Stickman's Weekly Column July 9th, 2006

We’re Dropping Like Flies



It seems that not a week goes by in Thailand when one of us doesn't perish under suspicious circumstances. If one was to scour all of the news sources, including internet discussion forums, as well as have access to what is going on at the embassies, you might be shocked at the number of suspicious deaths.

In last week's column I ran a missing person's report along with a photo of a Brit who had been teaching English in Thailand, and had disappeared. I got an email from the woman who asked me to run that piece saying that she was very upset that her brother had died under suspicious circumstances.

One of the Pattaya news websites reported the tragic deaths of two farangs on Tuesday of this past week, one a 27 year old and the other a 39 year old. That's so damned young! They had both leapt from tall buildings. This would seem to be an awfully common way for foreigners to die in Thailand, though funnily enough, few foreigners seem to die that way in the West. What a horrible way to go. I can't help but think that whenever someone jumps that they may have been helped. Jumping is an Asian way of saying goodbye. Westerners are more likely to overdose or God forbid, wrap our laughing gear around the barrel of a gun.

In fairness to my concerns that not all of the jumpers really did jump, the British honorary consul for Pattaya, Barry Kenyon, who was interviewed in this column just a few weeks ago, is privy to a lot of these incidents and is of the opinion that most are not suspicious at all, and that they were genuine suicides.

But deaths of foreigners in Thailand under suspicious circumstances in the past week don't stop there. There was what appears to be a murder this past week in quiet, sleepy and supposedly tranquil Hua Hin. A popular English businessman was found dead on a road in the early hours of the morning. To date there has been no autopsy, no police report, no witnesses and only a piece of illegible paperwork from the policeman who was first at the scene and who decided it must have been a hit and run. That's what he told the doctor at the hospital, and word has it that that's what the doctor confirmed it as. No-one in the expat community in Hua Hin seems to know what is happening. The body was moved to Bangkok, ready to be shipped to the UK on Friday yet no permission for this was sought from his widow. The body was also embalmed, before an autopsy had been performed. Nobody believes it was a hit and run. The gentleman had severe trauma to his head which would be consistent with being struck many times, but no damage to other parts of his body – which surely would occur if you were the victim of a hit and run? The accident (?) happened some time between 2 and 4 AM on Sunday 2nd July on Petchkasem Road, by the Grand Hotel. The policeman recorded the time of death as 4 AM, but the doctor at the hospital said this was impossible and was nearer 2.15 AM. Suspicious again…

Just off the top of my head and without any research whatsoever, I can name the following farang murder victims who have all perished in Thailand in the last few weeks:

A 26 year old Aussie nurse innocently watching a football match in a Kanchanaburi bar was the victim of a drive by shooting between rival business owners. DEAD!

A 32year old Kiwi English teacher stabbed to death in his own apartment in Bangkok having just watched a World Cup football match with his girlfriend. DEAD!

A popular Kiwi based in Pattaya was brutally murdered in a shooting while walking along the road. DEAD!

The missing person in last week's column. Suspicious circumstances. DEAD!

Two jumpers in Pattaya this week. In all fairness, these were not murders, at least from the sound of it. DEAD!

I can remember in the old days, reading the Pattaya Mail online, when there were always suspicious deaths of foreigners. The only thing that seems to have changed is that the deaths are no longer predominantly in Pattaya, but everywhere. – And they are getting much more press worldwide, especially in Britain, where the deaths of a number of young Brits have been given huge coverage.

For farangs who can read Thai – and even those who cannot, here is a link to a message board in Thai with a thread which discussed the aforementioned murder of the 32 year old New Zealand English teacher by an alcohol induced Thai man. Some of the comments are quite disgraceful, and even some in English basically say that the man was trash and that he deserved it! I tell you, the attitude of some people here is very strongly anti-farang. Check it out here. Like I say, there are enough English comments for you to get the gist. And just to really scare you, remember, these are the opinions of the computer literate – that means the educated Thais!

