Stickman's Weekly Column January 5th, 2020

Don’t Call Me That!



Black Pagoda Patpong Bangkok

The first time it happened it was so unexpected and so out of the blue that it took a moment to realise what had just happened. We almost did a double take. Did that really happen here in the back blocks of rural New Zealand. We had been walking along the footpath in a small town when a car of bogans had slowed right down and as they passed us one of the passengers screamed out the window, “Fuck off back to China!”

The other half was perplexed as much as anything. We were touring around the South Island and enjoying ourselves. We let it go. It happened so fast and they drive away quickly. She had been abused, but she never felt threatened. Silly words from idiots, there was no need to dwell on it..

Racial abuse is not exactly common in New Zealand, but it does happen from time to time. That incident was almost 5 years ago. But it isn’t the only time it has happened.

About 6 or so months ago I dragged the other half along to my favourite Indian restaurant for lunch. A cold, drizzly Sunday, it was the perfect day for a hot curry. I seem to recall that particular day was about as cold as it gets here and the Mercury barely touched double figures.

We walked out of my favourite curry house with our bellies full. There we were on Marine Parade, the magnificence of the Pacific Ocean right in front of us but we wouldn’t linger to enjoy the view with a gale blowing. We scurried off towards the car, parked just a few spaces away when….

…..a car passes us by and some idiots yell out, “Go back to China, mother fucker!” As soon as the words had left their mouths, they zoomed off.

The other half wasn’t upset and nor was she scared. But she was disappointed. She didn’t expect this sort of thing to happen here.

The first time it happened she had only been in New Zealand a few weeks and I could explain it away easily by saying, “They’re South Islanders, they’re a different breed down there”. But this time it was on our doorstep.

She’ll be the first to say that some farangs aren’t always treated as well as they could be in Thailand, but she’ll also argue that neither does this sort of random abuse happen in Thailand. That’s a big no-no.

Abuse someone in Thailand in this manner and a fight will follow. Give the wrong person the fingers in Thailand and they will try and kill you. Thais have their moments when it comes to farangs, but random abuse isn’t the Thai way.

I was as perplexed as anything. We’re not a mismatched couple. The age gap between us is not significant. She doesn’t look nor act like a gold digger and I certainly don’t look like the stereotypical portly pervert who couldn’t get laid outside a brothel. She was abused because she is Asian.

New Zealand has always been multicultural – but perhaps bi-cultural would be more accurate. Maori and Pakeha (the Maori word for whites). To say New Zealand is becoming increasingly multicultural is accurate, but that’s only part of the story. Auckland is very multicultural. The city I call home felt like it was about 80% white when I was growing up. Today whites make up around 50%. Quite a change in the space of just a few decades.

But that’s Auckland and we don’t live there. Where we are it is much more, shall we say, vanilla. I’m all for a bit of diversity, but at the same time I want New Zealand to be New Zealand, and not New Delhi.

Here in the regions, New Zealand still feels like New Zealand. In Auckland – and particularly downtown Auckland – not so much. In the regions there are reservations against outsiders. You’re much less likely to find that in Auckland.

So what’s this got to do with Thailand?

Parts of downtown Bangkok have a significant foreign presence. Some high-end condominium buildings are dominated by foreigners and may only have a few Thais living in them.

It’s not just Bangkok. There are small pockets around Thailand where it feels like the foreigners outnumber the locals. Parts of Pattaya and Chiang Mai come to mind.

Thais don’t just randomly abuse each other for no reason whatsoever, and neither do they randomly abuse Caucasians. In Thailand, if you curse someone for no reason there will probably be a fight – and fights in Thailand get vicious – so people just don’t say shit like this.

The other half had long forgotten about these two incidents until they came up today after I mentioned a friend visiting the South Island had found some locals a little uncouth. Her thoughts on being abused by Kiwi bogans? Don’t call me fucking Chinese, I’m Thai!


Billboard Bangkok

Mystery Photo

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Last week’s photo was taken inside Margarita Storm, the popular farang food eatery at the mouth of Sukhumvit soi 13 that’s open 24 hours. It’s a favourite spot of mine and it must be popular with the readership as many people got it right. This week’s photo might be challenging to anyone who has not been in Bangkok for a while…


Nana Plaza
 

Stick’s Inbox – the best emails from the past week.

