Stickman's Weekly Column April 7th, 2002

Songkran


It's that time of year when some expats dig deep into their pockets to buy the biggest, most powerful water cannon money can buy while others dig even deeper to come up with enough cash to purchase a ticket out of Thailand. Yep, its that time of year when the streets of Bangkok and indeed the whole country, become embroiled in water battles. Farangs call it the silly season. Thais call it Songkran.

The Thais used to celebrate the hot season by sprinkling a small out of scented water over each other. But we're in the 21st century Thailand now, and very little of the traditional ways of the country remain. Over Songkran, the streets resemble a war zone, water the ammunition as Thais and farangs, young and old, go crazy attacking all and sundry, doing their best to drench anyone who passes by! In addition to water, many people will be out there throwing around talcum powder, a phenomenon that I've never really figured out. If you're in the mood for the world's greatest water fight, it is marvellous fun, but if you're not, then it can become very tiring and very frustrating, very quickly.

So, if the idea of Songkran doesn't appeal and you want to avoid all of the mayhem, what can you do? Songkran is the one period of a few days when you may as well wear shorts and a t-shirt, because the odds are that short of not leaving your apartment, you are not going to be able to avoid getting wet. For this period of a few days, let all of your finest threads take a rest, and pull out your beachwear.

If you have to get around the city and want to try and avoid it all, the best way to go is via taxi which largely eliminates you getting ambushed in the streets. If at all possible, have the taxi pick you up right at the entrance to your apartment building, house or hotel and take you to the main entrance of where ever you are going. Even though you are someone obviously on your way somewhere, don't count on remaining dry! Motorcycles, buses and tuktuks are all major targets with water launched at them from all manner of water weapons; no-one is exempt!

I'll never forget the sight a few years ago of one Songkraner throwing a full bottle of water into the open windows of a passing bus, soaking several passengers. The people who were soaked just sat there and took it. No-one complained. That's the thing about Songkran. If you don't like it, tough luck because your complaints or appeals of mercy will almost always fall upon deaf ears. Losing your temper with someone who just drenched you will not win you any sympathy. Wearing a suit? carrying a camera? Sorry, such excuses are not good enough! You're still a target! Again, no-one is exempt!

If you find yourself in the Sukumvit area, odds are high that you will get nailed by Songkran revellers! Thais know that Sukumvit is the main local farang hangout and they literally go farang hunting. As a farang, you are a real target representing at least double points to a local who douses you in water. And nowhere does it get crazier than Khao Sarn Road where it is absolute bedlam.

Avoidance is quite simply not possible unless you wish to remain in your place of abode for the entire Songkran period – and that is nobody's idea of fun.

So you have probably got the message by now that I am not usually a Songkran fan. Being unable to go about my regular routine is a pain. But I'll be out there this year. You can't escape it, so I figure I might as well go out and have some fun.

Where is this pic?

No clue because it is soooo easy!

Remember, the first person to email me with the right answer wins a fantastic calendar from the good folks at ThaiTemptations.com. Last week's picture was taken on Petchaburi Road, from the walking bridge at soi 12, facing West. Some close answers but no-one got it right. Still, Nontaburi Don had several guesses that were close so he is the winner of the calendar.

Genuine email from a peeved bargirl. Thais just love revenge! And no, it wasn't sent to me, but to someone else who forwarded it to me!

Do you believe The God? If you don't love to see me, don't visit Bangkok. I am saving money to buy a gun. If I meet you at Bangkok, I will kill you. I will shoot you. If you don't love to die, don't visit Bangkok. Anyway, we will meet each other at Sukhumvit every place which have bar beer. I show your picture to all of my friends.
Yep, they do bear grudges!
I was staying with my rich Australian friend who lives outside of Pattaya. I rented a motorbike, a new Yamaha, for ten days. The night before I was going to return it I was partying in Pattaya and lo, it was stolen! No, I did not use the padlock supplied, so I guess I am culpable. The renters did not take my passport, just a copy of it. I spent the next day at the police station trying to sort things out. I talked to a lawyer in Pattaya who told me not to worry because it is a civil contract and I am not in danger of being arrested. The police and the renters wanted me to give my passport to the police to hold until I pay 25,000 baht. I refused to give up my passport. I did pay 9,000 baht and now they are calling my friend all the time (I don't have a phone, they don't know where I am) and threatening to call immigration. I am sure if they saw me on the street at night these tough guys would beat the shit out of me, so I cant really go to Pattaya, which sucks. Should I feel compelled to give them more cash? I think they are just bluffing about calling immigration.
Treat 'em like whores!
Obviously, with a BG you are going to get laid the first time and every time, but if she likes you at all, then at some point she will decide that you are "hers," and that's when real trouble starts. I used to think I could avoid this by being honest, telling her that I'm a butterfly and that she shouldn't get serious about me. Wrong! They all say, "That's just fine, I understand, no problem." Bullshit! They understand nothing! They just say whatever they think you want to hear, agree to whatever terms you want, then completely ignore everything you said. Believe me, if you take the same BG out several consecutive evenings, pretty soon you will find you are stuck with her. She simply will not want to let you go. You may see it as purely a business relationship which both parties have the freedom to terminate at any time. She sees it very differently and will make you miserable in ways you never imagined when you decide it's time for this butterfly to flit over to another flower. The only prevention I can see for this scenario is to change BGs frequently – every night, if possible. You can see the same gal several times if you want, but space your meetings out. I'd say, no more than 2 or 3 non-consecutive nights per week is a good rule of thumb. Of course, if you are only here for a one or two week holiday, none of this applies. But if you are staying a lot longer and want to keep your freedom, then you have to resist the urge to keep that one really sexy girl night after night. Eventually, if you haven't fallen in love (Lord help you if you have!), you will become bored and want to take out another girl. I'm afraid you will discover it's not that simple to just drop a gal who's decided you belong to her.
Arriving late is NOT Thai culture…Amongst the poor folks it is laziness and amongst the middle and upper classes, that is when it happens, it is a lack of respect.
I understand that it may be not that hard to make a date with a 'normal' Thai girl, but actually meeting on that date is often almost impossible.

