Dealing with a few posters reminds me strongly of the first argument I ever had with a female who wasn't a family member. I was in first grade and it was a December afternoon during the arts & crafts session. The girl beside me had drawn a picture she said she was going to include in her letter to Santa Claus. She had drawn a Christmas tree surrounded by wrapped presents and I remember thinking it was a very good drawing. But cynical little bastard that I was back then, I told her there wasn't any Santa Claus and it was pointless to send him a letter as he'd never get it.
She was indignant at that suggestion and insisted there was a Santa Claus. I used all the anti-Santa explanations my Mom and Dad had given to me and my sister. My parents were quite progressive and believed it wrong to deceive children with fairy tales. They emphasized that Santa was a symbol for Christmas, but it was absurd to believe there was such a person. So I asked the little girl: How could reindeer fly? How could Santa get into houses when almost none had chimneys anymore? How could one sleigh carry enough toys for all the children in the world?
To each of my objections, she answered, "It's magic." But finally I asked her a couple of questions she couldn't answer. Why are there so many toys in stores during December if Santa delivers them to children? What happens to the toys in stores?
At that point, she banged her little fist on the desk and told me in a loud, angry voice, "I don't care what you say, I WANT TO BELIEVE IN SANTA CLAUS!"
The impenetrable BMs are like the little girl in the story. They WANT to believe in the silliness about out-of-control prices for drinks, girls' services and bar fines; coyotes who won't BF; punters who drive up prices for others, etc. Reasoned debate can't change their way of thinking. And it goes way beyond Christmas and punter-board myths. I've lost count of the number of people I've met over the years who stubbornly cling to irrational notions on politics, religion, economics, history, physical health- any subject you can think of- for no other reason than they want to believe.
I did indeed learn an important lesson that day and it hadn't been presented by my first-grade teacher. It took me some years to put it in its proper context, but I grasped its essence even then: it's pointless to argue with some people. Later on I realized that nothing I could say or write would make any difference to certain individuals, as the real grounds of their beliefs are not those which are alleged.
It's not an original insight and it's been expressed numerous times in one form or another by everyone from Greek philosophers, Biblical prophets and Sun Tzu through Bertrand Russell, Erwin Rommel and Kenny Rodgers ("You've got to know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em, know when to walk away and know when to run …"). But no one could have made it clearer than that little girl when she pounded the table and insisted she wanted to believe in Santa. It's a the Christmas-related memory that has stuck with me the longest.
I'm going to take a jump back in time and post a trip report on the Biergarten on Suk Soi 7 in Bangkok that I did in 2005 for a Bangkok board. The pic on the left shows what it looked like back in 2005 and the one on the right what it looks like today. I lifted both from the Net.
The Bier Garten was renovated inside and out in 2008 and more work has been done since. It's no longer the sleazy place I described in the T/R, Think of the T/R as a frozen snapshot of bygone days.
Tunnels of Purgatory - the Biergarten at Suk Soi 7
Freelancer beer bars have always seemed in-between places to me. There are better options in LOS for either serious drinking or girl hunting, but much worse ones as well. The bars themselves are usually ramshackle and offer only a minimal comfort. More attractive girls are often just a stone's throw away and the male customers tend to be a sullen if harmless lot. It's sort of a whoremonger's limbo, somewhere between P4P heaven and hell.
Within this niche, the Biergarten at Soi 7 has achieved semi-legendary status. Its location in the heart of the Sukhumvit pink zone is a huge factor in its success, but the biggest attraction is the never-ebbing supply of girls willing to spread their legs at bargain rates. Nothing about them screams bar girl or hooker, but if they were to become any more accessible for P4P, they'd have to turn themselves into public parks.
These girls look... well, normal. A few bear the scars of too many years in the flesh trade, but mostly they're the kind you see riding the BTS every morning or behind the counters of noodle shops and convenience stores. Some are attractive, others less so. On the whole, it's average ho's for average Joe's rather than mingers for mongers.
The bar functions like a scaled-down P4P version of a Wal-Mart. It relies on self service and doesn't offer high-end products, but the everyday low prices can't be beat. There are no mamasans or bar fines and none of the blatant sexuality, pushy solicitation, loud music and rowdy drunkenness that mark a lot of go-go bars. Unlike massage parlors or brothels, a punter can spend as much time as he wants browsing the aisles before he decides to buy. When he does find a girl that strikes his fancy, he simply smiles or nods and she comes right over. After some conversation, they either leave together or he moves on to another girl.
Many guys find that an appealing setup, from the Skid Row decor and cheap beer in bottles to the direct negotiations with willing girls. It's sort of like Baby Bear's porridge in the story of Goldilocks - not too hot, not too cold, but just right. Average mongers, average girls, average bar, great location. Put them together and what do you get? The Biergarten on Soi 7. It falls considerably short of the pinker pastures of BKK pussy paradise, but is nowhere near the dark caverns of P4P hell on Soi 3. The Biergarten runs right through pussy purgatory and a lot of punters seem content to explore its many tunnels.
