Stickman's Weekly Column May 31st, 2009

Living On Less Than A Million Baht A Year


One of the attractions of life in Bangkok is the perceived low cost of living. But the truth is that the cost of living in Bangkok has soared over the past five years. If you had told me that you I would need a million baht a year to have a reasonable lifestyle I would have laughed at you but that that is what I need today. Living on less than a million baht a year in Bangkok is not as easy as you think, at least if you want a semblance of a decent standard of living.

When I first moved to Bangkok way back in the first half of 1998, I comfortably lived on 30,000 baht a month. That covered all of my outgoings and made for a pleasant lifestyle. I did not feel that I needed more and I really didn't want for anything. I ate well (or so I thought), I went out whenever I wanted and I was content exploring the city in my free time, which was essentially free.

Today, a decade on, I find it hard to comprehend living on less than a million baht a year, almost three times as much. Prices in Bangkok have gone up a lot, but have they really gone up that much?

My first apartment in Bangkok, pictured below and incidentally the first digital photo I ever took, was a small but comfortable furnished studio, 40 square metres in size. It was not much bigger than a hotel room but shaped long, rather than square, so it felt bigger than it actually was. The location was excellent, the building recently completed and I was the first person to stay in that particular unit so everything was brand new. Rent set me back 10,000 baht a month, a rate that many of my friends at the time thought I was crazy to spend on rent.

Utilities ran around 2,000 baht a month, cable TV was provided by the building and I spent about 1,000 baht a month on dial up internet which ran 45 baht an hour back then. That that left me 17,000 baht a month to live on, which had to cover everything from transport to food to entertainment. At the time I thought that was plenty and I wanted for nothing. With a total of less than 600 baht a day to cover everything, I felt perfectly happy. It helped that I lived just a mile from work and – remember this was pre-skytrain – I would take the bus to work at 3.5 baht and later in the day make the 20 minute walk back home. Breakfast was cereal in the condo, lunch was usually some sort of stir fry at 30 odd baht, dinner similar so while I say I had around 600 baht a day to live on, often I wouldn't even spend 100 baht. And I was happy, genuinely happy! Come the weekend I would have anywhere from 3,000 – 3,500 baht or so which was plenty to do whatever I wanted. Back then, that was enough for a weekend away to Pattaya or another nearby province.

I wasn't so interested in visiting neighbouring countries and actually didn't venture into the provinces that much back then because Bangkok was still new, felt so big and was full of new places and neighbourhoods to discover. I didn't fly home for many years either which was an outlay I didn't have to make. I have never been particularly concerned about fashion so fancy clothes were off the radar. I didn't have the expensive photography habit I have now and once I bought a computer I had pretty much everything I needed. Even if I needed to pick up a new pair of shoes, an article of clothing or perhaps buy a gift, there was plenty in the kitty to cover it. Yep, 30,000 baht a month, that really was enough back then.

By 2001 I reckon it my monthly spending might have reached 35,000 baht a month as prices crept up and I started to broaden my horizons. I started to eat better and was less likely to do things on the cheap. In 2002 my outgoings shot up when I met Mrs. Stick. We ate out in better restaurants, used taxis more and visited more swanky venues where you wouldn't escape spending less than a couple of thousand baht. When we got married, moving into a new condo and with car payments and the cost of running a car, outgoings had shot up 60,000 baht a month. In the last 6 years they haven't moved much, although the car has long since been paid off.

Today I spend around 65,000 baht a month. That covers everything, from the rent to all utilities as well as all of my personal day to day expenditure each month. It can be broken down as follows:

Rent 20,000 baht
Power 2,000 baht
Internet 1,000 baht
Cable TV 1,600 baht
Telephone 200 baht
Water 100 baht
Mobile phone 300 baht
Petrol 4,000 baht
Groceries 5,000 baht
Miscellaneous 6,000 baht
Daily allowance (30 x 800 baht) 24,000 baht
TOTAL 64,200 baht

64,200 baht a month. Consistently, almost every month, give or take a few thousand baht. Let me explain why I spend the amount I do.

