Stickman's Weekly Column February 24th, 2008

Bangkok 2018


After almost 45 minutes in the Immigration queue, you eventually reach the counter where you see, but are not greeted by, a pretty, but solemn official. You reflect on the country's nickname, The Land Of Smiles, and wonder whether the demeanour of the officials at the airport was considered when the nickname was given.

The pretty, yet stern official glares and you for having neglected to fill in the back of the long, convoluted alien arrivals form and your eyes roll when you notice that they have upped the minimum required funds that tourists must bring into the country. The form states that effective 1/1/2018 all tourists are required to show a minimum of $US 2,000 for every week or part thereof that they plan to spend in Thailand, and that no tourist is allowed to leave the country with more than $US 200 equivalent, in any and all currencies combined, irrespective of what their ongoing travel arrangements may be. Large capitalised letters at the bottom of the form state that any foreign national attempting to remove more than this amount of foreign currency will forfeit it and may be subject to prosecution.

The official finally puts down the mirror and stops preening herself. She shoves a form at you and says read now. You skim over the regulations which were introduced several years ago which state all of the Immigration rules including the law that sent many long-term foreign nationals home, the ruling that no foreigner may spend more than 5 years in Thailand unless they invest one million US dollars in the country, the equivalent of 24 million baht today. You sign the bottom of the form, acknowledging that you have read, understand and will abide by the regulations.

Passing through the airport, you can't help but notice the many large pictures and posters erected of a square-faced man with a smug look on his face, the unmistakable look of someone who profited on a massive scale from heinous crimes – and got away with it. You then chuckle as you recall the famous headline from a few years back, "Old Trafford PM's latest conquest", with the accompanying picture of the square-faced changing his shirt from light blue to red.

Outside the terminal, you choose to drag your luggage along the ground, unwilling to pay the $US15 charge for the use of a trolley. Funny how many Thais seem to be using them, even those who don't appear to be that well off. Next to the $US15 price clearly marked on the side of the trolleys, you notice some Thai characters, but are oblivious to what they say or mean.

The queue for a taxi winds its way through many food vendors, around a foreign exchange booth, past some sleeping motley looking dogs and ends up outside the airport police station. You're in for a long wait in the queue, a chance to enjoy the heat only found in the tropics. Despite your watch showing 10 PM, just two hours before all bars and nightspots are forced closed, the temperature remains in the mid 30s. You reflect on the soaring temperatures worldwide, but remember that it isn't quite this hot at home.

Daydreaming of the 14 days that await you, the maximum length a tourist can get a short stay visa for, you are approached by a cabby who wants to know where you're going.

"The Mothership", you respond and he quickly offers you a price approximately twice what it would be on the meter – but you accept, knowing he can get you downtown with plenty of time to hit the sole farang bar area before it closes. He seems much keener to take you than one of his fellow countryman.

Sitting in the back of the cab on the way to the Mothership, you examine the taxi tariffs and roll your eyes for the tenth time since arriving. The tariff sheet is divided into two columns, one priced in Thai baht and the other in English, with prices listed in $US. A caricature of a Western man with pale white skin, an enormous nose, no hair and a beer gut is positioned next to a $ sign. The tariff sheet announces "Foreigner must to pay price money foreigner. Can to only accept dollar. Euro not accept." You quietly wonder what the hell the country's English teachers have been doing. Maybe teaching wasn't their primary reason for coming to Thailand?

The driver engages you in conversation, clearly keen to show off his language skills. "You go Hotel Mothership lor? Have lady no good. Dirty. I take see lady clean. White skin. No have aid."

Nothing changes…

You tell the driver that you're beat, and that you want to go directly to the Mothership.

Just 30 minutes later the taxi pulls into the Mothership and you get out. After paying the driver in US dollars, and receiving change in Thai baht, the driver gives you a toothless grin and you cannot help but catch the unmistakable smell of Mekhong whisky on his breath.

