Stickman Weekly  15/5/2011

Soi Cowboy vs Nana Plaza, The Battle For Bangkok's Top Farang Bar Area

Separated by a mere kilometre of prime Bangkok real estate in an area sometimes referred to as the farang ghetto, the neon jungles of Nana Plaza and Soi Cowboy remain Bangkok's top bar areas for foreign men.  Every night Western residents of the city and visitors from every corner of the globe flock to the two popular Sukhumvit Road bar areas which are experiencing something of a renaissance.

The 100-metre or so long strip that is Soi Cowboy dates back to the late '70s when an African American known as "Cowboy" Edwards - because of the cowboy hat that seemed to be permanently glued to his head - opened a bar on a quiet soi not far from the Asoke intersection.  More bars set up and the soi became known as Soi Cowboy.

Nana Plaza, the 3-storey horseshoe shaped shopping centre has been around just as long, but not always in the guise of a bar area.  Nana Plaza Entertainment Plaza was once Nana Plaza Shopping Centre, popular with visitors from the Middle East.  In the early '80s restaurants offering Western food opened up, bars followed and it slowly evolved into a bar district.  By the '90s Nana Plaza had fewer restaurants and more bars, including many of the chrome pole variety.

Both Nana Plaza and Cowboy have legion of supporters who are passionate about their favourite bar area.  Is one better than the other?

They may each operate using the same formula, a mix of gogo bars featuring Thai ladies from a rural background chasing the dream of riches by dancing around poles scantily clad, and beer bars with more comely ladies who sit and chat with the punters, eager to be chosen for take out.

Each bar area has its fan club, and there are some who refuse to visit the other area.  For some the bar scene is such a big part of their life that the rivalry between the bar areas - where they are but a paying customer - is as great as the most fierce sporting rivalries - think Liverpool and Manure, oops, I mean Manchester United.

In terms of the number of bars in each bar area, there's not much in it with each bar area home to 30+ bars.  In terms of the number of girls employed, I'd say Nana Plaza has more girls and there are more big bars with a high number of girls.  On a busy night, Nana Plaza's Rainbow 4 might have close to 200 girls.

Each bar area has a couple of bars that stand out from the rest, in the number of ladies dancing, or the size of the bar, or perhaps both.  In Nana Plaza you have the Rainbow group with all of the Rainbow venues featuring many pretty ladies.  In Soi Cowboy you have Baccarra which would challenge Rainbow 4 for the crown of the busiest gogo bar in all of Bangkok, perhaps the country.  Both are goldmines.  With girls from the same background, it's hard to say one of these bars has prettier girls than another.

As far as pricing goes, Soi Cowboy is better known for its happy hours than Nana with many bars offering half price drinks until 8:30 or 9:00 PM.  Not to be outdone, there are spots in Nana Plaza where happy hour prices last all night long, including the beer bar outside Pretty Lady which has 49 baht draft beer through until closing and the Balcony Bar with its banners hanging over the plaza promoting 59 baht beer all day, all night.  The prices for beers in most gogo bars across the two areas are 130 - 160 baht.  Ditto with barfines which run 600 baht in most venues.

The Arab's bars in Soi Cowboy have a confusing price structure with barfines at different rates at different times of the night, ranging from 600 baht - 800 baht in what I believe is a system designed to keep the girls in the bar as long as possible.  Good business sense really - pretty girls are a bar's number one draw.

Naughty boy friends and readers tell me that ladies expectations vary.  I hear of guys paying a girl her opening gambit of 4,000+ baht for an hour of her time as often as I do of guys who negotiate 2,000 baht to wake up next to her.  It's an individual thing with prices a reflection on the girl, her looks and the demand for her services, not the bar area.

Soi Cowboy has traditionally had a community feel to it.  In the old days most girls working in the soi used to live above the bars - and in some bars they still do.  But the days when most working in the soi lived on the soi are history.  In the old days this made for a more relaxed and laid-back night out but with most Cowboy girls earning more than enough to spring for a room for herself and her Thai boyfriend, that's no longer the case.

