Stickman's Weekly Column December 19th, 2004

Pursuing Married Women


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Mrs. Stick and I are happily married. I guess we are still in the honeymoon period of the relationship. It is less than 2 years since we tied the knot. While we are happy together, it would seem that there are some who would like to get a piece of the Mrs. In the last couple of years, there have been a few guys show their interest in her even though they knew she was married.

The first experience of this was when we were at Tawan Daeng, the popular Thai entertainment venue, one night. There we were sitting at the bar enjoying a few drinks, very obviously a couple, when the Thai runt sitting next to us started hitting on Mrs. Stick! I had had a bit to drink and initially I thought the guy must have been talking about the band, the beer or something about the venue but when I tuned into the conversation I realised that he was making the sort of small talk you make when you are trying to break the ice with someone you fancy. I was dumbfounded. We were very obviously a couple, obviously enjoying ourselves yet this little runt who was trying to get a piece of the action! I am always a little wary of getting into major confrontation with Thai guys, even when it is warranted, as their friends are often lurking in the shadows – or just a phone call away. Still, you can't sit there and do nothing so after a few comments on my part, the runt backed off, not before trying to shake my hand, which I refused and not without passing his business card to the Mrs. which I promptly ripped up. The gall of the guy. He seemed to finally get the message and that was the end of that.

The next time was several months later, around this time last year from memory. The Mrs. had been out shopping with a friend and when she got home she told me that she had been approached in Big C by an Arab. Yep, she was as appalled as I was! There she was, shopping with a friend in the World Trade Centre when he approached her and gave her a piece of paper with the phone number for his hotel, including the room number. She was shocked and told him what she thought of him. Wish I'd been there to see that. He should have seen from the ring on her finger that she was married so either he didn't look or he didn't care. I wonder if he hit on anyone else?

Occasion number three it was the turn of an Englishman. Married to a Thai woman many years his senior (what the fxxk was he thinking when he did that?) and a right hag she is too, this gentleman started making a few moves on the Mrs. He was a customer of the company where she used to work and as his business was in the same building as where she was based, it meant that he saw her regularly. Despite the fact that she wears her wedding ring everyday and that she clearly told him that she was married, he still made a nuisance of himself, before he finally got the message. I didn't know about it for a while and just as well because he would have got a bit of a shock had I found out that he was pestering her. In fact after it all, she pointed him out to me and later I saw him and his old hag in a shopping mall. Boy was I tempted to say something. No doubt his wife was in the dark and the temptation to cause him some serious discomfort was hard to suppress, but I decided to let it go.

No, we're not finished yet! Number 4 was an American guy who has been in Thailand for quite some time, also married to a Thai woman, who also met the Mrs. through her place of work. He somehow managed to get her mobile number from someone at work and called her and invited her to dinner. Mrs. Stick decided to have a bit of fun with this guy and asked him what he thought he was doing. She then started telling him how inappropriate it was for him to be approaching a married woman and asked what he thought her farang husband would think about it, making me about to be protective and aggressive. That was the end of that and he made a quick retreat.

These four approaches all happened in a period of less than 2 years!

It got to a point when I started to wonder just how I should react to all of this so I asked a Kiwi mate who was holidaying in Thailand a few months back about it all and what he thought. He is not married but he gave the example of his workmates, most of whom are. He felt that amongst his buddies, if someone came on to their wife, they'd have had no hesitation in rolling up their sleeves and letting the other know what they thought about it in no uncertain terms. Hardly a solution, but it was food for thought.

Thai guys have the reputation of being less than faithful but I am not so sure if this hitting on married women is a Thai guy thing, given that two of the four guys mentioned here were farang, and only one of them was Thai. I am more of the belief that it is a Thailand thing. What is it about Thailand that makes so many guys feel that it is open season on any woman, irrespective of her situation. Does Thailand really have that reputation? I guess having an attractive wife in a country where some guys think all women are available means that such unwanted approaches are almost inevitable.

WHERE IS THIS PICTURE?

It was the Grand Hyatt Erawan.

Not difficult at all!

