Stickman's Weekly Column October 11th, 2009

Out Late On Sukhumvit


The band bids those of us who remain a good night before the obligatory self-promotion, reminding us that they will start pumping out the very same tunes, most likely in the very same order, from 9:30 the next evening. Or should that be tonight? It's 3:45 AM in downtown Bangkok and Stick is out way past his usual bed time.

I look around and see a few dozen others lingering. Couples have sauntered off, those remaining are singles for the most part, all wondering the same thing. Will they hook up or are they destined for yet another night alone?

It's the middle of the night, or is it the middle of the morning? Midnight's already a late night for me, my preference being to go out early and return home before too late. I'm out with a pal. We didn't plan to be out this late. Last time we were turfed out of this very same venue at 2:00 AM. Tonight it's lights off at 4:00 AM.

I haven't had that much to drink, perhaps only 5 or 6 beers. I've never been a big drinker and usually feel sick before I get too drunk. I feel neither drunk nor tired. Weird. The previous night I had but two and a half hours sleep. Don't ask.



Late night Bangkok brings out characters and this night in our favourite nightspot of the moment, Bangkok Beat, or the Beat as we term it, was no different.

There was the Saddam Hussein look-alike. No, he's more than a look-alike, he's like a twin brother. I wonder if the Americans fabricated his death. It's Saddam, I swear. If I drag him down to Wireless, will I get a reward?

There's the big dude from New York, ugly as sin but winning over the local damsels by throwing around money like there's no tomorrow, boldly buying drinks for all the pretty girls, even those accompanied, upsetting the balance. He knows it all comes back to money – and he seems willing to upset the apple cart. I reckon he's looking for a rumble. He looks like he could handle himself.

There's the great Bangkok unwashed. White, perhaps overweight, often poorly dressed, sometimes socially awkward but always reliant on their wallet.

But of most interest to us are the girls. That delicious mix of office girls, freelancers, the recently unemployed and the farang curious. Visible tattoos mark her as a ho, a genuine Swiss watch, a Harrods' bag, a designer handbag or similar and she's as an office girl. You're still left with a bunch where you just don't know. That's the fun part.

And then there's us. Two mates. The north islander and the south islander. Same country, same age, same interests, same industry and so much in common. He knows the difference between regular girls and bargirls. Too many don't. They talk to regular Thai women like they're talking to a whore. Is there anything worse? We're on the same wavelength. He can speak passable Thai and can pull a decent Thai bird without much effort. That makes him almost the ideal person to party with. 17 years in Toyland between us. It's double trouble when we hit Sukhumvit.

The house lights come on, the final subtle signal before we're about to be turfed out. I notice that I'm getting the bird from a bird or, in simple terms, a pretty girl just two tables away is giving me the finger and making quite a show of it. She wants everyone who is left in the bar to see. I guess she doesn't like rejection. I smile back. Time to slink out the door before she starts mouthing off, or worse. Thai women being spurned and all that.

We love the venue. It's the sexual tension that lingers in the air. We're both practical jokers and enjoy winding the women up. They start off liking us, some end up hating us. But you've got to be careful with Thai women. They can be unpredictable. But then again, that's part of the fun.

There's nothing like the thrill of the hunt. What a refreshing change it makes from the chrome pole palaces. I try to convince myself that my visits to Cowboy and the like are to stay in touch with what's happening, to maintain relationships with those in the industry and to get the latest goss for the column. When it comes to fun you can't beat adopting our natural role, that of the hunter. In gogo bars, we're the hunted.

In the right environment Thai women are so incredibly approachable. And this is the right environment. It really is.

We exit out on to soi 7/1 and my pal suggests a wander. I groan. It's almost 4 AM, already way past my bed time. I just want to go home. "Just a short stroll up the road, a short mosey", he says.

I'm weak. He convinces me.

Truth be told I've never really been a night owl. Sukhumvit at this hour is almost foreign to me, its personality constantly transforming as the hour hand on the clock spins. It's 4 AM in the middle of the farang ghetto in what is supposedly one of the world's most vibrant cities yet it's amazingly quiet and, can this be right, almost serene. The late night tension so common on Sukhumvit is absent. There's an air of calm. For once the City Of Angels moniker is suitable. Most beggars have gone home, wherever home may be. Taxi drivers queue up and wait patiently. Even the homeless are asleep.

Bangkok gets spicy at night, spicier after midnight, but starts to sober up around 4:00 AM and as the clock strikes 5:00 AM, there's a quiet lull before the cycle starts again.

