Stickman's Weekly Column February 21st, 2010

Nana Plaza Memories



The Nana Plaza we know today was not always a bar area. Nana Plaza was once a regular shopping centre with all of the usual tourist junk that you find on Sukhumvit today. Woodstock Bar opened in 1984 and from that moment onwards the shopping centre underwent a transition from family shopping centre to one that catered specifically to single men.

We all remember our introduction to Thailand's nightlife but those who experienced Nana Plaza for the first time in the 90s were blown away by it. I was no exception.

That first visit to Nana Plaza is still clear in my mind. I can remember the gorgeous Nid who bounced on my lap. I still clearly remember her tempting offer, 1,000 baht to go upstairs, 1,500 to go back to my hotel. I remember her asking for a beer instead of a Coke when I offered her a drink. I remember her sweet words and believed every one of them. I may not have fallen in love with Nid, but I did fall in love with Nana.



We were staying not far from Khao San Road. After finally convincing a taxi driver that he should not only take us to Nana but do so with the meter turned on, we made the slow journey across town, leaving Khao San when the sun was up, eventually arriving long after it had gone down.

The excitement built as we were stuck in the cab in the peak hour traffic of soi 3, the illuminated sign atop the Nana Hotel just a few hundred metres away. We knew the famed Nana Plaza was somewhere close by. The driver dropped us off just before the entrance, pointing towards the neon. I still remember him saying "You go" and giving us a knowing smile!

As we entered the horseshoe-shaped shopping centre for men, music was blaring from all directions. There were armies of welcome girls outside every bar and we didn't get far, lured into Pretty Lady Bar where we got what seemed like the last two free seats in the house.

The bar was packed and the scene before us was unreal. We'd arrived early and there were perhaps 100 girls in the medium-sized bar, a third of them spread over the two dance floors, most in the buff. That dreadful habit lovely Thai girls dancing in gogos have today of dying their hair hadn't caught on and most had that classic feature of Thai femininity and beauty, long black hair. I won't say the girls were any more beautiful back then, but the smiles seemed less forced, the attitudes less hardened. It wasn't paradise, but it was close.

We stayed in Pretty Lady Bar for a few hours before venturing along to Voodoo at a time when it was perhaps the best bar in Nana. I'd been to Rock Hard A Gogo in Phuket a year earlier but these Nana bars were something else.

With the beautiful surroundings – the neon in Nana was just as good in the late 90s as it is today, Nana was the most welcoming bar area, the bars the biggest in Bangkok and they were absolutely jam packed with girls. It didn't have the high prices of Patpong or the old ladies of Cowboy. Nana was party central and rightfully held the crown of the most popular Bangkok bar area from probably the mid ‘90s – when Patpong transformed from a nightlife area to a night market – until perhaps 2005 or 2006 when Cowboy's transformation from old style bar area to more modern and comfortable bar area was complete.



Nana has been the most static of Bangkok's bar areas and a number of Nana bars popular when I first visited have long since been consigned to Bangkok bar history. Three Roses, Hog's Breath and Rosemary Bar come to mind. Like the old world bars of Cowboy, these smaller, older style venues have made way for bigger, more modern venues. That said, aesthetically at least, Nana looks little different today than it did a decade ago.

Like all of the bar areas, Nana has its fair share of characters, Thai and foreign. First to mind is David W, the dour but articulate Brit who heads up the Crown Group and is without a doubt the plaza's numero uno. David's influence at Nana cannot be underestimated and the bar mogul has become a very wealthy man. One of my favourites from times gone by is Anton, the charming Brit who was forever forgetful when it came to the ownership of his bar. Veteran bar manager Ricky, of Baby Dolls Pattaya fame, managed various bars in Nana and then of course there is the gogo guru himself, Dave the Rave. Dave had yet to make his name when I first discovered Nana but has become the longest serving foreign bar manager in Nana Plaza, with 12 years in the plaza. And then there were the vendors who made the rounds of the bars, night after night, selling anything from plastic trinkets to fake watches to flowers. Some have been working the Nana area for more than 20 years.

