You could be forgiven for thinking that it was April Fool's Day with this edition of Stickman weekly which has just half the usual content – but all the advertisements!
I'm afraid there's no opening piece this week, as I am spending the weekend entertaining a friend down from Lampang, and there's no legal question and answer section as no questions were received for Sunbelt Legal this week.
Hopefully you'll still find this week's edition a worthwhile read. Full transmission will resume next week.
*Where* was this photo taken?
Last week's photo was taken at Benjakit Park, which is a few hundred metres south of the Asoke / Sukhumvit intersection. So where was this week's mystery photo taken?! All you have to do is tell me where the photo was taken. There are 2 prizes this week – a 500 baht credit at the Oh My Cod fish and chips restaurant, and a 500 baht voucher from one of the best farang food venues and home of Bangkok's best burger, Duke's Express.
Terms and conditions: 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 – failure to do so results in the prize going to the next person to get the photo right. The Duke's Express voucher MUST be redeemed by June 2012. The Oh My Cod prize MUST be claimed within 14 days. 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!
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 – Symptomatic of changes in the Western world.
It was an interesting point you made with regard to the significant increase in the number of Western female visitors to the established naughty nightlife areas and the impact that this could have on the mindset of the established visitors to these areas. It seems to me that it is a reflection of the demographic changes in the West to a certain extent. There is no doubt that the traditional male role is under constant attack from the politically correct brigade and therefore this new found confidence of women to encroach on what was previously a strictly male domain is ever increasing across the board. I can only give my opinion with regard to the UK but I think many parallels can be drawn when compared to the American and European ways of life. In most every UK city on a Friday or Saturday night, you see as many groups of females as groups of males out on the town, drinking heavily and conducting themselves in the same masculine way. The traditional male could be out of work and struggles for status at present. Therefore, I think the point you make is actually symptomatic of the changes in the Western world's pecking order in that women are increasingly taking a confident, unencumbered place where the traditional male domain is no longer off limits.
Unwelcome white women!
I ask myself why white women visit the nightlife areas. Western women visiting Patpong, Nana Plaza and Soi Cowboy do so for a single reason – voyeurism. Pure voyeurism. They may look down on the over-sized Western man with this petite Thai female but this is none of their business. I would recommend they look in the mirror first. Western women or even families with juvenile kids ambling through the nightlife areas will eventually destroy the nightlife and the fun. Patpong lost me as a customer soon after they introduced the frigging night market. This is our playground. Western women intruding in our area are aliens. I feel annoyed and when I see a group of Western women entering a bar where I am having a good time, I pay up and leave. I make it a point of telling the owner / mamasan that I am leaving because of the Western women. I am not willing to become a subject of their holiday experience and certainly not a subject in their photos. If someone points a camera in my direction I tell them in no uncertain words to stop. And if it doesn't work my beer bottle learns how to fly. We need more violence in our playground to scare them away!
White women's presence improve behaviour?
White girls in the bars make me a little uncomfortable, I admit. But they're not going to do anything other than stare or possibly make a rude comment. One thing I've always hated was guys groping or lifting the skirts of girls while they dance on stage. I'm sure they would think twice before acting that way if a white woman was watching. Or at least I hope they would!
Embracing Western females and adapting the product.
Could Western women be barred entry to the gogos of Cowboy? Quite the reverse, I think. I can see that it won't be long before bar owners realise there's an untapped market out there, a format of Thai Chippendales that encompass the best of both worlds for the ladies. Cowboy and Phuket's Soi Bangla have already joined the ranks of Pattaya's Walking Street, now places mainstream tourist voyeurs must see. The female party of a couple doesn't feel comfortable in male-oriented gogo establishments, but there's much more of a chance of them dragging their male partner into a katoey sex show and tour groups wouldn't be far behind them. Of course initially there may be some reluctance from the katoeys themselves to put on a show for women, but once they realise there's very good money to be made from a female audience, I'm sure they will come around. Patong's got Simon Cabaret, Pattaya's Tiffany's Show, and Bangkok goes wanting as far as I know.
