Stickman's Weekly Column November 20th, 2005

Bangkok versus Pattaya



The naughty nightlife remains one of the biggest draws for farangs holidaying in Thailand. For the naughty boys there really are two major options, Bangkok and Pattaya. Phuket has a much smaller bar industry and what exists on Samui and in Chiang Mai, Hua Hin and a host of other smaller centres doesn't really satisfy the naughty boys who have most of their fun at night.

In the late '90s, Bangkok was considered the premier place in Thailand for the naughty nightlife industry. Pattaya's reputation was sordid, and whenever you heard Pattaya uttered, you'd quickly hear something off-putting like "Russian mafia", "paedophile", or "20,000 ugly girls".

Of the Bangkok bar areas, Patpong was the most well-known area, but also the most expensive. A beer ran 70 – 90 baht, lady drinks cost much the same, barfines were 400 baht and the girls expected 1,000 baht up for an hour of fun and anything from 1,500 – 5,000 baht for the entire evening. Remember, just a few months earlier, the baht had hit almost 57 to the US dollar and the girls were well aware that foreigners effectively had more baht in their pockets, and asked for more. I am led to believe that prior to the baht crashing in mid '97, seldom would a girl ask for much more than 2,000 baht for the whole night. Even after the baht crashed, most Patpong-based girls would have been happy with 2,000 baht the next morning.

Even at that time, Patpong was considered something of a tourist trap, largely due to the market that changed the face of Bangkok's most notorious soi. Patpong has always been known as the area where girls were pushier and more business-minded but it has generally been accepted that the prettiest girls, or at least the bars with the highest concentration of pretty girls, were at Patpong. But even with that in mind, Patpong was not the hottest place in town. The attitudes there, and the lack of fun, were just too much.

The honour of the most popular bar area went to Nana Plaza. You could go there for a few drinks with your colleagues and there was little or no pressure from the girls, in fact many were downright friendly and quite happy to chew the fat. Drinks prices in Nana were a little cheaper than Patpong at 70 – 80 baht for a beer, and lady drinks much the same. Barfines were 400 baht and the going rates for the girls were generally 1,000 baht for short-time and upwards of that for long-time, although 1,000 baht was frequently paid for an all-nighter. The Nana Plaza of the late ‘90s was a lot of fun. With the exception of the Casanova Bar and Hollywood Strip, you could walk past any of the bars without being accosted and hauled inside.

Soi Cowboy was quite different to Patpong and Nana. What were largely dark and decrepit bars were home (literally as they lived on the premises) to laid back girls, and cheap drinks. Soi Cowboy's image was that of a place of bars where expats went to escape the tourists, an area where you could get a seat at any time, in almost any bar. It was much quieter, less flashy and the wall to wall neon you see today is a recent addition. Cowboy was my favourite bar area for a long, long time, and I used to enjoy just sitting in a quiet corner in a quiet bar, practicing Thai with the girls. You would almost never get asked for a drink by the girls, which was a bit of a blessing for a teacher barely making 25,000 baht a month. The price collusion that kept prices up at the other bar areas didn't exist at Cowboy and uniform drink prices across the bars never the norm. You could always find somewhere with 60 baht beer. Cowboy might have sounded like paradise, but I’ve yet to mention the girls. As pleasant as can be, they were never the prettiest bunch. The most attractive girls were seldom found at Cowboy.

Back in the late '98 there were really only the three main areas. Clinton Plaza had not yet opened and Soi 33 was twice the price of upper Sukhumvit with fewer bars than it has now. Nana Plaza was the heart of Bangkok as far as a good number of farangs were concerned.

And then we got to Pattaya. The first couple of times I went to Pattaya I was amazed at how decidedly average in appearance so many of the girls were, and no, I was not just hanging out in the el cheapo English teacher friendly beer bars. In what were some of the more popular gogo bars at that time, the girls generally weren't as attractive as their sisters in Bangkok. Pattaya was cheap and there were heaps of girls but it always seemed that finding an attractive lady was a bit like searching for the old needle in a haystack. Pattaya was almost considered a bit of a joke by Bangkok expats back then, a last chance for the girls who ended up there.

