Stickman's Weekly Column August 26th, 2007

Online Options, 2007


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Loser Farangs


Where was this picture taken?


Last week's picture was taken of the Sofitel Grand Sukhumvit and was taken from the Nana BTS Station. It may be a new feature on Bangkok's skyline but MANY people got it right. OK, so this week's picture is fairly clear in terms of what it is, but just WHERE was the pic taken from? The first person to email me with the correct answer wins a 500 baht credit at Oh My Cod. I am looking for new prize providers in Bangkok, ideally restaurants or cafes.

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 – Coppers only target wrong-doers?

Yes, we are unfairly targeted by Thai policemen. Today I made an illegal right turn, directly behind a Thai couple, committing the same misdemeanor. A policeman stopped us both, but hurriedly waved them on, so he could concentrate on me. However, I HAD committed an offence. In fact, every time I've been stopped I had committed an offence. Sometimes trivial, sometimes obscure, but I always did something wrong. Now I enjoy the experience – I chat with them, give half-assed excuses and make them work for their money. I talked my way out of the last three tickets, but today I had to donate 200 baht to the police retirement fund. 200 baht? Back in the UK, I'd be looking at 3,000 baht and a trip to the police station.

No racism amongst Thai police.

I feel that in the section about police hassling foreigners, you have fallen in the same pitfall as minorities tend to do everywhere and call out about racism and ethnic discrimination where there surely are no such thing. Where I live, it is fairly common to bump into policemen on motorbikes working in pairs that will pat you down looking for drugs. I will say I get a check-up about once a month, and surely they target everybody, not only farangs. Last time I was checked while waiting for a taxi, and after they had finished with me, I watched for a couple of minutes while they stopped other passers by. That included people on motorcycle taxis and regular taxis, everyone but me native Thais. Not once was the driver checked, as has been the norm every time I have been stopped in a vehicle. Why is it so hard to believe that the police are actually looking for drugs? If they were looking to plant drugs, they would have done it, right?

Walk away from short cuts.

There was a submission to Stickman during the last week in which the writer described being the victim of a scam by local officials concerning a house he was building. Money was handed over to the local scum, who appeared later to be in collusion with other officials at the office to extort as much money as they could from the farang (a national sport). Two thoughts. If someone offers a shortcut in anything official, walk away. Or, if you do go ahead then you should video the transaction ("This is a momentous and special occasion for me and I want to record it for the future"). At the very least, photograph the deal. Either the guilty will walk away and then you've exposed the risk and avoided it, or you have indisputable evidence if anything goes wrong.

Living in a bubble.

Just read your weekly column regarding assimilation in LOS. I thought I'd mention that I know several expats doing a similar thing here and around Asia. I've been here a long time, have few if any local friends, no language skills (or any intention of learning, to be frank), do not watch or read local TV or any media, eat western 99.8% of the time, and generally live in a bubble maintaining a western lifestyle in Asia as far as possible, by choice. So it's not just expats in Thailand. More specifically though, your last sentence asks why Westerners based in Thailand appear to keep assimilation 'off the menu'. I venture to say that there is a (perhaps subconscious) realization that no matter what farang do and despite all the efforts, formidable in some cases, that it is inherently known that we are never going to be truly accepted there. Add to that the obvious climate of corruption, paranoia, xenophobia, and just plain outdated and distorted thinking none of which will change in our lifetime, why would anyone actually *want* to truly and voluntarily assimilate into such a society?

Who's happy?! Anyone?

The piece about Channel 4 UK looking for happily married farang / Thai couples made me burst out laughing as there's no such thing! I have lived in LOS for 5 years and everyone I know who is in a relationship with a Thai woman has serious problems (including myself!) All my married friends warn me not to take the plunge (though I would probably still do it…fool that I am). Call me a cynic but that's my opinion.

The English Premier League debacle.

You are spot on about the football coverage on True / UBC, the picture quality is appalling. In this age of high definition I would be happy if what we received was just standard definition but it's more like LOW definition. They are broadcasting too many channels in too small a bandwidth with the resulting drop in picture quality. These pictures are coming from the UK (broadcast in High Def by Sky TV) and the images are truly stunning but by the time UBC have got hold of them and sent them to my Panasonic plasma TV they look totally crap. It was far better on ESPN / Star but still far inferior to Standard def digital broadcasts in the UK.

Are you trying to befriend the wrong people?

