Stickman's Weekly Column November 11th, 2007

Farangdom


Life is getting more and more difficult in Farangland these days. Even if you’ve got your shit together, rising prices for most everything, the necessity to put in longer hours just to retain your job and the day to day rat race can all wear even the strongest of us down. Combine that with the increase in social problems and the refusal to take responsibility due to the madness of political correctness, Western countries are becoming less and less attractive for a particular subset of the population, the straight middle-class white male.

More and more Westerners, particularly these straight middle-class white males, are moving to Thailand. Disillusioned with life in the West, the smiles, warm weather, reasonable cost of living and amiable flowers of Thailand lure planeloads of such Westerners to Thailand every week.

It’s not easy to move from one country to another. To turn your whole life upside down, to turn your back on your friends and family and to move all of your treasured possessions not just to another country, but in the case of Westerners moving to Thailand, another continent.

But what of the foreigners moving to Thailand? Are we the finest of ambassadors for our countries? Do we represent the crème de la crème of Western society? Are we, man for man, better educated, better looking, more successful and generally better all round people than those we left behind?

Truth be told, the reputation that Westerners living in Thailand have around the world is not good. And in the past year it has been further sullied by a couple of alleged Western paedophiles caught in Thailand who went on to capture headlines in the finest broadsheets in every last corner of the world.

I'll never forget just a few days before I left for Thailand, one uncle erupted into laughter and said something along the lines of Thailand being the place where you go if you want to take two 20 year old girls to bed for not a lot of cash. That's what he, an educated and successful man, thought of Thailand – and the Western guys who live there.

Teachers are supposed to be respected in Thailand, but that subset of teachers, native speaking English teachers, seem to have the worst reputation of all. Phone lines have been running hot between Thailand and Farangland as concerned families do their level best to convince their sons currently employed as teachers in Thailand to return to the “civilised world”. With all of the nonsense reported in the press, the words "English teacher in Thailand" on a resume surely won't help one's hopes of securing decent employment back home.

Many move to Thailand in the hope of a better lifestyle, and that all of the challenges they face on a daily basis back home won't exist here. What many fail to fathom is that if you don't have your shit together in the West, you probably won't be on top of things in Thailand either. Just moving from one country to another is an easy way of apportioning blame on your homeland, blaming it for all of the things which aren't perfect in your life, when very often the problems might be with you. Be wary of anyone who is too harsh about their homeland and blames all of the evils in their life on George Bush, Maggie Thatcher or whoever.

Thailand changes people. As I have previously written, Thailand has changed me and moved me in a different direction than I would have developed had I not left the West. Some of the changes are good, some indifferent.

But Thailand can change people in other ways, and make them become fundamentally worse people. The freedoms offered in Thailand and the laissez faire approach to life can make you think that anything is possible, and therefore whatever you do is ok. The sex, drugs and rock’n’roll impression that many have of Thailand can become a dangerous cocktail.

My dealings and interactions with my fellow farangs have not always been pleasant, although it has to be said that some of the problems I have had I have brought on myself. I let some people get close to me without them first proving they were not an idiot.

Around the middle of last year I had what I now refer to as the big Stickman purge. I cut off a number of people, many whom I had spent much time with, but people who I felt had a bad influence on me, lived a lifestyle I really didn’t like, or simply didn’t offer anything to the friendship. I had built up a large circle of friends and associates and some just had an effect on me that I didn't like. It wasn't easy because some were guys I had previously spent a lot of time and had a lot of good memories with. But the hard decision had to be made, and a number of people were unceremoniously cut off.

For the average Westerner moving to Thailand, everything is new. A new home, a new place to work and of course with all of your friends and family back in Farangland, you'll be looking to build up a circle of friends. With less opportunity to meet other Westerners, at least in terms of one's average daily interaction with others, most of which is likely to be with local Thais, one is limited in the number of Westerners they meet and subsequently go on to befriend. I implore you not to lower your standards when making friends. If someone you meet in Thailand is not the type of person who’d be a mate at home, don’t take them on as a close pal here. Sure, it's nice to have mates to go out drinking with, what I would term drinking buddies, but close friends, people you spend time with, who you visit at their home and they yours, you should select carefully.

