Sometimes you just need to get away from the madness of downtown Bangkok. The traffic congestion, the noise, the pollution and the throngs of people can all become a bit much. When I feel the need to get away from it, but don't have the time or inclination to go all the way to the beach, I make the easy trip down to the Chao Praya River.
This week I spent a few hours at the river, cruising up and down on the Chao Praya Express, and strolling around the familiar temples. It made a welcome break from the madness of Sukhumvit.
The Chao Praya River is one of the more peaceful parts of Bangkok and despite being a touristy area – and indeed it is one of the highlights of the city, one of few must see parts of the city in my opinion – it is much more relaxing than downtown. And it is so easy to get to – take the skytrain to Saphan Taksin from where you can jump on the ridiculously inexpensive Chao Praya Express. The long-tailed boats like that pictured here are for tourists with little time on their hands, or those who wish to explore the network of canals more extensively. Primarily used by tourists, the long-tailed boats are priced accordingly.
The obligatory postcard photo of Wat Arun, taken in the morning, before the clouds come in around lunch time, as they inevitably do at this time of year.
Wat Arun is never that busy, and it seems that many simply view it from a passing boat, take the obligatory been-there-done-that snaps and move on to the next temple. Wat Arun is rather different in architectural style to other temples in the area and this alone makes it worth wandering around the grounds and taking a closer look. The "seen one temple, seen them all" argument doesn't apply to Wat Arun.
And if you are willing to brave some of the dreadfully steep steps at Wat Arun, you'll be rewarded with nice views and interesting photo opportunities.
Everything that goes up must come back down – and coming back down the steps at Wat Arun is not for the faint-hearted. The higher you get, the better the view, but the higher the tier, the steeper the gradient. Many of those coming back down the steps prefer to do so backwards, one step at a time, often very, very slowly.
The locals around the river tend to be real Bangkokians, born and bred in the Thai capital. In most other touristy parts of the city, tourists tend to be served and looked after by migrant workers who often don't know much about Bangkok. In some cases you might know more about it than they do!
A friendly Bangkokian runs a fresh juice stall at the Ta Dien Pier, the pier opposite Wat Arun and that closest to the main gate at Wat Po. Amongst the juices he was selling was dragon fruit juice, something I had never tried before – and it was excellent. With a great command of English, he's a real character and conversationalist and thrives talking about the area and imparting his local knowledge.
While I managed to get into Wat Arun for free, the friendly lady at the ticket booth accepting my local drivers licence, there was no way the gatekeeper at Wat Po would allow that. The stoic official was aghast not only that I tried to get in for free, he also made a song and dance when I went to pay the 50 baht entry fee with a thousand baht note. As much as I enjoy visiting Wat Po, the officials can be downright miserable, the worst being those in charge of the shoe lockers outside the temple of the reclining Buddha. And the question has to be asked – why is there a separate area for Thai citizens to place their shoes, well away from where foreigners place theirs?
Bangkok is quiet and so too was the river area where you find the city's best temples. Even the beautiful piece de résistance at Wat Po, the giant sleeping Buddha, had few visitors inside.
Renovations have been ongoing at Wat Po for as long as I can remember and many parts of the temple have been lovingly restored.
It's a pleasant 30-minute walk from Wat Po to Khao San Road, the backpacker ghetto which seems to be more developed every visit I make. More neon signs, more mid-range hotels and more businesses seem to be targeting a somewhat wealthier visitor. The 10 baht Pat Thai has been replaced by a 25-baht variety and Khao San just doesn't have anything like the same down-market feeling it once had. Not that that's a bad thing.
But some things never change and vendors peddling fake documents, from drivers licences to degrees to TEFL certificates, line the backpacker strip. It should be noted that it's a seriously bad idea to use any of these fake documents in Thailand with the punishment for being caught using them harsh. Just a few years ago, two young Westerners purchased fake teaching credentials and represented them to be genuine when applying for employment which they secured and later when applying for a work permit. The documents failed the verification process, they were arrested, charged, prosecuted and given 30 days in the monkey house! A number of others were punished for the same offence and got off with a fine.
