Stickman's Weekly Column March 16th, 2008

Cafes, Karaokes and Pubs, Thai Style

Cafes, Karaokes and Pubs, Thai Style

As the motorbike sped through the Bangkok night, the wind through my hair and across my face gave some relief from the city’s stifling heat. It was a 60 baht ride from the final
skytrain station, out of the city, but not out of my comfort zone. Zigzagging through sois and sub sois that I had never before seen, we passed small ma and pa vendors, shophouses adorned with red glowing Chinese lanterns, short time hotels, the
ubiquitous 7 Eleven and no end of soi dogs, spread out on the concrete, clearly suffering the humid night.

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Shop front after shop front passed, many with Christmas tree lights and small neon signs. Just where was I to meet Barry? Surely this was the heart of the neighbourhood’s nightlife area? But the motorcycle refused to pull over as it
sped through the dark, increasingly quiet sois.

And then we were there. My rider pulls to the side of the road, collects his three greens and is off. Barry looks at his watch and says “How the hell did you do that?” I look at his digital watch, once a technological marvel
and the envy of his peers, but now an unsightly fashion error. I had not just arrived on time, I had made it to the exact second.

It was 8 PM in the outskirts of Bangkok and Bangkok Barry and I were to explore his local neighbourhood. You know, as you head out into the suburbs of Bangkok, or for that matter any centre in Thailand, you spy shop fronts that come alive
at night. Lights on, music blaring and of course, girls, or should that be young women, outside. We were here to explore a part of Bangkok that Barry suggested had potential.

A keen walker, Barry suggested we go for a stroll down the road to check it all out. It was still a tad early to enter any establishments but we thought we'd scope it out first.

My choice of jeans and a long sleeved shirt did not match well with a typical Bangkok hot season humid night but neither did I want to look like a tourist and wear shorts. But this is Asia, life is on the ground and best seen on foot.

We’d barely set off when we were accosted by two girls walking outside a small, single shophouse karaoke venue. One grabbed my arm and while I didn’t spot her from looks alone, her vice like grip told me that this was no ordinary
girl. Not even a girl in fact. It was a ladyboy. Nope, central Bangkok is not the only place where that variety of female can be found. Barry flirted with her briefly before she realised that neither of us was going to throw any baht her way.

Temptation resisted, we resumed our stroll down the road. We were on a reconnaissance mission, eager to find the best spots and then plan our assault. At a little after 8 PM, all venues were open but it was not indifferent to the farang bar
areas at that time, while the house lights and music were on, there was no more than a smattering of staff in any one venue. Frankly, we were about half an hour too early.

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Udom Suk is not a main thoroughfare and it is not a part of Bangkok that you hear spoken of often, although where is in this sprawling metropolis of more than 10 million? Despite the feeling that we were out the back and beyond, Barry let
me know that we were no more than a 50 baht taxi ride from either Central Bang Na or Seacon Square, two of the city’s largest suburban shopping centres. We were still well within the city's suburban boundaries although with that said,
you know you’re beyond the outskirts when you don’t see any buses. And I did not see one numbered bus, not one. There were the private bus services, and the songtaews but no regular buses.

We continued our jaunt, passing venue after venue, all seemingly open for business but with no more than 2 or 3 staff in attendance. As we continued our one way trek down this everlasting lane we passed such auspicious venues as The Fun,
Lyna, the ever popular Eskobar – the one and only venue on our journey I had previously heard of.

And then somewhere caught Barry’s attention. Almost a dozen girls sat outside. Petite figured, white-skinned and clearly rather young, they were very much to the Thai man’s taste. Udom Suk Karaoke, the sign said. The presence
of two foreigners in a Thai area didn’t go unnoticed and the girls appeared not just curious, but somewhat excited. With nearly a dozen sets of eyes on us, their reactions to us ranged from smiles to raised eyebrows to waving to “Hello!”
None of this "Hello handsome man, come inside, welcome please" nonsense. But there was something about the girls I didn't like. I couldn't put my finger on it at the time, but looking back at it they were hard. Most looked
to me to be around 20, maybe early 20s at most, but they sort of reminded me of a car that had been round the clock but given a new paint job. It looks ok, but when you ride it you know something's not quire right. Now whether women are like
cars and get worse the longer you ride them is debatable and perhaps saved for another column…

Leaving the girls disappointed and hauling Barry away, we continued along what is almost exclusively Thai neighbourhood, not a foreigner to be seen, for about 2 km before we reached Julie Pub. There was a steady stream of traffic in both
directions. It wasn't stopped bumper to bumper but you'd sure be careful if you were crossing. The pollution from the traffic and the humid Thai night finally got the better of us so we relented and popped ourselves into two tiny chairs,
a table away from a table of the boys in tight brown uniforms.

