Stickman's Weekly Column February 27th, 2005

Mr. Colourful Part 2


StickmanBangk ok .com


I am sitting in Boss Hogg's office, gazing around the complex where both his office and residence are located. Slap bang in the middle of Bangkok, where real estate prices reach and sometimes even exceed prices in the West. The place is huge. Here he is, in shorts and a polo. Casual. I'm here, immaculately dressed in a shirt, tie, Italian shoes, all the good stuff, at least as much as a teacher's salary allows. We probably earn about the same amount. We do, really. It is just that for me it is in baht and for him it is in dollars. There is no justice in this world. The guy just has to be a multi millionaire. Who said there was no money running bars in Bangkok?

You're a wealthy guy.

I had times in my life when I was broke. I always bounced back but you know, you get spoiled. You have money, so what difference does it make if the shirt costs 100 bucks. Ludicrous really. You can get one for 30 or 35. Who in their right mind would pay $4 for a cup of coffee. What a waste! When you get lucky with $$, you start wasting it. That is not what it's for.

So what is it for then?

Security, the future. Unfortunately in America, it doesn't seem to be that way. I think it is for future generations. In America that seems to be something we don't think about. The wealthy Thais, Indians and Chinese think about it. In the US, it almost seems to be the goal to end it all so you don't leave it to your kids. I was brought up and raised in an affluent a family. Never received a dime – never thought I would and never did.

I went out and my parents paid for college. After that you have to make it yourself. You do not have it support them one day. Apart form the gruff you get from your father about all the things you did wrong when you go to ask him for money, you do not rely on your parents. I work with some Indian families here and that is one thing I have learned from them. When they do something here, they're economically fine already so they do not need it. They are doing it for three generations from now. To make the family wealthy and not to make one person's wealthy – to secure the family's wealth.

What about you? You could be kicking back on a beach in Florida living the life.

You don’t change a lifetime of habits. The person who makes $US100,000 per year and saves money, well when you look back, when they earned $5,000 a year they saved some. The person earned 5,000 and spent 5,000, when they went on to earn a million bucks a year, they wouldn’t have saved any either. When you have worked your whole life, it is hard to change. A lifetime of habits and you try to make a conscious decision to change.

I have made a conscious decision to change. I think I have a 30% chance. We have habits and they are hard to change. Working 7 days a week is not the right thing but it has always been my hobby. Being lazy and screwing off 7 days a week. Is that the right thing? No, but there is a happy medium in there somewhere. The brain keeps you going – you cannot turn it off.

So what about working in Thailand compared to working in America?

I think a Thai would have a hard time in America or any other country. And I think any foreigner who comes here finds it to be hard because it is not what we know. For one person to go to another country, what is the learning curve. How long it takes to learn things and get comfortable with it. America to Thailand, well there is no efficiency here, there is none. Zero. I went to a jewelry manufacturer today, a friend form America, and he had 50 people in the office. I think you ought to have 5. In America he would only have 5.

The advantage is that the 50 here costs him less here than the 5 would cost in America. But is that an excuse to waste efficiency? And buy into the program of having 50 people? I don’t think so.

This office here was the closest thing to an American model. There was never any more than 2 girls working here, performing every function. With some days up to 40 people coming in, the phone ringing all day, and hundreds of transactions. They learnt how to do it. Some didn’t, but the ones that did and have done a wonderful job. It was also expected that Thai employers expect so much from their employees. You see it everywhere. I do anyway!

What about funny girl stories? You must have a few to tell?

The highest take in the shortest amount of time. I had a gal work for me and I walked up in the day time and I saw her at Lucky Luke's and I saw a watch on her arm. I looked at the watch. It struck me and I looked again. I raised her arm up and said, this is a real Rolex. And she goes yeah! And girl, where did you get this? My customer / boyfriend bought it for me. How long have you known him? 3 days! Where's he from? America! But he's working in Saudi Arabia. And I am still not convinced. Were you with him when he bought it? Where? Emporium.

How much did he pay for it? 170,000 baht! How did he pay for it? With a credit card! And she points up to her ears. And there were a pair of diamond earrings for 8k baht. She points to her neck and there was 6 baht of gold. She had a diamond ring on her finger for another 90,000 baht! I added it up and it was like 390,000 baht! And she says Boss, how much does he have to pay if he wants to take me out of the bar?

10,000 I say. So are you going to go? I don't know she says! I looked at her and I said, you must give a hell of a blowjob! Boss we haven't had any sex yet, she says! She was telling the truth. I looked at her and I picked up the watch again and said, “When he has gone, I want to buy that watch!”

