Stickman's Weekly Column October 2nd, 2005

The Ups And Downs Of Life In Bangkok


StickmanBangk ok .com


Anyone who had read this column for a while would have read between the lines in the articles I wrote about my trip to New Zealand earlier this year. NZ was a revelation and even before returning to Thailand I thought that it would not be long before I escaped Thailand and returned to my native Kiwiland. In fact I even confided in a few people that I was in countdown mode and that it would not be long before I left. I was serious. I was going to leave. But after a bit of time back in Thailand, and a chance to reflect, I changed my mind….and now I see my future, at least the next 2-3 years, in Thailand. Why am I so damned changeable?

The other day I was on the back of a motorcycle on my way up Sukhumvit. I noticed an office girl on a motorbike which was running at the same speed as the bike I was on, one lane over. This office girl, as we affectionately refer to them, was stunning to look at, perfectly done up, immaculate make up and stylishly dressed. She was a real head turner. But then she did something totally unexpected. As our respective bikes came to a stop at the lights, she leaned over and spat on the ground. I wasn't just surprised, I was shocked. This delicate, feminine creature completely ruined the illusion that she was a sweet and innocent lady. I rolled me eyes, something she seemed to notice. She looked away, refusing to make eye contact.

I have seen it so many times. A physically deformed beggar in a dreadful state on the side of Sukhumvit with a cup, perhaps held in their mouth, looking forlorn, and pulling on your heart strings to hand over some loose change. At the very same time, no more than a few feet away is a hi-society woman, shielded from the elements inside her 10 million baht piece of German engineering, chauffeured by her driver. She is staring at herself in the mirror, preening herself, oblivious to, and without a care in the world, for those who find themselves at the opposite end of the economic and social spectrum. Just a few feet away.

The very best service I have had when buying products has been in Bangkok, with shop assistants falling over themselves doing all that they can to help. The same can be said for service in restaurants. Sometimes the staff go way beyond what would be considered standard service and do their utmost to enhance your dining experience. But on the other hand, the very worst service I have had has also been right here in Bangkok. Legitimate complaints laughed at, basic questions ignored and what would surely be considered standard waitress duties shirked. Even in flasher places, the level of service is not always commensurate with what you would expect in such an establishment. Service can even vary in the same establishment from day to day. Brilliant one day can become awful the next. Consistency can be hard to find in Bangkok, unless you are paying top dollar.

I go through periods thinking that if the average Thai went about their job with a bit more alacrity, Thailand would be a much better place, and so much more foreigner friendly. But then the next day I think that if I was as miserably paid and as badly treated as so many Thai employees are, I would hardly be the most friendly, helpful or co-operative employee myself.

What I find perhaps most perturbing of all is that you simply cannot predict what will happen next, be it the level of service or simply what will happen. In Bangkok you just do not know what is going to happen next. This is clearly part of the appeal of the place, but it can become a bit tiring if you actually live your life here. You do need to have confidence in certain things and being unable to rely on things or people can become frustrating.

While the huge contrasts are part of the attraction of Thailand, they can be a bit perturbing and unsettling. You invariably lose confidence in most whatever you choose to do and when that happens, you start to wonder if you should even be here.

Sometimes I just do not know what I think about Thailand, the Thai people, and living here. I'll tell someone one week that I love the place and couldn't imagine leaving and then I'll say the complete opposite to the very same person a week later.

I used to think it was just me, but now I notice the very same extreme attitude changes in a good number of Westerners here. I see it in most of my locally based friends. One day they are extolling all of the advantages and virtues of life in Thailand and then next thing you know they are sick of the place and want to go home. We just cannot make up our mind about things here.

I used to think that I was changeable, but now I think this is just one of the side effects of living in Bangkok, a city with such huge contrasts and a place where you just do not know what will happen next. It really is the old Forrest Gump syndrome with the box of chocolates and not knowing what you're going to get next.

WHERE IS THIS PICTURE Competition?

It was a 7 Eleven branch at Pratunam Market.

Is that the expressway?

