Stickman's Weekly Column October 24th, 2004

3 Nights In A Row


StickmanBangk ok .com


Over the last few years I've made more than a few negative comments about the farang oriented naughty nightlife industry in Thailand, and have not been shy in suggesting that there is a hell of a lot more to Thailand than the naughty bars and all of the nonsense surrounding it. I have always maintained that it is fascinating to watch all of the goings on but many people have questioned how someone can write so much about something while not in favour of it.

The truth is that every day I get more and more out of touch with the bars, and people are calling me on this. Many people have said that I should not write about something that I am on record as saying I am not in favour of it. So, to try and get up to date on what is going on and see if my negative feelings about it all remain, I spent three nights in a row in the naughty bars of Bangkok this past week. What follows is my journey through the bars, and my thoughts on this aspect of farang life in Bangkok today.

Day 1

I started early, dropping in at the somewhat inappropriately named Gulliver's "Traveller's Tavern" at 5:00 PM for a couple of quiet drinks, and a chance of a bit of quiet time to catch up on the news and read the newspapers. One of the things that I like about Gulliver's is that they don't just have both newspapers, they have multiple copies of each and you can always get a copy of both The Nation and the Post to read. There's nothing worse than being somewhere like say, Starbucks, where they only seem to have one copy and you have to wait for someone else to finish it.

Sitting there enjoying a Heineken and catching up on all of the evils taking place around the world, I was distracted by a lady who kept seeing naruk jung (cute) in an effort to get my interest. I really just wanted to relax and engaging in conversation with a freelance bargirl was really the last thing I wanted to do, but she was persistent while remaining polite, and I couldn't help but smile at her comments, so I thought I would beat least civil with her.

What your name? – Michael.

Where you come flom? – Australia.

I have used the Michael from Australia routine for a long time with people who I really haven't been interested in getting to know, nor divulging any personal details to. That way, if I am out and about, either with colleagues from work, family, or whoever, and someone comes up to me and says "hello Michael", it is very easy to pass them off as someone I have never seen before in my life… "My name isn't Michael" would work pretty well…

What you job – web designer. I probably should have said English teacher because these girls all know that teachers have very little coin in their pocket and it usually scares them away because let's face it, this is all a build up to them trying to earn some money.

What happened next was quite peculiar. Now knowing that I was a web guy, the Isaan native started to ask me about a particular pornographic website and whether I knew who ran it. I said no, but I could probably find out. Suddenly this girl got really interested. Gulliver's has a few computers with free internet so we went over to one of the computers and I did a "whois" on the site and tracked it to a southern US state address, but no name. I explained to her that concealing the names of people behind websites is relatively easy. She then went on to say that there were lewd pictures of her on this website, quite something to divulge to a total stranger! I didn't believe her so she pulled out her mobile phone and showed me a lengthy URL contained in an SMS that had been sent to her. I fired the web address into the browser and after going through several pages of porno thumbnail images, rather embarrassing to be searching such a site in a public place I can tell you, we came upon a page which had pictures of her. I would never have recognised her had she not pointed them out. She then pointed to another girl sitting in the bar and said that she was on there too.

I asked her about it all and she said that the photos were taken about a year ago in the Ecstasy Hotel (wherever that is?!) and that there had been three farangs involved and they had used all sorts of lighting equipment. When I asked her how much she had been paid for it, she responded "less than 10,000 baht". She had found out about her pictures being online from a previous customer who had sent her the link via SMS which I found kind of odd but anyway. Wanting to get away from her, I told her that there was little I could do to help her and managed to extricate myself away to a quiet corner of the bar.

I can understand why people hang out at Gulliver's. It's a well designed bar and a nice environment, but in many ways, the freelance bargirls have taken it over. Mrs. Stick has gone along there a few times and she – and a few of her friends – are not fond of the place, citing the number of hookers there for their dislike which is quite simply the standard response any decent Thai woman would give. Gulliver's, by allowing freelance hookers to ply their trade within the bar, have largely killed a lot of the trade they could have with "regular" Thai women.

After Gulliver's I wandered down to The Londoner where I spent a couple of very enjoyable hours with an American friend, one of the few people I find I can have truly intelligent conversation with. Bangkok really can be a bit of an intellectual graveyard at times, can't it? Let me clearly say that The Londoner is in no way a naughty nightlife establishment and its prices help to keep the riff raff out which really is a nice change to most other establishments.

