Stickman's Weekly Column July 30th, 2017

The End Is Near

Life has a funny way of serving up the unexpected.  On Monday I was reading positive feedback from readers about the previous day’s column.  Two days later I was on the phone to Dave The Rave, fulfilling a long-held promise that he would be the first to know that the next Stickman weekly column – that is this one – would be the last.  What happened?

Many independent, owner-operated, Thailand-centric expat websites have come and gone over the years. Many have been garbage.  Some have been good.  A few have been very good.  The best were run by those who got out and about themselves, observed with their own eyes, had decent analytical skills and perhaps most importantly, made the effort to engage readers.  MangoSauce stood out.  BangkokBadBoy had its moments.  Morally Diminished had potential.

The days when what was said online being dismissed quickly – it’s only the Internet, they would say – are long gone.  Today the Internet is far and away the most powerful form of media.

The comings and goings of Bangkok expat society has never had much coverage in the mainstream English language media in Thailland, which in reality serves educated Thais and is hardly for foreigners at all. Websites changed that and a few have chronicled periods of Bangkok’s colourful expat history.  I’d like to think that this website, especially this column, is one such site.

Some of these sites that chronicled the underbelly of Bangkok expat society no longer exist.  The aforementioned sites have long been taken offline, cut short in their prime.  In the cases of MangoSauce and BangkokBadBoy, I’d suggest that the owners stopped and / or removed them from the Internet primarily due to concerns that their respective sites might have an effect on whether they could continue to live in Thailand.  Thailand is full of jealous expats and those who stand up and say things which might not be considered pro-Thailand can find themselves brought to the attention of the authorities by said jealous expats.  The respective owners of those two popular sites enjoy the Bangkok lifestyle very much, and the potential cost of losing that was so great that they decided to call it quits.

I’ve long wondered how this column / site would end, and how I would feel when it was all over.  It has, after all, been a big part of my life for a long time.

Despite writing a Bangkok-centric column whilst living in New Zealand, reader numbers are as strong as they have ever been.  This column has been humming along nicely and its popularity endures 2+ years after I left Thailand.  I really didn’t know if it would work, but it seems that it did.

So what happened?

To understand the situation, you need to understand the ownership structure of the site.  2 years ago I sold a majority share in this site.  I would have sold it lock, stock and barrel but the buyer would only purchase it if I stayed on.  No Stick would mean no deal and he wanted me to retain a share so I had a truly vested interest.  So what I used to do in Thailand, I have been doing from New Zealand.  I still write the weekly column.  I still publish the readers’ submissions.  I still correspond with readers.  And despite geography it worked.  For my efforts, I have been paid a fixed amount every month.  It’s not a lot and it’s much less than I used to make in the past, but at the end of the day I enjoy working on the site and putting the column together.

This week the majority owner said that he would struggle to pay me for the rest of the year.  The money is not the end of the world and I won’t go hungry, but I have to ask myself: is it worth continuing with it if I am not being at least partially rewarded for all the time it takes to put the column together?

I enjoy it so there is no issue there.  But let’s be frank, the time spent on Stickman each week is considerable.  It is equivalent to a full-time job.  In other words, if I work on this column I don’t have the time to work on other projects.

There are options.

I could reduce the time spent on the column and publish a sort of Stickman light weekly column. Honestly, I just don’t like the idea of that.

I like doing what I do, but I don’t particularly wish to continue to write the column and do all of the other stuff I have to do if I am not going to get some financial reward from it.  That reward was not great, but it was something.  The time commitment to do it properly is significant.

I could register a new domain name and publish the column myself.  I’d be the big boss again.  I did not sign a restraint of trade clause so I could continue to write the column at a new domain name and it would be all mine.  I’d have to make the effort to monetise the site.  I’d have to set up affiliate ad programs.  I’d have to contact businesses who could benefit from exposure and see if they were keen to advertise. That’s all very time-consuming and challenging to do from afar.  It’s one thing corresponding with bar owners and managers to gather news and gossip, but selling ads to someone from 10,000 kilometres away, especially to new advertisers would be a real challenge.  And to be frank, I never really enjoyed that part of it.  A salesman I am not.  And I don’t know if I really want to go through the hassle of setting up a new domain name and establish a new advertising network….all to do the same old thing.

