Stickman's Weekly Column March 6th, 2005

What Does The Extra 3,000 Baht Get You?


StickmanBangk ok .com


What Does The Extra 3,000 Baht Get You?

In the good old days my choice of hotel in Pattaya was the Apex Hotel. At 350 baht a night it represented excellent value for money. You got an air-con room with a hot water shower, cable TV and a fridge. That was pretty much all you needed, I used to think. The 350 baht rooms were those at the back of the hotel. They were a little dingy, but hey, at 350 baht a night, you couldn’t complain.

The Apex put their room rates up 100 baht a night sometime around 1999 / 2000 and before I knew it, I was paying 500 baht a night there, that being the rate for the slightly better, brighter rooms at the front of the hotel. They had previously been 400 baht and were now up to 500 baht. Even at 500 baht, they still represented very good value for money. I guess I stayed there in all of my visits to Pattaya up until the end of 2001 when…

….a friend put me on to the Welcome Plaza Inn which at 650 baht a night in the off season and less than 1,000 baht in the high season quickly became my new favourite spot to stay in Pattaya. It featured all the same amenities as the Apex, but was much nicer. You got a big room, a nice shower with a full bath tub and if you were lucky – and I usually was, a big balcony with a sea view. It was, and still is, a very good deal.

I’d always wondered about these big hotels in Pattaya, the 4 and 5 star places. Sure, I’ve stayed in a few 5 star hotels before, but it has usually only been for a few days, or it was back in the time before I came to Thailand, when my salary was somewhat more than that of an English teacher. I wondered what these places were like and recently Mrs. Stick and I decided it was time for a splurge, time to go a bit more upmarket.

Our criteria was to find something that we thought would be significantly better than the sort of places we had stayed before, but perhaps something a little different too. We wanted a room with a sea view and the hotel had to have a nice big pool, the sort where you could quite happily spend the whole day relaxing. We wanted to relax. We did a search online and after much comparison, we settled on the Hard Rock Hotel.

Supporting Farangs.com, one of the site’s major supporters, a sea view room at the Hard Rock Hotel with breakfast included set us back a cool 4,000 baht. The big question now comes. Was it worth it?

The room in the Hard Rock Cafe was….not that big! In fact it felt smaller than the rooms at the Welcome Plaza. Ok, sure it was new, had a very comfortable bed, was pleasantly decorated as well as having a few amenities like a hairdryer etc, but it really wasn't anything special. Now it wasn't bad, it just wasn't special and it DIDN'T feel like a 4,000 baht a night room.

While the rooms were not that special, the pool area at the Hard Rock Café is very nice indeed and there is entertainment too. Corny entertainment, Thai style, but fun nonetheless. I’d go as far to say that the pool and pool area is one of the nicest I have ever experienced. And one needs to factor in here that the beach at Pattaya is hardly the most enticing in the world. Not only is the beach far from pretty and the water questionable in terms of cleanliness, anyone who tries to relax on the beach will find themselves set upon by vendors wanting to sell something or other from dawn to dusk. You just can't relax.

If non-hotel guests wish to use the pool at the Hard Rock, there is a charge of 500 baht per person. I’d noticed this price when passing by in the past and scorned at it but having spent the day there, I’d say it is just about worth it.

The buffet breakfast at the Hard Rock goes for 400 baht a head. This is fairly dear by Pattaya standards and frankly, the quality was not what I had expected it to be. One has to remember that if you simply want fuel to get you through the day, then it is very easy to find a buffet breakfast in Pattaya for under 100 baht – or you could do what we had done the previous day, and gone for the big breakfast at Shenanigan’s which is still a favourite and at 150 baht is filling, and all you need. Quality wise, Shenanigan’s is way better than the Hard Rock, where their hash browns looked like something you’d get at McDonalds and the bacon was that horrible Thai version.

One thing that I thought was a little off was that they had internet access in the rooms at the Hard Rock, and wi-fi access in the lobby, but they charged extra for it! WTF?! 4,000 baht a night and they charge extra for something which quite frankly, once installed, doesn’t cost them any more? Still, this alone kept me from using the internet which had to be a good thing. I went to Pattaya to relax – and getting away from the net is part of that.

