Stickman's Weekly Column March 5th, 2006

It’s Time For A Visa For Your Darling



So you’ve fallen for a Thai girl and love is in the air and you have decided to take your Thai angel over to enjoy Farangland with you. A Thai woman after a visa?! Yikes, that can be hard work! It is time to get in touch with the professionals, it’s time for MyThaiFiancee.com.


Can you tell me a little about the history of MyThaiFiancee.com, when and why you first started up? Was your background Stateside as an immigration lawyer?

It really was accidental. My then Thai wife had a small introduction company and her customers would need a visa and initially, because they knew I had done my wife’s visa successfully myself, they would come to me and ask my advice on how to do a visa.

At some point it came to be a more than a few people coming for my advice and it was easier just to do it for them.

The business wasn’t created purposely, and when I started doing this I still owned an inn in the United States, so I had no plan to do it because I still had a business that was making plenty of money and I didn’t need additional income.

When was that?

This was all about six years ago.

I went to law school in the US. When I finished law school in the US and it became time for me to go to take the bar exam, I was involved in entrepreneurial types of business. Things that were fun and making money. I just didn’t pursue being a lawyer although I would do my own legal work and assist friends and family. As time went on it just didn’t happen, where I would have my own law practice.

For the 10 years prior to coming to Thailand, I was an inn keeper. I owned my own inn in a resort area in a building that was on the national register of historic places.

Nice!

It was thoroughly enjoyable.

So when did you come to Thailand?

My first time in Thailand was 2000.

That's quite recently!

Yeah, in comparison with a guy like you!

So, without giving any trade secrets away, what is involved in getting a visa for a Thai lass?

There are many things involved in getting a visa. There are steps you need to take to file the applications, a lot of leg work documents to complete and so forth. So there’s the actual steps you need to take. Let’s say there are 40 things you need to do. Getting a visa is like having 40 round holes that need 40 round pegs into. If you only have 39 round pegs, you are not going to get the visa.

A nice analogy.

There’s a process that begins in the United States and once an approval is granted there by Homeland Security then it is forwarded over here to Bangkok.

It’s a long process. Visa applications take for 4 – 6 months. It is a long process with many steps. Each step must be done exactly the way the government agency needs it to be done.

A lot of people don’t realise there are two government agencies involved in the process. The Department of Homeland Security and the Department of State. They run the embassies.

So, when you’re making a visa application, it is a real duplication of effort because you have to do very similar things for two different agencies. Or maybe I should say you have to satisfy the requirements of two different agencies.

Ok, the million dollar question. If she was once plying her trade around a chrome pole, is she automatically disqualified from getting a visa?

Oooooh. <pause> This is a very touchy question!

Here’s my personal opinion on this. I suggest to people that a visa will be denied if the girl provides me with information that she has ever worked in that sort of profession. If she ever has worked in that profession, it would not be wise on her part to give me that sort of information. And if I do not have any information like that then I cannot include it in the visa application.

It is a deal killer if you have worked in a bar. You will not be granted a visa.

My personal opinion about all of the girls who I have done visas for, not knowing what their background is, but assuming that a percentage have worked in the bars, is that all of the girls that I have met that I have made visas for are very sweet, very nice people.

Does the bargirl thing affect tourist visas?

A tourist visa would be impossible to get! I can guarantee that 99.9% of girls under the age of 30 applying for a tourist visa are going to be denied. There are some companies or visa attorneys in Bangkok who will happily take your money and promise you a tourist visa. It is just not ethical. They can’t do it.

Did I ever show you the advertisement from the company who advertise pre-approved visas to all countries? <He chuckles and pulls out laminated copies of the advert and then a photo of one of the owners of the company in handcuffs, a report from the Bangkok Post>

Tell me about this 100% guarantee of yours. It is perhaps the reason you are known, offering a 100% guarantee.

A lot of people ask me about the 100% success rate. A lot of people don’t believe I have a 100% success rate. The 100% success rate is really easy and here is why. I can ask a few questions in our initial meeting to determine if a girl isn’t going to be able to qualify. Then I tell her and her boyfriend the truth about what the situation is.

The truth of the matter is that I do not want to take their money and waste their time on a visa applications that is going to be denied. That is just being honest and ethical. While there are a few companies in Bangkok which either don’t know any better because they don’t have the experience, or think they can get a visa when they cannot, or worse, companies who know they cannot get a visa but still put people through the emotional hell of being denied, and give some excuse that they cannot return their money when they have been denied.

