Stickman's Weekly Column February 1st, 2009

Stickman’s Excellent Night Out


The plan was simple. Get down to Chinatown and take the photos I promised Dave The Rave a week ago, pop over to Pahurat for some good Indian and then head back home to watch the football. I'd be gone just a couple of hours. Easy! This being Bangkok things did not quite go to plan…

The traffic in Chinatown is a nightmare, even at the weekend, so it was a motorbike journey across town. I arrived at the perfect time. The sun was going down and the sky had a pleasing blue hue. Mr. Rave was going to be the recipient of some decent snaps. But there was a problem. Chinese New Year was just a few days earlier and it appears many businesses were still closed, hence a lack of neon. Blast!

As the sun dropped below the horizon at rapid knots, I raced up and down Bangkok's Sino centre, making the most of the light, snapping what neon had been turned on.

I had arrived to a quieter than usual Chinatown, but as darkness loomed, streetside restaurants set up and the crowds started to arrive. The pavement became an obstacle course and with my assignment complete, I leapt into a tuktuk. 2 minutes and 40 baht later I was in Pahurat, the heart of shall we say, Bangkok's "authentic" Indian community.

I had lived in Bangkok for many years before I made a conscious effort to explore the Indian quarter and when I finally did I found it to be something of a let down. Where Chinatown captures the flavour of the mother nation, Pahurat is but a couple of streets and alleys with Indian spices, fabrics and various knick knacks. There is little to interest an outsider. But there is one thing that Pahurat does well. Not just well, but better than anywhere else in the city. Being the heart of Indian culture, Pahurat is home to some of Bangkok's best and most reasonably priced Indian restaurants.

I remain perplexed by Indian food in Thailand. There is no shortage of Indian restaurants in Bangers but price comparisons with Thai food will never convince you to head to a curry house. Indian curries typically run 200 baht or more on Sukhumvit, more than twice that for some dishes in higher end eateries. A quick dinner for two can easily run 1,500 baht, a price point at which you can find some fairly decent European food. As much as I enjoy a good Indian, local pricing puts me off enjoying it more often.

So the great thing about Pahurat is that you can find good, cheap Indian and if there is anywhere better than the Royal India, I have yet to find it. Small Indian eateries are spread throughout the back alleys, adjacent to smelly klongs, giving Pahurat very much an authentic feel. The first thing I noticed upon entering the Royal India were the new menus. In Bangkok that means only one thing, minor alterations to the menu and major alterations to the prices. Yep, the prices had gone up, but only by a few baht it seems. I don't get to enjoy Indian often so I made a pig of myself. Two curry dishes, samosas, a superb garlic nan, saffron rice, all for under 300 baht. Try and do that on Sukhumvit.

The problem was that I had overdone it. I had eaten too much. As a food lover in a city of unlimited dining options, it's an all too common problem. There was only one solution. I needed to walk it off.

So out of the Royal India I strode and off on a little exploration I went. It was still relatively early, not much after 8 PM, but little India was dead. All the streetside shops had closed and only the India Emporium remained open. It was dead.

The network of roads, streets, sois and alleys in the old part of the city is confusing. The area seems not to have been designed with the pedestrian in mind. Leaving Pahurat the traffic picked up and it was the Bangkok we know so well, cross the road at your peril. I thought I'd wander back to Chinatown and try and walk off the lump in my stomach, take a few more snaps and then jump in a cab and head home.

It's still January and only a couple of weeks back we were grizzling about the cold. The cold season may have been cooler than usual but the hot season seems to have arrived early. Or maybe it was the effect of too much curry in my poong? I'd only walked a few hundred metres before I was sweating like a first-timer who had just got off the plane.

The dimly streets all looked the same. I was in some back alley, nary a 7 Eleven to be seen. I was lost. OK, so I was heading in the right direction but exactly where Chinatown was, I wasn't sure. I continued on, rounded a corner to be met with a street market in full flow. The Klongthom Market appeared to be the world's biggest garage sale, with more second-hand junk for sale than you can possibly imagine. The city's narrow pavements gave way to those selling seemingly every last bit of junk they could exorcise from their abode. Progress along the sidewalk was slow and painful as shoppers battled with pedestrians who battled with vendors. Eventually I could take it no longer and walked out on to the busy road and made my way in the direction of the tall neon signs in the distance sporting Chinese characters. Yaowarat Road, Chinatown's main drag was just a little further.

