Stickman's Weekly Column February 20th, 2011

Dean, Another Bangkok Commentator


We both write columns about Bangkok expat life, highlighting the city's nightlife. We both have websites that look like they belong in the '90s. And we both spend chunks of our time in lower Sukhumvit. But that's where the similarities end. Dean Barrett is a real writer and I'm a bit of a hack. I'm from the metropolis of Auckland and he's from some place called New York. Whereas I cover the nightlife without dipping my toes in the water so to speak, he absolutely leaps in, boots and all! I'd like you to meet Dean Barrett, a man who wears many hats, and who just happens to be another Bangkok nightlife columnist.



Can you tell me a little about the history of your column?

I began the column January, 2005, over six years ago. Previously, I lived in Hong Kong for 17 years and had a satire column in the Hong Kong Standard, "Uncle Yum Cha," Uncle Drink Tea. Most folks then and there thought Uncle Yum Cha was a Chinese columnist. I love satire and sex and books so I thought why not combine them into an online column about Thailand?

What sort of reader numbers do you get and what can you tell me about your readership demographics?

I have no idea about numbers but anyone can look up approximate numbers on Alexa or elsewhere. In the beginning I was more interested in numbers but as I almost never have paid ads, I don't really care that much. Also, when I went from twice a month to once a month, I am sure the numbers dropped as of course regular readers only entered once a month. My banners are for the winners of the contests, not for me. I make no profit from the site, but I hope people who read my site might get interested in my books; although I don't sell them from my website for various reasons including laziness.

I believe about half my readers, or a bit more, are in Thailand.

Wow, that's a much higher percentage than my site where Americans and Brits outnumber readers in Thailand.

I have been told by people in the Middle East that my site is banned in most of that area. Of course, as you know, you have to click on the picture of a dominatrix just to get into my column, so if that is against anyone's religion, they should not go to my website. But not to worry, just as there is Casper the Friendly Ghost, the dom is Than, the Friendly Mistress. Unless you piss her off.

I have two websites – DeanBarrettThailand.com is for those mainly interested in Thailand; DeanBarrettMystery.com is for those mainly interested in detective and mystery novels. In the mystery site readers can hear old radio programs such as Dragnet and Sam Spade and Sherlock Holmes.



How often are you out and about around the traps, hunting for gossip and news for the column?

Well, that's just it, I am out and about fairly often but don't actively look for news for the column, which I suppose I would do if I had paid advertisers. I just report what I have done and what I think and what I see and hear. In other words, the column probably reflects the eccentricity of the person writing it. I have told people before if they want to know about nightlife in depth go to your column or Dave the Rave's even though mine has fewer calories and zero trans fat. Of course, I can always pinch stuff from your column and rewrite it. That saves time and money.

I think to quite an extent a website reflects the personality of the writer so, for example, in the section called Argaiv's Travels, a Satire on Thailand, I do say at some point that if a reader hasn't figured out by now that Argaiv is Viagra spelled backward they should get their "dumb ass off my site". But, overall, it is a reader-friendly column…

Why did you switch from a twice-monthly column to a monthly?

For the same reason that I may end the column at the end of this year: as much fun as it is, it cuts too much into my writing time, and I am traveling more outside Thailand, especially into China. I first came to Thailand in March of 1966 as a Chinese linguist and I love the culture and history of China and it is fun to travel there when you speak the language. But if I do end the column, that will give me more time to continue building up the website itself with articles and photographs and videos.

Wow, it's conceivable that there might be no-one left chronicling nightlife and the expat lifestyle here come the end of the year!

It's 8 years since Bernard Trink's column departed the Bangkok Post in what could be argued was the start of a reaction to nightlife commentary in the mainstream media which approximately coincided with an increase in online columns and commentary. Do you think there will ever come a time when there is a crackdown here in Thailand on nightlife commentary or websites?

Eight years since old Bernie left?! Wow, time passes when you're having fun. Well, I'm still waiting for you to admit that you are just the pretty face front man and that Bernard Trink is actually writing your column and I do miss the Burma Shave signs. As far as a crackdown goes, I would think unless a writer were dumb enough to run pornography, lots of nudity or to mention the Royal Family in a negative way, his column probably doesn't worry the authorities. As in many "third world" countries, the government usually goes after a foreigner for something else – political, financial, whatever, but when it happens they claim it is due to moral considerations.

