To Come, Or Not To Come?
It's one of life's big questions – to come or not to come? Come and you might experience great pleasure. Don't come and you miss out on some fun. The price of coming , or not coming, can be high and if you don't come, you might regret what might have been. So should you come to Bangkok at this time?
Bangkok was once known as the Venice of the East, a romantic title the city is desperately trying to avoid reclaiming. As the flood waters that have enveloped the lower north and central plains make their way south to their final destination, the Gulf of Thailand, Bangkok is in their path. Everything is being done to protect the parts of the city yet to be hit – downtown, the main commercial district and the parts of the city of most interest to tourists.
Many districts have been inundated by flood waters and some parts of the city remain under a metre or more of water. Residents of many districts have been ordered to evacuate. Billions of baht of property, businesses and people's livelihoods have been damaged or destroyed. Giant industrial parks full of manufacturing facilities still lie under water forcing them to shut down and hundreds of thousands – maybe even millions – are out of work as the flooding has a massive impact on the country.
The mainstream press has been all over the story for months, from a humanitarian point of view as well as looking at the economic damage and analysing the government's performance dealing with it. Now with the tourist high season almost here, the
question on many people's minds is whether they should visit Bangkok or put off their plans. I'll try and provide some info to help you make that decision.
Where exactly is the flooding?
In Bangkok the flooding is in parts of the north, west and east of the city. Downtown has NOT been hit by floodwaters, meaning the likes of Sukhumvit Road, Siam Square and Silom Road are, at the time of publishing this column, dry.
Can I get from the airport to downtown Bangkok?
Suwannaphum Airport is operating as normal and there is no problem getting from the airport to downtown Bangkok. You can take a taxi, bus, or elevated train as per usual.
Bangkok's second (or "old") airport, Don Meuang, sits in the north of the city. It is flooded and has been closed for a couple of weeks. That airport only served a small number of domestic flights which I believe are now operating out of Suwannaphum Airport. Images of a flooded airport in Bangkok that were shown around the world were of Don Meuang Airport and NOT Suwannaphum.
Many Bangkok residents have fled the city and traffic volume is much lighter than usual so if you travel by taxi the journey into town should be quick.
What's it like in Bangkok on the ground right now?
It's a worry from the moment you leave the airport with thousands of cars parked on the hard shoulder of elevated roads and the expressway in to town. The authorities have overlooked Bangkokians parking their cars on elevated roads as owners seek to keep them above the flooding and away from water damage. It hits you right away that things aren't quite normal.
Downtown, many businesses from banks to shops to bars to restaurants have erected barriers of some description to protect their premises should the flood waters arrive. They range from makeshift barriers as simple as a sheet of plastic taped from one side of a store to the other, to sturdy-looking, professionally installed reinforcement strong enough to keep a tsunami at bay. In the downtown area, perhaps only 5 – 10% of businesses have some sort of protection although I wouldn't read too much in to that.
The streets are quieter than usual and fewer people are around, both Thais and foreigners. Many street vendors aren't operating which makes walking along the pavement less of a chore, particularly on the busy part of Sukhumvit, from Nana to Asoke.
Traffic is much lighter than usual, even at peak times. There aren't more taxis on the roads but with fewer cars it seems like almost every other vehicle is a cab. Getting a taxi has never been so easy.
Is clean, inexpensive, drinking water readily available?
Convenience stores sold out of water weeks ago and stocks haven't been replenished – at least at the convenience stores I have visited. Some supermarkets have water in stock with limits to how much a customer can purchase. Dave The Rave mentioned to me that on Friday night he went to Foodland on Sukhumvit Soi 16 and the shelves were fully stocked with drinking water. There were various brands available, ranging from the cheapest local brands to imported brands like Evian and Volvic.
Pick up trucks park up all over town with drinking water sold from the back, typically in 12-packs. The prices are often just a baht or two more per bottle than you would expect to pay.
The mainstream media had led us to believe that the sight of a bottle of water in Bangkok would be similar to spotting a Benjamin Franklin on the ground; there would be a mad scrum trying to get your hands on it! That's not the case at all. Drinking water is available!
