Stickman's Weekly Column November 15th, 2009

Photography And The Nightlife


More and more visitors are taking cameras to the naughty nightlife areas and many of the photos and videos they take are being published on the Internet. Photos and videos of the girls. And photos and videos of the guys too. How long will it be before your photo is posted on a popular website, with the backdrop of a red light area and girls who look oh so young to the average Westerner? Embarrassing doesn't even start to describe it.

You could be forgiven for mistaking Pattaya's Walking Street for an outdoor amateur photographer's studio. Every night in the busiest of all of Sin City's naughty nightlife areas, hoards of tourists and more than a few locals stroll past gogo bars, beer bar complexes, overpriced seafood restaurants and streetwalking freelancers and capture all the action. If you have spent more than a few minutes on Walking Street you almost certainly have a minor part in someone's home video.

It's not limited to Pattaya. The same can be seen in Soi Cowboy nightly where more and more visitors are capturing the moment and the memories forever. I bet it's no different in Patong Beach's Soi Bangla.

And I'm one of those capturing the action. There's nothing I enjoy more than doing as the tourists do, strolling through the nightlife areas and capturing life on the street. I've always been a keen amateur photographer and seldom do I go out without a camera. If you see a seedy individual hanging around the nightlife areas in jeans and a Kiwi rugby jersey – my Bangkok uniform – with a camera slung around his neck then odds are you have spotted the Stick.

99%+ of photos and video taken these days are digital. Digital files are portable and can be uploaded to the Internet with the click of a button. It's so easy that even non-technical types can capture an image or video and put it online in minutes. And once something is on the Internet, that's it. You can never get it back. Once it's online any control you had of it is gone. The web truly is forever.

How would you feel if you were captured in a nightlife area? How would you feel if you were not just captured in a nightlife area, but you featured in a crystal clear photo showing you walking with a woman who not only looked less than half your age, she looked like she could not possibly of legal age. That's how the average Westerner sees it. And what if that photo found its way to your employer, or your family, or your neighbours? It's stretching the realms of possibility that that would happen, but with the Internet anything is possible…

The photo below was taken of a young Australian in a Bangkok gogo bar who was aghast that I was freely waving a camera around in a bar, firing off shot after shot. He went on to say that I had better not take any shots of him or there would be trouble. Too late, I responded, and turned the camera around showing him half a dozen shots of him that he hadn't even realised I had taken, such was his level of inebriation. But the photos of him were innocuous. You could not possibly identify him.

But to limit your photos in the nightlife areas so they don't show someone's face would be like going to a steakhouse and only ordering vegetables. The expressions on a subject's face can often make, or break, an image.

I've inadvertently captured a few Sticky readers over the years. A while back a friend of a friend was caught in the where is the photo competition sitting at the front rail at the Golden Beer Bar. He's a jovial and relaxed character and was not at all concerned.

A regular Stickman reader was in the Philippines entertaining a local lass in his hotel room. He was telling her about Thailand, comparing it to the Philippines while surfing through the photo galleries on this site when he came upon a photo of him and a Soi Cowboy girl in deep conversation. He had no idea that that moment had been captured and it almost caused him to fall off his chair. He asked me to remove the photo which I was happy to do. That's my policy. If ever I put a photo online and someone asks me to remove it, I do. And if ever I point the camera at someone and they request or indicate that they don't want their photo taken, I don't.

But the question has to be asked about the inherent danger of being photographed in what are at the end of the day, public places. The bar areas are public places and more and more are becoming part of the mainstream tourism experience. Tourists who don't dare set foot inside a naughty bar are still keen to see what all the fuss is about. And when they see the likes of Soi Cowboy, a pretty lane adorned in neon, it's a given that they're going to take a few photos. And when they see a whale with a pretty Thai girl in tow, it's not a stretch that they might surreptitiously take a snap or two to show their friends back home what these terrible men get up to in the Far East.

