Stickman's Weekly Column August 21st, 2005

Mother In Law Says Avoid The Poor


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You could be forgiven for thinking that a good number of farangs despise Thailand and the Thai people, for every word which comes out of their mouth about Thailand is negative.

I have to admit that I have been through phases like this. I’ve had times when I have all but declared my disgust at many things Thai, times when I seriously considered getting on the big bird and jetting out. But I stuck it out and I’m glad I did because things have long since changed, and life in Thailand is now better than it has ever been.

To understand some of the problems that I try to avoid, perhaps it is best to look back at a few of the less than enjoyable experiences I have had.

Having only been in Thailand a couple of months, one of the security guards in the apartment building where I lived suggested that we go and shoot some pool together. I barely knew the guy but I hadn’t made any real friends and as we were the same age and had an interest in English football in common, it sounded like a reasonable idea. I knew he earned a modest income so I was happy to pick up the tab for the pool table and the drinks. But what happened was a classic case of him taking the piss. We met some of his friends at the pool hall and they started ordering drinks and cigarettes which they put on our tab, even though they were playing on another table on the other side of the pool hall! I’d never met those punks before and they never even said hello. Yet they were happy to bill the drinks to the table I was playing at. When the bill came, I realised what had happened and told the waitress that the drinks and cigarettes from the other table would not be covered for me. I quickly calculated what had been consumed at our table, paid the bill and split. My security guard "friend" was none too happy and ignored me, and went across to his friends at the other table. I disappeared, making a mental note not to befriend any more security guards.

Like most farangs who spend time in Thailand, I was beating off girls with a stick, at least when I was new here, my waist a few inches smaller, and without a single grey hair. One particular girlfriend from rural Phitsanulok was a real cutey, but we never really clicked and it was obvious to me it was going nowhere. After a 3 month relationship that was never that serious – we never lived together or anything like that, I told her that it was over. The mistake was that I told her when we were in my apartment. Good lord, you’d think she’d been told she had no more than a month to live. First were the tears, then came the threats. She wanted money or she was going to cause problems for me! Being somewhat devious, I managed to get her outside and told her we’d go to the ATM. We went outside, got a couple of hundred metres from the apartment and then I did a Carl Lewis back to the apartment, screaming at the security guard that she was persona non grata and not allowed back in ever! Different security guard, mind you, not the pool shark – just as well! The phone rang minutes later, I was called every name under the sun and that was the end of that.

And then there was another girlfriend, a young lass from Roi Et, a very pleasant girl she was. I never knew the significance of it at the time but I was introduced to her mother, not long after meeting her. (This was her idea, not mine – had I known then what I know now, I'd never have agreed to meet the mother.) On that first meeting, I was asked for 1,000 baht for the bus fare home to Roi Et. I politely made an excuse that I didn't earn much and could not spare 1,000 baht, which at the time was somewhat true, while inside I was fuming that she had had the nerve to even ask. I was later to find out that she had actually been living in Bangkok for the last 20 years and the trip home to Roi Et was just a ruse to try and con me!

Not phased by the lack of success at that first meeting, and having no shame and coming out and telling me that mother actually lives and works in Bangkok, I was asked to go and see mother at her place of work, which was right slap in the centre of the city. So off I trotted to see her. I was told that if I wanted to continue seeing her daughter, I had to marry her. However, if I didn't want to marry her and wanted to continue seeing her, then 100,000 baht would suffice. Totally brazen! I kid you not.

While most of these stories revolve around women, they are not exclusive to them as the security guard story shows.

Slam me, abuse me, call me elitist, say what the hell you want, but I have found that not getting too close to people from the poorer parts of Thai society has helped so many problems.

I am happy to deal with people from less privileged backgrounds in simple situations and commercial dealings, but as for letting them get close to me, I find that their expectations are often unrealistic and that avoiding the situation altogether virtually eliminates the inevitable problem. Money, or something related to money.

Besides, Westerners generally have a lot more in common with educated Thais. Hanging out with Thais from less privileged backgrounds is, to me at least, only fun to a certain point, before boredom sets in. There's only so much you can talk about, and their view of society, let alone the world, is so different.

