Stickman's Weekly Column May 11th, 2008

How I Learned Thai


“I am proud so proud and happy to be Thai”, she said. “I am my father's daughter”, she said and looked longingly and lovingly at a photo of HM The King mounted high on the wall.

“What's it like to be falang”, she asked me, the use of the letter “L” in the word farang a mispronunciation defying her position as a teacher at the longest-running Thai language institute.

“What do you mean?” I asked her, puzzled at this most unusual question.

“I have Thai blood. I am Thai and I am proud. But you are only farang! How does that make you feel?”

I was knocked for six. How on earth do you respond to that? This was my Thai teacher and we had repeatedly been told that we were supposed to show them respect, but how on earth could I respect the person who asked this racist, moronic question?

It was the first hour of a four hour lesson and my brain had really got out of first gear. I was the only farang in the class, the only white boy. My classmates in that particular module were Japanese and Korean. It was that period many years ago when I was learning good Thai by day and bad Thai by night. In fact it was a surprise that I was even there for the first hour. In a school where much of the role was taken by missionaries I was very much the odd one out. The sight of red-eyed Stick wandering in at the 9 AM break, an hour late for class, was not lost on the administration that had the audacity to haul me into the director's office to give me a dressing down for being late. “Why you come late? You never used to be late!” Needless to say my honest to God response did not impress them at all. I mean, how do you tell the head of a school run by the Christian Church of Thailand that you're consistently late for class because you were availing yourself of the opportunity to practice the north-eastern version of the language with lovely natives of that region late into the night.

The Ajarn Yai (senior teacher) now leapt into English, which I had come to understand meant she was angry. She did not know how to treat me. I wasn't a missionary and had shocked the poor woman once or twice already while giving her that unflappable Stick smile. She knew I was a teacher myself and she knew my grasp of the language was well ahead of my classmates. But she also knew that I did not agree with nor respect some of institute's rules which should have been the domain of a kindergarten, not a language institute for adults. She strongly disliked the fact that her star student had refused to sign up to take the Pratom 6 exam and I genuinely believe that she hated the fact that the student who did the least work spoke the best Thai. In her eyes I was something of a tearaway.

The Pratom 6 exam is considered the standard exam for foreigners studying Thai and passing it supposed to represent a mastery of the language. It is the same Thai language exam that grade 6 (Pratom 6 in Thai) students do.

What the major language schools don't tell you is that there is a national Pratom 6 exam held at the end of each year and that all of the Thai language schools compete to have the highest number of graduates pass the course. In fact I would go as far to say that at some language institutes this is their primary purpose. They are much less concerned about you actually learning useful Thai to allow you to live in the country and communicate with the locals, but more interested in teaching you what you need to know to pass the Pratom 6 exam. Such is generally considered test preparation and frankly it is quite different to actually learning the language. For the English teachers out there, it is the same as when we teach IELTS or TOEFL test preparation.

So we had this awkward situation where the Ajarn Yai was doing everything in her power to get me to do the two month Pratom 6 exam preparation course when in fact I simply wanted to learn the language to a decent level so I could live my life just as the locals do.

Anyway, I have gone way off course here. Today I want to tell you about how I went about learning Thai, the ups and downs along the way as well as offer a few hints and tips.

I am lucky in that I feel that, quite by chance, I learned Thai the right way. When I say the right way, I think the critical thing is that I learnt to read and write first. Yes, I think that is CRITICAL.

Back in the Land Of The Long White Cloud, I used to eat regularly in an Asian food court and always ordered from the same vendor, a very nice Thai lady. I got to know her and when she learned that I was planning to move to Thailand for a year or two she invited me to the local Thai temple where she said free courses in the Thai language were run and, as it happened, a new course would soon be starting.

It became my Sunday afternoon ritual, heading out to the Thai temple, studying Thai from 2:30 – 4:00 and then talking with the other guys (yes, it was all guys) about life in Thailand. They were a bunch of old letches and before long most of them had dropped out. I was about 15 years younger than any of the other guys, some of whom were already Thailand veterans.