When it comes to rent, we have a nice, modern condo that is bright and comfortable away from the downtown area meaning it is not walking distance to any skytrain or underground station. For the quality of the building, a more central location would probably run several thousand baht more. Of course it would not be difficult to find a cheaper place, but generally speaking, if you want a nice building that is not too old, has good security and is home to a decent standard of resident (in Bangkok I truly believe you are best off getting a cheaper unit in a really expensive building) then you have to be prepared to pay for it. As far as the mix of quality of building, residents, facilities etc. goes, I am quite comfortable with what we have. I've visited dozens of buildings and many, many condos and with a budget of 20K a month, I am satisfied with what we have.

2,000 baht a month for power is pretty standard. In the cool season it's less than half of that and in April it can hit 2,500 baht when we may use the air-con a bit more during the day. Generally the air-con is only used at night and there's no-one home during week days so no power is used then.

Internet and cable are pretty much the standard price and there aren't that many choices for either in Thailand.

4,000 baht for petrol reflects the fact that I drive a lot. The increasing cost of petrol will likely push that up.

The cost of groceries reflect a preference for imported products such as Western breakfast cereals, cheeses, imported biscuits and simply not buying the lower end products. Decent imported coffee, for example, is very expensive.

The interesting number here is the miscellaneous. It seems there are always gifts to buy, functions to attend (meaning envelopes to fill with cash) and other purchases that had not been planned for such as servicing the car, new tyres, visiting the dentist, a new piece of clothing etc.

That leaves the last figure of 24,000 baht a month, or a daily allowance of 800 baht. Some days I might spend as little as 150 baht although that would be rare these days. Why, when I used to be so keen on it? I guess I was lucky. In the old days there was a particularly good street vendor (pictured below) in the soi where my first apartment was located. I used to eat there once or even twice a day. The food was absolutely top notch and he did some dishes better than anywhere else. But to say it was a healthy choice or would be pushing it. As time went by, I discovered that most street vendors were not always the best choice for a nutritious meal and unless I am after a meal on the run, I pretty much avoid them nowadays.

If you want quality produce, prepared in clean surroundings resulting in a nutritious meal, Bangkok is much more expensive than you think. Eating out, a big part of our lifestyle, eats through a chunk of cash. Dinner for two invariably costs a couple of thousand baht, irrespective of whether it's dinner and a few drinks at The Londoner, a hotel buffet and a couple of glasses of wine or dinner at one of the French or Italian restaurants – and we're not talking the high end spots here. If these numbers sound high, just look at the high end venues where these numbers wouldn't even cover a main course.

Perhaps what I find interesting here is that the amount of money I spend each month is EXACTLY the figure that the Immigration Department insists retirees must show each year to renew their retirement visa, 65,000 baht per month (or 800,000 baht per year in a Thai bank account).

OK, so with my monthly spend of 64,200 baht, I am still well short of the million baht a year I said I spend. So where does the rest go? Simple, international travel and hobbies. Even a weekend away in a neighbouring country can cost a chunk of change and if you look at a few days in Singapore or Hong Kong, it adds up. The further you go, the more it costs.

And then there are your hobbies. Diving, biking, golf, collecting antique maps and in my case photography. Hobbies can really cost. Photography is one of the more expensive hobbies and it's easy to sink a lot of cash in. So spending on international travel and hobbies rounds it out to about a million baht a year.

Of course, this is in Bangkok. You can have a comparable lifestyle for less in Pattaya, or if you were prepared to go native and go to one of the far flung provinces you could lead a Thai-style existence for not a lot of money at all. Granted, you would not have the entertainment options, nor the choice of Western products, be it food products, books, movies, whatever, but if you are comfortable with that then you could get by on very little indeed. Many do. How little? I don't know as I have never done it but I should imagine that less than 20,000 baht would be quite doable while still having some semblance of a life.

