Stickman's Weekly Column August 2nd, 2009

Can A Culture Be Flawed?


A student listens as the teacher explains the functions of the various components of a computer. It's clear to this geek that the teacher doesn't know what he's talking about and is either mistaken or just plain making it up. But the student cannot say anything. Despite the fact that he is an expert on the subject and could help explain just what each component does and why it does it, he is but a student and a teacher is above reproach. If he were to even suggest to that maybe, just maybe, the component might do something just a teeny weeny bit different to what the teacher had said, he would be considered insolent and disrespectful. As a result some students will never really understand what the different components of a computer are and will struggle to get beyond the absolute basics.

A judge summarizes the key points in a case. It's not a particularly complex case but it is clear that he has accepted some of the testimonies as genuine when clearly they were imagined and some of the evidence as bona fide when clearly it was planted after the fact. To even suggest this to the judge, the lawyer for the defendant would be considered disrespectful of the judge's position of authority, and as such had better start packing his bags and plan to move his practice to another province. As a result an innocent man might be looking at some time in the monkey house.

Some mighty strange things happen in this land and many are avoidable and unnecessary. They happen because the culture not only allows them to, it discourages challenging the status quo.

I don't know how the dictionary defines the word "culture", but my definition would go something along the lines of "Common and accepted behaviour that demonstrates a society's values and promotes and encourages the betterment of all within that society".

This raises an icky question. If every country has its own unique culture, can we analyse and compare those different cultures? And getting close to the bone, is it possible that some cultures are more advanced than others and is it also possible that a culture could be considered flawed or non-functioning?

One of the most important facets of culture in these parts is face. Face is reputation, how people see others. We have it in the West but don't generally consider it to be nearly as big a deal as it is in Asia.

But Asia is a continent, not a country, and every country has a different culture and a different way of handling face.

Face manifests itself in many ways in Thailand. It is understood that you should avoid causing someone to lose face. Damage to someone's face, or reputation can result in retribution, perhaps legal redress sought through the courts or perhaps another form of justice. Face loss is to be avoided at all costs in Thailand.

But some hide behind face, manipulating the concept to their advantage. It's a loophole that can be exploited because they know it's not negotiable – you just cannot cause someone to lose face. That is never acceptable. You can't criticise someone in authority and it may be that neither can you challenge them nor appeal to them. By merely asking a question of them, you're showing disrespect. It might be those empowered such as the police or a teacher or a professor. It could be someone as innocuous as the office manager in your condo. They have some degree of power and if you are even seen to be disagreeing with them and not simply bowing to their wisdom, you may be perceived as being in the wrong. And with vindictiveness a common local trait, this power could be used against you. Not just criticising but merely disagreeing can be seen not just as wrong, but an attack against that person, even the institution they represent.

Foreigners are given latitude in Thailand, but when we enter the mix, face remains part of the equation.

But many locals wonder just what a foreigner could possibly know about Thailand. Many refuse to acknowledge that there may be value in the thoughts of an outsider. That an outsider could offer a fresh perspective which could in turn bring benefits and improvements is often dismissed.

Failure to acknowledge an issue is one thing but denying the obvious or what is already widely known is, at least in the average Westerner's eyes, cause of even greater face loss. A classic example that springs to mind was several years ago when a high profile female Member of Parliament visited Pattaya and declared that there was no prostitution in town. None! One can only assume that her comments were for publication within the country's borders, for the benefit of those who had never visited Fun City. The rest of the world knew otherwise. Did she stop to contemplate the effects her comments would have? Did she realise that as a member of Parliament her comments were greeted with mockery abroad and that she caused the entire Thai government to lose face because of what she said? Nationalism and perceived face loss frequently result in temporary blindness.

Is this a Thai thing? I would suggest not. The largest country in the region, China, is known for its emotional nationalism but when necessary they do make changes or change policies, even if there's a virtual gag order imposed.

No country is perfect. All countries have problems. With international trade and migration what it is these days, trust between nations is vital. Denying a problem is one thing but denying an issue that everyone knows about is madness. If something needs to be corrected, adjustments should be made. Denying the problem means it will only continue – and the trust will be damaged or perhaps lost completely.

