Stickman's Weekly Column June 14th, 2009

It’s So Easy To Turn To The Dark Side


Secrets was quiet that night. Like the rest of Pattaya, there were few customers about. But the management wouldn't have been unhappy. They have a knack of attracting high rollers, to whom a 20,000 baht checkbin is chicken feed. In each corner of the bar a customer was surrounded by a bunch of dancers and hostesses, each with a drink in her hand. Maybe her third, or forth or fifth. High rollers were living it up.

And then there was me. Drinking at a gentle pace. Not surrounded by ladies. Not buying lots of lady drinks.

The coyote girls jiggled on the mini stages. It was just another low season night in Secrets.

I was nursing a San Miguel Light. I'd had a few the night before and wanted to take it easy. Relax, listen to the music, have a few quiet ones and enjoy a chin wag with Larry and Robbie.

I first spotted her because, well, she was different. It's the classic description, isn't it? "She was different." Words that often signal the start of a very slippery slope, signposting yet another tale where the white man loses his heart – and perhaps a whole lot more – to the little brown girl.

But this girl wasn't brown, far from it. She was the whitest bird in the flock. And that's quite possibly why she was getting no attention. Or maybe it was because there were so few customers? She saw me gazing her way and sheepishly smiled. Her reaction caught me aback. This wasn't the transparently predatory look so many chrome pole dancers can't help but make anyone who so much as looks at them, the very same smile an Indian tailor gives passers by, or the timeshare con men on Brach Road brandish. You know that they're after one thing. Your wallet.

But no, for sure, it wasn't that smile. I know the Thai smile pretty well and this was the curious version. It didn't hide a false confidence, so common in the open-late establishments littered around Walking Street.

She was fair-skinned and tall. Or so I thought. 160 cm, not so tall really, but that still put her head and shoulders above the midgets who populate most bars. Her hair wasn't down to her ass, there were no tats but it was more than that. She had a certain poise, awkward to be fair, but she carried herself rather…differently. That word again. Dangerous. As she danced there were no exaggerated hip movements and no filthy gesticulations. She held the jaded long-time Pattaya residents' gaze for but a fraction of a second. She was not their type. With a look that screamed northern Thai, she wasn't just a fish out of water, she didn't fit in.

Larry came over and apparently said something. I missed it. He gave me a big slap on the back and made one of his amusing quips, checking whether I was ok. I had only had a couple but I wasn't quite myself. She was having an effect on me.

I pointed the camera in her direction and spied her through the viewfinder, which she found all rather amusing. I fired off a shot but the lens wasn't right for the job. I was too far away to capture her from the other side of the bar. I looked at the image of her and smiled. She caught me and smiled back. I had her attention.

A few minutes later she got off the stage. Some motioning and she finally figured out that I wanted to talk to her. Over she came and we engaged in conversation. In no time my suspicions turned out to be right, this girl was different. Very different.

We went though all of the usual chit chat from nickname to age to where she hailed from before I started asking her about a few things that raised her eyebrows. In the two weeks she had been in the bar, no-one had asked her these questions. Whether it was merely being curious, or perhaps my investigative streak coming out, I confirmed that she was very different indeed.

From Nakhon Sawan province in the north, her journey to Pattaya and into the farang-oriented sector of the bar industry was far from typical. No baby. No husband. No abuse. University and a decent education. A reasonable job. No poor family in Nakhon Nowhere. She didn't belong in the bar and looked nothing like the rest of the girls, spoke little English, was unfailingly polite, didn't push for a drink and well, was just plain charming. Now there's a word seldom used to describe a lady who works bar. She was genuinely charming. Charming and rather pretty, too. You've got my attention, honey.

A graduate of a Bangkok uni and proud holder of a bachelor's degree, she had sought work in the big city, picking up an entry-level position in her chosen field of accounting. She later decided she didn't like it and it plain didn't pay well. At a little over 10,000 baht a month, it really only gave her enough to get by. She found herself working long hours with no overtime. Long hours for little reward. To make matters worse, she didn't like her boss. Things weren't going well, but that wasn't the only thing out of balance in her life.

