Stickman's Weekly Column June 5th, 2011

What’s All The Fuss About Soi LK Metro?


They told me it would be the next big thing. It would be full of brand new bars packed with girls and punters would flock there. Walking Street would have a genuine challenger at long last. They pointed to Champagne A Gogo which was stirring much interest amongst the Pattaya faithful, and other venues promised to follow. 3 or 4 years back, a number of bar owners and managers in Pattaya were talking it up. The area was being hyped. It would be the next happening bar area. That's what they told me.

Having received what can only be described as dodgy directions, I finally made it to Soi LK Metro, an L-shaped soi connecting Soi Buakhao with Soi Diana.

LK is short for Leng-Kee, as in the Leng-Kee family, the owners of the soi. They are one of the wealthiest and most influential families in Pattaya with properties and businesses all over Sin City.

It's not that long ago that the land where Soi LK Metro sits was empty fields. The Leng-Kee family developed it, building commercial buildings on the land and put a road through which is now managed by City Hall.

The hype was so much that I was intrigued to check it out.

I discovered a sleepy soi by day, home to inexpensive guesthouses, empty beer bars and a solitary gogo bar which admittedly seemed to be doing a good trade. The soi had a cookie cutter look, where every building – shophouse after shophouse after shophouse – looked much the same. Many even had the LK emblem emblazoned on the outside. I returned in the evening and it was much the same. Sleepy, except for Champagne A Gogo. I saw little of interest and Soi LK Metro left me unimpressed. I wondered what all the fuss was about. That was 3 years ago.

As the vision for the development of Sin City moves away from the traditional visitor, bar areas in prime locations are being torn down, replaced by shopping malls, condominiums, restaurants and hotels. New bars and bar districts pop up all the time, often in out of the way places, where rents are lower and out of sight of the mainstream tourists. When 3 or 4 years ago some bar owners were talking up soi LK Metro as the next big thing, "It will be the next Walking Street" they said, they could see the writing on the wall. Bangkok Thais had been buying up property all over Pattaya, more families and couples were visiting and the Pattaya Tourism Board was marketing the city to a new type of visitor.

As the transition of Pattaya from a seaside resort known primarily for nightlife to a more mainstream beach holiday destination gathers pace, it's inevitable that the city will change. It's entirely conceivable that from 2nd Road down to the beach, with the exception of Walking Street, will become the area for mainstream tourism: read non-sex tourist visitors, those for who the bars are but an amusing backdrop to their tropical beach holiday. Nightlife venues may well be pushed back to the other side of 2nd Road, and up to Soi Buakhao and its surrounding sois where rents are lower. 3rd Road will remain the place for inexpensive accommodation and Thai-orientated nightlife. Walking Street will always be Walking Street, but with a more mainstream feel to it.

If this is to happen, Soi LK Metro, in the heart of the Soi Buakhao area, is well positioned to become a nightlife centre.

Eager to write about Soi LK Metro for some time, I knew I had to allow the soi a chance to develop. 3 years was long enough to wait.

Perhaps Ricky and the other bar managers / owners were visionaries, because Soi LK Metro looks like it might, at long last, realise its potential. In the past 12 – 18 months the soi has started to become something of a destination, an area with everything the typical Pattaya visitor is looking for.

Today the soi features half a dozen gogo bars including the very popular Champagne, a favourite for Pattaya locals in the know and one of the best gogo bars in town, and holder of the crown for the best gogo bar open during daylight hours. Champagne features two separate shifts of girls, a day shift and a night shift, and unlike other gogos open during daylight hours, the afternoon shift is none too shabby. All of the birds in the photo below are from Champagne's afternoon crew. Hardly what you would refer to as the B team.

There are half a dozen gogo bars on Soi LK Metro today and there are more to come. One group runs 3 – Office A Gogo, MASH and Submarine, all of which opened in the last 12 months. Where Liquid Lounge once stood on the corner of LK Metro and Buakhao sees a new gogo under construction. There are plans for Kilkenny's, at the apex of the soi, to be transformed into a gogo soon. While a number of beer bars remain, there's a feeling that they might just be snapped up by investors and transformed into gogos.

