Stickman's Weekly Column December 2nd, 2007

It Gets Boring


Many guys dream of their week or two in Thailand each year. Their life is put on hold for 50 or even 51 weeks of the year as they look forward to their two weeks of Thai bliss. Every moment of their free time is spent pouring over Thailand websites, every article read, every detail memorized.

The arrival of a new Thailand-related website heralds an addition to their routine. Their study of Thailand knows no bounds and despite being thousands of miles away, they may well know more about what is happening in Thailand than those resident.

They dream of their nights out in Thailand, their nights with the infamous maidens of the Land Of Smiles. Despite living in such distant centres as Boston or Wellington or Stuttgart, they are more in touch with what is happening in Thailand than what is going on in their own backyard. In fact they really don't care about what is happening on the home front. Life revolves around their sorties to Thailand.

The time spent waiting, the anticipation, all reaches a crescendo and a for a very short period, perhaps only a week or two, serious partying follows. What follows is a mixture of sleep depravation, an amber liquid diet and more women than many guys have in a lifetime. Some might not drink and others might get enough sleep, but they're all in heaven. Getting back on the big bird for the long journey home, the cycle starts again and the deflated figure has 50 or 51 weeks to wait for it to kick off again.

The cycle repeats year after year after year. Some are so in love with Thailand that they comprise major contributors to the Thailand websites, writing thousands of posts on the forums, or penning hundreds of items for sites which accept and publish full articles.

Call it what you want; they have yellow fever; they are addicted to Thailand's naughty nightlife and it is very much the focus of their lives.

In the cycle for long enough, they start to entertain thoughts of moving to Thailand. Little Lek, nubile Noi and dirty Daeng could be theirs every night, not just for the one or two weeks they fantasize about every free moment of every day they're not in their beloved land of smiles.

50 or 51 weeks at home is just too much and they eventually rationalise the big move. It would be far better living in Thailand doing this every night than dreaming about it in the cold, dreary West. (This group can be identified by their hate of all things Western.)

Arriving in Thailand, for a short period it is bliss, sheer Bangkok bliss. They burn through finances and live the life of a long-term holidaymaker, partying all night long, having the time of their life.

But one day they wake up and everything is different. The divide has been crossed. Too many days wasted by nasty hangovers or perhaps too many unfulfilling experiences in the bedroom can leave even the hardcore empty, and make one hardcore wonder just what the hell they're doing, and where they're going.

The bar scene can suck you in. It is fun for a while, whether you're a participant or an observer, but its glow doesn't last eternally and eventually you get bored of it. (Alcoholics are the exception, but then they're there more for the drinking than anything else.)

Of course there are some who can do it night after night after night and who seem to be without the wherewithal to reflect on it all. Many go hardcore for a few months, but even the hardcore eventually get bored.

For me personally, the bar scene is horribly boring. That might sound highly hypocritical for someone who writes about the comings and goings on a weekly basis but it really is the truth. Doing the rounds in Bangkok on a weekly basis is made more interesting by joining up with a friend or two and ending up in Dave The Rave's parlour.

If your life revolves around your one or two weeks a year in the bars, relocating to Thailand may very well kill it. Occasional or periodic visits are one thing, but night after night, familiarity really does breed contempt.

What you once thought was sexy and fun all takes on a very different meaning when you get to know how the bar scene really works, and all of the factors involved behind the scenes, from the desperately poor families, to the risks the girls take to some of the oppressive conditions they work under. The warm fuzzy feelings are replaced by something altogether different. And the better your Thai gets, the more you start to see the dark underbelly.

The message is very clear. If you are a lover of Thailand's nightlife and enjoy your annual blitz, don't change things. Moving to Thailand to enjoy things year round will give you a whole new perspective on things, and one that may not necessarily endear you to it.