She'd had a Thai boyfriend for some time, a man she truly loved, a man she had expected to marry. But he decided that he wanted to play the field and it didn't take long for her sixth sense to kick in. When she finally got confirmation that hers was not the only bed he slept in she ended it, a decision not made easily. “I was broken-hearted as I had never been before”, she told me, tears welling up in her eyes as she recalled it.

She was the classic traditional Thai girl, the sort who only wants to sleep with one man in their life. She had given him her virginity and the idea was that he would be the only man who would ever share her bed, something she had been very clear about. But living in a land of unlimited beauties, it's not only farang who play away from home. Her boyfriend was out and about, enjoying all that Thailand has to offer.

With her worklife a misery, her personal life in tatters and little chance of finding a new position given the economy and her minimal experience, she was at a loss at what to do. She would just have to battle on, grin and bear it. But every day was a struggle. There was no happiness in her life, not even a mild contentedness. Deep down she knew that she could not continue like that. But what were her options?

At Songkran she received an unexpected call from an old school friend. They'd been through high school together, a close trusted friend. She told this friend how terrible her life was and how she missed the warmth of a boyfriend and how she had struggled to find any satisfaction in her work life, let alone make enough money to have any semblance of a life.

Her friend, also a university graduate, told a similar tale of woe. Things hadn't gone to plan, and the happiness she saw every night on the box didn't resemble her life one bit. There was no big house, no handsome boyfriend and very little happiness. She too had had a bad time with a Thai guy and had chosen to turn to the dark side, or as the Thais say, to "go inter". She had sought a farang man. As every Thai woman knows, Pattaya is the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, the home of Farangdom, the place where any Thai woman can find a foreign guy. So she set off to the seaside, found a job and in no time had adjusted to the new lifestyle, the chance to meet many men and perhaps just as importantly, the chance to make some riches. She had joined Secrets Bar as a coyote dancer.

A day or two after hearing of the opportunities in Pattaya, she made a decision. She would try it out for a couple of weeks. She would keep her room in Bangkok but move down to Pattaya where she could stay with her old school friend and give it a go. She could apply for work in the same bar. She would have a friend there, someone she trusted by her side, right from the outset.

She quit her job, served out her notice period, and went to Pattaya.

Like most bars the interview process is relaxed. No interview is necessary, a glance from head to toe and maybe a couple of questions, "Do you speak English" ("Yes" is absolutely the right answer) and "Have you worked bar before" is about as taxing as it gets. She was hired on the spot and the transformation from accountant to chrome pole hugger began. The venue did not require her to shed her clothes, the indignity of showing herself to strangers would not have to take place in public.

The elation of securing a position at the same workplace as her friend was short-lived. She was to find that life in the bar had more than a few pitfalls…

As a non-drinker, the bar's policy of "the boss's rounds" i.e. regular compulsory drinks for all girls – shots of something cheap and nasty, more often than not Tequila, throughout the night – was a struggle. On her first night she was drunk before midnight, not because she had a queue of hansum men buying her drinks, but because of the crazy policy of compulsory drinks forced upon all girls, a policy that raises eyebrows more than a little.

And then there were the customers. She had entered the bar industry as much to make money as to meet a good man, but the specimens in the bar were not the GQ type she had dreamed of. I roared with laughter when she said this, causing manager Larry to look across the bar. I never laughed so loud at his jokes so just what had this lass said? We looked around at the specimens in the house. They won't be tomorrow's movie stars although I hear Robbie is on the short list for the next James Bond. Even the smoky bar environment was uncomfortable for her. She was not at home in this environment. Far from it.

She spent almost as much time up on stage as she did perching at the bar, and while she is in great shape, dancing all night long takes it out of her. And yes, all night long would be fair. With the bar sometimes open as late as 4 or even 5 AM, she is compelled to stay until the final customer departs, quietly revealing that the girls always will that last imbiber to leave, silently dreading it when he says “just one more”.

