Stickman's Weekly Column August 17th, 2008

A Dirty Industry


The bar had been doing a good trade notwithstanding the early hour, but it was all about to change.

No-one noticed the mamasan tap a girl on the shoulder and whisper something to her. With a completely expressionless face the girl nodded and scurried out the back. Just a few minutes later she was seen exiting the bar. She would not return until the following evening.

While the young girl was out the back changing into her street wear, the mamasan made an announcement over the microphone. More than a quarter of the dance staff hurriedly made their way out to the changing room, older girls giggling, younger ones looking a little concerned. Over the next few minutes they filed out of the bar, a night off their reward.

A final announcement was made over the microphone. A number of girls jumped from the stage and others leapt from customers' laps without even so much as a single word. They dashed out of the bar into the changing room like a pack of stampeding buffaloes. Not one girl in this group was smiling. Nor laughing. Some looked very concerned, others downright worried. In record time these girls were out of the bar and getting as far away from Walking Street as possible.

The girl tapped on the shoulder was aged under 18. She was the one girl the mamasan knew was underage.

The next group of girls comprised members of staff who had not brought an ID card to work, were using an ID card that belonged to someone else or were in possession of a fake ID card and were in fact underage.

The final group of girls who left the bar in such a hurry were those who had used drugs recently.

If you can't speak Thai, you wouldn't have known what was going on but you couldn't have missed the panic on many girls' faces.

The phone call came like it always does, the warning call for which the bar pays handsomely.

The boys in brown were doing the rounds and this time they were serious. ID checks, urine checks, licence checks and even work permit checks for foreign staff. Out of town police. The big boys. Tea money wouldn't help.

This week I was told that I was intolerant. I was told that this column used to be much more in favour of the naughty nightlife (read: prostitution) industry than it is now. I was told there is an underlying tone of negativity concerning the industry.

Being told I that am intolerant bothered me somewhat, especially given that it came from someone who has been around longer than me, someone who really should know better. This comment alone made me decide to write openly about why I have a general feeling of negativity towards the bar industry with particular emphasis on Western owned and managed bars…

Some months ago I was sitting in Angelwitch with a bunch of mates on a busy Friday night. There were 6 or 7 of us and we took up two of the bench seats, one row in front of the other. I happened to be in the front row and to chat with my pals behind me I had to turn around so my back was to the stage. Frankly I was more interested in chatting with friends than watching the show. Manager Dave spent much time with us, chatting away cheerfully as he always does, making sure that everything was ok. Owner Matt was over, asking about the column and telling us about how business was. At one point one of the group said to me “Mate, it must be great being Stickman. You get to meet and know all of the bar owners and managers. Everyone wants to be mates with the bar owners!”

He was serious. He meant it. I then gave him the lecture that I have given a few friends over the years about the bar industry, the people who work in the industry and more to the point, Western bar owners and managers.

I have little desire to be friendly with most Western bar managers and owners. There is a conflict of interest given that I write this column, but that is of little concern. The truth is that many I simply do not like, or do not admire. Too many are involved in all sorts of shoddy or downright dodgy practices. Sure, I have a number of friends in the industry and some people I really do like. You know their names if you read this column recently – Ricky, Larry, Dave etc. But many I do not know, nor do I want to know. Believe me when I say that this is a dirty industry.

My first run in with bar management came at Clinton Plaza, way back in 2001. I remember it clearly. It was a Thursday night and the Western manager came over with an awfully stern look on his face – it's not often you see this fellow without a smile – and told me that the manager wanted to see me. I was called into the office where the manager was none too happy. In the previous week’s column I had made a mockery of the sign in the bar which stated that all of the girls were clear of STDs. A friend of mine (YES, it really was a friend, don’t go getting any ideas!), had contracted an STD from one of the girls in the bar. I included that in the column and poked fun at the bar. Now in retrospect this was not the most prudent thing to do and frankly, I would not write anything like that today. The bar owner was livid! He ranted about the damage it had done to the bar and the emails he had received from people who would boycott his bar. I pointed out that the sign was complete bollocks and the claims the bar made about girls being tested for STDs were lies. We were able to resolve the issue quickly and him and I have been on very good terms ever since. It was perhaps the first sign for a rather young and naive Stick that the bar scene was not all smiles…

Now a girl working in the industry catching an STD is hardly unexpected and in fairness to the bar they compelled her to get treatment immediately and she was not allowed to work until a medical certificate was presented that she was clear. Full marks to the bar for handling the situation once they became aware of it….but not all bars are like that.

