Stickman's Weekly Column August 5th, 2007

Western Prices, But Is It Western Quality?


Bangkok is getting more and more expensive. In baht terms as well as relative to Western currencies, a city once known as one of the most affordable capital cities in the world is getting pricey.

More and more Westerners resident in Thailand, as well as tourists passing through, comment on how the city is more expensive than they thought it would be, or more expensive than it used to be.

The big problem is that many come to Bangkok thinking it is cheap, but find it to be somewhat otherwise.

While the locals hate to admit it, one of the very attractions of Bangkok, and one of the main reasons Westerners move to, retire to, or possibly even holiday in Bangkok, is the perceived low cost of living. Note, I used the word perceived. I am of the opinion that while the city is cheap in many respects, it is not as affordable as we think it is, and certainly not what it used to be in terms of affordability.

I guess I have to explain my perspective before proceeding. I'm at a point in life where I'm willing to spend more on things but I expect to receive goods or services commensurate with what is paid. I fully realise and expect that prices will increase over time, and the compounding effects of inflation mean that prices accelerate and get more and more expensive.

It's not just one type of product or service that is getting more expensive. Across the board, prices for a wide range of goods and services are going up, and in many cases, for many people, the prices paid for goods and services in Bangkok are much, much more than is expected.

Consumer Goods

Bangkok is known as one of Asia's shopping Meccas and many items are indeed very, very cheap. The problem is that they are often low quality items made locally or in neighbouring countries.

As a simple example, several pairs of socks can be had for 100 baht, but don't expect your feet to like them as much as your wallet did. Handicrafts and other items with roots in the Thailand of old are all very nice and reasonably priced, but hardly the type of thing you buy often. Locally made clothes may be cheap, but you have to be careful with the quality. Sometimes it's pretty good, sometimes it's a disaster.

Strangely enough, when it comes to big name brands, they are often more expensive than in the West, especially the US. And compared to the prices available in Singapore and Hong Kong, brand name clothes and other clothing items in Bangkok really are pang mark mark. Why do you think planeloads of Thais fly out to Singapore or Hong Kong on Thursday or Friday and return on Sunday night? Weekend shopping trips away have been a favourite pastime of wealthier Thais for a long time.

And forget doing your appliance shopping in Bangkok. Prices, while not as bad as they used to be, are significantly more expensive than the other shopping Meccas of Asia, or North America. And any high end gadgets, from audio gear to photography equipment is generally much more expensive in Bangkok.

Healthcare

Thailand has a growing healthcare industry and foreign patients are being targeted. Many coming to Thailand for elective medical treatment hail from the US, where extraordinarily high prices are charged by anyone calling themselves a medical professional. If Americans compare the cost of medical treatment at home with those in Bangkok then Bangkok will always look attractive, at least in terms of cost.

But for other nationalities, it might not be quite the same.

A good friend of mine recently told of a Swiss female friend of his who wanted to come out here for some fairly basic cosmetic surgery. As my friend is Bangkok based she contacted him and requested that he check out the prices for the procedure locally. Well, you can imagine their shock when the prices charged in Bangkok were the same as those charged in Switzerland! Think Switzerland, think precision engineering and equipment, safety, total efficiency and an overall feeling of quality. Think Thailand, think…..well, I know which country I would rather go under the knife in! All jokes aside, for many medical procedures, Thailand is not quite the bargain it used to be (although the ability to get procedures scheduled immediately is a big plus).

And it is not just elective procedures where Thailand is expensive.

Now what about something much more routine like giving birth. In most Western countries this is totally free. Waltz along to the nearest hospital and there is no charge – and you’ll receive treatment from trained professionals who speak the same language as you. Free pre and post-natal care is usually offered too. If there is any complication or difficulty the staff can explain it all to you in your own language. In the better Bangkok hospitals, virtually all of the doctors speak great English, but how often do you deal with them? The nursing staff, that is the primary care givers, often speak mediocre English at best! But I digress. Giving birth in Bangkok hospitals will now run close to, or perhaps even exceed, 100,000 baht. You read that right! 100K to drop a sprog!