So what are some of the things that you know will result in no visa.

Drug conviction.

No negotiation on that one?!

No negotiation! You can be denied for working as a prostitute but with the right visa type you can qualify for a waiver.

HIV. With the right visa type you can qualify for a waiver. HIV will get you denied but with the right visa type you can get a wavier. You are going to have to present the waiver properly to get the visa, and it is no a slam dunk. Here’s an interesting fact. I have had girls who have tested for TB and several other things which will delay the visa process but I have never had a girl test positive for HIV. And that is kind of a statement for the HIV situation in Thailand, I think. The number of visas that I have done, not having a girl who has ever tested positive for HIV, and having girls who have tested many times for TB. I am just making an observation about this.

The American embassy gets a hard time online. Do you think that the grief they get is justified?

I like this question. I know that the US Embassy gets a lot of grief online. And you know you really get what you give. Americans go into the embassy thinking they own the place and that everyone is there to serve them. When I go into the embassy I smile at the staff, I talk nicely to them. I ask them if they can help them. I enlist their assistance. I’m pleasant. I conduct myself in such a way, with a smile on my face, and an attitude that anything they request I am comfortable with. It’s in your attitude. If they want something, cheerfully provide it to them.

Be a nice guy, the sort of guy they like working with and they will not mind helping you. You always have a smile for them. It makes everyone have a nice day.

I have found that with this type of attitude at the embassy that every time I go to the embassy it is a pleasant experience.

Here’re the facts. The Department of State runs the embassy in Bangkok. The people who work at the US embassy. They’re nice. They’re helpful and they’re smart people who do their jobs really well. Those are facts.

A few years ago, maybe 3 or 4 years ago, there were some people at the embassy who perhaps were not as helpful as you would like them to be. But in the last couple of years, everyone at the embassy is just as I said. It really is, it is a pleasant experience. Everyone is very nice, helpful and supportive. I see some people who cause a problem, talk rudely to the staff etc. If you talked rudely to me, I probably wouldn’t react very well either.

You used to do visas to the UK but now you do not. Why is that?

Because the people in the UK embassy who make the decisions on the visas are English, and not Thai. And the English people who make the decisions on the visas cannot speak, read, nor write Thai. They are not consistently trained in what the criteria required are to approve or deny a visa application. There is no consistency from, what they call the staff, one entry clearance officer, to another. They don’t have systems in place to process visas properly and to ensure that the right kind of people are getting visas and the wrong kind of people are being turned away.

Here’s an example. At the American embassy, if you are applying for an immigrant visa, you are required to provide a police report from every country you have ever lived in for one year or more. England has nothing like this which means that people who are granted a visa to go to England can have serious criminal backgrounds and England has absolutely no idea. America also makes sure everyone has to an FBI check before they get to America. In addition, when you go to America on an immigrant visa, you are required to have a thorough medical examination through the embassy approved hospitals.

Which are?

BNH – Bangkok Nursing Home Hospital, and Bumrungrad Hospital in Bangkok.

Are there any others?

There are others, a couple in Chiang Mai.

Now England has nothing like this! So you can go to England on a visa and you can have HIV, TB, syphilis, gonorrhea, you name it, you can have any type of disease that is contagious that could infect the population and they have absolutely no controls to protect the citizens of England from potentially deadly diseases or criminals!

Amazing!

It’s a fact!

I had two spousal visas denied to England for the most ridiculous reasons.

“I don’t think you love your husband”

How could they determine that? They had never met the husband! It blows your mind! Both of them were granted on appeals through the English courts. I won the two UK visa denials on appeal, and did not fail my clients, the visas were approved.

The British Embassy is an absolute mess and the authorities in England, if they had any idea, would come over here, fire everyone and start with a whole new group which was properly trained. Short of that, they should hire a private consulting firm to do it for them. They’re a mess, an absolute mess! Just a disorganised, poorly trained mess.

Do you know much about the embassies of other countries and their visa application systems?

I don’t have time. I have been asked to do visas for other countries but I feel I am not qualified. If you cannot read, speak or write the language of an other country, for example Germany, you are not qualified to do the visa.

