With more Facebook users in Bangkok than any other city on the planet, Facebook is truly a phenomenon in Thailand and most Thais have embraced it. But I never could get in to Facebook and when I said to Thais that I didn't have a Facebook account I was made to feel like an outlier. It wasn't privacy concerns nor was it time constraints that put me off Facebook. I just couldn't get my head around the way so many people in Thailand using Facebook did so purely to show off.
The Facebook phenomenon is not just a Thai thing, but a Thailand thing. Many of my friends in Thailand are Facebook addicts – and none of those friends are Thai.
Facebook is amazing and its reach makes it incredibly powerful. I get the whole social media thing and as a webmaster I understand the many benefits – social, commercial and others. But that doesn't mean I like it, nor have I embraced it myself. And that is almost entirely because of how I saw it being used in Thailand.
Facebook appeals to Thais at many levels. Thais love to take photos of themselves and long before the age of digital cameras, let alone mobile phones with cameras, Thais would fill their lives – their home, their wallet and their workspace – with photos….of themselves.
Thais love to show off and what better way to do it than on Facebook where your potential audience is not just your friends, family and colleagues, but the entire world?
Facebook appeals to those who love to show off and love to flaunt what they've got (or what they think they've got). Even those of below average attractiveness can post collection after collection of sexy (or otherwise) photos of themselves. If they feel like showing more cleavage than is necessary, they can! Facebook levels the playing field and no longer do you need to be a supermodel for snaps of you dollied up to be made available for the world to see.
Many have an obsession with posting (photos or commentary) on Facebook of where they have been (or what they have done, eaten, bought etc.) to the point that posting about an experience on Facebook seems to have taken on a greater significance than the experience itself. It's no longer about enjoying a place, an experience, a meal, friendship or an event, but telling all of your friends about it on Facebook!
The most important thing in some people's lives is capturing photos to post on Facebook – and show off. Rather than linger and admire a beautiful view, they take a selfie. They may even post it to Facebook right away. Then it's time to go to the next place, for the next Facebook posting. Enjoyment of the moment has been lost.
I know as well as anyone how a camera can get in the way of a day out and how a photographer can become so obsessed with getting the perfect shot that they neglect the moment. This can spoil the enjoyment of the day out for others, with photography is in many ways an individual pursuit. Facebook and its co-conspirators Apple and Samsung have taken it to a whole new level as some obsess about getting the perfect camera phone shot of themselves and post it online immediately.
It's not just about getting the shot but when you post it. Posting to Facebook right away may not be the most effective way to get others' attention. One girlfriend obsessed with the response she got to her Facebook posts that she would set the alarm clock and post early on Monday morning. She explained that most people posted photos of what they got up to over the weekend but by the time Monday came around those posts / photos would be lost amongst the avalanche of Facebook posts. Posting around 6:30 AM on Monday morning was the perfect time because by the time you rolled in to the office your post would be seen by everyone that morning and you would get plaudits from your colleagues and be the centre of attention. Such self-absorption and seeking of praise from others is pure narcissism.
The obsession with the response to online posts – likes and positive responses – cannot be good for the mental health of those with fragile egos. Photos not well received can be a cause of major deflation.
But where the whole Facebook thing in Thailand thing gets really messed up is when it comes to relationships, especially, it seems, relationships between Western guys and Thai gals.
Some have a propensity to post every single thing on their mind to Facebook. Posts in mangled English about the state of their relationship are common. Comments like "Why I have boyfriend but I so lonely girl in this world?", or "I never to experience the true love" or "How I know he really love me?" put relationship issues in public. It gets worse when their farang other half posts something to appease them, all of it seen by their respective friends, family and colleagues. Why farang get sucked in to this game-playing – and that is exactly what it is, game-playing and manipulation – is beyond me.
Facebook can be a lot of fun and a great way to stay in touch with people. It's a fantastic way to promote products. I also hear that it is a great way to meet ladies in Thailand. But coming from a country where it is considered tacky to flaunt it even if you've got it and where there's a fine line between celebrating and showing off, the Thailand Facebook phenomenon where many love nothing more than to show off strikes me as dreadfully distasteful, self-absorbed and just plain vulgar!
