Stickman's Weekly Column August 20th, 2006

The Story Of Ploen



Many years ago I played the internet game, that is, I spent a lot of time in cyberspace chatting up Thai ladies. The internet game was my preferred way of meeting Thai women back then. I was looking for a serious girlfriend and I didn't want someone from the naughty bars. Added to that, meeting Thai women in public places was a bit more difficult back then that it is now, so the internet was a fun and easy, no, make that very easy, way of meeting just the type of woman who appeals to a good percentage of Westerners in Thailand.

One of the ladies I met online was Ploen. Ploen was a little different. Unlike most playing the internet game at that time, Ploen hailed from Ubon which was in contrast to most of the girls back then – we're talking the late '90s here, who were Bangkok girls. Ploen had come to Bangkok from Ubon for work, as many from the countryside do.

I'll admit that my interest in meeting these ladies online was not always relationship-oriented, but then I was always straight with the women I chatted with and there were no broken promises, so hopefully no broken hearts. Ploen knew I was a bit of a naughty boy at the time I chatted with her, and told me straight that she was pure and innocent and was saving herself either for marriage, or at the very least, for the guy who she would eventually marry. The message was clear – you can have me, but you've got to marry me. I was cool with that, totally respected her and had no intention of lying to someone in such a position, so rather than meet her, we just chatted a lot online. Looking back, we really did have a nice online friendship. We would chat about our respective lives, from work related stuff to affairs of the heart. We never even spoke on the phone and we never met, even though we only lived a few kilometers apart.

After some months of regular chat, often chatting for an hour or more a few times a week, we slowed down and eventually I stopped using ICQ altogether as online chat really can be a dreadful waste of time. That happened around the time I met Mrs. Stick, and the relationship with her was going well so my reasons for hanging out on ICQ were no longer valid.

I largely forgot about Ploen. I uninstalled ICQ and so stopped using it altogether. All of my old ICQ friends became more and more distant memories.

A couple of months back I was sitting at a computer with ICQ installed and tried to remember my old account number and password, and tried it on that computer. It worked, I was logged in, and guess who I happened to meet online. Ploen, of course. She immediately sent me a cute message saying that she hadn't forgotten about me which brought a smile to my face. I didn't have the time to chat, but was keen to hear how she was doing so I gave her my MSN Messenger ID and told her she would be more likely to see me there I logged off and again, I didn't think I would hear from her again.

Within a few days I was logged into MSN Messenger and I see Ploen pop up online. She sends me a message and we spend the next hour chatting about how our lives had been over the past 4 years, the best estimate of the period since we had last chatted online. We also traded a couple of pics, her keen to see the wedding pics of Mrs. Stick and I. Soppy girls and all that nonsense. I told her that while it was nice to catch up with her, I didn't have the time to spend chatting with her online as we had in the past, and besides, I didn't feel it was right as a married man to chat at length with her. I told her that it was nice to catch up but that our paths probably shouldn't cross so regularly. I wished her all the best.

Of course, the story doesn't finish there. This past week I was wandering through Siam Discovery Centre with a bit of time to kill before meeting a friend, when I see a very cute Thai girl clearly grinning at me. I did a double take, looked a bit closer, and realised that it was Ploen. I wandered over towards her and she started to run off! I stopped, not wanting to startle her. She stopped, turned around, and walked towards me with this huge grin on her face and gives me a deep wai. She was just like a dek barn-nok (a kid from the countryside). I asked her what she was doing and she said that she was just wandering around as it was her day off. I had 45 minutes to spare and offered to buy her a coffee. A big grin and off we went to Starbucks.

Ploen told me more about her life, and I was to find out things I had never known before. Ploen told me more about her life in Ubon, in a village of about 200 – 300 people. She misses it immensely and not a day goes by when she longs to visit her family back home, something she only manages about twice a year. I never knew that Ploen had only studied until Bor 6, or grade 6. Her family never had the money to send her to high school as such a school did not exist in their village – she would have to have gone to the provincial capital which was 20 km away – and they just could not afford either the cost of transport, let alone the fees for the school. She reminisced about the school she did attend, and how she would go weeks without shoes, walking to school in the heat of summer in bare feet, just as many of her friends did. With little money in the family, her uniform was often threadbare and they didn't have the usual five sets of the same uniform, one for each day of the week, as many city kids do, rather having just one set which her mother washed every night and tried to get dry in time for the next day's lessons.

