I had hoped to write about my memories from Pattaya as the opener for today's column, but I have been incredibly busy this past week and I just could not find the time to put together an opening piece. Instead I offer a few photos from Pattaya in the past.
This week's column is shorter than usual due to a crazy schedule I am working through at the moment.
Hopefully next week's column will be longer.
Last week's photo
Where was this photo taken?
Last week's photo was taken of Siam Square. Some really clever readers worked out that this shot was actually taken some time ago, 7 years ago to be exact. 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 – Just a job!
I saw the live sex show in Patpong, as no doubt 879 other readers will tell you via email. It was January 1990, not sure which bar, but it was obvious something was going to happen. The lights dimmed and "Also Sprach Zarathustra" hit the speakers as a large motorcycle descended from the ceiling. They did their entire sex thing on the bike, changing positions mechanically as though by counting beats on a metronome. The couple was utterly disinterested in the process, they could have been watching television. It was clearly just a job. Still, the novelty appeal was undeniable.
Patpong of yesteryear.
I remember Patpong in 1981 when it was jumping. The dancers were much better than the shufflers on Cowboy too. I saw a live sex show, perhaps the one you are referring to. I don't remember where it was exactly. A tout took me there and probably earned himself a nice commission. If I remember correctly, it was set up like a theatre with the seats going around the stage. The audience was mostly Thai with many laughing women and couples. I only saw one or two farang in there. That makes me think it could have been oriented more toward locals. Everything else was as you described; every possible position in a cheerful party atmosphere. She also did tricks like opening bottles. It was all very light-hearted. I was treated with great deference and respect like an honoured guest.
Patpong and one's cherry.
I have fond memories of Patpong. I actually lost my virginity to a lady from Patpong back in the '90s. She was very nice and understanding. I also took my father to experience Patpong in 2000 or 2001. He made a mistake, putting his wallet in his belly-bag when they were all the rage. Instead of putting it in the bag, he dropped it to the floor. None of us saw it happen but as we left the bar an employee ran after us to return his wallet. And he did not even accept a tip. The service was excellent back then. I haven't been to Patpong for ten years so I have no idea how it is now. One funny incident was when I came to Patpong in the daytime and took some photos of the soi, a local tried to convince me that I should pay him just for the privilege of photographing Patpong. Fortunately I had been there long enough to know his game. He found it funny too when I laughed. No hard feelings either way, but it stuck in my memory.
The Pong for the first time.
Like many others, my first night's destination in Bangkok was Patpong. In fact myself and two mates piled into a taxi at the airport with our backpacks and went straight to King's Castle if I recall correctly. That was the first time in my life that an exotic half-naked girl sat next to me and I was terrified! Oh how we can change and adapt over the years! I remember bumping into a gorgeous girl on the street around three in the morning who treated me to around six hours of bedroom fun and didn't ask for any cash. Those were the days. Speaking of your first encounter with ladyboys, I remember there was a Muay Thai bar (named Blue Sky or something) which attracted a few of them. I was approached by one and I really couldn't tell it was a man and I actually quite fancied 'her' until the truth was known. I visited the place every few months during my stay in Bangkok but each time the attraction faded, especially on the last occasion about 18 months ago. I was with my girlfriend and one of those horrible touts kept shouting "f***ng show" at us and was getting quite aggressive. I lost my temper, told him where to go then made a sharp exit, knowing that it could have ended with 10 cowards kicking the crap out of me, or worse.
Is it worth saving on the barfine?
I have been drugged and robbed twice over the last ten years in Patong, once on the beach strolling alone and buying a beer from a boy with a cool box, although I think it was the two ladies that sat down to talk to me that did the dirty as they were the last thing I remember before waking up groggy, watchless and walletless. The second time was a lady who approached me at a bar claiming to know me and slipped something in my drink. I remember going to my room with her, then waking up cleaned out – mobile phone, cameras, money etc. I am convinced a farang was an accomplice as among the things taken were a box of cornflakes, a new shirt of mine and the beer out of my fridge. I wondered how she had walked past the car park guards in the early hours with large bags of stuff but with a farang it makes sense. Do NOT pick up freelancers, unless you are sure you know them, the barfine saving is not worth the risk.
In all the years I've resided in Thailand, I've always been a renter and always obtained permission from the condo owner to install a double key deadbolt on the front door. If I'm with a gal I've not known previously, I lock the deadbolt from the inside and hide the key. Should I ever fall prey to a drugging episode, the gal would not only be shocked to find she can't disappear into the night with any of my possessions, but rue the hour I wake up.
