Stickman's Weekly Column October 19th, 2008

Drug & Alcohol Rehab in Thailand


Alcohol abuse is a big problem amongst the expat population in Thailand and those who have a lot of free time on their hands often end up drinking simply because they don't know what else to do. The entire social scene amongst expats is built around going out and drinking and those employed in professional positions find that entertaining and wining and dining customers is a big part of doing business in Thailand. Alcoholism is a real problem. So when I had the chance to meet Simon Gunn, Centre Director for Channah Thailand, a recently-opened Western-run drug and alcohol rehabilitation centre right here in Thailand, I seized the chance. We met this past week and had a chat about Thailand, drinking and alcohol and drug rehab.

I know nothing about who you are and what you do. Can you please give us a low down on who you are and what you are doing in Thailand.

I have been working with drug and alcohol users for the past 15 years in London and setting up programs of education, training and therapy to help people who have had drug problems to reintegrate into society. I wanted to develop that and create my own centre and being married to a Thai national I decided to do it in Thailand. The costs of setting up and running a program in London are prohibitive and I could offer a more tailored individual package for clients in Thailand than I could in London.

How big is the program?

The centre is on 6 acres of land by the River Kwae. We have 14 Thai support staff that do everything from laundry to security to cooking. We have 5 British therapists, all qualified and trained in Britain, and a personal trainer. The standard program is 28 days. Within that we give a lot of emphasis on individual treatment, 4 one to one therapy sessions per week whereas in England you're likely to get just one. There's about 20 hours of therapeutic sessions each week and 12 hours of physical exercise. We firmly believe that while the program is about becoming emotionally fit, we also encourage our clients to become physically fit so that when they return home they carry on. Exercise is an excellent way of keeping self-esteem and confidence up.

So you're running a boot camp?

<Chuckle, chuckle> In some ways you're right, we are. It's a very luxurious boot camp and the main emphasis is on the emotional side but the physical program is hard, especially for clients who are detoxing because we offer no concessions. They have to do the whole program as it is important that they keep their mind off the withdrawals. Our clients are usually tired at the end of the first week but that means they're getting better.

Was it easy to get this whole venture started up and off the ground?

No! It was very difficult. We had a lot of difficulties around work permits and company registration. However, now we have got it up and running my wife takes care of all of the business and for someone who has never done it before she has turned into a bit of a whizz. She is a tough cookie when it comes to dealing with bureaucrats and life is a lot easier now that I am using her rather than legal companies. And a lot cheaper!

On your website you state that most rehabilitation programmes require a commitment of 12 weeks yet yours is shorter. How do you manage that?

The 12 weeks are generally prescribed by the British government as the required length so for statistics they expect you to be in treatment for 12 weeks. We cram into 4 weeks more than you will get in 12 weeks in virtually all British rehabs but our program does not stop at 4 weeks. When clients leave us we already have arranged 3 months one to one aftercare for them at home and we will continue with telephone support for as long as they need it. We are also setting up staying clean groups in Bangkok and Hong Kong which will be available to former clients, possible clients and anybody who needs them. And they will be free!

Why did you choose Thailand? Is there something specific that makes it work out here more than elsewhere?

I'm married to a Thai national which certainly helped my choice. We deal with some high profile clients who do not want anyone to know that they are going into treatment. They can tell people that they are going on holiday to Thailand and when they come back fit and tanned with photos of their elephant trekking – we take clients on outings – so no-one ever needs to know they have been to a treatment centre which for some of our clients is absolutely imperative.

So what about expats based here? My guess is that, and I am no expert here, that of the "well-paid expats" in Thailand as well as the retirees, a third or more would be alcoholics. What do you make of that?

I would not argue with those figures. Bangkok and Phuket in Thailand and Hong Kong are our second biggest markets. In fact, 60% of our clients are expats based in South East Asia. And I expect that to grow.

Do you think they were alcoholics before they came here?

I think some of them were. Some were alcoholics, some of them had the potential, but for some people Thailand is a Disneyland without brakes. It is very easy to get involved in the bar culture and if you are drinking every day it is very easy to start going down a very slippery path. It is much harder to stop the descent than to carry it on. I would also say a lot of people come out here hoping to continue that idyllic two week holiday they once had and the reality of living in Thailand is different. I think you need to be pretty strong to live in Thailand and you know, if things aren't good with your self-esteem, if it isn't high and if you don't like yourself, it is very easy to get seduced by the "handsome man talk" and this idea that you're some kind of God because what else is there for some people?

