Stickman's Weekly Column November 23rd, 2008

Another One Bites The Dust


His email touched me. I don't know why. But it did. I get a truckload of email but this one stood out. He sounded like a good guy, genuine. It was a familiar theme of the same old story. He'd been had. By a Thai woman. Looking back at his email, I think the words that did it were, "My situation is dire in the extreme."

His story moved me so much that I sent him an email with my phone number and an offer of help, something I almost never do.

He called.

I heard a warmth in his voice. He sounded like your favourite uncle. Decent, hard-working, as honest as the day is long. I wanted to help him so I offered to meet. I was partly thinking that there could be an opportunity for some investigative work, but more than anything, I felt that this was a genuine guy who needed help. And I thought I could provide that help.

He told me his place of work and that, along with his articulate emails gave me the impression that he was a man of the world. We arranged to meet the next day.

He hosted me for lunch but any ideas I had that he was a high flyer were soon shot down. Doing a commission only sales job, he hadn't earned a dime in weeks. His finances were at an all-time low and he was broke. Over lunch in the '70s decor lobby of another mediocre mid-Sukhumvit hotel, he started telling me his tale of woe.

They had met at a hotel a few years back. I never did inquire as to whether it was he who was working there, she working there, or perhaps both. But one thing was made clear from the outset. She was a good girl, not a hooker. A courtship began and they quickly fell in love. The world was beautiful and he had never been happier when he married his Thai teeruk on Valentine's Day, 2006.

The Canadian Winter is few people's idea of happy living and with a Thai wife 30 years his junior, the decision for him to relocate to Thailand was easy. He severed all ties with Canada. He sold what he could and gave the rest away. This was it. The big, permanent move to Thailand. No plans to ever return to the land of maple syrup and Wayne Gretzky.

They set about building their dream house in the lower Isaan, the area she came from. Many millions of baht were sunk into the property.

It's debatable at which point he made his first mistake. The cynical would say that simply thaiing the knot was a mistake. Others may argue that building a house – which of course cannot be in his name – was his first major error. I would suggest that the first big mistake he made was over-extending his finances. The house was almost finished but there was a problem. A big problem. The money had run out. He had almost nothing left and as many a farang seeking employment in Isaan has found, opportunities are few and far between. The only real option is to start up your own venture – for which money is needed. And that was the one thing he didn't have.

Their relationship was not entirely typical. While the house was being built, he financed her through university in Bangkok while he stayed in Isaan. Presumably he was up there keeping an eye on progress on the house. It was an odd arrangement, him in Isaan, her in Bangkok.

After graduating she secured an office job with a computer firm in downtown Bangkok.

Money was getting tight. He was keeping a place in Isaan and she was paying for a room in Bangkok. It didn't make sense so he joined her in Bangkok where their life was the confines of a small studio, all paid for from her moderate income of just 15,000 baht a month.

It was the complete opposite of what we usually hear. A pretty Thai lady in her 20s on a moderate office girl's salary supporting her late 50s Western husband. Finances were as tight as you can get. She gave him 34 baht a day, enough for a simple meal and water from the restaurant on the ground floor.

Things weren't just tight financially, they were at breaking point. There was no fat in the budget for any contingency and ridiculous compromises were being made. Compromise soon became sacrifice.

He was the man in the relationship and he needed to be more proactive. In Thailand the man is expected to provide for the woman and the idea of a woman providing for a man raises eyebrows. A Thai woman supporting a Western man raises more eyebrows and in an extreme case, where a young, pretty Thai woman is supporting an older and with all due respect, not one of God's most spectacular physical specimens, observers are dumbfound.

His friends should have put the hard word on him at that point. “Buddy, you can't go on like this. You HAVE GOT TO get a job!” That's what friends should have been telling him. Perhaps he felt that the 6 odd million baht he had put into the house and used to support her meant she should be willing to support him for a while. Who knows?

He eventually got a job, a commission only position – the last thing he needed. But a job was only part of what he needed. A regular income was urgently required. Why he didn't go out and get an English teaching position I don't know. He could easily enough secure a job pulling 30,000 baht a month. It won't make you rich, but it will see you through the tough times. Add that to her 15K baht and they could have got by quite comfortably. And his pride would have been restored somewhat. A man without an income is a man without pride. And a man who has lost his pride is attractive to no-one.

