Stickman's Weekly Column October 14th, 2007

Recapturing The Magic


They say that you never forget your first time and that you are always trying to recapture the magic. But if I'm truly honest, my first time was totally forgettable.

My second time however was much better, much more fun!

My second time was in September 1998. It took me four hours to get there and I can remember looking outside as rain lashed fiercely against the windows as I enjoyed the ride to my destination. It was the rainy season and a fierce storm was blowing a gale outside.

I remember every moment of the journey. It started late afternoon and continued well into the night. Four hours! Has it ever taken you four hours? Truth be told, it was stop, start, stop, start most of the way. If we'd been going the whole time no way would it have taken 4 hours. Half that is more likely.

Boy, was I tired when I got there. Four hours cramped up in such a small, tight spot.

Thank God the bus finally pulled into Pattaya. It was only my second trip there, and quite possibly the best time I ever had in Sin City. It was the rainy season, it was quiet and I was travelling with a good mate.

I had never managed to recapture the fun of that trip. I recently ventured down to Pattaya and was hopeful of experiencing the same fun I had had many years earlier.

Fast forward to 2007.

We'd just eaten an amazing meal at my favourite Pattaya restaurant, the very unassuming, but totally fabulous Cuisine La Auberre. I had read that this gem had recently celebrated a decade serving Pattaya. I lament the fact that I was only introduced to it some 18 months ago by an English pal. I could have been dining there and enjoying the finest French food all these years. Cuisine La Auberre really is a gift from the Gods – as are a number of other similar establishments in the area. French-owned restaurants where a full three course dinner, with good French bread thrown in and a decent cup of coffee can be had for not much more than 200 baht. A gourmand's delight.

Similar in Bangkok would cost…well, it just doesn't bear thinking about. At the end of the day similar in Bangkok just doesn't exist.

We walked down from Deuk Com, the computer shopping centre and the area where it has to be said many of the best reasonably-priced restaurants are found, through a typical small town neighbourhood. There were no streetlights, but light from the stores and vendors operating late into the night cast a warm glow over the narrow lanes. Motorbikes zoomed past at break-neck speed, many with the entire family on-board.

Even in this very Thai area, Pattaya's building boom, as well as its foreign influences, were clear to see with a new serviced apartment building open for business, one which I don't recall on my last trip. Negotiating our way down to and then across Second Road we saw that the boys in brown were on patrol. It's a favourite spot to ping those who neglect to don a helmet. A hundred baht and the rider is on their way – with no demerit points on their licence. Ah, another of Thailand's many delights.

Proceeding down Soi Diamond I couldn't help but notice the many women milling around the bars – and few customers. In complete contrast with Bangkok, the girls were full of smiles and the calls of “Hello, handsome man” were quite frankly, a little bit more convincing.

So into the first bar we go, a Soi Diamond gogo. We are joined by a couple of ladies who sit patiently with us, chat and generally make for pleasant company. The conversation isn't exactly interesting but neither is it completely dull. The antics on stage are lost on us as we chat away with the pretty little things who have declared that we are theirs. I offer the lady a drink, aware that after almost 20 minutes of chat she has not even requested one. This just would not happen in Bangkok!

All hell is breaking loose on stage and while the antics aren't necessarily to my liking, it's eye-opening nonetheless. Pattaya is probably the only place in Thailand these days where you can see that sort of thing.

We leave the medium-sized Soi Diamond gogo and hit Walking Street. It's early and it's the rainy season so it's quiet. But quiet is relative and even when Walking Street is "quiet" there are plenty of revellers about. Try as it may, the rain can't dampen the fun. Everyone is having a good time, smiling and happy.

Walking Street might be lined with gogo bars and dens of iniquity but the feeling is one of fun, not necessarily sex. The distinction is important. You can have a night out in Pattaya, not have sex, but still have a great night out. The same cannot necessarily be said about Bangkok. Bangkok at night in the farang bar areas that is.

