Stickman's Weekly Column October 23rd, 2022

Stickman Weekly, October 23, 2022

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Mystery Photo

Where is it?

Last week’s photo was taken of the hospital in Benjakitti Park, just south of where the old Tobacco Monopoly buildings used to be. This week’s shouldn’t be difficult if you’re in Bangkok now, but could be very difficult if you haven’t been there for a while…

 

 

Meet her at Billboard, Nana Plaza.

 

 

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

Treetown horrors.

I’ve just run the gauntlet through Treetown, Soi Buakhao and Soi Pothole. At 5:30 PM a fair few girls had arrived and were either eating or gossiping with their friends. There’s always been a lot of rough Pattaya girls, but this was at another level! In the daylight you can see them for what they are and it’s rough, really rough. Perhaps the more attractive ladies arrive later in the evening. Those punters who were out were with their mates, rather than the girls. Walk across 3rd Road and you see Thai restaurants, nightclubs and venues with attractive young ladies for Thai men!

The permeating stench, not everyone likes ganja.

I came back to Bangkok for 4 days as part of a business trip layover. Last Monday was a religious holiday so it was a “dry night”, with all of the bars closed. I arranged to meet a friend on Soi Nana for dinner, at Fitzgerald’s Irish Pub. As I was turning the corner from Sukhumvit to Soi Nana, I got hit with the stink of marijuana as I walked past the closed beer bars. It wasn’t that anyone was smoking as the bars were all closed, it was as if the smell had somehow been “baked-in” to the road, shophouses and sidewalk. It was vile, and I can only imagine if the bars had actually been open. I noticed the pot trucks open on Soi 11, and the odd shophouse dispensary open. Hopefully, this is all a fad that plays itself out after the initial rush.

Non-mask wearers not welcome in Thailand.

I hope the Thais continue wearing masks in places like the BTS FOREVER. Why? Because hopefully it will keep those stupid and ignorant low-class kee-nok farang in their own countries and well away from Thailand. It certainly seems to be working well in your case. Thailand does not need people who do not understand the basics of how effective masks are. It does not need “I only care about me” people. Thailand has a strong sense of community and social responsibility. We don’t need the anti-mask-idiot brigade. People who are so shallow as to be more concerned about masks being a “fun killer” or “dehumanising”, as opposed to exhibiting just a bit of social responsibility and caring for the wider community are not welcome here. Thank you for staying away. Please do not return. You will not be welcome.

Who cares what others think?

I only wear a mask if I go into a store. Elsewhere, if I get bad looks from sheep because I’m not wearing one I really don’t care. I don’t know them, they don’t know me and I’ll never see them again.

Upcountry love of masks.

A couple of weeks ago, I was in Si Saket. In Big C, EVERYONE was wearing a mask. Not just inside the mall, but everywhere in the small city. It’s far better in both Pattaya and Bangkok. Up north, they are still scared and walking in a local market, a woman hurried to put her mask over her nose as soon as she saw me.

 

Meet her at Mandarin A Go Go, Nana Plaza.

 

More Emails to Stick

Rainy season in Phuket.

I had to make my way to Phuket Airport last Sunday morning as I was heading to Bangkok. Things were messy and it was a nerve-racking ride. Fortunately, the hotel had a 4WD SUV to get me there. We took the elevated road that skirts the hillside and only just made it. There were torrents of water coming down from higher up and we ran the risk of being T-boned. Other roads had water levels that made them unpassable. There were motorbikes strewn about, having been washed downhill. I had had an early night the previous night because I had to get up early and get out to the airport to catch the 10:20 AM flight. I had no problems getting back to my hotel that night at 11 PM even though it had been raining all day. The couple who were staying in the next room got stuck on Bangla Road when it flooded. The longer they waited, the higher the water rose. Strong winds knocked down powerlines which became submerged in the water. It was pitch black so they decided to wait it out but by daylight the water was waist deep! They eventually made it back to the hotel, but had to wade through waist deep water and avoid several black snakes that were swimming about. It took me nearly 3 hours to get to the airport. Fortunately, the flight was delayed and I made it on time.

