Stickman Weekly  26/7/2009

Bar Bosses And Just Who Is The Best?

Do they sit in the back corner drinking on the house all night long?  Do they have a fold down bed in their office where job applicants can display their skills?  Are they on uber expat salaries?  Are they even necessary?  The farang bar managers littered around Thailand's naughty bars play an important role.

The role of a bar manager changes somewhat when he's a foreigner.  There are perhaps 20 or so foreigners working in the role of bar manager across Bangkok and Pattaya in venues associated with the naughtier side of the industry.  They are perhaps better described as meeters and greeters whose primary role is to engage customers in conversation, explain the format of the bar to anyone new and to be there to assist should any questions or problems arise.  Of course they also have to keep an eye on the Thai staff although it would be a supremely confident and some would say aloof bar owner who didn't have Thai management in place.  Many girls in the industry just do not respect Westerners and would not appreciate nor respond favourably to being told what to do or not to do by a farang.

Invariably the highest paid member of staff, foreign bar managers typically earn a salary of 50,000 - 70,000 baht per month.  Drinking with customers is a big part of their job so all drinks are free with some bar bosses consuming 10 - 15 drinks or more a night.  In good times a foreign bar boss could earn over 100,000 baht a month.

Some bar bosses become personalities and attract their own following with some becoming so popular that as they move from one bar to another, so their band of friends follow.  Their influence is significant and while you'd never say that a foreign bar manager can make a crap bar good, they can make a good bar great.

There are many good foreign bar owners around but just who is the best in the industry?  Today I profile 4 of the most well-known bar bosses and stick my neck out and say who I think is the best.

Dave The Rave, Angelwitch, Bangkok

Possibly the most well-known bar boss due to his web presence, Dave is a fixture in Nana Plaza and known to many.  A close, personal friend and the bar boss I am closest to, Dave is a genuine nice guy.  You couldn't call him Mr. Nana Plaza because the ice-cream man would throw his toys out of the pram but there can't be many who have been as regular a fixture in Nana over the last 11 years as Dave.

Dave has had an uncanny knack of being in charge of the most popular bars when they were at their peak, starting his career as a bar boss in Pretty Lady back in early '98.  He was at the helm when it was one of the top bars in the plaza and my personal favourite.  Dave also happened to be in charge of the Hollywood bars when they were arguably the most popular and certainly the most successful.  At one point, he ran both Hollywood gogo bars himself with no other manager and / or owner present which is a testament to the way the owner saw him as totally honest and trustworthy.  The amount of money going through those bars back then was huge!  Angelwitch owner Matt snapped him up and he has been at the helm for approaching 5 years.

Dave worked in the industry in the UK and brings much experience to the role.  He speaks better Thai than any other bar owner I know and can also act as security if necessary.  If you hadn't noticed, Dave has fists like watermelons and forearms like a wood chopper - and being a former world kickboxing champion he knows how to use them.  If any misbehaving punters need to be ejected from the bar, he needn't rely on Thomas Hearns - the Angelwitch bouncer who bears an uncanny resemblance to the boxer.

Of course Dave has a hugely popular site DaveTheRave and being something of an internet personality, his website attracts many of his readers to Angelwitch as they are keen to meet the man behind the magic.  There's little doubt in my mind that Dave's fans visiting him in Angelwitch more than cover his new salary, such is his popularity.

Like all managers, Dave has his own management style and duties.  What I really like about Dave's role which makes him unique in the industry is the announcements he makes on the microphone each night before the show kicks off which have become a trademark of the bar.

But there is something about Dave that is so bad that I could never ever give him the accolade of Thailand's best bar boss.  In fact, it is so incredibly bad that I have to wonder why I even talk to the man, let alone call him a friend.  Dave is a Manchester United fan and there is no way this life-long Liverpool supporter could ever say that Dave was the best bar boss in the business.  Dave, for supporting Manchester United (and for describing Liverpool as lackluster when they played Thailand this week) you're disqualified – and in total disgrace I might add!

Perfect Paul, Club Misty's, Pattaya

With a name like that, you'd think he was the best in the business, and maybe he is...

Paul left his native UK to travel the world and if I remember the story right he was on his way down to Australia and New Zealand but somehow got stuck in Thailand.  Funny that!

