Once the almost exclusive domain of single, white, male visitors, the profile of the typical Pattaya visitor is changing. Today in the heart of Pattaya's busiest nightlife area, Walking Street, you're just as likely to see an Indian IT professional, a Middle Eastern family, a Russian couple or members of a Chinese tour group. Pattaya is undergoing a rapid transformation that threatens to change the flavour of what has long been a magnet for single white guys.
Pattaya's tourism industry was built around nightlife, or to call it what it is, sex tourism. Is there a bigger destination for single Western men anywhere in the world? Angeles City in the Philippines and Rio in Brazil cannot compete with Pattaya for the sheer size of the industry and the number of available women and Amsterdam's red light district is tiny by comparison.
But nothing is forever.
It hasn't been an easy time in the West. Economic growth is stagnant. Unemployment is up. Most Western currencies have dropped in value. With uncertain job security fueling concern about the future, many are spending less and reducing unnecessary expenditure. For some, that means cancelling their trip to Pattaya.
There have been noticeably fewer of the traditional visitors to Pattaya over the past couple of years, particularly during the low season months. Hotel occupancy rates have been low and some restaurants and bars have been empty.
But not everywhere is in the economic doldrums. Some countries are experiencing record growth and countries with a new middle class emerging have citizens keen to avail themselves of the trappings and rewards of their newfound wealth, to include international travel.
Nowhere is growing quite the same as China and India, each just a few hours' flight from Thailand. As the size of the middle class increases in the world's new economic superpowers, some are choosing Thailand as a holiday destination. And with Pattaya offering affordable accommodation, a beach and all within easy reach of Bangkok, the city has marketed itself heavily in these new markets. It shouldn't come as any surprise that today you see many Chinese and Indians in Pattaya.
For the time being, the Chinese don't seem to be exploring the most popular parts of Pattaya's nightlife, although the odd busload still empties out in Soi Diamond and makes a beeline for Superbaby.
The Indians on the other hand are a different story.
Indian men have well and truly discovered the delights of Walking Street and the Beach Road. Usually in small groups, occasionally alone, there are more Indian customers in the bars than ever before. Unlike other nationalities which walk up and down Walking Street, content to capture it on their memory card, the Indians are engaging the girls on the street and drinking in the bars – those which allow them entry.
Indians have not always had the best reputation in Thailand and any long-term resident has heard the often cited proverb from many a Thai. "If you are walking in the forest and you come across an Indian and a snake, kill the Indian first." In a country where racism is rife, Indians get it worst.
Thais love to talk ill of Indians, chastising them for their personal hygiene, or lack of, as well as their purported stinginess. Many Thai working girls claim they never go with Indians – which, if the opportunity presents itself, is like most things that come out of their mouths, a lie. Thai prostitutes love money and most will go with whoever is prepared to pay their asking price.
It's not just beer bars and Beach Road, the cheaper areas, where Indians can be found. Popular bars such as Secrets, sufficiently far off Walking Street that you may not discover if you did not somehow know about it, is attracting Indian visitors too, suggesting gents from the subcontinent are doing research online before they come. In fact this is something I know to be true for I receive many more emails these days from Mr. Patel and Mr. Singh than I did in the past. Server stats also show a very definite increase in readership from the subcontinent.
An Indian friend working in Pattaya's entertainment industry for many years is not impressed by his countrymen in Pattaya, claiming they are predominantly lower middle class Indians who live up to the negative stereotypes. I am not sure if he is joking or not when he says that if they are holding a coin and you attempt to remove it from their hands, the coin will stretch before you're able to prise it from their grasp! He is of the belief that bars and other nightlife venues are better off not going out of their way to accommodate them and should instead concentrate on the traditional visitors. The problem is that the traditional visitors, the white man, isn't visiting in anything like the same numbers of what may soon be referred to as the halcyon period.
The Indians are happy in the venues Western men frequent. They don't have their own dedicated area or girls and as such they are making up the empty seats that would usually be taken by Westerners.
Middle Eastern visitors are nothing new to Pattaya and they seem to be visiting Pattaya in much greater numbers these days. Towards the end of Walking Street is a relatively small bar area where they congregate. Bars feature their music and the girls in those bars seem to be a bit more well-rounded, as is their preference.