It was not long after the Clinton Plaza incident when I was to learn that a certain farang owned and managed bar had six girls dancing they knew to be HIV positive. SIX! The foreign owner and manager, two different guys, did nothing, absolutely nothing. The girls continued to work. Given that various online polls over the years on the naughty boy forums show that the majority of punters have at one time partied without a party hat – and the bar bosses know this – is very real reason for concern. The owner of that bar is still very much a player in the industry today.

My pet hate is the underage thing. If a bloke does the dirty with a girl who is not of legal age then he deserves all he gets. There is this crazy misperception that a girl employed in a bar must be of legal age. This clearly is not the case although crooked bar owners like punters to believe that. It's one reason I keep hammering the message about underage in the column.

One crazy story concerning underage girls that comes to mind is that of a certain Nana bar owner who used to also get the phone call. With the boys in brown only minutes away, all of the underage girls from his bars would be ushered into a room in a nearby short time hotel. They would wait patiently, sometimes for a couple of hours or more, before going back to the bars to resume dancing. This was a Western bar owner, NOT a Thai.

There's this perception that the Western bar owners and managers operate to a higher standard than the Thais. There may be an element of truth in it insomuch that Western bars do get raided more often and are not as well connected. Quite simply they have to be more careful.

But the truth is that Westerners have little control in the bar environment – even if they are the owner or the manager of the bar! The best owners know that the secret to running a successful bar, at least in terms of happy staff, is to have a mamasan who is on top of her game. Western bar managers are not there to tell the staff what to do. The average Westerner managing a gogo bar in Thailand earns 50,000 – 60,000 baht a month. Many of the girls earn twice that, perhaps more – and they simply will not tolerate a Westerner telling them what to do. The role of a Western bar manager is simply to meet and greet customers and to make sure they are happy. He is also there to keep a general eye on things and to tally up the take at the end of the night. In terms of managing the Thais, your average Western bar manager is very much hands off….but then there are some bar bosses who are hands on.

Another of my pet hates is the way that some bar managers – and in fairness, this is a minority – insist on the armchair audition. At least one bar boss is famous for this. Any girl who comes through the door seeking employment must take the audition – and many are then turned down based on a "poor audition". They are not compensated for their efforts, of course.

Most of us know that fishing off the company wharf is one of the dumbest things you can do, but that doesn't stop many Western bar bosses. Of course it's pure conjecture about just how he contracted it, but who can forget the young, handsome Australian bar boss who couldn't help but avail himself of the beauties in the large Nana bar he managed. Never a fan of partying with a party hat, it should be no surprise that he contracted HIV.

I don't want this to sound like a bitter rant because there are plenty bar owners I like. I was a big fan of Boss Hogg for the simple fact that he was straight and his word was worth something. He was a straight talker and conducted business in Thailand just as he would in the West. Many just could not handle that. Maybe they were intimidated by his physical presence or his booming voice? He was a hard-working businessman who detested excuses and sloppiness, both of which are so prevalent in these parts. It is hard not to respect someone who wants to raise standards.

Another bar boss who I respected very much and whose company I very much enjoyed was Marc from the Eden Club. Marc ran his business to high standards and was really excellent with both Thai staff and customers alike. He achieved the holy grail – happy customers, happy staff AND a profitable business.