I'm not sure if it was his first bar boss appointment, but I met Paul when he was in charge of Lennies in Soi Diamond, which later changed name to Shooters.  It was a smallish bar, perhaps not the type of venue which really needed a foreign manager.  But Paul quickly built up a following and it wasn't long before Andy offered him the position of manager at Misty's, back when it could be found in Soi Pattayaland 2.  The operation moved to a soi just off Walking Street several months ago and is now known as Club Misty's.  Perfect Paul can be found there most nights and is always on top of things.  Another confident Thai speaker, Paul has spent much time in the Isaan region where he has business interests and is at home with the Club Misty's girls, most of whom come from that part of the country.  He has an excellent rapport not just with customers but with the girls too.

But there is one thing about Paul I don't like.  No, it is worse than that, there's something about him I hate.  He tries to say something and the same words come out of his mouth every time.  You're waiting for him to say something and he keeps saying the same thing.  The man stutters!  There I was in his bar a few months back, in Pattaya on duty, doing the rounds, visiting people, shaking hands, hunting for news and generally playing Stickman.  I'd started the evening in Secrets as I always do and Club Misty's was the next stop.  Paul knew I had business to attend to.  I hadn't seen Ricky yet.  I wanted to go to Catz.  I was thinking about going to Sisterz.  But that sod Paul's stutter got in the way.  At about 10:30 PM I had the checkbin in my hand and was about to leave when Paul said, "Just one for the road, mate!"  Ok, so just another drink.  It was quickly downed and I did the decent thing and bought the next round.  I was about to leave again when it was probably around 11:15 and the stutter started.  "Just one for the road, mate!"  OK, just one more...and as you do, you buy the boss a drink in return.  This continued for...a few hours.  All the man could say was "Just one for the road, mate!"  It wasn't until I went to the loo that I realised I was in trouble.  You see the loo in Club Misty's is upstairs and ascending and descending the winding staircase became a problem due to all the drinks Paul had ordered.  All he could say was "Just one for the road, mate!"  It was 2:30 AM when I finally left in quite a state.  Did he have the decency to designate a nurse for me to get home ok?  Ah, that's between me and him...

There is no way I am giving the bar boss of the day award to some bloke with a stutter who only knows how to say "Just one for the road, mate!"  A great bar boss and a wonderful host, but he really ought to get that stutter sorted.

Tricky Ricky, Baby Dolls, Pattaya

Ricky has been floating around the Land of Smiles for years.  Or is it decades?  I first met Ricky when he was managing a venue in the long gone Clinton Plaza.  Back in the first year of this column I wrote about how a message on the wall of the bar Ricky was managing stating that the girls were regularly tested for STDs was a load of bollocks.  I mentioned in that column that friend of mine had caught a dose after a liaison with one of that bar's girls.  Yeah, I was a bit raw back then.  Ricky spotted me in the bar and I was summonsed into the office to appear before owner Larry who was none too happy with what I had written.  The situation was quickly resolved with Ricky mediating.

Clinton Plaza didn't last and the bar relocated to Nana with Ricky still in charge.  Some time later he ended up in Angelwitch for a period before the lure of Pattaya was too much and he moved to the beach.

Ricky has done the rounds in Pattaya with his CV showing Diamond A Gogo, Babewatch, Sisterz, a brief spell at Catz and now Baby Dolls A Gogo where he is as much a part of the bar as any of the showgirls.

As I found myself gravitating towards Ricky's bars more and more, so a friendship grew.  A fantastic storyteller - an essential skill for any bar boss - Ricky can often be seen regaling punters with stories from the industry, past and present.

Ricky is the one bar boss highlighted who has also been an owner - Vixens in Nana was his baby for a while - and this gives him a certain advantage and a little more insight into how a bar operates as a business.

Ricky is proof that you often go into a bar simply to see the manager, have a chat and a few drinks.  I've said it before and I'll say it again.  Despite being voted the best gogo bar in all of Pattaya on the Pattaya Secrets forum, I don't care for Baby Dolls A Gogo one little bit.  It's tacky and some of the goings on can only be described as crass.  I don't like to see that sort of carry on in public, thank you.  But I still go to Baby Dolls.  Why?  To see Ricky of course!

