Stickman's Weekly Column April 29th, 2007

Gogo Or Nogo? The Thailand Gogo Bar Decline


The waves started way back in December 2001 when the then Minister Of the Interior, Mr. Purachai, went on his social order crusade with the intention of cleaning up all of Thailand’s social ills. One of his stated plans was to close all of Thailand’s gogo bars nationwide.

That proved to be a bridge too far but December 2001 really was the turning point for the gogo bar industry.

Pre-late 2001 there had been little in the way problems or issues for the industry. Occasionally the girls would be told to don their bikinis, usually when some big wigs were in town, but it only ever lasted a few days – and you knew everything would revert back to normal a few days later.

In just a few short years the gogo bar industry has seen a number of changes. There are more bars, more bar areas, bigger and more exciting bars, but the overall level of excitement is not what it was.

In some bar areas, particularly Nana Plaza, the bars are much tamer than they were 5 years ago. Back then there were dance contests, really raunchy dance contests and bars would do record trade those nights. The legendary Nanapong dance contests of 2000 and 2001 packed out the largest venues and guys around the world were known to plan their whole holiday around the date of such contests.

You don't have to go back much further and you get to the time when cameras were allowed in the bars. A quick search online will come up with many photos of the happenings in the bars of Bangkok and Pattaya in the past. Some of these date back as far as the ‘70s (you can find pictures going back even further but they tend not to be of the gogo variety) and even as recently in 2001 you could take a still or video camera into many gogo bars and capture the action. Try that these days and you’ll be lucky if you get out of the bar with both yourself and the camera in one piece.

The first major problems for the industry were directives from the government which resulted in the discontinuing of dance contests. Bar owners and staff became nervous. Periodic crackdowns on nudity in the bars came and went and were enforced erratically. Some Nana bar owners flirted with the law and those caught were ordered to close for a month, with warnings of the next closure for a repeat performance meaning them being forced to close for two.

Some customers, particularly the locals, started to find the bars less interesting and it was around this time that Soi Cowboy experienced a renaissance period. When there was nothing on display on Nana it was still all on show in Cowboy, a different police district. Cowboy had always been something of a backwater but that crackdown firmly put it on the map and attracted hoards of new customers. With more money in the kitty, a number of Cowboy bars were given a much needed spruce up.

The no nudity rule came and went but for some time now it has been the rule in Bangkok, rather than the exception. Those bars which cannot show clearly take second fiddle to those that do, with customers voting with their feet.

But these days the problems within the industry are not necessarily due to the government or the enforcement of laws, but perhaps can be attributed to the bar owners and the customers themselves.

Before I continue, let me say first up that if you are coming to Thailand for the first time, or are on your second or third trip, and you’re coming for the bars, you’ll in all likelihood have a great time. You'll probably be planning your next trip before the current one has finished. Comparing Thailand’s gogo bar scene to what is available in the West results in Thailand winning every time.

But things aren’t what they used to be.

The first issue is the claim that the girls are not as pretty. Most would agree that the girls are not as pleasing on the eye as they used to be and there is a lot of truth in this. I don’t think Thai women have got any more or less beautiful over the years, although you could argue that they make themselves up better these days.

In respect to the argument that girls in the bars are less beautiful, the explanation is very, very simple. Pretty girls are pulled out of the bars fast by customers. The girls are made offers that they just cannot refuse. “Stay out of the bar and I’ll pay you xx,xxx baht per month.” Figures of over 50,000 baht per month are far from unheard of. “How would you like to come to ____________” – insert the name of any major city in the world. The prettiest girls get incredible offers and they take them. Why not? If it goes bad they can just go back to the bar. No harm done!

As the girls are made offers they simply cannot refuse, the prettiest quickly realise that they are in hot demand. They might start in the industry by asking a nightly charge of 2,000 baht so when a customer gives them 3,000 they know their star is shining bright. And when guys start giving them 100 dollars or 100 Euros for a night, how can they not think that they are worth that every night?

Many guys consider this a big problem, at least for those guys not willing to pay what are in effect market rates! With fewer really pretty girls in the bars, and more and more customers hitting the bars, the prettiest girls can almost charge what they wish. And who can blame them? These lovely rural Thai ladies are doing a job that they really would prefer not to, so why shouldn’t they make all they can? If someone offered you twice your current salary would you say no? Of course not! And if you were a freelancer (which essentially all of these girls are) and you were offered a number of high paying contracts before a lower paying one came along – and you didn’t need the money and there wouldn’t be any fall out from it – would you not make the opportunity to turn it down?

