There is little I enjoy more than taking off to Pattaya for a couple of days and venturing out with the camera. It's hard to think of anywhere with richer subjects for street photography and where, for the time being at least, photography is largely tolerated. One night out on Walking Street I took a few hundred photos with no effort made to shoot whilst hiding in the shadows – and only one person raised his hand requesting the shot not be taken and of course I complied.
Pattaya is great for taking photos during the day, but it is even better at night! Here's some snapshots from a few days away in Pattaya.
Every venue should have a sign outside stating, "No shirt, no service!" And why oh why is it that those who just have to go shirtless in a bar or restaurant are covered in tats? How often do you see someone without tats shirtless?! It's disrespectful and the Thais really don't like it – the no shirts that is, not the tats.
Would someone please tell them to smile? You're in Pattaya, on holiday – it can't be that bad! She's not ugly so a little smile wouldn't go amiss!
Is she your type? Or should I say, is he your type?! As a mate said to me this week in Pattaya, the girls don't have a chance when the ladyboys are this attractive! Yep, this one's a bloke!
There were a surprising number of genuinely pretty women on Walking Street and some actually posed or beckoned to have their photo taken, which is rather different to some of the experiences I have had in recent times where women have intimated that they would prefer their photo wasn't taken or they made aggressive, rude or nasty gestures!
Probably the top selling T-shirt on the Eastern Seaboard, whoever came up with this slogan was a genius! I'd be happy enough to wear one in Pattaya but wouldn't be caught dead in it outside Sin City.
I spotted a friendly face on his "B" bike, definitely less majestic than the big one. Glitterman, as he is known by many in Pattaya, is a real character and if you thought his look was unusual, you want to read some of his posts on Pattaya's naughty boy forums. The locals really get their knickers in a twist over what he says! His quite brilliant MO is to write a profound post and then never come back to read or respond to the replies, which drives the locals crazy!
It could only be Pattaya! Girls look outside the bar early evening, wondering who will be the next punter to take a seat at their bar, and just who will be their prey!
The boxing ring in the Siren Bar Complex is surrounded by beer bars. If you thought WWF was staged, you ain't seen nothing yet! With Bangkok's Lumpini Thai boxing stadium now charging outrageous prices for foreigners to enter – a white guy won't get a ticket for less than 1,000 baht, but they really want to sell you a 2,000 baht ticket, this is the closest many visitors get to Thai boxing, which is sad really. See these Mickey Mouse contests and you'll have nothing but contempt for Thai boxing as a competitive sport! Look at the beer gut on that guy!
This pretty lady works at a traditional massage shop on Second Road and like some of the ladies I came across on Walking Street, she actually posed and asked me to take her photo.
I came across this well-known lady in my travels this week and engaged her in conversation. I had vowed that the next time I saw her I would do my best to interview her. She was amiable enough and receptive to basic conversation but was not capable of
staying focused. Her responses were but a couple of words and her raspy voice made it difficult to understand what she was saying. When I explained to a couple of intrigued girls nearby what I was trying to do, they offered to help but it soon
became clear that it would be too difficult. In the middle of saying a few words this start a conversation with herself while swinging her arms and pointing at nothing in particular. Sadly, she's looking worse for wear. She is skinny, her
teeth look like they're a stranger to toothpaste and while she applies make up, every time I see her she's in the same set of clothes. People take pity on her which is nice, but the poor thing really is not doing so well.
Last week's photo
Where was this photo taken?
Last week's photo was taken in the Dollhouse in Soi Cowboy, looking from the top of the stairs down towards the ground floor and is often referred to as the stairway to Cancerville! 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 – Is this how you treat your guests?
