Stickman's Weekly Column April 25th, 2004

From 75 Down To 67 And Then Up To 80 In Just A Couple Of Years


When I first came to Thailand, it was at its optimum, in the mid 70s. After a year in the Kingdom it had dropped, fairly heavily in fact, down to 67, which was quite frankly, worryingly low. 18 months later a total reversal had taken place and it pushed through the 80 barrier with ease and threatened to go higher before dropping back down to a more comfortable mid 70s. In the last year it has soared once again and currently sits above 80. It has been joked that if the present trend continues, 85 will be threatened before the end of the year.

After my first year in Thailand when it was nice to get it up but these days Mrs Stick really doesn't like it if it's up. She says it's high enough as it is and if it goes any higher, then that could cause a problem or two!

What am I on about? My weight of course!

Given my height and body shape, my ideal weight is around the 75 – 77 kg mark, which is about spot on where it was when I first came to Thailand. I always wondered what would happen to my weight and general physical condition after I had moved to Thailand, and thought that I would lose weight living here. After all, the locals eat relatively healthy food and in smaller quantities than what we are used to in Farangland. Furthermore, the heat hardly inspires one to eat large meals and when one holidays here, they often find themselves returning a home at least one notch on the belt lighter. So, would living here by any different?

As someone who doesn't work out and who has only just resumed regular exercise after a 6 year break, I guess it was inevitable that my weight would increase, especially as middle age is not too many years away.

Without making a scientific survey, friends I spoke with about their weight in Thailand mentioned that their respective weights have also increased since they first moved to Thailand. While we all agree that the hot weather hardly inspires us to eat heavy meals – and indeed most of us live on a predominantly Asian diet, frequent splurges of farang style food and hotel buffets along with the adoption of the Thai habit of eating more frequently have all contributed to our respective increases in weight.

But there is something else that I believe contributes to our waistlines and that is the increased drinking. For whatever reason, most Westerners seem to drink more in Thailand than they would at home. Stress from Thai women or simply an aspect of Bangkok expat culture, few of us drink less than we did when we were back home, and most of us drink a hell of a lot more. This has got to contribute heavily.

You only need to be a little overweight and you really notice it here. The heat is draining even if you are in shape but put on a few kgs and you really feel it. While Bangkok has many excellent gyms and fitness centres, the oppressive heat hardly inspires one to get out there and work off those excess kgs – or maybe I'm just making excuses to myself?

So what has living in Thailand done to your weight? Has it been up and down like mine or has it remained constant? And if your weight has increased significantly, what do you put it down to?

Where is this pic?


Bangkok at sunset.
Bangkok in 1997, looks different, eh?!
The building in last week's picture was Phyathai Resort, the huge condominium building on Phyathai Road. If you are standing at Siam BTS station looking out over the huge construction site, Phyathai Resort is just up to your left, sort of at about "11 o'clock". This week's pic, which was kindly sent in by Geordie, is from 1997 and is somewhere in central Bangkok. A precise answer as to just where it is is needed! 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 that prize, you must be in Bangkok at some time in the next two weeks. And even if you don't win, drop on by and have a beer in Tony's Bar anyway.

FROM STICKMAN'S BULGING BAG OF EMAIL:

How 'armless is he?!

