Stickman Weekly  11/8/2013

How I've Changed

The influences and experiences of life as a Thailand expat change a person and the wannabe English teacher who arrived on these shores a decade and a half ago is somewhat different to the columnist here today.

There are cycles many Bangkok expats go through from the initial honeymoon period, to what can become a general disenchantment, to making changes needed to survive and then finally acceptance.

At each stage we go through various changes and some are obvious.  Those who enjoy the bar industry ultimately lose interest in it.  Many who had a love affair with Thai food find themselves gravitating back to the food they grew up with.  There are however changes that can surprise, often complete about-turns...




Issues of Trust

I really like the guy who sells fruit out front of my place.  He tells me which fruit is good on any given day and which isn't.  I trust him totally.  Unfortunately there aren't a lot of people I totally trust here.

Most people in my homeland are solid.  Levels of corruption there are the lowest in the world and honesty isn't just valued, it is expected.  Most people can be taken at their word, a handshake is worth something and you don't need to second-guess people.

I learned that things were a little different in Thailand.

That some will tell you what they think you want to hear and not the truth still infuriates me today.

Where some in authority put the lining of their own pockets ahead of the rules and laws they are charged with enforcing was unnerving, even if it was no great surprise.

Working in a school where some (of the local) teachers put face and reputation before a quality education was a real shock.

Seeing written agreements and legally binding contracts as documents which largely serve to protect those who know powerful and influential people extinguishes any notion of confidence in the system if things should go against you.

Having grown up in a culture with a notion of fair play, Thailand required a major adjustment in the way I go about everyday tasks, and especially how I go about anything more than basic transactions.

It's not just difficult to do business, even small tasks can be a mission.  Take the signing of a condo lease for example - you look closely at the lessor and wonder in the back of your mind whether you'll experience hassles getting your deposit back and insist on a beefed up clause regarding the expeditious return of the deposit money once you've moved out.

Being around people who don't place value in the truth makes many things a challenge.  It can be hard to trust people here.

The net result is that I have never fully committed to the country, and I never will.  I don't invest in Thailand, will never buy property here and keep very little money in the country.  It's unfortunate and in many ways quite sad, but I've become quite defensive in my dealings with the locals.  I was never like this - and I'm not like this in my homeland - but seeing what has happened to others has caused me to err on the side of caution.



Candidography


Thai Women

I never thought I would lose interest in Thai women.  Perhaps not lose interest per se, but I don't see Thai women as any different to women from any other country.

When time and time again I realised that the one I was with liked me because my skin is white and nose is long and that's about it, well, it doesn't do much for you.

No matter how much success you had with women in your homeland, you'll have more success with women in Thailand.  The reason is simple and foreigners resident in Thailand know it: many of the new generation of Thai women are easy.

Thai women are great to party with and have fun with generally.  When things are going their way they can be heaps of fun.

As Lecherous Lee, says, "Where else in the world could an older guy like me get laid by so many hot young ladies without making any real effort or spending any money?"  When you hear stories of local women who would be considered hot in the West turning up at the condo of a guy they have yet to meet, and shagging him 30 minutes later, it becomes off-putting when you know that she'll do that with just about any Western guy!

Too often I get the feeling that many are like fair weather friends.  When things aren't going their way or they're not somehow gaining from the relationship, they can become petulant.  If things get tough, they may not stick around.

Give me a woman who won't accept a guy who sozzles his brain every night.  Give me the more natural looks of a Vietnamese who understand and embrace the idea that shiny black hair needs nothing more than to be kept clean.  Give me the curves and overt sexiness of a South American.  Give me the directness and yes, the demands, of a Western woman who actually has some self-respect and who refuses to look the other way when her man is fooling around.

It's hard to imagine a group of women who are more fun to be around and to party with than Thais, but that doesn't necessarily correlate to them being great in relationships.

A few years and a few girlfriends back, the one I was with asked me why I liked Thai women.  I responded that I live in Thailand where 99% of the women are Thai and so it is Thai women who I meet.  So you don't especially like Thai women over women of other nationalities, she asked.  Right.




The Importance of Family

When back home visiting a couple of years back my mother had a serious health issue.  It reminded me that nothing is forever.

Thai families are closer than Western families.  Whether the love for family members is as strong as in the West, I don't know.  Sometimes it can feel more like obligation, but whatever the reason, the family unit is very important in Thailand and not only do family members help one another, they make an effort to spend time together.