What about the photo below? Taken outside Tilac Bar in Soi Cowboy, it's innocent enough and shows an older Brit in a positive light, releasing caged birds back into the wild. But how would you feel if it was you? How would you feel if you tuned into this column one week and there you were in a bar area, even if it was totally innocent?

From a legal perspective things could get interesting. Nah, interesting isn't the right word. It's scary. Thai law is positively scary when it comes to anything that could conceivably cause damage to another's reputation. Even if what is said is factual, if it causes damage to a person's reputation and it cannot be argued that what was said was in the public's best interest to know, then it can be considered libelous. As such, one has to be careful what they write in Thailand. So how does the law view photos that could conceivably cause harm to one's reputation? I'm not a lawyer so I just don't know, but I imagine there could be a case for someone who felt slighted.

How would anyone with a reputation or a public profile feel about being photographed in the nightlife areas? A number of the Football Focus team (a popular English football show broadcast out of Singapore) have been seen in the Bangkok bar areas, amongst them a certain long-nosed Welsh striker who was the star of my favourite team in the 80s. When I saw him he was on his best behaviour, no slinkies bouncing on his lap or any such carry on. But what would it do to his popularity or his reputation if a photo of him merely walking in or out of Nana Plaza alone was published in a sleazy British tabloid?

A seedy farang posted a great number of humorous videos on YouTube a while back in the Bangkok nightlife areas, many of which highlighted some of the less impressive individuals, those who were seriously overweight, those on death's doorstep or my favourite, those whose dress sense could only be described as embarrassing. The manager of a large Cowboy bar often mentioned who has dreadful dress sense and a physique that would make even the most comely bargirl cringe, was a regular star. They were hilarious to everyone viewing them except the stars of the show.

So what about the fellow in the photo below? Would he have a case against Sticky for posting his photo online? I shouldn't think so. If anything, he should be ashamed of his fashion statement and his choice of lady. Often people do things on holiday that they wouldn't dream of doing at home.

And what about the local women? Photographing a woman scantily clad out at night with neon signs and white men with their tongue hanging out pretty much marks her as a service girl. What are the ramifications of capturing a lady in an area which is clearly a commercial nightlife area?

These days many women in the nightlife areas shy away from a guy with a camera. They are positively petrified of photos of themselves ending up online, lest their sponsor see it and cut them off. Stories of women losing their sponsors because of images posted online circulate wildly.

In the old days it used to be easy to photograph the girls but these days it is rather more different. While some ladies are delighted for you to take their photo, others will spin around, turning their back to you the moment they see the lens pointed in their direction.

I often feel that the real danger with photos posted online is not in the present, but the future. Let's take the scenario of a woman who once worked in a bar. She leaves and happens to meet a Western guy away from the bar environment. Let's imagine that she ties the knot with him but was not entirely open about her past. It's not that much of a stretch that a photo of her posted online could be the cause of things to unravel in the future. If there's one thing I have learned running this site it is that word spreads fast amongst the expat population and even faster amongst the pool of Thai women available to Westerners. Most people know someone who reads one or other of the Thai-centric sites. If a photo of you appears online or things are said about you, you'll hear about it before too long.

Taking photos inside the bars is prohibited of course, and many bars have signs to this effect. In some venues staff will jump if you try to take a shot and there have been stories over the years of Westerners getting a beating for using a hidden camera. There was one such nasty incident in a Nana ground floor bar several years ago when the person attempting to secretly film, a locally based English teacher, received a wicked beating that resulted in him needing brain surgery.

At least one bar has an open photography policy and customers can fire off as many shots of the girls in the bar as they like. Secrets in Pattaya requires all new staff to sign a contract that includes a clause that states that their photo may be taken inside the bar and it may be used for any purpose and that they give up any rights to such photos. Versatile manager Licker Larry drew up the contract which has been translated into Thai.