One could be mistaken for thinking the Canadian sounds like a lazy husband unable to provide for his wife. But that would not be fair. He had paid her parents a very fair dowry of 200,000 baht and put between 5 and 6 million baht into a house which is almost finished. He'd also supported her for a period of time. He may now have been experiencing tough times but up to that point he had done most things right and in many ways had been the model husband.

So there they were, living in a small apartment in Bangkok, her going out each day to work in her regular office job and returning home to look after him.

His inability to provide and to be the man about the house was slowly eating away at her. He started noticing changes. Subtle changes, but changes nonetheless. It's now clear to him that this was the tipping point.

She had always worked regular hours but around that time she started coming home late. He didn't suspect anything at first. Then she came home later. And later. Sometimes after midnight. It was clear that something wasn't right.

She had previously mentioned that she had met a guy called Robert at All Seasons Place. A foreigner. She also mentioned that she had a new boss at work, a Brit by the name of Marvin. She would often talk of Marvin, how he had lots of money, but how he had a bargirl for a girlfriend, something she just couldn't understand. She clearly liked Marvin and he exploited it, taking her out to swanky venues for lunch, something she was not shy to regale upon Mr. Canada.

Putting one and one together, Mr. Canada was certain that his wife was having an affair and felt that it was with her new boss, Marvin. He had arrived at the company a few months earlier and her erratic, or should I say erotic behaviour probably started soon after.

He caught her on the phone one day when she popped out to get some water. He watched her from the balcony and tracked her movement to the shop but she never made it there. He ran downstairs and caught her merrily chatting away on the phone in English. He grabbed the phone from her and found that she was talking to a guy with a British accent. She claimed it was this so-called Robert, a fictitious character, when almost certainly it was Marvin.

This was all getting rather depressing and Mr. Canada was telling the story with what the Thais would call a heavy heart. He had started off quite composed but it didn't take a shrink to realise that this whole episode had ripped him apart. He was cracking before my eyes. I made my excuses to refill my plate, giving him a few minutes to recompose himself.

As the story continued, Mr. Canada explained that she had taken a trip up to Isaan the weekend before, the purpose of which was to meet with the workers and check on progress at their dream house. She has no shortage of clothes and other personal items up there but she packed some fancy clothes to take with her. She'd never done that before.

She was due back in Bangkok on the Monday morning but on Sunday night she called to say that she had been unable to get a bus ticket and would be back the next day. The same excuse was repeated the following evening. Come Tuesday and finally she managed to get a ticket leaving the lower Isaan that night. She would arrive back in Bangkok on Wednesday morning and would go straight from Morchit Bus Station to work. She would see Mr. Canada on Wednesday night. He had friends in from Canada and they had a big dinner planned for that night. She eventually joined him at dinner 2 hours late, causing him immense embarrassment in front of his friends. At the end of dinner they headed back to their studio apartment at which point she collected some clothes and other personal items and popped out. He hasn't seen her since. It was the next day that he contacted me.

My situation is dire in the extreme”, the email had said. He couldn't have described it more accurately. In summary, he had retired to Thailand, invested every last dollar into the relationship and the construction of their dream house, struggled to find work and now his wife had left him without explanation. He was certain that she had been lured by her English boss, Marvin, a not particularly handsome, but much younger Brit who supposedly had no shortage of cash and a willingness to spend it.

I asked him what his desired outcome was. He's wise and knows that the trust has been shattered. Reconciliation just isn't an option.

So what is the desired outcome?

His world had fallen apart. The woman he had loved more than any other had left him, and with it he had lost his entire life's savings, a blow of monumental proportions to someone at the end of their work life. He's been humiliated and with his life's savings as good as gone, he will soon lose his ability to stay in the country. He doesn't have the finances required for either a retirement, or even a marriage visa. It's an absolute worst case scenario.

His mother in law and his wife's sister heard what had happened and came down from Isaan. When they entered his studio apartment he was embraced by his mother in law, something she'd never previously done. They stood there hugging each other, tears pouring, an endless embrace. Their bodies shook as they held each other tight for support. The sister was caught up in the emotion and there wasn't a dry eye in the room. Eventually managing to regain her composure, mother in law explained that she was terribly sorry about what had happened. Mr. Canada was given an open invitation to go and live with them up in Isaan. He was not just welcome, he was family.

