Stickman's Weekly Column November 1st, 2009

Conan Is Not A Barbarian


He's taller than Michael Jordan, bigger than Arnie and has a voice like Darth Vader, all of which makes him one of the most scary foreigners in Thailand.

His website lists him as a 7 foot tall, 320 pound former bodybuilder, ex-professional wrestler and currently an actor, who just happens to be based in Thailand. This week one of the stars of the popular Thai movie "Som Tam", Conan Stevens, and I met up for a bit of a chat.

Foreigners in Thailand can be found in the classroom, in offices and in embassies amongst other places but how many do you find in a movie studio?

Conan and I swapped the general madness of Pattaya where he is based for the air-conditioned sanctuary that is Pattaya's Bon Cafe branch where our meeting starts…






You don't sound like a Kiwi. What sort of accent is that?

<I'm thrown totally off guard as pleasantries are bypassed and this giant of a man is putting me on the spot right from the word go.> Yeah, my accent's really neutral. <I laugh it off and look down at my notes as we immediately get into the interview proper.>

While you are known to some in Thailand, you are probably not known by most readers spread around the world. You've got a really varied CV, from being a champion drinker at university level and pro wrestler to being an actor. I mean, how many guys look like they could genuinely rip Sly and Arnie to bits yet also happen to hold MENSA membership? So can you tell me a little bit about yourself?

You can put dancer in there too! Yep, that's all true, what you just said. All of it. I grew up in Sydney, Australia, near the beach but I've been in Thailand for the past few years. Today, I'm an actor. For me moving to Pattaya a couple of months ago after almost 5 years in Bangkok has been a good move for my mental well-being. The last few years in Bangkok were the first time ever I have been away from the water.

How did you end up here in Thailand in the first place?

A friend got part as a stunt man in "Powerkids", a Thai movie, and he called me up in Australia and said there were slots available so I sold up everything and flew over. The acting industry was rather slow there at that time and I wasn't happy in Australia.

Did you ever do much acting in terms of movies or cinema in Australia?

Three years on stage with Sydney Dance Company at the Sydney Opera house, a couple of TV commercials and one movie, a US movie called "Man-Thing", where I played a 10-foot tall swamp monster in a rubber suit!

So how many local movies have you appeared in? And in how many did you get a major role?

I've now done 5 Thai movies, 2 of which happened to be playing on the Pattaya channel last month. I have done three big budget movies in the region too. The last movie I worked on was called "True Legends", a Chinese film by Yuen Woo Ping who was the action director for Matrix, Kill Bill, Lethal Weapon and a lot more. He's the number one guy in his field. I played in that with David Caradine, you know, shortly before you know what happened.

Your big name movie is "Som Tam", right? At least that's how I know you.

The biggest Thai movie I appeared in is Som Tam but I think more people recognise me from "Bangkok Adrenaline". That's the movie I wrote the script for. A group of foreigners produced it ourselves and it got a full cinema release in Thailand and an international DVD release.

So what about "Som Tam". It's the one I know. The Thais loved it, yeah?

Ummm…. <long pause> I went to see it at the cinema, a Thai cinema, to get a real reaction from the audience and see what they really thought about. They took it well but I was surprised when I went to watch Bangkok Adrenaline the same way, the Thais were laughing all the way through. I guess that means I have a childish sense of humour!

So am I interviewing my first Hollywood star today?

Not yet. Very soon I hope! Through my website I have got some very interesting contacts recently. I auditioned for a move Antonio Banderos will star in for a co-lead position but they chose a French Canadian giant instead. He actually has giantism.

What is giantism?

Gianistim is a pituitary gland fault where your body produces too much growth hormone causing abnormal growth which results in a larger jaw, forehead, hands and feet as well as growing really tall. They can be very, very strong naturally whereas I am just genetically tall.

So what's it like acting in Thailand and working in the entertainment industry here compared to in the West?

