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The Thais' love of their country, their fierce patriotism and their legendary inability to adapt to anything un-Thai were all in the back of my mind during the preparations prior to our recent trip to New Zealand. Just how would Mrs. Stick cope with a Western country?
I was quietly confident because Mrs. Stick is virtually fluent in English. She has met, likes and is liked by both members of the family and friends. But more than anything, this was not her first trip outside of Thailand. She has visited various spots within Asia and has had a taste of Farangland before, when she visited Australia.
I had told her largely what to expect – both the good and the bad. I explained to her that NZ was relatively quiet and that it might seem slow compared to Bangkok or for that matter, just about anywhere in Thailand. I'd also warned her that som tum would not be available on every corner and in fact finding Thai food, while not difficult, could put a bit of a hole in the wallet, hers, not mine, because if she insisted on eating Thai, she'd be paying for it! Interestingly enough, Thai food was very easy to find in New Zealand, where in a country of just 4 million people there are around 100 Thai restaurants – and with them, the obligatory illegal employees.
We arrived to a pleasant enough day, the temperature in the early 20s, clear blue sky, ideal really. Her very first impression made me laugh. She thought the airport was awfully small which I countered by saying that unlike Bangkok, we would not have to walk down long corridor after long corridor. She liked that.
A drive through the city and half an hour later we were home, a tranquil, leafy street, but still only 500 metres from a huge shopping mall. Despite this, the neighbourhood is very quiet and you'd be lucky if a car drove up the road more often than once every 5 minutes.
"It's quiet", she said. She really meant it was dead.
"Yep, this is New Zealand, it's like this", I said, with a big grin! She didn't know quite what to make of that.
After resting a couple of hours, it was time to explore the neighbourhood, or more specifically, to go shopping so off we went up the road.
One of the things that Mrs. Stick found most curious was the number of "new New Zealanders", the politically correct term for recent immigrants. I am led to believe that while Brits make up the biggest number of immigrants from any one country, they aren't at all visible like some of the other new immigrants. Auckland is now home to many recent immigrants, not just from the countries where they traditionally come from like the UK, but from many parts of Asia as well as from the Middle East and even Africa. Even in a suburban shopping centre, the variety of ethnic foods was better than a large like shopping centre in Bangkok like MBK. But there was no Thai food there. She noticed that, boy did she notice it! A little later, as we wandered through a supermarket, she refused to admit that she was desperately looking for Thai food. Just a few hours in country and she was missing Thai food like crazy!
The next day we went to one of my old haunts, a Thai food vendor in a food court where only Asian food is available. After announcing that the Thai food there was as good as Thailand, and me confirming that we could eat there as often as she liked, she was somewhat relieved. Thais are a funny bunch. You could give them a pile of hamburgers, pizza, steak, roast dinner, just about whatever farang food you could think of, and they would not be satisfied. A plate of rice and they are content. I've never known this phenomenon in any other race.
The observations and comments about recent immigrants continued and I had to explain that it was not uncommon for certain countries to be somewhat dependant on immigration to ensure that the economy kept growing. This issue came to a head when we were hanging out in Mission Bay, a chic strip of cafes and bars nestled beside a small beach in one of the most affluent parts of Auckland. The Mrs. knew something was up when I ripped the standard lens off the camera, hurriedly attached the telephoto and started snapping away. She looked over in the direction where I was shooting and I got that familiar alai wa which in this case would perhaps be best translated as, "what the hell is going on over there". As we wandered over to a fountain in the middle of a park we saw a bunch of Africans dancing and swimming right there in the fountain, and a few of the big Mamas were hanging it out for all to see. Unfortunately it wasn't the prettiest sight in the world. We encountered large groups of Africans in our travels and the Mrs. just couldn't understand why they had been allowed to visit. I then had to explain to her that they weren't likely visitors, but more likely residents. She just couldn't fathom this. "They wouldn't be allowed to stay in Thailand. Why does the New Zealand government allow them to stay. What benefit to they bring? The New Zealand government is stupid." This prompted a very interesting discussion about Thailand and the preservation of Thai culture and how allowing too many foreigners to come in would have the undesired effect of watering down Thai culture. Thailand is for Thais and all that.
