Stickman Weekly  3/8/2008

Thailand's Rules, Regulations & Laws

No matter how enchanted you may be by Thailand, every one of us has things that annoy, perplex or perhaps even piss you off.  For some it is dual pricing.  For others it may be the cut-throat attitude of the women of the night.  Some find Thailand’s heat just too much to bear.

But what about me?  What is it that bothers me about life in Thailand more than anything else?  For me, it is Thailand’s rules, regulations and even some of its laws.

Some of the rules and regulations in Thailand are just downright comical.  Some make absolutely no sense at all.  And the laws of Thailand?  Well, while I admit that it is their country and it is up to the Thais how they rule their Kingdom, some laws really do make you scratch your head and wonder.

Oh, where do I start?!

Let’s start with something really simple.  Why oh why is it that you have to wait until your driver’s licence has expired before you renew it?  Renew it the day before it expires and you get a 1-year extension.  Renew it after it has expired and you get a 5-year extension!  I cannot for the life of me understand why this is.  If someone can explain the logic to me, I would be grateful.

Another curious law is that concerning red registration plates on cars.  When you buy a brand new car it comes with a red licence plate.  Bright red, it clearly stands out from the crowd.  This is not the "final" registration plate but an interim plate.  On the one hand you gain a little face because, of course, only rich people have the dough to buy a new car.  But most curiously, the red plate comes with all sorts of restrictions, the craziest of which is that you cannot drive between the hours of 6 PM and 6 AM.  Why?  Do the headlights on new cars take some time to bed in?  Is the red registration plate unable to be viewed at night?  It just doesn’t make sense!

And what about the totally nonsensical regulation that alcohol cannot be sold between 2 and 5 PM from supermarkets and convenience stores.  It is however, quite ok to make a sale if it is in excess of 10 litres.  What the you-know-what?!

But let’s not be too harsh on the laws of the land and the lawmakers.  There are all sorts of regulations that are crazy and the private sector is very much in on the act.  In many apartment buildings, particularly the better ones, you might be challenged by security guards if you are seen moving belongings out of your unit.  Many properties compel you to complete a form outlining not just what you are taking out – and they sometimes require a remarkable level of detail, but where you will be taking the items and most curiously, why!  Failure to complete the form my see you physically blocked from carrying out your belongings, that is items that they did not even know were there in the first place!  Why on earth do they need to know this?  Of course, it is supposedly a policy to enhance security, but how it achieves that I have no idea.  Like many rules in Thailand it is pure bureaucracy creating work for someone who would otherwise be a lay-about.

Getting back to government policy, one of my favourites is the regulation surrounding the amount of money you need to qualify for a marriage visa.  To qualify for the marriage visa you need 400,000 baht in the bank.  That is, I guess, the amount that the lawmakers deem is necessary to adequately support not just yourself, but also your Thai spouse, for a year.  A little on the light side I would suggest but hey, what would I know?  Yet a retiree, a single retiree, needs twice that, 800,000 baht a year.  Scratch your head because I am!

Another of the hilarious regulations, one which thankfully is not widely enforced, requires a work permit to open a bank account.  But what if you are in Thailand on a retirement visa?  You must have 800,000 baht in a local bank account, an account that, without a work permit, you should not be able to open.  It's all rather amusing!

Of course when it comes to the implementation and enforcement of the rules, regulations and laws, it can be very much about who you are.  In the case of rules and regulations as opposed to the laws of the land, a good relationship with the rule enforcers often means anything is possible.  A friendly relationship with security staff will see them looking the other way at almost any indiscretion.  And let's be honest, irrespective of the colour of the uniform, incentives go a long way in Thailand...

Of course we cannot underestimate the issue of who you are and your reputation when it comes to law enforcement officials.  This is hardly a Thai thing.  But one of the novelties of being a government official in Thailand is that, based on the fact that you are an elected government official (ka-rachagarn) you can get automatic bail, simply based on your position.  That is why, for example, if a policeman is accused of and charged with a crime that he gets bail automatically.