My friend had to disappear because he had an early start so I wandered up the road to Cowboy, shirking the soi 33 bars because it was now after 9:00 PM and the price of a standard drink in most bars at that time was 150 baht. Ouch!

Cowboy has changed a lot in recent times. There is much more neon there these days which makes it brighter and gives the illusion that everything is a bit newer than it used to. There were a lot of people in the soi including what appeared to be a bemused tour group of British retirees! It sort of reminded me of the dining room of a British B&B in the early morning, but instead of munching away on their bacon and eggs, they were wandering down the centre of Soi Cowboy, bemused by all the carry on. A whole coach full of elderly British touring a naughty bar area. Peculiar. I have never seen that before.

I went to Shark Bar for a quiet drink. There were a lot of girls dancing, the odd one was pretty I guess, but there were few customers. This had the unwanted effect of making a few girls approach me. As I politely turned each girl away saying that I was just there for a quiet drink, I was given a rude response by each. A couple of rude comments and one girl blowing smoke in my face. Lovely.

Shark was not relaxing at all so I went for a stroll up the road, all the way to Nana. I passed a few of the open beer bars on Sukhumvit around the area that used to be known as Clinton Plaza and being mistaken for a tourist, I got the same hello handsome man treatment that all other Western males walking by got. From a bunch of trolls. Honestly, some of the girls there would never make you say, "not today pretty lady" in response.

Arriving at Nana, I thought I'd check out one of the bars I hadn't visited in a long time, an old favourite in fact, G Spot. So, there I was sitting in G Spot, chatting with a girl who was a little different to the norm. She was 21, from Bangkok, and with braces on her teeth she immediately looked very different to the typical bargirl. I knew she was somewhat different when she said to me, "how can I convince you to let me go with you?" I pointed to my wedding band and she quickly said, "no problem". I hate it when they say that. Anyway, when was the last time you ever heard a bargirl use the word "convince", let alone use it correctly? It transpired that she had studied through to the end of M6 (grade 12) and was now in her third year at Ramkhaemhaeng University but had effectively dropped out because she did not have enough money to continue. Her story was totally different to that of the typical gogo dancer who comes from the Isaan countryside, from a poor family and with little prospects of finding a job that pays even the so called minimum wage, but her attitude was no different when I turned down her request for a lady drink and she left in a huff.

G Spot may have been busy but a lack of basic manners from the staff turned me away so I went upstairs to the old faithful, Hollywood Carousel. Well run and with a bunch of pretty girls, I was hoping that the staff would at least be pleasant, unlike those in other bars.

At this stage, I have to say that anyone who expects to be treated with respect n dignity in dens of prostitution is kidding themselves. These are not clubs where you can find a date – and such language really does wind me up. The are bars where prostitutes are available. Pleasant bars, pretty girls, but still, don't forget that they are prostitutes.

Hollywood didn't disappoint. Good music and friendly staff, I was able to find myself a quiet corner and just observe the comings and goings in Nana's biggest bar. They had a reasonable night and customers seemed to be having a good time. There were a few pretty girls, a lot of average ones and virtually no uglies. I guess the prettiest girls had already gone and were no doing their thing.

I stayed to the end when the police came around and quite frankly aggressively shooed punters from the premises at 1:00 AM sharp. It was already long past my bed time, and time to go home.

Day 2

The meeting places was once again Gulliver's and I arrived at 6:30. Myself and another Kiwi friend sat near the main entrance and had a good view of everyone coming and going. Getting straight to the point, some of the women coming to Gulliver's were attractive, in fact some were so attractive that I wasn't sure if they were on the game or not. Some were done up more like office girls than freelancers and frankly, I just wasn't sure what was going on. But then that cheeky grin and the raising of the eyebrows and suddenly you know that they are up to no good! I reckon that is the trick for a lot of these girls, trying to do themselves up so they do not look like the proverbial tart for sale. Those who manage it must do a roaring trade.

Next stop was Bully's, Boss Hogg's new bar between Sukhumvit sois 2 and 4. It has to be said that this is not a naughty bar at all, but rather a pub type venue, very much in he Gulliver's style, but without freelancers hanging around. A very nice place indeed, but it was quiet and I cannot comment about this place as a naughty nightlife venue, because, for the time being at least, it is not.

