Stickman's Weekly Column January 11th, 2009

A Good Night Out


An older Western guy shifts along the street, pawing a much younger Thai girl as they make their way to a hotel room. Neon shines from every angle, illuminating them, but few locals take any notice, disinterested in the age mismatch, a phenomenon they see every day. The couple passes McDonalds, Starbucks, Burger King, Subway, KFC and Swensen's. They're not walking through Patpong, the Nana area, or even Soi Cowboy. The couple is working their way through the heart of Bangkok's, and for that matter South East Asia's, backpacker ghetto. Welcome to Khao San Road, 2009!

I first visited Khao San Road during the heat wave of April 1998 when the mercury soared into the 40s. Cooped up in a tiny air-con room in the Tawee Guesthouse on nearby Samsen Road, myself and a mate from home ate, drank and observed on Khao San each night. It was as much of an assault on our senses as our first visit to Nana Plaza but unlike Nana, we didn't quite know what to make of it. It was as if all of the weirdoes you avoided at home, as well as their ilk from other Western countries, had congregated on this 300 metre-long stretch. There they were, embarrassing themselves in hippywear, telling anyone who would listen how they had found, or were in the process of finding themselves. They were preaching grating left wing ideology that made me wonder if I had inadvertently stumbled upon a Communist Party revolution. Our first impression of Khao San Road? The great Bangkok freak show!

We chose Khao San because rooms were cheap and the area was within walking distance of the historical, old part of the city we wanted to see. We're lucky we didn't stay on Khao San itself. We quickly realised that the vibe just wasn't us. Clean cut and moderately successful in the early part of our work lives, we had little in common with much of the Khao San crowd, many of whom were acting as if they had temporarily checked out of life. Staying within a kilometre or so of Khao San, a few hours a night on the road was enough, the rest of the evening spent in the sanctity of our tiny guesthouse room where late at night a small table was set up between the two small beds and 50 baht bottles of Mekhong and 8 baht bottles of Coke plus big bags of ice were delivered by guesthouse staff. I can still remember the sign on the guesthouse wall. "No ganja because police come sniffing and no prostitutes because things go missing." But with that said, I don't remember seeing any hookers on Khao San. They were probably there but being new to it all, with the whole assault on our senses being newbies to Bangkok we just didn't notice. We agreed that Khao San Road just wasn't our thing. 4 days later we were in Phuket and the Khao San Road freak show was but a distant memory.

Khao San Road, 2000. Khao San Road, 2009.

My next memory of Khao San is Christmas Day, 1998. My first Christmas lunch in Bangkok was spent on Khao San Road. Far from a traditional Christmas meal, I vaguely remember something with rice. Why I chose to venture out that way that particular day I don't know. Perhaps it was because I didn't live that far away or perhaps, it being Christmas, I wanted to be surrounded by fellow foreigners. Lunch time and the early part of the afternoon was spent at the bar of the Buddy Guesthouse. Long since gone, the open air restaurant with wicker chairs and tables was free of the hippy nonsense I remembered and so despised. As I started to realise that Khao San Road wasn't entirely about dirty clothes, smelly bodies and anti-establishment attitudes, the place started to grow on me.

Over the next few years my visits to the area tended to be at night, once every few months or so. Joined by my erstwhile Canadian pal, we would head to Khao San for dinner and drinks, always in the knowledge that we would end up in conversation with some lovely Thai ladies. Best known as a backpacker ghetto, Khao San started becoming more and more popular with Thais. A decade ago Thais would scuttle through the street, sort of like someone scared of the sea, just dipping their toe in the water and then fleeing. But these days Thais make up a fair number of the night time partygoers and Khao San Road is firmly on the list of in places for young Thais. Some venues are much more Thai than farang. Of course it helps that there are a few university campuses little more than a stone's throw away.

Khao San by day is rather different to Khao San by night. Not quite Jekyll and Hyde, the street takes on a rather different personality after sunset. By day it's a slow, sleepy farang-dominated affair as travellers who hadn't made plans linger and flick through thumbed copies of guidebooks while surrounded by those who had a bit much to drink the night before recover.