Could one live comfortably today on the amount I lived on in Bangkok ten years ago, 30,000 baht a month? Live ok, yes, but comfortably, hmmm, I would debate that. Most Thais spend nowhere near this amount and seem, on the surface at least, happy enough. There are of course many foreigners living on this amount too, although how happy they are about it, I just don't know. For example, I have never seen an apartment or condo in Bangkok for less than 10,000 baht that I would be prepared to live in. Some may call me a snob but I would describe myself as a realist. I don't want neighbours yahooing at 3 in the morning and frankly, some of the folks who inhabit these cheaper buildings, as nice as they may be, are not always the most savoury folk.

What sort of life does 30,000 baht give you? To me, it seems, you would have to make all sorts of sacrifices on quality. In the early days in Thailand, perhaps for as much as the first 2 or 3 years, everything can be fun. Eating on the street, drinking the 10 baht local iced coffee, taking the buses or walking etc. But when the love affair with the city starts to fade – and it always does – it's just a matter of time, your lifestyle changes.

Westerners living in Thailand adapt to Thai ways for a period of time. They embrace Thai food and the Thai way of doing many things but eventually a point is reached where they default back to what they know, where a cheeseburger and fries or fish and chips holds much more appeal than tom yum gung. It transcends age, nationality and income bracket. Most seem to go back to what they know and frankly, that really shouldn't be a surprise. Most Westerners want a semblance of a Western lifestyle.

Don't go thinking I am a big spender. Pretty much everyone I know spends more. At the other end of the scale, I know at least a couple of Westerners who spend around 500,000 baht a month yet you couldn't accuse either of throwing money away. When I raised my eyebrows at a friend who mentioned such a figure to me some time ago, he simply replied that he had a large household with staff, ran a few vehicles, international school fees for the kids and took regular trips abroad, all of which adds up.

It all boils down to what sort of lifestyle you want and what you can afford. For me, that means a semi-Western lifestyle, an overseas trip once a year and pursuing my hobbies. I really don't think I could reasonably do that in Bangkok on less than a million baht a year.

Where was this picture taken?


Last week's picture was of the Heidelberg bar and restaurant on Sukhumvit soi 4 and heaps of people got it right. This week's picture is a bar in Bangkok…but which bar! The first person to email with the correct location of the picture wins a 500 baht credit at Oh My Cod, the British fish and chips restaurant. The second person to get the picture right wins a fantastic roast buffet at Molly Malone's on Bangkok's Soi Convent. The buffet runs every Sunday from midday until 7 PM and the winner gets one buffet free! I like the buffet and partake of it myself often! Bodyguard Condoms also provide large condoms as prizes. So, for the forth, fifth and sixth people to get the picture right, I will send you a few packs of Bodyguard's high quality, extra large-sized condoms to try out. The Strip in Patpong's soi 2 is offering a FREE BOOTH. That means that you and one of the ladies enter the booth and the curtain is closed for 30 minutes. This prize has a value of 550 baht, the cost of closing the booth. It should be noted that if you wish to do anything more with the lady than chat then a tip will be expected… In total, we now have SIX PRIZES EACH WEEK!

Terms and conditions: The Oh My Cod and Molly Malone's prizes MUST be claimed within 14 days. Winners of the Bodyguard Condoms must provide a postal address within Thailand. Prizes are not transferable. Prize winners cannot claim more than one prize per month.

FROM STICK'S INBOX (These are emails from readers and what is written here was not written by Stick.) Preference may be given to emails which refer to the previous week's column.

EMAIL OF THE WEEK – The Bangkok freak show.

