Stickman's Weekly Column April 12th, 2009

Reflecting On Ko Chang


It’s not that far past Rayong, and Rayong is not that far past Pattaya, and Pattaya is less than 2 hours from Bangkok…so it really can’t be that far away, or so I thought. I was planning a trip to Ko Chang, or as it would be translated into English, but is never called, Elephant Island.

I thought it would only take 4 hours, but my canny knack of misreading maps and misjudging distances meant that even with the big Stick right foot, it was almost 6 hours after leaving Stickman HQ that I arrived at my destination, White Sands Beach on Ko Chang.

Driving in Bangkok can at times be a nightmare, but out on the open road it really is a delight. The further from Bangkok, the better. Like most of the country, the roads in the Eastern Seaboard are good and once beyond Rayong, and especially out past Chantaburi, traffic lightens and the roads are pretty, a dual carriageway lined with trees and flowers in bloom are pretty backdrop that even the rather too frequent police checkpoints (were they looking for red shirts or illegals from Cambodia?) couldn't mar.

A 4+ hour drive from Bangkok gets you to the port where a 30 minute or so ferry ride might be preceded by a wait of the same duration, or if you're really unlucky, even longer. Once you turn off the main Sukhumvit Road (which runs all the way to the border with Cambodia – and does not end at the last skytrain station) and head towards the coast, there’s a confusing collection of signs promoting the various ferries across to Ko Chang and the ports they depart from. One company has done their best at destroying the landscape with sign after sign after sign announcing that their ferries departs every 30 minutes and that vehicles can go free. That sounded like a deal so this Cheap Charlie headed for that particular port where I saw that everyone, not just the long-noses, was being charged to take their car across. What gives? There's no way I possibly misunderstood that sign so I guess there must have been some conditions I was unaware of. Still, 100 baht for the car to go across won’t hurt.

I’d had some trepidation about taking the car over but on arriving on the island I knew I'd made the right decision. There was little in the way of public transport and small armies of foreign tourists were standing around, scratching their heads, wondering how they were going to make the 6 kilometre journey to the main beach.

From the very small port on Ko Chang, a slow, windy, hilly and in places dreadfully narrow road snakes its way up, down and around the island. The topography of the island is such that widening the road would make for a Discovery channel special and you can’t help but wonder how the island has grown so fast given the infrastructure. This road was a nightmare and I'd hardly travelled a kilometre before traffic stopped and I could see a stream of vehicles queued up because damn, you guessed it, Somchai had gone up someone’s ass. Or at least the ass of the Somchai in front of him. The Stickmobile was forced to stop on a steep hill, the handbrake up all the way to prevent it from rolling back as I watched the scene in front of me where two bands of Somchais were stamping their feet and throwing tantrums, no-one prepared to admit they were at fault.

If you haven’t had the misfortune for witnessing a road accident in Thailand then all I can say is "lucky you". They redefine the word tragicomedy, from the way that no-one renders assistance to those in need but instead just stand around watching – and in these days of technological marvels, many pull out their mobile phone and photograph the scene. Then you have the injured hauled into the back of a tuktuk or pick up truck and carted off to hospital without so much as a hint of concern for the injuries they may have suffered. But what irks other drivers the most is the law that states that when there is a vehicle accident in Thailand, you're not allowed to move any vehicle involved until the police have attended the scene. Yep, it’s the law. Even if the road is blocked – and oftentimes it might be a main thoroughfare – no vehicles can be moved from the place they came to rest after the accident! And so I had to wait until Somchai in a brown suit came along, marked the scene with his spray paint, scratched his head, calculated what was in it for him and then, and only then, permitted the vehicles to be moved so that traffic could continue. It might only be 6 kilometres from the port to the main beach but it took almost an hour after the debacle of the Somchais.

Alternatively, if the journey by road sounds a little too much, you could go to Ko Chang by flying to Trat Airport. But then you'd have to get to Suwannaphum, waste time not just getting there but hanging around and when you eventually make it to Trat, you're still on the mainland and still have to suffer the ferry and the windy, hilly single lane road to the beaches.