We turn right on Sukhumvit and amble in the direction of Nana, laughing and joking about the birds we'd been flirting with in the Beat.

We pass late night food stands and makeshift booze booths that spring up late. It's an obstacle course of metal tables, plastic chairs and drunks, to say nothing of the 24-hour hazard of the uneven sidewalk. Many businesses have not one customer. Not one. We're invited to sit down at every spot we pass. It becomes annoying but we remain polite. A smile and a shake of the head does the trick.

The foot traffic is light. It's nothing like a decade ago when a much younger Stick would occasionally stumble out of the Thermae an hour or two before sun up. There'd be a handful of vendors outside what was then Bangkok's sleaziest and most notorious late night meeting spot and pick up joint and throngs of people milling about. It'd be the same story every night, a steady stream of young, dark-skinned girls from Isaan and middle-aged white guys.

It's different today. Totally different. There's been a massive change on late night Sukhumvit.

The women of Isaan remain but their numbers are dwindling. Where once you'd see a steady stream of white guys, now half the men on Sukhumvit late at night are men of colour. When the white men go home the black men come out. Africans. Late night Sukhumvit is their domain.

They amble along slowly. They're in no hurry. They stop when they pass a brother, fancy handshakes that look like they came right out of a gang movie. Greetings, bat patting, all much more animated than the white man. Sometimes they converse in English. Sometimes French. Sometimes something unintelligible. Never Thai. Do they stay around long enough to pick it up? What are they doing and where are they going?

A black woman at a makeshift booze booth waves, beckoning us over. I can sense a story. We join her. She's not that attractive, not ugly either. It's hard to pick her age. I'd guess late 20s. She's nursing a drink and complains that it set her back 120 baht. Are booze booths really that expensive, I wonder, or has her leg been pulled? Or is she perhaps trying to convince us to buy her another?

She sees the camera and asks me if I am a journalist.

"Something like that", I respond, non-committal, not willing to reveal much. I later wonder just why that was. What could she possibly do to me? What sort of threat does she pose? An African woman who's probably only been in Bangkok no more than a week or two and an 11-year expat who knows Sukhumvit like the back of his hand. A total mismatch. She posed no threat. But at the time it concerned me. Am I paranoid?

She tells us that she's a researcher and suggests that her and I could work together. I have known her all of 90 seconds. She asks me how she can contact me to which I respond that she can't.

“Don't you have a mobile phone?”

I refrain from giving her my mobile phone hate speech. Everyone I have ever told it to thinks I'm some sort of technophobe at best, a complete freak at worst. I simply point out that I have enough on my plate as it is. What little free time I have is precious. It's true. She seems to accept it.

We ask her what she's doing here at this hour to which we get an ambiguous, “I'm looking for greener pastures.”

My pal's not known for BS and cuts straight to the chase. “How many people are watching you now?”

She looks at him feigning surprise, but does a poor job of it. “Come on, we weren't born yesterday. You're whoring!”, he barks at her. "How many big dudes are watching you – and us – right now?”

She becomes fidgety and is obviously nervous. Who are these two, you can see her thinking? How do they know? “There's a fat guy. He'll be somewhere near by. And anyway, prostitution isn't that bad.”

I wonder who she's trying to convince, us or herself.

She talks with a curious accent. There's a definite trace of British aristocracy there. I quietly wonder to myself if she's regularly bonking some senior official at the British embassy. I picture it in my mind, a pale flabby Brit with an Oxbridge accent and a receding hairline and his black beauty in a cockroach-infested soi 4 short-time room. It's a horrid thought but it makes me laugh. They both look at me. They must be wondering what sort of nut job laughs at nothing.

We're hassled by the booze booth boss to buy drinks we don't want and then rightfully told to piss off if we're not buying. “We're in exploration mode now, my dear, the drinking has been done”, I recite in my smarmiest Thai. She has the look of a Beach Road skank, the personality of a veteran mamasan. She sneers back at me. We bid farewell to Miss Kenya and slowly make our way along the odd-soi numbered side of Sukhumvit.

There are few people about. It's getting quieter and quieter. There's little traffic on the road, just a stream of taxis parked at the curb.

