Stickman's Weekly Column July 24th, 2005

Why Wai?


StickmanBangk ok .com


I have never understood the Thai wai very well. What is the Thai wai, I hear you ask? It's that prayer like gesture the locals do when they meet each other, say goodbye, apologise or thank someone.

The rules of the wai are confusing at best to the average foreigner so in an attempt to understand them better I chatted with a few older Thais who I thought would be able to help explaining when and how it is used, and importantly, how the rules relate to farangs. Are farangs exempt from the rules of the wai? Should we refrain from waiing or should we give it a go? If we do it wrong, does it become a major issue? Will waiing a hooker give us 100 years of bad luck?

First off, the basic rules of waiing. Generally it is the younger person or the person of lower position or status who will wai first. So a child would wai an older member of the person first and an employee would wai their boss. In the instance of a commercial transaction, the person making the sale will generally be the first to wai.

The height at which the person's finger tips reach will be determined by the status of the person they are waiing. It might be that the tips of the fingers touch their nose, or that perhaps they are a little lower. For someone of extremely high status, or to thank someone for something significant or for which they are especially grateful, the wai may go even higher, and in rare instances, their hands might extend above their own head. The basic rule is that the higher the wai, the more important the person or the bigger the occasion. The person returning the wai may wai with their finger tips at the same height, or may wai a little lower, again it all depends on the relationship between those two people.

On certain occasions, you will see the locals down on their knees giving what could be termed a more extended wai, or a grarb, more commonly to religious figures, Buddha images or Royalty. I'm not going to get into this because this is altogether something more complicated.

If walking when we see someone who we would like to wai, we should stop, wai, dip our head, receive the wai from them, and then proceed.

At a family gathering, the family structure takes precedent over each individual family member's position outside the family i.e. a 45 year old member of parliament would wai his older farmer cousin first, based on the fact that the older brother would be considered senior within the family due to his age. That the younger person has a much more prestigious job is generally not relevant in a family situation.

When youngsters wai an adult as a greeting or in passing, a sawasdee / kop khun from the adult is enough and this will show basic manners. You do not have to return the wai. You will from time to time see adults waiing large groups of youngsters such as a teacher or school principal addressing a large group. This is in relation with that person's duty and should not be looked upon as a senior figure bowing to youngsters.

Sometimes you do not need to wai, and just a smile is enough, such as walking past neighbours etc – you do not have to wai every time you see them, especially if you are simply going about your everyday routine.

If you come into the company of someone of very high status, it is best to wai them each different day you see them or meet them. This would be the rule for a local Thai, though farangs would be forgiven for not waiing. Someone of a very high status might be considered a high ranking official, a prominent businessman, a judge, or an ambassador.

You can also use a wai to apologise. It would be considered somewhat unusual, though certainly acceptable, for a position of higher status, to wai as a symbol of regret or apology, to younger people or those of lesser status. Doing so is generally considered to be a very humbling action.

I have always found it quite humorous when someone is waied and they have their hands full. They return the wai and do it by raising their hands – and whatever they are carrying with them too. To me, this transforms what can be a very gracious action into something quite different. However, I am told that it is ABSOLUTELY FINE to return a wai with your hands full. People understand that and it is not a problem.

So, where do all of these complex rules leave the average farang? We are often waied in a store, in a restaurant, in hotels and in bars. In all of these instances it is perfectly acceptable to return the wai with a smile or even a thank you. In a store, returning a wai with a nod is fine.

Westerners are often waied is in the naughty bars. However, if you watch closely, you will see that many of the girls give a quite pathetic wai, extremely low placement of the palms around their mid riff, hurried and with wobbly hands. They might even say something lurid at the same time. Within Thai culture this is considered an insult and they are in fact taking the piss. The guys who return such a wai are ridiculed, though any decent Thai viewing this sort of exchange would be, as my mother in law said, horrified.

Some older Thais consider it a major insult if people play games with the wai and consider that you are looking at them as if they are no better than a dog. They feel that it shows a complete and utter lack of respect, not only for the other person, but for Thai culture. It is better not to respond to people who wai you inappropriately.

But then there is the other side of it, the guys who overdo it, and nowhere does it seem to be more overdone than, again, in the naughty bars. I still cannot help myself from laughing when a punter walks into a bar full of hookers and starts waiing all and sundry. The guy may as well get down on all fours and wai the local soi dog! That would be about the only thing more ridiculous.

