Stickman's Weekly Column June 2nd, 2024

Stickman Weekly, June 2, 2024

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Mystery Photo

Where is it?

Last week’s photo was taken of one of the entrances leading in to MBK. Many of you got it right so this week’s is a little trickier. Not difficult per se, but not what I’d call easy either.

 

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

Foreigners bring it on themselves.

mens clinic bangkok

Regarding the “Life in Thailand, a reality check” email from a reader, violence in tourist areas are, in 99% cases, provoked. You have to behave pretty badly to be a target, but then it can really kick off. In Farangland, there is a much bigger risk of being robbed or assaulted. I have had ugly experiences in Stockholm and New York. But in 350 party-nights in Thailand I have never felt threatened, and on occasion (during my first trips) I was drunk like a kite.

Lesson learned.

One of the few more important things I have learnt over the years visiting Thailand is NEVER intervene! Let it run its course while you strategically retreat to a safe place of refuge. It’s not your fight, but soon could be if you choose to try and help, unfortunately.

Trying to get your head around the local psyche.

Regarding the Thai propensity for violence, I come down somewhere in the middle of the road on this issue. I find Thais generally to be friendly, peaceful people who don’t look for conflict, but on the other hand beneath that veneer they also can be quick to anger. The problem is that as foreigners we don’t understand the Thai psyche and the cultural tripwires that can set them off. That’s something Thais intuitively understand because they were raised in Thai culture but it escapes us foreigners. For example, I was recently met at the airport by a female driver from a well-known Pattaya taxi service (whose name I’m withholding because I don’t want to be sent to the Monkey House for defamation). She was pleasant and friendly during the drive but as we neared my hotel on Soi Honey she became confused and stopped the car to stare at the map function on her phone. Since we were only a block away from the hotel I asked her to put her phone away and to keep driving a short distance. She ignored me so I asked her again. Eventually she drove on and we stopped in front of the hotel. A few seconds later she turned around, shoved the phone in my face, and started yelling at me angrily in Thai! I had somehow offended her for reasons unknown. I handed her payment along with a generous tip in the hopes of calming her down but to no avail. Even as I walked away from the taxi and into the hotel lobby, she rolled down her window and continued screaming abuse. If she wasn’t 4’10” and 40 kilos she likely would have beaten the shit out of me.

So easy to start a fight.

I’d agree with the email regarding violence in Thailand. Just simply looking at someone can start a fight. How many news clips have you seen with the reason for the altercation being “มองหน้า”?

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The airport’s a breeze.

I got your readers beat on the airport exit record. Landed on the 14th. For some reason the flight parked up to Immigration. Normally, EVA has you doing a lap of the airport to get out. There was literally not one person ahead of me at passport control and as I travel light, hand luggage only, I was straight out of there. Walked down to catch the train into Bangkok proper and as luck would have it, the train was there waiting for me. I reckon from landing to being on a moving train was 10 – 15 minutes.

 

More of the beautiful murals around the walls of Nana Plaza.

 

More Readers’ Emails

A good time, not a long time.

Your closing comments regarding people dying in Thailand in their 40’s and 50’s as opposed to in their 80’s in e.g. New Zealand reminded me of the phrase a buddy of mine used to say, ‘I’m here for a good time, not a long time‘. And, yes, he passed away aged 54!

Soi 11 becomes Soi Africa.

The comments on Soi 11 and the Africans are bang on the money. I have been staying at Fraser Suites for the past week and have walked back to the hotel from Sukhumvit at around 03:00 on a couple of occasions. I would say the number of Africans congregating between the 7 Eleven and the Grand President is now getting quite oppressive. You have all the blokes giving you the ‘What’s up, man’ routine, and now added to this a large number of African working girls that have taken up residence on the temporary beer bars who try to grab your hand when walking past. I am amazed the police have not cracked down hard on this yet, considering the number of hotels on Soi 11 and the traditional tourists using these hotels. It doesn’t give a great impression of Thailand, does it? But maybe they aren’t out and about at 03:00 so nobody cares?

