Stickman's Weekly Column December 6th, 2009

Once A Farang, Always A Farang?


I sat in the apartment and looked around at what would be my home for the next 5 years. With nothing else to do I flicked on the TV and saw some undeniably gorgeous Thai birds screeching at each other. It was a local soap opera. I caught a few words but wasn't really sure what it was all about. I wondered to myself how long it would be before I would be able to watch and understand the local Thai TV shows…

My life would change and in time I'd become comfortable with spicy food and all but eliminate Western food. Watching local TV would be fun. I'd chat with my fellow passengers on the bus. Most of my friends would be Thai. I'd live like a Thai and do most things the Thai way.

Before I arrived in Thailand, these were my visions of how my life here would be. It would all depend on how quickly I could get my language skills up to scratch. I always thought I would adopt Thai ways and embrace the Thai way of doing things. So I thought

For the first few years I did live much like a Thai. I had a small apartment, ate predominantly on the street or from food courts or modest, open-front restaurants, travelled almost exclusively by bus and had few Western luxuries. It wasn't until about the 4-year mark that I started to lead what could be described as a Western lifestyle.

Today I don't watch Thai TV although I have to admit that Thai cinema is actually quite good bar any story with ghosts. I seldom eat Thai food and the condo we live in is very much dominated by foreigners. Despite being proficient in the local lingo, I don't use it that often. I have few genuine Thai friends and those that I do have I don't see that often.

For me, the longer I am here, the more Western my lifestyle becomes. I may have started off down the Thai road but changed route and reverted back to Western ways. I often wonder what prompted that. It sure wasn't a conscious decision.

Was it Songkran, that period of madness, when the whole country gets its jollies dowsing everyone and anyone with water? We're told how wonderful a celebration it is and if you're into water fights and have not passed your teens it probably is. But for anyone who wishes to go about their daily routine without hindrance it becomes more than mere nuisance value. I think it was year after year of hassles and aggravation at Songkran that made me open my eyes to my lifestyle, the Thai lifestyle, and question things. I really think it was Songkran that flicked my switch. The Thais loved it and I hated it.

So you stop celebrating Thai holidays, at least you stop celebrating them how the Thais do. Perhaps you suggest to your teeruk that she celebrate with her friends or family while you do your thing with your mates. The evening of Thai TV on the couch with the teeruk becomes teeruk on the sofa and you in front of the computer. The disappearance, or at least the reduction, of Thai food from the diet, inevitably replaced with Western fare, is gradual.

You make excuses to no longer accompany her to the temple. You once tolerated it but now she is forced to call her friends to go with her. Road trips where you spend several hours reaching a destination, only to stop for an hour, eat, take photos and spend several more hours going home become old. All those very Thai-style activities you once quite enjoyed become a chore.

One day you wake up and realise that your lifestyle is not that much different from how it was in the West. It just happens that you're living in Bangkok, working mainly with Thais and banging a Thai bird. But apart from that, much of your life is spent doing the same things you'd do in the West. You drink with your mates on Friday night. You cheer on Liverpool on Saturday night and you meet your mates again on Sunday for a roast and a few jars.

I know I'm not alone in the lifestyle I lead in Thailand, very much a Western lifestyle. Most of my Western friends, no, make that almost all of them, lead a lifestyle that is largely transplanted from their homelands and has but hints of the local flavour.

Thailand has become more livable for the average foreigner. Books and movies are released the same time as in the West, more Western food products can be found on supermarket shelves and more and more luxury items are available, albeit often at inflated prices. That said, it's not quite the West yet. Cable TV is a joke and finding a good coffee is much more difficult than it should be.

So why do so many Westerners live an almost entirely Western lifestyle in the Thai capital?

I used to think it was about language skills, or lack of them, but now I don't think that has anything to do with it. No Thai is no barrier to leading a Thai lifestyle in the capital, with most locals speaking at least functional English.

That Westerners show a preference for most things Western should really be no surprise. Who could argue for Thai wine over Australian, Thai movies over American, Muay Thai boxing over the Premier League?