In fairness to the locals, there are some real trashy Westerners getting bad press and damaging the reputation of all Westerners. Like the Brit who was arrested for killing his girlfriend in Pattaya on Friday night because she no longer wanted to be with him. And he did it in a brutal way, with an 8 inch knife, slicing her up like you would a carcass. Such madness gives us all a bad rep.

Chatting with a good friend about the issue of farangs being murdered or perishing under suspicious circumstances, we both agreed that more than ever, it is even more difficult to decide to stay on in Thailand or not. With all of the other issues that we struggle with, concerns about personal safety just make the decision that much harder.

Having finally sorted out the should I stay or should I go question – I am definitely staying in Thailand for the time being – I do so with only one major concern in the back of my mind. I intend to survive my tour of duty out here. I am far more wary of what is going on around me, and just how I go about my life, than ever before.


Where WAS THIS PICTURE taken?

It was Soi Nana in 1975.

Where is that?!

Last week's picture was taken of Soi Nana back in 1975. Quite a few of you got it, well done. At the top left of the picture was the Nana Hotel – I photoshopped out the sign. This week's picture is somewhere in Thailand… The first person to tell me where the picture is wins a 500 baht credit at Tony's Bar in Soi Cowboy. The second person to get the location 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!

FROM STICKMAN'S EMAIL INBOX

No respect for anyone, anything.

Mrs. Stick’s comments that bargirls have no respect for anything or anyone – even themselves, is interesting. I tend to agree. My reaction is to accept the good times and leave it at that. It’s hard to know what is real so I proceed on the basis that everything is a façade designed to open wallets. Ever noticed how the loving SMSs never begin with your name? That’s because they get forwarded to any number of guys that she is keeping on string. And then, one comes along to break the mould. Eating lunch in the German Beer House on Soi 11, I addressed her as khun Dow – we have know each other for more than a year – she has never asked for money, sent SMS, or pretended to be anything other than a massage girl. Maybe it was because I showed her respect, but when I said ‘Khun’, her head jerked as if she had been slapped and her eyes filled with tears. Ashamedly she bowed her head, “I am a bad girl, a very bad girl, you cannot imagine how bad.” She was crying. I accept that she knows herself better than anyone and I agree with Mrs. Stick that I will never change her. But at some level she has a value system and there was a point where the BS ended.

Thumbs up for the Apache Bar mamasan.

I just wanted to write a little praise for the mamasan at Apache bar in Soi Cowboy. After hearing all the stories of bad service which are common place in Thailand (or anywhere these days), etc it is nice when someone does the right thing. I went to Apache the other night and barfined a young lass who I had previously been with. We got on well and she rang me quite a lot in the following weeks. Last night was my first night back and we spoke and got on well. When we got back to my room after she had 2.5 beers she pretended to be drunk and "fell asleep". I told her to get dressed as I was going back to Cowboy. This perked her up – I think I she thought we were going out drinking more. Anyway, I got to Cowboy and told the mamasan the story and asked for my bar fine back, much to the young lass's dismay. And the mamasan went to the till – thanked me and then gave me the bar fine back! Very happy customer, unfortunately I then went and spent the bar fine on beer and am now nursing a headache for my efforts.

The ladyboys are back!

The ladyboys near Asoke are in operation again and they got my wallet. If you see a report of 3 ladyboys found dead you'll know what happened. If you can post it please do but hold my name – it's bad enough without the embarrassment.

Farang Ruk Thai.

You have to love this country, where all the pedestrians are crossing the street against the light, with a cop in the intersection directing the signals by walky-talky. Do I want to go back to my safe American life, where I end up in court for J-walking, no seatbelt, or a failed tail-lamp – God help you if you’ve had a beer. Do I want to go back to that crap? Not on your life. I love it here. This is a secret Farang Nirvana, a wonderful culture and country, where the water always finds its own level.

The Galaxy Cabaret in Pattaya.