Leaving Khao San, I made my way over to Sukhumvit where I spotted some locals playing ta-graw, the curious sport popular in South East Asia that resembles volleyball, but in which you cannot use your hands. It's a novel sport at which Thailand excels. I wonder if females play it for I don't recall ever seeing females practicing.
The Chao Praya River is one of my favourite places in Bangkok and I like to get down there often, even if it means going along the same route, and seeing the same things. If you've never made it down there, you're really missing something. Yeah,
you can have a lot of fun in Bangkok during daylight hours!
Last week's photo
Where was this photo taken?
Last week's photo was of the skybridge, what the Thais call an above the ground pedestrian walkway, connecting the Asoke BTS station with Times Square. Surprisingly, a good number of very clever readers got it right! 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 correctly guess the photo wins a 500 baht voucher from one of the very best farang food venues in Bangkok, and the home of Bangkok's best burger, in my humble opinion, Duke's Express. Duke's is very conveniently located in the Emporium shopping centre in central Bangkok. It would be nice to find some more prize providers for the where is this photo competition as every week dozens of people enter and only a couple win a prize. If you are interested in providing prizes in exchange for a mention in that section of the column and a link to your website, let me know. Ideal prizes are food and drink so any bars or restaurants interested, please drop me a note!
Terms and conditions: The Oh My Cod prize MUST be claimed within 14 days. The Duke's Express coupon MUST be used by March 31, 2011. Prizes are not transferable. Prize winners cannot claim more than one prize per calendar month. You only have one guess per week!
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 – Where old age is something to look forward to!
I am one of 'that lot', an ageing out of shape farang who spends most evenings lounging in bars surrounded by, often very attractive, women 20 or more years younger than me. Depressed? Sad? No way! In the old country, being given the run around by middle-aged faded beauties, now that's depressing and sad! The whole male / female relationship balance is changing – and not in our favour. I hope that the same does not happen in Thailand. When I first visited Thailand 26 years ago I saw old guys with beautiful women. I was not depressed, but elated, and henceforth stopped worrying about what old age would be like!
There's always a fair bit of discussion on your website on western women and the consequences of divorce. I'm sure that some guys get married too young and they are not prepared for marriage. Two friends of mine married when they were in their early 20s and both marriages ended in disaster. I could see straight through the fiancée of one particular friend and I knew she would become a complete bitch. Two kids, divorce and his life is a mess. Some guys say that their wives changed for the worse during marriage which I think is very unlikely. They were probably in a rush to get married and didn't know or understand their partner 100%, a recipe for disaster. They then moan about the divorce and the fact that the woman gets half or more of everything. Well that is just tough luck because we wouldn't want the same situation as in Thailand, would we? Ex-wives leaving the kids with the grandparents and working as prostitutes. The guys who share their bitter marital experiences are obviously living in Thailand or are regular visitors and most of them hint at their enjoyment of the naughty scene. I don't have a problem with that at all, but if the bar scene is what you like then maybe marriage wasn't the best choice in the first place. Before I married, a few friends advised me to arrange a prenuptial agreement. How can you start a marriage with someone by asking them to sign an agreement which leaves them with nothing if you divorce? Not a very positive start. At 41, I probably married a bit late, but it took me 25 years of enjoying myself, travelling, living and working in South-East Asia before I was sure I had found the right lass and was ready to make the biggest commitment of my life. Sometimes there is a remark that western women are too aggressive, bossy etc and are not as feminine as their Asian sisters. The western women I know are feminine, however I do see a lot of expat wives here in Singapore who scare the s**t out of me. I observed the same thing in Bangkok. I look at their husbands and can't for the life of me work out how they were attracted to their wives. It's not limited to western women though. I've seen a lot of Singaporean couples and the wife looks like a complete nightmare.
Dumping money into a dump.
I've always wondered with all the money farangs dump at Nana why they can't clean the place up so it's not the sewer it is – the smell, the raw garbage, the thieves, the utter low class of it all. But after being here in Thailand as long as I have I wonder no more. The bar owners know farangs are stupid and would rather pay to wallow in the sewer and have sex with sewer rats than vote with their feet and demand better like the Koreans, Japanese and Thais do. When I go out these days it's almost always to the Korean or Thai establishments, unless I'm meeting up with other farangs. Being a non-drinker it's really eye-opening watching the sewer antics.