It had been 8 years since my first and only visit. Back then Ko Chang was a bit of a backwater, a bigger, but very much less developed version of Ko Samet. It was fun enough, as is visiting anywhere for the first time, but I remember thinking that there was no real reason to return. Ko Chang 2001 was the domain of backpackers and as such was a bit rustic. Memories are of legions of young Western women, inexpensive fresh seafood, overpriced basic accommodation where the power was turned off from mid-morning until late afternoon and evening beachside fire shows.

As I drove the quiet road through the main beach of White Sands, it was immediately obvious that Ko Chang had changed markedly since that first visit. The main road which makes its way through the busiest beach is now little different to the heavily touristed areas of Samui or Phuket meaning countless tailors' stores, souvenir stalls, 7 Elevens and even a complex of Pattaya-style beer bars. The beach was lined with mid-range resorts and I could not for the life of me find where I had stayed on that first visit. It appeared to have gone and been redeveloped into a more upmarket property – as had many of the cheaper, basic bungalow operations. Ko Chang has moved upmarket.

There's now no shortage of decent hotels and you can get a room in a recently completed complex on the beach for less than 1,500 baht. Admittedly that's no bargain compared to Pattaya or Hua Hin, but compares favourably with the islands of the south. In fact, with so much development on the island now – former dictator Taksin was involved in the rapid expansion and development of the island – there is so much competition amongst resorts that prices have remained reasonable, something you can't say about some of the more popular beaches and islands where Western prices aren't uncommon. Back in 2001 accommodation was very much like it is on Samet, dreadfully overpriced for what you get. Today you can get a very nice room for not much more than 1,000 baht while the cheap beach bungalows of yesteryear still exist if you're happy to stay on one of the quieter beaches.

It was very, very easy to find a decent room at a fair price once there. But of the few venues I checked out, none had an online presence nor rooms available via the major online reservations services. In the case of the smaller, boutique style resorts that’s to be expected and I guess in the case of some places, they’re new and have not yet signed agreements with the online wholesalers. While I usually book accommodation online, in the case of Ko Chang, holiday weekends and high season excepted, you might be better off actually seeking out accommodation when you get there.

The reason for visiting Ko Chang is for the beaches and the laid-back atmosphere that is in some ways a throwback to the '80s, when Phuket and later Samui were almost the exclusive domain of backpackers. Ko Chang was still popular with the backpacker set long after Phuket and Samui had gone mass market, but Ko Chang now finds itself also rapidly heading towards mass market tourism. Unlike the larger and more popular resorts of the south, Ko Chang simply doesn’t have the range of attractions or activities – but that's not a bad thing. It’s a place to kick back, relax and enjoy a peaceful beach holiday. The beaches are pleasant, but truth be told, they’re not as big nor as pretty as elsewhere. And neither are the beaches anywhere near as developed as the bigger name spots. The beach chair and umbrella phenomena that has ruined many Thai beaches is not at play, at least not yet. There's still something of a backpacker feel with a lot of lower end tourists and the night fire shows that have been famous on some of the Thai islands for years.

Food on the island is excellent and many of the hotels and resorts seem to have done a decent job of recruiting decent chefs. Prices are very reasonable and you can drink inexpensively. Many beachside restaurants offered a large (640 ml) bottle of beer for under 100 baht. But with that said, if partying late into the night or chasing skirt is your thing, Ko Chang really shouldn't be your first choice.

The crowds seem to be distinctly European with no shortage of Scandinavians and Eastern Europeans and less Anglos as a percentage than you find in, say, Pattaya. Locals, both Thais and foreigners flock to the island at the weekend when Ko Chang apparently receives more visitors than Samet – which is much closer to Bangkok. More and more Westerners are calling the island home, perhaps a few retirees but most appear to be in business. I guess business must be so good that no-one has managed to set up a website that really captures the essence and flavour of Ko Chang while providing accurate, up to date info.