Last week's pic was taken of the 7 Eleven just around the corner from the Amari Watergate Hotel. I thought the distinctive multi-coloured tent like covers would have given it away but few people got it right. 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

Do less developed countries have the right idea?

I've been married to a Thai, living in America for 31 years. My wife is a supervisor in a large hotel. She only hires Mexican women because they work harder than American women she says) and thus has a lot of Mexican women friends. Many years ago I asked her why she didn't have American women friends, that it seemed like all her friends were either Thai or from another 3rd world country. I also have 4 sisters (all divorced at least once) nearby that she's friendly to but not friends with. She said whenever we get together with American couples that the American women want to act like American men. When a lot of couples get together in Thailand the men are served first then the women and after dinner the men drink, smoke and talk in their own group while the women clean up and then talk together. In America when couples get together the American women wants to be involved with all the men doing the man stuff, smoking drinking, talking loud and laughing at men's jokes and they like to leave dishes for later so they don't miss any time to be with all the men. Many times they tell me not to worry about dishes, to go sit with the men instead. I don't like to do that. That's not the Thai way. My take on this issue is that in 3rd world countries the men are in charge (look at the men in Thailand, any oriental country, Mexico, any South American country, Africa, any Arab country) and the routine carried out in social situations in these countries is very similar to Thailand, where the men are served and catered to, thus a common bond (the cooking, eating and drinking is a very strong bond) and the women happily accept their roles. American women will never understand, right or wrong, that a woman who expects the man to be in charge and in turn shows subservience to that man for his position in the family is very much desired by men of every nationality. I think this is the strongest bonding experience for all women from 3rd world countries. I also believe this is the main reason Thai women have trouble being close to farang women from the industrialized countries.

Living horrors.

Your description of certain Nana Plaza ladies as "ugly" was being a little too kind. I would describe the majority there as hideous monsters who would be more meaningfully employed as zombies or three-headed trolls in horror movies. And western women are supposed to be bad! What do these creatures think they are doing exhibiting sagging breasts, caesarean scars, wrinkled abdomens and layers of fat to the outside world? The answer is simple. In any other place, where the customers are even only a little discerning, they would be driven from their poles and chased all the way back to Udon Thani.

Best looking office girls on the planet.

I agree COMPLETELY with the thought that the Bangkok office girls are WAY better looking than most of the bar girls. There is no comparison really. Bangkok has the best looking office girls on the planet and the BTS at rush hour is like a modeling show. The top 2% of the girls in nana can compare (e.g. superstars at Rainbow bars) but a very high percentage of the remaining 98% are just rough looking, trash talking, poorly dressed bar girls. I have lived here 4 years and every day I see so many perfect looking office girls that it boggles the mind.

Ignorance of the law. (Read the related paragraph in the news section and see what you think then…)

The legal age of consent is 15, except for commercial transactions (i.e. prostitution) where the GIRL, not the boy has to be 18 (in a heterosexual relationship). I live in Lower Isaan and can confirm that throughout Buriram Si Saket and Surin provinces, it is normal and a fairly frequent event for a boy or his family to have to pay compensation if sex occurs between an unmarried boy and girl. As an alternative, the couple have to marry. Invariably the pooyai baan is involved, and although supposed to be neutral, he will always receive a cut from the payment made. Village people know nothing about the law, and if officialdom is involved they just pay up because they are scared. I have a son, a luk krung, but farang white, his only Thai feature being his brown eyes. Already he is taking after me and his significantly older brother with his love of the girls. At his school the young girls, and also the older ones adore him, because he is white. By the time he is 14/15, I can envisage the girls queuing up to drop their knickers for him, and he is unlikely to look a gift horse in the mouth (lucky bugger!) I can imagine being visited by a number of irate fathers. I shall merely tell them that the sex was consensual, it is their daughters who have brought shame upon their families, and that it takes two to tango. If they are not satisfied, I shall invite them to take me to court, knowing full well that provided their daughters are over 15, no crime has been committed.

One million baht a month, but not enough for domain name registration.

