Stickman's Weekly Column July 18th, 2010

The Coconut Bar

It's the longest-running bar in Pattaya and it's open for business 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. There are no lady drinks to be bought and neither are there barfines to be paid. Not one of the girls working there receives a single baht of salary
and there are no uniforms. The girls can wear however much, or little, as they wish. Crackdowns happen from time to time and sometimes there are few girls to be found. It's Pattaya's Beach Road, often referred to as the Coconut Bar.

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The 3 kilometre crescent of Pattaya Beach makes for a pleasant walk and it's a walk I make every day of every visit to Pattaya. The sea breeze and the relatively fresh air make for a change from the pollution that's so hard to escape in Bangkok.
You can't make the beach road walk without noticing the ladies you pass. Working girls. The catch calls of “Hello, handsome man”, “Where you go”, or “I do go with you” are heard dozens of times if
you walk from one end of the beach to the other.

Make the walk often enough and you notice the same girls. In the same places. The Beach Road is their workplace. Many have been working the beach road for years and some look like they could have been around way back when GIs were pouring into Pattaya
for R & R.

The Beach Road is not just home to girls, but to guys, although thankfully these specimens aren't selling themselves. Many are in their twilight years and many of them too have been hanging out on the Beach Road for years. They follow similar patterns
– sitting in the same place, with the same groups of friends, day after day, week after week….quite possibly year after year.

But it's not just the old-timers who frequent the Coconut Bar today. They're being joined by the newer visitors to Pattaya and more and more, the girls are being approached by Indians, Middle Easterners and young guys from Eastern Europe. I'm
all for getting fair value, but there's something disconcerting about these new visitors who try to negotiate with a girl offering herself for a measly 500 baht, the standard Coconut Bar rate which like the price of a can of Coke in Thailand,
hasn't increased in as long as I can remember.

The women of Beach Road are rough. In a country with so many attractive women, it would be easy to think that many on the Beach Road were hand-picked for their lack of physical beauty. It doesn't help that they are seen in the harsh light of day
– many gogo girls look just as rough if you see them in the morning, leaving hotels, heading back to their Thai boyfriend. Why do you think gogo bars are so poorly lit?!

Unlike other venues where working girls are found, at the Coconut Bar the girls' partners are often near by, lurking in the shadows. Often scrawny, rough-looking and covered in tats, they are not just the girls' pimps, they're
their boyfriends, and in some cases, their legal husbands. A nasty bunch, many look like they would revel in a bit of rough and tumble.

Despite being perhaps the least attractive of any group of working girls in Thailand, the beach road girls' business plan is simple. Volume. They're short-time girls offering quick, low cost sex. 500 baht. Wham, bam, thank you, man! They do
the business and go straight back to the Coconut Bar, back to the same place on the boardwalk, their place, protected by their boyfriend and the cycle starts again.

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"I want you to be my first", one girl said to me this week, alluding to the fact that these girls really do go many times each day. A Pattaya-based friend who knew one beach road girl claimed she had once gone 7 times in a single
day, that's from the time she arrived there in the morning until the time she returned home to sleep at night. While Thai hookers are known for being notorious liars, he is convinced she was telling the truth.

If you linger in one spot long enough and observe the patterns, as girls return to the beach road they are often approached by their boyfriend. She hands over the money she just made and hunts for her next customer. Failure to hand over the cash could
see her abused, slapped or even beaten, right there on the beach road. Heated arguments between the girls and their boyfriends are common.

While Western guys have to pay these girls for sex, they have to pay these guys, some of the roughest low-lifes you'll find in Thai society, to be their boyfriend.

These guys have zero respect for foreigners and are frequently heard mouthing off at maximum volume about Western guys with the girls, assuming that whitey doesn't have a clue what they're talking about.

During daylight hours, the Coconut Bar serves as the office for some of the roughest looking Thai birds you can imagine. I find it almost unimaginable that guys would actually pay some of them for their company.