And let's not forget the different way local law enforcement officials may enforce the law.  If you're a foreigner, the chances of the book being thrown at you are significantly higher.  I'll never forget the story that came out of Phuket several years ago about the German who was pretending to be a Thai woman and communicating with Western men, convincing them to send him money for air tickets to visit them, while presumably blowing this cash in the local bars.  The fellow was caught and if my memory serves me right, he was jailed.  Many Thais do exactly the same thing and there is little doubt in my mind that any complaint about them would result in comments to the effect that the guy should not have been so stupid!  And no, I'm not talking about the girls who have 3 or 4 guys on the go, but Thais simply scamming money out of guys abroad.

Going off on a tangent for a moment, this is a scam that one very well-known Bangkok-based foreigner carried out for some time.  He placed ads in various publications in the West and scammed his fellow men in the West.  He would sit in one of the open air bars in the Nana area and compose letters to the guy, spending their hard-earned on liquor and song.  Unlike the German, this Brit got away with it.

Of course, it is highly amusing that the creation of pornography is illegal in Thailand, but books are available, in Thai, that give unscrupulous lasses all the tools necessary via form letters to send their darlings abroad with promises of all sorts of naughty acts and sucker money out of them.

Of course not all of these laws and regulations concern foreigners and while we may moan and groan, the worst effects are felt by Thais from less privileged backgrounds.  You often hear that the minimum wage in Thailand is somewhere between 150 and 200 baht a day, depending on the province, but there are plenty of employees paid less.  100 baht, 120 baht a day are still earned by many in the countryside and no, I am not talking about illegal labour from neighbouring countries.  Compare that with a small factory that a friend of mine managed for a while.  He was berated by the local Labour Ministry inspector for paying what the inspector felt wasn't enough "for a foreign owned and run company".  That this particular company paid more than any other factory in the street, all of which were in the same industry, was lost on him!  The inspector tried to flex his muscles and make up regulations that didn't even exist to force them to pay more.  They battled enough trying to stay on the right side of the law and had to deal with that nonsense.  Ridiculous!

Of course a white face approaching a police checkpoint, or my favourite, the expressway toll booths, is much more likely to be waved over to the side than a local, but in fairness to the boys in brown, a country bumpkin in a pick up truck with provincial registration plates is just as likely to be waved over.

One of my favourites is bringing in goods that may exceed one's duty free allowance.  The well-known, much tried and tested method is simply to load up the luggage of your Thai girlfriend or wife with your excess.  Even if caught with a significant quantity of liquor, tobacco, or other taxable goods, she will likely get little more than a telling off.  A Westerner with ten bottles of wine would face the sort of fine that could max out a credit card!

On that matter, Thailand is one country where the smarter girls really do turn on the charm when dealing with the boys in brown.  To me, this is a test of just how confident a Thai woman really is.  A lady lacking in confidence might get sulky and even stroppy with the police whereas a genuinely confident woman will use her femininity, and frankly, her sexuality to talk herself out of most situations.  Traffic infringements, exceeding duty free allowances or other minor offences pose no problem to a confident Thai woman.

While I would not condone anyone to cheat the rules, regulations and laws of Thailand, with that said, if you plan on staying for a period of time, it pays to understand the system and to learn the little tricks.  There are a number of short cuts you can take.  For example, while I don't condone driving like a dickhead - nor do I admire anyone who wishes to be a complete scofflaw - speeding in the countryside will almost never result in a speeding ticket because at the end of the day, anyone with much experience on the roads in Thailand knows that there are few radar guns or lasers out there.  Conversely - and this does bother me for it is something I am very, very strongly against, drink driving is a huge problem in Thailand and Westerners are dreadful culprits.  Frankly, some smell like a brewery and it is clear as day that they are wasted - but they know that in the absence of any test equipment, there is little that will happen.  It's one thing to know the tricks, but drink driving is, to me at least, pushing things way too far.

I am in two minds of the Thai boys in brown.  While they can be harsh in their enforcement of the laws, especially if you are white, they can be quite charming about it too.  At an individual level, so long as you're polite and respectful of their authority, they're generally quite friendly in a way most Thais are.  I'll never forget the time I was speeding on the expressway and was stopped at the expressway booth the very friendly copper kindly offered to pay at the police station for me at the discounted rate of 200 baht.  Nice guy.  But what he said next made me laugh.  "You can't speed here in the city because there are many important people.  But you're going into the countryside so you can speed there, 130 km/h, ok.  There's no-one important there!"  Would a Western cop ever say something so profound?!

