Stickman's Weekly Column November 9th, 2008

Soi Cowboy Scam


If you had asked me earlier this week which venue was favourite to win the Stickman bar of the year award, a certain Soi Cowboy venue was not just the front runner, but the red hot favourite. It may not have transformed the industry but since it reopened after extensive renovations, the mix of a good layout, an overflowing stable of pretty, fun-loving girls and reasonable prices have made it a winner, the most popular farang nightspot in Bangkok. It's one of few venues where even finding a seat is next to impossible later in the evening. I make it there at least once, if not twice a week, and always have a good time. It's a great bar in every way, the benchmark against which other bars are compared.

But this week the bar's management added themselves to the list of scurrilous bar owners who could not care about the satisfaction of their customers, or worse still, bar owners who know that scams are being perpetrated by their staff against customers, some of which could cause the victim no end of problems – but they chose not do anything about it. Read on!

So there we were on Tuesday night, myself and an Aussie friend, relaxing over a few drinks, enjoying good conversation and ribbing each other about our perceptions of each other's country.

"Why wasn't Jesus born in Australia?", I asked.

He looked puzzled.

"Because they couldn't find three wise men or a virgin!"

And then he'd start on the Kiwi sheep jokes. "What's New Zealand's favourite newspaper?"

I hadn't heard that one before and couldn't answer.

"The Wool Street Journal!"

It was good-natured Down Under banter, an Aussie and a Kiwi enjoying a few beers, sharing stories, telling lies. Good conversation, good beer, all with a good view. We'd had a few drinks and were running up a bit of a checkbin. You couldn't accuse us of being cheap Charlies.

Out of the blue I was approached by a dancer. I didn't know her and don't remember ever chatting with her before. Just why she chose me out of the hundred or so customers in the bar at that time, I don't know. She explained that she wanted to break a 1,000 baht note and asked me if I could change it for her. I was happy to help but as it happened I didn't have change so I couldn't exchange it for her.

My Aussie friend checked his wallet, saw that he had change and was happy to swap her 1,000 baht note for two 500s. Before he got his hands on it I had a notion that she might be trying to pull a fast one. I grabbed it, held it up to the light and checked for a watermark to make sure that it wasn't fake. There was a watermark so all was well and my Aussie friend put the 1,000 baht note into his wallet.

The alcohol was having a nice, relaxing effect and it took me a while to realise that a number of the service staff around us were looking at me. Thais are easy to read. Look closely and behind the smile their facial expressions seldom betray their true feelings. They were looking at me and clearly, they were gossiping about me. Why? I didn't think I'd done anything to warrant the attention. We were just chatting, minding our own business. Something was up.

A couple of the service staff were close by and I caught a few words of their exchange, one being the Thai word "blom" – which translates as fake or counterfeit. Now I knew why they were looking at me!

I told my Aussie mate to show me the 1,000 baht that he had swapped with the dancer. It might be fake. I examined it closely, again holding it up to the light and gave it the same sort of scrutiny every girl in that part of the bar was now giving me. There was a watermark. It looked real. It felt real. The banknote was real.

One of the service staff came over and said that the banknote is fake. The unspoken vow of silence amongst the bar staff had been broken at that point. She asks to see it. My Aussie pal is getting exasperated at my constant requests to scrutinize the banknote and again he removes it from his wallet. The service girl grabs the banknote and points at the silver strip on it and starts peeling it back. It's a fake, she announces.

There's a reason I don't work in a bureau de change or a bank. I examined the damned thing three times and I could not tell. I'd had a few drinks but I had nothing more than a light buzz on. I don't blame the alcohol. I couldn't tell. This was a good copy. Perhaps in daylight I might have picked it. Perhaps not.

I pulled out a real 1,000 baht note from my wallet and while they looked and felt remarkably similar we could now see that the 1,000 baht note that the dancer had asked to swap was indeed a fake.

Now I was angry. My pal had been scammed of 1,000 baht. Unlike some of the scams in Bangkok such as the gem scam, we were not victims because of our own greed. We had agreed to help someone with nothing in it for us. It was just goodwill on our part.