In an attempt to atone for his wife's sins, they set about cleaning the apartment like it had never been cleaned before, starting on him. They did his finger nails, his toe nails, massaged him all the while reiterating over and over again how sorry they were. Contrition doesn't even start to describe it.

The family understood the concept of honour. They have a genuine sense of pride. What the daughter had done was unquestionably wrong after everything her husband, Mr. Canada, had done for her.

I tried to formulate a strategy with him. Sleeping with someone else's wife in Thailand – yes, they are legally married – is seriously bad news and open's the horny devil up to legal action and a civil suit that can run easily run into millions of baht. Legal redress was available and Mr. Canada started licking his lips.

Some would argue that such a law has no place in the 21st century. I would disagree. In a country where the man is essentially forced to purchase his bride (by way of sin sot / dowry payment), there needs to be a form of redress available should she decide to do a runner.

Marvin held a senior position with an expat salary. As I would soon discover, he also has a swanky pad. There's no shortage of cash in the Marvin household. But Mr. Canada did not appear to have the finances to pursue it in court. Such cases require a good deal of proof so not only are there legal fees, clear evidence is required. You need a good PI to gather that and witness accounts which would make the case even more solid.

I know a little about such cases locally and explained that as she was clearly in the wrong he could sue her for divorce on the grounds of adultery and get the house sold and the proceeds transferred back to him. He could also take legal action against Marvin and seek millions in damages. On the basis of what he had told me, he had a prima facie case and a high chance of success.

But there was a major problem. A big problem. The dream home had been built on land that was in the family's name. Even if she was willing, they could not just sell it and divvy up the money. The house is located well off the main road and on the family's land. No-one is going to be interested in buying it. It's there to stay. There's nothing he can do about it. The money sunk into the house is as good as gone.

Mr. Canada has been shafted. He hasn't just lost his wife, he's lost his life. The fruits of a lifetime of work. He's just a couple of years off retirement. Everything he had 2 ½ years ago is gone. His wife, his money, his hopes and his dreams. His life. He has nothing more to lose. Nothing. A man in that situation is a very dangerous animal.

We decided that the best thing to do would be for an intermediary to talk with Marvin, to open dialogue. Mr. Canada knew that he could not possibly keep a lid on his emotions and felt that someone with a cool head, someone who knew the ins and outs of the issue could assist. Enter Stick!

Mr. Canada expressed a preference for me to go to Marvin's office directly and have a quiet chat with him. He felt it would be preferable to calling him on the phone. But in person you never know how someone might react, especially someone you have never met. I decided the telephone might work better. I tried calling him. 15 seconds into the call, immediately after I explained why I was calling he hung up. Repeated calls to him at the office weren't connected. Suddenly he was out on urgent business. His cage had been rattled and he was on the run!

Despite claiming that he had left the office "for an emergency", the office staff were typically Thai and ever so keen to please. They offered not only his mobile phone number but various other personal details. They knew this would defray the mounting pressure on them. Give the caller as much as he wanted so as to get rid of him was their policy. They were willing to answer almost any question asked. Good, long answers. All sorts of details. An investigator's dream. A profile was built.

Background sleuthing dug up more about Marvin and Mr. Canada's good lady. Despite calling Mr. Canada from home the previous week and saying she could not get a ticket to return to the capital, she had in fact returned to Bangkok from Isaan on the 9:30 PM bus on Sunday night, in seats B6 and C6. Yes, you read that right – two seats. One for her. And one for Marvin! While she had claimed she was still up in Isaan on the Monday and Tuesday, she was instead at loverboy's swanky Sukhumvit palace.

He amateurishly evaded my calls. I sent Marvin a text, saying that all I wanted to do was talk. I said I was reasonable. I am. He refused to get in contact.

As easy as it would have been, I was not inclined to approach him. It wasn't Mrs. Stick he was bonking but some other bloke's Mrs. And this wasn't a full on investigation. It was simply a bit of help for a decent guy. Marvin was on the run!

As I was trying to get hold of Marvin, Mr. Canada was sending me messages. He was unable to retain his composure. He could see his life was slipping away. He was starting to crack. Pleas were made for Marvin to be red-flagged at the airport. What was he thinking?! No foreigner can manage that. I was now in the familiar role that Bangkok PIs find themselves in, not just an investigator, but a counsellor too.