I agree.

Not everyone has a lot of interests. I think you need to keep busy, you need to have some sort of plan for your life. You need structure in your life.

So Thailand is an easy place to become an alcoholic or a drug addict. I mean it's easier than a Western country, right?

I am not sure I would totally agree with that. The drug laws are very harsh here but in terms of alcohol, well it is a local cheaper. There is a big bar culture in certain parts of Thailand which it's very easy to become seduced by and it is easy to become an alcoholic pretty much everywhere if you don't have the brakes on. I think if someone is going to become an alcoholic they'll become an alcoholic anywhere. It's not the place. It's the person.

Ok, can you define an alcoholic to me?

Well, we work from the basis that alcoholism is not a disease. It is a learnt behaviour. An alcoholic is someone who is drinking problematically. By that I mean it is negatively affecting their life, their health, the people around them. There are many people who drink every day who I wouldn't class as alcoholics. On the other hand there are people who go out on three day binges, black out and can't remember a thing. I would say that have got a drinking problem. I think it is a question of the individual.

Am I an alcoholic? I drink most Fridays with friends, go out mid week and have a drink or two and probably share a bottle of wine every other week.

Can I refer you to my last answer. Is it negatively affecting your health, your life and the people around you?

No, so I guess I am ok. Do you have many, or even any, Thai customers?

We have been open 6 months and we have had one Thai customer but he had lived in America for 40 years and returned to Thailand 7 years ago. One of the prerequisites for being on the program is the ability to speak and understand English well so that does narrow it down. We will take Thai clients. We're an equal opportunities rehab!

Why is it that therapy in general is not that big in Thailand?

I met a very distinguished psychiatrist and he was talking about a Thai drug addict and he said to him, "So you have lost your job, you've lost your home and you're living on the streets. How do you feel?" The addict replied that he was fine. I don't think that there is a culture of talking about problems. There's a culture of giving people drugs. I am always amazed at the amount of drugs that are given when they go to a hospital which I then have to vet. You have to remember that therapy really is only just starting to emerge as a good alternative. You know people came back to Britain after the second world war and were basically told to get on with it. We have only really started taking post traumatic stress disorder seriously in the last 10 years. So, you know, in the developed world it's still taboo. In America it is different. In England you do not talk about going to therapy. It is something that is possibly seen as shameful. We haven't yet got to the American idea of having a therapist as a given so I think Thailand at some point will get there. They're just a little behind us.

On your website it states that you offer a discreet service. Do you really believe that? I mean, if you have Thai staff on your books – and you must – then you must know it is almost impossible for them to keep a secret. Thais have mouths like radio stations and secrets just don't exist in Thailand. I don't even know if there is a Thai equivalent for the word "discretion". Are you confident of your staff's ability to keep a secret?

Our staff don't really understand what we do! We've explained to them some generalities but because it's built like a resort and operated in a similar way, as far as our Thai staff are concerned our guests are just like any resort guests. They just stay a bit longer. I think they are sometimes a little bemused by the fact that our guests sit in rooms talking a lot but none of them have ever shown any massive interest in what we do. We try and look after our Thai staff. We pay them very well. We give them good working conditions and generally try to make the work experience a good one and so far there hasn't been any problems. There is also the other thing. When we have high profile clients, if you are a Westerner you have probably heard of them, but most Thais I have met don't really know a lot about the West and who's famous and who's not. I am sure if Amy Whitehouse came to our centre no-one would recognise her. I think if Keith Richards came, for example, most Thai people wouldn't know who he was. My wife, who has a degree, couldn't name one Beatle.

Is there much competition in this region?

No, we are the only Western operated therapeutic program run by British qualified staff in South East Asia as far as I know. There are psychiatric hospitals which offer detox. There is the wat where they do the vomiting regime. There is very little available in South East Asia.

The way we look at things is that drugs and alcohol aren't the problem. They are usually the answer. By that I mean this is the way people are found coping with the underlying issues that have gone on in their life. Nobody takes heroin or drinks to the extent of liver damage because they are happy. They may start that way but by the time it is a problem, it is the underlying issues whether it be childhood abuse, failed relationships, self-esteem. Self-esteem is one of the biggest things. We have even got words for it. Dutch courage. Some thing they can't be funny if they haven't had a drink. People use alcohol as a social crutch. It is often because their self-esteem is low.

