Stickman's Weekly Column February 17th, 2008

The Illusion Of Decadence


The Illusion Of Decadence

Chrome pole palaces may be Bangkok's standard naughty boy fare but they aren't for everyone. The most popular venues are often packed, the levels of service can leave much to be desired and if you're there as much to enjoy the drinks as the view, you might find what you order and what you're served two different things.

You need not fret for if the chrome pole palaces are not for you, there are other options.

The next tier up from the gogo bars would be Sukhumvit's soi 33, a lane full of bars baring the names of dead artists. Once nicknamed Millionaire's Row, reflecting the prices charged, soi 33 really isn't that much more expensive than elsewhere – if you're only drinking. But if you're there for action, the barfines alone run the same price as full service in a massage parlour. Yep, it'll cost you around 1,500 baht just to walk that sweety out the door.

You also have to wonder whether the bars of soi 33 really are that much better than what you'll find on the rest of Sukhumvit. The girls look a little classier in evening dresses, but is it a case of mutton dressed up as lamb? A superior product to the chrome palaces, perhaps, but are the differences really as great as first impressions suggest?

But what if you want something better still? What if soi 33 just doesn't meet your expectations?

There are always the massage parlours of Rachada, Bangkok's very own version of the Las Vegas strip where neon lights front not dens of gambling, but dens of the carnal variety. But is Rachada about fun? I would have thought it was primarily about being naughty. And frankly, with many establishments openly advertising dual pricing – that is higher prices for you and I, Rachada can be crossed off the list.

Is there another option?

Not much more than a stone's throw from Soi Cowboy is one of Bangkok's genuine upmarket naughty boy venues, an establishment where all nationalities are welcome, where all customers received similarly high levels of service and where everyone is charged the same prices.

Free of the tacky neon found elsewhere, the plain appearance of the large white structure belies its interior. As the doorman opens the door, you enter a small lobby that gives more than a hint of what you'll find inside. Pausing in the lobby, you could be mistaken for thinking you had entered a Chinese-owned British manor. The lobby resembled a drawing room with classic style furniture from the 19th and early 20th centuries, decorated with, or should I say dripping with, gold. Wherever you look there is gold. Gold, gold, gold. The colour of success. The sign that you have made it.

Passing through the lobby we enter the main area of the establishment, a large two-tiered auditorium glittering in gold. Off to the right is a full-size stage with gold curtain. Seating is made up of large booths with classic styled yet comfortable couches. Mirrors adorn all the walls, but not the wall to wall variety of the chrome palaces, but exquisite wooden or gold framed mirrors or a classic design.

As we are led through the venue by one of the service staff, more like an usher at a stage show than bar service staff, our eyes marvel at the fittings and decorations. The central chandelier wouldn't be out of place in the lobby of the Oriental and the smaller chandeliers around the outside, along with the gold, give the appearance that you've stepped into Aladdin's cave. It's completely overwhelming, truly ostentatious, opulence screams for every nook and cranny.

Chinese porcelain, giant elephant tusks, sofas from English manors, French chandeliers, Chinese gold and gold gilding, Austrian mirrors and the piece de resistance, the Michelangelo-inspired painted domed ceiling; a dreadfully garish cornucopia of styles that could only be found in Asia.

Surrounded by such opulence and ostentation, my first thoughts concerned how much effort and how much it costs just to maintain the place.

Bangkok may lay claim to having some of the world's finest 5 star hotels, but no single venue one could compete the with the wow factor of Pegasus Club's main room.

But the main room is just one part of the complex which has various rooms available for private functions. Some even have their own mini balcony which opens out into the main room, allowing you to enjoy the atmosphere and the shows while enjoying the privacy that such a room affords. Or perhaps some just plain like to be a snob and be seen hanging from the balcony. I was later to learn that the cost of these private rooms is a, very reasonably I thought, few thousand baht for the night.

Having eased into our rather comfortable lounge seats, a waiter approaches and asks the member which of their bottles they will be drinking tonight. The norm is not to the lager louts likes and while beer may be found on the premises, the format is distinctly more Thai style. A bottle and mixers is brought to the table and the attentive staff constantly ensure that your glass is never less than 50% full, the unfinished portion being kept on the premises until the next visit.