Next stop was down to B52 bar on Sukhumvit soi 22. Slowly more and more bars have been opening up on Sukhumvit Soi 22, something which sort of surprises me because there are some fairly large hotels in the area, and I thought this was the type of thing the authorities wanted to avoid, international tourists walking right out of their hotels into dens of prostitution? Opposite the main entrance leading into Washington Square, B52 bar is one of those pokey, small bars with a handful of girls on the premises. It has the obligatory small Sony stereo, a set of multi-coloured flashing Christmas tree lights, a pool table that has seen better days and a bunch of liquor bottles that you just know do not have the same liquor inside them as is purported on the outside. It was a lot like a smaller, pokey Pattaya beer bar, except it is in Bangkok, indoors. Exactly what guys see in a bar like this is beyond me. The environment is cheap and nasty. The drinks are crap and overpriced. The music is lousy. Frankly, one would be better off having a party in their Bangkok shoebox studio apartment than coming to one of these places. I have not yet mentioned the girls. I do not think I would be out of line saying that the girls here were rude, offensive and quite frankly, downright ugly. That some guys would actually slip a few baht to these girls for services rendered is a quite horrible thought.

Next stop was over the road to one of the outside bars at the entrance to Washington Square. One could argue that the bar offers a good view….but a view of what? A somewhat busy Sukhumvit soi? Is that really what one wants to watch, the perpetual Bangkok traffic jam? Call me nasty, but the girls in this bar were once again, nothing to look at all. Outdoor beer bars work at beach resorts like Pattaya and Phuket, but in Bangkok?

So far we had gone from the relative comfort of Gulliver's where there had been plenty of attractive girls, to a couple of stinking soi 22 bars. I know a lot of guys like the soi 22 bars but I just don't get it, I really don't. The girls down there are not easy on the eye. The view is virtually non existent and while Soi 22 may not be as polluted as other areas, this area could hardly be called clean… But then there are guys who say that they jut sit and chat with the girls. What about? These girls speak limited English and they really do not have much to say about anything. A sad area…and if the rumours are true that it will all be pulled down in two years, I don't think it represents any loss.

Seeing that I had had enough of soi 22, my Kiwi pal suggested we go elsewhere. We went for a stroll down soi 33 and it has to be said, the girls down there were friendlier but it was late so we decided to walk on up to Cowboy.

From soi 33 to Cowboy is an easy 10 minute walk. The pavement is all over the place and you have to mind your footing because there is little in the ay of light. In that particular stretch of Sukhumvit there are a few people around late at night and few businesses open, so it is a nice stroll to clear your head if you have had a few. It is usually a relaxing walk, but tonight, it wasn't to be. Just as we passed the glasshouse, I clocked them. Two androgynous figures stepped out of the shadow and made a beeline for me as I was walking slightly ahead of my pal. Pointing at them I said no, knowing exactly what they were and what they were up to. I don't know if my mate was aware or not but before I knew it, one was walking on one side of him trying to grab his tackle, while the other one brazenly threw her hand into his pocket in an effort to grab any valuables, or if it was her lucky night, his wallet. I don't know if he wasn't aware that they were the katoey pickpockets or perhaps he had had more to drink than me, but it took him a moment to realise what was going on. As soon as he did, all hell broke loose. He spun around, pushed one of the katoeys off and in a moment that would have made Mike Tyson proud, he fired a right hook into the stomach of the other. The katoeys were shocked, but I was stunned! Expletives followed and the two light fingered lurkers were left with no illusions about hat would happen if they tried it again. This is not the recommended way to handle situations in Thailand, but this time, it was ok.

After this excitement, I thought Cowboy would be a letdown! Sheba's was our choice of venue and we somehow managed to find a seat at the back of the bar which was packed and pumping. There were girls and customers everywhere and the place had a really good atmosphere. Girls were dancing with real energy and unlike so many other bars, they were smiling. They seemed to be enjoying themselves, in fact I'd go as far to say that everyone was enjoying themselves. The staff were pleasant and quite frankly, it reminded me of the good old days.

Sitting at the back of the bar, there was a tourist sitting next to me who had a dancer sitting on his lap and he seemed to be enjoying himself. He started to grab her chest and she asked him to buy her a drink. Unbelievably, the prat said no to which I thought she was really going to rip into him. But unlike some of the girls I had experienced in other bars, she simply stood up and left him, all while very calm and composed. Quietly, I wish she had belted the guy. It' all about the money.

