Stickman's Weekly Column February 13th, 2011

Without Wheels

The Stickmobile is no longer. Just like an old Bangkok bar consigned to history, so too the Stickmobile has gone. And just like an old Bangkok bar, it will be missed. Owning a car here was once the right choice for me, but in recent times using it became a burden so, somewhat reluctantly, I decided to let it go.

It wasn't so much Bangkok's shockingly bad traffic jams, although they could be a pain at times.

It wasn't so much the difficulty finding a place to park in Bangkok because you tend to go to the same places and know where parking is available.

It wasn't so much that there are speed cameras all over the place these days with zero tolerance i.e. 1 km/h over the speed limit and you get a ticket!

It wasn't the difficulty in finding places because I was too tight to buy a GPS navigation unit.

It wasn't the unnerving experience of making an insurance claim and the officer saying that you have to lie for the claim to be approved!

No, there were other reasons that convinced me that letting the car go and reverting back to using public transport was the way to go.

There were a number of contributing factors, but more than anything it was the hassles that car owners increasingly face on the roads here along with the knowledge that in the case of an accident, even if you're totally in the right and even if you're fully insured, anything can still happen.

It's a damning indictment on the country as a whole that perhaps the major reason for selling the car was the marked increase in aggressive hassles from men in brown uniforms that drivers face today. When you dread being targeted by police and constantly face accusations for things you never did, it puts you off even using the car.

It used to be that I would get waved over at a police checkpoint every couple of months. The banter was usually friendly and a few polite words with a friendly smile saw you on your way. As a friendly foreigner you'd often get the VIP treatment with the plod waddling out to the middle of the road, stopping all traffic and allowing you to proceed. Those days seem like a distant memory and you only get the VIP treatment these days if you press a couple of reds into the copper's palm.

Things changed a couple of years back when men in brown uniforms took greater interest in white men behind the wheel. Where once I would be stopped every couple of months, it become every couple of weeks, and where once the cops were friendly, I found myself facing a more sinister tone. There was little or no banter and you'd face various questions, some of which could be quite impertinent. Citing civil liberties concerns with the authorities in Thailand simply escalates the situation and isn't recommended. Where are you going? Why are you going there? When will you come back? Why are you driving alone? Do you own the car or are you still paying it off? Why do you have a Thai drivers licence?

What was once a harmless game became such an unpleasant experience it reached the point where you'd plan your route to avoid places where checkpoints were often set up.

Road trips used to be fun, and when we first got the car you'd seldom see a cop. These days you can be stopped numerous times, especially on a long journey. Even in Isaan where the cops tend to be friendly, the traffic contingent is hungrier than ever. That put you on the spot, forcing you to wriggle out of a hole, one that can become a grave if you don't play the game right.

Some say that you should just pay and get on with it, but the dent to my pride would be too much to consider that. Some cops have become so brazen that on a road trip with a mate a year or so back, we were pulled over and the cop's first words were "I want 100 baht", delivered with such fluency that I don't doubt he had said it thousands of times. And he wasn't going to let us go until 100 baht was contributed to his mia noi fund.

Even if you know where the coppers tend to be out on the open road and ease off the gas well before you reach them, the sight of a white face always sees me waved over followed by false accusations for doing a ridiculous speed, often in excess of 160 km/h. Being accused by those in power for doing something you haven't is no fun in a developing country. What should be a pleasant drive in the country can become a minefield.

Returning from a trip to Lampang, I was pulled over somewhere near Kampheng Phet and questioned at the side of the road by one copper while another tried to get into the back of the car. I told him to get out and he responded that he intended to search it. I refused and his reaction made you think I'd cursed his mother! Suddenly I was being told in rapid Thai that I was in big trouble. Refusing to co-operate with police was serious, they said. I'll never forget their final words (in Thai) "And no-one can help you now!" I grabbed my phone and actually started to call my one police friend in Bangkok, and was about to find out if my get out of a sticky situation card would work. They hurriedly backed off and sent me on my way. Very unpleasant.

But the situation I dread most is having a crash. 7+ years on the roads here and I managed to dodge that bullet. Even with comprehensive insurance you just don't know how things will play out. And with local driving standards what they are, you can't rule anything out.

A couple of years back a good mate was involved in an accident in which he was in no way at fault. For past 2 years he has had all sorts of problems because of it.