I'm looking ahead when out of the shadows a hand grabs my shoulder. It's a pretty young lass with a bit of meat on the bone. She leaps out, wraps herself around me and resumes grinding herself against my leg, just as she'd been doing in the Beat earlier. I'd wondered then if she was out for fun or out for cash. Now I had the definitive answer. Her grip tightens and she intimates that she has nowhere to sleep. I make out that I'm looking for a black woman and she doesn't fit the bill. It has the desired effect. Her grip loosens, the interruption is brief. We resume the stroll towards Skank Alley, that short, nasty stretch of Sukhumvit between sois 3/1 and 5 where the worst of the worst of Bangkok's street walkers are found.

The Thermae has long been referred to as the Star Wars bar of Bangkok, but perhaps the crown was misplaced. Any bar which bans ladyboys can hardly be referred to as the Star Wars bar, can it? Skank Alley usurps the Biergarten and the Thermae – today home to rather a good number of genuine sweeties and nothing like the rough trade it once had. Yeah, this is the real Star Wars bar, notwithstanding that it's outdoors and not even a bar per se. Ya-ba charged girls with wild eyes, ladyboys with stubble emerging through their make up and late night desperadoes stroll along the 50 metre stretch that makes up Skank Alley, each trying to make out that they are totally at home with the complete madness around them. Every sentence the two Kiwi mates say to each other for the next minute or two includes the words "show" and "freak".

At this hour the area should be renamed Little Africa. A stream of Africans lope along, as disinterested in the skanks as the skanks are in them. In another part of the world, their homeland, I would be much more concerned about my personal safety than I am here. Two white boys in a sea of black, we head deeper and deeper into Little Africa.

The Africans are sub-human in the Thais' eyes, a sad reflection of the extreme racism that permeates every level of Thai society. The Africans know it. They keep their hands clean. Complaints to the local plod about them are taken seriously. The word of anyone against a black man in Thailand in 2009 is little different to Mississippi in the 50s, Johannesburg in the 70s. The black men from Africa ain't got no rights in Thailand. And many have no embassy to help them. Get in trouble in Thailand as an African without local representation and your life is as good as over. If farang are second class citizens in this country, what does that make the poor black men?

Two girls approach us, one catching my eye, feminine in a casual dress and totally out of place on Sukhumvit at this hour. The bargirl uniform, a tight top and even tighter jeans, must be in the wash. She gets closer and I see that her make up is crudely applied, perhaps for the 3rd of 4th time tonight in front of some dirty, cracked mirror in the filthy bathroom of a dodgy Nana area short time room. But you can't hide her good looks and there's life in her eyes. She's lucid. Few are at this hour. She's bright and bubbly. I peg her enthusiasm as being one new to the scene, and by the look of it, rather on the young side. Inquiring as to her age reveals that she is 17. I tell her to go home and she looks at me strangely. Clearly no-one ever said that to her before. Some probably find her age a turn on. “You're too young to be here. This is a bad place with dangerous people. Go home!” No good can come from even talking with a 17-year old.

Little Africa becomes more densely populated as we get close to the Nana intersection. By day it's friendly, by night it's spicy, in the middle of the night it takes on a whole new personality. Black men, skanky Thai women and lost white guys. The two of us give each other a knowing look. We're getting out of our comfort zone. We put it in reverse and head back the way we came.

Meandering back along Sukhumvit, we get strange looks. Girls whose propositions we had turned down only minutes earlier try their luck again, mistakenly believing that we're on the prowl. It might be their lucky night. There are few white men left at this hour. The clock is ticking, their options for a nightcap rapidly depleting.

The sun will rise soon but my pal's in no hurry to call it a night. He needs to eat. Subway is a hundred or so metres away but there are plenty more obstacles before we reach it.

I'm not sure if it's her booze booth, whether she is the mamasan or maybe just a customer, but yet again my pal is ignored as a slim Thai woman leaps up from a red plastic stool and throws her arms around me. The smell of stale smoke from her lips is unavoidable as she tries the most aggressive approach I've had all night. The wanderers from Aotearoa are an aberration at the last chance saloon. Whatever it takes, she'll try it. She's trying to plant kisses on my face. I gently wriggle away, anxious not to be too forceful and turn her from overly-friendly welcome girl to scorned Thai woman, always a dangerous beast. But I needn't have been concerned. Upon realising that I'm not up for it, she sits down and insists I take her photo. I screw the photo up, my head casting an ugly shadow over her sexy legs.

It's getting really late. We've been wandering Sukhumvit aimlessly for more than an hour. There are ever fewer white guys about now. There are plenty of blacks. I can't work them out. Where are they going? What are they doing? Is there some hidden venue they flock to that's off the white man's radar?

