Bangkok and Pattaya nightlife scrivener Bernard Trink is no more

Bernard Trink (1931-2020)

One of Thailand’s best known gossip columnists of a bygone age has died aged 89 of a blood infection. New Yorker Bernard Trink specialized in commenting on nightlife venues in Bangkok and Pattaya in his Bangkok World and, later, Bangkok Post weekly columns for nearly 40 years until 2003.

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Although Trink reveled in describing short tales of prostitution in licensed premises, he never ceased advising male foreigners not to get involved with bar girls who would surely rip them off, given the chance. His base for reporting was the area of Soi Cowboy in Bangkok, but he paid regular visits to Pattaya where one of his favourite watering holes was the Poteen Still, a long-gone cafe in Soi Yamoto, where he picked up the latest news and enjoyed a cup of Ovaltine. Trink was mostly tee-total and often accompanied by his wife Aree.

Jennifer Bliss’s book on Bernard Trink’s life and a selection of his writings was published in 2000.

He would comment on the latest transfer of ownership details of Pattaya’s bars and clubs and never missed advising his readers where there was a “free balloon” birthday party coming up with free food. In both Bangkok and Pattaya he kept religiously to a heterosexual agenda and resolutely refused even to mention gay venues. He justified this by observing his readers wouldn’t be interested.

Trink was responsible for introducing into farang-speak a number of phrases, some of which have survived until today. The most famous was T.I.T. (This is Thailand) which is a common way of describing matters here which defy rational explanation. He used the word “scrivener” for writer and “demimondaines” for bar hostesses. He also had a shot at restaurant reviews but was too frank and ordered by his Bangkok Post superiors to cease as his negative remarks were causing a drop in advertising revenue: the ultimate sin by any journalist.

In one of his last columns in 2003, Trink prophesied the dismantling of Pattaya’s Walking Street on the grounds that the government wanted to discourage prostitution. Ironically, the same proposal is being made in 2020 but because traditional red-light tourists have disappeared in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Trink’s columns were terminated the same year, allegedly because of his odd pet theory that HIV infection did not cause AIDS. He continued to write occasional book reviews in Bangkok Post, specializing in historical fiction and spy stories, until January 2020. His last visit to Pattaya is thought to have been five years ago when his shambolic dress code (loud shirt, pink braces and white trousers held up at stomach level by a well-worn brown belt) led to his being refused admission to a five star restaurant. No doubt he uttered one his favourite catchphrases, “But I don’t give a hoot!” RIP Bernard Trink (1931-2020).