Stickman's Weekly Column June 12th, 2022

Au Revoir, Monsieur Eden


Early last month the mainstream media reported on a shooting in Sukhumvit soi 49 involving a couple of foreigners. One Frenchman and one Thai woman were shot dead, while another Frenchman suffered serious gunshot wounds, but survived. The mainstream media did not pick up on a particular detail – one of those involved was Marc, the once hugely popular former owner and operator of the Eden Club.

In the early 2000s, Eden Club was one of the most popular nightlife businesses in all of Bangkok. Marc was the venue’s high-profile frontman and owner, a colourful character in an era when the bar industry was full of them. If you visited Eden Club during its heyday, you almost certainly met Marc.

Much is known about Marc from his time at the Eden Club. Much less is known about his time before he ran the bar, and how he spent his time after he sold up. What follows is a mix of memories about a fellow whose company I enjoyed away from Eden Club, and a piecing together of what happened on those fateful final moments on Sukhumvit soi 49 last month.

For a time Eden Club was the hottest ticket in town. It was so insanely popular that guys would book sessions with ladies months in advance. The venue was almost unique in the nightlife industry in that it often ran at capacity with all of the rooms full of horny customers and accommodating ladies.

Marc established himself as not just the guy behind Eden Club, he was Eden Club. Eden Club without Marc just wouldn’t be Eden Club. Marc would become known as Mr Eden or as he preferred, “Papa”, the name the girls called him. Eden Papa, the papasan of Eden Club.

For years, Eden Club was the perfect business. Customer feedback was overwhelmingly positive and guys kept coming back for more. Even today, a decade after Marc left the business, some readers still ask me about Eden Club.

And the girls were happy, making great money. Marc once told me that no girl who worked for him earned less than 100,000 baht / month – and many made a whole lot more. And we’re going back 15+ years when 100K went a lot further than it does today.

And of course Marc did very well from his venture, making huge profits along the way and then cashing out for what is believed to be well in excess of a million dollars.

Things couldn’t have got off to a worse start between Marc and I. Eden Club had been getting a lot of exposure online so myself and a mate thought we’d go along for a look. Only a look, mind you. At 1,600 per girl – and the requirement that you take at least 2 – we two school teachers had absolutely no intention of partaking. We were keen to have a drink, see what all the fuss was about, and leave.

Marc would have none of it. He had us pegged from the moment we walked in the door. Looky-loos, tyre-kickers, time-wasters, call us what you will. “Zees ees not a place for drinking”, he told us in this thick French accent and made a shooing gesture with his hand for us to go back the way we came. Eden Club was a place to have fun upstairs and those only after a drink weren’t welcome. We left.

Marc would later learn that that fellow he had asked to leave was Stickman and he would invite me back to the bar / club / brothel (just how do you refer to Eden Club?). A friendship began.

I would sometimes spend time perched at the counter bar on the ground floor of the Eden Club watching people come and go, nattering away with Marc in between him dealing with customers, girls and the seemingly never-ending stream of bookings customers would make. Most of our socialising was done away from the club.

Marc was typically French. Head-strong, frank and keen to argue the details. Whatever we were talking about, he’d either be absolutely interested in it and incredibly passionate about it, or completely disinterested and keen to move on to a new topic. Small talk? No, thanks. He was also a lover of good food.

Marc would call me and joke, “Paul, I cannot get a date tonight so my unlucky night is your lucky night” and with that I’d be summonsed to the club from where we’d head out in to the night. Never to a bar, always for a meal. Le Beaulieu, the New York Steakhouse and various French & Italian places, Marc delighted in telling me how he loved Bangkok after dark. It was his world. Bangkok by day? Not interested. Bangkok by night? I’m in love.

With a nasty scar / skin graft across a swathe of his neck and up to his ear, Marc had a striking look. I was much too polite to ever ask about the origins of the scar. Word was that he had been a competitive motorbike racer and the scars were the result of an accident. That sounded plausible and I never questioned it. I would later learn from a couple of mutual friends that Marc told them his ear had been sliced off after dealings with some Japanese gangsters went bad.

