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I first met Jim in the old Woodstock in Nana, about 5 or 6 years ago. He was a pleasant enough guy and we got on fairly well, hitting it off quickly when we challenged a couple of North Americans about their use of English, him and I both agreeing that trousers are what you wear in public, and that pants are something that you wear underneath your trousers and tend to only show off in private. Yeah, it was the sort of anal nonsense that only English teachers talk about. I can't remember too much about that initial get together, except that he was fairly quiet, but seemed like a solid enough bloke.
At that time, Jim was a workmate of a friend and I remember this friend telling me a few stories about what was going on in Jim's life. It seemed that he had had women problems and things had got a bit out of hand. In fact I distinctly remember us sitting outside eating one balmy Bangkok evening, talking about Jim and his woman problems and both agreeing that the sort of shit he was going through was pretty much a "worst nightmare" type of situation.
Jim had had a girlfriend of questionable virtue. He had met her in the sort of spot where you are not supposed to find girlfriends, the sort of place where you really should stick to the more casual type of encounter. Jim knocked her up. Again, the details were somewhat sketchy and I do not know whether they were the happy couple or not for the duration of her pregnancy but what I do know is that she had a violent streak. She attacked him numerous times and worse still, set others on him. He was one unhappy camper. His domestic situation was a nightmare.
Jim and I were to become colleagues. Jim was a fabulous teacher – energetic, creative, always well-prepared, and perhaps more than anything else, he seemed to be dedicated to doing his very best for the kids. You often see this in teachers who have kids of their own. They seem to take their job, and indeed their role as teacher, that bit more seriously. In my opinion, Jim was a teacher of the highest calibre.
I would often go and chat with Jim about ideas for lessons, consulting him on ways to be more creative and relate what we were teaching to the students' lives. Jim really was a great teacher, and in a country where English language skills are so bad – and you'd have to say partly because there are huge numbers of farangs masquerading as teachers, he was someone who should have had a long, successful, and dare I say it, lucrative career as a language teacher. If schools knew how good he really was, he would have been earning the 100K+ per month salary his ability warranted.
It wasn't to be.
Jim's domestic situation constantly ate away at him. Jim was forced to raise a lovely child alone. After much violence and mental torture, the mother walked away and Jim took full responsibility for raising the child himself. He seemed to do a good job as a solo parent, but the woes of his domestic situation slowly ate away at him and over time he became the least popular member of a large farang team, notwithstanding that he was arguably the best teacher in the programme.
The questionable ways of the Thai management and administration wore him down and as happens with anyone seriously stressed out, the smallest things got him riled up. All of the difficulties of life in Thailand eventually became too much and he decided, perhaps rightly, that Thailand wasn't for him, and it was time to relocate.
Having already told the institute what he thought of them by letter, the day after he left the institute he got on the phone with the very person who referred him to the job and screamed a tirade of abuse down the phone line. It sounded like he was in the middle of a nervous breakdown.
I have known more than a few others who have gone the same way as Jim. I knew one guy, many years older than me, who twice bawled his eyes out in front of me over bargirls who had left him. Talk about not knowing where to cast your eyes. It was hugely embarrassing. He had exactly the same difficulty as Jim, a bad domestic situation.
When your domestic situation is screwed up, or not what you're looking for, everything else in one's life gets thrown out of balance. That is not to say that everyone needs a life partner, a soulmate, or someone special in their lives, but we do need something.
I never did ask Jim why he originally came to Thailand, whether the move here was planned, whether his primary reason was for the women, a woman, or what. I don't know what he was looking for, but whatever it was, he sure didn't find it.
As a good workmate once said to me, "once you have got the woman situation sorted out, everything else seems to fall into place." I agree with him entirely. BUT, I don't think it is as easy as people may think to meet Miss Right out here in Thailand. You may find her, you may not. Spend a bit of time looking and don't propose to the first Thai woman who rocks your world. A bad domestic situation screws up everything.
WHERE IS THIS PICTURE Competition?
It was Nana Plaza, again.