In Bangkok it must be said that Mrs. Stick gets more than her fair share of looks from guys, especially from western guys. Looks come from all directions but particularly older farangs, mid 40s up and the odd guy is not shy to let her know that he is interested, even if I'm about. In New Zealand she assumed it would be much the same.
Mrs. Stick got checked out alright, but it was mainly from young Kiwi guys, especially those in the 20 – 25 bracket. On the one had she liked this because she felt that they must have thought that she was about their age, but for guys outside of that age group, she was almost invisible. Guys around her age, that is in their early 30s, didn't seem to notice her and to older guys she may as well have been invisible.
It's funny really, a couple of Kiwi mates told me I'd need a stick to keep would be fellows at bay, but that was hardly the case. Exactly why she didn't get any looks, especially given that she gets a lot of attention in Bangkok and she is quite frankly a lot more attractive than the vast majority of Kiwi chicks was quite a surprise.
We saw more than a few Kiwi guys with Asian girlfriends in tow so it isn't as if the average Kiwi bloke is averse to Asian women. My summation is that the average kiwi guy would not usually hit on a woman who is obviously already attached, and as we were together the entire time, guys simply didn't see an opportunity. But then, she did not get checked out as much as expected. It would be fair to say that she was a little surprised about it, which gave me a right chuckle, especially as Kiwi girls seemed to take quite an interest in me. Ha!
One day we were driving through an area in central Auckland when the Mrs. surprised me and said, "wow, you didn't tell me that Auckland had a palace!" Baffled, because indeed Auckland doesn't have a palace, I looked over and saw that we were passing by Mt. Eden prison. If prisons look like palaces, New Zealand can't be bad.
While in the capital, Wellington, we witnessed a small scuffle. We were sitting on bench in Cuba Street when the atmosphere was marred by a guy walking down the street screaming obscenities at a woman. Both of them were pissed even though it was only early afternoon and from the look of them, they spent their time on the streets and were likely homeless. The guy started to push the girl as they passed one of the many open air cafes and bars. A couple of blokes had seen what was going on and jumped up to protect the girl. They warned the guy to cut out the crap to which he responded by shoving the girl. Mistake! Two punches and this sack of shit was out on the ground. The guys checked that the girl was ok and she was. She skedaddled off while the sack of shit on the ground sat up and looked a little dazed, and embarrassed. Mrs. Stick was surprised at this on several counts. First of all, the idea that there are street people in farang countries was a major surprise to her. She always thought that governments in Western countries would bail people out, and that everyone lived a life of relative luxury. What was an even bigger surprise was that everyday folks would step in and protect a total stranger. She was impressed by their restraint too, just doing enough to stop the guy, but not cause any real damage.
Mrs. Stick couldn't understand my love of the city of Wellington. I was born there, but while I lived most of my life in Auckland, I still consider Wellington home. We spent a couple of days there and to me, Wellington has a lot of style. Most of the houses are old and to my eye are stylish. Big old houses that ooze character, the city looks a little like San Francisco. Compare this with Auckland where houses are new and modern and "same same". She simply could not see that I preferred the older style to the modern. This is so typically Thai!
Mrs. Stick and I were due to return to Thailand the same day, but I decided to stay on a few days. It was not until we got to the airport that she suddenly decided that she was in no hurry to go back either. Perhaps it was the thought of being away from my adorable self, but the penny seemed to drop and she suddenly started to talk about the idea of staying in NZ. No honey, not just yet.
"Can you remind me why you ever left here to go to Thailand?", she asked. For a moment I tried to think back, and was puzzled. A good question, and one I couldn't answer. "No, I can't understand why either". Being typically Thai, she would not come out and say bad things about her country, but rather make comments in a round about sort of way.
On reflection of the trip, she couldn't help but compare Auckland with Sydney and Bangkok. Auckland she felt was the nicest place and she loved the friendliness of the people as well as the environment. Blue sky every day, all day, was a big thing for her and she commented that she really liked the plants and trees. (Ever notice how Thais abroad always take photos of the vegetation?!) But when asked which of the three she would most like to live in, she responded Sydney. WTF?!