Driving home from work, he was turning left into his driveway when a couple of youngsters riding a motorbike crashed into the passenger-side door of his truck. They were flung from the bike and had minor injuries, nothing serious. The bike was a mess and my mate's truck didn't look too flash either. Grade 8 students, the kids shouldn't have been on the roads and were too young to hold a licence. You would think that the kids would have faced charges but what followed was debacle, where my mate was taken to court by the family of the kids seeking damages, notwithstanding that he hadn't done anything wrong – and neither were any charges brought against him by the police!

Paying his lawyer a pretty penny for various consultations and each and every court appearance, it became such a burden on his time and energy, all of which started to have a detrimental effect on his health and his business, that eventually he had to suffer the ultimate indignity of settling out of court and paying them off to make it all go away! He felt like the village gossip had told all and sundry that he had been caught piddling in the village well and subsequently been punished for it – when in fact he had done nothing of the sort! Fully aware that I could go through this sort of rigmarole myself, you start to wonder if it's really worth it.

That's the problem with car ownership in Thailand. If you live in central Bangkok in a decent condo, travel by skytrain, work in a nice office and go to nice places, you can almost forget that this is a developing country. But when you drive you're reminded that you're not in Farangland any more, especially if something happens. You might find yourself up against it!

I miss the car. I miss the freedom car ownership gives you. I don't like not having a car. I still can't shake off the notion from Farangland that no car means you're a nobody. Sure, there's no shortage of transport options in Bangkok but there's something nice about driving in your own car, and being able to insulate yourself from all of the madness, to say nothing of the freedom it gives you to get out of the capital.

In some ways owning and driving a car in Bangkok is a little like holding a work permit; it makes you feel like you are a genuine part of Thai society, and not merely a long-stay tourist, and funnily enough, that's what I miss the most.


Last week's photo

Where was this photo taken?


Last week's photo was taken outside the Pink Panther Bar at Patpong. After a few weeks of easy photos, I have included a much more difficult one this week. 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 – A sweet experience at 7 Eleven.

Customer service in Thailand frustrates the expat used to better standards at home. Although it can be good, it's more often than not terrible and certainly inconsistent. Ignorant sales staff pester the life out of you if you're only looking at something, then don't want to know when you take something faulty back. However, you can get the most amazing service at the most unlikely places, in this case 7 Eleven. The Mrs. asked me to go in to our local branch and get a certain type of sweets that she had bought in 7 Eleven upcountry. They did not stock them in Bangkok though so a mai mee was all I got. When we went in a few days later the manager called us over and presented us with two bags of the sweets that she had bought at a market. On trying to pay her for going out of her way for us she absolutely refused to accept any money at all, which probably cost her an hour's pay in 7 Eleven. I must say apart from this surprising episode I have always been quite impressed with 7 Eleven staff, long hours for low pay but they are almost always polite and efficient, and they don't follow you around the shop trying to sell stuff you just happen to look at!

Can you take her out of Thailand?

The only happy Thai girls that I've come across living in Europe are masochists. For those that argue you can take a girl out of a bar, multiply that factor a hundred-fold by denying them their culture, food, family, friends, weather, television…do I need to go on? So for those who think they can be successful in the Thai import / export game, really try to ask yourself if they are following anything outside of the money, regardless of how you like to dress it up. It's not so much that you can't take the girl out of the bar, but you can't take the girl out of the soi, tambon, amphur, province or country!

Living in fear of a Thai wife.

While there are many difficulties for the long-term expat in Thailand, it was the unsettled feeling that I had by being married to a Thai and knowing the dangerous propensities of a Thai woman that troubled me most. Thailand has the largest female prison population by percentage, than any other country. My American friends would describe it as paranoia but there were some very real reasons to believe that she might do the dirty. She presented a very pleasing front which made it impossible for my relatives in the US to comprehend that she may be dangerous. They had no idea what Thailand and Thai ladies could be like. After three attempted money scams, a hitting incident, verbal threats on my life, a knife incident, and other lesser things, it all got me to the point where I was afraid of her. The easy availability of knockout drugs, poisons, and things of that type all caused me to have great fear. And in Thailand, where we lived for half of the year, anything could happen. One American friend in Thailand said, "She would not kill you". My response was, "What are the consequences to me if I guess wrong?" I can only gauge her potential for extreme violence based upon past things that she has said or done. After a particularly nasty incident in the US, I sent her back to Thailand. We are now divorced and I feel safe. I will never know how close I came to something bad happening. If it turns out badly, you don't have the capability to reflect on what you should have done differently!

