Stickman's Weekly Column June 28th, 2009

Once Sweet Girls


As I observed her from the other side of the bar, she was watching the other girls with fascination and it was obvious that she was new. She would await instructions from the other girls. Where to sit. When to dance. What to say to customers. I was spotted gazing at her and before I knew it someone was pointing in my direction. She stood up, walked across the bar, waied me and sat down.

“You’re new to this, aren’t you?”

“How do you know that?” she responded, puzzled.

“I get around” I said and laughed, which she probably took to mean I was in the bars playing naughty boy every night.

I was in Bangkok’s best gogo bar sitting next to yet another girl who just didn’t fit in. At 22 she was too young, perhaps not in years, but in maturity and I guess what you would call readiness. It wasn’t that she giggled and laughed like a little kid, quite the contrary in fact. It was more that she was clearly out of her depth.

It was her politeness that endeared me to her. Polite words, every sentence ending with ka, the polite particle used by, well, polite Thai women. No untoward questions. No nasty or aggressive comments. It was like she was a student addressing a teacher, polite, respectful and ever so keen to hear what wisdom the ajarn was about to impart.

The venue insists that but a brassiere is worn up top, revealing all the ladies stomachs. It was clear that she had not given birth. No children, and not a young money-hungry thing, I was intrigued at how she ended up here.

She’d left school at 15, at the end of the 9th grade, leaving her native Korat for big, bad Bangkok. Still of school age with no work experience and almost no English – a situation which hasn't changed – she ended up working at various food outlets in Mahboonkrong. With her share of the tips she could take home up to 8,000 baht a month. It was a regular income and she was grateful to have a job where the employer paid on time, but with that said, 8,000 baht doesn't go far in Bangkok and she really only earned enough to get by.

At 16 she met and fell in love with a guy 3 years her senior. They went on to marry in a village ceremony. He had a basic government job and earned 9,000 baht a month. He was a good man, worked hard and looked after her as best he could. In somewhat untypical fashion for young Thai couples, they found themselves drifting apart and agreed to split up. There were no kids and no third parties, so there were no complications. The marriage had never been registered so it was simply a matter of moving their respective belongings to new rooms.

Back on her own, she found that the rapid price increases in Thailand over recent years made getting by on her salary somewhat difficult. She could not continue like this and so she set up a small booth in a market selling women’s clothes and accessories. Business was good and profits were high. She bought a car and was able to send money to her mother. But the good times weren’t to last.

The bottom fell out of the economy, many were laid off and more and more women became market sellers, selling the exact same items as she did. In a price sensitive industry, those with the best prices get the sale and margins were cut to the bone. Business went from highly profitable to barely breaking even. It was no longer possible to make a living running the booth. The car was now being used by the older sister, who cared for their mother, so a new source of income had to be found. A friend had turned to the dark side and started work in a bar. She suggested she give it a go. At the start of this month she started work in Cowboy.

Now if you think Stick is going soft and falling for these girls' stories, you’d be right. Recent observations suggest that more and more genuinely nice girls are ending up in the bar scene. Typically in the past there were two types of women who ended up in farang bars, those with kids and those, often young and pretty, who were already quite hard and money-minded. The Rainbow bars in Nana typically stock this type. But this young lady, like the lady I profiled a couple of weeks ago didn’t fit either profile. She was quite simply a very sweet and sincere rural Thai girl who was trying to make something of her life and had ended up in the bar scene, without really knowing what that meant and importantly, how it would affect her. These are genuinely nice girls who end up in a place they don’t belong. And here starts my rant…

I know almost nothing of prostitutes in the West. I don’t recall ever talking to one. In Thailand, well, I spend time in venues where bargirls, read prostitutes, work and running this column I have got to know a few. My perception of prostitutes in the West is that they tend to be hardened individuals who have had rugged lives and who would, in many cases, do almost anything for a buck. A generalisation that doesn’t apply to all no doubt, but to many, I should imagine. When I look at such women, I am not sure that time in the industry will greatly harm them. They've clearly already taken a few interesting turns along life's path.

It’s perhaps not that different in Thailand. Scratch beneath the surface and the young pretty women with no dependants have a certain hardness and bitterness that often manifests into a brashness about them. They’re ready for most any time the industry can throw at them. In the case of the single mothers, they’ve often faced such great disappointment that they too are ready for whatever the industry can throw at them.