These days most of my friends are several years older than me. If I was to calculate the average age of my mates, it's probably close to 50, many years older than me. Older guys tend to be a bit more settled, a bit wiser and a bit more level-headed – all the qualities you look for in good mates. Ok, the qualities I look for.

These days I am very, very selective about who I spend time with. With my leisure time seemingly becoming less and less, and therefore more precious, I am much more selective about the people whose company I keep.

Where was this picture taken?


Last week's picture was taken at Wat Rakung, on the Chao Praya River. That's the large temple on the banks opposite the Grand Palace. Only one person got it right. HOPELESS! 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.) Preference may be given to emails which refer to the previous week's column.

EMAIL OF THE WEEK – How to really clean up Pattaya.

I propose that if they really want to clean up the riff raff on Beach Road that they get rid of the tailor touts! These a-holes not only try to block the sidewalk at its narrowest points and shake your hand as you walk by, but if you just try to ignore them, they try to touch your arm as you walk by (regardless of how many times you have walked by). Please don't suggest walking on the opposite side of the street as it doesn't make sense if you are only going a couple of blocks. Is the job category that gets them work permits, 'pissing off tourists'? Even the 'ladies' on Beach Road won't touch you if you don't show any interest! The behaviour of these scum lead me to believe that they must have been raised by PIGS!

Cheating husbands.

Reading your weekly this morning, I cracked up at your bit about cheating husbands in Thailand. I'm sure that's going to generate a fair amount of emails, both supportive and angry. Angry from Thai wives who will insist "My husband, he good man. No lie me. No cheat me." Right! If I had a dollar for every farang husband on business in Thailand or the Philippines enjoying the countries' female offerings while his plump, bitchy farang wife remains home, my wealth would rival Bill Gates. Alcohol, 5000 mile rule and beautiful women 1/2 your age? It's a no-brainer. Just wrap that bad boy up. I watched many guys who I thought were pretty straight-laced completely transform themselves into a monger in Bangkok and Angeles City. It's amazing how that works.

The non-smoking issue.

I've just read your column and saw what you said about the anti-smoking movement. It is absolutely true that the anti-smoking movement worldwide has become a lot stronger recently. Before, it was basically a typical American thing, but that has changed very quickly the last few years. I came back today from a 2 1/2 week holiday in Pattaya (indeed the best part for holidaying in Thailand if it comes to nightlife, either sleazy or regular nightlife). To my great surprise, in the lobby of the hotel where I usually stay they had recently made it a smoking area. It looked exactly like the glass prison cells for smokers that you see at airports. And all that in Pattaya! I am, like you, a non-smoker and am probably used to smoking areas, being the owner of nightlife venues in my hometown Amsterdam and going out regularly myself to other nightlife venues. I was very, very surprised that even in Holland an anti-smoking law was passed through a few months ago, going into effect on July 1st, 2008. It is a total smoking ban for all public places in the country, leaving the street as the only place for people to smoke, with one exception. I am allowed to install the same glass prison cells in my businesses that I saw in my hotel in Pattaya, but people can't get a drink served in them because I am not allowed to let my staff work in a smoky environment! In my opinion, this is getting out of hand. But knowing my own country (always the pain in the ass for example the NATO or the EU, both of which we are members), I'll have to see it all first. Like with so many things in my country, imposing a law doesn't give you a guarantee that it will be obeyed. Mostly common sense decides if it will be effective or not. This has given us a reputation of "somewhat different" in Europe (look for example at the use of cannabis and the status of prostitution).

Pepper spray appears to be legal.

I can't answer for the strict legality of pepper spray in Thailand, but we did see it sold in Robinson Department Store many years ago. There were problems with soi dogs and I thought pepper spray might do the trick. But when we went to buy it, they had stopped selling it. The staff said the chemicals tended to break down in the climate here.

Bargirls better than the general populace?

Do you often wonder why us farang males end up with bargirls or ex-bargirls? I have recently broken up with an ex-bargirl who I thought I could probably spend the rest of my life with and be happy. As I'm back looking and stuck in Farangland I have started browsing some Asian and Thai dating sites. It's no wonder we head back to the bars for the easy sex and no head games because I have only found about 10% of the girls on these dating sites to be what I would classify as beautiful, sexy and looking good. It's surprising at the large number of girls over 30 who have no babies. It is the other way around in the bars. No wonder we head back to the bars of Pattaya and Bangkok where we can obtain good looking girls, good sex at reasonable cost, and if she's a flop we can find another one the next day.

