Stickman's Weekly Column August 13th, 2006

Confessions Of A Bangkok Private Eye



New Zealander Warren Olson ran a high profile private investigation agency for many years before finally deciding to return to his homeland. In conjunction with well-known author Steve Leather he has just published a book highlighting a number of the cases he worked on. What follows is an interview with Warren, about his life in Thailand, what it was like to be a PI, the book, and his reasons for returning to New Zealand.

When did you come to Thailand for the first time and what brought you here?

The first time was in the late 1980's when I was training racehorses in Melbourne. An Asian owner who I won a race for said he was going to Thailand to visit his girlfriend – and he would shout me a trip. Unbelievably we stayed the first few days at City Lodge on soi 19. My host sent me a visitor early in the evening, and then, being an innocent horse trainer, I was early to bed, early to rise.

I remember in the mornings walking all the way to Mahboonkrong and back – between 7 – 10 AM, and wondering what the big deal about the place was – it was hot, smelly, and pretty dead! We did some touristy things in the day, had a meal, and went to sleep. It was a year or so before I learnt I was a stone’s throw from the then booming Thermae, and didn’t realise. I did however make up for that lost opportunity in due course!

Can you talk me through your time in Thailand, in terms of where you were based, and what you did? You spent a bit of time in a number of places, including in Isaan, did you not?

Correct – how much time have you got? Part of my initial trip had us stay at Bang Saen for a few days. Still very much a straight tourist at the time, I was bored one afternoon and asked our driver if there were any racehorse places nearby. He made enquiries and told me a trainer lived at Si Racha, so we went for a look. Drove down a dirt road for miles, came to a very rough track, some average looking horses, and some very basic Thai houses – I had a wander around, and was about to leave, when the owner / trainer arrived, and asked us back to his house for some food. Back up the dirt road, around a corner, and there was a magnificent 3 storey mansion, two swimming pools, 10 acres of gardens. We sat in the shade chatting away to a very influential guy, who had been educated at Dunedin University – small world. The upshot was he asked me to train his horses – as not much was happening in Australia for me at the time – and the horse my Asian client had had the big win off had subsequently returned a positive urine sample for a painkilling drug, the Thai offer looked very good.

I was back in residence in the mansion, a month later. I instituted a number of changes, and think we would have done well in the long term, however, as I later learnt, true to Thai style, disaster struck. The star of the stable was an Australian bred horse, [not officially legal to race horses not bred in the kingdom in Thailand, but there are loopholes of course!] The day the horse was due to have its first race, the jockey had a jing jok fall off the ceiling onto him – hugely bad luck apparently. He then sped off to the temple, fell off his bike on the way, bad luck was starting – but still was able to ride the horse. The horse was a red hot favourite, its track times had of course been sensational, and was expected to win by 100 yards. Most other owners [who run the racing in Thailand] knew this, so I don’t think anything else in the race was even trying! Our nervous jockey missed the start of the 1,000 metre race by 10 lengths, but soon caught the back of the field, and set off round the 15 runners. Just before the home straight, he was up to 3rd, and going easily – the two jockeys ahead, knowing they were not supposed to win, pulled out wide, to let our horse go through – nervous jock, head down and arse up, didn’t see this maneuver, and ran straight into the back of the horse ahead. In the process, our horse shattered a knee. Big loss of face all round, and I think the owner in particular got well ribbed, 'you import horse and import trainer, but still can not win' – so he suggested I may be better suited to assisting a friend of his in a hotel.

A big plus of the 7 or 8 months I spent at the stables was that I now spoke reasonable Thai – none of the jockeys of course spoke English, and also, races were every Sunday in Bangkok, and Monday was my day off. I had use of a car, so would drive into the track, and after the last race, head straight to the Grace Hotel – at that time, about on a par with what the Novotel Siam Square is now, a reasonable class hotel, with a booming nightclub downstairs full of available Thai girls each night – did I worry about giving up my horse training career – don’t think it even crossed my mind!

I did a short stint with a hotel at Koh Samui, and decided hotel marketing manager was my niche – and that although Samui was nice for a holiday, it didn't quite rate with Bangkok. I then became marketing manager for a hotel in Chiang Mai – with a Bangkok office of course. So most weeks went up and down every part of the city, delivering brochures and hotel rates to many of the hundreds of obscure travel agents in the city. Little did I realise this knowledge of the city would be put to good use in a few years! During that time, often I would be at Thermae or soi 7 Biergarten, they were perhaps a little more respectable in those days, and I was never one for going to a gogo bar or parlour and picking a number.

