IN THAILAND FOR TEN BAHT! Read on!
The life of expats living in Thailand is one that passes through many phases. It usually start off with excitement and enthusiasm at the thought of life in a country that many believe will be utopia, or at worst, many times better than Farangland. And for the first few months it can feel like paradise until, sooner or later, the feeling starts to fade as you encounter a few odd situations, have a few bad experiences, and start to mix with jaded expats, many of whom have a love / hate relationship with their adopted country. You slowly begin to realise that Thailand is no closer to perfect than your homeland, and you start to wonder what the hell you are doing here. At this stage you are still applying Western ideas, principles and logic to what goes on in Thailand. So, when you get to this point, what can you do to turn your Thailand experience around?
If you want to stay in Thailand for a long time – and why would you want to return to Farangland? – I believe you need to do one of two things, or if at all possible, both.
First, you need to have or be earning enough money to be able to insulate yourself from a lot of the nonsense that YOU do not like. This nonsense is different for all of us. Some people don't like public transport whereas others might not like eating on the street. Some might not like Thai television and others might be adverse to apartments with cockroaches. All of these are problems that can be easily solved with $$$. Surround yourself by enough home comforts and you can kill off many of the issues that bother you, but you'll also succeed in re-creating a little piece of Farangland in the Kingdom which defeats the whole purpose of being here.
The other way to solve problems is to try and adapt to the Thai way of doing things by doing things, dare I say it, the Thai way. I'm convinced that this happens to most folks over time anyway, though one can accelerate the process by trying to find out why Thais do things the way they do.
Thais walk slowly, don't they? It doesn't take a brain surgeon to work out that walking at a lively pace results in one sweating profusely in the tropical heat.
Looking at the different strata of expats in the Kingdom, it is easy to see how different folks deal with every day life. English teachers, the most poorly paid foreigners in the Kingdom tend to adapt, for they often have little choice. Expats in professional positions on big fat pay packets tend to surround themselves with English speaking staff from drivers to maids to assistants who all help to make life a lot easier.
Around the 3 to 4 year mark of your tour of duty, many folks start to get wonder what they hell they are doing here. Frustration at various aspects of their lifestyle in Thailand may even result in them considering packing it all in and returning home. It is perhaps around this time when no matter how much you earn or how much you have adapted that you slowly find yourself changing. You might not even realise it until friends from abroad visit and notice how you are different. You start to do things as the Thais do, the Thai way. On top of this, you might also find yourself reacting negatively to the way that farangs new to Thailand go about doing things. Seeing someone walking into an apartment without removing their shoes first or watching as a farang invariably loses their temper can effect you in much the same way that this would effect a Thai! It is at this point that you realize that whether you like it or not, you have started going native. And when you finally admit to yourself that that has started happening, you may well find that it is too late, and you are here for the duration.
Where is this pic?
Last week's pic was the famous 13 steps, the steps at the main bus stop at Siam Square, outside Siam Centre, where Bangkok's teenagers sit and watch the fashionable, the beautiful and the bold wander past and pose for the crowds. More than half the people who had a guess got it wrong, with many incorrectly guessing the Patpong branch of McDonalds. As promised, prizes resume this week. Well actually there is just one prize, or rather, assortment of prizes. The FIRST person – and only the first person – to get the picture right, gets to choose $US 25 worth of merchandise from the ClubHombre store. Please note that to claim the prize, you MUST provide a physical address for the goods to be shipped to you as a PO Box will not suffice. (Only provide the address if I inform you that are you are first!) Prizes will be shipped to you anywhere in the world, irrespective of location but if you are outside the US, you should expect delivery to take a few weeks.
Yep, my prediction about the baht was hopelessly wrong.
factories and 4 million of their workforce to China. Hong Kong has done the same. Unfortunately, Thailand has few such cultural ties it can exploit. The only areas it can compete against China favourably on are tourism, prawns and prostitution. If anti-prostitution laws in China are ever relaxed and the army of well-trained and beautiful young Chinese girls take to the a go-go stage, Thailand will have to pray that its waters never get too polluted.
Shenanigans had a huge auction Saturday last weekend to raise money for the CARE children's charity. So far this year the Jesters group have raised more than three million baht, culminating in the auction on Saturday night. I think you'll be as amazed as I am to hear that the prize – being included as a character in the novel Steve Leather is currently writing – fetched 100,000 baht! The buyer was a marvellous man, Gerald Carpenter, who does a lot of charitable work. Gerald will be a major character in Steve's next novel, Hard Landing, which is scheduled for publication in February 2004. The book is about an undercover cop who goes into a maximum security prison to bring down a drugs baron who is running his operation from behind bars. As Gerald paid such a lot, Steve has guaranteed him at least one steamy sex scene! It will be published by Hodder and Stoughton, and probably by Readers Digest too in their condensed book series. I guess it would be better to be the main character in this novel than be Pete, the main character in Leather's SUPERB "Private Dancer".
