For me personally, it has been a good year, a year I have finally reconciled my feelings about life in Thailand, a year when I feel I have finally found some direction for my life. And about time too! I have a plan now, and that is important.
It's been a good year for the column too, and I felt that I got into a groove in July. A number of issues raised in the column got people talking, with many of the opening pieces being picked up for discussion in the forums. The columns about the increasing cost of living in Bangkok brought much discussion, but no column got people talking more than my Doomsday predictions for Nana Plaza and the episode about the mutilation of a man's manhood by his Thai partner.
It is important that the column returns to its roots and that this column covers issues which don't appear or aren't reported elsewhere. We have enough PC crap in the world today and it is sad that some readers have tried to push me in that direction, threatening to stop reading if I do not write in accordance with their personal beliefs. My advice to that small percentage of readers would be to stick to The Nation and the Post. They're both fairly PC and avoid being risqué.
But you do not want to know about me. I'll be battling on, rain or shine, striving to keep you interested with my weekly round up of news, issues and opinions of life in Thailand for the Western male.
What follows is a look at my opinion on some of the success stories, and failures, of 2007. Who were the winners and who were the losers?
Pattaya Whether the location of the new airport has anything to do with Pattaya's revival, I don't know, but more and more Bangkok die-hards are making the 2-hour journey to the seaside city of sin to enjoy their weekends to the fullest. Pattaya needs no introduction and to say it has got better wouldn't really be accurate. With the debacle at some of Bangkok's bar areas killing the fun factor, Pattaya has affirmed itself as the choice not just for the serious monger, but those who just want a good old-fashioned boys' night out. Pattaya is Pattaya and so long as it does not try too hard to be anything else, it'll do just fine.
Catz A Gogo It's not the biggest gogo bar in Thailand. It doesn't have the prettiest dancers of any gogo bar in Thailand. It doesn't have the most erotic shows of any gogo bar. It doesn't have the best sound system. It's hard to put your finger on just why the bar is so good, but for me, Catz is the best gogo bar in Thailand. Period. It is THE BEST. There are always a bunch of pretty girls in there. They have the best service staff of any gogo bar and a mamasan who is on top of things, genuinely helpful yet has that rarest of traits found in mamasan, she isn't pushy. The foreign owners take a real interest in the customers and the running of the bar. Never a couple to rest on their laurels, they are quick to replace lights that go out or neon that loses its lustre. Poor performing girls are shown the door, and elephants need not apply. I remember them saying one evening that the sheen of the lights off the dance floor had become dull and it was time to get commercial cleaners in to get it back to how it was. How many gogo bars go to those lengths? They run great parties, have a clean toilet and the management really are keen to make sure customers have a great time. A gogo bar with such attention to detail is unique and that is why Catz is the best bar of its type in Thailand. It is the only gogo bar I go into expecting to stay for one drink and end up staying all night.
Mandarin With such mediocrity seemingly accepted by Bangkok's less discerning gogo bar visitors, Mandarin stands out as a venue where one can have fun. Yes, fun, not a word you hear often to describe the Nana Plaza experience these days. Even the manager of Angelwitch, the gogo guru himself Dirty Dave The Rave concedes that Mandarin has got a lot going for it. Good music, good layout and some extremely pretty, not to mention raunchy, girls upstairs all means you can have good old-fashioned fun in there.
Sunrise Tacos I never imagined that a fast food outlet could have taken Farangdom by storm quite the way Sunrise has. The brain child of the ever industrious Greg of Sunbelt fame, Sunrise is Thailand's first, and only, Mexican
fast food chain. Within days of opening the first branch near Sukhumvit Soi 12, this site and others were deluged with tremendously favourable feedback – and I have to confess I have nothing but good things to say. Watch this outlet closely because
if the popularity continues you'll see branches of Sunrise nationwide…and maybe even elsewhere in the region.
Beer Lao Laos's most famous and perhaps only recognised export started to gain the recognition it deserved amongst farangs in Thailand in 2007 as it became available in more and more farang hangouts this year. Punters are bored of Heineken, sick of Singha and with Carlsberg long gone and Kloster hard to come by, Beer Lao has made a real impression with Bangkok's beer drinkers. It remains a great shame that it is still hard to come by outside the main touristy areas of Thailand. Expect that to change in the future.