Vietnam over Thailand.

You mentioned that 2 expats who have left Thailand for Vietnam who regret the move. Nobody I know who has done so regrets it. A friend who is now living in Vung Tau, southern Vietnam, claims it is great. He previously lived in Bangkok for 12 years. I think the exchange rate was a major factor in his move. I know some other guys who want to get out of here as well. A few years ago it was 45 baht to the US dollar, now it’s 30 baht. 15 years ago I went to Saigon and $100 US got you 1 million Dong. I went back 2 years ago and $100 US got 2 & 1/4 million Dong. A decent beer cost 15,000 Dong – 50 cents US or 15 Thai baht. So the same cash obviously gets you a much better lifestyle. Nightlife in Vietnam is not comparable to Thailand but it’s there if you look for it. And the outrageous prices asked for real estate, condos, etc. here in Bangkok are insane.

Thailand still the best.

As far as moving to Vietnam goes, everyone knows that none of these other South-East Asian countries have even a fraction of the allure that Thailand still does. Let’s not pretend otherwise. Cambodia, Vietnam, Indonesia, Burma? No thanks! You could drop me into any of those places by helicopter, blindfolded and I wouldn’t be able to tell them apart.

Forever a destination for cheap Charlies.

High-end travellers want high-end services, high-end infrastructure and high-end attractions to visit. Thailand all too often does not provide this. The Tourism Authority and other parts of the government would not know what competition they are up against because they have been brainwashed from birth to believe that everything in Thailand is perfect and therefore irresistible to foreigners. It is not, especially to people who have real money to spend and know where to spend it. And that doesn’t include a country with attitude. Thailand is a low-end attraction and has been for decades. When the country was cheap it attracted cheap tourists. Now that it is no longer cheap they have gone, and they won’t be replaced by high spenders because Thailand doesn’t tick their boxes. It will be next to impossible to change that because Thais are always in denial and will endlessly defend every single thing about Thailand, even when it is indefensible.

Visiting Thailand less.

Thailand is where I go to spend time (and money) to relax, have some nice food and to let things be what they are. In the end it will be the usual Thai fare with service being a bit half-assed, attitudes being a bit disconnected from the world, but in general a nice place. If I am shopping for high-priced items, Thailand is never considered. It is not a place to take all that seriously, as it does not take you all that seriously. I’m feeling the same as you, that there is a growing disconnect between what you spend and the experience you get, and that is having an impact on future visits.

Invasion of the Chinese.

I live near the Ratchada Train Market and Chinese tourist numbers are incredibly strong. I estimate that there is a bus every 2 minutes with 30 people. For 5 hours. Every night. That’s 1.6 million people per year. It never stops. The congestion on the sidewalk is ridiculous and deserves its own story about government incompetence. They are lower class to lower middle class Chinese – loud, smoking, pushy, spitting, trash-generating – but not necessarily bad people. It’s just who they are. They are on cheap package tours. I think they learn little to nothing about Thailand and they are unlikely to return for a second trip. They will be replaced by other first-timers. I assume a lot of the money flows to Chinese companies and the Thai economy is not getting much benefit from these tourists. But with the economy hitting a soft patch, it’s all about numbers now.

Best to part ways on your terms.

With regards to the comments on freebies, always pay! It’s an insurance policy that you sealed the divorce.

The epitome of fat, dumb, and happy.

I’m appalled by the woman you mentioned who said that she and her benighted middle-class compatriots see no need to protest political injustices because their financial resources will insulate them from the evils of any regime, however atrocious. She and her ilk are the epitome of fat, dumb, and happy. And they call into question the assumption of political philosophers who hold that above a fairly minimal level of material well-being, people care more for marginal increases in basic rights and liberties than they do for marginal increases in wealth or income.


Spankys Nana Plaza Bangkok
 

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A sign from the new beer bar area in Sukhumvit soi 7. Photo supplied by a reader.

 

The sign pictured above says anyone who wishes to rent space in the new bar area on Sukhumvit soi 7 can get in contact at those phone numbers. I don’t think the new beer bar complex at soi 7 has anything to do with the real Nana Plaza but that has not stopped some smart Somchai sticking up a sign that may make some people think otherwise.