I soon developed a very good eye for what I termed the 'fringe dweller' – the friend or sister of a working girl, who perhaps didn’t have the rent money for the month, spoke little English, and was keen to party with the farang who spoke Thai. It was then off to the 'in' nightspot, the 'Flamingo Disco', situated above the Ambassador Hotel car park. In later years, my haunt moved to 'Dara Cafe' and when this was closed, Dance Fever at Rachada was my hangout – where I even had my own personal waiter!

Of course one always remembers the 'good old days' – but I did find it rather sad in the last few years, the decline of Thermae – in its hey day, when it was nearer soi 13, and closed at daybreak, there were probably 500 odd girls passing through nightly, and something that will never be repeated, forgotten by those that were there, or I dare say bettered! As money would often be dwindling by the end of the month, I began to sit on the plastic stools set up on the corner of soi 13 most nights, where a bottle of Sangthip was 60 baht, and coke 10 baht. Again, the acquaintances I made there were to be very useful in the years to come.

By now I had a good command of the language, and enough Thai girlfriends taking me off to temples etc, that I also had a fair idea of the culture. I also found I may not always remember a girl's name, but I invariably remembered what province they came from. Hence I would call them Miss Korat, Miss Chiang Mai, Miss Buriram etc, which of course went down well with them, and also clarified that the majority hailed from Isaan. By that stage, there were very few of the local girls that appealed to me, that I hadn't had an association with – I figured it may be time to go to the source, from my marketing, I knew the major hotels in the region, so sent off a resume to 5 or 6 of the largest, and shortly after was on the train to Surin, where the Tarin Hotel was at that time, around 1993-94 the largest hotel in Isaan. 10 storey, it had 3 restaurants, a karaoke bar, a huge nightclub, and a very well stocked massage parlour! I had a suite on the top floor – as did the local head of police and various khamnan or heads of the surrounding jangwats. I advised the owner that whilst I could do much online, and also oversee the front office, and deal with any problems tourists had, it was also essential to maintain our contact with the travel agents in Bangkok, so every 3rd week, with a good mate who had ended up in Surin, we would be off down the highway for the quick 5 hour trip. I would spend 2 days racing around travel agents, and 4 or 5 racing after Thai girls. By now I had additional strings to the bow, I was picking up a lot of Khamen, as that was the most common language of the staff at the hotel – and of course the majority of working girls from Buriram, Surin and Si Saket. One is somewhat looked down upon speaking Khamen in Thai society so most girls don’t use it in public, but if you do speak it, you are instantly one of the club! And believe me, a large percentage of girls working the night scene in Bangkok are from that background.

Once again however – disaster struck. I had by now realised my employer was very rich, very powerful, and you don’t normally get that way in Thailand through hard work! I probably need to be careful what I say, I still want to visit the kingdom – however at some stage, a plan was instituted, to bring some Russian prostitutes to Isaan. Remember this is 1994, there were many affluent Thais upcountry, most had seen blondes on TV, but never in the flesh… The queues outside the girls’ rooms were like those at McDonalds, never ending. The idea was for the 3 or 4 girls, who actually were tired 30+ models in my opinion, to do a month at various hotels around the region, however two of the family members where I was got involved with the same girl, and before long, we had murder / national news / dramas / big loss of face and the resulting leave the country till the dust settles down. The marketing manager was out of a job, but I did speak Thai and Khamen, I knew Bangkok better than most taxi drivers, I had a huge network of informants in place, I also knew a few people in places of power… Now what could I put those attributes to?

How did you start up the investigations gig? For me, I happened to do a few checks for free and then someone said they'd be prepared to pay for it. What about you? Was it the same?

After I left Surin, it was straight back to my comfort area, and I rented a hotel room near Cheap Charlies in soi 11, at 5,000 baht a month, as they say, location, location. I obviously spent many nights on the plastic stool at soi 13, many Sangthips went west, and many plans were formed. Of course I was regularly asked for help from tourists, especially guys who heard me chatting away in Thai. I was somehow sure an investigation agency would go, although I thought initially doing market research would be a large part of it.

Did you ever get any official training, or any hints on how to go about investigations?

I've never been short of a quip or a one-liner, one of my favourites is 'Commonsense is not common' – I believe it's something I possess, and that it is a key factor to success in most occupations, especially investigating.

In retrospect, I doubt whatever police or law background one had, it would be difficult to have better credentials than I had, when I started – of course this only applies to Bangkok and the type of investigations I was predominantly engaged in. Currently I am studying intelligence analysis, strategic planning, conflict management etc, all key papers for an investigator or analyst in the western world…but little of this would have been of use to me in my investigative work in Bangkok – if I didn’t speak the language, understand the culture and way of life, and have the contacts and general knowledge of the country and Bangkok in particular.

