Stickman's Weekly Column April 6th, 2008

Investigating For An English Teacher


Back in the days when I was frequently sticking my nose into other people’s business I was contacted by a Bangkok-based English teacher who wanted me to find his missing girlfriend.

I turned his request down. I told him that I don’t do business with English teachers or Thais. He was shocked at my reluctance and I responded that Thais are often late paying, that is if they pay at all and English teachers (specifically Bangkok language institute teachers) penny pinch down to the last baht. It is hard for each party to be happy. I politely explained that I wasn't interested.

But he wouldn’t take no for an answer. He was madly in love with his girlfriend…but she had gone missing. He was desperate to find her. I explained that missing persons jobs are often time consuming and can involve records searches and travel around the country, something I just didn’t have the time to do.

But he was desperate. He asked if we could meet for a coffee and talk about it. He seemed like a nice enough guy and was almost pleading for help so I suggested a convenient spot.

He had met her in a Nana Plaza bar. I didn’t know the bar that well but I did know the owner. Our English teaching friend had fallen in love with this lass and moved her into his apartment. She had stayed a month or so and then one day he returned home to find that she was gone. She didn't show up that day, or the next and before he knew it, it appeared she had disappeared. He was worried about her and desperate to know where and how she was.

I told him he should go back to the bar where he'd met her and ask questions. Amongst the bar manager, the mamasans and her friends, someone would know what had happened. He had done that already and claimed no-one knew where she had gone. Thais are huge gossips and I got the impression that they may have been stonewalling him.

I suggested he get one of his friends to go to the bar and pretend to be interested in her and ask questions about her whereabouts. He had done that and again, had come up with nothing.

I asked him straight out what he wanted me to do. He wanted to know about the various means of finding missing people and what his options were.

I explained that the natural course of action to take would be to stake out the bar and keep an eye out for her and if that wasn't successful and discretion wasn't a requirement, simply to ask all concerned about her. In a seemingly simple case that is probably all that would be required.

He asked about other options. I asked him what details he had of hers and was surprised that despite living together for over a month, he had nothing. He knew her nickname, her previous place of work and her mobile phone number. That was it. He didn’t know where she lived (it sounded as though she did not really move in as such but just spent most nights with him), not even the area where she had lived. He didn’t know her date of birth, or even her name. He didn't know which province she came from.

“So do you have a photo of her?”

He didn’t even have that. A description of a distinctive Thai lady aged 19 or 20 and her nickname. After a month that was all he had! I guess he must have been too busy doing other things than to ask her about the basics…

This guy wasn't stable. Her departure from his life had clearly caused him great anguish and he was very up and down and at times bordered on depression.

He wanted to know all options available to him so I mentioned a service offered by a PI friend. A record of all her mobile phone calls, both incoming and outgoing, as well as all SMS messages sent and received for the last month could be procured for around 25,000 baht. With that, he could systematically call through the numbers and see if anyone knew where she was, or alternatively, he could retain the said PI who would get a Thai member of his team to pose as someone official looking for the girl in question. I told him that he would almost certainly get a result at a total price of around 35,000 baht. He could probably have had answers by the end of the day.

But that was almost 10,000 baht more than he earned in a month and looking at the way he dressed as well as what he had ordered in the café, he clearly wasn’t on his way to making any rich lists.

Almost broke and desperate. A bad combination.

“I want you to go to the bar for me and find her!” he exclaimed.

I carefully explained that based on what he had told me I felt there was little I could do. I also told him that despite the fact that I respected he was in love with her, sometimes it is just best to move on. If she had disappeared without saying goodbye and without providing any details of where she was going her feelings for him were clearly quite different to his feelings for her.

But he was desperate. He asked me what my fee would be to go to the bar and check, notwithstanding that I did not want to help. I carefully explained that in a task like this, I would go to the bar twice. The first time I would observe for a while and if I could not see her I would ask about her. If that didn’t come up with anything then I would return to the bar again, after a period of time, possibly a couple of weeks, explaining that there might be reasons why no-one knows where she was. I pointed out that the girls might have been asked not to say anything and waiting a period of time might result in them forgetting that. I pointed out that a discrete 2,000 baht payment in the hand of any member of staff who knew where she was would definitely result in an answer. No, he couldn’t afford that.

The guy was starting to frustrate me but I also felt sorry for him and wanted to help. He was mad about her. He asked if I could reduced the fee, bearing in mind that he was a poor teacher. I broke my rule and did so. I explained that I really wasn’t confident I would find her but would do my best. I would visit the bar that night, and if I had no luck, I would venture out again, but not for about 2 weeks. He was happy with that and perked up.

