Due to a combination of intercontinental travel, jet lag, work commitments, Mrs. commitments to say nothing of laziness, I'm afraid that there is no opening piece in today's column. There is however plenty of news and views, along with emails from readers as well as Mrs. Stick's corner. That's still a total of almost 5,000 words to wade through.
I'll strive to put something decent together for the opening piece next week.
Where was this picture taken?
Last week's picture was the easiest ever and a zillion readers got it right, all those who could provide a local address winning condoms. It was taken just after you pass Passport Control when departing from Soyouwannaboomboom Airport. This week's picture, not in Bangkok, is again, EXTREMELY EASY! 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 – Thailand, a generous helping of spontaneity.
You are dead right when you say that on paper many Western cities beat Bangkok hands down but the ONLY reason why Bangkok (and any place in Thailand for that matter) beats the West is the spontaneity. You just never know what the day might bring or what's just around the corner. Almost anything could happen to you in Thailand, positive or negative. Life in Thailand is just one great adventure. The West cannot compete in this regard and is really quite boring and mundane by comparison.
Thailand vs. Australia.
I hope you are enjoying your sojourn in the Land of the Long White Shroud (couldn't resist that after your "IQ" dig at us Aussies). I've enjoyed reading your last two pieces on your visit to NZ and I feel very much the same way. By everything that makes any logic or sense, our own countries should win by a country mile but with me, Thailand comes out in front too. Why? Buggered if I know! It's certainly not about the girls. Is it the lack of PC here? The more freewheeling, anything goes lifestyle? In my opinion, government intrusion into people's lives in Thailand is far less than in ridiculously over-governed, PC-ridden, restrictive Australia. For some reason, I feel more "alive" when I'm in Thailand than I do in Oz. Perhaps that is because there is certainly an element of risk involved living in Bangkok. I also feel much younger when I'm at home in Bangers. My wife and our sons keep me feeling young and Thailand being a country of young beautiful people helps too. I have to go to Oz soon and frankly I'm not looking forward to it. It will be damned cold in Canberra then. Three weeks will be enough for me before I fly back to the warm weather here. The cost of living is a factor as well. My Oz-derived income goes a lot further here than it would do in Australia. One of my great fears is being forced to go back to Australia to live by events which may take place here in the not too distant future. Even Thais are uncertain about what the future holds for them and as a result people like you and me must be concerned as well.
Firing the senses, not the intellect.
You've felt the mysterious power of the country set your blood frothing like champagne, haven't you? Everyone who ever comes here feels it. Your mind becomes permanently drunk. It's a land that fires the senses, not the intellect. All your restraint and self-discipline will dissolve here. Nobody's immune. Sooner or later the brute climbs out of you, and too often you'll commit acts of which you can't be proud. Your excessive love for the fragile golden bodies of the women will destroy you. They are not innocent but infinitely cunning. They drain away your energy and rot your moral fibre. You might think you can go away from here with your soul intact, but you'll find in your own country you've been profoundly changed by your experiences without knowing it. You become an outcast among your own people because everything at home seems insipid. You'll be lured back again by the siren call of what has already ruined you. See things as they really are or… Does that strike a chord with you?
From Bangkok to the real world.
I have lived in Bangkok for 5 years but my company will be relocating me soon to Beijing and sent me there for 5 days of orientation. My very first impression is that the expatriate males there are immediately noticeable as being of a very much “higher standard” than those in Bangkok. By higher standard I mean they carry themselves much better and all look like smart, well-dressed professionals with high standards and fat pay packets! After 5 years in Bangkok I found this quite intimidating and realized that things will be a lot more competitive in Beijing both work-wise and also for females. So my point is this: If you are a decent, well-dressed, smart expatriate in Bangkok you will stand out head and shoulders above many other foreigners living here and should do well professionally and with the ladies purely because the competition is so low. Yes, Bangkok may attract a lot of low standard guys but if you are not one of them then this can be a massive advantage and so you should not be put off by this. Being in Beijing was very much a reminder of what life is like back in the real world!
Hanky panky down under.
