Stickman's Weekly Column April 23rd, 2006

The Road To Phuket



It takes an hour to fly to Phuket and you can get there for a steal on the budget airlines. Why oh why then would I want to drive? According to my road map, it is 862 km from Bangkok to Phuket and we're talking about driving down on one of the last days of the Songkran holiday period, the most notorious time of year on the roads in Thailand, when every day seems to be something of a black day, with an average 100+ people perishing on the roads each day.

Well, I like driving. Yep, it is as simple as that, I enjoy being behind the wheel. And like I have said in this column before, I like the feeling of control that you have when it is just you and the vehicle out on the open road. It's one of my favourite feelings, a feeling of freedom and control.

I've covered a lot of ground by road in the northeast as well as the central region of Thailand, but the south has eluded me. I had never driven further south than Hua Hin before, so once past Hua Hin, this was going to be something of an adventure!

It has to be said that the main road heading south out of Bangkok is pretty good. The surface is good, at least in the outside lane, there are a number of long, straight sections where you can really open it up, and it is a dual carriageway, meaning that unless he does something really dumb – and that should not be ruled out – you shouldn't see Somchai heading straight at you on the wrong side of the road.

But this section of road is boring. It's a bit like the drive from Bangkok to Pattaya. Boring is the only word for it. The scenery is dull. There are a number of commercial vehicles on the road, as well as a lot of buses. Parts of Thailand are pretty, I guess, but main inter-provincial highways leading into and out of Bangkok tend to be pretty dull and hardly rank amongst the world's most scenic road journeys.

Speaking with a friend about the planned journey, he said that if I was to leave at the crack of dawn, I could have breakfast in Hua Hin, lunch in Chumpon, and with a bit of luck make it to Patong by sunset. That sounded good. I didn't really want to be on intercity roads at night that I didn't know.

Not being a morning person it was something of a struggle, but I managed to get up earlyenough to leave the house by 6:00 AM. That gave me about 12 and a half hours to get to Patong Beach, Phuket, before night fell. Would I be able to do it?!

Heading out of the city it was quiet, being the end of the Songkran period. There was less traffic than usual and before I knew it I was out of Bangkok heading south. Metropolis FM was my friend for almost an hour, but at around 100 km outside of Bangkok, I lost the signal altogether and was on to the provincial Thai radio stations.

A couple of hours south of the capital and I found myself passing roadside vendors selling lychee, my favourite of all Thai fruits, at bargain prices. Spaced about 100 metres apart, the vendors were selling lychees at 3 kg for 100 baht, less than half what they are going for in Bangkok supermarkets. The problem is that we are not quite in season yet and lychees are still a bit sour at the moment. Another week or two and they should be sweeter. I looked over to the other side of the road, thinking I'd pick some up on the way back to Bangkok, a week or so later, and I saw no vendors, none at all. Just why is that? There were 25 – 30 odd vendors over a 3 – 4 km stretch on one side of the road, that is in the direction heading away from Bangkok, but none whatsoever on the way to Bangkok. I couldn't quite work it out. Like so many things in Thailand, I just could not work out why that is how it is.

I passed Hua Hin and the roads in that part of the country are really good, and the traffic quiet. That combined with the clear, bright weather and we had almost perfect driving conditions. Everyone seemed to be doing an average of about 140 km/h and there was not a cop in sight. It's just as well that they don't have speed cameras in Thailand or more traffic cops with radar. They'd have a field day down there.

A few hours after passing Hua Hin I started to get hungry. I hadn't take my friend's advice and hadn't stopped there for breakfast. It was time to find somewhere for brunch. Barreling down the highway, I thought it would be nice to eat something southern, one of my favourite southern dishes. How about a nice masaman curry? Ahhh, that'd be perfect!

A nice bowl of masaman would be perfect, so I continued on, looking for a bunch of restaurants, hoping to improve the chances of finding a decent bowl. Kilometre after kilometre passed by. The scenery didn't change. I didn't see anywhere that even remotely resembled a restaurant, and the hunger pains started to set in.

