Stickman's Weekly Column July 6th, 2008

The Future Of Tourism In Pattaya


Bangkok bar owners put on a brave face but the truth is that a couple of years back they were concerned. Feedback from customers was that Pattaya offered more fun, more variety and cheaper prices. And with the new airport to reduce the journey to Sin City to less than an hour and a half, they knew there could be a shift towards Pattaya.

And that's exactly what happened. Punters went straight to Pattaya, many bypassing Bangkok all together and business in Bangkok's bar areas dropped accordingly. Needless to say, Pattaya bar owners were thrilled and Sin City's low season of 2006 was hardly what you could call "low". Weekends saw carload after carload of Bangkok expats making the 150 km pilgrimage to Pattaya, the City Of Bargirls.

So why oh why is Pattaya hurting now? Why are there so few customers around? Hotel occupancy rates are way down and bar takings are at rock bottom. Across the spectrum of business owners, everyone is asking just what is going on. The rot hit before the world fell into economic turmoil and many are nervous about what the future holds for Pattaya.

No-one can deny that Pattaya’s success story was built on the back of sex tourism. The problem is that the recently elected mayor feels Pattaya's reputation needs to be improved and is keen to see the implementation of changes that will see Pattaya become less known for its naughty offerings.

The authorities are making things increasingly difficult for bar owners and operators. There used to be a feeling that anything goes but now Pattaya bars are much more circumspect. Police raids are more common and bar owners say that there are more and more regulations they have to be aware of. The smallest breach and they could be closed for a month or face huge fines.

For the time being that is not the major issue, although it promises to be a thorn in the industry's side in the future. The issue that Pattaya faces is the same facing all of us, the worldwide turmoil on the back of the sub prime crisis and the soaring price of oil.

One Pattaya bar boss said to me that he felt these "hard times" will look like halcyon days 12 months hence as the true effect of hardened times in the western world is only just beginning to be felt and there will be so much less disposable income available, plus an increased reluctance to borrow as house prices continue to plummet, that tourist numbers are, in his opinion, healthy now compared to how they will be in a year's time – and that is very, very scary. That air fares will have pretty much doubled in a 2 year period is an added factor, but much less so than consumer confidence in the potential punter's home country.

He feels that the better places will survive and there might, finally, be a bit of culling. It's been mentioned for a few years but he is of the opinion that it will happen this time round. Only in a minor way in 2008 but next year, expect a serious reduction in venue numbers as the optimists who rush in to buy up failed / failing businesses finally get the message.

But why am I pinpointing Pattaya? Won’t this apply to Bangkok just as much? Actually, I don’t think it will. Bangkok bars, while down, still survive on the large local Western customer base as well as the fact that almost everyone who ventures to Thailand comes through Bangkok. If you’re going to Chiang Mai, you’ll probably have a couple of days in Bangkok. Likewise if you’re going to one of the islands down south. Bangkok has plenty of draws away from the naughty side of things. And I don’t know that Pattaya does.

There has also been something of a backlash against Pattaya by some in Bangkok, partially engineered by Bangkok bar bosses desperate to keep their clientele. Anyone who cares to listen will be told the most ridiculously exaggerated stories about the evils of the industry in Pattaya.

Two years ago many Bangkok-based Westerners enjoyed a weekend away in Pattaya but there has been an attitude shift as can be seen from this email I received from a Bangkok-based friend this week. You may or may not disagree with what he says, but I think what is relevant is that this guy who is polite, friendly and has no shortage of cash consistently has bad experiences in Pattaya.

Just back from my latest (and probably my last) trip to Sin City. It was dreadful! Got food poisoning again, the 3rd time in the past 5 trips! Cannot find a decent meal in Pattaya no matter how hard I try. At least my jeans are really loose today.

Pattaya has by far the rudest Thai people I have ever come across. I was pushed aside and cursed at least 5 times in 2 days. All outside the bars. The bars were pleasant and service excellent. A high percentage of the ladies sport tattoos but at least that saved me barfine money as there was not a single gal in 2 nights I would take for free, let alone pay for. Really a shame as the best I was treated was in the bars! How often can one say that?