Spending so long away from one's homeland and being so far away from one's family can lead to less contact with family back home.  It's not hard to drift apart.

The biggest mistake I made was not visiting my homeland for 6 years.  Fortunately family made the effort to come and see me, whereas now I go back and see them at least once, if not twice a year.  I make the effort to spend time at home, and I genuinely enjoy it.  I count down the days before flying home and look forward to my time in New Zealand immensely.  Every time I leave to return to Thailand I feel a tinge of sadness.

I visit home more often, I send a bunch of photos every week so my folks can see what I have been up to, even if it is just another set of smutty photos from around the bars.  It helps us keep in touch.

Fortunately my mother is strong and made a quick and full recovery.  As a bargirl once said to me, no woman will ever love you like your mother.  Despite being so far away, family is more important to me now than ever.




Confidence in the Future

At 304 metres, Baiyoke Tower was taller than anything we had back home.  Seat selection at new cinemas was done by touch screen.  Shopping malls were bigger than anything I'd seen anywhere, the mighty USA included.  It was the late '90s and while Thailand was reeling from the effects of the Asian Economic Crisis, there was a feeling that Bangkok was a city on the move, a city that would catch up to many of the great metropolises of the West.  It felt like anything was possible.

Back in my corner of Farangland we don't have the skyscrapers or such technological wizardry as heated toilets in shopping centres, but things are always improving.  You might not see it, because we're much less concerned about being flashy.  It's that things actually work that counts.

Behind the scenes we have systems that work.  Problems or issues are identified - such as problem traffic areas or inadequate roading.  Meetings are held, problems identified, solutions suggested and plans implemented.  The process of making a decision might not be fast, but the best solution within budget is chosen.  The issue is tackled and the problem is eliminated.

Some first-time visitors comment that Bangkok appears more developed than their homeland.  On the surface much appears shiny and progressive.  It is then disheartening that the major issues plaguing Thailand today, those things that are holding back real progress, are the very same issues which existed when I first arrived - the education system and corruption.

While the education system doesn't appear to have improved, corruption actually seems to have got worse.

Thailand has much going for it and much to like about it.  That Thailand is less regulated than the West is part of its appeal.  But while on the surface things appear to be improving, too often it is just the veneer.  A major overhaul may require something of a change in mindset, and in all my time in Thailand I haven't seen a single iota of evidence of that happening.

Being resident in the country for a considerable time, you develop an affinity for the place and its people and you want the best for them.  We want to see the average person's lot in life improve.  But it's hard to see Thailand really developing until the education system and corruption are addressed.  And unfortunately where I once felt that things would improve, I haven't seen any evidence of it happening.  Where once I was really quite positive about the future, now I tend to see things staying much the same.



visa run


Becoming Less Open

I've always been fairly open and friendly.  I enjoy meeting people and hearing their story.  I've always given people a chance, even when my intuition told me that something didn't feel right and perhaps they weren't who they made themselves out to be.

Expat society is full of colourful characters and there are more than a few who haven't always made the best decisions along the way.  Some think nothing of trying to gain advantage through less than honest means.  When they are desperate, things can get nasty.

As I've become more aware of how many really dodgy and flagrantly dishonest folks there are out there, I've become much choosier about who I spend time with.  There was once a time when I would meet any reader who contacted me and wanted to meet up.  These days I meet very few.  Talk to me in a bar and you'll find me guarded.  Press and you'll get the same response I've given over the years, "Gidday mate, I'm Michael from Sydney and I'm a train driver."  Approach me on the street and I'll feign being unable to understand English and count from 1 to 10 in Maori to you.  Keep talking and I'll rattle off a bunch of Maori place names in a sing-song voice that will make you think that it's me who's not the full quid and you'll move on.

These days I prefer to socialise with the same sort of people I would back home, people of a similar age, from a similar background, with similar interests and from a similar socio-economic group.  It's my experience that they're much less likely to stab you in the back or betray you.  Of course seeking out friends from your homeland or neighbouring countries while living as an expat seems to defeat the very purpose of being an expat.

Being less open provides a layer of protection, even if it may mean a less rich experience.




An Appreciation of my own Country

Visiting home after a number of years away made me realise how much my homeland has going for it, and how there is a price to be paid living in Thailand.