Soi Cowboy Soi Cowboy has been the main beneficiary of Nana Plaza's demise to become Bangkok's preferred bar area for many locals. It might not have the sheer number of girls and no Cowboy bar could compete with Rainbow 1 or Rainbow 4 for number of pretty girls, but Cowboy makes up for it in other ways. Friendly girls, a fun atmosphere and generally cheaper prices have not gone unnoticed. Most Cowboy bars have had a very good 2007.
Nana Plaza The column of 28 October said it all. Nana Plaza is on the way down and don't let anyone tell you otherwise. Bar owners may claim that business is good but it's not what our eyes are telling is. A handful of bars do very well, but the rest are hurting. Increased prices, forced early closures, vacant premises, no showing, questionable policies by many bar owners resulting in bad attitudes from the girls, a Mafioso atmosphere (those tough looking Thai guys loitering in the shadows around Nana would love the chance to rearrange your features) have all contributed to Nana's demise.
The arrival of many tourists, you know, the type who dress scruffily and count out every baht as if it is their last has not been a good thing either. I wish I'd had a camera with me when doing the rounds on Friday. There we were, sitting in Pretty Lady, right at the bar where the girls were raising their skirts and we were getting a flash of their you-know-what. Sitting beside us were two backpackers. With all of these pretty girls flashing us, the backpackers were squinting at a map, no doubt trying to find out which bus would get them back to Khao San Road.
Even Hollywood Carousel's amazing revival (more in the news section about that) is not enough to get Nana Plaza off the 2007 loser's list. I do however predict that 2008 will be much better for the plaza.
Nana Disco It was THE late night spot, THE freelancer venue and THE place to party or play predator late into the night. At times it was home to more hotties than all the Rainbow bars put together and frankly, it used to be a must visit if you weren't holding a maiden's hand late at night. Truth be told, Nana Disco's demise started years ago, with the door fee soaring quickly followed by the much publicised opening of a number of establishments also after a piece of Sukhumvit's late night action. That many gogos now threaten to punish any staff who have the audacity to peddle their pussy elsewhere, Nana Disco appears to have fallen off the map and you seldom hear about it these days. It is still going and is still fun, but other venues have done a good job of marketing themselves and attracting the girls that Nana Disco simply doesn't have the draw it once did.
The Tourist Police Many feel a certain comfort in knowing that there is a section of the police whose responsibility it is to help foreigners. We are told that if a foreign tourist has a problem the tourist police are there to assist, to communicate in English and to liaise with the "regular" police. The reality is that the tourist police nationwide are getting a dreadful reputation. Phone calls to the tourist police go unanswered, and even if they are answered, it is often by a non-English speaker who hangs up as soon as things get difficult. In Bangkok and Pattaya I have received countless reports of the tourist police providing virtually no assistance at all. To make matters even worse, despite receiving complaints on a daily basis they do nothing about the ongoing scams, like the gem scam, where many crooks are into their third decade of profiting from the sale of fake gems. It remains that if you get into trouble in Thailand – even as a victim – you're very much on your own.
Bangkok Websites Everyday a new website about life in Bangkok and Thailand starts and every other day I get an email from a webmaster asking me to promote his or her site. But even with so many new sites coming online, this has hardly been a good year for Thailand websites and forums.
The complete mis-moderation of many forums means that there are few forums worth reading. Pattaya Secrets and Thai360 are both worth your time, well-moderated, and trying to provide a useful service.
As far as blogs and columns go, it is sad to see a number of the big name sites fall by the wayside this year. Where there was once a bunch of worthwhile columns and blogs keeping us up to date with life in Bangkok, many called it quits in 2007. Others still have been depowered. In terms of decent writing, thoughtful analysis or up to date news, many of the best sites have called it a day. It's a shame, but the truth of the matter is that such a huge amount of time and effort go into creating and maintaining a website that it becomes downright burdensome.
2007 has been a largely unremarkable year. My feeling is that 2008 will see more positives and will be a better year. Let's wait and see…
Where was this picture taken?
Last week's picture was taken of Pegasus Club, the high-end naughty boys club just off Sukhumvit Soi 23. 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 – A bar manager speaks out!
It's things like these no alcohol sale rulings that make me consider another country for investing in a bar or restaurant. Here, a politician can make a worthless, knee-jerk decision that affects millions of people and cost businesses millions of baht and there is no accountability. Thais are so insistent that foreign people respect THEIR culture and traditions, but many have no respect for others' customs. In Egypt recently there was a rumble between hundreds of Thai and Egyptian workers after the Thais were found boozing in the Muslim prayer room!
