Stickman's Weekly Column September 19th, 2004

Thailand, The Future


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I am at that age now when I have to make decisions about my future, and the biggest decision of all is whether to stay in Thailand or not. Is Thailand the right place for me, or not? While there are inevitably a few things that annoy me about Thailand, the pros outweigh the cons and for now I am still here.

For me the biggest annoyance is the culture of cheating and corruption that is hard to avoid. The pre-meditated cheating and corruption and the way that it truly isn't a level playing field for long term Western tourists (are any of us are really residents?) if we find ourselves in a dispute is what gets to me the most. I guess it is not so much that these things annoy me, but that they reduce one's confidence of investing too much in Thailand.

But a solution may be on the way… Prime minister Taksin's latest plan is a war on corruption and it seems to be working on the ground if we use the boys in brown as an example. Many seem more reluctant than ever to take a bribe if they pull you over. To some this might not necessarily be seen as a good thing though! Whatever success Mr Taksin makes eliminating corruption, I fear it may be short-lived. As the following story demonstrates, this is one problem that won't be going away in a hurry.

We had an incident at my place of employment this past week. One class was set a project to do which involved a piece of work which would contribute to the students' final grade for that subject. Rather than do the work themselves, one group of students paid some outsiders to do it for them and submitted it as their own work. This was discovered by the teacher who refused to accept it and told the students that they had to redo the project themselves and resubmit it. The students went to the school administration and complained. In a shock decision, the administration sided with the students and the foreign teacher was told that irrespective of the fact that the work had been done by outsiders, it had to be marked and given a grade AS IF IT WAS THEIR OWN WORK, marked without penalty! So this particular group got a grade for a project in which they did nothing themselves. Other groups who actually produced the work they submitted got a lower grade!

The message has clearly been sent not just to this group of students but to all students in the programme that cheating is acceptable, will not be punished, and that there are actually advantages in doing so! It also sent the message to the teachers that in the case of a dispute between the (Thai) students and the (farang) teachers, that the (Thai) students will likely win, irrespective of the circumstances.

Cheating and plagiarism are so rampant at school that I joked with one of my classes about how I intended to stop it. I told the students that I had sent an email to Microsoft marked for Bill Gates' attention and how he had read it and replied personally. I explained to the students that I had requested Bill to remove the copy and paste feature from the Windows environment and all Microsoft programmes in an effort to curb the plagiarism problem that I have faced with many students submitting copied work. I told them that he had agreed that it was a good idea and that future versions of all Microsoft software would be stripped of these features. There was an audible gasp from the students.

Now this is a very good school, a famous school even, and one which has a first class reputation amongst well to do Thais. And the students who attend this school are likely to be the movers and shakers of the future in Thailand, the people who will be in positions of power. With the idea of impunity being re-enforced to them at such a young age, can we have any hope that corruption can be eliminated, or even reduced? These future leaders of the country are getting the message that it is ok to cheat.

Can the problem of corruption and such blatant cheating be stopped? I hope something can be done, I really do, because us teachers have our hands tied behind our backs.

Where is this pic?

Last week's pic.

This week's pic.

It was the pool at the Apex Hotel in Pattaya.
A Bangkok landmark for expat residents.

Last week’s pic

was taken at the Apex Hotel in Pattaya, from one of the rooms, on the third floor I think, looking down at the pool. It might look a little different now as that photo was taken a few years back. So, where was this week's picture taken? The name of the place is not Stickman's Market, of course, but it is a favourite spot for many Western residents of Bangkok, a great place to go. 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:

Consequences of one's actions.

It would seem that Thai girls are extremely easy compared to their western counterparts. This is all very good for the guys who just want to get laid but maybe we should think of it from a different angle. There is the HIV issue which seems to be affecting the heterosexual community these days, and it would seem that many Thais have a lax attitude to safe sex, although the sex workers seem to be more aware of this problem than say the general population. However, my real issue is that people are blissfully unaware that they may regret their behavior in later life. I am not preaching about how people should live their lives but imagine you fall in love with a normal girl, a good girl as people like to call them. Then later you find out she has been drilled by all and sundry and certainly is not the innocent little thing you once thought. Those special moments that you shared together really don’t seem that way anymore given your new found knowledge that she has been ‘around’. I don’t claim that things should be any different for men but whatever happened to the conservative Thai culture I have heard about? I have certainly never seen any evidence of it myself. Perhaps it’s another of the guide book myths such as Thailand is not a tipping culture. Having lived here for some time all I see are a people who seem to be two faced. Perhaps it stems from the ‘mai pen rai’ attitude, the short faced pursuit of happiness at the expense of everything else. Perhaps it doesn’t bother many what people have done in the past, we all have one after all, but there are consequences to our actions and people do pay the price emotionally and physically for what they do.

