Stickman's Weekly Column November 8th, 2009

Bargirls And Online Girls

Getting involved with a bargirl in a serious relationship is a risky move. This is widely known. Getting involved with an online girl is supposed to be a much better bet. Supposed to be…

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The reasons why entering into a long-term serious relationship with a bargirl is fraught with risk are numerous. Bargirls meet a lot of men every day and quickly realise that they have many options. This can elevate her self-worth into the stratosphere.
As they build up a stable of regular customers, they become adept at bending the truth as they juggle different men. And with money never far from their mind, they can become manipulative in their ways to extract money from men who show an interest.
Much time spent in an environment where alcohol consumption is the norm along with irregular sleep patterns mean that over time she might slowly lose her femininity and develop questionable habits, running the full gamut from drug use to sloth.

The online girl has evolved from what was once a middle and upper class dominated sector of cyber world to an environment where class and geography have been transcended. There was a time, probably up until around 2003, when the Thai women you met online
were what I believe are the ideal target group for a genuine relationship-minded Western man. Most were middle-class, had a university education and had secured a reasonable job and could carry a conversation on most topics in English.

But things have changed. The women on Thai-centric dating sites these days could come from any background. They might own and operate their own business or come from a wealthy family or they might just as easily come from the same poor, rural background
that is typical of the women who end up in the bars. Today, the Thai online girl can not be stereotyped.

I have recommended various Thai-centric dating sites over the years as places to meet Thai women. In the late '90s until about 2002 it was ICQ, a period of quite unreal opportunity to meet Thai women in the ideal target group. Next
came Face-Pic (different from Facebook) and then BangkokChat, the first really mass market Thai-centric dating site. BangkokChat became legendary, starting off as a small Java-driven real-time chat site with a small number of users and developing
into something very much larger. The next site to hit the big time was ThailandFriends, which remains popular today. ThaiLoveLinks followed and by this time things had gone totally mass market. Go into any large internet cafe anywhere in Thailand
and there's a good chance you'll see a Thai woman accessing ThaiLoveLinks.

ThaiLoveLinks or TLL as it is commonly known became so popular, so more and more Westerners registered to use it. Guys in Thailand and guys from abroad, all motivated to meet Thai women. This has the effect of seeing ThaiLoveLinks invaded by sexual predators,
locals who want to meet a different Thai woman every day and those who wish to rampage through country on holiday, meeting and bedding as many local lasses as possible.

In addition to the dating sites, the social networking sites have also become more popular as places for Western guys to meet Thai women and vice versa, with Hi5 being particularly popular with the Thais – men and women – and Facebook now gaining not
jut a stranglehold in Thailand, but also acknowledged as a site where one can meet some attractive women for more than friendship.

But what has this got to do with bargirls?!

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It's easy to say that bargirls are simply bad and that one should not get involved with them. But why is that? We need to look at the issue a little closer.

Is it that they are lazy? I don't think laziness is necessarily a real problem for most, at least when they start in the industry. I think it's fair to say that most young people expect that they will have to work hard to make their way up in
the world. Most understand and accept this. I don't believe laziness is necessarily a major factor.

The real problem I believe is that bargirls very quickly get an inflated sense of self-worth. New to the industry, these poor girls with a modest education and who seldom consider themselves attractive genuinely struggle to rationalise the fact that successful,
handsome and often rich Western men fall head over heels in love with them, often throwing silly amounts of money at them and making them feel like a princess. They soon realise that they are in high demand and they start making requests for more
and more which many suitors are happy to provide. The once sweet and meek village girl is now dripping in gold, oozing in confidence and is not shy to ask for more and more from those guys who express interest in them. It is this which I believe
makes bargirls a less than ideal option as a long-term partner. They have begun to realise their value and in a country where the possession of material items and the accumulation of wealth are often admired, they push the boundaries
as far as they can. It can come down to a bidding war and he who has the most gold wins. While not uncommon elsewhere – no woman wants a pauper – it is the ruthlessness with which they attempt to part a man from his gold that can be hard to stomach.
They have so many options, so why not, they think.

So what does the behaviour of the bargirls have to do with online girls?