Many Bangkok hospitals have increased their fees markedly over the past couple of years, and there has been no shortage of complaints online from Westerners complaining of bills running into the tens of thousands of baht which are not itemised. There have also been numerous complaints about the general level of care. So not only do we have increased (inflated?) prices, we have a perceived lower level of quality. Let's not forget that hospitals in Bangkok are businesses – and businesses operate to make the maximum profit…

Entertainment

The costs of entertainment, by that I mean going out at night, have soared in Bangkok in recent years.

At a number of the top nightclub venues there is an entry fee on the busiest nights that can reach 1,000 baht. This usually gets you two drinks. I don’t care what anyone says, that is expensive. New York or London, this is not. 1,000 baht before you have even stepped in the door? It's going to be an expensive night if you meet a gal and wish to buy her a few drinks too!

And in the hotel bars in Bangkok, admittedly some of the flasher venues in town, you’re now paying 300 baht for a beer. Oh, I almost forgot, they add 10% service charge and 7% tax, so you’re now up to 351 baht – which of course is more than $US 10. For a bottle of beer. Most likely local beer. Woe be tied if you ordered something imported. I cannot imagine how much a bottle of America’s finest (sic), Budweiser, costs in a Bangkok 5 star hotel.

Dining Out

As incredible as it sounds, the cost of dining out in Bangkok, at least at the better establishments, is reaching Western levels. You don’t believe me, do you? OK, how about a few specific prices to show you exactly what I mean.

Order a steak in any of the city’s decent (but hardly fine dining establishments) and you’ll be up for 700 – 900 baht. I am talking the likes of Tenderloins, Livingstone’s, The Londoner, places where you will get a very good steak dinner (imported Australian, New Zealand or Argentinean beef). Now 700 – 900 baht is $US20 – 25! These venues are all very nice, but none could be called fabulous. You’ll get a good honest meal, you’ll be satisfied and you’ll leave full – but so you should if you're paying that much.

But if you want a really good steak, a real deal grain fed US-certified Angus, you can double that! You’re now looking at in excess of $50 for such a slab of meat, in the likes of the New York Steakhouse, Hamilton's or any of the other really fine dining steakhouses around town. And don’t even start to think you’ll get vegetables, potatoes or a salad with that. Oh no! In such venues, such a side order could run $US 10 or more!

Bangkok has a number of good British pubs, but for some meals, in some venues, you’ll pay more than you would in the UK! My good friend Birmingham Bob often tells me how you can get two good square meals for 6 quid in his local, or in baht terms, about 400 baht. Venture to one of Bangkok’s British pubs and a decent pub style meal (fish and chips, steak and kidney pie, roast beef etc.) will be around 400 baht for ONE plate. Just how can it be that Bangkok is more expensive than the UK? Granted I am talking a particularly good deal for the UK, but things are a bit out of whack here, are they not?

Ok, so a lot of the food items mentioned already are imported, and hence the price isn't going to be cheap. But on the subject of Thai food, let me tell you about my last Thai meal on my last trip home. For the equivalent of exactly 200 baht, I had a plate of grapow neua with rice. That’s beef with basil leaves and chili. The beef was top quality, with no fat, juicy and there was a pile of it, a real pile. The rice was good quality, cooked correctly. The basil leaves and the chili were fresh. 200 baht might sound like a lot, but this was Thai food at its best and it is hugely ironic that it was cooked outside of Thailand with ingredients that were grown outside of Thailand. I don’t know of anywhere that does the same dish as well in Bangkok. Nowhere! And you know what, if you found one, there’d be less on the plate and it would be more expensive!

Education

The cost of top quality education – and I qualify that as an international school with qualified Western teachers following a Western curriculum, is outrageously high in Thailand. If you are considering sending your children to an international school and your child’s school fees are not covered by your employer in your contract, you’re in for a big hit financially. The best schools charge in excess of 500,000 baht, or in real money, more than $US15,000 per year. Let's not forget that there is also a registration charge, a one off payment of around $US6,000.

A good education is a must, an expense you just can't avoid if you have kids. I am of the opinion that to deprive your kids of a quality education is about the worst thing you can do as a parent. You simply cannot shirk this if you have kids in Bangkok and you must bite the bullet.

