Stickman's Weekly Column December 27th, 2009

2010, The Year Ahead


2010 will be a bad year for Thailand, particularly the tourism industry. Worse than 2009. With unemployment picked to peak in many Western countries, interest rates likely to rise and salaries and wages going nowhere any time soon, many people just don't have the money to travel abroad. And with Thailand still polarised on the political front, suffering increasing unemployment and its reputation taking a hit, how are things going to get better?

I really do think that 2010 is going to be dire. Businesses are going to suffer and more than a few will go bust. It will be bad for Thais and it won't be great for some foreigners in business in Thailand either.

It would not surprise me if there are in fact more visitors to Thailand in 2010 than 2009. But there will be less Caucasians, both in number and as a percentage of all visitors. Thailand is promoting itself in the Middle East and Asia and growth in tourist numbers looks like it will come from the likes of India and China. As more visitors from these emerging markets arrive, local businesses might start to target them more. How or even whether this has any effect on the venues Westerners frequent remains to be seen.

It's hard to see how the nightlife industry is in for anything but another terrible year. Fewer visitors and perhaps those who do visit spending less is a recipe for disaster. That there are more bars open today than ever before just makes it worse. There's less money to go around. 2009 was bad but surprisingly not that many went under. The value of bars must have plummeted – and that's assuming a buyer could be found. This trend can only continue and apart from the most successful venues, expect those bars that do sell to go for much less than they otherwise might have.

Soi Cowboy has dominated for the last few years and the lane hasn't rested on its laurels. It has evolved, and dare I say it, improved. There's more neon, older bars have been refurbished and the outdoor seating areas where you can watch the world go by are a nice touch and proving popular. Soi Cowboy has dominated for so long that bars in the other areas know they have to do something to give punters a reason to venture their way.

Nana has a fight on its hands although the recently relaxed birthday suit policy (see the news section below) evens the playing field somewhat. The attitudes of many Nana girls still resemble the smell of that which comes out their ass, but with similar attitudes increasingly found in Cowboy – and more Cowboy bars adopting Nana prices, Nana could benefit. The biggest issue Nana faces is that the master lease expires December 31st 2012 and until there is some clarity as to whether it will be extended – which I seriously doubt – it's hard to see any real investment made. I would not be surprised to see bad attitudes become more common on Cowboy as the bars' success goes to the girls' heads. That's part of what happened in Nana and a major contributing factor in its decline in popularity. Nana will benefit as Cowboy's success is breeding bad attitudes and higher prices – but it won't change overnight. Nana is in with a chance.

Patpong could be an area to watch. Soi 2 is coming along but it needs more new bars to really put it back on the map. New venues Black Pagoda and Bada Bing are a step in the right direction, but to get the masses heading back that way it needs more. Patpong soi 1 is a total write off and even Safari is barely worth a drink these days. I don't see this changing and I would not be surprised to see Patpong soi 2 become the nightlife hub of the area and Patpong soi 1 cement its reputation as a place to buy knock off watches, handbags and football shirts.

What can the bar owners do to turn things around? Undoubtedly price collusion will be considered. It won't work. Even if all the bars in one area were to collude on pricing, punters would head off to another bar area. Paying higher wages to get the prettiest girls helps but it can put pressure on drinks prices. I'd like to see a few bars go the way of Angelwitch which actually makes an effort on its shows with the girls spending time practicing with a choreographer. It's no fluke that Angelwitch's shows are in a class of their own. Staff ought to be trained but few bars make the effort. Another business model to replicate, one which has proven to be hugely successful, is to launch a website, not just a small site for the purpose of marketing, but one which provides industry-wide information and discussion – as Secrets in Pattaya has done with great success. More bars should try it.

One prediction I have for the bar industry this coming year is the demise of the Western bar manager. As bars look at ways of cutting costs, the 60,000 or 70,000 baht monthly salary typically paid to a foreign manager will be one of the first expenses slashed. Licker Larry (or is it No Liquor Larry?) and Ricky are safe, others I'm not so sure about. Foreign bar managers are going to have to show that they bring value to the business and will have quite a job convincing owners who aren't always aware of their value.