In Australia you'd get people who would know me from the ballet or from wrestling. You would get someone who would want to prove themselves for some reason and they would want a fight. In Thailand, someone recognises me wherever I go but at the most I get a quiet wink or someone might timidly approach me and ask me if I am an actor from such and such a movie.

So no-one has taken you on here?

No. Thais, definitely not! A few foreigners carry on, you know how they can be!

How much does your size play a part in getting a movie role, or missing out on one?

That's an interesting question.

I mean you get must get typecast, right?

To get around typecasting what I have done and what is all part of a long term plan, is serving my acting apprenticeship outside of America so I can reach a level that when I went to America I would be considered as a serious actor rather than just another big grunt. I refuse to be the bug grunt. I flatly refuse to do that. Once you do one big grunt role that's all you're going to be good for. The offers I have had recently have verified this plan as having merit. Being tall I do miss out on a lot of roles but I have created a niche and my plan is to fill my niche market by being a huge actor who can act. At a meeting recently with a Japanese director I introduced myself as an actor who could fight, not a fighter who was trying to act.

That's a big difference.

I joined the army, but even back then I had a plan to get into movies. The idea was I would join the army so I could learn to use weapons correctly. I become Australian wrestling champion to learn how to stage fight and break fall which are basic stunt techniques. That was the only way you could do it in Australia at that time. I have done karate, again for the same reason, to learn to kick. Throughout my life everything has been a small step forward towards the goal of acting. I hate working and didn't want to get a job and that's the truth.

You look like someone people wouldn't want to mess with. If I met you down a quiet soi late at night, I'd shit myself!

<He pulls a scary face and we both burst out laughing> Back in Sydney I was living with a 140 kg Samoan and we went to work one night. He left just a little before me. To get to where we were going we had to walk down a dark side alley. As he walked a passer by turned and looked at my friend and was gasping in fear and then that guy turned around and bumped into me and he absolutely freaked! When I started laughing he realised everything was ok! That was so funny. My Samoan friend Darren was a big lad but I was even bigger.

You're that big that people must recognise you in the street.

I have been very quiet and not done any real publicity here in Thailand. I refused to do interviews previously. Just recently I have started because primarily I would like to get some sponsorship. I don't plan on working again in Thailand. I have pretty much reached the top of the league here as far as a foreigner can go unless I really immersed in the country. I would have to start speaking Thai really well and the amount of effort that that would take pales in comparison with what I could get acting in America. Thailand has been very good to me but it is time for me to move on as far as my acting career goes.

Being Thailand-based, how do you get work?

I have an American agent who lives in Bangkok who also represents Tatayoung and some high profile Thai stars. He flies to America once a month to chase work for us. Other than that I get overseas offers direct via my website which I have optimised for Google. Any search for tall actor, giant actor, 7 foot wrestler or any combination of those keywords will bring my site up. I have almost completed one Hindu movie. That was a job that I was contacted for via my website and there are a couple of other projects which have come through the website that should pan out soon.

Is there good money in acting in Thailand for Westerners?

No. <long pause….a rueful expression comes on his face> This is one of the reasons I won't work here any more. You would be surprised how little Westerners acting in Thailand get paid. The only Westerner who would have made money here was Nathan Jones because they hired him from the West through a Western agent. You don't work your way up. I simply quote a certain amount and they won't call me. Even if they need me they won't call me! <He told me off the record how much he makes and I doubt it would even cover his food billStick>

Other than acting, has your size helped you to land any other offers of work in Thailand?

I'm not working in Thailand. I have been offered bodyguard work. I hear a lot of talk in Thailand but many people don't actually earn anything. I find Pattaya with the large expat population to have more opportunities and more work permit availability, jobs that actually have a real work permit come with it. I am only interested in pursuing my chosen career at this stage and my online endeavours.

That begs the question, why Pattaya? You don't strike me as a pervert and I would have thought all the work opportunities were in Bangkok.

I could introduce you to a few girls who would have something to say about that <his big laugh and our combined laughter fills the cafe>.