These girls are businesswoman. Don't misunderstand that. Just because they are young, and pretty and don't speak good English doesn't mean that they're not shrewd operators.

The girls cannot be blamed for asking for the highest price possible. In fact they should be encouraged to do so. I actually think that for any girls who really want to do well out of the industry, they’d be better off overseas, in the likes of London where very serious money can be made. Of course there is the danger of exploitation, but for the girls who do make it overseas, the pay day can be quite unreal. A Thai girl in London can make as much in one night as an English teacher makes in Thailand in a whole month.

It is however saddening that a lot of the money the girls make is blown. Many make enough in a year to build a house in their home town – but more often than not they have little or nothing at any given time. That’s sad, but a whole other issue.

I personally find it a little perturbing that guys try and screw the girls down on price. Offering a woman 1,000 baht for her to spend the whole night with you is insulting in my opinion. You don’t have to give her millions, but I think she should be fairly remunerated. Thai girls are capable of counting much beyond 2,000 these days. But this should not be seen as anything new. Girls in Patpong were asking for AND GETTING 5,000 baht when the baht crashed in June 1997. Today, Thai women's stock is up, and more than ever, they know it.

It’s a fine line of course. While the girls should be fairly compensated for their time and efforts, giving them silly money will damage the reputation of the bars they work in, harm the industry and push it closer towards being the domain of the more well-heeled. Some would argue that that has already happened.

Of course the cost of drinking in the bars and paying barfine has increased over the years too. A decade ago the cost of a barfine in major Bangkok and Pattaya gogo bars was 400 baht. It is typically 600 baht now. I think inflation would account for that increase and complaints would hardly be warranted.

Drinks prices have gone up from an average 70 – 75 baht for a beer to around 100 baht a bottle in Pattaya and around 130 baht in Bangkok. Of course if you shop around you can still find draft beer in some gogo bars for 60 baht, give or take. Are these price increases justified? They’ve exceeded that of inflation, but then the industry has moved on. Bars are bigger and better and a handful really are quite impressive.

To understand the prices charged for drinks and barfines, you need to understand the people behind the bars. Bar owners start off by leasing a building. If there is no bar in place already, they then build a bar and decorate it. They have to install a sound system. Once the bar itself is ready, the staff are hired and business begins. The cost of building a gogo bar varies greatly. The very cheapest I have heard of was 500,000 baht for a very basic bar in one of the side sois off Walking Street in Pattaya. Probably the most expensive gogo bar built in Thailand is the Pattaya branch of Angelwitch which reportedly cost a whopping million US dollars to build. It was designed by its German owner and is built completely to Western standards. Neither of these prices are typical though. The average cost of building a bar is somewhere in between. If you were prudent you could build a smallish gogo bar in the range of 3,000,000 baht. That's about $US 85,000 so it is quite an outlay. In addition to the building costs you’ll need some working capital for the first month and there will always be unexpected expenses.

With such a large initial outlay and given the fact that this is an industry with little in the way of future certainty – it is not unthinkable that the industry could be decimated by a change in legislation – bar owners try and recoup their initial investment as quickly as possible.

Some bar owners do well. Some don’t. Like all business owners, they took a risk so full marks to them if they are successful. Bitching and moaning about drinks prices is all very good and well, but it is these guys who took the risk in the first place – and there is a very real risk in this industry – so who can blame them for putting prices up? Still, Bangkok bar owners have found over the past 18 months that locals refuse to pay 130 baht a beer and would rather head to Pattaya for the weekend where prices are cheaper.

So prices have gone up and the prettiest girls don’t last long. These issues are to be expected. But they are not the biggest problem that the bars face. There is a much bigger issue and one that is having a very real negative effect on customers, many of whom are voting with their feet. Attitude.