Her excellent English – and it really is very good – defies the fact that she only has a grade 6 education. She has never been to language school and she has never had a foreign boyfriend. She has simply picked up the language through work. But I am getting ahead of myself. When she had completed grade 6, at age 12, her mother put the word out that Ploen wanted to work, and have the chance to make some money. No, thank God, it wasn't what you think…

One of the neighbours mentioned that they had a friend in Bangkok who was looking for a maid so young Ploen, now just 12 years old, left her family in Ubon, and as a fresh faced country girl was sent off to work for a family in Bangkok. The family took her in, treated her as one of their own, and Ploen says they were always very kind to her. She was paid what she at the time felt was a huge amount of money, 800 baht a month. Yeah, you read that right, eight hundred baht a month. Given the dreadful poverty she had come from, this was a small fortune. The first pay check was sent straight to Mum in its entirety, as after all, everything was provided for Ploen at her employer's residence and she had no expenses whatsoever. For the first several months, every single baht she earned was sent home to the family. Over time her salary was increased, but it never reached 3,000 baht a month, not 100 baht a day. And she worked every day. She never had a day off, at least not officially.

Ploen worked for the family as a maid for 3 years before becoming bored of it. It was hard work but that wasn't what bothered her. It was tedious and boring and she wanted a new challenge. The family who she worked for saw her potential and Ploen was sent to one of the family's businesses where she was employed as a telephone operator. During this time she was literally forced to pick up English. A couple of years in that role and she had become bored again. At 17 years old she had already had 5 years full-time work experience. She felt that she had picked up English to a reasonable level.

It was around this time that some of Ploen's friends from the village started coming to Bangkok to work in, as she calls them, "other places". Barely of legal age, they were making the big money that is possible in such venues. Ploen started hearing stories from her mother about how her friends had been taking Western guys back to their village, many, many guys in the cases of some girls. Many of these girls eventually got married, young girls marrying guys old enough to be their grandfather – her words, not mine! Despite the fact that she was brought up in exactly the same village and educated to the same level at the same school, Ploen refused to consider this type of work. She was still only making a very modest amount of money and she could have done oh so well in the industry, she really could have. A little more on that later.

So when Ploen's friends were discovering the bright lights of Bangkok and Pattaya, and being taken on holidays all around the country, Ploen was transferred to yet another of the family's company businesses, a well-known travel agency. There was a lot to learn, with everything from country codes to airline codes to airport codes before she even got into things like itineraries, visas, and the computerised booking system. She was given some basic on the job training and managed to get on top of it.


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

This time Ploen found the challenge that she had always been looking for. She has worked at the travel agency for 11 years now, and is the most senior travel agent. She boasts to me that she now earns more than most people her age who went to university. While she wouldn't tell me how much she earned exactly, she hinted that it was around 25,000 baht a month. Even some people with a Master's degree don't make that sort of money, she positively squealed. And on top of that, she has a job she loves. But it is not just the money that is good. She gets free international travel. Last year she had three separate trips. This year she has had two so far. Last year she went both Down Under and to Europe. And what I found truly amazing, is that on the trip to Europe she went alone. Her boss told her that traveling alone would allow her to experience what it is like to travel from a new perspective. She loves travel and told me how this year she has already been to Europe and is planning her next trip later in the year. All of this is paid for by her place of work. This effectively means that her salary is around 50,000 baht a month, more than most Western English teachers in Bangkok.

Ploen could have taken the easy way out many years ago. She comes from exactly the same background as many of the bargirls, but that was never an option. Many of her school friends went into the bars. But she never even considered that. She rolled her sleeves up, has worked very hard and has gone on to do very well for herself. This is a young woman with a huge amount of pride. More than that, she still very much has that joy for life that you see in youngsters in the northeast.

