Stickman's Weekly Column May 9th, 2004

ThaiImmigration.Com, The Truth


The opening piece of last week's column concerned the ThaiImmigration.com website that at the time was causing a stir online. I wrote about the site, commended the people behind it for what they were trying to do and speculated as to the origins of the site. I thought that the site may have been the work of some Westerners, perhaps in conjunction with the immigration authorities. ThaiImmigration.com have been in touch with me and I can now kill the rumours and present just the facts.

The first thing that needs to be said about this website is that it is absolutely genuine. It is an official website. One way to confirm that is to perform the following steps:
1. Go to www.imm3.police.go.th
2. Click English and go to immigration check-point on the main menu.
3. Click on the immigration check-point for Nongkhai website.
4. Click English and you're at the thaiimmigration.com website.
As these are official links, the website has to be legitimate.

Contrary to what I had said, it was not farang designed at all but designed by some Thai students who did a good job of making it farang friendly and easy to navigate.

In late 2003 several sub committees were set up by Nongkhai Immigration and one of the projects was to help Immigration with implementing IT and to establish a website in English. The site is managed by two Danish computer guys in association with 3 officers from the Nongkhai Immigration Office. It was set up as part of the Immigration Department's drive to become more open.

These two Danish gentlemen also helped with translation of responses to the discussion forum as they are more comfortable with written English than the Immigration officers. Questions from the message board would be passed on to Immigration officials who would answer them and the answers would then be translated back into English and posted on to the board. The message board is down as it became a lot of pressure for the guys who were providing the responses.

I speculated that the people behind the site might be English teachers to which I have been informed that the two guys involved do various volunteer work in Nongkhai for the provincial government maintaining computer systems and that includes work at schools, where they are in contact with a lot of foreign teachers, from whom they gather quite a lot of information.

The Thai Immigration authorities have really good intentions with this website and especially the concept of the message board. While it is something of a pilot, it would be a real shame if it doesn't continue. But given that these types of things can become very time consuming indeed, we'll just have to wait and see what happens. The Immigration Department's desire to become more open and willingness to help has to be admired. Long may it continue.

Where is this pic?

It was Wat Saket, aka the Golden Mount.
A beautiful day in paradise.
Last week's pic was taken atop the Golden Mount, also known as Wat Saket. This week's pic is in many readers' idea of paradise, somewhere outside Bangkok. 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.

FROM STICKMAN'S BAG OF EMAIL:

Thailand's growing pains.

