Stickman's Weekly Column March 12th, 2006

Slack Stickman



I had a few dramas this weekend, and the time I would usually use to do the column was lost. With this in mind, there is no opening piece this week. My apologies for this. There is still the news, gossip and thoughts for the week, your emails and Mrs. Stick's corner. A full column will be published, as per usual, next week.

Stick

WHERE IS THIS PICTURE Competition?

It was Chongnonsee.

Where WAS that?!

Last week's pic was taken from a pedestrian bridge, looking along Chongnonsee towards Empire Tower, the four columned building in the top centre of the picture. This week's question is a little different in that it is from a couple of years back and is a where WAS that….it no longer exists, at least not like this. 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. 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.

FROM STICKMAN'S EMAIL INBOX

Handsome? No? Declined!

Just read the US Immigration report on your site and found it enlightening. I know in Australia that any potential lass on the hunt for a student / spouse visa or residency MUST submit a photo as part of the initial application. How can this be so in the politically correct age we supposedly live in? Really, what merit can a photo possibly have apart from influencing the recipient's response as to whether she is good or bad looking and worthy of processing? I recently worked with a fellow who processed such applications in Australia (though now in an entirely different profession) and he categorically stated that if the processing clerk didn't like the 'look' of the applicant then the whole application got tossed into a 'rejected' pile and was guaranteed not to get looked at again for another 12 – 18 months AND the application fee was non-refundable! Similar reports have emerged from the UK press recently detailing similar attitudes in situ there.

Why farangs don't rent cars.

I think you overlooked one reason why most western tourists don't rent a car while in Thailand and that is that in Thailand everybody drives on the left side of the road (or at least should) and the cars have the steering wheel on the right. There are only four western countries I can name – Great Britain, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand – with the same situation, while in most of the western countries – continental Europe, USA, Canada – people drive on the right side with the steering wheel left.

The need to be indirect.

Asians use language fundamentally differently – this has been noted in business manuals. At the negotiating table, Asians spiral around and about, as if getting to the point would cause everyone physical pain and reveal embarrassing genital flaws and long unspoken family shames. They often will purposefully obfuscate, puffing clouds of words at your direct questions, diverting question from hitting answer. Compound that onto feminine guile onto pre-rational unempathetic, selfishly, motivated, confused and mixed desires, and what you've got is slush over ice on an ice floe on water. No traction, and even if you get anywhere, you aren't going anywhere. "How does that make you feel?" cannot be translated into any Asian language. It would be heard as "What would you like to present as your face regarding this difficult and awkward issue, or would you prefer to remain silent or change the subject just now?" In Asia you aren't expected to look like a stupid ass if you giggle or twitter or otherwise completely avoid an unstoppably direct question as if it were not a twenty thousand pound elephant thwapping its trunk onto your forehead. Other people would be expected to show deference to you by not noticing elephants.

Russian only bars in Pattaya? Never heard of them myself.

I have been to Pattaya a couple of times and I love the place. Things are nice and cheap. I heard that some Russian gogo bars have opened up and the fees are out of this world, $US 500 to take Russian woman out! Will the Russian bars ruin Pattaya, by bringing the prices up in the Thai bars? I hope you can bring some light to this. I hate to have to stop going to Pattaya because of greedy Russians.

I know for a fact that many (most?) aren't…

I know for a fact that most of the girls who work in the bars in Nana Plaza are tested for STDs every 2 months because I personally have gone with some of them to the clinic on Sukhumvit between soi 22 and soi 24 – because I was more than a little curious about the results. I can't vouch for Cowboy or Patpong.

Farangs and wops.

Interesting debate about the way the Thais use the word 'Farang'. Yesterday I walked in to the reception area of a multi-national corporation here in Bangkok. I have done this, thousands of times. It's part of my job. I told the receptionist who I was and who I had come to see. She picked up the phone and said to the guy who was expecting me, “Farang mah”. This got me thinking. Suppose I was an Italian and I had walked into a multi-national company in London. “Good morning, my name is Roberto Antonelli. I have come to see Charles Smith”. The receptionist picks up the phone and says, “Charlie, some Wop is here to see you.” I'd imagine Roberto would be a little miffed. Is this not the same thing?

The popularity of the nightlife in Pattaya.