She looks at me and says how much. I said 100,000 baht. She immediately looks at me and says 120?! I'll never forget it! About a week later I came back and I saw her in the bar and the watch had gone. I said, want happened and she said, I had sold it. I told her I had wanted to buy it! She said well, you were gone over the weekend. She couldn't even wait 3 days to sell me the watch! What about the ear rings? I sold them back to the jeweler and I got 50K baht. The customer had paid 90 and the same jeweler bought them back for 50 so he made 40k for loaning them out for a week! That is the biggest, quickest one I had ever seen. He had only known her for a few days. As far as I kow, he never came back.

Another girl one time. I thought you were going to Pattaya and would be gone for 10 days. She said the guy smoked and drank too much so I came back to Bangkok from Pattaya. But he paid her good money. How much did the guy give you? I thought she would say 5,000 or 10,000 baht. 100,000 baht she said! I said bullshit and she opened up the purse and showed me the 100,000 baht! I am thinking, I wouldn't have given you anything, no matter who you did! I turned to a friend of mine and said that the girl just got ruined. She went to Pattaya and in 5 days made 100,000 baht.

She is going to measure every boyfriend, customer or husband by that guy who paid her 100K baht, she will never find it and she will never be happy. Like a gambler who wins big, they go back to the casino knowing that they won big once and will try to do it again – but they never do it. She'll never be happy because no-one will pay that much money again. She was a nice girl, pretty, spoke nice English, nice funny sense of humour. And it was like, she was ruined. Both of those girls were in the same position. They met the customer when they were broke, got a huge payout and within 3 weeks, they were broke again, without a dime to their name. Both of them. Exactly the same! Easy come and easy go. Just like drugs, like a stripper. More money is coming tomorrow.

What about ripoffs?

I have never known a case where the girl went with a customer and blatantly stole out of the hotel rooms, or his wallet when he passed out or his pocket or whatever. I have never heard of a case like that and it is had never happened to me. It has never happened, even in my single days. I relish the thought! There were days when I would wake up in the morning, and I would remember having taken 100,000 baht from the bars and put it in my pocket to put in the safe. I had come home plastered with a girl. Your heart drops and you run to your pants and in every case the money was still there.

The girls do steal?

They don't view it as stealing. In every relationship they steal. They have no money sense. They do not view it as stealing and they are gonna justify it to themselves. If you have two guys on the hook and you have them both thinking you are in the village and both sending you money, you're stealing. In my mind you're stealing. The number of times when the girl is back in the bar before the plane has left the tarmac, I cannot count. They are back in the bar and they are laughing about it. There was this one girl, she didn't work for me but she used to hang around Sukumvit back when mobiles were expensive. She had two mobiles. One from her German boyfriend and one from her English boyfriend. Whichever rang, she new who was calling. The German sent her 30K a month, the Englishman 40k. She was still on the game. And when I asked her why, she said that she liked to have fun and that she loved money! We had a girl walk in one day looking for a job and she was the most non Thai looking girl I had ever seen. She looked Sicilian like a little Italian girl. She was going to beauty school, she had a month left and she didn't have enough money left to pay the tuition. She had never worked in a bar. Spoke a little bit of English and was a real a sweet girl and I tried to talk her out of a job.

Wow!

Oh, I have done that many, many times then finally I quit when they would go to the job next door and quit. I finally figured it out one day. You bloody idiot! I don't wanna get off the story.

This girl was so beautiful and dressed so well and she had never worked in a bar. She was too beautiful to work there. I told her that and turned her down. The next night she was working in Pharaohs.

Maybe the owner of that bar took her for a test drive?

Nah, she was too old! About 22!

Back to the Italian girl, she said she wanted a job and she started working for me. 3 of my mates were the first three customers. This girl graduated form beauty school about 3 months later and her goal was to open a beauty shop in Chiang Rai. And when she graduated she asked me if I could get her a job in a beauty shop. So, I did. Called a friend who has had a shop for years and years and I got her a job. 5 days later she was back at the bar and asking me if she could have her old job back!

Why?

She said she had to work 9 hours a day and that she only made 300 – 400 baht with tips a day and that it was hard work.

I told her that that was why she went to school and that is what you wanted to do. I told her that she needed to work for someone for 6 months, get experience before opening her own salon. There was no talking to her and she came back to work for me. This was girl was consistently the number one girl in the bar from never having worked to being the number one girl, 35 – 40 offs a month which in a beer bar is almost unheard of. The average girl goes off 7 times each month.

