Stickman's Weekly Column July 12th, 2009

Messing Up The Tourism Industry


I used to recommend Thailand for a holiday wholeheartedly but these days I do so with reservation.

With the world in the economic doldrums and Thailand's economy shrinking fast, the increased crime we're seeing on the ground should come as no surprise. But what is a real concern is that there has been a marked increase in crimes against foreigners. That many Thais believe they can do what they want against foreigners with impunity combined with a lack of any genuine assistance from authorities, foreigners who become the victims of crime in Thailand often find they don't get the assistance they had hoped for and seldom is the crime solved.

In the past those attempting to part a tourist from their baht would do so through deception, tricking or conning them. Violence seldom entered the equation. It would be a rarity to be clubbed on the head and have your valuables grabbed. It's changing. In major centres crimes of violence are increasing markedly while the cons and scams show no sign of letting up.

Scams that were prevalent 10 years ago or more continue today and there's no reason to think it will change. These cons usually take place in the most touristed areas, the likes of Sukhumvit and Silom Roads, Siam Square and around the Grand Palace. Unlike other countries where the public is aghast that foreign visitors could fall to such prey and where the complaints of tourists are taken very seriously indeed, the Thai authorities just don't seem to act on what are obvious scams, rip offs or crimes.

The average foreigner comes to Thailand and is told or reads about how beautiful and wonderful the Grand Palace is. It's often said to be the must see attraction in Bangkok. He fights the city's choking traffic to get out there only to be told by some rogue loitering in the area that the palace is closed that day. This rogue mouths these words as tourist police stroll by, all grinning like a Cheshire cat. How could a tourist possibly know he is being told porkies and this is the start of a con by someone who wants to take him elsewhere for personal gain? What makes this particular scam so bad is that it has been taking place outside the walls of the most hallowed grounds in the Kingdom for more than 20 years! The police and Tourist Authority know about it. They receive numerous complaints about it yet it carries on which all suggests that either the police and the authorities don't care or they are involved!

What I find interesting is the way scammers, con artists and criminals have spread their net wider in recent times. In the old days it was a certain type of tourist who was targeted. There was always a sort of Marquis of Queensbury rules to ripping off farang. If you dressed conservatively, were polite and if you had a command of Thai, there was almost nothing to be concerned about. You would never be a target. If on the other hand you were behaving like a slob, badly dressed or were getting abusive, you'd be fair game.

Many popular scams in days gone by preyed on the greedy, those who thought they could make big money easily. The gem scam, which continues today, where a fool is parted with his money buying cheap gems at vastly inflated prices under the misguided belief that he could resell them in his own country for a handsome profit. There were the high stakes card games where you thought it was set up and you would share in the winnings. It was set up – but it was you who would be the victim. In days gone by victims succumbed to greed but nowadays greed is not a necessary ingredient.

Scams of this nature have largely gone by the wayside. The modern day scammers are less discerning and more aggressive. Where they once deferred to families and the well-dressed, now anyone is a potential mark. They're no longer relying on farang screw ups. All farang are fair game. It's open season!

With tourism experiencing its worst slump in memory, those who had become dependant on tourists for their income see almost anything and anyone as fair game.

But not all scammers are sophisticated. The number of beggars in the major tourist areas must be breaking records. Walk from Nana to Cowboy some nights and you could see a hundred or more "beggars", often women with a baby – often not their baby – begging for money by pulling on your heart strings. And you know that most of them are organised. Mafia. The money ends up in the hands of some undesirables. This is the one type of scam that the authorities do crack down on from time to time and the reason why is simple. Thais are victims as well as foreigners. When the crimes targets only foreigners, the scam can run forever.

If you fall victim to a scam or a crime you can lay a complaint to the police who will diligently attend to the matter and act on your behalf, right? More and more it seems that the cops are just not interested. Even the tourist police seem less inclined to provide anything more than lip service to the aggrieved or to victims of crime. The best you can hope for is a police report and that is about it.