Oh, I almost forgot. I was buying an umbrella at Watson’s inside Royal Garden Plaza and the middle class looking (by Pattaya standards) white skinned cashier looked at my 500 baht note and screamed at me – I want SMALL money!

It was absolutely dreadful. Now I understand why I can’t get any of my Bangkok friends to go down there with me.

It would be easy to say that Pattaya’s demise is due to increased prices and deteriorating attitudes from the girls. The problem is, I really don't think that's the case. Such comment may be valid in Bangkok but in Pattaya I personally have not noticed a great change. Prices have crept up, not leapt up like Bangkok, and while the girls may be a little less obliging than they once were, I don’t think the change has been that dramatic, has it?

There's also been a shift in the type of venues you see around, with Walking Street reminding me of Patpong in many ways. Patpong at night used to be a sex for sale area but now is a tourist attraction in itself, with restaurants, knock off goods shops and various non-naughty attractions. There are many venues where you can sit outside and watch the view. For Walking Street aficionados, does that sound familiar? When you think Pattaya neon signs, you think gogo bars, but this photo here shows that Pattaya is perhaps moving in a different direction.

And prices in Pattaya have moved. It's not so much that prices have moved that much – because I maintain that Pattaya still represents good value for money – it's that service levels and the general quality of what you get often feels like it has gone backwards. Very much a creature of habit, I used to stay at the same hotel when visiting Pattaya for years until I could take no more. The room rate is now 40% higher than what I was paying just three years ago, but the rooms are worn, the service is bad and the venue is a bit of a nightmare! You're lucky if you get fresh towels by late afternoon and often you find yourself calling room service come sunset to find that the chambermaids have gone home and you're made to feel like you're imposing on staff to bring them to you! It's these attitudes and this sort of mismanagement which is rife in many Thai-owned or Thai-run Pattaya based businesses that is causing real damage to the tourism industry. Fortunately Western owned and operated businesses tend to be much better and while Western business owners seem to be more prone to hiking prices, they do seem to maintain, if not improve, service standards.

Of course the biggest threat to Pattaya is the soaring oil prices, a threat that is hardly unique to Pattaya, but perhaps it is if they want it to become a family destination? You see, Pattaya wants to reposition itself and the slow but sure movement away from that of sex tourist destination to family beach holiday resort could be totally undone by the soaring oil prices. Why I hear you ask. There is a very real chance that the cost of flying a family half way around the world will become prohibitively expensive. Compare that with the sex tourist who only has to buy one air ticket. On top of that I think it is inevitable that in this increasingly crazy world that the idea of flying half way around the world for an annual holiday will become socially unacceptable from the ever maddening PC movement.

In its infinite wisdom, Pattaya seems to be targeting Russians, Indians and Chinese, all nationalities not known for their willingness to part with the folding stuff. As the economies of those sleeping economic giants develop and more make the step up into the middle class, a relatively short fight to Thailand – in the case of the Indians and Chinese – will be a popular holiday choice for many. Thailand is not a long-haul trip for them as it is for farangs. It's perhaps worth considering that in China and India the number of male offspring exceeds the number of females… That might have an interesting effect on the women.

While you would not say that targeting Russians has backfired, just how well does Pattaya do out of them? Watching the spending habits of the Russians in Pattaya suggests they have little discretionary spending money and any airfare increase may seriously hurt the Russian market. Yes, there are some seriously rich Russians but I don't think Pattaya is number one on their list of places to visit.

Pattaya faces many, many challenges and business owners are rightfully concerned, especially as most of what is going on it is totally out of their hands. I really think Pattaya is going to have it rough for at least the next two years…



Where was this picture taken?


Last week's picture was taken of the Golden Beer bar, the beer bar outside the Nana Hotel. Come on, don't tell me you don't know it! 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. The second person to get it right wins a free jug of margarita, valued at 840 baht from Charley Brown's, a popular Tex-Mex restaurant, offering authentic cuisine and delicious margaritas. Charley Brown's is located in the small sub-soi off Sukhumvit Soi 11.

