Stickman's Weekly Column April 10th, 2011

A Milestone Is Reached


Taksin Shinawatra had just been elected as Prime Minister and despite his efforts to ruin it, everyone agreed that Nana Plaza was the place to party. Bangkok's underground was years from completion but not to worry, red buses set you back just 3.50 baht. Facebook was a book about faces and Windows XP was still several months away. It was early 2001 when a young Bangkok expat published the first edition of a column that would develop a cult following and often polarise Thailand expats. In April 2001, Stickman Weekly was born and this week marks the 10th anniversary of this column.

This column didn't come about by design and I never envisaged that I would become a columnist. Struggling to find a spot to include time sensitive news that was relevant that week, but of no interest a week later, I needed a new section on the site and so the column was born.

The first column just sort of came together one afternoon when I had a number of thoughts in my mind. The next few were a struggle. If little happened in my life, or Bangkok was quiet, what would I write about? I never realised the effort required to put together a weekly column and a month after the column started I came close to ending it. It had become a burden, was taking too much time and compromised my Sundays. But the feedback was positive and that was probably what convinced me to stick with it.

It took me a while to find my voice. I'd been in Thailand a few years and had been slowly putting together the Stickman site, but writing a column and writing a guide – which is what the site really was back then – are two completely different things. An information site can be dry, whereas a column needs to keep readers interested. It needs to be snappy, or breezy, or opinionated or controversial. It's one thing to inform, another to entertain, but ultimately you want the reader to feel like they want to come back for more.

With my voice settled, the architecture of the column took shape. 10 years on, the layout hasn't changed. The colour scheme is as it was in that very first column, as is the font.

Where once I received regular criticism for the site's '90s design, and requests to change the grey text on black background, there'd be an outcry if I changed the look today. To do so would be like the loss of an old friend.

The format of an opening piece followed by a photo competition, readers' emails, news and views, a question and answer section and closing comments has stood the test of time. There's no reason to add or remove any sections.

While this column was never planned, there have been a number of people who have influenced me, both in what I write about it and how I go about it.

Bruce Simpson has been writing Aardvark, a technology and NZ society blog, since 1996. He writes with fluency, honesty and is often a champion for the cause, highlighting injustices the common man faces. That makes him sound like a leftie, but he's really out in right field like me. Bruce writes with balance, highlighting the different perspectives of people viewing the same issue. I try to do the same, and even when I want to scream and yell at some of the things the Thais do, I try to look at the situation from their point of view.

There's the legend himself, Bernard Trink, whose Night Owl graced Bangkok newspapers for the best part of 40 years before the plug was finally pulled in 2003. Trink was Mr. Nightlife and his round up included not just what was happening in the bars, but other news of interest to expats such as where the parties and promotions were, where you could get the best farang food and other items of interest, such as when representatives from the US Embassy in Bangkok would be in the provinces. I've probably subconsciously copied Trink in covering much the same material. In fact in the early days I realised I was using a couple of Trinkisms, but I knocked that on the head pretty quickly. The material I cover is much the same as what Trink covered.

But perhaps my biggest influence would be a sports talkback host in New Zealand, Murray Deaker. His brutal honesty and willingness to give frank, learned and informed opinion, even if it means going against the commonly held view, makes his show both informative and entertaining. You might not agree with him, but he sticks his neck out and gives an opinion – which he always backs up with sound, logical reasoning. I'm never shy to say what I think, and I hope that I explain why I think the way I do carefully, just as Deaker does.

The Stickman readership is largely uniform in its make up, but diverse in interests. While perhaps 80% of the readership is white, adult and male, people read the column for different reasons. Some are only interested in the bar stuff. Some have zero interest in the bar stuff. Some are mainly interested in the news and views while others only read the opener. Every week someone tells me the last column was the best. And often enough someone says that the most recent column was the worst! I gave up trying to please everyone long ago and simply try to put together the sort of column that I would want to read.

