Stickman's Weekly Column March 1st, 2009

Are You Scared Of Your Thai Girlfriend / Wife?


Some of the things that Western men do in relationships with Thai women are mind boggling. They defy explanation and make you scratch your head in bewilderment. I am astounded at the way some Western guys let their girlfriend or wife treat them like dirt. Too many guys are a complete doormat. Many Western men are scared!

Let's take the example of a burly pal of mine. Despite being a sizeable fellow he isn't what I would call the scary type but it's obvious from his physique and his cold, hard stare that if push came to shove he could handle himself. If you got caught in a nasty situation he'd be one of the first guys you'd want by your side. So why is it that he allows his Thai wife to beat him?! Yep, she beats him from time to time and abuses him and curses him frequently, often in front of us, his pals. Her words are nasty and hurtful and the few times I have been there when she has let loose it's a dreadful embarrassing scene. He just takes it. Why?

There are many reasons why men allow themselves to become victims. Often it comes back to our vulnerabilities and our fears.

Perhaps the biggest fear Western men married to a Thai woman have is what will happen to their money and their assets should things go pear-shaped and they divorce. This is perhaps the one situation not entirely different from the West where so many men utter the words, "Yes, dear" and do what the boss says simply because they are scared of what will happen if they don't! It's fear and control. So many men are petrified that she will get nasty, throw a fit and storm off to a divorce lawyer with the eventual result that he would lose most everything and end up a broken man. So he just continues to be a doormat and live in misery while his wife does as she pleases.

While there are certain loopholes in the law, generally a house in Thailand must be in a woman's name and any man married to a Thai woman knows how they nag until they have a property (which they absolutely want in their own name whether they contributed a single satang or not). And many a Western man also knows how a local woman changes the moment the house is finished. Or was it the moment the house had been fully paid for? I mean, you've bought her a house, the most expensive thing you'll probably ever buy her, so why does she have to be nice to you now? Cynicism, of course, but there is some truth in it…

The same could be said for many guys with a business in Thailand, many of which are in their wife's name or in which the wife (and perhaps other family members) are listed as the directors – and therefore ultimately have the say! Of course, the unmarried who put a property in their girlfriend's name are really tempting fate! Again, there is a massive vulnerability which the unscrupulous exploit to get what they want. Fear and control.

I've always maintained that in the early days of dating someone new in Thailand you should be prudent about just what you reveal about yourself. Your work, your financial position and other personal details should be played down. The inherent problem is that this you may be forced to bend the truth – never a good way to begin a relationship. But until you are sure that the woman you are seeing does not have a vindictive nature, is it wise to reveal too much about yourself or perhaps do as many seem to do so quickly and give her a key to your place? Frankly, is it wise to even let her know where you work at the start of a new relationship? Those foreigners who have lost their job, or suffered major damage to their reputation at work due to the spiteful actions and nasty revenge tactics by a riled Thai woman are numerous.

Of course there are those who have dabbled in the odd questionable or illegal activity that their girlfriend or wife is aware of. If she is a really evil bitch she might not be shy to remind him. Don't underestimate just how nasty some women can get. One of my best and most trusted mates here in Thailand once lived in Japan. He loved it there and did well for himself. Things went bad between him and his girlfriend and the evil wench dobbed him into the police who came to his place and knew exactly where his marijuana stash was. Funny that! No, he wasn't dealing but enjoyed a joint from time to time. He was not only thrown out of the country but did a stint in the Japanese monkey house before being shown the door!

The police and army remain powerful forces in Thailand and you don't want to upset the daughter, sister (or if older women are your thing, mother!) of a high ranking policeman or God forbid, an army general. Just knowing that there is someone with considerable influence in the family can put fear into a Westerner dating a Thai woman. That reminds me of a fellow from Luxembourg I knew out here a few years ago. He was dating the daughter of a high ranking policeman or general and had been for a couple of years. In fact, he was her first. He then decided that he was bored of her and it was time to trade her in for a new model. She was still very much in love with him and he just wasn't aware of the possible ramifications of breaking it off with her and breaking her heart. He insisted that he was going to leave her, even when I gently suggested that he should try and work things out with her somehow. I don't know if it is any coincidence that I haven't seen him not heard of him for about 3 years!

