Stickman's Weekly Column March 17th, 2002

Don’t Lower Your Standards



There's something about Thailand that draws you to it, sucks you in, and in so many cases, refuses to let you go. The lure of Thailand is strong, so strong in fact that some people will do just about anything to be able to stay in the country that has stolen their heart.

The lure is different for us all. For some it is the warm weather and the food, for others the it is the freedom that the country offers (some would argue used to offer), and of course for some, it is the availability of women, and the commercial sex industry.

But staying on in Thailand is oh so easy, and too many people sell themselves short, ending up in a job that they do not like, just so that they can stay on in the country with a lifestyle that they love.

With Thailand being so cheap, some people feel that they can get by on average job with a very average income. One can put up with a crappy job when they initially arrive in Thailand, if their love for the Thai lifestyle is strong enough, but in time – and it usually doesn’t take that long, one needs more from their job. The amount of time spent at work means that if you don't like your job, it could well be torture. And don't forget income either. A low salary may be enough for you to live comfortably enough in Thailand, but who knows what the future holds? A return to the West with no savings and a few years of dead end jobs with no real development in terms of your employability, may not be a nice transition to have to make. So, then you stay on in Thailand, because the option of returning to the West isn't good, but in effect, you are just digging yourself a deeper and deeper grave.

Just like I have said all along with Thai women – where it is critical that you apply a similar formula to choosing your partner as you would at home – so too you should not lower your standards when it comes to employment in Thailand. Don't accept second best!

When hunting for employment in Thailand, while you may feel that your love for Thailand is so great that you will just about accept any position, even when you know that this job isn't right for you, you are fooling yourself… In time, the love for the country / the lifestyle will wane and the feeling that you are on one long, holiday will subside, leaving you with the realisation that your job doesn't fulfil you or provide you with the job satisfaction that is instrumental in making us happy. Further, it may not provide you with enough income to do anything more than live from week to week.

When searching for employment in Thailand, don't sell yourself short, unless it is a first up job that you are intending to use as a springboard into something else. And if you do not like the sound of it, or realize that it is not for you, don't become an English teacher!

Is the Thailand experience THAT GOOD that it is worth staying on in a crappy job, failing to improve your employment prospects, with a lack of job satisfaction and failing to accrue wealth? I personally don't think it is. What do you think?

Last week's where is this pic was taken from the stairway leading up to the Ploenchit BTS Station. The photo was taken at night, early evening to be exact, and was taken while facing east. The building in the background was the Amari Boulevard Hotel and the un-numbered soi nearby was of course Soi Zero.

Where is this pic?

Clue: Focus in on the turquoise ball.

Taken late afternoon…

Is it time for it all to be legalised?

I know from talking to the girls that most guys treat them well, but when you consider just how many men these women deal with, you can certainly understand why only a few months in the business makes them hardened and jaded. If they only get abused by, say, one guy in ten, it doesn't take long before the girl is psychologically damaged. I've seen results of the whole spectrum of abuse, ranging all the way from verbal (bad enough) to gang rape and beatings (rare, but still…). I've gotten to know many of these girls quite well over the years, and my heart really goes out to them when I see or hear about them being mistreated. They don't deserve it! The only way it will ever stop, in my opinion, is when prostitution becomes legal and the women get the same rights as workers in other professions (and by the way, the rights of workers in other professions could certainly use some improvement too, from what I see here in Thailand, anyway). It's high time to stop regarding prostitution as something sinful and shameful, to be shunned, hidden and denied. For crying out loud, there are far worse things going on in the world than people having sex while a little money changes hands!
Demure, docile and attentive…are they really everything that you believe?
I recalled a conversation I had about marriage with about 12 bargirls from "Suzie Cocktail Lounge" (long gone…) on Soi Cowboy in 1987. That was a while ago but I think it's still a relevant story about western misconceptions.

The girls had a letter and photo of an American man who had been referred by another American that the girls were acquainted with. The guy was in his late 20s and the girls all thought he was handsome. They gathered round and asked me to read aloud (in English) the letter he had written.

