Stickman's Weekly Column January 8th, 2012

More And More, I Feel Sorry For Her

I used to look at the girls and wonder how they could do it. How could they make all these promises, only to systematically lie, take his money and cheat with such ruthlessness. I looked at the guys with much empathy. No-one deserves that. But things have changed and I find that more and more these days, any sympathy I have often lies with the girls.

I receive some odd inquiries to check up on working girls. Oftentimes it is clear that she is up to no good – and even a layman could see it. And sometimes you get some really unusual requests. This case was to be one of them.

You treat guys who make unusual requests to check up on a girl just as girls and mamasans treat their customers who make unusual requests. You respond with the same sort of nonchalance as if they had asked you what the time was, even though, in some cases, deep down you're thinking the guy is a freak.

The Canadian's situation wasn't typical. His girlfriend was working in a massage house, hardly the most popular spot to find a girlfriend. But the case itself appeared straightforward. Establish whether she acknowledged the existence of a boyfriend (the client), establish what she was up for, which sex acts she was willing to perform and whether she would give out her phone number to a customer. The client provided a very specific list of sex acts he wished to inquire about, to include a few I'd never even heard of.

It would require two visits to the massage house, one of the many single shophouse joints where foot or head and shoulders massages are performed on the ground floor, traditional massage one floor up and oil massage – which the girls try to railroad customers into as there's the opportunity to make extra – are conducted on the top floor.

Two visits would do it. The first would be all about building rapport – easy with a Thai. Shower her with compliments, particularly about her physical beauty with emphasis on those things Thai women spend so much time on and are so concerned about – their hair and their skin. Tell her how shiny her hair is, how bright and vibrant her skin is, and as is the case with those from the northeast – where the subject hailed from – just how cute their nose is. Keep a straight face – not always easy for a prankster like me – and you'll have them eating out of your hand! And that is how it went…

The photos of her weren't great. At the massage house I realised she wasn't just not photogenic, she wasn't a looker. In fact she was worse than a plain Jane, because not only was she very plain looking, she didn't have that joy of life, that warm smile and that bounce that separates Thais from much of the world. The unbridled pursuit of sanuk and the joy of life so common with Thai women was missing. Not even the request for an oil massage brought even the faintest hint of a smile.

Upstairs we were alone, in one of many small booths in a large room I played the dumb tourist and chatted away with a ready smile. Sweet talk in Thai is so much easier and with her English barely reasonable, this would be a challenge. But I persevered and eventually had her smiling. There was some personality hidden inside her after all.

The more we chatted, the more I learned about her. Hailing from one of the most far flung corners of Isaan, she'd been working for 3 years and claimed to be 27 years old. 27? If you'd asked me I would have estimated her age at about 40. The client had told me she was 36. No way was she 27. Would anyone actually believe she was 27? I couldn't see even a Thailand newbie swallowing that but I didn't argue the point. Thais can be very fickle and just one remotely negative comment can kill the mood. I bit my tongue and kept smiling.

Probing as to whether she had a boyfriend – “Such a lovely lady cannot possibly be single”, was met with the response that she was single and had no-one. Further gentle probing and the response was no different.

It's not easy to get a girl to reveal that she has a boyfriend – especially if she perceives that you are a possible customer beyond that day, a possible mark. She won't say anything that could destroy the illusion. There's an argument that the average customer has a cheek to even ask if such a girl is romantically involved with anyone. These girls are doing a job, and it should be looked at as that, a job. Just as it would be considered poor form to ask the girl serving you in 7 Eleven, the waitress in a restaurant, or your dentist if she had a boyfriend or husband, so it is with these girls. I guess few really see these girls as a service provider, but as a girlfriend.

So there we were just the two of us, in a curtained booth, the only two people on the top floor, in a long dark room, with the faint glow of a single light bulb from the other end of the room. The air-conditioning kept the room cool, the unit almost silent. There was not another soul around. We were about 2/3 of the way through the massage, nearing the moment of truth as she moves her head closer to mine – as if there was any need for that for no-one could possibly hear anything that was being said – and whispers in my ear, “You want sa-pesh-un?” Translation: do you want a special massage?

“What do you mean”, I responded, feigning ignorance.

“Make you happy”, she says with a smile as genuine as the Rolexes being sold on the pavement outside. She intimates that she wants to jack me off.

