Stickman's Weekly Column August 18th, 2002

Looking Into The Crystal Ball



A friend whose opinion I have a lot of respect for brought up the idea that in a few years time, farangs may not find Thailand nearly as good a place to live as they do now. Asking him why he thought this, he brought up the idea that locally, trends are changing, and that many Thai students, that is the makers and shakers of the future, are idolizing more and more things Thai, are increasingly buying Thai made products and are idolizing Thais as their heroes, from actors to musicians, right through even to those in the Thai fashion industry. Compare this with days gone by when most heroes of young Thais were American film stars or British football players, and when fashion and other trends also tended to follow what was going on overseas, particularly in America and Europe, and to a lesser extent Japan. While what he says may well be true, I do not feel that this will have a great effect on the lifestyles currently led by the vast numbers of farangs residing in the Kingdom.

To determine whether things will change for the average farang and in what way, one has to look at those things that are important to the farang community, at how they are now, and how they will be in the future. So, what are the things about Thailand that make us leave the prosperous West, to come to a country that is classified by many as poor, and even third world? Its different for everyone but for me, I would isolate the following. The friendly people. The fantastic food. The agreeable weather. The cheap costs.

And it would be shirking the issue to refuse to mention the readily available, comparatively cheap prostitutes who are a big appeal to many people too.

So the question that must be asked is how likely are these things to change?

The food will continue to be fantastic and somehow, I don't think the weather will change too much, though a meteorologist I am not.

Costs will remain cheap though it is quite conceivable that in the tourist areas, prices will continue to rise. The baht will no doubt fluctuate a little and prices will no doubt continue to head north, but will it be enough to make a significant difference? I think not. So long as Thailand stays relatively poor – and sadly, that is going to be quite a long time yet, and as long Mr Farang has a few baht in his back pocket, Thailand will continue to welcome us.

It is hard to see the people becoming less friendly, though it is certainly possible that the attitude of the locals towards farangs may change. If there is a danger to the current lifestyles enjoyed by farangs resident in Thailand, I believe it is the very real chance that even greater numbers of farang will continue to pour into Thailand and amongst them, the inevitable batch of marginal folks. It seems to me that as Thailand as an alternative lifestyle destination becomes more and more well known, the number of marginal folks moving here is increasing all the time, and they are not just choosing Pattaya as their new home. Pattaya is considered something of a cesspit by many Thais, but these days, where ever you go in Thailand, with perhaps the exception of the deep south, you will find farang residents. The deepest, darkest corners of the country are home to farangs. The idea of a farang being a novelty in Thailand is long gone. With the Thai habit of always looking for a scapegoat when things go bad, all it takes is one incident where a local farang does something stupid, and a good number of us farangs could suddenly find ourselves less welcome than we have become used to.

And as for the commercial sex industry, who really cares? But for what its worth, I predict that it will continue to get bigger and bigger as demand increases, though I wouldn't be surprised to see a hiccup or two along the way, directly targeted at the ever sprawling, now completely in-your-face nature of the farang sector of the industry.

I truly believe that Thailand will continue to be something of a paradise for farangs who choose it as their new home. Sure, there will be changes and I anticipate the tightening up of long term visas, particularly for folks who live year round on short term visas. I also wouldn't be surprised to see tighter enforcement of visa regulations with the introduction of background checks etc. for those who want to work or retire here. Prices will keep rising in the tourist areas but with a good percentage of the population downright poor, one will always be able to find the necessities at bargain prices. Overall, I can't see things changing too much. An increase in the value of the baht may not help some people, particularly retirees, but overall, I predict Thailand will remain much the same ways as it is now, a very enjoyable place for the average farang to live.



Where is this pic?

Last week's pic was a little bit trickier than usual, for not only was not in Bangkok, it was not even in Thailand. It was of course the Thai embassy on Orchard Road, in Singapore. Well done if you were one of the few people who got it right. The first person to get it right had a suspiciously Thai sounding name and there were a handful of folks with Singapore email addresses who got it right too. This week's pic is from somewhere in Thailand, but again, outside of Bangkok.

Are they all greedy bitches?

