Stickman's Weekly Column September 6th, 2020

Doctors & Nurses



I haven’t been to the doctor’s for 11 years and if all goes well it will be another 11 years before I make my next doctor’s appointment. I haven’t seen a dentist in 15 years and with a bit of luck I’ll never sit in a dentist’s chair again. Rather than rely on health professionals to tell me what drugs I should take or what parts of my body they should surgically remove, I prefer to take responsibility for my own health and well-being.

The last time I went to see a dentist was 15 years ago. That is the one and only time I have been to the dentist in my adult life. The previous time I visited a dentist was way back in my last year at school. In the last 30 years I have been to see a dentist just once.

The idea of going to the dentist every 6 months has always struck me as overkill if you look after your teeth well. And I do. It’s not exactly hard, is it? Floss every day without fail, and brush two or three times a day. I don’t use fancy toothpaste but I do change toothbrush every month.

The one dentist I saw in Thailand was good and his rates were reasonable. I would have no issue visiting him again if I felt it necessary. Here in New Zealand, a trip to the dentist is so expensive that it causes you to rethink all other discretionary spending that week. But my reason for not being a sheep and going to the dentist every 6 months is not about money. I just don’t see it as necessary at all. The money saved is merely a bonus.

When I tell people I haven’t been to the dentist for so long some ask if I was traumatised by one when I was young. Traumatised, no, but then I don’t have fond memories either. My Dad tells me horror stories of visiting the school dental nurse when he was a lad. He has every reason to never want to visit a dentist again, yet after all of these years he dutifully goes along to see the dentist every 6 months, as so many sheeple do.

I haven’t managed to avoid visiting the doctor for quite that long. My last doctor’s visit was 11 years ago, in Bangkok. I had a persistent cold that wouldn’t go away and I was convinced by a lovely lass I was seeing that it might be SARS or chicken flu or something similarly nasty and I should get checked out. In retrospect, I probably went along to appease her as much as anything.

Of course there are times when a doctor’s visit is unavoidable. If you’re seriously ill you really should get checked out. Fortunately I have never been seriously ill in my life. The worst things that have happened to me have been a nasty calf muscle strain from playing squash, and wax build up in an ear blocking it and causing temporary hearing loss. Nothing major, but on those two occasions a doctor’s visit couldn’t be avoided.

Thais are horrified that I choose not to get an annual checkup, something which seems to be a national pastime, popular even amongst those in their 20s.

I will never forget the hospital bus making its annual visit to the Bangkok school I worked at for many years. All of the Thai teachers and other Thai staff dutifully lined up in an orderly fashion – just like their students did every morning at assembly – for their annual checkup. But it wasn’t a full health checkup at all. It was just a blood test. I am not sure exactly what the lab tested for, but all the Thai teachers ever talked about was AIDS. Not HIV, but AIDS. And when they got the results back they would tell all and sundry that they didn’t have AIDS. And by definition of not having AIDS, they seemed to assume that they were healthy. This is going back the best part of 20 years and HIV / AIDS was more of a worry back then than it is today. At the same time, it was odd that all these educated Thais who tested negative for HIV genuinely seemed to take that as a statement that they were healthy.

Some of the old biddies getting a blood test were advanced in years. I can’t imagine they had done anything which could cause them to contract HIV. Certainly they would never have injected recreational drugs and even if they had a partner who played away from home, the odds of them contracting HIV must have been very low. Some had likely not been intimate in decades yet the HIV test seemed to be a big deal. If someone had tested positive for HIV, I imagine everyone at school would have known before the next class started. Fortunately, that never happened.

Even the smallest of medical issues cause the average Thai to go running to the doctor. Remember news reports from a year or so ago where a celebrity cracked a toenail and sought medical attention?!

Thais seem to have had the fear of God put in to them that any medical issue requires a visit to the doctor. Even the most innocuous thing and off they trot. And of course they are never happy unless they leave with bags of pills.

So where does my reluctance to regularly see doctors come from?

Scared of needles? No. I was when I was young but after being pricked a few times that passed.

Scared of receiving bad news? No. I’ve done plenty in life and if I get bad news then so be it. My biggest fear of dying is that the other half and the cats do ok after I have gone.

Prohibitive cost? No. In New Zealand, a visit to a GP isn’t expensive, pharmaceuticals are subsidised and if you’re referred to a specialist in a big hospital, the taxes we pay cover it. If you wish to make an appointment with a specialist of your choosing, however, you will pay handsomely for that.

Ultimately I think what I don’t like about doctors is that even here in New Zealand, many seem to want to put patients on chemicals. That seems to be the solution to everything. What happened to looking at the cause of the problem and treating it? High blood sugar? Chemicals! High blood pressure? Chemicals! High cholesterol? Chemicals. Is that really the best treatment?

