Sitting on Pattaya's Second Road late one afternoon, I was enjoying a steaming cup of coffee and watching the world go by when the freak show that is Pattaya ratcheted it up a couple of notches. A heavily decorated pushbike entered my field of vision, pedaled by a Westerner wearing a golden cape. The bike looked like it had suffered a head on collision with a Christmas tree and somehow left the scene of the accident with all of the ribbons, tinsel and other decorations artfully draped across it. I wondered if I was hallucinating until I realised that everyone else was giving this most peculiar guy and his even more peculiar bike the same strange looks that I was.
When I first mentioned the man in the golden cape in this column a year or two back, with a photo that I had managed to capture of him pedalling by, I mentioned that the guy couldn't be playing with a full deck. This week I met up with the fellow in question for a chat and realised just how wrong I was.
Visiting Pattaya about once a month, I had no idea that the golden caped man was not a one off that day, but a Pattaya resident who cycles the Beach Road and Second Road circuit between Pattaya Klang Road and Walking Street every day, performing what he refers to as "the show".
He has to be the most photographed man in Pattaya, quite possibly the most photographed foreigner in all of Thailand. As he makes his rounds, three laps of the circuit, he is greeted by smiling faces and keen waving as all fingers point in his direction.
Hailing from the home of the wombles, as well as one of the biggest Thai temples outside of the Kingdom, Wimbledon in London, the affable and well-spoken Brit's persona defies his looks. Dressed in an outrageous Technicolor suit, he may look weird, but when he talks it quickly becomes clear that his head is very clearly screwed on.
He starts by pointing out all of the features of the bike, from the Ostrich feathers, of which there are many, each setting him back 300 baht and each of which have to be dyed regularly, to the 6 different bells, each of which makes a different jingle, to the fibre optic cables which he says are impossible to come by these days to the Union Jack as well as the Confederate flag, symbolic because Clint Eastwood is his favourite actor, especially cowboy movies. A small stereo is mounted just behind his seat and plays a 90-miute jingle, the length of the show. There's a crown, flowers from Buddhist offerings and the whole look does exactly what it was designed to do – grab people's attention! Thousands of cable ties help keep it all together.
Dressed like nothing you've seen before, the erudite, 40-something Londoner whose favourite colour is, not surprisingly, gold, quickly wins you over with his easy nature and laid-back way.
The look is very much a work in progress. Older photos show a less decorated and ultimately less glamorous looking bike, back when it still resembled a bike and not the half-machine, half-bird it looks like today. Where once he made his rounds without a mask, these days his face is concealed behind a mask, a recent addition from the cardboard holographic which fell apart after 4 uses.
The obvious question is why! Why does he do it and what does he gain from it?
He says that it makes him happy to see how his "show", as he refers to it, makes others happy.
He has lived in Pattaya for several years but the show first started 5 years ago. He was in Carrefour and saw some tinsel that he thought would look nice draped over the handlebars of the bike. From that moment on he has been slowly adding to the bike which today is more like a cross between a heavily decorated Christmas tree and an ostrich.
His costume is extravagant, very much designed for looks and must be dreadfully uncomfortable in the year-round tropical heat of Pattaya. The smart jacket, which is difficult to wash and uncomfortable to wear, was designed entirely by him and put together with the help of various girlfriends over the years – not bargirls he is quick to point out.
He's only just started his rounds but already he is sweating profusely – and the hot season finished months ago. His jacket is made from a heavy material with all manner of decorations attached from gems and jewellery to royal regalia to stuff that, well, I just don't know what it is! Some pieces of jewellery are so intricate they look fit for royalty.
The attention to detail is exquisite but it's not all about the look. Some is actually functional. He is particularly proud of his custom built dog-proof boots, a necessity after some pesky soi hounds mistook his farang legs for their next meal.
I asked him about the boys in brown who are known for clamping down on any foreigners working in Sin City without a work permit. He has never had any problems with the police and those patrolling the streets often wave at him. He even has a very regal, much practiced wave that he is proud of.
He was once stopped by a policeman who pointed out that while it was pleasing to see the Thai flag displayed, the manner in which he was doing so had part of it concealed which was not acceptable and so an adjustment was made. Adjustment being removal!
A cheerful man dressed elaborately who rides an exotically decorated bicycle around a small section of Pattaya, he makes no money from the show and as such it cannot be considered work. He has never made a single baht from the show nor has he ever elicited donations.
