Stickman's Weekly Column April 8th, 2007

Stick Mark II 8/4/2007


The Bangkok Effect

How does living in Bangkok change you? Do Westerners residing in Bangkok adopt the local ways, irrespective of whether they happen to go against their principles? Do Westerners resident in Bangkok long-term compromise not just their principles, but their honour and their integrity? I believe many do – and I call this "the Bangkok effect".

The majority of Western men resident in Bangkok look down on Thai men. Read ANY online discussion forum in English and you don't even have to read between the lines. Talk amongst almost any group of Western men from any background. Western guys don't think a lot of Thai blokes. And the reason for this is very simple. Thai men do not have the best reputation for being faithful to their women. It used to be fashionable for a Thai man keep a mia noi (mistress). Some Thai men would even boast amongst their friends about their ability to keep two (or in some cases even more than two) wives. There was face involved, a great deal of it. And so many Western men use this as an excuse to look down on Thai men.

But the question needs to be asked. Are Western men in Bangkok any different?

A few weeks ago I was out at a party with a friend who had been married less than a month. He's a young guy, still with what you'd describe as boyish good looks. This is his first marriage, as it is for his wife, who is a little younger than him. They are both professionals with good jobs. They met in the workplace, not in a bar or online.

There we were, him and I, enjoying a few drinks and good conversation, eyeing up the many pretty ladies in the room. My very recently married friend then makes a few noises about how some of the ladies looked rather good and suggested making a hit on a few. I was a little puzzled. He had only just got married and I thought he must be kidding. No bloke married less than a month chases other women, does he?!

Before I even had a chance to ask him if he was serious or not, he was off, hitting on one particularly attractive lady. A few minutes later he returns. No luck there. Her English wasn't up to it. How sad.

There was another pretty lady and he approached her too. No shame, this fellow! After crashing and burning again, he decided that the two of us and another mutual friend at the party should take off to an open late venue he knew of where there was no shortage of, in his words, sure things. He picks up his phone and calls his wife, explaining to her that he won't be home that night. I look at him, quite incredulous at what is happening.

Let me explain. He and his wife live in her parents' house. Just what on earth will her parents be thinking?! I decided that that was my cue and departed, not wanting to be a party to what was to follow.

I've met many married guys and like my aforementioned friend, some who haven't been married very long at all, yet many still fool around behind their wife's back! OK, in some cases you know the marriage isn't going well which makes it somewhat easier to understand. However, in my friend's case that wasn't relevant. They'd been married less than a month!

But this is Bangkok, a city where it seems that just about anything goes, and Mr. Young Handsome Recently Married is far from the exception. In fact I wonder if he is the norm?

I could go on and on about it but my favourite, the guy I'll never forget, who told me about his weekly trip to the Star Of Light. Just like Bill Clinton, he insisted that what took place there did not constitute sexual relations. "And you can't catch anything doing that", he said. Well, actually you can…

Many Westerners in Thailand lead complicated lives. By day a respectable businessman, husband, teacher, consultant or whatever, but by night something altogether different, frequently venturing to the city's many bars and the naughty nightlife areas.

Wave a camera around any of the naughty bar areas in Bangkok and it is the guys who are more concerned about having their picture taken! They know how easily such pictures can end up online.

Talking with a friend about the phenomenon of Western guys playing around behind their Thai wife's back this past week, he revealed that he played around, but only very occasionally. He said that he was able to separate that monkeying around from his married life and it has no effect on any part of his life whatsoever – and in his case I don't doubt that it's true. He's got his shit together, as I bet many do. But not everyone has.

I was naive when I first came to Thailand. I had no idea just what sort of carry on took place. I always believed, quite wrongly, that the naughty bars were home to tourists, and guys employed or retired in Thailand were generally settled down in serious relationships. Over time I came to realise that a high percentage of Westerners in Thailand, either married, or in supposedly serious relationships, were fooling around. Now perhaps the whole world is doing this and it's far from a Bangkok thing, I don’t know.