"You can get real som tum there, not like Auckland!"
Thais will be Thais.
WHERE IS THIS PICTURE Competition?
It was the Beergarden.
Scary signs, aren't they?!
Last week's pic was taken on Sukhumvit Soi 7, from a couple of hundred metres up the soi, looking back towards the Beergarden which can be seen in the picture. Like the previous week's column, just a handful of people got the pic right. 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. Steve Leather has very kindly provided some copies of his just published novel, "Private Dancer" to give away – and this week is the last copy I have 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
Stickman's number mantra, BROKEN!
I did not take your advice. I married a bar girl and now I am paying 4 years later.
All the girls entered the industry by default as failed lovers. Let me put it this way, if you've been lucky enough to find someone who makes it from swinging from a chandelier do you let them out of your sight? I'm sorry the Thai boys have got there before us, and what we've been left with are all the rejects. It is an abhorrent thought to think that these girls have decided to enter a career in an occupation that they have previously failed so miserably at. How ironic it is to find all these inhibited, shy, reluctant, frigid performers entering the very profession that they despise, so it's no wonder that they don't perform. So the rule of thumb still applies, stick to convent girls.
Bangkok' naughty nightlife ruined?
The notion Thai women have that they can always find another bank account (farang) or another farang with more money is unfortunately supported by the facts. Men and women just live in completely different worlds. For instance: you never hear women talk about the cost of sex (in a relationship or in marriage). Sex has no cost to them. It also has no importance. They throw sex at men like farmers throw corn to pigs. Completely different worlds. Unfortunately we are seeing this played out now at the NEP and in particularly the Rainbow I and Rainbow II and partly the Angelwitch bars where the girls now will only go out with the Japanese because these slant eyed dolts are now forking over 2500 baht for short time. So the NEP market is now ruined and this will spread like a cancer to Cowboy and the Pong. I go directly to Pattaya now because for me the so-called sex for money business in BKK does not exist anymore. Sad. For everyone.
It happens often enough to think there is a pattern. Asking a Thai lovely who seems eager for action: "Do you like this?" "Oh, yes," she replies. "Do you like that?" "Oh yes," she replies. "Do you like doggy
style?" "Oh, yes," she replies. But her high energy
enthusiasm turns to low energy lethargy entering your apartment. Her definition of doggy style becomes 'you sit up and beg, and she rolls over and plays dead.'
Is less better?
Two weeks you kept us in suspense, taking us to the limit and back again, no other site has been clicked on so much to no avail than yours during this period. I think that at the end of the day you can draw up pro and con lists 'till the cows come home. But what really matters is the feel good factor. Another acid test is when you are flying into Don Muang, did it feel as if you were coming home? For all the sophistication of the west has to offer I long came to the conclusion that as far as Thailand is concerned less is in fact best.
The AIDS debate, again.
I once made the mistake of getting involved in the Thailand–AIDS discussion in a thread on another site. A waste of time. No one is interested in facts. AIDS is the new Inquisition – the new Bogeyman–the new mental/societal Plague. No one is interested in facts anymore. The emotional lines have been drawn. The most interesting thing to have appeared on the Stickman site in millions of words and hundreds of submissions was the Boss Hogg interview in which he stated that he had employed or had business relations with 3000 women and not one had gotten AIDS from prostitution. This should have lighted a firestorm of interest. The result was nothing. Everyone's minds are already made up. People who bleat like ignorant sheep about AIDS and other risks of intercourse that they are not medically qualified to have opinions about would be better off putting a condom around the plane that is transporting them at 30,000 feet at 500 miles per hour and filled with explosive jet fuel. You never hear these little bible thumpers pontificate on the dangers of getting to Thailand by air because they are too fucking dumb to have even thought of it. Also it is not the politically correct scare du jour. AIDS is popular now. Before that it was herpes (no one remembers). Before that it was gonorrhea (no one remembers). Before that it was touching yourself (no one remembers unless they were Catholic). Before that it was walking under a ladder (no one remembers). Before that it was having a black cat cross in front of you (no one remembers). Before that it was touching a toad (no one remembers) etc. Getting AIDS and dying a lonely pointless death is unappealing. But leading a sexless life ruled by fear and wrapped in a condom is more unappealing. How about this for an idea–if you have not had sex in the last 30 days you don't have the right to tell me anything about sex. I figure that would wipe out 95% of these people immediately.
