It's Not Stickman, But Slackman
For the second time in less than 2 months I have been unable to make the opening piece of the column readable. I'd rather not run an article that is flat and which I am just not happy with and as such there is no opening piece today. My apologies.
Last week's photo
Where was this photo taken?
Last week's photo was taken from the branch of Starbucks on the corner of Sukhumvit soi 5 which closed about 6 months back. 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. For readers in Phuket, we now have a new prize provider in Patong Beach. Bliss Lounge on Bangla Road is offering a 500 baht drink credit and with some great imported beers from Belgium, Germany and Holland, they're unique for a venue on Bangla Road.
Terms and conditions: The Oh My Cod prize MUST be claimed within 14 days. The Duke's prize must be utilised by March 2011. The Bliss Lounge prize must be claimed within 3 months. 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 – Foreigners trying to be more Thai than the Thais themselves.
There are a few self-righteous farang twats who have somehow become so Thai oriented that they try and screw up the lives of other farangs in Thailand. The Thai police, immigration and labour department are a bunch of box tickers and occasionally have some directive from Bangkok to clamp down. But basically they realise that the illegally working foreigners are of benefit to Thailand and will not interfere unless there is an official report, and they receive a bit of tea money. On the opposite end of the scale, the Thais moving abroad are immediately educated by their peers in their respective rights and work the system to their maximum benefit. It surely is a screwed up world of screwed up people.
Masquerading as a copper or the real deal?
I was sitting enjoying an espresso with a friend on the tiny patio of a small exterior coffee shop at Fortune Town. I felt a presence off to my left because the person was motionless for a while. I turned around and stared into the winking eye of a tall, overweight farang with glasses. As I broke contact, he was still motionless and still winking at me. I faced my friend but immediately looked back and the guy was smiling down at me. As I broke contact again my eyes saw the lanyard on his neck, connected to a pouch with the badge of the Royal Thai Police. In a moment he was off to his scooter, which was parked in a no parking zone with no other bikes around. I couldn't see the guard but it was obvious the farang had to justify his presence there in the no-go zone when he flippantly flashed his badge at security. Wearing a badge so visibly on a plain T-shirt and flashing it in a most unprofessional manner bring serious questions about the quality of people being granted such privilege. If indeed it was real, although I think it was.
White women are out there.
I came across dozens of white women teaching in Bangkok, through sports leagues. They're out there. I met them playing ultimate Frisbee, but some of them also played in the Gaelic football and touch rugby leagues, where they had white female friends that I never really met, but knew of. Their favourite haunts seemed to be on Sukhumvit soi 11, out near Thonglor, and crossroads on Rama 4. One said to me once, "I f^&*ing hate it here, it's impossible to find good men!" Guys in Bangkok don't seem interested in them. I know I wasn't. Some were attractive though. If guys are looking for them, barstools ain't the place to go.
Just when you thought you had seen it all!
I noticed 3 Western women heading for one of the gogo bars in Nana. You see Western ladies all the time here, but the unusual thing was that these 3 ladies was clearly Grandma with her 40 something year old daughter, and her teenage granddaughter. The teenage girl was clearly very embarrassed, but Grandma seemed determined to see tits and ass. About 30 seconds after entering the gogo bar they came running out, granddaughter looking very distressed. But Grandma was heading straight for the next gogo bar. We were laughing our asses off watching the 2 younger ladies in the family hauling the old lady out of the second gogo and then dragging her out of Nana Plaza. My friend sitting next to me observed "Just when you thought you had seen it all!"
The dangers of the Beach Road.
Two Thai pro girls I have known for some years tell me to be aware of the girls who work Beach Road because nowadays there are a lot of criminally-minded girls there. A different type from just a few years ago, they claim. One pro friend said that if I take a girl from there, I should take her to a short time guesthouse like the PS Guesthouse, on the corner of Soi Post Office, and not home to my room. Have just enough money on me and do not drink anything when with them. At the southern end of the Coconut Bar are a number of narcotics dealers offering drugs to tourists, mostly after dark. I make a quick no thanks to them and keep on going when they approach me. But one lady who sells drugs there, a few years ago I did short time with her, before she became a dealer.
