From the slums of South Auckland to the cliff top mansions of the East Coast Bays, there are Thais in almost every neighbourhood of Auckland. Out and about I often see and hear Thais nattering away in their native tongue. It's fun observing Thais in this country, especially as they aren't shy to talk openly about their lives. They have no idea that someone might just understand every last word they say.
Thais dominate two industries in Auckland – Asian food courts and massage houses. There are Asian food courts all over the city, each with a dozen or so vendors. Almost half the outlets are operated by Thais and in the case of Laotian, Malaysian or even Vietnamese outlets, often Thais are behind them. At the same time, some Thais in New Zealand are most displeased that some of the fancier Thai restaurants in Auckland are actually run by Chinese or Koreans!
Thais tend to run the same sorts of businesses in Auckland that they run at home, and run them in the same manner too. I still struggle to get my head around how prevalent dual-pricing is in Thai-run businesses. Thai-owned salons offer discounts to Thais and at least one promotes "Thai prices for Thais", written clearly on a sign in the Thai language. In Thai eateries often there will be a menu in English and a menu in Thai which can be quite different, both in what is offered, and the prices.
But some Thais in Auckland don't just rip off non-Thai speakers, but their own kind too. Many Thai-owned businesses only employ their fellow countrymen, often at well below minimum age. $8 an hour is a common figure for food outlet or restaurant staff, barely half the minimum wage.
Massage houses are worse with 10 hours a day, 6 days per week paying a paltry $400 in some parlours. Such positions are only ever advertised in the Thai language, in either the local Thai society magazine or online.
In fairness to the Thais, ripping off their own kind seems to be an immigrant thing than a Thai thing, with articles in the mainstream media showing it's even worse amongst the Indian community. A recent Labour Department raid which resulted in a chain of Indian restaurants forced to close saw staff paid just $3 per hour (and with virtually no tipping, that's all they got).
Getting to New Zealand in the first place isn't easy and Thais in New Zealand know this, so some entrepreneurial Thais masquerade as Immigration consultants. Thais in Thailand asking for visa help on a Facebook group particularly popular with Thais here may receive a private message from a Thai in New Zealand who claims they can help. The standard fee is 100,000 baht – about $NZD4,000 with the poor Thai in Thailand misled in to thinking the visa is guaranteed. Thais scamming Thais is remarkably common and some of the stories online in Thai are as hilarious as they are sad.
In Thai-owned businesses, usually only Thai nationals are employed and the same sorts of shenanigans take place as do in Thailand. Staff are sometimes paid late, overtime may go unpaid and staff can be deducted heavily for the most minor infraction. I guess they have no choice but to hire Thai staff because no Kiwi would put up with such BS.
The odd Thai may have a reasonable job, but Thais don't stand out in professional positions and few thrive in the employ of others. Granted, some have made money in business – but beyond restaurants and massage houses, few other types of businesses come to mind.
Thai restaurants are often the first port of call and some never leave the restaurant / fast food / supermarket / factory treadmill of unskilled jobs paying minimum wage. Even so, with the minimum wage @ $15 per hour and income tax no higher than Thailand, the minimum wage still equates to a take home monthly pay of about 50,000 baht – and most seem happy enough with that.
Irrespective of their background, their education level and their general station in life, Thais in New Zealand seem to limit their circle of friends to other Thais. Thais with Kiwi friends? I guess there are some but I haven't met them. They might have Kiwi colleagues and Kiwi neighbours but close friends? Nah. They just don't seem to have any real interest in making friends with non-Thais. When I tell Thais here that my friends in Thailand were a mix of Kiwis, Aussies, Brits, Americans and Europeans – and I explain that was one of the things I liked most about living in Bangkok – they don't get it!
The Facebook friends list of Thais in New Zealand is dominated by Thais. Whether that is partly because many Thais speak English to a dismal level long after they have become citizens of New Zealand, I don't know.
Even those Thais who seem genuinely content with the idea that they will stay in New Zealand forever and who seem sincere in their comments that they don't have any real desire to return to Thailand, don't necessarily assimilate in to life in New Zealand. That sets them apart from pretty much every other nationality. One sees, for example, Indians and Chinese at rugby matches decked out in the kit of their favourite team, cheering them on and all very passionate about it. You see Koreans doing voluntary work with the SPCA, and Filipinos helping out with charities and church groups. So it might be a bit of an ask to expect Thais to develop a love of rugby (and in fairness, some do), but most have little desire to do so. They just seem to default to being Thai. Ditto when it comes to the food – few would choose a good roast or steak over som tam or tom yum.
Sometimes I wonder whether Thais resident in New Zealand a long time ever truly feel settled here. Some never seem more than one big argument away from going to the airport and getting a ticket on the next flight to Bangkok. Unless they emigrated to New Zealand with their family, Thailand is never far from their mind. Immigrants from most other countries embrace the Kiwi lifestyle and turn their back on their homeland.