The increasing cost of a night out in Bangkok.

These days I do the Nana / Cowboy run far less than I used to – but I have regular visitors from Europe and the States and find myself playing host, and partying like it's 1999, or at least attempting to, with some regularity. What came as a great surprise to my recent visitors was the ramp up in prices. The change is something everyone has noticed – but since the change has been gradual, perhaps it hadn't registered with me as strongly as it did with my visitors who come once a year. A full night out, along with a lady drink here and there, a barfine and tip, a short-time hotel – and assorted taxis, beers and of course dinner, set them back around 10,000 baht per evening on average. After 3 days of their 7-day stay they scaled back their expenditure and opted for a less expensive, look-but-don't-touch strategy – opting to spend most of their time in Nana with only beer in their lap. While my guests are by no means poor – or like the many retirees struggling to survive in Bangkok on a fixed income – I have to say that the gogo bar scene has now (at least for my humble visitors from San Francisco) seemingly reached a price threshold beyond which it is simply unaffordable as a regular activity – or not worth the expense. I'd be curious to know what others spend in a night out on the town doing the standard Cowboy / Nana crawl, and if the rising cost of an evening out has cramped the style of your readers – or driven them to neighbouring watering holes in search of yesterday's prices. The economy of the scene has changed and it's a subject I'd love to see you address. How, where and on what are Dollars, Euros and Pounds being spent?

Hua Hin's bar industry on the decline.

I have long been following your comments about how 'everyone' eventually tires of the bar scene as, for most of last year, my interest after 6 happy years in Hua Hin also waned. I tried to explain to myself that most of the ladies I had previously befriended have either gone home or got married, that the ever-increasing age gap made the newcomers less interested in me (I'm now 67), or that my libido was taking a gap year. But after experiencing the present high season in Hua Hin I have totally given up on my local zona-rosa. The noise levels in bars now prevent any kind of conversation (even paying bills is done by sign-language), the infamous attitude (which I never fully understood in your columns) has most definitely now reached Hua Hin, prices have risen across the board, and the tourists have taken over the entire area. Middle-aged and elderly couples now outnumber single men of any age by at least five times and they just sit silently watching what goes on around them – and glaring at the few single guys who walk past. The bars are taking money but the girls pick up little more than occasional tips. No wonder they're fed up!

Phuket boom and bosom.

I spent a few days in Patong Beach, Phuket, after a 3-year absence. How things have changed! It's incredibly busy with many Russians, Scandinavians, Italians and Middle Easterners. You have to go to the beach before noon otherwise no sun chairs will be vacant. The Scandinavians are almost all retired, but what an eye sore! Almost all are obese and some women even go topless! Bangla Road bars are doing a roaring trade. Soi Eric was packed with standing room only. Bangla Road itself is packed with tourists walking at night. You might think it's quieter in February than the Christmas / New Year peak, but I have seen enough and will not be returning to Patong.

Thursday this week marks the 9th anniversary of the start of the transition of Soi Cowboy, from a dimly lit, sleepy bar area that was largely the domain of Bangkok expats to a brightly lit, busy international naughty boy's playground. It was the opening of the second branch of the Dollhouse on 17 February 2002 that marked the start of a transition that many would say is now complete. To celebrate, owner Darel will be putting on free food, lots of shots and has ordered his girls to be even crazier than usual. It'll be all go at the Dollhouse as the venue celebrates its 9th anniversary this coming Thursday, February 17. Do you wonder how much Soi Cowboy has really changed? The photo below was taken not long before the Dollhouse opened when by day the soi just looked like a bunch of shophouses with the maidens of Isaan grazing out front.

Country Road in Soi Cowboy is in the process of getting a new frontage as it joins Soi Cowboy's neon wars. The format of the venue – where live music is played and there is not a gogo dancer in sight – remains the same. It looks as though the area out front will be extended a bit as well with a larger outdoor seating area created.

This coming Friday is Makabucha Day, a Buddhist holiday and at the very least government departments will be closed. Nothing has been said so far, but it looks like it should be business as usual in the bars. Bars don't usually receive the closure orders until the day before so nothing is certain at this stage.

Music Station in Sukhumvit soi 33 will host a Japanese themed night Saturday after next with three different Japanese acts. Every time I stroll along Sukhumvit soi 33 – I seldom pop into any soi 33 bars these days – there seems to be more and more Japanese themed bars, or at least more venues with signs in Japanese and where the girls only become animated when Japanese guys walk past.