Pattaya's nightlife was rated uppermost in the minds of a whopping 61% of readers polled by Pattaya Today, the twice monthly English-language newspaper. Nearly 2,800 people were asked the question: Why do you like Pattaya? More than 1,700 pointed to night life; 400 (14.5%) liked Pattaya's “great people”, and 226 (8%) called the city “clean.” Not surprisingly, only 72 people (2.6%) liked Pattaya for its “good beaches” (the other 2,728 people have been unable to find them yet).

Bars in Nana Plaza got the word on Friday night that they can stay open until 2 AM. We will have to watch and see what happens, and if what was announced is what will actually eventuate. But I think most will agree it is a step in the right direction!

In what has become standard news every week, Hollywood Strip was AGAIN visited by the boys in brown this week. Sounds like they have really pissed off the wrong people!

There was a power cut at Soi Cowboy with the power out for about an hour between 9:30 PM and 10:30 PM on Friday night. However, it was not all of Cowboy which was affected, just the southern side, that is the side with Suzy Wong's, Long Gun, Jungle Jim's etc. The bars on the other side of the street had a very good night! Some bars responded quickly, like Suzy Wong's which sent all the staff over into Sheba's, but at other bars, the staff milled around outside, looking lost.

But Soi Cowboy could not keep me interested this week. For what I think is the first time ever, I ended up walking east, from Soi Cowboy, to soi 33. I hadn't planned to go there, but I just couldn't find a bar area I liked. Patpong is fun enough and I'm sure I'll surprise a few readers when I say that the comings and goings there are not as offensive as they are at say Cowboy or Nana. Both Nana and Cowboy suffer from appalling attitude syndrome and while there are some fun bars in those areas, it seems that they are rapidly becoming the exception, rather than the norm. Sad, really. Which leaves two bar areas which are worth a look, though neither are places where you will find a gogo bar. The Queen's Park beer bar area is full of a number of beer bars where pleasant company can be found. But the best of the lot, at least from my point of view, has to be Sukhumvit soi 33. With drinks prices in many Cowboy bars now going through the roof (Take one particular bar where ladies drinks are 100 baht for a Coke, 140 for Coke with a splash for local whisky and 160 for a splash of the good stuff). Soi 33 is not the overpriced area it used to be. It really is a real alternative to the gogo bar areas. And if like me you are sensitive to people's attitude, Soi 33 is a no brainer.

But there is one bar in Cowboy where you can get cheap beer. 70 baht draft beer can be had all night at Midnite Bar, although the horrendous sound system will mean most people don't stay too long. Odd really, that they have such a good play list, and such a poor sound system.

A disturbing trend has a number of bar owners not just concerned, but downright pissed off. It has to do with the hypocrisy of what is allowed after 1:00 AM. The wooden erect-a-bars, not erection bars, but erect-a-bars, that spring up all along Sukhumvit in the section I term "Sex Tourist Alley", that is the area from Soi 4 down to Soi 23, have been running for a few years, but now are found in much greater numbers than ever before. What is of course unusual is that most of the bars in this, and other areas, bars with licenses, have to close at 1:00 AM except for some licensed bars who have some blessed deal to inconsistently stay open past 1 AM. Well, the erect-a-bar hypocrisy has reached a new high. Not only do they open until all hours, they now have girls available with mamasans controlling them, and they charge a whopping 500 baht bar fine for the girls!

Desperate times lead to desperate measures. There was a snatch and grab this week in the lobby of a hotel popular with long time Bangkok visitors, the Honey Hotel. Sat in the coffee shop, a Thai woman was aghast when a Thai man grabbed her handbag and ran to a motorbike he had waiting outside and off he was gone. The hotel staff were apologetic and were willing to waive the cost of a new safe key. This is definitely a first I have ever heard of, a snatch inside a hotel. Be careful as it would seem opportunistic petty thievery is on the increase.

It's encouraging to see how the Covent Garden gogo area has really taken off in Pattaya. From one bar owner comes the word that February was a lot better than January – and that is with just 27 trading days in February compared to the 31 days of January. With many of the Soi Diamond gogos suffering, Covent Garden is rapidly becoming the place to be – contrary to the predictions of the gloom and doom merchants when the Covent Garden area opened!

