Stickman's Weekly Column June 12th, 2011

Stick, Lecherous Lee And A Great Night Out!


Imagine a venue the size of a large old cinema auditorium, you know, the sort of auditorium that could seat 1,000 or so people, from the days of real cinemas. Imagine that it was as dark inside as a cinema auditorium, and with music much, much louder than a Thai cinema. Imagine some of the best artists in Thailand performing live. And imagine – and I exaggerate not – that 2/3 of the customers are female, and 95% are aged early 20s to late 30s. And imagine, if you will, that not only are a good percentage open-minded to meeting a white man, but you and your mate are the only two white guys in the place!

Stick and Lecherous Lee, Batman and Robin if you will, are burned out on Sukhumvit. We long ago tired of the country maidens, the relatively high prices and the downright poor service. Tourists may love them, but to us Cowboy and Nana are a bore. So these days we spend our nights out in Thai-style venues. And we have a blast!

Our favourite venue looks like a barn from outside. It's basic, but with that said, the lighting system is anything but basic, lighting up a large stage where various acts perform throughout the night. House bands some nights, guest performers on others. You wouldn't call the place flash, but it's clean and comfortably cool.

There are hundreds of tables. Not quite the plastic chairs and metal tables you get at streetside food vendors, but not really built for comfort either. At one end of each table is a small trolley where bottles of drinks for the table are placed – usually whiskey, mixers and a bucket of ice.

99.9% of the customers are Thai so that means Thai music with only the odd song in English. With that said, time it right and you might just see Thai stars perform mini concerts including some of the biggest names, like Loso or Carabao. The music is loud. Thai loud. Too loud.

Drinking is Thai-style and the vast majority of customers drink whiskey. Typically customers buy a large bottle, mixers are provided and everyone at the table drinks the same thing. On a per glass basis, it works out real cheap. Wait staff fall over themselves to make sure that your glass is near full, topping it up with your choice of soda, Coke or water.

Beer is available and is unusually good. Excellent micro-brewed beer is just 120 baht a half litre, and available in larger jugs or beer towers at prices that compare favourably with anything on Sukhumvit or Silom.

The dance floor is but the small spaces between tables. Pesky toilet attendants rub your back when you're hanging the sausage out at the urinal. In other words the venue is designed for Thais. Not a single consideration is given to foreigners. I don't even think there are menus in English and the staff are not expected to speak farang. We shouldn't like these venues, but we do. No, we love these places. Each week the excitement builds up, day by day, to our one night out a week in these venues. We really look forward to our night out Thai-style!

On this particular night we arrived early, around 8:30 PM. It was less than a 100 baht taxi ride from The Londoner, where we'd just stuffed ourselves on a gourmet meal for what amounted to peanuts. We somehow scored one of the best tables in the house, three tables from the front and slap in the centre. We had a great view of the stage, weren't too close to the speakers and most importantly, out tables was surrounded by other tables. And those tables were full of local women!

Being the only two foreigners in a cavernous venue makes us rather a novelty. We know it, we revel in it and we exploit it!

Really not that far from the farang district of Sukhumvit and only a few kilometres from the skytrain, it feels like we were in another city. Yet this is still Bangkok. The real Bangkok, not the farang version.

Meeting locals is easy. It's as simple as being neatly dressed and wearing your best smile. Look like you're fun, and the Thais want to know you. Smile a lot and they will be all over you. As they fill their glasses and toast each other, expect glasses to be thrust in your direction from adjacent tables as they dare to break the ice and say hello to the foreigners.

And it's not just the girls, but the guys who are keen to chat with foreigners. Inevitably it will be about football, but soon the conversation will turn to Thai women. They say that Thai men aren't keen on Westerners coming and taking their women, but where the middle classes are found, local guys are eager to pair you off with a local lass. Once they're satisfied that you're ok, they'll be pulling girls over to you, from their table, or maybe even others!

Before we know it we're chatting with ladies at the tables around us. Glasses are thrust at us. They'd initiate conversation in English, but be thrilled to discover we can speak their lingo. With that said, it can be a struggle when your ears are ringing with deafening Thai rock music pounding from every direction and a Thai lass's excitement overcoming her as she drifts into slang and speaks a million miles an hour.

Excited conversation is followed by you being pulled to your feet, an invitation to show off your best dancing moves. Drinking, singing, dancing. To the locals it's all sanuk. Dance with her and she'll be interested.

