Stickman's Weekly Column August 27th, 2006

Teaching in Bangkok, Never A Dull Moment



Like many things in Thailand, the life of a teacher is seldom boring. Tiring? Perhaps. Dull? Perhaps? But as for boring, no, we can never really call it boring. There is always something happening, something humorous, something odd, or something downright peculiar.

It has not been a good period for ajarn farang (foreign teachers) in Thailand who have been getting it from every angle as the fall out from the Mark Karr affair shows little sign of slowing down. Editorials in newspapers along with threads on discussion forums online have slammed foreign teachers in Thailand with all sorts of crazy stuff said, much of it generalisation with little truth.

While the reputation of farang teachers is plummeting to new lows, the uninitiated could be forgiven for thinking that the average Thai teacher is a saint. You never hear a bad word said about them but in my experience that would not necessarily be a fair representation. Like their Western colleagues, the average Thai teacher is not perfect.

At a guess, 80% of the local teachers in Thailand are female, and around 85% of foreign teachers would be male. This makes it hard to make any comparison between the behaviour of the various teachers.

Following are a few funnies, and a few more serious issues, that have occurred at my place of work, two of which occurred during the past week, and the others from a little earlier in the year. They may not be entirely representative of what it is like working in a school in Thailand, but they do give you an idea of the sorts of things that happen.

The Hypocritical Boss

Myself and a colleague are involved in various volunteer teaching projects. We are given a reduced workload at school so that we have the time to go outside the school and teach kids from less advantaged backgrounds. When I was initially offered this role I was dubious about it, but once it got going it turned out to be a really enjoyable project to be part of. What started off as a one hour lesson at a couple schools once a month, has grown into several schools, as well as some community groups, including the boys in brown. We travel to some of the schools to teach on site while there are other groups who come to us.

So there we were in a small school hall with 100 odd keen, bright-eyed kids all ready to get their monthly hour of English from two native speaking teachers. We were just about to get going when there was a problem. There was no whiteboard. I mentioned it to the local technician and he said "coming soon" to which I replied it had better come soon because the lesson was dependent on this whiteboard and could not start until it came. The lesson was centred around building up the kids vocabulary and the whiteboard was an integral part of the lesson.

10 minutes later a whiteboard was wheeled in and we were told "Now, you start". But now there were no whiteboard marker pens! Another everal minutes later and the technician scurried into the hall with the whiteboard markers and the lesson was able to begin. Now the whiteboard was tiny, and within a few minutes I had filled it up with new vocabulary. I needed to clean it and, you guessed it, there was no duster or cloth to wipe it clean. We were now half-way through the one hour lesson time slot, and perhaps only a few minutes through the lesson plan. I quietly mentioned it to the manager of our school who accompanies us on these outings and she went and had a go at the school principal, telling him how horribly dis-organised he was, and how every effort had been made to provide worthwhile lessons – but how he had let us down. Needless to say the whiteboard duster came quickly…but the story doesn't end there.

A few days later we were back at our own school and this time we had a group come to study with us on our turf. It was the boys in brown!

With close to 100 eager coppers hanging on my every word, I was ready to kick off the lesson when I sensed deja vu. There was no whiteboard. I quickly told the manager, the same woman who accompanies us when we go and teach outside. 15 minutes later and at supposedly one of the most prestigious schools in Bangkok (so management always tell us) a whiteboard could not be found. I just stood there at the front of the class talking to colleagues, while the coppers looked at us with amusement, wondering what was going on.

The whiteboard finally came but you guessed it, there were no whiteboard pens! Several minutes later they finally arrived and the lesson got underway. Basic greetings and questions were the order of the day, and we had gone through a few getting-to-know-you type questions on the whiteboard. I was frustrated at all the delays and had written a couple of spicy questions to the board, perfectly reasonable things to talk about with adults, but not the sort of thing you would do with kids. The whiteboard had filled up and it was time to clean it. I reached down, grabbed the duster and went to rub off the questions, particularly a couple of the naughtier ones, but it wouldn't work. I rubbed harder, but nothing happened.