Another character who springs to mind is Santos, the Indian who owned and ran Titty Twister, where Cathouse is today. Santos developed something of a fan club. I could never work out why so many used to worship him, the way he threw free drinks around willy nilly no doubt had something to do with it. His bar was pokey, played hard rock at a deafening volume and had some of the least attractive girls in the plaza – but the bar did well which I think, in retrospect, was because he was a good host. His popularity took a dive when a number of investors cottoned on that he had sold the bar a few times over and had pocketed, at the last count, about 16 million baht. The last I heard was that the money had made it out but Santos hadn't. 16 million baht in an Indian bank is hard to enjoy from a Bangkok monkey house.

There used to be a number of food vendors operating inside the plaza. There was the kebab guy on the left-hand side as you enter, the French bread bird in front of Pharaohs who had all sorts of exotic cheeses and pâtés for tasty sandwiches. And then there was the grease man, that fat lump who operated Nana Burger, the vendor that's still in business at the mouth of the plaza today. We would sit in Big Dogs and watch him wipe the sweat off his brow and use the very same towel to wipe mustard or sauce off the side of a burger bun. But his burgers were tasty, I have to admit!

But it was the bars that we were there for, the bars and the girls and Nana delivered in spades. Most bars had full nude dancing and most bars had heaps of pretty girls. The barkers could be found on the middle level on the left hand side, older bars employing old girls for their old customers.



Myself and my former partner in crime, WhosYourDaddy, spent many nights in Nana Plaza. We'd hit it once or twice a week, usually mid-week. Being creatures of routine, we'd go straight to Rainbow 1, have half a dozen beers each and share a cab home – we lived in the same neighbourhood. Ah, those were the days, red bus to Nana, and later a cab home, back before the skytrain opened. We could go out, have our 6 beers each, grab a burger from the grease monkey and cab it home, all for less than 600 baht. This was back in the days when a beer in the Rainbow bars set you back just 75 baht.

The previous year I spent many nights in Pretty Lady Bar, my first home bar. Ironically Dave The Rave was the manager back then but I didn't know him then. They'd play Loso songs throughout the night and the girls would go absolutely wild. Those were the days when there was no guarantee of getting a seat in Nana bars; there'd be plenty of guys perching, waiting for someone to leave, resting their beer wherever there was some empty table or counter space. Pretty Lady had popcorn at 10 baht a paper bag. I feel cruel saying that the girl who walked around selling it just wasn't up to scratch to be up on stage. She later became a waitress across the way in Rainbow 1.



Once upon a time Nana was almost as wild as Patpong – where today they still perform all manner of crazy shows. There was a period in Nana Plaza where anything went. Even those who salivate at the depraved vulgarity seen in the likes of What's Up, Baby Dolls and The Iron Club in Pattaya, Nana Plaza far exceeded ANYTHING you can find in Pattaya today. The most depraved images I have from the plaza are of the shows held in the upstairs Hollywood bars, shows which I seriously doubt could be performed today. A goldfish bowl would be placed in the centre of the stage and a dancer would come out, dance around for a song or two, before standing directly above the fish bowl. She would open her legs and goldfish would drop into the bowl and start swimming around. They were still alive! Reports online of what was going on in the bars weren't that reliable back then so the first time we saw it we were not expecting it – and neither presumably was most of the audience given the gasps and shock that followed. The shows became more elaborate and the goldfish were substituted for a frog and later a baby snake. I kid you not. There was an abattoir out back in Hollywood for a while, a few months I guess, before the animal shows were canned.

But the shows weren't always disgusting in Nana. G Spot's shower shows were worth going out of your way for. They were one of the highlights of Nana and filled the massive bar. Shower shows have followed in various bars, usually a single cubicle with a lone lass washing herself slowly to something soppy and romantic. Think Celine Deon and a boat that supposedly wouldn't sink. Well, imagine that same scene but with a dozen women slowly washing each other with soap and sponges. Unlike the nonsense upstairs in Hollywood, G Spot's shower show didn't try to shock. There was, dare I say it, a touch of class.

I first met one of the foreign legends of Nana, Dave the Rave, some time in 2001. Myself and Whosyourdaddy were playing the fool in Hollywood one night, something I guess we did fairly often back then. It was at the time Dave was co-managing with that Aussie who karma caught up with. Anyway, we thought it outrageous that someone at an adjacent table was being asked 10,000 baht for the so-called long-term barfine so we called for the manager and Dave was on hand to deal with our complaint. He quickly tagged us as time wasters – which we certainly were – gave us the company spiel and excused himself.