Japan's national embarrassment!

I read with some interest about the NOVA schools in Japan. Interesting that the Japanese may finally be taking an interest in learning English, the international language of commerce. Guess not. In a first world country so advanced and well educated, it should be a national embarrassment for the Japanese about their inability to speak English. Look at Sweden, Holland, Singapore – they "get it." And as you probably know, better English is spoken in third world Thailand than in Japan. The name NOVA interested me since in Spanish, which is almost the native language here in California, it means NO GO. General Motors found that out when they had to rename their poorly selling car named so.

I guess it is a reflection on the locals.

One thing that really makes me boil is the policy of hotels in Thailand to keep you waiting at reception as you try to check out, while they sneak someone up to your room to check the mini-bar or that you haven't stolen the TV, especially when they ask if you've used the mini-bar and refuse to accept the answer. Then why ask? They treat every guest as a liar and a potential thief. I've never found this in any of the other 30-plus countries I've visited. My wife says it's because Thais can't be trusted, so they apply their policy to everyone.

A former successful Nana bar owner inquired about the vacant spot where Big Mango used to be but the leaseholders downstairs are still asking astronomical money and there is no sign of any moving in just yet.

Bully's Pub on Sukhumvit is roasting a feast for Thanksgiving with all the traditional menu items and a few not so traditional items on Thursday, November 22nd. The buffet opens at 1:00 PM and runs through until 10:00 PM. The price is 490 baht +. There will be a special on Brokenhills house wine as well at 810 baht per bottle for either the white or red varietal.

The tourist high season is upon us with a perceptible increase in numbers on Sukhumvit and around the traps. For those of you looking for a late night drink after most hot spots have closed, be careful of the mobile carts selling various concoctions. There were more than a few reports of drinks in such carts being spiked last year and it is tourists who tend to be targeted. If you're ordering a mixed drink keep an eye on it. Bottled drinks should be ok.

A "seasonal surcharge" seems to have taken place and many of the lasses are now quoting 2,000 baht for half an hour of their time as opposed to the previous 1,500 baht most were asking. 2,000 baht for ST is a typical request in Bangkok and from what I gather, many are paying it. Add in your barfine, add in drinks and you're almost at $US100 for what is barely usually even half an hour of fun. Pang!

And while the tourist high season is supposed to be upon us, the word is out not just the girls, but with some of the less seemly members of society. I had noticed in recent months an increase in the number of beggars in Sukhumvit Soi 4, but I was really not aware of how many are out and about these days. A walk from Soi Nana down to Soi Cowboy returned a count of, get this, 43 beggars. The Dutchman was not amongst them (he was probably partying hard at that time of night.)

Cowboy is in high season no doubt at all. Small, quiet bars like Joe’s had a good crowd this week, even as late as 1:00 AM. Rawhide was just about picked clean by 1:30 AM, the line-up retiring for the night – so the money must be flowing in. It has been estimated that the number of punters in and out of Cowboy all night would be 2 or 3 times as many as the dead of the low season.

But not all of the low season girls are back working in Cowboy. One rather attractive but ‘financially scary’ girl that I personally know is back. Two years ago she confessed that a guy she was living with on Silom, was getting milked for 70,000 baht per month.

As for the Spanky's / Midnight chain of bars, the pricing is the same. 130 for a diet coke and even higher for a beer except for the special 70 baht draft beer. I get the feeling those bars may do a NASDAQ come low season because some of the bars in the chain are too over priced for what they offer. 120 baht profit on a can of soda is pushing it. I can’t help but think he is working on a monopoly with so many bars. His expenses need covering and signs outside the bars show that he is offering 14,000 baht for dancers in some of his bars while in comparison Suzie Wong is offering just 12,000 baht.

Shadow bar is doing surprisingly well for a new beer / sports bar in Soi Cowboy.

Work on the revamped Tilac bar is coming along at pace. My guess is that it will be fully open again at or before the end of the month.

While Cowboy generally offers a lot more than Nana these days, the Cowboy bar owners are doing their best to give the Nana bars a lifeline. With a fair few bars now asking 700 baht for the barfine, a night out in Cowboy may end up costing you more than you had budgeted.