And of course the killer is that most schools in the West compare well with what is available in Bangkok. Sure, there are schools in the West you’d rather not send your kids to, but for the most part, Western schools are pretty good. And for the most part a decent education is as good as free.

Accommodation

I can't deny it that the cost of housing and rental accommodation in Bangkok remains reasonable. This is one area where it would be hard to grumble, and one aspect to life in Bangkok where, financially at least, Bangkok does compare well.

Hotels are also cheap compared with much of the West, but a number of venues are getting more expensive – and seemingly without reason. Prices go up but new facilities aren't necessarily introduced, renovations mightn't happen. When you start to compare the cost of hotel rooms in Bangkok to say, Malaysia, Bangkok looks positively expensive. Not only do you get better rooms with superior features (genuine high speed Internet for example), you also get better service from staff who can actually speak English. (The number of 5 star hotels in Thailand which cater predominantly to Westerners yet have staff with mediocre or even virtually non-existent English is a real embarrassment.)

Still, bargains can always be found and if you are content to accept a few rough edges, Bangkok’s accommodation options shouldn’t break the bank.

Summary

As far as Westerners living in Bangkok are concerned, most of us live a life that really is not that different to how we lived at home. We live in Western style lodgings. We watch Western TV. We eat Western food. Most of us don’t want to go native, at least when it comes to lifestyle. We’re happy to eat Thai food some of the time, but we’re Westerners and most of us live like Westerners.

If however you wish to live like a local, you can do so on next to nothing. But there are few Westerners who are prepared to do that, and the few that do are forced to, their financial reserves meager, their income little or non-existent. I personally have yet to meet anyone who truly CHOSE to go native.

Bargains can still be had outside of the capital and the major tourist areas, about that there is little doubt. But that is not the lifestyle that the masses want to lead. If you’re a countryside guy, then Thailand would be perfect in so many ways, and ever so easy on the wallet. But for many, living in the provinces, even if you’re doing well for yourself, can be boring. It is my experience that people who live in the provinces take regular trips to Bangkok or other spots popular with Westerners.

For tourists, Bangkok may be cheap, but it is not the bargain it used to be. The quality of some goods and services may not be what you are used to at home and if they do not meet your expectations, well, there ain't always much you can do about it!

Yes, I know you can spend $US500 per hour, or more, on a top lawyer in the US. Yes, I know you can spend a few hundred pounds on dinner in a 3 Michelin star-rated restaurant in London and yes, I know that a 5 star hotel room in Manhattan might be north of $US500. But this is Bangkok for goodness sake. You don’t get the same quality or guarantees that you get elsewhere! For many things, Bangkok prices are reaching levels that are unrealistic.

Where was this picture taken?


Last week's picture was taken at Lumpini Park and featured the Ferris wheel that used to be in the Suan Lum Night Bazaar and which has since been dismantled and taken away. 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. Not after any naughty bar prizes, though!

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 – Good Samaritans of Isaan.

Driving down to Pattaya this morning, I suffered a blow out of a rear tyre. I put the car on the very narrow hard shoulder. But I found that to change the tyre I needed to crouch in the first lane, while motorists on their mobile phones whizzed past only inches away. One driver failed to realise he was driving halfway in the hard shoulder and I needed to wave a shirt to warn him of the imminent collision. Out of nowhere a huge truck pulled up, blocking both lanes and three young Thai men leapt out and changed the tyre for me, in the protective lea of their truck. They were so professional and adept, I thought they worked for the tollway company. But it turned out they were three Isaan guys who saw my predicament and decided to help. Often expats are pretty scathing about the locals (especially the male locals) but there are many good people here too. Funnily enough, they often come from the poorest backgrounds and have the least education. In a country where rip offs and scams are reported so often, it's nice to see that outside the tourist areas, people still have the Thai spirit that was once so common. I drove on with my faith in humanity restored.

The state of the baht.

