Stickman's Weekly Column November 29th, 2009

The Freelancer Conundrum


Naughty boys have unlimited options in Thailand. Gogo dancers, masseuses, karaoke singers, beer bar girls, escorts, hostesses, coyote dancers and of course, freelancers. But would you ever do the dirty with a freelancer when there's so much negative talk about them, that they're dirty, untrustworthy and as such represent a high risk. Are they really?

Freelancers are those girls who are not based in any one establishment but rather hang out in bars, discos or in known spots on the street where they ply their trade and hope to meet a man who will invite them back to his place for some fun. As they aren't tied to any one establishment, it is said that playing with freelancers is inviting trouble. So the argument goes, freelancers are more likely to rob you, rip you off somehow or be infected with nasties, perhaps even AIDS. They're said to be unable to work in a regular bar because they didn't pass an STD screening test, they just don't have the discipline to turn up on time each day or they have a personality type that means they find it difficult to get along with others.

But not all freelancers are the same and there are women with different sets of circumstances and sometimes vastly different backgrounds freelancing.

For the connoisseur, the holy grail of freelancers is the lady with a regular job, perhaps employed by day in a department store, a hair salon or a 7 Eleven who after dark ventures into the underworld of freelancer joints to supplement her meager income. For many guys, these girls aren't prostitutes per se making those freelancers with a regular job prized by those who don't have the confidence to chase women outside of the bar scene.

Similarly, there are those women who are between jobs and struggling to make ends meet. They've never stepped foot in the naughty nightlife industry before but in a country where the pursuit of money by whatever means to make ends meet or to help out family going through tough times is accepted, they see temporary membership of the industry as a means to an end. Once they discover how much money can be made, they often stay in the industry much longer than they thought they would. This group has grown noticeably in the last 18 months with many former factory workers and others on the minimum wage replacing work on the assembly line for work on their back.

There is the perennial freelancer, the girls who make a career of it and who are familiar with all of the different freelancer joints, and for whom the world of freelancing is vastly more attractive than working in a bar under a dragon masquerading as a mamasan who barks orders at them, extorts money from them and generally makes their life unpleasant. The freelancer for life is often characterised by her bitchiness when it comes to girls who work in the bars. "Soi Cowboy / Nana girls are no good", she will tell you with a completely straight face.

Then there are those who are in the rather unfortunate position where they ended up freelancing. They might be the type who just can't get work in a bar, perhaps because their temperament just isn't suited to the rules and regulations of being an employee. Or perhaps, sadly, they really are that rough that no bar will take them on. Those new to the bright lights of Bangkok and Pattaya may end up freelancing on the street, simply because the don't know anyone, how it all works or where to go. Those prone to temper tantrums or who are unable to feign friendliness to customers in the bar environment often end up freelancing. Being HIV+ is generally not a barrier to entering the industry because most bars do NOT test girls before they start and only a small percentage of bars test girls periodically. The notion of freelancers carrying nasty STDs was proliferated by a recent Bangkok Post article profiling a woman who has worked Sukhumvit Road for years in the knowledge that she is HIV+ and has no qualms about having sex with customers without protection. To bring some balance to that article, I don't doubt that there are women working in the bars who are in exactly the same position.

In some freelancer venues early in the day or very late at night – after most venues have closed – you may find girls with jobs in the industry, be it bars, massage parlours, karaoke joints or whatever who are looking for a customer. Sukhumvit soi 7's Biergarten used to be popular with, surprisingly, some of the most attractive girls in Nana who would go there mid to late afternoon, get a customer for a quick short time and then head to the office, Nana. Late night spots like Spicy attract women from the bars after their bar has closed for the evening. Perhaps they didn't get a customer all night or perhaps they had a short time or two but are looking for one more customer to round off the night.

Of course sometimes it is not clear if a woman is a freelancer because some venues attract both freelancers and women who aren't available. In Bangkok, the likes of Spasso's and Bangkok Beat attract a mixed crowd where a woman's intentions are not always clear. Likewise with some of the Pattaya freelancer joints where non-bargirls may end up, often more because they don't quite know where to go but still want a good night out. Still, in most of these venues I would suggest that the majority of birds would be most disappointed if they left in the morning without more baht than they arrived with.

