Stickman's Weekly Column July 21st, 2002

They Can’t Read Us



Two guys are sitting in the corner of a bar. They do not know each other. One is wearing a freshly ironed, crisp, long sleeved shirt with matching trousers. The other, sitting at the next table is wearing shorts, a T-shirt and a pair of running shoes. They are both about the same age, and apart from the way they are dressed, they look fairly similar.

Some of the Thai girls in the bar are checking out these two farang guys. The two guys are both much of a muchness, speak some weird language called Angrit that the locals barely understand. But it is the better dressed of the two who interests the girls. After all, these girls don't really wouldn't understand much of what either of the guys say, so looking at the way they are dressed and the way that they present themselves is what the girls largely use to determine who they may be interested in.

The better dressed of the two is a bus driver. He dropped out of school when he was 15 and has had several dead end jobs since then, and it is likely, due to his friend Jack Daniels, that he won't last a lot longer in his current position. The fellow in shorts and a T-shirt runs his own business. He studied at university and successfully completed a master's degree. Immediately out of university, he started the business which has flourished ever since. He is a self-made man and doesn't need to work again, but he continues to work, for he now does it primarily for the enjoyment and pleasure that it brings him.

If it was normal for guys to walk into a bar with their CV pinned around their neck for all girls to check out, the fellow in the T-shirt and shorts would get the attention of the ladies and be the guy who most of the girls would be interested in. The other guy, notwithstanding that he is wearing decent threads, would get the leftovers, if he was lucky.

Huge cultural differences combined with communication problems and the language barrier contribute to hamper the ability of the locals to determine exactly what sector of society the average farang comes from, and thus they usually make their judgement of farangs based largely on the fellow's personal presentation.

The position that one comes from in society is very important to Thais when they contemplate entering into a relationship and the average Thai woman will always seek out a man who is of at least the same social status as her, or preferably higher. It is not right to think that Thais believe all farangs are of a high status. They full realise that there are more than a few marginal farangs out there, but they are, in so many cases, simply unable to determine that.

Whereas in the West we can usually quickly work out whether the person we are talking to is someone we would like to get to know better or otherwise, in Thailand this can be a real problem for us too. The average farang who speaks little or no Thai has absolutely no idea of the background of the local he is talking to. But for many farangs, this is less of a problem, for the average farang is far less class conscious than the average Thai. (Though in Thailand, even farangs need to be very aware of that…but that is something to be discussed another week.)

Quite simply, most Thais simply cannot determine whether a farang is of sound character or not and vice versa, most farangs have great difficulty in determining whether the Thai they are chatting with is a wholesome character, or otherwise. So much comes down to personal presentation.

From time to time I see the sexiest, middle or sometimes even upper class Thai girls chatting away with a farang who appears to have just approached them, right there and then in a public place. Now the girl is obviously open minded to being approached by a farang, but you can just tell that she has no idea that the guy is of very dubious character, and if you heard that this particular fellow was an escaped con on the run for murdering his ex-girlfriend's entire family, you would not be in the least bit surprised. The average Thai who has not had a lot of exposure to farangs and isn't that comfortable with English, is oblivious to such things.

Being unable to determine the social position of the person you have just met in a country which is very much ruled by a class system, makes everything very much a level playing field for the farang. So, if you are someone who has only had very average jobs and perhaps a somewhat modest education, you still have every chance of doing well in Thailand, including meeting that certain someone special. If you can impress them enough initially, whatever your past may be, you can likely still overcome these issues in the long run. But if you are someone who is very successful, and this has corresponded to relative success in the West, do not assume that you will immediately have folks hanging off your arms in Thailand. Sloppy presentation could very much be your downfall, and may contribute to you missing out on opportunities, for the locals may have wrongly classified you as marginal!

One's personal presentation is a big deal in Thailand when you are pursuing the opposite sex, and in virtually all other situations too. You can use it to your advantage, but if you are not careful, it can also let you down and be your undoing.


Where is this Pic?

I bet you've been there before!