A recent credit card experience.

You asked if any readers had experiences using credit cards in Thailand. I have and sure enough, mine was not positive. A couple years ago I was driving a car, stopped for gas, used a credit card to pay (something I had done many times before). The next day, I received a message from my bank asking if I had tried to make a substantial airfare purchase. The bank had rejected it as the “user” did not have access to a 2-factor authentication code. The bank cancelled and replaced my card. Quite obviously the cashier at the PTT station had written down the 3-digit security code from the back of the card and then either tried to use it on their own or sold it to someone else. They were not smart trying to buy an air ticket as that’s too easily traceable, but still…I’m lucky my bank spotted it. I’m now a cash only person in Thailand unless I personally accompany my credit card to carefully watch the transaction. There is larceny everywhere in the world, but sadly Thailand has more than its fair share.
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Hope at the end of the tunnel?

I know this might sound hard to believe, but I think the prices in both Soi Cowboy and Nana have risen so much in 12 months that Baccara has value again. I’m a decent looking 49-year-old sales rep, so I have some skills interacting with people. I managed to extract long-time with 2 attractive girls in Baccara on separate occasions, one for 5K the other for 6k. That’s the market rate now. I couldn’t confirm this but I felt when in Baccara a lot of Japanese and Koreans were walking away from girls. I don’t know why, but a Japanese guy I spoke to in Pattaya told me that a lot of Japanese and Korean men now realise that they are a soft touch compared with farangs. He said that they are starting to object to having 4 girls standing around them saying “Kon’nichiwa, can I have a drink?” 10 seconds after they sit down. Is there hope at the end of the tunnel?

 

 

Pattaya’s soi 6 this past Friday, very much business as usual. Last week it was the scene of a very nasty incident.

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This Week’s News, Views & Gossip

The big story from the bar industry this past week was the vicious assault on 3 Brits on Pattaya’s soi 6, outside Helicopter Bar. Just hours after last week’s column went to press, the story broke that a trio of security guards had set upon 3 customers outside a Pattaya bar. There are multiple versions of what happened, but what seems to be agreed is that there was a misunderstanding over a bill, harsh words were said and things escalated. Video from inside the bar was leaked online, along with multiple mobile phone recordings from those who witnessed it. It looked to me like a security guard caused things to escalate by shaping to punch one of the foreigners inside the bar. He didn’t actually throw a punch, but lowered his fist. They would all head outside and then things kicked off. 3 foreigners versus 3 Thais sounds like an even fight but despite being considerably bigger, the foreigners took a pounding. There is a particularly brutal bit where one of the foreigners is sprawled on the ground and a security guard runs from out of frame and kicks the foreigner flush in the side of the head. You wouldn’t be surprised if it was a fatal blow. But they breed them tough in the UK and shortly afterwards, the foreigners get up and walk away. Multiple video clips of the incident went viral and the 3 security guards were summoned to the police station where they apologised for their actions, gave the requisite wai and were not charged. A few days after that, one of the 3 foreigners made a formal complaint to police. The last report stated that the guards involved will face criminal charges. Will we hear anything more about this? The media in Thailand has a habit of reporting things when they first happen and then you never hear about them again.

When news of this incident first broke, the rumour mill went in to overdrive. Many said that the guy who had been kicked in the head died. It would take a few days for the rumour mill to settle down and become clear that the guy who had been kicked in the head had not died, and was fine.

In the days following the incident, more details would be revealed. The 3 security guards were not employees of the bar, rather they are part of a group which provides services for bars in the soi. If there is an issue, they are called. The Pattaya authorities would confirm that these security guards did not have the requisite credentials. This incident is a good example of why many feel uneasy about the presence of Thai men in and around the bars.

 

Soi 6, Pattaya. You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy.

