Stickman's Weekly Column December 21st, 2008

Listen To Your Mates


She wanted to play the field before marriage. Just a few days after engagement and the presentation of a sizeable diamond ring and many baht of gold she tried to secretly meet an ex. Her stealth was unsuccessful and she was found out. He was presented with the evidence that she had been playing around behind his back just four days after the engagement ceremony at her parents’ house. Close friends of her Western fiancée urged him to call it off or at the very least delay the wedding date. He didn’t listen to the solid advice from his well-meaning friends and the wedding went ahead as planned. All his friends could do was sit back and watch the inevitable train crash. They'd given him sound advice but he failed to heed it and after stringing things out way longer than he should’ve she went back to her old tricks of meeting past flames and the marriage crumbled.

A handsome, wealthy businessman fell in love with a girl from the wrong side of the tracks. She was oh so cute and playful and it wasn't hard to see that he was strongly attracted to her. They had so much fun together. But she had issues. She would disappear for days on end and return with all sorts of weird and ridiculous stories about where she had been and what she had been doing. Subtle comments were made by a friend that perhaps all was not what it seemed. Her tricks continued and eventually, and not unexpectedly, once the truth came out things went bang.

In each of the above cases good advice was given to the guy involved by his friends that could have saved him suffering and financial loss. But each didn't listen.

A few of us sat down recently and a mutual friend’s relationship came up. Or should I say his relationship problems came up. We brought different observations to the table and added up together they showed the enormity of his situation. We were all in agreement that his Mrs. is methodically and systematically dismantling the castle, piece by piece. Within a year or two he is going to be broke. Broke in Thailand. His situation will be not dissimilar to that of "Mr. Canada".

He is married to the dragon lady. None of us likes her. In fact it is hard to see a single redeeming feature in her. She is horrible. Not just unpleasant but really horrible. In the right light and at the right angle, she resembles Mohammed Ali and the words that come out of her mouth are as thunderous as any blow Ali ever threw. She is bone idle lazy. Imagine a big, hairy fat guy in a filthy singlet sitting in an old armchair hollering to his wife to bring him another beer. She’s the female equivalent.

I look at this friend of ours and I feel pity. As best I can make out he has little in the way of assets, dwindling savings and a job that can only be described as a treadmill to nowhere. Worst of all is that he has no real potential to make decent money. What he made in the past is being slowly whittled away and once it has gone, so too will his wife. He has no prospects back in the States nor does he want to ever return.

The truth is that he knows what a dragon his Mrs. is. Whenever you ask him about her he leaps into defence mode with comments such as “She really is a good woman and she cleaned the house yesterday” and you’re quietly wondering to yourself why that would make her such a good wife. She has no job and no kids and all she does is sit on her fat ass and watch TV all day so why is he so happy that she actually got around to cleaning the house. And then you get it. It’s the first time she cleaned the house this year and oh, that’s right, it's December.

So what do you do? You have a quiet word with your friend and raise your concerns. How will he react? Will he thank you for your concern or will he take it as a personal affront against his Mrs. and react badly? In Thailand it is my experience that the latter is not just the most common, it is the only response.

The funny thing is that if I was back in New Zealand I would be able to broach such a subject with any of my friends and they would listen and take on board what was said. They would not be angry at me, in fact they would appreciate my honesty and that I was looking out for their best interests. They would be grateful and it wouldn't damage our friendship.

But in Thailand it just doesn’t seem to be like that. Why? I just don’t know… It is like so many Western guys here live in a fantasy land when it comes to women and relationships. They really do not want the truth pointed out to them. And if it is pointed out that their Mrs. is up to no good, the friendship will come under huge pressure and perhaps even end.

Nothing can hurt a man financially more than divorce. But divorce in Thailand is a very different affair to the West and those who go through it don’t usually suffer anything like the same sort of financial hardship that they would were they back home. Thai women know that unlike in the West, divorce in Thailand won’t make them rich so the unscrupulous may resort to other means to bleed their good man dry long before the marriage ends… That's just what is happening to our friend.

