Stickman's Weekly Column February 22nd, 2004

Women Are Women, None Are Perfect


"Thai women make the perfect wife. They will cook and clean all day long, always doing their level best to make their man happy. And at the end of the day, when all of the work is done, they'll spread their legs and allow their man to have his way. Hell, they'll even wipe his ass when he takes a dump.” I have lost count of the number of people who have told me stories like this and the funny thing is that many actually believe this sort of stuff! Yeah, Thai women do make good wives but some of this sort of stuff is just laughable.

The funny thing is that so many Western guys have totally unrealistic ideas about Thai women. Yes, Thai women do have many wonderful traits, many which the bulk of Western women either left with their mothers in the past or perhaps never even had, but don't forget that they have some very bad characteristics too, some of which most western women don't have.

If you have ever watched any of the Thai soaps, you will no doubt have seen the way that of the Thai female stars pout and sulk when things don’t go their way. I used to always think Thai soaps had some of the worst, most unrealistic scripts imaginable but funnily enough, this is actually how some Thai women really are! If they don’t get their way, they bitch and moan and generally act like a spoilt, moody, sulky teenager. For whatever reason, I notice this more and more with some of the middle and upper class girls, as opposed to those from the lower classes, or those from a rural background, who tend to be more down to earth and less volatile in many ways. Perhaps their expectations are lower?

I have received a number of emails from people who tell me of the constant threats their wife makes if they don’t get their own way. Worst of all, I see this sort of thing happening all the time around me and I am shocked at the number of guys who have told me that their wives threaten to leave them and even go to the extent of packing their bags and putting them by the apartment door, all because things don’t go their way. What the hell is this nonsense? I have always believed that you NEVER say the “D” word EVER in marriage, unless that is your genuine intention.

And don't be fooled into thinking that because you found your darling outside of the bar environment that there is no chance she'll threaten either herself or you with a weapon. Yep, wives pulling knives or throwing things around the house is not at all unusual.

Many Thai women are self-absorbed. The next time you're dining in a restaurant, watch some of the Thai couples and observe the woman. A good number will be on their their mobile phone, gossiping about this or that, totally oblivious to their male company. Non urgent chit chat, you have to wonder why the Thai guy with her accepts it.

And when it comes to independence, make no bones about it, many Thai women simply don't have it. They are dependent on their husband for so much, meaning that he may have very little free time for himself, to pursue such basic interests as reading a book. In many ways this is understandable due to the limited opportunities Thai women have – but that doesn't make it "right".

I was never married in the West and make no claims to having any understanding of what it is like to be married to a Western woman. This notwithstanding, I have serious doubts about some of the shit that some Western guys married to Thai women in Thailand accept. Why do some people put up with this?

One thing's for sure, don’t let your Thai wife (or girlfriend for that matter) walk all over you. Just like in the West, don’t cave in when unreasonable requests or demands are made for she'll lose respect for you and you will forever be like the front doormat, walked over, day after day. And whatever you do, don't make the crazy assumption that just because she is Thai she will be better than any Western female. So many guys seem to be in love with the idea of having a Thai girlfriend or wife, rather than being in love with the woman herself.

Thai women have got a lot going for them and can make the most wonderful wife, but one must have realistic expectations when entering into a relationship with them. There are good and bad women the world over and Thai women sure do have an exotic charm about them for the average Westerner. But just remember that like their Western sisters, none of them come with a guarantee.

Where is this pic?

It was the Grand Sheraton Sukumvit.
And on Sukumvit again…
Last week's picture was taken from the carpark behind the area which used to house the beer bars on Sukumvit soi 23. The buildings in the background are Times Square and The Sheraton Grande Sukhumvit. This week's pic is not too far away from there either. I have blurred the names on a couple of the signs so as not to give it away. The first reader to correctly state where this week's pic is wins a 500 baht credit at Tony's Bar in Soi Cowboy. Please note that the credit MUST be claimed within two weeks. 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:
(positive stories and humorous anecdotes would be especially nice – send 'em in!)

Good riddance.