I am somewhat more careful with what I write these days. I am less likely to make negative comments about bars or businesses even when it could be reasonably argued that such comment is warranted, nor do I say much about the authorities any more. There seems to be a feeling in the air that such comment is less welcome than ever before, especially from outsiders. Do you feel the same way?

Certainly the government censorship campaign is continuing or as the irritating moderns say "ongoing," but I will make negative comments about bars or businesses if I am sure I have my facts straight. But in a land where I am surrounded by beautiful women in bars and restaurants, the price of a bottle of beer up or down twenty baht never bothered me. When I believe punters are being ripped off in some way, you can bet I will mention it. I really have nothing on my column about Thai politicians, etc. If readers haven't figured out how things work in Thailand regarding corruption they can always Google stuff. I never claimed to be an investigative journalist; investigative journalists in Thailand have the shelf life of a carton of milk.

Whenever we bump into each other it is invariably in one of two places – Washington Square – often in Bourbon Street – or Sukhumvit soi 33 – and that usually means The Londoner. Are these still your favourite hang outs? What are your favourite restaurants and bars in downtown Bangkok?

Yes, I often begin the evening at the Texas Lone Star Saloon or the Londoner and then head on down to Soi Cowboy. I get to Patpong and Nana less and less because I find that without too much effort I can find a lovely young woman less than half my age closer to home. In fact, without any effort. But some of the Patpong bars for locals such as Cosmos and Madrid still attract me. In the 70s I practically lived on Patpong and bought my first lady's drink there in March of 1966 but the night market ruined Patpong for me. I also enjoy massage parlours and the occasional S&M visit just to make sure my Thai is fluent in that area. I often wonder why people spend so much money on boring language schools when it's so much more fun learning Thai with sexy leather-clad women!

Despite the fact that my column features a lot of news, views and gossip from the bar industry, I personally went off the industry long ago and have even written some strongly negative columns about the industry as a whole. Have you gone down a similar path?

No, I don't get out as much as I did when I started the column but I cannot say I have gone off the industry. What it is is that after all these years I am bored with the usual discussions about sex tourism Thailand and "the girl I bought a house for having a Thai boyfriend and cheating me," etc. Once you have been here a long time, it is just the same old same old being rehashed. "Do foreign men exploit the poor farmers' daughters from the Northeast or do they offer the girls a real opportunity to escape poverty?" You know, as far as that kind of discussion goes, been there, done that, got the T-shirt. My one cult fiction novel, "Identity Theft: Alzheimer's in America, Sex in Thailand, Tangles of the Mind", attempts to do something different with the sex angle in Thailand. But I am not down on the bar industry – it is what it is.

One of the curiosities of your column is that you have a section at the end courageously spotlighting Muslim abuses. It seems a little out of place in a column that is largely centred around Bangkok's expat scene and nightlife. My readership has been very clear on this issue over the years – keep the political stuff out! How has that section of your column been received?

I have actually had letters thanking me for the Islam section; no complaints. I have heard that a couple of other nightlife sites dumped on me for it but who cares? I woke up to the dangers of Islam long before 9/11. I counter-picketed against thousands of Muslim fanatics in New York City in 1989 who wanted to kill the writer Salman Rushdie for something he wrote. I'm a writer. I took that very personally. I have spent a lot of time studying Islam and I understand why men such as Churchill, de Tocqueville, John Quincy Adams etc. detested it.

But I think we are talking about two different things. I discuss the latest horrors of Islam at the bottom third of my column, so people can stop reading at that point if they like. But with the exception of the Red Shirt takeover period, I do not discuss Thai politics at all. Thai corruption, oh, sorry, I mean politics, bores everybody.


To be frank, I find this all the more surprising that you are as open as you are while publishing under your real name. Most of us who comment on Bangkok nightlife, as well as those of us prepared to stick our neck out and give an opinion prefer to do so behind a nom de plume. You and Trink are the only ones who have done this sort of thing under your real name. Any reason for that?

Funny you should say that. My erotic novel set in China, Mistress of the East, was published by Barney Rosset's Blue Moon Books in New York. Barney is famous for starting Grove Press and fighting the legal battles to allow Americans to read Henry Miller, etc. He told me once of all the very large number of Blue Moon Books authors I was the only one who used his real name.