Last week's pic was yet another taken of the neon in Nana, and once again you struggled to get it right with only a relatively small number getting it – less than 10 readers in total. I guess that is evidence that not all Stickman readers are Nana Plaza experts. The three ladies pictures are part of the neon at Carousel on the top floor on the right hand side. 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
She want die? Up to her!
I saw the downside of Thailand. A neighbour pounded on my door pleading for help. In his condo was a young Thai lady lying in vomit. She had swallowed toilet cleaner. Thankfully I remembered my chemical awareness training and I stopped him trying to make her sick and did what I could and got her downstairs. Waited an eternity for an ambulance and then two turned up. I was amazed at the complete lack of interest from passing Thais. My little friend said Thais think if you want to kill yourself, up to you! Makes me look at them a bit differently.
Visa run made easy.
The easiest, quickest hassle-free visa run is to go to Pong Nam Ron. From Pattaya, head to Chanthaburi, turn left then follow signs to Pong Nam Ron. From Pattaya it is an hour to an hour and a half quicker than driving to either Trat or Poi Pet, and here's the real advantage, it's deserted, no queuing. The crossing has only been open this year as far as I know hence maybe why not too many people are using it. Drove my wife there about 2 months ago, set off from Pattaya at 9:30 AM got there for 12 and I was back in Thailand for 12:15, bite to eat with the Mrs. and was back in Pattaya for 3ish.
Safe Bangkok, rough Birmingham.
I have never felt at risk in Bangkok, which compares very badly to Birmingham in UK where I felt at risk very frequently. If I go out in the UK I will see at least one fight a night – guaranteed. But since moving to Thailand 3 years ago I have seen only 3. Two involved farangs against farangs, but the worst was during Songkran in Chiang Mai where a bunch of Thai guys beat another couple of Thai guys unconscious with wooden sticks while 200 people watched. I am pretty sure that here it is very easy to walk away from a fight. Any situation that gets nasty here gives you plenty of opportunity to swallow your pride and leave. But in the UK some people will start a fight for NO reason, simply walk up to a stranger and attack them – how can you avoid that? As for local guys getting pissed off with farangs – it's about time! If a bunch of immigrants came to the UK, taller and richer than 90% of us, and were able to pull good looking girls despite being fat and old, there would be a bloodbath on the streets every night. I think Thais have been tolerant for a long time, a backlash was inevitable given the behaviour and ignorance of some of these "guests".
The power of the internet.
I would say that we now live in a world where it becomes increasingly difficult to "hide" what is going on. For instance, a fight breaks out at one of the Rainbow bars on a Saturday night. By Sunday afternoon there have been over a hundred posts on various Internet forums dissecting the event from every conceivable angle. Something happens involving a foreigner these days, word does get around quickly.
Half a brain, a pick-up and a spade.
In 1996 we had 700 murders in the UK and there were 7,000 in Thailand! That's a murder rate ten times higher than the UK! My best buddy is a police colonel – not your average tosser copper but a real Serpico type – educated in the USA etc. So, we discuss crime and punishment as I am a criminology grad. It's like this – the 7,000 murders were 'bodies found', that figure didn't include the number of people who had been run off the road on a bike and it put down to being an accident, or indeed the cases where there was no body and thus no case. Thailand, in 1996, had a detection rate of 1:14 on those 7,000 known cases, the UK boasted a long term 3:4 rate. My buddy surmised that if you had a brain, a pick up and a spade – murder was in fact easy to get away with in Thailand.
Ignorance is bliss.
Interesting to read the comments about how people feel safer in Bangkok than they do in, say, London. I went through that phase many years ago, and eventually rationalised it: The reason I think is that you don’t really know the place, so you know of no reason to be scared. I know London very well, and because of that, there are many areas that I would not voluntarily venture into. However, in a city that you don’t know that well, you don’t have sufficient information to know enough to be scared – therefore you wander around happily until (possibly) something bad happens. I’ve had some great times in Bangkok, in areas that, if you knew the place, you wouldn’t even think about going to!