A strong baht 1) reduces tourism, 2) reduces exports, 3) makes it easier for Thailand to purchase foreign goods, which is OK if you are planning to buy a fleet of 747s. A weak baht: 1) increases tourism, 2) increases exports of the goods currently produced in Thailand, 3) makes it more difficult to purchase the foreign goods needed for heavy manufacturing. So where is the Thai economy? I believe Thailand needs more employment and this comes from exporting goods currently mined, made or grown in Thailand overseas. This will bring in more money to finance education and improve Thai life. It was a cheap currency that built Japan's powerful export economy. You can see the same results in China and South Korea. Once there is an educated population, a stronger currency will be needed to finance the import of expensive manufacturing materials needed to compete with the industrial powers. The key here is improving the Thai educational system, including instruction in construction and manufacturing skills.

Thai Town ain't seedy.

Thai Town "seedy"? Quite the opposite. Thai Town and its restaurants are always bustling with activity of both Thai and local Angelinos. As the beautification of central Hollywood expands, the riff raff is getting swept away. Thai Town is cleaner now than it ever was and will only benefit from all the recent redevelopment.

The dollar really is sending people home.

I moved to Thailand on a pay package of $4,000 a month. Now I'm back in Europe as the $4,000 kept getting smaller every month. At the height of it, $4,000 would get you 168,000 baht at 42 to the dollar. Now it is 33 and that's 132,000 baht, a total difference of 36,000 baht, a teacher's salary or quite a few ladies of the night. No wonder I'm back in Europe! Will make sure I have at least $5,000 next time.


The best Thai dating experience

The demise of the gogos.

Two years ago I was out quite a bit in the bars or Nana and Cowboy. Now I can’t remember the last time I entered a gogo. It wasn’t just one thing that put me off but a combination of things like the higher drink prices, the change in girls' attitudes, the surly and rude staff, the extra loud music, the cigar and cigarette smoke. It just wasn’t fun anymore. Every time I do rarely venture out to a gogo now it doesn’t take long for me to remember why I stopped going to them. I prefer the oilys and soapys now for all the reverse reasons I stopped going to the gogos – no lady drinks, predictable results and performance, no short time room charge, no bar fine, smoke free, pretty girls, and as an added bonus I sometimes get a very decent massage. The overall cost is less than that of a gogo and it is hassle free.

How to end an unsatisfying relationship.

If a farang ever has problems to get rid of a girl, he just should start to criticise the girl's family. In no time she will get very upset and break up with him. I just tried it.

A beer connoisseur speaks

Just writing to remind you that Beer Lao has been available in East Lansing, Michigan. It is available here at the Oriental Mart in East Lansing, the best place for buying all the best things Thai in these parts (that would be the food). Interestingly, the bottles claim to have been brewed and bottled in the Lao PDR. I don't doubt this as the packaging is substandard, but surely the beer isn't.

Face over practicality.

My wife and I were staying at a hotel on Sukhumvit when one day a Thai friend of mine called unexpectedly, and then stopped by to say hi since it had been a few months since we had seen each other. I told him we were on our way to MBK, and he said he would go with us. He had driven his car and wanted to drive us. I adamantly objected and said it would be so much easier to just ride the skytrain, not to mention it would take about an hour less to get there. I explained that I can get almost anywhere in the city in at least half the time as him by using some combination of the skytrain, subway, and a taxi bike. I prefer to drive my own car only when outside of the Bangkok. I could see the absolute frustration, confusion and anxiety in his eyes. I also know that having and driving his car – and it is a rather expensive one – is a huge sign of face for him (as it is for most Thais. My wife here in the US always smiles since no one really cares what type of car anyone else drives). He pressed me so hard to let him drive, and when I finally made it plain and clear that I would not and that we were taking the skytrain, he reluctantly agreed to go with us. After we got to MBK, he remarked how fast that was. A couple of years later I was joking about the incident with his wife. It turns out that in all the years he has lived in Bangkok, he had never ridden the skytrain before that day. But it should also not surprise anyone that his wife also told me that he never rode it again since that day with my wife and I.

Beer Lao Dark is now available in Thailand. The Big Mango got their first few cases and have added it to the menu. happy hour and ALL night Wednesday it goes for 75 baht, 110 baht non-happy hour. Happy hour is now 4 – 8 PM and their kitchen serves from 4 – 1 AM. I love Beer Lao's lager and while I am not usually a fan of dark beers, I'll give this one a go. Oh, be careful with the Beer Lao Dark – it's 6.5% alcoholic volume, compared with 5% for the lager.