Putting the throngs of bargain hunters in the rear view mirror I made it back on to Yaowarat which had positively come to life in the hour or so since I had left. Local Sinos vied for the best spot to double park on the main drag and jostled, shoulder to shoulder with other hi-so families in a race for the best table at their favourite restaurant. Busloads of Asian tourists were ferried into local restaurants with menus in several languages. The odd Western tourist could be seen wandering, almost aimlessly and looking a little confused to say nothing of a little concerned by the mayhem that is the norm in Bangkok's Chinatown, the world's oldest Chinatown.

I could not help but notice the similarities between Chinatown and Sukhumvit. I'd never have believed it, for we white foreigners certainly moan and groan more than any other group, but I am convinced that the old commercial centre of Bangkok features more beggars than Sukhumvit, at least as many elephants along the pesky mahouts. Touts fluent in Asian languages bark out to tourist, attempting to whisk them off to establishments that reward handsomely. Asian tourists, that is. As far as the tuktuk mafia goes, they could be found in far greater numbers on the short stretch of Yaowarat Road, the main drag on Chinatown than in all of Sukhumvit combined. Is there a tuktuk factory in the area, I wondered.

Many vendors could be overheard talking to tourists in English – and making a decent fist of it. I've always had this perception than no-one in Chinatown speaks English. Where this comes from, I don't know. Perhaps it is projection based on the fact that in the Chinese community at home, a mini Chinatown, many Chinese don't speak English. The truth is that the level of English in Bangkok's Chinatown is better than what you find on Sukhumvit, one of the major farang tourist centres.

The sights of Chinatown are eye-catching so I stopped to take some pictures, including a bunch of a cute Chinese kid. The parents saw me pointing the camera in his direction and told him to look at the camera and smile. He duly obliged. I couldn’t help but wonder how that scenario would have played out in the West. Either the parents would have attacked me or the police would have handcuffed me. Man, the West really has gone totally mad.

After taking a few more snaps on the main drag in Chinatown and now back in photographer mode, I strolled up the road to the Chinese temple in from of the Thian Fah Hospital. It was now well into the night yet carload after carload of Chinese Thais stopped by to worship and donating. In the lively temple I was approached by a local who asked me in English if I was a tourist. Thinking that a tourist would be given more leeway than a local, I lied that yes, I was. I figured he might be less than impressed at a local taking photos in a place of worship than a traveller, but what followed was a conversation I found hard to extricate myself from as this well-meaning Chinaman started giving me a rundown on all of the places to see and visit in Bangkok. His intentions were good and there was no recommendation of a temple tour in the back of a tuktuk. I guess he just wanted to practice his English and talk with a foreigner and again, I was amazed at just how good his English was.

Eventually I was able to tear myself away and started to drift further away from Chinatown in the direction of the railway station.

I now had a decision to make about where to go next. I was enjoying this night time photography lark and was in no hurry to go home. The railway station at night would make for a nice shot or two, but the area is known as a hang out for low class hookers. I remember seeing many a transvestite lurking in the shadows when I have passed through in the back of a cab. Would I be seen as a soft target by the local katoeys? Would anyone even see me if they decided to set upon me? Ah, what the hell, we all need a bit of adventure!

As I made way in the direction of the klong just west of the railway station and towards the small bridge that would take me on to Rama 4 Road, I was on the look out for the transgendered peril. My eyesight is good but I couldn't see any of them anywhere. Not one. They must have spotted me! Where are they?! They're probably hiding behind a tree, or in the bushes, ready to jump me as I walk past. I could feel my heart beating. Faster. Faster. Surely they could hear it pounding too? I adjusted the camera's settings; 12,800 ISO, F1.4, 1/30 second. If anyone was coming to come out of the bushes at me, I would capture them first. I was prepared!

I walked slowly but purposefully, keeping a close eye on my surroundings, looking for movement in the shadows. There were no other pedestrians. Not a good sign. I crossed over the bridge and across to my left, perhaps 100 metres away, I could see the main railway station, Hualumpong. As I spotted it I heard some chatter and sniggering coming from the bushes. It had to be the transgendered peril!

