Stickman's Weekly Column May 1st, 2011

Kampheng Pet


For the last 18 months a mate has been trying to convince me to visit Kampheng Pet. Making the 350 km trek north every weekend to visit his wife, a combination of excuses on my part and bad timing on his part I haven't been able to join him. With the long weekend, the stars finally lined up. Into his car we jumped. Next stop, Kampheng Pet!

Meaning Diamond Wall, Kampheng Pet is perhaps best known for its historical park, a UNESCO site. Remnants of the city's fort remain today, impressive in size, less so in grandeur. From a historical perspective it's interesting, but with the walls and temples in piles of rubble – even calling them ruins seems optimistic – it's more about how impressive it once was than how it looks today.

Those with knowledge of matters military tell me that once upon a time Kampheng Pet served as a strategic fort to keep the Burmese at bay. Apparently the Burmese would be making their way down to Ayuthaya and would have to take on Kampheng Pet first. Bypassing it would leave them vulnerable to being outflanked and having their supply chain cut.



With the Ping River running through the middle, Kampheng Pet has a similar feel to Lampang, Phitsanulok and Tak, all nearby provinces in the lower north, all of which are on the river, and all what you could term medium-sized Thai cities.

Kampheng Pet city proper has perhaps 40,000 people and a somewhat conservative feel about it. It's clean and things are orderly. You don't have the proliferation of soi dogs you often find in provincial Thailand and there are few beggars. The aged dress very conservatively and their spoken Thai is more formal than you would expect. In a region which is firmly red – read a Thaksin Shinawatra / Peua Thai stronghold – the province of Kampheng Pet stands out as being yellow, or in other words, it's a province in which the Democrat party has traditionally done well. This is conservative country, where kids are brought up to respect their elders, to study and work hard and where the family unit is everything. Face comes before money and reputation means everything.

Apart from Chiang Mai and to a lesser extent Chiang Rai and the small towns of Pai and Mae Hong Son, most of remains largely untouched by foreigners. Few foreigners live in the likes of Phitsanulok, Tak, Lampang, Lamphun and the other northern provincial capitals.

The downtown area is small with few highlights and little to grab a foreign visitor. Once you've checked out the riverfront area and zoomed through the main shopping district, all of which is very Thai, there's not much to see.

The temple ruins are more for historians than holidaymakers. Those who wish to check out impressive ruins and grab some holiday snaps would be better off in the likes of Ayuthaya or the nearby Sukhothai, where the ruins are better preserved.

There's a reason Kampheng Pet is not on the tourist trail – you have to hunt for things to see and do.

Any trip to a rural Thai town or provincial capital wouldn't be complete without a trip to the local fresh market. Much more popular than the adjacent Tesco Lotus, Kampheng Pet's central fresh market has every foodstuff you can think of and then some. The sight of cuts of meat hanging all day in the Thai heat, to fish being killed on demand, to buckets with live frogs for sale are sights I never bore of. There are always unusual animals for sale, local specialties, and real characters. I watched as a woman used a meat cleaver to hack large fish into pieces. Watching closely, 4 fingers were missing from her left hand. Obviously she had been a little less careful one morning and some lucky customer got a few human fingers at no extra charge with their pla. In contrast to local markets in a certain other region of the country where the vendors often converse in parsar dalat, a somewhat derogatory term meaning "market talk", or language with a lot of profanity, the vendors in Kampheng Pet were remarkably polite.

So you've seen the river, wandered the town centre and fresh markets and checked out some of the local temples, which like the ruins are historically interesting but hardly impressive compared to what can be seen in other parts of the country, what is there to do? Like I said, Kampheng Pet just isn't on the average foreigner's trail.

So you do what the Thais do. You eat!

The riverfront area is lined with riverside restaurants, of which I don't doubt most are very good. We ate a couple of times at the excellent Barn Rim Nam restaurant which has a huge following amongst locals and is considered to be the best restaurant in the city. Its riverside setting provides views out of the Ping River and the menu features all the old favourites plus a few distinctive dishes of their own. It's easy to find and it's worth stopping by.