The excessive, sometimes erotic interest in oneself and one's physical appearance and the craving for admiration from others by posting photos of themselves and parts of their life that are carefully cultivated is pure narcissism. That's why Facebook is not for me.
Where was this photo taken?
Last week's photo was taken outside Cheap Charlie's in Sukhumvit soi 11, before it opened.
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 – Amazing Thailand.
Yesterday I was driving my Nissan NV pick up about 30 km from home out in a very rural area. The NV ran out of LPG which was a big problem because the petrol tank leaks so I cannot use petrol. I have a special LPG hose contraption that I can use to hook up a cooking gas cylinder to the inlet of the LPG tank on the Nissan NV. I had to walk about a kilometre to get back to the main highway so I could catch a song-tao back towards Chiang Mai to fetch a cooking gas cylinder of LPG from home. As I was walking a Thai man first passed me but then sat and waited for me for 5 minutes and asked if I needed any help. I caught a song-tao back and had to walk the last kilometre to get to my house. I tied a cooking gas cylinder on to the back of my motorcycle and headed back to where I left the NV on the side of the road. Half way back I picked up a nail in the back tyre of the motorcycle so I had to find a shop to get the puncture fixed so I could continue on my way. The workers in the shop were very friendly and did the job efficiently for the normal Thai price. When I got back to my NV and started hooking up the cooking gas cylinder a young man came over who spoke almost perfect English. When I explained to him how I would drive the NV home and take a song-tao back to get my motorcycle he said he would take the motorcycle for me. He put the motorcycle on the back of his truck and followed me home to deliver the motorcycle. I was quite amazed at the kindness. He wouldn't accept any money.
Comments about lady drink pricing made me remember the 60's in Vietnam. All the bars (houses of ill fame) played the same game. Ladies would ask the GI to buy them one Saigon Tea and it cost about half as much again as a beer. Saigon Tea was just that, a small dainty shot glass filled with tea, just plain old regular tea. The girls never got drunk, kept their wits and worked the GIs' wallets like a rented mule! I never found out what their take was on the tea but I'm sure it was something. That was circa 1966 until the end of the war. In 1967 when I visited Thailand for the first time on R&R I don't remember lady drinks being in play at the bars I visited. Perhaps someone else can put a time / date stamp on when it proliferated in Thailand. Maybe Vietnam learned it from Thailand. I also didn't seem to encounter it in Hong Kong circa 1967 nor did I hear of the lady drink phenomena from others who visited. I would just as soon see the girls doing the tea scam as to see them ruin their health with Tequila or Spy.
I went to Phuket for a few days and went out in Patong on Saturday night. It was heaving. Jung Ceylon at 9 PM was packed and Bangla Road was so jammed you had to walk single file in some places. I decided to drop in to Diablo on Soi Sea Dragon, an indoor place that is always full and hard to find a seat in. There were 15 ladies and no customers. Not one. I was the only person in the bar. I thought this strange so wandered over to Rock Hard. I hadn't been there in a while as the vibe went downhill a few years ago when there was a change of management. 20 girls were dancing, all very fit. Besides me there was one other table of 3 gents. This was at 11 PM. Tiger Disco was the same. Both at new and old Tiger, many bars had closed. Bars in the back of new Tiger have been replaced by pool tables. Aside from the bars fronting the street, everything else was empty. This was at midnight Saturday night! Yet the main street continued to be virtually impassable. Thinking about it, Phuket has gone through a major transition. Although tourism from western countries is down, tourism from Asia, particularly China but also Japan, Korea, Singapore and India more than makes up for it. These people are not interested in a girl for the night. They want a spectacle, a place to wander after dinner, take photos and selfies, have a drink and listen to music. I see nothing sinister in this transformation and will not complain of the good ol' days or the downfall of the sex industry in Thailand. All countries mature, develop and change. Thailand also. While there will always be a sex industry here, it will evolve, as the Thai economy evolves. No reason to complain about it, just go with the flow.
While I'm no fan of Bangkok by any stretch, it's ridiculous to portray the city as unsafe while at the same time portraying any major city in the USA as safe. This is pathetic beyond any pale of imagination for any person who has visited Detroit, DC, Chicago, etc. It really is ridiculous. I have never once felt unsafe in any part of Bangkok and at any time, even 4 AM walking down alleyways. But try that in Detroit, and I don't care what time it is. Forget about it. Ditto for any of probably a hundred cities in the USA, and I do not exaggerate here. You will be killed, knifed, robbed, raped, and not necessarily in that order.
