Most farangs in Thailand, be they short term tourists or long term residents, will at some stage have a bad experience with a Thai person. These experiences can usually be isolated to one of a handful of situations, and they predominantly occur in the prostitution industry, or with Thais who have worked with foreigners for a long time – and have become jaded. It often only takes a couple of bad experiences to set the farang thinking that all Thais are dishonest wretches, and these farangs are not shy to tell all and sundry what they think about the locals.
If you have a bad experience, it's easy to quickly, and falsely, reach the conclusion that the Thais are a bunch of money hungry people who will do anything possible to part you with your cash, short of bashing you on the head with a baseball bat. This week, something happened to me that touched me, and helped to remind me how gracious Thai people are, and in many ways, how they are far more generous and caring than anyone other nationality that I have dealt with.
I had been down by the river, my favourite part of town, just cruising around with my on again-off again-can't make my mind up about her girlfriend. We'd just got off the Chao Praya River Express Boat at the Banglamphu pier and had been relaxing at the small park nearby. Quite unexpectedly, the heavens opened and we found ourselves trapped under a small pavilion in the park, not daring to move, for we would have only got a few paces before being drenched, all with the prospect of a nice cool air-conditioned taxi journey back home. We waited and when the rain eased, we made a run for it, sprinting over to the road and under shelter outside some small shops.
There was a lot of traffic passing by, plenty of cabs amongst them. But just as I was ready to jump out and hail down a cab, the rain started coming down again, bucketing down in torrents, even heavier than what we had just experienced moments before. Taxis with the little red available sign brightly alight passed by, oblivious to the crazy farang wildly waving his arms in a desperate, yet ultimately unsuccessful attempt to get their attention. Several taxis passed by, unable to see me, their eyes fixed on the road due to the heavy rain and treacherous driving conditions. This went on for several minutes, taxis passing by, and me unwilling to jump out in front of one, not wanting to get drenched and then shiver in the cold air-conditioning as the taxi crawled home.
A Thai woman, well dressed, obviously out to lunch had been watching me and she approached and asked me where I wanted to go to which I told her. And then to my amazement, this woman, a total stranger, resplendent in her work apparel, walked out into the middle of the road in this driving rain with little more than a junior sized umbrella, and tried to hail a taxi for us. There was absolutely no reason for her to assist us. She was a stranger and we didn't know her. We were not in any sort of distress. There was no emergency. We weren't even undesirables in a flash neighbourhood that she wanted to see the back of. She did this out of the goodness of her heart, with little regard for the rain and for herself. For what seemed like an eternity, and was I guess around 3 or 4 minutes, this woman stood out in the pouring rain, valiantly trying to get a taxi that would take us home. Several taxis passed by, all with passengers already and I noticed that this lady was starting to get a little wet. But she persevered, staying out in the rain, getting wetter and wetter by the second. A couple more taxis stopped, but they did not want to go to our destination, yet she stayed out there, continuing to take a pounding from the driving rain. At long last, she hailed a taxi going in the opposite direction, told the driver of our desired destination and he turned in to a little alcove where we were sheltering. I felt most humble because when she finally returned from the road, she was more than a little wet, and her top was now soaked, clinging to her chest, sure to catch more than a glance from other passers by – and would no doubt go on to cause her no end of embarrassment! I had to wonder about who felt more embarrassed – her for getting her wet or me for watching this woman attempt to help a perfect healthy and capable fellow.
A good Samaritan. The picture may not be clear, but believe me, the rain
was absolutely pelting down, heavy even by Bangkok standards.
She had set out what she wanted to achieve, to help this awkward looking foreigner and his helpless local female companion to get a taxi, without them getting wet. She succeeded in doing so at what I would imagine was no small amount of discomfort to herself. I just hope that Buddha was looking down on her because as far as this farang is concerned, she made a hell of a lot of merit at that time!
This all made me start to reflect on the Thais that I know and work with, the Thais who have never been involved with the world's oldest profession and who have had little exposure to tourists. These particular Thais, and they are the vast majority of the population, still have much of the old fashioned Thai values, and they often put the best interests of others ahead of their own. Can you imagine anyone in the West doing something like this lady did for us? The whole idea is completely unfathomable and indeed this story would be mocked by most of my friends back home if I told it to them.
While Thailand might be known, perhaps even famous, for its scams, and there might be no end of problems with the girls who work in the bars and the Thais who have become jaded from regularly dealing with tourists, the majority of Thai people still have a certain generosity that I believe no longer exists in the West. Little things like this really make you realise how lucky you are to live and work in Thailand, with all of these wonderful warm hearted people.
