Stickman's Weekly Column September 26th, 2004

Farangs Are Scarier Than Thais


StickmanBangk ok .com


Many farangs resident in Thailand walk around with a scowl on their face, openly angry or annoyed with life. Often all of life's evils are unfairly blamed on the locals and the farang believes his dis-satisfaction with life is not through any fault of their own, but because of their Thai hosts.

The reasons for feeling annoyed, upset, pissed off, whatever it is, could be anything, but it is inevitable that at some stage Khun Farang will start, most likely unfairly, blaming Thailand and the Thai people. They will badmouth all Thais in an unfair and mean spirited way and they will not be shy to tell all and sundry of all of the evils of the locals. This has the effect of giving Thai people a bad reputation amongst some farangs.

If one was to believe the words of some of the more negative farangs living in Thailand, you would think they lived, or at least tried to live, their lives in some sort of void where they absolutely minimise their interactions with the locals. Bizarre really.

It is my opinion that generally you do not need to worry about the locals. You need to be more aware of other farangs! Just because someone has the same coloured skin as you and comes from the same part of the world as you or me doesn't mean that they you should immediately trust them.

It is a sad fact that Thailand is home to some fairly undesirable Westerners, and some of these people think nothing of taking full advantage of one of their fellow countrymen.

There are various scams involving Farangs scamming other farangs in Thailand and it is, for want of a better term, big business. It happens all the time and is more prevalent than you would think. Scams range from the totally corny like the fellow with the North American accent who is often seen begging around the Erawan shrine right through to the investment scams that are not as rare uncommon as you may think. Promises of riches to be made somehow seem to always grab some sucker's attention.

The most common farang victims seem to be those people who want to make a quick buck. But the victims also include the weak, the trusting, and those new to the country who didn't do their homework.

Perhaps though it is a worldwide thing, something that immigrants do in foreign lands? Friends whose lives are intertwined within the Thai community in New Zealand – and we're talking four different geographical locations here – all talk of how the Thais living there rip each other off and how there is all sorts of nasty shit going on with blackmail allegations over others' work permit or visa status, amongst other things. And I have even heard of some Thai woman threatening to tell another woman's other half about the horizontal exercise that she got away from the marital bed if she wasn't paid to keep her trap shut! It's nasty stuff alright.

The funny thing is that virtually every Westerner in Thailand is doing something wrong. A huge number of people work without work permits, the teaching industry is home to heaps of Westerners working illegally. There are people with dodgy credentials, and others whose visa expired so long ago they can't remember when! And let's not forget it, that anyone who visits a naughty nightlife establishment may not be breaking the law, but their actions would not be looked upon fondly by their employer. And unfortunately there is a growing number of farang troublemakers who want to try and cash in on this type of thing. If you know the story about "Randy Brown", you'll know what I mean.

To kill a few of the mean spirited myths about our Thais hosts, it has to be said that most Thai people are genuinely friendly, curious about us Westerners and are interested in meeting us and getting to know us to find out what we really are like. Most Thais STRONGLY oppose the idea of foreigners in their country falling victim to any scam. Thais do NOT go out of their way to cheat Westerners. Yep, there are some bad nuts involved in the tourist industry, such as some of the gem scam places etc, but these are relatively few in number.

Yes, one can feel like they battle on a daily basis with some of the locals. Inflated prices and questionable service provided exclusively to foreigners are something that we have all experienced from time to time. Annoying as it may be, we are usually only talking about small amounts of money and once aware of these things, you can avoid them easily enough.

It is a small number of your fellow Westerners who you have to be most aware of. There are some rogues out there. Yep, you will occasionally get stung by a Thai, but it is the king hit from a fellow farang that you most want to avoid.

Where is this pic?

Last week's pic This week's pic

It was Villa Market near Emporium.
Where was this shot taken?

Last week’s pic was taken outside Villa Market on Sukumvit, close to the Emporium. If you do not know Villa, it is a narrow-aisled supermarket with all sorts of imported food products. They have a particularly good range of imported food products from Australia and the US, as well as from other places. As with the picture every week, some people said it was too easy (expats) and some people said it was too hard (regular tourists). OK, so this week's picture looks pretty easy – we al know the big tall building in the background. But the question is a little different. Where was this shot taken from? The winner needs to be fairly precise. 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 flood of Westerners.