As they night goes on, they fight to manoeuvre into your space, to dance with you. Girls from one table jump in between you and the girl you're dancing with. It's the Thai way, how they famously yang-gun over a guy – try and pull one guy from another girl. If you didn't come with her, you're fair game. Even if you did, she might try and slip you her number. Phone numbers come from all directions and you need to be organised to remember who's who.

One girl was showing a lot of interest, dancing all around me and getting a bit touchy feely. Hands around the waist, pulling me closer, giving all the right signals.

The night accelerates towards the 2 AM closure, and with 4 long islands down me before we even got there, it only took a few beers to play havoc with the system. Some time around 1:30 AM we decide to make a beeline for the exit. The bird who was showing major interest had slipped off to the loo so I didn't have a chance to say goodbye.

As we staggered out of the venue, our ears ringing, our heads shaking and our stomachs ready to empty themselves of the ridiculous overdose of putrid sugars we'd consumed, we manage to get ourselves into a cab. In the midst of explaining to the driver where we wanted to go – no easy task when we were both rotten drunk – dropping me off at Stick HQ before depositing Lee back at his place, all hell breaks loose!

With the cab reversing, the door on my side, behind the driver, is flung open. Was it the boys in brown? Were we about to be interrogated in the car park? Is it some sort of offence for foreigners to party with good girls?

But it wasn't the cops. It was a girl I'd been dancing with. She had managed to open the door of a moving vehicle and successfully leap on to my lap, gogo girl style!

“Where you go?”

“Why you go?”

“You not want go with me?”

The questions came thick and fast, question after question before I could even answer the first.

“I'm tired and need to sleep”, I protest, the thought of a long sleep in my comfortable bed more appealing than a ride with this creature from heaven.

It's a crazy life in Thailand. There I was, with a pretty, 20-something Thai woman throwing herself at me. She was all mine. There was no pretention. There'd be no palm held out in the morning. She'd be there because she wanted to be there. But it was late. I made out that I had a busy day the next day. To her shock and amazement, I turned her down. That didn't resonate with the stories Thais have about farangs all being sex crazy. A lovely Thai woman was throwing herself at me and I turned her down. Maybe I'll regret it when I am on my death bed and have but minutes left on this earth?

As she pleaded with me in the back of the taxi, which was now blocking the car park, to go with her, I remember Lee muttering something to the effect that I had better tip the driver well. With much effort I eventually managed to open the door and gently ease her out.

On the way home we reflected on how guys in the West would kill for such a night out, and how many simply wouldn't believe some of what we get up to.

This was but one such night out. There have been many, and no doubt there will be many more.

I still had a buzz going the next morning, and it wasn't because I'd had too much to drink. It's seldom you have such a great night out, but as I woke up the next morning and prepared myself for the day ahead, I was already thinking ahead to the following week, when we would do it all over again!

Such venues exist all over Bangkok, and in every large, medium and even some small towns around Thailand you'll find similar.

You don't have to be able to speak Thai to enjoy these places although it probably helps. Westerners are welcome and whether you speak Thai or not, the service staff will do their best to help you, using what little English they have, or perhaps dragging over a member of staff who is known to speak farang.

Many feel they've arrived in heaven when they first discover the bar industry in Thailand. Most realise, sooner or later, that it's all about the money.

Those relocating to the Kingdom think they've found paradise when they sign up for one of the better online dating sites with huge numbers of women keen to meet them. But again, in time, they realise that it is not the Holy Grail. Many women on farang-centric dating sites are farang-crazy. They want you because you are farang. Translation: Almost any farang will do.

It's when you back yourself to meet Thai women a more conventional way, real Thai women in real settings, the places you might typical meet someone in your own country, that I reckon you're starting to get closer to the Holy Grail.

Admittedly these aren't places for those who are most concerned about the end game. These are fun venues where there's a great night out to be had and with the right attitude and a bit of luck, anything is possible. Sometimes I think you need the looks of Brad Pitt and the money of Bill Gates to have fun like this in the West.

It takes guts to pick up your life and move it from your homeland to the other side of the world, from one continent to another, to a place where you don't know the language, where there are no guarantees and nothing in the way of job security. So why do guys go to all the effort to up sticks and move to Thailand, yet when they get here confine themselves to 1 or 2 square kilometres of the country? Why is it that so many only know Sukhumvit – and only a short strip of it at that? These venues that Lee and I go to are open to foreigners and yes, you really are very welcome! And no, you don't need a visa to visit!

