Stickman's Weekly Column July 19th, 2009

The Boys In Brown


The lights turn green, I engage first gear and slowly pull away. It's a three lane road but the way motorbikes ride between cars makes it feel more like three and a half. I've travelled 100 metres or so, am in third gar, doing perhaps 40 km/h when a mad man runs out on to the road from under a tree, flapping his arms wildly. In the inside lane the driver of a car hesitates before swerving to avoid the idiot who is now between lanes 1 and 2. It's a busy stretch of Bangkok road and on either side of the swerving vehicle is a stream of motorbikes. The driver's movement is sudden and unpredictable, even by Bangkok driving standards, and a bunch of motorbikes following are unable to avoid colliding with the car and then each other. Half a dozen motorbikes go crashing down and in the rear view mirror I see what looks like a scene from the Tour de France gone horribly wrong.

Glancing across at the man flapping his arms wildly I recognise the familiar tight brown uniform. It's a policeman trying to pull over some or other vehicle. His crazy, unclear arm waving has caused a traffic accident. It's entirely his fault. The Thai police don't have the best reputation and this anecdote epitomises them to me.

Live in Thailand long enough and odds are you will have a run in with the police eventually.

My best Thai police story comes not from being behind the wheel but while being questioned at the local police station. There I was in an interrogation room being questioned by two senior cops when in walks a young copper who grabs my arm. As I turned towards him he pushes an ice cold Singha beer into my hand and says in what may have been his only two words of English, "You, drink!" It was not a question, but a command! All present were given a can, we all started drinking, and the interrogation continued. This was no social visit but a serious interrogation, yet I was offered a beer!

I've never had anything to do with coppers in the West so I can't really say how it would compare. Is one provided with complimentary refreshments when questioned by coppers in the West? Fortunately that was the one and only time that I have been questioned by the boys in brown.

I have got to know a few Thai cops over the years and currently have the phone numbers of two coppers in my phone. I guess you could say one of these coppers I am reasonably friendly with, the other is more just someone I have met.

The fellow I am close to is a low ranking copper about the same age as me working out of the local police station who I became friendly with him after doing some work for the local cop shop. I first met him when I did some English teaching there, an assignment I volunteered for knowing that there could be value in it down the line. Seeing that the coppers really weren't that keen to learn English but more just chat with and learn about foreigners, I eventually lost interest, as did they, and the project died a fast death. But I remained friends with one particular copper who would call me whenever a foreigner was arrested and I would go down to the station and play translator, not usually about matters related to the alleged crime but bail of all things. (Incidentally, bail runs a minimum 100,000 baht in Thailand and must be paid in cash, Thai baht only. Failure to cough up and you're stuck and on your own like you cannot imagine. I saw a few foreign guys much older than me break down, not a nice sight I can assure you.)

The other cop I know has a high rank. I met him a couple of times who gave me his card and told me to call if I ever needed help. If I did need help, would he really be there? Somehow I doubt it. Many foreigners talk of their so-called high-ranking senior police friends but unless these people have a vested interest – such as you marrying their daughter – I cannot see them helping. Little makes me laugh more than the foreigner who thinks they have high-ranking policemen who will send the cavalry in to save them. Of course in the case of a business owner who pays money regularly to the boys in brown help will be available – because they have a vested interest i.e. if the foreigner is not helped then the flow of cash in their direction might stop!

Getting back to the first copper I know, he lives with his family in what could reasonably be described as a step or two from poverty. I was invited around to his place once and as I was later to realise, to help his Mrs. with a job application in English. They lived in a block of units that resembled tiny ratholes, most of which were home to policemen. The living conditions were grim. The family shared a single studio unit with a set of shelves providing some sort of privacy from the two young kids. The kids ran around in tatty old clothes and the large room had a feeling of disrepair about it, to say nothing of the smell that came from the nearby klong. He was of low rank so thinking he lived well would be optimistic but I was surprised at just how rough he and his colleagues and their families had it.