An online presence will become more important to the naughty bars. These days it's all about getting the word out online. More and more bars are commissioning photographers and web designers to put together a quality website to promote the bar.

Basic economic theory suggests that there is a massive oversupply of bars in Pattaya – and in Bangkok to a lesser extent – so prices should remain at current levels. That's the theory, at least, but then in Thailand it seems even the most basic economic theory doesn't necessarily apply.

If nothing else, we should forget that nothing stays the same in this industry. What is popular today may not be popular tomorrow – or might not even exist tomorrow. A few years back, Club Boesche in Pattaya's Covent Garden was all the rage and some old Pattaya hands went as far to say that it was the best gogo they had ever experienced. But today it seems to be something of a single mothers' club where you must be overweight and have a map of the world on your stomach and / or tramp stamps to be hired. The way things change so quickly no one can guarantee Cowboy's dominance continuing or any of the most popular bars today necessarily remaining popular in 2010. But with that said, who would bet against Baccarra and Rainbow 4 in Bangkok and Happy and Peppermint in Pattaya not being the top bars at the end of 2010?

As far as the girls themselves go, there are a lot of unemployed women in Thailand, educated women, often women who did well for a few years, setting themselves up in Bangkok, perhaps purchasing a car or a place of their own, all on credit of course. Living away from their family and experiencing the freedom of life in Bangkok, it's heartbreaking when they lose their income and are faced with losing their lifestyle. I reckon we will see more women who once had a decent income turning to the bar industry, perhaps freelancing as opposed to jiggling their booty next to a chrome pole. And there's no reason to think the flow of women into the industry from the provinces, uneducated women and single mothers will slow.

I predict that we will see more signs stating something to the effect of "This restaurant / bar is foreign-owned and managed" mimicking the way a number of Italian restaurants in Thailand have a sign proudly stating that they have an Italian chef. The penny has dropped. Foreign-owned and managed venues better understand foreign customers' expectations, are more customer focused and strive to satisfy. How Thais, both customers and competitors, react to such signs will be interesting.

The clean cut, clean-living image of Apisit and Korn, the top dogs in the Democrat Party, has flowed over into policy with crackdowns on piracy and counterfeit goods as well as a nationwide crackdown on drinking and driving. Expect this to continue although it's disappointing to see that corruption is getting worse and worse. At the street level, cops are hungrier and it seems that seldom do they let an opportunity pass. Foreigners who don't know how the system works and who are terrified of ending up in the Bangkok Hilton remain an easy mark.

It's hard to see our situation, that is us as a group – foreigners in Thailand – often perceived as rich uninvited outsiders, improving. We will continue to be a target for criminals as well as the scapegoats for all that is wrong in Thailand.

There's disillusionment amongst some who were once ardent Thailand fans. A number of foreign residents of Thailand are looking farther afield. For naughty boys, Angeles City in the Philippines may see an influx of the "once loved Thailand but are looking at elsewhere club".

Of course there are a few events which could play a major part in the country's future. The big one is the possible return of Mr. T. If that happens, all bets are off. The consequences would reach every corner of the country from som tam sellers to taxi drivers to businessmen to foreign residents and visitors.

As far as this column goes, if 2009 was the year when things became edgier, 2010 is the year when things will become distinctly dark. Expect me to tread on some toes, take no prisoners and take some genuine risks. What has been spicy will become distinctly spicier but for the first couple of months of the new year you won't see any fireworks.

I can't help but think that for 2010, it will be like Thailand is sitting at a red light, not really going anywhere. If the country can get through 2010 relatively unscathed then things might, hopefully, start to look a little brighter in 2011.

I don't think Thailand's the place to be sinking money into at this point in time although if you have the reserves to see the year through, there might be some business bargains to be had.

For a final prediction, Summers will be very different in 2010. It will be like experiencing an entirely different lifestyle.

I do think that despite my predictions of doom and gloom, Thailand will be a great place for a holiday. Vendors, businesses and businesswomen will be desperate for your money and with a bit of luck there will be some bargains to be had. For those who make the effort to get to Thailand in 2010, you could be in for a very nice time!


Last week's photo

Where was this photo taken?


Last week's photo was taken of the prime real estate at Washington Square. After many weeks of easy photos, I have included a more difficult shot this week. 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 widely regarded as the best novel set in Thailand's bar scene!

