Stickman's Weekly Column November 2nd, 2003

Thailand From Another Perspective



There is little I enjoy more than spending a lazy weekend at my mother in law's house in Korat. Not only is it a much nicer environment than dirty, noisy, crowded Bangkok, it is a chance to sharpen my Thai and learn more and more about Thailand. While my wife and her sisters try their best to get me take them out to one of the local bars for a drink, I do all I can to fight them and spend the evenings in, chatting with my mother in law about life in Thailand, both now, and in the past. What follows is a few of her responses to questions about life in Thailand.

When you think of farang guy / Thai women couples, what comes into your mind?

Living in Korat, I saw the American servicemen here during the Vietnam War, and the way that Thai women of the day hooked up with the young soldiers to make some money. In those days such behaviour was considered vulgar but having said that, the couples weren’t wandering around in the streets, hand in hand. We referred to the women as mia chow (rented wives). Until recently, I was quite strongly anti– farang guy / Thai girl couples because I simply didn’t know that there would be farangs who would speak the local lingo or adapt to our Thai ways.

In the case of Mrs. Stick, if things ever went bad between the two of you, no Thai man would marry her, or at last no Thai man of the type that would be worthwhile. The last thing a Thai man would want is to marry a woman who had previously been married to a farang so you can see why some mothers can be defensive about the idea of their daughter marrying a foreigner.

How do you think Thai women have changed over the last 30 years?

In the past, Thai women could not go out of the home alone to meet a man. There would always be a chaperone with them, at ALL times. They might sit and eat some food together, but there would always be someone else present, keeping an eye on them. The first time they actually spent time truly alone together may well have been after they got married!

Thai women had to be patient. Not so many worked and they were dependent on their man for money, and any financial success. They literally had to stay at home, maintain the household and in many ways, hope that the man would do well and would come home with enough money for them to get by, because that was the way it was back then, most people really just got by. Few people experienced luxury.

Thai men have changed too. In the past Thai men used to really do their best to look after a woman and they took their responsibility to look after her and provide for her much more diligently than Thai men of today. Today's men are much more likely to consider divorce if they find a younger, more attractive woman. Further, the average Thai man will consider a woman who has her own money, or who has her own income, for that makes it easier for him to look after her. In the past, a Thai man would give his entire a salary to his wife who would then budget for the month, run the household and give him back just a small amount for his personal expenses. This doesn't seem to happen these days.

Are you aware of the problems that some farangs guys have when they marry Thai women?

Yes, I am because you have told me about them!

What do you think of Thai families who allow, or even encourage their daughter to marry a Westerner so that they can command a high sin sot price which they will keep with no intention of ever retiring to the couple? Does this happen with Thai / Thai couples?

This is not the real Thai way at all. The sin sod is given to show that the groom is able to provide for his wife and the money should be given back to the couple and used to start the family. Any family who keeps the money is not doing so in line with the tradition. In our family, no one keeps the money. As far as families who persistently ask their children or children in law for money, they are creating a large burden. Yes, it does happen with poorer couples when a Thai man worries a Thai women. It seems to happen much more with some of the poor families in Laos (here she is referring to the parts of Isaan closer to the country of Laos than Korat is – Stick).

Where is this pic?

Last week's pic

This week's pic

It was Tom Yum Gung in Khao Sarn Road.
Ahhh, nice and easy
Last week's picture was taken from the 10th floor of the Nana Hotel, looking down on to Sokhumi Soi 4 and the businesses located between the Nana intersection and Nana Plaza. The first person to get this week's picture correct wins a copy of "Dan Quixote", a fine Dean Barrett novel. Now this week's pic is NOT in Bangkok. It is a medium-sized Thai city…and that is the only clue. Due to the cost of postage out of Thailand, the prize is only available to the first person to get it right who can provide a postal address within Thailand. So, if you think you know it and want to claim the prize, make sure you state clearly that you are Thailand based. To find out more about Dean's books, check out: http://www.deanbarrettmystery.com/

FROM STICKMAN'S BAG OF EMAIL:

IKTD (Kissing transmitted Diseases) and bargirls:

BEWARE! I was hit hard on the 20th of October with glandular fever. My trip to LOS was from the 8th Sept to 8th Oct. Glandular fever is transmitted by saliva contact and usually has a 30-50 day incubation period where you are infectious but show no symptoms! The girl who gave it to me worked in a naughty bar and she has now gone home and taken extended leave! She fell ill in early October. I wonder how many unlucky farangs got it from her and then passed it on to other bar girls who are then re transmitting it! I must have passed this on to other girls in Cowboy, Nana and Patpong. I hope this is not the start of an epidemic! So just be aware. I know of one other farang whose symptoms look like glandular fever but are yet to be confirmed. If you start coming down with headaches, fever, sweat 2 litres a night, sore throat, tiredness, enlarged glands along with aches and pains all over the body….then chances are that you have glandular fever. It can even bring to a grinding halt the most healthy and strongest person. It takes about 1 month to get over the nasty symptoms and then you will have to take it easy for the next 2 months after that.