What do you do when it is oh so obvious that a mate is about to be taken to the cleaners and that it very may well put him in a position of great vulnerability, where not only will he be ruined financially and damaged psychologically but his ability to remain in Thailand could be jeopardised? This resistance to listen to friends and the refusal to listen to those who have your best interests at heart is just one of oh so many peculiarities amongst Westerners in Thailand that I truly cannot understand. Surely you want to know what is going on so that you are best informed to make the right decision? Surely your close friends are looking out for you? But no, it seems you just cannot tell people. They just don’t want to know.

So what is one to do when a friend is sitting in a train that is about to crash?

Where was this picture taken?


Last week's pic was way too easy. It was inside Gulliver's on Sukhumvit soi 5. 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 – No Thai makes you a baby.

For expats in Thailand, there are huge benefits in learning the language. But that means effort today for a pay-off that doesn't arrive until after several years of study. The short-term thinkers don't think like that, so they don't make the
daily efforts required to learn Thai. Without language, men here are not men, they are like babies. They must be spoon-fed in every way. They need a Thai lady to take care of their every need; that's what a mother does. They need someone to hold their hand when they go to a store or other errand. And they don't understand what's going on around them, like babies. So, when something goes wrong, what do they do? They cry. Or whine, complain, raise their voices – just like babies. In all my observations, those who get along best over here are those who have made the effort to learn some of the language. The more ability, the better they get along and the less whining and complaining.

Despite what you may think, you're really not that important!

I am with you 100%. Cell phones, while a necessary evil, have stuck a fork in public, social etiquette both in the West and abroad. Unless one is "on-call" in their work position, there is absolutely no reason to make or receive a call while out with your pals or on a date. Is there anything worse than sitting there listening to your friend or date having a chit chat conversation about nothing while out on the town? It's maddening! This practice of setting your cell phone on the table while at a restaurant or somewhere is perhaps the most pathetic practice of all. Farangs doing this is even worse. Back in the mid to late 90's when cell phone usage was becoming more prevalent amongst the masses, in third world countries where 'status' is everything, Manuel or Somchai setting their cell phone on the table was a means to show those around them how important one is. For a farang to do this? God, just pathetic. Leave the damn phone in your pocket and turned off when out on the town. Trust me, you're not that important.

The bane of modern day living.

I have been reading your site since it started and have been a visitor to Thailand for the last 25 years, but it has taken your rant about mobile phones to finally get me to contact you. THANK YOU VERY MUCH FOR PUTTING INTO WORDS WHAT I AM SURE THE SILENT MAJORITY THINK. I work for an airline at Heathrow in sales and have a phone for work purposes which I can also use to a certain extent privately. They let us upgrade every couple of years, but I have gone back to my old Nokia which is just a phone. No camera, no email, no fancy schmancy extras, just a telephone. And like you I use it only when needed and often don't take an incoming call if I don't know who it is from. The culture that has developed around these mobiles has brought about a lowering of standards of behaviour globally. And you are right, spelling has suffered consequently. I will refuse to travel on an airline which allows passengers to use a mobile in flight. You notice when an aircraft lands how quickly everyone is switching on the damned things like their life depended on them. Maybe the only way to profit from this phenomenon is to buy shares in mobile phone companies? At least you would have the satisfaction of (hopefully) making some money every time some cretin is yakking away at seven in the morning about what they are having for breakfast.


Thai dating at ThaiFriendly.com

Budget airlines suck part 1, case study: Jetstar.