Once you've filled your belly, what else is there to do? Chase the local women!

Before heading out into the night to check out the city's nightlife, my mate's wife intimated that should I be keen to pursue company it would almost certainly be available. She did however make a strong point about the serious HIV problem in the province. She noted that some of her friends are HIV+ and some, friends of hers, people she knew well, had died. Her anecdotes and stories revealed a culture of sleeping around and serious philandering in the northern town.

You often hear stories and read in the press how the incidence of HIV is higher in the north than elsewhere in Thailand. Why is this? Are they a randy bunch up there? Or is there a higher use of intravenous drugs? I don't have the answers but I wonder if it is simply that they are more open and honest about the situation.

Back to the nightlife, Kampheng Pet features a small number of venues, all Thai style. There aren't any foreign style venues and you see precious few foreigners anywhere, even in the nightlife venues.

Our first stop was Eagle Pub, a Thai country style venue much smaller than you typically find in the provinces – where such venues can have hundreds of tables. The band was good, the atmosphere fun and everyone was having a great time. The venue's size gave it a much more intimate feel than the giant caverns so typical of bars of its type. Serious thumbs up from the Stick and this would be the recommended venue in town for both music and to attempt to pick up.

Next was 3Time, a larger live music venue where Thai pop and rock was played. The crowd was much younger with many in their late teens, the music a little loud and somehow the venue just didn't do it for me.

The final venue was the city's biggest disco, Banana, which can be found out front of the Pet Hotel. As is the norm in Thai style discos, the venue featured a sound system powerful enough for an outdoor concert, small round tables surrounded by tall stools and everyone drinking the same thing, whisky. I wondered for a moment if even beer was available. You've got to experience a provincial Thai disco at least once, although being so crowded, with music so loud that conversation is almost out of the question, they're not for everyone.

Kampheng Pet's nightlife is good if you're looking for Thai-style venues without the farang infestation. In Kampheng Pet Westerners remain a novelty. The north didn't seem to get the farang-crazy gene that Isaan did and even a clean cut, decently dressed farang may not necessarily appeal. You're not the rock star that you are in Isaan or some venues in Bangkok.

There is the odd woman in Kampheng Pet who has discovered farang. Quite a talking point in town, especially to those in the neighbourhood, is a double shophouse painted bright yellow which a local woman has had paid for 3 times over….by three different farang guys! She also owns more than one car and has had a boob job – and I wonder how many guys paid for those!

At the time of writing, after 48 hours in Kampheng Pet, I've seen the grand total of 4 other foreigners. Bangkok, Pattaya and Phuket have been over run with foreigners for decades, and now all over Thailand the provinces are becoming infested with foreigners. Many are taking the plunge to pursue the Thai lifestyle, while at the same time the arrival of foreigners en masse, in some parts of the country at least, has changed the face of it. The locals look at us differently, and that is partly because there are some places in which, in my efforts not to offend I will simply say, don't attract the best of Farangdom.

The foreigners in Kampheng Pet looked quite respectable, not the drunk by midday variety I dread bumping into when floating around the Thai countryside.

We often give the Thais grief, complaining about this, that and everything else. Much of it is justified, but you can't take away from the Thais their heart and willingness to help someone truly in need. And when it's a foreigner, sometimes they go beyond the call of duty. I was to experience such a moment.