A private man, he has been featured on Thailand's Channel 7 TV and also in the local Pattaya media, he does not reveal much about his real self. He says that he does not work yet he does not suffer the money problems that inflict a number of Pattaya's Western residents.
The show runs each day from around 4:30 until 6:00 PM as he makes three laps of the circuit. It takes him almost half an hour to get ready for the show and just as long to detach parts of the bike at the end. At one time he did venture out at night but he says people drive faster after dark and it was much more difficult for him to be seen. His route encompasses half of the Beach Road / Second Road circuit. He does not make all the way to the dolphin roundabout at North Pattaya Road because when you reach the Big C there's an incline and with the bike weighing well in excess of 50 kg, it would require quite some effort to get it up.
He feels that the show probably wouldn't work in the likes of Bangkok or London where traffic is heavier, faster moving and where, perhaps, the drivers are less courteous. Pattaya is very much contained and most people hang out in a very small area. So far he has avoided any mishaps although I can't help but wonder how many accidents he may have inadvertently caused as bemused drivers had their eyes on him instead of the road!
He points out that when visitors to Pattaya go back to their country they will show photos and video of him to their friends, which helps to promote Pattaya in a positive way. One of his few disappointments is that despite handing out his email address – he will often stop for those taking photos, particularly those with a big camera – when he requests copies of photos sent to him, very few people do.
He does in fact have more than one bike, as the photo below shows, although the much decorated main show bike is vastly more impressive.
He knows that his appearance makes him a talking point, yet says that he is just a regular guy enjoying life in Sin City.
Despite being very affable, laid back and well-spoken, he does have a few eccentricities, especially given this day and age. He does not own and has not watched TV for several years. Neither does he own a mobile phone and when he needs to use the Internet he does so at an internet cafe. With Pattaya being so contained, if he needs to talk with someone it's easy enough just to go and see them.
On the subject of life in Thailand and Pattaya in general, he does have a few pet peeves. Pattaya may be his home but he has not stepped foot in a beer bar in 5 years, has not had a drink in 20 years and does not involve himself with bargirls, which rather raises one's eyebrows about his choice of where to live – and he is not shy to let others know of the downsides of drinking and whoring. His reluctance to get involved with bargirls in a city where most Western guys involved with a Thai woman have an ex-bargirl as a girlfriend or wife has resulted in some nasty comments on Internet forums where members often see anyone who doesn't celebrate whoring as making a personal affront against them. Nasty comments are frequently made about him online with such pathetic stuff that he is gay or that he has a screw loose. He is in fact straight and only dates women from outside the bar scene, which suggests that despite his odd appearance that he is rather more sensible than many. Ironically, whenever he pedals past bars all he gets are waves and smiles. The keyboard warriors are all talk.
To catch the show, late afternoon on the Beach Road is your best bet as bad weather can cause the show to be cancelled. It doesn't take a huge gust of wind to catch the rear-mounted feathers and push the bike over and pedaling on Beach Road between Central Festival and the adjacent View Talay condominium is an awkward stretch as the tall buildings have created an artificial wind tunnel making that part of his route a little hairy. Rain or heavy winds force the show to be postponed.
We'd been chatting for some 45 odd minutes and soon it would be getting dark. The show had to go on. As he eased out into traffic, he sat proud, head high, eyes fixed on the road, happy to be doing his little bit for Pattaya's tourism industry. I yelled out to him, "Hey, you still haven't told me your name!"
"My name is Bond, James Bond."
Last week's photo
Where was this photo taken?
Last week's photo was taken on Sukhumvit soi 33 and showed the distinctive entrance to the boutique hotel / bar / restaurant, Livingstone's. With this week's photo, I am looking for a very specific location, not an ambiguous answer! The first person to email me with the correct location of the photo wins a 500 baht credit at Oh My Cod, the British fish and chips restaurant. The second person to get it correct wins a 500 baht voucher from one of the 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 in central Bangkok. The third person to get the photo right wins a 700 baht gift certificate from Lolita's in Pattaya.
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. Prizes are only available to readers in Thailand at the time of entering and are not transferable. 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 perils of learning Thai.