I was just brought up to believe that unless there is a very valid reason for it – such as living in a totalitarian dictatorship – you should always use your real name when expressing an opinion and especially when attacking someone else's viewpoint. The internet is full of keyboard warriors afraid to use their own name when attacking someone. I find that pathetic and cowardly. I am not ashamed of anything I write or else I would not put it out there. So some day my body is found floating in a klong and folks will wonder if I pissed off a Muslim fanatic, an irate bargirl, or a feminazi. It's OK, I've had a good run!

You have a guest writer in your column, Khun Nana. This guy writes some excellent stuff and at times comes across as being very much on top of what's going on. He's just got to be a New Zealander. Am I right?!

Khun Nana is an American, lad! He had not written before but it turns out he is a natural and yes he sure does know the bar scene. He is of course extremely cynical but can also be very funny. I've been encouraging him to print his columns in book form.


ThaiFriendly is an Asian Dating Site like no others!

I know your column is more about fun than anything else. Are you semi-retired or still writing Bangkok novels?

Writers never retire. I write books on both China and Thailand. If I specialized in one or the other then I might actually build an audience but then I might get rich and famous so it is better this way. I have spent time in Florida and see guys my age playing shuffleboard at retirement communities and going out for early bird specials and that lifestyle is fine for them; it would send me to an early grave. I would rather have a lovely, curvaceous, succulent, beautiful Thai woman send me to an early grave if you don't mind.

How is your latest novel set in Bangkok, "Permanent Damage", doing?

As soon as you rave about it on your website as being the best damn Thailand detective novel ever written in which a detective lives over a Washington Square bar it should do very well! The distributors in Bangkok have been very slow to get it into the stores and I have actually had to take copies to people in Washington Square, etc. In the States, the bookstores are buying it OK, but, don't forget, they buy on consignment and if it doesn't sell they can return it. Even if it sells out they might not reorder it if the writer doesn't have a big name. So ask me a year from now.

You are one of the happiest people I know. You always seem content and I never hear you complaining of all the usual things that Bangkok expats commonly complain about. With a number of my friends on the verge of leaving, some having left already and my future somewhat up in the air, perhaps we're all missing something. Why are you always so happy? What's the secret to staying happy in Bangkok?

Well, I was divorced decades ago and live alone; that might have something to do with it. I also leave my phone on "silent" at all times which eliminates me as a potential donor to damsels in financial distress. In other words, I have the personality of a person who is quite content to be alone much of the time. For a writer that is a blessing. Nelson Algren said you don't have to be a bachelor to be a writer but it helps. Indeed.

Anyway, you probably spotted me on days when the writing went well; you should see me on days when it didn't go well! Of course, I always wanted to write and to live in Asia and I am living where I want and travelling and doing what I want so why complain? I mean, really, what tiny percentage of people on this planet are working at a job they really like or doing what they want? I only complain when the girls standing outside the bars ask me to sit down but forget to say, "hansum man." Then I complain a lot!

* Dean's column can be found at : DeanBarrettThailand.com


Last week's photo

Where was this photo taken?


Last week's photo was taken outside Silver Dollar Bar in Washington Square. Much more difficult than photos run in recent weeks, not many readers got it. Please note that this week's photo is NOT from the Never A Cover Charge Bar! 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.

Terms and conditions: The Oh My Cod prize MUST be claimed within 14 days. The Duke's prize must be utilised by March 2011. 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 – How much pussy makes it worth it?

I had my fair share of run ins with the police riding a motorbike for 8 years in Bangkok. I shudder to think about it now; it's a miracle I made it through in one piece and never had an accident. I too often planned routes to avoid their ambush spots but sometimes I had no choice but to run in to them. Boy, were they unpleasant experiences! I wouldn't have minded so much if I had been culpable of a traffic infringement but they would just manufacture shit charges. Reading your article today makes me remember some of the reasons I decided to leave Thailand in the end. Effectively having no rights in the eyes of the law is a pretty big negative. No amount of pussy is worth that loss of freedom.

And the driver fled the scene!

