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Stickman's Weekly Column October 12th, 2014

Sloppy Service, A Stickman Rant

A great appeal of Bangkok to expats is the affordability of eating out. You have always been able to get a decent restaurant meal for a reasonable price and that is as true today as it has always been. But service in Thailand has always been something of a lottery, ranging from exemplary to appalling, sometimes even insulting. In many downtown Bangkok mid-range eateries, service is rather more consistent these days. That should be a good thing but in this case it isn't.

At a mid-range Sukhumvit eatery a waitress comes to the table, stands there, looks at us blankly, writes down what we say and walks away. There is no greeting. There are no pleasantries. She doesn't repeat the order. No attempt is made to up sell or offer any extras. When the orders arrive they are wrong. We point this out and she takes the food away with a goo-un-dteen (seriously pissed off) look on her face. The correct food comes, delivered by the same waitress who has daggers in her eyes. She never once says a single word.

At the same mid-range Sukhumvit eatery a friend orders a salad, requesting just 4 ingredients – lettuce, tomato, onions and capsicum. The server who has a decent command of English takes a good few minutes to understand what he wants. She is pleased with herself when she repeats the order, confirms that it is right and even shows us that she has correctly understood it by writing it down. She wrote it down right, but what comes in no way resembles what he had ordered.

In a spacious pub in the basement of a Bangkok 5-star hotel staff alternate between staring at one of the most recognizable figures in Bangkok and the young lady he is with who is neither his wife nor his daughter, and the live football match between Thailand and South Korea. There are more staff than customers yet we have to wave frantically to get the staff's attention to get menus. It's the same when we order and the same again when we ask for the bill. I can't help myself and ask the waitress if Thailand can come back from being 2 goals down. She gives me a look like I just insulted her mother.

In a branch of Bangkok's most famous diner I finish my meal and take the bill to pay the cashier directly. Standing in front of her with bill and cash ready to pay she averts her eyes as if she hasn't seen me. She's on her mobile, engaged in a personal call, whispering sweet nothings to what I gather is her lesbian girlfriend. She won't take the bill until she finishes the phone call, a couple of minutes later.

That's just the past few days and I haven't even commented on the age old issues of how it takes ages for the change to come if you pay with cash – and how it is wrong more often than seems reasonable. Or how about appetisers and mains coming at the same time or one person's main coming 20 minutes after other people's or the one thing that should never happen – this is Thailand, after all – rice being served in a Thai restaurant after all the main dishes have been served and some have started to go cold! There are a myriad of issues which have long been problematic and which service staff don't seem to care about and / or restaurateurs seem unable to fix.

Service in Bangkok has always been a mixed bag, but these days it's more consistent – consistently bad.

From staff who are utterly disinterested, staff don't have a clue about what's on the menu, to staff in foreign food restaurants who speak not a word of English yet the menu is only in English, service issues run the full gamut. Errors are common and when it's pointed out that what was ordered is not what was brought to the table, sulking can follow. Service staff with attitudes that go way beyond mere disinterest make to feel like you are an imposition on this person's life, yet they are paid to serve you.

Thai customers can be demanding. Some aren't shy to be critical and there are even a few who belittle service staff. In Thailand, service positions have traditionally been jobs to avoid, 5-star hotel postings and Thai Airways aside. This notwithstanding, it's not that long ago that service in Thailand, while inconsistent, was generally pretty good. Generally staff were pleasant and eager to please and in the farang zone, most eateries downtown had very good service.

In my old favourite, The Londoner, service was almost always excellent. The staff knew the menu well, would inform you about specials which weren't always clearly promoted and some staff members couldn't do enough for you. I don't ever recall seeing a member of staff with a mobile phone in hand and seldom would there be an error with your order. The staff added to the occasion and even a non-tipper like me tipped generously.

But in recent times things have changed and service standards in downtown Bangkok have deteriorated to the point that you might choose not to return to a restaurant, so bad is the experience.