We were greeted by the doorman and asked if there was a cover charge. “No” was the reply – so in we went ‘for the experience’. There were a few good lookers swinging off their poles in their birthday suits – totally uninhibited. We were beset upon immediately by a couple of reasonably attractive Romanian girls who forgot to put all their clothes on, so we thought we would do the right thing and invite them to sit with us and have a drink. Not long after we had taken a seat on the sofa, a third totally naked bird took the opportunity to slither across my lap (totally unexpected and uninvited) – knocking my beer over. Not only did she reduce my stubby to a half full state without me enjoying too much of it but she rudely interrupted the conversation I had just started with the bird I had bought a drink for. She removed her body from my lap and stood with her hand out – she had the audacity of seeking a tip – and I stress I neither invited or wanted her. My mate joked she was looking for payment for services rendered. What services? I politely gestured for her to POQ but she wasn’t leaving in a hurry. My mate told her a little (not much) more strongly that we were happy with the two girls we were talking with and didn’t need her. She threw her head back and charged away. She returned 30 seconds later – smashed a plastic sign down on the table in front of me “It is Galaxy policy that 100 baht tip must be given …” 100 baht for what! That was enough for me – I was out of there. My mate picked up the tab for this one and he would pay the next bar. He should have said next four bars. Get a load of this… Tab – 2 lady drinks @ 300 baht = 600 baht, 2 small Heineken @ 220 baht = 440 baht = 1,040 baht for a small amount of entertainment.

The immigration survey.

In last week’s column a reader suggested that farang are not welcomed in Thailand. As proof, he pointed to a Gallup survey reporting that 82% of Thais felt immigration is not good for the community. Consequently, the reader deduced, “is it any wonder then why we read so much about how badly we are treated…it's not only the bargirls who think bad about us.” False conclusion based on a false premise. First of all, the Gallup survey asked the question: is immigration a good or bad thing? There was no reference to farang. Secondly, in light of immigration problems that Thailand has been experiencing with illegals entering the country from Burma, Cambodia, Laos and Malaysia, is it any wonder that many Thais would feel immigration is problematic at best?

The quiet season is really hurting bar owners and bar staff. At least one bar in Bangkok's increasingly popular Soi 7/1 did so badly that the bar owner claims to be unable to pay the girls. As of Friday night, they still had not been paid for June, the owner grumbling about how bad business has been. Said bar, in what could best be described as a beer bar format, charges an 800 baht barfine. That's 200 baht more than the best bars in Nana. No wonder business is so bad.

Due to an almighty power struggle among the top police hierarchy, there have been and in all likelihood will continue to be variable closing times in Bangkok. It seems that most bars in Bangkok are closing between 1 and 2 AM, but we never quite know when. Last night, the police entered Nana Plaza at 12:40 and ordered bars shut at that very moment! 12:40 AM!

I hate to say it but it could be a very miserable night for anyone hunting for a bar open to watch the world's biggest sporting event, and the showpiece of the world's most popular sport, the football World Cup final. Good luck finding a bar to watch it in is all I can say. Fancy closing the bars on this huge occasion…

Of course, if you do not mind watching it on a 14 inch TV with a coat hanger for an aerial and distorted sound at maximum volume, then I am sure you could find a spot at one of the many booze carts that run all night on Sukhumvit Road. While clean bars which pay their taxes and keep all of the riff raff out of sight, these booze carts continue to operate.

Bars in Pattaya remain open until late, the exact closing time often at the discretion of the individual bar owner. Beer bars tend to stay open even later than the gogos. If you know where to go you can party 24/7 in Pattaya. Now with that said, bars in Soi Diamond have been ordered closed at 1:30 AM.

Word is that the bars will definitely be closed as they cannot sell alcohol on Monday or Tuesday. This will be nationwide as the Kingdom celebrates two Buddhist holidays. What makes me chuckle though is that many restaurants will still happily serve you a lager or wine with your meal.