Just as there are a number of Western-owned bars that turn away Indians, Middle Easterners and anyone with that look, so too there are now venues which specifically target Middle Easterners and / or Indians.
Russians have been coming to Pattaya in ever greater numbers for the last few years, but single males don't seem to make up a significant number. Russian visitors to Pattaya are predominantly couples and families. The curious thing about the Russians is that while a few play around, those looking for a bit of sleaze tend to seek their own kind which probably explains why there are so many women from Eastern bloc countries lingering around Walking Street.
As far as other Eastern Europeans go, they seem to have developed an interest in the local women and seem to be happy participants.
Many of the Eastern European visitors are young, often in their early 20s. Whether they don't understand how things work or think the girls are there purely for fun, I don't know, but I have heard a few reports of young Eastern Europeans availing themselves of the services of the girls before doing a runner. Such stories go around the bars in record time and young Eastern Europeans might not always find themselves welcome in some venues.
The massive increase in the number of Russians and Eastern Europeans has seen the opening of a number of venues at the far end of Walking Street that cater specifically for Russians and where signs are only in Russian – with nothing in either English or Thai. More and more venues, from massage outlets, to restaurants to hotel advertisements have signs in English, Thai and Russian.
The changing punter is not a Pattaya only thing. Things are also changing, perhaps not quite to the same extent, in Bangkok.
The first sign of a change in the air was early last year, when Sukhumvit regulars started to notice more and more guys from Africa about.
Blacks have never really had their own area, other than a few bars scattered around sois 3 and 3/1. They seem to enjoy standing around with friends and lingering than actually drinking, but you do see them walking around Sukhumvit with Thai girls who are obviously hooking.
The area surrounding the Grace Hotel and parts of soi 3 is popular with those from the Middle East as well as the Africans. The Middle Easterners operate completely different to Westerners. There seems to be no real chit chat with little or no time taken to get to know the girl – a business-like proposition is made which she either accepts of declines.
The number of Japanese visiting Bangkok is up and down like a yoyo, with the Japanese amongst the most nervous foreign visitors. Whenever there's trouble on the streets of Bangkok, it's the Japanese who are first to cancel.
Of course the Japanese have long had their own bar area, Soi Thaniya, just off Silom Road. Many of those venues discourage Westerners from entering, as much because the way the Japanese like to party is different to what Westerners are used to as anything else. It is also said that Japanese men will boycott a girl if they know that she goes with white guys although whether this is true or not I really don't know.
You find Japanese in the Bangkok gogo bars with the prettiest girls – Baccarra in Soi Cowboy and the Rainbows in Nana. The Japanese prefer a rather different archetype to Western men. Whereas many Westerners visiting Thailand go for dark-skinned shorties, a look so prevalent amongst the women of Isaan, the Japanese prefer taller, fairer skinned girls as is more typical of those hailing from Northern Thailand.
There's no shortage of nasty comments and resentment from Westerners in Bangkok towards the Japanese who are often blamed for pushing up prices by paying astronomical rates. From time to time it might be true but most girls report that generally they pay the same as Westerners. Perhaps some resentment is derived from the way the girls get sick of having to listen to Western guys tell them all about their problems and preferring the more business-like wham, bam, thank you man manner of the Japanese who see it for what it is, paid sex. So many girls just want to get down to business and the Western guy seeking a girlfriend-like experience is just a plain nuisance to them!
For Korean men there are small pockets of bars in some back streets off Sukhumvit. A lot of Koreans hit the gogos in Angeles City but few seem to do so in Thailand, probably a proximity thing.
Guys from mainland China and the little Chinas – Taiwan, Singapore and Hong Kong – prefer the same places moneyed up Thai men visit. Despite word to the contrary, the large massage parlours and karaoke places Chinese and other Asians frequent have no problem with whitey visiting.
There is obviously some overlap between the different bar areas. Singaporeans are just as likely to end up in Nana Plaza as they are at Rachadapisek Road.
The Western-oriented naughty bars understand the market and their customers' needs which they attempt to satisfy. As such we get English Premier League matches shown live and those venues with food available tend to have hamburgers, fries and the like. Favourite drinks from the West such as Fosters or Guinness may be available in some venues. Bar staff all speak some English.
With visitors from new markets coming in ever increasing numbers, and a definite decline in Western visitors looking likely to continue, how does this bode for the future of the industry? Will live cricket become the sport of choice on the TVs in bars? Will Jack Daniels and Jim Beam be exchanged for Absolute and Stolinaya? Will bar staff start to learn Russian?