Terms and conditions: The Oh My Cod prize MUST be claimed within 14 days. To claim the book prize 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 Angeles – where mothers, children and buffaloes are healthy.

You're spot on when you mention expats leaving Bangkok. I've lived in Thailand for over 6 years. Three friends who lived here got sick of attitude of the girls, the higher cost of living and other miscellaneous Thai bullshit, so they bailed out. Next stop was Angeles City, Philippines. Granted it's on the outskirts of nowhere but you definitely get more bang for your buck. It's hard to beat 1300 Pesos ($30 US) which includes barfine & all night with your Filipina du jour. And speaking from personal experience, not one of the girls pulled a runner, none of them had a sick mother, child or buffalo that needed to be tended to and the service was exceptional. Rent there is half the price of here. I believe that the Thailand I discovered in 1991 is on a downward spiral and the Thais will be the last to realise.

It all comes back to face.

With all the misunderstandings and conflicts in my 6 years of marriage and all the problems your readers send to you, I think it can be boiled down to a single element of Thai culture – saving face. If you don't understand something, if something doesn't make sense, if something angers you, first look for the saving face part before going further with whatever discussion or action is taking place. You have to recognise this yourself and fix it somehow. Your Thai partner has no clue she is doing what she's doing because it is so ingrained in her cultural upbringing.

Racism in Thailand.

I am an Indian working for a Fortune 500 company in Singapore. My experience with racism in Bangkok was with regards to being not allowed to rent an apartment in certain residential buildings in the Sukhumvit area. Initially, I noticed that my real estate agent did not show me nice buildings which were conveniently located. On doing my own search, I was able to see the units and even get quotes for renting by lower level building staff. However, when the process of formal documentation came, and they saw my Indian passport, they refused saying that they have a policy of not allowing Indians. Since I am a permanent resident of Singapore, I showed my Singapore residence card and that did not help. When confronted with reasons, they said that it was purely because of Indian cooking. Even though I was willing to pay a higher price and willing to paint the kitchen and put in extra ventilation they refused to accept. In fact, the moment the building management realised that I am Indian, they refused to even talk to me! I have never felt more humiliated and angry. I am now planning to raise this with the Indian Embassy, the Thai Government and the Prime Minister. While I do agree with comments on futility of this and racism, I think not responding to it is an even bigger crime.

Pattaya, home of fat, drunk white men!

The column is definitely better since it is more "telling it like it is" than before. The only thing I resent is racial profiling i.e. cheap Indians, drunk Russians etc. Why not drunk, fat white guys as the caricature since there tends to be a lot of them in Pattaya!

What are they up to?

I wouldn't say Sukhumvit is dominated by Africans late at night, but there are certainly a lot more of them loitering around at night these days. The funny thing is, you seldom see them during the day. What are they doing in Bangkok? It isn't easy for Africans to get a visa for Thailand unless they are wealthy, and most of them don't seem to be. Very few seem to have legitimate jobs and most of them loiter around the streets late at night with mobile in hand. Unfortunately many cagy Africans loitering around late at night doesn't make a late night walk on Sukhumvit feel safe. Most Thai girls aren't interested in African men and many prostitutes don't go with them because they don't trust them (though some prostitutes will go with anyone). I doubt bar owners like their presence, as it can drive other customers away. I know many Africans have been arrested in the past for selling drugs, so I wonder what they are up to.

Baccarra, a licence to print money.