To be clear, I am not in any way suggesting anyone should choose not to visit a doctor regularly, shirk health checkups as we age or avoid medical treatment. If you’re unwell or suspect something might be wrong, you should see a doctor (or a naturopath, homeopath, practitioner of Chinese medicine or whomever). And as you get on in years, blood tests and various other checks most certainly are a good idea and I have plans to get a check up soon.

While I am sure doctors have good intentions, sometimes I wonder about their approach. Undoubtedly they know infinitely more about health and medicine than I do, but at the same time I try to lead as healthy a lifestyle as possible – which with a bit of luck means I won’t need to visit the doc often.


Billboard Bangkok
 

Mystery Photo

miss-terry-pic

Last week’s photo was taken of the ice rink in Central World. It was another shot I thought was easy but less than 10 people got it right. This week’s photo was taken by a friend just a few days ago.


Nana Plaza
 

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

Little sympathy from naughty boys.

Let me get my violin out and play a sad song. Before the net from the late ’80s through until about ’97, the business model in the gogo bars was perfect. Reasonably priced beer, and you didn’t feel squeezed buying a lady drink. Pay for play was reasonable and the main reason people came to visit in the first place. I have no sympathy for bar owners. They came from abroad and instilled a culture of greed to the local population. I hope they collapse and shut down. Only then will the greedy landlords that learned to eat the bar owners’ profits finally feel the pain too. I don’t have sympathy for the greedy bargirls that make more money than an engineer or an office worker who put in a lot of sweat to get their education and position. Change will happen and perhaps some good will come out of it.

Covid-19 is the new Yellow Fever.

There is nothing surer than night following day, that it will be a requirement to have a Covid-19 vaccination, once it is available, before international travel. There is nothing surer in life apart from death and taxes. I also reckon it will be much more than just getting on a plane. Attending school, booking into hotels / motels, visiting rest-homes – I think the list will be long. For those unvaccinated, life will become a bit like a permanent lock-down.

Innocuous or abhorrent?

Regarding the email response to “The cat that got the cream” in the 23 August column, only someone who has spent years sniffing around the naughty boy bars of Pattaya or Bangkok could rationalise that your partner being a former prostitute is unremarkable, insignificant or irrelevant. I am guessing that if you had never visited the neon backstreets of Sin City that it might come as quite a shock and would be reasonable grounds for breaking up the relationship. I am not talking about someone who was slightly promiscuous at university, rather a time-served Kapoo girl servicing multiple punters a day, every day, for a few years. In the West this is still regarded as unacceptable and dare I say it, abhorrent. I am not trying to be harsh here but mongers like to dress it up as something rather innocent. It is what it is, paid sex with a prostitute.

Turned off by tats.

These heavily tattooed girls have no future in mainstream Thai society, except at the margins. I have little sympathy for them, since each tattoo is clearly a deliberate personal decision, made repeatedly and without pressure, with the added deterrents of pain and cost. This is vastly different from many working girls becoming alcoholics or psychologically damaged over time simply due to the nature of their work and the bar environment which is just sad, since it’s almost unavoidable. In the past, one of the draws of Thai working girls for me was how refreshingly normal they seemed. It wasn’t hard to imagine taking them out of the bar and having pleasant interactions beyond a shag. Many guys even went on to marry working girls. With the current crop of girls in your photos, I can’t see too many men wanting them around beyond the short-time / long-time session, or introducing them to friends or family. I would be horrified of getting on the skytrain with one of these ladies, or being seen by any Thai outside the nightlife industry. This is awfully cynical, but one silver lining of those tattoos is that they’ll still be working as hookers 20 years later, whereas more normal-looking and normal-thinking girls would have a chance to get out of the scene, as most already did by now. At least punters will still have the option of paying for some pussy (however unattractive) down the line.

Vicious cycle in Angeles City.

A fairly depressing column today, although I’m sure it’s accurate. The nightlife in Angeles City simply can’t survive without foreign tourists. Not a single gogo bar owner is planning to open until foreign tourists return, and the foreign tourists aren’t planning to come back until the bars open. The vicious circle continues. I thought Pattaya might be different for two reasons, but now I’m not so sure. There is more to do in Pattaya and there are more expats than in Angeles. But if you don’t go to Pattaya for the nightlife, what do you go there for? If you only wanted a beach holiday and you had no interest in nightlife, would you choose Pattaya or the Maldives? And what else does Pattaya have that would make you go there if it was only for that and nothing else?

To vaccinate, or not to vaccinate?