To say that Thailand is being flooded by foreign tourists sounds like something a right wing politician would say in a speech, but it may actually be true. No matter what time of day or night or what time of year you arrive at Don Muang airport, the place is always packed. Not just western tourists, but many from other "poor" Asian countries too. I had trouble booking a medium-priced hotel in Bangkok last weekend yet September is supposed to be off-season. Thousands of Thais earning only 20 baht an hour in the service industry must be asking themselves what they did wrong in a previous life to come back as a servant to so many ugly, fat, rude and stupid barbarians who all seem to have unlimited baht to burn. Thailand has become a victim of its own popularity and mass tourism is destroying the traditional Thai spirit. What is amazing is that there are not more nasty incidents against foreigners considering the number around.

Do as the locals do.

'When in Rome' may be the best policy with regard to corruption in the Thai education system. If you can't beat it, use it – tell all the 'good' students that other students are buying their way out of ignorance, and that they are lazy lay abouts – the rumour mill may cause the corrupt students to lose face? There have been many times in Dublin when I'd love to have murdered some of the British 'tourists' who invade our city every weekend, drunken, obnoxious yobs who think they're immune from any standards of decency or law in this country. I can sympathise with the Thai cop who reacted to a provocation – the court case will prove interesting.

Is teaching really for you?

For individuals to find cheating personally offensive they have to have a central moral core that finds it reprehensible. They have to have an internal agenda that has set limits on behavior because they have established what kind of people they want to be. People who have no central moral core can not be trusted for anything. I don't know how you do the teaching. I could never do it. I am not willing to cohort with people who confuse charm with no core. The difference is strength. I don't have your strength. I could never teach in Thailand.

The crème de la crème, just 1%?

There are, according to my calculations and observations, about 3,000 available bar and gogo girls in Patong, Phuket. Of these there are probably 30 (about 1%) that you (or any one of us) would be proud to walk down the street with, or brag to your mates about 'having been there'. Because of this shortage of quality 'tash' and because of the influx of so many younger and less knowledgeable tourists these days, the aforementioned (1%) girls have got 'attitude' in a big way. They think they are little princesses, and in most ways, they are right. Even in the lowest of low season, these (30 or so) girls know that they will never, ever, have to go home alone, or unpaid. In Bangkok or Pattaya, this is not a problem for us farangs, because, even the most stunning superstar looking girl knows, there are hundreds, if not thousands of girls as good looking if not better than she, out there working and waiting for farang cash. I have to say, in my opinion, Phuket is a much more pleasant environment in which to live, than either of the above, if a tad more expensive. My message is, "If you want to live with a super babe in Phuket, better bring her with you.

He is happy – surely that's what counts?

It was in the summer of 2002 when I went with my previous Dutch girlfriend to Thailand. We travelled around and one day we ended up in Samui. As I was single again, during the evenings I went out for a beer ore two and eventually stumbled upon a ladyboy. To make a long story short, I tried to be with her for 1.5 years but never had a good experience with that girl. A year later I moved to Singapore and checked out Orchard Towers and found my princess. Yep a ladyboy (fully transformed so you call her nang faa) and up to now we are still together. From the moment we met she stopped working and just stayed with me. I told her from the beginning I do not have a lot of money, just enough for living and sometimes go out. She is such a nice person and so good hearted that I never wanna lose her. You see so many bad stories about bargirls and all other shit but sometimes it just can work. Just be clear about everything you expect and can offer. Although we feel that some Thai people do not accept ladyboys whenever we go to some disco or restaurant, however we do not care when we are rejected, it only makes us feel stronger. A relationship with a bargirl can work, just be honest and straightforward from the beginning. For those of you who see ladyboys as dressed up men, just spend some time with them and you will find out that a lot of them are 120% women.

Outstanding service at the British Embassy.