After thinking about this one for several months and reading comments in your weekly about it, I have decided to vent on the subject of changing Thai attitudes toward farangs. Tonight at Siam I was struck by the rudeness of several young Thais towards myself and my girlfriend. I was shopping at one store and probably would have bought a very expensive pair of real Diesel jeans, but the sales staff was curt and answered all of my questions (asked in Thai) in a very terse manner. After this experience we went to a noodle shop and the music was blaring so loud that the waiter could not even hear my girlfriend's request to lower the music. After he finally heard her he gave her a very shitty look, so we voted with our feet and left. Fast forward to noodle shop number 2 where there are a few free tables. When waiting to be seated two young Thais just brushed passed us and took a seat. Of course we were seated next to them and I went on in Thai about how rude they were. After these experiences it dawned on me that the only Thais that are rude to me are the twenty-somethings that are feeling a bit arrogant about this "economic recovery" and are probably to young to have been effected by the Crash of 97. I harken back to my first visit to Thailand when I used to frequent "regular" Thai clubs. I was always met with smiling faces and never felt unwelcome. What a difference 5 years makes! One of my friends who is Korean, speaks Thai quite well, and could pass for a Chinese Thai took a Farang friend to a Thai club on Ekamai. They left after 30 min as the Thai guys were staring daggers at the Farang. This has effected the way I view Thailand and the young generation of Thai people. When once welcoming, they have become almost hostile. They have adopted one of the worst things any group can and that is a fierce sense of nationalism….and I think one can even call it racism. Has it changed my behaviour? Yes, I am more apt to stay in "Farang areas" and am far more defensive when I venture to places like Siam. On the other hand whenever I am at the Emporium, I never get the attitude that I got at Siam. I think it is due to the fact that many Thais at the Emporium are older and remember that good times do not always last. When asking my Isaan girlfriend of almost 5 years if she noticed the attitude change she said, "They have money now, they think they are important, and they are assholes." She is dead on……
A good investment.
The smartest money I have spent in Thailand was to by a mobile. I come to Thailand a lot and waiting around hotels for a phone call sucks. Shortly after my 1st trip 2 1/2 years ago I went to MBK and for 6000 baht I got a basic Siemens with a number and 500 baht of time. It has only got better. Last month (on my 23rd trip) I had all I could do to use up my time. The prices have dropped incredibly. I had 100 baht left from before so I bought a 500 card. I made a fair amount of local calls (not long as I am not much for long calls), let my friend use it because hers gave up the ghost and made 3 calls to the states (10 minutes each) and I still had a few baht left! It is now cheaper to call the US from my mobile than it is the reverse with my land line with a special rate for Thailand from AT&T. I don't even want to think about what it would cost using my US cell phone (no bullshit it would have been $100 at least with roaming charges etc.)
Singapore update.
Well, if the Singapore immigration officials were going to give certain people from nearby countries a hard time, then I wish it would be the Thai ladyboys. Yes, indeed, there are a number of katoey lurking about in Orchard Towers especially later in the evening. I just try to stay far away from them. Meanwhile, the latest closing time for a bar here in Singapore that I have seen is four (4 AM) on Saturday nights / Sunday mornings. More common is 3 AM for nightclubs on the weekends, but neighbourhood bars tend to close earlier. Singapore might now have table-top dancing, but that is still not quite the same thing as a gogo format. The stages do have poles, but the stages are usually very small. Often it is really customers who are dancing on them rather than staff. And, yes,
sometimes the guys get up there as well. So, that's more like something one might see in certain dance clubs in parts of Farangland.
Dodgy visa stamps haven't been forgotten.
Last week did a visa run. At the Immigration counter at Phuket Intl. Airport, the guy took a real close look at the exit and entrance stamp from Ranong, my previous visa run. He took a magnifying glass and down right dissected the stamps. All ok, but he told my wife in Thai to be careful that I never ship the passport with any visa run agency or I could get in trouble. Friendly but very scary advice.
Visa overstay penalty : Death
An American visitor to the Kingdom last week paid the ultimate price for overstaying his visa: death. A court in Pattaya had ordered that the 30-year-old man pay a 2,000 baht fine and be deported. Pending deportation, he was held in the main police station lock-up. In the dead of night, the U.S. citizen was found dead. It is suspected that the foreigner was beaten and strangled by fellow inmates. But not to worry, the police are intent on dealing with these dark forces.
"It'll never happen to me…"
IMO especially among laws and governments, there is the written law and those which are actually enforced. Living in Japan for over eight years, I was recently told of a minor infraction on my visa which could technically get me deported. Will they do it? Odds: zero. Why? Everyone I know breaks this law; and heck, no one even knows of its existence. Often, one official department passes an idiotic new restriction, but the left hand has no idea of what the right hand is doing; and eventually it becomes ancient history. If I were concerned about my status, certainly I would keep an eye on the officialdom; however, with Thais especially I've noticed grandiose ideas executed with slide of hand.

Sheba's in Soi Cowboy were caught "showing" in that recent Police raid and rumours suggest that they are going to be hammered with a 90 day closure…NINETY DAYS! This is serious and could be very harmful to business in the long term. Let's hope it doesn't eventuate.

Playskool Bar on the ground floor of Nana reopened last night much to the joy of their many regular customers. After that tragic fire it will take time to regain the momentum of their business, but given time I'm sure it will be rocking again. However, as with all bar closures it remains uncertain as to just how many of their girls will return. Only time will tell but you can be assured that the bar will receive a welcome return by its loyal farang following.

In Rainbow 2 in Nana Plaza, if a Japanese customer likes a girl who is dancing, the gogo dancer is permitted to leave the stage to sit with the Japanese customer. This is an unusual rule not implemented anywhere else, where the norm is that most the girls have to dance for the full "dance set" of songs required. But the Japanese in Rainbow 2 receive special treatment; a torch is flashed in the girl's eyes and she swiftly stops dancing to sit with the Japanese customer. Any Westerner wanting the same privilege is told quite clearly that he either pays the barfine immediately, or he must wait until the girl has finished dancing. Hardly farang friendly is it? But some guys insist that the girls are so lovely they still go in for a bit of "window shopping" occasionally. Most old hands know the situation in Rainbow 2 but it does seem to be getting worse. Be warned that Rainbow 2 is very much a Jap trap. What is perhaps most interesting is what one girl in Rainbow 2 said about their typical customers. "It's the rule of 4s, Stick", she said. "4 inches, 4 minutes, 4,000 baht." I'm not sure what that means, must be some sort of riddle or something.

And these bar closures are not just a Bangkok thing. Down in Pattaya, the popular Mistys gogo bar in Soi Pattayaland has been ordered closed for 30 days. Rumours abound that another bar in the street made the raid happen… Even though the boys in brown found nothing, they arrested 3 girls upstairs getting changed and when they got them to the cop shop made them sign a paper saying they were doing a lewd show. Strange because this bar doesn't conduct such shows… The closure order was for the 17th April – 16th May but they didn't serve it until the 21st April. All the girls and management are in Electric Blue on Walking Street for the time being. Mistys will re-open on the 17th and will have what promises to be a huge party all day. They also have a huge birthday party booked for the 20th May with a whole lamb roast and a pig roast along with a seafood buffet.