My goals with the column are to inform and entertain. If I can provide some interesting news, considered opinion, and can get a laugh or two, I'll give myself a pass mark. I like nothing more than writing an opening piece about something funny that happened in my life and reckon I'm at my best when I'm telling a story.

After all these years, I don't think it has got any easier to put the column together. Maybe expectations are higher? I'm conscious of the need to be positive, which can be a real challenge with so much crazy stuff going on here. And it isn't easy to be positive about the nightlife when you're not a participant, but merely an observer. I also find it a struggle to deal with the increasingly politically correct attitudes you find these days. Yep, amazingly the Sticky readership is an increasingly PC bunch.

As the column has become more popular, I've had to become more responsible. I have to ensure that I am on top of things and covering everything going on. When it comes to farang nightlife, I'm expected to know about everything that's going on, in Bangkok at least, and cover it.

I've also got to know when to keep my trap shut. Bangkok's a little more vanilla than it was, but there's still a lot of dodgy stuff going on. There are many comings and goings I won't go near, even if they would make for a stellar column. I'll leave that stuff to Drummond! The way the purchases of some bars are funded, for example, and the fact that a larger number of bars than you'd think aren't necessarily concerned about making money at all are topics best steered clear of. Donations made, some farang owners' awareness of HIV+ girls on their staff…there's so much stuff that just can't be mentioned, and which I can only talk about with my most trusted mates.

Every week there are typos, some weeks the opening piece doesn't come together and from time to time I might miss a big story. But with all of that in mind, I'd still like to think that the column has improved markedly over the years, that the writing is more engaging, the topics covered more broad, the news more accurate and the photography as good as anything on any Thailand site. I really do feel that the best columns have been in the past couple of years.

How much the column is a reflection of me, I don't know. Perhaps one day it was, but these days, with my body in Thailand and my heart elsewhere, perhaps the column and the real Stick aren't quite one and the same. That said, I am still passionate about putting the column together, even if I may be less passionate about living here.

There have been many positives running this column, from all the people I have met, to the way it has forced me to explore Thailand and Thai society, developing my understanding of how things work here, even if my findings haven't always endeared me to the Kingdom.

Perhaps the major downside is that the column started with a definite nightlife slant which has become an anchor, keeping me with one foot in the industry. I'd be just as happy if I never stepped foot in a gogo bar again. There's so much more to Bangkok than that and I'm convinced that the negativity I have about life in these parts is largely due to over exposure to the nightlife. But to stop commenting on that part of the Bangkok expat lifestyle would alienate much of the readership, perhaps even those who say they don't participate themselves.

Nothing lasts forever and as I have said a number of times in recent months, there are no guarantees that Stickman will stay in Bangkok. The end of the year seems oh so far away.

So what of the future? An announcement will be made soon, but this isn't the time for that.

Today is the day to give myself a big pat on the back and to congratulate myself for sticking with it, for producing a readable column for Bangkok expats and fans of Thailand that has consistently grown in popularity over its lifetime. I am immensely proud that this column is so widely read, and that many who started reading it 10 long years ago, including some of the movers, shakers and big names of Farangdom in Bangkok, still read it today. I really do hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoy putting it together.

Last week's photo



Where was this photo taken?


Last week's photo was taken outside the terminal at Suwannaphum Airport. As one reader put it, "That huge, transparent wall of glass you walk out of when stepping out of the airport is the invisible barrier from the orderly world of airlines and into the chaos that Thailand is!" A fair few readers thought it was Central World shopping centre. 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. After a week without the Duke's Express prize, I am pleased to announced that Duke's is sponsoring this competition for another year and I collected 52 x 500 baht Duke's Express gift certificates this week! So the second person to get the photo correct wins a 500 baht gift certificate from one of the best farang food venues in Bangkok, Duke's Express, which is the home of Bangkok's best burger and, in my humble opinion, the best ribs in Bangkok too! Duke's is located in the Emporium shopping centre in central Bangkok. For readers in Phuket, Bliss Lounge on Bangla Road is offering a 500 baht drink credit and with some great imported beers from Belgium, Germany and Holland, unique for a venue on Bangla Road.