If you walk from World Trade Center to Panthip, there's a guy who sits on a bridge who is always begging. Looking at him, he does look rather pathetic, as they are are trained to do. This is a Thai male in his early 30s wearing a baggy shirt who has no arms and sits in a praying motion with the cup to donate money held in his mouth. However, sometimes he does stand up, and when he does, one can see his arms hidden inside his shirt. The guy is f*ckin huge, and I mean a monster. Hell, he looks like he could be a bouncer in any bar in BKK. When I saw that, I just decided that I will never ever give money to any beggar in Thailand, but rather tip the maid of my hotel extra.
Risky business.
As a former stockbroker in the US, I met many egotistical guys like your former acquaintance who retired early in Thailand. These guys are about a dime a dozen so to speak. I remember meeting guys who boasted at being "day traders" and thought they were better than me even though I was a registered stockbroker and options principal. How the mighty have fallen. All of these guys lost their shirts and more. While I am a conservative trader, I didn't make a lot in the boom but I did not lose too much after the crash. Here is an interesting fact about these ego-maniac would be traders: My previous firm did an estimate by calculating the gains and losses on these self proclaimed "day traders" and "option traders". More than 98% of them LOST everything. So the next time you hear a non-professional claim to be a trader, try not to laugh too hard. They may make a killing in the beginning, but to them it is just like gambling and more than 98% of gamblers lose. They also rarely, if ever, mention their losses.
The holy grail?
After a very successful evening of flirtation in Nana Plaza we were left with this impossible dilemma. First off the beauty was a classic, a smile that could launch an armada, a disposition that was so sweet, genuine and innocent, that was only topped by her style, elegance and class. The brains meanwhile was taking a low profile in her disguise as a waitress, but there was no hiding that this undercover feline had a personality to compliment her looks. Her eyes had that wide awake fresh sparkle that only comes from new arrivals, or girls such as this who had a freedom of choice. Her standard of English was confirmed when she confessed that at school she was top of her class. With her hard to get attitude this girl would have to be seduced. Finally the body, not so much where do I begin but more where do I end. Very rarely, every so often that you come across a production design that you just cannot fault. As if this wasn't enough this model had added a tremendous helping of sex appeal to this devastating combination. Her gyrations on the GoGo pole will forever be inscribed in my mind. So in the final analysis we are left with a girl who you'd like to take home to Mum, albeit she was devoid of a bust and the ability to converse in English. The with academic contender though would certainly be able to discuss sex before and after grace. Although lacking the sheer beauty and sex appeal of her rivals her charm was very difficult to dismiss. The body however could ruin you for life if she practised what she preached, the holy grail would have certainly have been found. Just thinking about her by taking the other two just someone wouldn't be the same.
Farangs demonized?
While traveling different Asian countries I met many farang residents of Thailand. Their mood, glum. Most believed that over five, ten years ago the native Thais would treat farangs pretty well, as respected guests into their country. Now however, the farang is regarded as a creature to be exploited as a matter of "sport", or even contempt. This change of status, from guest to scum makes us more vulnerable to exploitation. Certainly there has always been the higher farang pricing (whether single male or farang family), but within the past year it's at ridiculous amounts: five or ten times real price. And the greater perceived wealth of the foreigner, the greater the attempted rip-off. Do you believe, as one person I spoke to did, that there is a conscientious effort by the Thai government and Thai media to demonize all farangs as rich, spoiled, and brainless, ripe for exploitation?
Undesirable guests?
Since cheap package tours to Thailand from Europe took off in the 1990s, the kind of tourists arriving in the Kingdom are anything but the type the Thai authorities are trying to attract. The professional middle classes moved on a long time ago to Zanzibar and Madagascar, or back to France and Turkey. They have been replaced by proletarian riff-raff who aspire to nothing more than a suntan to show off at home, cheap booze, and safe sandy beaches to keep the bloody kids quiet. The only way to attract a better class of tourist would be to make the country exclusive by raising prices to UK and Scandinavian levels, a move which would provoke widespread public disorder and frighten all the tourists away.
In Thailand, you are what you wear.
Last September I was on a BTS train packed with ordinary Thais of all ages. At one station, several young farangs decked out in grunge clothing and poorly kept but costly gear (i.e. expensive boots but scruffed and laces untied) climbed on board. The young farangs were clearly strangers to soap and razors and their posturing was all 'inner city' despite being Caucasian. On a very subtle level I felt the atmosphere of the entire car change…almost freeze up. As I looked around it seemed to me that every last Thai on that train was clean, well groomed and as presentable as their means would allow them. In short, they exhibited a lot of self respect in direct contrast to the knot of farangs who in exhibiting their disregard for simple values like staying clean made themselves objects of contempt although the Thais on board were too well mannered to openly convey that feeling IMHO. I recall feeling a surge of shame over farang behaviour that day.
A reclusive bunch?
A lot is made of how bad it is for people to be alienated. But, given the nature of a lot of the people we see (and may be) who "sit and watch the world go by", is there something in our generation (call it 35-50) who crave alienation? Who want to "not belong"? A number of things bring this up. On one side, we see a lot of people who complain about wanting to be Thai, but fail. On the other, there's a growing number of farang about who can best be described as phii bret (hungry ghosts) who just watch and wait; sit on their bar stools and watch the world pass by like a good iMax flick. Perhaps it's an expat affliction? If you talk to a lot of people working overseas, they neither want to belong to the culture they work in, nor to the culture they're from. They just want to drift……perhaps there's an element of Taoism in this?