The ladies of the house sit in a large group off to the back. Dressed in evening wear, they resemble a bunch of little gingerbread women, all cut from the same cutter. Taller than you'd find in other venues, the typical Pegasus girl has a bit more meat on the bone, fairer skin and is much less likely to be branded.

There is no chance of being harassed by a lady, zero chances of her hassling you for a cola. When customers request the company a lady, the entire troop is marched before him where they will stand, each making sultry eyes, wishing him to choose her. A quick nod and whomever is chosen joins him.

Like much of Sukhumvit where I estimate inflation is running at 10% in venues catering to farangs, Pegasus has also seen steep price increases. A single lady's drink won't cut it. 45 minutes of the lady's time will set you back a cool 900 baht. She won't leap up on stage and she won't spend your time on her mobile. Not one mobile was seen in the hands of the girls, suggesting that the house has sensibly ruled against their use. 45 minutes of her time is what you get.

I never did chat with any of the ladies, but I am told that many are university students, their night time work financing their studies. With that in mind, their English is likely markedly better than their chrome pole hugging sisters.

Pegasus is a member's club and various membership packages are offered. At the basic level, 20,000 baht will get you 10 bottles of the good stuff and 10 barfines. That might sound like a good deal but if you are actually thinking of barfining – and most don't, yes, you read that, most don't, just to walk out the door with one of the lovelies costs two or three barfines. If your barfine quota has run out, you're looking at 1,500 per barfine – so just getting a girl out of the premises would cost you 3,000 baht. In fact it could run much more than that. If a non-member walks through the doors, it's 900 baht just to get in and the aforementioned 900 baht for a lady to sit with you.

Pegasus takes a leaf out of Rainbow 4's operating manual with price collusion in place for the ladies. The girls used to be classified into three different groups, but now there are just two, models and sideline girls. For models, you're looking at 2,000 or 4,000 baht, depending on just how long you wish to engage their company whereas sideline girls will run 3,000 or 6,000.

The shows in Pegasus are not the smut you see in the likes of Suzy Wong's or Long Gun. No sir, no shortage of effort has gone into creating Broadway-styled skits with pretty performers in fancy costumes. On the night I visited the shows were Chicago-esque; a few numbers from the musical. We're talking cabaret style here, think Moulin Rogue.

During the skits the dancers parade around the venue, dancing in front of, and even right on the tables. It is perhaps the one area where I could find fault. The dancers' timing is not even remotely close, some dancers have hugely pock-marked faces (big surprise here) and the sound system is that most ubiquitous of Thai styles, SUPER LOUD. And the venue itself is not indifferent from a Thai home – there's something stuffed, crammed or jammed into every last little nook and cranny.

Interestingly, the ladies who sit with you and the ladies on stage are two quite separate groups. Anyone wishing to fill their desires with the girls on stage will find themselves out of luck although with that said, this is Thailand and for the right price, well, almost anything is possible!

Let me just pause the story on Pegasus Club for a moment and recount an anecdote from years gone by. Many years ago a bunch of us used to meet in Woodstock on a Friday night. We represented all nationalities, all ages and our employment ranged from early retirees and high flying stockbrokers to boiler room traders and lowly paid teachers. One Australian in the group, one of the few high flyers, had long fancied a particular newsreader. She was hot. Off the scale hot. He had mentioned this to one of his Thai businessman friends who said that for the right price, our Australian buddy could have her. But the Aussie guy didn't just want her, he wanted her at news reading time. He was told that 2 hours of her time would cost him 25,000 baht. He told us to watch the news on that channel on a certain night, claiming she would not be there. We did, and she wasn't. She had been enjoying the comforts of his condo (while his wife was out, I believe). Anyway, back to Pegasus.

Pegasus both targets and appeals to gentlemen of all nationalities. Farang membership is estimated at less than 10% while Thais are said to number no more than 20%. The bulk of the membership is made up of Japanese, Chinese and other Asian nationals.

Pegasus is a genuinely high end venue. As the effects of a few tumblers of the good stuff take effect and you lean back, resting your head on the lounge to take it all in, you could, just for a moment, wonder if you had been magically transported to Rome, or Paris. Pegasus is on the ball and the smoking ban enacted this past week is already in place at the venue so there's no chance of them replicating Moulin Rogue's smoky atmosphere. Even in this most upmarket of nightspots where customers' comfort and satisfaction is a real priority, smokers are forced outdoors. Even those who wish to enjoy a Cuban will be ushered to the door.