I read your column this week and it reminded me of what some of my hi-so Thai friends first told me when I first moved to Thailand more than 11 years ago. They said their advice was fairly common knowledge, which is scary. It went something like this: If you get into a car accident and no-one sees you, you should flee the incident and get away as fast as possible. Don't report it, don't do anything. Let whatever happen, happen. Chances are nothing will happen. If the accident is serious and there are people around, run fast and flee to avoid the mob (if that potential exists). Maybe you never get caught later. If you do, just turn yourself in later to the police. There will be ample time for contriteness and restitution later. And most disturbing of all, if you hit someone make sure they are dead! Don't call for help, don't assist, and if there is still some life left in them, back up and run them over a second or third time to finish them off. They mentioned that someone who is injured will continue to come after you for medical bills, legal bills and compensation for lost earnings for a long time and that the whole thing can drag on and on. Better to kill them good and then pay the family off one time! Also, it really depends on who is injured. If you injure some poor people they mentioned that between you and your lawyer you can get the police (who you will give a percentage of the settlement) to negotiate a settlement with the poor family. Basically, they will say take it now or risk getting nothing later on. However, if you hit someone with any social stature or influence all bets are off!

Mind your own business!

Much like your friend, I was making a left turn with my directional signal on. A kid of about 12 with a female passenger tried to pass me on the left. He clipped my front bumper and went down. I called my insurance lady who got to the scene in about 10 minutes. She said that the insurance company would pay for the minor damage to the kid's bike, have the kid checked out at the local hospital (he was just bruised a little) and pay for the minor damage to my car. I protested that I was in the right and the kid was to blame. My insurance lady said we would not call the police because if they came I would be found to be in the wrong for three reasons: (1) you are a farang and the kid is Thai. (2) your car is bigger than the motorbike. (3) if you hadn't been making the turn the accident would not have happened! When the kid's mother came, she berated her son for the third accident in as many months! Another story: A friend of mine came upon the scene of an accident between two motorbikes and bloody bodies on the road. My friend took several to the hospital. When the police arrived they had to find someone at fault for the accident. The police decided to charge my friend and he had to pay the hospital bills! I guess the moral of this story is if you come upon the scene of an accident, just keep on driving and mind your own business. I will never drive in Thailand again!

Driving, Thai-style.

I personally refuse to drive in Thailand. One reason is the fear of the police but another reason is the weird feeling of driving on the "wrong" side of the road. Especially at intersections, your perception of which lane to be in can be confusing. Another reason to not want to drive in Thailand is the "rules" of the road. My Thai wife, who has a Canadian driver's license, sensibly took a few lessons from a good school in Isaan before driving. Some of the instructions she received unnerved me. Don't be generous to other drivers! Don't check your rear-view mirror! Don't check your side mirrors! Always look straight ahead! In other words, driving in Thailand is a survival of the fittest exercise and not a cooperative endeavour.

An ATM on wheels.

I got a ticket two weeks ago on my moto for an illegal u-turn. It would have been nice if the sign saying that it was illegal to u-turn at that intersection was not obstructed from view but try explaining that to a boy in brown is impossible, even in Thai. I mean who in their right mind would commit a traffic violation in front of a cop unless they didn't know! It leads me to believe that they were there because the sign was hidden. I can't help but think they see us as an ATM on wheels. The traffic police here are such a joke compared to western standards. They do not really increase the safety on the roads. All they do is increase revenue to the government or their own pockets. I would respect the Thai government so much more if they would just put tax collectors on the road to hand out random taxes to people instead of hiding behind the story of protecting the general safety of the public on the roads and highways.

Getting expensive.

A night out in Bangkok for me is $300 – $350 easy. It's starting to sting to be a big shot. Add in the Marriott & Thai Airways premium economy and a 10-day trip is big money. Figure 35 plus trips over 12 years and I could have bought a Ferrari. It has been a lot of fun though and there's nothing like the screams you get when the girls know the ATM is back in town! I did get to have a drink once with Tilac's #211 – I guess that was my brush with a Ferrari!

4,500 baht for a great day in Bangkok.

I was intrigued by one of your reader's emails regarding the increasing cost of a night out. He reckoned 10,000 baht was an average. As I primarily visit Bangkok for business purposes, I stick to a strict budget. This includes an allocated daily spend of 5,000 baht which covers everything except my hotel room. I invariably have night-time female company, mostly freelancers or an extended "romance" and maybe the odd barfined bargirl. The budget covers everything in your reader's email plus transport, drinks and meals all day. I eat both Thai and Western food and drink in places like Bangkok Beat, Gulliver's and the Music Station. It also includes small purchases such as clothes from MBK, pharmaceuticals, pirated movies and CDs. I don't count my pennies whilst I am out but still make budget easily. My last trip in October saw an 11 day / night average of just over 4,500 baht. A bit of a surprise as I am usually close to the 5,000 baht. I would be interested to hear what other punters spend on a daily basis and think the novices might be splashing out a lot more than the experienced visitor.