Getting back to our night time adventures, we would park up at a table wherever we could find a good vantage point. Jeans and a collar was all that was needed to separate us from 99% of the transient crowd and we were almost always approached by local lasses. Many a good night was had at Khao San…

But like any place you visit too often, it gets boring and I didn't make it to Khao San much between 2002 and 2007. So when recently I resumed visiting more frequently I could not help but notice how much the area has changed and perhaps more interestingly, how much the vibe and the crowd has changed. Once the undisputed champion of budget accommodation and low daily-spend tourists, the street, and for that matter the entire area, is moving up market. Where once the cost of a room would leave change from a purple, some rooms will now set you back two greys, or more. For the cheapest of Charlies, 10 baht pat Thai on the street now starts at 20 – or 40 baht if you order it with egg and chicken – and that won't even get you a plastic knife and fork but two small wooden sticks, sort of like baby chopsticks with sharp ends. 10 baht pat Thai and 5 baht spring rolls might still be available in some dark alley, but I haven't come across them in my recent wanderings.

Khao San Road retains the flavour of the street I first visited more than a decade ago, but like much of the Thai capital, it has taken on a more cosmopolitan feel. There's a real international flavour with food from home to satisfy visitors from every corner of the globe. Indian, Israeli, Italian and even Russian, you name it and you can probably find it on Khao San or in the adjacent alleys. Cheap guesthouses remain the mainstay but cheap 2009 and cheap 1998 have an entirely different meaning. Khao San has gone from ridiculously cheap to somewhere between cheap and inexpensive. Just who stayed in those 60 baht dorms, I wonder. And just how bad were they?

Khao San can evoke memories of one's first trip to Bangkok, a sense of nostalgia and many are drawn back to the area, even if they not find themselves at a different station in life. Returning to Bangkok with rather more baht in their pocket as well as aging bones, more and more hotels offer a more comfortable option. We're not talking 5 star luxury, but the comforts of a decent, modern hotel room.

Khao San is perhaps not the true bargain it once was but it continues to make the likes of Silom and Sukhumvit look like high rollers' playgrounds. I couldn't do it myself, but roadside cocktail lounges rustle up potent concoctions for well under 100 baht. I had a perfectly decent Thai meal in a pleasant streetside restaurant with a great vantage point to capture the freak show for 70 baht, only to later find that I could have spent half that in nearby Soi Rambuttri for an even more appetising looking version of the same thing. A taxi ride there and back, dinner and plenty of drinks shouldn't run more than 1,000 baht. That's not bad for a good night out and while doable in Sukhumvit, you'd be choosing all the cheap options.

Of course, should you choose to indulge then you can throw that number out the window. How long working girls have been a feature of Khao San I don't know, quite probably since the area got going, but 10 years ago they didn't stand out like they do now. The original Gulliver's branch with the tuktuk erected high above its entranceway is still home to many ladies who would love to accompany a Westerner back to his loom and there are many venues with girls on the game. It's a freelancing affair. Gogo and beer bar aficionados will be happier elsewhere.

The working girls of Khao San are a little different to their sisters in other areas. Unlike Nana where the unofficial girls' collective insists that no girl shall party for less than 2,000 baht, the rates on Khao San seem not dissimilar to Pattaya's beer bars – 1000 baht all night I am told is the norm. Unlike some Cowboy bars where women of any age and body shape are commonly hired, the lasses of Khao San are slim and seem for the most part to be in their prime, 20 – 25, almost always under 30. And unlike Patpong you will not be asked for a drink within 30 seconds and sneered at if it isn't instantly forthcoming. Of course unlike the popular farang bar areas in Bangkok, Khao San is not built around prostitution. But as with most places in Thailand, where you find Western tourists en masse, you find the local contingent. Less hardened and a little more sweet would probably be a fair description, there's little doubt in my mind that younger mongers who are perhaps a little more familiar than they ought to be the with the likes of Cowboy and Nana could find Khao San appealing.

Of course Khao San has its downsides. It's the centre of counterfeit documents from drivers licenses to degrees to teaching certificates, and more than a few unqualified teachers have found themselves in hot water after attending the University of Khao San. I'd also suggest that more foreigners buy (and have been caught buying) drugs on Khao San than anywhere else in the capital. You frequently see citizenry freaking out and Khao San Road is to arrests what the Thermae is to fights – I reckon I've witnessed more arrests of foreigners on Khao San area than in the rest of Thailand combined. Finally, despite purporting to adopt a live and let live attitude, the increasingly common sight in the area of a Western bloke with a Thai bird in tow who clearly makes her living horizontally may attract comments from your fellow foreigner, particularly women who bear an uncanny resemblance to men.