There's so much fun to be had in the Thai venues and for us it's hard to justify visiting the likes of Nana or Cowboy. The Thai style venues are just so much fun.

If you want to go there, jump in any cab and tell the driver to take you to……

These venues are everywhere! Head out into the suburbs and when you see a barn with a neon sign in Thai, a full car park and local music wafting across the steamy South-East Asian night, you're exactly where you want to be. Keep an open-mind and you might just have a great time.

Last week's photo



Where was this photo taken?


Last week's photo was taken outside O'Reilly's, the Irish pub on the corner of Silom Road and Soi Thaniya. Surprisingly, few people 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.

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. 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.


ThaiFriendly.com – the #1 site for Thai dating

FROM STICK'S INBOX (These are emails from readers and what is written here was not written by Stick.) Preference may be given to emails which refer to the previous week's column.

EMAIL OF THE WEEK – A resourceful mamasan.

Last year a slightly drunk young Russian appeared in a gogo on Walking Street. One of the dancers, a real cutie, spotted him and seemed to know him, and a slightly bizarre sign language conversation ensued. I thought he'd been ripped off or something as he was getting quite agitated. Then the mamasan whipped out an IPad, opened up a Thai-Russian translator, and asked him what the problem was. Turned out that he wanted to barfine her, but didn't know how! 2 minutes of intensive negotiation on the part of him and the mamasan and they were on their way with big grins on their faces. I could only assume the manager or owner was a farang as it was too simple and clever an idea for most Thais!

Good girls and bad bars.

Just thought I would ping you about your comment about taking good girls to Cowboy and Nana. While I don't recommend it on a first date, I have had good, middle-class, professional Thai girls ask me to take them to Cowboy and Nana. They're too shy to go by themselves and too embarrassed to ask their Thai friends to go. I'm not especially known for hitting the naughty nightlife but they'll bring it up and ask what I think. I tell them what I think – it is what it is. Then they'll shyly admit that they've always wanted to go but were afraid. Then they'll pop the question and ask if I'll chaperone them. I've probably had 4 or 5 girls ask. Granted, these are mostly friends and not love interests and I've usually known the girl for some time and she knows I'll look out for her.

The underage problem could be eliminated, if the bars wanted to eliminate it.

Like you I do not support underage girls working in the bars and clubs. While the punters are in part to blame for going with these girls, if it is to be stopped it is the bar owners who need to act. I was in a bar in Nana when a girl caught my eye. I called her over for a drink. Up close she looked young so I asked her age. We played a bit of a guessing game about our ages but finally she told me she was 20 and had worked in the bar for 4 months. Based on her attitude and ability to speak English I would have said she was not new to the business. She was very keen to be barfined so after a few drinks off we went. She wanted to go to one of the short time hotels in Nana but I took her back to my hotel where she had to produce her ID card. There was a discussion with the hotel receptionist and much to my embarrassment I was told she was 17 so they turned her away. She again suggested we go to a short time hotel but I took her back to the bar. The bar did not make a great deal of fuss and suggested I pick a new lady and there would be no barfine. They soon fixed me up with a very attractive girl who was in her 20s. Before we left the bar for the night, the 17-year old was back on stage and soon sitting with another customer. I have no doubt she would have been barfined again that night.

The bar industry in the harsh light of day.

I called in to Strikers yesterday morning at 10:30. I just fancied a couple of beers whilst observing the comings and goings at the Nana Hotel and Golden Bar. I saw a couple of really skanky looking girls supping bottles of Singha. One had a few cuts covered by makeup. They were both loud and drunk, and had no doubt been up all night. Unbelievably a guy in Strikers summoned them over and took one back to his hotel while the other girl sat there. She was quickly asked to leave. It got me thinking. Maybe those girls had suffered emotional mess and now know nothing else? What was even more disturbing is that somebody would pay to sleep with them! An Irish guy who was jetlagged after just arriving on his first visit to Thailand was shocked and commented it was seedy where he was staying. I reassured him that come night time I was sure he would have a good time whether or not he was after naughty bars or normal bars.

Unusual billing practice.

