Stickman's Weekly Column September 18th, 2005

How To Make It Work With A Bargirl, At The Beginning


StickmanBangk ok .com


If my observations are anything to go by, it is happening in far greater numbers than ever. Despite the fact that there are hundreds of stories on this website alone of such situations going hopelessly wrong, succinct analysis on why it has gone wrong and numerous articles offering advice on how to make it work, Western guys are still getting burnt by bargirls who they have unsuccessfully tried to forge a long term relationship with. Today’s column represents a collection of thoughts for those of you who still insist on trying to make it work with a girl who was once an employee of Thailand’s naughty nightlife industry.

Obviously every girl is different but these girls come from similar backgrounds and their way of thinking and behaviour are generally much the same. There are therefore a number of generalisations here which clearly will not apply to every girl – but I believe they'll apply to most.

The thoughts here are based on reading the hundreds of stories posted on this website from guys who have been through the wringer with Thai working girls, the thousands of emails sent from guys who have been involved with such girls and the findings of the investigative services provided to guys who are involved with said women.

Get Her Away From The Bar….And Get Yourself Away Too!

The very first thing you must do is get her away from the bar. Absolutely no good whatsoever can come of her staying there and this is, in my opinion, the single biggest problem you have. She absolutely must leave the bar. If she is not prepared to leave the bar, you have very little chance of things working. It is as simple as that. She may tell you that she is working in the bar as a cashier and that she doesn’t go with customers but the cashiers can be quite popular. She may say that she is dancing and that she is living off the salary from the bar, lady drinks commissions and tips, but this will seldom be enough. Remember, most bars enforce a minimum number of barfines on the girls and if that is not achieved then their salary is cut. What is left over is never much. On top of this, the mamasan and management generally don't like girls dancing who are not prepared to go with customers as it is sort of like putting a nice product on the shelf but then saying to the customer that they cannot buy it!

If she has close friends from her hometown or village, or worse still, family members, who are involved in the bar trade, then it will be very hard to make things work with her. She will always be surrounded by the bar industry. There will be the inevitable comments about it and escaping the industry will be nigh on impossible. In the case of family members who are also involved or employed in the industry, then it can be almost impossible to make things work. You cannot prohibit her from seeing her friends or family who may still be involved, so a reminder will always be there. That’s the harsh reality of it in my opinion. If her sister is a bargirl, you're up against it. My advice would be to walk away.

Now comes the hard part. You need to stop going to the bars yourself. YES, REALLY! No contact at all. You cannot expect her to stay away from the bars if you continue to go there yourself.

Money, It's Going To Cost….BIG!

Bargirls' earnings vary hugely. The most popular gogo girls and those girls who work in places where they service high numbers of customers can earn up to, and even from time to time exceed, 200,000 Thai baht per month. That is $US5,000 a month and don’t for a moment think that they are paying tax on that figure which means it is the equivalent to a salary in the West of something like $US80,000 or $90,000 a year, a salary around twice the average wage in most Western countries. The buying power of this amount in Thailand probably means it is equivalent to something like a $US150K annual salary in the West. Serious money in other words.

At the other end of the scale, some Pattaya beer bar girls may not even get barfined a handful of times per month and may struggle to make enough money to pay their rent and feed themselves, let alone all of the other expenses they have, particularly sending money to their relatives upcountry, which was most likely the very reason they entered the bar industry in the first place. There are some bargirls who would be lucky to get 5,000 baht a month, but again, they are the exception.

With the huge range in bargirls' salaries, I think quoting an average figure is dangerous because it really doesn’t paint an accurate picture. But, if forced to make a guess, I'd say the average girl makes somewhere around 25,000 baht a month.

As already mentioned, the first thing one has to do is get the girl out of the bar and support her. It is argued by many that if the girl really loves you then she will be happy to go back to her village in Nakon Nowhere and live a thrifty lifestyle on 5,000 baht a month. Yes, this is enough for her to get by on, but really it's peanuts and will not provide for any contingencies that may arise. Just topping up the credit on her mobile could run 500 baht a month. "Women’s supplies" can potentially run much more than this every month. Food and general groceries can be had cheaply, but do you really want the woman you purportedly love and wish to spend the rest of your life with to be forced to live on a knife's edge, without some sort of buffer?

