Stickman's Weekly Column November 14th, 2004

Another Day Trip Option?


StickmanBangk ok .com


Bangkok might be a vibrant, exciting city but at the weekend it it nice to escape the madness of the capital, often just for the day. For me, an ideal day trip means driving no more than two hours to reach a destination which has a variety of things to do and see.

I am bored of Ayuthya. I have been there so many times, photographed it from every angle. The problem with Ayuthya as a day trip venue is that it is always the same. It is static. Those historical sites do not change from trip to trip. Many people visit once and that is enough, so after 15 or so trips up there, I think I've seen enough of it!

I like Pattaya for the weekend but it is just a little bit far to go for a day out. For a night or two it is much better. The same can be said for Kanchanaburi, Ko Samet, Ko See Chang and various other places within a 150 km radius of the capital. All of these places are doable for a day trip but frankly, it only takes one accident, a heavy rain shower or taking the wrong turn and before you know it you can add a couple of hours to your journey time.

So looking for somewhere new for a day trip option, a friend suggested Nakon Pathom. I thought why not, I've never been so let's go and check it out.

Nakon Pathom is located 50 odd kilometres from Bangkok, sort of to the northwest, on the way out to Kanchanaburi and is probably best known as the home for the world's tallest Buddhist monument.

Getting to Nakon Pathom is a fairly simple affair. You could either take one of the buses from the southern bus station or if driving, simply go over the Pinklao Bridge from Rachadarmnoen Road and follow the road all the way to Nakon Pathom. You could even take a taxi all the way there, which would be in the region of 300 – 400 baht, depending on which part of Bangkok you're coming from.

On the way out to Nakon Pathom (or on the way back) you can go for a blast along this amazing street which has been nicknamed the most expensive road in Thailand. It is this 3 km boulevard with intricate streetlights, each of which has these beautiful gold birds atop. There are close to 1,000 trees planted along the boulevard, all of which are supposed to have been very expensive. There seemed to be nothing special there and I can only guess that this was built as part of some special celebrations. It is impressive all right, but its location, sort of in the middle of nowhere is weird. If nothing else, it is worth driving along for a look because it has become a tourist attraction itself.

The highlight of a trip to Nakon Pathom is without a doubt the big chedi in the centre of the city which is apparently the tallest Buddhist monument in the world. It is pleasant on the eye but frankly, it is not *that* impressive. Thailand spoils you for Buddhist temples and structures and off the top of my head I can think of countless other temples that have impressed me more. The tall Buddha image in Roi Et, the sleeping Buddha in Wat Po, the marble temple in Bangkok and the huge temple complex under construction 30 odd km south of Korat are all much more impressive, to me at least. I really had a case of "you've seen one, you've seen them all syndrome" with this particular temple.

Between Bangkok and Nakon Pathom we stopped in at the unusually named Human Imagery Museum, which is actually a wax museum. Now I have to say that this was quite well done and the attention to detail on the figures is incredible. I had to laugh that the way the place is laid out which makes it possible for people to stand right beside the wax figures and have their friends take photos with them next to the wax figures. As was inevitable, some locals couldn't help but actually closely examine and in fact even touch and pick away at the most intricate parts of the models, to see how they were made! While this place is quite well done, its appeal to farangs might be limited. With models of such people as famous monks amongst others, there might not be too much to attract the average Westerner. They do have lifelike models of Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill and a third farang, who I swear, bore quite a resemblance to local personality, Dean Barrett!

Unfortunately, like so many tourist attractions in Thailand these days, the wax museum employs double pricing whereby a large sign in English clearly states that the admission price is 200 baht for adults and 10 baht for children while a small sign off to the side states, in all Thai characters, that the price for a Thai adult is 50 baht, just a quarter of the price for a Westerner. And just to rub salt into the wound, the price for Thais is written in Thai characters, not even Thai digits, so unless you read Thai (or read Stickman!) you'd never know.

It would seem that Nakon Pathom is the pomello capital of Thailand. It wouldn't be much exaggeration to say that every second shop in the city is a pomello vendor. Whatever size and whatever grade you want, they're available – and at less than half the price you pay in central Bangkok. This is the same all over Thailand. The most prevalent produce grown locally is always available at a hell of a good price.

There are a few other points of interest in or on the way to Nakon Pathom including a rose garden which is supposed to be fairly impressive and a floating market. My guess is that that these places have a greater interest to tourists than residents.