The sad part is that there are still plenty of stories to tell and a few big ones I have held back.  I do enjoy putting the column together every week and like I say – and this genuinely is important to me – I know many of you enjoy tuning in.  So many readers have told me over the years that Stickman is a big part of their Sunday routine and on the odd occasion when I don’t write a column I get emails from readers saying their Sunday was not quite the same.  It’s really nice when people genuinely enjoy what you do.  It does motivate you to continue with it.  But ultimately the time required to put this column together each week, let alone all of the other little jobs that are part of running the site, is significant.

Next week’s column will be my last and I guess that means the end of Stickman as you know it.

 

 

smooci-stickman

 

 

Where Was This Photo Taken?

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Last week’s photo was taken on Sukhumvit soi 6, looking west with All Season Place in the background. This week’s photo is remarkably easy…even if I am being a bit tricky selecting this particular shot of the location which shows it in an atypical state.

 

Stick’s Inbox (The best emails from the past week.)

Time to say goodbye?

I have little doubt that you are seriously considering your position with the website after being censored.  It is one thing to use your discretion about what you could publish while you were in Thailand, but to be censored in the way you have been, making it no longer possible to write what you want while overseas, is a very different matter entirely.  It is clear from your comments about it that you regard the person responsible as an idiot who has little understanding of how the on-line world operates.

They’d be livid if the shoe was on the other foot.

As you point out, the Thai women posting photos of Western men and comments about them would be absolutely livid if the same thing was done by farang comparing Thai women.  I wonder how many guys might hire you to see if they’re the subjects of discussion, haha.

No fan of sexting.

How degenerate can some people be?  I’ve lived by the old e-mail / text rule that “if you wouldn’t write it on a postcard don’t send it electronically.”  As for the Fat Pig, why does he need to say such things and why is his profile picture one showing him in hi-vis?  A garment rarely associated with high-flyers. Perhaps I’m strange, but sex texting or nude selfies are not my thing, be it sending or receiving.  And regardless of their station in life, I try to accord all the same level of respect.  Hopefully, I am not unique in this aspect.

Traveling Thai females and condoms.

The question posted about whether a Thai woman can bring condoms to Italy might seem naive, but one risk that a young Thai woman might face trying to enter a Western country is the perception that she could be a sex worker.  Condoms should be OK as long as she’s not carrying too many.

Thai girl worldliness.

I’m impressed the girls manage to grow a community of that size without managing to stick the proverbial spoon in each other’s back along the way.  The part about lack of knowledge in many Thai girls resonates very well with my experience in talking to girls all over Asia.  Thailand seems to be a place where a lack of curiosity and no interest in knowledge reigns supreme.  Even some I talk to that are college-educated outside Thailand seem to have managed to keep infusion of knowledge exactly to the confines of what was needed for their degree and nothing more.

Projecting a bad attitude in the bars?

I don’t really see the bad attitudes that I keep reading about.  Yes, there is the hustling for drinks, that has always been the case.  It depends on the girl and on the waitresses – but then they are there to make money and it is all part of the game.  Not being too stingy with the drinks (but no need to go overboard either), keeping your hands off the girls unless you are invited, and a little bit of politeness always have, and still do, go a long way.  I suspect that a lot of the guys that complain about bad attitudes have simply taken their own bad attitudes in with them.

thaicupid

Misogyny amongst mongers.

Misogyny amongst mongers is something so many players of the game are in denial about.  And it’s neither funny nor admirable.  This extends to those who refuse to wear condoms regardless of the type of sex they have, then boast about it or set such actions as some sort of goal to be achieved.  That is a truly pathetic commentary on a man’s need to feel some bizarre sort of self-esteem at another’s expense.  Only someone who has conceded to life as a loser would embrace such a philosophy.

Soi Nana becoming known as Soi Africa.

In regards to the Africans on Sukhumvit, it beggars belief that the Thai police don’t crack down on them more.  You know most of the speculation and rumours but have you heard that the African men are not merely pimps and drug dealers, but male sex workers?  Either for farang women looking for a black guy while on holiday or the African men are gay for pay sex workers.  Men who have sex with men (MSM) for money?  I’d be interested to read your thoughts on this in an upcoming weekly.