A few months ago we were talking and I asked about the beauty shop plans and how the savings plan was working. She said she was pretty close. She took out bank books from her bag and she had a big smile on her face. Proud as a peacock, 360,000 baht in the accounts

Good for you! I was happy for her. None of these girls save any money. She said she was going to work one more month and then go home and open the beauty shop. Two and a half weeks later she comes to my office and she is crying. I asked what was wrong. She pulled out her bank books and handed them to me and all of her money was gone. Her sister had been caught with methamphetamines and of course the family knew she had the money and somehow the police knew exactly how much and she gave them all the money. I never saw her again. No idea what happened to her.

The one girl who had a dream and was actually saving money and that happened. I would have let my sister stay in jail. She had made a lot of hard decisions to get there. I would not have let someone stupid, even a relative, turn around and take it all from me. That is one of the more tragic stories I remember.

We have a girl that works for me 5 days a month only. She used to work at Voodoo bar outside. She was flat-chested, her hair was just so so and one day she goes out and gets a boob job. She starts wearing skimpy outfits. She only works during the day. She is one of the sharpest ladies I have ever met in the business. I have never heard a customer complain anyway. She sends two kids to university, owns a beauty shop, has a condo that is paid for, and apparently there are 4 different guys from 4 countries that think they are her husband. All 4 came in the same month, 2 months ago.

How did it go?

She walks up and she was livid. She did not know what to do. We said listen. They weren’t overlapping but they were close. We told her change the lock on the door every time one fellow leaves and give the new key to the new husband so the old one cannot get in. She thought that was the greatest idea, she did it and she came back to work when the month was over and thanked us for the great idea and how everything went just fine!

One day I asked this lady how much she asked the customer for short time and she said 2,600 baht. I thought oh, 600 for the barfine and 2,000 for her. She said no 2,600 for her on top of the bar fine. I said how did you come up with that number. Oh Boss these other girls who try to get 3,000 are crazy, it sounds too high but 2,600 is better than 2,000 right! Marketing at the grass roots level.

You just have to see her. She is just a piece of work. She is a great gal, about 37 years old now and looks great with make up on. Wouldn’t want to wake up next to her though!

A lot of guys are worried / paranoid about STDs and AIDS.

There was one girl in all of my thousands, that I have a feeling she contracted AIDS. She did end up dying.

AIDS?

Not sure, but my guess is AIDS. She worked at Lucky Luke's in 2000 when I took the bar over. She worked maybe a week or two and then she was gone. Someone said she was sick. She came back about 4 or 5 months later and asked if she could have a job bartending. She'd lost a lot of weight. It just didn't seem to be drugs. Again, she was a nice girl. I gave her the job, it lasted about two weeks and she would not show up some days. She looked worse and worse and worse. The cover up story was that she had swallowed drain cleaner trying to kill herself and I just had to let her go… She died maybe a couple of months later. That is the only girl I can only tie AIDS too. I am not 100% positive. My guess is that she had AIDS. I have known other girls 10 – 12 years and we just don't see it. The times we have had girls tested in mass we have never had a positive.

How was that done?

A doctor would come and they would go to the locker room and draw blood from every girl. We didn't tell girls before it happened. I am a bit lax. We used to it about every 6 months. I have never had a positive test.

How many tests altogether?

In all, I'd guess about 300 tests. Never seen a positive. I have never heard a customer or a friend say anything about AIDS or contracting something. I never contracted anything.

What about STDS in general.

I have never had a friend or a customer say anything about any of them. Syphilis, gonorrhea, warts, any of them.

I had a friend in America who had a club in the Philippines 22 years ago and to hear him tell the stories, he caught a dose like once a month. It was so rampant in the Philippines at that time. It was a common way of life not just in the Philippines but all over Thailand also. Remember guys did not use condoms. It was before the AIDS epidemic. That is what was going to happen. But now I have no knowledge of contraction of STDs. Having said that, let's face it, the treatment has changed and in a lot of cases an oral medication and a day or two and many are eradicated. I know for a fact that a lot of my friends have at times not used condoms. Even in talk around the bars I have never heard someone say they had caught something. I don’t want to say it doesn’t exist, but I have no knowledge. Wasn't it Trink who used to say it was propaganda? Perhaps I agree. I have not heard anyone talk about it.