Terms and conditions: The Oh My Cod prize MUST be claimed within 14 days. The Charley Brown's prize MUST be claimed within 7 days. Prizes are not transferable. Prize winners cannot claim more than one prize per month.

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 This is Singapore!

In the basement of Paragon on Orchard Road is a branch of “Thai Express”, which does adequate Thai food. I am sure you will be as amused and bemused as I was by a seafood salad on the menu which is described as a favourite of the Chang Mai fishermen. My sense of geography is a bit ropey at the best of times, but I seem to recall Chang Mai as being a good couple of hundred miles from the sea. Perhaps there’s a lake or something? The other amusing thing about the menu is that it quotes a poem written by one of the former Thai kings, extolling the wonders of the massaman curry. Guess which is the only type of curry NOT on the menu? Correct, the massaman curry. Doh! “This Is Singapore” – TIS.

Thailand is not so bad after all.

Another trip back to the UK, and another glimpse at why so many prefer to be in LOS. In one news item, people in a London borough are being taken to court for putting a For Sale sign in their car window, as they do not have a license for street trading. And in an overkill in protecting children and vulnerable adults, over 11 million people who have any contact with them in sports and youth clubs etc are to be treated as potential criminals and vetted before being able to work. Such is the sensitivity (over-reaction) that one woman could not kiss her daughter goodbye on a school trip because she had not been vetted, and a mother was told by another parent that she and her husband were checked when their children played together. Another mother was barred from a school disco because she hadn’t been certified safe, and a father received the cold shoulder when he took his daughter swimming.

The naughty boys are doing it already.

Interesting timing re: your article this week. I am back in the States and on EBay I purchased a Flip Mino video recording machine for a little over $100. The image quality is remarkable. The machine is narrower and thinner than a pack of cigarettes. The ease of operation is remarkable and uploading to the web is a cinch. There is a gal back in Thailand who is not bashful about doing things for me on a webcam. I know there is software that handles that area too but for fun I used my new mini video to "video the web cam video" if you will. The image quality was astounding. Once again reaffirming that one should never do anything on a web cam that they wouldn't want the world to see. Of course this will only be used for my repeat viewing pleasure but still, it makes one think. And I have to admit the thought of carrying this little device into the likes of say Magic Table or worse yet at Lolita's to make "Cream" a star makes one smile with the possibilities. My point being, if a straight arrow like me is "thinking" about it, there will surely be some naughtier boys out there that will actually do it. As you say, a story that has not yet culminated. Keep us posted.


The best Thai dating experience

This happens way too often to be considered "normal".

Have a friend who's been in Thailand for about 5 years. He's a good-looking 39 year old American guy who runs his own IT business, recently married a gorgeous girl he met at a member club, was saving money to buy a home, keeps himself in shape, is an avid jogger. Or more properly I HAD a friend. About 2 weeks ago he fell from the 31st floor of the Grand Diamond condo in Pratunam. Doesn't exactly sound like the profile of someone who'd want to take the leap. That's what all of his friends thought as well. Saw him 3 weeks ago, nothing seemed amiss. It has to be 1 of 3 options – accident, suicide or something sinister. There were rumours of his involvement with drugs but committing suicide? We find it hard to believe. Accident? Doubtful. Did he piss off the wrong people? Was it really "another farang suicide"? Unfortunately we'll never know the truth. He was cremated 2 days later. However I'm sure the Thai police launched a thorough investigation. NOT! R.I.P.

What is culture?

I recently listened to a speech by the CEO of a company I work at and he expressed the importance of the company culture on both the well-being and productivity of the company. Culture is comprised of 3 things he noted:
1. Values.
2. Belief in those values.
3. Behaviour as a result of the above two.
How does this relate to Thailand and the political and social mess they seem to be perpetually in? Foreigners are often heard to say how much they love Thai culture, but which values specifically do they hold so dear to their hearts? I don't think it is Buddhist values, or at least not in the animistic and superstitious way it's practiced in Thailand. What exactly are the Thai values comprising Thai culture?

