Stickman's Weekly Column November 25th, 2007

Partying Without A Party Hat


The phenomenon of guys coming to Thailand and engaging in unprotected sex is nothing new, but that it continues, and is perhaps becoming more pervasive, is surely a major concern in this day and age.

Is there not enough awareness of the dangers of contracting STDs, most worryingly Hepatitis or HIV, for which there are no known cures? Is the fact that most STDs can be cured with a simple course of antibiotics and HIV can seemingly be put on hold with a cocktail of drugs giving some guys a new found confidence? Do many now believe that partying without a party hat really is not that much of a big deal?

I was moved to write this column when I was made aware of a young Thai lass who is, as I call it, playing the internet game. Yep, it's the girl I referred to in last week's column. She is aware of her HIV status, positive, and is sleeping with many Western guys. She's clocking up 2 – 4 new guys a week.

She could probably be termed a sex addict; she likes to have sex as often as possible. She is ambivalent about condom use, and that is where the problem arises. She has a completely laissez-faire attitude toward protected sex, notwithstanding her condition which she doesn't reveal to her bed partners.

To make matters worse, she told me this week that she has a close friend who is also HIV positive! Her friend has, in her words, had even more partners than her, and again, condoms are optional. Their attitude seems to be that if the guy wants to use it, fine, but if he prefers not to then so be it!

Like most Thai women, she claims never ever to have purchased condoms herself, something she claims no decent Thai woman would ever do. After all, what would the vendor think of her?! The concept of face seriously lets down Thai society again.

Many farang men engage in casual or commercial sex in Thailand without protection and I just don't understand why. I guess alcohol plays a part, but there are plenty of guys who don't drink so alcohol is hardly the sole reason.

There is a profoundly ignorant belief that good Thai women, that is Thai women who have never worked in a bar environment, are virtuous and have few sexual partners. The perceived risk of these virtuous angels carrying any nasties is low. I believe it is this perceived minimal risk that many mistakenly believe that allows them to lower their guard.

WRONG! The real so called "good girls" don't sleep with farangs unless they have been dating for some time – and they are serious to the point that they see the guy as their future husband. The non-bargirl birds who sleep with Western guys are often highly promiscuous.

This makes the number of guys sweating up the sheets with Thai women without a party hat rather perturbing.

Let me tell you a few HIV and other STD related stories from over the years.

I will never forget a certain bar which, a few years ago, which had SIX, yes SIX, HIV+ girls on the books. The owner and manager, both farang, were aware of this and allowed the girls continued to work. That bar owner still runs bars in Thailand today.

In one of the dance contests several years back, 2 of the 3 finalists were HIV+. (It's just as well beer bottles can't contract HIV or there would have been a fair few bottles infected that night.)

A Western Bangkok bar manager notorious for test driving the girls in bars he managed contracted HIV. Just to quash any rumours, his name has never appeared in the Stick Mark II column.

There are a number of Thai women I chat with online. Most I have not even met. I consider them "online friends"; I couldn't really say they were real friends as I have not actually met most of them, nor will I ever likely meet them – but we still enjoy chatting about the world and our respective lives. One of these women has been dating an Aussie guy and I had given her a few hints and tips along the way, trying to help her out with the inevitable misunderstandings that come up in a Farang / Thai relationship. They are happy together despite the misunderstandings and she is due to go to Australia next month for a 3-month trip to see how she likes it with a view to emigrating there and tying the knot. She went for a medical check up recently and found that she had contracted HIV. She told me and then revealed that they had not used condoms for some time. She asked me what she should do and I told her that she really had to tell him. That freaked her out. She suddenly got scared that he would be angry at her and that she would lose him. She really started freaking out. She said that losing him would be too much and she couldn't bare it! When I explained to her that she would eventually have to undertake an HIV test as part of the process of applying for a long-term visa or permanent residency. She seemed to slowly come around to my way of thinking and she then claimed to have informed him. She said he did not mind! Clearly she had lied. She has since admitted that she has known about her HIV status for months, and that she had many new bed partners AFTER establishing her HIV status, many of whom she didn't use protection with.