Julie Pub and Restaurant as is its full name was our first stop for the night, a venue with two distinct sections, an indoor section with Thai style small, tall round tables surrounded by tall stools with low backs. The music inside was at
such a volume that it could be enjoyed outside, even though all of the doors were closed. Gorgeous Thai female staff milled around in bright red vinyl jackets and matching mini skirts. A stunning look and I cursed myself for not bringing the StickCam,
but then I knew deep down that while Thais like to be photographed, wandering around Thai nightspots in an unfamiliar neighbourhood, the camera would make us much less welcome.

This was a Thai only venue. It’s not that foreigners were not welcome, quite the contrary in fact, it’s just that so few ever make it there. All the menus were in Thai and I got an awkward look when I asked to see a menu. A
smile and explanation that I could read Thai just fine was all that was needed. 2 minutes later and we were enjoying a pitcher of Heineken which was priced at a very reasonable 190 baht. Bottles of Heineken were 100 baht. That's the big size.
Kind of shows you that the 135 – 145 baht you get charged for a bottle half the size in the farang areas is pang mak mak.

The pitcher behind us and minimal damage done to our wallets, we made the slow trek back up the road. Past 7 Elevens, all manner of street vendors and back towards Udom Suk Karaoke. Dirty boy Barry had obviously made eyes with one of the
lovelies outside and he was keen to check the venue out. In fact saying that he made a beeline from Julie Pub to Udom Suk would be no exaggeration.

Like many of these venues you can't tell what they are like from the outside so we wandered within and had a chat with the mamasan about just how it all works. We were escorted into a small room of perhaps 10 square metres, dimly lit with a large
screen TV which could be viewed in comfort from comfy looking sofa. There was a microphone and a huge playlist of songs.

The gravel voiced, tattooed mamasan would not have been out of place in a Nana Plaza gogo bar and turned out to be much more pushy and aggressive than anyone else we had, or were, to encounter. We were told the following. The room costs 150
baht per hour. Most customers buy a bottle of whisky and there are two varieties available, Johnny Walker Red and Johnny Walker Black, priced at 1,200 baht and 1,600 baht respectively. Mixers run 50 baht a bottle. Not in the mood for top shelf
stuff and knowing that it unlikely we would ever return, I inquired about the cost of beer. 150 baht for a bottle. A small bottle. Wow, that blows even Angelwitch’s price out of the water!

Now Bangkok Barry is a nice guy whose company I enjoy, but would I want to sit alone with him in such a room? Unlikely! I didn't go there to hear him sing, that's for sure! So what is the deal with the ladies? Female company runs
a standard 400 baht an hour. The madam must have read the shock on my face for she grabbed my arm and continued with her sales pitch. Trying to slow herself down, she said that the girls were all cute (debatable, I thought) and then she leaned
forward, ever so closer, and announced that the girls are obliging, very obliging in fact.

My mind raced back to a story recounted by a couple of friends, a Dutchman and an Aussie. They had ended up in such a venue some time back and the Aussie had gotten right into things. At some point in the evening he had moved himself to the
other end of the couch and when my Dutch friend looked over the Aussie's trousers were around his ankles and his lady friend was at work. I had little doubt that such was available here but frankly, it held no interest.

Doing the maths, we’d be looking at around 800 baht an hour each. That’s 400 baht for the girl, 300 baht for what I assumed would be the couple of beers we'd consume each in an hour and our respective share of the 150 baht
room fee, plus a tip. 800 baht to sit with a couple of girls for an hour and hear them sing? Hardly my idea of fun.