Unchanged in decades, the Mothership lobby resembles the Star Wars bar, full of weirdoes and miscreants. A Steve McMahon look alike without a trace of even a single strand of hair presides over the restaurant, the first farang ever employed at the Mothership in a managerial capacity. A gent in his late 30s who resembles the England striker Wayne Rooney with thick Coca Cola bottle bottom glasses and a protruding gut that he is clearly proud of is glued to the screens of the only TV in the lobby, screaming out "Torres, go Torres". A rotund Brit who isn't quite all there and has the remnants of a fine French wine spilt down his shirt hobbles through the lobby, swinging his stick and bellowing to anyone who will listen, "It's a minefield out there." An Antipodean sits in the corner, wearing a black jersey with a silver fern under which the words "World champions 2011 & 2015" are stitched, observes humanity and makes notes. He exchanges a smile with a diminutive American in a multi-coloured outfit and a distinctive Boston accent who makes no attempt to conceal his love of the local ladies feet and starts twitching as dark-skinned girls with splayed toes walk by. A tall, engaging and no doubt handsome in his day Australian adorning a cowboy hat recounts the past to a crowded corner, enthralling them with tales of camping out as a boy scout in Lumpini Park half a century earlier while protecting his mates from the park's monitor lizards. A tall, well-spoken Brit with a bad haircut chews on a piece of mango before complaining to the waitress that it just doesn't taste the same with that particular brand of sauce. Yep, the place hasn't changed.

You fill out the form at the Nana Hotel's reception desk and tick the box that says that you will be having guests stay overnight. The Thai government's "Anti-Foreigner Prostitution Room Levy" kicks in and doubles the nightly room rate from the standard 2,400 baht to 4,800 baht per night, exactly $US 200 at today's exchange rate. Who would've thought it, $US200 a night for a room in the Mothership.

After the shit, shower, shampoo and shave routine, you find yourself back in the lobby with the lounge lizards, the same crowd in attendance each and every time you pass through. They're an engaging lot and you can't help but be attracted to them. You have time, so you take a seat in the lobby and flick through a copy of an old newspaper. It's a case of the same old, same old. Ministers accused of corruption, floods in the north, the rising level of Chao Praya, Bangkok sinking and the ongoing case which the local press has nicknamed the "Hot Dog Hostility", a case that has been before the courts for a decade, being fought between two Americans.

Next to the hotel you glance at the large sign advertising the government-approved internet café. "Surf fast, surf happy, surf safe with TOT". The irony of the sign is not lost as you recall returning to Farangland a few years earlier after your second trip of the year, only to find that your bank account had been cleaned out, the bank explaining that the account had been accessed from Thailand and as such, the bank would not indemnify you for the loss. And you had only accessed the internet once – in that official government internet café! You pull out a print out of the Stick Mark 5 column from your pocket and make a mental note of the hot spots mentioned.

Directly across the road from the Mothership is a medium-sized shopping centre. Inside the 8 storey shopping centre are all the usual suspects, American junk food retailers, a cinema multiplex and over-priced, inauthentic Thai food restaurants and one of the many branches of Sunbelt's Expat Centre. A sign shows a map of Bangkok's golden mile, the seemingly infinite number of shopping centres that run all the way from Mahboonkrong in the west to Emporium in the east. The bookshops have an impressive range of titles from all around the world, yet all Thailand related books feature the names of Thai authors. You curse yourself for not picking up the latest Moore or Needham at the airport Stateside, but then quickly remember the ludicrously high, US dollar denominated fines for being in possession of any books related to Thailand authored by foreigners.

Dejected that you can't purchase any decent Thailand-related reading material you exit the mall and take a moment to pay your respects to the monument erected to the 1,731 Thais who lost their lives in the bombing tragedy at this very site 7 years earlier.

Looking at your watch and realising that midnight is fast approaching, you mosey over to a tuktuk and eyeing the driver, feel a sense of déjà vu. "By Soi Cowboy", you say.

"Ten dollar", he says.

"Mai ow", you respond.

"200 baht?"

