It crossed my mind that one week I might not produce a column. Just one week. I thought I might spend most of the weekend in the apartment, not venture too far, and just take it easy, catching up on sleep, and rest. But not producing a column would result in a fair number of complaints, upset readers and so on, and besides, I very much enjoy putting it together, and would miss it, so what to do?
I was given a lifeline recently when a reader suggested that he interview me, and we run the interview on the site. At first I didn't like the idea. It sounded a bit self-indulgent and the sort of thing I usually try and avoid. But then I thought more about how busy my schedule is, and how it would lighten the load one week.
So on Tuesday of this week myself and reader Barry got together and had a couple of beers and a chat at Sin on Soi 4. What follows is the result of that chat. This interview is virtually an exact transcript of our chat. I have made a couple of very small changes, but left it almost entirely as the conversation went.
Let’s start at the beginning. When did you first come to Thailand, and why?
I came here in 1997. I came here because my business partner had been here the Christmas before and he said he really liked Phuket and he really liked the beaches. Back then I used to really enjoy hanging out at the beach and sunbathing and everything else, and the idea of going somewhere where there was a good beach and where everything is cheap and with food – I used to eat Thai food often in New Zealand – it appealed. So I came here with my best mate. We had two days in Bangkok, hated it, 10 or 11 days in Phuket, loved it, and that was the first trip.
The obvious question is did you sample the nightlife?
We stayed at Karon Beach, but we made it to Patong a couple of nights. Let’s leave it at that.
When did you decide to come here full time and why?
Okay, things weren’t going too well in New Zealand work-wise, and it seemed I was always living for tomorrow. You know, everything I did was for tomorrow. So I thought I just wanted a change. I thought I’d come to Thailand for one or two years. So I trained to be an English teacher and came in, what, April ‘98, but the decision was made some time in the second half of ‘97, I can’t remember exactly when. But let me say this. When I was in Thailand on my first trip, the last three or four days I wanted to go home. I’d had enough. I didn’t fall in love with Thailand on that trip. Even when I planned to move here, it wasn’t that I was madly in love with Thailand. It was just that it represented a, I hate to say it, a cheap option. Cheap, warm. I mean, the girls didn’t come into it, they really didn’t. That was not part of the motivation.
It's a cheap option for a lot of people I would think.
Yeah, I mean it is. I think that is one of the big attractions of the country to foreigners, and I don’t think the locals actually realise that. They have this misconception that a lot of us come here for all the things that are so "wonderful and special" about Thailand, but actually price is a big part of it.
You said you became an English teacher. Was that with a view to teaching it here or were you doing it anyway?
No, no. I trained to be an English teacher solely so I could get a job and work legally in Thailand. That was the only reason for it. I mean, I always enjoyed English as a subject at school, but no, English teaching, the idea was never for it to be a career move. That never came into it.
How did you meet Mrs. Stick?
Online, on ICQ. I played the internet game, I wouldn’t say since the beginning, but as far as Thai girls meeting Western guys goes I’ve been doing that for a long time, and I had, shall we say, a lot of success on ICQ meeting very nice Thai women, and thinking back there were a number who would have made great wives. Then one day Mrs. Stick and I started chatting. We chatted for a month before we met, chatted online for a month. Yeah, she was different, she was different to everyone else.
I've heard that phrase before!
Yes, I’d better be careful what I say!
Why the name Stickman for the site?
Um, it’s a very long story, but I’ll make it short. Back in New Zealand many, many years ago I worked part-time in a cinema. You know, after school, a bit of extra money, and there was a poor fellow who had a wooden leg and a walking stick and he would walk past the cinema every day. And the manager once said to me that he’s "the stickman", and I asked what that meant and the manager then said that he had done naughty things with girls in the past. I thought, oh yes. Then when I started up the site there were three main sections. There was a section on the nightlife, a section on teaching and a section on just general living, and once the site went up back then – this was many years ago, it was very small – it was the nightlife section that was the most popular. And I kind of thought back to this guy. He’d been naughty with girls and now I was sort of writing about naughty things with girls, and the name Stickman came into my head and that was it!
Did you see yourself as a rival or a supplement to Bernard Trink and his Night Owl page in the Bangkok Post?
Oh, not at all. Not at all. That didn’t come until – if you compare Trink and me you’ve really got to compare my weekly column with his column as he used to write it, and my column didn’t start until April 2001, so the site had been running for two and a half years before the column came along. And the column was in many ways an afterthought. Some people say that I’ve taken over the reins from Trink, but I’m just a guy doing it online. Trink did it for the best part of 40 years and he’s a legend. I mean, what he did was amazing. I’ve barely got going.
You’ve almost been described as a legend yourself. You have carried on from what he did.