The instructor was a Kiwi who had spent 8 years in Thailand, most of it in Phuket. He was not a teacher as such but his structured approach to teaching, his good clear explanations and his repeated drilling of pronunciation until you got it right were all top drawer teaching techniques. He would have made an excellent English teacher but he had no need to stoop so low and did very well in Thailand in his chosen profession.

There were three 6 week "courses". Each course was a 1 ½ hour lesson, followed by a similar amount of homework to do that week before the next Sunday. The first course was learning the alphabet and very basic reading. The second course was reading and basic vocab. The final course, as I remember it, was more reading practice and basic sentence structures including greetings, question forms and vocabulary building. I was oh so lucky to have been invited and I learnt a huge amount. Thai is phonetically consistent so once you have learned all the consonants and vowels you should not only be able to read, but more importantly, you should be able to pronounce things correctly – because you know how they should be said. Learn this way and amongst the many advantages you will never screw your “L” and “R” sounds up.

At the same time I picked up the Linguaphone course. It cost a few hundred dollars – these days it costs about twice that. There weren't anywhere near the same amount of Thai language learning resources back then as there are now but even with that said it could be argued that the Linguaphone course remains the best, or one of the best, on the market. It is very well structured and follows a very clear and logical pattern to learning. I spent about an hour a night on it for months. Using that course along with what I was learning every Sunday, I arrived in Thailand with a decent grounding in the language.

Once in Thailand, the plan was to improve my Thai by practicing as often as I could, engaging the locals in conversation, and with a bit of luck, securing the help of a long-haired dictionary.

For the next two years I did little to actively improve my Thai other than chatting with all and sundry. I learnt passively although at times I found it awfully frustrating. I had learned to pronounce things properly and had no problem making myself understood. But things got difficult when the person I was chatting with replied. They obviously thought my Thai was a lot better than it was and they would reply at me full speed and then be surprised when I had little idea what they had said.

I realised that I wasn't picking up as much as I thought I was when a friend popped around to visit one day. He had arrived in Thailand a year after me with zero Thai. He was also a teacher and he told me that he had had the kids at school teach him a bunch of words each day at lunch time that week. He went over some of what he had learnt and I realised he knew a lot of words I didn't. It was at that point that I knew that I was the type of person who did not pick things up that quickly passively, and that as far as language learning went, I needed the discipline of proper study.

I looked into the language schools offering tuition – which at that time was not that many. The big two back then were Union Language School and Nisa. I elected for Union because it was easier to get to, the hours worked better for me and most importantly, it was much cheaper.

Union offers tuition in 80 hour courses. The study timetable was 7:45 AM until midday with a break every hour. The course prices were very reasonable back then at 5,000 baht for an 80 hour course. I believe these days it is more like 6,500 baht which is still a very good deal.

At Union and they didn't know quite what to make of me. They are very rigid in their approach and reluctant to allow students to start above level 1, which is for absolute beginners, but they placed me in level 3, the level at which you learn to read and write the alphabet, something I was already quite capable of. That said, studying at Union did straighten out a few errors and bad habits I had picked up.

I shouldn't have enjoyed Union, but I did. The place was full of missionaries – but I am agnostic. While the missionaries were in His Lords House praying, I could probably be found at the Temple Of Nana.

The school was very Thai in its operation. That meant the teachers were very strict when it came to discipline and were very much about accuracy over fluency. (It is generally accepted that some people learn a language with emphasis on fluency – they can communicate well but they may make mistakes which are of less concern to them so long as they can communicate effectively. Others are more accuracy based in that they need to see and hear something a few times before they pick it up and are more concerned about being grammatically correct and getting the pronunciation correct when producing the language. I am an exception amongst Westerners and am on the accuracy side of the ledger, hence the Union approach worked for me while many other Westerners struggled. The Asian students found the approach worked well for them.)

