Stickman's Weekly Column April 6th, 2008

A Decade Later


Chuan was the Prime Minister. The Bangkok Post cost 15 baht. The skytrain was under construction and Sukhumvit was a mess. Chris Moore had the local fiction market all to himself. The populace was slimmer. There wasn't a single Starbucks branch. Budget airlines didn't exist. And I didn't have a clue where Soi Cowboy was!

That's the Bangkok I arrived to in April 1998.

You guessed it, this week marks a decade for me in Bangkok. 10 years, more than a quarter of my life and more than half of my adult life has been spent in the Thai capital. It's time to look back and reflect.

I’ll never forget the first few days after arriving in Bangkok. It wasn’t hot, it was blazing! One day the mercury crept to 40, then 42, before settling at a stifling 43 degrees. Myself and a pal from home were staying in a small room in a guesthouse in Samsen Road, just a little north of Khao San Road. We weren’t backpackers. We simply wanted to stay near the historical part of the city.

It's funny looking back on how little I knew back then. We wanted to be good tourists and on the first day we ventured out and about in the heat of April, pounding the pavement in jeans. We had been under the illusion that wandering around in shorts in Bangkok just wasn’t the done thing. We soon realised that that was yet another guide book fib and jeans were very quickly swapped for shorts.

I had visited Thailand the year before but had had precious little time in Bangkok, barely 24 hours, enough to check out the Grand Palace and a shopping centre or two and that was about it. The idea was to check out Bangkok and have a holiday before settling into a more settled lifestyle and seeking work.

The move to Thailand had been well planned and it was 7 months after making the decision to relocate to Thailand for a year or two that I arrived in country.

Looking back, I really did do things properly. I’d successfully completed a teacher’s training course and my language skills were coming along after much self-study as well as being fortunate enough to study at the local Thai temple. I arrived with much more than a mere smattering of Thai but soon realised how little I knew when I attempted to engage the locals in conversation. They seemed to understand what I said to them but I didn’t have a clue what they said in return.

I probably spoke better Thai back then than many foreigners do after living in Thailand a decade or more. Few Westerners have the right to criticise foreigners' poor language skills in Farangland if foreigners' ability with Thai is anything to go by.

Back to the early days, the plan was to spend 1 or, more likely, 2 years in Thailand, before returning home. Phuket was my destination. Bangkok was never really part of the plan and I had no intention of settling there.

We had 4 days doing the touristy stuff in Bangkok and got a feel for the old part of the city. Bangkok’s famed vibrancy drew me in, but the stiflingly hot weather, dreadful traffic congestion and chronic pollution just as soon put me off.

I’d led a hectic lifestyle the previous few years and intended to have a nice, long break before searching for work. 4 days after arriving in Bangkok we arrived in Phuket and a few days later my pal left. I stayed on in Phuket for the best part of a month, enjoying lazy days at the beach and perhaps the most relaxing time of my life.

I fell in love with Phuket, particularly Karon Beach. Patong never did it for me – if you hadn’t realised, the bar scene was never part of the attraction. It’s funny really, many disbelieve me when I say that Thailand’s attractions were always the warm weather, low cost of living and the food. What about the bar scene, I am often asked. Nah, that was more anthropologic fascination.

I could have stayed on Phuket forever but I had the urge to explore further. After a month I jumped on a minibus and took off to Ko Samui, the island everyone was raving about at the time.

Samui never captivated me and within a week I had bought an air ticket to fly back to Phuket. I changed the departure date a couple of times and kept pushing it back. I felt I had to give Samui more of a chance. If everyone else liked it so much why wasn't it doing it for me? 3 weeks later I was still on Samui and as much as I wanted to return to Phuket, I knew that lazing about at the beach day in and day out couldn’t last forever. I'd already been doing that for approaching two months. I changed the destination of the ticket and several weeks after leaving I flew back into Bangkok.

The time had come to be productive again. It had been more than 3 months since I had earned any sort of income. As much as I wasn’t a fan of Bangkok, I knew that finding employment there would be much easier than down south.

As luck would have it I found a really nice apartment slap in the heart of downtown, well away from Sukhumvit and was offered the very first job I applied for.

