Stickman Weekly 15/3/2009
Saphan Kwai, A Buffalo Safari
Bangkok has three gogo bar areas, right? Patpong, the original farang gogo bar area dating back to the Vietnam era, Soi Cowboy which started up a little later and the newest entrant on the block which was converted from a once Middle Eastern-dominated shopping mall, Nana Plaza. Wrong!
Bangkok does indeed have three major gogo bar areas, but the three areas mentioned are those which directly target Western, and to a lesser extent, Japanese men. Other than Patpong, the other farang gogo bar areas are not that well known amongst Thais. Ask a local where the gogo bars are in Bangkok and they are likely to say Patpong...or they may say Saphan Kwai.
Saphan is Thai for bridge and kwai is Thai for buffalo so Saphan Kwai means "Buffalo Bridge" in English. Up until the 1960s the area known as Saphan Kwai was very much on the outskirts of Bangkok and home to rice fields and thus, many buffaloes, hence the name.
The Saphan Kwai area is located roughly half way between Victory Monument and Morchit and is a residential area home to lower middle class. You could be mistaken for thinking that it was just another drab, lower middle-class suburb that the skytrain powers past on the way to the weekend market. But just a short stroll from the Saphan Kwai skytrain station is a collection of gogo bars, not for Westerners, but for Thai men!
I visited Saphan Kwai once many, many years ago, perhaps 1999 or 2000. A pal and I were not that impressed and until this week that had been my one and only visit. But to chronicle nightlife and entertainment in the city and not visit a nightlife area for so long was something of an oversight so this week myself and a friend decided a visit to Saphan Kwai was in order.
Saphan Kwai might be known for its gogo bars but don't go thinking it is anything like Patpong, Nana or Cowboy. The bars are small street front operations making the whole environment feel completely different to what regulars of the popular farang nightlife areas are used to. There are perhaps 8 or 9 venues, only a small number really, and they range in size from smallish venues with a small stage, perhaps the size of Spanky's in Nana, to large venues, much bigger than any farang gogo bar including Pattaya's Peppermint or Nana's Rainbow 4. While most venues have a single stage, at least one venue featured two dance floors with girls on each. The bars are surrounded by shophouses with the usual Thai neighbourhood businesses from small restaurants and food vendors to beauty salons, video rental outlets and 7 Elevens. The gogo bars of Saphan Kwai are spread out over a small area of perhaps 100 or 150 metres.
From outside it is not entirely clear that these are in fact chrome pole palaces. I don't recall seeing a single sign that actually said "gogo" and passers by could be mistaken for thinking they were the more common Thai style nightspots such as cafes (where pretty singers are presented with wreaths from the audience with banknotes attached, i.e. NOT a spot to get a coffee) or karaoke bars.
We visited a handful of venues and the format was similar in each. Seating is booth-style. They are neither elevated nor facing the stage which makes it seem that the dancing on stage in very much incidental. In fact, many venues felt like the Thermae with dim lighting. Not much thought has gone into the design or the decor and most spots both felt and looked tired. There's little in the way of decoration. Forget flash lighting systems, often only the gogo stage is illuminated and the rest of the bar steals light from that area. The sound systems aren't much chop and are exposed when played at the only volume level Thais know - maximum! Gogo bars in name, they reminded me more of a down-market Western strip joint than a glitzy recently-renovated Soi Cowboy gogo bar. Tilac bar, they are not.
The format sees three or four girls dancing on stage at one time. Yes, dancing, proper dancing. There's none of this one step forward, one step back shuffle that is so common on Sukhumvit. Some of the girls really got into it, but with that said, there is almost no interaction between the girls dancing on stage and the customers. The girls seem to dance in their own little world and fix their eyes on a spot in the distance. A blank, vacant look isn't endearing after being used to the interaction with customers in similar venues in the farang ghetto. The venues seemed to be mirror-free so there's none of this staring at themselves and preening themselves in the mirror. No matter how hard I tried, I could not get the girls' on stage attention. I may have been one of only two foreigners in the joint so you'd think that alone would have made me stick out, but it was as if I was invisible.