I enjoyed going to school and I spent 7 months studying full-time there. I studied course levels 3 through to 6, the two newspaper courses (which were more about economics, politics and the law than newspapers per se) and finally a course entitled "social problems".

I have to tell you a story about the social problems course. There were 5 students in the class. Just one farang male (that'd be me), a very nice English missionary who had been a bit of a wild child from all accounts, two stiff Koreans (one male and one female) and a xenophobic Japanese housewife. The day's lesson – all four hours of it – was on the dreadful scourge of prostitution and its damage to Thai society. In typical Thai teacher approach, the class was split into two and we were told to prepare for a debate. The men had to argue that prostitution was the fault of the women and the women had to argue that prostitution was the fault of the men. Yes, prostitution really is a dreadful thing we were told! We were given 5 minutes to prepare for a five minute speech, which is totally inadequate. But we had the Stick factor! Back then this site had a lengthy article about the nightlife industry in Bangkok and I knew rather more than one should about such things. Honestly, my presentation was a masterpiece with a map drawn on the board showing the regions of the country, where the girls come from, where they work and the differences between the different sectors of the industry. The poor teacher didn't know what to make of it! In a total travesty, the debate was called a tie. (If they had given me an hour or so to prepare I could have got on the phone and had a few “props” arrive….perhaps that might have been the difference between winning and it being a tie.)

Despite being treated like children, the very average teaching methodology the school employs and being hauled into Ajarn Yai's office on the odd occasion, I enjoyed my time at Union. But most importantly, the discipline of formal study was what was needed to take my Thai to the next level. Some guys learn passively but for me, I need to see the language, study examples, and then practice using it. It doesn't just stick the first time with me, but when I do learn it, I don't usually forget it. I also believe that language learners need good clear explanations of why certain parts of the language are the way they are. A trained teacher can explain that as someone who is simply a native speaker of the language may not be able to.

I am also of the belief that Thai is sufficiently different from English (in ways that say German, Spanish or the other languages that Westerners have traditionally learned aren't) that to really make real progress with Thai you need the benefits of formal study.

These days there are many, many Thai language schools. My advice for anyone who wishes to learn the language to a high standard is to seek out a language school and learn in a classroom environment. I believe there is much more benefit learning in a classroom with other learners of a similar ability level. You learn not just from the teacher, but from other learners too. Besides, one on one instruction is much more expensive and is very much dependent on a skilled teacher and a keen, energetic student.

The way I learned Thai really worked for me. I had a good solid base that I learnt at home and then after a stagnant patch of a couple of years where things did not really kick on like I had hoped they would, formal study took me to the next level and to a point at which further self study would be much easier.

I think you need to be able to read and write Thai if you want to speak the language to a high level and ideally, that is the first thing you should do. Many language schools don't use that approach (Union doesn't) but I feel it's a big mistake. I really do think I was lucky to have learned to read and write before I learned to speak.

The advantages of being able to use Thai to a decent level are debatable, but if you plan on staying in Thailand a long time, have an interest in languages, or simply want to do something constructive to pass away the days, studying the local lingo is worthwhile, gives you a challenge and goals and can be fun.

Getting back to the start of the story, what did I say to the Thai teacher who asked me what it felt like to be farang? I didn't know how to say it in Thai at the time so I responded in English, "If only you knew, darling, if only you knew!"

Her response was to be expected. "ALAI WA!"

Where was this picture taken?


Last week's picture was the Rama 9 Bridge, NOT the Rama 8 Bridge as perhaps 70% of the many respondents people guessed. This week's picture is difficult and is from outside Bangkok. The only clue I will give you is to say "think about recent columns". 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 – Passion in life.