I have my own thoughts. They are that there are brothels for Thais where the girls make 200 baht a day. So how much do the guys pay? 50 baht? 100 baht? If you want to talk about servitude, those are the types of places that enslave young Thai girls, or Laos or Burmese, and bring them into the brothels. They are doing 15 – 20 tricks a day and they are in debt because they were bought from the family. If you want to ask me where the rampant STDs are? I'd say Thai to Thai 20 tricks a day at 50 baht a day. A factory, a brothel factory.

You think about it! You think these Thai workers do not go to brothels? There is a different quality, and all different levels. And when those girls get sick you know where they get sent back to. And then you get into the IV drug users and other things which attribute themselves to AIDS. Certainly gay sex and drug users.

Do you have plans to maintain ties with Thailand when you head back to the States?

I may have some business interests which are more passive than they are active. I'm sure I'll come back to Thailand once or twice a year.

What will you miss the most?

<He chuckles….long pause>

Anything?

Cheap labour! I mean, really! <Chuckles again> If I re-do a bathroom in American it costs me $15,000 – $25,000. If I do it here with granite is costs me $3,500. If I go to dinner in America, a mediocre meal for two is $60 – $100. 5 star dining is $200 for two. Dry-cleaning is $4 for a shirt. You're not going to have a maid. You're not going to have a driver and your gardener is going to come once a week for about two hours if you're lucky. So, you know, Thailand's great value for the dollar, that's for sure.

The downside is the dirt and the lack of respect. You need to know what your priorities are. For a single guy living in a high rise, having fun, this is a great, great town. But, to attempt to raise a family here I think it is the wrong set of values, the wrong life lessons. I have said it before, especially for females, there is a definite glass ceiling for their growth which we had in America too 30 years ago. But the biggest thing is that there is no respect.

I don’t know about New Zealand, your country, but in America, we have neighbourhoods, we have subdivisions, that basically, they are all clean. There is a pride of ownership. Everyone keeps their yards up, their houses are kept up, the kids play together, the streets are spotless. There is nothing in Thailand like that. Even at 65 million baht for a house, there is nothing like that. The majority of Thais have nothing to aspire to. They will never leave their poverty. There are no social status jumpers here. The majority are in the back woods, 75 years behind modern times. Most of us reside in Bangkok which is a metropolis and it is easy to forget that this is a third world country. They cannot come out with a master plan in Bangkok because there is too much corruption. Everyone pays to circumvent the plan for their own benefit. It's self greed for the poor and the rich.

When you drive out of your small subdivision here, villages they call them here, you are looking at trash in the street, people selling outside your front door, no respect for your property rights. Everyone scrambling to make a living. Educating these people will be a long drawn out process.

Outside of some ocean communities, Thailand is not a pretty place. I don’t care what anyone says. New Zealand, France, Australia, Italy, now those are pretty places.
Thailand, I mean there are a few mountains here which are green and look nice but they are few and far between.

If you are going to live in a middle class area, for it to be middle class for you, you’d have to go to the high class for Thailand. And again, what future does a half Thai and half non-Thai child have in Thailand? You know? They are not going to marry the doctor – the doctor’s family won’t allow it. <He chuckles again>

It is like buying a Ferrari. Why do these idiots buy them in Thailand? There is nowhere to drive the thing! Did I tell you the story about the parents who should be arrested for child abuse?

No, I don't think so. Go on.

I know this woman here. She has lived here since she was two. She is 25 now, went to an international school. Speaks perfect English, fluent Thai, invaluable to me at times. She has never washed her own clothes, she has never cleaned her house, she has never washed dishes. She may now get married and move to the US and is scared to death because she has no domestic skills. I looked at her one day and said that this was the same as child abuse. She has a boyfriend in America who went to an international school with her here then the father was transferred back to the US. They have reunited several years later and her immigration papers have been approved and she is going to the US on a fiancé visa. She said to me she does not know how to clean a house or wash a dish…

My life has changed. I am not preaching. If I was single I would be back here. Absolutely. It is just not a place to have a child grow up and give them the best life lessons. They need to learn what is out in the world and that they have the opportunity to be or do anything in life they may desire. Schooling, I do not believe in a school for profit system which is what the international schools here are. It wouldn’t be fair to the child to stay here, education wise, moral wise. It is just not right. The kids here, they learn nothing. They do not learn to make their beds. At 8, they bitch at the driver! That is no way to raise kids in my eyes. But everyone is free to do what they want.