Now I am not justifying what the cops get up to, but seeing how some Thai people live, you can sort of understand why they might pull a few fast ones to improve their lot. When you examine their situation and living conditions, it becomes a little easier to understand, not necessarily justify. Like most employees in Thailand, their uniform has to be paid for themselves. They have to buy their pistol and bullets and it would seem they even have to pay for such things as the fuel that goes into the motorbikes they ride. Is it any wonder they seek to recompense their expenses?

It's widely known that Thai coppers have various ways of making money over and above their salary, accepting cash, non-receipted payments from those who break the law being the most well known. As a driver you see it all the time, but it's hardly restricted to indiscretions on the roads.

Some naughty bars pay the coppers to look the other way. It's without a doubt the most guarded secret in the industry and even those bar owners I am close to get visibly uncomfortable when I go anywhere near that topic. What I can tell you is that there are often different groups of cops who come sniffing, from the local police station to the tourist police to coppers from other divisions. Individual agreements are negotiated with each bar and I believe the amounts involved are small. The one figure I once confirmed, the only time I am 100% sure that I got the correct amount, was when a Nana Plaza bar owner confirmed that to open on a Buddhist holiday, his (large) bar had to pay a one-off payment of 3,000 baht. You read that right, just three thousand baht. That was a few years back, mind you.

Now there are bars that don't pay, or bars that pay very small amounts, like 500 – 1,000 baht every so often. My feeling is that what is paid by bar owners, while something they are not thrilled about, is not the sort of amounts that really hurt. I could be wrong – but I don't expect any bar owners to put me right!

When it comes to reversing bar closure orders then the numbers involved get interesting. Seldom will a bar closure order be reversed for anything less than 100,000 baht and figures a few times that are not uncommon for the larger bars. A certain large Nana Plaza bar was rumoured to have coughed up 700,000 baht to remain open when an indiscretion saw them set to be closed for a month. Remember what I said in a recent column about some bars being goldmines?

Much is made of how much money the cops make – away from their primary duties – and the effects this has on business. Truth be told, outside of the bar industry, I know of few businesses paying the cops. I've talked openly with many business owners and the only ones paying are those operating in a grey area or those with some connection to the bar industry. A number of perfectly legitimately run hotels pay, for example. The cops are then there to help them or perhaps turn a blind eye to anything questionable. One story I heard not so long ago concerned a woman who accompanied a foreign tourist to his hotel and turned out to be underage. She tried to extort money from the guy. In what I found surprising at the time, the hotel called their local cop who came to the hotel and told the girl off for attempting to extort money from the guy, notwithstanding that she was 17 and therefore illegal.

So what about the copper mentioned at the beginning of the article who ran across the road to stop a motorbike and ended up being the direct cause of a multiple vehicle accident? 5 or 6 days a week, every week without fail, the local chapter of the Thai Mafia, oops, I mean the boys in brown, are on patrol pulling over vehicles, particularly motorbike riders – and hitting them up with on the spot fines. Seeing them in operation every day, they fine those who do something wrong, be it a motorcyclist without a helmet or a driver without car registration. The ticket book is waved and most voluntarily part with the requisite on the spot 100 baht fine, without a receipt. Everyone is happy. The copper has 100 baht in his pocket – although that will probably go back to the station chief, and the rider / driver saved a few hundred baht, many basic traffic infringement fines being levied at 400 baht in Thailand, to say nothing of the demerit points that didn't end up in the computer system.

I have nothing against this. It is a win : win situation. Yeah, it's corruption, I know, but being the pragmatic kind, it's often preferable to being issued a ticket and a fine.

The difficulty I do have is the way that more and more police are extorting money from motorists who in fact didn't do anything wrong. On my most recent trip to Pattaya, cops were stationed at every one of the expressway toll booths on the way back, and I was waved over at two of them where on each occasion I was accused of driving at speeds that were 40 – 50 km/h faster than I had actually been doing. I know that the police have been targeting Westerners behind the wheel more and more this year and so for a couple of kilometres approaching the expressway booths I just sit in the leftmost lane, the slow lane, sitting on the speed limit. These days the cops on the expressway hate it if you can speak Thai and politely, but vehemently, deny doing the speed they accuse you of. It seems that they see foreigners as an easy mark, an easy 100 – 200 baht, or maybe more.

