Stickman's Weekly Column December 4th, 2005

A Sin Sot FAQ





Ever since the opening piece in the column a few weeks back about the guy who was asked for what was essentially a 2,000,000 baht dowry, both myself and the Mrs. have been inundated with questions about the issue of the dowry, or sin sot as it is known in Thai. In an effort to put the sin sot issue to bed once and for all, what follows is a FAQ outlining sin sot in Thailand.

What is the sin sot?

Sin sot is often translated as dowry. It is money AND gold given by the groom to his bride (but usually retained and managed by her parents, at least initially) on the day of their wedding, or sometimes, at the engagement ceremony. I personally believe that "bride price" is a better term than dowry.

What is the reason for the sin sot?

There are several reasons for the payment of the sin sot.

Traditionally in Thailand the wife would leave the family home upon marriage and move in with her husband’s family. As her family had lost a set of hands, and thus labour, the sin sot was compensation of sorts for this.

The sin sot is also seen as re-imburisng the family for the cost of raising a child.

The sin sot is supposedly seen as a means of showing that the groom is able to take care (financially) of his bride. Personally, I think this is absolutely daft and would question how anyone could feel this is a valid reason.

Finally, the sin sot is seen as a sort of guarantee money so that if the husband leaves his wife, she is guaranteed to have some money to look after herself. Remember, in Thailand in the past, and still to some extent today, a woman who has divorced is looked upon as spoiled goods, and is hardly ideal material for a wife. So if she has been divorced, she might struggle to have a good life and the sin sot money could be used to make sure she doesn't go hungry.

So what happens to the sin sot once it is paid at the wedding?

In an ideal world, the cash part of the sin sot would be looked after by the bride’s parents until such a time that it was decided just what would happen to it. It might be returned to the happy couple so as to enable the purchase of marital assets and all of the things a new couple needs. It could be returned to the bride for her to use as she sees fit. It could be returned in part or total to the groom. Finally, it could be used by the parents to purchase new assets or in a worst case scenario, squandered on anything from gambling to liquor to paying off debts.

As mentioned earlier, sin sot usually comprises both cash and gold. The gold is usually in the form of jewellery, Thai gold that can be cashed in easily at any gold store. This is usually given to the bride immediately and is hers to keep, with no mention of returning it to the groom. In a few cases it may be returned to the groom, but typically, it goes to the bride.

In reality what happens to the cash component of the sin sot?

This is a generalisation, but there is a definite correlation between the class and financial situation of the bride's family and what happens to the dowry. In the cases of poorer families, it is often, but certainly not always, kept by the family. In the cases of wealthy families, it is more likely to be returned to the couple.

Do all Thais practice the giving of sin sot?

Most Thais do, but certainly not all. There is a relatively small percentage of the population who do not. I have heard that the tradition is not practiced quite as much in the south of Thailand as it is elsewhere. Still, that would seem to be less relevant to farangs as women from the south are probably the least likely that a farang would marry.

I’m farang, not Thai, so does this apply to me?

The average Thai will most likely feel that it applies to you just as much as it applies to a Thai man and they may even feel that it applies to you “even more”. It is a sad fact that some poorer Thai families may see this as an opportunity to ask for a much higher sin sot than they would expect to get if their daughter was marrying a local man.

So I have no choice, I have to pay?

You have a choice and you do not have to pay! There are a good number of farang men who are totally opposed to it and did not pay. A number of farang men have told me that they would rather leave the woman they love than be “forced” to pay such an amount of money. I cannot count how many times I have heard words to the effect that a guy would never buy a wife. It is a personal decision and one that is different for everyone.

The difference between paying and not paying could be the difference between marrying and not marrying. If your wife to be, or a senior member of her family, says that if you do not pay then you cannot marry, you could offer to put some money on the table for display with the explicit understanding that as soon as the ceremony is over, the money goes back to you. This way the family gains face in the community and amongst their friends and peers because their daughter appears to have married a wealthy man who can afford to pay a lot of money. But then you get the money back when everyone has gone home. I believe this to be a win : win situation.

If the family does not agree with this very reasonable counter offer and continues to say that if you don't pay and allow them to keep the money, then you should thank your lucky stars that you have found out what sort of people they are early in the piece. This is NOT the sort of woman you want to marry, or family you want to marry into. Run!