Conversely, there are things in which the West can't compete. My long lost pal, Whosyourdaddy, used to be beside himself when I would successfully negotiate the price of sticky rice and mango in a supermarket. Fun times. But I cannot remember the last time I had that wonderful Thai treat. It's not like it's expensive and it's available year round. The tropical fruits of Thailand are wonderful, but I hardly touch them these days. When buying fruits, I tend to go for New Zealand apples, Australian oranges or American grapes, notwithstanding they cost several times what the local equivalents do. I just prefer what I grew up with.

How many Westerners living in Bangkok lead a typical Thai lifestyle? Personally, I don't know anyone who does. Not one. Most of us live in some kind of Western cultural bubble.

I wonder if some of those who go Thai style do so because their finances don't stretch that far. Even then, most English teachers I know on miserable salaries don't seem to mimic the local ways.

What is perhaps most interesting is that not only do I live very much a Western lifestyle, I do *exactly* the sorts of things I would do in my homeland, things that perhaps you couldn't necessarily do in another Western country. I read the newspapers from my homeland religiously and make a point of listening to certain radio programs online. My three closest friends in Thailand aren't just fellow foreigners, they're all from the land of the wrong white crowd. I never imagined that my three closest friends in Thailand would be fellow countrymen.

It's my experience that most of us give the local ways a go but eventually come back around to what we are used to. The longer we live here, the more we seem to revert back to our Western ways and comforts.

When that day comes when we wake up and realise that we are living an almost entirely Western existence in Bangkok, do we seriously reconsider moving back home? The wine is cheaper, the cuts of meat better, the selection of books superior and the possibilities for intellectual stimulation greater. I'm not saying that the West is better, simply that it might be more suitable given the lifestyle we lead.

It's not like it is any different for Thais living in the West. While he might enjoy nothing more than a Sunday roast, at the very same time she is probably in the other room glued to Thai soaps while munching on som tam.

I was home alone yesterday afternoon. I turned on the TV and on came a local soap opera, just like when I first turned on a TV in Thailand, more than a decade earlier. It was déjà vu. I understood everything they were saying but a decade on, it held no appeal at all.

Is it inevitable that we Westerners in Thailand go full circle?

Last week's photo

Where was this photo taken?


Last week's photo was taken of The Emporium Suites luxury serviced apartment building which is beside and above the Emporium Shopping Centre. It was easy and half the expat population of Bangkok got it right. Only a couple of people got it wrong. 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 – Guilty, of travelling to Thailand!

I have found it is now unacceptable to visit Thailand in the eyes of many westerners back home. I recently rode the train from the USA to Canada. Upon entering customs in Canada the cheeky immigration woman saw a 30-day entry stamp in my passport showing I had been to Thailand on a holiday two years previously. She immediately grilled me with questions as to why I would ever go to Thailand and what I was doing there. She sent me to a private area where all my bags, camera and computer were thoroughly searched. Like most males returning to their home country from a visit to Thailand, this type of harassment by immigration officials has unfortunately become typical and expected. However, I have never heard of it happening when traveling solely within North America. I have been branded guilty and am being harassed simply because I took a holiday to Thailand!

Is looking for love in itself the problem?

If you need to look for a relationship you are desperate and nothing good ever comes out of desperation, not in love nor business. No matter where you look, if you're looking for a girlfriend or a wife, you will never find something good. Never. The best you'll find is some girl as desperate as you settling for you and both will fool themselves into thinking that the relationship is based on love. Close enough but we all know that everyone in that situation, every night before bed, sighs and says to themselves, "Why can't I be like they do in those madly in love Hollywood movies. I like my wife, maybe 'lovish', but she's not that thing that makes me go crazy all day and night. She's not gonna get me out of a depression if I ever had a reason to be depressed." Those seeking love will never experience the full throttle of real love. Some don't want to experience it after bad love times but they've had it before. So good for them. But those desperate folks looking for their first serious girlfriend should just stay home and wait 5 – 10 years and find someone by luck which should take less time if they have a life at all. Staying in the west might be a good idea, relocating to find love has no logic at all. They have more chance of finding it in their home country with people that have the same values / heritage but that might look a little worse to the eyes but that can be fixed if you invest in surgeries instead of losing a house + car + land + gold to a random scamming family from Nakhon Nowhere.

