Stickman's Weekly Column May 17th, 2009

Visiting The Bank Manager


My appointment with The Bank manager was at 9:30, opening time. I’m not quite sure why he called me but when you’re summoned to The Bank, well, what can you do? And suggesting that we meet at opening time? It sounded serious.

The car park at The Bank was virtually empty. I guess opening time was a little early for most customers. I went straight to reception and explained who I was and that I had an appointment with The Bank manager.

"Oh, you’re Khun Stick."

They had been expecting me. I was taken upstairs and shown a seat in a lounge area. A glass of water was brought to me but frankly, I could have done with something a little stiffer. Pretty female staff smiled as they passed by me, the only person sitting, waiting in the customer lounge.

Time slowly passed by. I didn't see another customer. I glanced at my watch. It was 9:45. The Bank manager still hadn't arrived. I wondered to myself what sort of joint this was. The manager of The Bank couldn’t even arrive on time? Jai yen yen, young Stick. As in most banks in Thailand, The Bank featured many pretty women running around and I couldn't help but check them out. They all seemed to have some purpose and a number smiled directly at me as they walked past, perhaps somehow mistaking me for one of The Bank’s more important customers. Well, I guess I was important. I not only had the first appointment of the day with The Bank manager, it was he who had called it!

As I sipped away at my water, I overheard two of The Bank staff off to my side talking. One leaned over a counter and asked the other what she had done the night before. They looked across at me and I gave them my much-practiced dumb tourist smile and said “Howdy, ladies!” in English, making them giggle and giving them the confidence to continue their conversation in Thai, mistaken in the belief that the grinning Westerner didn’t have a clue what they were on about. The Bank doesn’t get many Westerners through its doors, apparently just 2% of those who do business at The Bank are Western but you would expect customers at The Bank to speak some Thai. The two continued chatting, initially in somewhat hushed voices but then as they realised I was the only one within earshot the conversation volume returned to normal as they excitedly discussed their late night card games. They'd both lost all their money the night before. Good God, I thought to myself, are these young pretty Bank staff really that careless with their own money?

I noticed a recent arrival just outside the customer lounge was getting high wais from all directions. He was hardly dressed like I expected the manager of The Bank would be but he strode up to me and in perfect English said “You must be Mr. Stick. Welcome to The Bank!”

The Bank is a three-storey nightclub lounge – also known as a G Club – located just a few metres into Sukhumvit Soi 40 which is about 150 metres or so east of the Thonglor skytrain station. It opened a little over a year ago in the spot which used to be home to the landmark venue, Be 1st. What makes it rather unusual is that this venue which attracts 98% Asian customers was the vision of, designed by, financed by and is currently run by a young American. Having visited many higher end lounges on frequent business trips to China – where such venues are not just the norm, but where many business meetings take place – he wanted to introduce the concept to Bangkok but critically, without the snobby factor that is so off putting at such venues in Bangkok.

The ground floor of The Bank features a modern Thai-style bar with booth seating along each side and a stage where the house band, Bangkok Delight, performs every night. As in Thai-style venues, the lighting is subdued and the music played very, very loud. On Friday and Saturday nights there are coyote dancers but I missed out on that treat, clearly visiting the wrong night.

The next floor up is where I found myself waiting for the manager. It features an open lounge area with sofas and plush seating. There's a pool table in the centre and a small counter bar. On either side of the lounge are a number of private rooms, all of which can be hired for the night. Just outside the main lounge is a small area where the ladies of the house sit, hoping to be chosen and taken off to entertain in one of the rooms.

The top floor features a number of rooms including the "party room", a fully featured entertainment room the size of a medium sized gogo bar with its own stage including a shower for a shower show, DJ booth, large screen TVs, laser machine, smoke machine and enough seating for some serious partying or an equally serious dose of debauchery!

