It's a holiday weekend and I intend to enjoy myself and make the most of my time off. With that in mind, there is no opening piece this week and the column is much shorter than usual. I confess, this week's effort was something of a rush job. Normal service resumes next week.
Stick Mark II
Where was this picture taken?
Last week's picture was taken of Soi Kasemsan 1, the soi next to the National Stadium skytrain station, opposite MBK Shopping Centre. The first person to email me with the correct answer wins a 500 baht credit at Oh My Cod. I am afraid I have cancelled the other prizes as people in Hua Hin or Pattaya simply weren't claiming them.
FROM STICK MARK II'S INBOX (These are emails from readers and what is written here was not written by Stick Mark II)
EMAIL OF THE WEEK – Thailand handicapped unfriendly?
Yet another thing about Thailand that the two-week tourists usually don't see, instead skimming the surface of the country and not seeing the scum underneath. I remember being absolutely disgusted once when I witnessed a cripple on a pedestrian bridge at Victory Monument, with three girls just standing there laughing at him. What kind of society raises people like that? It's absolutely staggering. No wonder the government does nothing to help the handicapped if that is the way people react to cripples. I have an old school friend from Britain who I recently met up with again after 42 years. He had polio as a kid and walked with two sticks, but that didn't stop us being friends back then. Since, he has become a successful accountant and a magistrate and he has travelled all over the world in a wheelchair, and designed his own house to include a lift. He visited Thailand and was disgusted at how difficult it was for him to get around. Almost impossible, of course. Even if he could get his wheelchair off the pavement to cross the road most cars refused to stop, and he left the country wondering at the selfishness of the people in the so-called Land of Smiles.
The ready made family awaits you.
I really have to react to When It All Goes Horribly Wrong. I have live in the Thai countryside for about 8 years in Chainat. It is very hard for me to believe that a poo yai barn is against its own people. The moment you decide to live in the Thai country side you only have friends. Your wife, your family, your 'yart pee nong' and indeed your 'poo yai barn' will help you with whatever problem you have. Also the kamnan in your district will be happy to help you with whatever problem you have. I think the story I read is only part of the real story. He, or probably she, must have done something very wrong to upset this 'chief', the Thai police or the mayor. To say it bluntly: I don't believe it. Must be more about it. This cannot be the whole story.
How much face?
For a nation that seems so pre-occupied and obsessed with face, have they at the end of the day achieved this? The nearest analogy to this prerequisite would be respect, so how much face have the Thais achieved in your eyes? Who, how and why have they earned this accolade? Does their face extend outside of their borders, international face for instance, do the other members of ASEAN respect the Thais?
UBC to increase fees?
There’s a huge jump this year in Premiership revenues from overseas TV companies – it means next year’s bottom club in the Premiership gets GBP29 million – 1 million less than Manchester got for winning it last season! We’ve experienced it here in the Middle East, where Showtime has just paid $200 million for three years exclusive rights. All of our pirate TV shops are being raided and closed down, because they have to get that money back somewhere. So if UBC or True are making people pay extra, it’s because their expenses just went up significantly and they have to get the money back somewhere.
Cambodia a quarter the price of Thailand?
An outing to a couple of gogo bars on Soi Cowboy made me wonder how long tourists will put up with the prices. A small glass of coke for their ‘public relations’ girls in Our Place, for example, costs 120 baht while costing the bar 4 baht at most. Okay, these places need a mark-up of course, but that really is taking the piss. A similar drink in Cambodia or Vietnam would set you back one quarter of that. That means four times the drinks for your friend, four times the time you spend with her for what you’d get on Cowboy. Another trick in another bar is for girls to ask for a coke to wash down the tequila. Two drinks to pay for instead of one. No thanks.
I feel it is necessary to warn travellers about a conman. He operates in the Banglamphu area and targets young travellers, either on their own or in small groups. He asks for money so he can stay a few more days whilst waiting for his bank card and passport to be sent to him so he can book a flight back to England. He told me that the previous night he'd been drugged by a Thai girl and woke up in his guesthouse room with absolutely nothing except the clothes that he had on. She took everything, his clothes, wallet and passport, he told me. Being fairly new to Thailand my friends and me (there were 5 of us) each gave him 100 baht and wished him good luck. He is quite an actor and I was really taken in by his story. We saw him the following 2 nights at Khao San Road doing the same thing – asking travellers for money and telling them his sob story. I noticed that every time we saw him he was either drunk or drinking some form of alcohol. I asked him how he was and he said he was a little hungry but due to pick up his passport form the British embassy the following day. I then gave him 500 baht for a couple more nights' accommodation and my friend gave him 200 baht for the taxi to the embassy. A few days later we saw him eating at Sizzler with a stunning Thai girl. She looked expensive. We stayed and waited until he got the bill, sure enough it was him that paid for the meal. Me and my friends then travelled in Vietnam for 3 weeks and when we came back to Bangkok, there he was again, still conning people! The cheek of it! One couple did not believe him and refused to give him anything and he became quite a nuisance. After he left I asked the young couple what he'd told them and it was the same story he'd told me more than 3 weeks ago. I am now back from my travels but I am told by a mate who is still in Bangkok that the man is still there on the grab and he was last seen in Soi Rambutri with two bottles of Jack Daniels.