Pattaya has a large farang population and actually there are some very high class wealthy people who choose to live here because they like it and are not here because of any financial constraints. I have started to meet these people. I was invited to a weekend barbeque / overnight party recently and some of the guys had ultra light aircraft and flew down to the resort for the weekend barbeque followed by a night of drinking. There is definitely a different side of Pattaya to Walking Street.

And I have got quite a few friends from Australia who live here and a lot more people I know who holiday here regularly for instance, a good friend from Sydney is Jason who owns Champagne A Gogo in Soi LK Metro.

You prefer it here to Bangkok?

Purely from a health aspect, yes. Cleaner air and being close to the ocean keeps the temperature more bearable. Having the ability to zip across town in 10 minutes, even in peak hour traffic, is a major bonus to your social life. The people here are more used to foreigners and I have seen a few foreigners here with real friendships with the local people which I never saw in Bangkok, ever. Not one.

A few weeks ago Mrs. Stick was asked about how Thai women feel about big guys. You're not big, you're massive! How do you find Thai women feel about that?

Girls who are not used to foreigners tend to be very standoffish. Judging by the amount of time they look at me and how long they stare at me there is curiosity there but in general I find the Thai girls are more than interested. It's the same back home. It's always the short girls who are most interested in big guys.

So what does the future hold? Are you going to put Thailand the rear view mirror?

I don't know. I went back to Australia two years ago and when I was there I felt like I was missing home – Thailand! I think in the long term Thailand will always be a part of my life in some form. Probably I will end up based here but pursuing work overseas. For the next year at least, I am up for about 6 American movies. How many of them pan out is a different matter but there's 6 possibilities on the books at the moment. I can't say too much more about them. I met a producer from a large well-known movie franchise and the first words out of his mouth were "How would you like to be in my new movie?" My physique suits the character type perfectly. Let's see what happens!

* You can find out more about Conan Stevens at his website.

Last week's photo

Where was this photo taken?


Last week's photo was taken of the walkway from MBK leading into Siam Discovery Centre. Heaps of readers got it right but even more got it wrong, thinking that it was Central Chidlom – sorry, you were about 2 km away! 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. IF YOU WANT TO WIN A PRIZE PLEASE SPECIFY WHICH PRIZE YOU WANT!

Terms and conditions: The Oh My Cod prize MUST be claimed within 14 days. To claim 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.

Tell her to turn the TV off!

On the reduced massage prices some places are offering, sadly I feel certain it will lead to heavier touting for extras. This was already starting to happen on my trip last February, and put me off of my usual number of massages, as I like just to have just a good massage, in a friendly quiet atmosphere. The practice of televisions being on in the background is not conducive to receiving a message and is becoming more common. Maybe I will be pleasantly surprised on my next trip and find a good place.

Hard to find a good massage!

If one needs a massage, generally the girls can provide many 'extra' services, but rarely a quality massage! The morning after reading your latest weekly, which mentioned some Pattaya parlors providing massages for a mere 99 baht, I happened to awake with a stiff neck and muscle spasms in my upper back. I thought for just 99 baht I'd give it a go. I told the girl I just wanted a massage only, yet she proceeded to close the curtains around the booth. Hmmm! I was surprised that she never made a pitch for extras but devoted the hour to providing the best deep muscle massage I've experienced outside of Wat Po. I later learned the gal had studied at Wat Po and her skills confirmed it. I tipped her 100 baht and later felt it should have been more! 'Extra' services are available everywhere, but encountering a quality massage was a real find!

20 years of bar changes.

I would like to go back 20 years. Patpong ruled and was the only farang area for naughtiness. In the Patong beach bars the girls were so aggressive that you would pay a barfine just to have a girl watching your back for the night, otherwise you couldn't even attempt to have a conversation. We would play a game for the first round, who could avoid eye contact the longest. You just needed to take a fleeting glance and they were all over you. The barfine back then was $5, so it was the easiest solution. Of course you would need to tip them for wasting their time when you left alone. The girls rarely drank or smoked in those days and would rarely have a drink of anything even if you offered one. I don't recall seeing a tattooed girl! Mind you I was 20 years younger at that time and probably a lot better looking than I am today! Not that it much mattered. I did talk with the ladies back then and they considered me old at 33! Hmmm, yes how that has changed! Oh yes, believe it or not the ganja was way better then than now!