Maybe a fascination with Thailand's pay for play naughty nightlife scene is not indifferent to a hobby like stamp collecting. You're fascinated by it for a while and it takes a chunk of your time but eventually you become less interested in and eventually give it up?

Where was this picture taken?


Last week's picture was taken facing Mike's Shopping Centre on the Beach Road in Pattaya. 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 WEEKSuicidal murderers.

Thanks for an excellent article outlining the dangers of unprotected sex. I have been flabbergasted by the number of whoremongers I have met who have admitted to having unprotected sex with prostitutes. Not only is it selfish and irresponsible, but is akin to a combination of suicide and murder. The most disconcerting cases are the ones who actually deny the existence of the AIDS virus at all, saying that it is all a massive conspiracy by foreign governments and anti-sex campaigners to gain charitable donations from various sources. It is true that there are those with kryptonite immune systems who never even catch a common cold, but they are a tiny minority. People need to be reminded of the dangers even though in many cases all warnings will fall on deaf ears.

A disease exclusive to homosexuals and drug addicts?

Guys who do not use protection are perfectly well informed about the HIV virus and can assess the risk for themselves. After all we have been reading about it for nearly 30 years now. When I first came to Bangkok in the '80s I used condoms all the time. In those days the whole world was poised for heterosexual people to start dying from AIDS in huge numbers. This never happened. HIV remains the gay and drug addict disease. Any activity where an exchange of blood occurs is extremely high risk. But that is really what you need to catch it; a good dollop of infected blood. The chances of being infected from a one off heterosexual encounter with an infected partner is very low. HIV is a very weak and slow moving virus. Nowadays I never use condoms unless the young lady insists. For me anyway, I get so much more pleasure when I don't use a condom, it is worth the very slight risk. All the years I have been here I have never heard of a fellow player being infected. Other STDs, for sure I have had my share, but even these have been few and far between. The only precaution I take is to avoid the girls who have been in the business for a long time, i.e. more than a year. Their age and near fluent English is always a dead giveaway. Excuse the pun. To be honest, any heterosexual male enjoying unprotected fun in Thailand is more likely to be killed in traffic than to die from AIDS. Quite simply, there are bigger worries out there.

This sounds scary.

In regards to those who choose not to use protection, the HPV (Human Papilloma Virus) is VERY communicable and can have long term consequences for men and women. It has been described as a major vector of viral induced cervical cancer and fortunately there is now an established and safe vaccine for both men and women. It is, of course, virtually worthless if one is already infected, as some estimates suggest up to 50 – 75% of people are. In men, there are several strains that may result in penile or anogenital cancers. Penile warts are about the most innocuous form in the long term.

Hypocrites and the ignorant telling you what to do and think?

'Wear a condom' is a popular thing to say, but an impractical thing to do. Solutions require cooperation. People are not going to cooperate. Turning it into a moral war solves no problems, it just increases the social tension. That is why you never see people do anything but watch a train wreck, there is nothing else that you can do except watch. Death sentences (HIV and chronic Hep B) seem like heavy penalties to pay for natural acts. Except to the sexless and the married and the sexually disinterested; to them the sentences are appropriate. Meet the new fascists taking pleasure in others discomfort and calling it 'protecting the innocent and looking after the public'. Bullshit. If that were true they would be standing on street corners telling us all to wear condoms over our heads so that we can not kiss anyone. I'm waiting for that.

One in 20 HIV+?

I tried to estimate what percentage of working girls have HIV. And my ‘guesstimate' is frightening: Published figures give the HIV infection rate around 1%. When you exclude those non sexually active (children, elders, loners) this obviously rises. That makes over 1 in every 100 ‘average persons' HIV+. What are the rates for those at high risk (high risk being ‘working girls') 1 in 20? When you consider those at very high risk ‘working girls who don't use protection' I bet this come a lot closer to 1 in 10! I don't want to spark a mass breakout of farang balcony jumping so I will qualify that remark with the assurance that a guy is not guaranteed to get it from a one off ‘mistake', but the more often ‘mistakes' are made, the more likely it will bite.