The guy introduced himself and wrote that he had never been to Thailand but would like to visit and find a Thai girl for a wife. He was divorced and employed as an instructor at a vocational school in the USA. He wrote a little of his interests and family. He then listed the qualities he wanted in a wife. As I read this part, I momentarily paused but considered that the girls had only asked me to read the letter not comment. I continued
reading aloud. The letter concluded with a return address for any girl who would be interested in marriage. As I finished the letter, one of the girls who had been translating for the others, immediately pointed on the letter to the one quality I had hesitated at "What's that?" she asked. I said the word. "What's that?" she repeated. I defined the word as objectively I could. The girl translated to the others and there was a disappointed chorus of "Ahhh…." and everyone of the girls walked away. This one quality on his list had of course ended their keen interest. I called back the one girl and said I was surprised that none of the girls were interested in this guy. He was a handsome American with a good job and he was looking for a wife. The girl explained "If I want a husband like this I can marry a Thai man". One of the qualities he sought in a Thai girl as a wife: obedience.

I couldn't disagree more with the following email.
I'm quite caring about your view of decent Thai girls. If you become familiar with a Thai girl and her biography and get an insight view into the so called decent Thai society, their family structure and horrendous network of liability; you probably get the same disappointment as in bargirls. All the bad attitudes of bargirls you know so well will most likely appear again with regular girls. It's just a matter of time. They come from the same nest. Just with a little difference in the financial backbone. The motivation is the same as well as the chance to get a good girl. Truly said, I think it's easier to find a virgin in Soi 6 of Pattaya than a decent Thai girl who contacts farangs. Of course they play the innocent, decent girl. That they all do with fervour. Did you ever think about if you force such behaviour with your expectation? But if you get to know their experience with Thai guys before they looked to the farang men, you may consider that they carry more VD's than a bitch in the place mentioned above. While you may find an innocent and unspoiled girl due to her poorness in a bar from time to time, I see it absolutely impossible to get a satisfying relation with *umm* decent girls. Not that I am an expat here, just together with a regular Thai girlfriend since 5 month I got a view in many relations and stories. Most likely a nightmare is pre-programmed. Maybe I see it exacter in some time. If you get in a relation with a decent girl, you will probably wish back to the time when you cuddled a poor, shy, innocent bargirl from Isaan.
Pay for play or is it plug and play?
"Make 'em pay" has always been the attitude in go-go bars…..it's just more obvious these days. With gullible failings a dime a dozen the girls don't even fake it anymore.
Depending on their looks and their intellect they are there for ladies drinks, barfines, maybe if they get lucky a passport or a new house in Isaan. And who can blame them? Strictly short-time these days.
Bangkok vs Pattaya
Well if Nana Plaza management think their girls are being ripped off, how many times have you taken a girl from Nana Plaza after mamasan swore black and blue that she will stay to the morning and after you were finished said that she had to go home etc etc. We are being ripped off. Girls at Soi Cowboy and God forbid, Thermae, treat you better and stay till the morning. The reason I used to go to BKK on the way to Pattaya was the girls were fun, watched the lewd Nanaplaza shows, pick up some pirated software but when the new airport opens you won't need to go to BKK if this behaviour continues as at the new airport you are already halfway to Pattaya and will actually have to backtrack to go to BKK then to Pattaya.

A typical Bangkok street scene with motorbike taxi,
tuktuk, bus and taxi all fighting for passengers.

Poor old Cascade Bar, the new flagship of the Crown Group that has had a huge amount of money and effort put into it, continues to sit idle. It is understood that the management have been unable to obtain the right licence to operate the bar. How long will it be until this problem is resolved? Is there some sort of bad karma with that particular spot in Nana Plaza for Cascade seems to have been plagued with all sorts of problems.

Hollywood Rock and Obsessions in Nana Plaza are the latest casualties in Bangkok and both have been forced to close down temporarily by the police. Obsessions, for the last several months a katoey bar is quite frankly no loss to the world, but Hollywood Rock was a decent bar, and its a shame to hear that it will be closed. However, with the police citing the reason for the closure due to the employment of an underage girl, then one becomes a little less sympathetic. If you were a Hollywood Rock fan, stick your head into Playskool next door – you won't be disappointed.

There is something that I find a little perturbing about one of the uniforms worn by the all male waiting staff in King's Castle 1 Bar in Patpong. (The uniforms change from time to time.) A singlet covered by a dark fish-net t-shirt combined with the surly attitude that reminds you that you are in one of the King's Group of Bars contribute to give the bar and the staff a feel quite different from the relaxed environment that it should be. Instead, it makes you feel as though there is some aggression in the air, not at all what makes a gogo bar a fun place.

