World famous for its choking traffic jams and bent traffic police, high car prices make the decision not to buy a car an easy one for Bangkok-based Westerners. Ever one to go against the grain, not only did I buy a car, I also have absolutely no regrets about it and would do it again in a heartbeat!
There are many misperceptions about cars, car ownership and driving in Thailand so please allow me to refute some of the most common arguments.
Cars are expensive in Thailand, much more expensive than back home.
Yes, the initial purchase of a car in Thailand will probably cost more than it would back home. A small-engined Japanese sedan such as a Toyota Corolla or Honda Civic runs from 800,000 baht up to 1,000,000 plus for a fully loaded, top model – much more than you would pay in most Western countries. European or luxury cars can cost as much as 3 times what the exact same model would cost in the West. The initial purchase price of a new (or second hand) car will be greater than the West, but that is where the idea of car ownership in Thailand being expensive ends.
The good news is that cars devalue at a much, much slower rate in Thailand than they do elsewhere, especially Hondas and Toyotas which command a high resale price due to their perceived reliability. Figure on vehicles from either of these manufacturers to devalue at not much more than 10% per year. A Honda Civic in good condition and with reasonable mileage that cost 800,000 in 2003 would go for around 400,000 baht now. A two-year old Toyota Vios that has travelled 30,000 km may sell for only 100,000 baht less than the exact same car brand new. If resale value is a concern choose carefully as not all cars from certain manufacturers maintain a great resale value. European manufactured vehicles depreciate in value at a frightening rate.
If the price of a new car is beyond your budget, consider a pickup truck. Pickup trucks are subject to a different tax rate than sedans and as such are much cheaper. You can get a new pickup for as little as 500,000 baht or a fully featured model with a luxurious interior that gives it the feel of a well-speced sedan for around 700,000 baht. Pickup trucks sell very well in Thailand because they represent good value.
The cost of petrol in Thailand is fairly low. Granted that it is a little bit more expensive than North America and about the same price as you would pay in Australia, but it is however much, much cheaper than what you'd pay in Europe.
Insurance is cheap and policies don't seem to have an excess so if you have an accident you pay nothing (unless of course the man in the brown uniform demands a donation!)
The cost of getting a vehicle serviced in Thailand is ridiculously low. For a small to medium sized Japanese vehicle you're looking at around 1,000 baht per service at the franchised dealer. No, not a corner garage but a franchised dealer where they use the right oil, genuine parts and the workshop is so clean you could just about eat your rice off the floor.
Not that one should break the traffic laws, but fines for traffic infringements are ridiculously low. If you are miraculously issued with an official ticket, the odds are it will be in the range of 400 – 800 baht. Usually it won't even cost that much however as the friendly man in the brown suit will invariably offer you a pay now discount.
Taxis are cheap in Bangkok and there is the skytrain and underground.
Like so many things in Thailand, taxis are cheap but when you look at what you get, in terms of quality, are they really that cheap? Sure, there are some good drivers, mainly the older guys I reckon and there are more and more new or well-maintained cabs – but there are also a lot of really bad drivers behind the wheel of some real heaps. That said, the problem of barely roadworthy vehicles masquerading as taxis seems to largely be a problem of the past.
Truth be told I still use taxis. If I'm drinking or heading out somewhere where the parking situation is difficult (this can be quite a problem in Bangkok), such as Panthip Plaza, travel by taxi becomes a better option. But for general running around, I much prefer to drive myself. Your own car is more comfortable, you can enjoy your own music, the odds are that you drive in a more safety conscious manner than a Bangkok taxi driver and in terms of running cost (i.e. the cost of a taxi versus the cost of petrol), it is cheaper to use your own vehicle.
As for the skytrain, well, don't get me started. It has become so crowded and so uncomfortable, to say nothing of the atmosphere on board resembling a tomb that I am loathe to use that form of transport. The underground is marginally better, at least in terms of the number of users, but that tomb-like atmosphere is the same.
Bangkok traffic is so bad!
