Stickman's Weekly Column February 20th, 2022

No Beer For A Year


I haven’t touched a drop of alcohol in a year. It’s one year and ten days ago, to be precise, since I had my last alcoholic drink, not that I’m counting. I have no idea when I’ll have a drink again. Drinking alcohol just doesn’t seem to enter my mind these days.

I didn’t make a deliberate decision to stop drinking, rather it just sort of happened. It’s not like I had a problem drinking and I needed to stop. There are no health issues. The truth is that I’ve never really been much of a drinker.

I enjoy a few drinks when I am on holiday but apart from that, I don’t drink much at all. And it’s pretty much always been that way.

I’ve never been one to drink at home. About the only time I drink at home is if friends are staying with us. What little alcohol I have in the house was purchased years ago. I’ve got a few bottles of red that are ageing to the point they may well be past their best. There’s a couple of half-full bottles of Jack Daniels and Bombay Sapphire in the cupboard. I’ve got a half-open bottle of white wine in the fridge I use for cooking. That’s it. My wine rack has precisely 6 bottles in it…..and the two I’ll most likely crack open first are cherry juice!

I almost never drink when watching live sport on TV, even the biggest rugby matches. And while I enjoy cooking, the idea of pairing food with wine all sounds a little pretentious.

Drinking for me has always been something I do in the company of friends, and given how little socialising I have done the past couple of years, it’s hardly a surprise I’ve had nothing to drink for more than a year.

There are some nice bars here in town but they just don’t appeal, at least not for a drink. For lunch or dinner, sure. But for a drink? Honestly, I’d rather go for a run.

Some of the best wineries in the country are less than 20 minutes drive away. The country’s oldest winery with a magnificent restaurant is walking distance from home but even that doesn’t appeal.

I’ve just lost the taste for alcohol. It’s like that half-finished tub of Marmite in the cupboard – it’s not that I am against eating it or that I suddenly no longer like it, I’ve just lost the taste for it.

The taste for alcohol may come back. Or it may not. I really don’t know!

I’ve never had a drinking problem or anything like that. A few drinks and then it’s time to head home has pretty much always been the way with me.

I have mostly stuck with a small selection of drinks. Aussie reds like a Cabernet Sauvignon or a Shiraz. German-style wheat beer or lager. Jack Daniel’s, or decent gin. That’s about it. Most other drinks I never cared much for. I’ve never been a connoisseur.

Whether the deaths of three people I knew last year due to liver failure had anything to do with it, even if subconsciously, I don’t know.

Eddy, who I wrote about last week, my ex-wife and and a long-time Pattaya bar manager I had a lot of time for all died last year due to liver failure or liver-related issues. Refraining from drinking isn’t a bad idea from a health perspective – but that isn’t the reason I’ve not had a drink in a year.

The other half still enjoys a drink every so often and I’m all for others to drink while in my company. No issues there, fill your boots!

I almost certainly won’t touch a drop before we travel again. Will I have a drink when we make it back to Bangkok? Honestly, I have no idea. Is this a phase that will pass or is it forever? I just don’t know.

 

 

Mystery Photo

Photo credits: John Mango

Photo credits: John Mango

Last week’s photo was taken of the construction at Sukhumvit soi 17, just west of Robinson’s. I guess it was kinda difficult as only two people got it right. I thought one reader explained the changes in that area really well. “It’s the area where they had been building around that old school, green wooden Thai house. Now I see that the old, typical Thai shophouses at that stretch have gone too. A pity, I think there’s really not much left now at lower Sukhumvit that reminds me of the Bangkok of 33 years ago, the first time I was there. Ah well, that’s life, things come and go, whether you like it or not.” This week’s photo is kind of challenging too. If you haven’t been in Bangkok in the past 2.5 years you might not know it…

 

whisky-friday-n-sunday

 

Stick’s Inbox – The Best Emails From The Past Week

Driving in Thailand.

Eddy’s experience having an accident with a motorbike with underage Thais was similar to an experience I had. I was making a left turn with my signal blinkers on when a kid (with passenger) attempted to pass me on the left! He clipped my front bumper and went down. I called my insurance lady. She was there in about 10 minutes. She said that she would send the kids to the clinic to get checked out (they did not appear to be hurt). She would also pay for the damage to the motorbike and the damage to my car. I objected and said that the accident was their fault. She said that we would not call the police. She said the police would say the accident was my fault. The three reasons the accident were my fault were: (1) I was a foreigner and the kids were Thai. (2) I was driving a car and the kids were on a motorbike. (3) If I hadn’t been making the turn the accident would not have happened! Sigh, this is Thailand

Boosted or banned?

