Stickman's Weekly Column January 24th, 2010

Stick Leaps Into The Morality Debate Ring



This week's opening piece is a departure from the usual. Typically I open with my thoughts, opinions or experiences. Seldom do I respond to what is happening in the news and as best I can remember, never have I responded to discussion on another part of this site. A debate has been raging in the readers' submissions section over the morality of whoremongering and the very existence of the bar industry in Thailand. The heavyweights have weighed in with essays from the likes of Sawadee2000, Marc Holt, Korski and Caveman. Things have got heated, spicy emails have been traded and I just could not sit on the sideline any longer. I think it's always been obvious that despite covering the comings and goings in the industry I have never been entirely in favour of it. Today I come out and tell you what I really think. My thoughts can be read as a stand alone piece or if you would like to follow the entire debate, you might also want to check out:

PUNT 12/1/2010 Caveman
About Mongering, Hypocrisy, Reality and Consequences 13/1/2010 Rahiri
Is It Moral? 13/1/2010 Marc Holt
In Reply To Marc Holt's Is It Moral 14/1/2010 Anonymous
The Girl Friend Experience 14/1/2010 Utley
Is It Moral – A Reply 15/1/2010 BangkokReal
Morality, and the Eternal Trade Offs 16/1/2010 Expat-Matt
‘Tis Better to Give than Receive 18/1/2010 Caveman
Rahiri on Mongering: Projections and Half Truths at Best 18/1/2010 Korski
The Morality Question Revisited 19/1/2010 Marc Holt
Assumptions and Conclusions: A Response to Korski 19/1/2010 Rahiri
The Morality of Mongering 19/1/2010 DH
Morality in the P4P Scene 20/1/2010 MacBKK
Dueling Moralities 20/1/2010 BKKSW
Korski on Rahiri on Korski: Further Clarifications 20/1/2010 Korski
The Mongering Issue 21/1/2010 Jurgen
A Women’s Perspective 21/1/2010 Rastus
The Oldest Profession and the Endless Debate 23/1/2010 Sawadee2000


The sector of Thailand's commercial sex industry for foreigners is a major blight on the country's image. The women lured into it often leave in a much worse situation than when they entered. If the industry was shut down, Thailand would be better off. I firmly believe these three statements to be absolutely true!

While other writers have discussed the so-called morality of the industry, I prefer to look at the effects it has on the people involved and to a lesser extent, the country. I'm also going to look at the arguments that have been made in favour of the industry and refute each and every one of them.

Many Westerners live for it. Whoremongering in Thailand is addictive, fun, perhaps even thrilling. But do these mongers ever consider what it is like for the girls who work in the industry? Do they even know what brought the women there in the first place?

Most women enter the industry because they have money problems. They hear grossly exaggerated stories of girls who entered the industry, supposedly made a fortune or perhaps met a Western man who was prepared to look after them. Most plan to get in and out as fast as they can, hoping that their situation will improve, their financial burdens removed.

They want to get in and out of the industry quickly yet few do. They may not have the skills to realise their hopes or the necessary drive, or the conditions they get caught up in make it difficult. Demands from the family who know she is on the farang gravy train often mean she just can't save that much.

Boss Hogg tells a good story of a girl who used to work for him who saved up almost 400,000 baht, only to receive the phone call from home. Maybe the buffalo had taken a turn or maybe a non-existent relative had been sent to a police station that doesn't exist – and money was urgently needed. Sure, for a daughter of Isaan who makes money in any job, the phone call could just as likely come. It's not coercion but an instructions. The daughter has to cough up the family tax.

Few girls leave the industry with a healthy bank account. Earnings are so often wasted on gambling, given to the local boyfriend or husband, spent on drugs or on hosting friends for a night out drinking.

The list of evils the girls suffer is widely known and there's no need to repeat it here. This could be somewhat mitigated if they came out of it financially better off. But seldom do they.

When I look at women who come into the industry and those who exit, the changes are massive. They enter the industry poor, with great hopes for the future and they often leave it poor – and physically, mentally and emotionally scarred.

Various arguments have been made to justify what seems to be the writers feel is their right to inexpensive young, hard-bodied pussy. Most are easily refuted if you really understand what happens in the industry.

The first and most common argument in favour of the industry is that liaisons are between two consenting adults of legal age which is, on the face of it, fair. That is until you start to understand all of the BS involved.