In Western-owned bars with a decent following, it's hard to see many changes, at least in the short term. For many owners, the bar may be as much a hobby as a business, something they do for fun, and if their customer base changes it may no longer be the fun it used to be. They may simply not be prepared to cater to a different type of customer. But for those bar owners who see the venue as a business, surely efforts will be made to satisfy the new customers?
The Russians hit Pattaya in the mid to late 90s but when their economy hit problems the number of visitors dried up almost overnight. Many businesses which had sent staff to learn Russian and had invested in the new market were burned. But this time it looks like the Russians, as well as the other new visitors to Pattaya, are going to continue to come in greater numbers and as such any business would be foolish to overlook them.
There are now a few Russian TV channels in Pattaya, at least one major Pattaya website translates all content into Russian and many of the real estate agencies have a native speaking Russian agent.
Russia, India and China share a few things in common. They have huge populations and each is experiencing massive economic growth creating a new generation of middle class. And in the cases of China and India, they are much closer to Thailand than any Western country.
The Thai women who end up in farang bars are there partly because they have a look that Thai men really don't care for – the wealthy, discerning and desirable Thai men, that is. Sure, these women could do the business in a 300 baht a pop up country knock shop but why bother when the white man will part with 1,000 baht, 2,000 baht or more?
Some may have had a genuine preference for whitey, but the truth is they could make good money from the white guy and that is why they came to work in Pattaya. With the white man visiting in smaller numbers, they will go with whoever happens to walk through the door, has the money and is willing to pay their price.
Western tourists to Thailand may spend more than other nationalities, but if things continue with more and more visitors to Pattaya from emerging markets, the days of Westerners being the dominant group of visitors to Pattaya's flesh spots may soon be over. The demographic is changing markedly, and as more and more visitors arrive with different interests and demands to satisfy, so the bar industry will change to satisfy these customers.
If a foreigner sits next to you on the Sex Tourist Express (the bus from Ekamai to Pattaya), it's just as likely that he will be Indian or Eastern European as he will be a Westerner. Whitey has had it all his way for a long time. Now things are changing.
Last week's photo
Where was this photo taken?
Last week's photo was taken from the Sukhumvit Road, looking down Sukhumvit soi 12, an easy photo which a truckload of readers got right! The first person to email me with the correct location of the picture wins a 500 baht credit at Oh My Cod, the British fish and chips restaurant. The second person to get the 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. And this week we have a new prize provider, Lolita's in Pattaya. You will receive a 700 baht gift certificate for use at the popular Soi LK Metro bar!
Terms and conditions: The Oh My Cod prize MUST be claimed within 14 days. The Duke's prize must be utilised by March 2011. You have 90 days to claim the Lolita's prize. Prize winners cannot claim more than one prize per calendar month. You only have one guess per week! If you wish to claim a prize, you must state a preference for the prize you prefer, or list the prizes you would like in order of preference – fail to do so and I will award the prize to the next person to get the photo right.
FROM STICK'S INBOX (These are emails from readers and what is written here was not written by Stick.) Preference may be given to emails which refer to the previous week's column.
EMAIL OF THE WEEK – The thrill of the hunt.
Miners and prospectors sift through tons of soil and broken stones looking for that single diamond in the rough, which is how I approach an evening out in Thailand's fantasy nightlife. Most times I go home empty-handed, but that doesn't mean I didn't enjoy the search. Too many farang prospectors settle for fool's gold.
I have said for years that the US dollar will get to 29.xx and probably 26.xx in time. What baffles me is someone from a western country retiring in Thailand and leaving all their funds in their home currency. This is insanity. I can understand not wanting to move your entire wealth to be denominated in Thai baht, but there are other Asian countries with very strong economies and free exchanges systems for their currencies, like Singapore. If you are planning to retire in Thailand, surely it makes sense to park a significant chunk of your wealth into, for example, the SGD. You can be very sure if the THB continues to rise against the GBP, USD, or EUR, it will not rise nearly so much, if at all, against the SGD. The SGD may not provide the greatest interest rate around, but if you had just watched the USD, GBP, or EUR collapse, you would have been very happy with the protection the SGD provided. As usual, the saying continues to apply – failing to plan is planning to fail.