Wind the clock back a decade and Nana Plaza ruled the roost.  Most tourists hit Nana and Cowboy tended to be popular only with some long-term expats.  At that time there was a noticeable difference in the attitude between the girls in the different areas.  The attitudes of girls at Nana were good; at Cowboy they were really good!  With perhaps the exception of Long Gun which has been a goldmine for as long as anyone can remember, punters entering a Cowboy bar on a Friday or Saturday night could sit anywhere.  Shortly after choosing a seat, a girl would be over with a cold towel and lovingly wipe your face, hands and forearms.  Such service was the norm soi-wide but this has long gone.  With Cowboy's popularity today it wouldn't be possible.

Neither bar area is more diverse than the other.  Some Cowboy bars feature coyote girls as well as bars where anything goes, like Toy Bar.  Nana can boast the best show bar in Bangkok in Angelwitch, shower shows in Billboard and for those with a bent, 5 ladyboy bars.

On the negative side, Nana Plaza could be a worry in the case of a fire, or, God forbid, a bomb.  With just one entrance in and out, and a bottle neck at that, in a worst case scenario, a disaster in the Plaza could resemble what happened at Santika.

And then there's the ladyboy problem.  From the inside - from the alcohol suppliers and from those with a number of bar interests - 2 of the 5 bars in Nana with the highest receipts are ladyboy venues.  So while many guys say they hate them, there's clearly plenty keen on them.

Ladyboys run the whole gamut, the from the spunkiest, sweetest thing who can fool the best of us, to the macho ladyboy with stubble that sprouts through her make up later in the evening and a mean right hook.  For the most part the ladyboys inside Nana Plaza are harmless, and some can be pretty funny or even pretty and funny!  Smile, joke, laugh and the banter is fun.  Treat them like a freak and they'll shriek, become unhinged and perhaps even lose it.  Thai ladyboys are like the general Thai populace, they are actually remarkably easy to get along with if you make the effort.

But for those who don't care for ladyboys, Cowboy is almost free of them.  There might be the odd ladyboy working as a mamasan, and I think only Midnite has the odd ladyboy on stage.  Cowboy is as ladyboy free as you can hope for in a Thai bar area.

As far as the downsides at Cowboy go, the motorcycle taxis which zoom up and down the soi aren't just a pain, they're dangerous.  They seem to use Cowboy as a private drag strip and I'm surprised I haven't seen, or heard of, any accidents.  With the soi much narrower than it was with bars setting up outside areas to sit and watch the world go by, and the odd bar building extended awnings right out into the soi, there's every reason to be concerned at the lunatics whizzing along the soi.

Visually, Soi Cowboy has seen significant investment and today has to be one of the most photographed Bangkok night scenes.  Nana Plaza looks good, but it can't compete.

After a long period of little investment in the plaza, a few bar owners have been sinking money into the Plaza.  Wonder boy Marc has done a nice job on DC 10.  Billboard is looking good too and while there has been no improvement outside where parts of the plaza are in ruin, most bars are actually fairly clean and tidy inside.

Tourists flock to Soi Nana and Nana Plaza and Sukhumvit soi 4 features a number of large hotels with many properties a stone's throw from the plaza, something which Cowboy cannot boast.  And expats are returning to Nana after many had moved to Cowboy in recent years.  Whereas Cowboy peaks on Friday and Saturday night, Nana Plaza is usually quite busy throughout the week.  There are a number of nice new bars on Soi Nana attracting guys to the area like Stumble Inn, Bar4 and Strikers, as well as the old favourites Morning Night and the Golden Beer Bar.

I will stick my neck out and say that for the sheer number of really good lookers, Nana has it all over Soi Cowboy.  While I wouldn't say that those working in Nana are friendlier than they used to be, the deterioration in attitudes in Cowboy that I attribute to many girls doing extremely well means that attitude wise, there's nothing in it.  Where Cowboy used to have much friendlier girls than Nana and where attitudes were better, that's no longer the case.  These days it is more about the individual girl and overall, there's nothing between the two areas in terms of attitudes.

Nana does still have a problem with the girls who only go with Japanese.  But said problem exists with a number of girls in Baccarra and Shark bars in Cowboy too.

The industry isn't static.  Good bars go bad.  Hot girls get treated well by lots of customers, their expectations increase, their attitudes deteriorate and they might even become fat.  That favourite mamasan you've tipped generously for as long as you remember blatantly rips you off or doesn't want to know when you experience a service failure in the bar.  In a split second incident your favourite bar or favourite bar area can be on your shit list.

