Stickman's Weekly Column January 19th, 2020

Retirees, And The Lack Of Anything Meaningful



Black Pagoda Patpong Bangkok

More than a few foreign retirees in Thailand strike me as miserable. Living in their small condo with crappy furniture, a rock-hard bed and not a single photo of family, are they really as happy as they make out?

Many single, foreign retirees in Thailand have simplified their lifestyle to what strikes me as the extreme. Long gone are the days of living in a house, rather many exist in a condo, often a small studio that feels like a shoebox. Where once they might have had a car or two in their homeland, now they may have a motorbike, or no vehicle at all. They might be able to pack their whole life in to just a suitcase or two.

There are plenty of arguments for simplifying your life. Capital isn’t tied up in property. You don’t have the hassles or expense of vehicle servicing and maintenance. You’re free of encumbrances and you can up and move on at the drop of a hat if you so wish.

For the first 5 years in Thailand I led that sort of simple life. I wasn’t retired, of course, but my life was about as simple as it gets. I lived in a studio apartment. I had no car, nor did I own a motosai. None of the furniture was mine. Almost all of my belongings could fit in a backpack. For a few years I was happy like that, but then I had a reality check.

I bought a car. I moved in to a good-sized condo. I bought some furniture of my own, in a style I liked. Life had been good, but it suddenly got a whole lot better.

Owning a car was a huge change. It opened the country up. I could go wherever, whenever, in comfort. I took trips all over the country and got so far away from the farang bubble that at times it felt like I had stumbled on the last remaining parts of the country where they had never actually seen a white guy in person.

At 60 odd square metres, my new condo wasn’t big per se, but it was spacious enough that I could have a few friends around and entertain them, or invite a lady over and not be embarrassed that her pad was bigger than mine.

I got a few plants and what a difference they made. I had no idea what they were, simply that they were suitable for indoors. Such a small thing but I genuinely enjoyed looking after them. As crazy as it sounds, that small addition added something meaningful to my life.

With a bigger condo and now a car owner, I really felt like I was part of the community. I had gone from living the lifestyle of an urban Thai to a lifestyle similar to what I would be leading if I was back home. And with that there was a small sense of pride.

In Bangkok you can have the most basic apartment and enjoy most of your life outside your apartment. It’s a lifestyle embraced by many urban Thais. For many, their apartment is essentially a place to keep stuff and sleep. Most socialising is done outside – or online these days, I guess.

Getting back to retirees in Thailand, the impression I have is that many have simplified their life to the xth degree. They’ve gone too far and there is nothing meaningful left. I get it that some are on a budget and some may wish to minimise responsibilities, but take it too far and what is left? A simple lifestyle is one thing, but there comes a point when you go too far – and I get the impression that’s where some foreign retirees are at. And I don’t think it’s a money thing, I am sure most in this situation could spend a bit more and live a lot more comfortably.

Simplify your life too much and there might be almost nothing meaningful left.

I don’t subscribe to the idea that you need to keep busy, but I do think life is better, and more enriching if you have something or someone to care for, in other words something with real meaning.

I’d love to suggest volunteer work but that’s fraught with risk as it breaches visa conditions and in a worst case scenario could see you shown the door.

Many retirees have a been there, done that, won’t do it again attitude to shacking up with a lady, and prefer to live alone. I get it.

You may not want a lady in your life, but what about a dog? It will be loyal, and cost a whole lot less. There are unlimited options for adopting a dog in Thailand with many rescue dog shelters. And if you prefer a pure-bred, they tend to be cheaper in Thailand than in Farangland.

Of course, if you live in a shoebox, you can’t have a dog so you’ll have to reconsider where you live.

If a dog (or a cat) doesn’t appeal, how about a garden or some plants? A decent garden will require space, but even some plants to look after can do you the world of good – and costs almost nothing. Looking after a few pot plants indoor might sound daft, but it can be good for your mental health. It’s something actually meaningful.

I do wonder if some of the miserable retirees I see in Thailand had something at least somewhat meaningful in their life if they’d be happier.

I get it that simplifying life to the extent that you have zero responsibilities is something some dream of – and in Thailand it’s quite possible to lead a carefree life where the only thing you have to worry about is your visa. But at the same time, it seems to me that some retirees have simplified their life to such a degree that there’s little to nothing left that is in any way meaningful. And that’s kind of sad. It’s not my idea of a great retirement.