Early that evening, just a few hours after we had met for lunch, Mr. Canada's phone was ringing hot as the wife's sister and mother called him from upcountry. They let him have it with a flurry of abuse. They were beyond angry. They wanted to know why he had sent a hitman to the office to kill their daughter! Yep, that is what they said. Their so-called love for Mr. Canada was destroyed when they heard that an assassin had been sent! As they explained it, no-one could work all afternoon at the office after the hitman had visited the office! Somehow Mr. Canada believed it and thought that I really had gone to the office and threatened to kill someone. Madness! I had in fact only spoken on the phone. Making threats to kill someone?! Hmmm, that's a new one, something I've never been accused of before.

The family now had an excuse to cut off Mr. Canada. That he had hired a hitman to kill their daughter was more than adequate grounds to cut him off. A multi-million baht house was at stake!

Where the idea of a hitman came from, who knows? Perhaps Marvin made it up? More likely Mr. Canada's wife twisted things to turn the family against him. The family made a point of telling Mr. Canada that his wife had stopped work and he presumed that she was holed up in Marvin's palace, a building he had visited but which security prevented him from entering. He will be back, that's for sure. There will be fireworks. It is just a matter of time.

It was at that point that I decided I should slip into the shadows. Things had become pear-shaped. Mr. Canada was losing it and God only knows what would happen next. There was no upside for me, that's for sure. My involvement was merely a favour. He'd already had more than fair value from the lunch he'd sprung for.

Whatever happens next won't be pretty. Mr. Canada's life has been taken away from him by Marvin. Mr. Canada is not going to walk away. I suggested that he seek a loan of a few thousand dollars from friends or family at home to pursue legal action. You really can get a good lawyer in Bangkok for that amount. Gather more evidence and then go after Marvin. Marvin has, after all, stolen not just his wife, but his life. And Thai law is very, very clearly on Mr. Canada's side.

Mr. Canada is a regular Western guy who tried to do the right thing by his wife. Treat her well, support her, build her a house. But he ran out of money. That was a mistake of colossal proportions. Thailand is not a good place to be broke. What do they say? No money, no honey. But you would hope his wife would have stood by him. Isn't that what marriage is supposed to be about?!

Will he raise the money for legal action? What if he lives in a tall building? It's going to end very badly for all involved. That's why I extricated myself from it quick smart.

It's all a big, horrible tale of woe. An older Western man puts everything in his wife's name and then she goes on to leave him for a younger, wealthier guy. He's already turned his back on Canada. Going back with his tale between his legs is not an option. He's got nothing to live for. He has lost everything already.

Yes, Marvin, there is such a thing in this world as cause and effect…

Where was this picture taken?


Stickman out-tricked himself last week! I thought I would use a photo with a blurred background thinking it would fool the readership. Within an hour of publishing 35 people had got the picture right which I guess goes to show Sticky readers often wander out of Gulliver's in soi 5 in such a state that their vision is impaired and what they saw in that picture is exactly what they see with a few beers inside them! 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 WEEK – Thai kids.

I thought a good topic for your weekly columns might be about Thai kids in general and the poor parenting skills that produce some rather useless kids. Before going on, some background about myself. I have been married for 18 years to a wonderful Thai lady. We have chosen to live in Sydney but regularly spend time in Thailand. We are often asked if we can host Thai kids who are here to study English or pursue tertiary education. I generally politely refuse as previous experiences have shown some to be quite useless at even basic household chores, or unable or unwilling to put in the study and effort that's required to pass a course without cheating. At present I have a university-aged girl staying with us who is the daughter of close friends in Thailand. She is completely useless and bone lazy. She only needs to attend lectures at Uni twice a week and is failing subjects miserably. Her parents asked me what the problem was and I gave it to them politely and straight-up. I told them she was lazy. Sleeps till lunchtime everyday. Rather than studying, she spends her time watching TV and downloading Thai soaps off bit torrent. At times she does not even leave the house for days on end, driving me mad. I am getting close to throwing the TV out because it shits me to tears. If the family were not such close friends I would have kicked her out! Assorted nephews and nieces in Thailand are just as bad. Living and sponging off parents well into their 20's and beyond. One niece who is married and now has a teenage daughter has never worked nor her husband, but just sponge off the parents. I know Thai parents tend to spoil their kids worse than in the West but some Thai kids just milk it for all it's worth. Out in public almost every day you can see kids running amok causing distress and discomfort to people around them or just getting in the way where they should not be i.e. escalators etc. The parents do nothing to correct the behaviour or discipline their kids.