Interestingly enough, my mother in-law often warns me about getting too close to people from poor parts of the country. She often warns me that “it is only a matter of time before they ask you for money for this or that.” This is coming from a Thai! She says that for many people from rural Thailand and especially Isaan (her words and she was born in and has lived all of her life there), many rural Thais view money as their lord. She often tells me how puzzled she is at Westerners who take up in Korat or worse still (again, her words) in small Thai villages. And perhaps most damning of all, she says that the actions of many people in Isaan make her feel ashamed to admit that she comes from the same part of the country. She HATES being referred to as "Khon Isaan".

Some Westerners actually prefer to deal with Thais from poorer backgrounds. A German friend tells me he finds most middle and upper-class Thais to be dreadfully dull and boring and an English friend at work believes that the women from the lower echelons of society have lower expectations and so are easier to keep happy.

The poor in Thailand are generally very friendly people indeed and to feel that it is necessary to shun them, at least in terms of genuine friendships, is a real shame. But after a number of bad experiences, I’m sick of being asked for money directly and dealing with people who have no shame taking the piss. Picking up the tab on certain occasions is fine, but I’m not going to let anyone try and take the piss again.

There is a gaping chasm between the average Westerner and the average rural Thai. While it is nice to enjoy the company of such people for they are friendly and generally fun to be around, I have found that in time it almost always becomes troublesome. Since spending less time with such people and more with people from a similar sort of background to myself, I have found that I’ve had fewer problems, and have been happier for it.

WHERE IS THIS PICTURE Competition?

It was Sin in Sukhumvit Soi 4.

Who will be first this week?

Last week's pic was of Sin in Sukhumvit Soi 4 and was taken from the Landmark Hotel. 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, do not be shy to say!

FROM STICKMAN'S EMAIL INBOX

Smiling prohibited in the Land Of Smiles!

The reason no-one smiles on official photos is that there is a rule banning smiles on ID photos. I asked my students about this, and everyone hates this rule and thinks it is a shame for the land of smile to have so many morbid photos. It came about after some of my students saw my passport and driving licence, both with smiling photos and they were shocked.

How to fast track residency in NZ.

My Thai wife became violent towards me only after we got married. She would threaten me if I didn't buy her things she wanted. She was always raising her fists and wanting to fight me. I never responded with violence. I couldn't understand it till a friend explained here in NZ if a man is violent towards his wife and he is convicted, the wife can leave the marriage and still get residency. The wife claims she couldn't stay in a violent relationship and immigration grant residency regardless of the fact she is out of the marriage. Quick way to get residency.

Too many farang?

Regarding violence against farangs in Thailand: I believe Thais have turned a corner on this issue and farangs are now going to be targeted in an aggressive way. The wais are gone and an awful lot of traditional Thai and traditional family values are gone, and respect for farangs is gone. In its place are anger and resentment and confusion and violence. One of the major contributors to the new attitude towards farangs in Thailand is numbers. There are simply too many farang now in many parts of the Kingdom. What was once seen as novelty and potential increased opportunity for income is now seen as an invasion. But it is more than just numbers. It is also a culture clash without compromise.

Look out for the glum Aussies!

A couple weeks back I applied for my new Aussie passport (I WAS an American but immigrated to Oz on the eve of Bush's election) and they rejected my photo – because I was smiling! Turns out they use biometrics to scan the shape and proportions of your face and a smile totally throws it all off. So in the future Thai immigration can expect to see a lot of glum faced Aussies arriving. More than usual anyway.

Evil alcohol.

The one thing about these brawls / fights / punch ups is alcohol. I have been around almost 6 decades and I have seen many a fight in bars and sports events and they usually (99.9% it seems) had alcohol as the seed that started it. How many fights do you see when people are sober? A few of course but go to Anyplace, Planet Earth and booze is almost always involved. Don't know about illicit drugs as some of that shit can get you going but booze is the main culprit in most of it. "Canned courage" we used to call it when I was young – hard to remember that nowadays but booze does turn some people into dangerous nuts.

Hypocritical Hans.

Wimmin', don't ya love them. Reminded me of a German I met many moons ago in Hua Hin. He was mad about a local bargirl – wanted to marry her etc – but was concerned about the language problems etc. Much distressed he was. Always trying to be helpful I suggested that maybe he should marry a German prostitute instead, they had a common language and culture, so there would be no misunderstandings. He went ballistic and shouted that he would *never* marry a prostitute etc. There's no helping some people.

Tired of Thailand? Try Tanzania.

