Stickman's Weekly Column January 11th, 2004

Going Upmarket


Bored of Nana and Cowboy? Find Pattaya too much like a case of searching for a needle in the haystack? Massage parlours not your scene? Looking for a new experience – and prepared to pay for it? It's time for you to head to Spasso’s!

Spasso’s, the Italian restaurant in the basement of the Grand Hyatt Erewan by day, and perhaps Bangkok's most upmarket meat market by night. I've only stuck my head in there once before, some time back in 1998 when I was a new boy on the block. I distinctly remember getting the fright of my life when presented with a bill for over 200 baht for just one bottle of Heineken. Remember back then most places charged around 70 – 75 baht for a beer. Not wanting to unnecessarily waste money, and still discovering the city's many entertainment venues, it would be 5 years before I returned to Spasso’s. Last night Mrs Stick and I popped in for a look.

Off to one side of Spasso’s, nearest the windows, is the dining area. On the other side is a chic, beautifully decorated bar and there is also a medium sized dance floor. During the day and early evening it os relatively quiet and other than the odd person propping up the bar, most customers can be found in the dining area. Night time is altogether different and what could be described as a modest sized bar come disco throngs with the familiar combination of Western guys and Thai women, all interested in meeting someone. Most such venues where farang men go to meet Thai women find a variety of Thai women from a rural background. While these rural women are often very pleasant, they tend to be simple folks with a modest education who lack the sophistication and refinement of a city woman. Not Spasso’s. No sir. A finer selection of Thai women willing to meet a farang man I have never seen before in any one place in Thailand. Make no question about it, 90% of the men in Spasso’s were farang, a smaller percentage of the women Thai. And the remaining percentage of women, those of the white skinned, long nosed variety, were enough to get even the biggest aficionado of Asian women excited.

I'll stick my neck out here and say that at least one third of the women in Spasso’s were more attractive than any Thai women in the likes of Nana or Cowboy. Yes, anyone! The women at Spasso’s are a whole different bunch altogether. Sophisticated and refined, many of them seemed like they had stepped out of a fashion magazine and of all of the couples that we overheard talking (and we were damned nosey, trying to listen in to what was going on), we did not hear any speaking Thai. Many of these women seemed to speak pretty decent English too. Forget the misconception that Spasso’s is full of the BeerGarden / Thermae crowd in search of a bigger handout. The women in Spasso’s, at least the crowd there last night, were way more upmarket.

Consulting with Mrs Stick on what percentage of the girls she thought were up for it and available, she gave me a smarmy look. As her eyes gazed out at the crowd, she quietly said, "this is not a place where your average office girl comes." Yeah honey, I sort of figured that but I didn't want you to lose face by me saying that this is just another example of a Thai meat market, where almost everyone has their price… Discussing it further, we agreed that about half the females there were on the take and had their price, the other half may not have been motivated by money, but neither did they seem like they would be adverse to approach. I really do not think this is a place where your typical "good girl" goes.

You got it, Spasso’s is quite the sophisticated meat market. There was real hunger in the eyes of some of the guys their last night, many of them having no shame, wandering around and leering at the women, examining them closely, looking for a catch. My best guess would be that the males in the crowd comprised about half locals, half tourists and they were definitely a well heeled bunch. We even caught a glimpse of Thailand's very own farang porno star. Yes, "Mr N" was there, but he seemed much more interested in watching his beloved Middlesborough get a hiding from Arsenal than in recruiting a co-star for his next porn flick.

I find it amusing that people come all the way to Thailand, spending hundred and hundreds of dollars on air travel and maybe even more on accommodation, for many their prime motivation being some of the more accommodating women of the land. Once here, they seem to go budget on the women, spending most of their time in the likes of Sukhumvit or Pattaya.

