Stickman's Weekly Column August 15th, 2004

Thailand’s Best Known Farang Part 2


The opening piece in last week's column was the first part of the interview with Bernard Trink, Bangkok's Nite Owl. What follows is the second half of the interview. It is important to note that the responses from Mr. Trink are his opinions, and I might not necessarily agree with them!

When I moved from the World to the Post, it was really funny because I kept the same desk, same typewriter (not the one on his desk now which was sold) which finally imploded. When I moved, they said that now as you are part of the Post, there are certain things that you can’t do. First of all, I was doing play reviews. They said you must understand that if we already have someone doing something what you did, you can’t do it. I lost the play reviews. I used to have pictures of gogo dancers, pages and pages. It wasn’t a column as you would think as in a single page. It was like a 6 page weekly supplement. The World was a daily tabloid. It was in competition with the Post for years. We had this Prime Minster Phibunsongkrham who was pretty much a dictator who said that Thailand should go with America during WW2. Even the Japanese didn’t go that far. The Japanese occupied the country but they were satisfied to leave it neutral so the Americans wouldn’t bomb it but they could move their supplies through it. There was also a police chief called Phao who was Phibunsongkrham's police chief. He could best be compared to Himmler, a fascist! Any opposition to the government and the guy would disappear and usually a body would turn up. Phao realised that he had this well deserved but poor reputation and he tried to figure out a way to improve his rep and it occurred to him why no start a newspaper which would only write good things about him! And that is how the World started. He got an American who had been in the OSS which was before the CIA. The most famous OSS was Jim Thompson, the silk king. His name was Darrel Berrigan. Berrigan and General Pow got together and he was offered to start the paper and he said why not.

The defining moment in the column was the restrictions put on me when we moved to the Post. Family newspaper and all of that. Then, mothers would say that they would hide the newspaper on Friday or remove my section and they said I ought to be ashamed of myself! The list of restrictions and censorship. Don’t write this. Don’t write that. For example, I knew a woman who had a massage parlour and she invited me to check out all of these massage girls. She hired all of these girls and the girls were asked what we do. Every girl said that they do everything. She told this to the customers who asked. The customer was told that and took her up to the room and then the girl would start by saying I don’t do blowjobs. I do not take it in the ass. The customer did not come for everything else and said he came specifically for that. The owner was not to blame because he had only told him what she had been told by the girls. The owner came up with the idea that I should check out what they did and didn’t do, and do a report on it. I would go once or twice a week. I hate to mention their attitude, how good they were. As I was writing this I evolved my own Trinkisms, my own vocabulary.

Was that to conceal things?

It was to conceal from mother with daughters and to reveal to the husbands. Once they caught on to what I was talking about. For example if I wanted to say that she gave a blowjob, I would say that “be sure to check out <her number”> Go for the specials. Anyone reading special would catch on. Extra specials meat she would be more intimate. The Post said I couldn’t do this. The freedom I had with the Bangkok World was being chipped away by the Post and you can’t do this. You had the Outlook girls complaining to the editor. He is saying that these girls from upcountry want to be prostitutes. Girls are too nice for that and anyway all bars are brothels. He shouldn’t do this! Well, the editor would bow down to them and say to me that you really shouldn’t say this. Bit by bit, over the years, the column became tamer and tamer. I protested. We can’t have it, I was told. If you want to give up the column, there is someone else who can write and they will be more PC. In the last few years I became a shadow of what I had been when I started it. As I said, I changed it periodically. I couldn’t sneak in the stuff I wanted it put in. Finally, I was told we didn’t want this column. It is an insult to decent families. That was basically it. When I went to the internet.

Is your online column any different to when you wrote it in the Post? I mean, you can now write what you want without anyone else telling you what is and isn’t ok, yeah?

I could write anything I want and I am starting to do that. I’m still feeling my way. It is the sort of thing that you can write what you wish. But of course the main drawback of the internet is the reduction in readers.

How well is the online version of your column doing?