Poor service is not limited to lower or mid-range establishments and the service disease has spread in Bangkok faster than Ebola is going around West Africa. Even at the Oriental Hotel, once regarded as one of the top hotels in the world, a mate and I experienced a service meltdown. Headed towards the balcony bar for a couple of sundowners, we were stopped and told it was closed. We were 15 metres away, could see customers eating and drinking and very clearly it was open. I reverted to Thai and received a very abrupt, No, it's closed. We were no better nor worse dressed than anyone else. There did not appear to be a private function being held. Even if there was a hotel guests' only policy place, my friend was a hotel guest so that would not have applied. Something was going on and there must have been a reason we were stopped. I wondered if this was some game bored hotel staff perhaps played and bet on the outcome of people's reaction. When we asked to speak with the manager they stepped aside and we were allowed to pass. When it came to ordering we struck a waiter with dodgy English and there, at the old lady on the river, I had to order in Thai. OK, no big deal, but who'd expect that in a top-end 5-star property?

Probably that debacle at the Oriental was an aberration; most 5-star hotels are still very good. A recent dinner at the steakhouse at the JW Marriott was faultless. The staff were excellent.

Why has service gone from very good to, in some cases, very bad?

I see two primary contributing factors.

The first is low unemployment in Thailand. Hotels, bars, restaurants and the hospitality industry in general, indeed businesses in many industries, just cannot find staff. There are hotels with dozens of vacancies they just cannot fill. Signs outside many bars and restaurants advertise openings. With business owners desperate for staff they may have little choice but to hire people who may not be well suited to the role.

The second issue is a lack of training, a serious workplace issue in Thailand which transcends industry. Thais are expected to hit the ground running from their first day on the job. Induction and training are often non-existent. With the labour market what it is today, employees have options and they aren't shy to leave a job at the end of the month without giving any notice if they have options. Employers are less likely to provide training for staff with so little loyalty shown. It's a vicious circle.

Thais are ultra sensitive to criticism and if an employee is scolded by their supervisor or boss, they may walk. They may not even wait until the end of the month. Bosses know how sensitive staff are and at the same time how difficult it may be to find replacement staff that they may not, for example, insist on staff refraining from using their mobile phone while on duty. As a result service standards drop.

It's not like business owners are unaware of the problems and many try their hardest but getting the right people – and keeping them – is difficult. With many employers downtown competing for staff, wage inflation in the service industry means some mid-range eateries offer a starting salary to those with zero experience upwards of 15,000 baht per month. Add in a share of tips and service charge and it's a very reasonable take home salary by local standards, more than say a nurse or teacher expects to start on.

A friend who has a number of businesses including restaurants and a professional services company pays some of his service staff (once tips and service charge are included) more than some of his university-educated office staff. The market for service staff has become distorted, and still it's difficult to get good people!

Downtown eateries are so desperate for service staff that they are hiring Filipinos, Burmese, Indonesians and Vietnamese. Some restaurants have few local staff, which may not be such a bad thing. Those from other countries in the region are usually more polite, often friendlier and almost always more engaging than the locals – and let's not even start on comparing their English skills! It's just as well that the ASEAN 2015 regional economic integration does not mean open borders in terms of movement of labour otherwise few Thais would be working service jobs any more.

My pet peeve with service in Bangkok is the way some service staff come to your table, look at you, take your order and leave, saying not a single word. It recently dawned on me why that happens. I was at Chinatown, had ordered a couple of dishes from a streetside vendor and that's what happened – the staff member came, looked at me and said nothing. They listened to what I wanted, wrote it down and took the order to the cook. At a streetside setting that's fine – there is no expectation of anything but the most basic service – but in a mid-range restaurant when a service charge is levied and change is given in such a way that they expect a further tip on top, you expect more.

It seems to be largely a Bangkok thing; elsewhere things seem much better. Service isn't great in Pattaya, but it's better. Whenever I have been in Chiang Mai or elsewhere in the north service ranges from good to excellent. In Isaan, servers are usually friendly and if you speak Thai they can become excited and chatty. Some of the foreign chains are very good service-wise with Starbucks a shining example. Staff are friendly, efficient and clearly well trained.

Away from the hospitality industry, service can be very good. The service staff at Canon Thailand's main Bangkok service centre are just brilliant.

Basic manners, kindness and respect are all too often missing in service at farang restaurants in downtown Bangkok. They have been replaced by total utter disinterest, scorn and at times even contempt. Attitudes of some staff are so bad they ruin the experience and put you off returning to that eatery, even when the food is excellent.