I wanted to comment about The Arab's bars. Saturday night I was out with a party of 7 people around 10:30 PM. We found it difficult to manoeuvre in Tilac and you have a better chance of winning the lottery if you want a seat in Baccarra. That place is a gold mine and they should sell tickets to get in there. Anyway, one of my friends latched on to a girl outside Sahara and against my wishes we went in and got good seats. Now I usually take your advice when it comes to Cowboy and Nana and avoid the Arab's bars. However, I was pleasantly surprised. The atmosphere was a little cold but the decor was outstanding, the girls seemed happy to be there and we didn't even buy any lady drinks. A few girls came up to us and chatted away without any requests for a lady drink. This might have been because 3 out of the 8 people I was with speak fluent Thai. The one big problem I had however was when the bill came the items were not itemized. BIG RED FLAG. My friend called over the manager and they spoke for about 5 minutes and she came back with everything itemized with the same total as the original bill.

Protecting the sanctity of religious symbols.

I found the article you linked to on the religious tattoo crackdown to be amusing. Those of us who travel to Thailand rather frequently (or who are married to a Thai!) should not find it difficult to imagine Thai politicians and authorities engaging in such hypocrisy. Of course, Thailand does not have this market cornered; we see plenty of similar examples of hypocritical behaviour by authorities and politicians in the West. But, to the Thais, let me pose this question: If you are truly serious about protecting the sanctity of religious symbols, then are you going to crack down on all the hi-so Thai girls running around Bangkok wearing crucifixes as a piece of jewellery merely for fashion, rather than as a symbol of their commitment to the Christian faith? Food for thought, true commitment to higher principles and ideals is not bound by your own prejudices.

How to travel to Bangkok in utter discomfort!

The bus trip from Bangkok to Khon Kaen was hell! The air-conditioning wasn't working, and instead just blowing hot air. They lied when I complained and said it would be okay when we got going but of course it wasn't and my clothes were saturated as sweat poured off me the whole trip. Even worse, the bus was alive with cockroaches by the hundreds, if not thousands! I am not exaggerating! They were all over the floor like a flood up the seats and I was even brushing them off my trouser legs! But when I pointed out the problem to the bus attendant she just ignored me completely and what was even more amazing to me was that not a single Thai passenger spoke up! I just don't get it. This is clearly one reason why Nakornchai Air, who I was unable to get a seat with, is so popular and now seats can only be had by booking well in advance! Their competition is just so pitiful and disgusting.

Billboard in Nana Plaza is really pumping with pro dancers performing choreographed shows between the regular dancers doing the Bangkok shuffle. The pro dancers are not officially available although they do accept lady drinks, they like to flirt with customers and there is nothing preventing anyone from making private arrangements. Billboard is one of few bars that has managed to capture the vibe of 10 years ago. It's not about the prettiest girls – Billboard has some lookers but far from the prettiest in Nana, but in term of vibe, feel and atmosphere, it rocks! But the love affair with Billboard is not without its issues and the bar is far from perfect. They've brought one of the negatives from the past back in to the present. Smoking. Ashtrays abound in Billboard and more than a few guys are taking the opportunity to light up. Having become used to 95% of Bangkok bars being smokefree, that's a throwback we non-smokers can do without.

The new gogo bar being built next to Billboard on Nana's top floor will be called Vegas and it looks like it's almost finished. Bright red / green Perspex sheets have been erected outside with playing cards decorating the exterior. With the very real possibility that there is only 18 months left in Nana Plaza's illustrious career – and a very real chance the plaza could go the same way as Washington Square – the building crew has been working overtime. The other night in Nana the grating sound of circular saws could be heard after dark and long into the night. Vegas is owned by the same people in charge at Billboard so it is going to be interesting to see how many girls from Billboard move next door. Interesting times for Billboard with it currently riding high. I reckon there's a good chance that Vegas could attract punters from Billboard, and effectively cannibalize Billboard's sales. Expect it to open this month.

With Nana Plaza doing well and making a genuine comeback, there's at least one venue in Nana where business has not turned around, it has suffered a massive downturn. Big Dogs, the beer bar at the mouth of the plaza, used to be packed day and night, but whenever I walk past these days it looks like it is in the depths of the low season, super quiet. Anecdotally it seems that trade is way down and I would put that down to two reasons. The first is that there is much more competition with a number of new street front beer bars having opened in soi 4 in recent months. Secondly, the bar needs to shirk the practice of hiring staff which resemble the bar's name.