But despite his charms, professionalism and experience in the industry, Ricky is not without fault.  When I do the rounds in Pattaya, I often have a local Pattaya mate accompanying me and we always make a point of catching up with Ricky.  Being of a similar age they chat at length but it often ends up being a one-sided conversation, my friend doing little more than nodding his head in agreement.  The truth is that he doesn't have a clue what Ricky talks about as he struggles with Ricky's British accent!  That's a black mark of chronic proportions for a bar manager when a fellow native English speaker cannot understand you.  So sorry Ricky, you're eliminated!  History!  Finito!  Goodbye, Ricky.  Better luck next year!

Licker Larry, Secrets, Pattaya

The only American in the bunch, Larry has built up quite a reputation since taking over the management at Secrets in Pattaya shortly after it opened.  Contrary to popular opinion, Larry was not the first manager but rather took over when one of the owners found that being on the premises day after day was too much of an imposition on his time.

At the time Larry had been running the popular Secrets discussion forum and was offered the position of manager which he took to like a duck to water.  I don't know if Larry was ever a bar manager back in the States but his easy manner and quick sense of humour made him a hit with punters and staff alike.  Quick with his wit, he has plenty of funny stories, most with sexual innuendo and neither is he shy to spank the backside of the Secrets lovelies who take it in good spirits.

What is perhaps unusual about Larry is that he doesn't drink.  It's a credit to the man that he is always in a good mood, always telling jokes and always having a good time without alcohol.

Larry manages many aspects of the Secrets empire.  In addition to being in charge of the bar most nights, he also runs the forum where he has made a staggering 67,000 posts.  It is not uncommon for Larry to actually walk customers out of Secrets and take them to another bar rather than just tell them where it is.  Larry is connected and seems to know everyone and I often call him "the voice of Walking Street" because he always knows what's going on.

But it hasn't always been plain sailing.  18 months back Larry was struck down by a mystery virus that left him in hospital, unable to walk.  The prognosis wasn't bright.  Doctors were unable to diagnose the problem and dependant on others, Larry spent many weeks in hospital where the Secrets girls were regular visitors.  Now bar bosses aren't that well paid and private hospital bills can mount up fast in Thailand.  A collection for Larry was set up and donations flooded in from all around the world.  A testament to his massive popularity, in excess of 500,000 baht was raised which covered all of his medical bills including trips to Bumrungrad in Bangkok.

It's a credit to Larry that despite having only managed one bar in Thailand that he is currently, in my eyes at least, the best bar boss in the business.  With his amiable, fun-loving, "I'm just one of the boys" nature, he was born for this role.

I guess the best thing I can say about Larry is that if I was going to open up a bar, I'd approach him with an offer he couldn't refuse.  If it took a bag of cash and doubling his current salary, I'd do it.  Yeah, Larry is that good.  In my mind he's the best bar boss in the business and he brings so much to Secrets.  It's also a credit to Secrets that after almost 3 years he is still there.  As the girls come and go, it's comforting to know that the manager is the same guy whose company you enjoyed on your last visit.

In the bar business there's more to the HR mix than recruiting pretty girls, an experienced mamasan and a DJ whose hearing hasn't completely gone.  For any medium to large sized venue, there's real value in having a foreign manager on the premises and for the time being at least, Licker Larry (you can guess where that name came from!), pictured above, is in my humble opinion, the best in the business.

 

Where was this photo taken?


 

I pulled a dirty trick with last week's photo which was taken of the Sawadee Thai restaurant on Auckland's Ponsonby Road in my hometown of Auckland about, oh, 10,000 km from downtown Bangkok!  I was again surprised and heaps of people got it right!  I don't doubt that not one person has ever seen it with their own eyes, but enlisted the services of that know-it-all, Mr. Google for assistance.  The first person to email 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!  The Strip in Patpong's soi 2 is offering a FREE BOOTH.  That means that you and one of the ladies enter the booth and the curtain is closed for 30 minutes.  This prize has a value of 550 baht, the cost of closing the booth.  It should be noted that if you wish to do anything more with the lady than chat then a tip will be expected...

Terms and conditions:  The Oh My Cod and Molly Malone's prizes MUST be claimed within 14 days.  Prizes are not transferable.  Prize winners cannot claim more than one prize per calendar 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 - Pointing things out because we care.

