Several months ago, I was chatting with a friend down in the Thermae, a fellow English teacher. My friend introduced me to his boss, a very amicable Australian who had been working in the English language teaching industry in our favourite city for almost ten years. The Australian fellow went on to tell me how many of the schools were facing a backlash from teachers. These employees who had been shit on for so long, and were no longer prepared to accept the lies, crappy employment conditions and low salaries any longer. We discussed how this might all contribute to having a very positive effect on the industry as far as teachers were concerned, pushing up salaries to levels a little closer to other countries in the region, and making the working conditions a little more bearable.
Oh how wrong we turned out to be! What we forgot to discuss was all of the other factors shaping the industry at present. The fact that there are literally hundreds of people moving to Thailand every month with the intention of….teaching English! We didn't anticipate the huge growth in the number of English teacher training courses offered in Thailand and the number of trainees that this would produce. But most of all, we forgot to factor in the damage done to the industry that some of the less scrupulous schools and teachers have caused. Its a fact that a lot of schools and companies have taken on teachers / corporate training courses and for one reason or another, the clients have been less than satisfied with the results – and these people who have been burnt are not in a hurry to take on any more teachers or contracts. No doubt, they are not shy to tell their friends and other people in business about their bad experiences too. Yes, while teachers have been shit on for a very long time, truth be told, many schools and teachers have done a really bad job and it seems that we are now starting to see the effects of all of this nonsense.
If you plan on moving to Bangkok and wish to teach English, beware that things have changed a lot in recent times. First of all, there are now serious numbers of people searching for teaching positions in Bangkok. Along with these increased numbers of people in the job market, there has been a HUGE increase in the number of qualified teachers searching for work. Now, this has got to be a good thing for the industry, but it does mean that unqualified teachers will find significantly increased competition, especially for the better jobs.
There are less and less decent employers around these days. The very professional Austil closed down about a year or so ago, there is all sorts of turbulence within IDP and it could be argued that only the British Council and a handful of the smaller schools like BITS and IEG remain as truly desirable places to work. There are a couple of other reasonable language schools on the brink of going under, and even some of the bigger schools are finding that the amount of work around has taken a nosedive.
But looking at the number of advertisements for teaching positions, one could argue that there is no shortage of teaching work in Bangkok right now. You're right! If you are happy to earn 25,000 baht a month working a 40 – 48 hour week (which may be over 6 days), 25 of which are in the classroom – with up to 60 kindergarten / young kids, then work is plentiful! But if you want a real job, a job that pays you a reasonable salary, teaching students of an age that you might actually be able to relate to and that doesn't ask the impossible of you, then sorry, these types of jobs are becoming more and more difficult to come by.
It goes without saying that if you are currently employed in a reasonable job, don't go resigning without finding something decent first! In the old days you could get a new job the same day, and a good job within a week. Sorry, those are now the good old days. For now, it truly is a case of better the devil you know.
I notice that there are more than a few Bangkok based English teachers being picked up by language schools in China. $US 25,000 per year plus housing provided seems to be what is on offer, more than double what the average Bangkok English teacher earns.
The bottom line here is that if you are currently working as a teacher in Bangkok and are content with things, then you are doing more than ok. If you are thinking about heading over this way to work as a teacher then you need to realise that things have changed. How long they will stay like this, I have no idea. BUT, if pressed for an answer, I can’t see things improving overnight, if at all. As more and more farangs move to Thailand and look to take up teaching jobs, there is NOT, nor will there be, a corresponding increase in the number of desirable places to work. The net result is that there will be more and more teachers fighting for the same number of decent jobs.
Last week's "where is this pic" was of course the Nana Beauty Salon which is located under the stairs leading up the left hand side of Nana Plaza. No-one emailed me with the correct answer. It was not so long ago, a tiny little bar with a curtained off private area, I guess what you could call a bouquet blowjob bar.
Where is this pic?
Clue: You've walked past here before, for sure!
God Blimey, can I be helping you? Would you like
to be buying a suit? I am making good suit. I am #1 Tailor!
Thank you for the two job offers that I received this week although I have no need to take up either of them as I am already gainfully employed. It seems that these two people, along with quite a few others, have confused the reader's comments section of the column with with comments that are mine. So, let me state clearly that the weekly column is laid out in the the same format each week. It starts off with a topical piece, written by me. That is followed by the "where is this pic", as above. What comes next is excerpts from some of the more interesting emails that I receive each week, each comment preceded by some sort of smart ass comment by me. These excerpts are NOT written by me – they come from emails sent to me by readers – and they are indented with a different text size to show that they are not mine. Kao jai mai? And then when the text returns to this font size down below, we get into the news and *my views* of happenings in and around the city during the past week. So to repeat, the indented text that follows are pieces from readers, not me!