Before I tar all of downtown Bangkok with the same brush, there are a couple of standout venues worth mentioning, where the service is always excellent. Amongst mid-range farang eateries, Bourbon Street on Soi Ekamai is in a class of its own. I guess that's why it's been around for 28 years and counting and its following just keeps growing. And at The Robin Hood on Sukhumvit soi 33/1 service is consistently very good, the staff seem happy, the smiles come easily and the service staff actually add to the experience.

Is it a reasonable expectation that service staff might actually smile at and exchange basic pleasantries with customers, at the very least in eateries where there's a compulsory service charge. Is it too much to ask service staff to actually open their mouth and say something and maybe, just maybe, perhaps even say thank you. Is it really possible that some restaurateurs don't realise that no matter how good the food may be, if service is consistently bad and at times borders on insulting then customers might just never come back. Many Bangkok restaurant owners just don't seem to get it.

Where was this photo taken?


He Clinic Bangkok

Last week's photo was taken of the lobby of Bangkok's Oriental Hotel, at one time considered the finest hotel in the

(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 – People, not cattle.

I agree with your notion that most bar bosses don't understand what a welcoming environment for their staff might be and do. You mentioned Spanky's as an exception; maybe it's the good karma left behind by the owners of the two bars that once occupied the same space, Three Roses and the Hog's Breath Saloon. Another contemporary boss deserving praise is June at the Check-In Bar, a ladyboy lounge that occupies nearly the whole of the ground floor of a small hotel near Sukhumvit, Soi 7. She is both owner and mamasan and of course it helps that she's a ladyboy who once worked as a dancer in cabaret and at Nana Plaza. But in addition, June takes her girls on trips, pays them their share of the previous night's bar drinks the day following, staged a beauty pageant to name a Miss Check-In Bar 2014, is competing this year in the ladyboy water volleyball competition in Pattaya, and, get this, has been known to loan her girls clothing and money. Her sense of group also supports an orphanage that takes care of AIDS children. The result? Incredible staff loyalty, which insures a good turnout every night. She is a strict disciplinarian and has all the other rules in place (quotas, fines, etc.), but the secret is she treats her staff like people instead of cattle. She opened her first bar, an after-hours alco cart on Sukhumvit, just 18 months ago with 10 girls and now has 40. What other bar owner can boast a 400% rise? The problem is that the foreign bosses don't even TRY to think of anything more than the bottom line, and thereby damage rather than improve it.

The damage the industry can do TO YOU.

I have chatted with a few guys I know on Facebook and you can see that so many have slipped down the slope towards the easy way to have sexual relations. They have compromised true passion and a real connection that cannot be bought. Yet they hold in the highest regard bargirls who provide the girlfriend experience. They seem to not want to, or cannot go back. Yet they're expending the same amount of energy. They're so afraid of the responsibility that comes with a truly interdependent relationship with someone who cannot be bought. These men have talked themselves into the philosophy that all women are whores and the man is going to pay no matter what, denying that in a real relationship with a good woman you get paid back in spades while a bargirl only takes care of (aka services) your needs, not you. I have no qualms with the men and women involved in pay for play; it has had its place in human society for centuries. But there is no reason to justify using the industry for what it is and accepting one's role within it.

The girlfriend experience and a real girlfriend are very different.

In Bangkok, middle & upper middle class intelligence, beauty and femininity abounds. It is sad to see so many whoremongers think that the pay for play industry is what Thailand is all about. The working girls aren't a patch on the Thai women you see by the hundreds in Silom, for example. Whoremongers talk about the girlfriend experience with bargirls; there is no comparison between that and a real relationship outside the sex trade. NONE.

Pandora's box opened?

I agree that the massage parlours are superior to gogo bars at every level. The ladies are much better-looking, much more polite and it's a very safe environment. An added bonus is you don't have the unsavoury customers that gogos attract. Most parlours require HIV tests every 2 – 3 months, and bring a doctor in-house once a month for a pussy look. (This was told to me by a mamasan I am close with and confirmed by other mamas and papas in the business). I hope for the girls' sake and the customers' that this is 100% true. I rarely see many farang in these places. I hope you didn't open Pandora's Box.

Sweden and sex tourism.