Um, that’s happened by accident. When the Post let him go he really got thrown out into the wilderness, and you know, he didn’t – he got involved with a bunch of guys who tried to continue his column online and they made the classic internet mistake of charging for it instead of looking to make money through advertising or some other means such as merchandising. It’s a great shame that he’s no longer writing. I mean, even at the end, while he wasn’t producing the same sort of quality he was in the old days, it’s a loss.
Why did you start the site?
I was bored. I’d been living in Bangkok and I was bored. I didn’t buy a computer for six months, so I had this period from leaving New Zealand until I bought a computer here of six months when I was only accessing the internet from internet cafes. And I just wanted a hobby to keep me busy in Bangkok because Bangkok’s a funny place, you know. You need a hobby. So it was like a hobby and it’s taken off.
Was that before you met Mrs. Stick?
Oh yes. I met her – we started chatting in January 2002, we met in February 2002, and the site had been going three and a half years at that stage, and she didn’t know about it for about six months. I didn’t mention it to her at all. She used to often wonder why I’d never want to see her on a Sunday afternoon, because I’d rush home to get the column up! And the few times it was late back then were all due to her, because I was spending time with her.
It must take up a lot of your time. How much time do you spend on it?
Far too long. Today <last Tuesday> I spent seven hours on it, and today’s a work day. My best guess would be 30 to 35 hours a week. Reading and responding to emails is actually the biggest part of it. A lot of people say I should cut that, I should stop doing it, but the fact that I do actually read emails from people and respond to them, I think that builds loyalty. So I do spend a hell of a lot of time. Sunday I spend eight to 10 hours. Other days I guess about four hours a day.
Is it difficult to sometimes find a lead?
No. In Bangkok there’s always something to write about. Sometimes it’s hard to articulate it and write it in such a way that it’s going to be interesting, but no. Thinking of things to write about is very easy. You could put the stopwatch on and I could give you 10 interesting topics in a minute that I could write about. But actually making them into a worthwhile column is a bit more difficult.
Is it tempting to do it full-time, make a living from it? Is it possible?
Yeah, it is. It’s absolutely do-able. Given how popular the site is I should be doing really well from it. I’m really just – if you look at the amount of time I put into it and the money that comes in, it’s actually not worth doing, it really isn’t. But, if I did it full-time, I think it becomes a slippery slope. There’s a certain lifestyle associated with it and I don’t really want to go down that path. Teaching keeps me honest. It gets me up early in the morning.
But there are a lot of frustrations in that.
There are, but ..
Thai schools are not the best in the world, children are not the most disciplined. You’ve written so many times about the problems of teaching.
Yes, I know, you’re right. But I’m lucky. I’m on a better number than most. I work at a good school with on the whole nice kids. I’m reasonably well paid and get three months off a year. That three months off a year is fantastic, so giving up the teaching’s not going to happen.
You talked about the popularity of the site. What’s the readership. Let the potential sponsors know.
It’s huge, it really is huge. Unique readers, um, weekly column, well over 20,000 in the first seven days. Other Bangkok sites get more traffic and their ratings in terms of independent website traffic might be higher, but that’s based more on the architecture of the site. If you look at things like a discussion forum you’ll invariably get more traffic, that is more data transferred, but if you look at the number of unique western visitors I don’t think many other sites are close, I really don’t.
Another thing you do is help guys who want to know what their girlfriend is up to. How did that start?
People would e-mail me – see, I took a year off in 2000 and studied Thai full-time, so I studied good Thai by day and bad Thai by night …
That's a very interesting way of putting it…!
And I’m a bit of a nice guy and people would email me saying ‘I’ve got this girlfriend, you know. What do you think – should I marry her and take her back to America or wherever’, and I said ‘What’s her name. I’ll go and find out for you’. And I went along and checked out the girl and see what she was like and if she was being faithful, and send a report. And then the guys started telling me they would have paid for that, and I thought hey, there’s an opportunity here. And it just went from there.
How many clients do you get in a month?
Very few, to be honest. I really don't have a lot of time to do that sort of thing so often hand it over to a friend to do and put the person who inquired in touch with them.
And it’s usually checking up on the girlfriend, is she still working in the bar?
In the old days it was verifying if she was A, still working in the bar and B, if she was available for take-out. That was the old days. That was simple. Now it’s become much, much more complex. Now they want to know those two things primarily, but they also want to know if there are other guys on the scene, do they have a Thai boyfriend and various other bits and pieces, which to do you really need to be able to speak good Thai, and often surveillance work is involved so you need to spend a lot of time watching the girls, not always in a bar environment. So investigations these days are much more involved and time consuming because guys are more demanding and want to know a lot more.
You’ve got what sounds like a nice job, going to watch pretty girls in a bar. What does Mrs. Stick think about that?