A turn in the course of events at Clinton Plaza. Is this a reprieve? Does Clinton Plaza have a future? For the time being it would seem so. A lawyer representing some of the 'bar beers' at Clinton has confirmed the authorities have indeed issued a cease and desist order to the developers (Riches Group) regarding either further construction and demolition. Now it is interesting that hotel is to be built behind the existing building which is supposed to be demolished to be replaced by a large driveway with majestic, centre piece fountain. Piling for the new hotel has to be finished by the end of November for the building program to stay on schedule. The existing building will have to be demolished before any reasonable sized piling machinery will be able to access the site. Hmmm, how will all of these problems be solved?
A dance contest was held tonight at Dollhouse in Pattaya. Known as the "Dirty Dancing Contest", it promises to give Pattaya a taste of what Bangkok experienced last weekend. And there is another one planned for two weeks time in Pattaya too. Please note that these dance contests are different from, and in no way affilaited with, those held by Nanapong.
Work permit fees recently increased by 2,000 baht to 3,000 baht. This won't affect that many farangs directly as in the vast majority of cases, the employer pays. However, there are some English teachers at dodgy schools who are forced to pay for it themselves.
Chatting with some bar owners this week, they were all in agreement that this year had most certainly been quieter than last year. Still, things have not been that bad and they all seem to be making enough to live the high life in the Kingdom. This merely confirms what a lot of expats have been saying about bar areas being quieter than they remember previous low seasons to be.
Casey, who got the boot from Midnite did not waste any time getting a new job and he can now be found at Shadow Bar in Soi Cowboy. Pop on in and say hello.
It should be noted that the much criticised Crown Group flagship bar, Cascade, in Nana Plaza, has for various reasons not been completed in line with the original plans. Come Christmas and it should be finished, albeit about 18 months late. If it is completed according to the original plans, it should be a lot more impressive than it is now.
The rule of thumb with buying VCDs in Thailand used to always be that you never bought a movie that had yet to be released at the cinema. If you bought such a movie, it would not be a copy taken from the original VCD, but a camcorder in the cinema job. Such a copy would offer many extra features such as audience applause and even the sounds of people eating! If you were really unlucky, you might even hear someone's mobile phone ringing! With the emerging copied DVD market, we are seeing exactly the same trends developing with copied DVDs before the general cineima release in Thailand. So, stick to the older DVDs! While I am still a bit of a dinosaur and do not yet own a DVD player, I am informed by friends that the copied DVDs bought in Thailand are largely hit and miss. Some are very good, whereas some are Asian versions with many special options missing, fixed subtitles, invariably in Chinese, and other annoying aspects.
Mobile phone jammers…is this the ultimate toy to really have fun with the locals? After all, a Thai without their mobile phone is lost. I heard an hilarious story about such a device being used this week. One poor Thai was scene walking around in circles, unsuccessfully trying to get a signal on their phone. But an even better suggestion came that such devices should be used in cinemas as a device to prevent the locals from conversing during a movie!
I am often loathe to recommend restaurants because in this city there are so many great places to eat, and one usually does not have to travel far to find a great place to feast. But there is one place where I have been eating a lot recently that deserves a mention. The restaurant is called Jaew Hom and it is located right next to Ramkhamhaeng Soi 14. Unfortunately, there is no sign in English, nor is there even an English menu, so if you are not proficient in the local lingo, you'd better take your teeruk along with you. For me, the food there is the best Isaan style food that I've had in Bangkok. The neua yarng (grilled beef) is a steal at 30 baht and if you are really hungry, half a grilled chicken is 50 baht. The very good tom yum is around 50 baht and the fried mixed vegetables at 40 baht is a favourite of mine. Surroundings are sparse, but if you like Isaan style food, then this place is hard to beat. And, as Miss Stick said, you'd be hard pressed to find Isaan food this cheap anywhere – even in Isaan itself! If you enjoy this type of food, it is worth travelling across town to eat there. But be warned, the target market is locals with the emphasis on good food and NOT comfort. Surroundings are very basic.
Blue skies over the Chao Praya River, a surprisingly
common sight recently, given the time of year.