I once asked a star provider at an upscale Bangkok P4P establishment what she thought of the Biergarten. "Old man cheap Charlie place," she instantly answered. A harsh judgment and not entirely unfair, although it would have been more accurate to say, "Middle-aged man cheap Charlie place." You'll encounter some gray beards as well as downy-cheeked youngsters still in their teens, but most of the male clientele falls in the 35-to-50-year range.
There's no doubt that for many of the guys who frequent the Biergarten, it's really about PP4P - penny pinching for play. The Biergarten could serve as the headquarters of the ICC (International Cheap Charlies, pronounced "ick"). These connoisseurs of cut-rate I'm Gay are determined not to let their Bangkok breaks break their banks. And there's nothing terribly wrong with that. It's their money to spend or not spend as they choose The cheapos themselves suffer most from their excessive attention to dead presidents and live Thai kings. Through their reluctance to part with few hundred baht extra, they miss much of the joy and excitement available in LOS and settle for pale versions of the real thing. I've heard that someone once tried to open the ultimate cheap Charlie joint in BKK- bring-your-own booze and inflatable love dolls instead of bar girls- but I dismiss that as an urban myth.
For my own tastes, there's a bit too much of the "Bah! Humbug!" spirit at the Biergarten. Like Ebenezer Scrooge celebrating Christmas with a bowl of gruel, morose cheap Charlies sit hunched over their beers, worrying they've given a taxi driver or food vendor 20 baht too much. I don't know if visions of stunners ever dance through their heads, but they are determined no freelancer will get more than the absolute bottom rate.
However, there's an enormous difference between what could be called thrifty Charlies - who don't want to pay too much yet thoroughly understand how the game is played - and the truly cheap Charlies, who somehow find pride in taking advantage of desperately poor girls. The extreme cheapos fancy themselves great bargainers, wise in the ways of P4P and the world, but they're not really liked or respected by the girls. They have about as much street cred on the lower Suk as Vanilla Ice does in the South Bronx.
The Biergarten is not my favorite spot in Bangkok, nor is it one that I'd actively avoid. Usually I've gone there in the company of friends who like the place much more than I do. A visit from February is a case in point. It was my last full day of a seven-day business trip to LOS. By 1.30 p.m., I'd finished everything work-related and was on the way with a colleague to the lower Suk. I planned on stopping by the Eden Club but he preferred the less structured approach to P4P of the Biergarten. I agreed to have a beer with him before I took the short walk to Soi 7/1.
At 2.00 p.m., maybe 20 punters and twice as many girls had already gathered on site. Only a few mongers were locked in conversation with girls. Most of the guys were sitting alone, just sipping their beers. A quick glance around didn't inspire me to abandon my plans to visit the Eden Club, but my friend was already motioning over a girl, apparently someone he knew. Her facial features were more Korean than Thai, with her hair cut in a punk-inspired style and dyed a reddish hue. She was thin - borderline anorexic - and dressed in drab clothes. I didn't consider her attractive.
As she sat down next to my friend, she smiled with the sad eyes that usually signal a starfish. He introduced us but I've forgotten her name. She spoke English quite well, if with a heavy accent. He asked her the standard "How are you?" questions, then about her campaign to find a sponsor. She wanted 40,000 a month to become a one-man girl, but with takers in short supply, she'd consider a "time-share" arrangement under which two guys pay 20,000 baht each. He pressed her for details and she tried to explain how it would work. It began to sound more like a clip-card approach - pay for nine sessions in advance and get the tenth for free - than joint-custody P4P and seemed about as workable a notion as building a perpetual motion machine.
My friend had obviously heard this before, found the subject amusing and wanted to entertain me with it. That struck me as poor P4P manners. However oddball her ideas, the girl didn't deserve to be humiliated in front of another farang for the price of a drink. The more she talked, the more I struggled to follow what she was saying, and it wasn't all because of language difficulties. I began wondering if some of her non sequiturs might be the result of a pill or two to take the jagged edge off the P4P grind. I tried to see if her pupils were dilated, but that's always hard to tell with Asian girls and I couldn't really decide.
Anyway, the conversation was depressing me and I decided to split for the Eden Club. My friend asked me to return to the Biergarten after my session so we could have dinner together. I agreed, more to maintain a collegial relationship than out of any desire to spend more time with him. On the way to Soi 7/1, I attracted the attention of a tout for one of the Indian tailor shops. "Nice suit, boss. Where you get made?" he asked, but I just sighed at the Sikh on the Suk.
As usual, the 90-minute session at Eden Club rocked my universe. I was so taken with the lead heroine of my dynamic duo, the fabled Gina, that I immediately booked a take-away session with her, beginning that night at 10.00 p.m. I worried my eyes might be bigger than my dick, but I was determined to maximize the sexual content of my remaining hours in LOS. Besides, I've had a weakness for girls named Gina since my high school days, when I met a lovely (and horny!) debutante from Richmond with that name. Throughout the years, I've fondly remembered her as VA Gina.
Still basking in the afterglow of total satisfaction, I went back to the Biergarten to meet up with my friend and have a beer to restore vital body fluids. The place had filled up considerably since mid-afternoon. Almost all the seats at the bar as well as the side tables were occupied, with girls still outnumbering punters by two or three to one. I couldn't see my friend, so I went deeper into the bar in case he had changed position, as befits an experienced monger. It was sort of like walking down Commercial Avenue on Chicago's South Side back in the 1960's - you could hear six different languages spoken in half a block. Not surprisingly for a place named Biergarten, there was a heavy German presence and about equally many Brits and Aussies. There was also a sprinkling of non-German continental Europeans, from Italians to Finns, but very few North Americans.