But Barry wasn't listening. He liked the venue or perhaps more precisely, he liked a certain girl. This was not my type of venue and I made it clear I wasn’t keen to hang about. Reluctantly, I led Barry away and we continued to
saunter up the road.

No more than 100 metres up the road we hit the next venue, a café, but like the Thermae, not the variety that serves coffee.

We mosey inside and find a dimly lit, but classically decorated venue of perhaps 70 or 80 square metres. It's like a traditional old Thai house and unlike most nightlife venues, it actually has windows so you can see outside. The whole
place was wood and it oozed Thainess. Classical Thai style. There was a brightly lit stage where girls would sing karaoke, all of the songs chosen being ultra sweet love songs or ballads.

This venue had two types of staff, the waitresses and the hostesses. The waitresses were pretty late teens and early 20-somethings in white blouses and adorable red skirts with a seductive split that showed just enough to get you excited.
The hostesses wore evening dresses and had a similar look to what you would find in Monet in Sukhumvit Soi 33.

I can honestly say that most of the girls, the hostesses especially, were more attractive than your typical farang bar employee. Most were taller, a good several centimetres taller than what you find in the likes of Nana and Cowboy, were
fairer skinned and frankly, they had softer, more feminine features. I don’t care what anyone says, farangs generally get the leftovers. The women in this Thai cafe were not only easier on the eye, they were more pleasant. Every time a
staff member walked by we would get a huge grin. And you know, I really don't think it was contrived. They actually seemed to be happy that a couple of Westerners were there and enjoying themselves.

So there's women, song and alcohol, the key ingredients of a good nightspot. But food is also available, all very reasonably priced. Now, the prices. A nice Thai style venue. Women in evening dresses. What are we looking at, price wise?
Soi 33 prices? Don't make me laugh! Large bottles of beer are priced at under 100 baht and a plate of most dishes ran the same.

In some of these venues the guys sing and in some the girls sing. In this cafe, it is the girls who do the singing. The way the venue works is that you advise the waitress of the hostess you fancy and you offer that hostess a garland of flowers which can be purchased for between 100 and 500 baht, in increments of 100. This is presented to her while she is singing and once she has finished her song she will join you at your table. You now have a chance to chat and get to know her better. Should the two of you come to an arrangement she is free to leave the premises with you. You read that right, she is FREE to leave. Barfine? What’s a barfine?! She can leave with you without the need to pay any fee to the establishment. From what I gather the women are a little more discerning than your average gogo girl. It's not about making a couple of thousand baht a night, but more meeting a guy who can take care of her long term.

We watched as one hostess slipped out of her evening gear and into a more casual outfit and quietly slipped away with a customer.

The venue was extremely dark and it was hard to get a good gauge of the Thai guys present, but from what I could see, the average Thai male was middle aged and judging from the way they dressed, they were probably middle class guys.

Despite the enjoyment we were having, it was time to move on. We were, after all, on a mission to check out as many different types of venue as possible, and we had not yet seen a disco or one of the small neighbourhood style karaoke joints. Paying the ridiculously cheap 150 baht bill – yes, that was the total bill for both of us! – we exited to friendly handshakes from Thais at a table adjascent to ours and made our way further up the road.

We tried to stick our head in each of The Fun – which was in complete darkness – and Lyna – which we think you could probably hear from outer space – but neither was to our liking so we continued our journey.

We had not made it into one of the "Christmas tree karaokes" and passing by about the 30th such spot, this particular one with no shortage of smiling girls outside, we thought to ourselves why not? The single shophouse open to the street had been pleasantly decorated, the tables covered in the sort of cloth you'd expect in a neighbourhood trattoria as opposed to a low class Thai knock shop. We grabbed the last table and were joined by two ladies. The menu was, once again in Thai only and I noticed that the prices of drinks had got even cheaper. 75 baht for a large bottle of beer. Yes, you read that right, just 75 baht for a 640 ml bottle of beer!

The venue had 8 tables, 4 against each wall and a large screen TV at the end which was hooked up to a karaoke system. A book of karaoke songs was passed around and you could choose the songs you wanted to sing, or if alternatively you didn’t fancy yourself as a Sinatra, you could opt to simply listen to the song – i.e. they just placed the original music video.