It's a big bar with as many as 150 dancers some nights so finding this girl wasn't going to be easy. Was she still in the bar or has she disappeared? There was no way I was going to let her get away with it!

I went for a walk around the bar and my search didn't last long when one of the waitresses who had viewed the whole incident pointed out to where the perpetrator of the scam was. When the dancer in question saw me coming she made a dash for the back door but Stick hit the turbo button and got to her before she could escape the main bar area and hide out in the changing shed.

I confronted her, telling her that the 1,000 baht note she had asked us to swap was a fake and that she had defrauded my pal. She denied it. She never swapped any money with anyone. I had the wrong girl. I was mistaken. It must have been someone else! Her eyes were wild and she had a most unThai-like aggressiveness like she'd overdosed on yaba. I told her that it would be in her interest to cough up the money or it would go to the next level. She told me to fxxx off and said she knew nothing about what I was saying and didn't have two 500 baht notes on her.

"That's funny, honey, I hadn't even mentioned 500 baht notes, just the thousand. Now cough up or I get nasty!"

"Fuck you", she screamed!

It was hard to retain my composure but jai yen yen was what was needed. Losing your cool never works in Thailand, even if you're dealing with some low class whore. And that is exactly what she was.

Into my wallet I went, her eyes getting wider at the stack of thousands and out comes a business card. I show it to her and make a point of entering the number into my mobile. Truth be told I don't know this cop very well and I had absolutely no intention of calling him about such a trivial thing. The day I call him will be the day my eternal debt to him starts. It's a call I never really want to make.

Before I could finish entering the number she was diving for the phone. The alcohol hadn't completely dulled my senses and I managed to keep it from her desperate grasps.

The bluff of calling a senior Thai copper did the trick and her hand went into her bra and came out with the two 500 baht notes she had just a moment ago denied possessing. I grabbed them from her and walked back across the bar with her following in hot pursuit saying she wanted the 1,000 baht note back. As much as it had no value, we returned it to her. Perhaps she wanted to destroy the evidence or more likely she wanted to try the con with someone else.

With the main event now behind us, a number of dancers and waitresses came over, each going on about how #152 had been pulling this scam in the bar for a while. This was not a one off. It was an ongoing scam.

I asked if any of the foreign owners were present. There are at least two, an American and a German. I was told the German owner was present. I don't know him. I only know the American. I told the helpful waitress to go and tell the owner what had happened and to tell him to come over so we could have a word. She duly went over and did just that. The German owner was informed….and did nothing! He did not come over to find out more. He did not make any effort to ask what had happened as #152 was bouncing around the bar like a yaba-crazed freak as if nothing had happened. The owner of the bar was totally disinterested.

This scam is potentially very, very dangerous. Knowing the way things work in Thailand, a foreigner who came upon one of these notes and unknowingly passed it elsewhere would likely come to the attention of the police – and if you were unable to wrangle or negotiate your way out of it, this is a crime for which you could end up in a Thai gaol.

Researching this article I have since learned that the problem of counterfeit notes is not a major issue in Thailand. In addition to checking for the silver strip and water mark, you also should check the top right side of the note. On a legitimate note, the printed "1000" is embossed and you can feel the raised type.

I returned to the same bar a few days later and the girl in question spotted me, came over and started dancing in front of me, proud to show off her new number. She'd gone from #152 to #5 and thought it was a great joke. When I asked her about the 1,000 baht note, she said she had swapped it with someone else. I didn't ask where and I didn't ask who, but almost certainly it was a customer of the bar. Maybe the guy thought this girl was going to be his Tilac for the night?

With the nature of the industry one has to accept that there will be issues in the bars but why oh why such an otherwise well run bar would choose not just to overlook but to ignore this scam is beyond me.

Needless to say, don't accept offers from any girl in any bar to exchange money.

And to the Western owners and management of this Soi Cowboy bar, SHAME ON YOU!

Where was this picture taken?


