A scantily dressed, dark-skinned country girl leads a sweating foreigner twice her age and double her weight by the hand through a swanky shopping mall full of high-end brand name shops and well-to-do Thais.
In the heart of the city, amongst some of Bangkok's most expensive real estate, adjacent to bank head offices and embassies, girls from a rural background stand outside bars with neon lights and names which leave little to the imagination. They call out confidently to foreign men walking past, inviting them inside, ratcheting the sales pitch up with sexual innuendo and gesticulation if guys show no interest. Office girls pass the bars on their way home, avert their eyes and are petrified that foreign men might think they are somehow associated with the industry.
Sitting atop some of the city's tallest buildings and with New York prices, are night spots popular with local businessmen entertaining clients, and Thai guys keen to make quite the impression on a lady they're dating. A small number of foreigners also visit, amongst them foreign men accompanied by country girls in their Pratunam best.
Once located in small, often out of the way bars, Bangkok's naughty nightlife industry for foreigners is more and more visible to every day Thais.
It all started with Patpong. Then came Soi Cowboy. Nana Plaza followed. Soi 33 sprang up, as did Washington Square, and before you knew it much of the prime real estate in downtown Bangkok was home to bars for foreigners. Naughty bars.
Patpong sits in the shadows of the head office of Thailand's second largest bank, nestled amongst some of the most expensive office real estate in the country. Soi Cowboy hides just a stone's throw away from one of the city's busiest intersections, and nearby Nana Plaza is but a 2-minute tuktuk ride from the main embassy district.
And there used to be even more bar areas right in the heart of the city until Bangkok real estate prices began an ascent that has yet to be arrested and bar areas simply weren't financially viable.
Buckskin Joe's, aka Soi Zero, sat under the expressway that intersects Sukhumvit and Ploenchit, and opposite was a small bar complex at the mouth of Sukhumvit soi 1, where the Legacy Express hotel sits today. Clinton Plaza spilled out on to Sukhumvit
Road near soi 13 and promised to be the next big thing. Directly across the road was the ramshackle Sukhumvit Square, a maze of beer bars which was famously demolished late one night. Things had got so out of control that prime Sukhumvit
started to resemble Pattaya's Beach Road.
Development of prime real estate locations into more profitable ventures followed and farang nightlife areas that threatened to get out of hand on Sukhumvit were reigned in. It was just as well, because the Thais were getting increasingly uncomfortable with it.
The problem with the farang bars as far as most Thais are concerned, is that it is so in their face with little left to the imagination. With names like Pretty Lady, Dollhouse, G Spot, Superpussy, Spice Girls and Pussy Collection, is there any doubt about what's on offer?
The Thai sector of the industry is somewhat different. The small neighbourhood karaoke joints recognisable by the strings of Christmas tree-style lights found in most neighbourhoods of the country are obviously knock shops. The girls may sit outside, but they don't holler at passersby and are much more restrained in their behaviour.
The multi-storey massage parlours found on Rachada and Rama 9 roads, the premier venues for Thai men, are much more discreet. Women aren't seen sitting outside, although once you enter and see 100 or more pretty girls behind a pane of glass with a number attached it is crystal clear what it's all about.
For Thai guys participating, discretion is paramount. Thais are aghast at the sight of Westerners parading their girl du jour in public. Whether it be a shopping centre, bar, or restaurant, a Thai guy would never allow himself to be seen in public with a lady of the night. The irreparable damage to their reputation would be too much to bear. Thais cannot comprehend a foreigner taking such a lady in public.
Thai men slip in the back door, and exit the same way. Everything is done on the premises and nothing is left to chance.
Local men are so concerned about their reputation that many venues have concealed parking spaces. Within seconds of parking, attendants appear from the shadows and pull a curtain across, concealing the vehicle from view.
It's not the existence of a sector of the industry specifically for foreigners that upsets Thais, or that sex is traded for money or material items, it's the way that those involved in the foreign sector – both the girls and the guys – behave in public that upsets the locals. It's the revealing clothing, the schmoozing in public, the sexual talk and innuendo and the lack of discretion, all of which goes strongly against local culture.
During this year's Songkran festival a few teenage girls got their tops off and danced in public, the video of which went viral, sending traditionalists into a frenzy. It's not just the behaviour of foreigners that upsets Thais.