Last week's picture was taken from inside the skytrain at the Siam Square station, looking southwest, over the rooftops of Siam Square and you can also see MBK and the Patumwan Princess Hotel. This week's pic isn't too difficult either.

Nah mate, you've got it all wrong. They're here for the warm weather. Oh, and the cockroaches taste good too!

I just got back from my first trip to Bangkok. I hung out at a German place in Soi 7 where I met a lot of regular guys living in Bangkok. What amazed me about these guys is that some of them had given up good jobs back home to scrape a living doing odd jobs like modelling and teaching English. Nothing against theses guys, but it beats me why anyone would wanna live in Bangkok. I saw cockroaches as big as rats, and rats as big as rabbits. Some of the Thais I met were all right but there are too many scumbags. The food is tasty but then you can get it anywhere these days. So I reckon these guys are there for the nightlife. Granted, it must be great being able to get laid whenever you feel like it especially if you're a fat ugly bastard like me, but I know that if it was me and I hadn't shagged myself to death in a month, I'd be polishing up my soccer skills in a Thai gaol for common assault on some scumbag tuktuk driver. I just wanted to know if I missed something when I was there coz there must be more to life than following the urges of your dick.
A man of principles…nice!
I really like Mandarin Bar in Nana. I have never taken any girls from their but I think it is a fun place. Well Saturday night I finally decided I would take a girl. We agreed on a price and for what services. Then she said pay bar fine 600 baht. I said what – 600 baht! I will never pay that price. I was out of there in one minute. The girl was left with her mouth open and others asking her what happened. I did not stick around to hear anything else. Why do these bars seem so greedy? The whole idea of a bar fine was to keep some of the girls in the bar so that guys who wanted a late night drink would have something to look at. Now bar fines seem to be a way for the owners to get rich. Well, not from me. I won't pay. Now I will never go back to Mandarin bar.
I know, I know, but the message doesn't get through.
We drew a comparison between ourselves and other guys who proudly walk round town with a bar girl on their arm. She's usually uneducated from a poor family, living in a less than respectable district. Very often they will have varying degrees of involvement with yaba. Now me and my mate are both well educated, we come from respectable towns and have respectable families. My mate has a good career and so did I until I decided to write full time. We assume that most of the guys who visit Thailand must have relatively good jobs and thus levels of intelligence, simply to be able to afford the airfare. Being seen with the type of girl I have just described, is like walking through the centre of Manchester with a heroin addict from Moss Side, or in London a crack head from Brixton. How many of these guys would lose an immense amount of face if their colleagues in their legal practise or architect's firm if they did such a thing in their home country, yet they show no hesitation about doing it in Bangkok.
Beware of rabid dogs.
Thais have a saying: If you play with a dog, it will lick your face," which is to say that if you treat those beneath yourself as equals, don't be surprised if they lose respect for you and start taking liberties. Farangs, coming from egalitarian cultures, don't usually clue-in to the fact that Thailand, like the rest of Asia, is strictly class-divided. Bar girls (prostitutes), rank at the very bottom of Thai society. The girls know where they stand! They are perpetually amazed and amused by how much respect farangs give them. As far as they are concerned, if you are cavorting and carousing with the likes of themselves (whores), then you are not worthy of respect and they don't give you any! Anyone with any knowledge of Thai manners will immediately notice the contempt these bar girls openly show us. For example, you may think it's a nice affectionate gesture when she rubs your head at the bar. Wrong! It's extreme impudence that no Thai man would tolerate.
60 to 1?
I note the glee with which you reported the recent fall in value of the USD against Thai baht. Two things come to mind. First is that no way in hell is 1 USD worth only 37 baht. Really, if you want fair value – I'm talking goods for goods, standard of service for unit of barter, the baht should be at 60 to the USD. Guffaw all you want but consider that Thailand cruised on a totally fake exchange rate of 25 baht to the USD for 15 years and the developed world tolerated it. This was a rate set by the government of Thailand. 15 years of profit taking and they still couldn't make a go of it. But, anyway, I digress. Reality check time: 20k baht a month for rent and utilities (upscaling out of my studio) would get me superior digs in the US. The US may be boring as hell but it's 9 times better value than Thailand. Second, and related to the first– I think the bone you ought to pick is why the under valuation of other Western currencies vis a vis the baht, not the position of the USD in relation to the price of titties on Sukhumvit. 17 baht to 1 NZ dollar is wrong and based on fictitious economic data supplied by the criminals at BOT. I'm sorry, but the notion that a purely regional currency like the baht actually has a quoted international rate is sort of funny. Also, for the clowns laughing about the current US situation: Yes, apparently we have some assholes who need to go to jail. 😉 But compare that with the complete lack of economic and political transparency in LOS and then tell me what peg the USD should be at. I'm sorry, but if you're Thai you don't drive a 7 series BMW in Thailand unless you have blood on your hands. There is simply nothing a solitary Thai could contribute to this economy that would justify that level of compensation (the car here, again, being almost 50% more expensive than it is in the US due to import bribes which must be paid). Most Thai managers couldn't run a McDonald's, much less design and build one. I'm not some simple minded nationalist saying US #1, certainly won't hear that from me, but people get a grip. LOS is fun but service and production standards here are a joke. Thai professionals think they're playing in the big leagues but actually they wouldn't last a day in an office with 1st world standards. There is no comparison and comparison is the first step in determining a credible rate of exchange.