And where do you go? On a Sunday or a Saturday? I have a home in Hua Hin and I do not even want to go there. It is not that nice there when you get there. Jelly fish plague the beach nine months of the year. I have got massage tables and squatters on the beach in front of my house. It is not like going to San Diego, San Francisco, Australia or New Zealand. Everything is a fight. The roads are a fight, the traffic is a fight. You cannot relax, any time.

It is a great place for a single guy, no question about it.

For a married guy the equation changes?

Yeah, absolutely. That is the truth, honestly.

And so ended the second part of the Boss Hogg interview. After the second part of the interview, I left with the strong impressions that Boss is a brutally honest man, and a genuine businessman. Like him or not – and it must be said that there are plenty who don't care for the man, I couldn't help but be impressed by his drive and his honesty, two traits which can be so hard to find locally, both amongst the locals and the expats.

WHERE IS THIS PICTURE Competition?

It was the large wat in Nakon Pathom.

A boat on land, but not from the tsunami.

Last week's pic was taken from at the big temple in Pathum Thani. This week's pic is again from outside of Bangkok. A boat on land…and no, it has nothing to do with the tsunami. 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 and you MUST state in the email that you are Bangkok based. So, to claim that prize, you must be in Bangkok at some time in the next two weeks. For the next several weeks, top British thriller author Steve Leather has very kindly provided some copies of his just published novel, "Private Dancer" to give away. So, for the second person to correctly state where the pic is, a copy of the book will be sent to you. You MUST state that you are in Thailand and be able to provide a postal address somewhere in the Kingdom.

FROM STICKMAN'S EMAIL INBOX

Arrogance and entitlement.

It isn't the lying and cheating and scamming. It's the arrogance and great sense of entitlement with which it is done. The supposedly warm smile is really a smirk when they get over on the Farang. I arrive in Chiang Mai where I live after a short trip up-country. So I walk over to the songtaews for the 10 baht ride to the hotel and get the smirk with an 80 baht quote. I take a tuktuk for 50 baht. The whore (and lets quit saying "bar girl") has made 90 baht in drink commissions last night, 100 baht on the bar fine, and just received 1000 baht tip and has the nerve to ask for "small money" for tuktuk. That's entitlement! Crossing the street in marked cross walk and they not only don't stop but try to see how close they can come to you. Walking down the sidewalk and facing an oncoming motorbike who wants you out of the way and get that arrogant glare. Go into a favourite bar and notice one of the girls is missing so I ask the supposed owner, also a prostitute, where she is? Get a very arrogant and strident reply "She no have to work in bar. She have Farang take care of her!" It's as though if you don't have some Thai bumming off of you are falling down on the job. I stop in the same bar one night and the owner tells me she hates the USA. I ask her what's the problem. She tells me that sister in the US is getting married and Mum can't get visa to go to the wedding. Of course not, Mum doesn't have wealthy and stupid man to allegedly pay bribe to Thai national that works in the consulate. She knows he paid tea money but it is still US fault. Sister is also a prostitute. Different bar, same night, ask for checkbin and cashier makes a great show of using calculator and writes 370 baht on back. I have already calculated it is 230 baht so I bring it to her attention and she goes through the show again, same result. So I tell her to cut the shit and get it right so she starts screaming at me. The owner is about 6 feet away and you would think she might be interested but nothing happens. I guess she's in on it also. Go to a brand new restaurant and wait about 1 hour to get half done fish burger and cold fries. No other customers. Owner lounging around. Ask for ketchup and salt from waitress. After about 10 minutes I get the ketchup and the triumphant smirk "salt all finish". This takes place across a 10 meter street from 7-11. The next night, the owner who should have fetched the ketchup asks me to come in again. He must think I'm out of my mind. We farangs know the Thais lie, cheat, scam, all the time but please do it with some grace!

Farang!

With regard to the letter from the reader whose family always referred to him as "farang", I can assure him that he is not alone. After 10 years of marriage, a house and two kids, I was still being referred to as "farang" by my wife's family. I don't think they ever realised that I found it offensive after all that time that they still didn't use my name when talking about me. I used to sit there listening to them ask my wife "what does farang want to eat ?" or "does farang want a drink?" and so on until one day I decided enough was enough. Having made several loans to family members over the years (some of which actually got paid back!) I made the announcement that anyone who couldn't remember my name could forget about any loans in the future – trust me, they have never called me "farang" again.

You'll never be Thai.