I tensed, clenched my right fist and looked over to the right where I saw the totally innocuous sight of som tum vendors perched low, chattering away. They were a little unusual by som tum vendor standards, much younger than the average. Ladies lugging their som tum ingredients around tend to be in their 50s, or older, but these women looked younger than me.

I could seem Hualumpong across the busy road and the entrance to the underground train was just metres away so down I went and after the most cursory glance I was past security, through the underground and up on the other side of Rama 4 Road.

As I came out of the station I was met by an unusual sight. The footpath around the underground entrance was full of som tum vendors. There must have been 50 or more of them. And there was something a little peculiar. Just like the two on the other side of the road, they were all rather young. In fact most were in their early 20's, much, much younger than what is typical.

I looked closely at the scene before me. It didn't feel right. They were lined up along the pavement, sitting down with a space between each of them where a mat was laid out. Looking closely at the basket at the ingredients, you could see the various items needed as well as those for other spicy northeastern salads. But food was not the only thing they were carrying. There were small bottles of Thai whisky in there too!

All of the som tum vendors were dressed in tightish jeans and a skimpy top. All were nicely done up and the tell tale sign, all were young and ranged from reasonable looking to quite pretty. In the West I would not have thought anything of it, but here, well, when you find a large congregation of pretty ladies, there's often more to it. And I was willing to bet that was the case here!

All sets of eyes were on me and a few heads turned the other way when I pulled out the camera, a sure sign that all was not as it seemed! "No flash", I said, "No flash"….and the girls' fears seemed to be allayed. But tricky Stick did not tell them that a flash wasn't needed and I fired off a few shots without anyone realising – or complaining. Bad boy, aren't I?!

I was addressed in Thai by one of the vendors, a weird accented Thai, and I responded in English. Again, I thought playing the role of tourist would be prudent. Some of the girls were chattering amongst themselves. Chatting about me. I heard some Isaan being spoken and some Lao. Yes, it was Lao, not Isaan. "Sao baht" one said to another. 20 baht or "yeesip baht" in Thai (or Isaan). That explained why I liked the look of some of the girls. The Lao ladies have a certain look that I personally find attractive – fairer skin, softer features and a certain grace.

Surveying the scene, some of the mats were occupied by guys. Young guys. Young Thai punks. There's no other way to describe them. Late teens or early 20s, their motorbikes parked nearby. They were puffing away on cigarettes and most had God-awful bleached hair. These guys are trouble and don't appreciate outsiders. While we may have been in a public place they were giving me filthy looks. They didn't try to hide that they found my presence an intrusion.

I ambled along the scene, still less than a hundred metres from Bangkok's central railway station. The penny dropped. These girls were up for it! They would entertain customers with some Thai whisky, rustle up a spicy salad and then, I guessed, other arrangements could be made.

I walked past one very pretty lady, pictured below right, and in stilted English she said, "Sit down please!"

Who would turn down a request from such a lovely lady?! I perched on the mat and asked her in English what goodies she had. I feigned inability with the local lingo. Her English wasn't terrible, her comprehension reasonable and when I asked her how much the whisky cost she responded 80 baht.

But I never did get to sample the finest of Thai spirits. A commotion took place nearby amongst some of the local Thai boys who were clearly not thrilled at my presence. Skinny young punks looking for trouble, you could defend yourself against one or two of them, but this being Thailand you just can't let the situation escalate.

An older lady appeared out of the shadows and started bickering with the punks who were now giving me the most evil of evil looks. It dawned on me that she must have been like a mamasan, overlooking everything and everyone, all for a kickback. A white boy meant money, potentially good money – and she wanted her cut. But she also knew that problems could have the boys in brown come sniffing, a situation good for no-one.

I wanted to stay and I wanted to find out more. I'd stumbled upon something I was totally unfamiliar with, something I had never read about and besides, I was just plain enjoying myself. But the vibe was wrong. There was an ill feeling in the air – and it was all because of my presence. Young Thai punks on the hard stuff are horribly unpredictable. Could the mamasan pacify them? Should I stick it out and see what happened next? If the two took me on, could I repel them? Too many questions. Too many variables. No control of the situation and little, if any redress if things go wrong. And when things go wrong there's no limits with these punks. A knife a real possibility, a gun not out of the question. It was time to skedaddle.

