Stickman's Weekly Column August 4th, 2002

The Internet And Existing Relationships



The opening piece in today's column is not especially about, nor related to either, Bangkok, or Thailand. It is about relationships, the internet and the real dangers that I believe serious relationships and marriage will face in the future. It is relevant to expats living in and travellers coming to Thailand, but is in no way specific to this country, for the issues raised could be applied anywhere in the world. The internet and the way more and more people are meeting these days online fascinates me so I decided to publish this as opposed to an article specifically about Thailand.

When people believe that they have found their soul mate, the only person on this planet who could make them happy the way that person does, they are fooling themselves. There are, give or take, 6,000,000,000 (six billion) people on this planet. It is a fool who feels that the person they have shacked up with is the most ideal person on the planet for them. How could they possibly know? One will never meet even a fraction of 1% of all of the people on the planet, so how could one possibly know that the person who they love and are totally devoted to is the best person for them? That is not to say that that person is a suitable person for life, but to say that they are the best, is of course, impossible.

Some people go through their lives and only meet or communicate with a few hundred people. They may live in a small village, town, or perhaps in an isolated area. They go to a small school with only so many students, and they get a job in that same town, where they have grown up. They may only ever see a couple of thousand people in their lives, only ever communicate with a few hundred. The sheltered life that this person has led leaves an incredibly small number of people to choose a potential life partner from. And when (if?) they eventually find someone to spend their lives with, can they honestly say that they have found their true soul mate, the only person who is suitable for them? They may have made a good choice, but with the limited selection available to them, they many not have either.

Contrast this with someone who lives in a big city, does a lot of travelling, goes to different schools, to university, works in a large company in a job that requires him or her to communicate with many different people on a daily basis. This person might literally come in contact with tens of thousands of people, and therefore will have a far greater opportunity to meet Mr or Mrs Right. Still, their exposure to potential partners is still a mere fraction of a fraction of 1%.

The reality of the situation is that there are MILLIONS of people on this planet who you could be happy with. Millions and millions. That person you are married to now is NOT the the most ideal person for you to marry on this planet. The sad reality is that finding the right person has been near impossible, that is until now.

But things are changing, and while you will never ever be able to meet every potential partner, the emergence of the internet and the way it is being adopted all around the world means that there are more and more opportunities to meet people. The word is being a virtual village as the internet continues to penetrate more corners of the globe and is becoming more and more important in the lives of people all around the world. It is becoming unusual to find someone who does not have an email address, which goes to show the penetration of the Internet.

Let me clearly state that I spend a huge amount of time online and have been pursued as a single man, pursued as a man with a girlfriend, pursued others when I have been single and even done a little pursuing at the odd time in the past when I have been accounted for too. I have also watched as a girlfriend of mine was both pursued online and did some pursuing too, notwithstanding that she had recently declared her devotion to me!

Even when one is in a relationship that is as near to perfect as you'll ever get, there is a certain excitement at the prospect of pursuing or being pursued by someone new. New relationships are exciting, and excitement is something that we all crave in our lives.

Now when one is in a relationship, it isn't usually that easy to go out and pursue, without your partner knowing about it. The odd late night in can be blamed on any one of a million situations, but a few more and your loved one knows that something is up. The usual dating channels and pick-up joints are out of the question, for your loved one is fully aware of what goes on in such venues. Dropping into a bar on the way home may arouse suspicion. But is your partner aware of the power, or is that the danger, of the internet?

The internet provides a genuine alternative to people who want to meet new people – and for now at least, there is little or no suspicion from one's partner when one spends a lot of time online. But is your partner aware of the various chat rooms, message groups, dating sites, singles forum's and who knows what else that exist online, and that are being exploited by millions all around the world right now? Do they realize that while the relationship may be rosy red, the excitement of talking with a new friend somewhere else around the world may go on to have a serious impact on the relationship, and perhaps even result in its demise?