There seems to be an increasing trend of suspicious police stops in and around the sois of Sukhumvit, particularly just east of the Asoke area, and usually late at night. I have received two emails from readers, both outlining a similar situation. Going home by taxi late at night the taxi has been ordered to stop by two Thai men claiming to be policemen, but when asked, producing ID that was questionable. In each case the policemen have asked to see the farang's passport and then have conducted a search of his person and belongings! The way it has all happened, policemen in regular clothes conducting searches in dark sois very late at night makes it all sound highly questionable to me. Are these real cops or not? At this point, that remains unclear and until someone who speaks very good Thai and is familiar with police ID gets stopped, we won't know. If this happens to you, remain clam, be polite, and ask to move into a brightly lit area. It might even be worth asking to go to the police station. So long as you genuinely have not done anything wrong, you should be ok making such a request. I would be VERY NERVOUS at the thought of being patted down or having your belongings checked in a dark area. ANYTHING could happen. Personally, I would refuse! If any readers experience this, please do send in a report so we can try and work out just what is going on.

Morning Night has just been renovated (in an amazing 5 days) to celebrate getting a 5 year lease. Owner Maew is doing very well with Hillary 1, 2 and 3 plus Morning Night and Spice Club. But then she deserves everything she gets as she works tirelessly, running her businesses, helping many other businesses on Soi 4 AND studying for a Master's Degree. Money, looks and brains too!

The Irish Xchange is closed for a month or so and is under renovation. The staff can be found at the Phuket branch of Molly Malone's where they are for training for a month or so. The Xchange will re-open in the re-badged form of Molly Malone's and the changes will include a new interior including the removal of that tacky stairwell!

At Club Electric Blue the standard of girls is a plus and owner Andy has said he will be getting another 25 new girls next week. His philosophy is based on the premise – "If you stuff a bar full of girls – customers will come." Andy might not be a genius, but he has always run great bars.

Are there more beggars in the Soi 4 area these days than there used to be? It sure seems like it to me. It should be noted that a number of the beggars have been begging in the farang areas of Bangkok for a very long time. Two I recognise from my first trip to Thailand, many, many years ago.

I have been told that the requirements for British nationals to get British citizenship for their children changed a while ago. Apparently in the past a British national had to marry the woman to whom he had a child, but these days all he has to do is make sure his name is on the birth certificate and then register the birth with the British Embassy within 12 months.

I am informed that despite the quiet season being experienced by all the bars – yes, all the bars, Big Dog's claims that business is up on last year. It doesn't seem so to my eyes but apparently they are doing even better than they did in 2006.

There's a bunch of new staff in Angelwitch in Bangkok and the popular showgirl Nan has returned. You don't know Nan? She's the one with the most expensive set of knockers in Thailand. Four different guys paid for those babies. Well actually, only one paid but the other three think they paid…

One Bangkok bar owner is in dire straits. His bars have taken a nosedive and apparently all of the money sunk into the operation was on loan. Oh dear…

British Airways got hammered this week for price fixing but didn't expect Rainbow 4 to be had up for their version of price fixing. The staff have agreed amongst themselves to set their prices at 2,000 short time and 4,000 long time. Negotiating may be possible on a quiet night – that is if there is such a thing in Rainbow 4.

For New Zealanders and Australians hoping to visit Thailand in September, book your tickets quickly! With the rugby world cup to be held in France in September and October, flights on Thai Airways at least, are pretty much full up. In rugby mad New Zealand, you'll have to be a gold member of Thai Airways to get a flight from NZ to Bangkok.

Also from Aotearoa, purveyors of fine beers, that means fans of Laos' finest export, will be pleased to know that Beer Lao is available in at least one retailer in Wellington. Regional Wines at the Basin Reserve have a small amount in stock, 41 bottles to be precise. It's not cheap though at NZD 2.55 per bottle, although that compares favourably to Singha which is available at, get this NZD 3.80, or about USD 3.00 equivalent.

