Stickman's Weekly Column April 26th, 2009

Reflecting From Afar


You close your eyes but sleep doesn't come quickly. You're conscious, but motionless. You're in the land of the living but there is silence, absolute silence. You can move, but there are no sounds. It isn't eerily quiet. Silent. Totally silent. Jet lag is playing tricks in your mind. Footsteps awaken you, the only sound you hear. You open your eyes and the only sense stimulated is sight. Your surroundings jolt your memory. There are no soi dogs, no tuktuks, no security guards with whistles and no neighbours singing karaoke. You're no longer in Thailand.

You're out with two of your best mates and their respective other halves. One you know, one you don't. She looks you in the eyes and you know a variation on the question you were dreading is about to come. She asks you what the bars are like in Bangkok. Silence falls on the table. All eyes are on you. They've been to Bangkok before. She hasn't. They trust you to be diplomatic. They're your mates. Close mates. Perhaps your best mates. How do you answer? You want to tell the truth but you don't know how it will go down. You're a dreadful liar and you know she'll see right through it. You can't look her in the eye. You look around the venue, half restaurant, half bar, pretending to examine it, looking for wisdom as you rack your brain for the right answer. But you're with your mates. That means you've been drinking. Throw in the jet lag. Your brain isn't at its best. You mumble something about the bars being much the same but for a lack of chrome. Did you really say that? Your mate sitting next to you almost chokes. But she has never been to Bangkok before. She doesn't get it. You got out of jail.

You look at the bill and do a double take. No service charge, of course. No tip expected. You ate like kings. Red meat all around, top quality cuts all perfectly cooked. Fancy salads, kumara chips, seafood. Enjoyed at the Viaduct, the trendiest area, read the most expensive area in the biggest, most expensive city in the country. The bill for the entire table what dinner for two would cost in Bangkok, at least for the same quality. Maybe more. And it included drinks too. An excellent local wine that hadn't been boiled on the airport tarmac in transit.

You walk around a shopping centre. It's busy. In fact it's packed. When you look at the shoppers you wonder why they go to the mall. No-one is carrying any bags. No-one is spending. The cafes and small eateries are overflowing. You look at the signs. A coffee runs $3 – 4 (60 – 80 baht) including a free muffin or scone. The coffee is excellent. No, it's superb. It's so good in fact that you order a second. The woman looks at you funny when you say that no, you don't want a second free cake. The coffee alone will do. The last time you had a coffee this good was….2 years ago, somewhere in the same neighbourhood. Your mind wanders back to Bangkok. A good coffee runs 100 baht. A superb coffee? Nah, doesn't exist. Ok, it does, but you refuse to pay the 200 baht they ask for a cup.

The country has attracted all sorts of immigrants. Indians, Chinese, Taiwanese, Koreans yet the mall is 95% white. You look at the people walking around. It's a middle class area. Ok, it's kind of upper middle. No-one is smiling. It doesn't mean they're not having a good time. It doesn't mean they're not content. But they're not smiling. It takes you a moment to reconcile their expressions. Failure to smile is no crime. It doesn't mean a lack of contentment. It doesn't mean you're not unhappy. It's refreshing.

And you look at the women. You can't help it. You're a man. You look at them closely. You're think back to what one of your American mates said. Home for a couple of weeks recently, he didn't see a single hot bird. Not one! Of course he likes his life in Thailand. Exaggeration to support his argument. Was he kidding? He's a mate, one of the good guys. You let it go. You realise slowly that neither have you seen a hot girl yet. Not one. Ok, it's a lie. You did. You have seen a few bunches of hotties. But they weren't Kiwis. They were Asian. Fair-skinned. Whiter than me. Probably Chinese. They were hot. Red hot. But they are the only hot girls I have seen so far. And I don't have a problem with white women. In fact in many ways I prefer them. But I just haven't seen a hot one yet. But every time I see a group of Chinese…wow!

And you look at the couples. So few mixed race. What do they think of you? It's a racist society. You know that. Lucky to be born white in this country really. Mixed race couples don't seem to have caught on. Ok, there's one, a Samoan, maybe a Tongan, with a white girl. But we're a rarity. What do they think when they look at me?