This is in response to the letter in your column on 6/4 that life is boring wherever the writer lives and in particular in Bangkok. The novelty of any place wears off over time and the only option to combat this is to move every two years, if you can stand the rigors of uprooting yourself that often, living an existence of impermanence and having no solid friends, just passing acquaintances. This problem that the writer discusses lies in that he has not found his passion in life. I am a true believer in doing something you love for a career and pursuing other fulfilling hobbies in your spare time. If not, you'll end up like this poor sap. But if you are married and if you have a family, things end up settling into a routine, especially if you have children. You have to find ways to hang on to what drives YOU. That can only be done through some soul-searching. I do believe that your choice of surroundings adds to your happiness and you should choose to live in a place that bests suits you and your lifestyle. My fortunes have only multiplied because I have focused on doing what I enjoy and putting a premium on giving myself time to do the things I enjoy. With a family, though, you have to change your priorities, because once you have children, you have to really put your effort into ensuring they are well cared for physically and emotionally. And how does this all relate to life in Bangkok? Well so many guys come here to singles wonderland until one day they knock up their girlfriend and then they're stuck. They get into a workaday grind and after years of having the main hobby of boning chicks, they are no closer to knowing themselves.

Do the families know?

On the idea that maybe upcountry families don't know what their daughters are up to in the big cities, well I can't believe it. I first visited Bangkok in 1984 and places like Patpong were well established then, of course after the US involvement over here. So if a girl was in business in say 1980 at age 25, she'd be closing in on 60 now, and a grandma for sure. Three generations in the trade must mean that the upcountry people know what's going on.

CS Loxinfo recommendation.

Following up the email in last Sunday's column regarding True internet, I have no idea why anyone uses that company when there is a viable alternative in CS Loxinfo. I have never heard a good word about True, with complaints about customer service, speed and downright shady practices that have been mentioned on this site recently. In contrast, I have rarely had any problems with CS Loxinfo over a number of years. Their technical support is pretty good by Thai standards (they usually have a good idea what they are talking about), and although speed can vary a great deal I'm sure that is down to TAT rather than them.

Wrong time at the wrong place.

So there I was trying to walk and negotiate my way down Soi Katoey off Soi Bangla in Patong last night. Past the horde of entertainers at the entrance, then whilst still trying to clock the talent keeping an eye on the available path so I didn't trip up. Then suddenly completely out of the blue this Thai man was running and rushing up to me, and just at the same time he gave me a huge right hook to my left ear and head which sent me flying. Shock and bewilderment set in and you automatically go in to survival mode. Looking around after he had passed he was already fighting other Thai men on the ground, and sure it wasn't long before one had picked up a bar stool and hit him over the head with it. Like a pack of hyenas coming from all directions, these guys were beating the living day lights out of him. This fight continued up on to Soi Bangla itself, and although half the audience must have been Thai plain clothes police they let it continue. A farang girl came up to me and said he had hit her first. The guy was obviously on ya ba which gives you the strength of ten men. This Thai man by the end of this beating was in a hell of a state and lost consciousness on the road. For sure I just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Why lie?

We all know that a Thai will lie at the drop of a hat, often for absolutely no reason at all. I went to a Thai restaurant in London on one occasion and, making polite conversation with the waitress, asked her what part of Thailand she came from. She answered Bangkok, but when I said I lived there and asked her which part of the city she came from she clammed up in embarrassed silence. It was obvious she had no knowledge of the city at all. So why did she lie about it? Absolutely no reason. She just found it impossible to tell the truth.

Consideration and manners.

Before coming here I knew that politeness, due respect, and good manners are a must in Thailand. Whilst this is certainly true in conversation, my experience of some Thai manners is somewhat different. I cannot get used to having a door dropped in my face; Thais seem amazed if I hold a door open for them. It amazed me that ladies expected to stand up on trains, to let children have a seat. Despite the arrows on the BTS and MRT platforms, people seem to want to knock you over as you leave the trains. And there is the request to let passengers exit first, that usually falls on deaf ears. Am I alone in noticing Thai people cannot walk in a straight line on pavements? This inability to walk in a straight line may be due to avoiding the pavement potholes, but I think it is more often to do with the cocoon which envelopes Thai women when using a mobile 'phone. Considerate manners, I ask you?