What can a farang do or carry or purchase in Thailand or get onto planes (ex: pepper spray) for personal defence? Before you blurt out the standard politically correct pontification that personal protection devices only up the ante, I would remind you of what happens to defenceless farang in Thailand when there is a physical altercation with a Thai(s). You are fighting for your life. You are probably going to lose – but you should fight. It is all very well to say that grinning and apologizing and running are first and best options but often those options are not available. It is a fight for life and it is a fight for life now. I believe many farang who suddenly find themselves in these situations are so taken aback by the severity and the suddenness and the bizarre irrationality of the violence that they are too late in realizing that they are fighting for their lives. So where do we get pepper spray and shock devices in Thailand? Can we get them on the plane?
Farangs no longer off limits?
Your report on violence in Thailand made scary reading. If the international press is to be believed, the increase has been attributed to ya ba addiction and its consequences. Having been an amphetamine addict myself, I have experienced the withdrawal systems which make a person hyper-irritable, irrational and at times violent. To put things into perspective a bit, I don't think that farangs have become a target as such recently, but that farangs are no longer exempt from not becoming a target.
In addition to expanding their Bangkok bar, Angelwitch has started building on the new Angelwitch project in Pattaya. The foundation has been laid and now they can start building the new bar itself. It is located in Soi 15 just off Walking Street and the owners promise it to be "state of the art" with unique features never seen before in Thailand. Sounds intriguing.
That famous executive stress relief place in Patpong, the Star Of Love, no longer offers stress relief services on the premises and customers who require stress relief must accompany their stress relief officer to the premises of a nearby short-time hotel. One would have thought that this ruins the whole point of such a bar and the girls none too happy about it. Business is inevitably down and no doubt Listerine sales nationwide will be affected too…
It would appear that there are only a few late night spots open in Bangkok that directly target farangs. One of the newer ones on lower Sukhumvit within view of the skytrain has been sending the police to close his competitors' bars, with some false accusations. I can only assume his thinking is that punters will come to his particular bar after the others are forced closed. He has actually been calling the police from another district to do this. Needless to say the other bar owners only need ask the police who filed the complaint to find the culprit. How long will it be until this bar owner discovers the dos and don’ts of business in Bangkok…
Diamond A Gogo down in Soi Diamond, Pattaya, will be holding its monthly "Get down and get dirty" dance contest this month on Sunday 21st. Everybody is welcome and you are strongly advised to get there early to get a ringside seat . The fun will kick off at 9:30 PM. Anybody wishing to be a judge should register with manager Ricky on the Saturday.
Soi Lion opened in Phuket in a blaze of glory last year. Being clean and not too noisy it was an instant success, to the detriment of Soi Eric which had acquired a Thai DJ who played awful music far too loudly and loved the sound of his own voice screeching into the microphone. The girls seemed to love him and they cheered, screamed and danced while ignoring the customers completely. Eric seems to have gotten the message though, as the DJ has not been seen there lately, the music is better, conversation is once again possible and the customers are coming back. Meanwhile back in Soi Lion, to where the wretch seems to have moved, or at least it sounds like him, guess what? Too noisy, also now dirty and smelly, and after about a year, no customers.
Last week I reported that the business in the naughty bar areas was down, particularly in the Nana and general Sukhumvit area. I am however informed that some restaurants in the area are doing a very good trade at present, at least as well as they did in the high season. Has there been a significant change in the mix of tourists staying in the Sukhumvit area? Less sex tourists? Whatever the reasons, while bar takes might be down, not all businesses in the area are hurting.
The rumour mill has it that Woodstock will re-open open in Sukhumvit Soi 13 in October. That should put them about slap in between Nana and Soi Cowboy.
The Hollywood bars in Nana are back in the Bangkok Post for sale. Owner Johnny is in town longer than his normal 5 days, this time around he is staying 3 weeks. It'll be interesting to see how much he gets for them, that is *if* he can flick them off. They are doing an awful trade at the moment. Had he sold them a year ago, he would have been able to present a set of books showing a tidy profit. That is not the case now.
All day and night, the bars in Patong, Phuket, remained 100% closed, although alcohol could be consumed from tea mugs in certain restaurants. It all does lead one to conclude that the authorities are less than pleased about the naughty side of Phuket.