I have sat upstairs in Baccarra next to 3 or 4 Japanese corporate guys and watched them dump 20,000 baht after spending about an hour buying lady drinks, staff drinks and barfines. The girls I know there pretty much all say the average girl, especially upstairs, is averaging about 60,000 baht a month with her salary, lady drink percentage and customers who barfine them. I know at least one girl who hit 100,000 baht a month sometimes and watched just how busy she was every night. Some of the upstairs girls are getting 2 barfines a lot of nights. That's not counting any money from sponsors. Most nights there are a lot of customers and most of them look like high-income or Japanese corporate guys who are going to get reimbursed. For instance, a corporate jet pilot who had flown some rich guy into Bangkok on a private charter and was waiting for a day or two to fly him out is maybe 15 lady and staff drinks at 150 or so and 3 barfines which put him about 4,500 baht plus the 3 fees to the ladies later which would put it at about 10,000 baht. He told me the rich client had just handed him some cash and told him to have a good time while he was waiting around. On a Friday and Saturday night, I would guess about 600 customers flow through between 8 PM and 2 AM, that's only 100 per hour. There are 150 girls working at Baccarra. Some nights over 100 are barfined and gone by 1 AM. So say 600 customers with an average 1 self drink and 2 lady drinks (not counting barfines) at an average of 500 baht each would be 300,000 baht. Say 100 barfines on a good Friday or Saturday night would be another 70,000. Last week two Japanese guys stripped down and danced around in the upstairs stage area for about 10 minutes, then gave every girl on stage a thousand baht note. Some girls got 2 x 1,000 baht notes. In all my nights hanging around Bangkok bars, I have never seen anything remotely like Baccarra in terms of money flow and apparent income level of the clientele.

There's an alien in the house!

I am in the process of applying for a marriage visa to stay in Thailand. We have done everything correctly so far – got a non immigrant 'O' visa and applied for a 1-year extension at the Chiang Mai Immigration office. Everything has been approved and signed by the Immigration officials and the last hurdle was a visit from the Immigration office to our house for an interview. Two guys; a young guy who was quite cheerful and an older, miserable sod turned up. As soon as we sat down the old guy produced a book and opened it at a page which had been highlighted stating that my wife, who is the owner of our house, had not informed Immigration that an alien resided at the address. He then made a big issue of turning a couple of pages and showing us the fine which varied from 2,000 – 5,000 baht for non notification. My wife then proceeded to grovel, wai, apologise and agree to do whatever he asked, even though she had never heard of this rule before. She had to fill in a form stating an alien resided at her address and in return the Immigration officer gave her a receipt of notification. He made a big issue of stating that on this occasion she would not have to pay a fine. A few questions later about our marriage visa application and they were gone. The old guy said that it is the duty of the head of the house where a foreigner resides to inform Immigration of the names and dates. On the plus side it seems we don't have to pay the fine, no tea money exchanged hands and the young guy said we should have no problem completing our marriage visa application, but what a miserable welcome to the country.

In Nana Plaza few bars have lived up to the term titty bars for years but that is all about to change. The Lumpini police chief has done an about turn and birthday suits are now allowed in the bars of Nana, reversing a prohibition that has been in place for years, shirked only by the bravest bars with an ace look out system. This is the green light Nana needs to make a serious challenge to Soi Cowboy which holds the unofficial title of Bangkok's premier nightlife area. Those bars which have removed the weight off their chest include Rainbow 1 and 4, Erotica, Mercury, Spanky's, Angelwitch, Mandarin and Carousel. I have to admit massive surprise at this new policy and hope, for the sake of the bars in Nana, that it lasts.

Nana Plaza's Pretty Lady Bar will host a countdown to 2010 Full Moon Party on Thursday 31st. For every 10th drink on your bill you will get one drink free and there will be a wheel of fortune spinning with barfines as prizes. Sexy shows are promised and all customers get a free meal.

There's been some daft carry on in Cowboy with 1 AM closings the odd night. Madness at this time of year.

After a hiccup that saw a very brief closure, it's business as usual at one of my favourite bars, Catz in Pattaya.

Music Station in soi 33 will host a New Year's Eve party with bands from 9.30 PM till late without interruption and there will be a free buffet for customers throughout the night.

Free food has been a highlight of the festive season with nearly every bar in Soi Cowboy offering food on Christmas Eve, most bars featuring pork. The Arab bars were the only venues not in the party mood with no food and few smiles. Nana was very quiet on Christmas Eve, the quietest it has been on Christmas Eve in the last decade or so, I'd suggest. It sure didn't help that there were heaps of coppers out and about in the Nana area which sparked off various rumours, none of which would have done trade in Nana any favours.

Bars seem to be busier later, perhaps a refection of tourists preferring to go out later than expats who have to work the next day. In the slow season bars in Cowboy were popular early as expats availed themselves of happy hour prices, but for now many bars aren't filling up until close to 10 PM. Remember that many expats have taken their annual pilgrimage to their homeland.