Girls employed in a bar are said to have a choice as to whether they go with a customer or not. The truth is that they have quotas to meet, and barfine quotas are usually 8 – 10 a month. Fail to meet that and their salary is cut. They also have the evil mamasans to deal with who often coerce the girls to go with some heinous men, often because the customer had bought the mamasan a drink and she feels obliged to repay him. It's a fallacy to suggest that the girls have a choice. Effectively a girl has to go with any guy who walks through the door and wants her. He could be a reptile, or a whale, or have hygiene issues. She has little choice.

Another common argument in favour of the industry is that other types of work would be much worse. The alternative is factory work. It's a hard grind, long hours and minimum wage. With overtime a monthly salary approaching 10,000 baht is possible. It's a hard grind in not particularly comfortable conditions.

There are in fact many benefits to this type of work. Put in the hours and there is a guaranteed income, something which many of the older, less attractive women in the bar industry in Pattaya don't have. This type of work can lead to better paying positions, a more stable work life and none of the damage that comes with time in the bar industry.

The argument that makes me laugh loudest is the purported positive effects sex tourism has on the economy. It is falsely asserted that the sex tourism industry is so big that the industry's closure would bring the tourism industry, and with it the entire Thai economy, to its knees. Some suggest that they are doing the girls, their family and in fact the whole country a favour, arguing that billions of baht makes its way to where it is most needed. Sure, some money does make its way to the countryside where it is much needed, but even the highest earners seldom send more than 5,000 baht a month home.

The industry is big, but not that big. Take the lift to the observation level of Baiyoke 2 Tower for the best views of Bangkok. Look around this bustling metropolis of some 12 odd million people. Can you see the tiny lane that is Soi Cowboy, or the small shopping centre of Nana Plaza? You can't because they're tiny! You can see the monstrosities of Siam Paragon, MBK and many of the city's major shopping centres. The Grand Palace, which probably gets more visitors in a day than Nana Plaza gets in a month, is easy to spot. The farang sector of the sex industry can't be seen from the city's vantage point…because it's tiny! Do you still think sex tourism is important in economic terms?

But what about Pattaya, you argue. Without sex tourism it would be a ghost town. A few years ago you would have been right, but with Russians making up ever larger numbers and more and more Indian and Chinese visitors flocking to Sin City for reasons other than the nightlife, Pattaya would simply reinvent itself if the bar industry was shut down. More Eastern Europeans, more Chinese and more Indians. That's exactly who the Tourism Authority has been targeting – and 95% of them wouldn't miss the industry at all.

It's laughable that some argue a benefit of the industry is that the girls improve their English. There isn't any on the job training and with the exception of English language skills – often idiomatic and full of slang – few skills are developed in the bar industry. Good English will always help a Thai woman searching for employment in Thailand but the sad fact is that any job that requires English will almost certainly require to her have at least a bachelor's degree. So while English is useful, it is redundant without proof of higher education. And just where is she going to say she learned?!

I never have and never would live on Sukhumvit. The industry is in your face and that of everyone passing by. Many parts of the capital's premier boulevard have become a cesspit in recent years, a direct result of the industry being forced out on to the streets. Neither would I want to live anywhere in Pattaya.

It's made all the worse by the stereotype of the Western sex tourist. Uncultured, boorish, ignoble and lascivious, the sight of rotund and / or appallingly dressed visitors propositioning women in public is crass.

The smiles are an act, the girlfriend experience an illusion. I don't doubt that it makes many men very happy and that is nice. But please, don't think she is necessarily enjoying it. It's a job! Talking with these girls in their own tongue, when they realise that you're not going to be a customer she has nothing to lose by being honest with you. She knows that you're not going to judge her because you've already demonstrated that you know how the industry works. Oftentimes the release valve pops and she falls into your arms, tears streaming down her face, and she tells you what it's really like.

Most of the girls do not want to be there. The whole idea was to get in and get out – in a much better position than when they entered. They get abused sexually, abused mentally and they cannot act or pretend forever.

I have found some views in the ongoing debate to be highly distasteful and utterly ignorant. Many have not even tried to understand the girls' situation or what they go through. It seems to me that many consider it their right to avail themselves of young women at minimum cost and bugger the consequences.

There is a very good argument that the commercial sex industry in Thailand that caters to foreigners be shut down. Sure, I enjoy watching scantily clad women dance and I enjoy flirting with them. I enjoy meeting friends in the bars with lovely ladies as a backdrop and I enjoy putting this column together and covering what's happening in the industry. But I would be just as happy to see the industry ended.