That night I went to the bar and hunted for the girl. I could not see anyone resembling her. I asked about her as discretion wasn't necessary. Most people knew her but no-one knew what had happened to her. They remembered her but she had disappeared and they claimed that they didn’t know what had happened. It all seemed very hush hush, most un-Thai like. Usually Thais can’t keep their traps shut and happily tell strangers about all and sundry, especially if they can somehow twist the story to make themselves be seen in a better light.

The owner of the bar was not there and I was told that he had returned to Farangland for a couple of weeks. I sent him an email outlining the situation, asking if he knew what had happened to her.

I reported back to the teacher the next day. His mood was very down. He went on and on about how much he loved her, blah blah blah. After we got off the phone he must have gone straight to a computer and sent me a long email stating exactly the same again. Besotted doesn’t even start to describe how he felt about her.

The next day I got a phone call from him asking me if I had found her yet. I told him that I would not be doing anything more for at least a week as had already been explained to him and that I had not returned to the bar. I told him that the bar owner was away and had yet to reply to my email.

This became a daily occurrence, him calling me each day asking me for an update and me explaining that I would not return to the bar and that the moment I received a reply from the bar owner I would let him know. On and on he went about the girl and while I wanted to do something more to help, he was now taking more time and energy than I was prepared to give. I started to feel like a counselor.

A couple of days later he called me and lost it. He abused me and told me that I had ripped him off! The issue was that I had done only one visit to the bar when I said I would do two. No amount of explaining to him that this was the best approach would satisfy him. To appease him, I said I would return to the bar for the second visit that night. That seemed to satisfy him, even if only temporarily.

I sent him a report early the next morning. Later that morning I had him on the phone screaming and yelling that I had let him down. He’d spent almost a week’s wages on me and I had taken only two nights to earn it – and all that for no result. I had wasted his time and money and it was all my fault. His darling had gone and I was to blame.

One strives to remain professional and helpful but when you're abused it is hard to maintain composure. I told him that unless he was prepared to cool down then all further communication would be by email. He flipped and became even more abusive so I hung up, turned off the phone and that was the last time we spoke. I composed a final email with a final report describing where we were at, how much time I had spent on the job and how much money I had spent. He never replied.

I sent him a final email, apologising that I had been unable to find her and reaffirming that as soon as I heard from the bar owner I would get back to him. No reply.

About a week later I got a call from the owner of the bar who was back in the country. He had just read my email and laughed, saying that he had just seen the girl in question that afternoon. She was available at the Biergarten in Soi 7. And then in hushed tones, just like a dodgy geezer down the pub trying to peddle something that fell off the back of a lorry he said “I had to get rid of her. She had shown us a fake ID that said she was of legal age but she’s still only 16.” I had a huge grin on my face, thanked him for the info and promised him that the next round was on me.

I immediately called the English teacher. I explained to him that I had been provided information of where his darling was. I told him that she had been spotted at the Biergarten earlier in the day. I then told him to stay clear of her and explained that at 16 years of age, she was jail bait and by getting involved with her he was being a very naughty boy. He shut the phone off and no doubt was on the next red bus down to Sukhumvit Soi 7.

Sweet Sixteen.

Where was this picture taken?


Last week's picture was taken the Grand Millennium Sukhumvit Hotel Bangkok on Asoke Road. This week's picture was taken from inside a taxi with my regular Friday night drinking pal, the dirty doctor (pictured in the passenger's seat). It might look obscure but really, it is not that difficult! Clue: Think about our Friday night routine… 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 – Where's the local druggist?

I continue to read about Western men being drugged by Thai women, and then waking up 2 – 3 days later to find themselves robbed and confused. I suffer from terrible insomnia and have tried all variety of prescription medications without relief. I have searched relentlessly in Bangkok and Pattaya to find myself a late night, back alley “sleep-aid” in high heels smoking a cigarette, but always awake a few hours later to find the weathered scarecrow still in the bed next to me, and my money on the nightstand. I always leave my drink unattended in bars and back in the hotel room. I always leave my money out in plain sight. Can you please direct me to where I might find one of these infamous pharmaceutical prostitutes so that I can finally get a good night’s sleep?

Happy with oneself.

Your remarks that whereas you were able to make Thai friends easily when you first arrived, it's ironically more difficult now. I've experienced the same thing. But I don't find it odd and indeed consider it normal. When I first arrived here many a decade ago, I was young and fascinated with all things Thai. I also did not have very much in the way of material possessions to lose; attempts to rip me off would have come a cropper. Now I'm older, and after years of experience in Thailand, the novelty has worn off. I'm no longer very interested in the average Thai's story. Indeed, now that I've accumulated a certain degree of wealth, my experience with Thailand has caused me to be very guarded about whom I befriend. I'm too old now to go out carousing with 20-something Thais, and when any of them expresses an interest in me, I'm automatically suspicious, wondering just what they want from me. Some people may think this sounds bad, but I'm quite comfortable with it.