Of course no article about the nuances of the land's rules, regulations and laws would be complete without a cursory look at the Mickey Mouse punishments and penalties handed out to the perpetrators of crime.  I couldn't help but shake my head at the 3 year prison term handed out this week to Potjoman Shinawatra, wife of the former premier.  She was found guilty of evading some 500+ million baht in taxes.  Compare that with the 40 year prison sentence to an expressway toll booth employee found guilty of stealing the day's take, which from memory was something like 50,000 baht.  Hmmm...

I think we also have to accept that, quite simply, the laws of the land are not enforced evenly.  It is not worth getting upset about it.  That's just the way it is.  Accept it and get on with it.  Or can we?  I mean, if we see the locals breaking certain laws repeatedly, going about their day with apparent impunity, yet Khun Farang is called for exactly the same thing, just what does that do for one's confidence in Thailand?  As a tourist?  As an investor?  That's the problem of course.  Confidence *is* damaged by the casual, lackadaisical and sometimes racist enforcement of certain rules, laws and regulations.
 

Where was this picture taken?


 

Last week's picture was taken of the entrance to Washington Square from Sukhumvit Soi 22 and I was standing inside the square, looking out, so to speak, when the photo was taken.  The first person to email me with the correct location of the picture wins a 500 baht credit at Oh My Cod, the British Fish And Chips restaurant.  The second person to get it right wins a free jug of margarita, valued at 840 baht from Charley Brown's, a popular Tex-Mex restaurant, offering authentic cuisine and delicious margaritas.  Charley Brown's is located in the small sub-soi off Sukhumvit Soi 11.

Terms and conditions:  The Oh My Cod prize MUST be claimed within 14 days.  The Charley Brown's prize MUST be claimed within 7 days.  For the Love Entrepreneurs prize, you must be able to provide a postal address in Thailand.  Prizes are not transferable.  Prize winners cannot claim more than one prize per month.

FROM STICK'S INBOX (These are emails from readers and what is written here was not written by Stick.)  Preference may be given to emails which refer to the previous week's column.

EMAIL OF THE WEEK - Amazing Cambodia!

My wife and I just returned from Siem Reap and Phnom Penh.  I know you how you feel about high prices for drinks here in Thailand, you would have loved it in Cambodia.  You are probably aware that everything is paid for in US dollars in Cambodia, with the exception of small change purchases which are in Cambodian currency.  In tourist town Siem Reap, on Pub Street, beers could be found for $.50 - 1.50 for the local brew (which is way better than Chang).  That would be 15 - 50 baht.  We had small buckets of spirits / soda for $5 – 10 with about 8 – 10 drinks in each.  Order two buckets and you got a free bar T-shirt.  Happy hour got you a $1 - 2 discount on the buckets and cut off at about 10 PM.  Yager bombs were $2.  Bars open till 4 AM or so.  The same prices were found in Phnom Penh, at the Zeppelin Bar most mixed drinks (a good Jack Coke) for $1.50 with lots of rock and roll.  It was nice to go out and not have all the bar girls around.  They were on the street and in the discos, but not the bars.  I never felt unsafe.

Removal of bush in Pattaya.

This cutting the trees down in Pattaya goes back to the two Russian birds murdered on the beach one night.  They've been sticking cameras up all over Pattaya but the amount of robbing going on from Walking Street down to Mike's has been almost daily, mostly katoeys who've even taking to clumping people over the head as they walk home (although picking pockets is still popular).  I think the feds said a while back that the trees obscured the view, and it was a big issue in the Russian case (until they caught the "robber"), so they said they were going to trim them so that the cameras had a better chance of seeing what was going on when a crime was committed.  Actually clearing the beach of these murky characters would probably be a better bet.  They have no other business to do there other than criminal activity, be it drug dealing, hooking or robbing!  But of course this is inescapably too logical!

Nice, but not paradise.

Opinions about Chiang Mai, overall, this is still Thailand.  All the things we love and hate are here in Chiang Mai, too, just as they are in Bangkok and elsewhere in the country.  Sure the weather is cooler, and that's nice.  But I much prefer "glaang" style Thai food, over northern style.  Sure, the people are more polite than in harried Bangkok.  But the level of customer service is no better.  I was spoiled by the wall-to-wall taxi service in Bangkok at every hour of the day and night.  Here there are songtaews and tuktuks, at some times and in some places.  Other times and other places, none of either.  The few new taxis here do not cruise the streets, but, instead, wait at the airport and a few shopping malls.  Minimum fare for a white face is 150 baht.  Although, once, speaking in my best Thai, I got a taxi fare of 100 baht, but only once.  And I could go on with this compare and contrast.  Bottom line: Chiang Mai is not paradise.