Nakon Pathom is interesting enough I guess, and makes a bit of a change from Bangkok. But to me, if you have seen a lot of Thailand already, it really doesn't offer too much new. Much of what is there can be seen in one guise or another elsewhere in Thailand, or even perhaps in Bangkok. I reckon it'd be a good place to drop in and check out if you're on the way to Kanchanaburi, but taking a trip out just to visit Nakon Pathom doesn't really get a high recommendation from me.

WHERE IS THIS PICTURE?

It was Suzy Pub, in Khao Sarn Road.

Somewhere in Bangkok…

Only two people got last week’s pic correct. It was taken in an alley just off Khao Sarn Road and the neon sign is from Suzy Pub, a popular hangout for Thai students in the backpacker ghetto. A heap of people thought it was taken from inside Gulliver's, which was wrong. Each week the first reader to correctly state where the pic is by email to me 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

Running scared.

I had thoughts of returning to Thailand for a month or 2, but when I check in to your website, and read of the 1AM closings, and the brown suits kicking everyone out, drug testing (yeah, it's scary to think if you had smoked a little grass 2 weeks prior that it would show up in a drug test demanded after the 1AM closing time. It’s like the movie, "Midnight Express" in a way). Oh, and not to mention all the crap going on with the bird flu. (We had a full page write up with pics showing Thais in space suits slaughtering chickens, ducks, and now I read on your website tigers!), it makes you wonder why any punter from anywhere would go to Thailand right now.

Friendly coppers.

Reading about the police looking at farangs, I can report from Chiang Mai that I was pulled over for the first time in about 10 years here last week. Before, seeing a farang face behind the glass seemed to be a standard "leave be" instruction. I did have all papers in orders, and the officer was quite polite also. So all this may not only concern Bangkok.

Let's see him try and teach the past perfect continuous passive then…

Recently, I awarded myself a Doctorate in International Communication. Why? Because I have lived for 48 years on this planet (and maybe on some others as well, you may say!) I can speak the basics (Hello, How are you?, Can I have…, Thank you, Goodbye etc) in about 20 languages. I have travelled to many countries, I have had many jobs (particularly in the last 2 years, but I have never had the time or money to actually go to Uni for 4 years to 'acquire' a piece of parchment saying that I studied XYZ. When you see the title Dr. on somebody's business card, you don't ask to see their certificates before accepting their authenticity – maybe down the road you might question their ability, but usually they are accepted at face value, and sometimes are even excellent in their field. Where's this leading you may say? 'Qualifications' is the answer – many people have 'qualifications' from the University of ********** etc. but are shag all use in dealing with, or teaching actual people. Recently, the MD of our national football team had to resign over staff problems. He had no ability to manage people – even though in his CV he had listed 'people skills' as part of his Euro 250,000 / year job. To blow my own trumpet – I get on well with the majority of people I deal with, I enjoy meeting and talking to foreigners and I've forged many friendships over the years. These last 2 years I've realised many of my ambitions, and I'm a happier person for it, but I see in a lot of TEFL ads that you must have a 'qualification' in order to teach. If you're 'qualified' as a brain surgeon, it doesn't mean you'll be an excellent English teacher.

The email black hole?

I was amused by your "perfect CV ploy". I had done a similar thing about a year ago, when I was first looking into going into Thailand. What happened was I sent my CV to a huge number of language schools in Bangkok, most of whose names I got from the Bangkok Post as actively looking for teachers. I didn't get a single reply or acknowledgement, even though I followed up (politely) via email. Being a bit miffed by this, as I thought I'd have the schools trying to bite my hand off, I sent a "perfect CV" to a subset some time later (in fact a friend in Bangkok posted them for me). I didn't receive a single reply! Hmmm!

No such thing as a free breakfast?

As for Thais doing good deeds – I had a Thai guy working for me last week as a temporary labourer. My company pays him just 250 baht per day for which he seams very happy. I was too busy to get my own breakfast one day last week so I asked him as politely as I could to go to a vendor for me. I gave him 100 baht and told him to get himself a meal. He returned with the meal and my 75 baht change. No matter how much I tried to get him to take breakfast at my expense he would not. I didn’t push too hard as I didn’t want to cause him any embarrassment, but it left me feeling a little embarrassed.

If you were banned for 15 days for 135, how long would they ban you for…..ooops!

I was banned for 15 days last year for doing 135kph on the expressway. When I went to get my license back from the cops they informed me that I now had 60 points and if I got caught again I would be banned for longer, receive a big fine and have to sit a Thai driving examination. I told him it would be very difficult for me to pass a Thai examination due to the language barrier. After a long pause he said something in Thai and everyone burst out laughing. The secretary informed me he said he would make me dance in front of him instead. Brilliant! I would much prefer that than a test. Throughout my dealings with the authorities I have always found them courteous and good humoured.