Personally, I think that marriage is marriage, a contract of sorts. If you want to cheat then perhaps you should end the contract. Just my personal philosophy – but of course we’re all different. I'll be the first to acknowledge that in a relationship where a bloke isn't getting his end away that sooner or later there are going to be problems – and the Thai way of the fellow getting a bit behind closed doors has its merits. After all, if he doesn't or can't get it there, he may decide to end the marriage so he can get it elsewhere. Fooling around keeps the couple together.

Don't get me wrong on this. I don't want to sound as though I look down on people who screw around. I couldn't care less. Like many things in Thailand it is incredibly fascinating to watch and observe. What people do is their business and we never really know all of the contributing factors that led to it. It's just a bit sad that the Thai guys get labelled with butterfly status when Western guys are just as bad.

But how does this situation come about? Are people screwing around like mad in the West?

Is it Bangkok that does this to us? Did the people who stray from their wives / their girlfriends do so in the West, or is this the Bangkok effect, the resulting behaviour of living in a city where seemingly everyone is bonking everyone and where, quite frankly, just about anything goes?

Is it possible for the average Westerner to reside in Thailand and not get involved in all of the nonsense?

Do guys fooling around behind their wife's back make up the majority? If yes, does that make it the norm? Is it therefore normal for guys living in Bangkok to fool around behind their wife's back?!

I have to admit that I feel sad when Thai women explain that they want to meet a Western man "because Thai man no good. He butterfly too much, have many lady. Blah blah blah." You know the drill.

Are Western guys in Bangkok any more faithful than their Thai counterparts? I would hasten to say that we are not, at least not the Bangkok based crowd. For guys who meet a Thai woman and take her abroad perhaps it is different?

Bangkok has a way of sucking you in, and making you do things that you might not have otherwise done. Many, many guys who have had liaisons with the city's famed women of the night had never done so in their homelands, never even dreamed of doing so. And so I believe it is with Western guys resident in Thailand married to a Thai woman.

Is this fooling around behind their partner's background due to the Bangkok effect? Or is it just human nature for men to stray? Is it easy for a Western man to remain married to a Thai woman while living in Bangkok? Or am I totally ignorant of the fact that everyone is screwing around behind their Mrs.' back, irrespective of where in the world they are?!

FROM STICK II'S EMAIL INBOX

Another one bites the dust.

Yes I'm off to Cambodia next Monday; you know the grass is always greener on the other side. The fact is all of the bullshit has got to me and the time to move on is now. Thailand is changing and in my opinion not for the better. It is going backwards at a fast rate. The baht is very strong and that makes less money for my Australian dollars. Also doing any kind of work here one is looking over one's shoulder all of the time. The visa situation is a lot better in Cambodia.

The internet and the modern world.

Everybody likes the Internet and mobile phones, everybody wants to profit from the fruits of a free minded society, but they don't want to take the whole package. They want to have 10 choices in life, not 10,000. If you don't want to take part in the 21st century, just throw away your laptops! And your cellphone and your jeans. But they don't wanna do that. They still want to listen to Britney Spears but they don't want to participate in a free society where the women can do what they like. They want strict rules, because they can not handle free-minded people. They are scared of them. They are scared that they will be mentally overstrained. They want to keep it simple. Unfortunately, we can not set back time. The fruits of our free-minded culture are not a self service supermarket one can just pick what one needs. To the Thais I say: Send back your mobile phones to Finland if you don't let us hug a girl on the street. Get out of the chat-rooms if you want us to pay sin sot.

How to improve your chances?

If farang men did only one thing to improve their relationships with Thai girls, everything in their lives would change. No ISAAN girls. Period. For fun, as a bar girl, ok. But not for girlfriends or wives! I have friends who have lived here for a long time and more than a few ONLY go out with Thai girls who are NOT from Isaan. And it is AMAZING that they don't have girlfriends who squander money, date motorbike drivers, talk bad to them, and so on. The Isaan subculture will not even let a girl have a good life, because even in she has money, or a good boyfriend, she cannot handle it. She always blows it. When I think of all my friends who have good relationships with Thai girls they always seem to be girls from Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Bangkok, Lampang, Lamphun, wherever but RARELY ISAAN. Isaan girls are for FUN, not relationships. WAKE UP and smell the reality.

