Stickman's Weekly Column December 25th, 2005

This Site, This Year In Review



This Year, This Site In Review

As 2005 comes to an end, I wonder just where time has gone. For me this year has fair rocketed along and it doesn’t seem that long ago I was writing my summary of 2004 in the City Of Angels.

2005 won’t be remembered for any specific events involving farangs like say 2004 was, when that bitch mother nature decided to give Phuket and the surrounding provinces an unwelcome visit. 2005 was just another year in paradise. But rather than look back over the year that was in Thailand, or write a series of predictions for the new year, I thought I'd write about this site, the past, and the future.

2005 has been far and away the best year yet for Stickmanbangkok.com. This site hasn’t just increased in popularity, it has soared, with proof from an independent site that measures website traffic showing that there is a whole lot of daylight between this site and most other English language Bangkok-based content sites. This site is generating more web traffic than the respective sites of each of the English language newspapers in Thailand, bar one.

I only missed one weekly column this year when I ventured home to New Zealand, and I think the column has been published on time every other week. In addition to the weekly columns, there have been over 800 stories from readers posted in the readers' submissions section. The site has been awarded various accolades including best Asian blog and part of the site was awarded site of the week award for the second time in The Bangkok Post. It's not the Nobel Prize, but it's nice all the same.

But it hasn't all been rosy red. Certain sections of the site have been copied. The most copied section locally has been that on free wi-fi hot spots in Thailand which has appeared all over the place, including other websites and even in print!

But without a doubt the most copied part of the site has been this picture of a bargirl wandering down soi 8 in Pattaya with her dinner in hand. It has appeared all over the ‘net, from local discussion forums to US-based escort sites, to various Asian forums to at least two different German porn sites. Cripes, it’s a good photo but it's not that good!

With the increased popularity and traffic comes the inevitable increase in the number of posts and discussions at the various discussion forums about articles and columns from this site. These pop up from time to time and from intelligent discussion generated from controversial opening pieces, to irate rants. The funny thing is that such discussions bring more traffic and new readers to the site. Long may they continue!

The readership of the site seems to have become more diverse, and more varied. While there are a number of readers who tune in to the weekly column specifically for nightlife content only, there would probably be just as many readers who are not at all interested in the smut and skim over that looking for news and views on life in general. There are a number of regular readers who have never even been to Thailand and the Thai contingent, particularly Thai females funnily enough, is increasing. My best guess is that in addition to the thousands of regular farang readers, there are perhaps a few hundred regular Thai readers too.

The opening piece of the column remains the hardest part to write and the part which I tend to spend the most time on. Usually between 2:00 and 4:00 PM on Sundays I can be found hammering away at the keyboard frantically trying to get the opening piece done before the 6:00 PM deadline. How much work I have put into it during the week usually determines whether it works or not. Busy weeks for Stickman at the day job usually results in an average column.

The where is this picture and emails to Stickman sections are easy to put together, although I do edit (read – clean up) some of the emails sent in. A few people have got their knickers in a twist because the email they had sent in for the very purpose of being published wasn't included. Averaging well over 50 emails a day, there are plenty to choose from.

The news section of the week requires more legwork than any other part with the need to go out at least one night of the week and observe what's happening in the bar areas. As crazy as it sounds, this is something I find to be quite a chore. While the news is not all bar related, there is demand for news from the bars, particularly from readers outside of Thailand. This is perhaps the most difficult aspect of the column, trying to get the right balance.

I was inundated with emails from people who didn't want to see Mrs. Stick' section canned. The Mrs. answers her questions every Sunday morning, just before we go out for breakfast. While she is putting her face on I drag the laptop through to the bedroom and translate the questions for her into Thai, which she answers in Thai, and then I translate back into English and write into the column. She'll usually check the answers and edit them a little if she feels the translation isn't quite right. For what it's worth, some questions she finds herself at pains on just how to answer and it is not uncommon for her to say things along the lines of "This is common and really bad in Thailand but I really don't want to say that." Yeah, she knows that relationships between farangs and Thai women can be fraught with problems.