Interesting comment in your latest weekly about Germans choosing Africa over Thailand this year. I wonder with the current administration's policies how long Thailand can continue to attract tourists over Africa. Take Tanzania as an example. The beaches are pristine, the weather warm, it's safe, the locals are very friendly and speak fluent (and intelligent) English, no closing times on bars, no piss tests, no bird flu, no trouble in the south, no Thai prisons, farang beatings, three month visas to some African countries, you have African dance, African women (very gorgeous), seafood cooked western or African, African safaris, travel to other African countries, the Rumba! Why go to Thailand? I certainly have no inclination to leave and I work in what some people consider one of the worst African countries.

Angels Disco, the hottest freelancer venue in town, is now charging 400 baht entry fee. You do get one free drink. This actually makes it effectively more expensive than the much more upmarket venues which charge a cover charge such as Q Bar, Rivas and Spasso's. As far as I know, even guests in the hotel don't get a discount or free entry. I guess they are charging 400 baht, simply because they can. The Nana Hotel's popular disco used to have a bit of competition in the Thermae, but that has now very much changed and is not a patch of its former self. And then there is the Grace, where no self-respecting Westerner would go with all of the shifty looking characters in there. There are many questions which have to be asked. Was there an increase to 400 baht for what reason? Where is the improvement in Angels? What about timing? We're right in the middle of the low season. Perhaps the 400 baht entry fee should be looked at as some sort of unofficial barfine. The main reason why punters go to Angels is that it is open until 2 AM, so it gives the naughty boys an extra hour (remember Nana Plaza usually closes at 1:00 AM) to find a friend for the evening.

Rainbow 4 in Nana has settled down and is not as busy as it was a month or so ago. Still, it remains one of the most popular bars.

The Ball In Hand is having their second anniversary party on Saturday the 27th of August 2005. All are welcome to enjoy the free buffet, free killer games and to try and win some prizes! They will have a couples / mixed doubles tournament starting at 2:00 PM. The entry fee is 500 baht per player with prizes ranging from 2,500 baht – 10,000 baht on offer.

What's the story with the newest bar in Nana Plaza? It is a little unclear whether The Big Mango has or has not opened its doors officially. It looks like it is about to open, if it has not opened already. It has pool tables and a view over the plaza.

Lots of construction materials have been pilled up in Superstar Bar down at the Pong as construction is about to start. The owner's plan is to knock a hole in the outside wall and build an outside beer bar in addition to the existing Superstar. The beer bar will be in the alley connecting Patpong 1 and Patpong 2.

There was piss testing in Soi Cowboy on Friday night. I wonder if there were any positive samples? There seems to be more positive samples down there than any other bar area.

And in what seems to be a regular Friday night event in Phuket these days, police raided two Patong clubs and made all the Thais (customers and staff) give urine samples.

Johnny is all over town pitching Hollywood, the smaller of the two top floor bars in Nana Plaza, for 12,000,000 baht or 6,000,000 for a 51% share, which I guess would take him out and leave the buyer with all of the investors. Hollywood is now doing shows and naked dancing again in a bid to get customers back and make the books look that bit more attractive to a potential purchaser. So keen to sell, he even tried to sell his share of Hollywood 2 to an investor who happened to be the best friend of the manager he recently fired! August has seen another exodus of girls from Hollywood and now it would seem that Hollywood Carousel – that is the bigger of his two bars – is starting to crumble. Quite a few top dancers from Carousel have left and are now working in the Rainbow Bars. (All Nana Plaza bar bosses must be furious at the Rainbow bars' recent hiring practices and success.) The once mighty walls of Hollywood are beginning to come crashing down upon Johnny. I'm waiting to see who will be the next investor. One thing's for sure, it won't be me!

One of the grandfathers of Nana Plaza is reportedly abroad and in very poor health. We wish him well and hope that a recovery is made.

Peter of Playschool fame will be opening Apache in Soi Cowboy next week featuring table top dancing and a nice private second floor area.

There is a girl in Baccarat who asks for 10,000 baht for the night….and gets it! Apparently she will go as low as 5,000 baht. She is more to the liking of the typical Asian punter than the Westerner, with milky white skin, a somewhat farang looking nose and long black hair. You'd think the Asian customers would be all over her, and they are, but at least one wealthy American punter also gave her the full asking fee, a cool 10,000 baht.