It can't be denied that Bangkok's traffic can be a nightmare. Note, I said "can be". Peak hour is a nightmare citywide but once you begin to see the city as a driver, you soon learn that there are certain places to avoid at certain times, as well as a number of short cuts and other means of avoiding the traffic. Sathorn Road, for example, is best avoided at peak hour and you don't want to be anywhere near there in the rainy season. School holidays are a period when you can drive most places at most times and be confident that traffic will be much lighter than usual.
You do need to plan just where you will be at any one time, consider how the traffic will be at that time, and then make a decision of whether it would be prudent to drive or not.
The expressways are a great way to avoid the worst of the city's traffic and once you work out where they go, it is well worth using them.
I cannot put the car into my own name.
This is a complete fallacy, one most likely been perpetrated by guys with girlfriends or wives who have led them down the garden path. A foreigner can put a vehicle in his name and there are no prohibitions to ownership of any vehicle, be it a motorbike or a car of any value. You can even own a car if you are in the country on a tourist visa.
Also, unlike condos or homes which I am not in favour of buying for a variety of reasons, one of which is that they can be very hard to sell – even if you substantially lower the selling price, a vehicle can be easily sold by lowering the price and there is a buoyant second hand market. I have heard from a number of Thais that not only do farang-owned cars carry no stigma at all, they can sometimes be more attractive to a buyer because Westerners are known to look after things well!
I don't go outside Bangkok often so why should I buy a car?
This is perhaps the most valid reason not to own a car in Bangkok. If you think you would only use it as a run around in Bangkok then it may or may not represent a worthwhile purchase. If you clock up a lot of mileage and don't always travel at peak hour then owning a car in Bangkok may be worthwhile. For sure, the biggest advantage of car ownership is the ease with which one can travel around the countryside, especially on a whim.
So why not just buy a motorcycle? They're much cheaper, can be convenient insomuch that you can get through Bangkok's heavy traffic quickly and they are much, much easier to park. There's nothing wrong with a motorcycle but I can't help but think that it tends to be a solo thing. A car gives you more flexibility in terms of the number of people you can carry around and of course comfort levels – and remember, Thais like to do things in groups.
One of the reasons I moved from the downtown area into the suburbs was that I was sick of feeling like a tourist. I used to live in a soi which saw packs of tourist traipse up and down every day and I used to get around by skytrain or by taxi. Car ownership is up there with living in a Thai-dominated area, speaking Thai regularly and having a work permit – you feel like a member of society and no longer feel transient, long-term tourist.
It's the convenience of waking up on a Saturday morning and thinking, hey, let's go to Hua Hin for the day or how about going down to Pattaya. While you could do it with a taxi, it's going to cost you more and be less comfortable. There's also the convenience of being able to stop where you wish, visit out of the way places and really do, see and experience so much more. Many of the more interesting places in Thailand can only be reached by private car.
There are many valid arguments against car ownership in Thailand and it took me a while to be convinced that buying a car was the right decision. I can however honestly say that it really has turned out to be one of the best decisions I have made and one I don't regret in the slightest. As the Mrs. says, a car allows you to upgrade your lifestyle. No, she's not working for Toyota's marketing department. She really is right!
Where was this picture taken?
Last week's picture was taken of the Asoke intersection. Surprisingly, not that many readers got it right. This week's picture is a little tougher than usual and the only clue I will give is say you should look at the background… 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 other 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. 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 – Traditional girl, not good girl.
Wouldn't it be more appropriate to categorise some Thai women as "traditional," rather than the ill-defined and overly used "good." As the column notes, the farang punter usually defines a good girl as one not in the play-for-pay business – a so-defined "either or" situation. But isn't it a bit more complex? Of the millions of Thai women, a few (well, perhaps, more than a few) enter the nightlife industry, but the vast majority are typical, normal women looking to move ahead in life the best they can through standard channels, and of these, some might be thought of as being more traditional. Like women everywhere around the globe, Thai women are looking to better their lives, and whether traditional or not, some see a brighter future with a farang boyfriend or husband. The traditional Thai woman is perhaps a tad more burdened than her peers in getting out and about freely, but she knows what she wants and will undoubtedly move toward that direction accordingly. It goes without saying that virtually every Thai woman – and virtually every woman for that matter – considers herself to be a "good" girl to some extent, whatever her occupation and character might be. Ask any bargirl if she's a good girl, and she'll certainly say yes. Yet ask her whether or not she considers herself to be a traditional Thai girl, the answer will likely be more complicated.