From last week's piece about freebies on Samui.
their boyfriend / girlfriend relationship he should be held responsible for his actions and be a man about it. He helped bring a child into this world during lovemaking, not paid sex!
up. Some of the girls don't even have the bus fare home. This happened to me and it was unwanted. She wouldn't let go and her smile turned to a scowl when I declined her advances. To be rid of her I gave her 100 baht. She said "I hate you", snatched the money and ran off..good riddance. The last I saw of her? No chance. We carried on boozing at the pavement tables outside Clinton and who should be parading herself past, yes Miss Surin holding a cigarette lighter. She saw me, came over and attempted to ignite the lighter twice under my chin.
The new Cascade Bar neon sign stands land
and proud, looking down over a quiet Nana Plaza.
And speaking of Nana Plaza, or should I say Quiet Plaza? I spent a couple of nights at the beer bars in Nana Plaza this week, just watching the comings and goings, and it was very quiet to say the least. I've never seen it this quiet at this particular time of year. Is it time for some of the Nana Plaza bars to drop their prices, offer some specials or make some sort of special effort to get some of their lost customers back? Isn't that normal practice for a business to try and attract new customers – or pull back old customers who have gone elsewhere? The Dollhouse in Cowboy have proved that you don't need to make a big effort to pull in the customers in real numbers… So come on, drop those prices, throw in some free food, at least do SOMETHING to get us back.
After being closed for showing a bit of beaver, Vixens Gogo bar in Pattaya is back to topless dancing and even the odd show. Not quite back into full swing but certainly a step in the right direction.
But its all bad news for the Pattaya branch of the Dollhouse which has been closed by the boys in brown for 30 days. Dear oh dear, what did they do to deserve that? Did someone flash a nipple or some other equally as heinous crime? This will be a pain in the backside for the Dollhouse management, but fortunately, its not the end of the world. Expect to see many of the Dollhouse Pattaya girls strutting their stuff at the Dollhouse Clinton Plaza branch over the next month, a bonus for Bangkok's bad boy crowd.
A former DOS at a certain English school is taking his former employer to court over what he claims is wrongful / unjustified dismissal. Good luck to him on at least two counts. Thai vs farang, assuming his boss was Thai, is an uphill battle, at best. And if the rumours that are circulating are true, the guy not only deserved to lose his job, but was lucky that the school didn't try and pursue some sort of legal action against him!
Toyota Thailand must be doing a roaring trade at the moment. All over the city, thousands of the the older, clapped out cabs are being replaced by brand new Corollas. Riding in one of the new cabs, you almost feel like royalty, such is the difference between these new vehicles and some of the older cabs that had done upwards of half a million kilometres.
CentrePoint apartments has chosen to give the bird to the hotel industry and has reinstated their daily rate, including advertising it online. Watch out for some legal action soon… Centrepoint also have plans for two new apartment buildings, one in Sala Daeng with about 70 apartments, and the other in Wireless Road, which has been described as being their new flagship property. With plans to open both of the new buildings next year, this will take their number of properties to six, comfortably ahead of any other apartment building company. Remember, serviced apartments are MUCH cheaper and have FAR more facilities than hotels. So long as you don't need a business centre and don't require that 5 star service, serviced apartments generally offer far better value.
Popular Bangkok based American novelist Dean Barrett's new mystery novel, "Murder in China Red", has hit the stores in Bangkok and will be available in the USA in about one month's time. More about the book can be found here.
Its warming up in the big city, getting warmer earlier in the morning, staying hot for a longer period during the middle of the day, and cooling down later and later. We are less than a fortnight from the official start of the hot season, the time when temperatures soar, tempers flare, and English teachers get financial worries due to power bills going through the roof courtesy of an overworked air-conditioning unit.
Someone once asked me why the Bangkok gogo bars are closed during the day, though of course you can always find a few open during the day down in Pattaya. I explained that in the capital, I doubted that there would be the demand for the gogos to open during the day, though if it were just a handful, who knows, perhaps they might be able to make a buck? But thinking about it, perhaps there is a another reason? In *my eyes* Isaan girls do NOT look so hot during the day, especially with all of that gunky make-up that so many of the gogo girls apply. Pay bar, get her outside and you're thinking "oh shit, what have I done?" Sure, some do look great, but many don't. Night time really does have this effect of making it all a very even playing field in the beauty stakes.
Have you wondered why the new manager of Midnite Bar speaks such good English? Fairly easy answer really…he is not actually Thai, but rather Singaporean. Its the same guy who used to manage a few of the bars in Clinton. Friendly fellow too.
It is awfully quiet as bored staff look out from
the beer bar outside Playskool Bar in Nana Plaza.
I never realised that when the Crown group put up the barfine prices in their gogo bars to 600 baht, they increased the barfines at their beer bars to 600 baht as well. 600 baht? Hmmm, that MUST make them the most expensive beer bars in the Kingdom. Funnily enough, the drinks' prices in the beer bars are a lot cheaper than in the regular gogos with Heineken at 110 in the gogos and a more reasonable 80 baht in the beer bars.
