We worked our way slowly through Phnom Penh's traffic, with me on the back of a trail bike, observing driving standards that make Thai drivers seem like saints. Once clear of the city we proceeded 30 odd kilometres south to a remote, well-kept 12th century Khmer temple where we were the only visitors. We strolled the grounds, took photos, and joked with the locals who made every effort, and then some, to sell us local knick knacks. It was just the sort of afternoon we both enjoy, getting away from the rat race and the crowds, exploring local treasures with camera in hand.
I was with Jim, proprietor of the Phnom Penh institution, California 2. Jim has called Cambodia home for well over a decade and can be described as a hotelier, accomplished photographer, bar hound and a respected expat.
After a fun afternoon out we returned to the capital and in the bar of his guesthouse – more a hotel than a guesthouse, really – we chatted about expat life in Cambodia.
A local village girl selling flowers at a temple, 30 km south of Phnom Penh.
You visited Thailand over a period of time before moving to this part of the world. Can you tell me a bit about your time in this part of the world, your history in Thailand and how you ended up here in Phnom Penh, running a guesthouse.
I never lived in Thailand. I originally went to Thailand a few times when I was a kid on holiday with my Air Force family. I returned again in '89 and found it good value for money and started making 2 or 3 trips a year. After about 10 years, the internet came along and spoiled it. You would go into a gogo bar and see a soccer match on TV and that is just wrong! When the internet came along, people who wouldn't normally travel started coming over to Bangkok and Pattaya and the Thais were soured. The Thais in those tourist areas became more resilient to what I would call the trailer park trash of the world, and unfortunately the other travellers to the region became subject to the new breed of Thais that were created. At that point it was time for my long overdue excursion to Cambodia.
So when did you first come here?
And how was it then?
It was great! Everyone talks about it being the Wild West back then and it really was. You would go travel on unlit streets from one watering hole to the next. The city was dusty and dirty and you would have to change clothes 3 times a day. The girls all wore their hair up due to the dust. There was less English spoken back then.
Sounds like fun! Moving to the present, from the perspective of a Westerner residing in the region, what do you see as the main differences between *living* in Thailand and living in Cambodia? I mean the expat experience, not necessarily what tourists find.
Thailand is more developed and you have creature comforts. There are movie theatres, bowling alleys, more beaches, and a much more developed infrastructure. There are great shopping malls, and events such as big name concerts. At this time the main attraction for Westerners here is doing things like we did today, taking a motorcycle day trip outside the city. You have better TV here in Cambodia than you do in Thailand but I prefer day trips on a motorbike outside the city. You need things to do during the day.
So is there much to do during the day? I get the feeling that as much as I like it here, I am not sure I could live here. I reckon it could become boring quickly during the day.
I have a business that occupies my time. I interact with my customers, handle bookings, touch base with old friends on Facebook that I knew during my childhood in Japan and Turkey, as well as interact with local friends and business owners. I use the internet more than ever since I now have it here in the establishment and have started to integrate more of my photography on to our website. Photography has been a long time hobby and I spend time with that. It's really a photographer's paradise here.
It sure is!
If you have that hobby there is plenty here to keep you busy. If you take overnight trips off the tourist trail to some of the other towns around Phnom Penh, there is plenty to see and photograph.
A common sight in Cambodia, bright-eyed youngsters.
So you need to make your own fun, right?
Yeah, to some extent you need to pursue the things you like to enjoy your time. Otherwise you might end up as a guy who buys a bar so he can drink there for free and you can end up being chewed up and spit out as we know some have.
What about crime against foreigners here? Is that a problem?
There isn't really a Khmer crime on foreigners thing here. As we spoke earlier, you don't want to be on the wrong side of any revenge. Petty crime exists such as purse snatching, or the careless punter losing his phone and cash. This is still
a very impoverished country, though on the surface it might not appear that way. The gap between the haves and have nots is enormous. Foreigners might be targeted because they have money, but not because they are foreigners.
There have been cases where the robber has just taken the money but not the wallet from his victim in a cordial robbery. Kind enough that he wouldn't subject the victim to reapplying for credit cards, or long lines at the DMV (drivers license). You never could display gold necklaces, and I have noticed the big change when in Thailand that the girls don't display their earnings like they used to.
If you are stupid drunk at night then you may become a target. But that is no different to anywhere else.
There have to be some downsides to living here. What are they?