Bunnies in Nana is closed again. That spot seems to be condemned and no matter what sort of bar pops up there, it just doesn't seem to work. I've no idea why it is closed, or when it will reopen.

One young lass in Angelwitch in Bangkok was barfined an amazing 73 times last month – the highest I have ever heard for one month. What is even more amazing is that she only worked for 3 weeks, and not the full month! It's easy to be skeptical when you hear such stories, but for sure, this is verified 100%.

Fans of the British pub Pickled Liver rocking around to the sub soi off Sukhumvit soi 11 that it shared with Cheap Charlie's and Charley Brown's will find it closed. If you're looking for that quiet English pub atmosphere that its back alley location afforded, you'll have to fight with the crowds at Sukhumvit soi 7/1 when it reopens in its new location some time next month.

Word on Sukhumvit is that bars with pool tables are seeing a downturn in the use of the pool tables. And at 20 baht a frame, as seems to be the standard rate around town, many venues aren't seeing the sort of returns they had hoped for. Customers might find that some venues' pool tables might mysteriously morph overnight into tables where one can sit and where food can be ordered. Pool halls will still be pool halls, but bars with a few pool tables at the book might reduce the number of them, or get rid of them entirely.

The Beer Vault at Four Punts by Sheraton is worth a visit. The pleasant hotel bar just 50 metres into Sukhumvit soi 15 on the right hand side is at its busiest during happy hour when, from 5:30 – 7:30 PM, it's two for one on a variety of drinks (including some bottled beers, some wines and some cocktails) as well as free food. Various dishes are brought out and on my visit this week they happened to include potato wedges with bacon, coleslaw and penang neua (red curry with beef) with big chunks of meat. With many beers priced at just 100 baht – and that includes tax and service charge, it's a good deal in anyone's book. It's also the sort of venue you can take your Mrs. too, safe in the knowledge that you're not going to have some lass leap on your lap.

It is often said that investing in a bar is a bad idea. The bar industry is a minefield to negotiate as an owner with so many things to consider, many of which aren't obvious until you enter the industry. While some have lost plenty everything, there are plenty who have done elegantly well. Check out the photo below and ask yourself if you still think there's no money in the bar business!

Complaining does sometimes get you joy in the gogo bars. A regular in Tilac got pissed off at the way some of the staff were reserving the table he usually sits at even though management doesn't allow tables to be reserved. He complained to one of the owners who gave the offending staff member quite a dressing down, right in front of him. It does have to be said though that foreign bar owners are much more likely to listen to customer issues than Thai owners. If you have an issue in a Thai-owned gogo and you complain loudly, there's every chance they might take exception to you and you find the security staff keen to have a piece of you…

With electioneering in full swing, amusing signs have popped around about the city featuring the face of dogs, monkeys, buffaloes and other animals imposed on the body of someone wearing a suit. The message is that people should abstain from voting at the general election on July 3rd. The text says don't release animals into Parliament! These signs are the work of the PAD i.e. the yellow shirts' political arm.

I've hailed the burger at Duke's Express as the best in Bangkok and I stand by that, but only just. There are a couple of contenders. Bully's mushroom and cheese burger is surprisingly good, and Home Run's mushroom and cheese burger is very good too. Home Run's burgers probably have the best quality ingredients of any burger in Bangkok, but the venue, sadly, doesn't seem to be doing much trade. Located way down Sukhumvit soi 31, the difficulty is that it is hard to explain to someone just how to get there. On top of that, it's not really walkable from Sukhumvit in the heat of the day and there didn't seem to be any parking near by. Some of the back sois of Sukhumvit like 23 and 31 shoot off in different directions and it can be really unclear. So if you fancy a mushroom and cheese burger, stick to Bully's – easy to find, right on Sukhumvit, just around the corner from soi 4.

I note that being some of the biggest photographer and videographers themselves, Middle Easterners really do not like being photographed in or around nightlife areas in Pattaya. I've been taking night shots in Pattaya for years and very, very seldom will a Westerner say anything, or motion that they don't want their photo taken. But Middle Easterners? Wow, they get very animated if there is even a hint that they might be caught in a compromising place. Maybe they are concerned Allah reads this column?