I have got a question for you. As you know, I write my weekly nonsense and I have to go to the bars, once or twice a week to find out what is happening. It's actually a boring and perhaps even saddening environment, so I have a few drinks while I am out to make it more interesting. What do you make of that? Do I have a drinking issue?

What's wrong with that I say? You're not drinking too excess. You're not drinking because you need to feel better about yourself. You're in an environment where drink is available and it can be pleasant having a few drinks. Some of the best nights I have had have been in a pub with a few friends having a few drinks and enjoying ourselves. It's when that becomes an everyday occurrence and you're not enjoying yourself that it becomes a problem. When I go out to a bar I love people watching and you can see the people who are having fun the people who aren't having fun and it can be quite sad with some of the people you see in bars. It's all they have got. Take the bar and the drink away and what are they left with? That is one of the reasons people don't always seek help. What are they going to do without the bar?

So is it a fine line between enjoying alcohol and becoming an alcoholic?

No, I would say it is a very fat line in fact. I'd say it is the opposite. 95% of people who drink generally drink responsibly, can go out, enjoy a few drinks, sometimes get drunk, but know their limits. You can drink responsibly and the majority of people who drink alcohol will go through life with no problems.

I asked you a question a little earlier about alcoholics in Thailand and suggested that of retirees and well-paid expats, a third are alcoholic. Do you see any trends or commonalities with alcoholics and any socioeconomic or other behavioral patterns?

I wish Steve, my partner, was here because he could give you a really good answer but I will try. I'll have a stab. I think the short answer is no. Drug addiction and alcoholism is another equal opportunities employer. Rich or poor, it does not matter. Someone who is very rich is hardly likely to be seen on a street corner drinking out of a can of super strength lager but drinking a bottle of single malt whisky in your house at night is still not good! I think the socioeconomic side is really about what you drink, where you drink, how you drink and what treatment is available for you.

What are the differences between alcoholism and drug addiction – or are they much the same?

In terms of the addiction, the differences aren't so much between alcohol and drugs but between drugs and drugs. Alcohol is physically addictive as well as psychologically addictive. Yaba (methamphetamine, ice) is psychologically addictive. Addiction is addiction. If you're addicted to something it can seem like it is forever. Many people see no way out. The one difference is that alcohol is legal, it is available and for many westerners it's part of life. When you're born you wet the baby's head. When you die, we toast you. When you get married, we drink to you. The footballer of the year, the racing car drivers get champagne. Alcohol is everywhere! Most social events involve alcohol so the difference is about when you stop it's probably easier to move away from drug using circles but it is very difficult for former alcoholics to move away from drinking circles. We spend a lot of time on the program showing our clients how to live in a world where alcohol is all around them because they cannot avoid it but they can live without it.

In recent times, we hear about sex addiction. This is a new so called mental disease or some such nonsense we hear more and more about it. Is it a problem and does your course deal with it?

The short answer is no. I think it is very easy for certain people to get addicted to the sex industry. Addicted to sex? I have difficulty with sex addiction because I would go back to what I said earlier. Sex is not the problem. It is the answer. People aren't addicted to the physical act of sex. They're addicted to the getting of, possession, instant gratification, hiding low self-esteem. The happiest people are probably happily married people. There is something about being content with who you are and who you are with. If you are with a different bargirl every night that is not going to make you feel good about yourself, at least not in the long-term.

What's the cost of the course?

The 4 week program inclusive of everything including three months one to one aftercare is a tickle under $US 16,000.

Yikes!

When compared with comparable courses it is actually very cheap. But it is not cheap per se. Compare it to the Betty Ford Clinic or Moonwind or Crossroads in Antigua and we start to look very, very good value for money! Compare it to the wat and we look expensive.


Where was this picture taken?


Last week's picture was taken at the Silom end of Patpong Soi 2. It was easy and heaps of people got it right. This week's picture will be easy for those who know Bangkok, difficult for those who don't! 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. The third prize is offered by ThailandFriends.com, an online dating community that boasts over 50,000 members, hosts live events in and around Thailand and allows basic members to send 5 messages a day for free. The prize offered is one month premium membership which adds more to the ThailandFriends' experience with unlimited messaging, detailed member searches, 24 profile pictures, and a whole lot more.

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. The ThailandFriends prize must be claimed within one week.

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 WEEKThe Lumpini Thai boxing rip off.

