Stickman's Weekly Column December 25th, 2016

Merry Christmas, 2016


The end of another year has crept up on us, a year in which the pace of change in Bangkok accelerated.  Favourite old haunts are being torn down and replaced by shiny new monstrosities that look fresh and modern.  And the face of expat society is changing too with a number of expat personalities passing away and young Westerners flocking to the city.  The pace at which Bangkok is evolving shows no sign of letting up.

It’s been an odd year for me, and I spent more time outside of New Zealand this year than in country, a chunk of that time in Thailand.  That was never the plan but life has a habit of springing surprises.  I enjoyed the time I spent in Thailand, which on reflection is probably because I knew each time I was there that my stay was temporary.

2016 saw the passing away of a number of bar bosses including two I knew well and liked, Dollhouse Darel and Rock Hard Larry.  Other popular bar industry figures like Mama Noi also departed.  Along with the passing away of many friends, we saw the closure of various long-running venues, some of which were icons dating back to the Vietnam War.

Expat society today strikes me as more polarised than ever and rather cliquey.  While it would be something of a generalisation, I’d say that visa challenges aside, younger expats may have had a better year than older guys, with many of the latter who are on a fixed income suffering from weakening currencies, in addition to higher costs for medical treatment and diminishing interest from local damsels who increasingly show a preference for dating guys their own age.

A LOT of interesting new businesses opened this year run by expats, serving expats.  Today Bangkok has far more interesting restaurants, more fun and quirky bars and more places to go than ever, making the city so much more livable than it was when I first arrived.  There are more clubs, more shared interest groups and it’s more diverse than ever.  That can only be a good thing.

In expat Bangkok today there are not just more places to go, but more interesting people to meet and hang out with, and more opportunities too.  Those with skills, or even just those who show a genuine willingness to learn, soon discover there are all sorts of opportunities, be it in terms of employment or business-wise.

Of course there will be the detractors who say that Bangkok has changed for the worse.  I would respond that anyone making such comments is likely the stereotypical expat of old who hasn’t moved on from the days when you would get a wai in the morning when you slipped 500 baht in to her handbag.  Yeah, the bar scene is not what it was but do many people really care?  Expat Bangkok has reinvented itself and today the naughty sector of the bar industry falls well outside mainstream expat society.  In Bangkok 2016, for most expats, gogo bars are no longer cool places to regularly hang out.

Thailand continues to make things more difficult for itself than need be and more than ever it feels like the country is nowhere near fulfilling its potential.  Despite much effort by the government to clean up many long-term problems, there’s a feeling the authorities have gone after the soft targets like unlicensed street vendors, all while corrupt officials continue to plunder the state’s coffers and other major ongoing problems like the poor quality of the education system produce populace that is not going to do anything to get Thailand to break out of the middle-income trap.

Looking at this site, after more than a few readers doubted it would ever happen, the new version finally went live and most seemed comfortable that V2 of Stickman really is not that different to V1.

But today is not a day to reflect too much on this column.  At this time of year, the only important thing is family and Bangkok feels like it’s a very long way away.  This column continues to be a not insignificant part of my life and I remain somewhat attached to Bangkok because of it, kind of like a guy who is divorced but kids mean he will never completely break ties with his ex.

Even I am surprised that after all of these years – and almost two years after leaving Bangkok – I am still writing the column.  The second half of last year was difficult but I felt I was on top of things this year.  It’s so much easier to write about what’s happening in Bangkok when you’re actually there.  I’m not sure what the future holds but am hopeful that a deal can be struck which will see me continue to produce my weekly nonsense for some time to come.

Let me take this opportunity to thank you for your support, your emails, and for sharing a part of your life with me this year as I have shared a part of mine with you.  Here’s wishing you all the best for a very Merry Christmas and a fabulous 2017.  Stay safe, value your friends, cherish your family and enjoy every moment you spend with them.

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Where was this photo taken?

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Last week’s photo was taken of the Fifty Fifth Tower Condominium, an odd-shaped complex a couple of hundred metres up Soi Thonglor from the main Sukhumvit Road.

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Stick’s Email 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.

 

Alternative Thermae pricing calculation.

I wanted to show another way of looking at the Thermae girl price calculation.  It’s not 2,500 baht for one hour of work.  It’s 2,500 baht for six hours of work.  They only have sex for one hour, but they are selling for six hours.  If they charge 1,500 baht, they may only have to wait five hours for a customer.  If they charge 2,500 baht, they may have to wait 8 hours (over a two-day period).  So, actually they may make more money at a higher rate.  I think you have to divide the total number of hours by the total amount they make so it is not so clear.