The grim reaper's axe has fallen in Pattaya with Babewatch succumbing and finally closing. What is most interesting is that the owner has done a runner. Staff have not been paid and he's disappeared from his home. Girls have been making the rounds of his usual bars & waiting outside his place, but it would seem he has gone. Babewatch closing was a self-fulfilling prophecy. The boss fired Ricky because he felt the bar wouldn't make it through low season but by firing Ricky, who is a huge personality and a real magnet for many long-timers, he essentially killed the business. Ricky was the one reason it was doing any trade at all, and when Ricky went, it was obvious to all and sundry that its days were numbered. In the past few days, staff who have yet to be paid have been through the bar and removed everything and anything of value, from the sound system and lights to parts of the DJ box. It is all being sold to recover the money owed to them. There are a few offers on the table to buy the bar, but with it in this state, and no longer a going concern, its value must have plummeted.

Next door, Catz remains one of the best bars in Pattaya in my opinion. Catz has a bunch of new showgirls to add to their existing line up. Heavens Above is another Pattaya bar I visited this weekend which remains a favourite. Great music and atmosphere – the low ceiling in there makes it that bit more cosy.

And it is not just the naughty bars that are suffering this low season. While the Stickman readership is not so representative of the Khao Sarn Road crowd – we're more a Sukhumvit and surrounds crowd, news has reached me about some imminent bar closures in the backpacker ghetto. Two bars on Khao Sarn Road are due to close next month, The Club and Sanook Sanook Bar, on Sunset Strip. Farang numbers are said to be way down and many bars claim to be losing money on a daily basis.

A new bar will open on Sukhumvit Soi 33 which sounds like a welcome addition. Harry's Bar (formerly Blu Bar B Q) is having an opening party on July 14th with free food provided. Bottled beers and house spirits (including mixers) can be had at just 50 baht. The bar's policy is to bring realistic pricing into Soi 33 with a free BBQ every evening from Monday to Friday, all you can drink draught Chang for 250 baht, house spirits (whisky, gin, Vodka, Tequila) at 90 baht including mixers, bottled beers at 90 baht and other items (nudge, nudge, wink, wink) also fairly priced. The bar is on one of the short side sois, just off the main soi 33.

On the back of the professional farang beggar who featured in the column a few weeks ago, and who has been seen at Central Chidlom a number of times in the last fortnight, there is another con man farang in Bangkok, as a reader reports:

I was taking a stroll on Petchaburi Road just after this Songkran during day time. A Caucasian guy on a motorbike taxi wearing a long-sleeved shirt (plain clothes) pulled up and asked me if I was alone. Well, me being a professional in dealing with people made that question sounded fishy. He said that he was a "police investigator" and that he would like to see my passport. Well I had it with me but I told him I had left it in the hotel and asked to see his ID. At that point he asked me what I do for a living and I said I was a lawyer. That made the guy a bit nervous and he showed me some ID which looked like the bogus stuff you find all over the kingdom. He showed it to me while covering up the name / address part with his fingers. I said I didn't see it properly and wanted to see it myself. He showed it again with the name / address covered up and that was the end of his police duties and he quickly sped off on the bike. Well, he obviously was looking for "lone first timers" to the kingdom (who thinks that cops in Thailand show their ID like in American movies) for I don't know what? Taking them to the cleaners? I would love to have knocked a couple of his teeth…for trying to take people for a ride. Unfortunately, having a meeting 2 days later with some good clients, having a fight on the roads of LOS wouldn't look like a good prospect for me. So, anyone who comes across this guy…please knock out his front teeth for me.

It is disappointing to learn that the newly opened Broadway Club in Pattaya charges 150 baht for Jack + Coke. Big price for a small club with a small number of dancers and even smaller number of customers. But it seems such prices at the Soi BJ gogo bar (where Las Vegas once stood) are not out of line for the neighborhood. Down the street, Coyotes charges 140 baht for the same libation and provides a better atmosphere and better (though not stellar) line-up of dancers, while Polo’s fee is 130 baht. Fortunately, such expensive drinks are the exception rather than the norm in Pattaya, where happy hour is still honoured by most; draft beer remains reasonably priced all night, and even mixed drinks generally don’t exceed 100 baht at popular night spots that continue to attract large numbers of punters.

