The first time we met, myself and my trusty assistant Whosyourdaddy wandered in merely for a look and a drink. We had no intention of going upstairs, but simply wanted to sit and watch the action – and see what all of the fuss was about. After all the press it was getting online, I wanted to check out and then write something about the venue.
The manager sized us up the moment we walked through the door. We said we wanted to order a drink to which he countered with a question to see if we were interested in ladies. Just a drink, we said. He leapt up from his seat, went to the door, opened it, and politely told us we could find a drink elsewhere.
I was startled, a bar manager who didn't want paying customers! We wandered outside, had a laugh to ourselves, and went elsewhere for a drink.
My first impressions of the Eden club were not good, and of the manager, Marc, were not good at all. He had asked me to leave a bar where I was a willing customer, that is, I would have bought some drinks. Being asked to leave a bar, that's the first and only time it has ever happened.
Truth be told, Marc and I should never have developed a friendship, but the total opposite happened. Marc and I grew to be friends. I went back to the club many times to chat with him and then we started to dine out and about around town, always a treat, for Marc is a Frenchman who knows and loves good food.
This week we got together and had a good chat about life, Eden, and of course, fine French food.
Can you remember that first time we met?!
The club was becoming so famous 5 – 6 years ago, that we had to make a choice. No way to have 50 guys in a so small place, so we just cut off the drinking part. Some guys don't even order one drink. Who cares? The beer is the same everywhere, not the ladies.
There still is a little misunderstanding about this rule. Everybody is welcome the first time to buy one drink and understand the concept, if the guy comes back then he knows why. A guy coming to enjoy ladies can have drinks before, during and after. If someone wants just to get drunk then he is for sure not in the right place.
Do you have any idea of how many shy guys come to Thailand? In the club it is easy for them to choose a girl when they are alone. If they see people watching them, they will go into themselves and never choose ladies. It is even worst when a couple is coming. You can not mix sex and a public place. If you do that, you will always have one side of your customers feeling bad. You cannot please everyone. You are either a brothel or a bar. You cannot be both. Our concept is to always have an empty bar area.
Can you run us by a small history of the Eden Club, when you first opened, whose vision it was, and any highlights or milestones along the way?
Very quickly, when I took it over it was already open since 2 years by two friends (French). It was just a regular bar, when they hired me 7 years ago as a manager, before making me partner a few months later by offering me some free shares. Then I used 8 years of experience as a customer in Bangkok's nightlife to make something a little bit different. A common dream, for many guys is to enjoy 2 ladies at the same time. Most of the time it will finish by one lady in the bed, the second one in the bathroom (or 2 meters away in the bed), then we change. To find the real ménage a 3 isn't so easy. Trust me, I know what I am talking about.
A lot of changes happened over time. I spent my time learning and changing and improving, up to the point where it has become to my idea difficult to improve much more.
Surely this is the most boring job in the world, sitting in a small, dark bar lobby, dealing with people of different nationality coming through your door every day?
You have no idea how many guys have told me that I have the best job in the world. Wrong! If I was drinking and playing the ladies for 12 hours a day, then it would be true. But I am not. On the other hand people coming worldwide you meet a lot of interesting guys, a (very) few stupids too.
Can you give me an idea of some your customers and who they are.
Mister everybody, but we have been visited by : soccer stars, Formula 1 people, movie makers and so on… I cannot say names. You know that. We have some big boys from big business too! Many guys use the club for business too. "Marc, this is my boss or my customer – take care of him!" The same way when you send friends for food to this place (Le Beaulieu), when a guy sends another guy to the club for fun he will not lose face either. Everyone is happy!
So in general, what is it like to run this club?
It is difficult, very difficult. If it was so easy you would have 20 or 30 other similar clubs in Bangkok but we still the only one. Everyone who tried to copy us went down. The last one was the cleverest. He opened a bar taking as a partner one lady who was in the club for over 3 years, but it lasted just a few months and they went down. Then you had the guy who openly tried to copy us. Now it is a guesthouse internet place and they are selling sandwiches <He laughs> Not the kind of sandwiches they had in mind when they opened.
If you really want to take care of everything and do things properly then it is a non-stop job.
Are you friendly with other bar owners?
I don't have any problem with them. Some of them are even enjoying the club or sending close friends. Firstly, people never see me outside (except in restaurants). I am no longer a bar guy. Secondly, we are no competition for anyone. We are in a niche market.