Last week's pic was of the Grand Hyatt Erawan Hotel and was correctly named first by the top selling Bangkok novel writer, Jake Needham. I guess that crafty devil Jake had been sitting there, hitting reload all day, waiting for the pic, determined to be first. 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

I'm in no hurry to visit.

I recently went down to Koh Tao. I had never been to any of these islands (Samui, Phang-ngan), and thought I would do a tour. On Koh Tao I detected much bad vibes. I may not be the Thai expert many expats claim to be, but I've been around the country enough to know what the people are like, and generally I can say they were quite un-Thai: pretty miserable, humorless, and gruff. Granted this was pretty much of a backpackers' locale, and my personal deduction was that they had experienced something completely alienating from the farang that caused a rift (e.g. women going topless on the beach). Want ice in your drink? Add 5 baht. I heard of an incident where some farangs were in a restaurant and when someone accidentally knocked a drink off a table. The lady owner pulled out a pistol, laid it on the table and announced "all farang out." I was so unimpressed by this prevailing attitude that I cancelled the island agenda and went back to the mainland. It seems that most of the people who came this way flew into Bangkok, spent a night or two on Khao San Rd, then bought a bus / boat ticket to Koh Tao, spent a day or two diving and then off to the fool moon party. BTW, there are increasing reports of luggage being rifled through on those bus rides.

Did he hit the jackpot?

I am 53 and from Northern Ireland. Last year I went to Pattaya, Phuket, Bangkok etc for the first time and was so amazed I went back four times within 8 months! I never originally intended it, but I married a 23 year old Thai girl last June. She came to live with me in the UK in July. She is a university graduate with a degree in art & design and is currently studying art and English at our local college of further education – mainly to improve her English, which by now is almost excellent! Her lecturers have advised me that she is a fantastic student with a lovely personality – a pleasure to teach! Maybe this is early days, but she is also a real pleasure to live with and to share my life with. Perhaps I have been lucky – or perhaps I chose carefully. None of the signs of the horror stories you seem to relate are appearing. Early days, but here is one farang who is extremely happy with his new wife. So far so good.

Time to go home.

After seven years living in Thailand and a total of nineteen years in Asia, I have moved back to Malibu, California. At first (especially on the plane) I was worried about fitting in, missing Thailand, etc. I have not missed Thailand for one moment. I like the warm weather and lack of humidity. I am surfing again. My kids are not getting sick, and most importantly my Thai wife cannot believe the beauty of living in California, let alone the climate. No wonder so many Thais live in LA. It is more expensive but the schools are free. My daughters both went to international schools in Pattaya, very expensive, they both had 3.5 averages…they both were dropped back a grade here. So much for the underpaid sex-tourist teachers, and the rip off schools. Do yourself a favour and do not waste your youth and earning capabilities for too much longer. We can all go back to Thailand again in the later future if we see fit.

Postcard from Samui.

I have been operating a business on Samui for the last three years and in that time have heard all the rumours but I have yet to actually meet anyone who has been approached or bullied by anyone. I have spoken to bar owners in Green Mango and have yet to find one who pays any money or has been asked to. The people I do know of who have got into trouble generally have themselves to blame. In any society there are dodgy characters and it does not take much to identify them, but some people seem to gravitate to them believing that in some way this will give them a status or perhaps protection or even power. If you carry on a business in a correct, legal manner, pay the correct tax and avoid brown envelopes, you should have no problems with a business – bar or otherwise – in Thailand. Too many people seem to think that because corruption is so widespread that is the only way to do things. Samui is still a bit of a cowboy town and the local lads still take a pot shot at each other now and again, often fatally, but it is a rare event when a farang is involved.

The Mafia?