What is sad is that while this may be more widespread now than a few years ago, it is nothing new. This story, titled "Expressway Cops", was published on this site way back in March 2004 and outlined exactly the same issue. In an amusing touch, the writer took a photo of the cop he passed on the side of the road who clearly was not looking at him, nor clocking his speed with a radar gun. The cop who pulled him over at the toll booth seemed duly impressed at the evidence outlining his defence and let him go!

But it gets worse. Some local police are involved in various scams which are perpetrated against foreigners. A prominent local internet user posting under the name of ClubSiam has provided photographic evidence of policeman involved in the scams conducted around the Erawan Shrine including photographs of the individuals involved.

A long-time reader told me how a number of years ago he worked teaching English to the Tourist Police. He became friendly with some of the officers and after a few weeks one of them put a proposition to him inviting him to get involved with them in the gem scams! They wanted him to set up tourists to go to gems shops, his reward being a share of the proceeds. He wisely declined and pretty much avoided them from then on. The police are definitely complicit in some of the scams going on and this partially explains why these scams continue year after year.

That's bad enough but where I have a big issue with the Thai police is their seeming unwillingness to deal with crimes, particularly when the victim is a foreigner. I reported a crime to the police in Ramkhamhaeng a few years back when a friend was a victim and they were hopeless, completely disinterested, even when there was a significant property loss. I have heard countless stories, some from close friends, of reports to coppers in the street about someone in distress or a crime that happened nearby, to which they were completely disinterested. There was the recent story of a foreign visitor who informed a policeman that a ladyboy had attempted to rob him, the cop responding that "The ladyboy has to make money!" Of course if the crime is something really serious and the victim is a foreigner then the opposite happens and they go all out to solve it.

All of this nonsense causes immense loss of confidence in the Thai police force. Are they competent to solve crimes? When they need to get something done, they do. I do however wonder how much of their sleuthing is conducted in a dark room by a bunch of policemen with phonebooks and a sucker to take the fall for a crime he might (not) have committed. Of course they can be very capable, but the image you form based on what you see and hear hardly inspires confidence.

But is this a Thailand thing or is this merely the way things are in this part of the world? A friend in Cambodia suggests that the police over the border don't actively target foreigners. If you have reason to make a complaint, they will accept the complaint and investigate accordingly. A long-term correspondent in Vietnam states that the cops are not interested in Westerners at all. His educated Vietnamese wife moots that the attitude amongst the police towards outsiders is "How can a foreigner be expected to know Vietnam’s laws!?" No doubt he won't be complaining about the reverse discrimination there. As nice as the general population may be, the police in Laos always struck me as a little scary and I've never had anything to do with them, thankfully.

What is of a real concern is that the Thai police really are a law unto themselves. If you fall foul of them they can lock you up and hold you on made up allegations with little or no evidence and with bail often set astronomically high, you can find yourself in a real bind. Don't think I am scaremongering! These sorts of games are far from rare. They are not at all shy in intimating that failure to cooperate (in other words, part with cash), could see you experience a Thai jail first-hand. Do they have to answer to anyone? Think about it too much and it gets damned scary.

The distrust and ill feeling many foreigners feel towards the Thai police is not a foreign thing. The Thais themselves are not fond of the boys in brown any more than your average foreigner is.

There is of course the Tourist Police but then no-one really knows just what their charter is. Is it their role to help foreigners? Or to help tourists only? And why oh why do so few speak English?! The concept of Tourist Police is excellent and when I first read about them before I first visited the country, I thought it was a great idea. I later came to realise that this division of the police force is the one most foreigners complain about and they seem to be more about lip service than anything else.

The crazy thing about all of this is that it is the much maligned foreign police volunteers who are probably the most helpful should you have a problem in Thailand. They get a lot of grief, but at least they don't try to put their hand into your pocket or accuse you of things you didn't do. And damn, they actually speak English too!