The next stop is a Walking Street boite where the girls are handing out free draft beer vouchers at the entrance, targeting those guys who look like they were going to walk past. Free beer vouchers? What would a Bangkok bar owner think of that? In fact what would some Bangkok bar owners think of selling piss at less than 100 baht a glass? Mention of free beer vouchers and the average Bangkok bar owner would probably have a heart attack.

So in we go and it still being relatively early we secure seats close to the stage where we're quickly joined by the owner and manager, a father / son pairing. We're filled in on all of the gossip from the bar and the street and learn such tit bits that the bar now has two mute girls on the books.

Embarrassment follows as the voucher free beer is followed by more free beers, courtesy of the management. Being the plonker behind a popular column has its benefits, I guess. But then the bar owners and managers in Pattaya seem to take that much more interest in their customers, and seem to be genuinely concerned that a good time is had by all. You get that in some Bangkok bars. Some.

A couple of lady drinks are paid for out of the sheer embarrassment of sitting in a bar, lugging back free beers while sitting at a table without a checkbin.

We exit the bar and drift along Walking Street, taking in the sights, the sounds and the aroma of tasteful sleaze. Can sleaze be tasteful? I quietly wonder to myself.

It's the wall to wall neon, the fact that Walking Street's bars are punctuated with restaurants and other more legitimate businesses, as well as family groups and tour groups which all contribute to giving Walking Street that, dare I say it, more tasteful flavour.

I hate to go on, but Cowboy and Nana are oh so tacky in comparison. Even the Big Mango, a wonderful little bar with great food and drinks at ridiculously reasonable prices struggles to put an honest face on Nana.

Wandering further along Walking Street, girls stand outside bars holding placards advertising draft beer and house spirits at give away prices. 30 baht, 35 baht, 45 baht, 50 baht, 55 baht. I couldn't possibly mistake this for Bangkok where you can get hit 140 baht for a beer and 150 for a lady drink in some popular bars. No wonder the Pattaya crowd positively guffaw at the idea of a night out in Bangkok. Bangkok prices and its lack of smiles are deal killers.

The concentration of bars on Walking Street is amazing. What is it, about 70 gogo bars within 300 odd metres of each other? Show bars, coyote bars, table top dancing bars, regular gogo bars, bars with European dancers…the list goes on and on. And then you have the hostess style bars like Secrets, FLB and my current fave, Shooters.

We pass bars with balloons outside, a celebration or a party, with more than enough free food to soak up a night's drinking. When was the last time there was free food available at a bar in Bangkok? OK, I heard there was something in Cowboy this weekend but in Pattaya it's the norm, in Bangkok the exception.

The night got darker, we got drunker and the fun factor just got greater and greater.

Every Friday night I struggle to do the rounds in Bangkok, venturing out into the night, observing the comings and goings, interrogating bar managers and bar owners and whispering to a few of my favourite girls, all in the pursuit of bringing you news and gossip from the past week.

I used to enjoy it, but truth be told, it becomes mundane and boring. It is only when I hook up with some of my Friday night drinking mates that things look up. Enjoying a few beers with a few mates is always fun.

A night out in Pattaya is such a breath of fresh air. The environment is more pleasant. The venues more varied. The prices more reasonable. The smiles more common and dare I say it, while perhaps no more sincere, they're certainly more convincing.

I couldn't do it every week and even once a month might be too much, but a night out on Pattaya offers so much more than the equivalent in Bangkok.

When it comes to nightlife and just a good old-fashioned boys' night out, Pattaya positively kicks Bangkok's ass.

And yeah, I managed to recapture the magic of my second time.

Where was this picture taken?


Last week's picture was of the stairway to heaven, the steps leading up to the first floor on the right hand side of Nana Plaza. The first person to email me with the correct location of the picture wins a 500 baht credit at Oh My Cod, the British Fish And Chips restaurant and the second wins a free jug of margarita, valued at 840 baht from Charley Brown's, a well-established, popular restaurant, offering authentic Tex-Mex Cuisine and delicious margaritas. Charley Brown's is located in the small sub-soi off Sukhumvit Soi 11.

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 – Knowing how to approach an issue.