And then you see him, walking towards you. He's well-dressed and well-built, as you would expect. He's a southerner, once one of the world's top rugby players. He is about the same age. You grew up at the same time, in opposite ends of the country. You cheered like crazy when he wore the black jersey. Now you look at him, or not so much at him, but her. It's not clear if she's his wife, his girlfriend, or his mistress. Can't be the latter. That sort of thing is seriously frowned upon here. You look at her closely. She's about the same age. OK shape for her age, I guess. A real plain Jane. Not just a national but an international sports star. He's in shape and rich, yet he ended up with her? You've dated at least two dozen girls better looking than her. Not one in this country, mind you.

You pay closer attention to the shoppers. Why are so many women of all ages pregnant. It's April, 8 months since the end of winter. Maybe the last winter was particularly cold? You look closer. You realise they're not pregnant after all. The results of a healthy appetite. You look at the guys. They're not fat. Most are clean cut and in reasonable shape. You wonder how there can be such a disparity in the size of the sexes.

You look at the board outside a real estate agent's. At 20 to 1, the conversion to baht is easy. You scratch your head and wonder why prices are so reasonable. It's the biggest and most expensive city in the country. And you can actually put any property in your own name.

You do the comparison summary in your head. You work out the relative strengths. Your hometown has a lot going for it. Thailand…the women. Your hometown…almost everything else. You scratch your head and wonder.

To be continued…

Where was this picture taken?


Last week's picture was taken of Wat Po at night. 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! 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. 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 SIX 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. 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 – You roll the dice and hope for the best.

Getting off the plane here most tourists have no idea what kind of risks they are taking and facing. You are rolling the dice big time, with the odds of winning maybe just slightly higher than Las Vegas. Whether it's getting onto any kind of public transport, visiting any large venue with a lot of people, to the extent of just renting a room for a night or a villa for a longer period of time. I mean what could happen, we're on holiday, relax. So here's a timely story to bear in mind. Two years ago two Australians rented a house. Whilst out having dinner their rented house and all their belongings were burnt to the ground. The police decided that the cause was probably old faulty wiring so they weren't asked to pay for the house. They returned to Australia, and came back to Thailand for a vacation only last week. This was to be a 2-week vacation, ending in them starting already-arranged new jobs in Australia when they got home. When they got off the plane in Phuket, the police threw them in jail on a warrant that had been written in-absentia. A friend has bailed them out for 100,000 baht per person. Then the police said, "You're to pay the landlord 1.3 million baht to replace his house." At the police station, the landlord showed their signature on a rental agreement in Thai which said that anything that happened to the house, including tsunami, arson-loving landlords, and bandits, was the responsibility of the tenants. So he's delaying their return to Australia and their new jobs, and these dumb schmucks are paying that rich Thai landlord Aus$50,000 (THB 1.3 million), which is all their savings, right down to the last penny. The embassy provided a free lawyer (they say he's worthless), but won't otherwise intercede on their behalf.

The legend of Tim Bar.

I enjoyed your review of the gogo bars of the Kingdom. After 21 years in and out of the country I find that in the last 10 years I only venture into these bars if with a "rookie tourist". Spending most of my time in Pattaya I now only go to one bar. The story of this bar is very interesting, true or not, and adds to the mystique. A woman, Miss Tim, was operating a small beer bar on soi 2 when she won big in the lottery. She bought a building and land on Second Road, across from Mike's Shopping Mall and opened Tim Bar. The bar did so well that a few years ago she opened a classy high rise hotel behind the bar. After a few visits I, like most, assumed it was a farang-run business. Wrong. I have never read a review or even a mention of Tim Bar in your column. I have brought a score of men into this bar with many becoming regulars. I have heard it said, by another bar owner, that it is one of the most consistently profitable bars in Pattaya. I like the "something for everyone" format of the bar. You have a street front bar for watching or waiting, a five pole gogo, a large pool room in the back, rooms upstairs, the hottest sports events on a few TVs and, my favourite, the best DVD and sound system in the Kingdom. The staff is well trained, fun and friendly. The girls are not pushy and seem to always be well above average in looks. I have spent hundreds of hours there and have never seen any kind of problem. Please check it out and, if you can, say nice words.

Championing the Champion.

