Stickman's Weekly Column April 20th, 2008

Teaching Is But A Stepping Stone




He was an impromptu introduction by a mutual friend. Something may have been said about me being a teacher but clearly this guy knew a lot more about me than I did about him. Pleasantries were exchanged but quickly forgotten as he fired the first salvo. “I'm not impressed with your attitude towards teachers and I cannot understand why you look down on the profession when you're one yourself. You're a hypocrite.”

Great start, I thought. This guy's a real charmer. I'd never met him before and he starts a conversation like this? He knows me more by my online persona, Stickman, than the real me, and he clearly has a few reservations.

"So you're a teacher, are you?" I respond.

"Almost two decades teaching in the UK, 11 tears teaching experience in Thailand and now I am head teacher at XXX, earning 38,000 baht a month", he says, awfully proud.

I couldn't help but make a face which wasn't lost on him.

He caught it and responded quickly, obviously keen to grab the upper hand in what he had immediately turned into an ugly dual of one-upmanship in which I had no interest in partaking. “That's why you're so bitter. What do you earn now? 25,000? 30,000? How can you expect to be a top earner without a teaching background? I've had more than 30 years in this game. That is how I got to where I am today.”

I pulled a face. He then patted me on the shoulder and in what seemed to be some sort of effort to reassure me, perhaps even appease me, he then said that he was sure I was a good teacher. What he missed was that my look was not one of awe, but one of shock. He'd been living in Thailand so long and yet earned such a pittance – and was proud of it! Had he been living in a vacuum?

This short exchange which took place in Angelwitch late last year brought me to reflect on the teaching industry in Thailand and the misinformation out there. This fellow sitting beside me with a solemn, almost gruff look about him was a fully qualified teacher with oodles of experience yet after a decade in the industry in Bangkok he was barely earning more than the average newbie teacher. 38,000 baht a month for a senior position is just a joke. Many teachers fresh to the city – and the industry – often earn more. He seemed to genuinely believe that he was near the top of the tree. Good for him, it probably helps him to sleep at night for if he knew the truth, he'd no doubt feel somewhat differently. He was a dinosaur living in the past, I thought to myself. A decade ago 38K baht a month was a good salary for a language institute teacher but these days it is perhaps only slightly above the average salary offered.

Over the past few years the English teaching industry in Bangkok has settled into three fairly clear tiers and while there is some overlap as well as subgroups within each tier, most generally teachers find themselves stuck in one of the tiers.

At the top level are the international schools. Experienced teachers at the better international schools can earn up to 200,000 baht a month after x years service, but to earn such a lofty – by teaching standards – salary, you'd probably have to be a head of department. You'd be looking at only a handful of schools paying at this level including the big three – Bangkok Pattana, ISB and NIST. A typical international school teacher salary would be around the 100K baht per month mark, higher in the better international schools, a little lower in the lesser schools. Some Bangkok international school teacher salaries may start as low as 50K baht per month for local hires. To secure employment in an international school you must be a qualified and experienced teacher in your own country. Without such credentials, forget it. International schools are generally very good employers and on the whole they offer everything a decent employer should – irrespective of industry.

The next tier down would include the top end "EP" or English Programs. This has been a major growth area over the past decade. EP programs seek to be "the best of both worlds", where Thai students get taught the Thai national curriculum by native English speakers. The advantages of an EP program over a standard Thai school are that the students' English will develop fast and they will be taught using more progressive teaching styles and techniques. These programs seek to employ qualified Western teachers but generally anyone with a few clues OR experience in Thailand OR a bachelor's degree and a few clues can secure such a position. The average EP teacher probably earns 50K – 60K baht a month with the highest paid on packages of up to 180,000 baht a month. EP programs are Thai owned and run.

The final – and bottom – tier encompasses the language institutes and positions in less well-known or less prestigious Thai schools. Demand for native speaking teachers means that these schools will often hire anyone although it should be pointed out that some within this tier operate to very high standards, the British Council a prime example. Working conditions vary and the salary at such schools tends to be around 30,000+ baht a month. Sometimes a work permit is provided, sometimes it isn't. With some employers there are "issues". This type of school is ideal for someone who is desperate to live in Thailand but perhaps unable to secure other type of work. The only real winners at this level are the few foreigners who own such institutes who should be doing just fine. There are some very good employers in this tier, but I would suggest they are in the minority.