Ever dyed your hair in the Land Of Smiles?

The big no-no is bleaching your hair colour in Thailand. I did it once and it came out light orange! Then they showed it to me and said "Wow, you look so good!" And they gathered other people and everybody stood around me and said "So good!" But I knew I looked like shit. That next day, I had a casting for a commercial and I did not get it. Then some guy who was a model agent said to me "Oh yeah, your hair." So he took me to another shop. They tried it again. It was a little bit better and it turned from light orange to light yellow. Then he invited me to his place, which was on top of the hairdresser's. I had to go use the bathroom, but he would not let me go in there alone. The guy wanted sex, and was trying to get me undressed, so I escaped. Another time I was sitting in a barber's shop in Siam Square, quite an expensive one. When I got in I heard some guy cursing. Then I turned my head and saw why. The Thais had given him green hair. I swear to God, it was green! I don't know what colour he wanted, but I am sure he did not want that green! So they tried again, and then it became a mix between black, white and green. I am not making this up. He was so mad! They told him he looked ok. He took a mirror outside and he almost fainted. He was a tourist, but one of those stylish guys, you know the kind. I think there was some argument about the money, but eventually he paid. When he was gone, everybody said he was such a bad person (of course).

Spanky's may have opened, but there are many still sad at the loss of Hogs Breath Saloon. Like it or not, it was an institution where a lot of oilfield and construction people used to meet when they were in town. The owner, who apparently had owned a total of seven HB Saloons around the Kingdom, was said to be reluctant to sell, but needed to raise the money for another project. In the words of some of the HB fans, Nana Plaza has turned – and most of the old HB crowd cannot be found at all in Nana these days.

Nana Plaza is caught up in the middle of police politics and on Saturday night was forced to close at 1:00 AM.

It's true though. Nana most definitely has changed. Long gone are the days when all of the bars would be busy and the whole plaza had a carnival like atmosphere. These days it is the big bars doing a good trade while the smaller bars fight for the leftovers. Apart from the big name bars, the Big Mango and Cathouse also do well, and each has a loyal following.

It looks like at long last we might have Pattaya breakfast prices in Bangkok. For a mere 149 baht you can get a good fry up and a cup of coffee or tea at the Irish Xchange. Yep, a decent English breakfast is available until midday at just 149 baht.

Speaking of Pattaya, the latest (read: Third) edition of Pattaya By Night was released last week. Bigger than ever – 56 pages in living color – the glossy gogo girly magazine features 15 Pattaya nightspots and hundreds of their young ladies in various modes of dress and undress. Despite some questionable jokes and unworthy cartoons, Duncan Stearn’s hottest publication to date is well worth the 150 baht cover price – if for the risqué photos alone. Copies are available online at Pattaya-night.com and at more than 50 locations in Pattaya, including participating bars.

I’m honestly bewildered that no one in Pattaya has yet launched a club called Suds. Soapy shower shows had been the rage a couple years ago, but when Club Boesche introduced its popular main floor Jacuzzi – replete with nude bathers – it seems that spas and hot tubs became the rage. Some new as well as remodeled clubs have included spas in their design, while older nightspots are squeezing them into the existing decor. What’s Up is one of the most successful of the remodeled nightspots, awash with customers nightly. Of the older establishments, New Living Dolls 1 is the most recent to splash onto the spa scene. The Walking Street bar added the tub a couple of months ago, and followed up last month by adding hot water and hot babes wearing suds. NLD1 also introduced several satellite stages around the club where coyote dancers doff their duds and do their thing. Adding to the club’s appeal, bar fines for dancers have been reduced to 400 baht; show girls are now 600 baht, and after 2:00 AM everything is up for grabs at 200 baht.

Why is that some hotels charge so much for wireless internet access. Let's take the so-called best hotel in Bangkok, The Oriental. This particular property charges 650 baht per day ++ for wi-fi internet access. Compare this with smaller hotels that charge less than that for a reasonable room for a night – and offer free wi-fi internet! It just doesn't add up. I am sure there are many guests in hotels these days who would rather have net access than a TV! Reliable high-speed internet access is becoming more and more important all the time.