The question is vague. Let’s just say I wish I had a greater readership online. There were a few things involved here. Having spent years writing about bars and restaurants and authors who had sent me books and they would praise me to the key for mentioning them favourably. These same people who gave me the idea that they would follow me to the end of the earth, to death. It wasn’t just the usual we like your stuff. It was more “if it wasn’t for your column” we wouldn’t buy the Post. They would complain if they couldn’t find the Friday issue and would complain that they felt bad. There was adulation which was fine, you can’t knock it. These people, when I went from the paper to the net, for the most part they did not follow me. So here you have people praising me to the sky and telling me that they will follow me to the end of the earth, well they didn’t follow me to the net. A very small fraction did and that was a defining moment in my life. The realization that this great bunch of followers weren’t there when I turned around! There I as racing along on a horse and there was no-one behind me! A number of them said lots of luck but we won’t pay for it. Yeah, great, I thought. So, how are you going to call me the greatest thing since beer and at the same time refuse to pay 480 baht a year to read me? This is the thing I am waking up to, the realization that all of these praising – and praise doesn’t even begin for some. Some were hateful too. Those people refused to pay for it. How much are you paying at 480 baht for 52 issues? So I haven't got nearly the readership I would like to have and also need to have. It is my income now. I’m not really keen to go back to English teaching. I’ve done it and it is fine. There are things in my past but there is nothing I want to go back to. I was in the army in the Korean War. I hardly want to go back to that.

What about writing a book?

Everybody says this. Let me put it to you this way. Keep scrapbooks, or at least my wife does. If you can imagine, this is an exaggeration, but not by much. If you can imagine scrapbooks from the floor rising almost to the ceiling which I would have to look into to remember all of these things I have written. As I say, the column used to be 6 pages long. It is the most daunting thought I can imagine. I have many memories on the top of my head but a great many are locked up in the scrapbooks. When I was still writing for the Post, every chapter ends Friday and begins the following Friday. There is so just so much I have done. Again, it may not be a good parallel, but why don’t you thumb through the encyclopedia Britannica and why not write something. I keep them at home, more or less piled up. It is frightening to look at them from the outside and think do I really have to get into them. To write a book I would! You sort of back away from it. But that is it. Again let us suppose I read all of these scrapbooks, let us suppose I write the book. How many people would be interested?

Jake Needham sold more than 25,000 copies of Big Mango.

I don’t know the guy. He wrote the first book which was all right. It wasn’t great but it was good. What I didn’t like about it – I reviewed it – was that writing about Thailand or Bangkok, he missed the mystique of the place. It is very easy to say that Bangkok is the same as New York or the same as London. Thailand’s not. It has got this Buddhist thing, the temples the monks. There is a whole different feeling. I know New York.

What about the Bar Philips character?

To begin with, I’ve been in a number of novels under various names and generally the authors change it around in some way that it is me but it is not me, that sort of thing. The sort of thing that says you go about and you catch a drink. What I didn’t mention to you, but I don’t drink in bars. I want to keep a clear mind. I don’t want to feel obligated to the bar which I would feel if they gave me anything from beer to JW Black. I don’t drink in the bars. The character that Jake Needham wrote about was me drinking in bars and acting like me, but not like me.

His impression of you?

He doesn’t know me! Its like there’s the guy at The Nation, James Eckhardt. He’s got a burr up his arse about me. This sounds funny but I have come across this a few times with different people. Do you know the main complaint about me?

No.

They want to be me! They don’t say it in so many terms but they want to be me. I can’t because you’re you and I am me but I still want to be you. This bothers people. It is psychological and I am not a psychiatrist.

Do you think you are the most famous farang in Thailand?

Yes, that is fair. You see this other fellow writing some column at The Nation gave my net address and he made a mistake so I never answered his first piece in the column. The next time I wrote him an email and said you can say whatever you want but at least get the facts right and I gave him the corrected website for myself and he printed it. He said Trink wrote me a nice letter and pointed out his mistake for which he apologized. What bothers me is that the Post never gave my address, but rather misleading information that I had retired. Thank you for showing an interest but that guy is not here. The funny thing is I still do book reviews for the Post!

Book reviews. You read two a week, pleasure, work or both?

A combination. I can see two to three movies a week which I review. Is it pleasure? Work? It is both. It is not one or the other.

You still come in here everyday?

Until they axe the typewriter or move the desk or something like that. I mean, whenever I come in, I look at the typewriter to see that it is still here! Yeah, same work environment as before.

What is your typical daily routine and how much part does work play in your life?

Again, the same answer as with the books. For me, work and pleasure are the same. I have arranged it that way. It didn’t just happen so whatever I do it is a combination of both. I make my rounds, read the books, see the movies, go to Pattaya one weekend a month.

