Stickman's Weekly Column April 5th, 2009

My Friend, Gordon


He dropped me an email, introducing himself and informing me that he ran TalesOfAsia.com which would be best described as being to Cambodia what Stickman is to Thailand. We met up, we got along well and a friendship was formed.

Back in the days when each of us was single, we would do the bar thing spending nights out on the town, often in the Thermae. We visited the infamous Nanapong dance contests and always had a good time hanging out together.

He has maintained a residence in Bangkok but has been predominantly Cambodia-based. A few years ago he branched out his little empire and started up what has since become a successful guesthouse in Siem Reap where I stayed last week. I had been meaning to interview Gordon for a long time and it just felt right to do it while I was in Siem Reap as opposed to on one of his frequent visits to Bangkok. So, after exploring temples and a day on the Tonle Sap Lake, I mustered up the energy to have a chat with my friend, Gordon Sharpless.

How did you end up here? Can you run me through what made you choose to live in Cambodia?

I have to choose my words carefully here because my wife will read this and I cannot piss on Thailand. I have been a dual resident really. I am not sure how I came to live here.

So were you burned out on Thailand many years ago?

Ah, yeah. When I first started living here in early 2001, Cambodia was a different country from what it is today. Far less developed and as such it presented many opportunities which I felt did not exist in Thailand, both because of the lack of development but also the legal structure which was then and continues today to be more favourable to foreign-owned small businesses although initially when I came from Thailand I was concentrating on writing and photography. Cambodia was and still is a very interesting country to write about and also a very photogenic country and suited to photography. Also at the time with the Internet not being as pervasive as it is today and generally unknown to locals, I felt I had a lot of room to write freely about what I did, what I saw and what I believed. Even though the Internet was not as widespread, I didn’t feel as comfortable to write freely about Thailand as I did about Cambodia under my own name.

Why are you STILL in Cambodia? I mean, come on, you’ve got a Thai wife?

I’m still here because in 2004 I was foolish enough to open a guesthouse and restaurant and foolish enough to run it properly and end up making money from it.

What about the Thai wife bit?

I am largely here because this is where my businesses are and they are successful.

You say businesses, as in plural. Are you the Richard Branson of South East Asia?

Fuck no! Two Dragons Guesthouse and restaurant and the Tales of Asia website. Though one is considerably more successful than the other.

Some might say you’ve got a dream life. Living in a tropical country and all I see you doing here is lounging at reception playing on the internet all day long!

"Wherever you are there you are." Life is a continuum and no I don’t have an ideal life because once life’s situation changes one person’s dream is another person’s nightmare. Unless someone comes to you telling you how satisfied or unhappy they are with their life, no-one is in a position to really judge another person’s life. Am I happy? Yes! Is this the ideal life for me at this time? No!

Why?

When I first came not just to Cambodia but to South East Asia – I was in Thailand first from 1997 – I was a single, and in my early 30s and able to enjoy all that a single man can enjoy in South East Asia. Now I am a married man in my mid 40s with a child and a second one on the way and I take my family responsibility very seriously. I am now at a point where I no longer feel South East Asia is an ideal place to raise my family. So while yes, I am happy with my life, it is time for a change just as it was time for a change in 1997 when I left the United States to come to Asia.

What do you prefer about Cambodia over Thailand, thinking about both running a business here as well as general expat life?

As I briefly alluded to before, the business climate is more favourable to foreign-owned small businesses from a legal standpoint.

Details?

I have 100% ownership of my business would be the main one. That’s it! What more do you need?

What about other aspects of just like, you know, general life here?

When I first came this was a very much less developed country and it has been very interesting and exiting to watch the country grow and see the enormous gains they have made in the last 8 years. Whereas Thailand is a much more developed and mature country, while people may see a rapid rate of change, it is nothing compared to what Cambodia has achieved this past decade. It has been very exciting to witness it. Also, as I live in Siem Reap as opposed to the capital of Phnom Penh, I am in a much more relaxed environment and I do find that Cambodia is a much more relaxing place than say Bangkok or even Chiang Mai. And because this is such a tourist town, while we maintain the small town feel we also have a lot of the comforts that Westerners like to have.

So this can be a good place to be an expat?

Ummm…I hate generalisations like that! That’s a bit of a generalisation. It depends on the person and what they want out of life. As I have mentioned briefly before I am now in a position in my life where it is not the ideal situation for where I am.