Hard Rock Cafe branded condoms. 1 for 69 baht, 4 for 200.

Ok, had we stayed at the Welcome Plaza, we would have paid about 1,000 baht per night. We could have had the Shenanigan’s breakfast at 150 baht x 2, and we could have used the pool and facilities at the Hard Rock Café, at 500 baht per person. This would have reached a total cost of 2,300 baht.

But the Hard Rock is a lot nicer than the Welcome Plaza, the staff are very friendly and largely efficient and the security is no doubt a lot better. The whole atmosphere is that much nicer. But is it worth the extra baht? I guess that all depends on what your priorities are.

The Hard Rock Hotel is a pleasant enough place to stay. However, if you do not use the facilities, I would say that you’re probably better off staying somewhere else. The room really was only marginally better than other places a fraction of the price and I dare say you could easily find accommodation with a far better room for much less.

But, if you do take advantage of all that the premises offer, particularly the pool area, then yes, it offers a nice weekend escape from Bangkok, or a pleasant spot to spend your vacation.

WHERE IS THIS PICTURE Competition?

It was the A-One Hotel on Beach Road.

Again, outside the capital.

Last week's pic was taken on Beach Road in Pattaya. A heap of people got it right – well done. 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

The disappearing smile.

Just down to Pattaya and used the Sawasdee.com to book my hotel and it worked well. Room 850 baht. However when I decided to extend my stay a few days couldn't get for 850 from hotel. I got that inane smirk and was told 942 baht. OK I walked across street to internet and booked by Sawasdee. The next morning I walked up to reception and before I even got there she was saying 942 baht over and over. I asked her and of course got the smirk as she said she didn't get the reservation. I knew she was lying as they have quick turnaround. So back across street and printed confirmation which was addressed to both myself and the hotel. Gave it to her and now I get a dirty look. No smile for the rest of the day.

Hey Thai, you!

With regards to recent letters from some of your readers complaining that the families of their Thai wives / girlfriends keep calling them “Farang” rather than using their first names, I’d like to relate my two ounces worth of wisdom. I’ve had the same annoying problem with my former girlfriend's family years ago. After a reasonable period of time, during which they should have been able to learn and memorize my name, the issue persisted and I grew increasingly offended; without openly showing it, of course, as for the “loss of face” and all. I think I found an ingenious way of educating those ignorant people. I simply started to address everyone in the family as “Thai”, regardless whether they were younger or older, male or female members. I said to prospective mother-in-law: “Excuse me, Thai, I am going to the 7-11 now. Is there anything I can bring you?” I addressed the older bother: “And you, Thai, how is it going at work?” The sister was confronted with: “Thai, have you yet bought back that necklace you pawned last week?” And so on and so forth. When talking with my girlfriend about any of the other family members I usually simply nodded (no finger pointing!) into their respective direction and said something like: “And Thai over there (nodding at dad), would he like me to bring him the latest issue of Thai Rath newspaper?” It took a single day until they all inquired with my girlfriend why “Farang” would only speak of them as “Thai”. At which point I took over and replied: “Since you all appear unable to address me by my first name, thus withholding proper respect, I do not see any reason why I should address you with your names or use respectful titles like ‘Khun Mae’, ‘Khun Paw’ or “Pii Chai’.” A lot of consternated faces around for a moment, but I did get the message across. They never addressed me as “Farang” again.

It'd cost 200 baht today…

I, too, am 100% in favour of cracking down on drunk driving. Your mention of it this week brought to mind a letter that appeared in the local press a decade ago, from a farang. I remember it well, and he was obviously speaking from personal experience. The letter went something like this: "I LOVE Bangkok. Where else in the world can you speed 100 mph down Phahonyothin Road at 2:00 AM in the morning, wasted out of your mind with the convertible top down, wearing sunshades and singing 'Born Free' at the top of your lungs, get pulled over by the police, hand over 100 baht, then continue merrily along your way?"

