped into the coldest taxi I have ever experienced in my life, and thought that the driver was an Eskimo in disguise for it really was so cold, it almost hurt. I asked him why it was so cold and he rattled on about some special modifications he had made… He then shot back at me that I'm a farang and that I should be able to deal with the cold – cheeky bugger! Anyway 200m from work, stuck in traffic, as is the case from time to time in Bangkok, I heard a huge pop and the windscreen shattered! Yep, the difference in temperature between the hot temperature outside and the icy air being blown on to the windscreen was too much and it just shattered! Never heard of this sort of thing happening in Bangkok and it usually occurs in those miserably cold countries like Canada.

Is there any truth in the rumour that The Dollhouse have bought a SECOND bar in Soi Cowboy? Suzy Wong has been empty for a month and has been mooted as being bought up by The Dollhouse… Doesn't make sense to me, and in fact sounds downright unlikely, but who knows?

Midnite Bar is still offering the deal of barfine AND short-time room for 500 baht all inclusive. A good deal and they have a few new girls in there too.

Lived in Thailand for a while and thinking of returning to the West? Forget it because the West is too expensive! A local expat was in London last week and on the last day of the trip, he took his uncle out for lunch. No, it wasn't a girl he was trying to impress, and it wasn't even dinner. Lunch with a family member. The bill? 180 pounds = about 11,000 baht. For lunch! Hell, we are all doomed and even if we wanted to leave, savings from employment in Bangkok do not go a long way!

The effects of the crackdown seem to be lessening and most farang naughty nightlife places in Bangkok are closing at around 1:45 AM, which for most places means much the same time as before.

Mobile telephone numbers are the newest commodity in Thailand. When buying a mobile phone and getting hooked up to a regular plan, one gets the choice of number, the best numbers being those with sequential numbers such as 01-1234567 or those with lots of repeated numbers such as 01-8008000. AIS's One-2-Call plan is the pre-paid plan that is popular with many foreigners as it doesn't require the documentation needed to connect to a regular plan (passport + work permit + Thai guarantor + their documents!) to get started. Simply buy the phone and you can turn it on and use it straight away. However, it's a bit of a lottery with the number and you might get a number that is less than desirable. Enter the entrepreneurial mobile phone vendor! Vendors in Mahboonkrong have started opening the packaging on the One-2-Call sim cards so that the phone number can be seen before purchase BUT, they are charging a premium for the desirable numbers! Whereas a sim card for the One-2-Call plan usually costs between 1,800 and 2,800 baht, depending on the amount of credit that it comes with, some entrepreneurial vendors are charging up to 8,000 for the most desirable numbers!

As Stickman duties start to mount up, I am considering looking for an assistant, someone who is prepared to put their body on the line, all in the interest of getting the latest news, gossip and rumour from around the City Of Angels for all of the city's fans, both local and from lands afar. Are you up to the challenge? Anything less than a perfect 10 out of 10 in the following quiz and a Stickman deputy, you are not. (Answers at the very bottom of the page.)

1. Lesley Wright is:

A) The highest ranking farang at The Nation newspaper.
B) Bernard Trink's real name.
C) A columnist in the Pattaya Mail.
D) The current American Ambassador to Thailand.

2. Which central city hotel just opened a direct entrance way between itself and the nearest BTS station?

A) The Marriot Sukumvit.
B) The Asia Hotel.
C) The Landmark.
D) The Grand Pacific Hotel.

3. Which of the following bars is NOT in Soi Cowboy?

A) Pam's Bar.
B) Apache Bar.
C) My Lady Bar.
D) The Hog's Breath.

4. Crazy Jack used to own and run:

A) Shadow Bar in Soi Cowboy.
B) Kangaroo Bar in Patpong.
C) Vixens in Nana Plaza.
D) Our Place in Soi Cowboy.

5. Which Bangkok author recently reviewed Dean Barrett's excellent "Thailand: Land Of Beautiful Women" in The Nation newspaper, and gave it an unbalanced, poor review.

A) S Tsow.
B) Colin Piprell.
C) James Eckhardt.
D) Khun Sanuk.

6. Which farang oriented area in Bangkok rightly or wrong has the reputation of being the domain of Vietnam vets?

A) Patpong.
B) Soi Cowboy.
C) Washington Square.
D) The massage parlours on Rachadapisek Road.

7. Which of the following would be the best bet to treat a case of gonorrhoea?

A) Viagara.
B) Zithromax.
C) Zanex.
D) Paracetamol.

8. The Silver Dragon Club is located in Nana Plaza where which of the following bars used to be?

A) Angel Witch.
B) Pretty Girl.
C) Farang Connection.
D) Loo Doot's Big Breasted Beauty Club.

9. What is the tallest building in Bangkok?

A) Peninsula Hotel.
B) Baiyoke 2 Tower.
C) Baiyoke 3 Tower.
D) Telecommunications Authority of Thailand Building.

10. What is The King's Group motto?

A) "Give us your money you stupid farang."
B) "The name you can trust."
C) "Pretty girls at the right price."
D) "Bangkok's best for 25 years."


Drab and grey. Bangkok will be much like this for
the next couple of months as the rain finally arrives.

The "where is this pic" in last week's column was from Soi Kasemsan 1, the soi right next to the BTS station at National Stadium. The photo was taken from the platform, looking down towards the soi.

Super sleuth, Whosyourdaddy, would like an explanation of the cabinet of drugs on display alongside all of the top shelf liquor in Toy Bar, Soi Cowboy. According to my Canadian deputy, all of these drugs are used in the treatment of STDs!

Stop Press! This came in at the very last minute!

Andy & Darel @ The Dollhouse ' Clinton
will be having their one year anniversary
Party Wed 12 th Spet, 8 pm until POLICE close
Just want to let every body know that we
are still open alive and kicking, also we throw a great party,
food and tequila body shots.

Your Bangkok commentator,

Stick

In the compilation of this week's column, thanks go out to
Whosyourdaddy, Khun Sanuk, The Mad Spurs Fan and Ranger.


Answers to the quiz:

1. C 6. C
2. B 7. B
3. D 8. A
4. A 9. B
5. C 10. B