Are you a foot fetishist? If you are, then Thailand must be a dream destination for you. With a good percentage of the population wearing open footwear, you can gaze at every Thai girls feet until your heart is content. The Thais will no doubt think it awfully odd, for the foot being the lowest part of the body blah blah blah. But beware of village girl feet syndrome! That can be enough to give even a non foot fetishist nightmares!
The saga of two teachers, until recently friends, who shacked up together in Bangkok, continues. Several lessons can be learned from the saga of BJ & D. Settling into well paid teaching positions several months ago, these lifelong buddies moved into a swanky condo together, not far from their place of employment. Things were good for a while, but then for various reasons, cracks started appearing. Without getting into the nitty gritty, these two friends ended up down at the cop shop this past week, making claims and counterclaims against each other. Amongst this mess there are lessons to be learned. If you get into a dispute with another farang, especially if it is someone you know, try and get an intermediary to mediate, a farang! Getting the Thai police and lawyers for a farang vs farang problem just isn't the way to go. Attempting to sort out a farang problem Thai style is a receipt for disaster. And perhaps more importantly, there is NO need to live with another farang in this city! Decent, affordable apartments are available everywhere. Finally, sharing your apartment with an alcoholic will always cause problems.
Things have NOT returned to normal at Panthip and there is no dodgy software to be found there. Some stall owners are saying that things will return to normal in one month while the pessimists are saying that Panthip's role as one of the pirate software centres of the world is over. Funnily enough, taking a 20 minute walk around the corner to Mahboonkrong will pay dividends…
In this week's "Woodstock report", I am pleased to report that in two visits this week, everything was just great. The food was as good as always, the staff pleasant and friendly and bugger me if they didn't get my bill right both times! But alas, there had to be a bit of bad news… Three of the staff have left, that is three of the best staff. I highlight this, not to say bad things about Woodstock, but simply to highlight the employment conditions of these girls. The girls who left received a monthly salary of 4,000 baht, about $US 90! Nightly tips of 60 – 80 baht push it up, but it goes to show you that these girls really do not have much of a chance to get ahead, and you can see why some of them often reluctantly, choose to enter the profession of their sisters who work in the adjoining bars. One of the girls is moving to another bar where the salary is 4,500 baht a month but where she believes the tips will be higher.
If you have an urge for strawberries and decide to pick up one of the 20 baht bags offered by street vendors all over the city, do yourself a favour and by two. The strawberries are packed in a tall bag with all of the actual fruit in the top half of the bag and green leaves, stalks and shit in the bottom of the bag. The way it is packed, making it look like there are far more strawberries than there actually are is incredibly misleading or downright clever, depending on whether you are the buyer or the seller. But one bag simply doesn't satisfy, so its gonna cost you 40 baht instead of 20.
The entrance way to Cascade Bar, 3rd floor of Nana.
The grand opening can't be too far away now.
With most of the el cheapo internet packages you have to be careful when you buy a package that it's not exclusively for the TOT (Telephone Organisation of Thailand) telephone system. A company called MWeb, run by KSC, has a package available for unlimited net access for a week at a very reasonable 85 baht – the price even dropped 10 baht this past month! Word on the street is that access is real quick and one friend says that he is constantly logged in at between 40 and 52k. I believe it has a 5 hour cut off. MWeb also offer a monthly registration for 299 baht a month. The package comes with a CD so you can set up yourself, or you can telephone the company and register each week. Apparently the process is easy, quick and English is understood. My friend says it is an excellent service and highly recommends it.
Those boiler room stock scam operations are still going strong, though they are becoming lot careful in the way that they operate. This week I met a young lady who worked at one of the places. The business is housed in a building which from the outside seems to be unoccupied, but is in fact being used by the boiler room brigade. Whereas in the past these operations used farang staff, they now use Thais. Paranoid about there being telephone records of literally thousands and thousands of cold calls made around the world, this particular outfit has a high speed internet connection and all of the calls are made via the internet! Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the way that they operate is that the Thais that they employ must speak VERY strong English. The current batch of staff include some MBA graduates, more than a few people who graduated from overseas, and a good number of Mahidol students! The young lady I spoke to about it all said that the interview for the job was conducted by 2 young Brits in their 20s who "tried to act like businessmen but who were dressed more like children"! She said that most of the staff knew that something was not quite right, but because the money is so good, no-one said anything.
I'm always asked by email what is the best bar in Bangkok. It really is an impossible question to answer because we all like different things. But for me, three bars stand out in Bangkok.
The Dollhouse in Soi Cowboy has something for everyone, and is probably the best bar in the city, followed closely by Midnite in Cowboy, and Playskool in Nana. See you there!
Your Bangkok commentator,