Diagnosing an entire country's ills and prescribing remedies is a lot different than considering one individual's predicament and giving advice. It's easy to say, for example, that Thais should reform public education, study more, work harder, etc. and then, of course, living standards would improve for everybody. Generalizations like that may be true for the long-term as concerns the entire populace, but they are hardly helpful to a 20 year-old rice farmer's daughter with only 6 years of public education, who is being told by her parents that she must go seek work in the big city to help pay off her family's debts. Everybody knows there's only one way for a girl like that to earn any significant income quickly. Farmers all over the world fall very easily into debt. They have to borrow to buy seed, fertilizer and equipment, and if the weather is unfavourable (drought, flood, pests), the crop fails and they are unable to repay the loan. When the banks won't loan to them anymore, they turn to loan sharks who may ask for the farmer's daughter to help pay off the debt by working in his "restaurant" somewhere far away. Everybody knows, but nobody says, what kind of work this really is. That's just one possible scenario. There are many, many ways a young woman or her close kin can fall into financial difficulties. Not all of the women working the bars in Bangkok, Pattaya, Phuket, etc. are there due to their own laziness or greed. Some, but by no means all.
Throw out the farangs!
Does anyone know what is happening at 95.5 the local radio station that was all English? It seems that recently they have started playing more and more Thai songs and lots of old stuff, the DJs also are talking more and more in Thai. Could it be that they are having royalty payment problems like the karaoke places?
Don't blame the girls.
As a general comment your column has warned the reader many times about the dangers of marrying an ex-bargirl. I would comment that bargirls should be equally wary of marrying farangs. Married to a Thai myself (thoroughly lower class) I know, through my wife, of several other Thai farang marriages, some of whom are ex-bargirls, some of whom have had perfectly respectable jobs. Of those marriages that have failed I would have to say that at least 75% of the blame in every case rests with the man. My impression has been that the men look for wives from the far-east rather less from an especial love of eastern women, than that in their home country local women, with more opportunity to take stock of them quickly find out why they are single.
Anyone read this one?
The bar-girls / go-go girls are just about money, money and money. Although I still find some of them fun. Just read an amazing book by Neil Hutchison called 'Money No.1' – hello sexy man. It's very funny and very very accurate. I 'must read' for any visitor to LOS. Bookazine usually carry copies. There is probably a contact out on the author right now! He gives away all the scams of the bar-girls!
Peanuts, anyone?
Drinkers walk into a bar for an ice cold beer and instantly the obligatory bowl of complementary peanuts is placed before them. They dig into the peanuts, eat some, drop some, put some back in the bowl, toss them around a few more times and then leave the bar. The hostess returns the uneaten peanuts to the tin to await the next customer. Nothing is wasted. No problem, provided all customers have germ free hands. How many customers visit the toilet during a drinking session, return to their table and dive into the bowl of peanuts? If we generously estimate that 70% of men wash their hands after visiting the toilet, that conservatively leaves 30% who don't. They have all sorts of indescribable germs crawling over their fingers. These fingers then dive into the peanuts and it could be these very same peanuts that find their way to your table following the departure of the guy with poor sanitary habits. The Thai man behind the bar doesn't use latex gloves to scoop the peanuts from the tin into the serving bowl. That long nail on his little finger has not been carefully grown and shaped for any fashion reason. It is designed to fit snugly into each of his nostrils to regularly scooping out a build up of snot. It is this nail that comes into contact with your peanuts. Next time give some thought to those complementary peanuts and consider buying a fresh sealed pack from your nearest 7 Eleven store.

I would suggest that we are right in the middle of the low season, as far as tourism and the naughty nightlife is concerned. Wandering around the bars this week, things weren't just quiet, they were dead. At The Living Room in Clinton Plaza, myself and a friend sat there for 45 minuets and didn't see another soul in the bar. No one came for a drink, and we didn't even see anyone stick their head in for a look. On top of the two of us, there was only a small number of staff. In fact it was so quiet that paying for a 180 baht bill with a 500 baht note meant that they had to go and find some change somewhere! Dollhouse in Clinton was quiet with about 5 girls to every customer and the girls were very keen for customers. Girls who I have noticed as somewhat stanfdoffish in the past were approaching customers in the feint hope that they might get bought out. At Angel Witch in Nana it was just the same, with a selection of extremely attractive dancers there just half an hour before closing. A couple of girls who most punters agree are extremely pleasant on the eye were heard staying, "you pay bar, I stay long time or short time, you pay me what you want, up to you". Absolute proof that things are really quiet. And when the rains hit hard in the next few weeks, it will not improve. The naughty nightlife areas of Thailand are a whoermonger's dream come true at the moment.

The restaurant mentioned in last week's column that banned a friend of mine is NOT David Wall's restaurant, Le Chevalier in Sukumvit Soi 3. In fact this particular restaurant is one that I highly recommend – GREAT French food at reasonable prices and their four course 245 baht weekday lunch special is one of Bangkok's best deals.

The sign out the front of Clinton Plaza says that the place is being demolished and that one should not enter for the area is dangerous. I hear rumours that bar owners have stopped paying rent, citing this sign as the reason…it all sounds like it is going to go bang very soon and my prediction is that there will be an outcome through means outside of the Thai "justice" system.

I made a big error in last week's column when I said that the age at which one qualifies for a retirement visa in Thailand is 55, when in fact it is 50. Email from one reader in Australia confirmed what I already knew – that every Thai embassy and consulate around the world enforces the rules THEIR way. The Australian reader who was applying for a retirement visa explained that not only did he have a form to complete, he had to get several certificates confirming that he did not have a range of diseases including leprosy and syphilis (I guess that this one doesn't exist in Thailand…) He also explained that they all had to be notarized and that he had to obtain a certificate stating that he has no criminal record too.

Is a crackdown on fake watches taking place? There are none on display at that Mecca of fakes goods, Patpong, although some vendors do have them under the counter and / or hidden away in chests, under the tables.