The newly elected Swedish government hopes to make it illegal for Swedes to buy sex in every country in the world. Maybe they will seek assistance from the Thai Police. At this stage it's only a proposal and it's unclear if it will be accepted by a political majority. You can technically already go to jail for having extras at one of Stockholm's 300 Thai massage shops (I have 5 full-service joints right on my block). But the authorities pretend the venues don't exist, or they just give foot massage. Sweden is a very modern country and at the front line for women rights. We even have a Feminist Party that got enough votes to gain seats in the European parliament. But sometimes it gets plain ridiculous. This would be a law that would be impossible to implement. And what about the precedent? Abortion is illegal in Ireland – should Irish girls who have abortions in Sweden get punished when they return to Ireland? Should we help the Saudi government track down gay guys from Riyadh barhopping in Stockholm? Or Thai citizens here on holiday saying bad things about people you cannot say bad things about? Sweden has a long history of thinking we are morally superior to everybody else and it's our duty to tell the world what's right and what's wrong.

Sticking with the gogos.

Personally, I'll stick with the gogo bars. I've been to a couple of massage parlours with fish bowls, and that just did not do it for me. The bars work for me because I go there for the entertainment and watching the goings on. It is a bit of a show watching and talking to the girls knowing that everything they do or say is just a load of crap. But if you go in knowing that, it's entertaining.

One more collective noun.

I think I'd call them a plague of ladyboys!

Déjà Vu dirty tricks.

Last week I was at Déjà Vu and bought 2 drinks and 1 lady drink. The bill came back, 2 lady drinks and 1 drink (660 baht vs. 630). A tiny deal but still the girl I was with (30 years old, good English) said, "Yes, they do this all the time, in fact I lost a great customer because they over charged him 10,000 baht after a long night of drinking". She literally told me to pay the bill after every drink. Anyway, I point out the mistake to the waitress and she acknowledges I'm correct and brings back the wrong change! I point out she didn't give me the right change and finally she gets it right. SERIOUSLY, what gives?

Anyone for Dominos?

Domino pub is up a set of stairs halfway along Sukhumvit soi 11. It has a really good pool table, no girls, two darts boards and you can ask the owner, a Swiss guy for backgammon boards, or dominos. As a quiet different haven, do check it out and let your readers know if they want reasonably priced drinks in a family-friendly place it's the place to go. In a way I am doing myself a disservice because it is a favourite haunt of mine in soi 11!

Girl of the week

Bonnie, escort exclusive with BangkokEscort.com

I wonder what the significance of 11:35 is. Is it AM or PM? If you find out, let me know!

Bangkok escort

Bangkok escort

Bangkok escort

Soi Cowboy hasn't been its usual self this past week after a large police presence descended on the naughty boy soi last weekend and visited a few bars. That was followed by a period where all dancers in all bars were covered up, bikinis replaced by skimpy shorts or miniskirts making gogo dancers look more like coyote dancers. Within a few days it was business as usual in some bars although door crews were tense, keeping a look out for those who might disapprove of what was going on inside.

One of the few remaining hostess bars in Sukhumvit soi 33, Napoleon has closed. Located deep in to the soi, the bar was known for its large, distinctive mural
painted on the outside wall. The building which was home to Napoleon is reported to have been sold and it, along with the mural, are scheduled to be demolished.

And still in soi 33, one hostess bar which had previously closed, Santana, has reopened.

Renovation work has started downstairs at the Dollhouse in Soi Cowboy. At the same time, the smaller mezzanine / upstairs floor area remains open. When renovations downstairs are complete, that section will reopen and renovations will begin upstairs. What this means is that Dollhouse remains open.

Word from the 5-shophouse-wide gogo bar under construction on the top floor of Nana that was previously Lone Star is that it is going to be jailhouse-themed, borrowing elements from Alcatraz in Pattaya's Walking Street with mini cages for dancers to strut their stuff in.

The new bar under construction a hundred or so metres in to Sukhumvit soi 12 that was previously White Lioness is rumoured to be called The Office Soi 12. There is no relationship with the bar in soi 33 of the same name. It is not going to be gogo format with the stage and poles removed. They hope to replicate Pattaya's popular Kinaree, a venue up the hill where freelancers go during the day and where there are rooms available on the premises. The soi 12 venue will have a lounge style setting. For a few years now I have felt Bangkok has too many freelancer venues and not enough freelancers so it will be interesting to see how well the venue does. Still, the concept is sufficiently different from anywhere else in Bangkok which should add to its appeal. Sukhumvit Soi 12 is an odd spot for a bar, a dead-end soi that attracts mainstream visitors wandering down to the perennially popular Cabbages and Condoms.

