I think it was Christopher Moore who said to me once that expats with a decade or more in Thailand may find settling back into life in Farangland difficult. They might fudge their way through a year, even 18 months, but the freedom they'd became accustomed to in Thailand where you don't have to explain or justify what you're doing to anyone can become so liberating that adjustment to life in the West where everyone takes note of what you're doing and what you achieve can be tough. A return to Asia often follows.
So how would someone returning to the West cope after 30 years in Thailand? An Aussie friend has faced just that challenge, leaving the Kingdom a couple of years back after 30 years here, returning to the land of kangaroos, David Campese, Aborigines and vegemite.
This week I interviewed Mike Holt, known to many in Thailand as Marc Holt.
* It should be noted that as the the Stickman budget doesn't quite extend to an air ticket to Brisbane, this interview wasn't carried out in person but via an email exchange.
First things, first. You were known as Marc in Thailand. Why did you change your name to Mike after you returned to Australia?
When I arrived in Thailand I had a very strong Aussie accent, so when I told the Thais my name was Mike they heard Mark! So I went with the flow and changed my name to Marc…with a 'c'. After that the Thais also called me Mac or March….but by then it was too late to change my name again…although I did call myself Bill in the bars quite often.
On arriving back home I reverted to my real name, Mike. It's nice to be in a country where everyone understands English as she is spoke Down Under. So now I am Mike, Marc, or just Hey You if you like.
When you first came to Thailand it was hardly the tourist Mecca it is today. What brought you to Thailand way back then and perhaps more pointedly, why did you stay?
I have written a story that is in your readers' submissions called, "How a World Traveler Came to Thailand" that describes how I came to Thailand. Much of that story is true, although some details were left out and others embellished. I'll leave the reader to figure out which.
I arrived in Thailand in December 1978. In those days it was a very different city. You could count the number of skyscrapers on the fingers of one hand.
I actually came for a one-week holiday. I was booked to fly to the UK where I intended to go and live and work for a few years. However, after a week partying in the Mississippi Bar in Patpong where the girls had legs up to their armpits I went to see a bloke who ran a tourist magazine, Bangkok This Week. He owed someone money and I was going to collect on some of it as that person owed me some money. As it turned out I didn't get the money, but the magazine owner offered me a job selling advertising instead. I had been Sales and Marketing Manager for Radio 4AY in Townsville, and I had sold advertising for magazines in Australia and NZ before, so the offer was very attractive. I went back to the Malaysia Hotel after telling him I wanted to think over his offer.
I sat down and reasoned that I didn't know anyone in the UK. The weather was cold and rainy much of the time. I had no job to go to. Not very appealing. Whereas, I had been offered a good job, and Thailand had the three Hots: Hot weather; Hot food; and Hot women. The decision wasn't very hard.
After a year, I met my first wife-to-be and decided to go into business. So I opened an English school. We did well over the next 10 years teaching in companies. I also taught a very popular business writing seminar called BusiWrite that helped thousands of business people become better writers.
At the same time, Bangkok began to boom. Buildings began to go up all over town. It was an exciting time to be there. One taxi driver told me that he took a Texan fare on a drive around the city. The Texan pointed out a tall building and asked how long it had taken to build.
“We build them that big in six months in Texas.”
They went a little further and the Texan pointed out another taller building.
“How long did that take to build?”
“Six months, sir.”
“That would only take us three months in Texas.”
Finally, they came to a really tall building and the Texan asked how long that had taken to build.
The driver scratched his head and said, “I don't know, sir. It wasn't there this morning!”
Anyway, from a one-week holiday I ended up staying here 30 years…that's the longest holiday I've ever had!
How was the Thailand you arrived to different to the Thailand you left? Not so much in terms of infrastructure, and availability of Western products and what not which obviously have come along in that time, but in the way of thinking and the attitude of the people to foreigners.
We have to differentiate between Thailand and Bangkok, because they are two very different things. The Bangkok I arrived in was extremely uncomfortable. The only supermarkets were Foodland. I used to go to the one in Ploenchit Road where that big empty plot of land next to the Wave Building is today. Milk and other staples were difficult to find. But at the same time, there were plenty of street stalls and a few good restaurants selling excellent food. A plate of rice and topping was just 20 Baht.
It would take anywhere from 2 to 4 hours to get from the city to Don Muang airport…that was before the expressway when the northern highway was just 2 lanes bordered by khlongs on either side.
Over the years the infrastructure has made life a lot easier.
But the people have really changed. Back then, Bangkok was pretty much in step with the rest of Thailand. The people still practiced basic Thai courtesy. There were many more smiles than we see today. Even though it was overcrowded and polluted much worse than today, Bangkok had a laid back feeling. Patpong was a lot less raunchy, and there were some great Thai bars over at Rajdamnoen Road. I remember my first visit to Pattaya. There was one bar, and a couple of hotels on Pattaya Beach.