As I became more familiar with Bangkok the city began to grow on me. I befriended fellow foreigners in the building, a Swedish bird with the UN, an American aircraft engineer and a fellow American teacher. The last guy was quite the character but turned out to be a freak. He was big on self-medicating and professed to have some sort of medical background although I was a bit dubious about that. At one point he claimed to have contracted some nasty rash and called me from his room and told me he was in such a bad way that he couldn't get out, but he needed some drugs. He asked if I could pop out and get them for him. Sure, I said. He made up a list but when I saw it had syringes on it I backed off and suggested he go to a hospital…which he never did.

In the early days it wasn't just fellow foreigners I made friends with. Eating on the street I got to know the street vendors and become friendly with an Indian tailor who is still a good friend to this day. It's funny how in the early days I was able to befriend the locals with ease but now that is more than a challenge. I've never quite worked out why.

The first job was low-paying and I changed jobs and managed to secure a position earning 33,000 baht a month, a very decent salary for a teacher back then, especially given my lack of experience. And with a few extra hours here and there, I was pushing 40K baht a month. I had a nice apartment and a good job with really great colleagues. I was settled and happy but more than anything, every day brought new experiences, a feeling of adventure, excitement and sheer serendipity that is so hard to recapture these days. Everything was going well.

I would commute to work by bus – the skytrain was still 18 months away from completion – and walk home, for my apartment was less than 2 km from school. I’d eat most meals on the street and would often wander through the nearby shopping centres for kicks. I didn’t get out a lot during the week but at the weekend would explore various parts of the city.

As I made more foreign friends I started to discover the nightlife areas. Back then the bars were packed with more girls, the attitudes were better and a standard drink ran 70 – 75 baht. Venturing out with an English friend who was even younger than me, the two of us really were fighting the girls off. Thinking back to those days brings a huge smile to my face.

It's ironic that the first bar I used to drink in often was Pretty Lady bar. That's back in the second half of 1998. I never knew that the manager at the time, a certain Dave The Rave, would later become a good friend. Things like that make you realise how small the expat circles are. Sure, there may be 100,000 of us in Bangkok, but you seem to run into the same people all the time.

I didn’t have a mobile phone in the early years. They were simply too expensive. The cheapest mobiles ran around 20,000 baht and getting overseas mobiles unlocked to use on the network was a costly process. Broadband internet was the domain of millionaires and the cheapest dial up internet connections ran 45 baht an hour. My internet activity was limited to net cafes. In fact I would often go a week or two without using the net, something impossible to imagine today.

Life was simple, but exciting and invigorating at the same time. Everything was new and I learnt new things, met new people and my language skills developed every day. Even something as innocuous as eating fried rice for breakfast while reading the Bangkok Post was a pleasure. It felt so exotic!

As I say, I would eat on the street most of the time, and would buy a bag of pineapple and / or other fresh fruits most days, two things I almost never do today. When I actually opened my eyes and saw the state of the hygiene at many of the street vendors, I gave the street food away.

I never imagined that after a number of years in country I would prefer Western food to Thai food. Well that’s not quite true. I like to have one Western meal a day and one Thai, but I never imagined that when I was in the mood for a decent meal I would actually prefer something Western. And I never had any idea when I first moved here how unhealthy Thai food can be. With a real lack of vegetables and so many dishes either fried or deep-fried, the lack of nutritional value in many Thai dishes defied my earlier feelings that living in Thailand would result in a good diet by default. Since being here my weight has not gone down!

I used to go everywhere by bus. Work, Sukhumvit at night and weekend excursions. Incredibly, sometimes I would let the air-con bus pass by and get on the red, non-air-conditioned variety instead. At 6 baht and 3.5 baht respectively, I saved 2.5 baht. Quite incredible to imagine that I would wait a minute or two to save 2.5 baht, or what at the time was about 6 US cents! I must have some Scottish blood in me…

Truth be told I can’t remember the last time I took a bus! 2002 would be my best guess. Taxis seemed more expensive in the early days, probably because they took a larger proportion of my salary and for sure, traffic was definitely worse back then. The idea of ever using a motorbike taxi petrified me but come 2003 I was using them regularly. How we change.

In the early days my close friends were the guys I worked with. We had a great team and I still can’t believe how lucky I was to get a primo job with a bunch of true professionals. I learnt so much in my two years there, not just about teaching, but about Thailand and life as an expat. We all may have moved on and about half are no longer in teaching, but all but one remain in Thailand.

Compare that with my friends today, most of whom I have met through this website, directly or indirectly. At the risk of sounding like a snob, I count few teachers amongst my closest friends these days.