Push the amount up to 10,000 baht and you give her breathing space. That’ll be enough for food for both her and the family as well, but it still won’t leave much for luxuries.

What one must understand is that these women have worked in bars and seen silly money thrown around by holidaymakers. If they haven't had a guy personally give them 5,000 baht for short-time, then surely someone in their bar has. 10,000 baht is still not much for a whole family to live on in Thailand many women (rightly or wrongly) believe that the more money a man gives her, the more he loves her. And given that us farangs are perceived (again, rightly or wrongly) to have much more money than the local men, then there is a downside in sending too little. The other side of this is that if she really loves you, she'll put up with the hardship. Ahhh, we're being logical now and we know that is never the best approach with women.

So how much should a guy be sending to his girl? The threshold seems to be around 20,000 baht. Girls being sent less than this do not seem to feel any obligation to their guy but once this figure is reached, things do seem to change, a little.

It has to be understood that for most bargirls who leave the industry and return to the village where they are supported by a Westerner, they will take a drop in income. For some this drop will be small but for others it will be significant. The point being that there *IS* an opportunity cost here for them. The figure of 20,000 baht a month is almost certainly less than the average bargirl earns per month, most certainly in the case of Bangkok bargirls (who I believe make more than their sisters in Phuket, Pattaya and elsewhere).

So, the bottom line as far as money goes, my recommendation is to send 20,000 baht a month. She absolutely can live on this AND provide for her family AND buy a few luxuries. If this figure is not enough, do the sums with her and show her. If she wants a little bit more, then that will be a tough decision for you. If she wants a lot more, notwithstanding that she may be taking a huge drop in money, then you have to think carefully about whether you can afford it, and if you can, whether you are prepared to provide her that much.

While they may only be a relatively small minority, there are some girls who enjoy working in the industry. These girls may be prepared to leave under the right circumstances but they will very likely want to be compensated accordingly.

It is unfortunately a very fine line between sending a fair amount, sending too much, and sending too little. My feeling is that 20K is a fair amount though I'll be the first to admit that this might be more than some people can afford which leads me to…

….If you have money problems yourself or are simply not prepared to pay what in effect could amount to thousands and thousands of dollars in support over a period of time to get the girl and you together, then it is probably best to walk away. Money issues are the biggest problem in relationships and it is no exception with these women either.

Money does NOT buy loyalty from women and if you find yourself thinking that she should be faithful to you because you have sent her a lot of money, then you are looking at but a very small part of a very complicated equation.

Patong Harbor View Condominiums

Distance

Some guys would be shocked at how many of these girls have boyfriends who have suggested or even explicitly offered to marry them and either move them into their place locally or whisk them off to Farangland. Even some of the most hardened and least attractive girls get such offers often. If you think that you are giving a woman the chance of a lifetime and one that will never be repeated, get such rogue thoughts out of your mind.

Thais do everything in groups whereas us farangs are much more individualistic. Thais generally do not like to do things alone and there are a number of Thais who simply won't do some things alone, such as eating – they would rather not even eat. And that is saying something because eating is dear to Thais' hearts and is something of a national pastime.

So if you ask a girl to stay alone, then you are putting her in a very awkward situation indeed. The average Thai does not like to be alone. It goes against their upbringing and in many ways, their culture.

While you may think that your girlfriend can reach you at any time with 15 odd button pushes on her mobile phone, there is no denying that the physical distance of thousands of kilometres is a real problem for the girls.

If you are supporting a girl who is in Thailand while you are in your part of Farangland, it should be because you are currently getting your shot sorted to get her over to you, or you over to her. The time apart needs to be minimised. There will be numerous temptations for her while you're apart and she will always wonder if things will work out. The number of girls who have been promised things by foreigners but been let down is huge. EVERY bargirl has heard these stories.

Set Goals And Parameters

You need to agree on and set some very specific goals for the two of you. There will obviously be some negotiation on these but it is strongly recommend that you set the goals and absolutely stick to them. If there is any reason why you think they cannot be reached, then do not agree on them in the first place.

It is said that Thai people are very patient and while there is some truth in this, when it comes to relationships I have found many Thai women to be horribly impatient. Setting goals will help to provide a tangible plan so she knows what is happening.

