Stickman's Weekly Column March 20th, 2005

Australia, A Country Of Katoey Lovers?


StickmanBangk ok .com


It was a warm dark night in Soi Cowboy and an Aussie and a Kiwi were prowling the bars, escaping the rain that had been falling intermittently along this little stretch of sin.

They had been in and out of a number of gogo bars and had eventually ended up at Black And White. As was the norm in Soi Cowboy back then, even on a Saturday night, it was very, very quiet. In all but the most popular bars, of which Black And White was not, there were more girls than customers. We grabbed a seat, ordered our drinks and kicked back.

We had been out most of the night and the conversation was starting to slow. It was getting late, some time around 1:00 AM I guess. We just sat there with our drinks, listening to the music, and gazing out the girls shuffling around the poles on stage.

None of them took my fancy but there was one who caught the eye of my Aussie pal. She was medium height, medium build and to me, she really was not pretty at all. But she caught his eye and he seemed to find her attractive. He called her over and I distinctly remember her being surprised at this. She pointed to herself and raised her eyebrows as if to say, "me?"

While it wasn't clear at a distance, when she came over I realised why I had not found her attractive. She was a shemale! My friend seemed to be right into her though. I was perplexed. I hadn't been in Bangkok very long and hadn't known the guy very long. I simply didn't think he would be in to this sort of thing but hell, if that is what he's into, then so be it. He was fairly straight, hell, he didn't even drink alcohol. Must be a first for an Australian.

As I say, I was new to Bangkok and I didn't want to ask a lot of seemingly dumb questions, so just left him to it. If it was obvious to me as someone new to Bangkok then surely it was just as obvious to him? There are some things that are never easy to broach. What do you say? You do know, don't you….?! Do you usually bonk katoeys? Are you gay? Whatever, I can accept someone else's lifestyle and just left it at that.

He was right into her and it wasn't long before he disappeared and took his new teeruk back to his apartment. I had a chuckle to myself and thought back to what people had told me about Bangkok being a wild place. I never thought seemingly normal guys were into that sort of thing, but soon forgot about it.

I stayed at Cowboy until close and then went for a wander up the road to the Thermae. I eventually made it back to my apartment at some ungodly hour.

This was back in the days when mobiles cost about 30K baht locally so I did not own one, but I did have an answer phone. I was surprised to see a message on the answer phone which had obviously been left late. A huge grin came on my face when I realised that it was my Aussie friend. A flurry of swear words – and he had found out quite late in the piece it seems!

What I found most ironic was that it was the sober party who got himself in trouble.

The next story is a little different. Myself and an Aussie mate went around to visit another friend of ours, also an Australian who was living locally. He was a bit of a naughty boy. He had a digital camera and would take photos of some of the girls he took back to his apartment. The photos were usually innocent enough.

The three of us were sitting in his computer room and he was cycling through the photos of some of his recent ladyfriends. It was all a little boring until he got to one particular picture. Myself and my mate who was also visiting just looked at each other. Neither of us said anything but we both grinned. We both knew. It was at that point that our friend left the computer room for something or other and we seized the moment to have a closer nosey at that picture. The tell tale signs were there. Square jaw. No curvature in the body shape at all. Solid looking arms and shoulders. Big hands. Traces of a voice box. From the photo we were convinced. This was not a woman, at least not the genuine article!

Truth be told, from a photo it is never easy to be sure. You need to watch the way they move, look for the often over exaggerated actions, and listen to the voice. And if you really want to know, simply broach the subject with them in person and you will know for sure – though be prepared for the unexpected.

In defence of my Australian friends, there was a website with 20 pictures of transsexuals and you had to guess whether they were the genuine article – a woman, or a transsexual. I scored miserably low, 9 out of 20!


WHERE IS THIS PICTURE Competition?

It was the "sky walk".

It ain't the flower market…

Last week's pic was taken on that stretch of road between Siam Square and World Trade Centre and featured the sky walk, the overhead walkway connecting the two aforementioned areas. 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

Nothing like a good bonk in a pool!