Some bars feature shows, most commonly the wax show with the dancers allowing wax from a candle to melt on to exposed parts of their body. It's a throwback to Patpong 20 years ago and there's nothing more elaborate like what you get in Angelwitch, Sheba's or Long Gun.
Whereas some bars in the farang areas feature almost entirely solo mothers - Cowboy's Apache Coyote comes to mind - I did not see one woman in all the bars we checked out who was obviously a mother. How could I know? Not one had the map of the world on her stomach. Not one. That's not to say that there were no mothers but - and this really is horrible to say and I feel guilty for saying it - but not one had the ugly stretch marks which seem to be rather common on Isaan mothers. I would also suggest that the average age of the dancers was lower in Saphan Kwai than any of the major farang areas but that said, I did not see anyone who looked underage.
The women for the most part seem to be from the central region or the north and thus have a different look to the Isaan dominated girls in the farang scene. The girls dancing in Saphan Kwai have lighter skin and a bit more meat on the bone. That's not to say that they're fat because they're not, more that they have slightly more shapely bodies.
Being part of the Thai sector of the industry, there's no such thing as the girlfriend experience and it's all very business-like. This is one area where the bars of Sukhumvit hit Saphan Kwai for six. Dominated by the happy-go-lucky maidens of Isaan, their infectious fun-loving nature can make for a fun night out - even if you have no intention of being naughty. Saphan Kwai was all rather business-like and frankly, the girls didn't seem to be enjoying themselves that much. My pal, a veteran of the area, confirmed that outside of the bars it is very business-like too, if you know what I mean.
The staff in the venues are predominantly male and you got the feeling they could handle themselves if need be. These are not the type of venues you'd want to end up in an altercation. There are no foreign owners or managers and while foreign customers are very welcome, we make up small numbers. We saw perhaps three other Westerners in the area that night.
It is said that the venues are owned by people who aren't always that nice and as such these would be the last places on earth you'd want to be caught taking video or photos. While I was never challenged entering venues with a camera over my shoulder and while there were no signs anywhere stating that the photography or video was prohibited, I was under no illusion of what would happen if I had tried. There are heavies in the shadows a la some of the ugly upstairs Patpong bars and while the bars of Saphan Kwai are not rip off bars, you would not want to cause a scene. That's perhaps the biggest reason I would caution visiting. If you speak Thai and know how things work you can smooth over misunderstandings easily enough, but if you don't, a misunderstanding could escalate into something ugly fast. But don't misunderstand me, at no point did I feel any tension, danger or even resentment at our presence.
Yes, while it is a Thai bar area, Westerners are more than welcome! Some of the door staff speak English and every venue we walked past saw the door staff make every effort to convince the white boys to enter. There were no nervous glances between front door staff wondering whether whitey was allowed to enter or not.
For the most part the Thai customers are young. Myself and my pal are both in our 30s and I would suggest we were amongst the oldest customers in some venues, perhaps even the oldest! Your average customer seemed to be a mid 20s Thai of modest means. Young professionals they were not. That's just another aspect that gives it a slightly edgy feel. You'll almost never have problems in a Thai style massage parlour, the venue of choice for professional Thais, office workers and businessmen. But when you're amongst blue collar workers with a modest income then there is a chance, albeit very small, that things might kick off.
I was told a humorous story, an urban legend or not I do not know, of a farang who met his maker at Saphan Kwai. So the story goes, this elderly gent did the rounds, found himself a companion and repaired to the local short-time facility. Once there he had a problem standing at attention and decided that as the lady had not performed he would return her for a refund. He went back to the bar, demanded a refund and was rightly told to piss off. She had, after all, been more than willing to keep up her end of the bargain. He started complaining and so the story goes he was beaten...and died! True or not, I do not know. But believable, sure!