It sounds like an ideal lifestyle.

I wish there was some money involved. It didn’t just happen. I made it happen.

Do you do much online yourself in terms of trawling message boards, discussion forums etc? Do you read any of the other columns or Bangkok based websites?

No, in fact the forum which used to be part of my online site has stopped. My attitude is I’ll read what you have to say but I’ll answer it if I think it should in the column, not in the forum. I don’t belong to any discussion groups. Occasionally I’ll look at something, could be Nanaplaza and the other one Nanapong. But very rarely. A large part of it is that I do not want to be influenced by what other people are saying. When I go to Pattaya I do not like to read the Pattaya Mail which is a good paper because I might find myself paraphrasing the Pattaya Mail in my column.

Like I did when I started the column I used your Trinkisms without even realizing.

I don’t mind at all. In essence what brought us together, getting readers sending me stuff, could be famous sayings by famous people or long pieces but unsigned. The reader would sign his name but have said that they found it or they had picked it up but wouldn’t tell me where it originated which is how I ended up inadvertently using something of yours which I would have attributed had I known. Someone sent me a poem which I thought was a nice poem so I put it in the column and a woman in the States sends me a letter, hahaha, you are now going to have to pay me 200 dollars and I want my money or I’ll call the police! Of course who sent it to me wasn't about to say where it had originated from. We sent a reply saying that of course they could call the police and asked her which office in Florida they would complain to. She must have checked this with her lawyer and she came back very contrite. I‘m sorry but it is intellectual property. We sent her a token amount, much less than what she had demanded. I use that to say whoever sent it to me never sent a name. Normally, I think in each case when I make a quote and I know it has come from someone I’ll attribute it to the author. What I like to do often is quote from books I have read. I try to be interesting. It doesn't only have to apply to prostitutes. If there is something really worth putting in, I’ll put it in. The writer might decide the paragraph I took out was against the law and I should be prosecuted but that never happens.

Do you prefer the 2004 version of Bangkok or the version that greeted you when you first arrived?

To begin with, both farangs and Thais have some noting that the past was idyllic and the present is terrible. The Thais usually point to the Bangkok of Rama 5 and say wasn’t that the great period to which my response is, yes, it was marvellous. Women were not allowed to go to university. If you don’t mind that I certainly don’t. Men won’t go back that far but they will go back 30 – 40 years and I remember that period well. It wasn’t idyllic. What I do remember amongst many things was it was infested with mosquitoes because the klongs were not cleared. They were not just troublesome. There were swarms and it became a joke. I remember that. That was unpleasant. Another thing was the roads. There were fewer roads at that time and they were narrow. Today we have these wide roads. At that time if you wanted to, I like to travel by bus. I don’t have a car. I would take buses and the bus would go to Prakanong on Sukhumvit and the problem was to cross the Prakanong River the traffic going one way was stopped so the traffic could come from the other direction because the road was so narrow. The traffic on this side would then be allowed to go. This is unknown today. You still had traffic problems for that reason. Not as many cars as today but still quite a few. Another thing was when they had streetcars, what do you call them, trams. The streetcars were single tracked which meant that you would go and then after a few blocks there was a little siding and there would be a street car which would be coming the other way and would wait for yours to go around the siding and stop. They were very slow, very cheap but they had it. The point is that the roads were so narrow that there were traffic jams, but mainly because the streets were narrow. The big advantage of those years were the much lower prices. I remember when a small bottle of Singha was 8 baht, about 40 years ago. ’62. I remember when a girl for the night was 100 baht. It depends. Fairly good girls. Brothels were cheaper. That was the whole night.

Did your earnings go further then?

Earnings were so low that you didn’t have money to throw around.

Back in '62 what would a monthly salary be?