I would not consider it a change for the worse if Khun Thaksin was successful in isolating the naughty nightlife to small select areas. In fact I think he would be better served to just come out with sweeping legislation to that effect rather than this water torture tactic. If he has a vision for what the future holds, he should come out with it rather than risking erosion of his support amongst the Thai people. I also would not consider it a change for the worse if he were also successful in getting a different class of tourist to Thailand. I'm sure you are getting a load of "we're taking our business elsewhere and the Thais will feel it in their wallet" emails from the punters who overestimate their impact on the Thai economy. I agree with you that the money earned from tourism will be largely unaffected and say good riddance to the sex tourist.
Aspirations of countries to the south?
Regarding the closing of night spots early. It's hard to blame Thais for wanting to improve the image of Thailand. Were it my country and overly wealthy foreigners were coming and abusing the locals, boozing in the streets and abusing the culture, I know I would want a change. (In Australia we can booze and abuse our culture or lack of it quite well without foreign assistance). I'm not sure though that I would appreciate the curtailing of basic human rights but I don't think the closing of bars early in most areas is a bad thing. Many countries close night spots between 11:00 pm and 1:00 am and it's common to have zones dedicated to night life where licences can be obtained to stay open late. Whilst Malaysia and Singapore may be anathema for many foreigners, the average Thai looks up to these places as well ordered, respectable countries and desires Thailand to emulate them. I wouldn't like to see Thailand morph into a Singapore or Malaysia but I am happy that Thais can be proud of their country and throw off the negative reputation it has earned.
Concerns of an expat.
As regards the opening hours issue; as a well paid expat living on the Sukumvit I am pretty pissed off with it all. My concerns are two fold. As I work standard office hours I tend to drink in the bars from about 8 PM till 12 PM. I will now have to compete with a more concentrated level of tourists for everything from places to sit / play pool / ladies attention. I am soooo tired of hearing about the debate on whether it will happen, when it will happen, what affect it will have on tourism / society / price of fish etc etc
Thailand old?
I want to comment on the Thai Govt's aim for more "higher end" tourists. I live in New York City and deal with many wealthy people in the city and from abroad. These people with the big money and taste for an exotic port think Thailand is OLD. Most of these people that Thailand thinks they will lure with their moral SS agency, want new exciting venues. Most of these people have asked me for help in planning trips to Vietnam, Cambodia, Myanmar. I fell in love with Thailand myself and will always want to be there, but the moral police running amok is not attracting my money or desire. There are enough people trying to control me as it is.
Farangs and gaijin, same same?
I can’t help but compare the feelings that farangs in Thailand have to that of gaijin (farangs) in Japan. A lot of long term westerners in Tokyo feel that the Japanese are arrogant, do not accept them in society, and treat westerners as second class citizens. English teachers also complain of the apathetic and lazy attitude of students and feel they would be better off banging their head against a brick wall. Racist policies and over nationalistic views in education and government departments drive people up the wall. Many westerners in Japan spend their time in the bars complaining how life is better in the west, and if it weren't for the money (and / or girls) they would go home. I spent ten years there and for the most of it, loved it. I also went through times when I hated it and did my fair share or `Japan bashing’. After ten years in Japan I decided it was time to go back to `the good life' in Australia. I bragged to my friends that it was time to go back and enjoy the large living spaces, beautiful beaches, relaxed attitudes, and all round good life that Australia has to offer. Well, I was wrong! I have back for 3 months and I hate it here – BORING! I miss the energy of a big Asian city like Tokyo. I miss the crowds (people watching in Asia is great! And is very hard on isolated beaches in Oz!). I miss the arrogant Japanese (now they don’t seem that bad at all) I miss all the things that used to piss me off! And I now realize that I was looking at Australia through rose coloured glasses when I was in Japan. I miss it so much that I am planning to move to Bangkok. I know this will be a big adjustment from Tokyo but you only live once. We forget just how good we have it in places like Tokyo and Bangkok, living in a community of foreigners from all corners of the globe, everyone having their own story. Being able to just sit on the fence of society and pick out the faults – and say how backwards things are done. We are spoilt, and forget that we are.
The past repeating itself?
Interesting about the negativity about the whole Thai scene. It reminds me of the 60's and 70's here in the USA when the emancipation of blacks was really pushed. A lot of the Farang complaints sound to me pure racist. The uppity native / black wants it piece of he pie and don't act like the subjugated servant anymore, upsetting to some. I do believe many of the Farangs in Thailand came to the country because they felt superior to the natives, now the natives feel they can stand by themselves and don't need the white man anymore.
Rampant consumerism.
There is a new commercialism to Thailand some Thais like it others like my gf and her family don't. They think this crass commercialism kills the spirituality and basic honesty of Thais. Farangs complain about cheating, but now Thais complain about the same thing. Thais cheating Thais is now a much more frequent thing, even out in the country. Also your concern about increased crime rates is shared by many. I feel the same, as more of this social order crap is implemented (not only the bar hours, also the curfew for teenagers), this will push things into the underground and will open the gates for more street crime.
At the entrance to Sukhumvit soi 4 is a banner flapping in the wind with “Keep Tourism alive in Sukumvit ­ Zone it” written across it. Closer inspection reveals that it is written on a sheet, my guess a dirty old sheet from one of the local short-time hotels and it looks more like what a bunch of schoolboys would scribble on and take to a major sports match supporting their favourite team than something intended to make a strong political message, backed by a bunch of businesses making decent money. I hear that new signs will be going up within Nana Plaza in Thai.