So there I was, desperate to take a leak when my pal warned me about that most odious practice of male toilet attendants giving you a massage while you're in the hongnam. I can't remember just who it happened to but one of my friends felt hands on his shoulder while he was standing at the urinal in a Thai bar not so long ago. The massage artiste performed some sort of manoeuvre and my friend twisted and sprayed off target! Fortunately there was no-one at the adjacent urinal!
Avoiding the massage is not difficult - you simply go into a cubicle and do your business there, as I did. Bu I am glad I did not need to take a dump, for in that particular venue there were only squat toilets, more evidence that the bars of Saphan Kwai really are not the domain of the hi-so set. Checking out all the cubicles in that venue - strictly for research purposes, all of the cubicles featured a pot of the squat variety.
My companion is more familiar with the area than me and he was surprised to see girls dancing in their birthday suit in a few venues was de rigueur. It was the first time he had seen such in Saphan Kwai and it fueled speculation that this was a means to drum up business in these troubled times. It's neither here nor there for me but I can only speculate that razor blades are not available for sale in the Saphan Kwai area.
Saphan Kwai is very, very easy on the wallet. For beer drinkers, beer is sold by the large bottle, meaning 640 ml bottles. Prices varied but a large bottle of beer was always under 100 baht. You got that right. You sit in a gogo bar, watch pretty girls dancing and a large bottle of beer will set you back less than 100 baht.
There is however a bit more to it. Call it bill padding or call it par for the course, I'll leave that up to you to decide, but even though a bottle of beer runs under 100 baht, you'll probably end up paying closer to 140 or even 150 baht. On entry to the bar, each customer is brought a cold towel for which there is a charge of 10 baht. A bucket of ice is brought and you'll raise eyebrows if you ask for no ice in your beer. In such venues, drinking beer with no ice is about as foreign an idea as putting ice in your beer would be in most Western countries. A bucket of ice runs around 25 baht. You could decline the cold towels and the ice, I guess, but that doesn't seem to be the done thing.
Of course you can buy whisky by the bottle. Truth be told, I forgot to ask about prices, but I bet it would be reasonable. How much? I wouldn't like to speculate but I am sure you wouldn't get a nasty surprise. Most of the Thai customers were drinking whisky.
While one venue, as pictured above, had girls sitting outside, as is customary in some karaoke and other style Thai venues, most of the time the girls are seated just inside the main entrance. You can just pick one (or two or three or...) and they will come and sit with you. For the lady's company, you are charged 70 or 80 baht for 30 minutes, the price varying from bar to bar. There are no lady drinks - you just pay the 80 baht companion fee. Ladies do not walk around the bar approaching customers but are brought in groups for you to choose or can be ordered through a member of staff. A lady sitting with you drinks whatever you're drinking so if you're on beer, they drink beer. If you're on the whisky, so they drink whisky. It really is a far, far superior system to the absolute nonsense most foreign customers put up with on Sukhumvit where a lady drink costs anything from 100 - 200 baht and where she may well throw it down the hatch and be gone 30 seconds later. Perhaps one day foreign punters will wake up to the fact that the whole system on Sukhumvit has become totally distorted in the bar owners' and girls' favour. I'm all for spreading the cheer around and having a good time but things are so far out of whack there now.
When it comes to extras, the prices charged in Saphan Kwai would make Dave The Rave and other bar managers and owners positively blush. Remember, in Stickman's eyes, while perhaps not quite as exotic looking as what you find on Sukhumvit, these girls are probably as good looking, if not better, than most of the Sukhumvit riff raff. We did not see one fatty. Not one! The perplexing policy some Sukhumvit gogos have of employing lard asses doesn't exist in Buffalo Bridge. Ok, so I am rambling, let's cut to the chase. To escape from the bar with a companion in your mitts will set you back 1,500 - 1,600 baht. That's an all in fee and covers the barfine and everything else. That's short-time. A 500 baht surcharge is tacked on for long-time meaning an all night affair will run you 2,000 - 2,100 baht. Given that this is a predominantly Thai scene, I imagine that long-time is much less common. There are a bunch of short-time hotels in the area including the curiously named Rongram Suparp, which translates as Polite Hotel, although whether what goes on inside could be considered polite or not, I wouldn't like to say.