But the Coconut Bar undergoes a transformation around 6 PM. As the sun descends rapidly, somewhat prettier girls come out. Better looking and better dressed. I've often wondered why these prettier lasses don't show their faces during the day
and the best I can come up with is that they are not “Beach Road only” girls. They seem to linger at the Coconut Bar until mid evening before drifting up to Walking Street where they may hang around, hoping to be picked up.
They eventually make it in to one of the freelancer hang outs, the likes of Walking Street Bar, Lucifer's, Marine or Insomnia.

Not all of the day-time girls are ugly. Hard, for the most part, yes. But not all are ugly. Girls new to Pattaya may start at the Coconut Bar, simply because they don't know where to go. Some do end up in the gogos like one girl a friend rather fancied
who ended up in one of Pattaya's flashest gogos, Angelwitch.

The Coconut Bar doesn't discriminate. You find young girls, old women and everything in between. Late at night the ladyboys come out, or as they are often called in Thai, katoeys. Their MO is a little different to that of the girls
with many hiding in the shadows, not always showing their face, but willing to show even more if they think you're a genuine buyer. Their section of the Coconut Bar is often opposite sois 7 and 8.

News reports run every other day in the Pattaya press of ladyboy thefts – and the street-walking ladyboys you find at the Coconut Bar are often the culprits, suggesting they are best avoided.

The risk with freelancers is always greater than with a lady you met in a bar and reports of guys being drugged or robbed by someone they met at the Coconut Bar means that the beach road is frequently the target of crackdowns. All are rounded up, taken
to soi 9, given a lecture and a small fine before being released. They're usually back at the Coconut Bar just hours later, having played their part in what could be best be described as a publicity stunt, at worst a total farce.

The authorities are seen from time to time handing out brochures tor the girls, warning of the dangers of HIV and drug use. NGO members are sometimes seen handing out similar brochures, extolling the benefits of turning to Jesus, all of which gives the
girls something to joke about!

As with most bars in Thailand, the Coconut Bar is quiet in the morning and through to lunch time, but from mid-afternoon onwards it starts to get busier – and more entertaining. There are fights, drunk or drug-crazed girls ranting and no shortage of abuse
from some girls to anyone within earshot. With no prohibition on who works there, the Coconut Bar has plenty of characters as well as some real nut jobs.

One of my early memories of the Coconut Bar is that of an unkempt, disheveled, older Westerner who hunted for young ones. He would walk up to younger ladies, grab their face, squeeze their chin and as part of the sizing up process would
pull up their t-shirt or whatever top they were wearing. It took me a while to realise that he was checking to see if they had a map of the world i.e. if they had kids or not.

The Coconut Bar is free entertainment at its best with that most delicious element, anything, absolutely anything, could happen next. In that respect this week was no exception. With the light dimming as the sun plummeted below the South East Asian horizon,
I found myself changing the camera's settings, doubling the ISO every few minutes. I was ready to capture whatever may happen next. And then it happened. Usually I am fast, the camera and lens like an extension of my arm. I'd like to
think I have the same relationship with my camera as a racing driver has with his car. Between Royal Garden Shopping Centre and Mike's, one of the busiest stretches of the Coconut Bar, a fetching late 30s, early 40s bird had spied me snapping
shots along the way. She was game. She wanted to play. She leapt up from where she had been sitting and pulled up her black dress all the way to her boobs, revealing that she was ready for action. She wasn't wearing
knickers. She was also adept with a razor and had an enormous piercing right where it has just got to hurt. I pulled the camera up to eye level at record speed, pushed the lens out to the telephoto end of the focal length and the autofocus snapped
on to her lower stomach, but before I had a chance to depress the shutter she had pulled her dress down and erupted into hysterical laughter. She was faster than me. I just missed what could have been the Stickman photo of the year.

The Coconut Bar might be foreboding at night, especially late, after midnight, when the notorious ladyboys come out to play, but with that said it is after the sun has gone down that it's at its best. Darkness brings more ladies,
prettier ladies and while you'll really have to hunt hard for that diamond in the rough, the nightshift are easier on the eye, bad light notwithstanding. The older, less attractive birds, many who should have retired years ago, have long
since headed back to their room. They just cannot compete with their younger sisters.