Getting back to the fellow I was introduced to and looking more closely at his situation makes for a revelation. He is a qualified, experienced teacher and there was no obvious reason why he couldn't be employed at an international school. He has all that is needed to seek employment although as a local hire he wouldn't secure one of the top end “expat” packages. Somehow he has remained stuck in a school in the bottom tier. So many years at such an institute may now actually count against him seeking a job at an international school – if he ever had such aspirations.

Frankly there is no reason I should have secured a better position than him. On paper, he brings more to the table than me. Much more. More experience, better credentials and for sure, a better understanding of not only teaching techniques but also the difficulties students face and how to best handle them. But in the learning institutions of Thailand these are not always recognised, sometimes not even acknowledged. Management and academic leaders in schools seem unable to determine whether any one foreign teacher in their ranks is actually a decent teacher or not! As ridiculous as it sounds, the way you present yourself, the relationship you have with the Thai staff and even your ability to speak polite Thai are all determinants in whether you're a good teacher!

The nonsense starts at the hiring process. I had a good laugh with a fellow teacher recently when we talked about our experiences at job interviews in Thailand. As seems to be the norm, we were interviewed by a panel of senior members of the Thai staff who stared at us with completely blank expressions, the very same look they save for official photos. Solemn and blank, like no-one is home. Absolute complete indifference. It is a perturbing look and one I associate in my homeland with those who aren't too clever, a look commonly found on the face of morons. But you can't laugh to yourself and you desperately try to keep a straight face. There's always someone on the panel whose job it is to perform the interview, usually the person with the best English, sometimes the most senior. Being teachers, they sure can talk and they will rabbit on about the school, how the students are wonderful and how this school is famous and one of the best, if not the best, in Thailand. These Thai interviewers follow the classic interview 80 : 20 rule. The problem is the plonker who translated that piece of job interview theory into Thai got it around the wrong way and as they understand it, it is their role to talk 80%, the interviewee opening their trap for 20% – if they're lucky!

At one interview I can't have said more than 10 sentences. I have been interviewed for three teaching positions in Thailand and offered each. I'd like to think it was because I'm bright, pleasant or well-presented, but the truth is there's such a huge demand for Western teachers in Thailand.

I have also sat in on and conducted interviews of foreigners but my (typically Western) approach was considered much too aggressive and after much face saving subsequent interviews were scheduled at a time when, sadly, Ajarn Stick would not be able to be part of the panel.

Many Thais, even those in the education game most of their life, don't read farangs well. Say you love Thailand and so long as you haven't clocked up too many black marks they'll cancel the rest of the interviews they had scheduled that day and hire you there and then. It really is as simple as that at many – including some of the best – schools.

So, they don't know how to determine if someone is a good teacher and they certainly don't know how to choose a good teacher, so why should they put in place practices and policies that ensure that teachers' skills are maintained, reviewed and that the schools' teachers, surely its most important resource, are on top of their game?

Ongoing training, including internal workshops as well as outside courses are a rarity for foreign teachers at most Thai schools. And when workshops are held they are often a complete disaster. They follow the same format. An old biddy with scratchy English is brought before a group of farangs with pre-prepared photocopied notes that you just know she didn't collate herself for the English is much too good. With absolutely no attempt made to engage the audience (such a common fault with Thai teachers) she (they're usually women) reads the notes which include a generous helping of buzzwords. The foreign audience pass notes amongst themselves mocking her and expressing a desire to be elsewhere. When questions are called for the most insecure teachers will ask something in search for brownie points and acknowledgement from the Thai management who are present. I've seen it that many times that I can predict what's going to happen next with an awfully high degree of accuracy.

So where am I going with this rant about the teaching industry in Thailand? Open your eyes, white boys! You get one thing from Thai schools. A salary. That's it! A salary, and often a measly one at that. The idea of ongoing training or personal development just isn't part of it. Those are Western concepts – and if you hadn't noticed, this isn't the West!

In any job you should get a work permit and the accompanying visa – the holy grail for many – and you might get some nice colleagues but does that make up for the lack of everything else? There is little in the way of personal development. There is little to nothing in the way of ongoing training of any quality. There is little in the way of opportunities to work your way up in the school and there is no career path whatsoever.

I was chatting with a workmate a month or two back, reviewing our respective situations and as we often did, wondering just what the hell we were doing. He commented that it was pretty sad that the great thing about his job was that we had so much free time and could do work on the side, as the majority of our colleagues do. Frankly, you had to if you want get ahead. As much as our employer tried to stomp that out, the majority had something or other on the go, be it outside teaching or a host of other interesting money making schemes.