The bottom line is that a night out, including plenty to drink, a short time room and a roll in the hay could be had all up for 2,500 baht. If you're just out for a few drinks, it'll cost you next to nothing if you're on the beer. Saphan Kwai represents much better value than Sukhumvit.
The Saphan Kwai scene is not really for the average farang. You need to speak Thai. Very, very few people speak any English whatsoever. Many foreigners, especially tourists, venture out into the nightlife areas alone and much of their entertainment comes from interaction with the girls. That would be pretty difficult in Saphan Kwai if you don't speak Thai.
Saphan Kwai was interesting to visit, but it won't become a regular hang out. It's a change of scenery but it just doesn't have the same vibe as the better bars on Sukhumvit.
DIRECTIONS TO SAPHAN KWAI: To get there, take the skytrain on the Sukhumvit line to the Saphan Kwai station. When you exit the station, walk back down Phanyothin (the main) Road until you get to the first intersection. At this intersection turn left and proceed for a few hundred metres and you are there.
Where was this picture taken?
Last week's picture was taken looking down Sukhumvit Soi 2 from Sukhumvit Road with the JW Marriott Hotel on the left and Ploenchit Centre on the right. This week's is a little more difficult as it was taken outside Bangkok. 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 the picture right wins a fantastic roast buffet at Molly Malone's on Bangkok's Soi Convent. The buffet runs every Sunday from midday until 7 PM and the winner gets one buffet free! I like the buffet and partake of it myself often! ThailandFriends.com, an online dating community that boasts over 50,000 members, hosts live events in and around Thailand and allows basic members to send 5 messages a day for free. TF, as it is also known, offers a one month premium membership to the third person to get the picture right which adds more to the ThailandFriends' experience with unlimited messaging, detailed member searches, 24 profile pictures, and a whole lot more. Bodyguard Condoms also provide large condoms as prizes. So, for the forth, fifth and sixth people to get the picture right, I will send you a few packs of Bodyguard's high quality, extra large-sized condoms for you to try out. In total, we now have SIX PRIZES EACH WEEK!
Terms and conditions: The Oh My Cod and Molly Malone's prizes MUST be claimed within 14 days. Winners of the Bodyguard Condoms must provide a postal address within Thailand. The TF prize winner can be anywhere in the world. 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 - And the driver fled the scene!
This past Friday I took a taxi from Nonthaburi to downtown at 9 PM. I had two bags with me containing a long list of almost irreplaceable documents, original degrees, passport, work permit, passbooks plus my mobile, expensive laptop with a heap of important information on it as well as many DVDs, a digital camera etc. I only had a 1,000 baht note so being stupid (in hindsight) I asked the driver to stop outside a 7 Eleven and I would get change as he said he had none. I now know I should have either taken my bags with me or sent him to change the money. Anyway, as you will have guessed by now, when I returned he was gone! I was in a complete panic, given the enormity of the loss. In fact it would have been hard, if not impossible, to recall all the items as there were so many. I did a survey up and down the street trying to explain my problem to all that would listen and offered a reward for its quick return. I had little hope and was feeling desperate. After that I went to the police station where the police tried to be helpful and suggested we go to check the video at 7 Eleven as I did not have the number of the taxi and could not even be sure of the colour. The video was no help as far as I understood. I offered a reward that varied depending how much I was in a panic. What appeared to be a senior police officer in civilian clothes, said to return in 2 - 3 hours and he had my other mobile number to contact me. I think it was within that time that I was informed that the bags had been found and they were at the police station. In the final reckoning it was a figure of about 20,000 baht to be paid to the police. <For what? - Stick> I did not have enough with me so I have paid 10,000 and they want another 10,000 later this month. They wanted to keep my passport, but I refused and they then wanted my Thai wife's ID card, but I said no. They made a statement that I have yet to read in exact detail as it is in Thai. My wife tried to detail it to me saying about paying 10,000 baht at a later date. They took a copy of her ID card. I believe, according to my wife, the police even asked how much I wanted to give to the thieving driver who I actually sat near at an adjacent desk! He smiled at me, and OK, I had my bags back and they appeared to be intact, but who could say at that time and given the number of items in the bags. I said I did not want to make a problem for the driver. Not sure why I did that...maybe just relieved?