I’d be telling fibs if I said there was a market for StickmanKohChang.com but there is a bar area and bar scene that has mushroomed since my last trip when we found but a single venue, the Octopus Bar. The beer bar area is located towards the southern end of the main beach, White Sands, and contained about 20 or so Pattaya-style beer bars. Girls were friendly and drinks prices reasonable. From what I saw, I would dispute what you hear in Pattaya that a visit to Ko Chang requires one to seek a companion to accompany you. There were plenty of pleasant, pretty lasses. The Sabai Bar Disco also had no shortage of barfine-free birds who it seemed did not have a place to lay their head for the evening, such was their eagerness to find someone to provide them with lodgings for the night or, better still, the week.

So days are spent wiling away the hours on the beach before heading to one of the beachside bars, many of which feature a fire show where young Thai lads perform and Western birds jostle to take the young studs home.

It’s hard to really know how Western women feel when they see an older Western guy pawing a Thai lass. The contorted look of unbearable pain on her face suggests not just absolute disapproval but total disgust. But to really know how they feel and to understand it from a similar perspective, Ko Chang is the place. As the impressive beachside fire shows conclude, good-looking young Thai blokes speaking excellent English are set upon by some remarkably unattractive, well-rounded Western women, many of whom could do with joining me for my daily run. And some of these Western birds are older than me, meaning 40+, while these Thai lads, well, they would be 20 – 25 for the most part. And there they were, set upon by these women who could, God what a disgusting sight that would be, crush them! Can you imagine it? The man in the brown uniform knocks on the door of a small home in rural Thailand to tell a doting mother that her young lad was crushed by a big white mamma on Ko Chang while his clothes were discarded haphazardly about the bungalow. A dreadful thought! Go to Ko Chang and watch the fire show and the subsequent groupie mob and you'll know how white women view the comings and goings in Pattaya. Maybe I’d had too much to drink and my mind was running wild but really, I pitied the lads. I really did.

Relaxed and laid back, Ko Chang makes a nice break from Bangkok. If you're looking for a beach break and are genuinely happy to just kick back and do not much of anything, Ko Chang is ideal. It is a bit of a hike to get there but with that said, Ko Chang 2009 offers much more than it did on my first visit in 2001.

Where was this picture taken?


I thought last week's picture would be easy but only one person got it right! Stickmanites, you WERE HOPELESS LAST WEEK! It was Siam Paragon being built, taken from Baiyoke 2 Tower, you know, the tallest building in Bangkok. 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. 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 – How welcome are we?

Every day, all over the world, people read the Bangkok Post website. And every day, on most of the pages of the site, they see a box listing some forums. The one at the head of the list, alone in being in upper-case type, reads KICK OUT THE FOREIGNERS! What kind of a message does this send out to the world? Further down the list, typically for Thailand with a mis-spelling even in an English-language newspaper that should know better, is another anti-foreigner forum, called 'Thier (sic) noses where they don't belong', telling foreigners to keep their criticism about Thailand to themselves and that the country doesn't need their help. Some might question that, especially after the latest and ongoing turmoil.

Will we see helicopters on roofs, a la Saigon?

As I write this, two Thai armies are about to confront one another on the streets of Bangkok. The stakes are high and at the end of the day there can't be two winners. Someone, somewhere is bound to lose face if not direct power. Let's hope that this battle will be nothing more than the Battle of the Mother of all mai pen rais, but if not there could be serious consequences both nationally and internationally for Thailand. But whoever finally wins this struggle, that's been going on now since the initial coup three years ago, what does it bode for Farangs contemplating to settle, work and live in the Land Of Smiles? The writing has been off the walls now for so long that even the Braille readers know which way the wind is blowing. Regardless of who wins, I don't think they will be awarded with a mandate for change, so the current status for some of having a suitcase ready packed at the end of their bed, to those that have already readily accepted that any and all investments have to be written off if push comes to shove, when we're all cordially asked to make an exit along the lines of Saigon.

The ongoing debacle.

