A trip over to Ko Larn this weekend reminded me that many Thais in the tourism industry are not at all concerned about providing a quality service, but simply about separating us from our baht.
Larn Island out in the middle of Pattaya Bay is probably the most popular day trip from Pattaya. After 5 years in Thailand and who knows how many trips down to the Coastal City of Sin, I checked out Ko Larn for the first time this weekend.
Being an island, the only way to get over to Ko Larn is by boat and you have three choices on how to get there. You can either go over by speedboat for which most operators quote 1,500 baht return, or you can take one of the public ferries. The cheapest option is to take the ferry which goes to the small town on the island and the cost for this is just 20 baht each way. The other option is to take what I would term the "tourist ferry", and this costs 150 baht for a return journey. It is probably a better option than the cheaper boat because A) it includes a short journey on a glass bottom boat so that you get to see the coral reef, and B) it actually takes you to one of the beaches, and not the town – which would have absolutely no appeal to the average farang.
Speedboats can be hired from anywhere along Pattaya Beach but the ferries only leave from the pier, opposite the McDonalds just along from Walking Street.
So off to the main pier we went to buy a ticket where we found a bunch of marginal locals loitering in the area. They were too ugly to be hookers, which in Pattaya is really saying something, and too dumb to be drug dealers so I was shocked when I realised that they were actually ticket agents for the boats! A larger bunch of scumbags, villains and ex-cons would be very hard to find, even in Pattaya. With barely functional English, they aggressively target anyone making their way to the official ticket desk, desperate to make a sale before you reach that desk. "Be quick or the boat will fill up". "If you don't buy now you will miss out". "Don't buy from that person because they are not registered with the TAT". All a load of bollocks. Obviously they make a commission on each ticket sold, but they use deception and deceit to target the unwary. The usually reserved Mrs. Stick was not shy in staying to me in a very loud voice, "don't you dear buy the tickets from those bitches". While they sell tickets at the standard price it is their demeanour and the bullshit they speak that puts you off.
The journey across to the island was on a dreadfully decaying old boat for which the owner must have been slipping someone a bribe for no way was it seaworthy. You could see even the boat crew breathe a collective sigh of relief when the leaking rust bucket made it across to the island. Thankfully we came back on a different vessel.
From what I saw of the the island itself, and granted that was not a lot, it really isn't anything special and is just another place where you hear all of the Thais oohing and ahhing, going on about how beautiful it is. But when you look around, you see piles of garbage on the beach and plenty of broken beer bottles littering the sand. I really must put a couple of photos of NZ in my wallet so I can teach Thais the real meaning of beautiful.
We had arrived after midday and feeling a little peckish, we ordered some food. Not wanting to risk it, we both went for the safety of fried rice. What came back was barely edible, and was soon followed by the checkbin, for 220 baht. And we're talking chicken fried rice here, not seafood fried rice which no doubt would have been even dearer. Yep, for two plates of mediocre chicken fried rice, they charged us a princely 220 baht! So, not only is it dirty, it is expensive!
While the tone of all of this may sound like we had a terrible time, the truth is that we didn't. Yeah, I actually enjoyed myself but I couldn't help but feel that so many of the Thais look at us as people to be ripped off – and any tourist who feels like they have been treated as such will not enjoy themselves, and not only won't they return in a hurry, they'll probably tell their friends too.
It makes me laugh how Thais in the tourism industry, the very people dependent on the tourist's baht, can be so downright rude and unhelpful to the people they are supposed to serve. And it makes me chuckle how they truly believe that Ko Larn is some sort of paradise.
Where is this pic?
Last week's pic
It was one of the sois opposite the WTC
This week's pic
Last week's pic was of one of those places we've all walked past, but is nonetheless, forgettable. It is one of the sois in that area near the new Big C, directly opposite the World Trade Centre. In fact the photo was taken while standing directly outside the WTC. There are two prizes offered for the where is this pic. 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 BAG OF EMAIL :
(and therefore I do not necessarily agree with nor endorse what is said)
1. Go live in a village that is at least 50 km from a tourist area. That doesn't mean a small village necessarily, it means get away from the areas that non Thais, in large numbers, visit.
2. Rent a house or apartment for 6 months to a year or more. Not a hotel room, a house or apartment. Do not expect neighbours to accept you for 6 months, more likely, a year. Thais will want to observe how you react to many situations before they trust you, and this will take more than a week or a month.
