Stickman's Weekly Column January 25th, 2004

No Opening Piece Today



Where is this pic?


It was a new bar in Khao Sarn Road.
Where is it – location will do.
Last week's picture was taken of one of the new bars in Khao Sarn Road. I'm sorry, I don't even know the name of it because when the photo was taken, the bar had just opened and there was no name outside. Where is this week's pic, above? The first person to correctly state where it is 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.

FROM STICKMAN'S BAG OF EMAIL:

A cultural exchange.

I have much affection for Thai people and believe we in the West could learn much. If I could "gift" Thailand with something Western it would be our justice system. If I wished for something in return, it would be "sanuk" or rather the responsibility of "sanuk" which is, as I see it, that no matter the nature of the task, there has to be some fun in here somewhere….lets find it.
Less hookers, more tourists?
I think there is now a negative correlation between tourism numbers and prostitution availability (in Thailand) i.e. Thailand could actually increase tourism numbers and income from it by shedding its "Patpong image". I think many Thai hard heads would be quite happy to relinquish Bangkok's nightlife crown to Singapore, Taiwan or somewhere else. They understand the shift in tourist demographics. The family holiday market is vastly larger than it was 10 years ago and is increasing rapidly. More and more families can now afford to travel overseas for some of their holidays. Travel is less and less the domain of single business people, young singles & couples, the filthy rich and the retirement set. Result – the more you clean up the outdoor prostitution the more chance you have of increasing your slice of this increasingly lucrative demographic. Anecdotally: many adolescent age kids who have visited as a family love Thailand. It is all marvelously different. It is cheap, offers a ton of varied activities, and it is beautiful. Kids are filled with enthusiasm and excitement from the moment they have unpacked their bags. Try keeping teenagers out of MBK! To some it is the ultimate fun palace. Parents, after only days feel they can trust tuktuk drivers to take daughter and son from hotel to place in a way you would feel uncomfortable in most other countries. The only negative point any families have is when they encounter 'outdoor prostitution' – the cliché of fat old man hand in hand with 19 year old on Patong beach. Travel is less and less the domain of the childless.
NGOs cooking the books?
A new, official U.N. study has found that the rate of AIDS in Africa is well below half the rate that has been widely used by the special interest groups that want to raise money for themselves or instill fear in everyone else. Now the U.N. suspects the numbers my be overstated in other countries, such as Thailand, as well and will be looked into. This is not to say there is not a problem, but just as the anti smoking forces will claim thousands of death every day from second-hand smoke, one should always take these claims with a grain of salt. I doubt many politically correct newspapers or politicians or religious groups or women's groups will try to make this new study widely known.
I say stick to beer.
The Thai Red Cross book says that although BKK has modern tap water treatment facilities, the water often becomes contaminated somewhere between the municipal source and your tap (pipes are often in bad shape, corroded, allowing groundwater to leak in). They say it's OK to drink if you boil it first, but I have my doubts about this. Boiling may kill bacteria, but it won't remove all possible chemical contamination. I say stick to bottled water!
Orchard Towers.
During her visit to my place, my ex GF allowed that she and several friends (all working girls) spent Xmas week in Singapore. (This may also give you an idea of how much tourism in Pattaya has plummeted this year.) Her friends did very well at discos, each bagging several short-time stints daily at SGD $150 to $300 a pop (that converts to about 3,500 to 7,000 baht for short time). My ex met a man the first night who paid her $500 (Singapore) each night during her stay—converting to more than 70,000 baht gross. While there, the girls met many working associates from Pattaya and Bangkok who were doing equally well. So the next time readers express dismay at the rising cost of female companionship in Bangkok or Pattaya, they might reflect on how good they have it compared with men in Singapore.
Tattoophobia.
It seems to me that the government efforts to rid Thailand of undesirable foreigners in exchange for the more 'well heeled' variety, is not completely without merit. May I suggest a simple, easily enforceable step, that would get them at least halfway there, almost overnight, and with no perceivable loss in revenue. Refuse entry to Thailand to anyone wearing a tattoo. In western societies, and as far as I can gather in Asian societies also, the wearing of tattoos is consistent with a criminal mindset. In most western countries, no respectable company would consider employing a tattooed person, despite our strict anti-discriminatory laws. Conversely, no person who wishes to enjoy a successful career would ever consider getting themselves tattooed, at least anywhere that showed. This considered, I see a disproportionate amount of (aggressively) tattooed people swaggering around in Thailand, in Patong, in Bangkok, and especially in Pattaya, compared with say London, New York, or any other big cities worldwide. It is almost as if they are saying "you can't touch us". Why not :
1: Refuse all tattooed people entry.
2: Send all tattooed Thai people back to their home provinces. (Them only having been influenced by foreigners to deface their bodies in this way.)
3: Throw out any tattooed foreigners who come into contact with Immigration officers or Police. Let's eliminate the whole insidious and disgusting thing from Thailand. By eliminating the culture of tattoo, you would be taking a step toward eliminating the culture of drug taking, the culture of rebellion from parents, and even taking a step toward restoring society to a more lawful Buddhist democracy.
A meeting was held at the Lumpini Police station last Sunday for the managers and owners of bars who fall within their jurisdiction, namely those in Nana Plaza. There was the usual message that naughty shows are forbidden and any breach of the rules will be punished heavily blah, blah, blah. But one new thing did come up. The boys in brown stated that any farangs working in the industry must have work permits and that they will be checking up on said farangs and their documentation. Now this took one or two people by surprise and threw the proverbial cat amongst the pigeons! They also said that they would like to see bars call for closing around 1:30 AM with all customers out and clear of Nana Plaza by 2:00 AM. My interpretation of this last point is that they are trying to cover their own asses.