The attitude of the staff in the bars, from the waitresses to the dancers, even to the cashiers, has taken an almighty nosedive. Gone are the days when you could walk into any bar, chat with a girl for a few minutes and establish whether she was going to be pleasant company before offering her a drink. These days the girls seem to be on the 30 second programme. If you haven’t offered them a drink within 30 seconds, they’ll tell you to buy them one. Not ask you but tell you. And if you don’t, at best they’ll walk away, at worst they'll abuse you. Any guy who monopolises a girl’s time should be buying her a drink, and expecting to sit and chat with any bar lady for a period without buying her a drink is completely unrealistic.

Sadly the girls and the bar management do not realise the damage a few girls are doing when they abuse a customer who doesn’t buy them a drink in record time. Not only does he leave the bar and never return, he tells his mates and plasters his bad experience all over the internet. That bar has suddenly got a bad reputation from what just one girl said. The management in the better bars impresses upon the girls not to be too pushy – and there are a few bars where the girls are better mannered.

The girls are clearly more business-minded now than in the past and for guys who have been coming to Thailand for many years, it's disappointing.

Many hit the bars of Thailand chasing the lovely ladies in pursuit of the so called "girlfriend experience". They may be paying her money but she treats him like he is her boyfriend, in fact she may even treat him better than any girlfriend ever has. Or at least this is how it used to be. It is said that the girlfriend experience is much harder to find these days. The industry was much smaller in the past, and much less sophisticated. These days the girls are chasing the money more than ever – and why not? You can still find the girlfriend experience but it is much harder to find in the gogo bars than the beer bars.

How do some guys get the girlfriend experience and others miss out? Choosing a girl who seems to genuinely like you as opposed to the prettiest girl in the bar is a start. More guys report success in Pattaya than in Bangkok.

What I now think may be a real danger is the decentralization of the gogo bar industry. You’ve got a similar number of gogo bars in Pattaya as Bangkok, although the naughty boy industry for foreigners as a whole is a lot larger in Pattaya.

You can of course find gogo bars in other parts of the country, away from the heavily-touristed areas. Surin has a gogo bar. Ubon has a gogo bar and Udon has a rapidly developing farang bar scene. Guys disenchanted with the way the bar industry has gone are heading upstream to the source. They're going to Isaan! It's a very slow trickle at the moment, but it may gain momentum. And they're not going to experience the culture or the wonderful vibe of Isaan, they're going primarily for sex. Others are turning to the Philippines or Cambodia, searching for somewhere which re-captures the magic of their first few trips to Thailand.

Thailand is all about fun and the sex should just be a small part of it. If you want to have a fun time, then the gogo bars in Thailand still offer that. Clearly it will cost you more than in the past. The service might not be as good, and the girls not as pretty, but fun can still be had. It does however seem that for many a good night out is judged by a compliant girl who will do anything for a pittance. Grow up. There’s much more to it than that.

Of course the beer bars are always an option. Significantly lower prices, a less smoky atmosphere, quieter music and girls who are much more chatty and friendly. There can be something exotic about sitting in a Pattaya beer bar looking out over the bay, practicing your Thai with a woman who actually listens to what you’re saying.

Are the gogo bars still a draw for you, or have the negative trends of the last few years put you off?

Where was this picture taken?


Due to popular demand, the where is this picture contest is back. The first person to identify where the picture above was taken and email me with the answer wins a 500 baht credit at Oh My Cod, the popular British restaurant in the Khao San Road area. If you own a bar or restaurant and would like to offer a prize for the competition, please get in contact.

FROM STICK MARK II'S INBOX (These are emails from readers and what is written here was not written by Stick Mark II)

Hong Kong is another alternative.