I don't blame the bargirls for making the choices they do, especially those who fall pregnant at a young age and are abandoned by the father of the child. They are in an awful situation and their options aren't great. But there are a lot of women who enter the profession in Thailand out of laziness – and these girls are hard to admire.

Ploen is a wonderful example of how women from the Thai countryside with a very modest education CAN make it. She has worked hard and now has a well-paid job that she loves. She has her pride well and truly in tact and when she meets a nice farang man – she is looking for someone right now – she is going to make someone very, very happy.

Oh, by the way, she is seriously cute!


Where WAS THIS PICTURE taken?

It was the construction near MBK.

Where is that?!

Last week's picture was taken of the construction site at the Patumwan intersection, opposite MBK. This week's picture is also in Bangkok. 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. I am pleased to announce that I have found a prize provider in Pattaya, and am thrilled that it is my favourite bar in Pattaya, Catz. 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

Loud? Mai pen rai!

This evening I accompanied the spouse for a stroll around Rama 9 Park, which really is a magnificent place. But it is liberally dotted with loudspeakers and they were playing a radio talk show at high volume. Why? As the sound faded from one speaker as you walked along so you entered the range of the next. Very clever, but why? Then we ran into the evening aerobics class and their loud disco music. I strongly believe that Thais hate silence because then they might have to use their brain to think, and that's probably a difficult process for many.

Be careful with hotel room safes!

A reader speculated that a hotel technician must have opened a room safe with a master key. There is another way to get into it, however. Years ago, a bellhop at a Sukhumvit Road hotel was arrested for breaking into the room safes. The newspaper did not identify the hotel further, but this guy confessed and said he got the idea from watching the old "McGyver" television show from the US. What he did was smear a thin layer of his "nose oil", as the newspaper termed it, onto the entire keypad. Later, when guests left the room for the first time, he simply went in and could see which numbers on the pad had been pressed and kept trying different combinations of only those numbers until it worked. It didn't take long. So remember, always wipe the keypad on your in-room safe clean when you check in!

How secure are hotel safes?

One of your readers gave the advice in this week's column not to use the room safes
where you have to program you own personal code, but instead to use the safes at the
reception where it takes two keys to open them, one in the possession of the reception
and one in your own possession. But these safes are even more vulnerable. The first type of safes can indeed be opened with a master key. There's usually a hidden keyhole behind some sort of button or logo. This key is usually in the possession of the manager. But always remember that the second type of safes can be opened with keys that have been used by a lot of other people before you. If the safe is not rented out the key is at the reception counter, usually accessible by all of the reception staff. It's easy to copy (especially because of the fact that in Thailand the keys used are mostly not the most decent ones). That can be either the reception staff or the guest who used it before you. Be also aware that there are spare keys of these keys too. As a hotel owner myself, I know that having a stressed guest in your reception who is checking out in a hurry and has to catch a plane, but lost his safe key with his passport, ticket and money in the safe, can cause quite some problems. Keeping a careful eye on who you hire is more important, because the hotel safe that guarantees you 100% that your stuff won't be stolen does not exist!

Friendly Immigration officers.

Over the past six years, I have made at least 30 visits to Thailand from the neighboring region, mostly for a few days or at most two weeks. This summer, I overstayed by two days and was prepared to pay the fine at the airport. At the immigration desk, I was sent to secondary where an officer leafed through my passport, looked at me, made a notation under my entry stamp, stamped me out, and returned the passport to me with a smile. I'd like to think I got credit for being a frequent visitor who had never previously overstayed. Whatever the reason was (a clean shirt with a collar?), it meant I departed with a renewed love for the country I plan to re-locate to in several years.

So are there any kids called buffalo out there?

Your wife should be able to explain but many Asian cultures believe that being too proud of beauty / smarts etc. as a child means the ghosts will get jealous and take them away. It's one of the reasons there are nicknames for children which are often derogatory in nature. Parents will choose a good name for their children, but they won't use the proper name when they're kids. Instead, they use the derogatory nickname to prevent spirits from being jealous. It's a common feature in Chinese culture, which Thai culture is heavily influenced by.

