To many it is the centre of naughty nightlife for foreigners. For others it's a major shopping boulevard while to some, it's home to some of the most upmarket housing you can find in downtown Bangkok. Sukhumvit means different things to different people.
Life in Asia is on the ground and while there are far more comfortable, not to say faster ways to get around, I like to walk in Bangkok as much as I can. Sometimes with a camera, sometimes without. It's not just the sights, it's the sounds, the smells and the feeling that yeah, you're really here in Asia and yeah, after all of these years you can still touch the atmosphere and feel a sense of adventure!
This past week I went for a late afternoon stroll along the busiest part of Sukhumvit. I wasn't looking for a story but with a camera slung over my shoulder I was ready to capture anything that caught my eye. For a change I vowed that I would specifically refrain from photographing working girls, the easy targets I spend rather too much time peering at through the lens.
I jumped off the skytrain at the northeast corner of the Asoke intersection where the new footbridge dumps you near Pedro's Bar and strolled up soi 23, entering Soi Cowboy from the eastern end. It may have been a public holiday but the soi was heaving.
I still can't work out why it was so busy. It was a public holiday and many girls had seized the opportunity to head home and celebrate Mother's Day with their nearest and dearest. The soi was full not just with working girls, but a number of street vendors I hadn't seen before.
Have you ever wondered what the food vendors in and around the likes of Nana and Cowboy make of the girls' choice of profession? They see girls they grew up alongside, girls they went to school with, girls they worshipped at the same temples with and who they sat next on the same local transport, girls who have chosen a rather different path in life. Watching these migrant workers gossip in their native Lao about life in Bangkok, I found myself wondering how different their lives really were. The easy life and the hard life. But then which one is easy, and which one is hard?
Conscious that I only had about an hour of good light left, I hurriedly left Cowboy and made my way up Sukhumvit towards Nana. It was quieter than usual and much different from Soi Cowboy with less traffic on the road and fewer vendors about.
The business model of street vendors always fascinates me. It never looks like they could make much money from what they peddle, but many actually do very, very well. Mrs. Stick often reminds me a som tam vendor from her native Korat who does so well that she was able to buy some adjacent shophouses which she converted into modest accommodation – and now makes more money from property than she does pounding out her spicy Isaan concoctions.
How much money could the shoe seller above make? 50 odd pairs of shoes, being sold at 199 baht each, means around 10,000 baht if she sold them all in one night – which is unlikely. And what percentage of the sale price is profit? 10%? 20%? More? Does she have to pay for the use of that piece of sidewalk? It's not all about the money of course and many Thais crave to work for themselves and to be free of the BS and politics that permeate every level of the Thai workplace, but which are especially bad the lower on the ladder you are.
It looks like these two pulled the short straw and ended up standing out on Sukhumvit soi 5, just across from Foodland, attempting to entice customers into the small sub soi to their massage house. Along parts of Sukhumvit the massage girls have become almost as persistent as the Indian tailors, but unlike the tailors who are persuasive and seem almost passionate about what they're doing, the dull monotones that come out of their mouths won't convince anyone to get a rub down.
The light was fading fast as I finally made it to soi 4, the sun racing towards the horizon, casting a warm glow over the Mango as the city was caught in limbo, that short period when it undergoes the transformation between day and night. Day time is office girls, smart suits, immaculate hair and what skin you can see is whiter than ours. As night envelopes the city, gentle office workers are replaced by evil-eyed, dark-skinned mercenaries looking for their next victim.
Out front of the sex shopping centre, vendors are well acquainted with the industry, knowing their businesses wouldn't exist without it. It's street life at its best – hustle, bustle and colour and the camera was no longer swinging over my shoulder. Someone barked at the BBQ meats vendor, suggesting she "Lick the sausage like it's a cock and pose for the foreigner!"
Market talk on the streets of Bangkok is frequently full of such banter. She barks back that she is not a whore. Yeah, she said whore. Not prostitute, not bargirl, but very specifically, she used the Thai word for whore. I play the dumb tourist and make out I didn't have a clue what was being said. I gave her my most gentle and innocent smile, that deadly weapon every young man knows works particularly well on single, older women. And it worked this time too as to my delight she did exactly what that had been suggested and picked up the sausage, put it to her lips and started licking it. I fired off a couple of shots, missing the focus with the first but nailing the second. Seeing the image on the camera's LCD screen, she starts whooping and shrieking in delight!