The cross cultural challenge.

"I met a Bangkok bargirl. Fell in love. Started to think long term. Got involved. Was robbed blind." They just can't see that the relationship has the odds stacked against it. You're first world, she's third world. She thinks short term; easy come, easy go. You have more middle-class values, so you tend to think longer term. Unless she's an orphan, you are pulling her one way and her family are pulling her the other. And of course there's the basic incompatibility between genders. "For men the price of sex is marriage. For women the price of marriage is sex." So it would be a miracle if it didn't end in tears. Some deep psychological urge is compelling some guys to disclose their Thailand adventures in print, perhaps to purge themselves and seek absolution. But think about it: If you discovered a Thai business partner was lying and double-crossing you, wouldn't anyone with half a brain would cut their losses and drop the bent, devious, lying, conniving, manipulative little toe-rag like a hot brick. But with a Thai woman, Western men clearly abandon the capacity for rational thought and stop using their brain for thinking. Perhaps after all those years of being treated like dirt by Western women, they are ready to fall in love with the first lady that offers them hassle-free sex.

Don't make a Thai lose face!

The murder of the two British backpackers got massive media coverage here in the UK. I have never been a great fan of Thai people so this incident seemed to justify all my negative feelings towards them. However, after reading all the reports and also reading between the lines, I ended up feeling a little sorry for the perpetrator. The scenario is very easy to imagine. The girlfriend with her tits half hanging out (current UK summer fashion for women). A few local farmers drooling over them a bit and laughing. The drunken, churlish boyfriend who thinks he's the British hard nut abroad threatens them. The off-duty copper steps in to diffuse the situation, but gets punched in the face and literally loses face in front of his community. What happened after is tragic but hopefully will serve as a warning to all visitors to the Kingdom to treat the locals with respect and not to go round treating them all like a bunch of peasants.

No sanuk, no tourists?

We may have a slight misunderstanding here between the Thai (Asian) attitude to families, and the western attitude, that is distorting the local attitude to opening times of entertainment venues. Perhaps in Asia, and I am no authority on this, after Mama and Papa enjoy a meal at their local restaurant, they like to go back home and take care of their offspring, (assuming they were not present all the time). Western families, or couples, on the other hand, like to pay their 'babysitter' be it family or otherwise, to stay the night, (or a least long enough) so that Mama and Papa can go out and party, like all their unmarried friends and anyone else, (sanuk, sanuk, Thailand, please take note). Consequently, Spain, Greece, Cyprus etc (even Turkey?) are great holiday destinations for the people that Khun Taksin keeps saying he wants to attract. Hotels in Europe offer 'child care facilities' so Mama and Papa can party as long as they wish. Most countries in Europe are extending their opening hours for the same reason, and other general principles of 'freedom'. Please take note, Thailand, if you want to increase your share of the international tourist trade, this is not the time to be having 'clampdowns'! If you want further proof, please examine the history of prohibitionist America.

There is more to Pattaya than you may think.

Just to let you know that my girlfriend and I (she is Mexican 23 years young) and I had a great time in Pattaya back in June. Just to let you know that its not just for the sex tourist. I am 43 years old. She loved the Thai food. As she is Mexican she loves spicy! She loves tom yam but she is not too crazy about the bamboo shoots. In any case we plan to go again next year.

Is it really this expensive? Surely this can't be right? I'm sure locals pay much less.

Bangkok Air has the monopoly to Samui Island, and they are abusing it. Tto get to the airport one needs to use the taxi mafia at 300 to 500 baht – for only a 20 to 30 minute ride. In addition, the Samui airport charges 400 baht just to leave the island. Incredibly expensive, esp. considering it's a domestic flight. To take the train to BKK, the most expensive seat, the sleeper car, is 700 baht, cheaper than paying the taxi mafia and the Samui airport tax.

Closing times in Bangkok's nightlife areas have been consistent at around 1.15 AM so little change there though when it rains and the cops are not around to enforce closing times it is more like 2:00 AM.