Thailand preferred to the US.
From an American point of view, I see Thailand as a place that has a real culture, people who relate to each other in a nationalist / cultural way, have a style of cuisine all their own, strong family bonds, and a religion that is in many ways superior to Christianity. In America, everyone shares the country, but everyone is alone. It just isn't like that in Thailand. In Thailand it's considered somewhat odd to eat alone or do much of anything alone, and I think that says a lot. As you wrote in a recent weekly, the Thais feel genuine pain when they are forced to be alone, while America is only really tolerable when you are alone! We've become masters of alienation and social dysfunction here in the US, and I suspect that many of us come to Thailand in order to feel human again; to experience social interaction and freedom that just does not exist in America. I think that Americans just really don't want to talk to each other anymore, and that's why we lack community or street life, and why guns are so popular. So while we read about the Pattaya Flying Club, or mysterious deaths of multiple people in the same building in Chiang Mai, it won't slow us down from buying that next ticket.
Just smile and walk away!
I have just divorced my Thai woman in Bangkok. She turned on me, asking for more money before signing the papers. I said I would walk away from the amphur if she put an amount on the divorce papers. It was a bluff but she took it. I got the papers clean, no alimony etc. She was very angry and I gave her 10,000 baht to keep her quiet and I just walked away with a smile on my face and tears in my eyes. I got into a taxi and got out near Nana where I wasn't paying attention. When I opened the door a motorbike ridden by 2 Thais crashed into the door at a slow speed. I didn't panic but my emotions from what I had just been through were probably the cause. I checked the damage, looked at the guys who were already standing up and touching their necks with their hand, looking difficult and were talking about something I caught as ha roy baht song kon. I saw there was no damage on the bike and on the taxi, thankfully. Then I saw a boy in brown coming our way. I told the boys to come with me to an ATM that was conveniently 20 meters away. I doubled the price they were talking about. I gave them the money before the boy in brown neared and made my way to soi 4 heaven!
There's going to be a new flavour on offer in Bangkok with the city's first gogo bar stocked exclusively with Russian birds currently under construction. It will be located in Sukhumvit soi 12 in what once was a Moroccan themed restaurant. That venue closed in the second half of last year and work is charging ahead on what I understand will be a flash Russian gogo bar featuring short-time rooms on the premises as well as VIP suites. Some associated with the project believe that it will only feature Russian working girls – and there won't be a Thai girl in sight! A stroll through reveals that yep, it sure looks like it is going to be a gogo bar! Downstairs on the ground floor there are what look likely to be 5 or 6 short-time rooms, and upstairs there appear to be 4 or 5 VIP rooms.
After much toing and froing, Strikers, a popular beer bar on Sukhumvit soi 4 just a stone's throw from the entrance to Nana Plaza is about to be super-sized. As was mooted in this column a few weeks ago, a deal has at last been settled with the adjacent tailor's store. The tailor's has been stripped and Strikers' management has said that expansion of the venue should be completed as early as the end of this month. There is talk that there will be space for 2 more pool tables and the venue hopes to have more draft beer options. I would have thought with this expansion, which may well make it the largest bar of its type on soi 4, that the plan should simply be to fill it with as much HGP as possible. That's what punters want. HGP? High grade pussy!
It's Paddy's Day this coming week and Heaven Above will celebrate this coming Thursday, March 17, with a party including BBQ and drinks specials all night long. Heaven Above is located on Soi Diamond, just off Walking Street in Pattaya.
Spanky's on the middle floor of Nana Plaza is really rocking and is full most nights, which has been great for the bar with more and more girls coming in and approaching management looking for work.
Spanky's sister bar, DC-10, owned by the same character behind Spanky's, has had a new spin put on it and has something of an old school style feel. It's dark inside and customers may find they get a lot more personal attention. The girls have been instructed to take extra care of customers with small touches like being wiped down with a cold towel once they have sat down – a nice touch at this time of year. The venue also has a music play list featuring a lot of oldies, particularly classic rock'n'roll.