Both the girls and the punters held around 5 on the conventional 1-to-10 scale. If you plotted the looks of the bar's males and females on a graph, you'd end up with a classic bell-shaped curve. A few examples were at either extreme of the curve and most were bunched up right around the mid-point. I saw a couple of real cuties, but many more who wouldn't be winning any prizes for beauty unless in a contest arranged by a kennel club. A few were prime candidates for Miss Bangkok Bow-Wow 2005. Nevertheless, one of the pug uglies had drawn considerable advantage from her looks. Back in 2003, the BKK municipal government had offered a 100,000 baht reward for the best suggestion on how to make the city a more beautiful place to live. The Biergarten pug won it by promising to move to Pattaya.
The opposite side of the Biergarten equation - the punters - were on the whole a nondescript group, although there were a few memorable exceptions. I thought I had spotted several U.S. celebrities, members of Howard Stern's Whack Pack, but not so. The Gary the Retard look-alike proved to be a member of an inbred Appalachian tourist group and Elephant Boy turned out to be speaking Norwegian. Some of other guys had definitely been hit with the ugly stick, maybe even the whole tree. I couldn't decide if one guy looked more like Homer Simpson or Yoda with clipped ears, it was pretty much a toss-up.
There were also some eternally re-occurring beer bar types. A 90-pound weakling, the kind that always got sand kicked in his face at the beach in the old Charles Atlas advertisements, sat furiously scribbling in a notebook. He looked every inch a nerd - Coke bottle glasses, coat-hanger arms and legs, a Spiderman t-shirt, swimming trunks and flip-flops. I don't know if he was writing a letter to his mother or the program for a new video game, but he was oblivious to his surroundings. He could have just as easily been sitting in the Topeka Public Library and I wondered if he realized he wasn't in Kansas anymore. I imagined him clicking his heels together and saying, "There's no place like home! There's no place like home!"
At one end of the bar was a bigger loser - much, much bigger. This guy was about 5'8'' and must have tipped the scales at a minimum of 350 lbs. If I'd been at a beachside joint in Phuket or Pattaya, I'd have been tempted to shout, "Free Willy!" He had bristles on his chin that would have done a wart hog proud and the tufts of hair on his head looked like something a cat coughs up. He wore a sweaty sleeveless top that was too short, allowing his hairy belly to billow over the waistband of his 4X bermudas like the filling out of a jelly donut. His butt cheeks smothered the barstool, with saddlebags of fat hanging from the edges. He seemed a hopeless gutter-ball case; a TV makeover show that took him on would end up titled Mission: Impossible. I doubted even the least attractive girls at the Biergarten would ascend that mountain of blubber without significant compensation for hazardous duty.
Then an ingenious thought struck me. If he walked into the Grace Hotel, he'd be the most appealing male specimen there. In the land of the mega-hideous, the merely repulsive man is king. It reminded me of a great scene from Alice in Wonderland, in which the Duchess' baby turns into a pig and scampers off into the woods. Alice commented that while the baby would have become a dreadfully ugly child, it made a rather handsome pig. Of course, the Biergarten beluga couldn't really reign in P4P hell, despite his comparative good looks. The other guys at the Grace would skin him alive just to hear him scream, then sell the carcass to the Japanese as whale meat.
I found a seat near the entrance and ordered a beer. The guy beside me was spooky looking to the max. He had eyes that never seemed to blink and a haircut just like Spike on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. He was dressed in jet black clothes, with a long-sleeved shirt buttoned to the collar. I don't believe in vampires, but I'm convinced BKK has its fair share of serial killer wannabes. I pictured this guy saying, "Good evening, Clarice," perhaps with a German accent. Even if he didn't go as far as Hannibal Lector, he could easily be the type to put parakeets and hamsters in a blender for a small-animal smoothie.
The P4P ocean is full of weirdos who present dangers for any provider, inside or outside LOS, but the waters at the Biergarten appeared safer for trolling than most, despite a few off-putting types. The punters were almost exclusively Western farangs, so at least the girls wouldn't be contaminated by the toxic sands of beaches from the Middle East.
A few yards away, a tall, handsome young fellow represented the opposite end of the Biergarten appearance curve. He had tanned, movie star features and a very athletic physique. One of the most appealing girls in the bar, a perfect spinner, was glued to his side. He'd done well for himself, considering the general pool of talent. But if I'd had that kid's looks and body, I'd be somewhere else, making a play for the likes of Paris Hilton, not squandering my youth on P4P at the Biergarten.
Although the bar was full, the atmosphere was still very low-keyed. Not much noise, no blatant drunks. Some of the guys I'd noticed two hours earlier were still sitting in their original seats, silent and motionless. Maybe they were seeking enlightenment by meditating on their chit glasses and had passed into a trance. I began pondering if they were the P4P equivalent of the predatory fish and insects which remain still for hours, then suddenly lash out when suitable prey moves into range. I imagined one of these patient punters swinging round on his stool, grabbing a girl by the arm and asking breathlessly, "Will you take 500 baht short-time?"