Bangkok Thais these days are focused on making money, and this has impacted on the way they interact with each other and with us foreigners. A walk down Sukhumvit Road is full of distractions and dangers. You are jostled, grabbed by vendors vying to get our attention, and there is always the possibility of having your pocket picked. Modern Bangkok Thais seem to be less polite, always in a hurry, and with an eye out for the quick buck.
That's the negative. But modern Bangkok is also a very vibrant and exciting city to live in. It's possible to buy all the comforts of home, lamb chops for the Bar-B-Q, cheese from around the world, great wines, and so on. And the business possibilities are incredible. If you are prepared to learn how to do business in Thailand you can do very well. So overall, I think Thailand is still a great country for us foreigners to live.
I know you had many jobs in Thailand and run a few businesses too. What was the most enjoyable and the least enjoyable of them and why?
Actually, I only had a few jobs; the first was at Bangkok This Week. Then I worked at Presko Public Relations. After that I got a job working with an American who sent me into companies teaching English. When I saw how well he was doing I decided to go into business for myself. By then I had married my first wife so I put all my money into setting up a school just off Ploenchit Road behind the Swiss Embassy. It was a beautiful old log cabin style house with heaps of room and a nice big garden. In our first year we made a profit of over one thousand percent of my initial investment…not bad. And because Bangkok was just waking up to become an economic powerhouse the foreign companies were pouring in and we were getting teaching contracts with them. I employed about 15 teachers most of the time.
The least enjoyable job was at Presko. I was hired as a copyrighter, but because one of the Thai Account Executives quit I was thrust into his job. Now, I had no experience in PR, and I certainly didn't understand what the job was all about. As a result, I spent the next six months chasing my tail. In the end I was fired…one of the few jobs I have ever been fired from…and I was really happy to go.
After divorcing my first wife I went to work for Betagro Computers, which later became Magic Software Thailand. I was the Technical Sales Manager with a staff of Thai software engineers and programmers. We installed and serviced clients who bought Magic Software, a 4GL programming system. It was a very easy program to work with. After a year, I was also appointed Dean of the Magic Software University, so I was very busy. But at the same time I was planning to open my own business again. I resigned in 1997 after three years at Magic and opened up Holt WorldWide Co Ltd to design websites, set up computer systems and service them.
Once again I was very lucky. Just after I set up the company the Asian economy slumped and as a result many of my competitors went out of business. This was followed not long afterwards by the Dot Com bubble burst. So I was one of the few IT companies providing much needed internet and computer services in Bangkok.
Then in 2001 I set up a website to demonstrate a program I had developed to list properties. I listed some dummy properties in it so that I could demonstrate and sell it to real estate companies. Suddenly I started getting calls from people asking to see the properties. Seeing an opportunity I put up a bunch of real properties for sale and there I was in on the ground floor of the real estate boom. The boom continued for the next five years. It was an exciting time and kept me very busy. Luckily, I had some excellent Thai staff who helped me look after both businesses and we did very well.
After 30 years in Thailand – half of your life, and 3/4 of your adult life, what made you decide to leave?
As I watched Bangkok grow into a real economic powerhouse, I was also becoming concerned with how difficult it was to stay in Thailand. It was obvious that the Thais really only tolerate us being there…especially the immigration and labor departments. Even though I had gained Board of Investment privileges that guaranteed me a visa and work permit, I still found it irksome to have to keep begging to stay in a country that I had done so much for.
That's a good way to put it and I very much know the feeling.
In addition, the political situation was becoming unstable. It was obvious that there was going to be a big problem between the top families who had been used to running the country their way and the new upstart politicians led by Thaksin who were trying to change the country and modernize it. When the elite sacked Thaksin I saw the writing on the wall. I discussed the situation with my second wife, and we both agreed that it was time to seek greener pastures. By then, our kids were growing up and we wanted to get them into a good school where they could learn to speak excellent English. We decided to sell up and move back home to Australia.
Again, I was very lucky. A buyer came along and he paid me a decent price for my company.
Why did you decide to return to Australia? Did you consider anywhere else? I understand you spent some time in Kiwiland in the past and enjoyed it so why not there?
My wife and I did discuss several options when we decided to leave Thailand. We originally discussed going to the UK to live, as I was actually a British citizen. When I left Australia I still used my British passport. In those days Brits had no problems moving in and out of Australia. But while I was in Thailand the Australian government changed the immigration rules. So when I tried to return home after about seven years in Thailand the Aussie embassy told me I was no longer welcome.
I was surprised, because I had served in the RAAF and I thought that would automatically gain me re-entry. But I forgot to tell the embassy that I was also a Vietnam veteran, so they rejected my application.
However, when I approached the embassy the last time I told them about my veteran status. After a check with Canberra they told me I was welcome to go back as a returning resident, and that would also include my family. They also told me I was eligible to become an Australian citizen immediately I stepped off the plane. I took that option as soon as I could. So that's how we managed to get back home.