I went to the airport this morning (early) to catch the advertised 09:15 AM flight to Singapore by Jetstar airlines. On arrival at the airport I, along with a dozen or so other travellers, found that the flight had been cancelled even though it was listed and four check-in bays had been allocated for the service. To say I am annoyed would be an understatement for the lousy airline insist you give them a contact telephone number when you make the booking. So why did they not call me yesterday to advise the flight was going to be cancelled? They surely would have known then? What made the situation worse was that there was NOT ONE Jetstar person at the airport. The only thing they left was a printed, encapsulated notice on their minute ticket counter asking one to call their Bangkok downtown office number. Well, of course, it being a Sunday morning and before usual business hours, there was no reply. The pre-formed notice suggested to me that they frequently cancel this flight although I bet they would never admit as much. A fellow stranded passenger rang their Australian HO in Melbourne but, again, being a Sunday morning nobody answered initially – then they found somebody who advised the flight we were booked on and for which the airline had taken the money 'never existed'! We were then supposed to fly out at 9:15 PM that evening. When I arrived in Singapore the MRT had stopped running meaning I had to catch a taxi at inflated rates, it being after midnight. As a sop to stranded passengers, the airline suggested hotels should be booked and paid for individually – the airline would later reimburse all expenses providing receipts are given. I suspect that as so few passengers were actually booked they decided not to send a plane and then invoked contingency plan B whereby they combine two flight payloads into one aircraft.

Budget airlines suck part 2, case study: Air Asia.

Have you been receiving any complaints about Air Asia and their tactics over the Xmas break? Here's what they have done to me and I suspect, thousands of others must be affected. I booked and paid for Australia – KL 24 Dec, arr KL 4:35 PM and then KL – BKK 24th Dec dep 21:00, note plenty of time between flights. Air Asia last week cancelled all the KL – BKK evening flights over the Xmas / New Year period! This would be after they have taken thousands of fares for the evening flights. I get an SMS telling me I am now on the 4:25 PM flight to BKK. Note that it leaves 10 minutes before I even land. There are no later flights as they have cancelled them over the break. Stranded. To make matters worse, these cretins closed their 'Customer Service' for 10 days to 17 Dec for an 'upgrade'. Can you believe that? Impossible to get through to them even if you call. Believe me, I tried and tried. And wait there's more! Under the change booking tab on their website, you used to be able to cancel a flight and claim a refund (minus their poxy fee). Now they have removed that and only option is to 'change' a flight to another. I may as well bend over and let them do me harder! That they could do this over the Xmas period beggars belief.

Visa questions – who do you ask?

When I read about the 15-day overland visa policy I got worried, as my trip will last about two months. My girlfriend works for a government ministry and she has contacts at Immigration. Your readers should know though that Thai Immigration seems to be in UTTER CONFUSION regarding the new policy. Most of the people we've contacted were unaware of the changes even after news had gotten out, and nobody has been able to give us any details whatsoever, i.e. when the changes are to go into full effect, whether or not all border crossings will be affected, etc. So, for anyone with questions or concerns regarding the new policy, know that information from the Immigration department may not be reliable.

Khun Clueless, we all know him!

How many times have you seen a local in say KFC, McDonalds, Starbucks etc approach the counter without a clue as to what they want to order. This then results in a protracted conversation because the sales person then tries to give some promotional advice. All the time the queue behind Khun Clueless is getting longer but he / she couldn't give a shit. I just had this experience in Starbucks. I know for a fact that if someone did that in the UK they would be verbally abused.

Those of you hunting for a bargain at some of the more salubrious night spots might not find it in Bangkok. Chatting with the girls while doing my rounds this week a couple of ladies I have known for a long time mentioned that customers – exclusively tourists – have been asking for a discount on services. A number of Bangkok's naughty girls report that guys are asking just what 1,000 baht will get them. My advice for those whose wallet is not bulging is to get down to Pattaya where prices are more reasonable.

Have your wits about you and your belongings when walking along Sukhumvit Road, particularly on the odd soi numbered side between Nana and Asoke at night. I received two reports of pick pocketing this week as well as a third of an unsuccessful attempt. It would seem this is a big problem again.

The bar areas continue to hurt although the Nana area has seen an increase in the trade. It seems that the smaller, less popular bar areas in Bangkok are those hurting the most. Both soi 7/1 and soi 22 seem to be even quieter than they were in the low season.