But this lady sitting next to me was way out of her depth. Like a number of women who have lost their job in recent times and ended up in the industry, she was not ready for what was to follow.

Early on, such girls really do give their hearts and if they are lucky, they might meet a nice guy who pulls them out of the industry and saves them. If they are lucky. But if they aren't, they will inevitably experience the pain, the horrors and no end of disappointment. They become cynical and they might even become criminal. Many customers treat them as interchangeable orifices. It’s not evil or illegal but over time it dehumanizes them. They become desensitized and sink further and further into the abyss. Before they know it, they have reached rock bottom and the sweet young thing they used to be is consigned to history.

I once wrote that guys had 6 weeks to get them out of the industry, after which point they changed. Their sweetness went, their attitude changed and they started to see sex and their body simply as a means of making money. I probably didn't quite get that right, or perhaps, the bar scene has changed – read become more commercial – and that rule may no longer apply. I don't think there is a time period you can put on it but rather, a Thai woman entering the bar industry can be saved by the first farang guy she genuinely falls for. It is he, and only he – that first guy she really falls for – who can take her away with minimal damage. But if for any reason it doesn't work out, then no-one will find the same sweet woman she once was. Farang guys just won't be viewed the same.

The industry has changed markedly over the years and is much more commercial now than it was even 6 or 7 years ago. The attitudes, service levels and general friendliness of the girls have all gone in one direction. Down. Those who settled down with a lady who listed her job as bargirl 10 or 20 years ago might have found a lass who had not become hardened as quickly as they do today with the many quickly introduced to the cons perpetuated by the internet and the business-minded atmosphere that mobile phones have facilitated. A punter who forged a successful bond with a lady from that era might take exception to many of my comments, failing to realise that the modern day bargirl is a much more aggressive, calculating and manipulative beast.

Part of the problem is that the purchase of a woman's services in Thailand is little different from buying an ice-cream. It's just too east. But with that said, Western guys cannot deny that there is still a stigma associated with using a prostitute and those partaking often use warm, fuzzy terms to mask their actions. "I was cruising around the clubs and eventually picked up a babe. I took my date back to the hotel and after making love all night long I gave her a generous tip the next morning." It's a sugar coated way of saying "I was visiting various gogo bars before I paid the barfine for a prostitute and brought her back to my room. We had sex and I paid her in the morning." Some just don't want to see it for what it is. Are they ashamed of their own actions?

I'll never forget what a bar owner in Pattaya said to me a couple of months ago. "We're selling sex. Let's just cut through the bullshit. We're selling sex". So refreshing. That's probably why I like that bar so much.

It's not quite the land of, but sure is the arena of, make believe. One day you finally wake up and realise, or admit, that the girls are there for the money. Commercial sex makes the heart harder, for the providers, and the buyers too.

Part of the allure was the deference given to Western visitors. Was. Meaning in the past. They'd seen us on TV and in the movies and seeing us in real life for the first time was quite a thrill. But as we came in greater numbers, the elevated notions they had of us as special ones, beautiful ones, were shattered as we rampaged through the Kingdom and behaved in ways that shocked them, appalled them, and were an insult to their proud culture. Just as many Western guys think any Thai woman has her price, so do many Thais think Western men are obsessed with sex.

As the way local women treated Western men changed, so did the women themselves. They became harder, more commercial, more like Western hookers, I guess. That's not to say there aren't many wonderfully sweet women working now, because there are, but things have changed.

I made a decision not long ago to include more nightlife coverage, thinking that was what much of the readership wanted. More coverage, more in-depth reports, more photographs and most importantly, edgier. I wanted to write what I really think. For the past few weeks I have been highlighting various aspects of the bar scene from largely unknown bar areas to fetish bars to offering my thoughts on the best gogo bar in the country. Every week I try and bring you all the latest bar news, where to get the best deal to where the prettiest girls are. Now I'm going to turn it all on its head and tell you that the bar scene can be bad news. If you have any sort of addictive personality or are unable to keep it in perspective you should consider avoiding it. No, I'm not kidding. It could ruin your life and it could contribute to harming these women's lives too.

One of my traits is that I call things as I see them, come what may. I'm unable to suspend my disbelief and I don't like to shirk the issues. When you're not out looking for someone, the bars lose much of their appeal. For me it comes down to illusion or fact. Which is more important to you? Whichever, it makes for a fascinating anthropological study from so many angles. Human drama is forever intriguing.