Nana Plaza has been quiet since the Songkran holiday period ended although both customers and girls are finally returning to the Nana Plaza bars, the last two nights have been the busiest for a while. Some girls still haven't returned for work and even if they had, they would have found pickings slim with the number of punters noticeably down.

A reader found himself in a certain Soi Cowboy the other night, sitting on a stool at the stage. He checked the time on his mobile and put it back into the pocket of his trousers. He'd had a few girls hugging him and a few passing behind when 5 minutes later he reached for his mobile again but shit, it had gone! He told the girl that was hanging on to him to call mamasan and as she just looked puzzled he called for the Thai manager. He explained that his mobile had gone and that he felt it was one of the girls who had been sitting all over him. He was told that they couldn't do anything, but the girls would be checked after closing hours. A complimentary beer was provided but he wasn't really in the mood to drink it, so he left and said he'd be back the next night. When the said fellow came back in the manager didn't even recognize him, and it would seem that absolutely nothing was done, though in many ways, that was to be expected. No accusations, but one should be careful in such bars because this sort of thing is not uncommon, especially when the clock approaches midnight.

I hear the Philippines (Angeles City in particular) played host to an inordinate number of expats from Thailand last week. Of course they were escaping the Songkran madness. Otherwise, I understand, tourism over there is hurting as well. Clubs may not be showing, but at least they are open until 3 and 4 AM. Nevertheless, two farangs were the sole customers all night at one gogo bar where they had a choice of 60 dancers – any and all of whom were ready to share a romantic evening for a mere 1,000 pesos net (about 700 baht).

Police had a very close look at Midnite Bar this past week though it is unsure if they found anything out of the ordinary and no words of a closure have been leaked.

Before when walking from WTC to Panthip one used to pass a couple of vendors peddling neckties dirt cheap, three for 100 baht. However, they are no longer there. Anyone know where they can be found now? Nah, not for me, but for a reader…yeah, I would say that, wouldn't I?! Interestingly enough, the profit per piece on these must be pretty low. They are not even made in Thailand and are actually imported from South Korea. I knew one guy who used to bring them into Thailand by the suitcase load and not declare them so as to save on the tax. Naughty boy!

A few titbits from from Patpong. Lipstick bar located on the second floor between Goldfinger and Pussy Connection has gone all GAY! The staff are all male but some swing both ways and farang females have been seen leaving with a local lad. Those farang women don't go to Patpong just for the night market, you know… Pussy Connection is doing a small renovation job painting over most of the risqué wall paintings showing several sexual positions, presumably to keep the heat down from the boys in brown. Electric Blue is still closed and last night was being guarded by a couple of street people with all of their possessions in a couple of bags.

One often hears stories of girls hitting the big time, a punter dropping huge money on them, not just buying them something, but actually depositing a huge amount of cash in their bank account. Often these are stores from a friend of a friend or from a the fellow keeping the barstool next to you warm and who is obviously on beer #15 by now. With such stories, one can never be sure of how true they are. This week I heard such a story and it was told to me by a close friend, someone not known for embellishing stories. He knows a certain young lady who works in a pool / beer bar in Phuket who gets a good salary (9,000 baht plus drinks) and is not required to “off”. This enables her to meet punters who do not think of her as a gogo bar girl. Her English is good and she can use email. My friend has known her for 2 – 3 years and they are more like friends and she goes to his place whenever she is in Bangkok i.e. on her way from Phuket to her home province. This past week she came to see him and they went out and had a good night out. At one point in the evening she got a text message (from some European country) saying something like “Hi honey, I sent you some money today and you should get it tomorrow, love…). She had told this fellow that she needed some cash to get from home back to Phuket after Songkran etc. She has 4 guys who send her bits of cash when she needs / asks, usually $300 or so. She called my friend a couple of days ago from an upmarket spa saying that she had been to the bank and there was 500,000 baht (yes half a million) there she could not believe it and asked the bank to check. She said she feels so lucky, like winning the lottery as she put it! She believes it was because she went to see the monks last week… This money was not for anything special, not for a house or anything like that. This is a punter just sending her money. Apparently he is off to Iraq and might be gone for a while and can not send money. 500,000 baht, more than the average Bangkok English teacher earns in a year – some of us are in the wrong business!