Eating in Thailand isn't always what you would expect. While there are all of these really great regional specialties, often you can find the very best version of it in the capital. Want good masaman? I doubt you'll find anywhere that does it better than the Blue Elephant. Want good Isaan food? Well, millions of Isaan folks live in Bangkok and there are a few spots in Siam Square that the Mrs., herself a native of Isaan, says are far better than anything in Korat. Bangkok attracts the best chefs and people have money in their pockets so dishes can be made using the best quality ingredients. Food in the provinces, especially the far flung provinces where less tourists venture, is not always what you expect…

Finally I came upon a petrol station which was surrounded by a bunch of restaurants. I filled up the car and noted that the price of petrol was getting awfully close to 30 baht a litre, twice the price it was just three years ago. Yep, three years ago, petrol was just 14.5 baht per litre.

I strolled around the restaurants and they all looked a bit, well, average. Nowhere had masaman. Aaargh! So I looked at one restaurant which had a heap of southern style curries. They didn't look good. What was I to do? I was hungry and I didn't know when the next restaurant would be. Maybe it would be the same as this lot? I had seen the famous red and white logo. I had seen the colonel. So I committed a cardinal sin… I ate KFC! Yikes! I hate KFC in Thailand, it is so damned ordinary and would be laughed at in New Zealand where I reckon it is about 100 times better. But yep, the curries just didn't look too good… I told myself that I had just filled up the car, and that KFC was fuel for me. But that didn't make me feel a lot better. I would eat 20 odd times in the south, and I just wasted one of those opportunities. And if it can be possible, the KFC was even worse than what you find in Bangkok. That'll teach me.

Back on to the road, the long straight roads, with little traffic. Nothing but bright sunshine, and me, totally in control. The CD player was playing my favourite CDs, the window was down, and I was in control.

The music got louder, the speed crept up, and I felt good. The needle on the speedo crept further and further round, and I knew that I was doing a good job of making up for the lost time. Glancing down at clock, it wasn't even 11 AM, and I was fast approaching Chumpon, the halfway point between Bangkok and Phuket. A quick calculation and I worked out that even with the stop I'd been averaging about 100 km/h and was giving myself every chance of reaching Phuket before sundown.

As I approached the turn off for Ranong, there were dozens of police manning a checkpoint. In the past being stopped by police used to bother me but now the only thing on my mind was time. How long would this hold up take? Would this be the difference between reaching Phuket in daylight, or at dusk? After what seemed like an eternity but was probably only several minutes, I reached the front where I was asked to show my drivers licence. Somewhat surprised that I actually had a Thai drivers licence, and probably somewhat disappointed- no chance of getting 100 baht now – I was waved on my way.

Up until this point the road had been good, but from Chumpon onwards, the road changed from a long straight dual carriageway, to a single lane, windy road. Little did I know that it was going to be like this for about the next 300 km and I would be making may way through village after village, stuck behind all manner of vehicles. It was just as well I had made very good progress up to that point.

I passed through a few small provinces, a couple that I had never even heard of before. I was now definitely in the south and at one point, I passed about 25 mosques before I saw one, singly, solitary temple. We were in the south alright, in a few Muslim dominated districts. If I had waited a bit longer, I am sure I could have got a great masaman curry around here.

Parts of the south, particularly the Muslim areas, seem to be better kept than the Buddhist areas. Properties seem to be tidier and people have the appearance of being a bit wealthier. Whether these impressions relate to reality or not, I do not know, but one can't help but notice that things are just much tidier. The lack of soi dogs is a bonus too.

Throughout Ranong province there were various checkpoints on the main road, police checkpoints, army checkpoints, and unlike much of the rest of Thailand, these checkpoints were actually manned. Anyone who has done much driving in Thailand will know that in any area close to borders, there is checkpoint after checkpoint.

Now this is Thailand and people in uniform do not always act in the manner which we would expect. Almost without failure, as soon as the guy in uniform saw a farang, they just waved me through. I could have had a boot (that's the trunk for you American readers) full of ya ba, or a bunch of young Burmese – that's largely what the checkpoints are for, but no, having white skin and a long nose seemed much the same as having a get out of jail free card. "Please proceed, sir."