It's New Year's Eve on Thursday and that means ASTRONOMICAL priced barfines in some venues, bar owners conscious of keeping the prettiest girls in the bar until at least midnight, ensuring a party atmosphere as late as possible. It's easy to understand why the owners do it and 1,000 baht barfines are nothing new. But when barfines are increased to 2,000 baht they are just taking the piss – especially when they don't lower the price after midnight! In what is no great surprise, I sent out emails to a bunch of bar owners asking them what the story was with New Year's Eve barfines and guess what? No-one replied! An empty inbox! Owners and managers usually fire off emails with news and gossip, but not this time.

One of the hottest Tilac girls, who recently returned after being on someone's pay roll for a month or two, Pla, #211, has changed her hairstyle – and it's a disaster. Change it back, girl, or your barfine rate is going to drop.

Joe's Bar in Soi Cowboy has closed. The reasons are yet unknown but it did have a reputation that may have caught up with it for having more checkbins than expected.

Raw Hide partied hard on Christmas Eve and everyone had a smile on their face – some smartass even said the pig on the spit was smiling. A dance contest was held with 11 dancers competing, two of whom were sisters and a good time was had by all. Popular expat fiction writer Dean Barrett gave out the prize money but wished that he had in fact been the prize.

Every slow season all bar staff as well as bar owners wait for the arrival of the high season. Well, the height of the high season is now. Right now! The busiest weeks are traditionally that between Christmas Day and New Year and the first week of the new year. There has not been a great increase in customers in the bars, in Bangkok at least. Pattaya, I don't know about, as I haven't been down that way for a while. There really is a bit of a wait and see feeling in the air, although I think that what they are waiting for won't be coming any time soon.

A recognisable figure in the industry for the past decade, that likeable rogue Big Andy is bored and has put his bar, Club Electric Blue, in Patpong's soi 2, up for sale. Interested parties should swing by and see Big Andy who says he is bored of doing the same thing for so long. Prepare your heart medication before he tells you how much he wants for it. Good luck, Andy!

Patrick, of Dali Coyote (upstairs from Dali) in soi 33, has recently spent approaching half a million baht on sound equipment and currently has 3 bands playing 6 nights a week. The main band plays 4 nights and the other two play a night each. It should be noted that the coyotes have left the building and Pat is now concentrating more on running a lounge / rock bar than a coyote bar. The girls from Dali (ground floor) will always encourage you to enter their establishment and there's really no way of knowing that another bar even exists up the stairs. It has one pool table and a lot of lounges. The girls don't hassle you and it makes a pleasant change from the rough and tumble found elsewhere. If you're after a beer and a place to relax then it certainly offers that with beers at 140 baht each, a fair price by soi 33 standards.

Tilac in Cowboy was busy mid week but then in one swoop 30 girls were barfined from the bar by a group of punters. Details are a bit sketchy but for sure, whoever was throwing the party that followed would have ended up with lifelong memories – even if they couldn't remember all the girls' names the next morning. Accumulating lots of good memories is what life's about, right? The girls who remained in the bar were complaining because the dance rotation went from 4 groups to 2 in order to keep the dance floor filled.

Once the top bar in Nana Plaza, Angelwitch is still in business, more than merely surviving but you'd hardly call it thriving. The numbers must be way down from a year ago. Boss Matt is a pro, one of the brightest guys in the industry, and he won't take it laying down. The venue has introduced several new shows and the Thai partner has been up from Pattaya to crack the whip. She also put a ban on the rock, ordering dance music instead. At long last but you know what, these DJs do what they want and when the owner walks out the door, the DJ slips in some rock songs during the show intermission.

Sister venues Sheba's and Suzy Wong's were two of the hottest spots on Soi Cowboy when they first opened but both have now slipped well down the pecking order, neither really competing with the likes of Baccarra, Tilac or even Shark and Long Gun. Suzy Wong's went off the boil a while back and Sheba's, while still worth a visit, isn't as good as it was, partly because there are fewer girls. But for sure, part of the problem is the show they have which seems to be in the wrong venue altogether. Please, could someone tell me how many of us want to see some tattooed Thai dude with his shirt off dancing on stage twirling sticks of fire? A circus act in a gogo bar? Who came up with that nonsense? And if that's not bad enough, the air-con units have to be shut off for the duration of the show so that the flaming torches don't go out which makes the bar hot, sticky and stink of butane! This debacle is easily fixed. Replace him with some hotter than hot bird doing exactly the same show.