So what of the freelancers. Are they less attractive? Are they dangerous? Are they dirty? Is there more inherent risk in liaising with a girl you grabbed from Beach Road or Lucifer's or the Thermae than with a girl you paid a barfine for?

Are freelancers ugly? Well, tell me if the girl photographed below is ugly. I think not. She was the most attractive I could find that particular day on Beach Road. She's no model, but certainly not unpleasant. Over the past couple of months I've been surprised at the number of genuinely attractive women found at the Coconut Bar, otherwise known as Pattaya's Beach Road, where you usually find the ugliest girls in the industry. And let's not forget that the Thermae Coffee Shop in Bangkok has more attractive girls these days than you find in most gogo bars – although with that said, unless you're a man from the Land of the Rising Sun they might not give you a second look. And in the likes of Lucifer's and Bangkok Beat you can find some very attractive women. There are some pretty women freelancing.

What happens when things go wrong with a girl for whom a barfine was paid. If you pay a barfine for a girl who is employed in a bar and have a problem, there may or may not be some form of redress if you return to the bar and complain. It really depends on the nature of the problem and who the owners are – and perhaps most importantly, whether they are Westerners or Thai.

If the woman stole something from you, expect the bar to help. If the girl does not prove to be as much fun as you had hoped, or long time becomes short time, or the terms of employment change, the bar most likely will not do anything to rectify things.

If you were to contract an STD and alleged that it came from a girl in a bar, would the bar's management take any interest? I would hope that the most they would do would be to send the girl off for testing and if need be, get treatment. I am firmly of the belief that a customer contracting an STD is NOT the bar's problem. With the number of sexual partners these girls clock up and the high risk behaviour both with customers and especially in their private lives, there is an inherent risk to all punters irrespective of where they met her. Few bars would do anything if you went blubbering to them that little Lek or nubile Noi gave you the clap.

When it comes to being robbed, or somehow ripped off, liaisons with a freelancer increase the risks markedly. If you take a freelancer to your hotel room or condo you do not know where she could be found in the future. It's made worse if you take her back to a place where lodging her ID card is not a requirement. She knows that you do not know who she is – and she also knows that the chances of you finding her would be low – especially if you are a tourist and have told her you will be leaving soon. The chances of becoming a victim just shot up!

A naughty boy going for a freelancer is a little bit like a guy choosing not to you use a condom. Most of the time it'll be ok, but when it goes bad, what follows can be really, really bad – and there might be no possible solution to the problem. How risk averse are you?!


Last week's photo

Where was this photo taken?


Last week's photo was taken outside Lucifer's on Walking Street in Pattaya and I was impressed by the number of people who got it right. 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 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. 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 – Why is love almost always linked with monogamy?

As a couch social psychologist, I've pondered gender interaction, sex addiction, the hangover upon return to the west, and the transformed psyche. But, for me, I'm in a very odd place. I've experienced all of that and more. Seriously, my journey has taken me to the point where I've not only turned my back on western women, but also, realistically on any expectation of a normal long-term relationship with any woman. Sounds sad – or weird, but I don't think so. I am simply not monogamous. I just don't like the almost universal enculturation of the idea and find it akin to religious indoctrination. There are in fact many parallels. Why hetero men attach closer – psychologically – to women with the single greatest factor being sex is troubling to me. And why they limit themselves to one is also troubling, especially when we know the nature of the male libido (see: evolutionary psychology) is to launch a thousand ships to as many ports. I know the whys and wherefores and I know the costs / benefits and most of the other arguments. I‘ve debated more than my share of intellectuals on the subject. I think what it comes down to is: Why is love almost always linked with monogamy? Whose terms? For me, on many counts, it doesn't seem a reasonable strategy at all for either men or women. But then religions aren't about reasonable propositions, right?

Online is not the place for a serious girlfriend.

Forget the online dating game for *serious relationships*. Period. Those days are long gone. Probably the last time finding a decent, middle class Thai girl online was a reasonable proposition was back in 2002 / 2003. There are a few still around but there is so much crap online now (scammers, bargirls, gold diggers etc), not to mention the HUGE increase in western guys / sexpats online. Online is a minefield now. It's not a route I would like to be going down to find my life partner. The only thing the online dating sites are useful for these days is finding casual sex. A guy will have little luck putting the cart before the horse by trying to find a Thai girlfriend before relocating. By far the better approach would be, if he really must, relocate to Thailand, and then take it as it comes. Build up a network of friends, go out, get a feel for the place, stay away from the red light areas, start up some new hobbies and meet people. Being "on the ground" is far more likely to turn up what he's looking for than trawling the internet or bars.