The bar industry ruins lives. Guys, girls, everyone involved. Strong comments, I admit, but I stand by them.

Heavy alcohol consumption, smoking (very much a social taboo for females in Thailand), drug use, attitude changes, physical issues and the sort of mental damage that even the most proficient psychologist would take forever to untangle. Once sweet girls are getting seriously messed up. It's not like it's hidden. Pay close attention and it's there, right on the surface. But with the distraction of alcohol and burning desires from your loins, overlooking the tell-tale signs is easy.

Some try to argue that she is better off in the bar scene, earning more money and with a degree of independence. For some, it may be a better option, but it isn't nice to see what happens to these once sweet girls.

Now cuddling up to me she asks me if I like a girl on stage, motioning towards a skinny girl dancing with great vigour.

I shake my head and scowled.

"What about her?" she asks, another skinny girl now our focus.

I explain that a woman with a bit of meat on the bone is more to my liking; skinny girls don't do it for me.

She frowns. This is not the answer she is expecting and she doesn't know quite what to make of it.

"You know why they are so skinny?" she asks and before I have a chance to reply she continues, "They take ya ice (methamphetamines) and then they can dance all night long. They lose lots of weight and then they become really popular with customers. I want to become popular with customers too…"

Sometimes I wonder what the hell I am doing covering nightlife in this column. When you live here a long time you get to know the people, the culture and for all its faults, there is also a warmth and kindness not commonly found nowadays in the West. The industry damages many and hence I feel some guilt. I've got a conscience and I don't apologise for that.

Where was this photo taken?


Last week's picture was taken of the kebab stand about 30 – 40 metres into Sukhumvit soi 5. This week's picture is actually not that difficult although on first glance it may appear so. 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 – The illusion is becoming almost impossible to sustain.

Most of your readers are tourists or wannabe tourists. Tourists want fun, not to hear about problems. Surveys show that tourists wish to be blissfully unaware of potential negatives – crime, public health, corruption etc. It takes a lot (closing the airport, swine flu) to shake them. And then they go somewhere else. Thailand attracts a lot of people who want to escape reality. And it is not just the tourists. I live in a housing estate of which 2/3 of the homes are owned by Hong Kong Brits, and 2 month per year visitors from Scandinavia and the UK. When the residents' committee raises issues like water supply, they don't want to hear about it. Nothing should infringe on the holiday home mentality. When you think about the broad spectrum of escapes from reality here, the mind boggles. There are more wounded egos and petty concerns than any other place I have lived. Nothing is too small for expats to quibble over and that is why they fit in so well with the Thais as they share that trait. If you take the sheen off the polish of the imagined Thailand, readers of this sort will kick back. But reality itself has taken so much of that sheen off this country in the past 10 years or so that the illusion is becoming almost impossible to sustain. No matter which way you were to take the column, you would have to deal with issues. If you are an apple polisher, the realists will go after you. If you are a realist, the escapists will complain. Your fetish column this week was the sexual escapism, so apt in that regard.

Name change?

Regarding a Thai woman changing her name on marrying a farang, as a farang I would be happy for my wife to keep her Thai name. I think it would make things easier for her / us when she comes to make major purchases such as a house or land which we are saving up for.

The correlation between financial position, self-esteem and physique.

I'm spending a few weeks in London. In the first part of the trip, a good 85 – 90% of the women I saw were overweight, and about 10% of those were obese. Strangely, the figures for men were reversed with only 10 – 15% overweight. Then, and this is the interesting thing, I moved over to a more prosperous part of London (from the East End to the South West), and the number of overweight women I saw plummeted. So, in the poorer areas the women are overweight, but in the better areas they are not. I know it's a generalisation, but it's led me to consider that being overweight has a lot to do with self-esteem. Those with money have it and take good care of themselves, those who don't have money don't. To me it is quite noticeable. It might also explain why quite a lot of the men we see in Thailand who make the bars their second home are often overweight. Most businessmen we see in suits in Bangkok are usually in pretty good shape, aren't they?

Thai soaps.

I'm curious whether you think Thai soap operas are based on real-world interactions like those profiled in The Apartment story you highlighted or whether life imitates art. My experience is that people who are addicted to a particular media (magazine, books, TV, movies) tend to emulate the behaviour they see rather than the other way around. In America, the rise of consumerism by women can be correlated with the rise of catalogues, fashion magazines and TV shows. The show "Sex and the City" is one of the ultimate expressions of it, and so are a spate of movies focused on fashion. Thai women (of all classes) watch a lot of TV, especially soap operas. After a decade of indoctrination, it's no wonder they act out the (repetitive) storylines they see on TV both with their husbands / boyfriends and with each other. Personally, I'd ban every single one of those shows.

