Stickman's Weekly Column May 25th, 2003

She Comes From Where?!



It is one thing trying to keep your Thai girlfriend or wife happy, but even if the two of you have a good relationship, how is the relationship between her and your friends' wives and girlfriends?

I have a real mix of friends in Thailand. The bulk of my friends are either professional career teachers or IT professionals. There are also a few in business or on genuine expat packages (lucky bastards!). Of course there are also a few are guys who haven't quite sorted out their piece in life, and some find that Bangkok stunts and even mars their ability to find any real direction. Like most Westerners, I do not really care what level of society my friends come from back home. So long as they are genuinely decent folk who are straight up and honest, I'll get along with them just fine.

Some of my friends are married, some have girlfriends and a few are single, though truth be told, few Westerners stay single very long in Thailand. As most of my close friends have lived in Thailand for a while, most have a Thai partner. While I like to hang out with my male friends and have the odd boy's night out, there are the inevitable occasions when we go out together as couples. Unfortunately, this is when a few problems can arise.

When out and about with your Thai Mrs, your male friends and their respective Thai partners, one has to give serious forethought as to how the various women will get along together – or otherwise. If your wife or girlfriend comes from one sector of society and your friends' girlfriends or wives come from another, there may well be problems. It's not like in the West where 90% of us are middle class and few such problems occur.

When Thai women from different classes or quite different backgrounds are forced to socialize together, there can be real discomfort. Within 30 seconds they have sized each other up and are fully aware of where they fall in the pecking order. The woman of superior status (God, I hate that) may well wonder what the hell she is supposed to talk with the other woman about while the woman of perceived lower status likely feels that she is being looked down on. Discomfort for both is almost unavoidable.

How can you get around this? Truth be told, I do not have any answers as we are basically fighting Thai culture. The problem is that such individuals ordinarily would not socialise together. All I can say is that things DO get more than a little awkward when you are going out with friends whose wives or girlfriends are from different echelons of society, or completely different backgrounds, such situations are sometimes best avoided.

I cannot re-emphasize enough the importance of choosing Thai lady friends who come from a similar level of society to yourself. No, I am not being elitist here at all and I am not talking about how it affects you. As the relationship develops and the two of you start to spend more time with your friends and their lady friends, problems can arise. Just as Jed made a fool of himself in the "Beverly Hillbillies" some 40 odd years ago, so too may some of the ladies from poor backgrounds. But unlike Jed who was able to brush it off and get on with things, Miss Countryside will lose face and feel horribly awkward.

For guys who do marry bargirls or girls from a very modest background, you have to consider that in addition to all of the evils that I have harped on about in the past (and will not sound like a broken record by repeating today) you will face EVEN MORE challenges. Thais need the comfort of being surrounded by other Thais and doing things in groups, but they are like the proverbial fish out of water if forced to mix with Thais from other sectors of society. The well educated girl will struggle to enjoy her time with the country bumpkin who in turn will feel like she is under the microscope from her well educated acquaintance.

Sure, there are a few exceptions, girls who manage to break out of that mould, but generally speaking, the structure of Thai society and Thai culture makes this very difficult for any Thai to do. Yeah, you are putting your girlfriend or wife into a situation where she will feel awfully uncomfortable, much more so than you may ever know.

One can argue that they do not wish to socialise with people who will not accept them or their lady friend for who they are but this argument battles 62.5 million people, the entire population. You're fighting the Thai way.

Back in my early days in Thailand, I asked my girlfriend to come and meet me after work. I insisted that she came into the office, as opposed to meeting in McDonalds which she would have preferred. Not only did the Thai staff look at me in horror when they realised that Ajarn Stick had such a girlfriend, but she found it all horribly intimidating despite the fact that the other teachers' girlfriends were making polite conversation with her. The fallout from that seemingly innocuous incident lasted a long time. I lost a lot of credibility and I had inadvertently made her feel like shit.

In Thailand, who you work with and who you socialise with reflects who you are but in this instance, that is not the point. Even your social life can become awkward if you hook up with the wrong type of girl. You may find some of your friends forever politely turning down down dinner invitations, and only visiting you on their own, their other half kept well away from yours.

For the millionth time, there are so many nice ladies in Thailand. Choose carefully.

Where is this pic?

Last week's pic

It was Oakwood Residence and Bangkok Gardens.

This week's pic


Last week's pic proved to be a little tricky with just four people getting it right. The buildings in the picture were some of the dearer apartment buildings just off Narathiwat Road, Bangkok Gardens and Oakwood Residence. There are two prizes offered for the where is this pic prize each week. The first Bangkok based person to answer the pic correctly wins a 500 baht credit to use at the Classics Movie Lounge. The second person to get it right wins a tube of MyCreme, the cream that will send your teeruk to heaven! I'm sorry that for now, prizes are only available to guys who are Bangkok based. However, for guys outside the Big Mango, still do feel free to email me your guess.