The burnt out season.

Down here in Phuket they are now referring to the low season as the green season, if this is the case then I feel they will be referring to the upcoming high season as the burnt out season. Just sitting down on the back of an envelope with my trusty mouse, Thai International are quoting a UK economy fare from London to Phuket for the weekend prior to Christmas for 106,000 baht – £1,607! Okay for sure the die-hards may still cough up this kind of figure, but what about families with children, and the way the UK economy is currently headed it might not be so much if you still have your own job when you get back, but more of a case will the company still be solvent. This oil crisis could well end up being a financial tsunami across the whole of the Thai tourist industry. Exotic Asia could well revert back to the exclusive domain of the honeymooners. To get back to the domestic front, my haircut in down town Chalong the last three years has risen from 40 to 70 baht. No problem I hear farangs shouting – hey that's still only a quid. But what about the locals – that's over a 70% increase, an inflation rate of 23% per annum!

If you happened to be in Soi Cowboy on Saturday night last week, not last night, you would have noticed that the bars were open until very late and you might have been led into thinking that current opening hours run through until well after 3 AM. Nope, that's not the case – it was merely a one off. At 5AM on Sunday morning of last week there was an anti-drugs walk from Sukhumvit to Lumpini which many of the bar staff joined in. What colour is the kettle?!

And as if the bars didn't need any more problems, customers trying to make it to Cowboy on Friday night discovered that the Soi 23 end was flooded, forcing them wade through 6 inches of water to make it to entertainment central. Some removed their shoes and waded through the filth, much to the surprise and even the horror of some of the girls while others took the long way around to enter at the other end. A few decided it was all too hard and jumped in a taxi to venture elsewhere.

It's hard to be everywhere and I missed a big piece of gossip from last week. A certain bar manager got into a fight with a ladyboy in front of the McDonalds / Robinsons near Asoke BTS. Shoes were flying and blood was flowing in a dramatic scene that is said to have lasted for almost 10 minutes. How can anyone stick around for 10 minutes of fighting? The morning crew at McDonald's were treated to quite a spectacle as it just kept going and going and going!

Cathouse in Nana Plaza received a 50,000 baht fine for not having a public music license on Saturday evening. Nana Plaza was checked on Friday, July 4th by officials and the police. Happy Independence Day from the boys in brown!

There has been very little progress to the old Big Mango site. It still looks like a building in Iraq! There is a very noticeable drop in trade in most of the bars in Nana Plaza.

The Pattaya disease has hit Bangkok. One Soi Cowboy gogo bar had a grand total of 5 customers on Thursday. That's not 5 customers at 9 PM nor 5 customers at midnight. That's five customers, meaning just five checkbins for the entire night!

The bars in what is sometimes referred to as the No Name Group (Apache (formerly known as Coyotes), Sheba's and Suzie Wong's) have inflated their happy hour price for the second time in less than two months. That said, 70 baht for a drink at happy hour is not going to break the bank.

Quiet Bangkok and Pattaya bar areas have very much been a news fixture in this column over the past several weeks and I can confirm that that now extends down to Phuket where the word is that things are very quiet at Patong, Phuket's bar scene central. The one notable exception is that Soi Katoey is apparently doing a roaring trade! It should also be noted that some readers have said they feel that drinking in Phuket feels as though it is cheaper than Bangkok. Standard drinks are often priced under 100 baht, but then you notice the prices for lady drinks can run 180 baht in some bars – resulting in a bit of a surprise come checkbin time!

Cowboy's face lift continues. Dollhouse has added a new marquee over their door to advertise drink prices and more. The new Coyote sign looks to be an impressive 3D sign when it is finally done. Slowly each bar is playing keep up with the Smiths making Soi Cowboy more and more appealing to the eye.

Is the for sale sign in Angelwitch's toilet getting bigger? It used to be A4 but now seems to be A3. What can we read into that?