The email address that you listed on your site, is not registered. Maybe the one million bahters blew all their money on eating and drinking at the most expensive restaurants in Bangkok, and couldn't pay the monthly fee for the mailbox.

London prices in Bangkok.

On a recent night out in Bangkok I dropped by that bar / restaurant on the 63rd Floor of The State Tower. I call it 'that bar / restaurant' because it seems to have about three different names : 'Sirocco' or 'Mezzaluna' or 'Distil'. I mention it because this place took me a bit by surprise. It was about ten o'clock on a Saturday and the outside deck was closed because it was raining. Understandable. Seating inside however, including the bar stools were only available to those who had booked them. The wife and I stood by the window admiring the view of the city (which is impressive) and we ordered a glass of wine and a beer. For these two drinks we were charged the handsome total of 1,004 baht. After seeing the bill, the misses really needed to sit down! For a scary moment I thought we had been somehow transported back to some posers' wine bar in London's Covent Garden. Needless to say, we won't be making this a regular port of call.

The Star Of Love in Patpong re-opened Saturday before last after extensive renovation. There was some talk that services would no longer be offered but I am reliably informed that it is business as usual. It has really changed inside and gone are the sleazy booths and chairs. Now it's all glass, mirrors, UV lighting, new air-con and even a brand new toilet and shower at the back. I guess we can now call it a hi-so blowjob bar.

It's 1:00 AM on the button closing at Nana, even Sin is being closed at 1:00 AM, all of which is due to it being police reshuffle month. Don't be alarmed, this happens every year.

Down in Soi Cowboy, Apache bar has now re-opened and is doing great guns with the table dancing.

Carabao will be performing free at Hilary Bar in Sukhumvit Soi 4 on Monday night. That is sort of like a popular, long-running country act performing free, like Willy Nelson perhaps? Goodness only knows how Hilary Bar is going to accommodate the huge numbers that one imagines will attend.

There were a heap of white women at Nana Plaza on Tuesday night, some young, some old, all ugly. But just what were they doing there? They didn't look like dykes so I assume that they weren't there for the pleasures of the flesh. Some of the older farang women were there with what appeared to be their farang husbands (poor devils all had a grimace on their face and no doubt would have preferred to be there without the ball and chain). There were at least two younger pairs of what appeared to be travelling companions, and there were a couple of younger boy / girl farang couples. I couldn’t help but get the feeling that Nana Plaza is becoming something of a tourist attraction as they all looked like tourists.

Sukhumvit could have closed earlier for a farang who was badly beaten up in the Sukhumvit area this week. The farang in question had a welt on his head and a lot of blood on his shirt on the right side from, presumably, a knife wound. He said it was a Thai national who did it to him. The cops came and he was whisked away from the spot on soi 7 where he was languishing with all and sundry standing around staring at him, to Soi 4 where he was spotted with the cops pointing a finger at a Thai clothing vendor who had just set up close to the entrance to Nana, and shouting, "they were friends of yours, you just stand there and lie but you know them." One can only speculate as to what happened.

The disco in the Novotel at Siam Square, CM2, raised it prices yesterday. Beer Singha is now 190 baht, from 170. A bottle of vodka now 2500 from 2000, and the juice mixers went up from 300 to 400 baht. It is uncertain whether the prices for Ukrainian girls followed suit.

Last Sunday's in house Diamond A Gogo dance contest was the best ever according to many of the customers. The final scores were very close with only 4 points separating the 6 prize winners. Many of the girls went to a lot of effort to come up with imaginative costumes, even if some of them were on the small side! At half time 3 of the show girls put on a special show they had rehearsed in private at home, and while I wasn't there, I am informed that they must be VERY good friends! Needless to say everybody enjoyed the show, especially the judges who had a ring side seat. All in all a good time was had by all. No, "Good Time" is not the name of one of their dancers.

October sees a full program for Diamond A Gogo kicking of with Sunday 9th October when that old fart Ricky is having his Birthday party. Anyone wanna guess how old he is? There will be plenty of food for the early customers including a pig on a stick and lots of fun with special shows through out the night. Next is Wednesday 19th October when Diamond will be holding it's 6th Anniversary Party. There'll be more details nearer the time. On October 31st it's the Halloween Party and all the girls dress up as ghouls. And finally if they can fit it in, they will hold the in house gogo contest. It's gonna be a huge month for Diamond.