Speaking of The Office – the original Office – it's boss Bob's birthday this coming Wednesday, October 15th. There will be free food and the bell will ring. The Office is down the sub soi next to the branch of Family Mart, about 150 metres in to Sukhumvit soi 33.

There are three short-time hotels in Nana Plaza. One is owned by a group which also has interests in a number of bars in the plaza and the owners have placed ads in the rooms for staff. Given how many girls (and ladyboys) use these hotels each night, this is very clever ad placement.

Ocean, the all-white property once known as Livingstone's, is struggling after complaints from neighbours about noise levels. Its point of difference is the great concept of poolside drinks and dining in the heart of the city. Soi 33 has long been known for its hostess bars which to call a spade a spade, are bars with ever so slightly upmarket hookers. There was always the concern well-to-do Thais – who Ocean marketed towards – would not want to hang out in a soi known for prostitution. Indeed, geography has proven to be an issue, but not in the way I thought it would. Soi 33 and the surrounding sois have a number of grand residences, home to old-school Thais. One of Ocean's neighbours is not happy at the noise coming from Ocean and has complained to the authorities who have since ordered Ocean to refrain from playing music poolside and nor are they allowed to serve food and drinks poolside as noise from customers is such that it disturbs neighbours. Ocean is a great concept but they need to find an older, respected Thai to help placate the neighbour. Unable to serve food and drinks poolside, the property becomes just another hotel, bar and restaurant. Resolving this ongoing issue is critical to Ocean's viability.

With the Imperial Queen's Park, Bangkok's largest hotel, now closed for renovations, businesses on Sukhumvit soi 22, particularly the many massage shops, have seen a significant drop in trade – as if things weren't bad enough already. When the giant Emsphere is completed in a couple of years' time – about the same time Imperial Queen's Park is due to reopen (and rumour has it that it may be branded as a Marriott), soi 22 should boom. For the next 2 years, however, one imagines it might be tough going for the many businesses in the soi reliant on visitors.

On Khao San Road, street vendors will not be allowed to operate from this coming Wednesday. The powers that be still have not decided whether the street should be clear of vendors completely, or whether they will be allowed to sell after 6 PM. Khao San Road has become a real obstacle course to walk along and an open walking street free of vendors seems like a better idea to me.

Angel City Diner in Sukhumvit soi 11 is no longer. The beautifully done out, authentic American diner has closed after stuttering along for the past year or so. It was great when it first opened with good service and very good food, but with no shortage of places to get a burger in Bangkok competition is fierce and the owners decided the location might be better utilised with a complete change of format. It will reopen as a Coyote – no, not a chrome pole bar, but a branch of the local Mexican restaurant chain of that name.

An opportunity exists to purchase a popular gogo bar on the middle floor of Nana Plaza for less than 10 million baht. If you are interested, drop me an email and I will put you in touch with the owner.

And if the idea of being a bar boss appeals but you'd prefer Sin City to Bangers, a popular and well-known Pattaya gogo bar is looking for an investor to come in as a managing partner with a 50% share in the business offered for sale. The existing owner is looking for someone to come in as an investor AND to play an active role in running it. The asking price for a 50% share is not a great deal of money and you'd be partnering with an experienced, successful and honest American bar owner. Drop me an email if interested and I will forward it to the owner.

Palace A Gogo will be the newest gogo bar to open in Pattaya and is currently under construction, in the prime spot on Walking Street right next door to Sensations.

If you're at a loss at what to do in Bangkok tonight, the Nanapong dance contest takes place in Patpong's best bar, Club Electric Blue, starting around
9 PM. Doors open at 7:30.

A Stickman reader reports that his wallet was pinched by a freelancer he picked up on Sukhumvit Road this week – so take this as a general warning to be careful out there and if you must pick up girls off the street, insist that she registers with reception at your hotel, her ID card is lodged and the details recorded. Needless to say said reader didn't do that and the cops said there's not much they can do.

Temptations & Cockatoo ladyboy bars took part in the charity ladyboy water volleyball event held in Pattaya last October by the Rotary Club of Thailand. The unique event helped raise over a million baht for Thailand based charities. On November 1st they will take part in this year's event and are looking for sponsors to help beat last year's total. If you'd like to sponsor the team and help raise money for this great cause, visit the LBWVB site here.
Last year's event video can be seen here.