A Miss Strip competition will be held at The Strip, in Patpong soi 2, on Thursday this week, that's February 24th. You can vote for the best dancer and if you're feeling a little risqué, you could invite her into one of the booths and try to get to know her a little better…

The new frontage outside Country Road in Soi Cowboy is nearing completion with a new diamond-plated deck built similar to that at Tilac. Speaking of new bar frontages, popular Cowboy gogo bar Long Gun plans a similar renovation starting next month which seems wise, waiting until the remains of the high season crowds have gone home. I would imagine sister bar Raw Hide will follow.

The German sausage girl – that sounds a bit spicy, but she really is a lovely girl – will be looking for new space in the soi so any bar owner looking for another draw to the front of their bar, take note that she is looking for a new space.

A number of readers expressed disappointment after mention a few weeks back that the Check Inn, the bar / live music venue, reached down a narrow alley near Sukhumvit soi 5, would be closing. It seems that a rescue package was put together and a new owner is either in place or about to take over and the venue will continue. Whether there will be any changes under the new ownership, time will tell.

There are a heap of American militarymen in Pattaya at the moment and that combined with the lingering remnants of high season crowds should mean a bumper few days for business owners and service providers in Sin City.

On the subject of Pattaya, there was a ruckus this week when a customer was caught with a "pen camera" in popular Soi Diamond gogo bar, Windmill, filming the goings on. The recording device was taken from the customer and when the images were downloaded to a computer, it was discovered that he had done the rounds of many venues. While you might see it as a challenge to surreptitiously video what's going on inside the bars, be aware that some venues can get very nasty about it. A lot of activity inside the bars is illegal and as such you're potentially putting the bar into an awkward situation. The customer left with his body intact, but without his camera. It should be noted that there is the odd popular Bangkok gogo bar where there's no nudity that doesn't stop customers known to the staff from filming. Just ask your tilac which bars that may include…

Be careful of sticker shock in Sukhumvit soi 33. Ever since it first opened it's been known as a higher end lane with prices to match, but in the last 10 years or so with dwindling crowds there has been little in the way of price increases. And with Cowboy and Nana bars hiking drink prices regularly, bars in the more popular areas have almost caught up to the drinks prices in soi 33. But not all. At least one of recently opened venue in soi 33 charges a hefty 250 baht for a lady drink. The price doesn't happen to be listed anywhere, which leads to sticker shock when the checkbin arrives.

Another Sukhumvit Road warning concerns the light-fingered katoeys, once a fixture on the main Sukhumvit Road around sois 5, 7 and 7/1, as well as the area outside the Westin, they are now more likely to be found down Sukhumvit soi 4. You don't have to venture very far down the soi which can be quite dark in places with alcoves hidden in the shadows making ideal hiding spots for the light-fingered pests. With the main Sukhumvit Road now over-run with booze booths, these pesky ladyboys have found somewhere new to prey on their next victim.

Have you been wondering why Luscious Lek, Nubile Noi or Dirty Daeng won't do the dirty with you for 2,000 baht? You thought it was a fair and reasonable offer but she turned it down with a laugh. If what I heard about a Cowboy girl this week is anything to go by, I can kind of understand why. A generous Swede gave a Soi Cowboy girl a 4,000 baht (yes, four thousand) tip in the bar, merely to compensate her for her time and company. No barfine, no sex, not even a hand-job in the corner. I can just imagine the eyes of Pattaya's sexpat populace rolling all the way to the back of their head, petrified that this guy will go down to Sin City and ruin things down there!

It might get crowded at Crossbar this rugby season. No-one else has mentioned showing it but Brian, the landlord at Crossbar, informs me that his neighbourhood pub will be showing all the action from the world's premier rugby tournament, the Super 15, from next weekend. He has been promised an official box to show all of the rugby via Setanta-I. The supplier has promised that he will get the first box so all of the Super 15 matches will be shown with what should be a perfect picture. Let's not forget that this is Thailand so there may be a delay. Brian is very hopeful that once this box is up and running he will also be able to show the Rugby World Cup. Assuming it works as promised, expect most other popular expat pubs to follows. International rugby packs out some of the city's watering holes.