In addition to the gogos, the soi features two popular Pattaya venues, Lolita's and Devil's Den. The latter is perhaps best described as Pattaya's equivalent to Bangkok's infamous Eden Club.

Devil's Den was the official Pattaya branch of the Eden Club for all of 4 days before tragedy struck and the gentleman running it passed away. Under new ownership, the venue has taken the Eden Club concept and refined it. Everything about the venue is totally transparent, to include STD testing of the girls. On the 1st of every month, two nurses, an administrator and an observer visit the bar where blood is drawn from every girl and tested for HIV. Any girl found to be HIV+ cannot work any longer. Not one girl has tested positive to date although there have been 5 girls applying for work who tested HIV+. On the 2nd and 16th of the month every girl is taken to Pattaya Memorial Hospital where they are tested for STDs. The girls' STD test results are displayed on the Devil's Den website and the certificates are also available for viewing in the bar, all of which is rather different to the gamesmanship some bars involve themselves with, claiming to test the girls, but simply instructing them to go to a clinic and return with a certificate or a book that states they are clean. Every girl in Pattaya knows a place where 50 baht gets them a clean stamp in 30 seconds, without any testing whatsoever.

With half a dozen gogo bars, a bunch of beer bars, a gentleman's lounge and Devil's Den which can truly be described as a naughty boy's playground, the soi is close to reaching the critical mass of quality bars needed to make it a destination in its own right.

The soi has an owners' association and a website which promises to feature up-to-date info about events, parties and promotions in the soi. It features a section with printable coupons that can be redeemed at various establishments on the soi.

The owners association has a number of plans for the soi and it is hoped to become a vehicle free zone from 6 PM until 2 AM. Perhaps one day it will become known as Walking Street II?

So what does Soi LK Metro offer and why you should you visit?

First and foremost, the vibe on Soi LK Metro is nothing like Walking Street. Walking Street is the centre for Pattaya's nightlife and there is no reason to think that will change, but it also happens to be ground zero for the tens of thousands of mainstream tourists who find themselves in Pattaya. Before midnight, naughty boys in Walking Street can find themselves outnumbered by mainstream tourists. They may also find themselves an involuntary starring role in the holiday snaps and video of mainstream tourists as they traverse Walking Street with their date du jour.

Whether you're talking drinks, food, a room or companionship, Soi LK Metro fares well price-wise with Walking Street. It's not quite as cheap as neighbouring Little England, better known as Soi Buakhao, but then it's not trying to be.

In most venues a bottle of beer is less than 100 baht all night long, and if you hunt around there are some bargains to be had.

The soi is home to a number of guesthouses and hotels, most of which are foreign-owned and run. You can get a pleasant room for well under 1,000 baht and if you're on a budget, air-conditioned rooms with cable TV and wireless internet can be found for 500 baht.

There are some decent eateries like the Golf Club and Bob's BBQ.

Soi LK Metro doesn't have the crowds of Walking Street, is more user friendly and doesn't get the gawkers who wander along. The real appeal of Soi LK Metro is that it is not on the family and first-time visitor's radar. It attracts, and should appeal to, what could perhaps be termed the traditional Pattaya visitor. If you're sick of pressing shoulders with Russian couples, Indian tour groups and Middle Easterners and their harem, you won't find any of that lot on LK Metro. They don't even know that Soi LK Metro exists.

Soi LK Metro isn't quite the finished article. Perhaps all that is needed is another 2 or 3 gogo bars for it to reach the critical mass that will see it become the destination it seeks to be. I think back to the heyday of Soi Pattayaland 2, when you could check in to the Penthouse Hotel, stumble out the door on to the soi and roam the gogo bars that were right there outside the hotel's doorstep, the likes of Misty's, Classroom, Emergency, Bubbles and Lipstick. You could eat at New Orleans or Palmer's. You never had to leave the soi. Everything you wanted was right on your doorstep. Soi LK Metro is almost there.