People watching paradise.
Like you, I can't see the wisdom of a Nana Plaza "interior" bar opening during the afternoon. My favourite is Morning-Night with its porch rail to watch the passing crowds, especially as it approaches 6 PM to watch the bargirls arriving for work. Same up in Cowboy, Tilac's porch is a fine viewpoint, especially given the congregation of food carts where the girls come to buy dinner. Back in the old days, when Nana Plaza's centre was still mostly a car park, I'd sit out in one of the original parking lot bars, the one in the back, and watch the bargirls come to work, seeing where that night's bride was heading. Those days are long gone.
Shaken down in Phuket!
A friend was pulled up on suspicion of drunk driving (a well-founded suspicion) at the Kathu checkpoint. The cop did not know how to properly operate the breath tester but simply pulled a printout from the bottom of the device and, without examining it, tossed it into a bin with a huge pile of others, no way of identifying whose was whose, then announced "mao" and demanded 40,000 baht! 6 hours later, at the police station, with assistance from a serving police officer, who is actually a farang friend of my friend, he was allowed to leave the cop shop uncharged, but 10,000 baht poorer.
Put off the bars.
I am astounded at all the GBH directed at customers of these bars. I have never witnessed anything of that nature but I do not hang in the bars that often. If this continues you would have to say it's going to put people right off! Midnite has that horrible mamma and she is a huge barrier for anyone wanting to relax and enjoy themselves. It's damned quiet so you would expect something of a charm offensive but that's not the case, is it?
Where are the Aeon ATMs?!
I decided to scout out some of the advertised AEON ATMs close by my place. AEON said that Central Chidlom 1F BF (?) has an AEON machine. I walked through the entire Central Chidlom basement to 1F to each entrance and back through to the back door and then up to the 2nd floor and all about. Nary an AEON machine to be found. The website says there's one in Siam Paragon. That's a mighty huge place and walking the 1st floor food court, and 2nd floor by both the N and S entrances didn't turn up an AEON machine. Then on to Siam Center where the website says "2F". Two circuits around the 2F showed numerous ATMs but nary an AEON machine. They also said MBK has one on 2F but a cursory glance (I didn't go front to back and all around the 2F) didn't show one. Sure would be nice if the company was more explicit in its description of where their ATMs are located.
Catching a cheap cab from Pattaya to Bangkok.
On the question of taxis going back to Bangkok from Pattaya, if you seek one in town, like Beach Road, you'll cop a fare of 1,000 baht. The trick, though, is to go to the Sukhumvit Highway either at the top of the central or north roads, and hail one there. By the time they get there without a passenger, they've given up on getting a fare and are prepared to drive back empty, so will readily accept 500 baht. Try it some time!
Pattaya's Champagne A Gogo in Soi LK Metro (corner of Soi Diana and Soi Buakhao) is helping customers celebrate tonight's World Cup final. There's free Heineken draft from kick off until the first goal is scored. And if the first goal is scored in the first 10 minutes then it's free draft for all until half time.
In fact it's all go at Champagne A Gogo. Many have referred to this low season as the dead season with businesses closing their doors and many suffering financially, their backs against the wall. Champagne is bucking the trend and has just added a day shift, meaning the venue now opens at 2 PM daily. And from 8 – 9 PM, for one short hour, both the day shift and the night shift girls are in the bar – there's barely enough room for customers as they are packed shoulder to should with scantily dressed birds!
Keep an eye on your checkbin in the naughty nightlife venues as bill padding is nothing new. It can take many forms, from lady drinks you never ordered and which never arrived to drinks you never ordered and of course, one should always check the total amount in venues that don't use computerised bills, to say nothing of checking your change. And if you find yourself in Midnite in Soi Cowboy, pay extra special attention to your bill. It seems that there's some funny business going on with checkbins in there.
There's all sorts of in your face action at Cowboy's Dollhouse in the revived upstairs area. You'll just have to go along and check it out for yourself for it's rather too spicy to mention.