And there are those whose ability to stay in Thailand is contingent upon being legally married. The criteria for extension of stay (i.e. a one year visa) based on marriage to a Thai national requires showing 400,000 baht in the bank or a combined income (can be hers, yours or a combination) of just 40,000 baht a month. Ironically, those who are retired and presumably living alone (and with just one mouth to feed and not two) must show either twice that amount in a local bank account or a monthly income of 65,000 baht. Some guys have enough to be able to get a marriage visa each year, but not enough (or might not be old enough) to qualify for a retirement visa. Again, there seems to be no shortage of guys whose wife knows EXACTLY what the Immigration requirements are for them to continue to stay legally in the country and they are not shy to remind their husband when an argument ensues that he might have visa problems if their point of contention is not resolved as she wishes…

A child is perhaps the biggest piece of emotional blackmail a woman can have over a man and it can be made much, much worse if she is a country girl. Knowing that his child may grow up with a distant, older relative with failing health in some poor village in a malarial area with poor sanitation and mediocre schools must surely play on the minds of even those bordering on delinquent dads. You have to admire a man who puts up with no end of shit and no end of expenses (much of which may be entirely unrelated to the child) simply because he wishes his child to have a decent upbringing. I do however maintain that no man can keep this up forever. One reader emailed me over a period of time and told me of the hell he was in with such a woman. She was a complete bitch and was using his fear that his son would not have a decent upbringing to manipulate him. This was the last email I got from him:

Well, I sure did try…harder than anything I've done in my life. But I finally gave up. I was just putting off the inevitable and she pushed me one too many times. I guess she thought I would just keep putting up with it… She got so used to taking advantage of me that she thought it was 'normal'… Today was a straw / camel's back thing with me.

So, today, I tossed her out of the very nice condo I was renting for her and son. Mom and family came to pick them up. I should be sad, and am sure I will be later, but right now I actually feel relieved. I made sure to explain to her family very clearly what the story was, but of course, I'm just a farang ba kit mak.

I never met such unrealistic expectations before. They hate to hear the truth and just cannot accept it. Even when you know you are completely in the right, catch them in bold faced deception or manipulations and that it is CLEAR as glass to anyone with a pulse, they just can't take any responsibility for their actions. It's fricking incredible. They have no conscience whatsoever. I never saw anything like it… Such behaviour is a sad sign for not a small portion of Thai society.

I will be putting money away for my son's future instead, and if I'm allowed, see him when his mom is not around. She doesn't care – she'd rather throw out a responsible caring guy who provides well, so she can find a guy to buy a house, car, land quickly, while she does absolutely nothing to deserve it…

Like the farmer who picked up the snake to help it…

Fear in a relationship and turning yourself into a doormat invariably comes from putting yourself in that situation in the first place. Rushing into a relationship or getting involved with the wrong type of woman could be a living hell.

I am not talking about guys being pussy whipped here. That is something altogether different. The situations I refer to here are those where guys put themselves into a position of great vulnerability which their lover was more than happy to exploit.

What is so alarming is that fear, which is a result of control – the worst thing you can have in a relationship – is so common in relationships in Thailand it seems. Artificial dramas are created to put the other person in a position where they are manipulated and effectively forced to do something they would rather not, all to appease the other party. Give me what I want and I will allow the relationship to return to the status quo are the unspoken words. If you're a keen observer of relationships in Thailand you will have seen many relationships exhibit the aspects of control. Not all and not most – but certainly many. For many locals, if there is something they want then making another person feel guilty or putting fear into them about a certain possible result is simply seen as normal! It's really quite creepy.