It must be said that we are not talking about an environment that is wallet friendly here. Drinks are in the 200 – 300 baht bracket. A Heineken goes for 190 baht ++, non alcoholic drinks were 170 baht ++ and most cocktails 250 baht ++. And if you order any drink after 10:00 PM, it is +++, yeah, three pluses – government tax, service charge and the final one is something called excise tax. Why don't they just call it "keep the riff raff out tax" because that is what it seems to be. For anyone arriving after 10 PM, there is a cover charge of 650 baht which gets you two free drinks.

What the working girls in Spasso’s want for a night's work is anyone's guess. They must have some serious costs to recoup. And given that a lot of the customers in Spasso’s are no doubt guests of the Grand Hyatt Hotel whose rooms go for around $US 250 a night, the girls' ideas about remuneration for one night may not be so different from what a Bangkok English teacher earns in a week. My guess, and it is just that, a guess, would be that they would be looking for around 5,000 baht or so.

Spasso’s has a lot going for it. It is an extremely nice bar, the drinks are very good, especially the excellent cocktail menu and the music and sound system is excellent. For anyone on a tight budget, forget it, but if you want to have a bit of a splurge in a really nice environment and are interested in pursuing some really attractive women, either of the professional variety or not, this is the place for you. If you are the type of guy who prefers a Beemer to a Honda or an Omega to a Seiko, you might just find Spasso’s a breath of fresh air. Spasso’s most definitely warrants a visit.

What did he say?!


Kasikorn Bank near Rama 9 bridge.
Last week's picture was taken alongside the Rama 9 bridge which was just out of picture, to the left of the building which was of course the HQ of the Kasikornbank Public Co Ltd. (note that Kasikornbank is one word). If you said Thai Farmers Bank, you're technically wrong! Yeah, I'm a hard man to please… This week's pic is a little different. I do not want to know where it is but what was being said. The best / most humorous response wins a 500 baht credit at Tony's Bar in Soi Cowboy. Please note that the credit MUST be claimed within two weeks and it can only be used by the prize winner, although that winner can also use it to buy lady drinks. So, to claim the prize, you must be in bangkok at some time in the next two weeks to venture down to Tony's Bar to claim the prize. So, just what as being said…

FROM STICKMAN'S BAG OF EMAIL:

You filthy Euros!

I have been visiting Thailand for over a decade and I have brought over a dozen friends to Thailand. We have all been caught one time or another with a ladyboy by mistake. It’s all part of the experience I guess. The rule is: If you are not sure then get the hell out of there (but do it politely because the ladyboys sure can get real nasty and they hunt in packs). In my experience I have always been told by everyone that the ladyboys make far more money than the bar girls. It is usually heterosexual mainland Europeans that travel to Thailand especially for them. They sponsor the chop operation and they tend to send far more money each month than the usual falang sends to the usual bar girl. It takes a lot more money to keep up appearances as a ladyboy. They require many expensive operations from head to toe. (sex change, voice change, breast implants, Adams apple, nose job, face work, etc). At the same time they also require an extensive wardrobe, fragrances, make up and weekly hair styling. They are a rather peculiar and bizarre breed those ladyboys. Just what crazy thing possesses them to chop their own willy off? Personally I prefer to pee standing up.
Business as usual in Pattaya.
I'm down in Pattaya & a lot of the girls here are dancing topless & quite often with just a small skirt on without a G-string on underneath! When I asked one the dancers about this I was informed that she gets an extra 100 baht for this. I've also seen one bar just off Walking Street with shows of the balloons darts & lesbian type. So the bet about a police crackdown on closing times in Pattaya shouldn't have any takers, some bars here are staying open until three & the boys in brown seem not to care. Just an observation about the shows in the bar mentioned earlier, almost half of the customers were farang women (yes that's right, the guys bring their wives / girlfriends with them), & they want to sit in the front row. What do they get from watching the shows?
Bar girl / farang "true love".
If you truly do love her, than you will forgive, and forget about her past. God bless those who do for you are strong in mind and soul. For those who cannot forgive and forget, you're only human, but it would be best for both of you if you said your goodbyes and moved on.
Agreed, better education is sorely needed.
A native English speaking teacher at an international school; with a university degree, a post graduate teaching qualification and many years of teaching and holding ‘positions of responsibility’ in the UK (or USA, Australia etc) can expect to earn circa 60k. Therefore, somebody with no experience, no real interest in teaching and whose only qualification (if any) is a six week course should consider them self very lucky to be earning 30k for a few hours work in a country where the average wage is far lower. I am not a teacher but I believe that education is Thailand's path to a brighter future. It annoys me to hear people, who would be otherwise be unable to find employment in the Land of Smiles, grandiosely declaring themselves a teacher five minutes after stepping off the plane for their extended holiday.
You married HER?! You deserve what you get!
My new year resolution is to stop feeling sorry for blokes who complain about their bad marriages, particularly where a Thai woman is involved. True, everyone makes mistakes, people change, adverse circumstances conspire to sour relationships. But at the very minimum, the bloke has to take responsibility for having married the stupid bitch in the first place. Since many blokes who marry Thai women are already divorced, their good judgement has been called into question at least once before. A Thai wife can be the best wife in the world if a sensible choice is made, in other words, choosing a girl who you can communicate with and who respects you as a person, not just because she has nice tits and gives a good BJ.
Different flavour, same price.
I am now together almost four years with a Thai bargirl which I met during my holidays in Thailand and that was pure fun so far. Of course there were many money issues, but what the heck. If you can not afford those girls do not touch them. I can not hear the whining and complaining anymore of you guys who get into a relation with a Thai girl and later complain that they cost money. If you have a relation with a western women who will also "love" you; you also have to pay, ok maybe differently. Perhaps you pay more for her cosmetics instead of for a water buffalo. So where is the difference? The difference is that with the Thai women you will have better sex as she will make your wildest dreams come true, more fun and surely better looking compared to most western women who have faces and statues like men.