The best Thai dating experience

George Pipas RIP.

I knew that George Pipas chap from the Texas Lone Staar bar.  He loved to hold court there sitting in his favourite clutch of seats.  They always used to do the best value lunch in Bangkok, was 60 baht for a long, long time - then went up to 80 baht which was still excellent value and on Saturdays they would provide FREE lunches, served at about 3:00 PM, to those who had bought drinks beforehand.  Have not been there for some time now so am not aware of the current situation.  George Pipas was an enormously large man and had been, I understand, in oil and a veteran of the Vietnam war.  He loved sitting in his bench seat in the bar, terrorising the staff and pontificating on all subjects.  He always had this entourage of 'yes men' around him who nodded in agreement with everything he said.  I must say that in the last ten years or so he had been going there less frequently.

Season of the scammers.

I know it's the slow season, but man, there are A LOT of scammers around these days.  Just this morning, in the short distance from New York Pizza over to Gulliver's, I was approached FOUR times by turban-wearing Indian "fortune tellers" trying to strike up a conversation by telling me what a "lucky man" I am.  Now, whenever any guy in a turban approaches me I just cut them off first and tell them yes, I do know I'm a lucky man.  Hell, I'm in Bangkok, right?  Also I was approached by a fake Chinese monk on Soi 8 rather late last night.  As he asked me for money (!) I just laughed at him and called him a fake in Thai.  The Thais working around the 7 Eleven seemed to approve and all laughed as he high-tailed it up the soi.  Even today, mid-afternoon, I had a whole group of Liberians (or so they claimed, I think they may have been Nigerian) trying to get into conversation and be "friends", for what reasons we can only imagine.  I'm finding it a good policy to basically just not acknowledge or talk to men any more.  Got my hands full enough with the women, and at least I get something out of that exchange.

Beware of those who say "hello".

When in a foreign land and a local walks up to you and starts a conversation in your native tongue, guaranteed, that person is up to no good.  In the future, wave these individuals off.  Every time.  Don't even give them a chance.  The microsecond they start talking to you, hold up your hand, say no thanks and keep walking, ignoring the person.  They'll quickly start looking for another target.  I learned this lesson in Mexico City in 1983.  It was my first time outside the US.  My lady and I were walking around a tourist area when this local walks up and starts talking to us.  Guy seemed friendly enough and it turned out he had family in my area.  Of course it was all lies but I was pretty naive at the time.  Next thing I know I'm giving him 5 dollars to help him with his plane ticket to the US to visit his family.  Cheap lesson but one I never forgot.  Like an idiot, I fell for the three shell scam on La Rambla in Barcelona in the early 90's.  That little lesson cost me 50 dollars.  Funny, when I look back on these situations.  Unbridled selfishness is one of the main tools for survival outside your home country, especially in the third world.

Apologies to Joy Bar in Soi Cowboy.  Last week I mistakenly reported that the price of a beer was 150 baht.  It is in fact a very reasonable 95 baht.  My apologies.

Dollhouse has changed their happy hour format.  They used to offer various drinks - all the cheap stuff like nasty spirits and draft beer at 50 baht, but the new happy hour, which runs from 7:00 - 8:30 PM sees 2 for 1 on all beer.  A regular beer will set you back 125 baht so that would make beer about 62.5 baht per beer.  I prefer this new deal.  It might be more expensive but you get the better stuff.

It's still 1 AM closing in Nana.  Some bar owners are hopeful it will revert back to 2 AM this week.

The Big Mango will be hosting the 8-8-8 party Friday this week, that is 8th August, 2008.  It will in fact be a freelancer's pool challenge with freelancers invited to lean over the table in the shortest miniskirt possible and bash the balls around.  In summary, it is an 8-ball tournament for ladies with 8,000 baht in prizes.

A very well known bald farang bar manager behind a highly successful Walking Street show bar was given one hell of a beating by a bunch of Thai lads this past week.  Business or pleasure, who knows?