Thais in New Zealand use a popular Thai-language Facebook group with posts ranging from informed to nonsense, but seldom boring. Downtrodden Thais cheated by one of their own have been known to post in great detail about what happened and who did it, which is quickly followed by condemnation from other Thais – sometimes aimed at them for outing one of their own and sometimes aimed at the person accused of cheating them. Thais in New Zealand are much more outspoken than they are in their homeland where draconian libel / defamation laws scare many from speaking out.
Infidelity is a huge issue amongst Thai women in New Zealand with a kiwi partner. Even those whose husband looks after them very well seem to have this inherent need to share their pussy. There seems to be no ill intention, and it strikes me more that they like sex and just cannot help themselves!
Summarising my observations of Thais in New Zealand, few reach mastery of the local language and many work in dead-end jobs paying a mediocre salary. They tend to socialise amongst themselves and don't pursue friendships with locals. They have their
own online support groups and many posts are about how to circumvent local laws. They spend more time keeping up with news from home and have little interest about what is happening in the country they reside. They do eat local cuisine but
it's very much a second choice and prefer the food of their homeland. Plenty cheat on their partner and sleep around, often with multiple partners – and don't think a great deal about it. Thais in New Zealand really aren't that
different to a lot of expats in Thailand, are they?
Where was this photo taken?
Last week's photo was so easy yet no-one got it right! It was taken at the south-west corner of the Asoke intersection, looking south towards Rama 4 Road. It was taken on my recent trip to Bangkok.
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 – Balconies, in a nutsack shell.
In regard to 'suicides' by men falling from balconies, I have been travelling in South-East Asia for almost a year now and have been in over 30 hotels. Balcony railings are very short here. Newbies may think balcony railings are the same height as back home. Most balconies have tiled flooring. A lot of the flip-flops that people wear, and those that are provided by the hotels, are slippery on a tiled surface. More-so if the tiles are wet. As we grow older our equilibrium does in fact degenerate. Add in adult beverages and a good portion of 'suicides' are in fact accidents. I almost took a dive last month on a slick floor just opening up a window. The bottom of the window was knee high. At 172 cm, I am not a tall guy and my nut sack drapes over the railing. It's not very safe. So that's it, in a nutshell.
Another reason to fly Air Asia.
I flew to Jakarta with Air Asia whose carry-on hand luggage limit is a miserly 7 kg. Even Ryan Air allow 10 kg these days. However, I noticed a lot of people with sizeable carry-on bags that definitely exceeded 7 kg. Nobody was challenged pre-boarding or forced to check-in their bags (at potentially exorbitant penalty rates). I find it hard to imagine the polite Thai check-in / cabin staff enforcing this rule or having stand-up rows with customers, as frequently happens with Ryan Air, but it would be interesting to hear others' observations or experiences.
Hourglass ingenuity in Patpong.
I saw a novel way the Goldfinger, Kiss and Super Star bar group have of "timing" the dancers. In this group of bars is a weird contraption made up of two clear 1½ liter plastic bottles taped neck to neck somewhere close to where the dancers can watch them. I thought they were just being emptied of the last of whatever was in them to get out the very last drop. Then I noticed some of the girls tapping on them or even shaking them. It turns out they have sand in them and are utilized as a simple 20-minute hour glass. Did someone get tired of the dancers complaining about different lengths of time for the various songs played during the night and some girls having to dance a few minutes or seconds more than the other group so they came up with this contraption. When the sand moves from the top to the bottom, that set is through dancing and it is turned back over and the sand starts flowing for the next set of dancers. The dancers don't change between songs but anytime while the music is still playing. It is handy to look at and judge when your favourite is either going to come into your arms off the stage or is about to leave you to go dancing.
What did he say?
I went to Au Bon Pain on Second Road in Pattaya one day for a cup of coffee and to use their wi-fi. When I asked for the wi-fi code I was told that it cost 60 baht! For politeness, I won't type what my response was.
Avoiding the ATM fee.
In the interest of cheapskates wanting to beat the 180 baht ATM charge, I was in Pattaya last week and decided to walk in to Bank of Ayudhya and ask how much was the foreign card ATM charge, 150 or 180 Baht (I believe some banks have gone up to 200). 180 it was BUT the bank employee says to me that he can do it at his desk and NO CHARGE. So, I said OK, let us try. I took 25,000 baht, and indeed on the ticket, no charge, and also no Thai charge on my foreign bank (UK) statement. The rate I got was 54 to the pound and I got charged £12 something by the UK bank for the UK exchange charge pleasure. The bank took a copy of my Thai driving license (as I did not carry my passport, but a foreign passport would be ok) and of my ATM card (but not the reverse side with the 3 digit security no) and when asked, said they keep those for 10 years!
