Stickman's Weekly Column June 1st, 2003

What If The Guy In The Brown Suit Says “No”?!



For many farangs in Bangkok this time of year can be quite stressful. Just as the kids return to school, so to do the teachers, and in Bangkok alone, there must be a few thousand farang teachers. But just before the new school year starts, many of these farang teachers traipse around the bureaucratic trail, applying for their new work permit and visa.

This week, all of the teachers at the school where I work had to go to get their paperwork updated. As is so often the case, the school cocked it up and we were forced, individually, to rush around the city on the last day of the month, the day when most of the nation got paid, fighting for a taxi and battling traffic, all to get out work permits and visas updated. As is Thai style, our school had left it to the last possible day. While it is not difficult to get it all done assuming your school has provided you with the right documentation, you speak Thai and you have been through the system before, for some teachers it turned out to be a nightmare. One teacher was held at Immigration for three hours and interrogated. Some teachers were couldn't get around the circuit in time and their work permits expired. One teacher had somehow got the wrong visa and will be forced to leave the country.

It doesn’t matter how many times one has done it before, we all agree that we get a trifle nervous at this time of year. What if there is a problem? What if your work permit application is declined? What options are available to you? Are you suddenly little more than a tourist with an apartment full of goods? Do you have to leave within seven days? Is there a way around it? Actually, things are not quite as bleak as you may think.

So, if one's work permit application is for some strange reason turned down (or one doesn't have a work permit), what options exist? Is it still possible to stay on in Thailand or are you stuffed?

There are actually a host of options available to people who wish to extend their stay indefinitely in the Kingdom, though all have certain negative consequences, to one degree or another.

One can marry a Thai national and so long as you have 200,000 baht or more in a Thai bank account and a letter from the bank to prove it, the kind folks at the Immigration department will issue you with a one year visa. Note, you cannot legally work on this visa and for that, you would technically need a work permit, but it will allow you to stay on in country year after year after year with the visa getting updated annually. If you are married already, then this is a piece of piss, but if you get married to stay on in Thailand, then there may be all sorts of potential pitfalls.

The next possibility is to set up a company here yourself, and get a work permit and the one year visa that way. Several companies and law firms offer this service and what they are doing is, as far as I believe, TOTALLY LEGAL. A company is set up and once it is set up, you can get a work permit through it. Total cost with all of the legal fees can run up to 100,000 baht. Remember, it is legal! However, once you have the company and the work permit, the work permit only allows you to do work for that company. Once the company is set up, the work permit will cost you 3,000 baht each year. Some of the firms who offer this service advise that you have to show monthly accounts and prove that the business is operating, and then pay tax on whatever profit you purport the company is asking. This means that in addition to the initial 100k or so hit, there ear other ongoing costs.

If you are over 50 and have 800,000 baht or more in a Thai bank account and a letter from the bank to prove it, then you automatically qualify for a retirement visa. A very, very easy option this one, and one that I bet more and more people will start to utilise. The Thai government has started in the past that they would like to encourage more foreigners to retire here – and this is exactly the way to go about it. As far as I can see, there are no drawbacks whatsoever.

What so many farangs do is to go to one of the "visa services" and get a one year visa through them. Such firms can be found advertising regularly in the Bangkok Post, amongst other places. These are generally legal visas obtained illegally – if that makes any sense at all. Many people using these services have done so for years have without a problem but I for one would be nervous about them. If something does go wrong, you could well be thrown out of the country and told that you are not welcome again. It is after all a form of visa fraud. I'm sure if this happened in the Western world, one would be deported instantly and probably not welcome again. Still, many people swear by this method.

It is nice to know that you are not dependent on an employer to get yourself a one year visa. If you want to stay in Thailand long term, you can, and these are just a few of the options available to you.

Where is this pic?

Last week's pic

It was the intersection at
the Expressway on Ploenchit.