I came to Thailand looking for a new challenge, for the warm weather year around and more than anything, looking for a little adventure.  I never had an issue with my country.  It may be quiet and it can be a little boring, but it offers many things that Thailand doesn't.

I still don't understand those who consider their corner of Farangland the worst place on the planet.  You seldom hear it from the Kiwis or the Aussies or the Canucks or the Swedes or the Dutch or the Italians or even the Greeks or Spaniards - and the latter actually have reason to be disenchanted with life at home!  Little makes me more suspicious than one so scathing of their homeland.

I've come to realise that by most measures, my homeland compares favourably with my adopted land.  Such simple things as fresh air, sharing friendly words on the street with genuinely friendly strangers, law and order being upheld, to say nothing of there being no need for a yearly visit to update your visa, and the ability to live your life without interference from others.

No country is perfect but I have come to appreciate my homeland more.  It really has a lot going for it and is pretty darned good.  You'll never hear me criticise my homeland.  Not because of any misplaced patriotism, but because it genuinely compares well with just about everywhere.  I never disliked my homeland but time in Thailand has helped me realise just how much it has got going for it.



There are of course many local habits and typical behaviours that I haven't picked up, and many ways in which I haven't changed.  I remain particular about being on time - as I expect of those I am meeting.  I don't pick my nose on the skytrain and remove and examine the contents.  Of course, probably there are many things that have changed about me since I have been in Thailand that I don't even realise myself...






Where was this photo taken?

Bangkok

Last week's photo was taken at the Nana Hotel pool.  I was expecting many people to get it right and a barrage of emails with the right answer but in the end only about a dozen people got it right.  Maybe many who stay at the Nana Hotel sleep during the day and never see the pool?



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 - Aroused by ladyboys.

As someone who has enjoyed and is highly aroused by the thoughts of humping a ladyboy, I have been especially interested in your ladyboy interviews.  If I'm not wrong this was your third ladyboy interview?  I notice when you interview them you include a photo.  This photo consistently includes ladyboys who are not in the slightest bit attractive.  I don't know if the owner of the website these girls worked for choose these particular ladyboys to do the interview because of their interviewing skills - but I can assure you that they weren't picked because of their looks.  It was the same the last time you did an interview.  I took one look at the photo and just thought yuk!  Anyway, I visited the website featured and there are some smoking hot ladyboys on it.  Absolute stunners!  If I was single and in Bangkok I would probably end up stuck in a hotel room getting some ladyboy "room service".  I don't understand my attraction for them - whether it's repressed homosexuality or whatever but it is definitely a curiosity.

Delusional opportunists.

I'm not sure how representative of Thai ladyboys your interviewees are since professional escorts fall into a pretty small niche in the overall population, but their comments were certainly revealing.  I found myself thinking these ladyboys were just like many of their female counterparts in the business, delusional opportunists who live in a world of lies and unbounded greed.  Whereas Western transvestites frequently justify themselves with the “I was a woman born in a man's body” line, it's clear that is not the case with these ladyboys who all seemed to be rather attached to their dicks (although they'd cut them if the deal was right).  Clearly they are just gay men who found it was easier to get laid if they looked and acted like women, then went one step further by going pro to make money.  You alluded to it but I don't think they caught on.  After all is said and done, particularly since they all said that most of their clients want to see a dick when the panties come down, any man who gets with a ladyboy is unquestionably gay and likely just has issues with accepting that fact for himself.  It's as though he's only taken half the leap over into homosexuality by going butt up for a guy that looks like a beautiful woman, "I may be gay, but as you can see I'm not THAT gay!"

Why have a fake when you can have the real thing?

I think the ladyboy debate is a good one.  My two cents worth:  1. Do Thai ladyboys look better than Thai guys? - YES.  2. But, do Thai women look better than Thai ladyboys? - YES!  End of debate!  Why buy a fake Omega watch if you can have a REAL one at a bargain price?  I guess some people just love fakes.

Been there, done that.

I tried ladyboys a few times.  The first 2 or 3 times I actually thought it was real ladies I went home with.  Later I got wiser.  The first time I was so drunk I woke up in a room with a ladyboy, not even knowing where I was or how I came to be there.  My wallet was empty (lost around 15,000 baht) but the wallet was there with credit cards etc.  Besides that episode, all my experiences have been good and I prefer ladyboys once in a while, mostly for blowjobs because they're experts in that field.  Treat them with respect and you'll get a nice experience.  But I sometimes wonder if ladyboys have the same hassle with the condom issue the ladies do?  Some men want no condom sex with girls because it feels better and some because they're somehow hoping the woman will get pregnant or at least enjoy the 'naughtiness / danger' surrounding it.  But do ladyboys have the same problem?