Be careful of women carrying bags!
You and your readers might be interested in a strategy used to pick people's pockets. I got on a baht bus and a woman sat next to me near the exit and two other women sat opposite me. They were talking to each other. The two opposite moved closer together and the woman next to me said, "I hot, I hot, sit over there." So I sat with the two other women. The one next to me had a big bag on her lap. The one now opposite me started getting shirts out and showing her friends, thus getting my attention. Then I felt something touch my pocket. I looked down just quick enough to see that the woman next to me was reaching her hand into my pocket from beneath her bag. Then she looked about as if to say it wasn't her! I quickly checked my wallet as they rang the bell and got off quickly. Fortunately, everything was there. The message? Beware of women carrying large bags on baht buses.
Manchester safer than Bangkok.
This summer I go back to South-East Asia to visit family in Singapore and visit the LOS for the first time in 15 years. So far so good, but your website bloody terrifies me! What with thieving policemen, ladyboys, dodgy Africans and that hellhole Pattaya – drugged drinks, 'suspect' farang suicides, the lowest of low life farangs, tuktuk drivers with iron bars. Being short-changed seems to be the least of one's worries. It makes my native Manchester on a Friday night look like a haven of peace and security!
The face of Patpong is changing and one of the Patpong soi 1's landmarks, King's Corner, has changed format and is now a pool bar. The manageress claims there just weren't enough foreign visitors to sustain the gogo format. King's Corner was always one of the busiest gogos and always a fun spot to take first-time visitors. The mix of half girls and half ladyboys startled many.
It really does look as if the gogos of Patpong soi 1 are on the way out and one of Bangkok's most famous lanes may change forever. I've been reporting for some time now that customer numbers in Patpong soi 1 are lower than ever. I wonder how these bars can remain viable.
To make matters worse, and yet another nail in the coffin, there are some very dangerous-looking guys hanging around outside the remaining Patpong upstairs bars.
One place that is booming in that part of town is the gay area, just off Suriwong. The venues are packed to the rafters – every bar. If you want to see some amazing shows, that's the place to go. It'll set you back 300 baht for your first drink, 250 baht for the rest and it's 260 baht to buy a boy a drink. It makes Nana Plaza look like a bargain.
The local plod made the rounds in Sukhumvit east of Asoke this week, visiting bars and accusing the owners of allowing smoking on the premises. A 20,000 baht fine was the present for those venues which had punters smoking at the time of the constabulary's visit.
If you find yourself in Pattaya on the evening of March 25th, the masses will be at that most excellent venue, Secrets, celebrating one of the biggest events of the year, the birthday of the ultra popular manager, Larry. Things will kick off around 8 PM and it promises to be a great night. I had planned to be in Phuket then but I think I'll have to rethink that.
That huge construction area next to the Asoke skytrain station is coming along quickly and the building now dwarfs the BTS station by 2 or 3 floors. Bangkok really is one of those cities that if you're away from for just a short time the changes can be great.
For those who drive in Bangkok, the cops are getting more and more aggressive in their enforcement of speed laws. It's only a short journey between Pattaya and Bangkok but there is often a man in a brown shirt with a radar operating on the motorway past Chonburi, just before you get to the first toll both, heading towards Bangkok. The copper has the radar and a walkie talk under an umbrella, and if you are exceeding the speed limit of 120 km/h, you'll get stopped at the toll gate and issued with a fine.
Cowboy was pumping earlier this week. It was pay day and the girls were savouring what is generally regarded as the last day of the high season. At Tilac it was standing room only and seeing it was Monday and typically the slowest night of the week, that says something.
Long Gun has updated their playlist and there's much more recent pop played, replacing some of the hard rock, if my memory is right.
The Arab's newest Cowboy bar is still under construction and like the rest of his bars it looks like it will be a treat for the eyes. It's amazing how much his bars mimic nature – some of the most attractive of the species are also the most
There has been a storm of activity on soi 23 of late and businesses in the soi seem to be doing well. In Nana the Raja Hotel car park seems to mark the boundary past which there is much less foot traffic. On soi 23 I guess the Queen Victoria would be that point. The big new 7 Eleven just 50 meters down from Cowboy also helps to draw a lot of foot traffic.