Last week's photo



Where was this photo taken?


The last column's photo was taken outside Patty's Fiesta restaurant on the corner of Silom Road and the main Patpong soi. 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. As there was no column last week and no prizes were given away, there are two lots of prizes this week, meaning 2 x Duke's Express vouchers and 2 x 500 baht credits at Oh My Cod!

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 who are 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 – Life without Stickman.

I awoke on Sunday morning in Portland, Oregon. My Thai wife, Noy, gave me my morning cup of coffee and I sat down with my computer to read my weekly Stickman column on the web. As I opened the Stickman site, I was greeted with a large note saying that Stickman had taken a holiday. I was shocked. There was no advance warning, no time to prepare myself, no time to? I read and reread the note. What to do, what would I do with my day. I sat in shock. It then began to make me think. With my years getting up there, I ponder how many years I have left. At 50, I have maybe 10 – 15 good years, then maybe another 10 after that if I am real lucky. I could also drop dead the next day or find I have cancer. I hear from many my friends of this happening. One friend developed pain in his leg in the morning, by afternoon his leg was gone. How does this relate to Stickman? I have been reading Stickman for many years. What would happen to my life if Stickman decided to end his website and tomorrow it was just gone? What if events took him away and we had nowhere to write our stories or get our latest Thailand reports? What if Stickman were to sell out and take the money and run, leaving some hack to run the site? Is there a little Stickman to take over? In Stickman’s life plan, has he thought about us? Will he find someone who will care for us when he is gone? Many around the world depend on him for this website and he is part of our life. If he were gone, would it be like my friend's leg, here in the morning and gone by night? Would we be able to handle the emptiness? Would we look at the window and consider ending it all? Part of us would be gone! As I sat pondering, I wondered what “if” Stickman was not back next week. What if this was the end? I had no other website to go to. I was alone and I did not know where to turn to or who could be trusted. Would another website provide me with fulfillment? Would they lead me on the right path? Would they be honest to me or would they use me, spam me or worse, send me a computer virus that would end my web life? I feared to seek out another. I feared if I sought the comfort of another website, would Stickman feel I was cheating on him? Was I just like other farang only looking for the quick fix? Did Stickman trust me to return? Would he know that I had wandered to another? Would he still have respect for my stories? Would I still respect myself in the morning? The other sites beckoned me with their scandalizing photos, stories of red shirt violence, discounted Viagra, the latest news of the pending elections, heart breaking stories of men destroyed by bargirls. They were fresh and alive, they were young and firm, their web stories were at my finger tips. All I had to do was key in the address and all they had would be given to me. Could I resist the temptation? I reached for my coffee that was now cold and decided to go back to bed. A true Stickman fan.

Premium experience at a premium price?

Last Saturday, bored with my normal venues on Soi Cowboy, I took the plunge and tried three of the Arab's bars for the first time. For old times' sake, I started with Midnite which I used to enjoy when Mike managed it in its heyday some years ago. I found there what I also found at Sahara and Kiss – a very nice facility with above average staff, plus high prices. At Midnite, I paid 700 baht for four drinks, two for me and two for the dancer who sat next to me. My companion was extra cute, very attentive, undemanding and interestingly she came not from Isaan but Chainat. The men's rooms had attendants but they left me alone when I ducked in. I normally prefer more laid-back establishments, but the Arab seems to be pushing a new concept for Soi Cowboy – premium experience for a premium price. At the end of the night, or maybe in the middle of the night, I like the idea of having as an option a place to go with something special to look at on stage, even if it comes at a price you wouldn't want to pay all night.

A generation of change.