If ever any locals give us farangs a hard time about living in their country and reaping advantages without giving anything back, remind them of all of the benefits that we bring to Thailand that they don't see. A good example would be Doug and the organisers of the Bourbon Street Charity Golf Classic who raised 1,050,000 baht for Father Joe Maier's "HDF". Great stuff!

Woodstock in Nana are offering weekly and daily specials again and it is good to see a bar at least trying in these hard times to offer special deals. Word on the street is that the Woodstock management apportion part of the blame for decreased sales to the Crown Group! Try and avoid getting the Woodstock management on the subject of the Crown Group because they hate them with a passion! They realise that less customers coming to Nana Plaza means less customers for Woodstock and they feel that drinks prices going sky high, which the Crown Group initiated, are to blame. While they feel trapped in the Plaza, they are still fighting to lure punters back. Quoting the owner, "The girls in the gogos are forced to dance in full bikinis yet they raise the God damned prices!" For the budget minded or people like me who just love specials, Woodstock are offering a weekly special – minestrone soup, lasagne, apple walnut cobbler, coffee or tea, all for only 250 baht. The day time specials consist of different daily meals including a cheap draught Heineken. They run from 12 PM until 4 PM. Patience is needed with the service, but it is good to see that Woodstock are making an effort and really do care about their regulars. Finally another quote from the owner. "In over 20 years running bars in Nana Plaza I have never seen a drop in profits from New Year until this year."

Paying bills in Thailand is often more trouble than it should be. Generally speaking you can pay the bill for various things at the office of the service provider, a bank, or in some cases at other locations such as any branch of 7 Eleven. However if you attempt to pay your bill even one day late, you may find yourself forced to pay it at the office of the service provider, and sometimes not just any office, but one particular office. Now this office could be on the opposite side of Bangkok, miles away from where you live and work. It might not even be the head office. It’s a crazy system! The moral of the story is simple ­ do your level best to pay your bills on time!

A lot of guys have chosen the internet as their place of choice for meeting Thai girls. In many ways it is ideal because Thai women are really scared of the damage to their reputation of meeting guys in a public place, particularly Westerners. Just imagine if someone they know saw them! For a typical Thai woman, the potential damage to her reputation doesn't bear thinking about. You can meet Thai women online in chatrooms, on real time message systems or on any of a number of personals' websites such as FacePic where people can leave a personal profile with information about themselves along with a couple of pictures. Some of these websites make me chuckle because it displays the number of times that the profile has been viewed and in the cases of some of these Thai women, it is SEVERAL THOUSAND TIMES! I'm not kidding. How well is she playing the game? These 'net girls are likely clocking up more mileage than the girls in Nana!

A new site can be found at Bahtsold which has been described as "a way for expats all over Thailand to keep up with what's on offer." It's a place to buy and sell stuff, sort of an expats classified. I wish the guys running it every success.

I regularly receive emails from readers who require assistance in the process of applying for a visa for their teeruk to visit or move to Farangland. And often I am asked to give advice about the best visa assistance service to recommend. What do these companies actually do? I can't really work it out! I guess they compile all of the documentation neatly, make sure all of the "I"s are dotted and the "T"s crossed. Maybe a little bit of coaching on personal appearance and presentation and an idea of what sort of questions will be asked at the interview – and how to answer them? Do these visa services do any more than this? Have you ever used one? Let us know!

I include a lot more nightlife news from the Nana Plaza area than any other area and have recently been taken to task over that, questioned why this area is highlighted much more often than the likes of Patpong or Cowboy. Generally speaking, Patpong and Cowboy remain fairly constant – although Cowboy can suffer in the low season. The ebb and flow of customer numbers at Nana Plaza is much more indicative of trends in the nightlife industry than the other areas and hence that is why I talk about customer numbers from that area more than from the other areas.

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. Mr. Stick may answer the odd question in place of Mrs. Stick of he thinks he can do a better job.

Question 1: I am a 65 year old man who has visited Thailand many times as both a sex and regular tourist. I am retiring from work later this year and considering living in Thailand. I am also getting rather bored with the bar scene / night life and simply looking forward to a comfortable retirement. My question is: what would the chances be of me finding a nice Thai lady aged between 38 -50 years old and having a successful relationship / marriage with her. After all, there is still a pretty big age difference and it seems to me, from reading Stick's website, that nearly all successful relationships occur when there is only a few years difference in age.

