Every week I spend most of Sunday putting together the opening piece, editing and tidying up the column. It takes a good chunk of the day. Today I feel like a change, like taking the afternoon off, going out and actually doing something. With that in mind, there is no opening piece today and there might be a few (more than usual) typos and other errors.
This week's column is largely a round up of news and views from Bangkok and from the bars. It's still over 5,500 words and hey, I even managed to publish 5 hours early. Hopefully it will be a full-length column next week.
Thanks for your understanding.
Last week's photo
Where was this photo taken?
Last week's photo was taken on the Chao Praya River tourist boat, NOT the regular express boat. They are quite different – the tourist boat's seating configuration is different and has the three seats n the middle which the regular express boat does not have! If you said the regular Chao Praya Express boat, I did not accept that. Yeah, pedantic is my middle name! 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 – Toy Bar madness.
I was at Cowboy on Friday after enduring a very crowded Tilac and went across to Toy where I was instantly grabbed by a girl with glasses who moved me to the end of the bar. She had me fully out and then took her knickers off. The very odd bit next was that after a time spent playing she was more than happy to jump on and almost before I realised I was actually shagging her in the bar with no condom! I got myself out of it as soon as I could but it was certainly a new experience – and potentially a dangerous one.
A false sense of security.
During the height of the red shirt protests earlier this year, I had to ride the MRT and BTS from Nana / Asoke to the Silom area. As a reporter that kept upgrading camera and tactical gear, I noticed a paradox in security enforcement. The more stuff I carried, the less the security guards wanted to check me. As the days went on, the guards at the MRT / BTS would see me walking towards the entrance looking as if I had just come from a warzone. I was wearing a tactical vest with rifle plates, large black backpack, Kevlar helmet, military pants, knee pads with my blood type written on them and carrying two cameras with zoom lenses. Most of the time they simply waved me in without checking and on occasion the guards helpfully opened up the alternate swinging door so I wouldn't have to squeeze through the narrow gates banging my lenses and helmet against the metal walls.
Thailand, a refreshing escape from the constraints of Australia.
I'm back here in boring Oz, and was reading the comments on your site by the punters and fellow mongers. As a very experienced traveler of South-East Asia, mostly Thailand and Philippines, I get lots of satisfaction when back here reading the very interesting comments and stories on your site. As far as I'm concerned, Thailand is an addiction, and not just from a sex industry perspective. Whenever I leave boring Melbourne and the plane touches down in Bangkok, I feel liberated, like there's a great weight off my shoulders or like leaving prison! I know Thailand is far from perfect, but compared with present day Australia it's heaven on earth. I'm sick to death of the PC bullshit here! If a footballer is caught with a bimbo, or makes a so called racist joke i.e. uses the term Abo, for instance, the shit hits the fan big time! The average person is so wary of what the say in relation to religion, race, sex, that it's a total joke! Women seem to be treated like a superior race and men are like Jews in Nazi Germany. Are women the Nazis when it comes to freedom of speech? At least in Thailand there is only one subject which is taboo. Here it's a list as long as your arm!
Africans in Asia.
I hope it doesn't sound racist, but realise that most Asians can't tell the difference between Africans and African-Americans. In Japan in the 80s, rap was real popular so you'd get these African guys hanging around Roppongi pretending to be USian. As a Statesider, they were so palpably different to me, AND to black Americans who were basically after the same thing, and you can guess what that was. The Japanese police were perplexed as the two groups HATED each other and would get into fistfights. Flash-forward: I don't think it's a huge secret that Africans in Bangkok are involved in substance trade, but they've been at it in big Chinese cities for years. However, there is a large African presence in Hong Kong and in Guangzhou who are law-abiding. Often, they go there to buy old mobile phones and mule them back to African nations for resale. And yes, they face discrimination in Hong Kong so confine themselves to a small area. Also, as Hong Kong cops can't be conveniently compensated, there's not a lot of overt crime. I dunno what "the deal" is as this area is in the middle of a triad zone and there is a substantial ethnic-Indian mafia in the area also. I hear the community in Guangzhou is fairly large, and have no idea what's going on there.
Raw Hide raw deal.
Tonight as I visited Cowboy for the first time after a long absence, I ventured into Raw Hide and while it was amazing to see all of the girls on display, the thing that struck me the most was that the last time I was there a small bottle of water was offered at 60 baht. Tonight the same small bottle of water was 100 baht. While I had no complaints on the price, a supervisor approached and asked me if I wanted another bottle while the first bottle was still half full. When I showed her the half full bottle she said, "You sit too long!" And I will give you only one guess as to what they said / thought as I put 100 baht into the bin and left! Previously when the price was 60 baht per bottle I would drink three bottles of water and leave a generous tip.