Mrs. Stick is understandably touchy when it comes to correspondence criticising Thailand.  However, I think the following helps put things in perspective.  Sure, all countries have their good and bad points but I think that the Thai education system drums a lot of nationalism into youngsters' heads so that much criticism which would be tolerated in other countries is frowned on here. This creates a climate of fear amongst both Thais and foreigners.  It also results in many Thais thinking they are better than they are just because they are Thai.  The image of Thailand so carefully fostered abroad by the tourism industry is so greatly at odds with reality it is shameful.  It's also worth pointing out that it is possible to criticise Thailand without disliking it.  Many of us have a lot of emotional involvement here and we tell it like it is because we care about the future of this country.

The delightful Thai police.

Back in '96, while on one of my early trips to Bangkok, I attended a trade show at the Sirikit Convention Centre.  It was dark when I walked out and being new to Bangkok taxis, I had trouble hailing one in the throng of people leaving.  It was a nice evening and I could see the lights of Sukhumvit behind me so I thought I'd just take a bearing and strike off on foot.  Not a good idea.  Within a few minutes I was walking down totally dark sois, dogs were barking and I'd lost sight of my bearing landmark.  About then, a young cop on a motorbike pulled up and motioned me over.  In limited English, he asked where I was going.  I told him Sukhumvit.  He shook his head, motioned for me to climb on and off we went.  We made a dozen left and rights and crossed a canal or two before popping out at Sukhumvit near McDonald's.  I wanted to offer him something but was unsure as to how, so I just thanked him.  He smiled, saluted and rode off.  In retrospect, he probably didn't want to deal with the paperwork involved with a stupid farang found dead on his beat during his shift.  That has been my one and only contact with the boys in brown. 

Is no tea money a good thing?

I ride a motorbike an average of 1,000 km a month.  I get stopped about twice a month by the boys in brown.  Since the coup that thru Mr. T out of the country, I have NEVER been asked for tea money!  I read somewhere that the King had told the police not to worry about money but to do their job, or something like that.  When I have done something wrong (taking a flyover that a motorbike is not allowed on), I was given a ticket and had to go to the police station to pay it.  There was NEVER mention of tea money at the site of the infraction or at the police station.  I see 10 - 20 policemen at Sukhumvit soi 50 by the On Nut Tesco Lotus, stopping motorbikes and handing out the required tickets with nothing going on in the way of tea money.  Big change over the last few years and for me, for the better.

You can pay in cash or kind.  (And if the JW ran out, what would they offer next?!)

I have little experience with Thai cops myself as I'm not a resident but a visitor.  But on the topic of pay offs, I was sitting one night having a few cold ones in a beer bar in Hua Hin, which is owned by the wife of a western based farang I was told.  Two cops walk by and stop at the bar.  The lady manager said something to one of the girls who scurried off and came back with a handbag.  The manager then put a bottle of JW Black into the bag and the girl went over and handed it to one of the cops who then left.  I never asked for, nor got, explanation but it seemed obvious the bar contributed with some goodies to the police and quite likely this ensures that closing times are not rigidly enforced, or something along those lines.


Thai ladies in Bangkok, Pattaya, and all over Thailand

When scamming becomes institutional.

Scams happen everywhere but what makes Thailand different from many other places, I believe, is that often the very people who are supposed to be safeguarding us from them are the very people who are running the scams (usually the police, although the TAT are quite obviously involved too as they do absolutely nothing to stop it).  It is institutional, rather than individuals acting for themselves.

No-one does anything.

Any one who lives and drives in Thailand will be pulled over by the boys in brown.  In the years I was there, I was pulled over a dozen times.  Not once was it for anything that was wrong.  I was stopped solely because I was a farang!  The fines ranged from 100 - 500 baht.  It got so bad that my wife's uncle who works in the south gave her his number for when we were stopped.  He is a captain in a kick ass anti-insurgent task force.  He is well known in the force and a quick conversation with him and we are now sent on our way after a call to him.  What I find so depressing is the fact that everyone knows it's going on - the government, the police, the newspapers and TV yet no one does anything!  There is an occasional story in the papers, but only low level boys get their knuckles wrapped.

Goodbye and good riddance!