There's a feeling amongst a growing number of visitors and expats that Cowboy has plateaued and may even be on the way down.  Success has gone to some girls' and some owners' heads, while Nana Plaza is definitely on the way back up.  Despite a committee which oversees developments and events at Cowboy, you can't help but feel that things have got a bit loose there in the last few months.  The dominance of the soi by one owner, many reported service failures resulting in customers being set upon by security, deterioration in attitudes and hefty price increases have seen Cowboy give up most of the advantages it had over Nana.

So what of the future?  The way a certain individual is hell-bent on buying more of Soi Cowboy is an issue.  His bars seem to be little more than a hobby and apart from looking great, there's little reason to visit.  With more and more properties being acquired and each having the same feel, it makes for fewer interesting bars to visit, doing nothing for Cowboy's popularity.

Cowboy has been operating as a bar area for 30+ years and doubtless some Cowboy girls' mothers once danced around the pole they dance around today - and there's no reason to think their daughters might not be there in a decade or two.  Barring law changes, zoning changes or the rapid adoption of political correctness in Thailand, Cowboy should go on and on.  The properties are individually owned and there's no reason to think there will be a format change.

Up the road in Nana Plaza it's a different story.  The master lease for Nana Plaza expires at the end of next year.  It has been mooted that the land owners will indicate to Nana Castle - who subleases the space to the bar owners - what they plan to do as early as this coming September, just a few months from now.

While each bar area has its fan club, those who like one particular bar area usually like it because there are one, two possibly 3 bars they drink in regularly.  As much as I have been a fan of Cowboy - until recently - there were only a handful of bars I ever stuck my head in.

Chatting with a Western bar manager in Cowboy this week, he admitted that the bars offer but two things - drinks and girls.  Given that the drinks are exactly the same in each bar area, it comes down to the girls.

So which bar area trumps?  These days there's little to separate Nana and Cowboy.  Both feature similar style bars staffed with girls from the same part of the country, similar shows, similar pricing, similar attitudes and similar service standards.  In short, they share more in common than not.  There is no clear winner and it's tough to make a case that one bar area is better than the other.  But if you were forced to make a decision - and it would be a points decision rather than a knock out - Nana has more girls, and the girls in Nana are, arguably, girl for girl, prettier.  There is a case that Nana Plaza has regained the crown.

 

 

Last week's photo



Where was this photo taken?


 

Last week's photo was taken outside the Malaysia Hotel on Soi Ngam Duplee, once a thriving backpacker area and home to many characters and a few junkies!  The first person to email me with the correct location of the photo wins a 500 baht credit at Oh My Cod, the British fish and chips restaurant.  The second person to get it correct wins a 500 baht voucher from one of the best farang food venues in Bangkok, and the home of Bangkok's best burger, in my humble opinion, Duke's Express.  Duke's is conveniently located in the Emporium shopping centre in central Bangkok.  For readers in Phuket, we now have a new prize provider in Patong Beach.  Bliss Lounge on Bangla Road is offering a 500 baht drink credit and with some great imported beers from Belgium, Germany and Holland, they're unique for a venue on Bangla Road.

Terms and conditions:  The Duke's Express voucher MUST be redeemed by June 2012.  The Oh My Cod prize MUST be claimed within 14 days.  The Bliss Lounge prize must be claimed within 3 months.  Prizes are only available to readers in Thailand at the time of entering and are not transferable.  Prize winners cannot claim more than one prize per calendar month.  You only have one guess per week!  If you wish to claim a prize, you must state a preference for the prize you prefer, or list the prizes you would like in order of preference - failure to do so results in the prize going to the next person to get the photo right.

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 - The unofficial meaning of the word "Farang".

F as in fortune non- refundable.
A as in alien from outer space.
R as in rights that solely grant your departure from the nearest airport.
A as in arrival when did you say you were leaving.
N as in non-immigrant, the closest you'll get to becoming a resident or citizen.
G as in guest of the paying variety.

Is Somchai's finger on the trigger?