The pleasures of Thailand a horror!
I have just returned from a trip to England. I met up with a friend of my brother's, 54, and fairly recently separated from his wife. While we were out he spent a good deal of time lusting after a fairly unattractive 40-year old female. When I suggested he might enjoy his new found freedom with a trip to Thailand, he was horrified that I could suggest paying for sex. This particular, large breasted, big-assed lady had caught his eye and I asked him what a night in bed with her might entail, particularly from an expense point of view. This, he told me, would involve a "date" at a bar, probably followed by dinner, and, if he was very lucky on a first date, possibly a happy ending. He estimated a cost of 150 pounds (7,000 baht), with, of course, no guarantee of that happy ending. Given that he was only interested in a sexual conquest, rather than a relationship, I suggested that he was still paying for sex, and that he might consider the beauty, charms and tenderness (even if in pretence) on offer in Thailand!
It's not often I venture to Patpong, swinging by just a few times a year, but this past week I dragged myself over to Bangkok's oldest farang bar area – and was quickly reminded why my visits are so infrequent. The entire area was dead, both the market and the bars bereft of customers. Those few folk about seemed to be first-time visitors to Bangkok having a nosey and seeing what all the fuss is about the once legendary area known as Patpong.
Many bars in Patpong are in a sorry state. Whether it was the girls or the customers who gave up first I don't know, but sticking my head in Safari at around 8:15 PM revealed the once popular bar had neither! At a time when you once struggled to find an empty seat, the venue has just one bored customer and there weren't any girls dancing on either stage. As best as I could see there were only two girls in the whole bar.
The famous old signs outside the King's Group's three premier gogo bars, King's Castles 1 and 2 and Camelot Castle in the middle of Patpong soi 1, have been consigned to Bangkok bar history, replaced by modern neon. Renovations on the exteriors of the 3 bars but leaving the interiors as they are suggests a strategy of getting customers into the bar, with little effort made to keep them there. The interior of each of these three bars can be described as old, tired and stale. They have this awful musty smell which makes you wonder if there are dead mouse carcasses behind the walls or under the floor. Yeah, it's that bad!
Over on Patpong soi 2 things are even worse! A heap of venues have closed although just when they shut up shop I can't be sure because like I say, I don't make it over Patpong way that often. The Executive Club which was one of the hostess bars on soi 2 has been closed, as has the adjacent bar, Super Queen, one of the few upstairs bars which was hassle free. It was the venue where you had to pass the long-term farang tout with an encyclopaedic knowledge of English football and an accent that was almost impossible to understand.
With the Executive Club closed you'd think that the other hostess bars like Cosmos and Royal would have picked up extra customers but no, they were just like Safari, dead!
The very decent, inexpensive French restaurant owned and run by Bobby of Bobby's Arms fame is in darkness as are various other properties on Patpong soi 2 making part of the soi not just quiet, but depressing.
The only venues doing any business on Patpong Soi 2 were the farang-owned, more modern bars at the Silom Road end where Bada Bing, Club Electric Blue, Black Pagoda and Spanky's were fighting for the few passers by.
Eventually we settled into Kiss on the main Patpong soi for a drink. What a disaster that bar is! The venue had but a solitary customer when a pal and I entered. You'd think with the bars being so quiet that the girls would make an extra effort and perhaps be extra nice to customers. Nope, it was the complete opposite. The girls were rude to the point of being offensive, ultra pushy and it did not help that some were merrily puffing away on cigarettes in the bar. I am not sure if there was a mamasan in the bar or not – a number of the girls' were at an age where they could qualify for the job. Kiss might be nicely decorated with many subtle touches, but the venue is appallingly run and the bunch of barkers they have in there should be sent to strut their stuff on Pattaya's Beach Road.
The touts on the main Patpong soi seemed more aggressive than usual if that is possible, and a couple seemed a little "tense", as if telling them that you weren't interested in what they were selling really might push them over the edge and cause them to explode. Why oh why do Patpong bars have to go against the grain and employ male touts?
