Stickman's Weekly Column October 10th, 2004

Can’t Make My Mind Up


StickmanBangk ok .com


When I think of the type of lifestyle I would have if I was back in my corner of Farangland, it would be something like this. I'd be living in a pleasant house, as opposed to an apartment. I'd likely be working the standard Monday – Friday with the weekend off. Getting to and from work would almost certainly be in my own car and the journey would be, at a guess, 30 or so minutes. I guess I'd have one night out during the week and at least one of Friday or Saturday night out, quite possibly both. I'd have a new or near new car, likely something quite desirable too. I'd have one overseas holiday a year and probably take a couple of trips domestically, long weekends away most likely. Other free time would be spent pursuing hobbies and relaxing.

My lifestyle in Thailand is completely different and does not resemble this at all. I work Monday to Friday the same and have more time off but that is probably where the similarities end. I go out more in Thailand than I would in Farangland but I live in a modest apartment and drive a car which could hardly be called desirable. My commute to and from work is a much longer than I'd like and at times can stretch to the ridiculous. I'd love to have an overseas holiday each year but the $$ jut don't exist and it has been many years since I had a decent overseas holiday. Don't get me wrong though. While I am somewhat happy living in Thailand, truth be told, on paper, the Farangland lifestyle does actually look a little bit more desirable.

While the Farangland lifestyle and the Thai lifestyle are two quite different things, I think it is fair to say that it is difficult for the average farang to truly live like a Thai. Sure, some manage it and their existence may be very similar to how the average Thai lives, but for most of us, we live a lifestyle that in many ways replicates what we did, or would be doing, back home. While we may eat more Thai food than farang, and travel around about much like most of the Thai population, using public transport, this is largely because it is forced upon is. We drink in Western style pubs and hang out at places where other Westerners hang out. We buy all the same toys that we would buy in the West, DVD players, cameras, computers, stereos etc. But there is a price to be paid for living a Western lifestyle in Bangkok with many things costing much the same here as they would in the West.

In my first year in Thailand I used to say that 35,000 baht a month was plenty to live on. Over time this figure slowly crept up and up and not so long ago I said that one probably needs more like 60K a month to live a comfortable life with the definition of that including a nice apartment or a house, a modest vehicle, a couple of good nights out a week with a few baht left over for the odd treat. Still, this is a lifestyle that frankly is far from luxurious, and one which would still see one struggle to afford certain things that perhaps would be taken for granted in the West.

Not so long ago, a friend of mine said he wouldn't even get out of bed for 60K baht a month. At the time I thought his words a touch harsh, but I think he had a fair point. I have to wonder now, is even 60K a month enough? If you consider a reasonable lifestyle including a trip home each year, then suddenly this 60K a month figure might not be enough! And if you start to factor in one's hobbies, vices or anything else, then it might be balloon.

The more I think about it, if one wants to have a comfortable lifestyle in Bangkok, I wonder if one needs a lot closer to 100K baht a month?

100,000 baht a month. Approximately $US2,500 a month. $US30,000 a year AFTER tax. Hell, that is more than the average person takes home in the US. Has Stickman lost his marbles? No, I don't think so. No-one really wants to be just average, do they?

Yes, I'll be the first to admit that one can live a pleasant enough lifestyle in Bangkok on 25K baht a month, but you will forever be counting your pennies, and forget having a girlfriend. If you can't look after yourself and provide yourself with a treat or two on 25K, how the hell are you going to get a lass interested in you? Frankly, no-one wants to live like that. 25K baht in Bangkok provides the sort lifestyle that we expect to live in our student days, but if one is still living like this years and years after graduation, then something is seriously wrong. When you have to say no to something as innocuous as a decent coffee because it is 100 baht, or dare I say it, a decent meal, and rather elect for street food, then I believe you are living the type of lifestyle which is far from ideal. Again, let me re-iterate that for some people, this is just fine.

Of course you can live on 40,000 baht a month, even less than half that if you really want to. Hell, from time to time I hear of farangs living on 10,000 baht a month upcountry. But would you want to?! No trip home, let alone proper overseas travel and forget a car altogether. And what if like me you have a somewhat expensive hobby like photography where a new lens can cost you enough to give the Mrs. a heart attack? Forget it!