It's amazing how a few key dancers can influence the mood of a bar. Ever since I made mention of Tilac's #27, Ann, she has made but cameo appearances at best before being barfined. Her energetic dancing set the standard for many girls in the bar, but now that she plays but a bit part in the Tilac show, there seems to be a little less energy on stage.
Bangkok Beat will host their next event on Saturday March 20, a soul and funk party.
The name Big Bill is not one we hear so much of these days but in his day Big Bill's personality was as big as his frame and that's a good size I can assure you. My memory is not quite what it was so I cannot tell you the exact nature of the relationship, but Big Bill was involved with Larry in Phuket' best gogo bar, Rock Hard A Gogo. Bill was the charismatic, unmistakably America DJ who punctuated his DJing duties with funnies and commentary. He was one of the reasons why Rock Hard was such a huge success. I am pleased to advise that the errant reports of Big Bill's demise are premature although he is unable to walk too far nowadays. Bill is making an effort to enlarge his food business. Besides a product line of frozen foods for expats, especially the I'm no cook or late night hunger tantrums kind of customer. His New York Deli & Diner meat & potato and Brooklyn Italian dishes are doing well at the Deli Supermarket in Patong, and Bill, always thinking big, wants to take it national. They also do a gourmet heroes, subs and sandwich delivery in Patong.
And whenever you think of Bill, you'll probably think of Larry. He too has been over in these parts but was due to fly back to the US this week so hopefully his friends caught up with him when he was in town. I have to say that I miss these guys in business.
Talking to one of the new darlings in Cowboy 2 this week, I asked her how she liked being a bargirl to which she replied she liked the job because of the money she makes, more of which she claimed goes to her parents. Being just 20 and with no children says a lot about her devotion to her family. I have always felt sad for the girls without kids who end up in the industry. Supporting kids I can completely understand. Supporting parents…hmmm, I reckon selling yourself to do that just ain't right.
One of Bangkok, and indeed Thailand's major selling points was – note the use of the word "was" – that when it came to crime, at least crime on Westerners, the city fared well. Compare it to other centres in the region, the likes of Phnom Penh and Manila – which get a similar type of tourist – and Bangkok always compared well. The problem is now that crime against foreigners is, anecdotally at least, on the increase. That's hardly unexpected given the economic doldrums but it becomes a double whammy when it comes to the troubles getting assistance when you're a victim. There's no doubt in my mind that more visitors are concerned about crime in Bangkok – and are looking at other destinations when they realise how bad things are getting here.
In last week's column I said some nice words about the lovely lady in Soi Cowboy who sells wonderful German food which I reckon is the best snack / beer accompaniment in the soi. Someone showed her what I wrote and she gave them a free meal! Hell, if I go and tell her it was me who wrote it I'll bet she thinks I'm pulling her leg!
A mate told me about a recently-opened Thai restaurant in New Zealand on Auckland's North Shore which has two menus – one in Thai and one in English. There is a discrepancy in the pricing…and I won't insult you by saying how the
Buzz Stop is *the* expat pub in the thriving southern seaside town of Songkhla where, yes, there is something of an expat community. Swing by and say hello to George on St Patrick's Day and it should be even more fun than usual.
I see the Brits are screaming in the forums this week as the once mighty pound Sterling takes a hammering. It was not that long ago that Brits considered 60 the benchmark rate. This week the British currency was clinging to 48 baht. It's not looking too hot for other currencies either with the Euro at less than 44 and the greenback not much over 32. Not good if you are a retiree on a fixed income.
From time to time I have a nosy at the trip reports in some of the naughty boy forums. There's one trend that I have noticed recently. There is a very definite trend of less guys posting boy trip reports. In the past you'd get at least one new, lengthy trip report a day, often replete with home grown porn, the sorts of photos that could be incredibly incriminating. I've got my theories as to why there are fewer reports these days. What do you think?
I see that the latest tourism marketing campaign for the country is Amazing Thailand, Amazing Value. Sigh, Thailand is not the bargain it once was. Far from it in fact. This would have been a nice campaign 10 years ago, but today?
A couple of months ago a friend had a visa problem. He was given the number of a girl who had helped him in the past. She was quick and efficient saved him a trip to the new Immigration office for less than the cost of a taxi fare out there. This week he needed some accounts advice and again he called the girl up and she was very helpful and resourceful. I have never met nor spoken with this lady but this trusted friend raved about her and said she was ok with her contact details being included here for anyone who wants to use her professional services. Many of her clients had visa problems and work permit problems and she spent much time fixing them and decided to go freelance. She's an accountant, but I think she might best be described as a fixer. Her name is Pook, and she can be reached on either 087-5188338 or by emailing: firstname.lastname@example.org. Everything is above board. There's a real market out there for a decent fixer and this lady may just be able to fill that niche.