Class warfare is prevalent amongst Farangdom at Khao San. While the locals, read: the Thais, don't blink when they see a Thai bird with a Western bloke in what is clearly a commercial transaction, many of the lefties, who still make up a chunk of the Khao San crowd, aren't shy to play sanctimonious and feign disgust. Just as you often hear Thais gossiping and the word "farang" spoken over and over again, so too the Khao San crowd is often unable to keep their traps shut and the phrases "sex tourist" and "dirty old man" can be heard frequently. Many make a point of glaring at the happy fellow wandering down the road with his willing and soon to be satisfied partner. It just confirms what I've always said – the big difference between the Khao San crowd and the Sukhumvit crowd is that while the Khao San crowd bitch and moan about the Sukhumvit crowd, the Sukhumvit crowd don't give a rat's about what happens at Khao San.

Fortunately the locals haven't changed much. They're not as jaded by foreigners as their fellow countrymen in other areas and just like the iconic legless wretch who crawls along Sukhumvit in the Nana area begging, so too does Khao San have its local characters, a number of whom I remember from many years back.

When I feel like a night out away from the usual haunts and away from the naughty nightlife areas and the British bars that have become my de rigueur, Khao San Road provides a fun alternative.

Where was this picture taken?


Last week's picture was taken of Phra Tat Luang in Vientiane, the capital of Laos. OK, that was a bit tricky of me and I believe only the second time I have used a picture from outside the Land of Smiles. The first person to email me with the correct location of the picture wins a 500 baht credit at Oh MyCod, the British fish and chips restaurant. The second 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 and hosts live events in and around Thailand. The prize offered is a 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. This week and next we have a forth, very special prize with Private Dancer author Steve Leather donating signed copies of his newest novel, Live Fire, a big chunk of which is set in Pattaya. If you're not one of the lucky winners, this fantastic novel is on Asia Books' shelves now!

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. The winner of the Steve Leather book must provide an address in Thailand for the book to be sent to. 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 – As amusing as it is pathetic.

Thanks for having the courage to state what so many Thailand-based expats have known for a long time. Western men, white men in particular, are becoming weak! The game with the gals here is so simple and I am constantly astounded, amused and bewildered by how incredibly gullible and emotionally weak the western guys are here. Every other group of men has their fun here and seems to easily understand the nature of the game. Thai men, other Asian men, Latino men, Arab men, African men, everybody else grasps the simple and basic nature of the entertainment gals. They are transparently predatory and the only time I respond to a guy who is droning on and on about his failed attempt to transform a bargirl into his girlfriend is when he claims he was tricked. These gals couldn't trick anybody. I must admit it is almost as amusing as it is pathetic.

The quality of Thailand's expat population.

Your recent column explored the question of the share of responsibility which should be assigned to the men conspiring at their own destruction. Along those lines, have you considered the implication of your observation that the expatriate community in Thailand has many people you would not willingly socialize with back in your home nation? We know for certain that in the west, where laws against abuse are rigorously enforced, an unfortunate number of men abuse their wives / girlfriends physically as well as mentally. Given the general "class" of the community you've observed, it seems very likely, statistically speaking, that there would be a lot of abuse going on. Except, of course, those brutal bastards abusing women won't write to you to talk about their experiences. Besides wondering whether that heavyweight and heavily tattooed man would crush his tiny teeruk when alone, I also wonder just how many of those relationships include physical abuse.

It's all about the money…

In your lead piece I might have mentioned that the 'western' concept of love doesn't really exist in Thailand. I see that more and more as an abstract anyway, based entirely on emotion and nothing else. These predators have a more realistic expectation from their partner, that they will take care of them – and that means financially. My own wife of 18 years said one time that if I had not provided such support then I would not have been regarded as a good husband. But is that any different to the west? It might be old-fashioned, but that is traditionally the husband's role. That doesn't excuse so many Thai women lying, but we don't know what it is like to come from a desperately poor background where your very survival might depend on scheming and grabbing whatever you can, whenever you can, in whatever way you can.


Thai ladies in Bangkok, Pattaya, and all over Thailand

Enough is enough!