The Hollywood bars in Nana are in something of a state with staff leaving left, right and centre, with one of the major reasons for their departure being paid late. This bar is now in the industry's vicious circle whereby they don't have many customers, so the staff are leaving, and with fewer staff even less customers come!
Despite the bars open quite late some nights, Bangkok's bars are very quiet. At 9:30 PM on Friday night Mercury Bar in Nana, quite a pleasant bar actually, had the grand total of 3 customers. Mandarin was also very quiet as were most bars.
Hell Club in Pattaya has a new manager and Jacko is no longer to be found there.
People are talking about Pattaya Slim, a high class jaunt in Fun City where drinks can set you back 250 baht. Apparently the barfines are a little bit like shopping in a high class boutique – if you have to ask the price, you probably can't afford it. The staff are said to be of the white-skinned variety meaning that you may well find a few Thais guys in there.
It always makes me laugh when the staff in the bars get all shirty when you ask for separate bills for each customer. What they should realise is that with more bills, they will probably get more in tips – with each person now paying a tip, something which does not always happen when there is one large bill shared by a bunch of guys.
Down in Patpong Beach in the heart of Phuket's tourism industry it is said that there is a glut of ladyboys hanging out on Bangla Road and the numbers of them freelancing is multiplying. Late some nights there are armies of them approaching guys, grabbing at their arms and generally making a nuisance of themselves. Add to this the tailor's shop touts, the ping pong show touts (yes, they still exist), the cigarette and trinket hawkers and the beggars and what was once a pleasant walking street has become an obstacle course.
The naughty bars are going through a very quiet period, hurting as they always do at this time each year, but this year (is this said every year?) things do seem to be worse than the past. So, the question to readers is this: If the naughty bars lowered drinks prices would you go out (more often) or would it not make any difference to you. I cannot help but think that there were two waves of changes which put punters off the bars. The first was the round of price rises and the second was the more mercenary attitudes of the staff. Prices seem stable for the time being although some bars are entering into the spirit of things by lowering prices at happy hour or doing promotions. But in all truth and honesty, would lower prices entice you into the bars more? For me, the answer is an absolute no. While I may bitch and moan about paying 140 baht for a beer, that is less of a concern than other things.
The trend of 5 star hotels hiking the prices of their buffet dinners continues. Less than 3 years ago, the Sheraton Grande charged a reasonable 840 baht for their dinner buffet but these days it is up to 1,150 baht. Add the obligatory couple of pluses to the price and you're now parting with in excess of 1,300 baht, hardly the good deal it once was.
We have a missing person report. The man in question is John Michael Malyn, aged about 43, Australian (of Scottish descent), single, a construction worker who likes a drink and has a beer gut. He was on holiday in Bangkok until June 10, staying with his
mother and sister at the Viengthai Hotel, near Khao San Road. He disappeared from that day and has not been seen nor heard from since. Anybody knowing anything please contact Alan Robertson on 074-428470.
For our numerous readers in LA, here is some good news. The finest beer from these parts, Beer Lao, is available in your neck of the woods. For those in the LA area, the grocery store with the large spirit offering in front, on Hollywood Boulevard in Thaitown, is the place to visit. Yes, Beer Lao is worth going out of your way for! The Thai Temple is the pride and joy of Thai people in America. So, maybe this is the natural first city they would introduce this product? With that said, Thaitown is becoming a bit seedy these days.
I forgot to include this in last week's column so it is a little old now, but is still a puzzling story. A friend was sitting in Soi 8, Pattaya, waiting for a burger when he sees this farang handcuffed. The police release the cuffs and the farang offs across the soi smashing his fist into somebody! The police go back and handcuff him again, then drag him with his legs on his bum across the soi where he's now looking rather sorry for himself in his rather drunken state. Another farang with too much drink, I guess – but why did the coppers release the handcuffs?
Two friends lost their jobs in Thailand this past week. Getting laid off by your employer in Thailand guarantees you to severance pay level outlined in the labour law. 4 months to 12 months employment gets you one month’s pay, 1 to 3 years gets you three months, 3 years to 6 years gets you 6 months, 6 – 10 years gets you 8 months and more than 10 years gets you 10 months pay. Both of the guys I know were offered a minimal amount of severance pay. So long as you are legally employed with a work permit and you have been working for the same company continuously then you will be entitled to severance pay. Of course, if you quit or do anything to cause problems or damage your employer's business or reputation then you are not entitled to anything! It is also worth considering this when hiring Thai staff – the severance pay entitlements could add up!
If you're looking for a motorbike taxi, orange is not the only colour you need to be looking for. A few years back, all of the motorcycle taxi riders started wearing orange vests and the easiest way to find them was to squint your eyes and look for orange in the neighbourhood. In the last few weeks I have seen groups of riders in yellow, green, purple and blue vests, with many still wearing orange.
Quote of the week. "Thais like predictability. The unpredictable nature of the average Westerner makes them rather nervous."