“I can do myself”, I say, a deliberate response to see how she will counter. Will she up the offer?

“What you want?” she asks me.

“What you can do?” I reply, forced to simplify my English to a basic level.

She responds that she will have full sex, right there in the booth, for 2,000 baht.

The client had told me that she had said to him that the venue was not that sort of place and none of the girls would do anything on the premises, inferring they were good girls. And that is how it should be in such a venue staffed exclusively with older, plump women. Anyone who had an itch that needed scratching would be much better off going to the nightlife area nearby.

I let her know that I was just looking for a massage only and was not after anything extra…at this time. I did say that I liked her and asked her if she would be willing to visit me in my hotel, naming the closest 5-star property, subtly inferring that I was loaded. That way we could take our time in more comfortable surroundings. She was up for it. The massage ended, unhappily I guess you could say, but then she happily gave me her phone number.

I had got what I had come for. I had established that yes, she was willing to have sex on the premises with a customer. I had asked about and she had denied the existence of a man in her life. I had secured her phone number, and I was also able to glean quite a bit about her background. But based on what she had told me her age was, how much of what she had told me was true, I do not know. Still, this info could be cross-referenced by the client with what she had told him. Despite her protests and her attempts to evade it, I managed to fire off a couple of photos of her in the venue to provide proof that the investigation had been carried out.

On the ground floor of the massage house, she proudly showed me a certificate on the wall from the Wat Po Traditional Massage School, possibly the best known and most respected Thai massage school in the world. I've been there a couple of times for a massage and you get an absolutely first class massage. This girl had given a crap massage and didn't really know what she was doing. As part of building rapport I had complimented her on her massage technique – absolutely the biggest lie of the day. She had told me that she had studied at a small school just a little up the road. That probably meant another massage house which specialised in getting a man upstairs, and her hands around his groin in record time! The certificate on the wall had clearly come off an inkjet printer and the ink was running. The certificate was a fake, another negative reflection on her.

I left the venue, went straight home and sent off a report. I felt I had all that he needed to know and pointed out that in addition to denying the existence of a boyfriend, and being willing to have sex on the premises, she had also told numerous lies. I prefer to stick to the facts and leave the client to consider what is best for them, but I could not help but add a little analysis and suggested that this lady had real honesty issues – and as such she might not really be girlfriend material.

The response from the client surprised me. He wanted me to go back and he wanted me to find out if she would be willing to partake in a number of different sex acts. He also wished to know whether she would be willing to have unprotected sex. I responded that I would be happy to go back and could engage her in conversation, but as I would go no further than a massage then it would really come down to what she said she was up for and nothing would actually be verified. He was ok with that.

Things then started to become a little strange. In further emails he went on and on about various sex acts, about how he *had to* know if she would engage in anal sex with a customer and whether she would do so without a condom. He admitted that he was a bareback rider himself and seemed to be concerned about whether she was doing the dirty with others, and the subsequent danger of him contracting something from her that she may have picked up from a customer.

I pointed out the obvious – that if she was willing to do these things with him, she was almost certainly willing to do them with others.

In all of these cases, you agree with the client on what the objectives are i.e. what do you need to find out. You then put in place a plan to find that information out. Sometimes things go to plan and sometimes they don't. You have to think on your feet and often the plan changes. Some clients like to micromanage the case, and that is what this customer started to do. He clearly didn't understand Thais and tried to tell me not just what to do, but what to say to the girl. I was dealing with a fellow foreigner and the local approach of agreeing with what someone says and then simply doing things your own way anyway does not work. While a difficult client is not a problem in itself, this guy was a control freak and was getting all bent up about small, innocuous details. That along with the fact that he indulged in high risk sex with the girls created a feeling of dislike towards him. I was looking forward to closing the case once and for all.

The second visit to the massage shop turned out to be a waste of time. On arriving I was told that the subject was out and would be back soon. I went away to eat and returned. She still wasn't there. I went away for a coffee, and returned, and she had not returned yet. After wasting the best part of an afternoon and accepting that she may not even work that day, I headed home. I had previously told her I would only be in town so long so another visit after that time may look suspicious.