We arrive at Subway. There's no-one around. The seats have been put up on the tables, but there's no cleaner to be seen. A tired, bored girl behind the counter looks up at us as an Eastern European bird skips in front of my hungry pal, beating him to the counter. He's too polite to say anything. As she slides along the counter she turns back and stares at him. It's the glad eye. He shows some interest. Now it's my turn to know how it feels to be invisible.

I wonder if I'm invisible to white women. None have shown any interest in me in a long time. Not that it bothers me mind you. She's got her eyes firmly on him. I detect a hint of interest on his part as well as a hint of embarrassment at my presence.

Eastern European. Alone. Short skirt. Sukhumvit. After 5 AM. That can only mean one thing.

That's my queue. Give my pal some space. If he wants to go there, that's his business, no pun intended. No need for my nose to be where it doesn't belong. I wish him luck and head out on to the street.

It's quiet. Late night vendors are packing up their stalls and cleaning up. Taxi drivers give you sad puppy dog eyes, hoping you'll choose them in what might be their only fare in the quietest hour of their night. There are even less people about.

A katoey walks past me and gives me a smile. I don't know why but I blow her a kiss. She just keeps on going.

That single action, or lack of, just confirms what I had already been thinking. Late night Sukhumvit has changed. With most venues compelled to close at 2:00 AM and few genuine late night venues open these days, streetside booze booths with friendly female staff sprung up to fill a niche. But the street cafe and pick up scene hasn't really caught on, certainly not as the vendors would have hoped.

I hop into a cab. As it races into the quiet streets of the late Bangkok night, I reflect on this changing city.

Blacks have replaced whites on Sukhumvit late at night. Ladyboys are becoming docile. Bangkok is going to bed earlier.

The personality of many a farang's favourite stretch of Bangkok tarmac will shortly transform again, from open-air bar area and sexual playground to main thoroughfare and business district.

I make it home just minutes before sunrise and am out for the count before the first rays of light of the new day stream through a gap in the curtains.

Last week's photo

Where was this photo taken?


Last week's photo was taken just east of Sukhumvit Soi 7/1, looking back towards that lively little lane. If you answered soi 7, or as one reader said, soi 7/2 (does such exist?), I told you that you got it wrong! That photo was easy so I guess I should have asked for the time it was taken too! Now that would have screwed you! Ha! 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! I also have signed copies of Stephen Leather's superb "Live Fire", much of which is set in Pattaya, to give away. PLEASE SPECIFY A PREFERENCE FOR WHICH PRIZE YOU WOULD LIKE!

Terms and conditions: The Oh My Cod and Molly Malone's prizes MUST be claimed within 14 days. To claim the Stephen Leather book you must provide a postal address in Thailand. Prizes are not transferable. Prize winners cannot claim more than one prize per calendar 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 – Quality ingredients in, quality food out.

The "Thai food is better overseas than it is in Thailand" opinion doesn't surprise me. Any chef will tell you that the finished dish can only be as good as the ingredients used to cook it. Meats and produce in Thailand are generally of a low quality and the Thai way for most restaurant owners and food vendors is to buy the cheapest ingredients possible. After all, because of the nature of Thai food, once they cook them and add the spices, it's hard to directly see the low quality of the meat and produce. In the west quality meats and produce are the rule rather than the exception, and so are health inspections. Quality ingredients make HUGE changes in the look, texture, and taste of food. I've personally known several Thai restaurant owners in the US and they all tell me the biggest adjustment is getting used to the better ingredients.

The benefits of featuring in AfterDark (and what a bargirl quotes when she doesn't want you!)

I really enjoyed your article on AfterDark magazine. I've been reading that magazine for years and even have their calendar. When a girl appears in the mag, her exposure definitely goes up, but so does her price! I remember when that girl Yui from Champagne appeared on the cover and I went to see her. She wouldn't leave the bar for less than 5,000 baht short time!

AfterDark evil!