Cowboy was closed at 1:00 AM sharp and the service staff were very keen to clear Sheba's quickly. They were polite but firm in their requests for customers to finish their drinks and leave, and I got the impression that they were scared of the consequences from the authorities of customers staying beyond the 1:00 AM closing time.

I headed for home, a little surprised at how good I felt. Let me rephrase that. I had been drinking since early, had had a lot to drink, and yet I didn't feel at all tiddly, let alone actually drunk. I'd been drinking Jack Daniels all night and had consumed more than I should have, yet I was not drunk. Hmmm…had I been drinking Jack, or was it something else?

Day 3

I had no intention of spending three nights cruising the bars. However, I was to spend most of the third night in just one bar, from well before the bar opened until close to closing time. I wasn't a regular customer but rather asked by the bar management to do a photo shoot of the girls so that photographs of the girls could be used for advertising outside of the bar, to replaced the aged pictures they currently have. I was keen to help. The photo shoot went well and the photos should be on display outside the bar soon.

During the course of the night, three girls came to the bar looking for work and they were brought to the farang manager to be interviewed. Every time he followed a structured interview process, establishing their experience, their level of English and other important information. A consummate professional he was.

At one stage there was a cat fight outside one of the bar. Two girls were screaming hysterically and manically at each other and there was a bit of pushing and shoving going on, but nothing much more serious than that. At least one of the girls was drunk and frankly, was out of control. Amused onlookers watched, anxiously waiting to see what would happen next. Thai guys took a couple of steps backwards while most farangs seemed to take a couple of steps closer. Two cops sitting just a few steps away just laughed and continued drinking. Fights can happen anywhere but these two girls both looked depressed and worn out, and seemed to be suffering from symptoms that would be consistent with the hard lives that prostitutes lead. One on hand one wants to feel sorry for them, but on the other hand, it is hard to.

That was a sign that it was time for me to escape the madness and get back home. Commotion in Thailand is always a pointer that it is time to go home. Sitting in the taxi on the way home, I reflected over the last three nights spent out in the bars. I had fun in Sheba's, Hollywood and Gulliver's wasn't bad too. But those three bars aside, the memories were less than positive.

I had heard various rude comments, some made directly to me, or other customers, and others were between the bar staff themselves. I'd seen girls fighting and I had seen the bars closed early by police. My friend had been the attempted target of pickpockets and I had seen sadness an desperation in many girls' faces. Frankly, hanging around prostitutes just is not a lot of fun, for me at least. The occasional night out is fun enough, but more than that, hell, I wonder how guys do it.

But plenty of guys do spend every night down the bars, and they seem to be happy. Good on them. They're happy. That's what life is about.

So after this less than glowing report on the state of Bangkok's farang oriented naughty nightlife, just why do I continue to report on it in the column? Is this not the epitome of hypocrisy? The explanation is easy. The industry is an integral part of farang life here in Bangkok, for both residents and tourists. To shirk covering the comings and goings would be a failure to cover not just an aspect of life in the city that interests many farangs, but one of the major things that drew them here in the first place.

Where is this pic?

Last week's pic.

This week's pic.

It was the corner of YenArgart and NarngLinjee.
Somewhere in Bangkok…

Last week’s pic was taken at the corner of YenArgart and NarngLinjee Roads, maybe a kilometre or so from the Immigration Office at Suan Plu. Only two people got it right, in fact it was days before the winner got it! Each week the first reader to correctly state where the pic is wins a 500 baht credit from 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:

Staying healthy.

I thought to write about something I find invaluable in helping the body in fight the effects of pollution. I live in Jomtien, not Bangkok – so this should be particularly useful to you. I have been blending fruits and veggies for years, drinking the mix first thing in the morning. I am 100% certain that it's one of the healthiest, energising routines I have. To pack in a huge wad of vitamins, nutrients and anti-oxidants (on an empty stomach, therefore absorbed almost immediately) just has to make sense. This year I bought a juicer for 1500 baht (imported from Europe, not the trashy Chinese stuff you'll see) and use that to make my own V8 (carrots, celery, tomatoes and cucumber, etc) which I drink first thing each morning. I usually juice a whole pineapple most days, too (before, NOT after meals!!) I hope you find this useful. There is a remarkable book available in Asia books 'The tao of health, sex and longevity' by Daniel Reid which talks about food as medicine amongst other things which I'd highly recommend. We can never invest too much in our health!