There has been a severe deterioration in the quality of tap water. I don't know anyone who drinks tap water in Bangkok but most use it to brush their teeth or for cooking. The water is now so bad – it looks ok, smells a bit off but tastes awful. I wouldn't use it for anything other than showering or washing your hands. Apparently it's not harmful to your health – so we are told – but I'm not willing to test that.
Is there a shortage of food?
It was reported that non-perishable items such as packet noodles and canned food had sold out citywide. That may have been true, but right now both convenience stores and supermarkets in downtown Bangkok have these products in stock. I could not find any gaps on the shelves for the likes of canned tuna, baked beans or muesli bars although that is not to say that some stores have sold out of some products.
There is no shortage of fruit or vegetables and the fruits I typically buy – apples, bananas, kiwifruit, pineapple and watermelon are available in abundance at the same prices I have always paid.
Fresh markets have most products available be it fruit, vegetables or meat and some vendors also have piles of bottled water. If you cannot find what you're looking for in the likes of Tesco or Big C, try the local market.
Some shops and restaurants are out of certain products which seems to be a supply chain issue rather than an actual shortage of the product. You might go to Swenson's, for example, order a banana split and be told that they are out of bananas, yet right outside is a street vendor with hundreds of bananas for sale!
It's the same at 7 Eleven which may not have bottled water on the shelves while a pick up truck parked in an adjacent soi has thousands of bottles for sale.
Thais are entrepreneurial by nature and if there is demand for a product they will attempt to satisfy that demand.
Are rooms available in Bangkok hotels?
Many Thais whose home has been hit by flood waters fled to Sukhumvit in search of inexpensive digs. It was reported that rooms were hard to come by, and this may be true at the bottom end of the market i.e. apartment buildings with rooms at less than 5,000 baht per month.
Many visitors have cancelled or postponed their trip and hotels have been hit by cancellations. Occupancy rates are lower than the rainy season. I imagine you could walk into just about any hotel in the city and get a room. There is absolutely no problem finding a place to stay.
Can I get from the airport to Pattaya?
There is absolutely no problem getting from the airport to Pattaya.
How are Hua Hin and Pattaya at the moment?
Many Bangkokians fled Bangkok in fear that the entire city would go under water and Pattaya and Hua Hin were the two most popular destinations.
A week ago Pattaya was said to be overrun with Bangkok refugees. Reports on just how busy Pattaya currently is vary with some saying it is heaving and others saying it's not as busy as it was a week ago. Hotels have rooms available in all price ranges in Pattaya.
Hua Hin is said to be busy with Bangkokians but again, I have heard it is not quite as busy as it was.
How has the bar industry been affected?
Business has taken a hammering in the naughty bars and the number of customers is way down and the number of girls is also noticeably down. Bar owners and managers' spirits are down too!
British pubs and other venues popular with expats seem to be doing ok. Some venues report business is down but the venues I visited this week – The Londoner, Clubhouse and Black Swan all seemed to be doing a decent trade.
Will Sukhumvit remain dry?
No-one knows what will happen next. I am hopeful, rather than confident, that downtown will remain dry.
There are conflicting reports in the media and from so-called experts about whether downtown will be hit although with the passing of each day it seems less likely Sukhumvit will see water. I think it is fair to say that there is a feeling of optimism that downtown might be spared.
I have spoken with those who profess to be experts on water management and all things Bangkok who claim there is no chance that Sukhumvit will flood, just as I have spoken with others who feel they are similarly qualified to comment who believe Sukhumvit will be under water for a month. No-one knows!
Personally, I know nothing about water management. What I will say is that the flood waters are moving so incredibly slowly that even if downtown is hit, I imagine there would be at least a day or two's notice so those who wish to leave would be able to do so without too much fuss.
What are your major concerns?
If the downtown area is hit, how bad will it be? Will the water be deep or just a few centimeters? How long will flooding last? There are so many complexities that these are questions that not even the experts can answer. No-one knows!
If Sukhumvit is hit, there are many foreigners who will be vulnerable. Bangkok's expat populace is not quite God's waiting room as parts of Pattaya are, but there are still plenty of oldies who might struggle to get out. That's a concern.