Angelwitch Bangkok manager and the self-titled "gogo guru", Dave The Rave, has been working in the industry since 1998 where he has a ringside view. Dave's words are short and sweet. "The industry destroys lives." Who can argue with the one foreigner who has possibly spent more time in gogo bars than any other person on the planet over the last decade?!

If the girls are going to work in this industry, I hope they do as well as they possibly can. And for that to happen, they probably need to get out of Thailand – at least to maximise their earnings.

I have never received as much negative feedback as I did when I wrote several years back that the girls are better off working overseas. My argument was that Thai girls who worked overseas – and the two countries I gave as examples were England and Australia – earned huge money, sums so great that they could not help but save large chunks of it. There are plenty of stories of Thai women returning from the UK with £100,000 – £200,000, a fortune in rural Thailand, more than enough to buy a house, a vehicle and set up a business or just live the easy life. If you're going to do a job that damages you in many ways, you may as well maximise your earnings, right?

The reaction to that column was outrage! How dare I suggest the girls relocate overseas! The readership went into a frenzy and I was vilified, accused of promoting human trafficking and the exploitation of young Thai women, vitriolic hyperbole from the self-serving whose only concern was their God given right to cheap sex. If word got out and Thai women realised the princely sums they could make in the West, many would venture abroad.

Relatively small numbers ply their trade freelancing in Orchard Towers in Singapore, where over the course of a 14-day stay they can return to home with in excess of 100,000 baht. Back to Thailand, they deposit the money in the bank, come back on a new 14-day visa and the cycle repeats. Good on them! For all the crap they put up with, at least they're being fairly compensated.

I truly believe that those who avail themselves of all that the industry has to offer and attempt to justify their actions wouldn't accept it if the shoe on the other foot. A 30-year Thailand expat asserts that "it's just sex". Said fellow has two daughters who I am sure mean the world to him. I imagine he would be very protective of them as any good father would. Let's say that this 30-year expat falls on hard times….and his daughters somehow end up in the industry. While there, along comes a fellow called Ron Colt, a clean cut Westerner who doesn't drink, dresses well, speaks politely and is a small time businessman to boot. But like so many, this Ron character chooses, perhaps from time to time, perhaps habitually, to party without a party hat. He's brazen about it and tells the world. We can assume he has almost certainly not allowed the mandatory 3-month period between contact and a blood test. How would you feel if the Colt was nailing your daughter? He is not alone, but one of many.

Foreigners are not exclusively to blame for the ills of the industry, the damage it causes the girls and the horrible reputation Thailand has earned because of its thriving sex tourism industry. Complicit we may be, a major contributing factor most certainly, but it is the Thais themselves who must take the lion's share of the blame. They don't just allow it, they actively encourage foreigners to participate. It is those whose actions and greed allow the industry to flourish who must accept responsibility.

The primary reason I am not in favour of the industry is that the girls suffer and are inadequately compensated and / or they blow the money they make. If they knew how things would be, they wouldn't enter the industry in the first place. Most leave in much worse shape than when they first started. Poor, just as they were, but add to that physically, mentally and emotionally scarred.

Sure, there are those who make it. Some end up rich. Some score decent, hard-working, generous, loving foreign husbands. Some genuinely enjoy the life. They are the minority.

My perspective on the industry is complicated and contrarian. I would be happy to see it die while at the same time I write about it every week. I would rather a girl didn't enter the industry in the first place but if she does, I hope she makes as much money from it as she possibly can – and the best place to do that is in the West. And while I am not in favour of guys rampaging through Cowboy or Walking Street or <insert the name of any bar area>, I hope that the guys who partake treat the girls with respect, pay them fairly, don't force them to do anything against their will and always use condoms.

The proportion of tourists who visit Thailand for the naughty stuff is lower than it used to be and much lower than many, particularly those who only know Sukhumvit and Walking Street, believe. Whether it will one day be outlawed, consumed by other more profitable ventures or slowly die a death cannot be predicted. That said, I cannot see the industry as we currently know it existing forever.

The damage to the girls, to Thai society and to the image of Thailand is massive. That's why, one day, the farang-dominated sector of the industry must end.

This is not a debate about morals, but simply about opening your eyes and seeing the industry for what it really is. It's about empathy and consideration and being honest about how it would be if the shoe was on the other foot.