When the stars all line up.

To my surprise, I had the most fabulous night at Spanky’s in Nana last night.  Great music, tremendous vibe and a fun, good-looking bunch of girls.  I hadn’t been there in years but I was bored after a work function so I popped in.  It was some kind of ‘70s TV theme night with tunes from Mission Impossible, Hawaii Five-O, Bond, etc . It doesn’t often all come together these days.  Very occasionally, I come across a one-off great night.  When it happens it’s always unexpected and usually in a venue I haven’t been to for a long time.  Sadly, it’s rarely repeated when I go back for more.  It used to be weeks before the stars would align but now it’s more like months or even years.  Still, it can be found.  It happened to me in Shark once last year, and again in Magic Table earlier this year.  I had a good night at one of the King’s Castle bars in Patpong a few months ago too.  It will probably be crap next week though!

Replicating Vegas / Amsterdam the way to go?

I have to admit it is slowly getting harder to find old-style, fun gogo bars but I do try to look on the bright side and keep a British stiff upper lip about it all.  I’ve been saying to people for ages that Thai gogo bars are very slowly becoming more like western lap dance clubs.  It’s hard to know just how successful they will remain if / once that becomes the norm.  Sure, tourist types would be less concerned about lady drinks or barfines and slightly less sensitive to drinks prices than regular mongers but I’m still not sure if there will be enough punters to sustain them if the bars become like those in Las Vegas or Amsterdam.  After all, one of Thailand’s major selling points for this type of nightlife over the years was the very fact it wasn’t the same as Vegas or Amsterdam.

Thais and trash.

In the last 12 years of living in Thailand I have noticed many, many occasions where Thai people have seen something, particularly, my something, and taken it upon themselves to suddenly consider that particular something to be trash and throw it away, instead of doing the rational and common-sense thing like asking first whether that particular something is trash or not.  Have you noticed or had other people ask about this before?  Because again, I’ve seen this many times and it baffles me.  Just recently I had a cleaning lady throw away my perfectly good computer bag.  This can’t possibly just be me seeing this.

 

 

Girl Of The Week

Kel, escort, BangkokDreamsEscort

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kel-bangkokdreamsgirlescort2

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dollhouse-new

 

 

The word from Soi Africa Soi Nana is that neither the Police nor Immigration are doing anything more about all of the hookers provocatively dressed, overtly friendly African girls walking up and down the seedy soi.  The girls are not working per se, they are just standing on the street.  Technically, that’s not illegal and if their visa is valid and they’re merely lingering, what are the police to do?  Of course the authorities could do something about it but they choose not to.  The big bust a couple of weeks back to which the media were invited is now being seen for what it was, a horse and pony show.

And it seems these African ladies are exploring more of Bangkok.  While Soi Nana is Africa Central, they can be found along Sukhumvit Road down to the Asoke intersection and beyond, past soi 23 and as far as Penalty Spot.  And I have also received reports that some are making it over to Khao San Road late at night where they tend to trickle in after midnight.

And the advice of a long-term reader is to take extra special care if one of these African beauties sidles up to you.  He suggests they have learned a trick or two from the light-fingered ladyboys.  When one African lady embraced said reader, she made an attempt to grope him in what he thinks was an effort to distract him while her other hand went for a lucky dip – trying to pickpocket his phone or wallet.  Whether this was an isolated incident or is a common MO, I have no idea.  Have your wits about you on Soi Nana and beware of the loitering ladyboys and Africans.  Note: I specifically do not mention Thai women because they are generally not known for being pickpockets.  They prefer to suck the money out of you other ways.

Butterflies, the Nana Plaza gogo bar which was busted after an underage agency girl was found on the premises, will reopen this Tuesday, August 1st.  There has been some talk of a possible venue name change but I don’t know how much truth there is on that.  At least one mamasan from Billboard (owned by the same people as Butterflies) will move over to Butterflies along with her stable of girls.  There has been no more word about former Butterflies’ manager Oliver’s situation.  I’m afraid this column will end long before Oliver’s fate is known so I can but wish him the best.  Mate, if I was you, I’d strongly consider doing a Drummond.