My experiences with the Thai police have been that at a personal level, like most people in Thailand, they are friendly towards and curious about foreigners . They want foreigners to enjoy themselves in their country and leave with a good impression. However, my personal experiences and what I have seen with my own eyes, as well as the experiences of friends, professional is not a word I would use to describe them.

Where was this photo taken?


Last week's photo was taken of the door of legendary bar, Madrid in the main Patpong soi. I was impressed that so many Stickies got it right because I thought it was challenging. OK, this week's photo is REALLY difficult and there is a very real chance that no-one will get it right… 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 – It's education that is needed.

The government is closing schools to supposedly prevent the spread of swine flu. It's a pity they don't spend more time and money educating the poor students. I saw a couple of teenagers at the bus stop today, one boy about twice the height of his female companion. The boy was coughing and sneezing into a tissue. Then he handed it to the girl to look after and she proceeded to wipe her nose with it! I then noticed that he had handed his school bag to the girl to look after also. She was carrying two bags and he was carrying none. Words fail me sometimes.

The Thai tourism industry.

I couldn't agree more with your assessment of the Thai tourism industry. Putting together an itinerary for friends and family excited to see the Kingdom has become a depressing task. I still recommend Laos and the Mae Hong Song circuit to guests, but for how much longer? The beaches? No way. As a local, I'm not as affected but have begun to wonder why I'm still in Thailand. You might hear me say enough is enough one of these days. If I leave, I'll return to America and its high cost of living. These other South-East Asian countries are no better than Thailand. The idea of finding the Thailand of 20 years ago in Malaysia or the Philippines is folly.

No longer recommending Thailand.

I used to recommend Thailand for a holiday. I lived there for 10 years, but now advise people to find an alternative such as Bali if they want to travel a long way or one of the recently joined EU nations in the Med if they want to save the travel time, enjoy the warmth and it is still significantly cheaper with many eager, willing females. Thailand has not been the Land Of Smiles for a long time unless you include the smile that happens whilst you are getting stabbed in the back. Thailand got a second bite of the cherry at the time of the Asian currency crisis and blew it. They had got greedy and prices were getting high then along came the crisis which made things cheap again, but no, the Thais and Westerners involved in tourism wanted the same amount of dollars, pounds or whatever and that has continued on until now with the added factor of the knowledge that government agencies have been given the unscrupulous carte blanche to screw the foreigner any way they want!

The good days are history.

I left Thailand earlier this year because I knew the company I was working for would fold because of the economic mess – and it did. I was quite apprehensive about moving because I thought I would miss Thailand and its delights. Six months later I don't think I have really thought about the place and certainly don't miss it. In fact I spoke to a friend over the weekend who spent about the same amount of time as me in Thailand, around 8 years, and who is now living in the UK with his Thai wife. We discussed the good times that were had in Thailand but we both agree that it held little interest for us now. There is just too much hassle and bullshit. I stopped advising friends to visit Thailand over a year ago. There are much more interesting places to go nowadays and if you want the girls then pop over to the Philippines or Indonesia which are much more fun. I'm glad I experienced Thailand in times when it was fun. I fear those days are over.

Fed up with the Kingdom.

I walked out of the Grand Palace and there was a footpath toward the river parallel with the outer wall devoid of people and the other side of the road cluttered with street stalls and people. I soon realised that the clear empty path parallel to the wall was the suckers' walk. The boat tour sellers and the postcard sellers hassle anyone who walks that way. Interestingly, my Thai wife told me there were signs inside the walls in Thai only warning people not to take the river tours! If I ever go back there, or as advice to readers, go out the gate and across the road into the congested area. Don't walk parallel to the wall where you'll get hassled no end. I haven't had any problems in Thailand perhaps because my wife is Thai. Thai tourism is gonna hurt if there isn't a shake up. It's really sad because it is a beautiful country with a lot of wonderful people. Many scams target the Thais themselves so don't feel like you are singled out too much. We are just more obvious and more open to being tricked. A lot has been written about why people won't go to Thailand any more. I have a number of friends who often visit Thailand or are married to Thais. The airport problem, the coup or the red shirt rallies don't put us off. We know that if we mind our own business and keep out of the problem areas, we won't have a problem. The big hassle is when we want to spend a few months with our Thai family. Immigration issues are such a hassle. I think it was enough that the government limited the 30 day stamp to 90 days out of six months, but now the 15 days from neighboring countries is a hassle and unnecessary. I have a Thai wife and child from our union and I resent the fact that I have the same visiting rights as the guy who visits for the old sixty girls in sixty nights scenario. Why can't we be permitted to visit for 3 or 4 months without all the hassles?