Another "Mai ow", and you make the decision to walk the kilometre and a bit to the last remaining Bangkok bar area exclusively for foreigners.

You stroll up to the intersection of Sukhumvit Soi 4 and the main Sukhumvit Road. The traffic lights turn red, the little green man lights up and a sexy, computerised voice says karm dai laew (You can cross now).

Despite the fact that Bangkok 2018 bears little resemblance to the city you first visited more than a decade ago, you are excited to be back. The sights, the smells, the smiles and the air with a thickness that you can almost chew all combine to remind you that you could only be in the Thai capital. You stride across the road, knowing that in 15 minutes you'll be sitting in a chrome palace, surrounded by some of the prettiest women on the planet, all of whom will be fighting for your attention. You've been thinking about this moment every day since your last trip to the Kingdom a few months earlier.

With your mind on Soi Cowboy and not on your immediate surroundings, you neither see nor hear the bus that had accelerated the moment its driver saw the light turn orange. You don't see it nor hear it, but for the very last moment of your life, that split second before your brain stopped sending messages, your heart stopped pumping blood, your last moments were the intense split second of pain, before the eternal darkness, as 15 tonnes of steel and rubber slam into you at almost 60 km/h. The entire right side of your body is not just crushed, it is smashed to smithereens. Your skull goes from the shape of a soccer ball to the shape of a rugby ball and within 60 seconds half of your blood has formed a pool on Sukhumvit.

The boys in brown at the adjascent traffic control box saunter out, mildly irritated that they are going to miss the end of the live televised boxing. They had money on this fight! The junior officers know the drill well and stand aside, allowing the highest ranking officer to go straight for you and the prize, the sweating beast's wallet. He barks out to the gathering crowd of impassive bystanders to move back and with a sleight of hand that has been perfected from many a similar scene, he feigns checking for a pulse while surreptitiously retrieving the bulging wallet and placing it into his pocket. He can feel from the thickness that, assuming it contains 1,000 baht notes, there must be at least 60,000 baht in there. He'll take a trip to Rachada at the end of his shift.

The world is changing at a rate never before seen. Technological advancements have truly made the world a village and there is ease, not just of movement, but of where one wishes to live and work. It's hard to argue against globalisation and the almost unlimited options it gives us.

As the world is changing so too Thailand is changing. Reluctantly. Many of the changes are for the better. The infrastructure is being developed. Language skills are improving. There is more awareness of the outside world.

But the old ways aren't changing. Thai culture and Thai ways are resistant to change.

As Thailand develops, many of the things that Westerners were attracted to won't just change, they may even cease to exist. The country is getting more expensive with price increases as well as the increased value of the local currency. New laws and tougher enforcement make the country feel less laid back. The naughty boy industry won't exist forever and if temperatures get warmer worldwide, Thailand might become unbearably hot.

We choose to live in Thailand for these reasons and many more. Despite changes, the politically correct movement does not seem to have caught on in Thailand yet and so long as that doesn't happen, you could argue that Thailand will remain more attractive than the West.

Many guys talk of retiring in Thailand in the future. Will the Thailand we know today and the Thailand of tomorrow be similar? Or will they be two very different places? The country is already undergoing rapid change. It might be a better place. It might not. Who knows?

There is one thing I am convinced of. Many of the problems Thailand suffers from today will remain. I say that because pretty much all of the problems that existed when I first came still exist today. Sure, there have been improvements but in many ways the fundamental issues still exist. On the surface things will look much improved but under the surface it will surely be the same. Some issues, such as that of rampant corruption, require a major change in thinking, something which will take at least a generation, if not much longer.

Thailand is a mighty fun place to live, visit or retire – for now – but are things going to remain this way forever? Some of the trends, if they continue, might make the country less attractive to foreigners. I find myself caught in two minds. I want things to improve so that the locals can enjoy a much improved standard of living, but then I hope that things don't change so much that we foreigners cannot continue to enjoy it too. The problem is I'm not convinced that we can have both.

Where was this picture taken?