Angeles City an option?

I tend to find the lack of young guys unusual as well as when I first started going to Thailand it was full of young guys and they give a different vibe, generally more fun and light-hearted. I was in a bar a year ago and it was full of OAPs. Personally I don't care really as I am not old nor young but in between. I find the older guys pretty serious about scoring girls and they are reluctant to talk and joke. It all seems to be a mission for them. I had one guy actually say to me it pissed him off when young guys came in as he found it harder to get the girls and he pretty much ignored me after that. I remember when it was 50 / 50 and it seemed much more lively and fun then. I think it's the cost now. Bangkok is not cheap and given the economic factors it's not going to attract the younger crowd. You stack up the flight, hotel, etc. I also think the girls are much more commercial-minded so they just see dollars and the fun factor has diminished. I have buddies who live in Angeles City and they find the attitude in Thailand is bad and it's so much more expensive. They are both young guys and they find the Philippines is more fun and people are friendly. They have been trying to get me over there for ages. I may just try it out as I have become bored with Thailand myself.

Wash your feet after it rains!

I was reading about the recent flooding in the Philippines and was surprised that a number of deaths were related to Leptospirosis. This is a disease that is caused by coming into contact with animal urine. In areas with a large animal population the ground is saturated with their urine and rains and flooding release the disease to humans. I once spent a month in a nice guesthouse on Soi Chaiyapoon in Pattaya. The soi filled with water even during mild rain. After slogging through the water a number of times, my feet started itching and the skin began to peel off. A callous that has been on my big toe since my teen years softened and fell off. My wife said what do you expect, the water is filled with animal and human waste! My feet eventually recovered, but I was reminded of this looking at pictures of the recent flooding in Pattaya. I always wash my feet after I come in contact with rain puddles now.

No shame in a newbie making mistakes.

My first trip to Bangkok was in 1999. I'll never forget my first night in town. I checked into the JW Marriott around 11 PM. I looked out the window and saw the bright lights of the Nana Plaza and wondered what the place was. I knew nothing of the nightlife then except knowing about Patpong which isn't exactly around the corner from the JW. Instead of venturing down to check it out, I opened the phone book and called an escort service. What a fool I was! Thankfully, the following night, a workmate living in town showed me the ropes. I certainly knew what to do then!

Who's the whore next door?!

I haven't been back to Thailand for a few years now, so I was intrigued by your comment about less young guys – which is one reason I've not been back for some time. I felt they had ruined things for us old guys. You mention political correctness as a possible reason why there are less younger guys going to Thailand. Let me suggest another reason: More young farang girls are now dressing and acting like bargirls. Guys don't need to go to Thailand when the girl next door is a wannabe whore. They have pole dancing in the States now as an exercise routine! Many young girls here have tattoos. Ever seen the "Girls Gone Wild" videos? This is what a corrupted culture and hip hop has contributed to America. White kids want to be black and black kids just become more depraved with every passing year. They know they can't all be basketball players but maybe they can all be rap stars.

Lies, same same but different!

I have been a tourist to Thailand since 1990 but not so much in recent years. One of the things I noticed has changed is the bargirls spend less time lying about silly things. No kidding! When I first went there they used to lie about everything, just for practice. Where they came from, their age, anything! It seems now they keep their lies to more important matters. Possibly on the same note, in the first two visits virtually every girl told me her age was 19, 21, 23, 25 – bye never an even-numbered age.



The popular manager of Molly Malone's, Mark, left the Soi Convent pub at the end of September for greener pastures. For those who enjoyed good conversation as well as Mark's hospitality, you can now find him at O'Reilly's on the main Silom Road, just a hundred metres or so away from his previous place of work. Swing by and say hello.