You asked readers for their thoughts on Covid vaccination and Thailand. You will probably not like what I have to say, but you asked, so here it is. I have both shots and the booster, all three of them Pfizer. The vaccines are proven to be as safe as any vaccine can be, and any notions to the contrary are nothing more than Internet spooky stories. I consider anyone who has NOT received BOTH initial shots AND a booster to be completely irresponsible. It would suit me just fine if Thailand barred entry to all foreigners without three shots, and I hope they do. It would suit me just fine if Thailand deported every single farang who does not have three shots, and I hope they do.

Testing positive for Covid in Thailand.

One of the questions that I’ll bet people have for you is, is it worth it to travel to Thailand now? There’s so much talk in the Facebook groups about people testing positive on their Day 1 or Day 5 tests and having their vacations ruined as they are forced into a rigid hospital or “hospitel” or hotel quarantine for 10+ days, with varying experiences as to whether their insurance covers that. I’ve seen published stats saying something like 2% of travelers from the US / UK test positive on Day 1/5 (I don’t know if that means 2+2 = 4% test positive on one day or the other). But imagine traveling with a wife and two kids and then one member of the family tests positive on one of the two tests and the whole vacation gets turned upside down. I passed the Day 1 and Day 5 COVID tests. Had a nice two weeks in Thailand. I flew from Phuket to Bangkok where I was going to get an exit PCR test that evening because I needed it to fly out two days later. I felt myself coming down with a bit of a scratchy throat so I did a rapid COVID test in my hotel room, and not surprisingly, it was positive. I think I was supposed to report that to Thai authorities, so they could come up with a quarantine plan. I didn’t. I spent the next week dealing with minor cold symptoms and mostly staying in my hotel room, but I didn’t do a “hard’ quarantine, I went out for the occasional masked walk and for grocery shopping and takeout food. Then after I tested negative a few times on rapid tests I went to a clinic for the PCR test on February 14th so I could fly out, more than a week later than planned. The PCR test in the clinic was positive. I guess I was supposed to notify the authorities of that too. I didn’t. I thought they might track me down. They didn’t. Instead, I just waited two days, got another PCR test, it was negative, and I left the country. Anyway, this is something people probably don’t think about. You could pass your Day 1and Day 5 test but fail the exit test you probably need to fly home and end up in Thailand a lot longer than you planned. They say some people test positive on PCR tests for weeks / months after getting COVID, I was probably lucky I tested negative by PCR after 11 days. The whole setup is quite arbitrary. Thailand is reporting 17,000 COVID cases a day now (not including all the people who don’t know they have it or who test positive at home and don’t tell the government). You could easily enter Thailand without COVID, catch it by um, co-mingling with locals during the first five days of your trip, and then you’re f*cked and forced into quarantine. But based on my experience, if you pass your Day 5 test and then contract COVID in Thailand on Day 6 or later and even test positive by PCR in a clinic, nobody cares and there’s no follow up.

Vaccine junkies.

I also got vaxed last April with two doses of the Pfizer vaccine because I thought things would open up and I was ready to travel after being stuck at home for a year. I thought it would protect me if I was exposed to the virus while traveling even though I rarely get viruses. I also realized that it might be necessary to travel. I had a chest x-ray and unfortunately I ended up being diagnosed with something worse than the virus. I have been getting various treatments which should be finished in the fall of this year and I should be ready to travel then. I agree with you on the booster. I will get it before I travel. It seems to me that the big pharmaceuticals are trying to turn us into vaccine junkies using scare tactics to appease our addiction.

Alcohol is worse than an STD.

Alcohol is a bigger problem for bargirls than STDs. I remember one evening in Pattaya high-end gogo bar, What’s Up. A really good night out, multiple lady drinks with a few girls. Very pretty girls but 2 of them had the “10 drinks a day for at least 10 day heavy, fat smell”. It’s easier to cure chlamydia than it is to cure pancreatitis.

Tried kratom yet?

There’s a leaf now legal called kratom. You can chew it or make a tea with it. It sells in the market @ 40 baht for 30 leaves. Thai farmers have long used it to help with work. It definitely works, a glass of the tea gave me huge energy, but it puts you in a slightly weird head space which I didn’t enjoy. You can either chew the leaves like Thai farmers do, one every hour or so, or you can remove the stalks, cut them up, boil them and make it into a tea. A glass of kratom before a swim in Takiab near Hua Hin and I felt like swimming to Pattaya and back! Photo of kratom leaves attached.
Kratom leaves

Kratom leaves

 

This Week’s News & Views

More nightlife, entertainment and hospitality venues are opening up. It’s slow but it’s steady. In some cases a reopened bar might only have barely a handful of customers but for sure, things are moving in the right direction. The Thermae is open and trade is building by the day.

Speaking of the Thermae, are Western female customers allowed inside? The Thermae has long banned ladyboys from entry hence they loiter around near the top of the steps leading down inside. If Western females are not allowed inside the Thermae, that might be a plus for punters looking to avoid the prying eyes of those who might cast judgment on what they’re up to.