Inside my head, I saw myself doing something outrageous to rattle the guys. Maybe jumping on the bar and shouting through a bullhorn in the style of a 1960's campus protest, "Girls of Biergarten, unite! You have nothing to lose but your cheap Charlies." Or more in keeping with my personal style, yell that I was paying 5,000 baht S/T, just to see of any of the cheapos would faint.
In fact, I did nothing but take a swig of beer. Whatever fascination Biergarten held for me was fast waning. I assumed my colleague had found a more entertaining way to spend the evening than dinner with me and I began to think about how I would wile away the hours until I met up with Gina from Eden Club again. A quick bite to eat, then... to shop or to rest? That was the question. I was leaning towards the shopping option when I noticed a girl who brought my focus back to P4P. She was in her early twenties and quite attractive, at least a 7, maybe an 8. Great facial features (for a facial), good figure, nicely dressed in jeans and top. Without much trouble I could imagine she was one of the often-mentioned-but-seldom-seen university student freelancers. She was standing with a few friends inside the entrance to the Biergarten. All were above average in looks and didn't appear in a hurry to enter into the beer bar bargaining zone.
I winked and smiled at her and she smiled back, so I motioned her over. She spent a few moments discussing the invitation with her friends, and they all turned to look me over. Some giggling and grins in TG style, then my chosen cutie moved to join me. I realized I'd been caught up in the "kid in the candy store" syndrome. Like an eight-year old with birthday money burning in his pocket, I wanted to buy more sweeties than I needed or could handle. I'd just had a two-girl session that had left me pumped out and I planned to meet one of those girls again in a few hours, yet now I'm thinking about an in-between adventure. My spirit was willing, but my flesh would definitely be weak, if not limp. With a lot of effort and a tablet of Viagra, I might - and it was a big might - be able to do justice to the Biergarten babe, but that would leave me with about as much energy for the all-nighter with Gina as the winner of the Boston Marathon after he crosses the finishing line. I didn't want to rely too heavily on chemical sex-drive enhancers. Jerking off won't make you go blind, but excessive use of Viagra can, or so I'd heard.
I figured the only way out of my predicament would be to go for some kind of exotic oral variation, such as a hot-tea BJ. Just thinking about it brought a little life back to Mr. Skippy, but he wasn't ready for straight-up BKK boom-boom. As the girl sidled up next to me, I asked her name. She had trouble understanding me and that dashed any illusions about her being a university student. After a few tries, she grasped what I was asking and told me her name was An. Pronounced in the first tone, An means harmony in standard (putunghua) Chinese; I had no idea if it had the same meaning in Thai. I then asked her if she wanted a drink and that was easier to get across, since I gestured to my beer and the bartender with the same sweep of my hand. She nodded and ordered and the bartender brought her some fruit concoction.
I didn't want to dis Miss Harmony, but our conversation was going nowhere. How the hell could I negotiate a hot-tea BJ if she had problems comprehending "What's your name?" She kept looking back at her friends and giggling, which was intriguing and unsettling at the same time. She definitely seemed new to the game, even if she wasn't a university part-timer. A lot of guys prefer rookie nookie and that's understandable if you're out after a longer-term girlfriend experience, but didn't bode well for what I hoped to get.
Out of curiosity and sheer momentum, I kept on going and asked her if she wanted to go back to my hotel with me. She asked "What hotel?" and I told her the Landmark. I know it's a major violation of Cheap Charlie bargaining strategy to reveal that you're staying in a four- or five-star hotel before you agree to the price, but I don't think many girls actually have a sliding scale based on the star rating of the punter's hotel. They're mostly concerned about the time it will take them to get to and from the hotel.
It was then time to talk price. She had a hard time grasping "How much" When she did understanding, she had an even harder time saying it, but with the help of pen and paper, I learned her price was 1,500 baht for S/T and L/T wasn't an option- "No like," she said.
I'd pretty well decided nothing exciting was going to transpire between Harmony and myself, but I wanted to find out if her repertoire included sucking as well as fucking. She did't understand "blow job" or "sa-moke" or "yum yum" and it would have been a bit much to start with sign language with half a dozen punters watching our interaction. I just let the matter drop. Silence for awhile as she sipped her drink, then she asked me if I wanted her to "go back Landmark." I shook my head "no." She looked peeved and if she'd possessed the vocabulary, she'd have probably asked me why. As it was, she shrugged and went back to her friends. I paid my tab and left. I had ventured very little and gained almost nothing, other than the knowledge that an attractive Biergarten FLer seemed confident she'd get 1,500 baht for S/T.
The open-air restaurant on Soi 7 directly across from the Biergarten was doing a roaring trade and I figured I could do worse for dinner. A lot of punters were there with girls, but also a fair number of farang tourist couples and even a few Asian family groups. I stood waiting for awhile for a waiter or waitress to notice me, but none did. Just as I was about to leave, an older man - maybe the manager - said something in Thai and motioned for me to wait. I don't know what he said, but I assumed it was the equivalent of O.J. Simpson's last words to Nicole, "Your waiter will be with you soon."