The Bank is a member club but non-members are welcome and can visit any time. There is no need to be a member to enjoy yourself although membership has its privileges. There are various tiers of membership but to give you an idea, a basic one-year membership runs 20,000 baht which gets you 12 bottles of Chivas Regal – and no charge for mixers.

Bangkok's member clubs are not just a completely different concept to the sort of nightlife venues most Westerners gravitate towards, but also a very different business model. They bear almost no resemblance to the likes of gogo bars or beer bars. With member clubs, it is more about going along as part of a group and it is more about entertainment than sex – which often plays no part in the member club experience. Club members tend to be loyal to the venue – no doubt in part due to the high membership fees although with that said, some high rollers might have memberships with a bunch of clubs citywide. These venues are more about entertaining i.e. taking a group along and partying together than visiting a flesh bar alone for a few drinks and a bit of ogling.

While there may be a bar downstairs, typically member clubs are more about the private rooms. A group, which may be colleagues or mates or a party group heads for a private room, the charge for which ranges from 1,500 – 2,500 baht for the night – or 5,000 baht in the case of the party room. That means you have your own private room to party in all night long. There are different rooms of different sizes with each featuring a TV, DVD system, a system from which songs can be chosen to sing and comfortable seating. The rooms are well appointed – with very much the idea of partying in mind. It's like getting a hotel room for the night but instead of the room being designed to sleep in, it's designed with having a good time in mind.

The ladies of the house are brought into the room – as is the case in such venues – and will be paraded before you and you are invited to select as many to join you as you like. They will then stay with you as long as you wish and will take care of you, pouring your drinks, entertaining you and doing, well, if you pay enough money, whatever it is you care to do.

There is a lady drinks system and the price is fixed which makes it, in my opinion, much clearer and more transparent than the totally flawed system that exists in the likes of Cowboy and Nana today. Essentially, there is a charge to the venue for the girl and the time she spends entertaining you. Similar venues run 40 or 45 minute periods with the cost of the girl's company ranging anywhere from a few hundred to close to a thousand baht. The Bank charges “lady drinks” at 270 baht for members for 30 minutes of the girl’s time. For non-members it is 350 baht for 30 minutes. So at the end of the day, it costs a member a bit over 500 baht an hour for the company of one of the ladies.

Let’s cut to the chase. Just what are the ladies of The Bank like? Does the premium you pay for their attention represent a Bangkok bargain or is the pricing like a cocktail atop State Tower – exorbitant? There can be anywhere from 40 – 60 ladies of the house present on any night and most are aged 18 – 23, making them younger than what you find in most gogos, but critically, still of legal age. There is the odd older girl but they are for the most part the exception. What is interesting is that more than 50% of the girls are current university students meaning you can probably have a bit more of a conversation with them than you can a gogo girl – at last a gogo girl new to the trade. Some of the girls are new to the industry and The Bank is their first night time occupation whereas others show the wear and tear that comes with overexposure in the industry, the odd nasty tattoo and that hard, often vacant look. Overall, the girls of The Bank are a step up from the farm girls found in Cowboy and all over lower Sukhumvit.

So you want to play? Beware, nothing's guaranteed in such establishments although it would be fair to say that many are a sure thing. The barfine system is not dissimilar to what you find in other higher end venues; the prices will strike gogo connoisseurs as being not just steep, but outrageous. If you wish to take a lady off the premises you have to buy her 15 lady drinks, meaning a total of 4,050 baht. Ouch, that makes even Sukhumvit soi 33 look positively cheap! If, for example, you had been sitting with her for 2½ hours you would have already bought her 5 lady drinks (you are simply charged one for every half hour) so you would have to buy another 10 at which point you could take her away. Oh, and the barfine is just like a barfine elsewhere, it simply releases the girl from her duties for the evening. There is no guarantee that Mr. Happy is going to party tonight! There is nothing to stop the girls from leaving the premises with a customer at the end of the night and unlike the gogo bar industry, the girl will not be punished in any way for making such arrangements with a customer.