Terms and conditions: The Duke's Express gift certificate MUST be redeemed by June, 2012. The Oh My Cod prize MUST be claimed within 14 days. 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 – failure to do so results in the prize going 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 – Rude Englishman gets his comeuppance!

Last trip near Wat Po I noticed an elderly English couple obviously lost. They were looking around with scared faces, holding a crumpled map, stopping every few steps to check it again and again. Seeing the sharks circling the couple and being a nice guy, I approached them and offered to help. "Excuse me, you look like you are lost. Can I help you?" The answer of the man was, "We are ok, just piss off, will ya!" So I left them and went to eat nearby, and saw them follow an obvious scammer to a tuktuk about 10 minutes later. The Thai guy wore a necktie and had short hair while I was in a T-shirt and have long hair. I hope this rude English moron got scammed for a good chunk of his holiday money. Some people are just born to be scammed and you just can't do anything to prevent it.

Stand up against the nonsense!

People really need to stand up against the outlandish behaviour of these con artists. Thailand has a bad enough rep amongst certain people who have never even set foot in the country. Let's face it, when was the last time we viewed a documentary of Thailand on TV in a positive light? These fellas, especially those involved in the jet ski scam, get away with ridiculous amounts of criminal activity that it's obscene! One afternoon, propped up on a deck chair on Pattaya beach, I watched the same group pull off the same scam over and over again to people who were still in earshot of each other but neither of the accused stuck up for one another or even put up an appeal against the claims of damage! Classic scams still being committed by the same people after all these years. Why won't the government or the boys in brown intervene?

Farangs make lucrative marks.

Thais cheat each other just as fervently as they do farang. My Thai wife has endless stories of scams and cheats with no farang in the picture at all. Rarely is there a time she calls her family and doesn't hear another one. I think many Thais would literally buy magic beans with little effort! Cheating farang is probably harder actually, but a lot more lucrative. As long as money trumps all, and how one got it is ignored, why would there be any change?

Who's the lucky man!

The scams operating in Thailand have been very well documented on the internet so any prospective visitor would be well advised to do a bit of research prior to arrival. A few years ago, there was a Sikh operating along Sukhumvit, (maybe he's still there?) whose opening gambit was, "You look like a lucky man!" After being accosted several times, I suggested that if I really was lucky, I wouldn't keep running in to him!

The homeless farang.

The down and out guy in your column has been there for months and drifts between sois 4 and 18. I tried to engage him in conversation about 3 weeks ago as he was going through a rubbish bin. I asked him where he was from and was met with "Nah, nah, nah, never mind". I offered him money but as I did he put out his hand and his trousers fell down exposing his dick right in the middle of the street! The man is ill and needs help as he started to ask me which hotel does a nice lunch buffet! With that I walked away because he didn't take the money. He has some cuts on his legs which are badly infected and he's in bad condition. His accent is German or Dutch. What was once a 2-week millionaire now sadly resides with the Sukhumvit gutter rats. I hope he makes it out alive.

Singapore for work, Thailand for play.

I've worked in Singapore off and on for 10 years. I love travel in Asia, but I always feel Thailand is a dodge. I go there to cuddle up in a cheap 5-star hotel, to go to Soi Cowboy for fun, but I do my shopping in Singapore. The way many Thais run a scam on anyone means I can't be bothered to venture beyond Bangkok, where I know I can retreat into the seclusion and comfort of a hotel I can trust. I know the country has beautiful scenery, many friendly people, but knowing I can't go anywhere without having to figure out who is trying to help and who is trying to have me for my money means I don't take the place seriously. Having done some dating over the years, I also feel this applies to some extent to the people. I've had my share of "Oh I am Thai, we do like this", but expect me to run by a very different set of rules. Singapore is nice and easy. It is open, honest and pretty much fair. It hides little and you feel safe. Sure, they might flog you or hang you, but they'll let you know in very clear terms what needs to be done to let it get to that. I like predictability.

