I used to think that I was a magnet for fools with some of the odd and occasionally threatening emails I receive. That was until I came to realise that most Thailand websites and discussion forums attract the same element.
The internet is particularly useful for foreigners in Thailand, with various websites providing a meeting point where issues can be discussed, ideas exchanged and even plans made to meet. But when you get to know those you first met online, and when you look more closely at some of the things they say, you might just find that you are not so comfortable divulging so much about yourself to people who may not be quite what they first seemed.
Thailand's English language internet landscape with its myriad discussion forums, information websites, blogs and columns can be hostile. It is of full trolls, shit stirrers, trouble makers and some genuinely nasty people. Where once the internet and real lives were quite separate, today they are often intertwined. Many spend more of their waking hours online than not, and some people's online persona is as much a part of their real life as the real them.
But for so many expats in Thailand, the online them and the real them are very, very different. Never was that better represented than when myself and a webmaster mate briefly stopped by a SlyGeezer get together a few years back. We were keen to meet and chat with a couple of people involved in the day to day running of the site who had represented themselves as energetic and interesting characters. We found them in a small group in the corner that resembled a grumpy old men's convention. While they had represented themselves well online, it quickly became clear they were clueless about all things Thai. We quickly became scarce.
The highly popular and hugely commercially successful SlyGeezer is iconic amongst expat sites in Thailand. With a huge readership and an incredible amount of information, it is undoubtedly the best place to post a question on anything vanilla; the forum shirks anything controversial, let alone anything that could be considered even remotely questionable. SlyGeezer is so dominant that to use a real world example, just like the market position Microsoft holds with operating systems, it would take a monumental effort and investment to merely compete, let alone displace it. And again just like Microsoft, they are often accused of abusing their market position. My complaint with SlyGeezer is that it has replicated the policies of the lords of the land. "These are the rules and you must abide by the rules and no, you may not so much as even discuss the rules!" The number of people thrown off the board for speaking commonsense is staggering and the moderators are as brutal and efficient as the Gestapo when anyone misbehaves. Rumour has it that they will switch to a new, more appropriate domain name: ThailandLoveItOrLeaveIt.com.
Most forums claim to promote the sharing and discussion of ideas. Some may promote an associated business, or perhaps even try to push or promote a certain way of thought. The problem with many Thailand-centric forums is the way so many say things online they would never say in person which significantly diminishes the forum's value as a worthwhile resource.
The odd forum exists as a place for friends to meet and arrange their tomfoolery. Nanapong, a breakaway group from the long-defunct NanaPlaza forum, is one such forum which was founded by a bunch of party animals as a means to arrange and chronicle their (mis-)adventures in Bangkok's nightlife. They never took themselves seriously and the tone of the forum was more like a night out on the town than a forum. Unlike many local forums and Thailand-centric sites, there was no pretension. Nanapong was about the promotion of fun and the pursuit of a good time.
With even the smaller forums boasting thousands of registered users and hundreds contributing every day, it's inevitable that there will be a few oddballs. That means not just bickering which is common on local forums, but misinformation, and in some cases, post after post of misinformation.
And how often do discussions on the Thailand forums go so far off topic, as bickering gets out of hand. Someone is slighted by a user's comments and instead of discussing the topic, they attack the person. A question may have been asked about the type of visa a person requires and 5 posts later things are so off topic that someone posts something like "Manchester United sucks"!
I always laugh when I peek at naughty boy trip reports in the hidden areas of some nightlife forums. Some guys pen trip reports with photos of ladies they spent time with. I find myself wondering how someone in a country with so many beautiful women could find some of these women even remotely attractive. That alone is not so bad, but the number of replies affirming the ugly duckling was some sort of beauty queen is!