An annoyed customer has left rude notices on
a lot of the phone boxes in the Patumwan area.

Ever wonder why mobile phones were invented? Well, have you ever tried to find a pay phone in Bangkok that actually works? Hmmm, good luck! And what is worse, is that while it is understandable that phones do go out of order from time to time, that it can sometimes take a month or more to get them fixed! An annoyed local has gone around the area between Panthip Plaza and MBK and posted notices on the phones stating that the phones have been out of order for a long time, that the phone company has been advised, but nothing has happened yet. This is followed by an expletive or three! Thank goodness for mobiles.

I hear that a Swiss man jumped to his death from the roof of the Apex Hotel in Pattaya on either Wednesday or Thursday. Exactly what caused this to happen is unknown, but I'd put big money on it that there was a bargirl involved, and the Swiss fellow either lost a lot of money, or lost his heart.

Is Midnite the only bar showing in Cowboy at the moment? Well, that is how it was a few days ago, anyway.

Suzy Wong in Soi Cowboy re-opened earlier this week. The bar has been completely renovated and it doesn't have the drab old look and terrible stench that the old Suzy Wong Bar was notorious for. The new Suzy Wong Bar is run by the same good guys who run Playskool in Nana – arguably the best bar in Nana, so odds are that Suzy Wong's should be pretty good too. However, there was a bit of a teething problem this week with a couple of the staff unclear on how much the barfine is. At Playskool it is 600 baht but at Suzy Wong it is 500. At least one waitress was mistakenly informing customers that it was 600, until she was corrected. Still, it seemed to be a genuine mistake and not a scam.

More details are coming through about this new establishment called Club One, which will be managed by Ricky, former Vixens / Rock Hard boss. Ricky runs a good bar and it will likely be a good place to check out. The place sounds like a cross between a gogo bar and Eden Club with different levels, each featuring different delights. The higher you go, the spicier it gets! One of the things that sounds interesting is that as you get higher in the building, there are security doors that have to be opened before you can get through. Now just why would they have those…?!

When 0800 numbers finally become available in Thailand, who will be the first to get 0800-BARGIRL? 0800-STICKMAN is one character too long so I will have to settle for 0800-SICKMAN.

if you want a bit of a thrill, go for a ride on one of the Saen Saeb canal boats…at night. Preferably on the stretch heading west, immediately after the main interchange at Pratunam. Stand up in the small area beside the engine and hang your head out the side. There is something almost surreal about screaming through Bangkok at night in one of the canal boats, watching Bangkok get ready to party. The boat pas passes neon sign after neon sign, and you just know that you can save these houses of disrepute, but thy cannot see you.. Oh, it helps to have had a few drinks in you too…but it is a good ride.