In your "alternatives to Thailand" article you didn't discuss Hong Kong. As a resident of "Asia's World City" I thought I'd add a brief few points. On the plus side wages in Hong Kong are much higher, in any sector, than any other part of Asia (although Singapore is a debate here). In fact wages in teaching, banking, IT and Insurance are higher than they are in the west. Rent costs are as high as New York, Tokyo or London, but all other costs are typically Asian (low), especially public transport. Hong Kong has the best infrastructure in the world – beating any western city hands down in terms of public transport, Chep Lap Kok Airport and roads. We have a first rate public healthcare system and education provision. The tax rate is low relative to wages (approx 14% for most people) and there is no local sales tax, property tax etc. Although owning a car is expensive, you really don't need one; public transport (incl. taxis) is so good. HK people are very polite, generally friendly, well educated and totally accepting of foreigners – this is an immigrant's city. The police are fair, inscrutable and fairly incorruptible. The rule of law is reliable and fair, the basic law ensures western levels of human and civil rights and freedoms. On the negative side HK has dreadful air pollution, visibility is often dreadfully low. Further, life on the north side of HK Island can be so Westernised that it is easy to forget that you live in Asia. In short, HK Island lacks the character of Bangkok (although Kowloon & The New Territories are much more Chinese in character). The city is so densely populated that most people live in apartments that are so small that Bangkok residents wouldn't even consider them as a vestibule. However, if you crave space you can live in The New Territories in great villages, with beautiful beaches and wonderful mountains. It's only a 20 – 30 minute trek into the city on reliable public transport. Overall, Hong Kong is a great place if you want to live in Asia and earn western wages. At that level of income you can always hop on the plane to BKK for the weekend if you're suffering withdrawal symptoms.

Vietnam.

I was pleased to see you included Vietnam. I anxiously read your assessment and at the same time looking for passages where you might have mis-characterized this part of Asia. However, your description was quite accurate. Well done. I base my opinion from 7 years of working and living in Hanoi, and having visited most parts of Vietnam. The long term visa situation is a bit tricky if you do not have employment. As yet, there is no retirement visa. I do know one long term resident who has "paid" for his visa by going through a certain travel agency. I like the fact that the healthcare system is lacking. It gives me the excuse to travel to Bangkok twice per year.

Malaysia.

Your point about the more conservative Islamic states (mostly located on the east coast) should be qualified by the fact that there are hardly any westerners resident over there. The logical extension to your entirely accurate comment about Malaysians being much more knowledgeable about the world is that one is much more likely to be able to find a like minded lady here. And it should be said that Malaysian women are not at all averse to a relationship with western men and no one will think she is a prostitute just because she is with you. Last but not least Malaysia lacks the appalling xenophobia of Thailand. The food here is great – Malay, Chinese and Indian food provides great variety. I always say that Thai food is better than any individual cuisine here, but as the sum of its parts Malaysian food is superior.

Farang roo mark! (Literally "farangs know a lot" but a more precise translation would be "farangs know too much")

Although I must admit that in the last year or so I haven't heard it so much, but certainly in the past the expression "Farang speak Thai too much, no good!" was frequently shot at me. Firstly when I was still in Farangland and met with the local Thai population, 99% females, they were not happy or rather extremely unhappy that I could understand what they were saying about their husbands, boyfriends and also, not infrequently, about the "casual pick-ups" they made during the day when the loving husband was out working or the card playing / gambling that they got up to. And now in Thailand, where there is an element of not liking Farang who can speak Thai. For example bargirls, taxi drivers in tourist areas, market traders etc., where suddenly this "stupid" Farang is asking normal Thai prices and even advising other Farang what they should be paying. My girlfriend complains that I speak Thai too often. She wants me to speak English all the time, so that she can learn English. I think that if I am in Thailand and trying to do business here, then speaking Thai is important. I hate going into local government offices, lawyers etc., and then sitting there whilst they speak to my girlfriend, thinking that I understand nothing. I now refuse to take her and force them to speak slowly and clearly, directly to me. I must admit that this does seem to earn respect and way better than other non-Thai-speaking Farangs I see with the pretty little farmer's daughter trying to sort out legal documents.

A nice idea BUT you might have to queue for ages too!

Your suggestion about going to departures to pick up a taxi at the airport is a good one, and the course I used to take at Don Muang. But I've discovered that drivers at the new airport often have to wait for up to two hours in a queue to pick up a fare, and now I feel guilty and would rather reward their patience. On the other hand, of course, the long wait is their choice as no-one makes them do airport runs.

"You falang mafia!"

All this coverage in the Thai press and on TV about foreigners being 'criminals' and 'no good' has resulted in us being called "mafia", "crazy" and other things by the lower end of Thai society all the time, and Thais are suspicious of you, looking down on you! I am sick of being called names by unemployed low-life Thai teens, yelling at me from their motorbikes when going to or coming from work. At my place of work everybody likes me and is very friendly, but you step out of it and you are faced with hostility, talking behind your back and people calling you names. (I have worked for low pay in this country for years, paid my taxes, spent a lot of money and never did anything criminal, while Thais themselves cheated me, stole from me and threatened me when I wouldn't use their services.) Yes, there are a few bad apples among foreigners, but please don't sensationalise news that can heighten tensions. You still want foreign tourists and English teachers, do you?