How "good" is she?

I got a freebie off the net the other day. It's strange, you know, this has happened a couple of times now but after you finish the business the bird likes to give you a massage, you know the type where they want to clip your fingernails etc. It's funny how these habits die fast if you stick with these birds for a few months. The massages stop, you end up clipping your own nails etc. Anyways, the bird off the net, a so-called good girl who had all the right credentials, thought she would massage me. I'm all for that as it's a nice way to wind things up. The thing is the massage you get is of the standard of a pro! I asked if she had ever worked in a massage joint. No she said. Well it's a bloody good massage I say. She tells me she knows how to massage because when she has been for a massage herself she remembers how it was done. If I had a dollar for each time I had heard this I would have enough to head out and get a massage tonight down Rachada. Have you heard this yarn before? I'm guessing these girls have worked their way through uni in the parlours.

Freedom, the key to a man's happiness.

This is in response to the woman who asked about the power of Thai women (in the Mrs. Stick section of the column). Don't bother trying to compete. There is no competition. When a woman makes a man feel like a man, his other senses are stronger. Any satisfaction is greater when a man is free to do as he pleases and be the master in the bedroom. It is about him, not her. This may sound selfish but in many cases this actually leads to love. Because he feels that sense of freedom that Stick alluded to and he also gets a satisfaction that is so different from anything he has ever experienced. It is difficult in our home countries to even let go sexually and feel free emotionally at the same time. Each woman seems to have a measuring stick on their man that pressures him to want to run away for a short or long time. Measuring him in some way physically or emotionally. Some actually do run away. When they feel this freedom it feels as if the weight of the world has been lifted from them. It makes you feel even more towards others, because there is a sense of release. It is a high that can't be bought. For older men it calms them and they may seek a new life. For younger men it makes them wonder about the future with women in their homeland and the demands and pressures on them. You may be a good woman and you may be a good lover and girlfriend. You will probably find a good man. But our society sets us up to feel trapped at times. It is not always the woman's fault, but in many cases it is. It is not about Thai women or any particular woman. They will come after our wallets eventually. It is about a man feeling the ultimate feeling of being his own master, even if only for a day.

Lost femininity results in less happiness all round.

Many men feel deeply frustrated with the ever increasing lack of femininity of modern western women. My Thai girlfriend is always asking why I don't have a girlfriend, if not a wife, in England, and is always incredulous when I tell her that I am no longer interested in western women due primarily to a lack of femininity allied to the legal situation and climate pertaining to marriage which is biased against men. Thai women in general have a natural propensity to making sure a man is happy and take great pride and concern in that, compared to the ever increasing demands and equality often only when it suits them attitude of western women. I am certainly no misogynist and recent news stories in Britain highlighting the massive increase in young women requiring and using anti-depressants makes very disturbing reading and highlights the sad state of relationships in western society. If western women could regain the feminine charms demonstrated by their Thai sisters there would be a lot more happiness all round.

Exactly why Stick says you should be VERY hesitant in moving her in.

I was a police officer and a lawyer in America and can assure anyone that a malicious and manipulative woman can get you wrongfully arrested. It would be foolish to think that this could not happen in Thailand. If you lived with a woman here in Thailand and for whatever reason you ask her to go, what do you do if she says no, or wants a ridiculous amount of money to which she is not entitled to leave? The drama is real! She will wave a knife or hammer in your face, scream and yell and put on an embarrassing show for your neighbours. One woman I know of even said "I'll cut my arms and tell the police you did it if you try to push me out!" Obviously a dumped bargirl who is looking at the loss of a nice home and money for her family is going to be angry, desperate even and not want to go whether or not she really cares about you. If you call the police you are at the luck of the draw as to what officer comes and whether or not he believes whatever story she tells him. Add to that the disadvantage of not being able to speak Thai and calling the police becomes a serious risk. What do you do to get rid of her and not risk being arrested yourself?