Where did Tik go?

In the mid 90s I walked down Silom in the afternoon and saw a short red mini in high heels. Wow! I followed her into a now closed classic gogo bar on Patpong 2, Rififi. During the afternoon it was a quiet, dark, cool bar. This beautiful creature was going to her first day of work since leaving a factory in Nakon Sawan. She turned out to be the most amazing and fascinating woman in all my years of hundreds of friends. Since she was not educated and about 33 when I left. She did not even have an internet account. I was wondering if any of your readers remember Tik. She was a smoker and finally cut her long sexy hair just before I left. I heard she was living with an expat after Rififi closed. If anyone knows about Tik from the old afternoon Rififi please write me at [email protected].

You don't have to be an electrician to see that the state of wiring in many places in Thailand is a real mess. Many places are a fire hazard, few more so than Nana Plaza. There have been many fires at Nana over the years, some have gutted bars while others have caused minor damage. This Monday night saw the latest fire in Nana, which started at the Taj Mahal tailor's below Mandarin. The fire made it up into the bar and rumour has it that it destroyed the cash that was to be handed out for salaries to be paid that night! As the fire was being fought, the outside bars continued to operate by candle light. In one bar there was a clown who rung the bar in the expectation no one could see him! Without wanting to be callous about what could have been a very serious situation, it all sounded rather comical! The fire was on the top floor which is, I believe, where the girls change. One reader said he had to smirk at seeing some firefighters helping themselves to the abandoned Mercury opening night buffet. I expect that within 12 months there will be another major fire in Nana with all of those hot birds there. Here's another report on the fire in Nana.

Despite little fanfare, the soft opening of Club Misty's drew hundreds of curious punters this weekend. Their curiosity was rewarded with the unveiling of one of Fun Town's most appealing gogo bars. Relocated to Soi 15 off Walking Street from the gender-confused Pattayaland Soi 1, the new venue is ideally designed. Great and imaginative lighting, appointments, and layout. The spacious club features bars and seating on two levels, with dancing girls on each level. Two-storey chrome fire poles allow the girls to descend to the lower stage after performing bare-ly on the upper level. Some 55 young ladies in various ranges of undress displayed fine form to a packed house Friday night. No stunners, but the club is still hiring. Draft beer is offered at 65 baht, bottled beer 110 baht, hard stuff 120. Like most of its competitors on Walking Street, Mistys' music is too loud, but management is open to reducing the decibel level when customers complain. A grand opening celebration is planned for later this month.

I am impressed by the layout, location and general build quality at Pattaya's newest joint, the Beer Garden, but I do wonder about the location, or at least access to it. In fact if you don't know where it is you would almost certainly never end up there. Visiting this week there were all of about 25 customers there – and this is a venue that would look quiet with 100 customers. It needs to be heavily advertised and with a bit of luck it will take off over time. It's early days but it has to be said that it is very, very quiet.

Another newish joint I have been impressed with is the second branch of Gulliver's in Pattaya called Walking Street which is located on, you guessed it, Walking Street. The entrance is very easy to miss. Look out for the Chevrolet mounted up on the wall on its side about 50 metres along Walking Street on the left hand side. You make your way down this long, wonderfully constructed corridor that feels more like a traditional gentleman's club that a restaurant / bar / dance club. The interior of this particular branch of Gulliver's is smaller than most others but it's home to very reasonable prices and a decent sound system. Like the Beer Garden, it does not seem to have taken off yet but I would expect it to offer real competition to Lucifer's and Tony's, two venues I'm personally not that fond of.

I made it there twice this week to Baccarra in Soi Cowboy, a truly outstanding bar and a venue which seems to have less unwed mothers than your typical Bangkok gogo bar. Without wanting to sound cruel, no customer wants to see the tell tale signs that a gogo dancer has given birth, you know, the map of the world across their stomach.