Oh, she’s not thrilled about it, at all. Let’s be honest. She’s not thrilled about that at all, but for me, I get bored in those bars. I would much rather be at home watching English football or New Zealand rugby or reading a book. I would much rather be doing that. I am bored of the bars. A lot of guys think it’s some sort of joke that I actually go to a bar and find out what’s happening. It’s fun, but only to a certain point. The bars can get a bit much at times.
Tell me about some odd or bizarre experiences you’ve had doing that.
I had a case recently where we found the girl and she’d died. Dead, really dead, verified. She’d overdosed. She had a drug habit. She wasn’t young. She was mid-30’s. Um, actually a lot of the more odd cases were in the past. I can remember one of the very first cases I ever did the guy outlined the job he wanted me to do and sent me a picture of the girl and I went ahead and did it. And then later that same week another guy asked me to do a job and he sent me the same picture with the same file name! Obviously she had had this photo taken of her here in Thailand and she sent it out to her various boyfriends, and I had the second boyfriend contact me within a few days of having done the job, so I actually put those two guys onto each other.
Yeah. That is the only time that’s happened, but I have had some guys get me to investigate different girls. I had one guy get me to investigate the same girl four times, and I’ve had another guy have me investigate four different girls at different times.
Why do you think so many men lose their reason with Thai women?
Thai girls know how to press the right buttons. I think part of it’s cultural. In the past a Thai woman’s primary role was to make her man feel good, and the women who work in the bars come from Isaan, which is perhaps the most – I won’t say the most traditional part of Thailand, but the part of Thailand that still holds a lot of those traditions. And those women can turn it on for a guy if need be. A lot of the women can, in the early days at least, treat a guy much better than he has ever been treated.
Do you ever think, oh god, not another one when you hear about yet another one who says the girl is different?
Oh yeah. I mean, I’ve got a pretty good idea of how jobs are going to turn out if a guy gives me a lot of information in advance. Some guys are very brief. They’ll basically give you the girl’s name and where she works and they’re reluctant to tell you much about the past, but some guys give you a lot. But you see the same things repeating themselves. There are patterns.
A lot of your stuff is about the nightlife, which as you said is perhaps the most popular part of it. There have been a lot of crackdowns with erratic and changing closing times. Is it damaging the business?
Oh, absolutely. Numbers are down. Numbers of people to the bars that I see with my own eyes seem to be down, but we’ve got to temper that with the fact there are more bars. A lot of guys have told me in email that they’ve gone to other places. These are guys that, let’s be frank, these are sex tourists. They’re going to the Philippines, they’re going to Cambodia, and to a lesser extent in the case of the Brits and the Germans they’re going to Eastern Europe – the Czech Republic, Hungary. The girls there I believe are very pretty.
Can you understand why the government would be trying to destroy a very big foreign exchange earner, and putting some Thai people out of work?
I mean, would you want your country to be known as the sex capital of the world? I know I would dread to think that New Zealand would get such a title. I think they’ve got to do something about it one day. The problem is that Thailand remains a country with a major poverty problem and very, very poor distribution of wealth. I mean, don’t get me wrong here, I’m not a leftie here, I’m actually quite the opposite, but people from the poor areas don’t have a lot of opportunity.
But other countries don’t turn to prostitution in such numbers. In many places it’s impossible to walk down the street, and you mentioned once you were even approached while sitting on a bench in Korat. Anywhere you go there are girls, even the smallest village. It’s endemic.
Yes, you’re right. I think if you look at marriage or serious relationships between men and women in Thailand, more often than not there is an exchange of money or items that can easily be turned into money such as gold, and I think that relationships in Thailand – I hate to say this but it’s what I see – they are based around money. So prostitution is just like another type of relationship, as opposed to prostitution per se, if you get where I’m coming from. I mean, you have relationships where a husband might pay a wife a lump sum at the beginning or end of the month, and then you have other relationships where a man pays a woman for a couple of hours of her company, and the distinction between those relationships isn’t actually that great. And because regular relationships have this aspect that is not common in the West then prostitution becomes much more acceptable in Thailand. A lot of people will deny it, but it is. So many middle-aged and older women will admit, when pressed, that their husbands either regularly use, or have used, prostitutes at some time.
So if it’s such a part of Thai culture, it’s something that makes a lot of people happy and they won’t be able to get rid of it.
I don’t think they’ll be able to get rid of it, not at this point in time.
Despite raiding bars at all times of the evening
Yes, if you look at that sort of thing, those raids are always in the areas where Western guys go. And the problem is that the bar industry for Western men has gone from small areas in the capital and it’s sort of mushroomed out. You had all these bars on Sukhumvit with flash five-star hotels and girls yelling out to all and sundry, and they had to put their foot down on that. Pattaya is another thing all together – Pattaya doesn’t matter. That’s the wild west, but things got out of hand in Bangkok and they had to crack down. I mean, the Thai industry and the foreign industry is very different. All the Thai stuff is behind closed doors.