The girls are paid well and there is in fact no need for them to have to resort to extras if they prefer not to. Girls earn 400 baht a day and of every lady drink, or in other words, every half hour they are with a customer, they receive a commission of 100 baht. They are often tipped so earning more than a 1,000 baht for an evening's work while keeping their clothes on is quite doable. As more than half of the girls are university students they don't work every night but are asked to appear at least 4 nights a week.

Being a proud Cheap Charlie as bar owners nationwide will verify, I wondered if you could circumvent the system and bring your own girls. Yep, it's possible. You can bring a girl into the club – no problem at all – but there is a guest charge of 600 baht per girl which includes 2 free cocktails.

If all of this sounds rather pricey, there is another option. You can buy a lady a cocktail in the downstairs bar at 300 baht and she can then sit and chat with you for a short period of time. The time isn't set, but figure about 10 – 15 minutes.

With the bulk of the customers being Asian, the women are largely to the Asian man’s taste, read: they are generally more attractive, at least in my eyes, than what you find on the farang circuit. The Bank’s girls tend to be fairer skinned and taller.

My main complaint with these venues in Bangkok, over and above the pricing structure, is that while the venues are often very nice indeed, the service more like a hotel than a bar and the pricing system more transparent, I find that the women tend to be a little standoffish and for want of a better word, a little cold. The manager of The Bank assures me that the ladies of The Bank like to have fun and I have to say that the atmosphere in the club and the feeling that the girls give is that they are there for a good time as much as the customers are. Strip poker in the rooms is said to be a favourite amongst many of the girls.

Like most high end clubs The Bank does not promote sex on the premises but as can be seen in the photo below, some rooms feature a small alcove or private area which can be curtained off from the rest of the room, sending the imagination into overdrive. Add to that on the right hand side you can see a door leading to the toilet which suggests that partygoers have a chance to clean themselves up.

When you consider that guys visit in groups, and that there is the cost of the room and at least one girl entertaining each customer, the cost of a night out at The Bank could easily run 15,000 – 20,000 baht or more. That firmly puts the venue out of reach of many. Venues like The Bank target businessmen. It would be ideal for a bachelor’s or a birthday party. And of course you will always find the wealthy and high rollers.

But is it really that expensive? If we break it down and look closely at the numbers, perhaps it is not so bad. Let's say 4 friends go along, get a medium sized room which will cost them 2,000 baht for the night, have one lady entertaining each of them and drink at a moderate pace what will the cost per person be? It will be 500 apiece for the room. It will cost them 2,180 baht each for the company they keep. The cost of their drink is in fact much cheaper than drinking in the more popular farang bar areas. If they went through two bottles of hard stuff and the cost was split it would run around 750 baht per bottle each. That means the total cost per person would be less than 3,500 baht. That's much more than I ever spend on a night out but is peanuts to many.

For many Western men, the idea of throwing around such money might not fit comfortably although don’t think it doesn’t happen. A few days in Las Vegas can open your eyes to the sort of money some are prepared to spend to have a good time.

Of course this all brings up the issue of money and its place in some women’s hearts. Asian men not only understand this concept and accept it, they positively embrace it. To many Asian men money is power and they use that power to get what they want, in this case the attention – and perhaps more – of the most attractive women.

Just as in the beer bars of Pattaya and the gogos of Bangkok and Sin City, the biggest drain on the venue’s girls is customers making an honest woman of them, or perhaps looking to set them up as a mia noi. Just as in the farang bar areas, the best girls are often siphoned off before they have even worked 3 or 4 months. Given the sort of money being thrown around inside the club, one imagines that the stakes to remove a lass is rather higher than venues the farang is more familiar with. It was mentioned that many easily command a monthly allowance of 50,000 baht.

The demographic of the customer base is entirely different to the bar areas frequently covered in this column. 25% of the customers are Thai, often young and wealthy Thais who were schooled abroad and speak excellent English, going through that party-hard phase that young Thai men from wealthy families go through once they’re out of university and let loose on the world, trying to bed as many women in the 5 – 10 years before they settle down – although many a Thai woman will tell you they never settle down! Approximately 73% are other Asians with farangs a small number.