More and more guys, both in Thailand and in the West, are flocking to the Thai dating sites and sites like ThaiLoveLinks and ThailandFriends have a huge number of members, the former approaching a million users! New female users find themselves inundated
with guys showing interest and sending emails asking her out on a date. As she scans through the mail, she sees many nice-looking men amongst them. Young, fit, in shape with a nice smile and well-dressed. The profiles of guys playing the online
game paint a prettier picture than the image they have of Westerners in Pattaya and these women cannot help but be impressed.

It does seem that many Western guys are getting desperate. With many fed up at the female situation in the West, they are flocking to Asia in ever greater numbers in search of a life partner – and they are often throwing out all stops
to get someone, behaving in a way they may not at home. Guys are competing with each other and raising the stakes to silly levels.

The online world may have a greater cross-section of Thai society but the way in which Western men are competing against women online shares many similarities with the bargirl scene. Guys throw silly money at women, often inviting them to travel to exotic
locations, staying in fine hotels and dining in the best restaurants. These women may well come from a background where money has never been a real problem, but to be treated in such luxury and to experience such lavish surroundings on a daily
basis can push a lady's stock up. While being entertained by one man, she might not be shy to let others know the sort of places she has been taken to – and so others are forced to up the ante to compete for the little lady's love.

The big problem guys face trying to forge a long-term relationship with an online girl is much the same as those guys who try to develop a relationship with bargirls. These girls meet more men than you can imagine and they are treated very well by many
of these guys. This gives them an incredible number of options and they quickly learn that they can afford to be both choosy and demanding. The generosity of many men, both in the bar environment and the online world, has pushed Thai women's
stock up to crazy levels.

I maintain that there are better opportunities to meet a good Thai woman online for a long-term relationship than there are in the naughty bars but with that said, many of the same caveats apply. It is helpful to get a woman very early on before she has
had a chance to be wined and dined by a variety of men. You need to set out a very clear plan for the future. And you need to make sure she keeps things in perspective. If she feels that no week is complete without dinner at the Oriental and a
shopping spree at Paragon, you'd better make sure you have deep pockets!

There are many places to meet nice relationship-minded Thai women if you are confident in yourself. The bar environment and the online world are the easiest places, and as such the competition is fierce. Sometimes you have to stretch beyond the low-hanging fruit and try elsewhere.

Last week's photo

Where was this photo taken?

Last week's photo was taken of The Dubliner, the popular Irish pub on Sukhumvit Road, opposite soi 33. 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 correctly guess the photo wins a signed copy of Stephen Leather's superb Private Dancer, which many refer
to as "the bible". It's regarded by many as the best novel set in Thailand's bar scene! The third person to get it right wins a copy of John Daysh's Illicit Islands, his first novel set in Thailand.

Terms and conditions: The Oh My Cod prize MUST be claimed within 14 days. To claim either of the book prizes you MUST provide a postal address within Thailand now. Prizes are
not transferable. Prize winners cannot claim more than one prize per calendar month. You only have one guess per week!

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.

An African beauty parading on Sukhumvit.

I am pretty sure I too have seen this gorgeous African creature you described. More than a few times I have seen her get off the Nana BTS exit at soi 7, heading towards soi 5 or beyond. She is absolutely stunning, and she knows it! I am sure she does
the journey frequently just to see how many heads turn. She loves to dress in African ethnic style clothes in order to stand out even more. I would be interested in confirming if it's the same person you wrote about. She is of such a
calibre that you would be hard pressed not to stop in your tracks and say out loud "Damn, that woman is beautiful!"

Flight costs down, hotel costs up!

I had to reschedule my flight tickets to Thailand which I booked 2 months ago. Surprisingly, the fare was only $100 more than I had paid previously. I checked multiple dates, and there were plenty of flights and most of the fares were cheaper than I paid
during low season in July. Looks like traffic is vastly reduced from the US this year with unemployment reaching 10%. On the other hand, the budget hotel that I stayed at this summer is advertising a special rate that is almost 100% higher
than the walk-in rate I paid.

You don't need to be kind.