One of the downsides is long-term rental accommodation. Whereas in Pattaya you can rent a condo for, say, $300 a month and it would be close to a 7 Eleven and have a swimming pool, air-conditioning, gym etc. For that price here you won't get the swimming pool or the gym and you would probably have to pay twice that much to get those sorts of amenities. With that said you can go to a local hotel and rent their facilities. You give up the conveniences that you take for granted in Thailand. That's the main thing, I guess.
How would you describe the expat community in Phnom Penh and how is it different (or not) to what we have in Thailand?
I don't really know what the expat communities are like in Thailand. When I used to travel to Thailand, I didn't mix with Westerners. I tried to learn Thai, and hang out with the Thais and the Thai girls. I was not there to hang out and drink
with the boys but rather to meet the girls and the local people.
When I came to Phnom Penh I had a lot more Western friends and we would take motorcycle trips together, that sort of thing. Though I have many friends here, I don't really hang out with that many people. We cross paths in the various night venues and share a drink and move on. It is a good expat community here. That being said we do have all sorts due to the simplicity of getting a long term visa. We have people here for drugs, retirees hanging out, business owners, and guys who are trying to make things happen whether it's business or helping the community.
Pattaya attracted people first because of the nightlife and the entertainment. Cambodia originally attracted people for the same reasons, but in addition many were here to help the country get back on its feet again. NGO types that brought in a different kind of expat. The conservation of the temples and development of infrastructure also created opportunities for people from abroad. At the end of the day, they are all on holiday with plenty of diverse venues to party in.
I see huge growth potential in Phnom Penh as far as expat residents go. My good friend Gordon Sharpless of TalesOfAsia.com fame commented to me last week that on a recent visit he felt Phnom Penh was much more liveable now than ever before. Would you agree?
That's a coin toss. Look at that trip we did today. There would have been no traffic to get out of the city and we would have had an empty highway on the ride to the temple. Today we had traffic.
But then the fact that I have more TV channels, flat screen TVs and I can buy good imported products suggests it is more liveable.
I can wear the same clothes all day and the girls wear their hair down which is more pleasant than up in a bun. We don't have the power outages that we used to although it does happen from time to time. It depends on your neighbourhood and some people might still have one every day.
The fellow here sitting next to you gets them on a daily basis, for a couple of hours – and he has a nice apartment!
Do you see similar trends with expat residents in Cambodia to what we have in Thailand – such as more diversity and increased arrivals from the likes of the Middle East, Africa and other parts of Asia, as well as more females?
Oh yeah, the same is happening here. The tourism industry has boomed over the years with more information out there on the web about Cambodia. The expat community has boomed as well. Before people thought of it is as a dangerous place run by the Khmer Rouge and some come over thinking they will find the Wild West, but those days are long gone. As information gets out there with more info, more people are coming, and many are staying. If we were allowed to have gogo bars in our city, we would have that wrong soccer game being aired in those gogo bars!
Haha! So tell me, why are there no gogo bars here in Phnom Penh? Trust me, that's a deal killer for some of my readers!
The government doesn't want the same aspect of the nightlife areas of Bangkok or Pattaya here. They don't want the city to become like that. There's enough entertainment to be had without introducing that element to Phnom Penh. A few people have come over from Thailand and tried to push the limits only to find themselves in a Khmer prison!
So there is decent nightlife here?
Yeah, there is decent nightlife here and it is growing. I remember when the local pocket guide announced that there were 100 bars here in town. That was maybe 7 years ago. Now there are more dance venues in addition to Street 104 and 136 which are flooded with hostess bars. More bars are also opening on Street 130 and dotted around neighbourhoods in between.
But you don't really want to see them develop that much more, I reckon.
You mean the hostess bars?
Street 136, pictured here, along with Street 104, are the main hostess bar strips.
I mean the industry in general. It seems to me that the nightlife industry here is teetering and could go one way or the other. It could develop, become even more known and before you know it there'd be heaps more Western naughty boys coming, or it could meander along as it is now and remain a bit of a backwater, in the region at least.
Most importantly, I don't want the industry to change the Khmers the way it has changed the Thais. I would like to see things develop in such a way that there is a focus. The Street 51 area has grown and attracts many people. You easily bounce into
3 nightclubs, a handful of hostess bars, or drink in regular bars with friends. There are plenty of food stalls as well. An added benefit, it is safer to stick to one area and not be subjected to crazy drunk drivers, albeit apart from
the idiot who cruises up Street 51 in his Land Cruiser the wrong way!
