Last weekend was a long weekend in Thailand so like a good number of the big city's residents, I seized the opportunity to get out for a couple of days. To make a quick escape, we chose to take the expressway.
So, there we were, cruising along the elevated expressway out towards Don Muang with one lane of the three lanes as good as closed with a Ministry of Works vehicle parked there. Holiday traffic limited to two lanes. Great. Who knows exactly what speed we were doing, but with more traffic on the roads than usual and two lanes instead of three, we were limited to speeds of around 90 100 or so. Nowhere near as fast as the average 120 or so that most cars do on the expressway and not nearly fast enough to get the adrenaline pumping. At one point we passed a few cops who appeared to be loitering on the side of the road, probably there for a good old-fashioned chin wag, boasting about how many mia nois they have.
About a kilometre later, we pulled up to the second to last toll booth before you get off the expressway. I noticed a few cops standing there too. After paying the toll, I was surprised to be waved over by one of the cops who requested that we park off to the side. “Here we go”, I thought to myself…
As we were pulling over, I looked across and noticed another car parked up and the driver, like me, had white skin and a long nose! Mmmm, of all the drivers on the road, perhaps one in 1,000 is farang. So, why have they pulled two of us over at the same time? My mind started calculating the odds of this happening, and realized that the odds of two farangs being pulled over at the same time was damned remote…so there must be a reason for it… Hmmm, not sure I like the sound of this…
I believed I had nothing to worry about because as far as I was aware, I had done nothing wrong. Traffic conditions had forced me to stay in one lane, and effectively limited my speed. Having said that, it was my intention to play the dumb farang with the cop nonetheless. All smiles, and not a word of Thai. The officer approached the driver's window and I handed him my driver's license. He was unimpressed. Thinking that I would win him over, I pulled out my get out of jail free card* and was a little surprised when that too had very little effect. Roy yee sip jet he said to me. 127 km/h. Hmmm, maybe he was talking about the top speed of a 1973 Ford Cortina? I screwed up my face, pretending that I didn't know what the hell he was on about. He then broke into pidgin English, and accused me of speeding at 127 km/h in a 90 km/h area. I initially thought he had been joking, but the fellow really was serious. For the first time in my life, I was being accused of a traffic infringement that I had not committed. The cop went on to say in a mix of Thai and English that I had been clocked by radar at 127 km/h. The fine for such an infringement would not exceed 800 baht. He fiddled with his clipboard, his face failing to hide a smile of excited anticipation. But he didn't write anything down just yet, and continued to bide his time, waiting for my reaction.
While all of this was going on, I thought back to a story relayed to me by a Thai colleague. An awfully straight, middle-aged Thai woman, this story would not have been exaggerated in the least. She recounted how she was driving her vehicle to work and was just a few hundred metres from the school gates when she was stopped. She was accused of doing something that she hadn't and when the shakedown came, she refused to pay. Despite the fact that we have a great number of senior policeman's children at our school, this cop was relentless in his request for a purple, which was in fact more than 400 baht, the most common fine for traffic infringements. The official then stated that failure to pay now could see the situation get totally out of control, and wouldn't it be terrible if he was to search her car and find drugs! Terrified at the thought of being fitted up on a false charge, she paid and got out of there, but it effected her terribly and even recounting the story months later, it still upset her.
Anyway, back to the expressway. The officer stated that another policeman further back on the expressway had clocked me doing 127 km/h. Now this caught me by surprise. Yep, I had seen them but traffic just wasn't moving at that speed. And hell, the coppers didn't seem to be doing much and I doubted the existence of a radar, but that isn't to say that they didn't have one. For sure though, I didn't see it. Changing lanes without indicating, maybe. Weaving in and out of traffic trying to get ahead of the bunch, perhaps. Criticizing Thai drivers, definitely. But doing 127 km/h at that particular time, never!
My memory wandered back to my colleagues account of that previous incident, and the thought of something terrible happening sent my mind into a spin, the potential consequences of which would be none too nice. my mind quickly reached the decision that it's time for Stick to pay a little extra "road tax".
And then the magic words came. "You pay now"? A smile on my face was met by an even bigger smile on his. "You pay now, 800 baht!" That seemed awfully expensive and after a little negotiation, the generous fellow decided that he would eventually accept 200 baht from me, though he had no time to write out a receipt… No worries, it ain't tax deductible so I can live without it. I was on my way, 200 baht lighter, and perhaps the Government coffers were now 200 baht richer. Perhaps not.