Policies change, he is transferred to an inactive post, she elects to take early retirement. The problem is solved and while one person or a small number might suffer, the improvements that follow are enjoyed by everyone, all of which is a result of a critical aspect of a functioning culture. Allowing an obviously flawed system or misguided policy to continue indefinitely is more than a serious error, it is a cultural flaw.

Somehow this place seems different from elsewhere, even those places where face is so important. When someone in power, with authority or simply above you in the pecking order says something profound like the Baiyoke Tower is made of rice, you don't question them. Rather, you praise them for their wisdom and then swear that it must be Thai rice, the world's best! If you disagree or question even the most moronic or inane comment or policy, you're showing disrespect – and there'll be consequences.

Is the mai pen rai attitude somehow part of it, letting the small things go? I think not. It runs much deeper.

Or is it part of social control, a complex system largely invisible to the average outsider in which every member of the society is essentially pigeon-holed, making up a single part of a social hierarchy where what you say and what you think are not even your own words or thoughts at all, but that which is considered acceptable or palatable?

Or this is political correctness stymieing our freedom to call things as they are – and to fix them where necessary. I'm not sure that political correctness is such an issue in Thailand. Yet.

If there is something fundamentally wrong that continues without acknowledgement and without any adjustment because someone would lose face if the issue was raised, is that acceptable? Do those in positions of power and authority realise that society as a whole suffers and potential benefits that could be reaped are lost because their reputation is being undeservedly preserved? Do they realise? Do they even care?

Where was this photo taken?


I was flabbergasted at the lack of responses to the EASY photo in last week's column. It was the Biergarten in Sukhumvit soi 7. Not one entry was received. Not a single person guessed where it was which is unheard of. That has NEVER happened before. There can be as many as 50 correct answers within 12 hours but last week, nothing! I'll be the first to admit that some venues' appearance may change but the Biergarten has looked the same for years and this was a recent photo taken only a month ago. Weird. OK, today's photo should be much easier! 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 – The complex nature of the appeal of Bangkok's nightlife.

The nightlife scene is presumed to be just about guys paying to get laid. It's way more complex than that and involves everything from dating without sex, curiosity about ladyboys, experimentation, romance, and simple entertainment. Suffice it to say that if you think every man in the bar is after only one thing, it isn't true. I've learned enough about male / female behaviour in the last ten years here to put it all in a book. I go out to the bars 7 nights a week, not because I am looking for someone, or because I'm an alcoholic, but because it's much more interesting than TV. Life here is lived on fast forward and if you extract yourself from your personal agenda of enjoyment and learn to look at everything that is going on in the bars, you get an idea about the way men approach the whole subject of women and sex. Men from the West are incredibly conditioned by feminized society and that limits some of their activity in the bars. Others were so lonely when they arrived here they jumped at the chance to be with a girl of their dreams and won't do anything to mess it up. I regularly see the CEO of a farang corporation in a popular Nana Plaza gogo. I know he is hooked up but he just wants the attention and to be near temptation. He never leaves with anyone. It is this that feeds most men in the nightlife – the simple act of being paid attention by a smiling, accepting, pretty woman. Loads of men aren't players but like the CEO but they want to be near the heat of the possibility of passion. Men play at every level in the bar game. Just because the barfine gets paid doesn't mean there will be sex. There may just be disco dancing, a late night meal, a shopping expedition for the guy's wife back home. I've heard every kind of story in the bars from both the men and the women.

Massage with a happy ending.

I got a 2-hour massage during a Pattaya rainstorm one recent evening and as I got dressed my masseuse expressed her concern about me walking back to my hotel off Pratumnak as the night sky was gearing up for another gully washer. So off she goes and gets her motorbike, has me climb aboard (I'm not small) and wobbles us to the hotel all for the price of a smile and a thank you.

The calculator, a deadly weapon.

I own and have access to calculators and yes, I know how to use them. So when the custom of sin sot is mentioned I always grab for my calculator. In this week's "Ask Mrs. Stick" the young lad was discussing a 300,000 baht sin sot payment. Doing the math and being perhaps either optimistic or generous, I estimate I can actually "interview" up to 150 potential brides taking them on an extended overnight "Honeymoon test drive" for about 2,000 baht each during which time I can ask them about their position on "waiving" the sin sot burden. Let's face it, if you give your fiancée the sin sot will the return be equal to the fun of those 150 "interviews"? Think of the advantage those 150 "interviews" give the young lad in educational value alone. A calculator is a pretty dangerous weapon when it comes to the sin sot battle.

