Stickman's Weekly Column November 21st, 2004

Bangkok And The Single Guy


StickmanBangk ok .com


Bangkok is a dream come true for the single Western male. The city is full of pretty women, many of whom are, in one way or another, attracted to Western guys. You really do not need a lot going for you to be able to meet some truly lovely Thai ladies. And if you don't have anything going for you, are lazy, are pressed for time or simply do not want to break a decent lady's heart, you can go down to the naughty bars where for a relatively small amount of money you can have your wicked way. It is very easy for a Western guy to have a great time in Bangkok. But I'm telling you something that you already know.

We're all drawn to Bangkok for different reasons, some by the nightlife, but most for some or other reason. And some of us aren't even drawn here, but rather just find ourselves ending up here, perhaps sent by our company, or perhaps because we ran out of money. We've all got our story. Think back to the first time you spent a few days in Bangkok and the things that you did. You probably visited a few temples, the odd tourist attraction and wandered around some markets and shopping centres. You probably enjoyed the hot weather, especially if you were escaping the cold and no doubt you enjoyed the exotic taste of authentic Thai food. These are all things that are fun initially, but things which frankly do not hold your interest forever.

One eventually gets templed out. It doesn't take long to realise that while the hot weather can be nice, that is hot – not warm, it really is too hot in Bangkok. Shopping centres, well let's just say that they're a woman's thing. And to many westerners who have lived in Thailand a long time, a good steak or their favourite Western dish is often much more of a treat than a bowl of tom yum gung.

Bangkok is a funny sort of a place, great for a holiday because it is different and there is lots going on, but many Western men who settle down here, that is settle down with a local lass, seem to get bored. Not frustrated with life here, not annoyed at certain things, but just plain old bored. Many Western guys begin to realise that all of the things that they used to enjoy when they first arrived or when they were here on holiday were the types of things you may enjoy once or twice on holiday, but that they have now become tiresome – and they crave something different, often some of the very things they left behind in the West.

So what are you going to do with your free time? Go and check out one of the local car museums? Ummm, it would be nice but just where are they? Do they even exist? How about kicking a football around with your mates in the local park? Finding a park is one thing, but convincing the weatherman to drop the temperature 10 odd degrees is a bit trickier. How about going to watch a rugby or soccer match? While in theory you could, the level is pretty low… Nah, it ain't easy to do this sort of bloke's stuff in Bangkok, I'm afraid.

So many of the good times and experiences that Western guys have in Bangkok are those spent with the local women. It could be the drunken nights in the naughty bars or it could simply be the ease that we foreigners generally have dating local women. But for the fellow who has settled down and who now effectively finds the naughty bars off limits and cannot get close to a single woman, you remove a big chunk of his life! I have said it before and I'll say it again, one of the major reasons why Western guys find themselves down in the naughty bars is because of a lack of other things to do.

Could it be that Bangkok holds little appeal for the long term resident Westerner who does not embrace Thai culture? And let's be frank, few really do. Could it be, that the very appeal of Bangkok to many Westerners, whether they care to admit it or even realise it, is the flesh, and that when that is no longer an entertainment option, that Bangkok may not really offer that much?

One needs something beyond the professional, and for many Westerners in Bangkok that just happens to be something carnal. But if that is no longer an option, does Bangkok, good time city, place to party, actually become boring? Could it be that once you have sifted through the city's million odd single, available woman and found one who is right for you, that really, there is little point in sticking around? More than anything, could it be that when women are removed from the equation, Bangkok is not the most enticing city to the single Western man?

WHERE IS THIS PICTURE?

It was the Ministry of Defence.

A temple in a city of temples….

Last week's pic was of the Ministry of Defence which is directly across the road from the Grand Palace. Many people wrongly thought it was Hualompong Railway Station. Oh, and this week's pic is NOT the Grand Palace. 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

Thai lesson.

I recently learnt a extremely valuable Thai lesson and that is when staying at a hotel for an extended period of a week or more, it is essential to develop a very good relationship with the hotel staff and in particular the reception staff who generally run the show. On my recent stay I spent a great deal of time on many occasions pleasantly chatting up the reception staff in a polite and respectful way and in return I found to my surprise I had the complete run of the hotel. Absolutely nothing was too much trouble and other guests were often bumped aside for my priorities which were put to the top of the queue. Importantly when hotel mistakes were made (which they invariably do and I usually point out my displeasure) I chose to ignore it a smile thru it like a Thai would. The only problem was when I was bringing home a different girl every night I could see the jealousy in the reception staff’s eyes and their disgust that a nice guy like me would want some trash off the street – if only they knew the truth!

Light-fingered guests.