I truly believe that the ease with which it is to meet people online, relationships that were otherwise fine could very well fall apart, and marriages that friends and family thought to be going perfectly well, may well end. We all like a bit of excitement in our lives, to flirt and to know that we have still got it, and that if the situation arose that we could still find someone else. The internet has brought down so many barriers and provides u with this chance. And then one has the chance to take it further, and that is when very real relationship problems can arise.

With the very real danger that the internet poses, many relationships will end, perhaps not because of a specific problem, but simply because an online opportunity was seized. To keep the fire alight for 50 odd years isn't an easy thing, in fact it takes a huge amount of commitment, effort and God knows what else on the part of both parties. And to suddenly be presented with an attractive, articulate, interesting, quite possibly exotic, new online friend, can start a situation which is often too tempting for all but the most truly devoted.

If you were coming home from work and dropped into a bar for a few drinks, your partner might disapprove. But if you sit on the net all day long, hunting for someone interesting, the odds are your partner would not even blink. But they should, oh they really should!

Where is this Pic?

This is NOT in Bangkok….a 500 baht prize – you
didn't expect me to give you an easy one, did you?!

Last week's pic was of course taken at Washington Square. This week's pic is somewhat more difficult and for just one weekly only, I am offering you a special prize, a tube of MY CREME. Spice up your sex life with MY CREME, a product that has been referred to by some as the "female Viagara". Apply this creme to your johnson and the word is that you will really light her fire. So, the first person to correctly guess this picture, wins the prize. However, this is a condition attached. You MUST be able to collect the prize this coming Friday in Bangkok. Failure to collect it and I'll give it away to someone else…

Is it really this easy to get away with it?