I thought I would have made many Thai friends over the years. I had no idea that not only would it be difficult to get close to Thais, that I would constantly struggle to find many I wanted to get close to. It's not that there is anything wrong with them, it's just that we're so different.

Fortunately it's a little different with Westerners. If there is something I very much like about living in Thailand it’s all of the foreign friends I've made. You name the country, I bet I know someone from there. Even some really obscure places.

The earliest version of this site was erected in late 1998 but it really was very basic and the site did not really take off until around 2000. Over time it became a more important part of my life until it got to the point where it started to consume me, and I was putting it ahead of everything else. Big mistake. That has since changed and I put my ‘real life’ first now. If, for example, it means the weekly column doesn’t meet the 6 PM publishing time, then so be it!

There have been two occasions when I came extremely close to leaving, once around the middle of 2000 and again in early 2005. In 2000 I became totally disillusioned with the teaching profession and threw my job in to study Thai full-time for several months. In 2005 I returned home after a long absence and realised just what I was missing out on. The West was not so bad at all and in many ways life there was better than life in Thailand. Despite having a very pleasant lifestyle, there’s not a day that goes by when I don’t think about returning.

Over the years I’ve met some real characters and had some great times with many interesting people. But some haven’t been the sort I really want to count as friends and it took me a while to realise that you have to be much more choosey about your friends in Thailand than back home. These days most of my closest friends are 10+ years older than me.

While Bangkok has changed markedly in the time I have been here, the changes are mainly cosmetic. Infrastructure is better across the board and there are more flash shopping malls. Imported products are much easier to find e.g. English language novels are released in Bangkok within days of becoming available in London or New York. There’s a flash new airport and even the taxis are in much better condition than they were just a few years ago.

But in my eyes the Thais themselves have not really changed. They are still very much the same. As much as I don't like to say it, pretty much all of the problems that existed when I first came to Thailand still exist today. Some, such as that of traffic congestion, are not easily solved. Other problems, such as corruption and other issues of dishonesty, have in fact gotten worse and become institutionalised.

The novelty value of farangs isn’t what it once was, especially in Bangkok. Following the Asian economic meltdown of 1997, many in positions of power and authority told the masses that the pain they were feeling was caused by Westerners. That caused immense damage and even today you can see remnants of it.

Coming from a country where issues and problems are addressed head on, discussed and solutions sought, Thailand’s apparent lack of genuine willingness to fix many of the inherent problems it suffers has been a huge disappointment to me. Of course we foreigners often benefit as much as the locals do – but it would be nice to see the country develop for the betterment of the general populace.

The appalling state of the education system and endemic widespread corruption come to mind. Sadly, as one begins to understand the Asian psyche more, one realises that there isn’t actually a great deal of hope of these issues being solved in a hurry. That’s sad, because Thailand doesn’t have a hope of making real progress until the education system is given a major overhaul. Fix that and we’ll see progress.

I never thought Thailand would so incredibly resistant to change. While some things have appeared to change, they tend to be superficial. The way of thinking and the way of doing things is not that indifferent to how things were done generations ago. I never imagined that so many of the issues foreigners struggle to come to grips with are so fundamentally intertwined with the culture that it is possible they will never change.

Thailand has been a real rollercoaster ride. The highs have been orgasmic, the lows pretty awful. Even leading a pretty routine existence, getting up at the crack of dawn Monday to Friday to go to what has become a pretty mundane job, I still feel more excitement than I ever felt in my homeland. That’s a great aspect of life in Thailand. It’s a fun place to be and you really do feel alive.

Am I happy with where I am after 10 years in Thailand? Have I achieved all that I wanted to achieve? Am I in a good position for the future?

I guess I am relatively happy but as someone who ponders life perhaps more than is healthy, I am constantly reevaluating living here. Thailand is to be enjoyed and it is hard to imagine a place more fun. But is fun the most important thing in life?

If you’re not careful, and this applies to teachers more than others, one’s career prospects and opportunities can pass you by. I have tried my hand at a few other things but whether these will prove to be beneficial or not, time will tell.

It’s been a fun 10 years, a crazy period in many ways and while I didn't really have any expectations, I would say that those I did have have been exceeded. Never ever did I think I would stay this long. I’d like to say that I won’t be writing a piece entitled “2 Decades Later”, but then, you just never know!

Where was this picture taken?