Spicy Condoms.

Last week a writer commented that "two condoms are better than one" to ensure your protection. However, an even better method comes from the brothels of Africa, the birthplace of HIV. First, place one condom on as usual. Then cover it with tobasco sauce – very spicy! Place another condom over the first one, then procede with your planned activities. If a condom breaks, one of you is going to know about it very quickly. It has worked for me every time.

Chattels.
I surprised my wife and told her that I was taking her for a Thanksgiving trip to Las Vegas. She was very excited. When she called her mom in Korat to tell her of this her mom suggested that she be careful that I may be taking her there to sell her. I told her to call her Mom back and tell her that if I did sell her I would buy the family a tractor and a sewing machine and most likely whomever bought her would pay me double to take her back.

Where is your work permit, sir?

Accepting two tier pricing as a fact of life almost anywhere, I wonder what would happen should NP bars offer a discount to foreign residents with a work permit? Say, 400 baht bar fines and / or 80 bath drinks. That way they could continue to milk vacation travelers (such as myself) for everything they could get and entice local return customers at the same time.

You can only manage 6?!

Chaps who have unprotected sex with bargirls must be drunk, but not drunk enough. Any chap who feels he cannot control himself in the presence of scantily-clad ladies should consider kicking off the evening at the Tawan Dang German Beer Hall in Rama 3 Road. Order a leg of pork and 6 pints of their excellent home brew. After that, there is no conceivable way you will get it up, even with a double dose of Viagra. Remember, beer is a man's best friend.

DNA Testing.

When the child was 6 weeks old we took her to Bumrungrad hospital for DNA paternity testing. There is a section on the second floor which deals specifically with this issue and the chief doctor is at the hospital two days a week. His nurses are there every day. I had no problems with communication at all and everybody spoke excellent English. I was told that the child had to be 10 weeks old before they could take a blood sample. They sent us to the government run hospital where they perform the procedure and when we got to this hospital I expected to just talk with these people but they began taking samples so I chose to go along with the process. There was little English spoken at the government hospital but the staff were extremely proficient at their job. The results took two weeks to arrive and I received the paperwork at Bumrungrad hospital.

I never remember seeing a bargirl with birth control pills.

Well, I have actually only witnessed a small percentage of the many bar girls I have been with over the years taking their birth control pills, but they all seemed to understand very well the risk of pregnancy, and when it comes to sexual matters, what a few know, they seem to ALL know. I mean, that's the #1 topic of conversation among them at the bars. I've discussed STDs and birth control with countless girls and although they don't have a doctor's knowledge of these matters, they certainly seem to have a good grasp of the basics.

Hollywood Carousel will be open again on November 15th after their 30 day closure and they'll no doubt be doing everything they can to ensure that it does not happen again. The whole subject of sex shows and "showing" will need to be considered very carefully. The way things currently are in Nana Plaza puts all the bars on a level playing field for a change. For now, all bars are still operating with their girls in full bikinis. If things remain like this at least everyone in Nana Plaza is kept to the same rules. The only place with an advantage at the moment is Soi Cowboy. Some bars were even doing naked shows during APEC! This just makes Carousels's 30 day closure from the Interior Minister even more ridiculous and pointless. The million dollar question is of course, "When will Nana Plaza be allowed to show again, if at all?" With the price of drinks now up to 125 baht in most bars in Nana Plaza, that does not leave so many that could be considered good value for money. It has been said by a few bar bosses that there needs to be a sufficient number of good bars in the Plaza to keep bringing in big crowds. Nana Plaza is still generally considered the best and most popular gogo bar area, but there is some concern, justified I believe, that it is not as good as it used to be. Currently with Nana being "no show" for some people this is much less of an attraction. The standard of bargirls in Nana remains superior to Cowboy but Nana Plaza bar bosses must be sensible. There is a rumour that some bars might put their drinks prices up again! WTF?! Such a decision would be self-destructive and downright stupid and would be bad not just for the bars in question, but for all bars in Nana. I still maintain that Nana bars need to DROP their prices. This last round of price increases pushed prices to a level that has made too many punters unhappy. Remember, a lot of people come to Thailand because it is cheap. Take away that and there will be some people who choose to go elsewhere…