What is the record number of girls a guy has taken upstairs, or out?
Inside the club, 20. An Irish guy! We still have the picture to be seen in the club. At this time we used the room with the 13 square metre bed!
Outside the club, 11. We used to call this guy The Doctor. He was spending 50 to 100,000 baht at least a day throughout Bangkok making everybody believe that he was very rich. That day 3 Mercedes Benzes from a famous Bangkok hotel came to pick up the ladies in front of the club. It came out later that this guy was just spending his life savings.
That's the guy who had 580 girls?
Yes, in 8 months!
That is incredible!
It's true! You ask any of the ladies who are still in the club today if they remember the Doctor and believe me, they will remember him!
This poor guy, drinking a lot, abusing 2 to 300mg of Viagra everyday, just finished in a Bangkok Hospital where some member of his family came to take him back to the States.
I have always found myself in a quandary over the industry. I know that a lot of guys enjoy it and pay the girls handsomely, but the industry doesn't just hurt the girls, it can ruin lives. What do you think about that?
I am not feeling guilty at all. This club gives a living to hundreds of people up country, where the ladies sent their earnings I think that the ladies in the club have the best conditions to do this kind of job. They do that and only that. They are not amateurs, they know what they have to do. They are free to come and go as they want. Some ladies have been in the club for 3, 4, 5, 6 years and so on and this means something.
No one can play with them, kissing, feeling their breast, fondling and so on just by buying a mere lady drink (40 baht to the lady), then leaving. How do you think the lady feels after that? No way! Treat them like human beings first, make them feel good, feel real and after they can treat people well.
If a guy wants the real thing, he is welcome. If a guy just wants to play, there are so many places to do it in Bangkok.
5 – 6 years ago an American guy who came quite a few times told me that he loved the club, comparing it to a very famous American fast food joint. You know exactly what you pay and you know exactly what you get. You come, you choose, you enjoy.
There must have been some funny stories of comings and goings over the years. Without naming anyone or giving too much away, what stories spring to mind.
Like better to talk about an outside story. One of our regular talking with his friend who was in his car was explaining his situation in the club with most details, not knowing that he was listened by everybody (wife and kids) in the car (Bluetooth system).
At one time the club had a website but that got taken down. Why was that?
I shut it down myself. It was at the time of the APEC meeting. Someone close to me in an influential position advised me that it would be a good idea to shut it down.
No plans to open it up again?
Umm, in Bangkok, no more. In Pattaya, there will be a website run by John, Eden Club Bangkok's former webmaster who will become Eden Club Pattaya's manager too
I have heard the term Pattaya disease mentioned in the UK for guys who are addicted to Pattaya, who sit in the UK dreaming of their next trip to Fun City. Do you think there are guys with Eden Club disease? I mean there are a number of readers who have told me that they cannot get enough of the place, and that they book in advance before even arriving in the country.
We have lot of regulars and lot of people booking in advance. Even some guys buying the VIP membership before coming.
What does a VIP card get a customer?
Basically it is a bit more expensive than for regular customer, which is opposite to most places, but the member is sure to get the ladies he wants. A VIP's booking supersedes the booking of someone who is not a VIP. Instead of 1,800 for a lady the guy will pay 2,000 for the lady. 15% discount off drinks too but since we are not a bar it is not really a big thing. The main thing is that it gives first choice on the ladies. Now we have a lot of regulars who also have their own regular ladies so VIP cards work well for them.
How many girls do you have?
We did open with 6 ladies and right now around 40, meaning around 30 and over present a day.
You have a new Pattaya operation about to open shortly. Will it be different to the Bangkok operation or will it simply be a new version of your club transplanted down there?
Exactly the same thing in Pattaya. Same concept, same prices. Everyone is asking me about when it will open (around beginning of December) and they get disappointed when I tell them that it is after they have been in town. Many guys want to be in the first 50 customers!
The club has a money back guarantee where any guy who is not satisfied can request his money back. Does that happen often?
It is not even money back because people don't pay until after so if you find a good reason then you do not have to pay. It did happen but not often. Maybe one time every few months, not often at all. The last time it happened was when the guy took two ladies, the ladies did the lesbian thing and one of them tried to get the guy (still with his clothes on) involved and he got nervous and they asked him jokingly if he was gay and then the guy went a bit crazy and came downstairs. I cancelled the session and he left without paying.