AfterDark must break all the social taboos and structures of Thai society. One only has to look at the footage of raids in brothels to see how the employees react when camera crews come busting in. Beats me though how they always seem to be in the right place at the right time. What you've got here is the other extreme, girls volunteering to be photographed in their working environment, and if that in itself wasn't breaking all bounds, to add a sin greater than selling your own body, to be photographed showing skin. Taking all of this into account, it makes you wonder just how low these girls' self-esteem has to go before they will publicly say to their friends, family, and nation, "Here look at me, I'm the tart of the month." It just amazes me that such cheap Charlie guys would go to such lengths to scratch a living. Shooting tarts with the expectations that they could be photogenic, see the potential that they could actually turn an additional trick, that they would possibly resemble the professionalism of a Vogue model, and have more than the interaction of a posing potato. In the land where people won't give you the time of day unless there's money in it, to ask these girls to pose representing their industry and refuse to pay them really is not only inexcusable but also confirms why some farangs are treated with such contempt. What is so contradictory in all of this is that the States, where these guys are from, has the world's leading porn actresses that will go and pose to any extreme to get to the top. Selling their soul to the camera but not selling their bodies to all and sundry.

The frustrations of life in Thailand

I was just thinking the other day that I could well end up spending half my life here, but still not be automatically eligible for permanent residence status or citizenship. It just gives you that wonderful feeling of insecurity, that you could be here just temporarily, which again deters most folks back home from seriously considering Thailand as a feasible option. The residence / citizenship subject is a joke here. They don't actually want us, are scared stiff we'll educate their pooyings as to how the rest of the world is run and that you don't have to kow-tow or wai anyone just because they were born before you were, that the police are supposed to help you and not rob you, that governments can function without corruption and that civil servants are supposed to serve YOU and not the other way round!

Revolting indeed.

Just a little story told to me by a working girl from Kenya. About one month ago she arrived in Bangkok and was accosted by an Australian guy in his 40s. He took her to his room and on the way in the taxi he made a few phone calls in Thai. Once in his room he had sex with her (despite one phone call and some people banging on the door which he told her not to worry about). Once his business was finished he gave the girl 1K baht and opened the door to let the police in! They stormed in, terrifying the girl (who was still naked) and dragged her to a police station to fine her 1K baht for prostitution. This is how Thai police volunteers help fighting the crime – by doing some poor African girls for free. Revolting.

The lowlifes have discovered Hua Hin.

Last month I witnessed two fights here in Soi Bintabaht in Hua Hin, one between a British couple who were too drunk to stand up and were punching he hell out of each other, on their knees, with broken glass flying, in the middle of the street, as the traffic just backed up. There was another where a really low-life piece of scum tried to show the bargirls what he thought of whores & harlots with body language, again from the street, as he goaded them to do something about it. Of course they eventually did, but later, after the bars were closed, in a quiet street seven ladies got him on the ground, ripped his clothes off and put their tiny delicate toes where they ought not to have been. I followed this from a discreet distance, silently cheering, until the police took him inside for the night. He was not seen again in Hua Hin.

Only in Thailand.

I was flying back to Bangkok from Beijing on Thai this week, and a promotion video was shown depicting a couple of friendly Boys In Brown walking the streets and being chatty with everyone. What made me laugh was that one of the streets they went down was the night market in Patpong, where they strolled happily past all the stalls selling (illegal) fake watches etc. Only in Thailand.

China or Japan, anyone?

It has often been said on this site that one of the biggest – maybe THE biggest – reasons for being in Thailand is the beauty of the women which compensates for all the hassles that are a part of life here. Well, I have recently spent time in Tokyo and Beijing, and I have to report that the women there are just as cute, and don't have a mental age of 12 as you too often find in Thailand. They also speak much better English, learnt from the time they begin school. Both Japan and China are more expensive than Thailand, but that merely underlines that with Thailand you are close to the bottom of the barrel. Thailand is cheap in so many ways, from poor infrastructure to the filthy streets to the antiquated buses. Standards are so much higher elsewhere.

The Dollhouse in Soi Cowboy continues to run their rainy season special with draft Heineken at 80 baht all night long and some are willing the rainy season to last well into November.

I'd put money on it that for many bars were darn close to the very bottom of the trough of the low season this past week. Both Nana and Cowboy were super quiet, the Nana area in general feeling depressed. Less traffic, less foot traffic and even fewer beggars.

Spanky's in Nana is trying to outdo Angelwitch next door but are higher drinks prices something to gloat about? A standard customer drink will now set you back 145 baht and a Cola for a lady is 150. The former remains cheaper than Angelwitch, the latter dearer.