Last year Charley Brown's ran a 1000 baht all you can eat and drink buffet, a fantastic deal. It's even better value this year – they've extended the drinks to include Margaritas, Sangria and local beers. The Mexican buffet includes nachos, quesadillas, hot chicken wings, corn chips, fresh salsa, potato skins and more. Plus they have kept the price static – it is again just 1,000 baht per person. I honestly don't think you'll find a better price for a whole night of drinking and eating on New Year's Eve than that. Even for people heading to soi 11 clubs later, it's a great way to start the evening – fill your face and get loaded – then head up to the clubs for the big countdown. It should also be noted that it will be manager David's last night at Charley Brown's before moving on to bigger and better things, an appointment in Phuket no less.

If you think you're a little more manly than most, Condom King has a new product just for you. The foreign-owned, Thailand-based condom manufacturer specialising in prophylactics for Western men has introduced a new extra large size flared tip condom. This new product is sold in a purple box and marketed under the name "Body Guard 56". They are available in packs of 3 or for those of you with a sex drive not dissimilar to that of a randy soi dog, packs of 12. The tip is larger (56mm) but the shaft is the same as their large size (54mm).

Unable to resist a quick dash down to Pattaya this week, I note that there is no shortage of holidaymakers on the beach and in the restaurants – but the naughty bars continue to experience low trade. Even the big name bars have nothing like the number of customers you would expect at this time of year.

There is a trend amongst more and more Pattaya venues towards cheaper drinks and happy hours running until 11 PM. Such venues are packing them in but that is not always to the delight of the girls and other staff. Many owners find that throughout happy hour all the punters do is buy the cheapest drinks available with little in the way of lady drinks bought and few tips left for the staff.

The trend of more and more Ruskies arriving in Fun City continues and they are back to their old tricks of getting their jollies walking up and down Walking Street shooting video. You seldom see this lot in the bars. Oh, and another trend I noticed – and this caught me aback. The Russians are learning to speak Thai! They obviously realise the benefits and I heard a number engaging in conversation with the locals, all of which suggests that they are looking at Pattaya long-term.

Both in Bangkok and Pattaya bargirls are moving around all over the place, chasing higher salaries and moving on to bars that appear to have more customers. There was one humorous story of a sweety who rocketed to celebrity status in a popular Pattaya bar earlier in the year. She disappeared for a while, apparently off with an English boyfriend. A new bar started promoting itself and announced that she was working there and they provided a photo of her and all. It turns out that this was a con job and they had paid her 300 baht to use her photo – but she never worked there! Yep, that's how desperate some bars are for customers.

Another trend I have noticed – and it needs to be factored in that I am NOT a Pattaya local and so am never quite in touch with Fun City as say a local is, is that there seem to be more and more sweeties freelancing on the main Walking Street. They stand around, make eye contact and hope to be approached by a hansum man. I chatted with some of these sweeties and they told me that it's not because it is cheaper to hang on the main Walking Street, but simply because more guys see them when they are outside than in a dimly lit bar. Yes, if she is standing on Walking Street in revealing clothing – as per the ladies below – and she smiles at you, she is most definitely up for it!

Every trip I make to Pattaya I wander up and down sois 7 and 8 and every trip for, oh, about the last 3 years, I wonder what happened to these once fun lanes of love. They used to be two of the most happening spots in Fun City, lots of pretty girls with fun times to be had. These days it's all rather depressing and in many ways sois 7 and 8 in Pattaya remind me of Washington Square in Bangkok, old and decrepit, only enjoyed by those who remember its golden days and frankly, an area so far past its expiry date that it has become something of an embarrassment.

This past week the infamous Eden Club opened its doors at Patong Beach, Phuket. Run by a very nice French manager the venue is said to have nice looking girls and prospective customers can view a presentation in the back office to see all their girls and their umm, err, abilities. Eden is not in the main bar area of Bangla Road but just off Pracahanukrua Road, not far from the Family Inn.