Thailand goes crazy on Valentine's Day, which just happens to be tomorrow. Popular and romantic restaurants are packed, taxis can be hard to come by in busy areas for much of the night and well-known short time hotels may have a queue. Some naughty bars also inflate barfine prices.

Mercury Bar still has the best prices for a gogo in Nana. Their happy hour runs from 6 – 8:30 PM with drinks just 65 baht (customer drinks only, not lady drinks). Singha, Singha Light, Leo, Chang, and Thai Whiskey are 90 baht all night.

And down in Pattaya, Sapphire Club on soi 15 normally runs their happy hour until 10 PM but every Tuesday it runs all night long with their already low drink prices becoming even more affordable. All bottled beers are just 75 baht, draft Heineken is just 65 baht and draft Carlsberg – which is hard to find in Pattaya – just 75 baht. All house vodka, gin, rum and whiskey are also just 75 baht.

If by any chance you find Baccarra in Soi Cowboy to be a yawn, the venue seems to have an open wireless network so you can check your email on your phone, or perhaps even read the latest Stickman column to find a recommended bar!

I first met him when he was the manager of Molly Malone's, in Soi Convent. He was always friendly, just as happy talking about the Bangkok expat lifestyle as he was about sport or any of the things that bar bosses talk about. After Molly Malone's he moved over to O'Reilly's, followed by a brief stint with the Australian Bar in Sukhumvit soi 11 before taking over Bangkok's newest expat bar, The Clubhouse. In what will be his last move for a while, popular English bar manager Mark has made the toughest decision of all and is turning his back on Bangkok to return to charming Blighty. How could someone who has been relatively successful in Bangkok – he managed a bunch of the most popular expat bars and built up a reputation as a friendly but no nonsense bar boss – turn his back on the city where so many would die for such a job? Mark acknowledges the most important part of his life is his young son, and that the best thing he could do for his son is to give him the best education. With fees running well north of half a million baht a year, Bangkok's top international schools are out of reach for most so Mark is heading back to the UK where his son will get a decent education without the need for Daddy to empty his bank account. He will be missed.

I've been really struggling to get excited by the bars recently and when I heard of a shocking lady drink policy in a Westerner-owned gogo bar in Cowboy, I just shook my head and wondered if things can get any worse. Everyone knows that lady drinks are a rip off. You buy a Coke for a girl at an inflated price of 100 – 150, of which she gets 30 – 50 baht being payment for her time sitting with and perhaps entertaining you. The bar gets the rest. If you're lucky she will sit with you for a while whereas others will order a shot, throw it back and if another is not forthcoming, she'll be off! While these days the lady might order a shot, or even a beer, lady drinks are invariably watered down Coke served in the smallest of tumblers. Can you believe that a Westerner-owned bar in Cowboy recycles the lady drinks?! Unfinished lady drinks are served to the next cab of the rank. I kid you not! When the waitress clears finished drinks, glasses are returned to the bartender who is under instructions to reuse the Coke. He may add a splash of Coke, chuck in an ice cube or two and out it goes out to the next girl. The girls are aware of this and obviously don't like it so if you're wondering why the girl you're with isn't drinking her lady drink, now you know! Other girls' saliva, germs, lipstick, bacteria and God knows what else! A 2-litre bottle of Coke retails for around 30 baht and given that these tumblers only hold around 150 ml or so of Coke, the bar is potentially saving a couple of baht. Can you believe it?!

Would anything freak you out more than going into a gogo bar, ordering a beer and having it delivered to you in a beer condom with a photo of yourself on the outside with a wanted notice? Tilac in Soi Cowboy is the latest bar to get into bed with law enforcement authorities and allow their beer condoms to become wanted posters, as per the photo here taken of a beer condom inside Cowboy's Tilac bar this week. Thailand has long been known as a hideaway for fugitives from all around the world so I guess this is no great surprise.

In the first week of March, Jules Sportarama in View Talay 1A over at Jomtien Beach will be doing Beer Lao Original at 35 baht a bottle and Beer Lao dark at 65 baht. They now also stock Kepplers Irish cider at 100 baht and TNC – Tropical Nuclear Cider – which is 50 baht when ordered with a meal for the rest of this month.