I worked 15 years in a DNA sequencing lab. I know my fair share of molecular biology and biology production processes and science in general. Here are my thoughts on the first vaccines. I will be looking closely to see that there has been a proper phase 3 trial. I would feel most comfortable if this was a 6 month trial in a heavily infected country / population. It will take a while to actually distribute the vaccine and I will wait a while (3 months?) to see what happens to the first large group of people to get them. I am very familiar with the problems that can arise when you scale up something like this. There are just some things you can’t test for and will just have to deal with once the product is in large scale use. I have no problem getting vaccines. I got the new shingle vaccine last year. I expect I wouldn’t be ready to get this new vaccine until the fall of 2021 at the earliest.

 

Girl Of The Week
(ห้ามชักว่าวนะครับ)

Music, Butterflies, Nana Plaza

# 442, Music is 20 years old, 159 cm tall & tips the scales at just 40 kg.
She likes to play games (Rov) and watch Korean cartoons.
She also likes modelling, taking photos as well as fashion from Korea & Japan.
In the future, she’d like to be a fashion stylist and a model.

 

butterflies-adam-73

 

 

butterflies-adam-20

 

In my early days in Thailand, many ladies working in the bars were looking for a boyfriend, or a husband. They weren’t necessarily looking for love, but they wouldn’t reject it if it should happen. As the years passed by, visitors flooded the bar scene and were willing to pay handsomely for a night or even just an hour, of adult fun. The ladies could get a new high-paying customer every night and realised they could make more money from multiple customers than they could with one guy long-term. Where once the girlfriend experience was the norm, most girls in the bars adopted a more traditional prostitute model – the more customers, the better.  Covid is changing the dynamic. The number of customers about is down and tourists cannot fly in. Ladies have found Bangkok-based expats to generally be less willing to pay the big baht. Few ladies manage to get a customer every night, let alone multiple customers per night as was the norm for some pre Covid-19. So the ladies are changing with the times and there is a preference amongst some to find a customer who can look after them medium-term, someone who pays them a monthly rate allowing them to leave the bar while things are so quiet.

On Sukhumvit soi 8, long-running Italian restaurant Via Vai is, as the Italians would say, finito. I have good memories of dining at Via Vai with Lecherous Lee when his hair was still fair and Dave The Rave when he still had some hair! At first I thought that Via Vai was another victim of Covid-19 but a notice posted outside which says “see you all in a new location” suggests they will be back. When, and where, I have no idea.

And speaking of places going tits up, add ArtBox to the list. One of the bright spots through the Covid-19 lock-down when most everywhere else in Bangkok was closed, ArtBox at Chuwit Park was somewhere to enjoy food, drinks and engage with the odd friendly maiden. Word was that ArtBox would move to the empty space next to the Petchaburi MRT station but that is not going to happen. Vendors at ArtBox have not had their deposit returned and from what I hear they are not holding their breath of getting their money back. An inauspicious end to an area that had developed a following.

In Nana Plaza, Rainbow 3 shut on Monday and the girls moved to Rainbow 4 which is said to have a good lineup of pretty dancers. A bar closing is never a good thing, but consolidating more girls in to a smaller number of bars does seem to be the way to go at this time.

I also hear that on the top floor of Nana Plaza, Enter has also closed. How long Enter and Rainbow 3 will remain closed for, I do not know.

And it’s the same story down the road at Soi Cowboy where two bars closed this week. Both of the bars to close are of the smaller / single-shophouse variety – Crazy Cat and Fanny’s. A notice on the door of Fanny’s states that all of the lovely girls (their words, not mine) have moved to Jungle Jim’s.

 

fannys-soi-cowboy

Fanny’s in Soi Cowboy is closed.

 

Pattaya’s bar scene is more like Bangkok’s all the time with the top bars doing well and the rest almost dead.

Pin Up seems to be the best of the bunch in Pattaya with around 100 girls working which is good. Before Covid-19, Pin Up had closer to 150.

Pattaya does well on Saturday night with an influx of out-of-towners. Typically, it’s not large groups of moneyed-up expats from Bangkok but lots of Japanese pouring in from Sriracha / Maptaphut / Rayong / Laem Chabang. They are only seen on Saturdays nights.

In popular KINK on Soi LK Metro, a mamasan commented to a friend that “only old farang live in Pattaya” these days. In his 50s he’s no spring chicken but compared to many locals she thought he was positively young. It’s the same story on Soi LK Metro as Walking Street where Saturdays are the one and only busy night.

With that said, word from Pattaya was that it was very busy this weekend with an invasion of Bangkok-based expats in to the bars. One bar boss said his bar was jam-packed. Remember, it is a holiday weekend in Thailand, the substitute weekend for Songkran which was cancelled this year (but without the water fight madness).