FROM STICKMAN'S BAG OF EMAIL :
(and therefore I do not necessarily agree with nor endorse what is said)

Why?
Why don't they show any pity for the stray dogs, leaving most of them in a dreadful state of health? Why do they call all of us "farangs", not wanting to understand the differences between all of the "farang" countries? Why do they present their country as a modern one, yet they still have to buy their wife with a dowry? Why, when you are the guest of Thai people, are you expected to pay for everything and everyone, when a guest should be the last one to pay? Why is their smile so quick to disappear when they think you're not looking at them any more? Why do they think it is necessary to drive one hour to go eating in that restaurant, while exactly the same food is available next to their door? Why are 7-11's still called 7-11 and yet open 24 hours? Why do they make your phone ring once and then wait for you to call back, meaning you will have to pay for the call? Why does one hour of traditional massage only last 45 minutes yet the girl still asks for a tip? Why is there always someone staring at you from the other side of the street? Why are they so uninterested in foreign culture, thinking only Thai culture is worth of interest? Why is there an endless list of "why"?
Is the world a better place?
Having spent 10 years in the regular navy from 1962 to 1972 it has changed a lot. The big deal after 30 days at sea was to get drunk and I mean very drunk and to get laid in what ever order it arrived at ones door. What you saw was the new navy, drinking to excess not good, picking up whores not good, doing anything not squeaky clean not good. It is all about image now, and no fun at all. Plus the training ground for many a good swab is gone but not forgotten, Olangopo or Subic Bay which in its day made Nana, Soi Cowboy and Patpong look like church for amateurs. Whatever you wanted just ask. Even the untimely passing of an asshole could be arranged for minimum fuss. I would find myself like a fish out of water in the navy of today.
10 Reasons Why Transvestites Are Better
1. They won't say no to kissing.
2. They won't say no to oral sex.
3. They won't say no to anal sex.
4. They won't say no to shower games.
5. They won't say no to posing.
6. They won't say no to photos.
7. They won't say no to rough sex.
8. They won't go 'starfish' on you.
9. No false modesty – no towel after the shower.
10. Whatever they promised in the bar – they deliver!!
No surprise.
My wife was in Bangkok on the skytrain two weeks ago and bumped into the man from the British Embassy who issued her a visitors visa last year. He told her (unofficially) that if she applied now with the same circumstances she would not be given a visa. I would therefore suggest that the British Embassy has moved the goal post's on the quiet.
Decline of the Pong?
The question for the day "Is Patpong going downhill?" I have to admit I have been a fan of the "Pong" since my first trip to Thailand. My local friends introduced me to the pleasures of "The Pong" and I was hooked. When I was single I used to go to the pong daily. I used to go to Nana Plaza and Soi Cowboy infrequently, only when friends came over from the States. Pattaya was a nice diversion once in awhile but it did not have the
right "vibes" for me. During the last month several friends came to Thailand and during the course of my escorting them around it suddenly occurred to me that the other venues were beginning to have a lot more beautiful girls around. At this time more and more bars on the pong have been employing what could politely be called girls from the bottom of the barrel looks wise. I know things change with the mood and SOME bars on the pong have a few good lookers, but it seems to me that in the majority, bars in Nana, Pattaya and even Soi Cowboy are outstripping bars at the pong as far as good looking employees a concerned. Could this be a long term trend or just a passing thing? I asked some of the girls (no in-depth interviews as the Mrs was along) why they came to Pattaya, Nana and Cowboy and it seems that word is out that bar owners on the Pong are CHEAP CHARLIE'S when it comes to monthly pay and girls being girls they are going where the money is. During my wanderings while other entertainment venues had at least some customers the Pong seemed empty. It seems the old correlation between customers verses good looking girls is beginning to come into play. I still like the Pong but if I was single looking for some adventures I would more than likely start at Nana Plaza these days. I hope the bar owners on the Pong catch on soon and start hiring more good looking girls or I fear the down hill trend will continue, maybe some pay raises are in order?
You must control the TV!
You have got to control the TV. To the average bargirl the TV in your hotel room is like something from outer space. If you let her she will focus on it and it exclusively and stare at it like a dog looking at the Rosetta stone. Goodbye sex! Forget intimacy. The first thing she is likely to do when she enters your hotel room is turn on the TV. You simply can't compete with a Thai soap opera. And of course, since this is Thailand, she will still expect to be paid handsomely for watching your TV. Unhook the TV so that it 'doesn't work'. And if they try to make it work, pay them off and get rid of them and call it another financial loss. They are prostitutes and we are supposed to be having sex. Honestly, I really think some of these girls do not know that they are in the sex for sale business. You must control the TV. I once was in the process of losing my heart to an Isaan stunner. I took her to Pattaya the second time we were together. In the process I bought her a gold watch, silver neck choker, gold earrings, baby clothes, sandals, silk dress, etc. I took her on trips to Nanooch Gardens, Coral Island, Jomtien Beach, the Crocodile Farm, nice restaurants, the Alcazar show and a mountain top Buddhist temple. We stayed in a nice hotel on the beach with a pool. I rented a suite. Six months later when I went back to visit her, I told her we would be going to Chiang Mai and then back to the same hotel in Pattaya. Her instant response and dominant memory of our time together was "that TV no good!".
Word from Hollywood Two Bar in Nana is that not only won't they raise drink prices but they are introducing a low season special happy hour. The bar on the third floor of Nana Plaza are introducing a low season special from Friday, May 23rd. The happy hour will run from 7 – 9 PM and all beers and spirits are only 60 baht! So if you fancy a cheap drink in a good gogo bar then this has to be the best deal in town. DJ Dave will be resident to get the party going. This promotion only applies to Hollywood 2 and not Hollywood Carousel or Hollywood Strip as some refer to it.