The spread of disease is a serious concern. Most mentioned is leptospirosis, a bacterial infection spread in water contaminated with animal feces and urine. It's treatable with antibiotics – but it can be fatal!
News reports and announcements from the authorities are often contradictory and confusing. Claims have been made that are soon shown to be plain wrong. Those following the crisis closely have learned to trust what they see with their own eyes, or reports backed up with photographic evidence. Finding trusted sources that aren't sensationalising events has proven difficult.
How long will the effects of the flooding last?
The effects of the floods are going to be felt for quite some time. While the authorities have made bold claims about how normalcy will soon return, there will have to be a massive clean up effort. It is going to take some companies a very long time to get back to where they were at. Many may be out of work, homes have been damaged and may be uninhabitable and the effects will not just be felt locally, but globally as various products may become scarce or remain unavailable for some time.
My feeling is that it will be a couple of weeks at least before we have more clarity. Hopefully by then, at least as far as downtown Bangkok is concerned, we should be able to say that the danger has passed.
Bangkok is at its best at this time of year. From now until mid to late February, the sky is blue, the temperature is pleasant and with the holiday season not far away people are in positive spirits. Here's hoping the flood waters are expelled out to sea quickly and the big clean up gets underway so we can all get on with enjoying life.
* Tune in to my daily Sukhumvit-centric page with Bangkok flood updates.
*When* was this photo taken?
Last week's photo of Soi Pattayaland 2 was taken in 2004. So when was this photo of the Patumwan intersection, beside MBK shopping centre taken?! All you have to do is tell me the year the photo was taken. The first person to email me with the correct year wins a 500 baht credit at Oh My Cod, the fish and chips restaurant. The second person 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.
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. 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.
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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 – Living your life your way.
So you've reached the inevitable conclusion that life in Thailand is better than slaving away to someone's big friggin plan in the western world? I ground my nose off for a couple of decades on that scam – have to buy the house ASAP to get on the ladder, have to have the new car, have to put in the unpaid overtime to get promotion, have to get up in the dark, go to work and come home in the dark and don't ask why, just do it! Reverse culture shock would be a painful thing. Some big friggin plans I've indirectly or directly been forced into working for are bosses' ambitions, company sale targets, government policies, European integration bullshit. Behind all of these are some overpaid tossers making big friggin plans for everybody. Now the only big friggin plan is my own, and that is not much of a plan really. Just get through each day and enjoy it!
Thailand for partying, Farangland for marriage.
If you must go out of your own country to look for a life partner, then tell yourself that there is something wrong with you and not the women of your country. You must reside in Thailand if you want to have a lasting relationship with a Thai woman. Thailand is a great place to party and single guys are happiest in Thailand. I usually go to Spasso whenever I'm in Bangkok and there are so many beautiful women there. How could you just settle for just one for the rest of your life? Enjoy what Thailand has to offer and go home. If you want to be married, find a woman in your own country!
Be a man, not a mouse.
I am by no means an expert, but I learned a very good lesson from an early relationship in Thailand. I was what you would call a nice guy, in the sense that I was a bit of a sucker and willing to bend over backwards to keep my girlfriend happy. I was always willing to spend both time and money, resulting in me having an empty bank account at the end of the month and not having any close friends left. After about 8 months I finally began to realise that things needed to change. Slowly I began to request more time with my friends and began to refuse to take her out to really expensive places when it was beyond what I could reasonably afford. And it was just after this that the shit really hit the fan. If I was out with friends it was always a problem. We'd get in big arguments over money, she'd break up with me when she didn't get her way (on many occasions), and the relationship began to deteriorate until its horrible end a few months later when I ended up with a black eye. I'm actually glad I went through it as I feel it taught me a valuable lesson. I'm not saying it relates to all women, but it does to many. I still try to be a nice guy, but I am a MAN about it. It means if I want to take a woman somewhere nice (not on the first few dates anymore) it is my choice and on my terms – not when she asks. The same goes for any gifts. Expensive nights out and gifts are a rarity I might add. I have a guy's night out once in a while and she's not allowed to come or bother me with pointless phone calls. If she works and makes a decent wage, after a while of dating I expect her to chip in once in awhile. I don't beg and I make sure I'm in charge of the relationship. I don't put up with any BS. I have to say I have had much better experiences with women this way. It weeds out the bad ones really quickly and just leaves me to sort it out with the ones who are actually relationship material. It is these women that seem more willing to put in effort to keep me happy. I've had many good experiences with women since then who often want to pay or at least chip in for things, tell me to save my money, keep me well fed, clean my place, bring me gifts etc. I believe the only way to have an upper hand, or at least be equal to a great beautiful woman is to act like you don't really need her, make her beg for you and not the other way around. This doesn't mean being an asshole, it just means being in control. If she isn't willing to accept this then she is probably not the woman you want to be in a relationship with.