Pirate software is something that many people buy in Thailand, and Thailand is rapidly becoming the centre of the world for pirate CDs. But the Chinese mafia? Hmm, I don't think so. Most dodgy software sold in Thailand is compiled in Thailand or sourced from the internet.
Also while in India in 1998, I found out about New Delhi's Panthip Plaza. Now I have never been there myself, but I was shown a CD from there. I did not see the sleeve, only the CD itself. It had exactly the same type of "serial numbers" printed on it as some of the H.K. and Bkk ones. Hmmm, the same fingerprint as the Bkk and H.K. versions?
This makes me wonder if the Chinese mafia is behind a lot of it? With the same CDs being manufactured in H.K., Chinese mainland, Bkk and other places. With a master disk being moved between factories for manipulation. Perhaps the same or a similar group of people, doing it for the surrounding countries. For the pirate CD shops. Though adding
India into this same equation of the Chinese mafia, is presumably a long shot.
work with any Windows OS.
Very quickly he reset the meter (fear of good guys!) – so hang on to that docket you get from the airport taxi people and DO NOT GIVE IT TO THE DRIVER as it tells the good guys who the bad driver is! I get this ride about once a week, so I know how much to pay, expecting him to have a "fast meter" I was surprised to see that it was the usual amount.
Where in the capital do you find these twin towers?
Actually, this is perhaps the easiest "where is this pic" so far.
The "where is this pic" picture in last week's column was one of the main halls on Chulalongkorn's University campus. Not one person emailed me with the right answer, hence a somewhat easier pic this week.
All sorts of funny business going on in Patpong this week. The first and perhaps the most important thing to be aware of is Firecats Bar. AVOID THIS BAR!!! This upstairs bar is one of the Patpong bars which openly advertises sex shows. It is important at this stage to mention that this bar is NOT one of the King's Group of Bars. As myself and my bodyguard, Whosyourdaddy, walked up the stairs, we asked what the price of a beer was, to which the response was 100 baht. We took a seat at the bar and ordered a couple of Heinekens. After we'd been drinking for a few minutes, one of the mamasans came along and instead of giving us a checkbin as is the standard practice, she asked us to pay there and then. No problem we said, although we should have smelled a rat at this uncommon practice. We were mildly bemused by the 600 baht was the price quoted to which we replied in English, no, we had been quoted 100 baht per bottle, and that is what we would pay. A small laminated fluorescent green card was produced by the mamasan saying that it was 300 baht per beer and that was the price for the beer including a charge for the show which had not been mentioned earlier. After getting the green light from Whosyourdaddy, I told the mamasan in Thai, in no uncertain terms, that we would not be paying that price, and it would be 100 baht per bottle, no more. Surprisingly, even while using Thai, she didn't budge. So, unfortunately, I had to tell her what I really thought of her in Thai, and what we would do if she tried to force us to pay this outrageous price, and all of a sudden the price dropped to 100 baht. So learning a few Thai obscenities finally paid off… I hate to be rude, but sometimes it IS warranted. We paid, sat back and enjoyed the show, all the time making menaces of ourselves by telling all of the new customers entering the bar that the price was 100 baht per beer, no more. (This is actually a pretty dumb thing to do.) It must be said that the customers were virtually all tourists in Firecats Bar, and predominantly Asians. The net result of these ridiculous prices is that people just sat there and nursed their beers, and not one person seemed to buy another drink. Chatting with other people around us confirmed that they had paid 300 baht a drink. When it's all said and done, those 110 baht beers at Nana seem a whole lot more attractive because you simply don't have to put up with all of the Patpong bullshit. So, if you find yourself down the Pong, it looks like we are back to the old days of sticking with the King's Group of Bars.
But there's more funny business going on at Patpong. The cops have ordered no nudity and all bars must have the girls cover up – no nipples or pussy to be seen is the word from the boys in brown. The ground level bars in Patpong have for the most part adhered to this policy for a very long time, but the upstairs bars have been a different story, girls often walking around totally starkers, and always topless or in their birthday suit when up on stage. In some of the King's Group's upstairs bars, the girls in the shows are covering up their private parts with those horrible glittery star stickers, one on each nipple, and one downstairs too. However, when the show starts, the sticker from downstairs is temporarily removed to allow them to perform all of those horrible shows. You can see that they are putting the stickers on an taking them off with great regularity and the stickers have largely lost their adhesive quality and keep falling off when the girls least expect it! In the aforementioned ripoff bar, Firecats, the girls on stage are sort of topless, keeping their bras on, but pulling them back to expose their breasts. I guess the idea here is that if the cops decide to raid the bar, the girls can quickly cover their breasts in one economical movement, before the cops get to view the merchandise.