Bye bye Farang, hello Flip!

Does there appear to be a trend of more and more Thai schools hiring non-native speakers to teach English? Granted there may be some schools way out in the country where no native speaker lives in retirement or is willing to go to teach. The usual culprit is the low salary, which many Filipinos seem only too happy to accept, if it means a ticket out of their archipelago and a chance to make money to send to their un-supported family with scores of siblings and maybe children of their own. However, it seems that more and more of the private schools, even with English Programmes intact, where the tuition paid by parents certainly provides enough funding to hire native speakers, are increasing tipping the ratio in favor of non-Thai Asian teachers. At one school I know, white teachers are now the minority teaching English. They have been replaced by "native-speaker" Filipinas, who not only never complain about what the school provides them, but also have earned their Bachelor's and even Master's degrees outside of Thailand. While they can be admired for their tenacity in practicing their second-language of Tagalog daily in every conversation with a fellow Filipino at school (remember that they're native English speakers, despite their grammatical shortcomings), what makes these high-achieving professional teachers most remarkable is that many of them earned their B.A. and sometimes M.A. or M.Ed. at the prodigious age of eighteen! Rather than be proud of them and show them off to the parents of the students, however, the administration sees fit not to display them prominently at functions, on the website, banners, or promotional brochures. In fact, all the pictures of foreign faculty were recently removed, leaving only the Thai teachers on the wall for the parents to admire. In light of this, it's curious how over the past year the boss has told three different white teachers that if she had her way, she'd fire all the 'Farangs' tomorrow and replace them exclusively with Filipinas, who are far superior teachers and never complain. Obviously she has yet to scrutinize some of the classroom whiteboards and tests, where examples of this superior English instruction may be found. Could it be, on the other hand, the lower salary which can be paid to the non-native "native" speakers? When discussing the administration's hiring practices in terms of the bottom-line for the profits of said business, oops, school regardless of parental complaints, one teacher opined, "They can't help it. Their greed surpasses their racism."


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

Thai bosses, the bottom line.

Working for a Thai boss! From personal experience, I can tell you a lot about this subject. All I can say is how many Thai managers do you see working in a management position abroad for international companies? About ZERO.

Female staff are fair game!

That was a nice column about Thai bosses but you left out one other thing that make Thai bosses scurrilous. If they are men, and many of them are, they consider the women working under them as fair game for any sexual advance he might want to make. Even married bosses will make unwanted suggestions to their married female employees! This does not happen in the open but you can bet your life savings that if there is a male Thai boss and a pretty female employee, he has at some point made it plain to her he would like to get to know her better. According to my pretty Thai wife, this is common practice and even happens in America. She has worked in two Thai restaurants since we moved to America, and both of her Thai male bosses have made sexual advances towards her. How to stop it without her finding a new job? I went to the restaurant when I knew these scoundrels were working. Being a weightlifter, I wore a tight shirt and introduced myself as the husband. While shaking his hand with a grip close to bone-cracking, I told him how much my wife loved working here. The harassment stopped immediately. But this particular dummy still didn't get it. One time, his advances were accepted but when the lass's husband found out, he told the boss's wife. Mr. Dummy landed in divorce court and much to his chagrin he found out that, unlike in Thailand, the wife gets at least 50% of all property!

Angeles City, a better alternative?

With the currency market at a record low, I, as many, won't be returning to the LOS in the early part of next year. Last week the exchange rate was as low as 50 baht to the pound Sterling! One of my friends who has been to the Philippines said that Angeles City was cheaper, people friendlier and even went as far as saying the women were more beautiful. From what I've read and seen, the nightlife certainly looks great so I'm definitely considering it. 75 pesos to the £1 is much better value. It was 83 a couple of weeks ago.

On the buses.

I have to reply to your comment about the buses. I am retired here, neither a backpacker nor budget tourist, so it's not a question of finance. The air -conditioned buses are fine, cheap and comfortable. The 166 from Pakkred to Victory Monument is about as fast as a taxi down the expressway. They are a good way to mix with Thai people rather than be hermetically sealed in a car. Granted the non air-con ones leave a lot to be desired but even so they are a great way to learn about Bangkok. Having said that, waiting in the noon day sun is different from waiting in the cool of the evening. If you're retired maybe you don't need to be anywhere fast. Finally there is the physical effort involved in getting buses, walking more, maybe carrying shopping. All this (to my mind) is a free work out when it is really easy to slip into indolence.