Still inside the plaza, Angelwitch has never felt the need to offer discounted drinks, so I guess it ‘s a sign of the times that Angelwitch girls have been passing out flyers on the ground floor of the plaza promoting happy hour which runs through until 9:30 PM.  Let’s be frank – this is yet another crap Nana Plaza gogo bar happy hour with a limited selection of the usual cheap and nasty drinks like rot-gut vodka and gin, Sangsom, Leo and Chang for 95 baht.  No-one can deny that drinks under 100 baht in a bar with sexy dancers is a good deal, but I just don’t care for these happy hours where only crap drinks are offered.

You have always got much better happy hour deals down the road at Soi Cowboy.  Take Tilac for example where all drinks (except cocktails) are 100 baht before 9 PM or Shark where all drinks are 80 or 90 baht – I can’t remember which – before 8 PM.  You can order the good stuff like Jack Daniel’s or Johnny Black or if you prefer a beer, you’re not confined to the cheap stuff and have reasonable choices like Heineken or San Miguel.

Still in Soi Cowboy, one expat friend tells me that #174 in Crazy House might be the hottest girl in the Cowboy area at the moment and is in hot demand.

Back to happy hour prices, it should be noted that Erotica in Nana Plaza still has Chang for 95 baht all night long.

Over in Patpong, the consensus seems to be that the best bars at this time are Glamour in soi 2 and the old favourites, King’s Castle 1 & King’s Castle 2, both of which are experiencing a renaissance.

 

club-electric-blue-bangkok-dance-contest

 

Dance contest fans, mark August 26th in your diary.  That’s when the next Nanapong dance contest will take place at Club Electric Blue in Patpong soi 2 with girls from the host bar, along with girls from Club Electric Blue Pattaya and Dollhouse Bangkok all competing for the usual prizes.  This dance contest celebrates the 15th anniversary of the bar.  Expect the usual revelry and with 10 baht Tequila shots all night long, the bar will be pumping.  Doors open at 8 PM.  These events are popular so aim to get there early.

Progress continues at Checkinn99’s new, hopefully long-term home on Sukhumvit Soi 33.  After two temporary homes in Sukhumvit Soi 26 and above Zak’s in Sukhumvit Soi 11, the opportunity arose to take over Christie’s Club, near the start of the soi.  The soi 33 of old is history and the hostess bar format is dead.  What was Christie’s Club could not be better suited for CheckInn99.  The front of the bar is being modelled along the lines of the original CheckInn99 format with a large entertainment space.  The back of the bar can accommodate stage performances, theatre and movie nights.  There was a setback with the first builder – as is so often the case in Thailand – but renovations are now going full-steam ahead with a new builder and it is hoped that CheckInn99 will reopen in mid-August.  The restaurant will open a little later.

I don’t know how much of a readership this column has in Pattaya (as opposed to the rest of Thailand) but I do get plenty of email from readers in Sin City.  Some don’t like it that I cannot help myself commenting on how the place has changed and how different it is to the Pattaya of old.  I am not alone in my comments.  Corresponding with an old friend resident in Pattaya this week, he said something which really made me laugh, “I’d rather visit the dentist than Walking Street.”  Pattaya has changed.

Still in Sin City, Babydolls reopens this Thursday, August 3rd, after being ordered to close for 30 days. Welcome back to the jungle.

And while Babydolls returns to the fold, hands on gogo bar Windmill is the latest Pattaya chrome pole bar to be slapped with a 30-day closure order.  No details as to why but anyone who knows what Windmill was famous for will hardly be surprised.

 

babydolls-pattaya

 

I am hearing more reports from both friends and readers who have flown in to Thailand to be met with long queues at Immigration.  I also note that one world travel blogger says the queues at Suvarnabhumi are the worst he has experienced anywhere in the world.  Long queues at Immigration in Bangkok is nothing new and for the last 3 years there have been more reports of long queues at Immigration, particularly at Suvarnabhumi Airport in the high season.  Now people are talking about queues at Don Meuang, the quieter of Bangkok’s 2 international airports – and these reports are in the low season. Arriving to long queues and a long wait to be stamped in to the country all comes down to luck and how many flights arrived at the same time as yours, as well as how many Immigration officers are on duty.