FYI, if memory serves correctly, 5 years ago the ringside price at Lumpini was 1000 baht and speaking Thai and saying you weren't a tourist, were going to sit in the "Thai" section, etc. could get it reduced to at least 800. I walked by a few weeks ago and saw the 2000 baht price tag. Ridiculous for 10 fights or so of varying quality / skill level in a basically outdoor stadium – in seats where your view is blocked by Thai old-timers standing in front of the ring. I am a huge boxing / Muay Thai fan and can honestly say I will never be in Lumpini again barring a price decrease (not likely). Dual pricing is not unique to Thais. I remember paying tourist rates at sites in Greece and elsewhere as well, but the Lumpini clowns have gone over the top. Not sure what prices are at Rachadarmnoen but that is where I will check next.

The black economy.

I have always felt that the reason economic forecasts in the West are frequently inaccurate is that they ignore the extent of the black economy – those transactions which, for various reasons, are "off the books". The extent of the black economy in the highly (over) regulated West is frequently underestimated; how much more underestimated is the black economy in Thailand? How many tips to bargirls and massage girls ever make it into the GDP calculations? How about "gratuities" to the boys in brown? How many bars keep two sets of books, one for the owners and one for the taxman? I know that less than half the money I spend when I visit Thailand goes to hotels and restaurants, and is thus at least theoretically "on the books". A 20% drop in tourism revenue could represent a much higher drop in the black economy, and the black economy crosses over into the mainstream economy very directly. How many tens (hundreds?) of thousands of the Thai people rely on the black economy? For how many more does the black economy mean the difference between comfort and poverty (and a consequent change in their spending patterns on such mainstream items as schooling for their children, clothing, building improvements)? The drop in tourist numbers might not cause the Thai economy collapse, but it could cause hard times for many Thai people.

Crime to increase.

One almost certain off-shoot of the economic malaise, which if it is as imminent as you suggest, is an increase in crime. In Thailand, one would suppose that foreigners would be a big target of increased crime, due to their perceived wealth. If the worst-case scenario does indeed occur, foreigners will have to be even more careful of their belongings than was previously the case.

Confidence in the local banking system, not!

With banks collapsing or under threat all over the world – even big banks, let alone the small essentially local banks that Thailand has – I decided it might be prudent to remove my savings and transfer the money to a safe deposit box before the money suddenly becomes unavailable. Because the chances of the Thai government bailing out banks in Thailand is as likely as a white Christmas on Sukhumvit. It seems many people have had the same idea, because every single one of the 8,000 boxes at the main Bangkok Bank branch on Silom have been rented already. That seems to tell you a great deal about public confidence in the local banking system, doesn’t it?


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

Is $2 million really necessary?! NO!

The biggest issue is not so much the crash, but people’s expectations. Even before the crash, the Aussie you talk of in the weekly with 500,000 never had enough to retire in the first place. If he had enough money to retire in the first place, then this crash would not have had an impact on his ability to stay retired! You can never retire based on the current scenario that works just right for you, working forever. I stand by what I have said before. You need $2m to retire. That could be $2m Kiwi, $2m AUD, or $2m USD. Which currency you choose doesn’t matter too much, because they will all move around against each other over time. Of course $2m USD today is a lot more than $2m AUD is now, but 3 months ago this was not the case. So aim for $2m in whatever currency you use as your currency of measurement, and you will be probably OK.

Outside of Thailand they do change.

6 months ago I started my usual planning to go to Thailand and was scheduled to go in October with the wife and our 9 month old daughter so that she could see her grandparents for the first time. This time we decided to fly by business class because I once had to endure sitting next to an obvious sexpat who positively flaked and oozed creepiness from every pore on my way to Bangers. I didn't want my daughter to have the opportunity of being anywhere such a creep so it was a no brainer. The price for business class in previous years has usually been palatable but this year they have risen so astronomically that I had to make the decision to forgo my own holiday in favour of sending the wife and our daughter to Thailand alone. The £5,000 price tag that was being asked for a 3 week stint away to a country that quite frankly no longer holds any fascination for me was an easy decision to make. During the 3 weeks my wife and daughter were away, they saw the baht drop from 58 baht to the pound to 55 and the wife was reporting back that the exchange rate was just killing her buying power. She had other complaints too: higher food costs, extortionate taxi prices, a lower standard of service in the restaurants and a sense of gloom amongst the general Thai populace. She said she felt sad being back in Thailand and couldn't believe how much it had changed in the one year since she left to join me here. Her words upon arrival back in England were " I am so happy to be back home. I of course miss my mum and dad, but the hot weather, the politics and the ignorance of people of all things outside of Thailand really made me sad." What astounded me was that these comments came from a usually staunch and very proud Thai who usually defends all things Thai but being away for one year seems to have really opened her eyes to how Thailand really is.