Word bounces around the vendors and in seconds the kindly aunties were all making sounds like chickens, thrilled that one of their number had managed to put a smile on the face of the mild-mannered tourist! The playful nature of Thais really is most endearing.
Into Nana I went for the obligatory Nana Plaza beer bar demolition update shots and who should I see but a hill tribe woman I have photographed numerous times.
This lot are a hoot, more than anything because they can't speak Thai, or at least only a little bit. But for some reason they seem to have managed to pick up all the curse words in English. The script is the same every time. They see the camera, pause, smile and beckon you to take their photo. Once the shots have been taken they try and sell you something. 60 seconds later when they realise that you're not buying they surprise you with their extensive vocabulary of cussing words in English as well as their willingness to use them as their mouth becomes like a machine gun and words fly at you like bullets from a gun!
It's now early evening and down at the end of the skytrain line, in Sois Bargirl I and II, AKA Onnut and Prakanong, gogo girls are struggling to haul themselves out of bed for yet another night on stage. They'll wander into Nana at 8, or 9, looking like they just got out of bed an hour or two earlier, which they had.
With discipline and the knowledge that they can't just get up on stage without much effort to their presentation, the ladyboys of Nana make every effort to look as good as they possibly can, to look like ladies. The salons in and around Nana are full and the landings outside the bars become temporary beauty salons. Ladyboys gaze into their hand-held mirrors, dollying themselves up in the hopes of capturing some punter's imagination.
Just like the surrounding parts of Sukhumvit, these days Nana Plaza is something of a zoo. Hardcore whores, dodgy Africans, drugged up ladyboys and Western whoremongers are the target market for kids who shouldn't even have to lay their eyes on this lot, let alone be forced to interact with them. Being sent out by their parents to peddle some junk that no-one wants to buy is a heinous crime for which the parents should be punished.
Thailand is a land of many peculiarities. The way female cleaners think nothing of going into the men's and mopping up right next to men hanging it out at the urinal comes to mind, especially given this is a socially conservative country where nudity or uncovered body parts can make many feel awkward. The way that parents force these youngsters, their own flesh and blood, to mix in adult playgrounds is unforgiveable.
Having been put off Nana by the sights of young kids, I headed back down Sukhumvit and see what the night had brought out. I didn't expect to meet someone at the other end of the spectrum…
If you've stepped foot in the Thermae any time in the last 15 years (or possibly longer), this should not be the face of a stranger. As I sauntered past the entrance to the Thermae she was sitting on the steps alone, waiting for what was once Bangkok's most popular freelancer joint to open. I paused, weighed up the scene, saw that the Thermae sign had not yet been turned on and decided against firing off a shot…until she leapt to her feet, came towards me and beckoned for me to photograph her. I fired off a couple of shots, showed her the results and made to continue on my way before she had the cheek to proposition me for a short-time liaison. What's the problem, darling, am I not handsome enough for you to spend all night with? Why only short-time? Is long-time out of the question, I joked. It was all taken in good spirits and she returned to sentry duty at the top of the stairs.
Like the other old ducks who hang out in the Thermae, she helps the staff by taking orders from customers and collecting and delivering their drink as well as retrieving empty bottles and glasses. I guess she survives on the small tips she receives. 10 baht here, 20 baht there.
A number of years back I was sent a nude photo of the really old duck who used to linger around delivering drinks. Whether she is still a fixture of the Thermae, I have no idea, but without a word of exaggeration, she must be about 70 years old, yet there she was on my computer screen in her birthday suit, proof, as if it was needed, that there are some truly depraved individuals in this city.
It used to be that Thais really liked having their photo taken, even by complete strangers, but these days, especially in and around tourist areas, and especially in nightlife areas, there's much reluctance when a camera is pointed in their direction. This extends to many of the beggars, probably those who aren't poor at all and for whom begging is their living. I had to cross the footbridge that runs across to soi 12 to be on the right side of the road to grab a cab and I could not resist the scene before me. But Big Mama was none too pleased when the camera came out.