What about your friends? Are they generally happy here or do they bitch and moan like Thailand-based Westerners tend to?

All of the above! I think like the expats in Thailand, the ones that stick it out for a long time eventually stop bitching because eventually you either learn to live with the shortcomings or you leave. I generally think that the bitching, moaning expat really needs to move on. None of these countries are going to adapt themselves to us. We have to adapt ourselves to them.

So what does your wife think of life here? Let’s face it, Thais are not that fond of Cambodians!

No they are not. She gets very bored here. She prefers not to be here but has adapted to it as well as she can. I think it has been very educational to her because having lived in both countries and travelled back and forward between them both for 12 years, I have been able to see not only what and how Thais think of Cambodians but also what and how Cambodians think of Thais.

With regards to what Thais think of Cambodia, I find it very frustrating how little they know and how much they misunderstand Cambodia and Cambodians. I find there are some Thais who hold some prejudices and ignorance that sometimes one could draw parallels to how a white person looked upon a black in the southern United States in the 1950s. There is a reasonably sized Thai population, particularly in Phnom Penh though the one in Siem Reap is overwhelmingly Isaan Thais.

Why is that?

I would think because Isaan is most culturally similar to Cambodia. There are very, very, very few Bangkok Thais here. As a matter of fact, apart form my wife I have hardly met any. I think one of the more difficult things for my wife here and this of course is consistent with Thais going anywhere in the world is for her to find something to eat. Cambodia has many things to be proud of; Angkor is first class while their cuisine is not.

Are you burned out on Cambodia?

No, I am not burned out. It is just that it doesn’t fit where I am in my life any more. It is no slight against Cambodia. Raising two small children I see better possibilities elsewhere.

How are the Khmers different from the Thais? Yes, I know you have to generalise to answer this question, but do you have any interesting observations or anecdotes that set them apart.

One thing I have learned in 12 years in Asia is by and large people are people wherever you go in the world. We are all more alike than different. Most people at the end of the day want to take care of their family and they want to have fun. As annoying as a phrase it may be, “same same but different” really does apply here if you want to compare Thais and Cambodians.

What’s the deal with Cambodia for naughty boys? Is this still a Fantasyland for creeps like Gary Glitter?

Fortunately no. Three or four years ago they really began to crack down on it and they have been quite successful in doing so. I suppose if I could make any criticism it is that the efforts to combat it have been waged perhaps excessively against foreigners and not enough against Cambodian nationals.

What about the naughty boy scene in general? Not the ghastly underage stuff though.

That’s alive and well in Phnom Penh.

There doesn’t seem to be much here.

No, there’s not much in Siem Reap.

Is there much difference between the Westerners who end up in Cambodia and those who make Thailand their home?

Thailand has had the advantage of having expats for decades whereas in Cambodia most expats are under 10 years and the longest long-termers are not much more than 15. When expats first started arriving in Cambodia in the 1990s the country was still in a state of war and those arriving were usually NGO workers, journalists, entrepreneurs in the truest sense of the word and of course a bit of flotsam. In the past few years where the serious money has started flowing into the business sector we are starting to see a different breed of expat coming along with that money.

Where are they from?

Everywhere.

More from France than say other Western countries?

There’s a very large Asian expat population here – Korean, Chinese and Malaysian particularly and Westerners of course and very recently since some of the changes in the Thai visa laws we are starting to see West Africans coming in. Of the Westerners, they pretty much come from everywhere but yes, as this was a French colony, there is a very large French expat population which for better or worse, depending on your perspective, largely keeps itself separate from the Anglo population.

I understand a number of ex-Thailand expats are making Cambodia their home.

Yes, again I think a combination of changes in the visa laws has brought one segment of the Thai expat population which I think Cambodia could do well without. However, as this country is now more politically stable than Thailand and has a functioning economy and burgeoning business climate, we are also seeing expats from Thailand coming over here and opening quality businesses and making a go for it. We are seeing both sides of it, good and bad.

Do Westerners in Cambodia get burned out on the country and develop a love hate relationship like Westerners in Thailand often do?

Certainly because this is not specific to Cambodia and Thailand but specific to expats around the world.

What’s the internet landscape like here, in terms of sites, forums and what not?

For whatever reason the expat population has not tuned into the internet to the same extent as it has in Thailand. Though there are discussion forums out there, the most popular still receives a fraction of users that is disproportionate to the population of expats in Cambodia compared to Thailand. Nobody has been able to truly develop a major expatriate website to the extent that it has been done in Thailand though several have tried. This is not a slight on the websites but the expats in Cambodia just don’t spend as much time on the internet as those in Thailand do.