The Thai vendors outside of Boss Hogg's minimart who were selling freshly made sandwiches have disappeared.

Next on Boss's list, the concept of his new beauty shop is to get the hairdressers and make-up artists from the balcony outside Hollywood Strip to work for him. Presently these folks all pay rent to Johnny in Hollywood. It might get a little complicated though because at least one hairdresser has said that she does not want to move. What will happen to the rest?

Anton and Eddie will be departing Hollywood Rock at the end of June. Anton, who has been knocking around the plaza for 10 odd years has rightfully said that he is going out with a bang, so it will be a big party night that night. This is the end of an era as Anton has been a familiar face around the plaza for a long, long time. Already, friends are wishing him well and he is one of the old characters and will be missed by expats and visitors alike. Apparently Boss Hogg, who is actually the owner of the establishment, has new plans for Hollywood Rock… Is there any end to the dollars spilling out of Boss Hogg's pockets? How can he afford to finance all these changes?

Several Patpong bar owners have reported receiving "official notice" from a Thai Government office that bars in the entertainment zone at the Pong will be allowed to stay open until 4:00 AM. Notices were delivered on official stationary and the new hours are supposed to be effective from June 1. An announcement is supposed to be made by Thai government officials via the media on the same date – except some Sunday commentator beat them to it…. No one has heard anything in other areas. Patpong bar Owners are holding their breath to see if it comes through because they know that if it does happen, it will result in a swing of customers their way – with Nana and Cowboy both suffering. There are more than a few people who want to party late into the night – and who find the 2:00 AM closing too early.

Union Language School is the longest running Thai language school in Bangkok having opened way back in 1952. The school generally has a very good reputation, although they are horribly strict on both students and teachers. As a student there, and I should know cos I studied for seven months full-time, they really do treat adult students like children. A couple of years back, a number of teachers broke away from Union and started Unity, a new Thai language school in Times Square in Sukumvit. Union battled on, trying to cling to their reputation as the premier Thai language school, but alas they have had another setback. There has been another bunch of teachers break away to form yet another new Thai language school. The new school is named TLA and is located on Silom Rd near the Sala Daeng Station. Courses are 5,900 baht for an 80 hour course and 4,900 baht for a 60 hour course. The courses are pretty much copied from Union. The new school seems like quite a good deal as it is a little cheaper than Union, less strict, the premises are much newer and the bog one – there are no missionaries, the bane of Union! They are also very willing to add special courses. To contact them, call 02-631-2712 or check out their site at: www.geocities.com/tlaschool

What was Night Flight Bar on Soi Nana, next to The Warbler, is being built up again. Builders placing wood panels on the outside have said that it will be a Thai restaurant. That's original for Bangkok! I hope it is a damned good one or that will go down the drain with the rest of the failed restaurants in the area.

Call me a cynic but you really do get the feeling that everything that is going on at Panthip Plaza is all just for show. It's the old Thai way of what you see is not really what is going on! Wander around the second floor (the floor with the the food vendors – YES, it is the second floor cos we speak British English in this column!) and most, but not all, of the pirate software vendors, have disappeared. Software and games are not on display but DVDs are. Some vendors have closed down while others who used to offer contraband are offering original education software. There are however a few vendors that still have software available – and it is right out there on display. There seem to be a few guys on watch when the CDs / DVDs are handed to the customer. So for now, DVDs and VCDs are still readily available at Panthip. You get the feeling that someone from the American Embassy will be given a tour through the place with all of the vendors closed and 30 minutes later, Panthip will be back to normal.