In what is a first for me, she picked up her shoe and threatened to hurl it in my direction, a dreadful insult in Thai society but one which really doesn't perturb me. The threat wasn't idle and the shoe went flying a foot past my head and down on the footpath below. Aghast at my laughing, she threw the second more gently, which also missed the target. My persistent laughing didn't go down well and she leapt to her feet, the child in her arms crashing to the ground which just reinforced to me what I had earlier thought – these aren't her children at all. No mother would dump her own child like that. With Big Mama on her feet, that was my cue and off I went, bounding down the steps, two at a time, a wild-eyed Thai woman screaming obscenities behind me!
Having put a little distance between myself and the shoe-hurler, it was time to head for home. I jumped into a cab which made its way along Sukhumvit before being forced to stop at a red light. A couple of young children descended on to the cab, making out that they were offering a service while doing nothing more than rubbing a filthy rag up against the car's windows, making them much dirtier than they had been. The worry in some parts of the city with these kids, usually the older kids – young teenagers, is that they threaten to damage the car if no "tip" is forthcoming. And they're clever, targeting young woman in their car alone who may feel vulnerable.
The light turned green, the cab pulled away, and I left Sukhumvit for another night.
With the rainy season bringing temperatures down, it's quite possible to walk around the city at length without breaking out in a sweat. I love strolling around Bangkok, observing street life and capturing it. It's one of my favourite things to do in this city.
Last week's photo
Where was this photo taken?
As if it was needed comes proof that no-one goes to the top floor of Nana Plaza because NO-ONE got last week's photo right. The photo was taken outside Hollywood Carousel on the top floor of Nana Plaza. Great, I will avail myself of the prizes!. Maybe I should put an impossibly difficult photo in each week so I can get a 500 baht weekly scoff for free at Duke's? 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 signed copy of Stephen Leather's superb Private Dancer, which many refer to as "the bible". It's widely regarded as the best novel set in Thailand's bar scene! The third person to get the photo correct 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.
Terms and conditions: The Oh My Cod prize MUST be claimed within 14 days. To claim the book prize you must provide a postal address within Thailand now. 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 – Pattaya, the hell that awaits us!
I visited Pattaya several times before vowing that I'd had enough of the place and wouldn't go back, and hadn't for more than five years. This past week, though, curiosity got the better of me and I decided I'd swing by for a couple of nights to see how the place may have changed. In terms of the town itself, not a lot. The new Central complex is the most notable addition, while the sprawl has continued, and as you've commented, the Rusky presence has increased (there were several Russian-language channels on my hotel TV). But what hasn't changed is the people, and they're the very reason I had initially vowed not to go back. In essence, Pattaya is made up of the worst off-sloughings of humanity, both Thai and non-Thai. The Thais are, as you would expect in a town whose economy is still largely driven by prostitution, pretty low-rent characters. But it's the tourists that make me despair. Obnoxious Arabs, miserly Subcons, clueless Chinese – these are all bad enough, and they're growing in number. However it's the repellent farangs that make Pattaya intolerable. The foul-mouthed, tattooed POM in The Sportsman who was drinking beer at 11 AM, the guys at my hotel (which had quite a few families staying) who had no compunction about making out with their Thai dates in the swimming pool at lunchtime, the armies of chavs walking around town with their shirts off, the lonely old pensioners with the vacant stares as they nurse their afternoon beers, old grubs groping passers by on Beach Road, the idiots who walk around town hand-in-hand with their hooker de jour as if they've achieved something by hiring her. And the problem is they're everywhere, there is no escape from the ubiquitous scum who infest Pattaya. Except one place. One place alone offered me refuge. I went into the Bookazine branch on Second Road, and in half an hour of browsing in mid-afternoon, not a single other customer entered the store. Why wasn't I surprised? Which gets me back to the future. Demography is destiny, and the only groups that are growing in our society are the white underclass and the populations of Africa, Arabia and the sub-continent. Pattaya, it appears, is our future.
Ultimately, we are responsible for ourselves.
Just read your recent weekly article and seems like after 10+ in LOS that you may give Farangland a try once again. I recalled reading one of your weeklies a few years back where a reader once gave the advice to your readers, not to waste your valuable career-earning years in LOS. That advice always stuck with me, and after 3 years in LOS realised that, for my financial and health security, Farangland is where I needed to be. The safety net of preferably several sources of pensions & healthcare benefits can never be under-estimated. Let's face it, there is age discrimination as we get older, even in the West. After reading of farangs down on their luck in LOS, I realise that the security that I bring unto myself is all up to me, and me alone.