I loved, “When Somchai Pulls the Trigger”.  I think of the many readers whose trigger has been pulled and as they read from the warmth of their home in the UK, the US, Australia or New Zealand, they think of the day their trigger was pulled.  I loved the days before I pulled the trigger because I was happy and naïve and praised Thailand as the best place on earth.  I remember well the day I changed.  There was an accumulation of events but it was one incident that pushed me over the edge.  I wrote in my diary at that time, that I “lost my heart for Thailand”.  Although I was married to a Thai girl, and there were problems in the marriage, the event was an event dealing with the Thais.  Living in Thailand once the trigger has been pulled is like being in prison waiting for your release day.

Grow some backbone!

I have been in Thailand for nearly 9 years and have noticed one flaw in nearly every farang that lives here.  The problem is that because most foreigners walk around with the "this is their country" attitude, they very rarely stand up for themselves and give in to Thais far too easily.  The small percentage that do stand up for themselves get far more out of life.  I'm not talking about strutting around like you own the place.  Guys that skim under the surface and use their brains, but when it comes to the crunch, don't take any nonsense from the police or from con-merchants.  I myself have been involved in 2 road accidents and on both occasions was in the right and managed to claim off the Thai driver.  I really believe it's a case of some farang not using their brains and instead of waiting for the insurance man to turn up, they willingly go to the police station like lambs to the slaughter.  I was in a police station a few years ago for some reason I can't remember, but there was an argument between the cops and a farang about 15 yards from where I stood.  I tried to earwig the conversation as much as I could, but couldn't work out what the row was about.  Anyway, the farang got so annoyed, that he simply continued to refuse to pay the cops and was also threatening to call his embassy.  After about 10 minutes, the cops had had enough and waved him away.  I'm not saying this is how you should live your life here, because 99.9% of the time it is pretty smooth sailing, but if you are faced with something serious that really puts your back up, I say go for it and stick up for yourself.  You'll feel much better for it afterwards.

Did you deserve to be bitten?

The Thais are fed up with attitudes of western men and some women treating the country as a sexual Disneyland and the youth as fairground rides.  Granted bargirls provide a service for which they are paid and to some that is the attraction of Thailand, but they should be shown some respect.  The people that marry or have long term partners that split after a short while and then claim that they were oh so right and the little Thai vixen sowed them up like a kipper are the biggest losers in the world.  Maybe if they had tried to treat their partner decently and not as servants and on demand sex machines that there relationships might have worked out after all.  You can only beat a dog so many times before the dog bites back!

Ladyboys are "wrong".

As someone who has lived with ladyboys 4 out of my 5 years here, I can say that they probably have a dependence on drugs to keep their male predispositions under lock-and-key.  Ladyboy culture is pretty self-destructive sadly and the whole world is a horrible cavern of drugs and mental illness that can be hard to climb out of.  Every guy who has ever visited me has ended up sampling the sculptured delights of ladyboys, but alas, that's all there is there, i.e. sex.  Ladyboys consider themselves to be sex objects and as such, generally just become that and their boyfriends, whatever their original intent, just end up using them and treating them very poorly.  So many ladyboys start their adult life with education, prospects etc, but pretty soon come to think of themselves as the lowest of the low and end up on their last legs at 28, lost in a sea of drugs and shiftlessness.  Ladyboys are, alas, fundamentally "wrong".  I liken them to the Liger (offspring a male lion and female tiger).  Ligers have a very confused state of mind due to conflicting behaviour instincts, as it receives instincts from two separate, different, species.  They often show signs of severe depression as they age due to these conflicting behaviour instincts i.e. the pack instincts of lions and the solitary life of tigers.  I see this a lot.  They have the testosterone drive of men, with the estrogen shyness of women, and as such are in constant conflict with their own feelings.

Ladyboy lovers!