For mainstream Thai society, Pattaya's Beach is an eyesore and the nonsense right in the face of the general public at the Coconut Bar is a massive embarrassment and one of many reasons why most Thais prefer the beach over the hill at Jomtien. Mrs.
Stick once described Pattaya's beach road to me as the most disgusting place in all of Thailand.

Pattaya may be deservedly known by many as Sin City, but that doesn't stop the local authorities talking of reinventing the place into something resembling a family holiday destination. If they were genuinely serious about that then cleaning up the
beach should be the first thing on their to do list. A family holiday destination where the beach is avoided because of an abundance of skanky hookers – and their creepy customers – is hardly the image of a family friendly holiday destination.

The Coconut Bar has been a Pattaya institution for decades. I enjoy my wander through it on every visit I make to Sin City. If Pattaya ever really does make an effort to become family friendly, what will happen to its largest bar?

Last week's photo

Where was this photo taken?

Last week's photo was taken in Took Lae Dee, the small diner just inside the branch Sukhumvit soi branch of Foodland. 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 conveniently located in the Emporium shopping centre. It would be nice to get
some more prize providers for the where is this photo competition as every week dozens of people enter and only a couple of readers can win a prize. If you are interested in providing prizes in exchange for a link in this section of the column,
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 – Are the so-called "losers" really the winners?!

My theory on why Western women respond with such fear and loathing when they see farang men having fun with Thai girls is because that lifestyle is a direct threat on Western women's most important interests. Losing "their" men and "their"
wallets to foreign competition scares the hell out of them! Of course, they probably don't care about the few individual guys they point to as examples of supposed pathetic immorality. What really terrifies them is the idea of heading
off to Asia for love gaining widespread acceptance. Unable and unwilling to compete, they prefer to call "foul" on the whole business. Thus, they have to tar any man who chooses to do so with the "loser" brush. They're
reacting the same way GM did when Americans started buying Japanese cars 40 years ago. Of course, the miserable guys married to fat, expensive, demanding women in the West are happy to at least have one thing to make their sacrifices appear
worthwhile. They may not be having fun like their brothers in the LOS, but at least they're not "losers".

Busted for using a fake degree, the inside story.

I just want to clear up a couple of inaccuracies about the two westerners that were arrested for using fake credentials a few years ago. I was one of them. We had been working at the school for a long time when the head of the
school asked all of the 20 – 30 English teachers without degrees, to secure fake degrees in order to show the Ministry of Education on their annual visit. The school wanted everyone to get a work permit using these Khao San Road degrees which
admittedly was a bad idea to go along with. I was no longer working with the work permit I obtained using the false degree as I had cancelled it in July before the stiffer punishments were introduced around October of 2006. The school also
owned a software company and I was working on a work permit for that company through an authentic technical diploma when arrested for working with a false degree. We were sentenced to 6 months in the monkey house but because we pled guilty
we received 90 days plus another couple of weeks in the Immigration detention centre. In the detention centre were a number of farangs held for offences as minor as a day's overstay to as serious as drug trafficking. Thailand is not a
Western country and you are not entitled to "Western rights". As Stick said, people should stay away from using the fake credentials so blatantly on display in Khao San Road and foreigners should generally try to avoid trouble of
any kind. The consequences for me have been minimal as Canada does not consider me to have a criminal record but others may experience more negative consequences in their respective countries. I will most likely never be allowed to return
to Thailand and while I miss it sometimes, it is not the big deal it might be to others. Like many, I thought that it couldn't happen to me, but it can and it did. It can happen to you so beware!

The best bar area depends on what you're looking for.

I need to disagree with your frequent assertions that Nana is now a wasteland and Cowboy has taken over. Given that a number of the gogos in Cowboy are Arab bars, how can you prefer it so one-sidedly? The main difference between the two lies in what your
objective is. When I want to be entertained by some shows or meet up with a couple friends for a fun night, I always head to Cowboy. When I want to barfine a girl for the night, I always head to Nana. You just meet better girls there. The
majority of the girls in Cowboy are drink whores and coyotes. Sure some of them will take barfines, but they're going to act like they're doing you a favour. Since you're not looking for company, it's
understandable that you'd prefer Cowboy. It's more fun to hang out in for the night. But if you were actually taking girls home you would have a much higher opinion of Nana. All of my best experiences have come from Nana.