Last week's picture was taken of the Italian restaurant on the corner of Sukhumvit Road and Soi 23 called Little Italy. I thought it may have been a little difficult and was surprised at just how many people 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 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 – Professionally run businesses?

I can appreciate you know many bar owners and sympathise with their struggles, but from the point of view of the punter, when I read about 10 bars shutting through lack of custom, I feel no empathy at all. Frankly a lot of them are extraordinarily poorly run – lazy managers who let their girls sit chatting with each other or ringing up friends rather than interacting with customers, dancers who are fat and ugly, ridiculous choices of music, watered down drinks, shithouse decor etc. They are asking to go out of business. Do they try to entice punters? Their cure all for declining revenue is to put all their prices up, further deteriorating their customer base.

A love of mobiles.

I have always hated the way that telephones have been given first priority over direct person to person conversation. In the office during my company days it used to irritate the hell out of me when a phone rang and then I had to wait and listen to one side of a conversation for the next five minutes. I now never even look at who is calling me until I have finished my existing conversation. My telephone also only rings once and then is silent. Sometimes people say "aren't you going to answer it?" "Not until I have finished talking to you" is my answer. My girlfriend in particular gets pissed off with this, as sometimes I don't ring back for an hour or so. But if I am having a conversation with a friend, she won't butt in and ask about what we will eat for dinner. Why should a damn telephone be considered a good reason for the interruptions?

Mind your step in Nana.

I'm predicting heavy casualties as a result of a totally irresponsible concrete landing construction. It consists of an uneven short ramp from ground level, rising to a 3 inch step, then a 10 inch step, the escalator platform. Even in a sober state it will take a gymnast to negotiate without doing a face plant into an ascending escalator. And the first time the "new" escalator breaks, punters walking down will surely be in danger of breaking an ankle or worse.

From the other side of the fence.

Reading your recent columns I’ve been fascinated by the tales of girls demanding ever more money, guys being messed around by “girlfriends” who just take them for mugs, the lady-drink scams, the inflated bills and all that sort of thing. My nightlife experiences so far in Bangkok have been quite different from the frustrations you describe, for two reasons: one is that I prefer guys to gals (though I like a bit of a change sometimes, as I’ll explain later) and the other is that the places I have been frequenting are not bars or clubs with a thin pretence of courtship / romance, but straightforward, no-nonsense brothels – you choose, go upstairs for your hour of fun, settle the bill and say goodbye. There’s no pretence that you’re there to seek true romance – there are no strings, no scams and no nasty surprises. The guys are friendly, relaxed and often incredibly good at pretending they’re enjoying it too – it really is a pleasure doing the business with them. Surely the “straight” equivalent of such places must exist in abundance in this fair city? But if so, I wonder why does any guy tolerate all the hassles of the bar scene? Can it be that the guys you write about are actually dreaming of long-term relationships and are not just after sex? If so, aren’t they wasting their time? I’d love to know what you have to say about this. I’d also be interested to know if you could recommend any “straight” versions of the places I’ve been to, where you get serviced with a smile and without any hassles – because, as I mentioned, I do like a bit of variety from time to time!

An old but still popular scam.

Late on Saturday night we popped into a Pattaya disco. My wife asked me to get her a glass of water so I leaned over and asked the barman for ice-water. The bill came to 120 baht – for a 10 baht bottle of water plus a glass of ice! But it gets worse. I paid the barman with a 1,000 baht note, and for the first and only time ever, I neglected to point out this fact before handing it to the barman. I always make a habit of making the recipient of my 1,000 baht note acknowledge this fact before I let them walk away, wherever I go, not just in bars. But for whatever reason, I didn't do it, and sure enough he returned 380 baht to me. I told him I gave him a thousand note and of course he said no, it was a 500. We went back and forth for a minute until he just sneered and walked away and refused to acknowledge my presence. I was so pissed off, at him and at myself, that I felt like shattering the water bottle on the floor at his feet. But I managed to keep my cool, since my wife was having such a good time I didn't want to get thrown out and make my wife upset, so I just decided to mark this up for experience. Serves me right for letting my guard down.

That's why they call it "German efficiency".

