Bangkok is much cheaper than virtually any Western city, yet I find myself spending much more here than I did in the West. Why is that?
I used to be a minimalist. I would scrimp and save every last penny. And no, I don't have any Scottish blood. At restaurants, I would narrow down my choice to one of the cheaper dishes. In bars I would go for a local drink over the imported stuff and I would often by copied goods instead of the original, all in the interest of saving a few bucks here and there. Worst of all was that I actually had a good salary, and it wasn't that I was forced to choose the cheapest items on the menu, it was that I chose to do so.
When I was planning the big move to Thailand, I spent hours and hours reading through Joe Cumming's version of The Bible. As one of Joe's many disciples I deduced that one could live quite happily in Bangkok on 20,000 baht a month. In fact from my interpretation of The Bible, such spending would border on extravagance and I would have a mighty high standard of living! According to Joe, curries could be had for 10 baht, 3 baht for plain rice and a portion of fruit would be no more than 10 baht. Food was cheap, but so was seemingly everything else. 20K was all I would need. And at the time, that was about what English teachers in Bangkok were averaging.
Upon my arrival in Bangkok, I quickly discovered that everything wasn't quite as cheap as it seemed. That 10 baht curry that Joe talked about could only be described as a mystery meat special, hardly suitable unless you had a cast iron stomach. The 3 baht rice was available, that is if you were prepared to spend 2.5 hours on a bus that seemingly takes you halfway to Chiang Mai to the sole vendor selling it at that price. Oh, and it is 2.5 hours to get back too! Before you know it, so many of the bargains that I thought awaited me were not really what I had expected them to be, and suddenly I found myself spending more than I expected.
And then there was another realisation. I started going out and doing things that back home I never did, and before I knew it, my spending was going through the roof. This trend continues to now. Whenever I look back and compare what I used to spend in the West, compared to Thailand, I spend a lot more here. Many folks find themselves spending more, sometimes a hell of a lot more, than they thought they would. It doesn't matter if you are an expat or a tourist, I bet that you spend more than you thought you would. So, just why is it that I spend far more than I ever did back in my corner of Farangland?
Bangkok may be cheap, but there is so much to see and do, and so much of the really cheap stuff just isn't farang friendly. A lot of the really cheap foods are unidentifiable, and many farangs prefer not to dine on the streets. (Personally, I love the experience, but that is another story). Farangs find it hard to get the lowest price, and many simply do not know where to look to get the bargains.
But there are a few other reasons too. I personally am at a point in my life now when I want to enjoy myself and saving a few extra baht here and there is not a major concern. Bangkok really does have so much to see and do, and perhaps more than anything, money spent in Bangkok can give you very good value for money, hence we tend to buy things and do things that we might not necessarily do at home, in fact things that we might not even want, but they're cheap, and we do them. Screwed up logic, but it happens all the time. I often find myself buying shit because it is so cheap and then later throwing it away, wondering why the hell I even bought it in the first place.
Another issue is the holiday syndrome, something that many expats suffer from, many without realizing it. Truth be told, for many expats employed here, as soon as work is over for the day, often the moment that 5:00 PM rolls around, they are out of the office and back into holiday mode. Holiday mode means high spending on lots of fun things.
Of course, spending lots and having a good time is the Thai way. For all of the wonderful things about Thai people, money management is not one of them. If they like it, it looks good, or most of all it is sanuk, the Thais will spend, spend, spend. Spendthrifts they are not. The longer we stay here, the more we adapt to the local ways – and even more so if we cohabitate with one of the locals.
So, I am sure it is not just me who spends more here than at home, notwithstanding that almost everything I buy here is much cheaper than at home. But I'm not complaining, because if I wanted to spend less, I could. That's the beauty of Bangkok, as discussed in a previous column, you can do it cheaply if you want, or you can spend more and have a blast. Most people choose to have a blast. Just be careful if you come here with budgetary limitations because there is no end of things to blow you money on.
Where is this pic?
Last week's pic
Notice the clothes? It
This week's pic
Last week's pic was a bit tricky because it was not taken in Bangkok, but rather in London. And it would seem that half of London reads the column, such were the numbers of people who knew it. Buddhapadipa Temple in Wimbledon, I believe is the name. I took great pleasure and glee in responding to one smartass reader who replied that it was "some temple in Thailand". Hahaha, wrong! 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)
Quote of the week: "Put a Thai in a uniform or behind the wheel of a car and they become an asshole".