The Bank sometimes has mini-concerts in what I guess could be described as a small intimate setting with the next big act, Carabao, set to play on May 28th at midnight – although that event is for members only. They also arrange for Penthouse models – yes, the very women who appear in the Thai edition of Penthouse – to perform from time to time. These women are also available for private parties and occasionally very private parties, if you get my drift…

Lights go out on the ground floor club at 3 AM whereas the private rooms can be used until whatever time you wish to party to, 6 or even 7 AM being no problem. You can smoke anywhere in the club which is probably more about appeasing the predominantly Asian membership than anything else.

If checking out The Bank appeals to you, they have a special promotion valid this month only for first time visitors with Chivas at 1,200 baht for the bottle, or 1,500 baht for Black Label, both of which include free mixers.

I can’t help but feel that The Bank is ideal for those who fancy the idea of filling up a hotel room with babes and booze and letting the party begin. The young ladies of The Bank don't have the same class that say you find in the admittedly slightly older women at say Pegasus. Many women in other high end venues, such as the aforementioned Pegasus Club, can make for a dinner companion whereas I would not be inviting a lady from The Bank to an important event. They are rather a young, fun-loving bunch who are said to be up for most things. Some of the stories about what goes on are wild. The bottom line here is that not all high end clubs and their girls are the same. Far from it in fact.

If you are looking for something a little different, a high end club that provides a completely different environment to the bright neon lights of Sukhumvit then this is it. The Bank has perhaps a more modern feel and is a bit more fun than other high end venues. If you've got the money and are prepared to spend it, it's another Bangkok nightlife option.

Where was this picture taken?


Last week's picture was super easy. It was of course, the Grand Freelancer's Boulevard also known as the Coconut Bar, and what the rest of you lot perhaps crudely refer to as Beach Road in Pattaya. If you were wondering why the last two weeks' photos were so easy, it was because I have hundreds of condoms to give away and I don't want them sitting around forever. 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 WEEKEven the best bars can have bad staff.

I feel that it is my unfortunate duty to inform you of a bad experience that me and a friend of mine had about a week ago at one of your favourite venues, Tilac. We sat outside as we normally do. We prefer the outside sitting area so we can chat and gawk at the girls at the same time. We have no interest in barfining or buying girls drinks – my friend is married and I have a girlfriend, but we do like to watch the lovely ladies parade down the soi whilst sipping Heinekens. Anyway, one of the dancers who works there sits down with us (without asking) and starts talking to us. We oblige and talk with her for a few minutes and then politely ignore her and carry on talking with each other. She then asks if we'd like another drink. We both say yes, and then she returns with the drinks, along with one for herself. At no time did she ask for a drink, and we certainly did not offer to buy her one. I looked at the bill, and sure enough, we were charged for her lady drink. I told her that we were not paying for her drink, and I called the mamasan over to explain the situation. The mamasan said no problem, and told the dancer to give us 100 baht back for the lady drink she had tried to swindle. The dancer got her purse, took out 100 baht, crumpled it up, and threw it at us. She slid the drink over, spilling a bit of it on the table. She then left the table and started talking shit about us to the other dancers. We didn't leave. We just pretended that it didn't bother us and carried on chatting to one another. When we were about to leave about an hour later, my friend went back inside and tried to give the dancer 100 baht back to show that there was no hard feelings (against my wishes, BTW). When he offered it to her on stage, she gave him the middle finger and a "fuck you!" was uttered loud enough for the other dancers to hear. It's unfortunate that some of these girls have no sense – but it won't keep me from drinking at Tilac again.

A shirtless frog vents.