Women working in the foreign sector of the industry obviously understand the local culture, yet some shirk its constraints and do as they please. Working in venues with foreign men is like being in Farangland, as if Thailand is a million miles away. What the general Thai populace doesn't see doesn't count!
Local women who behave inappropriately in public, in places where they can be seen by the general public, are considered to be crass and uncouth, and are seen by Thais as the worst of the worst, making an affront against them. That's why that little number you barfined might talk, and perhaps even act filthy in the bar environment, but as soon as she is outside the bar, where she can be seen by the general Thai public, she is restrained, and perhaps even proper.
Personal freedom, and freedom of expression? Not here!
Bangkok's sector of the bar industry for foreigners is less in your face than it used to be, but still widespread. Sois 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 7/1, 8, 11, 20, 22, 23 and 33 all have naughty bars – and I may have missed a few. And that's not to mention the streetwalkers who linger between Nana and Asoke, day and night.
In the likes of Phuket and Pattaya where girls attempt to entice passersby into their bar, it isn't like Thailand at all, and many Thais are horrified at what they see!
Thais understand well that those from a less privileged, often rural background don't have the same opportunities. From the Thai perspective, selling one's body to support family, or help raise children are not things to be admired, but are understood and to some extent respected.
The general Thai populace doesn't admire prostitution and the participants, but are generally willing to overlook those involved so long as things are done with discretion and the local culture is respected.
It's not so much what foreigners do that upsets the Thais, it's the way we do it!
Last week's photo
Where was this photo taken?
Last week's photo was taken on Sukhumvit soi 7, outside the food court which is opposite the Biergarten. 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.
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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 – The frustrations of living here.
The other week, sick of the slow internet speed I get with my air card up here in Isaan, I went off with the missus down to the local TOT office to arrange an ADSL connection. We filled out the forms and was told that an engineer would be around in a few days to check if it was possible to connect us up. At this point we mentioned to them that we still had the old connection for our land line but had stopped using it about 3 years ago. 6 weeks later, without any sign of an engineer, we went back down to the TOT office. They found the form we had filled out, studied it for a minute or two, and then told us that there were no spare phone lines available in our village and we needed a minimum of 20 people plus a letter from the headman in order to get new lines put in. We then asked why we couldn't just use our old connection and was told that it no longer worked. Ah, said I, why then is it that if I dial our old number I get a ring tone? That doesn't mean anything says the TOT lady! You don't have a line and can't have one without finding twenty other people. Back home we go and after a bit of a root around, I come up with our old handset, plug it in and then dial our old number from my mobile. Lo and behold, the phone rings! I pick it up and next thing I'm having a conversation with myself (the wife says I do that a lot anyway). I then use the landline to dial my wife's mobile and that works fine too. Back down to the TOT office to offer them this new evidence that our old landline still works and now all we need is the router plugging in and away we go. Not quite! The lady listens and says that their engineer will look into it. Two days later I pick up the handset and get what sounds like an engaged tone. My wife calls the TOT office who confirm that they have cut off our old line and no, we can't have another one as there are none spare! Find twenty people etc. Sometimes I wonder why I bother living here.
Bangkok and Khon Kaen, not "same same"!
I have lived in Thailand for over 6 years, most of it in Khon Kaen and have known numerous ladies during my time here. In that time I have only met one woman where any romantic involvement took place – meaning sex – who did not ask for or expect to be given money. These were not bargirls or from other entertainment enterprises. They were average run-of-the mill girls in the 18 to 35 age range. Most came from poor family backgrounds and obviously money was important to them. However, some were students who were not exactly dirt poor. In general, I have found that the majority of women here avoid involvement with foreigners, because it will tarnish their respectability in the eyes of Thais, particularly if they are of marriage age or higher social status. It is also clear to me that they will not expect the same monetary "rewards" from a Thai man. Thai man goes free and Farang pays. My age might explain some of this, however I am NOT a drunken, fat slob covered with tattoos. I dress well and treat women politely and with respect. There are certainly not “thousands and thousands of such women in Khon Kaen online looking for this (sex) at any given time”. You might find a few here in Isaan maybe, who might be looking for something with a foreigner, without payment. If I had never paid for sex in Thailand, I would have had only one experience here in 6 years. Anyway, send some of these wild Bangkok “freebie” women up here. We could use a few!
On differing ages.