What have been your most interesting experiences generally in Thailand?
The most interesting stuff has been spending time with mother-in-law up in Korat, and spending time teaching orphans. The most interesting stuff has been away from the nightlife. The nightlife just depresses me. It destroys people, the girls and to a lesser extent the guys. So the most interesting experiences I’ve had have been with poor people in their own environment. That to me is much more interesting than nightlife.
You were going through a bit of a crisis a year or so ago about whether you would stay in Thailand or go back to New Zealand. You went back there for a visit but decided you would stay in Thailand. Why?
The New Zealand I used to know no longer exists. New Zealand’s still a great place, but if I went back I’d be going back to something new again. And I’m settled here. I really am settled here, and I’ve got a fairly pleasant
lifestyle here which wouldn’t be easy to replicate in New Zealand, at least immediately. I’m probably better off here for now. I also feel with New Zealand and Thailand trade increasing all the time, I think with just a bit more
time in Thailand under my belt, going back to New Zealand there could be some interesting doors open. They might be open now, but I think there will be more doors open in the future. So I think I'll bide my time here a bit longer. I think
I’ll be here for a few more years.
Finally, the site. Any changes planned?
No. I’ve promised so many things over the years, from articles in Thai to new design to white background, all I can say is I’m at breaking point running it at the moment and …
Why the black background?
No real reason. It just started off that way and continued that way, and it’s become almost like the signature of the site. So there are no plans to do anything new. I actually think the architecture of the site is pretty good, the existing sections with the weekly column, with reader stories every day. There is fresh, good content every day. There’s half an hours reading every single day, and I think guys like that. They can tune in, they get something interesting each day, and they can tune out. It doesn’t take all day, it’s just sort of enough. I think the architecture works well, so I’m just going to try to do things better. But as for introducing anything new, no. Nothing planned at all.
Where WAS THIS PICTURE taken?
It was the Mr. Joe's tailor in Pattaya.
Where is that?!
Last week's picture was taken of Joe's Tailor which is on the corner of Beach Road and Central Pattaya Road. Again, this week's picture is not it Bangkok, but somewhere outside the capital… The first person to tell me where the picture is wins a 500 baht credit at Tony's Bar in Sukhumvit Soi 5, above Foodland. The second person to get the prize right gets a 500 baht credit at Oh My Cod, the British Cafe in the Khao Sarn Road area. The third and forth prizes are a 500 baht credit 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 have a preference as to which prize you would prefer, do not be shy to let me know! I am looking for a Pattaya based bar or business to sponsor the weekly picture picture competition. This column has a large readership in Fun Town and I would like to have at least one prize available to guys living or visiting there. If you're interested, drop me an email. Preference will be given to a centrally located venue that has both food and alcohol.
FROM STICKMAN'S EMAIL INBOX
Your weekly was spot on this week and I have seen it far too many times here now to just see it as one of those everyday quirks of life in Thailand. What it boils down to is that the Thais have a huge inferiority complex. They know and we know that they know that we know, that they are less educated, less knowledgeable and less worldly than the majority of farangs who come here, so what do they do? Well they behave as all inferior and inadequate people do. They create a form of attack to defend their own inadequacies and inferiorities. In the same way that you see it in school playgrounds back home as the bully picks on the smart nerdy kid because he secretly wishes he was smart enough to compete, likewise, the Thais will just pick on the foreigner in exactly the same way.
I have found that pulling an errant Thai person into line is all about recognizing that Thai people have an inbuilt aversion to taking responsibility (the not my fault syndrome) for anything. As a consequence I generally start a reprimand by accepting
some responsibility for their errant behavior, asking them why at the outset, and thus giving them the opportunity to save face straight away. Then I continue, pointing out that whilst their outburst or misdeed is understandable it was not
good for them because they
have 'lost face'. This Thai characteristic is further evidenced when the police interrogate a criminal. We farang are often surprised when one offender after another confesses to their crime within minutes. Why? Because they need to place the responsibility for their action upon a circumstance that is external to their own persona e.g. 'I did it because I have no work and my daughter needs an operation'. We farang are baffled, yet the Thai police understand that the criminal saves some face and accepts his detention quietly, while they obtain an any easy conviction because their criminal has to confess in order to get the opportunity to made the 'face saving, 'it's not my fault' statement.
The social hierarchy.