What about sexually transmitted diseases?
Each week there is a test for STDs. Each month there is a blood test for HIV and syphilis. This is a proper check, made by a ISO 9001 laboratory, nominative and computerized check, not a hand written piece of paper. This is the real thing.
Each 4 or 5 months we test for drugs. We've got proper kits for the girls to be checked for drugs. I have had some ladies who wanted to be hired but were HIV+ already. Quite a few. Any lady doing anything (except oral) without a condom is fired on the spot. No pity. They even put condoms on the dildos. When you change lady you change of condom too. There is no way to do it safer.
I believe that you really do not have any real competition. Why is that?
Because you have no idea how difficult it is to run a place like this. All the guys who tried went down. I know why but I am not going to tell you.
It is hard work. What can I say? It is like making a tower with playing cards. If one of your cards is wrong then everything goes down. It is very much like that.
Without giving any secrets away, what are some of the things that you attribute your success to?
My understanding and love of the Thai people helps me a lot because it gives me their respect.
Give the guy what he is coming for and he will not only come back but tell his friends. So many times you get cheated in Thailand. I know what it is like. I was a customer of many bars for 8 years before I started. This is a business and like all business there is only one rule : Value for money.
My main rule is no bullshit!
Is it true that you are no longer involved with the club? What is that?
I have just been hospitalized and got a heart bypass. I need to take it more easy. That's why I put a manager in the club and I have taught him everything. Let's say that now I am more a kind of supervisor, and it will be the same for Pattaya.
Do you think the club can succeed without you? You are an integral part of the business.
I tried to let it go but it didn't work. Now I oblige myself with 2 days in Bangkok a week. In Pattaya, I will be there for 2 – 3 months a lot and then 2 days a week. I have other businesses to run too.
You love your food. What are your favourite places for food in Thailand?
Very good food too at Serge in Le Bouchon in Patpong. Marriot Hotel's buffet and for sure here (Le Beaulieu) and before Charlie's, which has sadly gone.
So the future you? What do you do these days with less time in the bars?
I take care of my other businesses and I take care of my family. I run an import / export business. We will have a car and motorbike website coming, and a latex (clothes) business starting soon, both being done with 2 different partners. I also have a wife and two adopted kids to take care of. That is enough to fill a life. Trust me!
To finish I would like to add: We are the only place in Asia where people can complain when they have finished, and not pay. If something was really wrong just let us know.
There are a few (always the same) individuals who for some reasons hate us for many years and spread false rumours on the Net, always using a different name. It has already been proven and recognised. It is so easy to feel and play God hidden behind a keyboard. I did ask a few days ago the owner of a website (which recently changed its name) to ban any post concerning the club since his site was for many years the playground of those very few individuals. As of today the only site I am answering on is : Bangoktonight, Speciality Bars.
The day people will have to post under their real name and with their real picture will be the day you will see less fake info posted on the net. Trust me on that.
I am not saying we are perfect I am just saying that we are trying to do our best. Nobody is perfect.
Eden club is located on Sukhumvit Soi 7/1 and is open from 12:30 PM until midnight, at which time they take last call. Visa, MasterCard and Amex are accepted without extra charges.
Where WAS THIS PICTURE taken?
It was Patpong!
Where is that?!
Last week's picture was taken of one of the two short lanes that connects Patpong sois 1 and 2. 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
The need for loopholes.
I'm up here in Vientiane. I go over to Thailand every weekend for shopping or visiting as do almost all other expats with vehicles. Of course, the visa stamp in is the normal 30 day visa. Since we're talking a huge mob of expats among who are numbered diplomats, NGOs, aid workers, et al, I find it extremely hard to believe that anything's going to change with regards to our ability to freely visit Thailand on a weekly basis. The form of visa might change (maybe a 3 – 5 day visa) but I just don't buy the 90 day cut off by the Thais after 3 visits. The same of course would apply to an earlier comment in your weekly about folks that regularly transit Bangkok as a hub. Thousands in SE Asia transit in Bangkok, staying a day or two and moving on to their final location. What's the Thai government going to do, lock them up in Suvarnaphum after their 3rd visit? Hell, the Thais strongly encourage folks who are doing an 8 – 10 hour layover to stamp into the country and go downtown. I fully agree with one of your other writers, that the Thai government will have to come up with a clearer way of fixing the current loopholes in the 30 days visa.