To my eyes the prettiest girl in the house, she was not of the style Western guys typically care for. Too tall, too white, too much poise but perhaps more than anything else, she didn't look like a filthy slut. There's something about a certain type of Thai woman in a certain age bracket from a certain part of the country with a certain tarnished background who are, somehow, able to transform themselves into said filthy slut almost overnight. You see them up and down Walking Street, heavily tattooed, garishly applied make up and never shy to enter into, or even commence, a round of sexual innuendo. Well this lass didn't have that, perhaps doesn't have it in her, and anyone looking for a guaranteed quality bonk wouldn't give her a second glance.

For the zillionth time I was reminded how utterly appalling the average Westerner's taste in Thai women is, a clear preference shown for those the Thai men wouldn't touch. With a barge pole. The Thai men are laughing at us. Positively guffawing.

As a regular of Secrets, I actually already had a lass sitting next to me before I had waved this lovely over. The lass who was with me already, a lady of similar age to me always makes for fun conversation. She tells me the latest bar gossip, and just who Larry did the night before. Now she was a much more typical entry to the bar, the usual story of a husband who shot through and left her with the kids. And she was from that part of the country. Pleasant-natured and with a warm smile, I enjoyed chatting with her. But this new bird was on a different level.

So as I was chatting with Miss Nakhon Sawan, who was now asking me all about the industry, the men, how I knew so much and how she could find Mr. Right, I started to tell her a few home truths and I was scathing in my comments.

I asked her about her family up country and what they thought. The family knew she was working in the evening but they did not know she was in Pattaya. They thought she was merely working as a waitress, which had them rather miffed. Their daughter had a bachelor's degree from a perfectly respectable Bangkok institution of higher learning so what on earth was she doing working at night?

She said she planned to send some money to her mother, not her father. Her parents had split and the father had a new lady in his life, something she wasn't thrilled about. As the youngest of three children and with the two older siblings already married off, she felt an obligation to support her mother although from all accounts, the mother did not actually need any financial assistance. But there is this crazy obligation sunk into all Thais, no more so than when the youngest sibling is female and the family come from a rural background.

She admitted that her parents, her entire family in fact, would be mortified if they knew what she was doing. Like any decent Thai family, they would refuse a single baht from her if they really knew what she was up to and how the money had been earned. She shook when I told her that she could not keep the charade up for long. It was dirty money as far as they were concerned, blood money. No-one in her distant family had ever been involved in the industry. Nor even in her village. They were poor, but they had pride. She was the first. Her parents could never find out. Never ever. She mooted she would rather die than let them know.

It was about this point that she touched me. No, stupid, she didn't grope me! She touched my heart, my conscience, as my initial impressions about her being different proved to be spot on.

I wanted to help her, to convince her that this was not the right path to take. She had made a wrong turn. I wanted to tell her that this was a mistake that could be corrected. I could have manipulated the story. I could have sought her weakness and exploited it. But this girl was not someone I wanted to lie to. I wanted to give her frank advice and that's exactly what I did.

As we chatted away, I told her what the average farang thinks of women who have worked in the bar scene and how, perhaps Pattaya excluded, there is a very negative stigma associated with marrying a bargirl. She needed no convincing. She told me she knew. I explained that the bar industry changes people. The changes might seem subtle, almost imperceptible to the woman herself, but to those around her they are clear, rapid and in many cases, irreversible. Two weeks in the industry and she remained lovely.

I'll readily admit that a decade ago I could have fallen for her. But a decade at the helm of the Stickman empire has taught me well, the unthinkable is just that, unthinkable.

Confirming that the main reason for entering the industry was to find a marriage-minded farang, I let loose on the humanity in Pattaya, a tirade that would have raised the hackles on other customers in the bar, many of whom are Pattaya residents, if they could actually have understood what I said. I told her of those who are attracted to Pattaya, starting first with the tourists and how so many see Thai women merely as a piece of meat, sex objects to have their wicked way with. I was now in full flow, we'd hit the turbo, and I was on song. I told her a story that a Pattaya bar manager had told me the night before about one of the venue's regulars, and how he would only pay a woman if she agreed to anal sex. Of course, he told her this in the hotel room after he had already availed himself of her. The laughing, joking Stick transformed into a stern schoolmaster, eyeballing her, asking her how she would feel being made such an ultimatum. She started shaking.