In connection with your story about the mafia, here is a first hand account of what I saw. Last year I was being measured for some shirts in a tailor's shop on Sukhumvit. Two men came in and talked to the owner who was taking my measurements. The owner went to the back room and returned with some baht in hand. The two men looked very disappointed and left for not more than a few minutes. Now a third man returned with them. He was not very pleasant looking to say the least. He grabbed the tailors wrist and said let's go! The tailor pleaded as his daughter-in-law was in tears. To no avail, the man insisted he go with them. The tailor pleaded to at least let him finish measuring me for my shirts. The man agreed and when the tailor finished taking my measurements he asked me for a deposit. I stated that "I don't know if you are going to come back'. The man who was in charge then said, "he will be back". It was definitely a shakedown.

I wonder which hotel it is?!

Me and my brother went back to his hotel (under farang management). Now, I like to sit at the bar and chat, so after a while we were chatting quite happily with the counter girls. The interesting thing I found out was, they were quite well educated. The one I was chatting to will be getting her degree in January. They said they 'could' go out if they wanted to, but there would be a 'counter' fine. Not that they were on the line, but if they liked someone enough, they could. And this girl's plan for the future? Nothing much to do here with a degree in management. I'm going to go to Germany to see my friend, and make a lot of money lying on my back before coming back here. No, I don't feel a thing about it, it's a living of sorts. I had a boyfriend, but left him in January. He became a supervisor in an upcountry factory and was sleeping with a lot of the other girl workers. So I came here and stayed with my sister before I got this job. I get free accommodation, and the salary is passable, the management treat me well. Notice it's not a bar environment, where the girls are required to get so many bar fines per month, etc, but at the same time there is a service available should you care to avail yourself of it, and they like you. It perpetuates itself, doesn't it?

There is no denying that Xmas fever has hit central Bangkok but it is not the Christmas decorations that are the most constant reminder, but all of the lovely Thai ladies dressed up in Santa outfits. All over the city, from bars, to shops to even some transport officials, the local Thai ladies are dressed up as Santa, and I have to say it absolutely gets my approval!

Down at Nana Plaza, obviously a farang dominated bar area, it is the bar most popular with the Japanese where the biggest collection of lovelies can be found. Rainbow 2 has even more girls than usual, and so they are able to pack their dance stage with three rotations of the prettiest girls you'll see in the plaza. And it is not just me saying that, others have also said that Rainbow 2 has the prettiest dancers in Nana Plaza by a long stretch. It is predominantly a Japanese bar but it is worth a visit for the eye candy. Just don't get too disappointed if they are not interested in you because you're not Japanese.

Well the contractors have done it again, and the opening of Boss Hogg's self named bar has been put off until around the 29th. Their charity 30 baht drink day has also been put off until Sunday January 9, from 5 PM – midnight.

The bar scene is a bit of a headache for some farangs, not just poor old Boss Hogg who must have the mother of all headaches from the contractors, but for many others too. The bar industry in Patpong has grown over the last few years with many new investors, many of whom are farang, getting in on the bar game. For newcomers it can be difficult to make a profit with the high rental prices being charged for a beer bar in one of the main Phuket beer bars sois. Patong is getting very overpriced, with landlords seemingly raising the prices all the time, even if the customer base remains pretty much same. At least one bar owner has had his rental price increased by 60% in just 3 years and is struggling now. The problem is that people entering the bar business don't seem to expect these rent increases, and many simply sign a rental agreement that other existing bar owners would laugh at and end up paying way too much. So a lot of people come and go yet it seems like new buyers are waiting in the shadows. The bars which have been operating for a while are doing fine but it is difficult for new bars. All these high lease / rents will only make Patong even more expensive for tourists in coming years. Bars in the newest sub soi off Soi Bangla charge 20 – 30 baht more per drink than bars in some of the other sois off the very same road.

I have to say that this week Nana Plaza has been rather on the quiet side and last night was below average in many bars despite the fact that they remained open until almost 1:30 AM. Friday wasn't much better. Trade in Nana has fallen in the period approaching Christmas as the usual exodus of expats has started, many returning home for their Xmas breaks.

Soi Cowboy really looks the business at the moment. Almost every bar has got Christmas decorations outside and there are a whole bunch of Christmas trees erected along the soi, giving it a real holiday season atmosphere. Why is it that Soi Cowboy seems to be the only bar area where the different bar managers and owners are able to get together and actually dress up the all the bars to look nice? It makes a hell of a difference, it really does. Cowboy has a fun atmosphere at the moment and when I was down there this week, everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves. Fun, that is what the bars should be about.

