Frequent use of the "F" word has always struck me as uncouth and I consider those who use such terms often as lacking in refinement and class. The odd utterance may be justified and have its place, but those who struggle to form a sentence without the F word will never be in my inner circle. My preference to steer clear of those who swear often has left me in good stead in a country where cussing is considered the domain of the uncivilized and where cursing local can cause real problems.
He used the online moniker Loo Doot – the Thai word for asshole – hardly an honorific. Yet calling himself by that name would seem entirely appropriate in the context of this story.
Loo and I met at a Thai language school where we were passing time, doing something that may later prove useful. A dozen or so years older than me, Loo was a retired officer from the world's most powerful navy. A highly intelligent man, fit as a fiddle and living the good life, he had his shit together. What perplexed me was that most sentences that came out of the mouth of such an intelligent and articulate guy were littered with expletives.
I don't know where we'd come from that particular night, but I do know where we were going. Soi Cowboy. We were off to see Mike at Midnite, back when it was one of the most popular, and certainly the most raunchy bar in Bangkok. It wasn't very late on a rainy season night when the taxi stopped on soi 23. We were a little slow to get out and the driver of the SUV behind us started beeping his horn. Impatiently, and repeatedly.
Just out of the cab, Loo Doot turns to face the SUV and yells at the driver, "Fxxx off!"
The driver's door swings open immediately, the passenger's door a moment later, and two young, well-dressed, strapping Thai guys leap out. They're about my age, dressed for a night on the town and they fire off similarly abusive terms at Loo, in American-accented English. From a wealthy background, and no doubt they studied abroad.
Loo's words have made them pissed and they want to kick his ass! Ex-Navy, strong, lean and as fit as a fiddle, if it came down to hand to hand combat, he'd have taken them both. Probably without even raising a sweat.
But it's never that simple. We'd been drinking. They looked stone cold sober. That might have evened the odds. Nah, unless they had martial arts skills or a concealed weapon, he still would have kicked their asses. But what would that achieve? A foreigner giving a Thai beating just escalates things even further. They would be back, joined by family, or maybe the boys in brown. There are some battles you don't win.
So there we were, Loo Doot the ex-Navy officer, sensible Stick and two pissed hi-so Thai guys. Loo was keen to have a go, his pride bristling. I reminded him that his Mrs. had just given birth and the time in his life for kicking ass was over. I somehow managed to get between him and the Thais and push him away. I mimic to the pissed Thais that he was sorry, even when it was obvious that he wasn't.
The Thai boys fired off a few barbs, returned to their vehicle blocking soi 23, and headed off up the road.
The use of the 'F' word had riled them and their response had been immediate. Simply being told to fxxx off was enough for them to have a fight right there on the street.
But sometimes a Thai's response to being sworn at isn't immediate. The scorned party sits on it, it burns them up and no matter how hard they try to suppress their anger, they cannot help but respond…
A foreigner and his girlfriend were wandering around Benjakit Park a couple of weekends back. The park features a 1.9 km walking / running path just inside a separate cycle track, with a lake in the middle home to monitor lizards and other critters.
They'd just had lunch and were taking a leisurely stroll. The foliage over the cycle lane provides better shade from the midday sun so they ambled over to it and were wandering along, in their own little world, with almost the entire park to themselves.
The tranquility was interrupted by the frenzied ringing of a bicycle bell and they turned to see a bike on the path heading right for them. They moved off to the side and a few seconds later a foreigner whizzes past them and unleashes a tirade of obscenities, the 'F' word repeated. Their crime? They had been walking on the bike track which as anyone who has visited the park knows, is where many people walk.
The foreigner dismissed it as the rantings of a hot-headed, but harmless individual. She, a middle-class Bangkok girl was unsettled, and became quite upset at being the target of the outburst. She'd always believed that foreigners were civilised and above such ill manners. This guy's words and the manic waving of his arm had not just upset her, it had annoyed her and made her angry. And it had all been so unnecessary. That's what upset her most. There was no need for him to be so harsh. So she may have been walking in the wrong place but there was no danger of an accident. She admits the Thai propensity for complacency and how Thais are not always aware of their surroundings, but did he have the right to abuse her so harshly? And to do so in her backyard? In her mind his reaction was unwarranted. It was too much. Way too much.