I recall your comment some weeks ago about the mamasan at Tilac who got on the microphone and referred to the bar's clientele in a most derogatory way. Well, she must have a sister working in a massage parlour. Earlier this week, I went to Sukhumvit Soi 20 with the intention of getting a Thai massage (no funny business) from my favourite masseuse, Khun Noi. She's massaged me twice before and I tipped her handsomely both times. Best of all, she was unfailingly polite – yet playful – and didn't offer me any extras. A third blissful massage was not to be had, however, for as I approached the massage parlour, I was greeted by a fat, homely female colleague of Noi's. "Ai John ma laew" barked out the slob! Thai speakers will know that "Ai" is a prefix that Thais use when addressing non-human animals – every Thai knows that addressing a human with this term is extremely rude. "Krai ma laew", I asked. "I'm not an animal," I added, in my best Thai. Noi was inside during the exchange and learned of it only when her fat colleague ran inside in a fit of shame. Needless to say, I decided not to get a massage that evening. Noi apologised profusely for her colleague's foul mouth and followed me up Sukhumvit for one block, begging me to stay. I politely resisted her entreaties and went home. Noi herself did no wrong, but I have no interest in patronising a shop that employs any woman too stupid to know which side her bread is buttered on. And who knows what names Noi calls me in my absence? Maybe I would have had a better evening had I not understood what the fatso said. Instead, the illusion of a land filled with smiling, service-oriented women was further shattered.
Vandalising a masterpiece!
I feel sorry for the bargirls who have tats. These days, in my limited experience, they are much more prevalent than they were a decade ago. This past February I saw a beauty at King's Castle in Patpong. This girl could have walked into any venue and heads would turn. One of those "She won't be here long – a sugar daddy's trophy in some penthouse" types. Face and body, natural breasts ("They real, here you feel" as she grabbed my hand had mixed results – yes, they were legit, but her crassness tarnished the image). But her abdomen was covered by a pair of tat wings. I saw her up close, not that close, and it wasn't to cover stretch marks. Peer pressure? Competition? How could someone vandalise such a masterpiece of female beauty?
A false sense of security.
I have also noticed that the security at the MRT entrances is a complete joke. I had around 6 kg of small, machined metal parts wrapped in bubble wrap in my bag while going through security. I didn't feel like unwrapping and explaining to them what they were so I opened a different compartment in my bag that only had papers. They just glanced at the papers and I was on my way. They could easily see that my bag had something heavier in it than just papers but did not think to ask me to open the other compartments.
My 72-year old father-in-law has been in and out of hospital over the past few months after crashing his motorcycle when returning from a fishing trip in the early hours of the morning. After two weeks in hospital last time, he was back there just four hours after arriving home. He obviously isn't going to last a great deal longer, all as a result of the accident. When I suggested to my wife that if he had been driving on the correct side of the road (he wasn't) and if he had been wearing a helmet (he wasn't) as the law dictates, then he would be fine and healthy now. Her response? If he didn't die from that he would die of something else. You just have to catch your breath and count to 10.
I was actually staying in a soi 13 hotel last week when the bike accident mentioned on your site happened. I didn't see it, though a friend was stuck in a baht bus and copped sight of the whole sorry mess. I have diced with death many times trying to cross in this madness. Pedestrian overpasses are way overdue and obviously on Beach Road too, though apparently too much of an ask for the government to consider. The greater Pattaya / Chonburi area has 9 motorcycle deaths per day which is rather sobering. It makes you wonder how many of those 1-year old kids you see hanging on for dear life end up in the stats. Thais just don't seem to have respect for life or even be aware of the obvious risks involved. I ride a bike but not in Pattaya as the risk of coming unstuck is quite high. And if that happens, you, the farang are to blame! Though Second Road is officially one-way, it's important to check for these idiots coming up behind you, as they nonchalantly almost take you out – and not even a toot of the horn to warn of impending doom. How's that travel insurance policy looking? Our poor farang friend who died last week had no idea it was all about to end when he went shopping on an otherwise normal day.
I lead a rather sedentary lifestyle, with my main exertion coming in the short-time room. I decided I needed to do more exercise, but the idea of hitting the Bangkok streets with pollution, traffic, potholes, hanging wires, possibly rabid soi dogs and dawdling natives all posing an obstacle, I elected to purchase a walking treadmill. Found one I liked priced at 29,900 down from 39,000, but this is Thailand so that wasn't actually the price. I was immediately offered the machine for 21,900. Why not show the real price to encourage buyers? Too straightforward in this land of smoke and mirrors. Then the company rep was called over and he reduced it to 18,900. That still wasn't the end of it. If I paid 1,000 of that in cash rather than on my card, I could have a tin of machine lubrication worth 1,200 for free. Bizarre.