The marker pens they had brought were of the permanent ink variety…

The Bus Ride To Hell

A couple of months back an exhibition was held out at the exhibition centre at Muang Thong Thani celebrating the 60th anniversary of His Majesty's accession to the throne. Students from all over Bangkok flocked to the centre and everyone who visited hailed it as the most marvellous exhibition.

Thai teachers at our school who have children at other schools were heard chatting about how bad the traffic had been in the area and how some of their kids had not got back to school until after 6 PM, so bad was the traffic chaos.

We didn't think our school would attend. Then at the last moment we were informed that the very next day the entire school would be going. A precession of buses would collect the kids and take them to the exhibition centre in the morning and bring them back at lunch time. However, the school had been unable to get air-con buses as they usually do and the trip would be made in non-air-con buses. Most of the kids are dropped off to school in the morning by a driver who is behind the wheel of a multi-million baht European vehicle. The poor little darlings, how would they cope?

Despite protests from some of the farang teachers about it being totally impractical, the ill-fated plans went ahead.

Dreading the traffic, and just knowing it would be a debacle, a number of the farang staff chose not to go. Some simply didn't come into school that day. Myself and a colleague locked ourselves in our office, turned off the lights and sat out of sight so anyone walking past wouldn't realise anyone was there. Boy, when we heard the stories the following day, were we glad!

The buses headed out to Muang Thong Thani and got caught up in traffic. This wasn't just bad traffic, it was truly the traffic jam from hell, horrible even by Bangkok standards. Now the school had not been able to get the required number of buses, so you had kids sitting in the buses on their friends laps, and some kids literally hanging out the door of the bus.

The buses left at 8 AM and returned around 4 PM. But that doesn't tell the whole story. A number of the buses never even made it to the exhibition! They got stuck in traffic, apparently just a mile or so short of the venue – but they never made it to the venue itself. It was too hot to walk the last mile or so and, well, these kids don't walk unless they really have to, rich kids and all that. But it gets worse. The traffic was so bad that not only couldn't the buses go any further, they couldn't turn around. And as they weren't air-con, they could not be closed as such, so fumes from the intense traffic wafted through and kids were passing out! And even if they had required it, they could not have got any medical attention, because no vehicles could go anywhere!

To make matters worse, the school had planned on buying lunch for the kids at the exhibition centre, but as a number of the buses never even made it there, the kids had no food at all – for several hours! So you had kids passing out from the fumes, kids going hungry, kids sitting on friends laps, kids falling out of the bus – and a number never even made it to the exhibition. It was a complete debacle.

Many of the foreign teachers missed out on that joyous journey…

Choose The Short Kids

I used to teach a Microsoft PowerPoint course which covered both the computer skills needed to make a presentation as well as the English and presentation skills needed to present it to an audience.

One day when the manager of the school was walking past she saw some of the kids in my classroom doing a presentation so she popped in to observe. She could not have picked a better time to enter the classroom. Two of the best kids in the class were giving an exemplary presentation. These two, both as fluent as native speakers, had worked extremely hard and the result was a top notch presentation. Both of these kids defied their size – they're both small for their age, grade 9, and did a great show. The manager left with a smile on her face.

Said manager (yes, the same one from the whiteboard story) came and saw me after class and told me that an external inspector was coming to school the following week to check up on the grade 7 students and that she would like the inspector to observe my classes. Sure, I said. She then said she would like me to teach PowerPoint to grade 7 and have the students observed performing presentations when the inspector came in. I told her this was not possible as we were doing Microsoft Word in grade 7 and there simply was not enough time to get them started on PowerPoint before the inspector came. She said not to worry, we would just put the two grade 9 kids in the grade 7 classroom and they could do a repeat of the presentation when the inspector came. They are after all small and the inspector would never know. I protested. She reminded me who was boss.

So, the big day came. The inspectors were at school and I had two grade 9 kids in my grade 7 class, hiding under the computer desk at the front of the room. I was told to have my mobile phone turned on and I got perhaps 60 seconds notice by phone from the manager. The two grade 9 kids, who had been briefed on what they had to do, jumped up and launched into their presentation just as the inspectors entered the room.

These two kids did a great job and needless to say, the manager was positively glowing when the school got a top rating.

Where Is His Hand?