At one such checkpoint the young soldier seemed horrified when I wound down the window and looked in the complete opposite direction while frantically waving his arms for me to proceed. I guess the poor soul doesn't speak much English and was scared that he might have to enter into conversation with the farang!

On stretches of the road in Ranong province you are right next to the border with Myanmar, with just a small stretch of water separating Thailand from its least favourite neighbour. You see boats cruising up and down the river and find yourself wondering whether the occupants are Thai or Burmese. Don't shoot me for saying this because it is hard to tell – they really do look much the same!

South of Ranong and we get within striking distance of Phuket. You start to see more and more resorts and the area is obviously more wealthy. But so many of the resorts look new, like they have just been built, and there are a heap of new buildings. Why is this area so new, and why is there so much development? And then I see a sign as I pass a resort, a sign with a name that is stuck in our memory forever. Khao Lak. This was the area in Thailand that was hit hardest by the tsunami and it is not hard to see why. The area is very low lying and there was nothing in the geography to prevent the killer waves from going way inland. Knowing what had happened I had something of a morbid feeling driving through and was kind of glad that I only realised where I was, when I was most of the way through it.

At Khao Lak you are less than 100 km from Phuket and looking at the clock on the dash, I could see that unless there was a major delay, I'd make Phuket well before sunset.

From Khao Lak to Phuket is pretty slow going in parts, the area is built up and there is a lot of traffic in places, so you can't get up to any decent speed. The scenery stays much the same as it was the whole way, and it is only when you have the coast, that the view gets interesting. The further south you get, the greener and more lush it gets, but that is not to say that it gets any prettier.

I hit the bridge connecting the mainland to Phuket before 4:00, less than 10 hours after leaving Bangkok, and at 4:25 PM I parked the car at the end of Soi Sansabai in Patpong Beach, Phuket, and killed the ignition. I had covered almost 900 km in 10 hours, 20 minutes, which isn't bad given a half hour break for lunch and a few other short stops to snap a few shots. It just goes to show that the roads in Thailand really are pretty good, because I averaged about 95 km/h for the whole journey, and that includes getting out of Bangkok, being stopped at a couple of police checkpoints, and going through numerous small Thai towns. Maybe I did put my foot down a bit when the road allowed it…

So, how does travel to Phuket by car compare with the plane? Well, by car took about twice as long as it would be by plane. Twice as long, I hear you ask? Phuket is only an hour away from Bangkok, I hear you say. I'm talking door to door times here. My apartment, to the hotel in Phuket. If you take the plane, it is not one hour, but more like five. Let's figure 40 minutes to get to the airport. You get there and the plane is delayed an hour so instead of a one hour wait, you have to wait two. The plane takes 20 minutes on the tarmac before it lifts off and after an hour in the air, you eventually arrive in Phuket. It takes at least 15 minutes to get your luggage before you can arrange a taxi or a vehicle to take you to one of the beaches which are 40 odd minutes from the airport. There's your 5 hours! The car was 10. The total cost of petrol was less than 1,800 baht. That is about the same cost as a ticket would be on Nok Airways, with the fare on Thai Airways being more than 3,000 baht.

I would drive from Bangkok to Phuket again. It's great to have your own wheels down there and the opportunity to explore the island in a way that you can only do with a car. But the drive down was just sort of nothing. It was boring. The scenery isn't special at all. It really doesn't change that much. But overall, yes, it was worthwhile taking the car. Given the cost and hassle of getting tuktuks to run around the island, having your own wheels saves a fortune and you jut don't have the headache of dealing with the tuktuk mafia.


Where WAS THIS PICTURE taken?

It was a Saen Saeb Canal boat!

Where is that?!

Last week's picture was taken on one of the Saen Saeb canal boats. One extremely clever reader even pointed out that to be a bit more specific, it's a Klong Saen Saeb boat that you'll only be able to find west of Pratunam, as he could see a hinge on the windscreen where it's lowered to go under one low bridge in that section of the klong. 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 a prize.