More and more people are buying digital cameras and if my email inbox is anything to go by, many are developing an interest in digital photography – and are very keen to capture the nightlife action in Bangkok and Pattaya. The number of amateur photographers descending on Thailand is increasing. And with even the cheapest digital cameras capable of capturing high quality images, we're going to see more and more images and videos of Thailand's nightlife posted online.

If you don't want to be photographed in the nightlife scene, there's only one thing you can do. Stay away from it!

Last week's photo

Where was this photo taken?


Last week's photo was taken of the small alley off Sukhumvit Road, not far from sois 12 and 14, which leads down to Players pool hall. Not that many people got it right even though I bet most of us have walked past it. The first reader to email with the correct location of the weekly photo 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. PLEASE SPECIFY WHICH PRIZE YOU WOULD PREFER!

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.

EMAIL OF THE WEEK – Young men should be made to be responsible!

A feature in the Spectrum section of the Bangkok Post this week told the sad tale of a woman who is working as a prostitute on the streets of Sukhumvit in order to support her daughter and other members of her family. Where is the father of her daughter? He left when she became pregnant. Familiar story? The vast majority of sex workers in this country will tell the same tale, of a boyfriend who left them when they became pregnant or soon after the birth of their child, often leaving them little option but to sell themselves to support others. If Thailand really wants to reduce the huge number of prostitutes for which it is world-famous, it could start by teaching the young men of this country a sense of responsibility. If he makes a girl pregnant it is their child, not hers alone to deal with.

Don't let a woman think you've become redundant.

The fact is that men who engage in throwing heaps of money at women are troubled. It is really a reflection of their own self esteem. In a nutshell, they believe they have nothing better to offer to the relationship than money. Well, they are right. However, my argument FOR them, regardless of the fact that I believe they are missing some grey matter, is that it should actually be sufficient! It's all about tactics and execution of a well-conceived plan. The man's responsibility is to be a provider. It's the METHOD these guys employ that lacks sense. What I would do, and what I WILL do, is to pay some bills for any woman I live with (basically, provide them with a day-to-day subsistence), but to never do anything as crazy as buy her a house or marry her. It's a well-tested recipe for disaster. What one needs to ensure is that there is a continued incentive for her to keep putting out in the relationship. When she starts to get the perception that your value has run out, she'll soon find you redundant to her life.

You have to pay to play!

Two hours after reading your article on online girls, I had an experience exactly like you wrote about. I met a TLL woman a year ago and fell “in love” with her hard after a 3-day visit. I returned to Thailand a few months later with the intention of marriage and bringing her home with me. But after 4 days of temper tantrums and demands for money, material items and an apartment upgrade, I walked out of her life. Occasionally she sees me online and tells me about another online heartbreak. After I read your article she starts chatting and telling me that she currently has so many marriage offers from men on TLL and other sites and is going for the highest bidder. Currently she has 3 men. The first man, a Norwegian, just declined her request for 900,000 baht for her hand in marriage. The second man, a German, is still in negotiations and the third man, an “old but handsome man”, just offered her 2 million baht to marry her. She is having trouble doing it because he is so old and she is 25. She told me I did not deserve her because I would not pay!

Tasteless and a lack of tact.

A few weeks ago I 'met' a Thai lass on one of the social networking sites, and after SMSing back and forth with her a couple of times we decided to meet somewhere. So she texts me, 'you pay dinner for me & my friend'. We had never even met at that point and had only been talking for a couple of days! That message was never answered and the encounter never materialised. I was taken aback by the behaviour of a supposedly professional young lady. It wasn't the request per se, but the way it was verbalised – 'you pay'. Had she said, 'let's go to dinner' I most certainly would have picked up the tab, but the emphasis on the pecuniary aspect of it made it terribly tasteless to me.

Time to install Linux.

With regards to the software police, it seems Phuket is the place getting hit, with computers confiscated. And it's not the local plod making a few bucks like the music license raids in beer bars in Pattaya. This is BSA driven crackdowns and putting the frighteners on. I would suggest everyone sets up their PCs to dual boot into Linux first, so if the old bill come a knocking you just hit the mains switch, turn everything back on and watch the idiots trying to find Micro$oft anything!

