Stickman's Weekly Column February 13th, 2022

Teacher Eddy


I was a teacher in Bangkok at a very good language institute and later in the English program of a well-regarded Thai high school. My foreign teaching colleagues were a good bunch and almost all professional but there is only one person I met teaching who I stayed in regular contact with. That would be Eddy.

Eddy was a bit of an oddity. A large fellow with a lumbering, ungainly gate, he had a strong upper body, a shaven head and looked like a brute. He really was the proverbial guy you wouldn’t want to meet down a dark alley. But when he opened his mouth he was softy spoken, well-mannered and unfailingly polite. The Brummie had the perfect voice for a teacher – softly spoken with ultra-clear pronunciation, a voice that sounded like it was tailor-made for English teaching.

A popular teacher, Eddy was easily pleased and it was the small things in life that brought him the most pleasure. Listening to his favourite music in his pickup. A simple meal in the company of friends. He absolutely loved a good curry. And a few bottles of beer. Yes, that last one especially, Eddy enjoyed a few bottles of beer.

When our respective class schedules allowed it, Eddy and I would slip away from school and take a long lunch break. The Irish Exchange. The Novotel. Occasionally The Blue Elephant. Often when we were out to eat and the food was served he’d be like, “Look at that!” as if the meal was something from another planet. He was almost like a young child who’d been given a present he’d never dreamed possible! It wasn’t so much his love of life, but his gratitude for even the small things that really endeared people to him.

Like many of his generation in that part of the world, Eddy grew up in a row house with parents who provided what they could. It was not a flash life but they got by. I always imagined his life growing up in the UK was like something out of an early episode of Coronation Street. There was no fondness for Birmingham, and at the first chance to get away from the place, he took it.

Eddy had joined the navy and before he knew it – and not long out of school – he found himself on a warship bound for the Falklands. His time in the military wasn’t a big part of his life and he never talked all that much about it. He was not embarrassed to say that as that warship was steaming towards South America he was terrified. I got the impression that he joined the navy because he wasn’t really sure what he wanted to do with his life and it would be a chance to travel and see the world. I am not sure that the idea that he could actually go to war ever seriously entered his thoughts.

How long he was in the navy and what he did after that, I can’t remember. It’s some years since we last caught up. So let’s fast-forward to his time in Asia, the part of Eddy’s life that I do know a bit more about.

Eddy and I would go out for a long lunch much more often that we’d go out at night. Eddy wasn’t really a night owl. We’d been friends for a few years when he revealed to me how he came to end up in Thailand. He’d been teaching in Japan. He liked it there and had a good life, all the better because his brother was also living and working there at the time. Eddy had had a Japanese girlfriend but things weren’t working so he called it off. It happens, right? No big deal. Or so Eddy thought. Miss Japan obviously had other ideas. Not long after they split up the police came knocking. In Eddy’s condo, weed was found. At the time Eddy had been an occasional consumer of the illegal herb. That would mark the end of life as he knew it in Japan. He did a short stint behind bars and was deported from Japan and, as I recall, black-listed meaning he could never return. He was in no hurry to head back to Birmingham so that’s how he came to end up in Thailand.

At a time when teaching in Thailand was not nearly as regulated as it is today, foreign teachers had a bit of a reputation. Bangkok was full of weirdos, deviants and criminals who spent the early hours of the day in front of a class of kids. Friday and Saturday nights would see these teachers flood on to Sukhumvit where every teacher worth his salt knew all the best deals – and plenty, me included, would end up at the Thermae. Not Eddy. He was never in to the naughty nightlife. Didn’t care for it at all. He wasn’t against it, he simply didn’t have any interest in it. I am not sure he ever stepped foot in a gogo bar. He did enjoy stopping by the likes of The Toby Jug on Silom and Bobby’s Arms – but they were English pubs.

Eddy liked a drink. Occasionally he would have a long session but mostly his drinking was measured. He’d have a few pints and then that would be it, time to head home.