Did you get rich doing investigative work? Having read the book, you charged a fair whack for some investigations. You must have been pulling in decent coin.

I got very rich in experience. I think I also became very rich in cynicism!

Yep, I sure know that feeling.

As to monetary, for the early years, I struggled. Sometimes 2 or 3 cases a month, and the average fee was around 7,000 to 10,000 baht for an investigation that would cover checking the girl at work, at home, and her credentials at the municipal offices. You would know what it’s like to stand outside an apartment in 40 degree heat, waiting for hours for a Thai to maybe emerge, or perhaps come home. The only photo you have has been digitally enhanced, the fair smooth skin is probably pock-marked and black in the light of day, the tight top and jeans are replaced by baggy T-shirt and shorts…all for enough money to pay the rent. Towards the end however, I did have a good reputation through word of mouth, and became very busy. I didn’t sub-contract, as some people do, but kept the personal contact my clients expected. Of course occasionally you get guys who "really need to know" – "money no problem” – these are the words that you love to hear, but it doesn’t happen often. I had probably 3 or 4 clients over the 10 years who spent over 100,000 baht with me, and a lot of that went to paying off contacts in banks, phone companies etc.

What was the most difficult aspect of doing investigations?

The longer you are at it, the easier it is of course. You know just where to go, who to ask for. Identifying the girl involved was often difficult.

You’re not wrong there!

I usually asked for jewellery worn, items such as rings, earrings helped to confirm. You couldn’t always ask them straight off if they had a scorpion tattoo on their butt. Many hours are wasted, addresses in Thailand are very spasmodic, you are looking for #1234 Petchaburi Road and it stops at #1233 – then starts again at #4321, and upcountry, where I often travelled, they are non-existent – often information given to you by the client is incorrect, and of course to check any documentation, you need the full name written in Thai, as English phonetics will vary from the bank or Immigration officer who wrote it down.

What skills do you think someone needs to be an effective investigator, as a farang, in Thailand?

As already mentioned, in fact in this day and age, I would not like to be taking the job on. Getting information is much more difficult since Taksin has instigated AMLO <Anti Money Laundering OfficeStick> and such, and corruption of officials is not so rife. Also much more effective technology these days, and if one can subversively monitor a Thai’s mobile phone and email, there is little more you need to do!

How was the book put together? Did you and Steve sit down and write it together?

We actually spent little time together. We discussed the idea in Thailand, and when I returned to New Zealand, I had free time, and sent off a number of case outlines to him. Of course I am pretty naive regarding the writing / publishing world. I thought Steve had little else to do but write our book! He is of course busy with his own agenda, and currently developing some novels featuring a Bangkok detective I believe, so they will be entertaining for sure. I think my original idea was to produce what was basically a guide to having a relationship with a Thai – and feature strongly on the Thai culture, way of business and thinking, which would hardly have been commercial.

Also, a number of interesting cases I started, sort of fizzled out, as the client realised he was on a no win, so Steve, being such a professional, was able to tie these cases up, sometimes combining similar cases, and come up with a book that is not just factual, but entertaining. I do stand by my after word, and that tells my true feelings for the country and the people, and I do hope it does help clarify relationship hurdles for some. I think perhaps one area I differ from most [you and Steve perhaps?] is that I got very close to a large number of working girls, mostly through speaking Khamen I guess, and I could see another side to many. Girls who would take large amounts from a farang, and have no intention of keeping up any deal, would dote on my daughter if I took her out with me as I did occasionally, rush to buy her fruit, or be really grateful if I gave them 20 baht to get the last bus home. I believe the humble bargirl is just doing her best, and that the real danger is the so called educated, hi-so girl, who rather than a few thousand baht, often takes guys for cars, apartments, and very large sums. Perhaps I came from Isaan in a past life!


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I am surprised how honest you were in the book, admitting to the odd "test drive" or two, although that said, I admire your honesty. What made you decide to come out straight and say exactly what you did on the jobs?

For better or worse, I’ve always been known for telling it as it is. Apart from once or twice in the early days, I was very mindful of the 'don’t piss where you eat' syndrome, plus something that did surprise me was the number of girls I got asked to check on, that to me were very plain, or obviously untrustworthy.

Remember, the book does cover about 10 years, and I would be the first to admit I was not always successful, or the 'James Bond' type that Steve portrays – or perhaps I didn’t pass on all the failures to him!

You have detailed a lot of cases in the book. Have names and details been changed? Do you think many guys will recognise themselves?

We changed all the names, and most places. Also Steve altered descriptions of those involved. So sure, some guys will recognize a situation, but no one else would know who it referred to. There was also a huge amount of doubling up in style or similarity, in many cases, so often they have been combined to make one chapter.