The algorithm mix up.
I think the girls want a real relationship. The problem is that when the farang turns up, it sets off a different algorithm in their heads. In the normal mating ritual, if a girl isn't interested, she'll avoid you from the beginning, not wait until plane tickets, land, and buffaloes have been purchased. I think they switch from the love / babies algorithm to the rich farang algorithm, due simply to all the built-in assumptions we have tacked on us from the moment we land. I think this is THE reason why you should never try to go from bar-girl-friend to girl-girl-friend. The money was the motivational factor, so it messes everything up. The girls call people "too serious" in a disparaging way, I think for a reason. Can't be too serious in the mating game. I'd be seeing a girl a long time before visiting the family, or buying her a motorcycle or new buffalo. Don't get me wrong, I love the girls. The problem is that many guys who go to Thailand looking for love are damaged.
Marketing and product positioning.
In Baccarra bar the service girls are now sporting T-shirts that include advertising for San Miguel Light. It's one thing for a brewery to make good coin selling beer to gogo bars, but it's another thing entirely for a company to be actively using a gogo bar to promote its product. For the staff uniforms to be carrying that advertising, the bar must be receiving money from San Miguel Beer Thailand Ltd. In these days, when there's so much consciousness of brand image, is it wise for a company to be actively putting money into a bar which is essentially a source of prostitution? Or has the gogo bar 'industry' become so vanilla, so far removed from its seedy origins, that it's now an acceptable outlet for brand marketing?
This week on a whim I checked out an online travel agency for tickets to Bangkok. I chose the optimal dates for me to go, in February which is the worst time of year at home due to the weather, and one of the best times to go to Thailand. Last year I paid 13,800 Swedish crowns for a ticket around that time. Now Thai Airways had one available for a mere 7,600. SAS was up at an insane 18,000 for a return ticket on exactly the same dates so it was only the ticket with Thai that was extraordinarily cheap. I looked at it over and over to figure out what was wrong but nothing was. A return ticket with no stopovers on my preferred dates and cheaper than any ticket I have found before – and I've been going every year since 2002. Only in the summer of 07 did I pay anything similar (7,900) but that was in September, not February. Needless to say I whipped out my credit card and bought the ticket then and there. I wonder why it was so cheap. Could it be that the floods have reduced bookings? Surely people must know that the water will have receded long ago once we hit February? Well, I count myself lucky at least. I saved a good deal of money that I can now use in Thailand instead.
Bangkok's bar industry takings fell of the cliff this week as punters stayed away from Bangkok en masse. Business plummeted and anyone visiting a Bangkok bar area for the first time could see it was quiet. There were few punters out and about, and even fewer inside the bars. Even the most popular bars where you might struggle to find a seat had but a handful of customers at peak time. Baccarra, Tilac, Rainbow 4, it doesn't matter where – everywhere was quiet! Visitors have cancelled or postponed their holiday to Bangkok and many residents have taken off out of town for a while.
And to make matters worse, the threats of beer shortages due to breweries being forced to close some factories are becoming a reality. Many venues are getting low on certain types of beer. In Tilac in Soi Cowboy for example, they ran out of draft Heineken this week and a number of bars are all out of Singha – no great loss. This is not just a naughty bar thing and many convenience stores and supermarkets don't have any beer on the shelves, although if you are determined and hunt around you will find some in the likes of the little ma and pa corner stores. With that said, I am always a little suspicious how long product sits around there.
