Stickman's Weekly Column June 7th, 2020

Age Isn’t Just a Number



Black Pagoda Patpong Bangkok

Significant age gaps aren’t uncommon in Thai / Farang relationships. Sometimes, the age gap between may be 20 years or more. In Thailand, it seems like most foreigners give little thought to age gaps when dating. But for plenty of Thais age is an issue and age isn’t just a number!

I was the other half’s first – and remain her only – foreign boyfriend. She grew up in Bangkok but Sukhumvit and the farang areas of the city may just as well have been Liverpool or Chicago. She had no reason to venture to Khao San or Sukhumvit or Silom.

Like most Thais, she had heard the tales of mia farang (literal translation: wife of a white guy)  – a term often used in a derogatory way to describe a Thai woman who dates Western guys for financial benefits / who may or may not have once been a hooker. No self-respecting Thai female wants to be seen as mia farang.

The other half revealed to me recently that she was really quite concerned about us in the early days. She had a few minor concerns about me running a dodgy website, but as she got to know me more those subsided. She was concerned that I frequently took off to Pattaya or neighbouring countries for a few days at a time and she wasn’t thrilled when I returned with hundreds of photos of hookers and bar life. But ultimately she trusted me to be a good boy.

But the real concern she had wasn’t about my lifestyle. It was our age gap. What would people think of her dating someone so old?!

It almost floored me when she put it to me like this.

There is a 10 year age gap between us. In my mind it’s not a small age gap, but then neither is it that large. It’s the largest age gap I have had in a serious relationship.

But that age gap played in her mind and the concern was real. What would people think of her? Would people think she was a guh-ree (harsh Thai word best translated as “whore”).

No-one in her family had dated someone with such a large age gap. None of her friends had ever dated anyone with such a large age gap. Of course, she had seen couples with large age gaps – and often it was obvious that woman was a gold-digger, a hooker, or both. She knows that plenty of couples have a large age gap, but she wasn’t entirely comfortable with the idea of it.

It wasn’t that I acted old or dressed old or looked old or was slower, less energetic or less enthusiastic about life than her – in fact none of that would be true. It simply came back to the fact that she didn’t want people to look at us and think that she might be a gold-digger!

Through a combination of good luck and genes, I can pass for being at least a few years younger than my actual age. That should even the age gap up somewhat. The problem is the other half can also pass for a good few years less than her actual age. Here in Kiwiland, even well in to her 30s she has been asked to show ID when buying a bottle of wine in a supermarket – which both annoyed her and delighted her at the same time.

Going back to the early days of our relationship, I never knew of her concerns.

If I had, perhaps I would have realised that that was why I didn’t meet her family for some time. It was all because of my age, and the fact that her mother is only about 10 years older than me.

There were, I have since been told, long discussions with the brains trust – her sister and her best friend, her two primary confidantes – about the age gap.

It wasn’t that she considered torpedoing the relationship, but she just wasn’t sure how to proceed.

I would eventually meet her family, she moved in with me, we visited Kiwiland and eventually moved here.

Was the other half overly sensitive about the age-gap? Plenty of Farang / Thai couples have an age gap than can span decades. What does the average Thai think about these age gaps?

Talking with the other half, her sister and her close friends about age gaps in relationships, they don’t think there is a magic number. Up to 5 years is fine and no-one even thinks about it if it’s 5 years of less.

That doesn’t mean that at 5.5 or 6 years it becomes a problem. There is no fixed rule. But if he looks older than he is and / or she looks younger than her age then people will gossip. And while gossip is a national pastime in Thailand, no-one likes to be the subject of the gossip, especially if others think they are a gold-digger.

And that’s the crux of the matter. Like so many things in Thailand, it all comes back to image and what others think of you – whether or not what they think has any truth in it or not.

The other half never said it but I think it’s generally accepted that as we age, larger age gaps become less relevant. I have always thought that once a lady is north of 35 then any age gap becomes less relevant. If she is aged below 30 and the age gap is north of, say, 15 years, people will gossip.