Can I pay the sin sot now and then say to the family that that is all they will get from me and in lieu of this one time payment I won't provide any support to them in the future?

This is a very common question from farangs contemplating marrying a Thai women. Poorer Thais may expect that their children will look after them in their old age. I notice more and more middle and upper class Thais refuse to become a burden to their children and have made plans so that financially they will be able to look after themselves.

The point here is that the sin sot is in no way related to supporting or assisting her parents. The issues of sin sot and parental support are quite separate, and the issue of supporting her parents or assisting them financially should be talked about openly before marriage. But don't confuse it with sin sot.

What determines the cost of the sin sot?

There are may things that determine how much the sin sot will be and they include, but are not limited to, the age of the woman, whether she has previously been married or not, whether she is pure and innocent (read a virgin), her level of education, her job and job history and perhaps most importantly, the status and standing of her family in the community.

What if she has been married before and / or has had kids? Do I still have to pay sin sot?

The jury is out on this one. I have heard older Thai people I respect say that in the case of a woman who has been married already or has had kids that sin sot is absolutely not necessary at all. I have also heard exactly the opposite from other Thais I respect. My feeling is that if she was previously married or had kids, then sin sot should not be deemed necessary, but that is just my personal opinion.

It is important to understand that different families and different communities have slightly different ideas on the issue of sin sot. There are few absolutes.

How is the actual amount agreed?

There will usually be a meeting between a respected friend or family member of the groom to be, and the parents of the bride to be, at the parents of the bride to be's parents' house. The bride to be's family might even get a senior or well-respected friend of theirs to discuss it on their behalf. As with many things in Thailand, it will usually be discussed over food!

Truthfully, when farangs enter the fray it can be difficult, as the Thai women who farangs marry are not always typical of the your average Thai girl. As mentioned earlier, the actual sin sot amount is partly determined by whether the girl has been soiled or not. But this is difficult as you cannot just come out and say, "well this one has had more pricks than a pin cushion so you're going to have knock 75% off the price!" It's a very sensitive process and as such, it is best to get a senior Thai, who is in all likelihood much more familiar with the issue, to discuss it and negotiate on your behalf.

I am of the opinion that when a girl is obviously not the sort of woman that Thai men would be lining up for and her value is perhaps somewhat limited, then the best thing to do is for the lady in question to negotiate a fair price (read a token amount) with her parents directly. This will eliminate any potentially ugly moments.

I have been asked to pay 1,000,000 baht. Is this fair?

It could be a fair price, but in all likelihood, it isn’t.

Exactly how much should I pay?

As a very rough guide, and I must stress that, very rough, here are a few examples.

The family of an unmarried woman in her mid 20s from a very well-connected, respected, high society family with an overseas education may ask for millions of baht. Yes, you read that correctly, MILLIONS. A Thai man marrying her would be expected to be well educated, from a good family himself and either successful in business already, or someone well on the way to reaching that point. He would either himself have the cash on hand, or access to the amount requested. Frankly, farangs seldom marry women like this. It was reported in the press a few years back that the ultra rich American businessman who married Bui, Thailand's Miss World, paid $US 10,000,000 – about 400 million baht! Anyway, for a woman of this standing, the Expected dowry: Millions of baht!

An unmarried woman aged late '20s or 30 who grew up in and was educated to bachelor’s degree level in Bangkok and hails from a respectable middle-class family. She may have had one or two boyfriends along the way and now has a good job, such as in a bank or in an office. Expected dowry: 100,000 – 200,000 baht.

A woman from the countryside who completed school to grade 12 level but did not go on to university. She may have a modest job such as working as a waitress or another service oriented job. She is either a virgin or has had few boyfriends. Expected dowry: up to 50,000 – 100,000 baht.

A woman from the countryside who went to Bangkok or Pattaya and chose to work in the world’s oldest profession. Frankly, a Thai guy would not choose to marry a woman like this unless he was, with all due respect, from the lower echelons of society. Expected dowry: very low indeed, most likely well under 50,000 baht.

Incidentally, the highest dowry I have personally seen with my very own eyes was over 3,000,000 baht (in a Thai / Thai wedding) and the lowest I have heard of was 7,000 baht.