I'm not sure if you are asking a rhetorical question in your weekly column about Thais being non-confrontational. The actions described fit your criteria. The person in the higher social position (teacher vs. student or more senior member of work staff vs. junior member) decides to let loose on someone of lower social position. The person who is the object of the anger does not confront the accuser at all. As you've said, they usually slink off to some corner and wait for the storm to pass. The problem is that foreigners, which I mean non-Asian foreigners ONLY, are really not part of this social chain of command. You have a place parallel to it, by which you might be granted probationary and temporary membership. In the final analysis, you're really not the social superior to the Thai students the way a Thai teacher is. Thus just because a Thai teacher can do it – you can't. On the other hand, I do know that other Asians, notably Chinese, can and do exert the kind of social authority which European foreigners do not. I'm sure you've also seen that regardless of relative achievement, certain nationalities like Lao or Cambodian are at a lower step socially than a Thai or even a European with similar accomplishments. Non-confrontation only applies to people who are recognised as truly being your societal superiors, and a farang teacher doesn't get that particular privilege once the kids get beyond a certain age.
Fire him and…watch your back!
Thank you for sharing your work colleague's recent experience with your readers in this week’s column. I can really relate to this as this is one of the local traits I find really hard to accept here in Thailand. I have had similar experiences working with my company even as a senior manager. The first was when I tried to remove a grossly incompetent employee about two years ago. Even his line manager agreed with me but after discussion with our HR director and another director (all Thais) it was decided that termination would cause too much conflict for all concerned within the company and that my personal security could become an issue if his employment was terminated. i.e. his friends or relatives may have me physically harmed. The guy concerned was being paid top money in the range 60 – 80k baht per month plus benefits. Can you believe that!
But being assertive does work for some!
The column this week was very interesting and I feel for the guy in the story. I never had any problems like this when I was teaching (maybe because it was a language school). According to everything I've read my style should never have worked in Thailand. I always told people the truth. If they sucked, I told them, the same if they were lazy or not listening. But I was always very popular and had the best re-enrolment statistics in the schools. Mmmm, I often wondered why students put up with my haranguing them week after week, but they did and paid good money for it.
It's not just a bar industry thing.
I was pleased to read that the bar industry isn't the only one where a Westerner has insurmountable problems dealing with Thais. I don't think it's that Thais don't like confrontation, I just think that when a Westerner is speaking, all they see is the messenger and not the message. I have lost count of the amount of times I have politely tried to deal with an issue with a Thai, in the Thai language, and then been totally blanked for weeks by the individual. I thought it was just an issue with people who work in the bars who are, after all, ill educated country folk (with good hearts).
Closing times at Nana have been early again. 1:00 AM on the dot some days…and then the last two nights it was almost 2:00. They can't make their minds up. Email from readers indicates that the erratic closing times at Nana have been a real reason why a lot of guys have gone to Pattaya for the bulk of their holiday.
Rumour has it that Ricky is spending a lot of time at Catz so if you want to have a beer with him, drop by and say hello. He’s still weighing his career options and even is considering an opportunity in the Philippines. And let me re-iterate that Catz remains one of my favourite bars and it's a great bar to see some fun shows.
An interesting piece of news came in this week about a bunch of girls from a very popular Nana Plaza bar who trooped down to Pattaya to try their hand at the industry down there. All have since returned to Bangkok, citing that guys in Pattaya pay a lot less for services, than the guys in Bangkok do. I cannot say that I am surprised at all. Bangkok has become expensive.
I heard a story this week about a couple of incidents in a Pattaya bar. A girl at a bar decides to borrow another girl's mobile phone. Unfortunately, she drops it and it doesn't work. The phone is worth about 6,000 baht and the girl demands that she is compensated for the breakage. The two girls give each other daggers all night and finally, a fight breaks out between the two girls and their friends. All in all, about 10 girls are involved. The mamasan goes to break it up and even she is hit over the head with a shoe. The next day, both sets of girls don't turn-up for work. One of the remaining girls who does, gets drunk and knocks over a customer's drink. The mamasan resolves the matter and asks the girl to buy the customer another drink, cost 95 baht. The girl refuses and walks out of the club. Later that night, 3 of the girls friends walk out too. Next day all 13 girls don't turn up for work. They have all forfeited vast salaries, some as much as 9,000 baht, so they do not have to work in the club where all these problems occurred and their friends have lost face. The manager had no control over these incidents but he has lost nearly two thirds of his dancers in two days. He does however have a vastly reduced salary bill, 13 girls have, effectively worked for nothing all month. I know the manager concerned and I know he will build the stable of girls up again, slowly.