In regards to never being Thai, let me bring you an example. If an Afghani teenager goes to the UK and lives there for 20 years, he'll still be an Afghani in the same way that he still would be an Afghani if he went to Thailand. But if he goes to the USA or Australia etc for that period of time, he'll become an American / Australian. Why? Because they are countries of immigrants and its nationality is a concept, i.e. feeling / behaving like an American etc and makes adopting the nationality much easier. Now if this Afghani goes onto have a child in the UK, the child will grow up as British. Why, because they're born in the UK and being British doesn't require Anglo-Saxon ethnicity, just birth and upbringing. But if he was to have a child in Thailand, the child won't be Thai. Why? Because Thai is a racial group. Same rules apply to Japanese / Chinese / Indian etc.

Budget airline, budget plane.

As the 1st class overnight sleeper train from Chiang Mai to Bkk was fully booked last Sunday our travel agent suggested we fly with one of the budget airlines instead. As we stepped aboard the plane I quickly realised (or should I say my heart sank) as I noted with horror that it was an original 747, probably around 30 years old! The logo on the seatback made it pretty obvious who the owner of the plane was… As I sat back waiting for the 'white knuckle ride' to begin I recalled newspaper reports last year of how no expense was spared to purchase (with tax-payers money) a brand-new, 1 billion baht, 30 seater executive Airbus 320 to ferry around government VIPs. In contrast, when catering for the public needs, something that has been a) used by a major airline for 6-8 years, b) sold on to an intermediate for another 8 or 10 years then c) flogged to death by some obscure African or soviet carrier…will do quite nicely. Certainly made me think…

The Bangkok of the southern hemisphere.

Sydney is now a very multicultural melting pot. To walk down the main streets you will surprised to see that 50% of the faces in the crowd are Asian. There is a large and growing Thai community and there is now a part of Chinatown dubbed Thaitown. I have many friends with Thai wives who they met here at home, good girls from decent families. Many young Thais come to Sydney to study and end up falling in love. Others come to study and seek to hook a man to get a residency visa. Others are studying and selling themselves in brothels after hours for extra money. For some of these kids it's the first time they have stayed away from home and they are keen to get out and have fun away from the normal constraints of family life. The good thing about all this is if you hook up with a Thai girl she is under no illusion as to what to expect in Farangland. Moreover it's not just an abundance of Thai women to hook up with there are plenty from all over Asia, Koreans, Chinese, Japanese, Malay etc. Many of these girls are young enjoying life willing to party and more often than not bonk you senseless. Whilst the availability isn't up there with Bangkok it rates a good second.

The news that Woodstock was up for sale and was going to be converted into a gogo bar disappointed many people, the so called fans of the bar / restaurant. But just why were they so disappointed, because whenever I go into Woodstock these days, it is dead. Surely all of these people so upset about the sale might frequent the place? Whatever the case, it doesn't matter, because it seems that the sale has hit a snag and Woodstock as you know it will remain. The current owner Peter is gutted! Even Rainbow with their connections were powerless to oppose the bar licensing laws. Unfortunately, it looks like this bar, without the necessary gogo bar licenses, and unable to get them, is now a white elephant, forever destined to be a restaurant stuck in the middle of the capital's major gogo bar area.

Hillary Bar in Sukhumvit Soi 4 will move to where Thai Pot restaurant was. There is a banner up outside the old Thai Pot in Thai advertising for staff. They will be using the entire premises which is a fairly large sized place. However, there is still a lot of building work left to do yet. Hillary Bar is forced to move due to the land owners having other plans. Therefore the rumour that Bus Stop will be history too has re-emerged. Although still only a rumour, it is thought that Bus Stop will have to suffer the same fate as Hillary Bar, because it is said to belong to the same owner. I guess time will tell.

Matt at Angel Witch has bought a bar down in Pattaya to open an Angel Witch 2. Matt is also looking for possibly two managers, following Ricky's departure to Diamond A Gogo in Pattaya. Matt specifies that a gogo bar manager must fit the required criteria, in which bar management experience with a good track record are essential. Alcoholics and sex maniacs need not apply! If you think you reach the requirements, pop in and see Matt.

Club Electric Blue in Pattaya is due to open on Tuesday. Taking a few design tips from Q Bar, the place looks great and is sure to do very well indeed.