The most popular girl in Rainbow One is the entrepreneurial young Miss who shaved her head. Yep, she got a real military job, every last wisp shaved completely off. it's growing back, but still only at about 1/8 inch. It would seem that almost every guy who walks through the door is captivated by her, notwithstanding that she is missing that oh so lovely feature of Thai women, long dark silky hair. Could this be the beginning of a new trend?

If there is one difference I notice in the bars these days it is the girls' hairstyles. In the past it was either long, medium-length or short, and that was about it. Now they are going all out to make themselves look that little bit different from the other girls. Not only are they dying their hair a whole host of colours, they are also trying out all sorts of odd styles. Is this what they call product differentiation?

My God, the dancers at one of Soi Cowboy's bars are downright scary. Perhaps the bar's name should be changed from Xxxxxxxxx to the House Of Horrors? Care to guess which bar I am talking about?!

Riding the skytrain between Nana and Asoke stations gives a very good view of the work that is being done on the park where Sukhumvit Square adjacent to Soi 10 used to be. Work is proceeding slowly, but it looks as though it will be quite pleasant. For now, there would seem to be a walk way running from the main Sukhumvit Road through the middle of the area and what looks like it will be grassy park areas on either side. This park will be a very welcome addition to what is one of the least pleasant parts of the city.

A long time reader who often sends interesting and thought provoking emails says that Archar's Place in Soi Rangnam is the best Thai neighbourhood restaurant, bar none. In his words it is dee tee soot (means the best).

I'm not an Ipod user but apparently there is a piece of software that you can download to your Ipod that does translation into Thai. Ipod users should click here for more details.

Why are people so keen to shake the owner's hand in bars? I've never understood it myself. The number of people who tell me that they have drunk in a bar for a few months and complained that the boss has never come over to shake their hand makes me chuckle. I'm actually the opposite. I prefer to be left alone, though to be honest, I really don't frequent that many bars these days.

Quote of the week comes from a reader. "Bargirls and bullshit are inseparable."

People all over Bangkok are still talking about the violence article that kicked off the column two weeks ago. It sure generated a huge amount of email. From one account, some bar owners (one?!) were quite upset about it, apparently feeling that Thailand has had enough bad press and problems and that this piece was the icing on the cake. Being more practical about it, for anyone who is concerned about personal safety, there is a place that can help you or your teeruk defend yourselves. Nok’s Amok Academy is run by Randy from the US and his Thai wife Nok and they teach self-defence and knife fighting. What is knife fighting?! While many men attend, they actually specialise in teaching Thai women to defend themselves with a knife. They feel that even a Thai female who may be a black belt will still be at a disadvantage to a big man, or attacker with a knife. However, a knife in the hands of a skilled fighter will make things more of a level playing field. According to Randy, “in about four months a woman will be adept enough to protect herself. Usually just showing the blade, and that you are committed to using it to save your life will stop most people.” They can be contacted here.

Checking out Rivas for the first time in a long time, I have to say that there were virtually no working girls there. Ok, so we are only talking one night here, and that one night may not be representative of how things tend to be, but it was certainly not like say Spasso's where the place is crawling with them.

I changed my email address from Hotmail to Gmail a while ago. Many people still email me at the Hotmail address. Replies from that email address will be slow as I check it less frequently. Gmail works better for me – [email protected]. Also, entries into the where is this pic competition sent to the Hotmail account will invariably be read too late to win. So please, use the Gmail account.

I try hard not to be cynical in Thailand, but sometimes one just can't help but question what is going on. This week, some former students of mine popped back to school to say hello. Ahhh, very nice of them, I thought. But there was an ulterior motive. They pulled a donation box out of their bag and asked for donations for something or other. Now what was interesting is that in a room full of Thai and Western teachers, they only asked the farangs for a donation, and not the Thais. Hmmm, perhaps I am just being petty.

A friend was sitting next to a guy in a gogo bar recently. The guy, new to Bangkok, was after a lady for the night. My friend said that the gogo girls are the ones to go for as they are used to going with customers, and the service staff, while often willing to go with customers, are generally much less exciting, sexually. The stranger didn't take his advice and barfined one of the waitresses and they left the bar together. Half an hour later he came back seething, frustrated and angry. He demanded that the barfine be returned to him as this girl would not take it up the pooh chute. What a wanker. It's stories like this, that really are not as uncommon as you would think, that put me off all of the naughty nightlife industry.