There is a student I've had for a number of years who, while being able to speak English to a decent level, is a bit odd. You see, he sits at his desk, his eyes darting from side to side, with his hand down his pants. It's down there all the time. You can see his arm and it disappears at the wrist, with the rest down his pants. I guess it is down there about half the time and he has been doing this for about 5 years.

The other students never say boo. They're used to him. You see, this is Thailand, and if his classmates aren't bothered, you just let it go too. So as weird as it is, I just let it go. I believe the boy is autistic. He probably doesn't get much from class, but this is Thailand, and if there are schools for special needs, believe me, no-one wants to send their kid there. There's no prestige in sending a child to such a school. The neighbours would think your child was a freak which would result in an unimaginable loss of face!

Anyway, so earlier this week, there I am teaching, when I look across at this boy. Something ain't right! All of the students sense that I am looking at something – and they too look across at him. His hand is not down his pants, but neither is his penis. It is there, sitting in his hand, in his lap, for all to see. The other students notice this and look back at me as if nothing had happened, as if it was completely normal! I glance back at him and he has put it away. The other students don't seem in the least perturbed… Shortly after the bell ends class and I decide that I have to go down and see the head of the department.

I approach her and tell her there has been an incident in my class that I need to mention to her. I explain what I had just seen in the classroom with her nodding away, patiently listening. She has a glazed look in her eyes and she becomes distant. She knows the lad I am referring to. She is no longer looking at me, her thoughts may as well be a million miles away and I realise that she doesn't want to hear this.

She then jumps up from her desk and says, "I want to win the lottery. I've had enough. I want to win the lottery!"

With that she grabs her handbag off the desk, scoops up her keys, and says "I think it is time for me to go home…"

"But what about this incident", I ask her?

"I'm going home now. Don't worry about it!"

Some farang teachers in Thailand are dodgy. Some are misfits. Some are imposters masquerading as teachers. Some are totally insincere and don't realise the responsibility a teacher has. But there are a lot of really good, qualified, experienced, and totally genuine Western teachers in Thailand too. Until schools in Thailand start paying real money for teachers (figure 60,000 Thai baht per month upwards) then Thailand must accept that not every foreigner who chooses to teach here is perhaps up to the standard they hope for. However, it simply isn't fair to point the finger at all Western teachers when one bad apple is exposed. When the locals come under the spotlight, they're not always perfect themselves.

In Thailand it is not the done thing to criticise ajarns (teachers) although this courtesy would not always appear to be extended to Western teachers. But the Thai teachers have their little idiosyncrasies too. They may not get themselves into hot water quite like ajarn farang does, but some of the things they do, as demonstrated by these four stories, make you scratch your head just the same!


Where WAS THIS PICTURE taken?

It was Kalawar Church aka Holy Rosary Church.

Where is that?!

Last week's picture was taken of Kalawar Church, also known as the Holy Rosary Church, which can be found on the Chao Praya River, not far from the section with all of the flash 5 star hotels. 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 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. Please remember that we do have a prize provider in Pattaya, my favourite bar in Pattaya, Catz. However, there seem to be few people in Pattaya sending in answers. If no-one from Pattaya gets it this week it may be time to pull that prize. 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

Thailand education – you get what you pay for.

You touched on a big issue with this week's column: the lack of good teachers and the lack of education for the rural poor. As we Americans say: "you get what you pay for." If Thailand wants to pull qualified and professional foreign English teachers away from countries like Singapore, Japan and Korea, they have to pay for it. While the Thai Education Ministry will say they lack the funds, this is not a poor nation. It is home to some of the richest families in the world. According to a Forbes report, Thailand's 40 richest people have a collective net worth of US$20 billion, equivalent to 50,000 baht for every Thai child under the age of 15. There certainly is money here, but it's being spent by the rich on German cars, Italian clothes and vacations to France. Once again Thailand's rigid class structure is at the root of its problems. Imagine the vast talent pool Thailand would have if everyone was given a free, quality education. But that's not going to happen and, as ambitious countries like Vietnam snatch up the growing international opportunities for SE Asian nations, Thailand will be left in the dust.

A long-term teacher speaks.