A growing number of gogo dancers in Bangkok, Pattaya and even Chiang Mai have been reporting back problems. Not simply complaints of back pain (puat lung) but problems so severe as to require back surgery. The culprit, it appears, is high heels. As the heels get higher and higher on shoes and boots, back problems are becoming more critical and more widespread. With several gogo bars in Fun Town and in Bangkok switching to coyote dancing – free-style, no chrome pole to hold up and even bare feet – such back problems might be helped.

The long-delayed Suvaranbhumi Airport, only 90 minutes from Pattaya, is now scheduled to initiate operations September 25, 2006 (tee hee) but pundits predict the start date will be early 2007. Hans-Joachim Klohs, representing the firm that will oversee the overnight transition from Don Muang to Suvaranbhumi Airport, says the move will be made on a single night starting at 3:00 AM, so there will be a very small window of time in which to transport all the essential equipment at a time that will least disrupt air and ground operations. He told last Sunday’s meeting of the Pattaya City Expats Club that there is no way to execute the move of equipment and personnel in a smooth step by step process while the airport is closed. So a highly detailed, almost mass movement of equipment and personnel has been designed.

Concerned about glitches in the opening of Suvaranbhumi, Hans discussed other Asian airport openings. The Kuala Lumpur Airport, designed for about half the passengers as Suvaranbhumi, opened 10 days after the disastrous opening of the Hong Kong International Airport. Hong Kong news coverage allowed the problems at KL to go relatively unnoticed. Of note, however, on opening day of the KL airport, 25% of the staff did not show up because they thought there would be too many problems to deal with. Hans also explained that the baggage handling system is really the key to successful airport operations. The new Bangkok airport will be tested July 27 when volunteer passengers will be used to simulate operations.

Shane, the owner of Living Dolls 1, on Friday bought out his Thai partners. Not sure of the problem exactly, but it seems to be a difference in management philosophy. Once he bought them out, the partner, her husband, both male Thai managers, both mamasans, the cashier and maybe a couple girls all departed. Tonight they are opening a new a gogo across the street from Living Dolls Showcase. The management to be fair are quite friendly people. Still, they're Thai and won't likely be the gracious hosts that Shane, his son and manager Steve are. Plus you gotta wonder about the wisdom of opening a new bar in the dead of low low season.

As for Living Dolls, Shane has hired a new mamasan – a former dancer from about 4 years ago who has no previous mamasan experience – and last night he offered the mamasan from BabeWatch the other vacant position. She's already been offered the same job at the Windmill A Gogo which is paying more. She's not sure which one she's going to take.

As for management, Shane replaced the Thai guys so far with one manager, a dancer / showgirl who also has no management experience. Hmmm, he's putting a lot of faith in Thai female friends, rather than going with experience. Might work out just fine, but I suspect he and his son & UK manager will have to be in the bar a lot more and be more hands on. There is a fellow called Ricky in Pattaya who is a proven success…why not contact him?!

It has been a long time coming but a large neon sign has at last been erected on Walking street pointing up to Angelwitch. This bar used to be a bit tricky to find so the sign is a welcome addition.

Since digital cameras have become very popular, many punters have started their own collection of photos of some of the pretty ladies whose company they have enjoyed. But don't think it's only the guys who do this. There is one lady in Worldwide A Gogo on Beach Road who has a collection of photos of guys that must number in excess of 50. She joked to me that she wanted to put them online like guys do with pictures of the girls. So, if you want your Pattaya activities to remain anonymous, be careful of girls with camera phones.

While some of the bars in Patpong might claim to play better music than the bars in the likes of Nana and Cowboy, the Patpong bars cannot make any claims about the quality of their sound systems. Goldfinger along with a few of the upstairs bars have sound systems that really do sound tired, and surely it is time for them to re-invest a small amount of their profits back into a new sound system. OK, it is nice that the sound doesn't scream out at you in some of these bars, but really, the music in some of these bars are just flat – you'd get better sound out of a Walkman.