Welcome, Western women, welcome!
I read your column about Western women with great interest and want to say I welcome them to the bars unreservedly. Let's face it, the bars are a tourist attraction, touted by the mass media around the world for years. Everybody knows Thailand's reputation now. The women's presence may intimidate the fat punters from Brisbane and Leeds but if that's so, it may be time for those guys to think again about what they're doing and how dishonest they may be about that. I am not criticising old guys for having sex with women younger than their daughters; as I married a bargirl who's 25 years younger than I am (12 years ago!) from a Nana Plaza bar…and I still hang out in the ladyboy bars at Nana for various, enjoyable reasons. I welcome Western women so they can (at least some of them) see the competition up close and even meet them (easily, as you pointed out) and get to know a little more about reality. My advice to those men who are embarrassed is: buy the farang woman a drink, and raise your bottle of Heineken in salute.
Pesky watch sellers.
I spent more than a few nights over the holiday period in Shadow Bar in Cowboy because the managers and staff are great fun, but primarily because they show every sport known to man. One thing I noticed that I haven't noticed before is the watch vendors. Over on soi 20 it was the same thing. Every single watch vendor now is Indian whereas before it used to be Thais. There are swathes of our sub-continental friends, wandering around with a shoulder bag, pestering every farang they see to buy a knock off. And sat in Shadow you could see some of them following farang almost the entire length of the soi refusing to take no for an answer. They are far more persistent and irritating than the Thais were. If invited, the Thai would sit down, pull out a catalogue and show you what could be obtained if you didn't mind waiting while he went to the storage facility. If you said mai ow krap, they would smile and wander off, looking for interest elsewhere. But these new hawkers seem to just run around getting up everyone's noses, often bothering you on their way up the soi until sent away with a flea in their ear, only to return and bother you again as they come back down it!
How to increase the chances of a happy marriage.
There is one area where you give good advice, based on numerous observations on your part. That advice is that it is probably a bad idea to marry a Thai if she is much younger than you. Well, I would like to weigh in on at least one situation that is contrary to your observations. I am happily married to a Thai who is much younger than me. We lived for 3 years in Thailand and 4 years in the US. She is happily working at a local Thai restaurant where she gets her Thai connection. She calls home frequently (at 1 cent per minute!). She pays for most of her indulgences (she has quite a purse collection). She is knowledgeable about American football and will ask incisive questions about why a team won or lost. I think one reason our situation works is that I was teaching in Thailand. I was not on holiday. My fellow (male) colleagues who taught in Thailand for more than the usual 2-year contract all have Thai wives. In all but one, their situations are working. So perhaps what we can learn from these observations is that if you live and work in Thailand and have a general understanding of Thai culture, your chances of having a successful marriage to a Thai increases dramatically.
In a trend which may have ramifications for naughty boys, the model by which some bars hire the most attractive girls is changing. The traditional model sees girls dancing in gogo bars paid a moderate salary and they have a quota of barfines and lady drinks they must meet each month. Failure to meet that quota sees their salary cut. However, bar owners know that the prettiest girls get barfined quickly and in a move which seems designed to keep the prettiest girls in the bar all night long – which in turn keeps customers coming through the door all night – some bars are shifting to a model of paying a high day rate for the most attractive girls. Rather than 7,000 – 12,000 baht per monthly salary, as is the standard range of gogo girl dancer salaries, down in Pattaya some bars are paying up to 1,400 baht per night, about 5 times what locals earn in a factory per day. All the girls have to do is dance, and get a minimum of 5 premium-priced lady drinks per night. There is no requirement to be barfined and no barfine quota to meet. Some simply cannot be barfined and those that can have to explain to the customer that removing them from the bar comes with a heftier than usual barfine, often 1,500 baht. Girls earning this sort of money don't need to go with guys as the salary is so good. If they do go with guys, they have absolute freedom to choose who they go with. Technically, all girls working in bars visited by foreigners have the right to choose whether they go with a customer or not, but with quotas to be met and mamasans pushing them, most actually have little say in the matter. Whether more bars adopt this model remains to be seen, but if they do, expect to find yourself become invisible. The girls will have no need to be nice to you!