Daddy, Daddy, where are you?

On my last trip in January, I went with a gogo girl for about a week. I met her older sister who works as a waitress in the same bar, Living Dolls, in Pattaya. It turns out that sis had a baby by an American military guy whom she stayed with for about three weeks. To no great surprise, he wants nothing to do with her or the kid. So I took it upon myself to locate him with the goal of getting him to help her out. I haven't been successful and probably won't be as the information I've got just isn't sufficient. But let your readers know: if you abdicate your parental responsibilities, be aware that there are people like me around…

Catching an STD from a virgin!

I would like to make one thing clear to Boss Hogg. People do catch STDs in Thailand! Maybe they don't talk about them much because it is embarrassing, but they are very common. My condom use has failed me about 5% of the time, and of the encounters I have had without condoms, I acquired an STD about 50% of the time. Thus, I estimate that about half of the girls have something to "share" with their customers. Clap, black clap, NSU, Chlamydia, syphilis, crabs, herpes… I've seen it all. And I'm not frequenting the so called low class 50 baht Thai places. I'm talking about the mainstream bars. I've even caught the drip from a so-called virgin! I must say, however, that I have never known anyone who has AIDS in Thailand. But I would never recommend a bareback ride to anyone unless you really know the girl well, and it takes months to years to get to know an Isaan girl, a time period most tourists don't have the luxury of.

Raising kids in the West.

I truly enjoyed your second interview with Boss Hogg. I totally agree with him on the raising his children in Thailand and sending them to International Schools. I did that program for a few years with my kids. My kids and I are so happy we moved to California. Life is ten times better for them here, from school to getting involved in sporting activities. The teachers at my child's school are much better than any teacher I met at an international school in Bangkok (what a massive bloody rip-off the place is). Thailand is great when you are single, but not when you have children.

Woodstock has been sold! Just hours after last week's column went up online, Woodstock owner Peter's smile had returned and word was out that the deal with the Rainbow Group was back on. Remember, the problem with the deal was that the bar didn't have a gogo bar licence and new bars in this area cannot get such licences. With the Rainbow Group wanting to turn it into a gogo, no licence meant no deal, or so it had seemed… It would seem that the Rainbow Group have been very clever indeed and have negotiated a deal to buy Rosemary Bar, the bar next door. Rosemary bar does have one of the gogo bar licences and the very clever Rainbow Group have decided that they can use that bar's licence and knock through the wall between Woodstock and Rosemary, thus creating a super gogo bar which has a licence! Very, very smart business thinking. This could well be the biggest gogo bar in Nana Plaza; it will probably beat G Spot for size depending on the design. It may even be bigger than the biggest gogo bar of them all, Hollywood Carousel. There was a goodbye party at Woodstock last Monday night, the last night that Woodstock, as we used to know it, was open.

Big Dogs has gone! Well, not quite gone, but it has changed hands. In what was the biggest ever deal in Nana Plaza, Johnny, of Hollywood fame, has bought Big Dogs. With 15+ years in the industry, Johnny is just the man for the job.

Strong rumours suggest that the Lucky Luke's deal will be finalised before the end of April, the new owner is strongly rumoured to be a certain Brit who also has other interests in Nana.

Down Soi Cowboy things are hotting up in a different way. At least three bars are putting on some hot viewing. One bar has topless often and another bar has a full on lesbian show. One bar has a bunch of shows that one regular reader who has been floating around the traps for a long time described as "outstanding". It's not quite Pattaya, but it is spicy by Bangkok standards. These gogo bars appear to be getting away with more than their counterparts. No names mentioned.

If you follow the Pattaya press, you'll see that there seem to be more and more reported thefts of bag snatchings, muggings and general robbery on the street. Word has it that the crime level has made many of the girls too nervous to wear their beloved gold in public. While it is obviously not isolated to the elderly, there does seem to be a trend of snatching and grabbing from older folks, and I have heard that a favourite method is for thieves to watch for oldies about to get on a baht bus, loiter around and grab what they can just as they baht bus is pulling away. By the time the baht bus has stopped, the offenders have legged it in the other direction, or sometimes even on to a waiting motorbike and they're gone! Extra care needs to be taken in Pattaya these days.