The lights have gone out on Boss Hogg's in Nana Plaza and the bar has closed down, temporarily I imagine – but who knows? While beautifully decorated, it never really took off like perhaps it should have, likely due to the awkward location. It is difficult just trying to enter the bar. There is a single entranceway and before you get to the bar itself you get accosted by a bunch of aggressive greeting girls from other bars trying to get you into their bar. It was also disappointing that from the balcony and what should have been the best view in the plaza, all you could really see was the awning of Lucky Luke's, and across into Big Dogs. What you couldn't see was the main entrance way to Nana, the freak show, a fabulous view in a city with many great views. Word has it that Boss Hogg's which has been up for sale for a while now has yet to change hands.
Some renovations are taking place at Lucky Luke's with modifications to the wall of all things. Not quite sure what they are trying to achieve – I always thought that bar was pleasantly decorated and didn't require change. Perhaps they are to install plasma TVs, like in Big Dogs opposite?
The enforcement of closing at 1:00 AM has been very lax in Nana Plaza recently and the closing times are slipping back and back. On the odd night the bars have been open until almost 2:00 AM. Will sensibility prevail again soon?
Rumour has it that girls from Rainbow 2 will be working in Rainbow 4 when it opens, that is while Rainbow 2 is being renovated. There are posters up everywhere in Nana seeking to fill the staff numbers at Rainbow 4. While the bar is supposed to open next weekend, it is hard to see that happening and I expect that like most bar openings, it will not make schedule.
With Songkran behind us we are now officially into the (s)low season. Hotel rates drop, the weather deteriorates and there are less tourists on the streets. Bars were definitely quieter this week than in the period before Songkran, the last time I dropped by for a drink. Is it wishful thinking for some of the Bangkok bars to offer a few promotion or specials to get more punters in the doors?
But while Songkran is behind us, it is still as hot as hell in Bangers. It is nice to see that a number of bars, particularly in Soi Cowboy, have erected large fans outside the bars to keep the staff who are trying to entice punters inside cool.
Big Dogs have installed a contraption to help cool the punters down. In there for a drink earlier this week it was as hot as hell and truth be told, at this time of year it is not the most pleasant place to be. The view may be outstanding but when that bar is packed with punters, as it was, it can be sweltering.
Cobra Gold kicks off in the next couple of days so expect Pattaya to the playground to many military men over the next few weeks. If this bothers you, it may pay to delay your trip down there until the end of May.
If you're pissed off with the way farangs are so often charged a price higher than what locals pay, you'll be interested to hear that some online hotel reservation services offer LOWER rates to folks who are based outside of Thailand than people who reside here. I have never quite worked out why this is. Something to do with local taxes, perhaps?
One of my favourite bars is Safari Bar, for the good music they play and the way the staff really do leave you alone, that is, if you want to be left to your own devices. Few other bars have that nice combination of good music and staff who will only bother you if that is what you desire. This week I dropped into Temptations in Nana for the first time in a long time and there were a bunch of similarities with Safari. Good music was played, the staff was standoffish, the beer was cheaper than most Nana bars and the one thing that was a real surprise, the mamasan was actually pleasant and polite. How often do you see the words "mamasan" and "polite" appear in the same sentence?!
There are some things in life that simply cannot be avoided. Death and taxes spring to mind but you can add being ripped off at Monet Bar in Sukhumvit Soi 33 to the list. I pop in to Monet Bar perhaps two or three times a year, and have done so for a few years now, and almost every time there is a problem with the bill. This week, the usual nonsense with the bill was experienced. I can only surmise that it is successful so they persist with it.
And for readers of the readers' submissions, another section on this site, who read the outrageous rip off story recently from a certain Sukhumvit soi 33 bar where a single punter was presented with a 9,000 baht bill, you'll be interested to know that it was Goya Bar. That's another bar where you need to be careful and keep an eye on your bill. I find it odd that there seem to be more (reported) rip offs from bars in Sukhumvit Soi 33, that is the most expensive farang bar area in Bangkok, than anywhere else.