One night last week all the girls in Spanky's Bar in Nana Plaza were barfined, that is EVERY girl. Well it is only a small bar but still, a pretty good effort and the bosses were no doubt happy…or were they? With all of the girls bought out, the bar was effectively forced to close early and hence the amount of alcohol sold was down on what would be considered to be normal. So much for all this complaining of 1 PM shutting!

Walking along Walking Street after the holidays, things seem to be back to normal in Pattaya. Bars again are hurting for customers, strollers are fewer than would be expected for this time of year and reflecting a trend of several years ago, there are many, many Russian tourists. Along Second Road (Pattaya Nua), business seems to have dwindled to pre Christmas levels.

I hear a rumour that Nana Disco's entrance price has gone up to 200 baht from 160. I wonder quite what the reason for the increase is? That extra 40 baht isn't enough to discourage customers and won't contribute to keeping the riff raff out. Alcohol prices haven't gone up that much either. Ahhh, so they must have upgraded the premises or perhaps they are providing improved service? Nah, maybe it is just a price increase for the sake of profitability?!

Is Nana Plaza going through a transition from naughty nightlife area to an outdoor boxing arena? On Christmas Eve there was a great big fight involving a bunch of Thais, so big in fact that customers and girls alike lined up along the rails of all levels of Nana Plaza watching the action, just like a scene out of Ben Hur or Gladiator at the Coliseum, everyone roaring at the action below! And this past week, there was another fracas, this time involving a farang. First there was some telling between two farangs and two Thais, rumour has it that one of the Thais baited one of the farangs who was drunk. Things escalated and once the punches flew, so did the farangs, down the stairs, head over heels! The fight continued at ground level and what started as two on two became fifteen or so on two! As more of the local Thai lads joined in to support each other and have a crack at the farangs, it was obvious that some of them had had kickboxing training. Soon Khun Farang #1 escaped Nana Plaza bleeding fairly heavily, but Khun Farang #2, or should I say Mr. wannabe Bruce Lee, stayed to single-handedly take on a huge group of Thais. What a stupid idiot. Luckily for him, a few of the gals pulled him away and he reluctantly got out of it. Within a few minutes a number of cops arrived looking for the culprits. The moral of the story is easy: Don't fight against Thais because you will lose, even one on one. They are a bunch of really tough nuts, and if there are numbers, you might get a really savage beating. Remember, the police will arrest the guilty party, and Khun Farang is always guilty!