What an ugly baby!

I read in a book before I came to Thailand (maybe Culture Shock Thailand) that when shown a baby you were supposed to say it was ugly, that was to trick the evil spirits into looking elsewhere for a baby to steal. However, when I came here and asked a few Thai people they looked blank and weren't aware of such a custom. Probably best to play it safe and call them all narak.

More ugly babies.

Years ago I was astonished to learn that well-wishers who come to see someone's new baby girl would say, "Oh, what an ugly child!" in order to confuse any ghost that might be present, also. It's not unusual to see women in air-conned banks wearing their sweaters backwards for the same reason. I once met a very tall Thai lady in Pattaya whose name was Lek (short). I guess her mother didn't want any ghosts raising hell with her daughter. Yeah, Thais have some very interesting superstitions.

Soi Cowboy was ground zero last Sunday night for a Hollywood movie crew. They were filming “Big Hit In Bangkok” which stars Nicholas Cage. Apparently the script called for Patpong but it was too crowded to shoot with the vendors up to the curb, so instead Cowboy became Patpong. When Nicolas Cage was done doing his thing in front of the camera, I wonder if he had a chance to check out that particular neighbourhood? There were notices up in English saying that filming was taking place and that anyone who walked beyond the signs could be caught on film – and that footage could end up in the movie. What was also interesting is that they absolved themselves of any liability through this notice. So, is anyone going to be a willing (or unwilling) punter in the background? Sounds like bragging rights to me, to say that you could be seen in the background of a Hollywood movie shot in Cowboy.

And while Soi Cowboy could never be mistaken for Pattaya, it is good to see that a number of the bars are competing on price. Yep, not everyone in Bangkok is on a fat expat salary. Many bars have boards outside offering beer at affordable prices, especially before 9:00 PM when 40 baht beers can be easily found!

In last week's column it was mentioned that girls at The Dollhouse in Soi Cowboy were dancing on stage in their jeans. This sight can only be seen on Thursday nights.

I stuck my head in the Thermae last night for the first time in a long time, and I was glad I did. This legendary Bangkok night spot has turned itself around big time, and I was amazed at how much improved it was from my last visit, which was quite some time ago. The crowd the bar attracts appears to be quite different these days, if last night was anything to go by. For anyone who had given up on the Thermae a long time ago, you may well find it worth a look again.

Morning Night in Sukhumvit Soi 4 has a banner advertising their 4th anniversary party this Thursday, 25th August, But no idea what they are offering – free drinks, food, who knows what?!

In an unusual twist, Superstar in Patpong has hired a Vietnamese dancer who has really enhanced the line-up. At this point in time she is just dancing and doesn't leave with customers. She is a hit with lady customers with all the Thai women ogling her fair complexion and other assets, but her dancing colleagues do not seem to be welcoming the newcomer with open arms as they now have to try to keep up with her energetic dance moves. The bad news from Superstar is that the mamasan is throwing her weight around using a piercing police whistle to summon tardy dancers up on stage. There is nothing worse then sitting comfortably, enjoying the surroundings while sipping your favorite drink only to have your serenity blasted by this nutter sneaking up behind you and blasting your eardrums with her whistle.

In a continuing trend, the music at many bars at the Pong has again been raised to jet plane taking off level again. Is there some private music volume contest that the DJs are all secretly competing against each other in? There is one DJ who rotates through several bars and is forever playing his tunes MUCH louder than even the most egregious violator of sane volume levels. Even after being told by the Thai owner of the bar several times turn down the music, the DJ merely waits a few minutes and it is right back up to ear splitting level again. A close friend of the owner asked why this guy is still working even after nightly warnings to turn down the music and the owner said "cannot fire him". Sounds like it could be another pissing contest, like we saw in a Pattaya bar recently.

The big rumour of the week is that Club Eden, one Bangkok venue which has a very popular following – and a legion of satisfied customers, will be opening a new venue in Pattaya. Club Eden Pattaya *is* coming soon.