Talking to my mother in law about it later in the day, she admitted that what had happened was not good, but tried to explain just why it happens. As she put it and I am not at all trying to justify the copper's actions cops are so badly paid that they simply do not have enough money to live on, do not have enough to feed the family. Hell, in their position I have no doubt I’d do the same thing too. But that doesn’t make it any easier when you have a cop breathing down your neck. You know that you are innocent and that yes, you could complain and take it further if you want, but taking it to the next level could potentially let things get out of hand…and are you ready for just what that might involve? I know that I am not.
The day that I start worrying about 200 baht is the day that I know that I know I am in big trouble. But this is not just about 200 baht. It is about the way that we, especially farangs people who are so often looked at as a bank with legs, are at the mercy of officials, and the concern that if they wanted to make life really difficult for any of us, they could… But it is nice to know that by paying a little extra "road tax", things needn't go any further.
* Just like on the Monopoly board game, this is something that every farang should have. But for some reason, mine didn’t work on this particular occasion.
Where is this pic?
Last week's pic
It was King Rama VI's
This week's pic
Last week's pic was was taken at King Rama 6's Summer Palace near Hua Hin. Now, where is this week's pic? Again, it is NOT in Bangkok. Mmm, not too easy this one… The first Bangkok based person to answer the pic correctly wins a 500 baht credit from www.calls.in.th, the cheap overseas call people. 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. *Thanks for this week's pic goes to Perth Phil.
FROM STICKMAN'S BAG OF EMAIL:
Hogg's Breath in Nana is only open until 6 PM each day for a while after receiving police closure papers from Lumpini for having naked performers. But barflies can still wet their spot with afternoon drinking sessions, as the bar is open until 6 PM as a "beer bar in a gogo". Alas, no dancing though.
Carnival and Vixens are showing slow signs of building progress but they are still some way off completion.
Trade in Nana is definitely increasing with bar bosses noting quite a rise in business. More and more girls are floating around the Nana Plaza bars in search of work; some are migrating from areas such as Soi Cowboy, Patpong and even as far as Pattaya. Encouraging signs that Nana Plaza is becoming very popular once again…
It seems that the articles run in this column a few weeks back about scams managed to stop the evil couple in Sukumvit Soi 4 con another potential investor. An unsuspecting American guy was being manipulated into investing in the bars and was about to get in for a million baht when he was told to check out this site. He did and his money is now safe! The latest is that the couple are still here but keeping a very low profile. They are apparently becoming increasingly unpopular with the locals. The word is all round Nana Plaza and Soi 4. I also hear that they will be going to court fairly soon. Let's hope he gets the prison time that seemingly everybody wants to see them get.
It is hard to believe but the original Tahitian Queen on Beach Road, Pattaya is having its 25th year party on August 16, 2003. "TQ" is one of the favourites of the Pattaya expat crowd and it features a "no outside ladies policy" from opening in the afternoon until 7 PM. This gives harried locals a safe haven from wives and or girlfriends. The current partners and staff Woody, Bob, Joe and Tom have been running TQ for the past 8-9 years or so but the bar has actually been around since 1978. Shit, I was collecting Star Wars toys back then! The guys from TQ have made many friends over the years so this party should be well attended and everyone should have a good time as parties at TQ are legendary.
Down Soi Pattayaland at Misty's, the old Emergency bar combined with the bar next door and the new Misty's is now a much larger gogo bar. The new owners did a fantastic job on the interior of the bar with great lighting including some great light fixtures that feature large bolts of electricity flowing into a large glass bowl. The seating is comfortable and has the nice touch of having the bar's name in white on dark blue seats.
The opening for Subway on Sukumvit, just around the corner from Soi Nana near the Majestic Suites Hotel, is now set for August 1st. Construction is going full steam ahead. An exclusive is offered for Stickman readers. Who says it's not worthwhile to read my
nonsense ramblings? For a free personal Subway bag, just go into the Nana Subway store and after ordering say "Stickman" and you'll get a spiffy canvas bag (while stocks last) you can enjoy after devouring your sub. Even better than other commodities you might devour at Nana Plaza, you'll have something afterwards you'll be able to keep! As far as prices goes, it looks like they'll be targeting farangs more than Thais. For the 6 inch size, prices run from 79 baht for a pizza up to 129 baht for turkey. Meal deals are 50 baht more and include a drink and a bag of chips. A Subway branch has just opened down on Silom too, but the location is not ideal. It is in a shopping arcade, sort of stuck behind KFC. The American owner seems to be on the premises often and seems committed to getting Western standards there. As the big sign has not been erected out the front, things are a little slow at the moment.