Just as you were beginning to think that the wild Nanapong dance contests were a thing of the past, the Nanapong boys are pleased to announce that the next dance contest in this legendary series will be held at Electric Blue on Waking Street down in Pattaya on Sunday 9 November. It will all kick off around 8:30 PM and entry is FREE! If you're in Pattaya, make sure you go along!

Rumours coming out of Patpong suggest that the naughty bars in that part of town will not resume operating during daylight hours until some time in January.

Caveat Emptor! A fellow I know barfined a girl from a farang owned Sukumvit Soi 33 bar. The girl went back to hi place and despite using protection he caught an STD. To make matters worse, she stole his mobile phone too! Said fellow went back to the bar and the bar management weren't interested. Remember, we are talking about prostitution here an thus I am not surprised at the bar's response. Barfining a hooker is not like buying a new Toyota. You can't take it back the next day and expect any issues to be fixed, no questions asked. But, it does make a mockery of those who say that you have some recompense if the girl works in a bar, as opposed to being a freelancer.

A reader has asked a couple of questions related to last week's column about the pregnancy issue. If a Thai women was to claim a farang was the father of her unborn child, is it possible for her to get a court order (or a policeman) to demand that the farang submit to a paternity test? And does Thailand have mandatory child support laws? Now I may well have this wrong, but it is my understanding that it is NOT possible for a woman to get a curt order forcing Khun Farang to submit to a DNA test. On the subject of child support, I seem to recall something along the lines of a ridiculously low amount being mandatory, something like 30 odd baht a day – or less than 1,00 baht a month. Exactly how this sort of thing is enforced, I have no idea. But, like I say, I may well be wrong. If anyone knows for sure, let us know.

I have always wondered what would happen if you got caught in limbo, in no man’s land. There is a small space between many countries at the border where you are at a particular moment not in any one country. A good example of this can be seen when you go from Thailand to Malaysia overland at the border crossing at Pedang Basar. Once you are stamped out of Thailand, you walk up and around this small hill on a windy road for what must be a couple of hundred metres, before you get to Malaysia. On this little bit of land, you are no longer in Thailand and have yet to enter Malaysia. Would it be possible to somehow find yourself stuck in no man’s land? The answer to this is a resounding yes. As crazy as it sounds, this happened to a Brit a bit over a week ago. He exited Malaysia and for some crazy reason he broke one of the very basic rules of behavior for anyone crossing any border and gave the immigration officials a bit of lip. Dumb. He was stamped out of Malaysia and walked the couple of hundred metres or so to the Thai checkpoint. He had a number of Non-immigrant B visas in his passport and the Thai authorities asked him what his business was in Thailand to which he gave an answer that didn’t satisfy them. They claimed that he would be heading up to Bangkok to work, which he denied. They didn’t believe him and refused him entry. Yeah, he does work without a work permit so if anything, the Thai authorities should be praised for doing their job, denying entry to someone who is working illegally. Aghast at being refused entry, he wandered back to the Malaysian entry point to get back into Malaysia and plan an alternate entry into Thailand. At the Malaysian entry point he is refused entry on the basis that he had been rude to one of the Malaysian immigration officers and it was obvious that he was not entering Malaysia as a bona fide tourist. Now stuck, he found himself caught in no man’s land, with the two countries refusing to allow him to enter. I’m not sure how he managed it, but after three hours in limbo, the Thai authorities kindly allowed him to enter Thailand where he conveniently made his way up to Bangkok and back to the job where he works illegally. This fellow was very lucky indeed.

Bangkok is full of good restaurants and in some areas you are falling over one quality establishment after another. However, as good as the food is, the levels of service can vary greatly. Even in some of the best restaurants where farangs may even make up the majority of the customers, misunderstandings and communication difficulties can prevail. Even when dining at somewhere as upmarket as the Oriental, one sometimes has to repeat their order three or four times before the waiting staff gets it. In the past month, I’ve had a few funnies, with service staff really cocking up on a grand scale. Perhaps the best of them all was at Cabbages and Condoms where a bunch of farangs dined together and each member of our party ordered a dish which they wished to eat themselves and not place in the middle of the table and share, Thai style. Anyway, one member of that party ordered Dom Kar Gai, the Thai style coconut based soup with chicken. The dish was brought to the table and before anyone at the table realised, the waiter had divided it up into 5 different bowls, each bowl presented to one of the diners at the table! Had a similar experience in a Thai restaurant? Drop me an email and I’ll print the best next week.