A variant on an old joke from a reader: What is the difference between a rooster and a desperate Thai girl? The rooster says, "cock-a-doodle-doo". And the desperate Thai girl says, "any cock'll do".

Farang Magazine, the very best monthly English language monthly in Bangkok will be going monthly – it is currently published bi-monthly. And what's more, it will be distributed for free. (Is that why the rotten so and so's don't pay me for my column in the mag?!) So if you want to get yourself a copy, you'll have to get yourself out to Khao Sarn and mix with that crowd who are not at all shy in pursuing anything that is free. 20,000 copies a month will disappear really fast in Banglamphu…

When is Gaysorn Plaza going to reopen? Well, actually, I'm not too bothered because prior to closing, it was full of shops that were just a little bit, ok a long way, out of my price range. I am surprised that in construction express Bangkok where buildings go up faster than they come down, that they have been working on its renovation for so long. And I wonder how the Gaysorn management feel about the new Big C Department Store opening up just a stone's throw away? If you are not a local, Gaysorn Plaza is a high end shopping centre, home to the Bangkok branches of many major European fashion designers such as Hugo Boss and Ermenegildo Zegna, whereas Big C is a veritable bargain basement, and attracts a completely different crowd.

The obligatory Wat Arun picture.

They've got this special on at Chester Grill at the moment. 39 baht for three battered chicken legs and some strange sauce, what can only be described as "mystery flavour". Do yourself a favour and give it a miss. It is without a doubt the worst chicken that I have ever had in my life, and I never imagined that such bad food could be found in Thailand. That'll teach me a lesson for going to Chester's Grill. Last time I went there, the food was almost as bad. Yep, you're right – som num na.

The jury is out on what "the bonking Baron" and his colleague (partner?, girlfriend?) paid for dinner at Le Normandie. I'll throw the first bet in at 13,000 baht for the two of them. That is I believe they paid 13,000 baht, and not that I am putting in a wager at 13,000 baht. Come on Baron, give us a hint. Just how deep are your pockets when it comes to your favourite activity?

The annual Thai festival will be held in London, in the UK, next week. If you find yourself over there, it would probably be a lot of fun.

there is an American food festival taking place at the old Villa Supermarket in Sukumvit, near the Emporium. It has been going for a while and features free wine tasting and various promotions. It finished at the end of the month.

Many, many months ago I complained about the quality of the socks made in Thailand, and ranted on that one could not find a decent pair of locally made socks at any price. Well, it seems that the Thais deference to one's feet may be the issue here because the last two pairs of locally made shoes that I have bought, have, you guessed it, fallen to bits in no time! So Thailand, I know that you consider the feet to be the lowest and least important part of the body, but there is no reason why you cannot produce better quality footwear? Even the so called name brands manufactured here have turned out to be of very dubious quality. They might look suay but they sure as hell don't last. Back to the imported shoes for me and ouch, the import duty.

Did you know that it costs 200 baht to park your vehicle in the carp park at the Nana Hotel, but only 30 baht if you drive just a little further down Sukumvit soi 4? Maybe they have topless dancers from one of the gogo bars providing a special valet parking service?

Wednesday and Thursday this coming week are both public holidays, and if you have jetted in for the express purpose of getting liquored up and licked all over, you might just find your mission to be more difficult than normal – though certainly not impossible for we are talking about Bangkok, after all. A couple of Buddhist holidays mean that the bars will likely be closed, though there will no doubt be more than a few girls milling around Sex Tourist Alley (Sukumvit Road between the expressway at soi 1 and Asoke) looking for some trade.

Next week's column will be late, that is one thing you can definitely count on! Its a long weekend and I'll be going away for a few days, returning to Bangers late on Sunday. Unfortunately, this means that next week's column won't be published until around 6:00 PM Monday, Bangkok time.

Your Bangkok commentator,

Stick