She didn't let on at the time to her boyfriend how much this guy's outburst had upset her and how annoyed she was. It burned her up.
Over the next few days she couldn't get it out of her mind. Why would someone be so unnecessarily rude? Why would they attack her like that? It may have been only words, but in her mind that made it no less of an attack. Did walking in the wrong place at the wrong time warrant such stinging words?
She consulted her friends. Bangkok middle-class Thais in their 20s and 30s, they were in agreement – the guy's reaction was too strong. They confirmed what she was thinking…she could not let this go. She had to respond!
Her friends helped her formulate a plan. An educated girl, feisty, but with very basic English, she would personally hand a letter to the guy explaining how she felt and give him a chance to apologise.
With the help of her friends a letter was penned. Apparently it outlined how he had been unnecessarily rude to her, had insulted her, was confrontational and had used words that reasonable people just do not use in Thailand. It had upset her terribly, was a bad reflection on foreigners in Thailand and she expected an apology.
She had no idea how often the boorish Brit made it to the park. The following weekend she told her boyfriend that she was not available to see him as she had some business to take care of. Little did he know, she would return to the park at the same time she had been abused the previous week.
Entering the park, she made a point of telling the army guys charged with looking after the property to keep an eye on her. She explained that she had a problem with a foreigner and she was going to confront him about it. As chance would have it the burly Brit was there and she waved him down and handed him the letter.
It must have been quite a scene, this small Thai thing barely 5 foot tall and 45 kg, handing a letter to a scowling foreigner estimated at well in excess of 6 feet with the physique of a body builder.
I can just picture the scene now, her standing there absolutely expressionless, handing him a letter in Pidgin English. He read it and exploded, his arms started going and his face became more wild than a rainy season storm. She has no idea what he said, but she does know that he didn't apologise. He had a chance to apologise but his response insulted her further. She is now going to take it to the next level, whatever that means. All over his use of the 'F' word.
Thais tend to be polite, at least when it comes to the spoken word, and especially when interacting with strangers. Younger Thais may use coarse pronouns and colourful terms but almost exclusively in the company of those they are friendly with. It is considered particularly uncouth, rude, but most of all, confrontational to swear at someone in Thailand.
"For fxxx's sake", "fxxx off", and "fxxx you" are said often enough in English, but using these words or the Thai equivalents isn't recommended in Thailand. Say these words to a Thai and what follows could be ugly.
Regular Thais just don't swear in everyday life. Foul language may be heard around the odd low-class prostitute or perhaps in the dark corners of a fresh market. Even then it's not that common.
Thais believe the use of foul language makes the person using those words look bad. It is also understood that any person who is the subject of those words might respond and things could escalate. Foreigners could learn from this. Cursing a local is more than merely being rude in Thailand, it's asking for trouble. The use of foul language in Thailand is much more frowned upon than it is in the West.
Calling people coarse terms for private body parts or sexual acts is limp, and there are much more effective ways to make a point with words. A prude I am not, but I can't help but feel people who swear all the time are crass and just plain lack class. The way most Thais see foul language as boorish, unseemly and the domain of the uncivilized sits well with me.
*Where* was this photo taken?
Last week's photo was taken of the flower seller outside the branch of Villa near Sukhumvit soi 33. So where was this week's mystery photo taken?! All you have to do is tell me where the photo was taken. There is 1 prize this week – a 500 baht credit at the Oh My Cod fish and chips restaurant.
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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 – At least the coffee is better!