But at the total opposite end of the scale is Midnite. 10 years ago it was a very average bar, tired and in need of investment to turn it around. It was sold in 2000 and turned around by the American owner who hired a British manager. At the bar's peak it was my favourite, the Nanapong boys' favourite and many on the forums at the time would talk of the good times had the night before at Midnite. Visiting this week it seems to have gone downhill with a very average bunch of girls, a smattering of katoeys and a pretty bad attitude and a mamasan who is completely disinterested in what is going on around her.

I made it to Oasis, a gogo bar on Soi Buakhao in Pattaya this week and was glad I did. It has a very nice selection of ladies, cheap drinks and good music. That area of town is slowly coming up with Club Blu, similar in style to Secrets doing ok and a number of new bars planned to open in the area.

Ivan the former owner of X Zone which recently sold has promised to open a new bar.

Pattaya doesn't feel busy but the girls are still being barfined. Most bars have only a small selection of girls at the end of the night suggesting that the punters are about.

Whether or not it will be enforced or not is up for debate, and probably more likely to be determined by demands from the chief of police's harem of mia nois than anything else. Readers should however be aware that smoking in bars and restaurants is technically illegal (so is prostitution) and there is talk that on the spot fines of 20,000 baht for the establishment and 2,000 baht for the smoker might actually be enforced now that the 3 month phase out / look the other way period has passed. It should be noted that those who do not insist on a receipt may be entitled to a discount.

It's been reported that Pattaya's mayor elect, Khun Ittipon, has a vision for a new, improved Pattaya. He plans to increase tourism and jobs. He also promises to 'eradicate' Walking Street. Now I wonder how that last promise will increase tourism and jobs.

In an unrelated Walking Street matter, 40 or 50 of Bangkok's finest in flack jackets converged on Pattaya Saturday night – bolstered by a flock of photographers that accompanied them on their raids of local establishments. It was reported that they cleared out and closed down Marine Disco. No further details were available.

A new digital sign board, sponsored by a Korean company, is being constructed at the foot of Walking Street. It should light up soon announcing current and upcoming haps and maybe promoting company products and other advertising.


The fourth and newest edition of Pattaya by Night magazine is now on newsstands around town. It features 56 pages of glossy colour photos of ladies of the night who work in 10 of Fun Town's best dens. The cover features a dancer from Diamond A Gogo. Inside the magazine are photo shoots from a number of dance contests and parties, as well as a few posed shoots. Selling for 150 baht, it's worth a look.

Thailand might have a reputation for sex tourism but that does not mean that all tourists partake of it and everyone is out bonking every night. One of the issues I have with meeting people I have never met before is whether they are going to go on and on about their sexual exploits. It is hard to imagine anything more boring to talk about, but imagine if they had a loud, booming voice and you happened to meet them in a place you enjoy and are known to the staff with whom you have a decent reputation. I have had the odd bad experience meeting up with people in a bar who then went on to tell me about what little Lek did the previous night. It is also quite perturbing that guys go on and on and on about their sexual exploits in decent bars, restaurants, cafes and other public places. Please, if you are going to talk about the naughty side of life do it quietly and with discretion. Not everyone wants to know about the 2,000 baht starfish!

If you're stuck for somewhere to stay in Pattaya, consider the Pattaya Bay Resort. It's a new hotel under American ownership and it really is a little gem. 999 baht a night is the low season price which includes breakfast and free wireless internet – and a good solid connection throughout the hotel. Being a new hotel, everything works well and being farang run the attention to detail is that much better than an establishment under Thai ownership. Unless you're looking for somewhere upmarket, my feeling is that most would be very happy at Pattaya Bay Resort.

When you buy sticky rice you usually specify how much you want by price e.g. 5 baht of sticky rice or 10 baht of sticky rice. But you'll be out of luck if you go asking for 5 baht of sticky rice as most vendors now sell the quantity they used to sell at 5 baht for 10 baht. Price wise that is little difference, percentage wise it is astronomical.