I can confirm that the swimming pool place does exist. Some Thai girls took me and a few friends there around July / August last year. It used to be open to anyone, the doors were wide open. BTW, it is right behind the bar that has the big telly and shows all the football matches (coming from the Burger King end of Khao San, it is on the right hand side, just after the Family Mart). The police did show up a few times and check what people were up to (also wanted to see ID from some people); the staff then stopped selling drinks – but started again the minute the cops had left. Khao San has generally been more strict re closing times, etc., so the last time I went to the pool (November or December, I'd say) the main gate was locked and we had to discuss with the guys there for a few minutes before they let us in. Plus they charged 50 baht per head. The clientele is mainly backpackers (more male than female), often accompanied by not so good girls they picked up at Gulliver's. Have even seen people have sex in the pool.

Hookers scared me away.

Regarding your piece about Q Bar in this week's column… When I first went to Q Bar some 3 years or so ago, there was never a hint of 'girls for hire' in the place. It attracted local expats and middle class Thais, and was a nice place for a night out. The music was good and the crowd was friendly. I don't go there anymore. The reason? The type of people that had begun to frequent the place – the girls and the guys who come looking for them. Bangkok is full of venues for that kind of client, and Q Bar gets my full support for trying to return to its former self. Let them know they aren't welcome! Obviously a 600 baht entry fee wasn't working…

For your "watch list" although #1 I do NOT believe.

Here are 2 more things to put on your watch list: 1) some roadside vendors like to add an extra ingredient into the bowls of noodles they sell – marijuana. This can usually be detected after the meal, when your mouth and throat become dry and you continually try to swallow. Drinking water alleviates the feeling for a while. What happens if a farang is subsequently urine tested in a bar? There are no excuses! 2) Sitting on a beach in Pattaya beware of the crumbed prawn vendors! Rather than a juicy prawn deep fried in a garlic enriched beer batter, what you get is a prawn tail (only the shell bits!) embedded into the "shaped" bread crumbs. Creative doesn't begin to describe it.

Rural English teachers.

I have also had the pleasure whilst up in Isaan of being invited to the local school to practice English conversation with the students, something I have always enjoyed. As your reader says, Thailand, at least up in the sticks, is producing 'students who are learning English from teachers who themselves do not speak the language clearly'. My favourite example of this was when we held a party for some teachers in our house and I asked the lady sitting next to me what she did at the school and got a blank look. I tried again, "what subject do you teach?" again a blank look. After several attempts by myself at re-phrasing the question, the teacher turned to my wife and asked her in Thai what I was saying. On being told, she turned to me with a big smile and said "Oh, I teach English".

Oh God, no that program.

Westerners have their share of "face" as well, just expressed a little differently. I like to point to the extremely popular show "Sex in the City" as a demonstration of how important "fashion" is. It's just a substitution for "face". It's as important for fashionable women to own the latest must-have fashion accessory as it is for Asian women to have "face".

Please don't smile!

Customer Service Tesco Lotus Phuket. Excuse me I have an enquiry to make but please don't smile. Can you please tell me what time it is ? 10.00AM – automatic smile. And today is ? Saturday – sub conscious smile. I see that you have 38 check outs – hesitant smile. And at the moment 5 are open – reserved smile. With masses of people queuing I ask why aren't more check outs open – dumb bordering on a nervous smile. Can you please do something about this – incomprehensible smile.

Because it is aroi!

I understand that all tribes and nations and ethnic groups and cultures have a natural affinity for the food of their region but the Thais connection (obsession) with food of their country is I think possibly unique. Example: in December I had a date with a nice Thai girl and we went to lunch. Her: "Let's go to lunch and eat some Thai food" Can you imagine having a date with a nice New Zealand girl and her saying "Let's go to lunch and have some nice New Zealand food"? Can you imagine going out with a nice girl from Iceland and her saying "Let's go to lunch and have some Icelandic food"? Can't imagine those girls in those countries saying that? Neither can I. How does this national obsession with food of their own culture start? Is it even remotely possible that Thais are so provincial and ignorant that they think Thai food is the only food (or the only interesting food) in the world? Beats me! I mean, objectively speaking; what can be in Thai food to earn this early and lifelong and universal commitment to their food? Is it full of cocaine? Are the spices somehow wired in to their sympathetic nervous and adrenal systems in some addictive way? Hey, I don't know. But it does seem a trifle odd.

Some people may have noticed one of the bars in Sukhumvit Plaza, the first on the left after Morning Night II, was closed for a while in early February. Apparently three of the girls had died in a car crash on their way home to vote. Obviously this is awful news and to me it makes a mockery of the way Thais are strongly encouraged to travel all the way back to their home provinces to cast a vote.