The police conducted drug testing in Nana tonight, something I have not heard much of in recent times and they swooped on the bars at 1:00 AM, forcing them all to close. By 1:30 AM, Nana was little ghost town, in total darkness.
I am not sure quite what happened down at Cowboy last night, but it seems to have been much of the same. From what I heard, two of the biggest venues in Cowboy, Baccarra and Shark, closed early last night, at around 1:15 AM. I am guessing that other venues were forced to close early too.
In Pattaya's soi 8, the management of First A Gogo have decided to close the doors, citing particularly quiet times. It is hoped that the bar will reopen before high season.
The area around Sukhumvit sois 3/1, 5, 7 and even down to 7/1 and then sometimes outside the Westin was where you found ladyboys late at night, stubble bursting through their make up, their hands groping you, one on your manhood to distract you and the other probing for your wallet. Admittedly I am not out late much these days but there have been no reports of ladyboys of the light-fingered variety on Sukhumvit for a while now. I'm guessing that their disappearance is not due to any sort of crackdown, but more likely attributable to all of the late night booze booths that have set up on Sukhumvit.
Every Friday night the Pattaya branch of Lolita's, on Soi LK Metro, has a live music night. American singer / guitarist Kevin performs live at Lolita's so go along and join the party. Kevin has an enormous repertoire and is more than happy to play any requests and you can join in on one of the spare mics. Free snacks are provided from around 9:30 PM and the music kicks off at 10:30. As always, the damsels of Lolita's are at hand to help you enjoy the evening. For directions, check out Lolita's Pattaya.
Insomnia, the massively popular freelancer disco on Pattaya's Walking Street, was raided this week by the authorities who were looking for the illegal advertising of alcohol – and they found it on beer bottle condoms. These beer bottle cooling sleeves which are so popular in Thailand, particularly in the beer bars, are not allowed to feature any alcohol advertising, kind of crazy really when traditionally it has been the breweries themselves that supplied them to bars for free – obviously because they featured the name of the brew on the outside!
South African satellite TV is back at Crossbar. There's the most important sport of all, live Tri-Nations rugby each Saturday for the next several weeks. The Tour de France will be covered for the next few weeks. There's the World Cup with English commentary, build up as well as half time and full time analysis. There's a summer of cricket, the Open golf next week…the list is seemingly endless. There's even the Australian Network showing AFL and NRL. Coupled with this, there's also Indian TV for more cricket and even coverage of live English county matches. Check out the Crossbar Bangkok on Facebook for daily updates of live sporting events.
Some readers have asked me to list the Arab's bars. I guess they want to go and check them out for themselves… The Arab's venues in Soi Cowboy are Rio, Spice Girls, Déjà Vu, Midnite, Kiss, and Sahara.
Howard Miller, the friendly Brit who runs Pattaya One and is perhaps best known as the leader of the Farang Tourist Police Volunteers in Pattaya, has been appointed as the new British Honorary Consul General for Pattaya. He will replace long-serving Barry Kenyon who has performed the often thankless duties of what is an important role for a long time. Despite copping a fair bit of criticism from some quarters, I have always found Howard to be a good sort. He's well-connected with an extensive network of contacts and has much experience dealing with problems in Pattaya, all of which will be invaluable in his new role. His appointment commences August 1st. Congratulations, Howard. I'm sure you'll do a great job.
Walking along Cowboy to the soi 23 end before jumping into a cab and heading home, I spotted one friend, well, an acquaintance really, outside a Cowboy bar cuddled up to a lovely. His wife is at home, a few months pregnant, but that did not seem to deter him. Passing him and wandering down to the end of the soi, I spotted another guy I knew, sitting outside the Old Dutch and treating passers by to a bout of tongue twisting with what appeared to be an employee of a Cowboy establishment. His wife, a former Cowboy dancer as luck would have it, was no doubt in their condo about a kilometre up the road, looking after their two young ones. I often talk about how bargirls are damaged goods and how many struggle to settle down and function in a regular relationship but it seems that these comments are just as relevant to many guys too. The bar industry can be really damaging if you cannot keep a lid on things – and many guys just cannot! Be careful – the bar industry is addictive and for many, once they have had a taste, they simply cannot let go.