Flowers To Thailand wish to advise that all orders to Bangkok & Chiang Mai will receive a free photoback, that is a photo of the recipient that is sent back to the customer. They are also extending the gift selection to cater for Xmas, New Year and Valentines Day this week, so if you are looking a special gift then please check back later this week.

The cops went around to all the Pong bars telling them to turn down the music BUT it didn't do any good as they are still playing the music at the same old ear splitting level. The past couple of Fridays down at the Pong have been really quiet.

The Athena Gogo (recently renamed from Lipstick a-gogo) in Soi Pattayaland 2 has now closed. Apparently it is to reopen as a beauty parlour. Recent reports from Athena suggest that there were only about 5 girls working there, and the number of customers could fit comfortably on a 3-seater sofa! The Athena is in the same group as a number of other gogos in this soi (Crystal Girls, All Girls, Wild West Girls etc.). Is this a sign that the management have lost money because of the restricted opening hours – and could it be the beginning of further closures?

Official closing time in Pattaya remains at 1 AM – but many (if not most) gogos open until 2 – and beer bars way after that. I hear that even on New Years Eve the official closing time will remain at 1 AM with no extension given till 6 AM as in previous years, but there is a rumour that many bars will ignore this and stay open as long as possible. It might be fun seeing the police scurrying around trying to close them all down!

I was sitting there, sticking my nose into someone else's business, noseying around where perhaps I shouldn't have been, when a friend called me to ask me if I had heard the news that the a plane had flown into the World Trade Centre. Well, the spot were I was sitting the night the World Trade Centre came down was dealt its own death blow this week. Asoke Plaza, that odd collection of beer bars right on the corner of one of the very busiest corners of the city, was decimated this week. In scenes that can't have been too dis-similar to the destruction of Sukhumvit Square early last year, a reported 100 or so workers came along and trashed the place. There have been various rumours thrown up as to just why it has happened. One bar owner said that the demolition of Asoke Plaza was due to the owner of the land renting out the land and people then putting up their own bars, which would help explain the whole cheapness of the place. It has been mooted that he wants to build some bars on the land and then rent out the bar, not just the land. Personally, I always thought this area was an embarrassment. This intersection is heavily polluted due to atrocious traffic congestion and is hardly a nice spot to sit out and sip a beer under the stars. Some of the bars were awful. The girls working in the bars were never sure who to accost and virtually all farangs passing by were approached and grabbed. That's acceptable in Pattaya which is a fun seaside resort, but slap bang in the centre of the capital on one of the main roads? No, Asoke Plaza was always an embarrassment and its demise is no loss, in my opinion. It seems that some of the ladies who worked in the bars there have relocated across to some of the makeshift bars on the vacant piece of land on soi 23, sort of between the Fish And Chip Shop and The Ship. I imagine that some of the beer bars in Sukumvit sois 1 and 4 will have some new girls on the books as the former staff from this bar area wander up the road looking for a new employer.

Asoke Plaza as it looks now. The Sukhumvit / Asoke intersection is over behind the massive billboard.

On Tuesday night there was a police raid on several bars in soi 33 and some were forced closed for that night at around 11 PM. Not entirely sure what was going on as bar bosses down there have been quiet.

The central area of Bangkok really is going upmarket. The area around Siam Square and the World Trade Centre is undergoing quite a transformation into a major shopping area with the construction of the Siam Paragon Shopping Centre, the Central World Tower and the overheard walkway underneath the skytrain. I reckon we won't recognise the area in 12 month's time.

Quote of the week comes from a bank employee who was questioned by Mrs. Stick about credit card limits. "Oh, this bank is really stingy with the credit limit so you should go and try XXX bank". It reminds me of the friend who made a claim on his car insurance. He went in to make the claim and the story he gave, which was the truth, precluded him from making a claim, but the assistant told him that if he changed a few details, i.e. lied on the claim, then it would be no problem. He did, and she was right!