After a series of successful dance contests, Diamond a gogo (Soi Diamond) will sponsor a wet T-shirt dance contest next Saturday (April 14). Expect the nips to get nippier around 9:30 PM.

Paul, the amiable former manager of Lennie’s, has taken over as manager of Misty’s, on Pattayaland Soi 2.

In recent months, a number of Pattaya clubs have shut down. A number of others have opened. Most recently, Walking Street welcomed Sweethearts, a small gogo bar that replaced the recently closed The Roof – which never really got off the ground. Also closed are Spicy Girls (Pattayaland Soi 1), once a leading chrome pole den, along with the Zoo, Images, Dreams, and about 10 other gogo bars. Club 69 (Soi 15) recently opened and was quickly taken over by the owners of Windmill (the Soi Diamond gogo). Blue Lagoon II gogo opened on Beach Road at the back of the Best Friend beer bar complex. Not much going for it in terms of decor or dancers – much like its name sake at Center Condo.

Soi Buakaow seems to be coming into its own now with the introduction of Hell Club (Pattaya’s version of Bangkok’s Eden) and the successful Oasis gogo bar.

Kevin, former owner / manager of Taboo (Soi Covent Garden) seems to have vanished from the Pattaya night scene. Judging by the number of customers in the stylish club, Taboo soon may vanish as well.

I was asked to buy an original copy of The Departed for a family member and hunted high and low for a copy. In every shop I enquired I was informed it was out of stock. The friendly staff did however tell me that a perfectly adequate copy could be had from a local vendor peddling copies, the same quality and much less baht! It is no wonder there is a flourishing copied DVD market here.

What is this store Orchid Books in the Silom Complex? I was browsing the other day and stumbled upon it. It has a large selection of what look like more hard to find (in these parts at least) books on Asia. Everything was well laid out and there was even a farang working behind the counter!


The best Thai dating experience

Wellingtonians, that's what they call the people in New Zealand's capital, are oohing and ahhing at all of the attractive Thai girls currently in town. They are in the Kiwi capital for training purposes ahead of Mobil relocating their customer call centre from the Kiwi capital to the Thai capital. With no shortage of money, the lovelies are travelling around town by cab and mostly paying for their taxi fares with Amex cards, something they would never be able to do with Bangkok cabbies – in fact they would probably be too scared to take a cab alone in Bangkok, such is the reputation taxi drivers have with middle class Thai girls. So for all of those readers down there in windy Wellington, your eyes weren't fooling you. There really is an invasion of pretty Thai girls!

Also from New Zealand, one of the local Telco companies, Vodafone, has a promotion until the end of June where you can call Thailand for up to 30 minutes for just three New Zealand dollars, that's about two real dollars. That's cheaper than Skype, believe it or not.

At Metro in Sukhumvit Soi 4 they have free pool on the challenge table before 6 PM every day. They also have a "buy four, get one free" beer special all the time. The pool tables are the Brunswick Metros that were used for the San Miguel Asian nine ball competition and in the World nine ball championship in the Philippines. Metro bar is also looking to start a Backgammon league. They have four top quality boards and several good players and most nights you can find someone to play with. Either come down and have a game, or if there are any bars out there that can field a team (four people should be enough), challenge them! They'd like to find someone to play against! They also have a Stella promotion on 18th April with low prices and promotion girls. Over Songkran they will be having a daily barbeque, chicken and burgers free for all customers – that is if you dare brave the Songkran gauntlet that is soi 4. And they claim to STILL have the best pool tables on soi 4!