75% of Thai girls are nice!
Regarding last week's piece about Thai good girls, I have the following to contribute. I have lived in Bangkok 7 years and have dated every kind of Thai gal imaginable. In regard to your opening piece about Thai good girls, it is my opinion that
one can break Thai gals into 4 categories:
1) Good girls – just as you stated, they are controlled by their families, are raised to always be conservative and do the right thing, and would make excellent wives in my opinion for those guys who want the gal "to be seen and not heard." This is the type of gal 95% of Thai guys want to marry.
2) Nice girls – The largest group by far, these gals are raised to be good girls but are so only in front of their families. With their friends or boyfriend they are more outgoing, very interested in sex if they have one special guy, and a lot more fun and interesting than the good girls. They are usually polite, fun and sociable. This is my target group.
3) Party girls – They don't work in naughty nightlife places, but these gals drink, sleep around and love the nightlife. They can be a lot of fun, but they are basically the female equivalent of us (all of us party guys who love booze and broads) so be careful with your heart.
4) Bad girls – the gals who work in the naughty nightlife or any other arena where the main goal is to trade sex for money. Any additional comment would be superfluous.
I think most Thai parents try to influence their daughters to be good girls, but would be more than happy if they became nice girls. Party girls most definitely hide their real persona from their families, and unfortunately bad girls are usually trained from birth to be so by their greedy families. Speaking only of Bangkok, I would estimate the breakdown by percentage to be the following: good girls – 10%, nice girls – 75%, party girls – 10%, bad girls – 5%.
Refusing to be both p_ _ _y whipped and celibate!
I have been friends with a “good girl” for nine years and she has proposed twice with her family's blessing. I turned her down both times. She is tall for a Thai woman, attractive, university educated, has worked in responsible jobs on three continents, speaks several languages, doesn't drink or smoke, is loyal to her Isaan family, takes vacation time to serve at the temple, has only asked for financial help one time and promised to never do so again. Now she has a larger income than I do and has offered to help me with my living expenses. Why did I turn her down? It's like you mentioned in your column – she always wants to do things her way. For example, on a driving trip through several US states she commandeered the radio and took charge of what we should listen to. No news or any music I prefer was allowed. She doesn't even seem to recognize her behavior is out of the ordinary. Many Western men put up with bossy women, and these men are called p _ _ _ y whipped. I, too, might overlook her habits, but as you mentioned, “good girls” want to wait until marriage. So I refuse to be both p _ _ _ y whipped and celibate. Now there's a contradiction in terms! In all other ways she is a wonderful friend and I guess I'll leave it at that.
Dodgy international drivers licence.
The guy who wrote in about his "international driver's licence", if true, should have been arrested! There is no such thing as an international driver's licence! One can only obtain such a licence (in legal speak, a translation of yours) from your motoring agency at home. They are a translation of your licence and only valid for one year. A recurring ad in a local newspaper claims that you can get an international driver's licence valid for 5 or 10 years which is a complete fraud. Also, the treaty states that you must produce your own valid driver's licence along with the international one.
Child pickpockets on Silom.
You've talked about ladyboy pickpockets a number of times in your column, but I want to warn you and your readers to be on the lookout for child pickpockets too. I've seen them a few times on Sukhumvit, kids maybe around 12 years of age selling dried food in plastic bags in a somewhat aggressive manner. In the past I always assumed they were harmless and their manner was a combination of lack of English and the belief that Johnny Farang should buy anything that's offered. Last week though I was walking along Silom near the Chongnonsee intersection, and met two kids with bags of crap. One of them thrust his bag into my stomach in such an aggressive manner that I immediately became suspicious, and sure enough on reaching under the bag, I found a small hand in my front pocket. Maybe some of the kids are trying to make an honest baht, but be on your guard if you encounter any.