Foreigners who choose Thailand.

The influx of foreigners into Bangkok makes me wonder. I'm sorry, but as far as I'm concerned any white person venturing into Thailand these days, holiday excluding, is highly questionable. What is their motive? What is their aim in life? Fxxxing lay bouts no doubt. I miss the west. There is nothing like it – the quality, the integrity, the moral fibre and backbone, the spine of right and wrong, the drive towards privitisation and slashing waste in the public sector. If there is anything I detest, it's waste – human and operational. I'd say a lot of your readers fall into that category, the scum off the top slobbering into Thailand. To them I say, hang your heads in shame. Stick, you're rubbing shoulders with the lowest form of western being there. Ignore them and move on is my advice.

Sound advice.

I have only one piece of advice I give every man, young or old, who is going to Thailand. Don't fall in love. Westerners in general have neither enough experience with women in general, nor have they ever encountered a female culture that has been untouched by feminism. Think of Thai women as lionesses on the Serengeti and Western men as wildebeests with a lame leg.

A classic case of TIT (This is Thailand!)

Good to see Tesco Lotus have got their promotional strategy sorted out. Shopping there this morning, I came across: 1. A three pack of Malee orange juice at 199 baht next to individual cartons at 59 baht! 2. A six pack of kiwi fruit for 69 baht, individual fruits 10 baht each! TIT!

Songkran hits us this week. The festival which celebrates the hottest time of year polarises the population and is very much a love it or hate it thing – and I'm firmly in the latter camp. Call me a spoil sport, but I find it a dreadful imposition on one's personal freedom, an awful period when you feel like a prisoner in your own condo. I'm all for people enjoying themselves, but the idea that I can't even step outside for fear of wearing a bucket of water is not my idea of fun.

Songkran is a quiet period for the bars with many staff leaving for a few days to head back to the family home. And in Bangkok's three main foreign bar areas, it can be very difficult to get into a bar without getting drenched first. It can be especially bad at Nana Plaza where there's only one way in or out. If you have to drink, stock up at 7 Eleven and if you just have to get your end away, make arrangements in advance!

Obviously I am far from the only person who loathes Songkran and the annual Songkran Diaspora from Pattaya is upon us once again. So predictable a migration it is these days that other destinations plan on receiving hundreds of refugees – and for many of the sexpats of Pattaya, that means their annual pilgrimage to Angeles City in the Philippines. The Cebu Pacific flight from Bangkok to Angeles City takes many Pattaya refugees to watering holes where the beer is cheaper and the waitresses speak decent English. In recognition of this annual trek, La Bamba Cantina and Rhapsody Nightclub in Angeles City are offering all Songkran refugees a 20% discount off their entire bills from 11 – 23 April. Songkran refugee discount cards are available now at Tequila Reef Cantina in Pattaya's soi 7 and at Tequila Reef Cantina in Angeles City which is just off Fields Ave and Santos Street. If you stop by Tequila Reef in Pattaya, be sure to say hello to owner Darryl who knows Angeles City well. First timers can certainly benefit from his wisdom. Darryl will be joining the Diaspora in the next couple of days.

There's a fantastic line up in Nana Plaza's Rainbow 3 at the moment. I'm not sure if they are Rainbow 3 girls or transplants from Rainbow 1, but hot they are! With the number of Japanese visitors in Bangkok down after the earthquake / tsunami tragedy, many of the Rainbow girls – a group of bars perennially popular with the Japanese – aren't getting barfined as often as they are used to. Many Rainbow girls traditionally don't go with Western men but they must be reconsidering now! In terms of pure eye candy, Rainbow 3 is worth stopping by for a drink.