I have also been asked to represent girls living in other countries, but again, if you cannot be there in their own country, to personally represent them, speak to them, take them to the embassy, read, speak and write their language, you can not do an adequate enough job. For instance, there are a number of immigration attorneys based in the United States who do visas for girls all around the world. And they can do about 10% of the work involved. But they cannot physically meet with the girl, do the things that she needs to do in the country that she lives and take her to the embassy.

One of the things that sets us apart is that we really do take care of the girls. If I was an American man living in the United States with a Thai girlfriend in Thailand, I would want someone who was representing her with the visa to take care of her the same way I would if I could be with her in Thailand.

By the time a guy has supported his Thai girlfriend, perhaps over several months, bought her a new wardrobe of cold-weather clothes, bought her an air ticket, paid all visa and consultancy fees, he could be out by several thousand dollars, as well as being the new owner of grey hair. Is it all worth it for a woman from a culture that is oh so different to a Western woman?

This is the main reason why men from America go through the process, because it just isn’t enough to say that these girls are worth it.

Is happiness for the rest of your life, being happy every day, having someone talk nice to you and just having a pleasant delightful day and life, is that worth it? The difference between an American woman and a Thai woman can be, depending upon the American woman – and there are a lot of nice American women, can be, very different.

But this is the real point of this whole thing. Men are coming over to Thailand to find the type of relationship they have dreamt about. To be with a person, not necessarily something physical, or a sexy exotic woman, but a person who is a pleasant, happy woman who is nice to be with.

When you are living with a woman who is confrontational with you a great deal of the time, it eventually begins to affect every part of your life – you are not able to function at work as well as you could, not able to maintain your business relationship as well as you could because your mind is always trying to deal with the negative relationship you have with your wife at home. The American men that I meet are pleasant, gentle, reasonable men who treat their wives or girlfriends like princesses. They have come to Thailand to find someone who reciprocates.

You see Thai women and Western men coming through your doors everyday. What advice would you offer guys who hook up with a Thai bird?

When they’re here in Thailand or when they’re in the United States?

Both.

First thing, assume the best in her all the time. If you have any suspicions or fears, forget about them. It is my opinion that Thai women are trustworthy and loyal 98 or 99% of the time. That is my experience.

You take care of them and they will take care of you. You will get what you give. And that is why you came here to begin with, so do it and enjoy it! Don’t question it!

When you get your fiancée to the United States, she, how do you say this, for her to be able to stay in he United States, there’s another quite involved process that needs to be undertaken so she can remain and become a permanent resident green card holder, which is a step before becoming a citizen, something which is an option.

We have two options. We will represent our clients and do all of the work that is required to apply for what is called an adjustment of status which needs to be accompanied by an affidavit of support.

We can also apply for employment authorisation if your wife or fiancée would like employment in the United States. And if she would like to return to Thailand and then again return to the United States, we can obtain a travel permit. But that is a whole other aspect of the process where you’ll need someone to assist you to make it possible for her to stay in the United States after she gets there.

For our visa customers, we will provide all of the forms and instructions and document list that are required for him to do it himself at no charge.

Some guys come to you after they have messed things up in applying for a visa. Can you tell us about any funny or humorous stories about visa applications going wrong?

I have had a couple of circumstances. One, where a lady had gone to the United States, and was stopped by Immigration police in the United States and deported on the visa that she had.

Why?

There was a whole series of things that went wrong with the interview that she had where they assumed a lot of things and she answered questions that she didn’t understand because her English was not very good.

There was a tragic case of a highly prolific website immigration attorney from the United States for a wife and her child to go to America but he failed to get the visa for the child and they called me and I cleaned it up and got the visa for the child. It was a pretty distressing time for them at the time, let me tell you, because she went to the United States and couldn’t bring her child with her. She was pretty upset about that.

Now they’re living together on the east coast of the United States, living happily every after. This was an example of an east coast based immigration attorney in over his head who could not be here to take care of two of his clients.

For someone who doesn’t seek assistance from a professional like yourself, what general advice would you give for someone applying for a visa to the US?

It is really simple. There’re a few American people who feel like they can do it themselves. Most American men when they start getting the information get overwhelmed by it, are confused by it and don’t know where to go. There are a few who want to attempt it themselves.