There are more and more Africans in Bangkok and there are more women entertaining them. HIV rates in Africa are sky high which should be a real concern because there is most definitely an overlap of women who service both Westerners and Africans. For those of you who are a little more daring than most and for whom a sheath doesn't come into the equation, I really do hope you rethink your behaviour. Perhaps wrapping it up could be a resolution for the new year?

In last week's review of 2009, I forgot to mention the Queen Victoria which has to be the most improved venue in Bangkok. They had all sorts of problems when they opened but today it's a great place to fortify yourself with a good square meal before you hit Cowboy. Really good English pub food – big helpings, good quality, a pleasant atmosphere and reasonable prices. The roast lamb hits the spot.

Maybe you can ask Miss Tirapa for a lift home on New Year's Eve if you find yourself in the Beat? Just who is she, I hear you ask. Miss Tirapa is the lucky lass who won the motorbike prize at Bangkok Beat. Here she is pictured with manager Pierre. Just wait until you hear the prize they have for 2010. More on that next week.

I pride myself on being able to answer Thailand-related questions but I got one this week that I just could not answer with any certainty. A Thailand-based reader has been offered a job in Uganda – and he needs to get a visa before he goes. Uganda has no representation in Thailand so he has to send his passport outside of Thailand to a Ugandan embassy in another country to get the requisite visa – while he remains here in Thailand. There is a chance that his passport could get lost or he might have to leave Thailand in a hurry – bad news from home or urgent business perhaps. Is it even legal for a foreign national to send their passport outside of Thailand while they remain there? What happens if the boys in brown were to take an interest in him while the passport was outside the country? Usually a photocopy of the passport suffices, but what if they insist on eyeballing the original? It's a tough one. What would you do?! Does anyone know the official line?

Cabs are ubiquitous and cheap in Bangkok but there are a few nights of the year when catching a cab becomes much more difficult – and one such night is New Year's Eve. Demand far exceeds supply and drivers can be picky about where they go as well as become enterprising when it comes to fare. They may refuse to use the meter, instead offering prices that are much higher than what the metered fare would be. Of course the hardest part is just finding a cab that is available. The night of Loy Kratong is just as bad.

We won't be going anywhere at New Year. The traffic out of Bangkok is at its road rage inducing worst at New Year, especially highway 2, the road from Bangkok up into Isaan. If you're travelling intercity by road, you'll need all the patience in the world.

It's crooked cops that annoy me more than just about anything else. A good mate relayed a story of his recent run in with the boys in brown. He was pulling into his driveway when his truck was hit by a motorbike ridden by two kids, a 12-year old and a 13-year old. The kids were totally in the wrong and of course they should not have even been riding a motorbike on a public road in the first place. They were not of legal age to hold a driver's licence. The plod attended and my pal's car was impounded, the police refusing to return it until he had paid for the kids' hospitals bills and damage to their bike, notwithstanding that he was clearly not in the wrong. He refused to pay bills to which he had no legal liability so the plod refused to return his car – which was in fact beyond the powers they have under the law! He had to use some high-ranking contacts in the Justice Department to get on to the police to get his vehicle back. If you have a prang here, even if you're clearly not in the wrong, it can become a real mess.

Any readers looking to buy a property might want to consider the following bargain which is offered for sale by a long time Stickman reader:

  • 19 Year Lease for sale:

  • Fire sale due to mia noi's gambling debts.

  • Possible 90 year extension from the ex mia luang.

  • View – good when no carcinogenic smoke from neighbours' rubbish.

  • Alarm clock + no soi dogs – Muslim area.

  • Entertainment – local karaoke bars.

  • Water – seasonal mains.

  • Electricity – brown or black variety.

  • Drains – good in a north easterly.

  • Access – 4WD when possible.

  • Internet – has been known.

  • Satellite TV – dry season.

  • Security – when present.

