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I had waited a long, long time for this. It has been 6 long years since I have stepped foot in my native homeland, more than 7 years since I lived there. Thailand has been fun but one needs a reality check – and 6 years away from home has been far too long.
As anyone who stays in Thailand for a length of time knows, despite your efforts to prevent it from happening, you slowly go native. You can fight it as much as you want, but being immersed in Thailand for so long means it's inevitable. It starts off with somewhat innocuous aspects of life. You start to use public transport more and more as opposed to walking. You can't go a day without a rice based meal. Perhaps more developed symptoms include failure to hold a door open for someone following you through or perhaps inadvertently spitting out alai na when someone says something that you didn't catch, in English! If it has got to an advanced stage you have no qualms about picking your nose and examining the contents in front of all and sundry on the skytrain.
I've fought it as best I could, and I most certainly do not pick my nose on the skytrain, or even in the privacy of my own apartment for that matter, but the symptoms are there that I am just another of many who has slowly been going native. I still hold the door open for people coming behind me but a day without rice, oh, that'd be like a day without food!
But going native is not the only evil of a long period in Thailand without a break. There is also the growing cynicism that one develops which unfortunately has, at times, shone through in the column. Many people have told me that a trip back to New Zealand would re-invigorate my interest in Thailand and I'd be running back to Thailand from NZ as fast as I could.
So, after 6 long years, I finally made it back to the West this week. From the very moment I got off the plane, the impressions were positive. The weather was pleasant, not too hot nor too cold. People were smiling and seemed genuinely pleasant and friendly. Everything operated in a manner in which you would expect it would. Things not only worked, they were efficient. We were through the airport in record time and the 25 km journey from the airport to home was covered in less than half an hour. The roads were clean, people drove at modest speeds and most cars actually seemed to have indicators that worked, unlike Bangkok. How a city can have so many cars with faulty indicators I'll never know.
So, the first hour in country down and the feeling was good. Very good in fact.
After a rest, we decided to go for a wander around the local shopping mall. It had been done up since I was last in country and everything had changed. A lot. In a not particularly special suburban mall in a not particularly multi-cultural part of town, it was only a few minutes before we heard the familiar sound of a bunch of Thais nattering away in their bird song like language. Several thousand kilometres from their homeland, Thais had infiltrated suburban New Zealand.
Everything, everywhere was so clean and modern. Everyone was so helpful. The range of products available was eye opening. Even in suburban Auckland, it seemed that there was a far superior range of goods than you get at the huge shopping malls in Bangkok. I was confused. This is not how I remember things. I wasn't supposed to like it. It was supposed to be slow, dull and boring. Prices were supposed to be high. Ok, so the last bit turned out to be true. But then again, that has been about the only real negative we have noticed, so far. Prices are high. Of that, there can be no denial.
Over the next couple of days we explored the city and were both immensely impressed at how this truly multi-cultural city has really grown up. It is not the urban monster that Bangkok is, but there was still plenty going on. It was almost like you had most of the good stuff of Bangkok, and very little of the bad stuff. Auckland's sizeable Asian population meant that there are not just supermarkets that stock Thai products, but dedicated Thai product stores. The Mrs. was suitably impressed. So in the city centre you can find the same Thai food products as you get in Bangkok, but 40 minutes away and you are in New Zealand's famed wilderness.
There is a growing number of Thais living in New Zealand, centred in Auckland, and we got a chance to get to meet many at the local Thai community with the Thai Society Songkran celebrations which were held earlier today. It was a huge occasion with thousands of people in attendance. In fact it was so popular that the Prime Minister of New Zealand attended and gave a very gracious speech. Amongst the other dignitaries present were the Thai ambassador. Had I had a bit more time, an interview would have been in order, but I was too busy hunting for a som tum vendor for the Mrs. (The cynic in me says that the Prime Minister was there to put on a good show in lieu of the free trade agreement between Thailand and New Zealand that is due to be signed in Bangkok the week after next.) She should have had a quiet word to me and I would have put in a good word for her in Bangkok…
But Mrs. Stick was not so impressed with the whole affair. The crowd was a mix of Kiwis, lo-so Thais – and they were there in serious numbers, a number of Thai students, very few hi-so Thais, and a number of other Asians. predominantly Chinese, who were there selling various food items. One could have been forgiven for thinking that this was a former Pattaya employee convention. It was an interesting reflection on Western guy / Thai gal couples, and I am sure the situation would not be that different in other spots around the world. The cynic in me says that it is to be expected that former bargirls would make up such a large proportion of the crowd, but I had to admit that even I was amazed at the number of them there. There were HEAPS of them! This truly was the stereotypical get together of middle-aged, overweight, not particularly handsome Western blokes with their former bargirl girlfriends or wives.
