Apologies for the delay in getting this week's column. Put it down to me being away in Hua Hin this past weekend and then today you can blame an Australian reader who did his level best to get me drunk. There are no doubt mistakes in this weeks column….sorry. Blame the Aussies!
I've been to Pattaya 30+ times – a damning, almost unexplainable statistic if ever there was one, Phuket 5 or 6 times, Samet a few times and have visited various other beaches and islands in Thailand, but funnily enough, before this weekend I had only ever been to Hua Hin once.
Hua Hin means head of rocks in Thai, and while it may be a beach resort, it has to be said that the beaches of Hua Hin are not that great at least by Thai standards. This is no Phuket or Samui with beautiful sweeping, crescent shaped beaches. Yeah, the beaches of Hua Hin are better than Pattaya – but that isn't really saying anything – but as an attraction alone, they would not appear to be a great lure.
Hua Hin is often advertised as a beach resort that has not been ruined or overt-touristed, as Phuket, Samui and the like have been. I have to say that Hua Hun does retain a sort of quaint charm, almost like a step back to Thailand before the tourism boom, though no doubt the current lack of visitors accentuate that feeling.
Right now, Hua Hin is hurting, really hurting. It is no exaggeration to say that half of the restaurants in the farang oriented sector, the area around the Hilton hotel, had no customers at all when we strolled by early evening. Not one customer! And the body language of the staff sprawled out across seats gave passers by the impression that they didn't expect anyone either.
Hua Hin does have a bar area, and it seems to have expanded since I was last there. What was once a solitary soi opposite the aforementioned Hilton has now snowballed out over adjoining sois. But unlike Pattaya, and to some extent Phuket, Hua Hin is not overrun with bars. If you are looking for some action, the bars are there, but if you are not interested, you needn't even be aware of them. You can wander around Hua Hin and avoid them if you so wish.
See what I mean about rocks on the beach!
Every meal we had in Hua Hin was good and if you're looking for a recommendation of good seafood, the ChaoLay seafood restaurant that extends out into the bay has very good food at fair prices.
What I really liked about Hua Hin was that it does not appear to have been ruined, yet. There weren't that many touts trying to pull you into their business and the few that there were all very polite. The hotels and resorts are spread out along the beach and with some of the bigger hotels offering every service you could imagine, it seems that a lot of the guests confine themselves to the resort's grounds, which adds to the impression that there really are not that many people around.
In addition to the beaches, there are some interesting spots to visit nearby such as King Rama VI's summer palace, the temple complex on chopsticks hill that is overrun with monkeys. There is the fishing village of Prachuab Kiri Khan which is supposed to be nice, but truth be told, I've never been there. For me, Hua Hin could keep me happy for about 4 days but beyond that, I may start to get a little restless.
If you look hard enough, you can find negative aspects or something to complain about in anything. Hua Hin is far from perfect, but for someone who is sick of the over-touristed places in Thailand, and is looking for a short break away, Hua Hin really is ideal.
Where is this pic?
Last week's pic
It was the Grace Hotel.
This week's pic
Last week's pic was was the Grace Hotel. Now, where is this week's pic? Again, it is NOT in Bangkok. Mmm, not too easy this one… 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:
Boss Hogg is knocking the shit out of what was known as Vixens and there is a huge hole where the second floor window used to be! The Boss's beauty shop appears to only be used by his own girls from downstairs at Big Dogs'.
Cathouse in Nana has Sheila's meat pies and pasties on sale. They are 100 baht and will go down nicely with Cathouse's beverages. Doug is doing a brisk trade with his happy hour special – all the Chang beer your can drink for only 100 baht – starts at 4 PM.
Don't forget that this Friday, July 4th, is Independence Day and that patriotic American boss Hogg will be having Miller Lite and Miller Genuine Draft at just 99 baht at his two bars at the front of Nana, Lucky Luke's and Bog Dog's. There will also be hamburgers and hot dogs all afternoon and all night FREE!
After seemingly being under the microscope and the subject of a lot of unwanted attention, the bars in Nana have received no serious police action lately and closing time remains at around 2 AM, but, for now at least, it is not enforced strongly.