Girls in the bars tell me that they are seeing more and more tourists and that they are being barfined more often and in some cases almost every night. So when it comes to boom or bust in the bar industry, there's no shortage of boom boom at the moment.

Crossbar is celebrating the arrival of the high season with a new happy hour. For fans of Chang beer – and that is most definitely not me; it's a foul drop and one I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy – Crossbar are offering two for one on both bottles and draft, all day, every day. They're also running a happy hour on the rather more drinkable Guinness. Priced at 240 baht a pint, buy one and you'll get another absolutely free. Not all night mind you, just from 4 until 7 PM daily.

The 500 / 1,000 baht note scam is alive and well at Cowboy 2 in Soi Cowboy. If you're unfamiliar with this particular Thai ruse, it's the scam where you pay the checkbin with a 1,000 baht note but are given change as if you had paid with a 500 baht note. There's an easy way around this. Whenever you pay for anything with a one thousand baht note, make a note of pointing out to the waitress that it is a one thousand baht note and get her to acknowledge it. Once she's done that it pretty much eliminates any skullduggery.

Following my report on the state of soi 33 last week, the owner of Livingstone's emailed and assures me that he has a good selection of youngish, educated, English-speaking girls – exactly what I said was missing from the soi at this time. I bet this selection doesn't last long because experience shows that girls who meet these specs are taken out of the bar and married off quickly. Apparently punters are lining up as early as 7 PM to get their paws on the best of the bunch. These punters have a single drink and then barfine their chosen girl, knowing that if they don't act quickly she will be barfined by someone else. It's hardly ideal for the bars which clearly prefer it when girls are barfined later in the evening after entertaining, and drawing lady drinks from a bunch of customers first.

Is there a bass speaker blown in Tilac bar? How long will it be before it's fixed? Tilac is one bar where the farang ownership are usually on top of things. Hopefully it won't be left farting away for too long.

Despite things picking up, some bars remain dead – and at no fault of the girls. In Cowboy, those bars that didn't join the neon race are suffering from being less appealing to tourists who don't know better and yeah, there is something of a correlation between bars with fancy signs and pretty girls and doing a good trade. Even the dreaded Arab bars are showing better traffic than the boites that opted not to renovate in the low season.

Late night venues seem to be open a bit later. Until recently most nightspots were closed at 2 AM sharp, but things started slipping this week with some spots open until later. Hopefully the arrival of the high season will coincide with a more relaxed attitude towards closing times.

Many of the high season only girls are returning from wherever it is they hide out for the rest of the year.

That wretched one-legged beggar on crutches who harasses punters in and around Cowboy might be worthy of sympathy but he also happens to be a real nuisance. He makes a habit of coming up to you and grabbing your arm but he made the mistake of choosing the dirty doctor after he had had a few too many drinks this week. Poor wretch won't be grabbing him again – and might think twice about bothering others.

The 10 and 20 baht tuktuk journey scams are back. Tuktuk drivers love hauling you to out-of-the-way shops where they hope you buy something you neither want nor need. If you don't know how it works, a tuktuk diver will offer to take you wherever you want to go for 10 or 20 baht, but will take you via various shops that offer him either petrol vouchers or a handsome commission on anything you buy. You will be subject to a high pressure sales pitch. If it sounds too good to be true…

Fun was had by all on Thanksgiving at Bully's which I can't help but feel has taken over from Bourbon Street as THE place in Bangkok to celebrate the American holiday. Over 300 attended the Thanksgiving buffet throughout the day and into the night. Never satisfied, managing partner ET is already planning the Christmas Eve and Christmas Day festive feast. Bully's founder Boss Hogg said Thanksgiving has become one of their biggest days of the year with the kitchen and service staff taking it up another notch this year. As we head towards the end of another year, ET and Boss Hogg wish to thank everyone for their friendship and patronage throughout the year.

If I told you that there were ATMs at Sydney International Airport that dispensed cash in four foreign currencies, which do you think they would be? US dollars, obviously, New Zealand dollars, most likely, pounds Sterling probably and perhaps Japanese Yen would be my 4 guesses. Well, you would be right with the first two, but what about Euros and….Thai baht! Yep, the photo here, sent in by a reader, shows an ATM machine at the biggest international airport in Australia which dispenses Thai baht as one of only 4 currencies dispensed. That just goes to show how popular Thailand is with Aussie holidaymakers – despite the debacle at the Aussie Bar in Phuket a few months back!