Pegasus is not about satisfying one's carnal pleasures. It's a venue to be enjoyed, to bring visitors, guests and those you're doing business with. I am reliably informed that the private rooms have showers and that bonking booths can be found on the premises but discretion is the name of the game and the girls of Pegasus are not the high-traffic riff raff you find elsewhere on Sukhumvit.

Pegasus is about pure indulgence, opulence exceeding even the likes of The Oriental. And when it comes to the maidens, the pride of Angelwitch are just that, witches in comparison.

The whole place is completely over the top. This is the limited edition Lamborghini with matching, individually numbered Louis Vuitton luggage, the diamond encrusted Rolex or the 24 carat solid gold Nokia.

You do it because you can, and it is said that those guys who indulge themselves with a membership at Pegasus, do it more to relax, to impress, or to seal a deal than to partake in the pleasures of the flesh.

Pegasus is quite possibly the pinnacle of Bangkok's naughty boy fantasies, truly the ultimate illusion of decadence.

Where was this picture taken?


Last week's picture was taken on South Pattaya Road, not far from Deuk Com, looking west, towards Second Road. Not one person got it right. PATHETIC! 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 – Marring the Thai cinema experience.

I'm back here for a couple of weeks' holiday and one thing I've really missed about Bangkok has been the cinemas. Very cheap, clean, comfortable and nice snacks with the latest films played in accessible locations like Central World and Paragon, what's not to like? However, the hilarious censorship they've resorted to these days has really destroyed the Thai cinema experience. Whereas previously the pixelising of smoking, guns pointed at heads etc was confined to TV shows, in the last couple of days I've seen American Gangster and Sweeney Todd, and it's really beyond a joke. Particularly Sweeney Todd, a slasher film about a mad, razor-wielding killer which has every bloody (in the true sense of the word) scene ruined to protect the Thais' sensibilities. Of course, in the 40 minutes of trailers beforehand there was a completely uncut and, to my hardened farang eyes, pretty disturbing trailer for one of these ridiculously gory local films, with people being tied down and having their eyes gouged out with hooks etc. If you haven't seen this then please go and see Sweeney Todd at Paragon to give us your views. One of the best aspects about being in Bangkok has been ruined. Incidentally, my Thai friends, when I asked what they thought about it, assumed that the pixels were put in by the director of the film, and expressed surprise when we explained that this was just for the local market!

Extorting one's own kind.

Here in the UK, exactly the same thing happens, and this goes back 20 years! Thais prefer to work for Chinese as they are seen as hard but fair, whereas they know their fellow country folks will cheat them. Endless games – very often, someone loses a pile at cards, and when the winner wants their money in a hurry, they'll threaten the loser that they'll tell their husband about their extra-curricular activities. Most of the sensible ones soon realise that they are better off without too many Thai friends. And yes, they are more than capable of shopping their mates to Immigration just for losing a small amount of face. Of course, this is amongst a certain section of the community, as the average married Thai girl has no Immigration issues to worry about. I know someone who ran an escort agency – when one of their 'employees' got picked up by Immigration, they accused the guy of people trafficking, which is a fairly serious offence here! And it's bollocks – I've yet to meet a single 'working' Thai girl here who didn't know why she was coming here and what she was expected to do! There is for sure, very little loyalty. The sign of a good girl is that she doesn't go along with that shit!

Creating a dog eats dog society.

Thankfully I am blessed with the retirement option, and have sufficient funds that I do not have to work here, as I seem to be surrounded by a load of headless chickens running around trying to scratch a living. This week you've addressed the actual reality of the chances of being thrown out of the country. Regardless of how slim they are I would state most farangs are just as concerned with the threat as to the actual eviction. The thought of being turfed out on your ear, put on the next plane, leaving behind lock, stock and barrel is not worth contemplating for most individuals. So when push comes to shove push wins. This of course is then exploited by all and sundry, which rapidly disintegrates into a dog eat dog society. I currently know someone who has worked for many since his arrival, and now that he is short of funds he's trying to collect, with the response that they cannot pay him because he hasn't got a valid work permit.

The Windmill disgrace.