Let's fast forward to 2005. In Bangkok, the prettiest girls are, well, I just don’t know where! Probably still Patpong at a push, but really, no single bar area can lay real claim to having the most attractive girls. Or Rainbow 4, perhaps?

As far as drinks prices go, Nana is the most expensive of the three major areas, with the best bars charging 120 – 125 baht a beer, something many people have not been shy to complain about. While the difference between 90 baht and 120 baht for a beer is not likely something that influences a tourists' decisions on where to drink, it is the attitude at Nana which has pushed many away. There are still many who love Nana. After all, it still compares favourably with strip malls and the high streets of Farangland, but for many punters, locals especially, Nana Plaza has lost much of its allure. For many, it is the has been area of Bangkok's naughty nightlife. For me the problem with Nana is that I just feel you cannot go there for fun anymore. It's all about money, getting guys into the bars, providing minimal service and maximum prices. Not a good mix.

Soi Cowboy seems to have something of an identity crisis. You've got some really flash bars there like Dollhouse which seems to be experiencing something of a renaissance, but then you've got some tacky hole in the wall bars too. These days I never quite know what to make of Cowboy. If you want to go there and find a quiet little bar like the old days, good luck! Those in search of quiet bars have now been driven further out on Sukhumvit, to the likes of Soi 22.

Patpong is Patpong, and it seems to have changed little over the last seven years. Many of the King's Group bars look exactly how they did in the late '90s. Hell, some even have many of the same staff! Amazingly, the cost of drinks has only gone up about 10 baht over that period and ironically, as far as drinking is concerned, Patpong is now the cheapest of the three major bar areas.

The biggest change of all is in Pattaya. I don't know quite what has happened, but Pattaya seems to have had a major attitudinal change and the place seems to be somewhere where the Thai idea of sanuk (fun) remains. Pattaya is fun city and is much cheaper than Bangkok. For me, a night out in Pattaya usually means a fun night out.

Things in Bangkok don't just seem to have deteriorated, they seem to have gone rapidly downhill. I'm sure the girls in Bangkok and the bar areas of Bangkok still seem to be a slice of heaven for anyone jetting in for a bit of frisky fun, but for many locals, many of the naughty nightlife bars in Bangkok are not the fun places they used to be. Of course there are still some fun spots, but they seem to be fewer and fewer in number.

Wondering if it was just me who thinks Pattaya has got it all over Bangkok in terms of naughty nightlife fun, I asked a number of people for their comments, including bar owners and managers from each bar area, a couple of people who travel to Thailand regularly, and a couple of locals. What follow are their comments.

Earlier this year, a well known bar owner with bars in Bangkok and Pattaya gave the following quote. "Bangkok girls think of business, while Pattaya girls want to have fun". Whilst this is largely true, I would have to say that at all times, money is and always will be number one. An example of the differences between the girls would be this. If I went into a bar in NEP and barfined a girl for the first time, the likelihood would be, that she would only be interested in short time. Secondly, if I suggested that we went out on the town to Hollywood Ratchada, Coliseum Thonglor or a hip hop club, the chances are she would only be interested in business. However, the Pattaya girl, would almost certainly be interested in going to Lucifer's, Tony's or a visit to X-Zyte. In times past, the Bangkok girl would have enjoyed a night out and staying long time, even if it was the first time she had been with you. The agenda has changed with so many of them.

Have you noticed just how many Asians, especially locally based guys, have entered into Patpong, NEP and Cowboy? It seems that almost every bar is populated with them now. They all want to have fun, so who can blame them? However, the attitudes of the girls are very interesting. It seems that some Bangkok bars, to all intents and purposes are only interested in the Asians as customers. A sign of the future? Quite possibly. Many Bangkok girls don't seem to mind the Asian approach, with very little preamble in the bar, lack of foreplay and short times.