Cascade were raided last Friday by Lumpini police for "showing" and could face a closure. Nothing definite yet but Cascade could be in hot water with the authorities. Oh, how sad… Given that this bar must rank amongst the quietest in Nana, there should not be too many disappointed people.

For my first work permit, I was pointed to the "clinic down the road" and told to go and get a medical certificate. Expecting goodness knows only what, I feared being poked and prodded by a Thai quack. It turned out to be a painless affair, me on my ay in less than 5 minutes, never having been poked or prodded and only 20 baht out of pocket! Things could well be tightening up on even medical certificates! A friend going through the process tried three clinics and was refused at each before succumbing for a genuine check up at hospital, eventually getting the much needed document.

If you are like me, Hua Hin conjures up images of a relaxed Thai beach resort, not at all like the more rowdy Pattaya or Phuket. A quiet, relaxed town where you can go and escape the madness that is found in so many of places popular with Western tourists. But perhaps Hua Hin is not as quiet as I had thought. There have been a spate of muggings in Hua Hin and a number of farang residents are now quite concerned. Since Christmas Eve, four farang bar owners have been ambushed. The pattern of the attacks seems to be the same with two thugs on motorcycles approaching the victim from behind before smashing them in the face. One poor victim was in hospital having his nose and face rebuilt! It sounds like a bloody horror movie. There was even one tourist in his 70's who got smashed up as well! Huge criticism has been made of the local police who have dispatched non-English speaking officers for interviews and who seemed largely disinterested. Now this is high season and muggings are not uncommon in tourist areas, but this seems a bit targeted. The bar owners involved are said to be good guys, not rowdy, troublesome types. There seems to be a pattern to the incidents. The victims are always robbed, but cell phones and / or motorcycles never taken, as is the case in more typical robberies, especially when the victim was Thai. It has some farang residents so worried that more than a few have resorted to carrying "defensive measures". Who is behind this? It's one thing to close the bars down earlier, but quite another to have hit squads out bashing bar owners.

Dean Barrett will be signing copies of "Skytrain To Murder" at Big Dogs, Nana Plaza, Sukhumvit Road, soi 4, Sunday, 1 February, 5 to 7 PM. Dean will also be signing his other books set in Thailand and China including "Kingdom of Make Believe" and "Memoirs of a Bangkok Warrior".

