Thailand offers a variety of websites that provide information. Some are by the Thai government and businesses, and some are by people who decided to have a hobby website. There is one hobby website that is cited as one of the best for a variety of reasons and is even listed in the Lonely Planet. The site is unique and bridges the gap between mainstream and the naughty nightlife, and because of that it is most certainly a site you should have in your browser’s bookmarks.
Stickman is a unique person who has been living in Bangkok for over 10 years. He is from New Zealand and has a wonderful way with words and apparently very talented behind a camera. He has taken onto himself to cover the Red Shirt siege with some wonderful photos and a good balanced journalistic reporting. He also provides a weekly column that is published on Sundays that covers the nightlife in Bangkok and beyond with emphases on the naughty nightlife. His website also cover a variety of other topics all related to Thailand including a reader submission section that has thousands of entries about peoples personal experiences in and about Thailand.
For any person planning their first trip to Thailand, the reader submissions section will for the most part put you in Thailand before you even purchase your airfare to Thailand. It is required reading for everyone who want to have a good time and avoid the little traps that are set by unscrupulous people looking to make your money theirs.
One of the biggest problems in Thailand is finding accurate information. For the most part there are websites that deliberately mislead, have outdated or wrong information. Simply put the problem is chronic. Stickmanbangkok.com however is on top of the game with the best general information and no doubt that is one of the reasons why it is cited by the Lonely Planet. It not only provides information, but also the flavor of what you will experience.
In fact stickmanbangkok.com is so popular he has been known to have more web traffic than the local media. So Connecting the Dots decided to have a look at what makes Stickman tick did a long distance by email interview just before Christmas. It is not his first interview so we decide to think up some questions that look at the man and not the website, the interview is below:
CTD: What made you decide to create stickmanbangkok.com ?
Stickman: During my first 7 months living in Thailand I didn’t have a computer. That was primarily because I wasn’t sure how long I would be staying – and computers were much more expensive back then than they are now. So when I eventually decided that I would be staying, I bought a computer and thought it might be fun to put up some information online about my life in Thailand so that friends and relatives back in New Zealand could follow what I was up to.
The site started as a personal homepage but then I started getting emails from people I didn’t know who said that they liked what I was doing and it just grew from there. While the StickmanBangkok.com domain name has been in existence since 2001, the site actually started on a free server way back in late 1998!
The site just slowly grew and grew and grew. I never had any notions of it developing into what it has become today!
CTD: It would seem you have acquired a skill that few have with a website that successfully bridges the mainstream Lonely Planet type with the naughty nightlife seekers. Was this by design or just the way things unfolded or some other unknown?
Stickman: I am really happy with the positioning of the site today and I think that it’s a reflection of me and my interests as much as anything.
I enjoy travelling around the country just as I enjoy a night out in the bars with friends. I am also interested in the latest comings and goings that affect expats and those who spend much time in Thailand.
I guess what I have tried to do is to create a website and produce a weekly column that covers all of the things that interest and affect me. It’s nice to know that this also seems to be what interests much of the readership.
CTD: Of late you seem to have grown in popularity in leaps and bounds while other nightlife websites seem to have stunted growth, what is your secret?
Stickman: There’s no real secret! It certainly helps that I have been producing the weekly column for so long. The length of time that I have been putting it together and commenting on life in Bangkok gives you a perspective of how things have changed over time.
A lot of readers have given me really positive feedback about the photos I include and they seem to have gone down well. I don’t think any other website has similar photography.
I also think that the number of sites that cover the nightlife has decreased. There are the forums, of course, but they are full of noise.
It really is just a case of getting out there and seeing what is happening first-hand – and commenting on it!
CTD: It is a bit of a no brainer you get hundreds of emails every week. What would you say is the most common profile of a person who would send you an email?
Stickman: I don’t know about the most common profile of people who send me email, but I think I can comment on the Stickman reader profile. Western men who spend a lot of time in the naughty nightlife districts in Thailand are not always looked at favourably and there are many justified negative stereotypes.
However, I would like to think that I cover the industry in an honest way and I am certainly not always positive about it. I also refuse to use profanity, do not allow what I call “naughty boy reports” to be posted on the site, do not allow people to be named and certainly would never include nude photos or the like as many sites do. As such, I think I tend to attract a readership which is a touch above what you find on other sites, people who want to know how things really are and who appreciate it that I do not gloss over the nasty side of things.
In its last few editions, the Lonely Planet Guide to Thailand has described my coverage of the nightlife as being palatable – and I think that’s a fair comment.
CTD: The reader submissions section of your website is absolutely huge and a wonderful archive of personal experiences. Have you ever given any thought to publishing them in a book form as other similar sites have?
Stickman: I don’t hold the copyright to these submissions and as such I would not be able to publish them in a book. I am grateful to all of the writers who have sent in submissions and helped make the site the huge archive that it is today.
CTD: Are there two Sickmans meaning is your projected self different from your true personality?
Stickman: Stickman and “the real me” are fairly similar. I would like to think the real me shines through most of the time and I don’t doubt I am one of the only people writing about Thailand’s nightlife whose parents keenly read every word every week. If my online persona and the real me were sufficiently different then I feel that I would be lying to readers – and that is not something I ever wish to do.