 

It might be a party street lined with sexy ladies welcoming you inside and promising a good time, but let’s not forget that Soi 6 has a history of violence. In 2018, an American with a previous conviction for murder killed an Aussie in Ruby Bar on Soi 6. Today, Soi 6 attracts a much more diverse bunch and is, remarkably, on the mainstream tourist circuit. Chinese tour groups and Russian families enjoy taking a slow stroll up and down the soi, keen to see for thesmelves a much more raw version of Pattaya’s famed nightlife than the 2024 version of Walking Street.

What do I make of soi 6? The classic line from Star Wars “You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy. We must be cautious has not infrequently been used to describe the Thermae in Bangkok. The Thermae is tame in comparison, and that phrase seems much more fitting to describe soi 6.

With Soi 6 now on the mainstream visitors’ map, comparisons between it and Walking Street are inevitable. Walking Street certainly has its detractors these days as the nightlife transforms from the old model where most bars had ladies available to a much more diverse range of venues. That said, it is Walking Street that still has, arguably, the best gogo bars in the city with the likes of XS and Pin Up. Prices may be higher on Walking Street but there’s a decent argument that you get a more upmarket experience. Walking Street attracts a lot more Asian customers who are – let’s be frank – generally better behaved. Walking Street is brighter, has a police presence and I’d suggest it is safer. You only have to look at YouTube videos of Soi 6 and Soi Buakhao and you can feel a nasty edge. Walking Street is mild in comparison. I’m not against some edge per se, but when you get lots of low-rent yobs on the lash as is common on soi 6, things can take a turn for the worse.

 

Walking Street, Pattaya, this week.

 

This is supposed to be a Bangkok-centric column so let’s leave Pattaya and go back to Bangkok. In Nana Plaza, positive things are being said about Bunny’s 2. If you stop by, let me know how you find it.

Even torrential rain couldn’t dampen the fun at Angelwitch’s 24th Anniversary Party on Thursday night. Decorations went up early. 10 suckling pigs along with sides and Thai food were ready to be devoured from 7:00 PM. The heavens opened around 5:00 PM and heavy rain would fall until around 8:00 PM. It eased, but steady rain continued until midnight. The result was many empty seats early but from around 9:30 PM familiar faces started turning up and by 10:30 PM Angelwitch was filled to capacity, with owners, current and former staff, along with owners and managers from other gogo bars all dropping by. As one friend said, everyone who is anyone in the bar industry stopped by. The party brought out the full complement of girls, many of whom probably would have stayed home during such a downpour. The horn was pulled many times, and the party went late into the night in what was described as a night to remember.

In other bars, many girls stayed home because of the rain, and most bars suffered on Thursday night, as is the norm when the heavens open. Some bar stages were very light on ladies. Erotica had just 3 ladies on stage before midnight. And that was 3 more people on stage than seated. Other bars where there are usually decent numbers of ladies had only a handful. Rain that starts falling late afternoon and doesn’t let up is a disaster for bar trade.

 

The Angelwitch 24th anniversary party, this past Thursday, was attended by everyone who is anyone in the bar biz.

 

What’s up with Twister, in Nana Plaza? One week I hear it’s filled with well-rounded ladies, then this week it’s back to normal with a line-up of ladies befitting a bar in the best gogo bar area. I guess that like a lot of bars these days, girls in the bar group and / or from an agency move around different bars within the group. One week you stop by and there are some stunning ladies, the next week it might be a different team altogether. I’m not sure about the logic of bars doing that. Imagine if you had a ticket for a match at Anfield and you turned up and it was the B-team playing?!

I received a report this week from one of the big name Bangkok gogo bars where a customer was asked to buy what would be his third drink. He hadn’t decided if he was ready to commit to another in that bar or head elsewhere. The server said to him, “30 minutes overtime.” What does that mean? You’re allocated 30 minutes per drink before you have to buy another drink? I get it that bars don’t want customers to nurse a drink all night long but that was not the case…and in what is usually a very well-run bar, this came as a bit of a surprise. Such a policy would be perfectly understandable, but it should be communicated with punters. I’ve sought clarification from the owner.