Are we seeing a new bending of the rules, a more ruthless philosophy of crime in Thailand where the end justifies the means? With nationalist fervour on the rise, it's a brave Thai official who would turn against one of their own for benefiting from Khun Farang.

With all of this in mind, I find myself gravitating more and more towards Western-owned and managed businesses. Deal with foreign businesses and you know that if there is a problem there's a foreigner you can speak with. Down in Pattaya, I always stay at a hotel owned and run by a North American. In Phuket I stay at Summer Breeze Hotel, American owned. My favourite Bangkok bars are Tilac, The Londoner, Molly Malone's, Crossbar, Bradman's Bistro and Soi 8 Bar, all of which are foreign owned. And it should be no surprise that in Pattaya I frequent Secrets, Catz and Misty's, all of which are owned by foreigners. I would like to support Thai-owned businesses but you just know if anything goes wrong you know you're on your own.

Thailand used to have a profound effect on first-time visitors. As the plane was taking off for home, they would already be planning their next trip. They would come back again and again and again. I don't know that that is the case today. More than a few readers of this site, some who have become good friends, have not been shy to let me know that the only way I will ever see them again is in a neighbouring country or if I choose to visit their country.

What is so frustrating is that so many of these scams and crimes could be solved. Why aren't there police patrols in the high crime areas like Pattaya's Beach Road and Bangkok's Sukhumvit Road late at night? Why don't they clean up the con artists? It's not like they don't know about it or that we're talking about sophisticated criminals.

What one could argue is that so many of these issues only happen in areas where tourists are found but the truth is that the areas where tourists are found and hang out also happen to be the places most Western residents of Thailand hang out too. It's not only tourists who are victims, but also local Western residents.

What really concerns me is that guidebooks still have this nonsense that the country is safe and there is little to be concerned about. The truth is that Thailand has changed markedly, and certain areas are becoming dangerous. I am quite simply not willing to recommend Thailand to friends as a place to holiday like I used to in the past. The time has come that people need to be fully informed as to what is going on so they can make an informed choice.

The attitude of some Thais working in and on the fringes of the tourism industry has become overtly hostile. Tourists are often treated poorly while at the same time the service providers expect to be waied and given undeserved respect.

The Thais in the tourism industry have messed up horribly. Dissatisfied and aggrieved holidaymakers highlight any problems they had online and what was once largely contained is now available for anyone to read. If something is not done soon, and some of the long-running scams against tourists stopped, Thailand risks becoming the model for how to screw up your tourism industry.

Some Thais just don't get it. The educated Thais are, for the most part, against all of this crap. They know how it is hurting the country's image and how ultimately it will hold the country back. Those of a more modest education often embrace it. They benefit from it and cannot see or perhaps do not care about the negative effects.

Thailand has changed and people need to be made aware without having to experience it first hand.

Where was this picture taken?


Last week's picture was taken from Cathouse in Nana Plaza, looking down on all of the fun and games. 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! 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…

Terms and conditions: The Oh My Cod and Molly Malone's prizes MUST be claimed within 14 days. 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 – Bye bye Thailand, hello Cuba!

I felt compelled to comment after reading a Bangkok Post article you linked to about falling tourism. It is so typical of Thais and Asians in general to disregard the real cause. Tourism isn't down because of swine flu or rising oil prices. Tourism is down because of their treatment of tourists. Airport closures and scams against tourists is not the way to promote tourism. I had a ticket to Bangkok last December when the political protesters decided to occupy the main airports in Thailand. After a week with the authorities doing nothing and tourists and other travellers being held hostage in the country, I cancelled my flight to Bangkok and changed it to Cuba. I had a wonderful 2 weeks in Cuba at a fraction of the cost and was revered for contributing to their economy. There are very few accounts of tourists having problems in Cuba because the government recognises the value of tourism and there is harsh punishment for anyone harming a tourist. Until Thailand gets its act together I will be spending my sun and sand vacations in Cuba from now on.

Long noses good for prostitution!

