Stickman's Weekly Column April 20th, 2003

Cheap, Cheaper, Cheapest!



Bangkok is cheap, but just how cheap can it be? If for whatever reason you wanted to live as cheaply as possible, just what would it cost you?

Assuming that we need a roof to live under, three meals a day and we are not prepared to pound the pavement as our primary means of transportation, just how cheap can Bangkok be?

It is impossible to know what the true average wage in Thailand is, but I have read figures of around 7,000 baht a month. Yep, 7,000 baht a month. Could you live in Bangkok on that amount? I know I couldn't do it, at least from a pragmatic point of view, but I believe that it is possible.

If you wanted to live as cheaply as possible, it could be done for a pittance. At 1,000 baht a month for a very basic room, 5 baht for a pack of noodles 3 times a day and a few 3.5 baht bus fares, you could probably live in the city of Angels for less than 3,000 baht a month. Yep, the maths doesn't quite add up to 3,000, but consider that you would have to buy water for your noodles, water to drink and water to shower in amongst other things, then you are up to the magic 3,000 baht total. I don't know if any farangs are living like this, but if there are I sure feel sorry for them. Realistically, living at this level isn't possible.

You can get reasonable lodgings in a central area for around 4,000 baht a month. This would be reasonable by English teacher standards and the Khao Sarn Road brigade would be quite happy in such a place, but anyone who has some sense of pride would likely find such a place simply doesn't meet their needs. Still, 4,000 baht can get you something that is ok. One needs to add in another 500 baht or so a month for water and electricity. Forget using the air-con and no, we didn't budget for you to use the telephone either!

Food is one area where you can get away cheaply. It is not difficult at all to find perfectly good food at 20 – 30 baht a plate. Three plates a day, a couple of portions of fruit and a couple of bottles of water could be had for around 120 baht per day. In addition to being tasty and cheap, this diet would likely satisfy even the fussiest dieticians. You never need go hungry in Bangkok and just a few baht in your pocket will be enough to allow you to satisfy your hunger. You can forget any Western food if your daily budget is 120 baht, and even a burger at McDonalds would be out of reach.

Transport is another area where you can do ok for a very small amount of money, assuming you are happy to take the bus. Let's say you take four bus journeys a day, two on regular buses and two on air-con buses, you'd be spending around 30 baht a day. Add in the odd taxi fare and you'd be at around 1,000 baht a month. No skytrain….oooh, that would be tough!

Of course there is the big area of miscellaneous expenses, and the more prudent you are, the more you will budget. Medical expenses, buying new clothes, presents & gifts, holidays and the various other miscellaneous expenses etc will all push this up. Anything less than 2,000 baht would be imprudent, and really I consider this figure is rock bottom.

Accommodation 4,500
Food 3,600
Transport 1,000
Miscellaneous 2,000
TOTAL 11,1000

So, in summary, if you want to drop out of life and live the quiet life on the cheap, you could do so for 11,100 baht a month. Or, if you are relatively poorly paid and want to survive, it can be done for less than 12,000 baht a month. Or, if you need to save money (what the hell are you doing in Bangkok then?!) then you can see that one can get by on a modest amount. But remember, at these levels, you wouldn't even have a newspaper to read, cable TV to watch and worst of all, we didn't budget for an internet cafe so you would miss out on my weekly nonsense too! Getting back to the Thais who earn on average 7,000 baht a month, just how do they do it?

Where is this pic?

Last week's pic

Taken from the Chongnonsee BTS station,
looking towards the intersection at Sathorn Rd.

This week's pic

This pic was taken from up the Baiyoke 2 Tower
– can you name one of the buildings in the pic?

Last week's pic was taken from the Chongnonsee BTS looking towards Sathorn Road. There are two prizes offered for the where is this pic. One person, irrespective of location, wins the prize of $25 worth of goodies from ClubHombre which will be shipped to you anywhere in the world. In addition to this, the first Bangkok based person to answer the pic correctly wins a 500 baht credit to use at the Classics Movie Lounge. So, to all Bangkok based folks, make it clear in your email that you are Bangkok based so that you qualify for the cream that will send your teeruk to heaven!