And on the subject of food price increases, most of the lovely little restaurants in the Day Night Hotel neighbourhood in Pattaya that do the 3 course meal deals for 220 baht have hiked their prices on the back of increased food costs. At most of these spots you're now looking at 245 – which it has to be said still represents very good value indeed.

We often hear stories in Thailand that Beer Lao is incredibly cheap across the border and you can get a large bottle for 10 baht. Bollocks! If you were wondering, Beer Lao currently costs 8000 kip for a big bottle in Laos, or in real money, about 30 baht.

Have you noticed that the locals, so famous for their smiles and their willingness to allow strangers to take their photo, have become much less comfortable with foreigners pointing a camera at them. Wandering around the seaside city of sin one afternoon this week I found a much greater reluctance of the locals to be photographed, the image here is not the only one of its type I captured!

Schools reopen this week and the long holiday for many school teachers is over. Expect traffic to be much worse than it has been for the past couple of months.

Thais aren't known for performing well on the world stage. Many smaller countries can boast huge accomplishments by their populous. That fine country of New Zealand with a population of barely 4 million can for example boast of Sir Edmund Hillary, the first mountaineer to conquer Everest. And countries with a similar population to Thailand, such as France, the UK or Italy can boast of their nationals achieving hugely on the world stage. Unfortunately the Thais seem less interested in innovation or achievement and tend to do things "the Thai way". As a result, Thais are not well represented as high achievers or pioneers on the world stage. In fact when Thais do go on the world stage they often INSIST on doing things the Thai way, even if what they try to do or request makes others incredibly uncomfortable. A classic example is this story from The Nation which reports that Thaksin Shinawatra, the former Thai PM, and now owner of the Manchester City Football Club, is trying to get players to bow before him before each game. I'd love to have seen the reactions of some of the local Manchester boys at being told to bow, or God forbid, wai him! Later, the dictator, oops, I mean former Thai PM apologised.

Quote of the week comes from a reader. "Farangs are pressured by their Thai friends and Thai society to appear richer than they actually are."

This site allows you to download 10 free Thai lessons to your IPhone / IPod.

Interpol is looking for another pervert in South-East Asia.

Here's the newest blog in town, A Bad Good Girl In Bangkok.

There's talk of traditional Thai markets disappearing in the Wall Street Journal.

The term "ugly Americans" is rapidly being replaced by "ugly Aussies".

Ask Mrs. Stick

Question 1: I wonder if you can comment on jealousy in Thai women. My Thai wife sometimes worries I might have been unfaithful even though I never am and don't intend to be. An example was when I was half an hour late home from language class because I stopped off for a hamburger. She needed reassurance that I was eating alone. She always recovers and apologises after a day but that day finds me depressed as well as her. Is this normal Thai behaviour? What do you think I could do to help things along?

Mrs. Stick says: I know some Thai women are very jealous. When we get married we give everything to our husband and be the best wife we can be. We do more for him than we do ourselves. So if we think that he has been unfaithful to us it hurts us very much and we might get upset more easily than a farang woman. I think you know that Thai men expect their wife to be devoted to him and for everything to be done the way he likes. He expects her to be totally devoted to him but he might not be the same to her and it causes problems. Your wife might think that you are the same as some Thai men and it makes her feel very upset. In this situation I wonder if there was something else on your wife's mind. Maybe it was not just that you were late home, maybe there was something else that made her angry or upset and that situation made it worse? I know some Thai women are jealous and do crazy things but I think your wife is not like that. Many Thai women have been cheated in the past and this makes it hard to trust so we become jealous.

The opener for today's column did not turn out the way I had planned, but that said, I am happy with it. I had started out planning to write about the Thai smile but the beginning leant itself more to my personal experience studying the Thai language, a piece I had been meaning to write for quite some time. It really is funny how you start off with one plan in mind and then end up going down a completely different path. That is sort of like my life really. I had only planned to stay a year or two in Thailand yet I am still here a decade later. Anyway, I hope you enjoy the column. I really am enjoying putting it together these days.



Yours,

Stick Mark II