 

CenterPoint, Sukhumvit soi 7.

 

Has the CenterPoint beer bar complex in Sukhumvit soi 7 become the new favourite bar area for older expats? Some have commented that the area seems to be a magnet for older guys. If true, it would be no surprise. The vibe is laid-back and not all that different from the old Queen’s Park Plaza, in Sukhumvit soi 22, which appealed to plenty of older expats.

What is it with many bar ladies these days getting a tattoo of their year of birth? Why has this become a thing? Is this a bar industry thing or is this more widespread? It’s odd in an industry where lots of miles on the clock, so to speak, is hardly a great selling point. These ladies can be very economical with the truth, especially when it comes to their age – and a tattoo with their year of birth or even their exact date of birth makes it hard for them to claim to be younger than they are. That said, most of these girls don’t look any further ahead than their next meal so I guess they hadn’t considered that. Or maybe I have got it all wrong and they’ve got a tattoo with a year that makes them out to be much younger than they really are? “Mister, look here, I born 2004, 20 year old, young lady for you na ka!” Now that would be clever!

There have been comments that some bar areas and the streets around them aren’t as busy or as vibrant late at night as they have been traditionally. There are many possible reasons and most likely it’s due to the time of year with May being a quiet month, and a change in the mix of customers. In May, expats may make up a bigger percentage of bar customers. Expats are more likely to head home early if they have work the next day – which may make some bar areas appear quieter late at night.

 

Late at night, out front of Nana Plaza.

 

Aside from the nasty assault on Pattaya’s soi 6, the other big news from Thailand this week was the announcement of a new visa, and an increase in the time you can stay on a visa waiver. For those who enter Thailand on a visa-waiver (all Western countries, plus many others) i.e. you arrive in Thailand without having applied for a visa in advance, you will get 60 days permission to stay, up from 30. Great move, Thailand! It was announced that this would come in to effect from June 1 i.e. yesterday but arrivals are still being stamped with 30 days. Hopefully it will click over to 60 days very soon.

A brand-new visa has been introduced called the DTV (Destination Thailand Visa). It’s a 5-year multiple-entry visa and costs 10,000 baht. While the details aren’t clear, it looks like this visa will allow you stay in Thailand for 180 days each time you enter. If this is true, it will be a boon for those who want to stay for a few months but don’t want the hassle of visa extensions and / or visa runs. It’s unclear if it could be used for back to back 180-day stays. For all we know, there might be a limit of how much time you can stay in the country such as 180 days per year. Details remain scant. The initial information – see the graphic below – states that this visa is targeted at various groups including digital nomads, remote workers (the FIFO crowd?), those in Thailand for medical purposes and a host of other reasons. It *appears* that digital nomads will be able to legally work while in Thailand if they have this visa. That would be massive and I expect this will be huge news amongst digital nomads all around the world. This new visa is expected to become available in a month or so, with the exact date to be confirmed. While there still aren’t a lot of details, I can see this visa becoming very popular and resulting in a huge influx of youngsters to Thailand. It would also be great for those who wish to escape winter at home and spend a few months in Thailand without the hassle of frequent visa runs. On the face of it, the new DTV visa removes the main roadblock that prevented so many people from spending more time in the country. You can find more about the DTV visa here.

The impression one gets from this week’s announcements is that Thailand has finally relented, and made the decision to make it easier for foreigners to stay in the country for longer without the need to go down the marriage / retirement / work visa path. It’s like Thailand has answered the many critics who have long argued that 30 days is not long enough for some, and that it’s too difficult to remain in the country for a few months at a time.

Of course, the devil will be in the details and with this in mind, there is one thing digital nomads need to consider. Thailand’s amended tax laws that came in to effect from the start of this year deems anyone who spends more than 180 days in the country in a calendar year as tax-resident in Thailand. There remains much confusion over just what this will mean in practice. I wonder if Thailand is keen to attract digital nomads not just for the economic benefits they will bring while residing in the country, but perhaps to bring them in to the Thai tax system too? I wouldn’t expect there will be any clarity on this particular issue until next year when tax returns for 2024 are due.