Arranging a trip, German style: Go to the website of DB German railways, enter from / to, date and time of travel. Instantly receive details of trains available with option to purchase ticket and obtain seat reservation (with option of open carriage or compartment, window or aisle seat). Enter credit card details. Instantly receive a PDF file to print out, giving departure and arrival times, including any connections and platform numbers and reserved seat number. Arranging a trip, Thai style: Go to the website of The Transport Company. Find fares that are two years out of date and no way to book online. Journey across Bangkok to MoChit to queue at a window to purchase ticket in advance to ensure a seat on the date of travel. Go home again.

Free vs. contractual relationships.

The thought occurred to me that when a relationship goes pear shaped, is the fall out from a non-paying Thai relationship worse vis a vis than some kind of contractual one? If you posed this question I think you'd get some interesting replies, probably enough to a leader on them the following week. I say all of this as a Canadian recounted all his trouble and woes recently from what he had previously thought was a free bonk. My theory is if you're not serious about a Thai woman it is fatal to let them want you. Liking you is more than enough.

Down Pattaya way, long-serving mamasans with portable harems are commanding high salaries. With many bars struggling to recruit girls, some have resorted to hiring – often poaching mamasans – knowing that when she starts she will bring with her a much needed bunch of new recruits. This time last year gogo bar mamasans were typically earning 10,000 – 15,000 baht per month but north of 20,000 baht is becoming more common. There is at least one gogo bar mamasan who was recruited recently who is being paid a generous 30,000 baht a month.

The lackadaisical enforcement of the smoking laws across different types of bars in different police districts has made a number of bar owners annoyed. Some bars are suffering – and I am talking more about establishments away from the naughty areas. If this keeps up, I would not be surprised to see some owners and managers just say bugger it and start putting ashtrays out again. While I personally am in favour of a smoke free environment, as seem to be the majority, there can be no denying that some bars have suffered a drop in business as smokers choose to go elsewhere.

The mamasan at Rawhide got around to the topic of smoking and how it affected her bar. She said at first the smoking customers complained and eventually stopped coming. But then in a few day they were replaced with a lot of new non-smoking customers and regular non-smoking customers that only came occasionally appeared to be visiting more often. That left me to wonder where the smokers have gone and I can only assume Nana Plaza or Patpong. She said only a few of her girls smoked and they did not have a problem to go outside. The rest of her girls were very happy now that no smokers sat at the stage.

There'll be a long stream of traffic heading out of Pattaya this week as residents escape the madness that Sin City becomes at Songkran. Expats leave in droves, refusing to get caught up in the war zone as wannabe Rambos descend on the seaside city, armed with the manliest water cannons they can find. Don’t expect any updates from me about Pattaya for the next two weeks. I cannot imagine a worse place to be at this time of year! Late note: It seems that there is a ban on large water cannons this year, according to the mainstream press. And with water pistols already on sale in some places, I have yet to see any of the large water cannons that have been a feature of previous years.

You can count me amongst those who doesn't list Songkran as their favourite time of year. The feeling of being a prisoner in your own home is no fun, and the feeling that routine tasks outside cannot be completed for fear of being attacked is bothersome to say the least. While many enjoy Songkran – and there is no shortage of cowboys who fly in especially for the celebrations – I'll be catching up on TV, DVDs and enjoying the comfort of air-con. If you're not a fan of the water battles, avoid the most popular tourist spots like Khao San Road as well as all of the nightlife areas. In Bangkok, don't go thinking that politely asking others (especially other foreigners) to refrain from throwing water at you will work – the very opposite is more likely the result.

I mentioned to one bar owner that the prices charged for a beer were getting towards ouch levels in some bars and his response kind of floored me. "Well what do you expect us to do. Week in and week out guys like you speak shit about the bars. Now no-one wants to buy a bar so we can't sell our business. We have to recoup our investment somehow so higher drinks prices it is to be!" Another truly sophisticated businessman!

Shadow Bar in Cowboy seems to be increasingly popular when big sports matches and events are televised. There are a heap of large flat screens so wherever you are in the bar you can easily see the action. That combined with cheap beers makes it a great spot if you're a sport lover.

And I have to say that Cowboy really has improved markedly over the past few months. It looks good with all the neon and the development of the seating areas outside the bar. As I mention week in, week out, drinks are much cheaper than other areas and there is an atmosphere of fun. I find it really hard to drag myself over to Nana!