Songkran is a busy time of year for Thais who like to visit family upcountry, take a holiday or perhaps even escape the madness of Thailand altogether and go overseas. An American colleague wanted to take his girlfriend to the States to escape the silly season. He went in about 10 days ago and was told that as part of the interview process she would need to be interviewed. The date for the interview was set for AFTER Songkran despite his pleas that that was after the travelling date. Many issues here but the big two – the American embassy would seem to have a large backlog of visa interviews to do and if you want to get a visa to take your teeruk to Farangland, get in fast!

1 AM closing remains firmly in place in Nana Plaza.

This week I had to search for a phone number for one of the major 5 star hotels in Bangkok so chose to do it online. What a nightmare it turned out to be! Using Google, all I got was page after page of hotel reservations systems listings, before I eventually found a site with the phone number. These hotel reservations systems, while providing a very good service, have got in the way of people trying to find the details to contact the hotels directly.

A pleasant new Italian restaurant has opened up in Sukhumvit Soi 8 called Via Vai. It's run by a couple of Italian guys and the food is fairly good and also reasonably priced. Pasta and pizza go for around 200 – 250 baht each, a bit more if you go for the seafood variety. It's a good place to fuel up before a night out on Sukhumvit – the beer prices are VERY reasonable at around 60 baht for a small bottle and 100 baht for a large.

A friend was in Rainbow 2 recently and was amazed at the number of Japanese punters in there. He decided to do a count and found that there were 82 Japanese and only 3 farang!

Down in Pattaya this weekend, I noticed that the Beach Road is a right mess. Not sure how long it has been like that but I would have thought that the road works, repairs, or whatever the hell they are doing, could have waited until the low season – though perhaps what they are doing has some urgency? I don't know. Anyway, it is a right mess, with huge great holes in the road and the footpath on the beach side of the road, all the way along, from the Dusit in the north to the start of Walking Street at the south.

I was last down in Pattaya three weeks ago and from memory, the huge bunch of beer bars on the second road near soi 9 were still open. My memory isn't the best, though I believe that I'm right in this instance. Well, this time, they had all been smashed down and it looks like that bit of land is going to be developed into something else. I have no idea what, but a hotel would be likely be a good guess.

I also noticed that the top floor of Royal Shopping Plaza has been developed into a food court a la Food Loft on the top floor of Central Chidlom. While we didn't eat there we went for a stroll through and it looked quite pleasant.

I don't know how long it has been going on for because I haven't been in there for a while now, but entering Peppermint A Gogo on Walking Street is downright perturbing. All customers are frisked and patted down, police style, by the over vigilant security staff. The security staff started frothing at the mouth when they saw my camera gear and were adamant that I could not take it inside. In fact when they saw all the lenses, they started getting nasty with me. What is that all about? (Find the answer a few paragraphs below…) Has this place ended up on some terrorist's list of targets or something? And if you have a camera, irrespective of size and irrespective of it being in a bag, they will not allow it inside – they have a security box outside, but there is something about security staff in gogo bars that makes me nervous… Do they think they are guarding the Whitehouse or something? Anyway, in all fairness to the proprietors, Peppermint is doing a very good trade indeed and some of the ladies are very easy on the eye.

Quote of the week comes from a friend. We were sitting at a beer bar on Walking Street watching the world go by, with our eyes tuned into some of the young lovelies walking past wearing a bare minimum. "No wonder Pattaya is booming and Bangkok is quiet. The girls here wear less on the street than Bangkok girls do on the gogo stage". He's right. He then went on to send me into hysterics with, "Some of the hotels in Pattaya clearly don't have mirrors, looking at the state of some of these guys." I just about choked on my beer after that one.