What’s the story with your website? Have you abandoned it?

In a manner of speaking yes, and in a manner of speaking, no.

You sound like a politician!

Obama or Bush?

I don’t care for either!

Anyway, the website, TalesOfAsia.com. Before I opened a brick and mortar business, TalesOfAsia.com was to me what your website is to you. I put a lot of effort into writing it, maintaining it and I wrote as honestly and openly as I could.

When I opened a guesthouse in 2004 I ran into several difficulties, some internal and some external. I began to realise I had conflicts of interest as my website took advertising from competitors’ businesses as well as accusations that I was writing less objectively to directly or indirectly promote my own business or the neighbourhood of my business as opposed to another neighbourhood in Siem Reap or even Siem Reap against Phnom Penh or Sihanoukville.

As time went on, I also realised that because I wrote under my own name and I did own a properly licensed brick and mortar business it became more difficult to write honestly and as Cambodians became more and more aware of the internet this culminated in two defamation suits against me in 2008. The first one I was able to satisfy the complainant before it reached the legal system. The second one I received a summons and had to report to Phnom Penh for questioning. This was over things written that would not even raise an eyebrow in most Western countries. Cambodia, like Thailand, does not recognise free speech like we know it in the West.

Also for years and years I had been writing about the same things in Cambodia. When I opened a business that I had to attend to and raise a family it did become a little more difficult to keep up with everything and eventually I did start to become burned out on writing. When the defamation suits hit whatever air was still in my sails was blown out and I just said fuck it, I don’t need this any more.

If one wants to consider the difficulties of writing a website of the nature I was doing and owning a guesthouse, consider if you will what difficulties there would be if there was a Stickman Hotel and Restaurant on Sukhumvit Road.

Yeah baby, I like the sound of that! So what of the future of TalesOfAsia.com?

TalesOfAsia.com still provides good tourist information and will continue to do so. The sometimes over the top opinions and commentary is largely a thing of the past. The website is not going to die, but if one is looking for a regularly updated blog, they would have to look elsewhere. I am not going to do it anymore because unfortunately in Cambodia even writing something that is true, if it is considered objectionable to someone powerful here you can face both criminal and civil liability. As for the criminal complaint that I had to answer to in Phnom Penh, after explaining my position I was successful in getting the charges dropped. However, the complainant told me that had I been Cambodian and not foreign she would not have withdrawn the complaint. According to a lawyer, I probably would have spent a weekend in jail and faced a penalty of between 10 and 20 thousand US dollars which is considerably more than what I would have to pay if I accidentally killed someone with an automobile. What you need to understand is that what I wrote was 100% factually correct.

So what of Cambodia’s future? From what I have seen, this country has bright prospects. Do you see it the same way?

Yes I do. This country is not without its problems but find me a country that isn’t. Corruption and incompetence is everywhere but yes I see a very positive future for Cambodia. That said, do I recommend that every expat come running over here to make a life? No, because again everybody has a unique place in life which they need to define. Cambodia will not fit everybody.


Where was this picture taken?


Last week's picture was taken of the Elephant Head branch on Phyathai Road, about 250 metres from Siam Square. The first person to email with the correct location of the picture wins a 500 baht credit at Oh My Cod, the British fish and chips restaurant. The second person to get the picture right wins a fantastic roast buffet at Molly Malone's on Bangkok's Soi Convent. The buffet runs every Sunday from midday until 7 PM and the winner gets one buffet free! I like the buffet and partake of it myself often! ThailandFriends.com is 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. TF, as it is also known, offers a one month premium membership to the third person to get the picture right which adds more to the ThailandFriends' experience with unlimited messaging, detailed member searches, 24 profile pictures, and a whole lot more. Bodyguard Condoms also provide large condoms as prizes. So, for the forth, fifth and sixth people to get the picture right, I will send you a few packs of Bodyguard's high quality, extra large-sized condoms to try out. And there is another new prize this week! The Strip in Patpong's soi 2 is offering a FREE BOOTH. That means that you and one of the ladies enter the booth and the curtain is closed for 30 minutes. This prize has a value of 550 baht, the cost of closing the booth. It should be noted that if you wish to do anything more with the lady than chat then a tip will be expected… In total, we now have SEVEN PRIZES EACH WEEK!