This week's pic


Last week's pic was more difficult than I thought it'd be. It was the intersection on Ploenchit Road, just nearby Sukumvit sois 1 and 2, near the expressway. There are two prizes offered for the where is this pic prize each week. The first Bangkok based person to answer the pic correctly wins a 500 baht credit to use at the Classics Movie Lounge. The second person to get it right wins a tube of MyCreme, the cream that will send your teeruk to heaven! I'm sorry that for now, prizes are only available to guys who are Bangkok based. However, for guys outside the Big Mango, still do feel free to email me your guess.

FROM STICKMAN'S BAG OF EMAIL :
(and therefore I do not necessarily agree with nor endorse what is said)

It's not always water that boils at boiling point.
I think they have some really fucked up ideas about etiquette period. At first they seem like the most polite people on earth with all their waiing, kop koon khrapping and softly spoken schmoozing. Then after a while a farang begins to realize this is all just for show. They are constantly encroaching on other people's space and rights. I mean how considerate is it when they blast their stereos, race around on unmuffled motorbikes, burn their garbage (including plastic and God knows what else) and elbow right in front of you as you patiently stand in a queue? And anytime I'm about to say something, my Thai girlfriends tell me not to. They say it wouldn't be "kreng jai to" complain! Who's not being kreng jai, I ask? You could say it's nice how tolerant and non confrontational Thais are. That would be putting it one way. Another way to see it is that the are too damned cowardly to speak up when someone is trampling all over their rights and that they will just go on stomaching the abuse until they reach the boiling point. That's when things can turn really ugly. That's when the bullets fly. That's when the decomposed, bloated corpses are found floating in canals.
Determining the price of Guinness.
I think there are two factors in determining the price of Guinness abroad. Firstly, it is expensive to transport. It is not like, for example, Carlsberg or Heineken, who have brewing facilities all around the world. Guinness (outside Ireland) will always be a minority sport. The second factor seems to be the franchising of Irish theme pubs throughout the globe. In recent years these franchises have tended to market their product to the trendy, yuppie set of whatever city they are in and charge prices accordingly. Needless to say, this is the complete opposite of what drinking in an Irish pub should be. Personally, I now avoid these places like the plague. I mean, what the hell do I want to be reminded of dirty, rain sodden Ireland for while I am in the exotic Orient? Or run the risk of bumping into some other Irish person who will bore the pants off you about the old sod? No thanks. Give me a plate of Som Tam Poo with sticky rice washed down with a Singha from a street vendor any day of the week.
Yet another reason to avoid Korea.
Believe me, Guinness can be pretty damn expensive here in Korea as well. In fact, many places offer it in smaller 300 cc glasses because a proper pint would break the bank. At one hotel bar that I know a full pint of Guinness Draft would be (including VAT and service charge) about fourteen thousand Korean won (KRW 14,000). That's more than US$11.00 or more than 400 Baht. Worse than some bars in Japan even.
The issue of class.
I think the issue of social class is an often overlooked factor when reviewing Thai-farang
relationships, particularly where girls from rural areas are concerned. It is no coincidence that so many poor girls from Isaan find employment in areas frequented by foreigners, particularly the prettier and more confident ones who know they have a good shot at finding a foreign husband, and who know equally well that they have no chance of finding a rich Thai man because of their humble background. Also, if you go to the Tawan Dang Beer Hall or similar places frequented by rich Thais – predominantly businessmen, politicians, high-ranking military and police officials, TV personalities and gangsters – you will notice that the girls in their company are the fairer-skinned type found only in Bangkok or Chiang Mai. Isaan girls get a double whammy dose of discrimination because of their dark skin, a sure sign they are from the country. And I thought the class
system in Britain was bad!
Anyone sent DHL from Sydney to Bangkok?
I was just in Thailand last week in May (I try to visit 3 times a year), and went to Nana disco where I quickly spotted (actually she spotted me) a lovely 23 year old. She came over, we danced and quickly left for her apartment, where we did not sleep until after four hours of continuous exercise. After we woke the next afternoon an express package came to her from Australia – her immigration papers sent by her boyfriend in Australia. The poor bastard is slaving away and here she was fucking my brains out – she even took a call from him while in action and while his picture was atop the fridge looking down on the bed. I asked her if she loved him and she could not answer. Well, I counselled her a bit on the documents, gave her good advice on saving her money if she went to Australia, in case the relationship did not last. But what advice can I give the unlucky bastard in Sidney?
A rumour heard recently suggests that Thailand got too hot for the boiler room operations and those dirty scammers are now operating out of Laos, but they come down in groups every month or so to party it up in Bangkok, and blow some of their illicit earnings.