Alternatives to Thailand.
Get out of Thailand while you still can! Unless you have some substantial interests, I wouldn't be there. China is a decent place. Interesting though, as you mention, many of the things you value in Thailand like freedom and the relative ease of living I could not say the same for China to be honest. The good thing is that for the most part locals treat you more or less on similar terms and they have tremendously strong personal and work ethics. Not the hardest to find quality work in the mainland and I am also earning 60 Euro an hour in part-time private consulting work here on top of the day job. I could be at it 24 hours a day if the body let me – there's no shortage of money and opportunities here. I might be off the mark, but the impression I get of Thais is that they are dreadful lay-abouts – the Greeks or the Spanish of Asia. They play the "hot weather card" and look at all those public holidays! It's a farce! Another thing I would say is that living in the west is not so bad. The women are not the worst either. They get a slating on your site – not from you, but from the fat lay-about, bald 40- or 50-something wrecks in sordid "condos" in Pattaya. Very balanced opinion from that lot! I genuinely shiver seeing those guys, wondering what and or who they are running from back home. Those guys are a real disgrace, a total joke. I firmly believe things have improved a lot in the west – perhaps the recession shook things up a bit and brought women's expectations back down to reality. I don't care so much for western women, but in fairness they are not the worst out there. Plenty of fat cows in Thailand now.
Home is…where you were born.
You have lived in Thailand longer than I did and I don't know how you have managed to live there so long! Thailand is a great place to visit and most of the people are a credit to know, but at the end of the day I firmly believe that you are born at home and if you've lived there most of your life you'll want to return home. I lived in France for a year and Thailand for two. In the UK I lived 150 km from my home town for several years, but always went "home" at the weekends. Trust me, there is life after Thailand. I went home with not a lot of money and a 3-month old daughter. I was really lucky that I had an excellent family and friends network and was soon set up with a home and a job. I have been back to Thailand three times in the last three years and appreciate the place and people more being a tourist and knowing I have the safety of home to return to.
How long will the centre of Nana Plaza remain empty?
What will replace the bars in the centre of Nana Plaza? You know, as well as I do, that Thais cannot ignore a square metre of prime retail space! 1. More bars but better designed and presented, perhaps 2 or 3 stories high? They are trying this in Soi Sea Dragon, Patong. It's been tried before elsewhere in Patong and always failed. Who will climb the stairs when there are more bars than you could drink at in a fortnight available at ground level? 2. A Thai style food court? 3. A market a la Patpong? 4. A tranquil garden with a beautiful fountain? Haha! If only, but then it would be a European city and not Thailand. 5. A car park again? Surely not.
The violence in Pattaya is sickening. A piece of 2 x 4 to the head? The idea that Thais can perform vigilante justice on farang without fear of reprisal scares me. I bet less than 5% of these incidents are ever reported. It kind of reminds me of the Los Angeles area: no specific threat-areas, just a general feeling that things can turn VERY fast, and while some farang behaviour does seem to warrant retaliation, the twenty boots kicking you as you lie curled in a fetal position on bloody asphalt scares me.
Cheaper than making visa runs!
When I lived on Ko Phangan where I operated a beach-side restaurant earlier in the decade, there was a Norwegian who had allowed his passport to expire and of course was on years overstay. A very good reason for this phenomenon down there is that they are 'closed' communities in a way and the 'locals' shelter and protect favoured expats i.e. ones that spend a lot of money on drugs and / or booze, etc, and don't cause too much trouble! As he explained to me, it was no big deal as his embassy would issue a new one if / when required and as you know it's a 20,000 baht maximum fine! I sometimes do wonder if he's still there!
The ground floor of Nana Plaza where the beer bars were recently demolished is not going to stay empty for long. Workers have been laying down concrete and bricks in what appears to be a base for a new structure. The rumour mill is going crazy about what the replacement structure will be. One rumour has it that the new format will a beer garden which will be more open and feature moveable tables and umbrellas, all rather different to how it was. Other rumours say that the same bars will simply be rebuilt! The photo below shows how the ground floor of Nana looked on Friday.