I'm sorry to hear about your friend Barry and how he was treated at Windmill. To be honest it doesn't surprise me, in that sooner or later something like this is bound to arise. It always catches us off guard, but it shows just what the Thais in the night scene really think of us. We've spoken numerous times, about how since Mr. T let the genie out of the bottle over Thai nationalism, farang bashing has become open season, both physically and verbally. The saddest part of this incident are the reactions of board posters and more importantly the farang management of Windmill. When I read of these incidents, I really don't miss the night scene whatsoever. Last year we spoke about the lack of quality, which was very apparent. We try to convince ourselves that it's fun, but after 4 – 5 trips to Thailand, is it really? I would think for someone like yourself, the illusion of the glamour and the glitter soon disappeared.

Guns, rocks, metal pipes, and machetes.

Sun, sand, suds, and sex. What about guns, rocks, metal pipes, and machetes? All one has to do is log on to Pattaya City News updates and reality is displayed without the mirage of any glossy brochures or website promotion. It continues to amaze that some still consider the place a viable option for living or retirement. I guess it could still be considered a short holiday destination if you’re into the circus sideshow experience, but as a residence? I was there for the first and last time and can clearly see it has gone from a circus to thunderdome. It continues to be infested with all manner of Eastern bloc thugs, yobs, slobs, trogs, and even the occasional stray Yakuza messing about with the ya-ba trade. Quite the colourful mix, but unless you still think the night is not complete without a pint and a fight, one might want to give it a miss these days. I used to think that most who found trouble there brought it on themselves, but not so sure anymore. Keeping a low profile will delay a good stomping, but it's a good bet it will catch up to you the longer you hang about. And to engage in any kind of business dealings there, either farang or Thai? Now you’ve really got a target on your back. Literally so because most of the time the attacker / hitman will take you out from behind. And I thought Manila was bad.

So there's at least one happy reader out there!

I've read your columns for quite a while and I honestly have never found them to be negative. I think you simply report Thailand as it is – the bad with the good. For the life of me I can never understand why the "we be Thai" faction of farangs go crazy when anyone says anything remotely critical of their beloved Thailand. Maybe some people can't handle the truth? Anyway, IMHO you should keep your reporting unchanged. It's obvious that you sincerely like Thailand and its charming people but you don't back off when unsavoury things occur here.

Mercury in Nana Plaza has changed format and is now a pool bar, Erotica Pool Bar the venue's new name. The big question is, just what is erotic about a pool bar?!

But there's at least one bit of good news from Nana this week. The motorbikes that had been parked in the main entranceway have been banished. I don't know where they park them now, but let's hope that they've gone for good.

The smoking ban which kicked off on Monday this week has been enforced in some venues, not in others. It has had zero effect in Sukhumvit Soi 7's most infamous venue, The Biergarten. Smokers freely puff away, aided by the plentiful supply of ashtrays provided, while the boys in overly tight brown suits sit at the entrance, slugging back complimentary drinks, blind to what is happening a few feet away.

Other bars are taking the smoking ban seriously and many appear nervous when a punter reaches for his cigarette packet on the premises. One non-smoking customer in a Soi Cowboy bar complained that a member of staff had lit up – and was quickly told that his beer was on the house. Given that the bars HATE to give even so much as a smile for free, this illustrates just how concerned some are that the boys in brown will come sniffing. And in Cowboy 2, two Asian guys came in and sat down near the same customer who at that point had moved on, growing in confidence. Even without an ashtray present the Asian gents both proceeded to light up. The customer, now feeling rather confident, turned to the service girl and said "If they smoke, I won't pay" which had the desired effect and after harsh words from the waitress the cigarettes were very quickly extinguished. Are we on the verge of the "smoking wars" as non-smokers actively challenge those who are smoking illegally? I fear that someone with a bit too much liquor might take offence to being told to stub out their cigarette. I've seen broken noses and black eyes given for much less.

Anyone thinking this is a farang only venue ban, think again. RCA, the Thai teen popular street, is smoke free too.

I should be noted that the loyal servants of the Thai parliament included a list of venues excluded from the smoking ban…in invisible ink! Only the boys in brown and the venue owners can read it. I hear that there is a 1,000 baht per month fee for the invisible ink to be made visible – and to miraculously show the name of certain establishments.