I used to work in Bangkok years ago but now it is much harder for farangs to find work. I searched for a job last year but came away with the conclusion that Thai companies don't really want to hire farangs. It never used to be that way 20 years ago. They used to like having their token farang as a way to show that they were international and also to get new foreign accounts for their sales division. I don't particularly want to teach English as most jobs pay shit. Farangs don't get much respect like they used to in Bangkok and things are changing for the worse. 20 years ago there used to be a camaraderie amongst farangs in Bangkok. Nowadays I get the feeling there is a type of competition to persuade any farangs from interfering with their shrinking turf for jobs, and other stuff. I arrived in Thailand in the early '90s and you cannot believe the amount of respect we used to get from the average Thai person. 20 years later, when I visited, the average Thai gave me the impression of a small amount of disdain, amusement, and looking to get one over the farang which was never the way it was. The Thais in Isaan are still the nicest of all the Thais I have come in contact with. They are much more genuinely warm and sincere.

Proficiency in Thai = trust?

I (white farang) have lived in Thailand for many years and can speak Thai nearly fluently. About 3 years ago I went to a hospital in Bangkok for treatment as a result of a minor road accident and some small wounds needed to be cleaned. The nurse who cleaned the wounds liked me. We exchanged numbers and after a week we had sex at her place. We didn't use a condom. The next morning I asked her why she didn't insist on using a condom. She is a nurse, after all. You'll never guess what her reply was. She said and I joke you not, "You speak Thai so good that I trust you!"

Respect between cultures.

I can't say the number of times I have asked myself, would a Thai do this in the UK or Canada? I am sure you must wonder, as do I from time to time, when back in one's home culture(s), how is it that white people, often of no particularly distinguished background, have such a sense of entitlement to tell the rest of the world how to live, behave as they like when abroad, and to believe they can ridicule or debase other culture's important icons. Can you see Thai women visiting the red light districts in Vancouver offering the working girls counselling. Or fervent Thai Buddhists preaching outside local butcher shops in a British high street or better yet, approaching johns outside strip clubs and talking to them about sin and the right way to live. Or gangs of shirtless drunken Thai louts staggering about a town center shouting and singing (even if football supporters!) How about posing in a mock crucifixion beside a statue outside a Christian church in America's bible belt? A young blond Aussie girl approached me in the Golden Bar to see if she could get Western food there and then proceeded to lecture a mahout on the suitability of his treatment of his elephant and the inappropriateness of the stick he used to guide the animal!

Washington Square is breathing its last breaths as venue after venue closes its doors for the last time and one of the area's iconic bars, the Texas Lone Staar, is no longer. Washington Square has been a mess for as long as I can remember and apart from Bourbon Street, has never been a regular hang out of mine. But for many guys, especially old-timers, and particularly older Americans who served in Vietnam, Washington Square has been their local for decades and its demise means saying goodbye to places full of memories. Where the Squaronians will gravitate to next remains unclear. The bars of Queen's Park Plaza, just a stone's throw away. Or perhaps they will head to Patpong, where some bars predate Washington Square?

I reported that The Arab took control of Raw Hide at the start of last month and his staff can be seen there, as can he, some nights. But now Mint, owner of Long Gun, is saying that she owns the building and is renting it to him. Weird.

Work is progressing slowly at Raw Hide. Expect it to get The Arab's magic touch and become one of the best looking bars in the soi. The underage issue, a long-time problem at Raw Hide, has been solved with The Arab getting rid of that nonsense….so perhaps The Arab is not so bad after all.

The film crew outside Dollhouse on Thursday night of last week was from MTV and were filming clips which will be part of a new trailer featuring various locations around the city.

Dirty Darel, owner of the Dollhouse on Soi Cowboy, will celebrate his 50th birthday party in the bar on June 10th. It will be the usual fun and games with a pig roast, lots of shots and events devised specifically to embarrass Darel. He's calling it the biggest party in 50 years!

Pickpockets are active at the late night venue Climax where a reader reports that his cellphone was pilfered. The incident was reported to staff but in fairness to the venue there was nothing staff could do. Whether this was a one off incident or light-fingered birds (or guys?!) are praying on punters, who knows. Take the same precautions you would anywhere in the world and you should be fine. Thefts and pick-pocketing in the bars are remarkably rare. The last wave of thefts in the bars I can remember was the work of a certain big-busted wench who worked in Midnite many years ago and her MO was kind of cute. She would leap on to an unsuspecting customer's lap, pull her top up and push her massive mammaries into the guy's face, while at the same time groping him and hunting for his mobile. His mind was focused on her chest and she got a number of mobiles before the scam became widely known and she relocated to another popular gogo bar on the soi where she is still employed today.