Just read your comments on the British Embassy and would like to share my recent experience with them. Last month whilst on my annual holiday up in Isaan with the wife I received the news that my mother had just died in the U.K. I emailed the embassy asking how quickly my wife could get a visa to attend the funeral and they replied to me within hours with all the information I needed. We flew down to Bangkok and my wife queued outside the embassy at 6 AM as advised by them. That afternoon she was given her visa and was able to fly the next day. I would like to say a big thank you to the embassy staff for the speed in which they answered my emails and processed my wife's application.

Be careful in Pattaya!

I just wanted to warn your readers about Mr. Boon Travel in Pattaya. Mr. Boon Travel is the most complained-about business in Pattaya. I was a victim of the ploy that Mr. Boon had been pulling for a long time: Use "money Y" to pay "expense X" and use "money Z" to pay "expense Y". My airline ticket was only purchased once some other poor schmuck had paid his money for his ticket. That purchase happened yesterday…5 days after I had paid for my ticket. So, assuming that Mr. Boon Travel is still operating on Soi Post Office, I strongly recommend that your readers give it a pass.

Yep, again we start with the bar closure time. I am currently receiving around 10 emails a day from people asking what the story is with bar closures, with many worried about how it will be in December and January. Well, in Bangkok, the bars continue to close around 1:00 AM or just after, depending on whether the boys in brown are on site to force them to close. There have been a couple of days this week, including Friday night, when the bars were open until almost 2:00 AM.

Rumours are doing the rounds that all over the country that, starting now, for 6 weeks, bars will ONLY be able to open from 6.00 PM until 1:00 AM. After that, zoning will come into effect. The reasons cited are problems with Thai youths getting drunk, taking drugs, crashing motorbikes, fighting etc. These new closing times have NOT been implemented as at the publication time of the column.

If you have ever been curious as to why a growing number of Thais are becoming suspicious – or perhaps even downright negative – about the presence of large numbers of Westerners in Thailand, then this story might help you to understand a little better. It would seem that the female staff who work at the gas station on the corner of Sukhumvit Road and soi 4 get approached from time to time by Westerners who make certain propositions. Offers of 1,000 baht to be a naughty girl for an hour or so may not be the norm, but they are not entirely uncommon either. Guys offering money for sex to girls outside of the naughty nightlife areas give all foreigners a really bad name.

The barbaric acts in the Middle East this week and the brutal slaying of innocent Westerners has sent shockwaves through some social circles in Thailand. One of the American hostages was a frequent visitor to these parts and was well known in Washington Square. And the British hostage has a Thai wife. The very popular, locally based writer known as "Mekong Kurt" wrote a moving piece about one of the hostages, a friend of his. With so many Thailand connections to these innocent victims, and the huge numbers of guys who work in the Middle East and spend a lot of time in Thailand, this has been the number one topic amongst expats in Bangkok this past week, or at least in the circles where I move. To say that there is growing anger against what is going on is a massive understatement. I have to wonder about just what may happen next. There seem to be more and more holidaymakers from the Middle East in Thailand and with what has been going on, I fear there may be some sort of backlash. When in Bangkok, male tourists from the Middle East used to stick to the Soi 3 area but they are mushrooming out and you see them in bars in Soi 4 and in Soi 5, the traditionally farang dominated areas. In Pattaya, more and more from the Middle East are wandering up and down Walking Street, away from the area where they used to hang out. Bars where you would only find Westerners are now home to a few drinkers from the Middle East. Now don't get me wrong, they have just as much right to move around and venture into other areas as anyone else, but with what has happened recently, I reckon there are going to be repercussions. Western countries are getting tougher and tougher with visa applications and these people who may have ventured to Europe or North America for a holiday are now coming to Thailand. Submit a visa application with a photo that shows a rag on your head and the odds are real good that it is going to be declined. But it seems that they can still come to Thailand. Will there be any problems?

Bars in Phuket had been open until 2:00 AM each night, that was until earlier this week. As of Tuesday night last, police say bars and discos must close at 1:00 AM. They allowed them an extra half hour for the first 3 nights, but stated that after that they would strictly enforce the 1:00 AM closing time everywhere after that. Rumour has it that certain nightclubs may be allowed to open until 2:00 AM provided they have the correct nightclub licence. Almost as bas is that the word is also that no bars are allowed to open during the day in Phuket! This we will have to wait and see… They say only 6 PM until 1 AM. How's that for a world class holiday resort? If it is enforced, it rally is conceivable that many tourists will choose to go elsewhere.