This week's column raised some interesting aspects of life in NZ and Auckland in particular. Many Thai working girls who now call NZ home regularly fly to Sydney and Melbourne to do stints of a month or two working in brothels in these Oz cities, as they can earn much bigger bucks than back in Auckland, NZ. My wife has worked a few stints in Sydney and Melbourne establishments and generally more of the Kiwi / Thai gals flock to the southern capital of Melbourne, as there are fewer, young foreign Asian students doing sex work in Melbourne than Sydney. This is probably because there are more colleges for foreign students in Sydney than any other Oz cities. In Sydney, an educated guess would be that about 10 – 15% of young foreign female students fund their studies by doing sex work. That's a lot of girls. A young, pretty Asian student can earn a thousand bucks a night each and every night.
Dealing with bullying.
I was interested in both yours and Mrs. Stick’s comments on the bullying at school question. Recently my wife informed me that our nearly 12 year old son was being verbally picked on by a group of other boys at school – and this is a good school we are talking about here, not a local school. As much as I could ascertain, the level was only verbal ‘falang kee nok’ type of stuff and as yet nothing physical. I've always been aware of the possibility of this happening and told her to tell him that next time it happened, walk up to the biggest most vocal guy and smack him in the mouth! Albeit this is a risky manoeuvre because you can be suspended for fighting there. I have experienced similar in my youth and found that this course of action actually works. I asked the wife if she had passed the information on to our son and he proudly informed me that he had indeed followed my lead and given the guy a good belt, possibly not quite as good a punch as ‘Pacman’ delivered to Ricky Hatton, but he seemed pleased with himself for doing so. Only time will tell if it has the desired affect or the ‘dose’ has to be repeated a couple more times by him, but I feel confident that this will discourage the other boys from picking on him, and look for another softer target. Boys of that age can and will still be cruel to someone.
It's the (s)low season and while the streets of Bangkok and Pattaya are quiet, hoteliers are screaming at record low occupancy rates. Bangkok's nightlife areas may have had a miserable week but that doesn't mean it has been quiet per se. It has in fact been a week of mayhem for the tourist industry in Thailand with hunted bar owners on the run, murders, poisoning deaths and God only knows what else!
The girls from Coyote A Gogo in Pattaya laid a complaint with the boys in brown as their salary for the last month had apparently not been paid. Interestingly, the owners of Coyotes said the bar was "undergoing restructuring" but it was later revealed there have been all sorts of problems at the venue. As I said in last week's column, this could come back to bite them and indeed it has with death threats made to the Western owners and rumours that one has left the country, another in hiding. How true these rumours are, I don't know, but they're coming thick and fast from all angles! When will it reopen?
Two long time Pattaya residents, known as Frank and Frank (because their names are Frank!) were sitting in a bar minding their own business. A farang comes over and says to one of the Franks and asks 'Remember me?' Frank doesn't. The guy goes away. Some time later the guy comes back. 'Now do you remember me?' Frank doesn't. The guy goes away. Then the guy comes back with three other farangs and ten Thais and they beat Frank and Frank to a pulp! Frank spends three days in hospital. The guy who organised the beating is the son of the owner of a Walking Street chrome pole palace. But it was a case of mistaken identity. They beat up the wrong guys! A sit down was organised in a neutral venue and the owner of the Walking Street joint and his son sit down with Frank and Frank, apologise, and agree to pay 500,000 baht in compensation. BUT the money hasn't been paid yet and rumour has it that the son has left the country. Maybe they should have offed Frank once and for all? It surely would have cost less than 500k baht.
Club Misty's will hold their first year anniversary party, this coming Tuesday, 12th May. If Misty's holding a one year anniversary party sounds odd, go to the top of the class. Club Misty's is the newest incarnation of the bar that was once a landmark venue on Soi Pattayaland 2, Misty's – without the "Club". So it's the first anniversary of the new version of the club. If we counted the old version, wow, it must be several years they've been in business.
There has been progress on the Hollywood Inn in Nana Plaza. The white elephant in the spot once home of the Big Mango Bar may soon be completed although one has to question the demand for another short time hotel at a time when bars are suffering like never before. One also has to wonder just who financed the project. That has a few of us wondering.