You ask what's going on in Pattaya regarding recent stabbings. Easy, Thai women who have acted with seeming impunity in recent years are encountering men who aren't as politically correct or weak as it they have been in the past. Many of these men have had enough of the non-performers regarding barfines, or chronic mistreatment by girlfriends if they've settled in Pattaya. Forums run by bars have attempted to condition men into being treated like easy marks, but many have had enough. Expats also seem to be saying: "Hey, I am a real man and worthy of the respect I've given you. Push me around and I'll push back." Good for them, I say.

How to get the best from your Thai cat.

These girls are very basic and animalistic in their approach to life. Western guys let them get away with things that no Thai guy would ever dream of. If you must get involved with a bargirl then you need to be in absolute control of the situation (she will never love you if you are not dominant as it is the only way they know and is what they were brought up with). The absolute guiding principle of lion tamers is that they must be the Alpha male at all times. As soon as a lion steps out of line the trainer must punish it immediately and make the lion know that there are consequences (you see this at the tiger temple in Kanchanaburi where they spray the tigers with water whenever they even slightly step out of line). If the lion sees the trainer doing this then he sees that this guy is the leader of the pack and runs a tight ship and I had better do as he says. The very second that the trainer ever falters in his dominance the lion will look at him and start to think this guy is weak, I can do a much better job than he is, and that is when they turn on the trainer and attack. This principle is exactly the same principle that should be remembered when dealing with Thai bargirls as they are very basic and animalistic in their behaviour due to lack of education and their rural upbringing. Good on the girls of Thailand and long may you prosper at the expense of stupid farang men that will transfer their wealth to you if you follow a tried and tested formula of blatantly obvious deception.

To blame or not to blame!

Your current editorial might start an interesting discussion about 'blame' which I feel only plays any worthwhile part when people are able to consider that maybe they themselves are at least partially to blame. Personally I think you could have gone further. My view is that the majority of ladies working in the bars come from their own broken relationships or, if young, from the experiences of their mothers and older female relatives i.e. they often arrive in the bars with low personal esteem and an even lower opinion of men. Equally farang visitors to the bars have similar backgrounds. Indeed, being rather older, they might have had three or more divorces. Probably also without realising it they will have low self-esteem and equally low opinions of women. I believe this applies to at least 80% of bar workers and visitors. I am not saying any of these people is necessarily a fundamentally bad person but think about it for just a minute. What chance of success does any such relationship have? Some people claim to be successful and, if they are happy, I am very pleased for them, but when the other marriages go wrong the ladies in the bars always blame the men and the men always blame the ladies. Anybody who is able to step back and contemplate the possibility that they themselves might have inadvertently contributed to the failure are the only ones who are likely to get over it, learn from it and get on with their lives. For as long as you blame somebody else, even if you are partly right, you will continue to live with the problem.

The newest member of the Bangkok Flying Club joined at around 5 PM yesterday. His choice of departure point was the stairways window on about the 10th floor of the Raja Hotel, on Sukhumvit's infamous soi 4. Rumour has it that he was very depressed and you guessed it, the reason was that his girlfriend had just dumped him. Of course it is possible that he had just arrived in Bangkok for a dirty weekend only to find most bars closed and alcohol hard to come by due to the elections being held this weekend for the new Bangkok governor.

Not quite as bad for he is still of this world, but a Canadian got a beating outside Sexy Night in Nana Plaza. A BIG guy and a former regular of the now defunct Hogs Breath, rumour has it that he tried to stop two farang guys slugging it out on New Year's Eve and was then set upon by a bunch of Thais! A bottle was smashed over his head, causing a great gash and he also suffered a nasty cut on either his leg or foot. He was knocked to his knees and injured one of his attackers while punching from his knees. He knows two of the people that attacked him and one is said to be a man of the brown cloth…

The name of the new venue in Sin's old spot on Sukhumvit soi 4 is called Aura. They have what they term a "crazy drinks promotion" running Monday to Friday, a happy hour in anyone else's language. Heineken draught is 75 baht a pint, Tiger draught 65 baht a pint, Heineken, Tiger, Singha and San Miguel Light 80 baht a bottle, house wine 90 baht per glass and all house spirits 90 baht. The interesting sounding combo set will set you back 299 baht and gets you 2 draught Heinekens and mixed tapas. For the smokers, you can puff away all night long on the open air rooftop terrace.