Stick's Sunday read last week demonstrated over and over again that foreigners are exploited or are the victims of racial discrimination. There was the email from one reader who revealed how the locals tried to charge him 25,000 baht a month for an apartment that his wife was able to then get for 15,000, and how the holiday prize to Phuket his wife won was withdrawn when they found it was to be shared by a foreigner. In the same way that when free samples are given out at shopping malls I am always ignored because I am not Thai. Stick himself wrote of the way foreigners – he didn't say so but you can be 100% sure it is only foreigners – are apparently being targeted with illegal searches of their cameras for porn. And Stick warned of the constant shakedowns by Thailand's police for imaginary traffic violations. Then there was the reminder of rogue taxi drivers who hang around outside hotels ready to rip-off visitors. We are always being told to remember we are guests in the country. Well, if I treated my guests the way we are treated in Thailand I don't think they would return!
Westerners' attitudes towards Russians.
I read your recent column about Westerners' negative attitude towards Russians. Recently I visited Pattaya with a lady friend of mine and we visited one of her friends who is living with a young Russian. I consider him to be a bit different to the trend as he claims he prefers to avoid company of other Russians and understands why people generally don't like them. He had stories about some rich Russians to tell me. He is looking to buy some property in Pattaya and one agent he visited told him that recently a Russian bought 2 condos which spanned 2 floors, for 20 million baht each. The thing that made the story so unique was that the guy didn't even view the places, but simply looked at some photos and bought them! This I was told makes the agents inflate prices whenever Russians are involved. I think that things like that are a major contributor to Westerners' animosity towards Russians. Money. The Russians here generally have a lot of money. The problem is where it came from. There is regularly the assumption of some sort of negative or dubious dealings involved in Russians' income. I would say most of it comes down to jealousy. If people had the balls, luck or opportunity to make big bucks with little effort like some of the less popular groups who visit Thailand then I am sure they would take advantage of it just like these people have!
Ever try Russian food?
I hadn't been to Pattaya for a long time and it was good to be back. It was quite strange however, how 'Russian' it had become in places. I tried hard, but when browsing the menus of the Russian restaurants that had sprung up, I just couldn't bring myself to try out the food. I wonder if Westerners generally wax lyrical about Russian food or whether like me they wonder how anyone can eat this stuff, especially when surrounded by great Thai food.
They do say that, if you cannot love yourself then no-one else will love you. Then surely it applies that if you have no respect for yourself and your person, then how can you expect others to show you respect. For me an excellent example was in The Sea Bar in Soi Diamond earlier this year. One of the girls had a guy's manhood out and was playing around with it for all to see. Does that guy have any dignity or self-respect? So I agree, Thailand does seem to attract the worst that other countries have to offer. All that then makes me wonder is what I'm doing here!
The shabby presentation of Western men in Thailand.
Why pick on fatties who make up 30 – 40% of the population of developed countries? Hell, even the Thai ladies, so petite only 10 years ago, are getting a bit porky. As a friend said "You can tell McDonalds is here". IMHO there is more to good looks / presentation than body shape. The main problem is the shabbiness of a large proportion of foreigners, both tourists and expats. Something is badly wrong when tuktuk drivers and motorcycle taxi riders are better dressed than most of their customers. Save your bare torsos, shorts and flip flops for the beach. People who go out at night looking like tramps shame themselves, as well as their countries, and repulse those of us who make an effort.
Life is easy for youngsters.
Youngsters have no idea of what it means to get even a little older. Almost anyone can be 25, fit and have their life reasonably together. Admiration is better placed on a guy that is 45, 55, or 65+, that looks good, takes care of himself, has his life in order, is happy, and enjoys one or many positive relationships.
Age warfare 1!