Double Trouble, that is Electric Blue Andy and Misty's Andy, will be opening their new bar Beavers, in Walking Street, on Saturday October 8. If you're in Pattaya it should be worth checking out.

I did a quick run through Sukhumvit Soi 33 this week and saw that there is construction on what almost certainly looks to be a bar in the space next to Goya. Now good on whoever it is who invested there, but they should be aware that soi 33 is not doing so well at the moment. It is probably a combination of factors, but I would have thought the main two reasons would be the large number of bars found down there these days and the fact that it remains low season – and low season weather.

Also in Soi 33, Brick has been closed but for just how long is uncertain. And guess what they were closed for? Rumour has it that it was for naked dancing! Yes, naked dancing in a soi 33 bar! I wonder how that happened!

For those of you who don’t want to stop partying at 1:00 AM, Monet Bar is open until 2:00 AM every night, although from standing outside you would never know as they have blacked out the windows. The exception is Sunday night when they close at 1:00 AM sharp. What's that all about?!

Like many guys I have never really made up my mind about Sukhumvit Soi 33. I go through phases of thinking that the ladies down there are more attractive than other areas to days when I think they are the very same girls, but just dressed up in flasher clothes. If my quick breeze through soi 33 this week was anything to go by, at this point in time, the girls in Sukhumvit Soi 33 are much more attractive than the girls in Nana Plaza. In fact I was reminded of last week when I found after my journey on the skytrain ended up at Nana where the girls didn’t compare. Same thing this week. I went from Soi 33 to Nana and the girls went from attractive to less than attractive.

And there is at least one bar in Soi 33 which has a number of girls who are currently studying at a large university in the Ramkhamhaeng area. They work at the bar and do NOT go with customers. Their salary is structured in such a way that they do not need to go with customers and the bar boss is actually quite happy about this situation. They make more than enough from customers with their base salary and lady drink commissions to see themselves through university. They are under strict instructions from the boss not to lead customers on and tell customers that they are happy to entertain them in the bar but they are not available for take out.

At long last Livingstone’s Boutique Lodge has opened in Sukhumvit soi 33 and offers an alternative to the standard, impersonal hotel rooms that many of us become bored of. The rooms are tastefully decorated in an African style, reflecting the style of the whole Livingstone’s complex. It might sound a bit odd but it really does work. It’s a brand new facility so everything from the TV to the beds to the furniture is brand spanking new. All of the usual facilities are offered including net access which for now is offered free, although this may not last. Room rates start at 2,000 baht for a standard room and go up to 5,500 baht for a sizeable suite. I get the feeling that this would be an ideal place to stay for someone who is either a frequent visitor to, or has had at least some time, in Asia. The location, right there in the Livingstone’s complex, is first class meaning that downstairs you have a fantastic steak house, a Thai restaurant, a Sukhumvit 33 style farang oriented hostess bar and a Thai food restaurant. For the time being bookings can be made at [email protected] – they will have a booking system online soon.

It used to be that pick-pocketing ladyboys plied their trade on the odd soi-numbered side of Sukhumvit, predominantly between sois 5 and 19, very late at night. But there has been so much written about them on that particular stretch, that they have become a known threat and thus their success rate is now lower than perhaps it used to be. As they look at new places from where they can find victims to help finance their expensive sex change surgery, the ladyboys have ventured into other areas, and far down Sukhumvit soi 4 seems to be a new favourite spot, with reports coming in about guys being set upon by ladyboys down near the Crystal Gardens and The Woraburi. Be careful down there.

As Phuket slowly rebuilds after the tsunami, Saturday night saw the reopening of Molly's, the Irish bar. Those in Phuket have noticed quite an increase in the number of Japanese, Taiwanese, Chinese and Korean tour parties and lots of Farang couples so maybe this is the way the Patong and Phuket is going? Good for the island and exactly what the local administration wants, but not good for the bars, the naughty bars that is.