You couldn’t pigeonhole Marc. He was very much his own man. A connoisseur of French fine dining and living well, he also ran a hugely popular and highly successful brothel. To his customers he was the friendly, customer-focused papasan, always smiling, talking of the fun to be had upstairs and promising a full refund should anyone be unsatisfied.

Underneath the charm there was a calm ruthlessness. When things didn’t go his way and he was challenged or put under pressure, Marc would tense up and you wondered what might happen next. He could go from warm and friendly to stone-cold, steely and with an expression that sent chills down your spine.

Spend time in his company and you soon knew that he rubbed shoulders with people most of us wouldn’t want anything to do with. Marc was comfortable in Bangkok’s underworld.

Many years later I would later learn that Marc arrived in Bangkok shortly after a lengthy stay in a Japanese prison for drug-related offences.

As I said to a friend not so long ago, there were perhaps 4 people in Bangkok I knew who I would be very, very careful to never get offside with. You just knew that each had the propensity to exact revenge against those they felt had slighted them. Marc was one such person. We always had a good relationship but you really didn’t want to get offside with him.

Marc proudly showed off his Thai firearms licence, something that is usually impossible for a foreigner to be issued with. Did he actually own a gun? History would show that, yes, he most certainly did. Marc was connected.

With the huge success of Eden Club, Marc acquired Absolute Bar – a bar on the same soi – which he converted into Bangkok Beat, a live music bar / disco which would become popular with freelancers and just like Eden Club, go on to become a great success.

Soi 7/1 transformed from a quiet soi with little of interest to one worth stopping by. Eden Club’s popularity attracted more bars and Sukhumvit soi 7/1 would become known as Soi Eden, a nickname that remains today.

But nothing lasts forever and with various health issues, Marc was keen to cash out and enjoy life.

Marc had had his ticker rewired some years earlier and was a heavy smoker. Away from the smile, he never looked like a well man. His plan was to head down to Phuket and enjoy retirement. That was around 2010 and I guess Marc would have been early 50s or so.

I can’t remember exactly when each of Eden Club and Bangkok Beat sold, nor do I remember how much each went for. I do seem to recall that Marc had been asking north of 50 million baht for Eden Club and a little less for Bangkok Beat. Rumours were rife but it is generally accepted that he pocketed somewhere in the range of 75 – 90 million baht total for the two venues – more than enough to sail off in to the sunset and see his days out in comfort. Not bad for a guy who arrived in Bangkok with 100 baht to his name.

I had little contact with Marc after he left Bangkok. The occasional email would come. Then silence. Nothing. The last time I heard from him was several years ago and he sounded happy. The days of deep discussions over dinner had passed and while he would happily chat in person for hours, he wasn’t big on lengthy emails.

I am surprised his bad ticker didn’t get him first. Marc would exit this world in what sounds like it was a dramatic final scene in a Steve Leather thriller where all manner of plot twists come together and all hell breaks out.

The mainstream media news reports of the events of that fateful day in early May aren’t all that clear and we’ll never know exactly what led to two people dying.

It appears that Marc had gone along to a food factory in Sukhumvit soi 49 to settle a score with a fellow Frenchman with whom he had had business dealings.

He carried a black bag with him, and in that bag was a gun. He had arranged to meet a lady there too, believed to be a former love interest.

At the factory, Marc shot the lady, killing her instantly. He then shot the other Frenchman. The shot was to the lower abdomen and caused serious damage but it wasn’t lethal. In the melee the younger Frenchman managed to get his hands on the gun, turning it on Marc, shooting and killing him.

A handwritten note in English found on Marc by police shows that he had gone to the factory with a plan to shoot both the lady and his business associate and then turn the gun on himself. The note instructed those who found it to use the money on him to pay for his cremation.

Since that fateful day last month it has been revealed that Marc had late-stage lung cancer.

It’s a sad way for one of Bangkok’s bar industry characters to exit this world, a sad way to say goodbye to the city he once loved. Au revoir, Monsieur Eden. Rest in peace.

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Marc was interviewed in this column, September, 2006:   Marc, Eden Club Interview

Eden Club was profiled in this column, November, 2013:    Inside Eden Club

Mainstream media reports on the shooting, May, 2022:   Marc, Eden Club, The End

 

 

Mystery Photo

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Where is it?