Boss Hogg was in fact one of a small minority of bar bosses who were successful businessmen in the West. Many running bars were nobodies back home. There's nothing wrong with that of course, but some strut around like their shit doesn’t stink making all sorts of bogus claims that they were “the man” in Farangland. Many were in fact high-profile crooks. Disbarred lawyers, swindlers with arrest warrants in their own country, armed bank robbers and even one convicted murderer are amongst the ranks of Westerners in business in Thailand.

When I look at the bars I like, the few bars I can be found in regularly, Catz and Secrets in Pattaya and Big Mango in Bangkok, in addition to a select handful of others, the reason is simple. All three are fun, relaxing bars run by guys who were successful in the West. Real businessmen.

So for those who think I am intolerant, I would ask you to think again. The bar scene in Thailand can be a lot of fun but once you get to know it, to really know it, and to know what is really going on behind the scenes, it is hard to always be positive about it. There's a lot to like about it. But there's also a lot that's hard to stomach.

Where was this picture taken?


Last week's picture was taken from the walkway above the intersection near Central World Plaza. 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. For the Love Entrepreneurs prize, you must be able to provide a postal address in Thailand. Prizes are not transferable. Prize winners cannot claim more than one prize per month.

FROM STICK'S INBOX (These are emails from readers and what is written here was not written by Stick.) Preference may be given to emails which refer to the previous week's column.

EMAIL OF THE WEEK – The Suwanabhumi taxi farce.

What on earth are they doing at Suwanabhumi Airport now? I am talking about the taxi situation, of course. I have never seen anything like it in all my born days. You would think it a simple matter to organise a taxi rank at an international airport but Suwanabhumi has turned it into an art form. There are taxi touts absolutely everywhere but try to find the proper metered taxi rank. Here’s a clue, it’s on level two but you can only get to it if you have just got off a plane and don’t make any detours. If you go up to level three or four or down to level one you are prevented from regaining access to level two by guards blocking the escalators. The lifts do not stop on level two either. You can get there by taking a convoluted route through the short term car park but what a chew-on. I used that old trick of catching a taxi dropping people off at the departure level but there is a half-arsed attempt to stop you from doing this too. It really is a joke.

The joys of renewing a Thai drivers licence and driving without a licence.

Last week you wrote about the farce of renewing your driving license and trying to get a five year one. Well, I always say Stickman is on the ball. Sunday was the day my old Thai license ran out and needed renewing. So on Monday I went to Paholyothin Road and they gave me a list of stuff I needed for renewing my license – including a letter from my embassy confirming my address. I went to the embassy and paid 2,380 baht for the letter – which is basically a two-line confirmation of what I told them with no evidence needed. I just gave them an address and they accepted it and charged me 2 grand for it! Of course it took two days to write and on the second day I was stopped on a 'random' check and of course, my license was out of date. I paid the guy 500 baht (with a ticket) and then he wanted an EXTRA 500 baht because I have 'too many lights' on my bike. I have a customised Fino with four lights on the front. I pointed out that they weren't switched on but he insisted that having an electric wire was sufficient proof that I sometimes turned them on. I spent half an hour arguing with him and finally left without paying, but I was fuming by that time. I got my license the next day and I was telling the clerk how much the embassy letter cost and she said that the Immigration department can write an equivalent letter for much less and it would be accepted. So advice for readers, rather than paying the rip-off prices of the UK embassy, go to Immigration and get a cheaper version of the same thing.

The fake monks are region-wide.

I am in Kuala Lumpur this week, and early this morning around the KLCC area, I witnessed a phalanx of 10 – 12 shaven-head, robe-wearing scammers hitting up tourists for cash. The fake monks have spread! Their routine is slightly different here – they patter for a while (rather than going straight for the smile and the alms bowl) and offer to give you a "lucky" gold disc in exchange for a donation of (what I think was) 500 ringgit (5,000 baht!), which is a ludicrous amount of money. This afternoon I read an article in the Malaysian "Expatriate Lifestyle" magazine complaining about the exact same fake-monk scam I had just witnessed! I wonder how long it will be until the word is spread enough to force these leaches to find a new scam to work on?