Federbrau is a new German style beer brewed in Thailand by Thai Beverage, the makers of Chang beer.  It is being introduced around town as a direct competitor to market leader Heineken.  It can only be found in bottles for the time being but will be available in draft by the end of the year.  It's reasonably priced and aimed at the upper end of the local beer market and is perhaps more suited to farang tastes than other local beers.  It has a much cleaner taste than Heineken and is worth trying.  Villa Supermarkets is one outlet currently stocking it.

Proving that he is ever the sophisticate, Big Andy of Club Electric Blue fame, has introduced a bunch of wines to the drinks list at his Patpong gogo bar.  For those who prefer something a little more, ummm, high brow, Andy will sort you out with a decent drop.

Charley Brown's is opening 7 days a week from next week.  For the past 15 years, the Tex-Mex cantina has been closed on Mondays, but after a LOT of people complained to the management about their hours of business they have juggled staff around and will be open every day.

The big question on everyone's mind in Phuket is just what is going to happen to the famed and much hyped Nana Plaza Patong.  I was horribly cynical about this project when I first heard of it.  I mean, fancy trying to build a bar complex in Phuket on the back of the reputation of a dying bar complex in Bangkok?  But the big problem is not only one of reputation or perception, but concerning the guy behind it.  Anton, the fellow behind it, is now managing a soi 33 bar.  That's a hell of a long way from the new project he had been hyping... 

Following on from the report in last week's column about the airline operating between Angeles City and Bangkok, I can confirm that a number of readers emailed me to say how happy they were to hear it.  Bad news I am afraid fellas, because subsequent reports have it that this ill-fated service turned out to be a disaster!  There was just one flight made, from Clark to Bangkok, on July 22, with the return flight cancelled!  Customers who had tickets for the return flight had to buy new tickets on another carrier and since then there haven't been any more flights!  Is this what we should expect from a Philippine airline no-one had heard of?  The service had not been promoted in Thailand at all and if you had been able to find an agency offering tickets, you would have managed something no-one else could.  Up until now, this carrier, Transglobal, was just a small Philippine cargo airline.  It really looks like this has been one big flop!

Many Westerners get it in their head that the local girls are all out to rip foreign guys off.  Sure, pockets of them are, but in all fairness it is not only us Western guys who get sucked in.  This week comes the story of a Thai bird who has two Thai guys on the go.  First of all, remove any notions from your mind that the birds go with farangs for money because we have more than the Thai guys.  Unlikely!  This girl has two Thai guys supporting her, neither of who knows about the other.  Each offered to buy her a car and clearly a lady of good taste, she selected a brand spanking new silver BMW.  In fact, she specified exactly the same model with exactly the same specifications from each guy - and they subsequently delivered.  Just why did she do that?  Well, she can sell one, pocket the cash and the guys will never know!  And with the prices of BMWs in Thailand sky high, she will pocket a cool 3 million baht - and still have a nice ride around to gain much face from.  Clever girl!

If you are sick of paying 300 or even 400 baht an hour for a massage in the Nana area, or perhaps want just a massage, no hanky panky and no hands creeping where they shouldn't, you might be interested in a massage outlet located right under the Thonglor BTS station, near exit 1, called Hatthai Massage.  There's often a queue of customers waiting in the evening, and a 2 hour Thai massage will set you back a very reasonable 300 baht - that's the total cost, not the per hour rate.  Business is so good in fact that they have opened a second shop 3 doors down.  With the famous pat Thai guy across the street on Soi 38 it can be a great way to wile away the early evening without forking out too much of your hard-earned.  The pat Thai guy who is renowned for being one of the best, if not the best, in all of Bangkok, has won a number of cooking contests and prizes.  He is easy to spot - just look for the metre-high flames shooting up from his burner!

Frank Visakay, author of "Jasmine Fever: Confessions of a Jaded Expat in Thailand" and "Everything But Die", will be speaking at Mom Tri's Boathouse Hotel, Kata, Phuket, Wednesday, August 13th starting at 7PM on how to become a published author.  Admission is free.