Power outages hit Walking Street late on Monday night with a number of venues plunged into darkness. Some street lights were out and the power was on again, off again in a number of venues, including bars and eateries, all night long. Clear skies overhead meant that rain was not a factor.

The Russians look like doing what they threatened to do in the late '90s – dominate the tourism industry in Pattaya. As far as the Ruskies are concerned the high season seems to have started early – and there are big numbers of them already in Pattaya. You can't help but notice more and more businesses catering exclusively to them or at least being Russian friendly with brochures, signs and menus in Russian and some venues even looking for Russian speaking staff.

But Russians aren't the only "new" visitors to Pattaya and just as the Russians don't always find themselves popular with other visitors, some of the other new visitors aren't endearing themselves with the locals either. This week I heard two separate stories from two different girls in two different bars about Greek guys availing themselves of a lady's services and then disappearing. Very bad form, very dangerous and for sure if they continue to do this then someone's balls are going to end up separated from their body and floating in Pattaya bay. In each case the guys were described as being young, early to mid 20s, and good looking. There do seem to be more and more eastern Europeans (non-Russian) and southern Europeans making it to Pattaya now, that is folks from the poorer European countries – and from what the girls said this week and from what one observes their daily spend isn't much. But stiffing a prostitute does seem like a really low, to say nothing of an extremely risky, thing to do.

After the whole TJ affair – he was the bar owner found dead in a Pattaya hotel room with a bread roll wedged in his throat a few weeks ago – many Pattaya bars, particularly those that are farang-owned or managed, won't touch underage girls. The sad truth is that there has been a real underage problem in Pattaya gogo bars for a long time with many bars having not just a girl or two on the books who was not of the legal age, but a handful. The boys in brown know that if they can nail a Western bar manager or bar owner with young girls on the premises then there is ample opportunity to, how shall we say, negotiate. No bar owner or manager wants their name banded across the local press for anything to do with underage women, let alone the press in their own country which very well may pick up the story. The stigma associated with underage is strong.

The New Simon Beer Bar complex, pictured right, can be found in Walking Street opposite sois 14 and 15. When it was being built I was a bit cynical about what it would be like but I have to say that they really have a done a good job and created a very nice feel and what can rightly claim to be top end beer bars. The bars are nicely decorated, the lighting is good and the girls are generally better looking than what you usually find in a Pattaya beer bar. Frog Bar, the venue at the front right, is doing a booming trade, not surprising given its primo location and the fact that it has 3 or 4 seriously cute ladies. I do hope the bars down the back are paying much less than those lining the main drag because there are about 5 times as many customers in the bars at the front compared to those at the back!

Soi 22 has once again shown itself to be an area where farangs face trouble with the owner of Bali Hugh's (on the main Sukhumvit Road just a few doors along from The Dubliner) getting jumped by a bunch of thugs with pieces of wood and sticks (no, that does NOT make them Stickmen!) around 5 AM Saturday last week outside Larry's Dive. Said fellow ended up in hospital with stitches keeping his head together. Fortunately the prognosis is good and he will make a full recovery. It's a reminder that downtown Bangkok is not the safe place many make it out to be.

Some Soi Cowboy bars charge full price for drinks whether you sit inside or out, but some offer a discount for those sitting outside who don't get to see the show or benefit from the air-con. One such bar is Sheba's where all standard drinks are 95 baht all night long outside. Its position in the centre of the soi makes for a great place to people watch.

The question has to be asked. Why has there been a rise in the number of katoey bars in Nana? There must be a reason for this yet I have yet to hear one.

Pattaya's Champagne A Gogo invites all Stickman readers to a FREE drink! Simply print out this free drink coupon, take it to Champagne A Gogo on Soi LK Metro, just off Soi Diana and your first drink (draught, local bottled beer, house spirit) is free!