From time to time I am asked where sex toys can be purchased in Bangkok. I did once see them somewhere in Mahboonkrong but cannot for the life of me remember which floor they were on. That was a long time ago and things have changed. Nowadays they are easy to find. On Sukhumvit Road various street stalls have them for sale, out in the open, from early in the day, as per the photo here. The stall where I took this photograph is right outside the Starbucks branch on the corner of Sukhumvit soi 5. It is said that the sale of these toys is in fact illegal, but with them openly on display in one of the busiest sections of one of the busiest roads in the Thai capital, surely that cannot be!
I am on record as saying I am not in favour of hanging out in bars where smoking is allowed. In Bangkok, few bars allow smoking and those that do don't get any baht out of me. In Pattaya it's a different story – most bars allow smoking so non-smokers like me just have to grin and bear it. In a popular Pattaya gogo bar this past week, a customer was smoking vanilla-scented cigars. Outside the venue some Thais were giving the manager strange looks and a girl at another bar commented to him that she could smell smoke on his clothes, notwithstanding that he doesn't smoke. It wasn't until a little later when the mamasan commented that the vanilla cigars smelled like ya ba that he cottoned on to what his friend had been trying to say without being direct! It looks like he is going to have to ban the smoking of them for one would not want to unnecessarily attract the attention of the boys in brown.
The following comment was written on the wall inside a toilet at Narita Airport in Japan and sent to me by a reader. "This is my last flight home after living in Thailand for 5 years. I leave with this life lesson to share with you. Don't trust anything, any one of them says. You may think they are stupid and you are probably right. But they excel at deception. They will exceed your wildest imagination to cheat, lie, and steal.”
Indians get a hard time in some Thailand gogo bars with many venues simply refusing entry to them. Given what I witnessed this week it's not hard to see how such policy came about. The doctor and I were enjoying ourselves in Tilac Bar in Cowboy when a bunch of young Middle Eastern guys came in and sat right next to us. They were all mid to late 20s and reasonably well-dressed. It soon became clear that the way they like to party is rather different to the way other customers like to party. Only two of them ordered drinks, the rest refusing, playing games with the staff, zipping off to the toilet when the waitresses asked them to buy a drink. The dancers in Tilac wear a very short skirt, most don't wear knickers and whenever a dancer walked past this group they would grab her, one pulling up her skirt and in a couple of instances, another grabbing her crotch. Those girls who had been sitting near them all moved away, some coming over and sitting next to the doc and I where they ranted about how much they hate Indians. I tried to point out that these guys weren't Indians at all, but from somewhere in the Middle East. That was lost on the girls. As far as they were concerned, these guys were Indians – and they are all no good. I hate to say it, but seeing this behaviour first hand I understand why some bars refuse entry to guys from certain countries. Their behaviour can only be described as disgraceful. It is of course sad for the Indians to be lumped in with this lot. The problem is that many Thais simply cannot tell the difference between Middle Easterners and Indians.
Thai Economics 101 (raise your prices when business is down) came to the fore this week when a pal was getting an oily rub down in some massage house in the Nana area. At some point the lass asked if he would care for a hand job, and seeing that she looked like she could do with a few extra baht, he thought, why the hell not. Enquiring as to the price, she quoted an astonishing 3,000 baht! Seeing the look of shock on his face, she quickly dropped the price to 2,000 baht, still an outrageous amount. At that point he said that even if she had dropped to a much more reasonable price, he would have turned her down. Worst of all, he is Pattaya-based where said services are offered at rock bottom prices.
Thai men are much more discrete with women of the night than Western men ever are. Those few Thai men who are aware of what Western men get up to are appalled that Westerners resident in Thailand would actually take a hooker back to their place of abode! Such behaviour is quite simply *unthinkable* to Thai men, especially given that the city has no shortage of short-time hotels! A good mate of mine was chatting with one of his Thai mates about this phenomenon and the Thai fellow said something which might sound quite profound, but which I cannot reiterate strongly enough is how locals feel about this. The Thai fellow said that if he took a hooker back to his rented apartment the owner would probably throw him out immediately! That is how seriously Thais take it. The way that many Westerners parade their mia chow in public is abhorrent to the average Thai.