I hailed a cab and in a final show of cockiness attached the longest lens I had in my bag, pointed it at the punks and started firing. I then made a show of looking at the images on the LCD screen and giving them the thumbs up as I jumped into the cab. Next time they probably won't be there but for now, the evening's fun had been curtailed.

Bangkok is full of surprises. You just never know what you might come across next. Walk around with your best smile at the ready and you really can find some unusual neighbourhoods. Where shall I explore next?

Where was this picture taken?


Last week's picture was taken of the small alley connecting Sukhumvit sois 5 and 7 and a stack of people got it right. 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 – Security on the MRT is all for show.

I must tell you of an incident that happened to me yesterday at Sutthisan MRT station. You have no doubt noticed that the MRT stations have all had security frames installed through which incoming passengers need to walk through; they are basically just metal detectors. I was going to Sathorn to do some work involving an office move, needing my taking some tools, screwdrivers, pliers, etc. Well, of course, they set the alarm off so the security person – a mere slip of a girl – requested to see inside my bag. I drew her attention to the tools as the culprit for setting off the alarm. Then she spotted my cutter, which I have always carried with me in my bag. She got on her walkie-talkie to somebody, culminating in saying that cutters are not allowed and I couldn't proceed further. Yeah, I could have managed to get where I was going by a succession of buses or at great extra expense by taxi – the train, though, was direct to Lumpini and at half price for me as I am an 'elder'. So, I decided to just go ahead and see what they might do, like challenge me, refuse to give me a disc…or anything! What they did was the usual thing Thais manage to do so well – nothing. I bought the 'ticket', went on the train to Lumpini, didn't create a hi-jack incident, nor tried to kill any other passengers and neither was I greeted by police at the other end. Amazing Thailand and so much for their elaborate security measures!

Cowboy has soul.

I have not been to Cowboy in a long time, nevertheless it was one place that was always going to be a winner. My first visit to Cowboy was in 1990 and I was hooked. The reason was simple – there was no formula to the place. Every bar seemed to have its own niche and was doing its own thing and the folks who made a living there were laid back and never in your face. Your earlier recollections might have been the older women in Cowboy; nevertheless they were, by far, the friendliest bargirls in Bangkok. And of course there were the live bands; playing their own music and actually enjoying themselves. Cowboy had soul! I think victory belongs to the customer, not Soi Cowboy! Simply, the soul in Cowboy lives on, people sense that and that's what attracts them. If you look at Nana and Patpong, their formulae were the same: customer = money; and everyone can sense an empty wallet!

The underage issue refuses to go away.

I’ve always been wary of underage girls and have never taken a lady off the street for that and all the other reasons. However, I trusted the bars. In Pattaya a couple years ago I was attracted to a pretty girl at a bar with a short-time room. I knew she was new to the scene as she had almost no English skills. I had little time to talk with her as she made the rounds of one table top to the next for what seemed 3,001 dances, but she didn’t look that much different in age to many other dancers in town. Once upstairs I fumbled for some point of conversation and asked her age. She used fingers to indicate 17. I panicked and immediately took her downstairs, to her disappointment. It was at that point I noticed the number she wore on her costume was 17. Lack of communication? Actually too young? I have no idea as I left and haven’t been back. I suddenly didn’t trust the mamasan or anyone else to tell me her real age.


Thai ladies in Bangkok, Pattaya, and all over Thailand

The dog soup man!

My mother-in-law had a cute puppy which grew into a dog with a serious skin infection. It lost most of its hair and was covered in bloody sores. The local medicines failed to cure it so it was sent to its final reward, the dog soup man! This gent drives the roads in his truck purchasing unwanted dogs, which he turns into a tasty soup that he sells. I have no desire to eat this concoction, but it is supposed to be very popular in that part of Korat. I avoid eating anything that I can't recognize as chicken or seafood.

Pattaya going downhill?