In recent times a few readers have mentioned to me the lack of news from nightlife venues in Bangkok. There are two reasons for this, the first and foremost being that I do not go out in Bangkok as much as I did, and secondly, that things here have been a bit static. In terms of the nightlife, much more happens in Pattaya, hence I often have much more news from down there. And this week was no exception. I made the effort to get around all of the Bangkok nightlife areas, and most were quiet…

Club Boesche in Pattaya seems to be in the news a lot recently, and it is not hard to see why. It is doing a brisk trade with many attractive ladies on the premises. Anyway, a friend was in there recently and barfined a young lady, early 20s, who he found to be extremely attractive. They went back to his hotel room and she went into the shower while he waited for the main event. Several minutes later she came out and he looked at her. Something was different. She then went and put something into a glass beside the bed. False teeth! To say the mood was killed would be a major understatement.

Management of X Zone confirm that the bar is not for sale. X Zone A Gogo, at more than 250 square metres, is a big place and this means that the club can have an empty feeling at the beginning of the night. This is why they are going to make a major upgrade to the entrance and part of the club, providing a premier 'beach stage' which is due to open on October 1st.

Another Bangkok bar can be added to the list of good spots to watch the Tri-Nations rugby this year. Remember, UBC no longer shows the rugby so you have to go somewhere which has either the Supersport feed from South Africa or the Australian Broadcasting feed. The Down Under Bar in Sukhumvit Soi 7/1 is attracting big crowds to watch the game with close to 100 rugby fans watching New Zealand put Australia to the sword yesterday (sorry, couldn't resist).

The year-old Casino Club is staging a Coyote contest and Coyotee’s is staging a caboose contest. The Coyote Dance Contest at Casino gets underway at 10 PM tonight. Cash prizes are expected to lure an impressive line-up of dancers from near and far who, in turn, should lure a good number of oglers. Next week, the same Soi Diamond club will host a bash to celebrate its first anniversary. Competing for punters that night (Sunday, August 27), Coyotee’s will again give away money in what is shaping up as its monthly ass competition. In search of the best behind in Pattaya, the Soi Marina Plaza A Gogo is inviting ladies to shake and show their derrieres to a panel of judges and a club full of ass men. Last month’s contest was a huge success.

This weekend, Fun Town nightspots were forced to tone down their antics due to an invasion of the men in brown. Nearly 100 Bangkok cops stormed into town on Thursday night reportedly to boost the moral standards of the city (and perhaps boost their incomes). Inspections began in North Pattaya and spread south to Walking Street. Not unlike most Pattaya punters, the police were in search of nudity and sex shows; their efforts were wasted. Tipped off in advance, most clubs arranged for dancers and showgirls to be fully clothed by the time police arrived; in better-connected clubs it was business as usual. Plods also checked IDs, to ensure no minors were working in or patronising nightspots, and that doors were shut before 2 AM. By Saturday, the boys in brown had returned to Bangkok and all was back to normal.

The new Broadway seems to be the late Broadway. No official word, but the overpriced Soi BJ A Gogo has been dark lately and rumour has it that it is yet one more low-season fatality. But fear not, another gogo bar has been launched to fill the non-existent gap. The new Highway Star opened this week on the upper level of the Pier Entertainment center – just a few meters short of Walking Street. A large, brightly lit venue, the club has about two dozen dancers who do little to improve the appearance of the vast stage or the discomfort of the tiered bench-seating. There were even fewer punters Saturday night. Drink prices are more attractive than the dancers.

A popular website, Pattaya Secrets, is about to launch a bar, nightclub and hotel. Secrets Bar plans a grand opening bash on September 1. Tucked away on Soi 14 off of Walking Street, the large hostess club will feature a broad variety of reasonably priced drinks and beers. Secrets Hotel, on that same site, is scheduled to open its 24 rooms on three floors at the end of next month.