We did consider moving to New Zealand. I lived there for four years back in the mid-70s. Loved the place and the people. But New Zealand followed the lead of the Aussies and changed their immigration laws as well, so we faced the same hurdle of having to immigrate there too.
In previous emails you've told me how happy you are to be back in Australia. What do you think the keys are to successfully returning to one's homeland after a long time in Thailand? 30 years is a hell of a long time. Even someone away for several years would struggle, I reckon. So how have you managed to do it?
Thirty years is a long time to stay away from home. But at the time things happened, not just the immigration hurdles, and I never made much effort to return home. But when I finally did return it was to a very different country to the one I left so long ago.
For a start, the White Australia policy had been scrapped and Australia became the foremost multi-cultural country in the world. We have people from nations all over the place here today and this has enriched the country immeasurably. The food, different
cultural customs, new languages – all these have changed Australian attitudes for the better. And as Australia has welcomed these new immigrants it has also exerted its influence on them and they have quickly become Australians. It was
a very moving experience to see about 200 people become Australian citizens at the same time I got my citizenship.
Was it hard to assimilate yourself and your family?
Not at all. I was lucky. My wife wanted to come here after she had visited my family a few times in the past. So she has made a real effort to become an Aussie. She goes to English classes. She has found work and is making good money. And the kids transformed into little Aussies within a few months. My youngest daughter went from speaking only Thai to speaking mostly English…she hardly remembers how to speak Thai anymore, although she does understand it when we talk to her in Thai and Esarn.
I sold my company for enough to make it easy to retire here. So money wasn't a problem. That has given me enough time to write my first novel, take up painting again, and go fishing and enjoy a much closer relationship with my family. So life is comfortable and a real pleasure these days. Much more relaxed than when I was doing business in Bangkok.
I can't speak for others, but I can offer this advice. If you are a foreigner under 40 years old in Thailand and you have not been there long, consider the consequences of staying there too long. You will never be a Thai, so you will not be able to take advantage of the few government benefits Thais get even if you take Thai citizenship…and that is not easy and it is very expensive…I don't think it is worth the money unless you are really, really serious about forsaking your Western identity. And let's face it, you will always have a farang face so you will never really be accepted as a Thai, no matter how hard you try. You will always be a stranger in a strange land. Foreigners have no safety net to fall back on if things go wrong. If you get seriously ill you could be up for a huge, possibly crippling medical bill if you don't have medical insurance. For Americans this is not much different from the situation back home. But for us Aussies this is a big consideration, as we get highly subsidized medical treatment here.
As a foreigner you will always have to deal with the Thai immigration and labor departments if you want to work. If you are a retiree it's not so bad, especially if you have money or a good pension from back home. But for a young man who has left home looking for adventure, as I did so many years ago, it can be a hard life. And when you return home after many years it could be very difficult to fit back into society. These were all considerations I looked at before returning home, but the old Holt luck held out and I have managed to make a good life here very easily.
However, I have heard of other long term expats who returned home and had problems fitting back into their own culture. I guess it all comes down to attitude and luck.
So do you ever feel like returning to Thailand to live? And what about your Mrs. and kids? Do they miss Thailand?
My wife misses her family, but she doesn't miss Thailand at all. In fact, she has stated several times that she never wants to live there again. Life here in Australia is just so much better. Anyway, she talks to her mother and family on Skype or the phone quite often. She's planning a holiday up there later this year. I won't be going with her. I can't see the point of going there at the moment. Been there, done that. Besides, I am very busy writing my next novel, putting a band together (I play fiddle and write songs to sing), and of course I love to relax fishing in the clear blue waters around here.
The kids have settled into our life here and they have no strong urge to go back. They are Aussies through and through now. But we don't let them forget the culture they were born into. We still encourage them to speak Thai, and of course we eat a lot of Thai food…which is mercifully easily available these days in Australia. My wife goes to Chinatown in Brisbane to buy a lot of Thai foodstuffs. And we can always pick a bucket load of chilies from the garden whenever we need them. This was something that concerned me before we returned…would we be able to get all the ingredients to make authentic Thai food? No worries there. We can cook all our favorites, and food here is so fresh and affordable.
Do I feel like returning to Thailand to live? Absolutely not. I will go back for a holiday sometime I guess, but why would I go back there to live and have to put up with all the hassles I came to loathe so much over the years? The traffic, the pollution, the constant harassment to buy stuff I didn't want, the uncertain political situation, and so many other things persuaded me that after 30 years I had had enough. Life here is very comfortable and I don't want to exchange that for a third world country again…even a country like Thailand with so many attractions…not all of them walking on two legs!
Since returning home our marriage has strengthened too. We are so much closer and more in love than we ever had time for in Thailand, so that is an added benefit.