The Londoner was closed earlier this week for renovations. It would generally be considered odd for an establishment to choose to close at this time of year, it being the high season and all that, so I guess that means that the bulk of the Londoner’s customers are locals. I wonder what changes they'll make. Let’s hope that the renovations aren’t followed by a round of price rises!

Aood the former greeter at Super Star and most recently greeter at Goldfinger is missing. It seems Aood and Randy (owner of Goldfinger) had a conversation over the amount of drinks Aood bought for customers one night about three weeks ago. Things got a little overheated and Aood took off angry. Aood has not been heard from since. Aood and Randy are long time friends and Randy has told everyone that he did not FIRE Aood and wants him to come back to work as soon as he can. Aood has been a fixture on the Pong for about 20 years, starting at Lucy's Tiger Den, then The Grand Prix, Super Star and finally Goldfinger. A lot of his friends would like to know where he is and if he is coming back to Goldfinger or moving on to another bar. Any info anyone has concerning Aood would be appreciated.

What is going on down at Sukhumvit Soi 22 and Asoke? The Thonglor police have ordered 12:00 closing for the beer bars and their presence last Friday night ensured it was enforced. Some of the girls working in the area have said that they have been told to open 6 until midnight. Is this a trial run (knowing Thai authorities they would do this to show that there are no adverse effects to tourism), or could it be something to do with the state visit of Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands, ironically one of the freest countries in the world? Maybe the police already had their leaflets printed prior to the deferral of the closing times decision and the police decided not to waste them? Needless to say, if it confuses people living here, what do tourists think?

Did you know that many of the girls working in Pattaya's beer bars are actually freelancers? In some beer bars, the mamasan gives them the choice of being on the payroll – or just showing up whenever they want to freelance. A lot of girls prefer to forego the very low salary that beer bars pay which is usually around 2,000 baht a month, a figure which may even be subject to penalties if they do not come in, arrive late etc. But it doesn't make any difference to the customer whether the girl is on the bar's payroll or not. He still has to pay the same (usually 200 baht) bar fine. But, if you are interested in taking out the same bar girl for several days, you might want to ask her just what exactly her terms of employment are. The freelancers are usually more than happy to come straight to your room, thus allowing you to avoid paying the bar fine. Girls on salary won't want to do this, since their pay will be cut for not showing up to work, meaning that she does not have to go to "work" and you save on the barfine. Just remember if you make your own arrangements with a freelancing bargirl, it's best to do it out of sight of the mamasan and if you spend a few days with her, to stay away from the bar.

Why is it that virtually all som tum vendors are women? Can't guys make som tum?!

50 baht drinks are on offer at Queen's Castle 2 in Patpong before 10:00 PM. A damned good deal ­ and a big surprise to see discounting at one of the King’s Group bars ­ right in the middle of the high season.

As far as I know, The Netherlands and New Zealand are the only two Western countries that do not have a reciprocal prisoner release agreement with the government of Thailand. I'm not sure of the reason in Netherlands's case, but in NZ's, it is apparently due to the fact that there are far more Kiwis held in prisons abroad, than there are foreigners in NZ prisons – and thus there would be an increased cost to the NZ government to initiate such an agreement. The Netherlands are apparently discussing this with the Thai government at present and who knows, help may be at hand for some of the Dutch nationals held in Thai jails. But for Kiwis, it looks like a lost cause. So for all of my fellow countrymen, don't go doing drugs or other silly things in Thailand because you won't be getting shipped back to your homeland in a hurry, like your foreign cousins.

The 9th annual Father Joe Maier charity golf tournament being organised by Doug at Bourbon Street will be held on March 12 at Meuang Gaew golf course in the capital. Contact to Doug to sign up to play. Sponsors should also contact Doug. He is looking for major sponsors, hole sponsors, giveaways, and anything they can auction off like hotel and dinner vouchers.