What used to be The Kiwi in the small sub-soi off Sukhumvit soi 8 has been completely gutted and word is that the site will be developed in to a swanky new club spread over 3 floors with a rooftop bar. It looks like those behind it are spending a fortune, more evidence that the movers and shakers are confident of a bright future in the entertainment industry.

And in the other popular Antipodean-themed bar, The Australian on Sukhumvit soi 11 has also gone. It is likely to become part of Sugar nightclub which is on the same site.

The Strip was rammed last night as punters hit the popular Patpong soi 2 bar for its 15th anniversary. That promise of free drinks was genuine and it worked a treat. There are more than a few expats with a headache today, I bet!

Popular local performer Lee Shamrock is still entertaining Bangkok and plays every Friday and Sunday at The Whisky & Gogo in Nana Plaza, at 8 PM. He can also be seen at Scruffy Murphy’s Irish Pub (Sukhumvit soi 23) every Thursday and Saturday, from 7:30 PM. And Lee really gets around, playing at Father Ted’s Irish Pub in Hua Hin (soi 61) every Tuesday from 7:30 PM. He tells me he’ll be playing at Suzi Wong’s on Soi Cowboy in a couple of weeks, on Wednesdays from 8 PM.

Sukhumvit soi 33 fetish house and fantasy club Demonia reopened last December (thanks to the SHA plus certificate), and is doing ok, all things considered. They often host a small party at the weekend with various themes. Often there is wine-tasting, free cold cuts or pasta degustation as well as all of the fetish activities. Presently, Demonia offers every customer a second drink free.

 

demonia-bangkok-2022

 

Finding dancing in the few gogo bars where dancing features is like trying to find four arches in the sky on a cloudless day. Just remember that even if you do find dancing, in most cases the dancers will be clothed.

Some of the gogo bars which are open have been described as feeling more like a cross between a fish-bowl massage parlour and a hostess bar. The ladies are decked out in streetwear and in a couple of venues they sit around together in a group on one side of the bar. Enter and you can call one of the ladies to come over and sit with you, buy her a drink……and go from there.

One friend who has been a regular around the traps reckons there are more ladies about with cosmetic enhancements. Not necessarily tattoos, but ladies who look like they went under the knife. Nose jobs, boob jobs and even the odd sculpted chin or two, he reckons.

That said, maybe some of the lasses in Sin City could do with visiting the local plastic surgeon. From a long-time Pattaya bar boss who wishes to remain nameless comes some frank comments on how things are at the moment in his bar. “It is a big struggle. We’re very low on staff, customer numbers are low and the quality of the girls working for us is very poor. It’s really tough right now.

On Sukhumvit soi 7, cat-calls made to gentlemen wandering up and down the short lane leave nothing to the imagination with the full Monty offered at the opening gambit.

 

Work continues on East End, Soi Cowboy.

Work continues on East End, Soi Cowboy.

 

Work continues at East End on Soi Cowboy and those on the job say all construction work will be completed next week. East End has what appears to be a dance floor raised just a little above the actual floor which means it will likely be one of these intimate single-shophouse-style gogo bars.

In last week’s column I mentioned that 700 baht was the going rate for those who were making arrangements with ladies after the soi 6 bars closed. I subconsciously convert prices in baht in to New Zealand dollars as one does living in the West – and that price strikes me as ridiculously cheap. It’s so little that one feels pity for the lady. (And, please, don’t do as some in the past have done and try to tell me that the daily labour rate is about 350 odd baht which means they’re earning considerably more than they would otherwise and as such 700 baht is fair. 700 baht is peanuts, and insulting to the ladies.)

A few foreigners who own and or / manage bars are holed up in Farangland. I know a couple who got fed up at being unable to open their bar and not knowing when they would be able to turn the lights back on so they headed back home for a month or two – which in some cases has turned in to several months and counting. While the cat’s away the mouse will play – and that might just be happening in a couple of bars where there has been talk from a couple of readers of watered down drinks. This problem happens from time to time. More common is switching premium imported spirits with a cheaper local alternative. Occasionally clear spirits really are watered down with water. The other issue in some bars is very shallow pours served. In fairness, none of this is all that common. One hopes that when this happens it is an errant local staff member. But for sure, foreign bosses away a long time ought to have someone they trust keeping a very close eye on things.

Queen’s Park Plaza in Sukhumvit Soi 22 is long gone. After the bar area was demolished, a Makro supermarket was built in its place. The new Makro on Sukhumvit soi 22 has been open for a couple of months.

Speaking of soi 22, some of the massage shops on the soi have closed which should be no surprise as there were rather a lot of them pre-Covid. Overall, I hear that most businesses on soi 22 are surviving.

 

queens-park-plaza-today-2022

What was Queen’s Park Plaza in Sukhumvit soi 22 is now Makro. Photo credits: Reader Giles.