A friend took a ride on the Chao Praya Tourist boat this week and was suitably impressed. The boat is larger than the usual Chao Praya Express boats and it goes a little slower enabling passengers to get a better look at the sights and life on the river. But best of all, there is a guide on board who gives a running commentary IN ENGLISH of the sights along the way explaining what various things are and giving a general overview and history. This boat costs just a few more baht than the already ridiculously cheap regular boat. If you're down that way, jump on board for it sounds well worthwhile.

Night owls who like to see the sun rise are struggling to find somewhere to drink in Sex Tourist Alley AKA Sukumvit Road. The one venue that had been open after 2:00 AM, The Grace Hotel, is operating under the close watch of the local boys in brown at the moment. Some nights they are serving alcohol until well after 4:00 AM but other nights, like this past Thursday, they closed at 2:00 AM sharp. So, it looks like it's home time for most punters in Sukumvit at 2:00 AM.

One Sukumvit Soi 33 bar reports that since the SARS outbreak, the soi has suffered terribly. Revenue in this particular bar is down 70% and one night this past week they did not get one customer ALL NIGHT! Not one!

Recently I read online that those hunting for a reliable but inexpensive second hand Japanese car should strongly consider a Toyota. This represents a fair comment for Toyotas are know for their reliability and after all they are one of the biggest (the biggest?) car manufacturers in the world. But the logic given that they were the choice of Bangkok taxi drivers due to their reliability is totally wrong. Unlike certain other manufacturers, Toyota allows Corollas to be used as taxis. Honda, and a variety of other manufacturers, prohibit their cars from being used as taxis. While this might not sound like such a big deal to the average Westerner, to the average Thais it most certainly is. A Thai does NOT want to be seen in the same type of vehicle that are predominantly used as taxis. There is after all, no status or face to be gained by driving the same type of car as a taxi driver (someone of very little status). I feel sorry for those Thais who live in Germany because the last time I was there, a good number of the taxis were Mercedes Benz!

Rumour has it that Boss Hogg is going to buy out his partner in Temptations gogo bar in Nana and then sublease the bar with a mooted 130,000 baht a month price tag. Now if true – and I really am not sure if it is – that rental price seems awfully high!

Many people have asked me why I do not set up a message board on this website, and others have even mentioned setting up a chat forum, something similar to the now defunct Bangkokchat. This site already robs me of most of my free time and any new projects would be take even more time – and no doubt add to the expense of running the site so no, you won't be seeing a message board or a chat forum around here. Besides, there are plenty of good message boards out there already.

While it doesn't bother me because I'm not a fan of the stuff – though am fully aware that it has quite a cult following – why is it that Guinness sells for around 320 baht a pint in this part of the world? I mean, that really is expensive. The best part of $US 8 for a pint of Guinness! Other than say Japan – where everything is expensive and Singapore – where alcohol is insanely expensive, is there anywhere else on the planet where a Guinness in a regular bar costs so much?

Is it just me or does Mr. Taksin have far more bodyguards these days than in the past. When he is interviewed on TV these days, there seem to be more and more bodyguards with him.

James Bond has been spotted in Tokyo! Well, not quite. But, a reader advises that that excellent Visa card ad with Pierce Brosnan is now showing on Japanese TV. Konichawa Mr Bond.

For those of you patiently waiting for Jake Needham's next, the good news is that you won't have to wait that much longer. Jake's latest, Killing Plato, should be available in parts of South East Asia in June. Ahhh, but where there is good news, you know that there is bad news too. While it will be available in parts of SE Asia, distribution for Thailand has not yet been sorted. But have no fear, Jake is on to it! Whatever happens, you will be able to get a copy of the book soon, the long wait is almost over. I was fortunate enough to read a draft of it and can confirm that it is WELL WORTH WAITING FOR. I'll let you know more as soon as I hear.

It is most unusual for businesses in Thailand to listen to feedback from customers and make changes based on that feedback. I was amazed, but thrilled, to receive an email from the publican of Shenanigan's in Pattaya who has acted on a piece that I wrote about his fine establishment in last week's column. I stated that I thought the big breakfast at Shenanigan's was great, and aside from the fact that there were no baked beans, the said breakfast was almost perfect. Well, the publican has done himself and his establishment proud. I just received notice that they are adding baked beans to the breakfast at no extra cost. Fantastic stuff! I will now state that the breakfast at Shenanigan's in Pattaya is as close to perfect as you can reasonably expect to get. GREAT STUFF! Forget those Pattaya buffet breakfasts and head to Shenanigan's!