Down in Pattaya, Baby Dolls is doing its bit to get more customers in the door. Showing its English heritage, the country's national dish is offered to customers with an Indian curry buffet free one night a week.

It's great to see a bar owner who actually thinks outside the square and makes every effort for his business to be successful. Pattaya Pete, owner of the Pattaya Beer Garden – which is completely independent of the Biergarten in Bangkok – knows that for his freelancer venue to be successful, he needs to attract as many freelancing girls as he can. Knowing that 90+% of the girls who service foreign men in Pattaya come from the Isaan region, and that people from this region love the local dish som tam, he has a som tam station set up in the corner of the venue with free som tam for the girls. Great idea!

This warning notice is posted outside the hall of the reclining Buddha at Wat Po. I have to say that it kinda irked me. I am sure that there is / or at some time was a foreign gang operating in the Wat Po area picking the pockets of visitors, but the way the notice is only written in English when there are plenty of Thais who visit, and the way it infers that Thais would not do this, well, it just doesn't ring true. Immediately outside Wat Po there are zillions of con men, and I would suggest that not one of them is a foreign national!

And for another con, I have mentioned a few times the cut out figures at Wat Arun where foreigners take photos and then Thais hiding in the shadows appear from nowhere and point to the 40 baht sign at the bottom and extract payment from those who took photos. The con artists do the same thing with Thais who hadn't seen 40 baht painted at the bottom – but they get the Thai price which is just 10 baht!

Work permit applications and renewals require a bunch of paperwork and amongst the required docs is a medical certificate. Most of us just swing by the local clinic where for between 20 and 50 baht you get the required piece of paper without even seeing a doctor. And if on the off chance you do actually see a doctor, he usually takes a cursory glance at you and signs it off. Anyway, a mate went to a big name Bangkok hospital for a medical certificate this week, explaining that it was required for his work permit application. When he got to the doctor, he was told that they had to carry out various tests as the Labour Department, which issues work permits, was cracking down on those presenting a medical certificate when no actual medical test had been carried out. The doctor went on to explain that in addition to testing for tuberculosis as was a previous requirement, new regulations now required them to test for a number of medical conditions, including HIV and syphilis! What my mate thought would be a painless 5-minute, 50-baht visit, turned out to be an hour-long ordeal, that drained both blood from his veins and much more than a mere blue-coloured banknote from his wallet. His hospital visit seeking a mere medical certificate to support his work permit application raises various questions. Is it really a new requirement of the Labour Department, or is the hospital misinformed? Could this be a new requirement to be announced and the hospital has jumped the gun? A number of countries – Singapore for example – require all work permit applicants to be tested for a raft of diseases including HIV so if there has been a law change and HIV tests became part of the work permit application process it really would not be a great surprise. I know for a fact that there *are* foreigners living and working in Thailand with HIV – and I bet there are some with syphilis too. If this becomes / already is a new requirement, there might be foreigners in Thailand who are unable to work here based on a medical condition. I don't doubt also that there are foreigners in Thailand with HIV+, syphilis, or both who don't know and who are undiagnosed. The number of foreigners who have been swinging their sausage all over the city and who are petrified at getting tested for HIV, lest they get the dreaded sentence, is not insignificant. If this really is a new law, there are going to be more than a few foreigners sweating!

A common complaint I receive these days is the lack of hardcore sex tourist material and the lack of photos of Thai women. That's a direction I won't take this column. There are already sites with private user forums with that sort of thing. If whoring around South-East Asia is your thing, you might like to check out The Secret Diaries Of A Sex Tourist which has such material available at a very low cost.

Guys who have been visiting Bangkok for a long time are often creatures of habit, staying at the same hotel they have stayed many times before, meaning the likes of the Nana Hotel, the Dynasty, the Omni, the Federal, the Honey, Grand President etc. These places have been around forever. Conveniently located for sure, I can't help but feel the decision to stay there is habit, and nothing else. In the past few years heaps of new hotels have opened up in the Sukhumvit area and some are very nice, with modern rooms with the likes of flat screen TVs and free wireless internet. Often they are no more expensive than these older properties. There are too many new hotels to list, but simply checking out your favourite internet hotel bookings site should list many new properties. Having caught up with friends who have chosen to stay at older places, some of which are dying to be brought into the 21st century, I can't help but feel the Bangkok experience would be that little bit more comfortable if they had taken a little longer to choose a place to stay.