A father writes.

As a father of a young daughter I read with interest a recent posting by a qualified teacher who points out that the only way to earn serious money as a teacher in Thailand is to teach at an international school. He's right, of course. My teacher friends earn over 100,000 baht a month, they live in large flats in Sukhumvit costing more than 50,000 baht a month, and they get free flights back to the UK, and free tuition for their children. They love it, and have a great lifestyle. All are well-qualified, professional teachers. And none of them has ever set foot inside a gogo bar. Ever. My understanding is that most of the international schools have it written into their teachers contracts that they are not to visit gogo bars and the like. Even being seen in a sex-for-sale establishment is a sackable offence. Most schools prefer to hire husband and wife couples who are both teachers, for obvious reasons. Even so, if I were ever to see a teacher from my daughter's school in a gogo bar bouncing a teenage hooker up and down on his knee, I would be in the headmaster's office the next day demanding his resignation. And I am confident I'd get it, too. All of my friends with children feel the same way. It might be hypocritical, but then I'm not in Thailand to teach children. If you want to be a teacher in Thailand, then teaching in an international school is the most lucrative way to do it. But please don't think for one moment you can do that and hang around Nana Plaza and Soi Cowboy picking up prostitutes. Us dads will make sure of that!

The annual invasion of farangs seems to have started a little earlier this year and reports are that the high season is well and truly underway. So if any bar bosses try to tell you that they are doing no good and are waiting for the high season to start, casually let them know that it has in fact started and that a lack of customers might be due to something a little more in their control (like high drink prices or ugly girls). It would seem that most Western tourists to Thailand have been undeterred by the 1:00 AM entertainment venue closures….or unaware, or perhaps there has finally been the change in the mix of tourists that Thailand has long sought – with more families and couples choosing the Kingdom for their holiday.

Bar closing is 1:00 AM sharp at Nana at the moment with no let off. I think we can now safely stop reporting on this and say that 1:00 is the official Nana closing time. I have to confess that I have been surprised by the number of British guys who have written in asking what the complaints are all about, saying that in the UK, pubs close at 11:00 PM – but conveniently failing to mention that there are all the clubs and discos that stay open until much later.

Word from Hua Hin is that the bars down there are being forced closed some nights at midnight! Hua Hin has always been policed a little more heavily than other areas so frankly, this does not come as a great surprise. It does not seem to be every night, but rather, some nights…

Down in Pattaya, most places are making it through to 2:00 AM with dimmed lights for the last hour which is also helped by the inattentive authorities.

In Phuket, one of the few places where sensibility reigns supreme, everything is back to how it was in the good old days and bars close at 2:00 AM.

Still in Phuket, the old Shark Club / Star Club is now being converted to a Bangla Boxing
Stadium with real fights. The unofficial closing time is 2:00 AM but they usually close around 2:30 or even 3:00 if punters around. 4 – 5 days ago the police told the gogo bars they can start doing whatever they want again, and the result is that both nude dancing and shows are back in Patong, which had previously been banned by the previous Phuket governor about 2 years ago.

Electric Blue Bangkok has a new happy hour, from 6:00 – 9:00 drinks are just 30 baht and you can get 45 baht draft beer all night! The 20th of this month is owner Andy's birthday and there will be a big party at Electric Blue Pattaya. Bring presents, preferably in a bottle, and preferably with a high alcohol content although Darrel from the Dollhouse is not allowed to bring any Tequila. Electric Blue would have to be one of the few major bars to offer a genuine happy hour in Bangkok. Nothing is worse than bars which have a "happy hour" with drinks for 90 odd baht. This quite a cheek and such beer prices can hardly be called a a happy hour, more like an unhappy hour quite frankly. Actually, this is one area where bars in Bangkok's naughty bar areas fail miserably, although there are a few exceptions.

That new wall erected beside the gas station at the top of Sukhumvit soi 4 now effectively prevents residents of soi 4 (or soi 6) from using the petrol station as you can not turn out of the station into Soi 4 but rather have to go the long way around!

The Central World Plaza Beergarden is due to open tonight. This really is a great place to hang out, have a few beers and relax. Drinks are cheap and food from the vendors who set up shop there in the cool season is fairly cheap too. And it is also a REALLY good place to meet friendly Thais. If it is anything like previous years, it'll be difficult to get a seat, that is if you don't get there early, for the first few weeks or so, but after that numbers drop off and you can pretty much turn up any time and grab a table.