I admit it, when I said that a farang could live very well in Bangkok on 40,000 baht (or less) a month, I was looking at the situation very much through the eyes of an English teacher willing to adapt, but perhaps more crucially, willing to make major compromise. This was at a time when I was new to Bangkok, happy to eat street food, take the bus and wear absolutely awful Pratunam ties to school. I used to think the girls were looking at me because I was a handsome young thing, but now I know they were looking at me wondering about my fashion sense, or lack of it.

While many farangs resident in Thailand seem happy enough just to be here and are prepared to live like the locals, I believe that a good number of the folks living on a teacher's salary or thereabouts must find themselves constantly wanting for things that their budget can't quite stretch too. I was in that situation but it has taken me a long time to realise it.

Now the trick to try earning 100K. Hmmm, sorry. If I knew I'd be doing it!

Where is this pic?

Last week's pic.

This week's pic.

It was the lobby of the Nana Hotel.
A hazy day in Bangkok…

Last week’s pic was taken in the lobby of the Nana Hotel and heaps of people got it, the first person getting it right answered within 3 minutes of the column going online, a new record, I think! If you want to win the prize you really had better be quick, although this week's picture might pose a little bit more of a challenge. Each week the first reader to correctly state where the pic is wins a 500 baht credit at that fine establishment, 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:

How serious are they?

If the "powers that be" are really serious about transforming Pattaya from a naughty nightlife center to a family-oriented beach resort, they're going to have to start paying attention to the overall quality of the "beach experience" to be had here in Pattaya. The condition of the beaches and the ocean around Pattaya leaves A LOT to be desired, with so much pollution that few residents or visitors willing to even go into the water most of the time. Between all the litter scattered on the beach and floating in the water…and frequent sewage spills that make the water murky and yellow many days…I don't think Pattaya can compete very favorably with other beach resort destination spots around the world. The appeal of Pattaya over Bangkok is that you can enjoy all the naughty nightlife in a cooler, more relaxed environment of a beach front resort…but no way Pattaya can hold its own in terms of drawing beachgoers until it cleans up its act. Considering the devil-may-care attitude most Thais have about the environment, this kind of cleanup will be a long time in coming. If Pattaya didn't have the nightlife, close to the airport or not, anyone interested in beaches and the ocean will only come here once and then look elsewhere for places that you don't have to worry about massive infections every time you go into the ocean. As usual, all this talk about cleaning up Pattaya makes for good press but lacks any degree of realism.

Pattaya again.

I must agree with you that the 'sin' in Pattaya is not leaving anytime soon if at all. Las Vegas, Nevada, which I'm sure you're aware of being a sin, booze, gambling mecca in the US, tried unsuccessfully to phase out the sleaze aspect of things and make a more family oriented destination. Well it didn't work. Too many tourist dollars were being lost, so they threw in the towel so to speak and resumed their old ways. Now the money is once again rolling in. Money talks, bullshit walks as the old saying goes.

And again.

I couldn't help thinking that you've overestimated the lure of Pattaya's 'beaches' – they're polluted, environmental disasters & if anyone went to Pattaya for a 'beach holiday' they wouldn't stay long. The nightlife in Bangkok is just a small part of the mixture & Bangkok can comfortably survive without it – it was there before it had any nightlife & will be if it doesn't have any. The reason, and only reason, for Pattaya's existence is the nightlife – that's what has made it, so take it away & it virtually dies. Everything & everyone that lives here feeds off of it in some form or another. Take it away & what other tourist attractions have you got? A couple of elephants playing football & a lot of superb golf courses. That's it. There's just too much Thai & farang money tied up in the place to let it wither on the vine.

And one more time!

I foresee something much more ominous in the future of Pattaya. You didn't mention this issue, but gambling is probably coming to Thailand within a few years. Yes, legalized gambling. Today, thousands of Thais flock daily to the casinos in Cambodia and waste millions of baht at the tables, and it's a tremendous source of income for the mafias in Cambodia. Do I smell a rat? Yep, Thailand will probably legalize gambling in the country in a few years and the first legal gambling zone will be near Pattaya, hence the reason to build a new airport. Anyway, gambling is heading to Pattaya and I predict it will be near Rayong, as most of the available land near Pattaya is already taken with international manufacturing companies. Land a few clicks west of Rayong is still available and Las Vegas gambling consortiums could wrap up a deal in no time flat. Just look at Macau.