I enjoy both cities, with Bangkok having a greater variety of venues, rather than just the standard go-go or beer bar venues. However, attitude is always the most important factor within the nightlife scene.
A regular visitor to Thailand

In regards to the difference between Bangkok and Pattaya night life, to me it's simple. For the girls in Pattaya, going to the bar each night is like going out to have fun, but the girls in Bangkok, it's going to work every night and trying very hard to get that barfine. They seem to want the big cash, short time, and get home quick.
A Pattaya bar owner


Bangkok and its night life is great, some really good bars and some great clubs to go to. Cowboy has come on in leaps and bounds. It was always a boring place when I fist moved here, but now is a place which is on my list to play. The best bar in Cowboy is the Dollhouse. Nana is Nana but still a great place to go and be a bad boy for sure. Not much T & A but some pretty girls who are always willing to give all (as they say). It also has changed a lot over the last 5 years. I think that is getting a little over-priced, not so much the bars but the girls a wanting more and more. I hate that. The best bar in Nana has to be Rainbow 1 which has great looking girls. Patpong, well what can you say about Patpong? It will always be there and no mater what happens to Nana and Cowboy, the best bar Patpong has to be mine ha, of course!

Now if I was a first timer I would not bother with Bangkok and would go straight to Pattaya which is getting better and better every year. Six years ago when Darel and I opened the Dollhouse there were no happy hours, no sexy girls (well a few) and only a handful of bars on Walking Street. At the time, Pattayaland 2 was it. But we changed that for sure. Some great clubs (Club Electric Blue) being the best ha ha. Ken, our old manager, from Dollhouse opened Living Doll Showcase and changed the way shows are done in Pattaya. Not the old frogs, darts, bananas etc. The guys from Happy and Peppermint have grown in leaps and bounds and have some great clubs. The freelancers to the girls on the beach to the girls in the soapies, wherever you go in Pattaya there are girls willing and waiting for the next farang to show up. Amsterdam we are, if not, overtaken you as the red light capital of the world. The are over 50 gogo bars in Pattaya, three large clubs on Walking Street plus hundreds of beer bars. With 30,000+ girls working every night, if you can't find in Pattaya, cut your wrists and give up.
Andy of Club Electric Blue fame


One Pattaya resident (let’s call him Paul–mainly because that’s his name) describes Pattaya as “Paradise without Eden,” referring to the Sukhumvit-area bar that offers everything including a guarantee of satisfaction. “Otherwise, Pattaya’s nightlife is second to none. But I stress ‘nightlife’ because other than golf there’s little to do during the day. The beach is dirty, the sea is polluted and cultural attractions are non existent. No problem for people living here if they are working, have families, or involved in local activities, but tourists can bore here easily after two or three long days and short nights.”

Paul enjoys occasional visits to Bangkok, but he wouldn’t want to live there. Not because Bangkok’s nightlife leaves anything to be desired, but because the city features more of everything: more people, cars, rain, expenses, restrictions. “It’s a difficult city compared with Pattaya,” says the expat. “For me, the outstanding characteristic of life here is ease of living.”

That ease permeates Pattaya’s nightlife as well, notwithstanding the occasional muggings, mysterious suicidal falls from hotel balconies, and questionable fatal heart attacks experienced by otherwise healthy young farang. This is an easy city to explore on foot in a matter of hours. It is casual in dress and attitude. Rarely are foreigners hassled by police, bouncers, hawkers, prostitutes, or any other locals.

That cannot be said of Bangkok. I’ve partied in Bangkok often over the last 15 years and once was a big fan of the Pong. No more. Not since the incursion of street vendors and stalls. Beyond which, hawkers are too aggressive, shows are much tamer than in the past, and everything—from drinks to girls–is more expensive than it once was.

Of course, the higher cost of nightlife applies not just to Pat Pong but to most of Bangkok. Truth be told, Pattaya prices also have climbed over the last 15 years. But they remain favourable compared with Bangkok. Beer bars on Beach Road lure customers with 50 baht bottles of Heineken and 200 baht bar fines. Gogo bars on and off Walking Street offer 45 baht draft all night and 500 baht bar fines. And while ladies of the night in Bangkok start the bidding at 2,000 baht or more, the going fare in Pattaya is 500 to 1,000 baht.