What advice would you give to guys who want to get involved with a lady who worked the bar? I personally believe the success rate of such relationships is really low – what do you think?

Certainly it is low – but I think not really lower than success with any Thai girl you would find in Hard Rock, Spasso’s, Q Bar, or in fact out in Bangkok after midnight. A plus with the bargirl, is you are both aware of her past. A young 18 – 20 year old, who is good looking, of course is a nil chance success rate, but once they realise their best earning days are behind them, and the guy is genuine, then perhaps some hope. I know a huge risk – but if you have been with the girl for some time, and are sure you have a future together, then I suggest two simple answers – get her out of Thailand and get her pregnant. Thai girls make great mothers. So when is a little 'twig' due on the scene then, Stick?

Is it true that there are a bunch of aggrieved bargirls who have spread your photo to all of the Immigration officers to tip them off once you re-enter the country? Did you ever have any problems with girls who you looked into?

Haha… Didn't you know, we all look the same to them. As I’ve been told already, the guy on the cover is much better looking than me! Do you think I should bring an extra bottle of Johnny Black for my friends at Soi Suan Plu just in case?

Amazingly, over the 10 years, I never had a Thai girl twig what I was up to. Depending on the situation, I would act as the new guy in town, the old expat with wife and child, the man 'assisting' the embassy etc – not discriminating, but 'cunning as a fox with a mind like a goldfish' is often a rather appropriate definition.

Why did you turn your back on Thailand?

In a word, Natalie. I think it’s fair to say that most men who stay long term in Thailand [you excepted of course] are hedonistic. They base themselves there mainly for the pursuit of self pleasures – I’m not saying that’s bad, I did that myself basically. However with the arrival of my daughter, for once I decided to put another person’s well-being and chance of a good lifestyle, ahead of my own. I didn't turn my back as such, my situation changed.

In retrospect, are you glad you went back to New Zealand? Or if you had your chance again, would you be back here, doing it all again?

We have to move on, nothing lasts forever. I had great times and have good memories of Thailand, along with some ordinary ones! If I had stayed on as I was, either a bullet or cirrhosis would have caught up with me sooner or later. Allowing the time I spent in bars chatting to Thai girls, possibly the latter. Were I still single, or let me rephrase, were I not a father, yes, I would still be 'TPE'. I am however, very happy the way things worked out, to have gotten out when I did – for one thing, I did not want to end up a sad old deviant, as one sees wandering up Sukhumvit from time to time. And secondly, my daughter has opened up a whole new world, new motivation for me, and seeing her develop, very much in her Dad’s footsteps, is perhaps more personally satisfying than finally getting #69 from Playschool to spend the weekend with you at the Hua Hin Hilton.

Did being private investigator in Thailand assist you in any way with employment you have had since then back in NZ?

Not directly. I had initially looked at doing basic investigation work, but they have a thing called the 'privacy' law, so many of my methods would not be effective! I have gained however, a wide knowledge of Asian culture and crime patterns, so currently I am upgrading my academic skills to the same level, by completing a master’s degree in strategic studies. Whilst terrorism is the focus of this decade, transnational crime will be the major problem of the next, and I believe I am in a position to perhaps assist my country in that respect.

You can read a chapter from the book here. You can buy the book here.


Where WAS THIS PICTURE taken?

It was the Sofitel Hotel on Silom Road.

Where is that?!

Last week's picture was taken from the Chongnonsee BTS station, looking across at the Sofitel on Silom. Photoshop was used to remove the name of the hotel. The first person to tell me where this week's picture is wins a 500 baht credit at Tony's Bar in Soi Cowboy. 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. We also have a prize provider in Pattaya, my favourite bar in Pattaya, Catz where the winner gets a 500 baht credit. 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! Also, if you are in Pattaya, please let me know so you can be eligible for that prize!

FROM STICKMAN'S EMAIL INBOX

Will they ever enforce that law?

Since I came to Thailand a few years ago, there are many laws which have been enforced – laws about alcohol consumption, petrol station closing times, entertainment venues closing times, age of customers, gambling, helmets on motorbikes, drug prohibition, lewd shows, web censorship, visa extension and overstay…and so many others. In fact it looks like the Thai government is trying hard to make people's life here as miserable as in my own European country. But there is one existing law which has never been enforced – it's the one against prostitution. It would be very easy to close all the places where prostitution occurs, much easier than the war against drug traffickers. But this will never happen because what makes most tourists (I would say 70% ) come here year after year is not the temples or the ever so charming Indian tailors. It's of course the pay for play scene. Close it down and tourism is dead. So after all, Thai politicians may have some sense of reality (not to mention that they are themselves owners and customers of all those big massage parlours).

Buddhism and local behavior patterns.