Some of my best memories in Nana Plaza are not of the naughty bars at all but of the friendships I made at the Friday night meetings at Woodstock. Nanaplaza.com, which is now known as Thailand360.com, is the longest running Thailand nightlife-slanted discussion forum. It was the largest Thailand-related forum in the late 90s and members would meet up every Friday around 7 PM at Woodstock, grab a burger – which were excellent – and chew the fat before venturing off to explore. Many friendships were made. When the group meetings moved to Gulliver's and then on to Bradman's it seemed to lose something. The Friday night Woodstock get together was a highlight of the week for many, me included. Woodstock really was an oasis amongst the madness of Nana. The Old Dutch in Cowboy is a similar concept, I guess, but it just isn't Woodstock. There was something special about that bar in those days.

Old Asia hands often talk with fondness about the Nana Plaza of old. Nana at its peak really was as good as it got and that's why so many old-timers still talk so fondly of the good old days in the plaza. But the truth is that Nana has been in decline for almost a decade. That slow descent started in 2001 when drinks prices and barfines leapt overnight by more than 20%. Around the same time the Interior Minister of the day started a major crackdown on nightlife that saw birthday suits outlawed. Price increases combined with an inferior product changed the atmosphere completely and Nana has never really been the same since. Nana's slow demise coincided with change down the road, the opening of Dollhouse in Soi Cowboy in early 2002 marked the end of an era in Cowboy. It would no longer be the sleepy expat-dominated backwater.

Today Nana probably still has the prettiest girls in all of the farang bar areas nationwide and if there are any bars with more attractive girls than Rainbows 1, 2 and 4, I don't know about them. But on the other hands, Nana has a bunch of ladyboy venues and always seems to be the bar area driving price increases. Sadly the atmosphere at Nana changed many years ago and with that it lost the crown of Bangkok's premier farang bar area.








Last week's photo

Where was this photo taken?


Last week's photo was taken at the top of Sukhumvit soi 18, right next to the Lexus dealership on the main Sukhumvit Road. 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 other Thailand-related title 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 – A trip down memory lane.

I enjoyed the memories of your early days on Soi Cowboy. Here is some historical background. "Cowboy" was a Black-American Vietnam War veteran from Texas or a nearby state, and often wore cowboy outfits. He served in the US Air Force in Thailand and married a Thai woman. A few years after the war he and his wife opened two bars on that quiet little soi, Cowboy's and Loretta's (named after their daughter). The bars were successful, and I think he soon opened Cowboy's 2. Other bars followed including Our Place, Moonshine, Honeymoon, Old China Hand and Pam's. It was Bernard Trink who christened it "Soi Cowboy". It was Cowboy's wife who first brought in the Isaan girls, mainly from Buriram and Korat. And from the very beginning most of the girls roomed upstairs above the bars. I can't help but also mention that there was once a real rebellion by the local expat clientele when all of the bars suddenly raised barfines from 75 to 100 baht! But the expats did put up with it, since the beer, lady drinks, and barfines were still cheaper than in Patpong. In the 80's some larger, glitzier bars opened and were slightly more expensive. As more hotels were built in the Sukhumvit area, tourists began to find their way to the soi. And the rest, as they say, is history. I miss the old days of no hassle, no hustle and no neon signs. They were friendly little places with girls eager to please.

More Cowboy memories.

I first stumbled across Soi Cowboy way back in 1980 after coming out of the George and Dragon run by Geordie "Doc". Geez, was it really 30 yrs ago?! Cowboy was buzzing even way back then. Some great memories. Loretta's 1 and 2 bars, Shuffs (later Toy Bar) run by an amicable American guy Rick. There was an English guy Roger who had 2 bars on Cowboy which were always good for after hours drinking. Another place was the Joker Club (on the site of the now Grande Westin, opposite City Lodge, soi 19) with live music. The old Thermae…happy days indeed. Later I used to frequent the Offshore run by Ray from England which is still there. There were hardly any high rise buildings way back then. Return trips saw all the big hotels going up at an incredible rate. Think I'll continue this trip down memory lane and look at the old photos from…30 years ago!

Pattaya is pumping!