You mean the owner of Nana Disco devalued it SO MUCH he couldn't even sell it?  Harvard Business School should have a required course about this guy called "How Not To".  And there should be a special place in the afterlife for him, a place where he has to pay 400 baht every time he wants to eat, breathe or take a leak.  Good riddance.

Didn't even have to say the buffalo was sick.

My sometime Thai girlfriend, who works in Vietnam, called my Pattaya hotel last weekend to ask me to visit.  I said I couldn't because I had just found out that my US bank had become a victim of the recession and had collapsed.  The government had turned the bank's assets over to another bank.  Being at the end of my funds, and I mean ALL my funds, and awaiting my Social Security check to be deposited, this was not good news.  Would my ATM card with the old bank work to access funds now going into another bank?  She immediately offered to send money.  I said I could hold out a few days until I got some answers but I couldn't convince her not to wire funds into a girlfriend's account for me.  The next day that girl rode across town on her motorbike to give me 5,000 baht.  Not a fortune, but it could be a lifesaver while getting this situation straightened out.  She also called her relatives to put me up if I couldn't pay the next month's hotel bill.  Who says all farangs are walking ATM machines?  This time it was the Thai girl playing the part of the ATM, bless her sweet heart.

Spanky's in Nana Plaza has some lovely new girls and is one bar bucking the trend of quiet, empty drinking spots.  On Friday night Spanky's was very busy which is no doubt due in part to the shows performed nightly from 10 PM which includes a sexy show inside a purpose-built shower unit.  It's all very impressive!  Rumour has it that The Arab is furious that the bar is doing much better than it ever did when he was at the helm.

The Strip in Patpong's soi 2 will host a party on August 1 with guest DJ Nellus playing pop, rock-retro house and old style rap.  Beer discounts and special acts and shows will also feature.

The most basic economic principle of demand and supply can't be distorted forever and naughty boys are reporting the best attitudes from the girls since the Asian Economic Crisis more than a decade ago.  The trick seems to be to engage the new entrants to the industry in conversation.  You will never have it better, you naughty boys - this is as good as it gets!

J, you need to return from the States ASAP!  Your Cowboy baby, Coyote, has not been doing a good trade since you ordered birthday suits off the menu.  Easy solution...

The Biergarten in soi 7 was closed again this past Thursday, a week after the owner was found dead with the rumour mill having it they died on the bowl.  I kid you not.  Everything is back to normal and it's business as usual for Bangkok's skankiest freelancer hangout.

The gogo bar that seems to host more parties than any other, Sisterz on Pattaya's Walking Street, will host the curiously titled Ex-Wife Party this coming Tuesday, July 30.

Of course every bar is for sale at the right price and Sisterz is currently on the market for 5.5 million baht, a massive drop in the asking price from a few months back...which makes you wonder what it will be going for if it is still on the market close to Christmas!  Owner Tom's health is not what it once was and with a toddler in the household he is considering a more healthy lifestyle which means turning his back on the bar business.

Those who have been around longer than I have are saying that this past week was the quietest they have ever seen it in Pattaya.  We're talking not since the mid 90s, and possibly even further back.  But this is not a Pattaya thing.  Nationwide the tourist spots are very, very quiet.  What I also find interesting is that airfares on the national carrier, Thai Airways, seem to be awfully high at the moment.  Surely the national carrier reducing fares between Bangkok and North America, Europe and Down Under would contribute towards stimulating demand?

Bourbon Street Restaurant & Oyster Bar is hosting their second Stand-Up Comedy Night featuring Matt Super and friends.  The FREE SHOW will take place at 8:30 PM on Saturday, August 1st, in the dining area of the popular restaurant and bar so you can make reservations to eat before, during or after the show.

Why oh why do these lovely specimens mar their body with awful tattoos?  I just cannot understand what is going through the mind of a lovely when she does this.  Tattoos, especially the larger variety, do seem to be more popular with the working girls in Pattaya than they are in Bangkok but this photo taken in Tilac Bar this week shows that their Bangkok sisters often lack taste too.  We all have our personal preferences and for me, smokers and the tattooed hold absolutely no interest.