But perhaps a better example of misinformation would be the inevitable discussion which followed the mysterious death of a high-profile foreigner in Pattaya a couple of years back. A thread ran on a Pattaya discussion forum with dozens of posts saying what a great guy the deceased was. It may be uncool to talk ill of the dead, but as Cigar Bob (bless his soul, for he too has since passed away) said to me at the time, "Who are the idiots writing this bullshit? You could walk up and down Walking Street and ask anyone at any bar what they thought of him and you wouldn't hear a single positive word!"
Everyone should have a chance to be heard, but it also means myths and misconceptions proliferate.
Another of my pet peeves about Thailand websites is the way some expat-owned and run news sites, especially regional news sites, suck up to the authorities and praise their work ad nauseam when in fact the very people they are patting on the back have often failed to act in the case of repeated scams, or they may even be complicit! The consistent praising of the authorities when they are part of the problem is not an easily pill to swallow.
Things are frequently said on Thailand expats sites which would not be said in public, and almost never to someone's face. And what appears online can piss some off so much that they respond in an extreme way, not just online, but in the real world.
A few years back a quality individual started up a private discussion forum for Thailand expats that was by invitation only. He invited people he felt were sensible and who he felt could bring something to the table. He eventually pulled the plug for reasons I don't recall, a shame as the concept was good. No major Thailand expat site that allows users to post freely is without its share of nonsense.
Outing users isn't uncommon on Thailand sites and discussion forums. How someone could take offence at something as innocuous as having different political leanings makes me wonder. But to then go to great lengths to establish that person's identity and out them online, publishing their identity along with photos online, perhaps even such personal details as their place of work, their residential address makes you wonder about the sort of people out there. And when someone is outed, it can be with scurrilous untruths which see them subjected to ridicule.
The danger when untruths are said about you is that the web is forever and like a piece of driftwood floating in the ocean, it may be out of sight, but it's still there somewhere, and there's no chance of getting it back. And so with comments made online, a record of them is stored by Mr. Google, and they are always there.
Online battles may even spill over into real life. Not that long ago threats were made by the owners of one Pattaya discussion forum to the owners of another Pattaya discussion forum. It got nasty with threats of violence as well as malicious and false complaints made to the police.
I recently read that some sickos had posted photos of a respected foreign journalist's young children online as well as his address. Is it possible to be more twisted?
Is the only way to avoid all this BS online to refrain from having an online presence and from posting online? If you are merely perceived to have mocked or slighted someone, perhaps even merely disagreed with them, you could be seen as the enemy. Who knows how they may respond? Queensbury Rules has no online equivalent and online spats can become brutal. Piss someone off online and in Thailand it seems there's no limit to what might follow. When I wrote of my own cyberbullying episode some months back, I received emails from those who had experienced similar – and most had a Thailand connection.
There are reasons I run this site the way I do. I'd love to allow readers to respond to this column directly so other readers could read their comments and reply. In theory it would be good for the site and would certainly be good for business. But having seen what happens elsewhere, it would require moderation to avoid things getting nasty, and my propensity for covering the controversial and saying what I really think sometimes elicits extreme comments.
It's ironic that even though I run one of the best known and most popular sites of its type, there are few Thailand expat sites I so much as look at, let alone read regularly. Part of this is due to what Bernard Trink once said to me. "Young Stick", he said, "If you read Nanaplaza or Nanapong (the two popular forums of the day) you will be influenced by others without even realising it."
I don't read any Thailand blogs unless you count Andrew Drummond's as a blog. If I was new to Thailand and wanted to learn more about the country I'd go to the excellent ThailandGuru.com. While many sites have heaps of great insider info, too often you have to sift through BS, bickering and much misinformation to find it.
I spend a lot of time online and in addition to browsing articles on the sites of quality media organisations, I enjoy reading and contributing to quality fan sites. I follow a number of digital photography sites which are free of the nonsense so prevalent on Thailand-related sites and forums. I follow social commentary forums in my homeland and while discussion can get heated, especially when it comes to right versus left, it comes down to mental horsepower. Vitriol is not tolerated. Ditto the international rugby fan sites and forums. The screeds of nonsense found on Thailand-centric sites for Westerners is a Thailand thing and something I have not encountered elsewhere online.