Last Monday I spoke with a policeman at Jungceylon, Phuket. I started with "Kortod kap" and asked if it was a holiday. He had on dark Ray Bans so I could not see his eyes, but could see his stern demeanor. He said "Yes, holiday" then he said, "Why you no have shirt?" I said "Well, it is hot." He then said "I hot too, have shirt", so I said "Well, you policeman, me not policeman, me tourist!" All the time I displayed a polite smile and no smirk. He then concluded with "You put on shirt. It's my country" and he was not smiling! So I left without a word, but I was enraged with his pathetic attitude. Anyway, being the, as you know now, obnoxious French person, I went to the beach police station and asked for the captain. But he was not there so I chewed the fat with the other police there to whom I explained, as the Thais say, that this policeman had hurt my feelings. They said I should ignore him, mai pen rai, jai yen yen and all that. Welcome to Thailand, we want you to come and spend money and treat you like shit!

Tuck your shit in!

Your prospective Beijing reader really hit the nail on the head, stand out from the crowd, look decent, well dressed and smart. How can this be achieved instantly, easily regardless of the current fashion just tuck your shirt in and wear a smart belt. Leaving your shirt out gives an instant impression that you've made absolutely no effort at all in your style and appearance. Not a victim of fashion, but fashion's never been so victimized.

The rubbish police, again.

Was walking back from Thonglor BTS having a smoke and as you know there's a real shortage of litter bins in Thailand. So rather than drop it on the street I put it down a grating. Unfortunately an eagle eyed boy in brown spotted me doing it and scooped me. He brought out the official documents and showed me it was 2,000 baht minimum and 10,000 baht maximum. Needless to say I was feeling pretty aggrieved but tried to be really apologetic and polite in Thai. He wouldn't back down at first but after a little pleading I got it down to 800 baht. I know the law is the law and you have to respect it but I think the fine for littering is a little out of proportion. After all you can drive at breakneck speed, endangering life and get away with 500 baht! Have to say though that the cop was very civil about it all, and shook my hand at the end of it, which took a little of the sting away. I'll certainly be more careful in future.

Thais in the UK.

In addition to the reasonably sized community in the UK of Thai ladies, we also have a fair number of Indonesian and Filipino ladies too. When I have been involved with all three groups collectively, the most discerning thing one notices is that the Thai ladies (by and large) are (albeit the friendliest bunch) the dumbest in terms of their worldly outlook and the jobs they hold here in the UK. For example, most of our hospitals are staffed with highly educated and excellent English speaking Filipino nurses while many of the 'professional' jobs, such as accountants, lawyers, managers, IT techs and such similar roles are all held by talented, highly educated and excellent English speaking Indonesian ladies. The Thai ladies on the other hand all hold cleaning positions, stack shelves in Tesco or work in the local Thai restaurants. Go figure! Had I not had my own personal demons surrounding Muslim ladies in Indonesia expecting me to convert to Islam, adopt a name such as Mustaphapee and get my foreskin chopped, I most certainly would have been married to one of those highly educated Indonesians for sure. As it was I ended up with a highly educated Thai instead who although streets ahead of her Thai counterparts, doesn't quite cut the mustard with regards her South East Asian sisters from neighbouring countries. Why? Well it all boils down to one simple fact. My wife (as with most Thais) cannot seem to quite shake the constraints of her Thai upbringing and her natural inclination to defend all things Thai, even when it is obvious to the rest of the world (and probably her) that no-one else quite sees Thailand in the same light.

Anyone for Indo?