I am in Pattaya for a few days and the US Military are still here after their recent exercises. I have to say that right now Pattaya is the most pumping I have ever seen it. The bars are packed and there are loads of young, fun and very polite and well-mannered US military types giving the place a real sort of Vietnam R & R type feel! It's so refreshing from the old guys, Pattaya locals and lager louts that is the usual mix. Pattaya right now is by far the best I have ever seen it. The girls are a lot more pumped up and the energy and fun levels are much higher than I have ever seen before which seems to be attributable to the influx of military guys. On the downside, prices have been inflated.

More Thai music please!

You wrote about the old days when a bar would end the night with morlam or lukthung music, which the girls love. I actually experienced that quite recently in Erotica – and yes, I was dragged up onto the stage. I wish more places did this. Much more fun for the girls than the rubbish that is usually played. As a former DJ I find it unbelievable what some bar owners allow the DJ to play. Totally unsuitable and therefore bad for business. It would be interesting to see what kind of business a gogo bar would do if they played only morlam with the resulting atmosphere it would generate with the girls really having fun!


Looking for Thai girls? Look no more – you just found ThaiFriendly.com

A scam, or merely business?

If you go a tailor and ask him to make you a long-sleeved shirt, maybe even double cuffs, you can haggle the price to get the best deal, obviously. If you then decide you really like the finished product and ask for a short-sleeved shirt in the same material, he will price it no cheaper, saying that it takes the same amount of work and the material difference counts for nothing. Now try it the other way round. Get the short-sleeved shirt first then ask for a similar long-sleeved version. All of a sudden the aforementioned nothing amounts to an added value of 200 baht or more! I always haggle down the more difficult job first. I learnt this the hard way and the same principle applies to any other purchase or work you might commission involving the possibility of extras.

Who are the dicey individuals?

Having frequented Tilac bar on several occasions during my last two trips, I was amused to see a group of guys playing dice in the corner of the bar (door on your right, table to the right of the door). Seemed like a great place to have a regular gathering (and they have been there on each of my last three visits.) Anyway, are you one of the guys playing, and if so, what on earth is the game they / you play?! Kudos to them anyway (and you if one of them)…as I say, I cannot imagine a nicer place or a nicer view to have, when indulging in a dice throwing pastime!

The Stickman Fan Club has its founding member.

I've written / commented to you before about one thing or another and you've always graciously replied, so thanks. But I'm just shooting you this email to let you know how much I thoroughly enjoy reading your column every week. No matter what the topic, it always makes for a good read and has become a staple for me much like the Sunday paper. I live in San Diego and have been visiting LOS since 1990 on a 4 – 5 times a year basis. I'm not "over it" yet because I don't get too caught up in everything and don't over think it. I know a recent column of yours has generated a storm of controversy, but hey it's YOUR site and they are YOUR opinions so keep doing YOUR thing!

The Stick threatened!

Here we are again, back in the old Soi Cowboy. It's almost a year and the place seems to have changed a little more. I know it's your favourite place, but the other night I was sitting outside a bar, opposite Tilac, and overheard a farang and a Thai man talking about you. I think they were bar owners. Been upsetting the locals maybe. Anyway their conversation regarding you was pretty heated, with bodily harm mentioned a few times. I expect you get this sort of thing all the time. Just be careful when you visit Cowboy and keep giving them shit!

Dollhouse in Cowboy has cleaned out the cobwebs in the mezzanine floor which was popular in the bar's hay day. It had become a no go area for customers and was where the girls often hid between their dance shifts. The area is alive again with lithe-bodied lovelies wriggling about and Dollhouse becomes Soi Cowboy's second two storey bar.

Will Little Arabia be renamed to Little Africa? The soi 5 crowd has changed markedly over the past few months. Even if you've only been away for a short time you will notice quite a difference.