The girls asked if they could sit with us and asking what the charge was for that, we were told 60 baht an hour. We could not help but laugh to ourselves. 60 baht, or $US2 for an hour’s company. The two girls were a little rough, but one had caught Barry’s eyes. Now let me tell you, that Barry, he ain't fussy! Dressed in standard street gear, they reminded me very much of your regular Cowboy / Nana / Patpong gogo girl. The 19 year old was sat next to Barry, a native of Surin while next to me was a 25 year old from Yasothon. They both had kids already, Barry’s newfound friend had had hers at the rather early age of 12. Hmmm.

Asking them why they chose to work in this particular venue in this part of town, they responded that they lived in the neighbourhood and it was therefore an easy place to commute to. I was amazed that they both knew of Nana, in fact the 25 year old sitting next to me had a sister in England who had just given birth to a child by her boyfriend who she met while working in….Nana Plaza! Not wanting to let on that I knew rather more about Nana Plaza than I ought to, I suggested that there was much more money to be had working in such an environment but was met with the “We’re shy and we don’t dare work where we have to take off our clothes, even if we are still in a bikini” speech. Yes, these
girls know about the farang venues and are interested in foreigners, but the idea of showing their bodies is an obstacle they can’t negotiate, so they're domiciled to the Thai scene.

We had ordered drinks when we first arrived, beer for us and Coke for the ladies. Before we had even got close to the end of our beer one of the girls had scooted off out back and returned with more drinks. Unordered. I pointed this out to her, saying that we had not yet finished our current beers and that we were unsure whether we would be staying any longer. It was getting late and in my case at least, I was thinking about heading home. But the new bottles had been opened meaning someone would have to be charged. The girls, ever so eager to please, had tried a little too hard to be accommodating and quickly said that they would pay for the unordered drinks. 75 baht is absolutely
nothing to us – but is something to them so I said not to worry, pour the beer and we will all enjoy it together. The last thing we wanted was for them to be stung with the bill over what I am sure was an honest mistake.

The 19 year old then did something rather novel. Obviously she wanted to make sure that the drinks were downed quickly and she did not have to pay – fair enough – so she topped up her unfinished glass of Coke with beer and had a taste. “Too sweet” she declared and topped it up with more beer. Now Lemonade with beer might be doable, but Coke and beer? Barry quickly named this the “Udom Suk Cocktail!”

There were other venues we stuck our head into, a number in fact, all of which had very few girls – which is kind of interesting because they appeared to have exactly the same problem that the farang venues have – they simply cannot get enough girls to satisfy demand. There were signs outside most venues we passed stating that staff were needed – namely pretty girls. Outside one of the cafes we stuck our heads into, I estimate that about 15 staff would be a good number yet well into the evening there were only three girls, no customers and a sign outside saying they needed 10 staff urgently. The salary for what was a slightly fancier neighbourhood karaoke bar was 3,000 – 10,000 baht per month.

This problem is going to have a greater impact on the naughty nightlife industry, both the farang and Thai sectors, than anything else. As the Thai economy grows – and it is – there are more and more decent jobs out there and young women from the countryside will be less likely to choose to work in the nightlife industry.

In every venue we were treated with respect. Warm smiles and a willingness to be of assistance met us everywhere. Not once did I feel we would be cheated or taken advantage of. The one slip up with the drinks in the last venue was, I believe just that, a slip up – and just as soon as the girls showed a willingness to sort it out, so too did we to ensure that they were not financially disadvantaged. We didn’t play up our obvious novelty value although there is little doubt that a stampede of foreign visitors descending on the soi might see a slightly different attitude from the locals.

I have no plans to spend any more time in these Thai venues. For me they make a nice, once a year, change of scenery excursion. If you too are bored of the farang-oriented nightlife, consider taking a stroll down any suburban street with the said Christmas tree lights, cafes and pubs. Go along with an open mind and a ready smile and I’m sure you won’t be disappointed.

Where was this picture taken?

Last week's picture was taken at Asoke, from the walkway close to The Lakes Apartment building, looking north towards Sukhumvit and the skytrain. 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 – The right to voice objective views.

