Stickman's Weekly Column July 22nd, 2007

When It All Goes Horribly Wrong


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This article contains a number of links. Reading these links at the point they appear in the article should help you to understand and enjoy the article better.

Tony is a Brit. 4 years ago he went through a nasty divorce. He needed to get away from the UK and Thailand seemed like a good choice. He made the big move to the Land of Smiles, burning his bridges in the process.

Tony met Ning, a lovely native of Udon Thani and they got married and settled into a pleasant life in the north-eastern province.

With a need to make some money to support his family, Tony and Ning opened up Resort Caroline, what could best be described as a specialist resort with appeal to alternative lifestyle people. You can find a link to the original website here.

But Tony’s life was soon to change. One day the resort was descended on by men in tight brown uniforms, men with cameras and men and women with notebooks and pencils. It was a police raid and media frenzy in unison!

When The Mail on Sunday <The original article from the Mail on Sunday is here Stick>, along with just about every other media device in the world, reported that according to Udon's chief of police, these British swingers were giving Thailand a bad name.

http://www.resortcaroline.com/

Unfortunately much of what was printed in this tabloid was factually incorrect and downright libelous. The press stated that the resort had been open for 4 years and that 6 thousand British couples had been to the resort on holiday!

Such claims are quite ludicrous given than the main house was not even a finished building 4 years ago and that they only have 5 rooms available to guests. The domain name of the original website promoting the resort was not even registered until 15 January of last year. Clearly many of the claims made were complete lies, not that that has ever bothered the British tabloid press.

The resort itself started shortly after a house telephone was installed. The internet site came shortly afterwards. In fact they opened after getting a web site designed and made for them by a friend in London. That was one year and three months before the police came and closed us.

And was usual, they were empty at the time of that huge raid, 30 cops and 35 media men and women.

Despite claims that this was a swingers’ resort on a huge scale (the opening time, the number of rooms and the claimed number of couples just does not add up mathematically), the resort was not a commercial success.

The truth is that they had a very small number of guests in the one year and three months that they were open. The claims are that they had less than 50 couples stay.

Unfortunately the local press turned this mole hill into a mountain and the resulting scandal has been very, very harsh on not just Tony and Ning, but their three year old, Caroline.

The resort is in a tiny village near Nong Saeng. Like all such villages, there is a village headman. The village headman started to ask Ning for money on a weekly basis after they had opened and she ignored him. It is believed that he started to report them to the police for making too much noise. This is when their problems most likely started.

But the problems of noise appear to have been greatly exaggerated as the main house is 200 metres from the nearest village house! This was not a major party spot with huge numbers of guests and loud music was never a feature of the operation. Whenever music was played it was always softly at a lot volume. Tony and Ning had even tested this out, walking to the village at night just to see if we could hear any noise from the house. There was no nothing but the eerie silence of rural Thailand…

Let’s make no bones about it. This business was intended as a so called swingers resort. But business was not going well and Tony realised that they needed to diversify, at least until they got established.

They started a small thatched bar in the village. It was very popular with the villagers. Again the headman complained about the noise and this time they were closed down – even before the paint was dry! Having lost money that they could ill afford to lose they realised that the headman had the power to hurt them.

Tony had a Harley Davidson, but not for long. The village headman saw him ride it through the village one afternoon and complained. Ning told him to get rid of it, reiterating the fact that this man could hurt them.

Soon after Tony and Ning received a visit from the local police and, as usual, they were empty at the time. The police told us that the village headman was complaining about them at every “council meeting” and that rumours about them and their operation were allegedly being spread by him and his cohorts. There was also mention of drugs and even porn flick filming.

The police were friendly and they knew of the many good deeds Tony and his wife had done in the village and surrounding area. Tony had taught in the school as a volunteer and given money for the construction of a school toilet blockhouse. They had helped out various people and even the temple with donations. Ning has also helped the aged and even been awarded certificates of merit for these good deeds. These were good, community minded people who were more than pulling their weight in the community.

No secret was made about about the resort, perhaps an error of judgment in hindsight, and soon Ning’s friends were coming by for a swim, free drinks and perhaps the chance to meet a wealthy farang.

Tony and Ning both believed that we were not breaking any laws. According to them there are no laws against swinging in Thailand. Tony claims that there is no shortage of Thai couples registered on the Internet looking for other swinging couples and there is a known swinging scene operating in Pattaya. Surprise, surprise!

The women that attended the parties invited friends and they in turn invited friends. They soon began to realised that these women were eating and drinking far more than we were making so they had to limit the numbers of women.