Mrs. Stick says: Not only to Thai / farang relationships, but big age gaps can make it difficult in any relationships. I guess a lot of it comes down to you as an individual person and the person you meet. Getting along well with people, especially in a cross cultural relationship, can be difficult. Try and get yourself up to speed on Thai language and Thai culture and you will increase the odds of having a successful relationship. I'm sure you can find someone to make it work, just be careful to make a good choice. And remember to compare Thai women with Thai women, and not farang women. There is a big difference. Make sure you know what you want, and try and find it.

Question 2: Do you have any Isaan friends? Sorry I've just remembered that you are from Korat. You must be thinking what a statement to make, but over the years I really have noticed a difference of the people coming from this province. They seemed to be set apart from the rest of Thailand. Of course it may well be that they were originally Khmers and this area used to be part of Cambodia. From my experience I have confirmed that their perceived reputation to be true, to the degree that they are guilty until proven innocent.

Mrs. Stick says: Do you want to stir me up? Sorry, I am not trapped by this ignorant question. I don't know how you came up with such a cynical attitude, and I guess you do not really even want an answer. I can only assume tha you have had a bad experience with a woman from Isaan. Yes, I have many friends from Isaan and most of my friends are successful professionals in Bangkok. Open your eyes and open your mind and perhaps you'll have a chance to meet someone nice. Disregard where people are from. How about you? Where are you from? Is everyone from your country as ignorant as you?

Question 3: Having had two innocent dates with the same Thai lady twice (once to a Thai restaurant, once to a movie), I invited her to my apartment for dinner. She accepted. I prepared a lovely meal (considerate of Thai tastes), set an elaborate table, replete with candles and flowers, next to a window that afforded a sea view. I loaded romantic CDs for background music, burned some aromatic (inoffensive) oil, then waited. And waited. And waited. She was she nearly one hour late, dashing any hope that my delicate recipes might still impress. As she sat, she complained that it was too dark and immediately stood and turned on the overhead light-obscuring the view and destroying the romantic atmosphere. After taking one bite of food, she requested nam pla prik, then chili. Not more than one mouthful later, she asked if I had any Thai music, and-inasmuch as I was already up – would I do something about the smell from the burning oil. Despite my attempts at conversation, she was unusually quiet throughout dinner. We later enjoyed dessert, tea and pleasant conversation, but after helping clean up, she abruptly left – no "thank you", no compliments, no explanation. My questions: Do Thai women not appreciate a romantic atmosphere? Do they have a different take on what is romantic? Is dinner meant to be devoted exclusively to eating (no talking, no romance)? Is there no appreciation for the efforts required to prepare elaborate meals?

Mrs. Stick says: You have to understand that the average Thai women is much less sophisticated and worldly than the average farang women and this lady may simply be unsure of the etiquette of eating dinner, farang style. I hate to say it but you made a fantastic effort but perhaps you chose the wrong girl. There are two points here, culture difference and perhaps class. Thai people do not express their thanks or gratitude very strongly, in most situations. In this case, she should have been much more thankful because it is clear you made a real effort. I guess she comes from a background where such chivalry is almost unheard of. I don't want to comment on the lady's class, but maybe she had never experienced anything like this before. Cross cultural differences and perhaps class would appear to be the issue here. At the end of the day it is her loss as few guys make such an effort.

Mr. Stick says: I gotta stick my nose in here… Two areas where many Thai people really let themselves down, at least in my opinion, is in the showing of gratitude (or lack of it) and in the lack of any sense of occasion. I bet this woman just didn't consider the effort that you went to to prepare the food and create a romantic environment.

If you've seen a farang hopping around the city with one leg cocked back, sort of like a soi dog that got hit by a rogue tuktuk, then odds are you spotted me hobbling around, looking a little odd. My attempt to get into better shape was shattered by a nasty leg injury which has me walking, how shall we say, a little differently to usual. With this in mind, I barely got out this week and hence there is a little less news in this week's column. No big deal, it's the week after Songkran and it's traditionally a quiet time.

Your Bangkok commentator,

Stick


Thanks go out to Dave The Rave, Pattaya's Mr Write, Claymore and The Mad Stockbroker