Tourism authorities can brag all they like about record numbers of visitors to the Land of Smiles, but Pattaya bar owners are not bragging or smiling. Not only has this been one of the most dismal low seasons in recent years, but it started earlier and has continued for six months. The number of punters has declined to new lows, worsened of late by frequent evening rains which have deterred would-be customers from venturing out much beyond their hotels or homes. If that wasn’t bad enough, gogo bars have just been kicked while down: police have issued an order to cease all showing! Despite the fact that nudity – and even topless – has not been officially condoned anywhere in Thailand, the local constabulary have usually found it more financially rewarding to turn a blind eye.

Nightclub owners are up in arms. They protested en masse at Pattaya City Hall this week, demanding the directive be rescinded. Claiming that skin is the lifeblood that attracts business to Pattaya’s entertainment centres, they appealed to the mayor to take corrective action immediately. He reportedly agreed to appeal to higher authorities in seeking some relaxation.

In the meantime, it appears that at least some night spots failed to receive the no-showing orders. That is, a random check of Walking Street gogo bars this weekend produced no evidence that owners were complying with the harsh directive! This, despite the visit of a police general from Bangkok and roving police patrols.

And if the business climate was dampened by frequent rains during the week, clear skies over the weekend encouraged the return of a healthy number of punters in bars and clubs as well as large numbers of Walking Street strollers (including countless clusters of Chinese visitors who have replaced Russian tourists).

One club not sharing in the upswing in trade is New Living Dolls 1. The gogo bar has been closed for about a month, ostensibly for failing to produce required documents requested during a surprise police visit. However, the grapevine has it that the grudging owner of a competing establishment filed an official police complaint pointing to lewdness at NLD1 – which police could not ignore. The club is expected to reopen with a gala celebration August 17.

Another club that has apparently closed its doors is Galaxy – the Walking Street cabaret that bragged about having "only European girls" (read former Soviet Bloc). The short-lived den featured a farang gogo dancer in its upper floor window and what can only be described as extravagant prices. Last night it featured two overweight black girls.

For some time now I've been hunting for a quality Italian restaurant in Bangkok with good food for not a lot of cash. The two benchmarks I have are Piccola Roma, in Udon Thani of all places, and Mamma Mia, in Hua Hin. In each of these venues you can get great pasta dishes for around 200 baht with salads and other dishes are often less. I finally received a recommendation of a supposedly quality, yet reasonably priced Italian restaurant here in Bangkok called Lido Italian. Lido Italian restaurant is located on Soi Sribumphen, in the Malaysia Hotel neighbourhood, just south of Rama 4 Road and the Lumpini MRT station. Pastas are very reasonably priced under 200 baht for the most part and salads are around 100 baht. So how does it rate? Well, the food is good, very good in fact, but it is not quite up there with the two aforementioned places (which in all fairness are exceptional) and the food is not quite as good as what you get at the top end Italian restaurants in Bangkok. But as an affordable Italian option, it's pretty good.

You often hear of Westerners making recommendations to other Westerners about so and so being a good lawyer. You also often hear that their rates run around several thousand baht an hour. While I do not have a specific recommendation for you, I am of the opinion that in Thailand, the cost charged by individual lawyers is not necessarily commensurate with his or her ability. You do NOT need to pay such high fees for good lawyers here. I also believe that should you need a lawyer, you are better off with a Thai lawyer. Farang lawyers usually act as a consultant, a point of contact. They gather all of the information and prepare a case or documents or whatever the case may be, and then pass it on to a Thai lawyer to do a lot of the donkey work and if need be, to represent you in court. Cut out the middle man, cut out the farang! Of course there are some good farang lawyers out there – but expect the Western lawyers to charge Western prices.

Language schools are screaming out for teachers and there are currently a number of schools which simply cannot get enough teachers into the classroom to meet demand. I just wish some of these schools would actually realise that we're in 2007, and not 1997. The wages and salaries offered by some of these schools are laughable. I still hear stories of schools offering 26,000 baht a month for a 6 day week or 300 baht an hour for part-time teachers, numbers which quite frankly are a joke in a city which has become much more expensive in recent years.

Youtube is still not available to the average internet user in Thailand since it was banned a few months back by the Thai government. Every now and then you hear of net users saying they could access it but its availability seems sporadic, at best. I recently read that Youtube accounts for approximately 10% of all internet traffic worldwide (no wonder Google paid 1.6 billion dollars for it), but that got me thinking. Maybe there is some theory that by blocking access to this site then there is more bandwidth available for other things. Yes, I know this is hardly logical and even somewhat warped in its thinking but hey, we're in Thailand!