That's the norm with foreigners teaching in Thailand. Even better paid teachers working at some of the most prestigious institutes earning decent coin have something on the side. And I don't think it is always about the money. Sometimes you just don't get any real satisfaction from teaching positions in Thailand. Teach the course, fudge the grades of anyone slipping behind and make sure everyone passes. Fail to do that and you have failed as a teacher. That's it. And when you're doing this for not a lot of baht, you start to scratch your head.

The simple fact of the matter is that the salaries paid to most foreign teachers in Thailand are a joke. DON'T compare salaries for Thai teachers to what foreigners get. Native speaking English teachers produce a higher quality of work and come with a much better education than all but the few foreign educated Thais in teaching. You might earn more than the average Thai, but if you're brave enough to compare your salary with what Thais in other jobs earn you may well find yourself embarrassed. Most university educated Thais I know aged around 30 earn MUCH more than your average farang Bangkok English teacher. An American friend who has lived in Thailand for 15 years who recently took on a Westerner in a non-technical, non-specialist role was amazed at how little even the better paid teachers earn, explaining that local hire farangs with knowledge of Thailand as well as language skills start at 120,000 baht per month.

Teachers hate it when their status amongst the expat community is questioned but the truth is the questionable status teachers have is, in many ways, justified, not due to a lack of professionalism on the part of teachers (the quality and professionalism of foreign teachers in Thailand has improved markedly over the last few years) but the way that educated, qualified, professional Westerners allow themselves to be taken of advantage of so dreadfully.

There's this fallacy in the West that in Asia kids are committed to getting a good education and that teachers are respected. True in China and Korea but yet again when comparisons are made Thailand embarrasses itself.

One of the big names of the Thailand teaching industry once said to me that only career teachers should teach in Thailand for more than 3 years. He was alluding to the low salaries, poor working conditions, lack of ongoing training and lack of career prospects outside the industry. As he alluded to, very few schools (most international schools excepted) see personal and professional development of their staff as well as career planning as any sort of responsibility of the employer.

A few times a week I get an email from a reader asking what chance they have of securing teaching work in Thailand. They may include a CV or a brief outline of their employment history. Almost without fail their resume is impressive and I wonder why they would want to work in Thailand. Is the dream of living in Thailand so great that they are prepared to take such a huge step backwards?

Teaching is a good way to get started in Thailand. It can also be a lot of fun if you've just graduated. If you're a career teacher, then teaching in Thailand may have some advantages to teaching in the West giving you reasons to stick with it. If you're lucky you might secure a position at a great school and your kids might get accepted into the program automatically without the need to go through all the entrance exams. Many teaching jobs allow much free time and there's no shortage of foreign teachers in Thailand doing other work on the side or involved in all sorts of entrepreneurial ventures. But are these sufficient reasons to stay on in a teaching position?!

Teaching English is fun for a short period of time. There are some other reasons to stay in the profession – but for how long?

Teaching is but a stepping stone to other things, lest you forget.

Where was this picture taken?


Last week's picture was tricky. It was taken on Sukhumvit Road, heading from Nana to Cowboy. The small green neon sign on the left was the sign for one of the three Asia Books branches in that neighbourhood, so if you had said it was taken somewhere around Sukhumvit Soi 15 you would have been 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 – The weak are wrong, whatever the argument!

I have dated Chinese and Korean girls and didn't find the culture barrier a big deal, but with the Thais they're on a whole other plane. I am not from your average western background either. I grew up in several different countries, come from a very strict Orthodox Christian background and trust me, the Greeks and Southern Italians have as many weird traditions as the Thais. I did my degree in Ancient Roman / Greek history and in fact the modern Thais have more in common with the Ancient Romans than they do with modern farangs. They both worship the same way, politic gods, ghosts, they have an elite class that rules both business, military and politics. They also seem to have the same mob mentality down to their reactions to situations, a real fatalistic society where strength is right and the weak are wrong whatever the argument.

Fun to visit, but…

I have just read your sobriquet on your 10 years in Bangers. I can tell you that when I first landed in Bangkok in 1969 on R&R leave from the NZ Army in southern Vietnam, the sights, sounds, smells, huge population and the incredible traffic are still vivid memories to me, especially for a then young guy coming from cold, conservative, conformist, boring Wellington. The corruption back then was bad – being pulled over by the police in South Sathorn Road at 1 AM and flinched of 300 baht (a lot of money then) for being drunk in a public place – and I was stone cold sober. Bangkok is, as you have described, an exciting and enervating place, and I enjoy our annual visitations to the pulsating metropolis. But to spend 10 years there, well, I know I couldn't do that.