Regarding Russians traveling.

Just read your thoughts on whether you thought Russians might make Thailand a medium to long-term destination during the conflict in Eastern Europe. I live in Dubai currently and have definitely noticed a large influx of Russians and Ukrainians coming to the country. Some estimates are around 200K having arrived this year. Given that Middle Eastern countries have remained neutral or an open back-channel for peaceful negotiations, there are still direct flights from Russia to Dubai and other Middle Eastern countries. Quite a lot of wealthier Russians have bought property in Dubai as well in order to ride out the storms at home. The property market here in Dubai is booming as a result. I was chatting with a taxi driver here who says a whole neighborhood is now over-run with Russians and he can tell the rich ones from the “lower class ones” because the rich ones can’t speak English. With that said, staying in Thailand would depend really on the ability of Russians to transfer in their money and open bank accounts. Remember, more than 6,000 Russians got stranded in Thailand when sanctions took effect on Russia and payments from Russian credit cards back in March. One has to wonder whether they would want to chance it again by subjecting themselves to financial constraints outside of their control. There were also some horror stories concerning angry Thais who didn’t get paid by Russians on vacation and even Russians who had no place to sleep so they had to take shelter in churches. Between 2011 and 2015 it seemed like Russians had become one of the biggest groups of tourists in Thailand, particularly in the islands and Pattaya. I remember McDonald’s on Walking Street having the full menu in the Russian language displayed outside. Then oil prices started crashing in 2016 which caused the expendable income of the Russian middle class to dissipate. The Chinese tour groups subsequently took over as the top tourist in Thailand and I never really saw the Russians come back to Thailand in the same numbers they had previously.

 

 

Meet her at Tycoon, Nana Plaza.

 

 

This Week’s News, Views & Gossip

The owners of V8 and Insanity have decided to move to a new location. All Insanity employees have been re-assigned to other businesses within the group and no-one will lose their job. New locations are currently being scoped out and it is hoped that a new, bigger and even better Insanity will open in early 2023.

The prime spot on the corner of Sukhumvit soi 5 has just reopened as…..you guessed it, another weed shop. Which really begs the question of whether certain strips of Sukhumvit now have more cannabis dispensaries or more tailor’s shops.

Halloween is a week from tomorrow and, among Thailand’s red-light haunts, no bar has ever done All Hallows Eve like Angelwitch. With a skeleton hanging from the ceiling year-round and a witch as its mascot, the middle-floor Nana Plaza bar treats Halloween as its Christmas, New Year’s Eve and Valentine’s Day all rolled in to one. Closed last year during the Covid-19 pandemic, Angelwitch is back on October 31st with its annual Halloween party. (There was a party in 2020, as bars were open in Thailand, but there were no tourists to enjoy it.) There will be specially themed “spooky shows”, girls in elaborate costumes and drink specials all night. Customers are encouraged to attend the party in costumes of their own for a chance to win prizes. The scares begin at 8 PM.

 

The place to be at Halloween!

 

It’s so hard to know what is really going on in the bars with highly conflicting reports from readers reaching me recently. There is a general consensus on how each of the three major bar areas are doing but when it comes to individual bars, there’s not a lot of agreement. And like I say, the reports I receive are all over the map. One bar that has long polarised punters has seen reports at each end of the spectrum. I have had people tell me that Crazy House in Soi Cowboy is positively booming. And then within days – including all of the most recent reports – I hear that the top floor of Crazy House is closed and almost half the girls on the ground floor are covered up. Reports from different nights of the week make for inconsistent findings, especially when heavy downpours can have a terrible effect on trade. I guess as much as anything it is further evidence that Friday and Saturday are the best nights to go out if you want a party vibe while the rest of the week can be a bit of a lottery.

Further to the email above from a reader about the torrential rains causing chaos in Phuket, the road over the hill to Patong has been damaged badly and crews will be scurrying to repair it. Word is that some girls have said that business in Patong has been so lousy that they are heading home for a while and hope that the crowds will have returned to Phuket when they come back. Will the Thai tourists who typically visit Phuket at the weekend stay away for a while? It sounds like the next week or two night be quietish in Phuket.