Communicating with the client, he said that he wanted proof that she would actually go through with meeting a stranger in his hotel. I would call her and invite her to meet me at the hotel lobby. That would provide the client proof that she was up to no good. The client would call her at the appointed time and tell her that he knew what she was doing, that she had been caught out and it was all over. The client, however, wanted me to say to her that I had changed hotels and that I was no longer in the 5-star, but a cheaper property in the area he usually stayed – and where she had spent time with him. That turned out to be a big mistake…

I made the phone call as agreed. She remember me right away. I told her I wanted to meet her and I wanted her to come to my room. I told her that I expected her to stay the night and that I would pay her in the morning. It was all very clear so there could be no misunderstanding. She agreed. I then casually mentioned that I was no longer at the hotel I had previously told her I was staying in and had changed to another property. When I told her the name of the new hotel there was a pause, and then a change in the pitch of her voice as realisation set in of the dangers of taking a guy to a hotel where she may be recognised by staff. She blurted out that she could not go with me because she was married and had a husband! It was obviously too close to home for her and the customer's decision to change the name of the hotel had backfired. She was resolute that no, she could not meet me. I accepted what she said, hung up and sent off a report to the customer.

The client replied and seemed to be satisfied with how things had gone. Emails went back and forwards as he picked apart small, innocuous details. He seemed unduly concerned about the smallest details. It was painful, but I was willing to answer all the questions.

She obviously felt guilty. She knew what she had initially agreed to was wrong, and she wanted to put it right. She would call the client in Canada and confess that she had agreed to meet a guy, apologise, plead for his forgiveness, declare her undying love for him and promise to never ever do it again.

She called the number she had for him, his Thai number. It actually rang….and the phone was answered by a Thai lady! After some quick words were said, it turns out that the client had another girl, a massage girl down in Hua Hin! When he left Thailand he had left his phone with the Thai SIM card in it with that girl. The girl I had looked into had inadvertently reached the other girl and they soon discovered the truth – they were not the only guy in Mr. Canada's life!

The girls realised that he had been lying to each of them and when he called each of them in the following day or two he was surprised at just what they knew. He was as much of a cheat as the girl he had asked me to look in to for him!

I assumed that would be the end…

But it never ends that easily with these girls. They are loathe to close the door on a guy. That would mean the end of any support and no chance of anything in the future. It's bad business practice to cut off a customer!

The customer emailed me and explained what followed. Despite finding out that he had another girl, she had begged his forgiveness and promised, once again, that she would be faithful to him.

My reply was brief. Cut her free. It seldom works and unless he was prepared to move to Thailand or move her to Canada, there was little chance of success.

A week passed and I had consigned the case to history. Another customer, another unfaithful girl. I couldn't shake the feeling that the customer was seriously odd. I don't think it was his obsession with kinky sex acts which is neither here nor there. That he practices unprotected sex with the girls is something I view dimly. I didn't warm to the guy and as cold as it sounds, I felt no sympathy how things worked out.

And then he contacted me again. His mind was going into overtime and he needed to know what she was up to. He needed another check carried out! I explained to him that I could not do it. I had played a very specific role and as such I could not look into her again. That would predicate a lot of lies and while investigating is built around playing a role – itself a mountain of lies – when you start telling lies to cover other lies eventually it all starts to unravel and the chances of the girl realising something isn't right is there.

The client really wanted another check done. I explained that I could get a friend to carry it out, a friend I use from time to time. I would oversee the operation. I would be the customer liaison and pull the strings. I warned my friend that the customer could be very trying, required huge amounts of detail, often asked for clarifications of points that bore little or even no relevance to the objectives and a multitude of questions would follow. He was still willing to be involved.

Even before we got under way, the client was micromanaging things, right down to the words that would be said to the girl and my explanation of what was required to my friend. I almost – and in fact should have – pulled out then. The client was a control freak!

My friend visited the massage house and performed his task with aplomb. While she was willing to provide him with her phone number – a very bad sign – she was not willing to do the dirty. She said that she had a husband in Canada to whom she was loyal. She was willing to offer hand relief for 1,000 baht, and eventually dropped the price to 600 baht. She was not willing to do anything more. 10,000 baht was offered for sex, which is actually kind of silly, because no-one offers such a plain Jane such an amount, but she still refused! The report was sent and plenty of detail provided. I was thrilled by the quality of my deputy's work.

The customer came back and he wasn't happy! It seemed the client was not necessarily upset that his girlfriend was still willing to be naughty, even if she was not willing to open her legs. He just seemed to want to complain.