A waiter did indeed turn up and I had a tasty and cheap dinner. The raw oysters on the half-shell, Thai style, were especially good. After I finished my meal, I went back to the Biergarten one more time to see if my colleague had turned up. He hadn't, but the place was indeed crowded by then. There was considerable traffic both in and out, with heavy competition for the cuter girls as they returned in hopes of a second or even third S/T session.. Quick as a rat up a drain pipe, punters would approach the cuties as soon as they entered the bar. I didn't notice An, but I didn't stay more than a few minutes this time.
My take-away with Gina turned out to be an exceptionally memorable experience. Smooth and sweet, she was like dipping into a beaker of warm honey, but that's a story for another thread.
A few hours after we fell asleep, the night took a big swing for the worse, I awoke with stomach cramps that kept me doubled over on the way to the bathroom. I am no stranger to food poisoning and figured that was what had hit me, probably from the oysters. I'll spare everyone the details, but the 30 minutes that followed were among the least appealing of life. Projectile vomiting and diarrhea turned my digestive tract inside out. Once my system was empty, I thought it would recover quickly, just as I had done many times in the past. I didn't want to disturb Gina, so I lay down on the sofa in the sitting room (I had a suite). Chills gripped me and I began to shiver uncontrollably. Gina woke up at that point and the sight of me trembling like a leaf in a storm terrified her. She thought I was having convulsions. She immediately phoned down to front desk, screaming in both Thai and English. She then rushed to me and, in tears, berated herself for not noticing I'd been sick. I tried to convince her it wasn't that bad, but I wasn't sure I believed it myself. I couldn't stop shivering and my stomach felt like I'd swallowed razor blades.
A couple of guys from hotel security quickly appeared in the room and they were spooked by the shivering as well. The senior guy wanted to call an ambulance, I guess he didn't fancy having a farang die on his watch. I absolutely refused that idea, but agreed a doctor should be summoned. I spent the 45 minutes until he arrived alternately sweating and shivering. Gina and the two security guys hovered over me the whole time, asking if I was OK every time I closed my eyes.
The doctor was very good. He diagnosed me with acute food poisoning and severe dehydration. The shivering and sweating was a result of fever. In a five-star version of M*A*S*H, he strapped my hand to the TV remote for the intravenous antibiotics and hung the infusion bag from the bedside lamp. He left me with a half dozen different kinds of pills, including Valium to help me sleep. Feeling no pain, I dozed off around 6.00 a.m.
I woke up around 4 p.m. and was in good enough shape to make my flight back to the States without too much discomfort. It took a few more days for me to recover entirely. I learned a couple of important lessons from the whole episode: 1) don't eat raw oysters in Bangkok; and 2) if you're going to get sick, make sure you're staying in a five-star hotel and are with a girl from the Eden Club. I'm sure an off-the-rack freelancer wouldn't have handled the situation nearly as well.
And the Biergarten at Soi 7? In short, it's to P4P like Ronald Reagan was to American politics - not as good as his supporters hoped he'd be, not as bad as his detractors feared he'd be. My overall impression was reinforced by my experiences that day [and by the short visit Oct. 20]. It's not a bad place, but not a great one. If you have any expectations of pulling one of the nicer looking girls, then you have to pounce quickly or invest considerable time in waiting. If you're content with (or turned on by) a woman who's less attractive, you'll have plenty of choice. At the Biergarten, you'll forgo the sublimest pleasures of BKK pussy paradise as well as avoiding the horrors of P4P hell. I've never had a really satisfactory session that originated at the Biergarten, but that's what purgatory is all about - avoiding hell, hoping for heaven.
I'm quite proud of myself after going down six trouser sizes in the past 12 months. I've dropped eight sizes and 70 pounds in total over the past 18 months.
At my most recent check-up, the doctor said my weight is now at the upper end of the range that is considered normal for my height and age. I could go down another 10 or 15 pounds, but that would be largely for cosmetic reasons and not on medical grounds. He urged me to exercise more to replace fat with muscle, which should put me at the lower end of the normal range.
No radical weight-loss regime was involved. I followed some simple rules and the pounds fell away. Millions, perhaps even billions, of words have been written in books, magazines and newspapers as well as on Websites about dieting and shedding excess weight. I can sum them all up in one six-word sentence: Burn more calories than you consume.
Of course, that's a lot easier said than done for many of us. But by obeying the prime directive to eat less and exercise more, I was able to get rid of most of the fat I'd been lugging about.
I'll give some pointers than helped me over the past year and a half. They aren't revolutionary and you can read similar pointers in just about any book or magazine article on weight loss. However, they are Pattaya-specific, i.e., losing weight while living as a retired farang in Pattaya. They may or may not work for others. And the standard disclaimer: if you have any serious medical conditions, you should definitely consult a doctor before attempting to lose weight. Also, if you are morbidly obese in the clinical sense of the term, then diet and exercise may not be enough. In fact, exercise could even be harmful. An invasive procedure like bariatric surgery (gastric band or gastric bypass) may be the only answer.
If you want to reduce your weight, think a moment about how you gained the extra pounds. Have you been carrying them all your life or did you gradually increase from a normal weight over a period of 10 or 20 years? Or did you experience a sudden jump in weight in a couple of years? This is important, because a life-long weight problem or a sudden jump could indicate faulty metabolism, whereas a gradual weight gain is probably not more than too much food and too little exercise.