Last week's picture was taken of All Seasons Place and the Conrad Hotel from Sukhumvit soi 2. It was easy and heaps of people got it right. This week's picture is much more difficult! 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.

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 One strike – and you're out!

One piece of advice on bargirls that you have given over the years and which has become deeply embedded in my own behaviour is the "one strike" policy. At the first sign of disingenuous behaviour they should be dropped. No '3 chances'. Last night, the wisdom of this rule came back as I paid bar for the 4th time for a girl who had previously been a lot of fun and quite accommodating. Last night started out the same way. We went and listened to music, and she was doing and saying all of the right things. Upon getting home, though, she announced that she did not want sex tonight (short-time had been previously agreed to). She then had the audacity to start lobbying strongly for me to pay her rent and her fees to study English. One strike, and out she goes. Goodbye. This episode brings back one of the stark realities of this business, especially for older guys like me. We are essentially being 'used' to support their lifestyle. I say this with absolutely no malice – this is simply the name of the game from their standpoint. Their job is to provide fun and pleasure. Our job is to give them a reasonable price for their services. If they don't perform, they do not deserve a second chance. There are just too many others out there for us to waste our time and money on a 'proven' cheat. If more guys followed the 'one strike' rule, there would probably be a lot fewer guys with Thai women problems, and the women would likely be more accommodating.

No compunction at screwing their fellow countrymen.

A sad situation arose over the weekend. The father of my Mrs. in Udon Thani became very ill and was taken to hospital, the best hospital in the province she was assured. High fever and bloated stomach. This happened on Sunday and he was told that he had to stay in for at least one night. I asked the simple question of what was wrong with him and I was told that they didn't know because it was Sunday and there were no doctors on duty. What a useless bunch of tossers. We are talking about people's lives here. They charged him 10,000 baht for the night's stay. I can tell you that 10K is a lot of money for her family and I strongly suspect that the admissions staff at the 'hospital' were practicing the usual scam of trying to get the beds full. I have seen that before at a well known hospital in Rayong. That must be the biggest money spinner in hospitals. I have seen it a number of times that Thais seem to feel no guilt by ripping each other off, no matter how unfortunate the other person is.

Raining rats and other undesirables.

Around this time of year when there is a big downpour the streets around my office (Asoke area) flood and stranded pedestrians start to remove their shoes and socks, roll up their trousers and wade through the deluge. I think a Stickmanite wrote in about the dangers of this before. As with most places in Bangkok the streets around my office are filthy but of even more concern are the puddles of almost toxic waste that accumulate when the street vendors have finished for the day and wash down their areas. There is one particularly bad area where everyone either pinches their nose or holds their breath for about 20 yards. Before the floods the streets are travelled by rats and other undesirables and no doubt these creatures are flushed out during the downpour. It would appear that the chances of getting a serious infection are quite high but nobody seems to be aware.

Square face no longer welcome in UK!

For those of us who have had to endure the visa hassles in Thailand, the indiscriminate discrimination of being a Farang in Thailand, the double pricing, the inability to own property and all the other things those insular Thais throw around in their self perceived superiority. We the British today have our just reward at last. Square face; that two faced bastard and his side kick mia have just had their visas revoked from the shores of Blighty and boy has this brought a smile to my face. Som nam na, Taksin. What goes around comes around and it's time to get yours sonny Jim. May our shores continue to close tighter…

For the maths challenged.

Just a thought that might be worth sharing for any of your maths challenged readers. I recently overheard an Australian guy complaining that his "cost of living had gone up 33% since the dollar dropped from buying around 33 baht to buying around 22 baht". In actual fact, it's worse than that. It's gone up 50%! If something that used to cost 33 baht could be bought for AUD$1, the same thing for 33 baht now costs AUD$1.50!

The scams are not unique to Thailand.