No longer the bargain it was.
Your mention of the falling US dollar certainly rings true. My previous visit to Thailand was the end of 2006 and I did not return until February, 2010. The increased costs, like you say, due both to the fall of the dollar and the rise of prices, was a bit of a shock. Thailand is certainly not the bargain it once was, at least in Bangkok. Though I'm not that big of a drinker, my price "canary" has always been a bottle of Singha. That 2006 $2.50 bottle of beer is now $4.00. OK, bars in LA don't have the "decorations" of say, Tilac, and I never go to the men's club bars here (Bangkok certainly spoils you THAT way – why go to a place where you can ONLY look whereas in Bangkok anything is possible) but still, when a beer in LA is the same as a beer in Bangkok, Thailand is no longer the bargain it was.
Who hasn't been affected by the strong baht?
Interesting commentary on the Brit exodus due to exchange rates. A little chart work on Yahoo definitely shows them to be the hardest hit over the last 5 years. But almost everybody across the board has seen their purchasing power eroded. The baht is strong and getting stronger. That could all change very quickly though if a geopolitical event were to flare up in the region and affect trade and / or travel. The below is not "up to the day" values as it is based on a glance at 5-year Yahoo charts but should be accurate to within a few % points. The general trend remains intact. 5-Year Exchange vs. Baht ranked by % change: 1. Sterling -36%, 2. Ruble -32%, 3. Rupee -27%, 4. USD -25%, 5. Euro -23%, 6. Kiwi -22%, 7. Yuan / Aussie tied at -10%, 8. Yen – even. So the Japanese have been able to hold their ground and the Aussies and Chinese are in good shape, but everybody else has been gutted. Still was interesting to see that my USD was not the worst of the lot, but I fully expect to see it get back to 25 as it was prior to the 1997 crash. Who cares though? If I want warm sandy beaches, I can drive to Santa Cruz or Carmel. Hawaii is a 4½ hour flight away. If I want an oil massage, I can drive 10 minutes and get one by a cute Chinese or Filipina for $20 right here in Santa Clara. And then there is San Francisco. Bottom line is if you want Asian company here, you got it. They're everywhere. And you can forget the plane ride and all the other hassles. Hate to be a downer, but Thailand is really no longer worth it for all but the most hardcore, in my opinion.
Lolita's fan club!
I did visit the Star of Oral Light back in the early 90s and the techs were, well, let's just say several shelves down from the current cream of the crop at Lolita's. I never saw Lolita's coming (no pun), but it is a brand and they have franchised it. I'll be honest: I love the place. I'm well-known at the Bangkok one and I have never had a lackluster, let alone lousy experience there. I always make sure the gal has fun and tip 200 baht, something you might want to mention in your next column (or ask readers how much they tip). I wonder what people think, but I was told long ago by a friend that's the standard amount, and considering the situation (I don't drink, I head right upstairs), I feel it's appropriate. I could not tell you how many times I've been there. I wish they would franchise internationally, and I also think there should be equivalent enterprises for women, with either male or female technicians for the matron's selection. Hell, why not gay and katoey Lolita's? It definitely IS tidier than the Patpong places, although the Bangkok Lolita's has the right amount of sleaze for me. I like the idea that some guy a few meters from me is getting the same service I'm getting, but I don't want to look at him, and vice versa!
No fan of Nana.
On my last night in Bangkok, I had a chance to visit Nana Plaza with a fellow follower of your website. The place just looks run down. We went into a couple bars, Hollywood and Angelwitch where Coke was 145 baht in each! Later we strolled down to Tilac in Soi Cowboy where the same Coke cost 70 baht. Considering the girls are more beautiful and the atmosphere is uniquely sabai, I don't think I'll go Nana's way again.
The Philippine advantage.
I was in the Philippines for 3 weeks until the end of last month and all you say is absolutely true. What is especially good for the naughty boys is that you do not negotiate with the woman at all. The bar sets its barfine, anything from 1,000 pesos up to 1,500 pesos, and the woman takes her share of it in the morning when she gets back to the bar. Yes, I did say morning, those prices are for long-time, not short-time! Which might be you saying your "goodbye" anything from 7:30 AM to 3:30 PM (yes, with the best woman it was PM) depending upon when she starts her next shift at the bar. But by far the best experience I had was with a pretty young thing just down from the countryside who the bar was happy I could rent out on a daily basis for the cost of the barfine. She never did any dancing for a week! When I was becoming fed up with the attitudes of Thai women, including the so-called good ones, this was something new. Culturally different (except only that age is irrelevant over there, just the same as in Isaan). And if I decide to marry her there will be no reverse dowry which some people call sin sot. Silly sot, I say, if anyone pays it. Thailand won't let farang have the advantages (benefits) of being Thai so I see no reason at all why anyone should submit to the burdens of being Thai when they are not!