One of the nice aspects of living in Thailand is that the expat population is not that big and it is quite possible to meet the movers and shakers of Farangdom. Christopher Moore, the granddaddy of Bangkok novelists, will be signing copies of Paying Back Jack at the Texas Lonestaar Bar, Washington Square, from 2:30 PM on December 24. The Lonestaar will also put on a free Christmas lunch with turkey, ham, stuffing, the works. Chris would like to see as many fans of the Vincent Calvino series as can possibly fit in the venue! And for those of you who haven't got a copy yet, the new book will be offered at a 20% discount along with the other titles in the Calvino series.

Metal detectors have been installed at some underground stations but don't expect to be challenged if you walk around it! And even when they beep, nothing seems to happen! Why do they bother with these machines if they are not going to actually use them properly?

Secrets Bar will soon open a merchandise store in the building right next door to the main bar. Rumours abound that they are still searching for a location in Bangkok to open up a second branch.

A reminder about safe sex. Chatting with a visa lawyer this week, he mentioned that the number of girls' visa applications he did not put forward due to their being HIV positive was two and a half times the number of similar applications from last year. The nasty virus IS out there.

Every so often I get email from a reader asking me about a parlour to get a tattoo in Bangkok. I am not a fan of tattoos myself and have to admit I have no idea about where to go. Anyone got any recommendations so I can let people know?

Why do Thais take forever at the ATM machine? I mean, it is not like they are carrying out multiple transactions. Sometimes I wonder if it is like some sort of computer game to them . Impatience being one of my many negative traits, it doesn't thrill me to see a queue at the ATM.

Never one to miss out on a chance to offer a big spread, Doug at Bourbon Street will be running a buffet to celebrate Christmas. 899 baht will get you an Xmas spread on Christmas Eve from 5:30 – 10:00 PM and from midday until 10 PM on Christmas Day itself. Most foreign oriented venues and all the big hotels will have some sort of Christmas special but with that said, some of the prices are way over the top.

Elephants are a common sight in Soi Cowboy. The question that is so often asked is just where do these massive beasts sleep at night. But I think what is perhaps more interesting is just where do they unload the contents of their bowels? As the photo here shows, Soi Cowboy would seem to be the pachyderm's toilet of choice.

For not the first time in the past month a friend went to an ATM machine to make a withdrawal only to find that the amount he could withdraw was much less than expected. He normally withdraws 15,000 baht a time but on this occasion he could only withdraw 2,500 baht! Going into the bank, he found another foreigner who had a similar problem. My friend has an account in England with one of the big banks and no shortage of cash. Inside the bank was a German with an account at Commerzbank – and he too was limited to withdrawals of 2,500 baht. The common denominator here would appear to be the local bank although the bank dismissed any accusations against them and tried to blame the limited amount that could be withdrawn on the foreign banks where the customers' accounts are held. My feelings on this issue are simple. There is a massive financial crisis worldwide and if you weren't aware, there is a real chance that one day accessing your money in the bank could be a problem. While I don't argue that your money should be available to you at any time, there is a chance that one day it may not. We've all known about this for some time. If you are clever you have been taking precautions and already have a couple of backup plans, be it a store of cash in a safe at home, multiple bank accounts and credit cards, possible in different countries and your assets in various different forms. Don't whine when the shit hits the fan…

Yet again Thailand has a new prime minister and it's getting hard to remember just who is in charge. On the one hand I am thrilled to see that Apisit is the new PM and believe that he is the one guy who can help turn things around but on the other he heads up a coalition government and I am TOTALLY opposed to them. Just as we have seen in my homeland which has seen coalition government after coalition government, the major party must make concessions to the lesser (often extreme left or right) parties meaning some of their (crazy) policies become law. I would like to see the Democrats rule with a full majority. Then, and only then, do I think real progress will be made.