The 'Call a spade a spade' email writer really misses the whole point. The fat expats you see living in bars are doing it because they can. In Thailand one can be 25 forever, or for as long as funds last. Sleep with 20 year old girls into your 80's if you so wish, Thai girls see nothing repugnant in an old body anyway. Nearly all would choose to go short time with a sweet smelling senior who dresses well and is well-groomed over a fat, hairy, smelly 25 year old. It's all about presentation, and it is nice to know that there are parts of the world where presentation still counts. In the west it's all about 'youth' and you can be considered old at 40! The young in Europe are precious and spoiled, sneering at old people, too young and stupid to face the fact that one day they too will be old. Spade writes from the disadvantage of being young. You really know little about life until you've done 50 years. And there comes a time when really you don't care too much what other people think of you. The tragedy of modern youth is that they are all trying so hard not to upset, to fit in, to be politically correct, to look good in front of their peers. Spade is so uptight and prudish he won't even have casual sex when it is offered. Yet he really begrudges the oldies being able to enjoy themselves. Does it sicken him or is he really just a bit jealous? I visualise a rather sad young man, somewhat out of his depth. He would have been so much happier in Croydon. He sits alone nursing a pint in the corner of some British theme pub on Sukhumvit and watches all the sex-pats walk by. One has to beg the question what the hell is he doing here?!
Age warfare 2!
I cannot stand the young farangs who have appeared in Thailand over the last few years. Too old for the sun and sin spots of Europe like Ibiza; already being spurned by the crass youth of Western countries, they search for pastures new in far off fields. They bring their rubbish techno music and loutish behaviour with them, and then have the temerity to criticise the incumbent bar flies. These old guys may have guts that make them look nine months pregnant, and indeed may look ridiculous walking hand in hand with delicate girls who could be taken for their daughters. However, at least many of them still have the mental powers needed to remember the manners, level of decorum, and respect for others that they were taught when younger men. Many, not all.
Club Bunnies in Nana has opened at last but early signs aren't positive and it is anything but the success the owners would have been hoping for. The venue features basic neon and more baht could have been spent on decoration. But come on, with girls
and management sitting around outside drinking and smoking, how do they plan to attract customers in the door? And then there is the curious happy hour sign, small pieces of A4 paper stuck out front announcing that buying 5 bottles of beer gets
you one free! Is that a happy hour?!
The Czech owner of the Hollywood properties in Nana is keen to sell all of his business interests, citing health reasons. He wishes to return to his homeland to undergo treatment for an illness, which is rather sad because the guy is a former champion rower and a picture of health and fitness. He has two bars, Hollywood Carousel and the as yet unfinished Hollywood Strip which had been undergoing a major refit as well as the flash short time hotel, Hollywood Inn. He is happy to let them go separately or as a package.
On November 5th what promises to be the new hottest late spot on Sukhumvit, Insomnia, will open its doors. 4 days earlier the 50s themed American diner out the front of the complex will open. I couldn't help but laugh when reading the ad for the diner that said it has the best burgers in Bangkok. Who knows, it may – although the competition is pretty fierce – but I thought it's arrogant to make such a claim before the venue's construction has even been finished, let alone before the chef has even stepped in the kitchen!
Has there been any progress on the ground floor of Nana? Of course not! The only difference between this week and last is the vigilance with which security staff guard the area. It seems they are becoming a bit lax and young assistants, possibly the security guards' kids, are running amok in the stringed off area, blissfully unaware that while the central part of the ground floor is temporarily a playground for children,
the surroundings are a playground for adults.
As I headed to Pattaya this week, a mate in Pattaya sent me an email saying the place was dead. Half an hour later a mate from Bangkok who was in Pattaya said the place was mobbed! I have to say that I thought it was busier than I have seen it any time since the last high season and for sure there are more people about. As far as bar business goes, some are doing ok but many are still doing miserably.
If your favourite girl at Toyz seems to have disappeared, stick your head in Sakura 69. A few made it over to the newly reopened bar.
Don't think the Russian invasion in Pattaya is confined to the cheap areas and that they frequent only the more affordable places. A room in Pattaya's Hard Rock Hotel will set you back well over $100 a night and food is at Western prices. And now the menu is in Russian too!
Walking Street was over run with folks from the Middle East a few weeks back but now it seems there are far more Indians than Arabs.
Perhaps the most important news of the week, strong rumours have it that the Australia Network will be showing the Australia vs. New Zealand rugby union match live next Saturday but this cannot be confirmed as it is not mentioned on their website. We wait with baited breath!