A 2 AM crackdown seems to be in place in Bangkok. Bangkok Beat, Insomnia and other spots on Sukhumvit were closed at 2 AM sharp last night. Not sure how long this will last. There were a lot of people around and it was a real killjoy!
Bangkok police continue to stop Westerners in the Sukhumvit area and a mate was the target of two coppers near Sukhumvit soi 39 this week. He was on the back of a motorbike taxi on the way to the neon jungle when two coppers waved the bike he was a passenger on over. He was asked if he had his passport on him, to which he replied no. He was asked if he spoke Thai, to which he perhaps rather cleverly lied and said no. He was then asked where he was going. "Soi Cowboy!" Why are you going there was the next question. "To drink!" The coppers wished him a good night, and he was on his way. Painless.
Bourbon Street is holding a relocation party, starting at the original branch at Washington Square tomorrow, that is Monday, January 23. Between 6 and 7 PM there will be free beer and wine. Doug must have realised it was too expensive to get the supplies carted over to the new branch so he wants us to help him get rid of it! After 7 PM, the party will move over to the fantastic new branch at Ekamai.
For American football fans, the American Football championships will be shown live on Monday morning at 3 AM and 6:30 AM at Sunrise Tacos original branch at Soi 12, Sukhumvit.
The biggest party this coming week will be at the Big Mango Bar, on Saturday, January 28, which can be found in a sub soi off Sukhumvit Soi 4, about 100 hundred metres beyond Nana Plaza on the same side of the street. They're calling it the 'Daywalker IV' birthday party and celebrating the grand old age of 37, owner Graham will be offering pints of Heineken and Tiger at just 37 baht. There will be various drinks promotions, free shot give-aways, free food with Graham showing off his English roots with chicken Tikka Masala one of the dishes on offer. There'll also be PS3 challenges where the losers have to drink a nasty alcoholic shot as well as killer pool with cash prizes. It'll be 80's music downstairs and the usual dance stuff upstairs. Eye candy in the form of gogo girls will be provided. It should be a fun night!
There's trouble down at Jomtien and I am hearing all sorts of mixed reports, some of which say some beer bars are being forced to close at 1 AM, and others which say that some bars have been targeted by the authorities for paperwork irregularities. I guess the Sheriff is flexing his muscles.
Over the hill in Pattaya it's business as usual with the opening of Sin City's newest chrome pole palace, Lighthouse A Gogo. It's a single shophouse right on the busiest part of Walking Street so based on location alone it should do well.
The view that was previously only available upstairs in Soi Cowboy's Dollhouse is now available downstairs. I guess you could also say that the view throughout the bar now includes both upstairs and downstairs, if you get my drift.
Is it just me, or does Soi Nana feel a little bit seedier these days? The atmosphere around what is currently Bangkok's busiest farang bar area is much the same in the evening as it always has been, but during the day it seems almost as seedy as parts of Pattaya. There seem to be more down and out individuals – both locals and imports, more beggars, more vagrants and with cheap beer available all day, Soi Nana it seems to have been successful in attracting a low-end crowd. That said, inside the plaza drinks prices keep the Singha and Red Bull singlet brigade at bay. Walking along soi 4 during the day – not really recommended – more and more customers at the front ledge of the beer bars have the stare, that unmistakable look developed by those who have been on the sauce in Thailand way too long.