Timbevati, the huge restaurant / bar / hotel / entertainment centre on Sukhumvit Soi 33 is undergoing a major change. There has been a change in the management which has resulted in more than just the name change to Livingstone’s. The new venue will provide the following: a boutique lodge, a steakhouse, a high-class sports bar, a beer garden including a small fast food hut, a cocktail bar around the swimming pool, a Thai restaurant, and a wine cellar in the future. Livingstone’s will target medium / high income expats, business travelers and interestingly, Thai businessmen. They are still sticking to the African concept, but the strategy targets more people with more international experience, who appreciate the African ambience and like to stay in a place which offers many different entertainment options. Therefore they changed the concept of the restaurant to be a steakhouse, which still offers African specialties, but basically steaks and international dishes. In the sports bar I am reliably informed that they will have hostesses, and not cheap beer bar prostitutes. They are quite insistent and are recruiting university students who HAVE TO be able to speak English. The main business shall not be to earn money with barfines but entertaining customers in Livingstone’s. They have removed one billiard table and have only one now, therefore a bigger one, and now there really is enough space to play. They plan to develop a music concept with special evenings with special music, such as oldies, South American, techno, Thai, etc.). A part of the bar could even be used as a dance floor, if customers need that. They have ordered a professional music and video system, which will provide 36 in-house satellite channels, especially with sports (movies and news for the 19 hotel rooms upstairs). Hut No. 1 close to Soi 33 will be changed into a small kitchen, which will have a cooking show to display what they provide inside the steakhouse. Furthermore fast food items (sausages, hamburgers etc.) will be sold there. All I can say is that a VERY significant investment has been and I really hope that it takes off. If it does, it will truly be a great venue and soi 33 and the surrounding area could actually start to challenge the Nana area as a major entertainment neighbourhood.

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. It has to be said that Mrs. Stick is not your stereotypical Thai woman. She is not Buddhist and she is not shy to criticise things about her own country and culture, although she remains proud to be Thai. Mr. Stick will try and answer the questions which Mrs. Stick is not so sure about.

Question 1: I do want to fall in love and marry a Thai woman and most parts of her culture, but my question is whether the Thai culture in the woman ever leaves them? Especially if she has been quite happy here in the US for over three years and has no desire to return to Thailand on a permanent basis.

Mrs. Stick says: Just because she has no desire to return to Thailand doesn't mean that she wants to throw away Thai culture. Why doesn't she want to return to Thailand and are you absolutely sure about that? The reason behind this might explain something. If you want a woman who worships your culture, perhaps you would be better off marrying an American woman? Really, I can see nothing but trouble in the horizon if you enter into a long term relationship with this woman and expect her to change. Accept her for what she is, or choose someone else.

Question 2: Where available in Thailand, I use real milk for coffee, for cereals or just plain straight. Now when I ask for milk (nom) in Thai or Lao language somewhere upcountry in Thailand or Laos, male waiters ALWAYS inform me that "nom" is also a word for a lady's breast – and they will do fanciful hand moves. I have heard it 20 odd times, and now I am shy to use the Thai word nom with female Thai friends or with waitresses. I am shy to say things in Thai like "Do you have milk" or "I like milk", because I always remember the grinning gesturing male waiters. Am I overtly cautious, or should I really avoid the word? How about connected words like "café nom" (milk coffee)?

Mrs. Stick says: Don't worry too much. You can use the word nom as much as you want because Thai people see farang as people whose lives are dominated by or revolve around sex – yes, for so many Thai people, this is what they think, so they are having fun with you, maybe even laughing at you. Don't be shy to joke back, but make sure it is good natured. And just make sure that you get the right nom you want!

Do feel free to let me know what you think of guys hitting on married woman here in Bangkok. Is it Bangkok thing or is it just like this the world over? That's another week in Bangkok. The opening piece in next week's column will be a reflection of the site over the last year, where it is now and where it is going.

Your Bangkok commentator,

Stick

Thanks go out to Dave The Rave, Claymore and Eyebee.