While the rest of Asia settles into a period of stability, Thailand as usual does the reverse and stands alone as tens of thousands of protesters bring the capital to a standstill with, as usual, no-one lifting a finger to stop them. Again. The only difference this time is the colour of their shirts. Yellow a few months ago, red now. The tactics the Thaksin supporters are now employing are an exact copy of what they saw work so spectacularly for the Yellow shirts at the end of 2008, tactics which brought down the government. The next stage, of course, is another closure of the airport. And why not? The Red shirts know it works, and that not a single person responsible has been brought to account. On the contrary, one of the leading supporters of the airport occupation is now a top government minister. There is one difference this time, though. The Red shirts are meant to represent the poor (the ones they forced to walk many kilometres home when they blocked major road junctions in Bangkok). But as more and more overseas businesses lose patience with the never-ending farce that is Thai politics and see the Prime Minister declare a state of emergency in all but name by telling everyone not to report to work on Friday, it is their own supporters, the poor, who will be put out of work as companies move elsewhere. Typical short-term Thai thinking.

Thailand, comedy central.

I have to say that with this morning's news from Thailand is just comical! I know the authorities have held summits in Pattaya before, but to do so at this time of year and with the mayhem within that city is just so funny. Did they forget that the local populace make it almost an Isaan city? Perfect fodder for Taksin and the red-shirted brigade to pay off and manipulate. What a loss of face for the authorities, having to declare a state of emergency in Pattaya!

The fiction of black magic.

I have had two Thai wives, one for 13 years and one for 6 years. I later found out that both of them were really Cambodian and they, or their parents, had acquired a Thai ID card (and thus could get a Thai passport) by bribing corrupt officials. Both my Thai wives practiced black magic on me. The first wife's black magic was weak, but the second wife's black magic was very strong. The huge majority of Far Eastern people living in Thailand believe in voodoo because there are countless examples of it working. I have spoken in Thai or English to doctors, nurses and police as well as other people and they all said that the voodoo exists and works. It does not matter if they are old or young, well-educated or not. I have written a book about my and other people's experiences in Thailand. I have described the book as 'fiction' and I have made a novel out of it. It is, however, 95% based on the truth, especially my experiences with voodoo. The book is titled 'The Life Force And A She-devil's Voodoo' by, myself, Keith Austin.

Men and mules.

I have for a long time compared Western men to mules in women's eyes. You never thank the mule for the work it does – it is expected. "That's what a mule does." (At least the mule gets fed.) But anything a woman does must be honoured, applauded and rewarded. A long time ago – at the height of the gender wars – I had been writing a weekly column for a newspaper and was told by the female managing editor that I could continue to address subjects of my choice, but not anything that could be determined to be "a woman's issue." I asked if this meant that divorce, child custody, alimony, palimony, two-income families, domestic violence, sexual harassment rules and sex in general were now thought to be of no concern to men. She glared and said "You are not to write anything a woman could object to." I said that would probably also include the topic of men in general. I was soon relegated to other duties and offered a handsome buyout. I took it and made my first trip to Thailand. My former workmates were glad to post my stories of life in paradise on the newsroom bulletin board. Since that time she has been terminated and the newspaper sold. Somehow I think I won.

No wonder so few Afghan men visit Thailand – they don't know what they're missing!

I have been working in Kabul, Afghanistan now for about 2 months. I pay for internet access in my room but since I live and work on a military base it goes through filters to restrict access to certain sites, mainly porn. So far the filters have identified your site as pornographic! I have been working with the internet company to take your site off the restricted access. I thought you may know of a way I can go around the filters.

Chaos descended on the showpiece of farang nightlife area this week when the lights went out on most of Soi Cowboy. It's not the first time the soi has come undone by a power cut and it won't be the last. I wonder if the unseasonal downpours we've suffered this past week had anything to do with it. When the rain comes lashing down, it's still not unusual for the power to go out in areas of Bangkok.