I have a bit of leaked information from Australia and it would seem that the sub culture of the Bangkok bar scene is going mainstream. One fellow who used to run such jaunts is re-launching his Bangkok nightlife tours. No big deal really except that the whole operation is going to be advertised in both national newspapers and on the radio! You have to admit this guy has balls for a number of reasons. First, he is advertising in mainstream newspapers in the "Travel" section which will cause an absolute stir. Secondly, he is under cutting the mainstream travel agents by about 10%. I understand they are offering to guide groupies to all the usual haunts like Cowboy, Nana and Patpong and also the harder to find freelance places. The accommodation is 4 star in guest friendly hotels. The complete cost of the whole thing is a bit less than $US 1400 out of Sydney which is MUCH cheaper than the tours coming out of the US. Will we see armies of randy Aussies cruising the bars in the not too distant future? Quite possibly. The guy running it all lived in Bangkok for many years and claims to be quite the connoisseur of naughty bars. He has grand plans and has set all sorts of standards for the bars he will take his disciples to, like no ladyboys, only decent bars like Dollhouse, G Spot, Long Gun etc. I suppose if you are dragging 15 – 20 horny guys through Bangkok Bars a few times a month then you can be choosy, since the bars are always after regular custom. The website is www.blue-lotus.net.
The Reno Hotel must have been listed in Bangkok's leading gay guide for it seems that a godo percentage of the customers coming and going bat for the other team. If homosexuals bother you, give the Reno Hotel a miss, because the place is full of them.
Complaints are coming out of Phuket thick and fast. The songtaew mafia continue to charge 150 baht to go from Karon (THE beach to stay at) to Patong (THE beach to party at). Also, complaints have been made about the attire that the girls are dancing in in some of the gogo bars. It seems that some bar owners are too tight fisted to spring for a decent bikini, preferring instead to leave the grandmothers on stage in their, how shall we say, grandmother style knickers. Not a good look.
Rumours abound that a fine Kiwi gentleman – actually, they are all fine – will be opening a new bungy operation on Ko Samui. Like many Kiwis, he still has a chip on his shoulder over the underarm bowling incident and rumour has it that there is one bungy chord for 99% of the customers, and a frayed bungy chord for the Aussies!
Rock Hard A Gogo in Patong Beach, Phuket, was the first gogo bar I ever entered. A great bar, it is something of a landmark in Patong and is known by farangs all over the Kingdom. But I wonder how things will be next April when the Hard Rock Cafe opens in Patong. There is sure to be some confusion amongst visitors. I can just see it now when retirees George and Mildred arrange to meet their travelling companions, Horace and Hilda at the Hard Rock for dinner…and end up in the wrong location. Oh my, won't that be a shock to the system! And I wonder if one bar will approach the other about a possible name change…?
Other reports in from Phuket suggest that the girls down there are prepared to go long time for short time rates. Yep, you read that right. 1,000 baht all night is not just achievable, it is regularly offered! My guess is that this is a combination of the low season, a backlash against Phuket by people who simply refuse to pay the high prices (EVERYTHING – food, hotels, bars, girls), and the end of the month approaching, meaning that rent will soon be due…
I was flabbergasted to hear that one of the internet introduction services that specialises in introducing Western guys and Thai girls charges $US 150 to introduce people and then if you decide to pursue things, you have to pay ANOTHER $US 550! My God…I really am in the wrong line of work.
Remember to say cheese! There is a camera crew floating around Bangkok filming at the moment. While their application to film in the naughty nightlife areas was declined, they still intend to do so… So, if you see a bunch of guys with a pro-sumer camera that defies the professionalism with which they approach their filming, then that is most likely them.
Quote of the week comes from perhaps the most famous farang bar owner in Thailand, "if you actually stop English teaching for a couple of months, you'll see how awful it is and will never want to do it again".
There will be a celebrity wedding in the Big Mango next month and congratulations go out to Big Dave, the well rounded gentleman who runs a small piece of the British Empire, Jools Bar, in Sukumvit soi 4. In the next couple of weeks, Big Dave will be tying the knot with his teeruk. Expect plenty of folks from the naughty nightlife industry to be there to help Dave celebrate, including Kim Fletcher, manager of Shenanigans Pattaya, who will be Dave's best man.
Last weeend I was walking in the market. I saw a girl selling some stuff and I approached her. I asked her how much for a fuck and she replied "10 baht". I walked away in disgust, incredulous that she could ask so much! So, what happened and why was I disgusted? "Fuck" is the classifier in the Thai language for a cob of corn, amongst other things. Who in their right mind would pay 10 baht for one fuck, when in most markets you can get two, or sometimes three fucks for ten baht!
Your Bangkok commentator,