Too right you can meet some very interesting and unusual characters in Bangkok. During my time in Bangkok I met quite a few. I have to say that 80% of them were awful characters. Some extreme examples: The guy from North-East England who worked in Bangkok as a porn star. The Scouser and his aggressive Scouse wife in a bar on Soi 33 who nearly started a fight when I beat him at pool. Apparently he worked for BMW in Bangkok. Can't see that myself as the guy had no brain. The well-dressed Mancunian on his own in Lookie Lookie bar who was a complete nutter, scaring the crap out of the girls and other customers and nearly put a bottle in my face. Trying to be polite and calm things down I asked him what he was doing in Bangkok to which he replied “management”. I got out of there before finishing my beer. I suspect that this guy built up quite a reputation because he fits the personality of a guy you mentioned a while back, the old farang who reportedly lived up country but used to visit his favourite bar in Bangkok (Sexy Nights in Nana Plaza) and behave in quite a unique way. He would expose himself to the girls on stage who would then proceed to take it in turns to service him when they came off stage. A truly awful sight, apparently he was called Mr. Chuk-wow by the girls and regular customers. No doubt a few other Stickmanites have bumped into these characters. Bangkok wouldn't be the same without them though, would it?

Bad tourists better than no tourists?

I had a vision of how Thailand would be without farang scumbags, perverts, questionable characters, British hooligans, hostile Arabs, piss drunk Russians or any other clientele that is regularly annoying. I saw my favourite places closed to lack of business and thought to myself, 'Bad tourists are better than no tourists'. After all, they keep paradise going while I am absent.

Is the character with the lump on his face in fact American?!

I had a strange encounter with the guy whose picture you ran in the column this week. A couple of years ago, I was waiting to meet a gik at soi 7. We would eat seafood, then go out to listen to music. That guy walked up and tried to sell me a huge Zippo lighter. In my politest Thai I told him, "Pom mai ow arai na krap. Ror peuan na krap." <No thanks, I am just waiting for a friendStick> He went nuts! "Why the hell are you speaking Thai to me?! I'm an American! I was born in California!" I think it was California. Anyway, I spent about five minutes calming him down, acting as I would with an angry Thai – smiling, not reacting, not threatening, just explaining that he looked he looked Asian, I was studying Thai, we were in Bangkok, and I felt it would be more polite to reply in Thai. He finally walked off, disgusted and angry, and all the freelancers, vendors, and hawkers who'd been watching the exchange came by to tell me how jai yen I'd been and that he was a little crazy. From what I remember, his accent was genuine American. When I showed my girlfriend the picture tonight and told her the story, she asked about him. Why does he live here? Who is he? This may sound like a crazy idea, but he might be an interesting subject for an interview. I mean, anyone who's spent any time around lower Sukhumvit has seen this guy many times. If he really is American, it's an interesting story as to how he got here and why he stays. I've seen him many times since then and he's never mentioned the incident. When he tries to sell me a huge Zippo, I always just say, "No, thanks".


Thai ladies in Bangkok, Pattaya, and all over Thailand

The place has gone to hell!

I first spent time in Bangkok during the Vietnam War which doesn't make me any kind of expert but I can see how the place has gone to hell. CNN reports today Las Vegas Casino Hotel rooms can be had for as little as $26. Costa Rica , which has been a democracy for more than 100 years, where you can own the property you buy, grants retirement visas to those with an income not less than $600 a month, less than a third of Thailand. Oh yes, and they have not got in excess of 50,000 banned websites. On our last visit to the Dominican Republic my wife and I overstayed two months, our total charge from the friendly Immigration people was $5.

Chiang Mai dangerous!

I have had 3 PERSONAL friends (not friends of friends, or third person accounts) in Chiang Mai pulled OFF their motorbikes at night and robbed in the last 3 months. One friend had his back broken as a result of the fall off his bike. One woman was dragged by the strap of her handbag when she refused to let go. A couple of months ago the police caught one gang of thieves, but the problem continues. These did not happen in the countryside, but inside the main city, and not late at night, but before 11 PM. I never used to be afraid to ride my bike at night here as I am also a fairly substantial fellow, but now I am much more cautious.