In Buddhism the equivalent word for a sin is a demerit. The net sum of your good deeds and bad deeds is your karma. When you die, as long as your karma nets out merit side, then in your next life you will end up a little higher on the "food chain" so to speak. So in Buddhism there are no consequences for a single "deed". All that matters are the sum of your deeds. That is your karma. While still living, good karma will bring you luck and bad karma will bring you bad luck. In Thai Buddhism, going to the temple or giving money to your parents are serious merit-earning deeds. So the next time you give your girlfriend money for the temple or money for her parents, just remember that you are in fact giving her wiggle room to lay some serious bad deeds on you. Giving her huge money for her parents means she can go out and be a bad ass little girl for a while.

Be careful where you keep your credit cards.

I was recently staying in the <5 star hotel, name removedStick> and had put my documents in the room safe (4 digit code). When I got home both my credit card numbers had been copied and tried to be used in Thailand, even though they had not been used to buy any thing in Thailand and had remained in the safe for the entire stay and no money was missing (probably too evident for the guest to spot). I actually lost no money as the bank automatically stopped the cards but what you need to be aware of is that the room safes with a keypad are not safe. The local hotel technician alone can open the safe with a master key (to change dead batteries). I've seen it done. I suppose this is what happened here. The only really safe solution is to use the reception safes with a dual key so they can only be opened in your presence.

Credit card fraud is a problem.

Just a note on credit card fraud. I am in the industry, rolling out systems that accept credit cards to authorizations etc. What we will find is that fraud migration from Malaysia, once the hot bed of credit card crime, will continue to occur until Thailand and its neighbors take up the EMV standards, which are much tougher than current credit authorization guidelines. So keep an eye on your cards folks!

1,000 Thais in Iceland!

I'm from Iceland and married now for 5 years to my Thai wife and we have 2 boys. I met her when I came to travel in SE Asia in 2001. Luckily I met her at the end of my 4 month trip (she worked in a restaurant) otherwise there would not have been any traveling. She is 3 years older than me and I'm the only farang I know of that is younger than his wife! After a month she came here and has only gone back for a holiday twice. I would like to tell you what I know about Thai life in Iceland. In Iceland there are 300,000 people and about 1,000 Thais. There are more Filipinos here. Like in other places most are women up to like 50 years old or so. I have only seen a few men that do not have their mothers here. In the capital area (200,000) I would guess we have about 10 Thai restaurants (few really good) and 3 stores that import food from Thailand, fresh fish and vegetables every week. Everything to cook, but a little more expensive.

Concealing your assets might prolong your life.

This week the girlfriend of your fellow countryman Steve Miller was acquitted of conspiring to have him murdered, in spite of the fact that she had made a full confession of her guilt. The judge acquitted her because he stated that there was insufficient evidence to convict her. Some farang have known for a long time that it is highly probable that Thai women (and or their families) sometimes put a hit or mark out on a farang and said farang dies. We even know the order of magnitude of the cost. If this case, which seemed so blatant and obvious does not result in a conviction, then no farang with assets inside Thailand is safe, because more Thais will believe they can get away with it.

Watch the jackals pilfer your valuables!

These new bag regulations are going to devastate the Thai tourism industry. The top end of the market won't be flying without their Louis Vuiton bags or creature comforts for the long haul-flights. From what I am hearing on BBC pundit chats and from colleagues, they are seriously pissed off with the bag and item restrictions. If you can't take your laptops, IPODs, SLVR and video cameras in safety then stay at home is the message. All these bagfuls of valuable gizmos will be at risk of the jackals at bag handling. You just can't put them in the hold because they will get busted and insurance companies are very unlikely to pay out on theft or breakages. Looks like we could be heading back to year zero on tourism. Can you imagine all tourists flying in just the clothes they stand up in with a few items stuffed in their pockets? It won't happen. Maybe backpackers won't mind as they like to travel light!

A long time reader reports that the system for 90-day reporting at Immigration in Soi Suan Plu is breaking down. It took him a full hour to get his 90 days reported this week. His comments were that it seemed like chaos there. So, if you go there in person to do it, you might want to factor in more time than you had to in the past.

The Dollhouse in Soi Cowboy has come up with something really original – they've got the girls dancing in jeans! You would have thought that would be a bit of a no no in a gogo – it's not like you can't see it outside the bars! Hmmm, full marks for originality but someone ought to mention to management that the very reason we go there is to see NO JEANS!

Closing times in Nana Plaza have remained consistent at 2:00 AM for the duration of this month.

The New Zealand consulate on Sukhumvit Soi 33 has been newly decorated with what on initial inspection appears to be a brick wall, but is in fact wallpaper with a brickwork pattern. There are also some new shelves, new lights and it all just looks that little bit smarter. Actually, it is not an official New Zealand consulate, but rather the most popular New Zealand bar on Sukhumvit, Wall Street.