For some people Bangkok is only Sukhumvit, for others, only the Silom CBD. For me it was Siam Square and the Star Hotel (now razed) just beyond the Reno was my base of operations in '93. The entire place was closed by 22:00. There were no 7 Elevens in the area, a bitch if you were jet-lagged. After dark the area was crawling with cockroaches, much worse than anywhere in Bangkok now. The Siam and Lido had huge lobbies and cinema-paintings. The old-school places were still operating – those weird Sino-eateries along the Siam side-streets. Of course there was no skytrain, and when Michael Jackson scheduled a couple of concerts at National Stadium traffic was set in concrete those nights. He cancelled the first one due to "dehydration" – Thais were furious, front-page in the Post the next day. There was no coffee-culture at that time, I hadn't learned enough Thai to order properly from the coffee-stall ladies and couldn't handle the massive sugar levels. And as for Western food, well, McD's and KFC were around, but seriously, the Hard Rock was the only place where you could find a decent Western-style meal in the area, and one of the few places open past 22:00. The only malls were Siam Centre and MBK. And everything was dark and deserted at night. They still don't want teens out late so things close when they close. I've never been to CM2, but I got to know the streets of Siam Square well. When the skytrain was being built, Siam Square was a nightmare. Previously it was great as many buses went through there. I switched and started staying other places. Once the skytrain was built, well, it's a Mecca now. I visit Siam Square every time I'm in town. 19 years ago, it was very different. I guess you could say that about most places, but Siam Square was vibrant in those days. Nowadays you have more options, it's more crowded than ever and weekends are a bit much. But the coffee's better!
Being stopped on Sukhumvit by The Fuzz!
Once again your column mentions police stopping motorbikes and even taxis with farang passengers in the Sukhumvit, Asoke / soi 22 area, conducting searches and questioning. My girlfriend runs a beauty salon in soi 22 and she and her brothers have been in this part of town for many years. She regularly gets pulled up on her scooter and her explanation for the attention to this area is that Klong Toey Market is one of the biggest drug dealing locations in Bangkok and the Fuzz are only doing their job as well as they can under difficult conditions and they are not indulging in shakedowns, although those not wearing a helmet will cop the usual request for a small contribution. Although we hear from farangs whining about this, the fact is that far more Thais are searched than non Thais.
Speeding and the purple persuader.
I was driving back from Pattaya to Bangkok on the motorway on Tuesday morning and the cops had set up speed cameras on the approach to the second toll booth and pulling cars over for speeding. Cars on the other side of the road were flashing their lights in warning and I slowed right down. That section is only 90 km/h which often gets people. But the radar gun must have been a long way back as they got me at 130+ km/h. What was interesting was there was a tent set up where you went to get your ticket and it was all recorded on a video camera the cops had set up. I noticed this so pulled in just past this camera and was able to hand over the "purple persuader" (although he did want more) and was on my way without getting out of the car. I have not seen them set up on the motorway for over a year now. I wonder if this is something new or just a one off.
Medical care mightn't be cheap.
Another reminder to people to think about medical insurance. Last year I bought an insurance policy which covers me for inpatient treatment only. Last week I was stuck down (and that's the right sensation) by kidney stones. Absolute agony. I spent a couple of nights in hospital and had several examinations – X-rays, ultrasound and a CT scan. The total bill was 58,000 baht. I had to pay out of my own pocket and wait for the insurer to decide if they would reimburse me. I'm not sure what would happen if I didn't have that money available or if I needed very expensive treatment i.e. that cost more than I had in my account.
If it weren't for the local lasses?
The unloved doormat farang is the backbone of the Thai bar industry, the golden goose literally. And I'm sure most guys wouldn't come near the place if not for sex tourism. I'll be honest in my admittedly sparse experience of Thailand based on one week in Bangkok and another in Phuket. If not for the naughty nightlife scene, Thailand would be still in the dark ages, have few expats in residence, and not near the current amount of tourists! I see a hot, over-exploited, highly-polluted country. Sorry, there are much better beaches & cleaner water in Oz. Both my day trips to Phi Phi Don (yes, I went back for a second look) were laughable due to the ridiculous amount of tourists / boats there at the same time. This paradise is well on its way to ruin. Not out to totally run the place down, just saying as I saw it, the environment everywhere I went seems to be under so much human pressure. That said, for the farang, Thailand is very different from home, and that for me is where the attraction lies. Coming from a place where saying hello to a girl in a bar constitutes sexual harassment, it feels very liberating, money motive or not, to receive attention from a Thai bargirl. It's an experience you cannot get elsewhere. It's little wonder so many newbies get starry eyed, myself included. But things are probably going to get worse as Thai women become more westernised.
Have a gander at the fat farm!