If the perceived difference in social standing between a man and a woman is bigger, then larger age gaps are tolerated. Generally, the more educated and self-reliant a woman, the more leverage she has in looking for someone closer to her age. There are some cultural variations, but in general if you take an Isaan girl in Bangkok working a factory job and compare her to a girl with a good degree and a well-paid job, you will quickly see the general difference. I've seen the same working in Eastern Africa and you see it more often in Europe and the US too. Also, social standing tends to play a big role in other ways. I'd be willing to bet upwards of 3 cold beers that a lot of men that claim Thai (insert almost any nationality) women are easier to date and get into a relationship with than their own native girls are full of it. Finding a girl in Bangkok that brings as much to the arrangement in terms of income, education and other factors that bring economic stability to the relationship is as difficult in Bangkok as it is at home.
Cheap drinks and horny expats.
I was in The Londoner on a Wednesday night a few weeks back and was amazed at the number of girls who appeared to be on the game and some who definitely were. I watched a couple of girls fleece a guy for at least 6 or 7 cocktails each and then piss off with a couple of different guys. The guy looked pretty peeved and his mates took the piss out of him. We had earlier declined their generous offer to join us. There did seem to be a few middle class Thai girls there. To think the majority of Thai girls there are middle class just because it's not a naughty bar would be a mistake. I'm sure there are a few working girls that realise half price drinks on Wednesdays and moneyed-up, horny expats are a good combination.
The upside of bar work.
There was an in-depth interview in the Bangkok Post years ago, many details of which I remember because I found it so informative, which stops some of the more rabid anti-flesh trade pundits in their tracks. It was with a Thai girl from a village earning good crust in the Thai sector of the industry. She described how some men from Bangkok used to tour the villages. They spotted her and went to her parents, when she was about 14 or 15. They "lent" them 50,000 baht in return for taking their daughter to work in Bangkok. Although they never actually said what she'd be doing for a living, it seemed to be implied that everyone knew. They were told that once she had paid off the debt, she would then be making good money and they would be in the clear. The surprising thing about the article was her candour. She admits she was taken to Bangkok and trained by a mamasan and several other employees in the carnal arts before being put to work. While she admitted she was frightened by it all, she said she was well looked after, and when she finally entered the trade, she didn't find it too difficult, and she was very happy with the tips and gifts she received. But what really astonished me was her pride for her family. Once she started earning and the debt was duly paid off, she was making good money and was able to send plenty back home. Her father became one of the leading figures in the village and the head honcho. She was absolutely ecstatic, and considered that the best thing about what had happened to her – what she'd done for her family, especially with her father ending up being so well respected locally! Whether the interview was "tidied up" I don't know, but there didn't seem to be an ounce of sadness or remorse in what she felt – quite the opposite. She felt she'd been given a great opportunity and both she and, more importantly, her family had benefited greatly from it.
What you do, not what you say!
There was an item in the weekly that struck a chord with me – the absence of the use of the 3 words pom ruk khun. It is so true. I used to use the 3 words on a regular basis, but my wife never said the 3 words to me. I asked her why. Her response was something along the lines of "What comes from your mouth is meaningless bullshit – it is what you do that counts". This is oh so true. And it is what both the wife and the husband do that counts. And yes, I 100% agree that if you want to know how she feels about you – check what she does and does not do. These days the only time the 3 words are used is before I get on a plane and send an SMS – and usually it ends with the 3 words – and this is the one time I will get a reply with the 3 words back to me. Any other case or situation you can pretty much forget it! Would I like it any other way? Hell no! I would much rather have a wife who is good for her actions rather than the bullshit coming from her mouth only!
With rumours of Nana Plaza's demise 18 months from now gaining steam, discussion behind the scenes have taken place about the construction of a replacement complex to house all of the bars in the plaza. If Nana Plaza really does go, that would leave perhaps 1,500+ girls without employment. It's hard to see them being taken in by the bars in Cowboy and Patpong, and just as unlikely that there would be a mass exodus down the road to Pattaya. There is a realisation amongst Thais involved in, and who observe the industry that there is serious money to be made. Already at least two parties have been looking into possible locations for a new bar complex that is being referred to as Nana Plaza II. But there is a major problem that I cannot see being overcome. No new gogo bar licenses will be issued in the Nana (or Soi Cowboy) area. Several years back Bangkok was zoned with three entertainment zones drawn up – Patpong, RCA and Rachadapisek Road. These are the only places in all of Bangkok where one can apply for a new gogo bar licence. Bars in Cowboy and Nana can extend their existing gogo bar licenses but should it lapse or they forget to renew it (as happened at Coyote Apache in Cowboy), then a new one cannot be applied for and it is gone forever! What does all of this mean? If Nana Plaza does go, there is no chance of a replacement gogo bar complex opening up in the Nana area!