Looking for Thai girls? Look no more – you just found

If you've got it, flaunt it!

I am really getting tired of seeing all these Thai posers who constantly fiddle with their IPhones, Blackberries or whatever. One sees them everywhere! The rationale must be that if you own one, you must flaunt it at all opportunities or if you are not
actually using any of the multitude of functions, then you must hold it so that everybody can see that you own one, implying sufficient earnings to be able to afford one and are technically gifted enough to be able to use one. Even if with
somebody, they have to continue to fiddle with the wretched thing and cannot resist the urge to show off their gadget. It is SO BORING. I hand it to the marketing people of Nokia, Apple, etc. No good now holding just an ordinary mobile phone
as everybody has one, even road sweepers. Unbelievable.

The sheer exhilaration of the Chao Praya Express!

While I agree with you that the Chao Praya River is one of the more peaceful parts of Bangkok, it's worth noting that the Chao Praya Express (i.e. the public water taxi) is in many ways the opposite of peaceful. The deckhand blows his whistle at
eardrum-splitting levels at each stop – so loudly in fact, that the whistle is audible from at least 35 stories up in riverfront condos; the boat slams against each platform at speeds that can jolt standing riders into fellow passengers; the
engine of these vessels roars at levels that would be prohibited in the West; and the onboard ticket seller rattles her metal container of coins loudly enough to be heard above all this din. It's not a tranquil ride. An infrequent passenger
will likely find the ride to be exhilarating, but I, as a commuter, find it at times nearly unbearable. Indeed, I wear ear plugs and ear muffs when making trips on the service.

Refusing to be treated like a 3rd class citizen.

You are spot on about the Grand Palace. I was disgusted how I was treated there last time and will never ever go back. I have been on several occasions and don't begrudge paying but last time I went my wife who got our 2 step daughters and my son
(who does not look Thai) in for free. I was treated like a 3rd class citizen though and made to put on woolly socks (which itched in the heat ) and sandals + a shirt even though I had dressed appropriately. Never again! That together with
the scams going on around the palace just about shows how some Thai view us.

Gullibility, lies and deception.

Boy, did you hit the nail on the head about the gullibility of Thai women. My wife is a typical example! She believes whatever she is told if it comes from another Thai lady. It was more of a problem when she worked in the bar as all the girls wanted
to one up each other. All claimed that their farang boyfriend gave them this mobile phone, paid them this money, bought them this expensive purse / gold, took them to this restaurant or holiday. It was a never ending cycle of lies and deception.
Now that we are married and living in Surin, my wife listens to the BS from other Thai ladies here who have farang boyfriends / husbands. Some of the claims border on the ludicrous and I have to laugh because in most cases I know the guy or
know his friends and we are a tight wad lot who have learned to watch our pockets and our bank accounts with Thai ladies, no matter how much we love them. I myself have given up trying to explain to my wife the facts about these claims. She
does not want to listen or believe me. I am a farang after all and what do I know about other Thai ladies? So, in the end, it's just not worth it to let this be a problem in our marriage.

When will Las Vegas Strip open? That's the name for the new bar which Czech Peter has been working on, on the top floor of Nana Plaza. I guess it's good to see an optimistic bar owner sinking money into a bar area even
when that bar area has a very uncertain future.

There've been ongoing rumours about Nana Plaza's future for longer than I have been writing this column and no doubt they will continue until the end of 2012 at least, when the master lease for the plaza comes up. Down in Phuket similar rumours
have been flying about for almost as long over the future of Soi Eric, arguably the best bar area in Patong. Bar owners in Soi Eric are wondering whether their new leases will be available when the master lease comes up down there. Sources who
claim to know the owners of the land say the leases won't be renewed because the owners want to redevelop the site – which sounds plausible enough given its location on Bangla but with that said, I have no idea what is true and what isn't. These are, as I say, rumours. The similarities between Nana Plaza and Soi Eric are uncanny. Years ago the departure of either would
have been a genuine loss, but given what has happened to Nana Plaza in Bangkok, and with the over supply of bars in Phuket, the disappearance of either would be no great loss.