The naughty bars are no place for waiing, at least for a foreigner. If you receive a genuine wai in that environment, responding with a smile is more than adequate.

What about if you are approached in public by the police? Must you wai them? It is only really necessary to wai the police if there are high ranking officers present. If they are low ranking coppers or traffic policeman, there is no need to wai them.

One thing to consider is to try and keep a pattern with your waiing. If you meet someone many times and never wai them, and then at some point in time start waiing them, it will seem strange to them and it may even become something of a talking point.

I used to have quite a reluctance to wai. I’ll never forget when the Mrs. and I were doing that silly photo thing that most Thai couples do before they get married. We were out and about with photographers, make up crew, assistants etc. and every time a new person came along they would wai us, to which the Mrs. would wai back. I simply gave them a dumb, lop-sided grin much to the Mrs.’ protests. I told her that as I am a farang there is no need for me to return the wai to which she responded that I was completely wrong. “If someone goes to shake my hand in New Zealand and I choose not to shake it, would that be acceptable” she asked me. Ok darling, point taken.

The average Thai understands that waiing is not part of farang culture and that we invariably make mistakes BUT if we can do it well, major face is gained and we're looking at real bonus points here. To me, as a resident of Thailand, this is a big part of it. If you do wai appropriately and well, you will be subjected to major praise and will be looked upon very favourably indeed. And remember, we're talking about the land of face here. The farang who wais well will receive very high praise indeed.

WHERE IS THIS PICTURE Competition?

It was a Thai restaurant in New Zealand!

Back in Bangkok.

Last week's pic was a classic example of Stickman playing the devil. The pic of the Ruan Thai restaurant was not even taken in Thailand. As a couple of readers pointed out, the sky was too clear and the streets too clean for it to be Thailand. A number of resourceful people fired the name into Google and found out it is in fact a Thai restaurant in Mission Bay, Auckland, New Zealand. You dirty cheats! There are three prizes offered this week, one for each of the first three people to email with the correct location of the pic. The first is a 500 baht credit at Tony's Bar in Soi Cowboy. The second prize is a signed copy of Steve Leather's cult novel set in Bangkok's bars, "Private Dancer". The third prize is a beautiful hand-cast, crafted sandstone sculpture offered by BKIThailand – for this prize, you MUST be in Bangkok. Unfortunately, these prizes are only available to people in Thailand now – either resident or tourist. If you would prefer one particular prize over the others, please do not be shy to say!

FROM STICKMAN'S EMAIL INBOX

Remember that party hat, lest you be sentenced….to death!

The death penalty is handed down in Thailand on occasion by High Court judges. However, most often in Thailand, it is handed down by doctors – to people like me who party too hard, and for too long, without a party hat. Yes, HIV is REAL and is THERE. Of course I will appeal the sentence and it will be expensive (many drugs at a high cost). But, I know the appeals will ultimately be rejected and that the sentence will be passed. As sick as it may sound, I kept records of my 'conquests' in Thailand. I had sex no more than 8 to 10 times without a party hat. (All hetro-sexual vaginal sex only). The girls concerned come from a few limited places. Nana G Spot, Nana Pretty Lady, Gulliver's, and the street outside Robinsons Asoke. That is it. All the girls are still there. And at least one of them will likely receive a death sentence soon too. Let this serve as the ultimate warning to all.

Bangkok paradise.

This week I had a delegation of US businessman stop in Bangkok on the way to Vietnam. One of the gentleman was travelling on a travel document from the US instead of a passport. He was not able to obtain a visa to Vietnam and hence had to stay in Bangkok for 4 days without us. He had never been to Bangkok and was staying at the JW Marriott. I had him moved to the New Grande Majestic on Soi 2 at $US 65 per night and we left for Vietnam. On his first day alone he finds himself at the Emporium and goes to Armani. He made several purchases to the tune of 50,000 baht. He was assisted by a pretty sales girl while he was shopping and before leaving she asked if he was with his wife or girlfriend. He said no and she asked if he would like for her to come see him when she got off work. He said yes and she did, for the next three nights and stayed throughout each night. They would go to dinner each evening and back to the hotel. There was never any mention of money nor did he give her any until the last morning on his way to the airport when he handed her $US 250 and said goodbye. She thanked him and had tears of happiness departing from her eyes. This fellow is from Somalia and hence has black skin and is in his 50's. The moral is you never know where you might get lucky in Bangkok. What seemed as a 4 day prison sentence in an unknown place alone turned into a honeymoon for this person. He told me what a great country this is and that he will be back when I dropped the delegation off at the airport.