Rumour has it that the Eclipse Group continues its acquisition of quality assets and now counts the upmarket Q Bar in its stable of Bangkok nightspots.
The Office in soi 33 is better known for its sports coverage than anything else, but don't go thinking it has lowered its standard and taken on a bunch of trolls. The current lineup, while not as numerous as it used to be, features a bunch of real sweeties.
The Lollipop 1, Bangkok's newest house of oral relief, is getting favourable reviews with those who have visited generally in agreement that both the quality of the premises and the current lineup making it the best venue of its type in the city.
Mark from Bar4, that flash beer bar on Sukhumvit soi 4, tells me they now have cider on tap. It is Weston's Stowford Press cider and in line with his policy of trying to keep the prices fair for both customer and bar, it is priced at 120 for a half pint and 190 for a full pint. It is a medium, dry cider and is the UK's 5th largest draught cider brand.
Despite Indians making up a greater percentage of the visitors to Pattaya these days, many bars in Sin City still refuse entry to Indians and others from the Indian sub-continent. One would think that bars would view the growing number of Indians as an opportunity, but that doesn't seem to be the case at all. Some Indians who are regular visitors to the bars of Bangkok – where such policies are much less common – actually boycott Pattaya because of this. I can only imagine that it won't be that long before economic forces prevail.
If you're in the market for some company, it ought to be pointed out that many bars with coyote girls (as distinct from gogo girls) don't allow coyote girls to be barfined – and if they can be barfined the price is much higher than for a regular gogo bar – anywhere from 1,000 – 2,000 baht. The coyote concept is spreading and more venues have coyote girls these days, especially on Friday and Saturday nights. As one bar owner explained to me, the concept works well because the coyote girls are on the premises all night long meaning that irrespective of what time customers stick their head in the bar they will see a bunch of pretty girls on stage – and they will probably stay for at least one drink. But it is not always obvious which girls are coyote girls and which aren't. In some venues the line has become blurred. In a particular Soi Cowboy bar belonging to a certain unpopular fellow, coyotes and regular gogo girls are dressed the same and it is not apparent which is which. It could be that the girl you're plying with 200 baht lady drinks and with whom your mind has fast forwarded a few hours ahead with, is not actually available at all!
I frequently hear from guys who invited a bargirl to spend all night with them but after the business is done she escapes. Many Bangkok gogo girls request 2,000, 2,500 or even 3,000 baht for a short-time liaison – and it seems more and more guys are happy to pay it. It is often said that the girls does the business as quickly as possible so that she can return to the bar and hunt for another customer – and effectively double her income. Plenty of girls do that and who can blame them? But what seems to be just as common is that the girl does not in fact return to the bar. 2,000+ baht for a day's work is decent money in Thailand and many girls feel that is plenty enough for one day. Once they have performed their duty, they can go home and relax or perhaps go out with friends, or go and spend time with their Thai boyfriend. Many would rather get 2,000+ baht for an hour's work, than 3,000+ baht for 10 hours' effort – which is how they look at long-time.
Next Sunday is Man City V Man Utd in the Charity Shield, the curtain raiser for the English Premier League. Kick off is at 8:30 PM. You can watch it at Stumble Inn on Sukhumvit soi 4 which is running a special promotion of Carlsberg for only 50 baht per half pint. This price will be available from 8 PM through to close. Stumble Inn has nice girls, reasonable prices and even a great boss!
The line-up in Tilac is pretty good at present and #38 just has to be the best dancer. She doesn't just leap around on stage, but she can't keep still when she is off stage and can be seen jiggling all around the bar. But #37, a cutey from Kampheng Pet (not a part of Isaan if your geography isn't great) has to be the second prettiest – behind #211, of course!
Speaking of Tilac, what is the reason behind the introduction of red coloured numbered discs for the ladies? Previously, a girl's number was always on a blue-coloured disc. What is the significance of red? There are a number of nightspots where different coloured discs, or lanyards, indicates something. One such bar is Secrets in Pattaya where, for example, a green-coloured lanyard indicates that she is good to go, a red-coloured lanyard indicates she is not. Is there any difference in the different coloured discs being used at Tilac?