Is love the flip side of jealousy?

There's a good reason that the emotion called "love" is associated with monogamy. Biological nature leads males to be possessive and jealous. Love is just the flip side of jealousy, and you can't feel jealous if you don't possess it. If polygamy was the widely accepted norm, we'd be talking about why love is associated with polygamy. Basically, anything which causes men to feel like they possess something is what they associate with love. The same applies to cars, hobbies etc. Women have a whole different way of feeling and defining love.

Once she is secure, she'll look for fun.

A fair number of Thai women marry farangs for security, but once they have that in the bag look for the guy that can satisfy other needs. However they are experts in concealing that from the guy that provides the security. Thais have a very different attitude to money, very much geared to the present time rather than the future (understandable, given their background). However, the consequence is that, when the farang is trying to ensure a financial future (i.e. investing in pensions etc.), the girl will be complaining that she's not getting enough. Assuming we're not talking about a money grabber here, it still leads to problems. Yes, there are vast cultural differences. Farangs (if they aren't dickheads) typically try to understand the Thai culture, and that tends to be fairly one-sided. The worst of the girls are well-versed in using that to their advantage.

Gay or not?

This is, I believe, the second week in a row when an article was posted about a guy marrying a ladyboy. Why do these guys always seem to be Brits? "I'm not gay", they always proclaim. That cracks me up. The guy who marries a ladyboy may not have ever sought out gay sex in the past with a regular hairy-assed bloke, but, last I checked, bedding down with someone sporting a cock and balls is pretty gay, fake tits and all. Whatever. Live and let live I always say.

Pragmatism at the border.

When I first came to Thailand I made monthly border runs to Cambodia for my 30-day visas and on one trip was stopped before the border due to a lack of empty pages in my passport. I had only 1 or 2 remaining and they told me these were "reserved" for some odd embassy reason. However, my guide knew somebody who knew somebody who for a "slight fee" could remedy the situation by removing old visas. 500 baht I think it was. I held up the bus for about 15 minutes, but soon we were on our way. I think he steamed off one of the sticker visas from Cambodia I had got earlier.

Avoiding pickpockets.

I will pass along a trick to avoid pickpockets that was taught to me by a wise old horse player at Santa Anita race track in 1948. It works especially well with cargo pants, the type that have Velcro that covers the outside of the pockets. Simply place your valuables, money, passport, etc in the pocket and then put a safety pin between the outside of pocket and the inside of the leg fabric thus preventing the pocket from being opened without undoing the safety pin and then close the Velcro flap. In the words of the old horse player, "If he's good enough to undo the safety pin and reach in your pocket and extract you money, he deserves it!"

Honest hotel staff x 2.

Last week I left my keys in Lek Villa Hotel in Pattaya which has one of the best swimming pools I have ever experienced. They called my mobile and sent the keys by EMS to my home in Bangkok without charge. I got them two days later. Great service. A while ago one of my mates left 11,000 baht in the ice box of the fridge (his hiding place) in his room in The Crown Hotel Soi 6. He was already many miles away when he remembered. He called Reception to let them know and they took the money out for him and kept it safe until he could return a few days later.

Tourist traffic seems to be picking up in tourist centre central, Sukhumvit Road. This is most apparent in the Nana area with a lot of foot traffic during daylight hours in and around soi 4. This time last year the airport was under siege by anti-Thaksin protesters, so for many punters who chose not to come last year this is a long overdue holiday.

That new spirit house in Nana Plaza is huge and must have cost a small fortune. What I wonder is just who financed it, probably Nana Castle at a guess – and the big question, of course, just how much did it cost?! Who would sign off spending so much in what is sometimes described as a moribund bar district.

I tend not to visit Pattaya in the high season as I find Walking Street and its surrounds over-run with tourists and hotel rooms much harder to come by – and given that I tend to go on the spur of the moment booking ahead is not an option. I hear that things in Pattaya are in the usual early-mid December lull and Pattaya locals are not overly optimistic about the high season. For the time being, it's the usual scenario, lots of Russians following their normal spending patterns and plenty of foot traffic on Walking Street but every third person has a beer from 7 Eleven, little more than spectators on Walking Street. The big name bars are doing well but most of the others are quieter than you would expect. It's not totally dire, but is a tad below normal aspirations.