It's too late for the two ladies pictured here. That's possibly one teacher and one nurse Thailand will never have. But their sisters still have a chance.



Last week's photo

Where was this photo taken?


Last week's photo was taken of Denny's Corner at the soi 22 entrance to Washington Square. This week's photo was not taken in Bangkok. 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! The third person to get the photo right wins a copy of Jake Needham's excellent "The Big Mango" which is the only book other than Leather's Dancer that I have read twice.

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 – To dress up or down?

Please allow me to question – and politely challenge – the tactic of dressing down. My view is that Thais will NOT attack or rob someone whom they respect. And clothes & accessories are the surest and quickest way to gain respect in public. Much more so here than in our home countries. When I dress up, locals go out of their way to be polite and helpful, even if they don't know me. The "higher" I dress, the more respect they show. An example is when I fly somewhere – generally business class – I dress up for that. On the way to and from the airport, in the lobby of my building, you'd think a VIP was passing through. But it's just me, the same face they've seen everyday for months or years. I never dress like the "typical" farang, but I do observe my fellow farang here. Those who dress down usually get very little respect. And little respect makes them likely targets here. So I will continue to dress up, just a bit. My goal is to look like a businessman, on a casual day, not like a retired farang. So far that has succeeded perfectly. I consider carefully my choice of clothing styles, colours, shoes, eyeglasses. Shave everyday, and get a haircut as needed. The vast majority of farang I see don't bother with any of that. If there are any threats from Thais, I expect unkempt farangs will be the targets, rather than "businessmen". My secondary goal is to look the opposite of a tourist. Tourists wear cut-off trousers, so I never do. Tourists wear fisherman sandals, so I don't even have any. Tourists wear t-shirts, but I don't. I think the main target is those with the tourist look. My strategy is to avoid that, and that means dressing up a bit.

The joys of working in Thailand.

I was recently asked what it was like working in Thailand. The Thais (staff, workers, sub-contractors) will always say yes to everything even if it is clearly not possible or just tell you what they think you want to hear. You cannot speak your mind or shout at a Thai as they will either go into permanent childish sulk mode or, if they have the means, go out for revenge in the nastiest possible way. My closest encounter in Bangkok was back in 2001. A sub-contractor had left our construction site in a lorry with the loader still in the upright position and it pulled down telephone, electric and fibre optic cables. The cost was 500,000 baht and I deemed it appropriate to charge the sub-contactor for the cost. Oh no, farang, you cannot do that! Within a few hours of applying the charge, the sub-contractor stopped work and blocked all the entrances to our site. Call the police? Unfortunately not possible. The local chief of police owned the sub-contractor and sent his boys to my office. My engineer translated the 'discussion'. We had to give him a cheque immediately for the charge that had been deducted from his payment and give him a post dated cheque for the next month's payment. More importantly it was noted that one of the boys was in possession of a gun. I have never seen my Thai engineer so nervous so I complied without a word. I don't miss the work in Thailand.

Thais abroad.

In Singapore the centre for Thai products is a complex called Golden Mile. Personally I hate the place and I'm not keen on my Thai girlfriend (TGF) visiting there as it is full of dodgy characters. TGF needed a top up card for her mobile and bought one at Golden Mile. The top up didn't work so she complained to the shop owner who tried to use it but failed. The conclusion was that the customer was in the wrong and no refund was made. Even overseas the Thais screw each other for money. The TGF will no longer buy anything from a Thai person in Singapore as they cannot be trusted. During her last and final visit to Golden Mile, she overheard a Thai girl on the phone. She was saying that she would be back in Thailand in a few days but had to go to the police station to report her lost passport (not lost at all) so she could get a new one to get back into Singapore again. Obviously she was a hooker and has used the short term visit pass too many times. The TGF now realises why she used to get so much hassle at Singapore Immigration before getting a long term visa. Thais have an appalling reputation overseas.

They like the sound!

Just read your latest column, and thought I'd see what effect that Michael Learns To Rock song, "That's Why (You Go Away)" had on my teerak so I pulled it up on YouTube and let it play. In seconds she was singing away and all soppy and sentimental! I laughed! She wanted to know how I knew it was the girls' favourite song / where did I get it etc. I asked her why all girls love it. She said it was a nice, romantic sound and generally the girls know a few words of English, though they don't necessarily know the context, but it sounds nice and romantic! Whereas when they hear Thai / Isaan they know all the words but don't always like them! So I think all we can surmise is that they like the sound!