There is an excellent promotion at The Londoner on the corner of Sukumvit Road and Suk soi 33. Spend 1,000 baht and you get a voucher for 50% off food on a Monday or Tuesday night. The voucher can be used for a group of up to 10 people and if you get there early and combine it with their two for one special on drinks before 7:00 PM, you can get a great meal and a few reasonably priced drinks too. The Western food at The Londoner is excellent pub style grub.

The barfines at Hollywood Strip for waitresses and receptionists have been 600 baht for some time. With management paying huge salaries for attractive girls, they have just made all the barfines the same price so it is now 600 baht for ALL girls.

Big John's Australian meat pies are now available at The Winking Frog on Sukhumvit Soi 7.

Hollywood Rock in Nana Plaza, that is the Hollywood on the ground floor between Rainbow 2 and Playskool, will be remodelled starting July 1 and it appears that the current manager Anton has had a reprieve and has found a new home within the plaza, and will move on to another bar then. Ten years in the Plaza and Nana is now home for Anton – no way does he wanna leave!

Boss Hogg advises that contrary to what I reported in last week's column, he has no partners in Temptations. The old manager had a very small percentage (even though he told everyone he had 50-75%) to keep his interest up, but no longer has any interest at all. Temptations has been leased out to Khun Jo who had the former lease on Three Roses and recently managed Red Lips.

Last week Boss Hogg finally received a lease for Vixens and he hopes to have it signed, sealed and delivered within this week. Ahhh, the Boss's hold on Nana is getting tighter!

The new beauty shop being built by Nana's man of the moment, Boss Hogg, is almost finished and his plan is to rent out chairs to individual operators by the month with the idea being that they pay rent and then can keep 100% of whatever they earn. Boss will furnish the premises with linen, air-con and wash stations with hot water. As far as the balcony squatters go, the Boss could care less. Actually, it does raise a very interesting point. Do the bars have the right to collect rent or even allow the operators to use the common walkways? It all adds to the disrepair and lack of cleanliness of the whole plaza.

Phuket isn't just hurting at the moment, it’s in extreme pain. If you haven't caught any of the reports in the media or heard from any friends who live there or who have visited recently, the tourism industry in Phuket has been brought to its knees, presumably by a reluctance to travel due to SARS. Hotels are reporting occupancy rates as low as 10% and Phuket hotels claim to have laid off something like 3,000 staff. Phuket hotels have been raking it in for a long time, and many expats in Thailand believe that hotels in Phuket are horribly overpriced. I will never forget what happened in the high season of 1997 / 98 to the hotel prices in Phuket. To remind you, that is the year when the baht fell to record lows, especially against the $US. It is important to note that while it fell to record lows against the US, it did not fall quite the same amount against other currencies. Hotels started to suddenly price themselves in $US. What was $US 100 remained $US 100, but the real cost, that is the cost in Thai baht, went from 2,500 baht up to well over 5,000 baht! Across the board, hotels hiked their prices like crazy. This meant that hotel prices increased significantly for all but the Americans – yet Americans only make up a relatively small number of the total visitors to Thailand. One hotel in Karon Beach that had been 400 baht the previous high season hiked rates up to 1,500 baht a night! By international standards, the hotel was WAY OVERPRICED! Any, I am starting to ramble. Given the way Phuket hotels screwed foreigners on room rates in the past, I find it hard to feel and sympathy towards them now. Compare with the hotels in Pattaya who, apart from the biggest hotels and chains, kept their rates at pre 1997 levels. And it is not just the hotels in Phuket that are expensive. Phuket songtaew (the pickup trucks that carry you around) rates are more than twice the price of Bangkok taxis! And food at any of the Phuket beaches is seriously expensive. Phuket has been seriously overpriced for a while now and I hope that this SARS business results in some sort of correction. The writing has been on the wall for a while.