Things to consider negotiating should include how much money you're going to support her with, where she is going to live, contact with friends from the bar etc. You also need to give her a timeline as to how long it will take to get visas processed etc and when she can expect to be in Farangland or expect to have you with her in Thailand. Incidentally, I do not think distance relationships are a god idea with women of any nationality, but they are way, way harder with Thai women.

Thinking

In all likelihood your relationship started out as a commercial transaction and has now progressed into something dominated by the heart, not the wallet. With a bit of luck she will see you as her man, and not as her personal banker.

Are you able to forget that she was once a bargirl, a prostitute? If she will always be a prostitute in your mind, then perhaps it is best not to proceed. This woman is going to be your wife, not your sex slave.

Verification

If you have agreed that there are certain things that are acceptable, and certain things that are unacceptable, then it may be worth checking up on her to make sure she is sticking to her side of the deal.

Snooping around in the shadows need not be done as a matter of course, but if you have reason to suspect that something is not right, then do get her checked out. This is very easy to do, cheap, and will let you know exactly where you stand. It can help you to eliminate any doubts you may be having about her integrity. Get her checked out quickly and if she fails, end it there and then.

I'm a proponent of the “one strike and you’re out rule”. Three strikes? Forget it! So long as the ground rules were laid down and agreed upon, then any breach of them should be your signal that the woman in question cannot be trusted and you should walk immediately. Don’t give her any second chances because Thai women see this as a weakness and you will find them forever taking advantage of you.

Remember, if you marry her and things go bad in the West, then it could cost you a fortune, your entire life's savings in a worst case scenario. Even in Thailand, while divorce is typically not nearly as expensive, it can cause other, often unexpected, problems. And of course there are the health issues.

Personal Thoughts

I have seen relationships work with bargirls, and I have seen them fail. The latter being far more common. Many of the issues facing these couples are not that dis-similar to the issues facing guys with "regular girls".

I wouldn’t like to make a guess at the success rate, but if I was forced to guess, based on my own observations, I would say that about 25 – 35% of such relationships work. Or let me put it another way, in the first five years, 65 – 75% fail. Beyond that, I do not know, but I bet many more fail. Not a great success rate really.

WHERE IS THIS PICTURE Competition?

It was Sukhumvit Road, near sois 3 and 5.

Central Bangkok, yet again…

Last week's pic was taken on Sukhumvit Road from outside the Landmark Hotel, looking straight across the road at some of the restaurants and shops between sois 3 and 5. 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

Another good service provider.

Whenever you need to get a Mac repaired in Bangkok, typically they do the work on the spot and you're seldom without your machine for less than a couple of hours. I typically just go there and go and grab a bite to eat at Au Bon Pain in Tesco Lotus and read a Bangkok Post whilst they are doing the repair. They are always very friendly. I've had three warranty major repairs to my Powerbook when I've been in Thailand so on each occasion it only cost me a taxi to Yannawa (Modern Home Tower).

Not all Thais are looking to rip off farangs.

I was ready to buy a new computer. When I visited the shop yesterday to negotiate a price, two employees asked why I wanted to buy a new computer. I explained the problems I was having with my existing computer. Both people encouraged me to bring my CPU into the shop to see if they could repair what they perceived as simple fixes. Within two hours they had my UPGRADED computer with new modem ready for me. 1,500 baht instead of 24,500 for a new computer. Not only does it work, it's also faster.

Taxi fares HAVE increased, apparently.

Taxis are fairly cheap, no doubt. However, to claim that fares have never increased would be incorrect. Once, if not a couple of times, fares did increase. The one particular fare increase I remember is the one for going longer distances. Before, there was a flat rate per km travelled whereas now you pay an increasing rate per km travelled beyond a certain distance. Still, this increase happened many years ago and I don't recall any further increases lately.

Are you really prepared to pull the trigger?