Finally there is clarity on the ongoing work on the ground floor of Nana Plaza. The big boss of the Crown Group and the head honcho of what is sometimes referred to as the No Name Group (a group of bars which includes Playskool in Nana and Sheba's and Suzy Wong's in Cowboy) are working together on the ground floor site in Nana. Apparently a compromise has been reached with the authorities and instead of a solid structure being erected, framework will be built over which a large canopy will be draped to protect from the elements. Progress is moving at a snail's pace.
Down the road construction is moving much more quickly at the Bangkok branch of Insomnia, next to Sukhumvit soi 12 – and it has to if it is going to be ready for the scheduled October 1st grand opening.
After many broken promises and a lot of frustration for customers, Carlsberg beer WILL soon be available in Bangkok. It was supposed to be here by now but apparently the shipment has been delayed. We're promised that it will be available soon with draft to be available initially.
Pretty Lady Bar in Nana Plaza will hold a birthday party for Khun Tukata, the manageress, on Saturday, September 18 and they will run a special all night long – buy 2 drinks, get 1 free. The wheel of fortune will spin and there will be chances to win drinks and barfines. All are welcome!
The party poopers were out en masse in Soi Cowboy which was closed early on Friday night, the boys in brown descending on the soi at 1 AM and ordering the lights turned on and the music turned off. They must have headed up the road immediately afterwards for they hit soi 7/1 and Nana Plaza before 1:30 where it was the same drill. Such a contradiction when you go outside and all the unlicensed streetside beer stands were operating, business as usual!
Small signs outside most of the Arab's bars in Soi Cowboy promote Tequila available on Mondays and Tuesdays at 50 baht a shot.
Speaking of the Arab's bars, workers have been pottering around at Rio, formerly known as Our Place. I make it a point not to step inside his bars so I have no idea what improvements are being made.
And also on the subject of the Arab, if you see a pretty girl head into one of his bars but prefer not to patronise his venues – as is the case with a number of Western residents – fear not for the staff turnover in his venues his high and it won't be long before you see that little darling working somewhere else on Cowboy.
The next event at Soi 7/1's Bangkok Beat is Tiger Night on September 25th when Tiger and Tiger Light will be available all night long for just 100 baht.
There are a bunch of new girls in Tilac in Soi Cowboy who seem to have ended up there from a variety of sources – some from other bars in other bar areas and some who are totally new to the business.
Cowboy 2 is running a new happy hour promotion until 9 PM every night with all drinks, with the exception of lady drinks, 2 for the price of 1.
Speaking of Cowboy 2, sad news has it that the woman who manned the outside bar is said to have passed away last week, apparently from being rather too much a fan of the bottle.
And in Nana Plaza, the ladyboy mamasan in Hollywood Rock died on Friday night, and as best as I can make out, died right there in the bar. Those girls who weren't fond of her will be petrified of ghosts coming back to haunt them. And ladyboy ghosts no less, now that's a really scary thought!
Rainbow 4 might be packed to the rafters with pretty girls but it's not where the hottest of the hot are found. The most attractive girls in the Rainbow Group aren't in Rainbow 4 at all, but seem to be on the ground floor of Nana, in Rainbow 1.
Are there more underage girls seeking employment in farang gogo bars at this time? Whether a trend or not, I have no idea, but one farang bar manager said to me this week that in the past few weeks a number of young girls – that so girls not of legal age – have been looking for a job – and they have been quite open about their age, making no attempt to conceal it. Some were as young as 15. They may not even be aware that they are not of legal age to work in the industry. The sad thing of course is that while this farang bar boss turned them down, other bars, especially those that are Thai-run, will be delighted to take them on.
I have yet to visit myself but I am hearing very good things about the food at Red PInn on Silom, which is located well down from the busiest part of Silom Road in the spot where The Wall used to be.