Speaking of decent line ups, Angelwitch has the best line up it has had in some time. And the number of girls seems to be up, including some lasses who used to work there in the past, left, and have since returned. And is it me or are the shows in Angelwitch getting a little spicier, not to say a little more revealing?

Win from Win's Massage in Pattaya's Soi Chaiyapoon who was well-liked passed away a week or so ago. May she rest in peace.

So you think Pattaya is busy, do you? Some bars might be pumping – especially those venues like Happy and Angelwitch which have built up a brand name – but just as many are doing a dreadful trade. One day last week, a certain bar in Pattaya's infamous soi 6 had a total turnover for the day of….wait for it….85 baht! That's for a whole day and night. Yep, all they managed to sell was one lousy bottle of San Miguel Light!

What's happened at Shark in Cowboy? A popular venue for sure although no favourite of mine these days – it may be home base to a bunch of lookers but there seem to be just as many bad attitudes. Shark Bar has been one of the more popular venues in Cowboy for years and is packed most nights – and why wouldn't it be with approaching 100 dancing girls on Friday and Saturday nights. But a while back a bunch of the girls left – as happens in every bar sooner or later. With fewer dancers, management decided to open the top floor of Shark bar and send girls to dance upstairs, spreading a thinner line up over two floors. Why would they do that?!

I used to love Bangkok Beat. It had a great vibe and there was always a good mix of people – expats and tourists, working girls and girls with day jobs. I swung by the Beat this past week and I hate to say it….but it was terrible! It seems I am not the only one who wasn't a fan because there wasn't much of a crowd. There wasn't a looker in sight and the band wasn't great at all. The Beat used to be magic but seems to have lost its way. I hope it can be turned around.

Music Station in Sukhumvit soi 33 has been sold. It is rumoured that it has been picked up by some Japanese and so we can presume it will be converted into another Japanese only bar, of which soi 33 has a growing number. Soi 33 creeps a little closer to becoming Soi Thaniya the second.

Unless you're in a French or Italian restaurant, or dining in one of the better hotels, wine can be real hit and miss in Thailand. The last place I would expect to find good wine in Thailand is in a Mexican restaurant but at Sunrise Tacos that is exactly what I found this week. They have a couple of French drops – and they are real good. I didn't try the white, but the Cabernet Sauvignon is a cracker if you're a red fan and at 185 baht a glass is reasonable by Thai standards. Give it a go.

The newest venue in Nana Plaza, Billboard, which can be found up on the top floor is coming along nicely. The group in charge – the same group running Angelwitch – picked it up for a song after former tenant Czech Peter stopped paying rent and the lease was repossessed by Nana Castle, the Nana Plaza leaseholders. It seems that Peter left rather a few debts behind and some very unsavoury types have been floating around Nana looking for him. They looked like the type you really don't want to mess with! Billboard has been redecorated with a large Jacuzzi and showers installed as props for shows. There's new strobe lighting, a new sound system and it's all coming together nicely. The one problem is the lack of staff, specifically dancers. The venue desperately needs more. Who is that slim and trim fellow, all in black, in the photo below? It does rather look like a certain Mr. Rave has lost a few kg!

Bully's, the American run bar & restaurant between Sukhumvit sois 2 and 4, has built up a reputation for tasty and inexpensive Western food. They are working hard to increase sexual appetites during Songkran. Flown in from Washington, fresh U.S. Barron Point market oysters will be shucked and served with lemon, pepper, seafood sauce, bbq onion, fried garlic, horseradish, and a choice of seasoned chili sauces. They'll set you back 480 baht for 6 or 850 baht for a dozen. They are served on crushed ice. Starting off you might try the oyster cocktail shooter. Spiced up tomato, lemon, iced vodka and a Barron Point oyster and juice. 150 each or 6 for 800 baht.