On the story about the chap who got stopped by the police, I got a ticket the other day for not wearing a helmet (common offence here). The cop asked for my ID "no have" and so wrote a ticket and asked me my name. "Joe Bloggs" I said. He would not take a bribe and simply gave me the ticket and I just rode off. So obviously I have no intention of paying and they have no way of knowing who I am….
Questionable lifestyles or utopia?
The only time I find the go-go lifestyle questionable is when I see guys living an addictive lifestyle, like drug addicts and alcoholics. I know several businessmen here who have been making a lot of money over the years, yet they own very little in their condo or home, some are behind in paying their Thai staff and other creditors, and their businesses often don't get basic needs, like a data backup system (CD-R), 1500 baht RAM upgrades, etc. Yet, if you call them late from a phone booth (so they don't know it's you), they will answer in a go-go bar. If you catch them at home to collect a debt, you'll find a prostitute in their apartment. Different one, different days. If they don't give out home info (due to creditors), then based on leads you may catch them at a favourite go-go bar, where they're usually preparing to bar-fine a girl and with a tumbler full of bills. As a consultant, I have known countless expats here like this.
You read about this quite often in the Thai press.
I am writing to discuss the other side of the bar – the Thai girl so "in love" that she would kill herself for her falang. The first case involves a girl who was honestly (not looking in retrospect) the sweetest and most innocent girl on Khao San Road. To cut a long and very weird story short, my girlfriend's best friend used to work in the famous Gullivers bar on Khao San. Anyway, this particular girl called Nok fell in love with a falang who was on a brief holiday. He wasn't rich or anything, was just a young guy on holiday on Thailand. When this guy went home after his 2 weeks in Bangkok the girl Nok sent him email everyday and lived only to receive his email. If a daily email went astray she would break down and cry. So eventually after many months this guy comes back to Bangkok as part of his travelling holiday. He spends the night at a friend's flat with his girlfriend and apparently has sex with her…..both are drunk and after a while an argument ensues. Rumour has it that the girl has asked for the guys hand in marriage….unsurpisingly for us he says no. The morning after a picture on a local newspaper shows the girl's splattered remains on the front page and the boyfriend in the background bent over in grief. She apparently jumped from the 9th floor balcony over this. The girl was the most innocent girl I knew on Khao San and I shed many a tear at the funeral. Just to show that not all Thai girls are plotting, evil bitches. I admit 99 percent of them are but a tiny majority do have a real heart inside them.
No barfines.
Why should you have to pay a bar fine? It would be more fair if bars would use a sliding scale to levy the bar fine, e.g. 8-10 PM: 600 baht, 10 PM – Midnight: 400 baht, Midnight – 2 AM: 200 baht
Poor Dang.
Lets call her Dang. She is from Surin, and is from a poor family. Both her mother and father are drunks and at the bottom of the social classes in Thailand. She told me when she was 14 years old a man who lives in her village who was 22 years old at the time liked her and asked her to go out with him. She said he was not handsome, and she did not like him. She told him no she did not want to go out with him. He went over to her house and asked her mother if he could take Dang to the movies. The mother said ok. Dang really did not want to go but felt she had no choice. The young man had a motorbike, they headed off to the movies. As they passed a schoolhouse, the boy said he had to go to the bathroom. They stopped and the man raped Dang. She said he was bigger and she could not stop him. Then he took her home. She stayed in her room and felt very shy and ashamed. After 2 weeks the man came over to see her, they started talking and started seeing each other. After a few months the man wanted to marry her he asked his mother if he could marry Dang. His mother said no, she was from a lower class and she would not allow him to marry Dang. Her life was shattered. She could not get married. She was no longer a virgin. Her parents did not care about her and told her to go make some money. She is now 18 years old and a real stunner. Her parents demand about 20,000 baht a month from her so she works a lot. She says when she goes home she sometimes sees this man who is now marred and has a new baby. She feels very sad. She says this type of thing happens very often in the countryside.
There's nothing like the smell of a sea breeze…
Patong Beach, Phuket has a nice boardwalk for strolling. Much nicer than Pattaya's. If you take your exercise after dark, though, you had better bring a lady friend along. Either that, or a baseball bat to ward off the katoeys. Extremely aggressive, those. (Someone has coined the humorous term "Transtesticles" for these abhorrent creatures. I suggest "sans testicles" is more accurate, if perhaps less funny.) But if you are not overly distracted by the katoeys groping and clawing at you, perhaps you will then notice that the salty sea air has an especially sharp tang to it. What gives it that peculiar quality? The odour is strangely familiar, yet not very pleasant. If you are out in the daytime, when the sun is baking the ground, you will notice it is almost overpowering in places. But, only at night will you discover the cause: A few feet off the boardwalk, barely in the shadows, there is the dim figure of a tuk-tuk driver answering nature's call! You stroll a bit further, and there's another guy doing likewise! All the vendors, touts and taxi drivers who hustle tourists along the beach road use the tree lined beach promenade as a public toilet after dark. The constant on-shore breeze ensures that every passer-by gets a good strong whiff of it. There's more in the air than just the briny sea!

Children dressed in traditional Thai costumes and
Nikes (!) from the Thai festival in London, last weekend.

A correction about the upstairs of Midnite Bar in Soi Cowboy being closed. It seems that they open the upstairs area some nights, and not others. Perhaps it is all determined by how many girls bother to come to work on any given day?

The hawkers peddling junk on the BTS walkways above the Patumwan intersection adjoining MBK are causing chaos and the way the keystone cops are handling it means that little is being done to stop it. The vendors lay out their junk and contraband, monopolising big chunks of the busy walkways, barking obscenities at any clumsy person (me!) who happens to accidentally put their foot on the merchandise. Every couple of hours or so, the cops come along and shoo the vendors away. The area has various signs up stating that hawkers are not allowed in this area. The cops then walk away and the vendors come straight back. This cycle repeats itself over and over again throughout the day, SEVERAL times a day, EVERY day! There seems to be an issue of authority involved here for no diligent effort appears to be made to really rid the walkways of these pests. Sure, they have to make a living, but not on such s busy walkway. When you see easy to solve problems like this being dealt with in such an inept manner, you really have to wonder about the future for Thailand.

One of the most popular farang bar owners had a heart attack earlier this week. A picture of health, it was more than a surprise to those of us who know him. Thankfully it appears that he is ok, fighting fit, and back to work already.