But maybe 1:00 AM is not so bad? There could be some very dark clouds forming on the horizon if the rumours going around Nana Plaza on Friday night were anything to go by. The word was out that starting that night, Nana – and all other area outside of the designated entertainment zones – would be forced to close at midnight. So far it hasn't happened but it seems that there is a very real possibility that it will. As one Nana bar manager said to me, "it is all moving to Pattaya". But then the following events down there make you wonder…

But most bars are still slow down in Pattaya, particularly away from Walking Street. On Thursday and Friday night, the previous week, select gogo bars (Peppermint, Carousel) were doing a roaring trade while their competitors were hurting; earlier in the week those same and other spots were virtually empty even at prime business hours. Late this week, Peppermint was still crowded, but numbers there and elsewhere seemed down by 50%. Even Friday night failed to draw imbibers from Bangkok to beer bars on or off Walking Street. Is it part of the low season doldrums or is it more than that? With local, national and world events all playing a role, the slowdown may be indicative of Pattaya’s year-round future. Perhaps most telling was initiation of the new mayor’s plans to change the image of this city which was built on a foundation of naughty nightlife. No more. Earlier this month the boys in brown sent a force into bars the length of Walking Street – first time in the minds of most in Pattaya. Any ladies failing to produce ID cards were arrested, ditto for those underage. The bar raids came on the heels of a major crackdown on Beach Road, where police patrolled heavily and frequently. Thai men, farang men and girls may enjoy the seaside walkway, but if you happen to be a Thai female – watch your ass. Ditto for female impersonators. Police attacked on foot and with pick-up trucks that they loaded with any and all Thai females not quick enough to avoid arrest. The Beach was cleared in a matter of hours. But not to worry, by midnight ladies were returning to the beach. Next day things appeared normal – until the police returned and began the process again. In the interim, working girls took their trade to Second Road. Police quickly sent a contingent to Second Road to deal with the problem (no dummies they).

Still in Pattaya, notorious sois off Beach Road are the focus of committees set up to determine how best to protect female tourists who are embarrassed (?!) by the appearance and shouted appeals of bargirls beckoning passers by. Soi 6 was seen as a special problem because it is congested by cars and vendors. To solve all immediate problems, Pattaya’s traffic superintendent has initiated an all-encompassing solution: alternate side of the street parking. That will solve problems on Soi 6 in the same way that the proposed midnight bar closings would have solved the problem of underage drinkers.

At least one Bangkok bar is providing English language training to all staff in an effort to improve customer service. The only bar I have heard doing this in the past was the Hard Rock Cafe. Given the massive communication problems many customers experience in the bars, this is a step in the right direction for sure.

Tai Pan and Baya Beach in Pattaya which were both closed down for 15 days for late opening, were due to re-open this past Friday.

I don't know what Pattaya needs more of, beer bars or hotels? But it would seem that businessmen think it is hotels because there is a sizable beer bar area which will be knocked down towards the end of the year and the land vacated for a hotel to be built. It is that massive beer bar place sort of located between Soi 8 and the Apex Hotel.

Don't be fooled by the signs outside Panthip Plaza with the Department of Intellectual Property's emblem on them. It is business as usual at Panthip Plaza with contraband as readily available as it has ever been.

No Western embassy gets as much shit as the British embassy. It might be easy to get to in a central location, conveniently close to a skytrain station and it might be set amongst very pleasant, spacious grounds, but resident Brits seem to hate the place. The biggest complaints stem from visa applications declined, the high cost of services compared to other embassies and unhelpful staff. Following the murder of the two British backpackers 10 or so days ago in Kanchanaburi, the British ambassador has been on the case and has appeared in some interviews on TV. It has to be said that he is the man! He has been persistent and his Thai is very good. You can only tell so much from what you see on TV but I really was impressed by him.

An old bar has been given a new lease of life….with mirrors! Pretty Lady on the ground floor of Nana has installed some mirrors on the ground. From your elevated sitting position, compared to the mirrors, you look down on to the mirrors which gives you quite a good view of….you know what!