Thailand's expat community comprises many characters, criminals, nasty people and plain weirdoes. I believe Thailand's English language internet landscape accurately reflects that.
*When* was this photo taken?
Last week's photo of the Biergarten in Sukhumvit soi 7 was taken in the year 2000. One reader guessed 1972 – the Stick had only just arrived on the planet and digital cameras were still 25+ years away! This week's was obviously taken out the front of Nana Plaza. But when?! All you have to do is tell me the year the photo was taken. The first person to email me with the correct year wins a 500 baht credit at Oh My Cod, the fish and chips restaurant. The second person 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.
Content on this page requires a newer version of Adobe Flash Player.
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 immense value of freedom.
I have an online business that I can run from anywhere in the world which brings in decent earnings, over 100k baht a month. I resigned from a well-paying job recently to focus on the website but at the same time I have been offered a job back in the corporate world. I know I will never amass a fortune or get ahead on 100K – 120K per month but the feeling of not having to answer to anyone and having complete control over everything you do is so incredibly elating. Every day I wake up and can hardly believe the sheer joy and pleasure of not being beholden to anyone and not having to be anywhere at any specific time. I am very much into fitness and developing new websites and so my days are completely full of doing the things I love! Running my income generating website only takes 45 minutes a day and I can do it from anywhere. Each day absolutely flies by like never before and this feels what life should be like. I am lucky that even after quite a few years in Thailand I am not into the usual expat drinking every night and hitting the bars (dating sites yes, bars no) so getting into bad habits with my free time was never a problem. I have seen every country in the world that I want to see so I don't need the money that I once needed for travel. I don't have a house that I own which would be nice but nor do I have any debts. This feeling of complete and total freedom is new to me and utterly priceless. It's almost life-affirming. I have been offered a regional role with a high salary and right now I am not sure I even want that job!
It's a one way ticket!
I think it is just a matter-of-fact that once you leave New Zealand or Australia and you live in Asia successfully for several years you can never go back and be truly happy for so many reasons. Possibly this is another warning for those considering the big step – it is actually a one-way ticket. I think nearly all of those that go back do so because they have no choice – typically to collect social security when their money is running low. While I don't have the Thailand-related problems here in Singapore, it sometimes scares me to think that I don't fully belong anywhere anymore. Maybe I need to take Singapore citizenship to complete the process of belonging here because I know I will never feel like I fully belong back home. Do I regret my life choices? Absolutely not! If I had my time again, the move to Asia would be earlier!
Pining for home.
Surely your decision to stay in the land of frowns is the best. You would never be happy back "home". I have a nice house in Bangkok and one in the countryside. My 3 sons were all born in Canada and then we left to live in Thailand. I eventually got a good teaching job. My daughter and 3 sons went to a Thai school. My daughter flew back to Canada 3 years ago to attend University and she is doing well. One day I decided that my oldest son wasn't learning and didn't care so the family moved back to BC which is much like NZ. The kids loved it and their schools. I hated it! There were no jobs for me and I struggled emotionally. I drank a bit in Thailand, but here I started to drink every day. My kids and wife love it, and I know that it was the right thing to do, but I can't wait to go home – to my house in Bangkok!
Finding happiness in a place you don't belong.
I can't help but sympathise with your plight. I do not live in Thailand but since the age of 16 I have been from the UK to Australia with very frequent trips to Thailand. It's true when I first started going to Thailand that it was not to immerse myself in Thai culture but anything that I could find between Nana and Cowboy! That was then. Now I'm a different and I hope a better person. The problem I find is that now I don't fit in anywhere. I am only truly happy when I'm in Thailand, yet I don't belong there. The western rat race may provide me the means to visit the place I love the most but it feels foreign to me. People ask me to tell them of my adventures but none can understand – and yes, their wives do see me as a threat, well some of them! You are lucky in the fact that you have carved out a place for yourself in Thailand, but like me you know that being in your homeland is something that will never feel right. It's like wearing your brother's shoes – same size, right colour but just uncomfortable. When I go to Australia it's the same thing. I'm there and I have family. I'd always have a home and work wouldn't be a major problem, yet it's just not the right fit. There is always this little voice in my head calling me back to Thailand.