Many girls have gone back to their home provinces so the number of girls in the bars is way down. This has become a real problem for the management of some gogo bars where girls are required to dance. Fewer girls means fewer dance shifts meaning more time dancing on stage for each girl. That's less time to try and find a customer and more "work". Some bars which usually have only 3 or 4 dance shifts may be down to 2, meaning girls who are not barfined spend half their time up on stage. It is has got so bad that some girls are not going into work because they aren't used to dancing for so long!
Bad news in Bangkok is good news for Pattaya which has benefited from Bangkok's frustrations. Pattaya is at its best at this time of year when the rainy season has finished and along with the departure of the rains the heat is less oppressive. There has been a movement of girls from Bangkok to Pattaya, following the crowds as the girls are keen to make money. Hunt around and you should find a few former Bangkok girls now dancing in Pattaya.
I have always fancied a drive in a Ferrari. I've been a fan of that marque but have never had the money to fulfill that dream. Perhaps now I do, figuratively at least. With a number of Bangkok girls making their way down to Pattaya, even a couple of Dave's angels from the 'witch are plying their trade in Jomtien. Bangkok has the highest prices and Jomtien is at the low end of the scale…so now, figuratively at least, one can take a Ferrari for a spin at the cost of a Toyota!
Dave The Rave celebrated his 5th anniversary of being a webmaster this week. Congratulations Dave and may the next 5 years be as much fun as the last!
This is the time of year when beer gardens typically start sprouting up all over the city. Unfortunately the flooding means that we may not see any this year.
Still in Pattaya, Pratumnak Hill seems to be a thriving area for gentleman's clubs. Originally it was just Kinarree between soi 4 and 5, but now there is Exotica on Pratumnak by soi 5, The Lounge on Pratumnak between soi 3 and 4, The Times in Cosy Beach and the Sapphire on Soi 4 near the Asia Hotel is due to open. All within a distance of about 400 or so metres.
There were more shenanigans at an Arab bar last week where a good mate was presented with a bill for 1,000 baht in Rio, having consumed just three drinks. An old Asia hand, he offered the mamasan 200 baht to which the cheeky cow responded by that he was trying to rip her off. Well, isn't that what you're trying to do to me, he said straight back to her! He offered her 300 baht for the 3 drinks, handed the case over to her and then shuffled out to find a better bar to enjoy, AfterSchool I believe where he was molested right in the bar by young lasses who weren't concerned about his dignity and taking him into the bar corner.
Loso, the popular Thai entertainer, will perform at Climax which can be found in the basement of the Ambassador Hotel, on Sukhumvit soi 11, at 8 PM this coming Friday, 18th November. The entry price, which I believe is 500 baht, gets you one free drink.
All of the expressways in Bangkok and the toll roads connecting Bangkok with Chonburi province (i.e. the road to Pattaya) are free at the moment, but every many and his dog is using them and what is usually a quick journey has become much slower as every Somchai is using the expressways.
Bangkok's best Mexican outlet, Sunrise Tacos, is opening a new outlet in Jomtien in the Jomtien Complex, just before the branch of Shenanigans at Jomtien. It should be open fairly soon – maybe within a month and building is fairly close to completion.
I heard something this week from the representative of a Western embassy which I shall not mention. He was telling me how people going to their embassy often have totally unrealistic expectations of what assistance can be provided to them. Nothing new in that. What I did find interesting concerns those with dual citizenship and who legitimately carry two passports. For example, someone might be born in Australia, but a parent was born in England so they are entitled to an English passport. They may travel with both passports, which is quite legal, and choose to use one passport over the other when entering a particular country as it may give greater rights. In the situation mentioned for example, it would be better to use an Australian passport to enter New Zealand as it gets the passport holder into the country through the fast lane and allows the passport holder to stay as long as they wish and work without the need for a work permit – which you could not do had you entered on a British passport. Anyway, where things become interesting is if one should find themselves in difficulty in a foreign country. If the person in the example given entered a country on the Australian passport, had problems in that country and sought the assistance from the British embassy, they might in fact be declined assistance by that embassy and referred to the Aussie embassy as that is the passport on which they had entered that country! Notwithstanding that they are a citizen of that country, the embassy might refer to them the embassy of the country of the passport on which they entered. Worth keeping in mind if you have dual citizenship, especially as here in Bangkok not all embassies are created equal!