And if you have been keeping an eye on the currency rates, you'll notice that the Euro along with the Canadian, Australian and New Zealand dollars have all reached 3 year highs against the bath, meaning that travel to Thailand for people from these countries will be cheaper. The $US has slipped a little lately, though nothing major. Now, is it me being cynical or will some Thai hoteliers (and perhaps others in business in Thailand) try and increase rates, this time citing the increase in value of the Euro? It wouldn't surprise me, it really wouldn't…

To the reader who asked about petrol in Thailand, yes, it has been confirmed by other readers that it is unleaded – I guess that is why the country is so clean with so little pollution.

Firecats in Patpong has changed its name to Wildcats. This bar has been known as a ripoff bar for a while, charging unsuspecting punters 300 baht for their drink. Could the name change have anything to do with their questionable reputation?

And speaking of ripoff bars, Monet are doing their best to confirm the old saying that a leopard never changes its spots. I can confirm that the staff member who has been fiddling the bills there for at least three years, continues to fiddle the bills. Like no other bar that I know of, you absolutely have to check your bill in Monet. Often it seems to be padded by exactly 100 baht.

Wong's Place in that dodgy Soi Ngam Duplee neighbourhood was known as a very friendly, very welcoming place where old music become synonymous with social get togethers. Very much liked by people who went there it looks as though the curtain has fallen on this hole in the wall bar. It had a great atmosphere and huge selection of music videos dating back to the early ‘50s – yes, you read that right, the ‘50s! I passed Wong's earlier this week and am sad to report that a notice posted on the door states that Mr. Wong passed away on May 12.

Regarding the happy hour at Hollywood Strip, Manager Dave The Rave is disappointed that the Cheap Charlie Club are not out in force for the best deal in NANA. It has been slow to start. 60 baht a drink in a gogo bar in NANA PLAZA – you can't better that anywhere.

A reader from Italy has informed me of an incredible promotion currently available in Italy being offered by Thai Airways. Everyday in the most important Italian newspaper (Probably the football newspaper…) there is a complete page with the Thai air promotion. The special promotion is advertised at a price equivalent to just $US 450 for a flight on Thai from Rome to Bangkok return, and then an internal Bangkok – Phuket return flight plus 7 nights in a 4 star hotel, all for $450! I think that Thai airway situation is really bad if last year same time only the flight was around 1100$ and all flights were full. that may explain better the bad situation where tourism to Asia is it cause of Sars and terrorism.

And another even more quite amazing story, this time from a reader in the US. He found an air fare on Cathay Pacific from JFK to BKK for $156 return including taxes! Yeah, it was a mistake but the airline is honouring it. Business is so lousy they must of figured what the hell, the plane is empty anyway. Now, if I could figure out a way to get that fare in the opposite direction, I'll take Mrs Stick for a holiday to New York.

Why is it that in all of my teaching gigs in Thailand I am called an ajarn? Really, this is wrong as ajarn translates as professor – or at the very least, an awfully senior teacher, something that I am not. The correct word for teacher in Thai is kru. It is something that I have always felt a little uncomfortable about.

Fantasia was closed for 15 days from Wednesday 28th. That's what happens when you are caught in Nana Plaza with your knickers down! One sign on the door says "open in June" and another says "all girls dancing in Cascade."

The rumour mill says that Playskool, Lollipop and Hogg's Breath are to close, probably early next month and most likely for 15 days. Rumour also has it that Mandarin have apparently escaped closure due to a technical matter concerning their license. Again, this is all rumour.

