Stickman's Weekly Column December 28th, 2003

Don’t Let Them Ruin It!



I guess I am too old to have a best friend, bit if forced to name my best friend, I’d probably point to a buddy back in NZ. We have been through a lot together. I can remember being in the next room on the crazy night of his 21st as he was doing his best for his country, with, funnily enough, an Asian girl. He was also the guy who I travelled to Thailand with on my first venture here, many years ago. We've crashed cars together, not intentionally mind you, been liquored up too many times to remember and turned to each other for advice in times of need.

Now old A as I'll call him is what I would describe as a damned good bloke, hardworking, honest and someone who is always fun to be around with and share a few beers and laughs with. Like me, he left his native NZ to try something new abroad, but his journey took a slightly different path. He too was drawn to Asia, but it was Japan that attracted him, not Thailand.

A two year contract awaited him in Japan with a high profile Japanese company with an apartment included along with a high salarywith very low tax. He was on to a real winner! Within several weeks of arriving, he hooked up with a Japanese girl. I was really happy for him as everything seemed to be going just great. Stunningly good on the eye and with a great command of English, she seemed to be the catch of the century and he thought so too for within 18 months he had put a ring on her finger.

We spoke from time to time on the phone, and traded a lot of emails. I started to get a bit concerned when he said that things weren't going quite as smoothly as he had hoped. She would her ex-boyfriend came up in the conversation a little too often and her mood swings were a little unpredictable.

When his contract came up, they moved from Japan down to NZ and she settled into the new lifestyle fairly well, getting a job with a Kiwi-based Japanese outfit. But then a few problems started and this time they were more serious. She announced that she wanted them to sleep in different bedrooms, this within 6 months of being married! And then things went bang. She failed to come home one night. When she finally arrived home some time the next day she admitted that she had spent the night with another bloke. Needless to say, that was the end of the marriage as far as he was concerned, and things did get a little nasty after that though thankfully, he had been very clever, was in control and minimised any losses.

Whenever we talk about Japan or the Japanese, he sneers out obscenities about the place and people, describing them as anything from uncivilized at best to all sorts of unmentionable things at worst.

Now what is interesting is that while he did have a good time in Japan, this bad experience with a woman didn’t just tarnish his feelings for Japan and the Japanese, they completely ruined his memories of his time there. That things went bad with a woman ruined everything.

I see the same thing happening here in Thailand, particularly with folks who come here for a holiday. They come to Thailand and have a great time, enjoying all that this fantastic holiday destination offers. But then when they get involved with a woman things can often take a turn for the worse, their memories and thoughts of all things Thai are marred and what should have been a good experience was ruined.

I'm still somewhat undecided on the merits of living long term in Thailand. But one thing is for sure, Thailand is a fantastic place for a holiday and I certainly don’t know of anywhere that even comes close. But the amount of people whose holiday is ruined, or at least tarnished by run ins with dodgy women is amazing. We only have a few week's holiday a year. Don't let these women, particularly the women of the night, control you. Make sure you are in charge of your own destiny. Believe me, there is so much going on in Thailand that you do not need these women to have a good time. And if you do give them anything, give them some money, but don't give them your heart, at least not within the timeframe of just one holiday.

Where is this pic?

Last week's pic

This week's pic

Rama 4 Road of course.
Last week's picture was taken from inside a taxi on Rama 4 Road, heading east, just near the expressway. Instead of from a taxi, this week's pic was taken on the back of a motorcycle! This week's prize is once again kindly offered by Jake Needham. Jake has donated a signed copy of the international edition of his outstanding first novel, The Big Mango, and he will send it anywhere in the world, so there is no restriction on where you enter from. Remember, just the FIRST person to correctly state where the picture was taken wins the prize! Please note that you do NOT need to send your address to me when you answer the pic. If you are first to get it right then I will notify that you have won and only then will an address be necessary.

FROM STICKMAN'S EMAIL INBOX:

Stop and search.