Heavy criticism has been heaped on Nana Plaza over the past year or two and I admit that I'm amongst those who have been disappointed to see it fall from the lofty heights of a decade ago. Sometimes we are unreasonably harsh on Nana, but with that said, hammering Patpong really is justified and as incredible as it sounds, the whole area has actually got significantly worse since my last visit! Any bar with a show has you nervous that thugs will do you in if you don't succumb to their blatant rip you off, the women are for the most part a heap of old plain Janes well past their expiry date, to say nothing of the aggressive touts and appalling attitudes that are worse than you will find anywhere in all of Thailand. It's no wonder that as far as drinks prices go, Patpong is now the cheapest of the city's major bar areas. The damage is so great that I don't see that it is even possible for Patpong to re-emerge as a genuine nightlife destination. For older timers, it's a place to visit every so often for old times' sake. For newbies, you've got to see it once, but that's about it.
With work being done on the Nailert Building, that's the building between Sukhumvit sois 3/1 and 5 that used to be home to Tony Roma's, Bookazine and Starbucks amongst others, what's going to happen to all of the streetwalkers who mill around on the pavement out front? While there is always some overlap between the various venues freelancing hookers search for customers, quite a few seem to use that short stretch of pavement as their primary workplace.
Speaking of that same stretch of pavement, a mate took one of the disgusting African whores who patrol between sois 3/1 and 5 to a short time hotel in the area, having told a few of us how he had been contemplating it for months. We had warned him of that lot but he wouldn't listen. Not only did he subject himself to God only knows what diseases, he woke up the next morning less his wallet and mobile phone. I have been back with him to the area to see if he could find the girl but she has gone. Be careful with that lot!
And the unofficial word, well, actually, it's the official word but it did not come from the horse's mouth, is that the new Nana Plaza beer garden on the ground floor will not open until the cool season, meaning some time in mid-November. No, the obligatory photograph of progress at Nana is not a new section in the column and yes, I will stop running these photos when the beer garden finally opens! Here's how things looked last night.
Keep a close eye on your bill if you find yourself in Sexy Night in Nana Plaza. It would seem that the cashier's maths skills can't be described as stellar.
The latest tale of cheap Indians comes from a Bangkok gogo bar where a bunch tried it on, attempting to order 3 drinks when their group numbered 6. Being told to order up or push off, they reluctantly ordered a drink apiece, no doubt the cheapest thing on the menu. But they didn't stay long and not long after they had left, one of the dancing girls moaned to the bar boss how truly cheap they were. Apparently one of their group suggested to her that he would like to take her for a test drive…and offered her 300 baht! He intimated that he would prefer to meet her at the end of the night, when the venue had closed so he wouldn't have to pay a barfine either! I expect we'll be hearing more stories like this – and I also expect that more venues will become private clubs!
Speaking of the recent surge in Indians in the bar areas, one Bangkok gogo bar has a doorman who is half Thai and half Pakistani. Needless to say he revels in telling Indians that they are not welcome!
A mate went for a rub down on Sukhumvit this week. The girl outside a massage outlet showed him a price list and a 1-hour massage was priced at 400 baht. He explained to her that just a few doors down the road he could get the very same massage for 300 baht. She surprised him by saying that she could match the price. The rub down was quick and at the end he realised it has in fact been just 45 minutes and not an hour. When he paid for the massage, the girl waited for a tip but chose not to give one. She had the audacity to ask where her tip was to which he replied that the massage was only 45 minutes and as such she did not deserve a tip. She responded that 300 baht was for 45 minutes only! There's a subtle message here – while you may be able to negotiate the price on goods, when it comes to services, negotiating the price might ultimately see you receive a substandard service than you otherwise would have.
Have you noticed that there have been fewer price increases in the bars this year? Bar owners are constantly reminded by customers that they are hurting financially and know that many customers are price sensitive. There are a few food venues creeping up prices and there are one or two which are cutting corners, like providing slightly smaller portions or where they once had piles of napkins on the table you now have to ask for them. Still, overall, prices have not moved much this year – and with some currencies weak it's an optimistic bar owner who chooses to put up prices.
The Bangkok Baking Company, the lovely cafe at the front of the Marriott on Sukhumvit, is well-known amongst Bangkok residents as a little oasis with great Western breakfasts and light meals. The prices are on the high side but the quality makes it worthwhile. I swung by for a leisurely breakfast this week and noticed a new menu – which always means new prices. But I almost fell off my chair when I saw prices had shot up 30%! I wonder what they attribute such a sharp price rise to.
I couldn't resist checking out Central World which reopened this week. It seems half of Bangkok had the same idea and the giant shopping centre was over-run. The very first thing I noticed was that there remains, after all these months – it is 4 months since it was torched – a distinctive burning smell. Where once there were shops, there are now many empty spaces and I was disappointed to see that the only local branch of the excellent Canadian burger joint, Triple O's, had gone. Probably about one in 5 shop spaces in the reopened section remains empty. The Zen shopping centre is still under repair as is pretty much that entire side of the shopping centre. It's early days and I'm sure that the vibe will return, but for the time being it just doesn't feel the same. Small vendors in corridors were absent, decorations were sparse and it was obvious that 90% of the foot traffic was, like me, just there to have a nosey.