I can’t tell you typically but for myself 500 baht a month. Really. 500. Which is why I say I did the supplements and the other pieces, and the other columns because they paid extras. I remember when samlor rides were 12 baht. Of course it was a question of distance. 12 baht for a normal ride. The taxi drivers were always surly. Prices were low and salaries were low. It was not idyllic. Streets flooded whenever it rained. This is before the pipes were laid for sewers but they were inadequate. I would walk in floods up to my knees which was not unusual. I wrote a piece once on waking New Petchaburi Road with water up to my crutch and cars were abandoned. Same as now, I did everything at night. I looked up and I saw the moon and stars and it was like an empty landscape. There no people around, just a flood. You wanna go somewhere, you walked, and floods were very common. Now there are many cars, many buildings. You know at that time, the height of the building was determined and it could not be higher than the Palace. Now of course there can be skyscrapers. The telephone system at that time was a joke. You’d pick up a telephone and you’d hear a Chinese sing song music and when you dialed there was one theatre called the Odeon in Chinatown and it only had 4 digits. You dialed 4 digits and you’d get the future. There were no telephones in the streets. If you were walking in the street there was no where to make a telephone call from. I remember I walked half of New Road in Chinatown looking for a telephone to make a call and someone directed me into a Chinese temple which had a telephone otherwise there weren’t any. The place was primitive in many ways. There were things they didn’t have. I remember Central Department Store when there was just one. It was a glorified shophouse. In the book section books were piled on the floor.

What does the future hold for you?

I don’t want to retire. It is not like why don’t you retire and sit back in a rocking chair and look at the scenery. That’s not my thing. I want to work as long as they’ll let me. That’s it. To continue what I am doing which obviously the Bangkok Post is not interested in apart from the books and I hope the net picks up so I can get some money out of it but I don’t expect to. I don’t intend to return to the States to retire. I may go back to see my kids who live in Los Angeles. It is not something I can’t wait to do or I want to do. If I go, I go. If I don’t, I don’t. I’ve settled here and I never did pick up the language. Don’t have the ear for it. My wife is my dictionary. But wherever I go there is somebody, usually Thai, who can translate. If I want to interview dancers or something they’ll do it. They’ll be the interpreter. I used to review Thai movies regularly but they sickened me. There is only so much vapidity you can take. They have definitely improved but with very few exceptions, they have a long way to go.

Any final message for your fans?

When I was writing the column for the Post and it was online at the Post, I was getting 30,000 hits a month. I’m still at it. Please give the address of the site. I don’t want to stop. I’ve given just a fraction here of what I have been through for 40 years. The main problem is so many of my readers do not know where to find me. The editor of the Post completely mystifies me.

Farang or Thai?

A combination, but mainly Thai, also farang. Please spread the word of where I am.

What about that medallion around your neck?

The medallion was given to me 30 years ago by a Philipino singer. It is Greek. On one side is a Nite Owl and the other side is a Greek figure head. The Nite Owl medallion.

And so the interview with Trink ended. It was late at night, my blasted laptop kept crashing and perhaps there was a bit of kreng jai on my part, not wanting to take up all of his time. We chatted for close to two hours and and I really felt I only got a fraction of his story out of him. I might go back and try and interview him again in the future.

Please note that his column can be found online at: idontgiveahoot

Where is this pic?

Last week's pic.

This week's pic.

It was Rachataewi Road.
Mmmm, perhaps too easy…

Last week’s pic was taken

from the skytrain walkway which loops around the eastern side of Victory Monument. The photo was taken facing east, looking down on Rachatewi Road and that light brown coloured building in the top right of the picture is the Century Park Hotel. Each week the first reader to correctly state where the 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 EMAIL INBOX:

A better offer? Remember the rule of fours?! (4 minutes, 4 inches, 4,000 baht.)

An experience tonight, not unusual here, a girl at a bar, very nicely dressed and attractive, said she could not go with me, because she "cannot go with man" (the excuse is irrelevant). Two hours later I see her in a disco with a youngish Japanese looking guy. Hey, this is nothing unusual, but I wish to share this thought with your readers: Worldwide, there are a myriad of reasons why a guy fails to get the girl he desires. In Thailand there is only one: She already has a better offer.

Those Bangkokchat girls.

I also had a girl from Bangkokchat willing to meet up for sex – no initial date. I was chatting in the main room and had private message – the usual Age, Sex, Location please. Within a couple of minutes we exchanged pictures (she wasn't ugly, but quite heavy for a Thai girl ). After she received my picture she asked me if I would go over to her apartment for sex – right now! I took her number and called her, but later I decided not to go – I had a vision of a bunch of Thai guys waiting to mug me when I arrived. I called to cancel and to be fair, she didn't push it – just pointed out it was my loss and "up to you" (of course)….mind you, if she had sent me the picture your friend Brett apparently received I'd have gone and tried it out.