My relationship with my wife who is a ladyboy is still going strong after 8 years total, five of them married.  So I hope that I can allay some concerns.  First off, stop thinking of her as a ladyboy and think of her as the person you want to spend your life with.  No, my wife doesn't always ask me for money.  We talked a lot prior to getting married on what was expected in terms of financial support for her and her family.  Never forget that a Thai lady will always feel a debt of gratitude to her parents and as such will try to repay that debt.  Ladyboys are no exception to this.  Self obsessed?  If you mean does she seem to spend a lot of time making herself up to look her best, looking at herself whenever she passes a mirror then yes, my wife is self obsessed.  I really don't mind because in my case she is drop dead gorgeous and has numerous beauty pageant trophies to prove it.  Her insecurities come from a lack of self-confidence.  She did not finish high school, was looked down upon and still worries that I might do a runner and leave her high and dry.  Not much chance of that as I am madly in love with her!  My wife has never done drugs, does not smoke and is tipsy after three glasses of wine.  Her odd psychosis perhaps is when she gets excited about something and starts to talk a mile a minute.  She will go on and on and then suddenly stop, tell me she is tired from excitement and talking and immediately take a nap.  I never get tired of this and just laugh out loud.  Our relationship is no different than that of a conventional man / woman.  We still have the occasional disagreement, we still have problems at times dealing with our culture clashes but not to the point I would ever leave her.  Quite simply, she has made me a better person and I will forever be in her debt for that!

A closing time crackdown has been in place in Bangkok encompassing all the farang bar areas with venues being closed at 1:30 AM sharp.  Rumour has it that bar closure orders are a result of the much publicised incident of the 3 young Thai ladies filmed dancing topless at Songkran although how that could be related to farang nightlife areas I don't know.  These things never last too long so I would expect bars to revert to 2 AM closing very soon.

Since taking control of Raw Hide a couple of weeks back, the rumour mill has been going crazy about what acquisitions The Arab is targeting next.  It has been said that he was prepared to come up with 45,000,000 baht ($US 1,500,000) for Tilac, a number I mentioned to one of the owners this week which he laughed at.  The other rumour is that he wants Cocktail Club where he could knock the wall out and make a super-sized bar with Raw Hide.  The owner of Cocktail Club claims she has no interest in selling.

With the next general election date confirmed as July 3rd, those coming to Thailand for a good time ought to be aware that it is likely there will be no alcohol sales on the day and evening of, as well as the night before, the election.  It's also likely that the sale of alcohol will be prohibited on the advanced voting day of June 26, the week before, as well as on the evening prior.

There's a huge construction site on Sukhumvit Road, directly opposite the Emporium shopping centre and adjacent to the Phrom Pong skytrain station.  Like most all construction sites on Sukhumvit, you just know it's going to be a hotel, a condominium or a shopping centre.  Its location opposite Emporium suggests it may be a shopping centre.  And the rumour mill has it that it will be a branch of Harrods in Bangkok.

That ever so proud Englishman, Brian, and his far flung corner of the British empire, Crossbar, now stocks Fullers London Porter, a dark stout from England.  He also has London Pride available.  Each sells at 200 baht for a 500 ml bottle.

The European Champions League final is one of the most eagerly anticipated football matches of the year and screens at a time when lights are supposed to have been turned out.  This year's final between Barcelona and Manure will be shown live in Crossbar from around 1:00 AM on Sunday the 29th, and show the match in its entirety!

The latest craze at Demonia, the fetish club in Sukhumvit soi 33, is the demonias you earn for every drink and barfine you buy.  The demonias act like coupons, or like money, and can be exchanged for free drinks etc.  A schedule is being worked on for just what you will be able to exchange the demonias for.

The lady in the green dress wandering around Patpong mentioned in last week's column is apparently luk kreung - half Thai and half African - and is said to have been wandering around Patpong for 20 odd years!  She seems to be in a real sorry state, sometimes with her top hanging out of her clothing.  Sometimes after a few too many she dances to cheering from those around about.  S has that I'm available look to unaccompanied men.  Apparently once upon a time she was a dancer in some of the bars.

It must be a couple of years since Thai banks introduced a 150 baht fee for anyone using an ATM card in Thailand to make a withdrawal from a foreign account.  Most ATM machines ask if you are willing accept the 150 baht withdrawal fee before the transaction is processed.  Foreign-owned banks have eschewed introducing the fee, including Citibank and HSBC.  However, it seems that Citibank may now be charging the 150 baht fee for ATM withdrawals, but without asking to do so or giving any indication that it said fee will be deducted from your account.  You can still use the Aeon network for fee-free withdrawals although their ATM machines aren't that easy to find.