Down Soi Cowboy way, Coyote and Joy are running all night happy hours on Mondays.
I am hearing good things about Bangkok Beat in Soi 7/1, the refitted and refurbished bar with live music and lots of friendly female customers. Bangkok Beat can be found near that start of the soi where Absolute Bar used to be. I plan to check it out one night this week. It is supposed to get going late, around 11 PM or so. Let me know if you want to join me.
Not since Rainbow 1 circa 1999 have I heard as good a playlist as I did in Cowboy's Shark Bar this week. It's almost as if the DJ from Rainbow 1 from a decade ago is in charge of the sounds. First class gogo bar music all night long – and a lot of cute girls too! Dave The Rave couldn't believe that I didn't include Shark Bar when I wrote of the best gogo bars recently – and I can see why.
Suzy Wong and Sheba's might be two of the better bars in Soi Cowboy and arguably the two jewels in the No Name Group of bars – but I really think they ought to pull their finger out when it comes to opening times. A sign is placed outside each of the bars from early evening, often before 7 PM, which states that happy hour lasts until 9 PM with all drinks at 70 baht, a good deal. The problem is, while the sign is displayed from very early in the evening the bars don't get going until close to 8 PM. Sticking your head in the doors at 7:30, and then 7:45 and later still and all you see is the houselights turned on, the girls lingering in a state of undress feeding on som tam, pla ra and other equally smelly northeastern delights. Their happy hour signs are almost as much of a tease as the girls inside.
There has been a noticeable drop in trade at Cowboy. Hardly surprising really given the time of year but as I commented to the dirty doctor, where once some bars would be half full as early as 7:30 PM, in Cowboy's best bar this week we were the only two customers present at that time.
Soi Cowboy might be the best bar area in Bangkok but the underage issue continues to be a major problem there and to make it worse, we're talking predominantly bars owned by non-Thais.
Despite rumours that all bar areas would be closed, it being an important Buddhist holiday, Nana Plaza bar owners threw caution to the wind and were open for business on Friday night. And I bet they are glad they did for it was busy, many bars doing a great trade. Soi Cowboy being closed was almost certainly a major factor. Early in the evening the drinking dens of Soi Nana were openly selling booze and there was none of the cat and mouse games with beer being served in coffee mugs. With the neon blazing and the booze flowing, some Nana bars had their busiest night in a few months.
Beer Lao is now available again in Nana Plaza's Angelwitch following a period of supply problems. Dave, the Angelwitch manager, discovered a new supplier.
There's a huge amount of envy and jealousy amongst some expats in Bangkok and as such anyone who is successful can find all sorts of false rumours and lies spread about them. One such successful expat is the fellow once known as the Eden Club Papa, the charming Frenchman, Marc. There were so many rumours about him passing away or moving on that even I believed them but I am happy to advise that Marc is most definitely still in the land of the living and most definitely still in Thailand, contrary to rumours otherwise. I managed to catch up with Marc this week and he is still himself. Eden Club has another Frenchman in charge while Marc keeps an eye on things, maintains the website and handles all the online communication.
As reality sets in that customers are becoming price sensitive in these financially challenging times, more bar owners are introducing happy hours and more attractive pricing. Mercury Bar on the second floor of Nana Plaza, on the right hand side at the top of the escalator, has a happy hour with 65 baht drinks from 5:00 – 8:30 PM. After happy hour, all night, every night, Heineken, Singha, Chang, and Thai whiskey are just 90 baht. Not a big bar, but good things often come in small packages.
Is there any truth in the rumour that Secrets in Pattaya, one of my favourite bars, is going to introduce a new coloured ID card band for staff? At present there are red, green and one other colour I can't remember (yellow?) which signify whether a girl is available or otherwise. Rumour has it that they are about to introduce pink which will signify that they are barfineable but can only go with female customers. A great idea and apparently Larry will wear the first one!