The police seem to be making more frequent inspections nowadays at the various bar areas. Bar owners are more aware, perhaps even paranoid – and with good reason. Business is so bad in some areas that one-month closure could be the end of the business. In some bars, as soon as anyone even remotely resembling the police approaches there is a flash of the house lights (assuming the doorman is awake) and girls leap in all directions. Any on stage in partial dress make a mad dash for the toilets and those milling around who are covered up leap up on stage. It's a throwback to how things used to be.

So I did the stroll from Ploenchit Road to Rama 4 Road, along Wittayu, late one night this week after a few drinks with friends. I had hoped to see what was going on in that interesting patch late at night with hope that I might find enough for a column. There was little going on and the new pavement being laid alongside Lumpini Park seems to have kept the night owls at bay. I passed precisely 5 creatures of the night, one who said hello, one who gave me the glad eye and the other three just stood there and smiled. Scary creatures, all five of them.

The influx of Brits moving to Korat of all places has accelerated even further and they are appearing in major numbers. Rumour is that an English teacher working at the Rajapat is selling Korat to all the young blood back in the good old UK. I wonder what the sales pitch is? Great pay? Long term benefits? I’m sure it has nothing to do with all the hot girls, drinking, hanging out in the local British pub playing snooker and talking about football day and night?

In some parts of the country it is getting more and more difficult to meet all of the requirements to be a teacher. In at least one large province several language schools have been told that any new teacher who applies for a teacher’s license must also obtain a letter of verification from their university to prove their degree is the genuine article. Furthermore, a criminal background check is also required.

I guess this is probably more relevant to teachers new to Thailand and retirees without a lot of money. I was watching the news from home and there was a piece on poverty and people living in some pretty decrepit conditions. It made me chuckle because some of the places I have seen employed Westerners living in here in Thailand are worse! It kind of makes me wonder how teachers earning some of the really low salaries survive. There are some real rat holes out there being inhabited by some. Sad.

I'm hearing good things about the Thai outpost ay Kota Baru, located on the east coast of Malaysia. It is said to be the new popular spot for visas and is something of a soft touch.

Expect prices in restaurants, particularly farang restaurants, to increase further in the next few weeks. In the last fortnight pork and chicken have shot up in price.

A reminder for those bringing foreign currency banknotes into Thailand to exchange here. Thai banks can be very fussy about the condition of foreign banknotes. I was in a bank the other day and someone wanted to change a 500 Euro note. It had, from what I could see, the smallest of tears, but that was enough for the bank to decline it!

Quote of the week: "Now Thai economy no good. 75% of Thai lady must to work bar." From a dancer in Coyotes in Soi Cowboy. Let the feminists grab hold of that quote!

If you were planning on getting your testicles chopped off in Thailand I am sorry to advise that you will have to venture elsewhere for it has been made illegal.

Here's a good article and video on Thailand's drug problem from Australian TV.

I hope this scum gets the crap beaten out of him for what he did to a Thai bargirl.

This article from the Sydney Morning Herald about specific visas for sex workers raises more questions than it answers.

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 send in some thought-provoking questions and let her know what is on your mind!

Question 1: Every night, rightly or wrongly, my lady is glued to all the shenanigans that go on in the predominantly Thai soap operas. Even when she flicks through the channels the selection seems to be devoid of anything educational. From your own perspective as an educated Thai do you religiously scan the TV schedules every day to see what's on, only watch specific programmers through recommendation, or simply never look at the TV as a source of information and learning?

Mrs. Stick says: Thai TV is stupid. I hate it. I never watch it, only the news. I prefer American TV like 24, CSI, Sex And The City and Desperate Housewives. I have bought many of these series on DVD. Many of my friends are the same. We don't watch Thai TV much at all. For educational programs, I never watch them. I think these are farang style and actually most people my age don't watch them. They're usually on UBC so most people cannot see that type of TV anyway.

Songkran is just around the corner. It's a funny time of year. While Bangkok empties out a number of us lock ourselves inside, away from the madness of the streets. Fortunately the area where I live is relatively quiet and so going for a stroll without being drenched isn't a problem. But if you're in more central areas, be careful, not just from those throwing, shooting or hurling water but also beware of those behind the wheel. Songkran is the time of year when there are more fatalities on the roads than any other period and hundreds will perish over the Songkran period. And while they may be very friendly and even invite you to join them and celebrate, be a little wary around bunches of reveling locals, especially on the afternoon of the third official Songkran day, the 15th, when some are liquored up and get more than a bit silly. Things can get a bit heated then. Enjoy



Yours,

Stick Mark II