I'm surprised no-one seems to mention Indonesia and Indonesian girls. For whatever reason, the country is really getting the shaft as far as tourism (except Bali of course), living, retiring – and even mongering – goes. And I just don't understand why. It's a fascinating country of many cultures, and its women are some of the best looking in the world in my opinion; a pretty Indonesian is prettier than a pretty Thai (not talking about the stunners where comparisons don't really make sense) as she is more shapely, has fabulously thick dark hair and big almond-shaped eyes. Yes, they are not as fun / childlike but this might be refreshing – they are naturally reserved. By comparison, I'm finding Filipinas crude, clingy, and a dime a dozen (although I might be jaded by the numerous Filipina hookers / maids / nannies / bargirls / servers one can encounter in Singapore, where I live). And yes, Muslim as most Indonesians might be, you'd be hard pressed to notice it in the cities. And finally, the biggest difference I noticed between Thais and Indonesians is the latter's relative humility, especially among the new generation. No overt nationalism, no yellow shirt silliness, etc., and this from a country that is the 4th or 5th largest in the world and should indeed carry some weight on the world stage. Anyway, I'm speaking as a lover of Thailand. I've been to both Thailand and Indonesia numerous times and I appreciate both countries. At some point I will relocate to one or the other and it will be a difficult decision.

Long periods of rain reduced Bangkok's farang bar areas to quiet lanes this week and even the busiest bars, the likes of Tilac and Baccarra, saw mediocre trade. I assume this is Bangkok-wide although in fairness to other bar areas I didn't cover much ground this week. What did surprise me was that a correspondent in Phuket reports that the bars down south are overloaded with pretty girls at the moment, unlike he has seen at this time of year for the past decade. Maybe the young Thai lasses think the streets of Phuket are paved with gold?

Strikers, the sports bar opposite the Golden Beer Bar – you know the outside beer bar from the Nana Hotel that looks on to soi 4 – has a nice happy hour with all drinks 65 baht from 4 – 8 PM daily.

As mentioned in the column a few weeks ago comes conformation of what I feared. What was once Bangkok's best bakery, La Boulange, on Soi Convent, one of the few places in town where you could find bread that actually tasted like bread, has gone for good. La Boulange used to have both a wholesale division as well as the street-front bakery and the French restaurant but it seems they are done. A real shame.

Who is the strange Westerner who can be seen sitting every evening at the entrance to Soi 7 just by the window to the tailor's shop, before the currency exchange booth? He wears the same clothes and might be English (as he wears an England football shirt but does not look like your typical hooligan). He squats Thai style on one knee and smokes a rolled up cigarette. He talks to nobody and does not appear deranged or drunk. He just sits and watches. Very strange. You are virtually guaranteed to see him around 7 – 8 PM every night.

As the rain teemed down on Soi Cowboy this week, I dashed towards the Asoke end in an unsuccessful attempt to avoid being drenched. As I looked back at the soi, it was a quiet, almost serene scene with not one person on the soi, at least in the middle of the soi, so heavy was the rain. But something wasn't right. I looked up and the neon above the awnings in every bar was out. EVERY bar. It can't have been co-ordinated as a number of the bar owners just don't get on and are unable to agree on anything so it seems that, once again, power problems struck the soi. But it was only the neon above the awnings; the rest of the neon was working as it should.

And yeah, we've been experiencing long periods of drizzle in Bangkok for more than a week. Frankly, the weather has been bloody awful. On the positive side, temperatures in the high 30s have been brought down to the low 30s, but the rain has been slow, constant drizzle for much of the day, preventing you from going outside and causing traffic chaos in many areas. Personally, I think this is worse than the rainy season when, at least, the weather is largely predictable. You know there's a strong likelihood it is going to rain heavily come late afternoon for an hour or two and then stop. You can plan for it. You can't plan for the weather we're experiencing now.

Like many punters I go through phases with the bar areas I visit. Cowboy is my current favourite but how long that will last, who knows? Soi 33 is not an area I visit all that often these days although I did make it down there this week, checked out a few venues, and had a good time. I prefer the more relaxed atmosphere but then the prices are hardly to my liking. What I do wonder about though is just how soi 33 nightspots manage to not just make a profit, but even sustain themselves? I mean, few seem to be doing much trade and some are empty – yep, not even one customer! My best guess is that the rent is much lower than in other bar areas and that the salaries paid to the girls are also lower. There are perhaps three times as many bars in soi 33 now than there were a decade ago – but there seem to be no more customers.