Would you make those sacrifices? (Buggered if I would!)

Re Muslim women and Farang men. I know of one instance. He had to submit to having the end of his dick amputated in the home of the love of his life and giving up pork and alcohol. The bitch then turned into a paranoiac and possessive loony, culminating in the loss (for him) of a new pickup and two motorcycles, in addition to the critical slice of flesh (makes me cringe just to think of it). Although unable to undo the damage done to his dick, he has now recovered his senses and spends his time eating pork, drinking beer with the lads and shagging the loose lasses from the "lucky bar".


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

Bangkok no place for a Western woman?

I am the Canadian daughter of an expat living in Bangkok and married to a Thai woman. I went to ISB there, lived a few years with my dad but when the opportunity to go to boarding school back in Canada came, I took it because quite frankly I think Bangkok is no place for a woman. I think most of the western men who run to Bangkok have been damaged in some way by a white woman – mother, ex – whatever – but all I hear when I'm there, is projection, and woman hating. It's not because we don't understand how some poor rice paddy girl could want a better life, here's a little secret – ALL women want a white knight, but over here we're learning, it's a totally ridiculous expectation to put on men, and because we love our men, we don't want to destroy them with inflated unrealistic expectations. Consider this: a western woman is told to put away her Hello Kitty stuff at the age of 12. If she continues to play with stuff like that after 12 it's most likely because she's mentally challenged in some way. And really, from here, the ONLY males who should be playing with females who play with dollies, are little boys. So men who go out with Thai women seem emotionally stunted or almost pedophiliac in a way. You want, at the age of 25+, to hang out with a woman who adds Garfield pillows to your bed? I offer this only because I know there are a lot of men in Bangkok who do have daughters back in the West. I think once a man starts dating a Thai woman, one who plays with Hello Kitty at the age of 32, his daughters can't help but lose respect for him, or at least need to reject him because from a western viewpoint it's really sick! Anyway, I know what all my daddy's issues are and to be honest, I LOVE WESTERN MEN. I totally understand why Thai women would pursue them. They are our brothers, our fathers, our lovers and our friends and they have a sense of honour Asian men aren't capable of. Asia makes whores of its own people. If you love the Orient that's fine but don't ever expect us to agree with you. It's against everything we stand for.

A cautionary tale.

I too have spent a decade or so in this country and initially was very open to the thoughts of having Thai friends of either sex – especially after five years of living in Tokyo where it was very difficult to make more than superficial relationships with the natives due to their mindset. However, after a decade here I'm yet to be impressed by the male gender of the kingdom and as the female gender don't really put themselves about socially (unless they are 'players') I find I spend my time with a few choice friends and my wonderful Thai wife of eight years until just over a week ago. Our landlady who is all of 25 years of age introduced me to a Thai friend of hers who she has known for a good many years. Like me, he is very passionate about guitars and can actually coax some very impressive songs from his finger tips – he's had extensive classical training in Manhattan, where he grew up. I mentioned a good friend of mine who also hails from Manhattan and is out here to try to establish a career in jazz guitar and that we should get together as like minded spirits. This occurred a few days later and we spent a very pleasant afternoon together. The Thai guy plays live acoustic / singing in a small joint around the corner and asked my friend if he was interested in jamming there some nights. Attractive as this sounded the offer was spurned as it required the same old musical compromise – the substitution of good jazz for Country Roads and Hotel California every night. Anyway, after parting good friends and advising our new Thai friend to try to keep his hand in his pocket after he announced that he bought a new guitar the other night whilst on the road home – bringing his total to 36 guitars, we thought we'd finally cracked it and found a Thai who can hold a conversation of some depth and interest. Little did we know how short lived that would be. Two days later, I got a phone call from our landlady asking if we'd lent him any money. It turns out he was busted the day before for peddling drugs at the bar he was playing in and had accumulated massive debts by borrowing from everyone he'd befriended. He's currently serving time in the monkey house. I asked if there was any chance of getting back a special DVD I'd lent him – to which she replied that she doubted it as he was living out of a room that he rented by the day! 36 guitars and one bought on the way home the other day? So, the upshot for me is to go back to my old ways and take very great care in vetting any Thais I let into my life! If in doubt I advise readers to follow the same tack.

If you find yourself in Pattaya next week then do swing by one of my favourite Pattaya bars, Secrets in Soi 14 off Walking Street, on 22 April for their Best of the Best dance contest. Heaps of baht will be offered in prizes and a free buffet should make it a great night.