The treatment of some STDs is becoming more and more difficult. Old Bangkok hands would wander down to the local pharmacy and buy a packet of one or other of the penicillin derivatives, take the pack over a few days and the STD would disappear. Apparently some strains now require a cocktail of antibiotics as well shots in the butt! How long will it be before the treatment of some STD strains requires an intravenous drip?!

Of course it would be devastating for anyone to find out that they are HIV+. But it is perhaps even worse for a Thai woman. With face being so important in Thai society, it is highly unlikely that a Thai woman would reveal to her family or close friends that she had been diagnosed as HIV+. The shame on her AND her family would be immense and if word got out it would be unbearable. Counseling is not readily available in Thailand as it is the West so there's a real lack of a support mechanism.

Some years back a friend took a girl he was seeing to Bumrungrad. He wanted them each to check their STD status before they started having unprotected sex. She tested positive for HIV. Her reaction was really quite bizarre. She told the doctor that it was not a problem as eating lots of vegetables and taking Paracetamol would cure it. This was said to a doctor in what is generally regarded as the best hospital in the land! Complete ignorance! She continued to work for a long time after that.

There is no shortage of examples that there is a high likelihood of a Thai woman who is HIV+ knowingly engaging in unprotected sex with a partner and failing to inform them. Both bargirls and the so-called good girls. It's criminal.

Or is it? Is there any law in Thailand that makes failing to disclose your HIV status to a new sexual partner a crime? If there is, I've never heard of it…

Never ever trust a woman to be frank with you about her HIV status. There is serious conceit surrounding this issue.

It's no secret that there are "clean" girls in Pattaya that take the HIV test for friends that are positive. That some bars insist that their girls are tested is obviously a good thing, but the testing is invariably flawed. There is only one way to test and that is for nurses to come to the bar and to extract blood right under the noses of the bar owners. But the truth of the matter is that few bars make any real effort to ensure that the girls are tested and STD free. At the end of the day, many bars are struggling to get pretty girls on stage – and making it difficult for the girls to keep their jobs will push them away to other bars, the last thing bar owners want.

Should a lady of the night find out that she is sick, there's a real chance that she will go all out to make as much money as she can and provide for her family before she is no longer able to. That could be years of sexual contact while HIV+. And with some guys preferring to go with women who do not insist on condom usage, the virus, and all the other nasties, could spread far and wide.

There was an article in a magazine written by a retired guy who had contracted HIV+ in Thailand. Reading between the lines he didn't seem to care about what he did anymore, condom or no condom. He already had HIV and so seemed intent on enjoying the rest of his life to the fullest. He ended the article by imploring that all young men should protect themselves. So it is not just the women doing this, it's the farang trash too.

There is, sadly, no shortage of shameless farangs who have absolutely no compunction admitting that they frequently engage in unprotected sex with Thai sex workers. I am flabbergasted at what some guys get up to.

Online surveys conducted over the years show that of the Western guys partying with ladies of the night, the majority have, at some stage, had unprotected sex.

But to talk only of HIV is to look at just a small part of the issue. Let's not forget Hepatitis B. It also has no cure and is another scourge that is growing worldwide. Men who consort with females of any kind should have the Hep B shot but I bet most have not.

Perhaps the worst argument of all, the most spineless excuse I have ever heard, is that that sex with a condom is not sex, but something quite different, "simulated sex". Claiming that one is paying for sex and that sex with a condom is not the real deal is quite astonishing.

Try and put yourself into the mindset of somebody with HIV, living in Thailand "for the moment of pleasure". It can't get any worse, the death sentence has already and irrevocably been given. You can't be infected twice and you can't be cured. Why care anymore?

That innocent, healthy-looking girl could be your premature death sentence.