Both Pattaya and Bangkok have changed over the years. One for the better, the other I’m honestly not sure about. I can recall a time when the Thermae was an inviting coffee shop where farang could fantasize that they were attractive to innocent secretaries, seamstresses and bank tellers. Rather than being hardened whores, these young ladies passed themselves off as if they were making their first visit to the underground dungeon to meet en eligible foreigner hoping for a sincere relationship. The fact that she would inevitably give it up for 500 baht did not dim that fantasy.

Today the Thermae is only a dark shadow of its former self. It is now crowded with aging, unattractive regulars. The younger girls towed in by some of the regulars become hardened much too quickly. And no longer does the coffee shop draw the scores of bar girls and gogo dancers eager to catch a late-night trick after not having been bar-fined. Mainly because the Thermae is no longer an all-night joint.

While nothing can replace the Thermae, it must be said that a number of fashionable bars and clubs have helped enliven the atmosphere on and around Sukhumvit. Freelancers who frequent these establishments are more upscale in appearance, style and attitude. That is welcomed and not matched in Pattaya, where the overwhelming majority of freelancers are found walking Beach Road – when their livelihoods are not disrupted by the boys in brown.

On the other hand, with the growing popularity of Pattaya, this city too has seen more than its fair share of new nightspots. Some are quite elegant, and most unabashedly appeal to the baser instincts of customers. Where most Bangkok bar managers fear being busted for bare busts, nudity is common in this beach town. Hell, blatant sex shows are on the menu at most gogo bars.

I cannot say that the working girls in Pattaya compare favourably with those who ply their trade in the entertainment centres along Rachadapisek Road, but our Isaan ladies make up in attitude and energy what they might lack in class and appearance.

From the bright lights of the colourful and ever-expanding Walking Street to the cacophony of competing sounds from the hundreds of open-air bars on Beach Road, Sois 7 and 8, Second Road, and Naklua, Pattaya and its growing legions of thousands of working girls is a luring force to be reckoned with and enjoyed. If only for a few days until boredom sets in.
A Pattaya expat


If one is solely considering the relative merits of the two cities with regard to the naughty nightlife scene then it's pretty much a no-brainer – Pattaya wins hands down.

Firstly, Bangkok is considerably more expensive. Standard drinks at NEP are around the 125 baht mark these days whereas good bars abound in Pattaya that still charge 95 baht for the same drink. Barfines (particularly at bar beers) are higher in Bangkok and the ladies' expectations are appreciably higher in the capital. Not everyone is on a budget but most are to some degree and it can add up over a few nights.

Then there is attitude. Generalisations are dangerous as undoubtedly there are sweeties to be found in Bangkok and hardened pros certainly exist in Pattaya but there is no doubt in my mind that the mindset of the girls in Pattaya is much more customer friendly. They seem less business like and more eager to have fun. I've long held the view that this is the case and feel that this is, in part at least, due to the transient nature of the Bangkok punter. If one excludes expats which make up only a smallish percentage of trade anyway, visitors to Bangkok tend to have a few days there either at the beginning or end of their holiday and spend the bulk of their time in Pattaya. So there is more incentive for a Pattaya girl to try that bit harder as she might keep her man for 2 weeks or more whereas her Bangkok sister knows it is probably only going to be a 1 night gig.

From personal experience, I've found in recent years that the NEP girls have slowly adopted attitude and prices that were only found in Patpong previously. Cowboy is now something akin to what NEP was like 4-5 years ago and with its increasing popularity, one can expect attitudes to head south there too.

One has to endure potentially lengthy journeys to move between the 3 main areas of Bangkok – and a further journey if one wants to visit CM2 or similar later in the evening. Whereas everything one's heart may desire is right there on Walking Street. Decent beer bars, good live music, top go-go bars with full shows plus discos and a good blues bar. All within an easy walk. Bangkok remains more tightly controlled too with less flesh on display and fairly rigid closing hours.
A Pattaya Bar Owner

There is of course quite a bias towards Pattaya here by nature that most of the respondents are based in, or have interests in Pattaya. I emailed a number of Bangkok based bar managers and bar owners and they all either failed to respond, or chose not to respond, even after some follow up from me. A shame.

Pattaya's reputation might have been something of a joke in the past but I believe it has leap-frogged Bangkok in terms of being the number one spot in Thailand for fun at night.