In this all important world cup year, coverage in Thailand of not just the Rugby World Cup in New Zealand, but the Super 15 tournament, remains murky. Some apartment buildings and most British pubs have the ABC channel out of Australia which has traditionally showed international rugby, but this year the ABC will not be showing any rugby at all. SANZAR has awarded the 2011 – 2014 Super 15 broadcast rights to another organisation which is a shame, because at this stage this organisation doesn't appear to have any plans to broadcast rugby here in the Kingdom. As far as the Super 15 tournament goes, Setanta Sports has secured broadcast rights for the Asia Pacific region and no Thailand TV channel has been designated to broadcast it. Setanta-i features the full Setanta channel and other on-demand content which is available in all Asia markets with the exception of Malaysia (where content is broadcast exclusively on Astro) and the Pacific. It looks as though we will be forced to watch it online. The URL is Setanta-i.com – which is accessible only from within the relevant countries.

The really excellent "Family Business" by Byron Bales appeared in local bookshops several years ago, a Bangkok private investigator novel penned by a real life private investigator – and it was a cracking read. It can now be downloaded free from Byron's site here.

The group with the female lead singer who played at Soi Cowboy's Country Road until a few months ago now play at the same-named but apparently unconnected, and smaller Country Road venue in the Tunnel between Sukhumvit sois 5 and 7. You can see them on Sundays, Mondays and Tuesdays starting at 7:30 PM. In Country Road 2, on Sukhumvit Soi 5 above Foodland, is a group of old rockers who start off with country, and a bit of blues around 7 PM, moving on to The Rolling Stones, Beach Boys and other oldies.

A couple of mates who play the online game, chasing Thai birds on local dating sites, tell me that there are more and more money girls working the net these days and that, combined with guys who are doing exactly the same as those who fall in love with bargirls in a heartbeat and putting the girls on a handsome retainer has meant the cyber world is not quite the rich pickings it was. When I have an hour to kill from time to time I might surf a couple of the sites and it can be a laugh chatting with the girls who don't realise they have inadvertently included evidence of their lies in their profile – by their photos. Many girls have a bunch of photos of themselves – and in some profiles each photo was taken in a different hotel room! It's hardly conclusive evidence, but the odds are that they are meeting guys coming here on holiday. In some photos you can see that she is in a farang bar hoisting something like a Kilkenny or another Western favourite – many of which are pretty much only available in farang haunts. Then there are girls who upload a heap of photos of themselves at a beach resort and in every photo it is only her, yet she says she went with 4 friends. Knowing the way most Thais love to photograph themselves with friends, colleagues or family to show off to all and sundry about where they have been, there's little chance she would appear in all of the photos alone. Obviously these girls don't realise how much they are revealing by posting certain photos! Sometimes you don't even need to read their profile – there's a photo in the background of a Western guy! No-one expects a lady to wait until marriage in this day and age yet many just cannot help themselves. But when they lie from the outset it's hardly a positive reflection on themselves – but of course they don't see it like that!

If you're looking for something a little different to do in Pattaya, why not go for a bungee jump? Check out Thaibungy.com which is run by a New Zealander, so no worries about local standards – and remember that commercial bungee jumping was started in NZ – so I am sure a Kiwi-run operation will be up to scratch!

Quote of the week comes from a reader's Thai wife, "Living with a farang man is harder than going shopping."

Reader's story of the week comes from Mega and is pure quality, "What Are You Really Looking For?"

A German in Phuket is dead from a penis injection!

The New Zealand Herald newspaper reports that a Kiwi bird died of food poisoning in Chiang Mai.

MSNBC commented on the border dispute between Thailand and Cambodia.

From the Denver Post, a Thai screwing over other Thais in the US finds out that Western authorities are competent!

Staff in Pattaya's Supergirls A Gogo attack a group of customers.

From CNNGo, will Bangkok motorcycle taxis soon be metered?

CNNGo lists the 5 secret hot spots the Thais are visiting and not telling you about!

Christopher G Moore wrote a really excellent blog on the patronage system in Thailand.

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 registered a Thai company a few years ago with view to buying a piece of land. I just paid the final installment on that but have a feeling that the agent / lawyers are buttering the bread on closure of the transaction. The lawyer associated with the agent just sent me the following breakdown of closing fees and I wonder if they are accurate, beyond the transfer fee. I understand some business costs may be part of this but wonder if some do not fall to the seller who is also presumably trading the land from a Thai company. The lawyer cited me the following costs:

The transfer charges would be:
– Government tax 6.3%.
– Transfer fee is 1% of selling price or government price (if higher).
– business tax is 3.3 % of selling price or government price (if higher).
– Withholding tax is 2% of selling price or government price (if higher).
– My service is 20,000 THB.