Land of weirdoes!
It's indeed true that Thailand, and especially Pattaya, attracts a relatively large percentage of weirdoes. I have been a frequent visitor for 21 years now and could write a few books about the characters I've met. I mainly visit on holiday and take care that I have no strings attached to any woman, don't invest in anything at all, and just have fun in a relaxing area. That formula absolutely works for me, but I've seen many, many people who can't take it for what it is, and get involved in all sorts of trouble because of that.
Confident keeping your pennies in a local bank?
As for investing in Thailand, I don't care what the stated return is. I have lost thousands of baht through mysterious withdrawals on two different occasions – and with no other accountably than the usual stuff one encounters here. One bank manager even had the balls to ask me, "You have Thai girlfriend?" Sure, I jumped through all the hoops with precise accounting records, police reports, ATM camera investigations and the results were predictable and laughable.
Loopholes in the immigration laws of Thailand have been exploited by foreigners for longer than I can remember and one of the most exploited is that concerning overstaying one's permission to remain in the country. As the law currently stands, anyone overstaying their visa who manages to avoid the authorities in the country will face a fine when they leave the country of 500 baht per day that they overstayed. The fine maxes out at 20,000 baht meaning that if you overstay by more than 40 days, the fine does not increase any further. Some foreigners have seen this as a way to stay in Thailand long-term, "safe" in the knowledge that when they ultimately exit the country the fine would be no more than 20,000 baht. It guess their logic is that exiting and re-entering the country every 3 months is a hassle and they will run the (very unlikely) risk of being picked up by Immigration while in the country on an expired visa. If that happens then you're off to the Immigration Detention Centre for processing, a place which has been described by many as hell on earth. Despite no official comment from the Thai Immigration department that I'm aware of, some media outlets have reported a change in Immigration policy – not a chance in law – that will see any foreigners exiting the country with an overstay in excess of 40 days arrested and imprisoned rather than be allowed to leave without a hassle as has apparently been the case until now. It's just plain dumb, as well as clearly illegal, to overstay your visa. You KNOW you're doing something you shouldn't. In Malaysia, overstaying often results in 2 weeks in prison and in many Western countries overstaying a visa, by even a day, can result in you not being allowed to re-enter that country for 5 years. Maybe the Thais should put such a regulation in place here? Those who try to circumvent the law by overstaying and who think they can just waltz up to Immigration with a smarmy grin, plop down 20,000 baht and continue on their way as if they hadn't done anything are just plain arrogant. The bottom line is that there has been no official announcement of a change in policy from the Immigration department and while most overstayers will still be able to leave with just a fine, there is a chance – as there always has been – that they may be detained and face further difficulties.
I received email from a long-term expat and Stickman reader who had a lengthy overstay of approaching one year when this news broke. He decided to go to the border right away and get it sorted out. Contrary to the news reports, he merely had to pay a 20,000 baht fine, sign a few forms and was then able to exit the country and re-enter without any problem other than a lot of worry. If you are stupid enough to be on a long overstay, it's probably wise to contact either one of the big name visa run companies or a law firm that has good Immigration contacts so that they can help you through with hopefully nothing more than a fine.
Business has definitely picked up in the Nana area and Nana Plaza is receiving more visitors. I also hear a number of hotels in the area which had previously had rooms available are now booked.
A sign outside the recently closed Cathouse in Nana Plaza states that it will reopen soon under the new name of Club Bunnies. Will the new owners be keen to stick with the all you can drink beer buffet for xxx baht that used to be so popular? Nigel, the night manager who had a farewell party last night at the Big Mango Bat, will be the new manager. Talk has it that it will be a coyote dance bar!
Down the road, the opening of Insomnia has been delayed. Sticking my heard in the door this week, it looks like there's much work to be done and the revised opening date is now November 1st. They're hopeful that the new burger joint out front will open on October 15th but that seems a little optimistic and it too has much work needed.
Contrary to what I wrote last week, the No Name Group is not involved in the Nana ground floor renovations which is in fact a Crown Group only project. As the photo below which was taken earlier today shows, progress at Nana remains sloooooow! Bricks have been laid making the ground floor area more attractive, but there's still no sign of the much vaunted beer garden area. I remember what happened with Cascade and the Crown Group's grandiose plans for that venue that never eventuated and I look at the ground floor of Nana and wonder to myself if they could screw it up again. Or maybe they're going to make it a ladyboy beer garden?! With the Crown Group, nothing can be ruled out!