We're just one of many different species, different body, same habits.

With all the good world charities out there and things to do, we in Thailand live in a world where men blow money on the oldest pastime on our planet – mating, leaving our genes in the pool. Just like watching the Animal Planet channel on TV, except for the human concept of money, and of course all the technologies applied these days. But guys still lose their minds over women.

Petrol price go up – you give me more money!

I guess I can't blame her for trying, but my girlfriend asked me for a raise this month. The reason she wants a raise? Gas prices have gone up! I guess the fact that she doesn't own a car or motorbike didn't seem to make a difference to her. I already overpay her at 20K a month, though 6K of that goes to make her mom's car payments – and her mom can't even drive. I told her if she wants to be angry at anyone, she should look to her family as I feel I am being more than generous.

Upper crust forced to use the bus! Ha!

My wife tells me that because of the price of petrol some of her friends are taking the bus instead of driving! I was a little surprised but she gave me the example of one of them who used to drive from Lat Kabang to downtown Bangkok…close to 200 baht a day now.

The bane of Sukhumvit.

I am also seriously pissed off with the street vendors between Nana & Cowboy. If it is not possible to get rid of them completely could the authorities try to limit the depth of their shitty stalls and ask them to give the pedestrians a little consideration instead of always stepping out in front of them to fuck about with the stall items? Luckily one of the two expressions I know in sign language is fxxx xxf.

Three cheers for the Rainbow Group.

Three cheers for the Rainbow bars! They have amply demonstrated that bad times in Nana (and other venues) are not due to a shrinking supply of customers, but are rather caused by the poor products being offered by the bar owners. What do people want? Lots of pretty women, who are friendly, and exist in a 'fun' environment. It's the old marketing maxim: give the customers what they want, and they will come – often referred to as customer satisfaction. I hope that other owners will stop their bellyaching and do something to make their products competitive – i.e. giving customers what they want. The Rainbow case has also shown that it does not matter what floor you're on, as long as you are pleasing the customer. They have succeeded on both the first and second floors of Nana. It's good to finally see that competition is alive and well in Nana.

The Rainbow 2 grand re-opening will be on 29 July, with free food but alas, no free girls.

There is a dance contest tonight at the Dollhouse in Pattaya. It kicks off at around 8:00 PM. Get there early to get a seat!

Observant customers notice how terribly drunk the mamasans often are in Hollywood Carousel. With no manager at all, they are like monkeys at a tea party and up to all kinds of tricks. Now the estranged Johnny thinks that leaving the two Hollywood bars to run without any management is his best option. Has he gone completely nuts? As owner of the ailing Hollywood bars in Nana, he apparently doesn't give a duck about them, as he has Big Dogs which makes serious cash. Strong rumours persist that Johnny has acquired a lot of cash from numerous investors while not really acting in their best interests, all the while lining his own pockets with the hugely profitable Big Dogs. There was a time when Johnny wanted to sell Hollywood and it was on the market but concerns over the exact ownership of it halted a potential sale. What was then rated at perhaps an 18 million baht bar would not get anywhere near that much now.

So just what happened between Bill, the recently fired Hollywood manager, and Johnny, the owner? Everything seemed to be on the up and up and it looked like Hollywood was about to resurrect itself as a force in Nana again. Just where and how did it all go wrong? Bill put a proposal to Johnny for renovations to be made, the cost of which was 2.7 million baht. Arrangements were made. In no time at all, Johnny was on the phone to Bill asking if the renovations were necessary with Johnny asking him what he thought about instead knocking the wall out and making the two bars – one is already VERY big – into one. That idea was then put on the backburner and the renovations were due to go ahead. Bill had a trip to the States planned but cut it short to return so he could get the new bar arrangements under way. He got a number of people involved and started making plans for the whole new bar makeover. Included in his team were a professional interior designer, a sound tech, and a lighting specialist. He sent them to Pattaya to look at gogo bars and to places like The Resort, Narcissus, Bed, Q bar, 87 etc to help generate ideas. He got a new mamasan and the number of girls jumped from 11 to 27 right away. Admittedly they weren't superstars, but you could see the ship righting itself. But then Johnny started to get doubts. 2.7 million baht is what, something like 40 odd thousand pounds. It was clear that at this stage Johnny wanted to back out but he took his time in making the decision, searching for a reason to get rid of Bill. In the end he decided to use the classic reason, and he fired Bill for bonking one of the girls. It was true that Bill had bonked her in the past, but that was a long time ago, long before the two of them were ever employees of Johnny's. There were some other reasons Johnny cited but they were just lousy excuses to get Bill out. Unfortunately Bill is not the first manager to be treated badly by Johnny and odds are he won't be the last. But with Johnny's reputation and track record now clearly out in the public domain, one envisages that he will struggle to employ a decent manager again. The monkey's tea party will continue for some time and Hollywood will remain a lousy bar on the top floor of Nana, a shadow of its former self, attracting few customers.