I'm in full support of your view that foreigners who visit or live in Thailand, though devoid of the right to express ourselves through the ballot box, do have the right to express ourselves through websites and newspaper postbags. Time and time
again I read aggressive comments such as 'If you don't agree with everything the country stands for then use the airport!' It usually comes from people who buy into the Stockholm syndrome and have rolled over to be pushed around
and exploited. The fact is that we are all people of the world and there are certain rights that stand across the board as far as personal safety and civil conduct are concerned. The fact that these rights are not enjoyed by all of us globally
is a testament to how we can improve the world and make it a better place for all. Highway robbery, as practiced by the men in tight brown uniforms is a national disgrace and is so in every country it is practiced. The fact that a man can
be sentenced to one year in prison for supposedly 'defaming' another at a gathering in Lumpini Park where a man threw a firework into a tight crowd of listeners who were attending the same even – an excuse for a man who freely admits
to doing so (despite the high risk of maiming or killing fellow citizens of his country) and was only fined 100 baht beggars belief! Again an outrageous display of bad judgment by the authorities which should be highlighted to embarrass and
hopefully deter such future poor judgment. It is my hope that you will continue calling it as you see it with the hope that things will change for the better. Indeed, it is beholden to all of us from Stickman to tourists on stopovers to bring
to light these failings so that we can all learn to avoid becoming victims.

Keeping her hand in on a professional basis?

What a wonderful little soirée about the Pattaya food vendor, who in spite of her advanced years is still prepared to knock something up outside of her kitchen as well. It would have been nice to hear that she wasn't doing this solely out of
necessity, but rather her desire to keep her hand in on a professional basis. The graduation photograph was a nice touch, adding some kind of legitimacy to her extra curricular nocturnal activities. What a true labour of love, devotion and
dedication to get her daughters through university. Of course on reflection all of this just confirms another classical bullshit encounter with the Thais. Of course it is totally academic of what language you hear it in, but for me I do not
remotely wish to listen or have any contact with them at all. Personally I think they are nothing more than a complete waste of space.

The perceptions of what is acceptable and what is not.

Regarding this week's weekly that featured the older Thai woman who you caught offering herself on the Beach Road in Pattaya, the only word that should come to mind is "sad". I am sure her children do not know unless, oh God, now it can
get even sadder. Remember her saying that her daughter would never work in a bar? Is that believable now? Sad. I remembered that years ago I was sitting on the bench opposite the Royal Garden and one of those fat elderly ladies who walk around
all day with the pole over their shoulder and the two baskets full of food was sitting next to me. We start talking. Gee, I'm thinking, this is fun, I am talking to a regular Thai. And then sure enough, she hits on me to have sex with
her. I was flabbergasted. Who knows, maybe it is all a good thing. Everyone needs money and everyone benefits from the ego stroking and sex is supposed to be normal. Hey, maybe the problem is with you and I.

The ultimate Thai dating site with ladies from all over Thailand!

To do or not to do?

I have never regarded myself as queer, gay, or whatever shiny name the PC lot want to put on it currently. But as I get older in Phuket the question has to be asked. Given that nowadays the babes ask for huge sums of money, and / or flout their preference
for young handsome farangs, do I give my 1000 baht to a fat old Isaan pig farmer for a night's entertainment or to a drop-dead gorgeous 19 year old katoey?

A better deal is to be had away from Sukhumvit Soi 4.

Three mates of mine were over from London last week and all dabbled with bar girls. One took a comely girl from my favourite Boo-Sa bar in Soi 7/1 who was more than happy to receive 1,500 all night. His other two pals each took one from the Tilac Bar
the same night; same deal. The next night they took the same ones again whereas my first friend wanted to be more selective but was skinned for 2,000 baht short-time from a Nana Plaza girl, who was off like a rat up a drainpipe as soon as
she had made him 'happy'. I believe he went back for his first one last night.

Soapies represent better value.