Last week’s mystery photo was taken from the foot-bridge by the Hyatt Regency looking towards Sukhumvit 11/1. This week’s photo might look obscure so let me give you a clue. It’s somewhere in central Bangkok that might just be more popular with expats than it is with foreign visitors.

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Find her at Whiskey & Go Go, Nana Plaza.

Find her at Whiskey & Go Go, Nana Plaza.

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

Face mask use in Pattaya.

I’m told that right now more and more people in Pattaya are walking around without face masks – and there seems to be no real enforcement. Even better, the Governor of Chonburi has stated that he wants to review the situation in his district and then see what to do with the face masks. In other words, he wants to see if there’s a way around the official policy of the government. Of course the guy understands that there won’t be a serious recovery of the tourism industry in Pattaya if this face mask nonsense is enforced, or even when it’s still just the official policy (without enforcement). Potential tourists will still hear face masks are mandatory everywhere and that’s enough to keep them away.

Airfares, 2022.

I booked flights London – Bangkok – Seoul – Bangkok – London for June, 2020, at a cost of £680. Obviously everything was cancelled and I received a voucher for the full amount. I have just booked return flights to Bangkok (no Seoul) at a cost of £738. Taking everything into consideration, I am not too displeased

Itching to get back, but…

I have to admit I’m gagging to get back after two and a half years away. I’ve got two flights booked, the first two weeks in July and the second trip for the whole of November. All are flexible tickets so I can change dates easily. But much as I want to go, I still haven’t fully decided if I will travel in July. I’ve had Covid and had 3 jabs and we’ve pretty much been back to normal life here in the UK and been restriction-free for months. So the thought of 15 hours each way on the plane and in transit in a mask, and then having to wear one on the street the whole time in 34C heat is seriously putting me off. Not to mention the continued flip-flopping on restrictions every 5 minutes now the nightlife is officially open.

Not a family show.

You’re damn right about Twister BKK and Geisha giving Billboard serious competition. I’ve been a fan of Billboard since it was Carousel and even before that, but let me tell you about Geisha. The girls in Geisha are hard workers. They get so dirty while dancing and running around the bar that the management has installed an enclosed shower at one end of the stage and a sudsy tub with a shower on the other end. Apparently, the bar was short on space in the dressing room. The girls take advantage too. Some of them are so dirty that they stay in the shower for a half hour or more scrubbing down! The customers sitting around the open tub, bless them, even help the girls washing down, getting at those difficult to reach areas. Everyone is concerned with hygiene so they even help. There’s a lot of vigorous activity in the big dimly lit sofas. I suspect that’s where some of the girls find themselves needing a shower. To the gentleman who wrote in recently aghast about what he saw on stage in Pattaya, I would suggest he stay away from Geisha, lest he risk a heart attack. It’s not a family atmosphere and at the moment it’s more fun than anywhere else.

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Partying in the bubble.

I think some guys get so caught up in the Thai nightlife scene that they are in a bubble. For them, the outside world ceases to exist. I am not passing moral judgment, but recommending deaf mute prostitutes in your column is a bridge too far. That’s crazy stuff. Most of us get caught up in worrying about school safety for our kids. We worry about the economy or global conflicts. It appears to me, and I could be off base here, but some guys are way too caught up in the nightlife. I say go grab a few beers and have some fun, but understand the need to keep one foot grounded in the real world. What happens in gogo bars or in the nightlife scene is not real, and guys need to understand this. I volunteered to be a baseball coach for a bunch of 10-year-olds, so that is my main focus nowadays. I used to enjoy the nightlife, but I had limits. Nowadays I see it for what it is.

Which bars are prepared to compete on price?

My experience with folk who run bars here in England is that the way that old nightspots like Sexy Night can compete with new ones would be to set prices low. Bar owners can be blinkered and think punters will pay top dollar for base experience. This may apply where there is a transient crowd of travellers but less so when the regulars are local expats. Talking with a lady I know well in Sexy Night about the prices charged for drinks compared to other venues, she was incredulous that they should be priced any less than elsewhere and maintained the bar was as good as any other. This was after I had taken her into the likes of Billboard and Butterflies.

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Opening night at Blondie, Nana Plaza.

Opening night at Blondie, ground floor of Nana Plaza.