The reports of identical twins hugging a chrome pole in Catz A Gogo in Pattaya are indeed true? Well, if you want to find out you'll just have to go and check it out for yourself! Management recently changed their numbers so that they actually dance side by side when its their turn making them easier to spot now. And word has it that they do go together, although I reckon that would be enough for any taker to end up with an appointment with the devil!

Has the owner of a certain gogo bar in Cowboy done a deal with the local barber where he gets a commission for each referral? The girls have been told that each and every one of them must make an appointment with the barber for a trim. Failure to do so and they can't dance any more. I don't know about this. It sort of sounds like the management being a bit of a bully…and there is little worse than bullies. To be sure, quite a few of the girls were not happy about it at all.

As the Brunswick pool tables from the Times Square Ball In Hand will be relocated to Soi 4, the existing Sovereign tables currently in use at Soi 4 will go up for sale with the mooted price to be around the 60,000 baht mark for the six footers and 75,000 for the 8 footers – and that includes balls & cues. Word from those who have seen it is that the fire and water damage at the Ball In Hand branch at Times Square was very nasty indeed.

News of yet another tragedy, although this time not fatal, has reached me of a former dancer from a Soi Diamond bar with a name reminiscent of a symbol of Holland. The poor lass was said to be a very heavy drinker of, you got it, Tequila and other hard stuff, which damaged her stomach so badly that she had to have surgery to remove part of it. Apparently she is still in the land of the living but is said to be just a shell of her former self and latest reports have it that she is now a service girl in a gogo bar.

There's always talk of whether the gogo girls these days are more or less attractive than they were in the past. The general consensus is that there are more and more girls around these days and that it is not just the prettiest girls who end up in the bars so they are not as attractive as they used to be. I used to think that and it may or may not be true…but one thing I will say is that the girls these days are definitely bigger than in the past. I was looking through some archives online of gogo girls from years past – 10 years ago or more, and comparing them with girls recent photos. Dancers today are definitely bigger – read taller and most notably, definitely carrying a few more pounds. Ah, the wonders of a KFC diet!

It seems that the average girl cringes at the thought of 20 – 25,000 baht a month, the previous standard for sponsorship. If emails to Stickman HQ are any guide, the average punter now sends a whopping 40,000 baht a month to keep his girl on the straight and narrow – and even then there are no guarantees. Has the cost of accommodation locally gone up? No! Has food in the street gone up? A little. Have beauty salon and clothes prices gone up? No! All the things the girls spend money on have barely moved but…

Like many readers, I used to feel that Bangkok was safe, but the longer I live here, the more I realise that that is not the case at all. This car was chased down Soi 7 (against the one way traffic) by an irate motorcycle driver late one night recently. The driver obviously was unaware there was sewer construction on the soi and ran his two left side tires into a ditch and could not move. The motorcyclist used a piece of wood (partially seen in front of the tyre) to bash in the front, side and rear windows then put some severe dents into the body of the car as seen in the photo. The driver didn't leave his car until long after the rider had left. Who knows what led to this incident but it does demonstrate that things can get out of hand very quickly and Bangkok is NOT as safe as you may think. This is only about 100 metres from the Biergarten.

Speaking of that dodgy soi 7, what happened to the Winking Frog pub which is no longer? Well, it is no longer in name at least with a new venue in the same spot called Christopher's Bar. The appearance at the front is enough to put anyone off with soi 7 really in a dreadful mess with the ditch excavations up and down the soi taking an eternity to be completed.

Add another fraction of a percentage point to local inflation figures with reports in the press that taxi fares would finally rise this past week. It might be a short period before all cabs get their meters converted over so for the next week or so it will be a lottery as to whether you pay the new or the old tariff. One driver told me that while he had the old rates in the meter, I would have to pay the new ones and after a 55 baht fare he asked for 100. He got 60 baht and a smile!

If you're a foodie looking to treat yourself, you might like to know that Le Normandie in the Oriental Hotel is running a low season special with a set lunch at 1,000 baht per person. That's 1,000 baht all up with no ++! And to make it even more appealing, take along a bottle of your favourite wine and you won't be charged for corkage! This is a weekday special running until the end of September. I have yet to try it myself, but intend to treat myself soon.