Renting vs. Buying, the equation has changed.
You know the financial crisis has changed the ‘equation' SIGNIFICANTLY. 12 months ago, do the maths, and it was not worth buying a condo in Thailand. Now it is a totally different story. Given that money in the bank pays virtually no interest, buying now is LOTS cheaper. And in the 3m to 6m range there are a TON of very nice condos on the market in both Bangkok and Pattaya. Unless the financial markets change for the better, buying makes sense. Of course all of this is on the assumption that the title dead can have my name on it, because as much as I love my darling, and also trust her, on principle I will not buy a property that is 100% in her name.
A marriage is what a marriage is. If you go into it blindly or with great stupidity then chances are the ultimate result will be bad. Likewise if you marry a girl primarily because she is serious eye candy or performs like your wildest wet dream. That will get old pretty fast, and you'll have a lot of odds stacked against you right from the beginning. Marriage also doesn't work too well if you are grumpy, have lived alone too long, and always expect (or are used to) things your way. Nor does it work too well if the girl sees you as a walking ATM. Big questions are: Does marrying this person make sense? Is it a good idea? Will this person be a good life partner? How long have you known this person? What are her values & lifestyle? Honesty? Sincerity? (Yes you can find these qualities in a Thai girl.) Of course you will soon learn to accept and / or manage each other's faults. The good must be better than the bad (WAY BETTER!) Being single is better for some people. It is certainly easier in some ways. You can always have friends. But who really loves you? Who will be there for you as your family?
Thai ladies in Bangkok, Pattaya, and all over Thailand
Orchard Towers, the four floors of....ladyboys!
I have recently relocated to Singapore. Myself and a mate decided to investigate Orchard Towers on Saturday night. Crikey, it has changed. There must be more Thai ladyboys in that place than anywhere else on the planet AND I saw quite a few being escorted out by local guys and foreigners. Scary stuff.
Pattaya, busy or dead?
Isn't it amazing that there are so many conflicting reports on the numbers in Pattaya. A while ago I stated that the only way to get at a definitive number on Pattaya visitors would be to collect data from every type of accommodation in Pattaya - hotels, apartments, guesthouses, condos over a 6 month period in terms of visitor nationality x days stayed. On the subject of businesses shutting down like bars, ice cream shops etc, it is not just related to visitors numbers. There has also been a major increase in retail / commercial space of all kinds. So when a place shuts down, is it a decrease in visitors or an increase in over supply or a combination? It would be interesting to get a definitive answer to this question.
Bumrungrad 1 BNH 0.