Is there a Cowboy bar employing folks from the middle class?!

I took my Chinese wife to one of the big go-go bars in Soi Cowboy for the first time. My wife is from a very poor rural area of central China and knows what she is talking about. She said she didn't think many of the dancers were from dirt-poor salt of the earth families at all, but middle-class and probably high-school educated city dwellers. She based this on their mannerisms and interaction with people including herself.

Visa service recommendation.

The Jack Golf visa run to Cambodia was excellent. Very, very comfortable, air-conditioned bus with amenities that included free coffee (if instant) on board, movies running on the built-in plasma screens, decently timed rest stops, etc. The buffet lunch at Poipet was very nice indeed. I made conversation with an expat from North Wales (quite interesting), did some duty-free shopping on the Cambodia side of the border, and was all-in-all quite happy with the experience. At a mere 2,000 baht, I think this service should be highly recommended to anyone considering overstaying his visa. Why take the risk, if you've got the 2,000 baht?

Mohammed Schumacher.

I've never seen quite so many Muslims as on my last trip in April 2004. One in particular being the airport van driver who went absolutely berserk after making a 20 minute unscheduled stop at his head office while a full van waited for him to do nothing but chat. Upon his return, a Brit politely asked him when we would finally be delivered to our hotels and a rage ensued including 80+ Kph driving on narrow Phuket roads with shouts of "You like this? You like this? We get there faster!"

Wanna get lucky?

As I was walking near Pratunam Center last week, this clean cut middle age man approached me and struck up conversation, mostly small talk about whether I liked it here in Bangkok etc. He then told me that there was a 'lucky temple' down the road and that it was only open once a month, the lucky day being today. I shook my head in disbelief and walked off, he took his parting shot and mouthed off that I sure didn't like to be lucky. Further down just outside the World Trade Centre, I walked past a guy who was trying the same scam on an Aussie couple who were clutching a map. Think they bought it wholesale. Yet further down the road near the BTS, another guy was trying his luck on a Chinese man. Must be my lucky day huh? Anyway, back here in Singapore, the papers reported that a man and his girlfriend were offered a tuktuk ride for 20 baht and were brought to this lucky temple where a well dressed gentleman who was praying 'befriended' them. He showed pictures of himself in monkshood to build his cred. He later told the couple about a jewellery shop that he knew. I think you guessed as much, same scam, different execution. This nice guy bought a ring for his girlfriend, paid S$1200 for something worth S$40. Must be his lucky day!

Ricky, the friendly manager of Nana Plaza bar Angelwitch will celebrate his birthday in Angel Witch this Sunday. While there is not a party as such, if you are out and about tonight, do pop in and see Ricky for a chat and a drink. Ricky is an old hand here and has been running gogo bars in Nana Plaza and round about for many years now… He has his finger on the pulse with what is happening now and also has many good stories to tell.

Down in Pattaya, Diamond A Gogo is rapidly replacing Living Dolls as the best show bar in town. With good music and a lot of pretty girls along with shows like the old days, the smallish bar with lots of atmosphere is the place to be for gogo bar fans. They even implement ice cream into some of their shows! However, some people feel they may have got some of their ideas from Angelwitch. Worth checking out!

Nana Plaza is still closing between 1:15 and 1:30 AM week nights and the kind folks at Lumpini are stretching the closing times on Fridays and Saturdays until between 1:15 AM and 1.50 AM. Wednesday this past week was an exception to the norm, as the police closed it all at 1 AM sharp, apparently due to some top brass prowling the district… This advice regarding the early closing comes from a very experienced Nana Plaza gogo bar boss:-

(1) Keep drinking until the bar closes, don't assume it will be 1 AM sharp.

(2) Try to offer a quick cash payment for a last drink if you really need one.

(3) Don't get angry if the bars suddenly close earlier than you would like, because the bars are powerless to the authorities. Would you want to tackle the armed police?