Unfortunately, the new Thai boxing stadium, in what was Shark and then Star Wars, corner of Bangla Road, seems to be doing OK. Apparently the horrendous wailing that accompanies these shows can be heard a block away! Seems that the requirements to keep noise in your premises, and the requirements for a building to have adequate fire escapes do not apply to Thai promoters.
Sukhumvit Road (the Patong Soi named after it,) is gaining ground with a disco at the end and bars all along the sides. The ground floor is already sold out and a handful of bars are open on the upstairs balcony. Most of the bars have transferred there from Soi Sea Pearl which is in the process of being demolished and re-built as a resort.
Still in Phuket, down the other end of town, a few round bars have opened in the middle of the big OTOP Plaza opposite the Holiday Inn. Spaced widely apart, they seem more suited to sitting in the day time watching the world go by while your teeruk spends your money on the rather expensive clothes there than they do to offering much of a nightlife. There are also new bars in the soi leading to the Sky Inn, which have been nicknamed by one reader to Soi Lesbian. Work that one out for yourself!
Pattaya being what it is (part of Thailand), Mothers Day was a confused day of celebration – or lack thereof. In recent years past, alcohol sales were forbidden on such an auspicious occasion. Consequently, veteran purveyors of such evil beverages shut
down operations in honour of HRM The Queen. However, unlike years past, authorities this year failed to notify bars and other nightspots that they must close. So about half of Pattaya’s entertainment venues cluelessly opened for business
as usual Friday while the other half remained dark. And, remembering years past, long-time local residents opted to stay home, while know-nothing tourists and optimistic Bangkok expats in Pattaya for the weekend ventured out, flooding Walking
Street with a parade that spilled over into the many operating gogo bars and other entertainment venues.
This being a three-day weekend, tourist numbers were high and business was brisk. Even while heavy rains Saturday evening cleared Beach Road of working girls and otherwise dampened Fun Town, visitors and locals alike were out in force later in the evening, lifting spirits in more ways than one. However, the improved flow of customers is seen as an anomaly attributed to the three-day holiday. "It’s simply a brief spike in this prolonged low season," said one club owner.
Earlier in the week, two farang men were enjoying some libations at the bar in Heaven Above – the Pattaya gogo on Soi Diamond. Treated to an erotic stage show featuring several lovely ladies, one of the men reportedly alerted Pattaya’s finest who immediately raided the nightspot.
As if one heavenly raid were not enough, a second – this time on Pattaya’s Heaven Bath House – was conducted earlier by a large contingent of Bangkok police. The Sukhumvit Road establishment was set up by an undercover cop who arranged for service then summoned awaiting police. It's suspected that key local police officials knowingly allowed the bath house to operate, employing foreigners and underage ladies to provide more than just baths. More than 60 ladies were temporarily jailed – including 16 from Uzbekistan and half a dozen from Myanmar. The Thai nationals were slapped with a 1,000-baht fine; the others face deportation. Heaven Bath House remains shut down.
Dollhouse Pattaya are having a going away party for Tabatha tonight and all are welcome.
Living in Bangkok for a while you find out about, and learn about many things that it is very unlikely you would have found about had you stayed back in your old lifestyle in the West. One of the things you learn about are STDs. There are a heap going around, and everyone knows someone who is something of an expert on identifying and treating them. Anyway, one of the things that you learn is that contracting HIV from a blow job is about as likely as catching it from Mrs. Palmer. You learn that the transmission of HIV is helped by the existence of sores, blood or some sort of "line" into the bloodstream. Over the last couple of years there has been an increased incidence in tongue piercing amongst the working girls. I wonder if with that there is an increased risk of THEM catching HIV when they perform fellatio?
More proof that the local English language dailies are simply the news for educated Thais in English came when the Farang Affairs and On The Tiles pages were cut from The Nation. Poor old Trink was cut about 18 months ago after approaching 40 years in charge of the Night Owl column. The Farang Affairs page which so cruelly ripped into Bernie Trink (and me, for that matter) from day 1, has itself been cut. After giving Trink shit from day one which I personally thought was totally off, the column has finally been canned. It had a few good stories but suffered from the same problem that so many other publications suffer, a lack of original news, and too much comment on what has been printed elsewhere. Will it be missed? Now cutting the On The Tiles page doesn't surprise me because that was much more Trink-like, in that it did actually have good information about what was happening in the naughty bar areas. Surprisingly though, it never seemed to be that widely read. You never ever heard anyone say "Did you read about such and such in On The Tiles?" At least I never once heard anyone say that.