On the subject of Indians splashing the cash, a couple of months ago I was in a gogo in Walking Street at about 3 in the morning. There was this Indian guy at the next table, who had the waitress change a thousand into twenties, and then threw them in the air for the girls to scramble after, which as you can imagine got them very excited and made for a fun evening. Over the course of an hour he did this about ten times. The waitress told me he was a local restaurant owner and came in every night and did the same thing.
It's not surprise that Hungry, the restaurant that set up next to Cathouse in Nana not so many months back, didn't last and is now nothing more than a slice of Nana history. It was always going to be hard to make it and without a clear business, I mean just who was their target market?! Price too high and the Thais wouldn't eat there and price too low and you won't cover the costs. Needless to say, the doors have closed…
Patpong remains the most affordable bar area but a number of venues in the main Patpong soi have finally bitten the bullet and thrown the dice and increased prices. Fret not, a 10 baht increase from 100 to 110 baht, the first in a long time, won't empty your wallet. And if you're really on a budget there's Safari where you can hear great music all night long while enjoying (?) Singha and Tiger at 80 baht. No, that's not the happy hour price but the regular price right through until closing.
I notice that dodgy DVDs weren't available for sale in Patpong this week and if reports are to be believed, their hiatus may become more permanent. The government is cracking down on intellectual piracy in a big way and their drive to stamp out this problem bears more than a passing resemblance to the Taksin government's crackdown on nightlife in 2001 and 2002. There has been a big increase in the number of cases filed with the copyright court in Bangkok although the government is encouraging those embroiled in such cases to settle out of court. A Bangkok friend, in fact the guy I have known longer than anyone else here, had an issue when he used a single photo from a website without permission and reproduced it in print. The copyright owner discovered this and threatened legal action before they settled on 25,000 baht out of court.
The market and bars in the main Patpong soi might close at 2 AM but there are a few venues that remain open much later. In the second Patpong soi, The Strip serves drinks and offers fun in its curtained off booths until 3 AM.
One of the newer venues in Patpong remains open until the sun comes up is Park Bridge in soi 2. If you hadn't noticed it, you need to look up to the heavens! What was once the walkway providing access between buildings either side of Patpong soi 2 has been converted into a stylish, upmarket venue. It's popular with Thais and Westerners alike and doesn't get going until late. You can enter either by taking the lift up from Patpong soi 2, or via the car park. Entry is free before 1 AM.
Starting Monday 16th February, ALL drinks at Catz A Gogo in Pattaya will be 85 baht. With exchange rates hurting, punters have been screaming for bars to reduce prices. Some bars have introduced specials on well drinks / draft beer but Catz thought they'd try something different. From tomorrow, ALL drinks (except lady drinks) will be priced at 85 baht and if you start early, just 65 baht during happy hour which runs from 8:00 – 9:30. Bottled beer, Jack Daniels / Johnnie Walker Black and even cocktails and Bacardi Breezers are just 85 baht! No exceptions – everything in the bar is 85 baht! They've also reduced lady drinks from 110 baht to 100 baht and barfines are down to 500 baht from 600 baht. They've also added some cracking new girls to the line-up so stop by and check out the ladies in comfortable surroundings at prices below most beer bars! This new promotion is expected to run for at least 2 – 3 months to see if it takes off. If it gets supported it will be continued.
It seems that the management of Gulliver's in Sukhumvit soi 5 is not keen on their newest customers, the men of colour who hang around sois 3 and 3/1, and they are doing something about it by putting in place a disincentive, a 200 baht entry fee for black men. If you are a Western man of colour you should be able to get in without paying the surcharge by showing ID proving you're not from Africa. While some say Gulliver's is not going to win any friends with this policy, others say that the atmosphere had changed sufficiently that they didn't like it any more. Controversial to say the least…
The rumour mill has it that colourful character Anton is the front of house manager at a recently re-opened venue near the Asoke intersection. There's never a dull moment when Anton is around…
The Bulls Head (soi 33/1) features a dumbfounding pub quiz every Wednesday at 7:30. It's the only indoor / outdoor pub quiz in Thailand so smokers are welcome. The night features great prizes awarded by quiz master, Lee Shamrock. The free quiz is followed by some of the best live entertainment in Bangkok provided by…Lee Shamrock! Lee is quite a character and worth going out of your way to see perform. On quiz night, pints of Tiger beer are only 100 baht.