Thumbs up, Bumrungrad.
I had surgery for a fractured wrist at Bumrungrad Hospital and I cannot say enough about the excellent treatment and care I received. The surgeon, the anaesthetist, all the attending nurses and staff were top rate and terrific! Some might say it's expensive but it's a lot cheaper than my home country, USA. And my health is worth it to me. Bumrungrad did require me to pay the total estimate at the time of admission, as I do not have medical insurance here, but they did refund quite a bit of the charge back to me at discharge which they did not have to do and I would not have known otherwise. If my US Medicare Insurance would cover me here in Thailand, I would have all my medical needs done here!
Reflecting on the Philippines.
I just got back from a 3.5-week research trip in the Philippines that took me all over and right down to the far south, inspecting coconut factories and plantations. I have to say the working girls in Philippines are not nice. I only spent one night barhopping in Cebu and as in Manila, most bars are full of overweight, lazy, greedy girls. But there is an absolute abundance of good and semi good girls you can meet online in even the most tiny remote villages. Philippines good girls are quite aggressive in the chase and fall in love easily so one has to be very careful from the start not to mislead them but certainly this is the way to go because in my experience, the bars suck! I have never been to Angeles City and most of my time is out in the rural farming areas for my work, same as it is in Thailand. Their culture is closer to ours and their English is very good so you can have a more intelligent conversation with them. They are more worldly and better educated than their Thai or Cambodian sisters. That being said, I still prefer Thai southern girls but the southern Philippines girls, particularly in Davao, are similar.
Some girls from Rainbow 4 have no job for a month, something which won't go down well with girls who have become accustomed to earning well in excess of 100,000 baht per month. Word is that the recent raid on Rainbow 4 was not carried out by the boys in brown, but by the boys in green. Some are saying that it was a stitch up. A 16-year old was working in Rainbow 4 and it is alleged she stole her big sister's ID card. Officers specifically looked for when the raid took place. Management at Rainbow 4 had no idea it was coming – a massive surprise as like so many bars they are usually tipped off well before men in tight uniforms arrive with a warrant. Two of Rainbow 4's big mamas were briefly detained but they were out the next day. Initial word was that the goldmine that is Rainbow 4 will be closed for a month, although negotiations are taking place for the period of closure to be shortened. Many of the girls who are regulars in Rainbow 4 can be found dancing in Rainbow 1. Some have taken a holiday and some are said to be considering working elsewhere. Some claim that there has been something of a change in the customer dynamics with a lot more lookyloos in Rainbow 4 and fewer genuine punters, even amongst the Japanese with whom Rainbow 4 has long been a favourite.
Maybe some of the Rainbow 4 girls could work out of Equality, the new name for the new concept which opened on Friday in the space most famously known as Nana Disco? Initial feedback about the venue is confusion with those who have emailed me not sure what it is. I hate to be cynical, but the muddled concept means I have little confidence it will last.
Also on Friday night in the Nana area the authorities were out in force in the plaza carrying out piss testing. Don't worry, unlike in the Thai areas where customers and staff are tested, whenever there is testing in the Nana area it is the Thai staff only who are tested.
Does the management of Crazy House read this column? Or are they perhaps tipped off about news items concerning their establishment? After complaints about the laser lights in Crazy House shining in to punters' eyes, said lasers must be angled differently because they no longer hit punters in the eyes.
Following on from comments in recent columns, walking Cowboy is a bit easier as the hordes of girls in front of the Arab's bars are noticeably fewer in number.
Has the big boss of the Super Star / Goldfinger / Kiss bar group lost the plot and instructed DJs to crank the music up as loud as it will go?
What I consider to be a reliable rumor has it that the renovation of the big space beside Black Pagoda is set to be completed and will be open for business within a week.
If you want to party late in Bangkok you have a few choices. You can stand outside and follow the path to where the loud music is coming from. If you're not the explorer type, you can allow a taxi driver to take you to an after-hours venue, or you can go to Soi Cowboy where Corner Bar is open until around 5 AM each night, and features loud music as well as more than a few ladies milling around who are looking for company.
If twins are on your to-do list (is that what we call a bucket list these days?), Windmill in Pattaya might be worth dropping by as it features twins. Windmill has long been known for being a little spicier than elsewhere. For the true perverts, the 27-year old twins working in the bar are not identical as such, with one going for silicone enhancements and rather chestier than her twin sister.