 

Lecherous Lee tells me a lot of interesting eateries have opened up in Bangkok over the past couple of years and he insists that despite Covid, Bangkok is a better place to live than ever. One of the places I have seen pop up when I have taken a peek at Bangkok social media is Zinc 101, on Sukhumvit 101. The burgers there look great and look like they’re worth going out of your way for. And I also note they have Poutine, something I’ve never tried. It’s on the list of places to stop by next visit.

The restrictions restaurants (and bars operating as restaurants) have been allowed to operate under have ebbed and flow with the Covid numbers. The hours of business and whether alcohol can be served or not has changed numerous times. Strictly speaking, current rules allow restaurants to operate until 11 PM and alcohol can be served with meals. As far as the places your average suburban Thai goes, I hear it is largely business as usual.

Covid has hit everyone, and some people have coped better than others. It could be anything from adjusting to the so-called new normal to accepting you no longer have the stamina to perform between the sheets. Trying to find the path ahead in uncharted territory can be adventurous for some and terrifying for others. For those of you who need some professional guidance along the way, Bangkok Counseling offers culturally sensitive counseling and guidance in these challenging and uncertain times. They are there because Google doesn’t always give you what you need to know. You can find out more at their website: Bangkok-counseling.com

This is what Soi Nana’s newest bar, The Jungle, looks like. We ran out of real estate in last week’s column, hence the photo is included this week.

 

the-jungle-soi-nana

The Jungle, Soi Nana. Photo credits: John Mango.

 

I don’t buy travel insurance when I travel to Thailand because my credit card includes free travel insurance – and the coverage is comprehensive and exceeds what most standalone travel insurance policies offer. I know many readers are in the same boat. It is therefore annoying to see that the current requirements to visit Thailand using the Test & Go system requires a specific travel insurance policy taken out with a Thai company. I had a look at one policy and frankly, the coverage wasn’t great. As keen as I am to get back to Thailand, I’m waiting for the current requirements – namely the Test & Go program – to be withdrawn. After Songkran is when that will happen, at a guess. Hopefully that’s when the clouds open and everything will get a whole lot easier.

If you are going to be in Ko Phangnan for your day 5 Covid test, it might be an idea to take an extra 85,000 baht in case you test positive. If you receive the dreaded positive detection result, you will be referred to Ko Phangnan Hospital. You will be offered no option other than to be transferred to a hotel which is contracted with the first hotel you tested positive at. You will be asked to sign a form in Thai with no price mentioned. Bangkok Community Help Foundation has received three separate reports of people in this very situation being handed a bill of 80,000 – 85,000 baht at the end of the 10-day stay (final price seemingly depends on whether medicine was prescribed). One traveler stated that he did not have this kind of money as he had expected insurance would cover it. He was told, “Police will be called if you don’t pay.“ One person negotiated the final bill down to 40,000 baht. The one positive is that some of the contracted hotels allowed beach access to those who tested positive. It’s reports from travellers like this that put me off visiting Thailand until these compulsory Covid tests for travellers are done away with. If you do travel at this time and were planning on heading to Ko Phangnan, get your day 5 test done elsewhere and once you’re clear then head to the island.

 

Thailand-Related Stories & News Links

Air France says air-fare increases are unavoidable this year.

Canadian police are hunting for two of their nationals wanted for murder in Thailand.

Bloomberg paints a rather gloomy picture of what is awaiting visitors in Thailand.

Pattaya is hoping for an influx of visitors from India.

Another hotel in Thailand has filed charges against a customer who left a less than positive review.

There were confusing messages out of Thailand this week about an apparent name change to the capital city.

 

The Strip anniversary party in Patpong last night. Photo credits: John Mango

The Strip anniversary party in Patpong last night. Photo credits: John Mango

I like to be focused on Thailand when I am writing this column but the past few days I have been distracted by things closer to home with the ongoing anti vaccine passport mandate protests in Wellington. I really enjoyed covering the red shirt protests in Bangkok in 2010 and I have been tempted to shoot down to Wellington for the day to check things out for myself, and take photos. I get the sense that what is happening in this part of the world is reflected somewhat in Thailand where a few readers have mentioned the ongoing restrictions and how there is, in some quarters at least, waning support for them and compliance is not what it was. With Omicron looking increasingly like it’s no worse than the flu, hopefully it’s not long until most restrictions are removed including those which make travelling to Thailand just that bit too difficult at the moment for many of us to pull the trigger. With restrictions being lifted in many countries in Europe and an acknowledgement by countries with a large tourism industry (hello, Thailand!) that they really need to open up as soon as possible, I am more optimistic now than I have been at any time in the past two years. I really think it won’t be long until it’s much easier to get back to Thailand.

 

Your Bangkok commentator,

Stick

 

Stick can be contacted at : stickmanbangkok@gmail.com