With the rise in the number of streetwalkers offering themselves to the highest bidder on Sukhumvit, quite an eyesore quite frankly, the cops have finally decided that enough is enough and they are rounding them up, in some cases sending them on their way and in others, taking them down to the local clink! What is quite amusing is that the only reason the girls are out on the street in the first place is that the freelancer bars where they hang out are closed so early….closed by the police that is! While I have not seen it myself, it must resemble a comedy show when the paddy wagon shows up at the car park outside the Nana Hotel and freelance working girls try to dash in all directions. Knowing how much Thai women like to run, I can just imagine the debacle. There was a police raid there earlier this week and my bet is that this will become a common occurrence. (If anyone knows in advance when the next one will be, please tell me, because I think it'd be great to get it on video!)

For one week only, Flowers To Thailand, whose banner appears right here, would like to offer all Stickman readers a free extra large teddy beer with any order of $50.00 or more for delivery in Bangkok. You have to state "Stickman" when ordering to get the free gift.

Bars, restaurants, hotels, retailers and working girls alike in Pattaya are rejoicing this weekend, hopeful that the mid-November onslaught of tourists marks the beginning of the too long-awaited high season. More and more farangs have been trickling into this beachside city for the last couple weeks, reaching a crescendo Friday and Saturday nights as entertainment venues filled to capacity, Walking Street jammed with free-spending foreigners, and even many beer bars – from Naklua to Jomtien – replenishing their tills on the heels of a 9- or 10-month economic drought. Perhaps coincidentally, the number of working wenches appears to have mushroomed overnight to accommodate the growing number of visitors. Beach Road is again alive with enthusiastic Isaan transplants; the number of dancers in gogo bars seems to have doubled; beer bars have added to their working distaff. On the negative side, pickings are slim for men who are selective. In fact, in recent years the overall attractiveness of working girls in Pattaya has been deteriorating, though that’s obviously a subjective evaluation.

And wouldn’t you know it, just as the high season is kicking in, the Pattaya municipal authorities have begun digging up Beach Road and its adjacent walkway! Actually, it’s the annual digging up of Beach Road and its adjacent walkway. Usually coinciding with high season… Last year the motivation was to repair underground water pipes or something. This year they are burying overhead telephone and power lines, and creating unprecedented traffic jams on Pattaya’s most congested byway. The work is expected to end at the same time as the high season ends. Amazing!

I have noticed that when it comes to their farang colleagues, the average Thai seems to warm most to the gay staff. I initially thought this might have something to do with the Thais' seeming tolerance of such lifestyles but that doesn't really explain it. Speaking with my boss this week about the challenges of working in a multi-cultural workplace, she touched on the fact that Thai people tend to be a bit afraid of Westerners because of their perceived aggression and propensity for getting angry quickly. She said that the Thai staff especially like people who are soft and gentle, something which many gay guys are, hence their popularity.

TEFL International has recently opened up a new centre in Pattaya. They are running Teacher Training courses there and also offering Thai lessons. The Teacher Training courses are not the traditional four-week versions but the less-expensive PELT, featuring a four-day intensive training followed by self study via DVD and real PAID teaching experience in local schools. It is the only TESOL course in the world where you actually earn more than you pay for it. Their new Thai course has also begun and has proven to be quite popular with the first group that are currently studying. What I really like is that for both the PELT and the Thai course, the first day is free and anyone can come in to check it out and decide it these courses are right for them – sounds fair. Interested parties can contact Rick Barnes at [email protected] or on his mobile at 070598792.

It is always nice to be able to read one of Thailand's English dailies in the West as a way to keep in touch with what is happening in the country. The internet is good for news, but somehow the feel of a newspaper makes you feel that much closer. For all of you living near Copenhagen, that Hundige Library has now subscribed to the English language Thai newspaper called The Nation. They subscribe on a daily basis. It is of course free for all to read.