Bar Bar Patpong


Why young men prefer older women.

I am a young (29) and relatively handsome Scandinavian male.  I have lots of experience in Bangkok and Pattaya with years of trips.  I must say that I prefer going with older ladies (+40).  The reasons are many.  They have experience and are very balanced and relaxed.  They know how to do things and how to make you feel good.  Younger ones seem unsecure and shy.  I also like older women because they sometimes have more to tell, both heart and brains.  Last year I had a funny experience from Beach Road.  I went to chat with a nice-looking lady my own age and asked if she wanted to go to a restaurant of her choice.  She told me that she was shy of young, handsome men.  I never got an answer to why, so I went further and talked with a 41-year old woman.  We went to my hotel and I had the best time ever!  From then on I've been going for 40+!  And I could ask the question back, why do old men want young girls half their own age or more, with absolutely nothing in common?

Cannot get CTH installed.

Regarding CTH, my condo cannot install a communal CTH dish like we have for True as the Prakhanong area is not cabled.  The only way I can get CTH is to have my own individual satellite dish and this is not allowed under the rules of my condo building.  It looks like I'll be relying on the internet for my footie, unless a last-minute deal is done with CTH to allow True some matches.

The bus to Laos.

Last year wifey and I took a bus from Korat to Vientiane.  The springs and shocks were shot and the vehicle was bouncing up and down like a pogo stick.  It was to get worse.  About halfway to our destination the bus pulls over to the side of the road, a pickup truck drives up and smiling Thais unload about 20 gas cooking canisters from the pickup to the storage unit under the bus.  I can't believe what I'm seeing.  The bus takes off again and instead of simply bouncing up down, it's now bouncing up and down, veering left and right, almost out of control.  One could hear the cling clang of the canisters rolling into each other!  I'm not a scaredy cat by any means but I was afraid we'd have an accident and go off like an atom bomb.  I asked my wife what was going on and she thought the driver planned to sell the canisters in Laos where they are more expensive than in Thailand.  Just another day in the Kingdom.

The Thai scene. 

I've always been reluctant to let anyone know about the Thai scene.  There is a Farang who shows up at a place I've been going to for 12 years, and I worry word will spread.  It is expensive compared to the Farang scene, but the goals are a little different.  The girls that work the cafes and G clubs are looking for a guy to make them a mia noi or mistress.  Really beautiful and hi-so in appearance many of them are.  The Thai men there are wealthy generally speaking.  It's not the sort of place a tourist would want to invest time in.  It's also very expensive compared to finding a "day" girl on TLL or Thai Friendly.  I would say it's much more like dating in the west, expense-wise.  The other problem I have discovered (and my Thai friends tell me too) is the girls at the clubs are incredibly lazy when you live with them (or bring them to your home country as I have).  They are great entertainers and lovers but they are useless and spoiled otherwise.



The Strip Gogo Bar Bangkok


Girl of the week

Dew, Devil's Den, Soi LK Metro, Pattaya. 

Dew is 22 years old, comes from Buriram and likes to watch movies and spend time with friends.
She's pretty much the type Stick likes with a warm smile, busty and a bit of meat on the bone!


Devil's Den Pattaya



Devil's Den Pattaya




Devil's Den Pattaya




Well-known expat and Bangkok old hand Tim Young passed away last weekend.  Tim was a popular figure in Patpong where he had been resident for decades.  The bars and eateries he loved so much were just a few steps from the room in a short-time hotel he called home for 25 years.  Tim once had an interest in a Patpong bar, but in more recent decades he preferred to spend his time as a customer rather than a proprietor.  Tim is the father of Thai superstar singer, Tata, who he managed.  One of the many humorous stories about Tim has it that he ran his business out of Goldfinger Bar in Patpong soi 1, mostly out of the hong nam, the one place in the bar where he could hear and talk on his mobile phone.  Tim had heart troubles and finally succumbed to a heart attack.  67 is too young to say goodbye, but Tim crammed more in to life than most of us would if we were reincarnated several times over.  The funeral will be held on Tuesday and no doubt it will be a somber day in Patpong as friends gather to trade stories about Tim and hoist a few in his memory.