The best Thai dating experience

The bars are cyclical.

Dropped into Patpong after work today – I probably go a couple of times a week as it's near the office – and I can confirm it was as dead as a doornail tonight. But these things go in cycles. Once the trade really drops away, then you will see a drift away of the pirate taxi drivers, the objectionable pamphlet flashers, the fake monks, the aggressive bar shepherds etc and the place will become far more pleasant and trade will return. Like your compatriot Rachel Hunter said – it won't happen overnight, but it will happen.

Pattaya going down-market?

Pattaya is attracting a lot fewer tourists (30%) and the quality is getting even lower if that is possible. One day as I sat in a beach chair an elderly farang decided to relieve his bladder in the sea. He did not walk waist deep into the water, but simply walked to the edge and pulled out his equipment. His feet didn't get wet, unless it was with urine. I observed a much younger fellow on Soi Diana Inn searching the coin return slots on the telephones in front of 7 Eleven. This is an activity practiced by the homeless here in the U.S. How desperate must someone be that they have to resort to this type of activity in order to get by? I consider myself to be somewhat of a Cheap Charlie, but there are tourists now that make me look like a spend thrift.

The fun of TLL.

I am a 73 year old going on another trip to Thailand and looking for companion in a couple of towns. I have in 2 weeks, since joining TLL, had over 100 expressions of interest from all over Thailand. Within 4 days I was being exhausted in bed by a lady visiting her sister in Perth! I am helping her find a husband and we are keeping each other happy until she finds one. After a chat or exchange of messages I send a note that explains with a few blunt Thai words, what I want. It saves confusion as several have told me to ไปยัด but others continue and look forward to my visit!

Bargirls' games and scams dissuade a visitor from coming to Thailand.

I myself have never been to Thailand or even outside of the US. I have to say that after I started reading your website I was dying to go there but after reading the submissions for a couple of years now I too am sick of the bargirls' games and I've never even met one! Haha, now that's got to be a first!

It's still 1 AM closing in Nana while Cowboy and Patpong are 2 AM, Pattaya is 3 AM (or later) and for much of the rest of Southeast Asia it is whenever the bar boss feels it's time to head home to sleep!

Hardly unexpected, a number of Cowboy bars are looking the other way when customers light up. But this is pissing off another group of customers, those who choose to drink in that bar area primarily because, until recently at least, it had been the one area where the no smoking regulations were enforced as per the letter of the law.

Dollhouse in Cowboy has added a late night happy hour from 1:00 AM until closing with 90 baht beer.

When the renovations to Black & White are complete, the bar will be renamed "Kiss". From the looks of things the renovations will most likely be done before the end of the month.

Some of the girls in Tilac are saying bugger it to the fine of 100 baht to wear something under their miniskirt and are paying the fine voluntarily to preserve a little of their dignity.

Soi 7's Biergarten appears to have enforced a new policy where the girls are now required to buy a drink if they wish to sit down. If they stand up they don't need to buy a drink. The head waiter near the door has been giving explanation after explanation to girls who were new or hadn't hung out in the Biergarten for a while. It may be a ploy to increase cashflow because the action there is pretty dismal these days.

The Party Addicts official summer party will be held at Baby Dolls tonight, Sunday 17th. Festivities start around 8 PM with fun, food and frolics promised. There'll be a bunch of interesting party games but have no fear, Ricky's clothes will stay on.

Lam Morrison has returned to Pattaya's Blues Factory and this Wednesday (the 20th) is Lam's 65th birthday party so there will be a party for him in the bar, a buffet laid on and live music with The Rock Machine from 10 PM.

A major raid took place in Pattaya on Thursday with the authorities checking everything that could be checked! Rumour has it that as a result of the raid a couple of bars will face closure orders.