It is often said that the majority of the gogos are owned my drug dealers, money launderers, and guys living off Mommy and Daddy's trust fund.  I see Drew who used to own Wet' N' Wild A Gogo in Pattaya up until a couple of months ago is doing his best to confirm that rumour after getting arrested for peddling drugs.  Naughty boy!  Seriously though, not all bar owners are bad - just some of them.

Down Phuket way, Eric of Soi Eric fame has built some new toilets at the end of his soi.  These conveniences are said to be state of the art, so clean you could eat off the floor.  He has even put in place two attendants cleaning the floor the whole time customers are going in and out.  And what a relief to be able to stand at the urinal without the fear that someone is going to massage your shoulders and then hand you a towel with those puppy dog-eyed expressions pleading for a tip.  A Phuket correspondent is well impressed and suggests they are a tourist site in themselves, the best he has seen in Thailand by a mile.

A recent but now ex-bar owner has done something no bar owner has ever done and stepped forward to spill the beans on the men in brown and just how much money they take from bar owners' pockets.  So he tells me, the small bars in and around Sukhumvit sois 7/1 and 8 pay an average of 6,000 baht a month to the police.  1,500 is for the guys you always see drinking whisky at the end of the soi who are actually traffic cops that hang around at night to supplement their income while the remaining 4,500 baht ends up at the police station, a senior officer visiting every month, in uniform surprisingly, to collect.  The Thai bar owners, of which there are few, pay less.  You didn't think otherwise, did you?!  So the question that has to be asked it just why these bars are paying.  It's not like birthday suits are the order of the day in that little neighbourhood.  Unlike Pattaya, Bangkok bar owners are much less likely to work together, and a number of bar 'owners' are without work permits and do visa runs every 3 months meaning they are forever vulnerable.  The police know this and know that it is easier for them to pay.  Remember, at the end of the day, working without a work permit is not that serious an offence and one the coppers are less worried about, although with that said, it can still result in a short stay in the monkey house.  One night after a very drunk customer refused to pay his bill an owner in soi 7/1 called the police to ask them to assist.  Their response was to ask how much they would be paid if they attended.  After reminding them they were paid them each month and if they didn't attend his profits would be down and their stipend under threat they duly sent someone round! 

Eyebrows were raised when several months back I stuck my neck out and said that Tilac was the best bar in Thailand.  Since writing that column nothing has changed.  Tilac is still in a class of its own and on Friday night especially, as well as Saturday night, you can barely move.  On a really busy night you might struggle to get a seat after 8:30 PM whereas there are some bars that may not have a single customer at that time.  Though with all that said, Tilac has its quiet nights too.  Where Tilac seems to do well is that it doesn't seem to have a bunch of queen bees, often older women, telling the younger ones what to do and forcing them to harass customers for a drink.  Being largely free of such personalities is part of Tilac's success.

Following on from last week's piece about the boys in brown, just why are their brown uniforms so tight anyway?  - See the quote of the week a little further down, for the answer!

There was a big fiasco with the Thailand Elite card scheme a few months back with its future looking grim.  The main reason to join seemed to be that it provided a visa loophole - ideal for those aged under 50 who did not qualify for a visa through investments in the country, marriage to a citizen or by working.  Despite much concern that privileges would be suspended or even the program discontinued, one member told me that he was recently reissued a new 5-year visa which he was promised would be renewed every 5 years for life.  Thailand Elite members do not have to leave the country every 3 months, rather just go to the Immigration Department with the 1,900 baht fee for a visa extension and get their 3 month renewal.  That said, I think that's a bit daft.  Surely paying 1.5 million notes should remove that hassle?  Wouldn't yearly renewals be a lot more convenient?  Thailand Elite has not been discontinued but a recent news article said that in 2009 the scheme had attracted the grand total of two new members must mean that its future remains uncertain.

I continue to chuckle at the way so many Thai women playing the dating site game place photos of themselves online sitting on what is obviously a hotel room bed.  And in some profiles, there may be 4 or 5 different photos, each on a different bed in a different hotel and each presumably taken by a different guy.  You just know that she has been bonking all and sundry yet her profile may very well attempt to suggest that she is in fact a "good girl".  You have to laugh!