One guest asked if any ladyboys ever joined the parties. The first 5 ladyboys arrived that night and in gruff voices they asked "Where is the free whiskey." In what must have looked like a scene from a slapstick comedy, it was some lads from the village dressed in mum's clothes! They were said to look like a rugby team in drag! They were given a case of beer and told to beat it.

Tony felt that Thailand seemed such a liberated place with more freedom much of the West. Even in the provincial capital of Udon there is no shortage of naughty bars catering predominantly to Western men right in the heart of the city. You cannot walk in the area around the Charoensri Hotel without being told what a handsome man you are and invited inside a dubious looking bar for a drink…and more.

But looks are deceiving and Thailand is socially conservative. While there may be all manner of naughty stuff available nationwide, it tends to be in unmarked buildings, in the basement of hotels, or largely out of sight. It is really only the farang bar areas that dare to be more open – and for many Thais, these bar areas are very much a blight on the pure landscape.

I am not aware of any swingers’ resorts that advertised in Thailand and a search came up empty. One friend who has indulged in the swingers’ scene refused to provide any information at all. It’s out there, but it is hidden.

This is a very discreet scene with participants in clear understanding of the dangers of being caught. In a country where your reputation is everything, being caught on camera in what could be perceived as an orgy accounts to ruin. The sight of a camera would have couples running in all directions.

According to Tony, not a lot of swinging occurred at the resort, at that upset the Thai couples far more than the philosophical European guests!

The site apparently advertised for soft swingers only, that is those who just like being in a liberated atmosphere. Tony offers that Thai swingers didn’t seem to grasp this concept. Some got quite upset and even walked out without paying!

So why did it all go horribly wrong? Was it the fact that they were advertising a swinging resort in rural Thailand, or was it that the purported demands for money from a local headman were not met? Or was it another reason, perhaps a complaint from a disgruntled customer or jealousy at the building of Palace Farang?

As already mentioned, the police told reporters that 6,000 mainly British couples (so much for the poo-dee-Angrit) had spent a week of hedonism there, something that is a mathematical impossibility.

Is there anything more embarrassing than a police raid in Thailand, when not only do the police arrive in the sort of numbers that you need to start a mini war, but that they do so with just as many in number of the press. As the cops traipse through one’s castle the whole affair takes on a carnival feel as they are followed, room by room, by a bunch of hungry media. It’s like a shark’s feeding frenzy.

When asked what it was all about, one plain clothes policeman said they were looking for "Drugs, pornographic manufacturing equipment or materials, anything."

The search took many hours, with everything examined in great detail. Nothing was overlooked and no stone was left unturned. It was discovered that the resort’s licence had not been issued properly and that a bird kept in cage was also not issued with a proper licence. Tony claims that they did in fact go to the right people for the licences.

All of this commotion and what is found? Basic licensing irregularities! This was supposed to be a big bust, a huge media sensation and that is all that was found.

And then one of the policemen touched a computer and the swingers’ website appeared. The smile on Khun Dumruat’s face was shark like. He started shouting with joy and the media circus descended on to that computer, jostling to get the best pictures!

Tony and Ning were thrown into the local monkey house. A Thai style prison, there was no toilet privacy, no bed, no chair. Just a shit stained floor.

Tony and Ning foolishly signed papers. The police told them that they would be released and could then go and find a lawyer if they just signed the papers, "A mere formality," they were assured. Foolishly they signed the papers Tony unaware of just what he had signed. As soon as the papers had been signed they were thrown back into the stinking cells which faced a TV that was turned up loud and left on all night.

Udon is a nice town with very friendly people. It may not have a wealth of tourist attractions but the people are first class and it is a nice spot to spend a relaxing day or two, with the option of a day trip up to Nongkhai. Tony and Ning just wanted to run a fair business, but it seems they had chosen the wrong business and had run foul of the wrong people.

The next day they were taken to another media frenzy at the central Udon police station. Before a roomful of cameras, a senior policeman talked to Ning. The kindly senior copper told them that they had a beautiful resort and should never have needed to sully the pure environment with the awful swingers. The TV cameras got everything they wanted!

They were taken to the bank where the police were more than a little surprised to find that they only had 300,000 baht. They weren’t rich at all.

Now this represented a problem as bail was set at 300,000 baht. They were able to borrow extra from a friend. Now they were not just poor, they were as good as bankrupt.

It crossed Tony’s mind of selling the house but the land registry told them that they had not issued any titles to land in that village! Stickman Living in Thailand 101 – rent, don’t buy!