Eddy enjoyed drinking at home. In a city where there are unlimited places to drink cheap, Eddy seemed to prefer to unwind at home over a few beers. Bottles. Big bottles. Most nights, I gather. I don’t ever recall seeing Eddy drunk, nor close to it. And I don’t think I ever saw him drink more than six beers in one go. Seldom wine and never spirits. Just beer. The drink never seemed to have much effect on him.

Eddy was always keen to save a few baht so when it came time to move house, he did most of it himself. He’d load all of his furniture and belongings in the back of his pickup truck and make multiple trips between his old home and the new. He’d engage a couple of his Mrs’ friends or family to help. One time, they had spent most of the day moving all their stuff. They stopped for dinner and Eddy had a couple of beers. He was tired but there was one last lot of stuff to move. In his pickup truck on the final stretch home, Eddy misjudged a corner and lost control of the vehicle. Two of the helpers in the back went flying out and ended up in one of the klongs that runs off the Chao Praya River. The pickup had scrapes and scratches but it, along with the two helpers, was basically ok. That was one of many scrapes Eddy had.

One day Eddy came in to the classroom while I was in the middle of a lesson. I knew something was up because he had this terribly pained look on his face. Something was seriously wrong. He asked me to come outside and help him. Interrupting another teacher in the middle of a lesson is a big no-no so I knew it had to be something serious. Once outside the classroom, he insisted we run across to the other side of the school. To the principal’s office. WTF! I was supposed to be in class – and you want me to go to the principal’s office? “We need to get there before this crippled guy gets there first and lynches me!”, he said. What was going on?!

What a sight it must have been, two of the school’s white teachers sprinting across the school grounds, one skinny and one heavy-set with an ugly gait, one looking concerned and the other looking confused.

As we reach the other side of the school I see a crippled Thai fellow hobbling ever so slowly towards the principal’s hallowed office. It all comes out at once: This crippled Thai guy is trying to blackmail Eddy.

It turns out that some months earlier Eddy had had another car crash and the crippled Thai fellow was the driver of the other vehicle. The Thai fellow had finally tracked Eddy down. The amount of damage to the other guy’s vehicle was modest and he was asking for less than 10,000 baht to cover the cost of repairs. It was either Eddy pay now or he was going to go the school’s principal and explain the situation. I had a class full of students waiting for me (they were fantastic and while I should never have left them alone, I had such a good rapport with that particular class that I knew there would not be an issue) but I was still a bit concerned about what would happen if one of the Thai teachers saw that a foreign teacher had left a class unattended. As Eddy was telling me his version of events in English, the Thai fellow was telling me his version in Thai. According to the Thai fellow, Eddy had been at fault and he was responsible for covering the damage to his car. It did sound as though Eddy was at fault – and let’s not forget that I knew his driving wasn’t flash. I managed to convince Eddy that it was best to just pay the guy off and be done with it. Mild-mannered Eddy who was never happy to open the purse-strings wasn’t happy at all but in the end he paid the guy off and that was the end of that.

There were other scrapes and misadventures in that pickup truck and it was no surprise that yet another crash would see him in even bigger trouble. The big difference this time was that Eddy wasn’t in the wrong. But it didn’t matter. The police got involved and it got serious.

Eddy decided on a change of direction. He left Bangkok and headed for the seaside. He and his lovely wife upped and moved in to a beachfront house at Ang Sila in Chonburi, not far from some of the famous seafood vendors and restaurants, about an hour and half’s drive from downtown Bangkok.

One day, Eddy had been driving home along the beach road and had indicated that he would be turning left in to the driveway of his house. He had slowed down and was making the turn when a motorbike with 3 people on it crashed in to the passenger’s side door of his pickup. There were 3 kids on the bike. The oldest was 14.

One of the kids had injuries that required a stay in hospital with the bill running up to. While it was clear that Eddy was not at fault, Eddy was not insured which meant he had to deal with the situation himself. Police attended, the details of the accident were lost in translation and before Eddy knew it he was accused of being in the wrong.

The motorcycle rider was unlicensed and not of an age to hold a licence. Nonetheless, a case was launched against Eddy. It got messy. Just like the crash with the crippled fellow, Eddy chose to ignore things. He got a summons to appear in court and for some strange reason, he never went. Things escalated.