Pattaya needs more violence?

If only the farang bar owners and the farang tourists in Pattaya would just fight back. The 18th and 19th century history of the United States is one of a great deal of violence. Every American was saturated with the notion that we did not have to take shit (hence the Revolution – how was that for balls?) and every American carried a gun. If Pattaya was a town in the American West in the early to mid 19th century every single cop who came into a bar with his hand out would have been shot dead on the spot and his body thrown out into the street. Problem solved. Can you imagine how the dynamics would change if tomorrow every bar in Pattaya was owned by the Russian mafia? Dead cops would be turning up every day until they got the message and never left the station. People wring their hands and write editorials and essays on the Internet about how there is too much violence in Pattaya. Wrong. There is not enough violence in Pattaya.


Thai dating at ThaiFriendly.com

The first years are the best.

It's funny, but maybe it's true of all expat locations that it's the first years there as a single man that are magical. My gig was Seoul, Korea in the '90s, and it was a blast. Good friends, a good job at a good school, good dating opportunities – it was my lifetime peak of happiness. The first few years were great. Then there was marriage. Then there was a car purchase. Then a condo purchase. Riding the train in to work every day. At some point, I wasn't even in a foreign country any more. I had mutated into a salaryman. There was no zest left. It was time to go at the six-year mark. Still, nine years later of living in the States, and the boredom – it numbs one's very soul. A friend of mine – who is now in his 11th year in Bangkok – has referred to it as a Life of Living Death as opposed to what Livers of Life are doing. Many are the days when I would trade this boredom – even for frustration – in order to feel something, anything. One could argue that the boredom is my fault, and I do take full responsibility for it. I even exert major efforts to overcome it by joining organizations, taking classes, and the newest twist, organizing meet ups. Still, all that has a less-than-alive quality to it, things that I do to be doing something, yet it feels forced. We all show up, fulfill the requirements of whatever program we're supposed to do, and then we all go to our separate little boxes.

Thinking outside the box doesn't just go unrewarded, it's discouraged!

I was most intrigued by your comments about how endemic Thailand's problems are and whether they'll ever change. I have my own theories on this, and it's to do with the Thai cultural instinct for reverence of elders and authority. This can have positive ramifications such as care for older generations, which is something we don't do enough of in the West. But it also explains why corruption is rampant. Anyone who questions the way things are done and who is doing it are seen to be challenging the very bedrock of the society. Being un-Thai. So those who are in power are seen to be deserving of respect, a high wai if you will, and get away with all manner of corruption. It is also what causes the stymieing of any innovation. To challenge the way things are done – even something as simple as stocking your fruit cart with something a bit different – is seen as a dangerously maverick thing to do. Our societies by contrast reward and encourage people thinking outside the box and challenging established orders.

Food shortages in Thailand? WTF!

It appears that even food shortages could one day become an issue. I don't know how it is where you're at, but the stockpile of rice at the local Tesco Lotus was almost sold out. It wasn't too many, but I noticed a few customers who had definitely gone into hoarding mode, completely filling their shopping cart with bags of rice. If the entire population got scared, it could become a major problem.

Songkran is here! Thailand's major holiday period officially runs 13 – 15 April but as early as the 11th water warfare had broken out. There has been much in the press about the banning of high powered guns this year but just like the ban on smoking in bars, someone seems to have conveniently forgotten to tell the boys in brown who are turning a blind eye! Perhaps like the smoking, they have a 90 day grace period?!

The capital is quiet and many barflies will get a few days' rest, many none too keen on the madness that takes over the bar areas. And for those of you who are venturing out to the bars, pack a few extra baht for some bars have increased barfines to 1,000 baht over the holiday period.

A popular farang bar was burgled last weekend. Texas Lone Staar, a Washington Square landmark, was burgled and a number of bottles of top shelf as well as cigarettes were stolen. It happened in the middle of the night and fortunately no-one was on the premises at the time.

Nana Plaza has been ordered to close at 1:00 AM and the boys in brown have re-iterated that there must be absolutely no showing. This will just add to Nana Plaza's problems.