I'm worried about what happens if I pay a large amount which has been promised back to me but does not come back as had been agreed?

Very good question! By law, once the sin sot has been paid, the person who paid it has NO RIGHT to ask for it to be returned. This is written into law. If it is returned to the groom and the bride then decides that she wants it back, she has no right, within the law, to get it back, irrespective of whatever may have happened.

Now in the countryside, where the written law is not always applied as it is written, things can be a little different. If a dowry is paid by the groom to be to the bride's family BEFORE the marriage and then she goes off and does the dirty before marriage, then the groom to be will ask for the sin sot to be returned TIMES TWO. So if 50,000 baht was paid, 100,000 baht would need to be returned. This sort of thing is taken very seriously in the provinces and failure to return it could result in extreme measures!

A few years ago I conducted an investigation for a British gentleman who paid a one million baht dowry to a former Soi Cowboy employee and she ran off with it the night of the wedding! In situations like this, the police should be contacted and it will be treated as theft. Whether or not you'll get the money back or not though remains uncertain.

How is payment made? Are installments accepted?

There is some flexibility here. Generally the sin sot is paid in cash, and the banknotes are fanned out to show clearly how much there is. At some weddings a cheque may be used and at others, I have seen a newly opened bank account shown.

The crowd will often clap, and even cheer, when the amount of the sin sot is announced. Often there will be some theatrics. At one wedding I attended, the cash was wrapped up in a cloth and the mother of the bride put it over her shoulder and walked away, making out that it was so heavy (and therefore a large sum) that it was hard to walk properly.

What about you, Stick, did you pay?

Rather than answer that most personal of questions, let me sum up what those close to me who are married to Thai women did, which makes for a more representative sample. These are all people I know well. Most are living here in Thailand and still married, although there have been a couple of divorces. Two couples have moved back to the West.

Paid a dowry with explicit instructions that it would be returned after the ceremony and it was. 1
Paid a dowry that was not returned to them – they knew the arrangement before they paid it. 7
Paid a dowry with agreement that it would be returned to them in full, but it wasn't. 1
Did not pay a dowry at all. 18

So you can see that of the Westerners I know who married a Thai woman, 18 out of 27, or 66%, never paid a dowry at all! 7 out of 27, or about 25%, paid a dowry that was never returned to them – and they knew that in advance. In some cases it was returned to the bride, in others it was retained, or spent, by the parents. The one interesting case is where a dowry was paid with agreement previously reached that it would be returned in full. It wasn't. This couple are still married, but in all likelihood, not for much longer – and the dowry issue is what would appear to have come between them.

Cut to the chase, Stick. What is the reality of the situation?

Truthfully, in the vast majority of marriages between Thai women and Western men, the Thai woman is marrying “up”. She is marrying a guy who is in all likelihood older than her, has probably already made something of a life for himself, and she will, in all likelihood, be well looked after. Yes, I’m generalising here, but bear with me. Given that she, in all likelihood, may not make the same financial contributions to the relationship that perhaps a Western woman would, then is it somewhat unusual, at the very least, to expect him to have to cough up money in advance, given that he is essentially going to make a god life for her and is potentially taking on what might become a lifetime financial commitment.

Is there anything else I should be aware of?

One thing I often cringe at is when a farang says that the sin sot will be used to cover the cost of the wedding ceremony and party. This is one area where the Thais have got it over us Westerners, I reckon. At weddings, guests typically give an envelope and all of the money from the envelopes combined invariably covers the cost of the wedding. The wedding party is not a financial nightmare like it can be in the West.

The sin sot is inextricably linked to other aspects of marriage including those of who will make what in terms of financial contributions, pre-nuptial agreements, divorce etc. If she will not budge on the sin sot issue, then you should not budge on the pre-nuptial issue. I find it somewhat disconcerting that a number of Thai women try to demand a sin sot, yet refuse to sign a pre-nuptial agreement!

Quite simply, when put under scrutiny, I do not see any valid reasons why sin sot should be paid by Western men, other than to allow the family to gain face – and then have it returned to the groom at the end of the ceremony.

