Stickman's Weekly Column December 5th, 2004

Thai Male Friends


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Approaching seven years in Thailand and I can count the number of Thai male friends I have on one hand. Truth be told, I can count them on one finger. And if you really want to know the truth, my one and only Thai friend has actually spent most of his life in Australia, and is more comfortable in English than he is in Thai, although that said his spoken Thai is fluent. One could perhaps argue that given his circumstances, that I have no real Thai friends. Seven years in Thailand and no Thai friends. Is it me or is it them?

The first Thai guy I got to know was one of the security guards in my first apartment building. I never did know his name but he was the same age as me and he came from Udon Thani, so let's call him Udon. I would sit down and chat with him outside the apartment building because I was new to the city, hadn't really made any friends yet, and it was a good way to practice my Thai. My Thai was somewhere between basic and reasonable and I can remember him telling me about how Thai women would be much more interested in me than him because I had money, and that 99% of all Thai women were primarily interested in money. His words, not mine. We'd inevitably hang out at the local pool hall but poor Udon was always so tired from working 12 hours a day, everyday – he never had even one day off a month (!), that after an hour or so he would disappear and go crash at the room he shared with several other security guards. While he was a nice guy and we got on well enough, we were never really on the same wavelength.

The next Thai guy I got to know was a student in one of my classes. His personality was much more like a farang than a Thai and he was always offering answers in class and generally speaking his opinion, most un-Thai like in his ways. His attitude seemed to inspire the other students to talk more and that class still remains the most fun class I have ever taught. He'd call me at my apartment just to chat and practice his English and was always keen to know what farangs thought about certain issues in Thailand. Unlike many Thais, he could accept it when something of a negative nature was said, sometimes explaining why things were the way they were, and sometimes agreeing with what I said, but never refuting the criticism outright. He never once got upset at criticism against Thailand from farangs. I always knew the guy had a bright future and last I heard he was working as a diplomat at a Thai embassy in a neighbouring country. We were never really friends as such but we got on very well and hung out, outside of the classroom, a couple of times.

Recently I had a Thai friend who I was introduced to by Mrs. Stick. A curious fellow, he was a Thai national who went to live in the UK before his 10th birthday. He stayed there for 25 odd years before retuning to Thailand in the mid '90s. While he is a Thai national, he is very much the veritable banana, yellow on the outside but white on the inside. His English is far better than his Thai, which wouldn't compare to many of the medium or long term expats' ability in the local tongue. The funniest thing is hearing about him and his dealings with the Thai police or Thai authorities. He whips out his ID card which proves he is a Thai national but his spoken Thai suggests otherwise. Amusing, but not if you were him! Anyway, him and I were good friends for a while although I have not seen nor spoken with him for some time and he is more like a Brit than a Thai. Really, he is Thai only in appearance and hardly the typical Thai male.

There are plenty of Thai guys at work but I cannot for the life of me click with any of them. There is some fairly open resentment from some of them towards the farang contingent which is quite possibly due to the fact that we earn a lot more than them and frankly, we probably do a little less work. Matters are made worse by one or two of the farang staff who are not shy to fuel it all with some fairly negative comments towards the male Thai staff. But funnily enough, the male farang contingent and the Thai male teachers have a lot in common. We are often all glued to the same TV in the staffroom at lunchtime watching British Premiership Football. You'd think there would be some friendships but I have not seen one develop between any of the farang teachers and a Thai staff member.

There are a lot of negative stereotypes that farangs have about Thai guys but most of them are simply mean spirited and unfair. All of the Thai guys I have gotten to know have not been the stereotypical rice whiskey drinking, wife bashing louts that you so often hear about from Westerners who appear to be trying to justify their girlfriend's decision to choose them over a Thai bloke. Yes, such blokes do exist, but that sort of behaviour is not the norm and if you genuinely think this is the norm then you're hanging out in an interesting sector of Thai society.