Eddy had previously taught private lessons to the children of a well-to-do Bangkok lawyer who he became friendly with so he contacted her for help. Having looked closely at the case and the relevant facts, she was shocked that it had ended up in court. While she felt there were no grounds for a case, the problem was that Eddy had not responded to the earlier summons and everything had escalated. She wanted to help him but being Bangkok-based said it was impractical for her to do so.

Eddy would eventually get the help of a local lawyer but in the end he ended up well out of pocket. It was a sore point for some time and the impression I had was that he didn’t want to talk about it so I didn’t ask. I believe it was settled out of court and Eddy parted with a decent chunk of change.

Ang Sila would never be the same after that so Eddy and his lovely wife settled in another part of Chonburi where they purchased a home. It was a lovely property, a brand-new home in a good development that cost less than 4 million baht.

He had opened his own language school which was ticking over nicely and settled in to a pleasant life. Chonburi always felt busy when I drove down to visit him but he swore it was so much quieter, peaceful and more pleasant than Bangkok. He was happy and this is where he’d stay. He’d work another decade and then put his feet up and enjoy retirement.

I used to enjoy driving down from Bangkok to Chonburi for the day to visit him. We’d meet at the beach mid-afternoon and feast on seafood. He’d have a few large Changs. I’d drop him off home afterwards and either head back to Bangkok, or down to Pattaya for a night or two. Eddy had carved out a life for himself in Chonburi and loved the local lifestyle. It’s hard to think of anyone who was genuinely happier with life than Eddy was then.

The last time I saw Eddy was in Bangkok, in 2017. He’d come up to Bangkok for a meeting and would stay the night before returning to Chonburi the next day. We caught up over dinner and drinks at The Robin Hood. He was as happy as ever. Life had worked out very well. He had a lovely wife. His business was ticking over nicely. He lived in a nice development and he had a new pickup truck! What more could a guy ask for?! We exchanged Christmas wishes each year and the odd lengthy email to catch up on our respective lives.

I was on Facebook when a notification pops up that it is Eddy’s birthday. I send him a quick happy birthday message. A reply comes back. It’s not Eddy, but his wife. “Hello Paul, this is Jan. Eddy die!”

It turns out Eddy hadn’t been well for a while and he put off seeking treatment. When he finally saw a doctor he would discover that he had late-stage cirrhosis of the liver. There was nothing that could be done and he passed away a couple of months later.

With the benefit of hindsight, I would realise that Eddy had been quite a drinker. He didn’t drink huge amounts in one sitting and I don’t ever recall seeing him drunk, or even merely tiddly. But he did have a few bottles of beer most nights. Big bottles. I guess it all eventually caught up with him.

Thailand may not have been his first choice but Eddy loved the Thailand lifestyle. He worked hard to carve out the life he wanted. He had a great wife who for 20 odd years brought a smile to his face every day. He enjoyed so much about Thailand and while the end came early – he must have been around 60 – he had enjoyed himself. Rest in peace, Eddy.

 

 

Where Was This Photo Taken?

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Thanks to reader Paul for this week’s mystery photo. It’s somewhere in downtown Bangkok but can you tell me precisely where? Reader Paul had to tell me where it was because I wasn’t sure! Do drop me an email if you think you know where this week’s mystery photo was taken.

 

 

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

Pattaya closing time.

Closing hours were strictly enforced in the tourist areas of Pattaya when I was there rat the end of January. On Walking Street, at 11 PM on the dot, bars’ lights would come on and everything would stop. One night I was on Soi 6 and I was handed my bill at 10:39 PM. I overheard a manager say that a bar had been fined 20,000 baht for having customers on the premises at 11:04 PM. As I walked out of the bar at 10:45 PM I saw all the other bars were turning off lights, pulling in the chairs etc.

Vaccinate, or return to the States?