I've probably become a bit more laid back in my approach to writing about what's going on in the bars, which is probably a good thing because there is a small number of bar owners and managers who become unstable if you say anything other than glowing, positive comments about their bar. I’ve generally had a good relationship with bar owners and bar managers but over time the relationship with some has become stressed. Some would have a heart attack if some of the truths about certain bars appeared online – and there'd be a number of motorcycle taxis on the hunt for the writer – hence there are a few things I don't include! It is a shame that not all bar owners and managers are as easy to get along with as the likes of Dave, Matt, Andy, Peter and Ricky.

The hard part now is how to go about developing and improving the site in the future. Part of me would love to do it full-time. I really enjoy putting it all together and over the years I've been fortunate to meet many wonderful people, a number of whom have become good friends. But wandering around this mad city, observing and photographing life and then chronicling it all, as much fun as it is, takes a heap of time. As long as I am in full-time employment, there will always be a limit to what I can do, and it is frustrating that the site has yet to fulfil its potential.

There's not a day that passes by when I don’t think about throwing in my day job and trying to make the site into something really special. Dedicating not just 3 or 4 hours a day to it, but 8 or 10. There is no doubt I could cover more, weekly columns would be longer and more in-depth and the writing wouldn't be quite as rough. More time would result in a vastly superior product.

Of course there is an answer to this dilemma, quit my day job and charge for access. Subscriptions to read Stickman! No, that is simply not an option and it will NEVER happen. This site will always be offered free in its entirety. A donation system will be implemented some time, but it will be entirely optional.

As always I am very grateful to a number of people who have helped out, both with tangible contributions and no end of encouragement. In no specific order I’d like to thank Mr. Write, Dave The Rave, Claymore and Bkk Grasshopper who have all made significant contributions this year.

This site has become a very enjoyable community to be part of and for that I thank you all, every last one of you, whether you’re a regular reader, someone who just pops in occasionally, or perhaps even someone who is reading for the first time.


WHERE IS THIS PICTURE Competition?

It was La Boulange.

Another Bangkok sunset, but where?

Last week's pic was of La Boulange in Soi Convent, which is right across the road from Starbucks and the Irish Xchange. This week's first prize is a 500 baht credit at Tony's Bar in Soi Cowboy. Prizes number 2 and 3 are a 500 baht dinner voucher for use at Sin in Sukhumvit Soi 4. This week's picture was kindly provided by this site.

FROM STICKMAN'S EMAIL INBOX

Does making cultural adjustments mean you have to become a doormat?

Apart from the price of beer and barfines, the one subject that seems to get westerners commenting is the subject of sin sot. Many seem to take pleasure in telling us that they paid nothing or very little, whereas a Thai would more likely take a pride in stating how much they paid. It is undoubtedly a Thai tradition, and I myself don't know one Thai married to a Thai in the past 30 years where sin sot has not been paid. I know it makes Stickman 'cringe' when guys say the price of the wedding came out of the sin sot money as this does not take into account the envelope cash. What do some people want, that her family pay for the wedding? There is a tendency in some families to ask too much of the westerner, no doubt about that. But it does not follow that the westerner should pay nothing. Just make sure it's in line with what a Thai would pay. If you consider the gifts from the parents I think you'll find the guy crying over his bank book often comes out of it better off. If westerners don't want to make cultural adjustments to make a Thai woman happy perhaps they would be happier marrying one of those attractive western girls we so often complain about, and see how little they can spend on one of those!

Racism in Soi 33.

I noted with interest in your most recent column your comments about racism in Soi Cowboy. There are, of course, other examples of blatant racism in the Bangkok bar scene. In particular there is a small group of bars catering to Japanese clientele in Soi 33, where unaccompanied farang are carefully shepherded away from the vicinity by the Thai staff. Farang might be tolerated if accompanied by a Japanese customer, but it is clear these establishments do not really want farang of any sort. I guess they perceive their business may be impaired if farang are allowed in numbers meaning of course that their lucrative Japanese business would dry up rapidly. I wonder how the Japanese might react to being excluded from farang friendly establishments. By the way, as more and more Asian visitors come to Thailand, particularly the younger generation who don't like the entertainment provided at Japanese only "clubs", I am sure the day will come when certain Cowboy and Nana establishments turn away farang. There are already one or two where farang are made to feel somewhat less than welcome.