Am I the only one who tires of guys whinging about the scams etc. in Thailand? What do they expect? You're travelling to a foreign third world country where a huge portion of the population has to scrimp, scrape, scam, lie, cheat and steal to get by in their lives. Believe me, this is nothing unique to Thailand. Just go, drink their beer, shag the woman, tell the touts to fxxx off (in a polite way) and you'll be fine. You know the old cliché – lots of guys leave their common sense at the arrival hall.

Maximising your chance of success in cross-cultural relationships.

The best chance of a successful relationship with a Thai woman is to find yourself an orphan with no known immediate family. The same holds true for guys looking for a wife in the Philippines. Some are so lovelorn they'll do anything to keep the girl by his side. It's mind blowing and sad to watch. The worst is the sod sending money to a girl overseas he has never met in person, only online.

Riding the storm out in Thailand.

If you are OK with where you are and what you are doing in these hard times, then by all means just stay put and ride this thing out. This would not be a good time to make any kind of move or major transition to the West or anywhere else. Thailand is probably one of the best places you can be nowadays to insulate yourself from what is probably the worst economic times since the Depression of the 1930s. I certainly have never seen such a depressed economy in my life. Worst yet, prospects for improvement are very gloomy, in my opinion. Also of course, keep a strict eye on your investments. Cash is probably not a bad option nowadays.

Is it as good as official or isn't it? It is said that most bars and entertainment spots will be closed on November 14, 15 and 16 as a mark of respect for the cremation ceremony for HM The King's older sister. So far, confirmation has come from bars in the Patpong and Nana areas although no entertainment spots have been delivered a letter yet. I thought we could say with a good deal of confidence that all entertainment spots would be closed for this period nationwide without exception but then, at the last minute, I hear rumours that some bars are going to flaunt the ban! Hmmm, it's all rather uncertain. My feeling is that most venues will be closed so if the idea of getting through next weekend without a few ales sounds like a looming nightmare, stock up now. Normal pubs and restaurants seem to be able to open and serve but are being told to not have live music and turn off any outside lights. So *some* venues will be open.

Down in Pattaya readers need not be too perturbed as on the closed days you will in all likelihood not have any trouble getting a drink in the bar beers but it will almost certainly be a no lights / music environment which, whilst better than nothing, can be pretty grim.

Catz a gogo (Soi 16, Walking Street) is throwing a party this coming Thursday, 13th November. It's the joint birthday bash of two of the owners – one of whom is celebrating his 65th this time around – and it's usually the bar's biggest party of the year. The timing is great too as with all the bars likely to be closed for the following 3 days, here's an opportunity to really let your hair down before the enforced "rest". Catz always puts on some of the best food to be found at parties and I'm told that this one will be no exception with all the stops being pulled out. They've also had over 25 new girls start in the last few weeks and reports reaching me suggest that there are some VERY cute ones amongst them. Definitely worth checking out if you're in the area!

Once again Big Andy of Electric Blue fame's birthday party comes around as he tries to convince us he is another year younger. Andy never misses the chance to throw a party and assures me that there will be loads of really bad tasting free drinks and with a bit of luck, free BBQ. With the bars closed for the following three days you have plenty of time to get over the hangover. See you in Club Electric Blue in Patpong on November 13.

Nana Plaza labours on and doing my rounds through the plaza this week I found little positive to write about. Of the two Hollywood bars on the top floor the smaller of the two has closed in what I understand is a voluntary closure with all staff moved into the larger bar. Hollywood hadn't been doing well for some time and the lack of revenue may be one reason why progress on the Hollywood Hotel, in the location previously held by the Big Mango, has been so slow.

If you've got a case of the late night munchies and the grease girl selling burgers at the mouth of Nana doesn't appeal then keep walking until you reach the petrol station on the corner of Soi Nana where you can now find the famous golden arches. A brand new mini-McDonald's outlet has opened next door to the 7 Eleven. Although small, it has some seating. With the Nana area's popularity at its peak after midnight, it's conveniently open 24 hours.

Beer gardens are popping up all over the city as they do every year at this time. They're a great place to hang out with friends, drink beer at reasonable prices as well as being a first class place to meet local women. If you see someone you like, it pays to do things the 'Thai way'. Approaching women directly doesn't always work, the preferred method being the passing of your mobile number written on a napkin via the waiter. It's just like you're back at school.