Regarding vaccines, I figured you would have had to get at least one as Jacinda seems like a total tyrant <That’s being kind to the $%^&@Stick>. I’ve been afraid vaccines would be required here to extend my visa here in Thailand, and I was prepared to leave everything behind and move back to the States if it came to that. At one time I had heard you needed proof of vaccination to visit Immigration at Chaeng Wattana in Bangkok. I am not sure if that was true or not, but fortunately Immigration here at Jomtien does not have such a requirement.

Now is the best time to be in Thailand.

I’ve been back in Bangkok since the beginning of November when Test & Go started. I’ve been travelling to Thailand on and off since 2011, and for me it’s currently the best time ever being in Thailand. I appreciate the empty tourist attractions in Bangkok & surroundings, and still get to enjoy the nightlife. I don’t feel comfortable on lower Sukhumvit anymore such as the bar complex at Soi 7/1 (basically a replica of Soi Cowboy outside) where plenty of girls approach you and start a conversation. Usually a nice environment but somehow Covid left a mark on me. Nobody wears a mask and it’s pretty crowded – I just don’t feel comfortable there. So now I spend my weekends around the Khao San Road area. Yes, it’s crowded too and nobody wears a mask, but you can usually find a place close to the action where you can enjoy a cold beer and watch the world go by. I’ve attached a picture of last weekend, maybe it’s of interest for you.
Khao San Road this week. Photo credits: Reader Mike.

Khao San Road, last weekend. Photo credits: Reader Mike.

 

More Readers’ Emails

Who to believe?

I had got out of the habit of checking your site every Sunday so I enjoyed reading the column and I’m glad you’re back in the saddle. I have been finding it hard to get reliable reports from Thailand as everyone is giving out biased info that suits their agenda or is in denial about the state of affairs. A friend visiting Ko Samui told me that Chaweng was boarded up and shut down, looking more like Beirut during the civil war, while a friend who owns a bar there said Chaweng is up and running again! Who can you believe?

Happy to be back.

I tuned in on Sunday with huge pleasure, like we are back to normal times. I am sure your comeback is heart-warming to guys who share a history with Thailand. Many bars and naughty places seem to have come out of it alive and that’s reassuring. Your column is not just about Thailand and us, it’s also about keeping guys from around the world with the right to have fun times once in a while, during their hard-earned holidays, far from our far-left-oriented societies where man-woman relationship are destroyed by crazy feminist and MeToo ideologies. Many western NGOs would love to see this happen in Thailand too and probably hoped Covid was their chance to erase the industry from the map but we won’t give them a chance.

 

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This Week’s News & Views

I may have given the wrong impression about Nana Plaza in last week’s column when I said that pretty much all of the ground floor bars were open. What I should have added is that bars on the middle and top floors are also open. Amongst them is what was widely considered the best gogo bar pre-Covid, Billboard. It’s not operating in the gogo format at present, but there are a bunch of Billboard girls hanging out. And if that is not enough to get you to stop by, Billboard has a great deal early in the week – on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday nights, it’s 2 drinks for the price of one.

Also in Nana Plaza, Random has ladies decked out in maid’s uniforms. They might not be dancing but there’s plenty of frolicking around and flirting. Beers at Random are a very reasonable 100 baht.

Spanky’s in Nana Plaza celebrated 13 years in business with a party this past Friday night. For almost all of those 13 years the bar has been under the same ownership – which is quite an achievement in the nightlife industry.

The newest bar on Soi Nana opened on Monday of this past week. Jungle Bar opened in the space that was  previously Hillary 4 (just a little bit further down from the plaza on the same side of the soi). The Jungle is Stumble Inn Group’s latest venture in the open-fronted bar genre. Food is available with burgers starting from just 200 baht, and there are a few pool tables to test yourself against the local lasses. Welcome to the jungle!

Signage went up this week at East End, Soi Cowboy’s newest bar in the spot that was Crazy Cats. I’m still not sure of the exact format or who is behind it so details to follow when I learn more. Good name for a bar, I reckon, even if “East End” brings dodgy geezers to mind.

 

Fast End, Soi Cowboy's newest bar. Photo credits: Dirty Doctor.

Signage went up this week at East End, Soi Cowboy’s newest bar. Photo credits: Dirty Doctor.