FROM STICKMAN'S INBOX :

Did anyone lose their nuts at Songkran?
I just wanted to feedback to you that the farangs here in Bangkok are really behaving like a bunch of assholes in regards to using the high power water pistols to whack people with water. I am an Asian American and have been hit twice tonight by 2 farangs welding those high powered water pistols. In contrast to the Thai people I have ran across (who gives you due warning and doesn't seem to do it with malice) the farang idiots are hitting people with high strength weapons, and seems to do it out of maliciousness and glee. What the fuck is wrong with these idiots? One farang idiot on Soi 5 Sukumvit insisted on dousing another farang's girlfriend with water and got into a scuffle and almost got beaten up. I was really tempted to take a baseball bat to the first farang idiot (an idiot with a crew cut outside of a bar opposite Nana) who hit me so hard with the water that it almost knocked me over. I am giving due warning that the next FARANG that hits me with the water pistol that I am going to hit him back with a knife and hopefully cut off his balls.
They are not all good.
One point in regards to the negatives in introducing a wide range of western men to non-bar Thai girls…..yes it is true that some guys may just want to treat these girls the same as they would treat a bar girl but it works the other way as well. Not all of these girls are going to be so wholesome themselves and maybe just long term investment prostitutes playing the game, as has been pointed out about the Bangkok Chat site. Of course, thankfully, despite the possible pitfalls for parties on either side, the Internet does appear to be a worthwhile pursuit. I think pursuing a 'normal' relationship with a decent Thai girl has a lot to do with where you are at and coming from in yourself. You attract your true agenda, if your being deceitful then you'll get deceit, if your honest and sincere then you'll attract honest and sincere.
I agree. I'm no Arnold Schwarzenegger, yet the Thai women like me. Back in NZ, I was but Mr. Average.
I would like to take issue with one of your contributors this week who suggests that Thai women prefer macho men. I have just returned from another wonderful trip to Thailand. One incident stands out which both upset and amazed me. While at a popular bar beer in Pattaya with some friends one evening a Neanderthal farang came rampaging to the bar counter scattering three girls from their seats to the floor demanding drink. He was dangerously close to my lady companion and I put myself between them and asked him what his problem was and to cool down. He turned on me and clearly wanted to brawl. Now I am no tough guy and this guy could easily tear me apart but I was quite prepared to engage him as he was intent on causing mayhem. At this point, I looked behind the bar and saw three girls frantically smiling and wai-ing at me in an obvious entreaty to do nothing. Equally, my companion, who I know a long time and who is made of tough stuff, entreated me to stay away and do nothing. Internally I was raging but I did as they asked. I kept my cool and ignored his continued goading. Eventually, he moved off. After, a number of girls approached me to thank me for showing restraint. I think they appreciated more that I took the punches to my ego than to my nose. In doing so, I saved the bar and staff the loss of face that a brawl would bring (not to mention the attentions of the local gendarmerie). The incident amazed me and gave me a slight insight into Thai attitudes. I don't think any Thai lady appreciates any outward demonstration of machismo, either aggressive or defensive, because of the poor attention it draws. I think this is an interesting subject as it highlights a fairly large area of difference between Thai culture and Western culture where both men and women are brought up on a staple diet of machismo.
This guy needs your advice: [email protected]
After more than twenty visits to Thailand and numerous short-lived relationships with bargirls, I've recently become involved with a receptionist at a hotel in Pattaya, who I'll call "Noy". I know I'm going to sound very gullible now, but she seems to be everything I could wish for; young, pretty, good-hearted, respectable, and seemingly quite keen to form a proper relationship. To that end, she's now pressing to come over to live in the UK, and I find myself in quite a quandary over what to do. I recognise and accept the fact that stability and financial security are major considerations to any Thai girl looking for a partner, and I don't fool myself that she wants me purely for my looks or personality. What I do find a little harder to accept is that she always side-steps any questions about whether she has a Thai boyfriend. Whenever I raise the subject, she first tells me not to be so serious about things, and if really pressed she seems to be saying she'll readily commit to me if only I'll do likewise. People I've spoken to in Thailand also suggest that's the way things are done there; "OK, if she was married, no good, she break your heart. But boyfriend, no problem for you." In a roundabout way, I suppose it's a modestly positive aspect that she doesn't try to lie outright with some half-baked story about no-one being interested in her. Maybe… My big worry, of course, is that she'll come over to the UK, and after a year or so decide she doesn't like the food, weather, etc, and go back to the real love of her life, leaving Yours Truly as just another lost soul with a pathetic story no one wants to hear. At the end of the day, can a modest falang lifestyle really compete with the lure of someone from her own culture, age group etc? However genuine she may or may not be, and however much we might try to accommodate one another, could a 24 year old Thai girl really be happy with Eastenders, Sunday Roasts, and Saturday nights in the pub? On the other hand, right now she seems the best offer I'll ever have, and family and friends are all urging me to bring her over. Whilst I feel I should be resisting the pressure she's putting on me, I also know I'd be very upset to lose her without even giving it a proper try. Stick, I reckon you must have heard this dilemma a thousand times, and I guess it can be summed up in just three words; "Is it real?" That's a difficult question in any circumstances, and perhaps an impossible one where the land of Genuine Imitation is concerned, but any, any advice or thoughts from you or your readers would be very gratefully received.
From Nana Plaza, the Friday just before Songkran was VERY busy, no doubt punters wanted to make the most of the girls who were still around, and the girls wanted to make some money to take upcountry the next day to Ma and Pa, as is the tradition. Over Songkran it was very quiet and a lot of bargirls paid their own barfines to enable them to go home. From Carousel Bar at the top of Nana, there would usually be anywhere from 60-80 dancers on a typical night and Hollywood 2 about 30-50. Needless to say they were well down on girls. On Sunday the 13th, Carousel had but 35 dancers and Hollywood 2 only 25.