Driving, Thai style.

I came across a tractor trailer parked in the left lane of two lanes on a major bridge at the weekend. It was quite fascinating to speed up to it from behind. If the driver had gone another 200 yards, he would have been off the bridge and could have parked on the hard shoulder. I love being in Thailand and would rather be here than anywhere else, but let's face it, a pretty good generalisation is that Thais cannot drive. Here are some of the more endearing traits. Passing. Sit behind a vehicle in the left lane for a while and then pull into the right hand lane, even if someone is coming up fast from behind. Sit and enjoy the view and adjust to the new situation for a while. Decide which pedal is for going faster and finally start to accelerate a bit. Look 6 feet ahead of the vehicle. React in shock if a bridge appears by slamming on the brakes. When driving a ten wheeler, if a small puddle or rough surface appears 6 feet ahead, swerve violently into the next lane and then back again. Terrifying for those behind. The rule of thumb is “keep left'. Or is it “keep right'? Mai pen rai. When riding a motorbike, ride on the hard shoulder on the far left. Then wait until parallel with a U-turn lane on the far right. Without looking or signaling, veer across lanes of traffic into the U-turn lane. Wearing an amulet helps with this maneuver. Signaling is strictly optional. When leaving the gas station, instead of turning into the left hand lane, accelerating and then changing into the right hand lane, sit and wait until both lanes are free and turn directly into the right hand lane. Vehicles will back up behind while waiting but never mind.

Taksin the traitor!

It is unbearable to watch the TV coverage of Thaksin arriving in Cambodia. Kissing the ground in front of the media and crowds of his 'supporters' who probably don't even know who he is but have turned up either through police pressure or for a couple of dollars. Sums the guy up when his last resort and friend is Hun Sen. However, clearly there is much more to this move than taking up the role of economic advisor to Cambodia. He's back to stir things up big time and I dread to think what is going to happen. I can almost imagine an army of red shirts bringing him across the border with the army and police doing nothing then complete chaos in the country. As we know, in Thailand, absolutely anything can happen, even the unthinkable. In the meantime we will have to suffer watching the Thai and Cambodian authorities behaving like children fighting over a toy. Quite pathetic really but what else can we expect? It wouldn't surprise me to see the Thai and Cambodian troops being mobilised soon and things getting out of control again like at the Preah Vihear temple last year. I wouldn't rule out another coup very soon. After all it's been a while since the last one, hasn't it?

For lovers of Sukhumvit soi 7's Biergarten, you'll be relieved to know that despite rumours to the contrary, this temple to skanky women will remain in business for a few more years, a move that will have the Bangkok City Council relieved. No doubt the city council members were having nightmares at the thought of a mass migration of the denizens of the Biergarten down to the main Sukhumvit Road, a move which would simply have reinforced the city's reputation as one of the world's biggest flesh pots. The Biergarten was caught on video a few days ago.

The management of Angelwitch breathed a huge sigh of relief with news that the deal where Spanky's owner was to buy DC 10 Bar bar fell through. With a project name of Spanky's 2, had the deal gone through then Angelwitch would have found itself flanked either side by Spanky's bars. This would have meant that any customer trying to get to Angelwitch would have had to pass one or other of the Spanky's bars. All it would have taken was the persuasive powers of the Spanky's hello girls to lure punters inside and Angelwitch's custom would have dropped significantly. But the deal never went through and DC 10 remains DC 10. Dave and Matt breathed a collective sigh of relief. What a shame that it didn't go through. DC 10 really is a waste of space. Sprucing it up would have been good for the plaza, but it's not to be.

Next Friday, that is November 20th, is Big Andy of Electric Blue fame's birthday. Andy loves to throw a party and all old and new friends are welcome to drop by, have some fun and avail themselves of the shooters and chicken wings that will be put on. This is Andy's 10th birthday since moving to Thailand. Where has time gone?!