While you wouldn't call it an exodus, a number of Bangkok bar owners have either invested in Pattaya to add to their stable of Bangkok bars, or have sold up and relocated completely. Such big industry names as Andy, Ricky, Darel and Matt head up the list. I'm sure there'll be more to follow. I just hope that the Bangkok girls' attitudes and Bangkok bar prices don't make it down to Pattaya in a hurry.

WHERE IS THIS PICTURE Competition?

It was Klong Prem prison!

Should be familiar to many.

Last week's pic was of Klong Prem Prison. A number of people got it right, but perhaps what was most surprising was that at least 5 people mentioned that they had searched for it using Google Earth and found it – which I thought was pretty damned clever and proof that Stickman readers are a resourceful bunch. This week's prize is a 500 baht credit at Tony's Bar in Soi Cowboy. The prize is only available to people in Thailand now – either resident or tourist.

FROM STICKMAN'S EMAIL INBOX

Better safe than sorry.

Even my first Thai girlfriend did not like taking a taxi after 9 PM! And that was three years ago – she always said there were many bad things happening (rape being one of them) that the English language dailies did not report. What I have started doing, whenever I take my girlfriend to a taxi, is very openly (so the driver will see it) writing down the number on the number plates, plus the colour of the taxi. I have also every now and then taken a pic of the number plate with my mobile phone camera. Some taxi drivers actually complained to my missus about it!

A farang woman has some words of wisdom.

I know a number of really fantastic Thai women, mostly in their late 20's and 30's, who are single and plan to be for the rest of their lives. The reason? They say that Thai men really don't appreciate intelligent, independent, confident women and they don't have many opportunities to meet decent foreign men. They are also a little hesitant to date a foreign man because they don't want everyone thinking they're a prostitute. It really is sad because these are wonderful women, well travelled, fluent in English, fun, intelligent… but single. Most say that they would like to have a family, but refuse to be mistreated. I really respect them for their choice, but feel it's so unfair. Although most of the men on your site state they want a decent Thai woman, I really doubt they're willing to put forth the effort to develop a relationship with a decent Thai woman. A few of my friends have Thai girlfriends, but they can all speak Thai and understand the culture pretty well. I think the ability to speak Thai is very important when pursuing a "decent" Thai woman even if she speaks fluent English: It shows you're interested in her culture and you are also able to converse with her parents, which is so important in Thai culture. A good Thai woman doesn't want you for your money or your nationality, but rather the person you are, and a person who has lived here for several years and can barely string a sentence together in Thai likely isn't going to impress her much. Dating a good Thai woman takes A LOT of effort, probably more than dating a western woman. So, if they're not interested in learning Thai language or Thai culture they're going to be stuck with bargirls who probably prefer that you don't speak any Thai or know the basics about Thai culture anyway. Easier to rip you off that way. I guess you only get out of it what you put into it. You can't come to Thailand, go to some sketchy bar, throw some money around, and expect the woman of your dreams, can you? Just seems like common sense to me. Sure, go have fun, but for god's sake don't trust them and definitely don't MARRY them! The whole phenomenon really is fascinating, though.

Stick to Sony or Panasonic!

I just purchased a 27" Jensen television that was manufactured in China, and there is one extremely idiotic programming flaw built into it. As you know, the AM to PM and the PM to AM transition occurs at 12 o'clock sharp, but not on this television's clock! It changes over at 1 o'clock! Do Asian nations have a different method of keeping time than the West does?

Patong Harbor View Condominiums

3,000 baht gets a knife to your throat.

I have been friends with a certain Sukhumvit freelancer for the past four months. Last week, she was physically assaulted by a customer on lower Sukhumvit. I live nearby, so she called and asked if I could help her. She arrived at my place in tears and shaking. After I finally got her to tell me what had happened, she wanted to know where she could hire a "bad boy" to teach him a lesson. I thought that she would cool off in a day or two, but a couple of days later she hired a Thai guy to get revenge. She even accompanied the hired-hand to watch as her wishes were carried out. They told the security guard at the customer's building not to get involved and then they waited for him to come downstairs. When he finally arrived, the Thai guy gave him a beating that resulted in a black eye. He also held a small knife to the guy's throat and told him to never treat a Thai lady like this again. Supposedly, he moved out of his room the following day. My friend said that she felt better, but still regretted what she had done. What's the price for Thai street justice? She paid 3000 baht (a lot more than I thought it would be!).