Rumours are doing the rounds that from next month folks doing visa runs at Mae Sai will apparently need to have no less than 10,000 baht in cash on them to re enter Thailand and 20,000 baht for those with Non-Immigrant B visas. Credit cards not accepted. The amounts are probably not a big problem for most, but in the far flung provinces, and even more so across the border in neighbouring Burma, that is a hell of a lot of cash. If the locals know that every person entering Thailand must have that amount in cash on their person then there is a very real potential for crime. Whether this policy is implemented or not, who knows, but it seems a bit tough.

Back in the old days when I still enjoyed visiting neighbouring countries, I took a visa run to Laos. I was travelling with a friend who had all of the documentation needed to get a Non-immigrant B visa with the large language school with whom he was then employed. He submitted all of his documentation with the Thai embassy in Vientiane and we returned the next day, him expecting to collect his new visa. He was told that the school he worked for, one of the biggest chains of language schools in Thailand, was not on the “approved list” and that they therefore could not issue him with a visa. At the time we hypothesized that it may be a ploy to earn them a bit of tea money but no, a generous offer of 500 baht was turned down. He returned to Thailand with a tourist visa and had to exit the country once more, going to another neighbouring country where eventually he was issued with the needed non-immigrant B. I forgot all about this until this week when a reader emailed me telling me that he had applied for the same visa at the Thai consulate in Washington. The application was declined on the grounds, the school was not on the “approved list. Funnily enough, it was another very big chain of language schools, one of the biggest employers of English teachers in Thailand. I wonder how many consulates and embassies have this so called approved list and just who it is maintained by. Given the number of language schools, regular schools, tertiary institutions and even regular businesses hiring teachers, this seems downright bureaucratic to me. With the ever changing industry, the list would become out of date VERY fast.

A reader wrote to me this week complaining that his application for a teaching position was turned down. The interviewer looked him in the eye and said that he was too fat and that was the reason they couldn't hire him! Time to get into shape you budding teachers!

Quote of the week comes from Dana, who I met for the first time this past Friday at "the Stickman meeting room", the lobby of the Nana Hotel. According to Dana, "The wider the feet and the darker the skin, the happier I am."

The other quote of the week comes from Mrs. Stick, who said that it is very important that the customer comes first! I bet a lot of you can relate to that!

A reader in the UK asks the following. I am looking for someone to help me learn Thai,
preferably in the Leeds area in the UK, willing to pay £10 POUND AN HOUR if interested get in touch [email protected]

I am happy to answer all emails sent to me but I tend not to chat online so even if you see my online with MSN Messenger, I'd prefer to be emailed, rather than asked questions online.

Remember a week or two ago in the column I mentioned the friendly manager of Angelwitch and speculated about his nightly trek out of the bar, through the plaza and across the road to the Nana Hotel? Well, the popular manager replied with the following. We have to remember that life as a bar manager, drinking lots of free drinks while in the company of lovely young ladies is a hard life. I reckon Ricky must have been an evil bugger in a previous life to deserve such a fate…

I like to have a dump in peace. But being a bar manager life is not simple. You don't relies how tough life can be for us folk. Danger lies around every corner even in something as simple as taking a dump. If I use the Angelwitch facilities I encounter the following problems…..

1/ Due to the low season economy drive the cashier only allows us 3 sheets per visit. But when she goes she takes at least 5 sheets [Some times the whole bloody roll]

2/ As soon as I enter the throne room girls are trying to break down the door just to see if the rumours about the size of my manhood are true [Yes, true, very large.]

3/ Other girls just want to get in to offer me a quick free shag [At my age it takes me long time to do what most guys can do in a short time and there is no such thing as a free shag]

4/ A couple of our girls have added water sports to their sexual repertoire and want to demonstrate their proficiency in it while I am still sitting on the throne. [Or maybe they just want to piss on the boss, messy]

5/ Some girls just want to see if it’s true that shit comes out of both ends [Yes]

6/ One girl wants me to check if her hemorrhoids are hanging out of her bikini briefs [Tough job]

So you can see, it's a tough job but somebody has to do it [ME, ME ,ME]. All I want to do is take a dump in peace.

There were no questions for Mrs. Stick this week. Is she losing popularity? Forward any questions for her to answer in this column to me at the usual email address.

Remember that the weekly column is not the only section to this website. The readers' submissions section is another very popular part and currently hosts over 1,100 full length articles written by readers about various facets and experiences of life in Thailand. New stories in this section are added to the site most days. Check it out.

Your Bangkok commentator,

Stick

Thanks go out to Dave The Crave and Mr Write.