The crackdown on underage girls in Nana Plaza has caused a number of the non-Thai girls who had been working in the plaza to ply their trade away from Soi Nana in venues which don't require a barfine to be paid.  Many of these girls are hoping their evenings will still culminate in an exciting or impressive event.  Predominately Laotians with the odd Cambodian, they are of legal age but of course they're not supposed to be working.  They won't even step inside the plaza for fear of being asked to produce ID and there's no guarantee of when, or even if, they will be back in their old bars.  Some bars with a number at the end of their name are well down on girls.

First impressions on my one and only visit to Crazy House, Bangkok's newest gogo bar, on Sukhumvit soi 23, weren't exactly positive.  In fairness to the venue, a number of people have told me they like it.  A couple of old-timers say that it has managed to recapture the smut of the old days - their words - which I still haven't worked out is a good or not.

Down in Pattaya, some of X Zone's dancers have moved on and can now be found in Private Dancer A Gogo.

Speaking of Walking Street, Pattaya's best gogo bars are now more expensive than Bangkok's.  Pattaya has traditionally offered better value for money than Bangkok - and it still does - but if you wish to compare the best bars in Pattaya with the best in Bangkok, Pattaya wins.  Sensations has more attractive dancers than any other Pattaya bar and with 1,500 baht barfines and ladies asking 3,000 baht for an hour of their time, it's more expensive than what you find in Bangkok.

Has Pattaya's Soi LK Metro hit saturation point?  With 13 odd gogo bars in the small L-shaped soi, some locals feel any more would be overkill.  I've always thought that the more decent bars in one bar area, the better.  There's a feeling that the transformation of some open air beer bars to make way for gogos is changing the atmosphere of the soi.  More big gogo bars with a lot of money invested in them means higher prices.  Some Soi LK Metro chrome pole bars are so pricey that it's starting to feel like Walking Street.

Spanky's in Pattaya's Soi Diamond is to undergo renovations and a minor makeover.  The seating will be reupholstered white and much of the bar is to be painted white, giving it a similar look to What's Up.  And in a case of if you can't beat 'em, join 'em, Spanky's is the latest Sin City bar to take on agency / coyote girls with 5 starting this past week.  The owner says that while it's not something he ever envisaged, he remembers visiting Thailand and how he would do the rounds looking for the hottest girls.  He reckons today that the bars with the hottest girls all have agency girls and if you want to compete with them, that's what you've got to do.  As he explains it, going to an agency is the easiest way to get really attractive girls these days.  The days of really attractive girls walking in off the street and applying for work are long gone.

There are a couple of parties in happening Patpong soi 2 coming this week.  Captain Hornbag will celebrate his birthday at Club Electric Blue in Patpong soi 2 next Saturday, August 17th.  And The Strip will have a naughty nurses' party starting this coming Friday and running for a week.


The Strip Patpong





I notice that the world's biggest adult playground slogan has returned to the sign out front of Nana Plaza.  Those 5 words were removed from Nana Plaza sign on Thursday of last week, but were put back up again a few days later.  Some readers challenged me for applauding what I thought was the right decision to remove it.  Let me explain.  While Thailand is known for sex tourism, it's not something the Thais are proud of.  Presumably the reason it is allowed to continue is because there are economic benefits.  The Thais really don't want the naughty stuff to be what people associate the country with and Thailand has done a great job of diversifying the tourism industry.  The days of single Western males being the predominant tourist profile are long gone.  As I see it, the problem with the slogan on this sign is that it has the potential to cause much embarrassment.  Imagine a major news organisation like Fox News producing a sensationalised report about Bangkok's nightlife and focusing on that sign.  Any comment would be superfluous as it speaks for itself.  But more than that, it eliminates any sort of plausible deniability about what goes on inside.  It could be changed to "Bangkok's most popular entertainment area" or words to that effect and business in the plaza would not be affected at all.  I think Soi Cowboy has the right idea with a sign which simply says "Soi Cowboy Entertainment".

