Stickman's Weekly Column April 16th, 2006

When Is The Point Of No Return?



I'm a thinker. This has its good points and its bad points. On the positive side, it means that I am often prepared for whatever may happen next, be it at work, related to this website, or just whatever, in life in general. I run different scenarios through my head and have a fairly good idea of the best way to deal with them if they should arise. The bad side of being a thinker is that you tend to worry a bit, and often run through scenarios of a negative nature through your mind, more often than is necessary.

The one thing that always goes through my mind, and this happens on a daily basis without fail, is me wondering just what the hell I am doing here in Thailand. I wonder what I am doing, where I am going, and the thought that is always near the front of my mind is just when will I return to New Zealand. I jump backwards and forwards so often that I wonder if I am suffering from some sort of mental illness, constantly running scenarios through my mind. The good points, the bad points, and trying to reconcile it with my situation here in Thailand, all of the factors that keep me here that are not immediately obvious, nor relevant, to most anyone else.

The thing that worries me most is the point in life I am at. I am really at a key age, a point at which I could bail out now, and really not suffer too much from my time in Thailand. Back to New Zealand and I am sure I would do just fine….now, that is. But if I stay in Thailand? I'm mid '30s, in the prime of my life….and I'm teaching in Thailand. Hardly anything to be particularly proud of, is it? Of course there is more to it, but at the end of the day, I am looked at as a language teacher in a country where the English language teaching profession is hardly looked upon fondly.

There are a few other feathers in the cap, of course, but for various reasons they are the things that are not always mentioned, and more often than not are actually played down.

But perhaps I should not dwell on the negative side of things too much. A move back to New Zealand and I could end up like my old pal and fellow countryman Warren Olson, previously Thailand's best known farang PI, who after moving back to New Zealand has landed himself a position as something of a South East Asia specialist, and a security consultant. He's doing very well for himself. I'm really pleased for him. Maybe I dwell on the negative too much?

Of course there are all of the good points of living in Thailand, the relaxed lifestyle and the generally low cost of things at the top of the list.

But I still worry about the potential downside. I have had a very easy schedule for way too long. Three months off paid a year, and at least another month where we do very little. That's the life of a teacher. But it's not just teaching. The work ethic in Thailand just isn't the same as in the West and I wonder how that would effect me back in Farangland?

And then I wonder about the value of things learnt, and time spent, in Thailand. I mean, it is all very well and good to be able to speak Thai to a decent level, but if one returns to Farangland, will that prove to be useful? Probably not. It's not like Thai is widely spoken, or used in the business world. And what of the contacts one makes in Thailand? They will likely either stay in Thailand or return to their homelands, in the case of most of my friends, that means the States, the UK, Australia or Canada. I won't go into all of the other negatives that have been mentioned in this column over the years, like the difficulties in owning property, the uncertainty of one's future longevity in Thailand etc.

In some ways I would love to stay on in Thailand for a long time, but I keep coming back to the negatives. There are a whole heap of challenges and obstacles that you have to overcome and some of them are downright difficult to predict, and some even impossible to avoid. I often get annoyed when people tell me how easy it is to get ahead here. Sure, some Westerners do extremely well, but I would not think that that is the norm.

A number of readers ask why I continue to stay in Thailand, citing the reason that many choose to live here is the availability of women, something which as a married man is a complete non-issue for me.

At the end of the day we all have different reasons for living in Thailand, and we all have a very different set of personal circumstances, of pressures and forces, keeping us here, or pushing us away, as the case may be.

I'm going to be in Thailand for some time yet, but that doesn't mean that I am not conscious of the danger of staying too long. Eight years is a long time to have invested in one country and just up and leave, but you do have to look forward, don't you? You have to be very conscious of lost opportunities. For someone in their 30s, in the prime of their life, you have to scratch your head and wonder just what the hell you're doing…

Or maybe the Thais are right? Maybe I think too much?


Where WAS THIS PICTURE taken?

It was the bay just past the Dusit at Pattaya.

Where is that?!

Last week's picture was of the small bay just around the corner from the Dusit Resort at the northern end of Pattaya Beach. This week's picture is back in Bangkok. It's a bit tricky, eh? Might be tough for tourists but I reckon a good number of locals should know where it is. 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

Getting around the key loggers.

There are a couple of ways to leave key-loggers without anything they can use. The simplest one, which works for e-mail, is to use an e-mail client which works from a USB-stick like Portable Thunderbird. Given that you have already put all passwords in place at your home PC and Thunderbird remembers those, you can read your e-mail without any problem. Answering the e-mails might give the key loggers something, but I rather doubt they are interested in long stories without passwords. Another way to avoid key loggers is to use a live-CD, a bootable CD with an OS and all utilities you might wish to use. Since the Windows OS on the hard disk of the PC is never started, the key logging program is never started so it can't log any keystrokes. The most well-known live-CD is Knoppix, but there are others.

And again.