Super Pussy is another of these upstairs bars that one needs to be aware of. There are enough Thai guys with missing teeth hanging around outside to make an unemployed dentist salivate. Asking one of these fellows outside about the prices, I was told that a beer costs 100 baht and that there is no cover charge. I then asked about the show and he looked puzzled. What is the price for the show I asked to which he replied, "beer 100 baht, show 200 baht, total 300 baht". So, they only tell you about the price of the show if you ask, and they attempt to conceal it by saying, "no cover show". Very, very devious. Given the amount of nasty looking Thai fellows outside, no matter how good your Thai is, this is one bar where you would not want to get stuck in an argument. AVOID SUPER PUSSY BAR!
The King's Group has opened a new bar called King's Cloud, located in Patpong soi 2 where Cleopatra used to be. I got the impression that unlike some of their bars on Patpong soi 1, this particular bar did NOT have some of the more attractive girls from the King's Group stables.
If you're looking for a copied brand name watch, don't leave the purchase until the last night of your trip, thinking that you can pick it up at the Patpong night market. A crackdown is currently taking place on the various goods peddled at the Patpong market, the watch dealers bearing the brunt of it, with the copied football jersey and copied eye wear vendors are also suffering. Interestingly, there are a number of cops wandering around Patpong, in far greater numbers than is usual. In addition, there are these odd looking characters walking around in black jackets with Royal Thai Police Patpong embroidered on them. I guess they are genuine police but the jackets really don't look too genuine to me. As the cops approached a watch or eye ear vendor's stall, the vendor would either do a runner, leaving the stall unattended, or would very quickly cover all of the merchandise with some sort of fabric, to make it look as though there was nothing there. It all seemed like a big game and I'm sure the cops know exactly who is selling what. Still, it was entertaining, if nothing else.
It used to be a landmark, the Siam Square Burger King branch,
but now it's Pizza Hut. And Pizza Company is right across the road.
Where the old Burger King at Siam Square once stood now lies the new Pizza Hut store. But it is more than just another branch, it is their new Thailand flagship branch. Very flash, it is bound to attract all of the try hard hip and trendy Thais who go where the in crowd goes. But if you want a good pizza, go to the Pizza Company branch straight across the road. It may not be as flash to look at, but the pizza is far superior. Are you a poser or a pizza lover?
On the subject of pizzas, it's great that the two major players in the pizza market offer English speaking operators for telephone orders. The big problem is that many of the operators only have a very limited command of the language, good at running through the basic order, but if things get complicated or you ask something just a little out of the ordinary, they get a bit flustered and you may find that is easier talking to them in Thai. And if they get really flustered and have trouble communicating, sometimes they just hang up on you! You've gotta laugh!
In the remodelling of Gaysorn Plaza, the big fibreglass statue of Godzilla from the defunct Planet Hollywood disappeared. But, it looks like Godzilla has turned up outside a Japanese bar in Thaniya Plaza. What a great place for him! Wreak havoc in little Tokyo, Godzilla!
As the rains continue to lash the city, one of the direct effects of this is that you may find your laundry takes longer to be done! Many of the laundry services, both those within apartment buildings, and the small independents usually hang the washing outside to dry, as opposed to using a machine. The rains mean that some days they are unable to hang washing out to dry, meaning you have to wait longer than usual. Some laundry operators do have dryers so in these cases, you shouldn't notice a difference. Incidentally, if you are on a budget, but are planning to be in Bangers long time (or is it long term?!), buying a washing machine will save you a lot in the long run.
It's school holiday time and while many young Thais will be out and about, cruising around their favourite hangouts, particularly Siam Square, many students from well heeled families will be at home, surfing the net and chatting with their friends online. For local expats, school holiday time means it can be a little bit more difficult to get on the net – but it never seems to be any slower than "normal". Also, wherever you are in the world, you may notice more chat requests via ICQ and the like as these bored Thai students search for people to chat with, often searching for people who have "Thai" or "Thailand" in their online user profile. Also, expect the hangouts popular with younger Thais such as RCA, Siam Square and even Khao Sarn Road, to be somewhat busier over the next few weeks.
Steering out of a window, looking over the city, a Thai working girl
ponders the city, the profession and her chance to make millions.