This double pricing in Thailand is starting to get ridiculous. I heard a story this week of a fellow who went to see the Thai boxing at Lumpini, something that the TAT considers a major tourist attraction. Said fellow got out of the cab and saw two different ticket windows. At one window tickets were available for the terraces, the price 200 baht a ticket and these seats are furthest away from the action – but still adequate. On the other side at the other ticket window one could buy ringside seats at 1,500 baht a pop or 800 baht for the seats between ringside and the terraces. This fellow thought these prices too dear (and yeah, they do seem to have gone up if my memory is right) so he headed over to buy a ticket from the window selling tickets for the terraces. At that window he was told that he could not purchase a 200 baht ticket because they were for Thais only! Foreigners are therefore forced to pay 800 or 1,500 baht a ticket! What a fxxxing rip-off! Cross Muay Thai at the Lumpini Stadium off the list of places to visit in Bangkok, a list that seems to get shorter and shorter all the time. Before long, there might not be anywhere left to visit!
What an absolute ripoff MK Restaurants are! Hell, this column is starting to get into a negative rant, but what the hell, I know you want the truth… Yep, MK Restaurants, that chain that promote what I believe is a derivative of Korean suki that you cook in a pot of urine at your table has to be the most overpriced restaurant in Bangkok. On the few times when I have reluctantly gone along, it always costs in excess of 400 – 500 baht for what amounts to little more than fancy noodle soup with plenty of vegetables and frankly, not a hell of a lot of meat. Last weekend while up in my beloved second home, Korat, we went to one of the many open air "Korean style grilled beef restaurants" that offer the same type of food as MBK. Eating under the stars, you do not have quite the same choice a you get at MK. Instead of choosing each item individually of the menu, you can order the beef, the seafood, the chicken or the mixed. For this, you get a BIG bowl of meet and a HUGE tray of vegetables, all for 100 baht! Better still, they have discount nights when they do it for 80 baht! It is ridiculously cheap and it is really hard to see how they make a profit. The same thing at MK would be about 6 times the price. They call me kee-neow for a reason…
The miniature cameras mentioned in last week's column that could upset bargirls and bar owners if customers manage to successfully use them inside the bars could also become a problem for customers. Clever bargirls, particularly those who may have a bit of assistance from a dodgy farang or two, could make things very difficult for the odd customer. I hear of more than a few customers in the naughty bars who are awfully open with the girls, "I have a wife, I work at such and such a place here in Bangkok." Hmmm, if you are married and you misbehave, do NOT tell these girls as it can ONLY turn out to be bad. This info used against you could create an awfully awkward situation.
In answer to my question last week about what is the opposite of an asshole, a reader replied: "Surely, the opposite off an 'asshole', i.e.. an outlet for shit, should be a 'shit retention chamber', if you feel happier with that sort of title, who am I to argue?" Your Bangkok Shit Retention Chamber, Stick? Nah, doesn't have a ring to it.
Talking with a bunch of 15 year old students at school this week, we were discussing Bangkok and the relative merits, or otherwise, of living here. The students were shocked when I said that I (and virtually every farang I know) find Bangkok to be incredibly safe. While it generally is safe for the average farang, my students were most concerned that I believed this and one girl even piped up that I should never go outside alone at night. If only she knew… But is is an interesting point that they raise. They truly believe that Bangkok is a horribly dangerous place.
Looking for a new apartment building? A friend moved into one of the Evergreen Serviced Apartments recently and got the shock of his life when his laundry and telephone bill arrived for the first three weeks. While he had not made any overseas calls, the bill for laundry and telephone calls was 14,000 baht. Yep, 14K! Dear oh dear. He'd made a lot of calls to mobile phones locally which were the bulk of it. Remember, while the standard cost of call from a landline to a mobile is just 3 baht a minute, your apartment may add a service charge of a few hundred per cent, meaning per minute rates of up to 10 baht – and unexpectedly high bills.
A Thai tuktuk in England!