A real worry in times of chaos or tragedy.

One of the disadvantages of making progress in the Thai language is that I can discuss more subtle and delicate matters with Thai people. With only a little prompting, they reveal the general Thai feelings about farang: They really, really don't like us. That's not news to you, but what worries me is this. In a time of massive grief and chaos, striking out against other Thais is still verboten – but foreigners would be fair game. Especially from Thai men seething with resentment against farangs. Resentment because we have more money and we take so many of their women. Resentment that has been building for many years. Thai men will aim their anger and hostility at lone farang, rather than at other Thais. It worries me a lot.

Croatia looking like a better option.

Just more evidence of the numpties of Thailand shooting themselves in the foot. Went to a beach party in Surin Beach, Phuket on Xmas Eve at Studio Lounge. There were international DJs and everyone was enjoying themselves. Then at 1:30 AM sharp in march the army including rifles to break up the party. This would be quite frightening to your average package tourist and I wonder how long before the Thai people fight back from this ridiculous situation, not to mention loss of earnings. As for Thailand in general, I don't think I'll be retuning anytime soon. With the exception of the girls which I no longer indulge in (it's fun for a couple of holidays then the twats you meet in the bars become tiresome), it's become expensive and I really don't see it offers me anything from a 14 hour flight that a 1 and a half hour flight to Croatia does not. The Thai food is a plus point, but the beer and food are of a much higher quality in Croatia, and the coastline also trumps Thailand in my opinion. There's much talk of civil war and maybe that's what's needed and hopefully they take out a few of the low-life farangs at the same time.

The big news of interest to Westerners in Thailand this week has been the report in the Pattaya Times newspaper of a major crackdown on foreigners working in and / or making money from bars. It has been reported that a major crackdown will take place next month. The authorities will not win any friends amongst foreigners by stating that they will be specifically targeting foreigners, inferring that Thais in the industry don't concern them and are not a target.

The Arab's reputation has never been great but it was made that little bit worse Friday before last with news of a dispute at one of his Cowboy properties, Kiss Bar. I didn't see it myself as I'd already gone home but I am reliably informed that a Westerner was given a severe beating by The Arab's hired help. It transpires that the victim was in fact an investor in Spice Girls, one of The Arab's bars! The mind boggles. Just what was this dispute about? One of the victim's friends stepped in and tried to help and he was set upon and robbed of a gold chain in the fracas. People often wonder why The Arab gets such a hard time so hopefully the reporting of incidents like this helps explain. And it really makes you think twice about supporting his bars, doesn't it? The whole incident blew up, the cops were called and the entire soi was closed earlier than usual. As one bar owner said, The Arab was directly responsible for every bar on Cowboy being forced to close earlier than they would have on what is the busiest night of the week – and ultimately ended up doing less trade than they would have. Needless to say, The Arab's popularity slumps even further on Cowboy – if that were possible!

The Arab seems to avoid Cowboy during business hours and I have to admit that I haven't seen him for several months. He used to be a common sight but I never seem him these days. He always attracts much attention as he saunters along Cowboy flanked by his hired help like he is some sort of celebrity. He is despised by many and is forced to go everywhere with a protection detail. You have to wonder who has a bigger security detail, the Arab or Thaksin?! When will the Arab set his sights on Pattaya? He has upset so many people in Bangkok that I reckon his empire will expand 150 km down the road where he may think he can start afresh…

On Tuesday night Soi Cowboy closed early, at around 1:15 AM. No reason was given. Nana stayed open until 2:00 AM that night but the bars were cautious about showing'. Rumour hit the plaza that a visit from those charged with upholding the law was imminent, but ultimately they never arrived. Showing returned to a dozen or so Nana bars on Wednesday but there was much nervousness in the air and the security guys at the entrance to many bars were told to keep an eagle eye.

Everyone seems to be talking about Theiron Club, the Walking Street gogo that more than a few claim is the best bar in Pattaya at this point in time. I haven't set foot in it for a number of weeks so cannot comment, but the feedback is very, very good. To be honest, it's a bar that I'll never get too excited about, it being of the Baby Dolls and What's Up variety. If you like filth, it may well be your idea of a fun place.