Having grown up in South London during the times of the Brixton riots I am familiar with the old UK police practice of "stop & search" which were firmly targeted at the ethnic minorities of the time. Unfortunately this now outlawed practice seems to have to spread to farang ethnic minorities on the streets of Bangkok. I am a Caucasian, mid 40's, have lived in Asia for many years and here in Bangkok for the last 2. I have a Thai wife, child and am "legal" having all the necessary visas, work permit and a driving license! Yesterday (Sunday) at around lunch time, in broad day light, I was walking home from the gym on Sukhumvit Road close to Thong Lor BTS station. Dressed in jeans and t-shirt, carrying my sports bag, I was minding my own business and was in my own little farang world when a police motor bike pulled up in front of me. The two policemen dismounted and, in quite good English, asked me where I was from, my name, where I lived, where I'd been, where I was going etc. They then proceeded to search my belongings. By this time a small crowd of local Thais were gathering some of whom I recognised as I regularly shop in the area. When the police realised that their methods were causing interest within the local community they backed off, got back on their bike and rode off into the dust of Sukhumvit Road.
The joys of good photography and marketing.
Isn't it funny how impossibly turquoise-blue the water, and sugary-white the sand of the beaches in the guidebooks look? And the piles of garbage one sees everywhere are, of course, cropped out of the photos. As for guidebooks misrepresenting Thailand: Guidebook publishers have a conflict of interest that prevents them from reporting truthfully. In order to sell guidebooks, they have to sell the destinations they purportedly represent. If the overall message of the books were to say that Thailand is too dangerous or dirty to be worth travelling to, then people would have no need for the guidebooks, would they? They'd decide to vacation elsewhere. So, what guidebooks do, is they generally hype the destinations they cover, painting an overall rosy picture, while throwing in a little tame criticism to give the false impression of objectivity. A bit better than TAT propaganda, but not by much.
Money and sex!
I have been hearing the past few months that Dad's tractor needs work and baby brother wants to finance a motor bike. Last week Mom in Korat asks my wife how much I make a month. My wife got mad as hell that I wouldn't tell her. I told her it is personal like sex. If Mom wants to know about my money, we will have to call her when we have sex and describe what we did. No more money questions at this time.
Where is that loudspeaker system when you need it?
A farang gentleman I know met a nice lady and after 6 months they thought it would be a good idea if they got married. The guy's mate here bought the fiancée a nice gold bracelet, and rings etc for their engagement, and how unlucky was she! She lost all of it, Oh well he bought her a new lot. The wedding party was winding down and the bride's family were packing up to go home and YES, the bride wanted to go back with her parents already. (Earlier she was overheard speaking to a farang's Thai girlfriend, that as soon as they have an argument she is out of there with him). So the guy didn't sleep with his bride that night and went back to the village the next day to sort it all out, and yes she's done a runner with the dowry, together with her parents. A call to the Tourist Police got the father in law arrested and some money retrieved.
A bargirl's life.
I am not talking about slave prostitution, and sick paedophiles. I am talking about Nana, Soi Cowboy, Patpong, Patong etc the girls who work in these establishments work there because they want to, no one forced them to work there. Remember the average wage for a shop girl is about 4000 baht, a month. A gogo girl gets about 50,000 baht, however, she also gets to choose the guys she “works” with…….so think about it! OK take a step back you sitting at your desk in an office you're a man and your told that you can have a job whereby you get to have sex with girls that you find interesting, attractive and don't forget you get to say the final yes or no. You earn a whole lot more money than your currently earning. Hey man you have just won the lottery! For God's sake guys don’t pity these girls, they're having a fantastic lazy time. It’s like any business and commodity people use and abuse each other to make money – sad but true. Remember I am only talking about girls that work in well known farang gogo bar establishments.
Bargirl pregnancies.
Many bargirls intentionally get pregnant (or don't try very hard to avoid pregnancy), because they know that there is a good chance that one or more farang sponsors will bail them out (in fact, not only support the kid, but make the bargirls' lives more comfortable too). Are these girls just ignorant about contraception? Are they coerced into not using condoms by their customers. I don't think so (not in the farang nightlife scene, anyway). If more farang took a coldly rational view on this, Thai bargirls would catch on that this approach does not work and they would take more responsibility in preventing pregnancy. When the other bargirls see a sympathetic farang supporting a kid such as this (whether or not it is his), it encourages them to try the same gamble (and they are risking not only financial ruin, but their bodies too). Of course, we should also ask these guys what the hell they were thinking when eschewing condoms!
And speaking of birth control.
There is another reason working girls take the pill besides for birth control: They do it to control when they have their period. I have heard several girls tell me they could postpone their period by skipping the sugar pills at the end of the month and starting a new pack of pills right away instead. I've tried explaining to them that this must wreak havoc on their reproductive system, but I'm no doctor and my Thai isn't very good, so I'm afraid I've failed to convince anyone. Another way they can work through their period is to plug themselves up. For just a few baht they can buy a small sponge / diaphragm thing at any local convenience store (I've seen these. Girls have shown them to me.) It's far from fool-proof: Often the sponge becomes dislodged during sex, uncorking the works and leaving a bloody mess on the sheets. For this, hotel housekeeping usually fines the farang 100 baht or so.
No, I don't have it in for Nana Plaza and yeah, I probably sound like a broken record, but believe me, it is much quieter than you would expect, especially given that hotels in the area are full and it is really hard to get long distance international flights in and out of Bangkok at the moment – all suggesting that there are tourists in town, but they are not venturing to Nana. It is not just the Nana Plaza bar owners and managers screaming out for customers, but the girls too. I still maintain that dropping the prices WILL have an effect…along with elimination of the Xmas and New Year's barfine increases. Dropping drinks prices back to their previous levels at 110 baht (still not cheap, but a move in the right direction) would let punters know that their custom is valued.