So that is where the LA comes from.

I always thought LA came from the Thai / Isaan pronunciation of Loy Et. Los Angeles = LA, Loy Et = L + Eh.

Dripping gold.

I had a conversation once with a girl, and I got the sense that she was working, earning money, and saving it for her family back home. It seemed that she felt more comfortable buying gold as a form of savings rather than using the good old bank. Maybe she was from the sticks and was afraid of using a bank? Maybe carrying an ATM card isn't safe for them? Maybe wearing their savings is the easiest way to store their money? That way they can't have cash around, which is easy to spend and also easy to "loan" to friends?

Will gambling contribute to be the Kingdom's next big social problem?

Having seen first hand the effect gambling has on the Thais here in Poipet, Cambodia what I do see on a daily basis is disturbing. There are so many Thais who have lost everything, and I mean everything! They have lost there jobs, businesses and family. There merger existence is waiting for a 50 baht handout so they can punt some more. Some Thais have not left Cambodia for 3 to 4 years! Day in, day out their life is a 50 baht pipe dream. The rumors are for 3 casinos for Thailand, locations being Pattaya, Bangkok and Phuket. Rumours are also for Bangkok they want to use somewhere near Don Meuang Airport. Pattaya will be at Jomtien Beach, and for Phuket the location is yet to be discussed.

A very good question.

How many Thai youngsters have been saved from; dabbling in drugs, riding motorcycles dangerously, having underage sex or otherwise undermining the authority of the Kingdom, by closing tourist orientated bars earlier? I eagerly await the publication of the figures.

You can seemingly get anything anywhere in Thailand!

My best man was over from Scotland and he was wanting Bacardi or Vodka. I kept telling him he had no chance in Galasin getting that. I can't even get it from the local Bangkok 7/11s. What happens, he sends my bride to be off to go search for this holy grail. She returns 15 minutes later with one bottle of Bacardi, one bottle of Absolute vodka, 40 Benson & Hedges, a Nation & a Bangkok Post! All from the local 7/11, and this is in a tiny town between Galasin City and Roi Et. Figure that out. The whole week I was there I never saw another farang though I did see a lot of houses they'd built, but I got a paper every day so can't complain.

Farang!

I live close to the Cambodian border. Most times FARANG is said snidely! I am often referred to as "Farang" with a seemingly unpleasant tone, and over loudly, by people in the street, market etc. I retaliate by saying "ARAI KMEN?" That soon shuts them up. No problem on future occasions they see me. I once told one old lady , in Thai, that if she insisted on calling me "Farang", I would call her "Thai" or "Kmen". She should speak / refer to me as "Khun Farang" or "Khon Farang" and I would use the same polite title with her. She now does!

More Thai options for Brits.

London University's school of African and Asian studies does a Thai undergrad and post grad course in addition to many other Asian languages and subjects. An interesting place to research Asian subjects in general. I studied Japanese there a few years back and the Thai course involves one year in Thailand studying Thai away from English speakers. The only place in Europe I believe you can do this.

There is a planned closure of all entertainment establishments, meaning most bars and even some restaurants, in Phuket from October 26, to send a clear message of protest to the authorities at the enforced early closure. It'll be VERY interesting to see just what comes out of it. Many tourists are going to be VERY upset if all of the entertainment venues fail to open resulting in few places to go out in the evening. The closure is for an unannounced period, meaning it could potentially go on for quite some time – though I happen to think the little operators will start to hurt after 2 or 3 days….remember a some of the owners of the smaller bars live off their bar's daily takings. Many holidaymakers are going to be very disappointed, but one has to admire the venue owners who are actually standing up to the authorities in what could be the one way that they understand. Check out the picture below of the bottom of Soi Sansabai, taken this past Wednesday at 1:45 AM and you can see peopling wandering around aimlessly, wondering what they are supposed to do. Is it bed time, Mummy?

Thanks to Phuket James for the photo.