 

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This Week’s News & Views

The big news in Thailand this week was the decriminalisation of cannabis, otherwise known as marijuana, ganja, weed, pot etc. While it is no longer a crime to grow and trade marijuana and hemp products under license, recreational use and the production of anything with more than 0.2% THC – the psychoactive compound that gives users that high – still can get you 3 months in prison and a fine of up to 25,000 baht. It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out. It’s great for those who like to consume it but for those who don’t – and those who don’t like to be around smokers – it gets interesting. Some feel this will be a boon for tourism; others feel it could backfire. One suspects that Khao San Road and some of the beaches and islands are going to become a stoner’s paradise.

In addition to being Legal Weed Day, Thursday also brought the opening of Blondie, the new Nana Plaza ground-floor bar from the people behind Spanky’s that was featured in last week’s column. As predicted, the bar was a hit from its first night. Customers, many of them friends of the owner and manager, were lined up as the bar opened at 8 PM and the place was more than half full at 8:30 when most other bars in the plaza still had just a few punters.

On stage, Blondie was spot on, with every girl wearing long, blonde wigs and a terrific variety of “anime”-style costumes. There were Sailor Moons, schoolgirls and superheroes, plus a few “manga” vixens in stilettos. A lot of thought went into the costumes and theme and it showed. And, despite the Bangkok “girl crisis”, Blondie managed to have about 20 girls on the first night, including a couple of stunning lookers formerly of Rainbow 3. Blondie’s sound system also showed its pedigree, with the DJ spinning a modern mix of tunes that were said to sound great wherever you sat. And last week’s worries about the air-conditioning proved unwarranted, with the club actually having the opposite, icy problem. But that, and other niggles, are expected on the first night. Going forward, no, not every girl will have a blonde wig every night. It was something fun for opening night.

 

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All the girls at Blondie had blonde wigs on opening night.

 

The “booble bath” is running again at Butterflies, another step toward normalcy at the top-floor Nana Plaza bar which has many familiar faces back on the poles.

The street booze booth scene is thriving between Nana and Asoke with stalls running late in to the night, still going strong after all the bars are lights out. There are many booze booths and some nights they are packed, so much so that I have heard folks are talking about other businesses they can start up to feed off the crowds. How do these stalls manage to operate in a country where permits are required for every little thing? A donation is paid to the powers that be, of course. If you’ve ever wondered why beers at these street stalls are relatively pricey, it’s partly because their daily donations run 6,000 baht / night. Don’t pay? You’ll be closed down quick-smart. 6,000 baht per night is about 3 times what many bars pay. With that said, street-side booze booths have no rent to pay and no electricity bills.

An early-morning raid Friday of the Vampire after-hours club – which has been packed until 5:30 AM for months – upended Bangkok’s nightlife scene. While the huge haul of drugs and drug users at Vampire – a Thai disco with only a smattering of foreign customers – has zero connection to the farang / Asian-tourist gogo bar centres, police looking for any reason to disrupt normal business decided they needed to close down everything early Saturday. Nana Plaza – tens of kilometres from Vampire with virtually no overlap in customers – was shut down at midnight while on Soi Cowboy, even Crazy House’s lights went up at 12:30 AM Sunday. Just as police penalised Nana Plaza for the completely unrelated underage sins of one bar at the Soi 7 bar complex, shutting down Sukhumvit nightlife because of a drug raid at a remote Thai disco that has been paying off those in power to stay open all night for months makes zero sense. But trying to make sense of Thai police actions can only lead to brain haemorrhage. It is what it is. As if the closures weren’t enough, Lumpini police were in the plaza before 9 PM again on Saturday night, checking IDs and showing everyone who’s boss.

 

Baccara, for so long the busiest gogo bar in Bangkok.

Baccara, for so long the busiest gogo bar in Bangkok.

 

There have been mixed reports from the bar that was for so long the benchmark by which all others are measured, Baccara. Some say it’s doing nicely, others say it’s not back to anything like what it was. Baccara used to do unreal trade and was for many, many years, the busiest and most successful gogo bar in all of Bangkok. It was so busy that a few years back the bar introduced a policy where customers had to order and pay for their first drink outside the bar before you were allowed inside the gogo bar proper. There was often a queue of people waiting to order their first drink and get inside. That queuing and being forced to buy a beer outside nonsense has long gone – and hopefully it doesn’t come back!