I went on to explain, truthfully, that the best of Farangdom are usually found in Bangkok. So the average expat in Bangkok might not compare favourably with the average Westerner in the West but, man for man, he stands up against some of the riff raff that end up down by the sea. Not everyone, of course. But many. Her mood lightened and she smiled. She too had quickly reached that conclusion. A laugh was shared.

But she had no idea how to meet a Westerner in Bangkok. In Pattaya they were everywhere. Not just in the bar, but everywhere. Bangkok wasn't like that. And she was a Thai woman. She could hardly approach a man in the street in Bangkok, could she? Thai women just don't do that. But Pattaya, well, Pattaya was different. It's a different rule book down here. Pattaya, anything goes.

I told her that physically, she blew the rest of the bar away. She blushed. She looked away. She knew I was right. At least in the eyes of Thais, she was the one they'd choose. But she had not been a hit in the bar. Far from it. I remain perplexed that one so pretty could hold so little appeal for the masses. To be sure, she had been barfined already – but it had not been an entirely pleasant experience.

She'd put on weight and wasn't eating regularly. While she looked fine to me, she said that she'd put on a few kg, the night time industry being cruel on one's lifestyle in a ways that aren't always seen. Just eating a decent meal when your body needs it can be an ordeal. Fatigued from the night's work, she'd sleep all day and having been in Pattaya for more than two weeks she still hadn't had a chance to take a leisurely walk along the beach. And then there was all of the hard stuff. Every night. Glass after glass. But why do the girls all cheer when they down their free, but compulsory, boss-sponsored drinks, I asked.

"The mamasan tells us to so we have to."

Many women from that part of the country are hard before they even enter the industry. A lifetime of disappointments, perhaps abuse from a young age be it mental, physical or both, living hand to mouth, sometimes going without, suffering discrimination and disappointment after disappointment can shape a life in the worst possible way. The bar scene is a natural progression, the next stop in life's shitty path. But this little one wasn't like that. She'd entered the industry as an angel, despondent at recent events and desperate to change her life for the better. She'd got it in her mind that scoring a farang was the light at the end of the tunnel.

It was a Thursday night. She had arranged to take the following Monday off to go to Bangkok, collect her remaining belongings and bring them to Pattaya. The decision had been made. She would be moving. She had crossed the line.

I possess a tough heart and am not easily convinced of the stories these women tell. Truth be told, I don't always feel sorry for them. I want to, I really do, but it's not easy when closer examination often shows laziness, corner cutting, a lack of resolve and no willingness to improve themselves. The easy option is too often chosen. But this one got through my defences. It's nice to think that there's something that could be done to help her, but short of introducing her to a locally-based, relationship-minded friend, of which I have a grand total of zero, I don't know what I could do.

As more and more people are losing their jobs, there'll be more Miss Nakhon Sawans entering the bar industry. And they will be just as awkward as she was. But just as I am sure – and saddened – that she will slowly adapt to life in the bar, so too will they. It's so easy to turn to the dark side.

Who is this?


Last week's picture was taken inside CrossBar, the pleasant British pub just off Sukhumvit soi 23, a couple of hundred metres down from Soi Cowboy. The first person to email with the identity of the gent pictured above 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 provides 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, there are 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 – Perhaps you should reconsider the bus?

I saw an interesting chat up technique today on the bus which was all done without a word said. I was on the 48 when a very pretty girl sat down next to me. After a few stops the bus was full and a young farang got on. He stood in front of her by the doors. About ten minutes further on he wrote something on a pad and handed it to the girl. It said "interested in me"? He offered her the pen and she wrote a reply and handed it back. He wrote something else and handed it back and so it went on. At first I thought they might know each other and were playing some sort of game. Having an odd glance over at the note pad though I could see things were otherwise. After 15 minutes of frantic writing they both got off at On Nut. By this time they had broken the ice with words and he chased her along the concourse and seemed to be having luck persuading her towards what he was suggesting. Unfortunately I went another way so will never know if she just said goodbye or not. I would never have the nerve to do this but admire him for it. I wonder if he had the devil's look on picking probably the only looker on the bus who could write fluent English, or if he had done this fifty times before without any response. Buses at home were never this interesting that's for sure.