Spice Girls in Cowboy really is an interesting concept. It appears to be the flagship of the group's bars (the owner has about 6 properties in Cowboy) and is flasher than most Cowboy drinking holes. There's booth seating and the designer refrained from cramming in as many seats as possible, the classic bar design mistake. Prices are the same as other bars in the group, except when it comes to the coyote dancers. Whereas lady drinks are 150 / 170 baht for regular dancers, depending on whether they are alcoholic or not, for coyote girls drinks run 200 baht. You'll have to think carefully about whether to barfine a coyote girl. At 2,000 baht it's even costlier than soi 33!

And in that same bar is a girl called "A", number 20, also aged 20. But she should not be called A, but A+. She quite possibly has the best body in all of Cowboy. Swing by and check her out.

Mongo, the outdoors restaurant located next to Pacific Place, has closed. Whether this was part of the business plan – many outdoor restaurants in Bangkok actually close at this time of year, so hot is the weather – or whether it was due to a lack of trade, who knows?

How many girls in Shark Bar have had a boob job? A casual glance suggests that there are a fair few. The phenomenon has taken off and more and more girls have had some sort of cosmetic surgery done. A boob job locally will set you back about 65,000 baht, give or take.

Bus Stop appears to be a little light on staff and word is a handful have wandered up to the Golden Beer Bar where they can earn more. The girls at Bus Stop don’t make a lot of money and not all of them go out.

Tilac Bar is beautifully done out, a blaze of neon and mirrors but I can't help but feel that the venue seems rather cluttered. The idea of a single main stage and several smaller stages around the outside means that wherever you are sitting you can only see a limited number of dancers is not a format I'm fond of. In fact I find it all a bit "fast" and it often results in me leaving. And what's the bet if I feel like that then others do too? It's a shame, for you cannot deny that it has been very tastefully done out.

Wandering around Nana Plaza earlier one night this week, the usual early open bars were open but empty, and even both Hollywood bars on the third floor were open at 7:00 – but empty. Of course the empty bars did NOT offer any enticement such as a happy hour. On the middle floor the little DC10 bar was packed – and there were no seats available. I guess we can assume that they were busy because…..you don't have to be a genius here, they offer a happy hour. DC 10 is not known for their stunning dancers, in fact just the opposite. Clearly customers want value for their money in the early hours of the evening. Checking DC 10 again at 9:00 revealed there were only 3 customers… happy hour had ended and no doubt punters had edged their way towards venues more known for eye candy than wallet friendly drinks prices.

Why oh why don't the Thai authorities do anything to clean up the whole host of scams and issues that permeate society and the many problems that tourists fall prey to? Strolling along Sukhumvit on Friday night, yet again I came across two BEGGING MONKS. They had their aluminium alms bowl held out with 100 baht notes in it, sort of suggesting that any donation should be 100 baht. When I challenged them in Thai they had no idea what I was talking about and then claimed, in appalling English, to be Malaysian monks! Their accented English seemed to be more Chinese than anything. I really am amazed that they continue to get away with this. You can see begging monks in a few locales around the city, particularly in tourist areas. Buddhism is the national religion and something the Thais take somewhat seriously, but this is slapping it in the face.

The hot season does funny things to some and the heat clear got to a few in FLB Bar in Pattaya where it was all on earlier this week. A fight broke out after a customer got up on stage and then took exception when asked to get down. Punches were thrown and at least one guy was glassed. There was said to be blood everywhere and at least one guy was in need of hospitalisation. I actually think it's amazing there aren't more fights given the amount of liquor consumed.

If you had spotted more younger looking girls in the bars your eyes weren't deceiving you because yes, there are more young girls about. It's summer time, the time of the school and university holidays so many lasses have come down from the countryside to try their luck in the bars. It's one of those things about the bar scene I find a little disturbing. First of all, some of these girls are marginal in terms of age. Remember, 18 is the legal age at which ladies can work in the bars although I maintain that 18 is just too young and it should be 20. 18 year old Thai women generally have the mind and maturity of a Western girl a few years younger and it's questionable whether they're ready for the madness of the bars (are they ever?). Secondly, what often happens is that they come down to make a few baht to pay for tuition and help their family but their freshness results in popularity and they quickly learn their earning potential. When they see more than they could only ever dream about – more than they could earn even after completing their university studies they often wonder why they should return to study and continue on working. Sad, really.

On the back of recommendations from Dave The Rave and the Dirty Doctor, I have switched from Heineken to San Miguel Light. You could never call it a great tasting beer and it simply doesn't compare to Beer Laos, or even Heineken for that matter, but there is no doubt that if you have a big night you just do not suffer quite as much. San Miguel Light is a low calorie beer, not a low alcohol beer. The 5% alcohol content brew can be found in most popular bars these days. To make it taste a little better, it is worth squeezing a bit of lemon into it first, something which most bars seem to do as standard, sort of a la Corona.