And still in Phuket, the closing times of Banana, Tiger & Taipan should be 2 AM, & 3.30 AM respectively.

If you thought there were a lot of Italian restaurants and food outlets in Bangkok then you would be right. There are about 400 of them, though whether this includes the likes of Pizza Hut and Pizza Delivery Company, I do not know. Whatever the case, if like me you are an Italian food lover, you'll have no problem finding an Italian restaurant that meets your approval. But what about the best Italian restaurant in Bangkok? Which one is truly the best? I am a big fan of Zanotti in Sala Daeng and it is truly excellent, and would be my favourite, but I cannot honestly say it is the best. Rossini's in the Sheraton Grande is very, very nice and hard to fault, but again, I think we can find better. Ciao, at the Oriental is pleasant, but frankly, I don't think it compares with any of this company. For me, the very best, and quite probably the best restaurant I have ever dined at in my life, is Angelini at the Shangri-La. I made it there this week and I think I can honestly say that it was faultless, truly faultless. And I just cannot see how that restaurant is profitable. I can only imagine that it is heavily subsidised by the hotel. To me, Angelini is dining at its absolute finest. Sure, there are a large number of truly great restaurants in Bangkok, and most of them I have never tried, but Angelini to me redefines what a dining experience should be.

A qualified, experience teacher from a well-known Thai language school in Bangkok is available for private lessons. If any readers would like to study with her they can contact her at: [email protected]

Patong Harbor View Condominiums

I notice that the hoardings surrounding Chuwit Park (is that what it is to be called?) have been taken down and that it looks like the park is to open soon. Given the locals’ avoid at all costs attitude towards dark skin, I guess it will become a place dominated by, and possibly only frequented by, farangs. Wouldn't it be ironic if it became some sort of day time freelancer venue, sort of like the Beach Road is in Pattaya!

When recently I mentioned that I still miss the Trink column, some readers wrote in asking just who Trink is. There is an archive of a few years of his columns from the late 90's and early 2000s online here.

There's an excellent, if damning, article in today's Bangkok Post about the English teaching industry in Bangkok.

I have been a big fan of CS Loxinfo as an internet service provider for a very long time, but recently, as in the past month or so, the service has been awful. I switched to one of the "budget ISPs", JI Net, and have found them to be very good. I've not had one problem so far.

The most controversial column of the year so far remains the piece about violence in Thailand. In the past week a farang was the victim of a situation that got out of hand in downtown Korat. A large German vehicle was driving along the road in Korat and a couple of motorbikes were on the same stretch of road when someone cut someone off. The car driver stops and pulls out a gun and starts shooting, hitting amongst others, a young farang who teaches English in Korat and who had been on his bike. Fortunately the bullet didn't hit any vitals and he is going to pull through. Be careful out there!

Perhaps the most interesting question to the Mrs. last week was the story about the parents of a 16 year old girl who had approached the parents of 16 year old boy who had slept with their daughter, who herself had been willing. A settlement of 15,000 baht was paid by the parents of the boy to the parents of the girl. I have since been informed that while the laws of the land had not been broken, the law of the jungle had. In such situations in rural Thailand, this is the norm and unless the two 16 year olds had got engaged and gone on to get married, payment would have been expected as the girl would no longer be a virgin on her wedding night. Had money not been paid, word is that the boy would have been killed in an act of retribution. I kid you not. This sort of thing is not uncommon in rural areas.

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: A young very bright university science graduate friend of mine doing a post graduate degree plans to marry a Thai lady who he has known for some time in his home country. Before they get married, they decided that they would go to Thailand to meet the rest of the family, and that he would get a job teaching. He duly got a job on a contract at a secondary school in a smaller town outside Bangkok teaching science. To cut a long story short, he has been appalled at the standard of the students, and has seen and experienced the corruption that you mention in your article, and being a young idealist, he is disgusted by it. He emailed me a day or so ago, and said that he had failed almost all of the students in his class in the recent exams. What is Mrs. Stick’s opinion on the corruption in the education system, and what would both your advice be to my young friend, particularly in handling possible reactions caused by the loss of face for the students, and the school.