Despite the fact that this is a three day weekend and that most Bangkok drinking venues were dark on Saturday in honour of the Queen's birthday, freewheeling Pattaya failed to attract inordinate crowds. Walking Street, while festive, featuring music, dancing, and culinary attractions failed to attract even ordinary crowds. Bars and gogo clubs were quite quiet, with more popular establishments serving a few punters but, it seemed, all nightspots suffered from reduced staffs (particularly evident in the number of dancing maidens, presumably) and substantially reduced clientele.

On the bright side, the long-awaited second edition of Pattaya By Night was released this weekend. The 52-page pictorial guide to gogo bars features exclusive photos of hundreds of the most beautiful dancers in fun town (and some ugly ones). The full-colour magazine focuses only on Pattaya’s top-quality nightspots, including Casino, Catz, Boesche, Coyotees, Diamond, Dollhouse, Heaven Above, Living Dolls Showcase, New Living Dolls 1, Secrets, Super Baby, Super Girl and Windmill. The publication is available at the above clubs and online at www.pattaya-night.com.

Heaven Above celebrated its second anniversary Friday night with a blow-out Black and White Party (recommended dress code). An overflow crowd turned out for the free food, drink specials, door prizes, and dirty dancing contest. The remodelled gogo bar has some of the best looking and most energetic dancers in town, most of whom haven’t marred their silky skin with tattoos. Worth a visit.

You’d think stealing away a number of dancers and service staff should have been enough, but the former Thai owners of New Living Dolls 1, which now operate the new Angels A Gogo, allegedly got the Immigration Police to raid their former establishment with specific instructions to check work permits of the foreign staff. Fortunately, LD1 has some pretty good police contacts of its own and got wind of the plot before they arrived. The English and Australian owners got themselves an unscheduled drinking night on Walking Street while LD1's Thai manager collected ID cards from all the girls and even any Thai women trying to enter the place. This sort of thing really irks me, and I for one will never, ever spend a single baht in Angels.

The reincarnated Highway Star A Gogo returns to life on August 15 on the site of the defunct Marilyn’s hide-the-hamster-where-the-sun-don’t-shine showplace. The renovated Pier Complex is set to host several new gogos and beer bars. Some thought went into the new Highway Star. It’s large interior has ample seating, a pool table and some soapy body massage tables. The place also seems to be already well-stocked with talent as a sizeable number of former Babewatch staff have decided to end their nomadic existence and all settle down together there (at least for now.)

Speaking of new bars, an as-yet-unnamed gogo is gearing up to open at the north end of Walking Street near the Beavers table-top dancing arena. Word is out they're looking for a mamasan, so it’s still early in the hiring process. No word on an opening date.

Unknown to many who’ve visited the Covent Garden bar complex and thought the 4 bars in the main lobby area were all that will be, there’s actually a vacant space upstairs next to X-Zone. Club Boesche had the option on the space with intentions of turning it into an adult circus complete with baby tigers. But the powers that be would not grant the necessary permits despite the sums offered. The tigers have been offered to the Si Racha Tiger Zoo and now the property is up for grabs with hopes that a fifth gogo will open there sometime during the coming high season.

All is not brightness and light on Walking Street, however, as low season continues to take its toll. Both X-Zone and Super Model A Gogo (Soi Diamond) are up for sale. X-Zone has become the Dead Zone as nearly all of its dancers have departed to a more profitable Zone. Meanwhile, at Super Model, the change from table dancing to conventional stage shuffling has done nothing to boost business. Rumor has it the ladyboy bar next door does more business these days.

Tell local lasses that they are pretty and they will often deny it, or truly not believe it. I have often felt that this is due to them thinking that only tall women with snow white skin, and Western features are pretty. But I heard another possible explanation this weekend. It was suggested that Thai parents do not tell their daughters that they're attractive for fear that ghosts might come and take them away. Given that the locals are superstitious, this is plausible! Anyone heard of this before?!

I found myself down in the Queens Park beer bar area a couple of times this week. Hardly my favourite spot in town, but you know, even the girls down there manage to hook in some punters. Anyway, I got chatting with a couple, and my sleuthing revealed that those mangy bars charge 500 baht bar fines. Can you believe it? No wonder there are so few customers down there. 500 baht…seems awfully dear to me.

Gulliver's is the latest spot to get Beer Lao and the most soulless of all Sukhumvit bars sells it for just 80 baht a bottle.