It's Songkran time and while much of the country heads home, spare a thought for the girls on Soi Cowboy, most of whom hail from Isaan and most of whom will be hit where it hurts most, the pocket, if they decide to do what is natural, head home to spend the most important holiday of the year with their nearest and dearest. Many bars have introduced not only a 1,000 baht deduction for each of the 13th, 14th and 15th for girls absent, but also a 1,000 baht barfine for those nights. Seems rather harsh to me.

Down Pattaya way, the gogo bar in Soho Square is closed. Where, I hear you ask! Soho Square, the relatively new bar area on Walking Street, beyond Covent Garden where Utopia was located upstairs, above a beer bar. Hell, I never even got to check it out! Speaking of odd bar area names, what will they call the next one along on Walking Street? Buckingham Castle? Trafalgar Tower?

The Crossbar, on Sukhumvit Soi 23 & Asoke, holds a 3 ball pool tournament every Tuesday from 8 PM. Cricket fans should take note that The Crossbar will be showing all twenty twenty IPL matches live starting 18th April so you can see the greats of world cricket performing – Brendon McCullum, Stephen Fleming and Shane Bond, all live.

I did a quick run through Pattaya this week, just a few hours, but boy oh boy, was it quiet or what! REALLY QUIET! The flying visit was more about saying hello to a few friends than anything else but it was clear that the low season has well and truly arrived. I liked what one bar owner said. He mentioned that there are owners who are not shy to write online how much trade their bar is supposedly doing yet when other owners or managers swing by the bar it's always quiet. It's funny really, the way some people just have to play up the perceived success of their venue.

And just a few hours after I left Pattaya the fun-killing boys in brown decided that it was time to continue their anti-sanuk campaign and Tony's on Walking Street was raided. As opposed to looking for sex on the premises (who knows, maybe it does take place), the order of the day was to ensure impressionable young Thais could not party late into the night with such venues facilitating it by remaining open beyond the time they are licensed to do so. Dope tests revealed a number of people had indulged in methamphetamine use. Naughty, naughty!

The prayers of bar owners have been answered and a huge number of horned up US military men are supposed to be descending on Pattaya around now. 7,500 American seamen will be making up for lost time at sea. But, will this friendly invasion be in jeopardy after the red shirt-led madness of yesterday which resulted in a state of emergency being declared in Pattaya?

The newest venue on soi 33 which I briefly mentioned last week, The Music Station, has enclosed their patio – but remains a good place to watch what's going on. With the venue now enclosed, that might make it a bit difficult for those of you who enjoy a puff.

One of my favourite venues in Pattaya, Secrets Bar, has introduced a new food menu. It's massive with heaps of choices with everything from an extensive breakfast menu, to many different varieties of coffee to some interesting sounding Indian dishes. As a venue Secrets really offers everything and you could check in (there are 25 odd rooms upstairs), eat there, party there and indulge there. In fact I bet a few have done just that!

The expressway between Bangkok and Pattaya is FREE of tolls until April 16.

PCN FM 105 is now called Pattaya 105 and features improved broadcasting software, music selection, a brand new jingle package, the same local and international bulletins as before and stacks of new music which was held back for the re-launch. Popular owner Howard, the Richard Branson of the Eastern Seaboard, has his fingers in many pies (now that's saying something in Pattaya, eh!) has a new partner who will assist him running it.

I was in a hurry, on the run from a ladyboy as it happens (me and my big mouth!), so I didn't have a chance to check them out in more detail but on Silom Road near the corner of Convent Road were vendors offering 50 satang (that is half a baht) a minute phone cards for international calls around. It's an alternative to Skype.

Rumour has it that some international schools are worried about the number of expats who may leave Thailand and the resulting reduction in the school role. This has got a few international school teachers worried too, not so much that they will lose their job, but more that they might be stuck where they are for the time being as it is assumed that there won't be much new recruitment.