Babe Watch in Pattaya, in the Covent Garden complex, is hosting a Mexican TT night this coming Tuesday (Taco & Tequila). Buy one of Big Al's tasty 50 baht tacos and you get one FREE. Also Tequila will be on sale at 30 baht a shot ALL NIGHT. There will also be lots of other items beginning with two Ts on offer…

Absolute 7 bar in Sukhumvit Soi 7/1 have a new happy hour. Every day from 4:00 – 7:00 PM you can get Singha, Heineken, Asahi, Chang, Kloster, Tiger at just 60 baht. You can also get gin, vodka, whisky and a number of other top shelf spirits at 60 baht too. And if the thought of fighting the crowds at the city's Irish pubs is a bit much for you, on St Patrick's Day, Guinness will be offered at a very reasonable 99 baht. Absolute7 Bar has been mentioned as the most frustrating place in Soi 7/1, the bar with the prettiest girls on the soi – but they don't go!

From a friend who is a long time Thermae fan, he claims that visiting "The Big T" this week that Asian guys now make up around 70% of the male customers there. Wow, I can remember only 5 years ago when Asian guys made up less than 5% of the customers.

Down in Pattaya recently, I was shocked at the number of bars that would not sell me water, "No hab" being the response, even though I would have been quite happy to pay whatever was charged for it. Sometimes, you just prefer water over the non-alcoholic alternatives of orange juice or Coke.

From the only in Bangkok files comes the case of the Sukhumvit Soi 4 flasher. A guy was seen walking up and down the soi of sin, wearing a trench coat (remember it is hellishly hot at the moment) and flashing a lot of people. Seen from a distance, it was assumed he was flashing, and hanging it all out. When he flashed people, they would shake their heads and / or walk away in a different direction. He had flashed a number of people when he went up to a really large, mean looking guy and flashed him. At this point it could be seen that he was wearing a white T-short with black print on it that said "Free Gary Glitter". Bizarre! The big, tough looking guy didn't appreciate this and walked closer to the flasher and gave him an almighty head butt, sending him tumbling to the ground, a heap of blood all over his face, and on what was a pristine white T-shirt. Why on earth would he support Gary Glitter like that?!

I have noticed that as we get older the aches and pains of previous sports injuries and knocks start to come back, and I never thought I'd see the day when I started to comment on the seating in the bars. While most of the new bars have comfortable seating and a good, clear view of the main bar area, some of the older bars are much less comfortable. A long term-reader mentioned that both Raw Hide and Long Gun have seating that has something of a forward tilt, making it uncomfortable to sit in for a long period of time. A few drinks to ease the pain may be in order! I think I'm getting old!

Bangkok might not be as developed as many other capitals, especially those in the Western world, but the rapid increase in the number of free wi-fi internet connections around about is proving to be popular with a lot of people, especially net geeks like me. I have to laugh at what I think of as the cheek of various establishments and vendors charging for wi-fi access.

Sorry, I missed it when it happened, but I am informed that piss testing took place in Washington Square about a fortnight ago, and from all accounts the raided bar had more coppers in it than girls!

There is always something nice about staying in a boutique hotel, a place that is that much more personal than a typical, multi storey, standard hotel. There is a certain charm about the words boutique hotel that sure do entice one to choose such an establishment over a conventional hotel. But when it comes to Bangkok, be careful with a certain boutique hotel. "The Boutique Hotel" as it is called in Bangkok, is simply the Forum Park Hotel, an inauspicious standard hotel in the Naratithwat / Chan Road area, which has been renamed to "The Boutique Hotel". On one hand it is quite clever – and I bet they will see an increase in their occupancy rates, but on the other hand, it seems a little sneaky.

I just heard that due to inclement conditions and a lack of customers that Hollywood Carousel has lowered the price of a beer to 95 baht all night. I did not make it to Nana myself this week and thus cannot confirm this.

As I said earlier, I seem to have hit that age when my body is less forgiving, and gorging myself at a buffet sees me suffer later on. It is sad that I do not make it to the Bourbon Street Mexican buffet much these days as it is excellent and I love it. Strolling along this week I was very pleased to see that it has been enhanced, with shrimps now offered to go on one's fajitas, as well as two different types of desserts. Nice. And for those who try and tell me that it is not like real Mexican, let me tell you that you could not get a seat in Bourbon Street – there were a number of people standing around waiting for a table to become available. To me, the Mexican at Bourbon Street is as good as ever!

If your mate tells you that he wants to meet at Happiness Bar, be careful, there're two, one in Sukhumvit Soi 22, and the other in Soi Thaniya.