Maybe it is due to people not wanting to run the gauntlet down "pickpocket alley"? It might just be true that the pickpocketers have given up on MBK, their old favourite hunting ground, and are concentrating on the stretch of Soi Nana from the police traffic control box down to the entrance of Nana Plaza. What used to be a very brief stroll is now a mess of vendors, beggars and freelancers, all desperately fighting to be the one who gets a piece ofKhun Farang's wallet. Maybe this is the reason why Nana Plaza is losing business? Maybe it is time for the Crown Group to (they do have seven bars in Nana after all) to do something drastic like get all of their katoeys to do a strip tease on that stretch of pavement? That would scare even the hardened beggars away!

It seems that the authorities have decided that there can be no more daytime dancing at one of the cult bars, the original Tahitian Queen in Pattaya, from this week forward. They may have had daytime dancing for the past 20 years but that doesn't matter, they have been told to stop. So, must a number of Pattaya's residents now forget the sanctuary of TQ in the afternoon, a place where a man could escape the drudgery of marital tribulations just by entering the darkened interior where no outside women were allowed into this male sanctuary.

And in an ironic twist comes the "good news" that the new "chief" of the Bangrak Police station, the district that presides over Patpong, amongst other places, is allowing daytime bars on The Pong to return to their old daytime hours. So you can now enjoy a cold one in Patpong during the day. Maybe the old Bangrak boss has been transferred to Pattaya?

There is a new Panthip Plaza under construction in Chiang Mai? I have never been to Chiang Mai so the location doesn't mean much to me but I am told that it will be located at what could be termed the southern boundary of the night bazaar area. Assuming that some thought went into planning the location, the principals must be targeting tourists to some extent. Word out of Chiang Mai questions the need for a new computer plaza. It seems like they already have more than their fair share of computer shops. The pie doesn't get any bigger by building a new Panthip, it's simply divided into smaller and smaller pieces. Oh well, I suppose this sort of thinking never stopped people from opening 50 gai yang shops alongside a highway, all within twenty metres of each other…

Advertising the new Panthip Plaza in Chiang Mai. Photo courtesy of DWS.

I am assured that despite last month's raid right in the middle of the soi, no Soi Cowboy bars will be closed down, that is unless they do anything silly unrelated to that particular raid. It seems that the Thonglor police station are less strict about things and are not in a hurry to close down bars at the first infringement. No closures in Cowboy means no reprieve for Nana.

As we try to work out just how many farangs are in Thailand, I have been told that:

– one large Thai corporate estimates 300,000 – 350,000 farang residents here.
– a minimum of 15,000 farangs resident in Chiang Mai at any given time.
– my estimate of the number of Americans here at 35,000 was, apparently, extremely conservative.
– 45,000+ farangs in Bangkok have a work permit.
– almost every email from a reader on this subject considered my estimates of both 250,000 farangs and 4.5 billion US dollars injected into the Thai economy every year to be very conservative indeed.

The dodgy visa crackdown seems to have cooled right down. Some border posts were requesting that certain people, predominantly those with a large number of Thai visas in their passports, make photocopies of every page in their passport and present the copy to immigration. As far as I can make out, very few have been arrested for dodgy visas. A couple of points to note include that the Poi Pet immigration point being a lot more curious about people coming and going than they were in the past and I heard a rumour ­ note a rumour that has NOT been substantiated ­ that they are reluctant to allow anyone with a new Thai visa issued in Birmingham, England, to enter the country. Birmingham has been an easy spot for people to get visas from, and some dodgy visa procurers used this consulate in the past, although that is not to say that Birmingham visas are all illegal. You'd be well pissed off if you came in on a legitimately procured visa and were given the third degree!

Dean Barrett wishes to remind people that he will be in Lone Staar in Washington Square on the 24th, that is this coming Wednesday, to sign copies of his latest book. While he cannot give out free books to the first 50 people who arrive, he is happy to say that by special arrangement with the owner of the Texas Lone Staar Saloon, the first 50 guys who show up will be allowed to buy any Lone Staar girl of their choice as many drinks as they like. That's the spirit, Dean!

Never underestimate the superficial respect that is given to teachers in Thailand, even the
foreign teachers. As teachers in Thailand, you are expected to be more than a teacher,
an example of a wholesome individual in the community, one that others should look
to. When a teacher stuffs up or does some thing fundamentally wrong, it can cause great
concern amongst those around them, especially colleagues at the school whose reputation may take a plunge. Something happened this week at my place of work that shows just how seriously the role of a teacher is taken. One foreign teacher who had handed in his resignation several weeks earlier but who is still with us until the end of the month took this past Monday and Tuesday off. When he returned to work on Wednesday he was asked to complete an absence form and state the reason for being away. He wrote “I gave birth” on the form which sent the Thai teachers crazy, him being a man and unable to give birth. I have never seen a bunch of Thais so angry in my life, them believing that what he has done was demonstrably wrong. For a while it seemed that the Thai staff so this guy as the bane of Bangkok! So you farang arjarns, just remember this when you want to have a laugh…the Thai staff might not share the same sense of humour!