I’m disappointed in you. When someone helps us in our home countries and when we help someone in our home countries, we don’t expect payment. Acts of kindness are normal. You are showing an indicator of having been here too long when you
think you have to pay someone for being nice to you. You’ve been too long around too many whores (where one has to pay). And some locals would find insulting your thinking they had to be paid for being kind.
It is easy
to get into that mode you are in. You need to do a reality check and get back to being a normal human being. Unfortunately you are setting a deplorable precedent for some of your readers who wouldn’t know any better and who look to
you for guidance. One shouldn’t and doesn’t have to buy kindness. And I’ve seen examples in the readings at your site where they have done like you – pay just because someone was nice. A Thai (the normal ones, not
like some of those you are around) would absolutely agree with me just as my wife would agree with me and did set me straight soon after I arrived here. We were at the cemetery cleaning up around the grave site of her immediate family member,
some young-men relatives helped us, and I tried to then pay them. The wife let me know that would be totally unnecessary and even insulting. Maybe this personal experience of mine, also on Beach Road, has some relevance. I was waiting out
on the sidewalk for the wife to shop at some little sidewalk shop, and a young Thai employee says, "You can sit here and I won't even charge you for it." She was trying to be nice, but, like you, in this case, was out of touch
with reality, with the thought even being in her mind that she should be paid for kindness. I could spend 100 years in the United States looking for someone thinking like that, and I wouldn't find one case.

Message Thai women for free at

Identifying freelancers versus good girls.

If a girl I've met in a nightclub wants to spend the night with me, and hasn't mentioned anything about money, then I consider it free. In my opinion, a girl that expects money needs to be upfront about it. If you're trying to sell something,
you don't just give it away first and then expect payment later! Besides, even many naughty girls will gladly go with someone they like without expecting anything in return, especially if they already have a sponsor or are flush with
cash. My advice would be to approach girls with the same respect and courtesy, regardless of what she may or may not do for a living. If she really needs money, she'll let you know in advance.

Success with Aeon ATMs.

Today I finally located the Aeon ATM location here in Market Village, Hua Hin. I have previously been using Bangkok Bank for my monthly ATM withdrawals because they allow 25,000 THB maximum and not the 20,000 THB other banks limit you to. Yesterday my
withdrawal from Bangkok Bank was made at a 33.16 THB/$1 exchange rate. Today's withdrawal at Aeon was done at a rate of 33.43 THB/$1. In my case I paid $6.14 less for the same withdrawal from Aeon (which offsets my $5 non Wells Fargo
ATM fee in U.S.) and I also checked the internet to see that the exchange rate had only changed .01 THB from yesterday. Unfortunately it will be another month before I am able to check out another important advantage of using Aeon ATMs. I
asked what the transaction limit was for withdrawal from their ATM. They said 40,000 THB per transaction. If that is true, I can make fewer withdrawals per month at a better exchange rate AND pay fewer fees. My ATM card daily withdrawal rate
was raised to what I was told the maximum my bank would allow which is $1,000 per day. Using Aeon ATMs represents a substantial savings in bringing my money from the U.S. to Thailand. Is there any way you could ask your readers to verify if
the 40,000 THB per transaction limit is real (even though my limit would have to be closer to 33,000 THB because of the daily limit on my card)?

You can't put a price on health and your peace of mind.

I want to share a bit about my relationship with a Thai lady. I loved her from the word go. We travelled around Thailand and had a good time. I was introduced to her mother. Her father has shot through when my lady was an infant. I was shown the family
house and it was almost falling down. My girl begged me to help build a new house. I agreed and we started filling in the land and 6 months later started to build the house in which we now live. When it was finished, mother moved into a house
right next door which belongs to a family member who lives in Bangkok. The old house was demolished so we could fill in the rest of the yard with soil and make the block more stable. About a year after the house was finished I was asked when
we would be starting a house for mother as she would like to have her own house again. I was a bit dumbfounded as I had spent all my savings on the new house and furnishings. I asked my girl how she expected me to build a house for mother
out of my pension when I had already spent 1.7 million baht! She only needs a small place, it shouldn't cost to much, so I said alright, I'll see what I can do. I saved up a little and said if her sister goes half with me, (sister
works as a pro in Soi Cowboy) I would go along with it as long as we can stretch the project out over 1 – 2 years. I had saved 35,000 baht so sister sent another 35,000 baht, the amount the builder said it would cost to get the building roofed.
Everyone was happy when they started building the new house right next to ours. The roof is up and sister wants the whole house finished now! I said I could not afford it and it was also agreed to do it over a period of time. All of a sudden
my girl stopped speaking to me and ignored me completely because I was not helping to don't build this fucken house. Bricks have arrived, door and window frames, more sand and cement all paid for by that fucker in Bangkok. I am now the
bad guy who does not help. Mother has spoken to me 10 times in the 3 years I've been here but I think she thinks I am a ghost and doesn't see me. I speak enough Thai to get by, although it's village slang and not proper Thai.
Now I am so fed up with it that I can not stand the ignorance any longer. I made up my mind to move away and rent a studio somewhere and live in peace. I don't want the rest of my life messed up by these people. I just cannot understand
my girl who had nothing before she met me and now has a nice house and everything that goes with it. She has not had to work for the last 3 years! I have paid all the bills including school uniforms, books etc. for her son from a previous
marriage, plus food / fruit on market days and shopping trips for mother and grandmother. But it seems all this is just not enough. I wonder how ungrateful they can get. I know owning my house is now history – but my health and piece of mind
is worth more.