A reader has written in singing the praises of a new bar in Sukumvit Soi 7 called The Winking Frog. According to him it has decent Pommie food and good Isaan eats too. I'll pop along one day and check it out.
The world's leading sex tourist class hotel, the Nana, has a pool under development which can be clearly seen from the sky train. I thought most of the crowd there would be too busy in the bedroom to bother with the pool.
It's official. Temptations in Nana got a 30 day closure. It seems that the police really are getting tough and no lesbian shows or anything of that nature are allowed at the moment. Bars have been warned that such shows will see them closed for 30 days.
Sunbelt Asia have installed a very nice search tool on their site that allows you to search for a business using your own specified criteria. I didn't find any businesses for sale making an annual 5 million baht profit for sale at less than 1 million baht. I guess there must be a problem with the search tool…
I note that some travel agents currently have a promotion with return airfares from Bangkok to Ko Samui on Bangkok Airways, the only airway that flies to Samui, going for a mere 5,500 baht. Sure, 5,500 may not be a lot, but for the first time that I have ever been aware, the fare to Samui is cheaper than the fare to Phuket! Thai Airways currently charges 5,600 for a Bangkok to Phuket return ticket. While Samui is very popular, its growth has been stifled by the dearer airfares from the capital, when compared to the cost of a flight to Phuket on the national carrier. 5 years ago a return flight to Phuket was just 3,700 baht, but Thai Airway's domestic fares have soared since then. Please note that this a promotional fare, and I believe the regular fare is usually a little dearer.
With airfares to Samui and Phuket the same price,
could the tide swing from the Andaman to the Gulf of Thailand?
Are the Thais telling the truth about SARS? It has been mooted in some expat circles that Thailand is so damned scared of a SARS outbreak and the damage that this would do to the tourism industry that they are completely playing it down, and denying that any cases exist. Who knows what is really going on?
What's the deal with all of these teenage Thais getting their hair dyed bright, garish colours? Truth be told, it looks bloody awful. I first started noticing it in significant numbers up in Korat of all places, but I am now noticing it more and more in Bangkok, specifically in the poorer areas, with large numbers of teenagers from lower socio-economic groups walking around with orange or yellow hair. It must be a summer thing because Thai schools most certainly are not the relaxed environments that schools in the West tend to be and they do not allow shockingly bright dyed hair like a lot of these kids have.
The glamour photo industry is absolutely booming in Thailand. Thai women are flocking to studios to get their make up and hair done and then getting photographed looking a lot better than they ordinarily do. They then go on to surround themselves with these photos in an effort to make themselves feel even better about the way that they look. The interesting thing is that a lot of girls who you meet online, be it those girls who have a full profile available at one of the many dating / introduction agency sites or those girls hanging out on one of the chat sites will often provide such a photo. If you view pictures of a Thai girl online and feel that you would like to meet her, try and establish if the photos were taken in a studio. If they were, the lady in question might not look nearly as good in person. Even the ugly girls can be made to look good so get a Thai to look at the photo and they will tell you what she will really look like.
The bar areas around Sukhumvit were once teeming with customers but now trade in some establishments is as slow as the Sukhumvit traffic. Some of the more remote bars along Sukhumvit towards Asoke get excited at the prospect of one customer ordering a beer. Some bars are clearly suffering and it makes you wonder how they will survive what looks to be a long, slow low season.
Rumours abound about what will happen to the big space next to Ambassador Plaza. One rumour has it that a new Nana Plaza will be built there, or at least a replacement beer bar area for the old Sukumvit Square area. Other rumours have it that it will be a night market. The night market sounds a lot more plausible.
Once upon a time, 500 baht was the norm for a bit of companionship, someone to keep you warm on a cold Bangkok night, and to help keep the ghosts at bay. However, few bargirls in Bangkok have been happy to accept 500 baht for quite some time. But with SARS, and the dip in the number of visitors which equals less customers for the girls, many freelancers and girls patrolling the pavement have been offering themselves to guys for 500 baht. Times are tough for these girls.
A beggar was spotted on the pavement of Sukhumvit near Soi 7 crawling along the ground. Not an unusual sight in Bangkok you may think, but the funny thing is that the beggar is from Pattaya. So business is so bad in Pattaya that even the beggars are moving out! What an insult to Pattaya, even the beggars have had enough! Problem is that Bangkok is equally quiet so where will they go next?!