A couple of years ago, in Phuket, those people who live in Soi Sansabai, and the housing estate behind, were subject to crazy scenes if they happened to return in their vehicles after midnight. Mobs of drunken farangs and the ladies chasing their business, impeded progress into the street, often banging on cars and even kicking at cars was not unusual. This has been mostly resolved, by the relaxation of opening times across the province over the last couple of years. But it seems that the area in question is once again starting to resemble a disaster zone. Folks on holiday do not want to be forced back to their hotel rooms early. A person who wants another beer, at 2 AM is very unlikely to be a terrorist and is almost certainly not an Islamic fundamentalist. And with 7 Eleven and other convenience stores not allowed to sell liquor after midnight, drunk farangs wandering the streets hunting for a brew might cause more sleepless nights for locals.

The new Pratunam Complex – that is the big, new, as yet unfinished (but still open) shopping centre diagonally opposite the Central World Plaza. It is an excellent place for DVDs – 100 baht for DVD-5 and 170 baht for DVD-9, very good service (they have a TV so you can check any move you want) they have both the new, and even some older, moves I haven't seen in Panthip for a long time.

Once again I have to rave about the Indian buffet lunch at the Irish Xchange. I don't know what other days they have it, but they definitely have it on a Friday from midday – 2:00 PM. For only 280 baht you get the works – very good soup, a selection of salads, a number of very good, different curries (some vegetarian, some with meat), different types of rice, narn bread, poppadom, a choice of dessert (and they are very good, especially the fruit crumble) and real coffee. I'd have to say that this is as good as the Mexican buffet at Bourbon Street on Tuesday nights and these two are easily my favourite "reasonably priced buffets" in Bangkok.

If you're in Bangkok next weekend you have the chance to meet a couple of the most well known Bangkok authors. On October 2nd, from 1 – 3 PM on the second floor of Starbucks at Sukhumvit soi 5, Stephen Leather and Dean Barrett will be signing books and answering questions about the joys and pitfalls of writing. A 10% discount will be available on any of their books and free coffee will be provided by Starbucks. Both are super nice guys, so do pop along.

It would seem that the smoking laws in Thailand are awfully flexible. Anyone reading about the laws would think that they were as tough as the West, but the enforcement of them in many establishments largely renders them useless. In fact in some places it seems that no smoking signs are actually taken down and ashtrays laid out if a large group indicates that they want to smoke! You really have to wonder. If you are bothered by smokers or cigarette smoke, no smoking signs do not really mean a lot.

On Sukumvit Road at soi 1, the site of the old petrol station, there is a two storey building being built with a sign calling it the "Soi 1 Entertainment Plaza", which is available for rent etc. Keep in mind that if you were not in business on 12/31/03 in a non zoned area, it is my understanding that you can no longer apply for a license. Beer bars also cannot be licensed. Good luck to them, BUT how in the hell are they going to rent out space given the aforementioned?

Bully's opened last Friday and the initial comments from customers have been good. Guinness and Kilkenny are available on tap and both are flowing well. Bully's charge 175 a pint for both Guinness and Kilkenny, no added tax or service, 100 baht for a ½ pint which means they make no more profit on those drinks than they do on a bottle of Heineken. In reality by the pint the customers pay less than Heineken and get more beer for the money. Premium beers for less then Heineken prices, not bad. When deciding the focus of the bar, Boss Hogg recalled some of the less than positive feedback regarding the 25ml (= 7/8 ounce) alcohol pours in drinks. This is mainly price driven based on location and operating costs. What is a proper pour? I am reliably told that in America no one would pour less then about 1.25 ounce or 40ml. In premium bars Stateside they apparently pour 50 – 60 ml. Upon opening Bully's Boss Hogg decided to pour 40 ml on all drinks, the prices are 110 – 125 baht, 10 – 20% higher than elsewhere, BUT the customer can taste the alcohol which is 50% greater in volume. Great stuff!