The voice of reason.

Undoubtedly the sky is the limit as far as what you can pay for a place to live in Bangkok. I can say though that for 20,000 baht per month, it's possible indeed to find a nice place. I have been by Stick's place a number of times, and am impressed with it. The building itself is attractive. The security is first rate. His apartment is quite nice. The kitchen is not a large one, but they don't do a lot of cooking. The pool there looks gorgeous. There is good shopping, restaurants in the area. I think the problem is knowing how to track down the best of what's out there.

What is criticism?

Mrs. Stick said, "We can accept criticism…" Well, actually, no Thais can't but then I do not accept criticism well either. The real problem is that Thais do not know what criticism is. For example: if you buy a product in a store and find when you get it home that it is defective and you take it back to be replaced or to get your money back; the Thais interpret that as criticism. That is not criticism. It is business. The Thais want everything to go their way all the time regardless of circumstances. This is how children think. The Thais interpret (take personally) anything else as 'criticism'. Once again this is how children respond to the world. This is boring in adults and one of the reasons they are not world players. But then they do not really want to be successful or respected so it does not matter.

Cross-dressing.

Thais seem to have a thing about boys dressing up as girls. I've just got back from a trip to Prachuap organised by my gym. Most of the group was middle class Thais. On Saturday evening, we had dinner at the hotel, followed by various games and activities. One of these consisted of staging a mock Miss Thailand competition with the four male gym instructors. They were dressed up in those floppy dress things that Thai girls like to wear over shorts, then the ladies in the group were given ten minutes to put make up on them. After this they had to pose, prance around with handbags and dance. One of them actually had quite a pretty face with his make up on, although the bulging biceps weren't entirely feminine. They were very good sports about it and everyone seemed to have a good time. To encourage them to put on a good show, the one adjudged the winner got tickets to the Thailand Open tennis.

Summer season worse than low season.

The new adopted moniker for this time of year in Phuket is officially (according to the tourist authority, in conjunction with the hoteliers association) 'Summer Season' in a bid to get away from the negative connotations of 'Low Season'. Funny though how our first 'Summer Season' seems to be quieter than any 'Low Season' in my experience. A quite large and smart bar which opens 2 shifts, right on Bangla road, did 1,000 baht in their first 8 hours the other day. I guess it's a bit like calling a crayfish a lobster. The crayfish doesn't seem to know the difference.

Anyone buying lady drinks in Phuket?

Last night a friend and I ventured into the Tiger complex here at Patong, a place we rarely go, but we had met a comely damsel who said she was dancing in there. It's an open air beer bar type place but with pole huggers on most bars. The cheapest Tiger beer we could find in the whole soi was 110 baht (the dearest about 150) so we did not have any. BTW this is the soi where lady drinks range from 180 to 250 baht, yes, at an open air bar. I will leave it to you to work out why there were few customers in there, even though, I must admit, the place has a central sound system and creates possibly the best atmosphere of any soi here. The rest of the sois are just sitting back and moaning, as is the Thai way.

When you buy too many drinks for her.

I have often been in the group of bar-goers that gets upset when a hostess drinks only soda or equivalent. My perception and attitude changed after watching an older bargirl, not pretty to begin with, puke her guts in the gutter after a few well-meaning customers bought her drinks. Sure, we are getting ripped off for the price of the drink. We are getting ripped off even if alcohol is added. But with the choice of a hostess ending up puking her guts out or 2 hours later still holding down a (minimal) conversation, I would choose non-alcoholic lady drinks! Forcing them to drink alcohol in the end is not good for us OR them.

Is nam jai disappearing?

The Mrs. is always complaining that Thais no longer have nam jai (spirit) like they used to. She told me something this week that made me think she might be right. She was near the Amari Watergate Hotel in Pratunam when she saw a heavily pregnant Thai trying to get a taxi. Always one to try and assist, the Mrs. decided to try and help as the woman who was not having any luck. She stopped a further six taxis, but none were prepared to take the woman to a fairly local hospital. Now Pratunam is notorious for taxis who seemingly never want to go anywhere, but refusing to help a pregnant woman is a new one, even for that area. Maybe they were worried she'd give birth in the car, but they could have left the meter on! In the end she gave up and the woman went round the corner to try her luck in another spot.