What I learned from the other half is that while plenty of Thai women are happy in a relationship with a much older man, a large age gap may still play on their mind. Even if the guy looks healthy and handsome and / or has plenty of money, it can remain an issue for the woman herself. To some Thai women, age isn’t just a number.


Billboard Bangkok
 

Mystery Photo

mystery-photo-96

Last week’s photo was taken of the Rama VI monument out front of Lumpini Park with the skytrain over Silom Road in the background. This week’s is super easy….or so I think!


Nana Plaza
 

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

A fan of the smaller bars on Cowboy.

Regarding your reference to Jungle Jim’s, Toy Bar, Moonshine and Fanny’s, those bars are an acquired taste. I love them – especially Jungle Jim’s and Moonshine. True, the chicks are neither the youngest nor the prettiest, but you can strike up a good rapport with them, if you’re so inclined. I have found them neither pushy nor greedy. I feel relaxed in those bars and there is usually decent music from the ’70s and ’80s played at a reasonable volume. One can build up one’s own playlist and enjoy the evening with favourably-priced beers in a cozy setting. I’ve got to know a few of the chicks there quite well over the years. And, if I’m not mistaken, the bar staff (who always outnumber the imbibers!) all wear the Four Steps to Heaven T-shirt. I may be wrong, but I think the 4 said establishments are run and owned by a heavily tattooed Thai guy who seems to spend more of his time in Jungle Jim’s and Moonshine than the other two. He’s an amiable chappy.

Bangkok this week.

I’ve been to a lot of malls this week: Central World, MBK, Terminal 21, Gateway, and another at Chitlom I had never been to before. Getting in and out with the QR code thing is easy but it is a bit of a pain to do it for every store you enter. There are few people shopping at the malls. MBK was about 60% open but everywhere else is around 90%.

Hotel experience to suffer?

I almost always stay at the Sheraton Grande and enjoy the happy hour there both poolside at the sala on level 3, and at Bar Su. When I do return, I fear there will be a substantial cut in services and it will not be a patch on what was offered before. By that, I mean their having to enforce the social distancing rule which could potentially see the demise of Bar Su and its live music. As for the breakfast / lunch / dinner buffets, I fear they will be hit hard too. Can you imagine everybody sharing the same serving utensils whilst trying to maintain social distancing? And not to mention people queueing at the egg counter! I can’t see how they can operate the buffet when the hotel reopens. Interesting times ahead for the hospitality industry.

Single women.

I know of many professional Thai women who are still single despite being quite attractive. Two friends of mine are now in their 50’s and I’ve known them for 30 years. Both work at Bangkok Bank. Each owns their own house in the suburbs but remains single. A long time ago Thai men were not willing to marry a Thai woman who had a better education, a higher salary, or a more prestigious job than they had. Times are changing and now you see this happen more but there is still that underlying current beneath the surface.

Amazing trusted Thailand.

Warning: Siam Commercial Bank has recently added opt-out dynamic currency conversion (DCC) to its ATMs. Accordingly, when using a foreign card to withdraw Thai baht from said ATMs, SCB will convert the transaction into your home currency at an unfavorable rate displayed on the screen. Unless you opt out by selecting the “proceed in local currency” option, you’ll end up with a raw deal that fattens SCB’s wallet at your expense. And of course, SCB will have its pound of flesh no matter which option you choose, given that it adds a 220 baht fee (among the highest in the world) to all foreign transactions. But even still, you are better off opting out of DCC, for the 220 baht fee applies to that option too. Given that this is a recent development which coincides with the de facto ban on all foreign arrivals, it appears to be a case of if you can’t shaft newly arrived foreigners, shaft the ones already here.

Mask up or ship out!

It is best you do not return to Thailand anytime in the foreseeable, for not only will you be wearing a mask your entire trip (including during airport transit) but masks are now required virtually everywhere outside your home. All public transportation. All shopping malls. All supermarkets. Most restaurants. Basically anywhere you go in public. And rightfully so I might add!