On your 3 nights out, I don't advocate violence but I nearly fell of my chair laughing when I heard about your kiwi friend punching the thieving katoey in the stomach – very funny story. 4 months ago I was in Thailand with some crazy friends who took a katoey up to their room in Dynasty Inn. The dodgy katoey stole a digital camera, brand new phone, wallet with credit cards & cash and a few other things. I have looked for that lady boy ever since but I have never found him. Dodgy bunch those katoeys are. Never look at them and never talk to them. Years ago I had katoey friends, they were ok and a bit of fun and knew all the cool places. Nowadays they are only trouble.

Who was the fat fella?

I have just returned from the Ploenchit Fair today. A great family afternoon for all. Organised by the British embassy it has been raising money for more then 50 years for the underprivileged children of Thailand. A place for foreigners to shine and show the Thais that we really are good people. There amongst all this goodwill was a foreign man. A very big man. Shirt undone with half a bottle of champagne in his hand sitting on the steps of the main hall where hundreds of people are filing past. He doesn't look very well. He then passes out on top of his very small Thai wife / girlfriend / bargirl. He was a disgrace. After about 15 minutes his friend manages to raise a few other friends who attempt to lift him from his stupor to I suppose take him home. He suddenly comes to life and tries to hug the nearest policeman before trying a very poor attempt of dancing. People stood around shacking their heads in disgust, myself included. I hope your hangover tomorrow is the worst hangover in the history of mankind.

Darwin would be proud.

'Tis the culling season once again, the time of year when the last years supplies of Johns must be naturally filtered out, only those with the strongest bank accounts will survive. This annual natural selection process is only brought upon the farangs by themselves, as they all compete for the attention of their beloved's time over the approaching festive season. Although the girls are masters of juggling itineraries to keep all and sundry satisfied at any other time of the year, the sheer volume of interest at this time of year finds them sorely pressed. Dear Johns are being composed, Big Es are being sharpened, 3 into one simply just won't go, prepare yourself to hearing those immortal words, "You are the weakest link", or as Deputy Dog used to put it, "Exit stage left".

You give tip how much?

Do you get as pissed off as I about the way change is given in bars? Example. Check-bin is 250 baht. You give 500 baht. What do you expect as change? I would expect 2 100's and a 50 baht note. But no, never do you get it. Usually, instead of the 50, it is a 20 and 3 10's. Or sometimes a 20, 2 10's and 2 5's. Sometimes one of the 100's is even broken to 20's. Then the girl 'stands over you', while you slowly pick up all this loose shrapnel from her tray. My policy is simple: 1. If they give the proper change you would expect AND the venue has been OK, then I will take from my pocket some 'shrapnel' for a tip. (I will have lots to give from the previous bar!) 2. If they give change as they normally do, I will take every last baht off their tray – and if any comments are made – they will also get told 'where to go'. Still, I suppose 'sucker season' is starting, and there will be the 'free flow' of money soon.

Justifying one's lifestyle, any which way they can!

I continue to have the same thought about human nature as a result of living here in BKK. It is this: Many of us do whatever we can get away with. Then we try to justify it later. If we can not live within the bounds of morals we were taught as children, then we try to make up new ones. Many of us prefer this to living with guilt if we can not control our behavior. We create a self-serving value system in which we are moral people. But, the creation of this value system is for our convenience. It does not seem to have any relation to some absolute truth (since the purpose is not to live by a truth, but instead to make ourselves feel O.K.) I don't know if I would have reached this conclusion if I had stayed in the West. It is not so easy to go against our moral background back there so I don't see many examples of this conflict.

Good intentions: The road to hell

Every time I have given out some money, I have regretted it. Sometimes, I have regretted being friendly or making eye contact. Here's what happened: I felt good when I gave out some money. But, in every case there were requests for money later. If I didn't give in, then the became abusive. Apparently, I raised their expectations and later disappointed them. In one case a lady was stalking me for days, and finally punched me. I have no doubt that she needed the money desperately. I think it is very bad to get involved with desperate people unless you really plan to take care of them. Of course a baby is as helpless and desperate as a street person, but hopefully, I wouldn't have a baby unless I wanted to have such an obligation.

Pretty Lady Bar on the ground floor or Nana Plaza have been closed for 30 days which goes to show that even a Thai owned bar could do nothing to prevent punishment from the boys in brown. They repeatedly would not follow police orders and now have to pay the price. The Pretty Lady girls have already dispersed themselves around several other bars in Nana Plaza. At the start of the high season, this is a disaster for the bar owners.