The facts make grave reading. Some bar owners know some of their girls are HIV positive and allow them to continue to work. Girls, be they hookers or not, are unlikely to divulge their STD status. Various surveys show 50%+ of guys doing the dirty in Thailand have on occasion failed to use protection. A number of guys claim to never use protection. In addition to HIV there is the threat of Hepatitis as well as many other STDs, some of which are problematic to treat.

If you are going to jump into bed with a Thai woman – ANY Thai woman, not jut ladies of the night but the good girls too – use a condom. HIV, Hepatitis and goodness knows how many other nasties are out there. If you don't take precautions it is just a matter of time. It's a train crash waiting to happen.

Where was this picture taken?


Last week's picture was taken in Thaniya Plaza, the place to go for bars targeting the Japanese, as well as Bangkok's best selection of golf clubs and other golf accessories. 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 – Running from our own inadequacies.

You sum up perfectly the dilemma facing thousands of expats all over the world who have chosen to live in a country with a completely different language and culture to their own. I believe that most if not all of us are running away from something, even if just our own inadequacies. It is no surprise that we find so many "weirdoes" residing abroad. The longer we reside in a different country, the more we subconsciously become like the people in our host country. If we try and return home, it is hardly surprising we often feel like complete strangers. And if there is one thing that makes a return home very hard, it is acquiring a foreign spouse who does not want to leave her own backyard.

Are you a can do person?

The key to returning home to the West is not about lack of opportunities or the cost of living, nor is it about having to change one's career at such a late time in ones life. To me these are all easy excuses that anyone can make whose heart really isn't in it and it should be more about self-belief and one's own attitude. If you are a 'can do' kind of person then you will make it back home. If you are not, then Thailand is the home to be.

Are you living for the moment?

You addressed the young foreigners who come to Thailand and try to make a living here, giving up the career path in their own countries. I believe that this will turn out to be a bigger problem than they realise. It is so easy to spend all your salary on beer, women and visas. I would guess that the average earnings lie between 20,000 and 40,000 baht / month. So, after 20 years of sanuk where does this leave them? Probably with very little. Even if they have a work contract and therefore, theoretically at least, a Thai pension, guess what? This is going to be well under the requirements for a retirement visa. Yep, work here legally your whole life contributing to the state pension scheme, and you don't qualify to stay anymore. Bye bye love, bye bye happiness, no pension here and no pension in your own country either. What next? And trying to get a job in Farangland after the age of 40 with a CV that clearly expresses "played around in Thailand and achieved zilch" for the main career formative years is going to be difficult to say the least. This is exemplified by the observation that when trying to find a job in the west, the resulting remuneration package equates to less than the lifestyle they have here. Sure, with no experience or qualifications gained in Thailand that are worth anything in the West, and then the competition against the young, the work-oriented and the ambitious, what do they expect? The Thai style attitude of play and little work is worth absolutely nothing, or better stated, a very negative attribute for a future western employer. The adoption of the Thai style is also the main reason, IMHO, for the number of young foreigners who have absolved themselves of responsibility for their own career and lives and are living for the moment, with all cares about their future financial security jettisoned to the winds.

Been paying into your retirement fund?

I got to know many younger guys who were permanent residents (or at least making regular visa runs) in Thailand. Many of these guys were working in the traditional jobs of bar owner or EFL teacher. What was common to them was that they were not paying any attention to planning for retirement. None of the Brits, for example, were paying into the UK state pension scheme or an offshore annuity fund. Some were accumulating a percentage of pay in a local scheme, but this would provide only a small lump sum on maturity, with not much hope of this being adequate to support them once they were too old / too knackered to work anymore. This assumes that by the time they come to collect, the money is still there. This leads to an interesting question. Will they have the wherewithal to obtain a retirement visa? I foresee that there will, at some point, be a growing problem in Thailand of destitute farang, living without visas, ending up in the immigration detention centre pending extradition to a country of origin they haven't seen in years!