The Beach Road a false economy?

I know it's old ground but I’d like to mention an incident from last week in Pattaya. I picked up a nice looking lady from Beach Road, 22 years old, great English and a good looker. After a short time in my hotel room I went for another shower and saw her in the mirror putting something in my bottle of lager. It turned me cold and yes I’ve read plenty on this subject. I threw her out and told the hotel security (Eastiny Place Hotel) who didn't seem interested. I’ve never handed the cards in and they've never asked. I told everyone I know and met out there and thought I’d let you know it’s still going on. Beach Road = false economy in my book.

Different post offices, different results.

When I worked near Bangkok a few years ago, all my outgoing mail reached its destination. I’ve been back in Thailand for 18 months now and my experiences have been very disappointingly different. As the likelihood of mail reaching its overseas destination depends on the post office you use, I can only assume that pilfering is tolerated in some post offices but not in others. Recently I sent three letters, all containing important material, to addresses in the UK from the post office in the domestic terminal at Bangkok airport. The bloke there just weighed the letters and wrote the amount on each one and, of course, took my money: no sign of any stamps. No doubt he waited until I was out of sight before confining my letters to the waste paper basket, probably tearing them open first, to see if they contained cash. Please warn your readers about this practice and about the post office in question. Domestic terminal, departures, at Bangkok Airport. I sent an envelope by EMS from Nana PO to a PO in Europe some months ago. One week later I received a card at my home in Khon Kaen from Nana PO, stating that the European PO did not accept mail from EMS and that I had to return in person to Nana PO and collect the envelope. Luckily they had the decency to refund the 950 baht I had paid them but, of course, not the cost of my return travel from Khon Kaen. Eventually I sent it by DHL, no problem but it was 993 baht instead. The sad fact is that 4 years ago I was sending letters to Europe and paying 17 baht, confident that they would arrive, now I’m having to pay 993: that’s 58 times more!

Local generosity.

Several times this week I experienced the generosity of Thai people. A taxi driver refused to charge me in bad traffic even when I offered to pay, and a restaurant that gave me free beverage. Not all Thais are out to fleece the farangs. Overcharging is due to cultural corruption, greed, and often the stupidity of many farang themselves. Though not in the majority, there are even kind and generous bar girls, examples of the durability of kindness within the culture in a most difficult and corrupt profession. Very few Western cultures can come close to the hospitality of the Thais. Stickman's recent article on the workplace demonstrated well that the Thais are more concerned about harmony in everyday life than money. In the spirit of the holidays and in response to some recent negativity, let us remember the generosity and kindness of the people of amazing Thai culture that we enjoy.

The bars of Pattaya were so quiet this week that you could have been mistaken for thinking that it was low season! I'm not joking, it really was that quiet! Sure, there were people wandering around but where on earth have the bar crowds gone?

And it was no different in Bangkok where Nana was quiet, no doubt the downturn in business due to a number of moneyed expats heading back to their corner of Farangland for the Christmas period.

According to manager Andy, I got it wrong about Club Electric Blue and there has been no decline in business – in fact they are doing even better. The reason they closed upstairs is that it spreads the girls and customer base out too thin in the large bar area. Now they have all 60+ girls downstairs and it creates what Andy describes as a "cosier feeling in the bar". With regards to the ice cream vendor, Andy isn't running that himself, but rather subletting a bit of space. The other advantage of closing upstairs is that they have had a few private parties up there – and should anyone want to rent it out for their own function, do get in touch with Andy who will be happy to assist. Really, Club Electric Blue is a large bar and Andy often feels that he could split it in two and have two clubs there.

Perhaps Babewatch in Pattaya will be renamed to Babesearch? The manager has been seen scurrying around Pattaya in search of his girls! He has had a bad week because it would seem that the mamasan did a runner with all the girls. He has had enough troubles, a new struggling club in an location that is still picking up and now it would seem he has a shortage of mamasan and girls. He was making the rounds hoping to locate them. 2006 can only get better for this guy.