Why do your correspondents write as though they believe prostitution was a foreign import into Thailand? Prostitution has been endemic worldwide and certainly all over Asia since the beginning of man, was certainly in Thailand long before any 'long noses' got here, and will continue to exist if or when we all leave. In fact our presence, while admittedly creating a larger customer base, ensures more humane treatment of the ladies who partake, and more handsome rewards than being chained to a bed and fed a bowl of rice per day while 50 guys help themselves.

Where do all the bargirls go?

What happens to all of the bargirls? The answer to this question is simple. They obtain jobs in massage parlours, mostly the straight kind and there they continue to hunt for and meet men. I know a few women who have struck it rich here in Phuket this way and have married well. Let's face it, this is a good way to if not be in on the game then to be on the bench waiting to make your play. The more fortunate ones have saved money and open bars themselves. The less fortunate who still like the idea of possible action become mamasans. Three friends of mine who prefer much older women, so as old as these women may become there is always someone out there for them. Other bargirls end up in the Biergarten on soi 7 in Bangkok or as streetwalkers in Pattaya. What I believe is the court of last resort is the first bar on the left, Coconut Bar, going down the Chalong pier road, towards the ocean. The bar has over a dozen women and I swear many must have grown grandchildren! It's a sight to see. I don't know whether to laugh or cry but they are actively on the game. I also see many housewives hitting the local open air beer bars part-time trying to make a quick buck. A few here set up a stand and do light work on a sewing machine or clean house. They're everywhere if you keep your eyes open.

Adopting the local ways.

Just a comment on Sheba's beer prices. I have noticed over the years that their bars are always the frontrunners to raise prices on drinks. I was walking past the Old Dutch a few years ago and one of their managers was sitting outside. He mentioned that he had not seen me around for a while and I told him that his bars were getting too expensive. He replied with, "Well ya know, when the customer base starts to dwindle we have to raise prices to off-set it." I was quite surprised hearing this from a Westerner because it certainly sounds like "Thai logic" to me. When I had my successful business in the US we occasionally experienced a downturn from time to time but raising prices was the last thing on my mind. I would always reduce prices temporarily just to get through the slow times because I still had fixed overheads and staff to pay every week. The other thing I always did was demand that we had the best possible quality and service. It worked for me.

The girls are hurting.

I maintain contact with a gogo dancer who has worked in G Spot for over 8 years. She is a small, pretty girl from Ubon and over the years she has developed a small number of regular customers as you could expect from that length of time in the one establishment. A couple of them are Japanese and a few others are resident expats. For the first time ever, she has just endured a month without one barfine. Not one! She has experienced a steady decline in customers – not only for herself, but for all the dancers in this gogo. Times are not good.

Normal again? Does that mean I was abnormal for a time?

I think like many of us who came to Thailand young, you just got initially fascinated with the bar scene and then, with time, you just became normal again! It is good to know that one's basic moral values in the end bring you back to some centre point of decency. As for the older guys who come here divorced and become professional mongers, I think that is a different experience altogether. You could of course just turn the column into a general Thailand column which in many ways would be much more interesting. There is nothing wrong with mainstream journalism and that is a career path which may offer you some degree of reinvention here in Thailand.

He got off lucky.

I saw this berserker turned loose on Cowboy the other night. I had walked around the corner by the MRT to talk on the phone. As I walked back, this behemoth has grabbed this Thai dude by the throat, and is yelling some crazy shit. People are gathered around and I am expecting to see this mob mentality unleashed. Thai dudes are all around this monster, but are doing nothing. I get nervous because I realise I am a bit too close, and when the mob turns ugly I am going to get stomped by proximity. I back into the beer bar by all the motorbikes. This Thai gal runs out and smacks this gorgon in the face with a shoe and ducks into the crowd. He drops the Thai dude and begins lumbering after her. This dude is mid-40's but is built like a rugby player, 6'4" and 250 lb easy. I am waiting for the Thai violence to be unleashed. Then I notice it. There are probably 8 Thai dudes circling this dude, and each has the same look on his face. "Somebody has to go first." They could have easily worn this guy out but nobody wanted to be first. The thought of that dude latching on to them was just too great. He saved himself by keeping on the move. I am certain had he stood still he would have gotten the "Thai sucker punch." Eventually he wondered into the Country Road and was not seen again (by me at least). I was impressed that a bunch of motorbike thugs could analyse the situation and realise that they could easily kill that guy, but they were going to lose one of their own in the process.