My first step was taken during a trip to the U.S. I visited a doctor who specialized in weight loss and he gave me a battery of tests. He discovered I did have a problem with my metabolism, which helped explain the weight gain I'd had while living in Pattaya. My sluggish metabolism was rectified rather easily, but that still left me with close to 80 pounds I needed to drop.
The doctor said I should limit my intake of calories to less than 2,000 a day while getting more exercise. He advised me to take vitamin and fiber supplements and to drink three liters of water a day. He also added the standard admonitions to avoid junk food, sweet stuff and beer. That's pretty standard advice you can read anywhere, but it's still the right way to go.
The odd thing is I have always eaten a more healthy diet in Thailand than in the U.S. In the seven years I've been here full-time, I've eaten at fast-food restaurants maybe 10 times. I rarely have Western breakfasts and the baked sweets that tempted me in the U.S. - pies, cookies, dough nuts and the like- aren't readily available in Pattaya in a form I like. I've never been one for chocolate and other candies, nor ice cream. The calorie-rich deli sandwiches I loved in NYC are rare in Pattaya, too. If I have a soft drink, it's almost always Coke Zero. I eat more vegetables and fruit here than I did in the U.S. I eat far less beef and more chicken, fish and pork than before, but that's mainly because it's hard to get good beef in Thailand. A steak has been a once-a-moth treat for a long time now.
The one "bad thing" I consumed more of in Thailand was beer. I drank between 30 and 40 bottles of San Miguel Light a week, which at 100 calories per bottle means 3,00 to 4,000 extra calories every seven days. Since 3,500 calories is equivalent to one pound of body fat, I could have picked up an extra 70 pounds in 18 months just from beer. I also wasn't getting much exercise in Pattaya beyond light walking and heavy f*cking. Given my metabolism also went wonky at some point, it's not surprising I'd packed on the pounds.
My immediate change in lifestyle was to exercise more and cut way back on the beer. I also stopped eating bread and processed meats except on rare occasions. I figured I got enough carbs through rice and noodles. Otherwise I didn't make any huge changes to my diet.
Since I was in poor physical condition, I started easy with the exercise. I swam and used an exercycle for the most part. I have a bad knee and it rules out jogging and even long walks. Once I'd lost about 30 pounds and had less burden on my knees, I started walking vigorously, but for short distances. Swimming and the exercycle were perfect forms of exercise as they don't put any pressure on the knees but burn a lot of calories. I hate, hate, hate lifting weights or working out in a gym other than the exercycle, but I am now doing more traditional gym workouts as my goal has shifted to building muscle.
And that's basically how I lost 70 pounds in 18 months. I burned more calories than I consumed.
A few practical tips:
I can't emphasize enough the importance of drinking plenty of water. As the body burns fat, the metabolic process produces waste chemicals that need to be flushed out ASAP. You also need to keep yourself well hydrated if you're exercising in the heat and humidity of Pattaya. Dehydration is a big health risk, especially the older you are. An added benefit of drinking a lot of water is that it curbs your appetite. A glass or two of water before each meal reduces the amount space in your stomach for food.
Soup is a great diet food. Not only does it help with hydration, it fills you up with less calories. Luckily Thai cuisine includes plenty of nutritious and healthy soups.
Fruit is without doubt the best snack when dieting. Buy a bag of watermelon chunks instead of a bag of potato chips or French fries. If your cholesterol levels allow it, a hard-boiled egg is a protein-rich snack. I'm lucky in that I've always had low levels of bad cholesterol and high levels of the good, so I kept a few hard-boiled eggs in my fridge to quell any sudden hunger pangs.
If you're not doing physical labor during the day, you don't need a big breakfast. Fruit and yogurt are a good start for people who don't usually do anything more strenuous than sit at a computer.
Try to get at least 25% of your daily intake of calories from lean protein like chicken or fish. Salmon, while expensive, is a top diet food. Beef and pork are also good if the fat is trimmed away and they aren't fried. You don't have to shun fried foods entirely, but keep them to a minimum, maybe as a once-a-week treat.
Exercise can cause some unwanted side effects, at least in the beginning. Muscles that are forced to work harder or in a different way than usual can get stiff and sore. This is temporary and actually a sign exercise is having a long-term positive effect. As long as you don't overdue things and cause yourself a injury, an over-the-counter pain reliever should be enough to take care of any discomfort.
Even if you exercise at a measured pace, you may experience muscle cramps which are a lot more of a hassle than muscle pain. Cramps are also a natural consequence of weight loss. As fat melts away between and around muscles, the muscle tissue has to adjust to its bigger "living space" and this can cause cramps in the legs, abdomen and arms. I'm not going to go into too much detail here, but a Google search for "muscle cramps exercise" will turn up a lot of information about how to deal with them.
I didn't become a teetotaler while dieting, but cut back significantly on my alcohol consumption, from 30-40 bottles of beer a week to five at the max. There were several stretches when I didn't drink beer or anything else alcoholic for a month or so. In a sense, I was lucky because I have an allergy to wine, so I never drank it. I gave up on strong spirits about 20 years ago because they irritated my stomach too much.