I never saw it myself but a reader mentioned that there was an article on Deutsche Weller world news last week that the Xmas bookings for Germans to Thailand are off by 65% with many going to African destinations instead. Tsunami related no doubt.
They might call it the Land Of Smiles, but have you EVER seen a local smile in a passport photo, or any other ID photo for the matter?
I think I have found the best reasonable value breakfast in Bangkok. I am a fan of Bourbon Street for breakfasts but there is one thing I really do not like about B Street, it is awfully dark in there. At night, no problem, but during the day, I find being in dark venues a bit, sort of morbid. Bourbon Street has a more upmarket outlet, The Courtyard, which is part of Somerset Executive Serviced apartment in Soi Ton Son, that is the soi just over the back of Wireless Road. They have a really good buffet breakfast for just 150 baht. All the goodies, good quality, omelettes and eggs prepared fresh how you like them etc. All very pleasant in nice surroundings with floor to ceiling windows looking out into the garden. It is well worth checking out and represents excellent value for money.
Thai for Lovers, the seminal romantic audio phrase book has become the world’s first interactive talking book for mobile phones. Benjawan Booker's entire book, including the audio phrases, is now at your fingertips at all times on your Nokia or Sony Symbian mobile phone. You can select chapters, view romantic phrases, and play the audio in Thai and English with a few simple clicks. Convenient features include the ability to organise the stock phrases into favourites sections for quick retrieval, and to create personal phrases using an on-screen virtual English-Thai-transliteration keyboard, allowing you to use your mobile as a personal Thai-English-transliteration vocabulary reference. And for long distance romances, all Thai phrases can be sent as an SMS to people in your existing phone book. As a serious learning aid for Thai study, or flippant fun with bargirls, this really is a fine example of social software. Click below for more details.
Some people use the visa run companies because they feel that it will be a much easier way to get their visa processed, a point to point service that saves time, hassle and quite likely, money too. Well, one poor busload of visa runners out of Pattaya recently were held up for more than a few hours due to actions of the driver. The visa run bus departed Pattaya, went up to the border at Cambodia, everyone got their new visa and after an hour so, the van headed back to Pattaya. It was moving along at a good clip so when it got pulled over by three cop cars, the visa runners assumed it was due to the driver's speeding. All of the guys in the van were hauled out and drilled with questions by cops who identified themselves as Thai narcotics police. The van was turned over and 10 cartons of cigarettes found. Apparently the driver had bought them in Cambodia and planned to take them back to Pattaya and sell them, making a nice profit. The cops wanted 16,000 baht to let him go and all of the visa runners were asked to assist him, but they all refused. A phone call was made to Pattaya and the money finally sent through to the police who then released the driver and the van was able to make its way back to Pattaya, eventually getting in more than 4 hours late. The visa run firm, 5 Star Visa Runs, didn't offer a word of apology.
And another visa run tale of woe! A fellow took a visa run from Bangkok to the border at Poi Pet. His visa was to expire that day. The bus broke down about two hours out of Bangkok and everyone was forced to wait for a replacement bus to come. It never came so everyone on board decided to go back to Bangkok. The next day the fellow took the same visa run company – he had to pay again – even though he had never had the service fulfilled, and the bus broke down AGAIN! A replacement bus was dispatched and they eventually made it to the border. He had to pay 200 baht overstay charge and got an overstay stamp in his passport. Ok, so a regular bus could break down too, but the way it was handled was yet another black mark for the visa run companies. For what its worth, I only ever hear good things about Jack Golf visa runs.
Quote of the week comes from a friend and while it is not exactly Thailand related, it is still somewhat humorous. While pouring over a photo with Thai women, he said, "You know we're getting old when we're more concerned about the aperture and shutter speed than the sexy girl in the photo."