More and more reports are making it my way of the local constabulary being equipped with breathalyzers that work and using them. Drink driving is a massive problem in Thailand, as much an issue amongst foreign residents as locals. It is commonly known that a less serious infraction on the road will set you back 100 – 200 baht without the obligatory visit to the local police station nor the demerit points on your licence, but don't go requesting to pay now please with a couple of hundred baht if you're caught with too much alcohol in your system. A foreigner breath-tested this week and shown to be over the limit parted with five greys to allow him to continue his journey.

And speaking of the men in brown uniforms, reports have it that they are back to their old tricks on soi 22 of searching Westerners for drugs. Is this a rogue unit or is it station sanctioned? You never hear of this sort of check taking place anywhere else and the way they operate is rather opaque, and that's putting it politely. They appear to search foreigners exclusively. I guess the profile of a drug user in Thailand is that of a wealthy white tourist. Of course locals would never consume drugs…

There has been a bit of a turn around in Darling Bar in Cowboy and one could speculate that recent recruitment policies have been amended with excess meat on the bone and being a grandmother no longer a barrier to employment.

The Queen Victoria, Bangkok's newest British pub, has managed to turn itself around. On my first visit I was impressed by the lay out and the way it had been fitted out but the service and food left a bit to be desired. With a change of management and perhaps a few key staff the venue has turned around. Dining with a few friends this week was a very pleasant experience and for sure, I'll be back.

Another of the British pubs, Molly Malone's, is running a great deal, so good in fact that I availed myself of it three times this past week! They have always had a decent lunch special with a different meal of the day available at the special price of 249 baht. They have now renamed their lunch special "the credit crunch lunch" and you can choose any of the 7 items from their daily special any day – at an even further discounted price of just 199 baht. The bangers and mash is particularly good.

Girls from neighbouring countries have always been available in upcountry knock shops, particularly in those provinces bordering Laos and Myanmar, but the problem is spreading. With local Thai girls asking more than the local boys are willing or able to part with, women from Laos are being brought into the country in greater numbers to work, simply because their financial needs are less. It's all very sad.

If you get a cab from Bangkok to Pattaya or back the fare will usually be negotiated. Commonly, passengers pay 1,200 – 1,500 baht going down to Pattaya and around 800 baht coming back. But what would it cost if the meter was turned on? 1,100 baht would be the magic number. I have to say I am surprised that drivers returning to Bangkok after dropping off a customer down there don't insist on turning on the meter!

I give Howard and his band of merry men at the volunteer tourist police brigade plenty of grief but I'd like to think Howard and I still have a decent relationship…or perhaps I am being a bit optimistic there, Howard?! Anyway, as is well known, Howard is the man behind Pattaya One News and if there is one thing Howard does extremely well it is run a radio station. PCN FM is my current radio station of choice, particularly when I am banging out the column. They have a good music mix and a nice variety of news sources from abroad as well as local Pattaya news. If you're missing Pattaya, the ads for various Pattaya businesses will make you feel that little bit closer to your second home. It's worth tuning in.

Sunday night is football night and apparently Manchester United have not been knocked out of the FA Cup yet (it is but a matter of time). True Visions couldn't get the rights to show the Man U. match last week so a friend, a long time Manchester United fan (I won't hold that against him), went to the only place guaranteed to be showing it, the official Manchester United Bar and Restaurant. Serious cash has been sunk into the venue as evidenced by prices that would probably be considered steep in Manchester itself. I mean, come on, 142 baht for half a Singha draught! Despite the crazy prices, this life-long united fan desperately wanted to watch the match so along he trundled to the official club venue. You would think after all the money put into the venue they would have invested in some sort of satellite dish to enable them to screen all of United's matches live, but if you thought that, well, you're just thinking a little bit too logically. The game was shown live alright – directly from the internet! Low res, blocky images jerked around the screen and hung every 30 seconds before the cycle would repeat itself. It was like watching a game between players made of Lego and even the ball was square! Disgusted, this lifelong United fan stormed out without even finishing his drink and made his way up the soi in the hope of finding somewhere screening the match. He was rewarded at The Olde German Brewhouse where the game was playing perfectly on a big screen – and they even had commentary in English. Sadly it was for a different match being played at the same time, but no-one had the nerve to tell them – in case they tried to fix it and lost the picture! What a total debacle. Perhaps said United fan should join the Kop?

If there is a more popular Thai dish amongst Westerners holidaying in Thailand than chicken and cashew nuts then I'd be surprised. Which venue does it best? Plenty of places don't do it well, that much I can confirm.