I note that The Dollhouse in Soi Cowboy is offering jugs of draft beer for 200 baht. A fine deal indeed, especially for my financially strapped English teaching brethren. Combine that with their free pre 8:00 PM buffet and The Dollhouse gets a huge "English teacher friendly stamp".

Hollywood East in Clinton Plaza is advertising a "solid gold party" tonight. There are a total of 10,000 baht in prizes and the first prize is one baht in gold if the winner is a Thai, or the cash equivalent, 6,000 baht, if the winner is a farang. I hope they get a decent turnout because when I visited that bar earlier in the week, the 15 or so girls were more than double the number of the customers. One girl laying down on one of the couches, seemingly asleep, epitomized the way the bar is these days.

If you see a scraggily dressed fellow running down Sukumvit Road with a pocket full of scraps of paper and a big smile on his face just what have you witnessed? You've witnessed one of the many happy English teachers in Bangkok! But why are they so happy? Bill's Coffee Shop, The Candy Store, The Dollhouse, Hollywood East, The Living Room and The white House are accepting the Clinton Plaza free beer coupons that currently appear on the back page of the entertainment section of the Bangkok Post. Expect to see English teachers fighting in the teacher's rooms across the city as they race for the classified section of the Bangkok Post to get those free beer vouchers! And I'd put money on it that there have been more than a few people who have collected a whole heap of vouchers and had one free beer in each of the bars and then buggered off home!

But alas, as hard as Clinton Plaza is trying – and this promotion of theirs really is a good idea, this bar area seems to be really struggling. The beer bars seem to be doing enough trade to continue operating and The Living Room always appears to be doing well, but what about the gogos around the back? Well, maybe it is just that whenever I go there, business is slow…but somehow I don't think that's quite it. There simply aren't enough pretty girls down there to lure you there in the first place. Clinton Plaza is rapidly becoming a place for a stopover on the journey from Nana down to Cowboy, a place to have a quick beer in the air-con before continuing on.

I note the new beer bars in operation right on the main Sukumvit Road, across from Clinton Plaza. With concern that parts of the farang sector of the sex industry are a bit in your face, this new set of beer bars really is flaunting it.

So, on your "things to do list", the mother and daughter combination is still there, not crossed off… Well, as luck would have it, there is a mother daughter combination working in one of the Nana Plaza bars… Playskool is home to a mother daughter combination, though mother is certainly not available. She will however help her daughter negotiate a mean rate of a punter is interested in her daughter.

Rumour has it that David Walls, the major stake holder in the Crown Group of bars in Nana Plaza is over in the US, getting medical attention. Apparently poor old Wallsy has had heart problems recently and is seeking out the very best care that money can buy, preferring to go Stateside for treatment. This rumour has however been refuted by someone who said he was in the US to see a brain specialist…well, he's getting some sort of specialist medical attention.

All sorts of cheap rates are offered for international phone calls from various travel agents and internet cafes, but many of them use net to phone connections. With such connections, sometimes the clarity of the call is crystal clear, but more often than not it isn't. I noticed a fellow with a table set up just along from Ambassador Plaza on the main stretch of Sukumvit Road, selling overseas phone calls at 15 baht a minute. And this guy had a real phone, not a net connection. How does he do it so cheaply? Stolen phone, of course! Actually, this guy is getting fairly bold and I wouldn't expect him to be in business for very long. Cheap overseas calls from stolen phones have been popular on Sukumvit Soi 3 a lot in the past with the African / Arabic population in that area but to move it out on to the main road, right under the authorities noses, is just asking for trouble.

Street vendors operate outside a drive-in short time
hotel with a junior school RIGHT ACROSS THE ROAD!