Terms and conditions: The Oh My Cod and Molly Malone's prizes MUST be claimed within 14 days. Winners of the Bodyguard Condoms must provide a postal address within Thailand. The TF prize winner can be anywhere in the world. 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 – Five star venues with one star clientele.

Those of us who live in Thailand have had to resign ourselves to the human sewage that washes up on these shores, with the UK being a particular source for those whose primary aim on an evening out is to look for a fight. Usually it is around the 'bottom' end of the market, especially the gogo bars of Pattaya. But even five-star places are now polluted by one-star clientele. I took a young lady to the roof-top bar of the Banyan Tree Hotel. It was quite busy, and eventually I and others became all too aware of a loud American who appeared unable to complete a sentence without it including foul language. Eventually, I politely asked him if he could moderate his language with ladies around, but his only response was to threaten me with violence, which he said he was justified to do because he had more money than me. He said he would be waiting for me when I left, and I asked to be escorted by two security guards when we did so. He abused me again as we left. The staff, who were in no way to blame of course, were apologetic and even provided free drinks, but what had been a wonderful and romantic evening had been ruined by some tatooed, shaven-headed wanker who had worse manners than a soi dog.

Why you should not tell a local to "fxxx off!"

Two of my friends recently visited Bangkok and on my recommendation went to Q Bar on soi 11. Lets me stress that both are very nice, polite guys with top jobs back home. When they wanted to get home after a night of partying, they got into one of the taxis waiting outside. When the driver quoted them 500 baht to take them to their hotel only 5 minutes away one of them told the driver to fxxx off, got out of the car and slightly slammed the door. That's when things got nasty. The driver got out and hit one of them with one of those extensible iron rods straight into the face resulting in a bleeding nose, torn lip and bruising. I guess he was lucky that he didn't break a tooth or something worse. The bouncer of Q Bar, far from being helpful to two of his customers, opened up his suit to show them a tasar and a gun on his belt and told them to get lost while other Thai males started to get hostile towards the victims. Sensing that the situation might get out of control, they finally jumped into a passing taxi to get away. Needless to say that Thailand lost another two wealthy tourists…

And again!

My wife was in Pattaya last week with her cousin and aunt. An older farang couple, male and female, was offered a show on one of the side sois off Walking Street. The gent declined and said something that didn't sit well with the Thai tout. The tout and a number of his companions gave the old guy a few punches to the head. The police were not called.

No wonder the katoeys have so many phone numbers.

As a resident of Sukhumvit Soi 13, I do the Cowboy to home stagger a few times a week. I now make the stop to buy a few grilled animal parts barbecue skewers and put two of the finished sharpened snack sticks in my back pockets, point up. The other two I carry with me just snacking. I have fended off many herds of katoeys by just pointing my short spears at their silicone enhancements and smiling. If I'm not hungry the barbecue lady just smiles and lets me take four from her trash bin when I explain it's for the katoeys! Last week a friend had his phone jacked at the same spot after my repeated warnings. The police were 10 meters away didn't care except a smile knowing the night's commission was going to be a good one.


Thai ladies in Bangkok, Pattaya, and all over Thailand

High paying Bangkok positions.

Your comments about the big money in Bangkok are true. BUT, those getting this money are working for foreign companies and have been sent to Thailand and are earning the packages they have in their foreign country. I do not think there are the opportunities to make this sort of money by getting a ‘local’ position. The only way is to be lucky enough to be outside of Thailand in a well paying job and be sent to Thailand. Once you have this understanding, then the money is not that huge. If you are working in a ‘reasonably senior’ professional role in Singapore, for example, 250K THB/month is actually low end. I would think 350K baht a month would be more mid-range. If you think I am wrong, and you can earn 250K baht a month and up by getting local packages, please enlighten me on where/how there are such opportunities. Maybe I would be interested along with every other Stick reader around the globe!

Choosing England over Thailand.

As a Bangkok long-termer I may yet defect back to the UK. I was quite shocked to find that a bottle of San Miguel in a reasonable pub was a mere 50 baht (all day long, not happy hour) and I have just bought a luxurious four-bed, three-bath, three-storey, nearly new detached townhouse style property for ten million baht on an expensive part of the south coast of England with a panoramic sea view as an investment but am tempted to move in. Being chatted up by an elderly lady in a pub wasn't exactly to my taste until I realised she was probably ten years my junior and doing me a favour in her world view, so removed from reality had I become. The latest Thai girl is almost desperate for me to marry her having invested about five years in getting me addicted to the sex and companionship, although having her Thai husband sleeping in the garden and having to lock the house up as if it was a prison and then hide the keys wasn't exactly one of my life's dreams. So she is a goner but I am still addicted to Oriental girls. Maybe I will just do three months a year in Thailand until I burn out on the sex and can escape permanently back to Blighty. I suppose it is nice to have the choice!