A number of the soi 33 bars have increased the prices of drinks. You now pay 100 baht per drink at happy prices, which is up from 80 baht, the level it had been at for over a decade. I predict that the soi standard price of 150 baht a standard drink after 9 PM will remain the same. Do remember though that there are a number of bars in Soi 33 where you can get drinks at more reasonable prices. The Office springs to mind.

1:00 AM. 2:00 AM. 1:00 AM. 2:00 AM. And back to 1:00 AM. Yep, you guessed it, the closing times of bars in the capital's most popular farang bar district are all over the show again and Nana Plaza bar owners, management and customers have to expect the unexpected.

Another Stickman recommendation has been shot down in flames. I recommended Angelwitch but more than a few people told me they didn't like it. Sigh, we're all different. I do maintain that Angelwitch is top draw. OK, for those of you who are fussy, try Mandarin in Nana or Catz in Pattaya. These are another two favourites.

Dave the Rave's birthday is on the 30th, that's tomorrow. Swing by Angelwitch and say hello to him. He's the one who looks like Steve McMahon!

Tony's Combat Rock Birthday Party will be held on Friday, May 11th, starting at 8 PM at Lennie's on Soi Diamond. This event will feature the world's largest hamburger which was ordered for the party as well as other food from Bob's BBQ & Grill. Bob's BBQ & Grill made history on July 31, 2006 when they made the world's largest hamburger – which was certified by Guinness World Records. The burger was eaten by the kids of the Ban Jing Jai Orphanage as part of a charity event which raised money for the needy kids. The burger consisted of a bun made in Bob's bakery, 25 kg of quality beef, 2 large heads of lettuce, 15 tomatoes, 4 large onions, 35 slices of cheese, 1 1/2 cups of mustard, 1 cup of ketchup, 4 whole pickles and 4 whole jalapenos. Opened in the fall of 2005, Lennie's is a hostess bar with older music, a large drink selection – including more than 20 different beers from all around the world, a wide range of single malt whiskies and other specialties. It has also hosted a number of wild parties. Tony is a long time regular at Lennie's and he intends to celebrate his birthday in style. Said Tony, "I suspect that my birthday party with a record-breaking burger is a memory that will stay with me for many years to come!" Lennie's is open daily from 5 PM onwards with the happy hour running from 5 – 7 PM. Bob's BBQ & Grill is an authentic Texas BBQ house and as of April 1, 2007 a Bob's BBQ Express opened up inside Lennie's, serving food from 7 PM – 2 AM. Taco Tuesdays at Lennie's start on May 8th. Lennie's will be giving away Bob's tacos for free every Tuesday, and starting then customers get free tacos with the purchase of an alcoholic drink from 6 – 8 PM.

There was a dreadful story in the Thai press this week of a wedding that went horribly wrong for the bride and her family. They had a wonderful big day, attended by all of their friends. Shortly after the event the sin sot, which was presented in cheque form, was taken to the bank. The cheque, for 100,000 baht, bounced. Boing, boing! They examined the gold and felt it just didn't look right so they took it to be a gold shop for a professional opinion and the goldsmith announced that it was fake! By this time, both the envelopes containing money given by guests as well as the groom had disappeared. All very sad indeed.


The best Thai dating experience

In what I truly believe is the most confusing of all of the new visa regulations implemented so far – and don't even start to think they have finished – it would seem the visa on arrival – that is the 30 day stamp – is limiting not just in terms of the number of days you stay in a 180 day period, but by the 180 day period itself. This is a little confusing so please bear with me. We know that in a 180 day period you can only stay a maximum of 90 days. That part is easy to understand. What is not clear is that this first visa on arrival essentially creates a "block", and you cannot stay beyond the end of that block. At the end of the 180 days, you MUST leave the country. You can exit and return immediately and a new "block" would commence. Here's an example. You enter Thailand on October 1st and get a 30 day stamp. That means that the end of the 180 day period would be about March 27. If you leave Thailand and then return on, for example, March 24, you will only be allowed to stay for 3 days at which point you will have to exit the country! It doesn't matter that you didn't exceed the 90 days in 180 day period. This incredibly confusing rule is going to trip up many people and force people who have never even heard the term "visa run" to make a mad dash to the border to remain legal. And of course some visitors to the Kingdom won't even notice that they have only been given a limited number of days in country and will inevitably overstay. Madness, just madness. To really make things worse, the enforcement of the latest round of visa rules seems to be inconsistent across the various border crossings and at the international airports. I can only imagine that the poor Immigration officers are confused themselves! UPDATE: It seems that this policy has been discontinued as of yesterday. Sorry, I found out after publishing. Still, don't be surprised if this policy is enforced at some immigration points.