Conflicting information is coming in about Hilary Bar. It now looks as though the lease is due around September time and they will be relocating regardless of whether they are offered a renewal or not. Looking at the work in progress, it looks as though the new bar is getting really close to completion already.

Eden Club is one of the most famous and popular nightspots in Bangkok. Just the words "Eden Club" get some guys frothing at the mouth and many fly in from around the globe to spend as much time as possible there. The establishment has an excellent reputation, mostly due to the way that the French gentleman manages it. Eden's popularity has, as I see it, been built on two basic fundamentals – high quality service and discretion. I have no doubt that high quality service will continue, but I have to wonder if discretion has been somewhat compromised, through no fault of the manager mind you. I just wonder if some people may be put off by the much higher level of foot traffic in that soi? Recent reports from Eden are that it is as good as ever.

It is often said that the prettiest girls can be found in the areas where Asian men venture to, be it those places for Thai men or establishments which cater to Japanese or Korean gentlemen. In some cases there may be some truth in this, but not always. For the first time in two and a half years I stuck my head in the door of the Thermae. I wish I hadn't. The place was full of Asian gentlemen and the ratio of Asians to Westerners was about 3:1. Nothing wrong with that. But what amazed me were the women in there. I have not seen a rougher bunch of Thai women in all my life. I thought these Asian guys were supposed to have good taste in women?

Matt from Angelwitch has his new bar project located off Walking Street but rumours have it that you have to walk through an alley to get there. So, no marks there for clever location. Also it is a plot of land, which means he is building the bar from scratch. Sounds like it could be a lengthy and expensive business venture. However, with his track record, he has every chance of making a go of it.

Construction has started on Rainbow 4 in Nana Plaza in the spot previously occupied by Woodstock and Rosemary bars. Rumour has it that 25 million baht was paid and the rumoured split was 18 for Woodstock and 7 for Rosemary. Rumours only, mind you. How long will it be before the Rainbow Group have finished construction and it is ready to open? My guess is that it will go up fast. They won't be wasting any time.

Monet Bar in Soi 33 have blackened out the windows in the bar, in fact they are so black, that anyone looking in from outside cannot see inside. It is so dark that one could be mistaken for thinking the building was not just closed, but perhaps even abandoned! If it wasn't for the girls sitting outside, you'd never know they were still in business. Whoever was responsible for that decision I wonder? I guess that they did it so that the boys in brown would not be able to see inside. While not reported a lot in this column, soi 33 crackdowns are far from infrequent and bars are often hurried to close at 1:00 AM.

The internet can be a great way to meet people, but it can also be a very easy way to deceive people and make them believe that you are someone you are not. A friend had a less than ideal experience online recently. He met a girl online and they exchanged pictures. She had told him her age and that she had a kid. The picture she had sent made her look great. She lives in the central region and my friend lives a bit further south. They had exchanged emails and he was impressed by her English ability. They then took it to the telephone and while her English may not have been perfect, they could have a good chat in English. They were intrigued with each other. She called him up one day and said that she had reason to go to the area where he lived to visit her sister who has a house there. He seized on this and said that while she was there they should meet up. The next day he got a phone call from her. She was at the local bus terminal. Her English seemed to have deteriorated markedly and from what he could make out she was saying that she wanted him to come and pick her up from the bus station. He went along to meet her and was surprised to see how she looked….not nearly as good as she had in the photos they had exchanged. It transpired that the photos she had sent were 10 years old – no wonder she looked much younger! It then transpired that she did not have a sister in the area and thus didn't have anywhere to stay. He also figured out that it was not her who had been writing the emails OR talking to him on the phone, but a friend who speaks good English! She stayed the night and then he kicked her butt out the door the next morning and sent her home on the next bus! Online is a great place to meet people, but don't get your hopes up too high – and be aware of the dangers!

Down in Pattaya this week, I noticed four cops, two in the brown uniform, and two volunteers on bicycles in white polo shirts, trying to rid the area of girls lingering in the Beach Road area, clearly in pursuit of a customer. It was quite funny listening to the coppers tell the girls to go. Many of the girls complained that they were tired and were just sitting down, while others said they were in Pattaya on holiday! Most of them looked like they were trying to make money. This clean up was during the day time only and at night the Beach Road was full of tired girls, or girls on holiday….quite a concentration of them from Mike's Shopping Centre all the way up to Walking Street.