The banner pictured below appeared on Soi Cowboy on Friday night. Translated into English it says "Tourists bring money into Thailand. Sukhumvit is an area for tourism. Please consider making this area a special zone". Actually there are three such banners on Soi Cowboy, all of which can be seen in the picture, one at each entrance to the soi and just in case you missed either of them, one in the middle. Along with all of the other sad news of reduced opening hours, the Beer Garden on Soi 23 is closing next month. It has always been a nice part of the ambience in that part of town and will be missed. Similar banners exist at the start of Sukhumvit soi 22 and I have been told, but have not seen, that there is one on Soi Zero too.

Banners on Soi Cowboy.

On the ground in the Nana area this week, the ferocity of the negative comments, the aggressive attitude and the strong anti-government comments made by the girls cast a very negative atmosphere in the air. While I feel pity for them and don't wish salary reductions and reduced employment options on anyone, the bar staff seemed to have forgotten that they are working in the service industry, and such an attitude will push customers away. Many staff are already planning their escape, Pattaya their first choice and Patpong also mentioned. If there is a mass exodus of girls, this could kill the area very quickly and the bar owners are going to have quite a job on their hands convincing the girls to stay. I hope they manage it. It is the bar owners who make the investment in the bars that makes it all possible.

And presumably it is the same people who have organized a petition, which is doing the rounds in the bars in Soi 4. A good idea, but I just wonder if the Thai government will accept the signatures of foreigners in the 50,000 which require them to review something?

Speaking of all of this midnight closing, I don’t think we'll see the effects of it on international tourism for quite some time. Locally, the effects will be immediate, especially if it is enforced to the letter of the law. But in terms of international tourist arrivals, it will take some time to see any real trends developing. The peak of the high season for this year is behind us already so we can expect the usual, gradual drop off in the number of visitors each month. Most holidaymakers seem to book at least a couple of months in advance so March and April should be largely unaffected. Come May, we are almost into the low season so we probably won't be able to determine just what sort of drop off there is, if any, until perhaps next year's high season.

It is about time that more of the bars started offering a few genuine specials, promotions or something varied or different to lure customers in the door. The naughty bars which are or have been very popular tend to be those that do something a bit different. Long Gun, Hollywood Carousel and Angel Witch all spring to mind as bars that have at some time offered something different, all of which brought more customers in the door. Bars like The Dollhouse and Electric Blue which have run fantastic specials often referred to as “crazy hour” also find more and more punters drinking in their establishments. Away from the naughty nightlife, my current favourite bar, The Londoner, has many great deals on ­ and punters are flocking there in droves to take advantage of the excellent specials. Bars that offer something a bit different do well and this was never better illustrated than when Mrs. Stick and I went to The Dubliner this past week. The food was excellent, but was a bit on the expensive side and the bar was relatively quiet. We left The Dubliner and went over to The Londoner, a major competitor, and it was packed. It seems that The Londoner has specials on almost every night ­ and genuinely good specials too, not this poxy 10 baht off a drink that some bars insult us with by calling it a happy hour. So while The Dubliner is a very pleasant bar and I really do like it there, it is hard to beat The Londoner when they have all sorts of great deals on. There is a huge amount of competition for bars. A bit of imagination and a few specials will bring in the crowds.

Rainbow 2 is currently the busiest bar in Nana Plaza and there are some extremely attractive gogo dancers in there. Hollywood Carousel has recovered well from the 30 day closure imposed upon them when they were the busiest bar around but it has lost its crown to Rainbow 2 which is now the most consistently busy gogo bar in Nana Plaza. A shining star we would call it, wouldn't we? The main problem that customers complain about Rainbow 2 is that there are too many girls who are only interested in Japanese customers. If you don't mind being squeezed in, surrounded by what looks like a Japanese working man's club, then the viewing is quite spectacular!

Another two bars that are very well rated in NEP are Angel Witch and Play Skool. So along with Hollywood Strip and Rainbow 2 little has changed. Rainbow 1 has gone off the boil, possibly due to the fact that Rainbow 2 is the hottest bar around, attracting the best girls. Pretty Lady also do a good trade when they have topless dancing. The other bars are average, a few downright poor.

Outside of Bangkok, some bars remain confident that they will stay open and that they will be unaffected by the new regulations. The long time mamasan at Happy A Gogo in Pattaya has said that they will not have to close until 2:00 AM in Pattaya on Walking Street while the other places in town will close around 12:30 AM or 1:00. Down on Samui, word coming out of the Green Mango is that it will open until late, as per usual. It is great to hear optimism like this.

They have started work on the re-make of Rififi bar. The whole front of the bar is closed off with big tarps. The workers are doing a whole re-make including removing the section of tiles that had formed the front wall, looks like it will be a through job of converting Rififi into a new style place.