Many, many years ago, I was into phreaking. And one of the things that phreakers did was go trashing. And back in the day, we phreakers would often go trashing outside commercial premises where if you took the time to sift through various documents you would often find some quite revealing stuff. Word has reached me that officers from a certain branch of the local constabulary are going through the rubbish in targeted condominiums – read those in a certain seaside city which is known to be home to many randy foreigners! It's amazing how incriminating some of the stuff you throw out can be, so if you're doing anything you shouldn't be doing, think about what you're throwing out!

If you're looking for a new lifestyle in Bangkok, why not consider buying a business. A fellow I have known in Bangkok for many years and who has run a few businesses here in Bangkok is selling his small cafe / restaurant located in the Rangsit University area – meaning it is in the northern part of the city and well away from the farang ghettos. A hands-on owner is needed who can provide personalised service for the regular customers. The restaurant has been fully remodeled and decorated recently, with a new floor being laid and a bright, modern interior. Good repeat trade has been built up since the business opened in the middle of last year, mainly due to the fact that the restaurant is located on the ground floor of an apartment building with 400 occupied rooms. The restaurant is located across from Rangsit University and in close proximity to a name high school. A mix of quality Western and Thai food is offered as well as a full coffee menu. The customer base is 70% Thai students and 30% foreigners. Rent is 16,000 baht per month and the venue is turning over approximately 120,000 baht per month with monthly expenses around 75,000 baht. There's room for expansion. With an asking price of just 500,000 baht, this could be an affordable way to start your own business in Bangkok. If interested, contact the owner directly at : [email protected].

For you foodies, or simply those on a budget, a wonderful new book has hit the market titled, "Bangkok's Top 50 street stalls". It highlights some of the best places to eat street food in a city famous for tasty, inexpensive eats. Funnily enough the book is remarkably hard to come by here in Bangkok – but you pick up a copy at the specialty bookshop, Orchid Books, on the 4th floor of Silom Complex.

A mate in Pattaya, a 10-year resident of the city sent me an email this week that made me laugh. "I've not had a drink for a good few weeks now and sober you see this place different, mate. Pattaya must have the lowest form of farangs ever!" I had to laugh because when his email came though I was reading the news on the Pattaya One site which highlights what is really going on in Pattaya with crime stories their top priority – and they specifically cover stories involving foreigners, be they foreign residents or visitors, victims or perpetrators. I was reading about how a German had started drinking at 8 AM and had died in the bar, and how on the same day a foreign exchange company worker had been robbed of the equivalent of a million baht in foreign currency in the same neighbourhood. I then looked at the right hand side of the screen at the links to recent stories, pictured here. Reading through these headlines, and given the very small size of Pattaya, it really is amazing that so many people continue to visit the place!

A friend has a brand-new one-bedroom unit on the 7th floor at The Rhythm Rachada, located right next to exit 4 of the Rachada MRT station available for rent. The unit comes with brand new furnishings and equipment, and has been attractively furnished and decorated to serviced apartment standard and is available for immediate occupancy. More information is available here. The asking price is 23,000 baht / month for a 1-year agreement. Feel free to give him a bell on 081-9067991 should you have any queries or to arrange viewing.

Quote of the week comes from a Thailand-centric discussion forum and cracked me right up! "Do not send your kids to a Thai school unless you hate them!"

Reader's story of the week comes from Phet and is titled, "A Harmless Obsession?"

A Brit crashed his motorbike in Ko Phangnan and is facing 1.5 million baht in medical costs.

Two Frenchmen are arrested for multi-million baht ATM skimming in Pattaya .

Stick was invited to participate, but turned down the invitation from BBC Radio to discuss sex tourism in Bangkok.

Arguably the best known Thai golfer throws a tantrum on the golf course when things don't go his way!

The Telegraph describes Thailand's full moon parties as schoolies on steroids.

Phuket's great rival Bali is twice as popular today as it was a decade ago.

Aljazeera produced an interesting, balanced 25-minute documentary on abortion in Thailand.

Immigration in Pattaya revoke the visa of a British national even though he is not wanted for any crimes.

A safe sex campaign was conducted in Soi Cowboy on Valentine's Day.