Maybe a couple of reasons for the slow down in customers. 1. Inflation, high mortgage rates and the stronger baht are making heavy inroads into the spending power of the ever poorer Farang. 2. The zooming costs of a night out, 6 beers, a couple of lady
drinks, followed up by a bar fine and payment for the girl can easily hit 4,000 baht. And if there is a disco involved as well… It is not cheap to do this night after night. 3. The scene is just not what it used to be. The attitude is "take
as much and give as little as you can". Last time in Phuket I was asked 1,000 baht for a HJ in a massage. Absolutely crazy and I told her so, "but Farang can pay this" was the answer. 4. It is not as much fun as it used to be.
Or maybe I am just getting too old, and "the good old times" were better. But to be honest, I really think they were. And better value for the money spent. Now I believe that 1,500 – 2,000 for a soapy with professional care represents
the best value.

There has been a closing time crackdown on some bars in Pattaya with a 2 AM closing time enforced on some bars in some areas. For Pattaya's night owls I would not fret too much. Crackdowns in the capital seem to be taken
much more seriously and enforced more stringently than crackdowns in Sin City.

In South Pattaya around Deuk Com there was an electrical outage for two days now. I sure am glad I was not staying in a hotel near there.

Just like the other bar areas I have talked about with business down over recent weeks, so too is Sukhumvit's high end lane, Soi 33, hurting. Wandering up and down the soi this week it seemed to me as if there were many new bars but I am told that
most are simply old bars re-opened under a new name. But for sure, it is very quiet for this time of year.

But don't go thinking that all of the bars in Soi 33 are expensive and that's the reason why the punters are staying away. The Office has cheap beer all night long with draft beer priced at under 100 baht. So too does Livingstone's where
a Heineken bottle is 116 baht and Heineken draft 100. Ironically, each of these bars is much cheaper than all Nana bars and most of Cowboy after 9 PM.

And most Soi 33 bars are no smoking – which should come as no surprise as Soi Cowboy is also no smoking and soi 33 and Soi Cowboy both fall under the auspices of the Thonglor police.

I often talk of the road to Pattaya and the mess it was in which is thankfully but a memory. Now it's the road to Hua Hin's turn. Making your way down to Hua Hin is largely trouble free, but coming back, oh no, what a mess. Don't bet on
breaking any records on the journey back this year!

The Dubliner is an excellent pub but like soi 33 has the reputation for being rather expensive. But is that reputation deserved? I note that a half pint of Guinness in The Dubliner will set you back 105 baht + 7% VAT which compares favourably with say
the 140 baht charged at O'Reilly's. The Dubliner's food might be expensive, but it is, it has to be said, very good. Their big breakfast at 300 odd baht will easily see you through to dinner. In fact one day it was the only meal
I had…all day!

Speaking of Irish pubs, on Paddy's Day, that's tomorrow, Molly Malone's will host a Phillipino band featuring two cute girls, but unfortunately they don't know many Irish songs. The staff will be dressing up as is to be expected when
an Irish bar celebrates a special day like this and of course there will be plenty of Guinness flowing and a real party atmosphere.

A few weeks back I wrote an opinion piece stating that I thought that the average age of punters here in Bangkok was a lot older than it used to be. I mentioned that in the good old days the average age in the bars was a lot lower than it is today. But
chatting with one of Pattaya's biggest bar moguls about it this past week he felt that things were changing in Pattaya and to his eyes the crowd was getting younger. He attributed this to what he calls the "Charlie Sheen philosophy to
dating". If you're unaware, Charlie believes that using a prostitute is much easier, simpler, not to say cheaper, than being in a long-term relationship. The argument is that there is so much bullshit involved in dating and all a guy
often wants is to get his end away – and that can be done in Pattaya affordably. And so the bar mogul felt that this may well be a reason why, in his eyes, the crowd is getting younger. I personally don't see it but then I don't spend
anywhere the amount of time out and about in Pattaya as he does.

Is it true that the girls go where the money is and a bar without Japanese is increasingly becoming a bar without many good-lookers? There does seem to be a very valid argument that if the Japanese don't go there then the girls are probably not the
most attractive. This rule sure applies to Nana and Cowboy where Baccarra in Cowboy and Rainbow 4 in Nana have the prettiest girls – and the highest percentage of Japanese customers.

Have you ever wondered about the signs outside the gogo bars and what all of that odd looking script says? The sign currently posted out Angelwitch Pattaya is pictured here with all of the important information slap bang in the centre, those three long
lines. Translated from Thai, they go something like this.

Show girls wanted 18,000 baht per month plus bonus.