I thought that would be the end. She had lied to her boyfriend again, and broken her promise that she would not do anything with a customer. I thought he would finally give her a red card. But no, he wanted more info!

He came up with some crazy suggestions, none of which were remotely workable. It was as if he wanted to push her into not just accepting an offer for sex, but going through with it. He knew that was not doable. Unlike any client before him, he seemed to want to find out that his girlfriend was being bad, whereas most want to know that she is being faithful!

The customer wanted her to agree to sex, wanted explicit details of what services she would perform and when she agreed he wanted the price to be haggled down to the lowest possible point. What was the relevance of this?

The client wanted to know if the subject would be willing to perform a variety of sex acts and provided numerous acronyms for them, most of which I had no idea of what they meant. He had an obsession with bareback anal sex.

I was getting very uncomfortable with the client's requests but as two visits had been agreed, a second visit would be made. The primary goal was to establish whether she would engage in unprotected sex.

The second visit was made and the offer of 10,000 baht for sex was refused. She was steadfast in her refusal.

Refusal at that level should be cause for celebration, but no, the customer went into a tailspin! His biggest complaint, which was now a serious problem for him, and showed dreadful investigative technique, he claimed, was why we hadn't established whether she was willing to have unprotected sex or not.

Liaising between the client and my friend who had carried out the investigation, I found it frustrating. I pointed out to the client that asking a woman who refuses to have sex with a customer whether she will have unprotected sex with a customer is a null and void question. The customer didn't get it.

The email exchange became heated and the customer admitted that he was frustrated. He had to know whether she would have unprotected sex. Responding to him once again with the comments that a woman who had been bareback with one guy would do it with another didn't suffice. Nothing would appease him, and he was getting angry!

The customer finally relented, and asked one final request. He wanted my friend to call his lady, tell her that he would never consider having a relationship with a woman who looked much older than she is, tell her that she is a dok thong (a VERY coarse expression in Thai which translates as "dirty slut") and hang up on her! He wanted to totally degrade her and make her feel like shit. I told him that that was way beyond the parameters of an investigation and we would never do such a thing. I told him he was being childish and to act his age.

His last email – perhaps his final communiqué – was that of a very angry man!

I now wonder if this was all part of some strange sexual fetish, to fantasize about what his girlfriend is doing with another guy. That might help to explain the need for such detailed information.

I used to feel sorry for the guys who got involved with, and were later deceived by working girls. These guys confused a woman's job for something altogether different.

Today I look at things a little differently. The number of odd foreign men involved with Thai women who treat them as sub-human and / or as something of a sex toy is, I reckon, greater than many realise. More and more I feel sorry for her.

*Where* was this photo taken?


Last week's photo was taken on the Taksin Bridge, looking back towards the Bangkok side. The building on the left was the Shangri
La. 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.


He Clinic Bangkok

You are right to highlight the gross overcrowding at Asoke BTS. It was clearly not designed for the number of people that use it even before Terminal 21 opened, in the same way that the trains were not. But you missed the THIRD queue. Not only do you have to queue to get change and then to use the ticket machine, but then you have to join a third line to get through the turnstile. That can also be a lengthy process. What I cannot understand is why the staff will give you change but not sell you a ticket for a single ride. If you want a multi-ride ticket they will sell you that. Single ride? No. There must be some logic to that, but a logic that only a Thai would understand.

Bangkok's own Walking Street!

Have you mentioned how Soi Cowboy has become a mini Walking Street some nights? I was sitting outside Tilac bar the other night and there were so many couples walking up and down the soi taking photos and videos and hardly any of them actually went into a bar – within my line of sight anyway.

CBD bangkok

Tracking the changes.

The industry was fun 10 or so years ago, but as you say, it is not the same business anymore. I blame not so much the Thais, but the Europeans who brought along their business style, which is profit at all cost, regardless of the ultimate outcome. If I have the history correct, the first big influx into Bangkok was the Germans during the '80s, followed by an overwhelming number of British throughout the '90s and into the early '00s. Now it is the Russians. On one of my early trips to Pattaya, I remember walking down soi 8 and hearing German everywhere, then walking into a hotel lobby on the wall behind reception was only one clock and it was labeled, Frankfurt. I think the turning point was when the dancers in gogo bars which did shows started to be called "showgirls" and were given greater status, and along with that inflated egos i.e. legends in their own minds. I can't remember the name of the cutie who did the "traditional" folk dance. Tiny little thing with an ego big enough fill Nana Plaza!