Also what kinda surprised me was the village like atmosphere of the whole festival, Thai village, I mean. Unfortunately, that isn't a compliment in my book. There were packs of Thai guys dancing around, off their face at midday, singing nonsensically, and both the Mrs. and I were reminded of yet another aspect of Thailand that neither of us like. Are Thai society get-togethers around the world typically like this?
Just a few days in New Zealand and I have been very, very impressed. Genuinely friendly, sincere people. Good weather. Ultra clean environment. Out of this world food. A feeling of order and justice.
So there we have it, the first impressions of the West after so long. I have only been in New Zealand a few days and it is not nearly long enough to really make any conclusions, but let's just say that for now, I don't miss Thailand at all…
WHERE IS THIS PICTURE Competition?
It was The Huntsman.
Looks familiar, doesn't it?
Last week's pic was taken outside The Huntsman, that pleasant, but somewhat pricey British pub, in the basement of the Landmark Hotel. 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 few 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
How important is the farang hubby?
Have a friend who married a Thai in the U.S., though he didn't bring her over. She'd recently divorced the guy who did. What an unmitigated disaster! Rumours, though unsubstantiated, were rife that she had a history of working the naughty bars in Pattaya. Knowing a good thing when she sees one, not long after the nuptials she began drinking like a fish, disappearing for days on end despite having an infant child, and gambling away a substantial amount – another rumour claimed over $100,000 – of his savings. Though I realize this is an extreme example, I'm aware of other Thai-Farang marriages in the States that, sadly, are in comparable situations. I've noticed the loyalties of Thai women living abroad follow this pattern: first, money, next, their Thai girlfriends living nearby, their family in Thailand, their Thai children, the King and Queen, the family dog back home, the Thai lottery, and lastly, their farang husband and family. It's a shame to say, but 90% of the girls I've seen overseas apparently left their "Thainess" at Don Muang before boarding the plane. So one word of advice to anyone thinking of bringing the "girl of his dreams" back to Farangland – DON'T! And if you do, don't be surprised if she turns into the "girl of your nightmares".
Brazil gets the thumbs up.
There is no doubt about this, the huge majority of the sexy girls at Siam Square are posers. Don’t judge the book by the cover. You see a girl in mini skirt, high heels and tank top and you assume they are a sex goddess. Do you know what fat chance means? A trustworthy childhood friend of mine has migrated to Brazil more than ten years ago and since this time has repeatedly invited me to visit him. Fifteen years ago we both started to travel around Asia and we both have made our experiences with Asian girls. So I guess he knows what he is talking about. When it comes to bed Olympics Asian girls are lousy performers in comparison to the girls in Brazil. If you have the stamina five sessions per night are not unusual. I can’t vouch for this because I have never been there but my friend has no reason to lie to me. Next November I am on my way to my holiday destination. Guess where?
The only sex aid available.
Your assessment of Thai girls' sex drive is spot-on. Thai girls have no exposure as to the "why" of looking sexy…they are just mimicking what they see in magazines or on TV. Almost all Thai girls have never seen a porno or owned a vibrator. Very few have given or received oral sex. A significant percentage have never masturbated or had an orgasm. Thai girls do not know about sex…and they do not care to learn. They are confident that "condom goes on part A, which is then inserted in part B" is all one needs to know for a happy sex life. Spontaneity, variety, kinkiness, and just plain old "fun" are not requisite components as far as they are concerned. It would be great if we could blame this on the Catholic education system in Thailand, but obviously we cannot; that would make it simply a matter of "unlearning" bad advice given by moral tightwads. Instead, we farang men are confronted with trying to overcome a much greater obstacle: Blind, innocent, bald-faced ignorance regarding all things sexual…accompanied by that unwavering Thai certainty of "if it was okay to do, my mother would have told me about it." Thai women are great to look at, fun to be around, and they slog through the domestic duties and take care of you wearing a grin a mile wide…but pull out some fuzzy red handcuffs, edible panties, a blue movie, or anything that runs on batteries, and they are (as the one reader put it regarding Thai girls living in Farangland) "out of their comfort zone" (and we all know what happens when Thai girls are out of their comfort zone). Anyway, my best advice for getting to the kinky stuff with a Thai girl is to use the only sex aid legally sold in the Kingdom: Alcohol.