A gent who used to be involved in one of my favourite bars, Safari in Patpong, is languishing in a Cambodian prison. If you thought Thai prisons were bad, over in Cambodia they're supposed to be real shockers. It's said that he strutted into town about a year ago with his can do, borrow boy attitude and somehow got lucky and picked up a bar for a couple of thousand and parlayed it into a 55K sale, apparently. He set up an employment agency for hospitality workers and published a magazine called Cool Cambodia but it's not so cool for him now. There are all sorts of rumours surrounding his demise with some saying that he sold his bar for 55K to a Khmer who was duped with false books who then sought retaliation and nailed him. Others say that some barang (that's a white guy in Cambodia) bar owners ganged up on him because his venue was doing so well but that doesn't sound right to me. Whatever the case, rumour has it that he won't be out for years. Poor sod.

For those who refuse to be fleeced by the Thai banks 150 baht fxxx the farang fee, AeonThailand seems to be the best bet. They have 96 ATMs in Bangkok and do NOT charge the 150 baht fee.

The pavement on the even soi numbered side of Sukhumvit around sois 20 and 22 is currently a real mess – worse than usual – and a major hazard at night because of the bad lighting – no lighting in some parts – and the deep pot holes, mud and general murkiness in the area. If you're walking around that part of Sukhumvit after dark it might pay to walk on the odd soi-numbered side to avoid coming a cropper. And it has to be said that the state of the pavement from sois 4 to 14 isn't much better. I assume they will redo that section of Sukhumvit soon too.

When exchanging foreign currency into baht in Thailand, it's wise to check both the rate and more importantly, how much baht cash you are given. I regularly receive complaints from readers about how they were short-changed and there are two spots that keep coming up – and both can be found on Sukhumvit soi 4! The first is the small Bangkok Bank exchange booth next to Nana Plaza, the other the 24-hour money changer opposite the Dynasty Inn. Be careful on soi 4 when changing your money!

Farang-oriented freelancer bars used to be found up and down Sukhumvit Road. You had the Nana Disco and the Grace Hotel at the Western end, the Biergarten and Thermae in between and Country Road at the eastern edge of the main section of the naughty boy area. But looking at things now, these venues are either in disarray or have changed format. The manager's greed in slapping a hefty cover charge on a meat market entry, despite strong advice to refrain from doing so, killed Nana Disco. The bar below the Grace Hotel seems to have fallen off the farang map completely. Regulars claim that the Biergarten is not nearly as good as it used to be (was it ever good?) and the rumour mill has it that that piece of prime land will soon become a church! Country Road at the west end of Soi Cowboy is not the freelancer venue it once was. The Thermae is virtually Japanese only now and most of the girls there are petrified of being pawed by stray farang. Oh how Bangkok has changed.

To the guy who asked Mrs. Stick about a Thai passport for his girlfriend in last week's column, it is confirmed that a Thai passport costs 1,000 baht and can be collected after 3 days.

Down Phuket way, who says Patong is expensive? A new bar has opened in Soi Patong Resort called Bliss Lounge, adjacent to the Buffalo Steakhouse. It's nicely fitted out with half a dozen friendly girls and a hospitable Dutchman in charge. Bliss Lounge operates a generous happy hour with 2 for 1 drinks from 9 until 10 PM including all the good stuff. At other times it's only 50 baht for draught and 120 baht for premium spirits, such as Tanqueray.

Still in Phuket, the massage outlet pictured right has a most auspicious name. In Bangkok we have Porn Massage (Porn being a popular Thai nickname) and there is also Puke Massage – which really should be spelled Booky, a common Thai nickname.

A few weeks ago a mate told me about an African pop star he had met on Sukhumvit and spent the night with. The story sounded tall but he insisted that she told him her name which he checked online and it was her for sure. There were also a number of YouTube pop videos to prove her prowess extends to the recording studio. I heard from a reader this week who also knows her and even says that she carries a bunch of her music CDs around with her. She is said to have an Oxbridge accent and is supposed to be hotter than hot. So there we are gents, for those of you who like ladies of colour, you have the chance to bed a real pop star! She can be found loitering on Sukhumvit in the Skank Alley area nightly.