Who was the plonker fast asleep in Rainbow 4 right at the gogo stage earlier this week? I know the bars aren't as exciting as they used to be but are they so boring as to put you to sleep?!
And speaking of plonkers sleeping where they shouldn't, the fellow pictured here made a total fool of himself falling asleep on the steps outside Family Mart as bargirls wandered in and out. Well, he didn't quite fall asleep. He'd doze off and every time his cigarette was about to burn a hole in his shirt he'd momentarily come to, take a puff, flick off the excess ash and doze off for another 30 seconds or so before the cycle started again.
Indications from the mainstream press have it that the visa situation for Westerners visiting Thailand looks likely to be made a little easier. There are numerous rumours about just what the new rules will be, but for sure, the government seems conscious that tourists bring in much needed cash and they want to make it easier for tourists to stay longer. One rumour has it that the 30 day visa waiver that Westerners are entitled to will be extended to 60 days. The other rumour has it that visa waivers (that's the stamp you get in your passport if you didn't apply for a visa at a Thai embassy or consulate before entering the country) could be extended for 2 months in country which would give a total time in county of 75 or 90 days. Currently a visa waiver can only be extended for 7 days in country at which point you have to leave.
The main branch of the Immigration department in Soi Suanplu seemed to be in a state of flux this past week with readers experiencing extreme delays waiting for their visa extensions to be processed. One long-term reader spent more than 12 hours (6 hours one day and another 6 the next) waiting for his visa extension based on marriage to be processed.
And the guy pictured above wasn't the only foreigner making a fool of himself in Thailand this week. What about the guy pictured left who was wearing this T-shirt down at the Chaophya River yesterday. Ask a Thai friend to translate the slogan. Surely he had no idea what it means and the purchase decision was made because the characters looked cute? Surely?!
New 2 baht coins are in circulation which make a welcome change from the last variety which were just too similar to the one baht coin.
Why would a dancer change her number, that is the small number of the disc she wears, mid-shift without leaving a gogo bar? There is one such lass in Cowboy who does this. I can't work it out. She dances for an hour with one number and then can be seen with a different number. And no, she had not been upstairs for the bar does not have an upstairs. Weird.
The 14th annual Father Joe Maier's Human Development Foundation Charity Golf Classic will be held on March 13th, 2009 at Vintage Golf Club 12:00. You can register with Doug at Bourbon Street. The format is two-man scramble and anyone wishing to take part should register before March 9th.
One of the things that pisses me off with the high prices charged by some Bangkok bars is that you often get crap drinks for your hard-earned. I won't name those bars which charge 140 – 150 baht for a spirit yet give you a badly mixed small glass of the cheapest, nastiest stuff they can get their hands on. Contrast this with some of the better bars in Pattaya, such as Misty's, where when I asked for a Gin and Tonic owner Andy asked me if I prefer Tanqueray or Bombay Sapphire. Only the good stuff.
Is the one known as "the Arab" a total shyster? I was tipped off that his Nana Plaza presence, Spanky's, was up for sale so I thought rather than publish it as news I would verify it with him first. I sent him an email and he totally denied it. Well, guess what? It had been up for sale for months and in fact it sold just a few days later. I wonder how much he got for it? He was dreaming with an asking price of 16 – 18 million baht when in reality it is worth little as trade in Nana is down and there is only a short term left of the lease. Next time I hear something about The Arab's bars I am NOT going to verify it with him! Anyway, the new owners are two young Americans dipping their toes into Bangkok's flesh trade. I wish them well.
One of the most welcome changes in Thailand over the years has been the fact that most public toilets now provide…toilet paper! In the old days you'd be hard pressed to find a public toilet with any, even in the glitzy shopping malls. Sometimes it was available for sale and sometimes it wasn't so you would always have to carry a supply on your person. Maybe in another 10 years there will be rubbish bins on the streets to dispose of your rubbish?
Thai birds are getting bigger and big butts seem to be in fashion, especially in Pattaya's soi 6. I scratch my head and wonder when I see guys throwing big money at these well-rounded girls. The photos confirm our worst fears; categorically disgraceful kiwi girl proportions. Anyone paying to lay a paw on this lot should be compelled to sub for Nicolaides.