A lot of Westerners resident in Thailand have a Thai other half and that is much of the attraction to some guys. Many Western guys here seem to have a Cambodian lady in tow. I get the impression Cambodian women are more conservative than the Thais, but more fun loving. Am I right or have I got it all wrong?
I wouldn't say they are more fun loving because everyone loves to have a good time. Guys from here go to Thailand and you go out with the Thais and have a good time there too. I think on both sides of the border the guy is a meal ticket, but on this side of the border maybe the meal is a bit cheaper! It is a more impoverished country so I think the aid that goes out to the provinces and the family isn't going to a hurt a guy's wallet as much. Many guys who do find themselves with girlfriends who wish to start a family, well, I think you can find the same thing in Thailand as you can here. I think it is harder to find in Pattaya and Phuket and Bangkok which have gone the way of greed and moved away from their Buddhist principles.
Are Cambodian women easy to meet, in terms of looking for a long-term relationship? Is it moving more and more online like it is in Thailand?
English is widely spoken here, more so than in Thailand and there is a class system. As in Thailand people have their station in life. There is no real middle class. The dowry exists here as it does in Thailand, and the higher you go up the wealth chain, the more you are expected to "give". It happens with the local guys marrying Khmer women too. If a Khmer guy wishes to step up a class, the family of the lady might impede his upward movement by demanding more than he can produce.
For a Westerner with a job it is easy. You can come into a place like this which is not a hostess bar and ask a girl out. You might find yourself on a date with the girl's sister or other family members as a chaperone.
You might also find girls that already had a Khmer husband and a kid and now they have the freedom to go out without a chaperone but they do not want to be a bargirl.
Pontoon, a popular late night spot / disco.
So there's nothing online at this stage?
The Khmers are on Facebook and they are on Facebook in English.
Unlike the Thais!
Yeah. They are networking. They text message in English. The Khmer Rouge cleaned the slate, and the new generations embrace English. It is going to take a few generations, but in a few years I think this will be a hub in South-East Asia because of their desire to do business and their willingness to conduct business in English.
What about the future here?
My biggest fear is what happens when they look at introducing sin taxes and put a tax on alcohol and the like. With all the people coming over here, I fear the wrong ideas will trickle into the government. It's still affordable to do business, and
local governments won't kill the goose as is the case in Thailand.
We can still smoke in the bars. Don't have the "music tax" and for the most part the developing community polices itself in a manner which will allow it to continue to operate. We still have the freedoms. We can see what globalization has done to Thailand and when it gets here, things will change. Its tentacles have already reached here and they are starting to spread into the fabric of the country.
It's a fun place to go out at night and a big part of that is the affordability. You can go out every night of the week if you play it right. In Thailand or other countries in the region like Malaysia, no way, not unless you have a lot of money!
An attractive staff member in California 2 mixes Stick his favourite Long Island Iced Tea.
How long have you been running the guesthouse?
I took over in September 2001. It was an existing business. The landlady had it for 6 years. I ran it for another 7 years and then she sold the property. A year later, that was 2009, we found this property, spent six months on renovations, and we opened the doors here in October 2009.
So tell me more about California 2.
Well, it was a guesthouse where I stayed on my first few trips to Cambodia before Lonely Planet said it was ok to travel to Cambodia. I found my side trips from Thailand to Cambodia getting longer and longer. I fell in love with my staff before they were
The landlady put it up for lease and I guess I got in ahead of the game. Location, location, location and it was in the best location in the city at the time.
Being in early and getting a website out to tell the outside world about Cambodia and us gave us an advantage. When Lonely Planet gave the approval for people to come over we were already established. One of the main aspects of our business was to promote our business by promoting the country first. We promoted destinations around the country, adventure motorcycle rides to places off of the tourist trail and encouraged visitors to explore. We were acquiring info through our customers as well as our own travel experiences and we were able to relay that info in a bar / guesthouse setting rather than some travel agency. Our ability to merge our travelling clientele with the expats in the bar built our name as place to go if you wanted information.
Jim, owner and manager of California 2 Guesthouse, in Pattaya in 1971.
You're an institution in this town now!
We sure were when we had our Cinco de Mayo closing party in 2008 and due to our reputation we were able to relocate and pick up where we left off a year and a half later. We might not be the same institution as we were before, as development has changed the dynamic of the city / country, but I know the obscure places and ancient sites haven't moved, and we still have the inside track how to get there and where to go. At the same time we try to keep our finger on the pulse with what is going on in a rapidly changing Phnom Penh. In our new location we upped our game as far as the standard of our rooms as well as having a better bar setting.