I don't make it to The Dubliner often and I am generally not a fan of these Western singer / comedians who do take offs of popular songs.  But the performer at The Dubliner this week was outstanding.  This one number he did, based on the melody of "Living on a Prayer" by Jon Bon Jovi but re-worked with lyrics about an English teacher and Tina, a gogo girl, was hilarious!  There were a number of other such tunes, similarly amusing.  This guy is worth going out of your way for.

I made it out to Rong bier Holland this past week.  This is one of these giant Thai style venues that features a large stage with music and shows before an audience of thousands, seated at hundreds of tables.  It's hard to describe this style of venue accurately because I have only ever seen them in Thailand but basically, this is the type of venue that every day Thais go, where you can find it all - good food, good music and great drinks.  They brew their own beer on the premises with a dark beer as well as a German style weissen bier - which is pretty good.  I guess for the Stickman readership the only downside of this venue is the location.  It's out on Rama 2 Road, that's the long, long road that heads south west out of the city that you take if you're driving to Hua Hin.  It would be about a 150+ baht taxi ride from Sukhumvit.  This said, don't let the location put you off.  It's well worth it.

The dirty doctor’s one man crusade against the fake monks on Sukhumvit hit an unexpected crescendo on Friday night and as luck would have it the StickCam caught it all.  Having checked out the Nana area and been suitably disappointed, the doctor was accompanying me on my rounds as I made the stroll down to Cowboy.  We were not very far along the journey when one of these monks leaps out of the shadows and thrusts his alms bowl into my face.  The doctor saw red, grabbed the masquerading monk, but the light footed fellow bounded up the road, back towards Nana with the doctor in pursuit.  It was a comical scene as the doctor, with at least double the masquerading monk’s weight, took off up the road after him.  As they get to within 40 metres of the Nana intersection, two more of the masquerading monks come around the corner and the doctor concentrates on them.  They’re thrusting their alms bowls into people’s faces and behaving in such a way you would never see a Thai monk behave.  Thai monks aren’t out late at night, they don’t beg and they don’t ask for money.  They’re not allowed to!  But these guys are fakes.  Or are they?  How do we know?  I am no expert on religion, monks or Buddhism.  What happens next was, on one hand a little comical, but in many ways was actually disconcerting.  The doctor got into a scuffle with one of the fake monks and the doctor suggested they go to the police box nearby.  The doctor grabs him and starts dragging him towards the police box.  Police being the one word the monks know, he starts howling in process and valiantly tries to extricate himself from the doctor’s clutches.  But when a heavyweight takes on a lightweight the winner is known before the bout starts.  I stood back, concerned at what was happening around me as the local vendors mentioned to a couple of tough guys to get in there and help.  “Oh shit”, I thought, this is going to get ugly.  “Help the farang, help the farang”.  It was at this point that I felt a huge amount of relief.  The vendors were rabbitting on about the nuisance of the monks.  Involved in a huge tussle, the doctor somehow managed to disrobe the monk.  The monk’s robe was pulled off and a number of the vendors cheered.  Given that they are almost certainly Buddhists, I felt a huge amount of relief.  That said, it was a scene that I was not entirely comfortable with and my advice to the doctor is to back off these guys completely, in fact forget they even exist.  They situation has escalated well into danger territory and while the reactions of many Thais assure me that these guys are not just fakes, but loathed – one guy said they beg for money under the cloak of Buddhism and then go and blow it on whiskey – I just don’t think it is a good idea to mess with others in these parts, irrespective of the reasons.  People have been killed for less in Asia!  Down at Cowboy, a number of the vendors and taxi drivers were thrilled at what had happened, some even tying on the robes and insisting on being photographed with the trophy.

I've mentioned Findloveasia once before in the column but will do so again.  This FREE dating site run by a friend continues to have a total imbalance in its membership.  There are something like 7,500 female members and only about 1/5 of that number of male members.  So if you are looking to meet an Asian lady - particularly a Philippino lady of whom there are many - the numbers are in your favour.  Remember, it is FREE!

"Hello My Big Big Honey" is the original bargirl expose book with letters from lovelorn Westerners to their bargirl girlfriends but is only available in English and French.  Italian and German readers will be pleased to hear that translations into your language will soon be on the shelves.  Keep a look out for it.