Catz-a-gogo (Covent Garden, Soi 16 Pattaya) is throwing the annual birthday party for Robin and Robert next Friday 16th November. Yes, the two Rs really do share the same birthday and it's usually the biggest night of the year in Catz. They are laying on the usual pig along with the delicious steak and kidney / cottage pies from Bob Palmer's, tandoori chicken, sausages, home-made potato salad, coleslaw and garlic bread. It should be quite a night so if you are in the area I'd recommend you drop in.

Despite the recent disturbances in Burma the border was open as usual but the Burmese have increased the day pass fee to 500 baht from the previous 250 before, claiming that the weakening US dollar forced them to do it. Yeah, right!

Doing a quick run through Nana this week, Rainbow 2 and 3 and Pretty Lady are all getting good reviews – but I didn't think they were much chop. Mandarin remains fun though and the upstairs dance floor has some of the most lively, fun, pretty and energetic dancers you will find anywhere. And yes, that includes Pattaya!

A new sports bar has opened at Asoke called the Sports Academy. This is the venue mentioned a few weeks ago where the investors insist it is going to be the bollocks (British slang for it's going to kick serious ass). It features 10 championship size (9 foot by 4 1/2) Brunswick Metro tables, 3 Private rooms to play pool, darts or watch TV (choose the channel and have the soundtrack). They've got a huge well-stocked bar, good equipment, even break cues for people who want to smash the balls all over the tables. It looks beautiful. There's a friendly Mancunian manager called Johnny, a really nice Thai guy called Boy (very well known to people on the Sukhumvit pool league) and a friendly staff. It's located over the seafood restaurant on the Asoke corner. In fact you have to walk THROUGH the restaurant to go upstairs. They've got parking and are at the bottom of the stairs for the BTS. Pool venues do well in Bangkok and there is no reason to think this venue will be any different.

It is said that the traffic flow on Sukhumvit Road will be changed very soon. On the odd-numbered soi side of the road the traffic flows both east and west. It is mooted that the west-bound lane will soon change and all traffic will head east. The now thriving Sukhumvit Soi 11 will become one way, with traffic heading up the road, away from Sukhumvit. There'll be an intersection at the top where traffic can go either way, left past Q Bar to make the loop back to Nana or right towards Soi 13. At Sukhumvit Soi 8, there will be a set of traffic lights – actually they've always been there but never switched on.

Sukhumvit Soi 11 sub soi will become a walking street from 1st December. There will be outside decking and Brian from the Pickled Liver will be erecting TVs outside. This could really be good for business for the spots in that increasingly popular neighbourhood.

The tooling up of the farang volunteers who work with the tourist police in Pattaya is highly perturbing. Clearly they have forgotten that Thailand is supposed to be the Land of Smiles as they walk around glaring at all and sundry adorned in their dark uniform with various contraptions hanging off their belt. Do some people like the feeling of authority?! While I admire the good work that they must do, the glares they give people who are out for a good time and the aggressive vibe that some give off is perturbing.

Further to the coverage of the police crackdowns on farangs in vehicles in Sukhumvit Soi 22 and its surrounds, the latest story I have heard confirms earlier suspicion that the very reason these opportune officers carry out the searches is that they are looking for Westerners carrying contraband. A reader has confirmed he was convinced to part with 7,000 baht, money that he felt the cops needed more than he did. He was wise. The coppers found contraband in his wallet. Apparently they are very interested in the little pocket above the front right pocket in some jeans – which is said to be a popular spot to stash drugs.

Just as different embassies and consulates outside the country require different documents and seem to operate with completely different policies, so too it is that Thai Immigration offices within the country require different sets of documents and have different ideas about the implementation of the law. As crazy as it sounds, if one Immigration office didn't help you or approve your visa as you had hoped, there is a very real chance that another might! The list of documents required at the offices varies markedly. I have heard that the Pattaya Immigration office, for example, now requires retirees and those on certain other long term visas to provide a photocopy of both sides of their ATM card or credit card! This particular issue is causing all sorts of commotion amongst the expat community in Pattaya.

Why do Thais drive on the left and walk on the right?

