Stickman's Weekly Column December 30th, 2001

We Are So Different!



Alai na? You don't have to speak Thai well to know that when a Thai says those two words, they are confused, didn't understand what you just said – or are perhaps surprised or annoyed. But just why did they say it? That is the hard part to work out.

So often things happen in Thailand and you are simply at a loss to explain it. The Thai just said or did what? You have got to be joking! How could they do or say that?! There are times when you simply cannot fathom what is going on and it is often easier to come up with the argument that in Thailand, you shouldn't try to analyse things too much. Sure, this has its merits, but sometimes, you still want to know just why things happened the way they did. After all, you don't want to get the same reaction or response next time.

So, how do a lot of these misunderstandings come about? While a lot of problems stem from communication difficulties, there is another, much bigger issue. You need to look at what is important to you, and try and reconcile that with the things that are important to Thais. As you may have guessed, we're looking at two completely different sets of beliefs.

A lot of what goes wrong is due to the fact that the beliefs of Thais and the beliefs of farangs are quite different. At the end of the day, the things that are generally most important to farangs could perhaps be narrowed down to the characteristics of honesty, honour and integrity. Amongst farangs, lying is seldom acceptable and honour and integrity are valued above most other traits and characteristics.

With Thais, these characteristics are not nearly as important to them. For many Thais, one's appearance, presentation and perhaps above all others, face, are what is usually most important to them. Half truths may be told to preserve face and in fact this is seen as being quite acceptable.

Now when you try and reconcile the two sets of beliefs, you strike all sorts of obstacles because at the end of the day, we are talking about completely different concepts and ideas! The tuktuk driver who is lost and cannot find your destination will never admit to it, because to do so would be a huge loss of face. The ham and cheese sandwich that contains a minuscule amount of ham and cheese will be wrapped up beautifully. If the presentation is good, how can you complain?! And, the Thai English teacher who cannot string together a single sentence of grammatically correct English will dress up in her finest threads, thus appeasing her students on the basis of her personal appearance and she suddenly finds herself beyond reproach regarding any other issue – it doesn't matter that her English sucks!

So, when you next have a run in with a Thai and wonder what went wrong, odds are that your philosophies on life are so far different, that reconciling them and finding a happy medium is not always possible. At the end of the day, farangs and Thais are very different. As foreigners in Thailand, we just have to accept that. We are the guests in Thailand and we have to respect our hosts. Don't rock the boat or start screaming and yelling when things don't go your way. The hosts and their guests have a completely different outlook on things.

Last week's "where is this pic" picture was taken from sex tourist central, the Nana Hotel. The shot was looking north, up Sukumvit soi 3, over the Nana intersection.

Where is this pic?

clue: you are looking east.

Extra for experts: What is the building slightly
left of centre with the light blue neon sign near the top?

Is this an example of Thai's using an excuse because it suits them – or is it an example of those different beliefs?