Good farang food is easy to come by in Bangers, but in many cases, it is the same price as in Farangland – and no, I'm not talking about places like The Oriental Hotel where prices really are expensive. While dining at farang food outlets with expat friends, we often find ourselves comparing prices of food here, with the prices from home. Throughout the capital, the prices are in many cases dearer than the West, and to qualify these comments, I'm talking primarily about comparing Thai prices with prices in Canada, Australia and New Zealand. And to qualify this even further, we are comparing prices at places that use locally sourced ingredients (not imported beef and lamb etc which we can expect to cost more). Thai food is great, but from time to time, one just needs that farang food fix.
A friend is always surprised when I order my favourite drink, Jack Daniels, in many of the gogo bars. He argues that too many of the bars water the drinks down, and what you are getting, well it just ain't Jack. I make no claims to being a connoisseur so do not know if what he says is right or not. What do you think? Do the bars water down drinks?
Is there a more humorous site than Thai men with those moles on their face with loooong pieces of hair growing out. I gather the reason that they do not cut the hair is that superstition says that there will be many, many years bad luck to follow. Well, I hate to tell them, but according to some Thai girls I have spoken to, there are few things that they find uglier than this. Therefore, until they cut the hairs, they are going to continue to have bad luck with the girls… So, its bad luck or its bad luck!
Berlitz Language School, generally acknowledged as one of the poorest paying and worst language schools in the city, is advertising for teachers on the radio. As a cynical friend said, they must be desperate because no one even bothers replying to their ads in the Bangkok Post. But worst of all, he is probably right! In one of those ads that makes no mention of experience or qualifications, but highlights enthusiasm as a necessary attribute, you just know that they will hire anyone who walks in the door. There is always a lot of teaching work around so unless Berlitz has drastically improved their conditions of employment, don't bother.
Rumours of ANOTHER language school pulling the plug. There must now be real concern amongst English teachers in the industry as it seems that language schools are dropping at the rate of about one a month! And some of these schools that are going down the gurgler invariably aren't paying the staff their final month's pay! When a company goes belly up in Smileyland, there isn't much you can do, and the term legal recourse most likely doesn't exist in the Thai language. The only advice I can give is to stick with the reputable schools that have been around for a long time, and to make sure that you have a financial buffer, although the latter really goes without saying. Is it any coincidence that the schools that have closed down recently are single branch schools that aimed for the upper sector of the market? Austil, MELS and now AIE have all ceased operations in the last few months. Who will be next?
Tony's complimentary drinks cards for Thai girls are clever.
There are different cards in English given to farangs.
Tony's Entertainment Complex, the big, flashy freelancer joint on Walking street in Pattaya has opened up a new branch in Bangkok. Located on Petchaburi Road on the old Brew Pub site, it will be interesting to see how popular it is. Being away from the popular farang areas of upper Sukumvit Road and Patpong could well result in a quite different clientele from the Pattaya branch because like it or not, most farangs tend to gravitate to those two areas. But it is a similar crowd that they are trying to attract in Bangkok and there are more than a few folks from Tony's hanging around the Nana intersection at Sukumvit handing out cards like the one above. This particular card is aimed squarely at Thai girls to try and lure them in. On the reverse side in Thai it says "buy one jug of beer, get one free – but only for girls without guys". A Thai girl who read this was very confused, since in her mind girls can only go there if they are with men to pay! But great marketing for Tony to try and get the freelancers to come – because the men will follow. I don't want to be negative, but the location of Tony's will not help at all, and I really question the viability of a farang orientated place located away from the main areas. Given that the place will likely be targeting a similar crowd to Thermae and Nana Disco, it won't be an easy sell getting people to traipse all the way over to Petchaburi Road. Let's put it this way. If they had have been looking for investors for this bar, they wouldn't have got a brass razoo out of me.
People have been emailing me, asking why Trink's column is now buried so deep within the Bangkok Post website. Is it a case of the Bangkok Post trying to hide him, because they are scared publishing a nightlife based column in the face of the current crackdown? Most unlikely… The reason is more likely a lot simpler. My money would be on something along the lines of the folks that run the Post website want readers to look at other parts of the site, increasing the number of hits to the main page, which is good for advertising, before going straight to Trink's column.
I receive many emails requesting information about Cambodia, a country which quite frankly, I know very little about. If you want info about Cambodia, the site for you is TalesOfAsia, run by a most interesting fellow based in Siem Reap.
This week's column was published on Saturday because I will not be anywhere near a computer on Sunday, and am loathe to publish the column late. Next week's column will be published at the usual time, 3:00 PM Sunday Thai time.
Your Bangkok commentator,
Thanks this week go to Whosyourdaddy – as always,
Pom Michael, Fughi and Shadow.