OK, so this is not exclusive to Bangkok, but I thought it was funny nonetheless. A certain bunch of people staying at a certain newly opened top-end hotel in Sukhumvit are causing the management all sorts of problems. They stay in the bigger rooms, usually the suites, and at some time during their stay they go out to the market and buy cheap sets of sheets and pillows. They take these back to the hotel and swap them with the good stuff the hotel uses. When they go to check out, all of the good stuff is packed away in their luggage. The management has become aware of the problem and when this lot check out the chambermaids have to verify that the bedding is the good stuff! Don't worry, if you're farang, you won't be suspected of this. It's another lot up to this trick.

45 teachers are needed for a special teaching project. This could be one way to find out if the teaching industry in Thailand is for you. You'll get paid $3,000, get a FREE TESOL certificate worth $1,590 & take a 5-month adventure holiday in Thailand. The scheduled program dates are 25 September 2006 through to 28 February 2007. Anyone interested should plan to arrive no later than 23 September. The benefits include free airport pick up from Bangkok and transfer to school, a TESOL certificate course from one of the world’s largest course providers, – TEFL International, beginning 25 September in Ban Phe. You get to work in a school in Thailand for 4 months earning 30,000 baht per month + housing. There are many locations to choose from all over Thailand. You can apply online here where you will have to pay $200 as a non-refundable deposit. This is open to native English speakers from the following countries only – USA, Canada, UK, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa.

Ko Samui and particularly Ko Phangan are two islands very popular with young Israeli tourists – who have often just finished their military service. This year a lot of Lebanese from Sydney, Australia, decided against returning to their homeland for holidays and went to the south of Thailand instead. I just hope they didn't go to Samui or Phangan or there might have been some fireworks.

A reader has a suggestion about the 90 day reporting or any other immigration problem that people might have. If you go to the one-stop office of the labor and immigration departments, located next to the labor department, you will find an empty room with some officials who seemingly have few customers during the day. No waiting. At least, said reader reports he has never had to wait and has never seen anyone else there. Depending on where you are, the location may be more convenient than the Suan Plu location. It's a short bus ride from (and a short walk from the bus stop) Victory Monument.

I was at a flash hotel buffet recently and can you believe it, they charged for water? I will not shame the establishment in question, but thought this to be a bit questionable. What will be next – charging you to use their knives and forks?! And let’s clarify this, it was standard Thailand bottled water, the sort of water that goes for 5 baht a bottle, not the likes that is imported from the alps of France. Hmmm…

It looks like the cost of petrol in Thailand is not just hitting the locals, but hitting farangs too. In the last week two guys I know have made the decision to get their vehicle converted so as to be able to run it on gas, and not just petrol. The conversion costs around 20,000 baht, and once converted, the vehicle can run on gas, which goes for less than 10 baht a litre, compared to petrol, which is currently around the 30 baht a litre mark.

Quote of the week overheard in a bar. "You farang have big money, why you have ugly girl?!"

In this week's news link, a suspected killer in the US flees to and hides out in Thailand. And another report with a hugely erroneous quote. "The new visa allowed Mr. Karr to live and work in Bangkok, the capital of Asia's sex trade and a haven for thousands of Western pedophiles, without the need for three-monthly visa runs." More on all of his at the end of the column.

Fox News' headline will not please anyone in Thailand with them titling a video news report on the whole incident, "Pedophile Paradise". Within seconds of the video clip beginning they talk about what they call Thailand's "lucrative child sex industry", calling it a billion dollar industry. With hugely erroneous information, they talked about 4 or 5 year olds being trafficked in and out of Bangkok. WTF?! They said these children get taken to the painter bars in Washington Square in downtown Bangkok. This was what they said. They obviously mean the bars of Sukhumvit Soi 33. Well, I have never seen, nor heard of any ladies under 18 there – in fact most are much older. And when they mention Washington Square, hell, in some bars the average age of the bargirls is older than me – and I'm no spring chicken! It is all a load of complete and utter BULLSHIT. They then go on to speculate that the only reason that people go to Thailand is for the sex industry. This is without a doubt the worst, most inaccurate report I have EVER heard about the subject of prostitution in Thailand. A disgrace from Fox News.