If you’re in to movies set in Thailand, a low-budget action movie popped up on the torrent sites this past week.  Death Fighter is set in Thailand – that seems to be enough for some people – but to be frank, don’t waste your time unless you really have a thing for corny action movies.  It’s not been reviewed on IMDB yet but when it does I’d be surprised if the average review score gets even close to 5.

Christopher G Moore’s latest book is a 25-year odyssey into his memories of Cambodia.  Memory Manifesto’s 35 short chapters reveal Moore’s personal map of the Cambodia labyrinth.  Moore worked as a journalist, novelist, and essayist which took him through T-3 prison, Khmer Rouge minefields, border refugee camps in the company of activists, artists, film makers, musicians, writers and unsavory characters.  It is described as a powerful vision of one writer’s memory shaped by the forces of myth-making, illusions, history and imagination.  You can grab a copy from Amazon.

 

memory-manifesto

 

For you married expats who gravitate to Savannakhet for your annual trip to get a new multiple-entry non-immigrant O visa, are you aware that there is another consulate in the region which issues this class of visa?  The Thai consulate in Saigon also issues multiple-entry Non-O visa based on marriage to a Thai national – and just like at Savannakhet there is no need to show proof of your financials.  All you need is a marriage certificate, a signed copy of your wife’s Thai ID card, a copy of her house book and the 200 USD fee – they only accept US dollars at the consulate in Saigon.  Drop your application in before midday and you can collect your passport the next afternoon.  Savannakhet may be a cheaper destination to get to, but Saigon is much bigger, much more interesting, much more fun and definitely worth a trip if you have never been before.

I have previously grumbled that the word “amazing” is completely overused these days – and I refer to its usage in regular conversation and nothing to do with the TAT’s slogan of ‘Amazing Thailand’.  There is another word I find is totally overused these days and that is the word blessed, as in “I feel blessed to have….”  It’s not just overuse of the word, it is the context so many people use it in regards to Thailand.  I almost want to vomit when people tell me they are blessed to have discovered Thailand or blessed to live in Thailand.  Blessed?  Really?!  I never hear any of these people say they were blessed to have been born in the USA or the UK or any developed Western country.

It is generally advised not to exchange money at airports but Bangkok might just be an exception.  You can get good exchange rates at the main Bangkok airport.  If you go to the lower ground / basement level at Suvarnabhumi Airport, the two best known Bangkok private money exchange outlets, Super Rich and Vasu, each have a booth there – and the rates are significantly better than what the money exchange booths of the big banks at the airport offer.  Each of Vasu and Super Rich have branches downtown and while the rates downtown are a wee bit better than at the airport – the rates at the airport are still very good.  Downtown, Vasu is probably the most convenient – it is on the corner of Sukhumvit soi 7/1, below the Nana BTS station.

 

thai-baht-exchange-rate

How do these rates compare with today?

 

Quote of the week comes from Arsenal Alex, “If you don’t involve or make problems for any Thai people and you pay the required “fees” then you can do absolutely anything in Thailand.

Reader’s Story Of The Week comes from Mega, “Around The Traps in S.E. Asia Part 6“.

An Aussie slits his own throat at the main Bangkok airport.

Baggage handlers at Suvarnabhumi Airport were caught stealing from luggage this week and arrested.

More details are revealed about Alexandre Cazes, the Canadian who ran AlphaBay in Thailand.

If Air Asia has its way, Hua Hin could soon have an international airport.

The Bangkok Post takes another look at Alexandre Cazes, the wealthy young Canadian behind the darknet site who hung himself in a police station cell.

 

kosmo

 

SunbeltLegal

Ask Sunbelt

Sunbelt Asia’s legal department is here to answer your questions relating to legal issues and the law in Thailand.  As next week’s column is likely to be the final Stickman weekly column, please make sure you get your question to me by Wednesday morning Thailand time to I can get them to Sunbelt Legal to answer in time for the final column.  I will only accept a maximum of 3 questions as I don’t want what is in all likelihood the final column to be dominated by legal questions.

 

Question 1:  Can a non-resident obtain a motorcycle license in Thailand?  I already have a driver’s license and a motorcycle license here in Hawaii.