Higher temps and humidity, threatening overcast skies, and last week’s rains seem to have put a damper on tourism in Pattaya, or so the locals tell me. No official stats, but eyeballing car and pedestrian traffic as well as the declining number of punters in beer bars, gogo bars and discos, it appears this year’s two-month-long high season has come to an end. Which is not to say that Pattaya is now a ghost town. Thousands of Chinese, Koreans and citizens of former Communist Bloc countries continue to bus into town on organized tours each week, and thousands of others still make their way to the beachside community. But standing-room-only crowds no longer exist – not even at Walking Street’s most popular nightspots.

To lure their share of remaining punters, more and more clubs are pushing the prurient envelope. One such club got too down and dirty for the men in brown last week and was shut down, thanks to the handy hidden camera work of a black shirt. The undercover police volunteer, a farang, reportedly captured the blatant sex acts on film and immediately handed over the evidence to waiting police officials who raided and shuttered the place within minutes. This is why certain bars, such as Peppermint, are so vigilant about patrons entering with cameras. They even have large signs on the walls of the bar clearly stating that customers must not use the cameras on their camera phones. How long will it be before camera phones are banned in bars? That could actually be problematic because in a year or two, it might be hard to get a mobile without a camera.

The rare crackdown has not put off others who would display the inner beauty of local lasses. In fact, one new entrant has brought the pits of Patpong to Walking Street. Top Girl, deep down Soi 14, presents a series of unattractive damsels showing off the skills of their equally unattractive genitalia into which they insert virtually anything that fits. In a series of vignettes, the girls demonstrate the art opening Coke bottles, lobbing bananas at punters, and playing host to myriad objects ranging from live turtles to live mice. Not for the feint-hearted or for those averse to paying 110 baht for amber fluid.

And while a dozen or more Beach Road beer bars adjacent to the Soi 9 Police Station were closed and razed this past week, other night spots have sprung up on Walking Street, the most recent of which is the upscale Super Model A-Go-Go, which had a soft opening Wednesday. Though small, the newest Soi Diamond club is well appointed, offers acceptable music, and features mostly attractive dancers in micro-mini skirts that almost cover their bikiniless nether regions. Draft beer for a reasonable 70 baht oh so important in price competitive Pattaya should keep a good number of customers present.

Down that same soi and up the stairs is Shark A-Go-Go, which replaces Big Willies. Shark’s stark interior is uninspiring; so too is its parade of pole huggers, many of whom are veterans of the local night scene. Despite 45 baht draft, Shark is not attracting many customers, even over the weekend.

Nevertheless, Soi Diamond continues to dominate the night scene in Pattaya. Diamond and Carousel A-Go-Go present creative shows featuring attractive ladies and 55 baht draft, Ricky's honeymoon in Pattaya continues. Super Girl and Super Baby lure clientele with bare skin and pretty faces – though many dancers at those two clubs are snow queens; girls working Naughty Girls are much more friendly but much less attractive.

The dancing damsels at Beach Club, Soi 15 off Walking Street, are a relatively friendly lot proficient in the art of table dancing. Not coincidentally, each table is mirrored to allow customers an unobstructed view of each lady’s most private parts. The formula still works, attracting reasonable numbers of punters.

Further down Walking Street, Hooties, no draft and 110 baht Heineken, continues its even more risqué acts but attendance remains low. Happy A-Go-Go also enjoys good business despite its less than enthusiastic bevy of beauties. But unlike a month ago, none of Pattaya’s leading nightspots needs an SRO sign.

I see that Thai Airways are going to have a direct Auckland-Bangkok service starting from 18 July. Apparently it will be a new plane too. This will save the hassle for all those randy Kiwis who do not want to stopover in Sydney and just get to Thailand as fast as they can.

In last week's column Mrs. Stick was asked about the opportunities for Thais to go back to school to complete their high school education. She answered the question but was unable to give much detail because she just isn't that familiar with it. If you have a Thai girlfriend / wife / mia noi in tow who did not complete her high school studies but would like to now, here is a little more information. These community college type venues are known as Kaw Saw Naw and they can be found all over Thailand. However, the applicant MUST have completed at least grade 6. If your loved one only made it as far as grade 4 then I'm sorry, they will not accept you, and unlike so many things in Thailand, this isn't negotiable. Remember, many jobs in Thailand require the applicant to have completed high school.