The new American-themed eatery out the front of the as yet unopened Insomnia will be called V8 Diner. There's a small car with the diner's logo on the side erected out front. Good luck getting a V8 into that baby although if you could, the power to weight ratio means it would go like stink! They're saying that when the diner opens, the car wheels will move and lights flash. Sounds like the sort of sign you expect to see outside a gogo bar, not a diner!
I'm appalled at the debate that is raging about whether Thai Immigration will lock up those who overstay their visa by 6 weeks or more. It is not the actual debate that has shocked me, but the number of people who have come out of the closet and admitted that they are either currently on a long overstay or had a long overstay in the past. A number of people I know, no-one close to me but people I know and have met, are amongst them. I have always felt that Thailand is a magnet for Westerners prone to extremely bad judgment and this is another classic example of that. And no, I don't buy people falling on hard times as an excuse for overstaying their visa. Living in another country you should have more than just a single backup plan. Whatever happens, you should have various contingency plans in place. To me, this whole debacle is more proof that Thailand is home to some real oddballs.
American retirees in Thailand on limited funds must have had heart palpitations this week when, for the first time since mid 1997, a Benjamin Franklin was worth less than 3,000 baht. Yep, had you checked out the exchange rates offered on Thursday you would have found that a $US100 note got you 2,999 baht. It crashed through a major psychological barrier and has continued its descent south. At private exchange booths you might get 1% better than what the banks offer, but the way the dollar is going it seems that even 30 baht to the dollar will soon be the stuff of memories, or is that the stuff of dreams?
Are traffic police more aggressive these days and perhaps even targeting foreigner drivers more? It sure seems that way. I see more police checkpoints both in Bangkok and outside Bangkok than I have before. I also hear far more stories of foreigners driving in Thailand getting hassled and accused of doing things they didn't.
I notice traffic lights are being put up on Beach Road in Pattaya. I wouldn't have thought they would be necessary, but since Central Festival opened, traffic in Pattaya seems to have got worse.
There have been various fashion trends amongst bargirls from blonde hair to certain types of tattoos to tongue piercings to pastel coloured cosmetic braces to a recent trend amongst the older girls of wearing glasses. It isn't that widespread, but quite a few girls in the bars are wearing glasses – purely for cosmetic reasons.
Quote of the week comes from a Bangkok local, "Hua Hin is in like a cemetery with lights and Cha Am is like a cemetery without lights!"
Reader's story of the week comes from a dude who overstayed his Thai visa!
The Bangkok Post highlights that child pornography is available in Bangkok, on sale in major tourist areas!
At last it's 100% official, some hotels in Bangkok refuse Blacks or Indians.
Can we really expect to see more Indian visitors to Thailand as the Thais seduce the Indian tourists?
A Brit poses as a millionaire to steal back his son from the Thai lady he once called his wife.
Thais are appalled that a foreigner might actually be able to make Thai food as well, or gulp, better than they can!
The Daily Mail shows what British teenagers get up to on their gap year in Thailand.
Controversial massage parlour mogul turned politician Chuwit talks about Thai politics.
The Aussie caught with 1.7 kg of meth at Bali Airport off a flight from Bangkok was Bangkok-based.
The Economist highlighted the Saudi blue diamond affair this week.
CNNGo describes a night out with a Bangkok cabbie.
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: It is my understanding that according to the immigration act of 2522, Chapter 2 section 12 states: Aliens which fall into any of the following categories are excluded from entering into the Kingdom: Part 6. Having
been imprisoned by the judgment of a Thai court; or by a lawful injunction; OR BY THE JUDGMENT OF THE COURT OF A FOREIGN COUNTRY, except when the penalty is for a petty offense or negligence or is provided for as an exception in the Ministerial
regulations. Part 7. Having behavior which would indicate possible danger to the public or likelihood of being a nuisance or constituting any violence to the peace or safety of the public or to the security of the public or the security of the
nation, or being under warrant of arrest by competent officials of foreign governments.