A reminder to be extra careful when dealing with the ladies of the night as a British friend was taken to the cleaners by a little vixen earlier this week. He had not so carefully selected a freelancer from the BeerGarden in Sukumvit Soi 7 and invited her back to the hotel for a round of the bedroom olympics. He remembers drinking a beer that she had given him, vaguely remembering a white powdery like substance around the top of the bottle. The next thing he knew, it was hours later and he had woken up to find that his wallet had been cleaned out and both his video camera and SLR had been taken too. He reported the theft to the hotel management and later inspection of the lobby video showed her leaving the premises with his duty free bag bulging with goodies! Even though she may have been caught on film, this girl will quietly disappear, her pay day no doubt significant enough to allow her to stay away from Sex Tourist Alley long enough so that when she finally returns – and believe me, she will, her poor victim is back in Farangland, unable to identify her. So what can you do to eliminate this sort of thing happening, and what should you do if you are unfortunate enough to become a victim? First of all, freelancers are very difficult to track so any girl who you pick up from a freelancer type venue such as the BeerGarden, Thermae, Nana Disco etc will not be easy to locate. They pose a greater danger. Secondly, there IS a REAL BENEFIT in insisting that a girl deposit her ID with the reception at your hotel. This way, there is a record of who she is. The embarrassment of it all should be the least of your concern, for reception staff notice you and her sneaking past them, even if they do not directly say "good evening, sir". If you do get ripped off, DO go to the police and file a report. Odds are that they will never catch her, but if you should see her again in your travels, you could notify the police who would have it on record, and would be obliged to follow up. Finally, while such problems do not occur that often, remember that these girls are not your girlfriend, they are whores. And whores are not known for their integrity.

I've never seen a snake apart from in a zoo but I have heard stories of them popping up in Bangkok from time to time. This week, a colleague of mine was strolling through the grounds of Chulalongkorn University – right in the heart of the city – and stopped near the pavilion housing the big cafeteria, to have a cigarette. For a moment he thought he was smoking something stronger than tobacco, for the ground next to him seemed to be moving! He then got the shock of his life when a snake that he estimates at 3 metres long slithered out of the drain and started making a beeline towards him! He swears that the world record time for the 100 metre dash was slashed as he jumped up and bolted in the opposite direction. The rainy season can bring snakes out all over the city so keep your eyes open and you might spot one.

Optimism at Clinton Plaza where Checkpoint Charlie's deadline of July 31st came and went. They are now looking at being there until at least the end of the year. Some of the girls who had gone and got new jobs elsewhere are returning to the bar too. Now this is totally contradictory to other rumours that are going around as per the next item.

Notices were recently sent for all Clinton Plaza tenants to collect their belongings & vacate by August 5th. Rock Hard tried to vacate, but was stopped and warned that if they didn't sign a document releasing all of their rights, their property would be seized. A police report was filed on this obviously illegal action. Rock Hard has hired one of Bangkok's top lawyers to attack "Richee Company", the new landowners. Lee Singh Company's master lease as well as the Rock Hard sub-leases have been verified as legal and valid. Currently there are several lawsuits tying up their full possession of the property, and several more pending. Each must be dealt with individually by the courts. The first to conclude, no matter the outcome, will take no shorter than 18 more months. September 20th, 2002, is the first date of arbitration by the tenants on the street front. Sofitel will begin construction on their 2.5 billion baht flagship hotel in the next 6 months or so, so, there's a slight problem for them, to say the least! Word is that Richee Company has hired some bad boys to carry out their dirty deeds and it has been mooted that on August 6th they will physically take over all businesses… ITV will be on the scene, but so far have been prevented from videoing on the premises so they now film from the balcony at Bush Garden, above Thermae Coffee Shop. I'll do my best to be there too with StickCam, filming from afar…

Work has been taking place at the popular Lek Hotel in Pattaya (Second Road, close to Tim's and Mike's Shopping Centre) and the expansion of this popular mid-range hotel will see it almost double the number of rooms. The new rooms are due to open some time next month and if the price for the new rooms is the same as the existing rooms, a bit under 700 baht per night, they will represent a very good deal.