Last week the gogo bar Vixens in Pattaya changed its name to "Naughty Girls" (or so the management thought). Actually the name (in bright neon lights) was "Naghty Girls." When this was pointed out to the Thai owner / manageress she replied, "Well, I don't know how to spell English." Why the hell she didn't get an English speaker to check her spelling, I don't know. A few days later the sign had been changed to the correct spelling. So she had to pay out twice for the sign, to save a few minutes checking it out with an English speaker. Will these Thais ever learn?

Big Willies gogo in Pattaya has now changed its name to "Shark" which has to be a much better name as the previous name made many people think it was a boy bar, or even worse that a prospective punter had to be measured before he was allowed in!

A look at Pattaya’s Walking Street is seeming evidence that neither the weather nor the recent negative publicity – terrorism in the south, avian flu, etc. – were enough to keep tourists away. Indeed, they are out in full force on Walking Street – with high percentage of visitors from China, Korea and Japan, but those numbers are not visible citywide. Hotels are doing well, restaurants are doing better, and Walking Street is bustling. In fact, many of the better gogo bars – those with the most attractive performers – are enjoying good audiences. Some, such as Happy, Peppermint, Carousel, are forced to turn customers away at the door as early as 11 PM. While many local beer bars continue to serve all night, and discos and gogo bars loosely comply with earlier closing regulations – clearing out between 1:30 and 2 AM, the no-show policy is largely ignored by a number of gogo bars as well as police. It seems police have been focusing more lately on gambling dens. This week they raided a group playing cards and confiscated the princely sum of 104 baht and a mobile phone!

There seem to be more and more police checkpoints set up in Bangkok these days, coppers looking for people driving without a drivers licence or perhaps behind the wheel of a vehicle whose registration has lapsed. These checkpoints were usually set up between around 10:30 AM and 4:00 PM, at a time when traffic is not at its worst. But I notice that there seem to be more police checkpoints set up recently in central areas, particularly the Sukhumvit area, from soi 1 down to about soi 7. These are set up late at night and add to a greater police presence in one of the major tourist areas of the capital. In some countries police checkpoints may be seen as a good thing, the greater police presence giving people a certain peace of mind, but for many foreigners in Thailand, and we're talking law abiding citizens here, the Thai police tend to make them nervous. Whatever the reason for these late night checkpoints in Sukhumvit, farangs, both local residents and tourists, seem to be none too pleased about them.

A bar that is popular this month may not be popular next month. A couple of years ago G Spot was not just a popular bar, it was probably the most popular bar in Nana, but then it slipped as other bars took over that title. It seems the Crown Group have pumped a load more girls into G-Spot and they are much busier than they used to be. Have to give credit where it is due and say that G-Spot has improved quite considerably.

Carnival on Nana's third floor are pulling a few extra customers into their bar with some sexy shows. Nothing too risqué but at least Carnival are trying to improve their bar and its entertainment. A sexy dance show, ice show and shower show, seem to be going down quite well. It has definitely improved Carnival's trade a bit but G-Spot could well be the most improved gogo bar around at the moment. Both Carnival and G-Spot are worth a visit.

Some services are readily available in Thailand to the average farang. Want to book a tour or a hotel in another city? No problem, there are travel agents everywhere and sometimes it seems that just about anyone can book it for you. Even tailors and internet cafes, amongst others, often provide such services. But there are other services which are not so readily available, services for which there seems to be growing demand. I often receive email from readers who are in search of a good lawyer. I refer them to a couple of small lawyers I know who have been used by friends, or perhaps refer them to one big firm who have a number of foreign partners on staff. However, these bigger firms can charge prices not indifferent to what is charged in the West, and may be reluctant to get involved in some of the nitty gritty, yucky cases, the sort of thing where some foreigners get themselves in a horrible mess. I believe that the demand exists for a law firm which caters entirely to the needs of foreigners. A small firm with perhaps three or four lawyers which offered services such as family law (pre-nuptial agreements, divorce etc), some commercial law, conveyancing, and who are also prepared to get involved with visa issues and employment law too. Ideally, such a firm would have Thai lawyers (only Thai nationals can assist you in court) but also a foreign partner to help with general liaison. I reckon such a firm which dealt specifically with foreign clients, i.e. farangs, understood and specialised in the various aspects of the law that affect us, could do very well indeed.

Are teaching salaries going up? ECC's main Siam Square branch where much (all?) of the hiring is done through report that they pay a monthly minimum 35,000 baht these days, up from the old days when they offered 23 – 26. And AUA pay rates seem to have shot up too… Ok, so teaching salaries are still fairly low when you look at the big picture, but a lot better than they were not so long ago.

I never did make it to the Ploenchit Fair this year, the idea of it being indoors sort of put me off. It sounded more like a trip to a shopping centre than a fair. A couple of friends who went along said it was not nearly as good as the old days when it was held on the grounds of the British Embassy. A shame, it looks like those days are destined to be a slice of Bangkok history.