Mom Tri's Boathouse & Villa Royale are running their third annual short fiction contest and aspiring writers are invited to pen up to 2,000 words of original prose. Part 1 is open to all and part 2 is open to those aged 15 – 18. The first two Boathouse short fiction competitions generated a large and enthusiastic response with entries from as far away as New Zealand, the UK and the USA. Both categories require original stories not previously published, containing three key words: Boathouse, Oasis and Regatta. Stories can be on any subject but must have a Thai theme or subject matter relating to Thailand. The number of words should be between 1,500 and 2,000 words for the adult and between 800 and 1,200 words for student entries. The deadline for all entries is May 25. Details and conditions can also be found at Boathousephuket. Three outstanding entries in each category will be chosen and winners will be announced on May 31. The entries will be judged by Simon Brown, a Phuket resident who has written ten books, including two collections of short stories. Winners will be able to experience the famous Mom Tri experience first-hand and will receive vouchers for a complimentary stay at Mom Tri’s Boathouse with a dinner for two at one of Mom Tri’s restaurants Mom Tri’s Boathouse in Kata, Mom Tri’s Kitchen at Villa Royale and Mom Tri’s latest restaurants Mom Tri’s Oasis in Kata or Mom Tri’s Boathouse Regatta at Royal Phuket Marina, plus a spa treatment for two at Mom Tri’s Spa Royale at Villa Royale. The winning entries will be posted on Boathousephuket.

I've been clocking up the kilometres recently so I am not sure if it is because I am out on the roads more often or not, but it really does seem to me that the motorcycle-riding boys in brown i.e. the local traffic cops, are much more efficient than they were in the past. More checkpoints, more speed traps and while it might not be quite as bad as driving in the West, their presence, while a boon for road safety, is not that appreciated by those of us with a heavy right foot.

Condolences are in order. My name is Brian Compton. I live in San Francisco. I found out about your website a year ago from a gentleman named 'Rodney Williams II' who also lived here in San Francisco. Rodney regularly travels to Thailand & is popular in Bangkok with many locals and has many business associates there. I do not know any other way to contact these people other than hoping that you'll make an announcement on your website. And that is that Rodney died two days ago. Many people were waiting for him to return to Thailand. He was a 54 year old African American, heavy set, balding and was working on a project involving golf shoes made from kangaroo skin based in Bangkok. Can you post my email address so that I can give more details to his friends and contacts: [email protected]

Bodyguard are now selling their fine range of prophylactics, that would be condoms, online. So if you can't find a retailer and are after their big boy model, go to their website!

One Pattaya bar manager told me this week of how he dreads Songkran. Running the gauntlet to and from the bar is so bad – the odds of him staying dry are absolutely zero – that he is planning on bringing in bedding and kipping down inside the bar which will double as his workplace and his home for a few days.

And spare a thought for Dave The Rave who is about to suffer his 11th Songkran in Nana!

So it's Songkran, the biggest holiday of the Thai year. Migrant workers return to the provinces to be with their nearest and dearest in huge numbers causing chaos on the roads and making it the worst time of the year to travel. The roads choke up nationwide and traffic jams spanning hundreds of kilometres are found across the country. A journey that usually takes 6 or 7 hours can take as many as 24! There are also more fatalities on the roads than at any other time. With this in mind, not a small number choose to stay in the capital and amongst their number are many women. With their friends back in the provinces or spending time with family and their workplace closed, they can become rather lonely. So what do they do? They get online in the hope of meeting someone to spend a few days with. Trust me, this is THE BEST TIME OF THE YEAR to meet a local lady online, perhaps for a bit of fun or perhaps something longer term. If you're not already a member, jump on to ThailandLoveLinks, sign up and for the next few days enjoy a renaissance period that won't be repeated again until this time next year (although the end of calendar New Year is pretty good too.)

Stickman reader's story of the week was penned by a middle class Thai woman. Thoughts From a (real) Thai Girl by MD Girl gives some insight into middle class Thai women, EXACTLY the group I believe Western men interested in a long-term relationship should be aiming for.

Quote of the week comes from a reader. "Thailand is for people who can't cope with life in the real world. Cambodia is for people who can't cope with life in Thailand."

Harry Nicolaides has wasted no time cashing in on his incarceration.