A staff meeting was held at Tilac Bar in Soi Cowboy before the start of the shift, Friday before last, where Sam read the riot act, emphasizing the need for quality service to be provided in the bar by all members of staff. Whether anything will come of it or not is another story but it's nice to see bar owners acknowledging the need to satisfy customers and the need to improve, even if it is very, very difficult to motivate staff in this industry.

Nana Plaza's newest bar, Billboard, is doing its best to single-handedly turn the plaza around and has carved out an almost unique niche – flash surroundings home to disgusting shows. Think the likes of Windmill or Baby Dolls in Pattaya with the crazy antics those bars are known for, all in a nicely decorated bar where everything is new and spotlessly clean. As the number of girls in Billboard increases – particularly those who do their thing in the Jacuzzi – so punters have responded. The bar is booming.

It's the vibe at Bangkok Beat that I like so much about the venue. Unlike so many bars where the girls struggle to hide their contempt for customers and where sullen looks and long faces are so common, in Bangkok Beat the girls are not beholden to anyone and that joie de vivre which was so easy to find in the past can still be found there today. If you're swinging by the Beat, it's best to get there after 11 PM. Any earlier and it's really quiet although you can avail yourself of happy hour prices until 10 PM.

It's been a long time since my last visit to Secrets in Pattaya, and the biggest change I noticed between visits was the school girl uniforms that the staff now wear. If you find yourself at a loss of what to do on a Sunday afternoon in Pattaya, don't forget that Secrets offers a free buffet every Sunday arvo from 2 PM onwards.

Secrets is still using their old drinks menu. I quizzed the big boss about it and he confirmed that they haven't raised drinks prices in 4 years!

Still at Secrets, I note that Licker Larry, is looking fitter than ever. After a rough period health-wise, during which he was paralysed for a period and later had to have both hips replaced, Larry has lost 25 kg and is looking slim and trim. He boasted to me that he can't walk down any soi in Sin City without women yelling out "Hello, handsome man!" Ah, hate to tell you, Larry, but they say that to all of us!

Are things getting desperate for some big name Pattaya bars? Beach Club and The Cavern have dropped prices to ridiculous levels, and are doing 2 draft beers for 59 baht, from 8 PM until midnight. That's less than 30 baht a drink – and punters are flocking in. Bars pay approximately 20 baht for what they are selling for less than 30, leaving less than 10 baht profit for each glass sold. How worthwhile is that? Go too cheap and you get the type of customers you can do without, I reckon.

My cheap Charlie days are long behind me and I haven't dined at the Apex Hotel's buffet in years. In fact I shudder when I think about how I used to resemble a pig at the trough, scoffing so much crap at the breakfast buffet that I still felt full come evening. For those who like the Apex buffet, which is very similar to the buffet offered at the Lek Hotel, also on Pattaya's Second Road, I note that food inflation has finally caught up with their pricing. Not long ago it was 110 baht for breakfast and 180 for dinner, but prices have shot up to 150 for breakfast and 250 for dinner. Still a good deal if you want to gorge yourself.

The underage issue remains a big problem in both Bangkok and Pattaya where girls in their mid teens can be found in bars where the law says they are not allowed to work. And unfortunately it seems that the threat of jail time is not enough to put off some individuals from doing the dirty with girls who should still be in school. A Pattaya hotelier told me that a couple of customers came back after a night out with a couple of 15-year old girls. It is not clear whether they knew the girls were underage or not. The hotel requires all hotel guests lodge any visitors' ID card at reception, a practice which protects both the hotel guest and their visitor. Any visitor aged under 18 is refused entry. The hotel pointed out that the girls were not of legal age and that they were not allowed to proceed past reception. What is sad is that the hotel guests actually complained when entry was refused, failing to realise or perhaps, failing to accept that the hotel was actually doing them a favour. Sad.