Money was borrowed from friends but after a while their friends changed email addresses and telephone numbers.

Without any finances, Tony and Ning have hit rock bottom. ROCK BOTTOM. They have resorted to hitting trees with long bamboo poles to gather bugs. This is their food.

You often hear Westerners in Thailand saying it is a great country – and it is. But only if you have money. When things go wrong in Thailand, you can find yourself on your own. And now Tony and Ning are very much on their own

Ning and their three year old daughter gather the bugs that land in the torch light and with rice taken from the poor, ironically the very poor they used to help feed, they now have food.

The bugs are said to taste like cellophane and rat tastes like diced shoes. Frog is all tiny bones and grasshoppers have spines that stick in one's tongue. The locals find it hard to believe that he can drink their lao khao and eat dung beetles.

The Internet site has been edited to the chief of police's specifications.

Despite complying with his wishes, the licensing authorities have refused to issue a licence. They won't even give us a licence for a bar or a restaurant.

And the financial difficulties are starting to hurt in other ways.

Their daughter wishes to start school. She's a bright kid and from all accounts would thrive in a school environment. Not only is she being denied the chance to learn, she is being denied the social interaction so important to her personal development.

But lurking in the background is the great uncertainty. Not sure what they have been charged with, and what the documents were that they signed, the police have started that they could be looking at up to 15 years incarceration. What future would any period in the monkey house give to their child? The thought of their little girl growing up as an impoverished Isaan village girl punishes them every moment of the day.

Without knowing what crimes they have been charged with, it is hard to comment. But the question has to be asked. Have they harmed anyone? Did anyone ever enter the resort without knowing what is was and wanting to be a part of it? Prostitutes were never employed. Sex for sale was never available on the premises. Porn movies weren’t made. Drugs weren’t consumed.

Of course the conservatives could argue that Thailand’s pure image has been harmed. But pure image in whose minds? Thailand’s reputation around the world has suffered as family members are accosted in central areas, Sukhumvit Road, Silom Road, offered services and shows that they never imagined possible. I’m sorry. Thailand’s reputation is not as pure as some locals believe.

The family is essentially being starved to death. They have no money at all. This is almost number five month and it could go on for another two years. Will they survive?

Tiny Ning is a trembling wreck. She's lost weight and is down to 35 kg. Like most skinny women she cannot afford to lose that weight. Hollow-eyed, she runs and hides every time a car pulls up in the car park.

The family state that the British Embassy won’t help but in all fairness, it is not the British Embassy’s responsibility to help. Embassies serve a quite different function.

Tony’s final words to me were, “Thailand forgive us please. We are begging you.”


Where was this picture taken?


Last week's picture was taken beside the Dusit Resort on Beach Road, Pattaya. There are four prizes each week and the first four people to identify where the picture above was taken and email me with the answer win a prize. You can choose from a 500 baht credit at Oh My Cod OR a 500 baht credit at Lennie's OR a 500 baht credit at Catz Gogo OR a 500 baht credit at Octopussy Bar in Hua Hin. Each of the prize providers is in a different area so please specify which prize you would prefer. Oh My Cod – Khao San Road area. Lennie's – Pattaya. Catz – Pattaya. Octopussy – Hua Hin. This week's picture is back in Bangkok.

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

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I think that the currency exchange rates at the present are fairly okay – but I am a Brit and for GBP 1, I can now get topside of USD 2 and topside of THB 70 My brother, who has lived on the Kailua Kona Coast of Hawaii for many years, is currently in the UK doing his periodic family visits and I know he is suffering with the exchange rate, especially with the horrific First World prices Having visited the USA many times over the last 30 years, with exchange rates for the GBP at USD 1.10, USD 2.40 and all points between, I know that the one certainty about exchange rates is that they will soon get better…or worse. Anyway, I really do feel for those suffering Americans in the LoS (how do you spell "schadenfreude"?)

You mentioned a friend of a friend was planning to spend only part of his next vacation in the Kingdom and the rest of it in the Philippines and Cambodia. I don't know if he knows about prices in the Philippines, but if he looks at online hotel reservations sites, he will see that hotel rooms are about double the price of rooms in Thailand and I suspect often of poorer quality. I visited Manila, Cebu and Puerto Galera this year and find that you can get much better hotels for much cheaper in Bangkok, Pattaya or Phuket, though maybe not in Koh Samui. The one major savings is on San Miguel beer, though if you are going out to bars, the high prices for ladies' drinks will more than make up for any savings on San Mig.