 

Soi Diana, at the height of the rainy season.

 

The rainy season is coming to an end in Bangkok and Pattaya. The photo here, taken by a reader on Pattaya’s Soi Diana a week ago, is not untypical for the area following a heavy rainy season downpour. The end of the rainy season marks a largely dry period that lasts for several months or so, but comes with a proviso: When the rainy season ends, the air quality, particularly in the central region, the north and the northeast of the country, deteriorates markedly. Before long, AQI numbers will be all the rage again and those who have been watching the rain radar on their app will start peeking at a new app showing AQI / pollution levels.

If you’re a creature of habit like me, you might have 2 or 3 favourite hotels that you like to stay at when you visit Thailand. You’re familiar with the location, the staff and the facilities and feel comfortable there, almost like it’s a second home – and you might not like the idea of staying somewhere else….but given what is happening on the ground you might like to reconsider. If you stay in the Sukhumvit corridor between Nana and Asoke – as many Stickman readers do – a fair few projects are being worked on and on some cases, high-rise buildings are going up. Needless to say, these projects can be very disruptive for those staying in the immediate area. Think trucks coming and going at all hours meaning lots of noise. And with the rainy season almost over, expect clouds of dust throughout the day and dreadful air quality. And at the risk of provoking some of the more PC readers, these large projects often have worker villages nearby where those working on the project are provided temporary accommodation, where they live and relax for the duration of the project. Thais hate the idea of such temporary accommodation setting up near where they live. You can get noise through the night as they relax after work with a few drinks and properties in the vicinity may notice an uptick in crime, with the migrant workers said to be behind it. While this would not be something for a holidaymaker to worry about, it is a real concern for everyday Thais.

 

Meet her at Tycoon, Nana Plaza.

 

The film rights to Stephen Leather’s classic Thai bargirl novel Private Dancer have been sold. That said, there is no guarantee that the movie will actually be made. The big screen rights to many books are sold but the movie never sees the light of day. Steve Leather commented, “It would be great to see Private Dancer on the big screen – I can’t believe it’s been more than twenty years since I wrote it. So much has changed since then, but relationship-wise, so much has stayed the same.”

I really don’t want to say much more about mask-wearing as my position on masks is known – and seems to be shared by the majority of readers. That said, some, a small minority it would seem, are – and I think this is the right word and not exaggeration – outraged at my stance on masks. To those of you who feel that we should all wear masks 24/7, I will ask you one question: If you visit your homeland and / or any of the many countries which have moved on from Covid and discarded face-mask rules such as New Zealand, Australia, the United States and much of Europe, would you wear a mask 24/7 while you were there? Or, if you visit your home where masks are hardly seen at all (I have not seen anyone in a mask for a long time here), would you wear a mask when, say, walking along the street as you do in Bangkok? Make all the noises you want about people not wearing masks in places where there is no legal requirement to do so, but would you do so wherever you go? I raise my eyebrows when I see images and video of Thais roaring along on their motorcycle with a face-mask, but no helmet! Wear masks where they are mandated – and I’ll be the first to acknowledge that there are places where they should probably be mandated such as hospitals, rest-homes etc. But elsewhere, if there is no mandate – and especially when outdoors, I just don’t get it. OK, enough about masks, no more from me on that.

 

The weird house surrounded by a new shopping mall being built on Sukhumvit soi 17.

 

 

What is the background story to this house?

 

What is happening with the old house near the mouth of Sukhumvit soi 17? Or rather, what is happening around the old house near the start of Sukhumvit soi 17? Is it a protected building – meaning you cannot knock it down? How do they manage to build on the surrounding land a structure that looks like it is going to essentially be built all around this old house? Bizarre doesn’t seem like a strong enough word to describe what is going on there!

Messages on TV screens at Immigration at the airport inform passengers to prepare their passport, flight ticket and e-visa, if needed, for the Immigration officer. Some readers have also reported being asked for their boarding pass – so it might be best to hang on to it just in case.