I was asked a curious question this week – what I thought the worst trait or feature of Thai women was. It's a tough one to answer and I thought about it for a while, weighed up some of the old chestnuts and then settled on an answer – and one I reckon you'd never guess. What bothers me most about Thai women when I am in a relationship with one is their gullibility. Many Thai women are incredibly gullible, believing whatever they hear – especially if it comes from a fellow countryman. No amount of explanation can convince a Thai woman that the person who just told them a story may very well have their own agenda. No amount of explanation, logic, or common sense can refute some of the most ridiculous tales taken at face value.
Chatting to a Western gogo bar manager with many years' experience, he mentioned that he thought that gogo dancing went downhill a fair few years back and it coincided with the time when it started to become more difficult to recruit dancing girls. With bars fighting to keep their prettiest girls, some have become quite bitchy and demanding. In many bars the dancing girls are pampered and allowed free run of the premises – because no bar wants to lose its girls. And in some instances, and in some bars, mamasans are often scared to say anything to the girls, because the girls will just report them to the boss and threaten to leave! In a lot of bars, the gogo girls have the power. They know it – and they abuse it!
Any Americans who may soon require a new passport or need supplementary pages added to their passport should take a trip to the embassy and make the application by the day after tomorrow, July 13. If you wait any longer, it's going to cost you more. After July 13, adding pages to your passport goes from being FREE to a service for which you will be charged $82. Yes, you read that right – $82! Apparently other services are going up in price too so it would pay to get down to Wireless pronto.
I made it to Sunrise Tacos this week where the food is always good and arguably even better these days with two real deal Mexican chefs, pictured below, in the kitchen at the soi 12 location. One of the things that I really like about Sunrise is that unlike most Mexican restaurants in Bangkok which use commercially produced corn chips, Sunrise makes their own – and their nachos supreme are superb! For me, it's the best reasonably priced Mexican food in Bangkok.
Quote of the week comes from a reader, "How come I can remember every detail of my first Thai bargirl (Jack from Rainbow 2, in 1998) but can't recall the name of the 2 hotties I barfined last week?"
Reader's story of the week comes from Peter Kamen and is titled, "I Am A Loser".
CNNGO reports that Travel & Leisure magazine voted Bangkok the best city in the world.
The Herald Sun reports that a Melbourne mum is travelling to Thailand to choose the sex of her baby.
Brit Jeff Savage, who threatened to burn down Central World, got 45 days in the monkey house.
BusinessWeek reports that exports from Thailand are booming.
The Nation newspaper reports that a Thai woman is arrested for masturbating.
From the New York Times, will the next Phuket arise in the Philippines?
From the UK's Independent, A British expatriate flew home from Thailand to strangle a devoted housewife.
A scathing editorial in The Nation this week looked out how corruption could become ingrained in the Thai psyche.
In the safe, family-friendly seaside city of Pattaya, a bargirl is (mistakenly?) shot in a drive by shooting.
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: Foreigners get nervous when stopped by Thai police and told that they are going to be searched. There is a fear that something might be planted on their person. What are a person's rights when stopped by the police? Do they have the right to search us without permission? What is the best way to handle this situation?
Sunbelt Legal responds: First and foremost, a search without a warrant is illegal and is in direct violation of your basic human rights. The police can conduct a warrantless search ONLY if you voluntarily consent to the search. Do not be intimidated into saying YES in being searched. In the first place, you may refuse to be searched and strongly enforce this right if there is no search warrant. In the case of a minor, consent from the legal guardian has to be obtained first before any search can be conducted. However, the Police are given extrajudicial rights to conduct a search without a warrant depending on the circumstances for as long as they have a probable cause to do so. The officer must demonstrate two things for a search of a vehicle without probable cause: First, he has an exception to the probable cause requirement. Second, he has an exception to the warrant requirement. Your first right is simply to say NO. However, the case may be disputed as to whether the officer has a probable cause to do so or not. If the case may arise and you firmly believe that you have been stopped for no reason and unjustly searched or unlawfully arrested, you as the defendant must demonstrate standing in a motion to suppress evidence seized (if any) as a result of an illegal search. You must demonstrate a privacy interest in the area or thing searched. You have the right to have a lawyer, to contact people, to have an interpreter or to have the reason you've been arrested explained to you.