I've never really understood the fascination that some Westerners have for young Thai women. When I hear of guys trawling the bars for 18 or 19 year olds I feel a great sense of unease. I am not thrilled at what these guys are up to, notwithstanding that generally I have a live and let live attitude. What you often find with guys who go for 18 year olds is that they retort, often incorrectly, that the lady is of legal age. I would dispute this. You see, there are many, many bars with underage women. Soi Cowboy's Raw Hide for example is known by many Bangkok locals as a venue that often has young women, with 14 and 15 year olds often to be found – and that is disgusting. Now if a woman is underage, she will generally say that she is 18. I am of the belief that of all of the women working in farang-dominated bars, LESS THAN HALF of those who say they are 18 are in fact 18. In Raw Hide a few months back – and it may well still be the same today – there were 10 out of approximately 50 girls aged under 18 – which is the legal age of consent in Thailand. Each and every one of these underage girls initially said she was 18 but when you chat with them in Thai they quickly tell you the truth. I really do believe that less than half of the girls in the bars who say they are 18 are in fact 18. With this in mind, if you are someone who seeks out 18 year olds, or even just someone who has shared your bed with more than one "18 year old" Thai prostitute, mathematically you have likely done the dirty with an underage girl.

An American resident of Bangkok this week was booked on a visa run with one of the many visa run companies. He chose an outfit operating an overnight mini-van service to Nongkhai and on to Vientiane where he would apply for a tourist visa at the Thai embassy before being brought back. However, said fellow had to make alternative plans as he was refused entry to the mini-van by the guy in charge of the visa run service at On-Nut BTS station as his US passport only had six (6) blank pages left in it. Now, I've heard about the fact that visas won't be issued to those with a passport with less than six months' validity – but I have never heard of this empty pages requirement. I wonder, therefore, if the organiser has his head up his ass or perhaps he knows of some difficulty from experience with the Thai embassy up there. Have any readers heard about anything like this?

Does the thought of working in Myanmar appeal? If it does, a school from over that way contacted me and asked me to post a job vacancy. STI Education is looking for TEFL trainer to teach in Yangon, Myanmar (Burma) for a period of 3 – 6 months. The trainer must be male and under 50 years of age. The salary is $US 700 – 1,000 per month depending on the individual's experience. This is for an immediate start – they need you now! The school's website is SiteEducation and email address is : [email protected]

A reader in that fine city of Newcastle in the UK's northeast is opening a Thailand style men's barber / shave / massage shop. If the wives or girlfriend of any readers need work which does not require her to speak good English and has done some Thai / foot massage before then there might be an opportunity for you – and think of the money she can make on the side. We all know what goes on behind closed curtains, nudge nudge, wink wink! Interested parties can email : [email protected]

Do you remember the ad I highlighted in this column a few months back where a local expat sought to find a mia noi? I contacted the brains behind the ad to see what had come of it and to be honest was a little surprised at what he had to say. "Nothing has come from the mia noi ad as there were a couple of thousand replies that seemed to come from girls who copied the ad and sent it around the country. The few that worked their way past the censors were lacking in one thing or the other."

It was definitely cooler this week in the big city and not quite the usual humid tropical heat we get for most of the year. The cool season seems to have arrived. Yippee!