Last week's picture was taken of the Banyan Tree Hotel, photographed from Lumpini Park. The "hole" is on the 53rd floor where the spa is located. It is said to be a really great spa but pricey, as no doubt is everything at the Banyan Tree! Stacks of readers got it right! 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 a 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 lead piece in the previous week's column.

EMAIL OF THE WEEK – Farangs play the revenge game too.

With reference to shopping people to Immigration, I almost had an experience of this. I worked for a language school and we employed a Canadian. The guy was always late, and occasionally AWOL in his first two weeks. The head teacher decided to sack him and due to his no-shows, he was due no salary. Two days after his dismissal, 4 immigration police walked into the school and asked to see 'the head teacher'; the same guy who had sacked the Canadian. So the head showed up with all papers intact and disappointed the coppers. So they turned on two random farangs and asked to see their work permits (not likely!). These two guys were arrested and spent the rest of the day at the police station while the school's lawyer sorted things out. I arrived 15 minutes after the police had left (also without a work permit) and could have been kicked out because of this one guy's pettiness. I never saw him again, but if I had, there would be some serious trouble for him. He risked 6 or 7 guys' livelihoods for the sake of a few thousand baht.

Be REALLY careful!

I just read your weekly about the man losing his passport. In November I barfined a very beautiful girl from a gogo on Walking Street. She saw me go into my room safe to pay her. Shortly after my room was broken into and they went right for my safe. Luckily they could not get into it. If they had they would have got everything. I went back to the bar and the police but I got no help whatsoever. I was told by the police that the owner of the bar has mafia ties so there's nothing they could do. She's worked there for 3 years many people know who she is.

The cheapest Giorgio Armani!

Just got a custom jacket made, and walking home, by happy accident found the place where the tailors get the suits sewn. Just walking around that area looking at the Thai sweatshops and one tailor had the GIORGIO ARMANI patch which is put on the inside pocket of the suit called, by remarkable coincidence, Giorgio Armani. Spoke to a tailor and asked how much to sew that patch on my jacket was and he responded "40 baht". Also in a nearby shop found some buttons which also say "Giorgio Armani" on them selling for a few baht each. So, did the conversion, and it looks really good: certainly fooled my co-workers and countless other's I've worked with. Mine might be the cheapest Giorgio Armani suit ever!

The no smoking crackdown.

Having been a permanent resident in Bangkok for a couple of years now, I paid a visit to Lumpini Night Bazaar to partake of the very good kebab stall in the main entertainment area and the eighty five baht large Heineken that always seems to make an appearance. After 2 or 3 hours of merriment I was approached by a Thai in an army uniform who informed me in no uncertain terms to cease smoking or I could be fined, the evidence of my crime was there for all to see as they had never supplied ashtrays. I am a considerate smoker and try to avoid annoying other people with my filthy habit but you could not get any more open air as there because the roof has no cover on. Maybe their efforts could be put to better use elsewhere?

Who's stealing the coffee mugs?!

I ordered a tall cappuccino at Starbucks, soi 5, for 75 baht, to drink there, and the nitwit says "Sorry, paper cup, OK, mai?" I say, "Not OK, I want it in a mug." He says, "Sorry, people take our mugs." I say, "No mug, cappuccino don't want." I got it in a mug. Unreal. I wonder how many people are coerced into drinking a 75 baht Starbucks from a paper cup?

No right, no wrong.

I found the anecdote with the newsreader most amusing. I have to say that some of the girls on Thai TV look very impressive and the idea to have them available for such a modest fee sets me some new goals! This however, in my opinion, shows the true decadence of the morals in this country. There is no absolute truth for them, no right or wrong as it is in a constant flow depending on personal circumstances and needs. In a way they all resemble school boys cheating their way through college. This is fair enough but for a whole society to be based on such volatile values nothing good can come out of it in the long run. But then again, I would probably be the first to complain if the law was applied fully and Walking Street were shut down for good.

Cell service in the south?