There are more than a few reasons to pop in to the Dollhouse in Soi Cowboy, the main one being that their selection seems better than ever, to say nothing of the view upstairs. On top of this, the Dollhouse has the latest running happy hour in Cowboy. Where most bars revert to regular prices at 8:30 or 9:00 PM, at the Dollhouse the happy hour lasts until 9:30 and they even let you know shortly before regular prices kick in when a lovely parades a sign through the venue announcing that happy hour has 10 minutes left, a very nice touch indeed.
Crossbar is gaining a reputation as a spot to watch live sport as the Landlord focuses on providing the best possible sports viewing experience. During all Premier league matches, Tiger draught is available for a very reasonable 100 baht a pint. Crossbar is located between Sukhumvit sois 21 and 23, about 200 or so metres down beyond Soi Cowboy.
Thai superstar Loso will perform a mini concert in Sukhumvit soi 4 on November 12 and tickets are available now at Morning Night and Hilary Bar. Be quick as Loso is really popular – amongst both Thais and Western residents, especially long-timers.
Down in Pattaya, Toyz will host a party for the birthday of one of the owners on Saturday 18th. It promises to be quite the event with a spread of Thai and European food put on. All are welcome – with the exception of that tall guy with the moustache who makes his way around all of the bars offering freebies and who avails himself of the free food before pissing offer! You, sir, will be told to get on your bike if you show your ugly face! There will be free shooters at regular intervals with shots of Tequilas, B52s and Kamikazes, brought around by a stunning hottie. This will be one party worth going out of your way for.
Louis, the ex owner manager from Paris, is now ensconced in Toyz and has taken with him the pick of the crop from his former bar.
Paris A Gogo will reopen tonight with a new happy hour from 8 – 9 PM with 2 drinks for the price of 1.
Don't you just love some of the mistranslations you get in these parts? Garfair boran is old style Thai coffee that is often found sold on the street from drink carts. It usually percolates in an old steel tin and is strained through grandpa's socks into a cup. Don't let that put you off, for if you're a coffee fan like me it is rather good! This week I saw a streetside coffee stand which had mistranslated garfair boran as "aged coffee"!
Some of these wenches working as mamasans are bitter old hags. A mate was up to no good with a little lovely he has been seeing on and off for a while and was escorting her to the short time rooms in Nana when he passed Mandarin Table Dance, a venue in which some 2 odd years ago he used to entertain a certain lass. When the mamasan of the venue saw him passing by, clearly with a companion in tow, she barked at him that his girlfriend was inside the bar! Of course this was a throw away comment made to ruin things with the lady he was with, Thai women being incredibly jealous and all of that. And it did just that. The lady he was with was not at all impressed and slinked off sulking! Frankly, they are all slags and I don't know what right they think they have to play the jealousy card. Prostitutes getting jealous and playing the guilt card? The world is going crazy! Like I have said many times, with the availability of women in Thailand, playing the guilt card doesn't work here.
An article ran in the Bangkok Post Sunday before last which rightfully lambasted the rubbish police who patrol in and around Sukhumvit, criticising the way they target foreigners specifically. The article stated that there were no rubbish bins placed anywhere near the rubbish coppers, all of which suggested that what they are doing amounted to entrapment. The article was picked up on various forums and resulted in much consternation as well as follow up letters in the Post, and even a follow up article in the newspaper itself. The appropriately nicknamed rubbish police have responded and there is now a table set up with three of them patrolling right outside The Londoner with 3 large rubbish bins placed beside them. It looks ridiculous and completely contrived!
Thais have a love affair with their mobile phone and few are mobileless. In Bangkok it is seriously uncool to have an older or cheaper mobile and the hottest thing at the moment seems to be the Blackberry – which seemingly everyone has. I wondered how the average Thai could afford a Blackberry, which isn't cheap after all, but then I thought a little more about it. 10 years ago the cheapest mobile you could get in Thailand would set you back around 10,000 baht for what was a very basic phone – yet even back then – and 10,000 baht was and still is a lot of money to the average Thai – every Thai seemed to have a mobile. These days the cheapest Blackberry goes for a smidgeon over 10,000 so I guess it's no surprise that if every man and his dog had a 10,000 baht mobile back then, they'll have a 10,000 baht mobile today. Whoever has the rights locally to sell the Blackberry must have made a mint.