The upstairs section of the Winking Frog in Sukhumvit Soi 7 has been refurbished. They now have a happy hour which runs from 2 until 7 when you can get draft beer pints for 99 baht, Guinness for 139 and Heineken 119 which must be the amongst the cheapest prices for a pint in town.

Quote of the week comes from a Nana Plaza bar owner. "Us bar bosses call it "Idiot season" and there are an extremely good number of idiots once again this year!"

If you are an intermediate level speaker of Thai speaker, you might want to tune in to Andrew Bigg's news round up as a way to improve your language skills. The popular bald Aussie, who was once quoted as saying that he forgot he was a farang and didn't realise until he saw his reflection in a mirror and remembered that he was farang, runs a very good news round up on the radio where he talks about the headlines in the English language dailies, gives a summary of them, and translates a number of words. I'm not sure if the main purpose is to provide Thai translation of what is in the English press or to teach the English, but it is a great way to improve your Thai. Despite what some bitter long-term expats may say to the contrary, Andrew speaks excellent Thai, very clear and easy to understand, and it is a great way to improve your Thai.

I found out this week that skytrain cards are washable. Yep, mine went through the wash this week, was retrieved from the washing machine, and still worked just fine. Amazing skytrain cards!

I got one question by email this week that I have never been asked before. A reader would like to know if there are any tanning beds in Bangkok? I expect that there aren't any, given the local preference for skin as white as snow, but then this is Bangkok, and you just never know…!

An interesting anecdote came about Thai girls working in the UK this week. Apparently what the girls do as soon as they arrive there is to mail their passports home. This way if they get deported back to Thailand they will still have a passport which shows that they have been overseas…it will of course show, to the more discerning immigration official, that they entered the country but never left. Weird.

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: I recently spent a couple of weeks in Thailand conducting computer software training. It was at times a difficult job because the Thais couldn't understand English very well and we were crowded around a small computer. It must have been difficult to see the screen and it would have become boring at times. The Thais that I was teaching were all females. I found that after a short period of time the girls would start flirting with me. For example we had a basket of Thai candy and the candy wrapping carried short messages like "I love the person reading this message" etc. The girls would offer me some candy then ask me to read the message in Thai. They would then giggle and explain the meaning of the message to me. This would never happen in my home country especially at work while conducting training. Of course the Thai girls have a way of making this all fun and easy going yet at the same time I felt it was still flirting. Can you explain to me what is it within the Thai female character that they can flirt so casually even in a work environment – and do it without anyone getting embarrassed or put out?

Mrs. Stick says: I would have thought women from all over the world were the same so this is a little difficult for me as I have never worked outside of Thailand. For Thai women who see someone attractive from abroad who has sex appeal then naturally they may be a little interested and flirt a little. My guess is that it is just human nature. I guess the question is just how they flirted? Did she jut give you the eye, laugh a little or did she show you her boobs? There are different levels of flirting which suggest a different outcome or consequences.

Question 2: Maybe you would make a brief comment on what I just read and am curious about. The book on Thailand that I just read was titled "Love, Sex and Trust", and on page 26, it was explaining about why Thai people fear the ocean. It says that Thai people believe that the "unconscious mind" is more powerful than the "conscious mind". It says that Thai consider the "unconscious" is "The Boss Who Never Speaks", and that Thai fear this boss. The book continues…that ocean is a universal symbol for the "unconscious" … so, it says that few Thais ever learn to swim, and that no Thais will go into the water at night. I think that the above is just a generalization of Thai people and not true of many…but I am not sure… would you send me a brief comment on what you think about this subject.

Mrs. Stick says: Not that I know of, so I would say it's not true. Let me tell you a story. When I was young we went to Chachoengsao to visit an uncle whose house was not too far from a river. Mum told me not to go near the river. She told me that many people had gone there at night and had succumbed to the river. Mum said that people who went there at night had been overcome by spirits and they had been drawn into the water and had died. I wanted to test this myself so I walked to the river at night and as I got closer I felt myself feeling strange, a little weird, and I ran back to the house scared. Looking back at it, I was young, it was dark, really dark and there was water there and as someone who couldn't swim it was natural for me to feel a unsafe and get scared. However, I don't think there is any relationship between this and Thai people not learning to swim. I know from Stickman that at the school where he teaches there is a swimming pool and every single student learns to swim in grade 7, that is if they can't swim already.

Next week's column will go up online late, I'm afraid. My best guess is that it will be up online some time between 10 PM and midnight Sunday, Bangkok time. Better late than never…I wonder if that idiom exists in Thai?

Your Bangkok commentator,

Stick

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