A simple trick that I use and have never had a problem with in over 7 years in many countries around the world is when entering my account number and password I add in an extra 7 numbers and then highlight and delete. For example, if my account number is 82369803, I would type it in as 2984273659821053 and this number is recorded by the keylogger. Now all I have to do is highlight the wrong numbers and hit delete and do the same with the password.

Why wasn't she charged?!

I wanted to share an experience my friend had a few months ago. He picked up a street girl in the small soi that parallels the Biergarten between Sukumvit sois 5 and 7, around 11 PM. The next thing he knows…he is waking up around noon in his hotel room and has the proverbial headache and lack of memory. A check of his valuables reveals his gold jewelry is long gone. Fortunately the hotel cameras caught her coming in with him and the police picked her up a few days later. Miracle of miracles he got his jewelry back, but no charges were brought against the thief. Be careful out there.

Hitting rock bottom.

Pattaya can be a lonely place unless you drink a fair bit, and even then you'd have to sober up at times. At times holidaying in Pattaya, I've seen farangs wondering about the street in a daze during the day looking like hobos. I've seen a farang shoplifting in Tops supermarket. And I was only there for 4 days.

In case anyone bats for the other team.

I enjoy reading your column even though I bat middle order for the other side but can bowl left-arm spin around the wicket when required. Just thought I'd mention what has been going down in the gay scene recently. It took a real hit when those horrid politicians started messing about with bar closing times and the centre of gravity for the region shifted to Singapore, but I'm pleased to say the Bangkok scene has recovered a little recently. It has been lovely to witness the return of the "hard-on parade" (no explanation necessary). Unlike the hetero scene where prices have become obscene, 1,000 baht will buy you a partner for the whole night. And another recent change has been the number of WOMEN going to the gay bars! Honestly, women! It used to be only the occasional Japanese or Korean woman, but now western women account for about half and they are not only middle-aged frumps. I think this might be called "revenge"!

A movie ahead of its time?

Did you ever see the movie "The World of Suzie Wong" with William Holden and Nancy Kwan, circa 1960? It is about a working guy who decides to chuck it all in, moves to Hong Kong to be an artist, and rents a room in a cheap hotel. The downstairs of the hotel has a bar with bargirls who use the upstairs as short time rooms. So William Holden's character has two sets of friends that he pals around with: the clean-cut expat community with straight lives and straight jobs, and then the local crowd made up of the working girls and bar patrons. Well, needless to say, he falls for one of the bargirls, gets involved in her soap opera life, and is shunned by the expat community who see him as wasting his life when he could be paired up with a suitable expat girl. My monologue here is just to draw a very close parallel to the expat bargirl relationships in Thailand that are often posted on your site. Amazing that such a good movie was made about this almost 50 years ago and that most of it holds true today! Who knows – maybe time to remake the movie set in Nana?

How about an usufruct?

While in the process of buying a house recently, I was checking on ways to safeguard my investment. Other expats had suggested holding the mortgage, getting a long term lease, getting your name on the land deed, etc. My wife and I were dealing with a good lawyer, who recommended drawing up an "Usufruct". Yes, I know that is a strange word – but if you do a search on it you will find the legal definition of the term – "The right to utilize or earn revenue from another person's property". This agreement is legal in Thailand. The lawyer had the full explanation of the term in English and Thai. The agreement can be written to cover any length of time. Mine guarantees me use of the property until my death. It also binds her family to this in case something happens to her.

It was rumoured that the police would close down Red Lips bar in Nana Plaza for 60 days. The closing order was delivered to Lumpini and they were to deliver it to the bar when somehow at the very last minute the bar got slapped with just a 10 day closure. What prompted the change in heart?

So you thought that all of the bar owners were good buddies, and that they had secret meetings behind closed doors talking about when they would all put their prices up? Well, they do that from time to time, but they are not all good buddies, no, not by any measure. Several bar owners filed a complaint at Lumpini because the boys in brown hadn't closed Hollywood down despite numerous offences. As a closing order is already delivered to Lumpini it has to be followed up, which is not happening. A petition signed by 5 bar owners, which is said to be good for a high percentage of Nana bars, has been sent to several government institutions to ask to solve the problem.

And apparently Nana Plaza is back to 2:00 AM closing. Well, it has been for a few days but whether it will last or not, who knows?

You hardcore party animals are going to have to stock up your condo or hotel rooms with liquor because word is that the bars are going to be closed this coming Tuesday due to local body elections. Alcohol might be hard to find on Wednesday night too, though if you look hard, you should be able to find it somewhere…

Erotica bar in Nana is now owned by just one owner, that is both floors are owned by just the one owner. Several new girls have been employed and a promotion will be started soon…including Beer Mondays, all beers at 100 baht all night long, Tequila Tuesdays, a bottle of Tequila at HALF price. The upper level is also bringing in some new shows.

It's up and down for the Big Mango in Nana Plaza. The number of girls is down, but the variety of food is up, with a new menu in place.

Similar has happened at G Spot, where a number of the girls have left the bar, apparently due to some sort of dispute.