I might like it, but at least one reader doesn't.

I tried the Londoner when it first opened and did not like it. Following all the positive comments in your column I tried it again last Sunday. Having just returned from England, where I drank a lot of real ale (Harvey’s, Young’s, Fuller’s, Morland’s etc.), if I had been served what passes for bitter in the Londoner I would have complained loudly and sent it back. I had the buffet, which turned out not to be a buffet at all as it is select your starter and sweet course and a main course with a choice of meats. The starter and sweet course were small (but good). The meat was tasteless and the mashed potato tasted like it had come from a packet. The service was piss poor. It took six minutes (I timed it) to get the attention of a group of waiters and waitresses who were standing at the bar looking at photographs. The one whose attention I did get pointedly took off his apron (‘my shift is over mate’) and walked off. In my mind I scored it, out of ten, Dubliner 8 Londoner 4. I asked my partner without mentioning my score who rated it Dubliner 8 Londoner 5. Overall it reminded me of the UK thirty years ago except the beer was worse.

Bored of Thailand? Try the Philippines.

I've been living in the P.I. for 6 years (continuously) 1990 – 96, believe me is ALMOST a carbon copy of L.O.S.! The loss of face, the double pricing, the impossibility to own land, the farang considered as a cow to milk et cetera. So, unwary farangs, don't think the P.I. is all that different from the LOS in many ways there are horror stories even worst than in the LOS (just a hint: in the P.I. : anybody under 21 is considered a MINOR, if you shag a minor (could be 20) it can be considered as rape….you can imagine the potential for blackmail in this sort of situation. For rape there is the DEATH PENALTY.

The hunt for the genuine article.

To try and get this Thai romance into some kind of perspective may I suggest the following which I hope by contrast will prove constructive. Thai relationships are built like skyscrapers – made up from playing cards, however if you look closely the bottom card reads money and a very funny thing happens when you take this card away. Judge your relationship by not how much you give her but by how little you give her, again as they say when money flies out of one window love is sure to fly out of the other. Tell her you are the worst deal in town, in fact anybody else will offer her more. Every time she smiles ask yourself was that before or after you gave her the money. Every time you had over large sums of money ask yourself what is it that I am genuinely buying. Okay if she is still hanging round you after a long probation period of two to three years with the above constraints, then finally you might be in procession of the genuine article.

Bald fatties.

We are forever hearing criticism of older guys for being; 1. Fat (beer belly etc.) and / or 2. Bald. Can the people issuing this crap be so stupid they do not realise that the above are part of the natural aging process for most normal people. There are probably 1 to 3 % of the male population, who work out, diet conscientiously, and limit their alcohol intake, thus (deservedly) looking good in their old age, and if they do not suffer male pattern baldness, that is a bonus. To the rest of the skinny guys, I give no credit at all. You were born skinny, you lived your lives skinny, and you die skinny, so what? Do they give Olympic gold medals for having different metabolisms? I don't think so.

Just who are these volunteer cops in Pattaya?

Pattaya is still throbbing late into the night. There is a heavier police presence than I have previously seen. Whereas before I usually only saw a couple of them at the steps to the Marine Bar, I now see a few patrolling Walking Street. Nothing intimidating though. I also saw with them a very strange looking farang with VOLUNTEER on his back.

There is a large banner in Nana Plaza announcing a dance contest on Thursday 26 August at G Spot Bar. With the trade the Crown Group are doing these days you bet all customers will be very welcome!

There is also a dance contest being held at Patpong tonight by Nanapong, the last ever dance contest organised by them I am told…

The natural ebb and flow of business in the bars means that while a bar might get a mention in the column one week as a good place to spend an hour or two, it may not necessarily be the same happening place the next month. This is of course true the world over. I have previously mentioned Electric Blue in Pattaya as a favourite spot. Poking a head in the door this week, Electric Blue and its sister bar Hooty's were both relatively empty (maybe a dozen or so customers in each). Hooty's no longer offers draft beer and bottles of Heineken are now up to 105 baht. Once could argue that this is a little high for Pattaya (and maybe the reason for few customers). Meanwhile, while Walking Street was not crowded, select gogo bars were, including Peppermint (not a seat to be had), Carousel and Diamond. Other areas of Pattaya, especially some of the not so central pockets of beer bars, were quiet.