There are cheaper healthcare options.
It seems that certain upscale hospitals (Bum, BNH, Samitivej) are the ones you are talking about. Pure greed if you ask me. Everybody with a brain and a capability to read can find at least 20 other international / private hospitals in Bangkok with better prices and the same service. OK, not a 5 star hotel type lobby, restaurants and a shopping centre but who needs that when they are sick? Prices have not gone up at the ones I visited or know about.
And of course there is health insurance.
I have experienced the same inflation shock you wrote of when going to the high-end hospitals. I'm convinced it's because they have all adopted a more greedy attitude and that they are living up to their billing as "for profit" hospitals. After all, the Bummer has to fund that swanky new building they just opened. That's why I plunked down 38,000 baht this year for top health insurance policy. It doesn't cover the little stuff so much as the big stuff. Where the hospitals really get you is not so much for procedures, but for medicine. All of the hospitals I visit these days (and this is different from two years ago) want to ply you with medicine because they can mark it up astronomically. This practice is common in all hospitals I've been to here during the last few years. My average bill when I went to the Bummer two years ago was 1,000 – 1,500 baht but these days the bill is ALWAYS closer to 4000 baht. I don't hesitate to ask the doctor exactly what he's prescribing and if I don't like it I tell him no. (Sometimes they'll prescribe common painkillers that you can buy at any old pharmacy for 1/5 the cost). Sometimes though, even though I tell a doc not to prescribe it, he does anyway and I find out when I deal with the cashier. I always look at the drug bill at the cashier before paying and tick off the drugs I don't want. They reduce the price and I leave happy.
And the quality of care is under the microscope too!
Your recent article used the phrase "quality medical care in Thailand is NOT cheap these days…" and I agree from personal experience. Years ago I had a football accident where my 2 front teeth collided with the solid part of a defender's head and over time their natural colour had faded. While on a trip to Thailand 4 years ago I looked into cosmetic veneers. After a bit of searching I was recommended to a local dentist near Lumpini. He claimed to have been trained in the West and had the documents on the wall to show it. He was very articulate about the process and answered every question clearly and completely. Initially the price looked to be a fraction of that in the West and I eagerly signed up for a spot in "the chair". The total price for two cosmetic veneers ended up to be equivalent of USD $600 and I happily thought myself so very clever to have made such a saving. Two weeks after the trip and while flossing my teeth, one of the veneers cracks and a portion breaks off. I took this to my Western dentist for repair and upon looking at the work, he commented that the quality was quite low, the veneer was undersized and incorrectly shaped for proper securing. It had to be redone with a crown. $US 1,200 later, my Western dentist put a proper crown in and this has been great for years. The $600 I thought I saved in Thailand was a waste!
Intense pain coming for the Americans (and others too)?
You may remember my email of about 18 months ago predicting a USD / THB of 30. Actually I was wrong, as it hit that level quicker than expected. There is only one certainty. And that is more pain for the Americans. Prediction: End of 2008: USD / THB 25. Following that? Well there is really no reason that it won't hit 20. Want to make money? As I have said before, a short USD position is the closet thing to guaranteed free money that you are likely to find in this lifetime. Many will feel intense pain. Of course this is more to due with the fact that the vast majority have retired when they could not afford it in the first place, and lived in a fantasy that the world would stay largely the same. So reality is unfortunately going to hit all those who thought they could afford retirement, when actually they could not.
Beware at Khao San Road!
Got drugged and ripped off twice via street girls and late night coffee. Khao San Road both times. Too many Thai police are posers. Tourist police were a welcome comfort and luxury, but of course over $US 5,500 will never be seen again. I have no further plans to have an ATM card. Scopolamine allows these girls to get your PIN number from you while you are drugged and near death. Travellers checks should work fine in the future I think.
Wine, women and song, a wallet emptying combination.
The year's coming to a close, time to audit one's books and account for how much money was dispensed on wine, women and song. I'm all in favour as much as the next man, that sex is a commodity and should be freely available and retailed like a can of baked beans, but where I do draw the line is that there should be no confusion or misconception that one does not fall into the trap of starting to pay for one's company. A clear distinction should be made over these desires, and if you find yourself transgressing them then you will surely regret that you did. The sperm extractors don't play fair, and in fact in Thailand they will play with your heart. Think of the cat with the dead mouse syndrome, you know the one where the cat keeps throwing the mouse up in the air. So if you were honest with yourself, how much do you think that you have paid officially, or un-officially, during the course of the year for sex?