And speaking of Soi 22, the area seems to be getting just a little bit more popular and there seem to be more and more locals fed up with other bar areas who are making soi 22 their local. One bar owner tells me that the customer split in his bar is something like 85% locally based guys and just 15% tourists.

Who can remember Simon from Sukhumvit Square? Perhaps a year or so ago he burst on to the scene with two new bars in Sukhumvit Square as well as a presence on a number of the Thailand online discussion forums. Simon was the owner of Night Night Joop Joop Bar, as well as Revolution Bar. Running two bars was a bit much so he decided to get out of one. Night Night Joop Joop went on to the market at 2 million baht which was less than his initial investment. As time went by and not a great deal of interest was shown from genuine buyers, the price was reduced. The price crept down and down until he was almost giving it away at just 200,000 baht! 200K for a bar in Sukhumvit all ready to go and still there were no takers! So a few weeks ago he went to Bangkok and shut up shop. Strangely enough, his Revolution Bar in the very same place, Suk1 Plaza, is doing very good business after Night Night Joop Joop closed! Simon has since moved to Phuket where he is working on a new development.

Just a note about Brunswick pool hall which I reported in last week's column had closed. The American owner has said the owners of the building were changing it into condos and had terminated his lease and he had to move out. He was looking for a new location. He said he business had been steady and good and he hated to leave that location. It has to be said that he also had some very nice girls working in there and the food was also pretty good.

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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: Would a "good Thai girl" have a tattoo (or two)? If she did have one, what would hi-so Thais think of her? Can you enlighten us farang on the subject of tattoos on Thai ladies? In the past I had assumed that only bar girls allowed their bodies to be so desecrated. However, in recent years I have met a number of middle class ladies in Bangkok and Isaan (Udon), well educated, etc, who have small tattoos. Are they acceptable throughout Thai society? Frowned upon? Is there any significance to tattoos (keep away evil spirits?). Are they traditional? And is it only the small tattoos that are ok, versus those tattoos that might cover a lady’s entire back or thigh?

Mrs. Stick says: I can answer this question only for myself and my friends. None of us have a tattoo. Not one of my friends has one. No-one in my family has one either. I know that if I got a tattoo and went home my mother wouldn't allow me in the house, so for me, it is a real no no. I know that some hi-so women have tattoos but why they chose to get them I just do not know. I just am not close to anyone who has a tattoo. The spiritual tattoos you talk about can be seen on a lot of men from the provinces, like some of the motorcycle taxi riders near our apartment building. Quite a few have these tattoos.

Question 2: In Australia many couples do not get married – they live together and have children without going through the formal marriage process. Does this happen in Thailand also? What is the attitude of a Thai girl, to living together with a male partner and raising a family without ever being formally married? Would a Thai girl be comfortable with this? Would the girl's family be comfortable with this? And finally would Thai society be comfortable with this? Would there be any problems with raising children in Thailand in such a situation?

Mrs. Stick says: I know that this is normal in your country but actually, it is not really considered acceptable in Thailand, at least not in middle class society. It really depends what sector of society people come from but for middle class people, if you do co-habitate it is expected that you will get married, and if you don't, the feelings for other members of your family will range from discomfort to genuine shame.

Question 3: I am currently married to a Thai lady and living in the UK, unfortunately we are going through a bad patch and she is talking of returning to Thailand. As we are married and in the UK it takes a long time and a lot of money to divorce but as we have virtually no assets she wishes a clean break, do you think it would be possible and legally viable to sort the divorce out in Thailand using Thai lawyers or not? By the way we married in an English registry office not in Thailand.

Mr. Stick says: Yes, even though you were married in the UK, so long as at least one of you is domiciled in Thailand, you can divorce in Thailand. You will have to meet the criteria for divorce, the easiest of which would be by mutual consent. You can divorce at any registry office and the procedure can takes as little as 15 minutes. You will need some documents there, though exactly what documents they are, I am not 100% sure…though probably your marriage certificate translated into Thai, and your passport, amongst other things.



Again, my apologies for publishing something of an incomplete column this week. I'll work hard to make sure a full column with an interesting opening piece is up online early next week. Hey, at least I managed to get it up before 6:00 PM, which was something of a struggle in itself!

Have a nice week, see you again next week.

Your Bangkok commentator,

Stick


Thanks go out to Mr. Write and Bangkok Grasshopper.