Personally, I think that that is a selfish approach because now they are expecting that their girlfriend who has to do most of the work because it is her visa is going to be able to function the same as an immigration attorney is going to function and file all the forms, all the documents, prepare for the embassy interview, know the questions that are going to be asked, how to apply for the interview and numerous other things. It is just not fair to put all of this on the girl whose English speaking, reading and writing ability is limited. So when a guy decides he wants to do it himself, he might be making a clear decision for himself, but he is not making a conscious decision about how his fiancée or wife is going to be able to handle everything that has to be done – and she is 80% of the equation. People hire us when they really want to take good care of their fiancée or wife.


* MyThaiFiancee.com handle visas for the United States only.
** I can confirm that the British embassy now requires some sort of health check for certain visas.

WHERE IS THIS PICTURE Competition?

It was the Grand Diamond.

Where is that?!

Last week's pic was taken from the walkway that runs from the World Trade Centre and to Siam Square, looking north, at Grand Diamond Condo building, with construction on the World Trade Centre on the right of the picture. The prizes are only available to people in Thailand now – either residents or tourists, and must be redeemed within 2 weeks. You MUST say that you are in Bangkok and able to claim the prize or I will consider you ineligible. If you do not explicitly mention you are local or will be in town in the next two weeks, you cannot claim any of the prizes. The first prize is a 500 baht credit at Tony's Bar and prizes 2 and 3 are a 600 baht dinner voucher for 2 at Sin in Sukhumvit Soi 4.

FROM STICKMAN'S EMAIL INBOX

Low balconies.

I have an opinion on the rash of supposed suicide jumpers in Pattaya. I have read the reports of the deaths for quite a while in several newspapers and websites. I didn't think much of them until a few months ago when I thought about something that happened when I was visiting Pattaya in 1998. I almost fell out of a Diamond Hotel window. It was my first morning there and as I walked by one of the open windows I decided to walk over and look out. I walked right up to the window and bent over slightly to be able to look to the left and right for a better view. As soon as I did this I had to grab the wall to stop from falling out. Until Pattaya, all balconies and windows that I had ever approached had a window sill over waist high. If my memory is correct, the window sill in Pattaya was only thigh high. So after years of having window and balcony ledges safely come up to almost stomach high, I almost fell out this one because I was not paying attention and did not notice the height difference and made the subconscious assumption that the ledge would contact me much higher than it did. Do you think that it is possible that something this simple could be the cause of all or some of the falls? I am 6'4" and would be interested if most of the victims were tall.

That maid deserves a medal.

A middle aged English friend and respected pillar of society was staying here for a few days ending 27th February, when he returned to Manila. I had an email from him Tuesday morning saying that he had stupidly left an envelope full of cash (about 8K) on his hotel bed (the new Mercure, Park Avenue, Sukhumvit, Soi 22) before leaving for the airport and could I contact the hotel on his behalf just on the off-chance the room maid might have found it and handed it in. He realised, sadly, that was a long shot, especially here in Thailand. Anyway, I've retrieved the baht (10K baht in fact) and suggested to him that he ask me to donate about 2K baht to the room maid to reward her for her honesty, which he has consented to do.

Another Pattaya fan.

I have to agree with your choice that Pattaya gets the thumbs up as to the best place in LOS. I travel quite regularly to both Phuket & Koh Samui and my base is Pattaya. Pattaya has more ladies, more places to eat, is cheaper and everything is easy and central. Unlike Phuket which is quite scattered and Koh Samui is just too darn dangerous with sand all over the roads. I do like to visit both places as the air and the beaches are cleaner. But give me Pattaya any time. Yes the Phuket locals are a bit snooty about Pattaya and half of them haven't even been there! I tell them to keep their opinions to themselves unless they have been here. The only thing that Pattaya lacks is an absence of clean beaches and beached whales.

Innocent, but found guilty!

Your leading story reminded me of one of my own just before Christmas. Two friends and I had a session in Hard Rock started at 6 PM with 2 for one jugs, and went on till chucking out time. I had to get back home to Bangna and had the car. I knew I could not drive (I tried but parked again on the road) and I promptly fell asleep. I woke up around 4 AM with the phone going (18 missed calls) from the wife at home. To this day she does not believe me and when she asked one of my friends they did not realise it was a leading question and they said I had left to go home at 1 AM. Talk about being in the shit. No alibi. I was innocent but found guilty.