We say the women aren't getting prettier and they say…

I was chatting to a round-faced, round-bodied server in the Golden last night whose English was really good. She said, and I quote, "The foreigners who are coming to Thailand now are much uglier and poorly educated." How about that! Thai bar staff who are prostitutes looking down on their clientele. I could have told her a thing or two about Thai women over the same period but why bother.

Another dirty trick.

There has been much written about the scams that go on in Thailand, especially recently, but there is one scam that people might not be aware of. My wife took a ring to a gold shop at Central, Bang Na for enlarging because it had simply become too tight. We collected it a few days later and it fitted fine. Job well done we thought – until a few weeks later we were in a bar with UV lighting and noticed that some of the diamonds in the ring were a different colour than others. We had it checked, and a number of the real diamonds had been removed and replaced with glass. Without the UV light we would have never been any the wiser. Of course, we didn't even bother going back to the shop to complain. What would have been the point?

Where's my free beer?

I enjoyed your most recent column about foreign gogo bar managers. Meeting and greeting customers would be a major part of the job but I wonder what I'm doing wrong because after six years in Thailand I've received exactly one free beer in a gogo and that was only because I was with a guy the manager knew. No big deal but in my travels to the Philippines I regularly receive complimentary beers and a friendly welcome from gogo managers; however, in Thailand, I'm invisible…

A morsel on sensibility from a Thai mission.

In spite of all the doom and gloom of late I went to the Royal Thai Consulate here in Oregon to apply for a 60 day tourist visa that would be extendable to 90 days. To my great surprise I was asked if I wanted 1, 2 or 3 of these visas. Apparently the government is making an effort to encourage tourism. I took all 3.

The idea is to stay under the radar, not announce your arrival..

I was cruising around Nana's bars just for a look around and ended up 'in the chairs', the pavement bar that springs to life after the Golden Bar closes at 2 AM. Some young guys began to kick up a fuss at the parking lot end, screaming like moronic football supporters from time to time. Undercover cops swooped in and arrested about four of 'em, putting the cuffs on one and bundled them all into a taxi. One of the servers said they had been sold yaba by a girl at the plaza. A set up? Who knows, but that is one holiday that is gonna cost. Some fools mistake the easy-going attitude about the nightlife to a licence to do anything you want here. Would be revelers ought to remember there are rules and the tougher times, the more lucrative enforcing those rules becomes.

Thai logic prevails amongst farang bar owners yet again as the Crown Group, the largest operator of bars in Nana Plaza (in terms of number of bars but I suspect NOT in terms of turnover) has raised prices of drinks to 145 baht. This price increase applies to standard drinks and was introduced Friday before last, July 24. With the Crown Group offering little in the form of showing nor any sort of in-bar entertainment other than the Bangkok shuffle, this price increase has locals scratching their head. The Crown Group bars remain quiet and frankly, this will only make them less inviting. It's also playing into the hands of Soi Cowboy bars where bar owners will be rubbing their hands in glee. Soi Cowboy has so much more so what were they thinking? The Crown Group offers nasty, or is it "Nazi" katoey mamasans, full bikinis, no shows to write home about and basically doesn't give punters any reason to venture inside. One can't help but wonder whether it will have the effect of pushing customers in Nana into bars that are not owned by the Crown, or should that be Clown, Group. Nail, coffin, Nana – put those words into a sentence!

Dave the Rave says things in Nana Plaza are quiet at the moment. Trust me, this gives a whole new meaning to the word quiet! But it's not just Nana. It's quiet everywhere.

It's great to see a bar that is actually doing some new things to entice customers in and the young American owners of Spanky's in Nana sure are trying hard. Starting August 1 there will be a short time barfine of 300 baht running from 7 – 11 PM. That entitles you to take a lass away from the bar for an hour and a half. Given the girls' propensity to race back to the venue in search of another bite of the cherry, this seems like a fair deal. It will run for August in what is a trial period. My feeling is the girls will like it as it gives them a reason to return to the bar – and a chance to make more money. Many guys feel paying 600 baht on top of the lady's fee for what may be as short as a 30-second roll in the hay is just too much. That a bar is doing its best to be perceived as offering reasonable pricing is commendable. The owners have given the girls a CD with songs and are going to have them pair up. Whoever comes up with the best routine will get a prize. It'll take place every Saturday night and be judged by 3 customers in the bar. Striving every way possible to get customers in the door, they have been doing shows for just over 2 weeks now. New shows started last night and they are determined to come up with new creative shows. It's great to see bar owners making an effort.