In marriages between Western men and Thai women, I am of the opinion that the sin sot issue has the potential to be big trouble. I have seen it as the cause of major arguments, angst, stress, and have seen it become the direct cause of some marriages failing. Good luck dealing with it.

WHERE IS THIS PICTURE Competition?

It was the Thai temple in Los Angeles! Ha!

Not the best exchange rates!

Last week's pic was the most difficult in a long time. The only people who got it right were Americans for it showed the Thai temple in Los Angeles, California! A grand total of seven readers got it right, which I thought was a pretty good effort. 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

Sad to leave hospital!

I was unlucky to be struck down with a “mystery virus” whilst on holiday in Bangkok about 2 years ago. I think it was a result of the hot weather, drinking and spending time in the company of women I shouldn’t have been. Anyway, as I was staying about two blocks away, and armed with travel insurance, a friend suggested I go to BNH to get myself checked out. By the time I saw a doctor I was close to passing out. What followed was two days of pampering by some of the most beautiful women I have ever seen (maybe it was the uniforms). One morning I remember waking to find four of them at the foot of my bed. One checking my temperature, one taking my breakfast order and the other two I think just “along for the ride”. Unfortunately I didn’t pluck up the courage to ask for a sponge bath. But beautiful nurses aside, I found the service to be excellent. Each day a PR guy who checked in on the farang patients came in and asked how I was. After being pumped full of drugs for two days, I was unfortunately discharged.

Maybe government hospitals aren't so bad?

Several years ago I was out on my bike when I came across a 'kampung' type locality at the bottom of a small soi off Soi 39, Sukhumvit, and right next to the Klong San Saeb. There were street dogs around, one of which bit my leg unexpectedly – its canine tooth penetrating my flesh by about 1cm. Blood was streaming down my leg into my sock! A Thai lady, very possibly the owner (but not admitting it) advised I should go the nearest hospital which turned out to be the private Prommitr in Soi 39, complete with an array of Mercs in the parking lot. The wound was dressed and I was taken to the doctor who administered a 'holding' anti-rabies jab. He advised a course of anti-rabies treatment involving some seven or so shots but he warned they were 'quite expensive'. "By 'quite expensive', what do you mean?", I asked. 2,400 baht each. What!? "So, what do Thai people do, then, when they have a dog bite? They couldn't afford that." "Oh, they go to a government hospital." "Oh, really – perhaps I should do the same?" "Ah," he said "their serum comes from horses whereas ours is specially developed from humans", thinking he'd got me there. "Well," I said, "horses are much stronger than humans, so I'll take my chances with them." Then off I went. At the government hospital near Victory Monument I had the shots – at, wait for it – 300 baht each! And the people at the government hospital were extremely pleasant although going to such places and seeing (very sick) patients on trolleys all over the place puts you off somewhat.

Could you go back to the medical system in your corner of Farangland?

I started off with Bangkok General as that was recommended by my office but found their appointment system a bit hopeless and got fed up spending an hour waiting although once I got to see the doctor it was fine. After that I used Samitivej Sukhumvit and always found it excellent. The doctors I saw all spoke very good English and unlike some other Asian doctors didn't seem addicted to dishing out antibiotics for everything. When I did have an issue, I saw a specialist within 20 minutes and the service and treatment was first class. We also used their dentistry service and my wife had root canal work done, again first class. I cannot imagine having to back to the UK's NHS.

Patong Harbor View Condominiums

But it ain't all rosy red!

About a year ago a Bangkok hospital was featured on a TV current affairs program in Australia. Seems that they had invested in some professional PR services, disseminated the usual press releases, resulting in some TV stories from networks here and in many other parts of the world. I have a couple of friends who can afford regular plastic surgery and when the costs of such surgery started to mount up, they decided to "accumulate" a few nips & tucks and have them done over a couple of weeks there. Before doing so, the husband travelled to Bangkok to check on the hospital and make arrangements thereafter. Turns out that the quality of the procedures left much to be desired. Their decision to have them done at that hospital was the biggest mistake they ever made. Compounding the problem was that the wife had also had her eyes and eyelids done and as a result she was disfigured. A few weeks ago she used a local surgeon to correct the poor quality work that was originally performed there. As you say, the best outfit could include a rogue operator, but in this case both my friends had different surgeons who fxxxed up big time.