I had a funny this week. I jumped into a cab on my way to work and as per usual enjoyed some early morning banter with the driver. After complaining about Thaksin being out of the country for so long, he asked me what the sticker on the window meant – “Welcome foreigner, we can speak English”. I explained it to him and he laughed, saying that he didn’t speak any English at all and that he often didn’t collect foreigners as he was scared that he would not know where they wanted to go. So, if you see this sticker on the side of a car, it doesn’t necessarily mean anything!
We often hear comments that Vietnam is going to overtake Thailand in the future. This article from the Herald Tribune outlining Vietnam's willingness to allow foreigners to buy land clearly shows that.
If you're a teacher, you'd better not sleep around!
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 a Thai wife in Korat who says she loves me very much and wants to come to USA with her son, we are in the process of doing this. However, I have evidence that she goes on the web having many conversations with other men who she says she wants to meet. Is this the way Thai women are? Should I confront her? What should I do?
Miss Udon says: We may chat with guys on internet but when we found a guy who we really like we would stop chatting and concentrate with our guy. When we love, we meant it. We are not going to find any spare guys when we have got already nice guy. Some of us might still chat with others that because of she feel unsure about her guy is really love and care about her or not. We are observance people if we found any clues to make us feel unsure about you western guy we will start making another choice immediately. But even we do chat with another guy doesn't mean we will move on over you western guy. We will still be with you while chatting with another just to make sure that you are really serious with us not just wasting our time. And we will not get hurt so much when we get dump by you. Honestly we Thais and Westerns have the same idea, we worry about each other. You want to make sure that we are not going to cheat on you or play any games with you we also worry about the same thing. Anything you wonder we also wonder, anything you suspect we also suspect. Even you say that you trust us believe me in deep part of your mind you still worry. I can see from this question. What I am going to say is please trust us and try not to worry too much about anything this effect to us we know and we feel that you don't give us 100%.
Question 2: I would like to ask for serious advice on a matter of heart. In December I met a good Thai girl (24 years old, same age as me). We spent a few nice days together and ended up in bed. This had never happened to me before, and I know for a fact it neither had to her, as well as I was her first farang. She's from a "good" family from Rayong. Returning to Thailand twice within the next few months again we spent a few days together and slept with each other. I was always upfront with her about not being ready to commit to a long distance relationship, which she seemed to understand. However, she was clearly quite smitten with me. On the last day she cried in my hotel room, pleading me to be her boyfriend. I had totally misjudged the situation. Okay, lesson learned! She later calmed down, and we stayed in loose touch by email. She now works in a resort in Chiang Mai province and repeatedly asked me to visit her there. In September I'll be in Thailand again to visit her for a few days. Again I emphasized towards her that I will only be there for a short while, and that we are not bf / gf, and she must be totally comfortable with this. She said it's alright and she's happy I'm coming. I'm not planning on bedding her, but it may happen. I genuinely like this girl and am looking forward to seeing her, but can't imagine her as a steady girlfriend. Should I just go and enjoy her company? Should I better not see her and write a goodbye letter? What other options do I have?
Miss Udon says: We Thai girls are sensitive we like attentions we like some one who likes us. This girl she likes you because you are nice and honest. She may say that she will be alright but believe me she is not going to be alright. She has feeling about you and she hope that she can be your girlfriend. The more you be with her the more she likes you. If you know that you can not be her boyfriend please make it serious let her know what she is dreaming about is not going to come true. You said you are not planning on bedding her I think it will happen and that will make you and her hard to stop seeing each other and that will make you feel sorry to her as well. But if she stands still saying that she understand and she will be fine that mean she is ready to get hurt by you and it's all up to you.
Question 3: How do good Thai girls learn how to avoid getting pregnant? Two examples: My first Thai girlfriend was 25 years old, very well educated, and worked for a Western company. She was also on the pill. One night she explained to me that she often forgets taking it, but thought it was no big deal as it happened "only" four or five times per month! My second girlfriend was also university educated. One day she asked me if she can get pregnant from giving and receiving oral sex. Where and when do good Thai girls learn how babies get made? What's the role of school, parents, and peers in this?
Miss Udon says: In school we study about this from grade 4. Your first girlfriend just wants to have kids with you but she did not make it obvious. She just let you know that "hey I am taking a pill but if I get pregnant it will be your baby because I sometimes forget to take a pill", or something like that. We know what we have to do if we don't want a baby and we will protect our self. Just like when you don't want to have a drink, will you try to have it? Even if someone gave it to you for free you would refuse it, simple is that! Your second girlfriend, well she may be a real innocent girl who is not ready to have a baby. Because she worries about sex as sex will get her pregnant. That's all she knows. We know how babies get made.
The city of angels should perhaps be nicknamed the city of Chinese whispers. For the last week or so there have been rumours going around about what would have been a big news, that is, had it been true. Seemingly everyone heard the rumours and they were exaggerated into all sorts of twisted things. Fortunately only a few online sources published what turned out to be nonsense rumours. But oh, it is funny the way that extra details got added along the way. It has been confirmed by so and so and this happened and that happened. You really have to take so much of what you hear in this city with a grain of salt!
Stick Mark II