I noticed you linked to an article about how hazardous Thailand can be for tourists / foreigners. I came across an article
in a Swedish tabloid mentioning this very fact. The article is in Swedish but the annual deaths of Swedish citizens in Thailand are as follows:
The two main contributors are said to be traffic and drownings, with traffic mentioned more but the article doesn't break it down between the various types of deaths. I would guess that a large portion of deaths occur when people rent motorbikes and dozens of deaths annually could have been avoided by something as simple as wearing a helmet. That's just me guessing, mind you. I always wear a helmet myself and I avoid riding a motorbike in heavy traffic to begin with, but I see so many farang out there who seem to throw caution to the wind, as if they were indestructible just because they feel great on their vacation, zipping around in heavy traffic on a scooter with the wind in their hair. Stupid, I say. Reckless.
Offence vs. defence.
Every time I read or hear about the horrendous traffic dangers and woes in Thailand it calls to mind the extensive effort, practice and study placed upon defensive driving throughout most countries in the world. Defensive driving is a great and valuable tactic. Unfortunately, when you get behind the wheel or straddle a motorcycle in Thailand you're automatically up against the greatest offensive team known to mankind.
The former American manager is back at The Strip, and staff who had left have returned.
Happiness has returned to The Strip in Patpong soi 2 with the American manager who left 6 months ago now back in charge. The odd Aussie who had been running things recently and is blamed for driving away the best girls has been relieved of his duties. Superstars Nina and Noi have returned, along with many other girls who had left. As was reported in recent weeks, The Strip went through a rough patch following the departure of the American manager who was extremely well-liked by staff. The bar was out of control a few weeks back when a fight broke out and escalated in to a knife fight with one of the dancers requiring hospitalisation for serious stab wounds. The knife-wielding coyote dancer and all of her friends are gone and will not be back. It was all happiness and smiles in The Strip on Friday night when the American was back in charge, girls bouncing around the bar and smiles all around, very much the atmosphere of a family reunion. The Strip is back!
The victim of the stabbing at The Strip is making a good recovery and will be back in the bar very soon, replete with a nasty scar that runs the full length of her thigh.
The vultures have been circling at Dollhouse with one bar group offering 40 million baht for the lease to the Thai lass who now controls the bar. Amazingly, she turned the offer down. Did the boiling temperatures of March cause her to lose her mind and think there was room for someone to offer more?
Still at Dollhouse, the notices that say any customer caught taking photos or video inside the bar will be fined 20,000 baht have been taken down. Those saying there is a 200 baht fine for any glasses broken by customers remain.
Just along from Dollhouse in Soi Cowboy, Shark has joined the ranks of bars with gogo dancers and coyote dancers. Barfining one of Shark's 20 coyote dancers will set you back 1,500 baht. The barfine for gogo dancers remains 600 baht.
St. Patrick's Day is this coming Thursday, March 17th, and popular farang entertainer Lee Shamrock will perform at Mulligan's Irish Pub on Sukhumvit Soi 11 from 9 PM until late. Irish beer, fun, frivolity and random chaos should all make for a fun night.
Bar Bar in Patpong soi 2 – right next door to The Strip – will celebrate its 10th anniversary next week, on Friday March 25th, with a sushi girl buffet and other fun and games.
Lighthouse has a great lineup at present and a fun vibe with engaging ladies who really do interact with customers. However, if you're watching your pennies, be careful of some girls in Lighthouse ordering two Tequilas at once when you offer them a lady drink. I've heard of this sort of thing in the Philippines – double lady drinks – and it's now happening in Soi Cowboy at Lighthouse.
Growing demand for private time with a pretty service provider is seeing asking prices soar – and these prices are being met by hungry Asian customers who have zero interest in negotiating and will happily pay the asking price. In Rainbow 4, Asian customers are now being quoted a standard 4,000 baht for short-time by mamasans who pitch the girls to customers admiring them dance on stage. Oftentimes the deal will be brokered before the customer and the lady have said a word to each other. What's in it for the mamasan? Obviously a commission but just how much? 500 baht per transaction? 1,000 baht? Given the large number of girls in Rainbow 4 and the relatively small number of mamasans, and given that these mamasans could easily arrange a dozen liaisons a night, that's a nice little earner they're on.