A couple of years back I mentioned Le Beaulieu in this column and proclaimed it to be, perhaps, not just the best French restaurant in Bangkok, but the very finest dining establishment in the city.  That's quite a claim I admit.  This week I caught up my old pal Sam Worthington and enjoyed a long, leisurely lunch.  I stand by what I said.  This little slice of the very best of French in Bangkok is truly fabulous with what can only be described as the finest food in a relaxed atmosphere.  We're not talking stuffy high brow surroundings that don't do it for this somewhat unsophisticated Kiwi.  Le Beaulieu is the place to impress someone who appreciates the finest food.  It's not cheap and bargain hunters should stick to McDonald's at the end of the soi although with that said, the lunch menus are, quite frankly, a bargain.

A friend asks.  Why the hell can't you get a phone signal in a gogo bar but can get it in any other shophouse with the same amount of concrete?

Reading between the lines, readers should have noticed that most of Bangkok's nightlife writers concentrate more and more on Cowboy these days.  Some of us, me particularly, trash Nana Plaza, but some are more subtle and just tend to cover Nana less and less.  I note that even a certain Nana Plaza bar manager with a popular column writes more about Cowboy than Nana.

Stickman readers have known about the delights of Beer Lao for some time whereas the Wall Street Journal has only just got around to highlighting it.  Perhaps they should be reading Stickman?

You would think that the search for the world's best brothel may well find a winner in Thailand, but in fact a boutique brothel in the fine country of New Zealand took the honour.

The BBC feels Mr. T really might be off to the monkey house!

Quote of the week.  "People believe what they want to believe when the truth is too painful to accept.  They would rather delude themselves."



Ask Mrs. Stick

Mrs. Stick is happy to answer any questions regarding inter-racial relationships as well as cultural peculiarities that may be confusing or baffling you.

Question 1:  This is a carry on from Mrs. Stick's answer to last week question about being a family man and taking care of the family.  Do you mean all the family - mother, farther, brother sister or just your own family wife son daughter?  I had a Thai girlfriend for three years but tired of her saying she needed money for the family all the time so broke off with her.  I have another girlfriend now and all she has asked for up to now is a mobile phone.  She is also from a very poor family.

Mrs. Stick says:  I mean that the husband should be head of the family and look after his own family so that is his wife and children.  I know that some foreign men get asked for money from the family all the time and I know that this makes some men angry.  You should talk to your girlfriend before she is your wife about this.  If her family ask you for money all the time and you do not like that then you need to tell her about it before you get married.  Or of course just do not marry a lady from a poor family.  Actually, many families would never ask their children for money.  Some families are not rich but never ever ask for money.  Not all poor families ask for money.

Question 2:  Every evening, rightly or wrongly, my Thai girlfriend is glued to lakkorn (soap operas), whilst I'm either on the internet or reading.  We're together so I guess that's what counts.  In the 13 years years I have been living here I have gone out of my way not to learn or speak Thai, if for no other reason that even my girlfriend cannot order a Thai meal successfully in a Thai restaurant down here in Phuket without a mistake being made.  I don't know why but each evening my subconscious picks up the same expression so many times, that I'm really beginning to wonder if your culture is based upon it - mai pen rai.  Can you please tell me, for Thais what does actually matter in your country?

Mrs. Stick says:  We want to be happy and we want to enjoy our lives.  We like spending time with those close to us.  We do not have to be rich but we want to be comfortable and we don't like feeling mai sabai jai (like unahppy), ngoot-ngeet (irritable) and don't like others who are ngee-ngau (picky and fussy).  We want troublefree lives.  So I think when we say mai pen rai we are relaxed and not serious about things.  I think we are fun-loving people and not serious all the time.  When I have travelled to other countries I have not found anywhere that has people who are fun the same as Thailand.

Wow, I got an absolute hammering in email complaints from readers last week.  On one hand it is great to know that people look forward to the weekly rant but some of the complaints about the column being late and there being no opening piece took things too far.  I was going to publish a few of these emails but the negativity indicator would have gone off the scale.  I strive to publish this column by 6 PM Bangkok time and most of the time that deadline is achieved.  The last two weeks I have been late, once because I was in Lampang and last week, well, let's just say "unforeseen circumstances" arose.  But hey, it looks like I'm back into the groove and on time this week.



Your Bangkok commentator,
7/10 - an acceptable piece, nothing startling
Stick

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Stick Mark II can be contacted at: stickmanbangkok@gmail.com.