With the departure of manager TJ from this earth leaving Coyotes in Pattaya without a manager, some staff seized the opportunity to profit. Takings were said to be down while there was no discerning drop in trade observed by those who visited the bar. We know what that means! It seems that some fixtures were also getting barfined, a permanent barfine no less! Owner Deano seems to have decided that if he was going to ever be able to sell the place he is probably better off padlocking the door closed before that too was taken! And so not for the first time in recent memory, the lights are off at Coyotes. But it doesn't end there. Some staff members are up in arms at the bar's hasty closure and there are threats flying around with some suggesting that if it does not reopen for business then Deano might come a cropper.

A Norwegian was shot in his home in Korat by an intruder this week, an incident that did not go unnoticed by the local expat community. There's been a knee-jerk reaction amongst Korat-based Westerners with some expressing an interest in buying a gun to protect themselves and their family. One policeman mentioned to a local expat that a foreigner's wife could buy a gun and if someone came into their house then the farang could use it to shoot the intruder. Somehow I don't think this would fly before a judge. "Your honour, the friendly man in the tight brown uniform who sold me the weapon said I could shoot Somchai if he came in without an invitation!"

Chiang Mai doesn't get much coverage in this column, more because I seldom make it up there than any other reason. It's a pleasant enough spot but I thought I saw it all in a couple of visits and have no real inclination to return. Anyway, the word is that just like everywhere else, business up there is bad with tourist numbers way down. This is reflected in many of the Thai massage outlets where prices have been reduced to 139 baht for one hour. It would set you back 300 baht or so for similar on Sukhumvit.

What on earth was the management of Long Gun thinking clothing their dancers in zebra-patterned summer dresses? Totally unflattering, it covers way more flesh than should be allowed in such a venue.

And in Long Gun's sister bar, Raw Hide, what were they thinking when they decorated the bar? In what can only be described as a truly bizarre design, an underwater scene has been painted on the ceiling and walls in fluorescent pastels which has the (unwanted?) effect of making the entire bar way too bright. Ideally, lights should by pointing at the stage, illuminating the dancers only but in Raw Hide the entire bar is ablaze and I think it just doesn't work.

Raw Hide and especially Long Gun used to be two of the most popular spots in Bangkok where you'd often struggle to find an empty seat and in the case of Long Gun, even a place to stand. It's sad to see what has happened to these two venues and it would be easy to argue that their demise mirrors what has happened to much of the industry.

With that in mind, it's not hard to see why Tilac, Shark and Baccarra do so well in Cowboy. Quite frankly, there's not a lot of genuine competition. Most of the Arab's bars are crap and he's built up a dreadful reputation and many locals actively avoid his bars. There are a few small, single shophouse venues that appeal to some but will never compete with the big venues…and that's about it. It's no wonder the big 3 are so popular.

Is #70 in Tilac the best dancer in Cowboy? For sure, and possibly the best dancer in all of the Bangkok bar areas.

Why is it that generally I prefer the bars and atmosphere in Pattaya to Bangkok, yet if you were to ask me which the best naughty bars were in all of Thailand, my top three would all be in Bangkok – Tilac and Baccarra fighting for #1 spot. Pattaya is great, but I really don't think their best bars can match the best of Bangkok, for the time being at least.

One has to wonder if the mamasans at Bangkok's Angelwitch have struck up some sort of commission agreement with the local plastic surgeon. I swear you see more fake knockers in there than any other girly bar in Bangkok.

There can be a marked difference in a bar from one day to another so if someone recommends a bar one night and you go another, don't necessarily think that they got it wrong. At the end of the month when the girls are desperately trying to reach their barfine and drinks quotas the bars can be overflowing, yet 2 – 3 days later, immediately after pay day (which tends to be the 1st, 2nd or 3rd in the naughty bar industry), they often take off up country to see their family, or perhaps holiday with their Thai boyfriend / husband. And even the night of the week can see a big difference, not just in the number of girls, but the type of girls. Take Bangkok Beat for example. On Friday nights there's the after work office crowd, but mid-week the percentage of what are commonly referred to as "regular girls" drops.

Conspiracy theories abound as to why the local Pattaya media (which is predominantly farang-owned and run) did not pick up the story of long term-resident and well-known bar manager TJ being found dead in a hotel room on third road. The first theory has it that he is not dead and his death has been faked. This was subsequently disproven with TJ's cremation earlier this week which was attended by a number of bar owners. The other theory doing the rounds is that following his recent arrest for being at the helm of a venue where a couple of underage girls were found to be employed, TJ was put under huge pressure by some in authority, pressure which may have been so great that he saw no way out and ultimately took his own life. Of course, anyone who had applied pressure to TJ would not want it known… The autopsy report has since shown that TJ choked on an entire bread roll which was found lodged in his throat.