In Asia you ought to know that when you are wandering around shopping or whatever, never carry any more money, jewellery, credit cards, personal papers, etc than you can afford to lose. And when you are robbed you NEVER put up any resistance. Do you want to give up your life or be seriously hurt for $100 or less? As far as carrying weapons of any kind, forget it. If you are carrying a gun you had better be a professional and know how to use it because you can be sure the other fellow has been using one all of his life. If someone robs you at gunpoint and you pull out a weapon, are you prepared and are you capable of shooting him dead without hesitation? And that means not just one shot but emptying the magazine into him. Because, he will certainly try to do that to you and he is a professional criminal. If he has a knife and you pull one out, do you know how to handle yourself in a knife fight? He does. Of that you can be sure. I am reminded of a young backpacker held up at gunpoint outside the stadium in Phnom Penh a few years ago. They demanded his backpack. He resisted "No hoodlum is going to get my backpack". So he was shot in the head and lost his life for $20 and a few personal items. In Rio in 1982 I met a businessman who was robbed on Copacabana Boulevard in the middle of the afternoon. They had knives and machetes and wanted his watch. He refused to give it up and was dragged into an adjoining alley and had his hand chopped off for the watch. He gave up his hand and nearly his life for a watch. Finally, if you pull a weapon on someone who is robbing you but who is not armed and he is hurt or worse in the altercation YOU are the one who is going to be charged.

The increasing demand for Thai brides.

Back in the UK on a brief visit, my grandmother said it all: "Women here have never had it so good. In my days, the only jobs open to us were nurse, teacher or secretary. These days, they can do anything they want. They can even choose their own husband." You just have to watch any stupid TV reality show or go to any nightclub to realise that women are totally in command. Men have become marginalised and even macho man has become a joke. The number of western men seeking Thai brides is set to increase even further.

Selecting the best taxi.

Many of us have had problems with taxi drivers at times – either wanting to be off the meter and offering outrageous fares (or trying to change a reasonable one once you are on your way) or talking to your Thai female friend as if she were a hooker (which she may or may not really be, but who wants the reminder?). So, what did I learn? Always select a taxi that has Buddhist paraphernalia on the dash (a Buddha, some amulets) and a floral wreath hanging from the mirror. In my experience, those who do not have these symbols tend often to be the problem drivers. Those that do have always proven honest and pleasant people to ride with.

Heavy rainfall has affected the early evening trade but the top bars in Nana Plaza are still doing ok. Trade picked up at the start of September and even with this heavy rainfall the bigger bars in Nana Plaza are seeing an increase in trade. At least one Nana bar had an enormous Friday night, their best night in months. While trade is picking up, I suspect it's mainly the bigger, popular bars. Smaller bars do not seem to be quite so busy.

Nowhere gives a better snapshot of how things are at Nana Plaza than the view from Big Dogs. On Saturday night it was observed from there that there has been a real change in the mix of visitors to Nana. A rough breakdown would have it about as follows: 40% westerners, 35% non-Thai Asians (Japanese, Korean etc), 10% Indian or Arab and 15% unidentifiable. Yep, you got it, less than 50% of the customers to Nana are Westerners! This observation would appear to be consistent with the news which has had several recent articles about the increase in numbers from Arab countries as well as Asia.

Hillary Bar, the original that is, has re-opened and has quite a few nice looking ladies.

Rainbow 4 has so many good looking girls that it would be seemingly impossible to count them all. And it has been verified that many are farang friendly. Some of the girls within the Rainbow Group, especially those in Rainbow 2, have the reputation of being less keen on Westerners but Rainbow 4 does not seem to suffer this affliction.

Double Trouble (Electric Blue Andy and Misty's Andy) received hundreds of names for their new bar in Walking Street, Pattaya and they would like to thank readers for the great response. They have chosen a name that one reader sent in. BEAVERS! There is a small problem however, with Electric Blue Andy losing the email from the winner. So if you were the fellow who suggested that name, please email Andy again to arrange for your free night of beer and one free bar fine. The guy who sent in the name also sent in some other names so please send in the other names so they make sure they get the right person.

An English fellow is back home in Thailand this weekend having learned the hard way that not every pretty girl in Bangkok is a hooker. He is one of the new breed of young sex tourists who have flooded into Thailand recently, the sort who thinks its funny to get blind drunk and dance around the poles with the girls. Anyway, he was playing pool in a Soi 7 bar and decided it would be a laugh to lift up a girl's skirt with his cue. She told him in no uncertain terms to leave her alone, but he kept on annoying her. The girl wasn't a bargirl, she was just out with friends playing pool. Eventually he unzipped his trousers and grabbed her from behind and simulated sex with her. The girl belted him twice with her cue, hard. The staff know the girl and intervened on her behalf, grabbing him and holding him until the police were called. Then it was a trip to the police station where the error of his ways were explained to him. The girl was under 25 and the cops take a very dim view of young girls being assaulted. The girl was asked if she wanted to press charges and that if she did she'd probably get substantial damages. She declined, but the police took his passport details and he was given 24 hours to get out of the country, with a warning that if he ever assaulted a girl again it would be prison and a total ban on re-entry to the Land Of Smiles.