Most gogo bars don’t go out of their way to please punters with their music. In last week’s column, a reader reported that when the Angelwitch manager told his DJ to improve the quality of the jungle sounds coming from the Pattaya club’s booming speakers, the DJ had the gall to announce to the crowd that someone had complained about the music! This week we go one better in a gogo bar that shall remain unnamed. Following repeated customer complaints, the manager of this Walking Street nightspot asked his DJ to lower the volume. The request was ignored. The manager returned and told the record spinner to tone it down. This time the DJ said "No." The nonplussed manager responded, "If you don’t turn the volume down I’ll fire you." To which the DJ responded, "If you fire me I will have you killed." Care to guess who won that pissing contest?
For the last five weeks Aussie Alf, the co-owner of Tahitian Queen 2, has been freezing his backside off back in Sydney. He'll be back in Pattaya on Wednesday 16th August and is planning to hit the ground running by celebrating his 48th in TQ2 later that night. There'll be free food, the girls, who word has it have improved in looks (maybe too much Heineken?), will be putting on some interesting shows and there'll be a number of lucky door prizes throughout the night. So if you are in town and need an excuse to stuff your face and get rip roaring drunk then this is it.
Remember Circus A Gogo? Of course not; why should you? Well, it’s now Angels. Still small, still no great shakes, still on Walking Street across from Living Dolls Showcase. The new club opened last week to SRO crowds. Which isn’t saying
much as the place only provides seating for a couple dozen or so punters. Thai owned and operated, Angels offers draft at 45 baht, Jack & Coke 120, lady drinks 150, ladies 600 plus tip. Some of the couple dozen dancers are attractive, but
not enough. Rumor has it that the second floor has been opened for racy shows (promises, promises) but the money might have been better spent upgrading and enlarging the tiny unisex toilet to accommodate farang-sized pissers.
Everyone’s invited to the party Tuesday night (August 1) at Lennies Bar, Soi Diamond, as another pig is sacrificed – this time to welcome Paul and Joy as new manager and mamasan, respectively. Manfred, owner of the popular meeting place near Second Road, promises an abundance of mouthwatering food, girls and libations; Paul plans some surprises. He and Joy just relocated to Pattaya from Nongkhai where they've hired a manager and chef to operate The Meeting Place, their bar-restaurant that is doing brisk business even during this low season lull.
New Zealander Steve Miller was murdered last April in Pattaya. Many other foreigners were killed in Fun town both before and after Steve. Many of those deaths have been forgotten; scant few have resulted in criminal trials or yielded justice. Miller’s family and friends refuse to allow Steve or his murder case to be forgotten. In large part thanks to their efforts, police arrested two of the three coconspirators responsible for Miller’s murder. More recently, the courts scheduled a plea hearing for last Friday, when the two were charged with ‘participating in murdering another person by premeditation.’ We have yet to learn the results of that hearing, but it is worth noting that both defendants previously admitted their guilt to police.
I neglected to mention in last week's column a new spot out at Khao Sarn Road that I checked out and quite liked. Gulliver's is still a popular spot for those ladies working, but there was a new place I checked out at the weekend, the name of which escapes, Amonyapuri or something like that which is just around the corner from Gulliver's off the main Khao Sarn Road itself, and in the opposite direction from the lane with the temple. It has a nice restaurant upstairs and bar downstairs. Shamrock Bar is another spot worth checking out. Late at night there are more lookers in there than you will find in the likes of Rainbow 4 or Angelwitch at any time. I doubt they'd understand the term barfine though.
Apparently the Singapore Government, or at least the Ministry of Education, has decided to recruit a number of English teachers to improve the standard of English in Singapore. I wouldn't have thought that necessary, but anyway… Singapore has even advertised in UK based newspapers for various teaching positions. I am led to believe that the Singapore Government and Ministry of Education pay English Teachers well, unlike in Bangkok. Singapore is only a couple of hours from Bangkok….and I have always been a fan of the place, though that said, living there might be a bit different to visiting. Still, if you are looking for an opportunity in these parts but Bangkok is not quite for you, this could be an option.
The Robin Hood’s Guinness special on Thursday is no longer.
There is a new Irish pub on Sukhumvit Soi 4. Finnegan’s is located just down past Sin. It is one of these one shophouse size venues and I have yet to check it out myself yet.
Down in Soi 33, business would seem to be better than this time last year, especially in the Office Bar and Renoir.
Renoir is the most surprising. They have a number of customers late in the night, and they have a strategy I have not heard about before: Girls working outside for them, in Spasso's, Riva, CM2, bringing in customers from there.
The smaller bars like CK's Sports Bar and Venus surely must have problems with nearly no customers at all and we can only guess that the majority of customers prefer the bigger places. Mojo’s is another that remains quiet.
In the old Lucky Luciano's spot a massage place has opened called Love Teen. It is said to be the same owner as Teens massage. Now there is Akane, Patou, Center 33, Teens and Love Teens is what was originally a "higher class of venue lane". It would seem that Soi 33 is developing into one of the oil massage centres of Bangkok. Let's not forget that on the other side of Sukhumvit, over in the Washington Square and Soi 22 area there are a number of such venues also.