Pandemonium reigned on the Pong late last night when just as the bars were in the process of closing at 1:00 AM, word got out that the boys in brown would allow the bars to stay open until 2:00 AM. By the time bars got the word most of the damsels had already changed into their evening finery and were milling around in their pods just getting ready to leave. The house lights were on signaling closing time and in rushed the bar owner of one bar yelling for the mamasan to tell the dancers to change back into their bikinis and get back up on stage! The dancers were not amused and refused to change back into their dancing outfits and start dancing again. The mamasan threatened to "cut" the dancers but they still refused and it looked like the start of a major insurrection. The house lights were turned out and music started again and the mamasan threw in the towel and a compromise was reached in that the girls didn't have to dance again but they had to stay in the bar. There sat a bunch of pissed off, sullen dancers who refused to mingle with the remaining customers. Some of the dancers were really pissed off because they had made "dates" for after closing so their long time customers could avoid paying the bar fine and now it would look like they were standing these guys up because they couldn't leave. Up and down the Pong some bars closed, others had dancers still dancing and others had the dancers in full street clothes. It was great fun watching the bar owners wondering what to do with this unexpected time and it must have been hilarious watching the dancers band together to frustrate the bar owners. I wonder if the ringleaders are now "in the book" in the mamasans' minds with pay back at some future time. Nobody knows if this will be the start of 2:00 AM closing again or if it was a one time thing. Time will tell.

On Friday night last week the police delivered orders on tatty photocopied paper to the bars in Soi Cowboy instructing them to close at 1:00 AM. The optimistic bar owners (and you would have to be an optimist to own a bar in the current climate) have said that the current 1:00 AM closing time crackdown looks set to last until after the Bangkok governor’s election at the end of this month. At Nana, bars have been closing at 1:00 AM most nights, but not every night. The odd night they have been open until 1:30 or 2:00 AM.

Now at least the coppers in Cowboy gave some sort of notification because this past Thursday, Queen's Birthday, was horribly confusing for many bar owners. Wandering down Sukhumvit Soi 4 late afternoon, at least a couple of bars were open although I later heard that they closed down shortly afterwards. The problem was that the bar owners were never officially informed that they were supposed to stay closed that day, as they're usually told. Even come 9:00 PM, no official notification had come. Down in Pattaya, the beer bars were closed on Thursday, but many of the gogos were open.

I used to really like using the website Movieseer.com. You can check out the screening times of cinemas in your local area. However, there seem to be a few issues there because the last three times we have looked up the screening times, they were wrong! Each time we got to the cinema and the movie we wanted to see had either started or wasn't due to start for a couple of hours, the times listed online different to the actual time at the cinema. Perhaps they have a gremlin or two in the system. The odd mistake is understandable, but this…

They might be two small bars, Lucky Luke's and Big Dogs, but did you know that they are home to approximately 120 girls? Yep, those two smallish beer bars at the mouth of Nana employ a whopping number of ladies. I'd never have guessed.

Some bars are REALLY feeling the pinch. On Tuesday night one small bar in Cowboy took 1,200 baht, that is all night. Times are tough.

There are a bunch beer bars on the Second Road in Pattaya, between the Hard Rock Hotel and the Big C, that are ornately presented, and lit up, in a sort of traditional Thai / Buddhist temple style. They look great when you pass by but I wonder if this style has offended any locals? Also, the location ain't great and they never seem to be busy.

It has been a while since my last visit down to Pattaya, but one of the things I noticed this week in my flying visit was the installation of bright lights on the beach side of Beach Road. A popular place for dubious characters to stroll at night, the once dimly lit area where one could hide in the shadows is now really brightly lit up. We all know that a lot of the transvestites hide in the shadows down there in the hope of propositioning or accosting inebriated punters, but really, that area could hardly be called dangerous. The installation of the lights makes it feel somewhat sterile.

For a long time I have recommended the Linguaphone course as the best course to study Thai with. The problem with the course is that it is very expensive. The man behind the course is David Smythe, possible the pre-eminent authority on Thai language instruction and translation (at least between English and Thai). I have been told that there is a course available also authored by him which sounds well worthwhile. The CD-based course called "Teach Yourself Thai" by the same person sounds like it would be a winner. What's more, it is a fraction of the cost of the Linguaphone course.