The homeless farang whose photo appeared in this column a month or two back and who has been a regular fixture on Sukhumvit is still homeless and looks worse for wear. It turns out his name is Michael, and he is indeed a German national who I am informed was once a sales rep for the manufacturer of two of Germany's finest products, Erdinger and Warsteiner. Wearing the very same clothes I first photographed him in way back in the middle of March, he is as filthy as ever. Until earlier this week, if you happened to be anywhere near Cowboy or Nana you may have spotted him, perhaps sitting outside a convenience store drinking a hot coffee, or perhaps curled up next to some of the homeless Thais for whom Sukhumvit is home. But you won't see him there now. My eyes almost popped out of my head when I saw him this week on Soi LK Metro, down in Pattaya! He was in a long conversation with himself, in English, holding his pants up with one hand, as appears to be his trademark. He was pointing at various people with his free hand at which point he saw the camera pointing right at him….and came bounding towards me. Time to do the Johnny bolt! Seeing a grin on his face, I decided to stick around and he wasn't hostile at all. He started telling me about the history of Kassikornbank and how it was once called Thai Farmers Bank. He then asked me, in English with a heavy German accent, if he thought they sold coffee inside. Ever the devil, I told him that the only way to know was to go inside and ask the staff….which he did. I didn't wait to see what happened and left him to his new friends in green uniforms. But the big question is, just how did he manage to make it from Bangkok to Pattaya? This guy really is in a bad state and if anyone from the German embassy is reading, he needs your help!

I've always thought it rather lame when a Western guy takes a regular Thai girl on a first date to a naughty nightlife area. Yep, there are many Western guys in this city who think it's cool to drag a non-prostitute Thai bird along to the likes of Nana Plaza or Soi Cowboy! OK, so I guess some girls might be kinda interested to see what all the fuss is about once, but in the back of their minds they must also be wondering about the guy, why he is so familiar with such places and why he actually chose to take her to such a place! It seems to be rather common. You can imagine my surprise when one of my good mates – and this is a good, close mate, not one of the plonkers I occasionally hang out with – said to me that he had met a hotty on ThaiLoveLinks and taken her out to Soi Cowboy. This fellow is no fan of the red light areas and when we go out the likes of Cowboy or Nana are never on the itinerary. Anyway, he took her to Cowboy, to one of the innocuous live music venues at the soi 23 end where there's no suggestion of what's on offer in the rest of the soi. After a couple more drinks he became more daring and dragged her down to Raw Hide where all hell was breaking loose on the stage with darts, ping pong balls and other carry on! Amazingly that didn't seem to shock her and after filling her with liquor, she ended up back at his place where he said she performed like a porn star. Did the visit to the nightlife area get her warmed up? Did she want to show him that whatever those girls do, she could do better? He's now talking about making Cowboy his first port of call when he meets his next TLL girl. Despite his success, I maintain it's seriously uncool to take a good girl to a red light area…but what would I know?!

With the invasion of Russian visitors to Pattaya showing no signs of letting up, signs in the Russian language have been popping up all over Sin City – in restaurants, hotels and travel agencies amongst others. With the number of Western visitors down – to my eyes at least – some Western bar managers are getting in on the act and printing menus in Russian too. And from all accounts it seems to be working. One English bar owner told me that since printing menus in Russian, they have had a big increase in Russian visitors and few problems with them buying one drink and sharing it. He hypothesis that a menu in Russian immediately marks that venue as Russian friendly and the Ruskies are happy to visit – and spend money. He says that some Russians have told him they are happy to buy drinks when they know what the prices are – and the reason they don't buy drinks in some venues is because there are no menus, period, or there are no menus in English. I'd expect more and more bars follow suit over the next year or two to the point where it won't be long before the guy sitting next to you may well be called Alexei, Viktor or Vladimir.

Despite crackdown after crackdown, there's more nonsense than ever available on the busiest part of Sukhumvit Road with sex toys, dildos and some contraptions which are simply beyond my imagination openly on display for all passing by to see, and available for purchase.