Bangkok is not yet exclusively a millionaire's playground, but the way prices are going, you wonder if one day it will be the domain of the rich and infamous. The Thermae Coffee House, once the bargain basement of Bangkok whorehouses, where an all night stay could be arranged for as little as 500 baht several years ago, has undergone such a rapid transformation that getting a 1,500 baht short time may only be within grasp of the young and handsome. Attempting to negotiate a deal for a friend, the better looking local lasses insisted on a remuneration package of 2,000 or 4,000 baht, depending on the length of service they were expected to provide. Many of the women plying their trade there these days are employees of Japanese-oriented establishments, venturing to the Thermae for a bit of extra cash when the establishment they usually work out of has closed for the evening. And if you're not Japanese, there is every chance that they aren't interested in you at any price! Approaching one girl who I was trying to set up with a friend, she told me in reasonable English that, "I no speak English, only Thai and Japanese." There was a look of horror on her face when I responded in Thai that Thai would not be a problem and that I really would appreciate finding someone to keep my friend company for the evening. She was out of there in a flash! The rule of fours rules in Thermae, and not available to Westerners!

I heard a terrible story this week of a young man who paid a dowry of a little under a million baht to the parents of his bride, under the specific prior agreement that it would be returned immediately after the wedding – and that all of the money would be used as a deposit on the happy couple's new property. After the wedding the parents refused to return the money, simply saying that they had changed their minds! It should be noted that the groom was Thai and the parents were upper class Thais. No farangs were involved. Even the bride was said to be upset about it. It just goes to show that problems with the sin sot are not always an issue only affecting farangs and marriages into poorer families. It is all rather sad though, that cannot be denied.

The cheapest retail liquor store in Bangkok that I know of is right next to O'Reilly's on Soi Thaniya. Good for those on a budget or if you are buying up large. On top shelf liquor, the likes of Jack Daniels and so forth, you can save around 100 baht a bottle compared with elsewhere. Beer and wine are also cheaper, although the range of wine is limited.

Down in Hua Hin recently, I noticed a local wi-fi network by the name of Sunshine. I don't know just how widespread their broadcast area is but I picked it up in quite a few spots. Sunshine appears to be a commercial wi-fi provider which unlike Bangkok based wi-fi providers charges very reasonable rates – 15 baht an hour, or just 500 baht for an entire month. You can't argue with that! This could be a nice business model and I wonder if it will be adopted in other centres? You can't help but feel that Pattaya is an ideal market for such a service, given its relatively compact size and dense population.

And on the subject of Hua Hin, this is the place to go if you think the bar scene has changed to the point that it is no longer enjoyable, no longer what it used to be. Most beer bars in Hua Hin still sell brews at a mere 70 – 75 baht and the staff in most venues are friendly without being pushy. The bars themselves are pleasant and generally more comfortable than the bulk of Pattaya beer bars. You do not have the crowds and with that you do not have the bad attitudes. Hua Hin is worth a look for the jaded who want to recapture the feeling of how things used to be.

I know that small feet are prized locally, perhaps not necessarily as a sign of beauty, but part of the overall desired look, but one has to wonder about the extremely small steps leading out of Mandarin bar in Nana. Not only does the gradient seem steep, those steps are awfully small. A few drinks, and a big pair of shoes, and someone is going to sliding all the way to the bottom of the stairs – and then perhaps on to nearby Bumrungrad for treatment.

And speaking of shoes, didn't I experience the worst of Thai service this week. Hunting for a pair of shoes, I found a style I liked, and told the shop staff that I wanted size 11. I was actually wearing an older pair of shoes from that particular manufacturer in that size when I entered the store. They came out with size 10 and size 12, saying they did not have size 11 in stock. I told them no, but they insisted I try them on anyway. Size 10 I could not even get my foot into and size 12 I was swimming in. I was then shocked when they asked me which pair I would buy! Get size 11 and I will take them I said. "Cannot. You take size 10 or 12, ok? Which you want." When I repeated that I neither was suitable, they got quite huffy. Sometimes service in Thailand goes a little awry, and this was one of those classic cases. They didn't about customer satisfaction, only making the sale.

One of the peculiarities, or differences, between Thais and farangs is when we brush our teeth. For the average farang (and I am probably going to be bombarded with emails telling me I’m wrong) we eat breakfast first and then brush our teeth afterwards. Thais do it the opposite way around and actually find it quite curious that we do it that way. Explaining that, for example, drinking orange juice immediately after brushing your teeth is not the most pleasant taste just gets a bunch of frowns.