I cannot re-iterate enough the importance of getting your visa sorted out and seeking out the best option for you. If you are coming for more than just a short holiday – read that you are coming for more than a month – I STRONGLY recommend that you apply for a visa at your local Thai embassy or consulate. I am hearing horror story after horror story of people having all sorts of visa problems and being forced to do visa runs and then facing problems re-entering the country. The visa crackdown is very real. Having a plan A and a plan B would be advisable.

Visitors to Thailand are bemused when they hear locals complaining of price increases. 10 baht here, 20 baht here – it's nothing if you're earning Pound Sterling or Euros (can't say dollars cos that's not worth so much these days!). Anyway, the Pattaya branch of Bangkok Hospital, that would be the best hospital in Sin City, has recently put up its prices for a variety of things. A standard room now costs 7,600 baht per night, more than doubling the previous rate, and quite possibly making it the most expensive hospital in the Kingdom, at least as far as an overnight room is concerned. It'd be quicker to flick the doc some cash and get him in a baht bus to go and attend to you in your bed in a Soi 6 establishment – there are no shortage of nurses down there.

Siam Center has metal detectors on some of the entrances, but it would appear they are turned off because when I (and everyone else) walked through, it didn't go beep. Nice idea, but it is going to be totally impractical for them to check everyone who enters. Shopping centres in downtown Bangkok get thousands and thousands of people passing through everyday and I bet most people have something which is going to make the blasted thing go beep. Stopping each person, checking just what it was that made the machine go beep is totally impractical – at least with just one machine and two security guards as is the case at the moment.

A close American friend was on the verge of making a major investment in Northern Thailand. With experience and indeed success in the guesthouse industry in the region, he has been considering Chiang Mai as a location for a new guesthouse but with all of the uncertainty in Thailand with regards to foreign owned companies, visas and now the rumours that something bad is going to happen in May, he has decided to put off his investment for the time being and take a wait and see approach. With an investment of at least 10 million baht on hold, a number of new jobs in the tourism industry are also on hold. Who said all of this nonsense hadn't affected foreign investment?

I almost had a heart attack recently when I went to buy a bottle of wine. Penfold's Bin 389, my current favourite, a nice drinkable wine but hardly anything special cost me less than $30 a bottle back in Australia last month, but here in Bangkok it goes for, get this, 4,100 baht a bottle! And that was in a supermarket, not a restaurant where it would go for even more! Wine and Thailand don't mix well. Needless to say I went without.

On the subject of alcohol, more and more venues are carrying Bitburger and Erdinger, two particularly good beers from Germany. Bitburger can be a rough drop if you drink a lot of it and I have been caught out by it a couple of times. What I like about Erdinger is that it is often sold in the larger 500 ml bottles – and if you hunt around you can find it in some local bars for as little as 120 baht for the 500 ml bottle, good value for such a high quality beer. And there is something very curious about watching Thais drinking Erdinger – they don't usually put ice in it, as they do with the local beers. I asked one guy about this and he said that ice spoils it. Amazing!

Is it just me who gets irritated when they are reading stuff online and the writer writes the prices like this – $900 baht. Is there any need to use a dollar sign when talking about Thai baht? That dollar sign throws me. Please, please, if you are writing about prices locally, either write it in baht, or the dollar equivalent, but don't use both!

Why are there farangs in my neighbourhood, farangs of all nationality – and they're tourists! Over the last few months, I guess since late last year actually, more and more farangs have been seen wandering aimlessly around my neighbourhood. I have heard British, American and German accents, as well as a few I could not place. Now this is NOT a good place for farangs to be based as it is nowhere near the skytrain and taxis often don't want to take the lengthy journey downtown or to the major tourist areas. Just why oh why are farangs staying in the one and only hotel in the area?! I feel sorry for them because it's a Thai neighbourhood and they clearly look lost and out of place.