It's fascinating to follow a girl when she enters the bar industry, not that that is an easy task the way the girls bounce around from bar to bar, and in and out of the industry. A couple of years ago I wrote of a lady in Secrets who I found alluring, and who I felt was different. A diamond in the rough, I had forgotten about her until she popped up in Bangkok in the flashest bar in soi 22. It seems she went from Secrets to Papagayo, to Bangkok where she spent a couple of years in soi 33 to where she is now. She had much going for her, but like many has found that once she's in the industry it seems it's very difficult to get out.
A Brit was told by Thai Airways that one of their two daily flights from London to Bangkok was cancelled because the crew were unable to get to the airport in Bangkok because of the flooding. Surely Thai, like most major airlines, has staff on standby upon whom they can call for contingencies such as this? Is it that there simply weren't enough passengers for two flights and an excuse was made to save face? Unwittingly they have perpetuated the idea that the flood situation is so bad that people can't get to the airport!
A reminder for those with travel insurance. Insurance policies typically have all sorts of exclusion clauses which limit the insurer's liability in certain situations. Some policies have an exclusion clause if you visit a country for which there is a government advisory against travel to that country or certain regions of the country – as there is for parts of Thailand from many governments at the moment. It might be worthwhile checking whether your policy is valid.
The days of slow internet connections in Thailand are a thing of the past. They might not be as fast as in the West or the more developed parts of Asia like South Korea, but speeds should be adequate for most people's needs. If you are a visitor to Thailand and require internet access 24/7, there are a number of options. You could use the many free wi-fi connections around about, or perhaps more convenient, you could get a local SIM card and use a 3G connection with your mobile phone tethered to your laptop. I note local mobile phone company DTAC has a number of plans useful for short-term visitors, the pick of which is probably the unlimited 3G internet access for a week for just 299 baht. Prices and more details can be found here.
An amusing banner on the River City ferry says, "River City Normally Open". That can't be the intended meaning and once again something was lost in translation. After the debacle with the "Life Fire Zone" signs at Rachaprasong last year, maybe the same translator is responsible for both.
Town Lodge, the affordable Swiss-managed hotel on Sukhumvit soi 18 is running a promotion with 20% off room rates from Sunday through to Wednesday nights.
I love the image file on the front page of Bangkok Counseling's Pattaya page – so appropriate! I mention Bangkok Counseling here from time to time as the services offered could be of benefit to some readers. It should be noted that Bangkok Counselling is NOT an advertiser.
Are you looking for a job in Thailand? Jobrapido-th.com enables jobseekers to find positions posted on all of the Thai job sites in one single search. Well, that's the company spiel. I'll leave it up to those of you looking for work to test it out and take more than the fleeting glance I did.
Quote of the week comes from a Thai friend, "Besides corrupted politics and some silly people, Thailand is a good place to live."
Reader's story of the week comes from Thai Lover, "Are we Stickman Readers a sub culture of low lifes?"
From Melbourne's Age newspaper, the flooding is keeping tourists away from Bangkok.
There are reports of a potentially serious high season buster, a beer shortage in Bangkok!
From CNNGo, thousands refuse to flee Bangkok's floods.
For foodies, Chequebin.com has reviews of many restaurants in Bangkok (as well as Tokyo).
CNN looks at whether the heart of Bangkok will remain dry.
From Bloomberg, rats feeding on rubbish could bring disease to Bangkok.
From CNNGo, Bangkok residents talk about what it is like to live in a flooded city.
The Denver Post published 42 aerials shots of the flooding in Bangkok.
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: A friend and his Thai wife will open a new bar in a popular tourist spot in Thailand soon and they have invited me to invest. They say it is more tax effective
and hassle free if the business is opened and the lease and key money is in the Thai wife's name. They have an established and very prosperous bar that they have owned for 5 years which they will keep and run aside from this bar. Is there
any binding contract that could be written to preserve my investment although I am not named on the lease or have a limited company or partnership arrangement? I am confident that the business will be as successful as their current one and the
business model is sound but the preservation of my capital is my only concern.