Somewhat late in terms of being newsworthy, but interesting nonetheless, about six weeks ago the management of a certain gogo bar that has remained popular for the entire time I have been in Bangkok, did a private urine screening of the working girls there in order to gauge what would happen if the boys in brown showed up to conduct their random piss tests. Management blew a gasket when more than 50% of the tests came back with traces of drugs! They fired several girls, but not everyone who tested positive. They now have a plan to get the suspect girls out of harm's way or substitute clean urine for those when the boys in brown do come knocking. Naughty, naughty. The girls have been lectured on how to either quit or cover up. They initially wanted to fire all the drug users, but several are high volume bar fine girls which would not have been good for business.

In what is rapidly becoming the centre for pool in Bangkok, another pool bar has opened up in Sukhumvit Soi 4. The very pleasant Metro Bar is the latest edition and is located next to the car park of the Rajah Hotel Complex. It's a sizeable bar with three Brunswick metro pool tables, and very nice they are too. The bar has Heineken available for 100 baht, Coke for a very reasonable 40 baht and a large range of drinks such as single malts and other drinks not typically found in that neighbourhood. Metro Bar is the latest venture from the guys who run the excellent Ball In Hand. Incidentally, they are now the official distributor for Brunswick pool tables in Thailand so if you fancy the tables in Metro, you could have one at home for around 250,000 baht. But if that model is not your particular liking and you want a different style table, they offer various models ranging from around 100,000 baht right up to a million!

When I think of Thai women the first thought that comes into my mind is beauty made up of a slim figure, long hair and great skin. But actually, I think one of these is wrong. Thai women’s skin. At least their facial complexion, is often not that good at all. A lot of Thai women seem to suffer from some sort of acne or perhaps some sort of skin irritation. This should not be seen as a slight on Thai women and that they are not attractive for indeed they are, but to me it is interesting how many successfully mask their skin problems.

I note that the 11th edition of the Lonely Planet Guide To Thailand is available in Thailand now at 1,075 baht. The latest edition continues the trend of the series getting smaller and weighs in at just over 800 pages. I just browsed through it so cannot comment on how much has changed or been revised over previous editions, although I do not that Joe Cummings, author of the previous editions, is now the "co-ordinating editor", and that 3 of the 4 contributors are female. Don't expect to see anything on the availability of girls and other naughty stuff in there.

I had my first major argument with a taxi driver this past week back. The driver called his Mrs. and whispered sweet nonsense to her while he was driving at rapid speed. Maybe it was because I'd had a few drinks and was a little more assertive than perhaps I would have been otherwise, but I told him to hang up or I was going to get out and not pay him a single baht. Looking back, I'm still shocked at what happened. He cut the call and apologised. Amazing Thailand!

I had a British female friend here in Bangkok a few years ago who was actually a Buddhist monk (nun?) in provincial Isaan for a few years, some time back in the '80s. She has since converted to Christianity, and was not shy in telling me some of the stories why she felt that Buddhism was inferior to Christianity. Being agnostic I wasn't really interested but one story stuck in my mind. She told me the same story several times of how the food they were given was from time to time, putrid. The monks would go out with their alms in the morning and there would be the odd day when people did not put food in the alm in separate plastic bags, but rather just place it directly into the alm. When more than one person did the, the food in the alm became a putrid mix that she found inedible. Imagine it, you might get some rice thrown in with some Tom Yum Goong and then some mixed vegetables. "Putrid" was the word she used, but due to the rules governing the way they lived, and the time they had to eat, she had to grin and bear it. I had long since forgotten about this until I was at the well-known Cabbages and Condoms this past week. A large party of us ate there and as we had over-ordered I asked if they could bag up the food so we could take it home. There was a heap left over and they presented us with two boxes as we were leaving the restaurant. I never looked in them until the next morning and was shocked to see that in one big bag were all of the appetisers and in the other, all of the mains. Soups, curries and fried dishes all mixed together. What were they thinking? My guess is that someone was in a hurry, but you have got to wonder…