And it's widely known that there are various ATM scams.  Notice that those caught perpetrating these crimes aren't usually Thai, but Eastern Europeans.  With this mind, be careful of a suspicious Eastern European woman who seems to be filming guys using ATM machines with her IPhone in and around Phrom Pong.  She could be operating all over town and she might be alone or more likely, part of a gang.  She stands behind you and pretends to be holding her IPhone at an odd angle to look at the screen but actually films you entering your PIN number.  What happens after that, who knows - but perhaps rather than have a skimming device rigged up to the ATM, someone in her gang bashes you on the head and uses your card right away?  I don't know, I'm only speculating, but it does reinforce the need to be vigilant, to be aware of your surroundings and to cover the ATM keypad when entering your code.

The long school holiday break is over and most foreigners teaching English in Thailand, at least those teaching in regular Thai schools, will be back in the classroom this coming week.  I was chatting with a mate who is a teacher who told me how his school had run a 2-day meeting which all teachers had to attend - foreign and Thai.  That wouldn't be so bad, but meetings in Thailand tend to be horribly boring where people who love the sound of their own voice fight for the right to drone on.  Needless to say, the entire meeting was conducted in Thai.  Despite that and despite not being proficient in the language, the foreign contingent was forced to attend.  Since leaving the classroom, I don't miss teaching at all and when I hear stories like this I am so glad that I put it in the rear view mirror.

One useful skill I learnt when training to be a teacher was the importance of using concept checking questions.  For example, with a student you would never ask a question like "Do you understand" or "Have you got that?", but rather a question or series of questions which check that they really do understand what you had been teaching.  Concept questions aren't just useful in the classroom, but in life too, especially in Thailand where direct questions often get the answer the person questioned thinks they should say.  A mate said to me this week that many Thai women in a relationship would deny it if they were in the company of a man they found attractive.  So rather than asking a woman you're interested in if she is single, it might take a series of questions related to her behaviour, such as how she spends her time and who she hangs out with to really know.

Yes, there is a flow on effect of farangs overpaying a sin sot for Thais.  I heard an hilarious story this week from a Thai friend whose brother was recently betrothed to his sweetheart in Amnat Charoen.  The family of the young man accompanied him up towards the border with Laos where they were to meet the family of the lady their son intended to marry.  They had expected a dowry of around 200,000 - 300,000 baht and senior family members went up to Isaan to negotiate.  The negotiation stalled when the family of the lady said they would accept 500,000 baht and not a baht less, which is rather a lot for a lady from the barn nok.  It transpired that the family next door had managed to command 1,000,000 baht for their daughter, a figure challenged by an old auntie negotiating.  Not long afterwards they spotted an old, wizened-faced foreigner next door and they rolled their eyes in horror!  The family of the young lady explained that by accepting anything less than 500,000 baht for their daughter - which was already much less than they family next door had received for their daughter - would cause much face loss!  Just like the way foreigners in Bangkok are pushing up the prices of low-end accommodation, much to the chagrin of Thais looking for digs in that sector of the market and finding proprietors keener to rent to foreigners who happily pay much more, so there is resentment from some Thais towards foreigners for the way we are influencing the market price.

They're going to hate me on UdonMap, but I have to say that the term "Udon farangs" is heard more and more in Bangkok.  This is a derogotary term used by some Bangkok-based farangs referring to what they perceive as less successful or perhaps down and out Westerners you see in some parts of rural Isaan.  The funny thing is that you're much less likely to actually see them in Udon Thani than you are in some other places.  Udon might have more foreigners than any other province in Isaan, but down and out most of them aren't - at least those in the city.

Quote of the week comes from a ladyboy mamasan talking about her kind, "If you don't try, you don't know!"

Reader's story of the week comes from a young Aussie, "Losing My Innocence As an 18 Year-old in Thailand".

New Zealand television's 60 Minutes appears to have found the cause of the 7 hotel deaths in Chiang Mai.

From the NZ Herald comes the latest updates on the Kiwi girl who died in that hotel in Chiang Mai and another article accusing the Thais of a cover up.

This video from YouTube shows sexy Thai coyote girls dancing at the 2011 Bangkok motor show.

From the BBC, 2 Swedes received a harsh penalty for running a cybersex operation in the Philippines - life behind bars!

From CNNGo, are Thais interested in quality TV?

The Sydney Morning Herald says move over Thailand, Vietnam is coming through!

The New York Times touched on Thailand's lese majeste laws this week.