At night, many establishments on Pattaya's Walling Street put tables out well into the street, creating little street side restaurants, cafes and bars, all of which much provide a fantastic view of the freak show that passes by every night. The only problem is that it is making access very difficult for the said freaks and Walking Street is quite a hassle to navigate at the moment.

Walking Street or should it be Sitting Street?

Last Sunday on ITV news at a little after 7:00 PM, just a few hours after last week's column was published, ITV featured a report about farangs living in rural Thailand. I don’t recall them stating which province they, but I'd guess it was somewhere in Isaan. They reported how a lot of rural Thai women went to Pattaya and Phuket expressly to find a farang husband. The showed a few farangs and what a motley bunch they were. In one shot a farang opened the door of his rural shack to the camera, the poor old fella looked like he had just woken up, his hairy beer pot hanging out over a pair of shirts, a bewildered look on his face! Another fellow was shown working in the garden under the hot Thai sun. Goodness only knows what city Thais watching thought. Remember, many Thais would actually hire someone to do gardening, very much considered a menial task in this part of the world. Finally there was one farang who they introduced as being “fluent in Thai”. He talked about his life in Thailand in God awful Thai… One Thai woman who was interviewed, resplendent in rice field fatigues, told of how her relationship with a farang had not worked out and how he used to beat her a lot. While the commentary of the report may have been neutral, I can just imagine any middle or upper class family in hysterics at seeing farangs shacked up with these lower class, rural folks, the very people who city Thais tend to look down on. This piece brilliantly reinforced so many of the negative stereotypes that Thais have about us farangs. As Mrs. Stick said, farangs are really in the spotlight in Thailand at the moment.

And in TV sensationalism at its best, I just about brought up my breakfast whilst watching the box one morning this past week. There I was drinking my morning coffee, watching the news which was reporting about violence in the south, and showed a policeman closely inspecting a motorbike. There was the sound of an explosion and where the bike had been, the picture was suddenly filled with smoke, dust and flying debris. They immediately cut to the next shot and we are shown the body of the policeman face down, out for the count on the ground, covered in blood with both of his arms about a foot shorter than they had been in the previous shot, completely blown off by a bomb that it had been set in the bike. It is one thing seeing still shots on the front page of some of the local newspapers, but seeing it all happen on TV is stomach churning.

Does Bangkok have a new Nite Owl? Colin Hastings, the man behind the English language monthly The Big Chilli and who has been around the Bangkok traps forever, wrote an entertainment column in the Post on Friday which may well be the Post's replacement for the infamous Bernard Trink. The first column was a summary of drinking spots popular with Westerners in the city and the article tried to kill the notion that nightlife here is not what it used to be. What will next week bring us? Will any of the naughty bar areas be covered? It is too soon to draw any comparisons between what Colin is doing and what Trink did.

As predicted in last week's column, Trink is alive and well – and his column lives on! A new website has been erected and Trink's column is continuing there, the first post-Post column published this past Friday. Not only will the Nite Owl column continue, so too will his movie reviews. The small catch is that the column is only available to paid up members on his new pay site. Trink has been sensible and is charging just $US12 per year for access. I have to give Trink credit for not giving up on his column and for the first time in a very long time, he is free to write exactly what he wants, without the editorial directives that he was no doubt forced to operate under at the Post.