Located on Sukhumvit Soi 24, a new English language library has opened up called Thaibrary. To get there, walk down Soi 24 from Sukhumvit Road, turn left by the 7 -11 and their entrance is on the left hand side, on the first floor.

If you can't decide on where to dine on Christmas Eve, consider the original Bourbon Street Restaurant or the new Courtyard Bourbon Street Restaurant. They have a fantastic sounding Christmas Eve buffet at each location from at 5:00 – 10:00 PM at 650 baht ++. It has to be said that the menu looks great and just reading it made me hungry.

A British lady contacted me asking me to mention her missing brother in the column. His name is Andrew Paul Wing, 28 years old, hailing from Grimsby and Scunthorpe in England. He has not been in contact with anyone from home for 5 years and they are justifiably quite concerned as to his whereabouts. If you know him, ask him to drop his sister an email at: Leann

Mrs. Stick's Corner

Each week, Mrs. Stick is pleased to 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. Questions to her have been a bit thin recently so don't be shy to send in your queries.

Question 1: Would you have any suggestions on how an Asian female should conduct herself when making a first impression on other women in Thailand (upper middle class, not hi-so)? My wife is very Western, but of Asian descent. When meeting with Thai couples for the first time, I sometimes shudder at her manner, feeling that it may be too direct. I know that the usual advice is for her to "act naturally, and be herself" but I worry that, with an Asian appearance, she won't necessarily get the free ride that we more apparently farang types will get as far as manners go. But, then again, maybe I am just being overly sensitive about things, and she's winning over friends from the beginning. Should she hide her knowledge and education, or compete? Should she dress up and bring out the big jewellery, or hold back, and bring things out slowly? Laugh a lot, or be quieter? I know that much will depend on the people, but for general guidelines, what would be more appropriate?

Mrs Stick says: Your wife must be quite Western in her ways, I guess. As you say your wife is Asian, she must have come from an Asian family and many Asians are very similar, so get her to think about what is acceptable within her own segment of Asian culture as that is likely what would be acceptable in Thai culture too. When you first meet people, we all have to try and be that extra bit polite and you cannot totally be yourself. It is part of good manners. Sometimes it can be good to hold back a little bit and not be too open. We all know what is acceptable and what is not acceptable. Really, what is acceptable when you first meet someone in America (assuming that is where you are from) is generally acceptable here. Some Thai people can be a bit fussy but upper middle class are sufficiently worldly to understand your farang ways.

Question 2: We all know that HIV and AIDS rates in the Kingdom are sky high. How many people do you know who have or have had HIV or AIDS, and how have they been looked at and treated by their family, colleagues and friends. We never read about any of this in the Thai press anywhere. Is there a big cover up?

Mrs Stick says: Serious question! I know of someone whose husband became ill and eventually died. Not long before he died, some friends saw him and strongly suspected that he had succumbed to AIDS. While they were married and had been living in Bangkok, he went upcountry, died up there, and his ashes were never brought back to Bangkok. We never talked about this again. My friend knows that we know, but it is never ever mentioned. We also hear rumours of famous people who have passed away under suspicious circumstances and in the newspapers they list a disease as the cause of death, diverting attention from what *may* have been the cause. This is a really complicated question as it deals with death, tragedy and of course, face. No matter how someone dies, we also should respect the dead. A cover up? Perhaps.

The end of the year is approaching fast, a year that, for me at least, has rocketed past. A year that has seen this site grow to a new level of popularity, to a level that I never expected, never envisaged. As the new year fast approaches, I have a number of plans for this site in the new year. First and perhaps most importantly, the site will feature new articles written by me in Thai. Not too many and not too often – but at least one a month, the idea is to help explain certain things to the ever increasing Thai readership, and also to try and help them understand certain issues about farang culture that are widely misunderstood. Certain parts of the site will get a long overdue rewrite and at least one new major section will be added. The readers' submission section might get a spruce up too. In addition, if you have any ideas about how you would like to see things change, develop or improve, don't be shy to let me know. Assuming I can get it all done on time, next week's column should feature a very interesting opening piece, something I have been researching for a while. There will also be confirmation of one of my predictions for this year, something I predicted at this time last year, that I thought would happen, but really didn't wish to happen… Tune in for more next week.

Your cynic of the week (as The Nation newspaper described me this week),

Stick

Special thanks go out to Dave The Rave, Claymore and DWS



All feedback is welcome – please forward email [email protected].