The Cave in Sukhumvit Soi 33 appears to be no longer. At 900 baht for the first drink, I never did make it down there for a look. It is interesting that the authorities seemed to know exactly what was going on there and closed it down this past week.

The Sukhumvit area nightlife owners had their meeting as mentioned in last week's column. They are writing a petition in Thai with as many signatures as possible and another one in English to be handed to the government. They have a a goal and they want to approach it in such a way that doesn't piss anyone off. That seems to be one of the problems with doing business here these days. The whole atmosphere and feeling is that you have to tread very carefully, being careful about what you do and even what you say! If you say or do the wrong thing, specifically something that is not in line with the current regime's plans, then there is very much a feeling that the boys in brown will come around the corner and whisk you away to some sort of interrogation chamber with medieval weapons to punish you. Ok, so one still has the freedom to do and say as they please, but it doesn't feel like that. It is quite amazing to watch people engaged in conversation about certain issues, and move their head from side to side, checking to see who may be listening, before offering any thoughts that might be construed as less than positive about the government.

The beer bars in Sukhumvit Soi 23, or the area where they used to be at least, is on the site of what was Asoke Complex Building and then Thai Daewoo Building and is now owned by a Japanese company. The project stalled in 1997 and changed hands but already has the foundations and basement walls installed for a 50 storey development. The largest earners are allegedly the billboards which surround the site and collapsed briefly in 2001. Currently plans are for a new luxury hotel on this site which already boasts its own MTR connection in the basement. Hence it is the only building in Bangkok with its own connection and it is not even built yet. Will bar owners be terminated in a Sukumvit Square like mass eviction in 2004 or 2005? Let's hope not!

Are you in Bangkok at the weekend? If you are, check out the Sunday Brunch at The Courtyard Restaurant on Soi Tonson in the Somerset Building. Bourbon Street's new restaurant have a Sunday brunch at the Tonson outlet. All You Can Eat Buffet serving a whole heap of decent sounding food for 380 baht ++.

Have you noticed that some Thai people are incredibly sensitive when you discuss Thailand with them? You can say ten things about Thailand, nine of them extremely positive and one a little negative, yet there is every likelihood that they will see your comments as bad, and anti Thailand, based on the single negative point that you made! Funny, eh.

CS Loxinfo, one of the best local ISPs, is offering unlimited net access at 256/128 for 3,600 baht per month. This is probably the best deal in Thailand for broadband for the moment and makes broadband affordable to most of us.

A reader is asking as to the whereabouts of a gentleman from the US known as Robert Walters. He was teaching English in Bangkok and had taught in Korea before that. He seems to have several years ago disappeared from the face of the earth. If you're out there Robert, your friends are looking for you!

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: Am I slowly going native? I eat fried chicken with a fork, put tomato sauce on pizza and eat ice cream in a bread roll. Admittedly, I have not yet put a 5 baht coin into my ear. Have I been in Thailand too long?

Mrs. Stick says: Until Mr Stick told me what this meant, I had no idea that Thai people and farangs were different like this! But if you are happy with what you are doing and the way you live your life, then really, that is all that counts. Just because we do things differently, doesn't mean it is wrong (or right).

Question 2: I believe you are a middle-class Thai woman. What do you and your friends think about the new bar closing times? Will the fun loving Thai people actually accept this imposition on their freedom?

Mrs. Stick says: Personally, it doesn't affect me and Stickman's lifestyle because we seldom go out late these days. But in terms of limiting our freedom, I really do not like it. I am all for the government trying to solve the social problems, but they really need to do more than this. Just closing the bars will have a limited effect on this problem. Many Thai men believe that having many conquests or mistresses proves their manhood and even their success in life. The government really needs to try and change the Thai men's way of thinking and somehow try and promote the idea and benefits of monogamy. They really need to look at it all from another angle because I fear that what they are doing with the midnight closing will create a whole new wave of problems.

So next weekend is possibly the last weekend in Thailand when all bars can legally remain open until 2:00 AM. It could be the end of an era, or will we see the authorities back down to what looks like growing pressure and huge resistance to the change?

I must apologise for the somewhat negative tone of this week's column and for a while I wondered if perhaps I have been losing the plot a bit. But then I realised that there remains a lot of negativity in the air with all of this midnight closing business and if we look at what is appearing in the mainstream English langauge press, it is also fairly negative, particularly the letters to the editor and some of the editorials, especially The Nation which seems to be a bit more daring. On top of all of this, I myself have been a bit run down and work has been a whole lot busier than usual. Banging out a column this week has been hard work. No matter what, next week's column will be much more positive, I'll make sure of that.

Your Bangkok commentator,

Stick



Thanks go out to Dave The Rave, Claymore and Jerry for the Soi Cowboy pic.