There seems to be something a girl shortage in some Cowboy bars. With few girls on the premises, bars attract fewer customers, all of which creates a vicious circle. What the reason is for the drop off in girls in Cowboy, I do not know. I would speculate that is the same old situation of girls entering the trade being pulled out of it by guys attempting to make an honest woman of them. In fact this week I heard of an incentive policy put in place in a couple of foreign-owned gogo bars in Nana Plaza to encourage girls to convince their friends to work in the bar. The girls get a 1,000 baht commission for every friend of they bring to the bar who lasts at least a month.
The next party at The Strip in Patpong's soi 2 has been themed a military party and will be held on Friday of next week, that's March 18. While it is being called a military party, I don't actually know what they have planned. Maybe they will fill the bar with girls packing a weapon?! Hehe, don't worry, there aren't any ladyboys at The Strip.
Don't be sucked in by the pesky touts on Walking Street who promise to take you to see a sex show with full guy on girl action. Why anyone would want to see such a show I will never know but obviously some do. Anyway, what usually happens is that you get stung for expensive drinks and see nothing more than silly banana, ping pong ball and the like shows, all of which is incredibly boring, to say nothing of being horribly demeaning for the girls. Now with that said, if the idea of a live sex show does get your juices flowing, Pattaya is the place and there is at least one venue where such shows really do take place. If you go to Big C shopping centre on Second Road, in the North Pattaya area, and walk about five minutes north of Big C, on the same eastern side of the road as Big C, you will come to a soi with a sign on the corner saying Bang Up. That's the venue which has live real-deal sex shows. They last about an hour each. You have to walk east for about one minute into the soi from the sign and you will see the venue itself. The shows run from just after sunset until late and entry is a cool thousand baht. The show consists of several groups of girls doing the usual vaginal exercises before for the pièce de résistance, a guy and a gal having full penetrative sex which lasts for about ten minutes. The visitors are mainly Asian tourists who are taken there by the busload and not your stereotypical Western sex tourist. You'd think that such a venue would be sleazy and be a bit of a dive but actually it isn't. The staff in Bang Up are remarkably nice and friendly.
With regards to the forced early closure of venues down in Hua Hin, things seem to be improving with most bars back to 1 AM closing. Quite a few dim the lights at midnight but the alcohol and revelry continues. There's much conjecture that the current crackdown was born out of certain bar owners shirking the strict rules unique to Hua Hin – that there be no dancing and no showing – and at least one venue has been fingered as a venue where flesh could be seen. That sort of thing does not go down well in conservative Hua Hin!
Much money has been spent on Alcatraz on Walking Street which is quite impressive inside. Despite being open a few months now, it's still not the well-oiled machine that it should be by now. One of the unique things about the bar is the way some girls in the venue wander around and handcuff guys to girls, or maybe even handcuff guys to their friends. A couple of the playful girls happened to handcuff a reader to one of his mates, and then couldn't find the key to unlock the handcuffs! Nice idea in principle, but it kind of backfired and those guys won't be going back!
In what I guess was always going to be inevitable with the little lane so busy these days, Soi Cowboy has become a prime site for street vendors. This past week one cross section of the soi went something like this : bar – parked motorcycles – food vendor – a 2-metre gap for walking – food vendor – boxes of junk – bar. You have vendors who sell stuff only of interest to the bargirls, vendors with farang food, kids selling junk…it's all a great big mess!
For goodness sake, when will bar owners / investors realise that simply placing a new neon sign above the door of a bar that used to operate under a different name does NOT create a new bar. It's one thing to take over an old property, but merely reupholstering the seating, erecting a new sign with a new name and getting the commercial cleaners is in is just not enough. Not mentioning any names here, but that does rather seem to be the business plan for a more than a few bar owners. If you want the template for doing it right, check out DC10 on Nana's middle floor where an old bar was given a completely new look, successfully creating what can legitimately be called a new bar.
From next week there will be a new addition to the menu at Crossbar with original Italian cheesecakes that are actually made by an Italian baker, with imported ingredients being offered. The publican claims you won't find a better cheesecake in Thailand, a bold claim for there are a number of places that do remarkably good cheesecake in Bangkok these days.