I have never had a real, genuine friendship with a real Thai guy – read a Thai guy who lives in Thailand who has not been somewhat farangised, a Thai guy who could be considered typical and representative of Thai men. I know it's not me and of all of the Thai guys I have known, I don't think it's them either.

And when I look at all of my friends and all of the people I know from colleagues, to people in the same apartment building to readers of the site, not one of them has a real Thai friend either. Sure, they might know some Thai males through work, or be friendly with friends of their spouse but as for actually having Thai male friends themselves, someone close to them, who they would do the same sort of things they do with their farang mates, nah, I don't know one such person.

I think it comes down to the fact that farangs and Thais are just so different that having a genuine friendship can be quite a challenge and perhaps involve more compromise than one is willing to make in a friendship. Well known author Steve Leather made an interesting comment at a book signing recently when he said that he had known a particular Thai guy for some 10 odd years, but had never really got to understand quite how the Thai fellow thinks and how his mind works.

With all of this in mind, one has to wonder just how the average foreigner is able to have a successful relationship with a Thai woman. I mean, it is a lot easier to relate to men than women, is it not?!

WHERE IS THIS PICTURE?

It was Walking Street in Pattaya

Taken from a few thousand feet.

Last week's pic was taken on Walking Street in Pattaya some time in the past, perhaps 25 or so years ago, back when it was known as The Strip. A new record was set with the location of the picture correctly identified within 2 minutes of the column going live. Thanks to Mr Write for sending the pic in to be used. This week's pic was taken from a few thousand feet and I hope the fact that it was way, way out of focus doesn't make it too difficult… 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

Hypocritical Dads?

I cannot help but wonder how many of these "fathers" sending in mail about how they would not want their daughter's teachers whoring, are out whoring themselves? It would seem to me to be most of them as they are reading your site. Damn hypocritical lot if you ask me. As an ex-teacher (in the States, not in Thailand), I can say that I was whoring in Mexico on vacations while I was a teacher but I never ONCE even thought of my student as potential sex partners or dates. I think these "fathers" are really off the mark as most teachers (especially degreed and certified professionals) can separate their private and work lives. What happens to these guys when they have kids? Methinks they all get paranoid!

What a eulogy that would be!

Yesterday I was stuck in a U.K. traffic jam, daydreaming, trying to take stock of my life when a sobering thought hit me. I’m 50 year’s old and I don’t know the names of the trees and flowers but I know the location of just about every damn farang knocking shop in the City of Angels. What a testimony. Maybe they will inscribe that on my tombstone?

Forgive us father, for we're all a bunch of heinous sinners!

I read with a light heart the entry from a reader entitled "employing Johns" and to be truthful had a good laugh that someone who pretends to be so important is either so naive or stupid. After all, we all know that every man is a rapist and that every woman is a saint trapped and held by her male captor. Every Catholic Priest (insert religion of your choice) is a good and pious man after all the Arch Bishop oh Chicago didn't cover up all those years of child molestation did he? The Governor General of Australia didn't resign because he covered up child molestation for 20 years, no way, he was a man of God and just really tired. I firmly believe that all people like all coins have two sides and as long as the tails (dark) side does not interfere with your working life then no man should judge. After all who has not lusted after a beautiful young woman in a restaurant / bar who has never had one drink too many and driven home knowing through blurry eyes that it was wrong. No one is perfect we all hide flaws and imperfections just don't let the flaws run / ruin your life.

We moan and groan….but we stay.

I admit that after a while Bangkok does lose its original shine and that it becomes much like any other city, if you take out the pleasures of the flesh. However I don't think Bangkok is unusual in this. Having lived now in four countries other than my own this is true of all cities I have worked in. Things just become familiar, routine, humdrum, whatever you would like to call it. But Bangkok does have some significant advantages: great food, great shopping, good climate (although too sweaty at times), good holiday opportunities, a vibrant expat community with most activities on offer somewhere and it is very cheap! Although it is not the heaven newbies might expect it to be, it is still a great and easy place to live and work. Everyone feels like moving on sometime, it is natural. But Bangkok keeps its share of people, by a long way. Talk to expats in Singapore, the middle east, Hong Kong, Japan, wherever and many tired more quickly of there than they did of Thailand.