Good for a holiday, difficult to live there.
To stay or to go is the question. Many a good man has faced this question. While one waits to make up his mind, Thailand changes and complicates the question. Without question Thailand has changed through the years. My first trip to Pattaya was in 1978 and the last trip was 2011. Not only does Thailand change but the individual changes with age. My decision to not homestead in Thailand evolved through the years. It's very difficult to own property in Thailand and one must realise when you marry a Thai that her family comes with her. The pillars of life are having a place to live in peace and a mate to share with, fundamentals hard to come by in Thailand due to the culture. Thailand is the land of smiles, a good place to vacation through the years but for a westerner to live there is more than difficult.
The fall of a once great country.
I am pleased to see you have put the demon of returning to NZ to bed. We're not all god faring in NZ; it's just somewhat more difficult to assimilate if you choose to march to the beat of a different drum here. I'm pleased that you did take another (objective) look at NZ. It is indeed a shame that the once proud Kiwi culture of pragmatism and egalitarianism has been usurped by the department of social development and its army simply to ensure the (stupid) people are enslaved by state dependency for the sole purpose of winning electoral votes. The more converts to dependency, the more votes. Sad and sick and not worth dwelling on; suffice to say that New Zealand is almost one big "state house" that's slowly but surely being converted to one big marae.
A country which has lost its way.
Very astute thoughts on New Zealand which pretty much mirror mine. I am from the UK originally and settled in NZ 23 years ago. This country has been good to me. My girls can't wait to start life anywhere other than New Zealand. They feel it is boring. Boys are one dimensional (i.e. they only like rugby and cars) and there are few opportunities for them here. You are right about the beautiful scenery, healthy lifestyle options and cleanliness, but those factors are not the only things which make a great life. It is terribly dull here, and as you say the PC mob have full control. Every evening on the telly a large portion of ads and programmes tell us what is compulsory or prohibited. Don't drink and fry (my favourite), be careful of falling over in your home and claiming accident compensation from the government, watch out at intersections or you'll get killed, second-hand smoking, drinking and driving, eat 5 veges a day, stock up on vitamins, don't get fat, keep your driving speed down, always lock your doors and windows or your insurance is invalid, get saving for retirement; the list of things the media and government is exhorting us to do or not do is constantly expanding and creates an atmosphere of fear and worry. When you augment that with constant reminders that you can pre-purchase your funeral at several pristine death gardens in the area, it's a big job not to get pissed, drive too fast and enjoy a drunken fry up!
Pattaya is home!
You can't go home as I found out in 1970 after returning from 3 years in Europe living on the local economy and speaking German. When you wrote about closed-mindedness, it struck a familiar chord. As I see it there are two reasons they receive us poorly when we vary from the rap they consider normal. They envy your courage to say those things and having left the national cocoon and it intimidates them as they are afraid of change as they know one must conform in most white countries. I feel I am in my real home here in Pattaya, overlooking Pattaya Bay from my condo (photo below). Bangkok was always too polluted for this cowboy.
Entertainment options in Soi Cowboy are expanding as street performers have arrived, replicating what you see on Walking Street. It's hardly the ideal time of year for them, it being the rainy season which doubles as the low season. I guess how successful they are i.e. how much money punters throw their way will determine if they become the same sort of permanent fixture on cowboy as performers are on Pattaya's Walking Street.
More and more beggars, flower girls and general pests are showing up in Soi Cowboy. Pesky vendors have figured out that Cowboy is mainly the domain of expats and as such tourist related trinkets are less likely to fill their basket. That is not to say you won't get approached by Somchai the roaming vendor and offered a fake Rolex, but it's more likely you'll be fighting off the Indian nut man or the many flower sellers.