Going for a run through Sukhumvit soi 33, I found it to be *extremely* quiet and business is very slow indeed. You see bored-looking girls sitting in front of bars until late night which means that there are few or even no customers in the bar. Despite there being some nice venues in the soi and despite it having a unique feel and flavour, I can't help but feel that the failure of all the owners to get together and market the soi as a single destination could prove fatal. Soi 33 has nearly lost its lure and for many visitors, both tourists and expats, it's not even on the map any more.

Highlighting some of the venues checked out, Blue BBQ is history and has closed down. In The Office, surely the busiest venue in soi 33 for years, well, even there business seemed slow. In Renoir it's the same old customers still going, with an emphasis on old, but basically there seems to be little in the way of new business or new customers to the soi in Renoir or any of the venues. Mozy, the venue that was opposite Livingstone's, closed very recently. In Livingstone's the restaurant business is lousy, the hotel occupancy rate is low but the bar is still ok due to the fact that they have lots of new girls, some of whom are rather fetching. It's not rocket science but obviously pretty girls attract customers. The Tuktuk restaurant, next to Monet, is a late night spot open until 4 AM and features Isaan / Thai / Vietnamese food and in a real effort to get punters in the door are selling beer during happy hour with Chang for 40 baht and Heineken at 50 baht. But even there it's slooooow.

A crackdown was announced this past week with the men in tight brown uniforms telling scantily clad lovelies in some nightlife areas that they are not allowed to entice, beckon or scream out to potential customers for such behaviour is considered unseemly and might contribute to giving Bangkok the reputation of, wait for it, a city where debauchery is easily found! But don't worry yourself that this might be the end of that famous cat call, "Hello, hansum man, welcum prees!" Crackdowns by the authorities in Thailand are unique and simply mean that the boys in brown will patrol with a stern demeanour and order people to cease whatever it is that is being cracked down on. Such crackdowns might last for, oh, about a week or so. By the time next week's column comes around it will almost certainly have been forgotten about and it will be business as usual. There is always a motive – more tea money required, an international event being held in Bangkok so Bangkok's pure image must be retained, pretending to be doing a job etc. And this particular crackdown seems to be more in the Thai areas than those where foreigners party.

A group of male high school students wearing school uniform, about 16 years of age or so, worked their way down Cowboy collecting money to help those infected with HIV. I'm not entirely sure what they made of what was going on around them.

Has the person who decided what the finished paint scheme in Raw Hide will be been hitting the yaba? They have gone overboard with a 'sea theme' and what they did makes the place look a bit tacky with excessive artwork paining and hints of Patpong circa 1990. But not to worry too much, there are plenty of other more appealing things to catch your eye.

There are some real sacks of shit who hit the bars and Secrets in Pattaya hosted one such fellow this week. He thought he could get away without paying his 3,500 baht checkbin and made a mad dash for the side door and in the process sent one of the girls flying resulting in her breaking her arm. The thief was detained by staff and the boys in brown attended. He was made to pay his bill before being taken to the police station where he later settled at over 100,000 baht, the bulk of which was to cover the poor girl's medical costs as well as compensation for lost income. I don't want to sound like a vigilante…ok, I do. What I really think is that the guy should have faced justice Thai-style AND been made to compensate the girl. And I mean really compensate her. As one of the prettiest girls in Secrets, being off work for up to 3 months means her financial loss is significant.

The recession has not prevented entrepreneurs from building in Phuket where two new bar areas have recently opened up. The first is along Prachanukhro Road on the south side of Patong heading towards the beach, the second an extension of Soi Sansabai. Where the customers are going to come from I do not know, especially with the price of beer up to 140 baht, lady drinks 200 baht being the norm in some sois, very high barfines, and, it is said, a king's ransom to get acquainted.

Still in Phuket, Porn, who ran the excellent fish and chip shop in Chalong with her American husband, Tom, has passed away. They ran the oldest established fish and chip on the island and their fare will be sorely missed. Also, Nigel from the Anchor Bar in Kata also passed away recently, another character who will be missed.