Take more care with your selection – Darwin would be turning in his grave.
The issue with the moving girls in (or more pertinently, moving them out) is simply a factor of the type of girl you are dealing with in the first place. If these guys took 5 minutes to get to know who they were dealing with, and applied a bit of very basic commonsense, these situations would not occur – but they could still have live-ins if they really wanted that. It is just that they mix with the bottom 10% of society, and then select the bottom 10% of that 10%. The stupidity of so many guys never ceases to amaze. There are so many amazing and wonderful woman in Thailand – yet these guys get 'in bed' with the worst.
But she's different!
I know my perspective, ensconced so pleasantly here in the USA, must be vastly different from the average chum walking the streets of Bangkok, but I have got to wonder at those who choose a bargirl when the “meet your mate” sites, or even the pen pal sites, are absolutely overflowing with adds from educated Thai women wanting to meet that special farang. I know some fellows just have a predilection for hookers, but talk about asking for trouble! You KNOW she is a pro and will do what she does – with you and with any other fellow who has the pocket change. Doesn’t that give you a hint about her character? Can they ALL really be thinking that they have found the exception to the rule? There is no replacement for common sense, and if you choose to ignore the obvious, you, my friend, will pay the price!
A reminder about keystroke loggers.
I am writing to you because I would like you to expose a scam I experienced in a Soi 4 internet shop recently. I am a frequent tourist to Thailand and was accessing my stock brokerage account at one of several internet shops on Soi 4 in June. The fraud investigator at my stock brokerage in the States said they must have had a key logger program. I assume it is in all their computers since I used different ones. On August 1, these crooks entered my account and sold all my holdings (sizeable) and started buying penny stocks in an effort to drive up the stock price and in another account simultaneously sell, hopefully at a profit to the crook. According to other farangs I know who live around Soi 4, this has happened to three other foreigners they know. The Thai tourist police know of this and won't do anything so I hope you bring this to light.
Does tighter visa control + bombs + coup = property price collapse?
My initial reaction to all the news coming out of Thailand at the moment is to say I am glad I did not buy a condo in Bangkok last year as I was planning to do, as I would guess that the market is about to undertake a major, downward correction. A fellow Sydney-sider bought two condos in Pattaya a couple of years ago, however, as he is a few years short of 50, he will not be able to make much use of them in the future. Apparently, he is having extreme difficulty renting them out as well, due to the market oversupply situation. I will assess the situation carefully over the next 6-12 months as to whether to buy.
DIY healthcare, or Bumrungrad?
I am writing this after reading the Bumrungrad death site story with the hope that if you publish my letter someone will avoid getting ripped off by the so called world class healthcare here in Thailand. I have a heart problem and a very painful arthritic condition. I am too old for insurance so have to pay my for health services. However money is not the main issue here for the patient. It's difficult when you are ill (and you have to trust a doctor) to recognise you are being scammed, manipulated, mentally blackmailed by intimidation, whatever you want to call it. But it's happening all time. Endless call back visits with lab work every time, constant pressure to undergo expensive procedures and if you refuse, facing the intimidation of having to sign a release form saying YOU accept responsibility, not the hospital. And worse, not knowing if you have an incompetent doctor who is treating you over-aggressively with medication that is downright dangerous and not needed. I suggest your readers take a prudent approach, accept nothing at face value and check and double check. I am now into DIY (do it yourself) healthcare where I monitor my own lab tests, where I check out on the Internet every medication for conflicts and side effects before I take it. I refuse to pay the exorbitant fees these private hospitals want to charge and I am still looking (let me know if you have found one) for a cardiologist and an arthritis specialist who are competent and decent people who will take an interest beyond the fee and what pills they can push on to you. As my own death approaches (I am in my 76th year) I can only hope that it will be swift and I do not have to endure any length of time in any hospital wherever I may be.
The coup in Thailand has had virtually no effect on the bars. In Bangkok, a few of the smaller, isolated bars closed on Tuesday night when there was a lot of uncertainty, and that night many people who had been at the bars went straight home to watch it all on TV, that was until they turned off BBC and CNN a bit before midnight. The next night there was a lot of confusion about whether the bars would even be open – they were – and whether the curfew would be enforced – it wasn't – and so the bars were very quiet. But since then, things have picked and I would say that in Bangkok, things are pretty much back to normal levels.