If what you say about G Spot in Nana is true, I for one would welcome it. There are plenty of men who are fond of the larger lady, and whilst they are not always easy to find in Bangkok massage parlours and the ilk (as compared to Australia for example), they do exist, and we who appreciate the curvy lady will be very pleased at this new development. You don't seem to openly mock those who actively seek out ladyboys, so why mock a bar that is simply catering to a different section of the market? You may not feel you were, but the tone was certainly one of "look, here's something different! Quick, quick, everyone come gander at the fatties!" I can only hope that it remains open until September when I am due for my next visit.
Why no Nana?
It is great to see that Google Streetview is up and running in Bangkok and Phuket. I wonder why they did not drive in front of Nana Plaza. They did the whole of Patpong and even Soi Cowboy. Any inside info? I hope they have it in a future update. Pattaya still needs to be done.
Som and Jeremy who run Denny's Corner on Sukhumvit soi 22 confirm the venue is not moving. They are however opening a new bar direct across the street, under the Regent Park Hotel, in addition to their current venue. Renovations are well under way and the opening party should be any day. They can't decide whether to call it Som's Bar or Som and Jeremy's.
Soi Cowboy's Cocktail Club is taking the bar's name literally and seems to be more a hostess bar with no dancing at the moment.
Ladyboy lovers can breathe a sigh of relief. The transgendered attractions of Cascade and Casanova (and presumably the 3 other ladyboy bars in the plaza too) are not going anywhere. Many a rumour circulated about the future, or otherwise, of the ladyboy bars in Nana Plaza. The ladyboys are now happily telling all and sundry that their venues are secure in the current format and ladyboy bars will continue to be part of Nana Plaza. I know many a sex tourist doesn't care for the ladyboy bars and it's not infrequent that I receive emails from readers aghast that I should even mention the third sex in this column. The ladyboy bars in Nana are a great success turning a handsome profit for the investors.
What's going on at Strikers in soi 4? They've been visited a few evenings this week by the men in brown and told to close up around midnight.
Bangkok Beat, the popular live music venue / freelancer hangout, on Sukhumvit's soi 7/1 have a couple of interesting promotions. Throughout the duration of the European Football championships – that's from now until July 1st, a bottle of Carlsberg will set you back just 70 baht. And for the ladies, every Tuesday is Ladies Night entitling birds to free frozen cocktails from 9 – 11 PM.
The Manchester United Bar on Soi 11 is becoming Champions Bar, which is a great joke given that United were seconds away from being crowned Premier League champions when a piece of Manchester City magic swiped the silverware out of Sir Alex's hands. How sad! How the format of the bar will change I do not know, but reviewing the prices would be a good start – they really are on the high side. A new fit out would be a good idea too. The change in name might encourage fans of rival teams to consider it for big matches which would be a good thing. Isn't part of the fun of watching live sports the banter between the fans of the opposing teams?
Still on bustling Sukhumvit soi 11, the GM of Bed Supper Club, Justin, is about to leave after 6 years in charge – an eternity in that industry. A farewell party will be held on Saturday June 16th with the resident DJs and some special performances – whatever that means.
Now that the staff of all the venues concerned have been informed and it is common knowledge, I can confirm that it was The Nana Group (operators of Billboard, Angelwitch, Las Vegas plus a few other venues as well as being the new landlords of Nana Plaza come next month) who picked up all of the Crown Group. At this stage they will run the bars themselves. They may sell off one or two venues in the future, but for the time being it's business as usual in the old Crown Group bars.
So you've walked up and down Soi Cowboy dozens and dozens of times, and granted your powers of observation may have been somewhat impaired, but I can't be the only one who finds it amazing that the 2 Mom & Pop convenience stores positioned either side of Dundee have not been bought and converted into some sort of nightlife venues. OK, so they will never become gogo bars as no new gogo bar licenses can be issued in Soi Cowboy barring a law change, but still, I would have thought a change of format to a sports bar, a hostess bar or something with a nightlife slant would be much more profitable than the current format. I can only imagine that the owners are waiting for someone to make them a really silly offer.
It used to be that if you wanted to know where all the pretty girls were, follow the Japanese guys but from what I saw this week this theory no longer works. Sitting in Long Gun for the first time in more than a year, there were a heap of Japanese guys in attendance – and a bunch of barkers on stage. It'll be at least another year before I stick my head in the door again.