Dare you question the price?

I had left a restaurant near Sukhumvit soi 33 and was due to meet a friend at The Penalty Spot, when a pang of hunger beset me. I walked down soi 22 and found a very ordinary food shop. I ordered in Thai and I also ordered a large beer Leo. The food was fine and the beer was cold. I asked for the bill and he said 160 baht! The food turned out to be 60 baht, the price was posted on the wall. Fine. I asked for the drink menu and he exploded! I don't mind even paying 70 baht, but 100? I tried to bargain and he flew into a rage in which he ended up punching me in the shoulder. I am 6 foot 3 and strong enough. I just laughed, because it didn't hurt, and I knew that 10 cowards would come to his defence if I beat him to a pulp.

Self-inflicted discontent?

With regard to the subject of dishonest Thais and sleazy expats, I have found that in my eleven years visiting and living in the Kingdom, most problems I've seen and experienced have stemmed from poor choices of association. Is it any surprise with so many farang men spending the majority of their social time in bars, etc. and with the people who abide there, that they have so many problems? Likewise when they hang with other foreigners of similar persuasion. We've all heard the horror stories and are familiar with the problems inherent in living here, but I have found that learning the culture and language of common Thais, showing respect and exposing yourself more to this group changes the dynamic of life here for the better. The biggest "rip offs" I've seen and encountered have been perpetrated by expats on other expats. My best friend here is a 76-year-old Thai man and his family who have always shown me more generosity and kindness than I could ever possibly repay. On the dark side, one so-called expat "friend" actually had someone email me his fake obituary to avoid repaying loans I had made to him. I kid you not!

The new owners of Spanky's have had numerous requests from customers of the old Hog's Breath – where Spanky's is now located – to open during the day time as the iconic Nana bar once did. So starting tomorrow, that is Monday June 1, Spanky's will open from 1:00 PM serving 75 baht drinks. Happy hour will stay the same with 50 baht drinks from 6:30 – 8:30 PM. This past week they hung a large screen TV outside for the beer bar area. The inside area will also be open during day time hours but they will not have dancers until 6:30 PM or so.

There was an extraordinary scene in Sukhumvit soi 7/1 last night when a drunk farang customer sitting outside the Boo-Sa Bar couldn't wait to go to the toilet and soiled himself very publicly. To the horror of bar owner Andrew and his staff, he then proceeded to walk inside the bar, leaving a tell-tale trail behind him. He was quickly ejected before some girls, holding their noses, cleaned up the mess with mops and disinfectant. The drunk then entered four neighbouring bars but was quickly thrown out before he staggered out of the soi.

Girls outside some Cowboy bars are playing tricks to get customers in the door, aggressively grabbing punters walking past and then once inside the bar, blocking the door to keep them in. All the old tricks!

But while Cowboy is feeling the hard times like the other bar areas, Tilac is still doing really well as is Baccarra. Business in the rest of the soi is pretty bad. For Baccarra and Tilac, it is like they are in a little high season cocoon.

But just what the bars did not need, the men in brown uniforms did a run up and down Sukhumvit and strangely, Nana, Cowboy and even some of the freelance venues were closed at 1 AM. Why is this strange? Because it is across different police districts. Of course, the booze booths on the pavement can sell alcohol right throughout the night and to say that this irritates bar owners would be something of an understatement.

Interestingly, just this week, a bunch of these sidewalk booze booths were closed down in Pattaya. Not in Bangkok though!

It's awfully quiet down in Pattaya. Of the bars that seem to be doing a decent trade, the most noticeable are those that have come to the party with low drinks prices. A number of drinking spots in soi 7 and Pattaya New Plaza are virtually giving the stuff away with small drinks at 40 baht. A couple of bars in Soi Buakhao are offering 3 small bottles at 110 baht. Interestingly, all are Thai-run venues and it is they who seem to realise best that many Pattaya locals really are feeling the pinch.