There are lots of new faces in Cowboy and Sheba's and Tilac seem to have several. Some may have made the bus ride down from Isaan while I suspect others have lost their job and turned to the nightlife. Being new to the industry, many of these girls are not what you would call hardcore and are only working in the bar out of desperation. If they can find a hansum man they will almost certainly leave the bar scene as quickly as they joined it. I wonder if, for the time being, it will be easier to make things work with a girl found in the bars than it used to be? I've repeated the mantra "you can take the girl out of the bar but you can't take the bar out of the girl" a zillion times but maybe, just maybe, things might be easier now than they used to be?

Settling the dispute of what happened to the owner of Biergarten on soi 7, I can confirm that he died on the premises of a heart attack in the back office and not on the toilet as had been rumoured. Still on the topic of the Biergarten, it seems earlier this year the age of the freelancers warming the bar stools was 30-something but as with many things in the industry, things have changed. The average age now looks to be mid 20's, late afternoon at least. There are even some show girls from Nana Plaza showing their faces, looking for a way to make up for the barfine drought. Beer remains reasonably priced but you have to dodge the smokers.

Magic Table on soi 7/1 has curtained off the back table much like the private booths upstairs at Coyote in Soi Cowboy. The back table seats several and with Japanese customers frequenting the bar, who knows what goes on behind those curtains! Beer is very reasonable being 70 baht early in the evening.

Some of the bars near the end of soi 7/1 have been putting in more effort to attracting customers. On some nights they have live music so if that is your thing check it out.

One dancer at Coyote who frequently drinks a little too much was hauled off horizontally upstairs by 4 of her colleagues, one on each corner. An interesting sight and one that seemed well practiced.

Tilac's #95, the hottest butt in town as far as I am concerned, finally has competition. #2 also has a fabulous rear!

Chris G. Moore's next Calvino will be released in Thailand on 2nd January, 2010. Here's a sneak peak of the cover.

With business markedly down, some girls are getting desperate when it comes to getting barfined. It's a buyers' market and an offer of 1,000 that may have been scoffed at in better days would now seem to be a fair price, many ladies willing to drop their price if the punter seems uncertain or hesitant. Those who have had loftier remuneration expectations may drop a full grey from their asking price. It remains unclear if this pricing applies to the most generous punters, the Japanese. They have created their own fat baht eating monster and appear happy to feed it whatever it wants.

Speaking of our Japanese friends, one extremely cute wet dream from Baccarra was seen heading to Asoke Place (small hotel with hourly rates just beyond the Western end of Cowboy) with no less than 3 smiling, joking Japanese men in tow. She too had a huge smile on her face, no doubt already planning what to do with all the money she was about to make!

Cracking down on welcome girls outside night spots is not the only thing the boys in brown are concentrating on. Ever keen to rid Bangkok of its evils, the Thai police announced that starting yesterday they are going to target one of the major evils in the big city, jaywalking, and those caught will be liable to an on the spot fine. Dear oh dear…

Blasted True Visions is not showing the best tournament (the Tri-Nations) of the world's best sport (rugby) so yet another rugby season passes by and we are forced to venture outside to watch the All Blacks matches. These days it seems that reruns of old tennis and some soccer shite is all you get.

Aussies looking for a tropical getaway should embrace the rock-bottom fares being offered by Air Asia. A friend is flying Gold Coast to Bangkok return on Air Asia for just $360, amazing value and one reader mentioned you can get the fare for under $300 – Aussie dollars, that is. The hotel will probably cost more.

Part-time English teachers are hurting. With all this scare about the H1N1 virus, students attending classes at private language institutes are cancelling in droves and when classes are cancelled, part-time English teachers – who make up much of the number at such institutes are suffering. Did you know that some of these institutes have a policy whereby if the class is cancelled within one hour of the scheduled start time, the teacher does NOT get paid! Crazy. The admin staff are dealing with frustrated and upset foreign teachers making, for some of whom money is becoming a big problem. Of course as a non-contracted teacher, they have no guarantees of work and if vulnerable financially should consider a salaried position.