To contradict something I wrote recently when I said hotel bookings were solid for the high season – as I had been told by someone in the industry, I have since heard a rather different story from three different hoteliers in Bangkok, all of whom tell me that bookings are in fact rather sparse for what is supposed to be the time of the year they cash in on.

A new gogo has opened in Patpong opposite Electric Blue, called Bada Bing. It would seem that the name and logo have been borrowed entirely from the strip club in The Sopranos. It's plush, nicely designed and is amongst the nicer gogo bars around at least in terms of decor. There are a few honeys – as every new bar needs – meaning a reason to check it out. The Silom end of Patpong 2 now has a few decent venues – Electric Blue, The Strip, Black Pagoda and Bada Bing. I am not sure who's behind Bada Bing but one of the honeys indicated there are three owners and at least one is Japanese. Lifting the name from The Sopranos suggests there is at least one white man involved. Drinks are not Patpong soi 1 prices (collectively, the cheapest gogo bars in Bangkok) with my favourite, a Jack Daniels & Coke, running 160 baht and a lady drink will set you back the same, not completely unreasonable given the amount of money that's been put into the place – but right at the top end of Bangkok gogo bar prices and on a par with the hostess bars of soi 33. It isn't obvious how to get into the place. There is a an aperture from Patpong 2 where you can see inside, but no entrance on that soi. Instead the entrance, entirely unsigned, is on the little lane connecting Patpong 1 and 2, but you have to walk through a dingy bar / anteroom to enter, something they will have to improve.

For the fetishists who lack the confidence to venture to the fetish houses of Bar Bar or Demonia, you can check out the Bangkok Fetish Night on Saturday 12th December 2009 at Music Station on Sukhumvit soi 33. The friendly French manager tells me there will be special hot fetish shows performed by the naughty mistresses of Demonia, also located on soi 33. Please don't forget that any readers who print this part of the weekly column out with the paragraph featuring Music Station, you can take it to the bar and show it to the manager and you will get one free shooter (one person + your printed page = one free shooter).

The entrance to Nana Plaza is brighter than it has been in recent months, thanks to a large yellow sign high up across from Golden Bar. However the Nana Plaza sign has returned to its 1/3 lit, 1/3 dim and flickering and 1/3 dead look. Truth be told, despite efforts by some bar owners to beautify it, Nana has joined Patpong in looking like nothing more than a sleazy red light district.

Tilac seems on top of its game, the previously mentioned farting speaker seems to have been promptly replaced or repaired. And speaking of Tilac, the way some of the girls dance, they should be giving serious thought to hosting a dance contest. There are enough hotties in there to perform a first class contest without the need to invite any birds from other venues. That flirtatious little vixen, Ann, #27, is pouring with sweat every time she gets off the stage. With all that power dancing against a chrome pole, it makes you think about how she does on poles that aren't made of chrome.

As high season arrives, so are the aggressive stalkers looking to sell you something. Even repeatedly telling them that you live here and have no need for the variety of junk offered doesn't always get rid of them. The best thing to do is *never* make eye contact and *never* respond to anything they say.

Aggressive tuktuk drivers seem to have returned to Bangkok in numbers, perhaps due to the end of the rice harvesting season, the start of high season or perhaps to see their mia noi. They can be stumbled across in most neighbourhoods where tourists are found. The most pesky amongst them seem to be at the end of Sukhumvit soi 5.

Christmas carols have been blaring in upmarket shopping malls for the past 2 weeks and Christmas trees and other lights are starting to appear all over the city. Bangkok may be predominantly Buddhist but the Thais never overlook an opportunity to celebrate.