Most of us farangs come from countries that have a large presence of vehicles in our driveways that have more options than ten upcountry homes have put together. Thais are about using a simple set of options. It's what makes a lot of them head strong, determined, and unwavering. I mean, this is stuff you figure out the first year you're in Thailand. They are very insular, and not alone. Go to Nicaragua for example and see how many people can pass a simple world history test; but ask them what's been happening in their immediate area of the world for the last three generations, and you'd get an ear full. Once you are aware of the history of the people whose country you now reside in, even if that's just for a month or two; it becomes more clear how to approach situations to get things accomplished. Why continue to berate someone when it is just to make a point if you need to get something done. If you see it being done in Thailand, then there is a way to get it done.

Who's living off a local girl?!

It's a fine line from having fun and hurting people's feelings. Both parties should know what they are doing and where it's going. I never had any problems, but then, nobody left the place crying – but with quite a happy smile. But to use your girlfriend to pay off debts, and especially this kind of debts is just…I don't even have words for that. But I know about several guys living off their girlfriends here. It's not so unusual. Sometimes I think, yeah they will be all like me, more or less civilised, but the reality check is certainly not like it, especially the young long-term guys here, some of them are true scum.

High quoted price = mai ow!

I nearly responded to an email in your weekly a couple of weeks back in which the guy complained of being quoted 2,500 ST at Nana. This was probably just the girl's way of saying she didn't want to go with him. Also, if you go in somewhere looking as if you're ready for fun then there'll always be at least one girl there who isn't only interested in the money, a cutie who hasn't yet become hardened. All in all though, I'd say prices have doubled in the last 3 – 4 years. The 1,500 LT is long gone, and the 1,000 ST I was offered is probably rare too. It's not just the money – it's the attitude.

The boys in brown are consistent!

I have seen you post a few times about the police pulling farang over…well, I just got back from two weeks in Thailand and I had that experience up close and personal. I was going back to my hotel from The Tunnel around 4:30 AM. I don't know what street I was on (riding in a cab, also don't know the streets) but it was one of the major roads, anyway, two policemen were on the side of the road shining flashlights in the cars as they were passing. The three cars ahead of me were all waived through and when they shined the light on me, they had the cab pull over. I got out and they had me empty my pockets, no pat down, got back in the cab and went on my way…took probably three minutes. Wasn't a big deal but I definitely felt like I was being picked out for being a foreigner.

Farangs under 50 a bunch of crooks?

Maybe it is my social circle, but I don't know many non-English teachers under the age of 50 (age to get a retirement visa) here in Bangkok who are not doing something illegal and hurtful to other people in order to benefit themselves (I can think of one guy who is not hurting anyone). They generally want to stay here because of the girls and will do almost anything to make money to achieve this goal. They make all kinds of rationalizations, but I don't accept them. In the end, they do whatever they want no matter who it hurts. Often they claim moral superiority and freely judge others according to their adjustable moral floor. I find that it is difficult to trust people here in Thailand. I have been surprised on occasion, but not often enough to let my guard down. I try not to get involved with desperate people because there is a good chance that they will try to make their problems into my problems. And there is a good chance they will try to take advantage of me in the long run. I have been surprised many times by guys who have seemed too trustworthy. Some of the worst present themselves as the least desperate and most trustworthy. They look like "harmless" boys.

What's wrong with Bang Saen?

Last Saturday we spent the day in Bang Saen, just over an hour's ride from Bangkok and a seaside place I had last been to on Christmas Day 1994. Back then it was a sleepy stretch of beach with hardly any development on the Beach Road. Now it has changed a lot as expected and the authorities have done a pretty good job doing up the front, planting a lot of trees and developing the esplanade. There are a lot of new buildings including a very nice looking hotel right on the front. What puzzled me is that despite the thousands of people in attendance was the lack of farang visitors; it was over three hours before I saw one and then only one the whole day. There is cheap food and booze a plenty, far better and cheaper than at a certain town just down the road. The sea is cleaner, the beach is better and there is an absence of annoying touts. They have the trappings of development including a KFC and I'm sure there must be a Muck Donald's around and there are a few bars. The town has a good market especially for fish. So why don't farangs appear to go there at all? I can understand the single guys being attracted elsewhere, but what about the married guys with families, do they really prefer to travel further to take their families to Pattaya, if so why?