The theme of doom and gloom and a massive drop in tourist numbers that has been repeated over and over in this column for the past couple of months is contrary to what some readers are telling me. Word is that flights and hotels are not only outrageously more expensive than years past, they are also fully booked this high season. Readers are reporting that it is extremely difficult to book a place to stay on either Phuket or Koh Samui at this time, irrespective of what one is willing to pay. Flight prices are double what was considered the going rate (and oil surely cannot be a factor, now below $50 a barrel) and most of the carriers are booked. Is a busy high season in the making?

And just to really confuse matters, was the upturn in bar trade last week an aberration? After a tremendously busy period the previous week, this week was a complete flop for bars in the capital. Monday was good as residents and visitors alike stormed the bars which had been closed for 3 days but then the rest of the week, Friday included, was flat. Even Angelwitch, where finding a seat at show time can pose a challenge, was dreadfully quiet. There weren't just single seats empty, but bench seat after bench seat was vacant. When Angelwitch is that quiet, other venues are dead! Once again bar owners are getting nervous and the optimism of last week is a distant memory.

Word from Pattaya has it that the seaside city of sin seems to suddenly be full of tourists. Beach and Walking Street have been jammed for a few days now so I guess stores, restaurants and bars are doing a good trade. The rains have abated and the weather is cool and pleasant. Ah, Pattaya is great any time of year!

I can never keep up with the happy prices at Dollhouse. It was 2 for 1 drinks for a while and now it is 60 baht drinks until 9:30, which is half an hour later than most other bars with happy hours.

The Champagne Room, closed for some time now, is to be incorporated into Bully's. They're going to open upstairs as a pool hall with a black and red design with a bunch of Sovereign tables. There will be a balcony running the length of the two businesses. It won't be open for some time and the best guess would be the first half of 2009.

If you didn't make it to Sheba's this week then you missed a real treat. While Suzy Wong bar, directly across the naughty lane and under the same ownership, was under renovation, the Suzy Wong girls were holed up in Sheba's essentially doubling the number of dancers, making over a hundred girls on stage. Cripes, that's more than 3 months' worth!

Full nudity is back at Nana as can be seen in this picture. In the middle of the day, no less!

Down in Sin City, well-known Walking Street bar, FLB, will be celebrating its 10th anniversary on December 9 which will also double as birthday party for manager Moulie. The hostesses will be dolled up and all in their finery. It should be a good night.

With tourists just tricking into the country it remains a buyer's market. An expat friend negotiated a deal the likes of which I have never heard of before with a freelancer he has known for some time. It was a package deal, 10 short times for 5,000 baht. I'm not sure if he paid in advance but if he did, what's the bet she welches on the deal?!

There are some dreamers in this world and Nana Plaza bar mogul Czech Peter is one of them. 'His' empire (of which Johnny still has a major share) consists of the two bars on the left hand side of the top floor of Nana Plaza, Carousel and Hollywood, as well as the spot where the Big Mango used to be housed. He is offering for sale a 50% share in all of this for, hold your breath, 60 million baht. There is a very flash executive summary doing the rounds with much puffery as well as a misrepresentation or two… The use of the words "flourishing industry" is downright scandalous when even a blind man could tell you that the bar business is down 20 – 40%. Stunningly professional brochures (see excerpted pictures below) promote the whole venture but I have serious reservations. My impressions are that the professional material was created to target and woo those new to or naive about the industry. So, what all this means is that Peter values those two gogo bars (one of which was recently closed and still could be for all I know as I didn't make it to Nana this week) and the as yet still under construction and therefore unopened hotel at 120 million baht or, in real money, about $3,500,000. You've got to wonder…

And it would seem that Peter is in hot water. Not only does work seem to have stopped on the site of the Hollywood Inn, as it is being referred to, Peter has not been seen in the plaza for the past week. He has been threatened with police action after 3 months of not paying rent and telling numerous lies to postpone paying. Dear oh dear…

And the legal action and calamity in Bangkok's bar industry doesn't end there. The French / Thai couple in charge of Absolute Bar in soi 7/1, Nomad in soi 12 and New Wave in soi 7 are facing action in court for a reputed 3,000,000 baht worth of bad cheques! And now rumour has it that the Indian land owners will be kicking them out of Absolute. Times really are tough…

It should be noted that unsolicited email are being sent out to many Stickmanites by a fellow behind a new venture called Electric Avenue Bangkok with the following quote amongst the sales pitch, " Your investment is projected to yield 100% return within 18 months of operation, and at least 100% per year, each year following." Yes, of course it is! The industry is hurting and everyone is expecting things to get much, much worse. Claiming returns of 100% a year is akin to telling someone to do a Forrest Gump and run as fast as you can!