The longer I stay in Thailand, the more I reckon it's about the women. All the other stuff gets old pretty quick and a lot of what I would like to do such as play cricket, watch good rugby, hang out outside, walk around and kick the tyres of cars with a mate at the weekend, you know the sort of thing, well, it just isn't possible here in Bangkok. With time to reflect on your 3 decades in the country, how much of a factor do you think the Thai women are as the primary attraction to long stay foreigners?
Ha ha! You are talking to the original Thai skirt chaser here mate! The most important reason I stayed in Thailand was the women! I loved them then and I still do now…although these days I limit myself to only my wife and I'm happier for it. I caught "yellow fever" at a very young age and there is no cure for it.
I was fortunate enough to go to high school in Penang, Malaysia in my early teens. That's when I started liking Asian women. And when I traveled to Bangkok in 1963 to attend an international Scouting Jamboree and I saw those beautiful Thai women there was no going back. I was hooked.
Ah, that's an interesting choice of word!
But I agree with you. Thailand doesn't offer much for the intellect or sports-minded. Who wants to sit in a noisy bar watching footy? Here, we can go to the local oval with a picnic basket and have a great day out. Or if we want to go to the beach it's just a 10 minute drive away. It's difficult to go to the beach in Bangkok. And when you do get there it's crowded not only with tourists but pesky peddlers interrupting you all the time. It's impossible to relax and enjoy the moment.
Of course the women are the primary attraction for most long stay foreigners! Why would you stay in Thailand otherwise?
You mentioned to me that you were writing a book. What's it about?
It's called POW 921 and is available on Amazon.com (shameless plug!). It's about an Aussie digger. Colin (not his real name) who was captured in Singapore in 1942. He is sent to slave on the Burma Railway. After 12 months there facing death every day he is shipped to Kyushu to work in the Mitsui coal mines at a town called Omuta, just across the bay from Nagasaki. He witnessed the atomic bomb destroy that city. The POWs didn't know what it was at the time.
What happened after the bomb is interesting. He described the reaction of the Japs and what they planned to do to all their POWs. But in the end he is rescued by the invading Americans and he returns home. It's a harrowing story at times, but his
humanity and heroism shine through. People who have read it all say that they couldn't put it down.
How did you get Colin to open up and tell you so much detail?
Soon after we moved next door to him here on the Sunshine Coast Colin gave me his memoirs to read. I was so intrigued that I started asking him questions. As I did we built up a rapport that encouraged him to open up to me. I think he felt that because
I am also a veteran I had a better understanding of what it's like to be a soldier. So I asked him if I could write a novel and he agreed.
With more of us having an online presence these days, I am sure the idea of writing a book and following it through all the way to publication is something that has crossed the mind of many. How long did it take to put together, how much of that time was spent interviewing Colin and how much of it was spent on the writing, and then the editing?
I spent 10 months writing the book. I had only just finished it when he died of cancer…he was 90 years old. My wife and I were very sad. He was such a great bloke and we had become very close to him and his wife.
But that was only the start. Then I had to find a publisher. I had quite a few rejections but finally one accepted the book. It took about 12 months from the time I finished writing to get it into print.
I edited the book myself, a dangerous thing for a writer to do, but I had a definite vision of how I wanted the book. An editor might have changed that.
My publisher arranged to sell the book on Amazon. But he has not taken the book global. So I have signed up with a US literary agent and we are now working to produce a book for the world market. I am working closely with my agent to polish the prose,
get it laid out more professionally, and so on. It will probably take another 12 months before it's out on bookshelves…assuming we still have bookshops by then! The recent closure of a couple of huge book sellers is a bit of a worry. But
as I am a great believer in technology I am also working with my agent to get the book out in electronic book format, and for sale through various online booksellers like Amazon.
Did you experience any problems or difficulties along the way? Writer's block or any other issues?
Yes, it wasn't an easy book to write. I found I experienced some terrible headaches as I wrote. Describing the terrible ordeals Colin suffered at the hands of the Japs was the hardest part. Sometimes I would sit there with tears running down my cheeks after I had written a grueling description of a torture a POW had suffered. Some of the tortures were diabolical. It's all described in graphic detail, as Colin wanted the world to know what really happened.
I think my book brings a whole new dimension to the history of WW2. I spent a lot of time researching events depicted in the book. It's certainly not kind to the Japs, but it also exposes how badly the British, Americans and Australians handled their part in the war. I haven't spared anyone.
How are sales? How can my readers get a copy?
Sales are going well. I am planning a book signing just before ANZAC day. The bookshops are ordering more copies, so that's encouraging. And online sales are going well. Your readers can find it on Amazon.com or go to my own website at
Aceswebs.com and click on the book cover. I have created a page to describe the book in more detail.
Do you have any future plans for another book? What about something related to Thailand? You've told many stories of your time here, many of which are published on this site, and you sure have led a colourful life. Any plans to write up the memoirs of a 3-decade expat?