Mrs. Stick says: Loss of face you mention would not normally be related to failing exams, but more disappointment. Unfortunately Thailand has been facing big corruption problems for a long, long time and people from every social strata are involved. Many people just see it as normal. To help this problem, we need people who dare to actually come out and see that this or that is wrong. The corruption at your friend's school could be discussed with senior people in the school. It would be interesting to see their reaction. I have heard that even in some big schools there is corruption, so there is not a lot of hope for a smaller, provincial school, I'm afraid. I won't tell you to accept this corruption, but simply that you should not be surprised by it.

Question 2: Being a middle-aged beer drinker I have a fine figure to show for it. When I go out and about around the bars, sometimes a girl, usually a complete stranger to me, will pat my belly and say "When baby come?" or "How many babies?". Now while this was mildly amusing the first time I heard it 7 years ago, at times it starts to wear very, very thin and I find it not only disrespectful but downright insulting. The other night I dragged the offender to the front of the bar, pointed at a Thai man with a much more prominent gut than me, touting his wares across the road, and suggested that she go over and do to him what she just did to me. Of course I got no reaction. Now is the girl showing me a level of disrespect she would not show to a Thai man? My opinion and what angers me, is that no western girl would ever be so personal or so rude. My mates' views differ from "You don't need that" to "she is just looking for something to say to strike up conversation and you should just accept it in the way it is intended." I would like your opinion.

Mrs. Stick says: I agree with your friends that this is not a big deal. The first thing you need to understand is that what may be insulting to farangs is totally fine to Thais, and vice versa. So I want you to understand that calling someone a bit fat is no big deal in Thailand at all. I understand that if someone keeps saying it to you that it pisses you off, but I think that in this case you just need to "tam jai", and deal with it. It is not going to stop, and no harm is meant by it. Maybe joke back with them and say something like, "I am looking for a mother for my kids, will that be you?" You don't need to be serious about it!

Question 3: What is the Thai attitude towards farting? In the west, men amongst men often take pride in letting it rip. I have encountered a very few number of women that do the same, but these are not girls you would take home to Mom, or for that matter, Dad. I have met women who unabashedly fire one off, but only in the privacy of my place or theirs. I have also met many women (and a few men) who would rather explode than pass even the smallest amount of gas. I would have assumed that Thai society is no different, but now that I have learned that rooting around in one's nostrils as the mood strikes is common, I'm not so sure. For all I know, it could pass unnoticed or it could be akin to putting your feet on the table. Some people put on airs, (pun intended) but I think a candid answer in the west would be that farts are funny. Whether or not they are humorous may be in question, but the relief achieved is not. This is particularly true if you have just stuffed yourself with pad prik daeng neua and a few beer Sing. As my dad would say, "Better to let it out and bear the shame than keep it in and bear the pain". And while I'm at it, how about belching? Besides my curiosity, it might give the poor farang an indication of what sort of person he is in the company of.

Mrs. Stick says: I guess it depends on whose company you do it in, and when. If you fart in the lobby of a 5 star hotel or in public, or in front of some important people, then people may well be offended and you would look bad, but if you were to do it in the privacy of your own home, then it is not really a problem, I guess. If it sneaks out by accident, it's not a big deal. But if you force it out and do it on purpose, that would be considered rude, disgusting, and pointless. Belching is generally considered unacceptable anywhere in public though again, in the privacy of your own home it may be ok.

I have decided that it is not a good idea to say what I have planned for the future n the column, because whatever I announce never seems to eventuate, or comes much, much later than had been intended. The articles in Thai never eventuated. The reason for that was that they proved to be too much work. The many promised interviews have been put on hold – though will come soon. The extra prizes for the picture competition – looks like they have both fallen through. So who knows what next week will bring. One thing's for sure, I'm not gonna mention anything, because if I do it almost certainly won't happen!

Your Bangkok commentator,

Stick

Thanks go out to Bkk Grasshopper and Kipara.