The dominate value of most Asian women.

That a Thai wife may allow an occasional extra goes back to the dominate value of most Asian women (those of good virtue and traditional values). This value is harmony. Quite a few months ago your Mrs. Stick shared that this is a dominate value in Thai society. She was accurate of course, but, I use this value to explain what Western men enjoy in Thai women and to explain what Westerners see as a ridiculous freedom given to a spouse; in fact, it is the other half valuing the happiness of the partner and overall harmony of the relationship as the highest and most prioritized value. If only other women, and men could be like this, dare I say we would have less divorce (perhaps less wars). Harmony seems like an unknown word in western civilization.

Chakri Dynasty Day, that is Monday April 6 this year, or tomorrow, may be a public holiday but the few bar owners I spoke with don't expect any bar closures or prohibition on alcohol sales. If you like to party, it'll be life as usual.

Soi Cowboy saw the first heavy downpour of the year this past Thursday, most unseasonal. Unfortunately some of the bar awnings failed the leak test sending patrons scurrying inside. Local design and construction standards strike again?

Cowboy may now be the showcase of Bangkok’s foreigner-oriented nightlife, but the large neon sign at the Asoke end of Cowboy is in about as rough a shape as the sign at Nana Plaza. With the rest of Cowboy looking so good, someone ought to organise for it be repaired so that once again it can be clearly seen from the nearby Asoke skytrain station.

Long Gun Bar is doing its best to take the happy out of happy hour with their new (not so) happy hour prices seeing most drinks priced at 100 baht. I guess they'll try and justify the increase on covering the cost of the recent bar upgrades.

Have you ever counted the number of service staff in a bar? With 14 in Raw Hide, you would think service would be quick and efficient…but you'd be wrong!

Andrew, the original manager, is back in charge at the BooSa Bar in soi 7/1. Many people had stopped visiting and some of the more popular girls had left, but he is doing his best to get it back to how it was.

Popular English bar owner / investor of the No Name Group, Peter, hopes everyone had a good time on April Fools' Day. (Those he is referring to will know what he means.)

Pay day has come and gone and so will many of the bargirls, not just for the month, but for quite a period. There's often a seasonal migration that kicks off around now that sees many girls head home for Songkran – and stay there as post Songkran is officially low season meaning fewer punters – and less opportunity to make money. There is of course a migration in the other direction which kicked off a couple of weeks ago as girls who are borderline legal head down to Bangkok and Pattaya to make money over the school / university break.

Yep, next week is Songkran, that awful time of year when normality is replaced by mayhem and anyone who enjoys a peaceful existence is forced to lock themselves indoors for days. Looking ahead, who knows what will happen during Songkran this year? There was much speculation that there would be an alcohol ban over the Songkran period which was enough to put some off visiting Thailand. Of course there are plenty who enjoy Songkran. Each to their own.

What was once known as Harry's Barr, in the Wall Street sub soi on soi 33, is now known as Legends Bar. After extensive refurbishments, getting rid of all the old staff and replacing them with new girls, an outside deck area has been added, and a full-sized Brunswick pool table put in place, the new bar has a completely new look. It opened about 2 weeks ago and the official opening party is scheduled for April 26 with lots of free food and plenty of goodwill.

The Music Station on the main soi 33 drag. The new boutique hotel on soi 33.

Soi 33 really does seem quiet so I take off my hat to those willing to invest in new venues in the soi. There's a new boutique hotel soon to open in the ally just beyond soi 33's most popular bar, The Office in what was once the most convenient spot to park. And on the main drag is a new venue, the Music Station, featuring an open front and live rock music every night. It opened a few weeks ago and makes a great spot to kick back and watch life on the street.