But let's not be so harsh on the Thai ladies as not all of this is on them and not all play such games. Despite there having been a clean up in corruption in Thailand since the start of this decade, many locals think that when it comes to interactions, relationships or liaisons of any sort with foreigners that they can do as they please with almost total impunity. If you don't have police contacts and / or are unaware of how things work then you could find yourself shafted. That's not to say that the police will always side with her because they won't, but if you don't know how the law works and how the police operate then you could be in a spot of bother.

All the advice given in this column over the years applies. Don't rush things with a new woman. Don't reveal too much about yourself too fast. Don't, as Chris Moore put it so well, pick the lowest hanging fruit. Don't put yourself in a position where you could effectively be extorted. And don't allow anyone to make unreasonable requests of you or attempt to manipulate you or get you to do things you don't want!

Where was this picture taken?


Last week's picture was taken in Patpong soi 2. For the past month or more the pictures have been easy so I made a point of using a much more difficult photo this week… The first person to email me with the correct location of the picture wins a 500 baht credit at Oh My Cod, the British fish and chips restaurant. The second 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. Due to the disappointment expressed by many readers getting the picture right and not winning a prize, I have negotiated a deal with Bodyguard Condoms to provide LARGE-SIZED CONDOMS as prizes. So, for the third, forth and fifth people to get the picture right, I will send you a few packs of Bodyguard's high quality, extra large-sized condoms for you to try out!

Terms and conditions: The Oh My Cod prize MUST be claimed within 14 days. Winners of the Bodyguard Condoms must provide a postal address within Thailand. 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 – Delightful Pattaya time share.

I worked for a time share company in Pattaya and they were a major cause of me overstaying. Bunch of rogues. Many of us were never paid commission due and we were even arrested (9 of us) because the company had never sent our papers away for work permits. Many brown envelopes had to change hands before we were released with a warning. After that I almost started work at an international school in Pattaya where they did not ask for papers until I heard from an ex-teacher there that the headmistress used to report teachers to Immigration just before pay day and have them arrested! This made me very cautious and I made do with private lessons and my writing to keep me afloat. My little missus also contributed with various work, so we survived.

Som num na and karma.

I just had a karma experience this week as well. I used to own a Nissan 300ZX twin turbo that I totally tricked out to where it was putting out over 400 horsepower at the rear wheels. I sold the car to a guy who I thought was a friend for only $6,000 as the car needed some minor work. But still I had put about $20,000 just into the modifications so it was a screaming deal. Anyway, when I sold him the car he took his time registering the car into his own name, and got a few parking tickets which he didn't bother to pay. At first he said he'd take care of things, but then stated there's no way the tickets could be his and refused to pay. It wasn't a lot of money, but after giving him such a great deal on the car there was no way I was going to let him slide. Eventually I had a collection agency after me in the States, and it took several attempts to finally get things worked out. Eventually I got the collection agency off my ass and on to his. One of the last conversations was he had invested over $100,000, half of the money he received from an inheritance, with a mutual friend of ours to help finance a legal battle. I just read an article on MSNBC where the Jimi Hendrix estate won a vodka naming suit against our mutual friend for a sum of $3.2 million dollars. If he sees his money again he'll need to go through hell first to get it. My first thought on reading the article was som num na!

The evil drug.

The BBC article by Alastair Leithead entitled "Secret of Thai success in opium war" seems to ignore the real drug issue in Thailand altogether. I'm sure you know of the immense problem Thailand has with ya ba. Think this through; no great quantities of land required to manufacture ya ba; no hoards of villagers needed to tend and harvest the crop; ground and air surveillance has no chance in a ya ba factory; supply can be ramped as and when demand dictates; no need to worry about the weather; distribution is simple and customers can be found from school age kids up. Nope, the illicit drug industry in Thailand is merely following the money – it's moved from opium to ya ba! One could argue that the "success" of the opium war was due to the emergence of a more profitable and cost effective alternative – ya ba!

Shoe waving ladyboys and taking a leak in public!