Mrs. Stick

After a week off Mrs. Stick is back to answer questions surrounding anything that confuses you in Thailand, particularly issues of the heart. A number of good questions came in in the last week and she will resume answering a couple of questions each week. She is happy to answer any questions regarding things you may not quite understand about Thailand, particularly questions concerning affairs of the heart.

Question 1: I use the Thailand chat rooms on Yahoo! and like to chat to some of the young ladies from around your country. Most of the girls I chat to are educated and can write very good English. However there are several girls age 25+ who appear to live the life of a prisoner. When chatting I sometimes ask 'are you going out tonight' and many times the answer comes back "my dad doesn't let me go out" or "a single girl cannot go out alone". What's happening here? Is it true? Some girls say they have to be home by 8 o'clock…..not going to meet many guys with that finishing time. I have seen pics / web cams of these girls and some are quite pretty. I get the impression they just sit on the internet chatting and dreaming about meeting a guy but never go out and actually meet anyone in the real world. On the other hand I have met bar girls who wake up at 3 pm, finish work at 1 or 2 am and then it's off 'long time' with a punter. If 'Dad' doesn't let her out how is she going to meet someone and get married? This kind of thing happens in the west until a girl is about 17 but after that most are treated like adults. Is it BS or does Dad really not let his 27 year old daughter out after 8:00 PM?

Mrs. Stick says: Yes, this is very true. When I was young, I was not allowed out at night at all. In fact even during the day Mum would make us stay inside. If a woman is over 25 and is still living at home then her parents are probably aged around or over 50 and people in the provinces of that age are much more conservative and many go about their likes like it is still the old times and according to tradition, this means that the daughter should be at home at night especially if she is single (i.e. not married – Mr. Stick). But when I was young I used to sneak out sometimes. I'd say I was staying at my friend's house which was true, but we might go out somewhere first. I'm sure the girls you are talking to are much the same!

Question 2: Many farangs coming out of (or still in) Thai / farang relationships, often make the case that love means something quite different to a Thai lady than in the traditional western concept. They imply or state it is mostly a state of support and dependency. This may be more indicative of the background of the majority of Thai girl's that these guys meet (bar girls etc), than anything else. Would a more accurate assessment for a regular relationship be that often, first comes marriage, then love develops over time? Surely there are some conceptual overlaps between the western and Thai cultures and practices regarding love? What is Mrs. Stick's spin on this?

Mrs. Stick says: I disagree that marriage comes first and then love develops over time, though I guess it could be the case for some women, I don't know. Love is very important and without that I don't think someone can be truly happy in a marriage. But you're right that Thai women might be a bit more pragmatic than Western women. We Thai women do not have the earning power of Western women and we therefore have to be sure that we will be looked after properly in marriage, as we should be. You have to understand that divorce really is a nightmare for a Thai woman because if divorced it would be very hard to remarry and then we could be stuck on our own. No-one wants this. When my Mum fist met Mr Stick, she brought my aunty with her so they could see what he was like. Mum was not used to farang guys and she was unable to see what he was really like because she just wasn't used to Westerners. She wanted to be sure that he could look after me. I know, or at least I am told, that most Westerners can survive problems in the relationship such as one partner being out of work so long as there is love. For Thai woman, we need to be looked after. Yes, love is very important, but there are other things too.

I get a lot of requests from readers to meet up for a drink. It is great that readers are interested in meeting up with the guy behind the column. In the past I used to try and meet up with one reader who I hadn't already met per week. It was great to meet readers but sadly these days, I seldom do. I just don't have the time.

I find it quite amazing that this has been talked about on discussion forums online. Just why doesn't Stickman meet up with readers anymore? Some plonker even said that it was because I had been beaten up by a bargirl! WTF! Allow me to answer the question MYSELF, and kill some of the crazy speculation. My life has got busier and busier these days, to the point that it is hard to find the time just to put the column together, let alone meet up with new people. Work is busier than ever. I really enjoy meeting up with readers but sometimes time constraints mean that it just isn't possible.

Your Bangkok commentator,

Stick

Thanks go out to Pkt Jim and Dave The Rave.