Mention Star Wars in Bangkok and many long term expats will think of the bar in Star Wars – and the Thermae of old which was often referred to as the "Star Wars bar". Those comparisons aren't really valid today, however, and the Thermae is a much more mellow venue which has lost the atmosphere it once had. But there is somewhere on Sukhumvit that resembles the Star Wars bar at certain times of the day, a place where villains, cretins, whores and scum sit alongside each other, perhaps enjoying a drink, or filling their belly with decent, inexpensive food. It is of course the Took Lae Dee diner just inside the doors of the Sukhumvit soi 5 branch of Foodland. That's the closest you'll find to the Star Wars bar in Bangkok these days. But just as Thermae's Star Wars label is no longer valid, you won't be able to mention Foodland and Star Wars in the same sentence for much longer either. The rumour mill has it that the soi 5 branch of Foodland will close down in the next few days. It is anticipated that the supermarket will reopen later in the year after extensive renovations but it is not certain if the Took Lae Dee branch will return. For fans of Took Lae Dee, there is a much bigger branch with exactly the same menu and food inside the Foodland branch on Sukhumvit soi 16. It might not have the same atmosphere, but it is more relaxing, and much spacious – and is open 24 hours just the same.

The best exchange rates in Bangkok can be found at private money changers, such as Wasu and Super Rich. Unlike banks which have uniform rates at every branch, that's not the case with money changers. The chain Super Rich has a good reputation, but different outlets offer different rates. If you were to compare the rates at the Super Rich booth at the Phrom Pong BTS station with the Super Rich booth at the BTS at Chidlom station, for US dollars the rate is .6% better at Chidlom! And if you want the best rates of all, you have to go to the main branch at Pratunam. Hardly worth worrying about if you're changing small amounts, but for larger amounts, it might be worth making the trek.

Anyone looking for an anonymous, inexpensive and competent HIV testing centre should try the HIV NAT (Netherlands, Australia and Thailand) clinic on Rajadamri Road, across from the Sarasin intersection. The laboratory is on-site, and results are available an hour after testing. Highly professional, English-speaking counselors meet with patients both before and after the test. The clinic does not check IDs or passports, and is one of the few medical facilities not required to report test results to the government. With tests running only 200 baht, plus 20 baht for an (anonymous) membership card, it is much cheaper than going to one of the hospitals popular with foreigners. The clinic also offers treatment and monitoring for HIV+ patients, and the cost of anti-retrovials is lower than at any of the big hospitals. There's no need to make an appointment – just show up and get tested!

When you're sitting in the back of a cab on Sukhumvit and your driver, Somchai Schumacher, nails the accelerator and you glance across at the speedo and see he is doing 80 km/h, you think what a scofflaw he is with total disregard for the rules of the road, right? Actually, you'd be wrong! The sign here can be found on Sukhumvit out the front of Benjasiri Park and states that the speed limit on Sukhumvit Road is actually a speedy 80 km/h for cars! It makes me wonder how many Westerners have paid the boys in brown for allegedly speeding, when in fact they were doing less than the speed limit?! I always assumed the limit on Sukhumvit would be 50 km/h or 60 max. I guess the current speed limit is historic and goes back to the time when Sukhumvit Road was the main arterial heading east out of the city.

An expat is moving on and has a number of items for sale including high-end Canon lenses, top quality refrigerator, clothes washer, clothes dryer, AIO printer, APC UPS devices, Racechip Pro for Vigo / Fortuner, new microwave in a box and various other items, all of which must go by April 25. For more details, here.

Dear oh dear. What is happening to foreigners in this city? Last week I highlighted a down and out European who has been living it rough on Sukhumvit. The guy pictured here isn't in quite the same state, but he too was out for the count – and not far from where the other fellow is spotted. It's all rather sad – and doesn't do anything for the reputation of foreigners in Bangkok.



Reader's story of the week comes from a bright young man and is all about whether to live in Thailand or not.

A female Thai private eye talks about her work.

The Bangkok Post featured a photo essay on a brothel raided in Saraburi.