Management at Angelwitch Bangkok has acted on the scam where staff were failing to give customers their change by ingeniously introducing a 1,000 baht fine on any member of staff failing to deliver the change. GREAT STUFF!

Sisterz Bar on Pattaya's Walking Street is going all out to entice customers by offering 59 baht drinks from 11 PM until closing – and before 11 PM when it is happy hour they are even cheaper. The 59 baht menu includes 330 ml glasses of draft Chang (yuck!), all house spirits, soft drinks as well as bottles of Tiger, Chang and Singha.

News from the Ball In Hand is that their Times Square location will not be reopening. The tables have been sold to a pool bar in Chang Mai. This leaves an opportunity to someone looking to open a professional pool venue in the busy part of Sukhumvit.

The venue formerly known as Spice Club has dropped the 'Spice' part of the name due to paperwork issues. It remains as The Club with the same management and staff. It has also stopped advertising the hours it is open for business.

Mamasan Ann will return to Rainbow 1 in the second half of the month. She's a friendly figure and always helpful.

They say it's low season and the bars are hurting but as I have been saying for some time, those bars which have worked on building a brand name and a good reputation are doing just fine. A certain bar in Pattaya had a boomer Saturday night last week with 1135 lady drinks consumed in one night. Can't tell you the name of the bar. It's a secret!

A few weeks ago I raised the idea of an ATM being installed on Soi Cowboy. Let's add a mobile phone relay station to the list. The number of bars where you cannot get mobile phone service in Cowboy is a pain.

The sign used to say "take photo pay tip". Then it was "take photo 20 baht". Now it is, get this, 100 baht to photograph the bugs for sale on Cowboy, which is 10 times as much as it will cost you for a small bag of the critters. Actually there is no prohibition on taking photos in a public place in Thailand but I imagine taking a photo up close and not paying would result in hysterics from the old hag.

For the alcoholics who wish to purchase alcohol between 2:00 PM – 5:00 PM, the period in which there is a prohibition on alcohol sales, Villa Market (the branch near Robin Hood pub) and Foodland (the branch in Soi 5) sell alcohol all day long – and you don't have to buy more than ten litres.

Many guys living in Thailand finance their lifestyle with an online business, and many peddle various made in Thailand paraphernalia on EBay. An Aussie friend had plans to sell Thai silk and handicraft type items via the giant online auction firm. With his good lady hailing from Surin, she helped him source various odds and ends for which he felt there was a market. With her assistance he would be paying the lowest possible price for the items. However his online business plans were ruined by EBay with both the US and Australian branches refusing to carry his merchandise claiming that it was copied – which it most certainly wasn't! The prices he was selling at were so low and with the source country being Thailand, it seems that EBay automatically assumed that what he had for sale was knock offs. No amount of email correspondence would convince EBay that these non-branded items were genuine. What a shame.

It's been a few weeks since I bitched about service in Thailand so I think it is about time I had another famous stickman bitch. Last time I moaned about the way you can make an order in a restaurant, have whatever you ordered brought to your table, order more, ask for the bill and receive your change without so much as a peep out of the server. It's pretty cold as far as "service" goes. Well, I think we can take that a little further – and this I find quite perturbing. Watch the service staff closely. They often huddle in groups laughing, giggling and generally having a whale of a time with their colleagues. The notion of happy go lucky would be a fitting description. When they come to your table to take your order their demeanour changes and they become all somber as I have previously described. The moment they go back to their friends it is all fun and laughter again. I find this horribly off putting, I really do.

I heard something quite baffling recently from a local firm which advertised (note the 'd' as in, they did, but don't any more) on a high profile forum in Thailand. The firm received an email a few days before their ad was due to expire informing them that if they wished to continue with their advertising they would have to renew soon and oh, by the way, advertising rates go up at this time of year because it is high season. High season advertising prices? What a rort!