I can't help but feel that this coming high season isn't going to be the disaster many thought it would be and could end up being reasonable for local businesses. Despite the world economy remaining rough and unemployment increasing in most Western countries, the signs for the tourism sector of the local economy are actually pretty good. The one thing that I believe we will see, and I have touched on this in previous columns, is a real change in the mix of visitors to Thailand. Less of the traditional farang visitors and more from poorer countries, both in Asia as well as eastern and southern Europe.

I don't know if laugh is the right word but I guess you have to laugh. On Sukhumvit, especially in the Nana area, the rubbish police try to sting any foreigner caught littering with a 2,000 baht fine for which they might be reluctant to provide a receipt. Why oh why then do officers in exactly the same uniform patrolling Siam square only sting Thais for 100 baht?! The signs are there in Thai for all to see, stating quite clearly that the fine for littering is 100 baht. Yet again Khun Farang is the victim.

One of the prettiest girls in Tilac Bar, Pla, #211, has left. She's currently on the payroll of some love struck guy. Will be interesting to see if she returns or not. For sure, she was always in high demand.

Farangman of Nanapong fame can be found at Dollhouse in Cowboy 5 nights a week. Swing by and say hi. Just don't mention last weekend's rugby and the wager he had on it with an All Blacks fan…

Speaking of the Dollhouse, they had a decent week this past week with a big spender in there three nights in a row, his bill not less than 22,000 baht each night. That's all it needs over and above the usual trade for a bar to have a great night.

As mentioned in last week's column, Bangkok Beat in Sukhumvit soi 7/1 is raffling a Honda motorbike. They have however been obliged to change the model because Honda does not have any Air Blades available in Thailand at the moment! Instead Bangkok Beat will offer a Honda Click with full options along with a matching helmet and jacket. Still a nice prize.

The maidens of Pattaya's Beach Road are an interesting bunch. I think it's not being unreasonably harsh to say that most are fairly rough but if you take the time to look hard you just might find a diamond in the rough. I guess they are close to the cheapest of the cheap as far as the farang sector of the industry goes with the standard price of 500 baht quoted by most for an hour or so of their time. You might think these girls don't do a great trade given their average looks. Think again. Some of the Beach Road birds go 20 – 30 times a week, which means 10,000 – 15,000 baht a week – and that is assuming they get just 500 baht. I don't doubt many a gent gives her a little extra meaning many could easily be pulling 50,000 baht or more a month. It's a hard life so I hope they're doing decent business.

And on the subject of Pattaya freelancers, what ever happened to the troubled woman of Pattaya, pictured here, who used to roam around and hang out in sois 7 and 8? She has appeared once or twice in the column but I haven't seen not heard anything of her for at least 18 months. Is she still around?

I'm not a tit man myself and I seldom make it past Bangkok Beat in Soi 7/1 but for those whom mammaries are like magnets, you might want to check out a woman in the bar next to the Darling Bar in soi 7/1. She is said to be an older lady, around 37 or so, and rumour has it that she has the most enormous knockers. It is also said that they are actually real, the genuine article. If what I have heard is true, they probably hang around her knees when not supported.

For those who wish to save money on ATM withdrawals in Thailand when using an ATM card attached to a foreign bank account at a local ATM machine, here's the list of Aeon ATMs – which don't charge a fee.

The Queen Victoria in Sukhumvit Soi 23 will put on a Thanksgiving Day spread on November 26th featuring roast turkey and Virginia ham, dressing and cranberry sauce, a bunch of vegetables completed with pumpkin pie and cream or ice cream, all for a very reasonable 365 baht.

Exactly just when is high season? There's no specific period for high season although in the past it was generally considered to run from 1st November until Songkran. In recent years, with tourism numbers dropping off a little, it seems to be considered 1st December until the end of February which happens to coincide with the period of the very best weather of the year, when the skies tend to be clear and it is not oppressively hot. In fact at that time of year it can be quite cool in the evening in the north and northeast of the country. Of course the peak of the high season is from Christmas Day through to the first week of January. If you haven't booked for that period in Thailand, you might be out of luck as far as accommodation goes.