Billboard Bangkok
 

Mystery Photo

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Last week’s photo was taken of the stairs leading up to the saphan loy (pedestrian overbridge) on Rachadapisek Road, next to The Lakes condo and just a few hundred metres down from the Asoke intersection and Soi Cowboy.  I thought it was easy but only a few of you got it right. A long-time reader commented that the photos used to be more challenging in the past – and that is true. The reason they are easier is that if they are challenging these days, very few people get them right.


Nana Plaza
 

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

Location, location, location!

I have lived around the corner from Crossbar for 3 years and was a regular customer. It had been running at a loss for years due to a lack of customers. The previous proprietor told me that when he started there was hardly any opposition nearby. Over the years that changed. I was part of a group of 8 Saturday lunch-time regulars. The last time we met we were down to 2. The others left due to redundancy, the strong baht or frustration at immigration policies. Very sad. The new Lebanese business in the same premises also looks to be suffering from a lack of customers. I think your summary is correct – it is a poor location.

Soi Cowboy a family-friendly attraction?

The thing I found most alarming in your photo of Soi Cowboy in this week’s column is the presence of two farang children in the foreground. It has been a few years since I’ve been to Soi Cowboy but surely it hasn’t been watered down to the extent that it is now suitable for children. Am I missing something?

Memories or a big house?

If I had never discovered Thailand, I would now have a fair-sized house, a good car and a decent job. Now I rent a council flat, have no car and work a low-paying job. I did gain a Thai wife. At the end of the day, I can’t forget 28 years of great memories from all my on / off time in Pattaya. You can make your own mind up on that one.

No regrets.

I occasionally wonder how different life would be had I never visited Thailand, but certainly not ever with any thoughts of regret. In 2004, I left the UK with the intention of a long-term stay. The stars had aligned. My father had retired and sold our family business resulting in a nice little pay-off, leading to me being mortgage-free at 34. A small rental income from my property gave me the platform to jump. Selling stuff online provided more income and felt more like a hobby than hard work. 3 fantastic years in Chiang Mai and another 3 in Bangkok were, without doubt, some of the best years of my life. So many great memories and stories to tell. After 6 years the stars aligned again. My father became terminally ill, and the pound dropped from 70+ baht to 50. So, my (now) wife & I married in Thailand and returned to the UK. We now have a daughter (7 years old) and my wife has British citizenship. We are settled here and visit Thailand for a month each year. The plan has always been to return to / retire in Thailand one day. Maybe the secret to having no regrets was helped by the fact I’d secured property back home before I fled, and that I only stayed for 7 years, not a huge length of time compared to some. I feel very fortunate to have had such a wonderful life, and it ain’t over yet.

No regrets.

Regrets are counterproductive. It’s the mind fucking with your soul. Life is about experiences and creating memories. Sad with people who have never travelled, have never taken risks and never been outside their comfort zone. They are stuck in a predicable life with people around them who don’t challenge them / make them happy. I have had periods when I lived that kind of life, and I sure don’t miss it!

Impressions of a changing Bangkok.

On a visit to Bangkok last weekend, two things really stood out: 1) the girls, on average, are bigger. I wondered if this might be the result of a proper diet since childhood, but then I thought of the average Singaporean woman (I live in Singapore) and they are, on average, of a similar stature to the Thai girls back in the day. So perhaps the size of the current crop of Thai bargirls is the product of a bad diet since childhood – junk food, etc., instead of traditional Thai food. 2) the other thing that struck me was how expensive it was – a combination of a soaring Thai baht, and runaway price inflation in the bars. It’s no problem for a weekend, but a two-week holiday would break the bank. As for Westerners living there on a pension, I don’t know how they manage.

Easy Immigration experience.

Just back from the annual visit to Immigration to extend my non-immigrant O visa. Apart from the changing requirements for paperwork in support of the application, there was no question about whether a TM30 form had been submitted (never done), and no requirement for any insurance cover (a note at the retirement desk said insurance was required). On arrival at the Pattaya Immigration office, there was a queue about 15 meters long to get in but this moved quickly and it was only 5 minutes until I was in front of the relevant officer. I have noticed for the last year or so that whenever I have business there that service times are much improved on previous years. It is almost a pleasure doing business there now.


Demonia Bangkok
 

The cops were back to their old tricks again this week closing Sukhumvit Road bar areas early on Wednesday with Soi Cowboy told to call it a night at 1:00 AM and Nana at 2:00 AM. Cowboy copped it again on Friday night with a 2:00 AM shutdown while elsewhere it was business as usual.