The incident reported in last week's column where one of the owners of Bali Hugh's was beaten very, very badly remains a hot topic in expat circles with word out that the wrong guy was targeted! Rumour has it that one of the other owners may
have been the intended target although how much truth there is in this rumour is I have no idea. Given what they did to the first guy – a beating so severe it could have left him maimed or disfigured – I should imagine the fellow who is rumoured
to have been the target must be absolutely shitting himself now. To make matters worse, if the rumour is to be believed, the guy who was the intended target is someone who has rubbed more than a few people up the wrong way so he probably doesn't
even know who's behind it. Might be time for him to take a holiday home for a month or two.

Beer gardens are popping up all over the city and the flagship beer gardens were set up outside Central World Plaza this week with Chang, Singha, Federbrau and Tiger represented. Tiger's area looked to be the most inviting, or shall we say, it has
the most comfortable seating. As the weather cools a little more the area outside Central World is a great place to hang out. They tend
to be packed for the first few weeks but after that they lose the chic factor and the locals head for the latest hot spot to be seen.

Everyone's wondering when Pattaya's two new uber gogo bars will open. Baccarra, arguably Bangkok's best gogo, and Pleasuredome which is being hyped much and which has great promise – are both due to open soon. No doubt opening night in
each will attract bar bosses keen to see how many of their former staff have defected to the opposition.

How long has Crazy Girl Bar – great name for a bar, by the way – been open? I walked past it this week while taking a leisurely stroll from soi 33, heading west. It's not far from the Penalty Spot on the main Sukhumvit Road and has a few pretty ladies
sitting out front beckoning passers by inside. There are a few pool tables. This past Friday it was quiet.

There seem to be bar crackdowns taking place in farang-friendly venues nationwide, from the heart of Phuket's nightlife at Patong to Bangkok with bars told that they have to close at 2 AM sharp! Just as we're coming into high season and just
as the number of tourists venturing to Thailand really does seem to be on the increase, the timing could not be worse. Pattaya seems to be exempt which is amazingly sensible. Now there's a word I don't use often in these parts!

A Stickman reader went crazy in Pattaya this week. So the story goes, this long-term expat who used to live in Bangkok and is married to a local lady lost his job and moved down to Pattaya. He is known to have a nasty temper, especially when drunk, and
has been known to get into bar brawls. Anyway, so the story goes, he was in a bar fight in Pattaya recently and cut another foreigner's throat from ear to ear, almost severing his head. Well, of course that's an exaggeration but that's
how it was told to me and it sounded good! Obviously it can't have been that bad as the victim is recovering in hospital. Things are going to get real rough for the perpetrator as the victim's father in law is a Thai police general!
Said fellow has disappeared off the radar and gone into hiding. Best to stay in hiding for the next 10 years I would think.

Far and away my favourite Thai musician, Sek Loso, will perform at Hillary II bar on Sukhumvit soi 4 on November 20th. Tickets can be bought in advance for a very reasonable 500 baht.

Am I the only one who doesn't care for this recent trend of a precious stone being mounted in a woman's tooth? Just like tats, they do nothing for me. Well, actually they do. They turn me off.