Even with this option available to them, it would seem that many bar owners are VERY nervous about the prospect of the fines and the notice pictured has been erected in a number of bars along Soi Cowboy. Expect no smoking signs to be erected in most bars to go along with the no photos and in some cases, no mobile phones signs. It would be interesting to see if bar owners would actually try to make a punter responsible for the bar owner's fine… That could result in things getting really interesting!

But there has been a twist to the law, what can only be described as an expected outcome. Customers were heard grumbling as they left Angelwitch this week because they couldn't smoke – but they know another bar where they could smoke so they were out of there! Is the smoking ban a farce? The bar actually lost customers by obeying the law.

And the ever vigilant Pattaya chapter of the boys in uncomfortably tight brown uniforms did a run through many of the nightspots on Walking Street stopping to inform bar owners and managers that smoking is a no go in the gogos and anyone caught shirking the new law risks having their wallet emptied.

These reports were from my venture out earlier in the week, but by Friday night, even those bars which had just erected large no smoking signs were not only looking the other way, but actually providing ashtrays for customers who requested them! It seems that many bars just don't want to lose customers. At the Rainbow bars which have a high percentage of Japanese customers, who are notorious chain smokers, there appears to have been no change at all. The Rainbow bars have got disproportionately more to lose than most other bars – so what's the bet they openly violate the new laws and perhaps enter into a special arrangement?

The Duke Of Wellington Pub is starting a new weekend happy hour next weekend. Happy hour pricing will run from noon until 8:00 PM every Saturday and Sunday.

Coyotes in Pattaya will host a dance contest on Sunday next week, that is the 24th February. It will kick off around 10 PM with contestants from 9 big name Pattaya bars competing for 20,000 baht in prize money.

I'm afraid the trend of negative experiences from readers involving liaisons with women of the night continues. A reader had his passport stolen from his room in a local branch of a big name French hotel, almost certainly by the girl he took from a popular, farang-owned Soi Cowboy bar. Compounding the issue was the fact that he was on a brief stopover in Bangkok on his way to a business trip down under. The net effect is that he had to cancel his meetings, trade in his $US6,000 business flights for a return ticket to the UK – which is the only place he could travel to on the emergency passport he was issued with i.e. it is only good for return travel to your home country. The worst part of all, just how will he explain to his boss what happened! As a side note, it cost 40 baht to lodge a report at the police station! Does EVERYTHING cost money in this country? And did the cops go to either the bar or the hotel to investigate? NO! One can only assume that passport theft is considered a minor and insignificant crime in these parts. Oh, and the hotel had a copy of her ID card so it seems that even that is no guarantee of anything. Honestly, nothing surprises me these days.

Is it a bar or is it a language school?! When I first read it, I thought it must be some sort of language school and was thinking to myself, who is the genius that came up with that name?! I have since been informed that it is a reference to bars that operated during the prohibition period. And so much for the supposed 2 AM closing time, this banner currently erected in Nana is promoting a venue open until 5 AM. Woohoo!

Tilac Bar in Soi Cowboy has started the odious practice of having hongnam attendants massage you at the urinal. Words have been said to management already so let's hope they put a stop to it!

One of the neat touches at show time in Angelwitch Bangkok can be found at the end of the cocktail show. As the sweeties prance around the dance floor they mix up a shaker full of Kamikaze which is then poured into shot glasses and handed out free to punters. Now there's a reason to sit right next to the stage but be careful, these minxes mix STRONG drinks!

Soi Cowboy's Spice Girls Bar offers pricing at Pattaya levels with their spicy hour from 6:30 – 8:30 nightly. Standard drinks are almost given away at a ridiculously cheap 40 baht.

Speaking of which, Cowboy bar owners deserve a huge pat on the back. Most bars have a happy hour and even those spots known for higher prices, the likes of Suzy Wong's and Sheba's, run a happy hour until 9 PM with all drinks just 60 baht. Nana really needs to wake up because punters now have four reasons to go to Cowboy – friendlier atmosphere, more on display, cheaper prices and smokefree bars!

A link in last week's column highlighted a problem a customer experienced in a Pattaya bar. It has to be said that in disputes between foreigners and the locals, the locals are often prepared to do anything they can to "win". The potential loss of face that a foreigner could actually be right is just too much to deal with and this may force them to play dirty to win. Factor this in when you take someone on. But perhaps even more importantly, when the dispute is in what we might affectionately call "a naughty bar", at the first sign of trouble it really is time to leave. No ifs, no buts, slap some cash into the tumbler and get out of there. Things are only going to get worse so get the hell out of Dodge while you can.

