Stickman's Weekly Column October 3rd, 2004

Pattaya’s Future?


StickmanBangk ok .com


Bangkok's infamous naughty nightlife is slowly becoming sanitized. A city known worldwide partially for its naughty nightlife and sex shows is now much, much cleaner than many cities in the West, at least in terms of the flesh on display. It's Bangkok I'm talking about though, and not the rest of Thailand. But there is one spot in the country also known for its notorious naughty nightlife, which unlike Bangkok, has not had its nightlife sanitized, at least not yet. Where am I talking about? Why, Pattaya of course!

Even with the crackdown on various social ills taking place nationwide, there don't seem to have been that many changes to the naughty nightlife in Pattaya and by and large, it is much the same as it always has been. A dance contest held down there recently saw the contestants get down and dirty as they always have in such contests in the past. Many gogo bars feature not just full nudity but raunchy shows too and it really is business as usual in the city of sin by the sea. With sweeping changes to the nightlife being enforced in Bangkok, Phuket and elsewhere, how much longer can Pattaya remain like this?

Pattaya thrives, in the tourism high season at least, because of the naughty nightlife. While there may be certain other attractions, the nightlife is the driving force behind Pattaya’s predominantly tourism based economy. And this is where the conflict arises. While the government is promoting tourism to the country, at the same time they have been implementing policies which will have a detrimental effect on nightlife.

Long before the current clampdown on naughty nightlife began, I said that I would not be surprised if one day Bangkok’s farang centred naughty nightlife areas would be shut down and that everything would go down to Pattaya which would become something of a Wild West style town, a place where anything goes, a place that quite frankly would no longer resemble Thailand.

I wonder about the future of Pattaya. One gets the feeling from what is reported in the press that the people in power down there subtly work in such a way that policies deemed to interfere with the nightlife are not implemented in their backyard as perhaps they are in other parts of the country. Of course the authorities down there have to be concerned about any potential damage to the nightlife industry, which means tourist numbers, and ultimately the local economy.

The thing that I see contributing to great change in the tourism mix in Pattaya is the new airport. Located east of Bangkok, way out past Bang Na, the new airport's proximity to Pattaya can not be ignored. With some sort of futuristic high speed transport link planned – which has been said to get visitors from the new airport to Pattaya in less than 30 minutes – Pattaya could be on the verge of a new tourist boom. And these visitors may be people who come to Thailand for a traditional Thai beach holiday, not a week or two of hard partying, drinking and debauchery. It would allow many visitors the chance to get to Pattaya even more quickly that perhaps getting to a central Bangkok hotel. And despite it being popular with million of international visitors, there are just as many who would prefer to skip Bangkok altogether and go straight to the beach. Such people may jump at the chance to get to Pattaya, just a short, comfortable journey on a high speed train away.

Now one could argue that international tourists arriving in Bangkok don’t have a clue where Pattaya is in relationship to Don Meuang Airport and may not realise the closer proximity to Pattaya from the new airport. One could also argue that from Don Meuang Airport, one could take the expressway all the 150 km or so to Pattaya in less than two hours already.

But I wonder if the powers that be, that is, the powers at the very top, may see this as an opportunity to transform Pattaya? If they really wanted to kill Pattaya, and with it send the final nail into the coffin of Thailand’s farang centred naughty nightlife image (and believe me, they absolutely DO want to do this (and rightfully so too)), there may never be a better time to do it.

Thailand, land of many beaches, but for international tourists, many of these beaches, at least those with reasonable capacity, quality accommodation, are quite a hike from Bangkok, often necessitating a domestic flight.

The problem with all of this of course is that the current make up of Pattaya means that a huge number of people from some of the poorest parts of the country are employed, many making a lot of money, and to change the "tourist mix" would adversely affect many of these people, meaning money that currently makes it way up into rural Isaan and some other poor rural areas, would likely drop. Many poor people who benefit from tourism would suffer.

But for everyone who loves Pattaya for the bright lights, bars and girls, and whose heartbeat just started racing at dangerous levels at the thought that their beloved Pattaya may change, take solace in the fact that it is not that likely to happen, at least not yet.