Beware of catching an STD….from yourself!

My experience at Bumrungrad was similar to yours: A couple of years ago, I was having trouble getting rid of an STD so I thought I would give the best hospital in Asia a try. After a very unpleasant registration and waiting period during which I was made to feel like a product being processed by the Bumrungrad medical machine, the first thing they did was have me give a urine sample. I was impressed with the effort they seemed to go to in order to ensure proper hygiene, including having me use rubber gloves to hold my thing while I pissed in a bottle. As I found out later, this rubber glove business was more for the hospital’s profit rather than for my benefit as I was of course required to pay a hefty price for the gloves and other such equipment unnecessary for a simple urine test. Then the real kicker came: After giving the urine sample, the doctor told me that the results would be ready tomorrow – but that I should come back in A WEEK to pick them up! The reason? He was off on holiday for the next bloody week! Who wants to wait a week for such results? And what an insult to me as a patient! The result: I paid my bill, walked out the door, and never went back – not even to get the useless results. And I’ll never set foot in that hospital again. In the meantime I’ve found a couple of wonderful doctors at Samitivej Hospital for my other ailments that occasionally crop up.

Well-known bar owner Peter will be holding a dance contest at Playskool in Nana Plaza which will be sponsored by a number of people with the proceeds going to kids' orphanages. It will consist of two heats with the first at Playskool on December 7th, the second at Suzy Wong's in January, and the final in February at Sheba's. Give generously for this excellent cause and please note that Peter will personally double the amount of all donations received. Outstanding! He is also going to raffle off two motorcycles at the final.

Absolute7bar, that is a rather nice bar in the still relatively new bar soi of Sukhumvit Soi 7/1, will be holding a lottery on the 16th of December, the lucky winner of which will take home a brand new motorcycle, a chopper. For every drink purchased from now to the 16th you will receive one lottery ticket. The more you drink the better your chances are of winning a NEW MOTORCYCLE on the 16th of December.

Is it a case of bait and switch, or did they simply overdo it on the re-opening night? Deja Vu in Soi Cowboy enthralled customers on the re-opening night when they had a free buffet and heaps of girls on the premises with some wild shows. A week later, the place is quiet. Why? Well it would seem that the owner had pulled in girls from his other bars, namely Midnite and Spice Girls, for the opening night and to get people talking about the place. All very good and well to have one good night, but it would seem that the general consensus is that since then, it has not quite been the same. All the positive words in Cowboy these days seem to be about Dollhouse, Sheba's and Suzy Wong's.

Still in Soi Cowboy, the owner of AfterSkool wants to make sure that the girls have a good time in the bar, and that they have the party attitude needed to create a fun atmosphere. Every single night he makes available a bottle of Thai whiskey which the girls can drink freely, to put them in the mood. This is something that a few other bar owners could consider doing.

Stories coming out of the Rainbow bars suggest that these four bars in Nana are almost like their own little world within Nana, operating quite differently to the rest of the bars. We have always known that things weren't the same, many girls' preference for Japanese customers being just one difference. In most bars in the naughty nightlife industry the girls are scared of the mamasans, and it is the mamasans who run the bars with an iron fist. But in the Rainbows it is quite different. First of all, if a girl comes in late to the Rainbow bars but is still barfined that night, she is NOT fined for arriving at work later as she would be in other bars. So, a pretty girl who is confident of being barfined can rock on in at say 10:00 PM, or even later, safe in the knowledge that her monthly salary will not be cut. Also, you might have noticed how in some of the Rainbow bars, particularly in Rainbow 2, the mamasans will flash a torch at a girl while she is dancing and tell her to go and sit with a (almost always) Japanese customer. If the girl is barfined by that guy she will pay the mamasan a commission for setting them up with a high paying customer, in the range of 100 to 1,000 baht! I don't know if this is the case in all of the Rainbow bars, but it is in some of them.

If you're in Bangkok and looking for a few pleasant spots without any hassles, there is a lot more on display at Soi Cowboy than there is at, say, Nana. Of course there is plenty on display at Patpong in the upstairs bars as there always has been and likely always will be, but of course those upstairs bars are the ones where hassles and scams are most common.