The opening of the Bangkok branch of the Walking Street disco, Insomnia, in what was known as the Price Leader complex next to Sukhumvit soi 12, can't be far away with the new venue being promoted heavily in Soi Cowboy.
There has been a noticeable increase in the number of Japanese tourists in Bangkok and my guess is that they account for a good chunk of the increase in business in bars in recent weeks. The Japanese were conspicuously absent for a few months, no doubt deterred from visiting when the Bangkok protests were big news around the world. With those problems now far from their minds, they're back.
Down the road in Pattaya, business is dire, so bad that two big names bars each only had two customers at midnight this past week. Some Western bar managers in certain venues are nervous about the longevity of their position.
Small flags have been erected between Sheba's and Cowboy 2 across the ever narrowing Soi Cowboy. I'm not sure what it's all about, preparation for a party perhaps? Personally, I think it's a bad look and it reminds me of a used car sales yard.
When you hear Sukhumvit described as a zoo these days, it's a fair comment. I saw a first this week, African ladyboys around sois 3/1 and 5. Damn, they were horrid!
Popular beer bar on Sukhumvit soi 4, Melodies Bar, has reopened and has been tastefully refurbished. If you've never popped by for a drink, it's directly opposite the popular Dynasty Inn.
Pretty Lady Bar on the ground floor of Nana Plaza now has a nightly show at 11 PM. They will also hold a coyote party this coming Friday, the 20th, with drinks and barfines to be won. There will also be a free BBQ. All are welcome!
Soi Cowboy's Tilac may have been my favourite gogo bar for the past 2 years or so, but there are some things about it that I don't like and the way at least one of the mamasans refers to Westerners in the bar is one of those things. While making an announcement over the loudspeaker system on Monday night, in Thai of course, she brazenly referred to Westerners in the bar a number of times as animals. In fact the word "beasts" would be a more accurate translation. Horribly disparaging and it just shows what she really thinks of those who pay her wages. If you enjoy the bars and don't want to lose the illusion, don't learn Thai!
And in the same bar, Tilac, #84 might arouse your suspicions. She is tall, has a deep voice, has big hands and dropped 70,000 baht at a clinic to get her nom enlarged. Despite all of the danger signs, have no fear, she really is a she and never was a he.
In fact the only bar in all of Cowboy that has any ladyboys is, I believe, Midnite. One of the seldom-mentioned changes, and indeed improvements, in the bar industry over the last decade or so is the separation of girls and ladyboys. In the old days almost every bar had a token ladyboy or two, but nowadays there are few venues that have both.
A new gogo bar opens this coming week on Soi LK Metro in Pattaya. Called The Office, no doubt it will feature birds in office attire. As far as I am aware, there is no connection between it and the Australian-owned bar of the same name in Sukhumvit soi 33.
It is worth noting that the next dry day in Bangkok is expected to be Sunday 28th when local election will be held. The Saturday night before might be dry too.
Soi 7/1 might be a small soi, and a minor bar area, but when it comes to variety, the small soi has it all. You've got a bunch of beer bars, a gogo bar in Magic Table, a few massage parlours of the naughty variety, a popular freelancer disco in Bangkok Beat, and let's not forget the infamous Eden Club! It's not the busiest soi in town but that hasn't stopped the owners of Magic Table spending heavily on major improvements. The entire front of the bar has been redone and it looks good and welcoming. That said, the soi was VERY quiet when I swung by this week.
I have to admit some morbid fascination reading on certain forums what guys get up to with Thai hookers. What astounds me, it really does, is the willingness of so many punters to go south with the mouth with a hooker. Given the traffic these girls clock up and, shall we say, their lack of discipline, I would have thought that dining at the garbage dump would be a more appropriate description for that particular act.