The US dollar may be hitting historical lows against some major currencies while remaining steady against the Thai baht. Don’t go thinking that the baht is doing ok. It's tracking lower against most currencies too. Great for tourists but not wonderful for anyone earning a US denominated salary, but paid in baht at the current exchange rate.


Ask Mrs. Stick

Mrs. Stick returns after a lengthy absence to help you with you relationship and culture questions and the things that baffle you about life in Thailand. She accepts questions on matters of the heart or cultural misunderstandings. Her answers are entirely her own without any influence or editing by me. She looks forward to reading and answering your questions, so please give her a big welcome by sending in some thought-provoking things.

Question 1: Besides financial reasons, what things do you think Thai women find attractive in foreign men that they would marry them over a Thai man? Or is money the only thing?

Mrs. Stick says: I would say the reasons vary from women to woman. Financial status might be the main reason for those who need it. But I think for working women, there is more to it i.e. farangs tend to be more caring, more of a gentleman, open-minded, responsible to family, and perhaps can help produce cute kids?

Question 2: Last week it was said in the column that if you have spent prison you cannot get a retirement visa in Thailand. I turn 50 next year and can't wait to leave the States. I am beside myself with worry now as I have been living for retirement in Thailand and now I find out this might be an impossible dream. Can you confirm if he is right?

Stick Mark II says: Mrs. Stick has no idea about this so let me explain it clearly. If you wish to apply for a retirement visa in Thailand, you have to meet all of the criteria – financial, health and that of good character which means no prison time. This last bit is seldom asked and therefore former inmates have little to worry about. However, Thailand immigration laws are very clear and anyone who spent time in jail in ANY country for anything other than a minor offence or has been convicted of any offence considered serious in Thailand (violent, sexual, drug related etc. but did not get jail time – was simply convicted) is not allowed to enter Thailand. In the case of a retiree, it is exactly the same. While Immigration may not be aware of such convictions, especially if they happened outside of Thailand, if they do ever find out they are compelled to investigate and act accordingly. I do not wish to condone circumventing the law, but my advice to you would be to keep this quiet. My guess is that as the Immigration authorities get tougher they will eventually require full police / criminal record checks from abroad. My best guestimate is that we will see that for retirees in several years' time.

Question 3: How do Thai families deal with their katoey son that brings home a farang (I dress normal, straight-like).
He say's it will be no problem, but if it was MY family or 95 % families near Boston, USA they would at first cry with joy for seeing me with such a beautiful women and when they found out Somchai was a Som-She they would ask me to never come there again with that "THING" and to not to stop by ANY relatives or friends with "IT" or they would never talk to me again and forget my share of the inheritance would be part of the pitch. So of course I will not do that. But what is his Thai family going to think? Should I take him up on his offer to meet his family? Are Thais really this tolerant? They live in Korat.

Mrs. Stick says: To be quite honest, I don't know the answer to that! The only thing I could say is that maybe you can talk to your boyfriend and make sure that his family won’t have the same reactions as your parents do. And of course as long as you present yourself as a “male friend” it shouldn’t be any problem. Try to keep your hands off each other though while you are in front of his family and good luck;-)

Question 4: Why do Thais make such a fuss over lookkreung babies? Granted that my little boy is a handsome devil (He is lucky to get his good looks from his Thai mother. The only thing he got from me is brown hair and white skin!) but why does every, and I mean EVERY Thai woman want to pick him up to cuddle? It doesn't matter where we are – on the street, at Big C or a local market, a government office…you name it. Woman are compelled to make a fuss over him

Mrs. Stick says: If you are not asking this question due to your frustration of wanting to be cuddled by Thai ladies instead of your son, then I think it’s pretty obvious that most of look-kreung kids are gorgeous. And probably this is one of the reasons when Thai women are interested in western guys. Call me crazy but some women think like that!

My personal life is my personal life. And frankly, it really is not that interesting. There have been more than a few questions coming in about Miss Udon, Mrs. Stick and how they relate to each other. That's way outside the scope of the column. The whole purpose of the column is to provide a few thoughts about life in the land of smiles, as well as news of what is going on, all in the hope of raising your odds of having a good time, or if you live here, of being successful. Just what I may be getting up to really is not that interesting, believe me and thus I won't be writing about that boring stuff!



Yours,

Stick Mark II