At my favourite Soi 33 venue, Livingstone’s, business in the last week has been brisk and they were even fully booked in their hotel for the first time ever and had to turn away some walk in customers. This hotel will help bring a number of customers to the soi. If you are a new reader to the column and haven't heard me talk about it before, Livingstone's offers good steaks at reasonable prices, amongst other things.
In what can only be described as a unique approach to marketing, Goya would appear to going for the "old look". Everything is old, including the girls. The bar is smelly, the sound system is not the best in town, yet the music is played loud. They may need to change their approach to get more customers because the current system doesn't seem to be working so well.
A string of bars in Soi Cowboy have raised barfines to the 600 baht level and raised the girls' quotas from 130 to 150 drinks a month and 10 "offs". Fail to meet those levels and there is a salary cut. This has resulted in hard sell tactics from some of the staff desperate to meet the new minimums, despite the reduced number of customers the bars attract at this time of year. Some dancers have reported that willing customers soon beat a hasty retreat when told of the new barfine prices and one enterprising dancer has taken to paying the extra 100 baht out of her own pocket realizing it is better to lose the 100 baht and gain a paying customer than not having a customer at all. 150 drinks a month, that is five lady drinks a night. That number seems awfully high to me… So now you know why the girls hit you up for a drink so fast these days.
I checked out the newest farang orientated venue in town this week. Roadhouse can be found on the corner of Rama 4 and Suriwong Roads. If you don't live or work in the area, the easiest way to get there is either by taxi, or take the skytrain to the Sala Daeng BTS from which you need to walk along Soi Thaniya right to the end where you turn right, and walk until you just get past the flagship Jim Thompson store and there it is. It's a multi-storey American bar and grill type venue. They have a number of beers on tap and the prices are reasonable. Happy hour is 4 – 7 PM Monday to Friday making it another option for an after work drink. For now they are open until midnight. The food isn't bad, the service is very good and the atmosphere is pleasant. It's still a bit quiet, but once it picks up I think it'll be a fun spot.
Western employees all over Thailand are shocked that once a year a questionnaire goes out to the Thai staff that has the chance to say exactly what they think about their Western colleague. The Westerner is bemused, wondering what the hell they are going to say – and even why they are bothering. What does what they think matter? Funnily enough, it matters a whole lot. With the idea of no confrontation and consensus in the workplace being so important for the locals (even at the expense of core business = meaning profitability) an abrasive Westerner, or simply someone who isn’t seen to fit in by the locals may well be subject to a lot of negative feedback. Too much negative stuff written about you and you will be shown the door. I kid you not. OK, for guys hired from abroad for a few short years, this will not be the case, but for guys hired locally, too much negative feedback might be the end of you. So when you see the survey form going around, a quick trip to the kanom shop might be in order!
I don't want to sound like a prude, but there is something damned questionable when you see a boy being taken into a gogo bar by his parents. Now it is hard to guess the lad's age, but I would have said 11 or 12. Into one of Pattaya's most popular bars he went, where they took a seat to see one of the raunchiest shows you could hope to see. The kid seemed to be totally composed, taking it all in his stride, and I can only deduce that it was not the first gogo bar he had been into that night. Amazing. I seriously wanted to say something to the parents, but that's not my style. I was shocked that that farang-owned, farang-managed bar allowed the boy in. I wonder if the boy dreamed about angels, or had nightmares about witches?
If anyone has ever before been honored in the same week by both the Oriental Hotel and the Pattaya Expat Club, I for one know nothing about it. So then, I suppose, we can say that next week Jake Needham will be making some very weird history. On Thursday, August 3, at 6 PM, the Oriental Hotel is hosting a cocktail party in the Author’s Lounge in conjunction with their 130th anniversary celebration to honor Jake’s new novel, "The Ambassador's Wife". About 6:30 PM, Jake will be introduced by American Ambassador Ralph Boyce (who I understand is a big fan of his books) and will speak briefly on the announced topic of ‘Crime Novels Target Thailand: What They’re Saying About Us Out There In The Real World’. Then on Sunday, August 6, at 10:00 AM, the Pattaya Expat Club is honoring "The Ambassador's Wife" at their monthly breakfast held at Henry J. Bean’s in Pattaya and Jake will speak again on a similar topic. Non-members of the Pattaya Expat Club are invited that Sunday as well. Jake’s new novel seems to have been getting a huge amount of attention. He and Barry Eisner were the two novelists who write about Asia chosen to be featured this month in the popular American publication, the Mystery Readers Journal. You can find Jake’s piece, called ‘I Came to Casablanca for the Waters,’ which relates the travails of being a writer living in Bangkok, here. You can get more information about all of Jake’s books at his official site.