The story about the 5 Swedes conned into paying for a plane ticket from Bangkok to Stockholm for a Thai woman that never turned up was one of the links highlighted in last week's column. In Sweden the local media has dug deeper and it turns out the
person behind the scam is not a Thai woman at all, but a Swedish bloke, Gunnar, who is based in Thailand and who has got a scam going where he creates profiles on Swedish dating sites using photos of Thai women. Amongst his many bogus claims is
that he is a woman who lived in Sweden as a "young girl" and therefore "she" can speak Swedish! The "girl" posting the ad was "Louise" and "Louise's" sister supposedly lived back in Sweden
with her Swedish man Gunnar, neither of whom exist for real. This allowed the fraudster to communicate with the victims as "Gunnar" as well and express concern for "Louise" while also validating "Louise's" story.
The same story was used on all 5 victims. Some of the correspondence was copy-pasted to different men, just changing the name of the recipient. Apparently there was some real cheesy stuff but it was all rather clever in a way because it hinted
at money requests without ever asking for it outright. "I'm not a rich girl – but I'm rich in love!" was one such excerpt. I guess if he never asked for money yet it was sent then perhaps a crime was not committed? He appears
have used both Thai SIM cards and Swedish ones but the IP addresses have all originated in Thailand showing that that's where he is based.
Apparently this scammer is known by the Swedish police but there's little they can do because in most cases the conned men feel too ashamed to press charges and it's not a high priority case. I would suggest however that the Thai police
might have more to say about this. A German was caught doing exactly this on Phuket in cahoots with a Thai woman many years ago and if I remember right he ended up in the monkey house.

Bangkok Beat is holding a raffle and giving away a brand new Honda Air Blade motorbike. Every 500 baht spent gets you one ticket and every bottle of spirits you open gets 5 tickets. The winner will be drawn on Christmas Eve and have 72 hours to claim
the prize. While the bike is indeed a nice giveaway, the owner is talking of a really fabulous prize for 2010. More on that next year.

Carlsberg got too big and too successful in Thailand and, well, the rest is history. The Danish brewery didn't last in Thailand with speculation that the shame it brought to local breweries which just could not compete in the premium sector of the
market resulted in face loss that eventually saw a disagreement between the Thai licence holder and the Danish principal result in the partnership falling over. Well, in the premium sector of the market I notice that the low calorie
beer San Miguel Light is doing very well and is the top seller in more bars than you would think. Its success makes me look at the past and wonder if history could repeat itself…

A new bar opened in Jomtien called Lovejoys which has a great selling point – beer and wine are offered all day and night for just 40 baht! The bar can be found right next to the main street making it ideal for people watching. Some ladies can be found on the premises. Of course with such low prices it is sucking in customers from all over the town and causing much discontent amongst other bar owners who say, on hope it would seem, that with drinks offered at those prices the bar cannot possibly last. But you can kill that argument because Lovejoys is not the only bar with such pricing. There is another 40 baht bar in the Jomtien Complex but you have to know where it is to find it. It has been in business for years and the prices haven't changed in at least a year which suggests that this business model works.

The software copyright police have been in the news this week and they are doing the rounds with even schools being checked up on and fined for the use of dodgy software. A friend in the industry locally said small foreigner-owned businesses are on the list of venues to be inspected. Be careful!

Some banks are reducing the 150 baht fee for making a withdrawal at a local ATM machine with a foreign ATM card from 150 baht to a much more reasonable 15 baht. One such bank is Siam Commercial Bank which is fortuitous as you seem to see more branches
of SCB than any other bank. The announcement can be seen here although with this said, a friend who tried it said he still received a message
saying 150 baht would be levied. Hmm…

Seldom am I put off entering a venue because of its name, but Bann Ajarn, a restaurant / bar on Soi Rangnam' did just that. It's a shame because it looked like a real nice venue but the name just put me off.