The night market at Patpong was raided on Wednesday night. Battalions of officials descended on the city's most infamous tourist night spot in search of counterfeit products – of which the market has almost every variety imaginable. Something of a riot took place as vendors displayed that most annoying local trait of throwing a tantrum when things didn't go their way and of course they didn't take kindly to officialdom shitting in their rice bowl. Items were thrown, vehicles attacked and people assaulted, all right in the middle of what is perhaps the busiest night-time tourist attraction in the Thai capital. Ah, just when you thought the Thailand tourism market had enough problems already, they prove they are capable of coming up with more! This government really does seem to be serious about cracking down on copyright infringements and counterfeit goods although a raid on Patpong would seem to be about publicity as much as anything. Having said that, our most erudite and articulate Prime Minister, Khun Apisit, has specifically said the government needs to work even harder to solve this problem. Cynics are wondering if perhaps they are trying to appease the Americans after last week Thailand was named as one of the 12 worst infringers of copyright worldwide. Will one day counterfeit products be conspicuously absent from Bangkok's streets? I wouldn't bet on it.
If it wasn't for Mrs. Stick I would have done my level best to pursue the lovely Joy of The Londoner. Many years ago I asked in this column what had happened to her after she disappeared. The Mrs. used to love The Londoner but my inability to hide my drooling over her led to us going elsewhere for our mid-week drinking session. Well, I stumbled across Miss Joy quite by mistake this week. There I was, once again drooling at a lady in a certain establishment when she came up to me and said, "I recognise you from The Londoner!" And God damn, she looked even better than she used to!
Thomas who did a runner from Bangkok leaving many people out of pocket – not the first disappearing act he has done in his life – is said to be holed up in the tropical paradise of Madagascar.
What's the farang population of Thailand today? I estimated it once but reckon the number to be significantly higher now than back then. While some long-termers are turning their back on the country and moving on to so-called greener pastures, the number coming in make for a farang net migration increase. I am convinced of it.
The sight of a long line of Immigration officials wearing face masks met international arrivals this week. The swine flu might not be a Thai problem, nor even a problem in Thailand but precautions are being taken at the airport meaning arrivals cannot see the famous smile on the friendly, welcoming Immigration officials' faces…
The doctor has been at it again. The fake monks have been harassing customers in McDonald's branches and at least one fake monk's money was taken from him by the doctor who then sent the monk running, scared that he would be disrobed as some of his pals were a few months back.
Thailand-based Brits are up in arms over True Vision's cancellation of the BBC Entertainment channel. It seems that quite a few UK readers are either cancelling their subscription altogether or at the very least, downgrading them.
According to the flight information in Thai Airways' Sawasdee magazine, which city do you think is closer to Bangkok – London, England or Auckland, New Zealand? I would have thought London but in fact Auckland is closer, just, by a mere 32 km.
For fans of Subway, the Phuket Airport location will open on May 20th. The Central World office location in Bangkok will open June 18th.
Customers walking past the Sunrise Tacos' soi 12 branch might do a double take seeing a shawarma machine. What in the world is it doing in front of a Mexican restaurant? Because of popular demand, Sunrise Tacos in Bangkok is now making Tacos al Pastor at the Sukhumvit location. Soon it will be at all branches.
Stickman reader's story of the week is the absolutely brilliant "Fantasy & Reality" from Mega, a beautifully penned story with a humorous but accurate analysis of relationships between Western men and Thai women.
Quote of the week comes from a reader. "If your honey isn't into money, fear not, her family will be!"
The world's most outspoken motoring columnist Jeremy Clarkson opines about expats.
Will the 150 baht ATM withdrawal fee be abolished?
A Swiss female tourist was strangled on Phuket this week.
From the Daily Mirror in the UK, a Chelsea footballer is at the middle of a property scam in Thailand. Naughty, naughty, Joe Cole! Stevie G would never promote such a con!
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: I've had a Thai girlfriend for about 6 months. It started off very casual for me, but she has gotten serious very fast. Now she thinks I'm serious about her, but I don't love her. I'm not into her too much, but she doesn't seem to get the message. I want to end the relationship, but I fear that there will be too much drama, so I've just let things continue. She posts love messages and our pictures on Facebook for everyone to read and it's really embarrassing to have my friends and colleagues see that. I want to delete her from my friends list too, but that would also create drama. What is the best way to break up with a Thai girl like this?