FROM STICKMAN'S EMAIL INBOX

It's too late…

I've definitely passed the point of no return. I've been in Thailand 14 of the last 18 years, including the last 12 years in Bangkok. My Thai wife and I are both mid-40s, and I just have no links left to America. Except for a handful of extremely elderly aunts and uncles whom I rarely saw while growing up, I have no close relatives left; everyone else in my family died a long time ago. In the state where I grew up, I have zero relatives left, close or otherwise, let alone the city I grew up. I only visit America now once a decade or so, and then only for a few weeks. Just no reason to go there. I'm settled in Thailand and happy with that. It helps being a homeowner; gives some sense of security. But then, I'm still a newbie. I know a farang who's been here 31 years straight. Someone else who's been here most of the last 35 years. Others who have been here 20 and 25 years. As far as I can tell, we all plan to be here a lot longer and are comfortable with that. I have heard of people who returned to Farangland only to wish they had stayed, so don't go back unless and until you're sure you're ready.

Harsh words about Thailand based expats.

You are spot on, all thinking farangs have to weigh up the pros and cons of living in Thailand ALL the time. The main thing I wrestle with is the opportunity cost of being here in terms of my professional life, i.e. I am so much less likely to meet someone here that will offer that top contract or that prime opportunity that will change my life for ever. No, the sad thing is most of the people I meet and see here are, drunks and whore mongers. Not people likely to have a positive impact on my life!

Follow the rules and you stay sane (even if the rules are inane!)

I remember when Immigration instituted the 90-day reporting, back about 1999 I think. I've never had a problem with it. Even back when we lived on the outskirts of town in Meuang Thong Thani, I always had the date I was due circled on the calendar and made an extra effort to stop by Immigration on time, no matter how far out of my way it might be. It's a little annoying, but I mean, c'mon, it's only four times a year. I've never understood how someone could NOT report on time. I have heard some farangs get bent completely out of shape over this requirement, though. Maybe that's why I manage to live here relatively problem-free; I make an effort to follow their rules no matter how inane I think those rules may be at times.

What could the further consequences be?!

I live in Sri Racha, near Chonburi, and had to pay a fine of 2,000 baht for showing up three weeks later as scheduled on my slip. I had simply forgotten the date. On top I got a stamp in my passport which says in Thai that I missed a showdown for 90 days and received a warning for further consequences if this happens again. Unfortunately I forgot to ask what this might be.

Suzie Wong Trivia.

You quoted someone in this week's column who referred to the classic movie "World of Suzie Wong." Interesting connection to Bangkok: For years the producer of that movie has been a regular at Madrid Bar in Patpong. He also used to be married to Nancy Kwan, the star of "Suzie". He was the producer of the movie "Alien" and some of its follow-on series. Just thought you'd find the connection of interest.

Are you an alcoholic?

I have noticed a great deal of interest and concern is paid to bar closings and prohibitions to the purchase of alcohol. Is consumption of alcohol (or the lack thereof) really of that much importance to the average person in LOS. Even though I can consume a great deal of the devil's brew I can certainly go for several days, weeks and even months without even caring about it. Now women…if prohibition is placed on the ladies plying their trades…that would not stand! That possibility really upsets me! I often wonder just what percentage of expats in LOS are full stage alcoholics.

How closely is she watching you?!

One of my friends is looking for a new teeruk after she discovered ‘their’ condoms had been used without her. He knew she counted them so he was careful to re-stock the ones he used while she was away last week. She went to the extreme of recording the serial numbers! Maybe a warning you should pass on to your readers (I certainly have taken note).

It all comes back to food.

I have the good fortune of having a Thai assistant at work who has spent half of his life in Australia which means his English is excellent. He regularly talks about the downside of Thai people and their attitude to work etc. This lead me to believe he had become westernized in his thinking until I asked him why he prefers to live in Thailand. His answer: “I like Thailand more than Australia because there is much more cheap food in Thailand!”

Pretty Lady in Nana Plaza was due to re-open last night. I wonder how many of their girls they will retain? Bad enough to be closed by police but to close yourself?!

Rainbow 2 closed on Friday night due to electrical problems. Fortunately this bar is part of a big group so they were able to send the girls up to Rainbow 4, which must have been quite a sight, given that that bar is usually packed with attractive ladies already. Imagine another 50+ girls being jammed in there!