A puzzle: I have been living and working in Bangkok since May 1998 i.e. for less than 6 years. This website is now in its seventh year yet I didn't start the site until I had been settled in Bangkok for about 6 months. How can that be?

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. Please note that I may not necessarily agree with what she says. Unfortunately, she doesn't have time to reply to your inquiries via email. Questions for her should be limited to 100 words.

Question 1: Is cheating by Thai women an accepted practice as much as it is compared to Thai men, do Thai women consider cheating with farang as a form of revenge.

Mrs. Stick says: I think cheating is unacceptable in any society and Thailand is no different. Your question is a little unclear. Do you mean a Thai woman in a relationship with a Thai man will cheat on him with a farang or do you mean a Thai woman with a farang will cheat more often on him than she would with a Thai man? Maybe some Thai women have been cheated on by Thai men in the past and they cheat on, future boyfriends as a consequence of that, some sort of warped revenge for things past, be they farang or Thai. Cheating in a relationship is unacceptable no matter what.

Question 2: In a country where social status and flaunting of wealth are so prevalent (not that it isn't in the West), how does a light skinned professional Thai female office worker reconcile the fact that she might make 10,000 baht a month while an Isaan girl can easily make many times that as a "professional" in a Nana Plaza office? Does she envy the purchasing power that the Isaan girl has over her, but at the same time looks down on her on the social ladder?

Mrs. Stick says: The answer is easy to this one. Money is just one thing that we get from our job, just one of the things that are important to us. On of the important things in life is acceptance by others. I am sure that while many office workers do earn much less than prostitutes, they have a much greater level of contentment with themselves. Look into a prostitute's eyes and you do not see pride. When someone asks a prostitute what she does for a living and they struggle to answer such a simple question, how does that look? What about if they have children? What can they tell them? Office workers are quite happy, believe me.

Question 3: I and a friend met two Thai girls in a hotel disco. To cut a long story short we ended up sleeping together for the rest of the holiday. My girl claimed to be university educated, fairly well off (she insisted on paying her way) and had a job as a restaurant manageress and was holidaying in Pattaya. My query is that why would an educated, well off Thai girl go to a disco frequented by mainly by Arab sex tourists and freelancers? She had no problem going to all the usual bar haunts for farangs in Pattaya and even wanted to see the gogos. I was under the assumption that 'normal' Thai girls don't do this. Her friend even claimed she had an Australian boyfriend who was a butterfly but still slept with my friend. What is going on here?

Mrs. Stick says: I guess that you have met a woman who really doesn't represent Thai woman that well. It is quite new to me to hear of a situation like this, but I don't know what Stickman thinks. I would be shocked if he has seen this before. As you met these girls over a relatively short period of time, maybe they are not looking for money, but looking to snare a farang long term and this is how they go about it.

It will be interesting to see if this bird flu issue that is forming a dark cloud of SE Asia gets any worse. If my email is anything to go by, there is real concern. I received more than 10 emails about this issue alone yesterday. At the time of writing there has been one suspected death due bird flu to in Thailand and should any more die form it, or should it start to escalate like SARS did, then we could be in for another major health scare which could very well have an effect on the number of tourists to Thailand. It doesn't seem to be so bad this time around but then I hope that the government actually tries to handle it responsibly. There are all sorts of comments, from both Thai and farang, about the government possibly covering something up in an attempt to maintain confidence in the poultry industry. One thing's for sure, amongst a good number of Thais, chicken is well and truly off the menu. Many chicken vendors have closed up shop for now. But I wouldn't worry too much. Yes, the disease is in Thailand. Yes, someone has died in a suspected case, but the chances of contracting it are fairly slim. Getting bowled over by a tuktuk on the streets of the capital is still far more likely. With Mr Taksin counting on high growth in the economy this year, this has got to hurt things and all I can say is, don't count your chickens until they have hatched!

Your Bangkok commentator,

Stick

Thanks go out to Dave The Rave, HuaHinAfterDark and Claymore