I disagree with anyone who believes foreign males cannot become friends with Thai males. I spent part of my childhood / early teens as an expat in Thailand and outside of school, had many Thai friends in Bangkok. I no longer live in the country but still maintain occasional contact with some of them, and they are genuinely good friends, equivalent to good friends I have in the west. I also have some Thai friends from the countryside, and their hobbies these days seem to revolve more around being lazy and drinking whisky. They are great fun when I do the things they are interested in (i.e. getting drunk), but otherwise, we no longer have much in common (and no, I am not buying their friendship – we take turns buying the whisky. They consider me a friend because we grew up together back in the 1980s). In more recent times, I have made new Thai male friends through my Thai wife. As with many of my original Bangkok friends, these people are educated, and some work for international companies. We work in the same or similar industries and therefore have a lot in common. I actually don't see any difference between them versus my Western friends. On the flip side, I have "friends" in the west that simply seem to want friendship in order to use me or for some benefit, and some of my friends from high school in the west I no longer have anything in common with and have therefore lost touch. I don't know why many foreigners today seem to believe a "barrier" exists, preventing friendship with Thai males. Maybe it's just a case that people are trying to befriend the wrong people.

There are no red circles on white backgrounds yet, but Soi Cowboy is hosting more and more Japanese customers and the clever men of the Rising Sun have managed to find the best bars – which for time being include Raw Hide and Long Gun. This past Friday the two Cowboy institutions had a good number of Japanese customers and one girl in particular said that now she only went with Japanese. "They pay more and they don't want to talk about things I no understand", were the reasons she gave. It's an interesting development, gentlemen.

Is Apache still named Apache or is it now Coyote? A new red neon sign along with new red neon has completely overwhelmed the front of the bar. The only sign that says Apache is a small neon sign over the door. Looking inside however, the girls are dressed for the name coyote, however as coyote dancing require a serious amount energy far more that the average bar girl can muster night after night. If you want to see coyote dancing you better come early. The new 60 baht happy hour until 9:00 PM has pulled in a big crowd and the bar was full at 8:30.

The Big Mango in Nana will celebrate their second anniversary with a big party next Saturday, that is Saturday 1st September. There will be free food from the Big Mango kitchen and happy hour prices all night long. There will also be far more pretty women than usual with a few imports brought in especially for the evening. The first anniversary party last year was a ripper and this one promises to be much the same.

The closing time at Nana still varies from night to night. If the boys in brown decide to check out the comings and goings then it's lights out around 1 AM. But if they manage to find something more profitable elsewhere then the bars remain open until 2 AM.

There does seem to be a slight increase in the number of customers in Nana, but with that said, some bars are really hurting. No names, but even late on Friday night there were bars that couldn't even boast a handful of customers.

Why do the DJs insist on playing music so damned loud in certain bars? This misbehaving and showing off by the DJs seems to happen when the owner or manager is away, or even when they briefly pop out. What the DJs fail to comprehend is that super loud anything to farangs has the same effect on us as super smelly has on Thais – we cannot stand it and would rather leave than be subjected to it. This was the case in Mandarin in Nana on Friday night. There I was, gazing into the eyes of a truly gorgeous dancer, in my eyes the most attractive lass in Nana, when the DJ turned the volume switch up to the max. It was just too much and I was out of there. Hell, it was loud at the bottom of the stairs, let alone up inside the bar!

I note that the Rugby World Cup is now being advertised on ESPN and it looks as though matches will be shown live on both ESPN and Star Sports. Next month's True Visions magazine has not yet come out so we haven't had a chance to check to see how many matches will be shown, but things are looking up. I would expect that a number of the matches may also be shown on the Australian channel, ABC, although that channel doesn't seem to be available to True Visions customers, but rather "other" cable operators.

Is there some funny business going on in the Sukhumvit Soi 22 area? It would seem that that little neighbourhood is ground zero for Westerners being approached by policeman wishing to carry out what appears to be a random search of their person. Most of the stories of such sent in over the past month have concerned searches in Sukhumvit sois 20 and 22. This week another two people emailed me and reported being approached by policeman down there, one fellow in a taxi and one who had been on foot. This all got me thinking. Is there some sort of hanky panky going on down there that necessitates the boys in brown paying extra special attention or carrying out random searches of foreigners in that neighbourhood? I must have a word with Mekhong Kurt, Mr. Washington Square, and a keen observer of the comings in goings down there, and see if he has head anything. And as if we had not heard enough on the subject, there is a thread on the Ajarn site where people have reported being searched in that very same soi! Of course, at the southern end of Soi 22 is the Klong Toey slum, Thailand’s largest slum community and a place where drugs are available. Could that be related somehow?