I wanted to see if anyone could give me a heads up on what is happening with cell service in the far south, the Yala area of Thailand. I have read some news accounts of damage to towers over terrorist activities and about service being discontinued due to threats of usage for setting off bomb. I seem to get through for a while and then I get hit with " Welcome to call back service" and never get connected. Do cell phones in Thailand have voice messaging? My Thai friends in the US have told me of having the same issue when they tried to call. Can anyone tell me what "welcome to call back service" means. Is it that the phone has no minutes available, out of service area, turned off, or due to issues in Yala. In past wife mentioned talking too much to daughter at school. Which I think she was saying she uses up all the minutes as daughter recently went to boarding school. If anyone can give me information on cell service in Thailand and the south. Email me at [email protected]

Overall, LOS still gets the thumbs up.

When all is said and done, the LOS remains a positive place. My wife and I returned last August after a 27 year absence and enjoyed Thailand but, clearly, intelligence and caution rule. You can take your crack of dawn hour run in the City of Angels, but a novel turn can bring you into the midst of a sleeping pack of soi dogs or errant snake. Stay calm, slow down, and smile!

There was massive confusion on Friday night in the bars of Bangkok with no-one knowing quite what was going on. Friday night saw punters arriving at Soi Cowboy to find it in complete darkness. With senatorial elections being held NEXT weekend, bars and other nightspots were told that the sale of alcohol would be prohibited, both this weekend and next weekend, resulting in many bar owners choosing to close for the busiest two nights of the week.

In the Nana area, most bars were open, and while alcohol could be found without too much difficulty, most spots were serving non-alcoholic drinks. Down in Pattaya no-one knew what was going on until at the last minute some bars heard that they may be able to open and there was pandemonium as staff were contacted and managers tried to get the bars open. Some bars opened, some didn't.

For those who can stomach Patpong, it was business as usual.

These election day weekends and other holidays really are a disaster. Despite the fact that partying is high on many tourists' list of reasons for venturing half way around the world, bar owners did not know until the very last minute what was going on! And the worst part is that we can expect the same again next weekend. It's all very frustrating.

I apologise to all readers for not mentioning the bar closures in advance. The problem was that there was no clear message about just what the situation would be and those sites that did announce what they thought would happen got it hopelessly wrong, although that was not entirely their fault.

Last night the confusion continued with some bars open, some bars closed, some serving alcohol and others not. Down in Cowboy about half the bars opened. Even with only a limited number of spots open for business, it was a slow night. Many of the bars were well short of dancers. Baccara was off to a good start with about 50 girls, as was Shark. Dollhouse had only a handful of girls. Big name bars Long Gun, Rawhide, Sheba's and Suzy Wong were all closed. The Deja Vu group was open.

Ten days into the smoking ban and Cowboy has not missed a beat. To my eyes there has been no negative effect on the number of customers. Even the Japanese customers have concluded what butt they prefer, as can be seen by a very full Baccara.

Spending a couple of hours in Soi 8 (that's the name of the bar previously known as Carleone's), which can be found about 40 metres into Sukhumvit Soi 8, I was impressed. Friendly staff, good food and excellent coverage of both the rugby and cricket, this is a real alternative to Soi 33's Office Bar. Soi 8 also does a Sunday roast buffet for 450 baht. Well worth checking out if you're into rugby or cricket, both of which they have full coverage of.

The stream of scams and problems experienced by readers and reported to me to include in the column continues, unfortunately. Two long term Bangkok expats were looking for a beer somewhere quiet and away from the holiday crowd on Wednesday night and ended up in a small, quiet bar in one of Bangkok's smaller bar areas. Yes, it was Sukhumvit but no, it was not Nana or Cowboy. During the reader's second beer he stumbled his way to the toilet which he found very strange and started to wonder if he was exhausted. 20 minutes later his drinking companion said he felt as though he had drank 10 beers, not the 3 he had actually had. He also said his legs felt week. Both are in their early 30's and physically fit. They managed to stay out drinking but were in a bit of a state. One woke the next day to a terrible headache and felt bad for 24 hours. Were they drugged? They ate different food at different establishments so it would appear not to be food poisoning. Are these the symptoms of being drugged? It all rather concerning.