I’ve received a number of emails these past few weeks commenting on the current rates for barfines and girls’ asking prices. In Bangkok, barfines have crept up in some bars with 900 baht not an uncommon number to set the girl free for the evening an hour. In many bars, ladies now ask for 3,000 baht and in at least one bar, the girls have banded together and agreed that they all must ask for 4,000 baht. I wonder whether there’s much long-time in Bangkok these days (I would be interested to hear from readers on this). Certainly, it’s not something you hear mentioned these days.

Feedback from friends on the ground and readers is consistent – while the bar areas might not look that busy in photos, and the atmosphere outside the bars isn’t back to what it was, step inside the bars of Cowboy and especially Nana – and many are back to pre-pandemic levels. In Nana Plaza, Billboard, Spanky’s and Twister BKK are all booming with notable mentions to Geisha and Butterflies. In Soi Cowboy, it’s Country Road, Crazy House, Long Gun and Suzie Wong that people are talking about. Over at Patpong, I’ve not heard of any particular bars booming (perhaps Shenanigans is the one exception?) but trade is said to be picking up.

Almost nothing from Pattaya this week. The one bit of news I heard was third-hand. Apparently popular, long-time bar manager Ricky has just sold his Soi LK Metro Bar, Pandora’s. Nice one, Ricky, you’re in the right place to kick back and enjoy retirement.

 

The bars near the start of Sukhumvit soi 22.

The bars near the start of Sukhumvit soi 22.

 

As bars go about recovering from Covid, what changes can we expect in the bar industry going forward? Between 2015 and 2020, customers became much more diverse. There were nights when some naughty bar areas felt more like a mainstream tourist attraction than a red-light area as couples and even families made up similar numbers to naughty boys. This was especially so in Soi Cowboy. And then there were some nights when a bar area felt more like downtown Mumbai than Bangkok. The days of most punters being middle-aged white males are long gone. And then Covid came along and for a few months things reverted back to how they once were and most customers were middle-aged white guys. As tourist numbers pick up, can we assume that bargoers will be more diverse again? Assuming that will be the case, will bars cater to that more diverse market? Could there be red-light themed bars which are not actual red-light bars i.e. the ladies cannot be barfined? Could we see more coyote dancers and more shows and show bars? Could such bars demand an entry fee? Ultimately, it is the makeup of the customer base that determines the way bars operate. As things pick up post Covid, will bars revert back to the drinks and barfines model? Or will they change? Interesting times ahead…

You know tourists are returning with queues seen daily at the Super Rich foreign exchange booth at the Asoke BTS / Terminal 21. They haven’t been seen since the pandemic wiped out tourism but they’re a thing again. (Of course, Stickman readers know that the place to change your money on Sukhumvit is not Super Rich but the branch of Vasu Exchange on the corner of Sukhumvit soi 7/1 – not because the rates are better (there’s seldom anything in it between Super Rich and Vasu), but because it’s a much more comfortable spot to change your money being air-conditioned and indoors.) Who wants to queue up outside a foreign exchange booth in the heat of the day in Bangkok, and then hand over a chunk of money in full view of all and sundry?!

 

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The queues are back at the Super Rich foreign exchange booth at Terminal 21.

 

Fewer airlines flying in to Thailand and fewer flights means less competition which means higher airfares….and that’s without factoring in high fuel prices. This past week we looked at airfares from Auckland to Bangkok. Fares are all over the place but, as we expected, are much higher than pre-Covid. A Thai lady friend of ours here who hasn’t been home for 3 years bit the bullet and paid $2,500 for her ticket which is more than twice what a standard return Auckland to Bangkok ticket cost pre-pandemic. Needless to say, at this price we have yet to pull the trigger.

One thing to consider when looking at higher airfares is that hotel prices are a whole lot cheaper than they were. So while you might pay more to get to Thailand, once you’re there your accommodation should cost a whole lot less – and assuming you stay for a while, the savings you make on the hotel should more than offset the higher airfares.