Does the form of the bare female foot do it for you? If it does, you and I are on a different wavelength! But if you are a foot fetishist you might want to visit Demonia in Sukhumvit soi 33 on Saturday evening when they hold what I believe is a first for Bangkok, foot fetish night! I don't know quite what the celebration of feet involves, in fact I don't even want to think about it too much! With the average Thai woman having a pretty face and a slender body, I just don't know what the attraction is with her feet!
The difficulty in commenting about certain dancers in the bar industry is that they frequently disappear from the industry and while punters continue to talk about them, they go on to become the mysterious phantom dancer. When the dirty doctor awarded the unofficial top bottom of Cowboy award to Tilac's #88, replacing the sponsored #95, she seemed to disappear and was not spotted while we made our rounds. When she reappeared it was obvious that she had gone under the knife and her headlights had been super-sized. That might have set her back 60K baht or so – or more likely some happy punter paid for it – so this girl obviously knows what punters want and what a great investment they are. To say she has become more popular is kind of like saying a blind man has a chance of getting laid in Cowboy.
Expanding awnings seems to be the latest trend in Cowboy and Tilac has added one to ensure that those sitting at the seats at the front of the venue next to the soi don't get splash-back from runoff. The Corner has also added a new expanding awning. With Thailand experiencing its heaviest rainfall in years and its worst flooding in recent memory, who would have thought that water control would become a priority for bar owners?
The Strip in Patpong will host a strip tease competition on Friday after next, October 14th. And if you really want to be a naughty boy, you can grab one of the pretty ladies off stage and jump into a booth for 400 baht.
If you ever encountered a service girl at Sheba's who had a persistently bad attitude and then noticed it suddenly improved, her mood swings can be easily explained. Service girls in the bar industry are often on a remarkably low salary and really do rely on tips to supplement their income. The girl in question was doing her best to hold down 2 full-time jobs leaving her exhausted by the time she started her shift. Since then she has found a customer who regularly takes her from the bar eliminating the need for a second job. She isn't as tired and has a much more pleasant demeanour now.
On the topic of service girls, if you're a regular at a bar and a new service girl starts, it's not a bad idea to point out how much money you have handed to her when it's time to settle the bill. And check your change! Just as dancers do the rounds from venue to venue, service girls may be transplants and there appear to be some who are either appalling at maths or know that a guy with a few beers in his belly is less aware of how much change he is due. Remember, while girls may move from one bar to another if they believe they can make more money, a lot of the movement around the bars is due to problems i.e. the girl did something she should not have at her previous place of employment and left.
Is the Big Mango in Sukhumvit soi 4 the coldest bar in town? With their new air-conditioning units they have recently installed it sure is a bit chilly! And please note that the Big Mango now opens its doors at 10 AM, and not the 5 PM it used to be!
The Pattaya Beer Garden, that bar and restaurant that makes up the very first venue hanging out over Pattaya Bay when approaching Walking Street from Beach Road, is back in full cry after renovations. The venue never closed as far as I am aware but was in a state of flux for a while. It's a great spot to be when the sun goes down, the food from the kitchen gets decent reviews (although I have never tried it myself) and with Beer Lao available at just 80 baht, it's at its best as a place to hang for an hour or so for a couple of pre-dinner drinks.
Readers have asked me to profile The Arab, a mysterious fellow often mentioned in this column – and not always in a positive light. To put the record straight, I requested an interview with him 3 long years ago to which he agreed. Shortly before the interview was to be conducted, he emailed me to say that the interview could proceed but I could not publish it here! What use is that? I explained that this was his chance to talk about his bars and his approach to the industry but no, that didn't work for him. I know he scans this column each week so to "Mr. Cowboy" – as we know you want to be referred to – the offer is open and I'd still like to interview you. Any time, any place…the only condition is that the interview runs in this column!