It's a real embarrassment that cable TV in such centres as Hua Hin and Pattaya offers more choice than what is available in the capital. At the modest hotel where I frequently stay in Pattaya they have over 60 channels – and I can see international rugby live. Down in Hua Hin you have a different bunch of channels including the ever popular Fox News, another favourite that you can't get in Bangkok. Bangkok may be the centre of many things, but cable TV options are poor.
Just so as to clearly show that the phenomenon of older Western guys and younger women from poor countries is far from being exclusive to Thailand, here is a story out of Africa of much the same happening.
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. 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: As a frequent visitor to Thailand I have been with many girls, all of who worked in the sex industry in one way or another. Some I regard as friends and have known for years, no strings attached, and naturally money changes hands, no problem. However I have one friend who has never worked, or ever would, in that industry. She is in her late thirties and has a teenage son from a previous marriage. I'm certain that she has never been with a farang. We meet socially for a few hours either at a restaurant or she'll show me some part of Bangkok that I have never seen before. I have always kept her as just a friend and have never made any attempt to take it any further out of respect for her. Where as I would just see it as a bit of fun, I fear that she would read more into it and mistake it for love. She has no problem being seen walking together with a farang as I know some girls in her position would. We might touch while talking, or hold hands when crossing a busy road. I'm sure she knows that I slept with a friend of hers once though it's never mentioned. Money changed hands on that occasion. Sometimes I feel that there is just the slightest hint that she'd like to come back to my hotel. What I would like to know is are so called respectable girls up for a bit of no strings attached fun or would she read more into it? How could I be sure? The last thing I would want to do is hurt her.
Mrs. Stick says: Thai women might not be as promiscuous as Western women but Thailand is changing and I know many women are now more open-minded than Thai women in the past. I know it is not easy to talk about this sort of thing, and you will shock your friend if you talk with her openly about it, but it might be a good idea to set the mood by doing things that she likes, be romantic, and see what her reaction is. If she seems willing, then just continue to make more gentle suggestions until it gets to a point where things will either happen naturally, or they won't.
Question 2: I have been with a Thai lady in Pattaya for about two months; she (claims that she) has never worked in a bar, and is from a Chinese-Thai family (father side only), age 19. From all that she has told me, she is from middle-class family (12-grade education). I'm a 23-year old IT specialist who came to live in Thailand three months ago. Three weeks ago she wanted to go to work in her uncle's company near Bangkok, but I wanted her to stay with me, so I made her officially girlfriend (buy gold and give money), but we're not living together yet. Three days ago she called me and told me some other farang offered to give her 60,000 per month and 50,000 for start (I give 20,000 per month). She tells me if I give her 50,000 baht she knows that I love her and has insurance in case something happens to me, and will stay with me. I understand that in Thai culture, emotions are shown by money, but 50,000 is a lot of money, and I already gave her gold and money (total worth around 20,000 baht) to make her girlfriend. I tried to explain to her how giving money to ladies is viewed in the western world, but she won't listen. On one hand, I have never discovered her lying to me, and she is well-educated and from a decent family, but on the other hand, I can't help but feel she might only be after my money. What should I do? What guarantees can she offer to me that in two weeks some new farang won't offer 100,000?
Mrs. Stick says: You're joking, right? My husband tells me these stories all the time and you know what, I can't believe some of them. What are you thinking? There are many situations when it is considered normal for a man to give money to a woman, but this situation is not one of them. Boyfriends do not give their girlfriends money to make them become their girlfriend. This only happens in mia noi situations. This woman, actually, this girl, is only interested in your money. This is not normal at all. The amounts of money she is asking you for are very high by the way. I guess you have a good salary, but you know, even 20,000 baht a month is a good salary in Thailand, but 50,000 baht a month? That's a lot. Let the other guy have her.
Over the years I have made a number of promises in the column and pledges of imminent changes. Some of these, like the Trink interview, the inclusion of a good number of prizes for the picture competition, and the most up to date bar news from Bangkok and Pattaya, have been delivered. But there are others, such as writing articles in Thai, the re-design of the site, and changing the background from back to white, which, for a variety of reasons, just haven't happened. I guess I now know myself a lot better, and know what my limits are, the main one being time, closely followed by energy. For now, I am not going to talk about anything new in the column. I am just going to try and do what I have been doing, but do it better. I'm going to make sure the column is always on time (though one lapse in three years is certainly forgivable), make sure that all of the latest news and issues concerning farangs is covered, and try and tidy up the writing. A better column based on the current architecture of the column is something I can manage. Adding new things would seem for now to just about be a bridge too far!
Your Bangkok commentator,