And when the cat's away, the mice will play. Visiting a Western-owned and managed bar in soi 33 it was immediately obvious that the owner was away. The sound system was cranked up what must have been close to full volume and the antics in a bar that is usually very welcoming were such that one did not want to stay beyond their first drink. In fact even finishing that first drink needed to be an effort in dexterity such was the discomfort in the bar. Now you know why you often see bar owners sitting in their bar night after night. They know just what can happen if they're not there.

Signs at Immigration HQ at Soi Suan Plu state that the fine for not carrying out your 90 day reporting is now 5,000 baht. It used to be 2,000 baht. It would seem that they are stricter now than they used to be. 5,000 baht is actually a rather steep fine in Thailand. I mean, you can go be barreling down the motorway in Thailand at 50 km or more over the speed limit (at which speed if you lost control you could very well kill someone) and still only get a 400 baht (official) fine. Like the littering fines which officially run 2,000 – 10,000 baht, it does seem that when the person likely to be fined has white skin and a long nose, the fines are higher than a local would be charged.

Many doctors in Thailand dish out antibiotics like lollies. Turn up with any complaint and the Thai doctor may well send you packing with a bunch of small bags of pills, antibiotics amongst them. In fact many Thais don't feel they have even been dealt with properly unless they have a bunch of different sets of pills in their hand when they leave the clinic. Now I have a theory that may be completely wrong, but it relates to unprotected sex and contracting STDs. From talking to many people over the years it seems that the concept of safe sex is lost on many young Thai women. I also believe there is a lot more casual sex taking place than we suspect and a big reason for this is that many Thai women associate condoms with prostitutes and NOT good girls! With this in mind, I am surprised at the somewhat low incidence of STDs and I wonder if there is somehow a correlation between the frequent prescription of antibiotics and STDs. Could these antibiotics knock out an STD which the carrier didn't even know about? Remember, some STDs are asymptomatic in women. Might she never have even known that she had contracted something? Just a theory…

So one of the skytrain extensions has opened, at long last, with service across the river to the new stations on the Thonburi side free for the next three months. It's not an area Westerners typically venture to but if you're on a budget, there are some cheap apartments on the other side of the river although many of the neighbourhoods are not really farang zones – although that can be a good thing.

The crackdown on dodgy DVDs, software and the like has seen things become much more low key at Bangkok's home of piracy, Panthip Plaza. You can still get most things and it's likely things will return to how they were.

One of the over-riding themes of this website is the struggle many Westerners have in finding and then maintaining a successful relationship with a Thai woman. In the readers' submissions section of the site where such stories abound, other readers aren't shy to let guys know that they screwed up and how. But I wonder if it is often NOT the guy's fault. One of the recurring aspects of such relationship failures is that she has very little relationship experience. She may have only dated one guy before and she just does not know about relationships. She then bases things on movies, or what she has heard from her friends about foreigners and their relationship wants and needs and it all ends up being something of a disaster for both parties. I can't help but wonder if the inexperience of many Thai women in relationships – remember, many only want to date one man in their life – is a big problem. That is not to say that she is at fault, it's just one of those things. But for sure it makes things difficult for both parties.

Stickman reader's story of the week is "A Story About Rolf", the tale of a Swede who sold up, moved to Thailand and lost it all…

Quote of the week. "Long time has gone the way of the Sony Betamax, new coke and George W Bush."

A Thai woman in Pattaya has developed a taste for, umm, err, European sausage!

Indonesia outshines Thailand in this bold article from the Sydney Morning Herald.

Here's an interesting gogo bar party promotion in Bangkok that was posted on Craigslist. The big question is just which bar is it?

It is being reported that the number of foreign visitors to Thailand is down by half.

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 fundamentally do not agree with the institution of marriage, and thankfully I have reached 57 without ever having had this financial gun put to my head. My question is this: In the event that I had met a girl from the right side of the tracks, what do you feel my chances would have been for her and her family to accept that we could just spend our days just happily living together? And if I categorically told them that I would never marry their daughter, and we'd just live in sin, what do you think reaction would be to their daughter and myself? I feel that your answer will very much confirm and reflect why I had no alternative but to choose a girl from the wrong side of the tracks.