There was one thing I meant to comment on in last week's Boss Hogg interview. The prevalence of STDs. Boss commented that none of his friends had mentioned contracting any and that he himself had not had any problems. Some readers took him to task in their feedback to me, saying that he had lied. No, he didn't lie – he was being honest – but remember, he was only reporting on his particular bunch of buddies. For sure, the experiences of people I know are very different indeed.

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: In your experience how do you feel it would be like for a half Thai / half western kid growing up in Thailand, how do Thai people look upon them, will they find things difficult or any different as they grow up in Thai society, would they find things easier growing up in a Western country? My Thai girlfriend seems to think that half Thai / half western is almost an advantage for them i.e. whiter skin etc…and that many are famous actors, singers, TV personalities etc. What do you think?

Mrs. Stick says: In the past, what your girlfriend says were the prevailing attitudes towards half Thai / half farang children. They were much more of a novelty back then and yes, they were TV stars and looked upon fondly for their looks. But things are changing. I think that with the numbers of such kids on the increase that Thais tend to look not just at the kid, but at the parents – and if one or even both of the parents is not desirable, then they may not look so fondly upon that kid as they did in the past…

Question 2: I have a Thai girlfriend who now lives in Amnat Charoen province and has a good job with a tour company. Last year I arranged to visit her along with her best friend and the friend's farang boyfriend. It was quite a big deal since it was the first time we'd all been able to get together for a long time. Of course my girlfriend wanted to meet us at the airport, drive us around etc. However, a couple of days before we arrived she said that the mother of the company owner had died. She was part of the funeral ceremonies and that meant spending one or two nights in a temple. She asked if it would be all right if she did not meet us until a day after we arrived. I said that in my view since the lady who died was not from her family, she'd done more than her duty by staying at the temple one night and I'd be happier if she met us as planned. We could not change our schedule. She agreed to meet us and everything was fine – but I wonder if I committed a cultural blunder by pressuring her. Perhaps my girlfriend lost face (or maybe job status) because she did not attend the whole funeral ceremony. What do you think? Are funerals a very sensitive area that I need to be aware of?

Mrs. Stick says: In Thailand and within our culture, we attend the funerals of not just people in our close and extended family, but also our colleagues, our boss and people within their respective families. We go out of our way to help people in circumstances like this and do for them whatever we can. Attending funerals is a big thing for us and people will travel across the country to attend the funerals of people who you may not have been that close to. For us, attending funerals is a sign of respect, not just to the deceased, but to those who remain. We also believe that by attending someone's funeral, you effectively request forgiveness from them for anything bad you might have done, or might have said to them, and thus absolve yourself of the possibility of any negative karma. This is a bit deep so I'd better stop here! I understand that you were flying in and she was to meet you, but perhaps when funerals are concerned, a bit of extra latitude should be given. Based on discussing this with my husband, we both agree that attending the funerals of people outside of our family is much more important in Thailand than it is in the West.

There we are, that's Stickman Weekly column #200. It's funny really, what was started simply as a part of the website to put news and views that would date quickly and / or that wouldn't fit elsewhere has now clearly become the most popular part. I started the column when I was between jobs and within a few weeks of starting up the column I started a new job, a job that put a lot of pressure on me time-wise and I came very close to stopping the column in May 2001, just a few weeks after starting it! But now the column has become something of a fixture and frankly the other parts of the site are not nearly as popular. As always, thanks for your support.

Important Note: In the last week, the site received a record number of visitors, a record high. I received a record amount of email, a record low amount of email. It looks like Hotmail is crapping up a lot these days. With this in mind, when emailing me, please send email to the usual Hotmail address but also send an extra email to me at: [email protected] – this way, if I don't get one, I'll get the other! If you sent an email to me last week and didn't get a reply, it was likely that it never made it to me….sorry. Feel free to send again – and I'll reply promptly!

Your Bangkok commentator,

Stick

Thanks go out to Dave The Rave and Bkk Grasshopper. Special thanks to Mr. Write.