Be aware of the possible consequences of doing a runner at the end of the month if your job is getting to you. One of our teachers did a runner at New Year, collected his pay with no intention of ever returning. Such is not at all uncommon in the teaching industry in Thailand. But, if you are legally employed, i.e. you have a work permit, then there may well be consequences. If you are going immediately to another job, you must get your work permit signed off and doing a runner from your employer makes this difficult. If the work permit is not properly signed off, then you will not be able to get a new one! But for some people who do not intend to work again in Thailand, so the work permit is less a worry, but then the visa, which is tired to your work permit, becomes an issue. Once a work permit is cancelled, your visa needs to be changed – and you are given just seven more days to stay in the country. But what if you want to stay longer – and the existing visa is for a longer period of time and you do not want the hassle of being forced to leave within 7 days and re-enter again? What one could do is stay in the country for however long (before the visa expires that is) and when exiting the country, make sure one has a re-entry permit, which would make it appear that you were returning, when in fact you were not. If you do not have that re-entry permit then you may get asked sticky questions about the validity of your visa, your tax status and who knows what else? Doing a runner from a job is pretty questionable but then the Thais make it difficult and in many ways invite people to do just that when they insist on teachers giving 3 months notice.

You filthy perverts, now the secret is out! Here I was, mistakenly thinking that just because I hadn't seen any of you lot take katoeys out of Nana, that you weren't indulging in the pleasures of the flesh with the "he shes". Being forced to parade them through the gauntlet that is the only way in and out of Nana is a bit much for most, but it would seem another option exists. Some, customers have been taking advantage of the bonking booths, those small cubicles that exist in some bars for short time services. It seems that katoeys get to see a lot of the bonking booths, even though I would have thought most katoeys would be too tall to fit.

I don't spend a lot of time on the roads, preferring to take the skytrain whenever possible, but it seems whenever I am on the road, my journey is slowed down by police checkpoint after police checkpoint. The cops seem to be getting much tougher on traffic with check points seemingly everywhere. I am stopped at checkpoints either as a driver or a passenger, at least 3 times a week. It's a nuisance.

Down in the Thermae you now need to pay not just to put liquids into your body, but to let them out too! The princely sum of 5 baht is charged to use the loo in the Thermae. Actually, 5 baht must make it one of the most expensive toilets in town, with most pay per piss venues charging 2 or 3 baht only.

Is it me or is getting a taxi a little more difficult these days than it was in the past? Maybe there are less cabs about, maybe all the drivers are upcountry for the rice harvest or maybe it is due to the tourist high season? Whatever it is, getting an available taxi seems to take much longer these days.

Just to make your search for a decent Thai woman that little bit more difficult, be careful when dating any Thai woman who has a policeman as direct relative. When relationships go sour with Thai woman, they can get a little nasty ­ and if the Thai woman in question has a cop as a relative, they often feel that they can do as they wish with impunity. One fellow I know de-flowered a policeman's daughter and for now they are still seeing each other but if he doesn’t marry her, he'd better be on the next plane out of here. Yep, it is that big a deal!

Mrs. Stick's Corner

Each week, Mrs. Stick answers 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. If you would like to thank her for her advice, she has a nasty addiction to wine, any wine, she tells me. 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 for her should be limited to 100 words.

Question 1: I am American and will be marrying a Thai woman in a few weeks. I sort of understand and accept the dowry concept, but am a little unclear on the issue of gold for the bride. Is this strictly 24K investment jewellery (money in the bank) or is 18k wearable jewellery in combination with some 24k, additionally acceptable?

Mrs Stick says: The dowry payment and the gold are a symbol or the marriage and they represent wealth and success. Surely you want to start the marriage off as well as possible? As far as I know, only 24k gold is acceptable.

Question 2: I'd love to pick up something here in the US for a friend's teenage boys (15 & 16) that they can't easily get in Thailand, but would impress their buddies and gain them a little face. I have never met them, so really don't know their interests. Any ideas?

Mrs Stick says: Actually, you can get just about everything in Thailand, so it might be best to ask directly what they would like. Just getting a souvenir or gift from you, a foreigner, will give them face amongst their peers.

That's all for this week. Mrs Stick said she wants some more interesting questions and that this week's were boring! So, send her some spicy questions and we'll include them next week. As always, your feedback is always welcome. Did I get it right about Spasso’s or were our impressions, based on a very short visit, totally inaccurate? Let me know. See you next week.

Your Bangkok commentator

Stick



Thanks go out to Mr Write in Pattaya and Dave The Rave