Different city, different approach.

I have an observation I haven't seen mentioned before regarding the differences between Bangkok and Pattaya. I personally regard Bangkok as a phone-based P4P experience. I enjoy walking around Nana, Soi Cowboy and Soi 33 and visit the higher end massage places more than a few times. Recognising some are a bit more expensive, I call escort agencies and massage places for companionship scoring an 8 of 10 as wonderful and the other two as not bad, just lacking enthusiasm. I've yet to have a bad experience doing it in Bangkok. There are many agencies to choose from and you'll find some girls on several sites. Some sites also indicate the services the service provider is willing to perform which clearly defines what one can or cannot expect in relation to others. Have had very few that didn't match the picture. The added cost of their company is approximately 50%. I also contend the visitors to my hotel seem much more willing to please and pleasant than 95% of those taken from bars. In Pattaya one must roam to find a temporary friend along Walking Street. There are scant few places to phone having pictures of the participants and I physically visited one massage place to see what the girls really looked like and found the camera must have hidden many years and dicey complications. I don't favor Bangkok over Pattaya, I just use a different approach.

wonderland clinic

Bravery at a cost.

I saw a farang versus Thai fight n Soi Cowboy on New Year's Eve. It was one on one for a few seconds and then it would be no exaggeration to say that it was then quickly 10 Thais versus one farang. In fact, more than 10 if you count the extras as the farang was tussling in a moving ruck a Thai man ran over and hit him over the head with a bottle before about turning and running off! But I write here to commend that farang. He actually fought them all off like a lion and ultimately stood by himself in Soi Cowboy with no Thai daring to approach him. This was not without cost and he was bloodied at the end of it. I hope he is ok. His bravery was incredible. He may have been at fault in the first place. I don't know. But he was very, very brave. And I was really sickened to see the cowardice of his opponents. Especially their behaviour afterwards – when he had left, and they were all safe – when they all seemed quite pleased with themselves. I don't think the majority were security men working on the street but random punks hanging around, boyfriends etc. waiting to pick up their sex worker girlfriend and spend her money. There are actually a lot of them around at any one time if you take the time to look. I guess a lot of them have a simmering anger about the whole situation – their girlfriend a whore and they a punk who sponges off them. It certainly isn't an aspirational place in life, but then life is ultimately what you make it. They could start by getting a job. So, what can be learnt? Get out of there! In my mind as I watched – and it was horrible to watch – I was begging him to just cut and run, but he didn't. He fought for a long few minutes and showed incredible bravery. But as I say, it was at some cost. There was a lot of blood. I just hope it was all superficial. The Thais I was with saw a Thai victory and were overwhelmed with happiness. I saw it a bit differently and tried to explain but I don't think they really got it. To my mind that man was a lion and I salute him. He wasn't even that young actually, 45 at least, maybe 50+. Incredible. I just hope he is ok.

The harridan of Tilac!

I had an altercation in Tilac last evening, letting rip at one of the older serving staff. I am normally placid enough but I saw red last night. My favourite was sitting with me. I had bought her a drink and we were chatting. The harridan came over – and without consulting me or giving me (a regular customer) one iota of respect – took her by the hand and led her across the bar to sit with another customer who, presumably, had asked the harridan to do so. I find that most extremely rude and impolite, suggesting I just don't matter. When the harridan next came near me I called her over and let her have it, "Don't you EVER do that to me again, ‘mai suparp mark mark”, waving my finger at her. I honestly don't think the old bat knew what she had done wrong. Two minutes later she brought the girl back and I explained to Nat that I have no objection to her sitting with another bloke because she and I know that I never buy out these girls and they are there to make money, not to humour old farts like me. However, there are right ways and wrong ways to. Behave and such things as manners come into it. The old harridan had been very ill-mannered. I was nearly going to go over and confront the bloke who had requested Nat's company. Surely, if a girl is sitting with one customer and you desire her, you wait until he goes or she frees herself. Is that too difficult to ask? Funnily enough an American man was sitting at the next table who later told me he can't stand that harridan and was pleased I had had a go at her; she deserves all she gets!

The scammer loses!