While down in Pattaya this week I dropped into a couple of gogo bars in late afternoon and was surprised at just how busy they were. I can never remember Bangkok gogo bars being open during the day, but I would have thought that there may be some demand for it. Has it ever happened before? Is it worth trying? The numbers of punters in the likes of Big Dogs, Golden Beer Bar and Morning 2 Night make me wonder that this would be worth trying, at the least. A couple of the Pattaya bars I ventured into were so busy that a seat could not be found.

X Zone A Gogo is the newest bar situated in the Covent Garden Complex in Walking Street, Soi 16, on the second floor. They might be the newest bar, but they are also the biggest with an area of more than 200 square metres, to open the doors in this complex. I have yet to see it myself but am reliably informed that it has four dancing stages, including an elevated glass platform, table dancing, a shower zone and a VIP zone. It sounds like they have done their best to be different from the other venues and the design is an illustration of it. Opening just a few days ago, a soft opening and the customers were there from day one. Obviously they will need some time like everybody to put themselves on the map, but as they started with more than 60 girls they have every reason to be confident about the future. They also have plans to start shows with their 15 show girls, and the line up will include a fire show, a soap massage, lesbian show etc. They're also very proud of the sound system made up of Cerwin Vega speakers (no China productions with JBL stickers). It's on the hit list for my next visit in Pattaya.

The worst Christmas surprise imaginable was given to the management of Erotica Bar in Nana who have just been closed for showing. I can only imagine the expletives that management will be coming up with.

And just remember that if you go to pay a barfine over the Christmas period and are asked for 1,000 baht, you're not being scammed. Every year a good number of the bars put the price up to 1,000 baht on Christmas Eve and New Years Eve. The reasons this is done is that the bars want to be full with lots of girls to create a party atmosphere. At 500 baht the girls are not shy to pay their own barfine and have the night off but at 1,000 baht, it is a lot of cash for them to part with. In Nana Plaza most bars drop the barfine later on in the evening. Staff have been told to wear red shirts in most bars.

Angelwitch are throwing a party on Christmas Day and New Years Eve, included in the night's entertainment will be some special shows. God forbid if Dave The Rave gets up on stage and gets his gear off…

The management of Hollywood Carousel in Nana have received a heap of bad press over the years. You can track it back several years to when they had the obscene animal shows and the infamous frog woman. Then there was the snake show, and no, we're not taking a trouser snake here, but the slithering kind! Then the main owner has got a lot of shit with suggestions of improprieties with the ownership structure of his bar, with various people claiming shares to a total of about 250% ownership! And when he fired a successful manager / mamasan combo in a week of madness earlier this year the bar seemed to hit record lows. Girls left, customers left and suddenly it was one of few bars on the to be avoided list. Conscious that he needed to do something to turn things around, the owner looked at the most successful gogo bar in Nana of recent years, Angelwitch, for inspiration. Rather than do anything original, they have completely copied some of the shows from Angelwitch. They did the 'three smoking girls on a barstool with a scantily clad girl whirling around them as a live version of Hotel California is playing-routine'. And not just similar, but EXACTLY the same. What's up with that? Angelwitch management are none too pleased.

What is the story with the Irish Xchange? It would seem that they have had a long term problem with the power supply. Back in the 2003 Rugby World Cup, lest we forget, there were not infrequent power outages. And perhaps 3 out of the last 10 times I have ventured to the Irish Xchange, the power has cut out. I went to go there Sunday last week for a nice Sunday roast and guess what, the power was out! This is not a recent thing but a long term thing – and for sure, it is costing them customers and money. Get it fixed guys!

Tops supermarkets might be everywhere but hell, they don't employ enough people – and this in the land of cheap labour! Whenever I am in a Tops branch, the queues are long at checkouts. I have to admit that I hate Tops and avoid it like the plague. Hell, even Tesco Lotus is better!