The Dollhouse in Pattaya was sold this week and the new owners are apparently from Club Boesche. On Friday the bar changed hands.

With the smoothest of haircuts, he never looks a day older, but like the rest of us, Dave The Rave is getting older. Dave will be hosting his birthday bash at Angelwitch in Nana Plaza on April 30 and all are welcome. This is a great chance to meet up with one of the friendliest and most gregarious bar managers.

I wonder how many farangs in Thailand did something illegal yesterday? Thousands, in all likelihood, and I was amongst them! It was yet another of the elections and most of the bars were unable to sell alcohol, AGAIN! What's that, the third time this month?! Madness. So we all had to stay home, read the newspaper, watch TV and pickle our livers in the comfort of our own lounge, something that we are not supposed to do on election day or the night before.

The BarBar, described as Bangkok’s newest first class fetish bar, is said to provide sophisticated fantasy lifestyle entertainment for all those of you who enjoy anything above and beyond the usual. Now that got your attention, didn't it! It's located on Patpong Soi 2, at the Silom end. This is a specialist bar and not just another gogo bar so please be aware that their drinks pricing is a little more than you may be used to in the more conventional bars. The first drink will set you back 900 baht and all subsequent drinks are charged at 300 baht. Lady drinks go for 250 baht but don't fret, if you run out of cash they accept payment by Visa card. For more info, check out: Barbar-bangkok.com. I hope to visit myself this coming week and will provide a full report – ok, I might leave out the juicy bits, in an upcoming column.

So I have been down in Phuket for the last week checking things out and of course I have been around the bars, a couple of times. I couldn't help but laugh in Plumeria Gogo which is really scraping the bottom of the barrel. They have a ladyboy doing all the sorts of shows that you see in the upstairs bars in Patpong. It really was not a pretty sight…

Rock Hard or Rio's or whatever it is called now, I get very easily confused, was the pick of the bars of that genre but really, it just doesn't compare with bars of its type in Bangkok or Pattaya.

The beer bars in Phuket were quiet on the whole, though that is to be expected at this time of year, the period immediately after Songkran being one of the quietest of the year.

It would have been easy to just come out and say that all of the girls in Phuket were less than attractive and were rather optimistic if they thought a handsome young Westerner were going to give them some money for a bit of rolly polly, but that would not be examining the issue deeply enough. Songkran is the biggest Thai holiday of all, the new Year period, a time when a country of family orientated people return to their homes to spend time with their loved ones. The girls most likely to return home are those with money in their pockets, and the girls with money in their pockets are generally the most successful girls. Which means the most attractive girls are absent…

The one thing I will say about Phuket which differs from both Bangkok and Pattaya is that the prettiest girls of all seem to be freelancers. Tiger Disco had a large number of very attractive women.

The girls in the Phuket bars are much less pushy than in Bangkok and Pattaya and less hungry for lady drinks. My feeling is that a lot of the customers in the bars in Phuket are tourists, ad not hardened barflies who know that the girls make money from buying drinks.

Strolling around the beer bars of Karon Beach, I was totally confused about something of a dichotomy that kept repeating itself in several of the bars there. The bars were either empty, or had one, but certainly no more than two customers. The beer bars would typically have ten or so girls. All of the girls were saying they had no money, yet they were fat. They have no income, and no customers, yet they are fat? How is that? Is it simply that every girl in the bars, even the older girls, and less attractive ladies, have guys from abroad sending them money?

I was amazed to see that on "expensive Phuket" some beer bars still offered 30 baht Coke. So, for guys on a budget, some of the beer bars, particularly in the Karon and Kata Beach areas, may be to your taste. But that needs to be contrasted with the fact that a lot of hotels on the island are not guest friendly at all. There are a number of hotels which discourage un-registered guests, charging a fair whack to get a girl in – 1,000 – 2,000 baht is not unheard of. There is also quite a number of hotels and resorts that simply will not allow a lady of the night in, at any price! So if you have an inkling that you may be naughty, choose your hotel wisely.