Remember the Captain’s Bar, on the ground floor of the Mermaid Hotel, Sukhumvit 29? It has been rethemed, and renamed 29 Music Bar Grill. There is live music every night and manager Keith Nolan performs with his band Cotton Mouth on Saturday nights. It sounds like a nice spot if you’re looking for a slower pace than many of the bars featured in this column. More details at the 29 Music Bar Grill Facebook page.

 

29 Music Bar Grill, not far up Sukhumvit soi 29 from the main Sukhumvit Road.

29 Music Bar Grill, not far up Sukhumvit soi 29 from the main Sukhumvit Road.

 

I was telling the other half about Marc from the Eden Club and what had happened to him. The other half asked many questions to understand the situation with her interest in why he would shoot the Thai woman. While the exact words Marc wrote in his goodbye note aren’t known, he obviously felt she either owed him money or had ripped him off / benefited unfairly from him financially. The other half then went on to comment on cases where a woman rips off a man. She explained that Thais are well aware of how some Thai women target Western men and play the long game to empty his wallet. When someone rips another person off – especially when it is a significant amount of money – she feels that most Thai people won’t feel much sympathy if the victim seeks revenge. When such revenge is exacted – even if it is as extreme as in this case – she genuinely believes that many Thais will feel it is warranted. Not right and not justified, but warranted. She went on to comment about the cases of Western men who are ripped off by a Thai woman, especially those who buy a house and put it in their partner’s name because they cannot legally own land in their own name. In such cases, she says, if it was a Thai man who was ripped off then many would do as Marc did – and their fellow Thais would completely understand. She’s not saying it’s right or it’s ok, simply that in the cases when a rip-off is so big and there is no other way to put things right, no-one should be surprised if someone seeks to rebalance the equation.

If you’re looking for a good source of news from Thailand, you can try the Bangkok Post. But frankly, I find it rather dry and as I have said countless times before, it feels to me like it is very much written for a Thai audience. There are a handful of Thailand-centric, English-language news sites out there. Some are poorly written and some just get things plain wrong. One site I like – and I link to various news items from it each week – is the Bangkok Herald. Well-written articles which cover stuff of interest to foreigners. Check it out.

Also, do note that popular author Steve Rosse who wrote a lot of articles for this website in the past now has his own YouTube channel.

 

Find her at Whiskey & Go Go, Nana Plaza.

Find her at Whiskey & Go Go, Nana Plaza.

 

Thailand-Related News Articles

Joe Ferrari, a Thai former police chief is convicted of killing a suspect in custody.

Sex, laughs and the snip: an audience with Thailand’s ‘Condom King’.

3 foreigners have been charged with lethal recklessness after a Russian model fell to her death from a condo in Phuket.

An alleged British pedo wanted on charges back in his homeland is caught in Pattaya after 8 years on the run.

There will be a vote on whether to scrap the Thailand Pass this coming week (which if it happens likely means entering Thailand would be as easy as it was pre-pandemic).

Thailand’s leaders agree the country must move on from Covid.

The 300-baht tourist tax is delayed again.

The first steps towards introducing new legislation which would allow craft beer brewing in Thailand were taken this week.

Thailand is looking at offering those who use the tourist waiver scheme i.e. developed countries and some others, 45 days permission to stay instead of the usual 30.

 

Sukhumvit soi 8, earlier this week.

Sukhumvit soi 8, earlier this week.

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What do you make of the decriminalisation of cannabis in Thailand? It’s an issue I don’t really have any thoughts on. I am not nor have I ever been a user of cannabis so at a personal level it means nothing to me. I’m anti-drug, but by that I mean that I am anti the nasty, hard, highly addictive stuff like heroin and meth. Weed has always seemed largely harmless and I have no issue with it. I note some have celebrated the fact that they’ll be able to consume cannabis in Thailand without fear of ending up in handcuffs while others don’t like the idea of going out to venues where there may be a bunch of stoners. I thought about writing an opener on this topic but the truth is I really don’t know much about it and don’t think I could do it justice. As such, any comments in the column will have to come from readers – and I’ll run them in the emails section. If you have any thoughts on the decriminalisation of cannabis in Thailand, do drop me a line.

Your Bangkok commentator

Stick

Stick can be contacted at : stickmanbangkok@gmail.com