I was on the bus the other day and it reached a set of lights as they went red. At first I thought it was a stroke of luck because it meant that I could get out there and walk straight across to the supermarket where i was going instead of walking back from the next stop. I pressed the buzzer and the guy collecting the fare came over and blurted out to my girlfriend "Bert Pradtoo mai dai, I S O". I realised after the initial shock had worn off that he was saying that to open the door at any place that isn't a bus stop would be a violation of ISO guidelines. Then as the lights changed the driver moves off at lightening speed and veers left, almost twatting a motorcyclist, then had a go at flattening a couple of pedestrians who were trying to cross the road.
Is the crackdown a farce?
Was in <edited – but it is in Nana Plaza – Stick> bar last week, talking to a girl there that I know quite well. She pointed out a gogo girl who seemed quite embarrassed about something, and told me: "she shy, only 15 years old. But that is a secret, ok?" Oh man, 15 years old? And they are worried about 25 year old girls showing their tits at Nana?
Another person with a conscience.
I bar fined a girl at 4.00 AM <bar name edited – but it is in Cowboy – Stick> and when i got her outside could see that she was very young. Amid much giggling she told me she was 16 but ID card said she was 25 so no problem (not). Took her back and mamasan said same thing (ID card say 25 who cares if she is 16, go and have fun). I just stood there and said nothing so she flung my bar fine back at me.
I said it was bad in an earlier column…
I was in Midnite Bar at Soi Cowboy the other night, talking to a dancer that I have known from there for a while. I mentioned that I had seen a lovely pic of her on the Midnite Bar website. She immediately became very red-faced and said "what, they put my naked pic on internet? They not tell me about this!" And she became very sad looking. Terrible if they are putting these girls pics on without permission!
Anything goes in Bangkok!
The girlfriend and I are on the skytrain heading for dinner. We are sitting directly across from 2 smartly dressed and fairly decent looking katoeys. There's a bit of eye contact, but I am not obviously staring at them or anything. I love people watching on the skytrain and always take the time to check out all the women (and semi women). When we get up to get off at our stop, the katoey that is sitting next to the exit door pulls down her blouse and exposes her breast to me in full of the whole train (but obviously for my benefit). The door had still not opened and I exclaimed "Well, that's a new one on me!" while the GF said "Oh my God!". The Katoey gave a seductive smile and we exited the train laughing.
Three different kinds of Thai women…
From my two years of experience in Thailand, there are 3 kinds of women if you are a farang man: Prostitutes, scam artists, and decent women. Prostitutes are usually easy to spot and most men know what they're getting with these women. Sometimes, though, it can be very difficult to distinguish between the latter two. A women may have a good job and outwardly appear to be a good person. But often these women will think nothing of bilking a farang man out of several thousand dollars and throwing him out with yesterday's trash. Since I spent two years in that part of the country, I hate to say this, but the biggest scam artists seem to be from Isaan. In my opinion, the best women in Thailand are those from Bangkok. They're better educated, have better jobs, and many
of them can financially take care of themselves. Of course, it's more difficult for farang men to meet these kinds of women, even if they speak Thai. But it can be done.
Simple economics…
I don't see why everyone is so "up in arms" about prices inching (or sometimes 'footing') higher. With the current climate in BKK, (bar closings, reduced hours, more hassles, increased minimum working girl age, …etc), it stands to reason that prices (bar fines, short-time, long-time, drinks…etc) should go up not down.

It is the simple economic principle of "supply and demand". Supply is dropping, demand is most likely the same; therefore the prices should go up. Granted, if demand tails off a lot then the opposite effect will occur and prices of everything should (and will) drop.

And a green elephant just flew past my apartment window!
I had a chat with a Sikh owner of a massage joint off the Sukhumvit at Soi 10 and he believes that the NEP will be torn down as no new leases will be negotiated. He also said that the area across the Soi from him will be razzed to make way for a large apartment complex, and the Clinton plaza will not die, but be reborn (I forget the details / reasons).

Pretty Girl Bar in Pattaya. What was Pretty
Girl Bar in Nana is now called Bottoms Up.
Just when you thought that all of the bars were ganging up on customers to hammer us with even more price increases, the good folks at the Dollhouse offer us a lifeline with some new, CHEAPER prices! The Dollhouse will provide uniform prices across all three of their establishments with all beers priced at 95 baht and cocktails at 110 baht. 95 baht for a beer represents a 15 baht reduction from the current price. Thanks Dollhouse for being perhaps the only bar to give us a Christmas present this year.

But this is Thailand, and you'll have to wait a little longer for The Dollhouse's new branch in Cowboy to open. Sleepy builders who seem to prefer eating som tum than actually completing the project are apparently to blame.

G Spot and the other bars from Nana Plaza that had been closed down have re-opened. But it wasn't exactly business as usual with a few small, but noticeable changes in place. In G Spot, the seats have been re-upholstered and fresh carpet has been laid (on the walls!). It doesn't really look lot better due to the dim lighting, but it sure does smell a lot better. G Spot seemed to be way down on girl numbers, and I wonder if the 15 day closure resulted in some of the girls drifting off to other bars. Also in G Spot, they have a girl doing a really raunchy dance routine a la Long Gun. The big difference being, yep – you guessed it, the girl in G SPot doesn't get her gear off! Nice effort, but it sort of defeats the purpose!

Angel Witch Bar which has been closed for 30 days has sent a good number of their girls over to Rock Hard. So, Rock Hard should most definitely be on your list of bars to visit. The Angel Witch girls should be there until the 18th of January or so. Angel Witch is scheduled to re-open on the 19th.

Parts of the Ambassador Hotel and another adjacent building went up in flames in the early hours of Saturday morning. Walking past the area on Saturday night, it seemed to be largely business as usual, although the businesses on Sukumvit Road between sois 11 and 13 were closed and ticker tape had been erected across the front of many of the businesses, preventing anyone from entering. The closed businesses included the popular 7 Eleven branch – the sex tourist's favourite place to pick up condoms before heading back the hotel, and the nicely decorated Big Boy bar. Just think, if it had have got out of control, there is a possibility that the flames may have jumped all the way over to Clinton and Thermae!