On Monday The Bangkok Post increased the prices of their paper to 25 baht and I wrote up a paragraph for the column saying that this would be reason to switch to The Nation but then the very next day The Nation announced an increase in price to 25 baht too. While calling 2005 the year of price rises would be a little harsh, no-one can deny that a lot of things have gone up in price over the last year or two. Pizzas have soared in price. A number of British style pubs such as The Londoner and the Irish Xchange have increased their prices. Hell, someone even mentioned hookers have put their prices up. What's the world coming to?!

Whether it is an increasing trend or simply that people are talking more about it, I just do not know, but it seems that more and more guys are having issues with ladies of the night. I have to say that I am surprised that more and more guys do not stay in hotels where the girls can only enter once they have lodged their ID cards at the main reception area and where the details have been recorded. A friend used to scan girls' ID cards when he took them back to his place a few years ago as a precautionary measure – they didn't like it but they always allowed him to do it.

What is going on with hotels? From Pattaya, hotels are telling us they're full but anecdotal evidence of the number of punters around doesn't support it. And in Phuket I have heard that some major hotels are relatively low occupancy rates, even though it seems harder and harder to get a room down there. I cannot work this out…am I missing something? The bottom line is that to me, outside of Bangkok at least, things do not seem that busy. Bangkok on the other hand does feel busy and the central areas of Sukhumvit and Siam Square seem to have a lot of farang foot traffic.

There's going to be a new hotel in Sukhumvit Soi 6, which is in the final stage of fitting out, which should be popular with the single male traveller as an alternative to the Nana Hotel. The signs went up this week – "Dynasty Inn Grande" – a very popular name in the sex tourist market. From a quick window count looks to be approximately 180 rooms in what appears to be two interconnected blocks.

Do you want Stickman's opinion of whether you live in a decent apartment building or otherwise? Look outside in the corridor outside your unit and see if you can see piles of shoes outside the apartments. In a good building you will seldom or never see this, but in a shitty building you see it all the time.

A few readers have asked me to review Siam Paragon. Sorry, shopping and hanging out in swanky malls is not usually my idea of fun. I ventured there for the first time myself last night and I have to say I was impressed. The food court has a really good selection, there are very big branches of Asia Books and Kinokuniya. There are a couple of spanking new Lamborghinis without price tags and the piece de resistance is that they have the genuine article, New Zealand Natural ice cream. Oh, the supermarket is really nice with lots of good deli like meats, cheeses and a heap of other imported stuff. The one downside is that like all Bangkok shopping centres it is totally overrun with people and is hardly a relaxing experience – but it is good shopping, no doubt about that.

December is usually a time of clear blue skies, and mild weather in Bangkok, a reprieve from the unrelenting heat of tropical Asia. The week from Christmas to New Year is usually the coolest week of the year in Bangkok. The humourously named cold season really has come this year and for the last 10 days or so a number of Thais as well as long term expats have shivering and complaining about the cold, many dumbfounded that tourists are wandering around as if it is business as usual. I'll admit that my air-con has been off for the last few days. Yeah, it's cold at the moment in Bangkok with overnight lows down to 15 degrees in some areas!

Today is Christmas Day and Big John's on Thonglor will once again be giving you the opportunity to put on a funny hat and stuff yourself like a Christmas stocking. So, if you don't have any plans, Big John's have a Christmas feast of FIVE roast meats – turkey, lamb, ham, beef & pork along with stuffing, cranberry sauce, gravy, mashed potatoes, baked & steamed vegetables, apple pie and ice cream (and minced fruit pies) – all for only 490 baht – or 790 baht with all you can drink local draught beer. Lunch starts at 12 noon dinner starts at 6 PM.

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: Can you tell me about the practice of Thai men having two wives? Does the man have to ask permission of his first wife before taking on his mia noi. Which levels of society engage in the practice of taking a second wife, is it all levels or confined to those men whose finances allow them to properly support two households? Is it likely that wife number one would spit the dummy and leave the marriage if her husband announced to her that he wanted to take on a minor wife?