Word came down this week from the powers that be that ALL venues in Pattaya serving booze must shut down at 1 AM! No exceptions. Sure enough, brown shirts were out in force city wide in the wee hours of Friday night / Saturday morning ensuring the new rule was enforced. The town once known for its late night partying was darkened at the unlikely hour of 1. Gogo bars cleared the decks of dancers and patrons; discos ushered out clientele and turned up the lights; beer bars turned off the music and turned out the lights. There was but one notable exception: Tony’s Entertainment Complex continued to rock – serving booze, entertaining customers, blasting rock and roll music unabated even while two of Pattaya’s finest listened to the music and enjoyed some of Tony’s edible fare. More than one working girl – not to mention gogo bar owners – was disgruntled by the early closing. "How can any body make money?" she asked. "Marine Disco open midnight but nobody come before 1 or 1:30…what they can do? What lady can do? Only go Tony because Tony have big money no close." That influence is also said to have played a role in Lucifer’s having been raided Friday night. While other venues were shut tight at 1 AM, Lucifer Disco was padlocked shortly after 11 PM, on the heels of police visiting the popular disco, testing clientele for drugs and checking foreigners for passports. No passport, go to jail. Many failed both tests and police closed down the new disco that in recent months has attracted many customers from Tony’s. Coincidence? You decide.

But the Pattaya bars were still serving all sorts of beverages well into Saturday morning, despite dimmed lights and musical silence. But beer bars hardly offer up the same entertainment value as gogo bars or discotheques. If Pattaya is to be reduced to beer bars – and early closing beer bars at that, it will have lost its single most important attraction, the naughty nightlife. Tourists will not visit Pattaya for its beauty for it has none other than the ladies who go there to prosper from the naughty nightlife. Families will not visit Pattaya for its beaches because they are dirty and the water is polluted. They will not come for tourist attractions because they are few, substandard, and many charge foreigners many times the admission price paid by Thais.

The first night of early closing brought loud rumblings by visitors who questioned the wisdom of choosing Pattaya for a holiday when they could have gone to more welcoming, fun-oriented spots such as Singapore, the Philippines, Vietnam and even Kuala Lumpur or Penang. Residents, meanwhile, cursed the government and Pattaya’s new mayor. "Don’t these guys have enough serious problems to deal with? Why are they obsessed with closing bars early and killing the goose that laid the golden egg?"

Prior to the early closure, things were hopping on Walking Street – though seemingly slow throughout the rest of Pattaya. The increase in numbers detected over the last week or so seemed to disappear by Friday night. Most bars had very few farangs – along the beach, on side sois, on Second Road, in North Pattaya and Naklua.

Walking Street was a different story. Leading gogo bars were filled to the rafters (those that have rafters, that is). Except Super Girl and Vixens (both on Soi Diamond, both virtually empty). Diamond A-Gogo was jammed, but no show other than dance contest. Living Dolls Showcase has introduced a new bevy of beauties that is bringing in the crowds. If they are not all attractive (and they are not) they do all have lovely figures (not a fat one in the line-up). Good shows, but expensive drinks by Pattaya standards at 110 baht a shot.

One long-time owner of a bar and guesthouse says she received written notification Friday that bars must close at midnight beginning that same (Friday) night. The same notice said discos and gogo bars must close at 1 AM. Some bar owners were notified Thursday of the new closing times while others were never notified until police came by to shut them down Friday night or early Saturday morning. While everything remains unclear at this stage it would seem that gogo bars are also not supposed to open before 6:00 PM. There does not appear to be a restriction on the time that beer bars can open.

The understanding is that the earlier closing times may be temporary. While some think the dictate relates to a Buddhist holiday being celebrated Monday, others contend that it comes from Bangkok, where the government has issued nationwide orders for nightspots to close earlier. Nevertheless, the latter group of entrepreneurs argues, it may still be temporary because Pattaya’s new mayor recognises the importance of nightlife to Pattaya and the country as a whole.

"We are being asked to co-operate with this blanket order until the mayor and his representatives can prepare their case to take to Bangkok," says one bar owner. "The case essentially positions Pattaya as a tourist town that must be granted special consideration. Foreigners come here to party and the party does not get started until late at night. Eliminate the party and you eliminate the reason for tourists to visit Pattaya. It’s as simple as that."

It is expected that the Mayor will further argue that tourism is important not only to Pattaya but also to the country as a whole. "People may come to play in Pattaya, but after a week or so they’ll tour other cities in Thailand," suggests one businessman.