One thing that really pisses me off about the local news coverage is the lack of coverage about what is happening to farangs in Thailand. Most locals rave about the Bangkok Post, claiming it to be this wondrously good newspaper that covers everything. I suppose it does cover the local Thai news well and also has good coverage of international affairs and sport. Well, local Thai news doesn't interest me that much and the internet is the place for international news and sport. Why is is that a reader has been emailing me about a 24 year old farang who worked for his company but who died in Thailand this week. Was with a bar girl the previous night and woke up dead. Why isn't this sort of thing printed in the local papers? Only the Pattaya Mail covers this sort of thing. I really wonder if the ONLY reason I read both the Bangkok Post and The Nation is because we get them delivered to work for free. More farang journalists investigating what is happening to FARANGS IN THAILAND would be nice.

On the night of Christmas Eve / early morning of Christmas Day, the bars in Soi Cowboy were open right through until 6:00 AM….haven't seen that in a while.

With barfines being put up at this time of year, some of the bar owners have also threatened to fine the dancing girls very heavily if they do not show up to work. After all, if the girl doesn't show up to work, that is a possible 1,000 baht bar fine that they missed out on, not the usual 500 baht. But as usual, some bars have to take it to extremes. In Fantasia on Christmas Eve, the the bar fine was at the usual Crown Group 600 baht level. However, the girls had all been warned that if they didn't come in to work, they would be docked 1,600 baht. Yes, you read that right – 1,600 baht! Where on earth do they come up with such a hefty figure? How can it be justified? At New Year, it will only be 1,000 baht for the night and under normal circumstances, the girls are cut just 225 baht…

And these hefty barfines at this time of year really must be questioned. During Loy Kratong, the argument is that this is traditionally a lover's holiday and that the higher fine is put in place as a precautionary measure to prevent the girls from paying their own fine – or simply not showing up – all to ensure that there are actually some girls in the bars. With Xmas and New Year, the argument seems to be a little different. The New Year's Eve argument seems to be "that is what we have done in previous years". Sorry, but that just does not cut it. Is it anything more than a way for bar owners to round off their profits for the year during the very peak of the high season?

Popular Pattaya gogo bars TQ1 and TQ2 put on quite a show on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. On Christmas Eve it was the turn of TQ2. The bar was filled up with those small, white, polystyrene balls like you find inside those bean bags that were all the rage in the '70s. There were millions of them in the bars, apparently there were about two feet deep, right throughout the bar. Customers were diving into them (your head doesn't hurt when it hits the floor if you are drunk enough), bar girls were diving down into them, hiding and springing up on some customers and one girl even lost her shoes. Apparently there was this huge trail of the balls outside the bar for a couple of days. The following night it was TQ1's turn and it was all repeated over again.

The busy area on Walking Street outside Dollhouse,
Peppermint Gogo and the Marine Bar.

Like more than a few gogo bars in Pattaya, Vixens has introduced the "before 11:00 PM 1,000 baht barfine policy:. Before 11:00 PM, the barfine is 1000 baht and after that, it is reduced to the standard level of 500 baht. The other night at just before 11:00, only one girl had had her bar fine paid. By 11:20, all but a handful of the girls had gone proving that the price of gogo bar barfines is seriously elastic.

A friend asked me for advice this week on what to buy a bar girl for her birthday. My immediate response was that if he wanted her to actually keep the present and not dispense with it and exchange it for cash – possibly a lot less than it was actually worth – then he should choose something that cannot be easily turned into cash, and something that a pawn shop is not interested in. Yes, these girls know where all of the pawn shops are! So, the three big items on Stickman's recommended bar girl list are: cuddly toys, Levi's jeans (the genuine article) or any other name brand clothes. Funnily enough, they are not so fussed about name brand clothes because of the better quality, more being seen in such name brands and letting all and sundry know that the clothes are not copied, gains the girl a certain amount of face. If you have no problem with her converting a gift into cash, DO give her gold or an electronic appliance – though be warned that when bargirls are concerned, the latter often gets pawned off for a fraction of its value!

Its the peak of the high season and Pattaya has seemingly zillions of tourists. Calling ahead to try and get a room can result in a lot of "sorry sir, we are full" responses. But this is a little unusual because the very hotel who claim to bee full when calling ahead do seem to take walk ins….is this normal in the hotel industry?

Scala Cinema has increased their prices. But this is one price increase that is totally justified because they recently renovated this cinema, a Siam Square landmark, and the cinema is now a lot more comfortable than it was before. Also, they have tiered prices for tickets with the "premier" seats costing 120 baht and the "standard" costing 100. Funny thing is that in such a large cinema – the auditorium feels like it has around 1000 seats, the "premier" seats are those right at the back…and certainly not what I would have considered the best place to sit.