Northern adventure.

Your vacation to Chiang Mai brought back fond memories of my excursion to Doi Suthep 24 years ago. Of course this was one of those purported must see sites on my itinerary, so off I ventured to the north west wall. Having climbed it and crossed the moat I thought that finding the bus stop would be a piece of cake, all to no avail. Eventually in this blazing midday sun I raised the courage to approach a group of Mafioso tuktuk drivers, and enquire if they could point me in the right direction. "All the buses to Doi Suthep are cancelled today". As you know it's at points like this in one's travels that you reach for that Hari Kari sword that you've been fruitlessly carrying half way round the world with you in your backpack. Whilst I was savouring this pleasant exit a voiced said, "No problem I can take you in my tuktuk". So the inevitable response was sighed out, "How much?" "200 baht", a king's ransom in those days. Where the will and energy came from I don't know, but I then decided that I would join in this game, so I asked his colleague how much he would charge me for the same trip. "300 baht" with a glee in his eye, and then his mate "400 baht" with a smirk, and finally the last of the group, "500 baht" with an outright grin. I paused, but they couldn't wait to hear the response from their mug of the day, "Which one, which one ?" they bleated. So I said "No one". "Why?" "You're too cheap, I refuse to pay less than a 1,000 baht". Silence, but then it finally dawned on one of them what I had said, and was soon belly up in hysterics. "What he say, what he say" cried the others, to which they then all had the same reaction. Finally the boss of the group affectionately put his arm round my shoulders, and pointing with right arm directed me to the bus stop across the street.

Has Nana Plaza become a tourist attraction? It would seem that it just may have. No, I am not talking about people who go for a few drinks and perhaps even indulge with the ladies of the night, the "genuine customers" so to speak, but a place where Westerners who have heard about the prostitution industry in Thailand are taken by a tour guide for a walk through, where various highlights or landmarks are pointed out! I observed what seemed to be part of a sightseeing trip a few weeks back when a bunch of retired Brits were given a short tour of Soi Cowboy, walking through it and the comings and goings explained to them. The same seems to be happening at Nana Plaza now too with groups of people, often predominantly women, being taken on a tour through. Curtain flickers some of the bar managers refer to them as with many of them nervously puling back the curtains at the entrance to one of the naughty bars for a glimpse of horrors within. I wonder if this sort of thing will be allowed to continue, or even grow? But what could be funniest of all is that you're minding your business, enjoying a quiet drink, and some Western tourist comes along and snaps a pic of you! It'll happen, that is if it isn't already!

There has been a management change at the Hollywood gogo bars on floor 3 in Nana Plaza. The manager for the last five years, namely the inimitable Dave The Rave, will now be running Hollywood Two. Hollywood Two is the smaller gogo bar situated next door to Hollywood Carousel. So, for those wondering where Dave had gone, he will be permanently based in Hollywood Two for the foreseeable future. Dave and staff are looking forward to welcoming you.

Some nights this past week have seen Nana Plaza open until 1:30 AM, but 2:00 hasn't been seen for some time now.

Big Johns is the first outlet to let us know about their Xmas lunch special. At Big Johns in Thonglor, you get five roast meats, including turkey, lamb and beef served with stuffing, vegetables, gravy and sauces with apple pie for dessert. All for just 490 baht. Or 790 baht with all you can drink draft beer. Sounds like a good deal. If you plan to have Christmas dinner at either one of the more popular, restaurants or one of the many hotels offering Xmas buffets and specials, it would not be a bad idea to make a reservation soon. The better places can be booked up a fortnight or so before the big day.