Quote of the week comes from Larry, manager of Secrets in Pattaya. "She doesn't get as much sausage as she'd like to!", answering a customer who was asking whether a certain girl is barfined often.

Reader's story of the week comes from Old, Fat & Bald, "Traditional Values and Wives".

A Thai chef is highlighted in the UK press for his unusual cooking techniques.

Two foreigners get caught up in drugs and extortion in Chiang Mai.

The Hangovertini is a Bangkok bar's creation following on from Hangover II which was set in Bangkok.

CNNGo has all you need to know about eating durian!

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: My employer has arranged a team building event which they insist is compulsory. My normal hours of work are 8 AM to 5 PM Monday to Friday but this event is from 6:30 AM Friday to 16:30 Saturday (it includes overnight accommodation outside of the city). I desperately do not want to attend this event and wondered if I could refuse on the grounds that it is outside of my contracted hours (with no reimbursement)? Having been forced to attend these kind of activities in the past I know that they tend to be centered around making fools of each other and not what I would consider part of my job as a design engineer? Can these events really be made compulsory?

Sunbelt Legal responds: Section 71 of the Labor Protection Act B.E. 2551, states “In the case if the Employer requires the Employee to travel to a different location to perform ordinary work, but on their day off, the Employer must pay additional allowance equivalent to the normal working day. This would only be paid to the Employee if their salary is calculated on the number of working days basis.” So, for example, if the wage is calculated on a 30 day working period then it would be included in your normal wage since it would include weekends. However if the wage is calculated by 22 days per month then your salary excludes the week end and additional reimbursement would be required.

Also, while you may be able to take sick leave as an employee must be granted a minimum of 30 days of paid sick leave per year, if you happened to be sick that day. However, it may be more beneficial to build relationships and cement your position by attending the exercise.

Question 2: Somewhere I read that import duties are waved for a farang married to a Thai, so I wanted to confirm that this was true? I am married to a Thai lady, and I can retire in about 3 1/2 years, our plan is to live in Thailand 6 months each year and Canada the remaining six months. We just purchased a new vehicle in Canada (apparently at a much cheaper price than in Thailand), and want to move the vehicle to Thailand in 3 1/2 years without paying duty or import fees if possible. Similarly I have a sailboat here in Canada that I have owned for quite a long time and we want to ship it by freighter to Thailand, which normally would incur an 8% import fee I understand, but I wanted to confirm that it might be exempt as well? Any information / clarification would be appreciated.

Sunbelt Legal responds: Import duties are not waived for vehicles.

Question 3: My Thai girlfriend was married in the UK in 2007 under UK law although now has no contact with the husband and can thus get a separation divorce after five years. However, under Thai law she is not recognised as married so is she free still to marry in Thailand? If I marry with her, what legal status does she have in Thailand and in the UK? And what status do I have in Thailand?

Sunbelt Legal responds: The marriage is legally recognised in Thailand. She must get a divorce before marrying you. If she divorces in the UK she will need to get the document translated into Thai and present it to the Thai embassy as well.

Question 4: My Thai girlfriend is willing to sign a pre-nuptial agreement, which I understand is legally enforceable in Thailand if included in the marriage papers at the amphur. Given that she's legally married in the UK to someone else – the UK does not however recognise pre-nuptial agreements – am I OK for protecting my own assets? I've property and funds in the UK but nothing (and never will have) of that nature in Thailand?

Sunbelt Legal responds: If she is legally married in the UK to someone else she must first obtain a divorce before she can marry you.

Is there trouble at Stickman HQ? Your Bangkok commentator has been as reliable as a Swiss watch for years, but it's all turned to custard in recent weeks. 2 weeks ago there was no column – and no real explanation as to why. Last week a notice appeared on the site stating that the column would be late, and then it was actually published on time. This week I published a bit over 2 hours late. What's going on? Am I sleeping away Sunday? Is my internet connection bad? Actually, it's really quite simple. I have been putting my weekends first. The column remains very important, of course, but I am making a point of going out and spending time with friends and enjoying my Sundays whereas in the past the column came first. For the time being I will keep the publication time listed as 6 PM and strive to achieve it, but if it proves difficult or I am late – which I really hate – I might push it back to 9 PM Bangkok time, as it was the first year I published.

Your Bangkok commentator,

Stick