So you thought it was just Arab tourists who flooded here when it gets too hot in the Middle East? Along with the influx of Arab tourists this year has come at least one Iranian hooker who was to be seen strolling up and down Pattaya's Walking Street picking up customers. Her going rate – just 1,500 baht. She had, it must be said, a traditional Arab figure and could have done with a shave, but one brave soul who went with her said she was very enthusiastic…

Interest still abounds in the twin waitresses / dancers working in Angelwitch. University students by day, the two young stunners are by all accounts still virgins. Their mother works as a cashier and keeps a watchful eye over them. So far I'm reliably informed 120,000 baht has been offered to short-time the pair but the mother has turned down all offers. She hasn't said that her daughters aren't for sale – just that the price isn't high enough. Wow!

Dunno what it is about Pattaya but the nightlife industry really does stay in the family. A friend knows of at least two bars where three sisters are working (and being barfined) together. And yes, he checked their IDs!

There’s no doubt now that Pattaya is celebrating the official commencement of high season. On any given afternoon here, foreigners who had spent the last 11 months drearily sitting behind desks or slaving away at dreary jobs, augmenting their assets, can now be spotted drearily sitting on bar stools sipping suds and broadening their bellies. Such is life in this seaside resort dedicated to after-dark sporting. For those left standing by the time the sun sets, entertainment options are expanding to include even more new and / or bigger gogo and beer bars.

Pattaya now hosts more than 50 gogo bars with others scheduled to open soon. Among them, and new to visitors who haven’t been to Fun City in a while, are those in the Covent Garden complex on Soi 16, south end of Walking Street, namely Club Boesche, Babewatch (great name for a bar), Catz, and Dream Girls – not to mention a handful of new beer bars. Opening farther north on and just off the famed street are the Windmill, Teasers, the appropriately named Beavers, the over-priced Galaxy, the reconstituted Club Electric Blue, and others. Even once-quiet Soi Buakao, long simply an alternate route between Central and South Pattaya Roads, now hosts dozens of beer bars as well as short-time hotels and gogo bars. In my regular jaunts down to Pattaya this year I feel more and more that Fun City is better than ever.

In addition to new clubs and beer-boozing complexes throughout the city, two well-established chrome pole joints have added space and dancers in time for high season: Classroom II, Soi 1 in North Pattaya, and Happy on Walking Street. Little else has changed in either venue. Classroom II is still North Pattaya’s leading gogo, offering a friendly atmosphere and a handful of attractive ladies; Happy continues to draw SRO crowds with 45 baht draft during happy hour and attractive dancers who seem to think their shit doesn’t stink – little eye contact, even fewer smiles, and virtually no enthusiasm.

Pattaya’s Immigration Office shut down its Soi 8 facilities yesterday (Saturday). The new office is set to open Tuesday on Soi 5 in Jomtien. And for farang holding one-year visas, local Immigration officers note that beginning in February expats will be able to fulfil their 90-day reporting requirements online.

Following on from the story in last week's column about Sawasdee Bar in Patpong being a rip-off bar, I received a heap of stories relating to rip-offs there, some going back as far as 10 years when it had a different name. You've been warned…

Tomorrow is HM The King's Birthday. This is one of the biggest and most celebrated holidays in the Thai calendar and most nightspots will be closed. I remember when I first I came to Thailand and December 5 was the only holiday when bars closed, but things have sure changed since then.

Sticking my nose into other people's business, I often get sent all around the city, to some right dodgy neighbourhoods, and often with little more than a Thai address in hand. Bangkok is easy to navigate in the central areas, but the further out you get, the tougher it gets to find places. I have long been on the look out for a good map, and at last I have found one. The Thinknet Bangkok map includes both a paper map and a map of the city on CD, all for a bargain 199 baht! It was so cheap I couldn't believe it, given that you get both the paper map and the CD. If you're in the market for a city map – and in particular a searchable copy for your computer, this one is worthwhile. It's not perfect – the CD version is riddled with spelling mistakes and some places are not quite in the right spot, but overall it is pretty good. At 199 baht, it is hard to complain.