I must admit that I was nearly in two violent clashes this past month. The first happened in Sukhumvit, near Thermae. I was pissing in a sewer, not near any business or Buddhist shrine, and 2 large rats had just come out of there when a guy with a cart walked by and began abusing me verbally. I let it go until he wouldn't stop. I then said let's do it! All of a sudden, lots of people came out on to the street. One guy, short and stocky who looked like the leader appeared. I opened my knife and approached him. I told him to be careful and walked away. If things had happened, then it would have been ten on one. Last night in Pattaya, I was on Walking Street, when 2 katoeys tried to touch me. I told them to pack it in, and then they both threatened my life and spat on the ground. They also waved their shoes at me!

Disillusioned by it all.

I have come to the conclusion on my last trip where it really became obvious that I do not want to belong to this bunch of outsiders any more. I could not look myself in the mirror again. The novelty factor is long gone and I lose my self respect when I get repeatedly treated like a piece of s**t by dumb bimbos which is basically why I stopped going out in my country. I don't need to fly 11 hours for the same thing! As I say, only idiots or masochists can put up with this any more. It really happened on a daily basis over a whole month. If it is just for sex (mostly bad due to "shy" and uncooperative nature of most short time girls), one need not fly some 7000 miles for that. There are Thai girls just here available for about 2,000 baht. And if the GFE is a thing of the past, where is the attraction of those stocky girls really? With the political unrest and the deepening economic hardship they do themselves a real disservice, but of course they would never admit to that.

The changing face of Pattaya.

I was in Pattaya for Christmas and New Years. I came back to the US for 4 weeks and then spent the first 2 weeks of February in Pattaya. During the first visit, cheap guesthouse rooms on Second Road and Soi Buakhao changed their chalk board prices from 200 to 300 baht. As of the first week of February, the prices are back to 200 baht. The motorbike and car rental agency on Soi Diana Inn had no vehicles available for the first 2 weeks. There were over 20 motorbikes and 4 cars on site when I passed in February. Is this a good barometer of the end of high season? Possibly, or maybe the people who rent bikes and cheap rooms aren't coming now. There are finally tons of Chinese tourists groups like the good old days, pre-airport closure.

How we are perceived.

The perception that some Thai people have regarding farang is not totally unwarranted. Simply put, we are sex crazed whoremongers. After all, we fly thousands of miles and spend what in their eyes is a fortune on women. Thai TV reports on the going on of farang in Sin City and they send off their daughters to reap some of this bounteous crop. I remember one Thai girl, not uneducated, who had a farang boyfriend before but who was new to the scene in fact had just arrived who explained it as having sex with a farang was just like shaking hands.

After fire ripped through it almost two months ago, Raw Hide in Soi Cowboy has reopened and with its reopening the renaissance period that Long Gun was experiencing where all of the girls from Long Gun and Raw Hide (the two venues have the same owners) were dancing together is now over.

Once the hottest freelancer spot in town, to say that Nana Disco is struggling now would be something of an understatement. I always thought the imposition of a hefty cover charge on what is essentially a meat market was a huge mistake and looking back I think it would be fair to say that that was the beginning of the long, slow decline. Nana Disco's happy hour has been abolished and instead of opening at 9 PM (did anyone ever go in at that time?), they now open at 10, still early for a venue with a dance floor. It seems that the sort of crowd that Nana Disco, or Angels Disco as is its proper name, used to attract, can now be found at Spice at the Ambassador Hotel which unlike Nana Disco is absolutely pumping most nights.

One of the more popular bars in Cowboy, Shark, seems to be going through a rough period with not just less girls but bad attitudes the norm – which has quickly led to less customers. There is more than a hint of the attitude found next door in Baccarra – and that is not a good thing! The other night there was some sort of stand off between the DJ and one shift of dancers who refused to get up on stage and dance – which all had the expected effect of emptying the bar in no time.

On the other side of the ledger, Sheba's in Soi Cowboy is heaps of fun at the moment with a lot of pretty ladies. It's all go from early in the evening. Where the attitudes are sour in Shark, the bunch on stage in Sheba's are fun and friendly. These things usually come back to the mamasan and the management – the bars with the prettiest girls aren't necessarily the most fun.