We all learn little tricks when living in Thailand, things that can make our stay that little bit more comfortable, more enjoyable or perhaps help us to avoid some of the pitfalls that are a little too prevalent for our liking. The piece of advice I am going to give here is NOT something you should consider lightly and it is something that many will strongly disagree with, particularly some long-termers. I maintain and TRULY BELIEVE that this is one of those things that any expat who has even slightly dirty fingers – and I am most certainly in that group – should do. The advice is simple. Keep your passport in a safe place well away from where you live and where you work. It should, ideally, be with a trusted friend, perhaps in their safe. I can already hear the groans all over Thailand, the readership wondering just what I am on about. What happens if you get into trouble in Thailand? It may be something of your own doing or it may be that you get caught up in something that has nothing to do with you or even that you happen to be a victim of a scam. What will often happen, when the coppers get involved, is that your passport is taken. Don't try and argue that it is the property of your government and the Thais can't retain it blah, blah, blah because they can and they will – and your embassy will likely do NOTHING to assist you and will quote that God awful line that you must respect the laws of other countries – even when the men enforcing those laws don't necessarily respect or follow those laws themselves. Anyway, I digress. Once you no longer have your passport you are stuffed. You cannot get away. But if your passport is NOT on the premises it cannot be taken and retained by the authorities. You should keep a photocopy of the main page and the current visa page – and that will be enough for them to verify who you are and check your immigration status. But crucially, if you really need to leave the country, so long as you still have the passport, trust me, you still can. But your ID and passport number will be flagged in the Immigration computer I hear you say – and you quite possibly would be right. Ah, but there is a flaw in the system, my dear Stickies! If you find yourself up on charges, be they genuine or trumped up, and need to leave in a hurry, so long as you still have your passport, you can. And it is legal. 100% legal and there are no bribes or anything untoward required. If you ever find yourself in this situation, drop me an email and I will explain the final step to freedom – which is actually ridiculously easy. I will not be publishing the final part…but it is not hard to work out.

Quote of the week comes from a friend living in the provinces. "The real problem is the culture itself with their utter inability to look in the mirror and acknowledge the obvious."

Reader's story of the week is The Rosetta Stone of Women's Behaviour from Old, Fat & Bald which asks serious questions about what men are doing with women in long-term relationships.

From the UK's Daily Mail comes the appalling story of how a British couple were gang raped on Ko Chang in Thailand!

Thai Airways rapes a traveller with 10 kg or so of excess baggage with a $2,200 excess baggage charge!

From a neighbouring country, he marries a she – and he knew it too!

From The Age comes a report of new regulations regarding sex change surgery in Thailand.

A Frenchman alleges that the Thai police extorted 150,000 baht from him.

If you really think Thai women allow their husband to keep a mistress, read what happened to this guy in Phuket.

From the Illawarra Mercury, a jailed Aussie warns of Thai scams after he had to bribe his way out of a Phuket jail.

The Halifax Courier rates the standard of living for expats in Thailand highly.

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: Recently there was a new waitress, like all of them – poor young coeds from the provinces, who started working at the café I go to daily. She was as magnificent as any sight I've ever seen, built just like a supermodel – very tall (in the relevant range for super models), willowy, and just perfect. I decided I needed to make a move for her before one of the other customers (all locals except for me, an expat) did. This café does tremendous turnover and she's the type where she attracts all the customers attention, what with her magnificent height, and when she walks down the street, the locals stop, turn around, and look at her some more. Surprisingly, I was successful. We have a date. During my seduction, or I should say my initial invitation, as I'm sitting close to her in the café during working hours, I did notice she has a few hairs, like a little mustache, at the corner of her mouth. Of course it's no big factor, but what would you advise what with if I had a choice I'd opt for that tiny patch of facial hair not being there? Would you recommend: (i) just accept it, (ii) she obviously knows about it and hence doesn't consider it a problem, or (iii) if you advise my bringing it to her attention, how would I visit this “issue” in the absolute most inoffensive way?

Mrs. Stick says: Are you the perfect man that you say a stupid thing like this? I feel sorry for her to date with you. If you cannot accept her how she is then don't date her. I think most Thai women have nicer presentation and think about the appearance more than farang men so why do you say this? Maybe you can send a photo of you and I will make a list of things you can improve. Actually, forget it because I am sure you are ugly and cannot be fixed.

Question 2: I'd like to know if it's the custom when you marry a Thai woman that you provide a diamond ring, gold for her = bracelet + necklace + earrings and also sin sot (although I have told her that I am in no position to pay this).

Mrs. Stick says: First you give the engagement ring and it should be a diamond ring. I think you can give this in private and then when you get engaged they announce the size of the diamond and say how many karats it is. You might give gold at the engagement ceremony and it can be jewellery. Then when you have the wedding ceremony you can give the dowry which is usually cash (but we accept cheque too but not credit card please!) You must talk with your fiancée about this because there are many things that are different from family to family.