Am I slipping or perhaps staying sober too long in Bangkok? If I am not wrong, has the country been invaded by English teachers? The type that carry real documents and credentials. A few years back anybody could be an English teacher and have modest success at it. But now it appears that the educated farangs and countless international and local chains have sprung up like 7 Elevens, one on every corner if you know what I mean. This might be a good thing, yeah right! I'm dreaming of reducing the cost of learning a second language and enhancing the education system in schools. But I have noticed that quite a few of these so-called card carrying teachers seem to nose down me and my local farang friends. I'm no expert in education but my friend from the UK, an ex- brick layer from the Isle of Man, seems to grasp basic English grammar, knows what time school starts and does a fine job of it. I still try to remind myself that taking that last gulp of courage at 10 PM might still be on the breath at 7:30 AM but then again, I'm not a professional teacher and I have yet to find the means of masking last night's affair off my breath. To all of us who were here first, before you paper waving snot nosed farang brats from the flooded overseas teacher market comment on our Thai socially accepted manners, shut up and do your time before you say my tie doesn’t match the beer stain on my shirt.

Everyone needs somewhere to take their holidays.

I spent five days in Pattaya, well Jomtien in fact, for the first time since my R&R in 1969. The place was a cretin's paradise then, and now every has been, could have been, wannabe, druggie, alkie, sex buccaneer, narcissist, those on their last legs, those concentrating on their middle leg, perverts, paedophiles, poofters and every second prostitute in Thailand has landed in Pattaya / Jomtien like homing pigeons. The place is a bloody disgrace Stick, and I don't say that from a moralistic perspective. The flotsam and jetsam of the male of the human species have found their nirvana in Pattaya / Jomtien.

I haven't seen this T-shirt yet!

A couple of weeks ago, while I was in Nana, I came across a T-shirt that really brought home the implications of marrying a bar girl. The statement read, "I met your wife at Nana". It is one thing to say you are not concerned about marrying a bargirl, it's quite something else if you or her ever run into her former customers. It's easy to spot these gals in the U.S., and not just when you are in the Asian food stores. Many (most?) of them still dress and often act like hookers. I'm waiting for the day when I run into one of these former 'friends' (there are three that I know of who are now married and living in the U.S.) I wonder what I'd do, and more important, wonder how embarrassed I'd feel for their husbands, if they were also present? I guess I'm a hypocrite, as while I enjoyed their company a great deal, I wouldn't want to hang around with them either in Thailand or back home.

Please, no…are there really people who would believe that nonsense?!

Another news report here, also by Fox, said "there are tens of thousands of prostitutes in Bangkok, with up to 80,000 of them being children." Makes it sound like nearly every working girl is under age. The trouble with Fox is that while half the population knows they are a bunch of ultra-right propagandists, the other half believes every word they say.

Beware the par yen!

Last week I was at Safari Steak, one of my favorite restaurants at Suan Lum Night Bazaar, when checking the bill we found 2 refreshing towels, each for 15 baht. We never asked for them and actually didn't use them. I found this even more surprising.

It ain't a dowry.

I just wanted to comment that people keep using the word "dowry" incorrectly. In every Asian culture I've lived in (India & China) and even in the past in Europe, the dowry is money that the BRIDE'S family pays to the groom. Not the other way around. In some cultures this money is controlled by the bride and in others it is pretty much payment to the groom for taking over responsibility to provide for the daughter. In any case it is not the groom paying the bride's family. Kind of weird how Thailand has this unique system where the groom pays the bride. But it certainly isn't a dowry.

Just a few years ago, Soi Cowboy was the cheapest of the major Bangkok nightlife areas for drinks, but in what has been a huge turnaround, it is now clearly the most expensive – that is if you do not count Soi 33, which really is a different style of venues. The cost of a barfine in what is one of the more popular bars, Deja Vu, is 800 baht for a dancer before 9 PM and 600 baht afterwards. It must be said that Deja Vu has a nice line up.

For those who want to see top notch shows, it should be noted that Angelwitch has shows nightly in both their Bangkok and Pattaya bars. Showtime runs from 10 PM until 1 AM. The Pattaya operation especially is well worth a look, although Bangkok too is pretty good.