Quote of the week. "Short time will soon be named ‘no time at all’ or ‘not such a great time’".

The esteemed newspaper, and indeed my favourite newspaper in the whole wide world, The Times of London, ran an article this week which stated that “Thailand is the deadliest destination for British holidaymakers.”

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've been with my girlfriend for more than two years. After some pressure from her, a few months ago I agreed to get married. The wedding is set for January. Unfortunately, I'm not enthusiastic about getting married and I'm also very unsure about my future in Thailand. I'm having many doubts about getting married and I want to postpone or cancel the wedding plans. The problem is, we already put a deposit for the wedding and she has told her friends and family already. I don't want her to lose face, but I think it is better to break it off now instead of getting divorced one or two years later. What is the best way to break this news to her? Also, I really worry about her. Though she is quite pretty and comes from a good family, she is already 33 years. She thinks she is old already. Is there any hope for her to find a good Thai man even though she's 33? I think that may be better than getting involved with unreliable farang.

Miss Udon says: In this matter I think you had better tell her what you’re thinking. Did you give her any clues that you are not happy about the wedding? If you worry about her face and have hidden your true feelings I can say it's not a good idea to go ahead with it and she wouldn't happy to know this. If you have doubts about your feelings and feel unsure, please let her know. We don't mind about losing face that we break up before the wedding as opposed to the mistake of getting married with a guy who isn't sure about his future. She’ll probably get hurt, really hurt in this matter but she will be fine and she will be glad in time that the wedding did not go ahead. A 33 year old lady with a good education and from a good family will not find it hard to get another guy to get married to. She is not too old.


Question 2: Many Thai women tell me that they think Western women are more attractive than Thai women and some of the Thai women I have known over the years are perplexed at us farangs showing such an interest in Thai women. I am curious as to what you and your friends think of Western women. Can you understand why Western men fall for Thai women or do you think Western women are more attractive. I am talking about this from a looks point of view, how people look.

Miss Udon says: Yes, we Thai girls think like that. Western women have a confident look and live their life as they want. But we Thais cannot do that as we have a strong culture and believe that woman shouldn't do that, shouldn't do this, etc… So we are a bit jealous of western woman. But we heard that western woman don't care about many things as much as themselves and that makes western guys turn to Thai woman. For me, I think any woman can be attractive if they are confident, smart and believe in what they do. It's not only the looks that a guy is attracted but also their brains.

Question 3: I’m an older American and have met a young Thai lady. I love her very much but she has HIV which she picked up from her last boyfriend who didn’t know he had it. Economically she is from lower class Northeastern family, lives in Bangkok and has an accounting job. She is still healthy with a high T4 blood count. I would like to ask you what the fair price would be for the sin sod. Also I would like your comment on the following. She asked her mother about us living together now and her mother said she can't until we get engaged. But since I don’t have the amount of money they are asking for, at this time, I told my girlfriend we will get engaged like they do in America. So my plan is this: I'll buy her an engagement ring, and present it to her. No money evolved. She can then tell her mother we are engaged so we can now live together. All she needs to do is tell her mother that is how it is done in America and I would like her to show respect for me and my culture just like I will show respect for her family and culture by paying the sin sod before I marry her daughter. It doesn't make any difference that I'm in Thailand. If my girlfriend and I had meet in America and she requested I do something to honour her culture I would. I told my girlfriend, if she goes against her mothers wish, her mother is not going to hurt like I am. I give and they give, kao jai mai.

Miss Udon says: I wonder whether her mother knows that she has HIV? If she knows she wouldn't have asked for any baht from a guy who loves her daughter. In my opinion the sin sod is nothing in this case. The love that you have for her is already enough and worth real value. If I were a mother I would let my daughter live her life as she wants because I wouldn't know how long she can do that for. The money for engagement that she mentioned you to pay before living with her daughter is crazy. Family honour is strong in Thailand but in this case I don't think it has to exist. You can do as you plan to do and I encourage you to buy her a ring and live a happy life as long as you can. Good luck!

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Yours,

Stick Mark II