 

While most bars in Soi Cowboy only have the terrace section outside open, you can slip in to the bar proper to use the toilet so if your prostate isn’t what it was there’s nothing to worry about.

Has the Soi Cowboy – Nana Plaza – Patpong triangle been broken? Most punters have a favourite or preferred bar area – and some punters hardly ever venture from their favourite bar area. I have one friend who only goes out to Cowboy and hasn’t been to Nana in a few years, or to Patpong in over a decade. It wasn’t always like this. In my early days in Bangkok most punters would float between the 3 major bar areas. In one night you might visit bars in a couple of different bar areas. Some in the industry in Patpong tell me they increasingly feel like the relationship between the 3 so-called farang bar areas has fundamentally changed. Increasingly, there are bar bosses in Patpong who today see themselves as part of the Charoen Krung – River – Chinatown scene. I guess part of this is one key area where Patpong differs from Sukhumvit – the former has long attracted Thai customers which makes for a more diverse customer base and slightly different atmosphere. Remember, many bars in Cowboy and Nana refuse entry to Thai males.

Word is that Patpong soi 2 had a bumper night this past Friday. Just where that surge in trade came from no-one seems to know.

My favourite bar in Patpong, The Strip, will celebrate its 15th anniversary this coming Saturday, February 19th. And get this, drinks are free all night long. I believe that is all customer drinks. Lady drinks are not free. I am not sure I can remember a bar anniversary celebration quite like that!

 

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Closing time remains 11 PM in the bars – or should I say in the bars which have a dispensation to operate as a restaurant. 11 PM closing is part of the government’s measures to prevent the spread of Covid. It does, however, feel somewhat counterproductive in that it forces all customers to go out at roughly the same time, rather than being spread out over the course of the night. Whereas in the past you’d get the early birds (like me) who’d go out early and tend to head home early, and you’d get those who prefer to head out later and stay out until not long before I would be waking up, currently most customers are in the bars in a short window from 8-ish until close, which in most bars is 11 PM.

I had a couple of emails this week asking me to list the bars open late and also to name the bars where dancing can be found. First, I don’t know and second, I would not say publicly even if I did because it could bring unwanted attention to those bars. If you wish to know what is open and where you can see dancing, ask the guy in the bar sitting next to you. Or ask bar staff.

Fancy a cheap afternoon pint? You can’t beat The Old English Pub’s pound-a-pint promotion with Leo draught just 45 baht / pint, every day from 2 PM until 6 PM. Great deal! The Old English Pub is about 500 metres up Soi Thonglor from the main Sukhumvit Road.

 

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Down in Phuket, I am told that the Bangla Road scene has more people than last year, more bars are open, more bars have live music and so on. Everything seems livelier than last year except for one major difference. Just like Bangkok, everything – ok, not quite everything – closes at 11 PM. With the vast majority of customers on Bangla Road at any one time being holidaymakers as opposed to expats, early closing is more of an issue than perhaps it is elsewhere. At a bit after 11 PM each night, police drive down Bangla Road ever so slowly which is a signal for bars to close.

But like everything in Thailand, where there’s a will there’s a way. Some bars away from the main Bangla Road strip stay open well past 11 PM so if you wish to party later in to the night, you can. In fact, you don’t have to venture too far from Bangla…

Down in Pattaya, Buzzin Bar held its Grand Opening Party a couple of days ago. Located in the thriving Tree Town complex, free shots were handed out. If the name Buzzin rings a bell, it’s because the bar is owned by Trevor who just happens to run the popular Pattaya YouTube Channel, Buzzin Pattaya.

Ricky reopened Pandora’s on Soi LK Metro, yet another sign that nightlife around the country is reawakening.

In Pattaya, quite a few of the bars located on those sois off Walking Street are open. There are bars on Walking Street proper open for business but a much smaller proportion.

Some Pattaya gogo bars have temporarily rebranded as restaurants to meet the current regulations that say only eateries can open. So in Pattaya you have the likes of Fahrenheit Bistro, Tantra Restaurant etc. Pin Up, Palace and Windmill are amongst other previously popular bars that are open.