Please note that over the past couple of weeks I ran an ad for a visa run bus company. The ad has since been removed and for various reasons, I cannot recommend this service, although having said that, the service has yet to start up and it is unsure if it ever will. For anyone who is looking for an all inclusive visa run service out of Bangkok to the border and back, there are a couple of Korean operated buses which will take you up to the border at Aranya Prathet, see you through immigration and back including full cost of the visa, provide a free lunch, all for a bit over 2,000 baht. I'll include a few more details about them soon, hopefully next week.

I have noticed that a few of the so called better apartment / condominium buildings are very lax about who uses their car park. The buildings are awfully well guarded and actually getting into the building itself would be a challenge and a half, but parking on their premises for free….hmmm, it seems that all and sundry inadvertently allow you to do so. Because of the nature of guests being there for just a few days, many don't seem to have any controls in place and let anyone who drives in park, perhaps wrongly assuming that they are guests. Serviced apartment buildings seem the most lax of all.

A few weeks back I invited a certain fellow for an interview on the site. He never contacted me, fair enough. A few of the Thailand naughty nightlife message boards and discussion forums had thrown up rumour after rumour about the guy, most of them mindless and without foundation. I thought an interview with him would allow him to quell the rumours and speak the truth, give him a chance to talk about things from his perspective. From someone very well connected, I can tell you that the guy concerned is NOT HIV+ as some people active on the message boards have reported. Further, a lot of the photos going around online with him in them are years old. In the more recent stuff, he is clearly shown using protection. It would be a good idea for the moderators of these discussion forums to be a little more judicious with what they allow contributors to write.

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: The people of at least one of your nearby neighbouring countries (Vietnam for
example) believe that for a woman, to become a mother is the supreme happiness that nothing can be compared with. Is this also the belief held by the Thai? To expand on this, I have a friend married (7-9 years) to a young Filipina, and he'll never be having a child with her, and I, as I'm sure a lot of Asian women also do, feel sorry for her (and for like-case wives of friends of them – also composed of young to fairly young Filipina wives).

Mrs. Stick says: In Thailand it is similar with women from much of the country, but certainly not all. I know that my mother very much wants me to have a baby and constantly reminds me that by the time she was at the age I am at now, she had already had 4 kids. For her and I guess people of her generation, they had babies at a young age. But now, things are changing. My friends are only starting to have kids now, and they are in their early 30s. Even my old friends from Korat who still live there are only starting to have kids now. I am not so sure about the countryside but in Bangkok, many Thai women are putting their career first, and putting off having kids until much later.

Question 2: Could you explain to me the Thai attitude to marriage and cohabiting. It seems to me that just living together is considered the same as marriage with Thai people calling themselves husband and wife even though they are just cohabiting. I think this demeans the value of a proper marriage. I have been told that there is a lesser type of ceremony which a Thai boy and girl can have similar to a marriage ceremony if they want to make their relationship more accepted or known to their parents, again they then call themselves husband and wife, although not registered. This all means there seems to be no clear distinction as in the west as to who is actually married.

Mrs. Stick says: For an unmarried couple to live together is a really big deal and it usually only happens when the couple are so serious that they are certainly going to get married, or are engaged already. This really is a very big deal, more than you realise. I know things are slowly changing, but for most people from good families, their parents would not approve if they were living with a partner unless they were certain that they will get married. This is not just for women, but for men too. Some couples get married but do not register the marriage at the registration office. Legally, they are not actually married. The most important thing for many Thai families is that they actually go through all of the ceremonies (there can be a few different ceremonies) and all of the rituals that go with them. The marriage is celebrated by family and friends and the couple will then be considered married by all, even if they have not registered the marriage and are, at least from a legal perspective, not legally husband and wife. And then the couple living together will not upset anyone.

I am feeling an itch to create a new section to the site and am wondering about the idea of a readers' picture gallery. There are a zillion picture sites on the web and I already have over 20,000 photos taken in Bangkok (though only a few hundred on here) so the pictures would need to be a little different. I wondered about the viability of photographs from Bangkok and Thailand in general in the past. Good idea or not? Your thoughts are always welcome.

Your Bangkok commentator,

Stick

Thanks go out to Claymore, Basil Brush and Dave The Rave, as always.