Protesting in the face of tourists.

The argument that the government and Tourist Association people have been putting out that the political unrest is limited to a small area around Government House and that tourists need not be worried is no longer valid, it seems. There has already been a massive gathering on Silom Road, and now a rally is planned for Central World Plaza, both places right in the middle of tourist areas. I know I'd stay well away.



It has been indicated that alcohol sales may be prohibited and bars closed on 14 – 16 November as a mark of respect at the time of the cremation of the oldest sister of HM The King. This is not confirmed, but is an indication from some Bangkok police.

Two Japanese guys got in a punch up right in front of Raw Hide in Soi Cowboy on Friday, a scene which created quite a crowd as Thais and farangs alike watched two Japanese slug it out, hardly a common scene on the mean streets of Bangkok. Exactly what it was about remains a mystery although someone mentioned "4 ½", whatever the hell that means.

Staff turnover is seldom considered a good thing in business but in an industry where customers crave variety, the fact that two of my favourite Pattaya bars, Secrets and Catz, each have a new troop is reason enough to check them out if you haven't been in for a while.

Shooters in Pattaya's Soi Diamond will be closed from Tuesday onwards. A new group of investors will develop the location into something new. The goodbye party will be held tomorrow, that is Monday October 20 and will feature free Food, lots of drink specials and two x 2-hour happy hours. The free food will be available from 9 PM onwards, and happy hours held 7 PM – 9 PM and 11 PM – 1 AM with all local beers & house spirits at 60 baht.

Sisterz on Walking Street will host a dance party this Thursday 23rd October. There will be wet T-shirts, JW Black label give away, body painting, 100 baht blow jobs (that's a miniature cocktail, in case you were wonderingQ), girl contortionists and Tequila shots at just 20 baht from 11 PM until midnight. They also have lots of new girls so do pop along if you're in town!

I don't like to speak bad of the bars, but the fun vibe that has made Apache Coyote in Cowboy so much fun seems to have vapourised. What was arguably the most fun bar on Cowboy is now, sadly, something altogether different.

The rumour mill has it that Club Blu on the corner of Soi Buakhao and Soi LK Metro in Pattaya recently changed hands for a whipping 17 million baht. If true, what would the bar it seems to be modeled on, Secrets, be worth? 100 million?

One young lady in a popular Pattaya chrome pole palace has gained not just face amongst her peers, but riches, after breaking the record for the most lady drinks in one month at her bar. The sexy little vixen scored a total of 313 lady drinks in September which, at a commission of 50 baht per glass, earned her a handsome 15,650 baht in lady drink commissions alone.

A cock in a frock is wandering around The Avenue and Royal Garden shopping centres in Pattaya attempting to solicit donations from foreigners under the guise of it being for various charities. For a ladyboy to be doing this – and a rough looking one at that, just is not the approach a genuine charity or other such foundation would take. I have no doubt it's a scam.

The storm clouds that had been hanging over Pattaya's soi 6 are dissipating. The short-lived crackdown on the hours of business and methods of attracting customers had but a temporary effect as the usual sight of lovely ladies willingly offering to reduce your stress and anxiety lined up and down the soi throughout the afternoon were absent for a short period. Bars were prohibited from opening until later in the day although you didn't have to look very hard to see that in one or two drinking spots could be seen girls and the odd customer. One exceptionally clever bar owner slid the sliding front door half way up, prescribing to the belief that if you can't see people's heads then they're really not there! The notice affixed outside one venue announcing a happy hour from 10 PM – 1 AM suggested that soi 6 may have been looking at becoming a late night bar area although going up against Walking Street, sois 7 and 8 and well, just about all of Pattaya for the evening trade would have been commercial suicide. Soi 6 is known as Pattaya's prime destination for afternoon delight…and so it is again as the latest in a long line of totally inane crackdowns came to an end. The authorities know that heavy handed crackdowns only serve to piss off customers big time – and damage the industry that the city is built on. Despite the fact that Pattaya's soi 6 is one huge embarrassment to City Hall, things are back to how they were and it is business as usual. Bars, if you could call them that – brothels would be a more succinct description, are again open for business at 1 PM and once again you can hear the calls of the girls telling all who care to pass by that they are the most handsome man they have ever seen. There is talk however that bars may only be allowed two girls outside enticing customers inside and that they should be dressed in a way that is considered decent and proper in Thailand. It didn't last. Soi 6 was Slutsville again almost immediately. The pictures here show soi 6 during the brief crackdown.