It would be easy to merely explain it away as being due to the low season and rainy season blues, but I am not so sure. There are indications of growing disenchantment, even resentment, amongst many of the farangs who make up the Thailand Fan Club. Tourist numbers, amongst Westerners that is, are down. Farang owned businesses whose primary customers are Westerners may be experiencing a downturn. Fewer Westerners seem interested in buying property in Thailand and more and more are posting negative thoughts on discussion forums. More and more people warn of the dangers of buying property and investing heavily in Thailand. Some local webmasters have even mentioned to me of dipping traffic levels, although that is a seasonal thing – it happens every year. Has the tide turned? And no, I don’t think the international market turmoil caused by all of this sub-prime loan debacle has anything to do with it. What do you think? Have you become disenchanted?

A reminder to the balloon chasers, and other cheap Charlies, that Silver Dollar in Washington Square is the place for good, hearty American food. On Sunday they have a free lunch offered at 2:00 PM. On Monday a similarly good lunch can be had for a very reasonable 200 baht.

I just saw one of the new Thailand driver's licenses and a snazzy piece of plastic it is. Similar to a credit card, the photo is digitally imprinted into the card, not unlike modern day passport photos. What is especially useful is that all of the details are listed in both Thai and English. This is useful because some countries allow drivers to use foreign licenses in their country (aside from an international license) if the license is in English.

If you thought the Thais were getting bigger, you wouldn't be wrong. And they are going to get bigger and bigger with McDonald's now offering a breakfast menu in some branches. The big problem is, McDonald's breakfasts to me means pancakes but locally they're not doing pancakes! WTF! McDonald's breakfast without pancakes is hardly a McDonald's breakfast at all!

Legendary expat "Blackie" is hoping to return to Bangkok around Xmas. Blackie took a break away from the Mango for a couple of years but is set to once again leave his native Australia and return to Bangkok soon. Get ready for the hurricane to storm back into town. Watch out, soi 33!

For those of you who know Sam of Office Bar fame, this might not be “new news” so to speak, but for the many people who have had the pleasure of meeting Sam over the years, this might come as something of a shock. Poor Sam has been holed up in Bumrungrad since February of this year. He had some back problems but in an incident which was unrelated to the initial back problems the poor fellow had a fall which damaged vertebrae and he is paralysed from the waist down. Sam can be found in room 1017 in Bumrungrad where he is undergoing treatment. Since being hospital bound, Sam opened a new bar, down in Sukhumvit Soi 71, and was ambulanced out on the meet and greet night where he spent a short period of time. It’s not possible to make phone calls to Sam's room but visitors are welcome if they check with the nurses station first – any time after 17:30. He's doped up a lot with Pethadine every 4 hours.

A new organization, something like a Better Business Bureau for the ELT world, where teachers and schools can resolve their differences through binding arbitration is being set up. The website is not up yet, www.esljudge.com. They just want to help teachers and reputable schools resolve disputes in a clear and fair way. But they need your help. They are looking for 100 people from all areas of ELT, from the teacher to the DOS to the school owner, to participate in the dispute resolution process. With enough volunteers they hope that you will only be committing yourself to 5 or so hours per year. If you're interested, please email then at [email protected]

Magnums, the ice-cream, not the gun, now sell for 40 baht. Yikes, I can remember when they were just 17 baht! Checking out the wrapper they come in reveals that they are imported from Indonesia. I seem to recall they were previously made locally, although I could be wrong on that. Could that account for the 5 baht increase?

The latest edition of the excellent Lonely Planet Guide to Thailand is out now, that's the 12th edition, all 820 pages priced at 975 baht. On page 171, under Bangkok "Entertainment, Gogo Bars" it says, "One of the more palatable documenters of Bangkok's sexy underbelly is Stickman's Guide to Bangkok, which offers tips and perspectives on 'doing' Bangkok." Browsing through the Silom branch of Bookazine there are a heap of novels and other interesting literature set in Bangkok. I don't read as much of the locally produced stuff as I used, unless it has Needham, Moore or Leather on the cover – but there were a couple of interesting sounding titles, it must be said.