I just returned from a month in Patts. My impression is that the bar scene is about to suffocate itself to death. I have been a keen and frequent observer over the past 2 years. In my opinion, only the roughest, most ignorant or most desperate type of guys can still honestly claim Pattaya is some sort of "paradise". When I first arrived on January 1 the beer bars from soi 2 to 8 were basically empty of girls. I thought they would return soon after their prolonged new year holiday barfines. Up until the end of the month the bars were a bit better, filled with ladies (except for Chinese New Year) yet there was hardly more than one stunner per bar and that one was always on duty grabbing customers from the pavement to get them to play connect 4 with the skanks. I was watching their faces closely and most bargirls, even in busy Walking Street, looked so bored that you might find more smiles in your daily office environment than in the "fun zones" of the land of smiles! Also, waiting staff in restaurants looked so angry that I hardly dared to order anything (with very few exceptions – and these were new girls with no command of English). In one bar in Jomtien I was even verbally attacked for being gay because I took no interest in them and did not leave a tip for my 40 baht coke. I just wanted to enjoy a sunset and watch some people but obviously that is not possible. I really don't need that kind stuff. No-one in their right mind does and at some point when the recession and low season effects team up some of those ladies will feel the pinch harder than they can imagine. Gosh, they may even have to actually work again if their suitors fail to send money over. Shock, horror! Taking into account that most of these girls have at least one child already I really can't see why anyone would fall in love, sponsor or God forbid, marry from such a pool of jaded, useless liars. At least the girls in the Philippines are mostly child-less and speak very good English. I also had a few good moments but the general vibe was really not up to par what's considered peak season.

The girl shortage explained?

In reference to comments in your December 28th weekly about bar owners having trouble recruiting bar girls, I wonder if this is related to the proliferation of Coyote dancing in the provinces. In my North-East provincial capital, one of the smaller in Isaan, there are two venues that have Coyote dancing comprising a total of about 30 girls. Every one of these girls would be in the top 20% of Bangkok bargirls. These girls make around ฿10,000 a month with tips and salary. That is not bad money for Isaan where the cost of living is a lot less than Bangkok, and most of them live at home and thus don’t have to pay rent, or if they do it is a lot cheaper than Bangkok with the top end rooms going for about ฿3,000 a month. Of course if the girl wants to participate in extracurricular activities, who knows how much she could make. They can stay at home close to their family and friends and not worry about speaking English.

Apparently SuperBowl is the most-watched US television broadcast of the year and has become likened to a de facto US national holiday. In Bangkok you can watch the Pittsburgh Steelers take on the Arizona Cardinals at Bourbon Street in Washington Square. Bourbon Street opens early on Monday morning from 5:00 AM and will offer a breakfast buffet featuring all of their items including my favourite from their menu, eggs Benedict. The buffet gets going at 5:30 AM and the game kicks off at 6:20 AM. The breakfast buffet is 230 baht++. All you can drink Bloody Marys for 3 hours will set you back 500 baht ++.

Hanrahans also has a Superbowl event with the match being shown live and a breakfast special at 190 baht+. Details are a little scarce; the only place I saw the event advertised was in their hongnam!

And if you fancy something Mexican for breakfast, Sunrise Tacos recently launched a Mexican breakfast menu. The top seller, with rave reviews so far, is Huevos Rancheros (Ranch Eggs). The Superbowl will also be shown live at Sunrise.

The large sign out the front of Nana Plaza has been fixed and every letter is not just functioning, but bright, vibrant and welcoming. Wonders never cease.

A meeting was held in Washington Square this week and the consensus is that new lease agreements are very close to being signed and thus, Washington Square has yet another lifeline.

Speaking of Washington Square, perhaps its most famous denizen, Mekong Kurt, may not have written a weekly column for a few months but he can still be seen doing his rounds, floating around the square. So while his column might not be going strong, he still is. Kurt ranks second only to Trink in email inquiries from readers checking up to see how he is doing. On that note, while I have not seen him myself, I gather that Trink is still going strong too.

Sek Loso's long relationship with Hillary Bar continues on the 13th of this month when many a farang's favourite Thai musician performs at Hillary II Bar in soi 4. Tickets are available now at 500 baht.

Despite the economy, Pattaya seems to be doing pretty well. Far too many people on the streets, sidewalks, in the stores and restaurants. ALL are crowded.