How can Thailand rejuvenate its tourism industry? Perhaps Thai International could get photos of certain local lasses as per this photograph and post them on the side of their jumbos? Overnight the country would be breaking records as visitors flocked to the land of smiles…
Quote of the week. "The problem I find in Pattaya is that beat up Isaan birds have taken on the same attitude as the Bangkok hi-so set."
Melbourne's Age covers the boat people being put adrift in Thailand.
The Sydney Morning Herald is doing something the Aussie foreign affairs minister won't – standing up for Harry Nicolaides.
Poetic justice in Pattaya…
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: On one of the rare occasions we went to bed together, I asked her if she liked cunnilingus (actually I asked her if she liked her djim kissed) and she told me she did, and could 'finish' that way. So I did, and she did. While doing so I touched her ass, and asked if that was ok. She said 'Yes, because you do not put something inside'. She is not a virgin, of course. As you do, I sucked her nipples and her djim. She was concerned because she believed that if you did that it made the nipples and djim go dark and therefore it was plain to see that many men had been there before. Needless to say, there were no dark bits. As far as I know this is a matter of genetics and luck, and I had not thought of it before. But as far as SHE is concerned, is it a little more evidence towards whether she is or ever has been a bargirl i.e. no 'dark bits' = 'good girl'. She is certainly not inexperienced in bed and instigated and enjoyed 'reverse cowgirl'. But then again, why not? I believe her when she said she had not had sex for 10 months so it adds to my belief that she can go without it. But have you ever heard of this 'dark bits' before? I am intrigued.
Mrs. Stick says: Sorry, I have never heard of this before.
Mr. Stick says: A friend used to date a woman from Korat who did not have the typical physical features of an Isaan lady. She looked more central Thai than typically Isaan. Like many from Korat – which indeed is part of the Isaan region – she tried to differentiate between Korat and the rest of Isaan. She was a little fairer than the average Thai which helped. She used to always point out to my friend that her nipples were pink and not dark brown. Women from Korat, she would say, could be identified by their pink nipples. Brown was the colour of the nipples of women in the rest of the Isaan region, she claimed…
Question 2: I invited a cousin of the Mrs. down to Bangkok for a couple of days as a way of saying thanks for taking care of me during a recent visit to her village. All the food and drinks were on me this time. He bats for the other side (i.e. gay) but is a nice guy. I must admit I did tie my shoe laces in private though after bursting out laughing one time when the thought entered my head when he was in the same room. Anyway the question is, why are there so many gay men in Thailand? This country has a lot of the most beautiful women on this planet and women who are very feminine, gentle and caring compared to other nationalities. I don't get it. You definitely see many more gay men here than in other Asian countries. The only reason I can think of is the ma and pa factor: many kids are left to be looked after with the grandpa and grandma and the environment tends to be very much influenced by women as the men are normally out working. Any thoughts?
Mrs. Stick says: I don't know! Why are the questions so difficult this week?
Mr. Stick says: Perhaps readers may care to offer thoughts to this question which I could run in the emails to Stick in next week's column.
I found myself up in Chainat province this week, about 200 km northwest of Bangkok. I'd never been up there before and without a navigator I didn't take the quickest route. But if I thought the trek up was protracted, the journey home was worse. We live in the south-western part of Bangkok and driving back towards Bangkok, I somehow missed the turn off for Bangkok and ended up on some new super highway that I had never been on before. No, it was not the ring road but an elevated highway that took me all the way around the city, around the west, to the south and beyond. I saw parts of the city I had never seen before. There were few exits and when I finally reached an area I recognised, I had made it all the way to Samut Prakan, i.e. the far eastern part of the city and a hell of a long way from home! So I just continued going around and eventually got off at Bang Na which was convenient because from there I got back on the regular expressway and on a familiar stretch and made my way back home. I just wonder how many others this has happened to. I was fairly alert and while I don't want to blame bad signs, I wonder how I missed the right exit! It added about 60 km to the journey, but not a lot of time really as that road is something of a race track. Ah, the fun and games of driving in Thailand!
Your Bangkok commentator,