For anyone interested in becoming a permanent resident of Thailand, here is the low down from a lawyer:

– A lot of the people applying for permanent residence are from Taiwan or Korea.
– The quota is still in place; you wait in the queue. So if there are say 800 places for Asian applicants, and you're number 4,000+ in line (for that year) you're in for a long wait. Wheels can still be greased…
– The fee these days is 190,000 baht ++ (up from about 50,000 baht)
– The immigration office accepts applications from around the 22nd of December to the 30th of December each year. This has not changed.
– You need to show a record of paying taxes for three years prior to your application. This used to be five years.
– You also need to have your non-immigrant visa endorsed from the first day of entry, this involves re-entry permits and such, and should show an unbroken stay of at least three years in the kingdom. This also used to be five years. It can take up to another two years from after the initial application before you receive your PR. Then you've got to go to the local police station and get an 'alien certificate' book.
– This is just the start and lots of other documents are required…

Even though I am a huge digital photography fan, I have to wonder at the number of publications which allow really low resolution digital photographs to be printed. First it was a few of the English language monthlies but recently I have ever noticed one of the major dailies doing it, allowing low resolution photos to be included, shots where pixels can clearly be seen, along with JPEG artifacts. Does this happen outside of Thailand?

There is a website that seems to be an awfully popular place for foreigners wanting to meet Thai women and vice versa. First there was ICQ, then Bangkokchat but these two are now old hat and this other website is now where its at. A veritable smorgasbord it has been described as. Just which site am I referring to?

I received an email from the BBC in the UK this week, as follows:

I was wondering if, via your contacts, you knew of any farang who was about to marry a bargirl that they had met in Thailand and brought back to Europe – anywhere in the EU would be nice. I am a producer with the BBC in the UK and am making a series of short films about weddings in Europe. The thing is – it is not the most interesting of places to do a programme about weddings, but the story is that I have to do it in Europe or not at all. Doesn't have to be British – in fact I'd rather it wasn't if possible as I am more interested in a Frenchman, German, Dutchman etc. as the programme is more Europe than British… Could you pass on any feedback you get?

If this interests you, drop me an email and I'll pass it on to the BBC. Yep, you can announce in style to the whole world your love for your Thai bride.

Another new two priced attraction to add to the growing list is the Siriraj Forensic Museum which was previously free. Now 40 baht for farangs, 20 baht for Thai people. It is still good fun for someone who has never seen it. The most frightening thing is not the cannibal but the scrotum the size of a football, especially when you think this is initially caused by a mosquito bite.

There was a good article in today's The Nation about marriages between Westerners and Isaan women. Click here.

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: A few months back in your weekly article you mentioned the disturbing fact that half of your farang friends living in Thailand and married to Thai wives had had their wife pull a knife on them at one time or another. Now a fairly high proportion of farangs with Thai wives have met their wives through the naughty nightlife, and most farangs coming for the nightlife are not the best and most desirable of men. Likewise most Thai girls working the nightlife aren't angels as most will have chosen the life in preference to working in factories or shops for little money, and they will have been hardened by their dealings with Western men and unlikely to have been much in love when they married. So the question is how typical is it of Thai wives to threaten their husband with a knife? Is it something that just tends to occur when ex-bargirls find themselves shackled to not very loveable farangs, or is it also fairly common in Thai society? I've heard that marriages are less equal in Thailand, so does Thai society have a bit of a tradition of abused wives pulling knives on their husbands?

Mr. Stick says: I would not like to speculate on *why* knives are pulled, but it happens often enough and it is NOT just a bargirl thing by any stretch of the imagination. The interesting thing is that it does not necessarily appear to be “abused wives” either. I reckon there is some sort of mental disorder going on when someone pulls a knife, I really do. Perhaps one of the shrinks reading might like to offer a few clues?

Question 2: There is a nice older Thai lady that lives next door to me. She and her husband own a hotel next door. When we pass I always greet her with ‘sa wat dee krap’ she is nice enough to reply with ‘sa wat dee’ but leaves off the polite ‘ka.’ I am just curious. Is this because she is older than me or that she is of a higher social standing?

Mrs. Stick says: In Thailand we defer to those who are senior to us and thus it is considered quite acceptable for her to drop the ka in this situation. I imagine that when you first met her she would have used ka more but as you have become more familiar to her then the usage of ka is less frequent. As people become more familiar with each other, so the use of krap and ka tends to be less frequent, if at all.

The weather man seemed to get the wrong message this week. Doesn't he know that we are supposed to be going into the inappropriately named "cool season"? Well, the weather in Bangkok this past week has been anything but that. Hot as hell and not that different from the hot season. Really! We even had a major downpour on Wednesday afternoon when the heavens opened for an hour or so, enough for some parts of Bangkok to be flooded! If it stays this hot for much longer, you won't be seeing me at any of the beer gardens until it cools down a little.

Your Bangkok commentator,

Stick

Thanks go out to Phuket-info.com, Mr Write and Dave The Rave.