If you were asked what the busiest bar in Sukhumvit Soi 4 was, the bar which makes the most money, what would your answer be? When pondering this thought, I jumped to some of the bigger and more popular gogo bars in Nana Plaza. Hollywood? Playskool? G Spot perhaps? But these places are only open for a handful of hours a night. I then thought of some of the bars which also serve food but really, they don't get the same numbers as the bars. Then I thought of Big Dogs. It's always busy and punters are there from middayish onwards. But I reckon there is another bar which beats them all. Morning Night, the first beer bar you come to when entering Soi 4 is big, and always seems to have loads of punters. I reckon that has to be the busiest bar in Soi Nana and the owner must be doing very well indeed. And in an effort to make even more cash, owner Mel is opening Morning Night 2 in what was the car park of the new Soi 1 Entertainment Plaza! It should be open within a month.

As of last night, the main bar areas in Phuket are keeping tourists happy and are still closing at 2:30 ish, but you can find a drink until much later, though it may be served in a tea cup, still it's a drink! In one club, named after an important Chinaman, they stopped the usual disco fare at about 2:50, and as people were leaving they started playing Thai music quite loudly, for about 15 minutes, probably at the request of the 2 uniformed police who were sitting in there. That sure is an effective way of getting farangs to leave quickly!

Due to the success of last weeks promotion of a Free PhotoBack to all customers in Bangkok, Flowers Thailand would like to extend this offer to cover Bangkok and Chiang Mai. This promotion is only available to Stickman readers who quote StickPhotoBack when ordering. The PhotoBack service consists of a digital image being taken of your recipient when the flowers are delivered and then emailed back to you. For Bangkok deliveries they can also attach a picture from the customer with the flowers for delivery.

Quote of the week comes from a friend and I erupted in laughter when I heard this one. "Brad, Alistair and I went to Obsessions which had by far the best looking dancers in Nana." If you didn't know, Obsession is a katoey bar!

More and more former Nana Plaza gogo girls are being spotted in Pattaya. There was something of an exodus a few months back when the 1:00 AM closing in Bangkok was introduced and many decided that enough was enough and that they would go and ply their trade in Pattaya. So, if you're hunting for one of your ex's in Bangers and can't find her, she may well have got on the bus and be somewhere down in Pattaya. Head to Walking Street. That's were most of them went.

Some bar owners are furious at the mobile bars that have set up along Sukhumvit as well as in the more popular sois. Selling drinks at not a lot more than 7 Eleven, and cocktails and mixed drinks for around 60 baht, more than a few punters are choosing to drink there than in the bars themselves. And what some of these mobile drink vendors are doing is really sneaky. They have backed their carts up RIGHT next to some of the bars so even though you are not in the bar, you can enjoy the music AND you can chat with the girls. At least one bar has prohibited its staff from chatting with punters who are not drinking in the bar while another has rightfully made a complaint to the police about the vendors' lack of a liquor licence. These mobile bars are taking away quite a bit of business from some of Bangkok' beer bars and are pissing off more than a few bar managers! It is hard to see them continuing for much longer, at least if they continue to operate like this.

Following on from my piece in the column a fortnight ago about how I felt a law firm which specialised in dealing with foreigners in the sort of legal issues where foreigners need help, I can confirm that two law firms who wrote in. Check out Trilaw-Consultants which is Bangkok based. They have farang lawyers on their staff.

Bangkok is something of a city of travel agents. If you want to do it, stay there, or fly there, they can help you. For many of the attractions within Bangkok which can be booked via the travel agents, the price charged often includes collection from your hotel and also being dropped off afterwards. Now while this might sound like a good idea in that it means you do not have to worry about traipsing around the city yourself hunting for the venue, there is a downside. Isn't there always? When picked up, one is usually collected in a minivan, and these minivans do not come to collect just you. There are 10 seats in the minivan and odds are that they'll collect 10 different people, possibly from as many hotels! So for your 7:30 traditional Thai dance performance that is just a 10 minute sky train away, you might be collected at 6:00 PM, or even earlier, and stuck in the van all that time while everyone else gets collected too! Sometimes it can be best to make your own way to the venue.