Liam's Gallery in Pattaya / Jomtien Beach presents the Bangkok Noir paintings of Chris Coles and the Bangkok Noir novels of Christopher G. Moore, two of the founding members of the Bangkok Noir Movement. Chris & Chris will be on hand for the opening night on Friday December 11, starting at 6:30 PM where both will be signing the two latest Christopher G. Moore books, "The Corruptionist" and "The Vincent Calvino Reader's Guide", which feature Chris Coles' paintings on the covers. There will be a BBC / CBC TV film crew there as part of a 1-hour documentary about Christopher and his books which will be broadcast in UK and Canada and about 100 paintings spread across three floors. The exhibition should attract an eclectic crowd and there will be Thai snacks, beer and wine and it being Pattaya, maybe even some tall, blonde Russian birds in attendance. Liam's Gallery can be found at Soi 4 Pratumnak Road, Pattaya, Thailand. It should be a fun night if you're down in Pattaya – and look out for a Kiwi in a rugby jersey with a camera and gigantic lens.

Do you send money to friends in Thailand? Are you visiting in December? A Bangkok market research is conducting interviews of males residing outside of Thailand, but who send money to friends / partners in Thailand (through any form of money transfer service) on a semi-regular basis and who also visit Thailand at least once per year. They are looking for men who fit all of the following criteria:
– Males who reside in either UK, USA, Germany, Australia, France or Sweden (other nationalities may be considered at a later stage)
– Males sending money to friends / partners based in Bangkok, Pattaya or Udon Thani, and
– Will be visiting Thailand between now and end of December 2009
The interview will be conducted by an expat research director, in-person, at a convenient location for you (e.g. home, hotel, restaurant) and will take 20 – 30 minutes to complete. A suitable thank you gift will be provided to those who participate. Please note that they are NOT selling or promoting anything at all and are only looking to interview people to get their opinions. If you would like to participate in this research please contact Robin at : [email protected] stating the town your friend / partner lives (Bangkok, Pattaya or Udon Thani) and the dates you will be visiting Thailand. BMRS-Asia will then be back in touch to arrange a suitable time and venue for the interview. This is an entirely confidential interview and no data will be given to a third party and you will not be contacted by the client.

A reader who just arrived home from his yearly Pattaya fix came across the mystery man of Pattaya in his golden cape and decorated bicycle. Said reader approached the mystery man and asked him why he does what he does and was told it is all for fun. After a brief conversation, said reader thinks the fellow is not playing with a full deck.

Those awful shows where a girl uses a rod with darts to fire at balloons can still be seen around town, Cowboy's Long Gun being one such bar. I have always wondered if anyone has ever copped it in the eye? These shows have been around a lot longer than I have and I just cannot see how injury has been avoided for so long. I am loathe to even be in a bar when the dart show is on. Anyone copped one in the eye?

If there is one thing it took me a while to realise it is that most bargirls have a few regulars and quite possibly a sponsor or two…or more! Irrespective of how attractive they are, how old they are or even how good or otherwise their English is, most girls who have been around more than a month or two have one or more guys who are very keen on them, some of whom give in to their demands for cash to be exclusive. It seems to me that all it needs is for a lady to treat a guy really well once, just once, and he can be hooked. Many guys who are giving in to these girls can trace things back to one night when she treated him really well. If you are with a girl and think you're the only one who is extra keen on her, don't be so sure!

I come from a country where tipping seldom happens and most certainly is not expected. It's just not part of the culture but with that said, I do tip from time to time in Thailand – but not all the time, mind you! If anyone asks for a tip they won't receive a single baht from me. But anyway, to the point of the paragraph, in some small massage parlours, the price of a massage has dropped to ridiculously low prices – which means even less baht for the masseuse. With this in mind, don't be afraid to tip if the massage is good. The girls spent time and money to learn to work out your knots and they need to pay their bills and eat, just like the rest of us.

Manager Mark is helping to put O'Reilly's, the Irish pub on Silom, back on the map by replicating what worked in pubs he was previously at the helm of. The Sunday roast buffet got going in O'Reilly's 3 weeks ago to absolutely no fanfare, Mark well aware that time was needed to get it right. And now that it is right, you are encouraged to go along and check it out. It'll set you back 399 baht with no "+", as per his last pub AND if you go for the buffet you get happy hour prices from the bar which means 50% off some drinks. The buffet includes Aussie topside roast beef, roast leg of Kiwi lamb, pork loin with crackling, honey ham and for December they have added turkey. Of course there are all the usual extras like vegetables, roast potatoes, Yorkshire pudding, plus salads, soup, desserts and tea or coffee. It kicks off at midday and runs until 7 PM.