In the real Nana Plaza, the posts, wires and chains draped with lights that have been erected around the Nana Beer Garden make it really stand out.

The game of open & shut continues at Mandarin in Nana Plaza, with Mandarin Table Dance open and the better-known Mandarin Gogo bar upstairs closed. A wooden panel has sealed off the entrance to Mandarin Gogo Bar with no explanation provided for what’s going on. Figure renovations to be taking place….although this is a mighty strange time to be carrying them out, right at the very peak of high season.

Word is that while some bars had a great New Year’s Eve – it is traditionally the busiest night of the year – a couple of bars on Soi Nana reported that trade wasn’t great and they didn’t do that well.

Soi Cowboy was absolutely packed for the New Year countdown with the entire soi like a can of sardines with revellers – most of whom couldn’t wait for the stroke of midnight to pop balloons and launch their party poppers 10 minutes early.

Despite plenty of people floating around Bangkok’s oldest bar area, some Patpong bars just aren’t getting bums on seats. Times are changing and the catcalls from the welcoming staff need to move with the times and adapt to the type of visitors passing by.

There’s nothing concrete yet on the Rawhide revamp (former Soi Cowboy bar about to go mainstream) from those behind the plan. I’m sure it won’t be long before their grand plan will be revealed.

Stryke Bangkok is yet another bar recently opened in Prakanong. It is going all out with their happy hour with draft beer just 99 baht as are all bottled beers every night from 6 PM until midnight.

From a very reliable source comes word of the lifeless body of a farang on the street in Sukhumvit soi 22 last night who had, apparently, been run over by a bus. As at the time of publishing this column I have not seen this picked up anywhere in the media. Anyone know any more?

If you’re in the mood for pizza and can’t be assed leaving your condo, Hillary Bar does authentic wood-fired pizza and delivery is available. Give them a bell on 086-039-6333 and make your order.

 

hillary-pizza-bangkok

 

Down in Pattaya, there has been some conjecture over just what is happening at the long-running Happy A Gogo. Word is that currently one side of the U-shaped bar is closed. They’re still in business but like most chrome pole bars on Walking Street, trade just isn’t what it was.

Word from Pattaya this week is much the same as last week – Walking Street very busy with mainstream visitors, but not that many naughty boys floating about. The traditional Pattaya punter is now more likely to be found on Soi LK Metro or Soi Buakhao. Soi 6 this week was also said to be doing ok, all of which kind of reinforces the point that punters tend to be gravitating to those bar areas where prices are more reasonable.

Elsewhere in Pattaya, sois 7 and 8 are much the same as they have been for a number of years now and are kind of like a bargirl in her 40s – well past their prime.

I imagine a few Americans got a fright this week when checking the latest exchange rates. Americans resident in Thailand know that the Aussies, Brits and other Europeans have all seen their currencies take a hit in recent years. The US dollar has drifted down too, but has not been hit anything like the pound or the Aussie dollar. This week the Thai baht powered past 30 baht to the dollar, as the rate offered at some private exchange rates dropped well below the psychological level of 30. (It has, of course, been well below 30 at banks for a while now.)

 

super-rich

What you got for your US dollars, earlier this week.

 

I asked the question about freebies with bargirls in a recent column. With working girls offering a customer a freebie, you never can be quite sure just what her motivation is. A cynic may say that she is playing the long game, but in this case I am not my usual cynical self. I believe that in most cases when a freebie is offered it is probably because she really feels there is a connection with the guy. These girls, at the end of the day, are human too – and they have certain emotional wants and needs. If they meet a guy who they think can provide some of these emotional (and physical) needs and wants then, yes, there is a chance she would spend the night with him without payment and no strings attached.

One of the peculiarities of Thai women – and one thing I have never got my head around – is the way many middle-class Thai women use the inside of their car to store half a dozen or more pairs of shoes. In the footwell of their car many Thai females have various pairs of shoes with, seemingly, something for just about any occasion. There’s a pair of shoes to match with an evening dress. There will be a pair of sports shoes and there’s always a pair of flip flops. And there will probably be at least a couple of other pairs of shoes. They tend to be strewn around the footwells and if they decide to offer someone an impromptu lift, the interior of the car can look like a junkyard as they hastily grab their shoes and put them in the boot. Where this gets really odd is that Thai women tend to be quite proud of their car and keep the outside pristine, while at the same time the interior can be a right mess with all those pairs of shoes as well as lots of snack foods and goodness only knows what else.