Club Electric Blue in Pattaya will re-open on August 5 as a gogo bar. There will be a whole heap of specials and promotions offered with a 35 baht happy hour, 250 baht all you can drink Heineken from 7:30 – 9:00 PM, and a 1,000 baht deal which allows you to drink all you can from 9:00 PM until close (with some of the big drinkers out there, Andy might be hoping they close the bars early!) Crucially, in price sensitive Pattaya, Heineken will be 45 baht all night long. There will be table top dancing and two mirrored dance doors plus a big screen TV. Sounds like it will be well worth a visit.

Last night Coyote's gogo night club had its grand opening in Pattaya. It is situated in Marine seafood Plaza, a two-storey building, designed with a lot of attention to staff comfort as well as customer comfort. They hope to have over 200 staff, including beer bar girls and a beer bar cubicle, which is, I guess, something different. TJ designed and created Heaven Above A Gogo, Pattaya but Coyote's is on a much bigger and grander scale. It will take a few weeks to get all the little bugs sorted out, but it is hoped that this club will take people's breath away on entering.

At least one of the "recently opened farang late night venues" has been open until 6 AM some nights this past week. I can't name it, but there are only a few to choose from…

Arabs are mushrooming into the farang areas. They used to stick to Sukhumvit Soi 3 and the small sub soi between sois 3 and 5. With all of the shit going on in the world these days, there are bound to be a few issues.

And on the subject of that lot, with this new photo system at Thai immigration when one comes into the country, what is the story with those who wear headwear? Are they photographed with or without?

Despite the fact that they no longer dance in their birthday suits at Nana, some bars are paying fairly decent monthly salaries to keep their girls from defecting (to the Rainbow Group). The much troubled Hollywood bars upstairs, desperate to keep the small number of dancers they have, pay girls 10,000 baht a month, a figure considered fairly high in the industry for girls dancing in bikini. Not that long ago it used to be a few thousand baht a month for dancers who danced in full bikini, a couple more thousand a month for those who danced topless and a couple of thousand more again for those who danced starkers. The top salaries used to be around 7,000 – 8,000 baht. Things have changed.

Looking for a bar manger position in Pattaya? Contact Andy on [email protected]

It was a shame to see ThaiSchoolWatch.com go down due to threats of legal action from various schools in Thailand. This site provided a very much needed service and so it is now great to see it back, looking a little different. So, if you want the low down on what certain schools in the teaching profession are really like, this is the place to find out.

We hear stories of the bars doing semi-regular checks on the girls for STDs and what not, but the truth is, I do not know of one bar that actually does it regularly, testing all girls in a quality clinic or hospital. The logistics of it, not to mention the costs, mean that it just doesn't happen. So it is good to see that down in Cowboy, Sheba's mamasan is hiring a gentleman to educate her girls on STDs. Apparently they are up to play on HIV but that is about all. A farang gentleman is going to run a one hour seminar to 5 – 10 girls at a time. Let's hope the girls are diligent students. If your bar would like to get into touch with the guy doing this, drop me an email and I'll pass his details on.

Have Russian hookers fallen on hard times in Pattaya? The familiar jingle of the fruit vendor was heard in Pattaya and as the patrons of one of the popular Soi Pattayaland 2 bars turned their heads, they were surprised, no hold that comment, shocked, to see that a couple of Eastern European i.e. farang women were pushing a fruit cart and had fruit for sale! The assumption is that these were working girls who had fallen on hard times and have had to resort to alternative means of employment. My feeling is that they are less likely to be picked up hooking than they are selling fruit, but good luck to them nonetheless.