Popular farang bar and restaurant Bully's, on Sukhumvit Road between soi 4 and the JW Marriott, will celebrate its 6th birthday this coming Tuesday, September 28. There will be a buffet with all the trimmings from 6 – 9 PM, various games with prizes to be won and a special happy hour from 4 – 7 PM featuring pints of Heineken for 100 baht and pints of Guinness, Tetley's and Stowford Press at 150 baht.
Things are happening in Sukhumvit soi 33 with two new bars recently opening their doors – Bongo, and the unusually named The Horse Went Moo!
Also in soi 33, what I gather was one of the original bars, dating back more than 20 years, Van Gough is currently being ripped apart.
In Tilac, #8 is challenging #3 for the title of prettiest girl in the bar. Of course, if you were feeling greedy, or merely wanted to treat yourself, there's no reason why you couldn't take both at the same time!
What's going on with Beer Lao? For many it's the best beer in all of Southeast Asia, although fans of San Miguel may disagree. Beer Lao started to become more widely available in Bangkok and in other touristy parts of Thailand around 2005. Those who had tried it in Laos knew how good it was and genuine beer fans quickly warmed to it. It has never been widely available here, very difficult to find retail, and only bars in farang areas stock it. I don't ever remember seeing it for sale in a Thai venue – the name alone would put the average Thai off. But in recent times this fine drop has again become difficult to find. What's going on? Having given up beer I'm not bothered, but for its many fans in Thailand, its departure from the market is disappointing.
Absent for some time, the fake monks have been spotted again around Soi Cowboy. I did not see them myself so I can't be sure if they are the same culprits of a couple of years back. I think a communiqué needs to be sent the good doctor's way to help sort this lot out again…
Ask any Soi Cowboy fan to name their favourite bars and odds are Shark Bar will be amongst them. The French-owned bar usually has a bunch of pretty girls but I wonder to myself whether that is enough to make it a great bar. I swung by Shark Bar this week, had a few drinks, chatted with a few of the girls and just sat back and observed things. I have to say that the venue has a disproportionately high number of miserable staff, more shufflers than you find in most venues and the venue practices price fixing with girls pressured to conform to a 2,000 / 4,000 baht structure. I am sure you could negotiate them down. There's a real attitude in there, and it's just not a venue with a fun vibe. As I left, I couldn't help but think that while Shark Bar has a heap of pretty girls, it's not actually a venue I like at all.
The worm has turned and things are picking up in Pattaya where, just like Bangkok's bar areas, there seems to be more of everyone about – more Westerners, more Indians, more Russians and more Iranians – who seem to make up the bulk of the Middle Easterners. And there should be a bumper 10 days or so from the end of this month when the US Navy comes to town. A number of hotels report bookings are up for that period and some are full in the first week of October.
Sakura69 sits in a most favourable location in a soi off Walking Street home to Baby Dolls, What's Up and Angelwitch, all of which do a very good trade. But Sakura69 seems to have been condemned and as best I can remember has never done that well. The venue is currently undergoing renovations and will reopen, hopefully in the next week or so. Let's hope this time around the new French owners can make it a success.
You don't hear a lot positive said about Indians or Russians by the Western residents of Pattaya, some of who have legitimate complaints but others of whom feel threatened by the new arrivals and fear that their lifestyle might be somehow aversely affected. I did hear a couple of interesting stories about Russians by a friend who has had a few dealings with them. The first is that the Russians don't tend to back down when they are approached by the boys in tight brown uniforms. Sometimes they even get quite confrontational and make out like they are ready to rumble! It must all be quite humorous, given that neither group speaks the other's language and English is not really a strong point. I heard an amusing story of a Russian who was arrested, handcuffed and taken to the police station where, while still in handcuffs, he was raging and cursing and from all accounts the cops were actually scared of him! What I find interesting is that I have heard from various sources that a lot of the Russians in Pattaya are actually cops or soldiers who come on government-subsidised holidays. And here I was thinking that cops from one country had some sort of feeling of kinship and respect for coppers in another…
And then there are the Indians. Sitting in a Western managed and owned gogo bar this week, a bunch of Indians came in. These were VERY poorly dressed and frankly, they looked like peasants. They sauntered into the bar, a couple sat down and dismissed the waitress who asked them what they would like to drink while one of their party went through to use the venue's toilet. The farang boss was watching and went over to tell the guys sitting down to buy a drink to which they explained they were just waiting for their friend who was using the loo. I had a sneaky feeling that their mate probably didn't even need to use the loo but it was all a ruse so they could sit in the bar for a few minutes and get a free perve at the nude dancing girls as if they were toyz. All class, the bar boss told them in no uncertain terms to fxxx off! A big man, they didn't take their chances and hurried out the door!