3. Treat everyone with respect. Do not lie, exaggerate or try to be someone that you are not. Get to know your village head-man. Go out and meet people. Learn to laugh. Be honest with yourself and with others.
Gulliver's Traveller's Tavern on Sukhumvit Soi 5 is a huge place, very nicely designed. But the initial investment must be enormous, some bar owners I've talked to would not be surprised to hear 50 million baht! FIFTY MILLION BAHT! Whatever the actual cost, with the low prices they charge for both food and drinks, how on earth do they hope to get their money back? Come on, get that brain operating – doing the maths it must be many years! I'm not knocking the place because I like it and the drink prices are very reasonably priced but two things go against GULLIVER'S. (1) While it may be in the busy part of Sukumvit, the location up soi 5 still sucks and they will never get passing trade. You have to be in the know to find it. Imagine a spot right on the front of Sukhumvit Road – they would have done great business. (2) The sheer cost of it all is enough to take most people's breath away! While they try to establish themselves just think of the running costs – rent, utilities, salaries, other business expenses and that is before the cash starts coming in!
The next Nanapong dance contest will be held on 25th May at 8:30 PM at Pink Panther in Patpong 2. There will be 16 girls competing from 4 different bars, all after the magic 10,000 baht cash first prize. If you have never been to a dance contest, they are well worthwhile, and far more fun than a regular night in a gogo bar.
Word from Panthip Plaza is that for now at least, software is not available. Yep, all of the shops peddling contraband have closed and the cops are keeping a close eye on things.
A Bangkok based expat took his computer to Pattaya and while there he changed his Loxinfo internet dialup to the Pattaya (038) dial up number. But when he got back to Bangkok he forgot to change it back. So every time that he got online over the last month, he was actually dialling Pattaya. So that means that every time he accessed the net, he was making a toll call. When his telephone bill arrived, the poor fellow nearly had a heart attack when he saw the balance due, a cool 20,000 baht!
And speaking of Pattaya, I found myself down there this weekend. It was quiet, really quiet. The American navy was in town and it was quite funny watching the navy boys party. Of all the navy guys I saw, none seemed to be drunk and / or out of control (as many gossipmongers seem to believe), and they seemed to be out simply to have a good time, just like the rest of us. But what surprised us more than anything was that the few guys who had barfined a lady seemed to be genuinely shy walking around with her! So much for the reputation of these guys being professional whoremongers because I didn't see anything at all to suggest that. They actually seemed to be a happy bunch of young gentlemen. The beer bars all over Pattaya were very quiet and one farang hotelier told me that some of the hotels are REALLY hurting. More than a few have had to lay off 50% off their staff with many wondering how they will get trough the low season. No doubt it is quiet for the girls too. I'd say that Pattaya would be a GREAT place to visit right NOW. Forget this SARS nonsense and get your ass down there. Pattaya is hurting. The girls are hurting. Just forget Ko Larn!
Why is there no cinema complex in the Silom or Sathorn areas? I would have thought that with the huge number of office workers in the area, and the not inconsiderable number of tourists that Silom attracts, that a cinema complex would do well down there.
A long time reader has told me that Rainbow 2 is the place to go if you want attractive girls and he believes that the selection of girls dancing in there now are the nicest bunch of Thai girls he has seen in a bar in 10 years. Personally, I never liked that bar as it is one of those bars that really prefer Japanese customers over us farangs.
A lot of people have emailed me requesting help on how to get a visa for their girlfriend, and at least half of the guys are taking a girl back to America. I have a few basic ideas but am not really the best person to help. For assistance from guys who really do seem to know, check out this message board: http://forums.delphiforums.com/thaifalang/messages/
Hollywood Strip in Nana have a new show, but they are being careful NOT to push the boundaries too far, unlike some of the other bars which showed a little too much – and got closed.
Handsome or pretty? A pic from the book.
I finally got my hands on a copy of Hello My Big Big Honey, the international version. The international version which is published in America is a bit longer than the version which is available in Thailand and features more pictures, some interviews with bar owners that really get into the nitty gritty as well as longer opening pieces from the two authors. It is a great shame that this version of the book is not available locally as it is exactly what the original that is published in Thailand should have been. Do a search on Amazon.com where you can order it.