Am I the only one who finds it a trifle perturbing having to pass through bomb detectors to enter the auditorium of a cinema? That's exactly what's happening at Siam Paragon. There have been bomb detectors at the entrances to the humungous upmarket shopping centre for years, along with a cursory security check and now when you enter the cinema's auditorium, you get another zap of radiation. I don't catch movies at Paragon often so this may have been in place for some time.

Quote of the week comes from a reader, "My antipathy towards Western women sexually has reached its apex; I now consider them so unattractive they are practically a different species."

Reader's story of the week comes Mr. Anonymous, "A Bargirl's Perspective Of Farangs".

CNNGo highlights everything you need to know about the rocket festival.

One of the stars of Hangover II is disgusted by some of what he saw in Thailand.

First it was the Uzbeks, now Ugandan prostitutes are being rounded up in Pattaya.

Bloggers in Thailand are alarmed after a Thai with US citizenship was arrested for linking to a banned book in his blog.

There are concerns about the sexy signs and hostesses in Walking Street and the image it presents of Pattaya.

The death of a Brit in Ko Samui is very suspicious.

A video has appeared on YouTube of the closure of the iconic Washington Square bar, Texas Lone Staar.

Thailand's culture ministry is cracking down on Thai tattoos on foreign skin!

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 heard that presently, bank accounts in Thailand are insured up to 50 million baht but next year that will change to 1 million baht, per bank. Having seen people lose money in the 90s when banks went under, I want to avoid such a scenario.

Sunbelt Legal responds: From 11 August 2012, only 1 million baht will be covered by government deposit insurance. Multiple branches of the same bank will count as one deposit, married couples will receive protection on a per person and per account basis up to 1 million for separate accounts, however joint accounts will not see separate insurance for that account. Generally, the money will be split and counted against the individual account of each spouse.

Generally, it seems that money will need to be split across multiple financial institutions. It will be important to check the solvency of any banks you plan to deposit with and how their assets are distributed.

Question 2: Do the Thai vehicle drivers have any idea about “right of way” and proper lane usage? Many times I have been forced off the road or into pot holes because some Thai driver barged into “my” lane. If an accident should occur under the conditions that such a Thai driver failed to yield the right of way or did not observe proper lane usage, what would be my chances of winning in court?

Sunbelt Legal responds: In the case of an accident, you should always call your insurance agent as well as the police as your agent will work on your behalf. The agent will work with the police and the other driver and a good agent should ensure that the police investigate fully if it appears the other driver is at fault. It's important to note that many drivers only have third party insurance so their insurance will not cover damage to your car and your insurance company may have to try and get the money from them to cover repairs.

Question 3: Does Immigration at the airport check there database if a foreigner (US) entering Thailand on a tourist visa is a sex offender or has a criminal record? He is not wanted by Interpol nor does he have an outstanding arrest warrant. The Thai Embassy in US says it's up to Immigration?

Sunbelt Legal responds: Generally, yes, Immigration does check criminal records as people enter the Kingdom.



Missing a column last week sent some of the readership into hysteria. I posted a message on the main page of the site stating that there wouldn't be a column and I would be back in a week, but it seems that some readers didn't check the main page, and rather went straight to the weekly column index page where they couldn't find a link to the column. Emails flooded in asking why there was no column, checking if I was ok, and some even asking if I was dead! Many, many readers emailed with supportive comments about taking a week off, and some told amusing anecdotes of how their Sunday routine had been hijacked! There was the Bangkok bar owner who sat in his condo and kept clicking refresh on the browser, hoping to read the latest column and who subsequently arrived late for work. There's the Aussie who puts a few beers in his fridge Sunday arvo to enjoy while browsing the weekly round up who had nothing to read but plenty of beer to drink, and there was the American who said that he reads this column before he reads the New York Times online. I was amazed that missing a column resulted in even more emails than when the column is actually published. Stickmania is alive and well!

Your Bangkok commentator,

Stick

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