One of my biggest complaints about the bar industry is the way that so many owners buy or build a bar, get some girls in, price the beer and, well, that's about it. So many owners do little to differentiate their venue from others and almost nothing to entice customers in the door. So I was pleased to hear that there's a venue actually doing something different and making a genuine effort to get customers in the door. Pattaya Beer Garden, which can be found just before the start of Walking Street, mounted over the water and looking out over Pattaya Bay, has a novel new approach to getting more girls and guys through the doors in a promotion launched on Friday. To get more girls in the door, they are offering free drinks for the girls from 4 – 9 PM. This offer is for unaccompanied girls sitting at either of the two bars. For guys, the bar is offering "barfines" at the same time. The bar will pay you, the male customer, the barfine if you hook up with one of the girls freelancing in the Beer Garden! This promotion runs between 4 and 9 PM on Friday nights. 200 baht will be credited to your bill which means a few free beers. To help get this new promotion going, a mamasan, Ae, has been appointed. If you want to avail yourself of the deal, just ask your server and she will bring over mamasan Ae to sort things out for you and the 200 baht credit will be added to your bill. The 200 baht credit can be used on any drink or food products. So, the girls drink free and the guys get paid 200 baht for picking up a girl. What a deal! If it works well on Fridays they may introduce it as a nightly promotion. The one issue I foresee with this is that, let's face it, Pattaya is cheap Charlie central and I cannot help but think that some will try and exploit the system – and if there is too much of that happening then what is a great idea might be abandoned. I'm interested to see how it develops.

A long-term Thailand expat, and long-time Stickman reader, was drugged in Soi Cowboy this week. Fortunately he made it home ok and the damage was only a few thousand baht. It could have been much worse. What is really scary is that the only two bars he visited are farang-owned. I won't name the bars because odds are it is only one rogue girl – but it does reinforce that you need to keep an eye on your drinks and as the victim mentioned, perhaps it is better to go out with a mate than go out alone.

Next Saturday, that would be February 27th, ThailandFriends will host a re-design party for the new look of their website. The party will be held on the rooftop at the Ruamchit Hotel which is located between Sukhumvit sois 13 and 15, above Bush Gardens, the Sports Academy and of course the Thermae. Thai models will put on an evening show by the rooftop pool showing off the latest beach wear for 2010. There will be a DJ and free buffet. Just like membership to ThailandFriends, entrance to the party is free. Sign up for the party and when you make it there, look for Sticky perving at the models by the poolside. And if you don't score at the party, you can hit the Thermae afterwards which was full of hotties last weekend!

The Viagra police are out in force at their old stomping round, the Ekamai bus station. If you're unaware of how it goes down, foreigners getting off buses are approached and a search of your person and baggage is performed. If you have any drugs on you – which is exactly what they are looking for – the officers will claim that the drugs are a prescription medicine (which they may or may not be) and ask to see the prescription. Knowing that most people don't carry a prescription with them, they will then inform you that you have committed a crime and let you know what could happen – off to the police station where you'd be arrested, charged, would need to be bailed before waiting for your court case which could be months away. You will of course be offered to settle there and then and the closest ATM machine will be pointed out to you.

There seems to be a lot of new girls in the Soi Cowboy bars I frequent. You get to know many of the girls and once you become a regular you recognise new staff. As far as the new girls in my frequent haunts go, I suspect it's a mix of farm fresh as well as transplants from the Arab's bars. In the case of the latter, they are new to the bar, but they show signs they're not new to Cowboy / the industry. And in my favourite bar, Tilac, the bar I am in most often, I would say that in the past 4 months about half of the girls are new.

Finding rubbish bins in public places in Thailand is no easy feat. I was therefore pleasantly surprised this week to see some tall, silver rubbish bins placed outside a number of bars in Soi Cowboy. It's kind of crazy really, there are laws against littering but few rubbish bins!

Do the Japanese read Stickman? I have no idea if they do but given that I always harp on about Tilac Bar and that the number of Japanese in Tilac is on the rise, let's just hope they do not ruin things by throwing around silly amounts of cash. On a positive note, they seem to be of the non-smoking variety.

It's interesting to observe that those in the Arab bars this week appeared to be mainly unfamiliar faces. In fact my partner in crime, the doctor, tells me that he did not see anyone he recognised as a local in those Arab bars he stuck his head inside. Sounds crazy I know, but we locals tend to notice such things. Dave the Rave often tells me of the trends in his bar, talking about the percentage of people he knows, or recognises. His measure of the low season is not about when it rains, but when most faces in the bar are familiar.

In last week's column I mentioned the littering scam where only Westerners are targeted in high foot traffic areas along Sukhumvit. I mentioned that if what you dropped went down a drain and could not be retrieved then you would not be issued with a ticket. However, it seems that that is not the case at all. These coppers are on the ball and well prepared for this excuse. If something is dropped down a drain they whip out an official looking document that states that the fine for dropping things down a drain is actually 10,000 baht – 5 times that for litter discarded on the ground! I guess this actually makes some sort of sense, given that blocking a drain is far worse than merely dropping something on the immaculately clean and litter free streets of Bangkok. So, whatever you do, do not drop your litter down a drain as had been suggested. You should be particularly careful in the area just west of the Emporium shopping centre, out front of Benjasiri Park, where the eagle-eyed rubbish police watch foreigners walking by very closely indeed.