Many guys extol the virtues of a Thai woman as a wife or a girlfriend and more than a few guys have mentioned to me the way that Thai women do all sorts of things for them. One oddity how often talked about is how their other half puts toothpaste on their toothbrush and leaves it sitting on the vanity for them. I cannot think of anything worse! It takes all of 10 seconds to do, and you get just the amount of toothpaste you want. Further, having the toothpaste sit on the brush for an unnecessarily long period of time surely attracts germs. Am I the only one a bit miffed at this?

In many shops and retail outlets in Thailand there is a sign erected that states something to the effect that anyone caught stealing will be forced to pay 10 times the price of the goods they tried to steal, as well as being reported to the police. I am just wondering what the legalities of such a notice are? You see such notices often enough. My best guess is that anyone caught stealing is given the choice of either paying ten times the cost of the goods stolen OR the cops will be called – and remember, you go to prison for theft in this country so ten times the cost of goods might be a "cheap price" to stay away out of jail.

Here are details on getting Cambodian visas online. Seems to be available for most nationalities.

The article from the International Herald Tribune linked to in the inaugural Stick Mark II column last week received this follow up in The Nation. It's well worth reading.

This video link from Reuters is very much worth checking out. But oh my goodness, what was that guy doing walking through the mud, being hauled along by a buffalo?!

Ask Miss Udon

Miss Udon 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, Stick Mark II might answer them. Please do try and limit the length of questions to Miss Udon 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: Does gold have little sentimental value as a gift? I have bought gold several times over the years for Thai women, and have found that in each circumstance the gold was sold, traded in for money, or traded for other
items within a short period of time. In the West, gifts of any sort usually have some sentimental value (except perhaps gift vouchers) and it would be considered insensitive to sell or trade it. Is gold an exception in Thailand?

Miss Udon says: It's not about gold! In Thailand gifts of any sort usually have some sentimental value, the same as the West. What is different is the way Thai girls think. We think that we should try and make gifts as useful as possible. For us, the giver would be happy that the "gift" they had given was helpful. Such as in this case your girl sold the gold to get cash which can help her survive. She certainly did not realise that you would get mad at her because what she did in her mind was the right thing!

Question 2: While doing a teacher training course in Phuket Town a few months back, I began dating an 18-year old Thai girl that I met at a local market. She was very innocent, had never been to Patong before, and claimed to have never had a previous boyfriend. Even after only a few dates, she began hinting strongly at wanting to marry me. After spending a few months teaching English in Cambodia, I went back to Phuket to visit her and in the process took her virginity. Now back in Cambodia, I got an email from her in which she says she is pregnant. I'm suspicious, however, because I only slept with her over a period of ten days, and she had her period right in the middle – and to the best of my knowledge fertility only occurs in the two-week timeframe between periods. I sent her an email suggesting she speak to a doctor about getting an abortion, and she hasn't replied yet – over a week later. My question is, do you think it's common and / or plausible for her to lie about being pregnant, and if so, what can I do to know for sure or bring it up with her in such a way that doesn't cause her to lose face?

Miss Udon says: If you are sure that she wasn't really pregnant then, then in my opinion what she told you will embarrass her a lot. But I believe she must have some reasons to lie about the baby. Maybe she loves you a lot and doesn't know what to do to get you be with her or other reasons that I really don't want to mention. After you caught her out I think she will realise that she made a mistake. But you should not have told her to have an abortion. Because what you told her shows what you want and how you feel about her. Sex seems to be only reason you were with her. If you want to talk to her about this, it would be best to do it to her face.

It's almost time for the water warfare, as my pal Dave The Rave so eloquently put it, that love it or hate it time of the year when many Western residents depart Thailand for a few days. I am in the hate it category so I won't be venturing out and about much this coming week. Good luck to those of you brave enough to make it outside, and especially good luck to anyone venturing anywhere near establishments where you find farang and alcohol. All I can say is that for a few days such spots become a nightmare. That some people plan their whole trip around partaking in the water warfare simply proves that we all really are different.



Yours,

Stick Mark II



Stick Mark II can be contacted via Stick at: [email protected]
(New website and new email address coming soon)