At the time of publishing the poll booths have closed for Thailand's 2007 general election and with that, it is hoped that alcohol will be available for sale in bars from early evening tonight. Remember, the sale of alcohol was banned this weekend, although that didn't stop bars in Patpong from selling it, and most Nana Plaza bars opening, although alcohol was not on the menu. The number of customers out and about was, as could be expected, way down.
Down in Pattaya it was VERY quiet the past two weekends and it seemed as if the cops were more serious about this alcohol sale ban then ever before. Cops even followed some groups as they went into a bar to make sure nothing was going on! Strangely they relaxed the rules for Walking Street after 9 or 10 PM last Sunday (it was supposed to have been midnight) BUT they kept that oasis of iniquity, Soi 6, closed right through Sunday night.
Bars and other venues selling alcohol are supposed to refrain from selling alcohol until midnight tonight but I suspect that many (most?) party spots will open early. After all, the poll booths have closed. Surely, commonsense will prevail. Ah, this is Thailand, so maybe not…
Cathouse in Nana has bucked the trend of establishments charging outrageous amounts for their Christmas buffets. The Cathouse has long been recognised as a bastion of good deals and Christmas Eve is no exception with their extensive Christmas Eve buffet, which will be run in conjunction with an all day happy hour, available at just 250 baht. Stuff your face with all you can eat for just 250 baht. That's a Christmas deal worth looking into.
If you're stuck for somewhere to go on Christmas night, G Spot in Nana will be hosting a Miss Santa Claus contest.
Just as they do every year, Soi Cowboy bars have made a real effort to dress up for Christmas, with Christmas decorations and Xmas trees all along the soi. It is the little touches like this that separate Cowboy from Nana and Patpong. But in all fairness to Nana, they have done pretty well too, with many bars dressing themselves up – and Mandarin Table Top have taken it a step further with many of the dancers on Friday night strutting their stuff in Santa Claus bikinis. Cute didn't even start to describe them!
There's panic at Tilac in Soi Cowboy with some of the girls who have worked there a long time. Prior to the change of format to one more akin to Pretty Lady in Nana, the girls there tended to be shy about showing. With the influx of new girls from other bars who are not as shy, there has been a shift in which girls get barfined and which girls see the premises being secured at the end of the night. Give Tilac another month or so and it should be an exceptional stop, aided by drinks at fair prices. It is already well on the way to that status now.
The threshold has been crossed. A Jack Daniels + Coke in Hollywood Carousel in Nana will cost you almost $US5. Yep, it's now 160 baht, crossing the 150 baht mark which is the after 9 PM price for a drink at most Soi 33 bars, the price level which has always been considered the maximum price for a drink.
I don't know how long the special has been running, but all standard drinks are 80 baht before 9 PM in Nana's Pretty Lady Bar.
I don't know if it was merely coincidental or what, but I notice more and more guys seem to be taking the birds in twos. Many punters wandering around Sukhumvit this week as well as the mongers entering and exiting the Nana Hotel seemed to have two birds in tow.
Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve usually see barfine prices raised. In previous years they went up to 1,000 baht but that didn't prove to be the deterrent the bar owners wanted it to be. Remember, owners want their bars to be full of girls until late into the night ensuring high drink sales. Last year a number of bars put the barfines up further, and this year, well, things remain undecided but some bars are talking of outrageous barfines. Think 4,000 baht! Decisions aren't final and may well change on the day, but it would seem anyone wishing to barfine on those nights might need to get a bit extra out of the ATM machine. Some of the big Nana bars have already made their decision with Rainbow 1 and Rainbow 3 charging 1,000 baht for New Year's Eve. Angelwitch is asking 1,500 baht on Xmas Eve and 2,000 baht on New Year's Eve. Any gogo bar that attempts to charge more than that will commit financial suicide!