It seems that the low roof in Tilac has caused problems when girls had raised their hands above their heads while dancing and accidentally touch the lights giving them a bit of a buzz! Management has put covers around the lights.

Remember Pam from Pam's Bar? Despite selling out some time ago she can still be found in Cowboy on almost a daily basis, early through to mid afternoon, selling her curries and other delights from a cart. Not much has changed – she is still a well-rounded lady and still complains that she never has any money, this despite apparently selling her small hole in the wall on Cowboy to the folks who run Baccarra for a few million. And if you thought the barman at the small side bar inside Tilac looked familiar, you'd be right. He's one of Pam's sons. Speaking of which, whatever happened to Harold, Pam's huge son, who was often called by other bars to help when there was a problem.

Did you know that the bars of the No Name group, such as Sheba's, Wong's, Apache etc. offer Kilkenny by the pint and half pint? Yes, it *is* available. The dek serve (service staff) from these gogo bars will traipse down the soi and collect your pint of Ireland's best from the Old Dutch which has it on tap and bring it back for you, all part of the service.

Construction of the No Name group's new British pub a little further up soi 23 from Cowboy is coming along nicely and cannot be that far away from opening its doors.

Music can be heard in virtually all of the bars in Queen's Park Plaza. What was reported in last week's column about bars filled with bored girls watching Thai soaps would seem to be confined to only one bar. For the rest of the complex it is very much business as usual.

There has been much consternation recently in many forums and I have received no shortage of emails from readers on the subject. The crowds in Soi 4 and in much of the naughty boy section of Sukhumvit have not been what one would consider "typical" recently. As one reader wrote, "I could have sworn I bought a ticket to Bangkok, but every morning when I wake up I'm in the Middle East." Things should be back to normal before too long as come Ramadan, they all head home.

Pattaya's new Walking Street sign was said to be operational but frankly it is a huge disappointment. The old sign was a landmark but this new monstrosity can only be described as an eyesore. The Korean built (and financed?) sign features a large digital (LED?) screen which I am told does nothing but advertise the products of various Korean companies. But as can be seen in this photo, the monstrosity was plagued by "technical problems" and there was nothing to see.

Down in Pattaya this week, the bars remain fairly quiet. No real change from a month ago when I reported that the big name bars continue to do well while the rest scrap for the crumbs. I managed to check out a few bars I don't normally make it into including two big name bars, both of which deserve a mention. Super Baby A Gogo on Soi Diamond constantly has attractive dancers. We're talking Rainbow 4 and Baccarra quality although Super Baby can't compete with either of the Bangkok institutions for sheer numbers. Happy A Gogo also deserves a mention. Lots of really hot dancers and keen performers although even a blind man could see that some of their girls are as hard as nails. Neither bar seems to have changed its format in years – and neither do they need to – each has a winning formula. If you're new to Pattaya, I'd put these two night spots on your must visit list and if you haven't ventured to either in some time, they're worth a visit.

Pattaya Photo Guide


The Pattaya photo guide here is a most fascinating site comprised of thousands of photographs taken around Fun City which have been fed into an engine which allows you to walk around the city, in effect a virtual tour. It's a wonderful way to see the city before you visit, or a great way to reminisce. You can even walk past your favourite bars and see who is standing outside!

Following on from my criticism of the bar scene and the fact that there are young girls around comes a way to verify whether she is legal or not. If you are still in doubt whether your new friend is in fact legal, ask her for her Chinese animal star sign. Currently it's legal to copulate with snakes, horses, sheep, monkeys, boars, and dogs, however dragons, rabbits, tigers, ox, rats and roosters should be avoided at all costs.

I have written numerous times about the expat community in Pattaya and my feeling that it is closer and generally more harmonious than in Bangkok. That may be the case, but there does seem to be a lot of in-fighting in the bar industry, much more so than say in Bangkok. In Bangkok there's plenty of name calling and a couple of bar owners display bitchy female characteristics but in Pattaya things can go further. It would seem that Ken was not the only bar owner to have had problems recently and is not the only boss who has been smashed over the head with a hard object.