An easy 400K.
Have you ever heard of the following situation? A guy meets a Thai girl has a night out…they hope in the sack for some fun…then the next day he is charged with rape? This actually happened to a guy I know who is now being squeezed for 400,000 baht. He has hired a lawyer and the lawyer advise him to pay up and give a formal apology to her family and the police….
Good girls are naughtier.
Most gals in the "gogos" tend to have a lot of mileage on them but very little technical skill and are just not the "dirty gals" that many of us wish them to be. Most are not vocal and few ask to participate in deviant acts. Now, some freelancers are a bit better but for the most part Thais pale in comparison to their Western and even some of their Eastern counterparts (Indonesians and Koreans spring to mind). I am not sure what it is but I do think that Buddhism has a bit to do with it as sex tends to be just another part of life where in monotheistic cultures where sex is sinful it tends to be more fun. For the most part I think that the Farang man coming to Thailand does not really care. One of my friends said it best, "Men do not come to Thailand to fxxx whores, they come here to date whores." For me my first trip was a real disappointment as I expected nasty porn star drooling harlots. What I got was nice simple village girls who sleep with a lot of men. Now, I hear tell that the "good girl" is a bit more fun and judging from the Uni girl who was giving a handjob to her boyfriend while sitting next to me at Major WTC during a screening of Hitch, they might be right.
A reader informs me that some traders along Sukhumvit do in fact sell copied Levis. Word has it that you have to ask for the said product, and be prepared to wait between five and ten minutes, the usual routine with a lot of the contraband in that part of town. The vendor takes your order, calls the local warehouse or place where said merchandise is stored before a shady character on a moped turns up with goods. The reader claims that they are of good quality and that there is a choice of colours, zip, button etc. I remain the cynic and will stick with the genuine article.
There is quite good progress on the new Rainbow 4 bar, which is situated on the second floor of Nana Plaza, next to G Spot. Builders are working in shifts around the clock to get the bar finished but it looks like it will not be completed for a few weeks yet. When the Rainbow group took over ownership on March 1st, there was a two week delay on the builders arriving so this has put the project back a fortnight.
Do motorcycle taxi riders all over the city see helmets merely as a device which prevents them from being fined, or is it just the guys in my soi? Whenever I get them to make the mad dash over to Sukhumvit, they never want to give me a helmet. "Police Sukhumvit like farang, no problem, no fine". Bloody hell, but what if I go flying off the bike?! Requesting the helmet on a jaunt to Sukhumvit gets them agitated, to say the least.
The opening piece in the column in each of the past two weeks has been moderately negative about Thai women, the first suggesting that Western guys and Thai women are so different that in most cases a successful marriage between a Western guy and a Thai woman would be very difficult. In the second I suggested that Thai women, despite being very attractive and feminine, hardly set the world alight in the sack. VERY FEW people wrote in disagreeing, VERY FEW. I guess I rest my case…
The new Hillary Bar located opposite Bus Stop had its Grand Opening tonight with a free buffet and live entertainment. It seems to be doing well considering that they have only recently opened. The bargirls are friendly, not pushy like some beer bars.
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: My barber is a nice lady who I think a lot of. She’s not the prettiest lady, actually rather paunchy, but as honest as they come. A major reason I selected her was she requested the same price for her services – haircut, dye, and shampoo in my case – as she does for the locals. She’s told me some people cheat foreigners, but she doesn’t believe in that. She enjoys my company, it’s obvious, and invites me, for example, to the wedding out in the provinces for the young girl working for her. We enjoy talking to each other and have fabulous rapport. But I’m debating to myself whether I should bring to her attention one habit she has that I don’t like – actually find really gross. Were I to point out to her she shouldn’t pick her nose (in the presence of customers), would I hurt our relationship? Should I tell her or should I not – and if I should tell her, just how would I best go about it?
Mrs. Stick says: If you are close to her, then there is no reason for you not to tell her. But in the instance of a customer / service provider relationship, she may find it offensive. Many people don't like to have their faults pointed out, especially if it is by someone they're not close to. I don't know if this is any difficult in your culture? But please be subtle! Maybe try and make a joke out of it and let her know, but in a very indirect way. Or perhaps you could pick your nose obviously and see if she notices it and perhaps gets the hint that way.
Admittedly there is much less news this week than would be considered normal. As I am several thousand kilometres from Bangkok, it is kinda hard to nosey around and see just wat is going on!
Your Bangkok commentator,