Many foreign men truly believe Thai wives don't mind them playing around on the side. Read this story and see if you still agree…

The Thai police get an absolute roasting in this Bangkok Post article.

The Bangkok Post reports that Indonesia and Thailand are the two most corrupt spots in Asia.

Here's the local Thai solution to the problem of violence.

Which real estate worldwide has supposedly gone up the most in value in the last year? Bangkok, of course!

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: Please forgive me for troubling you but there is one matter on my mind, and I ask if you could kindly give me your advice, if you have the time. I am in my forties and have always been single but have gradually got to the stage where I wish there was someone else in my life. English girls seem to come with too much baggage and demands, so therefore I was thinking of approaching a marriage agency in order to find a lady from Thailand instead. However from your website and a few others, I have read a few discouraging things about Thai ladies, and it is beginning to make me think twice. If you can, could you give me your advice of what is best for me to do.

Mr. Stick says: Thai women make wonderful wives but just like anywhere you must choose the right one! Yes, some guys do go on to have absolute nightmares with Thai women. The problem is usually that they make a bad choice in the first place. Choose the right woman and she will be an absolute gem and make every day bright. As I am guessing you are not that familiar with Thailand I would agree that going through an agency would be a good idea. They can guide you through every step of the process and help you choose a good woman, someone who is compatible with you. I am sure they can help. I wish you every success in finding a good Thai wife.

Question 2: A very good friend of mine has a speech impediment, a stutter. For him it is an obstacle that seriously affects his verbal communication abilities. It does get only somewhat better when he knows the person he is talking to, and even better if he takes the initiative to a conversation. But then it gets worse when he talks to a nice lady with whom he wants to get acquainted. He has lived in SE Asia for years, and even though he has tried, he has failed to find a steady lady. It seems the ladies see his stutter as off-putting. Any advice is welcome.

Mrs. Stick says: I never met someone who talks like that. I think some ladies can accept but others cannot.

Mr. Stick says: You might want to consider getting in contact with Thai-Professional, a long-term advertiser on this site and perhaps the best known Thailand-based marriage agency. The owner has previously told me of how they have successfully introduced women to men for whom the cruelties of life had left them looking a little worse for wear. That would be one way to go. Good luck.



You know that I hate to comment on politics but the complete and utter debacle of the last few days in Thailand is a series of events that cannot be overlooked. The red shirt-wearing brigade backed by former dictator Thaksin Shinawatra have caused chaos in Bangkok and Pattaya. On Thursday they brought traffic in some of the busiest areas of the city to a standstill when taxis blocked Victory Monument, one of the busiest transport hubs in the city where many buses pass and the departure point for thousands of minivans ferrying passengers to outlying suburbs. This resulted in the Prime Minister declaring Friday to be a public holiday so as to avoid traffic chaos on Friday and effectively extending the Songkran holiday period to 6 days. The biggest debacle was to follow on Saturday when 2,000 red shirts miraculously waltzed past a reported 10,000-strong security force (8,000 army and 2,000 police, all presumably fully armed) and succeeded in cancelling the ASEAN Summit being held in Pattaya! With leaders and diplomats from all of the countries in the region present, TV footage of these VIPs being rescued from the roof of the Royal Cliff Hotel by helicopter was reminiscent of Saigon, 29 April, 1975, and a moment of deep shame for the country. A state of emergency was declared in Pattaya and the provincial capital of Chonburi, but was later lifted when the red shirts regrouped and ordered their number back to resume their chaos in Bangkok. Just this afternoon a state of emergency was declared in Bangkok and we have been watching TV footage of the red-shirts, who seem dead set on starting a civil war, attacking the Prime Minister's car as soldiers stood around and watched! Thailand's already tarnished reputation has taken another serious hit and it seems that whenever Thailand makes headlines around the world these days it is for all the wrong reasons. The sanuk has been taken out of Songkran and what is supposed to be a happy time is now one in which many Thais, especially those who know what the rest of the world is thinking, are hanging their heads in shame.



Your Bangkok commentator,

Stick