And there has been a definite increase in the number of "farang" customers to the bars of Nana. Brits tell me that cheap flights and great package holiday deals are encouraging Europeans to hop onto a flight to Bangkok. Asian visitors may have increased also, but the economic recovery in certain Asian countries means that numbers of Asian travellers has not increased much yet.
SARS has been conspicuously absent from the headlines of the news. And just as it is no longer the lead issue on the news, so too are very few people emailing me about the issue. Yep, I was getting 3 – 5 emails a day about it a couple of months ago but the emails relating to SARS have slowed down to a trickle, no more than one a week. With a bit of luck, tourist numbers will increase as people realise that there is little to be concerned about.
The topic of work permits came up in the staff room at work this week. We were all lamenting the amount of paperwork needed, the running around and all of the other bullshit generally involved. Then someone piped up with the question of whether nay of us neither knew nor was aware of someone who had had their work permit application declined? And amongst the entire staff present, none of us was aware of such a case. Yep, amongst all of us, none of us knows of someone who applied for a work permit and wasn't subsequently issued with it…. So, to everyone who has ever emailed me about getting a work permit without a degree, this might just come as very good news…
I notice that there are a few signs up, particularly in the Silom Road, stating that even more new English schools will be opening in Bangkok. It seems that the Thai love affair with learning English continues.
Despite all that has been written about the investment fiasco in Sukumvit Soi 4, little is being done to resolve the issue. Those involved report that they are getting no assistance at all from the people accused of misappropriating their investments.
Jake Needham just returned to Bangkok from two weeks in New York working on the screenplay for THE BIG MANGO with James Gandolfini (now in his final season of 'The Sopranos,' and recently co-starring with Julia Roberts and Brad Pitt in 'The Mexican'). Gandolfini has signed a formal agreement to star as Eddie Dare in the film version of Needham's best selling novel. "All these damned script conferences are always a pain in the ass," he said. "But everyone is putting a lot into developing the screenplay to take advantage of Jim’s particular gifts, so I think the process will pay off big at least this once." So is the film going to start shooting anytime soon? "There's been a lot of progress in the right direction, and everyone is saying all the right things," Needham answers, "but there's no final production commitment for the film as yet, so God only knows when, or even if, it will actually get made." Still, the thought of Tony Soprano rambling through Soi Cowboy is delicious enough to wait patiently for it. Not to be outdone by Jake, a couple of other novelists have reported move tie-ins too. In a deal negotiated by Talent Scout Management, L.A., Dean Barrett's mystery novel, Murder in China Red (Village East Books), starring a Beijing-born Chinese detective in Manhattan, has been optioned for film. The option was taken by the Edward S. Feldman Company, Los Angeles, and rossWWmedia Corporation, Hollywood. Dean's next novel on Thailand – Skytrain to Murder – will be in local bookstores in late July. George Clooney's production company, Section Eight Productions, now has a copy of Nicolas Merriwether's very enjoyable first novel, "Apsara Jet", which is being evaluated it for possible "screenplay" adaptation? We shall see what happens if anything.
Aren't the folks at Thai Airways awfully helpful? Got a friend coming in on a flight, but you are not sure which flight it is? Just give the friendly folks at Thai Airways a call, provide the name – and the friendly people at Thai will tell you all that you need to know! This might sound like a joke, but it isn't. A friend of a friend told this story and my friend didn't believe it. So the friend of a friend demonstrated it to him and yep, they divulged all the info!
The position of the dart board in The Londoner, in the back corner, near the toilets, is a little perturbing. At least twice I have made my way over there late in the night – with a few drinks inside me – and have inadvertently walked right through the game of darts, i.e. my body has passed in the area between the person throwing the dart, and the dart board. Give it a bit of time and someone is gonna cop a dart…and it might not be a mistake. Slurred comments from those playing darts let you know that they would thinking nothing of hiffing a dart at a punter's head.
Earlier this week there was some really heavy rain, and I guess we have hit the start of the rainy season, although we are still a long way from the point when it rains heavily everyday. Much of Patpong was said to be under a few inches of water, but it was not just Bangkok that was hit. The photo here shows what happened at Soi 6 in Pattaya. What a mess!