I've already written a lot of short stories about life in Thailand. Perhaps I will compile them into a short story book one day.
But right now I am busy working on a new novel based on a famous 17th Century Siamese Prime Minister almost no one has heard of…Constantine Phaulkon. He was a Greek adventurer who ended up in Siam where he became a confidant of King Narai and eventually he was appointed as what we call today a Prime Minister. He was a very interesting chap. I am basing my novel on his life, but of course taking many liberties with history to make the story interesting. I describe a lot of the things that he and his friends the brothers George and Samuel White did in Siam. It's a lot of fun, because I can let my imagination run riot while creating a work that I hope will interest more people in Siamese history.
And there is always the Foster Foskin series. I have contacted a cartoonist who lives in Thailand. He does great cartoons for the Pattaya Trader and I borrowed one of his characters to represent Foster.
I am working out what cartoons I need to illustrate the series and then I will put it together in a book. This project is on hold at the moment though, because I will have to do some serious editing to make it readable. I used a lot of vernacular Australian
when I originally wrote the series and many readers complained they couldn't understand Strine…what we call Australian English. But the literary well is not "dry as a dead dingo's dong" yet mate!
Will we be seeing you in Thailand any time soon?
You never know (grin). If I do decide to go I’ll let you know and we can have a beer or three.
Last week's photo
Where was this photo taken?
Last week's photo was taken opposite Kiss, the open air restaurant, on the corner of Soi Diana and Second Road in Pattaya. This week's photo is back in Bangkok and was taken late last year in a venue which no longer exists – so there's a big clue! The first person to email me with the correct location of the photo wins a 500 baht credit at Oh My Cod, the British fish and chips restaurant. The second person to get it correct wins a 500 baht voucher from one of the best farang food venues in Bangkok, and the home of Bangkok's best burger, in my humble opinion, Duke's Express. Duke's is conveniently located in the Emporium shopping centre in central Bangkok. For readers in Phuket, we now have a new prize provider in Patong Beach. Bliss Lounge on Bangla Road is offering a 500 baht drink credit and with some great imported beers from Belgium, Germany and Holland, they're unique for a venue on Bangla Road.
Terms and conditions: The Oh My Cod prize MUST be claimed within 14 days. The Duke's prize must be utilised by March 2011. The Bliss Lounge prize must be claimed within 3 months. Prizes are only available to readers in Thailand at the time of entering and are not transferable. Prize winners cannot claim more than one prize per calendar month. You only have one guess per week! If you wish to claim a prize, you must state a preference for the prize you prefer, or list the prizes you would like in order of preference – fail to do so and I will award the prize to the next person to get the photo right.
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 case study in self-destruction.
Sounds to me like your cyber stalker went stir-crazy, living in self-imposed isolation in rural Thailand like that for years. It probably seemed like a good idea to him at the beginning: move to a place far from the alcohol and the nightlife, where those things wouldn't be a distraction or become a money-consuming obsession. Having a hobby might have helped him pass the time, but unfortunately for everyone involved, the hobby he chose happened to be internet trolling. While most trolls enjoy getting a rise out of people, he took it to an unheard-of level. Frankly, I feel sorry for the poor bastard. When I was young, my father used to point to boarded-up businesses as we were driving on holiday, and sadly say, "That used to be someone's dream." Now older, I understand better what he meant. The man we're talking about has lost his dream forever, absolutely everything he worked for. Of course, it wasn't my life he was trying to destroy. If it was, I'd probably be gloating now. The very fact that you aren't (at least publicly), is proof positive that you're a better man than I.
Madness brought on by one's surroundings.
I have a theory about Crazy Man's motivation: jealousy. Plain and simple. You lived the life of Riley (within limits) in the scene for years before settling down. Good for you. I suspect Crazy had a short 'living the dream' experience and then invested himself (probably without adequate means) into a Thai business venture that didn't pan out to the extent he'd imagined a sophisticated Yankee adventurer should achieve in a 'backward' place like LOS. It's almost sad but for the fact Crazy is clearly anti-social to begin with – an affliction surely suffered long before enjoying the supple embrace of LOS. Down and out in a foreign land, I imagine Crazy lived vicariously, for a while, by reading your site and no doubt others, before succumbing to the basest of human instincts. Perhaps even imagining an income from his bully site? It's rather pathetic. I would not want to be in his shoes: facing prison if he ever returns and the ignominy of having to return to Farangland and making up some story for family and friends as to why he left what he no doubt boasted about as being 'paradise' (and why he's now broke!) to his people in Boredomville! The temptation to have your military mate sort this fellow out must have been great, but you made the right decision: Karma may not be real for the billionaires out there, but it's definitely real for those of us who work for a living and actually have a conscience.
His dream is over.