The issue of price rises for the services of naughty girls is something that gets a number of Westerners hot and bothered. It sounded as though record inflation had hit Pattaya and many of the prettier girls working in the gogo bars in Walking Street have been asking 2,500 for short time and 4,000 – 5,000 for long time. That these figures are being requested means that there are almost certainly a number of guys paying these figures! And then in came a report this week that the ladies of Rainbow 4 have also been asking 5,000 baht. And to make matters even worse, this money has been requested BEFORE they go anywhere, that is before they leaver the bar! And get this, they are requesting this for short time! What is going on? Well, perhaps there has been something of a change in the customers to said venues? In Bangkok nightspots at least, there are more and more well to do folks. The world economy is not doing that badly, and Thailand is benefiting with a number of Western businessmen spending time doing deals here. A greater proportion of the customers hitting the nightlife scene in Bangkok are actually on the company dime, and they don’t have an issue with the prices. The bars and girls are practicing the good old capitalistic practice of increasing prices to maximize profit. It is hard to see this trend going away any time soon.

And this increased demand for the ladies of the night has given more power to the women, especially the really attractive women. They know that they have power and are using it against the bosses in bars. Ask any Westerner in business in Thailand and they will tell you that the most difficult aspect of running their business is staffing. It is really hard to get good staff, and then even more difficult to keep them. Looking at them the wrong way or simply not smiling enough and they are out the door. Bar bosses are reporting that it is increasingly hard to find decent girls these days.

A curious report came in from a couple of gentleman who did the rounds at Nana Plaza. One fellow picked up a lady from Rainbow 1, the other from Rainbow 3. When they got the girls back to their respective rooms, each of the girls did a runner. Now just what was all that about, I wonder?! They did NOT get paid, although the barfine had been paid. Weird.

Let me once again recommend to you the Summer Breeze Hotel at Patong Beach, Phuket, as a place to stay. It's a great place, American run and managed, ideal location and very friendly staff. They do not pay me to say this – I am just recommending to you a really good spot to stay. It's inexpensive and guests are not a problem. It should be noted that if you want to invite anyone up to your room in Phuket, that hotels on the island are a lot fussier about such things than hotels in other places. A number of guys have reported problems relating to inviting someone back to their room for language lessons and the like…

Why is it that irrespective of whatever school they go to, a large number of international school students in Bangkok seem to speak with an American accent? Sure, one would expect the kids of American families studying at schools using an American curriculum and American teachers to speak with an American accent. But what about students who go to international schools where there are more British teachers than American. Just why is it that they speak with an American accent?

One of the naughty bars in Sukhumvit has a lady working there who is very attractive indeed. She looks about 30, but she is actually over 50! You would NEVER guess! I was flabbergasted when I was told. Do you know which bar I'm talking about?

There seems to be quite a bit of misconception about the 90 day reporting so I'll try and outline it in a bit more detail. Thai Immigration requires all non Thai nationals who have a visa for more than 90- days, to report to Immigration every 90 days. So, if you have a one year visa, you are required to report to Immigration every 90 days. You do NOT need to go to the local Immigration office but can simply do it by post. It is painless! If you are on a tourist visa or have a visa for 90 days or less, you do NOT need to report. Hope that helps to clear it up!

A reader has a nice sounding room for rent in a quiet, elegant and well decorated 5 storey townhouse in the Sathorn area. He would prefer an expat female. The property has a swimming pool, a home office with internet, printer, fax and computers for usage. The living room has high tray ceilings and nice décor. And the monthly rent is only 10,000 baht. If interested, call 07-9086071.

Quote of the week comes from a long term reader and contributor to the site. He was talking about Phuket, but the comment applies equally as well to Thailand in general. "This is a great place to live, but only if you have no ambition."

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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 simply offers the perspective of one Thai woman. She is not Buddhist and she is not shy to criticise things about her own country and culture, although having said that, she remains proud to be Thai. Mr. Stick will try and answer the questions which Mrs. Stick is not so sure about. Please do try and limit the length of questions to Mrs. Stick to about 100 words. We get many questions that are entire stories of several hundred words which I'm afraid are just too long to run here.