So are *you* the institution?
My name is not on my business card. We are a team here. <He points to a staff member.> She is California 2 too and so is she <as he points at another member of staff>. I am not the institution. I am just a link in the chain. I have my function and let my staff know that each and every one of their roles in the operation is just as important. I try to be the best boss for my staff and make their work environment pleasant for them. This carries through as they interact with our customers.
So why should my readers come and stay here, apart from the fact that I stay here, I personally recommend it and let's be frank, you have some pretty ladies working here!
As for my staff I too want a pleasant work environment. It's not easy being the human resources department but I try my best. For your readers, it's their holiday. It has always been our opinion that we cannot be everything to everybody but we will do our best to direct people to see and do the things that suit them best. We want them to leave with a good impression and when they do, we want to be the underlying reason. If our room is not satisfactory for them, we encourage them to go somewhere else where it is. We try to satisfy our customers' needs with safe and secure premises that are open 24 hours, free fast wi-fi, cheap convenient mini-bar drinks and flat screen TVs with plenty of channels. Due to our lack of confidence in local construction standards the mirrors went on the walls instead of the ceilings, and if you want pink champagne on ice, let us know in advance.
There are a number of Phnom Penh's popular night spots within walking distance of us. I have created a new page on my site with info about nightlife in Phnom Penh.
And we are not keeneow with our napkins like they are in Thailand! That's been a pet peeve of mine for a long time! Why do they do that, give you one tiny small napkin?!
Those who might be a little more private or reserved might not want to be here. But those who want to embrace the country and chat with local expats in the bar have a lot to gain. You can really cut your learning curve here!
Last week's photo
Where was this photo taken?
Last week's photo was taken from the Siam Square BTS station, looking south, across Siam Square. The Novotel at Siam Square is on the left of the photo. 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.
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 – You're forgettable!
I've always thought it both funny and pathetic that farang men pay a barfine for a bargirl, take her to a hotel or their apartment, do the nasty, and then pay the woman for her "services", while deluding themselves into thinking they're having a "girlfriend experience". For at least 99% of these women, it's nothing more than a business transaction. Many farang men may think it's dehumanizing to pick a woman from a fish bowl, pay the fee to the establishment, do the nasty with the woman, pay the woman her "tip", and leave. But is it any less dehumanizing to pick up a gogo dancer at a bar, pay the barfine, have sex with her, and then pay her when the deed is done? Whatever form it takes, prostitution is prostitution. Thai men have the right idea – pay for the services you want, do your business in a room on the premises, leave and forget about it. She'll certainly forget about you.
We mightn't trust them but they trust us!
A friend had a Coconut Bar bird stay overnight in his room. Great service and out the door the next morning. He found her watch on the wash basin in the bathroom later in the day so he called her to tell her that he had it. The girl said, "No problem, I trust you with my watch". Rather funny, the beach lady trusting the farang.
Bada Bing bliss.
A bar that doesn't get enough mention in your column is Bada Bing, in Patpong. I think the women in that bar are more attractive than your average gogo. The bar seems to have a much more permissive attitude than most other gogos. You can freely smoke inside, which by the way I don't like but mention it to support their permissive ways. You can take pictures inside which is unheard of. The girls are raunchier and a few of my crazier nights in Thailand have been in this bar. The girls – even the coyotes – are friendlier and you can freely get phone numbers. In general I find Patpong bars to be quite miserable – lots of unattractive girls and poor attitudes but Bada Bing is a real gem. I just wish they didn't allow smoking inside.
Looking for love in all the wrong places.
If your readers sent you 1/10th of the money they saved because of your good advice, you could easily buy a pair of ultra-modern condos right by the river. And all the bad marriages that you prevented because week after week you beam out so many bright yellow lights for the newcomers, naive and those who drink too much, like a beacon for ships not to sail right into the rocks. But this week I was disheartened to read your slap-down of bargirls and the guys who pursue them. But, OK, obviously you have been around the block a few times. The best movie in the world gets a bit much on the 52nd viewing. I'm just saying you have been in Thailand for years but many readers, overseas readers particularly, might be lucky to visit 3 times a year for 10 days and it's a whole different equation. And down deep so many women in the bars are such sweethearts and pretty damn brave to be dealing with these older, beer buffalo men from far off countries. But my own experience is that nearly all the girls and all the men are looking for a special someone. For love at the core of all the lust. For obvious reasons it seldom happens and when it does, as you chronicle so well, it is usually a one-way street where the older man gets skinned alive and dumped when his money runs out. It's not that we aren't hoping for much more. And it does happen.