Please no, don't let Pattaya go the way of Bangkok…

I noticed something new at some Pattaya gogos on this trip, not just the higher prices. The mamasans in some Walking Street bars were grabbing the off-stage girls by the elbow and forcing them, one after the other, on to seats beside the sometimes reluctant customers who made it clear they preferred to choose their own drinking companions. A couple of girls pulled away, not wanting to sit where they were not wanted, but were pushed back on to that customer or another one. Also, buying a drink for a girl is not enough. You are soon encouraged to buy drinks for the waitress, the mamasan, the girl's "sister" and then to buy some ping pong balls. And if you do this then you better not return without expecting to duplicate your free-spending ways.

Good service = good employer.

I have a theory that where staff in a particular bar or restaurant are pleasant, polite and friendly, it reflects the attitude of their employer and the way they are treated as employees. Where staff are miserable, rude or downright nasty (the male waiters at Pretty Lady are a classic example), it probably means they are being treated like shit. I have flown Air Asia many times and agree that as an airline it sucks a rat's ass, but have never experienced really bad service. For this, the UK's Ryanair takes the biscuit. Staff have to rent their own uniforms and pay for their own training course if they want the job. By the time they start working, they are embittered to say the least.

Maybe the bar owners are starting to listen? Raw Hide in Cowboy had put the price of lady drinks up to 120 baht. I don't frequent it enough to know if this had an effect on sales or not, but it may well have for the price of lady drinks has been reduced back to 100 baht. Now, all we need is for all the bars to cap the price of a standard drink to under 100 baht and we'll all be happy again.

On the ground there has been a backlash by a number of locals against the 120 – 130 baht prices now charged for a standard drink in the naughty bars of Nana and Cowboy. And don't go thinking that I am talking exclusively about cheap Charlie teachers, au contraire, it is guys with money in their pockets who quite simply resent paying that sort of money in a bar where in some cases you cannot complain about the service – because there is none to complain about! Prices almost never go down – Raw Hide is a real exception.

An unexplained forced closure occurred Friday night on The Pong. For an as yet unknown reason, the deliciously named Thigh Bar was invaded by a swarm of the authorities. Lights were turned on and both staff and imbibers were forced out of the bar and on to the street. The empty bar was closed and locked at 10:30 PM making this the first closure in some time on The Pong. What was this all about?!

X Zone's Tequila Party last week was a great success. They sold a whopping 22 bottles of Tequila in just one night! As you can imagine the girls were all very "jolly". They are going to repeat the party in 2 weeks although the manager has admitted that they cannot do this too often or else the girls' health is going to suffer.

Long time residents of Thailand will remember all of the firms that used to offer dodgy visa services. These firms could procure you any visa you wanted, be it a Non-Immigrant B visa so that you could get a work permit, or a multiple entry tourist visa, so you only have to leave the country once every 3 months instead of once every 30 days – or any of the other visas on offer. About two and a half years ago there was a major crackdown on dodgy visas and a lot of people got in big trouble, with many people deported and blacklisted from ever returning to Thailand again. At the time it was estimated that up to 50,000 dodgy visas had been procured over the previous decade! The dodgy visa issue is interesting in that the visas are actually genuine visas that are procured illegally. (Although around the time of the busts it was mooted that some shops had just got a copied rubberstamp made up and were using that!) Well, dodgy visas are back in fashion and at least one firm is advertising these dodgy visas again, irresponsibly stating that it is quite ok to use their service. This is in total contradiction to the various comments made by the Immigration Department, including news bulletins on the radio, which clearly state that it is illegal to send your passport out of the country to get a new visa, or to extend your Thai visa by having someone take it out of the country for you. Dodgy visas should be avoided at all costs. What's the bet that in a year or so's time, there will be another round of people busted?

In what is becoming a ridiculously familiar affair, Hollywood on the third floor of Nana was visited AGAIN this week by police. A number of girls were rounded up and taken to the police station where at least one girl was arrested. I wonder what the new owner thinks about his new investment?

Brunswick Pool Hall hasn't been top of the pops for some time and has been dying a slow death before finally breathing its last breath recently. Too much competition with pool bars everywhere these days finally killed them.

Babewatch now has about 2,000 kilos of flesh on stage but new manager Ricky is trimming that weight down as quickly as he can find shapely 40 kilo ladies to replace what remains of the 50 kilo crew of dancers. He’s also adding to the numbers on stage and on the books. As of this weekend, the Covent Garden gogo bar has 43 dancing maidens, 24 spectacularly beautiful mammary glands, a variety of erotic shows, and Big Al’s Mexican kitchen on premises. Ricky reports that business more than doubled during his first month as manager. Reasonable draft beer and drink prices all night and happy hour until 9:30.