The best new venue to open in the bar industry in recent months is not a bar per se (even if it does have a bar as part of it), but the Patpong Museum. If you enjoy visiting the Patpong Museum, you might want to grab a Patpong Museum Patron card which is for those who wish to visit the museum more than once, enjoy the bar within the museum and / or take along friends, family and visitors. The card entitles the holder to free entrance to the museum for a year, and up to five friends at a reduced entrance fee. The cardholder also gets 15 free drinks at the bar and a 25% discount on any purchase at the bar and shop. The card costs 1946 baht, commemorating the year Patpongpanich purchased the plot of land that is today known as Patpong. The Patpong Museum Patron card is a great deal.

Speaking of Patpong, a revival of the old Patpong Mardi-Gras / Fat Tuesday with marching band, sausage eating contest and other fun is planned for late February. There will be a bar crawl geared towards expats to help them re-discover Patpong. The price for beers will be the prices charged in 1983. More details early next month.

Still at Patpong, R.G. Gordin, the author of Five Crazy Years: Memoirs of a Gogo Bar Owner, is writing a book about Patpong with the working title, “Patpong Exposed and Undercover”. It will cover topics touched on in the Patpong Museum like the CIA’s activities in the area and Air America. It will cover the period from the late 1970s – early 2000s.

Following on from last week’s column with word that next month will see Nanapong resume their dance contest madness, the latest event will be held as XXX Lounge in Patpong soi 2, on Saturday, February 1st.

Black Pagoda in Patpong soi 2 have Tequila shots on special, and also have specials on lady drinks. Drop by the bar for more details – and if you have never been there, Black Pagoda is sufficiently different from other chrome pole bars that you should check it out at least once.

 

black-pagoda-promo

 

I always think it’s fair to give a new bar / bar area a good few weeks to get in to their stride so it’s time to get some impressions from those in the know about the new bar complex on Sukhumvit soi 7. I’m afraid what I am hearing is hardly encouraging. Word is that the uptake on space isn’t great. Perhaps leases have been signed and operators have yet to get the ball rolling on the fit-out. Perhaps the lease sales people are feverishly working to get the remaining leases signed off. The reality is that many bars have yet to open and those that are open are not doing much trade at all. The suggestion that maidens aged under 30 aren’t hired, crazy lady drink prices and disgruntled punters refusing to pay the 10 baht fee to use the toilet make me think little business will be taken away from the beer bars of Soi Nana.

Did the people behind this new beer bar complex in Sukhumvit soi 7 consider the rainy season? Questions have been raised about the lack of drainage, the sloping roofs that will wash rainwater straight in to other bars and no protection for the open-fronted venues out on soi 7 itself. Is this a disaster waiting to happen?

Country Road in Queen’s Park Plaza on Sukhumvit soi 22 called last orders for the final time last night. Queen’s Park Plaza is like a ghost town with only a handful of bars still open, the rest in darkness. Some of the ladies working in the remaining bars will move to other venues in the area with the same owners at the end of this month. While some bars have moved over to the new bar complex on soi 7, not all girls are going over. Some of the ladies working in Queen’s Park Plaza live further down soi 22 and with plenty of bars to work at in the soi, there’s no need for them to work so far from home.


 

Down in Pattaya, the PJ DJ Bar in soi 7 – previously known as the Anna Jet Bar – which is described as a popular and established bar & guesthouse, was on the market for several months. Word is that a deal has been done and it about to change hands. What do you do if you can’t sell a bar? You give it away – and so it is said to have changed hands without a single baht being paid! That’s the state of play these days, it seems. Apparently, the buyer is a fellow who has another bar, in Soi Chaiapoon. The new owner will take control on February 1st and there will be a grand opening on March 1st after renovations are complete.

And for those planning a trip to Pattaya, the authorities announced this week that Walking Street will be dug up mid-year as new cables and pipes are laid. Word is that work will take a few months and take place over the low season. The mind boggles at how bad that could be for some businesses.

A few years back a good mate who lived in the same condo building was seeing the building manager. I don’t think things ever got romantic – and according to my other half that was just as well. The other half reckons this lady was also seeing a wealthy Thai guy although whether that was serious, who knows? The other half was genuinely worried at the time and implored me to tell my pal to back away from this lady. The other half was concerned about what might happen if the wealthy Thai guy became aware that my friend had been seeing the same lady he was seeing. The other half frequently draws my attention to stories in the Thai press and on social media of the aftermath of cheating in relationships. It seems to be very common in Thailand and things often get out of hand. The other half wanted me to put something in the column to the effect that relationships in Thailand are not always what they seem. With this in mind, make every effort to check that the person you’re dating – or merely sleeping with – really is single, lest their boyfriend / husband  find out about it and get nasty.