I know you don't like to hear bad news but it's my responsibility to tell you what is happening out there, what The Nation and The Bangkok Post won't print.  An Aussie couple was the latest Western victims of muggers in downtown Bangkok this week.  They had their bags ripped from them right outside the Indonesian Embassy on Petchaburi Road, very close to Panthip Plaza, in what is becoming a trend of more and more Westerners being robbed or mugged in central, crowded parts of the city in broad daylight.  To make it worse, the lady suffered a dislocated shoulder that required a trip to Bumrungrad - and 15,000 baht to put right.  The cops were hopeless and follow up with the Aussie Embassy left the couple unimpressed.  That's another two Aussies who will never step foot in this country again.  Sure, this sort of thing happens all over the world, but what is pissing people off is that the trend is for such crimes to happen more and more - and for the police to be HOPELESS offering assistance.

As I said before, one of my big complaints about the local English-language newspapers is that they seldom seem to do follow ups on the stories that pique the interest of the Western population, those cases where foreigners are accused of crimes or perhaps where foreigners are the victims of crimes.  One such case was the murder of Canadian Dale Henry in Ranong by his Thai wife.  Well, don't count on reading about it in the Post or The Nation but you can get an update here on Stickman!  The trial begins on July 28th in the city of Ranong and is scheduled to last 5 days.  Hopefully justice will be served.  The brother of the victim, who I have been in contact with, believes that there is ample evidence but this being Thailand, who knows?  Related to the same case, he is currently proceeding with a civil action as well and the final hearing should be July 27th.  He was finally able to get bank records from his brother's personal account which showed that his brother's employer deposited $US 21,000 into his account which was withdrawn over a period of 10 days whilst Nee, the accused, was in the monkey house.  The brother had filed a report with police and asked them to investigate who had withdrawn money from his account as the balance had been reduced to 57 baht.  After trying to defer it, the copper reluctantly filled out a report.  He was told the following week by a detective that there was no reason to investigate so the cops would not proceed further!  What more reason do you need?  What a total croc!  As a friend of mine once said, it's best to avoid any problems in Thailand all together because if you get into trouble you will find yourself all on your own.  So true, it would seem.

A friend visited a neighbouring country recently, and having a Non-Immigrant visa that would expire the next month, he returned and assumed he had been stamped in for the requisite 90 days as that visa entitles the holder to.  However, when he had to exit the country again last week he noticed that the immigration clerk at the airport had only stamped him in until the date the visa expired.  He could easily have got into an overstay situation unwittingly.  On flying back in to Thailand, he was stamped in for 90 days so is here legally until early October.  It is worth checking the stamp in your passport when your passport is stamped so as to avoid shock later.  There is a counter at the Immigration Department HQ in Suan Plu that deals exclusively with "wrong stamps", which kind of suggests that this sort of thing happens rather often.

It was very difficult to choose the Stickman reader's story of the week with so many good articles sent in this past week but being subjective, my favourite was from my old pal Bangkok Barry, "Try Somewhere Else, Because the Party’s Over".

Quote of the week, "Maybe the boys in brown have tight uniforms because they have to buy their own and small sizes are cheaper."

The BBC upset the TAT when they covered the airport scam this week and a popular Thai commentator discusses it along with the concept of justice for foreigners in Thailand.

A Thailand discussion forum owner was fined 20,000 baht when a user (not the owner) posted nude photos of a woman on his forum.

Shock, horror, an expat conducted a lewd act in a Pattaya massage parlour!

Further proof of escalating violence in Thailand as tourists dodged bullets in Phuket's Patong Beach this week.

According to the United Nations, the Thai police are organised criminals.

Is the government serious about fixing the airport scam or is it merely lip service?

The New York Times profiles an $8 million property in Thailand.

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 met my Thai girlfriend on ThaiLoveLinks several months ago, and I travelled to Thailand to see her and we commenced a relationship.  She no longer uses the ThaiLoveLinks, but is still chatting to some guys that she has met previously.  She chats with one guy on a daily basis and he is planning on coming to Thailand alone just to visit her.  She is truthful to me and has told me.  She wants to be friends with him, but not start a relationship, as she already has a boyfriend.  She doesn't want him to come to visit her, but she does not know how to tell him.  So the question is, about confrontation, do Thais have difficulties confronting guys on these issues?  What should she say to him so that it is easier on him?  She has told me that she informed him she did not want a relationship as she has a boyfriend.  But he is still coming to visit her.