Down in Pattaya it is business as usual. You wouldn't even know that there has been a coup, in fact I'd go as far to say that there are many people who have truly got no idea about the coup at all!
Before the coup most Bangkok bars were closing at around 2:00 AM without any problem, a boon for naughty boys in Bangkok. But since the coup, a few bars – not the naughty ones, have reported being open until 4:00 AM!
While the coup has totally dominated all Thailand news this week, we cannot forget about the implementation of certain visa rules which was a huge topic just two weeks ago. The latest there concerns the investment visa. remember, they have put up the amount needed for an investment visa from 3,000,000 baht to 10,000,0000 baht. They are grandfathering existing condo owners who had applied at the 3 million baht level, but ONLY IF you bought your condo brand new from the developer. We've already heard from some people who renewed in the last two months… they are being turned down because they bought second-hand, even though they have owned their condos for a number of years and have renewed in the past. What is crazy is that anybody can go down to Immigration this month with 3 million baht and get an investment visa, while people who bought a 10 million baht second-hand condo are going to be out. It is mad! Most condos are second-hand – even if nobody has ever lived in them because locals pre-buy all of the units and then try to sell them for a profit after they are finished – but never actually occupy them.
It needs to be said also that a week after the "big Immigration Department meeting" that some border points have not heard anything about it all, including one very major border which is used by many for visa runs. And with everything else that is happening now, I wonder when, or even if, they will be informed of the new policy!
For American readers, the Thai Consulate in L.A. is still issuing multiple double entry visas for both tourist and non-immigrant visas. For the non-immigrant visas you need a letter from your Thai wife inviting you to visit Thailand (preferably) tell them to visit her family, a copy of her passport photo page and a copy although they have been known to ask for the original with the red government seal, but this is very rare of your marriage certificate if you were married in Thailand. If your wife has dual citizenship, give them the Thai passport. The L.A. Consulate denies receiving any directive for any changes to the current visa system and nothing pertaining to the new laws that are supposed to go into effect October 1st. The Chicago consulate on the other hand has stopped issuing multiple entry visas altogether. It is not known what the situation is at the Washington D.C. Branch. The people in L.A. have said that it is up to each consulate, or embassy, as the case may be.
Now of course what is interesting is whether any new laws will be passed under the current regime. It might just be that all of the visa issues that got so many nervous – and not a small number already planning their escape, may result in some sort of a reprieve… And with the Bangkok Post today reporting that the Head of Immigration just got the boot, I would suggest that everything is now very much up in the air!
It appeared there were more people around – a few bar customers, even more oglers in gogos, and larger crowds on Walking Street in Pattaya. That was in stark contrast to Friday night when locals and tourists alike stayed away in droves thanks to seasonal
rains. Not quite as heavy as last week’s deluge – when most of Pattaya was under water and major arteries were impassable, but nevertheless daunting on Pattaya’s nightlife. One very crowded bar was Lennie’s on Soi Diamond,
which Saturday night lured customers with a large and tasty buffet, discounted drink prices (like Beer Lao at 60 baht per bottle), and an expanded bevy of appealing and friendly hostesses. The successful party was arranged by Manfred and Paul
to celebrate Lennie’s first anniversary.
Walking Street featured two openings this week: The 24-room Secrets Hotel launched operations on Soi 14 – just a few weeks after the opening of Secrets Bar and Nightclub in the same three-storey building. The well-appointed rooms – each with free wi-fi internet access and a safe – are available at 750, 850 and 950 baht per night.
Also new to Walking Street is Silverstar, a gogo bar that makes no excuses for being a poor copy of the successful club Boesche (Soi Covent Garden). Located near the north entrance to Walking Street, Silverstar has replicated Boesche’s layout, décor, glass dance floor, and even the spa. However the new club’s hot tub is raised – unlike Boesche’s Jacuzzi which is sunk into the floor. Furthermore, the small, Thai-owned gogo did it all in miniature and on the cheap – except for drink prices: beer is 110 baht, mixed drinks 150 baht. While punters may not be enticed by the décor, pricing or loud, unpleasant music, they may be tempted by the attractive line-up of nude and semi-nude dancers.