Sight of the week was a girl dancing on stage in Cowboy One for a full two songs, the whole time conversing to a guy, presumably a boyfriend, saying that no, she was not working at the bar anymore and that she was out at karaoke with her friends. Quite unreal, even by Bangkok standards.
And in the same bar, I have to wonder about the wisdom of the decision to install a video game console. The console is located in the corner and all of the girls seem to be much more interested in that than in the customers, each trying to outdo each other and get the highest score in various video games. Even the dancers on stage seemed to be more interested in the progress of their colleagues playing the games than in anything else. I chatted briefly with a guy sitting next to me who said he was leaving to go to another bar because the girls were not interested in him!
Why is it that Thais insist on putting copious amounts of sugar into food? That is when they are preparing food. Watch just about any vendor, chef or cook and you'll see how much sugar goes in. Fried vegetables and they heap on the sugar. Farang style food, especially meat, is often glazed with sugar and bread of all things, gets a heap of sugar too. It makes me wonder if Thailand is ground zero for diabetes?
Construction will soon begin on Thailand Plaza which will be the first of many such plazas around the world promoting Thailand. The first one will be located on 5th Avenue in New York. I notice that prominent local businessman Boss Hogg recently returned to the US. Could there be a correlation between his departure from Thailand and the opening of this new plaza? Is it true that Boss might in fact be the man to be in charge of this new plaza? Maybe that is why Nana is so quiet at the moment? Boss Hogg and co may be preparing all the girls to go over and promote Thailand? I wonder where the next one will be? London, perhaps? Perhaps Dave The Rave could be the man to manage that one?! And when they want to open one in NZ, hell, I'll give it a go!
What's the deal with these news stands on Sukumvit with what appear to be photocopied copies of the current editions of newspapers from around the world. The stands state that they have TODAY'S copy of 256 newspapers from 54 different countries – although the stand only has room for 10 – 20 different papers. I wonder how they do it – and surely it isn't above board?
For the interesting article of the week, click here. The last two paragraphs of the lengthy article are spot on (but don't think the Thai government will like them).
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: Is it really, really, competition in business, or does the Thai psyche desperately need to be haranguing farangs to purchase something they obviously do not need? For Example: Can a Thai person not sleep at night, unless he / she has used his / her best efforts that day, to persuade a farang to part with money they really need not have spent, or significantly more than they should have spent?
Mrs. Stick says: Unfortunately many people in business here do not have a concept of providing service and their idea of being in business is making maximum profit with as little effort as possible and total disregard for the customers' needs or satisfaction. This is one thing that I feel very frustrated about in Thailand. When we were in NZ I could ask a salesperson 100 questions and they would be happy to answer them and would not get at all bothered if eventually I did not buy the product I was asking about. Try this in Thailand and you will be abused! Some Thai vendors really should change their attitude. They simply look at making the maximum amount of money while providing the minimum service to both their employer (if they are employed) to the customer. Really, you should just ignore these people.
Question 2: The crowning glory for Thai women is their beautiful, long, silky, luxurious hair. Look at the number of products and adverts for hair care, and the amount of hours most Thai women spend preening in front of mirrors every day. Why, then, do they get to the age of 39 and decide to cut it all off and backcomb it like Elvis Presley? Elvis is alive and dressed as every old Thai woman! Just take a look at page two of the social pages of Bangkok Post and you will see pictures of dozens of Elvis impersonators in frumpy Thai silk suits. Do Thai people think it is an improvement on the long hair styles? Please help me to stop this behaviour – a national advertising campaign might work…
Mrs. Stick says: As women get older, they become busier and busier and at this time in their lives, they most likely have kids. Looking after one's hair is just another chore in what may be a busy schedule so it is possible that they may cut it short to minimise the hassle of keeping it beautiful. Believe me, keeping your hair nice takes time! But I don't know how many women cut their hair at that age, or around that age. Most don't!
Ok, that is all from the New Zealand trip and don't worry, I don't have any sheep stories to shock you with.
Your Bangkok commentator,