There are all sorts of policies in Thailand to reduce energy use, from department stores and shopping centres forced to open an hour later than normal, to petrol stations closed from 10 PM until 5 AM to threats that if power consumption is not reduced then there may not be enough in the hot season when consumption is at its highest due to the use of air-conditioners. I can only assume that the reason all of the street lights were turned off on the main highway from Bangkok into Isaan this week to save power too? It may have saved power, but at what cost? All of those pushbikes without lights, fools crossing the highway and motorbikes with barely visible lights would have been in MUCH greater danger without the aid of street lights.

The reason supermarkets can sell 10 litres of alcohol or more at any time is that they have two licenses, one for retail and one for wholesale. 10 litres and above is covered by their wholesale license which allows them to sell beer and spirits 24 hours a day. Restrictions only apply to the retail license.

Talking about food briefly, the Londoner has had a revised menu for a month or two and it has to be said that some of the new dishes hit the spot! The pan-fried tuna is great as is the Chicken 33. There are a number of other new dishes which I'm yet to try. Sadly, the same cannot be said for Scoozi, an Italian restaurant, on Suriwong Road. Mrs. Stick insisted to me that it was "even better than Zanotti", my favourite local Italian restaurant. Scoozi, I'm afraid, really does feel like a Thai run Italian restaurant and frankly, it is the worst Italian restaurant I have been to, at least in that particular price range.

A long time reader told me about his visa run to Poi Pet this week. There are several visa run firms offering same day trips up to Cambodia and back and perhaps the most well-known is the curiously named "Jack Golf". They have an agreement to fast track their customers through Thai immigration into Cambodia and back into Thailand again. But perhaps that should be "had" as it seems as though customers are no longer fast tracked as they used to be and folks using their service expecting to bypass the queues ended up spending 2 1/2 hours waiting outside in the sun for Thai immigration to stamp them out. Hundreds of people were in the queue, and this was at 8 AM! Said reader mentioned that only four counters were working, though how many they usually have, I don't know. Apparently, all of the other visa run firms were the same, taking much longer than normal, without the bonus of being whisked in and out of the side door, so to speak.

Quote of the week comes from a reader. "Get a wife for kids and a girlfriend for sex."

Before I first travelled to Thailand I wrote to the local TAT agent requesting any info they had on the country and they sent me a bunch of really GREAT brochures. I don't know if these brochures are still produced but this week I came across a pile of them at work, of all places. Thailand really is an incredibly photogenic country and these brochures were top notch, put together with excellent photography and, amazingly enough, perfect English. With the government wanting to boost tourism to get the economy moving, they really should try and do more with these brochures.

Here is an interesting link, a story published yesterday the Mainichio Daily News, about the problem of Thai girls being trafficked into Japan.

Ask the Sticks

Mrs. Stick is here to answer questions surrounding anything that confuses you in Thailand, particularly issues of the heart. Please note that for general bargirl related questions, Mr. Stick might answer them. It has to be said that Mrs. Stick is not your stereotypical Thai woman. She is not Buddhist and she is not shy to criticise things about her own country and culture, although having said that, she remains proud to be Thai. Mr. Stick will try and answer the questions which Mrs. Stick is not so sure about.

Question 1: My maid's daughter is going to college. I don't recall the name of the college, but it is some not-too-well-known school in Bangkok. The daughter spends weeks at a time here at my house in Pattaya studying, but never going to classes. My maid tells me that one does not need to go to classes in Thailand…just reading the books and then showing up for exams at the end of the semester is all that is required. Is this true of most colleges, or (as I am assuming) only for the low-end schools, or perhaps not true at all?

Mrs. Stick says: It varies from institute to institute and even ajarn to ajarn. At some institutes there is a minimum number of classes that must be attended but at others you can just turn up and do the exam. In some institutes the professors can be very strict and not allow you to enter class if you are more than 5 minutes late.

A number of readers have asked whether there are plans to attach a discussion forum to this site, believing that it would provide a mechanism for various issues to be discussed, and also for the weekly column to be scrutinised. Discussion forums take a huge amount of work and at this stage the site already consumes a lot of my time, so for the time being, there are no plans to add such a forum.

Your Bangkok commentator,

Stick

Thanks go out to Bkk Grasshopper.


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