And if you want to have a drink but don't really want to get drunk, then you might want to try San Miguel Light which is available at Angelwitch as well as a bunch of other nightspots.

Rumour has it that there are a couple of ladies starring in a 5 star show at one of the bars in Soi Cowboy, a show that is said to be reminiscent of the old days. But you can't see it every night…four nights of the week, of which Friday and Saturday are two of them.

Big Mango Bar in Nana Plaza is having their 1st Year Anniversary Party this coming Friday, September 1st. It will be the usual anniversary party merriment including free food, happy hour pricing all night including 60 baht Beer Lao, as well as bottle, shot and cocktail specials. There will also be T-shirts, key chains, and other giveaways as well as a pool tournament with prizes and free pool all night.

It may be one of the most popular bars in Soi Cowboy, and it may have arguably the prettiest girls and the most lively shows, but boy oh boy, Long Gun bar really is a smelly, dirty pit. If ever there is a bar which needs to be refurbished, then this is it. And hell, the owners of Long Gun also run Raw Hide so they could quite easily put all the girls in while they do a fit out. So come on Long Gun, do what is way overdue!

A credit card was found in Rainbow 4 in Nana Plaza on Friday night belonging to a James Shortt. It was handed in to the bar management.

Strong rumours, I repeat that word, RUMOURS, have it that the new airport, which PM Thaksin announced would open on the 29th of next month, now will not open until March of 2007.

The Sheriff in Pattaya has been out and about, inspecting and busting. On a nightly excursion this week he ended up in the Covent Garden area where his accompanying deputies went through Club Boesche looking at the papers of various girls and punters. Everything was in order. Certain that he could sniff out someone illegal, he headed upstairs to X Zone where he discovered an 18-year-old Thai dancer from Club Boesche, drinking there with her customer. The cops had been to Boesche earlier checking ID cards for all the girls, including hers. While it is legal for her to work in a gogo bar as an 18 year old, it isn’t legal for her to drink in one unless she is 20! So when she headed upstairs, so did the cops, busting her and the bar. She got off with a small fine. X-Zone, however, may have to pay a much bigger price.

Stopping in at the new Secrets Bar and Nightclub (Soi 14 off of Walking Street) revealed that the soon-to-open venue will be an impressive watering hole. Workers burning the midnight oil were making final touches in time for the Friday night blow-out to which all of Pattaya is invited. On the menu for the September 1 party are bevy of lovely hostesses, a sacrificial pig with trimmings, copious quantities of intoxicating beverages, promotions throughout the evening, and enjoyable music played at acceptable decibel levels. The party gets started at 8 PM.

Another Pattaya invasion is planned by the US Navy next weekend. Thousands of randy sailors will help fill the tills of bars and other establishments that aren’t off-limits to the Yanks. If precedent means anything, the Navy men will have cleared out of town before their midnight curfew on each of the five days their ship is anchored in the Gulf. For those planning ahead, the next Cobra Gold exercise is scheduled for May 8 to 18, 2007.

If bar and gogo girls don’t measure up to your standards, you might want to check out the ladies who will be in Pattaya this week vying for the title of Miss Thailand 2006. Contestants from around the country will be at Pattaya City Hall August 29, then spend the next five days at various tourist sites being photographed and judged. Miss Thailand will be selected September 3 at the Alangkarn Theatre.

I can also confirm that another Walking Street gogo bar had a major problem when an underage farang customer was caught on the premises. At the risk of sounding like a prude, gogo bars are no place for teenage girls OR boys.

Closed for a different reason is Champion A Gogo. The perpetual also-ran Walking Street gogo is taking a couple of weeks out of this year’s murderous low season to renovate. Champion has been flailing around for a winning format for some time, most recently adding – and then removing – a Jacuzzi in the back of the bar. It is expected to re-open just before the arrival of about 11,000 U.S. military personnel in the first week of September.

Phil is out as manager of The Windmill Club, one of the most up-and-coming gogos on Walking Street. An experienced and personable meeter-and-greeter, the friendly Brit was the one behind the bar’s recent surge in quality and popularity. While Windmill still has a selection of lovely ladies and improved bench seating, the place simply isn’t the same without Phil in the house. No word on exactly why he left. His replacement started Friday.