Having been meaning to pop by for some time, I finally made it to Jameson's in Pattaya last week. Jameson's is Kim Fletcher's latest bar in Pattaya. Kim used to be known as the publican at Shenanigans. (Kim, I would have said hello but I was actually cheering on the Aussies in the cricket and you and your mates who were engrossed in it might not have appreciated that!) Jameson's gets the thumbs up in every respect. It is very well laid-out in a similar style to Shenanigans and there are TVs everywhere for the sports fans. The staff were friendly and the food was great. The only negative is that if you're not a local it might be a trifle difficult to find.

I wonder if the way the locals wash dishes has had any effect on the water shortage in Pattaya, and other areas? I timed a woman washing dishes the other day. There were about 10 plates, a handful of bowls, around 20 odd cups and glasses and a perhaps 30 odd pieces of cutlery. For the entire duration that she washed the dishes, she had the water tap running. It ran for, get this, 22 minutes! I later went and timed it and found that 1 litre of water of water came out at about every ten seconds, meaning that to wash that small number of dishes used (or more succinctly wasted) over 120 litres of water. I'm not a greeny, but this really drives me up the wall! There is little doubt in my mind that washing dishes like this must have partially contributed to the water shortage in Pattaya.

A notice was posted on the main index page of this website last week asking for donations for a certain bloody group. There was a great response from readers and blood donations kept John alive through last week. Sadly John slipped into a coma and passed away a few days ago. To all readers who helped out, many thanks you for your assistance. Please note that this site is available any time for any such community notices.

Sorry for the lack of bar news this week. There really does not seem to be too much happening, hence the absence of bar-related news.

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: Do you know if it's a good idea to buy a diamond ring in Thailand or better to buy here in Australia and if I do buy in Thailand, would you recommend that I take a Thai person with me?

Mrs. Stick says: I believe that prices for jewellery in Thailand are very good. I can't compare to Australia as I do not know what the prices are like there but I believe they'll be better here. The design of jewellery in Thailand is good, there is a huge variety available and I believe the prices compare favourably with other countries. I guess the trick is to go to a big store or a place which you can trust. The more time you take, the better deal you'll get. Most vendors will speak English but it might still be a good idea to take a trusted Thai friend along.

Question 2: Though my question does not relate to matters of the heart, I think many farangs would be interested if Mrs. Stick has a take on it. In the 10+ years I've lived in Bangkok, I've learned a lot from reading the editorials, commentary, and letters in the English-language newspapers, Nation and Bangkok Post. The mainly Thai contributors do not hesitate to criticise the government, expose corruption scams, and even sometimes name names. My question is: Do the Thai-language newspapers offer their readers anything like this honesty, or have they been reduced to reporting the government line? Do Thai readers benefit from freedom of the press as much as we fortunate English readers?

Mrs. Stick says: I think that the press here in Thailand is good in terms of press freedom and there are a few newspapers which appear to operate without any fear of intervention. Matichon, a big and respected Thai newspaper, was almost taken over this week but the public felt it would not have be in the newspaper's best interests and there was a public uproar as the public wanted press freedom – and feel that this paper reports in such a manner as to not be subject to interference or influence from the government. The sale did not happen. Yes, letters do appear in Thai newspapers which are not complimentary of certain things, including the government and I think this shows that the press here is free. Also, the manager.co.th website is extremely popular nationwide and there is a lot of chat on there, much of which is anti-corruption and names people. There is also a TV program that names people without fear, called "Meuang Thai Rai Sabadar" (Thailand Weekly in English). Actually, this is my favourite TV program. This TV program was axed from channel 9 but can still be heard online and on one Thai cable TV station.

This week's column turned out completely differently from what I had planned. An interview had been planned but time constraints meant I wasn't able to conduct it so we got something different instead. I have to admit that the phenomenon of successful Western men choosing to marry Thai women from less privileged backgrounds continues to be fascinating.

Your Bangkok commentator,

Stick

Thanks go out to Bkk Grasshopper and KL – the prisoner in paradise.