We foreigners struggle to get our heads around the fact that many Thai men know and allow their girlfriend / wife to work as a hooker and serve foreign men. Often the guy will mill around outside or nearby the bar, and the girls may leave their place of employment and walk right past their boyfriend / husband on the way to a hotel, hand in hand with their foreign customer. She will meet her Thai boyfriend / husband later in the night. The Thai guy benefits financially from the situation and allows it to happen – so long as he benefits from it, all seems ok. This week that all changed after the former lover of a lady dancing in Champion A Gogo on Walking Street was attacked by her former lover on Walking Street, a Thai soldier, who stabbed her multiple times. Despite the efforts of Thai emergency service workers to stabilise her, she died shortly afterwards. So the next time you barfine a girl and walk out of a bar with her, spare a thought for those tables of Thai guy drinking, maybe playing on their mobile phone, or just milling around. Is one of them the boyfriend or husband of the lady you're with?
The stories of Western guys in Farangland calling their girlfriend in Thailand who just happens to be with another guy but lies about where and who she is with really should be a thing of the past. Almost all Thai girls have smartphones and these phones all have a free video call facility, be it Facetime with iPhones or any of the popular apps like Line, WhatsApp etc. If you have any genuine concerns about where your girlfriend is, all you need do is get her to turn on the video call facility and you can see exactly where she is. Of course, this works the other way too so you'd also better be a good boy! One does not want to be doing this often for it suggests a lack of trust in a relationship.
Is there any other country in the world where the pretty maidens of the land store multiple pairs of shoes in their car, often in the passenger seat well? I have never been able to work out why so many Thai women do that given the Thai attitudes towards feet (and shoes). Most girlfriends who had their own car had what seemed like a small shoe store in their car, ensuring that they had the appropriate footwear for every occasion.
From this coming Friday, November 13th, the new multiple-entry tourist visa will become available. I'm one of a small number who have commented favourably on it. Many forum users and bloggers have come up with what I can only describe as moronic critiques of it. The new multiple-entry tourist visa is similar to a triple entry tourist visa, but with greater flexibility with regard to the number of times you can enter the country during the visa's period of validity. For this extra flexibility you pay the equivalent of another $80 (the triple entry tourist visa used to be $120, the new multiple entry visa is $200 (the price varies from embassy to embassy around the world)). The fact that this visa can only be applied for in one's homeland is quite understandable given how many have gamed the system, working residing in Thailand on tourist visa after tourist visa issued by embassies / consulates in neighbouring countries.
Jungle Jim syndrome has been alive and well in Thailand as long as I can remember, but is the anti-foreigner sentiment in Thailand getting worse?! There's a strong anti-foreigner sentiment in Thailand – not just amongst some Thais, but amongst foreigners in the country towards other foreigners who wish to move there. They range from snide remarks about those whose profile is different to their own to criticising foreigners for doing the sort of thing they do themselves (can be anything from drinking a lot to going to naughty bar areas to working without a work permit). The nonsense about why other foreigners (not of the same profile as themselves) should not be able to live in Thailand posted on Sly Geezer is really quite appalling.
An hour after I published this column (!!!!), Dollhouse Darel sends me the following poster and tells me there's an extra dance contest to be held next week, a week before the official Nanapong contest. So if you cannot make the Nanapong-sanctioned event, make it along next week. Details on the poster below!
Quote of the week, "If you take women out of the equation, Thailand really loses its appeal."
Reader story of the week comes K-Stop, "So You Think Thai Women Are Mercenary?"
A gang of fake Thai police officers is arrested by a gang of real Thai police officers in Pattaya.
A Phuket taxi driver is suspended for 6 months after leading a customer to buy a tour package so he'd get a commission.
A classy Aussie in Pattaya tries to run out on a 160 baht drinks bill and cops a hiding for it.
Phuket Police have been given a quota to arrest at least 150 drunk drivers on Phuket per month.
A Thai soldier kills his ex-girlfriend in a fit of rage on Pattaya's Walking Street after seeing her with a farang.
Look out for a future episode of Banged Up Abroad featuring a 23-year old Irishman in Chiang Mai caught selling weed.
A Brit raped in Chiang Mai tells the UK's Telegraph about her terrible experience.
Ask Sunbelt Asia Legal
There were no questions for Sunbelt Legal this week.
Mandarin, a gogo bar on Walking Street, Pattaya.
Every other day there is some mention in the Thai press that the number of visitors annually to Thailand will soon reach 30 million a year. It's a colossal number. Looking closer reveals that Chinese account for the lion's share of the increase in visitor numbers. Where once your average visitor to Thailand was a Caucasian who stayed 14 days and spent money on a variety of things, today your average visitor is more likely to come from China, typically stay for a shorter period of time, and spend money at a limited number of places, some of which are said to be owned by interests back in the motherland where profits may be repatriated to. This would go some way to explaining why visitor numbers are so high, yet many operators are struggling. I get the feeling we're still in the early days of growth and goodness knows what the numbers are going to be like in just a few years time. How long until Thailand is welcoming 50 million visitors a year? Just where the Thai tourism industry is going and what the effects will be for non-Chinese is going to be interesting.