 

patpong-museum

 

If you haven’t visited the Patpong Museum yet, why not?! And while you’re there, you can have a drink in Grand Prix Bar, the 1970’s retro bar inside The Patpong Museum where it’s happy hour every day, all day long!

It does seem that in the space of just a few short years just two countries – China and India – will account for over 50% of all tourists to Thailand. To use an old cliché, I really don’t think we’ve seen anything yet.

I haven’t received any emails recently about the dreaded TM30 form – and the requirement to report to Thai Immigration where you are, or at least where you are sleeping. Problems with the failure to report using the TM30 form were all over the forums, social media and my email inbox last year. It looks as though the Immigration department has changed their policy, or at least does not seem to be enforcing it. Whether this is a new official policy / whether it’s nationwide i.e. being enforced at all Immigration offices, who knows? Just what the official stance is we will probably never know, but it does suggest that if foreigners make enough noise about an issue the Thais do listen (even if they won’t acknowledge this publicly) – and that is encouraging.

 

 

In a recent column I wrote some predictions for 2020, and beyond. With some of them I took a bit of a punt, but many I truly believe will come to fruition, perhaps not necessarily this year, but at some point in the future. There was another prediction I wanted to make but I chose to leave it out as I didn’t want that particular column to be too negative. But now that it’s 2020 it seems timely to put it out there. I predict there will be more scamming perpetrated against foreign visitors in Thailand. Now that might not sound like much of a call, but my fear is that some will be from those in uniform. The Thai economy is stuttering and some traditional sources of income may have dried up. That lost income needs to be replaced and who better to target than foreigners? We are perceived to be wealthy and best of all, we are gone in no time which reduces the chance of much comeback. Be wary of those in uniform.

When I visit Thailand these days I find that I tend to seek recommendations of new places to go from Thais, as opposed to from foreigners. It has not been a conscious choice, more just something that has kind of happened over time. I think part of it is that most foreigners I know, even the long-termers, seem to be happily living in something of a farang bubble – and many still go to the same old places, you know the likes of Bourbon Street and Madrid and places like that which are perfectly decent, but sometimes you want to try something new. If you are looking for new places to try these days, unless you’re after the best gogo bar in town, consider asking a Thai. Now that they have more money in their pockets, Thais are going to more interesting places and tend to be more adventurous than your average Westerner.

Are the days of nudge, nudge, wink, wink, we know why you’re going to Thailand over? Here in New Zealand, mention you’re visiting Thailand and few will think anything of it. Here in Kiwiland, the days of Thailand being thought of as a destination for dirty old men really do seem to be well and truly over.

 

he-clinic-new2

 

Reader’s story of the week comes from Aubrey, “The Unconventional Adventures Of A Straight Woman In Bangkok“.

Quote of the week comes from a long-time reader, “The only reason Pattaya has not died completely is repeat visitors don’t know where else to go.”

An American is arrested in Thailand after a bullet is found in his luggage in what some are concerned might be a re-enactment of a known scam in the Philippines (historic link here).

A Brit dies in Pattaya as he lights up a firework in front of his fiancée and it explodes.

A thieving Brit is arrested after foolishly nicking some bloke’s motorsai in Pattaya.

A Finn is arrested after making a threatening phone call to Suwannabhumi Airport.

In one survey, Bangkok is said to be one of the 50 most expensive cities in the world.

An Italian is nabbed trying to bring in a diamond-encrusted watch valued at 500 million baht.

 

bangkokcityscape28

Through the Stickman years, a lot of places have come and gone.

It’s hard to believe that I am now in the 4th decade of doing Stickman. The Stickman site – not the weekly column – started at a different domain name way back in November, 1998. So we have seen the ‘90s, the ‘00s, and the ‘10s all come and go, and now we are in the ‘20s. That’s not to say that I have been doing it for 4 full decades but it’s still a fun fact. I still enjoy it, hopefully you still enjoy it and with a bit of luck, there’s plenty of Stickman to come.

Your Bangkok commentator,

Stick

Stick can be contacted at : [email protected]