Question 3: I understand the points you make answering my question regarding how Western men are fed up with the BS in relationships involved in Western countries as well as the divorce laws. I have always considered myself very feminine and I understand how many Western men are rightly put off by these hardcore feminist women with unrealistic expectations that men are supposed to live up to. I have another question for you. I wonder how Thai men are affected by so many of their women going with farangs. What goes on with them?

Mr. Stick says: Yes, Western men are pissed off and fed up and there WILL be a backlash. I believe that at some point Western women will find that the sort of bullshit they have put on Western men will become less and less tolerated. Creating an atmosphere where men are made to feel bad for simply being men is not something any *real man* will accept. The question about what goes on with Thai men and how they feel about so many Thai women going with farangs is complicated. First of all, most Thai women who end up with Western men come from Isaan. I don't mean to be harsh, but Thais from outside the Isaan region don't always look fondly at those from the Isaan region. It's not as if the elite and high society types are seeing vast numbers of "their women" gallivanting with Westerners although clearly some do. So when the Bangkok Thais see Western men with Thai women, most often Isaan women who they look down on, they are not concerned at all. But things are changing, a little. More and more urban / educated / Bangkok Thais are getting involved with Western guys. Thai men don't seem to have got too upset about the whole thing yet, but it's not a stretch to think that one day that might change.



I don't normally go for these top 10 lists but a reader sent in an email asking me various questions about his upcoming visit in Thailand which I answered – and then thought the answers might interest others hence, in the absent of any interesting closing comments for this week, it's included here as the final word. It should be noted that the responses are TOTALLY subjective and you may well disagree with every one of them!

1. # of hottest bargirl (e.g. #150 @ Rainbow #2?)

I would say that rather than think of just who might be "the hottest girl", consider where and with whom you will have the best experience – which I think is ultimately what you're getting at with this question. For that, you want the Eden Club in Sukhumvit soi 7/1 where satisfaction is guaranteed.

2. Best happy hour (Dollhouse?)

Dollhouse's happy hour runs until 9:30 but the eye candy and atmosphere is nothing on Tilac where the happy hour covers most drinks on the menu (Dollhouse's happy hour doesn't) although at Tilac it's regular prices from 9 PM.

3. Best soi for street foods (soi 11 Suk?)

This is one question I cannot honestly answer as I don't eat street food any more. If it looks good, just give it a go!

4. Best place, and time, to sit and people watch?

A front row seat at Big Dogs, the bar right at the entrance to Nana Plaza. It's best from 6:30 PM – 8:30 PM as the crowds start to arrive, the girls for work and punters on the prowl!

5. Best book to read while on the airplane on the way to Bangkok?

Private Dancer by Stephen Leather which is quite simply a must read for every first-time, single, male visitor. "The Big Mango" by Jake Needham and "A Killing Smile" and "Risk Of Infidelity Index" by Chris Moore are also highly recommended.

6. Best Thai food for around 1,000 baht?

Benjarong, the Thai restaurant in the Dusit Thani Hotel is excellent in every way from the food, the decor, the service and the ambience. You won't need to spend anywhere near 1,000 baht to be stuffed with great Thai food. The Erawan Tearooms on, I think, the 3rd floor of the shopping plaza next to the Grand Erawan Hotel also does superb Thai food but the setting is not quite as nice as Benjarong.

7. Best American breakfast?

Forget American and go for Irish! Head to The Dubliner on Sukhumvit Road, opposite soi 33, and order the half fry. The full fry is just too much food – unless you only want to eat once that day. If you really must have an American breakfast, go to the Bangkok Baking Company, the very nice cafe / restaurant out the front of the JW Marriott Hotel which has some great breakfast options.

8. Best open air pool bar?

Open air? Hmmm, you got me there. Livingstone's on soi 33 has a pool next to the bar and is the only place I can think of.

9. Best non-hangover inducing beer?

San Miguel Light has never given me a hangover. It's a low calorie, full alcohol strength beer. I prefer Beer Lao – but that does give a hangover if you drink too much. That said, I think what does and doesn't give a hangover is as much an individual thing as about the drink itself.

10. Best Bangkok blog / website other than Stickman?

I hardly ever read any blogs, Thailand-related or not, although I do enjoy the Baronbonk monthly round and I regularly read a couple of forums.



Your Bangkok commentator,

Stick