A friend commented that there are some fantastic deals on hotels in Pattaya at this time. A room in the hotel he stays at is usually 4,000 – 6,000 baht a night in high season and 2,000 in low season. It’s around 1,300 baht per night if booked online and when booking direct with the front desk, just 1,000 baht a night.

 

Spankys Nana Plaza Bangkok
 

I am often asked why I don’t have a presence on YouTube or even switch completely to a video format. Quite simply, I’m not in to video and I don’t fancy myself as a vlogger. I much prefer writing about what’s on my mind and the current format, if a little dated, still works just fine. Of course, it would be impossible for me to be a Thailand vlogger while living in New Zealand – but it is possible for me to write this column remotely. There are a lot of vloggers in the Thailand nightlife sphere already and I am sure many do a great job. No need for me to join them.

Speaking of Thailand nightlife videos, here are a couple taken inside bars very recently, one from Crystal Club in Soi LK Metro, Pattaya, and the other from Kings Castle 1 in Patpong.

Another movie set and made in Bangkok appeared on the torrents sites this week. I didn’t bother with it but I note from the trailer that some scenes in English Dogs in Bangkok were filmed in Soi Cowboy. Get it at your favourite torrents site.

Friend of the column Larry of Pattaya – best known from his time as the highly popular manager of Secrets – sent through the selfie below taken with the famous Soi Nana watch seller. There was some concern for the fake watch man a couple of years ago after comments that he had not been seen for a while. It’s good to see that the icon of Soi Nana is still going strong. Larry bought a Rolex Submariner automatic from him 17 years ago for his son, for 1,000 baht. Larry’s son wears it every day and even after all these years it still keeps almost perfect time. As for Larry, he’s making the most of things and spending time travelling around the country, visiting places he has not been before.

 

liquor-larry

Larry and the Nana watch man.

 

In last week’s column I mentioned my concerns about how it may become a requirement to have a Covid-19 vaccination before being allowed to enter Thailand. Somewhat related to that, how would you feel if you had to a wear a face diaper mask when you visit Thailand? I understand that most people in Bangkok wear masks these days and in many places they are mandatory. Here in the far-flung provinces of New Zealand, hardly anyone wears one and they are foreign to us (there have been no Covid-19 cases in this area for months). There’s something about masks that I don’t like, almost like they are a symbol of subjugation. But then Thai people are used to being controlled and are generally submissive so questioning the idea of wearing masks when there is no Covid in the country doesn’t enter their minds. If it was mandatory to wear a mask in Bangkok, it might just put me off visiting. It really doesn’t look like I will be getting back to Thailand any time soon, does it? (To be clear, I am in no way suggesting one shouldn’t wear a mask if Covid-19 is prevalent in the area, but the idea of being forced to wear a mask when there have been no cases in a very long time strikes me as being more about subjugation and control than protection from the virus.)

I note that here in New Zealand the local office of Thai Airways has been issuing travel vouchers to those who had booked tickets but the flight has been cancelled. The travel voucher is valid through until December 31st, 2022. I cannot imagine that Thai Airways will be flying between Thailand and New Zealand for at least another several months.

I received an email this week from a foreign teacher at an international school. I didn’t reply. To the fellow who emailed me, not replying was deliberate out of respect for your job. I don’t think it’s wise for international school teachers to email StickmanBangkok from a workplace email address. Turn back the clock 15 odd years and I would frequently get emails from international school teachers from their school / official work email address. The world has changed and I don’t think it’s a good idea today. Yes, I was a teacher in Bangkok for years while writing this column. Times were different back then but now, with the benefit of retrospect, it is amazing I did what I did. Anyway, back to the fellow who emailed me, send me an email from your private email address that you don’t check on the school network and I will be happy to reply.

 

This Week’s News-Feed / Thailand-Related News Articles

Quote of the week comes from a reader, “Chinese Thais are developing round bodies to match their round faces.”

Emirates appears to have been premature in announcing flights to Bangkok.

Thai Airways launches a cabin-like cafe selling in-flight meals.

After 100 days without community transmission, someone in Thailand tests positive for Covid-19.

A travel column in the Nikkei Asian Review suggests travel in Asia may never be the same.

Foreigners in Thailand on an amnesty extension are urged to renew their visa or leave the country before September 26.

 

aorangi

The longer I am away from Thailand, the harder it is to write about Thailand.

This week’s opener had little to do with Thailand. As I wrote a few weeks ago, I plan to go off-piste from time to time. If you don’t care for the non-Thailand stuff, just scroll down to the mystery photo and from that point onwards the rest of the column will be about Thailand and all of the places and goings on I usually write about.

Your Bangkok commentator,

Stick

Stick can be contacted at : [email protected]