If there is one trend I have noticed with regard to tattoos on local women it is that they seem to have developed a reinvigorated interest in traditional tattoos. More women working in the bars are sporting tattoos and the percentage of women with traditional tattoos is on the increase. They don't do anything for me… Still, I guess a traditional tat is better than some punter's name permanently imprinted on her bod!

Speaking of tattoos, at one point this week there were about 20 or 25 pretty ladies squeezed on the tiny dance floor in Long Gun and not one had a tattoo anywhere on her body. And yes, we could see their entire body! Not one! What are the odds of that? As someone who finds tattoos on a woman a major turn off, this made for a quite spectacular display of beauties.

The white boy is truly an endangered species down in the dark confines of the Thermae. Passing through what was once almost exclusively the white man's domain, this week white boys made up less than 20% of the male customers – and the number of lasses who could be described as farang-friendly were few and far between. The whole place looks like a transplant out of Tokyo, with the bulk of the guys Japanese – and most of the birds sporting that cutesy Jap look they like. And for a young 'un like me, talk about feeling out of place. The average age of the few farangs present was well over 60.

Having recently become aware of just what some bars and restaurants pay in rent, it's no wonder many establishments have put prices up. One venue that really is not that big pays almost $US 20,000 in rent alone per month! Yes, dollars!

On a handful of occasions I have stuck my neck out and declared a certain bar to the best bar in town. I only ever do this when a bar is running on all cylinders and really stands out from the crowd. Dollhouse, Angelwitch, Rainbow 1, Rainbow 4 and Pattaya's Catz are the few venues I have been willing to stick my neck on the line for. Of course there is value for a bar when it is said to be the best and it is expected they will use that to promote themselves but some take it rather far. I announced the Clinton Plaza branch of Dollhouse to be the best in my opinion back in 2001 but they are still running the sign below now, 8 years later, in the Cowboy branch, which makes me laugh. And Angelwitch is running a notice outside that says it has been voted best gogo bar every year since 2002. That would be news to me and is in fact highly misleading. Unlike Dollhouse, there isn't even a source quoted! Two good bars, but no way is either the best in town at the moment.

OK, so whatever is Bangkok's best gogo bar is a moot point but like the broken record of Stickman has been saying for some time, there really is value in a brand name, even in the gogo bar industry. The detractors said it wouldn't work and that its format and Bangkok prices weren't suitable for the local market but Angelwitch Pattaya – which simply transplanted the winning formula of Angelwitch Bangkok into a purpose built venue in Pattaya – is proving everybody wrong and for the time being is probably the busiest gogo bar in Pattaya. Eat your heart out, Peppermint. It was nice knowing you, Beach Club. Time to try harder, Happy. I think it's fair to say that Angelwitch and Happy are now the top two bars, perhaps not in terms of the prettiest girls or the bars with the most fun and best atmosphere, but certainly in terms of bums on seats – which means baht at the till!

The Dollhouse, as a chain, might be 8 years old but is the Cowboy branch really 8 years old? I guess it must be for this coming Wednesday, that is the 4th February, they are celebrating their 8th anniversary with an all night party featuring free food and shooters.

The bar I love to hate, home to no other than the thousand baht girl, Soi Cowboy's Tilac has a bunch of new girls on the books and I have to admit that many are very easy on the eye.

There's been a massive increase in the number of booze booths on Sukhumvit, you know those street vendors that sell liquor late at night. Many have a katoey or two on the books so unless ladyboys are your thing, be careful where you choose to drink.

I was reminded of the good old days this past week when I stopped by Hollywood Rock, on the ground floor of Nana. Upon entering I was presented with a cold towel, a nice touch with temperatures warming up. The presentation of a cold towel used to be the norm in many bars in Nana, as well as most Pattaya beer bars – but this would have to be the first time in years I have been given one.

Eye contact is the order of the day again. After a period of a few years where the girls in the naughty bars really did have it very, very good, the tough times mean they are forced to work a bit harder to convince customers that they should be their entertainment host for the evening and with this the girls seem to be keener to make eye contact than they have in a long time.

Keeping up with the Joneses, or in this case, the Mohammeds, is order of the day in Cowboy and the front end of Sheba's is about to be redone.