Farang getting the better of the gem scammers!

I was involved in the jewellery scam soon after I arrived. One of my girlfriends was a tour guide and she got me in, although I never helped scam any foreigners. My job was to play the hapless farang dupe. We would jump in her friend's tuktuk and go to various jewellery shops. At each one, she would collect 200 baht, and I would wander around looking like I might buy something. When I saw she had her money I would say, not interested and walk swiftly out the door, pile into the tuktuk and away we would go to the next one! Sometimes we made as much as 2,000 baht a day. Nerve wracking work though. I was always worried they might get nasty! And of course, we soon ran out of jewellery shops. But you would be surprised how many of those bloody shops are in on the scam. At least I was making money from them, instead of the other way around, eh?

Thais do read….online.

I read Mrs. Stick's reply to someone asking why Thai people don't read books. Well, I think with the advent of the computer and the Internet, many young Thais are totally involved with their computers and are reading more and more. They are enjoying it and reading more whether or not they know it. Things are getting better.

A Cowboy institution well into its second decade, Tilac Bar bar's renovations have been finished and it has to be said that the bar has been tastefully done out with mirrors on all sides, top and bottom included. The theme has changed a little and the venue now features table dancing a la Pretty Lady. What I am most pleased about however is the owners' refusal to get greedy. A bottle of the old standard, Heineken, can be had for 125 baht and lady drinks are a very reasonable, by 2007 standards, 100 baht. They don't appear to have Beer Lao but they have managed to entice several girls from other bars. That said, they don't have the beauties of Long Gun or Baccara, the most popular bars in that lane. Overall though, the new Tilac is a step in the right direction.

Hollywood 2, that's the smaller of the Hollywood bars, is very much lacking in numbers of girls, but surprisingly the girls they do have are pleasant on the eye. You also may get a chance to see things not seen for a while in Nana… nudge, nudge, wink, wink! Apparently it is up to the girls to choose the amount of coverage, ranging from bikini top, to stars, to no stars. Beer runs a very reasonable 100 baht.

And there were rumours doing the rounds that there would be a sight for sore eyes on the ground floor of Nana commencing last night. I never made it out so could not tell you where, but it does seem that things are loosening up in Nana, ever so slowly.

The boys in brown did the rounds at Cowboy this week and for the period that they were in the neighbourhood there was much less on display. But don't fret, it is business as usual at Cowboy. If you find the girls covered up when you visit, simply venture to another area and return a couple of hours later and it will more than likely be business as usual. The boys in brown don't patrol all night long. There are more profitable things waiting elsewhere!

I made it down to Patpong for a squiz for the first time in a long time this week. While you just know that I am not going to report that it is some sort of undiscovered paradise, I was amazed at how quiet it was. And it is not hard to see why. There's little in the way of atmosphere and many of the bars are, get this, sterile! I kid you not, there's no better word to use! There is a real sense of decay and perhaps that is why it is now the cheapest of all of Bangkok's major naughty nightlife areas. And it seems that 60 baht bottled beers in some bars isn't enough to get punters in the bars. The girls in the Patpong bars for the most part seem to be bored – more bored than the girls in other areas. It was only a few years ago that it was generally agreed that the prettiest girls were at Patpong. Not now! They're the leftovers! Dave The Rave wouldn't be slow to point out that while all the seats in some bars may be taken, the total number of seats in many of the ground floor gogos is actually quite small. Patpong is an acquired taste these days and it has to be said that it just doesn't have the fun factor of Pattaya, or Bangkok's other bar areas. Worth a look once a year for a sense of nostalgia, but that's about it.