A cautionary tale (remember the mention in last week's column!)

Family were from Koh Samui and non-drinkers but enjoyed a smoke so he bought some cartons of ciggies and more when he landed at Suvarnabhumi, nothing too excessive. No attempt to conceal them. Cleared customs OK and when he was waiting for the car to collect them an official spotted the ciggies. Anyway he was taken away and had to pay a fine of some 30,000 baht. YES 30K no negotiations. This was a law abiding, not wealthy, cafe owner from East London unaware of the strict limits and he lost half his pending money before he arrived.

Despite claims that immigration staff at Bangkok airport have been trained how to smile and be nice to people coming to Thailand to spend their money, nothing appears to have changed. I personally received the usual blank stare after saying 'Good afternoon' when I arrived, and as usual had my passport thrown back at me. A letter to the Bangkok Post this week also told of one person's experience, with him claiming that the immigration lady mouthed 'F*** you' at him when he challenged her on her rudeness. By the way, there is a sign requesting you to produce not only your passport and immigration card, but boarding pass (why?) and onward ticket (Welcome to Thailand – when are you leaving?). But in typical Thai style, when I offered neither they were not asked for. I have spent several weeks in Europe recently, and Thailand's reputation is in the gutter. I was told by some it was no longer cheap compared to some other countries closer to home in eastern Europe (cheap flights available and cheap when they get there) and also in Asia. Others complained of Thailand's 'early closing' when at home they can party until dawn if they want to (although that might be changing, at least for this month until the next internal police war), and treating foreigners as open wallets. Of course, Thailand is not known for taking any notice of the outside world, so it is little wonder they don't know of the better value and better manners and attitude shown elsewhere.

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I do believe a weaker Baht is better for the Thai economy. Not only for tourist reasons (though tourism is Thailand's main industry – aside from farming) but also for exports. If you recall, a garment factory just tried to close, putting 5000 people out of work. (It has since reopened, from what I know). But if it is cheaper for businesses to relocate to a different country, they will do so. Much like the US companies outsourcing overseas or into Mexico. A weaker Baht is more attractive to companies doing business in SE Asia. I'm not sure, but I believe you'd still be paying the same pay to the Thai people, so their cost of living would remain the same (I'm not an economist, so maybe I'm wrong).

It was interesting hearing that Lolita's in Patpong had gone out of business. I for one am not surprised. As a married man who doesn't play the field I would occasionally pop into some of these places when I'm getting a lack of "it" at home. I've always gone to Lolita's on Sukhumvit as there are the odd reasonable looking women, however at Patpong they really were atrocious – I just couldn't do it! I know you're not there to kiss them but even so, some of these girls looked as though they had been set on fire and put out with a baseball bat! The story is similar in Pattaya- Went there about 2 in the afternoon and there were only 3 birds sitting outside. Similar story to the above- walked back to the hotel frustrated.

Lady Boys are not women. Never were, never will be. You can refer to them as women if you want to make them feel good, but they are men that act like women, dressing and/or having surgery to look more like women. If having surgery or changing clothes makes them a different gender then I can become Asian. If I wear traditional Asian clothes, do I become Asian? If I have surgery on my eyes, change the color of my skin a little, dye my hair black, and talk with an Asian accent, do I become Asian?

Unfortunately, I wont be going to Thailand this year due two important factors. The low USA dollar and bad Thai attitudes. Maybe if there are less people that go there… they might start treating us folks a little better. Same..here in Mexico…. service sucks for the most part because there is too much tourism & too much big $$ coming here to ruin things. Building is going on everywhere with foreign money with no respect to the environment or anything or anyone else. Its happening too fast without enough organization.

Secrets anniversary party

Computer-related Crimes Act http://www.thaivisa.com/forum/index.php?showtopic=131316 What was rather amusing is that within 24 hours of the act becoming law a hacker hacked the local ICT Ministry's website and placed a message regarding a return to democracy!

Anna's cafe, gone!

According to a front-page story in today's edition of Pattaya Today, foreigners applying for a one-year retirement visa and those applying to renew their visas MUST secure a NEW embassy letter guaranteeing their income. Then that embassy letter MUST be taken to the Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Bangkok for a confirmation stamp. That stamped letter must then be taken to the Pattaya Immigration Office (or whatever is your local office) where you begin the process of applying for your visa or renewal. Just when we thought things were getting easier. The new rule goes into effect Oct. 1, 2007. The new rule goes into effect Oct. 1, 2007. The embassy letter must be an original and must have been issued within the preceding 12 months from date of application. That means virtually all retired expats and those with Thai wives will need to make the trip to Bangkok to visit their embassies and to register with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The good news is that you must do this only once–rather than annually. The letter is expected to remain valid until your passport expires. Also, those with 800,000 baht in a Thai bank will neither need an embassy letter nor to register with the Ministry.