Look out for the newest Pattaya print publication with the arrival of Pattaya One next month which will feature some of the best writers from Pattaya including renowned and respected Pattaya nightlife columnist Nightmarch and perhaps even one of the most popular online writers from Bangkok too…
Don't go thinking the Bangkok red shirt protests wound up a few months ago. The movement is far from over! Out and about in downtown you might spot soldiers on patrol NOW, armed soldiers all tooled up, with some BTS stations amongst the positions they are patrolling. Obviously the government realises that this whole business is far from over.
There's a new mobile operator in Australia called Lebara which apparently operates in Australia, the UK and a few other countries. Calls straight off the mobile from Australia to Thailand will set you back just ½ cent per minute to landlines & 5 cents per minute to Thai mobile numbers. From the UK, calls to Thailand will set you back 4p to landlines & 6p to mobiles.
It's not been until the past couple of weeks that I have really realised that many Westerners in Thailand, often long-termers, are in real dire straits financially. A lot of people I thought had real money appear not to – and some have almost nothing, living month to month. Some appear to have had money at some point but blown it whereas others have perhaps made bad investments. On top of this, many have seen the value of their assets – often local businesses – plummet. Some even had the audacity to ask me for a loan! You'll have more luck getting blood out of a stone that anything out of me!
As mentioned in last week's column, more and more Westerners who have been regular visitors to Thailand over a period of time are complaining about the general costs of things in Bangkok. My old pal Bangkok Bob, he of the website of the same name, put it in perspective, explaining that 3 years ago a night out in Bangkok cost him £100 and now, with price increases and the strong baht / weak pound, it costs him £200! Bangkok isn't the bargain it used to be.
Quote of the week comes from a Pattaya Soi Sex (6) Bargirl, "I am unsure as to the identity of the father of my baby, after all, like when you eat a can of beans you can't be sure which one made you fart."
Reader's story of the week comes from Sawadee2000 and is part 2 to last week's story of the week – " Living Within My Means Part 2".
From Craigslist, who's interested in dating a 75-year old Thai woman?
CNNGO highlights five different venues in the Bangkok nightlife area, RCA.
A most fascinating article answers the question of how much it costs to buy your way out of trouble in Thailand.
From Singapore's Straits Times, interesting thoughts on CNN's Dan Rivers leaving Thailand.
The boys in brown catch up with a New Zealander waving a gun around in Pattaya!
From ScandAsia.com, a well-known Swedish businessman in Bangkok is killed by his Thai wife.
This article claims that the Thailand property market is booming and there's no chance of a bubble.
From the Sydney Morning Herald, the Aussie Red Shirt is finally deported from Thailand.
Malaysia is ranked as the best place to retire in South-East Asia.
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: Many of us understand that a work permit is required for a non-Thai to perform work in Thailand. However, there appears to be some very contradictory information about
a few issues, and some have even argued that a foreigner can conduct no labour in Thailand whatsoever with a work permit, even in their own residence.
1) What work can be done with a work permit? Anecdotes have appeared that even with a work permit, the foreign owner or manager of an establishment cannot perform certain activities within their own establishment, such as taking a customer’s order, performing repairs, etc.
Sunbelt Legal responds: The work you may perform with a work permit is all work that is necessary per the occupation for which the work permit was issued with specific role and title. A work permit for a scuba
instructor would allow the holder to inspect the equipment used in class but he couldn't work painting advertisement signs for the scuba shop. The further the "work" you are performing is from the work considered "necessary"
for the occupation designated on the work permit, the closer you are to being in violation.
2) Do volunteers require a work permit for unpaid work? If you volunteer at a non-profit organisation without pay, is a work permit required?
Sunbelt Legal responds: Yes. Any alien who engages in work without a work permit, or in violation of the conditions of his work as stipulated in his permit, may be punished by a term of imprisonment not exceeding
three months or a fine of up to 5,000 baht, or both. Aliens engaged in work prohibited to them by royal decree (as listed in the "restricted occupations") shall be liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years or to a fine
ranging from 2,000 to 100,000 baht, or both. An employer who permits an alien to work in his organisation without a work permit or to act in violation of the nature of the work specified in the permit may be punished with imprisonment not exceeding
three years or fined up to 60,000 baht or both.