FLB Bar on Walking Street in Pattaya is an odd sort of place, and one bar I never really got into. I could never work out if it was a hostess bar, a dance club or something else. One thing's for sure, the name of the bar is misleading. But my indifference was not mirrored by others and I seemed to be in the minority, most people I know raved about the place, and it seemed to be something of a hang out for locals and regular visitors to Pattaya. FLB was owned by one of my fellow countrymen for many years and managed by British Ben. But not so long ago the Kiwi owner decided it was time to get out and he sold it on to an American fellow. Since the sale, there have been reports that it is not quite the same fun venue that it once was and rumours are doing the rounds as to just why that is. In fact some folks have been getting their knickers in a twist over it! Whatever the case, the change in ownership has not been without its hiccups.

A scam or commission gouging – or are they one and the same? Some of the ladies of the night who can be found loitering on Sukhumvit in search of customers are being used in a clever scheme to sell "ladies drinks" from the mobile drinks carts you see up and down Sukhumvit late into the night. Certain girls who stand by the roadside may have some affiliation with the makeshift bars and will try and get you to buy them a drink, and sit down and enjoy it with you. When the bill comes, you might be surprised to find that the girl's drinks have been charged at up to 130 baht a drink! This includes commission for the girl. I thought the whole reason for getting drinks at these stalls was because they were supposed to be cheap?!

A little update from TJ of Coyotes & Windmill Club in Pattaya. The dance competition tonight is bringing in a crowd from Bangkok with Daryl from Mystique going down with an army of friends and from how the last one went with very little advertising, it is expected that tonight's competition should be a great night. Despite the fact that many new clubs have opened over the last few months in Pattaya and competition is stiff, TJ tells me that he believes he has the best overall line of talent in Pattaya. Hmm, almost every bar owner tells me that!

The rumours about access to 800,000 websites being banned from Thailand are starting to heat up. A list of the sites to be banned has not yet been circulated and no-one really knows which sites will be on the "not to be visited list". This comes at the same time that Guy Sharret, co-author of "Bangkok Inside Out" distributed a press release stating that his highly acclaimed book had been removed from the shelves of bookstores in Thailand under orders from the Ministry of Culture. It would seem that certain parts of the book were taken out of context, and the fact that the book had sections on some of the naughty nightlife areas as well as other less salubrious things in the city such as fake goods and shock, horror, homosexuals, were all seen as painting Thailand in a negative light. A very sad day for press freedom.

There seem to be more and more Mexican buffets about town these days. The old faithful, and one which I swear by, is Bourbon Street's Mexican buffet every Tuesday night. I personally think it is pretty damned good and excellent value at just 245 baht. A number of American residents in Bangers claim that the Mexican buffet at the Great American Rib Company in Sukhumvit Soi 36 is pretty good. I've heard mixed reports about the place, from very good, to mediocre so I guess I'll have to try it myself. I notice that the Irish Xchange now has a Mexican lunch buffet offered some days at 299 baht. Another one to try.

As we move into the peak period of the high season, you won't be able to get a room in central Bangkok for love nor money. But don't let that put you off visiting at this time of year. If you do not need to be pampered in a flash hotel and / or do not need to stay in a centrally located place, you can ALWAYS get a room somewhere in Bangkok. It might not be in Sukhumvit, Silom or Banglampoo, but the city is FULL of hotels and you only need to travel a few km from the city centre in any direction and you'll find many hotels, most of which will have rooms available. They'll be reasonably priced too. The bottom line is that if you really want to visit Bangkok at this time of year, you will be able to get a room. Any decent travel agent will find you one in minutes.

Readers often complain to me about Thai companies and organisations failing to respond to emails. This has always been a problem, and it doesn't seem to have improved much over the years. While companies may advertise their email address, it would seem that the person or persons responsible for dealing with it may not have very good English – or may not even check the email account! The bottom line is that if you need to deal with Thai companies, be aware that email is not always the means of communication.

Please note that my email address is [email protected] and NOT [email protected] (note the missing Bangkok). A number of people have sent email to the wrong address.

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: My girlfriend often says she gets a headache "from thinking too much". I hear that a lot from Thai girls. Is that just a figure of speech, or do Thai people actually get pain in their heads from spending too much time thinking?