I've never really been a fan of What's Up with some of the antics in the bar making me positively blush, but with that said I was convinced by a mate to stick my head in the door this week – and I'm glad I did. Management seem to be making an effort and all of the girls were decked out in fairly elaborate garb including headwear. So fancy were the costumers you would almost expect to see them in a katoey cabaret. My mate took a shine to one of the dancers but even he, one of the most generous people you'll meet and someone who isn't known for complaining about prices, had sticker shock when the girl told him what the barfine was. 1,600 baht! You read that right! 1,600 baht for a Pattaya showgirl. This was on a regular night and it was not like there was any special occasion or special event taking place. At midnight the rate dropped to a more reasonable, but still pricey, 800 baht. Said fellow still paid!
I notice in Pattaya that while draft beer can be found cheap in most venues, and many bars have specials on cheap local drinks, the likes of Jack Daniels and Johnnie Walker Black is often no less expensive than what you would pay in Bangkok. 150 and 155 baht aren't uncommon in the flesh spots of Walking Street. Yeah, I'm sure there are venues where you can find it cheap but you have to look around.
New to my eyes, there were pockets of black women making themselves available on Beach Road this week. They were clustered in the busy spot just south of the Hard Rock Cafe.
Regular traffic flow has resumed on Beach Road with traffic going on to Second Road and no longer rerouted through Soi Pattayaland 2.
When bargirls and their customers get involved, it is usually the girl who proves to be more devious and who comes out on top. But that's not always the case as a Secrets girl found out recently. A young Englishman had been supporting her and from the sound of it he figured out that she was still working in the bar. Feeling compelled to give her a reason to end things with her – that most peculiar trait many knights in shining armour suffer from – he confronted her and told her that he had tuned in to Google Earth and had seen her walking down the road with a guy on a particular day. Now this lady did not have a clue what Google Earth was. To help her to understand, he took her to an internet cafe and showed her how it works. He opened up Google Earth, zoomed in to the general area of Walking Street and said that he had seen her with a guy and he insisted that she tell him the truth there and then. She obviously did not know that Google Earth is comprised of dated photos and she admitted that yes, she had been with another guy! That was what the Englishman wanted to hear and he subsequently called things off! She still believes that she was caught out by what he saw on Google Earth and will tell anyone who cares to listen how Google Earth is mai dee! In typical bargirl fashion, she couldn't help but saying that it was his fault for spying on her and if he hadn't then they would still be happy together!
One of the big changes in Cowboy over the past couple of years has been the construction of an area outside the bars which provides a place to sit and watch the world go by. The extended areas are raised about 6 inches from the soi and I wonder if any punters have fallen flat on their face after a few too many.
Thai bars and pubs venues often ask to see ID, irrespective of the person's age. Many Thai venues have signs in the local lingo, and occasionally in English, stating that anyone under the age of 20 is not allowed in. Even if you are clearly a long way north of 20, door security may still insist on ID and prevent you from entering if you don't have any. They pretty much accept any sort of ID so long as it states your age.
There seem to be more and more massage outlets on Sukhumvit soi 22 down beyond the Queen's Park Hotel. I wonder if there are enough hotels in the area to sustain them all?
Now I do not want to suggest you get involved with smuggling, but with Beer Lao not quite as easy to come by in Bangkok as it has been, it makes me think that there could be an opportunity for someone to bring the quality product across the border. It would probably be a case of greasing the right palms, although in Thailand these days it does seem as though there are more and more palms that require greasing – and even when you think you have greased them all someone else comes out of the shadows. On the other side of the Mekong you can buy a 12-bottle crate of the large sized Beer Lao for 72000 kip which works out at well under $10, or in real money, less than 300 baht. There's a real opportunity there for someone!