Pacific Palace (nearest Nana Station) has finished remodeling. The entire footpath is very well lit now with halogen lights. I am sure as a security effort the new lighting was installed to keep the political bombers at bay. No doubt there are some new security cameras too that have yet to be spotted as part of the city wide effort announced in the news recently.

Visa run as per what David Bell have me! (in wallet)

Risk takers who cannot find a better visa option have been known to overstay their visa for rather a long time, deluding themselves that they will face but a 20,000 baht fine when they leave the country. This may be true when they leave via the airport but some border points have been told to call the police who will come and arrest anyone whose overstay exceeds 40 days (500 baht x 40 days = 20,000 baht). So, be very careful if you plan on overstaying!

Based on the drop in the value of the dollar and inflation in the farang infested areas of Bangkok, my feeling is that for food, drinks and entertainment, Thailand is approximately twice the price for Americans now compared to five years ago. This might sound extreme, but that is how rampant price hikes and inflation are / have been in farang ghettos, particularly Sukhumvit. With that said, the US dollar increased in value against the baht by about 1% this past week.

I heard a fascinating theory this week from a 36 year monger, one I had never heard before. He felt that things are better now than they were in the past. Going into further detail though, he felt that there were turning points. He said that in the years approaching '97, or at least in his mind, up to the end of '96, the pickings were not so good. Thailand had been going through a boom time and arrogance had set in. After the bust the arrogance went away. He now feels the same arrogance is back again, stimulated by a certain Mr. T.

Quote of the week, "Thailand – a country where a smile can mean so much but at the same time mean so little.

Good link.

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 been reading this site for a long time and have much admiration for Mr. Stick's views, most of which I follow to the letter. In the early days he was against relationships with bargirls and I was with him on that. Then he was a big proponent of learning Thai to a high level and I am all for that too. He is clearly in favour of renting property instead of buying and again I agree. But over the last year I have seen many negative comments from him, both in the column and his readers' stories where he warns of dangers meeting Thai women online. I have found rich pickings in the virtual world and am hopeful of finding my future wife there. But my guru is telling me to look elsewhere. What is your take on that? Are Thai women we meet online a good bet for marriage, or are they trouble as Mr. Stick intimates?

Miss Udon says: Internet it is not different place from where else to meet and date people. For me I think internet is a bit useful for people who have a lot of work don't have free time to go out and also good for people who lives in the other side of world can get together. We Thai girls like to use internet to find a man to date especially western man. We meet many kinds of guy, some bad, some nice, same as you meet Thais. We are a good bet for marriage if you know how to handle us. The better way to safe your feeling from us you should talk to us openly if you can use webcam it would be a good idea to. Basic personal information are preferred, we like to see real picture than imagination because sometimes we may think that your look is better than real. So make sure that your girl from internet don't imagine you different from who you are.



When this column kicked off a couple of months back I had no idea how it would go. I have since come to realise that it takes a lot of effort to put together and no small sacrifice. I have also come to realise that different people read it for different reasons. Some readers are only interested in the opening "think" piece. Others are only interested in the news sections. Some readers look for gossip from the nightlife industry while others scroll past anything nightlife related. The column has a varied readership and it is inevitable that parts will not appeal to some. I personally feel that keeping the range of topics broad is the best way to go.

For many who holiday in Thailand, the country is something of a Disneyland, a Fantasyland, a place where you can pretend that nothing is real. I'm sorry if this column talks about certain things in such a way as to break the illusion and suggest that your Fantasyland isn't real. The illusion might be fun when you're on holiday, but surely you want to know what often lurks behind the smiles?

I am convinced the world is going crazy. This touchy feely world where we can't hurt anyone's feelings and we can't possibly criticise anything anyone says or does will only lead us down the path to becoming a society where nothing is improved because you’re not allowed to say anything about it. It all sounds eerily familiar, doesn’t it? But in all truth and honesty, I am getting fed up with people complaining about certain things written in this column. People come here because they want an opinion. But then they read an opinion that they don’t like and their get all upset about it and cite this total BS world of PC. If you want an opinion, read this column. If you don’t, goodbye.

Yours,

Stick Mark II