I overhead an hilarious conversation recently in McDonalds. A Western customer tried to order a Big Mac without the pickles. Somchai looked him in the eye and asked him to repeat the order. When Somchai understood what the request was, he scratched his head, turned around, paused for a second, looked back at the customer and said that classic Tinglish phrase "No have!" So much for McDonalds being able to produce burgers to order!

Have you spotted these big new mangos? No, not the bar, the fruit! I really don't know how else to describe them except to say that they are LARGE. One must weigh MORE than a kilogram. The curious thing is that I have only seen then for sale in one spot, in Sukhumvit soi 3/1 of all places. You can see them pictured here. The perspective of the photo perhaps does not show them to be that big, believe me, they are huge. The vendor insisted that they are ultra sweet tasting and much better than the conventional varieties – but then she would say that, wouldn't she? Given that it was early in the night and I had plenty of hot spots to visit I did not grab one – and did not think it would be a problem finding them elsewhere, when in fact that has not been the case. This is not some sort of joke or trick photography – these mangoes really were massive! 150 baht / kg they will set you back.

When the topic turns to Internet connections in Thailand, few positive things are said. Well, I don't know why, but for sure, the Internet connection I use has been a lot faster for the past couple of weeks. I have done tests at various times throughout the day and can confirm that I am actually getting the very speeds I am supposed to get. That might not sound like anything special to international readers but to net users in Thailand, you'll probably agree that this is just about the holy grail!

Just as New Zealanders were getting used to direct flights between the Shaky Isles and the Land Of Smiles, soaring oil prices and the corresponding downturn in long haul travel means that the direct flights will almost certainly be a thing of the past within 6 months and Kiwis will be back to travelling through Australia, Singapore or making some other stop in between. A bit like the Bangkok to New York direct flight which didn't last long. Can you remember when Thai launched that route to much fanfare? High profile ads and billboards heralded it. You could have been mistaken for thinking they were first to offer regular flights to the moon!

The Dirty Doctor remains on the case and encountered the same fake monk plus another in the heart of Soi Cowboy in what really should be a monk never, never land. The doctor wanted to once again hang with his new friends but the fake monks would not have a part of it. They left in a huge hurry just short of a trot with the doctor in hot pursuit. They saffron-robed fraudsters crossed the busy Asoke intersection and hoped to shake the doctor with gestures of physical violence towards the doctor mid crossing. They also made a near suicide run across the oncoming Sukhumvit traffic heading for the south west corner of the intersection, the doctor and his not inconsiderable girth still in hot pursuit. Once again they summoned whatever public transportation they could find to escape the doctor. A tuktuk completely dissed them as they were recognised as fakes and they finally managed to flag down a cab. They tried to push the doctor out of the cab but he simply had too much horsepower. They finally got into the cab and the doctor told the driver they were fake and to do what he wanted with them. The fake monks sped off in the direction of Nana. The doctor confesses that he is rather enjoying this.

Quote of the week is quite incredible and comes from a Westerner who was one of the instructors on one of these Thai government run training courses for teachers. Speaking to teachers from one of the more prestigious Bangkok high schools, he came out with, "If there was a country where it was legal to have sex with 14 year old girls then 50% of the teachers in this room would move there!" Needless to say, the atmosphere became icy after that!

Thailand's reputation as a hub for scams and scammers just grew that little bit stronger with this report from Australia's ABC which shows that the scammer is Thailand-based.

Will this, that is happening in Chinese entertainment venues, happen in Thailand?

The poor Norwegians are contracting STDs in Thailand. Who didn't wear a party hat?

Is watermelon a natural Viagra? Only 10 baht a portion in Thailand…

Oh dear, another Western pervert is arrested in Thailand.



Ask Mrs. Stick

Mrs. Stick is happy to answer any questions regarding inter-racial relationships as well as cultural peculiarities that may be confusing or baffling you.