The Londoner has discontinued its generous 50% discount food vouchers on Monday and Tuesday promotion which were given to those who spent 1,000 baht or more. The Londoner is currently working on some new promotions. The food at The Londoner remains a favourite of mine BUT, the prices are lofty. That voucher made it worthwhile – let's hope they come up with something similarly generous.

And another thing I REALLY like about The Londoner is their food guarantee. On the menu it clearly states on every page that if you are not completely satisfied with any dish they will replace it at no charge. Western quality Western food with Western standards!

I really do wonder if and how the bars in Sukhumvit 22's beer bar complex make money. I did anther run through this week and as usual, it was very quiet, most bars with just a solitary customer, many with none! I can only speculate that rent in the area is so low as to make running a bar with such little custom viable. That said, it is a pleasant spot and the staff in the bars tend to be friendlier than other areas.

It'd be pretty difficult to argue that Thailand is expensive, but there can be no doubt the prices are moving up at a brisk rate. Just a month ago a slice of pizza on the 3rd floor of the Garden Plaza in Pattaya was 50 baht + 5% service charge. Now, a month later, the cost has risen to 60 baht for the pizza, plus the service charge has doubled. Small increase in baht – but a lot as a percentage!

There's an increasing number of eligible farang bachelors who choose to remain single in Thailand, despite the ease with which a girlfriend can be found. There seems to be a number of guys who have been put off Thai women due to bad experiences. Many are asked the question of why they do not have a girlfriend by women they're dating, women highly suspicious why such a seemingly ideal mate is single. An American friend tells me that in such a situation he rattles off the things that have gone wrong with girls he had previously dated – citing that he doesn't like women who ask him to buy them a mobile phone in the first month, women who call him 20 times in one day, women who ask him how much he earns – or any number of other common complaints. Usually, the lady will comment to the effect, "Oh, lady Thai do that no good". You have subtly let her know where the boundaries are and almost certainly won't have any such problems with her! Of course it is best if she asks you first, rather than you volunteering the information to her.

Do you get nervous having money in a local bank? The number of stories I have heard of accounts being cleaned out or account holders being the victims of scams with the bank refusing to refund is disconcerting. Perhaps the most common story concerns those involving a unit being added to an ATM machine which reads the card and saves the data so that the card can then be replicated – and the account accessed. But there's worse than that. One fellow told me the story of how he lost his ATM card and went and reported it to the bank as lost / stolen. He was relieved to see that his account had not been accessed and was issued with a replacement card. 18 months later he noticed a withdrawal from his account that he had not made so he trundled along to the bank to report it. He was informed that his account had been accessed with the card that had originally been lost, the one he had reported stolen directly to the bank. And do you think the bank would refund the money he lost on the transaction with the card which had been reported stolen? Not a chance! Does that scare you or what?

Many take advantage of the fact that Thailand's laws regarding the sale of prescription drugs are lax. Not that I think it is a good idea to buy pharmaceuticals willy nilly, but if you find yourself in need of something, the Charoen Pharmacy, just around the corner from Nana Plaza, really is good – knowledgeable staff and low prices.

For the budding writers out there, here's a reminder and a few more details about the Boathouse writing competition. As previously mentioned, there are two parts in the writing contest. Winners of Part I for adults (key words to use: Boathouse, Phuket, Mango) will be announced 12 March at the Boathouse, Phuket. Jake Needham will conduct two writing workshops at the international schools on 11 and 12 March after which the students will have time until the end of April to send in their entry for Part 2 of the contest (all stories starting with a paragraph written by Jake). Jake will speak at the Boathouse 12 March after a cocktail party and everyone is welcome to attend this evening. That evening will kick off a series of Writer's Nights at the Boathouse. Collin Piprell (Kicking Dogs, Bangkok Knights etc) has agreed to do the next evening sometime early May (date TBA) and there's interest from various other writers. Drinks will be at special prices, which always helps… The schedule:
Tuesday 11 Workshops QSI 14.00 – 15.00 h. 44 students (age 15 – 18)
Wednesday 12 Workshop BCIS 13.30 – 14.30 about 125 students (85 Year 10 and 40 Year 12 (age 14 – 16 years)
Wednesday 12 Boathouse Cocktail party 19.00 – 19.30 (announce winner Part 1 of the Short Fiction Competition)
Wednesday 12 Boathouse Writer's Night 19.30 – 21.00 (an evening with Jake Needham)