Sisterz Bar on Walking Street, recently acquired by a bunch of bar investors with interests in a few big name Pattaya bars, will close in the next week or so and undergo a major refurbishment. Sisterz never really got going and always reminded me of a car that needed a major tune up. There was much unrealised potential. Here's hoping the new owners can turn it around. For sure, it's location on Walking Street is hard to beat.

Is it any coincidence that not long after the Rainbow bars in Nana start showing they also increase the price of most drinks to 145 baht?

Pretty Lady Bar at Nana Plaza will hold its next Full Moon Party next Saturday, January 30. Sexy shows are promised, free BBQ is available and a wheel of fortune will spin all night with lots of chances to win free drinks.

Angelwitch Pattaya has been listed for sale. It'll set you back a cool 77 million baht, or getting on for $2.5 million if you dream of being the new owner.

There seems to have been a changing of the guard at Gulliver's in Sukhumvit soi 5 with lots of new faces freelancing, perhaps dipping their toe into farang territory.

Heavens Above in Pattaya is the latest gogo to place conditions on their barfine policy. The girls cannot be barfined within the first two hours of work. Exactly what the reasoning was behind this new policy, I do not know. Perhaps girls were being barfined early in the evening and the cupboard was bare by midnight which would drive customers away, or perhaps there has been a problem with girls coming in to work late and being barfined right away? The hottest girls know that irrespective of what time they arrive, they will be barfined – and they also know that the bars tend to be busier later in the evening so they might not be willing to turn up early, which is easy to understand if they were up late the night before. I can understand it from the bar's perspective, but for sure, both the girls and the punters get pissed off at this sort of thing. I wonder if these new conditions will last.

If you've been away from Bangkok's naughty areas for a few years and returned, hoping to see the lovelies wearing knee high boots, I'm afraid to report that it seems to be a dying trend. Outside of Patpong, few bargirls sport this favourite of Stickman's fashion accessories. However the need to store basic bargirl gear remains, and as I wrote several months back, where the girls used to use their boots to store all manner of things, the girls of Tilac have taken to filling their tops with everything from lipstick to mints to mobile phones. Yes, phones, with an "s"!

I still find it odd that Phuket with its millions of visitors every year does not have a bunch of thriving gogo bars. What they do have are not at all impressive. In the old days, Rock Hard was excellent, really excellent, but even that went off the boil years ago. I don't expect Angelwitch or Rainbow 4 or Tilac quality, just something merely as good as Sheba's or even Sisterz. The demand must be there. In the event a consortium from Bangkok and Pattaya got their act together and opened a venue in Phuket they would clean up. It's not like there's any real competition. Yes, there is a reason that fans of the gogos head to Bangkok and Pattaya. Phuket has much going for it, but it's not its gogo bars.

Many of the local riff raff that once hovered about the entrance to Nana Plaza on the prowl for an easy wallet to lift can be seen floating around Cowboy. Take care of one fellow who looks Indian, a member the flower gang who has been at it for years. He's about 15 now and has got fairly tall but of a real worry, he is most adept at picking pockets.

A friend's girlfriend recently became a policewoman and it hasn't taken long for her to learn of and convey some most interesting and relevant info. Apparently the police are really concerned about a big rise in complaints from farang in the Sukhumvit area claiming to have been drugged and robbed. The word is that the drugs are a manufactured cocktail coming into Bangkok from Buriram. I receive many reports from readers about this sort of thing and the cops verifying that it is more prevalent than ever is a very real concern. Keep a close eye on your drink!

Ever since pretty much every bar in the lane got in on the act of setting up an outdoor area for customers to kick back and watch the world go by, Soi Cowboy effectively became narrower. This contributes directly to the traffic gauntlet seen early every evening when those pests in their orange jackets revel in playing chicken with punters. Just as well they don't do it later in the evening when we're tanked up or it could get really interesting.

The good luck ceremony, pictured right, that is seen in bars in the likes of Nana, Patpong, and Pattaya simply doesn't seem to happen in Cowboy. If you've never seen it you could be forgiven for thinking it was some sort of witchcraft. At the start of the shift, the girls pass a phallus symbol around, often tapping each girls with it or passing it between their legs and around the bar before they line up and toss a glass of local whisky out the door from between their legs. So why don't you see this in Cowboy? Do the girls of Cowboy think they are somehow lucky already?

The exterior of Five Star in Soi Cowboy has been undergoing a facelift over the past few months. The changes have been gradual and easy to miss in a soi with plenty to look at.