I visited an ATM on Soi Buakhao and withdrew 10,000 baht. As I turned away, having placed money and card back in my wallet, I was tapped on the shoulder. Turning round I was confronted by a Middle Eastern guy (mid 30s) holding a 1,000 baht note, and suggesting I had left it in the machine. He asked me my nationality, told me he was Israeli, and said I'd left more money in the machine and told me to re-insert my card. The whole manoeuvre was lightening quick, and designed to create confusion (and I admit, I was confused for a while). He had given me the 1,000 baht note, and insisted I reinserted my card. By now I had come to my senses and quickly walked away – with the extra money! When I looked back he was asking for the 1m000 baht, but I just stepped into a local beauty salon to meet my girlfriend. Five minutes later I returned to the machine in the hope I could introduce him to the local constabulary, but he was nowhere to be seen. I quickly checked my balance and changed my pin number. The 1,000 baht went some way to paying for our meal that evening!

The merger of two of Soi Cowboy's biggest and most popular bars, Baccarra and Shark, is closer to becoming reality. A hot rumour that has been reverberating around the soi for weeks, rumourmongers had it that Baccarra has been trying to acquire Shark with the plan of knocking out the wall between the bars down and making a giant 2-floor bar, the biggest gogo bar in the world….ok, well, in Thailand at least! I put it to one of the owners of Baccarra who said it wasn't a done deal…but got the feeling he omitted an all important word, "yet"! That was a few weeks ago. If the deal does go through, the middle of the year has been mooted as the ETA for completion.

There were a lot of seedy looking and frankly, rough Thai guys hanging around Soi Cowboy on New Year's – almost certainly boyfriends of the girls working in the soi – as Suzie Wong hosted a morlam concert outside the bar from around midnight through to 5 AMladyboy. It attracted many outsiders who enjoyed the concert and mixed with tourists. At least three fights took place, the one mentioned by a reader in the email's section, and at least two more – although foreigners weren't involved in the other two. The first was between two Thai guys and the second between two Thai girls. Each was over in a matter of seconds with no blood spilled.

Up the road in Nana it was all on too with a scuffle breaking out at the entrance to Nana Plaza. A ladyboy grabbed a fellow's manhood, as they do, said fellow reacted by twisting her arm and she ended up on the deck. She got up, took her shoe off and smacked him across the face with the stiletto, leaving a nasty cut across his cheek. The fellow retaliated and fortunately for him the ladyboy retreated and none of her friends jumped in to join her. That really was a no win situation and he was lucky it ended so fast. Being set upon by a pack of Thai ladyboys at the entrance of Nana would be like starring in the scariest horror movie!

There's a new homeless farang on Sukhumvit. This time last year it was Michael the German, and this year it's a Brit. This disheveled middle-aged Brit was photographed by a friend a few weeks ago in a Chelsea shirt looking worse for wear early morning on Sukhumvit near the Thermae. I assumed that was just a one-off drunk episode until earlier this week when I spotted the same fellow sleeping under the steps leading up to the Nana BTS station opposite soi 7, on the even-numbered soi side of the street. He has also been seen in soi 4 asking passersby for money. I guess he'd be in his 40s, has a large tattoo on his right forearm and has a bandage around his right ankle. When I saw him on Saturday he'd appeared to have shaved and while he was dirty, you wouldn't say he was filthy. Still, his eyes are all over the place and he doesn't appear to be in a good way.

A bar which put in place 4,000 baht barfines on New Year's Eve – an attempt to try and keep the girls in the bar all night long to make sure the bar remains attractive to punters – found that even that rate was not high enough to prevent them from being barfined. One guy barfined 5 girls in a popular Cowboy bar at 4,000 baht a pop – a staggering 20,000 baht in barfines alone. And get this, his total bill for drinks bill was 60,000 baht. That means his total spend in the bar on New Year's Eve was a whopping 80,000 baht, which may make it the highest bill I have ever heard of in a farang gogo bar. What a great way for the bar to finish the year. Given whatever compensation he gave the girls, it's fair to assume he probably dropped 100,000 baht or so that night!

They may be a little light on customers at the moment, but Rob, the owner of Los Cabos in Sukhumvit soi 14, insists that business is picking up and is determined that the venue will remain open and they will NOT sell to The Dubliner. That is being contradicted by others, and at least one shareholder says the deal is already done! Who do you believe?

This new trend of booze booths opening up earlier and taking up the entire width of the pavement and forcing pedestrians to walk on the road is a most unwelcome development. The newest booth, or street bar, operating like this is not so conveniently placed between Bradman's and the nearby branch of 7 Eleven on soi 23.