The Strip in Patpong will host a salsa party on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, that is 14th – 16th June.
The going away party for the manager of The Londoner was held last weekend. The new manager of The Londoner is a Frenchman who has been brought in especially from Hong Kong. Some new blood wouldn't go amiss because things have become a little scratchy in The Londoner. I have been reticent to mention it but service levels have slipped, possibly because some staff moved on to competing venues. The menus have become a mess with various items crossed out, prices changed and rewritten in some menus and not in others and it seems there are always items on the menu out of stock. The chefs are still performing well and what comes out of the kitchen is still decent pub grub.
Throughout my 20s I only read about one novel a year but that all changed in early '98. Not long before I came to Thailand I went to the local bookstore hunting for a novel that might in some way feature Bangkok, where I was about to head off to. I found "The Solitary Man" by Steve Leather, an author I hadn't heard of at that time. Within a few pages I was hooked and I liked it so much that within a few months I had read every novel Mr. Leather had published and have been a fan since. Anyway, Steve has published another erotic Thai short story and it is available in eBook form on the Kindle. I am told that this site gets an honourable mention, as does the Stickman technique for meeting girls online! You can buy it on Amazon UK here and Amazon.com, the original US site has it for sale here.
This week I had a steak with a good mate at Tenderloins in Sukhumvit soi 33. Their Argentinean tenderloin is really good. Anyway, we had a bottle of Aussie red to go with it and my mate asked me what I thought of it. I responded that it would have been better if it hadn't been chilled. Why do some restaurants serve red wine so cold? Once it had reached room temperature it was much better. Anyway, to the point of this story, my mate said something that made me chuckle. He said we could always ask the staff to put the chilled bottle in the microwave. And you know what? I reckon if we had, they would have done so without even a second thought. I really do! Maybe I should test the theory next time?! This is no slight on the staff at Tenderloins who were VERY good it has to be said, it would be just as likely to happen there as it would anywhere else!
One of the longest-running scams against tourists is finally being taken seriously. An announcement in perfect English is broadcast over and over from a loudspeaker system outside the Grand Palace advising tourists that they should ignore anyone who says the palace is closed. The announcement states that the palace is open every day from 8:30 AM – 4:00 PM and last admission is 3:30 PM. In a move that will no doubt upset some of the opportunistic vendors outside the palace who hire out trousers and other items of clothing to those who are not deemed to be dressed respectfully, it also states that visitors can borrow items to wear within the palace's walls for free. It's nice to see something is finally being done about it. Perhaps someone within the palace realised that they were actually missing out on potential revenue?
The newest sports bar on Sukhumvit's grand opening was this past Friday and the party was extremely well-attended. Man, it was packed and everyone seemed to like the place. The Game, pictured here, is real nice inside and the venue has huge potential. It's easy to see it gaining customers from the likes of Gulliver's, Bully's, Bradman's, Jool's and Chequers. The Game is nicely done out, and being located slap bang on one of the busiest spots on Sukhumvit, commercial success is a sure thing. Owners of competing venues had better be on top of their game because I reckon this place is going to take off.
The 2012 European Football Championship started on Friday night and while a Mexican food outlet might not be the first place you think of to watch the games, they will be shown live at the original branch of Sunrise Tacos at New York Gardens at soi 12.
In April, Jake Needham's The Ambassador's Wife was the #1 downloaded book on Amazon UK and the #13 downloaded book on Amazon US. For just 3 days next week, the Kindle edition is being offered free by Amazon as a special promotion for Jake's other books. From June 12 – 14, you can go to either Amazon US or Amazon UK and download the Kindle edition of The Ambassador's Wife for free! Those dates are west coast US time so if you're in Thailand and get there early, the book will be available at its regular price of $4.99. Check the posted price carefully before downloading!
What is it with Thais and grey hairs? I'm not talking about a full head of grey hair, but the odd strand of grey. Like most people my age, I have a few grey hairs coming through – and it doesn't bother me in the least. But the Thais I know – and perhaps more annoyingly the Thais I don't know – are not shy in pointing them out and they do it in such a way that you would think I have a turd on my head! It's almost like having a few grey hairs is some sort of crime. And when I go for a haircut, they seem to see a few strands of grey as a condition requiring urgent remedy. They are shocked when I say that no, keep that dye away from my scalp! It's as if a few grey hairs transcends mere ageing, but is something much, much worse!