For the New Zealanders who enjoy visiting Thailand, you'll be disappointed to hear that even though most TG flights between Auckland and Bangkok are full, rumours leaked from the Auckland Thai Airways office have it that they are going to reduce the number of flights – which are currently flown daily. The reason given is that Thai Airways simply don't have enough aircraft and the plane will be made available for extra flights between Thailand and Australia.

My deepest sympathies go out to all who knew the girl who died in soi 22 last week. The tragic death of the young Thai girlfriend of an expat who threw herself off the balcony from the 19th floor of the exclusive Wilshire condo is a reminder that life here in Thailand is not always easy. Locals face all sorts of pressures that we as foreigners are oblivious to. Despite the troubles we complain about, we farangs have it relatively easy and to even think that it isn't just farangs who get desperate is naive. Very sad indeed.

The rumour mill has it that Ricky is losing weight. You off the piss, Ricky?

I am told that Baby Dolls might be the only gogo bar in Thailand where the music isn't loud enough. I'm afraid it will take more than that to get me in there though. Pretty girls, sure, but the atmosphere in there has never been to my liking.

The Chidlom branch of Burger King has closed. No surprise really as that stand alone branch took up a large chunk of prime real estate.

A recent trend in my part of town with the boys in brown is the setting of traffic traps very late at night. There's no shortage of possible shortcuts and locals are prepared to run reds and make dangerous turns safe in the knowledge that the local plod tend to head home by 7:30 or 8:00 PM. Well, it seems the plod realised that the locals have been taking liberties well into the evening and seeing a chance to make some dosh, they have decided to put in a little overtime, which I am sure pays lucratively. Be careful breaking the road rules late at night for you might find the boys in brown leaping out from behind a sign or the nearest tree!

Shock, horror, is Beer Lao bad for me? Drink too much and for sure, you're going to suffer, but I'm not that big a drinker and usually stick to 4 or 5 bottles. I have been extolling the virtues of Laos' favourite export for a long time, but truth be told, when I drink a lot I find myself feeling bad, even after enjoying its smooth taste. Shock, horror, I might have to switch back to Heineken. The green-bottled poison might not taste as good, but then you do not get that seedy feeling after a few bottles either.

8 or 9 years back the Thermae was a favourite hang out spot. Bangkok's most atmospheric bar had the ultimate mix of pretty girls and crazy guys. And some of us were not necessarily there for the girls only. I met one of my closest, trusted Bangkok-based friends in the Thermae after we got chatting. Anyway, it used to be a mixed crowd with as many young guys as older guys. But these days there has been a change in the patrons who frequent the Thermae – and other freelancer venues. These days it seems to be many more older guys and fewer young guys. In fact you don't see many guys aged under 35. Are punters getting older?

For American readers, I note the dollar took another hit this week against the baht, dropping by another 1+%. If you rely on funds from your homeland, don't look at the exchange rate board or you very well might have a heart attack! Today in Bangkok you'll barely get 32 baht for the US dollar – and by the middle of this coming week they predict you won't even get that.

Quote of the week comes from a friend who was ogling a particularly attractive dancer in Raw Hide Bar. "She's so hot she could get a Thai guy."

It looks like the boys in brown really are serious about catching those talking on their mobile phone while driving. A good thing, in my opinion but I also wonder, how many policeman's sons will end up with a digital camera for their birthday?

It's open season on Canadians in Thailand! Is Thailand about to declare war on Canada…or perhaps it will be the other way around?

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 do let her know what is on your mind.

Question 1: I have a Thai girlfriend who lives on a farm in Buriram who I have managed to get pregnant. I am already married in England (she knew this from the start) and she knows I can't offer anything more than financial help but seems very happy with the situation and I dare not even mention not keeping the baby as I know she would not hear of it. My question: As I am already married, I can't send money on a regular basis as I have a joint account, but I could raise some cash. I would like to help her with the baby, how much as a one off payment should I look to give her? How much might be expected? Are the laws in Thailand such that she may come to me later seeking child payments as would be the case in England as I won't really have anything to prove I have paid her a one off sum? So I hope you can advise. I know there are no right answers but an indication would help me, also if you have heard of any others in this predicament and what happened.