You'd think the night before two days of bar closures and alcohol sales prohibition would be busy but Monday night was dead in the capital. It seems many girls decided to head home for a few days, possibly taking a long weekend to take advantage of the two days off that followed.

It was a total debacle at Nana on Tuesday, the first of the two holidays. On Monday night coppers made the rounds and put the word out that bars could open and then on Tuesday early evening they told the very same bars who dared to open that they had to close. There was a precession of girls making their way from the plaza back to the skytrain with a very pissed off look on their faces! What really pissed bar bosses off was that restaurants and pubs were openly selling booze, although some pubs decided to play it safe by closing. What a headache!

The Strip in Patpong is hosting a Miss Strip contest on 17th of July, where you can be on the jury, a team of 4 – 5, to score the dancers. Free booths and drinks included for all applications and you can sign up at their website.

At the Music Station in Soi 33 there is an all you can drink deal from Sunday – Wednesday running 890 baht per person starting from 9PM. Ask for your "Open Bar Card" inside the venue.

They are calling them price changes in the venues themselves, "price increases" would be more accurate, but it should be noted that at some of the small venues in Cowboy including Fanny's, Moonshine, Jungle Jim and Toy bar, beer is up to 105 baht. Of the other small bars, After School and Cocktail remain unchanged so far.

Now the bars source drinks from various liquor suppliers, but if you've ever wondered what your favourite bar buys in alcohol at, wonder no more. Heineken runs them 38 baht a bottle, Chang 21 baht, Singha 30 baht, Tiger 30 baht, San Miguel Light 35 baht and the new Tiger Light is 31 baht but with that particular brew, the bars are on a buy 3 cases get 1 free, making it cheap.

Swine flu is being taken seriously by the girls. I saw a couple walk into Nana this week wearing surgical masks. Most people on the streets of Bangkok you see wearing such masks are in fact farang.

The massive new sign outside the Old Dutch has been completed and hangs over the eastern end of Cowboy. On the one side it advertises the The Queen Victoria and the old Dutch and on the other a bunch of the No Name Group's Cowboy bars. The promised images of piglets running around never eventuated.

And swine flu is all over the news in Thailand with some schools closing for fear of spreading the disease – or could it be that some students or teachers have contracted it but they are remaining tight-lipped about it?! I mean, come on, this is Thailand…

The showgirls of Raw Hide are sporting a new piece of fabric, an arm band. Seeing that is usually the only remaining piece of fabric by the end of the show, the reason for it soon became obvious. Taking a hint from their western sisters who work in strip bars, the arm band is simply to stash the cash. Some of the show the girls come off stage and are inches away from your face while just about doing a lap dance. Some of the girls have even taken a hint from the fake monks and install some cash in the arm band for a hint to the more inebriated punters. The Japanese punters are the main target and seeing a girl come off stage after a 10-minute show sporting many red notes, it appears to be working.

A few months back I reported that the Sheba's dancers would retreat upstairs between dance sets because they needed a few drinks to get up the nerve to dance. Apparently that was only part of the truth. The fact of the matter is Sheba's tends to mimic an ice bar and the girls are simply cold and are following the laws of physics in that heat rises. Some of the girls that worked in other bars who are by no means shy do their best to stay downstairs but are tucked away in the corners as far away from the air conditioners as possible. Perhaps they should be looking for a punter to snuggle up to and share their body heat? Adjusting the thermostat may provide more customer interaction.

There was a fight between the boys in brown – not on official duty, mind you, but rather out looking for a bit – and staff of a well known Pattaya gogo late at night recently. A classic in the making…

Down on Samui, Soi Green Mango's Henry Africa's, said by many locals to be the busiest bar there, has closed for a couple of weeks. They have bought the lease on the place next door and are knocking out the wall to make one big venue. About time really as it was getting stupidly crowded in there some nights.