But poor old Windmill had problems on Friday night. One minute the girls were gyrating to awful contemporary dance music and then they weren't. The sound cut out and as with a lot of bars these days, the sounds in Windmill are controlled by a computer which had crashed. It took some time to reconfigure, I guess the music was off about for about 10 minutes and more than a few customers were lost.


The ultimate Thai dating site with ladies from all over Thailand!

Speaking of up-and-coming bars, the most-improved bar of the month in Pattaya goes to the soon-to-be-renamed What’s Up? New management has added a shower and a soft-padded stage to the back of the bar, replaced the main stage with a lower, smaller version and has recruited some very attractive women who previously worked either outside Pattaya or only at Thai-only entertainment venues. The shower and play stage are proving especially popular, as the girls take a very “hands on” approach to their work. Appropriately, the place is soon to be named Play Girls.

Rumour has it that John, the present manager of Kittens in Soi Pattayaland 2 which is part of the Penthouse, is going to manage the new Club Eden, which is rumoured to be opening in the Soi Buakaow area. Readers are advised to watch their bills in Kittens. The owner is no spring chicken and appears to have given the running of the bar to his girlfriend so he can concentrate on the hotel part, The Penthouse. She is said to be robbing him blind. An all too familiar story.

It is easy to point the finger at many of the girls working in the bars and say that they are bad news or that they rip off guys and what not, but there is so often another side to the story. Also, we never know just what they have been through up until this point in time. A case in point is the story of an Israeli fellow who took a Pattaya girl to one of the islands for a week with an agreed upon payment of 1,000 baht per day for companionship. Upon return to Pattaya, he presented her with 800 baht, NOT the expected 7,000 baht. Upon protesting this development, the sod produced a piece of paper where he had recorded what he had spent on meals, drinks, etc. He had deducted the girl's portion of the expenses from the agreed fee. What an a****le.

A farang friend of a friend passed away recently and as a Thai speaking farang he got caught up in it all, assisting with the arrangements that needed to be made. He lamented the fact that he had no-one to deal with and felt that a farang undertaker would have been just the ticket. So, if anyone has had any experience in the undertaking business in the West, I wonder if there is an opportunity for that sort of work here?

The locals get a bit of grief from Westerners about the way they walk, particularly the slow speed, and the way they weave backwards and forwards. Well, I had a funny one the other day. I was walking to the local shopping centre and I managed to overtake a jogger while walking. I kid you not!

The fall out from the John Karr incident is going to be much more far reaching than just in Thailand! For those returning to the West after teaching in Thailand: it may pay to have a job lined up beforehand. It would seem that the quickest way for your resume to hit the bottom of a recruiter's trashcan is to include any reference to Thailand! Thanks to the unrelenting drivel of news networks such as Fox, many in the West are convinced that people travel to Thailand only to molest children and rent sex slaves. One long term reader of this site, himself a teacher for a period in Thailand, took months to get so much as a single interview! If Thailand wasn't the most morally stigmatised nation on earth before John Karr hit the headlines, it certainly is now.

For those interested in learning Thai, an impressive website provides valuable insight into a wide range of Thai language resources available to English speakers. Researched and created by Pattaya’s ProfessorG, the free website reviews and evaluates resources available to English-speaking students in Thailand and around the world. The site reviews scores of online and electronic courses; textbooks, grammars and dictionaries, and classroom instruction, including formal study at schools and universities in Thailand and abroad. ProfessorG allows that his survey is not comprehensive, pointing out that hundreds of resources are available. Nevertheless, his impressive site is a must for anyone considering a Thai language program.

Yet another area where Thailand really is different to the West is in discounts for seniors and youngsters. Half prices on the buses? Forget it! At the movies? No way! But there is one major organization that now offers a discount to senior citizens. You can ask for a card like the one pictured here which will give you reduced fares on the underground. Now I just wonder how many farangs will have a senior card for themselves…and a youngster card for their other half…?

For those of you who like photos of Thailand in the past, here is a bunch worth a look, taken from the '50s.

And this week's Thailand related link of the week comes from CNN which ran a story about markets in the Thai capital.