It should be noted that O'Reilly's had been known in expat circles for the wrong reason for quite some time – a terrible smell! It has been found and it will be cleaned up this week.

Margarete Burgmayr is the latest in a long line of Westerners who have gone missing in Thailand. The last sign of life from her was on September 8 when she updated her Facebook page. She was financing her travels by offering English lessons – curious because she was a German – and travelling by bike. If you have met her or know where she is, please get in touch with Jan Michael Thomas at : [email protected] who is leading the search for her.

Does sanuk (fun and the pursuit of fun) trump money in Thailand? You know, it just may. Talking with a friend who does not like to pay for lady drinks and considers them an unnecessary expense, he has found a way of keeping the girls with him when they're not up on stage yet not buying them a drink, or at the very most, buying just one. He dances with them right in the bar – and they love it – probably because he's a decent dancer. They forget all about the lady drinks because they are having so much fun – and the other girls in the bars seem envious. Yes, it would seem that sanuk really does trump money, even for the ladies of the night.

I take it back. Canadians are not the ones who lose their hearts the most in Thailand. I once alienated the Stickman Canadian contingent when I said that no group suffers more at the hands of bargirls than them, but I notice that there is another nationality that seem to lose their heart to Thai women even more. Singaporean men are emailing me in larger numbers and it seems they are getting themselves into all sorts of bother, losing their wallet and their heart. I never thought they would be the ones to suffer, given that most Asian men know *exactly* how the industry works.

Reader's story of the week comes from Dana, Thai Thoughts And Anecdotes Part 237, in which he discusses the bad experiences he has had meeting other Westerners in Thailand.

Quote of the week comes from a friend up north, "The BBC is running a piece at the moment which states that everyone has a book in them but I would say everyone who has lived in Thailand has several books in them!"

Ever wondered if you could find dog on the menu in Thailand?

From the Huffington Post is another article about dog eating in Thailand.

The BBC reports that a Brit convicted of drug trafficking in Thailand in 1993 and sentenced to death returns to the country – and is refused entry.

If you thought the Japanese paid big money for their Thai honey, think again!

From The Nation, a farang leaps from 38 floors up and becomes the newest inductee of the Bangkok Flying Club.

Frequent Flyer Gazette reported that all is not well at Thailand's gateway to the world and scams at Bangkok Airport duty free shops continue.

Thai and Cambodian troops enjoy a game of volleyball at the border.

The BBC highlights the Singapore to Bangkok railway.

Ask Mrs. Stick

Mrs. Stick is happy to answer any questions regarding inter-racial relationships as well as cultural peculiarities that may be confusing or baffling you.

Question 1: I became involved with a Thai lady who was absolutely delightful. Her biggest flaw however, was that she had atrocious breath most of the time. Sometimes it was so bad that I didn't want to kiss her, which was especially problematic because she loved to make out. I came close to raising the issue several times, but always backed down – not wanting to risk being a boor and hurting her feelings. We eventually broke up (for other reasons), but I've been wondering in hindsight if there was any way I could have hinted to her that she needed to brush her tongue more often, without her losing face or becoming mortified. It would be a very tricky subject to raise with a Western girl, and twice as hard in a cross-cultural relationship. What could I have done?

Mrs. Stick says: I had the same problem a long time ago and he had bad breath because he had some teeth problems. I think you can suggest to her that she can go to the dentist for a check up or you can buy some nice mints and share them with her. Maybe if you buy mints and take them yourself and offer them to her and it might help. If that doesn't work I tell you the trick to use. You can buy some imported mints at Paragon (it's not expensive, about 120 baht and she will definitely try them because they are exotic and new for her) and then you can take them together and maybe it will help.