Were you one of the three?!

Let me just share with you an experience from an internet shop here in Ramkhaemhaeng. While I'm writing this, a great looking Thai chick (maybe 24-26) is sitting next to me, chatting on with camera, "juggling" about 4-6 different guys (farang) on the screen – and 3 of them is sitting naked with a hard on, jerking off. She just looked for 3 – 4 seconds, she probably knows I'm aware of it, then shifts to chat only.

Speaking Thai not worth the effort?

I agree with many of the reactions that you posted in this week's column, but in my case it doesn't seem to make sense to put in the effort to learn Thai. Suppose I did learn the language, then what? I don't see a new world of ideas opening up. What are Thais going tell me that is so interesting? I guess I don't really value their ideas. I don't value their thinking or their thinking process. It doesn't make sense for me to trade off irreplaceable time spent developing my career and my finances, to learn a language that will only allow me to converse about things which I don't value. I am willing to live without "the Thai taxi drivers who want to be friends for life". I am willing to put up with vendors trying to rip me off. I am willing to sacrifice "inside information" from locals. I am willing to sacrifice the special treatment you get from knowing Thai. But, I am not willing to trade off valuable time spent on my own development. You might ask, "If you have such an opinion of the people then why are you here?" The answer is that, "I am not sure I belong here."

A new advertiser is peddling HIV test kits here in Bangkok. This is not a special mention or an extra comment about them to kick start sales, but a reality check. They have been going around Nana Plaza and Soi Cowboy conducting tests with these kits and the HIV positive rate is not small. Try 10%! Their sample is very small, meaning that the margin of error is potentially very high. But as a simple statistic, this should be more than a casual reminder that HIV DOES EXIST IN THE FARANG ORIENTED BAR AREAS.

There's a lot of talk about the sale of alcohol being prohibited after midnight and I'm not sure what all this is about because alcohol is most definitely available in all the usual places after midnight, so don't let this talk put you off going out late.

The trend at Nana Plaza seems to be for it to get busier later than it used to be. In the old days things started to pick up at 9:00 PM and peak around 11:00 PM. In a number of bars, there are precious few customers until 10:00 PM onwards, although the biggest bars seem to get busy earlier.

I got the usual complaints this week about barfines going up on Loy Kratong Day. Yeah, I think it is a bit of a rort too, but that is just the way it is and there is not much we can do about it.

The Nana Hotel car park remains a favourite spot, choked and stuffed with ladies looking for a comfortable bed in an air-conditioned room for the evening…

There are notices erected all around Nana Plaza advertising for new staff, no doubt the need for new staff is fuelled by demand with the high season in full swing. You won't find a free bed in the Nana area easily for a while. The two bars with ads all over the plaza are Erotica which is offering prospective staff 11,000 baht per month and Hollywood Carousel offering 10,000.

If you doubted the fact that Nana Plaza is no longer a farang only domain, you need look no further than the entrance to G Spot bar where there is a notice up on the door in 4 languages, none of which use the Roam script. It looked liked Chinese, Japanese, Arabic and something else.

Down at Soi Cowboy, I notice that Deja Vu had a sign outside on Friday night advertising its grand opening, or should it have read, grand (re-) opening. After a very long closure, they are about to get back into business. Let's hope that they do not face any more closure orders!

And in my moseying around Soi Cowboy, I found myself once again most impressed by the Dollhouse. A bunch of very pretty ladies can be found dancing in there and on Friday nigh they were in these sort of mildly transparent "slips". I don't know what you call them, but they're sort of like a sheet of material that only just covers their nether regions. You can't actually see anything, which to me at least, makes it even sexier.

Now I have to see that the Dollhouse is a little bit cheeky in that they are still using posters with comments I made a few years back about it being the best gogo bar in town. They have that classic old poster with quotes from the Baron and I felt that Dollhouse was the best. I have to admit however that the Dollhouse is back to its old ways with a heap of really attractive dancers, cheap drinks (30 baht before 8:30 for a variety of drinks) and is for me, probably the best gogo bar in Bangkok at this point in time.