Spankys Nana Plaza Bangkok
 

It looks like there will be no reprieve for drinkers this month with an announcement from the government that the booze ban will remain in place until at least June 30th. That means restaurants cannot serve alcohol with meals and bars can’t open yet. Not one person I know who is part of the bar / entertainment industry expects there will be a change in policy before the end of the month. That said, there is genuine hope, belief even, that the bars and entertainment industry will get the green light to reopen in July.

The fun had resumed at Art Box next to Sukhumvit soi 12 and the crowds were back. It felt just like pre-Covid19 with vendors doing a good trade selling food and drinks. The party was back! But then some jealous sod complained to the police and that was the end of alcohol being sold – and the end of the fun and revelry – at Art Box for the time being.

Plenty of restaurants are ignoring the alcohol ban and serving alcohol without any precautions taken i.e. there is little of this silly serving beer in a coffee mug. One reader mentioned he was down in Bangkok this week and not one of the restaurants he and his Mrs dined in refused to serve them alcohol.

Things are happening in Patpong where Andy and the operators of Black Pagoda shook hands and are going into a 50 : 50 partnership with XXX Lounge (the bar that was once Club Electric Blue).

And still at Patpong, the Museum of Patpong reopened a few weeks back and is attracting a small number of visitors around 90% of whom are locals i.e. Thais. With Thais showing an interest in the area, could this point to the way forward for Patpong?

Times may be tough but there was a very good response to last week’s column, Opportunity Awaits At Nana Plaza from interested parties.

 

bangkok-social-distancing

With social distancing, the Thais have thought of most things. Photo kindly provided.

 

Word from friends on the ground in Bangkok is that social distancing is doing people’s heads in with inconsistencies everywhere. It is extremely frustrating for restaurant and bar owners who are told customers must sit apart (which is slowly changing and more and more restaurants are ignoring this) while public transport is packed to the gunnels.

While bars can’t open just yet, massage houses got the green light a week ago and while it’s not quite business as usual, those looking for a rub-down can get one. A reader went for his usual 90-minute oil massage at his favourite place in Phrom Phong. First, there was a temperature check outside and hand sanitiser was offered. He had to choose the type of massage from the menu while standing outside, presumably to minimise time spent in the small lobby / reception area. He had to sign a form stating that he hadn’t traveled to a foreign country recently, had not had any contact with anyone who had traveled to a foreign country, and that he hadn’t had any symptoms of Covid-19. The form also required him to write his name, phone number and email address. Once in the massage room, a fresh bed sheet was placed on the massage table / bed as he watched, presumably so he could see that it had not been reused after the last customer (which is not uncommon in some of the massage shops on Sukhumvit popular with foreigners). Said reader felt the main difference between now and pre-Covid-19 is that he had to wear a mask, as did the masseuse who wore a mask and a face-shield. Massage is only available from the neck down. Said reader was comfortable with the experience – he had a good massage and will return next week.

Down in Pattaya, Rich A Gogo on Walking Street has a sign erected up outside stating that it is for sale. Expect more Walking Street gogo bars to follow.

 

bangkok-blue-sky

Beautiful blue skies in Bangkok. Photo kindly provided.

 

The sky has been a vivid blue in Bangkok some days these past couple of weeks as can be seen in the shot above featuring a couple of the naughty boys’ favourite hotels either side of Nana Plaza. Some days the AQI levels for Bangkok are so low that you could almost mistake them for Scandinavia or New Zealand.

There was some terrible news from Bangkok this week with Scala cinema to close, its run of 50+ years as a favourite movie house for Bangkokians over. There has been much talk in recent years that Scala would not survive and some of us have been mentally preparing for this. Finally, the axe fell this week. When I first moved to Bangkok until I left, Scala was my go to cinema. For my first 5 years in Bangkok I lived less than 10 minutes’ walk from Scala, and the charm of seeing a movie in a real movie house never faded. More recently, the other half and I would often find ourselves at Siam Square on Saturdays and if there was something on we wanted to see we’d catch the matinee there which, as chance would have it, is when Bernard Trink always went. It was the one place you were guaranteed to see Trink. Here’s my Scala photo essay, published last year.