There's a certain farang-style eatery on a soi off Sukhumvit where the waitresses guesstimate the VAT and add it to the bill. You get a hand written bill with a guesstimate of the VAT – which is close, but *never* correct. I won't mention the venue as I rather like it, but it makes you scratch your head…

The abandonment of the Thailand Elite card program this week has done little for the confidence of foreigners considering investing in Thailand. While the closure of the program comes as no real surprise, it simply vindicates what a lot of people have been thinking for some time; that the frequent law changes in Thailand make a Chinese casino seem like a safer place for your money. To show what a complete Mickey Mouse show this really was, at the very same time that the program's closure was announced an advert was running in The Nation's classified section inviting applicants for the position of marketing director for Thailand Elite!

Jack's Golf has reduced their prices for a visa run to Cambodia from 2,200 baht to 2,000 baht. No doubt the 15 day visa waiver overland is not doing their business any good at all.

Bangkok is supposedly a hub for bargain international airfares but I sometimes wonder about that. Prices are no cheaper here than from home. Why is it that the price of flying from New Zealand all the way to Europe, via Bangkok, is exactly the same price as flying from Bangkok to Europe on the same airline in the same class on the same day? No, I am not comparing apples with oranges but the same airline, on the same day, and the lowest price on the market. Weird.

Quote of the week comes from Angelwitch's Matt, "When you need the girls most they're never here but when rain is pouring from the heavens and you don't need them they are banging on the door!"

An article in yesterday's Courier Mail out of Brisbane, Australia (I cannot find a link online to the article, unfortunately) has proliferated the usual BS that the Western media loves to heap on Thailand's naughty nightlife industry. The story concerns the abhorrent practice of trafficking girls from Asia to Australia's brothels and the author, Trent Dalton, chose a Bangkok-based female Kiwi language teacher who works at a women's refuge in Nonthaburi as his local expert which is kind of surprising for I wonder whether Becky has ever stepped foot in a Thai gogo bar when she states that "most of the girls in gogo bars have been trafficked from Thai rural areas..". Get your head out of your ass and actually come down to Sukhumvit and check it out for yourself. Ask the girls if they are working against their will. They are not! The quote is therefore complete nonsense! Yes, the industry does suffer many ills but what was said is clearly wrong! Her assertion is that of a typical do-gooder, well-intentioned but completely misinformed and her words are nothing more than hysteria. She says that she "cringes every time she sees an older man with his arm around a Thai girl". That is your opinion, Becky, and fair enough, but please don't perpetuate the usual myths the Western media loves. Slavery is abhorrent – but it is not a part of the industry Western men play in and to suggest that it is, and that foreign men are a part of it is just as abhorrent!

For Danish readers, here's a link to a documentary about Danish guys and Thai women.

The Bangkok Post reports that student prostitution in Thailand is not that unusual.

Just because a foreigner is developing properties in Thailand doesn't mean it will be trouble free.

A New Zealander was mauled by a tiger in Chiang Mai.

An English paedophile finally sees his prison sentence, which he had appealed, enforced in Thailand.

Membership to the Pattaya Flying Club is swelling, unfortunately.

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: Where do the good girls go when they want to be bad?

Mrs. Stick says: I'll tell you about good girls. We are brought up to be "reap roy" and we get the message from our parents, teachers and many people in society that we should not smoke, drink or have a desire to party or do bad things. We are also told that we should 'wait until marriage'. I think you know that this is less common now. But we don't sleep around. If a Thai lady is easy to sleep with a man then we think she is not a good lady. So I think if you want a good lady who wants to be bad then you won't find a good lady but actually a bad lady who pretends to be a good lady!

Question 2: I have been with my girlfriend for going on eight years now. I visit her every year for about six months and then return to the States. In the past it seemed like travel and sex was the glue that held us together. I return to the States in about a month. It seems this time around we are losing interest in each other. The sex is going by the wayside. When we are at her home as soon as the sun comes up she’s doing chores and spends much time with her family. I feel at times like I am just watching my life pass by. Any ideas, to get some spark going. Perhaps have a shop together etc, etc.

Mrs. Stick says: She has waited a long time for you to propose to her but you have not and now she is losing interest. Do you want her to be your toy? 8 years is too long. You should propose to her or let her free. It's wrong to keep her waiting so long.



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Your Bangkok commentator,

Stick