Christopher G. Moore's latest, The Corruptionist, is the 11th in the Vincent Calvino private investigator series and is set during the recent turbulent times in Thailand. The synopsis goes as follows: Hired by an American businessman, Calvino finds himself caught in the middle of a family conflict over a Chinese corporate takeover…but this is no ordinary deal. Calvino and his client are up against powerful forces set to seize much more than a family business. As the bodies accumulate while he navigates Thailand's business-political landmines, Calvino becomes increasingly entangled in a secret deal made by men who will stop at nothing – and no one-standing in their way. But Calvino refuses to step aside. The Corruptionist captures with precision the undercurrents enveloping Bangkok, revealing multiple layers of betrayal and deception.

If my memory serves me right – and it's not always that reliable – the last time there was a skirmish between Thailand and Cambodia, you know when the Cambodians sacked the Thai embassy in Phnom Penh back in 2003, the border points between the two countries were closed. But to clarify that, they were closed to Thai and Cambodian nationals but remained for all other nationalities. It probably made that border point a much more pleasant place to pass. Given the problems between the two countries at present it is not unthinkable that the border could close again. If that happens, I expect that foreigners would still be able to pass and the closure would only be to locals.

I've often said that many of those you hang out with in Thailand tend to be more drinking buddies than real friends insomuch that you might never be invited to their place and conversely might not ever want them at your place. But I wonder if it is in fact worse than that in some cases? There are some people I have spent time with who made me feel glad that I was drinking. I don't think I could have handled their nonsense if I had been completely sober!

I really should not have to say this to the readership but I continue to be surprised, no make that shocked, at the number of readers who send me an email to the effect of, "Gee whiz, I have been bonking little Noi for 6 months without a party hat and she just got pregnant. How could that happen and what should I do now?" I get emails like this all the time, even from long-term Stickman readers. Do I really need to remind you that a party hat not just protects you from all the nasties out there but also allows you to continue to live the lifestyle you have been accustomed to – without the need to feed two more mouths. And don't forget that Thais are not big on abortion! First of all, it is illegal. Secondly, it goes against local beliefs and finally, the idea of a luk-kreung running around (that's a half Thai / half Western child) excites many Thais. Of course, a number of local women, particularly those from poorer, rural backgrounds may mistakenly believe that once they have fallen pregnant to a Western man they will be well supported for the rest of their life, hence they set out to get pregnant. Party hats are cheap and effective. Fail to use them at your peril.

I note Thai Airways has just started up a new service between Bangkok and Brisbane, 5 times a week. This makes me wonder if they will can the direct service to that great city of Auckland and look at code share connections between Sydney and Brisbane on to Auckland instead. That would be a great shame if it happened.

Quote of the week comes from the wise man Holt, a 30-year veteran of all things Thai. "Never forget it's all a game…on both sides."

Readers' story of the week comes from Pakbung, "It Finds You When You Least Expect It", a happy story about an older farang who meets a younger Thai women.

The BBC reported that Taksin arrived in Cambodia to commence his new role as economic advisor.

The New York Times covers the embarrassment of Cambodia embracing Taksin.

Analysis about the role Cambodia might play in Thai-Cambodian and in domestic Thai politics.

The Nation reports that Thailand's domestic beer market will open up in 2010.

Richard at Preapism says that many Thai woman don't drop their knickers until later in life in an interesting blog series.

A German dies after suffocating on an appetising pork dish in Pattaya.

TukCom, the computer shopping centre in Pattaya, was raided by Pattaya police this week.

From Australia's Age comes a piece on Bangkok's body snatchers!