It's not often I make a recommendation for a girl in the bars who might make a good wife, but I cannot help but think that #213 in Tilac, a very pleasant girl, might make a nice wife for someone. Get in quick!

One of the most knowledgeable foreigners on all things Thai, and the guy whose books I look forward to above all others, ace photojournalist Nick Nostitz will launch "Red vs. Yellow, Volume 1: Thailand's Crisis of Identity" at the Foreign Correspondents Club on Wednesday, July 15. Entry is free. Containing both photos and text, this work describes the political turmoil and violent street protests that took place during the first elected administration after the 2006 / 2007 coup led by the PPP (People's Power Party), a place holder party of the TRT (Thai Rak Thai) which had been ousted by the military. Incidents, which at times involved shocking violence, laid bare Thailand's long neglected social, political and regional divisions and left it a deeply unstable nation. Nick Nostitz covers this significant period of Thai history from the frontline. His articles, on which this book is based, caused considerable controversy when first published. At one time Nick required a bodyguard and he was the subject of major hate campaigns online due to his coverage of the events. Academic Chris Baker will also join the evening for questions and answers. The book will be available for sale on that night, priced at 895 baht. This is one title that will be worth picking up. If you can't make it to the FCC, the book will go on sale this week

The dirty doctor did a splendid job with the fake monks, the conmen from China dressed in saffron robes parting tourists with their hard-earned. But how can I convince him to try and clean up the city's many cocks in frocks? As the economy gets worse, it seems that more and more are attempting to part you with your baht either on your bed, or if you are less willing, right in the street. The Thai cops have proven that they are not interested…so we need the doctor!

This fellow goes into a Pattaya gogo bar recently and barfines one of the dancers after a very short interview. The next morning the bar's owner gets a phone call from the guy and, seeing his name come up, immediately wonders what went wrong. It turns out that the guy is phoning (sheepishly) to ask if it would be ok for her to finish work as he wants to move her in – having known her for a full 14 hours! Now this girl, whilst new to that particular bar – about 4 days – is by no means new to the game and, politely put, could be described as professional in her outlook. A number of guys who know the poor guy will despair as she's clearly going to have him for breakfast. He's way out of his league. They knew however that there would be no telling him so not much could be done other than keeping an eye on him. Fast forward a couple of days and he's back in the bar with his new live in. The boss asks him how old she is and the reply comes "Not sure, I think she said 20 but it might have been 26". Now whilst that was a fairly good one, here's the real beaut. Boss says to the guy, "She was only here a few days and I never did find out her name – what is it", to which he replies "Good question, she did tell me but I can't remember!" He's living with someone he'd known for 12 or so hours before moving her in and doesn't even know her name! Mind you, she isn't the brightest bulb either as on the first occasion she went out with the guy with his regular friends and their respective other halves, she announced to the wife of his best friend that she was happy with the monthly allowance the guy was giving her because she had two other sponsors sending her a combined 30K a month! A match made in heaven.

Subway has opened its newest branch at Central World Offices. They're doing a brisk trade with the 59 baht 6 inch promotion. That sounds kind of kinky, doesn't it? 59 baht for 6 inches. Woohoo! It's proving to be very popular with the office girls. They will also soon have free wi-fi, expected in the next two weeks. Given that the nearby Au Bon Paun and Starbucks charge for wi-fi, what's the bet Subway starts to get a lot of Au Bon Pain and Starbucks customers?

I watched a documentary on the Crime channel this week about the problem of prostitution in the Philippines and by oh boy, did it contain some inaccuracies. I don't know much about what goes on over there aside from what I have heard from friends who have been, but I can see how your regular Joe in the West must think the whole industry is evil, and critically, all about Western guys being into children! It made me think about those who visit Thailand. With the attitudes that seem to exist in the West which seems to be largely based on misinformation, I would not be too open about even mentioning that you were a regular visitor to Thailand. Disappointing really that such total bullshit is reported and, presumably accepted as being fact.

After Dark Asia, the popular monthly or is it bi-monthly magazine with quality photography of Thai working girls goes on sale this week. They have increased the size of this, the 11th edition, from 44 pages to 48 pages.