Talk in the press is that there will be extra steps put in place to check the background of foreigners applying for teaching jobs in Thailand. The checks they refer to are checks with the local police here in Thailand, which would presumably only show up any offences committed here in Thailand, and it is therefore unlikely that anything would be revealed. I mean, if someone had committed a serious crime in Thailand then they almost certainly would have been deported from the country already and wouldn't be there in the first place. And contacting authorities in the West won't result in any info being divulged with most countries having fairly strong privacy laws in place. It all seems rather flawed to me. On top of this, what they do need to be careful of is that there is already so much paperwork and red tape already. Add to that the fact that salaries paid to foreigners teaching here really are on the low side. If they make it much more difficult for foreigners to teach in Thailand then it will just become too much of a chore and teachers will go elsewhere. Thailand needs foreign teachers. While every effort should be made to prevent people not suited to the industry from teaching, this has to be managed very carefully.

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: Over the last 6 months, my Isaan girlfriend of almost 2 years has been living with me in my homeland. During this time she became pregnant. When we returned to Thailand, she insisted that I return with her to her home village, to meet the parents, etc. During this visit, a ceremony was arranged that she could only describe as a 'good luck ceremony'. We sat by a thing that looked like a small Christmas tree, with hundreds of pieces of white string hung on it. A man arrived that I hadn't seen before and started speaking a lot and doing things that I can't really remember, but during this time, her father stuffed some money in his shirt pocket. After this, everyone in the room, probably three quarters of the village, came over and took the strands of string and tied one on my wrist and another on my girlfriend's wrist. At the end I had 50 – 60 pieces of string tied on me. Once the ceremony was over the food came out and we all sat and ate. The men then disappeared downstairs to open the truckload of Thai whiskey I had bought a few days before. My question is, what did it all mean? Are we married? I certainly didn't sign anything but I did kick in the seemingly statutory 100K ' sin sot' just to keep the peace.

Mrs. Stick says: I cannot understand some guys who send questions to me. You go to a ceremony and pay what really is a lot of money, go through a major ceremony, and then later send me an email asking me what it was all about? Are you crazy? What you just went through was a spiritual exorcising ceremony, a ceremony where your girlfriend must have told someone in her family that you are the spawn of the devil and that these spirits need to be exorcised from you. Ok, I'll be serious now. What you went through is effectively an engagement ceremony. You are now engaged. Congratulations.

Question 2: I have a great girlfriend. I trust her, and she has her own business, her own car, and her own money. She comes from a good family. If we get married, she told me that I would probably be expected to give a dowry of around one million baht. She said that unlike a middle-class or poor family that would keep the dowry to help the family, the dowry that I paid would be invested by her father for our future. He would give it back to us within a year. I do trust her, but in your opinion, is this a reasonable dowry, and do you think that if the family is already wealthy, her father would likely give it back to us? They already have a house and several cars worth at least a million baht anyway. I'm not rich, and a million baht is about all I have.

Mrs. Stick says: From the way you describe the family, one million baht may be a fair amount for them to expect to be paid for the dowry for their daughter. If your girlfriend was to marry a Thai man I am guessing that this is the same amount they would ask for from him. However, you say that that is all the money you have. You should not be asked to give more than you can afford. I recommend that when you have the meeting to formally discuss this that you take along a senior Thai friend or colleague who knows your situation well and who can talk on your behalf.


We are all feeling like a bunch of scum at the moment, with what is being said about us in some corners of the errant Western press. Bangkok is once again getting a really bad rap, and the generalisations are flowing fast. Sure, Bangkok is far from perfect and there are some mighty unusual, and even some downright questionable things that not just take place here, but are the norm, but for sure, when so-called respected Western newswires say that the city is home to thousands of Western pedophiles they really are speaking out of their backside. The line between the sex industry and child sex is being blurred and they are lumping it all together. It needs to be put on record that the vast majority of Westerners in Bangkok despise pedophiles as much as anyone, and what is being said in the press here about Bangkok being a pedophile paradise and the proliferation of Western pedophiles here is a complete and utter misrepresentation.



Your Bangkok commentator,

Stick

Thanks go out to Mr. Write, John K, Bangkok Grasshopper and Claymore.