Soi Cowboy was noticeably busier this week than last. Just don't ask me to explain why though!

Is Pattaya officially no longer part of Thailand? The anti-smoking laws just don't seem to apply *anywhere* down there.

A new Sportsman's Bar has just opened up in the soi 22 / Washington Square area. I cannot confirm if it is part of the two Sportsman's venues in Pattaya that are rightly known for their excellent farang-style food. The location is by the Mambo Club building and it has 2 Brunswick tables and about 9 pool tables. There are various draught beers – Tiger at 89 baht and Heineken at 115 baht a pint all night. Bottled beer runs a very reasonable 85 baht and most sprits are priced the same, much better pricing than some of the (much older) bars in the area. There's a huge projection screen TV for sports and a couple of dartboards. It's a nice spot.

Where 100 baht used to be the standard price for a drink at many Patpong establishments, it has crept up to 110 baht. A small increase which won't break the bank.

Pattaya's Lollipop on Walking Street has a fine selection at this point in time.

Renoir, a fixture of Sukhumvit soi 33 for over 20 years, is running a low season midnight special with all customers drinks (lady drinks are NOT included) at half price between midnight and 1 AM. The usual price for a drink at that time is 160 baht so you're looking at 80 baht, a good deal.

Cathouse's 69 baht bottled beer promotion running all night long sees a steady stream of customers and is proof, as if it was needed, that more and more customers are price sensitive at this time.

Anybody looking to make the plunge and invest in a bar should consider Cherry Bar 2 in Pattaya which has been listed for sale, the owner a Westerner so easy to deal with.

Business might be brisk at soi 7's Biergarten and for sure there are a few lasses in there who appear to have regular day time employment, but don't think that that means it's full of beauty queens. The reality is in fact rather different. If you were to ask me where the ugliest birds around were, I would have answered Pattaya's Beach Road but frankly, having stuck my head in soi 7 this week I think the Biergarten has it beat. There was some real rough trade and one drink in there was one too many! That said, it being a freelancer venue, the next day could be completely different.

Most of the women in the naughty bars catering to foreigners are maidens of Isaan. From time to time you come across someone who just doesn't seem to fit, and this week a new lass started in Secrets in Pattaya (NOT the woman described in the opening piece) who from the moment she opened her mouth I knew really was different. A quarter Mexican, a quarter Pakistani and half Thai, she had an exotic look that was…wow! She speaks great English which is apparently her third language, behind Thai and Spanish. She'll be snapped up quickly…

I seldom make it to Phuket but there is talk that over time the beer bar and nightlife scene is going to move away from Bangla and more towards Rat-U-Tit Road. Apparently this is partly because of the outrageous amounts being charged for key money and rent on Bangla. I am not a Phuket local so this is not something I can easily check out – but a number of people have mentioned this to me in recent times.

The swine flu has people scared and face masks are appearing on the streets, predominantly Westerners wearing them.

One venue's which fortune is going against the grain is Tenderloins in Sukhumvit soi 33. They do not rely on tourists and have built up a good reputation among expats. Their 1,000 baht all you can eat & drink buffet on Sundays are outstanding value compared to the major hotels. Will she see people shifting from eating in the major hotels to less conspicuous but better value places? Foreigners yes, but the Thais I am not so sure about…

Massage shops all over Pattaya are offering discounts, with large, temporary signs outside. Many have dropped prices by 20 – 33% and one massage outlet on Walking Street down towards the Covent Garden complex has been even more innovative and is offering 15 minutes massage free although it isn't clear how it works. I can just imagine the uproar from the masseuse if a customer availed themselves of a 15-minute massage for free and then upped and left!

Still in Pattaya, I really think more establishments ought to erect "no shirt, no service" signs outside. I know they are fighting for business but honestly, when I see the shirtless, beer belly armada in an establishment there's no way I'll be going inside.