I was- and remain- a big fan of beer. I think it's one of the most refreshing beverages there is in hot weather. But to reduce my intake of calories, I stopped drinking beer with most meals and saved my "beer allowance" for nights out in bars. That basically meant drinking much more slowly than had been my custom and switching to Coke Zero or water when I had polished off five bottles. That was perhaps the most difficult part of the whole weight-loss campaign. It wasn't a physical craving for alcohol, but bars just aren't that much fun if you're not a little tipsy.
I've been living in Pattaya as a retiree since late October, 2011. I've really enjoyed myself and seven years seem to have gone by in a flash. I've had very few bad moments in the past 2,555 days and I look forward to at least another seven years here.
I feel that too much that's written about Thailand in general and Pattaya in particular in blogs and social media is unduly negative. I want to emphasize the positive aspects while not ignoring the downside. A more appropriate title would be "Glass Three-Quarters Full," but that's not very catchy. Like Billy Pilgrim in Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five, I will have become "unstuck in time." I may write about the past, present or future; sometimes about today, sometimes 20 or more years ago and yet other times about what the future may hold. It will be an eclectic blog covering any subject I feel may be of interest to others. I'll update it as often as I can, but I doubt it will be on a daily basis.
I'll begin by wishing everyone
Halloween is one of my favorite holidays and I look forward to taking full advantage of it in the various parties all over Pattaya tomorrow night. I plan to kick things off with both an earlier start and early climax at Sexy in the City on Soi 6. AJ (aka Xylanic) hosts one of the best Halloween parties in town. And I'm optimistic that the horde of zombies I encounter later on Walking Street will be friendly, at least no worse than usual.
My first substantial post in this blog will cover a topic that at least some of us have to deal with: losing weight in Pattaya.
Over and out until the next installment.
Three days ago I started in Chiang Mai to drive up to Pai. It is a 140km ride, the first 50 km or so thaistyle highway, then as you go up the mountains its a nice ride. Its a long and winding road as John (Happy Birthday btw.) and Paul would say.
But before that I was stopped by the gentlemen in brown:
So what they do is, on the one and only main exit direction north they have a checkpoint and stop all farang sriding a bike. If you do not have an international or a thai driving licence you have to pay a fine of 500 Bath. You get a receipt, and with that you can drive for 3 days, before you get fined again. But they DO check your national driving licence. I do not know what happens if you do not have a driving licence at all, so better bring both.
The road condition is not bad, but it gets worth once you cross into the Mae Ho Song district. Maybe they do not have that enough money?
The area of Pai is really nice, a beautiful landscape, the problem is, there are just too many tourists up here. I am sureyou all know how Khao San madness road looked before the crackdown. Now imagine that in a former mountain village. Its banana pancake all over the place, i guess its really a good place to go to if you are 25.
But I was very lucky and found a nice place to stay. The name is Pai village Boutique Hotel. If you go there make sure you book a villa down at the river, that way you wont hear the noise from Pai Walking Street.
If you come you really should get a scooter or motorbike that way you still can find some peaceful scenery:
ok not so peaceful at the waterfalls maybe...
Beware of backpackers at waterfalls lol.
OK guys thats it for now, tomorrow there will be a long riding day for me.
Take care and all the best.
Today I left at about 10Am to try out my new ride. I decided to do the "Samoeng Loop", which is basically a circle through mountains and forest that starts and ends in Chiang Mai.
This is the scooter I got:
I dont know much about scooters, I own a Triumph Sprint RS 955i, 20 years old, which I really love, but I have to say this 300cc Sports Scooter did surprise me. The engine is great and also the suspensions is really good. And for an old guy like me its also very comfy and has enough storage room. Really a nice ride!
Here short impressions about the ride:
The tour is about 100 km long, it took me about 4 hours with many stops and chit chat along the way. The ride is easy a few sharp corners but nothing too hairy. There is very little traffic once you are out of Chiang Mai and along the way there is quite some stuff to see.
A few more images:
And the map:
OK people I hope you enjoyed the ride, I got too much sun today, my head is in pain, gotta hit the sack.
It was a busy day today in Chiang Mai. I was smart. I brought my Notebook with me from home to be able to edit video and photos and stuff. Unfortunately I was not smart enough to bring the power adapter with me. But luckily Chiang Mai apparently is the world capital for digital nomads only second to Bali so I was told. So I found a shop at the other end of the old city that specializes in notebook repairs and spare parts. So I bought that damn power-adapter (600 Bath). The shop is called Mtek Notebook Service Shop just in case you are stupid enough to leave your power adapter at home...
After that I went to C&P Big Bike Shop and picked up my Yamaha X-MAX 300 Scooter. The Owner (called Lan) is a really nice guy and I totally understand why his shop receives such good ratings by customers. He told me this crazy story about an Italian guy who traveled with 5 or 6 passports, rented a big bike with each passport in different shops in Chiang Mai, and sold all the bikes in Laos. (He was caught 1 year later in pattaya)
There are bigger shops in town, but Lan has a nice selection of bikes, also very new ones like the africa twin adventure sports.
So tomorrow I will start with the Samoeng Loop, a one day trip.