Down in Pattaya, there's mounting concern about the crackdown on venues that allow action on the premises – not an inconsiderable number! While no such crackdown has been officially announced (I mean, the boys in brown can hardly come out and say that "We intend to bust all foreign-owned bars (I think this point is relevant) providing an environment in which Western men can get intimate with Thai angels", there is much nervousness following on from the raid at Hell Club a couple of weeks ago and the subsequent raid this week on Kinnaree House. No names mentioned, but a few in Pattaya have said that foreigners are involved in the investigations that lead to the busts. It has also been mooted that soi 6 may be targeted as the entire soi – where pretty much every venue facilitates afternoon delight on the premises – is seen by some as a blight on the landscape.

Apache Coyote is on the up and up and the girls were positively bouncing around earlier this week although that said, there weren't many customers about. A customer ran a fun contest with bananas and prize money that got the girls doing all sorts of unmentionable things.

Admittedly I only visited briefly but there seems to have been a real change at the Thermae. Whether it is related to the economic doldrums would be pure speculation, but the number of North Asian customers was so low it was almost non-existent! Probably only 10% of the customers were Asian, the other 90% being the traditional Thermae regulars, farang. Truth be told, many of the girls looked most disappointed at the type of punters present. As I have reported recently, most birds lingering in the Thermae sport a cutesy Japanese look for a reason. Engaging one lass in brief chit chat confirmed what I thought – she would go with a farang "as a last resort". The Thermae was very quiet.

What's the story with Bradman's Bistro? There were a few lasses in there this week who looked like they were up for it. Tarted up and looking as slutty as can be, they just lingered and gave diners and imbibers more than the glad eye.

Bangkok's invisible foreign volunteers operating out of the Lumpini Police Station have an opportunity to do something genuinely worthwhile. They should do like their Pattaya brethren and pound the pavement, specifically the danger zone on Sukhumvit where the katoey pickpockets are operating en masse. Not only would this act as a deterrent, it would put the minds of nervous tourists at ease. Surely actively helping tourists BEFORE the crime takes place is much more worthwhile than assisting after the fact?

Let's give some credit where it's due. Glowing feedback has come in about the foreign police volunteers in Phuket who were sent to help out at the Phuket Immigration Office. There were hoards looking to extend their visa and as anyone who has visited a busy branch of Immigration knows, it can be a stressful environment. What made the whole experience bearable was the job the farang volunteers did. Just their presence helped defuse the situation of so many people waiting for so long, helping to alleviate the tension and creating a more amenable atmosphere.

Ah, no positive words about the Pattaya contingent this week. Anyone? Howard?!

Popular Patpong pool bar Target will hold a tournament on 30 April with a promotion of buy 2 San Miguel Light, get 1 free. The happy hour runs from 6 – 8 PM with regular beer at 80 baht, soft drinks 50 baht and girls play for free. Their monthly promotion for April has Tequila at 80 baht and free pool on Sunday.

If you're into S & M, Bar Bar in Patpong Soi 2 is the place to go. It's an interesting venue although one I find hard to describe; I'm way out of my depth when it comes to fetishism. The venue is dimly lit with a lot of candles used. In fact the total cost of the candles is more than their total electricity bill each month!

From the darkest depths of Petchabun province comes reports of a scam being perpetrated by some errant boys in brown. Foreigners are visited at their places of abode and informed that they have neglected to register at the local police station – for which there is a 1,000 baht fine payable. If it is not paid they are invited to the station for processing, perhaps a further shakedown. Many of these foreign residents contribute to their local communities and have been living in the province for years. They keep on top of the 90-day immigration reporting. To make matters worse, in farang circles in the province it has been claimed that there has been an increase in burglaries at farang properties with some speculating that reporting to the local authorities can increase the risk of your property being a target! As far as I am aware there is no legal requirement for foreigners resident in Thailand legally required to report to the local police station. The only requirement I seem to recall is for foreigners with permanent resident visas – and there are not many of these – to get a house registration book from the nearest amphur office and report every five years. Rumour has it that due to the lack of money coming in from the tourism industry less is filtering through to the boys in brown and so there are some creative means of replacing that lost income taking place. Across the board, expect there to be more and more scams against farangs, both tourists and residents.

How long can you keep a condom in your wallet in Thailand a reader asks. Apparently it's just too hot and the packets come open in the heat and the condom makes its own way out. It is said that brand is irrelevant.

Quote of the week comes from a friend describing his ex-wife. "That bitch had the trifecta – jealous, controlling and manipulative!"

A Brit was killed in a necklace snatch in Pattaya.

Today's Bangkok Post has an interesting piece on naughty nightlife for straight women.