I went to check out the rooms and facilities of two leading Bangkok hospitals, Bumrungrad and the BNH. It turns out that they are not only in different divisions but also in a different league. The BNH rooms are depressing like most hospitals, but no, the Bumrungrad new updated rooms when you walk into them you get that wow factor, carpets in the corridors to the fact that you could end up thinking you were in a hotel. To the degree that their new rooms are so good that I would even look forward to checking into this hospital! Oh what about the price you are probably thinking. The Bumrungrad has got to be way over the top, through the nose in comparison. You're wrong! Believe it or not, the BNH Regent Deluxe the equivalent I may add, is coming in at 8,300 baht a night, whereas the Bumrungrad's new single room is only 7,785 a night. On the tour of the BNH the girl kept on referring to the sea view, to the degree that I really didn't understand what the hell she was going on about, until it clicked that she was referring to the city view! For those that haven't got insurance I'm sure the Bumrungrad's new double or quadruple rooms would still be very satisfactory. In fact I can see it won't be long before they make health insurance compulsory on any visa applications, just as they are doing now in the West. Ah, but what about the service of the doctors? In all my correspondence with the BNH over my girlfriend's prospective operation, they seemed to be very evasive over costs, and when I walked in without an appointment there was no doctor on duty to discuss these issues. In comparison the Bumrungrad came up trumps again. I saw the same guy that I had been corresponding with without an appointment, and he went on to say that not only was laserscopic surgery not necessary, as a conventional operation would just leave a small scare of five inches on her bikini line, but in fact the operation itself wasn't necessary! I was blown over by his honesty. The Bumrungrad is a business, like all of these hospitals, but you can see and feel it immediately that it is a well-oiled machine that has got its patients on a luxury conveyor belt to recovery.
The late night crackdown has been taking place at Patpong for a couple of weeks with those bars which were seen to be open late told not to open beyond 2 AM or else.
The happy hour at Spice Girls in Cowboy is probably the best value happy hour in any of the major farang entertainment areas in Bangkok. From 6:30 - 8:30 they offer 40 baht drinks, including draft Chang and a number of (admittedly cheaper) spirits. Still, if you want to get the night off to a flying start it's hard to beat. Interestingly, Spice Girls only ever seems to have a few customers at this time so I guess not everyone is as cheap as me!
The last rites aren't being read in Nana Plaza just yet. Hungry reopened last Sunday night as a bar and in a breath of fresh air are offering standard drinks at just 70 baht. Maybe they could call it Thirsty?
And speaking of struggling bar areas, I wonder how many soi 33 bars continue. I like soi 33 but whenever I am in the neighbourhood there are so few people about. Soi 33 bar owners really need to get together and try and market the soi as a whole. There is money still being spent there. The owner of Demonia is opening a new bar on Sukhumvit 33 and it remains unclear whether it will be a dance club or a more regular bar.
An Aussie pub will open on the increasingly busy Sukhumvit soi 11 in Bangkok, the Australian Bar & Grill. It will be managed by the Eclipse Group which also manages Coyote Mexican restaurants, Tropical Murphy's on Samui, Scruffy Murphy's and of course all of the Molly Malone's. It should be open just after Songkran.
In the old days there you'd see photographers wandering around Nana taking Polaroid photos of guys with their date and collecting 100 baht for snap. Now these guys are hard to find at Nana...but they're all over Cowboy! It just reinforces what has been said that Cowboy remains the most popular area.
From Korat, Cope Tiger has arrived and the American soldiers have already made their way out into the town for some fun! Here's a link describing this year's exercise.
Am I the only one who finds it curious (but obviously very pleasing) that there are no foreign police volunteers here in Bangkok. They exist in Pattaya, Phuket and I believe Chiang Mai, but there are none in Bangkok. Good job. We do not need that scourge here!
Pain is being felt in Pattaya as bar owners report the first waves of the economic tsunami breaking on Pattaya Bay. On Thursday night some of the most popular bars including Peppermint, Angelwitch, Baby Dolls and What's Up had very few customers at 11 PM - the time you would expect them all to be positively pumping. Speaking of Baby Dolls, there are now two closed bars next door, a testament to how quiet things really are. To make matters worse, unless you've just finished a long stint in the monkey house, many of the bars' offerings might not enthrall you like they used to. The general attractiveness of girls is, I would suggest, way down and it has been said that many of the pretty young things have just disappeared! To cap it all off, there is a new really cheap tacky bottle shop opened on Walking Street full of Russians who buy bottles of Vodka to take back and enjoy in the exciting environment of their hotel rooms! You wouldn't say it is the beginning of the end for Pattaya but you would say that things are getting bad. This is all backed up by the fact that business in a reader's wife's hair salon chain has fallen off a cliff in the last week or so. We are talking about 80 square meter quality salons with 9 staff in good locations that took 60 baht total on Friday and as at mid afternoon Saturday had not taken a single baht!