Nowhere is the change in the mix of visitors to Pattaya more apparent than at Pattaya's ground zero.  Chinese tour groups, Middle Eastern families, Russian couples and visitors of a profile seldom seen in Pattaya up until a few years ago outnumber single, middle-aged Western males on Walking Street.  But where I find the change to be most amusing is over breakfast in hotel restaurants.  In the hotel I stay, the breakfast room was dominated by older Western males with younger Thai females, but now it's much more diverse and your fellow diners are just as likely to be an older Western couple or a group of young Chinese and Korean girls.  The morning light is unforgiving and non-sex tourist customers cannot help but stare at a guy breakfasting with a girl who doesn't look crash hot the next morning.  The old days of booking hotels through agents is over, replaced by the use of hotel booking websites.  These sites don't say anything about the sort of people who stay there so the likes of the Nana Hotel in Bangkok and the many hotels in Pattaya which were once largely the domain of naughty boys now attract the full gamut of tourist profiles.  Breakfast in Pattaya is almost as entertaining as Walking Street at night!

I don't remember seeing anyone shirtless in a Bangkok gogo bar.  But in Pattaya I have and I saw another this week.  He could do with a belt to hold his trousers up, and if he puts on much more weight a bra might help to keep those man boobs from sagging.


Shirtless in a Pattaya gogo bar


A girl went in to a Pattaya gogo bar this week looking for a job.  She was attractive but looked young so the boss asked her how old she was.  20.  He's been around the block and asked her if she had an ID card.  He checked it, she was indeed 20 and he hired her there and then, without so much as asking her another question.  The Thai staff filled out the requisite employee info form and made a photocopy of the girl's ID card, as is normal.  Concerned that something didn't feel right, he made an extra photocopy of the girl's ID card and took it to his police contact to verify it was real.  The copper confirmed that yes, the recently issued ID card was genuine.  She came in that night and was getting ready to work.  The bar boss looked at her and was looking at the ID card and something just didn't seem right.  Thais never look quite the same in official photos as they do in person, but he was sure it was her.  He looked at the girl's particulars, and noticed her height.  164 cm.  He looked at the girl, and she didn't seem to be that tall.  There was a measuring tape in the office and he asked one of the staff to check her height.  She was 151 cm.  He asked why her ID card which had been verified as real listed her as 164 cm, yet she was only 151 cm.  Had she shrunk 13 cm?!  It turned out that it was her sister's ID card and she was not of legal age at all.  She was sent on her way and the bar boss was disappointed to lose an attractive girl, but relieved that he had not employed her.  While bars may get criticised for hiring young staff, sometimes the girls pull one over the bars.  The sad thing is that with demand for staff so great, this girl probably walked down the road in to another job and was up on stage that same night.

In Bangkok and Pattaya, bar owners and bar managers are paranoid about underage girls.  The current crackdown appears to be based on orders from up high.  Things had got out of control and the crackdown is necessary.  I believe that even 18 and 19 is too young.  In my opinion, no woman under the age of 20 should be allowed to work in a bar.  The reason bar staff are so worried is that bars caught employing underage girls face prosecution under human trafficking laws and the word is out that underage is like drink driving - settling is not an option.  Bar owner(s), bar manager(s) and mamasan(s) all potentially face charges if an underage girl is caught working in their bar.

Anyone interested in a Bangkok-based business that is related to topics covered in this column, a popular escort site is up for sale as the farang owner is moving on.  A high traffic count of over 16,000 hits per month verifiable with Google Analytics make this a busy site and it has almost no overheads!  Interested parties can contact me and I will pass them on to the owner.

Zen Bar, right beside the entrance to Nana Plaza, has a bunch of specials this month.  The pool table is free daily from 10 AM - 4 PM and wi-fi is free all day, all night.  There are too many specials to list, but each day features a different happy hour.  On Monday it's 99 baht Mojitos and on Wednesday standard spirits go for happy price all day.  Check the bar's blackboard for daily specials.


Sexy Hippo


I love the name and logo of a bar in Pattaya's Soi Diamond - Sexy Hippo Bar!  Allegorical, perhaps?

A tall, skinny, middle-aged Westerner was selling fruit at a street stall in Sukhumvit soi 33 last Sunday.  The street stall at the mouth of the soi was nicer than most and featured the words "farang salad".  There was no sign of a local partner / girlfriend / wife and he seemed to be doing everything himself.  It's novel to see foreigners doing work which tends to be the reserve of Thais from less privileged backgrounds.