A reader from Hanoi, Vietnam, has asked if the petrol in Thailand is leaded? I really do not know. Can anyone tell me?

I used to recommend the Apex Hotel in Pattaya as a place to stay but for the last couple of years it has, quite frankly, turned into a dump. Last weekend when I was down Pattaya way I stayed at the Pattaya Hillside Resort. This is up on the hill, just past the radio station, if you are going to Jomtien from Pattaya. The location is a little outside the main nightlife area of Pattaya and would therefore not suit people who want to be in the thick of the action. However, it is located in an awfully nice spot and the rooms have a nice view, as you can see below. Where this hotel would be ideal is for people who want to stay medium to long term in Pattaya. The hotel offers very attractive rates to long stay guests. No need to deal with all of the hassles of getting an apartment like paying a deposit that you may not see again, signing a minimum term contract etc. Check out Pattaya Hillside Resort's website below.

View from Pattaya Hillside Resort.

You might think I'm a little mad when say this, but I truly believe that the cost of running a mobile phone in Thailand is far, far too cheap. Yep, I'm serious. You can get a reasonable phone like a Nokia 3330 for around 3,000 baht and if you stretch out to say 12,000 baht, you can get one of these awesome new Sony Ericsson TM68i which allow you to do all sorts of fancy stuff. The phones are relatively cheap – and the cost of calls is very cheap. On a pre-paid plan like One-2-Call, calls from a mobile cost 5 baht a minute which compares well with other countries – yet this is far from the cheapest. Getting on a plan with a per minute charge of just 2 or 3 baht isn't difficult. The net result of the cheap mobile and call costs is that everyone has a mobile and many people seem to use their mobiles all the time, almost as if it is a toy, and will quite happily call other mobiles for no other reason than to chat or gossip. As someone who is himself horribly busy, I find inane calls incredibly annoying and unfortunately, I get more than my fair share. If my mobile rings less than ten times a day, it's a quiet day. And don't get me started on SMSs, the bane of the 21st century. If Mr Taksin puts up the cost of mobile calls, he'd get my vote (that is if I could vote…) While mobile phones are supposed to have made our lives easier, it seems that more and more they are making our lives busier as we are frequently interrupted with the sound of that blasted phone.

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 for 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: Is it normal to pay a dowry to the family if the girl you want to marry has been married before?

Mrs. Stick says: As far as I know, you still have to pay. Remember, the dowry is like a guarantee to the woman you love. Even though she was married before, she is still going to be YOUR WIFE, to take care of you and to generally do everything to be a good wife. The amount might be less than if she was previously unmarried. (I would love to hear from other Thai women on this and know what you think – email in English or Thai.)

Question 2: I noticed many girls both "good" and "bad" wearing gold band rings on one of their middle fingers. The rings were simple gold bands being worn on the middle finger of either hand. I was just curious if there was some sort of meaning for wearing these band style rings on the middle finger. The rings look like something a man would wear.

Mrs. Stick says: As far as I know, this is just the current fashion, personal preference, and there is no special meaning.

Question 3: In the past year my Thai fiancee came to the US so we could marry. In coming here she left a little girl in Bangkok with her Aunt until we could send for her. Unfortunately our marriage did not come to fruition and she returned to Bangkok. This was nine months ago and to this day she lives in Bangkok minutes from her daughter and family without their knowledge. They still believe she lives with me in the US. I suppose my questions are two-fold. How can the desire to save face with her family lead my former fiancee to suppress all her maternal instincts to be with her daughter? How does the Thai concept of extended family allow another family member to raise her own daughter?

Mrs. Stick says: It is hard to say, but I would guess that she left with great hope and dreams of grandeur in America. Even her daughter would have been told that mother was off to the land of all things wonderful and her hopes would have been high that this would have resulted in an improved life for all. But when things went wrong, she couldn't deal with destroying the family's hope and has therefore chosen to live apart from family members. For the second question, I think it's normal to Asian families, not just Thai, but other Asians too, such as Chinese. As long as money is sent, it is not considered unusual at all for extended family to raise the child.

Another week has passed us by and the Kingdom of Thailand remains quiet on the tourism front. Don't worry about this SARS nonsense, get your ass over here pronto. And hey, if you end up six feet under through contracting SARS in Thailand, the Thai Government has pledged to pay $US 100,000 to your family! Come on over!

Your Bangkok commentator,

Stick