There have been a few great bars over the years, and they usually shared the same characteristics – a farang owner and / or manager, interesting shows and a bunch of truly friendly, fun-loving girls. The first such bar I remember was Pretty Lady in the late '90s. Later there was Dollhouse in Clinton Plaza, around 2001, and shortly after Midnite vintage 2001 / 2002. Then there was Hollywood Carousel in Nana around 2002 and 2003. Since Hollywood Carousel went off the boil in late 2003, no bars have managed to capture the same magic that these bars once had – and that has been reflected in this column, with me lukewarm on the gogo bars for a very long time. The absence of a truly fun gogo bar in Bangkok has at least been broken by Hollywood Carousel which has managed to replicate the fun atmosphere found in the very same bar 4 – 5 years ago. Hollywood, and Nana, is back with a bang! Czech Peter (not the Chelsea goalkeeper) has succeeded in turning this bar around and variants of all the old shows can be seen. That said Mr. Frog, Mr. Snake and Mr. Goldfish have not returned and given this changing, every so politically correct world we now live in, it is hard to see them making a return. The current crop of girls are fun and on Friday night many were all over some customers. For the voyeurs, I saw hands diving all over the place up in the tiered seating at the back. Hollywood Carousel has put Nana Plaza firmly back on the map and for the time being, I would suggest it is quite probably the most fun bar in Bangkok.
If you want to treat yourself to a nice gift this Christmas, even the guy who has everything could find something to his liking in Rainbow 1. My God, the Stick's eyes almost leapt out of his head at the range of gifts they have this festive season. And given that you're buying for yourself, there is no need to get the gift wrapped up, but then again, the unwrapping back in the privacy of your condo or hotel room could be a big part of the fun. Rainbow 1's selection of gifts this Christmas is outstanding. Unfortunately they do not accept credit and it is cash only this Christmas.
Soi 7's Biergarten recently installed tiles and a new floor, but this created a problem. It raised the floor to such a height that it made perching on the bar stools less comfortable. There was no shortage of customers displeased that their comfort levels had been compromised. The Biergarten management team was keen to rectify this and faced with the choice of cutting a few inches off the legs of all the stools or raising the height of all the counter tops. They chose the latter, wisely using last weekend's closure period to get the problem sorted. So if the Biergarten feels different, now you know why.
A Bangkok bad boy suggests that the DC in DC 10 Bar may stand for Dirty Ceiling, Depressing Chicks, Devoid of Cuties, Dreary Chrome or possibly Dilapidated Chairs. But everyone else knows that the Douglas DC 10 aircraft is known as a three-holer (because of the 3 engines with gaping air intakes, of course). Now, does that make it clear while the bar is called DC 10 Bar? Would that therefore make the old B-52 (Asoke Plaza, then Soi 22) an 8-holer?
Following on from the warning last week about an increase in theft against punters, I have a story. A young foreigner new to Bangers was in Gulliver's where chance would have it, he met a young lady. She gave him a sob story that she had nowhere to live so being Khun Jai Dee he offered to give her 1,000 baht. She declined the offer for easy money and said she would be happy to give him a massage in his apartment for 500 baht and she would stay the night with him. Of course 1 + 1 should have equaled anything other than 2 at this point. Hookers don't turn down easy cash, nor willingly lower their price when a higher offer has already been made. They went back to his place where he was slipped a Mickey. He woke up the next day with a splitting headache and the 80,000 baht which he had hidden in his apartment was not to be found. She appeared to have rifled through everything and he was insistent the cash was well hidden cash. Be careful out there!
And just as the column was going to press, I get this story from a 20 year old veteran of Thailand. He met a bird in the Nana Hotel parking lot on Thursday night. She said she would go for free and all he had to do was pay the short-time hotel 300 baht. She didn't offer him a drink so we can but speculate that she either somehow slipped him a drug (pretty hard if they were not drinking together) or the old faithful, she had some sleeping drug smeared over her breasts. He woke up outside the hotel in an alley missing two mobile phones, his cash and his credit cards. It is the old story – if it sounds too good to be true… BEWARE OF ANY PROSTITUTE WHO IS WILLING TO GO FOR FREE, ESPECIALLY FREELANCERS.
It's all go at Sunrise Tacos where innovation seems to be something they strive for. They started offering pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving to which the feedback was positive and they have not stopped making pumpkin pies ever since. They then introduced apple pie a week ago and this has been a big hit as well. The apple pie is made fresh every afternoon with Granny Smith apples imported from Washington State in the USA and the pie crust is made from scratch. It's 69 baht a slice or 499 baht for the whole 9 inch pie at the Sukhumvit Soi 12 location. They also now have premium coffee with imported Mexican Coffee Beans, a "bottomless" mug of premium coffee goes for a Starbucks smashing 59 baht. That's got to be a perfect companion to go with their pies. For the Christmas Holidays till New Year's Day, they will offer a sizzling turkey platter for 299 baht. A friend tried it at Thanksgiving time and was well impressed.