I am loathe to say negative things about those of a country I have never visited, but there is something about Philippine girls I just have to comment on. There's something about their accent, something I cannot put my finger on, that really does my head in! As a people, I find them really nice, warm and sweet, but that accent, oh my God, it drives me up the wall! And just in case you think I'm being harsh, a thick Kiwi accent drives me up the wall too!

In last week's column I answered a question from a reader regarding the 10,000 baht fee that some bars charge saying that it was a rip off, often perpetrated by the mamasan and / or the girl with them keeping the money for themselves. I received an email from a high profile bar owner correcting me. The issue concerning buying the girl out of the bar was a standard practice and some bars did keep the money. Some, such as the Crown Group gave the girl 3,000 – 4,000 baht. The small bars in Nana such as Sexy Night also have the same policy. The girl is told she cannot come back if they know she has left with a customer and not paid the "leaving barfine". Some of the reasoning comes from the customer who barfines a girl for a day or two and then wants her to stay with him for an extended period. It was argued that this keeps the girl honest from not taking the daily fee and keeping it after their initial tryst and keeps the customer from trying to save the daily bar fine by telling the girl sweet nothings to save some cash. Current policies remain unclear and every bar owner I spoke to refused to comment!

There's seems to be a new non-detectable variant of Dengue fever that is causing a lot of problems on Ko Samui and Ko Phangan at the moment, particularly in Chaweng. A reader contracted it and was hospitalized for 4 nights, put on a drip, constantly monitored and had to endure two blood tests a day. It has taken him two and half weeks to get anywhere near feeling better and left him a former shadow of his old self. If you get it you will have all the classic symptoms of Dengue, constant hot and cold sweats, dull to intense pain between the eyes, every joint in your body aching and be unable to keep anything down be it water or food, not that you'll have an appetite. However, a blood test will come back negative for both Dengue and Malaria but your white platelet count is likely to have dropped very, very low (thrombocytopenia) and your blood will be the consistency of treacle. The reader's initial test was 67 million (per millilitre) when it is normally 150 – 400 million for a healthy person. The conclusion was that the strains appear to be mutating and becoming difficult to detect and therefore treat. There were another 4 people in Samui International Hospital with exactly the same symptoms. Unfortunately the problem seems to be getting worse, particularly with it being wet at the moment. A nurse at the Bangkok Samui Hospital said they have seen a big increase in Dengue-like cases over the last 6 weeks, but none are showing positive results in blood tests! Be very careful if you are heading there and use a strong mosquito repellent. You only need one bite from a female mossie and you could contract it!

There were a number of good readers' stories this week. Korski's "Who’s a Whore? Stickmanites Speak!" was excellent as was "The Time Has Come".

Quote of the week is amusing and refers to the local bar scene. "You can't enjoy a magic show as much once you know how the tricks are done."

A nice fellow has created a website listing all the cheap airfares from Europe to Bangkok.

Drummond reports more shoplifting stories, this time involving an Irish scientist at Soyouwannaboomboom. What is worrying about all of this is the lack of transparency in both what has allegedly taken place and then the way it is subsequently handled. And even more on the shoplifting saga!

If you cannot pay your bar bill in Pattaya, run for the sea!

From USA Today, Thailand offers deals and discounts in face of tourism slump.

Bloomberg ran an interesting piece about Thailand this week.

An Australian naval officer is robbed of an important laptop by a ladyboy in Bangkok!

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: When I have asked a Thai what to do if one wanted to assimilate smoothly into the Thai society the general response goes something like this 'Try to learn the Thai language and the Thai culture' which is fair and all. If I were to move to Thailand I would of course learn the language but where can one learn about the culture? I mean there is not a lot of information about Thailand, I mean there is A LOT of information out there alright but it's the same stuff all over about the old kings and how Buddhism came and then it moves on to when kind Rama V (I think it was him) let in the English teacher and so on and so forth. But where can one find the deeper culture, any books to recommend or is it going to a school the best way? My reason for this question is that when people move to my country I expect the same from them, learning Swedish and about Swedish culture so if I were to go to Thailand I would like to show the same respect back.