CTD: How would you describe your inner circle of friends in Thailand? Are they the average Joe, professionals, retired or other?
Stickman: I’ve got a nice mix of friends who transcend profession, nationality and age, although with that said, most of my friends are around the same age as me or older. Quite a few of my best friends are early to mid 50s. There’s no shortage of strange folk in Thailand and it pays to choose your friends – and even those you keep as casual acquaintances – carefully.
CTD: What was the most emotionally challenging thing for you in regards to what you have published on your site?
Stickman: When to turn my back on Thailand. Having reached a point in my life where I feel that I might be better off elsewhere, the question is what to do with the site. I could continue to run it from abroad, but then I would always feel an attachment to Thailand – and if you want to leave Thailand I think that you have to sever all ties, for a period, at the very least until you have settled into a new life in a new country. Whether I do actually leave Thailand and turn my back on the site or not, only time will tell.
CTD: How do you see Thailand’s nightlife evolving for the next 5 years?
Stickman: The customer base is diversifying with more customers from the Middle East, the Indian subcontinent and Eastern Europeans. There have been murmurings of discontent about this amongst many of the traditional visitors and these are gaining volume.
I think the prices will continue to creep up in Bangkok, although as long as Pattaya exists there will probably always be a low-end market. It is amazing that in many beer bars the short time rates of 500 / 1000 baht can still be had.
I wouldn’t be surprised to see more niches filled, with more fetish bars and more venues that are a bit more thoughtfully designed – and which command premium prices.
CTD: Do you plan any spinoff websites in the future?
Stickman: I do have plans but they are not set in stone and nothing will come to fruition for at least a year…
CTD: Have you any regrets about your website?
Stickman: I tend not to live my life with regrets. I prefer to look forward and live in the present and consider the future than dwell on the past. For sure, there are things that I could have done differently and if I had my time again I probably would have done some things differently, but like I say, I don’t think regrets are healthy and as such, I don’t tend to “regret” things.
CTD: There are those that say you are a double edge sword, you can send people to a venue with a positive review in you weekly column, and also empty a venue with a negative review if they are scamming or ripping people off. How do you feel about this power of the pen you have?
Stickman: For sure, if I write a glowing review of a venue then I may be able to persuade a lot of readers to try the new venue out. This has happened numerous times to bars, restaurants and even sending readers to other websites.
As far as hurting a venue goes, that would be much more difficult – and is not something I’d really want to do. Messing with people’s rice bowl in Thailand is not a good idea!
I would need to do a massive expose that was enormously bad to really hurt somewhere. Even then, the damage to the venue would probably be negligible. While a lot of people know of the Stickman brand and many have read the column at some time, many no longer read it, some may not take any notice of it or take what is said seriously and as such, only a small number of the customers in any venue would be current Stickman readers. As such, there’s not really much you can do to hurt a venue! Even the Bangkok Post can only do so much damage.
CTD: Of all the people that may visit a place like Soi Cowboy, what percentage are Stickman readers in you opinion?
Stickman: That would be hard to say. A decent percentage have probably heard of the site, some would have read it and some might be current readers. The number of people who go to Cowboy is huge and with visitors to such bar areas diversifying it’s difficult to say how many would be Stickman readers.
CTD: You only publish in English, but now with the translator technology becoming more and more available, what impact on Thailand do you think you will have when Stickman can be found in Russian or Japanese on the Internet?
Stickman: Online translators are ok for conveying the meaning of something, but I would never want to publish in another language via an online translator. Check out the results of translating from another language into English with one of these online translation systems and you’ll find that almost every sentence has grammatical errors and some may not convey the meaning – or even make sense! Translators are great for basic emails and what not but not for full articles where the nuances are lost they just aren’t suitable.
CTD: What about being translated into Thai?
Stickman: My target audience is Westerners in Thailand and I don’t think there are many Thais interested in what I write about. Thais make up a very small section of the readership and they may tune in from time to time. I think it is more casual amusement at reading about a farang perspective of their country than anything else.
CTD: Seeing that you are more popular and a bit more famous than you want to admit, what would be your reaction to hearing about yourself in a WikiLeaks release as seen in the eyes of some politician?
Stickman: Now that would make my day! Wow, think of the exposure and the website traffic it would generate! I guess it would all depend on what was said though!
CTD: What is in your future?
Stickman: I am open-minded about the future holds, but I do think that it won’t be that long before I close the door on the Thailand experience. It is time to either try somewhere new or return to my roots. 2011 is a year when I need to make some important decisions…
CTD: If you could have any one not self serving wish granted what would it be?
Stickman: That is a really tough question! On the subject of Thailand, it would be nice to see a cure for HIV. A lot more of the girls out there have it than we think, and it’s real sad that many will die young.
CTD: Do you think you have changed the path of Thailand in anyway?
Stickman: Not a chance! I might have had a small influence on some foreigners living here. More than a few have told me over the years that they have been influenced by my site to relocate to Thailand, which is nice – assuming things have worked out for them of course!
CTD: Thanks for taking the time to do an interview with us.
Stickman: You’re welcome!
Stickman can be found at http://stickmanbangkok.com