With digital cameras all the rage, most photo shops will now print digital images off whatever media you decide to provide them on. Most outlets print the standard 6 X 4 size for around 5 baht but the further away you get from the central areas, the cheaper it gets. At least one outlet, Master Prints, will print your 6 X 4s for just 3 baht a print. And they have various options you can chose too such as white borders etc. The quality of the prints was, by Bangkok standards at least, very good. They have 4 stores, the easiest one to get to is probably the branch in Lad Prao.

Did you know that if you are charged in a criminal case but go on to be found not guilty, you can go and make a claim for your costs incurred?! It happened to a friend of mine. He didn't know about it but got a call from his lawyer who requested that he come and see him so that they could go and visit one of the government department. Fearful that something new was in the pipeline against him, he was delighted to find out that he was going to be getting one hell of a chunk of change back! Does this happen anywhere else?

Venturing down to Rajadamri on Friday night to photograph all of the Christmas and Xmas lights that they erect each year, I was disappointed to see that only a small amount had been put up. They are usually all up by now. I wonder if with the government's push to save power has prompted the shopping centres and the metropolitan authority to put up less lights this year in order to save power? I am just hypothesizing, but I sure hope that is NOT the reason. They do a great job with the lights every year and everyone likes them.

I bumped into a friend on the skytrain on Friday who I hadn't seen in awhile and he mentioned that after 5 years in Thailand, it might be time to move on. 15 minutes later an Aussie friend called, saying that he was returning to Kangarooland the next day as his holiday had come to an end. Asking when he would be back, he said that he wasn't sure he would be. He'd been making two trips a year for the last five years but found himself slowly going off Thailand. Interesting, eh? There seems to be a bit of a trend with people who came here in the late '90s returning home or choosing elsewhere for their holidays.

Not content with being the major business broker, running a real estate agency and also having a legal team, SunbeltAsia has now got into the serviced office game. So, if you are looking for a serviced office in the Rachada area, get in touch with Sunbelt.

A reader reports that he was upstairs in a Patpong bar, where he found beer at just 60 Baht per bottle until 10 PM along with 20 girls, all stark naked, folding paper cranes. A very religious experience. In the reader's words, "I know people who say they have seen it all before, but I believe that Thailand holds something new every day, if you just go looking."

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: An Australian man was just describing to me another one of those cases where (his farang friend) bought property for his Thai wife and himself but it turned to be another case of you know what. He knew the property couldn’t be in his name and therefore would have to be in his wife’s name, he felt, but was advised that under Thai law, it would have to be in his mother-in-law’s name. Some time later, he went to a bank for a loan and responded that for collateral, he’d use their house that was in the name of his mother-in-law. Then he received a shock. The bank informed him that the document showed his mother-in-law being 40% owner and his brother-in-law 60% owner! He’d been heinously taken for a profoundly devastating loss. So does it work to the frustration of you good Thai wives when your husbands, and quite possibly even your own, are standoffish and even afraid of buying a house because of all the ones who have been cheated and scammed?

Mrs. Stick says: I hope that the average farang realises that there are both good and bad Thai people. I would also hope that the average farang is able to discern whether the people they are dealing with are sincere or not. I guess you have to take your time and to thoroughly understand what type of person you are dealing with and try and "hen hua jai" as we say in Thailand, which means to see the person's real self. But please do not have a negative bias towards Thai people because of some stories you may have heard which are not representative of all Thai people.

I keep thinking back to my jaunt up north last weekend to Chiang Mai. I can't quite say it has ruined things, but it sure has put a whole new perspective on life in Thailand. It was the first time in a very long time that many of the feelings I had from early on in my Thailand adventure were re-captured. But the other side of it is that it has re-enforced to me many of the less than positive factors of life in Bangkok. Even in Korat, where I sit and put the final touches to the column, the people and the place simply don't compare to Chiang Mai. It's not even close.

Your Bangkok commentator,

Stick

Thanks go out to Dave The Rave and Gapton.