Seldom mentioned in this column, the Siam Hotel on Petchaburi Road was a major late night spot for horny Thai men who would hunt for pretty Thai women hanging around. Many of the ladies were from the nearby massage parlours. The Siam Hotel appears to have closed down so that is the end of an era for another Bangkok late night spot.

Tonight, kicking off at 7 PM you can celebrate Bob's birthday bash at the Office Bar in Sukhumvit's swanky soi 33. There'll be free food, live music by Maria band and the bell will ring. All are welcome.

There was an odd sight in Patpong 2 this week. A middle-aged farang and a middle-aged black man were acting as touts, trying to get passers by into Super Queen Bar, that's the bar up a short flight of stairs next to the long-running Executive. The farang was dressed like a mid '90s Bangkok English teacher with short-sleeved shirt and horrendous necktie. Strange is an understatement.

You wouldn't call it one of the great gogo bars in Pattaya, but for some reason, Windmill has always been a favourite, especially early in the evening. You can drift in there as early as 7 PM and its all action. I swung by Windmill a couple of nights this past week and thought they had moved away from their core business. There was a lot of eating going on. But then I realised that what was being eaten is not the sort of thing usually served on a plate.

Have they passed some sort of bylaw in Pattaya outlawing pubic hair? From what I saw, such a bylaw must have been passed.

New Living Dolls One has bounced back after its closure. Always a fun bar and always a good time to be had there. There are currently a couple of mute girls in there and Shane is doing his best to look after them and see that they are treated decently by customers. I only saw one – and she was a real looker.

There's a new food menu at Secrets with many new items added, including pizzas. I have heard good things about the seafood pizza, 8 slices going for a very reasonable 270 baht.

And speaking of Secrets, manager Larry is back and waddling around. His smile is there and he reckons he is at around 60%. Hope to see him back at 100% soon.

I really enjoyed the free Mexican food offered at Shooter's in Soi Diamond this past Thursday. The new chef did a great job. Mexican as well as the usual American favourites are now offered at Shooter's.

The talk in Pattaya was, funnily enough, about something which purportedly took place in Angeles City recently. Apparently someone ran up a, get this, $10,000 bill in a naughty bar! It is said that the guy rang the bell 100 times although it is a physical impossibility that these girls could down anywhere near 100 drinks. 10 would knock out a good number of them. What is true however is that someone recently had a 47,000 baht bill in Catz, in Pattaya. Admittedly that covered a whole lot of drinks as well as plenty of food. Imagine what sort of night he must have had! His smile must have lasted for quite some time!

By the way, Catz has a bunch of fun, new girls so do drop by if you haven't been in recently.

The best deal on Walking Street has to be at Champion A Gogo where girls were standing outside advertising 30 baht draft beer ALL NIGHT LONG! Yep, from opening until closing, draft beer can be had at just 30 baht a glass. They're as good as giving it away.

Proving that he can gobble with the best of them, SunbeltAsia's affable head, Greg Lange, raced to victory in the first round of the feeding frenzy, part of the American expo at Siam Paragon last weekend, when me managed to wolf down 5 Big Macs in a little over 2 minutes! Having dined with Greg a fair few times I can verify that he enjoys his food, but even he was amazed at the speed at which he was able to put the burgers back. "I was sweating like hell soon after!", he told me.

The obstacle course to Pattaya, that is the main road down to Sin City, remains a bit of a nightmare. I have not cracked 2 and a half hours from Bangkok to Pattaya in some time. Chunks of the road are complete, but the closer you get to Pattaya, the worse it gets. I fear we are going to be battling traffic jams on the way to Pattaya for several months to come as there are still huge sections of the road where a lot of work needs to be done.

Metal detectors are in place at the entrances to the auditoriums at some suburban cinemas in Bangkok. Major Central Rama 3 has them, although they seem to be a bit of a novelty and whether it beeps or not the doorman seems not one little bit concerned. I guess they are trying to stop people taking in recording devices, as opposed to bombs.