Other than enjoying an unexpected national holiday Wednesday, Pattaya was virtually unfazed by last week’s coup. Pattaya-based Thais and expats alike were in general agreement that the military takeover was a good thing that ended months of political uncertainty and perhaps ends the Thaksin regime’s clamp-down on nightlife.
If there is anywhere that has a better breakfast in Bangkok than the Irish Xchange, I am yet to find it. Their big breakfast is truly worthy of the name. I went for that Saturday last week, and didn't eat again all day! Yep, it was good for 24 hours!
MyThaiFiancee's site is back up and running after someone from outside the company decided they wanted to change the look of it.
If you are looking for a truly fabulous spot to dine, You ought to try Le Beaulieu, the latest (and quite possibly greatest) French restaurant in Bangkok. Now make no mistake, this is fine dining at its best. Ambience, atmosphere and service are first class, but the food, oh the food. Dining there this week I had what was without a doubt the best meal I have had this year. If you enjoy your food, and are not afraid to pay for quality, then you absolutely must try Le Beaulieu. As Marc of Eden, himself a huge lover of fine food, said, no-one you send there will complain.
Paiboon Publishing has announced an interesting sounding new title. "How to Buy Land and Build a House in Thailand" by Philip Bryce. While I have yet to see it, the book is said to contain essential information for anyone contemplating buying or leasing land and building a house in Thailand. It is meticulously researched and draws on expert legal and construction information from Thailand, America, Europe and Australia. Concepts, techniques and instructions are explained in simple, clear, and easy to understand language. I bet this will be a big seller.
For our Australian readers, please note that the Royal Thai Consulate in Perth has moved to new premises:
ROYAL THAI CONSULATE-GENERAL
Level 4, "The Victoria",
14 Victoria Avenue,
Perth WA 6000
Telephone 08-92213237, fax 08-92211635, email [email protected]
Have you ever enviously watched Mr. Non-Descript walking down the road with his gorgeous Thai teeruk who was obviously madly in love with him, and clearly had never spent even a night with her hands on a chrome pole? How did that guy get a doll like her? There is one approach that seems to work with Asian women and that is playing the goofball. Yep, the guy who says daft things, is always making jokes, and even pulling silly faces, appeals to many Asian women hugely. While it is not easy (nor a good idea) to try and be someone you aren't, the goofball approach does seem to work wonders with Thai women.
Following on from the piece on BumrungradDeath.com, this article appeared online this week and there is now a $1 million reward offered for info leading to the conviction of the people involved!
It would seem that the same social order crusade campaign that has been in effect on and off in Thailand for the last few years has been replicated over in Cambodia
Traffic to this website hit record highs this week when I put together an on the spot report including many photographs, the morning after the coup. That day the number of unique visitors was well into 5 figures, smashing previous records.
Article of the week comes form the Washington Post.
Oh, and the new airport will be open by the time next week's column comes around. We wait with baited breath to see how the opening few days go… If you pass through it this week, please do email in and let us know how it is – preference will be given to emails on this topic for the emails to Stick section in next week's column.
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: How should I talk to seemingly well-educated middle-aged Thais in Bangkok – Thai or English? Example: I sit in a Starbucks and need to know the time. Next table has a decently dressed Thai man, maybe a shop manager. Would it be more polite to address him in Thai or in English? If I start in Thai, does he think I believe he cannot speak English? If I start in English, does he think I am arrogant? Should I just point to my empty wrist? How would you prefer to be addressed? Why do ALL Thais – even the most polyglot – claim they speak English "just a little?" (I am well aware that I *can* expect English in tourist areas and that I cannot expect any English upcountry.)
Mrs. Stick says: I think it is nice if you can speak Thai and you use it. But in Starbucks, it's not a cheap place you know, so probably anyone having a coffee in there can speak enough English to have a basic conversation. In Bangkok most people can speak some English. I know even the guards in our apartment building can speak English ok but it is not always easy for them. I have to speak English in my job and sometimes it is hard to understand guys from England who have a strong accent. Also some guys from India can be hard to understand because they talk so fast. So if you can speak Thai that is nice, but English is ok too. Thai people will not expect you to be able to speak Thai, even if you live here.