Quote of the week comes from a reader. "As far as this overblown SARS thing is concerned, once you get over the fear of AIDS, what's one more four letter acronym of a disease to worry about?"

An Australian fellow emailed me to inform us of his new run internet cafe and guesthouse, located in of all places, the swanky Thong Lor neighbourhood. Sure, it is close by the BTS station, but why would a tourist want to stay in that part of town? Nice neighbourhood, but I have a feeling that this location is far from ideal for a tourist… Still, they claim to have all sorts of facilities including Aussie meat pies, although someone forgot to tell the owner that meat pies heated up in a microwave go soggy… The rates for air-con rooms run 250 – 550 baht and for fan cooled rooms from 250 – 450 baht. The guesthouse is located right above the email cafe called email-cafe.com.

Hotels are about the worst place to exchange your foreign currency but even I was shocked when I walked into the Forum Park Hotel lobby and caught sight of the exchange rates offered. $US 1 for you 39 baht, $Aust 1 got 20, 1 Euro got 40 baht and $NZ 1 got just 15 baht. Is there a hotel with worse exchange rates than this?

I have heard good things about the unlimited internet package from MWEB. It's 599 baht a month and you get 4 independent email address (and web site) with unlimited space.

Mrs. Stick's Corner

Each week, Mrs. Stick will answer questions about Thai / farang relationships and general issues that baffle the average Westerner in Thailand. Mrs. Stick is an open-minded Thai lady who is happy to answer your questions. Please send questions for her, via me, at the usual email address. Two or three questions will be chosen each week and answered in the following week's column. The responses are hers and NOT mine although I may attempt to correct her English from time to time. Note 1: I may not necessarily agree with what she says! Note 2: Unfortunately, she doesn't have time to reply to your inquiries via email.

Question 1: Mr. Stick once again touched upon class levels in last week's column, advising expats to choose their mates carefully. So which class levels in Thai society would be considered “respectable” for a farang? While it is a no brainer that bargirls would fall into the non-respectable category, what about all those cute bank tellers or hotel desk clerks? Should we turn tail and run as soon as she mentions the word “Isaan” ??

Mrs. Stick says: It’s hard to clarify or just to make a simple comment on this issue! Nowadays there shouldn’t be “human beings classification” in this equal world. Freedom is yours. Nobody can ever tell you who is the right or wrong woman for you. They can be worse than bargirl or better than princess, they can be Isaan, south, north, or girls from nowhere but as long as the fact that “the being her” will keep you happy in your real life in every aspect. You also have to look at yourself and make sure you are good enough for the girl you choose.

Question 2: My question has to do with the expression "I Love You". Something that farangs (both male and female) say to each other on a regular (daily) basis. But apparently this is not something Thai women say to their men. I have been with my lady for almost a year and we do love each other. I call her every day and see her frequently (about every other month). While I tell her I love her, it is very infrequently that she will tell me she loves me. I know she does. There is no question about that. But being a farang being told that we are loved by those closest to us (girlfriends, wives, parents, our kids, etc) is important (we must be very insecure). If we are not told we are loved then we assume we are not :( My understanding is that the Thai culture is different on this subject. Can you explain this to me?

Mrs. Stick says: Thai people mostly are not so passionate – we might feel it inside but
expressing our feelings is not a Thai characteristic. As you might know, Asian girls are more "shy" than western girls. Don't you think it's good in some way? Isn't it super special when you hear "I Love You" from your girlfriend once in a while because that means the feeling is so strong. On the other way hand, isn't it scary when a farang gets angry? Seems like we Thai people are better at controlling our emotions, aren't we?

That's all for this week. There may be a few errors in this week's column or it may not flow too well as I have been away for a couple of days and have had to rush it all together on Sunday night.

Your Bangkok commentator,

Stick

Thanks go out to Dave The Rave, Boss Hogg and Italian Max