Next door, Club Boesche continues to do a brisk trade. Not a vacant seat to be had downstairs where a dozen attractive girls move their feet while holding chrome poles and three bathers enjoy a soapy Jacuzzi while imbibers enjoy ogling the playful bathers. Upstairs, dancers are equally unattired on a small dance floor and in a see-through shower.

Another venue boosting SRO this weekend is Coyotes – and deservedly so. The year-old gogo gets current honours for presenting the best looking dancers in Pattaya. And while eyeballing the eye candy on both stages – as well as sliding down from above, you can sip on happy hour draft beer for 35 baht; draft all night for 75 baht.

This week again, while Walking Street lookie loos were out in great numbers, most bars and other nightspots failed to attract much business, with the exception of those establishments mentioned above and several others, like Diamond, Happy and Peppermint. It should be acknowledged that an inordinate number of visitors to Fun Town are couples hailing from Russia and other former USSR countries. For some reason they do not frequent drinking establishments. That goes for beer bars away from Walking Street as well. Most were virtually empty even over the weekend.

And during the week Pattaya was even quieter! From Walking Street, to Beach Road to Soi 8, one could have been mistaken for thinking it was June or July, not late February!

So you've just been scammed in Bangkok by a smooth, local who spoke fluent English. But are you sure it was a Thai who scammed you? There has been an increase in the number of reported scams with Philipino nationals the perpetrators. There is currently a large team of Pilipino pick-pockets and confidence tricksters, purporting to be Thais targeting tourists in the Pratunam area including Panthip Plaza or IT City as it is now known. The ring leaders are a well to do looking middle-aged husband and wife team who recruit their team from the Philippines for stints over here and then return them back home to avoid suspicion. Their activities have a real Oliver Twist theme to it. The pick-pockets target wallets, bags, mobiles, computers etc while the confidence tricksters lure unsuspecting tourists back to a local apartment or hotel with offers of friendship for elaborate fraudulent activities. Their activities have been observed first hand by a long term reader having a drink at the beer stall in front of Panthip Plaza. An observer sits in front of Panthip Plaza drinking, looking like they are waiting for someone. When a tourist sits down at the beer stall they invariably leave their mobile, wallet or new expensive technology purchase on their table. They can be seen making a call and a few moments later a guy runs past and snatches the item from the table! Whether the same gang or not, I do not know, but there are more Philipinos operating in the Chatuchak area, preying on young Asian tourists who go shopping at the Weekend Market. The young tourists are approached and as the ruse unwinds they find themselves in a gambling game at the house of one of the Philipinos where they go on to lose a large sum of money. The Japanese friend of a local American friend of mine lost $US8,000 in such a scam. Have your wits about you in Bangkok and don't be quick to blame crimes on the locals – it may well be one of the Philipino crime syndicates behind it!

It's a pleasure to know that there are a lot of people out there who are prepared to give. Peter, one of the partners in a large group of bars that includes Playskool and Suzy Wong's sends A BIG THANK YOU to everyone who donated generously at the recent charity dance contests. With the raffle of the bikes included, they ended up close to 400,000 baht, that's a whopping 10K in US dollars! A big thanks go out to the main sponsors like ExpressCashThailand, Digital Pro Design who gave away over 150 T-shirts, Bully's Pub for the 100 backpacks they supplied for the kids. A special mention goes to Richard and Khun El from the Jersey Bar on Soi 6 who put the bike they won back in to be re-drawn. Let's hope the two girls who won the bikes ride them safely.

We often hear stories of bars which test their girls to make sure they are clean, but no-one has yet been able to name one bar that actually does this. I mean a bar that really does it and doesn't just request a dodgy slip of paper from Somchai's Corner Clinic, where one antibiotic fixes all! Well, it would seem that I have finally found a bar which does actually test the girls properly. TQ Bar on Beach Road in Pattaya gets a gynecologist in once a week to perform what sounds like a smear test type check on the girls. This is conducted on the premises, in the short time room, funnily enough. And once every three months every girl has to submit to a blood test. There is a 200 baht fine if they don't get tested. OK, so this is hardly foolproof, but at least some effort is being made, and for that TQ Bar gets the thumbs up.