Rumour has it that when you go to Immigration from next month to extend your visa you will be finger-printed! That is going to slow the whole process down even more although the price won't increase and will remain at 1,900 baht.

And Immigration is not the only government department cracking down on things. In this ever tightening world where authorities want you to leave a trace everywhere you go and of everything you do, visitors to Thailand might like to know that from 23rd of this month they will need to show their passport or other ID if they wish to access the net at an internet cafe. Not only that, but a record will be kept of every website visited. A new cyber law is being introduced, and as well as all internet cafes, every company and organisation, including banks and government offices, must retain records of every user's online activities for 90 days. Exactly what the boys in tight brown uniforms will make of the pile of paperwork this creates I have no idea.

Jack's Golf is a well known company providing visa run services. They apparently smooth the process at the borders so visa runners don't have to queue up and essentially get treated like VIPs, walked through the border points while an escort looks after the processing of border formalities. From Jack's Golf comes word that there has been a reported increase in fake passports. According to a friend who used Jack's service this weekend, it was the second time a fake passport had been used while he was working. Needless to say, the passport and person are still in the custody of the authorities.

3 1/2 years after it opened, I finally stuck my head in the door at Titanium, Soi 22's hip bar with a much-vaunted all girl band, a refrigerated Vodka bar and 2,000 baht barfines. The closest thing to Titanium, and not just geographically, would be a soi 33 bar. Imagine the style of Dali with a live band and the beauties of Monet and you're going some way to describing Titanium. The hostesses are pleasant on the eye, tastefully dressed and their attitudes are good. English spoken is generally of a higher level than what you find elsewhere. There's no hassling customers for a drink, that's for sure. Titanium would make a great spot for anyone who wants something just a little different and frankly, just a little better. But expect to pay for the privilege. Drinks run 180 baht with lady drinks attracting a 70 baht premium on top.

In last week's column I mentioned that there is a plethora of new language institutes in Bangkok. That said, if you want to study the language to a high level, good luck. Most schools only cover the basics. Whether there is a lack of demand for higher level study or not, I do not know, but for sure, unlike say European languages for which materials exist to study the language to a high level, with Thai such resources just do not seem to exist.

Anyone who says the square-faced one is clever ought to think again. The bloke couldn't even get on the right plane and somehow miraculously ended up in London when he was supposed to be coming to Bangkok! Or perhaps this is some sort of international prisoner exchange? England gets the Shinawatras and Pattaya gets lots of interesting Brits? I mean, let's be honest, parts of Pattaya resemble a prison break.

Here's another one for you to be aware of in the land of scams, this time perpetrated by the staff at a branch of a large chain of convenience stores. It tends to happen after midnight in tourist areas when the customers are predominantly liquored up Westerners. The scam sees the staff pretend that the bar code reader is not working on the cash register, so the clerk writes down what you buy, then rings up the total on a small adding machine. But the prices are inflated and most items are overcharged. What the staff then do is go and ring it up on the cash register a little later at the real price and the difference between what was charged and what was rung up is their profit. Clever. So if the barcode reader isn't working at the convenience store, it's a good idea to check and see that you are being charged the right price.

The Dirty Doctor has decided to auction off the monks' robes and donate the proceeds to a Thai orphanage or other worthwhile cause. I won't be giving him any more coverage in the column, unless of course he starts to go after the Indian tailors…

Quote of the week comes from a bargirl. When a customer asked her if she had a boyfriend she replied “That is impolite. You should not ask if I have boyfriend. You should ask how many boyfriends I have. I am sexy!”

From the UK's Daily Mail comes the story of yet another Brit murdered by his Thai wife. Andrew Drummond did an even more comprehensive piece for The Guardian and that newspaper also ran the deliciously titled "Where an older man can think he is debonair". These articles are must reads!

From The Economist comes an interesting article this week about the Thai police.