Talk of the town this week has been the shakedown of a Western resident at the Ekamai bus station. Khun farang got off the bus and was approached by two uniformed police officers who went about making a thorough search of his person and his belongings, ultimately finding a single Viagra tablet. With dollar signs in their eyes, the elated boys in brown informed their victim that in the absence of a prescription, possession of the drug was in fact illegal and to make the 'problem' go away would require 30,000 baht. Negotiations ensued and Khun Farang ended up making a trip to the nearest ATM machine where he parted with 10 grey notes. Despite the fact that pharmacies up and down Sukhumvit have large signs openly advertising the drug as available for sale across the counter, strictly speaking, Viagra and other ED drugs are supposed to only be available by prescription and their possession, in the absence of a prescription, is illegal.

The Bangkok disease seems to have hit Pattaya. After negotiating a fee to have a nurse stay with them and look after them all night long, providing much needed treatment both that evening and the next morning, many patients have been disappointed to find their nurse keen to depart their bedside in the early hours after minimal treatment, despite just a little earlier prescribing much more intensive therapy. This phenomenon began a number of years ago in Bangkok and has proliferated to the point that there are certain bars in Bangkok, especially bars with a name of that stripy thing in the sky, where girls pulling this trick is the norm. A service is negotiated and a fee commensurate with that service is agreed upon, only for the service provider to renege on the services provided but insist on the original fee – a bad deal in anyone's book! Essentially, a long time price is requested for what is short time service. Friends and readers reporting that in more and more bars in Pattaya it too is becoming the norm. There are always silly excuses made as to why the nurse must depart the patient. The only real way around this is to agree two prices in advance, a short time and a long time fee. And if one really wants long time, negotiate in advance on a miserly short time fee. The most common reason the nurses do this is so they can return to their Thai boyfriend / husband. It's also a common ploy with patients they just do not like.

AfterDarkAsia is putting the final touches to the first AfterDark wall-sized (13" x 19") calendar which will be available for a snip at 300 baht at many venues around Thailand, hopefully from October 23. In the capital you'll be able to find it at Baccarra, Shark, Angelwitch, Mandarin, The Ring / Magic Table in soi 7/1 and in Pattaya try Angelwitch, Champagne, Dollhouse, Living Dolls Showcase, Lollipop, Love Club, Penthouse Hotel, Secrets, Shark and Wet 'N' Wild. It will also be sold online at AfterDarkAsia.com.

The lovelies who feature in the calendar, AfterDarkAsia's magazine and other similar publications are becoming more aware of the dangers of their sponsors finding out that they are still working and publishers are having trouble finding girls to photograph. In these tough times girls are doing all they can to preserve their lucrative foreign income stream.

So much of Thailand's tourism trade revolves around the naughty nightlife industry but frankly the industry is not that tourist friendly. Price lists and menus are seldom displayed and in some venues are simply unavailable Even when a price list is in place they are often highly ambiguous. I mean, something as innocuous as a happy hour sign which states that all beers are 70 baht except for imports is Double Dutch to a tourist who doesn't know which are local beers and which aren't. I mean, would someone form the Netherlands expect Heineken to be classified as a Thai beer, which to many bars, it is? I think not! (In fact most Thais probably think Heineken is in fact a Thai product but that's a whole other story.) If there is one small improvement I would like to see in bars it is clear menus with clear pricing. Surely that's not asking too much?

Has your English deteriorated after living in Thailand for a prolonged period? I'm convinced mine has even though I tend to hang out with educated people, read a lot, teach and even write a fair bit. I find I use much less vocabulary than visiting friends, I often use simple terms and from time to time am even tongue tied. Is it only me?

The Dirty Doctor's services are required in Soi Cowboy again with the begging monks back hassling punters. They really are a pain.

About time, with the price of oil well down from its lofty highs some airlines are now reducing their fuel surcharge, although not by perhaps as much as they should but hey, it's a step in the right direction. The bottom line is that getting to Thailand (or escaping from!) should be cheaper now than it has been.