Most of the bars in Nana Plaza inflated their barfines to 1,000 baht over the Songkran period. Playskool were a bit kinder with a 200 baht increase up to 800 baht.

From the SARS file, there is an email doing the rounds about a Thai national who worked in Siam Tower (?), the large office tower above Siam Discovery Centre. Unfortunately, the said person passed away, reportedly as a result of SARS. Apparently everyone in the building was told about the death and all are supposed to be wearing masks. Funnily enough, very few of the office staff in that building seem to be wearing masks and it is not hard to understand why. There is a huge stigma associated with this disease and anyone wearing a mask will be looked at as if they have two heads. From another part of town, one multinational sent out an internal memo stating that all staff taking leave at this time must advise their boss where they are going and if they are going to one of the affected countries, they absolutely cannot return to work and must stand down for two weeks, with this time taken out of their annual leave. Thai companies are taking this all very seriously, and it is especially worrisome for said companies because Hong Kong and Singapore are right at the top of the list of holiday destinations for middle and upper class Thais.

Woodstock in Nana closed for the whole of the Songkran holiday with the rumour mill saying that there simply weren't enough staff left to operate the bar. And I hear that they all went home, barfine free.

Temptations have finally received their closure order for being caught with underage girls in their bar. They will be given a minimum of at least 15 days, but rumour has it that they have been hit for 30 days, but I'm not 100% sure. Obviously, having young girls in the bar was too much of a temptation. Now they are paying the price.

Work is progressing slowly at the old Vixens Bar in Nana with the crew who built this doing their best to rip away the Crown Group's undisputed title as the slowest building crew. Having said that, I believe it is the same crew who did Sheba's – and they did a fantastic job down there, so it should be worth waiting for.

Still the talk of the town, Sheba's in Cowboy has a great design but there has been a complaint that the some girls from PlaySkool were shipped over to to dance during the opening and are not there now. Now this is a rumour only, and not one that I have confirmed with my own eyes. I'll make it down there one day for a look.

I spent Songkran in Korat for the first time. I have previously experienced it in Phuket which was a lot of fun, in Pattaya which was ok, and in Bangkok, were I absolutely deplore it. Songkran in Korat was to me, how Songkran should be. Everyone was having fun, and those people who did not want to partake, or who were obviously out and about with a reason were left alone. There was one quite amazing scene near the central market. The market is on one side of the road and directly opposite is a large temple complex. On the market side of the road, Songkran was in full swing and everyone who wanted to ply was on that aide of the road. Pickup trucks with the obligatory barrel of water and a team onboard were throwing and squirting water at the people near the market, but NOT at the people on the other side of the road. If you had things to do, people respected that. At one point, I walked past a bunch of drunk Songkran revellers and the cry of farang, farang went out! I explained to the crowd that I had just showered and was on my way out and they respected this, allowing me to pass. Try this in Bangkok and some asshole would take pleasure in making your fresh, clean clothes a complete mess. As a reader wrote in one of the emails a little earlier in the column, there is a lot of unnecessary aggression with Songkran in Bangkok.

Bulls eye! A bucket of water lands
right on the top of this pickup truck.

I saw a quite amazing sight in the middle of Korat, at Songkran time. It was around 8:30 PM at night and we were passing through the centre of the city when we came upon a police checkpoint. Cops were running backwards and forwards across the road, trying to stop motorbikes, no doubt to check the registration on the bike, the rider's licences and perhaps a check for alcohol too. More than half of the bikes were swerving away from the cops trying to escape! It was an unreal scene, almost like something out of a movie, except that it was actually for real!

TEFL International, Asia's biggest English teaching certificate trainer which is based in Thailand, have been forced to temporarily close their Chinese branch. Yep, you guessed it, they are the victim of SARS. Their Thai based branch in Bahn Pe continues to boom with the courses as popular as ever.

Is there any truth in the rumour that Soi Cowboy may be coming towards the end of its tenure? The International Beerhouse on Soi 23 will soon close, as the land owners who lease the property to the German Beerhouse owner, have sold the land, which will become a condo development. (Sort of like a nice version of what happened at Soi 10!) The huge building at the front of Soi 23 is being marketed as a condo complex for oldies. An entrance way for the new underground train station will come up almost right beside the Western entrance for Soi Cowboy. Are Cowboy's days numbered?