One could have presumed that the bars would be quiet last weekend with it being the main Songkran period and many of the girls venturing for the Songkran period to spend time with their parents, but what many bar owners did was jack up the barfine – which also meant any girls not present found their salary cut by 1,000 baht a day, hence few chose to make the journey home. This weekend, in Bangkok at least, many bars are down on girl numbers as they have taken the opportunity to head home and spend some quality time at home.

And with Songkran now behind us we are officially into the (s)low season. Less tourists, less staff in the bars, less trouble getting a hotel room and slightly less agreeable weather. I have always felt either side of Songkran is a good time to visit, that is if you can deal with the blazing hot weather, which is admittedly not for some. Bangkok's low season is less noticeable than that experienced in the beaches and islands. Pattaya and Phuket's low seasons are much more discernible with less people about, a time I much prefer.

These "imported" monks just can't help themselves, can they? I have talked of the begging monks and now we have monks out on evening tours of the more salubrious spots around town. I cannot imagine what the abbot would think. I do note that his facial expression is one of joy and happiness, rather more emotion than a monk is supposed to display I would have thought. (Thanks to the dirty doctor for this pic.)

Who was the phantom flasher in Coyotes in Cowboy last night? With a small, but extremely bright torch, he couldn't help but shine it into the nether regions of some of the lasses on stage, who I have to admit handled it remarkably well and took it all in the spirit of sanuk.

Cowboy continues to do well and more and more locals are choosing it for a night out over the perennial favourite, Nana. There has also been something of a shift in the most popular bars at Cowboy. Go back a year or so and the most popular spots were Sheba's, Suzy Wong's, Dollhouse and Long Gun but none of those would rank favourites at the moment. The most popular spots at present seem to be Tilac (not a fan of that place myself), Baccarra and Raw Hide, although with that said every day is different and a bar packed last night can be quiet tomorrow.

Can you imagine a hotel in the Nana area refusing entry to naughty boys and their relaxation consultant for the evening? Strange but true, there is at least one hotel that does exactly that. I actually wanted to do a feature on them but I dare say they would not be keen. Just check out the main page of the Atlanta Hotel's which says it all. It's a naughty boy free zone! But then maybe it is all talk for on the tariffs page appears this line "Please note: As rooms are charged according to the number of occupants, guests who have overnight visitors must register their visitor and have the room tariff adjusted accordingly." Is this Salt Lake City or Bangkok?!

The off and on again sale of Black and White goes on and there has been much disinformation spread. According to the former manager of Black and White who is now working in Tilac bar, and further supported by the appearance of a sign in front of Black and White identical to signs in front of other Deja vu group bars, one has to believe that it is as good as a done deal. The former manager has already indicated that the girls are not keen to work under the new owner, claiming that lady drink prices make it difficult for them to meet their monthly quota. Late news as column is just going up: It is confirmed that Black & White is now part of the Deja vu group. The deal was finalised just before Songkran. The price of beer remains unchanged for the moment and that seems to be the norm before the inevitable renovation and transformation into another visually striking bar – as all of the Deja Vu Group's bars are. However, they have already hiked the prices of lady drinks to 150 baht! Talking to the girls, it would seem that there is a real likelihood of an exodus come next pay day.

Pattaya's new Beergarden, being put together by Pete of FLB Bar fame, has no connection with Sukhumvit Soi 7's Biergarten. This venue could be a very welcome addition to Pattaya, especially, and I personally believe this is the clincher, if it targets day time business. At night there is huge competition but during the day, I believe there is real demand!

I was chastised recently by a couple of readers for suggesting that street food is not all it is cracked out to be. While I'll admit that it usually tastes good and being an original cheap Charlie, I like the fact that a plate still costs only 25 – 30 baht, when it comes to hygiene and cleanliness there are question marks. I saw a classic scene this week and was pissed that I didn't have my camera with me. I walked past a large food vendor operation mid afternoon and they were preparing food for the evening – they open for business around 5:00 or 5:30 PM and run until late. On the food preparation counter, which is a few metres long, was a dog sleeping. The beast was no more than a metre from an old woman chopping up meat. The dog was in that sort of half asleep state, but peering at the mystery meat being hacked up. Please don't tell me that you frequently see this sort of scene in restaurant kitchens. And damn, talk about a missed photo op.