Up in the farang heartland of Isaan, downtown Udon Thani, comes word that business in the farang playground is slowing down. There are the usual pockets of girls in the bars but few punters around. The downturn has resulted in some of the older bars deciding to call it quits and a few names from yesteryear are no longer in operation.

One of the many business ideas I have had over the years has been to set up some sort of proof-reading business for the English used by Thai businesses in their correspondence, literature, websites, signage etc. The problem is not only would they be aghast at being asked to pay for such a service, there would be a certain face loss in hiring a foreigner to do that in the first place. Raw Hide is the latest bar to need a proof reader after they hung a sign out front of the bar that says L O U N G & B A R. Oh dear…

Tourist visa fees will be waived until 4 June in what is supposed to be a measure to stimulate tourism. A nice gesture but one I feel will have zero effect. If the visa fee (1,000 baht or equivalent) is what was putting you off visiting Thailand or was what made you decide not to visit in the first place then you're probably not going to be spending enough to have any effect on the Thai economy. Oh, and for those of you existing in Thailand on tourist visas, you're out of luck. This is for single entry tourist visas only, not double!

Please take care on the stairs in Nana Plaza. The combination of steep stairs, small steps and alcohol makes this little stairway to heaven a potential death trap. I was recently told that a number of guys end up falling and I also heard an unverified story that one guy fell, presumably hit his head and died!

A couple of years ago you would have really struggled to find a 50 baht beer in Patong unless the idea of sitting outside a small Thai shop with a plastic table and chairs appealed. Now 50 and 60 baht beers can be easily found on Soi Bangla, as well as many other places all over the town. Contrast that with the relentless upward march of the lady drink prices with, get this, 170 baht seeming to be the Bangla norm! We moan and groan about 130 – 150 baht in Bangkok but that is even worse. Is it any wonder why the girls sit drinkless hour after hour? Maybe that helps explain why many of the most attractive girls are freelancing. As one long-term reader put it to me, you can have a drink with Miss Thailand in a late night joint for 120 baht, or her mother or even grandmother in a beer bar for 170.

Silver Dollar in Washington Square has a new happy hour from 4 – 7 PM on weekdays and free finger food is offered. Draft beer is 60 baht and local bottled beers and "non-premium drinks" are 65 baht.

Tourists and other infrequent visitors think I'm off my rocker when I say that Thailand is becoming more and more dangerous. Some have gone as far to say that this time I really have lost it. I don't want to sound like an arrogant know-it-all but you would think a long-term resident would have a better idea about safety than tourists. Anyway, on top of the foreigners murdered in Thailand recently (two Westerners were murdered in Phuket within a few days of each other last week), comes the story of a Bangkok taxi driver who has enclosed himself in a Perspex cage in his cab. I kid you not! See the photo here sent in by a long-term reader showing the driver's protective cage. Those Perspex guards must be expensive. No taxi driver would spend so much money unless he has already had problems and anticipates more. Of course, you can go on believing that Thailand is safe if it makes you feel better. What you don't personally see doesn't happen, right?

If you're an Ocker looking for work in the bar industry, an ad ran in the Bangkok Post this week from the Eclipse Group which is looking for staff including an Australian national for an Australian-inspired pub. Don't get your knickers in a twist if you're not an Aussie because yes, it is totally legal to specify the desired nationality for a particular position (as well as the age and certain physical attributes too!) This new venue will make a change from all the English pubs – good for us ANZACs.