Lock Hard Lally as the girls call him (Rock Hard Larry) recently celebrated his 50th birthday. From all accounts business is still good for them down on the corner of Patong, despite the blows to tourism. And the word is out that they are in the planning phase for a new dance club upstairs from Rock Hard. "Club Rio" has it is provisionally known as will be located upstairs from Rock Hard using most of the 2nd floor. The whole area including the roof will be demolished and rebuilt. There will be a sprawling veranda over the current Rock Hard Cafe, and, a stairway at the Bangla Road sidewalk leading to Club Rio. As with most things that Larry gets involved with, it will be popular. Still, we will have to wait until the next high season rolls around for this new venue.

At least three people have told me that Steve, former RockHard Nana owner, has a super hot looking girlfriend. I haven't seen her, but from all accounts, she is a real head turner. Well done Steve, there are a few envious punters out there.

Patong was rocking this with bikers form all over the world thru the 16th. Head Hunters, Outlaws, Banditos, Immortals, Heaven's Devils, Mad Dogs, Heaven's Devils & Hells Angels. The shows were amazing. More amazing is that there have been no fights!

Quote of the week comes from hundreds of readers: "but she's different". If I could have a dollar for every time someone says this to me…

For the benefit of readers in Japan, or readers who will be in Japan early next month, please note that from Friday May 9th to Sunday May 11th inclusive, 10.00 AM until 8:00 PM, there will be a Thai food festival in Tokyo's Yoyogi Park, accessible from a number of train stations including Harajuku on the JR line. The festival will feature 100 stalls serving various Thai food, and there will also be Thai boxing events, singing and dancing, Thai massage, Thai cooking classes etc. I don't know if they will erect poles and a gogo bar, but it should be quite intriguing to go along and see who you might bump into from your last trip to Nana Plaza. Hundreds of Thai girls work in Tokyo's entertainment districts and one can expect to find many of them at the festival.

In addition to being a great place to stop for a bite to eat, the Chokchai Farm roughly half way between Bangkok and Korat is quite a tourist attraction. Given that farmers are looked down on in Thai society, it is amazing to see the general Thai populous taking the farm tour in such numbers. The price of a ticket is 180 baht for Thais (written in Thai script) and 300 baht for foreigners (written in English). However, this is the first and only place I have seen where it says quite clearly in English that a discount will be given to foreigners who have a work permit or other ID which shows that they are resident in Thailand. Bugger that. 180 baht is still too expensive for a farm tour.

If you are looking for a teaching position, teaching either French or Chemistry, send me your CV right away and I'll pass it on to the folks concerned. The school is looking for one French teacher and one chemistry teacher. You must be a native English speaker for the chemistry position and a native French speaker for the French teaching position. Both of these positions pay VERY well and the contract really is one of the best you could hope for in Thailand, outside of an international school.

Mrs. Stick's Corner

Each week, Mrs. Stick will answer questions about Thai / farang relationships and general issues that baffle the average Westerner in Thailand. Mrs. Stick is an open-minded Thai lady who is happy to answer your questions. Please send questions to her, via me, at the usual email address. Two or three questions will be chosen each week and answered in the following week's column. The responses are hers and NOT mine although I may attempt to correct her English from time to time. Note 1: I may not necessarily agree with what she says! Note 2: Unfortunately, she doesn't have time to reply to your inquiries via email.

Question 1: Like many farangs, I enjoy working on my suntan while in the Land of Smiles. The climate generally accommodates us year round. Since Thais put so much emphasis on light skin, do Thai women find us less appealing if we have been darkened by the sun?

Mrs. Stick says:

No, not at all. I we are talking about Thai women who generally like farangs, they would find it more attractive for farang men to have tanned skin. Actually the colour of one's skin should not effect their overall feelings. Thai women do not look at farang men's skin in the same judgmental way that Thai people look at the colour of other Thai people's skin. I personally would find it more attractive to see a farang guy in his own skin, but that is just me.

Question 2: In last week's column you say that Thai men have many good qualities that
Western men lack. Care to enumerate and expand on that a bit?

Mrs. Stick says:

Thai men understand Thai women better than farang because we are all brought up in the same culture. They know that Thai women need more care and attention than farang women. And yes, Thai men do give that care, if they are real gentlemen. They understand the way that Thai women feel without much explanation and that does make things easier.

Question 3: I am meeting my girl's parents for the first time. I was wondering if you could give me a few of the do's and don'ts.

Mrs. Stick says:

Respectable Thai parents like people who give them the respect that they feel that they deserve. They won't like you if you don't know how to wai and don't use the polite words like "krap". If you smile a lot, that will help too. Once that they have prepared to meet you, you need to understand that you are already a winner. The best thing to do is to try and find out as much as you can about them from your girlfriend, beforehand.

Your Bangkok commentator,

Stick