Mr. Stick says: This issue is complicated with so many things to consider, from the various legalities, to moral issues to trying to make the best of what, quite frankly, is a bad situation. First of all, good on you for showing a willingness to step up to the plate and do the right thing, financially at least. The first thing you should be aware of is that a one off payment simply will not work and is something you need to dismiss immediately. Irrespective of how much a lump say you were willing to give, it would almost certainly be wasted in no time. What you need to understand is that these are most likely people who have never really had a great savings culture – and a lump sum would likely result in a major purchase – and not used for the purpose of raising the kid at all. My feeling is that at this time, 10,000 baht a month would be a fair amount to provide. I don't know much about a kid's expenses but I hear that milk powder and Pampers alone would account for close to half that amount. The rest could be used for other child related expenses. Yes, many families get by on much less, but do you want your kid to grow up in poverty? Of course, there is also the issue of whether this money is even spent on the kid…but sadly, there is not much you can do about that. You're going to have to figure out a way to pay monthly, and at current exchange rates, 10,000 baht would be around £150. I don't want to be a scaremonger but in the future she might come looking for more money – with a lawyer. This is not that likely, but it is something you need to be aware of. I don't want to speculate on the laws of the respective countries but it would appear that if she retained a lawyer in your country, things could become awkward. That is yet another reason, over and above the moral reasons, to make the monthly payments fair and reasonable from the start. * Any readers in a similar situation with advice to offer might like to send me an email which I could forward to the fellow concerned.

Question 2: I once read the following analogy and I would be interested to hear you views on it. Thais will, as is so often stated, go to extreme lengths to avoid confrontation. In fact maybe that's why they like their nightly soap operas so much as it seems to be nothing but confrontations. So if a western guy dates ten different good girls, and puts 3,000 baht underneath each of their handbags in the morning prior to departure, how many in your opinion would pick up the money and say nothing, still see the guy again as nothing was untoward, or give a western response of "What kind of girl do you think I am?"

Mrs. Stick says: You are right to point out that we tend to avoid confrontation. But if you do that to a real Thai lady, you might get a slap for that, or more. Remember avoiding confrontation doesn't mean eating shit.

Mr. Stick says: I would suggest any local lady staying the night with a guy who is clearly such a Casanova would not likely be a "good girl".

Question 3: I have spent the last 5 years in a relatively prosperous northern Thailand village and my stay has been relatively problem free. The only niggling worry that I have is my wife's love of gambling. I suppose I could imperiously demand she stop but the problem is that she rarely, if ever, loses. Honestly, most weeks we could live off her winnings. Now I don't doubt that your cynical husband's antennae would swivel towards me on this, wife bringing home large sums of money and explaining it as "gambling winnings" but I can assure you that it's true. I know the signs of infidelity well, particularly in "former" bargirls who like to do a little work on the side to supplement their income and even if it was the case there's just no opportunity to make that sort of money around here. As a Thai lady you must have friends who enjoy a hand of card or a game of dominoes, so is it unusual for one player to be consistently successful? I am fully aware of the laws in Thailand regarding gambling and also aware of the average Thai's cavalier attitude towards these laws.

Mrs. Stick says: My colleagues play cards sometimes i.e. when we are having a party and of course they bet some money just to add more fun to it, and believe me nobody constantly wins. Your wife must have golden fingers or some skill or ability which is extraordinary. But there is a Thai saying that says "Being robbed ten times is not as bad as having your house burnt down once. Having a house burnt down ten times is not as bad as losing at gambling once". It is a way of saying that it is gambling that can damage you the most!

I still get no end of grief for the fact that there is no forum on this site, no single place where weekly columns, submissions and other scribblings can be discussed ad nausea. I am on record as saying that I am less than impressed with the most popular Thailand related forums. For me, the Internet is used for informational purposes, to read the news and seek informed opinions, to research whatever may be of interest to me at that time and via this site, and to post information I believe may be useful or of interest to others. I do, believe it or not, have a real life away from the Internet. I know many people like to hang out online and the online environment is in fact their life. If that's you, then I hope you're happy, but please understand that it is not me. Too much time online just isn't a good thing. I already spend way too much time on this site. A forum would kill me.



Yours,

Stick Mark II