Is this the worst rainy season in the last decade? It has rained and rained and rained and has pretty much threatened to rain almost every minute of every day. We had rain in central Bangkok every day for two weeks, and I do not think that has ever happened in the time that I have been in Bangkok.
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. Please note that for the time being, Mrs. Stick's articles are on hold. She has had some good questions over the last two weeks so we'll keep running them and with a bit of luck, she'll write some nonsense of her own, by way of original articles, very soon.
Question 1: I am aware that Bangkok area Thais sometimes look down on northerners (Isaan etc). Would you expect a well educated Thai, from the Bangkok area, and perhaps working for an international corporation or agency, to be more likely than most others to have that view, or less likely to? Also, how likely would it be to affect any workplace dealings that the Bangkok person would have towards someone from the north of Thailand who was in need of some form of service? My question is phrased to be discrete, but related to a relationship and its inevitable process.
Mrs. Stick says: To be honest, I'm from upcountry so am not 100% clear on what Bangkok Thais use to judge people from upcountry either. But people in Bangkok tend to judge people by their manners, their taste, their ability to fit into city life etc. I think there is less racism amongst Thais looking at other Thais than other countries. I heard about a term in New Zealand recently – JAFA – which stands for "just another fxxxen Aucklander", which my husband explained to me that much of the country dislikes people from Auckland, and so call them this. Workplace dealings tend to be determined by one's position in the company, as opposed to where they come from i.e. a senior member of staff from upcountry would have total authority over a maid or cleaner who was born in Bangkok.
Question 2: Can you explain to me about the odd and even cash amounts that are given at different gatherings here in Thailand e.g. weddings, funerals, housewarmings etc. Also can you give me some advice on how much to give. I don't want to add to the every farang is rich myth nor do I want to be seen as stingy.
Mrs. Stick says: Weddings are easy. Make sure you give enough to cover the cost of the function at that place. For example, at a 5 star hotel a function would cost the couple around 1,000 baht a head so you should give no less than that. At funerals, less importance is placed on how much you give. You would give less at these than at a wedding. A wedding is the start of a new family's life so the contribution should be more significant. At housewarming, you don't give money but rather a small gift.
Question 3: I have a Thai girlfriend who I love very much and she does me and I am looking to propose to her in the near future and most probably in Thailand. I am currently studying Thai and have done my research into Thai customs and weddings etc. although I am not sure about the traditional or proper way I should propose. Is it the same as western culture where we propose with a ring initially or is an engagement ring not necessary and gold is given to the bride instead at the engagement party. Is it custom to ask for the father's permission before proposing like it usually is here in Australia or the west in general, I believe.
Mrs. Stick says: Normally you would have to speak to your girlfriend's parents first. Having said that, if you want it to be romantic and a surprise you could give her the ring and ask her spontaneously. Maybe you need to talk to her about it openly and ask her what is normal in her family, and then discuss the details with her parents? There is typically an engagement ceremony as well as a wedding ceremony – and this would usually be organised by her parents. Sometimes it is done well in advance of the wedding, but other times it may be done on the same day as the wedding which can save time and money. It is a personal choice. You probably need to discuss it with her. Giving her the ring at the time of proposing is a Western thing and not really the Thai way, but that is not to say that you cannot do it like that.
Last week's column about the increase of violence in Bangkok received a HUGE response. Feedback from readers was split at about 50 / 50 – those who agreed and those who disagreed. Readers' comments on this subject were more vocal than any issue I've written about in a very long time. There will be a follow up article, an article with pictures, and one where I hope to get more details from those in the know – policemen and a crime reporter with a unique perspective. On this note, I leave you with an email that arrived JUST before the column went live. I thought including it would be appropriate.
Just returned from Pattaya and Bangkok today, nursing a very black eye, bruised head and thumped neck. I complained when a staff member took my beer off me at around 2 AM, (in a bar of Walking Street). The security thumped me in the back of the neck. I hit the floor and around six others appeared to try to kick my head off. My girlfriend had me in a pick-up, and quickly out of there! Looks like lethal force is in down there! Or maybe the beginnings of a new (?) Thai sport, farang bashing. I think some may have a very large chip on their shoulders.
Your Bangkok commentator,