It was our second night out in Kampheng Pet. It was getting late and I was tired. We'd been out drinking late the first night, and it was now well after midnight on our second night out. My friends wanted to party hard but me for it was time to call it a night. Out of the disco I came, and out on to the main road I walked. There are always motorcycle taxis and tuktuks and in provincial Thailand, samlors too. Many transport options. So there I stood, outside the largest hotel in the city centre, and outside the busiest disco. And what did I see? There was a branch of 7 Eleven across the road. The odd car passed by. I saw plenty of motorbikes parked. And I heard music from various nightspots in full swing. It was the busiest part of town at that time of night for sure. But what I didn't hear was "Where you go?" or "You want motosai?" Those phrases that bombard you everyday in Bangkok when you least want it were absent in my moment of need. There I was, 5 kilometres from the hotel, and I wasn't even sure which direction it was. I looked at my watch. 1:01 AM. There were no tuktuks. No motorcycle taxis. No samlors. And no chance of a taxi! How would I get back to the hotel?

I would have paid over the odds. Even a samlor would have done. I just wanted to get back to the hotel and sleep. I was tired, and when I am tired my amiable nature cracks. I get grumpy and am not the nicest, not most fun person to be around.

So there in the middle of a Kampheng Pet night I stood on a dark street corner scratching my head, reviewing my options.

The best bet would probably be to make a 100 baht offer to some young punk on a motorcycle passing by. It would almost certainly get me a lift home. I looked around for some guy who wasn't drunk, not easy late on a Saturday night in the nightlife area of a Thai town. I couldn't see anyone who fitted the bill. The young guys on bikes were either wasted, or had their girlfriend on the back of their bike, or both. I was screwed. I'd have to go back into the disco…

From the shadows I heard a voice. It was that of a young woman, English with a thick American accent. She asked me where I was going. I hadn't seen her until she appeared from inside an open shophouse, the glow of a red Chinese lantern illuminating face. I told her I was hunting for a tuktuk.

"We don't have them here", she said.

"A motorbike taxi will do."

"We don't have them either, at least not at this time of night."

"A samlor then."

"You'll be lucky to find one and if you do he'll be sleeping", a humorous tone now in her voice.

"Well, it looks like I'll be walking then!"

"No, you won't. You can come with me!"

She pops back inside and returns with her handbag, and pulls out some car keys. She points to her car, a black Honda, parked across the street. It's very late on Saturday night, on a dark street corner in the nightlife area of Kampheng Pet. A complete stranger, a foreigner no less is looking for a way to get back to his hotel, and a Thai lady he has never met before offers him a ride. I could have been some nut job and she could have been putting herself in danger. I'd like to think that she had made an assessment on me based on my clean cut appearance and dress and deduced that I was "safe". But the truth is that she had obviously had a few drinks and while not pissed, her judgment was likely impaired. But she could see a foreigner in need, and she saved me an hour's walk back to the hotel, or a negotiation with a young punk with a motorbike.

Over the short 5-minute drive to the hotel, she told me about herself. The daughter of a local doctor, she had spent time in America studying and was now training to be a pharmacist to work with her Dad, who practiced in the local hospital and also ran his own clinic.

We reached the hotel, I thanked her and the sweetheart gave me a deep wai. I was absolutely charmed.

From time to time you hear Thais talking with great pride about the way they are willing help those in genuine need. While I wouldn't say I was someone in genuine need, it was very kind of her.

The food is good, the locals genuine and everything is very cheap. So long as you don't need to go upmarket, you can get a room on the river with everything you need for less than 500 baht.

Kampheng Pet won't set your world alive, but if you're looking for a quiet, laid-back, almost tranquil place to visit that is almost untouched by farangs, it might just appeal. It makes a nice break from the hustle and bustle of Bangkok.


Last week's photo



Where was this photo taken?


Last week's photo was taken looking up Sukhumvit soi 23 and the part of the soi pictured is that between Sukhumvit Road and Soi Cowboy, which is up on the left. The perspective of the photo, taken from the even numbered soi side of Sukhumvit Road seemed to confuse and only a dozen or so clever readers got it right. 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 Duke's Express voucher 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 – Paying the price.