Firstly, it is my experience that if a girl arrives any time within about an hour after the appointed time, this is seen as entirely okay. This makes arranging a cinema visit or anything time dependent extremely risky. Nor will the girl generally express any great remorse at having left you waiting half or three quarters of an hour. She will usually just smile and say 'Rot dit mahk'. Well, I don't want to sound unforgiving and 'jai ron', but if one has lived in Bangkok long enough, I wouldn't think one would go out on a Friday night, expecting to arrive at a destination in five minutes then realise "My God! Traffic!"

Is it possible to love the girls and hate the boys?
99% of the bar girls tell me Thai guys are a bunch of jerks. From my own observations, I see little reason to doubt this assessment. Like all Asians, Thais really prefer boys to girls and will be thrilled to have a boy child. So, they spoil the boys and treat the girls like servants, and, predictably, the boys grow up to be lazy and selfish while the girls turn out relatively opposite. I've never considered myself a feminist, certainly not concerning farang women, but here in Thailand at least, I really find a lot more to admire about the female gender than their male counterparts. To hear about Thai guys beating up their women really makes me angry!
Love and sex again.
It's encouraging to hear from you that it is possible to have a good relationship with a non-bar girl. Maybe someday I'll try it! For the foreseeable future, though, I don't think I'll be changing my bad habits. I have many reasons for hesitating to make the transition, but the main one is that I might change my mind and want return to the old lifestyle. Giving up freedom is easier than getting it back. I think it may have been Charlie Sheen who once said, "I don't pay women for sex. I pay them to leave in the morning." Well, I feel the same way. Whenever I start feeling like I want the girl to hang around me all day, every day, I know I'm getting in over my head and it's time to find another girl. I guess there's something sad about that – purposely avoiding falling in love. But, you have to make up your mind before you start fooling around with these girls, just what it is you want out of it. I decided I do not want to fall in love with a bar girl. But they're human, I'm human, and falling in love is a very real possibility.

Absolute mayhem as Bangkok takes to the streets,
and the search is on for a farang to drench!

Its getting hotter and hotter, some would say as hot as hell. I often wonder how guys can tolerate the beer bars at this time of year, unless they have all of the fans in the bar pointed squarely at them. Down in the Soi 7 Beer Garden, the popular half indoor, half outdoor bar for the Sukumvit crowd, I noticed that even with all 25+ overhead fans on full blast, most customers were suffering and even a few of the girls were looking worse for wear with streams of sweat running through their make-up.

Rock Hard in Nana is advertising for new staff. If you are able to strut your stuff up on the dance floor in an appropriately sexy manner, Rock Hard pays very decent salaries compared to other gogos. They'll give you 7,500 baht a month with a minimum of 6 "offs" (barfines) and if you reach 10 "offs", you'll be up to the big time, 9,000 baht per month. I'm not sure of the exact salaries paid by gogo bar owners in Nana, but this seems to be at the top end of the scale. So, to everyone emailing me asking for advice about getting a job in Bangkok, here is your dream job – work in a gogo bar!

Following on from last week's piece about DTAC allowing all mobiles to work on their network, it seems AIS, the country's largest mobile provider, will follow suit.

I heard a story recently about a Thai in Los Angeles charging $US 70 an hour for Thai lessons – and had a queue of Californians lining up at his door wanting to study with him! Hell, I'm outta here – when does the next plan leave for LA!

Quote of the week comes from Phil. "Have you ever noticed that 20 year old Thai girls look 5 years younger than their actually age and 30 year old Thai girls look 5 (or more) years older than their age. The poor things seem to age 2 decades in the space of 1."

Peeling back the towel of this beautiful young creature, you are breathless at the expectation that your eyes are about to witness yet another flawless young Thai lass's body. But as your eyes scan down her body you are unable to fight back the groan as you notice her badly scarred stomach, the result of her having given birth. Many working girls realise that a lot of customers are put off by birthmarks and there seems to be quite a number, especially in Pattaya, who re trying to conceal those birthmarks. More and more working girls seem to be getting a tattoo on their lower abdomen, over the top of the birthmarks, in an unsuccessful attempt to conceal them. But what these girls don't seem to realise is that there are also more than a few guys out there who don't like tattooed girls either! So while they are trying to make a change that will reduce the number of customers who will be put off by these blemishes, they suddenly find that there are other customers who subsequently lose interest too!