I am all for everyone having a good time but sometimes customers make total dorks of themselves in the bars. There is this one particular Westerner who is something of a fixture in the bars, and has been as long as I have been living here, who dances in all the naughty venues. OK, he is not the only one but what makes it so perturbing is that in addition to flinging his arms around knocking all and sundry, he is just like the girls and stares at himself in the mirror while dancing! Now that part I do find a bit disturbing. But then again, what do you expect from an Arsenal fan...
Is the chicken parmesan at Bradman's Bistro in Sukhumvit soi 23 the best reasonably priced farang meal available in Bangkok? Give it a go! It's Bradman's best seller and it is awfully good!
The fat, dark-skinned bartender (that sounds unnecessarily cruel, I know, but that really is the best way to describe her) in a certain Soi Cowboy bar was attempting to collect donations for a local temple this past week. She had what looked to be an official donation jar and I am always happy to donate a few baht to such a cause. The problem is that this particular lady is rather infamous. She used to be found a few doors down in Cowboy in another bar where she spent 7 years. Back then, when she was a little younger, she would sit on a guy's lap, remove her top and push her enormous breasts into the victim's face....while she would surreptitiously grope him. Many a customer would later discover that their mobile phone was missing! I couldn't help but recall her naughty exploits of years ago and when she asked me for a donation I chose to decline. Was the money really doing to make it to the temple?
The chicken served at KFC really is fowl (or should that be foul) but this most awful of fast food chains has made it so that in some branches one can't buy individual items but are forced to purchase an entire set menu. Who wants to drink all that Pepsi and those bland, often lukewarm fries? To make matters EVER WORSE, they no longer serve mashed potatoes and gravy - only french fries!
It's not normally my choice but the deal offered by Pizza Company this month is very, very good. Order any pizza and you get two for the price of one - and you're not forced to get a second pizza with the same topping as the first but can select something completely different! Great deal and it runs until the end of the month and is available for both dine in and delivery.
Matrioshki 2 is a new Flemish drama series, out on DVD. It's a fictional story about human trafficking with girls sold and forced to work in the sex industry. It consists of 10 episodes of 45 minutes and readers are telling me it is really great. The first series was released 3 years ago and was about Russian women, while the second series which is just out now and independently viewable is about both Thai and Eastern European women. A lot of shooting has been done in Isaan and in Pattaya. One of the main characters in the story, a Flemish gangster from Antwerp, has a gogo in Pattaya which he runs with 2 English co-owners which is where the story starts. The first 5 episodes are mainly about Thailand, but after that 2 Thai girls are brought to Belgium where they are sold. The acting is said to be good by Flemish, Thai and international actors. Every actor speaks his own language i.e. Thais speak Thai, Flemish speak Flemish unless they talk to Thais or Russians, in which case they speak English, just as it is in the real world. Here is the trailer in English.
In many ways it's amazing that the Thais treat us as well as they do, given the state of some of the foreign humanity in Thailand. What I find really perplexing is that the friendliest people I have found in Thailand are in Udon Thani. Consistently, visit after visit, I find the locals to be welcoming, friendly, gracious and very much "farang-friendly". Now what is interesting is the state of Farangdom they have to deal with. I wrote last week about how I was in a popular Udon pub and behind me were two English teachers from the local Rajaphat, one of who seemed to be in a fairly senior position. I would prefer not to repeat what he said but I am surprised the guy is still in Thailand - and some of his comments about what he would like to do with some of his students were just unbecoming of a teacher - and that's being polite. But that was just one example. I have gone through phases in Thailand and in the early days I used to wonder about the way that the locals treated us but now, more and more, I can see why things are how the way they are. The way some foreigners treat the locals with rude, indignant behaviour has been a major contributing factor to where we are now.