Question 2: When I see farang wearing one of the ‘King's yellow shirts’ I pity them at their pathetic attempts at what I see as currying favor. I have lived here for a few years now and I have a lot of respect for your King. Out of respect for the king and Thai people I would never wear one of the ‘King's T-shirts’ as I would feel as though I was pretending to be a Thai citizen and pretending to have a connection to the King. Knowing Thai people are very proud of their citizenship and their King I believe this would be disrespectful. I don’t understand the foreigners I see in my country wearing t-shirts supporting my Queen. Do they really know anything about my Queen, such as her real name? There is a big difference between overtly trying to show respect and actively showing disrespect. This is why I always stop at 8am & 6pm for the King's anthem in my office as not doing so is clearly a show of disrespect. What do you as a Thai person think when you see a westerner wearing one of the Kings yellow shirts?
Mrs. Stick says: When the yellow shirts went on sale I called Mr. Stick and asked him if he wanted me to get him one at lunch time. He told me he had already been given one at work. I felt proud when he wore it to work, and I feel warm in my heart when I see other farang guys wearing them too. Actually, I think all of my friends really like it when we see farang guys wearing them and showing respect to Thailand. Anyway, I know that a lot of farangs do not like Thailand and just like to come here and live like Kings (maybe the wrong word) here with lots of money and take advantage of the cheap prices and some poor Thai people. So when I see farangs wearing yellow shirts and showing respect to the country it helps to restore our faith and impression of farangs living here.
Question 3: When I was last in Thailand we all went out for a nice dinner. Most of the big family, 15 of us. I made the comment that the group of guys that I meet up with have taken the dinner boat cruises several times and it was nice. So my final night they announce they are treating me to dinner. They paid the taxis and here we are at a nice river boat for dinner. Now her family is not rich. They are nice, simple every day people. I offered to pay or give a tip. Mom said, "No we pay you are our guest." Now is this normal with Thai people dating Thai people? We do that here in the states, but I know each country has different ways with their culture. I send her money each month. Not much. She gives mom 5,000 baht of that money. So I wonder is this normal with Thais dating Thais or am I just with a really well meaning and good hearted family?
Mrs. Stick says: When we have guests we would like to host them and show them our Thai service. When Mr. Stick's parents were here I wanted to take them out to a nice Thai restaurant, even if he was at work. It is out custom to look after guests and take them to nice places and show them more about Thailand and Thai culture. We will often choose a traditional Thai restaurant or something that shows more about our culture. I think this family have wanted to show you respect and reciprocate what you have done for someone in their family. This is normal in Thai culture.
There are two things that bore me to tears, politics and religion. You can absolutely count on the fact that I will never, ever write anything about religion. Politics I am also reluctant to write about because as much as it doesn't interest me, I really am ignorant about it all. But to not write about the political situation this week would have been shirking the issue, hence I have a few thoughts.
First of all, while the whole idea of a military coup may go against all principles of democracy, I question the validity of that argument in a country where the major political party brazenly approached millions of eligible voters with purple banknotes and a smile that they would vote for them. My personal feeling is that things were fast heading in a very dangerous direction and the conviction of the anti-Taksin protestors was such that this coup may have prevented something really nasty happening.
It's funny really, being here in-country, the coup never really felt like a coup at all, and I guess you have to take your hat off to the coup leaders for planning it so well. So I have experienced a coup. Really? It doesn't feel like it!
Of course now everyone is wondering what the future holds, and whether there will be many changes to life in the Kingdom. First of all, let me re-iterate to you that Bangkok feels just the same as it did before the coup. With the exception of soldiers stationed at various major intersections, landmarks and government departments, things are much the same as they were before September 19. In fact if anything, there is a lack of tension in the air since the coup! That Taksin has gone – and in my mind is very unlikely to return to Thailand ever – seems to have had a placating effect on society.
Of all of the people I have talked to about the coup – and I have actively sought out people to chat with about it all – almost everyone seems to believe that it is a good thing. Two taxi drivers were against it, both natives of Isaan, Taksin's stronghold. That's it. Just two opposed to it all.
I don't know what the future will bring, but I'm sure it will be positive.
Finally, let me re-iterate that Bangkok remains safe for visitors. Don't let the coup change your travel plans. The country remains totally safe and you will almost certainly be able to enjoy your holiday without problem. If anything, it is probably safer now that it was pre-coup. So come on out here and have a great time!
Your Bangkok commentator,