Same same and certainly not different!
Regarding the bar scene, I'm totally with you. I have avoided that for years, except for maybe once every couple of months I trot down Soi Disappointment to see if things have got better. They never do. Same same and certainly not different. And certainly not worth the 3,000 baht or so it costs to have a few minutes jiggy-jiggy to satisfy brainless "little bro". A quick knuckle-shuffle has the same effect and afterwards "little bro" is none the wiser, but my wallet is still full and once the main-brain has re-engaged all is fine.
The parking lot in front of the original branch of Sunrise Tacos at Sukhumvit soi 12 will be replaced with an area with much needed seating. The big problem the ultra popular venue has is a shortage of seats. With the renovations soon to begin it will provide much needed extra seating. The venue is so popular that often you have to wait outside for a table to become available. The parking lot will be redeveloped and is expected to have an additional 80 seats with a waterfall and V8 Diner will have 80 seats on the left hand side of the complex as well. Once started, renovations to the parking lot area should be finished in 6 weeks.
Spanky's in Nana isn't resting on its laurels and started some new shows a couple of weeks back. They also have a new troop of girls coming in the venue. Along with Angelwitch next door, they have to be amongst the busiest bars in the plaza.
Pattaya's Heaven Above is celebrating the birthday's of Greg & Patrick this coming Friday, August 19. As usual, this is a celebration for all of those born under the sign of Leo. BBQ, drink specials and surprises all night long and the lovely heaven girls. Heaven Above is located on Soi Diamond, just off Walking Street.
Following the opening of Las Vegas in Nana Plaza, business is steadily increasing. As with any new gogo bar it takes a while to get established and build up bar trade. Las Vegas needs more gogo dancers, but the girls they do have are easy on the eye. Located on the top floor of Nana Plaza it replaced the old Hollywood Strip that was previously left dormant. After experimenting with Las Vegas style shows the glitz and glam remains, but the show routines have been considerably spiced up. The owners of Las Vegas decided that the choreographers should revamp the shows – making changes including more upbeat songs. Horn dogs will be pleased to know that the showgirls are much more revealing than previously. One show catching the eye is a Japanese theme show, which incorporates Samurai swords. All in all Las Vegas is going in the right direction and is starting to become more popular.
An Irish pub without Guinness is hardly an Irish pub at all, so when Ireland's most famous drop was temporarily unavailable at The Dubliner, some customers were disappointed. It's available again and they also have a new Irish brand on draught, O'Hara's stout and Irish pale ale. The stout has been described to me as tasty, and not as heavy as Guinness. The pale ale is said to be excellent and dangerously smooth. Being imports, they will set you back 200 baht a pint which isn't cheap but hey, it's good to see a real Irish flavour and it's something different to try. With distribution by the same firm bringing in Magner's cider, maybe it'll turn up elsewhere.
How long will it be until fingerprint scanners are installed at the airport? Friends in Phnom Penh tell me that they have just been installed at Phnom Penh International Airport. The Thai Immigration department made noises a while back about a new system being put in place with finger printing being done when visas were extended. How long will it be before we are being passed a bunch of tissues to wipe the fingerprint ink off out fingertips?
A mate took a girl out of a Pattaya bar after she had been recommended to him by the boss. My mate, perhaps a little foolishly, returned to the same bar 8 days later, but this time with his regular i.e. long-term girlfriend in tow. The girl my mate had done the business with a week earlier made a point of letting my mate's regular girlfriend know that she had tasted his sausage a week earlier. DISASTER! Needless to say his regular girlfriend was not at all pleased and my mate went into damage control and did the only thing he could do, and deny it, but frankly, the damage had already been done. This is merely a reminder that you shouldn't place your trust with these girls. While most won't steal from you if you leave valuables around – in that respect many are in fact trustworthy – you're taking a hell of a risk if you expect them to keep a secret. Secrets in Thailand? I am surprised they even have a word for secret here!
Secrets in Pattaya will celebrate their 5th anniversary on September 1st. Secrets anniversary parties are always a fun night and expect all the usual – free food and lots of fun!