The Lumpini Police, that bunch of officials charged with looking after Nana Plaza, are remaining stringent with their policies for the go-go bars in Nana Plaza. Recently several bars have been checked to ensure all staff are 18 years old and that they are of Thai nationality. Some high ranking officers have also checked that there is no naked dancing or naked sex shows. These checks follow recent raids on several bars including Lollipop which it is rumoured could face a closure for allowing naked dancing.
Interrupted service for customers at Nana.
The building above Cathouse in Nana Plaza has had the entrance wall knocked down so Boss Hogg has plans for what was his office. Could well be another beer bar but with Boss Hogg who knows what he will construct next. I've heard rumours that he wants to build a walkway from Vixens across to Cathouse, which is a good idea, and one that was floating around a couple of years ago, but failed to eventuate. The Boss will come up with something novel, no doubt.
Variations of the Nigerian scam letter are popping up online all the time. Sometimes it is crippled Johnny who has a mere few days to live and other times it is some other wretch with some debilitating disease. How long will it be before some farang desperado on the bones of his ass re-writes the letter for the bargirls, and anyone who has ever known a bargirl suddenly finds their email inbox filled up with multiple copies of the same letter, all with a different name and account details?
A couple of weeks back I mentioned that there was a trail of girls making their way up the road from Cowboy to Nana, searching for a new place to work, a place where they might actually find a few customers. But with the low season upon us and with trade down, a new phenomenon is being met by the girls. A lot of bargirls applying for work are not being accepted for various reasons. Positions are more limited during low season and bar bosses are generally much more fussy about who they employ at this time of year. Bar bosses have to consider things carefully as more girls means more salaries to pay, more shit to deal with and resentment from girls already employed within the bar who will have more competition for the customers coming into the bar where they currently work. Bargirls are not adverse to moaning and groaning and to them, the grass always looks greener on the other side, hence the way they jump from bar to bar.
The following was sent in from the owner of Ecstasy Gogo in Patong Beach, Phuket. "For your information the reason I closed Ecstasy is because business is extremely low in Patong and I could not justify the expenses without making a profit. It is more economical to shut it down until business improves. Patong, unlike the rest of Thailand, is in a financial slump. Ecstasy is not the only gogo to close due to the economic situation." So, it is official. From a bar owner's mouth, Phuket is struggling. Hmmm, I wonder if the high prices for virtually everything down there have anything to do with it? Nah, high prices don't keep visitors away, Stick…
The column is published online on Sunday (most of the time). If you have a function, party, promotion, whatever that you would like given a FREE mention, please make sure yo email the details to me by the Sunday before your function / whatever goes ahead. Emailing me on a Wednesday for a function that will happen three days later will not do anyone any good.
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 have heard that beards (facial hair) is not a fashionable thing in Thailand and most ladies do not like them even if it is short and well trimmed. Is this true?
Mrs. Stick says: I think it depends on your personality and how well you look after your beard. We usually see farang tourists – and you know most tourists don't gonna trim their beard often! That's why I think it doesn't look so good. On the other hand (and this is a secret between you & me, ok?) working farang guys in a white collar with a tie and a beard look very charming to me (and to tell you the truth, I have to look twice!) and I'm pretty sure to other Thai girls too! So what kind of beard have you got?
Question 2: So can Miss Stick tell me what other things initially attract a Thai woman to farangs if they are not wealthy – as most Farangs aren't rich, although I suppose even an English teacher's salary could be considered wealthy compared to a lot of jobs in Thailand?
Mrs. Stick says: I think not all attractive farangs are rich and not every rich farang is attractive. It's all about what's inside. Your attitude about living in Thailand and your attempt to understand Thai (language, culture, behaviour etc.) are more important 😉 And as long as you pay after the meal and don't borrow money from Thai people then you'll be fine…
Question 3: Exactly what do you mean by: 'Thai women need more care and attention'.
Mrs. Stick says: What I mean is this. Within the Thai social system we believe that the man is stronger than the woman and thus men are expected to treat and protect women well while Thai women play the "maid role" at home in return. I'll give you an example: I know sometimes my "lifemate" gets frustrated (only sometimes) when he drives me to work when I could actually take the skytrain. And I get frustrated too when I have to do the housework while my "lifemate" is watching T.V.!!!
Hey, the column is up on Saturday this week, more than 24 hours early…not bad, even if I do say so myself.
Your Bangkok commentator,