Pattaya's Central Festival, the shopping centre on the Beach Road which largely eliminated the need for Pattaya-based expats to take shopping trips up the road to Bangkok, has much going for it. There are heaps of good restaurants, ice cream parlours, a children's play area, great views of Pattaya Bay and you can find most things there with many major brand names that were not previously available in Pattaya now easily found. But I reckon there's something else about Central Festival that makes it totally unique amongst shopping centres in Thailand. Unique and truly one of a kind. It is, to my eyes, the only shopping centre in all of Thailand where visiting females i.e. non-Thais are more attractive than the local women! Wandering through this week, the place was full of Pattaya bargirls – and you don't need to get me started on Pattaya bargirls who for the most part I really don't find that easy eye on the eye. Compare that with some of the lovely Eastern European women, as well as the fair-skinned beauties from mainland China and it makes for a stark contrast from almost every other shopping centre in the country where the imports aren't worth a second look!
Pattaya's Penthouse Hotel is one of the first hotels in Thailand to install 3D TVs in rooms. Some rooms already have them and more will follow. In fact the Penthouse Hotel is investing serious cash in the premises with in-room Jacuzzis being replaced with whirlpools as well as a new swimming pool and gym currently being built. They have already built a nice first-floor (i.e. floor above ground) balcony that is quiet and provides a view over the once bustling Soi Pattayaland 2.
Visiting Khao San Road for the first time in ages this past week, I couldn't help but notice the proliferation of vendors making it feel like Soi Cowboy. What was once a comfortable lane to stroll through is now narrow as bars and restaurants extend out further into the soi. In parts it is almost like the odd numbered side of Sukhumvit between Nana and Asoke.
In addition to German Michael who's living it rough in Pattaya, at least one other foreigner in Sin City is living on the street. The fellow pictured here slept on the Beach Road near Central Festival at least 2 nights this past week, with his belongings alongside him.
The sign at Déjà Vu in Soi Cowboy was dismantled this week. Progress seems awfully slow in rebuilding the bar to the new owner's specs.
Traffic on the underground has got so bad at rush hour that at some stations the announcer states that those waiting for a train might not be able to get on to the train and have to wait for the next train. The underground, and especially the skytrain, carry such huge numbers of passengers these days that serious thought should be given to adding more carriages and / or increasing the frequency of trains. It will only get worse when the Bang Na extension opens in 2 week's time and what I can only imagine will be tens of thousands more passengers start using the skytrain every day.
Bangkok taxi drivers have one of the most stressful jobs in town. Many support a wife and kids up in Isaan and the little they make gets sent upcountry to put food on the table. When chatting with a driver this week, I realised just how seriously some of these guys take their responsibility when he told me how he stays at "the 20-baht apartment". He explained that at some taxi depots drivers sleep on the premises, use the showers there and store a few personal items, all for 20 baht a night.
BKKSteve's weekly Thailand-centric photography column is back. Steve left Thailand to return to the States but has resumed writing his photography column and hopes to keep up the Thai focus.
Quote of the week comes from a bargirl, "Thai guys and Farang guys are much the same, they get drunk, chase women and gamble – the difference is the Farang guy still has some money left over at the end of the month for his girl and family."
Reader's story of the week comes from Koon Saem, "LOS: Land Of Suicides".
A Thai Airways flight flew too low over Melbourne and the incident is being investigated.
A local blog claims that Thai hospital negligence resulted in the death of a foreigner.
Australian airline Jetstar denies exploiting Thai staff.
More Aussies are victims of the jet ski scam in Phuket.
A Brit fakes his own death and is found living it rough in Thailand.
CNNGo highlighted Thailand's cobra village this week.
Ask Sunbelt Legal
Sunbelt Asia's legal department is here to answer your questions relating to legal issues and the law in Thailand. Send any legal questions you may have to me and I will pass them on to Sunbelt Legal and their response will run in a future column. You can contact Sunbelt's legal department directly for all of your legal needs.
Question 1: What is the amount that can be retained as warranty / guarantee against a building contractor on completion of house? What is a customary period of this warranty? As in Europe, am I entitled to receive a full set of architect drawings, civil, mechanical & electrical and plumbing at no extra cost?