Had the crazy guy left you and left the real estate developer alone, he could have had a successful site. Except for bragging about girls, his writing about upcountry Thailand was okay. I used to email him occasionally and tell him, "Drop the Stickman stuff and focus on your life upcountry. That's interesting." After all this time, I still don't understand his motivation. Let's look at it this way: even if everything he said was true, why the hell bother? Was he so clueless he didn't know he was buying trouble? I'm not saying anything he wrote was true, but in reading his site, motivation became the main issue in my mind. Why do this? Thailand is a difficult place to learn the truth. I always gave you the benefit of the doubt because you published so many stories that warned people of the dangers here. I give you major credit for my having a fairly normal life here. I was prepared before I ever stepped off the plane the first time. It was great to finally hear your side of the story. I remember when you shut down and he crowed about it. I remember when the slander case started and he just began to disappear. It was nice to see a wrap up. He didn't hurt me personally so it's hard to summon the emotion you feel, but I can damn well understand it. One lesson you learn here: "Don't piss in anyone's rice bowl." The libel and slander laws here are freaking strong.
Losing what you love most.
I was one of the 10% of your readers who knew about this guy and his site, and I followed the sorry saga with a mixture of amazement, disgust and curiosity about who he was. I was intensely curious about what could drive a person to spew so much bile about someone else, week after week, month after month. It takes a peculiarly twisted mind to keep up that level of venom for so long. Giving your side of the story at last really fills in a lot of blanks, and it made riveting reading to boot. I must say, as much as I regarded him with disgust, after reading this I find him a pitiable figure. He was a socially dysfunctional loner eking out a miserly existence, consumed by jealousy of anyone who had more than he had. And yet in the end, he was just a human being who lost what he loved most.
Would the keyboard warriors say it to your face?
There are a lot of strange people who love to manipulate other people's lives. The background explains a lot about his actions. No lady who he can / wants to impress, no family, no substantial business, no substantial funds, boring village, so what's left? To be someone in the cyber world? Well there you are, the surroundings perfectly matched his manipulative mind. I know several people who thrive in knowing things about other people and telling them to others, thinking that'll make them important. In order to get to know this information they manipulate gullible people who, themselves are victims at the end as well. They lie to everybody and I always ask myself how the hell they remember the lies they told their victims. I also ask myself why they, apparently, never (want to) realise that people actually talk to each other and realise what lies are said about them. The internet has only boosted this manipulative behaviour especially on the various forums. There are keyboard warriors everywhere, who, when looking into another person's eyes would never write stuff they do. Life is cheap in Thailand (for a killing). He was lucky that you aren't violent.
The internet facilitates anti-social behaviour.
I read for a while and never could figure out what the actual gripe was about other than jealousy. I have no idea what there is to argue about – a man's observations are his observations. The beauty of the Internet today, opposed to the past, is the ability to push (instead of pull) information. That is a good and bad thing. Now people who need and can qualify for a voice in the world have one and those that want to disrupt can do so as well. It is indeed a shame that those who disrupt without merit can find an unstable audience that would be otherwise naturally suited to scratching themselves and eating bananas.
This place doesn't attract the best.
Very interesting to read about your experiences with that nutter who lived up north and I wasn't surprised at all to find out that you'd had a bad experience such as this. As I have often said to people, this country attracts the low-lifes, nutters and looneys of the world and I hardly know anyone who has lived here for a long time who hasn't had unpleasant dealings with one. It's all part of living here I suppose but it can wear you down from time to time.
In what could be the death knell for Washington Square, I can confirm that the area's flagship venue, Bourbon Street, will be moving to Ekamai. That the future of Washington Square has been subject to rumours for years should be no surprise. Looking like a bunch of back alleys in urban Isaan and generating rents to match, it's out of place in downtown Bangkok. Popular owner of Bourbon Street, Doug, has signed a lease for double shophouse space on Ekamai Road and after more than 20 years in the square, this will be his last. It seems fairly clear that Doug, like others in the area, is tired of all the uncertainty. The new Bourbon Street will be on Ekamai Road itself, just past the MK Gold restaurant and renovations are currently being carried out and should be complete in a few months. The new location is about a 2½ minute walk from the main Sukhumvit Road and less than 5 minutes from the BTS and yes, it has parking.
No-one seems to know for sure what is going on at Washington Square. The lease at Bourbon Street is up at the end of April but word is that the dozen or so farang-oriented venues in the Square should be able to stay until August, at which time many of the leases expire. It is said that the land owners are talking to those who run Emporium but everything is up in the air. There's much conjecture and speculation. In the case of Bourbon Street, Doug will stay in the present location and for a time may run two Bourbon Street outlets until he has to vacate. At least he has a place to go now, which is more than can be said for other bars and restaurants in the square, some of which seem destined to become new chapters in Bangkok's illustrious bar history. Whether some of the smaller venues will survive remains to be seen, but in the case of Bourbon Street, Doug has built up such a strong brand name that customers will follow.