Stickies in Singapore might like to pop along to the opening of Chris Coles Paintings featuring work from Bangkok at Night. It kicks off on August 5th. About 70 paintings from his Bangkok night series will be featured and presented by Fourth Gallery and Utterly Art Gallery as part of the IndigNation Summer Arts Festival. Here are two thumbnails of what you can expect.

I have been in contact with the victim's brother who has been in the court room throughout the Dale Henry murder trial this week in Ranong. Perhaps the most interesting thing to come out of the case regards the hit. A local hitman confessed that he had agreed to knock off Dale – a Westerner and presumably a job which commands a higher price than if the target was Thai – for 60,000 baht – less than $2,000. The same hitman is before the courts for another hit! Does your Mrs. know how much you're worth!?

Further to comments I put in the column a few weeks ago, I no longer use a mobile phone. I hate the blasted things. If you need to contact me, it's email! Please don't complain that I did not return your SMS when in fact I never received it in the first place because the phone is sitting in the drawer, where it belongs!

Stickman reader's story of the week comes from Mac BKK who brought some balance to the many negative and anti-Thailand stories we saw this week with " A Tourist's Perspective".

Quote of the week comes from scam buster, ClubSiam. "Before, Thailand was considered the brothel of the world but now it's the Nigeria of Asia."

The UK's Daily Mail reports Britons are more likely to be victims of crime in Thailand than anywhere else.

The problems at Suwannaphum Airport refuse to go away and the media is getting mileage with the Bangkok airport problems highlighted on Australian TV this week.

The UK's Torygraph highlights a long-running Bangkok scam.

The Bangkok Post reports more BS at the airport with a crackdown on theft from passengers' luggage.

An Aussie is knifed by a katoey but still manages to overcome her and detain her until police arrive.

Some of us are wondering if the American student who has gone missing in Thailand has fallen in love with a bargirl and doesn't know how to tell his family back in the States.

The Asia Times ran an interesting article on the yellows and reds this week.

A 72-year old Westerner moves his prostitute girlfriend in and then it all goes pear-shaped in this story that proves this is not just a Thailand phenomenon.

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: Farang ladies have notoriously long memories of any failure that you have ever had, and often let said memories incubate over time until a glimmer of joy appears in your eye. Then they like to remind you of your failures, robbing you of any hope, or joy thus making drinking and mowing the lawn more preferable than being around each other. Granted I usually pay my "girlfriends" to overlook any stupid things I do, or I just usually book it. However, do average Thai women have these exceptional memories (grudges)? Or do you have a "what past is past" attitude?

Mrs. Stick says: I think every woman on this earth cannot forget some things a man does. I don't think it is different for any nationality. But we do not try to make a life hell for our husband. We try hard to make him happy and we also expect that he will make us happy. If we do everything to make him happy but he does not try to make us happy we might remind him about things that happened in the past and bad things he did that made us unhappy or not pawjai (contented). It is important for a Thai woman to make sure hubby is happy and everyone looks at us to see if we do a good job or not. But hubby has his responsibilities too.

Some readers have asked why I predominantly cover just Bangkok and Pattaya and seemingly shirk other parts of the country. The answer is simple – I live in Bangkok and Pattaya is easy to reach as well as being a place where I have many friends so these are the two parts of the country I predominantly cover. It's also where you find the most foreigners. The main reason I have not been down to Phuket in some time is the fact that it is a pain to get to, given that the airport is miles away from beaches. I drove there once but don't plan on doing that again and without your own wheels you're at the mercy of the extortionate prices asked by taxi drivers down there. I just can't face battling them when in my beloved Pattaya I can get on a baht bus for 10 baht and not have any hassles whatsoever. But it has to be said that in all fairness, Phuket is not the worst place for this sort of thing. On Ko Samui, another island I haven't been to in years and have no plans of visiting again any time soon, the local drivers take it even further and perhaps are even more expensive! The sharks behind the wheel of taxis on Samui often demand 300 baht for even the shortest ride, yet they have the audacity to display "meter" signs on their cabs! It's highly misleading and there seems to be little in the way of information about other transportation options for tourists. Actually, it has to be said that the metered taxis on Pattaya aren't much better, but then you do have other transportation options there. Short-sightedness by those who derive their income from the tourism industry on some of the southern islands has put me and others off returning. I'll stick with Bangkok and Pattaya, thanks.

Your Bangkok commentator,

Stick