While everyone's preference is different, one of my favourite bars to visit in Pattaya is Champion. And the reason is…it's the only bar I know of where smoking is strictly prohibited. Some places, often the most popular bars, I simply won't go to because the smoke is so thick I can barely breathe. Although you state that Thai owners seldom understand foreigners' tastes, the advantage of Thai owned bars is that the staff obey what they are told. I've seen Western owners tell their staff to turn down the music or change the music style, only to be told fxxk off by the DJ! I've seen many bars basically run by the Thai staff who disrespect the owner. Thai-owned bars don't have that problem, and the owner of Champion is a true down-to-earth decent man.

Daring and dangerous.

I was reading this month's copy of the free magazine Bangkok Trader and came across an article titled 'Girls' Night Out' written by a journalist with a Western female's name, basically offering advice for girls who want a night out in Bangkok without a man in tow. One of her pearls of wisdom is the following – "If you are a late night girl finding yourself at a mandatory closing time, get in a taxi and ask the driver to take you somewhere fun that is still open. It's a bit of an adventure into the Twilight Zone." I can think of no greater recipe for disaster than a drunk farang girl climbing into a taxi late at night and asking the driver to take her somewhere she's never been before! Yes, it might lead to a night of adventure but it could just as easily lead to rape, robbery and possibly worse. Most Thai girls I know don't like using taxis on their own at night…

Integrity.

I like what you had to say about not trusting anyone in Thailand, especially foreigners. Back in the U.S. I generally had positive experiences with people and assumed most had good integrity. In Thailand I found that no one has even come close to being an honest person. Did the country do this to everyone or is Thailand just a magnet for shady characters in general? I think it is the latter. One Thai girl I have known for 4 years asked to borrow 3,000 baht. She is a good department store girl and has always been honest with me. It is a good thing I denied her request, as not more than one week later, she disappeared along with her designer clothes shop in Central.

For the complainers.

I have always been shocked when people complain about something that they are getting for free. This seems to happen on the internet more than anywhere else. Am I missing something? I thought the whole idea of starting a blog was to write about whatever you wanted, if others share those interests then fine. If they don't then they can easily continue on. Complaining about a blog is kind of like going up to a group of people in a coffee shop and telling them you are not happy with their chosen topic of conversation and could they change to something more to your taste. I guess what I am saying is, if people have strong ideas about how Thailand should be discussed and feel a need to express that opinion, shouldn't they start their own blog?

You can't solve a problem you refuse to see.

I would like to point out to your letter writer that the number of road deaths during Songkran this year was 320 not 220, not that it makes any difference to the average Thai as few will take any notice. The Thai media does not report road deaths accurately. As late as Friday evening my local radio station was reporting only 70 deaths during the whole of Songkran while the Bangkok Post the same morning reported 330. In fact none of this really matters as on average 220 people die on Thai roads every week of the year. 12,000 people die every year – a conservative estimate. Do any Thais know of these statistics? Not many. I swear that there are many who think that most yearly road fatalities occur during Songkran and New Year. Do any of the teachers at my school know any accurate road death statistics? No, they do not. To have this kind of knowledge would be knowing that Thailand has a huge problem caused by many factors which could be solved given time and commitment. Who could possibly be responsible for passing on this knowledge, or shouldering this troublesome burden? What a charade!

Cyrus The Virus (AKA The Arab) has been up to his old tricks and laid a complaint with the police about the free pig on a spit Baccarra offers every Friday night. The Muslim's pig complaints did not fall on deaf ears and the police visited and cited some odd law whereby Baccarra now has to serve the food from inside the bar. Cyrus really is a troublemaker and there's a real chance that the buffet might be cancelled because of this. Baccarra, being one of the busiest bars, just does not have the room inside for food to be served from.

Raw Hide was the latest in a long line of Cowboy bars to be out of commission for a period on Monday night as power problems struck. Fortunately they were only closed for an hour or so but that was enough for their nightly turnover to be less than half what they would expect.

And it was even worse at Cocktail Club where customers saw sparks falling from the ceiling, much to their alarm but the girls didn't even blink, suggesting an ongoing problem. Have you ever noticed that the power problems on Cowboy always seem to be in bars on the southern (Sukhumvit Road) side of the soi?