Tilac's #42 intrigues me. It has to be said that she is a real looker but she also looks like a complete bitch. It is my experience that such women can be absolute dynamite – but only in small doses. Apparently she is rather picky about who she spends time with and she has repelled at least one pal of mine. But for sheer good looks and energy, I bet she'd be an absolute a cracker.

The Arab might be one of the least popular characters in Bangkok's farang underworld but he continues his Soi Cowboy beautifying project with even more additions to the neon at Cowboy. Not that it was needed, he has added vertical neon signs as well as some mirrors outside Spice Girls and Our Place, all of which gives me an excuse to take more photos down there. The new neon makes Cowboy look just that little bit nicer. But he has been rather sneaky, as if that was anything new! If you look closely at the new neon outside Our Place, pictured right, he has erected a mirror which if you are at the eastern end of the soi completely conceals the sign for Joy Bar which is owned by the No Name Group – with whom the Arab AKA Cyrus The Virus, is involved in a long-running feud. This is very much like that previous trick of his when he erected shower curtains at the edge of the frontage of some of his bars so customers could not see competing bars next door. Cyrus the Virus, as he is now commonly referred to on Soi Cowboy, really is an odd sort.

Speaking of that feud, it is getting uglier and uglier with talk of contracts being taken out. Yikes!

The G Club in the Thonglor area featured in this column recently, The Bank, is offering a free lady for an hour as a means to entice new customers to the venue. Well, an hour of the lady's time is probably more precise. A pretty employee of The Bank was standing at the Sukhumvit underground station exit nearest Soi Cowboy handing out high quality brochures and discount cards offering a free lady, making a point to target single men who might just fit the profile of potential Bank customers.

And bar closings are happening. Soi Post Office has seen three gogos closed and various other bars around town have also closed. No really big names yet, but, well, it can't be that long, can it?

There are a number of Australian bars in Bangkok, bars run by Australians, often targeting Australians. Perhaps the most popular is Sukhumvit soi 33's The Office but Bradman's Bistro in soi 23 and Soi 7/1's Down Under Bar also have a following. A new venue, larger and flasher Aussie-themed venue opened recently which seeks to take the crown for Bangkok's best Aussie bar. The Australian Bar and BBQ in the growing soi 11 can be found opposite the Manchester United Bar, about 2/3 down the soi towards Q Bar. It's a large venue with shades of Australia. It's quiet at the moment and it will be interesting to see how things are once it becomes more well-known. It looks as though it will be a competitor for the British pubs although its location in soi 11 should see a lot of tourist traffic too. I would like to see some good Aussie sports paraphernalia on the walls, perhaps like a photo of Trevor Chappell doing his impression of a lawn bowler in the middle of the MCG or perhaps a few snaps of Shane Warne and any of his bevy of beauties from over the years. Yeah, that's good Aussie sports memorabilia!

I can't help but think that one of the recent additions to Khao San Road, the large Durex sign, would be better placed on Walking Street or Soi Cowboy or Soi Nana or one of the areas where there's a bit more sex taking place. I am sure there's no shortage of bonking on Khao San too, but my feeling is – and this is simply based on the fact that there are far fewer working girls in the area – it is probably a lower risk area. Maybe I should apply for the position of marketing manager for Durex Thailand?

In the past couple of weeks I have heard from a bunch of people of a book for sale on the street near the nightlife areas, but in my hunting I have been unable to find it. It's titled "Get Rich Quick, English For Bargirls" and is said to sell at the odd price of 145 baht. It features both English and Thai and sounds like it could be well worth picking up a copy of. The problem is I can't find it anywhere!

If you're making a withdrawal from your ATM card on a foreign bank account in Thailand, UOB Bank is the bank to use as it is fee free, at least until August 11 at which point they will commence charging a 100 baht fee. Other banks are charging 150 baht.