Down in Pattaya, Coyote's are having a dance competition on the first Sunday of December, and this time there will be 2 new bars involved. Club Boesche, which opened last week and also a new bar in Soi Diamond called the Windmill Club. This is a new spot that TJ and co will open this weekend, with a sort of table top dancing setup which has been described a little different. There are 7 tables which will have girls that jump into a lesbian show every 6th song all night long. Table top dancing seems to have been the big new thing in Pattaya this year.

The beach, bars and Walking Street drew thousands of people for Loy Kratong, but Pattaya could by no means be called "crowded." Walking Street had as many pedestrians Wednesday night as it usually has on recent Saturday nights – but not yet reaching high-season numbers. Same for gogo and beer bars. Ample seating was available at even the most popular establishments. Nice for customers, disappointing for bar owners.

I don't know if it is just my bad luck, or if it is symptomatic of something else, but over the pass few months I have noticed that the average taxi driver has become a right pain. I've always had a lot of time in the past for the taxi drivers who have generally been friendly, pleasant and have done what I consider to be a pretty difficult job fairly well. But these days it seems that 3 out of every 4 drivers is rude, or they don't want to take you to where you want to go or they try to engage you in unseemly conversation. Further, it seems that one has to wait a bit longer for a cab these days, though this is not a complaint, more an observation. I'm not sure quite what the cause of it is, but I believe it is symptomatic of something.

Quote of the week comes from a work colleague who commented on the new Chiang Mai Zoo which will have wild game on offer including lion, tiger, dog and elephant meat! "You can eat endangered species and puppy dogs but can't have a Tiger beer after midnight. Lovely!"

A friend wants to know if it is possible to purchase a Vespa motorcycle in Thailand. Where would be the best place to source one locally?

ATM machines have never been quite as rare as trashcans in Bangkok, but there was a time when they weren't far off. Nowadays you needn't look very far at all and you'll see an ATM machine. The days of traipsing half a block to find the nearest ATM machines are long gone. Siam Commercial Bank seems to be the leader in putting ATMs up and it seems that ATMs are even easier to find than 7 Eleven branches these days.

How often is there a jumper in Pattaya? It seems that every week a foreigner jumps from one of the hotels or high rise condos to a very nasty end. This has been going on for years and years and hell I find it hard to get my head around it. Could it be that each of these jumpers is genuine or could it be that something funny is going on. Now call me a mad for suggesting it, but is it within the realms of possibility that there is a secret gang available for hire who throw people off balconies? Maybe they are available to any disgruntled bargirl who wishes to seek revenge for any of a number of reasons – being treated badly, underpaid, stiffed or whatever. There's something about all of these deaths that just doesn't smell right.

Ahhh, we've finally made Lonely Planet guide to Thailand. From page 171 of the latest edition comes the following. "There are thousands of books written on Bangkok's sexy underbelly, but Stickman's Guide to Bangkok (www.stickmanbangkok.com) offers a palatable perspective on the give and take of 'doing' Bangkok." Thanks, Joe.

A school in Lad Prao has fired 29 teachers and told them all that their degrees weren't the genuine article! It would appear that there was some sort of mix up with tax issues and it has been mooted that this school may not be able to get work permits for foreign staff in the future. This will no doubt result in some under the table work for backpackers who are willing to battle the traffic in Lad Prao. This story simply demonstrates the sort of problems that English teachers can face.

The New York Times ran a piece on Bangkok which can be found here.

The torrential rain that we have had on a daily basis over the last two weeks has made us wonder if the rainy season will ever end. One person had an interesting take on it. He felt that the rainy season finishing around the end of October, as it has over the last several years, was actually not the norm at all, and this year's rainy season running well into November is more what is to be expected, and what was until a few years ago, the norm.