Scammed on FilipinoCupid.

I have been subject of a dating site scam and should have known better.  I met a lovely-looking lady on FilipinoCupid and we have been corresponding for the past two months via Skype, email, phone and the FilipinoCupid website.  I recently invited her to join me in Bangkok for a holiday and sent her the airfare of 300 Euros to fly from Guangzhou to Bangkok.  She then emailed me a copy of the Thai Airways ticket so it all looked genuine.  She then told me that her Chinese lady employer wanted her to return of a personal loan of 1,050 Euros before returning her passport.  I sent the money.  I waited at Bangkok airport for her to arrive last Sunday but she failed to turn up.  I then got an email from a man saying he was a Customs officer at Guangzhou airport saying the girl had been arrested for attempting to take out 5 kg of gold, a prohibited quantity.  I spoke to the girl and she was crying her eyes out and it all sounded like a genuine sad story.  I then got another email from the Customs officer saying if I sent 182,000 CNY ( 24,742 Euros), she could be released and not face jail.  His email was not from a Chinese government website ending in gov.cn but from a personal Yahoo address.  At that point I suspected a scam.  I have now reported all details to Action Fraud in the UK together with all bank details of her employer I sent the money to and the various email addresses and phone numbers being used.  Yes, I have been very stupid but this scam built up slowly over time and the girl sounded very genuine and sent photos of the apartment in China, her employer and the children she was looking after.  My advice to all dating website users is to never send money for any reason whatever.  If the girl wants to see you, she can borrow money and make the effort.  Better still, do not use these websites!  If anybody is tempted by a great-looking girl calling herself Marivella, an employer called Yulan Liang and a Chinese Customs officer called Jimming Chao, report the matter right away to the dating website and SEND NO MONEY.  I am back with my Thai bargirl here in Pattaya.  She is very real!

Patpong renaissance continues.

Me and a pal headed out to Patpong after a nearby business event, fully expecting the usual subdued atmosphere of decline and decay.  Not expecting much, we walked past the 2 adjacent King’s bars in Patpong soi 1 and such was the noise, heat and hysteria coming from inside we had to take a look.  I was shocked  to see at least 30 of the most stunning ladies rocking on stage like Van Halen!  The atmosphere in both bars was awesome, a far cry from their sad, miserable existence of the past decade or so.  The last time I saw a King’s Group bar like this was when I first came to Thailand in 2004.  All the girls were attractive – I rated not one of them below 7, and many of them 8 or 9.  Highly subjective, of course, but my tastes are mainstream.  All of the ladies were in fine form.  In recent years I’ve frequently walked past both bars, only rarely stopping in for a quiet beer for old times’ sake before moving on quickly to the newer, more energetic bars in Patpong 2.  But last night we stayed put; no need to go anywhere else.  Is this a one-off?  Is something going on?  Is a revival happening?  Maybe we just got lucky.  I’m going to go back tonight!

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Ko Samui philandering.

I went back to Ko Samui, only to find most bars I remembered demolished.  But there was one surviving bar, the Memory Bar.  Fitting name.  I watched this girl with a distinctive tattoo seduce a handsome young man, before they went off together.  I was playing around on the Internet this morning and found that the Memory Bar happens to have a Facebook page.  Looking through it, the girl with the distinctive tattoo is there.  Click the link, and there you are at her home page – and what a story you get!  She still has pictures on her own Facebook page of her wedding to a Swede in April of this year.  Pictures of the wedding – including her Facebook home photo.  Pictures of the house he is no doubt funding, along with a new car.  Trip to Sweden in August, but by November she is back working in the Memory Bar selling her body to any guy who walks in.  You have to feel sorry for the “husband”.  Why are these guys so stupid as to provide a house, car, and god knows what else to find that less than 6 months later she is back selling herself in a bar?  You have to feel sorry for his parents who, based on the photo on the home page, came all the way to provincial Thailand for a wedding and endured the heat (see the sweat-soaked shirt the father is wearing), only to find their son had married a money-hungry bitch who did not care an ounce for their son.  The last comment from the “husband” on her Facebook page was on September 24th.  I wonder whether he has worked out yet that he has been had big time?  If you go to his page, he still has photos of her there so maybe he is still being had.  I am tempted to drop him a note to give him an update on my trip to the Memory Bar but then again, I am sure he will work it out himself sooner or later.  And the sister (I assume it is the sister – same surname) of the “husband” commented.  Do they *REALLY THINK* she is just a barmaid in the western sense?  God, it is mind-blowing.  This is a very public case (you have to wonder what she is thinking by allowing it to be so public – I thought even among bargirls there was still the concept of some “face”) of exactly what happens too often in this crazy country.  Pity there is no law that allows him to claim back every cent he gave the conniving bitch.  Anyway, it’s a perfect example for anyone that doubts that it happens – it does!  A warning to all those love-struck farangs – you are fishing in a pool of piranhas!  Given how long I have been around Thailand now, the whole thing should come as no surprise but even I find it shocking. The picture of the parents at the wedding with the sin sot on the plate I find quite confronting.  It all just blows me away.