The police get a bit of grief in this column. The way they go about their duties is somewhat different to what Westerners are used to in their homelands, and the fact that most Westerners don’t know what their rights are doesn’t help matters. But spare a thought for a Thai woman who got clobbered by her live in boyfriend recently. I was shocked to hear that the police were unwilling to assist her when she made a report against her boyfriend for what seemed to a prima face case of assault. When an incentive was given to the coppers they acted. What was most unusual about this case was that the accused was a foreigner. So it's not just foreigners who get the run around.

I notice that one of my favourite venues in Soi 33, Tenderloins, has a special deal on their burgers. They're very good down there, some of the best in Bangkok in fact, but can be a bit pricey. They're advertising a special where a burger plus a salad is 249 baht – a good deal for a great burger which usually goes for over 300. The venue is a little sterile, but the food is top notch.

The world is full of blogs but this one ought to catch the interest of many readers. It concerns the exploits of a high class Thai hooker in London and is well worth a read.

It looks like John Burdett might have hit it big in the US, the author of "Bangkok 8" and its two follow ups.

Here's an article form Time magazine on the guy I truly hope becomes Thailand's next democratically elected Prime Minster.

Quote of the week comes from a Bangkok bar manager. "I couldn't work with Pattaya punters… The behaviour and attitude of plenty of tourists was terrible compared to expats in Bangkok."

And another great quote. This was said to a newbie in the Nana car park when he complained to a girl that she had left him at 7:30 that morning. "1,000 baht I decide when I go, 2000 baht you tell me when to go."

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 am a 32 year-old living and working in Bangkok. I have a good job and make a good income. I like to think that I am a good person, and am liked by people around me. In the two years I have been working in Bangkok I have met many pretty ladies, but I just don't seem to be able to find the type of person I am looking for a serious relationship and hopefully marriage. I would like to find a middle class lady with reasonable English who has a decent job. That is all. I simply want a good, honest lady. The problem is, I don't know where to find ladies like this! Can you please point me in the right direction? Where can I find ladies like this?

Miss Udon says: The girl you want can be anywhere around you, you just not yet found her. I can not tell you where exactly she is but I can give you an idea. If you want the smart one you will see her around schools or institutes where she books a course for herself to make her get a better career. If you want the confident one you can find her at the clubs as she likes attention and that's why she goes to the clubs, to get attention and enjoy her life. If you want a sweet housewife you can find her at supermarket or a Thai shopping area such as JJ Market in the gift shop part. Different characters can be found in different places. It's your choice now what kind of girl you like then go to the place that you think she might go!


Question 2: My Thai girlfriend of 2 years told me that two office co-workers (both Thai) are getting married. My girlfriend is more educated and has more work experience than the girl getting married. It was announced to everyone in the office how much the girl's sin-sot was. To my surprise, the amount was 2 times as much as what my girlfriend's sin-sot would be. (I know this because last year my girlfriend gave me an estimate based on what her father told her). The amount was almost 2 years salary, most of which he will need to borrow from family members. I asked my girlfriend if her sin-sot would now need to be equal to her co-worker's. To any foreign guy that would seem like a normal, innocent question. After all, she has always said her parents will give us the money back and the money is merely for show (i.e. gaining face). However based on her explosive reaction, my question was the rudest, most culturally insensitive thing I could have said. My defence is that no foreign man is going to be an expert in Thai culture or know how to deal with the topic as well as a Thai man would, so I should be given some slack. How could I have known such a question was off limits? Is there any correct response for me in that situation? Even if I would have had no comment, I know she would have insisted I have some opinion on that sin-sot. Does Miss Udon feel I did a horrible thing by asking that question and does she think that my girlfriend's [over]reaction was acceptable and normal?

Miss Udon says: She wants more money for her sin sod to make her be a happy girl, getting equal sin sod as her friends. I think this is a stupid idea but I do understand her as I am also Thai. But if she think carefully, being with a guy she loves is not enough to be happy? The parents might be the ones who want to gain face and she is the daughter so she has to do something to make them proud. So this is a simple story. It always happens in Thai marriages. When the groom doesn't have enough money the parents ask then the bride has to do something. Some may add their own money in to the sin sod to make her parents happy but she would not let them know that. And the sin sod can be changed if they hear that someone else in the village got a higher sin sod from a western groom. You should talk to her about this and let her know what you think. And what you have said to her, well, I think it's fine! If she loves you she will understand and try to make a solution for both.

Another week in paradise passes by.

Yours,

Stick Mark II