A Scandinavian hotel owner in the greater Pattaya area is up to no good. He is creating accounts on certain dating websites using the pictures of very attractive younger Thai women and engaging Westerners in conversation while purporting to be a young Thai lass. He tells them how he would like to go and visit them in their country but alas, he, or should I say she, doesn't have money for a ticket. You guessed it, the guy sends money to a Thai name in Thailand – which goes to show this is a Thai / Scandinavian joint operation scam. It might be time to stop because a few people know who you are and a couple are rather upset!

There is a Bangkok-based webmaster that runs a bunch of Bangkok websites who I swear looks just like Michael Jackson. The newer, whiter Michael Jackson that is. Feel free to let me know who you think I mean. I just compared recent pictures of him with Whacko Jacko and boy oh boy, there's a real resemblance!

Robin Woolf is trying to contact Jim Davison (or Davidson?) who back in the late 60's started English-language radio in Bangkok and continued to be a popular radio personality for many, many years. If anyone knows the whereabouts please do let me know and I will pass the details on to Robin. Apparently way back then Jim and Trink used to do a version of Nite Owl on the air waves!

"My Thai Girl and I" by Andrew Hicks, author of the best selling novel, "Thai Girl", is a new book about the author’s life in Thailand. It is described as an accessible story about expat life that also informs about the local culture and living in rural Thailand. It's 250 pages including 8 colour pages with 20 photographs and 95 monochrome photographs in the text. I'm looking forward to reading it. More info here.

Apparently we have at least one reader who lists this website in his favourite three and tunes in regularly for the schadenfreude. Upon investigation I found that this is a German word nicked into English which roughly means "pleasure derived from watching someone else's suffering." It's a new one on me.

Quote of the week comes from a reader talking about his Thai pronunciation. "I'm concerned that my accent is perhaps too close to a Buriram bargirl than a hi-so Thonglorian."

Yet another excellent article appeared on the BBC site, Thailand's Wealthy Untouchables.

For those with expensive taste, this from Australia's Age newspaper might appeal, a way to sort out the haves from the have nots.

The Sydney Morning Herald reports an Aussie swallowing drug filled condoms in Thailand.

Here's a trailer for the upcoming flick, "Bangkok Dangerous".

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: I would like to know your insight into relationships between non-Thai westerner men and Thai Muslim women. Are you aware of any such relationships? Is it totally unheard of? If not, what are the cultural differences between Thai Buddhists and Muslims when it comes to relationships (both in general and with foreigners in particular)? Although I have had previous relationships with Thai Buddhist women, I am currently in quite a close relationship with a Thai Muslim female who I met over the internet. She happens to be a moderate Muslim, quite worldly with a lot of international travel under her belt, and well educated from a somewhat privileged background – has a degree from Chula, speaks English fluently, well-off family, works a high level office job, and so on. I am quite familiar with Thai Muslims having lived in the deep south for over a year as well and have known and been friends with many, but this is the first truly romantic relationship I have had with one. Any thoughts would be welcome.

Mrs. Stick says: Actually I work with a Muslim guy and his wife is Muslim but I never knew a Thai Muslim lady with a farang boyfriend or husband. I think this is not easy. Muslims are strict and you might have to change to her religion to marry her with her family's blessings. I think you need to talk with her about this.

Question 2: When I was in Thailand recently I ended up back at my hotel with a lady I had met in a disco. This was not a bar frequented by foreign man and the lady was not hooker. After the business had been done she said to me "Are you my boyfriend now? Will you marry me?" Did she really mean it?

Mrs. Stick says: This is silly. We do not fall in love like that. I don't know why she said that. If she is very young maybe she thought she was feeling love. Maybe you are a very desirable man and she was trying to "reserve" you by saying that she loved you and that you are now her boyfriend and off the market?



Ok, I admit it. We really have reached the point where the appearance of this site is holding it back. After many long years, I finally agree! But when it comes to redesigning it, that requires skills that I just do not have. I am now committed to updating the look and feel of the site, but lack the skills to do it myself, or at least do a decent job of it. If anyone has any ideas on a redesign to give it a more modern feel and look, please do let me know. I know the current look has become a bit of a trademark of the site but I think the time has come for a major overhaul. I'll admit that even I do not like the way it looks now! So, if you have any ideas, please do let me know, and if any kind souls with design / artistic flair and some time on their hands wanted to do a quick mock up, I would be interested in what you came up with. I'd like to say that the time for a major overhaul is now, but in fact it is much overdue!



Yours,

Stick Mark II