Over in Phnom Penh, the first branch of Sunrise Tacos opened on Friday.  Now expats in the Cambodian capital can enjoy the same great Mexican food we enjoy in Bangkok.

I make it down to the Chinatown area about 3 times a month.  I take the MRT to Hualumpong from where I walk along Soi Traimit and cut through Wat Traimit on to Yaowarat Road, the main drag at Chinatown.  Wat Traimit is a nice enough temple and until perhaps several months ago you would seldom see foreigners visiting.  Today, irrespective of the time of day, there are busloads.  Westerners, Asians, everyone.  What has caused such a sudden increase in popularity?  Was Wat Traimit the subject of a feature in a popular travel magazine or travel show?  Was it perhaps featured on CrapAdvisor?  The other interesting thing about this particular temple is the signs in Vietnamese.  Why is that?  Wat Traimit is a temple of mystery!

If you find yourself in a spot of bother and need the help of a lawyer, I strongly suggest you seek a recommendation from someone you know and trust, or perhaps seek advice about local lawyers from your embassy.  I've heard three stories in the past month from foreigners I know personally who have retained a lawyer who it would appear has strung them along for longer than would seem necessary, presumably so they can continue to bill them (and often at extraordinarily high rates).  In one case, a Westerner seeking to divorce his Thai wife received a bill for 600,000 baht before they had even filed!

The offer of a free ad to small Thai businesses mentioned in last week's column remains.  I thought I'd be inundated with requests or referrals but not one came in.  Not one.



Quote of the week comes from Dave The Rave, "Short and thick does the trick."

Reader's story of the week comes from Just James, "Vignettes from Bangkok Volume 1".

The New York Times looks at how the Thai government has targeted gay and lesbian travellers.

The number of visitors to Thailand from Siberia is increasing markedly.

It looks like the fun ride will soon be over for the one some have termed the world's richest monk.

From Reuters, rising household debt is being attributed as one reason for the Thai economy's growth slowing.

A brilliant Thai TV bra commercial is highlighted in an English newspaper.

It has been reported that Aussies and other foreigners are becoming a drain on Phuket's hospitals.

CNN Travel looks at the growth of the coffee culture in Bangkok.

The Economist magazine looked this week at what it's calling Thailand's rice mountain.


Captain Hornbag


Ask Sunbelt Asia 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
Is it legal for a motorcycle dealership to knowingly turn back the kilometres on a motorbike to resell it?  I ask this because I recently traded in my older bike for one with fewer kilometres.  The next day I brought it back as there was an engine problem.  When I brought it back I saw my old bike which when I traded in had 48,000 km but now had 18,000 km.  Right away I knew my "new bike" was not correct in the mileage too and that was why there were engine problems.  Is this practice actually legal in Thailand?  If not, what can I do?

Sunbelt Legal Advisers responds:  It could be considered fraud by the police but you would need solid evidence that the mileage on the odometer had been changed.  Additionally, you would need to prove that you had suffered loss or damage from purchasing the bike.

An example would be that if a person had bought a second-hand car from a second-hand car dealer and saw that it had only been driven for 100,000 km.  The buyer could check with the original dealer for service records which would show that the car had been driven for 200,00 km.  The buyer would then gather all the records from the car dealer that it had over 200,000 km on the odometer and file for fraud with the police.

Once a police report has been filed, the second-hand car dealer would be notified of the charges and given the opportunity to offer some sort of compensation such as a refund of the difference of the selling price between a car with 100,000km on the odometer and one with 200,000 km on the odometer.  If the offer is acceptable to the buyer then the agreed monies would have to be paid in the presence of the police officer.

Sunbelt Asia has experienced staff who can assist you through the entire criminal charge process, including obtaining the appropriate evidence and representing you both with the police and the courts.





Millenium Tower Bangkok


The recent column opener about my experiences with Thai real estate agents generated much feedback.  Here's an update.  I thought I'd found a place but it fell through at the last minute so I'm looking again.  It's not actually a big deal as there's no urgency.  One agent who I'd sent my list of requirements to sent me details and photos of a property she thought I'd like.  It was a 36-square metre studio in Sukhumvit soi 14 for 26,500 baht a month with no car park.  I'd told her I was looking at east of Asoke, 50 square metres up, 25,000 baht a month maximum and a car park required.  I think these agents are getting worse!



Your Bangkok commentator,

Stick


Firehouse

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