There is one hotel, centrally located on Sukhumvit, that I consistently get bad reports about, from surly staff to possessions going missing (I have had HEAPS of complaints about this), to rooms including a foul odour at no extra charge. In fact this hotel is so bad that I am surprised that people haven't complained to the most senior person at their local embassy…

If you only ever listen to one thing I say, please do consider this. If you plan to start a bar in the industry in Thailand, hook up with, or employ someone, who has experience in the industry locally. Local experience is essential when opening a new bar. If you enter the industry as an investor and do not get people involved who have some experience, you are stacking the odds against yourself heavily.

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 am coming back to Thailand (Samui) in November. My girlfriend and I have been going out for a year and a half, but only living together for 4 months. In any case, we will be getting married in the future and love each other very much. I would like to treat her to something romantic when I get back. Is there something you could suggest that would be distinctly Thai in the romantic realm.

Mrs. Stick says: Why not bring her back something from your country that you cannot get here in Thailand? Maybe some jewellery from your country, or some perfume that is not available here. I think something from your country would be more exotic and interesting for her than something you got for her in Thailand.

Question 2: From what I gather Mr. Stick spends quite a lot of time in Pattaya. He has also indicated that you have accompanied him down there many times. But he also seems to go down there a lot on his own. My wife would never dream of letting me go down to Pattaya alone. What gives?

Mrs. Stick says: Maybe your wife doesn't trust you? You need to have trust in a relationship and be open about what you are doing, where you are going and why. If you truly have trust, very little should be a problem for your wife. But if you go down to Pattaya frequently and do not want her to go with you then that might be an indicator of something else. I do not like it totally that he has to go down there, but I can contact him any time by phone so it is ok. For me, I am less concerned about him being in Pattaya than I am being alone at night.

Question 3: My fiancée is from Nakon Pathom and her family is fairly well off (nice land, nice house, air conditioning, new Honda cars, etc.). They were extremely nice to me and did everything they could to make me feel comfortable, including some ill-fated attempts at cooking American food for me. Her mother calls regularly and even checks up on me to make sure I am happy. Anyway, we are getting married in Thailand next year. We have picked the month, and I guess a monk that her family knows will pick the day and time. This is all I have figured out so far, and I have had great difficulty in understanding what a Thai wedding will consist of in Thailand. What will the ceremony be like and what will I be expected to do and what will my relatives that go there be expected to do or bring? Thank you very much for any information you can provide. My fiancée doesn't like me to be too serious and since the wedding is so far off hasn't told me much. However, my relatives have been asking me a lot of questions and it would be helpful to know a little about what to expect).

Mrs. Stick says: Let me answer this one for you. There are often two separate ceremonies, a traditional ceremony and a hotel ceremony. The hotel ceremony might not happen in the case of poorer or rural folks who just have one almighty party in the village instead. The hotel ceremony is easy enough to follow and there is nothing specific you need to be aware of, so let's look more at the traditional ceremony. Thai weddings are remarkably relaxed affairs and there is always someone who will tell you what you should be doing. Every wedding is different and depending on what aspects you have, you may have to feed some monks, you may have to walk along a short Soi giving envelopes with money to people who guard gates, and at some point you will almost certainly have water poured over your hands as a stream of people walk past you, pour water, and bless you. You might even have one segment when you go into a bedroom with you, your bride, and an older couple who show you what to do…..well, not quite! Anyway, don't stress too much. You, and your relatives will be told what to do at the appropriate time. Sabai sabai! Mai pen rai!

Man, is the farang / Thai girl scene in Thailand small or what?! From memory I have written three columns over the years about specific Thai women I have met, and who I have been impressed by. The first was about Air, back in October 2001. The next was about a woman I was impressed with who works at a Pattaya gogo bar and the last one was last week's column titled Ploen. Each time I have written such a column, I have made the details hazy, and tried to prevent the lady in question from being recognised, but each and every time I have written such an article, someone has emailed to tell me something about them! Amazing. Makes you wonder how many Western guys your Thai lady friend knows, irrespective of her background! Oh, and by the way, close to 50 readers asked for Ploen's details and a number even sent pictures of themselves and persuasive emails…



Your Bangkok commentator,

Stick


Thanks go out to Bangkok Grasshopper and Mr. Write.