I have been reporting each week on the closing times in the main tourists areas of Bangkok, Pattaya and Phuket, but the crackdown has NOT been isolated just to areas frequented by tourists. In Korat since last week, there have been strict closing times enforced by the police EVERY night. All karaoke bars MUST close at midnight. Cafés must close at 1:00 AM, and discos must close at 2:00 AM. The police show up on time EVERY night to enforce this. This takes a lot of man power.

And in the Thai nightlife area of Rachada Road in the capital, the cops have frequently been seen there making sure establishments close at the correct time.

And still in Korat, spare a thought for the local expats there. A nice bunch of guys those that I have met are, but they are not flavour of the month with the staff at many of the city's entertainment venues. It is the boys in the US military ho are getting all of the attention. All these American soldiers are starting to show up again for Cobra Tiger and they drive up prices for everyone and do stupid (generous?!) things like leaving 200 baht tips on 500 baht bills!

Suzy Wong's in Soi Cowboy is, according to staff, "closed for 30 days for refurbishments and will re-open on November 18". Exactly November 18. Exactly 30 days. Doing improvements at the start of the high season is not normal so one can only speculate as to whether the improvements are the reasons for the close, or a by product of being forced to close….all of the girls from Suzy Wong can be found over at Sheba's.

Many Brits will be happy to know that the official beer of England rugby, as it says on the side of the can, is now available at a few places in Bangkok. Both Hollywood Carousel and Hollywood 2 in Nana Plaza, amongst others, have Tetley's draught bitter available. It is a bit steep at 190 baht a can, but at least that gets you the tall can, 440 ml. It's the original British brew, and not brewed locally.

A friend and I were talking about relationships between Westerners and Thais and he said that the greatest success rate seemed to be with, of all people, the Germans. When asked why this was, he said that he felt that the Germans take less shit than others and they basically tell the woman what to do, something which he speculated is similar to what Thai guys do. True or not, I do not know…

The mainstream press this week reported that 23 tigers died of bird flu and another 50 odd – and possibly counting – have had to be put down. Perhaps they will need to rename it cat and bird flu? But seriously, the fact that these animals got the bird flu by eating chicken, as opposed to hanging around areas where chicken faeces etc are found is somewhat worrying, is it not? In the past there didn't seem to be any cases of deaths from actually eating chicken. Now they're cats, but hell, this got me just a tad concerned about eating chicken.

Whatever happened to the body paint on gogo dancers? Over the years the gogo bars have had many shows, but truth be told, most of them were a little crass with perhaps the most notable exceptions in Bangkok bars being those from Angelwitch, G Spot and Long Gun. In what now seems like the good old days, a guy used to go around several of the bars and paint wonderful designs in fluorescent paint on the girls, all sorts of exotic designs from flowers to birds, and the girls would dance slowly and sensually to slow music. It was tasteful and erotic and it is a shame that those shows are no longer.

I got a seat on the skytrain this week which must be the first time in the last three months!

Hollywood Two, next to Hollywood Carousel on the top floor of Nana Plaza are hosting a Halloween Party next Sunday, October 31. There will be a Miss Halloween competition with a cash prize for the winner. Also the night will feature top guest DJ Ant from London who will be rocking the Halloween house. An extended happy hour will run from 7.00 PM until 10.00 PM when regular beers and spirits are only 95 baht. The Hollywood staff will be making a special effort to dress accordingly for this Halloween trick or treat special. You are welcome to join the party for some scary fun!

There I was on the skytrain, a million miles away, when the damned thing went the wrong way. Yep, you read that right, the skytrain went the wrong way! OK, now you really think Stick has lost it, don't you? It was early Monday morning and no, I was not hung over. At approximately 8:40 AM the skytrain left the Rachadamri station and headed for Siam station. A recorded announcement (as opposed to the usual driver live commentary) announced that the train was heading to MoChit station (which is on different line). I heard the announcement but I didn't really think about it until the train arrived at the Siam station on the wrong side of the tracks. Instead of heading to National Stadium, it followed the track up the Sukumvit line and the next stop was Rachatewi. So, the train must have switched tracks somewhere between Rachadamri and Siam stations….but why?! This has never happened with me on it before, and is not marked on the maps. My best guess is that at rush hour they run extra trains and this one was headed back to the terminus at MoChit to sleep.

It is no wonder that what was once the flagship branch of Au Bon Pain in Siam Discovery has closed. Once a very popular place for farangs to relax, grab a coffee and shoot the breeze, it has rapidly gone downhill over the last year or so with some really surly staff employed there. It is no surprise to see them close.