A most fascinating new title hit bookshelves for Western guys interested in Thai women this week. Sex Talk answers all the questions you have about sex, love and romance in Thailand. There's heaps of interesting stuff like the dos and don'ts of flirting in Thailand and all sorts of vocabulary that will help you to get to know Thai women better…

Quote of the week. "Sometimes my wife has tried to explain her way out of something by saying "It's the Thai way" to which I respond "That's the problem."

It has been reported in the NZ press that Jakarta could is the hot spot for South East Asia nightlife.

From the Vancouver Sun comes the story of a Thai HIV-infected stripper facing deportation.

The BBC's take on Thailand's new prime minister.

The Associated Press reports on Thailand's tourism plummet.

Darwinism at its best as an Australian is charged with drug smuggling at the airport. What on earth was he thinking?!

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: At the end of the street where I live resides a high ranking policeman, about fifty yards away from my house. He owns two giant horrible looking dogs that appear to be a cross between a pit-bull and something from the Discovery Channel. These beasts are left to guard his patch unleashed (he owns a complex of 6 houses at the end of a cul-de-sac – quite something on a police salary!). Not only is this is illegal in most countries but it shows a blatant disregard for those who live around you. A number of incidents have occurred normally resulting in the demise or injury of dogs belonging to his neighbours. Call the police? He is the police! I myself was attacked once but had a very lucky escape. The damn thing was going so fast that I managed to side step it and avoid a full bite on the knee, just a graze and then the owner's maid called it back. In this incident the dog left its owner's property to mount an attack so it was not just guarding a property. The latest incident involved my neighbour's wife. Her dog escaped from her house and went for a wander while she was talking to another neighbour. Her dog (not small by any means) was viciously attacked by both beasts. I am getting to the question now. She rushed to help and tried to free her dog from near death. The thing that amazes me is that everyone from the neighbouring houses could see and hear what was going on but did nothing, one woman even carried on cutting her hedge about ten yards away. Why don't people help each other here? OK everyone must feel apprehensive or scared about tackling a dog fight but where I come from it is just instinct to help someone in trouble, especially a neighbour, in such circumstances. In most countries those dogs would have been reported and then destroyed, but not here. What will happen when a child, or even an adult, is attacked and killed? God help the person who actually kills one of the dogs in self defence.

Mrs. Stick says: This is very difficult. I think the guy is a big policeman because he has 6 houses so that means he has power and he can do almost anything he wants. In Thailand we do not interfere in other people's activities because we don't know who they are or who they know and so we don't know what might happen back to us. But you know this man is a big policeman so there is nothing you can do except if you know someone bigger than him.

Question 2: Christmas time for the farangs is celebrated by a festival of unique cuisine. For Thais what dishes that are uniquely Thai do you reserve for special festivals like Songkran?

Mrs. Stick says: We don't have any special dishes for Thai people at Songkran. I think Chinese people in Thailand have a special way to celebrate and different food for different occasions but for Thai people we do not have special food at this time. For my family we like to eat at home on special occasions but some people like to go out. I think everyone is different.

Question 3: There's a topic which has gotten some press – changing Thai cuisine. Is there a real decline in the number / quality of home cooked meals in Thailand, in both city and countryside? Or is this a bit of sensationalist reporting which really only applies to Bangkok?

Mrs. Stick says: For me I think Thai food is still the same. The different thing now is food is prepared faster. When I was young we ordered food and we waited a long time before it came but now it comes in minutes. I think this is the big difference. I also think now we eat more international food but that could be because I moved from upcountry to Bangkok. There was no pizza when I was young and KFC was special. Now these are common foods for Thai people and you know, some Thai people think pizza and KFC are Thai food! Hahaha!



As 2008 winds down it's time to look back and reflect on a year that for many was a year to forget. It'd be nice to say that 2009 should be better but you'd have to be an eternal optimist to believe that. But hey, it's almost Christmas and even if you're not a Christian or happen to be agnostic like me, having grown up in a predominantly Christian country this is a time to be happy. For a few days we can forget about all the troubles going on around us, and the troubles in our own lives. I'd like to wish all readers a Merry Christmas!



Your Bangkok commentator,

Stick