Many Pattaya gogos seem to be "showing" again, and showing it all. Among them are Living Dolls and Super Girl, the latter of which also has a lesbian show and another show where a woman, who I pity, pours hot wax all over herself. Is this sort of thing really entertaining? I think not.

While Queen's Birthday in Bangkok was a day for the bar girls to have a day off and relax, their counterparts in Pattaya had no such joy, the bars all open and it was just another day at the office in the seaside city of sin. Some bars dimmed the lights in a half hearted effort to appease the law enforcement officers that they were closed while other bars did not even bother and just opened as per normal.

Remember that while you will get very good rates on $US 100 bills in Thailand, one must be careful that $100 notes from some years will not be accepted at some exchange booths. Some 1990 and 1996 bills are not accepted due to problems in the past with counterfeit notes.

Is this Dusit Zoo, or is it a couple of farang females
walking alongside the canal near Khao Sarn Road?

Is Cowboy trying to attract Thai customers? That is the first impression when one sees the sign above the main entrance to Suzy Wong Bar, which is strangely in Thai.

If you ever doubted the memory of these Thai girls, think again. Out and about with a friend, we walked past a bar in Soi Cowboy where a girl makes a beeline towards me. Oh hell, I'm thinking, who has she mistaken me for as I sure as hell do not recognise her. She approaches me and says, "hi <my name>, how are you?" I'm looking at her and thinking who the hell is this and how does she know my name! She then goes on to say that myself and my friend walked into Octopussy Bar on Ko Chang 18 months ago and that we had chatted with her in there. Not only did she remember my name, she also even remembered me asking her whether her nose was real or if she had had a nosejob…funny that because I was thinking exactly the same thing this time! While a lot of these girls are not the world's brightest sparks, they sure do have a sharp memory.

Thanks for all of the feedback from the opening piece of last week's column about my girlfriend visiting me whilst i was in a gogo bar. The overwhelming consensus was that what I did was crazy… All remains well in the relationship and the honesty was appreciated. Referring back to our friend Sun, who was highlighted in a previous column as having impregnated his girlfriend, sadly, the girl in question miscarried.

Perhaps the most expensive internet connection in all of Thailand is at the Hualompong train station on the second floor. The cost for 'net access there is 20 baht for five minutes! Of course the Thai smiled at me when he told me the rates. If I was making the same sort of profit that he must be pulling, I'd sure smile too!

Reading through this 1967 dated copy of Bangkok After Dark, it is interesting to compare the price of hotels back then with now. Prices in the brochure are listed in $US, no doubt due to the high number of American servicemen who were in town for R+R. Back then, the baht was trading at 20 to the US dollar whereas now it is at 42. To keep things simple, I'll compare the prices in $US only. The world's most famous sex tourist hotel, the "new" Nana Hotel, had rooms for $US 11 while the current price of around $US 25 suggests an increase of a bit over 110 % over a 35 year period – which seems awfully reasonable, all things considered. The Federal Hotel, another favourite amongst whorists, had rooms from as little as $US 7. Today, you can get a room there for around $US 20, a price increase of around 200%, again, still very reasonable given the period of time we are talking about. The Oriental Hotel had rooms from a very reasonable $US 13 while now I believe their rates start at $US 220 a room, an increase of a few zillion percent. The most expensive hotel room was at the Siam Intercontinental Hotel and cost $US 19.50 per night. One can read several things into these figures. 5 Star hotels in Bangkok price themselves at international prices even though I am fairly sure that many of their labour related costs are much less than in other countries. Sex tourist class hotels have kept their prices at very reasonable levels, suggesting that perhaps way back then, they were on the expensive side, or perhaps they simply take advantage of the cheap labour costs that still very much exist in Thailand. Irrespective of whether you are interested in naughty nightlife or not, heed this advice.

If you are a virgin, do not come to Thailand until you have lost your virginity. Yes, I am damned serious. I was sitting in my apartment thinking bout some of the younger guys who have been taken to the cleaners by bargirls, guys that I have known personally, or guys that I have met or possibly corresponded with. And then it hit me that quite a few of these guys had come to Thailand as guys who had yet to experience the please that competing in the bedroom olympics brings. One's first sexual experience can be quite a big thing, and if it comes a little later in life than is perhaps typical, it can be fraught with all sorts of mixed emotions that one could very well mistake for love…and falling in love with a bargirl is a dangerous thing, especially if the person concerned has little or no experience with women. So, if you have yet to experience the pleasures of the flesh, stay away from Thailand until you have had your needs taken care of in your own backyard first. I once commented that more than 1% of the bargirls lost their virginity to a customer and dare I say it, I would not be at all surprised if there are more guys out there who lost their cherry to a Thai bargirl than we may think…

I am restructuring the way I put the column together and have every intention of meeting the Sunday deadline. I will try to finish it all on Saturday so that on Sunday, it is simply a case of uploading it. Sorry for the delays in recent times.

Your Bangkok commentator,

Stick