Mrs. Stick says: I have visited many countries, Australia, New Zealand, England, China, Singapore, Hong Kong and more. I like every country I visited but every country had things I did not like. I did not say anything to people in that country about what I did not like. It is their country and I do not understand everything so I think it's not good to talk about the bad side. Some foreigners come to Thailand and talk too much about the bad side. No country is heaven. I think if you want to be accepted by Thai people, then you must accept our culture. You do not have to accept it the way it is. Please do not tell us the bad side all the time. If you smile and enjoy yourself in Thailand and accept our way of doing things then Thai people will accept you. If you complain too much then I think people will not accept you. I think if you can learn Thai language then it will help you to learn about Thai culture. Just talk with Thai people and you will learn so much from them.

Question 2: I was struck by your honesty in your latest columns when you share your misgivings about having stayed in Thailand for so long and you bring up the D-word, "DEPRESSION". As you may be aware, depression starts to affect a large percentage of men in their early 40s, like myself. It is my opinion that many of those who escape to Thailand are depressed (sexual promiscuity and loss of capacity to function in their own social contexts being classic symptoms of depression). From your experience and observation, do you think Thailand may be an anti-depressant initially, but then it generates its own kind of depression or anxiety? The truth is that when I look at most expatriates in bars and beaches I don't get the vibe they are having a ball, rather they are just letting themselves rot until death in the knowledge that they can have sex any time they want. So please tell me what you think about living in Thailand and depression? This may well be the most decisive factor in my decision to move there or not.

Mr. Stick says: I don't have any background in psychology and while I know what depression is, I know no more about it than the average Joe. I would have to agree with you that for many single males moving to Thailand there is an initial high, almost like a euphoria, be it whether they holiday in Thailand or move to the country. Being able to meet and bed physically beautiful women, many of whom are in the prime of their life, has a very uplifting effect. But over time these guys start to realise that forging a mutually satisfying relationship with these women can be much more difficult – and then the problems begin. I also get the feeling that such a lifestyle is not that fulfilling for the guys involved although they put on a brave face and tell you how wonderful life is. Most seem to face disappointment for sure, and perhaps it does lead on to depression. I don't know as I am not sure of the clinical definition but for sure, the highs become lows soon enough. I believe that those who are happy in the West will be happy in Thailand while those who struggled to find real happiness in the West won't find things much different in Thailand. I believe that happiness in life tends to be an individual thing and I don't think travelling to another country, irrespective of how good that place may be, will necessarily result in long-term happiness.

Question 3: The girlfriend has recently made friends with another Thai girl here in Hong Kong. Her friend was previously married to a Thai guy. The guy did nothing to support the family and she did all the hard work and supported him whilst he just shagged around and drank. Sound familiar? Coming from a society where a man would be banished for such behaviour I have two questions: a) how can a man have any self-esteem and pride by behaving like that and b) why does the girl do that and how can she have any respect for the guy? We hear of this situation a lot in Thailand and I cannot for the life of me work out why it goes on. What does the girl get out of the relationship? Couldn't really give a toss about what happens to the guy.

Mrs. Stick says: We have many nice Thai men and not all are like this. If he drinks a lot often then he is probably low class. I don't know why she stayed with a man like that. For my friends, if a man did that they would leave immediately. Sorry, but I think this is about class of people. Some rich men might have more than one lady but they always support their wife. If a man just drinks and does not work, yuck, it's a man no lady wants!



I welcome all email feedback and enjoy dialogue with readers by email on issues in Thailand and especially issues I have raised in the column. If you disagree with something, drop me an email and let me know. I am usually more than happy to explain why I think the way I do. The one thing I do ask is that you email me when sober. There has been an increasing trend in the number of readers emailing me when drunk. Later the reader may reveal he sent it after downing a few. Seems strange to me that people would actually want to use a computer when drunk. That's about the last thing I would want to do after a few drinks!



Your Bangkok commentator,

Stick