Along with asking where someone met their girlfriend or wife, the other question you shouldn't ask in Thailand, or at least not push the issue on, is just what someone does for a living. A lot of people are very reluctant to answer that question!

Little gets visitors to Thailand more upset than price gouging. I'm not talking a few baht here and there but massive overpricing, like the bills for thousands of baht that unwitting first timer visitors to upstairs bars in Patpong might be presented with. It should be noted however that Westerners are far from the only ones targeted in scams of this nature. There has been much in the Thai media this past week when it was revealed how a now-closed Thai karaoke bar had a similar practice. Since that expose people have come out of the woodwork and the practice seems to be even more widespread in the Thai-oriented sector of the industry.

Strolling along Beach Road, I sat down next to some working girls, not for any reason other than I wanted to sit and just watch the world go by. The ladies engaged me in conversation and we chatted away for about 15 minutes before I decided to move on. As I sat up, one of the girls started yelling at me. I didn't catch what she said the first time and then she grabbed my backside and told me to stand still! She explained that I had sat on some chewing gum and it was all over my bum! For the next few minutes I had the indignity, or pleasure – I have not decided just which yet – of two young Thai ladies meticulously going about picking chewing gum off my bum, well, off my jeans really – right there in the middle of the afternoon on Beach Road. It took a few minutes before they told me it was ok to proceed at which point, for the first time in my life, I actually handed a Beach Road girl a few baht for her services. These girls get a hard time, especially those who are freelancing in the most down-market areas, but I simply cannot imagine a regular woman ever showing that sort of kindness that these girls did with absolutely no thought nor comment about being rewarded for it. It was just a genuine act of kindness.

When the new airport opened one of the nice touches in the first year was that wi-fi internet access was free throughout. No-one expected it would last forever and after a year or so a password was required – and that had to be paid for. Things have however reverted back to being free which is nice because there are few places more boring than airports. To available yourself of the free 'net access, you have to show a boarding card at any airport information desk where hopefully (this is Thailand, after all…), they will actually know what you're talking about and provide the login and password details.

In some venues the line between who is up for cash and who is up for a good time is blurred. Venues such as Gulliver's, Bangkok Beat, Q Bar and Bed attract a diverse crowd. Is she being friendly because she likes your wallet or because she really likes you?! So a friend asked me a question I could not answer. If you're not sure if the girl you take home is a "good" girl or a freelancer, just how do you tell if there is no discussion of money? Forget asking her directly for it will kill the mood completely. What is the protocol when it is time to bid her farewell? Perhaps the answer is in the trick another friend uses, not asking her directly what her job is – which basically says to her that you think she is whoring but cannot be sure, but merely asking her "What did you do today?" If it's a regular work day and she says that she slept or did nothing, the odds are she is a naughty girl who will expect to be paid for services. If she says she worked that day then she is probably not looking for any extra baht. So dear readers, how do you handle this situation?

With a number of foreigners in Thailand claiming to be something they are not, a group of genuine mental health professionals have set out on a mission to provide a means to help find the genuine qualified professionals in the pack and give them a stamp of approval. So should you or anyone be in need of a genuine Western mental health professional, check here first.

Quote of the week, "I just dyed my hair back to the colour it was three wives ago!"

From Aljazeera comes news that the Thai tourism industry is suffering from the country's instability.

Down Phuket way the arrival of the US navy is resulting in a crackdown on ladyboys.

Australia's Age newspaper ran a scathing piece on Pattaya this week.

A Thai woman scams not one but five Swedes!

A heap of farang women were caught on Soi Cowboy in this video.

From Phuket Wan, mystery deaths in Phuket raise questions.

The Thai banker who has been hiding out in Canada lost his permission to stay there.

A dirty Dutchman gets knifed for slapping a lady of the night who refused his requests to take smutty photos of her!