Have we reached critical mass? The number of foreigners living in Bangkok, and nationwide for that matter, is significant and I can't help but feel that many of the "easy jobs" have been taken and many niches filled. I mean, there are heaps of experienced, qualified teachers with Thailand experience (not critical to success or securing a job but very helpful) so anyone wanting to break into that market needs a touch of luck to get one of the better positions. There are heaps of Thailand websites from forums, to naughty boy sites to sites with a broader spectrum of topics covered like this one so setting up a new Thailand related website and hitting the big time won't be easy. Even something as niche market as books about hard time done in a Thai jail have been done to death. Want to be an agent putting foreign car owners in touch with buyers? Taken! Want to set up a major business brokerage dealing predominantly with foreigners? Done! Want to be the local franchise for Kronenbourg beer? Too late, it's gone! And speaking Thai well, unless virtually fluent, you won't set yourself apart from the crowd. I was thinking the other day that for newbies moving to Thailand and looking to make a life for themselves that while it might be easier to get set up these days than in the past, the obvious and easy opportunities have largely been taken. Original ideas will help. It used to be VERY easy to make a life for yourself in Bangkok and in many ways it still is, but it is not quite as easy as it once was.

A number of readers have mentioned problems with their Internet access through True this week with some sites inaccessible and frequent disconnections.

The latest on Mekong Kurt's weekly column and site is that "there is a problem" and he doesn't know when it will be back online. Doh! What sort of problem, Kurt?!

The high prices charged for wine due to the crazy rates of tax is a major turn off for wine drinkers – but there are good deals if you hunt around. The best deal at the moment has to be at The Wine Pub in the Pullman King Power Hotel on Soi Rangnam. On Tuesday nights they have a special for 900 baht where you can drink all the house wine and eat all the pasta you can. And that is 900 baht all up with no silly ++! They have about 20 varieties of wine on the house wine list and most are decent, the French Syrah being our pick. And they have 10 or so varieties of pasta offered. All in all, if you crave some decent wine mid-week it's an excellent deal!

Is it only me who thinks that the Thai press has this annoying habit of reporting something when it first happens, and seldom doing any sort of real follow up so you don't know what ever eventuated… We get these weird and whacky stories and then it sort of just dies. Oftentimes it concerns crimes against foreigners. The alleged perpetrator is arrested and then the next thing you know is that it is two years later and you find a post on a discussion forum that says that the perpetrator remains on bail or was freed. It is frustrating.

If you feel that alcohol might be getting the better of you, Alcoholics Anonymous has a branch here in Bangkok. A number of readers are members.

If you want to be permanently branded, there's a sign on Soi Cowboy stating that tattooing is available above Shadow Bar. Alcohol and tattoos, what a wonderful mix!

Thailand's naughty nightlife industry really does reach deeper into Thai society than we realise. The girls predominantly come from poor and less privileged backgrounds whereas the male participants come from every echelon of society from near the top to the very bottom. I've had a keen eye on one of the girls at the local Au Bon Pain for a while now and it isn't helped by her flirtatious manner. So I got the fright of my life this week when she came into the store on what appeared to be her day off and introduced her mother to the other girls working there. I caught the woman's face and recognised her. She is the mamasan of a certain Bangkok gogo bar!

The biggest name on the internet, Google, now offers free online translations between heaps of languages and one of them is Thai! So now you don't need to email me your love letters for translation but can simply get Mr. Google to do it for you!

If you didn't think the economic downturn was starting to hit Thai businesses, think again. A serviced apartment building that had previously been asking 17,000 baht for a smallish one-bedroom unit agreed to lease it to a friend for a mere 10,000 baht. I have never heard of such discounts before.

In the case that got us all talking for a few days, the severed head of a foreigner was found suspended from Rama 8 Bridge in Bangkok.

An Irishman couldn't face leaving Thailand and chose to end it at Suwannaphum Airport by jumping to his death this week. The nasty video clip shows it and is not for the squeamish. Only 24 years old. What a waste.

The Age ran an article saying that Harry Nicolaides denies the whole jail bird thing was a publicity stunt.

From USA Today, the decapitated foreigner whose head was found attached to a rope hanging from the Rama 8 Bridge was in fact a suicide, and not a grizzly murder as had been speculated.

An Australian seriously loses the plot in Bangkok.

The BBC ran an article today about David McMillan, author of perhaps the best of all of the Bangkok prison books titled "Escape".