It's amusing to hear how some Westerners in Thailand are blaming the strong baht and the inferior exchange rate most foreign currencies get on some of the bizarre things that happen here. More than a few guys have claimed that the visa crackdown was due to exchange rate changes. WTF?! And now some English teachers are in on it. I kid you not – some so-called ajarns think the exchange rate is having an effect on demand from Thai students to study at local language institutes! Of course the exchange rate is not a factor at all and the simple reason why some private language schools aren't doing so well – and the teachers with part-time gigs have less work and thus less money – is more likely to do with a saturation of the language school market. There are so many private language institutes these days and so much choice. Coupled with that is the fact that some have had bad experiences with poor teachers that they are looking around and are much more discerning when choosing a school to study at, or send their kids to.
Amazing, no-one recognised any of the Stickgirls in last week's column – at least no-one sent in email saying they did, which kind of surprised me given that all are currently in relationships with Western guys in Thailand.
Isn't it funny the way that the further something is from home, the more exotic it becomes, and with the word "exotic" often comes all sorts of positive connotations. An example of this would be Chang beer, which in Thailand is one of the cheaper beers and the choice of a less wealthy crowd. Once it makes it to the other side of the world it is marketed rather differently, often as a premium quality beer, as this description from a store in Chicago sent in by a reader shows!
Readers following my visits to bars and the nightlife industry aren't shy to call me cheap, a term that I vehemently disagree with. That's right, I really don't think I am cheap. Quite simply, I think that in Thailand the naughty bars represent poor value for money. Yes, the bars might be cheaper than the equivalent in the West, but that really isn't relevant to locals and I still find them to be poor value locally. 130 – 160 baht for a poorly mixed drink – and you're not sure that you're really getting what you asked for, served with flat Coke and tiny ice cubes that melt in minutes is not my idea of good value, irrespective of what might be going on in the bar. I will happily pay 200+ baht for a Jack + Coke in a decent hotel bar where you get a full measure, fresh Coke, all served in a decent sized glass, in pleasant surroundings. And if you still think I'm cheap, I have no problem with dropping a few thousand baht on dinner, but in a naughty bar where you often encounter rude staff and dreadful service, I quite simply refuse to pay to be abused.
A reader has a few Thailand-related domain names for sale: Soizero.com, soizero.net, childrenofthailand.com and childrenofthailand.org. If anyone is interested in making an offer, please contact him at : email@example.com.
Quote of the week comes from a mate while we were sitting in Pattaya enjoying the Walking Street show, "Indian visitors seem to go to same clothes shop as the Isaan bargirls."
Reader's story of the week comes from BKKSW, "Driving While Thai".
My old mate Bangkok Phil logged about his last time down in Pattaya, a whopping 11 years ago!
Lee Aldhouse, the Brit who killed a US soldier in Phuket is being held in the UK.
A young Irishman is arrested in Phuket for pulling pints in his beer bar.
A British monk in Thailand blogs about his experiences.
Thais rip off a Disney classic.
Ask Sunbelt Legal
Sunbelt Asia's legal department is here to answer your questions relating to legal issues and the law in Thailand. Send any legal questions you may have to me and I will pass them on to Sunbelt Legal and their response will run in a future column. You can contact Sunbelt's legal department directly for all of your legal needs.
Question 1: I am in the processes of buying a condo in Pattaya. I have paid a deposit and I pay the developer so much a month, which I give him in cash every 3 months I go to Pattaya. He has said to me that I have to set up a
Thai company to purchase the condo, because if I want it in my name, you have to show the money is coming from your own country, and he has to inform the UK government about this. The money is all legal and not from any dubious activities but
I would rather people did not know about it. Is he just saying this so he can sell under a Thai company, as I understand he would have to sell x amount to own the land or is this true about foreign ownership of condos in Thailand.
Sunbelt Legal responds: The money for the purchase of a condominium by a foreigner must come from an overseas account. You will need to have documentation showing that funds in an amount equal to or greater than the value of the property (as determined by the Land Office) came into your Thai bank account from a foreign account. You do not need a company set up for this purpose as it can be put in your name on the deed.