Venting about Pattaya beer prices.

I need to rant a bit about Pattaya beer prices. Last night I went to Walking Street and popped in to Sisterz and enjoyed the shows and drank one Tiger and one Leo for a grand total of 94 baht, a real bargain. Next I decided to go to Living Dolls, a bar I had only been to once before. I ordered a Tiger and when I checkbinned, I was shocked to see the price was a whopping 135 baht. WTF?!? I paid with 140 baht in notes and of course I never received my change. I'm not worried about 5 baht but I like the formality of pretending to offer my change. Living Dolls is nothing special, the drinks are overpriced but the place was doing ok, better than Sisterz. I strolled down to X Zone and paid 135 baht for a San Miguel Light, but I expect that since they have pretty raunchy shows and buck naked girls. Final stop was Catz and at least management there is on the ball. The girls are polite but flirty and beer is fairly priced at 85 baht. I felt so relaxed that I even bought a lady drink. Before I left Walking Street, I bought a bottle of water and just watched the crowd walk by and it dawned on me that the tourists are about 80% Indian, Arab and Chinese. The people spending money in the bars are 90% white but overall, Caucasians seem to be a minority. Thanks for letting me vent.

Stick, the old woman.

Why do you sound like an old woman bitching about what some guys like to take from the bars? You said that they are ugly and Thais wouldn't pay for them and the Thais are laughing at these guys. Who gives a F about what Thais want and don't want? When you say that you sound like a little kid worried about name calling. Sticks and stones may break my bones but names will always hurt Stickman! Is that true? If the guy paid for it, he wanted it, plain and simple. Why you do you moan and cry all the time about your taste as if it is superior to these guys? Look, Stick, just be a reporter and stop taking sides. If a guy likes the slutty tats, why do you care? If he likes a skinny bird who cares? If he likes loud bitches who cares? If he likes white plump bitches, who cares? You sound like my grandmother. Don't be messing up your body! Why is your ear pierced? I thought you were in your 30's but you sound like you're in your 70's! I'm not going to ask what your wife looks like because it doesn't matter! Beauty as they say, is in the eye of the beholder. My friend loves white-skinned Thais, but the ones he picks are ugly in my eyes. He always talks about other guys' girls and say oh she's a bow wow. I say who cares? You're not sleeping with her, are you? Then why waste energy on it? Life is too short to worry about who is banging who. That's why I don't care if you are gay, straight, a tom or whatever. That's your business and do what you want to do and sleep with who you want to. I just get tired of your better than thou taste and attitude towards everyone else's taste. As my cousins say, it ain't crucial!

Sheba's, one of the most popular bars in Soi Cowboy, has thrown caution to the wind and INCREASED drinks prices with standard drinks now 150 baht, giving it the ignominy of being the most expensive gogo bar in Soi Cowboy. A happy hour still exists with drinks up 5 baht to 75 baht. I have not had a chance to check out Suzy Wong which is owned by the same group to see if prices there have shot up too. Sheba's is a very good bar, it has to be said, but putting up the price to 150 baht with everything that is going on seems like an unnecessary risk.

From the Cornerbar in Cowboy, that's the open air bar opposite the Old Dutch, comes news of more Cowboy drinks price increases. Cornerbar's owner has increased the price of a standard beer to 95 baht from the previous 80 baht. They have however implemented a promotion for a nightly special running the quiet nights of Sunday to Thursday with one selected beer priced at 70 baht. On Sunday it is Beer Lao, Monday is Tiger and Tiger light, Tuesday is Singha, Wednesday is Chang and Thursday is San Miguel Light. I'm all for bars offering specials, but this one is a little confusing and I wonder if it will catch on.

The Arab was arrested upon entering the Kingdom recently and later released on bail set at a hefty 4 million baht. What has he been up to, I wonder?

125 baht is indeed an attractive price for a Guinness but despite Shadow Bar's claims, they are not the cheapest in the land! Check out this photo taken last Sunday night at Maggie Mays in Soi Wat Boon, Jomtien, which can be found about 100 metres back from the beachfront. On the right hand side, it states Guinness is offered at 120 baht a pint. This goes very well with their delicious gammon, egg and chips at 130 baht. 250 baht for dinner and a Guinness, a bargain!