Ask the Sticks

Mrs. Stick is here to answer questions surrounding anything that confuses you in Thailand, particularly issues of the heart. Please note that for general bargirl related questions, Mr. Stick might answer them. It has to be said that Mrs. Stick is not your stereotypical Thai woman. She is not Buddhist and she is not shy to criticise things about her own country and culture, although having said that, she remains proud to be Thai. Mr. Stick will try and answer the questions which Mrs. Stick is not so sure about. Please do try and limit the length of questions to Mrs. Stick to about 100 words. We get many questions that are entire stories of several hundred words which I'm afraid are just too long to run here.

Question 1: I am a female farang and I am interested in dating a Thai man. The Thai man I'm interested in may be categorized as jau chuu, but he tells me that he's tired of casual encounters with girls and is looking for a girlfriend now (he's 32.) He takes things very slowly with me and has told me it's best just to be friends for a while, although he will hold my hand at times and give me innocent kisses. He's also told me that he likes me in "that" way. He does ask me a lot of questions about myself and my plans for the future. So, I'm wondering if taking things slowly is his way of showing me that he respects me and would possibly like to have a relationship with me? Is this traditional Thai dating etiquette? How does a Thai man generally court a woman he's interested in? I should also add that he comes from a good family, is well educated, and I don't think he's using me for my "farang-ness" in any way. Also, how does Thai society view female farang / male Thai relationships? Would it be shameful for him or his family if he did have a relationship with me?

Mrs. Stick says: From what you have said here it shows that this guy is the type of guy who would seem to see you as someone he is interested in for something serious. There is little doubt, based on what you have said that this guy is doing things the proper way. If Thai men take things slowly like this and are not trying to rush things, then that is the best indicator that things are going well. We don't usually see farang women with Thai men. I mean there are some, but not so many. For a Thai guy to choose a Western woman and not try and get into her pants quickly shows that he is probably a fairly patient, serious guy. A relationship like this might be a little unusual, but if they are a decent family, I am sure that his family will not see you being farang as a problem. I have noticed that real Thai families are much more open-minded about such relationships than Thai Chinese.

Question 2: Do you have any views on why very few Thai people are unable or unwilling to plan for the costs of death in the family, accident costs, healthcare, sudden unexpected liabilities, etc and yet do not want to put cash aside when things are going well? They seem to want to live the best when they are doing well and queue up for loans when they are on a down. Any thoughts?

Mrs. Stick says: It is not everyone who is like this! You are right in that some Thai people might not have the same savings habits as farangs. A big part of Thai culture is helping people and in the case of someone dying, people will bring an envelope to the funeral containing cash which will be used to help cover the costs. Also, when one person doesn't have enough money for something, often family members will help out. This favour should be returned in the future when the person who helped out is themselves helped out. A lot of Thai people do save money though, so I wonder about the people who you refer to. We're not all the same. I have seen some farangs with what I would have thought are bad spending habits and I know some farangs in Thailand who aren't young and have no money at all. You also need to understand that people who earn such small amounts of money may not see any reason to save what may be a very small amount. Imagine someone who works at KFC for example where the salary is very low. What small amount they spend they may want to use to make their life that little bit more fun, or even more bearable.

Question 3: A Thai girl told me recently many younger Thais females (up to 25) find black men very attractive? She said the cool clothes and laid back style were very appealing. I was under the impression that black guys got a hard time and were generally seen as unattractive. Is her view common?

Mrs. Stick says: I am guessing that she may be referring to some of the black guys on MTV or Hollywood stars. These guys might be popular. But if you are referring to the black guys roaming around just up from Soi Nana then I doubt whether the average Thai women would have a thing for them. To be honest, and I hate to say this, but it is just the way that things are in Thailand, black men are generally considered less desirable than white guys. Personally, I think it comes down to the way individuals express themselves which is important. If every black guy was like Will Smith then wow, we'd all love black men!

You will likely have noticed that this site is starting to look a little different. Let's face it, the design of this site wasn't just dated, but antiquated, and its appearance has always been that of a mid '90s webpage. The idea of the new style is to try and make it look a bit more modern while keeping it relatively simple and easy to navigate. Your thoughts on the new style – which is far from finished, are very welcome.

Your Bangkok commentator,

Stick

Thanks go out to Bkk Grasshopper, Mr. Write and Mike from Bangkok Companies.