The Bangkok Post's latest article on underage sex states that managers of bars with underage girls can be imprisoned.

Ask Sunbelt Legal

Sunbelt Asia's legal department is here to answer your questions relating to legal issues and the law in Thailand.  Send any legal questions you may have to me and I will pass them on to Sunbelt Legal and their response will run in a future column.  You can contact Sunbelt's legal department directly for all of your legal needs.

Question 1:  I started a restaurant with my girlfriend a while ago, I paid all the money to start it and made it back and it's been going well.  We have 4 fulltime workers.  Is there any way I can get a visa out of that?  What if we open a new business that would cater to kids or another restaurant where I would actually do some little work.  Is there any way to get a work permit?  I have been on tourist visas with 60 days family extension for a child for the last 4 years.

Sunbelt Legal respondsIf the restaurant is started as a Limited Company with majority owned Thai shareholders or majority owned American shareholders under the Amity treaty and 2 million Baht in capitalization then with the four employees you already have, you would be able to apply for a work permit on a Non-Immigrant B visa.  You would need to leave the country and apply for a non-B visa at an embassy showing company paperwork.  You also can convert a tourist visa into a non-b inside Thailand but much more criteria is required, such as showing a diploma or having work experience in that field, with that proof being translated and getting certified.  Most find it's easier just to get a non b at a Thai embassy and then you can apply for a work permit.
 

Question 2:  Not as flush with the green as I'd like right now, but I'd like to pick up a condo in town instead of renting.  My girlfriend offered to secure financing from a Thai bank under her name wherein she would effectively purchase a flat and that my interests in the flat would be protected by another agreement.  I guess this is basically having a nominee for the purposes of securing a mortgage as I know no bank in Canada will lend to me right now for that purpose.  I'm wondering if it's at all possible to protect myself legally in this type of situation.  I know in the case of land or if we were married I'd have no rights but is it the same situation where it's a condo legally purchasable by a foreigner and it is not matrimonial property?  She's a good girl and I think her offer is sincere but it's imperative to know the potential legal pitfalls if the nature of the relationship were to change for whatever reason.

Sunbelt Legal respondsIf your girlfriend purchases the condo in her name then she is the owner and title holder.  You can set a 30 year lease on the property giving you right of habitation for 30 years if there is no mortgage on the property but you would not be able to sell it or retain it after the 30 years.  She could not sell it while you remain but if you wanted to sell beforehand she would have to be agreeable to giving you the funds back.  However if she obtains a mortgage and buys a condo, the risk is hers you don't leave her stranded with the mortgage for a condo.
 

Question 3:  Me and my girlfriend who has been living in New Zealand with me now for the last 18 months have been in a relationship for the last 5 years.  We would like to bring her 2 children here to go to school in New Zealand.  The father of the children is saying he will go to court so they can't leave Thailand.  The mother and father are listed as the parents on the birth certificates.  The children are currently staying with the father's sister.  The father works and stays in Bangkok with his new girlfriend.  The father and mother contribute towards the children's living expenses equally.  The ages of the children are 12 and 14 years old.  Do we have to go to court to get custody?  Is it possible to get custody?  Can we take them out of the country? The children are keen to come to NZ.  The father hardly visits them but has just found out that they actually like the farang.  The children have passports which were applied for last September with the father present at the passport office to sign papers.  There is currently no arrangement made between them when they split up.

Sunbelt Legal respondsThe father has legal custody of his children as well and as such has an equal say over the future of the children.  It is highly unlikely a Thai court would give sole custody to the mother since the father is contributing to their welfare and has expressed his unwillingness to see his children leave the country.



 

I have been publishing this column earlier than usual the past few weeks.  My self-imposed publishing deadline is 6 PM, Bangkok time, and traditionally I have published between 4:00 and 4:30 PM.  The past few weeks I have published between 1:00 and 2:00 PM.  if you are keen to win the photo competition, you might need to tune in a little earlier.  I used to spend much of Sunday afternoon going over and over the column, editing it and picking up typos here and there.  These days I just want to get out, meet friends and enjoy Sunday.  So if there are a few more typos than usual, you have my apologies - but I am sure you understand Sticky wants to have some semblance of a life!

 

Your Bangkok commentator,

Stick
 

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