Pattaya's Penthouse Hotel is continuing its summer promotion all the way through until December 10 with great deals on rooms.
No liquor Larry, the popular manager of Secrets won't be seen in the bar for the best part of the next two months as he goes under the knife again. No doubt he will still be a regular contributor and moderator on the Secrets forum.
The Starbucks branch on the corner of Sukhumvit and soi 5 will close its doors on Thursday of this coming week. The upstairs area is a fabulous place to relax – there are always seats available and you have a grand view of the comings and goings of the miscreants, the hookers and the plain weirdoes making their way in and out of Sukhumvit soi 5. I've spent many an afternoon in what is one of the oldest Starbucks branches in Bangkok and will miss it.
If you're looking for a good roast dinner, no, make that a great roast dinner, look no further than the Queen Victoria on soi 23, just around the corner from Soi Cowboy. For 325 baht you get a monstrous plate. Unlike other British pubs in the area, the Queen Victoria eschews that awful practice of adding tax or a service charge to the bill. 325 is what you pay, a tip optional. Despite the great food – the roast is better than pretty much any other British pub on Sukhumvit, The Londoner and The Dubliner included, yet the Queen Victoria remains very quiet. On Friday night, when you'd expect it to be busy, there were just a handful of customers.
The Africans lingering around Sukhumvit soi 3 intrigue me. This week I was approached by one on the skytrain platform and always keen to hear a story, I didn't even have to try to get this guy to talk. We sat next to each other for several stops along the Sukhumvit line, him doing virtually all the talking and me feigning interest. He was a Liberian claiming to have $4,000,000 that and asked if I had any idea how he could invest it in Thailand. There was no ruse and no ploy to get anything from me with the exception of my contact details, which of course I did not give him. Had the skytrain run a few more stops, he might have been asking me for more, but he ran out of time.
Old-timers will find the lengthy article in the latest edition of the Big Chilli about the history and decline of Patpong very interesting indeed. Check out your dentist's waiting room for the latest copy.
As the AFL Grand Final finished all square yesterday, Crossbar will again be open from 9:30 AM next Saturday to screen the final version 2 and free snacks will again be served including sausages pies and a few other treats.
Sunrise Tacos will open their 4th branch this coming Tuesday at Central World, on the 7th floor inside the Tops Supermarket, near the produce department. There will be seating for around 40. For those interested in grabbing a quick bite to eat, Sunrise Tacos will have six new combos only available at this new location including seasoned ground beef taco, chips and salsa from the salsa bar – with a choice of nine different homemade salsas, plus a medium-sized Coke, all for 100 baht. I was talking with owner Greg, who is passionate about food, and he explained to me with much pride, that unlike many other restaurants in Bangkok, the ground beef at Sunrise is never frozen, but rather ground fresh daily using prime sirloin. Sunrise's popular pies will also be available by the slice or the whole pie – apple, pumpkin, cherry, pecan and rhubarb as well as their succulent carrot cake. I love Sunrise, as does the Mrs., but I am wary of eating it too often. As one of my American mates once said to me, Mexican girls are as hot as hell in their late teens, but several years later they're obese – a result of Mexican food! Aware that many of us are conscious of staying trim and don't want to take on the appearance of a Pattaya whale, Sunrise has introduced a new dish – king ranch chicken casserole. I ordered it last night and it was fabulous – and amazingly it's less than 300 calories. At this stage it is only available at their soi 12 outlet only and is proving a hit with expats and selling out fast every night.
It's not everyday that a music act makes a video clip in Sukhumvit Soi 33 but that's what Bangkok expat combo Wasabi Bytes have done. The clip was made in the Dali Coyote Club and in the streets of Bangkok. To follow up, Wasabi Bytes is playing live at the Bangkok launch of their single Tall at the same venue from 8:30 PM – 1 AM on Saturday, October 2, supported by DJ Phreake from Sydney, Australia. Wasabi is on at 10 PM. Entry is free, drinks are reasonably priced at 100 baht for beers, 90 baht for tequila and kamikaze shots and 120 baht for standard house spirits. There's a free copy of the Wasabi CD "Tall Tracks" for each attendee buying drinks. According to the band, they will be playing their electronica fare with live keyboards, guitar and percussion as well as two coyote dancers. Wasabi are shortly off to perform in Singapore and the United States so they are hoping for a great send-off. More details can be found on their Facebook page.