July 26 and 27 are public holidays in Thailand, Buddhist holidays, days when it is never clear whether there'll be a widespread prohibition on the sale of alcohol and consequently closure of bars and night spots. I hope to have more info next week
but bear in mind that closure orders are sometimes distributed at the last minute.

A new beer bar complex is under construction at the bottom of soi 8 in Pattaya.

Tough times call for thinking outside the box and there has been some clever marketing from the owners of Hillary Bar 2 in Soi Nana and Climax, the popular freelancer joint in the basement of the Ambassador Hotel in Sukhumvit Soi 11. This week they sent
a girl to the soi 23 end of Soi Cowboy to hand out flyers advertising the two venues.

The open air bar with pool tables on the ground floor of the Penny Black at the Asoke end of Soi Cowboy is undergoing renovations. Whether it is merely minor improvements or a format change remains a mystery. The wall that was open to Asoke has been closed
so perhaps the format is changing from open air to air-con?

There was a blood bath in What's Up on Wednesday night, the smut bar where anything goes on soi 15 off Walking Street in Pattaya. A couple of long-time Pattaya residents said that it was one of the nastiest incidents they've seen. The rumour
mill has gone into overdrive about just what caused the fracas with accusations of photography inside the bar and checkbin disputes topping the list. A group of customers were set upon by the bar's security and from all accounts
they were mauled, bottles being the security's weapon of choice. There was blood everywhere, both in the bar and in the soi, and the victims had to be hurtled away to hospital for urgent medical attention. A number of What's Up staff
were subsequently arrested. This should serve as a reminder that while the bar industry can be much fun, things can turn nasty in a heartbeat. Many bars have packs of young, rough-looking security guards lingering around. In some cases they may
be boyfriends of the dancers and some despise foreigners, a combination of jealous and angry that visitors to their country have the financial means to come to do what they want with their women. Some revel in the opportunity for a little
pay back.

For readers in England, or anywhere in the southern UK for that matter, the Thai Food and Drink Festival will be held next Sunday, July 25, at Battersea Park in London. For Brits who miss Thailand or with a Thai connection, it's an opportunity to
sample a little bit of the Kingdom in your own backyard. I am told that there will be heaps of Thai food and beer available as well as cultural displays. If any readers make it there, do send me a photo or two.

Soi Pattayaland 2 is not the thriving bar area it once was, but there are still some bars still worth checking out. The owners of Kitten Club and Pattaya Obsessions have responded to the tough times by reducing prices and simplifying their drinks prices.
Regular tipples – beers by the bottle and soft drinks run 99 baht. Draft is just 59 baht. Spirits and wine by the glass are a reasonable 99 baht. Cocktails, top shelf spirits and Bacardi Breezers will set you back 135 baht and those over-priced
and over-rated imported beers, Corona and Budweiser, will set you back 199 baht. Lady drinks are 99 baht and if she prefers a splash of liquor, it will run 135 baht. The barfines are cheap by gogo bar standards, just 400 baht, all day, all night.

Another bar with lower drinks prices is Spanky's in Patpong where all Thai beer is now 100 baht and select top shelf like Red Label, vodka, gin and rum are all 120 baht.

One of the seldom-mentioned advantages of getting a work permit and paying your social contributions is that you become eligible for free healthcare in the Thai public heath system. A popular Pattaya bar manager requires a hip replacement. He made inquiries
as to what it would cost with Bumrungrad in Bangkok quoting him a cool million baht. He is scheduled to have the op this coming week in a local hospital where it will be absolutely free of charge!

But not everyone has a work permit, in fact quite possibly more employed foreigners in Thailand do not have than have one do. In Pattaya this is becoming an issue. Many have been caught doing things they shouldn't and forced to negotiate their way out of trouble. The owner of the new Armageddon Bar in Soi LK Metro has sunk plenty of money into his new venue and was promoting
it every way he could. He decorated a tuktuk with the bar's name, filled it with hot girls and drove it around Pattaya, with the girls waving at all they passed. That might be a great way to raise your profile but driving the tuktuk himself
was not so clever. When the boys in brown saw what he was doing, they asked to see the requisite blue book which he did not have. He managed to sort it out.