A reminder not to throw any rubbish on the ground in Thailand, particularly in the central parts of Bangkok. A friend was fined 2,000 baht on the spot for dropping a cigarette butt. Yep, 2,000 baht on Christmas Day! Now it would be a moot point as to whether Thai people get issued with this fine or not…

The police seem to be prohibiting vehicles from stopping on Soi Cowboy at night, which actually makes it a lot easier to walk through, and seems to have discouraged most vehicles from from using it at all. It makes the soi feel a touch wider, and slightly more welcoming.

From Phuket, I hear that Rock Hard has increased their prices. Bar fines have gone from 500 to 600 baht and lady drinks from 100 to 120 baht. The general consensus amongst local punters in Phuket who emailed me is not at all positive about Rock Hard, suggesting that the girls are not nearly as attractive as some of the ladies that worked there in the past – though this argument is relevant at just about every bar in the Kingdom. Rock Hard have been good enough to go so far as explaining the price increases on their website – something that other bars could learn from.

Watch out for someone claiming to be Bernard Trink who is emailing people with Thailand websites, purporting to be the Night Owl himself. It is a hoax. The emails do not come from Thailand, but rather from abroad. Trink himself is not known for being active on the internet, rather just reading his emails and seldom, if ever, replying.

If you want to avoid being labelled as a sex tourist, don't wear Philippines T-shirts in Thailand or Thailand T-shirts when you are in the Philippines – especially if you are hanging around the bar areas. And with the reputation that Cambodia has for dodgy sex tourism, perhaps the biggest one of all to be aware of is Cambodian souvenir T-shirts. Yes, I admit it. When I see someone in one of Bangkok's bar districts wearing a Cambodian T-shirt, I wonder. Given the stereotype that Cambodia has for underage prostitution, do you want people thinking that perhaps you are a paedophile? Hell, you may well be innocent, but the concept of innocent until proven guilty is not the first thought into many people's minds. Wearing a Cambodian T-shirt in bar areas takes bigger balls than I've got because people DO stereotype you!

Baiyoke 2 and the Amari Watergate in the background
with the Saen Saeb Canal in the foreground.

It's been a funny year really. Personally, very little surprises me in Thailand these days and I have just chuckled and smiled at a lot of what has been happening in recent months, with the farang commercial sex industry being subjected to all sorts of funny goings on. It has however been a surprise that there has been so much turbulence. Still, I can't complain, because it gives me plenty of things to write about in this column.

The column has become a big part of my life. I had been thinking about writing a weekly column for more than a year and then one day, I just thought that its time to do it. In a short space of time, the weekly took off and now seems to have a lot of regular readers. The number of visitors the website gets has increased dramatically and the number of emails that I receive has soared.

But it hasn't all been a case of following the yellow brick road. There was a time when I almost stopped writing the weekly. When things got a bit hairy a few months back, I almost shelved it, and there have been a few other moments when putting it together has taken up a big chunk of my time…but increasingly it is becoming a bigger part of my routine and a lot of fun to put together. How long the column will continue for is anyone's guess. At the end of the day, it does interfere with other parts of my life and I'd be lying if I didn't admit that there are some days when I just really can't be bothered doing it. But the pros outweigh the cons and I plan to be writing it for a whole lot longer yet. Somehow though, I don't think Trink's 36 year record will be threatened!

To maintain integrity, something that I always strive to do, requires publishing stories about what is really happening out there, and this often means publishing material about certain people in a less than savoury light. Now Thailand is not the best place in the world to call a spade a spade. Aggrieved folks do not get their lawyer to call yours as is the case in Farangland. Rather, they may seek the assistance of the local motorcycle taxi rider's dodgiest friend to appease them – and get that person to rectify the situation permanently. So while on one hand one wants to report on what is really going on, I'll be the first to admit that there are plenty of wild stories that I could never print here. Some of what goes on behind the scenes really is wild.

While my days of misbehaving are largely over, I have to admit that cruising around the bar scene and watching all of the comings and goings with a view to reporting and commenting on it, still gives me a real buzz.

Anyway, the New Year is just about with us and this is the last Stickman Weekly for 2001. Let's hope 2002 gives me a lot more positive things to write about and report on. Thanks for all of the encouraging emails and feedback which have contributed towards making writing the column a pleasure. Happy New Year.

Your Bangkok commentator,

Stick


Thanks for some new for this week's column go out to management of
The Dollhouse, Rock Hard & G Spot plus Farangman and Mr LongGun.