With the new airport just a year away and the changing attitudes in Thailand from the authorities towards the naughty nightlife and what would appear to be their reduced tolerance of it, the future for Pattaya is, at the very least, interesting. Who knows what will happen? Will Pattaya continue to be a popular place for tourists interested in getting their rocks off, or will it become more known as a place suitable for family holidays? Or will it be both?! Only time will tell.

Where is this pic?

Last week's pic.

This week's pic.

It was taken from Phyathai Road.
Where is this?

Last week’s pic was taken just off Phyathai Road, near the Florida Hotel, looking east towards the Baiyoke 2 Tower, Thailand's tallest building. This week's picture features many tourists' favourite place. If you want top win the prize you really had better be quick this week! 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:

Face vs. integrity.

In working to increase my understanding of Thai culture, attitudes and values, I find it helpful to remind myself that we Westerners are taught the importance of "integrity" while Thais, like most Orientals, are instead taught the importance of "face". I explain the concept of "integrity" as that of maintaining of one's individual conscience for love, beauty, truth and natural goodness. If we follow our conscience then we maintain our integrity, the result is that we feel good and righteous. If we do not, we feel guilty and guilt leads to anxiety and neurosis. If violate or neglect our conscious and compromise our integrity, and do not experience guilt or remorse, then we are considered as a sociopath / psychopath and are criminals within our society. The Thai, or Oriental, may have a conscience however his face is valued as more important. The image that he projects to others, or his face, is more important than the conscience he holds within. So a Thai can commit a indiscretion but as long as no one knows (he sweeps it under the rug) then face has not been lost; he is still perceived the same as if the indiscretion never happened. But if the indiscretion is observed the loss of face can result in the experience of guilt leading to anxiety neurosis. So a westerner can commit a crime and if know one knows he can punish himself by the guilt. If a Thai commits a crime and no one knows then there is no harm done.

Sukhumvit to become even dodgier!

When the new closing time comes into effect, Sukhumvit is going to be a very dodgy place to be after midnight. If the authorities would come out and tell the police that there will be a zero tolerance policy, then everybody would know where they stand and it would help to clean up the area, which is already full of dodgy people.

Beware of expats!

I would heartily agree that often the greatest danger is not with the local population, but with others of your own ilk. In Vancouver, in the heyday of the "yacht people", we saw a number of our new neighbours being cheerfully fleeced by the resident Chinese population. One new neighbour (whose only English, unfortunately, consisted of "hello", "thank you", and "we're very rich") was charged 10x the rate for plants, and saddled with a "thoroughbred" dog without papers that died a week later. What was interesting though was that time and again they might be taken by their countrymen, but they would still go back to the same shops and malls, just to be taken again. While there are a lot of expats that I admire and whose company I enjoy while in Krungthep, there are a far greater number who need to be treated more as a hazardous waste material. Expats are people who have chosen to live outside their own societies, for their own reasons. Until you know their reasons, caution is always a wise choice.

Another one bites the dust!

I met a Bangkok bargirl. Fell in love. Started to think long term. Got involved. Was robbed blind." Ok. I was there. I admit it. My stupidity fine was to the tune of 50,000 baht over 4 months including one UK visitors visa. She was a bargirl. I read the submissions on Stickman. I knew the risks. I thought I could be different but wasn't. During the 4 months I thought the submissions on Stickman were particularly negative, filled with jilted men and their 'somebody done somebody wrong song'. Well I am there and I still think that people are not taking enough responsibility for their own part in the misadventure. We all know the risks. Any relationship is a gamble, even more so with a pro, never mind their nationality. Good gamblers know that they should never risk more than they are willing to lose. Guys – get your expectations straight here. All in life, for me anyway, is expectation management. Each time I sent the cash, I was weighing up the risks, asking myself how would I feel if this was a black hole. Do I resent the girl for her actions? No! Come on, she has been messed around by countless farangs, in constant fear of being found out by her family, all in the same time she knows she has a limited shelf life. In the end, she wanted marriage, her ticket out, and after having known her for only 5 weeks, I wasn't going to marry her. I offered that we continue our relationship until we knew each other better. This was happening until some other farang came along and 'proposed' after his 12 day holiday. (God help him.) At one point, both he and I were sending her support cash (unknowingly about the other). Thai girl 2, farangs 0. In the UK, I am an independent contractor. I will schmooze 3-4 clients simultaneously, saying how I am concerned with their business, will do a great job for them, until one of them signs on the dotted line. Can I blame my Thai girl for any less? God, I am going to miss her.