I notice that the fake monks are back on Sukhumvit in numbers, but where are the genuine monks you may ask? At Panthip Plaza, of course!

There are various points around town where you see cops doing checks on motorbike riders and various other infringements. There is one new spot I have noticed the cops and they are there almost every day. Outside the Queen Sirikit Centre heading north towards Sukhumvit you can find the cops most afternoons. They target motorcyclists – those not wearing a helmet, those who are not travelling in the leftmost lane and those who take the overpass from the Rama 3 area over Rama 4 Road, an overpass which motorcyclists are strictly prohibited from using – and for which there is but a small sign. If you ride a bike, be careful for they're there almost every day.

Despite a massive increase in the number of vendors on the busiest section, or should that be the tourist section, of Sukhumvit Road, absolutely clogging up what is a major pedestrian walkway, the low number of tourists in town makes it easy to traverse from Nana to Cowboy or vice versa. I made that walk one day this week and I just felt something wasn't right and it took me a while to work out that there were very few people walking!

Apparently the day after the Aussie bird who had the problems in Phuket with the Aussie Bar and who brought a massive media backlash and wrath upon Phuket returned to Australia, the very next day Queensland island holiday destinations were splashed across the newspapers and all over TV. Phuket can kiss a good chunk of its Aussie tourist market goodbye for the next year or so.

Did I miss something with local internet providers upping speed? Our download speed tripled earlier this week and where I used to get 100 mbps on downloads consistently, now I get 300. There has been no comment from the ISP and nothing on their website. Weird, but I am not complaining.

I'd like to thank all readers who responded to my request for info and offered their thoughts on how to deal with soi dogs when I run. The bulk of people thought pepper spray was the best idea. One reader suggested that it would also be viable to use on ladyboys and Indian tailors and went as far to say that a video with such posted to YouTube would result in instant hero status!

Stickman reader's story of the week is yet another she did me wrong story. Needless to say, "Learn Thai And Keep Your Eyes Open And Maybe This Won't Happen To You" is appropriately titled.

Quote of the week comes from a regular reader who checked out the gogos of Chiang Mai recently. "The girls dancing on stage looked like they were sleeping and had the energy levels of wet rags."

An Aussie accused of stealing a doughnut legs it from the police, is caught and ends up paying a $5,000 bribe to be released!

From Craigslist comes an ad which suggests some locals are getting desperate in Bangkok .

Is there any surprise that the Australian Embassy in Bangkok deals with more misbehaved Aussies than any other Aussie mission?

If there are 7,000 sex workers in Phuket, how many are there in Bangkok or Pattaya?!

The New York Times profiles buying property in Thailand.

Time Magazine reports that the sex trade in Bangkok is hurting.

From Melbourne's Age comes a piece on Aussies travelling to Thailand for dental work.

Will rich Thais be grabbing property from the poor? There's nothing new in that but this time there is a farang twist.

Ask Mrs. Stick

Mrs. Stick is happy to answer any questions regarding inter-racial relationships as well as cultural peculiarities that may be confusing or baffling you. Mr. Stick will help out in questions where he feels he can provide a better answer.

Question 1: I understand the 'face' issues that occur in Thailand, such as lying to protect someone's feelings, but once a person has been found out to be lying is there not a bigger loss of face? Or does the person lied to understand it was to protect someone / something?

Mrs. Stick says: In Thailand we must "ruksar nar" which is preserving face and reputation of our friends and family and workmates and even our old school and university and people we knew in the past. It's not good to make another person lose face and we must try hard so it never happens. This is a very important part of our culture and I think it is important for all farangs to know this! Reputation is more important than words so sometimes someone might say something that is not 100% true to protect themselves or another. Actually, you should not push too hard to get the truth because it might upset people and you force them to say something not true.