There really is nothing more pathetic than the sight of a foreigner begging on the streets of Bangkok. It seems to me that we are seeing an increase in this most embarrassing phenomenon which is hardly a rare sight now. Given that many here have little to nothing in terms of financial reserves is scary. Who will be the first person I know personally to be seen begging on Bangkok's streets?

Irrespective of industry, Thais are getting *really* worried about losing their job. They know that there is little in the way of employment opportunities out there and many are scared. The manager of one British pub was telling me he gets about 5 walk-in applicants every day. Whether this results in better service from those in the service industry, only time will tell.

The proprietor of the now defunct restaurant Chez Bernard's in Pattaya soi 3 has opened a new concern, La Table De Bernard, around the corner in soi 1, just up from the beach road. The original restaurant closed down due to problems outside of his control (you can imagine the kind of thing, this being Thailand), but he's back on his feet with this new venture. For my money it's the best French restaurant in Pattaya, food is great and prices very reasonable for the quality. Three courses plus a carafe of wine is easily had for 800 – 1,000 baht, with a daily menu du jour deal also available. It's full of Frenchmen which says more than words.

The name kept popping up on Pattaya discussion forums and from time to time people would mention it to me but this week was the first time I finally made it to Robin's Nest – and I was glad I did. Good, honest food, not gourmet, but decent sized portions and decent value for money. If you're looking to fill yourself up with an honest meal at a fair price, I thought the Soi Diana outlet was unpretentious with decent Thai and Western fare.

It's never been that easy taking photographs in Bangkok's nightlife areas. Photographing neon and establishments from outside has never been a challenge, but photographing people has. In Pattaya however it has always been easy but that is fast changing and more and more there is one of two reactions, hands up over the face or the simple word, "internet", girls no doubt concerned of what may be posted online, lest their sponsor(s) abroad see them.

For the first time, one of Chris Moore's books, God of Darkness, is available as an E-Book and can be downloaded to your IPhone, etc. for just $6.99.

One of the great things about the women situation in Thailand is that you really don't have to accept second best. You do not have to sell yourself short. But why do so many Western guys in Thailand do just that?! I hate to say it, but a lot of Western guys in Thailand have really ugly (sometimes very temporary) girlfriends – and many proudly post photos to the naughty boy forums and detail their exploits with those who frankly could be described as barkers. In a country with so many attractive women, it is quite unbelievable who some get involved with. Some of the pictures in these trip reports, oh my God. I am not talking about personal preference here, I mean, some of these women are scary! What were these guys thinking?! We all make mistakes and we have all woken up and thought, "What did I do?" but to post about it online, presumably when sober?!

A trusted friend and someone I have much respect for believes that NOW is the time to buy a bar. The logic is simple. With the industry in such bad shape, there are a number of venues up for sale and you can pick up some venues for a song. If you have a bit of money behind you then you should be able to see through the tough times and when things pick up, there could be a lot of money to be made – and the bar could rocket in value. He believes that people are doing it tough in the West and when there is a bit of light at the end of the tunnel they're going to throw caution to the wind and flock to countries where they can party hard and forget about the stresses of the last year. That means here. Time will tell.

The number of businesses for sale in Thailand right now, particularly foreign-owned, or business which predominantly cater to foreigners, is quite unreal. I don't know if this is reflected in the listings of business brokerages but pounding the pavement you see sign after sign. As a bar owner said to me this week, "It's just getting too hard!"

Greta Levine is looking for an old friend, Sigi Brandstatter from Austria. He used to live in Bangkok until late last year but seems to have disappeared and friends are worried about his well-being. Email Greta if you can help.

Stickman reader's story of the week from Dana is subtitled Mongerism and discusses how risk attraction plays a part in dabbling with ladies of the night.

Quote of the week comes from a reader, "Remember that everything in Thailand is like the fake clothing, they look great for a while and make you feel good, but time will always reveal that what you had was only an illusion."

Long after the dirty doctor's excellent work with the fake monks, they are finally arrested by Thai police.

YouTube features a trailer for Risk of Infidelity Index, one of Chris Moore's best books.