Two readers have mentioned Timothy Hallinan's new book, "Breathing Water". I have not read it myself but it sounds interesting. It is said to be fast paced – and attempts something new, a political thriller set in Bangkok with almost no bargirls in it.
TranslateThai has available the services of a Justice of the Peace to witness, certify and execute documents pertaining to the Commonwealth of Australia. For an appointment contact them at : email@example.com.
The Economist analyses the Taksin verdict.
The necklace of a female Finnish tourist is snatched in Pattaya.
It's a shame there are not more Phuket tuktuk drivers like this.
Some of the beer promotion girls in Bangkok really are something else.
A bunch of Thai students are arrested in the USA.
A Swiss tourist is relieved of 200,000 baht in Pattaya.
Ask Mrs. Stick
Mrs. Stick is happy to answer any questions regarding inter-racial relationships as well as cultural peculiarities that may be confusing or baffling you.
Question 1: I recently stumbled upon your column and started researching the idea of life in Thailand. What concerns me is that everything is 'memories' and 'in the old days.' What I'm wondering is, is there still any reason for a fella to head to Thailand these days? I'm only young but dream of (and have been working towards) an early retirement. All I see now is complaints about how things used to be in the old days and how expensive everything is now. I think you'll find it still costs a lot more to live back home. What are your thoughts? If you were younger and knew then what you know now, would you go and make a life in Thailand?
Mr. Stick says: This is a really excellent question, one that takes a bit of explaining so please forgive me for writing such a long answer. Thailand is a great country for a holiday. About that there is no doubt. The country scores very highly with travellers and if you're looking for a warm weather destination then Thailand is an excellent choice. Many of us who visited Thailand a number of times liked it so much that we decided to move here. Maybe we intended to continue our work life here or perhaps we were retiring. For those who work in Thailand, I think it would be fair to say that feelings are mixed. My feeling is that the average Westerner working in Thailand is frustrated. Things are very different in the workplace here from the West. If you are going to work in Thailand, I truly believe you're best off working the same job or in the same industry as you did at home. While many try, I really don't think Thailand is the ideal place to reinvent yourself. As far as retirement goes, Thailand has its positives and negatives. On the positive side, the weather is warm and the medical care, which presumably will become more important as one ages may be less expensive than home. On the negative side, a lot of retirees seem to me to be bored and many are lonely. They spend large chunks of their time drinking, something they may well not do at home. They go out to bars and drink in such quantities that it has to be really quite bad for their health. I really believe many would rather be doing something else but they are bored, so they take solace in the bottle with others in a similar situation. When I talk with these retirees, I think many chose Thailand because of the perception – note the world PERCEPTION – that it is cheaper than home. For some it would be, but for others it isn't. If you live like the average Thai, you can lead a basic lifestyle although it has to be said foreigners doing that seem to miss things from home – everything from books, to cable TV to imported food and favourite brand names from home, all of which is invariably a lot more costly in Thailand than home. Then there is the bureaucracy and there can be hassles with the authorities. They're not that common, but they can and do happen. And I think it's fair to say that the curiosity that the average Thai had with Farangdom is long gone, and for many has been replaced by anything from disinterest to to contempt. When it comes to "the girls", anyone visiting Thailand for the first time would think it's great, but I think that people start to see it for what it is much faster these days than those who walked the path before them did. The industry is becoming more and more transparent and I think even a blind man can see that it is all about the money for the girls. As it should be. It's their job! If you're thinking of retiring in Thailand primarily for the women, I would rethink things. In summary, I would say that Thailand still has a lot to offer and is a genuine retirement option but anyone who thinks that it beats their own country in every way is dreaming. You have to add up the pros and cons and work out what is best for you. I truly believe that if money is tight, Thailand is a good option. If you've been a higher earner and have planned wisely you can probably have at least as good a life, if not better, in your homeland.
I somehow managed to put out a column this week although it really was a rush…so if it didn't come together so well or didn't flow, you have my apologies. Heaps of things have been going on in my life this week hence the shorter column. This next week is going to be another fight, but I'm up for it!
Your Bangkok commentator,