Amongst the comments from readers published in last week’s column was a note from a reader that said Thailand was one of the most dangerous countries in the world. If you were to compare Thailand with parts of Central or South America, South Africa or even a few cities in the United States, Thailand compares very favourably. I think the issue with danger in Thailand is that many have this notion that the country is safer than it is. It’s the actual danger relative to the perception that it is safe that I think is the issue.

The young foreigner living rough in the general Asoke area is still about. It can be confirmed that the police have been notified about him. A Thai wrote online that they called the police. The men in brown suggested the caller check if the fellow needed help. Said good Samaritan did that, but apparently the guy didn’t say a word. He has been living rough in that area for at least a couple of months, possibly a lot longer. It’s disappointing that the authorities aren’t more proactive in getting him off the street. Assuming he entered the country legally, all they need to do is fingerprint him – and then they can identify him from Immigration records, and notify the relevant embassy.

Back in March I wrote a column opener titled, “Someone’s Gonna Get Whacked!” I suggested that all was not well in the bar industry promotion space and how there were ugly rivalries and nasty stuff going on in the background. I ended the column saying things could escalate to the point that someone got whacked. A few of you emailed to say that I was dreaming. This week someone really did get whacked. That is whacked as in assaulted, not whacked as in murdered. I’m not going to go in to the details of what happened or the parties involved. It was a silly thing to do and the perpetrator has been banned from the bar area where the incident took place.

If you’re the victim of a crime, what is more important to you? That the perpetrator is punished, or that the perpetrator compensates you? In my part of the world, the best you can hope for is that the cops actually look in to it and the perp is caught. Punishment will, in all likelihood, be light. Thailand has a large police force and complaints that may not be taken seriously in the West are investigated in Thailand. And if the perp is caught – and they usually are – punishment can be very harsh. And you, as the victim, may have options. You can insist that the perp faces criminal charges. Alternatively, you may have the option to enter an agreement with the perp whereby you as the victim are compensated and in turn you withdraw the complaint, meaning criminal charges aren’t pursued. The police can coordinate this, write up the agreement and witness it. Many Thais consider it preferable to be compensated than the perp being punished with a fine / community service / jail time / criminal record. It’s worth considering this when you’re in Thailand, both if you’re the victim or you happen to harm someone.

There are still some issues with the server on which this site is hosted and frustratingly, things are still loading slow. The technical department knows about it. I cannot actually do anything about this myself. I just write the column while the technical side of things is totally out of my hands. I hope it’s resolved soon.

Thailand-Related News Articles

Two foreigners are arrested on Ko Samui after riding around on bikes with loud exhaust pipes and giving the finger to locals.

A Brit is caught at Newcastle Airport attempting to import a large quantity of drugs from Thailand.

In Pattaya, a single punch by a Brit to a Russian who had been harassing his daughter kills him.

Thailand has finally given in to pressure and is introducing new visas for those who wish to stay longer.

Another 3 visa agencies which had helped Thais get visas to travel abroad are busted in Bangkok with dodgy documents.

Pattaya says it plans to clean up its reputation for sex tourism.

Police have broken up a network that illegally helped foreigners, mostly Russians, to stay in Thailand long-term.

 

The Angelwitch 24th anniversary party, this past Thursday.

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Closing Comments

Many thanks to those of you who help me with this column, from those who send bits and bobs of what is going on, to friends who provide photos, to the fellow who kindly checks the column for typos. Thanks also for all of your emails and feedback, some of which I run each week. I feel very lucky to have had such great support. Without it, this column wouldn’t continue. I am very grateful to you all!

 

Your Bangkok commentator,

Stick

Stick can be contacted at : stickmanbangkok@gmail.com

nana plaza