London prices: Coke 80p = 50 baht, iced coffee 2 pounds =
125 baht. Now I know why I don't live in the West!

The word from the Thai festival this past week in London is that it was much the same as last year's. The crowd was treated to Thai traditional dance, Thai traditional music and the unavoidable Thai Airways raffle. From a resident in London, the big plus about this festival is the food. They had about 50 different stands of food from which any Thai food was available, just like if one was present in Thailand. However, if the prices in the picture above are anything to go by, I'll put off that holiday I was planning to London. Quite a few farang ladies, many young and pretty were hanging around with trendy Thai men! Maybe one day they will have an equivalent to Nana Plaza full of young Thai guys for the farang females?

Yes, I know this is Thailand things aren't quite like the West, but questionable practices still get to me… Why is it that in Tony's there are advertisements on the walls of the men's toilets stating that if a woman orders a jug of beer, it is free. This is all very well until you realize that this special only applies to unaccompanied women….so WHY advertise it in the gents?!

Be wary if you are sending international mail OUT of Thailand using registered post. The 25 baht extra charge for registered post does NOT provide an audit trail from which the sent item can be tracked. What it does provide is that the item must be signed for by the recipient – that is it. If you send something important, precious or valuable out of Thailand and require an audit trail, you can either use EMS which is offered at all post offices, or use one of the big international courier companies like DHL, FedEx etc who do provide track and trace.

Most people will tell you that renting an apartment or a condominium in Thailand is relatively trouble free, and generally it is. But when things go wrong, they can go totally pair shaped. The biggest problem seems to be getting one's deposit back, and with many apartment buildings insisting on two months deposit in advance, this could be a significant loss. The big problem often comes down to two things – damage done in the apartment before you even arrived, or a dodgy contract. In the case of ANY marks or damage in the apartment, make sure that these are notarized in the contract and that these amendments or even a full addendum is signed by the leasor. The second problem is a bigger issue and that is the leasing of privately owned apartments through an agent, or through the management of the apartment building. The deposit for the apartment seems to go around in circles with no-one admitting they have it – and when you go to get your money back, things become endlessly frustrating. As crazy as it may sound, it is worth INSISTING on not just a receipt but a photocopy of the Thai ID card of the person who takes your deposit money. No, this provides no guarantee that you will actually see the money again, but it does give you something to give to the police, who inevitably get involved in these cases.

One has to laugh at the atrocious English on signs and various official documents around Bangkok. The most recent one to get be guffawing is on the free bookmarks that Asia Books give away when you buy a book. The bookmark lists the local emergency phone numbers including the number for "grime", when it appears they should have put "crime". So, if you have a grime problem, you could call the police to help you solve it. I imagine if everyone has been calling to complain about grime, the switchboard has been totally uinudnated with calls.

The Pet Shop Boys played in Bangkok on Friday night and if like me you grew up with them in '80s, you would have enjoyed the concert. I had to chuckle to myself about the way that concerts and alcohol happily go together in Thailand whereas in Farangland, or at least my corner of Farangland, getting alcohol into a concert is about as difficult as getting a semi-automatic into a room full of world leaders. In my corner of Farangland, alcohol is not usually available when concerts are held, but inevitably half of the crowd is pissed out of their brains. In Thailand, alcohol is freely available within the concert stadium / venue, and everyone is well behaved. Sometimes we refer to the West as civilised – have we got it around the wrong way?

Every week there is a number of people who email me asking me why the column is a few days late, even though it is published on time (Sunday, 6:00 PM, local Bangkok time). As mentioned in previous columns, the problem is related to the way your browser stores previously viewed pages in the cache of your computer. So, even though the latest weekly index is online, you are unable to get it! If you are having problems opening the current week's column menu, you can force your browser to download it: In Netscape: Hold down the "Shift" key and click on the "Reload" button. In Internet Explorer: Hold down the "Ctrl" key and press "F5".

Best wishes go out to the Bonking Baron and I hope that you make a speedy recovery. No doubt the restaurateurs of Bangkok are experiencing reduced profits in your absence.

Your Bangkok commentator

Stick