A long-term foreign resident with a high profile announced that he was returning to England after 14 years in Thailand. A normal guy living in an extreme city is how I described Howard Miller in an interview several years ago. The young English media mogul made quite a name for himself in Pattaya, first in media, then as head of the volunteer tourist police before appearing in the English series, Big Trouble In Tourist Thailand. A testament to the respect with which Howard was held, for several months he was the British embassy's man in Pattaya where he took on the role of British Honorary Consul. Howard shirked the stereotypes of the typical Pattaya expat – he didn't drink, smoke and didn't really seem to care for the bars, although towards the end of his time in Pattaya he invested in some bars. Howard's departure is Pattaya's loss and the UK's gain.
Some tell me I have been unreasonably harsh on Soi Nana in recent times and particularly on Nana Plaza, which I continue to describe as seedy and sleazy – descriptions I absolutely stand by – while at the same time I have also reported that the soi is on the way up with the arrival of Hooters, along with new buildings under construction in the area. So in the interests of fairness and balance, it has been suggested that I dedicate a little space to saying something positive about Nana Plaza. It's not all bad, right? Here goes: Nana Plaza is undoubtedly the best bar area not just in Bangkok, but in all of Thailand, for ladyboy lovers. It might even be the best place in the world for those who have a thing for ladyboys, or merely want to get a selfie with one. Nana Plaza has 7 dedicated ladyboy bars and there are a few more where there is a token post-op ladyboy or two masquerading as a woman, unbeknownst to most punters. Yes, there are far more ladies in Nana Plaza than there are ladyboys, but the percentage of ladyboys in Nana Plaza is much higher than in any other farang bar area. As such, if you are a ladyboy lover out there, you're going to love Nana Plaza!
It has been pointed out that the concept that a bar area charges an entrance fee wouldn't work because it would potentially reduce the number of visitors – which would not be fair on tenants inside paying rent. So in a bar area like Nana Plaza – which is the obvious choice for an entrance fee – it would not work. However, at an individual bar level, it would work – and there is one particular bar in Nana Plaza which would be an ideal test ground. The bar I am thinking of opens early and can be full within 30 minutes – and stay that way right through until closing. Do you know which bar I am referring to? Let me know by email and I'll tell you if we're thinking of the same venue.
The French are the world's great romantics. Are they also the world's great brothelkeepers? Just take a look at a list of some of the French-owned and run gogo bars around town. Bacarra. Bada Bing. Pink Panther. Mandarin. What all of these bars have in common is a lineup of dancers who are that little bit sexier than most other bars. Often I think of the most successful bar bosses around town are Brits, but look closely and it is the French who are behind some of the best bars.
A mate in Pattaya tells me he comes across traffic police checkpoints more often than ever before and it's not just helmet and licence checks, but drivers breath alcohol is tested. Drink driving has long been a major problem in expat society. Thailand takes the issue of drink driving very seriously and these days there's little wiggle room. The penalty for many crimes in Thailand can seem like a slap on the hand with a wet bus ticket, but not for drink driving. Loss of licence is mandatory as is a fine of several thousand baht. There is usually also a lengthy period of community service which can be anything from sweeping the floors in a hospital to donating blood every few months. Community service can last 1 or 2 years. It doesn't stop there. There can be compulsory counseling and last, but certainly not least, you will have a criminal record in Thailand. And who knows what that might mean in the future – one day that might somehow be used against you when it comes to a work visa application or visa extension. If you're stupid enough to get caught drink driving twice, expect prison time. So don't do it!
110 baht for a bowl of khao soi gai, the curried noodles dish from the north particularly popular with Westerners, might sound like no bargain but just like the ladies of Rainbow 4, if you want the best you have to be willing to pay for it. The outlet serving khao soi gai in the revamped food hall in Emporium does a fantastic version with a thick, aromatic broth and cubes of chicken breast rather than the chicken leg on the bone favoured by some vendors. It's worth going out of your way for.