And scenes like the one below don't do anything for Soi Nana. I spotted and photographed the troubled woman of soi 4 a few months back and it was obvious even then that she'd lost her marbles. She still calls the Nana area home but looks worse for wear. In the photo below she was sitting outside the Golden Beer Bar, scribbling away, seemingly quite content in her own little world. Noticeably slimmer, she's like the Englishman living under the steps of the Nana BTS station and is relatively clean for someone living on the street. She seems to be surviving ok, at least in terms of her physical appearance, but her mind is all over the place. Girls and guys alike seem to take pity on her and you get the feeling she'll never go hungry in that area. What worries me is her tendency to go from sitting, enjoying fun conversation with herself to leaping up and crossing the road without so much as pausing to check if anything is coming. Still, she seems to be something of a survivor.
Many Westerners perceive Bangkok to be safe, yet ask any Thai how safe Bangkok is and they will tell you how dangerous it is, and look at you like you're a fool for thinking otherwise! Generally speaking, downtown Bangkok is relatively safe for foreigners, that is until around midnight when the city takes on an edge – as many major cities around the world do. A mate was out with his girlfriend on Sukhumvit Soi 11 and cut into a sub soi which has an Italian restaurant at the end. Little did they know a motorcyclist was laying in wait. He nailed the throttle and as he passed them he grabbed my pal's good lady's handbag and hung on tightly while accelerating away. A scene fit for the world's scariest home videos followed as the strap of the handbag got caught around the girl's neck and she fell to the ground and got dragged about 10 metres down the soi. My friend took off in pursuit, the girl came free and the rider sped away. The lady suffered nasty injuries and had to spend the night in Bumrungrad Hospital. The scary part is that this happened just off Sukhumvit soi 11, a bustling soi in downtown Bangkok at around 10 PM on Tuesday night. Be careful out there.
On the subject of soi 11, I ate there twice this week, ordering the same thing, fish and chips, in two different venues – and with surprising results. I thought that Snapper New Zealand would be the place to go as it specialises in New Zealand seafood and fish dishes. But what a bad experience it was! Mediocre food and the first time in my life when I have ordered fish and chips and the fish came several minutes after the chips. WTF! Is it really that hard to cook two components of the same meal together and bring them at the same time? Disappointed and still yearning for decent fish and chips, I ordered the same dish at Firehouse which is further up soi 11, opposite Q Bar. Firehouse may be best known for its burgers, but their fish and chips is very good too. The fish and the chips arrived together, were nicely cooked and at 250 baht, reasonably priced. I'll try the New Zealand restaurant again in a few months and hopefully they will be on top of things then.
The sale of sex toys on Sukhumvit Road is becoming even more widespread with more vendors offering them for sale and a greater range available. Most vendors have the artificial phalluses laid out on a table but a couple have started mounting and displaying them on the walls of their stall which makes them visible at distance. There's one spot where you can look across from one side of Sukhumvit to the other and see a huge array of plastic cocks on display. It really is appalling. I'm no prude, but this stuff just shouldn't be on such public display.
I've noticed a few cases recently of office girls i.e. women with a regular day job, moonlighting in the nightlife industry. This sort of thing wasn't uncommon when I first moved here but it has been some time since I have come across such girls. There's a top-floor bar in Nana where a couple of girls have regular day jobs and the escort agency BangkokEscort also has a few girls who really do have regular day jobs. Such girls are sought after by long-term sexpats and veteran sex tourists who perceive them to be less hardened by the industry…so just which girls are they? That's up to you to find out!
The sign below was snapped this week in the sleazy alley between Sukhumvit sois 5 and 7. Such signs are hardly uncommon here, although the subject of such discrimination are more often Middle Easterners. I wonder if the writer meant "served", rather than "serviced". In that part of town served and serviced have kind of different meanings!
Isn't it funny how a foreigner and a Thai often look at exactly the same situation and see it completely differently. The farang who scores a pair of sunglasses on special, reduced from, say, $300 to $99, will tell all and sundry what a god deal he got. The Thai who pays $300 for a pair of sunglasses will not be shy to let everyone know that he paid so much for them! Is it really any wonder that we have so much trouble understanding each other?!