Does your Thai wife contribute financially?

Having been married to two Thais taught me that money issues eventually wear you down. Thai wives often see marriage as a canoe where only YOU row. The money they earn is for themselves only and they wouldn't dream of contributing to any family expenses. You are 'good heart' only if you are paying everything. The concept of 'team' is sadly lacking. My wife had a good job and earned reasonable dollars however she always referred to her income as "secret money". You soon get sick of carrying her and her family on your back.

What are *you* running from?!

I will admit to a short stint teaching English. You'd find the odd farang, this bloke almost always came in smelling of booze, seemed to like reading cowboy pulp fiction, and the female students were never really comfortable in his class. He'd obviously been around for a while as he could understand the Isaan dialect pretty well and could eat more hot chili peppers than I could. But, yeah, you get that 'aura' that tells you to Keep Your Distance. When I started work in another company, there was one American and another Brit who joined later. When out having a beer, both asked what problem had me out this way. They did not believe it when I said I came on my own. Seems that divorce, alimony etc drive many out this way.

Dave will host a party at Hollywood Carousel on the top floor of Nana Plaza on Monday October 4 to celebrate five years of bar management of both Carousel and Hollywood Two. The owner Johnny said, "This is some achievement and Dave has certainly had his share of headaches over the years." Dave is the sole survivor of over 30 managers who have come and gone. Well known and popular Kiwi bar manager Cleve from the Walkabout over in Pnom Penh commented, "I have a small bar with a moderate amount of staff, but Dave runs two huge gogo bars with hundreds of staff. I don't know how he manages it, I really don't." To thank all of the loyal customers and friends of Hollywood, Dave will host an extended happy hour, where all beers and spirits are only 95 baht from 7:30 until 11:00 PM. There will also be free snacks and a VIP prize draw. Worth checking out.

It may not be a Nanapong sanctioned dance contest, but there will be an inter-bar dance contest at Playskool in Nana tonight, Sunday 3rd October, starting at about 8 PM. Girls will represent Peter's 3 bars (Playskool, Suzie Wong and Sheba's) in a dance contest.

I believe that there was also a katoey dance contest earlier this week in Cascade and that it was busy. I'm not on the Crown Group of bars Christmas card list so they never let me know in time to tell you lot. Speaking of which, any bars who have something new to offer, do let me know. Be it the old favourite, a pig on a spit, a birthday party or whatever, let me know before the Sunday before the event so I can get it in the column in time.

At least four well known bar owners in Bangkok are looking for new venues to operate from…..in Pattaya. Seems to be a sign of the times.

Just as they were actually going to get work on the old Vixens in Nana Plaza underway, the construction staff decided to walk off the job, the day after they got paid. I guess they wanted a long weekend, but now they are all fired.

Friday before last in Carousel Bar, two Englishmen had an argument which ended with one guy splitting the other's head wide open with a Liverpool kiss, that is a "head butt" for you non-Brits. There was blood everywhere. All that talent in Hollywood and they have to be macho men! At the risk of upsetting my English mates and the English readership, the English in particular account for more than their fair percentage of the trouble amongst Westerners here in Thailand. It seems to be the old adage for some of them that a good night equals a pint and a fight.

An Englishman opened the newest bar in Nana Plaza, Pussy Cats gogo bar this past Friday. This bar is located in the spot that used to house the old Titty Twister bar. Remembering the trouble surrounding the previous owner of Titty Twister, the new owner and his Thai wife have been assured that they are starting afresh. The man who was shrouded in controversy over all sorts of debts and scandal at Titty Twister, Santos, is still in police custody. New bars in Nana Plaza are most welcome and help to raise the spirits of both customers and bar owners who have watched the industry go through tough times recently. I just wonder about the longevity of this miniature bar. I can never understand those who wish to build an empire inside a shoe box. Still, I'll be the first to admit that I know nothing about running a bar and as always, I wish the new owner every success.