Question 2: I have an "ex" bargirl girlfriend I met in Phuket who I am sure hasn't worked the last two months. We just got engaged at her home where we had an engagement ceremony with family and friends. We plan to get married in June. With the engagement in mind, is it still a possibility that she has a Thai boyfriend or would this be almost impossible in Thai culture if you are engaged? I do trust her to a certain point as I have known her for 2 months. I am married and have 2 children (my Thai girlfriend knows, as do her parents and the village) and will divorce to be together with my Thai girlfriend. As you can understand I am very careful as if my Thai girlfriend is playing games I lose all I have. I do believe my Thai girlfriend is being straight with me and that is why I have continued the relationship and also because she gave up her job so I can't drop her. She wants a child next year so I could not imagine she would want a child if she still had a Thai husband. She is very open that she had a husband for 1 year, 5 years ago. However her husband is trying to convince her to go back to him. The engagement stopped this but I still find it tricky. I was just wondering what your thoughts would be on this.

Mr. Stick says: It's impossible to say just what may or may not be going on. On the surface of it, that you went through a full engagement ceremony at the home of her family suggests that she is serious about you and that the family accept the two of you as a couple and that you will be her future husband. For a decent family, they would never allow such an engagement ceremony to take place if they knew that their daughter was involved with someone else or had ill intentions. However, neither would a decent family knowingly allow their daughter to get engaged to a man who was still legally married, be it in Thailand or elsewhere! Unfortunately, I have heard enough stories of bargirls doing exactly this sort of thing, usually as a ruse to get money (dowry and perhaps convince the guy to build them a house) so I always advise caution. One thing I will say is that *if* it does turn out she is still with her "husband", Thai law protects you insomuch that you CAN claim all engagement gifts back. This is not commonly known but if you get engaged with a proper ceremony and your betrothed goes and does the dirty with another bloke then you have redress under Thai law that all property / valuables / engagement gifts must be returned. In fact village law has it that the naughty girl's family must return two or three times the value of what was originally given so as to compensate for the loss of face involved! Of course, when a farang enters the equation things don't always follow the traditional ways. It's a shame that you have doubts because this is a time when you should be excited about the future.

Question 3: Is there child maintenance in Thailand? I married a Thai girl 2 years ago and she become pregnant. I later found out she was seeing another man so I have not sent her any money because I don't think I am the baby's father! I am planning to go to Thailand in 8 weeks to get a DNA test but she is emailing me saying she has given my passport number to the police and that I will be arrested when I get there because I have paid no maintenance. Can she do this and can I be arrested? Any info will be a big help!

Mr. Stick says: As far as I know there is no government agency responsible for child maintenance agency in Thailand so it really does sound to me like this girl is pulling your leg. In fact she is playing a dangerous game because the way you have explained it makes it sound like she is attempting to extort money from you. Where she has written in emails that you will be arrested on arrival in Thailand if you don't pay her money is quite simply extortion. If you were to retain the emails she has sent and present them to the police then you could lay a complaint against her – although I would not recommend doing that. Don't worry about her claims. You will almost certainly not be challenged at the airport. When you do arrive in Bangkok you should get a DNA test done promptly. The place to get that done in Bangkok is Siriraj Hospital which is on the "other" side of the river. You and the baby go along, take your passport and the baby's birth certificate and they will be able to assist. You haven't mentioned the status of your marriage but I would look at getting divorced from this evil witch while you're in Thailand, assuming you haven't already. Just go to any district office with a copy of your passport and your marriage certificate and WITHOUT her and file for divorce on the grounds of abandonment. You should be in and out in no time, half an hour max!

Stickman Weekly is just that, a weekly, and is published every Sunday without fail. BKKSW's excellent photography column appears every Saturday and readers' stories are published every day from Monday to Saturday, never on Sunday – that is until today. A reader witnessed a fellow Westerner get beaten by locals on Sukhumvit soi 4 last night and typed up what happened and sent it in. I have broken the rule of not publishing readers' stories on Sunday and have published it while it's still fresh. If you're not Stickmaned out for today, this short story, "A Farang Takes a Beating" is only about 800 words – and worth reading. The Land of Smiles is not always a friendly place…



Your Bangkok commentator,

Stick