The supply of bottled water was restored quickly to Bangkok and other parts of Thailand after supply chain disruptions due to the floods, but the largest bottles you could buy, at least in downtown Bangkok and its surrounds, has been 1.5 litre bottles. I noticed this week that 6-litre water bottles are back in stock – at long last. There's still, however, no sign of Coke Zero, Coke Light or Pepsi Max, all of which have been absent from supermarkets and convenience store shelves for weeks.

The skytrain was busier than ever this week with companies reopening and many people returning to work. Waiting for the train on the platform at the Nana station, I had to wait for the 3rd train to come along before I could get on i.e. the first two were so full that only a few people waiting on the platform could board! The skytrain management desperately needs to add more carriages to trains and the frequency of trains, especially at peak times.

The atmosphere at the New York Gardens – once known as Price Leader complex – the group of restaurants on Sukhumvit Road with a garden area in the middle, right next to soi 12 is a great place for a firstSunrise Tacos date. I'd go for Sunrise Tacos, order a couple of dishes to share, a pitcher of Margarita and round it all off with cherry pie. Sunrise is ideal because it's sufficiently different from Thai food, yet with some dishes accompanied by rice and with Mexican being mildly spicy, it has a little in common with Thai food. Play your cards right and what follows will be all good!

It's a scam I have heard of in other countries in the region, but I'm not sure I recall ever hearing about it in Thailand. Unfortunately it has been adopted by some of the boat boys on the Chao Praya. A fellow negotiated a river and canal ride / tour with one of the long tail boat riders at an agreed price of 800 baht. In the middle of nowhere the boat boy stopped the boat and demanded a further 2,000 baht, meaning a total of 2,800 baht, or he would leave the fellow where they were! After lengthy discussion, the boat boy agreed to accept an extra 1,200 baht – meaning a total of 2,000 baht – and then completed the tour and took the fellow back to the point where he had picked up him. I guess the only way around this would be to write the agreed price down and both parties sign it – but even then, if you are abandoned somewhere, what good is a signed piece of paper?!

Nasty business.

If you come from a country with a wildly fluctuating currency, as I do, and you want to make your money go a little further – as we all do – then here's a little tip. When your home country's currency is weak, use the Thai baht currency you have in Thailand. However, when the currency of your homeland is strong, use your credit card. With wildly fluctuating currencies – the Australian and New Zealand dollars are probably the best two examples of volatile Western currencies – but many currencies have moved around a lot in recent times, you can save yourself a small amount as you use the currency which is strongest. To settle up your credit card, just get online and move money from your current account to the credit card. OK, so this won't make you rich, but every little bit helps.

I believe that non-smokers make up such a huge majority of the customers in bars these days, yet I wonder if bar owners are aware that they may be pushing many non-smoking customers away by allowing smokers to smoke inside bars? I'm all for individual freedoms, but not when those freedoms have a negative impact on their experience or enjoyment of others. If there's smoking in a bar, many non-smokers refuse to go inside and if someone starts puffing when they're already there, they may choose not to stay. Some people try to tell me that in the bar industry, Pattaya is essentially ok for smoking and Bangkok is not – yet it seems to me today that as many venues in Bangkok allow smoking as those that do not, at least in Bangkok's naughty boy areas.

Are the ED drugs sold on Sukhumvit fake or not? Some people tell me they are, and others insist they are the genuine article – perhaps because they work – which does not necessarily mean they are genuine! I have no idea if they are genuine or not. What I will say is that if the ED drugs on Sukhumvit are fake then they are one of few counterfeit products sold in Thailand which are actually purported to be original when they are not. Most fake goods sold in Thailand aren't purported to be the real thing at all and vendors are happy to say that they are copies!Bangkok street vendor

I love Middle Eastern food, but one of my peeves is that most of the ethnic Middle Eastern restaurants in and around sois 3/1 and 5 off Sukhumvit have menus which are terribly confusing. The English – and even the Thai – is often so unclear, or so ambiguous that you're not entirely sure what each dish is. When you see something listed as "rice with chicken" for example, does that mean chicken briyani, or chicken curry, or khao mok gai or khao pat gai or khao man gai, or one of the many other chicken and rice dishes?!