Are we the black sheep?

Regarding the weekly entitled The Lost Generation, all statements and speculations ring true and because it is a Thai-centric website using Thailand as an example is appropriate. However, Thailand as an example is only appropriate, not special or unique. As a matter of fact, leaving the tribe and then at a later date trying to reintroduce yourself back into the tribe is always high risk behaviour. Lots of losers, almost no winners. When you leave the tribe someone else takes your place and you are forgotten. No one wants to step aside when you return and no one wants to hear your story. The strongest (and this includes almost nobody) only think of forward motion and never plan on returning to anyplace. Because you can't go home again.

Bored of Thailand, try Bali!

I recently travelled to Bali and was extremely impressed with the island for many reasons, particularly the quality of cheap resorts and food, the beauty of the countryside, the value for money (roughly a third cheaper than Thailand), the sheer size of the development and above all the genuine friendliness of the Balinese. I am reminded that the Tourism Authority of Thailand is aiming for a higher quality of tourist to visit Thailand but I have to say that the Thai resort areas are so far behind Bali that I cannot ever see quality tourists choosing Phuket / Samui / Pattaya / Hua Hin above what Bali has to offer. Thailand isn't even in the same league as Bali. TAT staff need to visit Bali to see what a real quality resort should be like.

The antidote to the "I bling flend" problem.

You know that all Thai girls want to bring their friends to dates? I tell them I will bring my African friend with me. It gets the problem out of the way. You could also threaten them with bringing a male Thai friend (they don't like that either), so they either back down or you will never hear from them again.

Scott, owner of The Tavern on Sukhumvit Soi 4, known for its very good hamburgers, has reacquired his old bar, The Jungle, in Phnom Penh. The reopening party is scheduled for November 27 for whomever happens to be in Cambodia at that time.

Jameson's new Bangkok pub opened this past week after a couple of weeks' delay. I will do my best to get down there in the next few days and check it out. Jameson's can be found in the Holiday Inn, on Silom Road.

The newest trend in Bangkok's naughty bars is for the girls to have this tinsel crap braided into their hair. I find it a rather odd look.

Angelwitch in Nana has picked up a bunch of new girls. That said, as good as the line up is, it doesn't come close to the collection on stage in Rainbow 1. Wow, talk about serious eye candy!

The Indians who own the space where The Big Mango was located were approached this week by another interested party. The Indians know that the lease negotiations broke down with the Big Mango because they were asking way too much. You would then think that they would lower the asking price, especially given that they have now missed out on a month's rent. They have in fact done the complete opposite. The new asking price? A huge chunk of key money (enough to buy a small – medium-sized Bangkok apartment) secures a 3 year lease with a monthly rental on top of that, of get this, 180,000 baht per month! To put that in perspective, I believe only one Nana Plaza bar pays more in rent per month – and most bars pay much, much less. Rumour has it that the Mango boys were offered a 6 figure monthly rent – but nowhere near the amount quoted this week. Given that the space cannot be a gogo due to the weird gogo bar licensing rules renders making money in that space impossible with that level of overhead.

Roxy in Pattaya will hold their monthly party next Friday, 30 November. As usual it'll feature new shows, 65 baht drinks (bottled Chang, gin, vodka, Thai whiskey & soft drinks all night) and the main stay of many a great Pattaya bar party, free food! The rumour mill also has it that they are going to remodel Roxy, NOT a major one but to have the girls nearer the customers.

Peppermint in Pattaya has no shortage of lovelies this week. I do notice however that Bangkok's tipping disease seems to have become prevalent there and more and more guys are tipping the dancing girls serious money down there too. Wait until the Pattaya locals realise what is going on and they will be furious for this will have one clear effect – the girls will be less willing to be barfined until later in the evening – and their asking price will be much, much higher.