Those naughty folks at the Grace Hotel started selling alcohol after 2:00 AM despite the fact that they had been explicitly ordered against doing so. Someone tipped off the police who were quickly on the case and told them to mend their merry ways and to stop serving alcohol at 2:00 AM sharp! Its cat and mouse in Arabsville.
In Bangkok, Bourbon Street gets the thumbs up from me for offering a very good, reasonably priced breakfast. But where can you find the BEST reasonably priced breakfast? For this, I would consider 200 baht to be the maximum price for it to qualify as reasonably priced – and it should be both quality and quantity. I had the Apex Hotel buffet breakfast on Saturday and I have to say that while the price is low, so is the quality of the food. The farang food was totally bland and the Thai food seemed to be made with really cheap ingredients. Since Casa Pascal have taken their excellent Sunday brunch off the menu until November, we were forced to find somewhere else to get a decent breakfast on Sunday. I remember a couple of years ago being told that Shenanigans in Pattaya does a good breakfast so we headed there. The fellow who told me was not joking for in my opinion, the Shenanigans big breakfast really is the bee's knees. Forget these junk buffets that on the surface appear to represent good value and get your fat belly over to Shenanigans. For 150 baht you get a god fry up and apart from the omission of baked beans, it is just about perfect. And unlike just about everywhere apart from the better hotels, Shenanigans does REALLY good bacon. Oh, it's a nice environment – and there are some pretty waitresses too!
Every time I pop out to Khao Sarn Road, that is about every two months or so, I notice major changes, and this past week was no exception. Khao Sarn Road continues to move slightly more upmarket and mainstream and yeah, you guessed it, not only has McDonalds moved in on the street, but Burger King has too. And as per usual, it is McDonalds which has the far superior location in Buddy Village while Burger King is just off Khao Sarn Road itself, at the opposite end from the police station.
Khao Sarn remains busy, despite the SARS scare.
If you're looking for a cheap, reliable unlimited dial-up internet connection, you'll be disappointed to hear that the CS unlimited internet account for 600 baht is no longer available, which is a shame.
Quote of the week "there's no point trying to write down all of the stupid things in Thailand because you would run out of paper".
Even on the Thai news they are reporting that the Australian government has issued a travel warning for Thailand and I notice that NZ has issued a warning to its citizens too. Hmmm, what on earth are they worried about?
There are a lot of sad farangs in Bangkok, many of them expats, who had been used to getting laid for free with non working girls. BangkokChat used to be their playground but with the site now down, it seems that a lot for the predators have since moved over to ICQ, and once again, a lot of nutcases are plaguing other Bangkok based ICQ users with propositions of night time fun. But many still miss Bangkokchat and I wonder if everything will spill over into Phuket chat, a site which uses exactly the same software as Bangkokchat did?
Sunbelt Asia have had a few minor server problems. If anybody emailed them and didn't get an email response, please resend to email@example.com.
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: I imagine that your adjustment to married life and a farang is pretty easy. Your husband speaks Thai and you both reside in your home town <actually, it is not her home town, but it is still in Thailand – Stick> My wife, on the other hand, speaks little English (she can read fine) and when she joins me in the USA she will be the only Thai where I live. I reside in a small university town, very much in the country. How "flexible" are Thai women usually in adjusting?
Mrs. Stick says: It all depends on her attitude and the environment. If she has lived overseas before then this is obviously going to be an advantage. She also needs to have the right attitude about it all. She has no other choice but to try hard. Basically, Thai women are taught to be good wives so if she follows what she has been taught in the past, she will do ok. But, she will need your support and encouragement. Don't put her in any difficult situations, especially initially.
Question 2: Are there special customs that need to followed the wedding night, after you are together as husband and wife?
Mrs. Stick says: A belief of Thai people is that if you do not have sex for three day immediately after the marriage, your first born child will be a boy. If you can't wait, your first born ill be a girl. This doesn't really answer your question, but I am not sure of any particular customs.
Question 3: I see the dowry as a kind of respectful offering and in some ways an insurance policy of sorts. In America, the insurance policy of choice is the pre-nuptial agreement. How is this perceived by Thais?
Mrs. Stick says: Go ask American women the same question and see what they would say. That is probably the best answer to your questions. As far as I know these agreements are not at all common in Thailand.
Your Bangkok commentator,