I am often asked about how people can wile away their time in Thailand, perhaps as retirees, without boredom setting in. The best suggestion I have is to do some voluntary teaching. Teaching is not always fun when you have to do it, or when it is one’s primary employment – there is a lot of administrative crap and non-teaching related things to do, but as a volunteer who largely just goes in, prepares the lessons, and teaches, it can be a heap of fun. I personally do some volunteer teaching with under-privileged kids. It is great. I go in, teach, and get out. None of the admin or political crap. The kids like it, I like it – everyone is happy.

A Thai festival will be held in Toronto, Canada called the Tastes of Thailand Festival from July 15 – 16, 2006. The Thai population is not very large in Toronto, but they put on a great do every year and it is worth a visit if you're in town. Here is the website.

We've all got certain things in life we like. For me, apart from all the usual – sports, books and hobby stuff, I like war movies, and prison books, specifically Bangkok prison books. The latest in a long line of Bangkok prison books has just been released, "You'll Never Walk Alone", subtitled 'A true story about the Bangkok Hilton' by Debbie Singh. I've just started reading it and like many of the other Bangkok prison books, it's hard to put down.

I've been a Heineken drinker for a number of years and I guess you could say that it was my staple, was being the important word. But going back to Heineken after Beer Lao is not easy. If you start the night on Heineken, it is not so bad, but if you start on Beer Lao, and then go to a bar which doesn't stock Beer Lao and are forced to switch over to Heineken, ouch. I really hope more and more bars choose to stock Beer Lao. And would some entrepreneurial type in Pattaya please get the franchise to supply Beer Lao down there. Trust me, you'll get rich overnight. If I knew anything about alcohol distribution, I would try and do it myself, but I don't.

Beer Lao has truly gone international. A long-time American reader reports that he was at his local Asian market to pick up his usual supplies when he noticed Beer Lao in the cooler so he asked one of the clerks, a Thai student, about its availability. She said it had just become available and the price was an astonishingly low $6.59! That's about 42 baht a bottle and this is cheap in comparison to more common brands, let alone the signature micro-brews which are the usual choice there nowadays. Thus, the best beer in SE Asia has appeared Stateside as a very inexpensive brew. As a comparison of price, bottled microbrews go for about 50% more per 6 pack. Beer Singha goes for twice the price of Beer Lao! It reminds me a bit of Beer Chang in New Zealand which is marketed in my homeland as some sort of premium quality, premium price beer, the complete opposite to how it is marketed here in Thailand!

Big John wants us to know that starting from today, every Sunday he'll be doing all you can eat pancakes & maple syrup for just 50 baht for breakfast. And every second Sunday of the month the Sunday roast will include lamb in addition to the normal pork, ham and beef. Two meats will set you back 190 baht, 3 meats 250 baht or all 4 for 300 baht. All include mashed potatoes, baked and steamed vegetables and gravy. A very good deal.

For local residents who can prove that they're local, and are looking for a few nights away in flash surroundings, you might want to take a look at the "Sanuk Sanarn" special at the various Marriott hotels around the country. A night away in 5 star luxury will set you back just 3,500 baht a night, or 4,000 baht a night at weekends. This is for locals only – you have to show local ID, work permit or Thai drivers licence.

Can anyone remember Warren Olson? This expat kiwi spent many years in Thailand and was the founder of what was for a while a very popular investigation service. Due out very soon is his memoirs, written up as a bunch of his favourite investigations. Penned by Stephen Leather, I have been lucky enough to read it already and it is very, very good. Expect it out shortly.

I was watching a documentary on TV the other day, an interesting look inside a high security prison in California. It was a new doco, on either National Geographic or Discovery, can't remember which. Anyway, one of the really hardcore criminals said that to survive in prison you had to leave your belief system from the outside behind, and adopt a new one on the inside. If you didn't, you wouldn't survive. The same can be said about Thailand for Westerners. It's a completely different life out here. It really is. You have to change your whole way of thinking. But that doesn't mean you should give up your principles. It's tough, but it is doable.