Pattaya was overflowing with visitors this weekend and they – along with residents – all converged on Beach Road, Walking Street and the Bali Hai Pier Saturday to celebrate Loy Krathong. Most made it to the beach or pier to cast their Krathongs on the waters, while others simply came to enjoy the musical presentations, fireworks displays and elaborately adorned maidens. Crowds, vendors and hawkers rendered Walking Street virtually impassable at some points. However, the packed streets were not reflected in packed nightspots on or off Walking Street. In fact, many dancers and hostesses of local nightspots took the night off to celebrate, leaving some gogo bars with few ladies and some with even fewer customers.

That said, business for most establishments has definitely improved in recent days and weeks compared with the extended low season. For the high season, most clubs already have put on additional dancers and in the more risqué clubs dancers have taken off extraneous items – such as any garments.

Mike's Hamburgers might be an institution in Chiang Mai but it has failed to crack the competitive Bangkok market. A branch opened a few months back in a prime position on Silom Road, almost adjacent to the Sala Daeng BTS station – but it is no longer. I must admit I never did try the food in there. There was something about the place, about its whole appearance, that I just did not find enticing. Friends who ate there had mixed reviews, some liked it, others didn't. It's all academic now as it has closed.

They said that Stick didn't know what he was talking about when he said that Nana is on the way down. And now another business in the area is about to close. Subway / Coffee World will close in the new year and the reason is very simple. In fact there are many reasons, 150,000 of them to be exact. Subway and Coffee World at that location will be closing for the exact same reason The Big Mango closed. The rent is going from 350,000 baht per month to a cool half a million. The plan is to relocate closer to Soi Cowboy as sales in the Nana are down from this time last year. The new location has not been decided as yet, but the general eastward direction has.

The deal of the week is at Bully's where if you buy 10 blowjobs, you get 2 free! Bully's is doing a great deal on a blowjob and you can get one for a mere 80 baht, quite possibly the best deal in town! Of course I am referring to the cocktail known as the blowjob!

Further to the story at What's Up in Pattaya, we can confirm exactly what is up, or rather in this case, what is down. The previous week Bangkok police were in town conducting a crackdown. Unfortunately while they were in the bar one lady's bra slipped off – a phenomenon I have never ever seen happen before. Imagine that, it just slipped off at the exact time the coppers came! Frantic negotiations resulted in the bar miraculously avoiding closure. The owner is now scared about being closed down and with the girls all covered up, takings are down.

Chequers in Soi 4 is said to have changed hands. I have not been in for ages so cannot really comment on the joint.

Spasso's is known as one of the more expensive places in town, so why should they be any different to any of the other bars in town, all of which are putting up their prices these days, it seems. Bangkok might have the reputation of being a good bet for an inexpensive night out – but that surely doesn't include Spasso's. A reader sent me a receipt for the two beers he had there this week. The price? 952 baht for two beers. And don't go thinking he had ordered some fancy, boutique European beer. No sir. This was the price of just 2 Heineken drafts. Outrageous! Even atop State Tower at that outside bar with the incredible view a beer will cost less.

There was a classic notice erected on a lamppost on Sukhumvit Soi 11 outlining a woman's plight and her inability to extract child support from her husband / the father of her child. Here's the note, with the names removed. The woman is actually quite mad to do this. While I understand her desperation, local libel laws are harsh. Of course, consternation could be heaped on her estranged husband too.

For the retirees out there, did you know that you can actually get discounted fares on Bangkok's underground? Can't say I knew that but then I am quite some time away from qualifying. If you're aged 60 up, it's half price.

At least the underground is not as busy as the skytrain which has become an incredibly uncomfortable way to travel these days, so packed at peak times that it resembles Bangkok's buses. There are now announcements at certain times informing passengers to move in to the middle of the carriage to make way for others getting on board. As someone who loathes crowds, I actually avoid the skytrain if I can these days.

There's a new Thai language school on Silom called Top Thai Language School. It is said to be run by a breakaway bunch that themselves were a breakaway from the long standing Union Language School. Their website should be up soon.