Another happy day beside the sea.
Despite all the press they have had over the last year or two, Woodstock host a very good quiz night on the first Tuesday of each month. The quiz starts at 8 PM and has become very popular. The last time I walked in it was standing room only and I couldn't even get a seat to order my burger! The next quiz night is set for Tuesday, July 1st at 8 PM sharp. Academics anonymous don't miss the cerebral challenge!
A reader advises of a restaurant for sale at Inthamara 42, Sutteesan road, Bangkok. The asking price is 500,000 Thai baht. It is 200 sq. m with 75 seats. Is this a good deal? Who knows, I'm not a business broker! Contact Bernard CORMON on firstname.lastname@example.org
or Tel: + 66-7-0905205.
Quote of the week comes from a reader: "Now the Thai driving licence is a very valuable document – you can drive in Thailand, Lao, Cambodia, Vietnam and I think Malaysia – but it is not accepted anywhere else and I do wonder why?
Colonel Ken reports that he is alive and well and and that the latest issue in his nutty Asian expat anecdote series, Hardship Posting Volume 3, is due on the shelves at the end of July. Original due out at the start of April, which would have been appropriate, it has taken quite a while to get it out. With 368 pages full of western imperialistic lies, this is the biggest and in Ken's incredibly humble opinion, the best one yet. For a sneak preview, go to the special Vol. 3 section of his website at www.hardshipposting.com where there are some stories, cartoons, and other funnies. You can also pre order now if you'd like a signed copy hot-off-the press from the publishers' secure site. If you are not familiar with this series, most decent English language bookshops in Bangkok (is this an oxymoron?) will have volumes one and two.
Not only is The Cheap Charlie Overseas Calling Card the cheapest such card on the market but you can now order your card via ATM machines and by credit card. Calls are still just 11 baht a minute to over 50 countries from Bangkok and 13 baht from elsewhere in Thailand. Check out the frequently updated site for the best offers. If you have any questions related to making calls, to from or within Thailand contact Martin or visit www.calls.in.th.
What is happening to the economy here in Thailand? I'm no economist, but there are more than a few signs of rampant consumerism, Thais buying up large. Record numbers of new cars are being sold. Properties are moving, as are property prices, and more than a few Thais are looking at property as a form of investment, not just a place to live. Credit cards are being dished out to all and sundry, and in some ways, credit cards seem to be one of the newest Thai status symbols, right up there with gold and fancy mobile phones. The problem with all of these things is that while you take possession now, you don't pay until later. Thais are not so crash hot on planning for the future, in fact they are downright awful at it, and they seem to be aghast when someone has the cheek to send them a bill to pay for something. You mean I have to pay for the car? And what -10,000 baht a month – how can I afford that? I heard an hilarious story recently of how a farang friend was called by a Thai friend asking for a loan. The farang asked the Thai what it was for and the Thai said it was for their house repayment, the FIRST repayment, the first of twenty years. Hmmmm… I also know of two foreigners who have bought new cars recently and both had to get their Thai wives to act as guarantor on the loan. In one of the couples, the wife who has a monthly salary of 12,000 baht was accepted as guarantor for a loan with a monthly repayment of 11,000 baht. In the other couple, the wife with a monthly salary of around 15,000 baht was able to guarantee a loan of almost 12,000 baht a month. Outrageous figures however you look at them – although in both cases, there is virtually zero chance that the loan will be defaulted on. But that is not the point. Credit is easily available to anyone, and it would seem that one's ability to repay is NOT one of the criteria used in determining if the loan is granted. I see more and more signs every day that this rampant consumerism is leading to people borrowing more and more and more, seemingly borrowing beyond their means. Isn't this one of the things that happened pre '97? Like I say, I am not economist, but anecdotally from here on the ground, things are looking interesting…
Mrs. Stick's corner should return next week. She has been under an immense workload and not a small amount of stress from work, and thus has had to put off her part of the column for a few weeks.
Your Bangkok commentator,