I hear in Bangkok some entrepreneurial expat tenants are offering their rented condo on Air BnB when they are away for short periods. Such sub-leasing of a rental property is usually in breach of the terms of the rental agreement and I imagine some property owners would be none too happy if they found out about it. If you are doing this – and it seems more than a few are – remember in Thailand there are few secrets, and in condo buildings the security guards and the juristic office staff are very much in touch with what is going on and who is coming and going. With this in mind, if you are going to list your rented condo on Air BnB, it pays to have a good relationship with these people, lest they tip the property owner off!
Thanks for the nice emails about the opener of last week's gentle photo essay about Sukhumvit soi 16. Some readers mentioned that they would like to see more of Sukhumvit and downtown Bangkok but don't really know where to go. I sensed some trepidation, almost as if there was some inherent danger in exploring the city's sub-sois. Let me allay your concerns. The great thing about downtown Bangkok by day is that it is generally very safe. You can walk around and explore and the only real worry being that you might get lost which is all part of the fun. So next time you're in town consider exploring a new neighbourhood. For what it's worth, wherever there are canals there's usually plenty to see.
It's March and Bangkok is getting hotter. Checking out the temps in Bangkok in the weather app, the bit that gets me is not so much the temperature, but what the temperature feels like. One day this past week the temperature in Bangkok was 36 degrees but according to the weather app it felt like 43. 43 degrees Celsius is no fun!
I notice that every day this week the dollar dropped a little against the baht. It was only about .2% each day, but it was consistent, every day. With the Thai economy hardly humming along, why is the baht getting stronger, albeit only a smidgen?
Sorry to repeat comment from previous weeks but I think it's important to give those of you on overstay a final heads up to get it sorted out before the new overstay penalties come in to force next week when anyone who has overstayed their visa faces bans from being able to re-enter the country. There is a sliding scale with the longer the overstay, the longer the period in which you are banned from returning. The new rules differentiate between those who leave voluntarily and those picked up by the authorities and found to be on overstay. I have to say that injury / sickness preventing you from leaving the country aside, I really cannot think of any legitimate reason for overstaying your visa. As I have said numerous times, staying on top of your visa is one of the most important things for an expat resident. And let's be frank here, many on long overstays are up to no good.
A reader has a conundrum for the brains of the Stickman readership to solve. I'll forward all responses to him and he will honour the prize if he thinks you have figured it out:
If you want to give your readers a knotty conundrum to solve then ask them why some commuters don't get on the BTS at Siam even though there's plenty of room in the carriage. I can't figure it out. Almost every evening at rush hour I walk between two lines of 5-10 commuters who don't follow me into the near-empty carriage. The doors remain open for a minute or two but they just stand there in a queue as if they're waiting for the next train. This makes no sense at all because as far as I know there is no express train along the Sukhumvit or any other line worth waiting for. Or am I missing the bleeding obvious here? At least one pal thinks I'm seeing dead people. I shall leave a $10 bar tab open at The Robin Hood for any reader who can resolve it.
Quote of the week comes from a submission from Mr. Anonymous, "I get the sense that even the hardcore mongers are on their last legs, physically, emotionally, morally, and financially."
Reader story of the week is a medical adventure in Thailand, "Sukhumvit Stroke".
The Straits Times looks at what it calls the dimming of Thailand's star.
Charges against a Hong Kong photojournalist possessing a bulletproof vest in Bangkok are dropped.
Andrew Drummond asks whether Thailand's most prolific farang blogger has become disenchanted with Thailand.
An article in The Washington Post by an expat Thai shows how efforts are being made to silence critics.
The New Zealand Herald perpetuates the usual myths in an article titled Inside the Thai sex trade.
The new overstay rules which come in to effect next week are outlined in the Bangkok Post.
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.
There were no legal questions received for Sunbelt this week.
* So please, someone, send something in for Sunbelt to answer next week!
I'd love to write about farangs with a profile in Thailand who have upped and left. The list is growing with the departure of Pattaya media mogul and all-round good guy Howard Miller from Thailand this week. Candid comments by a prolific farang travel blogger, admitting that if he had first visited Thailand now he probably wouldn't have stayed were a surprise to many. And then another friend, a high profile expat, mentioned that he is liquidating his assets in Bangkok as he prepares to split his time between Thailand and elsewhere also came out of the blue. If these people can fall out of love with Thailand, anyone can. Don't burn your bridges back home. Nothing is forever!