A rumour has reached me about an odd sounding activity that takes place somewhere on Chaweng Beach in Ko Samui. Apparently somewhere down there has a topless volleyball match….played by ladyboys! Anyone heard anything about it?!

A Danish lawyer is looking for Mr. Bent Lind Jensen, born 1/9/1944. He left Denmark for Thailand in '93. The lawyer, Randi Wieslander, can be contacted at [email protected]. I have no idea why they want to contact him. Maybe it is a million dollar inheritance? Maybe it is a million dollar alimony bill? Who knows?!

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: Through the internet, I met a girl who was standoffish and rather indifferent (logically enough since we didn't know each other) but once I gained her confidence, she asked me point blank whether I could get her a job in Europe. I looked into it for her and found one for her, at a hotel owned by a friend of mine. One condition was that she learns the local language (not English) and has a readily justifiable qualification for taking her on. She went to a local cooking school on the weekends. According to her, she moved from Khon Kaen to Bangkok so that it would be easier to study (wasn't she only going to classes on the weekends?). She never studied the language despite my efforts at getting them to her, including making tapes. She only wrote very infrequently. We urgently needed some papers for the embassy but she never sent them saying that she had no time. After not hearing from her for over 45 days, I suddenly heard from her in which she had the cheek to say "long time, no see". I had assumed that after 30 days, she was no longer interested seeing that she did not answer my emails. Now she says she is sorry and still wants to get that job at the hotel. Why should I do with her?

Mrs. Stick says: Obviously she is using you. At the time she disappeared she most likely found someone who could give her some sort of help or a better chance. It couldn't have turned out so she came back to you. This is what I think. Her behaviour is not really that of someone reliable, is it? You don't want to hire someone like that. She probably doesn't want a job – she just wants to move!

Question 2: For 3 years now I have been living together with a transgendered partner. It was not that I was looking for that, it just happened. When I met her I lived in Singapore but for the last 4 months I have been living in Thailand. Now the people in my office want to meet her. For some reason I know they know that she is a ladyboy as I can understand what they talk about. Yet my knowledge of Thai language is not good enough yet to respond in a clever way. So my question is: Can I bring her along to meet them or is it better not to do that? She is a very clever, bright girl and for sure a lot cleverer than the people in my company. So what should I do? Just hide her or come open?

Mrs. Stick says: It really depends how much privacy you want to retain. While we are developing fast and open-minded towards a lot of things, perhaps when it comes to things like this, a lot of gossip might result. If you think your colleagues are that open-minded to accept you as you are and your partner as she is, then good. But if this is not the case, and it may bring you awkward feelings, then you have to seriously reconsider. Also, ask yourself if it is really necessary for your colleagues to meet your partner? Also, just how serious are you with your partner. I think you also have to think seriously about what would happen if you split up with your current partner and then introduced another partner to those in the office who was not a ladyboy. Could cause problems. Remember Thai people do not always respect other people's choices and they will judge you. I hate to say it, but we're not like Westerners in this respect.

Mr. Stick says: I have to add a bit here. Quite simply, no good can come of this! I respect your choice entirely, but I would keep it quiet and well away form work.

Question 3: When a Thai woman is in a relationship with her lover, does she keep in contact with and call, write or email a lot of ex-contacts or is it just particular to individuals? I mean as a general rule do "in love" Thais retain contact with those who they had something with once, or who they were once interested in?

Mrs. Stick says: Really, it is probably best if this sort of thing is avoided as there aren't any great benefits from it in terms of your relationship but the downside is potentially large. The ex and the current might not mix well. In my opinion it is ok so long as she is totally open with it and you get to meet him AND perhaps most importantly, you are comfortable with it. To answer your question, generally this sort of thing is not normal.

Mr. Stick says: I came across this excellent article at the Sydney Morning Herald about the relatively new topic of "virtual adultery".

After the heavy rain of a week or two back, things have been a bit drier recently. Rain only a couple of times in the last week in the capital has been a pleasant change, and with it, the temperature has been a few degrees warmer. What's the bet that just as I say this, the rain will return? Have a nice week.

Your Bangkok commentator,

Stick

Thanks go out to Bkk Grasshopper, Claymore and Gapton.