Mrs. Stick says: This is just a figure of speech and people saying it usually do not want to think about OR deal with the issue that is being discussed. It can also be a means of avoiding things (at that time) – sometimes, not all the time. It could, and please, I stress could, be representative of someone who doesn't take things seriously. The next time your lady friend says this, tell her that it is better to have a headache from thinking about and considering something than having a headache because you didn't think about it and then have to deal with the consequences.

Question 2: I like many aspects of the Thai character but as with all people there are some serious down sides. Walking along the beach after Loy Kratong, I spent half my time picking up broken bottles and nails which had been use the construct the festival items. Don't Thai people think about what they are doing to the beaches & the danger posed to people on the beach afterwards? I once witnessed a couple of Thai men throwing their spent beer bottles into the sea while their children & wives were swimming (they were careful to make sure the bottles landed in a different place to where their families were). I know many cultures in this region are pretty ignorant to anyone other than their close friends and family, but I don't understand why? Is it just the lower-classes / uneducated Thais who act like this?

Mrs. Stick says: Not all of the people doing this are from the lower echelons of society. You might be surprised to know that there are plenty of educated and wealthy people who act in exactly the same way. I don't like to say it but this is one area where Thai people really do not have any concept at all. In Thai we say "muk ngai" – this means that Thai people like to have an easy life without any hassles – saduak (convenient) and sabaii (trouble free, comfortable). This is one area where, in my opinion Thai people need to improve seriously!

Question 3: I'm a farang women, 27, involved with this highly intelligent, sweet Thai man. We met while he was working in my home land in agriculture. He is from the North-Eastern region. I am highly educated, he is not. So, after 1.5 years of relationship in Farangland I finally arrived to Thailand about 2.5 weeks ago. After the initial shock I had seeing the way of life in a poor Thai village, some improvements to the facilities inside the house are being made. BUT, still remains the trouble I have with my partner! He does not share with me his feelings / thoughts / plans. I constantly feel like an ornament (a show of – so his family and friends can see what a nice white girl he has), only to please him sexually and keep quiet the rest of the time. While with his friends I'm left out. I currently don't speak the language, am learning. Even after the "get together" he doesn't want to share with me even the main issues that they spoke about. He is constantly paying his family expenses, and I am paying for my own, so to not take advantage of his resources too. Is this acceptable? His money will eventually run out, and he still doesn't know what he wishes to do in Thailand. While in my home land, he always talked about his plans, he always shared my point of view on things (I mean the way I see a good healthy relationship etc.) Now nothing seem to hold. Is he a liar? Am I being conned? All Thai men are like that? I am in a serious internal conflict. I love him, and I keep making all sort of concessions, just to make it work. My own mother doesn't believe it's me any more… The question is, if I can keep doing this the rest of my life or should I back down while its not to late?

Mrs. Stick says: This is why many Thai women are looking for farang guys these days. What he is doing is unacceptable. It would seem he was acting when he was overseas with you and that he is showing his true colours now. A lot of Thai men are not like this. They do not honour or treat their serious girlfriend as they should. They might not actually intend to be like this, but it is simply the way they are. Of course, there are good Thai men, but this guy does not sound like one of them. You need to communicate directly with him how you feel. You need to give him a choice and if he continues like this, you need to make a choice quickly. Good luck.

Last week Mrs. Stick was asked about a bird seen on many official buildings and was unable to answer the question about it. A number of readers came to the rescue. Apparently it is a Garuda, a Hindu / Buddhist hawk god which is one of the three principal animal deities in Hindu mythology, which also include Hanuman and Ganesh, all 3 of which are revered by Buddhists as well. Garuda is the slayer of evil and therefore has become a national emblem of Thailand as well as Indonesia and several other nations.

I had been working on the sin sot FAQ on and off, adding a little bit now and then. This week was really busy so I pulled it out of the half finished column folder with a view to running it this week. I just didn't have time to finish any of the other works in progress, or write a new piece from scratch. Then a reader sends me a submission, on the very same subject, one which is more detailed, and frankly, better than what I have written. If the sin sot issue is something that interests you, then check out the readers' submissions on Monday when the next star submission goes up, which goes into the sin sot in great detail.

Your Bangkok commentator,

Stick

Thanks go out to Bkk Grasshopper and Mr. Write.