  • Environment – pla ra, durian, sa-dor neighbours.

  • Ambience – around the clock construction.

  • Pool – soi floods in the wet season.

  • Price – 19 million baht.

  • No hawkers, agents or any other general low life.

  • Contact : [email protected]

Quote of the week comes from a good mate. "Living in Bangkok is like starring in a Tom & Jerry cartoon."

Reader's story of the week is the excellent "What Women Want" by Caveman.

A cruel German cruelly signs up a dog for the Pattaya Flying Club.

The Sun reports a Thai connection in the philandering of a married Premier League manager.

Ingenious work by the boys in brown dupes some local criminals out of hiding.

From today's Post comes a piece outlining much I have talked about in this column about sleazy Sukhumvit Road .

The local press reports that corruption in Thailand is on the rise.

From the Washington Post comes possible bad news for Thai rice.

More protectionist moves by the government with liquor tax on imported alcohol to rise.

From the New York Times, in industrial Thailand, health concerns and business interests collide.

A German tourist is killed in a hit and run in Pattaya.

A naughty young Dutchman who refused to pay for his meal cops a flying bowl of tom yum goong in Pattaya!

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: When it comes to Thai girls and farang jobs, I find it weird that my teerak has no interest in what I do. Maybe she does but can't understand or is embarrassed. I can understand how this is weird for them as our jobs don't really relate to them, plus there is the language barrier. Any thoughts on subject?

Mrs. Stick says: I think it is more important for her to look after you and make sure you are happy at home. That is our responsibility. What happens at work is up to you. She cannot control it or influence it so maybe she doesn't ask you about it. She wants your job to be secure and I think that is the most important thing for her about your work. Maybe she does not understand much about your job too but I don't know cos you don't say what your job is.

Question 2: My teerak started to say I love you after 6 weeks of personal contact and 1 year of phone contact. I will assume I said it first, a fair assumption after I'd had a few beers the second time I visited her. She split with her sponsor of 3 years who took her over to his country and looked after her well financially but poorly emotionally. I know part of why they split. She refused to say I love you to him. I have this as concrete evidence, having read a long time ago about Thais being careless with email passwords. It's kind of given a lot of credibility to everything she has ever said to me. I wonder if you have a view on this?

Mrs. Stick says: Why are farang so worried about if she says I love you? You know if she loves you from how she looks after and takes care of you. Don't worry about the words!!! You can say I love you with no effort but to show you love someone takes a lot of time and effort. I never heard my Mum tell Dad she loved him. Never one time. But I know she did because I saw everything she did for him. Love is not about words. It is about actions.

Question 3: I thought I'd run one by you to see what you think. I changed an Australian $200 travellers cheque at a bank exchange booth and the clerk slipped up and gave me the US rate instead of Australian, leading me to be 600 baht in front. My question is: Do you think they could refer this to Immigration on the grounds I 'stole' from them and I find myself in a nasty situation? Have you known this to happen before?

Mr. Stick says: While a lot of crazy things happen in this country and it is not beyond the realms of possibility that this could come back to haunt you – although I think that would be a really extreme case even by Thailand standards – I think the most that would happen would be that you would be asked to return the difference between the amount you received, and the amount you should have received. It is fairly clear that you did not steal anything and that the bank employee was at fault. One thing you might want to consider is that Thai bank employees are not that well paid and I believe that if there is an error then they have to make up the difference themselves – meaning the person who gave you 600 baht extra may end up footing the difference themselves. That would be a full day's wage for that person. With that in mind, perhaps it is worth returning it?

And so another year passes by, for me, another year of covering the issues of interest to Westerners in Thailand, with emphasis on the nightlife in Bangkok and Pattaya, just another year of Stickman. To everyone who has contributed and has assisted me putting together this column, I send you my most sincere thanks. A few special thanks go out to Dave the Rave – for your friendship and encouragement, to BKKSteve for the tremendous amount of work and dedication you put into the photography column, to Grasshopper, my eager proofreader but most of all, special thanks go out to the dirty doctor for your friendship, encouragement and news tit bits when I can't make the rounds. Here's looking forward to 2010 and hoping that my predictions of doom and gloom are all wrong!



Your Bangkok commentator,

Stick