The ill-fated Sukhumvit Plaza closed this week and still nobody seems to know what's going to happen to that space. The most popular bar in the complex, ironically a ladyboy bar, Guess bar, has already moved. For those who prefer the third sex, the new Guess Bar and all the staff are now located in the car park area of the Rajah Hotel, the space that used to be the Red Dragon, just two doors away from the Metro Pool Bar. Sukhumvit Soi 1 should serve as a reminder to investors that for bars to be successful, they need to be EAST of the Nana intersection.

It's party time again at Sisterz A Gogo on Walking Street in Pattaya. The staff party last month was such a success with all the customer participation that they are holding another on Saturday 8th December. It will follow the same format with free food, party games and competitions, free drinks for the winners and plenty of prizes. All are invited to join in the fun and frolics. The fun and games kick off at 9:30. It should be noted that the 35 baht crazy hour which usually runs from 8:00 – 10:00 will stop that night at 9:00. Customers wishing to participate in the games should let Ricky know on the night. It might be advisable to get your health checked beforehand. The girls play rough when the prizes include money or booze! However if it all gets too much the girls can show you where to lay down and recover. Ricky is looking forward to seeing you all on the 8th!

The Stickman tentacles are less effective when slithering around in faraway Phuket. Word has reached me of a change in the farang personnel at Rock Hard, that institution at the top of Bangla Road, incidentally also the first gogo bar the Stick ever stuck his nose in. If the new owner (manager?) wishes to win friends he may wish to review the sign recently erected in the toilet stating that if you're going to be sick you have to pay 500 baht. As if we didn't have enough problems with a bar fine, now they've got a sick fine too! Apparently there is something of a new crew on the premises. One observer speculates that with their current crop there'll be more money to be made from the sick fine than barfines!

I am embarrassed to admit that up until this week I had never made it to Charley Brown's. Charley Brown's is the Mexican eatery located on the little sub soi off Sukhumvit Soi 11 which is perhaps best known for being home to Cheap Charlies. The restaurant / bar is pleasantly decorated and the atmosphere is what I would expect at a similar venue back home. The Margarita we had was excellent, as was the Mexican food. The nachos in particular were both tasty and huge in size. I thought the whole experience was very good, as did my pal, a true blue Texan. And given that Texas is almost the same as Mexico, he should know good Mexican food. I'll be sure to dine there again very soon and can see it being placed on the Stickman A list, the venues I visit regularly.

And on the subject of Mexican food, Sunrise Tacos is winning more and more friends. The rumour mill has it that the next Sunrise branch will be in Paragon, once a few contractual issues regarding table top dining and table dining are sorted out.

Guinness is available at the Duke Of Wellington for 130 baht all night on Tuesdays, probably the cheapest place in town. I notice that they also do a 200 baht buffet lunch that includes roast beef. I've yet to try it out but will endeavour to make it down there soon.

The rent for the space in Nana Plaza where the Big Mango was is jumping around like a ball in a pinball table. The latest price quoted is 3 million baht key money up front and monthly rent of 70,000 baht. That means a total monthly outlay of around 170,000 baht a month which as I have already suggested in previous columns is way too much given that that space cannot be used as a gogo bar. I wonder if anyone will take it over? A lease of just 3 years, the best part of 100K US dollars just to sign the lease contract and the thought of set up costs which could easily run over a million baht might just be enough to put prospective investors off. Yes, there is a very real chance that that space could remain empty. It is not like one of the big multinationals is going to set up there, are they? I can hardly see Subway, KFC or the like fighting for that space!

Has something happened to Thailand's internet bandwidth recently. Perhaps a few weeks back transfer speeds really seemed to drop off. I'm talking at home, the open wireless connections I often use, work, pretty much everywhere, there seems to have been a real drop off in transfer rates, irrespective of whether you're surfing the net, downloading files or using any other apps. I bet something has happened and a portion of Thailand's bandwidth has gone offline or somehow been damaged or interrupted.

The latest in a long line of dating sites has been erected. The appropriately named Sexy Asian Meeting aims to be the place for those looking for naughty liaisons. Guys who have the most success on such sites are often those who get in early…so now is your chance.