The police in Thailand have a huge amount of power – and if you fall foul of just one of them they could make your life very, very difficult. Given that some locals have what I think could reasonably be described as unrealistic expectations when it comes
to relationships, I personally would have great reluctance to get involved with a female cop. If she feels you have done her wrong – it does not matter if you have or have not – but she merely feels you have in some way slighted her, then your
life could become anything from very interesting to very difficult. To this end, I would be hesitant in recommending that a foreigner get involved with a female cop. The same applies if Daddy is a high ranking cop. Life could
become very difficult indeed…

Morchit Bus Station is huge and can be a very confusing place. The staff at the ticket booths are generally very helpful but what is not always clear is that each booth often represents just one bus company going to just one destination. The person you
buy tickets from doesn't usually represent different companies and while they might tell you – quite honestly – that the next bus to wherever you're going doesn't leave for x number of hours, there may well be a bus from another
company going to the same destination soon. The buses of the different companies can look much the same with a similar colour scheme and it's not always clear how, or even that, they differentiate themselves. What this leads many foreigners
to do is simply buy the cheapest ticket they can – and why not? Such a decision seems reasonable when the differences appear to be negligible,
if at all. Nakornchai Tour is trying hard to separate itself from the rest. Yes, it might cost a little more but their buses are nicer inside as well as better maintained, the service standards on-board are higher and they are deliberately making
an effort to differentiate themselves from the other operators. Intercity bus travel is inexpensive in Thailand so it really is worth paying a little more for the recommended company – and in this case it is Nakornchai Tour.

Oh, and have you ever wondered why you always get sat next to another male on a bus in Thailand? The ticket sellers do this intentionally. If you want to sit next to a female, get a female to go and buy the ticket for you. The seller will think it is
for her and the placing will, in all likelihood, be next to another female. 🙂

The latest in the long line of bargirl done me wrong websites, that ever popular Thailand genre, does not concern a bargirl at all, but a ladyboy. The fellow behind the Chompoo the Thai ladyboy site has put quite a bit of effort into it. (Please note that if you are homophobic you might not want to check the link out as the main index page features a ladyboy in all her glory.) Chompoo has been a busy beaver.

It's getting a little trickier to take photographs in the nightlife areas and I had issues doing just that on Walking Street. The first problem I faced was in the New Simon Beer Bar Complex where a security guard approached me and asked me to stop
taking photos – to which I complied. Fair enough, I was on what is actually private premises and he has every right to ask me to stop, notwithstanding that the girls were not at all concerned about it. The next place I had a problem was not far
from Insomnia, the massive disco a couple of hundred or so metres further down Walking Street. I was standing well away from the main entrance of the bar and taking photos of various people who were also well outside the bar – and most weren't
going inside or even looking to go into the venue. But even with that said, Insomnia's security did not appreciate me in the area taking photos and while composing a shot I was grabbed by a security guard who very aggressively told me to
stop. He made out, in poor English, that if I continued to take photos there it would end up in a big problem for me. Technically I was not in the wrong at all because while they could ask me to stop if I was on the premises OR shooting from outside
into the premises (there is an expectation of privacy which means photographers should not shoot from outside a dwelling directly into it), what they asked me to do was outside of what their actual rights are. But this being Thailand, I knew it
would not be a good idea to argue and besides, many of the security there look like off-duty cops – a bunch it's best not to argue with. Perhaps I should have called Howard for backup?

Quote of the week. "I was looking out over a rainy city today when I saw a lone balloon drifting across the tops of some low-rises in Prakanong and my only thought was, Geez, there goes some guy's dick."

Stickman reader's story of the week is "BKKSW's "Good Girls for Dummies!@#%!" A Primer" by

Thailand really is raping a bloke in Jomtien.

From YouTube comes a new HD video almost 10 minutes in length of a walk around Nana Plaza.

Australia's Age newspaper did a decent job of covering some of the high spots in Bangkok.

In peaceful, tranquil New Zealand, a computer programmer killed his Thai prostitute girlfriend and kept the rotting corpse in the house for a month!

The scum involved in a Thai slave sex scandal in Australia are jailed.

Cambodia has named Taksin an economic advisor in a move that has caused a major rift between the two countries.

The New York Times highlighted Thailand this week.

From today's Bangkok Post comes the confessions of an HIV positive freelancer who roams Sukhumvit.

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. Mr. Stick was forced to deputise for Mrs. Stick this week.

Question 1: I'd like your advice on workplace romance in Bangkok. Specifically, I'm wondering if it is appropriate for me, an ajarn, to socialise with one of the school secretaries outside the office. What do you think? Would
I be doing something taboo, or at least unwise?