Once again, the British press state Thailand is the most dangerous destination for its nationals.

The Canadian pedophile caught in Bangkok last year was sentenced this week.

The rising Mekong River is causing much concern in the northeast and Laos.



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: During the past 18 months of constructing a property I have noted the following. Nobody seems to say hello, good morning or notify you of their departure, coupled with the fact that please or thank you are rarely expressed. Am I missing something here or is this just a culture gap thing, or if it is a class related problem at what level does it kick in?

Mrs. Stick says: For the workers on your property it is not important to exchange these greetings words with you. They are from a different class and they would feel uncomfortable initiating conversation with you. It is not disrespect but simply the way they are. Please do not think bad of them. They would be the same if you were Thai.

Question 2: I am led to believe that Buddhists try to avoid doing people harm as they believe 'what you do to others will be done to you'. If this is true, how can the bargirls be so cruel?

Mrs. Stick says: I don't like bargirls. I heard many, many stories and their behaviour gives Thai women a bad reputation. You can see many are addicted to drugs and they come from families that have values that are different to what most Thai people can accept. I don't think Buddhism has anything to do with it. I think the way they were raised by their parents is more relevant. You know they have very little education and they do not have a chance to get a good job so they try to do anything to get money. They don't think what they do is cruel. They think that if someone is stupid then they can take advantage of that. Money is their God, for them and their family, and they do anything to get it.

Question 3: A friend of mine who lived in the UK with his Thai wife for around 10 years and now lives in Pattaya said to me "The problem is that the most important thing to Thai women is their mates". I didn't understand what he meant until I met my fiancée last year. One Sunday night driving back into Bangkok from upcountry for the first time with her with about half an hour to go, looking forward to a quiet night before work on Monday, she said "We pick up my friend now". I didn't argue, being early days, and we picked up her friend. Needless to say the night was a complete disaster because I was doing something unexpected and didn't want to do it and I was knackered on Monday morning. First bad experience. Next time I was asked to pick up her mate and take her to her home for a night out with the other mates. No problem, I thought. By the time I reached the destination I had a blinding headache due to the incessant rubbish being spoken to me. Ended up with me walking out of the disco later in the night after being asked to pay yet another bill for drinks. Second bad experience with same girl involved. Recently we went to an island for a couple of nights leaving us just one full day to see everything and make use of the very expensive resort we were staying in. About half way around the tour I received the now dreaded message "We pick up friend now" and it was the same one. After the previous experiences I could not understand it. Anyway I lost my temper and told them to go out together. It is not just a problem with one mate but this situation occurs with most of them. It seems that my friend was right, Thai girls seem to treat their mates with more importance than their boyfriend as there is no consideration before making the most irrational decisions. I have noticed a similar thing with previous Thai girlfriends and even Thai girls in general. They seem to have an obsession with having a lot of friends or maybe it is just insecurity. Whatever it is, a rule has been agreed on that there is one week's notice before we go near any of her mates now. I think it must be a Thai way of thinking because my mum and sister were gob smacked. I am confused.

Mrs. Stick says: I don't know why this is happening. I think it is something between you and your fiancée because actually this is not normal for Thai women. We do not always want our friends with us and actually if we are with our boyfriend or husband that is enough. Sometimes it is nice to go out as a big group but usually we plan to do this and we do not make plans at the last moment. Can you speak Thai or can your fiancée speak English? I think maybe there is a communication problem.

Some new sections have been added to this site recently. First of all, I have added some more Thailand photo galleries and have another to put up towards the end of this week.

The other section of note is the new weekly column, written by Steve of Bangkok Images. Steve has been a mate for a long time and is a pro photographer. His weekly column titled In Focus, Bangkok Images is run every Saturday. Steve is currently working through a lot of the terminology used in digital photography today and is also accepting questions and submissions from readers. If you're keen on photography – and it all has a Thailand slant – check it out!



Your Bangkok commentator,
Bound to piss off some but it worked ok. 7.5/10
Stick