Mrs. Stick says: I think you want to take all the advantages in marriage for yourself but not give any benefits (security or assurance of a future) to your girlfriend. It's not our culture to live like that forever. In the past we could not live with someone before marriage. It was considered very bad and our family would be looked at in a very bad way. I know some people live together before marriage now but many families want their daughter to be engaged with a proper engagement ceremony first so then they know that the couple will get married in the future. But for some families they cannot even accept this!

Question 2: When I lived in the village a friend asked if she could be my mia noi. I laughed it off but my wife took it more seriously and was very upset about it. When Aunty heard about this she told my wife off and said to her "do not get involved with your husband's business. Whatever makes him happy should make you happy. Look at how much he has done for you and the family". After we moved back to the west we soon made new Thai friends and on two separate occasions the wives would complain about what their husbands got up to, but would end up saying "whatever makes my husband happy makes me happy". My wife thinks that they don't really mean this and that they are just showing off that their wonderful husband would never do anything to make them unhappy. Is it common Thai thinking that a wife should not get involved with her husband's business and be happy with all what he does?

Mrs. Stick says: I would never let this situation happen. Me and all my friends would never accept out husband with a mia noi. I hate jao-shoe (the man who cheats) and actually, I do not know anyone who would accept this. I know some men do it but you must believe me, I never met someone who accepts it. I heard of some people who accept it but they are not people who impress me.

Question 3: My girlfriend's children stay with her grandparents in a small village near Amnat Charoen. I give 'Noi' 5,000 baht per week to take care of her kids (one adopted) and to take care of her personal needs. Her kids get 40 baht per day for school and allowance. She seemed to be always out of money and then told me that she sends her family 3,500 baht per week, 3,000 for her mother and 500 for her father. Part of this pays for her older brother's two teenagers daily allowance of 60 baht for school. Now I find out that her brother sends money 'sometimes' which means never. So I will cut her salary to 4,000 baht: 2,500 for Noi (of which she will send 500 baht to her father) and I will personally send 1,500 baht per week to her mother. My reasoning is that 12,000 – 15,000 per month is a lot of money in a small village and the family can live very well on half of that (no cost for rent or rice). Noi has come to agree with my logic. Noi's brother (the only sibling) is a chauffeur for a Japanese executive, does not drink, has a wife that has a good job, likes to bet on football games and has gotten his second mia noi pregnant. Noi's adopted son is a product the first mia noi's pregnancy. And I suspect that the mother is sending her favourite (the brother) at least 1,000 baht a week. I might add that her mother is rather mean (twice she went to the classroom of the younger teenager and beat him with a stick because he was late leaving for school), drinks a lot and likes to gamble. Noi does not have a problem with this and agrees that she does not need 3,500 baht per week. This is a bad situation and we do not really want to move the two younger children into Bangkok with us at this time. Do you have any comments, suggestions or ideas?

Mrs. Stick says: It's a lot of money you are sending. Many people can live on less than this. I think you can send them two times this amount each month and they still waste it. This is in the rural Thailand, right? The problem is not the money but the people. My mother used to tell me about families like this that waste money and also about families that take as much money as they can from the man their daughter marries. I don't think you can change them. Sorry, I do not have any solution for this problem.



I have to give my thanks to all those who assist with the site and the column. Every week there is any of a small group of people who provide assistance from a couple of friends who help gathering news, to Mike who does the editing and proofreading to those bar owners good enough to provide info about parties or promotions or other newsworthy happenings at their bar or in their bar area. Of course there are also those whom I consult with on various issues about the site such as BKKSW who himself runs the weekly photography column. To all of you who help and provide assistance, many thanks for your continued help, support and friendship. This column really is much more than a one-man show.



Your Bangkok commentator,

Stick

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