Mrs. Stick says:  Are you outside Thailand?  I think maybe she is looking for a boyfriend who is here in Thailand with her or she wants to go to stay in the country of her boyfriend.  Where are you?  Do you have a plan to marry her?  Are you sure about it?  I think she is not confident about you so she is meeting this guy to see if she is right for him.  If she was 100% serious with you she would not meet him and would stop talking with him.  It is very easy to stop talking with him.  But maybe she thinks of him like a friend or maybe she started chat with him before you knew her?

Mr. Stick says:  This guy is coming to Thailand to give her the bone.  So many of these TLL girls are right little vixens and if she meets him, well, you know what's going to happen.  The problem as I see it is as the Mrs. says, have you set out a future plan for you and her?  It would seem from your email that you have only met her the one time and let's say you were in Thailand for 2 weeks and spent every minute with her - which is very unlikely - how sure can she be about you and your intentions for her.  Is it possible that you're seeing a relationship where perhaps there really isn't one?

Question 2:  I've been developing a relationship with a lovely young lass in Isaan who I met through a dating site.  We've been chatting and swapping text messages for months and I telephone her every evening.  We've got to the point where it's time to either get serious or bail and, to help with that decision, I'm going over to visit her in a couple of weeks.  If that goes well, then I want to ask her to come and stay with me in Farangland for a couple of months holiday mid 2010, so that she can get to know me, my family and the area I live in better to make sure that she is comfortable here.  As you can see, I'm not rushing anything and nor is she.  I have, however, been running a few scenarios through my mind of the “what if” variety, one of these being sin sot.  In one of our chats recently she mentioned that the (European) fiancée of her older sister is paying 300,000 baht sin sot – this for a lady who has been married and divorced and has a son who is about 4 years old – which struck me as being a bit over the odds.  I'm pretty sure he earns a lot more than I do, so it might be a lot less in the grand scheme of things for him to come up with that amount.  Now given that “my girl” is still a virgin, has never had a boyfriend and never even kissed a guy before, I started to wonder what kind of number they're going to mention to me when the subject eventually comes up.  I do have a Thai friend whose father has offered to be the negotiator, but to be honest 300k is not something I think of as being affordable, even if I do understand the “face” and prestige that goes with a large sum.  If we do tie the knot, I'm prepared to fund her attending university (which her parents cannot afford) and all that, so would it be fair for me to suggest that instead of paying a large amount (which I'd have to borrow anyway), that I pay a smaller amount and undertake to use the “balance” to pay for her education and living costs directly?

Mrs. Stick says:  I know farang don't like to pay the sin sot and I answered a question about it last week and other times too.  Can you read my answer from last week to understand more?  Do you know that the sin sot you pay reflects your standing in the social and your ability to support your new wife and your love for her.  This is how we look at the sin sot.  If this is an up country family I do not think they will be happy about promises to pay for things in the future.  They want to see the sin sot at the ceremony!

Mr. Stick says:  You're getting WAY ahead of yourself.  You haven't met this woman.  You say that she has not gone to university which suggests she may be rather young.  Is she even ready for a relationship with a Westerner, let alone marriage?  I have reservations about this, I really do.

Many foreigners justifiably get angry at the scams perpetrated against them in Thailand but thinking that we are not the only targets.  While Prime Minister Apisit has this week been on national TV talking about the swine flu and announcing that a vaccine will be available in a few months, many neighbourhood clinics in the capital have put up signs outside announcing that they have the vaccine available now - and the locals are flocking in to be immunized.  Anyone who walks through the doors is being vaccinated and in some cases it's the entire extended family.  I would not be surprised if *every* person who enters the clinic is given a hard sell on being vaccinated against swine flu.  But the truth is that the vaccine for the swine flu has not yet been developed so just what is this concoction they are administering?  Antibiotic perhaps?  They dish those out like lollies in Thailand.  Whatever it is, it's not a vaccine for the swine flu.  That the doctors who own and run these neighbourhood clinics - oftentimes medical professionals who work out of big name hospitals - could condone this sort of thing is one of the most damning things I have heard in more than 11 years in this country.  If you cannot trust a doctor in Thailand, a so-called medical "professional", who can you trust?



Your Bangkok commentator,

Stick

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