Dancers wanted 10,000 baht per month plus bonus.

Service staff wanted 5,000 baht per month plus bonus.

We can assume that a bonus is paid if they exceed a minimum number of barfines. Should they not reach that number of barfines then we can assume that the salary listed will be cut. Alternatively, if they do not turn up for work some days or turn up late (and this happens frequently, then their salary will be cut further. An 18,000 baht base seldom means they actually get paid that for one month. Of course, they get 40+ baht for every lady drink bought too.

I heard an hilarious story from a bar owner friend who I popped in to visit earlier this week. We talked about how business was down and how girls were down and he rolled his eyes at me. He is 5 girls down – each one of the five has shacked up with one
of the male staff in the venue. That's right, in a single month he lost 5 girls because they are now bonking one of the male attendants. But what is even more humorous is that each of the 5 girls is still working but they have moved to other
bars in the lane. You see, if the male staff don't see them going out with customers in other bars it doesn't matter but to see their girlfriends entertaining and schmoozing with Western guys right under their noses is a bit too much.

From the self-prescribers, it seems like Zithromax is no longer the drug of choice and is no longer effective against gonorrhea – that is of course assuming the self-prescribers are sure that that is what they actually have. What's the bet that in
a couple of years the STDs will be resistant to the new one too?

Why is it that the Thais never panic? I am serious! When was the last time you saw a Thai or a bunch of Thais panic?

On the 26th of March a writers' panel will be haled at the Foreign Correspondents Club in Bangkok. The scheduled participants are Stephen Leather, Colin Cotterill, Christopher Moore and Dean Barrett. The topic under discussion will be: "Fiction
on Asia: Niche Market or Entering the Mainstream" and it is due to kick off at 8 PM. For members entry is free while for non-members a 300 baht charge applies. It's easy to get there, just take to the skytrain to Chitlom which is connected
directly to the Maneeya Building, FCCT's Bangkok home.

There seem to be more and more foreigners scamming in Pattaya. My guess is that these are tourists who have lost their heads with the girls and found themselves low on funds – and now don't have enough for their next Soi Yodsak adventure. While I
was walking along Second Road a motorbike zooms up and stops right next to me. A Caucasian with a European accent I couldn't pick looks at me and says "Where do you come from? America or Australia?" I just looked at him, pulled
my camera from around my neck and pointed it right at him. He zoomed away before awaiting my response. It's a tough call turning your back on someone who may be in need, but it is my experience that very, very few foreigners who claim to
be down on their luck in Thailand genuinely are. Most are trying to scam some baht and you just know they'll be straight off to the Pumpstation to blow it – or should that be blown? A friend currently in the seaside city of sin reports that
he has had Westerners approach him too and like me, is sure they are scammers.

Despite all the madness going on in markets around the world, the Thai economy isn't doing that badly. That's not to say that it isn't vulnerable to what may happen next but for the time being it is ok. And as the economy does well and
continues to grow, so too will there be more decent jobs for the population. And that can only mean one thing for the naughty nightlife industry – even less girls will choose to enter it. It is therefore a simple prediction to make that the difficulties
that bar owners are experiencing trying to recruit new staff will only get worse.

Quote of the week. "I personally believe that the majority of the expats in the Kingdom operate in a fog of delusion and do not understand how tenuous their stay in the Kingdom is."

Here's a new hard hitting blog about life in Thailand.

It pays to go easy on the John Denver CDs if this story is anything to go by!

This article says that Indian food in London is better than Indian food in India and uses exactly the same argument I have always made that Thai food in my
homeland is better than Thai food in Thailand.

This BBC report shows another fake Thai good….a Ferrari!

This story inspires confidence in the prime minister….not!

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. But you didn't send her a single question this week so she is not going to give you a single answer. Her head is now on the chopping block. No questions this week and I kick her into touch!

One of the great things about running this website and writing this column is all of the nice people I have had a chance to meet. One of those people is a mysterious fellow who goes by the name of Bangkok Barry who I did the run through a distinctly Thai
neighbourhood with this week. In what is a first for this site, in addition to my report of our adventure, you can also read Barry's report in the readers' submissions section which is also run today. Click here for Barry's version of events.


Stick Mark II

nana plaza