They say that the difference between sex that you pay for and sex that you don't pay for is that sex that you pay for is cheaper. A young, friendly and very presentable Scotsman was in Airport Club, one of the finest bars in Pattaya, where he met
a lovely lass. They chatted and enjoyed each other's company over a few drinks together before she said that she would like to bonk him…for free! She said that she did not want a single baht from him. She specified that she wanted to bonk
him in her own condo and not in his hotel room, a curious choice as he was staying in a 5-star property. He agreed, paid the barfine and off they went back to her place in her car!. If a gogo girl driving home from work in a car was not a red
flag, when he arrived at her place his curiosity was piqued even further. She had a flash pad, nicely decorated and she even had three laptops, all of which were set up and turned on. When asked, she did not deny the existence of a sponsor. They
did the business before crashing. With the light of a new day, he woke up in unfamiliar surroundings of her condo, his little darling asleep beside him. His wallet was still there and he was in one piece. No harm had come to him. She
was good to her word and no requests for baht were made. He was however surprised to see that the three laptops were still turned on. And then he noticed the webcams attached to them which were pointed at the bed. He thought back to the previous
night and recalled that business had been done with the lights on. As someone employed in the IT industry he knew what that meant. Either their tryst had been recorded, or it had been broadcast over the net, or both. Beware of freebies!

I heard on the grapevine from a Thai friend that a young Thai lad was busted for drunk driving the other night. The cop wanted 15K on the spot but the fellow refused and was taken to the police station where he was fined 8K baht. Now I thought it the
fine would mean that that was the end of it, but apparently not. He is out on 20K baht bail which presumably he will get back when he shows up for the court hearing, at which point he'll likely be ordered to do some community
service. Cracking down on drink driving *is* a bigger deal than it used to be but with that said, it just means that paying your way out of it is costlier.

I guess I really am not that observant. In Washington Square, the neon sign above the awning that hangs over the bar's frontage, "Star" is spelt with just one "a". But on the main sign out front of the bar below the awning and
also on the sign on the front window, the sign says Texas Long Staar Bar with two "a"s. Yep, it has taken me 12 years to spot this disparity!

It's always interesting to hear about what happened to girls you once knew, or those girls you used to see out and about. A year or two back there was a young lass in Secrets in Pattaya who was incredibly cute. A fantastic smile, a pleasant demeanour
and let's not forget a certain similarity with Dolly Parton and Samantha Fox made her one of the most popular girls not just in Secrets, but in all of Walking Street. I think it would be fair to say that Wan, pictured here, was an internet
star – she was talked about all the times on the Pattaya naughty boy forums. Wan was removed from the bar by a British guy who was willing to meet her financial requirements. For a while all was well but it wasn't to last
and for whatever reason they parted ways. She returned to the industry but didn't last long when a German decided he would take her on. Despite her incredible popularity, and being many guys' favourite, he did not like her as she was
and sent her to see a plastic surgeon. The first step was to get a nose job. That Isaan nose you see in this 2-year old photo is history, replaced by a farang-style nose. Not one person who has seen her since she went under the knife has been
impressed. Some say she now looks like an Indian, an insult to a Thai! But the German is not finished. The next step, quite incredibly, is to get her knockers enlarged. Why oh why he would want to do that I have no idea. What a shame…

How can you get a free drink in a bar where you don't know anyone? You could always do what a friend of mine did. I was not there – and if I had been I really don't know what I would have done, or what I would have thought – but this fellow,
who was totally wasted from all accounts, was sitting in the back row of the tiered seating in Angelwitch with a pal of his. For some ungodly reason, he dropped his trousers, pulled his flaccid manhood out and flopped it on the bald head of an
old coot sitting in front of him! The girls in Angelwitch were said to be in hysterics as the old guy turned around, saw what was happening and then most curiously offered to buy my pal and the fellow with him a drink! Probably not the wisest
thing to do and I can imagine that others might not have reacted so positively.