Those flying into Bangkok on Etihad should check this out which details complimentary transfers from the airport to downtown Bangkok as well as Sin City.

A few months ago I wrote about the debacle when I ordered a Jack Daniels with Diet Coke rather than regular Coke and how this resulted in a massive bill which I questioned and subsequently, after much argument, had reduced to the standard price. There's a trend in some bars both in Bangkok and Pattaya that "non-standard" drinks are charged at excessive prices. It doesn't seem to matter if it is a big-name gogo bar or a back alley beer bar, ordering something a little different can result in an outrageous bill. If you're price sensitive and the idea of getting a 300 baht bill for a drink doesn't thrill you, it's best to ask first.

Why is it that many expat pubs and Western-style bar / grill / restaurants have hiked prices big time over the past few years yet Bus Stop in Sukhumvit soi 4 is still using the same menu they have had for years – with the same prices. The food at Bus Stop is decent and very reasonably priced – a tasty cheeseburger will set you back a mere 75 baht! Throw in fries and it's a bit over 100. A burger absolutely no better will set you back three times that or more in some of the British pubs. Despite menu prices no higher than they were 4 or 5 years ago, Bus Stop seems to remain a viable business which makes me wonder how other venues justify such steep increases.

When you order a sandwich at Subway, you have the option of specifying extra meat or extra cheese, for which there is a surcharge. I often go for extra cheese. What amuses me is that despite the average Thai having the reputation for an excellent memory, by the time the sandwich gets to the checkout, the attendants always forget that they you specified something extra and fail to charge you for it. Not once have I been charged for the extras. Why is it that a bargirl you chatted with briefly a decade ago can remember your name but something you ordered 60 seconds ago is forgotten?

Stephen Leather's Private Dancer has become the bible for many who enjoy Thailand's famed nightlife. While a work of fiction, it helps anyone new to the environment to understand the scene and how everything works. Steve has a new book due out in early 2010 titled "Nightfall". There's an accompanying website, JackNightingale.com, where you can walk around a haunted house which is really neat. Check it out.

I don't know why it annoys me, but it really does. When you see the names of Thai dishes transliterated into English on the menu in a restaurant but they mis-transliterate it, often because of a lazy mispronunciation of the original Thai word. A classic example is the dish rard-nar which you often see mis-transliterated as ladnar. Seeing this word in English makes it almost impossible to correctly pronounce the dish in Thai – and is a surefire way to confuse the wait staff and possibly end up with the wrong dish. Of course it gets really confusing when we're talking about dishes with egg or chicken ( kai and gai) or crab or pork (boo and moo).

Who is this guy in Pattaya who is often seen riding this odd, brightly decorated bicycle and wearing that outrageous costume? It doesn't look particularly comfortable.

Now admittedly I have not worked in the West for some time and have not worked for someone else in the West for a very long time, so I am not sure if what commonly happens here also happens in the West. But I do have to wonder about these compulsory comprehensive annual health checks that some Thai staff have to endure. And "endure" is the word. The battery of tests they have to go through – and this is *not* a requirement for their health insurance – seems like overkill to me. And then that they have to present the results to their employer is just not cricket in my book. I mean, come on, why does a 55-year old woman who clearly is not sexually active have to have an AIDS test? It seems like complete nonsense. I was chatting with a friend about this and not only did she have to go through all sorts of tests, she also had to pay for it herself! And if there were any of a number of things that showed up or she tested positive for, most of which would not have any effect on her ability to perform her job, then her contract would be terminated. Unduly harsh it seems to me.

My pick for the reader's story of the week is Frankie's moving "Letter From Phoenix".

Australia's Age newspaper ran an article reiterating once again that Thailand is the most dangerous destination for Aussies abroad.

Smithsonianmag.com ran a piece about fake anti-malarial drugs which was penned by a Bangkok-based journalist

Would you go for a bungee jump in Thailand after this bungee jump accident in Phuket?

Which leads on to the quote of the week from that article. "They said they had a 100% safety record, even after my accident they still claim a 100% safety record!"

Words fail me as a British tourist tries to swim away from Samui with a CD he stole, a copy at that!

The Phuket Gazette reports that beggars in Phuket's Patong Beach are making a fortune.

Criticism is mounting against French Culture Minister Frederic Mitterrand over an autobiographical book in which he describes paying boys to be naughty with them in Thailand.