Will the tuktuk become Thailand's next big export? This photo was taken in Ambleside in the the Lakes District in England. It has an official taxi licence and carries passengers around the Lakes! Are there any tuktuks in your corner of the world? If there are, why not take a snap of them and email it in and we can find out where in the world the tuktuk furthest from Bangkok is! Now, back to the tuktuk above, I wonder if they have a meter installed or if you have to negotiate the price…?
A classic quote from a fried who recently toured around parts of Thailand. "How do you know it's the real Thailand? Everyone pays the same price for the same thing!"
Thanks to everyone who told me that the Kiss and Ride was not a new Thai perversion, but rather a place to stop the car briefly, let the loved one out after a quick peck on the lips before driving off to spend some quality time with the mia noi.
A trusted friend who has spent close to three years on and off in Thailand recently went to Vietnam. Something of a hedonist, he believes that certain aspects of Vietnam now are somewhat similar to the Land Of Smiles in the mid to late '80s. He acknowledges that Vietnam is not without its problems, but believes that this country could be the next frontier, the next country in SE Asia to attract hordes of farangs, for a variety of reasons.
Sadness in Bangkok as the lychee season is over for another year. I've been stuffing myself on them, and will now have to wait until next year for my next fix. Why is the season for lychees so short? I can never get enough of them.
It has been announced by the Thai Immigration Department that the prices for various visas will increase heavily. Apparently, visa fees have not increased in a very long time, so it could not be considered unexpected that they would go up sooner or later. However, the increases which have yet to come into effect, have shocked some people with some visas have going up in price almost 300%! It has been argued that such increases could discourage some visitors. I disagree. Remember, if you hail from a Western country and come here for a holiday of less than 30 days, you do not need a visa. It costs enough just to get here in the first place and with most things so cheap in Thailand, I do not think these visa fees will be a deterrent at all. The people who it will hurt are those folks who are here long term and who exit and re-enter on short term visas. I wonder if there are plans increase the daily overstay fine which is currently 200 baht per day but tops out at 20,000 baht. If this goes up, the daring who are already on long overstays may get a shock…meaning it might be best top get it sorted out now. On the other hand, if they don't put it up, it may just about be cheaper (although foolhardy) to just overstay your visa and pay as you leave.
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. As I disagree with a few of her responses, I'm going to be adding my thoughts to questions too. So now you can get two answers to the same question, and hell, just to confuse you, they may well contradict each other!
Question 1: I have just recently met a lovely Thai girl in England who I adore but the old nutshell of the dowry has emerged, which although much to my initial surprise, is something I have am slowly coming to recognise as a necessary evil. I adore this lady, she has traditional views and a wonderful heart and I can provide her with a life that far exceeds that to which she has experienced so far, however, I am expected to pay this dowry. How much should I pay a Thai girl who is in England, on a fiance visa to another man who now wants to marry me?
Mrs. Stick says:
I think you need to ascertain exactly why she split up with the other man. The dowry is perhaps not the central issue here but a related issue. Why did she split up with the other man when she had a fiancé visa that no doubt he had arranged. If she was going too marry him, but then splits up with him and is suddenly prepared to marry you in record time, something is up with her. As far as the dowry amount is concerned, it is related to her security. It should allow her to be able to exist in England if you decide you no longer want her in the future. But if she comes back to Thailand with the dowry and doesn't go back to England… The dowry is a very sensitive issue and good Thai women known that it is not easy for farang men to accept. It really isn't easy for us to tell you about this or the amount. It really does make us, that is what I would term decent Thai woman, a little embarrassed. And the dowry has to be paid to the parents, not to her directly. If it is all to be done "correctly", you should come to Thailand, get married here. Get to know her family, and make sure you are comfortable with them. Remember what I said about marrying a Thai? You marry the family.
Question 2: Some of the nicest women I met in Thailand were the hotel maids. Is a hotel maid considered low class in Thailand? Are the maids usually Thai or are they from neighbouring countries?
Mrs. Stick says:
As a Thai person, I am not surprised to see farang guys walking around with all sorts of Thai women, some of whom may be maids. But if it was a Thai man of some status, it would be extremely unusual for him to walk around with her in public. In fact that almost never happens. Why not go and watch the movie "Maid in Manhattan" which may give you a better idea about this.
Another week, another column… There never seems to be any shortage of things to write about in this city. As always your feedback is always welcome. I am particularly interested in the parts of the column that you don't like, that are perhaps samey or boring. Drop me an email and let me know.
Your Bangkok commentator,