Proving that he is multi-talented, popular bar manager Ricky entered into the world's biggest hamburger make-a-pig-of-yourself competition last weekend. The poor fellow didn't do quite as well as he could have, due to a heavy night the night before… Whoever he was drinking with before competition night must be a real so and so! Athletes are supposed to rest before such a big event!

There are a lot of whiners out there and some people need to harden up. Sometimes you see a sign outside the bar that says something to the effect of all drinks XX baht. Now I thought everyone knew that hiss didn't include the fancy imported beers like Corona, cocktails, and lady drinks, Bacardi Breezers and the like, but obviously I was wrong… So, now you know. It usually applies to all standard drinks such as local bottle beers, draft beer, and standard spirits ONLY.

Just a couple of days left for Metropolis FM, about the only "real farang style" radio station. The perfectly decent Western announcers, newsreaders and DJs are about to be replaced by, get this, handsome young Thai DJs with no radio experience! Maybe the current business model just isn't working, but why oh why do you need handsome people on the radio?! Personally, I am a bit peeved as this is not only the only radio station I listen to, but the only one I can stand. It looks like the internet is going to get a work out because from this coming week it is going to be a combination of the BBC and New Zealand radio stations via the net for me.

The Pattaya Flying Club announce that membership is open to everyone. While membership is voluntary, a number of members have joined the club after a push from their spouse. Membership is free as they do not use an airstrip. Please be aware that there is usually a police check within an hour of joining the club

The Bulls Head Golf Day will be held on Saturday 19th August at Pattana Golf & Sports Club. The schedule is as follows – 8:15 Full English breakfast at the Bull's Head, 9:30 VIP bus leaves for the golf course with beer & comedy supplied for the journey, 11:15 Registration, 12.00 Tee off (caddies included). Then it is back to the Bull's Head for a buffet dinner & prize giving ceremony. The cost for the whole day is only 2,500 baht. Interested parties should book at the bar or call Billy on 06-5055053 or email [email protected].

Just when 9/11 was slowly slipping into one of the far flung corners of our mind, we get reminded of the mad world we live in when the British Police announce the wonderful work they have done to foil a plot to blow up planes departing the UK for the States. But what effect will this have on things in Thailand? Within hours of this story going out, I was hit with emails from people who were thinking of cancelling flights and trips to Thailand and two who said they had cancelled their trip already. Whether this has the same negative effect on air travel that the horror of 5 years ago had, I do not know, but we are seeing people react already.

There are a few computer industry jobs in Bangkok advertised on this site right now. You can check them out here. Remember, for any local companies looking for farang staff (and it can be any industry – does not have to be computer related), you can send me an ad and have it placed here for free.

If you're looking to get online in the Sukhumvit area, why not swing by The Kiwi Cafe on Soi 22 which is open 24 hours now, serving hot and cold food and drinks. They have free high speed internet access for anyone buying something to eat or drink. This week they have a special on Chang Light beer, three beers for 100 baht. Oh, and for fans of Kiwi wines, they have a number of NZ wines, especially from Gisborne such as Miltons and Amor-Bendalls which cannot be found anywhere else in Thailand.

Is there a specific number of repeated missed calls to your mobile at which point you can say that the person making those calls is not all there? Well, in one day, my boss called me 65 times, the first at 5:55 AM in the morning, and the rest at regular durations throughout the day. It was the holidays and I was buggered if I was going to answer the phone. Absolutely no good could have come of it. "Stick, we want to double your pay" or "Stick, we want to send you on an all expenses paid trip to Italy for two weeks" was not the sort of thing she would have had to say. Anyway, can anyone beat 65? Knowing some of these local lasses and their habits, I bet someone has hit 100. Wanna confirm it for me? And to answer the original question, how many such calls makes the caller a lunatic?!

A classic quote of the week comes from a reader. "The uneducated people in Nana are the ones with male sex organs, and I don't mean the katoeys!"

It might not have been 9/11, but it could have been worse. The British police deserve a huge pat on the back for acting before disaster could strike at 30,000 feet again. But despite their fine work, we are once again in a situation when international air travel looks likely to be disrupted, and are about to enter another period when things are going to be a bit different. Talking to a friend who had an international flight out of Bangkok this weekend, he said that security was no different apart from a few military guys walking around with Alsatians and when you leave passport control, a scanner is waved over your body. He was expecting the worst but was able to power up his laptop in flight.

This link is from the Dallas Star Telegram and concerns a lengthy article about naughty tourism in Thailand. It includes the usual generalisations of social misfits and underage girls and what not, but is worth a read nonetheless. And this link is about naughty tourism in the Caribbean, but there are many parallels with the same in Asia.