Following on from the question in last week's column about what happened to the friendly Brit bar greeter, William, the rumour mill has it that he has been seen in the Khao San Road area selling the local fire water from a stall. The rumour came from Irish Joe, a fixture at Patpong and Sukhumvit, that is the same Joe who got a few months after allegedly being caught stealing a can of sardines from Foodland!
Why is it that some guys walk into a naughty bar, see few or even no customers, and leave?! In a bar where there are no customers, the girls are hungrier and in all likelihood will be more interested in you – so it's probably the ideal time to be there if you're looking for a bit of company. Of course if you are out for a few drinks and to enjoy the atmosphere then it might be rather different.
I see that the mobile phone performance here seems to be troubled, again. From time to time you face all sorts of problems here, from area where signals were once strong becoming black spots, to calls being frequently dropped to being unable to connect to someone you're attempting to call. Chatting with mates it seems that most people I know experience so many problems that we all seem to think there is something wrong with our phone. It doesn't seem to matter what network you're on, or whether you're calling someone on the same network you use or another. It seems that something is going on…
The skytrain extended on Friday, to include another 5 stations out beyond Onut. The acid test will be tomorrow when we all go back to work and it becomes a little clearer how much busier things will be at peak time, especially on the Sukhumvit line. The last station on the Sukhumvit line is now Bearing.
Quote of the week comes from a friend, "Is that for the whole week?!" – his response to the request of $400 from a freelancer at Spasso's!
An Aussie heartthrob died in a sauna in Bangkok this week.
Bangkok is named the world's cheapest city for travellers.
From CNNGo, how you can eat Thai food and remain healthy!
A Bangkok novelist blogs about just that, being a Bangkok novelist!
It's only a few years back when Thailand tried to barter chickens for F16s!
Thai police rescue dogs on the way to restaurants in Vietnam!
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 am in the process of building a web-based business with my girlfriend. We are testing the water and have not formed a company yet. What I want to know is when we decide to form one, how can I best protect myself and attempt to keep the company in tact if we break up. She has a history in sales and retail which is the area the website focuses on and is very business-orientated so I think we could continue to work together regardless. The business is totally legal and not selling football shirts or silk on eBay. Secondly, if we don't attempt to get me a work permit, can I still have shares in the company and simply produce the website behind the scenes but officially be like a silent partner? If later I wanted a work permit, what are the requirements? I want to open a bank account in the company's name. To do this, does it need to be a registered company first and do I need to show proof etc or are there other ways? Is there a system of weighted shares that can effectively give me control of the company but still satisfy the 49/51 rule?
Sunbelt Legal responds: First, the best way to keep yourself safe is to create a Thai limited company of which you can own shares without holding a work permit, but you will not be able to work and you will not be allowed to sign any of the company documents. Once the limited company is established then the Managing Director can open a bank account in the company name. This cannot be done until the company is established. You can weight the shares so that you retain control. These are called preferred shares and Sunbelt Asia has extensive experience setting up all types of companies including those with weighted shares, BOI and Amity treaty companies.
Question 2: My wife and I live in the USA. We have a condo in Thailand that she bought years ago with a mortgage at a Thai bank. It has a large balance we have thought of paying off. The condo building's foreign ownership quota is full. The condo / mortgage is in her name and she is part of the Thai quota in that condo complex. If we pay it off will we be able to transfer ownership into both our names or will the fact that the foreign ownership quota being full disallow that? Basically with one Thai and one foreign owner, what quota section would our condo unit be subject too?
Sunbelt Legal responds: If you co-own the condominium, your half of the ownership would still count towards the 49% foreign ownership quota.
I had hoped to include a restaurant review in today's column as I attempt to diversify the column a little. So off two mates and I trotted to a popular farang bar and grill that had recently relocated. I'd eaten there a couple of time before and the food was good. To keep things simple, I ordered a dish that every venue of this type does well. To cut a long story short, the food was mediocre and even the ambience of the venue was off. At first I was tempted to write an honest review about what had been a disappointing experience, but this is Thailand and you just can't do that. Whereas in the past I tended to be rather impetuous, these days I tend to be more circumspect. In Thailand, even if what you write is true, or you write something less than complimentary and state clearly that it is your opinion, it may come back to bite you. As such I decided not to write anything and will simply vote with my feet and not return. This highlights one of the challenges with this column. I like to offer an informed opinion, but you really do have to be careful what you say in these parts, hence my decision not to write that review, as well as to be a little more careful about what I cover in the column these days.
Your Bangkok commentator,