In our village here in Thailand resides such an expat who was convicted of a crime in which he took the life of a family member, was convicted, and served a prison sentence and was released on parole. He has been living in the kingdom for several years now without declaring his past history. Here is where the problem lies. Upon discovery of this person's past by several of the expats of the community, he has constantly threatened to kill and harm those who disclose his past or discuss anything about his past. He has told several people of his intent to kill them and their families. The local police do not want to get involved and they are utterly useless. Our community is in deep concern as we believe that given this person's past he has the potential to kill again and has verbally said so to many people. Here is my question. Is there a department of the police in Bangkok, perhaps Immigration that handles illegal aliens such as this person living here? Is there a phone number we could call or a department that we could contact to report what this person is doing and how he managed to slip into the kingdom? It is my understanding that the new head of immigration has made a vow to clean up Thailand and rid the kingdom of sinisters such as this.
Sunbelt Legal responds: Considering the threats this person is making to you and your neighbors and the disregard from your local police officers you may be best served by contacting the Attorney General's office (http://www.ago.go.th/) directly. Threats to kill should be taken seriously and are illegal in Thailand. You may want to seek out a law firm to assist your group and make sure the proper authorities are notified. A Thai lawyer should be able to liaise with the various departments that are responsible for protecting the peace from theses threats and to look into his background to see if he entered the Kingdom illegally.
Question 2: In the Chiang Mai area I have used and seen rifle / pistol ranges. I was wondering what is required to bring a firearm into the country. Also what is required for one to purchase a firearm in Thailand? And any other
laws that would be wise to know if one should have possession of a firearm in Thailand. Surprisingly I have never seen a gun store in all the years I have been traveling to Thailand, not that I was looking for one. I hope the change you (see)
mentioned will make Thailand a better place to live for all Thais.
Sunbelt Legal responds: Thailand prohibits the possession of firearms, ammunition or explosives without a license. If you're caught with a gun and no license there is a fine of about $500 and you may be imprisoned for 1 to 10 years. If you have a firearm that isn't legal even with a license you could be sentenced to life imprisonment or capital punishment, i.e. death under Thai law. Gun violence is dealt with very severely by the Thai Police. Thai laws allow foreigners to own guns in Thailand but in practice the issuance of gun licenses to expats is extremely rare. Entering Thailand with a gun or ammunition is also illegal as Thai Customs rules provide.
Thai law prohibits the buying, possession, use, making or importation of guns / ammunition without a license from the Local Registrar (the Director-General of the provincial administration under Thailand's National Government's Ministry of the
Interior). Bringing even licensed guns into towns or cities during public gatherings (read festivals or political events) without specific authorization from local authorities subjects the gun possessor to possible additional incarceration penalties.
Some people are never allowed to get a gun licenses in Thailand including: those who have ever been convicted of a felony; those with a conviction of 2 misdemeanors within a 5 year period; people who are mentally incompetent or have physical inabilities that prevent them from properly using a gun; those unemployed / without income; those without a permanent residence; anyone the registrar believes may affect “public order” or has “erratic behavior”; or a foreigner who has not had a house registration book for at least 6 months. That said, the rules appear to be strictly interpreted against foreigners owning guns in Thailand and very few have ever been issued to expats.
If you are still considering applying for a gun permit, you must be at least 20 years of age, have a particular reason for gun ownership (your profession exposes you to danger or applicant lives in isolated / dangerous areas), you must identify the exact firearm to be purchased and from whom it will be purchased, and have a recommendation for gun ownership from the police chief / officer or village headman where you reside. The applicant must also affirm that the weapon will be used only for defense, sport or hunting. Some special requirements are applicable to foreigners, such as: does the applicant have family in Thailand and does he / she speak Thai. These are not strict yes / no requirements but they are factors for the Registrar to review when considering issuance of a gun permit.
Step one is to file an application for possession / use of a gun know as form Por.1. This has to be filed with the proper authority in the locale where your yellow book indicates your permanent residence is located. In Bangkok, this form has to be filed at the Department of Provincial Administration, located at Nakhon Sawan Road, Dusit, Bangkok 10300. Out in the provinces, the form has to be filed with a nai amphur, or sheriff's office.
* 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.
One of the amusing things about this column is the feedback and the small amount of hate mail that comes in. Most weeks someone has a gripe about something and often the people tell me how terrible the column is and how I have my head up my backside and various other less than complimentary smart arse remarks. What I find amusing is despite what they write, it is obvious that they still read every single word of every column and are often amongst the first to read it with their sniping comments coming in late afternoon on Sunday! There are a few crazies who send silly emails most weeks, others who find something dumb to say once a month or so. I figure that the fact that they keep tuning in every week means that the column really can't be that bad. It's when they stop emailing me that I'll start to worry!
Your Bangkok commentator,