In what really must rank as the "week fo the bar closures", Tony's Bar in Cowboy who sponsor the where is this picture were closed for 10 days and just re-opened yesterday. They were charged with the very serious crime of "demeaning the Stickman website" by offering a minuscule 500 baht bar tab to the first person who states where the where is this picture is. The general who conducted the raid led by commandoes was reported as saying "This is the Stickman site, not some poxy little two bit website. Increase the prize to 1,000 baht or else." The bar owner wouldn't budge and the bar was closed for ten days. The bar owner decided to take his staff down to Pattaya for the weekend and despite all the long weekend holiday traffic they enjoyed the break with lots of food, drink and the obligatory banana riding, ooops, I mean banana boating.

Boss Hogg, or rather his building team, has knocked two huge holes in the side of Vixens. Will we see reasonable building progress this year?

Construction of the new beer bar opposite The Old Dutch looks well advanced. They are still serving food from the kitchen behind. Maybe it will continue as a restaurant in the day and become a bar in the evening.

The bars at The Pong are currently teeming with good looking dancers. In Pink Panther, both sets of dancers are above average in the looks department but the bar only had a small number of customers on Friday night, most likely due to the 110 baht drinks putting off the locals as they can drink in most Patpong bars for 90 baht. Down at SuperStar they are back to their old standard after replacing about 3/4 of their dancers with some very good looking girls. SuperStar are very busy, fulfilling that old adage "more good looking girls equals more customers". The only bad part at SuperStar is they have been "discovered" by the Japanese who are too cheap to stay on their soi and SuperStar waiters now have Japanese script writing the name Super Star on their bar vests. At Crown Royal, a soi 33 style bar that has always had great looking girls, several new attractive girls have joined the staff. Even at Goldfinger bar, not known for good looking dancers, there are now several good looking girls. Now is the time to give The Pong another look if you haven't been there in a while but remember things change quickly and it could revert back in a heartbeat.

If you're interested in dating a Thai lady but are not sure if she is available or not, be very careful if she says to you that "she is single". Even Thai women who speak decent English may think that single in English means the same as sot, the closest word in Thai, which it doesn't. Someone in Thai who is sot is unmarried. They might however be in a long term relationship. So, asking a Thai woman if she is single or not is akin to asking her if she is married. It won't establish whether she has a boyfriend or not – that requires a whole new question!

A friend went to send some money overseas this week was asked to produce not only his passport but his work permit too. Have the banking regulations been changed again or is this just another example of different bank branches enforcing regulations as per their own understanding of them?

Any friends or well-wishers are welcome to a free birthday bash of roast pig plus all the trimmings at the Shamrock Bar in Pattayaland 2 on Saturday 15th of May around 7 pm.

Award winning author Dean Barrett is the special guest at the Neilson Hays Library's Evening Talks Programme on Tuesday at 8 PM. A cunning linguist, Dean Barrett first arrived in Asia during the Vietnam war where his Chinese language skills were put to use by the US military. After completing a Masters degree in Asian Studies he returned to Asia and over the past 20 years his writing on Asian themes has won several awards including the PATA Grand Prize for Excellence. Dean has written five novels set in Asia and will speak about his writing and his new humour / travel book set in China, "Don Quixote in China: The Search for Peach Blossom Spring". The book has been described as a balance between serious, reflective travel and whimsical humour and entertainment. The Neilson Hays Library is located 195 Suriwong Road or you can call them on 02-2331731 for more details.

Some very sad news this week. Kim, who was Peter's partner in Woodstock in Krabi, sadly died of a stroke on Thursday. Kim was a friendly man who will be missed by many people.

One could almost be forgiven thinking that the rainy season had arrived early as traffic has come to a standstill several times this week when the city has been struck by torrential rain. No, the rainy season "proper" does not start for a few more months. And if revellers kept Pattaya awash during the madness of Songkran through April 19, it has remained wet thanks to daily rains since then. Girls and barkeeps continue to complain not only about the rain, heat and humidity, but also about dearth of customers.

Looking out of my apartment across the city, I have a good view of one of the city's expressways. This time last year one would expect to see the expressway at gridlock for perhaps 3 or 4 hours a day, peak hour time late afternoon, traffic moving at a crawl. I notice that it is jammed for about 10 hours a day these days. Traffic really is getting worse. I'd love to be able to go out for a spin occasionally, just for pleasure, but it seems in Bangkok, that just isn't possible with the state of the traffic.