Since moving to Thailand, I noticed people's standards drop as they become more lax with things like health and safety. Case in point would be the number of Westerners who regularly drink and drive. I was one of them, riding my motorbike home after a few too many. It didn't seem like a big deal and even if the police did catch me, I'd be able to sort it out with a quick bribe and be on my way. Last week I got caught in a Songkran clampdown at Sukhumvit soi 19 along with 3 other Westerners and a Thai guy. We were all over the limit to various extents. We all tried to pay our way out of it at the roadside, but there were no takers. We tried again at the station – same result. Long story short we all went to court on Monday and received the same punishment – 8,000 baht fine, license suspended for 6 months, 12 hours community service, report to the court every 3 months for a year and 2 years probation. If we are caught again, we face 3 months in prison! We were all shocked at the severity of the sentences and I wanted to let others know just how careful they should be.

Pattaya vs. Phuket.

You mentioned that the difference between Pattaya and Phuket is getting less and less noticeable. I agree with you on that and sadly, Pattaya seems to be coming out looking better. I can get a 10 baht bus ride anywhere around the beach road circuit in Pattaya and the driver actually smiles at me when I give him the 10 baht fare, unlike in Phuket where the tuktuk drivers would rather sit in their empty tuktuks than drive someone a kilometre for 100 baht. The water quality is going downhill dramatically in Phuket. I found snorkelling at Koh Larn off Pattaya wasn't much worse for visibility than snorkelling off Kata Beach in Phuket. I like Rock Hard A Gogo, but you didn't mention that ladies drinks are 180 baht, considerably higher priced than in Pattaya or Bangkok bars. Even many beer bars on Soi Bangla charge 180 baht for ladies drinks.

Slamming the ungrateful Brit!

Having read last week's email of the week, where a retired working class chap describes how he left the UK to live in Thailand due to the UK being too expensive for him, I was left asking myself why this person could possibly "despise" the UK. Is it not the UK that has provided him with the means to live comfortably in retirement in Thailand? If he had been born working class Thai instead of working class British, it is very doubtful that he would have the relatively comfortable life he had led and has now, and his wife would probably have no interest in him too. Furthermore, it is not the UK's fault that he couldn't pull himself up from being working class, as the UK provides far better opportunities for its citizens than Thailand does. Finally, taxes in the UK are barely higher than in Thailand – it's just that Thailand's weak and corrupt economy means that very few people earn enough to pay tax, and those that do can avoid paying it easily. It is ridiculous that someone can be so ignorant and selfish to think that this is a good thing.

What's the difference?

I saw 2 topless katoeys dancing on Soi 4 during Songkran, up on top of a big ice cooler in plain view for everyone to see. So I guess I don't understand the outrage caused by the girls on Silom. What's the difference besides the cock?

Covering up a recent thing?

Reading the “Songkran Topless Dancer” article from last week's column made me think about a time when I was with my girlfriend in a guesthouse in Chiang Mai. On one of the walls there was a large black and white photo of a hill tribe in Thailand and the women were topless. I would guess it was taken around 1920 – 1930. I expressed surprise to my girlfriend, knowing how Thais frown on such things and she told me that in the past it was quite normal. When we were in her hometown I saw an elderly neighbour let everything hang out while she hung out her washing. So it seems that the need for a woman to cover her breasts in Thailand is a recent western import which they've wholeheartedly embraced. How sad!

Nails and logs in southern bars.

About the large cross-section of logs used for nailing outside of bars. Years ago in Ko Samui such logs in bars were used for a form of gambling. All contestants would bet a drink and the first to hit the nail flush won all. Because they use a hammer with a small end – a cement hammer – it was quite challenging for those not used to it. Hence small Thai girls were very often better at it than the muscular male tourist. That may be why you see the girls practicing. Hand to eye co-ordination.

Thoughts from Patong.