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: I love the playful and innocent nature of Thai ladies. But what puts me off is when, after only 3 or 4 days of knowing her, she'll say she loves me. How can this be possible after 3 or 4 days? Do Thai ladies have a sweet and incurable "romantic-love-streak" running through them…or am I just meeting crazy women? I would understand if I looked like Brad Pitt….but I don't!

Mrs. Stick says: I can only guess that when a woman says this to you she is trying to trap you, or to get you to commit to a relationship with her by responding to her that you love her too. Love does not come that quickly, and for us, we do not say those words until we are really sure. If a Thai woman says she loves you, and she really means it, actually she is ready to marry you. We don't say these words as often as I understand farangs may say them.

Question 2: One of the first things I did when I brought my future wife to America was to take her to the local animal shelter and let her pick out her very own kitten. I wanted her to have something of her very own since everything here by pre-nup agreement is in my name alone. This was a great idea and she loved the cat very much. I sometimes think that she returned from visiting her family not for me, but for 'Peanut', her beloved cat. Sadly, last week it was run over by a car and died. She was crushed and inconsolable for 2 days and I didn't know what to do. I understand that Thais are not fond of 'hugging' and I am wondering the proper way to demonstrate one's sympathy in such cases.

Mrs. Stick says: For Thai people, we do not usually get so upset at a loss like this. I guess your wife is quite young? Perhaps there is something else that is upsetting your wife, and being so far from home and family, she misses her family – and this was part of the reason she was so upset. I have never heard of anyone being so upset at the loss of an animal, unless they were children. When someone dies usually the whole family comes together and spends time together. Even if we live in different provinces we will all return home when someone dies. Does your wife have family or close friends in America? Spending time with them may help.

Question 3: I recently retired and I am planning on moving to Thailand for awhile. I will not be working and can live anywhere. All things considered, I have decided to live in Pattaya and make it my home base. I think Mr. Stick has touted the advantages of Pattaya recently and I believe he is spot on. Since the early 90's I have been to Thailand numerous times and traveled throughout the country. Although I'm not a perfect angel, running the bars and cavorting with the bargirls has definitely lost a lot of its appeal. I'm 46, single and plan on traveling a bit throughout the country with a hope to have an opportunity to meet some regular Thais during these travels. My question is this, if while out and about during my travels I do happen to meet some of these regular Thai folks and before they even get to know me, will they automatically consider me a scumbag if I tell them I live in Pattaya Beach? This goes with the assumption that I dress decent, act decent and generally cause no problems otherwise. I can see it now, I'm in the Khon Kaen Big C eating my spicy chicken sandwich at KFC and the girl of my dreams happens to sit down and wants to chat. I'm squirming in my seat as I know full well the dreaded second question is coming after the hellos. "What's your name", and then not 15 seconds after meeting "Where are you from". Should I lie?

Mrs. Stick says: When people in my family talk about Bangkok it is understood that people from our region, Korat, come to Bangkok to earn more better money than we can in Korat. There are a few members of my family working in Bangkok, but actually, everyone would prefer to be in Korat. In Bangkok good jobs can be found easily and that is known by everyone. But there is no way any of us would move to Pattaya for work. People would never believe what we were doing, even if it was innocent. In Korat and most of Isaan, people know that when someone goes to Pattaya, we know why they are going. The reputation of Pattaya is not good. But for you, if you are living there, it might be a bit different. You're not working, are you. If you are well-presented, and speak politely, people will not necessarily think you are there for those reasons. Actually, while Pattaya has a bad reputation, most Thai people who have not been there don't really know quite what it is like. I always knew the reputation but I didn't know how many bars there were there until we started going regularly. Anyway, I don't think you should lie about where you are living. If you really are a good guy, a girl should know that and she should not be put off by you living in Pattaya.

Having spent a good deal of time in Pattaya recently, I feel I am in a better position than ever to comment on the differences between a night out down there and a night out in Bangkok. In so many night spots in the capital, there seems to be a really bad attitude, especially when compared to Pattaya. This is nothing new, but it seems to be getting even worse. It is so bad in fact that I seldom go out in Bangkok. OK, some bars are still fun, but it is not that many… But what I cannot work out is, just why is this the case? Where has this attitudinal change come from? My feeling is that it has to do with the way the bars are run in Bangkok. There seems to be something local, in Bangkok that is, that beats a negative message into the staff. I don't think it is external i.e. influences outside of the bars. The environment in Bangkok is not as pleasant as Pattaya but it is still very much bright lights, big city and I don't think it is a Bangkok thing per se. Bangkok is a bit rough these days. The attitude of so many staff in the bars, quite frankly, stinks. For us Bangkok based guys, that Pattaya is just a couple of hours away is a blessing.



Your Bangkok commentator,

Stick


Thanks go out to Bangkok Grasshopper and Mr. Write.