Dave The Rave's site is ok! Poor old Dave has been jumping from host to host and earlier this week the hosting company could not cope with the massive web traffic Dave gets and it fell over. He's now with a hosting service able to cope with that level of traffic and his site is accessible again.
The deliciously named Seedy Farang has uploaded more to YouTube including this motorcycle taxi journey from Nana Plaza to Soi Cowboy.
Robbed 4 times in 3 months, do you still think Thailand has a low crime rate?
The Age ran a good article on a woman purportedly bought in Thailand, an abandoned mother trying to raise a family, and a cousin then selling the daughter into sex slavery.
I thought bargirls saw a lot of snakes but this bargirl was petrified by the sight of a long snake.
Another crazy German has been arrested in Thailand.
More on the Brit and the alleged fake passport.
Another boat sinks near Phuket and again, tourists are missing.
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: I noted your advice to the guy who wrote to the Mrs. regarding the monthly allowance. I am sure readers would like to hear what is deemed a reasonable allowance. How to work it out? I got my girlfriend to make a list of expenses (parents, buses, food, shopping) which came to 15,000 per month. I agreed to give her this as a minimum with a separate amount to put in her savings account whenever I had a bit extra money. It seems to be working ok. So what does Stick consider the right amount? Maybe you can ask other guys to tell you what they pay?
Mr. Stick says: This is a complex question with many possibilities so please forgive my lengthy response. The lifestyle she is used to as well as the lifestyle she expects to lead, your income level and whether she gave up an income to be with you or not are probably the three most significant factors. In my case, I could never be with a woman who was not my equal and with that I mean a woman who wishes to work and earn her own money. I have never done the support a girlfriend or wife thing and never would. That is not just not the type of relationship I would ever want to be in and frankly, in my homeland, I have never met anyone in such a relationship, hence my conditioning and opinion which is against this type of arrangement. If it is your wife and she is at home looking after your kids, ok, that is different but that is perhaps the only situation when I think a guy should be financially supporting a woman. Surely you want the woman you are with to have a sense of pride, self-esteem and self-worth? For a woman to laze about all day long in the knowledge that her boyfriend gives her more than enough won't do anything for her pride. If she thinks the fact that she has a 20,000 baht mobile phone and lots of gold equals pride then you're with the type of woman I could never be involved with. I really think any guy who allows such a situation is walking down a treacherous path where ultimately their ability to look after themselves financially could be damaged. One is much better off either insisting that she works or, if she isn't well-educated or doesn't have the necessary qualifications to get a decent job, to ensure that she goes to university or completes the requisite training programs to put her in a position where she is able to pursue employment that interests her. To finally answer your question, at the top end I know of two guys who give their live in 40,000 baht a month and whenever they go out she would not ordinarily pay for anything. She might also get gifts and other material goods on top of this such as the latest mobile phone and items of jewellery bought. At the other end of the scale I know guys who give their live in just 5,000 baht a month. The average would be somewhere in between.
A major milestone was passed this week when the number of readers' stories published on the site hit 5,000. Yes, you read that right - FIVE THOUSAND! That is 5,000 original, full length articles about all things Thai, from relationships with Thai women to encounters with bargirls to trip reports to far flung corners of the Kingdom to why life in the West may be preferable. When that section of the site started way back in July 2001, just 3 months after this column got going, I could never have possibly imagined that it would end up becoming so popular! For an alternative opinion to mine on all things Thai, tune in to the readers' stories which are published daily, Monday to Saturday. Of course, we'd love to receive a story from YOU so why not pen a piece on life in Thailand and send it in?
Your Bangkok commentator,
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Stick can be contacted at: email@example.com.