Who designed the men's toilets on the ground floor of Bangkok Beat? One can only surmise that they never expected the venue to get as busy as it does. Two really is a crowd in there.

A golfer who runs and organises the golf society in Jomtien has to return to the Emerald Isle and doesn't know when he will be back in the Land Of Smiles. So now the golf society is looking for a keen golfer with plenty of patience and spare time (it's a thankless task) to help organising things. Anyone interested in getting involved can give Colin a bell on 089-8951452.

Some of my spies in Pattaya tell me business is up. Some tell me business is down. And some tell me that it is raining Russians and the sky is about to fall! What is going on down there?! Who knows, but what I can say is that over the hill in Jomtien, Hot Legs bar in the Jomtien Complex is doing well. Low season was steady until November when a significant jump in takings began. December was up even more and January will be their busiest month since they opened. Quite a few of the other bars in the complex and on the street seem to be doing quite well at the moment with good crowds, especially at the weekend.

But you've got to feel sorry for the bar owners on the roadside of Jomtien Complex. Normally this would be a first class location but at the moment it's but a cloud of dust with the new road being built. At least one bar owner has had enough and put his bar up for sale. I'll bet most of the owners can't wait for this long running saga to be over. It has been said that the section down to the corner of the complex will be completed by end of April. Yeah, right, we know how good the locals are with timeframes and deadlines.

Bourbon Street restaurant is organising the 15th annual charity golf tournament to benefit Father Joe Maier's Mercy Centre. The online invitation form can be found here.

If you've got a few dollars to throw around or your as yet unsatisfied fantasy involves a bunch of hos and a yacht, Secrets Bar in Pattaya has a luxury yacht, the Mabilia, ready for charter. For full details, check it out here.

Hang out in the bars often enough and you start to recognise the girls and notice when they move from one bar to another. You might see them elsewhere too, perhaps in shopping centres, restaurants or the cinema. But one place I often see these girls – and don't ask me why I am looking there – is on the local dating sites. The funny thing is they more often than not list their occupation as factory workers. They've never been good at spelling this lot. I think they meant fuctory.

The Music Station on soi 33 is organising cabaret shows every Friday and Saturday. The show gets going at 10:30 PM during the band's first break. I believe this is the first time cabaret shows have been held in soi 33 and already there are regulars coming back especially to see the show again. It should be noted that the free drink for Stickman readers promotion continues at Music Station. Simply print out the very bottom of this column with the Music Station graphic, take it to the bar, give it to the French manager who will give you a big welcome and a free shooter.

Paul Pitini, who founded Pitini's in Pattaya's Soi Buakhao, for a long time my favourite place for a cup of coffee in Sin City, now lives in Korat and will open a Pitini Cafe in the gateway to Isaan on the road to the university. It will be somewhat upmarket for Korat, targeting better-off Thais and foreigners who enjoy really good coffee. And if you like to start your day with a heart attack on a plate, you'll find Pitini's English breakfasts to be the real deal. They plan to open in late March, farang time no less!

I wonder how many Thai employers, particularly schools, have a policy, perhaps even a specific clause in their employment contract, that states that any member of staff seen in a known whoring area will have their contract terminated. It's rather funny just thinking about this, given that Western teachers in Thailand, despite their modest salaries, are notorious whoremongers. If you're employed locally, does your contract include a clause about spending time in a red light area – as opposed to one of those generic and somewhat ambiguous clauses about conducting yourself in such a way as to be considered of good character? I personally don't know of any schools that have such a policy, in writing at least, but there must be some. It would be interesting to know.

Quote of the week, "I remember when my relations used to last 2 years and were difficult to end, now they last 2 hours and both parties walk away happy."

From the Gazette, a bunch of beer bars are torn down at Kata Beach in Phuket.

Tuktuks in Phuket might be metered in the future, with fares perhaps starting at a ridiculous 250 baht!

From the Bangkok Post, a lengthy article on how beggars are annoying foreign tourists.

Looks like the fun-killing police are out in Bali much like they have been in Thailand.

Bangkok novelist John Burdett had a piece featured in the Telegraph this week.

If you're wondering what is happening with Thaksin's billions, here's the latest from Asia Times.