(4) Lumpini are extending the 1 AM closing by a considerable margin (compared to some other areas) on most nights so be grateful for that.

(5) Remember that in places like the UK the bars close at 11 PM and the clubs are full of young kids off their heads. There are also very few available hot babes, so count your blessings.

(6) Arrange your teeruk for the night in good time and don't leave it until late.

(7) Finally, it's still a billion times better than where you came from so always go out to have a good time and enjoy yourselves.

The piss tests continue with Patpong being the site of the latest tests. This week's raid might not have been as high profile as the Q Bar raid but given that Patpong is even more of a tourist area than Soi 11 where Q Bar is located, one can only assume that the powers that be are not at all bothered by the potential negative fallout from the inconvenience caused to visitors of the Kingdom, many of whom no doubt feel it is a breach of their rights.

The reason Peppermint gogo bar in Pattaya is doing so well is because they have many beautiful girls, most of whom are about 20 years old. But perhaps just as importantly, in price sensitive Pattaya, they are one quality gogo bar who only charge 45 baht for draft Singha beer during happy hour – and only 45 baht for Chang all night.

There is a new used books shop in Pattaya, at the PS Plaza above Tops supermarket on the corner of Pattaya Klang and Second Road. It is very well done and the first decent such shop in Pattaya. It probably needs all the support it can get. Please pop in at your convenience.

They are best avoided but sometimes it just isn't possible, those creatures of the night with husky voices and overly exaggerated feminine movements. The katoeys, or ladyboys as you may refer to them. I really don't want to get too close to one to ask them why, but the question that has been lingering on my mind is why are ladyboys so tall, that is, much taller than the average Thai male? The average Thai ladyboy would be what, 5' 8" or 5' 9", which is probably taller than the average Thai male. Any ideas as to why?

It looks like it is going to be a bumper high season in Pattaya because already many hotels have the full signs up from Christmas through to mid January. A friend who had been trying to get reservations for January was knocked back by five different hotels before he finally found somewhere with a vacancy!

Regular visa runners to Penang will be saddened to hear of the loss of the historic Hong Kong Bar which was gutted by fire on the 14th of September. At least one reader has been going there for 35 years and said that when he first went it was old even back then.

The pool tournament held at The Ball In Hand, on Sukhumvit Soi 4 which finished this past Sunday was a great success. A total of 96 players showed up at noon on Friday the 1st. The arrival of the national teams from Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia and Brunei made the tournament especially exciting. However, yet again the Malaysian national team showed how superior they are in tournaments. A large crowd was on hand to watch the final which was won by Ibrahim Amir from Malaysia who beat Thailand’s Surathep Phoonchalom. The final score was 11 frames to 6. This is the third time in a row that a Malaysian player has won the bi-annual tournament at The Ball In Hand. Top prize of the Ball In Hand tournament this time was 125,000 baht and total prize money given out was 227,000 baht. The owners at The Ball In Hand are promising larger prize money for the next tournament which should attract players from Taiwan and the Philippines as well.

In a city with so many Italian restaurants, and frankly, so many good Italian restaurants, which place is best? Well, I don't have the time, money or slim waist line to be able to try them all out, but I can mention a few favourites. I've talked about Limoncello in this column a few times, a great place with great food. I have also mentioned the swanky Angelini's in the Shangri La which has been voted the best Italian restaurant in any hotel in the world. It too is great, but it is pricey. But there is one place which I reckon is better. Maybe the decor is not quite as nice, but everything and I mean everything, really is first class. Zanotti's in Soi Sala Daeng would have to be the best Italian restaurant overall for me. The menu is very good and the food is just magnificent. The staff are really excellent and what is perhaps most amazing is that it is not really that expensive. You can easily have dinner for two including a bottle of wine for around 2,500 baht, which to me is a bargain given the quality here. Forget th wine and you'll be under 1,500. Really, to me, this is the best Italian restaurant in Bangkok.