Back home guys take their shirt off at the beach, perhaps when playing sport on a hot day, or when they have a tip top body they want to show it off. More and more often I see white guys in Bangkok walking around shirtless or with their shirt pulled up showing off part of their body that, quite frankly, the world could do without seeing. They're not at the beach, they're not playing sport and in most cases they do not have the body for it. Have they just got off the bus from Pattaya or is this the new norm in Bangkok? It seems to be a Sukhumvit and Khao San Road thing; no big deal as we are already looked at with suspicion in those areas.
Quote of the week comes from Lecherous Lee, "It's no wonder bargirls don't like guys who speak Thai because it takes 10 times as long to learn the language as it does to learn all of the bargirls' tricks!"
Reader's story of the week comes from Mega, a gentle day out in Bangkok, "An Afternoon Along The Chao Praya".
The New York Times reports rural Thais are moving away from the farm.
A katoey-loving, beer bar-owning Dane who led a colourful life comes to a premature end in Krabi.
A Thai man complains about a Bangkok taxi driver and gets a beating in retaliation.
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 am interested in providing some money to some people in Thailand in the event of my untimely demise. But since I live here, and the mores of this country are what they are, I would prefer that these parties not have knowledge of money coming their way were I to have a visit from the grim reaper. As is the case with many expats, I have financial assets back in my homeland and many others here in Thailand. Other than using a last will and testament, how would you recommend going about designating assets to be passed to specific individuals and the legal steps needed to see that this is accomplished without undue expense. Additionally, what would happen to the contents of any safe deposit boxes I maintain in Bangkok were I to die and nobody else is authorised access to these boxes? Perhaps there is a book in current publication that addresses this issues and many more pertaining to expats residing in Thailand.
Sunbelt responds: The best and most legal way to ensure that your assets are distributed to the people you want is through a Will and Testament. The beneficiaries need not be informed that they being put in the Will and Testament. The beneficiaries will be contacted by the “executor” only upon the testator's demise. The executor will see to it that every provision in the will is executed to the best of his abilities. If there is no will and testament, your statutory heirs shall have legal claims on your estate in the following order: descendants, parents, brothers and sisters of full blood, brothers and sisters of half blood, grandparents, uncles and aunts. The surviving spouse is a statutory heir, subject to the special provisions of Section 1635 of the Civil and Commercial Code.
Should there be no claiming heirs, the government shall have claims on the estate. In cases of banks, the account will be frozen if there is no transaction for a period of 1 year. The bank reserves the right to liquidate such funds to their use. However, if any heir contests and claims the funds, such heir will have to establish in court that he / she is related to the testator and obtain a court order enforcing the bank to relieve the funds unto the heir. Thai inheritance laws and statutory heirs are stated in Section 1629 of the Civil and Commercial Code of Thailand.
If you were to place items in a safety deposit box, the executor could apply to the bank to open the box with the copy of the death certificate and the court order by means of the will.
Sunbelt Asia has extensive experience in drafting wills and can help you with any questions you may have.
I had a paragraph in the news section describing how quiet it was around the traps this week – and it was – but after doing the rounds on Friday night with a couple of mates I had to remove it. Earlier in the week it was as you would expect for this time of year in the bar areas – quiet. Friday night on the other hand was bedlam, the bar areas overflowing with punters. Cowboy in particular was heaving with a real party vibe. It was so busy that it caused me to think about the future of tourism and specifically the bar areas. When I first came to Thailand the country attracted less than 5 million visitors a year. Last year it received in excess of 19 million and this year it is expected that 22 million+ will visit. When the world economy starts to turn around and with rapidly growing middle classes emerging in many developing (and heavily populous) countries, it's hardly unthinkable that in less than 10 years Thailand will receive 50 million visitors or more each year. This place is going to change big time. I'll leave you to consider what sort of effect that will have on the nightlife areas…
Your Bangkok commentator,