The phenomenon of mobile phones being used for internet access nationwide is really taking off in Thailand. Using your mobile is affordable, generally reliable and while the speeds aren't that crash hot, they are good enough for when you need some sort of net access. Over the Songkran weekend I chatted with various friends online and most of whom were connected to the net using their laptop and their mobile. There are all sorts of plans available and some only run 2 or 3 baht an hour for net access! And on the subject of internet connectivity in Thailand, a nice little site with great promise has started up that provides info on the various ways you can connect to the Internet in Thailand.

The Cambodians are light years ahead of the Thais when it comes to visas. Visas for Cambodia are easy to get, there's no limit to how many you can get in a row and you can also apply for your visa online. The Thais could learn from the Cambodians.

It can only be described as utter madness that yes, teachers at the very best international schools – probably the best teachers in all of Thailand – are amongst those forced to complete this new, silly set of tests that secures them a teaching license which then "qualifies" them to be able to teach in Thailand. Fancy taking a course run by Thais on ethics and professional standards. I truly cannot imagine what that will include.

Attending the Songkran festivities the seasoned observer can spot things a first timer may miss. Aside from the soaking wet bar girls running and screaming up and down the soi avoiding the iced water and the powdered shampoo attacks, they do have a well demonstrated talent when it comes to the big high power water guns. When a bargirl takes that gun in her hands the first thing she does is start to pump it up with internal pressure with long deliberate strokes until it reaches its maximum internal pressure. Then when she is sure it's ready she points the gun in the direction of her choice and makes the gun discharge a long wet stream.

There's something really whacky going on with True wi-fi. I don't want to sound like a conspiracy theorist, but honestly, this is getting a bit perturbing. *Wherever* I take my laptop and search for a wi-fi signal, even in areas well away from shopping centres or other public places where you expect crowds, I get a signal for True Wi-fi. We're talking in residential areas and in condominiums. It is as if they have wireless connections everywhere! Are they somehow taking control of people's wireless routers and allowing others to use the bandwidth and connect to True? I should not complain because if you subscribe to their unlimited wi-fi usage for a month you have net access available seemingly everywhere. Or perhaps do they have some sort of massive output device like on top of Baiyoke Tower? I'm curious.

In the past whenever you saw posts about medical care in Thailand online it was always about how cheap it was. There's been a dramatic change in posts you read these days. All and sundry are warning others to make sure their medical insurance is up to date – and why not – medical costs have rocketed up.

Quote of the week comes from a prolific contributor to this site. "It would be fun to win the lottery here in the States, emigrate, buy the Nana Hotel and rename it the Mothership and put a fifty foot statue of myself at the entrance to the car park."

Here's a great video from what appears to be a British TV show featuring a Thai girl taking a lie detector test. Rather amusing to say the least! There are heaps of fascinating videos about Thailand and Thai girls on YouTube so do surf around and see what you discover.

For Westerners in Thailand, Luang Prabang in neighbouring Las has a certain draw but it seems the place is changing and if you want to see it for its old world style and charm before it changes, you really had better get your A into G if this Herald Tribune article is anything to go by.

A dreadfully sad man has erected this site about a relationship with a Thai bargirl that went bad. His intent appears to be to show her to be the spawn of the devil but it backfires horribly and he makes himself look bad. Fancy going out and getting black magic done on your ex? And it's not like she was a beauty queen! And it did not take much digging to see that it seems to be the same guy as here! < The site has since been taken offline>

Ask Mrs. Stick

Mrs. Stick's responses in recent columns have been flat and described by one reader as vapid! This has resulted in few questions most weeks, no questions other weeks. This week was yet another where she received no questions at all. Unless you can convince me otherwise, Mrs. Stick is history.

I have a small problem and I am not sure how to deal with it. I know a few people, some who are moderately close to me, who speak porkies all the time. I never realised at first but as I got to know them better I became to realise that much of what came out of their mouths is complete bollocks. The lies are never used in deceit i.e. to gain something or to fool me, rather attempts to show themselves in a more favourable light. The lies inevitably concern things from the past, be it the very recent past i.e. what they did last night, or the more distant past, when they were back in the West. The problem is that as they lie more and more, I lose more and more respect for them. The things they are talking about are nonsensical and just do not need to be said. So how do you deal with people like this? Calling them on it will almost certainly force them to insist that it is true, and my disrespect for them plummet. Do you get a mutual friend to have a word? Nah, that is too much like schoolyard games. I wish I had an approach, but I simply don't. I wrote not long ago a piece called Lies, Lies, Lies about the locals and their propensity to tell porkies, but the nonsense that comes out of these two Western guys' mouths transcends anything the locals come up with.



Yours,

Stick Mark II