I know Tilac is great but some guys go overboard. Some geezer paid bar for 12 girls on Wednesday night. Is one (or two) not enough?! Apparently he bought each of the girls a rose and then went off with them into the night, dancing I am informed. The bar was certainly a lot quieter after he left.

And while you're probably sick and tired of me going on and on about Tilac, and are wondering just how many zeros were on the cheque they wrote out for me, did you know that Tilac Bar gives out free condoms to its girls? As many as they want or need. Now that is a bloody good idea!

Which Bangkok bar boss caught a nasty dose and had to have fluid drained from his nuts? Apparently he was rather proud of having bollocks like watermelons but they're now back to their regular size. Hard luck, sunshine, you'll have to find another way to impress the birds!

Soi Cowboy looks a little flasher with the owners of Suzy Wong erecting a flashing light system that makes pretty patterns on the ground right outside their bar. It could have quite an effect if you'd had too much to drink.

A little late I know, but I heard a great Songkran story from Pattaya. A Thai delivery boy employed by a Western baker was going about his duties as usual, riding his motorbike loaded up with cakes, pastries and bread to be delivered around town to various retail outlets. He came to a stop and two Englishman with large water guns approached him. The delivery boy spoke almost no English and could only manage "Please, no" but the English thugs didn't listen and drenched him. He fell over, the bike crashed to the ground and the merchandise he had been carrying was ruined. Now the delivery boy was a man of modest size but he had trained in Thai kickboxing and having been humiliated by these two foreign barbarians, he set about evening the score and kicked the crap out of them, ending up with both being carted off to hospital! At the hospital, the Brits called the police who were summoned and they went off to get the Thai delivery boy. When the cops got to the bottom of the story, the delivery boy was released without charge and the Brits were fined 10,000 baht each. Good job, I say!

This past Monday a handsome Kiwi and a bald Brit walked from one end of Cowboy to the other, the Kiwi using the bald Brit's still camera to shoot snaps and the Brit shooting video with his mini video camera. The Brit, a nightly fixture at Nana, saw much resistance to the shooting of video whereas the Kiwi was able to shoot stills freely. Is there an increasing resistance to video specifically being shot at Cowboy? It's not like Walking Street where holidaymakers walk from one end to the other shooting video and taking photographs of all and sundry but I can't help but feel it won't be that long before they attempt to prohibit photography anywhere on the soi. It is, after all, private property and if they chose to prevent people taking photos or video they could. What's the bet that within a year or two no photography will be allowed on Soi Cowboy at all?

True has always offered high speed internet service but when you went above 4 Mbps the pricing structure changed and you went on to a corporate plan whereby the prices leapt into the stratosphere and became just too high for your average home user. True has recently started offering 8 Mbps at reasonable prices so if you need the extra speed it is available. Truth be told, most people probably don't.

For those of you wondering about my relationship with the Arab – Cyrus the Virus – yep, you'd be right, I won't be enjoying bacon and eggs with him for breakfast any time soon. A few months back I asked him if I could interview him and he said yes, and then just before we were supposed to meet – in fact just as I was leaving the condo with the interview questions all prepared – he said that while I could still interview him, I could not record it and could not publish it. Doh! He had his chance… In fact the offer is still there, Cyrus.

Many years ago I put a notice in the column when a then little-known English film maker was looking for investors for a Thai horror film. He secured investors, made the film, and it's been distributed around the world. But its setting in the gogo bar world made it somewhat unpopular with Thai authorities, and it has never been released here. It has just been released on Blu Ray and is available via a website for sale in Thailand, www.films.in.th. It's worth pointing out that this is a high-definition version of the film – with superb picture quality – way, way better than DVD, but as a result, it will not play on a DVD player. It will only play in a Blu Ray player of the sort that can be bought in any Power Mall. It won't be available in shops locally.

The fake monks are back in town. Where's the doctor when you need him?!

Angelwitch manager Dave will celebrate his birthday this coming Thursday in the bar. Swing by and say hello!