There have been a lot of stories of guys being ripped off by ladies of the night recently. Whether this is a new trend, or simply that things are being reported more these days, I am uncertain. One friend has a strategy he uses to reduce the likelihood of him getting ripped off, or even treated badly for that matter. As he knows a lot of the bar owners and managers, he mentions to any girl before he invites her from the bar, that he is friends with such and such, that person being the boss. If the boss is there, he will engage them in conversation in front of the girl as proof that he actually knows the boss. According to him, this virtually eliminates having any problems with the girls and may contribute to her being more friendly as well.

I am often asked by readers where they can go to meet women from the upper echelons of society. I could only think of a handful of places the hi-so crowd go to. But actually, the real hi-so crowd tend not to hang about at such places. You're much more likely to see them in fine dining establishments, restaurants in the 5 star hotels etc.

Quote of the week comes from one of my colleagues. "When you first come to Thailand you think that the service is good, but when you have been here for a few years you realise that it is actually bad service – but almost always with a smile."

This article about the social order crusade appeared in the New York Times.

Car rental isn't popular in Thailand with Westerners. I guess the main reasons are that one can travel cheaply enough by either means, be it by air, or even by taxi. And with the traffic congestion and poor driving standards, it's not hard to understand. But there is something to be said for driving around the countryside, exploring the rural areas, stopping off at quiet beaches, and generally going where you want to, when you want to. This week a friend rented a car from FK Rentals on Petchaburi Road where car rental rates are very reasonable. For a brand new 2006 Mitsubishi Lancer, 1.6 manual transmission, the rental price for a whole month is, get this, just 12,000 baht! That is $US300 for a month for a new car! A bargain! How can they make money with rates that low?! Obviously the per day rate works out at more than 400 baht per day. Driving in Thailand might look daunting but you soon get used to it, and with a car you really do have the freedom to explore the countryside.

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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: How fractured is Thai society now, between the sinicized Bangkok block and the up-country centres? Between the city dwellers and the rural people? Is Bangkok really the Paris or NYC of the country ("No, they're okay…they're French, not Parisians")?

Mrs. Stick says: I don't think Thai society is fractured at all. We have a definite class system in Thailand but everyone gets on well enough. If we look at jobs, it is the people from the provinces who work in jobs where manual labour is required or in less glamorous jobs like cleaners, maids, construction workers, gardeners etc. People born and raised in Bangkok tend to work indoors. When we were watching Prime Minister Taksin's rally on Friday, it was evident that most of the people there were from a definite class. But while there is a class divide, Thai society is not "fractured", at least as I see it.

Question 2: My girlfriend rarely at all ever calls or writes me. When I mean call she will ring one time meaning she wishes that I return the call. I have asked her many times and reminded her that at my home I am often lonely or bored and it would be nice if she called from time to time. Does this mean she has lost interest or that there’s another guy around?

Mrs. Stick says: I assume that you are overseas, as you mention about your girlfriend writing and I don't think she would do that if you were both in Bangkok. The simple answer here is that international calls are very expensive and asking your girlfriend to call you is asking her to spend a lot of money. Also, in Thai culture, it is expected that the man will actively pursue the woman, and not the other way around. The man should be a leader and make decisions and be proactive himself. From your question, assuming that she has someone else is probably jumping to conclusions.


Question 3: I'm a male with very long hair. I'm used to women wanting to touch and play with it in countries where this is unusual, but Thailand is the first country I've been in where women will sniff it. Is this some sort of a hygiene check or is it done for some other reason?

Mrs. Stick says: Actually, a Thai woman shouldn't touch a man's head or his hair, especially if it is a stranger. This is very wrong. So if women are touching your hair and sniffing it, I really could not tell you just why they are doing it. It could be that you are using some sort of shampoo, perhaps an imported shampoo, and your hair smells good. If your hair smelled bad, people wouldn't sniff it.


Many thanks for the overwhelmingly positive feedback to the opening piece of the column from the week before last. There was a very strong message from readers – you want more about the investigative work! Please understand that while I would love to write more about it, such tasks are undertaken with confidentiality assured, and unless a customer specifically gives permission to write up what happened in their particular case, I am simply unable to write about it.

Your Bangkok commentator,

Stick


Thanks go out to Mr. Write, Claymore, Dave The Rave and Bangkok Grasshopper.