It is getting colder here in Thailand, although that's not to say it is cold per se. But the Thais are feeling it and it is funny to see them walking around, huddled up in jackets, jerseys and other cold weather items. But what I cannot understand is why they don't adjust the air-con when they're inside? They still have the air-con on full blast without adjusting it and instead wrap themselves up in Winter clothes!

There's a real stink in Korat at the moment with very serious allegations being made about two English teachers from the UK who have been teaching at the local branch of a language school. They have been bragging about sleeping with students, some as young as 16 – which without the parents' permission actually makes it a crime. It has got rather serious and I think we might be hearing more about this…

I have to confess that I got it wrong about the tinsel crap the girls have in their hair which is not just limited to the naughty bars. A number of office girls seem to have adopted it too. I am informed the trend originated in Japan.

Quote of the week. "Western women wait until divorce to get your money but Thai women want it all up front!"

The latest in a long line of articles outlining what randy white women get up to in Africa can be found here.

And another article from The Sydney Morning Herald tells travellers to forget Phuket and try Krabi. Hmmm…

I get really annoyed at some of the bullshit in the news about AIDS. Last week I tried to write a sensible article about the dangers of unprotected sex. I thought I did a decent job and purposefully avoided getting sensational. You then get some sensationalist crap like this article in The Nation with some doctor saying that he expects there to be 4.3 million new infections in Thailand next year. That's more than 6% of the entire population of the country expected to contract the disease in one year! It is this sort of sensationalism that is making people becoming lax in their use of condoms.

Apparently the HIV strain found in Thailand results in a faster death than HIV from elsewhere.


Ask Mrs. Stick

Mrs. Stick returns after a lengthy sojourn to help you with your 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: Myself and my Thai wife have been happily married for 12 years and we would be considered well-off by any measure in Thailand. Her younger brother completed a law degree from a premium Bangkok university and him and his girlfriend (who also has a degree) have stated that they wish to get married. They have known each other for 4 months – both are in early 30's and have had partners before. The inevitable question of sin sot came up and the amount demanded by her family was 1 million baht plus the usual glittery gold & diamond display. This is way above what her brother could ever afford working for the government and making 20,000 baht a month. Both families are from modest means, Isaan folks made good in the big city. Her family said they would return all the sin sot after the wedding, but my wife's family is nervous (considering their short time together). We offered instead to buy the couple a small apartment, but her family was not in agreement and are holding out for the cash. Is this Thai face gone mad or something more sinister – feedback appreciated as it is driving my wife nuts!

Mrs. Stick was away this week so I have had to have a stab at answering this question myself.

Mr. Stick says: There is something about this that makes me very, very nervous. Given that the groom is of a similar background to the bride, surely the family should know what a reasonable figure is. 1,000,000 baht plus is seriously high. To give you an idea of how high, I remember when a minister of parliament got married and the sin sot he paid was less. What makes it even more perturbing is that you offered to buy a small apartment and this was refused. Surely this would be seen as a very positive gesture and it could be argued that this is better than the giving of money which is "supposedly" going to be given back. I really would be very nervous in this situation. The fact that they have only known each other for 4 months makes me doubly nervous. The first thing I would recommend is that they spend a bit longer getting to know each other. I would also recommend having a senior family member from the groom's family approach the bride's parents to seek some conditions and guarantees about what will happen with the sin sot.

It has been unseasonably chilly – by local standards – this past week in the capital, at least for this time of year. Many aren't turning on the air-con and the first thing regular visitors to Bangkok will notice is that many locals are wearing jerseys or jackets in the morning and in the evening. And upcountry it is even cooler. I heard from one friend that it was 11 degrees at night in Khon Kaen! The weather at the moment is marvellous and with a bit of luck it will stay like this until late January. A two plus month cool season? Yeah!



Yours,

Stick Mark II