Maybe Patong does reflect the young maidens' best potential for a bang for your bucks. Couple that with the fact the punters are not on some kind of mission from head office for a couple of nights, rather on holiday with a completely different agenda and frame of mind. So like the hare and the tortoise, maybe the Patong girls' chances of winning the lottery are greater than their Bangkok sisters? Imagine what Dave the Rave could achieve even by default in Bangla. Patong's crying out for a class act gogo. It doesn't even have to be located on the main drag. There's a total excess of accommodation, with a new hotel or guesthouse opening up daily, gravity defeating lemmings have a great chance. During my first visit 31 years ago, all the locals were proud to point out that Patong would never be spoiled because there was an agreement and understanding that no building could be higher than the coconut palm trees. At that time Patong Resort, the highest building, was of course no higher than the said coconut trees. In fact it was surrounded by them and the setting was idyllic. However when money's relative Big Bucks came into town the trees' days, water quality of the bay and environmental controls were sorely numbered. Yesterday's role model was Pattaya, its ambition is to turn the tables, whereby Pattaya's role model is Patong. One day I would really like you to come and stay for 5 days to a week, to really pick up the flavour and ambiance of where the majority of the farang community lives on this island – Chalong. Phuket's no more Patong than Nevada is Las Vegas. Sure, Chalong / Phuket is not somewhere to come to work, as either it simply doesn't exist or if it does it bares no relation to western salaries. Rather it's somewhere to retire to, and to me it can't be beat. Farangland in the middle of Thailand – the best of both worlds.



The Arab is continuing his pursuit of a hostile take over of Soi Cowboy. Strong rumours have it that Raw Hide will be the next bar to fall under control of The Arab. Unpopular with many with business interests in Cowboy, The Arab has enlisted the help of one of the best known Thais on the soi to help him negotiate with bar owners. There are quite a few who refuse to deal with The Arab, concerned that his plans to buy up the soi will change it irreparably and as such an intermediary is needed to keep the identity of the person behind the deals secret. The Arab is unpopular for a number of reasons, primarily because of the way he treats his staff and the way his security staff have attacked and beaten up customers badly in the past. One does have to concede that his bars look great and he can be attributed as the guy behind the transformation of Cowboy into a little Strip, a la Las Vegas.

Shane, the former manager and owner of popular Walking Street gogo bar, Living Dolls, was tragically killed in a road accident on ANZAC Day, while on his was to pay his respects at an ANZAC memorial service held near Hellfire Pass in Kanchanaburi province. The affable Aussie had been a stalwart of Pattaya for years and will be missed by many. May he rest in peace.

Sukhumvit soi 33's house of horrors, the fetish bar, Demonia, located down past Monet is celebrating its 8th anniversary next week with specials deal on each of Friday, Saturday and Sunday night. The slave auction on Sunday night sounds interesting!

Cowboy closed at 1 AM on Monday night and all the bars were in complete darkness by 1:10 AM. One foreign bar owner was particularly concerned, imploring punters to settle their bill and get the hell out of there. And the soi closed at 1 AM most nights since Monday. It is expected to revert back to 2 AM closing tonight.

This past Thursday was the grand opening of White Lioness, the new venue in Sukhumvit soi 12 that promises to feature white meat, oops, I mean white women. I haven't had a chance to check it out yet but am intrigued to do so. White Lioness is located about 100 metres into the soi on the left hand side, not far before the popular Cabbages and Condoms restaurant.

It's hard to believe that Pretty Lady Bar in Nana Plaza has been around for 17 years, but it's true! On Friday, May 6, the bar celebrates its 17th anniversary in style. Besides the normal low prices, there will be the option to go for a 850 baht all you can drink, a flat rate. The wheel of fortune will spin every hour with chances to win drinks and bar fines. Free food will be available and the usual hot girls, sex shows and fun is promised. All are welcome!

A few weeks back I mentioned that traversing Soi Cowboy is becoming more of a chore with every man and his soi dog setting up stalls selling this or that. And now it is even worse since Baccarra added an extension to the outside area of the bar, increasing seating capacity with the outside area of the bar extending even further out into the soi. This will surely be copied by other bars as owners realise they can increase seating capacity. This will make the soi even more difficult to negotiate than it already is! On Friday and Saturday nights Soi Cowboy can be brimming with people and while I applaud the bars' ingenuity in increasing seating capacity, making the soi more cramped does nothing for the customer's experience.