Beach Road near sois 5 and 6. Second Road near Soi Diana.

We're just about at the end of the rainy season in Bangkok, thank goodness. Pattaya has been getting an absolute lashing with rain most days. I drove down to Sin City this week and for 90 minutes it was clear blue skies. Just as I reached Pattaya the heavens opened and as is often the case, the city of sin's drainage system couldn't handle it and the main roads flooded as can be seen in the pictures above.

There's a new menu featuring some new items at Sunrise Tacos. All the old favourites remain. My favourites are the mango Margarita with the good Tequila and the chicken fajitas.

Congratulations to Dave The Rave who hit the 2 year anniversary of his column this week.

Alcoholics Anonymous is alive and well in Thailand and more information can be obtained from AAThailand.org or by calling 02-2318300.

Quote of the week comes from the Dirty Doctor, delivered while in Tilac Bar. "You don't say you're going to drain the main vein but you're going to look through the window". If you've been to the hongnam in Tilac Bar you'll know what he means…

Whoever said Thailand was safe for foreigners should read this after an American was attacked in Pattaya by a sword-wielding local!

Australian author Harry Nicolaides is probably starting to regret ever coming to Thailand.

A story from Melbourne's The Age about some interesting safety issues confronting tourists visiting Phuket.

Dengue fever was highlighted in The International Herald Tribune this week.

From MSN Travel comes this piece about the sexiest Southeast beaches. Umm, why isn't Pattaya mentioned?

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 am going to be in BKK next week and haven't seen my Thai girlfriend in 4 years and I am looking forward to having and holding her in every way possible. She has a younger sister, still a virgin and they ask money for her and I give not only to my girlfriend, but she always asks for her young sister for money and she never likes to go anywhere alone. If I keep paying for the younger sister would it be ok to ask to take her virginity with the younger sister. I know in Thai culture it's ok to have many wives. Please let me know.

Mr. Stick says: Your question as to whether it is ok to take this girl's virginity is even more shameful than the requests they make for money from you. It is guys like *you* who give Westerners in Thailand a bad reputation. In Thai culture it is *not* OK to have many wives. Some may keep mistresses but this is NOT a cultural norm.

Question 2: I am 24 years old. Three months ago I met a girl who was working in a local bar in Bangkok. I have been living with her since. She argues that she went to the bar scene when her former Thai boyfriend cheated on her with another girl which resulted in a pregnancy. She felt angry at him and wanted to take revenge. She is 22, tall, beautiful, has white skin, is very sensitive and locals often think she is Japanese. To be honest with you without trying to show off, many people think that we look so good together and that they want to see our baby so much! But I don't wanna think about baby or marriage. I want a girl who loves the nightlife, who loves drinking and dancing, traveling etc. I am getting a little disappointed from this relationship. Her habits are nothing of what I expected them to be. She attends university, has a 4.0 GPA, hates drinking / smoking, doesn't like to go out, just wants to study, cook for me all day, stay home watch TV with me, or at maximum go watch a movie or shopping together. Sometimes I feel that we are turning into an old married couple. She loves to be showered with kisses, hugs and all that romantic stuff. Although I have feelings for her, I am getting bored from this relationship. I tried to end this relationship a week ago and she cried so much that I felt so bad and almost started crying with her too. Sometimes I think about just disappearing without letting her know but then I feel bad again. I have never had a girl get so attached to me. Are Thai girls so sensitive? What do you advise me to do?

Mrs. Stick says: If you wanted a serious relationship then your girlfriend is perfect. Actually, everything you say about her describes her as a perfect girlfriend for a Thai guy. She is physically what Thai guys like and she is "reab roy" – well-behaved and proper. If you want someone more your style maybe you can go back to a bar to find someone like that. Your girlfriend has already been hurt badly so please be honest with her. Don't run away in the middle of the night because you might hurt her badly again. You can tell her honestly your reasons.