Splendid efforts from Thailand's finest, rounding up more vermin on the eastern front this week.

It's hardly news because it must be a daily occurrence, but another foreigner is drugged and robbed in Pattaya.

The BBC talks to Dr. Pornthip, Thailand's most famous pathologist.

Pattaya's PR machine worked well on this article.

The Aussie bird who had an ordeal at the Aussie Bar in Phuket has been refused a visa to enter the US.

Mee and my Dad, free documentary about a 60-year old Brit marrying a 27-year old Thai bird.

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 would just like your opinion on getting back together with a previous girlfriend in Thailand. I have been living in Bangkok for a few years and have had two relationships. One of these was with a university student that ended over a year ago on good terms and I remain in contact with her. Our age group is 20 – 25. I would like to know whether Thai women get back together with a previous partner or is this frowned upon and considered a loss of face? Should I just leave it at friendship as there are plenty of other nice people to meet or is it worth chasing my teerak as I do still have feelings for her?

Mrs. Stick says: There is no fixed rule about this. We can break with a boyfriend and then start again and for some couples this happens many times. Actually, I think it happened to all of us at some time. But I think you need to try to solve the problem why you broke the first time so it does not happen again.

Question 2: I have been with my lady for over 4 years and we have been married for 9 months. She is in her mid-40's and I'm 20 years older. She has no kids and was married to a Thai guy many years ago for a short time. Prior to getting married we had a wonderful sex life. Very shortly after getting married (like within a month), she stopped being interested in me sexually. If I tried to touch her she would move her arm / hand to block me. In bed she shows no romantic or sexual interest in me at all. When I raised (no pun intended) this situation with her and asked what had changed or why she lost interest, she said nothing had changed – but clearly it had. I do not have expectations of frequency and prefer love making to be spontaneous. However, this has gone on way too long. So, my question is, how can I get her to discuss this and talk with me about why she is not interested? As I'm sure you know, the two things that ruin more marriages are issues related to either sex and / or money.

Mrs. Stick says: In our culture it is the husband's responsibility to look after us and for us to look after him. This is very serious for us. If our husband is not happy this is a problem. We know others look at us and our couple life and how we treat our husband. If he is not happy, it means we are not doing it right and our friends will look at us in a bad way. I know for some aunties in my mum's generation sex was to build a family and to make the husband happy but not happiness for them. Perhaps your wife has the same belief? I think you can make a nice romantic occasion for her and do something she likes and then you can start to talk with her about it.

Question 3: Is there a colour of the day to wear in Thailand? I could swear I see a lot of pink shirts on Tuesday on both men and women. I know certain royal holidays are gold colour clothes but it seems Thais dress seeming coordinated each day. So question is what are the colours for each day of the week and will dressing this way help me meet hot chicks?

Mrs. Stick says: On Monday it is The King’s colour, yellow. Tuesday it is The King’s other colour, pink. On Wednesday there is no designated colour but many people wear green. On Friday it is The Queen’s colour, light blue. Thursday, Saturday and Sunday do not have a designated colour. You will get respect from many Thai people, especially uncles and aunties and older people if you follow these colours. But I don't think it will impress your hot girls!

A few weeks back I called on the readership for help dealing with these blasted Thai dogs which mistake my legs for their next meal. The consensus was that pepper spray was the way to go but I have procrastinated and have yet to pick up a canister. Yesterday I was out running and the word must have been out amongst the beasts because two set upon me at the same time. The big Stickman number 10 didn't come to the rescue and as I smashed one in the nose, he was back at me two seconds later. Not again! A handful of readers told me a trick. The idea is that you bend down as if to pick up a stone – whether there is one there or not – which you will then pretend to throw at the dogs. It is said that dogs are aware of this action and will back off. Well, I can confirm that this works. I bent down, making out that I was picking up something and the beasts turned and retreated a few steps. With no stone in my hand, but in a pose as if I was about to throw, I mocked it – and the filthy beasts retreated a good few metres more! The threat had been repelled and I could continue about my daily exercise. So to the handful of you who suggested this method, many thanks. It really worked – and Stickman survives to write another column!

Your Bangkok commentator,

Stick