I would be grateful for any light Sunbelt can shed on this!

Sunbelt Legal responds: Property registration sees a specific business tax with a flat rate of 3.3% on the selling price, transfer fees with a flat rate of 2% of the officially appraised price, stamp duties with a flat rate of 0.5% of the officially appraised price and income tax with a flat rate of 1% on the selling price for a juristic person or a progressive rate on a selling price for a natural person.

The specific business tax is a flat tax rate of 3.3% on the actual selling price and is collected if the seller owns the land not more than 5 years. If the seller is not subject to the specific business tax, the stamp duty of 0.5% will be applied.

The government fee for the transfer of land is 2% on the official appraised value and is collected on the registration of transfer with the land office. The stamp duty of 0.5% is collected if the seller is exempted from specific business tax ( own the land more than 5 years).

You should always negotiate hard with the seller and make certain that the person responsible for paying the tax is named in the sales and purchase agreement. Sunbelt Asia charges 15,000 baht to negotiate on behalf of our clients (who have found a house, land, condo on their own). If they don't save at least 25,000 baht from the seller's final price (they have negotiated by themselves), the professional fee is waived.

We strongly advocate that the income tax and specific business tax is the responsibility of the seller as he is getting the income. The income tax is imposed on the recipient of taxable income from the sale of real property and is withheld by the Land Office upon the registration of the transfer of the property. The recipient of the income can be either a natural person or a juristic person. Further income tax information and specifics can be found here.

Most sellers will want the buyer to pay for everything as they claim this is "standard". However, this may end up at more than 6% of the selling price while in many cases, with Sunbelt Asia's negotiation, it was only 1% tax for the buyer. In most cases, after negotiation, we are able to convince the seller to split the transfer tax and stamp duty (if the seller was exempted from paying specific business tax).

Our professional fee to register property at the Land Department is 8,500 baht. For a more detailed explanation of the terms and procedures please see this.

Question 2: With reference to the fact that with a prenuptial agreement both parties need to get legal advice, could a prenup lodged in Australia use Thai lawyers for the Thai lady? Surely this would prevent any language problems and the girl at a later date couldn't claim that she didn't understand the lawyer. If this was possible would it make the prenup valid for both countries?

Sunbelt Legal responds: If you are married and register your pre-nup in Thailand then you have Thai lawyers draw up the pre-nup in Thailand. She should pay and select her own lawyer separate from yours for this. If you intend to lodge the pre-nup in Australia then she needs to hire her own lawyer in Australia that speaks Thai.

Question 3: First thanks for your advice in a previous column about informally coaching English students. On the same theme I recall reading in these pages that performing DIY work in one's own home would not be regarded as work, but what about doing such DIY improvements in rented accommodation? I have recently taken a rental lease on a house that is fine but could be improved. My landlord isn't prepared to pay for these but I am happy to do them myself. I am perfectly competent and would enjoy it as a hobby but would it be classed as work? What if I remove the improvements when I vacate the property?

Sunbelt Legal responds: The Bangkok Labour Department reports that no work permit is required when working on your own house or condo, even a rental you have in your name. No work permit is required if you wish to remove the improvements later as well.


I've been thinking recently about the idea of permanence, in terms of being resident in Thailand. No, it's not that I want to stay here forever, more just thinking about the things that we do and how they relate to the idea of feeling as if we are a fixture here, some sort of stakeholder in the Kingdom. For me, there are a number of things that contribute to, or detract from the idea of being a fixture. When I was issued with my first work permit, and with it the 1-year visa, there was a real feeling of being part of Thai society, perhaps accentuated by the fact that I was a teacher, and as such had influence on some of the leaders of tomorrow. Speaking Thai to a decent level – and actually using it – is something I thought would give me the feeling of being a real local, but actually it hasn't. Why that is, I just do not know. Even marrying a Thai woman didn't make me feel any more a fixed part of the landscape, which perhaps has something to do with the modern idea that marriage is not necessarily forever. There's ownership of a property, something I have avoided – for the very reason that I don't feel permanent here! Owning a business and employing locals, as well as having kids here probably also give one a feeling of being more than a casual passer by. I find it interesting how some people feel quite settled here, and others don't.

Your Bangkok commentator,

Stick

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