Where gogo dancers’ priorities lie.

I went to Nana Plaza and in one of the Rainbow bars I was shocked to see girls are allowed to take their phone on stage.  Is answering calls from their loving sponsors such an urgency?  For me it is a complete turn off.  I imagine the girl spending time with me continuously chatting on her phone (maybe during the naughty part too?).

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Girl of the week

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and might just be able to teach you a new trick or two!

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The expat bar scene is full of rumours.  Some persist and refuse to die, and some even really do come true.  The most common rumours concern the closure of venues which have been popular for a long time.  There were rumours circling for years about how Washington Square would be demolished – and exactly that happened a few years ago.  And then there were the rumours that Nana Plaza would be levelled and developed in to a car park for the Landmark Hotel, something which never happened and almost certainly never will.  The rumour you hear a lot these days is that the Biergarten in Sukhumvit soi 7, the long-running freelancer venue particularly popular in the afternoon and early evening, will close soon.  This has been going around for at least 10 years but it does seem there may be some truth in it this time.  Given what has happened in the immediate vicinity of the Biergarten where the major land owner in the area has been raising rents to levels which effectively force the tenants out comes word once again that the Biergarten will close – and this time there is a date.  A few days ago I was told that Biergarten would close at the end of February.  The rumour was not quite true and while the date was right, the exact plans are not yet settled.  The current plan being discussed is a close-down of the Biergarten at the end of February, followed by renovations.  The current Biergarten lessee will sign a new lease for the front half and carry out renovation estimated to take 3 months.  This will require the current kitchen to be moved forward into the front half.  The back half of the property will be returned to the land owner for separate development.  So it’s not quite a closure, but change is coming…and of course the same thing that happened to CheckInn99 could happen with the lessee of the understanding that a lease extension would go ahead only for the landlord to change the terms and things fall apart.  Let’s see how it plays out.

The new New Wave is scheduled to open in Sukhumvit Soi 7/1 on Saturday, January 7th, in the spot that was previously Bangkok Beat.

Mandarin, on the middle floor of Nana Plaza, will see in the New Year with a big party.  There will be a huge western food buffet, a lottery ticket for each drink (the prizes are kisses, shots & drinks) and lots of girls decked out in sexy Santa attire.  The last two parties have been described as screaming successes.  The Mandarin manager of 12 years said the November bunny party was their second biggest night in all the time he has been there so a good turnout is expected.  Get there early!

A reminder from the news item in last week’s column that Dollhouse in Soi Cowboy has traditionally been a fun place to spend New Year’s Eve with the bar putting on their annual snow party inside the bar.

A lot of bars have something or other planned for New Year’s Eve but were particularly slack at letting me know, hence they missed out on free publicity.  If you’re in town, keep an eye out for posters promoting New Year’s Eve parties.  There will be many.

A report from a long-term reader has it that this past Thursday evening Crazy House was charging a 100 baht entry fee.  I don’t know what this is about and my best guess is that it is one of these extra fees some bars charge at this time of year.  The period between Christmas Eve and New Year’s Day can see some bars increase barfines to silly amounts – as much as 5,000 baht – in an effort to discourage girls from being barfined.  Bars want a party atmosphere all night long and know that any customers who stick their head inside and see a quiet bar may go elsewhere.

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In an email I sent out to a few bar bosses this week enquiring how trade was in the run up to Christmas, word came back was that trade was ok – not great, but not terrible.  There was only one bar boss who mentioned that trade had dipped on what it had been, a bar in Patpong soi 2. All but one bar boss were in agreement that they have low girl numbers and could do with a bunch more ladies but recruitment is proving difficult.