Mr. Stick says: Workplace romances are common in Thailand, perhaps more common here than in the West. You don't hear a lot about them being prohibited per se, but obviously in some companies they may not be looked at positively either. The biggest danger with a workplace romance in Thailand is what happens when / if the relationship goes bad. If the relationship is known to your colleagues but things later go bad and it falls apart, the woman will inevitably lose face in the workplace. Why couldn't she keep him, they
will all be asking! What did she do wrong for the relationship to fall apart? Is she a bad girlfriend? Does she not know how to make a man happy? The gossip will be never ending and for many Thai woman this can be too much to handle so they resign. With this in mind, if you do enter a workplace romance, you might want to keep it secret if you're just looking at it as a bit of fun and something that won't go anywhere. However, if the two of you are happy together and you genuinely see it going somewhere then there is no reason to keep it secret forever. Just remember that if things go bad then there is a real chance that she will find herself looking for a new position elsewhere.

Question 2: I have a close friend in Bangkok I've known for 3 years. I understand that the quality of different universities can be very high in Thailand. She studies third year at UTCC, The University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce in Bangkok.
Could you please describe a little of the quality and standard of this university compared to similar universities in Bangkok and Thailand in general.

Mr. Stick says: As far as Thais are concerned, yes, there is a big difference between the standards of the various universities. Chulalongkorn University, in the heart of Bangkok, is the oldest and generally considered the best although some say it is a little conservative and staid. Thammasat University with the main campus not far from the Grand Palace and against the banks of the Chao Praya River is considered number 2. It is generally considered more progressive. Attendance of either of these universities is seen in a very positive light by most Thais. After those two there is a bit of a gap to a handful of other universities, most of which are in Bangkok although Chiang Mai University, Prince of Songkhla in the south and Khon Kaen all have a decent reputation. Some universities don't have a good reputation and many Thais, particularly those from money would not want to say that is where they graduated from. Of course universities are like schools in that irrespective of the reputation of the institution, much depends on the teachers or professors you study with. Sort of like how a less-respected hospital or clinic might actually have a great doctor. Also, some universities are supposed to be strong in some areas, weak in others. A certain large Bangkok university is sneered at by high society Thais although the Faculty of Law there is well-regarded. As far as the university your friend studies at, I personally haven't heard much about it so cannot say.

There's nothing I enjoy more than roaming the streets of the capital, or perhaps better still, Sin City, camera in hand, snapping life on the street, particularly after dark. Feedback from readers regarding the photos I post in this column has been
complimentary with some readers asking about the gear I use to capture these shots. Let me first say that the gear you use is just one part of the whole photograph equation. Most of it comes down to you, the photographer. This is not a cliché
– it's true! If you're want to take shots of the neon lights of the nightlife areas, ANY digital camera with manual control will do. Just mount the camera on a tripod or on a flat surface, dial in F8 on or so in the aperture control
and take a timed exposure. It should be fine. Voila, you should have a nightlife scene shot as good as anything on this site. Yep, it really is that simple. If you want to capture the girls in the bars, things get trickier due to the low light
in that environment, to say nothing of actually getting permission (although that's nothing a bunch of lady drinks won't solve in most places). I don't use a flash as I feel it kills the mood which means I have to take shots at
a very high ISO setting, usually 6400, sometimes higher, and use a low light lens, usually set wide open at F 1.4. Such equipment is a little costly so if you're on a budget, the same camera used to capture the night scene will do – it just
means you'll need to use the flash which, like I say, can kill the mood somewhat. If at all possible, turn the power of the flash down. Anyway, if you want to know more about photography in Thailand, I'm not really the guy to ask. But
Bangkok Steve, a professional photographer who first learnt his trade in the US military and later fine-tuned it in his own studio, is. Steve has been writing a Bangkok-centric
weekly photography column on this site for more than a year. Check it out for stacks of tips as well as heaps of great photos
and weekly photographic news. It's a weekly column so you get Steve on Saturday and Stick on Sunday. And if you haven't had enough of Mr. Stick for the week, Steve interviewed me in his column this week. You can find the
Stickman photography interview here.

Your Bangkok commentator,


nana plaza