Mrs. Stick says: When we introduce our boyfriend to our parents or our boss or our professor or when tell all of our friends about him and introduce him it means we think he is the man we are going to marry. If we do these things and then we do not marry him then it is very terrible for us and we will be looked at in a bad way. Everyone who is close to us will think we did something very bad or we were not good enough to keep him. Maybe you don't understand our culture and how much shame she will feel. There is no easy solution. Only God can help you now.
Question 2: Could you describe the mechanics of voting in Thailand from the individual perspective? I understand all Thais return to the amphur of their house registration to vote. I understand that village headmen often swing these elections with influence and cash. When you go to vote is it a secret ballot? Do you enter a booth or a private place where your vote cannot be monitored? When you submit your ballot is it obscured by the others? Do you have confidence that the count is monitored by both parties and reflects the votes as they were actually cast? As a farang trying to decipher Thai politics and the hold of the Thai Rak Thai party on rural Thais I've always wondered if this was just based on TRT policies or if in part based on corruptions of the election process. I've wondered if an emphasis on secret ballots would provide a leveling effect in the election process.
Mrs. Stick says: Someone would walk past our gate late at night and Mum would be called and would talk to the lady and my Mum would tell her who we were voting for. In our family we always vote for the same person and Mum usually decides. If we are voting for their party then we get paid, maybe 200 baht for every person in the family and Mum keeps it. We never voted for Taksin so we never got rich. On election days we choose the place to vote but it must be near our home. There are many people controlling the voting area. Sometimes it is inside like at a government office and sometimes it is outside. We usually go to a school close to my Mum's house and there is a tent with rope around it and some policemen and government officials. When we vote we go into a booth. It has three walls so people can't see what we write. When we have finished, we put our vote into a box with the other votes and then we leave.
Question 3: For someone who comes from a good, well-educated middle-class background I found your response to your lack of sex education and knowledge quite frightening. One could even conclude that your society has gone out of its way to make sure your younger generations remain ignorant on such matters. So what's the deal here? Parents incarcerate their daughters prior to marriage, but at the same time the local authorities make sure that enough let out stations are established, alternatively between all the 7 Elevens? My girlfriend's sister's son is 15, very tall and handsome already, and it cannot be long before nature comes calling. Nobody it seems is giving him any kind of advice, so it looks as if this will have to be another inevitable Thai train wreck before our eyes, unwanted pregnancies at best or HIV and death at worst. This also makes me think about all the exceptionally young children that you see on the roads riding motor bikes all day, again what's the bottom line on this? On hearing of the death of their child, is it all just down to mai pen rai and let's just go to bed and make another one?
Mrs. Stick says: I think Thailand is changing now and I think there is education about this in school now but I don't know what they teach about. Even if we did not get taught about this in school there were big signs about AIDS and condoms everywhere so we knew about it. Just cos we did not get taught about it at school does not mean we don't know it.
Mr. Stick says: While your question is a legitimate one, we should perhaps take a moment to dwell on the issue of Westerners who ARE educated and perhaps better informed, or at the very least, more aware of the issue and the dangers, yet as I have written over and over again, sounding very much like a broken record I'm sure, the percentage of Western men who frequently indulge in sex with bargirls WITHOUT PROTECTION, surely a high risk activity, is high. This suggests to me that education is clearly only a small part of it. My feeling is that you are putting too much weight on the lack of education when in fact it might be more related to recklessness and other factors.
It's been a week to forget for the tourism industry. Western Sheilas perishing from food poisoning in the south, a Western bird shot in Khao San Road, battles in Patpong, Westerners wrongly identified and beaten up in Pattaya, Pattaya bar moguls in hiding and scampering to the border as well as the usual dramas of bargirls and their customers topping themselves. And they call this the low season?! If there's one thing this place isn't, it's dull!
Your Bangkok commentator,