In what has to be the cheapest deal of its kind, the Trade Winds bar in Patpong Soi 2, that is one of those really small pokey bars, is where you can get oral relief for 200 baht. I cannot imagine how desperate they must be to offer services at that price.

Soi 7's Biergarten seems to be getting busier and busier late at night. Given that the Thermae seems to attract a different crowd these days, I wonder if a number of the lasses prefer the punters who hang out at the Biergarten, the traditional Thermae crowd? Personally, I think this place is a bit scary during the day. I mean, it's daylight, and you can actually see what everyone looks like!

One bar owner told me that the reason that most bars don't have a graduating price schedule on the barfines is that girls get a commission on the barfines and pointing out to the lovely lady that since she was barfined at half price she should only get half the commission is definitely something that the ladies can understand and most definitely do not like!

Quote of the week comes from a reader. "It is harder to get a good cup of tea, than it is a lady in Thailand."

For a couple of months now the banner here with "Oh My Cod" on it has appeared in this column. Just what was that all about? All can be revealed at long last. Oh My Cod is the name of a pleasant British food outlet in the soi with the temple, just beyond Khao Sarn Road, you know the one, the soi that sort of surrounds the temple, and the one which you cut through if you are walking from Khao Sarn Road through to Pra Artit Road. They have a heap of Western style food from good old fish and chips, to a good fry up for breakfast to baked potatoes. Do check them out if you're in the neighbourhood.

Scattered reports have come in that Immigration are getting a bit tougher about 90 day reporting, or lack of it, and that 2,000 baht fines seem to be a bit more common than they used to be. The word with 90 day reporting seems to be that once you start doing it, then you really cannot stop, because if you do, you'll get stuck with a fine. Everyone I know who has been fined has been Bangkok based so not sure how this is elsewhere in the Kingdom.

The Irish Xchange no longer has the daily buffet as I found out much to my disappointment this week. They now do the curry buffet on a Friday only, at 300 baht, from midday to 3 PM and the carvery buffet, every Sunday, from midday until 4 PM at the same price. There is a set lunch special which replaces what was a daily buffet.

Is it just the motorbike boys in my soi, or do they all disappear during the day at this time of year? The hot season and the bloody motorbikes are never there! No drivers licence.

More bad press for Ko Samui in an article from The Guardian.

Was it just me, or was Songkran a little more restrained this year? On the first official day of Songkran, the capital was quiet. In the neighbourhood where I live, NO-ONE was out playing. In fact, I could have walked to the nearest major shopping mall, about a mile away, and not got wet at all. I went for a drive around about and over to Emporium and back, and there were noticeably less people out throwing water around than there have been in previous years. Usually the first official morning is a very crazy time, but I didn’t see many people out at all. Sure, certain neighbourhoods are much busier than others, some can be a real nightmare – and I bet Khao Sarn Road was really happening – but it is nice to see that for anyone who wanted to get on with their life, things *seemed* quieter this year than previous years.

Yep, there is a bit less news this week than usual. I locked myself in my castle, pulled up the drawbridge and didn't venture out too far at all.

.

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’m engaged with a Thai woman in her mid 30’s with 2 children. She seems to be typical of the many situations you and Mr. Stickman have talked about in the past. Her husband left her and she took responsibility for the family. My question: Is there a cultural difference between Thai woman and Western woman? Is my fiancé really just sacrificing herself for her family or can I believe that she can have real feelings of love for me?

Mrs. Stick says: It is impossible to say without knowing more about your relationship and your situation. Ok, I'll admit that it is possible. I hear stories about women marrying men in the hope that he will look after them and their family but actually, I personally do not know anyone who has done that so I don't really know.

Question 2: What is the deal with Thai women and engagement rings? I spent a small fortune on the engagement ring for my wife and since we got married, she hardly wears it! In the West she would wear it all the time. In fact if I had known that she was just going to keep it in her jewellery box, I never would have bought her such a nice one. How do Thai women look at engagement rings?

Mrs. Stick says: Thailand is not a safe country like yours so married women don't always wear their engagement rings, especially when they are just going about their routines or regular daily life. Engagement rings and other pieces of jewellery are usually worn when we go out to parties, dinner, big events or other special occasions. An engagement ring may be worth the equivalent of a year or more's earnings to a criminal and it is an easy target. This is why engagement rings are not worn that often by Thai women.



It's that time of year that school teachers loves, two months holiday, and if you're really lucky, fully paid. Despite the fact that I am hardly the most scintillating of company, I get a number of invitations to meet up with readers during the year – and most of the time I have to decline because I am just too busy. The day job, the website and all that that involves as well as the Mrs. all come together to mean that I have precious little free time, and what time I have I like to try and relax, or spend with friends. Well, this is the one time of year when I am up for meeting readers. So, if you want to meet up for a drink, then drop me a line as I have a lot of free time at the moment. Day time is often better than evenings though.


Your Bangkok commentator,

Stick


Thanks go out to Bangkok Grasshopper.