Tenderness, integrity and trust. Quote me on these for my research is beginning to indicate that there are the main differences between regular girls and bargirls.

So you want to buy a bar? Hmmm, you won't get any encouragement from me if you go into that business, but hell, what would I know – I've never been in that business after all. If you want a big gogo bar with a staff of close to 200 and plenty of goodwill (is there such a thing in the gogo business?) and a track record of one million baht profit plus per month, then you are looking at an initial outlay of 20 million plus for such a bar. Now you are not a wealthy guy and only have a modest amount to spend. Well, those who are an embarrassment financially can also get into the bar business if they so wish. I hear rumours that one of the beer bars in that dirt track known as Asoke Plaza is for sale. 400,000 baht is the asking price, twice what was paid for it just a short time ago. So, for about 9K US you could be a new member of the Bangkok expat community, a bar owner.

In some of the gogo bars, the girls wear a uniform – the same style and colour bikini. This is especially popular in the bars of Nana Plaza whereas down Cowboy way, in a lot of the bars the girls just wear their own their own knickers and bra combination. However, in some of the other bars around about, what the girls wear relates to how long she has been working there. At Christie's Bar in Soi 33 as an example, the majority of the girls will be wearing one colour, and a small number will be wearing another colour, often black. The girls wearing black have been working there for less than a month and could be said to be on probation. Every Wednesday, Tivoli Bar is another bar which requires the girl to put on a dress code, which one can identify between gals who are new (wearing a yellow top and white pants & skirt) and gals who have been there longer (wearing a gold top).

Can anyone tell me where I can find some juicy, SEEDLESS, yet affordable oranges? While Thailand might have all manner of exotic, delicious fruits, seedless oranges do not seem to be on the menu – unless of course you go down to Foodland or Villa and buy the imported variety. If my travels to find such a variety of orange are anything to go by, just remember to go and see the bank manager for a loan first.

Too's Bar, with the obligatory tout outside.

Sexy A Gogo, one of the most over-rated gogo bars in Pattaya was gutted a while back, as was reported in this column. The spot where it used to be has been redecorated and is home to a new beer bar called Too's, which gives a nice spot to sit back and observe the comings and goings on Walking Street.

Freebies are dangerous and in most cases you're kidding yourself if you think that a sexual liaison with a working girl where money didn't change hands, explicitly or otherwise, is ok. These girls who offer freebies come back to haunt you. But if you don't want to take this advice and wish to play with fire, down at Sukumvit Soi 33 there seem to be more than a few girls who will go for free. Problem is they are looking for a boyfriend and if their unexplained offer of free sex is not met with your desire to become their boyfriend (read: financier), then they might get a little nasty. And nasty Thai girls are one hell of a lot worse than nasty farang girls.

Even more reports from Monet Bar in Soi 33 of bill padding…someone down there must have a right little racket going.

Out and about on Friday night with a good friend, we had two completely opposite experiences in two Nana Plaza gogo bars. Without a doubt, the worst service I have ever received in a gogo bar was experienced from the staff in Voodoo Bar. Now this was a bit of a shame as Voodoo does have a lot of nice girls in there at the moment. I guess the staff were having a bad day when we were there. Anyway, after Voodoo we went over to Playskool where the staff were so friendly and nice that even this fellow who gets bored quickly in gogo bars could have happily stayed there all night.

The Crown Group of which Voodoo is a part of gets a lot of stick for their 110 baht beer prices. But there are more than a few other gogos in Nana with 110 baht beers too. The Rainbow Bars amongst others are another who is unwilling to give you change on a 100 baht note when you order a beer.

Is it me or is it the Thai phone system? I get about three or four wrong numbers to my mobile EVERY DAY – and it is a different number every time. Are people really dialling the wrong number that often?

364 days ago, a new Bangkok weekly column appeared online and Stickman Weekly was born so I guess that makes this the first birthday issue. Back in the good old days of the column there was no opening article, no collection of reader's emails, no where is this pic, no prize and it was fairly lean. The column has evolved into something that has become a joy to put together, though it has been a rocky ride at times. When I first started the column I had a huge amount of free time and my desire to hang out in the bars was strong. These days the the desire to hang out in the bars exists, but to a far lesser degree, and the amount of free time I have is significantly less than I had a year ago. Still, the column goes on and if you want a laugh, the first column can be seen here. I hope to produce this column for a long time to come, assuming I can keep up the current standard. The column will continue to evolve and while I have a few ideas to tweak it and make improvements, it is hard to say exactly how it will develop. So in lieu of one year's work on this column, this edition is a little lighter than usual with far less news content, thus giving me a bit of a rest this week. It'll be back to the usual, longer length next week.

Your Bangkok Commentator,

Stick