Question 1: In some beer bars there are children's toys on the Buddha shelf. Why? I witnessed a rather disturbing sight last week. A father brought his little boy into the bar (not a good idea). The little boy spotted the toys and his father (stupidly) handed one down to his son. As expected the girls went crazy and immediately made him put it back, much to the distress of the little boy! I can see the girls' point of view but the father (farang obviously) just could not get his head around it. Any comments?

Mrs. Stick says: I think this guy is ignorant. When we go to a church or place of religious worship that we are not familiar with we watch what other people do so we know what is acceptable and what is not. I think he never saw anyone do that so why did he do it? He should know that Thailand is a Buddhist country and he should respect that. Why did he bring his son into a bar? I don't understand this guy's behaviour.

Question 2: Why are the Thai auto drivers so bad? Example, why do the Thai auto drivers need two (or more) lanes to turn a corner? Why do the taxi drivers have to drive in two lanes (half the taxi in each lane)? Why do the bus drivers have to pull out into the middle lane when they should stay in the left “bus lane” as they will have another bus stop in 100 metres or so anyways? Why do the drivers force their way into, for example, in to the left lane only to have to force their way back to the middle lane as there are usually cars parked so they can not drive in the left lane? Do Thai drivers ever think ahead? like there are cars parked 50 metres ahead of me, so I should not try to drive in the left lane? It seems that the Thai drivers leave their brain at home when they get in to their auto! I am driving a motor scooter so I see this behaviour up close and personal! Police will be standing there and do nothing (a topic for another time).

Mrs. Stick says: I don't agree 100%. I visited many countries and I think Thai drivers don't always have good habits but some things are good. When someone driving in your country sees something unusual or abnormal they panic and do not know what to do. Thai drivers don't panic. We are used to seeing different driving variety and we do not panic like Westerners. I think Thai drivers are different to Western drivers. You know Westerners drive in Thailand just the same and many are drunk too so Mr. Stick told me. We do not follow road rules the same as Western drivers and some people drive very fast, but it does not mean that we are all bad drivers.

Question 3: This time last year my Thai girlfriend was going through problems. She was told the problem was her name so she went and changed her name in the hope that things would get better. I saw the writing on the wall and called things off. I don't want a freak who is into this spiritual bullshit as my girlfriend. Now a year later, my current girlfriend is having problems and guess what, she says that the problem is her name and she is going to change it. Is this normal? I find it hard to believe this nonsense. Is this common in Thailand?

Mrs. Stick says: I think you know that we like to go to see monks or fortune tellers for guidance about our future. We give our name, date of birth and some other details. If we are having bad luck they might recommend that we change our name. This is common. Usually the first name is changed to one with a positive meaning but sometimes the surname is changed too. Actually, I know some Chinese Thai families and everyone changed their name, first and last names. This is not unusual in Thailand.

I was brain dead one night this week so plopped down on the sofa and started channel surfing the crap on True Visions. I eventually ended up watching some dreadfully awful show about "first class travel", whatever that is. It featured some supposedly top end travel consultant who did not just book hotels, air tickets etc, but actually accompanied the clients on their trip and assisted them while abroad. They had arranged this holiday to Italy for some hot shot Hollywood star who apparently was voted one of the world's most desirable bachelors. He was a young, good looking guy and as a star of some show I had ever heard of, he must have been earning serious coin. But why did he have a girlfriend who was such a BITCH! All she did was complain, complain, complain. Here he was, taking her on the holiday of a lifetime to Italy, staying in flash accommodation and eating at the best ristorante. All she seemingly did was complain that he did not give her enough attention. She seemed to be a bit of a nobody and as best as this viewer could work out, she was not a Hollywood star, merely a young hotty. All I can say is that if this is indicative of how things are in the West, I understand why so many guys continue to make the pilgrimage to Thailand. This wench was a bitch of the highest order. I would have kicked her ass out of the hotel after the first night. And that's what a Hollywood star gets? What about the rest of us? I can't imagine what the leftovers are like!



Your Bangkok commentator,
Nightmare column. Lost it all in a hard drive crash! 6/10 only.
Stick