With the expat population of Korat on the increase – as it is in just about every corner of the Kingdom, a familiar sight from the more heavily touristed parts of the Kingdom will soon be seen in the gateway to Isaan – Tourist Police Volunteers. The idea of Westerners donning a wannabe policeman's uniform and telling other Westerners what to do has not always been a popular concept and the wannabe cops have not always found that it has endeared them to their fellow Westerners. In some parts of the country you could argue that their presence is kind of justified. But Korat?! The province is hardly known for tourism, and the only spot really worth going out of your way for are the well-reserved Khmer temple ruins at Phimai, some 50 odd kilometres north of the provincial capital. 30 odd volunteers showed up for the training session and seminar in the provincial capital, and many did not look like policemen material – a crook could walk away from them at a leisurely pace safe in the knowledge that they had no hope of catching you. What is disturbing is the objectives that were made very clear to them. If a volunteer sees or is aware of a foreigner committing a crime, they are to call the police contact so that the issue can be followed up. So they are there to dob in their fellow foreigners! Yikes, would you want to be friends with one of this lot? You could inadvertently mention something minor and next thing you know you have the plod knocking on your door! The other stated objective is to help tourists in Korat which is a bit of a laugh really, because most Western tourists I see there are guys with a local guide in tow! Mention was also made that they wish to know of any foreigners in Korat who have a criminal record from their own country. It is the law of the land that anyone who has a conviction in another country for a crime which carries a potential penalty of more than one year is not allowed to enter Thailand – and if such people are here they are supposed to be deported. It goes without saying that if you have been a naughty boy in the past, don't breathe a word to a soul. This all sounds rather creepy…
You won't get rich, and you will only just manage to keep ahead of inflation, but it's worth noting that UOB Bank will open an account to foreigners, even those who aren't resident in Thailand, and allow you to place that money in a term deposit earning 4% per annum if you choose a term of 13 – 15 months. If you have reason to keep a sum of money in Thailand then this is one way to do it.
So there we were sitting in our favourite branch of Fuji in the Emporium branch of Fuji, enjoying the nice view over Benjasiri Park, when I just felt that something wasn't right. It took me a while to figure it out… The 6 tables nearest the window all had a lone Thai customer. Just one person at each table, eating alone. When I first moved to Bangkok it was very unusual to see Thais eating alone. Ok, you would at street stalls or food courts, but not in a mid-range restaurant like Fuji. And to make it even more weird, it was Sunday, the day Thais usually go out with their partner or family. It's just another change I have noticed over the years.
Not that we needed proof that the temperature has dropped a little, as it always does when the rains come, in a number of titty bars the girls are wearing a top between dance sets to stay warm.
There was a raid at Panthip Plaza this week. No, it wasn't the shady characters peddling software, but those who sell hardware who were targeted. About a quarter of the vendors on the top 2 or 3 floors closed hurriedly when they got word that men in uniforms were on their way.
I am cynical when it comes to charity and making donations in Thailand, but PattayaStreetKids has impressed me. As the treasurer said in a recent email, "100 years from today it will not matter how big your bank account was, the sort of house you lived in, or the kind of car you drove. But the world may be a little better because your help touched the life of one child." Check out their site.
One of the frustrations of Thailand is that not only is so much unclear, it can be really difficult to get an answer to many questions. A friend of a friend was due to fly from Australia to Thailand on Jetstar a couple of weeks back but was refused passage when he went to check in because his passport had less than 6 months validity remaining. He went across to the Thai Airways counter on the off chance that he would be able to get a flight with them and they were happy to sell him a ticket! 10 odd hours later he had passed through Immigration and was legally in the Kingdom! I seem recall a few years back that Thailand removed the requirement for 6 months validity remaining on your passport to enter the country so I thought I would do some research online and see what the policy officially is. Wow, talk abut contradictory information. Some sites say this and some say that! With so much contradictory info out there, I gave up. I asked a friend in the travel industry and he said that if you fly with the national carrier, the 6-month validity requirement is waived – but for all other carriers it remains. If true, this is downright weird!
Do bargirls and other Thai working girls read this column? Amazingly, it seems some do. A few weeks back I included a piece about a young Scot who got a freebie from a girl in a big name Walking Street gogo – and it turned out that she had recorded their tryst using a webcam without his knowledge or consent. At 8 PM on the Sunday that I wrote that, just a few hours after the column had been published, the lady in question was in contact with the fellow demanding to know why he had told me about it and why it had appeared in the column. And further proof that ladies of the night may glance at this column came this week when I was asked by a girl in a Cowboy bar if "I write bar news". A most clever girl, she had deduced that as I wasn't drinking alcohol, was carrying a camera and had on a rugby shirt that I could be "Stickyman". I never thought the readership would expand in that direction.
Quote of the week comes from ace submission writer, Mr. Korski, "Living in a village in upcountry Thailand appeals to me personally about as much as living in the middle of the Sahara!"