 

aussie-pub0soi11-aust-day

 

With regards to the previous paragraph, more than a few Thai women in a relationship are reluctant to get out of said relationship until they have a new beau lined up. Sure, this happens in Farangland too but I think it’s even more common in Thailand. It’s like the monkey which doesn’t let go of one branch until it has a hand firmly on the next.

The latest trend in expat society takes the cake. There have been a good few reports in recent months of foreigners – both tourists and retirees – stealing from Thais. In an incident that made social media this weekend, a video appeared on Facebook of an old farang geezer in Pattaya stealing a mobile phone from a lady who works in a barber’s shop. How shameful is that? Here we have someone from a wealthy country stealing from everyday Thai folk trying to make an honest living. I don’t like to join the lynch mob but in this case I can’t help myself. Clearly, this was opportunistic and not planned in advance but at the same time, if someone has no self-control and can’t help but steal someone’s belongings when the opportunity arrives then I say throw the book at the sod.

With all of this in mind, CCTV in Thailand is everywhere these days and anyone thinking of being an opportunist or thinking they can be a naughty boy and get away with whatever it is they are up to, think again! Odds are you’ll be captured by CCTV from multiple points. And there are also pretty decent odds that you will be recognised by someone, identified and then the shit will hit the fan. Don’t be a naughty boy – it’s not worth it!

 

demonia-cny

 

Episode 1 of Busted in Bangkok screened on TV in the UK last week and is the latest TV series to look at the tourism underbelly of Bangkok. If ever you accused Thais in the tourism industry of being jaded, watch an episode in this series and you might just understand how they feel. The first episode of Busted in Bangkok is available on your favourite torrent site.

Police hassling foreigners in Bangkok continues to be an issue with those legally in the country frustrated when they find themselves asked to prove their immigration status to overzealous officers. Kampeng Phet 7 Road, not far from the Makkasan Airport Link Terminus, has long been a hotspot for coppers to stop cabs and pull anyone who doesn’t look Thai over. This week a foreigner travelling in his wife’s car reported on social media that their car had been stopped and he has been hauled out, been frisked by 3 officers who would not accept the digital copy of his passport. They insisted that his wife drive to their home and return with the original passport so they could verify that he was in the country legally. He had to wait on the side of the road in the heat and pollution until his wife could come back with his passport. It does seem rather over the top.

The plastic bag ban in Thailand has seen dozens of amusing / sarcastic photos posted online with Thais taking all manner of objects (large rubbish bins etc.) in to stores to enable them to carry their purchases home. It should be noted this is not a plastic bag ban per se, rather there is an agreement between a bunch of major retailers to stop using plastic bags. That’s why plenty of stores, including most small operators, street vendors and Ma & Pa stores still use plastic bags.

 

he-clinic-new2

 

Quote of the week comes from reader Don, “I‘m convinced that the only way to enjoy Pattaya is to be semi-alcoholic.“

Reader’s story of the week is “The Customer Is Always Wrong“, by Rick Racer.

British families are sending relatives with dementia for care in Thailand in what is a small, but growing trend.

A Brit hot-head goes crazy on the skytrain after a Thai accidentally bumped in to him.

A Brit is arrested in Pattaya for selling counterfeit Rolex watches.

Yet another act of crazy jealousy as a Thai man throws a grenade in to the apartment of a lady he supposedly loves.

A Singaporean entrepreneur is kidnapped and tortured in Bangkok.

An American woman kills a Frenchman in a road accident on Phuket.

Bangkok Podcast looks at moving back to Asia after time away.

 

bangkok-black-and-white14

Neon Alley is rather less glamorous by day.

It may be high season, but meaty bar news and gossip has been decidedly light in recent weeks. There are visitors about at this time of year, but at the same time that doesn’t necessarily mean a lot is happening. Bars are less likely to close, change hands or undergo renovations at this time of year. I do check in with industry figures each week and while I miss the odd story, pretty much everyone is saying the same thing – there’s just not that much going on. I’d love to have some interesting news or spicy gossip to report, but things seem kind of settled at the moment. I guess at the end of the day that’s not a bad thing.

Your Bangkok commentator,

Stick

Stick can be contacted at : [email protected]