I try to do the right thing, I really do. I have been buying original DVDs and not the copies. But I don't think it is going to last much longer. This past week, I bought three DVDs, all originals, and all had a major problem. The first one had no English soundtrack on it, even though on the case it clearly said that it did. The next had the subtitles all messed up and had English and German all mixed in together! And in the final one, the audio sync was out so that the actors' lips would move and the words would come about two seconds later. Now these were all originals, not imported mind you, but manufactured locally. It is no wonder that people buy the copies when the originals are no better than the copies. Oh, and I didn't even bother trying to get my money back – or maybe I should – it could make for an interesting column!

What's going on with the weather in the capital? I thought it was supposed to be the rainy season? Bangkok has been fairly pleasant for the last week or so, although it is probably a little premature to suggest that we have seen the back of the rainy season. But the same cannot be said for Phuket as seen in the pic below.

Phuket gets a lashing! (Pic kindly provided by Phuket James)

A friend of mine has found himself in court recently in what, shall we call, a civil dispute. He was telling me all about it and to say it is scary is something of a massive understatement. The word is that you simply tell the best story that you can and provide as much evidence as possible, irrespective of where it came from, so that the outcome will be reached in your favour. In other words, everyone lies something chronic and invents all manner of bogus evidence and witnesses in order to slant the outcome in their favour. Some of the lies that the other party had told were outrageous and I have been truly amazed that this sort of thing goes on in court. Maybe I am an idealist, a purest, or just downright naive? I always thought the justice system, or at least the dealings while actually inside a court, were clean, and above board. Is my friend's case the norm or otherwise?

Mrs. Stick

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, I might answer them, rather than her. 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!

Question 1: I travel to Thailand many times each year and always enjoy meeting and chatting with the girls. I am talking about non-bargirl types. I have long since matured beyond meeting women in the Sukhumvit corridor. Nice girls are quite easy and fun to meet. In talking / flirting with them I am sometimes accused of bpak waan (sweet mouth). I was always flattered but recently was advised this is not really the compliment I thought. Additionally more than one girl I have dated has told about a dream they had about me involving a snake (one girl even going into detail about two white cobras). I assumed this is a bad thing. But now I find out this is very good when a girl tells a guy of a snake dream. Can you please explain the meaning of these two things coming from Thai girl?

Mrs. Stick says: Bark warn does not really have a negative meaning though Mr Stick tells me that some of the bargirls do overuse it a lot. I guess some people who say it might think that you are not being sincere with them, or something like that. Dreaming of snakes means that that person is going to meet their soulmate and that if they are dreaming about you, it is you. Each of them must subconsciously think that they are going to marry you!

Question 2: My wife (a former bargirl) has slashed her wrist & arm at least three times over the years. In America people seeing her arm are very negative, thinking of her as crazy & suicidal. The two times she has done it while I have known her were done in unhappiness & frustration, but suicide was not the intent. The question is twofold; what are Thai attitudes when seeing a woman with a slashed arm; and why do women do this?

Mrs. Stick says: I can't say that I have seen anyone's wrists like this. But for sure, if people are going to do this they are going to get funny looks from others. We might feel that people who have done this to themselves are not the most trustworthy people and we might not want to spend any time with them.

Mr. Stick says: My understanding of this behaviour is that it is a cry for help, more than anything else. I mean if someone really wanted to kill themselves, they could. With many people in Bangkok living in apartment buildings, if you really wanted to kill yourself, just step out on to the balcony and jump. That should do the trick. But they don't do that, do they? Self-mutilation and cries of killing oneself are things people do when they want attention or are crying for help.

We have to remember that Asia is not the West, and things out here are different, sometimes very different. In the early days of this website I was a young guy relatively new to Thailand and wanted to talk of what I felt were injustices out here. I included a few stories on the site which were highly critical of certain things, and certain businesses. This was, in hindsight, not the most sensible thing to do. Bad mouthing others, especially if it is business related, and EVEN IF IT IS JUSTIFIED, is a fast way to get oneself in all sorts of hot water in these parts. There is an old saying: "When in Asia don't fxxx with someone else's rice bowl" meaning that you should not do anything that may be detrimental to someone's business or their means of making money. With this in mind, there are certain things that will not be printed in this column. The whole notion of "publish and be damned" is very Western, and hardly suitable out here.

Your Bangkok commentator,

Stick

Thanks go out to Dave The Rave, The Mad Stockbroker and CharlieKeeMao.