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: How come when going out to say a club or restaurant etc, with Thai people, Thais always push the bill on to the foreigner? Is my-round-a-phobia considered rude in Thailand? I've asked Thais this a couple of times their answers have been "You not understand Thai people!" OR "He think you have big money too much." I'm very perplexed by this, could you please help me understand, could you shed some light on this for me?

Mrs. Stick says: I read your question and I think I know the answer from the words of your friends. Are you going out with country people or maybe bargirls? I think so because their English is not so good. So if you go out with poor people then you probably have much more money than them and you will be expected to pay. Please remember some people might only get a salary 7,000 or 8,000 baht a month. They cannot pay the prices in places you might go. Actually sometimes the opposite happens. Many people welcome foreigners to our country and they will pay for the foreign guests even those foreigners are rich. We are proud to host guests and take them to places where they get a good impression and can enjoy with us. If you are the person who makes the invitation for an event then your guests probably expect you to pay. If it is friends, we share the cost together.

Mr. Stick says: I'll add something here. I used to do some voluntary work, teaching underprivileged kids and kids from a poor background. When the work was done, the principals of the schools I used to help at would insist on taking myself and a colleague who was also involved out for a meal. While we both had a much higher salary than him, he was the one who picked up the bill.

Question 2: Excuse me saying this, but your country never ceases to amaze me. Under what circumstances would say the following were to happen. A husband leaves his wife and daughter in the middle of the night, doesn't take anything with him, leaves all his personal possessions behind including his mobile. His finances are in his wife's name so he can't touch them. Leaves no forwarding address at all. Nobody has been able to get in touch or reach him. A couple of months later his wife follows suit, and departs to her parents on the other side of Thailand, leaving her daughter with her in-laws. No funds are left, or have since been sent to the daughter to finance her survival and schooling. My girlfriend has just had a long chat with this ex-sister in law as if nothing has happened. Everybody seems to accept anything and everything, nobody and I mean nobody seems accountable for their actions. Obviously anyone thinking of going into the litigation profession should seriously think twice about it as a career.

Mrs. Stick says: I think this happens in your country too. This is not a Thailand problem. Stickman tells me about many men who come to Thailand because they have problems in their country and they run away from their wife and kids and come to Thailand and maybe do the same thing here. So please don't think this is a problem only in my country because it is not!

Question 3: I have been studying Thai with private tutors for 8 hours per week for more than 5 years. My current teacher is a Thai lady who knows very well the extent of my understanding of the Thai language. One day last week we were chatting in Thai, comparing Thai and American culture and customs. She told me that one of her girlfriends said that she doesn't like farangs because we are hairy and have big noses. I replied that that statement is racist and her friend is a bigot. My teacher got a little upset and spent the entire 2-hour class defending her friend and what she had said. My teacher told me that I don't understand Thai because what her friend really meant was that she likes farangs, except those who have a lot of hair on their bodies and have large noses. She said that Thais don't have to be specific when they speak because everyone there understood that my teacher's friend meant that her preference was farangs who don't have a lot of hair on their bodies and don't have large noses, not that she disliked all farangs. I think that, after teaching me for more than 5 years, my teacher saying that I don't understand Thai was ridiculous. What is there to misunderstand about a simple Thai statement that her friend said? Since when do Thais say white when they really mean black, or say up when they really mean down, or make racist statements when they really mean the opposite and all Thais automatically understand the true meaning of what was said? Are all Thais mind-readers? I asked my Thai wife and her Thai nephew and Thai niece who all gave the same opinion of my teacher's defense – bullshit! What do you think?

Mrs. Stick says: I think you should find a new teacher. She taught you for 5 years and she takes so long to explain something to you? She just tried to defend herself but then she make herself look stupid.



I can't help but feel that there's a huge opportunity for someone to start up a Thailand discussion forum exclusively for Thailand-based expats. There's so much noise on all of the local discussion forums these days that I don't find any Thailand-centric forums a worthwhile source of info. I can't help but feel that pretty much every forum has a strong bias towards the perspective of a tourist, not surprising because most are totally dominated by users outside the country. A couple of years ago a friend tried to get a private forum going, invitation only, exclusively for expats. It didn't survive which is a real shame. I can't help but feel that there is a genuine demand for such a forum. It wouldn't be hard to manage – only allow access to those with a Thailand IP address. So, who's going to do it?



Your Bangkok commentator,

Stick

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