For those who prefer to stay in the Nana neighbourhood, the top of the soi looks like it is returning to normality with the 7 Eleven on the corner and McDonald’s both reopening yesterday.  It looks like the petrol station is about to join them.

The Africans are back selling drugs openly again in and around Sukhumvit soi 13 again.  I guess it was wishful thinking that the mini crackdown was anything more than a publicity stunt.  As old hands know, when Thais somehow benefit from illegal activity the chance of that activity being truly cracked down and eliminated once and for all is not great.

Across the border in Cambodia, expats talk of the changing Phnom Penh skyline with modern buildings going up, thrusting what was until very recently a sleepy South-East Asian outpost in to a city worthy of the term Asian capital.  And it’s not just shiny office blocks going up, the entertainment sector is seeing money invested in it too with Hooters coming to town.  The first Cambodian outlet of Hooters will be on the Phnom Penh riverside.  The sign outside says opening in August but there have been delays and it is now due to open in February.

And still in Phnom Penh, a Toy Run charity event is planned for bikers.  It is an “in-town” run from the Restaurant to the Orphanage which is only about 10 km away.  Riders can meet at Sundance 1 Restaurant on 172 Street on January 7, 2017, at 9:30 AM.  It will be a fun ride from the restaurant to Road 80, about 10 km from town.  Bikers are asked to bring a small present for the kids but the main reason for the run is to deliver a load of much-needed supplies paid for by the main sponsors of the event.  If you wish to donate any new goods at this time that would be of use (that would not take too much imagination) that is also welcome.  The idea is to have a good time and help out for a good cause.

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I am surprised at the negative stereotype many still hold of English teachers in Thailand.  Yes, there was a time when the stereotype of a dishevelled foreigner with a Pratunam market tie, scuffed shoes and the last vestiges of acne standing up in front of a classroom and not knowing what to do was a pretty accurate reflection of many who called themselves “English teachers”.  Some had fallen in love with Thailand and wanted to stay, discovering that English teaching was about the only door open to them, while others were literally approached on Khao San Road by a language school owner desperate to put a white face in a classroom, and offered a teaching gig.  They took it on as a bit of fun, not realising that they had actually been thrust in front of Thai kids who truly believed they were about to gain much wisdom from a foreign language expert.  Things are different today and some schools can receive a mountain of applications from qualified, experienced teachers when they post a teacher wanted ad.  A mix of regulations being tightened up and demand from young, credentialed teachers to gain international experience means that the reputation Bangkok English teachers had is not what it once was.  Don’t snigger when someone says they’re an English teacher because they might just be a professional.

There are many words in English I love modelling for Thais to pronounce, knowing that we will all end up in hysterics when they can’t say it right no matter how many times I model it for them and no matter how hard they try.  Even describing the parts of their mouth they have to move to recreate the sounds correctly can see some words beyond them.  The latest in the series of tongue twisters for Thais is the word roundabout, a word I find that even Thais with a superior command of our lingo struggle to pronounce correctly.  Try it on your honey and let me know if she can wrap her lips around it.

Many a farang who follows Thai politics will point to the England-born, Oxford-educated Abhisit Vejjajiva as their favourite Thai politician and their personal choice for Prime Minister of Thailand.  Khun Abhisit is most articulate and speaks English better than most native English speakers.  As one of the best-known politicians in Thailand, he often features in the press.  I have to say that Khun Abhisit appears to be living rather well as evidenced by his rounder shape.  The days when he was a young, fresh-faced politician are the distant past and whenever I see a snap of him in the Post these days I think, he enjoys his food!

 

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Quote of the week comes from an Old Asia Hand, “Westerners fight to win, Asians fight to kill.”

Reader’s story of the week comes from Mega, “Around The Traps In South-East Asia – Part 4“.

The Nation posted a brutally honest appraisal of Thailand’s tourism industry.

The report of some Thai and Filipino lads beating the crap out of a Norwegian in Walking Street features a photo with the accused lads grinning with the most smarmy smiles.

A tuktuk rolling in New Zealand‘s capital shows how unsafe these contraptions are.

Three foreigners died and six were seriously injured when a visa run minivan crashed near Phuket.

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Celebrating Christmas, Kiwi-style!

This week’s column is a bit shorter than usual with no legal section (no legal questions came in this week) and not much in the way of expat society or bar news.  It’s Christmas and I am sure you will agree that at this time of year, family comes first.  Have a fantastic Christmas and see you in the New Year!

Still your Bangkok commentator,

Stick