A new venue will be opening in Sukhumvit Soi 4 in the Raja Hotel area, above the Ball In Hand. Described as a rooftop beergarden, it certainly sounds promising. I just hope that they get a lot of fans in there because with the hot season upon us, it might get a bit sticky.

A small window of opportunity falls right now…. If you are looking for cheap digs, then now is the time when some places become available. It is the school and university holidays and a lot of students return to their homes upcountry and let their apartments go. Now is a god time to go hunting for cheap apartments, that is if you are in the market for something at the lower end of the market.

If you are getting confused about closing times in Thailand, check out the following table which highlights a number of different venues bar areas and the times that they close. No wonder both punters and bar managers get confused, and bar owners in the main Bangkok gogo bar areas feel hard done by.

Mystique 2:00 AM and at least 3:00 AM on Thursdays
Q Bar 2:00 AM most nights
Narcissus 2:30 AM, sometimes later
Nana Plaza 1:00 AM
Soi Cowboy 1:00 AM – most bars
Patpong 2:00 AM
Marine 2 Pattaya 3:00 – 4:00 AM
Taipan Phuket 4:00 AM

Having troubles communicating with your staff? Traditional corporate English classes too expensive and ineffective? The teacher shows up late and unprepared one week and not at all the next? Something new is hitting Thailand that, in my opinion, has the potential to revolutionise the way corporate English training is offered here. The Oregon Institute of International Education (“OIIE”) now offers ESL interns direct to companies in Thailand. These are short-term, full-time employees who happen to be trained English teachers. Equipped with a student visa (so they are legal and you do not need to stress about a work permit), these US / UK university students can teach traditional classes for up to 15 hours per week and the rest of the time they are still available to work on the company's premises, edit a document or take a phone call from an overseas customer. And the beauty of this program is that the cost of these full-time employees is less than six hours of Corporate Training a week! If you or your company are interested, just drop OIIE an Email at [email protected]

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. Just one thing to consider. Mrs. Stick is a middle class woman from a middle class background and with all due respect to her, Thai people in one class do not always know what is going on in another class. She'll do her best to answer all questions but remember, she'll be looking at it from a middle class point of view!

Question 1: I teach at a language school for adults. For the last 8 or 9 months, the same students have taken me out for dinner every night after class (they used to be my students but I no longer teach that class). Obviously, by now we have become good friends and we also go out together on other occasions. Two of the students are a couple of years older than me, and earn slightly less than I do. The other one is 7 or 8 years older than me and has a good job. My problem is this: my friends almost never let me pay or contribute to the meal, even if they are sharing the cost among themselves! I understand that I am a foreign 'guest' in Thailand, and they would like to look after me, but we have been going out every week for months and months now. I also know that normally the oldest and highest status person should pay, but often they split the bill and exclude me. How can I pay more often without making a fuss or offending anyone?

Mr. Stick says: If the students were to hire you as a teacher to teach their private group, they would likely pay in the region of 1,000 baht an hour. And Thai students, especially adult learners, often just want a native speaker to practice freer conversation and thus they would likely be delighted at the opportunity to go out with you and practice their English in a social setting, a natural environment. They'd be very happy with this arrangement. Incidentally, one of the few pieces I read about teaching English to small groups said that the best place to do it is in such a social environment… So, don't sweat it, they're getting a good deal by having you there and they would likely be delighted to host you.

* Your feedback is requested regarding the "Ask The Sticks" section of the column. I have noticed that a lot of the same old questions are being asked and there are less "new" questions. I am thinking about removing this part of the column and replacing it with a brief, weekly interview. What do you think? Your feedback would be very much appreciated on this.

Every effort is made to get all the latest news into the column each week, but unfortunately, I cannot be everywhere. If you know of anything interesting or newsworthy to farangs in Bangkok, or for that matter, anywhere in Thailand, please do drop me an email and let me know. Also, it is always interesting to hear of stories or events related to Thai / Farang issues in the West.

Your Bangkok commentator,

Stick

Thanks go out to Dave The Rave and Bkk Grasshopper.