There's a new means of transferring money from abroad into a Thai bank account. Thaibankonline.com is an alternative means of transferring money to Thai bank accounts quickly and discreetly. I guess the advantage of using the service is that the funds are deposited into the recipient's bank account more quickly than they are with a bank to bank telegraphic transfer. The transmission time is said to be around 10 minutes.
A reminder that Town Lodge is offering rooms for 800 baht at Sukhumvit soi 18 until March. This is for Stickman readers only and the price includes free wi-fi. It should be noted that this is the cash price and you must say you love Stickman, and you love the Stickman weekly column, and you wait patiently for 6 PM Sunday, and Stickman is the coolest guy in town to get this price! Ok, just say "Stickman" – that should be enough!
Chatting with the other half this week about beauty, we compared the physical attractiveness of Thai women and Western women. The subject came up after I told her about all the Western women I'd seen in Soi Cowboy and the range of feelings that this evoked amongst the readership. The other half is convinced that Western women are more attractive than Thai women. Exploring this further, it stems from what she sees as softer and more feminine facial features on Western women, that Western women are taller, that Western women have fairer skin, and what I found most interesting, some Thai women's noses. To help me understand this last point, she told me to stare at the nose of a certain Thai woman for several seconds and then refocus and look at the entire face. I did, and ugh! I have tried this a number of times since….and she has a point, unless you're in Paragon or Emporium where the real beauties are found (and plenty of nose jobs!). I guess the moral of this story is NOT to stare at a Thai woman's nose – in much the same way you shouldn't stare at many a Western woman's ass!
The Englishman featured in last week's column who has been living under the steps at the Nana BTS station for the last month or so is still in residence. He does seem rather partial to Chang, and the beer can in front of him in (the blurred part of) the photo below is typical. Some nights he has quite the party going with several large bottles sitting scattered around him.
Quote of the week comes from a reader, "The soi 7 Biergarten is full of old hags and low-lifes who should be in Pattaya!"
Reader's story of the week comes from Korski, "Western Men in Asia: Suckered and Duped Twice Over".
Time magazine commented on the terrorist arrests in Bangkok this week.
From The Sun newspaper, a Brit blows his brains out at a shooting range in Pattaya.
In a scary video clip, a Muay Thai fighter kicks a tree to smithereens in under a minute!
When a Thai man married his dead girlfriend in Surin province recently, did he have to pay a dowry?!
The Age says it's official – Bangkok has bounced back after the floods caused many to cancel their holiday plans.
A German punter's drink is spiked in Phuket and then the girl later returns his passport!
5 Thais are killed after a quarrel in a Bangkok bar escalates into a car chase, shooting and finally, a serious car accident.
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.
No questions were received for Sunbelt to answer this week!
Despite warning of the dangers of getting involved with the wrong type of women, there's been a definite increase in emails from readers seeking advice on how they can turn their bargirl into their wife. Unless you present a truly compelling argument – and seldom do I ever receive such, don't expect to get the thumbs up from me. There is one piece of advice that I give to everyone in Thailand, and it applies just as much whether you're about to put a ring on your bargirl's finger to more mundane, everyday encounters. Quite simply, don't do anything in Thailand that you would not do at home! It's a really simple rule, but one so few foreigners seem to follow. Would you marry a prostitute at home? Would you get on a motorbike ridden by a stranger whose breath reeked of alcohol at home? Would you lend money to a stranger at home? Would you have unprotected sex with a commercial sex worker at home? The list could go and on. Really, you don't need to listen to any other piece of advice. If you live by this rule, you will avoid the pitfalls that beset so many foreigners in this country. Behave in Thailand as you would do at home, and it will be much smoother sailing!
Your Bangkok commentator,