Yep, the column is a bit light on news this week. There really doesn't seem to be that much happening – or if there is, I did a spectacularly good job of missing what's going on. The number of punters out and about remains lower than we would expect at this time of year and of course, bar closures this weekend in Bangkok didn't help.

Quote of the week comes from a reader abroad talking about the local rivalry between the Thais and the Filipinas. "The Filipinas say Thais will go with anyone for money whereas the Thais say Filipinas will go with anyone for papers."

Thailand represents the best value say UK travellers.

28,000 Bangkok motorists are caught running a red every week!

This brilliant article by a Thai addresses many issues in the Thai education system.

Is this the world's oldest ladyboy?

A Bangkok English teacher is in dire straits and needs your advice! – This guy REALLY needs help!

The Herald Tribune says Thai tourism is bouncing back.

The New York Times muses about the rebirth of Phuket.

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: What are normal 20 something upper middle class Thai girls like that don't usually associate much with farangs? If I were to go to Thailand, I can't see myself barfining a girl or having anything to do with that scene – not being morally righteous but I'd just be really uncomfortable with it. That said, I'd feel really horrible if I picked up a regular Thai girl and was her first, with her thinking we'd get married then feeling devastated and cheap afterwards. So, is there a middle ground with Thai girls? Do they either value chastity? Neither type I'd be comfortable with so are there many girls in Thailand for me?

Mrs. Stick says: We have every type of person in Thailand. When I grew up we were taught to value our body and not give it away to a boy easily. This is still taught today but I think things have changed a lot. In the past a Thai lady only wanted to be with one man in her whole life but for modern women and city women I think this has changed. But we must still be careful not to ruin our reputation. It is very important that we are not looked at as easy. If we are then a good man will not be interested in us. If you want a serious relationship and a wife I think you can find anyone. But if you want to enjoy your holiday and are not looking for a relationship then I think bargirls are made for you.

Question 2: I wonder about whether it is just the bargirls who tend to act crazy after marriage, or is it endemic to Thai women? Would love to hear your thoughts on that.

Mrs. Stick says: I don't know why you ask this stupid question. If a wife goes crazy after marriage then maybe the problem is the way her husband treats her? You know some men treat their wife very badly and that makes them do bad things. But if he never did those things then maybe she would be ok. About bargirls, they are not my social group so I don't know.

Question 3: I am 51 and met a 41 year old woman from Isaan. So far I am enthralled but know that odds are great that there will be cultural misunderstandings in the future ("But darling, stop throwing dishes, I was only joking!") I've seen books in the West that are designed to help people get to know each other. They force you to discuss issues ahead of time just to make sure you aren't surprised later. (From obvious questions like "How do we spend money" to "Will we spend Christmas with your parents or mine?" and "What do you think about having pets?") Can you think of any material that would be appropriate for a farang / Thai relationship? Is there a process in Thailand where couples go to determine if they are a good match? I want to just enjoy being with my Thai lady, but as a farang I am "always thinking too much!"

Mrs. Stick says: If she dates you the old-fashioned way a friend will join you on the first date or maybe a few dates. She can make sure your date is safe and also watch you and see if you are a good man for her. It's like getting a second opinion. When you are ready to get married you meet with senior members of her family and discuss marriage in much detail. You talk about the wedding and what will happen after that and exactly what your plans are. The family expect that what you say at the meeting is what will happen so you cannot promise things and not do them or there will be problems! You know before that time they will want to meet you and find out more about you, especially your job and your future plans.

Mr. Stick says: Some of these relationship books you talk about are translated from English into Thai but the best one for Thai / Western marriages is "Thailand Fever". It's pretty much compulsory reading for any Western man entering a serious, long-term relationship with a Thai woman.

In the week before last's column I included a brief piece about an HIV+ girl working in a Nana gogo bar who is happy to have unprotected sex with customers. A number of readers requested more information, some pleading with me to name and shame her. One can only speculate as to just why that was… Naming and shaming someone who is HIV+ (even when they willingly have unprotected sex with a partner without disclosing their status) is something I will never do. It is common knowledge that HIV is out there so you should take the necessary precautions. Don't bother asking me to name anyone or even the bar because it is just not going to happen. I bet there are others like her, as well as a number who are HIV+ but just don't know it. I've covered the whole HIV / STD thing before so anyone partying without a party hat is just plain silly.



Your Bangkok commentator,

Stick