What's happening at Charley Brown's, the Mexican eatery with great food, on New Year's Eve? They are offering customers a choice of the usual 'a la carte' menu, or "The Big New Year's Eve Blow Out"! For 1,000 baht+ customers can avail themselves of their excellent margaritas and a non-stop Mexican buffet. Yep, that's right, from 5:30 PM until close it's free flow margaritas and all you can eat Mexican food! They only use freshly squeezed limes for their margaritas – no powders or mixes and I can confirm that their Tex-Mex food is delicious. Burritos, enchiladas, chimichangas, fajitas, nachos, quesadillas, tacos, chicken wings. They're expecting to be busy so bookings are advised.
Twinpalms 12,000 baht per head New Year Party has been bettered, if that is the word, by Vertigo, the restaurant atop the Banyan Tree Hotel. 13,900 baht ++ per head is the cost of their New Year's Eve dinner and hey, they even give you a complimentary glass of champagne on arrival. Cripes, I'd want a complimentary bottle at that price at the very least! (If any hi-so Thai chick with too much cash is reading this and wants to take me there on a date, my arm could be twisted. I speak perfectly good, polite Thai and won't embarrass you, I promise! OK, if I have a few too many glasses of Champagne, I might…)
One of the better-known farang hangouts in Isaan, The Farang Connection in Surin, my be forced to close, or at least relocate. Like many businesses in the capital of the province best known for elephants, The Farang Connection has been told that their licence to sell liquor will be revoked from the end of January. The popular spot did not actually do anything wrong. The problem is that they are located within a stone's throw of a temple. At least this time it is not city hall targeting only farang businesses. Other businesses, Thai-owned businesses, must also refrain from selling alcohol too.
Only a few weeks ago I commented on how cool, and pleasant, the weather was in Bangkok. I stuck my neck out and said it might get cooler still and that the week between Christmas and New Year tends to be the coolest of the year. If you had read that and arrived in the last few days you may have thought I'd been drinking too much. Things have warmed up and everyone is now complaining that it is unseasonably warm for this time of year. Put a tick next to Bangkok as yet another place experiencing unusual weather patterns.
Following on from last week's column where it was mentioned that a sex tourism show would be run on British TV, readers in the UK can watch it here. You need to register at the site first.
Khun Samak is likely to be the new PM of Thailand. If you want to find out more about him, this article from Time magazine this week gives some interesting background although the opening paragraph of the article is scary! And the BBS has a good, balanced article about the Thailand general election here.
This article from The Times of London appeared last year. It was topical rather than time sensitive and goes some way to explaining why men use the services of prostitutes. Interesting reading.
A rather disconcerting quote for this week's quote of the week. "The majority of western men will get fxxxxd up one way or another in Thailand eventually, especially when the money runs out."
Ask Mrs. Stick
Mrs. Stick received no questions this week. Her head is now on the chopping block and it is up to you, the readership, whether she continues or not.
You cringe when I get on to the subject of politics, but to shirk commenting on today's general election would be irresponsible. To keep things simple, there are two major parties, PPP, the People's Power Party, and the Democrats. The People's Power Party is headed by Khun Samak, a career politician who has held various positions including deputy prime minister as well as being the previous governor of Bangkok. Samak has caused a major stir by coming out and saying that he is the proxy for Thaksin Shinawatra and should his party be elected as the new government, he will see to it that Mr. Thaksin swiftly returns to Thailand and that legislation banning the 100+ members of Mr. Thaksin's Thai Ruk Thai party from politics is overturned and they are all allowed to return! Essentially he has targeted Mr. Thaksin's fan club, and given that they make up the poor – that is the majority of Thailand's population – it is they who have the biggest say of who will be elected. Barring something of a major miracle, the PPP will be elected as the new government, meaning that Mr. Thaksin may well be back on the scene meaning we will essentially go back to where we were 18 months ago. Let's state for the record that MANY Bangkokians and others from the middle class do not like Mr. Samak, and if the predicted outcome eventuates – and I think it is safe, based on preliminary polling, that it will, then there will be problems. The junta will NOT be happy and a whole new air of uncertainty will prevail over Thailand. It is perhaps wishful thinking that the charming, erudite and seemingly honest Khun Abhisit will come into power. I've not met the man myself – but at least two good friends have – and each is full of praise for him. But like I say, that is wishful thinking. The only certainty to come out of this election is that Thailand's political uncertainty will continue. Sad.
Stick Mark II