Question 2: For as far back as I can remember – and I first came here in 1988 – farangs have been arguing about whether the law requires us to carry our passports on us at all times. As best I personally can figure, the law requires Thais to carry IDs but not foreigners, but the police are slow to make this distinction and do not like to be told a farang might know the law better than he does. But I can't be sure this is correct either. So what's the bottom line on foreigners and carrying passports? And I don't mean just is it a good idea – is it required under the law?
Sunbelt Legal responds: According to the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO): “By law, tourists are expected to carry their passports with them at all times in Thailand. There have been incidents where tourists have been arrested because they were unable to produce their passport.” See here. Also, the United States (see here), Irish, French and Australian foreign office/embassy websites (as well as others) all tell their citizens to carry copies of their passports with them when traveling abroad (and often when discussing traveling in Thailand specifically). These notices took on a more foreboding tone during the institution of Martial Law during and after the 2010 “Red Shirt riots” with numerous announcements on radio, TV and print from the Thai Government stating that foreign nationals needed to carry their passports with them for identification. Most Thais will tell you that after the age of 15 they are required to carry their National ID card with them. The Thai Police will tell you that the law actually states that everybody in Thailand needs to carry an official document proving their identity. The law doesn’t specify a passport for foreign nationals or, as a matter of fact, the Thai National ID Card for Thai citizens so in theory a Thai Driving license, a work permit or a National Identity card should all be considered valid (although you could always be asked to produce your passport later to a Thai Immigration officer). Copies of passports, despite what you may be told, are not official documents and while they are not technically acceptable, in practice they are readily accepted in almost all instances involving routine checks by the Thai Police. The bottom line is that it appears to be both the law and simply a good practice to carry as identification a photo-copy of your passport and visa with you at all times in Thailand.
Question 3: I have heard that if you have a child to a Thai lady, you have no rights or responsibility to the child if you are not married to her. That is, you could be married to her in the West but unless you declare marriage to her in Thailand you have no legal rights to the child. I can understand the 'no responsibility' part would suit some Thai fellows and the fact that they are not up for maintenance would attest to this. For those of us however who come to LOS with our wife and kids this could create quite an issue if custody had to be determined for any reason.
Sunbelt Legal responds: Custody of a child is naturally borne by the mother unless there are substantial grounds that the mother is incapable of taking care of the child. Based on Thai Law, an unmarried father of a child has no parental rights whatsoever over the said child even if the father’s name appears on the birth certificate of the child. There are two ways in obtaining parental rights over the child: 1) by marriage – this grants the father immediate rights over the child; 2) for an unmarried couple, by court order or affidavit at the District office. If the child is above 7 years old, you may simply obtain an affidavit of child custody at the District Office. This usually just takes a day or two. However, if the child is below 7 years old or is unable to recognize the father, then a court order must be obtained which usually takes 6 months or so. Disputes about parental rights and custody are also dependent on which jurisdiction of law is responsible. While Thai Law explicitly states that the unmarried father has no parental rights over the child, it is only applicable in the court of Thailand. Other courts in different countries have different views on this part, hence, the local law applies on that particular court. Lastly, if you are married out of Thailand, you must obtain an affidavit at the District Office in order for the marriage abroad to be recognized. This document is called Kor ror 22 or commonly known as “Report of Marriage Abroad”. This then grants the father immediate parental rights under Thai Law.
When I covered the red shirt protests in Bangkok a couple of months back, the site received outrageously high traffic and the format of covering the events with the inclusion of a lot of photos seemed to go down well. As far as the opening piece is concerned, some weeks there will be perhaps less commentary and more photos. The topics covered will remain the same and other sections of the column won't change.
Your Bangkok commentator,