Question 3: We live in Nonthaburi and the Mrs. has started going to English classes at AUA near Lumpini Park. Sometimes I am busy or visiting a project so I cannot pick her up to take her home so she gets a taxi. On a number of occasions the taxi driver has shown a little bit too much interest in her. I appreciate that Thais do like to talk to each other and it is quite normal to strike up a conversation, you even see motorcycle riders starting to chat to each other at intersections. However these situations are getting a bit scary. To call your passenger "sooway" is definitely over the top but to start calling her sexy is fighting talk. She went to the local salon yesterday for a haircut and she started telling the girls about these experiences. Apparently it is getting worse and there was even a rape recently in Nonthaburi. Now these girls can gossip for sure but I don't think they would have made up the rape part. I am becoming very concerned. One measure we have started taking is stopping the cab a few sois away from our house so at least the drivers do not know where she lives. But how do you stop a situation developing in the taxi? As a start maybe call me, or pretend to call me, with the cab number when she gets in and call again if the driver starts to get too chatty. I even contemplated buying her a knife as a last resort if things did get nasty but I soon came to my senses and realised that a weapon could easily make the situation a lot worse. Can you buy things like Mace in Bangkok or something just as effective which is legal? For the meantime it will be no more cabs for her alone. If a woman was attacked or abused by a taxi driver do you think the police would ever do anything about it?

Mrs. Stick says: You know that you talk about two groups I dislike the most, taxi drivers and police. We had problems at the start of our relationship when Stickman let me go home in a taxi alone. Why didn't he take me home and then go back to his place? I hate taxi drivers. You know they say many inappropriate things when an attractive lady is alone in the car with them. They can say that we are very beautiful and ask us for our phone number and if we find them handsome. And most of them are really disgusting. If we say an answer they don't like then can they drive really crazy or make threats. But if there is more than one of you or if there is a man with you they will not say anything. Now it is more dangerous for women in taxis so you must think very carefully if you want to let your wife ride in a taxi alone at night. Of all my friends we hate riding in a taxi alone at night. For the police, I think they are only interested if something happens. If a driver says something impolite they probably won't do anything.

If you feel that there has been increased coverage of scams and other troubles for foreigners living in and visiting Thailand in recent times then I would comment that this is simply a fair reflection of what is happening in the country at present. But just how much of what happens is being reported? Is there more that never makes it into the press? This comment from the Pattaya City News is scary:

Pattaya Daily News tries not to report more than 2 severe crime items each day, in accordance with the council's request to downplay violence, but we have reported many similar events in the past and feel that trying to pull the wool over the public's eyes is not the way to go about reducing the senseless violence which increasingly characterizes this city. Rather, we feel that all such incidents must be reported in full to pressurize the Powers That Be into taking some constructive action.

I must confess that I am getting quite concerned about the way I see the economic downturn manifesting itself in Thailand – an increase in scams and crimes against foreigners, both in numbers and in their seriousness. What's more, as the economic conditions worsen one can only expect this trend to continue. In other words, things are going to get much, much worse. The biggest problem in my mind is that there seems to be an attitude that perpetrating a crime against a foreigner is in fact not a crime at all and when it comes to foreigners, Thais can act with impunity. I mean, you CANNOT attribute the scam outlined in the opening piece of today's column to a decrease in customers in the bar for that particular bar does a roaring trade every night of the week.

It's crazy really, I vowed a few months back that I would be more positive in the column and try and talk about all the good things in Thailand, and spend more time highlighting just why we choose to holiday, work or reside here. I even scrapped a bunch of opening pieces I was working on because each had a negative undertone. But to cover what is going on with and what affects Farangdom in Thailand and only talk about the positives would be to shirk what's really happening. My apologies for the negative tone and reports of scams and crime. But they need to be mentioned and we need to be aware of what is happening so that we can avoid being victims.

But I want to end on a positive note. I really do. The cool season is coming this week. The winds have just arrived from the north. Yesterday, perhaps for the first time this season, the clouds were going from north to south. Give it a couple of days. Now really is the best time of year as far as the weather is concerned to enjoy a great holiday in Thailand.



Your Bangkok commentator,

Stick