There's been much gossip down in Phuket recently about the future of Soi Sea Dragon. I am not going to say it is news, but rather is gossip and rumour. Soi Sea Dragon is one of the busiest sois off thriving Bangla Road and is where Susie Wong's and 5 or 6 other gogo bars are located. It is rumoured that this soi may undergo major change some time soon, as an entrance for a new hotel under construction may mean some bars have to go. Even outright demolition has been mentioned. One of the bar owners has been trying to sell off his shares in advance of panic setting in. We'll just have to wait and see what happens.

If we're talking about the naughty stuff, the further you get from Bangkok, the better the service generally is. Still in Phuket, Kamala is rising from the ashes and makes a pleasant change from the congestion and chaos that is Patong. There have been many new bars opened in the last year or two, one of the best being the recently added G'day Mate Bar which is opposite The Club on the main drag. It is well laid out and decorated, has attractive ladies in smart uniforms serving reasonably priced drinks. The music is mostly 60s, 70s and 80s and is played at a sensible volume. They even have inexpensive tucker, burgers and the like. The ladies are smiling and friendly, as they tend to be in the more outlying areas and the way they used to be in Patong.

The Blues Factory is proud to announce that The New Machine, a Pink Floyd tribute band from the UK, will be performing their Pink Floyd tribute show live on stage on Wednesday, February 24. This is the band that headlined this year's Burapa bike weekend in Pattaya last Friday and Saturday where they rocked the place. Lam Morrison and The Rock Machine will also perform. There is no cover charge and The New Machine would like to do the gig for charity so there will be donations boxes on stage on behalf of The Camillian Centre for kids with HIV and The Mercy Centre for orphaned and homeless kids.

A reader recently asked about DNA testing and I recommended Siriraj Hospital, the government hospital which provides this service. It should be noted that there are many other options. You can search online and get a DNA testing kit. The cost can be quite low, from around $150.

I have always said the pool of birds in Thailand that farangs are fishing is remarkably small and this was reinforced again recently. The doc hooked up with a bird he met online and took her to Angelwitch – a strange place for a date I would have thought. While he was there, Khun Nana came along and what do you know, Khun Nana had been with her sister the week before! The doc and Khun Nana have been mates for years but neither knew the other had an interest in one of the family.

Town Lodge has upped the ante with new services offered and agreements in place for their guests to use the facilities at nearby larger hotels at discounted prices. There's a swimming pool package for 1/2 day or full day use at the Rembrandt Hotel and you can get a 20% discount on regular prices at their gym, spa and wellness treatments. There's also a 10% at various Rembrandt restaurants, the highly rated Senor Pico and Rang Mahal as well as Da Vinci and Red Pepper.

Why is it that Chinese girls have such bad teeth? I cannot believe just how bad they are on some otherwise extremely attractive girls. Being frank, the smell of their breath is equally repugnant! Not Chinese Thais, but Chinese nationals.

Sometimes service really sucks in venues targeting foreigners in Thailand. Oftentimes the venue is Thai-owned and the owner or manager doesn't understand the standards of service that visitors expect or they are simply not interested in providing any real service but just taking as much money as they can with little regard to building up a customer base long term. This week I heard about a certain bar in the greater Nana area owned and managed by a couple of my fellow countrymen. Another of my fellow countryman went in and after realising that the bar stunk – it is obviously greasing the palms of the right people so that nothing would come of allowing customers to smoke – the customer, after asking if the bar was smokefree was told by the farang manager "If you don't like it, then why did you come in? You can always f#*% off to another place, no one's stopping you!" I am not going to stick my head out and name the venue, but for sure, the positive mentions I gave this place in the past will never appear in this column again and the advertising deal we were working on has been dumped.

