Postcard from Prague
While you enjoy the NZ Winter, I just returned from the Land Of Sharks. Although it was great, Thailand is really a holiday place for the single male. I did have my Thai wife with me the whole time so I really could not check out the local talent in detail.
These are my general comments and thoughts. My last visit to Thailand was about 8 years ago. I was surprised how clean Bangkok is now. Not only the main drag, but also the sois. The big drawback is that there seems to me more and more Thais and more and more cars. Taxi drivers told me quite openly that the traffic is really unbearable, even for them! Unruly bike drivers happily riding on the walkways are a real pain in the ass and extremely dangerous, of course. I was shocked how packed skytrain is these days <It became a pet hate of mine and I sought to avoid it – Stick> and I was thinking about a possible terrorist attack on Bangkok. There would be devastating effect I thought. Unfortunately, I was right a few days later. We passed the Erawan Shrine about 2 weeks before the attack. Bangkok is an ideal place for terrorists. It is impossible to control the masses of people. And the authorities are pretty useless. When I left there was no extra security at the airport and if you held a decent country's passport they do not give a hoot and just let you go. This was probably the case of that asshole who planted the bomb, took his wig and glasses off and left in piece. The strange ting is that nobody claimed responsibility for the attack so it is not known what their goal was. And Thai Somchais are not the FBI, I am afraid.
Now for something more impressive. My wife needed to get a new Thai ID card and new passport. I could not miss the opportunity to see how the authorities work. It was quite impressive, I have to admit. The ID card took 45 minutes and Thai Passport about 4 hours (in the massive government complex which is also very impressive and employs real army staff).
I visited also Sin City and I can confirm the trend reported by yourself quite regularly before you left. The visitors are mainly bus loads of Chinese and obviously penniless Indian Kulis. The town also has worn and torn expats (these strange characters I would avoid at any costs) and Arabs.
The classic, stereotypical sex tourists are really quite rare these days. Walking Street was full of Chinese and Indians. Fortunately, there were no Russians (which I hate) because their currency is worthless. Russian whores are well represented and it clearly shows the power of the Russian mafia and corruption because you can spot white women at a great distance and to be honest they really look desperate in Thailand, be it the tourists or Russian hookers. Pattaya would be a sex tourist lollypop and the supply outnumbers demand by far. You find good looking girls even along the Coconuts Strip (although most of the girls look like dogs). There were really some stunning girls in the bars frequented by freelancers but not that many males except a few British expats sipping their beers. For my teenage stepdaughter it was really unbelievable that prostitution is in fact illegal in Thailand. The price of drinks is quite high in Thailand these days and any potential whoremonger gets much better value in Prague. Top quality drafts are available all over for a good price and you get a half litre measure, and the sex industry is pretty accessible and well stocked. On op of that. to get from the UK to Prague by plane costs a song. Good hotels and food are available, together with original Thai massage on every corner + many good Thai restaurants. Germany & Austria are basically walking distance. I think the days of a thriving sex industry in Thailand for foreigners are over as you have predicted for quite some time.
Development is happening all over. We took a trip to Jomtien which is very mainstream with no eminent presence of the sex industry and is being more and more developed with condos and hotels. The beaches are dirty and in Central Pattaya there were heaps of fat rats directly on the beach just steps from Thais and tourists sitting in deck chairs. Numerous sleeping soi dogs all over the place were also not concerned. It's difficult to say if the rats put off mainstream visitors more than whores standing nearby in the afternoon heat.
Decent visitors will surely not venture there. For me the rats were really shocking. And as you know they are really big!
Surprisingly the highlight of my stay were the few days spent in deep Isaan among endless rice paddies. We visited my wife's relatives staying in one of the countless places between Udon Thani and Sakhon Nakhon. By the way, these two cities are also developing fast and I quite liked Sakhon Nakhon. I must say I would not have so many problems to live there. It is an absolutely stress-free life. Because I cannot stand the food Isaan people cook at home I was directed to the house of an elderly lady who was running her own restaurant. I could order for example pat si ew + bowl of rice + chicken soup + water for 40 THB and the portion was really generous. The same was applicable when I ordered other delicious meals. It means I could eat great meals for not even 3 Euros a day! On top of that, in Isaan the heat means you don't need to eat so frequently so I was quite happy to eat twice a day.
You have mentioned the property issue. Some developers try to lobby for condo purchasers to obtain a 20-year visa and are teaming up with Thai Elite Card (advertised in Bangkok Post and offering a 5-year multiply entry visa). According to the article in Pattaya property magazine, there are potential clients willing to buy but who do not have a Thai partner or do not qualify for retirement visa (or deposit the money on some account as the condition of retirement visa, the times are tough these days).
The final word comes from Somchai again. Although my stepdaughter is a Thai citizen, they held her at passport control. Apparently there was no evidence that she had ever entered the Kingdom. I showed them my entry stamp and my wife did the same and Somchai agreed that it is likely that our underage daughter came with us. He called more Somchais. After a while they found out that their scanner did not work properly that day and simply had not registered her in the system and lazy Somchai did not put any stamp in her passport so she officially never entered the Kingdom!
I was really shocked at the large number of fat Thai girls and nasty cellulite which I would see on a daily basis.
As far as the bomb blast goes, our state president made the following comment related to Muslims: I am not saying that all the Muslims are terrorists but all the terrorists are Muslims.
I also share your opinion about the bombers. Muslims are on the winning side and they are running to Europe in huge numbers. It is absolutely out of control and sooner or later there will be violent confrontation. Politicians are hopeless.
I think your two islands are a safe bet and you made the right decision to leave Thailand. I just cannot imagine what would happen if somebody would put a bomb on the skytrain at peak hour.
One thing I also fail to understand is how can Thailand sustain all those luxury shopping complexes like Emporium. I checked the place out and in each shop the number of bored shop assistants outnumbered the number of customers by far. The girls were checking their watch now and then to see when it was time to bugger off.