The original Hillary Bar on soi 4, opposite Nana Condo, is closed for a few days while the front is remodeled as they too jump on the open the front end of the bar up bandwagon. Good for smokers, but you have to ask the question – is there much to watch that far down the soi? For the best views, Stumble Inn and Big Dogs are the places to be as they are right beside the entrance to Nana Plaza – the heart of the action on soi 4 – with Strikers, Golden Beer Bar, Bar4 and Morning Night all good too.

Beavers, the first gogo bar on the left on Walking Street, a smaller, single shophouse venue will close shortly. I only made it there a few times and while it had a following, and the owners had a definite pedigree, it never lit up my world.

It's the best part of 10 years since Bangkok's biggest boiler room bust when the Bangkok Post front's page embarrassed 87 foreigners busted for working as part of a boiler room scam, selling bogus shares over the phone to gullible Aussies and Kiwis. There have been more busts in recent times but that was the biggest. It's widely known in expat circles that boiler room operations continue to operate here in Bangkok and it's just as widely known that it's imprudent to say much about them publicly. The amount of money turned over means that putting the spotlight on those involved could be seriously hazardous to your health. As such, don't go expecting an expose in this column. Ever. But, it does seem that the kingpins have lowered their standards and some of the complete morons they are hiring these days are doing their best to give the game away. I had been for a run and had stopped to buy some fruit from a street vendor to take back to the condo when some young goons came out of a large office building in central Bangkok, laughing, playing the fool and generally yahooing. They were dressed in business attire but didn't have ties – so they obviously weren't serious businessmen. They were wearing crappy shoes – an indicator that they could be English teachers – but a couple had haircuts that made them look like hedgehogs – so they just had to be boiler room boys! Once I caught what they were saying, mouthing off as if they wanted people to know how great and successful they were, I knew they were involved in a boiler room. No doubt the Thais who were there thought they were young businessmen in Thailand doing good things. These guys are utterly clueless, but then I guess when young guys make a lot of money fast in a city with plenty to enjoy that money on, perhaps it all gets a bit much?

The little Cheap Charley soi in Sukhumvit 11 is about to undergo some changes. Sabai Sabai massage has gone after many years and moved to soi 13. In its place will be two new restaurants, cuisine yet unknown. The much loved Pickled Liver looks like its license won't be renewed and rumour has it that its doors won't remain open forever. This little soi is turning into a foodies' delight with a couple of Thai restaurants, a couple of curry houses, a tapas cafe, Charley Brown's Mexican, a burger joint and as many as three new restaurants opening up soon. It makes a nice spring board before heading off to Bed Supper club, Q Bar or one of the bars further up the soi.

Speaking of Charley Brown's, there will be a Cinco de Mayo Party next week, an American tradition, celebrating a rare Mexican victory over the French in 1862. This Cinco de Mayo looks to be a good one, with special offers on Corona, Herradura and Patron tequilas, who are all sponsoring the party.

In a recent column I mentioned that anyone keen to get 3G internet access could rock up to a True shop and how easy it is to get set up with a post-paid contract. Apparently prepaid True 3G SIMs have been available for a while too. There are various plans available, some of which can be found here and here. You should be able to buy True 3G SIMs anywhere mobile phone and accessories are sold such as MBK, Panthip Plaza etc. It should be noted that True 3G operates on 850 MHz, which is non standard. Most phones do 3G on 2100 MHz with some on 900 MHz, you might find that your existing phone doesn't support True 3G so check with the person selling the SIM. While 3G might be all the rage, reports from two people I know who use True 3G are that compared to other countries, the 3G available in Thailand is not that good, slower than what you find elsewhere and the coverage area for 3G is still very limited. Also, sometimes 3G access just stops for a while and then returns some time later! It should also be noted that when it comes to 3G, be wary of post-plans with a bandwidth limit where you may end up being charged more than you expect if you exceed your allocated bandwidth.