Mr. Stick says: And we wonder why there seem to be so many problems between Westerners and Thais in relationships, business dealings and even at the most basic interaction level, between a buyer and a seller…

Question 2: On the issue of sending money to a Thai girlfriend, many times I have read about western men sending an allowance to help 'take care of' their girlfriends (I'm not really talking about wives as this is a bigger commitment so is understandable). My question is would a Thai man send money / provide in the same situation? I have read the book Thai Fever, which I noted had a recommendation from yourself, which seemed to suggest they would but this has been my only source of information regarding Thai relationships (other than internet forums which seem to contradict themselves between all the bickering).

Mrs. Stick says: In Thailand the husband / father is the head of the family. He is the leader and should be strong and he is expected to look after the family and this should be his number one priority. It does not matter if the husband is Thai or farang or anything else, he must be able to look after his wife and children. This is number one!!! For girlfriends, some Thai guys do support their girlfriend financially. I think if he has a good job and she does not have a good job or does not work then he will support her. This is normal. You know that when we have a Thai boyfriend he will pay for everything for us if he can!

Question 3: I live and work illegally in Pattaya and I have 2 questions. Number 1: I have recently married and I need to arrange all the paperwork at the amphur office. Do I need to bring my passport or can I bring a passport copy without the visa page since my visa already expired? Number 2: I have had a couple of fights with a motorbike rental shop which is run by a farang and now he is suing me and has a warrant for my arrest for motorbike theft. Will this be finished after 6 months? All Thai people I have talked to say that police only look for someone for 6 months. I can't leave Thailand without being arrested because I don't have a valid visa and I can't make a visa run. What do you think I should do? Maybe I should add that I look Chinese / Thai and I'm 22 years old and understand Thai enough to have a simple conversation. So the risk of being found and arrested by Thai police within 6 months is small. I don't have enough money to cash up what the motorbike shop wants to drop the charges. The shop also refuses to take downpayments with some cash every month. He only has my passport copy which has a 4 year old picture. A picture that could look like around 50% of the young Asian men living in Pattaya including the Thai people.

Mr. Stick says: I am sorry to say that you are in a pretty bad situation. Frankly you should never have allowed it to go this far. The visa issue is serious but can be easily enough worked through. Whenever you eventually leave the country you will have to pay an overstay fine which maxes out after 40 days overstay at 20,000 baht. If you get caught by police before then you are in trouble because not only have you overstayed your visa, there is an arrest warrant out for you. You have been misinformed about arrest warrants in Thailand. They remain current for TEN YEARS. That means you either have to get that issue sorted out or the arrest warrant will remain in place – and yes, Immigration will be aware of it as arrest warrant checks are done when you enter and exit the country. You can't just leave the country and think you will get away! So, my advice is this. You need to somehow make some money or get family or friends from home to send you some money. Sort out the problem with the motorbike shop first and that should see that the arrest warrant withdrawn. You then should leave the country. Remember, you will need 20,000 baht to pay the overstay fine when you exit the country. You should exit via THE AIRPORT and not via a land border as some land borders have been instructed that anyone attempting to leave the country on a long stay must be arrested and sent to Bangkok for processing. I have never heard of that being a problem at the airport and people with very long overstays can leave (and return to Thailand immediately) so long as they have the funds to pay the fine on the spot – cash, cold hard cash! You will then be able to re-enter the country and you will be legal. At that point you will finally be in a position to go and register the marriage at the district office. If there is one point I may make, you are contemplating marriage while your life is a mess? That's really irresponsible. You should get everything totally sorted before you get married.



One of the great things about producing this column is reading the feedback that comes in once it is published, emails that start coming in just minutes within the column going live. It's interesting to hear the many different perspectives and it's never easy choosing the best or most suitable emails to put in the following week's column. As the issue of how much money people spend in Thailand can create heated debate, I'm interested to hear what others spend, and what readers generally feel is the amount you need for, as I call it, a semblance of a life in Bangkok. It's very much an individual thing and the range is massive. I'm eager to hear your thoughts.



Your Bangkok commentator,

Stick