Why do the ping pong show bars only use white ping pong balls? In Foodland I noticed orange ping pong balls for sale this week and as much as I dislike these degrading shows, I wonder why no imagination was ever shown to use, say, glow in the dark ping pong balls? Seriously though, the ping pong ball shows are a disgrace and should have been outlawed long ago.

Internet (and mobile phone app) dating is huge in Thailand and is easily the most popular means for Westerners to meet local women, whether for long-term relationships or quick hookups. Online dating is a great way to start a relationship – and a great way to end one! If you met your darling online and you genuinely want the relationship to blossom, kill all of your dating site profiles and insist she does the same. If either of you maintain even a single dating site profile then the door is being kept open – and with the ease and excitement of meeting new people, your relationship mightn't flourish as it otherwise would have.

I haven't included so much from Sin City in the column this year as I don't make it down that way as often as I used to. I do monitor the Pattaya news sites though, and one thing that never fails to amuse me are the news reports in local Pattaya news websites involving foreigners. So many of the foreigners look so much older than their reported age. There was a story recently of a 50-odd year old Brit robbed at the Dusit Thani who looked closer to 70 and this week a rampaging Pole arrested on soi 6 looked much older than his listed age. Is Pattaya hard on foreigners or is it perhaps that it attracts those who have had hard lives? Or perhaps those who come a cropper in Pattaya just tend to look older than they really are?

I eat close to a dozen bananas a week, and always try to buy them in a market – not because they're cheaper – which of course they are – we're only talking a few baht – but because they have usually come direct from the grower, more or less. Compare that with some supermarkets which keep bananas in a cold store and once out of that cold store – where they have been for a loooong time – they tend to go bad fast. Bananas are the only item I buy from markets. I always thought before I moved here I would visit markets often but I don't.

In a recent column I featured the situation at Nana Plaza and discussed how the high price paid for the property by the new owners meant they had to charge high rents which in turn makes it difficult for bars to operate a profitable business. High rents for commercial space in Bangkok are far from a Nana Plaza-only thing. All over the city rents are being hiked – in some cases massively – and many businesses across a range of industries are struggling to make decent returns after they have paid the landlord. As businesses compete for the best locations, commercial rents continue to go up. The sad part is that as rents go up, smaller, traditional, charming businesses are no longer viable and are replaced by just another branch of multinationals. These smaller Thai-style businesses that may have been around for decades, generations even, are no longer viable and are forced to close which in turn makes Bangkok feel more like just another international city as it slowly loses its exoticness. Progress is a good thing but Bangkok losing its exotic flavour is kind of sad.

Quote of the week comes from a good friend
, "Hating the country they were failures in and for some reason feeling a success in Thailand because a prostitute will sleep with them is a very distorted view of the world, if you ask me."

Reader's story of the week comes from Farang Dave, "My Journey Through Thailand".

A 19-year old punk breaks a 70-year old Englishman's arm
with a piece of wood when a 40-baht parking fee is not paid.

Australian bikie gangs are expanding
in to South-East Asia.

A Dutchman suspected of the murder of his Thai wife in their home in the outskirts of Bangkok is arrested 3 days later.

A Pole goes crazy in a room above a bar in Pattaya's notorious soi 6 before the coppers
arrest him.

The police have scrapped their scheme to reward officers who turn down bribes from motorists.

The investigation in to the murder of 2 backpackers on Ko Tao is mired in doubt after
the arrested retract their confessions.

Old wounds are reopened as an English family wonders what really happened to their son who died on Ko Tao
last Christmas.

Ask Sunbelt Asia 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 Legal Advisers this week.

Spellbound Gogo Bar

5 of the gogo dancers in the current lineup at Spellbound, ground floor, Nana Plaza.

There are various clues and indicators of how the upcoming high season may be. The traditional indicators are airline bookings, hotel room availability and visitor numbers in the month or two leading up to high season. There is one indicator I use to get an idea of how things might be come the high season – my email inbox. If my email inbox is anything to go by, this coming high season is going to be a good one. A lot of old names have started appearing in my email inbox, some of whom have not visited for a year or two, and they are asking all the same questions about where to stay, where to party, what's hot and what's not. I've had a real spike in email which is not unusual at this time of year, but it's not usually up by this much. Despite everything that has happened this past year, the tourism industry seems resilient.

Your Bangkok commentator,