Sometimes builders / agents / owners try to get foreigners to set up Thai companies to buy condos not because it is better for the foreigner but because it is better for the owners / agents. The law requires that only 49% of the liveable space in a condominium is foreign owned. By having a foreigner set up a Thai company (that is by law 51% Thai owned) the builder /agent will effectively have a foreigner paying for a unit but it will not take up one of the coveted 49% maximum foreign ownership positions in the condominium.
Question 2: Do they have time share sales in Thailand? If so then could 3 or 4 people buy a place with deeded rights to the particular months / time? I would like to buy a small condo in the price range of 800,000 – 1.2 million baht. I would only be there for 3-4 months a year. Is it possible to sell to 3 – 4 partners with deeded months / time that agree to their time frame or only one name on deed?
Sunbelt Legal responds: Timeshares are sold in Thailand but you do not “own” the property nor is it “deeded” to you in a timeshare. Timeshare are simply an agreement between you and the true owners of the property that you (as well as the other timeshare holders) that the property will be at your disposal for an agreed upon time in a calendar year. The holders of the timeshares usually agree to pay for membership and the maintenance / common charges for the year for the property but they do not own the property per se. If you already have 3 or 4 individuals and over 51% of these people are Thai who are looking to purchase a condo you should consider forming a company in Thailand for this purpose.
Question 3: A very simple question for either yourself or Sunbelt Legal. I recently tried to open a bank account in Bangkok. I was told by 3 different banks that I needed a work permit to open a bank account. The intention was to deposit some money for future trips and not have to worry about bringing cash across with me each time – also to avoid the 150 baht fee as well as the 2% commission from my Australian bank when I access my home account through a Thai ATM. For example, a 20,000 baht withdrawal costs 150 baht from the Thai bank plus about 400 baht from my Australian bank. My intention is to partially retire to Thailand in a couple of years and things would be a lot easier if I had an account at a Thai bank – surely this is in the banks interest as well – perhaps another discussion. Could you please let me know if there is any way I can open an account, without the said work permit?
Stick responds: I can answer this myself without the need to get Sunbelt involved. Banking regulations state that any foreigner who wishes to open an account in Thailand must have a long stay visa, be it a work permit or a retirement visa. (I have never heard anything with regards to a marriage visa and whether they would allow an account to be opened by someone residing on a marriage visa). But this is Thailand and the regulations are not always enforced as per the book. First of all, there are branches which will happily open an account for any foreigner who walks through the door. There are few known soft touches on Sukhumvit and I imagine branches in the suburbs would be less strict with the regulations. Outside of Bangkok, it is relatively easy and a lot more branches will open an account for you than not. In Pattaya it seems that most branches will open an account for you, irrespective of your visa status. You do have to provide a Thai address and some branches will accept a hotel or a friend's address. You should note however that banking in Thailand is less developed than in the West and some transactions as well as account changes must be performed at the branch where you open your account – so it really does pay to open an account at a branch not too far from where you live!
* 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.
While I enjoy covering the comings and goings in the bar industry, what you get is in many ways the perspective of an outsider. I am not employed in the bar scene, have not invested in it and certainly don't partake. Hell, I don't even drink much these days. I frustrate the hell out of some friends when I say that I don't really care to spend much time in the bars, which I guess overseas-based readers would find quite profound. Of course I do like to go out and visit friends and some of the characters of the industry, the likes of Secrets Larry and Dave The Rave, but when I want a good night out, you won't find me anywhere near a naughty bar. As you spend more time in Thailand, you get to see the great divide between the bar ladies, and the rest of society. And if your eyes are open, while you may find it all fascinating, it's not hard to see the numerous issues in the industry, many of which I talk about frequently. I find it curious how some long-term Bangkok-based Westerners seemingly never tire or burn out of the bar scene. I'm not talking about guys who end up in a naughty bar for after work drinks on a Friday, or those who swing by from time to time, perhaps for old times' sake, but the guys who have a real life here and still spend so much of their free time in the bars. Do they really never tire of it?
Your Bangkok commentator,