Popular Mexican restaurant Sunrise Tacos has introduced a massively expanded new menu with many new items listed. Please note though that there is a limited menu at the Central World outlet.

English soccer is ultra popular in Thailand and live matches can be seen everywhere. Rugby, particularly southern hemisphere rugby, is increasingly popular and most English, Irish, Aussie and Kiwi bars in Bangkok and Pattaya show matches live. But what about ice hockey? From time to time readers, invariably Canucks, ask me where they can catch ice hockey live in Bangkok, but I really do not know. I can't ever remember any signs up in bars promoting live ice hockey being broadcast. Can any readers help our Canadian friends?

The Dollhouse in Soi Cowboy and Malibu Bar in Patong Beach each have a sign with the same slogan outside their bar. As best I am aware, these bars aren't owned by the same person. So who's the copy cat?

The trend of more young expats and more single female white expats relocating to Bangkok continues. It would seem that quite a few are here due to economic problems at home. It's not so much a desire to live in Thailand, but a desire to get a recession job, and to make sure that there is something on their résumé, rather than just a blank space. It will be interesting to see how they warm to the Thailand lifestyle and whether they actually return home to pursue their first choice career.

And on the subject of Western women in Bangkok, don't make the mistake of thinking that this is exclusively a boys' town. Think about it. Women like shopping and Bangkok has a zillion shopping malls. Women love to make themselves look good – and Thais are all into that with salons and nail care outlets everywhere. Women like to be pampered and Thailand is a centre for spas and massage / health centres. And many of the things that men like, such as the good food, the warm weather and the low cost of living appeal to women just as much. Don't make the mistake of thinking that Western women don't like Bangkok. Au contraire!

Another one bites the dust. Dean Barrett has decided to call it a day and today was to see the final edition of his column published. Dean decided to stop doing his column as it took too much time away from writing novels. Bangkok expat columns with a nightlife slant are very much a dying breed.

I have had so many bad experiences patronising new businesses that I am reluctant to go anywhere in Bangkok that has not had a glowing recommendation from a trusted friend. And this week it happened again. I had a hot date lined up so in addition to buying a nice new shirt, a haircut was in order. But blast, the place I usually go to was taking an extended Songkran holiday so off I went to a new place. After sitting down I was told that the cutter was busy and it would be 15 minutes….and would I like a head massage (at 250 baht). No thanks, I'll wait. Cutter mysteriously appears 30 seconds later! Cutting my hair, he asks if I would like some colour because "your head is full of grey hair", which is a total exaggeration. No thanks. He pouts as only a gay guy can. Next he asks if I would like some vitamins for my scalp. "You have bad scalp, need to fix, have vitamin from Europe, only 650 baht". No, I don't want any vitamins, or colour, or massage, just a haircut! The final straw was when some bird came over and asked if I would like some serum, whatever the hell that would do. I said to her that I had already taken my vitamins for the day which left her looking perplexed. When I went to leave, the receptionists were mystified that the bill was only 250 baht. It seems I am the first person in the history of that salon to not get sucked in to any of the extras. The cut was fine but the hassles made it one stressful experience. No way will I go back. Sadly it is experiences like this that make me stick to businesses I am familiar with. It doesn't matter if it is a bar, a restaurant, a professional services company or whatever, it always seems to be like this!

Reader's story of the week comes from Felix, "The Crimes of Angeles".

Left-leaning nut jobs are aghast that Western countries are putting pressure on Thailand over alcohol bottle labelling.

CNNGo profiles Chris Coles works, which it says represent a bleaker, seedier side of Bangkok life.

Australia is trying to extradite two Thai students back to Oz to face murder charges.