Just as the column was about to go to air I heard a very disturbing story about a scam operating up in Isaan. One of the many articles I have percolating and not yet ready for publications concerns agents and agencies in Thailand and the way a middleman position is often created when it isn't needed at all! I despise this practice and it is one perpetrated by Thais and foreigners alike. In this particular case, older Thai women in Isaan with reasonable English (ex mamasans?!) approach young, often poor and sometimes desperate women in the countryside and promise that for a fee of 10,000 baht or more they will introduce the lady to a marriage-minded foreigner. They then create an account on ThailandLoveLinks (for free), put up very old photos of the lady in question i.e. when she was younger and prettier and arrange a meeting for her with a foreigner in Thailand. This happened to a friend of mine. He had been talking with a lady online and she said she would fly down to meet him. What he didn't know was that she was in fact 12 years older than he had been led to believe and had never been on a plane before! She was even accompanied on the plane down by the woman who was there to make sure she met the guy, my friend. The older woman charged her well over the odds for the air tickets – the girl had to pay for two, of course – doubling her profit. I hope to meet the lady in question tonight as there could be a story in this. ThailandLoveLinks is still considered the best of the Thai dating sites but please beware that the scammers are on it big time. With a bit of luck, more on this story next week.

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: Does the concept of true friendship really exist between Thais? It strikes me that the sole reason Thais might befriend one other is that sooner or later, as sure as the day is long, that they will put this friendship on the line by requesting a loan, which in all probability will never be repaid. My girlfriend is Thai, and now she simply refuses to have anything to do with her fellow Thais, stating that she is completely wasting her time with them here in Phuket. These of course are not Phuket Thais, but outsiders from other parts of Thailand. I would say Phuket Thais simply don't mix with outsiders due to their inherited wealth. Her two sisters both have beauty saloons, and again they only recount bad experiences with their fellow Thais. Is this the true definition of a Thai friendship, that when the occasion calls it has to be cemented by a non refundable loan? I know that you mix with a completely different strata up in Bangkok, and that you have a professional background, however it would still be interesting to hear that in spite of being in a more elite social grouping of your own experiences. How many requests for loans have you complied with, refused, have not been recommenced in full, in fact that this was the cause of the break down of your friendship.

Mrs. Stick says: I know about this but for me it is not a problem. My best friends are from my first job and university and they are all Bangkok people. I never had them ask me for money. We all have good jobs and make our own money and no-one asks for money loans. But I know this is a problem and some people ask for money from their friends and never repay it. I am lucky and I don't have any friends like that.

Mr. Stick: One of the by-products of this is that there are pawn shops everywhere and money lending is a huge business in Thailand. When I say money lenders, I mean unofficial money lenders, not banks or finance companies, people with money who charge an extortionate amount of interest, often 10% per month. This money lending is so widespread that if you go to any stationery shops they have pads of pre-printed, legally-binding contracts for money lenders! I think a "loan" in Thailand should be considered a gift. There is a real chance it might never be paid back and the borrowers are often quite willing to end the friendship over it.

If you thought there may have been a reduction in the amount of bar news covered in this column over the past couple of months then you'd be right. There are a few reasons for this. The first should be obvious and concerns the world economic crisis. There are fewer tourists in town which means fewer girls in the bars and less happening so there are less funny anecdotes and stories. Secondly, bar owners are spending less hence there is less happening from their end to write about. Less new bars opening and less in the way of improvements or major changes. Who would sink a few hundred thousand dollars into a new bar when the future is so uncertain? The third reason for the drop in bar news concerns me. A few months back I had an epiphany. I was out on Soi Cowboy with two American friends early one evening. I was looking around and just wondering what the hell I was doing there. They knew something wasn't right with me and I feigned feeling off colour and slinked off home. The bar scene HAS changed dramatically over the past few years and in no way resembles the fun environment it used to be. For someone who doesn't partake, so to speak, it gets boring quickly. I'll write about this in more detail in the next couple of weeks. I still have every intention of covering the bar scene in detail as, let's face it, that is a major part of expat life and the reason so many of you tune in each week!



Your Bangkok commentator,

Stick