Molly Malone's in Soi Convent will be taken over by the owner of O'Reilly's at the end of March. The deal has already been done. I haven't heard any specifics but I imagine the price paid resembles a telephone number. It looks like the Eclipse Group – of which Molly Malone's is a part of – is selling off its pubs and going in to the gogo bar business full on.
For fans of the Duke of Wellington, the British pub that used to be on Silom Road, opposite Bangkok Christian Hospital, it has moved, supposedly temporarily, while the building in which it was originally housed is being worked on. There's a ragged
sign redirecting Duke customers to a temporary venue across the street called After Hours. It appears to have the same staff, and uses the same menu and bills. The staff at After Hours are confident that the current venue is indeed temporary and
they will be moving back to the original spot once renovations are complete.
Bar Bar, the fetish venue in Patpong soi 2, is celebrating 5 years in Patpong. The venue has new management and a new head mistress, Enigma. There are also many new girls in a line up that now numbers 25. As a special for Stickman readers, from today, March 6, until Sunday next week, all drinks are available at members' prices (450 baht / 300 baht). This is for one week only! This is a great chance for you to try out something a little different. To avail yourself of this deal, you need to say "Codename Stickman"!
MASH A Gogo is the newest chrome pole palace in Pattaya's Soi LK Metro and comes from the Scandinavians behind Office A Gogo in the same soi. It sounds like they are building up a little bar empire with another new gogo bar to open soon called Submarine
which will be located next door to Kiss. That venue should open in about two weeks. The interior has been done out to look like the inside of a submarine.
Still in Soi LK Metro, Champagne A Gogo was raided on Thursday night around 9 PM. Nobody was allowed to leave until the ever studious boys in brown had carried out the obligatory drug tests on the dancers. It didn't appear as if any girls were taken away and the venue reopened about 30 minutes later, when it was business as usual. The raid was obviously expected. There weren't any girls showing and a number of regulars were conspicuous by their absence! In fact a week or so ago they were expecting to be raided and some of the girls were told to get changed and go home. Now why would that be…?! Raids in Pattaya bars are carried out by any of a number of groups of police and this raid seemed to be carried out by Pattaya police who have to show the Bangkok police that they are keeping on top of things and doing their bit for the drug crackdown. There was a Thai dude in a floppy hat with a digital camera taking photographs of everyone in the bar which seriously bothered the girls, one of who explained that she was scared they might end up in the Thai press. Foreigners taking her photo don't bother her but Thais do as she's scared family or friends up country might see it.
Down in Hua Hin, the after hour bars are open again after a settlement was reached. There's still no clarity on what is happening with other bars although it seems pretty clear that it's all about the folding stuff.
I have not checked out Beer Vault yet, which can be found on the ground floor of Four Points by Sheraton, in Sukhumvit soi 15. The venue is doing all it can to entice customers with a bunch of special offers. All local bottled beers are priced at just 100 baht. On Friday and Saturday there is a BeerBQ where all you can eat AND drink is only 500 baht. That includes burgers, sausages, salads, wedges, plus all of the local bottled beers – making it a bargain! Everyday they have a happy hour beer o'clock from 5:30 – 7:30 PM where it's buy 1, get 1 free on selected wines, cocktails and local beers – plus free tapas are provided. Lee Shamrock performs every Saturday from 9 PM – midnight. There's even a Sunday roast from 4:30 – 8 PM for only 350 baht. And despite being part of a fancy name hotel, there's none of the ++ BS on the prices.
There was a nasty incident on the evening of Wednesday last week about 11 PM in soi 14, Pattaya, just after where soi 14 and 15 meet at cat's corner. There was a guy out cold on the road, unconscious with blood pouring from the back of his head. A Thai lady came screaming round from the other fork of soi 15 with a bunch of keystone cops, ooops, I mean tourist volunteer police, following her. She was pointing to a large guy all dressed in black, "That's the one, he said he wanted to kill someone." Her English was good and she was sure of the culprit. The boys in black raced after this guy, apprehended him and began questioning him. The outcome is unknown but the inured guy was seriously hurt. What was impressive was the speed with which the volunteer police arrived and acted. The boys in brown were nowhere to be seen. Maybe the tourist police volunteers aren't so bad after all?
The proprietor of Town Lodge, pictured right, the Swiss-owned and managed hotel in Sukhumvit soi 18, is offering a special discount for Stickman readers. It's 10% off their room rates and this special runs from now, all the way through until September. Town Lodge a clean, tidy and inexpensive hotel down a quiet soi that is an easy walk to Soi Cowboy and Washington Square.
A few expats in Bangkok really have the devil in them. A Bangkok bar and restaurant manager and some of his mates are carrying out what they are terming a social experiment, which really is something of a piss take. They are trying to introduce a new word into Thinglish. While the real term is, I believe, "fist-bump", they are trying to teach Thai bargirls that it's called "fisting". They are hoping that the girls will pick up on it and start saying, "I love fisting" or, God forbid, "Hey, fist me" which should raise the eyebrows of native speakers who know the real meaning!