Pin Up is half the size it was and the stages have been removed so they could put in bistro-style tables where customers can sit with girls and drink. Staff say everything can be put back in place including the stage at short notice. They’re waiting for the green light for dancing to resume.

Palace has also removed all its stages and replaced them with tables.

I hear that the approach of some horny punters in Pattaya is to make arrangements to meet ladies from soi 6 at the end of their shift at 11 PM where 700 baht is said to be the going rate. Apparently quite a few bars on soi 6 are open, particularly those at the lower / beach end of the soi.

 

Soi Cowboy, this past Friday night. Photo credits: Dirty Doc.

Soi Cowboy this past Friday night. It was not as busy as Nana or Patpong soi 2. Photo credits: Dirty Doc.

 

This is not new news per se, but I mention it nonetheless as I imagine many readers may not know about it. Charley Brown’s is Bangkok’s longest running Mexican eatery and has a following amongst both expats and Thais. A fire broke out in the venue in early December and the damage was quite bad. Fortunately, the fire service got there quickly and the fire was quickly brought under control with no-one hurt. The amount of work required to fix the place was staggering. Smoke and water damage meant every tiny little thing needed removing and storing elsewhere. Every inch of the floor, walls and ceiling needed scrubbing, practically down to the plaster. And then it all needed sealing and repainting. All the electrics needed rewiring. Melted water pipes had to be replaced. The burnt-out area had to be completely rebuilt. Amazingly, the venue managed to reopen in less than a month. Everyone in the hospitality industry has done it tough these past two years but if ever there was a venue worthy of your support, it’s Charley Brown’s. Do drop by if you’re in the mood for Mexican.

A friend in Pattaya mentioned to me this week that he has not been vaccinated. He also mentioned that he had expected to be in the States around this time – and after visiting the States he would return to Thailand which has been home for many years. Would he be able to get back to Thailand given that most countries require non-nationals to be vaccinated? I don’t want to get in to the whether to vaccinate or not debate while at the same time I am curious as to where readers’ thoughts are at – given that there must be a percentage who are not vaccinated. I imagine that showing proof of vaccination against Covid will be a requirement to enter Thailand for the foreseeable future otherwise one will likely be looking at the alternative of a lengthy stay in quarantine. For the record, I have had two shots of Pfizer but I have ignored the constant spam messages from the NZ government to get a booster. If I get a booster, it’ll only be because I need it to travel – and even then I will leave it as late as possible. Two jabs was one thing but the idea of getting a booster of an MRNA vaccine just 3 months after the first round of two shots makes me nervous. When it comes to vaccines, I am very much in the “it’s your choice” category and I won’t be commenting on what I see as an individual choice. Do what you’re comfortable with while remembering that there are consequences for that choice. Just don’t get me started on vaccine & mask mandates otherwise my blood pressure will shoot up.

 

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Thailand-Related Articles & Stories

Quote of the week comes from Dave The Rave, “The go-go bar business is a numbers game. All the girls have numbers and they’re on the game!

Reader’s story of the week comes from Kloth, “Reset in Bangkok“.

Two elderly Thai hookers are in court for defrauding some fine, upstanding Kiwi gentlemen.

A foreigner was found hanged and the house burned down.

A Thai driver navigates a long, extremely narrow driveway every day.

Former Bangkok bar manager Dave The Rave is interviewed on YouTube.

Popular Thailand articles author Steve Rosse is interviewed on YouTube.

Is it a barber’s shop or is it something more?

Bangkok Pat put together this great video looking back at Soi Cowboy.

A popular farang cartoonist is interviewed about life in Thailand.

 

Nana Plaza fell in to darkness this week. Photo credits: John Mango

Another fun night out in Nana Plaza, early February 2022. Photo credits: John Mango.

 

I feel like I’m warming up. This week’s column was easier to write than last week’s. It’s fun and it’s good to be back. I did have a few doubts in the back of my mind about how it would go, partly because I have not stepped foot in the country for so long. From my perspective things are going well – and I hope you’re enjoying tuning back in too.

Your Bangkok commentator,
Stick

Stick can be contacted at : stickmanbangkok@gmail.com