There's a really impressive new Thailand real estate portal called ReThai which has a heap of functionality. I particularly like the way you can search for a property using not just the usual search criteria that you find on most real estate sites, but with maps, which will appeal to those who know specific parts of Thailand and are searching for a property in a specific area.
Ok, so I have never been there but based on everything I have heard, including first hand reports from a few Sticky readers who have worked there, I'm no fan of Saudi Arabia – but you have to admire the Saudi Charge d'Affaires in Bangkok showing balls and refusing to accept what would appear on the surface to be some poor excuses from the Thais concerning the promotion of a policeman who is a suspect in the unsolved case of a murdered Saudi. The Saudis were not at all happy at the way the Thais appeared to be trying to sweep the issue under the carpet. Many Western countries just bend over but the Saudis aren't doing that. Others could learn from the Saudis.
Quote of the week comes from Bangkok Bob who I caught up with on Friday night (yes, he still is alive, even if his site isn't), "I won't go into any of The Arab's bars because they all feel like a high-tech mortuary!"
Reader's story of the week comes from Korski and is titled, "How Easily They Forget".
From the New York Times, Thais are upset about an acclaimed Aussie chef trying to revitalise Thai cuisine.
A severely intoxicated Norwegian was relieved of a 150,000 baht gold necklace by a ladyboy in Pattaya at 5 AM.
From The Daily Mail, a British backpacker is the 20th person to drown on Phuket's Karon Beach in the last year.
The New York Times featured foreign husbands in Isaan this week.
David Beckham gets a rub down from an old Thai bird!
CNBC goes one on one with the Thai Prime Minister in this 5-minute interview.
The UK's Telegraph visited the infamous Bangkok Hilton and produced this watered down report.
Gang violence in Thailand was highlighted this week in the New York Times.
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: For a non-immigrant O type visa based on marriage, one criterion is to have 400,000 baht in a Thai bank account for at least 2 months. Can my Thai wife's name also be on the bank account, or does this account have to be strictly in my name only?
Sunbelt Legal responds: When a foreigner who is in Thailand and has married a Thai national and wishes to avoid having to travel outside of Thailand to obtain an “O” visa, they are able to change their Tourist Visa (or their Tourist Visa Exemption Stamp) while they are still in Thailand. For this to occur, the foreigner married to a Thai national must have at least 21 days remaining on their current visa or Tourist Visa Exemption Stamp and show that the required funds (400,000 THB) were deposited in their personal Thai bank account not less than 2 months prior to seeking that visa or visa exemption be changed. The 2 months requirement is less than the 90 days required under the rules that are currently in place but in practice the officers only require the funds to have been deposited for 60 days prior to seeking the visa / exemption be changed to a “O” visa. Those foreigners who are not able to show this amount, for that time period, in their Thai bank account may also opt to show that they have a monthly income of 40,000 baht. If the source of the foreigner's monthly funds is from an overseas pension or trust fund then the applicant's home embassy in Thailand will have to provide documentation certifying the funds are indeed being provided to the applicant on a monthly basis and that they meet the minimum financial requirements. If the monthly 40,000 baht required is based upon the foreigner's employment in Thailand, the foreigner will need to provide his / her current work permit and pay stubs. This new “O” visa will then be the basis of the foreigner's stay in Thailand. When this new visa is nearing its expiration the foreigner should then apply for an extension of stay based upon marriage (sometimes mistakenly referred to as a "Non-Immigrant ‘O' based upon marriage” and also commonly referred to as a "Marriage Visa") at the Immigration office in Thailand. Again the foreigner must have funds of at least 400,000 baht in their personal Thai bank account but they will need to have been in their account for at least 3 months prior to the application being submitted. Alternatively, if the applicant is unable to show 400,000 baht in their Thai bank account for the required time period, they have the option of providing documentation that shows a monthly income of at least 40,000 baht per month plus documentation from the foreigner's embassy if the source is from outside Thailand or a current work permit and pay slips if sourced from the applicant's job in Thailand. For renewals of this Extension of Stay based on marriage (i.e. at the end of your first year's stay in Thailand with an Extension of Stay based upon Marriage), the same financial requirements of their Extension of Stay (400,000 baht in foreigner's Thai bank account or 40,000 THB / month income certified by Embassy or provide Work Permit and pay slips) must be met. The money deposited in the applicant's Thai bank account must be solely in the applicant's name (a joint account between the applicant and his / her spouse is not acceptable).