I guess I was dreaming thinking that the exposé that Maxmilian did in the Post on child porn would help to eradicate its brazen sale in popular tourist areas. Nope, this is Thailand and it's still widely available. In Panthip Plaza there's still plenty of child porno available. You don't even need to ask for it – it will be offered. Is there anything worse than walking innocently through the corridors of Panthip Plaza and having some spiky-haired Thai punk bark at you, "Hey you, you want child f^&*ing movie?" That alone is reason to avoid Panthip Plaza altogether. Down in Sin City there are vendors around the Soi Post Office area on South Pattaya Road that still sell it. Apparently you have to ask for it discreetly and it is still available. A reader tells me that he asked one of the vendors to see more regular porn than what was out on display and he was taken behind the stall where among the regular porn was a considerable amount of the icky stuff. With that said, since the exposé and what appears to have been a brief crackdown by the authorities, most vendors do not display the hideous stuff out in open view like they used to.
The Russian contingent, which seems to make up far and away the largest group by nationality of visitors to Pattaya, are finding their lack of English to be a problem. Russians are paying way over the odds for songtaews, often taking them on their standard routes and paying 100 baht, just to go along Beach Road! They may be known for being tight when it comes to buying drinks but some of them are clueless when it comes to getting around and they are paying way over the odds. There is, apparently, a growing number of Thais who have identified the Russians as making up significant visitor numbers and are making an effort to learn Russian. Not the songtaew drivers who are creaming it!
And despite another Bangkok Post exposé on the rubbish police who seem to target foreigners exclusively, I can report that they are as active as ever and seem to be particularly vigilant in the area around Sukhumvit soi 12, where Korea Town is. If they spot a foreigner smoking, one of the brown-uniformed rubbish police will follow the foreigner until he disposes of his cigarette butt. The official fine is 2,000 baht but anecdotes from a reader caught this week suggest that 500 baht will see you on your way, without a receipt of course…
Quote of the week, "Thailand often seems like the country occupational safety and health forgot."
Reader's story of the week is Sawadee2000's latest epistle on life in Lampang, "Let Them Eat Kanom…Please!"
Pressure is mounting on the police in Chiang Mai after 4 suspicious deaths in a hotel.
Another tourist dies at the hotel of death in Chiang Mai!
A New Zealand current affairs show did a 6-minute video report on the Chiang Mai tourist deaths.
The deputy Prime Minister says Thai protestors died because they ran into bullets!
From The Nation, three Thais make the Forbes world's rich list.
Dwight Turner reflects on Thais' preference for white.
Not Thailand related but still interesting, how a blogger stung an undercover federal sex tourist sting.
Two Aussie visitors are knifed by tuktuk drivers in Phuket.
Three Aussie visitors will never return to Thailand after terrifying dealings with the operators of jet skis in Phuket.
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: What is the law regarding driving in Thailand? Can I use my American drivers licence or do I have to get a Thai licence? What about an international licence? Please advise.
Sunbelt Legal responds: If you are in Thailand on a non-immigrant visa then you need to get a Thai driver's license. If you already have an IDP (International Driving Permit) or a drivers license from your home country then you can take that, a letter from Immigration verifying your address or your yellow house registration book, a medical certificate, a copy of passport and non-immigrant visa to the transport office. You will need to take a reaction test, a colour test, another colour test, make payment and photos are taken at the office. If you do not have a valid IDP or drivers license then you will need to take the test. Most offices offer it in English and it comprises a written test and a practical test. This will give you a temporary drivers license valid for one year. At the end of the one year you can apply for a 5-year license but you must still have a non-immigrant visa.
Question 2: What is the best way to handle the hotel after making internet bookings for accommodation and then finding out shortly before you arrive or at the desk that you have been downgraded to another room? Is double booking a standard in Thailand? I usually choose a room for the view when I book or go somewhere else if this is not available. I am not kee-neow nor Donald Trump, but I want what I have paid for (always in advance of course). What are my avenues of exercising my rights (if I have any) to the room or demanding an on the spot refund so that I may go and stay somewhere else?