Walking along Walking Street in Pattaya, one can truly feel like a million dollars as hoards of pretty girls – and some not so pretty – scream out the familiar "hello handsome man", "I love you long time", "I go with you" cat calls. Even though you know its business, you can't help but smile to yourself. But there are two places in Bangkok where people scream at you even more than this, though handsome man and long time aren't the words that roll off their lips. The first place is the Ekamai bus station. Go anywhere near the booths selling tickets to Trad and there is one particular woman, and she really is no beauty, who will make all manner of noise and gestures to get you over to buy a ticket from her. Even if you wanted to go in the opposite direction, she'd do her best to sell you a ticket to Trad. But perhaps the place where they call at you more than any other, is outside the Immigration Department down at Suan Plu. Directly opposite the main building, just across the road, are several shops who have set up "visa advisory services" and the biggest cash cow of them all, photocopying services. As a precession of people cross the road at every break in the traffic, the calls of "hello mister", "copy", and "cheap cheap" disorientate you to the point that you'd better watch out because the next car is going to run you down. They'll say anything to entice you to spend your 2 baht per page, photocopying with them.

Down in Pattaya and only Super Baby and Super Girl are showing. The mamasan at Frozen says that those bars are "special" and then said "take care of influential people" while rubbing her fingers and thumb together. I guess we already knew that. There was one lone girl dancing topless in Vixens, but every where else was covered. Vixens has happy hour from 2 PM – 9 PM with all drinks at 65B (including shooters). I think they are the only go-go on Walking Street that's open during the daytime? Maybe, now that things are being relaxed in BKK, it will spread to Pattaya soon? And the Dollhouse has re-opened at long last, after being closed for a month.

Quote of the week from a reader "I got drunk and went to bed with a 10, but when I woke up there was a 2 next to me."

Remember the hot dog vendor and the kebab guy who operated within the Nana Plaza area? Well, it seems that they were not too happy about being run out of the Plaza by the well rounded fellow known to many as "Boss Hogg". It seems that these vendors were so pissed off in fact, that one night they brought a whole load of friends along to fix their bitterness, setting up camp out front, waiting for the Boss to appear. Boss got word of it and was forced to spend the night sleeping in one of the bars, knowing full well that if he was to have walked out fo the Plaza, he would have received a most unsavoury welcome. This serves as a reminder for one of those favourite little phrases we use in these parts. When in Asia, don't fxxx with someone else's rice bowl.

From time to time I mention bars that I like, often sticking my neck out and saying that such and such a bar is my favourite at the moment. One bar that is consistently good, and has been for the whole time I have been living in Bangkok, is Safari in Patpong. Laid back with pretty girls, the great thing about this bar is the music. A real DJ plays vinyl, and he is quite happy to play requests. And visiting this week, I can confirm that there are a few girls there who work out regularly, so if you are a lover of hard bodied Thai girls and good music, Safari comes highly recommended.

Contrary to what I have been saying in recent columns, there are a lot more jobs for English teachers popping up in the Bangkok Post. Now is the time that universities and other academic institutions search for teachers for the new academic year. Unlike language schools, universities tend not to hire year round.

For English teachers who need a little assistance, the new "Ask Dr. Dave and Friends" feature, open to everyone, where teachers can ask David Hopkins, and other professionals in the field, questions specific to teaching English has been launched. All of this is available at TEFLINTL.COM. The first questions to Ask Dr. Dave and Friends should be sent to [email protected]. Questions will be answered on a weekly basis, with the first answers published online on Sunday, 24 March.

When I buy a new car, I expect that the tyres will be brand new, and won't be a set of retreads. And thus so, when I go to a new bar, I hope to see a lot of new girls, girls who are new to the industry and who don't look jaded and look like they have been working in the industry half of their life. So why is it that one of the new bars that opened recently has a whole stack of retreads – and some of them veterans of the industry! That is NOT the way to entice customers to a bar!

Au Bon Pain seem to have increased the fillings in their sandwiches recently. Many expat's favourite farang-food-fix sandwich bar, you now get two slices of cheese on your sandwich instead of the previous one, the tomatoes are sliced much more thickly and generally they seem to be more generous with the portions. Or maybe it is just that dazzling Stickman smile and they're looking after me like I'm a VIP?

So you don't have a direct line into your apartment and your phone line goes through reception / operator before it gets to you? Well, slightly more expensive calls and annoying time limit disconnections are not the only scourge that a such a line has. Bored operators and receptionists who put the call through to your apartment are not at all shy at listening in to your calls. It happens all the time! So, beware what you are saying on such a phone line, especially if the receptionist is your mia noi!

Your Bangkok commentator,

Stick

Thanks go out to Ranger for providing news and views.