You've got to feel sorry for those who are trying to run a bar in Jomtien where “new bar hours” are being enforced. A member of the Pattaya Beer Bar Association reports that last Saturday a meeting was held in the Hot Legs Sports Bar in the Jomtien Complex with the new sheriff in town and was attended by a reported 70 – 75 bar owners from around Jomtien. Arriving an hour late wouldn't have upset those in charge of the bar where the meeting was held for no doubt everyone waiting for the sheriff was drinking. When the men in charge did show up the new boss could not make it and sent his deputy to explain why the new opening hours in Jomtien were to be limited to 12:00 – 24:00. It turned into a bit of a bickering session with Thai bar owners, mostly women, all trying to make their point at the same time. It all went on for about one hour with nothing accomplished. The outcome was that as long as outside lights are off and music is turned off a blind eye would be turned. It should be added that several bars in Soi Welcome were raided after midnight last week and the owners taken to court where they were fined 5,000 baht for not having the correct license. But in typical local style, when they asked where they could purchase said license they were told by the court that it does not exist! Rumour has it that the easy way around all these new rules is simply to pay 1,000 baht per shophouse and then you can stay open as long as you want. But business is rough in Jomtien and in the last week another long-standing restaurant on the main Jomtien drag and another bar in the complex has shut their doors.

And over the hill in Pattaya proper, Club Boesche is doing its bit to attract revelers by reducing the price of barfines after 2 AM at which point it becomes 400 baht, irrespective of the girl's designation, be it dancer, showgirl, hostess or service staff.

A Walking Street institution, Jenny Star Bar appears to be yet another victim of the times. You still see the ladyboys mingling, or is that mincing, around the bar area and you could be mistaken for thinking it was still open for business, but pay close attention and this once most popular of transsexual spots is in fact closed.

There's almost as much plastic in Angelwitch Bangkok as there is in a katoey bar. It's hard to think of a single gogo with as many disproportionately large knockers and perfectly sculptured noses. One can only imagine that there are a lot of sponsored girls on the books.

Speaking of Angelwitch Bangkok, I note that they have added some new shows, which can only be a good thing, but to be honest, many of the showgirls look awfully tired and bored. I can't help but feel that the venue needs a new batch of showgirls who can bring back the enthusiasm and atmosphere that the bar in its hay day because as it is now, well, it's all rather boring. The dancer, Jojo I believe her name is, who does the little number removing a dozen or more sets of knickers remains bouncy, but the rest, well, something needs to happen. Or maybe Pim needs to start shaking her stick!

There's talk in Pattaya, just talk at this stage, that the ill-fated Soho Square area might soon become a quadrant of restaurants with such world known fine dining houses as the golden arches and disgusting fried chicken considering setting up in the neighbourhood.

A customer in a Covent Garden gogo bar discovered a former girlfriend who he had long since split up with. She was working, as one would expect. He asked her what happened to the jewellery had had given her to which she replied it had been sold. Par for the course. He then went on to throw a hissy fit and tell her that it was 100 year old family heirlooms that his grandmother had once worn! You gotta laugh!

Buffalo Bill's, a chain of steakhouses on the eastern seaboard including Bang Saen, is offering a special this coming July 4 with a BBQ buffet at just 444 baht.

On July 4th at Bourbon Street, buy a plate of BBQ ribs and you get a choice of either another plate of ribs OR a ground rib eye hamburger OR a smoked Andouille sausage plate absolutely free.

Bully's are turning it on for their annual July 4th BBQ and Hat Party. There will be live BBQ cooking next to Bully's guard bronze bull with a cast iron pot of tender beef steak and Andouille sausage chili, BBQ ham carving with silver dollar rolls and essentials, BBQ baby back ribs, hot dogs, relish, onion, sauerkraut, burger bangers and more. Nachos and salsa will be on the tables. There will be drink specials from 4 – 7 PM with Sangria and Margarita at 100 baht, jugs for 250 baht, bottled local beer at 90 baht and Heineken pints for 120 baht. The buffet kicks off at 4 PM and will set you back just 290 baht. All wearing a hat to Bully's will get the first bottle of beer on the house.