Question 1: I have known her for two years, we have been engaged for ten months and we are getting married in October. But is she for real? Just returned from a visit with her and spent two weeks on a farm between Korat and Buriram. I have never held her hand because she want only been on my own with her once, all other times friends or sister with us. I asked her for a kiss, we were in car in underground car park in Korat, she looked all around when she was sure no one was there she gave me a peck on the lips, not a kiss. Is she a fridge, or will she melt after we are married if you know what I mean. I am ok waiting just want know if this is normal with some girls, and will we have real relationship once married. Or will she always be a fridge?

Mrs. Stick says: When I was growing up I never saw any affection in public at all. I never saw anyone holding hands and I certainly never saw anything "more" than that. In Bangkok you might see people holding hands, but if you look closely, do you see anything more than that? You don't. OK, so my husband says that if you look closely, you do, but when you look at those people, they are probably prostitutes. We do not show affection in public. Holding hands is the limit. And Korat is much more conservative than Bangkok. So just because your fiancée was reluctant to kiss you in a public place, you should not interpret that negatively at all. Actually, perhaps you should. It is a good thing. If she gave you a big kiss in public, she is maybe not the sort of lady you would be best marrying.

Question 2: It's proving a bit difficult to attract normal Thai girls, I have to confess I'm smitten! I used to have a girlfriend in Bangkok but we went our different ways a few years ago and now I'm looking to find a nice lady but haven't much success via the usual routes – online chat, ThailandFriends etc. I'm 39 and have a postgraduate qualification, a well paid job as a software consultant in London working for a major financial organisation and I was born in England. It all sounds good until the girls see my pic, then they run a mile because I'm Indian. I know racism is prevalent in Thai society particularly against Indians. So what can I do attract nice Thai ladies? It seems Thai ladies are more interested in unskilled white farangs, so sad but true. Look forward to your reply and any suggestions.

Mrs. Stick says: It is true that many Thai women are not so interested in Indian men. There are a lot of Indian men married to Thai women and my husband has one Indian friend who is married to a Thai women. I think the best thing for you to do is just be yourself. You will meet someone who likes Indian men. It might also be an idea for you to look for a Thai woman in London.

Question 3: I am disabled due to agent orange from my service in Vietnam. I'm physically great, except for having a hole in my throat, no vocal cords and speak with a hand held device. My question is, if I come to Thailand how can I expect the Thai people to react? Do you ever see Thai people disabled like me? I know Thai soldiers that were in areas of Vietnam that were sprayed with agent orange. Are they kept under wraps? I was stationed at camp Vayame, Sattahip in 1966-1967 and loved the Thai people.

Mr. Stick says: The Mrs. was a little confused about this and not sure how to answer so I'll give it a go. Thais stare! They cannot help themselves. If anyone so much as does something as routine as scratch their head, the locals will stare. If someone picks their nose, bites their nails, or scratches their nuts, that will be more than enough for a bit of gossip! In the case of people who are disabled, handicapped, or in some way a little different from the average, locals will not be able to help themselves but stare AND gossip. However, it is my experience that when it comes to people who have some sort of impediment, the Thais do tend to be very sympathetic and you will often hear the word "song-sarn", meaning pity. So while they may stare and gossip, they will almost certainly be very kind and understanding in any interaction with you. I would say quite a few people will be freaked out by it though, probably because they have never seen something like that before. I'm sure it won't prevent you from having a good time though!



Another week passes by in the Kingdom, and I have to admit that it has been a lot of fun for me, down in Phuket. But it has not been all R + R by any stretch of the imagination. The reason for venturing down to Phuket was to get the new design of the website sorted. It is coming along slowly. I really had no idea just how much work world be involved. I hope to have the new version up soon. And yes, at long last, the colour scheme WILL change. If you like grey text on a black background, enjoy it for now, because it is not going to look like this for much longer… And tomorrow it is the long journey back to Bangkok again. I wonder if I can find a bowl of masaman this time?


Your Bangkok commentator,

Stick


Thanks go out to Bangkok Grasshopper and Dave The Rave.