Another place to look out for is Champagne Lounge which is located above Bully's on the main Sukhumvit Road, just around the corner from the JW Marriott. Due to open some time in March, this is something of a high end place, targeting a different market to most of the bars in the Sukhumvit area, and a few notches above the Soi 33 bars too. Imagine one very large area with a bunch of swanky, well-decorated booths, each with a different theme. There is an Indian themed booth, a Chinese themed area, and so on. If I could use just two words to describe it, they'd be "upmarket" and "different". It remains to see just how the finished version will be, but it looks very promising indeed, and should be just the ticket for people with a bit of money in their pocket who are looking for something a bit different as well as a much higher level of service.

Ricky's move to Diamond A Gogo has proved to be lucrative so far, as the place is packed each night. Already "Tricky Ricky" has made an impact and parties in the bar have gone down very well. The cash is rolling in and the place is packed to the rafters on special party nights. This shows that Ricky is quickly developing a good following in Pattaya, just like he had in Bangkok.

The Bangkok bar scene cult classic, "Private Dancer", written by bestselling author Steve Leather, is on sale at Hollywood Strip on the third floor of Nana Plaza. Copies are 350 baht, just ask a waitress to fetch the manager, "Dirty Dave".

There have been a few high profile drink driving cases in the news recently, and on the ground, I can confirm that there is a major drink driving crackdown. In fact over the past 12 months or so, I have noticed that authorities are really starting to take this more seriously. We frequently see drink driving checkpoints, usually on busy roads just outside the city centre, such as Rama 4 Road, Narathiwat Road etc. Between the Mrs. and I, we know three people who have been caught drinking driving in the last three months. In each case, the same outcome – suspended prison sentence, fine and community service. I'm 100% in favour of this. While I don't want to sound like I am standing at the pulpit, I'm really surprised at the number of Westerners resident in Thailand who drive when drunk out of their minds.

While New Zealanders are great travellers, you never meet that many Kiwis in Thailand – though more than 60,000 of them come here every year. I wonder if the number of Kiwis visiting Thailand is relatively low due to the availability of 1,000 baht Thai bonks in Auckland. Yep, for 1,000 baht ($NZ40), one can get a short session with a Thai girl in NZ, or so NZ readers tell me.

One can't help but guffaw at the hypocrisy surrounding the way licensing laws are enforced on public holidays. This past Wednesday saw many bars forced shut because they were not allowed to sell alcohol, it being Makabucha Day. But you had some bars, such as the Swan, which must have somehow wrangled to be classed as a restaurant, open, serving food, and copious quantities of alcohol. Some things just don't make sense.

Is there anything more annoying than meeting a farang in Bangkok who talks to you in Thai? What is the bloody purpose of this? I REALLY cannot understand it and whenever it happens, I cringe. The number of times someone has pointed me out in a bar to a friend and that friend, who I had never met comes up to me and starts talking in Thai, usually god damned awful Thai too, well, you gotta wonder.

Regarding the question I asked in last week's column about storage facilities, some info came in and here are two recommended outfits offering such services. Bangkok Self Storage are located at 3249 Rama 4 Road, between Asoke and Sukumvit. 2 square metre – 17 square metres available and the contact is Suzanna on 02-2611516. New Self Storage which is past the Carrefour and is said to have good security, video monitored 24 hour access available, new, nice, secure and seems to be well ran Foreign owner John Elliott mobile 01-889-3106. Pricing is close to US pricing (8,000 baht per month for 17 sq metre) but it is in the heart of the city.

Buying new DVDs can be a lucky dip, and one of the things you need to be aware of if you have a Thai better half, is the way the subtitles are in Thai, especially if it's a new release. Some of the subtitles in Thai are all over the place and totally inconsistent, translated correctly for some scenes, a little out for others, and completely wrong for others. I finally found out why….they get a computer to do the translation.

Oh, and for those on a budget, I hear rumours of a vendor peddling contraband DVDs on Silom Road for 80 baht. Haven't been there myself but half the guys at work swear by this particular vendor.

In the good old days in Nana, bar managers used to say "the more good bars, the better" knowing that a lot of good bars would bring more punters to the Plaza and that the customers would eventually find themselves in their bar. But these days, bar managers are saying the opposite. The goal posts have moved and there are far less people so from bar owners, less genuine competition is better, as there are fewer customers to go around. It seems that some of the bars in Nana do very well, but many are not doing as well, at least when compared with the past. This said, I am sure they are all profitable.

The space on Suriwong Road at the end of Patpong that was occupied by KFC has been converted into MORE tiny market stalls – and vendors are moving in. Just what Patpong needs, more vendors.