Reader's story of the week comes from Sawadee2000 and is titled, "At Your Service? Hardly!"
The Bangkok Post ran an extensive piece on prostitution in Thailand yesterday.
Andrew Drummond reports that another Brit was clubbed to death on the orders of his Thai wife.
The Phuket Gazette reports that a Brit killed an American in Phuket.
CNNGO profiled a bunch of Thai ladyboys performing in the UK.
Pattaya looks to Iran for its next tourist invasion.
From the Pattaya Daily News, a Norwegian is charged with underage sex in Pattaya in a report that includes a sensible editorial.
A Brit flew a hitman out from Thailand to perform a job or him in the UK.
6 different videos on YouTube make up this documentary called, Pattaya, City of Smiles.
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: I read in Thai Law for Foreigners that the children of a farang & a Thai national have Thai citizenship if the couple is legally married. My wife & I registered
our marriage in Thailand. Do we need to take any action to prove this? Also, if our children normally reside in a Western country, do they have all the rights of a Thai citizen i.e. ownership of land etc. Also, could I purchase land there in their
names if they are under 18 years old? Or only name them as beneficiaries in my will?
Sunbelt Legal responds: The children born to Thai national-and-foreign national parents are entitled to Thai citizenship. The birth of the child must be reported to the District Office and you will need to obtain a Thai Birth Certificate. Naturally, if the child is born outside Thailand, you must inform the Thai Embassy that covers the Country or district in which the child was born. Once a birth certificate has been issued, you may add the child's name in the Thai House Registration booklet commonly known in Thai as “Tab Bien Baan” so that the parent or child may later apply for a Thai Passport. The child is then entitled to seek Thai citizenship up until the age of 21. Thai law allows for its citizens to have dual citizenship so it will not be necessary for a child born outside of Thailand and a citizen of another nation to renounce that citizenship before gaining his / her Thai citizenship. Needless to say, the child has the same rights and privileges as a Thai National with certain restrictions due to age. You may put ownership of land in the name of your child but this must be approved by the Land Office which may interpret a minor child's ownership of land to be ownership on behalf of his / her foreign parent and simply not approve the child's ownership as a contravention of the rule against foreign ownership of land in Thailand. Similar rules apply to the ownership of shares of a Thai company (except when being one of the original shareholders forming the company).
Question 2: What are the specific differences under Thai law today between living together as a couple, co-habiting, and being married and registered at the Amphur?
Sunbelt Legal responds: While religious in nature and widely celebrated throughout the Kingdom of Thailand, a Thai Buddhist marriage alone does not legitimize a couple as being officially married under the laws of Thailand unless it is officially registered at the local District Office. This rule applies for couples who are simply co-habiting together and holding themselves out to the public as “husband” and “wife”. Any income earned and properties procured during the time before registering at the District Office are not subject to the community property regime. Earnings and assets procured during the time before registration at the local District Office remains separate and exclusively owned by the individual unless both parties are registered as co-owners. The co-habiting period, regardless if over a decade or so shall not be taken into consideration as Thai law doesn't recognise the concept of common-law marriage. Each party is considered under the law to still be “single” even if they co-habitate for many years and / or have performed a Buddhist marriage ceremony unless and until registering at the local District Office. In order to be considered legally married, a marriage certificate (kor ror 3) must be issued through the District Office (or embassy if marriage is done abroad) and signed by district officer followed by 2 witnesses.
It's probably something that needs more research and expanding on in a future column, but there really does seem to be a wind of change in Bangkok in the attitudes of many foreigners living here, particularly amongst those new to the city, towards Western guys dating younger Thai women. In the old days, so long as the woman was of legal age – meaning 18 – no-one seemed to look twice if a guy was seen to be dating a younger woman. Sure, it might look a little odd, even a little silly, when you see a large age gap, but hey, if each person is happy then what's the problem? These days it seems many expats, and like I say, this attitude is particularly prevalent amongst recent arrivals in Bangkok, is that if the age gap is more than just a few years that it is "wrong". Are these new expats to Thailand, often younger i.e. aged under 30, bringing the notions of political correctness with them? I have always said that PC attitudes will eventually arrive in Thailand. Is it starting to happen?
Your Bangkok commentator,