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: One aspect of Thai behaviour I can never fully understand is the taboo of showing your emotions in public, and what seems to be the great sin of arguing in public. Recently I had what I would call a heated debate with my wife in front of her best friend and her husband. My wife describes it as an argument and was horrified (it takes two to argue) and did not talk to me for three days, even suggesting a divorce over this terrible event. She claims her friends, who very quickly disappeared on the night, have fallen out with her over this apparent great disgrace. I have tried telling her that farangs are not brought up like Thais and to me this is not a big deal but she always seems to expect me to appreciate and follow the Thai way. I feel that this bottling up of emotion is not entirely a good thing and that it might be better if Thais did show their emotions more. I guess the question is WHY so many Thais think that losing your cool in public is such a big deal and loss of face. Of course the wife has screamed at me before in public but that was 'different' as nobody was around who knew us.

Mrs. Stick says: Why did you have an argument in front of people you know? I think this is not good in any culture because it shows you have problems and are not happy together. So people you know will look at you in a bad way! Just you raise your voice already is bad for your couple life! You know that in Thailand it is not good for the man to argue with the woman and raise his voice. When you do this it shows you are not in control of your emotions and people will think you are a weak man because you are not in control. Women get emotional and this is ok because it is normal for a woman but a man should not do this and especially he should not get mad at a woman. I think you and your wife can talk in private. It is much better than in a public place.

Question 2: I have been travelling around Bangkok and noticed a lot of beggars along the roads. Some look very poor and it is quite saddening seeing these people, as some are mothers carry babies, or children / adults with lost limbs, etc. I have heard many stories with some being taken up by the mafia and chopping their limps off, and 'borrowed babies / children' to earn more income through donations through people's compassion. I hate donating to scams and people who are just too lazy to work. I guess the question would be this. How do I spot a scam from a genuine beggar and how much should I donate in general?

Mrs. Stick says: I also don't know who is genuine and who is not. Sometimes the beggars cannot speak Thai so I will not give them anything. But if it is an old person maybe I might give to them. But whoever we give to it is good for us as we are helping another person who needs it more than us. It is a good deed and it will come back to us later in life.

Mr. Stick says: I think the easiest way to know if someone is genuine or not is the place they are begging. If it is in a heavily touristed area then odds are they are not genuinely in need but rather professional beggars, perhaps controlled by a gang. For beggars away from the major tourist areas it is more likely they are suffering genuine hardship.

Question 3: How long before a planned wedding would be the correct time to ask my girlfriend's family for her hand in marriage? Also, is it at that time that sin sot would be discussed? The reason that I am asking is because over the New Year period myself and my girlfriend are visiting her family in her province and we have discussed having a Thai wedding late next year. Is it too early to know the family's expectations now? And also, is sin sot negotiable? I mean, would a Thai guy try and lower the amount asked if it was too high, or is this considered disrespectful? I will say that my girlfriend's family all have decent jobs in Bangkok and don't seem to be money grabbers, and as she was a virgin when we met I feel that if I could help the family a little with a sin sot then I'd be happy to do so.

Mrs. Stick says: I think you should speak about marriage many months before you plan to marry because there is much to organise. For the sin sot you should discuss and agree on it with your girlfriend before you meet with her family. She will know what they expect. But please do not bargain with the family like you might bargain prices in a market. I think it is best if you can agree with your girlfriend first. When you talk to her family then everyone already knows what it will be. If you can pay a lot then it shows you are a wealthy man and can look after her well and then everyone will be happy and people will admire you for being a successful and generous man. We like and admire people who are generous. This is a very good characteristic. No woman wants to marry a man who is not generous. That is our nightmare.



Things are definitely picking up and there are more and more tourists about. Every time I go out I see more and more folks out and about – and everyone seems to be enjoying themselves. I can't help but think that the future for tourism in Thailand is actually pretty good. As the world economy comes out of the doldrums, I bet there will be a massive increase in numbers from some of the emerging economies and more Chinese, Indians as well as those from eastern and southern Europe. If you're in business in the tourist industry I reckon you'll be just fine.



Your Bangkok commentator,

Stick

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