Talk of ridding prime Sukhumvit of street vendors selling sex toys and fake pills appears to be just that, talk. The local authority had said they would crack down on vendors in the area and it seems that for a short time they did. But as is so often the cases with crackdowns in Thailand, it appeared to be a very temporary thing. The vendors – and all their colourful wares – are back. On the northern side (odd numbered soi side) of Sukhumvit between Asoke and Nana, one reader counted 15 vendors selling either sex toys or pharmaceuticals this past week.

MRT station security announcements are now in Mandarin, not just Thai and English. Are they expecting the Chinese to return soon?

 

Cashless payments preferred….fancy that!

 

I had to do a double-take when a mate visiting Bangkok sent the photo above. Cashless payments have taken off in Thailand and when signs say that cashless payments are preferred, wow, it reinforces how fast things are moving. A couple of readers have also mentioned that many bars now allow cashless payment – and these readers say they prefer it too. I get it. I almost never use cash these days in New Zealand and it’s so much easier to pay with PayWave. I can’t remember the last time I used cash – I don’t think it was this year. This said, I am a little surprised that so many people who go to naughty bars and certain other venues are so willing to pay electronically. Your payment history can be tracked and a picture formed of where you’ve been and what you’ve been up to. Are you comfortable with your visits to cannabis shops, gogo bars and certain other venues potentially being tracked? Could this come back to bite you in the future? I am just asking the question. Next time I’m in Thailand I’ll set things up so I can make electronic payments from my Thai account for most things. But not everything. While most of us are model, law-abiding folks, don’t forget that these days police often solve crimes using a mix of CCTV cameras, mobile phone records and electronic banking records. If you plan to be a really naughty boy, keep this in the back of your mind.

I wish there was a decent real estate website in Thailand that had more than just listings of properties for sale. There are plenty of real estate websites which showcase properties in Thailand for sale, but they’re nothing like the websites we have in the West where you get so much more. I like being able to view the history of a property including how much it sold for in transactions going back decades. Likewise for adjacent properties in the same building / street / neighbourhood. These websites often estimate the approximate market value of a property. In Thailand, however, it seems that property sale prices are a very tightly guarded secret and it’s difficult to work out just what a property may be worth. In case you’re wondering, no, I don’t have any interest in buying property in Thailand – but I do find following the property market to be both fun and informative.

 

Meet them at Tycoon, Nana Plaza.

 

Thailand-Related News Article Links

The boys in brown catch up with a Canadian who had been in the news after clips posted to social media showed him roller-blading around Bangkok.

A Porsche-driving Frenchman who knocked a Thai out in a rare one-on-one fight could be looking at jail time.

A weed festival in Buriram is delayed due to legal issues.

A landslide on Patong Hill closed the road in and out of Patong Beach while the main road to the airport was also flooded.

A New Zealand drug lord / gang member is arrested in Thailand for drug-dealing.

Face-mask rules in Thailand will be cancelled soon.

Malaysians plan a one-stop weed entertainment complex called “Cannaverse” on Sukhumvit Road.

A woman is found to have been living at Suwannaphum Airport for 2 months.

 

Meet them at Mandarin A Go Go, Nana Plaza.

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I’m always interested in your thoughts on what should be covered in the column, and what shouldn’t. That said, please don’t ask me to refrain from sharing my opinion. I won’t say what I think about everything, but I will comment on certain issues. This week a reader chastised me for having included my opinion on various things I was commenting on. Not the place of a journalist to comment and share their opinion, he said. To be clear, I am not and have never claimed to be a journalist. I am a commentator. I comment on what I see or hear happening, and sharing my opinion is a part of that. For sure, there is a little overlap between what I do and what a journalist does. If you want to read the work of journalists, head for the Bangkok Post. If you want to read about stuff the Post deems much too spicy and don’t mind someone sharing their opinion, you’re in the right place.

Your Bangkok commentator,

Stick

 

Stick can be contacted at : stickmanbangkok@gmail.com