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 have invited a Thai girl to visit me here where I work in Europe. Part of the procedure for issuance of a visitor's visa is that the invitee (the Thai) produce a certified letter from the court or police stating that she is not under any current criminal investigation. This would appear a simple task. Not so in Thailand: two weeks of going to police stations in Pattaya where she was told she would need house registration papers from home (or false papers could be issued for the small sum of 15,000 baht, this from the police); then travelling up to Korat where she was told that she would need a new passport as she had moved house and therefore would need a new passport issued, then told the opposite in Bangkok. I then had to send a letter of invitation with colour copies of my passport to certify my signature matched (apparently a security provision to prevent human trafficking). Now finally documents are submitted and the Royal Thai Police apparently will take a further two weeks to issue this simple letter. One could be forgiven for thinking that Thailand is issuing visas to Europe. However, is this normal procedure for foreign visits by Thai nationals or are we (I) being given the run around?

Sunbelt Legal responds: A Thai national applicant requires the following documents:
• Passport.
• Thai ID card.
• House registration.
• In case of name or surname change, a certificate is required.
• Military Service Document (Sor Dor 8 or Sor Dor 43 etc.) (if available).
• Marriage certificate or Divorce certificate (if available).
• Requesting letter from the Embassy of the country that the applicant plans to travel (if available).
• In case of minor, the parents or the guardian must be present to give consent.

If the house registration is missing they can request a certified copy of it online at any district office. The document is called "Sam nat ngan tabien rat" and costs 10 baht per page. This document should suffice in lieu of the house registration book.

The Police Clearance Service Center is located at Building 24, Royal Thai Police Headquarters, Rama 1 Road, Patumwan, Bangkok 10330. Tel. (66-2) 205-2168-9, Fax. (66-2) 205-2168.

Question 2: A Thai woman struck me in a shopping centre. I blocked the first punch while moving backwards. When her fists came down on me a second time, I blocked and punched her in the mouth at the same time. It was a natural reaction to being cornered and assaulted. The police arrived, marched me home to get my passport and then marched me back to the police station to negotiate. 6,000 baht after some haggling, I had my passport returned, and the case closed. I have 2 questions.

1) Can a man defend himself against a woman even if he himself must use violence which could result in an injured woman?

2) When the police came to my home, they did not enter. I contemplated slamming my condo door and hope this would all go away like some bad dream. As the case is criminal, do you advise this course of action or always deal with the police as necessary? I couldn't help but think this was just a cash grab and closing my condo door would've left them somewhat powerless. I didn't feel like I committed any wrongdoing in defending myself but the girl and the police were thinking otherwise with big grins on their faces.

Sunbelt Legal responds: Self defence, so long as it is reasonable force against the initial injury, is allowed, even when the opposite sex is involved. However, the responding force must be seen as not in excess of the initiator's action. It is better to use common sense and good judgment when involved in an argument with anyone, especially someone of the opposite sex, as anything seen as in excess of the original action would be considered assault. The 6,000 baht charge would have been for the police fine for the assault and to cover the woman's medical expenses.

Question 3: There's a lot of contradictory information online about just what the limits are on drink driving in Thailand. Can you tell me what the actual limit is, and also can you confirm what a colleague says that for the first 5 years of driving in Thailand on a Thai licence that you have a much lower limit to abide by, irrespective of your age and driving experience abroad?

Sunbelt Legal responds: The government has become more cautious about road accidents resulting from drunk drivers. The Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) limit has been set at .05 % or 50 mg per 100 ml in order to combat the high accident rate resulting from drunk driving. The penalty for drunk driving tends to increase year by year in order to control and reduce the number of road accidents. The number of years holding a Thai driver's license has no bearing on the penalty or BAC limit allowed when arrested for drunk driving.

Recent columns have mentioned incidents in bars or bar policies which don't always show venues in a positive light. While I may raise an issue, I may refrain from naming the venue which I know irks some readers. From time to time I might hint at the venue with a clue or two without naming it outright. I'm reluctant to name venues because the laws of slander, libel and defamation here in Thailand are onerous. They're both civil and criminal. If you make comments or claims about a person, business or organisation – even if what you say is 100% factually true – that's not necessarily grounds for a defence if what was said is considered to not necessarily be in the public good. Further, this is Bangkok and things have a tendency to escalate and can become nasty in no time. There are stories, some humorous, some terrifying, and always interesting, which I simply can't mention here, knowing that reprisals for publishing such stories are a very real possibility. As much as I want to chronicle what's going on out there, as Dean Barrett so wisely said when I spoke with him this week, "Investigative journalists in Thailand have the shelf life of a carton of milk."

Your Bangkok commentator,

Stick