Counting down to leave.

I agree with the feeling of vulnerability. I am careful when I need to complain. In general, once this place brought out some of the best in my character. Long passed. I find that now it produces my worst on almost a daily basis. I don't like the way it makes me react / feel. 3 years in Japan my temper was tested twice. Thailand tests it daily. I now find it a difficult place to live. 4 months and counting down.

The China option.

I really can't get over the airport scam thing. It's an unbelievable new form of low. I truly wouldn't even expect this in an African nation, Afghanistan or Iraq, let alone a major international airport in Asia! On the other issue about crime and general disregard for foreigners, it's such a breath of fresh air being in China. I suspect perhaps similar to being a foreigner in Thailand 20 years ago. There seems to be a reasonable fear "not to upset the foreigner" so to speak and taxis are a good example. Every time you get in a taxi there is an automatic announcement in English calling out a number to ring if you have any problems! I'm told if a complaint is made it's taken very seriously indeed. There seems to be a healthy fear there. Now one might complain and say that's a bit too much but give me that any day than some toe rag smashing a bottle over the back of my head for no reason or being stung at the international airport due to a set up. China is a nice solid alternative – they have standards, dignity, a back bone. I really don't understand how you can take it there living in such an awful environment. I know there are many great aspects of Thailand – don't get me wrong, but the overall thrust of it seems to be hugely anti-foreigner. I'm at the stage now where even if I was offered a very decent expatriate package to Thailand I would really wonder if it was worth it or even if I was better off in the West. Even with all the fat ugly cows, dreadful weather and long-faced sods walking around, it just might be a better existence than a highly paid package in Thailand. It sounds like things have developed into a dreadful state over there.

The Biergarten in soi 7 was closed on Thursday and the rumour mill has it that the owner is no longer of this world.

The punter's default toilet in the Nana area for late night business, always clean and well maintained, can be found in the Nana Hotel. But good things don't last forever and there was no toilet paper for two nights running this past week. If it is your place of choice, you might need to leave enough time to run back across the street to the Family Mart for a little gradaat.

While the toilets might see a lot of traffic, the disco in the Nana Hotel hasn't. That's pretty damning, isn't it? The Nana Disco can't even compete with the toilets. Sad, but true. Nana Disco or Angels Disco as is its proper name, has been on the way down for years, dying a very slow death and its demise is analogous to a lame mule being put out of its misery. I hate to sound cruel but I have to say that I am NOT sad to see it closing. I upset the owner big time a few years back when I wrote that the introduction of an entry fee would be the beginning of the end. He responded by threatening to kill me, the charmer. Well, what I said way back then has turned out to be right. With the competition in the freelancer / late night sector of the market too hot to handle, Nana Disco will close its doors at the end of this month and become yet another Bangkok venue consigned to memory. A party will be hosted for the retirement of the owner on Friday, July 31st. Entrance and drinks are FREE for everybody while stocks last.

Wonders never cease. Rainbow 3 in Nana Plaza has introduced up a happy hour. Standard drinks are only 100 baht until midnight and in what is a generous move, lady drinks are reduced to 110 baht.

Rumours abound that a large gogo bar on the ground floor of Nana had trouble meeting its pay roll this past month. This large bar has been around for many years so this comes as something of a surprise.