Question 2: Assuming the worst has happened and I am arrested in Thailand (guilty or not):
1. What are my rights?
2. What should I do next?
3. Assuming the police do not already have it should I surrender my passport to them?
Sunbelt Legal responds: Technically, the personal protections afforded in the 2007 Thai Constitution are limited to Thai people. That said, Thai Police and the Thai courts are generally consistent in their application of Thai laws / criminal and civil procedures to Thai citizens and foreigners alike.
Contact a reputable, licensed, attorney as soon as possible if you are arrested or know of an impending arrest. Your nation's embassy should have a list of bi-lingual attorneys that have served people from your native country for civil and criminal matters in Thailand.
If you are ARRESTED in Thailand, the Police may hold you and deny your release for questioning for up to 48 hours without any judicial review being undertaken. After that, the police need to either release you or take you before a Judge for a hearing on why you were arrested and why they want to continue holding you in jail. That is when the Thai prosecutor will need to “show cause” to a judge for continuing to hold you. The Judge will either order your release or he / she may side with the Prosecutor and find that there that there are reasonable grounds to continue your incarceration for up to 12 days while the alleged crime is being further investigated by the Police.
At this point, police will transfer you from a holding cell into a prison. Until the prosecutor formally files criminal charges a Judge needs to reauthorize your continued incarceration every 12 days. The Judge may only order such detentions continue for a total of 84 days. For most offences in Thailand there is the possibility of being released on bail but you must usually provide cash or assets that are physically located in Thailand as your surety bond. Bail is forfeited if you fail to return for mandatory court appearances or flee the country.
Within 91 days of being arrested the Prosecution must file formal charges against you (84 days of investigation, plus the 7 days for prosecutorial review. If the Judge agrees that these charges may have merit, the case enters the pre-trial period. A trial date will then be set by the Court. This period can last a few weeks or a few months depending on the court's caseload and Thai holidays. There is no discovery process in the Thai court system, so your attorney will not have access to the prosecutor's evidence before the actual trial begins. Thai attorneys generally present the case as they see fit with little actual input from their clients.
There is no statutory or constitutional right to a jury trial in Thailand. For misdemeanor cases a single Judge presides, while in felony cases two or more judges will handle the trial. Trials are conducted in the Thai language and translation might not be made available to you. You may want to hire a translator through your attorney's office so you can participate more fully in the trial. Trials usually take one day up to a few weeks depending on the severity of the crime and the amount of evidence the court allows to be introduced. The verdict is announced several weeks after the trial has concluded.
The usual penalty for a criminal conviction is a fine and / or imprisonment (with deportation occurring after your sentence is served for serious crimes and those involving illegal drugs). Thai judges are not governed by mandatory sentencing guidelines upon conviction and judges sometimes reduce or suspend (i.e. no jail time assuming no criminal conduct for a number of years) sentences when a defendant admits his / her guilt. If convicted, you have 30 days to decide whether to appeal but this process can take years. Pardons may also be sought from HM the King.
Foreigners convicted of crimes often are transferred to Bangkwang Central Prison in Bangkok. Prisons in Thailand are often overcrowded and unpleasant, to say the least.
Never give your passport to anyone unless they are a Thai official and then insist that you stay with the passport or attempt to assure it is returned immediately. Always carry a copy of your passport and visa and make that available to any authorities that want to view your passport / visa. If your passport is taken, get the officer's name and ID number and if it is not returned contact their superiors and your country's embassy immediately.*
* 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 big talking point in some expat circles in the last few days has been the way the Thais deal with people who overstay their visas by more than 6 weeks. I can't help but think that making the decision to overstay one's visa in Thailand is not all that different from drink driving or bedding a lady of questionable repute without protection or marrying a prostitute, all of which I reckon most of these people wouldn't do back in the West. So why the hell do so many Westerners do these, and other equally silly things here in Thailand? It's a very simple rule to live by, but I maintain that you shouldn't do anything in Thailand that you would not do at home. Live by that rule and you should avoid many of the major pitfalls that many suffer!
Your Bangkok commentator,