They tend to peddle their junk at temples near the river but readers need also be warned that there is an organised gang peddling fake gems in the Erawan Shrine area too. The well dressed crooks claim to be doctors, lawyers and teachers but they are in fact con men and women attempting to pull off the Thai gem scam. One long-term reader has photographed them in action and sent over a dozen letters to the Tourist Assistance Centre asking them to do something. Sadly, the centre appears to be disinterested and the scammers have their way. Seemingly there is nothing anybody in power will do. A phone call to the tourist police resulted in the caller being given the advice to go to the local police station and not bother the tourist police! It's a hot potato that no local wants to take responsibility for. It is outrageous that this crime is allowed to continue and the authorities care to do nothing!

From a reader comes this request. "I am seeking to connect with another American expat to discuss the complexities of US income tax law, both federal and state income taxes. I believe that in some cases an expat can avoid state income taxes and would like to connect with a fellow American state income tax refugee." Said reader can be contacted at: [email protected]t.

The latest piece of wisdom from Thai legislators is Thailand's proposed Patriot Act which, if passed (it won't be in its current form, sure!), would see cars required to stop and the drivers and passengers exit and stand tall for the playing of the national anthem every day. Ah, the country is in good hands…

The Christmas celebrations are already in full swing at some of Bangkok's biggest and glitziest shopping centres – and have been for over a week. And expect the shopping malls to still be playing Christmas carols not just into the New Year, but quite possibly into February – if previous years are anything to go by. Central World Plaza has a huge tree erected and Paragon is playing Christmas carols rather early. All of the neon on Bangkok's streets hasn't yet gone up. Let's hope it goes up soon and that it's better than last year's display which was rather disappointing.

And if you sometimes think that Thailand is a place where really crazy things happen, think again. This story about recycled condoms in China takes some beating!

Ever been a bit nervous about flying on a budget carrier in Asia. Read this article and you'll be petrified of ever doing that!

These stories usually only get reported in Thailand but at last the international press has picked up on the story of a Western national being ripped off by a lady of the night in Thailand.

Quote of the week comes from a friend. "Thailand is the land of wasted potential."

Ask Mrs. Stick

Mrs. Stick returns after a lengthy sojourn to help you with your relationship and culture questions and the things th at 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: I have a friend married to a nice woman from Laos. He converted to Buddhism for her and also meditates. He said meditating has helped his relationship with his wife. I'm married to a Thai woman and I also converted to Buddhism. I don't meditate currently, but my friend says I should and that my wife would appreciate me more for it. I'm easy going by nature so I don't really need the meditation, but am willing to try it if my wife will get involved as well. What do you think?

Mrs. Stick says: To me it sounds like your friend is telling you what is helping his marriage life, while you and your wife don’t even know if you want that! I would say it’s an individual choice and I would not worry too much. It would be good if you and your wife had a mutual agreement to do this together. You know that there are many other ways to impress your wife.

Question 2: Why is it that Thai people don't seem to enjoy reading? There seems to be a real lack of a reading culture here and I also notice that there are more bookstores stocking English language books than Thai language books. I think it is a real shame that more Thais don't read. Just why is it that Thailand does not seem to have much of a reading culture? Do Thais think that reading doesn't have much sanuk?

Mrs. Stick says: Good question. I don’t know why but reading is not really a big part of Thai culture. But the new age tend to read more. I think Thailand needs to produce more authors than having these celebrities writing about a thousand How To books (especially when it comes to beauty and scandals).

It is always nice to receive your emails and the best ones are included in the next week's column. Preference is given to emails made in response to the opening piece or other pieces of news from the current column. I make every effort to respond to every email I receive so if you want to take me to task on anything written on this site, feel free! I will almost certainly respond. Of course if you do not like what I write, do let me know and feel free to call me a plonker. Believe me, you'd be far from the first!



Yours,

Stick Mark II