A little late but Friday before last, Big Dogs and Lucky Luke's cashiers were arrested for selling alcohol after midnight, at 12:15 AM to be precise, while the rest of the plaza were operating as usual. Even the bar outside Bully's on Sukhumvit set up on the footpath at midnight and sold till 4 AM, no problem, with their license I guess… These two popular beer bars will now be closing at midnight and turning all the lights out in the Nana Plaza driveway when they go. Poor old Boss Hogg seems to be being unfairly picked on these days. His crime? I bet people are jealous of his success. The result? 22,000 in court fines and the cashiers were held 3 hours in a cell while they posted 40,000 in bail on the spot…they also took 10 lady drink girls, fingerprinted and then released them. We showed the judge our food license and the article from the BKK post stating 1 AM was ok and he said we could sell food till 1 AM but alcohol only till midnight. Bollocks, a restaurant selling food could sell all night. For now it seems that Big Dogs and Lucky Luke's are still being closed around midnight, while the rest of Nana is still going well after 1:00 AM, and closer to 2:00 AM some nights.

One of my friends has an easy way to ensure that he never falls for a bargirl, and never goes down the path that so many have taken before him. He refuses to use any of the warm, fuzzy terms that many guys use with these girls. He doesn't call them his date, his girlfriend or anything like that but simply calls them way they are – prostitutes. He says that by doing that, and refusing to see it as something else he all but eliminates the chances of getting in any strife.

Apparently a 39 year old English guy committed suicide at a notorious sex tourist hotel in Sukhumvit Soi 4. He was supposed to check out of the hotel at 2 PM but it seems that he checked out of life instead. So the story goes, the hotel went to check his room at 4 PM, but it was locked from the inside. Rumour has it that he cut himself in several places and bled to death. Ouch! The hotel is going to keep the room clear for a few days, something to do with the guy's ghost. Apparently many years ago there was a murder in a in one of the other hotels in the same soi and everyone knew the room number. One has to wonder if they kept the room number or changed it? Ghosts really are a big thing to many Thais, especially rural Thais who aren't just scared of ghosts, but downright petrified. Hey, don't laugh too loud, it's not that funny!

Quote of the week comes from a reader: "I have thought of a cute new term and I do not know if anyone has coined it before, but I have thought of calling her (when talking to farangs ONLY) my 'bargirlfriend', because she is a bargirl and my girlfriend!"

The Robin Hood pub had 99 baht Guinness pints this past Wednesday night, after 6:00 PM I believe. I don't know if it was just this past week or if they do it every week, but imagine it is the latter. Sounds like a great deal!

Two of the nicest guys in Bangkok entertained the crowd in Starbucks on Sukhumvit Soi 5. If you didn't make it, you missed out on the Steve & Dean Show, Stephen Leather and Dean Barrett talking about writing and then answering many questions from an appreciative audience.

Down in the seaside city of sin, Peppermint gogo seems to be making lots of money for its owners and remains VERY busy, while most other gogo bars are not. Diamond gogo was overflowing Tuesday night with revellers celebrating Joy’s birthday. Other gogos remained slow, maybe half full, and many beer bars continued to be very slow to empty. However, there seemed to be a mid-week spurt of trade for bars on the Second Road in North Pattaya. This might reflect the initial stages of a seasonal comeback; or it could be that farangs are lured by the influx of street walkers to the area. These ladies are systematically being policed away from Beach Road and many have relocated their freelance biz to Second Road. After all, what’s a girl to do? Taking a philosophical view of the overall doldrums, Phil, a partner in Classroom 2000 and other North Pattaya entertainment spots, explains “Sometimes it’s busy, sometimes it’s not.” Classroom 2000 has been hot and cold of late – mostly hot as one of the few quality gogo bars in North Pattaya. Beyond sporadic spikes in attendance, most bars are devoid of farangs. It’s been a long, long low season in Pattaya which some people say started in January, and business owners are hoping for a resumption of tourism soon to help make up for the profits "lost" over the last eight months. Some fear the numbers for Pattaya may never reappear. I don't see this at all, and attribute it to the typical late low season blues suffered every year by many of the owners of the smaller bars.