Bangkok's best gogo bar, Tilac, has added laser spot emitters all around the bar and the effects are very nice. I would guess there are about 10 units.

The debate rages over whether Cyrus the Virus AKA The Arab really was arrested and later bailed on 4 million baht, but the rumour has been fuelled with the FACT that he is suing the current owners of Spanky's, who bought it from him, for 2 million baht. The first court appearance is this Tuesday and it concerns the release of 500,000 baht from the bar sale with The Arab alleging that the failure of those funds to be released resulted in him missing a deal and subsequently missing out on 2 million baht profit, for which he is suing in damages. Sounds like nasty business to me.

The good guys at Maggie Mays in Jomtien are doing a fantastic deal on Guinness. The current promo is on Fridays, when all day, all night, you can get a pint of Ireland's finest export at the ridiculously reasonable price of 100 baht. It will run until the end of September.

Are times tough for the pub in The Landmark? They're advertising in soi 4, opposite Bus Stop.

Why is the barfine for service staff 1,000 baht in Rainbow 1, 1,000 baht in Rainbow 3 but only 600 baht in Rainbow 4? No prizes for guessing, but I sure don't know why!

A pal was sitting in Big Dogs bar on Friday night, chatting to the little Vietnamese girl who sells chewing gum for 20 baht a packet. She's probably five years old, six at the most. One of the girls in Big Dogs pulled up the back of the little girl's shirt to show a line of welts, deep scars from a recent beating, probably with a cane or a stick. The little girl was really shy and said it mustn't be talked about it because she would get into trouble. The Big Dogs girl was asked if it was the mother who gave the beating but the Big Dogs girl said no, it was the Thai mafia that runs the girls and they are the ones who beat them if they don't work hard enough. It's easy enough to fall for the illusion that Thailand is the Land Of Smiles but you don't have to look too hard to see the real face of Thailand. And the horrible thing is there is nothing that can be done. The police, yes, them again, know what's going on and do nothing to stop it. The locals know but are too scared to go up against the Thai mafia. And we all know what would happen to any farang who tried to interfere…

There have been some small price increases on the food at Sam's 2000 in Cowboy, but it remains a good deal. Where a beer and a Thai meal used to run 180 odd baht, you'll now be looking at about 200. That said, I don't reckon the burger there is so great these days. If you want a decent burger on a budget, The Big Mango or Bus Stop are preferable.

Is there anything worse than the sight of a fat farang heffa up on stage in a Thailand gogo bar? A clever videographer captured the dreadful sight this week. No, I'm not saying that all farang birds are weighty specimens, but it does seem that those who end up on stage in a Thai gogo bar are.

With the key money factored in, the rent for bars in Simon's, that's the new complex on Walking Street, if paid in full, in advance for five years is 5,000,000 baht. Divided by 60 months, that is 85,000 baht per month over the 5 year contract. That's a fair chunk of change…but then if you break it down to a daily amount, it's less than 3,000 baht a day. Mmm, I maintain that there is good money to be made in the bar business!

There is a bit of a buzz amongst entertainment venue staff that they will be asked to close for a week or more so that the spread of swine flu will be stopped. Seeing that any such closed would amount to another wound to Thailand’s tourism industry, it really is catch 22.

Two massage girls in the ever popular and fantastically named Teen Massage in Soi 33 tell of an Englishman in his 80s who visits for the two-girl special once a week. 800 baht for an hour with two girls in the VIP massage room. The guy is so unsteady on his feet that he can't manage the stairs up to the bath so he showers before he gets there and showers again when he gets home. He manages to crawl on to the bed and sadly can't manage full sex but likes the girls to give him a massage with a happy ending. He tips the girls a thousand baht each, but as it takes forever for the guy to finish they're thinking about asking for more!