Sunbelt Legal responds: You need to determine the amount of warranty with the builder in a contract beforehand. Warranties for buildings are normally 5 years. Usually, the full amount for construction is paid 7 – 15 days after the building has been inspected and been given final approval by you. Most people set up a payment schedule in a contract with the builder before construction and this will detail what is and is not included in the costs. The payment schedule can be determined by you, but generally a percentage is paid before the start of construction, for example, you can pay 30% at the start, then make installment payments as construction proceeds according to schedule and leave the final installment until after final approval by you. You can get full architectural drawings but plumbing, electric and so on will have to be determined in the contract between you and your builder.
Question 2: I bought my Pattaya condo under a company structure since the farang ownership quota was full. The lawyer who set up the company and who owns, with his Thai wife, 51% of the company, has disappeared, possibly because of illicit practices. I have seen another lawyer and have been informed that when the company was set up I should have been given a blank transfer form signed by him, enabling me to sell if I wanted to, and more importantly so that any will I made leaving the condo to my Thai wife on the event of my death would hold water in a Thai court. I cannot seem to get an answer as to how to proceed. I want to have two new Thai partners on the books and get this lawyer and his wife out of the picture. I have been given vague suggestions about forming a new company at a cost of 25,000 baht up but am told unless I can find the lawyer I cannot do this. Can you advise?
Sunbelt Legal responds: You cannot transfer your partners' shares without their permission. The shares are considered personal property and to do so would be considered theft. As well any will you write cannot transfer ownership of the condo as the owner of the condo is the company and is considered a juristic person. Again, no transfer of ownership of the condo can be made without the permission of the shareholders if you do not have the blank transfer forms. If you attempt to do so, they could take the case to the authorities. If you are Managing Director and can produce a quorum and have ownership of preferred shares (shares weighted in such a way as to give you control of the company) then you can hold a shareholder meeting and authorise the sale of the condo, either to you if the foreign ownership quota is not met or to your Thai wife. If you are not the Managing Director but still hold preferred shares then you could possibly hold a shareholder meeting and vote out the current MD and vote yourself in as Managing Director. If you do not have preferred shares and cannot obtain control and the Managing Director has not filed an audit for three years then you can start the process to remove him even though you are just the minor shareholder. Be aware that the government may also close the company and trying to transfer a condo out of a company that no longer exists would prove extremely difficult. Starting a new company would be fruitless as nothing can be transferred to the new company anyway.
Question 3: I have both a non-immigrant B visa and a work permit. Prior to both of them expiring, I want to take a trip out of the country for a few days. Is it correct that I have to purchase a re-entry permit (1,000 baht for a single-entry) or else lose the non-immigrant 'B' visa or the work permit, if not both?
Sunbelt Legal responds: If you have a one year extension on your non-Immigrant B visa so that you are not required to leave the country every 90 days then you will need to get a re-entry permit. A single re-entry permit is 1,000 baht and a multiple re-entry is 3,000 baht. If you do not have the extension and are required to leave the country every 90 days then you do not need a re-entry permit and can leave without fear of losing your visa. Your work permit is not affected by your exit and entry unless you leave the country when it is due for renewal and do not get it renewed before you leave.
I am appreciative of the positive feedback to some photos published in this column. I am often asked about the gear I use and tips for taking night shots in Thailand. I have a few tips specific to night shots – and reckon they are not what you will read elsewhere.
4. You need some competency using a camera, from being able to compose an image to having an idea about what to shoot to being able to build a rapport with a person you may shoot. I do not believe that photographic skills are that important because in Thailand there are so many amazing and crazy things that just pointing your camera and capturing them can make for a great photo.
3. All of the images published in this column are edited to some degree. Shots taken in decent light may be corrected for colour balance and sharpened a little, but that's about it. Shots taken after dark, or in low light, require more processing. Photographs have always been manipulated, from what may be considered today to be crude development techniques in the early days of film right through to today's digital processing. Eliminate any ideas of being a so-called purist. Photos need to be processed to get the best results, ESPECIALLY from a digital SLR (as opposed to a smaller point and shoot!). The photo above, for example, was shot at high ISO, 12800, but with some colour correction, shadow and highlight adjustments, it came out ok. Without processing it was awful!
2. Buy the best gear you can with particular emphasis on lenses. Any digital SLR by Nikon or Canon will serve you well, and don't skimp on lenses. Spend large on glass if you can afford it. The lens is more important than the body.
1. Get out and do it! The most important aspect to capturing interesting photos is going out with a camera. If you don't go out and / or don't have a camera with you, you cannot get the shot. Get out and about and shoot, shoot, shoot!
Your Bangkok commentator,