Mrs. Stick says: At our apartment building, one of the security guards gloats out how he has a minor wife which shows that it can happen to anyone at any level of society, intentionally or unintentionally, if you know what I mean. I used to think the mia noi phenomenon was for guys who have a lot of money but the security guard story shows otherwise. For wives, it is totally unacceptable. Why do you ask? Do you wish to have one? In modern day Thailand, married Thai women do not accept the mia noi situation at all. Even just going out to use the services of prostitutes is considered unacceptable. For anyone who thinks this is acceptable, notwithstanding that it does occur, you're wrong. It is not acceptable to most Thai women.

Question 2: My girlfriend’s daughter lives with her mom in northern Thailand and has an American boyfriend who sends her 3,000 baht every month. When time comes to pay the light bill I am always asked to pay 100%. The daughter never lifts a finger to clean the house or anything and also uses her mom’s motorcycle which in turn I always end up paying for all the gas. Whenever I mention to my girlfriend that I think this is a little unfair she goes into a rage. What should I do?

Mrs. Stick says: I don't really have an opinion on this because the whole situation is a bit unclear, but let me say this. If you are their guest then I assume they will be looking after you at their house and providing some meals. Obviously you should return this goodwill in some way, perhaps by taking them out to dinner, or contributing in some way, somehow. If you are contributing and they are still asking for more, then it would perhaps be a bit much. But if you are not making any contributions, then perhaps they are asking for some sort of contribution for the costs and trouble they have incurred in accommodating you. Also, remember that in Thailand if there is one person who is far better off than everyone else then there will be expectations that that person assists the less fortunate. As an example, if your income is say 100,000 baht + and their household income is say 10,000 baht, figures that are quite plausible, then them asking you to assist with relatively small amounts would be considered quite ok. Actually, if this was the situation and you turned down their requests, you would be looked at as being selfish.

Question 3: I am in a plutonic relationship with a 30 year old university educated lady and care for her dearly. I am 48. The questions I have are regarding intimacy and what the future will hold. This lady shows no outward sign of affection towards me and has never told me that she loves me although we plan to marry in approximately 12 months time. I live in Australia and she is in Chiang Mai. We have been “together” for about 6 months, I have travelled back to see her twice and she will come for a visit to Australia in April 2006. Whilst I don’t care that the relationship is plutonic (in fact I find it quite refreshing) I am worried that she may not be able to express her feelings to me. Do you think this is because of her upbringing and the traditional Thai way of doing things? I was asked to provide a financial assurance to prove that I was serious about her and I have done so by placing a substantial deposit on a house for her. Once again I don’t feel ill at ease about this but I just want my concerns explained. What is the meaning of traditional Thai culture in this matter? I would like your explanation of what an educated, young Thai lady would be thinking and how I should judge her seemingly standoffish behaviour. I am a person who shows my feelings openly and enjoys close contact with my partner. Do you think that my affections are likely to be returned in the future?

Mrs. Stick says: This is probably a combination of a couple of things. Thai women raised in a traditional manner have to be careful not to show their feelings openly, especially matters of the heart. So should we appear to be behaving in accordance with the traditional Thai beliefs that she has been raised with. The second thing is her personal character. Eventually you will see someone's real feelings, even if they have been suppressed by those around them. From what you have said it could well be that this woman just isn't the passionate type. You probably need to spend more time with her to make sure that her character is that of a woman you want to spend your life with because it sure sounds like you're unsure.

Mr. Stick says: This asking to provide financial assurance is nonsensical in my opinion. Yes, as a man married to an Asian woman who remains in Asia it is expected that you will adopt the traditional role of provider. But parting with large amounts of before marriage when she has shown little in the way of reciprocity to me is questionable.



The success of this site this year, and its progress into one of the biggest and most popular sites of its genre in Asia is due in no small part to the many people who made significant contributions throughout the year. And to all of the readers, both the regulars and those of you who just check in from time to time, many thanks for your support. Without you, this site would be nothing. I hope that 2005 brought you all that you wished for and that 2006 will be even better. Merry Christmas!

Still your Bangkok commentator,

Stick

Thanks go out to Bkk Grasshopper and Dave The Rave.