So much for the quiet roads. With the kiddies back at school, the traffic is nasty again. And on the subject of traffic, a lot of the intersections that had these neon counters installed are no longer using them. Were they just erected for APEC?!

When giving advice about dealing with the locals, expats often cite the way that Thais make decisions based on immediate needs and the way they live for today and seldom consider tomorrow. This can be seen in many facets of life in Thailand and the classic example is the way that many Thais run out of money before the end of the month spending with reckless abandon only to be shocked when the day arrives that there is no money left – yet pay day is still a week away! While the locals seldom consider the future, the same has to be said about the past. I have at times talked in this column about a lack of gratitude shown by many Thais, not only to farangs but amongst themselves as well and I believe a lot of this comes back to the way they live for the present. The farang boyfriend who gives his Thai girlfriend a gold chain one day is bamboozled when just a few days later she is asking for more. What has happened in the past has been largely forgotten. No matter how much you do for a Thai, they so often seem to want more and more. While it could be put down to unrealistic wants and desires, I think it could equally be explained by the way they simply disregard the past and live for the moment. Positive past deeds done in their favour are not given the recognition or gratitude that they really deserve. If this is applied to giving tips in Thailand, now you might understand why some people are often reluctant to give…

A reader wants to get strong condoms not necessarily big ones. I suggested that he go for the Bodyguard brand or one of the bigger ones that I believe Durex offer but he specifically wants extra strong, as opposed to extra large. Any ideas?

It has been almost 5 years since I went to the Ancient City, also known as Meuang Boran. If you are not aware of it, this is one of the most amazing tourist attractions in the greater Bangkok area and features more than 100 large scale replicas of famous or significant buildings in Thailand. The funny thing is that so many of the buildings are huge and it is hard to believe that they are replicas and are impressive in their own right. If you have never been there, this really is well worth going to. The only difficulty is that to best enjoy it, you need a car and I doubt a taxi driver would do it on the meter. But if you get a chance to visit, I'm sure you'll enjoy it.

The amazing Ancient City.

Mrs. Stick's Corner

Each week, Mrs. Stick will answer your questions about Thai / farang relationships and general issues that baffle the average Westerner in Thailand. Mrs. Stick likes to think of herself as an open-minded Thai lady so go ahead, ask anything because you won't shock her. Please send questions for her, via me, at the usual email address. Two 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. Please note that I may not necessarily agree with what she says and unfortunately, she doesn't have time to reply to your inquiries via email.

Question 1: My best friend married a woman from Thailand. He has gotten her Green Card and she and her daughter are now both here in the US. Do you have any suggestion for a wedding gift?

Mrs. Stick says: Usually if the marriage takes place in Thailand guests would give money in an envelope as the gift which helps to defray the cost of the wedding. As far as farang culture is concerned, I understand that giving money is not typical so apart from money, you could give whatever would be considered suitable in your culture as far as what they need for the house or perhaps for a family they might be planning to build..

Question 2: Something that has puzzled me for a long time is why Thai girls are so "farang crazy". What is it about us that grabs them? I'm talking about "normal" Thai girls here – not bargirls. I'm not convinced it is a money issue and from what I've seen looks or age don't really come into it. Is it just the chance to go to a mystical "better life" in Farangland?

Mrs. Stick says: I think it is the way that Thailand is becoming a bigger part of the world as global Perhaps the reason is much the same as farang guys chasing Thai girls? Farangs guys often have a bad feeling about women in their own country and look to Thai women for something different, perhaps a better alternative. Maybe Thai women are must the same. Yes, a lot of Thai girls like the way that farang guys look and there is a perceived "better quality" abut farang guys.

That is all for another week. Not a lot of news from the city's nightlife sector at the moment which is partially due to me not passing by the bar areas but more so by the fact that things remain very quiet and frankly, not a lot is going on. For you nightlife fans, there is bound to be more nightlife coverage next week.

Your Bangkok commentator,

Stick

Thanks go out to Dave The Rave and Claymore.