The advice of the bar owner I respect more than any other is that when it comes to investing in the bar business, you should not buy partial ownership from anyone, especially as a passive investor. Buy the whole thing or just don't get involved.

Despite words from the management to me that customers come first and scams will not be tolerated by their staff, the bureau de change wannabe, Miss #152, is still dancing in Cowboy… Am I naive to have expected any other outcome?

Big Mango bar has a party coming this Saturday the 29th, a charity event in tandem with ThailandFriends. That could be worth checking out for there's some might hot crumpet on ThailandFriends.

The American expat's favourite, Bourbon Street, will be celebrating Thanksgiving over two days on November 27 & 28 with their popular all you can eat buffet featuring deep fried and roasted turkeys – real American turkeys as well as other American favourites, at American prices! On Thursday November 27 things kick off at noon and run through until 10:30 PM. It'll set you back 899 baht ++ per adult and half that for kids (under 12) to be a pig at the trough. If you miss out on the 27th, you can get the same deal on Friday November 28 featuring the same food, from 6:00 PM – 10:30 PM. Nowhere in Bangkok is more popular at Thanksgiving and the event is usually packed so book now! Check out complete details of the buffet.

If you baulk at the idea of spending 1,000+ baht, you could try Silver Dollar just a stone's throw from Bourbon Street in Washington Square where their Thanksgiving spread will run you just 380 baht. It will be available from 1:00 – 9:00 PM on each of the 27th and 28th November.

And the venue that I will try and make it to, notwithstanding that I am not an American and I am not quite sure who I am supposed to be thanking, is Bully's. Bully's Thanksgiving feast kicks off on Thursday November 27 at 1 PM and runs through until 10 PM. The menu includes maple roast turkey and ham carving, grandma's stuffing and sausage, apple and cranberry stuffing and too many other items to list. It was the busiest day of the year last year when over 200 customers enjoyed Thanksgiving at Bully's. It's just 590 baht for all you care to eat. Now that's a good deal!

Sunrise Tacos are getting many orders for their whole pumpkin and apple pies for Thanksgiving. They can deliver or customers can collect from any of their locations. A 60 baht delivery fee would apply in most cases if it’s delivered. The pumpkin pie is made using real pumpkin and the apples are from Washington State, USA. They will also be doing something for Thanksgiving.

Not to be outdone, the Big Mango bar will be having a Thanksgiving party on Thursday, serving fresh turkey plates and doing special turkey shots. Oh, choices, choices, where to go this Thanksgiving Day?!

Beer Lao seems hard to come by in the Cowboy area for the time being whereas in Nana it seems to be in stock. Weird. That this beer does not seem to have one central distributor means that interruptions to its availability aren't uncommon.

If you're after a decent value lunch buffet, try the Taipan Hotel on Sukhumvit soi 23, just a little up beyond Soi Cowboy. 175 baht ++ gets a decent spread. OK, it's not the same quality you get at the big 5 star hotel buffets but it is decent, honest food and will fill you up.

With the price of oil now a third of what it was just a few months ago, punters are asking why the price of an oil massage has not come down…

I was shocked to hear recently that one of the largest nationwide chains of English language schools pays part-time teachers the very same rate they were paying 10 years ago – 250 baht an hour. With the cost of living in Bangkok soaring over the past decade to say nothing of the increase in availability of Western products (at Western prices), I wonder how anyone can live on that amount. To make matters more complicated is that while Generation X were prepared to accept lower money and slowly work their way up through an organisation to a point where they were in a more senior position earning a decent salary, today's youngsters, that would be Generation Y, are very much the me me me now now now crowd and convincing them to accept such a low hourly rate will be a challenge for language school managers. With all of this in mind I would expect to see that positions in the lower end of the teaching market will be taken up by older guys, and not wanting to sound ageist, Thai language school students often prefer younger teachers, 25 – 35 seen as the ideal age.