Paying over the odds is a personal choice and no-one should be criticised for how they choose to spend their hard-earned. But with that said, many foreigners in Thailand do criticise their fellow farang for paying what they consider to be over the odds,
especially when they see negative consequences of those actions i.e. prices rising because of this perceived overpaying. The net effect could be that they end up paying more than they otherwise may have because others have been paying more than
was necessary and that new amount becomes the norm. The funny thing is that Westerners paying over the odds is now having an effect on some Thais! After a long period of little in the way of price increases for rental properties in Bangkok, I
am seeing more and more evidence that the cost of renting in Bangkok is increasing, at least at some levels of the market. Places where lower middle class Thais used to stay are now infested with foreigners. Rooms that once went for 3,500 – 4,000 are going for double that to clueless foreigners who have no idea what the locals would pay / how much the rooms used to be rented out

More than ever before, pointing the camera at working girls in Pattaya, particularly freelancers or girls just loitering about, gets the cry of "100 baht!" My guess is that some guys snapping shots are indeed handing over red notes to the girls,
thinking it is some sort of requirement. Given that some of the guys on the Beach Road look down and out, I wonder if any of them will start asking for 100 baht when I point the camera their way?!

Two steakhouse franchises are coming to Thailand. Ruth's Chris and Morton's of Chicago, two American steakhouse chains, aren't far away from setting up in Thailand. Hopefully they will not charge the same sort of prices that the likes of
some of the city's top-end steakhouses charge. For sure, there's room in the market for a reasonably priced steakhouse with quality cuts of meat. You *can* get a good steak in Bangkok if you know where to go – but it'll cost you
WAY more than it would in the West.

From time to time, I'm asked whether there are any IT openings in Thailand for Westerners keen to relocate and work in the Kingdom. I give the same response each time, that Thais are actually quite competent in most computer-related jobs and as such
there isn't any real demand for foreigners with computer skills. Whenever I say this publicly, I am chastised by those Westerners employed in IT in Thailand. So I ask them the question – If you had to hire someone to work with you in a computer-related
job, would you hire a Westerner or a Thai. A Thai, every time, they say. Duh!

Quote of the week comes from the granddaddy of Tilac, "I would like to know why it is that when one uses the MRT, the train going the other way always seems to come into the station first when I know it should be a 50/50 chance but in reality it is more like 10/90 as the train one wants to catch invariably arrives second."

Reader's story of the week is a nice positive yarn, "How Thailand Changed My Life."

Australia's Age newspaper reports that cheap package deals to Thailand are being

Dutch scumbag Joran van der Sloot's endeavours to traffic Thai women are exposed.

The Daily Telegraph reports that 1,600 pounds of ivory was has been seized in Thailand.

Everton is sponsored by the Thai brewer Chang, but oh my God, what about the colour of their away strip?!

A Swede who claims he was wrongly imprisoned in Thailand for 10 years is fighting to correct things.

Every tourist and expat's nightmare, a Brit claims he was set up by Thai police on drugs charges.

Melbourne's Sun Heralds reports that any tourists feeding elephants in Thailand face hefty fines!

Some of those old properties in Chinatown really are old, like this 70-year old noodle house profiled on CNN.

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: If a foreigner has a material amount of assets based in Thailand, what are the prudent steps they should take in the unlikely (and unfortunate) event they should die
in the future (in Thailand). For example, if they have dependants or even a wife in Farangland. My thought is they should at the very least prepare a legally valid will in Thailand, but what other actions would you advise that they should consider
(other than obviously not having too many assets in Thailand in the first place!)