Is that hard edge and lack of willingness to really service foreign customers, perceived by some as a hubris, slowly dissipating from the locals? Do they realise that their nastiness to some customers, at least in some establishments, in some industries, may have been perceived almost as an act of brinkmanship, seeing just how far they are willing to go to piss customers off? The tide seems to have changed. Many service providers in Bangkok seem to be going the extra mile to not just please, but to attract tourists. English-speaking staff can be seen floating about department stores and major shopping malls providing dedicated assistance to foreigners. Keep an eye out in the upmarket shopping malls for staff wearing photo ID badges on a necklace, some of whom are hired specifically to help foreign visitors and damn, they might even be able to string together a grammatically correct sentence or two.

I answered a question for a reader in a recent column regarding the amount of alcohol one can bring in to Thailand duty free and suggested that generally Customs don't show much interest. Since then, I have received a bunch of emails from Stickman readers relaying how their bags had been scanned on arrival. It might make us think more about whether to declare any excess alcohol. Remember, if caught with undeclared alcohol over the duty free limit, the fines are very high – easily enough to ruin your holiday. And the duty free limit for alcohol is one measly litre!

If my email inbox is anything to go by, one part of medical tourism in Thailand is doing very well indeed – dentistry. A lot of readers are travelling here specifically to get work done on their teeth – and everyone seems to be happy with the work. If you watch your pennies, it's worth visiting a dentist while you're here, even if it is just for a clean and check up. You won't have to wait ages to see the dentist as can be a problem in the West, it's cheaper, and unlike in the West where for a clean and check up you might just see a dental assistant – but still be charged an outrageous fee, in Thailand you get to see the real deal dentist, the fella with his (or her) name on the door.

For readers who have problems accessing the latest version of this column and who are sure it has been published but keep getting the previous week's version, hold down the "Shift" key when you click refresh. This will prompt the proxy server at the ISP to download the latest page instead of the cached copy.

For the umpteenth time the political situation is tense with the upcoming ruling on Thaksin's assets this week sending many into a frenzy. I think it's fair to say that here on the ground the Thais are in more of a panic than expats. There is an air of confusion amongst many with no-one sure what will happen. Despite highly publicised warnings not to visit Bangkok, I would not be greatly concerned if you're visiting soon. With that said, it might be a good idea to stock up on essentials like canned food, water, and this being Bangkok, beer and condoms!



Quote of the week is a classic and was said to a Stickman reader who had had flowers delivered on Valentine's Day for his girlfriend, "I don't want flower, I want money, why you spend $100 on flower not send me money?"

Reader's story of the week comes from Solomon, his first submission titled "Thailand's Reputation And How It Affects Me And My Relationship".

A video clip from 1968 appeared on YouTube of soldiers in Bangkok for what they call "R & R"!

Exactly the issue I warned about in last week's column, an Aussie is caught up in a Pattaya baht bus case.

From MSN Australia this week comes an article on how to spot ladyboys.

An Australian flight attendant dies in Phuket.

Who would believe that you can actually see ice hockey in Bangkok?

Madame Tussaud's will open a new wax museum in Bangkok.

Should this sort of equipment be available in Thailand?

Australians have been warned to avoid Bangkok.

Thailand has joined the nine countries most in danger for the first time.

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: My Thai girlfriend hungers for more personal attention, time and sugary statements than I am used to knowing westerners. Is this a person to person thing, or is this a cultural difference I can find insights on?

Mrs. Stick says: I think you know that we are nice and try to create the harmonious environment so that everyone is always happy and does not have stress in their lives. So if we say nice things and do nice things then everyone is happy. We don't like to talk about problems and bad things all the time. We prefer to talk about nice things and be kind and sweet to people. But actually in relationships the important thing is not what you say but what you do. So you need to do good things and say nice things and then your girlfriend will think you are the man of her dreams.

Every so often I receive hate mail. I'd like to say that it's part and parcel of running a site like this insomuch that most Thailand website webmasters also get some really odd emails. It shouldn't be like this. I've tried to understand why people would send some of the emails they do and make some of the comments they make, but you can't rationalise it. Most of it is just hot air. I have little respect for those of you who say you want to tell me what you think of me to my face – but never make the effort to actually do that. I am not hard to find, in fact I am very much a creature of habit, hanging out in the same bars at the same time. I am not difficult to find by any stretch of the imagination and often I mention events and parties in this column and say that I will be there – and I am there. So for those of you who aren't cowards and are prepared to say to my face what you say in email, I invite you to do it. Thailand really does attract an odd element…



Your Bangkok commentator,

Stick