There's a long running joke in expat circles that when times are tough for Thai businesses they put prices up because, after all, they're making less money and they need to do whatever they can to get their income back up to where it was. Sadly, there is a lot of truth in this and it is not an urban myth by any stretch of the imagination. So when I saw this large sign affront a massage parlour / beauty salon on Sukhumvit soi 23, directly opposite Bradman's Bistro, it made me smile. It's nice to see a Thai-owned and run business actually trying to do something and actively promoting it.

Lou Kirk asks us to help him find a friend who moved to Chonburi within the last 2 – 4 years. His name is Len Clover and he is former British Airways staff. He can contact Lou on his mobile 087-0284158.

Stickman reader's story of the week is "Brokenman and the curse of Mammon" by Phet, the engaging but painful tale of a well-intentioned Western man who may have chosen the wrong woman…

Quote of the week, "Does the Thai word "farang" mean 'honoured guest of our country'?"

It's not only Thai hookers who throw a wobbly when a customer goes off with another working girl.

Liaisons with ladyboys often end badly!

One faction of the Thai protestors has a new action plan.

An American tourist slashes his own wrist after being the victim of a bargirl robbery.

A self-exiled Aussie dies in hell, the Thai Immigration Detention Centre.

A very nasty case is before the courts in Australia involving Thai sex workers who were enslaved.

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: After speaking with my girlfriend (we are planning to get married in two years when she finishes her MBA) we have two points of view, although neither of us is willing to enforce theirs. My point of view is to offer a decent but not too large sin sot. Of course I do understand that we need to take care of her mother (10-15K baht/month). Her point of view is a big sin sot without any obligation (on her part and on my part) to further support financially her mother. My girlfriend's reasoning is: Once married we have to build our own future and take care of children, which in Thailand is a heavy financial burden, so we would need to use our financial resources only for us. (Of course, if the mother is too old to stay alone she would live with us), this is the case of the "daughter marrying out". She agrees that we could do it my way but I am also tempted to go her way. My question is, these days, among regular Thai ladies with a good professional future, what is the most common way to deal with the "Thai cultural obligation of taking care of the bride's family"?

Mrs. Stick says: Every family is different. I can only tell you about my family. I offer to give Mum money and she never takes it so me and my sisters buy her things like we bought her a new sofa and a new TV. But we do not have to give her money even though we try. My Mum thinks that it is not right for her to take our money. She doesn't need it because she makes her own money and she thinks it is wrong to take it from her children.

Mr. Stick says: I smell a rat here. She is telling you to pay a lot upfront and that you will then have a commitment to your own family. All very good and well in theory but then what do you do after marriage when she comes to you with tears in her eyes and says "mother has no money". I don't know what the answer here is… I do think however that you need to have the 4-critical-points talk with her NOW (sex, money, parents & children). This is the conversation that you MUST have before marriage and that while what the results of what the two of you discuss may not be totally set in stone, you really need to make sure that, at the very least, you are both on the same page.

Question 2: Would a Thai dress (no matter if Boromphiman, Siwalai etc.) as a surprise gift make a Thai lady happy? I would like to offer her a special gift, but she doesn't want gold or a ring so I was thinking about something original. My question is: Are Thai “traditional” dresses still in favour (for special occasions) among young middle-class Thai ladies? Maybe a classical Chinese dress would be better? I have to ask you as I want the gift to remain a surprise.

Mrs. Stick says: We like surprise gifts very much but I think a dress is not the right gift to give as a surprise. For me, I am picky when I buy clothes and I think it is not easy for you to know exactly what your girlfriend likes or what is good for her. I bought some black trousers recently and it took me a long time to find some that did not make my bum look big. Maybe it is the same with your girlfriend. It's nice to buy her a surprise gift but I think it is better if you can choose something else.

You often see the same venues reappearing and the same themes recurring in this column because, at the end of the day, the column is a reflection of my life. I would love to write about new venues and cover new themes but it is not always easy to do so because I tend to be a creature of habit. With this in mind, I am very keen for venue owners to let me know about their new venues or specials or promotions for inclusion in the column. It really is a win : win situation. You get free promotion for your venue and the readership learns of new venues and, with a bit of luck, good deals. Everyone knows about Tilac and Angelwitch and all of the other venues I mention frequently so why not let me know about new places – and the reasons why we should visit.



Your Bangkok commentator,

Stick