Sunbelt Legal responds: Once you check in it implies an acceptance of the offer even if it was different to what you had originally booked, so you may wish to inspect the room before checking in. Most hotels will offer you a substitute room but if that is rejected then you may not receive an immediate refund if you booked through an online engine as the hotel will probably not have received payment for the room yet and will be reluctant to refund the money. In all likelihood you will have to take your claim to that website for a refund. If you book through the hotel directly then an immediate refund from the hotel is possible but it would depend on the hotel's policies. Many hotels use multiple agents to book rooms, so double bookings can occur.
Question 3: How automatic is the retirement visa renewal? My concern is that if I sell up and retire to Thailand I may not be leaving myself too many options if some Immigration official decides one year not to renew my retirement visa. Am I being paranoid?
Sunbelt Legal responds: As long as you meet the requirements of 800,000 baht in the bank for a minimum of 3 months or the income requirements of 65,000 baht a month, it is unlikely your retirement visa will be denied. They can change the goalposts (and have) but usually grandfather the requirements for those who have already applied for a time.
Question 4: My son is 18 years old and holds Thai and British passports. He has never lived in Thailand but is entered on the house register for my wife's place. Right now he is at university in Manchester having just started there in September 2010. What are the rules regarding his requirement to do Thai military service? My understanding is that due to his being in university he gets an exemption at the moment but will be eligible to be drafted once he completes his studies. As we haven't lived in the UK since 1984, he gets charged overseas university fees which run to over 20,000 pounds a year at the moment – I'd hate to spend that for the next 3 years just to have him waste his time in the Thai military. On a lighter note, although my son speaks Thai (regular plus Isaan versions) and can read and write (some), I was wondering what the military would do if faced with a "luk kreung" who didn't speak Thai!
Sunbelt Legal responds: Thailand does not automatically draft young men. It is a lottery system where he may or may not be chosen for military service. At the age of 17, he must enroll in the registrant list with the military registrar [known as Sassadee] at his district office. Once enrolled he would be given a sor dor 9 form. As he is not in the country, he could have a representative (usually his parent or relative) to enroll on his behalf. At the age of 20 he would have to revisit the district office to see the military registrar to collect an appointment slip for the lottery (form is know as Sor Dor 35). Living and studying overseas does provide temporary exemption to him from the conscription lottery by having his parents presenting a letter of confirmation issued by the education institute, letter of confirmation issued by the Thai embassy / consulate in the country that that education institute is located, sor dor 9 (previously obtained), sor dor 35 (if any) and house registration. Such exemption will only be available to him until he reaches the age of 29. If he were to not return to Thailand at the end of his schooling but chose to stay in the UK he could still move back to Thailand and, at the age of 30, apply for an exemption based on age. If he moves back to Thailand after university it is important to note that if he has a degree and volunteers on conscription day, he'll only have to serve 6 months, as opposed to the 2 years if you are chosen in the lottery. If he doesn't volunteer (but has a degree) he'll still do the 2 years.
I don't like to comment on some of the nonsense that is said about me or about this site because to do so can contribute towards legitimizing what is being said. But before the rumormongers spew any more silly comments, let me clarify a silly rumour that is doing the rounds. I was contacted this week by someone who said he had heard that this site was up for sale for 500,000 baht. I can confirm that the site is NOT currently offered for sale, although like almost everything on this planet, if someone put a significant offer to me, I would consider it. This of course raises the question…how much are we talking? Almost 5 years ago I received an offer out of the blue for 3.5 million baht. It was a genuine and fair offer by people I knew. I considered it but ultimately turned it down. Since then I have received two more offers, again totally out of the blue. One was for 2 million baht and another for a paltry 300,000 baht. Unlike the first offer, I didn't know the people behind offers #2 and #3. As per the first offer I received, I'd turn down that that amount again today. If the day comes when I do put this site up for sale, any interested party would have to rustle up a bit more than that. Not that much more, mind you. And if it is ever offered for sale, whoever picks it up will find it is worth every penny.
Your Bangkok commentator,