Sunbelt Legal responds:  In general, you must show a resident visa of some kind when obtaining a Thai driver’s license.  You can obtain a Thai motorcycle license using your American license without having to take the test but the regulations require that you have a resident visa (non-O, non-B etc) and a certificate of residence from your embassy.  Some offices may forego this requirement but the regulation is that you must have a long-term visa.

 

Question 2:  I have been counting down the years to turning 50 and am just 2 months away.  I will qualify for retirement and that’s it, I am done, I will leave Australia forever.  I want to bring my cat with me and want to know if it is possible to bring her to Thailand.  I know I will not be able to take her back to Australia with me from Thailand but that is ok, once I leave I ain’t ever coming back.  What do I need to do to get my cat in to Thailand?

Sunbelt Legal responds:  You must obtain an Import Paper from the Department of Livestock Development before your pet’s arrival if you are importing your pet or plan to stay in Thailand for more than 6 months.  You should also contact officials at the International Quarantine Station at the point of entry to inquire about procedures involved with your pet’s importation which our firm can help you with.  An application request to import live animals into the country is required.

Unless your pet is located in a country that has not had any rabies incidents in the past 12 months (which of course how could you prove it has not happened), a vaccination card / certificate is required for each pet, clearly displaying your pet’s current rabies vaccination, including the vaccine’s manufacturer, batch number and expiration.  The rabies vaccination must have been administered between 21 days prior to arrival in Thailand and not more than 12 months prior to arrival.

Additionally, your cat must have been vaccinated against Leptospirosis not less than 21 days prior to travel.  If not vaccinated, your cat should be tested for Leptospirosis with negative result during the 30 days prior to departure.  Your pet must be vaccinated against other significant infectious or contagious diseases (Distemper, Hepatitis, and Parvovirus) with an approved vaccine at least 21 days prior to departure from the originating country. Cats must be vaccinated against rabies and Feline Panleukopenia Virus (FPV).

Cats entering Thailand will need an import permit if any of the following conditions apply:

  • Your cat will be spending more than 6 months in Thailand.
  • You are importing 2 or more cats to Thailand.
  • Your cat is entering Thailand unaccompanied

Sunbelt Asia will be happy to assist with this.

 

Question 3:  Can you use your American (United States) drivers license to legally drive a car in Thailand? If so, for how long?

Sunbelt Legal responds:  You can drive on your American license in Thailand as a tourist but if you get a resident visa or establish residency you must get a Thai driver’s license.  If you are in the country more than 90 days you will need a Thai driver’s license or apply for an International Driving Permit.  Thai insurance companies may not cover you if you have been in the country for more than 90 days and do not have a Thai driver’s license.

Section 42-2 of the code reads “In case there is a treaty between the Thai government and a foreign government regarding mutual acceptance of driver licence, an alien who does not have an immigrant visa may drive a motor vehicle with a driver licence issued by such a foreign government, or an automobile association authorised by such a foreign government.”  (The US government is a signatory on this treaty).

Sunbelt Asia will be happy to accompany you to the Land Transport Department and help with the paperwork and process.

 

bangkok-airport

The last photo I took before I left Thailand in 2015.

 

Next week’s column will almost certainly be the last.  Unless anything miraculous happens – and I don’t anticipate that it will – next week’s column will be goodbye.  There will be a lengthier and more detailed explanation of why it is the end, a few thoughts on what it has been like running the column as well as thoughts on the side of Thailand I have written about for so long….basically a long goodbye.  I plan to publish a full column with the usual emails section, news + gossip + thoughts, mystery photo, girl of the week, legal questions etc.

Looking beyond next Sunday, the Stickman site will stay up online – there aren’t any plans for it to be taken down – but at the same time don’t expect it to be updated – or at the very least any updates won’t be done by me.  This week’s column should have been the last but things happened quickly and I didn’t want to sign out in haste.  I prefer to give myself another week to say a proper goodbye.

On a practical note, if you have any questions you’d like to ask Sunbelt Legal, this is probably your last chance to do so.  I need to receive any questions you might have by Wednesday morning Thailand time to give the legal beagles at Sunbelt enough time to answer them.  If you have any readers’ submissions you’re working on that you would like published, this will probably be the last week for that part of the site too.

I can still be reached at the usual email address : [email protected]

 

Your Bangkok commentator for not much longer,

Stick

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