Single entry tourist visas for Thailand have been offered for free for the past 2 years and the policy was put in place as a means to kickstart tourism following the drop off in tourist arrivals after the yellow shirt invasion of Bangkok Airport at the end of 2008. These visas remain free up until March 31. Given that the country has experienced a boom in tourist arrivals, I can't see the free visa policy being extended. If you're planning on visiting Thailand for a period of between 30 and 60 days and will be arriving in April, you can apply for the free visa in March. I believe that you have a month to utilise the visa from the day of issue so if, for example, you planned to arrive in Thailand on April 20, you could apply for the visa after March 20 – but before the March 31 cut off.
One of the biggest complaints Westerners who are flocking to Thailand have with the West is the omnipresent political correctness gone mad that permeates almost every aspect of Western society. I've intimated that political correctness is showing signs of having arrived in Thailand but it's still nothing like it is in the West. This photo has been doing the rounds (it was not taken by me) and shows a sign erected outside a bar in The Tunnel connecting Sukhumvit sois 5 and 7. Maybe political correctness hasn't arrived in Thailand after all?
If you're looking for a tour guide in Khon Kaen or Udon Thani, you might want to contact the wife of a long-time reader who has set up a business providing tours in Isaan. Local lass Katt does the tours with help of students from Khon Kaen University in what has been described to me as a no bullshit operation. Her English is great and the tours she has done so far have been a real success.
Sizzle Asia is a new online magazine about life here in South-East Asia and I believe it is produced in Pattaya and features life in the city. It's an Ipad application that can be downloaded by Ipad users. This is the link to the app.
There's been more unseasonal weather here in Bangkok this week with loud thunder – and we had really heavy rain early Thursday evening. It sure is unusual weather for this time of year. It's also been bloody hot some days – read: too hot!
Nick Nostitz's latest masterpiece arrives this week with the official launch of his latest book, "Red vs. Yellow, Volume 2: Thailand's Political Awakening" which will be held at 8 PM on Tuesday, March 8 at the Foreign Correspondents' Club. Entry is free. It begins with the first Red Shirts protests against the coalition government in early 2009 and covers in depth the protests in March / April 2009, including the Red Shirts' storming of the ASEAN Summit venue in Pattaya, the Blue Shirt controversy and the bloody clashes during the crackdown of April 13 on the protests during the Songkran holiday. The book also describes the rise of the Red Shirts to become a mass movement. The relatively rare public appearances of the PAD in the same period are also covered, including what are described as the lavish celebrations accompanying the founding of their political party. This volume resumes where the first volume of this work "Thailand's Crisis of Identity" ended. Copies will be available for sale at a special price of 1,100 baht per copy.
Quote of the week comes from a reader, "After living in Thailand for a few years 2 decades ago, each time I go back, the old feelings of being in a bit of an ultra-friendly, but ultimately 2-faced, lunatic asylum come flooding back."
Reader's story of the week comes from SkyyWalker, "10 Minutes In Jail".
This is a funny as hell YouTube video about sponsoring a Thai girl!
And another funny YouTube video about Thai bomb squads is a riot until you realise it probably wasn't staged.
The Nation newspaper wrote a damning editorial on Bangkok Airport.
Interesting article on living standards in Thailand.
Thailand's richest got even richer in 2010, according to Reuters.
There have been 4 mystery deaths at a Chiang Mai hotel – and 3 of the 4 were foreigners.
The Huffington Post highlights some of the more unusual sweets in Thailand.
CNNGo reports that at long last, real bagels can be found in Bangkok.
Ask Sunbelt Legal
Sunbelt Asia's legal department is here to answer your questions relating to legal issues and the law in Thailand. Send any legal questions you may have to me and I will pass them on to Sunbelt Legal and their response will run in a future column. You can contact Sunbelt's legal department directly for all of your legal needs.
Surprisingly, there were no questions for Sunbelt this week.
Within a few hours of publishing this column, I have a pretty good idea how well received it will be. The best indicator is the number of emails that come in Sunday night while I am sleeping. Most of the mystery photo entries subside within 5 or 6 hours of the column going live and feedback to the week's column dominates my inbox for the next couple of days. When I wake up on a Monday morning, less than 30 emails in my email inbox means the column has not set the world alight. 30 – 50 usually means it was ok. Over 50 is a good indicator it was well received and on the few occasions I've received 70+ emails people are actually talking about it and the column is picked up on various forums. My eyes almost popped out of my head when I woke up to almost 200 emails last Monday, far and away the most phenomenal response I have ever received. As I wrote in my closing comments, I thought last week's epic was a little on the long side but I couldn't have been more wrong. Thanks so much for all the kind words of feedback and support.
Your Bangkok commentator,