Quite possibly Bangkok's most popular second hand book shop, Dasa Books, will be moving to a new location, with three floors of books, in August. The new location will be close to Sukhumvit soi 28, between the Peterson Piano Gallery and Sabai Thai Massage. The store phone number and email address will remain the same. They have to vacate their current building by the first of September so the store move will happen some time in late August and they plan to be closed for only a day or two. Meanwhile, they are temporarily slashing the prices of books on their "blowout" table outside the store. Normally, these books range from 29 – 99 baht, but until August 15 all books on that table – as well as in the boxes in the shop and in the corner of the upstairs floor near the window – will be only 19 baht each. If you're a bargain hunter, Dasa is where it's at.

The dirty doctor is not willing to tackle the cocks in frocks as I suggested but he makes the suggestion of keeping something unpleasant in your pocket like the wooden skewers pieces of BBQ meat are hooked on with the sharp end putting upwards. After getting poked a few times they may have second thoughts. If you are in more of an enlightening mood you can purchase a lipstick size taser and keep it in your pocket as well with the business end up. They are said to be easy to operate by pressing the 'let's dance' button through your pants. The doctor is always full of good ideas.

Foreign teachers in Bangkok were initially over the moon when news broke this week that schools would be closed for 5 days, resulting in an unexpected holiday for some. The old heads in staffrooms city-wide shook their heads however, knowing that these days would have to be made up, and that the October holiday would be cut into meaning those who had booked trips away would be forced to change their plans.

I often hear folks talking of the beautiful scenery in Thailand and it being one of the main attractions to the country. Having travelled all over the country, and being in possession of two perfectly good eyes, I have yet to find the aforementioned beautiful scenery. Would those of you who have found these beautiful places please let me know just where said areas are! It makes you wonder where these guys live where it obviously is so ugly that Thailand looks beautiful to them.

One of the things I miss from Pattaya is the English breakfasts you get down there at reasonable prices. You can of course get a good English breakfast in Bangkok but the prices can be on the steep side. One place I quite enjoy for a warm breakfast is Sunrise Tacos. Never thought I would find myself eating Mexican for breakfast but it really is very good. If you want a change, give it a go. And if you're in the soi 12 branch, keep a look out for a Kiwi wolfing his breakfast down before dashing off to work.

There was a band outside Baccarra, pictured right, on Thursday night. Not sure if this is the start of something new or whether it was a one-off event.

Foreigners running websites in Thailand have got away with murder for a long time. One day things will come to a head. Sooner or later the courts are going to make an example of someone in order to make the point that websites and blogs are not immune to the law. Pity the guy who ends up in the crosshairs whose mug will be all over the front page of the Bangkok Post and The Nation and possibly the Thai rags too. I always thought it would be Naughty Nigel but now I wonder if it will be Creampiethais.com – but then perhaps that site isn't mainstream enough.

On the subject of Creampiethais, is that naughty Nigel up to his old tricks again or is this some new cowboy? This guy really is on the edge, bonking all and sundry sheathless while capturing the action with a camcorder in one hand a still digital camera in the other. He is so far out there that he's even squirting in the channel of love. Doesn't look like Nigel but some new porn star. This guy is so far over the edge. Actually, it can't be Nigel – his schlong was much more mighty than this bloke's!

Since it started to target Western men as opposed to Western women, the Guru supplement that comes free with the Bangkok Post on Fridays has got a lot more interesting. There is a great feature called "What kind of farang are you?" in this week's edition. It's a chart where you answer yes or no questions and it will determine if you are an English teacher, sex tourist, backpacker, traditional tourist, desperate housewife, sexpat, expat etc. Very clever. And what did it say I was? I'm not answering that!

Stickman reader's story of the week comes from Mega and is titled "Whores With Attitude".

Quote of the week relates to determining whether your barfine to be has any kids. "The abdomen can look good but the breasts never lie!"

#77 in Sheba's looks quite the hottie! Wow, what a babe!

If you've never visited Soi Cowboy, this video gives a nice feel for it.

Not Thai-related, I know but this documentary on Khun Sa, opium warlord of Burma, is interesting.

The UK's Daily Mail covered the nasty and needless tragedy of a 14 year old Brit drowning in Thailand.

The Japanese are known for their generosity but 400,000 baht for short time is high even by their standards!