Two Swedes die from electrocution in Krabi.

Voranai's opinion piece in today's Bangkok Post is more honest reflection from a modern Thai guy.

I don't agree with any of CNNGo's choices for Bangkok's best French restaurants! What about Le Beaulieu?!

Proof that tourist scams and rip offs never improve in Thailand, with the usual tuktuk crap taking place in Phuket.

Thailand has admitted using cluster bombs in the recent border skirmishes with Cambodia.

According to the Bangkok Post, the average penis size of Thai men is among the shortest in the world.

20 foreigners were arrested when a Bangkok boiler room operation was raided on Friday.

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 a question regarding my ex-girlfriend. She recently married a farang and the amphur wouldn't allow her to use her first, Thai family name and husband's family name on her identification card i.e.; Wiraporn Ketchagon Smith. It was also stated that she has to change her name on the land deed. Are they correct?
1. A Thai female marries a farang. Can she have her ID card and house book with her first name, Thai family name and the husband's family name? Example Wiraporn Ketchagon Smith.
2. Is a married female required to make a name change on the chanote?

Sunbelt Legal responds: While your wife can take your name, it would have to be as a middle name: Wiraporn Smith Ketchagon. Additionally, she is not required by law to take your family name.

When your wife changes her name she will be issued a certificate of name change which she would then need to use to report and verify to all related sectors that her name would need to be amended i.e. drivers license, house registration, ID card, land title deeds. It is recommended to report the name change as soon as possible.

Question 2: I've been coming to Thailand for some time now, with around 6 or 7 years out of the last 18 spent in the LOS. I'm a fairly good musician and am reasonably well-known in the local scene, having played with, and been long-time friends with, some of the top tier Thai musicians. I'm returning to Thailand with the aim of playing music full-time, both within Thailand and elsewhere in the region. My question is how best to do this legally. I have a decent chunk of money and am planning to open up a music venue / recording studio to use as a home base but I suspect an associated work permit would only allow me to run the bar, not perform in it (or anywhere else). How can I set things up so that I can perform, record and tour legally?

Sunbelt Legal responds: You would need to form a company in order to obtain a work permit, using 2 million baht in capital and 4 Thai employees. You would be able to perform at your own venue, any additional venues that you own would be added as branches. It would be required to have a contract with other venues owned by other companies in order to add their address on to your work permit so you can perform at those other locations.

Question 3: I am a member of one of the 5-star hotel dining clubs. One of the benefits of membership is a 50% discount on food in any of the hotel's restaurants. The hotel gives me a 50% discount on the food, but charges me tax on the full amount before the 50% discount. This strikes me as plain wrong. Why should I have to pay tax on money I am not paying? This seems not just wrong but an illegal practice. Can you please advise?

Sunbelt Legal responds: The hotel must pay tax on the full amount regardless of what discount they choose to give you, the same as when you book award travel on an airline, the tax is charged on the full amount of the ticket regardless of the fact that the ticket is actually free.


Over the past 6 or so months I have been on a health drive. I have exercised more than I have at any point in my life, I am eating better – more choosy about the food I eat, eating smaller servings and greatly reduced meat and dairy and I have reduced my alcohol intake which in fairness has never been a lot anyway. And I have stopped going to buffets. It's been worth it and I feel that now I'm reaping the rewards. I feel fitter now than I have been at any time in my life. I look better. I sleep better and what may interest those who enjoy all that Bangkok has to offer, I feel like an 18-year old again. And no, I am not talking about being a member of the 15-second club! It's amazing the difference it makes when you drop a few kg, get fitter and live better. I've never had the need, fortunately, but I know a lot of guys in Bangkok use Viagra. But I tell you, without an ounce of exaggeration, when you eat well, drop a few kg, tone up and get into shape, you really do feel like an 18-year old again! Surely that alone is reason enough to make an effort to get into shape?

Your Bangkok commentator,

Stick