The government has announced that tourist visa fees will be will cut from now until March 2010 meaning that anyone applying for such a visa at a Thai embassy or consulate outside of the country will not be required to pay the usual fee. A nice touch, but frankly, I don't see it stimulating tourism in the country even .1%. For those who apply for a double entry tourist visa, the fee will still apply.

Rumour has it that the dreadfully boring Thai Language and Culture which foreigners teaching in Thailand have been forced to attend may be extended from the current 3 to 4 or even 5 days! That's the word from a top university up country whose professors are responsible for running the course in the region. If true, it shows that no-one is listening to the feedback which has it that this course is the most mind-numbingly boring thing many have ever encountered in their life, the most common comment being that the course content outlines "guidebook Thailand", not Thailand 2009.

And the other rumour doing the rounds is that there has been something of a crackdown on those who submitted false credentials to the Department of Labour for the purpose of getting a work permit issued. I am hearing all sorts of rumours and it is hard to reconcile them. For sure, this is considered a very serious crime in Thailand and anyone who has done so should not expect to escape with merely a fine! There have been instances, both this time around, and a couple of years ago, when foreign teachers who had submitted false credentials received a 3-month jail term! What is perhaps interesting is that this crackdown does not pertain to fake documents submitted recently, but from almost any time in the past decade. Just how this crackdown has come about, I have no idea, but it seems that past applications have been scrutinised and those where dodgy documents were submitted and where the person still resides in Thailand, they are coming back to haunt them.

A pub quiz team is looking for two new members. If you're interested in joining, drop Maarten an email at : [email protected]

Stickman reader's story of the week is Delightful Thailand – Honour and Honesty in Krabi City by Hans Meier.

There will be a new Thai embassy in New Zealand soon.

The Thai owner of a famous Seattle restaurant is nabbed for paying workers to marry her relatives.

The TAT is not confident of a quick recovery of the tourism industry in Thailand.

Here's more about the southern troubles.

From The Times of London, comes the scary and disturbing story of a British couple who fell victim to Bangkok airport extortionists.

The ABC reports of an uncertain future for Thailand's elephants.

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: My question is regarding Thai etiquette involving the 42 year Thai girlfriend of my brother. Myself and my two brothers make an annual pilgrimage to LOS and have done so for many years. My brother has been seeing her for the last five years and she is very close to our family to the point where my mother and sister visited her last year. My farang girlfriend and I intend spending several months travelling Thailand this year and hopefully will take her alone with us on some of our trips. Is it appropriate to ask her share a room with us or should I offer her a room to herself? She owns a successful business, is very outgoing and originally came from one the poorer areas of LOS.

Mrs. Stick says: I think it is better if she has her own room. I would not want to share a room with another couple and I think she will be the same. If it is with my friends then we can all stay together.

Question 2: Last week you mentioned that the youngest sibling looks after their parents. This is especially relevant to myself since last Wednesday I married the youngest of 10 kids, five brothers and four sisters. A friend of mine who has been in Thailand for nearly ten years and was married for about three traumatic years reckons that it is the oldest sister who has the responsibility. I would be grateful if you could confirm whether it is the oldest, youngest or is every situation different?

Mrs. Stick says: I think every family is different. We all have responsibility to give some money to our parents if they need it and to look after them and be there for them. This is more responsibility for daughters than sons even if we make less money than them.

Question 3: In the English-based Thai media there are a couple of outspoken progressives, Khun Voranai Vanijaka and Khun Kong Rithdee, who question the benefits of blind nationalism and advocate holding authority accountable and pushing beyond the 'mai pen rai' / face syndrome. Are there similar voices in the Thai language media and how does the average middle-class Thai view their progressive stance?

Mrs. Stick says: I don't read newspapers but we have this on TV in the morning and also on the radio. We have many personalities who give us another opinion. Sometimes they can give a strong opinion that many Thai people do not like because it is not usual to criticise our culture. You know that for us it is very bad to say bad things about our culture and our way of life. We are taught to be proud to be Thai. I know that is different to your country.

I have met many interesting and nice people since running this website, and it has been one of the great perks of the job, so to speak. As you get to know more and more people, it is always nice to catch up with them when they're in town. I always do my best to meet up with readers, but recently I have been getting so many invitations, I just cannot keep up. That combined with the fact that I am not going out quite so much, I ask that you understand if I decline your invitation. It has got to the stage recently where after a day at work I want nothing more than a quiet night at home.



Your Bangkok commentator,

Stick