After a few preperations for tomorrow I found some time to walk around. Here are a few impressions:
Khao Soi (Chiang Mai Egg Noodle Curry)
Until tomorrow, take care
The flight was not bad, I even got a couple of hours sleep. Arrival in CM was hectic. I arrived at around 10AM local time. And so did the Prime Minister of Thailand. They shut down the whole airport and the surrounding streets for about 1 hour. The cabdriver (150 Bath into downtown) laconically said "I dont like this guy" 😀
(touchdown at CM Airport)
After I arrived at my hotel (dusit princess hotel, booked at agoda) I got some sleep, and after that I took off to the night bazar to get some food at SILA-AAT (good selection of Thai- and Seafood and also local specialties)
I was hungry, so I had dinner. Well actually I had 3 dinner...
I started with a nice Pork Noodle Soup
followed by a plate of panaeng
and a local dish called Si Oua. Its a special sausage of the north served with stuffed pigskin. Never had it before - highly recommended!
oh yeah and it rained - a lot
Not much to do, except drinking.
Ok thats it for today, I hope you enjoy my little stories and sorry again for my english, I have a hard time blogging in english.
All the best, see U tomorrow
Today at 9:30 I took the Train to Zürich Airport. The Swiss Rail Company SBB is really good, in terms or reliability it comes second only to Japan, but Tickets are really expensive. The oneway frist class ticket cost me 45 Euro (1 hour ride).
But as you can see the place is comfortable, even the toilets are large.
first class seats, comfy and train almost empty
spotless and large toilet
Checkin and security procedures at Zürich Airport where easy and quick. They double checked my hand luggage because I had about a million batteries with me. But the guys where friendly and I finally made my way to the SWISS Business Lounge.
Terminal 1 - Roof
So finally I made my way to the plane and we took off.
Thai Airways Champagne (pretty bad to be honest, but the flower is nice...)
Swiss alps, I just love this country
Ok thats it for now, the next blog entry will be from Chiang Mai.
I admit I suffer from Gear Acquisition Syndrome.
Gadgets really kill me. And as I love photography and film-making, I collected a lot of gear. Most of it I do not use, but I just cant sell it...
I always try to keep the stuff that I take with me at a minimum, but it doesn't work well. At least I switched from huge SLR Bodies and Lenses to Fuji gear, it really make a difference in terms of weight and size. And the quality is excellent.
The fact that i will be travelling on a motorbike for 3 weeks makes it even more difficult for me to cut down on stuff I take with me.
So in this post I am going to show you what I am going to bring to Thailand.
Photography and Film Gear (body and lenses)
Fuji XPro2 (rangefinder style camera, leica for cheap charlies 🙂)
Fujinon XF56 1.2 (Portraits)
Fujinon XF23 1.4 (Street)
Fujinon XF18-55 2.8-4.0 (all around lens)
Apple iPhone 8plus (surprisingly good quality for videos if you do not need a shallow depth of field)
DJI Osmo Mobile 2 Gimbal (makes iPhone footage so much better, and is quite cheap)
Manfrotto BFree Video Tripod (small, light, good quality)
DJI Mavic Air (red) + ND Filters (the smallest drone with good quality videos)
Asus Zenbook for Video and Photo Editing (I am using DaVinci Resolve, its free and really great)
Mini Fuji Instax printer (to be able to give away picture as gifts)
I though about leaving the XF56 and the XF23 at home, but i just love the images those lenses produce too much. I also use the X-Pro for filming, the large sensor produces lovely "bokeh" footage.
What do you think? Madness? Too much gear? Something missing? What gear do you take with you?
All the best
I will fly out from Zürich the day after tomorrow, and at the moment I am handling final preperations. The last week I spent working in the most beautiful location in Switzerland. Check out the chalet I lived in...
I also got some chopper time, so I had a chance to view the siss alps from the top.
But before I continue I want to talk a bit about who am I.
I am a 51 year old austrian, living and working in switzerland (the one and only country in the world where people are part of the desicion process). I came here 15 years ago, and in my opinion switzerland is the best country to live in. I work as an IT development teamleader in a big financial institution.
And by work I mean I worked my ass off. The money I earned went straight to a woman and her kid that I supported for all those years. In the past I used to travel a lot. I have seen around 50 countries, i have seen beautiful places and i have done some really stupid things. In the last 15 years? Not so much. So a few month ago I told the girl i gonna leave, and told my boss I need away time. One of those proposals did not went so well...
Had this conversation with my wife the other day. Her mate has told their young daughter there is no Santa.
I said I won't be telling our daughter, I want her to enjoy the 'magic' of Christmas and Santa as she is an infant, and it is a magical time, same as I enjoyed.
Let children enjoy their childhood, would be my view point, though to each their own ...
t he report could have been written yesterday. as a former, 10 yrs ago, regular in the BG and Thermea.. I popped in to LOOK a few weeks ago, it is a shadow of its former self. haunted only by hags and vvvv cheap charlies. a shame as the memory of living in the Park, where your feet stuck to the carpet, and popping over for takeaway after takeaway is still stuck in my head :)
the alleyway thru to S5 is long since gone, building is mega in the soi but somehow this bastion of bygone days remains. must be worth a fortune in real estate terms