One of the authors of the classic "Hello My Big Big Honey" wrote an article for CNN about an American couple trying to convert Bangkok bargirls….into something else.

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: I married a bargirl 13 years ago who was 15 years younger than me. We have 3 children. We have always had a very good marriage and enjoy each other's company as much as the first day we met. Recently I found out that she has been having an affair with a boy she met 3 years ago. By boy, I mean he was only 18 when they met while she was 35. When I confronted her about this she denied it at first until I told her that I had spoken to the said boy. She is so sorry and says the boy never really meant anything to her and she does not know why she did it. I half believe her because of all the years we have spent together. She has always been honest with me. We still have a very loving relationship but how can I ever trust her again? What are your thoughts and is this something that Thai women do, taking a much younger lover?

Mrs. Stick says: I never heard of this before. If she was seeing him for 3 years then actually I think it is quite serious. It means he can give her something you do not. If they just meet one time or for not a long period of time then maybe it is because your relationship is bad at that time. I think 3 years is a long time and he can give her something you do not. So it means she is not happy in your relationship and something is missing for her. I think you need to listen to her and find out how you can be a better husband so this does not happen again. I know what she did is not good but maybe you need to open your mind and understand why she did it.

Question 2: I want to talk about the issue of parents relying on or being partially dependent on their kids. Take a typical lass working in Bangkok in a job such as a secretary, waitress, sales assistant etc. It is hard enough for her to break even each month, never mind send money home. Also how about the sweet daughter who leaves home after finishing school and starts to send money home each month only to return a year later with the bargirl appearance (tattoos and cheap slutty clothes). For the good girl, she will never have the chance to save a baht or buy something she really wants. For the bad girl her life is effectively over. How can parents live with themselves by expecting and accepting money from their kids who are already faced with an uphill struggle from day one. In western cultures is it very rare to hear of parents being supported. OK, there are government pension schemes in place but come on, saving enough money for your future retirement is just common sense. Or is it just the same old story of having enough money for tomorrow, forget next week, next month, next year. I'm trying not to criticise. I know my girlfriend sends the odd bit of cash back home now and then, but personally I could never accept any money from my kids. Give them a chance in life. What are your thoughts?

Mrs. Stick says: Our parents make the biggest sacrifice of their life to raise us. Their whole life changes forever and we understand this and we want to make them proud of us and we want them to have a happy life so if we can support them we will. But not every family must be supported by the children. We are not rich but my mum will never accept money from us. Even if I try to give money to my mum she will not take it so I have to buy things instead. One time I bought a sofa and it was delivered at her house and she did not know until it arrived. It makes us happy to see our parents happy.

Mr. Stick says: I think this is a more complicated question than it first seems and there is no single answer that applies to all Thai families. There are families that are desperately poor because of sloth and laziness and one or more of the kids – usually the daughters – ends up supporting the family. This is obviously highly something that most Westerners struggle with and find highly questionable. Then there are poor families where for whatever reason the parents cannot support themselves, perhaps due to ill health, old age etc. and in situations like this I think it is very noble of the kids to support the family – but sad if it means that their own life is compromised, or as does happen in some cases, ruined. There are also many families where the parents simply do not want the children to support them and do see such support put on kids as a (perhaps unnecessary) burden.

Thanks to all readers who took the time to comment after last week I asked whether the column was getting too long. The response was massive, so much so that I received more email this past week than ever before. Monday is usually the busiest day with around 100 emails or so but this week there were three days with more than 100 emails – which has never happened before. The vast majority who responded were comfortable with the length and many made the valid comments that if anyone felt it was too long they could just scroll past the bits that don't interest them, sort of like the way you skim over articles that don't really interest you in a newspaper. Based on all of the feedback received this past week, some of which was really quite humbling, I don't plan to make any changes to the column at all. Please note that I fell behind in responding to emails this week and I still have a small backlog to get through – so if you emailed in the past week and have yet to get a reply, I am on to it!



Your Bangkok commentator,

Stick

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