A Frenchman is beaten and robbed on Beach Road in Pattaya and the very next day the plod catch the culprits!

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: Your talk a lot about Thais being proud to be Thai, so could you tell if Thais are so 'proud' of your country and society why do you simply ignore and do nothing about the aspects of Thai society and culture that portray Thais and the country in a negative light? Are Thais really proud of the lying, corruption, prostitution and lack of opportunity for the poor that penetrates much of Thai society and of being a Thai? Or is it a case of there are none so blind as those who don't want to see?

Mrs. Stick says: Why do so many farang talk about the bad side of our country? We are not proud of some things so why do you say like these are the only things in our country? I think your country has many bad things too. Are you proud of them? We don't ignore these things but you know there is nothing we can do about them so we must manage our lives around them. Why must we always think of negative things and look at bad things in our society? This is not our life philosophy. Every country has a bad side but you do not always have to think about it, right? I don't know your country but I know every farang country has big problems too.

Question 2: Last February, I met a young lady at the Nana Disco. We enjoyed each other for the eight days I was there, and it was the first time I had ever been monogamous while in Thailand. She took me to places in Bangkok I had never been like on a river boat cruise, Khao San Road, paddle boating at Lumpini Park and an after hours club called Spicy. Her sister provided transportation to some of the venues and accompanied us on a couple of occasions, and her brother provided taxi transportation for us otherwise from the Nana area. This was the only time I'd ever experienced something like that. I told her I was married and probably would not return until next year. I lied about my age, because I'm old. Still, this did not discourage her at all. She told me that she was looking for someone who would take care of her and son. I'm not looking for a replacement for my wife or a long distance love affair. I'm just lucky enough to go to Thailand once per year. I get suspicious when I recall that I met her in the Nana Disco but she said that she and her sister went there to celebrate her birthday. What do you think about this?

Mr. Stick says: I can answer this better than the Mrs. You met this lady in a well-known hang out for hookers. I do not mean that in a derogatory way at all, but am simply calling it as it is. It may simply be that she was there because she wants to meet a Western guy for a long-term relationship and didn't know where else to go to meet such a guy. It could also be that she is a hardened bargirl and you warmed her to you and she treated you extremely well. At the end of the day you are married and have a wife in the West. You need to decide what you want to do…

Question 3: I have read on your site that it is a good idea to get a well-respected Thai to negotiate sin sot with the family on behalf of the groom-to-be. I do not really know anyone who I could use to do this. I'm a real estate attorney in the US, and I know that over here, attorneys are often used to help negotiate deals. Would it be appropriate for me to retain a Thai attorney to negotiate on my behalf or would that offend the family? If an attorney is not the way to go, do you have any other suggestions? I just want to be sure that I am not taken advantage of and that if the agreement entails a large sin sot payment with the money to be returned after the wedding, the money is actually returned.

Mrs. Stick says: Oh it's not a good idea to take a lawyer to talk about marriage! I think your fiancée's family would get a big shock! In the traditional way, before marriage senior members of both families meet and talk about plans for the marriage ceremony and what happens afterwards and plans for life. Please do not think only of sin sot. The discussion is about plans for life and sin sot is just one part of this. But I think for you maybe the sin sot is a problem because you concentrate on that only. Maybe you can take your Thai boss along? But it should be an older person, not someone so young. It is not negotiating a business deal but planning a life together. If you think of it like that I think it is easier. You do not talk only about one number but your plans for the future like buying a house and supporting your wife and your plans for children.

When I made the decision to get a little edgier in this column, it meant that I had to become more honest. It's not that I was dishonest in the column, but I admit I skirted past certain issues. Anyone who has resided in Thailand knows that there are certain issues you cannot broach. Well, the edgier Stickman is proving to be a hit with the readership. Record numbers of visitors are tuning in every week and feedback seems to be more and more positive. Sunday last week was, I think, the biggest day ever for the number of emails received. The challenge now is to try and keep the standard up… As always, your feedback is very welcome.



Your Bangkok commentator,

Stick