Sunbelt Legal responds: Investing in a business in this manner is extremely risky. Your best bet is to open a limited company with you as a shareholder. An alternative would be to loan the business money with a set contract and some irremovable asset as collateral, such as a condo, but then the only return on your investment would be the interest payments owed on the loan. A loan with assets of the company as collateral would be risky as if the company were to go bankrupt then you would get perhaps 30% back. There is no real way to be "tax effective" except to cheat the Thai government out of the taxes owed, perhaps not the best route to take with new business partners in which nothing is set down in a legal manner that offers you protection.
Question 2: I am interested in making a photo book using an on-line service like Lulu. Many of my friends have told me how nice my pictures are and the thought has occurred to me to publish a hard-bound book and maybe even sell it. The pictures are from Thailand and Laos. Do I risk being sued for publishing pictures of strangers in public? Nearly all of the subjects had consented to me taking the photos. But I didn't tell them of any intention of using the pictures for monetary gain later on. I'd like to add that none of the photos are related to the nightlife scene and none of the photos show anyone in embarrassing or compromising situations. Would I have needed to make a consent agreement between me (the photographer) and the subject in order to later use the photos to make a picture book?
Sunbelt Legal responds: Stock photo agencies require model releases for any photos with people in them before they will purchase the photos and allow them to be used. Most of these companies aren't willing to take on the potential financial liability if someone should sue. This is something any professional photographer needs to bear in mind when photographing subjects. In general, it is best to get a signed release if the person is the focus of the photo and the photo is being published for commercial purposes. While a model may not sue in Thailand, and may not be aware that their photo is being published in a commercial manner, it is generally agreed that the very minimum in Thailand is to request that you can take their photo and let them know it may be published.
Question 3: I bought an apartment off-plan in Bangkok about three years ago. The project is now completed and I have paid the full balance according to the contract, approximately THB 3.5 million. However, as we now approach ownership transfer, the developer has come back to me and said that after an inspection by the Land Department they have determined that my flat is in fact not the 43.8 m2 specified in the contract, but is actually larger at 47 m2. This measurement was made by the Land Department and included extra space that they say should be included on the title deed. The extra space is a holder for the air-conditioning unit outside as well as the very small balcony. The developer has come back to me and cited the applicable m2 price and asked me to pay in excess of a further 200,000 THB, including transfer costs. I went back to them and said that this was unacceptable as it was not usable area. They said they would consider this and giving me a "special discount" as I had already paid a "significant sum of money" (the total cost to contract is paid). However, as yet I have not heard anything and the transfer of ownership has been delayed. Emails are not being answered – I assume they are waiting on senior management to make a call on this. However, since we have a signed contract and it has been paid in full for the unit, what is my legal recourse here? Can I flatly refuse to pay any further costs as I have paid the contract price? I am slightly worried that the odious Thai business practice is making its way into what has until now been a fully professional transaction on behalf of the developer.
Sunbelt Legal responds: You need to check your contract carefully. The developer may have included a clause in the contract stating that changes to the square metres and total price were allowed or stating the approximate amount of square metres which would leave him open to changes. Otherwise, you may terminate the contract with the developer and demand a full refund since the conditions of the contract were not met.
I find it hard not to admire the resilience of the Thais and the way that no matter what is thrown at the people and at Bangkok, how things continue to function. It seems that every year there is a major problem, threat or crisis in Thailand – and it's usually centred in or around Bangkok. Be it political protests, a coup d'état, airport closure, threat of disease outbreak or whatever, life seems to carry on. With the new year not that far away, I wonder what 2012 has in store for us. Maybe it will be something totally unexpected, like a plague of frogs raining down from the sky! Would that even cause the average Thai to blink? It would probably be seen as an opportunity and a variety of frog dishes would quickly appear on the specials board at restaurants citywide! You have to admire the Thais and the way they get on with things.
Your Bangkok commentator,