There was the somewhat perturbing news circulating that if you went to the border at Mae Sai for a new visa entry stamp the Thai immigration officials wanted to see 40,000 baht cash on your return to get your immigration stamp. Rumour now has it that immigration in Mae Sai no longer require viewing the cash, but they do need evidence of funds such as a bank book, bank statement, travellers cheques etc.

I'm totally against drugs and have never used them myself, but acknowledge that many people do, or at least have, used them. I raised a point about the possibility of people testing positive for drugs in their system while in Thailand, but for drugs that were consumed outside of Thailand. What would happen? What follows is just one of quite a few emails I have received on this topic in recent times. People are worried. When I think of the so called "piss tests", can I ask you what would happen for example if I flew to Thailand via Amsterdam and while in Amsterdam I did lots and lots of hash (cannabis). If a bar was raided by the police demanding urine tests. Obviously it would show up in my urine in the test. What would happen than I wonder?

To celebrate Halloween, Dāsa second hand bookstore, not far from Emporium, is offering a 10% discount on all books in the Horror and Children sections from now through 31 October. Whether it’s a popular novel by Stephen King, Anne Rice or Dean Koontz, or one of R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps titles, you will find it among the nearly 10,000 books in stock at Dāsa. Kids will also get special treats on the Halloween weekend.

Ask the Sticks

Mrs. Stick is here to answer questions surrounding anything that confuses you in Thailand, particularly issues of the heart. Please note that for general bargirl related questions,

Mr. Stick might answer them. In her words, "why should I answer questions about those girls when you know much more about them than me". Mmmm….the Mrs. was not happy when she said that! Mr. Stick will try and answer the questions which Mrs. Stick is not so sure about.

Question 1: You have a situation where a woman you like makes assumptions of romance in a relationship that you are not going to follow-through with. How do you pre-empt this gracefully, with no loss of face? There is also the possibility that she may have no physical interest in you, and you may be jumping to conclusions yourself, which would also bring a lose of face if you were to bring it up. Obviously, you could let her make the first move, and then let her down, but is there a way to stop this earlier, without losing her as a friend? Or am I being too complicated and this can be accomplished easily as long as there are no witnesses about? Hmmm….there's an interesting question. If a face falls in a forest and no one else is there to witness it, did it actually happen?

Mrs. Stick says: This is really difficult because one way or the other, she is either going to lose face, or feel bad, or both. Really, I think you are best to tell her straight that you like her as a friend but are not looking for anything else. That would show her that you respect her. She might not understand initially and it may take a little time for her to see it, but then hopefully you can still be friends.

This question we talked about while I was in Korat and the mother in law had her thoughts too.

Grandma Stick says: For any Thai woman walking in public with a farang, irrespective of the status of the relationship, she will already be seen as sullied goods by many Thai people. For many Thai women, if they knew that the guy only wanted to be friends, and nothing more, she would not risk her reputation by being "just friends" which has a potential downside, but maybe not a great upside.

Question 2: In the West due to the prohibitive costs of staying in hotels family and close friends when visiting often stay over. In Thailand what is the custom of being a Thai guest
in a home. Does one bring a gift of something, take one hosts out for a meal and pay for it, and on departure write or phone one's appreciation? Is this a class related response, and if so at what level is it practiced?

Mrs. Stick says: Whether visiting for a short stay or staying overnight, it is polite to bring a gift of some sort. Often the gift is items of food, perhaps something sweet, or perhaps something distinctive from the area where the visitors live. Food is often given because if people visit, even for a short period of time, they would expect to eat.

For many tourists, this 1:00 AM closing at the major tourist centres in Thailand could be enough to sway them to decide to visit another country altogether. With 1:00 AM closing now looking as though it is taking a hold of the Kingdom, will you still visit? Does southern Europe, the Caribbean, Australia, New Zealand, or another corner of paradise now beckon? Let me know and I'll run the most interesting responses next week.

Oh, and the column will return to the standard, shorter length from next week. With me on holiday from school these past couple of weeks, I have got a bit carried away and the column has ballooned. Only the two columns with the Trink interview were longer than today's column. I'll trim it down, back to the usual length.

Your Bangkok commentator,

Stick

Thanks go out to Mr Write, Phuket James and Dave The Rave.