Sunbelt Legal responds: It is highly recommended that you make a Will and Testament specifically for Thailand should the unfortunate event that you pass away arise. You as a “testator”, are free to entrust any or all of your assets to whomever you wish, be it your wife, parents, children or even an institution. The heirs in a will and testament are referred to as “beneficiary”. By appointing a well-trusted “executor”, such a person will ensure that all of your assets are transferred to your “beneficiary(ies)” after your unfortunate demise. The executor is also responsible for liquidating part of your assets as according to your wishes and remitting the proceeds to your beneficiary(ies). The executor will carry out all the provisions that you put in the will and testament including shipping, transferring the property to the name of your beneficiary, mediating with the Thai government offices for clearances and the like. All matters pertaining to your wishes shall be executed by the executor. This has to be a person (or institution) that you trust the most. You may choose to ship these possessions on your own to your home country little by little, but of course, this might cause some inconveniences on your part as surely you'd still use some of these possessions. In the end, a will and testament is the best solution to this matter since the executor will take care of everything for you.

Question 2: I believe that foreigners may own a condo in a building providing 51% of the floor space of that condo is owned by Thais. My questions are, how do they measure this?
I have heard of foreigners buying condos in the “49%” and then finding they have been sold a property which in fact should never have been sold to them. Is each condo designated as being for Foreigners or Thais from the start, and
is it relatively easy to find out which is which? Or is it in fact fluid, so that if a Thai buys a condo from a foreigner, another Thai can sell his TO a foreigner? I'm thinking of purchasing a condo in Thailand, and I just want to know what
some of the less obvious risks are.

Sunbelt Legal responds: This answer would be assuming the condominium is being purchased from a private individual after the completion of the entire project as the process does change if the unit is being purchased from a developer prior to completion. When purchasing a condominium in Thailand, there are a few very simple precautions that can be taken to avoid the frequently heard of pitfalls to condominium ownership. The first is to have a proper Title Deed Search done through the local land department as this will provide you with the name of the owner of the property and will also tell you if there is a lien or encumbrance of any kind on the property. The next step would be to request the Declaration of Foreign Quota from the juristic office of the condominium. This document will show the actual percentage of ownership for the entire project and will be your proof of foreign ownership if there are any later issues. Keep in mind that the percentage of Thai and foreign ownership is based on the square meters of the livable area of the building and not the number of units in the building. The percentage of Thai to foreign ownership is constantly in flux as units are bought and sold so make sure the Declaration of Foreign Quota is up to date.

Question 3: In 2005 a female Thai national who was then living in Australia contracted with me to do work for her worth about AUD 23,000. Immediately the work was finished the woman
fled to her home at Phuket, Thailand, without paying me. I subsequently obtained an Australian court order for AUD 23,000 plus costs against her. Friends of the woman told me that she has no intention of paying me as Thai courts will not enforce
court orders issued in farang countries against Thai nationals. Please advise if there is any way I can get a Thai court order for the women to pay me. She lives in Phuket and I understand she owns her own home together with other assets.

Sunbelt Legal responds: It is true that the Australian court ruling could not be enforced in Thailand, but it could be used as guideline rulings and would be used as evidence. In order for you proceed litigation process in Thailand, you are required to have this Australian court order notarized at the Australian Embassy in Thailand and then to have this notarized version translated into the Thai language. Then you would have to take the notarized version and its translation to the Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs for certification of translation. After the above processes are complete, you would have 2 options, which are 1) to file a police report which would later end up in court; or 2) to proceed directly with the filing of a lawsuit against the Thai party for fraud. Please be informed that even though the Thai court ruling may award in your favour, it does not mean that the Thai party would have to repay you immediately. In a case where the Thai party does not have the funds to repay you, you would then be required to proceed with another lawsuit enforcing the court order and to confiscate her assets as a substitute for the funds owed. It should also be noted that in each court case, the plaintiff would incur court fees at the value equivalent to 2% of the claim amount (and the maximum fees would be 250,000 baht).

I have received quite a lot of emails and questions about the photographs that appear in this column and what equipment I use along with the settings. I use a Canon digital SLR and some decent lenses. As far as the shots taken in low light
go, it's a combination of shooting at high ISO using low aperture lenses. That's really about all there is to it. If taking photos in Thailand interests you, there's a Thailand-centric weekly
photography column on this site put together by Bangkok Steve that is very popular. Steve is happy to answer all of your photography
questions and knows much, much more about photography than I ever will – so he's the best man to answer your questions!

Your Bangkok commentator,


nana plaza