In a sleazy Patpong bar this week, just after torrential rain had started falling, one of the girls arrived bearing more than a passing resemblance to a drowned rat. She disappeared out the back to dry off and change but came back almost immediately with a 1,000 baht note in her hand. She handed it over to the owner, Linda, saying that she had found it on the floor in the toilet. Linda said that she would keep it until the end of the following night and if the tourist, who had dropped it came in, he could reclaim it, but if not, then the girl would get it for her honesty. Who said the working girls of Thailand are dishonest?

There has been a lot of hoo-ha generated by the marketing of the new restaurant at the JW Marriott in Sukhumvit. I can confirm that it is a Japanese restaurant called Tsunami. The invitation only launch party is on October 5 at 7 PM but their marketing department screwed up and must have sent my invitation to the wrong place, or the post office delivered it to the wrong place, damn it! From all reports it is the best PR package ever seen for a restaurant. Called a survival kit, it comes with a yellow raincoat to wear to get into the storm, a pair of chopsticks to sample the food and an instruction book to navigate your way through. Instruction 4: Remove the chopsticks from the package and hold them in your left hand on arrival at the Tsunami party. Instruction 5: Right hand should be kept free for drinking sake. Let's just go straight to number 5. The big question is whether the construction will be ready for Tuesday night. It seems they still have plenty to do!

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: An Isaan lady may love me. She is 29, academic, proudly virgin, decent, shy. I met her in a group of Thai friends. Once she and I (40) visited her nice parents – we brought more Thai friends to relax it. Before, I told her clearly "we are not boyfriend – girlfriend". In the car back, she wanted to sleep on my shoulder for 20 minutes; I agreed, stupidly. She was never close like that to another man. I told her by email, "I don't feel like boyfriend-girlfriend", but she keeps emailing, calling me her "best friend". I worry for her heart and want her to find a real boyfriend. How can I turn her off me without hurting her?

Mrs. Stick says: Meeting her parents almost certainly signaled to them that the two of you are an item and thus that you are being groomed as a future member of the family. When you are introduced to a Thai lady's family, it is more than just a causal hello, but a clear signal that a future is planned. What happens next is not going to be easy and about that I have no specific advice. Meeting her parents may have been a mistake.

Question 2: I have been seeing a Thai girl on and off for nearly 2 years, and have decided after spending the summer with her in my home country that she is not suitable as a long term partner / wife. I have read many articles about Thai woman slashing their wrists, and much about the crazy behaviour. This one has a temper like a chained tiger. Along with this, many times my girlfriend has said if we were to split up she would kill herself. I believe it is wise not to be in Thailand with her when I tell her, but rather 6,000 miles away on the phone. Do I tell her, on her own, with friends there, or when she is visiting and staying with family. I am in no doubt of the loss of face it will cause her, so I propose to tell her I have returned to my ex wife for the sake of the children which should help in this respect. What else can I expect, and how best to deal with it. Your womanly advice will be appreciated.

Mrs. Stick says: Out of respect I think it is best that you tell her to her face, but then if you think she really might go crazy, then perhaps it is better to do it over the telephone when you are apart. The loss of face depends on a number of things and from your question here it is not clear. Without knowing all the details, it is hard to add anything else.

Mr. Stick says: We chatted about this at length and the Mrs. and I totally disagreed. If this woman has proven herself to be someone who cannot deal with certain issues in an adult way then you really have no choice but to tell her of your intentions to call it off from a million miles away. She is playing mind games with you, a clear sign that she is not worthy as your partner at all. Conditions and mind games have no place in a relationship.

This week's column seems to be naughty nightlife overkill. Funnily enough it was also a hellish week at work. I prefer to include as much news and views away from the naughty nightlife as I can, but truth be told, that type of news is much more difficult to research. As crazy as it sounds, there is a correlation between how busy my life is, and the make up of the news in the column. When I'm busy, there is more nightlife news and when things are quiet, there is more general news. Frankly, I prefer to cover the non-naughty nightlife stuff so I hope the overdose of nightlife news wasn't too much for this week.

Your Bangkok commentator,

Stick

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