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 met a girl three weeks ago. She is 25, graduated from a lesser university, and has a 200 baht per day job selling small items in a market whilst applying for better jobs, which is where I met her. On our first date, a few days after swapping numbers, we went to Sukhumvit. I asked if she was hungry, and she said yes, so I took her to a nearby restaurant. She read the menu in the doorway, and commented that the fried rice was 150 baht. I said it was ok, but she told me she wanted only cheap food, so we found a cheap place. I later told her that I would have paid (maybe I should have told her that at the time!), to which she said something about "gleng jai". Does that mean that she was keen to avoid spending my money unnecessarily?

Mrs. Stick says: 150 baht for fried rice is very expensive. She simply did not want to see you waste your money like that. Can you imagine spending 3/4 of your day's income on one single plate of food? This lady respects the value of money and given that many of the problems Western men seem to have with Thai women are money related, you appear to have met someone jing jai (sincere). Greng jai means that she did something, or chose not to do something, out of respect for you.

Question 2: I was recently in northern Vietnam doing the tourist thing when I met several Thai tourists. I was quite surprised to find them not only sweet and charming but also "normal". I hope I'm not offending anybody but I think most people here will nod their heads in agreement that the Thais we meet in the farang ghettos of Bangkok, Phuket and Pattaya are not "normal". Very sweet and fun – but NOT normal – at least not normal from my western perspective. My guess is this is because 95% of the people we meet make a living off the farang one way or another. And most of them probably come from poor and uneducated backgrounds. Anyway, as luck will have it I have the chance to spend a year in Bangkok starting soon. My question therefore is this: How would a thirty something well mannered farang go about meeting equal-minded Thais? I should add that I will be working from my apartment so I won't have any colleagues to talk to.

Mr. Stick says: If you worked in an office you would have a great opportunity to meet many people who could introduce you to their friends but if you are working at home, that makes it very difficult. Just try and hang out in places where alcohol is not available, and try and make some professional Thai friends, people with good jobs. Once you have proved to them that you are a decent sort, then you will have a chance to meet some good people. Finally, be careful if thinking that the Thais are a bit odd because for sure, many of them will think the same about you, and after all, you are in their country, so they should have a slightly better idea about what is normal here, than you would.

Question 3: I met a 22 year old uni student 12 days ago at a bus stop in the Bangkok suburbs. She was initially very shy to talk to me. We chatted for a while before her lift arrived. We swapped numbers and have been texting regularly. Today I received a long text telling me that she was on a trip to the beach with friends. Her friend was very upset because she had lost her camera, and could I help with money? Then she called me. I told her that I help friends that I've known for a while, but I'd only known her 12 days and I'd never met her friend. She sent another SMS saying she assumed I'd help her, and sorry for asking. Was she maybe testing me for kindness (as an older guy) or trying to rob me – as a "rich gullible foreigner"?

Mrs. Stick says: This is not proper behaviour for anyone. I do not know why she asked you for money like that, but it is not right at all. I think you are right and that she saw you as an easy way to make some easy money. I hear stories about this happening more and more these days, but believe me, it is not right.

For a long time now I have been wondering where my future lies, be it in Thailand, back in New Zealand, or perhaps even somewhere else. When considering other places, I narrowed it down to a few places, all with completely different reasons for thinking about a move there. There was Italy, which is still a frontrunner, Indonesia, which I think would be a fascinating place and finally, as a long shot, Argentina, which I think could be fascinating for a while. If the New Zealand I left behind 8 years ago still existed, perhaps I would have moved back already, but the place has changed. Probably for the better in all truth and honesty. It is nice to know that when I do eventually return to my homeland, I'll be going back to a country I am very fond of, and very proud of. Us Kiwis, and also our Aussie pals, are much the same in this respect. Most of us would not be too put out to go home, which is not what can be said for some of my American and English friends, many of whom dread the thought of returning home. Anyway, it is Thailand for me for a good period to come. For the first time in quite a while, I can say that I really do want to be here. So that means that my Sunday nonsense will keep coming for a good time to come. I hope you're not too bored of my weekly rant yet.



Your Bangkok commentator,

Stick


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