If you think Aussie Nicolaides' 3 year sentence for insulting the Thai monarchy was harsh and heavy, think again. A Thai national has been sentenced to 10 years for the same offence.

Stickman reader story of the week is brilliant. "Comments on Sex and Marriage (not necessarily incompatible)" by Old, Fat & Bald. Do yourself a favour and read this – it's much better than my weekly!

A German was shot for 'opposing all-night raves'.

Here's the latest from the BBC on the Santika blaze in Bangkok at New Year.

The dark side of sex tourism.

According to this article, the Russian condo buyers have disappeared from 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: Why do Thais, at least the ones I meet, have a dim view of countries outside Thailand? Actually I'm sorry to say this I think many Thais have a dim view of many parts of Thailand also.

Mrs. Stick says: We are proud to be Thai and we love our country, our King, our family, our food, our culture and tradition. But I think some people feel that if we say positive things about another country it means we do not love our own country. I think you can ignore these people because they are too proud. I think if they go to your country they would probably like it but they cannot admit that some things in your country are better than Thai.

Question 2: Can you explain to me what the difference is for a Thai woman when she tells you that the relationship is not longer girlfriend / boyfriend but only good friend? This message I got when I told her that I would not send her extra money. I explained to her why. This was not enough to change her mind. After reading the book Thailand Fever, probably too late, I know now what she expected from me. What can I expect from her in this new situation? I am going back to her in April because we had already planned this.

Mrs. Stick says: I think it's good you supported her but I think she does not love you and I think her feelings are conditional on money. Sorry I cannot say more because the background is not clear about why you sent her money.

Question 3: This is a sin sot (dowry) question. The missus is 28 years old, university degreed from a good Bangkok university, and currently doing an MBA. She has a good government job at an important Thai property development company with an ok salary and she also works for a big insurance company part time. She comes from a farming family (not Isaan though) and has a sister who graduates this year in IT. Mother is divorced, still working at the farm she owns. The missus had 2 long term boyfriends before hence was not a virgin. The sin sot – the mother told her that it was up to her to decide the amount. After talking with the missus she confirmed that it is up to me to decide the amount. What amount (approximate) would be fine, without offending the family? The missus and I will talk further about this issue. In this case I know the sin sot would go to the mother as she did her best to send her daughters (and not the sons who were less capable) to university. My suggestion is a small sin sot (or bigger but just for display at the marriage ceremony) but try to guarantee to take care of the mother in her very old age (which is a mere 10k baht a month – entirely paid for by her daughters).

Mr. Stick says: This is a hard one and you'll never get the same answer from any two people on sin sot questions, irrespective of whether they are Thai or foreigner, male or female. You might be making the classic mistake that admittedly most foreign guys make when it comes to sin sot – that they will either give a reasonable sin sot and should then be exempt from *ever* providing ongoing support to anyone in the family or alternatively, give little or no sin sot but provide ongoing support as it is required. In the Thai family's mind, these are two totally separate and completely unrelated matters! To the Western groom to be, it is often seen as simply giving money in a situation where it would not be required in the West. I think to understand the situation better you have to try and look at it from the Thai perspective. Thai family members will always provide support when it is required and it is inevitable that those with more will be expected to shoulder a larger share. You should talk about this with your fiancée after you have decided on the dowry. If you see it as a package deal, I think she will be rather disappointed so it may be best to keep these thoughts in your own mind. Finally, to answer your question, based on what you have said about her, 100k baht would, all things considered, probably be fair. I believe that this represents an adequate amount for a university-educated lady from a poor background who is not going to the marital bed with the cherry intact. There are valid arguments as to why it could be higher or why it could be lower. I have simply tried to find a happy medium.

We're just about into the silly season, that time of year when Thailand goes a little mad. Songkran, the Thai New Year, kicks off next week and all around the country it will be this water fight madness. It's also the time when the roads are at their absolute busiest, as migrant workers return to their home province to spend the new year with family. Ridiculous traffic jams occur – it'll take some more than 24 hours to get home – and the country's transport infrastructure chokes under the strain. Frankly, it's a time to avoid intercity travel if you can help it, lest you end up in the traffic jam from hell. It's also a time when much alcohol is consumed and sadly, road fatalities go off the chart. More people perish on Thailand's roads at this time of year than any other. We won't be venturing far during this period of madness. Batten down the hatches and have a few quiet days is the plan.



Your Bangkok commentator,

Stick

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