In the latest update on the teaching profession certificate – which looks like it is going to become one big hassle – as best as I can make out, all teachers are going to have to, at some time, do the course on Thai culture. There is of course some merit in doing this, but I have to wonder how much merit for those who have lived in Thailand for a long time already and / or are married to a Thai. The one bit of (possible) good news is that it appears that those English teachers who already have a specific TEFL certificate may not have to do the teaching and professional ethics course. I am still of the belief that the whole thing will either be canned or not enforced.

In last week's column I suggested that by this time this week you would not get 32 baht for an American dollar. Hate to say I told you so. The fall in the US dollar really is turning into a nightmare for some American readers.

And with the baht slowly strengthening against ALL major currencies, most predominantly against the dollar, at what point do you start to review the price increases that the farang dominated neighbourhoods of Thailand have experienced over the past few years? I mean, eating Western food here is a lot more expensive than it used to be. And all aspects of the nightlife are much more expensive than they were. Convert the costs into a Western currency and with the currency fluctuations, you're looking at massive price increases. Talking with Brits and Americans, the two largest groups of Westerners in Thailand, the key numbers seem to be 29 and 55. That is if the dollar falls to 29 baht and Sterling to 55 baht then guys from those countries might start to reconsider things.

According to the BBC, the new Thai Prime Minster is going to wage another war on drugs.

The Detroit News ran an article on Thailand being an attractive destination for American fugitives.

Quote of the week comes from a friend when mentioning how easy it is to meet local ladies. "Shave, dress gay and you will have all girls you want."

Ask Mrs. Stick

Mrs. Stick is here 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: I have been spending a lot of time online and have accounts on most of the popular dating sites. I have made contact and chatted with literally hundreds of Thai women and have met perhaps 40 or 50 women, some here in Bangkok and a handful I have travelled to meet in other parts of the country. Hand on my heart, I am looking for a good woman, someone who I can form a relationship with, someone who I can spend my life with. The problem I have is that every woman I meet is the same. Every one. As soon as I say what I am looking for, they say they want to sleep with me. This is actually a huge turn off. These women tell me that they want to get married to and as soon as they see that both are interested in the same thing they are prepared to sleep with me and then they think that we are really going to get married. I do not want to break anyone's heart, and am not in the business of lying to get into a woman's pants. How can I get the message through to these women that a relationship needs to be built up over time, that they only way to know a person is to spend time with them doing a variety of things. The whole idea that once you sleep with someone they are the person you are going to marry is just weird.

Mrs. Stick says: Our tradition is that we only sleep with someone who we are genuinely serious about. For previous generations a woman would only sleep with one man in her life, but for the new generation things have changed. I guess you are meeting traditional women who still believe in the old ways and feel that if they sleep with you then they will marry you. Maybe you are a special, attractive man? Actually, I think you must have a positive aura about you because if so many women want to marry you, either all the women you are meeting are the same (I think unlikely) or there is something really good about you! Maybe you should try dating women from other places and see if they react the same? Good luck!

In recent times there have been a number of reports of guys being drugged. It's a serious issue and one which I think we need to be aware of. Have you ever been drugged? Have you ever felt that something was amiss? Have you ever seen someone putting something into your drink? I'd love to hear more. Where did it happen? When did it happen? Is this predominantly a freelancer thing? Let us know so that we can post warnings for the readership.



Yours,

Stick Mark II