Two Kiwi women talk about their nightmare ordeal in Thailand.

The New York Times reports some Thai food can be hazardous to your health!

From Time magazine, Thai authorities forced the closure of 13 anti-government radio stations on Tuesday.

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: Can I get a work permit if I work for a factory that my Thai father-in-law has started, and does his business need to have 2 million baht in capital or a certain number of Thai employees? If I invest in his factory, does that change the situation? It is likely that I would be a minority investor. If I invest in his factory, what would be the best way to do that, own certain assets outright like a machine or to own a percentage of his business?

Sunbelt Legal responds: Regardless of whether the company is wholly or partially owned by Thais, 2 million baht capitalization is required to obtain a work permit so long as the job does not fall under one of the restricted categories. However, since your spouse is Thai, the capitalization can be halved to 1 million baht. 4 Thai employees listed in the company's social fund are normally required but this can be halved in the first year as you are married to a Thai.

If you invest in the business then you would be buying shares in the company. The market value of the shares could be mutually agreed or have a neutral business appraiser undertake a due diligence and determine a fair market value. Owning shares in the company will not be interpreted as you owning specific assets of the company. But if you desire to own certain assets, you may have to form your own limited company and have your company acquire those assets.

Question 2: Is it true that if I am involved in a road accident that irrespective of how minor it is, I must leave my vehicle where it is until the police attend the scene of the accident and even if the vehicles are blocking a busy road or intersection that they cannot be moved? This seems like a crazy law with the snarling traffic congestion here in Bangkok. Can you please let me know if this is true and also any other laws I should be aware of if I have the misfortune to be involved in a road accident.

Sunbelt Legal responds: If both parties involved in the accident cannot agree on fault and the police are required to determine culpability then you must leave the vehicle where it is at in order for the police to investigate the scene of the accident. The traffic police will spray paint the location of each vehicle on the road for the insurance representatives. While the police may give an opinion as to fault, the insurance representatives of both parties will have to discuss the case. But if one party admits fault, the situation would be less complicated and the vehicles can be moved from the scene. The insurance representative would record the claim. However, accepting fault would affect your policy with the insurance company and could raise rates.

Question 3: I have had received two tickets for speeding in the last few months, each from speed cameras. They were sent to me through the mail, a 500 baht fine each time. I was not particularly concerned about them and paid the fines promptly. I have since been told by a mate that if I accrue a certain number of speeding tickets within a certain period of time then my licence can be suspended for a period. This is obviously a concern as not only would it mean I was driving without a licence, but also that my insurance would not be valid! Can you please let me know what the laws are regarding the accrual of demerit points and the suspension of your local Thai driving licence.

Sunbelt Legal responds: The 16 primary clauses in the nation's traffic violation point system are divided into four categories. Each invokes traffic violation points ranging from 10 – 40 points recorded against drivers committing offences. Drivers will be required to attend mandatory driver's training for repeating any one violation a second time within a one-year period. Any driver accumulating over 60 points is restricted from driving for a period of 90 days.


If you felt there's been less nightlife news over the past several months, and that I have been slowly moving away from covering the nightlife, you'd be right. This is less a conscious effort, more a result of my lifestyle. Quite simply, I find it hard to enjoy myself in the naughty bars. When I go out, I much prefer to go to places where I can chat with friends, like expat pubs. I still wander through the nightlife areas and I still stop by the bars from time to time, but it's more about observing, gathering news and gossip for the column than a night out in that environment. I guess it's telling that I haven't been to Pattaya for about 7 months! There are a number of sites and forums where you can find nightlife reports and guys' rampages through the bars of Bangkok and Pattaya, but this site is not one of them. The forums that cover this sort of thing usually hide the naughty boy trip reports inside a members' only area, meaning you have to be a known, trusted member to get access to the spicy stuff. When it comes to the naughty nightlife, I am quite happy just sitting on the sidelines, observing…

Your Bangkok commentator,

Stick