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 have recently knocked up and had a new son with a Thai girl I met last April. I have been taking care of her and of course sending money to support her. I do believe he is my son but in the back of my mind I want to know for sure, 100%. I remember seeing a doctor's office you recommended in your articles to go for DNA testing. I will be back in April again and want to take my son in and get tested to make 100% sure. I can't seem to find the article or link you had for this place. Can you please recommend a place for me that speaks English so I'm not left in the dark when I'm in there.

Mr. Stick says: Siriraj Hospital, the government hospital on the Thonburi (read "other") side of the river, is the place to go for DNA testing in Bangkok. This is one of the top tier government hospitals and as such I would expect most of the medical professionals to have a good command of English. However, you're probably not going to see a doctor as such so I cannot say for sure how the level of English of the people you deal with will be. I know that some of the private hospitals in Bangkok used to offer a service where anyone who wanted DNA testing would be given a liaison service i.e. you would go to, say, Bumrungrad Hospital, and an English speaking member of their staff would take you to Siriraj and go through the whole process for you, translating etc and then you would go back to Bumrungrad a few days later and they would give you the results. You need to take your passport and the ID card or birth certificate of the child. Alternatively, you might want to consider a DNA kit from a lab in another country. I believe the closest and cheapest are operated by labs in Australia. You do a mouth swab for each person, send the samples to Australia where they run the tests and send you the results. Good luck!

Question 2: I'd like to marry a Thai girl. I moved to Bangkok last year and I'm kind of in love with her. She wants it too. I want to do it the Thai way, at least the proposal. I understand that someone must come with me to the parent's (only her mother in this case) home and discuss everything: dowry, wedding plans, future etc. However I cannot find more information on the internet and I only hope you know. I want to do it by the book, at least the proposal. I plan to go by myself to her village in Uthai Thani and ask her mother there, without her knowing this, like a surprise, but maybe it's better if she comes with me. I have a basic idea about the wedding itself only. So, please, if you can help I'll appreciate it.

Mrs. Stick says: You should speak to your girlfriend first and she can tell you what happens. She will talk to her mother and arrange a time for you to visit her. In the traditional way senior family members will be there and you can talk with them about your plans for the future. I think you know this is the important part and you must tell them about your job and future job plans and when you will have children and buy a house and if you will support your wife or she will work etc. If they accept your plans then you can talk about wedding plans. You can go alone or take someone with you. There is no fixed rule. They should be a Thai person or someone who speaks good Thai. For some families it is formal and everyone will wear their traditional clothes. This is not something to surprise people with so do not go alone without telling anyone.

Question 3: I am sure that you covered this question in your column in the past but it seems to be impossible for me to find the answer. So my question is this: What happens to bargirls when they get older? Are there any results of a survey about their fate? How many get back to their families and when? How many marry a farang? How do they cope with their experiences they had in the bargirl years and how did that influence their soul and body for the rest of their life?

Mr. Stick says: Very good questions and I'll give it a stab even though I think to answer with any real confidence I need to observe the industry for about another decade! I don't know of any surveys on the subject. Bargirls tend to leave the industry because they are unsuccessful in it, which is a higher percentage than you may think. They just might not be able to do what one needs to do to be good at it. Or perhaps they might not be as attractive as others – so they essentially voluntarily leave. Many do end up with foreigners but my feeling is that these relationships are often turbulent and go bad fairly fast. The lady might return to the industry or she might not. There are just so many variables as to what might happen. As far as the effects of her years as a bargirl, that really is different for every girl. Some girls plummet into an abyss that they never get out of and others, who may have spent a long time in the industry, show very little in the way of effects. There are just so many variables. I do maintain though that the industry scars or damages most girls to some degree.



I read a report online in a newspaper in my homeland recently which had a Thai twist to it. I would not expect the journalists who covered the story to have much knowledge of Thailand but I would expect them to get the basic facts right. The article was a bit of a joke for anyone who knew much about the country. The first thing they got wrong was saying that the woman the article was about had two names – which were in fact her name and her nickname. It was suggested that this was done to deceive. There were a few comments made about Thailand which were clearly based on perceptions and bore no resemblance to reality. Worst of all, the report was in the most widely circulated and once most respected newspaper in the country. It made me think that if that article contained so many factual errors, how could I be confident that other articles didn't. It really wasn't that long ago that I got all of my news from one news source. These days I get my news from a variety of sources. Blogs and discussion forums might not always have the best reputation for getting things right, but what I have learned of the mainstream media is that, for some publications at least, they're no better.

Your Bangkok commentator,

Stick