Quote of the week comes from http://shrinkify.com/fvt. “Thailand risks becoming one of those perennially unstable, tragi-comic countries, such as the Philippines.”

Another member failed to get his wings at the Pattaya Flying Club.

From Melbourne's excellent Age newspaper, Thailand's tourism plummets amid the credit crunch.

Also from The Age comes The Trouble With Harry, the ongoing case of Aussie Harry Nicolaides' incarceration in Thailand.

Australian girls and Thai girls, same same?

The Sydney Morning Herald's irresponsible journalism unit ran this dreadful article riddled with factual inaccuracies on the exodus of Aussies to Thailand chasing Thai women. Unfortunately the article proliferates the same old myths that the Western media regurgitates whenever prostitution in Thailand is featured.

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: About a year ago I was on another frequent trip to Korat. I happened to learn that Loso was in concert that weekend in Korat and thought about going along as I quite like a few of his songs even though I have no idea what he is singing about. I mentioned this to a neighbour who comes from Si Saket and she warned me not to go as the Loso concerts always end in a big fight. OK, being a farang it may not be a good idea to put myself in that sort of situation. I later asked some friends in Korat about the Loso concert and they confirmed that it was not a good idea to go. Another thing my neighbour said was that recently there have been fights, quite large gang fights, between men from different villages / towns in Isaan. This never used to happen according to my Mrs. who confirmed that the fights have become quite a regular occurrence in the past year or so. The Mrs. also mentioned that the local village fare / festival has become a favourite location for the gangs to stage their fights. Are you aware of these situations or is just gossip that has become rather exaggerated? If it is true do you know why it is happening?

Mrs. Stick says: I don't know about fights between people from different villages. You know, when there is a dispute it is not normally one village fighting another but one family against another family and usually from the same village. Village people don't usually get involved in affairs of people in other villages. I have not heard about this so I cannot say more. You know, villages in the country aren't usually places where we find this violence but when people drink a lot there can be problems. Sometimes at the end of marriage ceremonies late at night there can be problems if people drink too much but I think that is different to what your wife talks about.

Question 2: My wife's friend lives and works in Bangkok. She is a maid / personal assistant for an Indian gentleman that works for a global aid agency. She often accompanies him on trips overseas. My wife informs me that her friend recently developed an illness whilst travelling in India; the illness was so serious that she needed a blood transfusion. She flatly refused to accept the transfusion due to it being “kek blood”. She was not concerned with questionable screening of the blood, but the fact that she would have Indian “kek” blood in her forever. In your opinion what is the underlying reason for the hatred of people from the sub continent? I can't imagine most Thai people being exposed to them all that often. I could understand people in business and the service industry would find them difficult but it seems widespread?

Mrs. Stick says: I don't know what the reason and history is but it is true. When I was at school we used to joke about Indian people and even in my home town we had some. We used to joke about them being sticky with money and smelling bad. I did not know any Indian people then, just sometimes see them in town. But now I know and met some Indian people and I know they are usually very nice. I work with some and they are nice. And I like Indian food too. The only thing I don't like is they are hard to understand. I can understand British English and American English but Indian English is so hard for me!

Question 3: Since relocating to Thailand I have met many Thai people (though, sadly, I still do not feel any of them are friends). Most work with me or are in my building. I would like to present some of them with small gifts (tokens of my appreciation) but I feel it would be a more appropriate gesture if I did it for a special occasion. So my question is: Does Thailand have a special day of the year when people exchange gifts? Like Loy Krathong or Songkran or Chinese New Year? Anything?

Mrs. Stick says: The main time for giving presents is New Year. Please wrap it up and give it to them and they will open it later, in privacy. Loy Kratong you can buy something for your girlfriend or wife, but not for other people. Songkran is time for family and Chinese New Year is for Chinese people.

I'm getting really mixed messages about how this tourist high season is building up. On Monday the bars were jam packed but by Wednesday they were dead and as of Friday there'd been little improvement. Word from Pattaya is that things have picked up and some are saying you can't get an air ticket to Thailand for love nor money. I can't work it out. Too many conflicting reports. We need more time to see where things are going…



Your Bangkok commentator,
9.5/10 – I enjoyed putting together today's column.
Stick