Speaking of long-time Bangkok residents, Dave The Rave dropped me a note from the coastal town in the UK he now calls home. Life is going remarkably well for him and things have worked out better than he could have hoped for. He has made new friends, his health is much better and he is enjoying the great weather the UK has been experiencing. Needless to say. Dave is a very happy camper. Long may it stay that way!

 

no-meat-burger

The no-meat cheeseburger at Sunrise Tacos. Photo provided by Sunrise.

 

I’m all for eating healthy but I have to admit that I am yet to try any of these so-called “no-meat meat” products which seem to be gaining traction. Sunrise Tacos has got in on the act and has a wide selection of plant-based items on their menu including tacos, nachos and burritos. They currently have a promotion on Food Panda and Villa Supermarket online for a Beyond Cheeseburger cooked with some Mexican spices. It’s 170 grams with French fries and choice of drink for 245.- after a 31% discount. And for those keen to dine in, owner Big Greg is keen to welcome you back with free rounds of tortilla chips and salsa. The partitions have gone and you can sit with your friends and family, a metre apart of course.

There was a great quote on one of the Thailand forums this week: “I don’t see many farang business owners driving around in BMWs, but I see a lot of Thai landlords in BMWs.” This really says it all and largely explains why prices for so many things in Thailand have shot up in recent years – and just where the money is going. High prices in Thailand so often come back to two things – high taxes on luxury goods and opportune landlords who are much better negotiators than their farang tenants.

This week a reader asked me to write a column about gambling in Thailand, where to go etc. Not a good idea! Gambling is illegal in Thailand – everything from underground casinos to playing cards for money to online gambling. Some years back Thailand was popular with younger farangs who appeared to make a decent living gambling online. I never knew much about those guys and that scene but for sure, some appeared to lead a very nice lifestyle. I do know of one foreigner who had problems gambling in Thailand. A former colleague of mine, he was caught in a gambling den with a couple of farang friends and a bunch of Thais. It got quite messy for a while and the foreigners were looking at serious charges until it was all worked out. It cost him a pretty penny but he can count himself lucky that it was resolved outside the system. Gambling, like drugs, is best avoided in Thailand.

 

vitamin-iv-booster

 

Quote of the week comes from Michael, owner of Bar Bar, Patpong Museum and a couple of other Patpong properties, “The go-go bar and its very one-dimensional concept […] I think that’s already over, they just don’t know that yet.

Beaches are open in Pattaya but many businesses remain firmly closed.

Thailand is in no hurry to open up its borders to international visitors.

The South China Morning Post had the best article on the future of the Bangkok bar industry for a mainstream media outlet.

Nike opens a new flagship store in Bangkok at Siam Centre.

When it comes to social distancing in Thailand, it’s do as we say, not as we do.

Thailand is looking at opening up its borders to countries where the virus is under control.

Police are hunting for a ladyboy after a Filipino teacher was found hanged in Nonthaburi.

No foul play is suspected in the death of an Irishman found in a villa in Jomtien.

Cinemas reopened in Thailand this week but the punters haven’t come flocking back.

 

wellington-covid19

Quiet on the streets of Wellington….but things are picking up. Hopefully things are picking up in Bangkok too.

There is life after Covid-19 and maybe things won’t be quite as bad as we thought. Here in New Zealand, things are looking up. We have not had a new case of Covid-19 for more than 2 weeks and at the time of writing there is just one active case left. Life is largely returning to normal – restaurants & bars reopened weeks ago and it looks like from this coming week the only real restriction will be at the border. And now there are predictions from various economists that the economic hit is not going to be quite as bad as first thought. Sure, it is going to be bad – ugly, even – but not as bad as the initial predictions. So what does this have to do with Thailand? Well, it seems to me that the situation in Thailand may not be quite as bad as originally thought either. Like New Zealand, Thailand has the virus under control and all of the new cases are of Thais returning from abroad, all of whom are put in quarantine so the risk of community transmission is minimal. Sure, things aren’t going to be rosy red any time soon but the impression I get is that in some places it might not be quite as bad as we thought – and that is a win. Maybe, just maybe, there is a reason for a little optimism.

Your Bangkok commentator,

Stick

Stick can be contacted at : [email protected]