3) Serving as a Board member; is it necessary to have a work permit to serve on a Board of Directors for a company or a non-profit organisation?
Sunbelt Legal responds: Yes. "Work" on a BOD for a for-profit or non-profit company under Thai law requires a work permit. That said, although payment is not necessarily definitive, the likelihood
of enforcement against individuals doing volunteer work at a non-profit is quite small.
4) Do members of a condominium committee need a work permit to serve?
Sunbelt Legal responds: Yes. If what you are doing is considered "work" then a work permit is necessary under the law. That said, although payment is not necessarily definitive, the likelihood of enforcement
is quite small.
5) Do foreigners with legal rights to a property need a work permit to conduct routine maintenance and upkeep or perform other home improvement activities. For example, if I rent or own a condominium, can I do my own repairs? What if I rent a house, can I cut my own lawn?
Sunbelt Legal responds: Maintaining your living space is not considered to be work.
Question 2: I 'own' a leasehold condo in the Rachaprasong area. The lease runs out in 2023. My basic questions are, "What happens then, and how much does it cost?" I have been assured that I will be offered a second 30-year lease option. However, no one is able to give even a guesstimate of what the cost will be to me. This is more than a trivial issue, obviously. Can anyone enlighten me on the issue of how much I can expect to pay for the renewal? With 13 years left on the lease, there is still time to plan a graceful exit, if necessary. But, if I am suddenly presented with an option to renew at an outrageous price, the exits would be limited.
Sunbelt Legal responds: When the lease you have terminates in 2023 you will no longer have any proven enforceable legal rights to the condo. Oral assurances that the owner will allow you to lease the property
in the future are not enforceable. Even if the "assurances" about an additional 30-year lease upon the expiration of your current lease are in writing and in the current lease, the additional 30-year option(s) may not be legally enforceable.
The landowner, or his / her heirs upon the landowner's death, can challenge a lease and if there are options for a period beyond 30 years the lease could be voided by the Land Department beyond the 30-year term that is allowable under Thai
law. The maximum lease period is 30 years and the Land Department has previously voided leases that attempt to use "options" to avoid this time limit. While there are many people that have leases for a 30-year period with one or two
additional 30-year "options", it appears that these options violate the intent of the law and as a result they may be voided by the Land Department if challenged. Some leasees include penalty provisions in their leases with the idea
that if the landowner doesn't allow additional 30 years options from the landowner there will be a contractual penalty but as this clause (for additional 30 years options) is against public policy as expressed in the Thai law limiting leases
to 30 years the clauses could be considered to be null and void in the Thai Courts. There is no direct ruling from the Thai Supreme Court on the legality of the use of “options” to extend leases beyond the express 30 year limit and
as such those relying upon the so called 30+30+30 year leases are on unsure and untested legal grounds.
Because of these facts we recommend that our clients use the Usufruct laws in Thailand to secure the use of property for their lifetime as well as an additional 30 years by way of a lease to a child, wife or other person of their choosing. A usufructary may grant a lease to a third party for a period of up to 30 years and that lease survives the grantor's death per the Thai Supreme Court ruling.
As for the price that the owner may ask for a new lease upon your current lease's expiration, that will need to be determined between you and the owner and will likely depend upon market conditions at that time.
* This does not constitute legal advice or serve as a substitute for direct legal consultation with a licensed attorney. The information is provided for educational purposes only and it may not account for the specific facts and up-to-date laws that may be applicable to each individual’s situation. It does not take the place of consultations with a licensed lawyer and it does not create an attorney-client relationship between readers of the information and Sunbelt Asia, Co. Ltd. or any of its employees.
The world is changing rapidly and while the balance of power might not shift for a while, things are certainly changing. I really can't help but think that the Thailand we know is undergoing remarkable change right now and will do so at a greater pace over the next several years. While it will always retain its flavour, many of the things we might particularly like about the country might not necessarily remain the same. I remember Udon Thani when there was a relatively small number of foreigners resident where today it has three separate bar areas in the downtown area. I can remember sleepy Khon Kaen which now has a fantastic shopping mall as good as almost anything in Bangkok. I can remember lovely little bungalows on Karon Beach in Phuket which you could get without a reservation for 400 baht and which, after no real renovations in 10 odd years, sell out at closer to 2,000 baht. How much longer will the Thailand you know and love remain?
Your Bangkok commentator,