There are businesses targeting foreigners all over Bangkok which the casual observer sees cannot possibly make a profit. In fact the loss must be so sizeable that it makes you wonder what's going on. One business which I just cannot possibly see being profitable is Home Run, the baseball-themed burger and steak joint way down Sukhumvit soi 31. It's a nice spot and the food is top notch, but sticking my head in the door this week, I discovered that yes, they were open for business but that the staff weren't expecting anyone! The lights were on, the air-con was on, but the staff were nowhere to be seen and there wasn't a single customer. It was as dead as Elvis. With zero customers, surprised staff (that someone had stuck their head in the door) and no atmosphere I decided to go elsewhere. A shame though, although that location doesn't seem a good fit for an establishment that would appear to appeal to foreign customers. The funny thing is that the fancy cake shop next door, Mousse and Meringues, does well – and has been in business in that same location for a long time! I guess, however, their customer base, is predominately Thais.

When the floods broke out in Thailand there was a lot of chat amongst naughty boys that there would be an inundation of girls into the industry. Fresh meat they say. Nasty term, in my opinion. Thankfully this has not happened at all. What many don't seem to realise is that Thailand has as close to full employment as a country can hope to get. A good mate owns a house in Khon Kaen and spends time at his condo in Bangkok. He has tried to hire someone in the village to work and look after the house and assist his wife yet he cannot find anyone – and he is prepared to pay well! In Bangkok, another mate who runs a bunch of restaurants was telling me that he struggles to get Thai staff and has to get Burmese and folks from the Philippines to make up numbers. And it's no secret that the bar industry is screaming for girls. Irrespective of how successful a bar is, most bars just don't have enough girls! Getting good staff – and keeping them – is a real challenge for businesses in Thailand.

A long time advertiser on this site, the European-owned and run Town Lodge, in Sukhumvit soi 18, is offering an exclusive deal for Stickman readers until March.
For just 800 baht you get a hotel room with free wi-fi. The standard rate is 1,200 baht so if you were to book elsewhere, that's what you'd pay. You MUST say you're a Stickman reader to get this deal!

Quote of the week comes from a long-time reader and contributor to the site, "If you get bored hanging out with farm girls and scummy expats, you've really only got yourself to blame!"

Reader's story of the week comes from Korski, "Young Asian Woman, Older Western Man: When is Enough Enough?"

CNNGo looks at gun shops in Bangkok and asks whether foreigners can buy guns there.

In an article from Bangkok, apparently Asian students cheat like mad in US college applications!

An article appeared about sex workers in the Sydney Morning Herald with references to Thailand.

A Thai drug runner is arrested in Nepal.

From CNNGo comes Mor Lam and Luk Thung: A guide to Bangkok's Thai folk music scene.

A star of the latest Mission Impossible movie gets caught up in a brawl in Phuket!

A proud Middlesborough fan was electrocuted on holiday in Thailand.

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.

Question 1: I recently got stopped leaving Thailand, whilst carrying bank notes in Thai baht. The cash was picked up by the X-ray machine as my carry bags were scanned. I was
informed that I was only allowed to take out a maximum of 50,000 baht in banknotes. I'd never heard of this restriction before. On discussing the rules further, I asked what if the cash was in another currency other than Thai baht and was
informed that I could leave Thailand with any amount of foreign currency in cash – just as long as it is not Thai baht. Can you please confirm whether the above is indeed factually true and written into Thai law?

Sunbelt responds: While you may take any amount of other currencies out of Thailand, taking baht out of Thailand is restricted to 50,000 baht unless you are travelling to neighbouring countries such as Burma, Laos, Cambodia, Malaysia and Vietnam when you may take 500,000 baht in Thai currency. In order to take out higher amounts of Thai baht in cash, you need written permission from the Bank of Thailand. As the Customs officer correctly stated, you need to exchange it for another currency before leaving the country.

Soi Cowboy

t's good to see the bars and restaurants on Sukhumvit doing much better than they were before Christmas. But I have to admit that I haven't been doing my bit for the bar trade and have spent precious little time in the bars recently. It's kind of ironic that part of this column is about keeping tabs on the bar industry, and that one of the major bar areas is just a short walk from the condo, yet I spent the grand total of about one hour – and consumed just two bottles of water – in the bars this week. All around the world dream about their week or two in the bars, yet those of us with them almost on our doorstep barely notice them…

Your Bangkok commentator,


nana plaza