An interesting article appeared on another site before it was removed and should provide food for thought. It concerns a 14 year old girl working in a Nana bar while carrying at least one STD. If you ever thought that just because you got a girl from a Nana bar that she was of legal age, well you're wrong! The poor guy's mind must be going round and round in circles with worry.

For me, one of the few genuinely interesting non-nightlife attractions in Pattaya is the Sanctuary of Truth, the weird castle-like temple which can be reached by taking Naklua Soi 12 to the end. The only problem is that it is not finished and the price of entry is high – 500 baht. They are running a promotion from now until King's Birthday, 5th December, and it is a case of buy one ticket, get another free. This is probably the best chance you will have to check it out at a reasonable price. If you're a photographer, the whole place is a real gem.

If there is one thing that really annoys me it is when Thai women have the audacity to call me kee-nee-ow, which means stingy with one's money, usually this is used as a guilt trip to try and gain some sort of advantage from you. Being called stingy when in fact you are not is something of an insult – and many Thai women working in establishments where farangs frequent either do not understand that or simply do not care. The best response is to say kee-kaw to them, which means they habitually ask for something to which they may not have an entitlement to. Do it – it puts them in their places and shuts them up. To pronounce it correctly, kee is falling tone and kaw is rising tone.

In the area around where I live the police have been cracking down on motorcyclists who don't wear a helmet. The cops are really sneaky, hiding in the bushes in numbers and jumping out when they see a motorbike rider without a helmet approaching. But the motorcycle taxi gang opposite my condo has reacted and have made up a large sign. Whenever the cops are in attendance they put the sign out for all to see and actively wave at any motorbike rider riding without a helmet. The sign would best be translated as "Put on your helmet, the fxxxing devil is waiting for you in the soi"! Funnily enough, everyone seems to get the message. I was fascinated by it one day this week and sat chatting with my favourite rider about it. In that whole time I was there, perhaps half an hour or so, the cops did not issue one ticket. Funny!

Just what is the role of the tourist police? Does anyone have any idea at all? In certain parts of the country, Pattaya particularly, the tourist police have been heavily advertised, yet no-one is clear on just what their role is. Are they there to help out tourists in distress? When I say tourists, I mean anyone on holiday. Or are they here to help out any non-Thai speaking victims of crime? Or are they merely propaganda? The tourist police have been getting a hard time in Pattaya with some locals telling me that they call the tourist police's advertised number either for the number to ring and ring and ring and never be answered, or for it to be answered by someone who speaks Thai, and not a word of English. All very frustrating.

The Thai men are generally happy for us Westerners to come to Thailand, have a good time, and do our thing. But I wonder how it would be if we were doing our thing with the white-skinned women? At the end of the day, most Thais – and I am talking about urban Thais in employment, are perplexed at the choice of women most Westerners get involved with. If dirty deeds were being done with white-skinned women or farangs were persistently chasing – and having success – with these women, how would they feel about us?! I wonder.

This has got to be a record, a farang taken by a Thai woman for almost 17 million baht! The guy was clearly clueless, the girl clearly calculating but by God, that's a truckload of money!

Newly acquired HIV infections are on the rise amongst married couples.

Quote of the week, "The big difference between the East and the West is that in the West she decides if we go home together and in the East I decide."

Miss Udon is always happy to answer your questions – that is when you send her some to answer. I considered knocking up a couple of dummy questions but really, that is not what her section of the column is about. So, in the absence of no questions, she took a holiday this weekend. Hopefully you'll have a few for her next weekend.

Ouch, it has rained really heavily a few days this week, as you can see from the picture here taken on Wireless Road – that's right in the heart of the city! Who's that good looking guy in the picture?!

It is always great to get feedback from readers that they enjoy reading the column. It is nice also to overhear people talking about it. I got a nice little thrill recently when sitting in the Royal Garden Plaza in Pattaya, updating the site, when I looked across at another guy in Coffee World reading the day's readers' stories! It was something of a thrill and brought a smile to my face. So, if you were the bloke with the funky Sony laptop, sorry I didn't say hello…but hey, you looked engrossed in the latest stories!



Yours,

Stick Mark II