Is it just me or are the staff on Thai Airways much friendlier – and the female staff much prettier – on domestic flights than they are on the international legs? I find them pretty good when flying domestic but on international they seem rather tired and disinterested. I would have thought the best staff would do the international legs?

A few years ago you saw little in the way of graffiti in the central areas of Bangkok but now it can be seen everywhere. Graffiti is often a symptom of social and economic problems and a pre-cursor to more serious crime. Check out the area behind the Volvo car dealership that was located right next to the Asoke BTS station which was recently demolished. There's graffiti everywhere.

Did you know that not stopping behind the white line at a red light earns you 40 demerit points, the highest penalty for a traffic infringement and more than you would get for dangerous driving or speeding? The ability to stop within one meter of the white line is one of the things you are tested on when you sit a Thai drivers license test.

Anyone know John?

I'm actually looking for an old friend that frequented the site. His name is John Harding. He is probably in his 50s. The last time I talked to him was probably 2 years ago. I actually met him through work. I'm currently deployed in Afghanistan but was planning to come to Thailand and wanted to meet up with him. The last I heard he had moved there (that was his intent the whole time he worked back in the states). Shane Stonechild, [email protected]

News item of the week is an appalling story about a poor rural girl who was held slave.

The weather this week in Bangkok was awful. On Wednesday through to Saturday the uncomfortable sticky heat was interrupted by unseasonably heavy rain which, as usual, brought the city's roads to a standstill. Even as I tidy up this column on Sunday afternoon, it's still raining. I didn't get out much at all this week due to the inclement weather.

Ask Miss Udon

Miss Udon is here to answer questions surrounding anything that confuses you in Thailand, particularly issues of the heart. Feel free to send questions in for her to answer and get the perspective of a Thai female. You and I may well disagree with what she says. The purpose of this section is to provide a Thai woman's perspective!

Question 1: I have lived in Thailand for 5 years and throughout this time I have met and dated some beautiful Thai women. Two of these women have shown a very real interest in getting hitched but I just cannot reconcile the thought of marrying a Thai woman. I admit that I do not lead the most wholesome life in Thailand. I date nice women but I also spend time in the bars and sleep with the girls there. The thrill of sleeping with new women regularly is not one I can let go of. I don't always get bored of the woman I am dating but eventually I cut her free because I don't think any woman can compete with the thrill of sex with a new partner. I also think that Thai women are great for fun but for a serious relationship I just don't think they offer enough. I have dated women predominantly from the middle classes and I have found them to be needy and very much of the take, take, take mentality. They treat you super well early on and will do anything for you but once they feel that you are theirs they have little to offer and are not willing to do anything for you, despite you invariably financing a nice lifestyle for them and doing many things for them, such as taking them away on holiday to other countries in the region. Sorry, this is getting long winded. My question is this: What do Thai women offer a farang man when any farang man living in Thailand can have a different woman every day for the rest of his life. He also would not have to put up with a long-term partner's moods, nagging, needs and most of all, will never get into a situation where he has to give her half of everything (or more) should they get divorced.

Miss Udon says: If we are together with someone we truly love we will not continuously ask our partner for anything. A good woman will give you everything and she will put your feelings ahead of her own. A good woman will do everything to make you KNOW that you are the only one for her and that she will never have any interest in another man. Nagging and the bad moods you talk about won't happen in a true loving relationship where both people are committed and truly happy. You haven't experienced such a relationship, have you? The nagging you get is because the woman you are with is not happy with you! It's not a true loving relationship. It might be easy for you to find a woman in Thailand for sex, but if you want a good woman to truly love you forever, that is much harder to find.

I was reading in one of the online Pattaya publications a report of yet another farang who had died in his apartment a few days earlier but who had just been discovered. It was grim but you get desensitized to such reports. You read the same every week. It did get me thinking however. For those resident in Thailand, if you fell over and died in your apartment, how long would it take before you were discovered? Hours? Days? Longer? It is sort of sad really that so many seem to live alone and lead potentially lonely lives. If you were to die today, who would be the first to notice you missing?



Yours,

Stick Mark II