I thought there was something funny going on with the phone system when I called a mobile number a few weeks ago and instead of getting the usual ringing tone, a song blared down the line at me. I thought that was odd, tried a few more times and got the same before I eventually gave up. It seems that this annoying feature is some new feature offered by one of the phone companies. Damned perturbing if you don't know what it is.

If you are a slacker like me and forget to pay our internet bill and the so and sos cut you off, all is not lost IF you have a TelecomAsia phone line. Dial in on 02-9000000 (assuming you are in Bangkok), set the username as "easy" and leave the password field blank. You are billed automatically to your phone bill at 9 baht an hour. Not quite as fast as CS Loxinfo, but a good backup nonetheless, especially if like me you start getting withdrawal symptoms if you can't check your email several times a day.

Just what on earth is this? At first glance it would seem that someone is producing fake copies of Jake Needham's top selling novel, The Big Mango", but on closer inspection it seems that they well and truly screwed the English up. Actually, it isn't English, but Hungarian. Jake's first, and still his most popular novel, has been translated into Hungarian and should be appearing on the bookshelves of stores in the Magyar Empire soon. So to all Hungarian readers, you too can now enjoy Jake's books in your native tongue.

It has to be said that some bars in Nana Plaza are getting too much like Patpong in their aggressive and greedy ways with customers. A friend also made an interesting statement that the price level of drinks in Nana does keep most of the cheapskates away, but perhaps in the big picture that is not a good thing as ultimately it results in less customers and thus more desperate touts and bar staff.

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 was curious on what some of my wife's odd behaviour over the years. We have been often apart over the last while because I'm trying to set up a nice life in the US for us before she comes here. I have dated a lot girls before and have noticed several suspicious behaviours or so it seems. I have told her almost anything is cool as long a I know so she seems semi-open to me, yet very secretive about what exactly she's up to at times. Her sisters who lives her always seem to be covering for her for some reason explaining odd behaviour in vague ways i.e. she (my wife) tells me she's been going to the disco a lot recently and has started drinking a little more. Her sister when I brought this up started attacking me asking why I always talk negatively about her. Is there cause for concern that she may be turning bad or I have I been reading to many readers' posts?

Mrs. Stick says: If she is going to a disco AND drinking regularly (i.e. the two together AND on a regular basis), then yes, you have reason to be concerned that there could be other men. You need to somehow get her to open up with you and let her talk to so yo can find out what is really going on. Now that you're worrying, you really need to get the communication channels open because a lot of worry can be harmful in a relationship. Many Thai women involved with farang men don't completely understand the farang man's thinking and many lead a nonsense lifestyle where they just take the money and security he provides but give back little. I'm not saying she is doing that, but you need to get the message through to her that she has to make some sort of contribution to the marriage too. There are symptoms of trouble here. You need to find out if there are any issues. And try and find out yourself, away from the sister.

Question 2: I consistently have bad experiences with a certain type of person. They are these middle-aged Thai females who are typically characterized by their huge bun of hair and bright-coloured, thick-rimmed glasses. Behind the wheel of their Mercedes Benz they'll block the road as they stop their car and block traffic while hollering to a street vendor to not only prepare, but also bring their 10 baht portion of fruit across the road to them. In stores they will push in front of you and go straight to the front of the queue, but not before I have let them know what I think about that. To a Westerner, their behaviour is downright rude. Do Thai people notice them? What do they think of their behaviour? Also, are there any words in Thai to describe these people?

Mrs. Stick says: There are no specific words for people like this in Thailand. We call older women "Khun Bar", but it is not specific to the type of women you describe here. Perhaps these women think that because they have more money than others, they consider themselves to be more important than others. We can see people like this often. I don't think there is any way to change them. They think that with money and power they can do almost anything and they think that they are always right. If someone wants to fight with them to express their feelings, or speak out freely, then so be it, but believe me, it won't change them at all. Be prepared for a nasty response! Having said this, I encourage you to fight because Thai people need to start to realise that such behaviour should not be part of out culture. No matter how important you think you may be, there are certain rules that everyone needs to respect. I always speak up in what I believe such as if I perceive I have been treated badly or receive bad service. If you say the right thing, they won't dare argue with me. It can be a good idea to embarrass these people in front of others and hopefully it will make them consider their behaviour next time. This must be done in a composed way, an explosion is not acceptable. In the case of the queue jumper, saying something like "you join the queue back there" and pointing behind you would work. Thai people lose face very easily and the people around you will support you, even though they might not say anything.

Another busy week comes to an end. I wonder how much longer these bar closures will remain an issue? The 90 day thing is especially scary for bar owners, easily enough to kill a business.

Your Bangkok commentator,

Stick

Thanks go out to Dave The Rave, Basil747 and Claymore.