Doug Harrison, owner of Bourbon Street, and co-author Lowell Barton, have written and published a book called "It's Hot!". The book combines a little history, a little adventure, a library of spices and some funny stories from Louisiana and Thailand. This is no ordinary cookbook. It is written for cooks and non-cooks alike and if you ever wondered where the spices come from that deliver the sledgehammer taste of Thai and Cajun food, this is the book for you. The book is 8” x 10” and is illustrated with lots of pics. It's soft covered, printed on slick paper, and will lay flat on the countertop whether you open it to the middle, front or back pages. If you spill a little tomato sauce on the cover or the pages, just wipe it off with a wet cloth! The cover is stark white with a bold red chili pepper on the front – looks kinda weird to me. At 695 baht it should appeal to both the curious as well as the dedicated gourmet. Asia Books will distribute the book and it is also available at Doug's two restaurants, Bourbon Street at Washington Square and the Courtyard on Soi Tonson.

Chris Pirazzi, one of the authors of Thailand Fever, says that bookstore and online sales are going well, and that he is looking for one or more long-term Thailand residents who would like to earn commission by pitching, stocking, and collecting payments for the book in local, non-bookstore venues such as bars, language schools, matchmaking outfits, etc. He is also looking for someone to do an English-to-German translation of the book. If you are interested, check out the job descriptions here. When he told me about this, I thought it might be an ideal way for someone such as a teacher to supplement their income.

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 having said that, she remains proud to be Thai. Mr. Stick will try and answer the questions which Mrs. Stick is not so sure about.

Question 1: A Thai lady friend who lives in Bangkok told me recently that her brother recently got married and went to live with his new wife's family. Now she is worried about her mother who is living alone in a small village near Buriram. (Her father died last year.) She's wondering if she should go home and look after her mother as she's the only one of her siblings who is unmarried. I was surprised, thinking it's normal for at least one of the sons to stay at home and have his wife come to live in his family home. My friend told me that's not the Thai way. She has a good life in Bangkok and sends money home. Now she is torn about her duty to her family. I suggested she invite her mother to come and stay with her. She said that would not be good as there would be no one to look after their small rice farm. I may have misunderstood her, but I think she also said that when her mother dies the family's land would be passed to the daughters, not to the sons. Is this the normal practice in rural Thailand?

Mrs. Stick says: It all depends on the individual situation, of the health of the mother, the job that the daughter has in Bangkok, and many other things. Obviously, it is not a good idea to leave a well paid job to go back to Buriram, where it is very hard to get a good job, and then suddenly the family could have real money problems. Thai families, especially in the countryside, are quite big, and there is a great community spirit, so perhaps someone could come and help look after her. It is not uncommon for instance for a teenager in the village to come and sleep in the same residence to keep an older person company and for this, the teenager might typically be paid 500 – 1000 baht for the month. In the case of the inheritance it just depends from family to family. Normally, each sibling will get an equal share of the inheritance although in some cases, if one sibling is better off than the rest, they may get a little less.

Question 2: My lady and her two sisters are all very bright and now are able to speak fluent English. They would like to get into mainstream employment but are forever coming up against the discrimination of not having the required papers. They left school at the ages of ten and twelve, as at that time that is when the free government education finished, and like many parents in Thailand for sure they didn't have the money to educate them any further. So my question is there any government recognised institution where they could go and sit these required exams to be granted these papers? Or is there the equivalent of some kind of open university, as I'm thinking there is a tremendous amount of loss of face to overcome here. Do they have the equivalent of our English "O" and "A" levels, in fact how does the Thai system work here?

Mrs. Stick says: Many people leave school at grade 9 these days, and actually in the past, many people left at grade 6. In fact I know of some people that even left at grade 4, but they are now quite old. There are some schools, I'm sorry, I do not know the name in English, where anyone who didn't complete the standard 12 years of schooling can go and complete the final six years. I believe that these schools are open on Sunday (maybe Saturday too?) and I think it takes 2 years study to complete the six years high school. I believe that the standard exams have to be completed to pass. Once someone has been through this, they then get their high school completion papers and that should help them to get a job. They could also then choose to go on to university.

We've reached that funny time of year when Bangkok becomes easier to get around, as many schools are out, and the traffic drops markedly. However, we're now into the hot season, the time when power bills soar and when just 5 minutes outside can be too long. Time to head to the beach I say!

Your Bangkok commentator,

Stick

Thanks go out to Dave The Rave, Claymore, The Mad Stockbroker and Bkk Grasshopper.