You'll never be part of the clan. A friend relayed to me a shocking story this week about a Westerner born in Thailand, who has Thai nationality including ID card and has lived here for more than 40 years. Of course he speaks absolutely fluent Thai. The gent went to the Lumpini Muay Thai stadium just as I did last week and despite having a Thai ID card he was told that the price was only for Thai people only! Born here, bred here, living all of his life here and being a Thai citizen, he still could not get in for the "Thai" price. Amazing Thailand!

It's good to see some venues are offering great specials and giving customers a real reason to visit. One of my favourite bars – and yes, I am there most weeks, is Molly Malone's. The special breakfast which gets you eggs, hash brown, tomato, sausage, bacon and toast as well as tea or coffee is just 99 baht. It runs from 9am until midday. Also at the weekends they are doing the jugs of Heineken or Tiger at 180 baht each. The promotion runs all day Saturday and Sunday when the bar is a lively spot to watch live sport. There's also a daily special which runs 249 baht and include 1kg of ribs or a 350 gm pork chop. Great value.

Quote of the week might not be Bangkok related but it's a cracker. "This is worse than a divorce! I have lost half my net worth….and I still have a wife!"

For a more Thai related quote, "Here in Thailand I am living like a 20 year old with a 60 year old's money."

Candid camera, Phuket style! This will not make many of Bangla Road's regular drinkers happy.

This report on the happenings in Thailand on 7th October with commentary and photographs by the Westerner I respect more on Thai matters than any other, Nick Nostitz is worth checking out. WARNING: There are some VERY graphic images so if you are easily disturbed, do NOT view this report.

The New York Times ran this on Thailand's protests.

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: I have been married for to a good Thai woman for 2 years. She has a good job with a good income and while she is not a bargirl she is behaving more and more like these devil women your husband writes about all the time. Before we got married everything was bliss but since marriage the requests, no make that the demands for material goods have just got silly. It started with brand name clothing, designer label shoes, a new mobile phone, all of which I bought even though she hardly wears them. The mobile she uses of course. Now she wants a car! I have told her that to buy a new car is a million baht, what I earn in a year. We get by just fine with taxis and the skytrain so there is no need for a car. But my wife is making demands now and is getting manipulative. She has started withholding sex and said she will only fall in love with me again when I buy her a car! I have made every rational argument to her but she will not listen and is behaving like a child. To make matters worse, when I talk with friends with local wives about this they admitted they have had similar problems. What is it? Why are some women so unreasonable? I treat my wife like a princess and go without myself to keep her happy but now I think she will never be happy. What can I do?

Mrs. Stick says: I think there are two answers and I don't know which one is right for your wife. Maybe your wife is motivated by the things you buy her or maybe you and her are not a suitable couple and she tries to get everything from you to make it unbearable for you. Has anything else changed since before you got married to make your wife's behaviour change? I know it is a serious problem and I don't know how to solve it. I'm sorry.

Question 2: Have you heard about or read the book "Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus"? If so do you think it is relevant in a Thai lady and Western man relationship? My Thai girlfriend has show great interest in understanding the difference in cultures between us and has asked me so recommend some books she can read. I was thinking of suggesting this one. If you can suggest any others I would appreciate it.

Mrs. Stick says: I have seen this book but I never read it.

Mr. Stick says: You want Thailand Fever which was tailor made for Western bloke / Thai bird relationships. It's an absolutely wonderful handbook on these complicated relationships and written in both languages, it can be read and equally understood by each of you. Frankly, it is a must for most everyone who gets involved with a Thai woman. Here is what I wrote when I reviewed it a few years ago "If ever there was a book that unlocked a lot of the mystery that each partner feels in a Thai–Farang relationship, then this is it. I would go as far to say that for anyone who has not lived in Thailand but is considering a long term relationship with a Thai woman, then this is a MUST READ. And even for people who are living in, or who have lived in Thailand, this is highly recommended indeed." I stand by those comments today.

Exactly when the high season runs is up for debate. Some people say it is November through to Songkran while others say that it is December through to February, which coincides with the best weather, the cool season. If you were to base it on the period that hotel rates go up, 1st November would be the official start. That means that late next week is the start of the high season. When will it come this year? Will it come this year? We're all watching with baited breath…

Your Bangkok commentator,

Stick