A reader reckons he has seen the ultimate Cheap Charlie in Pattaya. He was being a Cheap Charlie himself, drinking 50 baht Tiger beers at his favourite beer bar on Second Road near the Dolphin roundabout when a guy walks up to the bar with a large Leo Beer and asks the bartender to open it. They did so for the princely sum of 10 baht. Maybe it would be cheaper to buy your own in Pattaya and take them along to your favourite watering hole?!
If you're following the Rugby World Cup, note that down in New Zealand they switched over to daylight savings time last weekend so the time difference between Thailand and NZ went from 5 hours to 6 hours, which means matches effectively start one hour earlier here in Bangkok.
I know it's a really simple thing and I sure don't like to sound like a lech, but one of the things I rather like about Bangkok, and pretty much all of Thailand for that matter, is that when you go into a shop, almost any shop, most of the assistants are relatively young, pretty ladies. In my homeland – and I suspect in most of Farangland – you get the full gamut but there sure are more oldies than young pretties. And in Thailand for the most part, even if they don't know jack about the product they are selling, they are pleasant.
More is coming to light about the German vagrant, Michael, who first came to prominence in this column and who has since become a discussion topic in expat circles and on message boards. It now seems that he has been homeless since – you're not going to believe this – late 2009! If true, he has been living rough for close to 2 years! One Stickman reader who used to actually know him says the claims Michael made about how he fell into his current predicament over a Thai woman whom he did not have enough money to support being the trigger which set him off on the path that led him to where he is today is bollocks. He used to hang out in the bars on Sukhumvit soi 22 and drink whiskey. He showed almost no interest in the women in the bars. When his money ran out he became a scavenger on the streets of Bangkok, collecting empty plastic bottles, sometimes removing them from the few public trash bins in central Bangkok. He would carry around a couple of huge trash bags full of them. His mental decline escalated rapidly and with that the recycling ended. One night he tried to enter New Cowboy Bar on Soi 22 and a customer attempted to prevent him. They got into a scuffle and crashed through the door, breaking the glass and unhinging the door. Police were summoned. The outcome of that is unclear but Michael was released which as history would show was not to be the first time police would take him in and set him free. He is still living rough on the streets of Sin City as seen in the photo here taken this week by Pattaya correspondent, Gary. IF ANYONE FROM THE GERMAN EMBASSY IN BANGKOK IS READING THIS, THIS GUY HAS REAL PROBLEMS AND *DESPERATELY* NEEDS HELP!
Sunrise Tacos, for me Bangkok's premier Mexican food outlet, will have a new outside seating area opening at the original branch at Sukhumvit Soi 12 on October 11. That's the same day that the Terminal 21 shopping centre opens which will have another new branch of Sunrise Tacos. Sunrise needs servers! If any reader has friends that are Thai nationals interested in joining the Sunrise team, please contact Khun Off at : [email protected] or call 02-642-0213. Sunrise is keen to hire people who speak some English. No experience is required as they will train. An above average salary is paid and on top of that are tips and a share of the service fee.
Steve's Bangkok Images photography column is no longer a weekly, but a monthly and the latest issue is online now.
Popular Bangkok Post columnist Roger Crutchley who has been writing at the Post since before I was born has finally retired. His Sunday musings were always light and breezy and will be missed.
Katoeys don't do it for me but there are plenty of guys who get excited by them. With that said, you have to wonder about those guys bold enough to grab one of the many loitering outside the entrance to Nana Plaza, a group that gets larger as the night goes on. I can only assume that they are preying on guys' beer goggles because some of them are scary, and a few look like a truck driver in drag.
Quote of the week is so true, "The lack of rule of law in Thailand creates the walking on egg shells syndrome."
Reader's story of the week is Bangkok Barry's response to my last column, "Never Goin' Back".
Two Thais accused of murder in Australia are fighting extradition in Bangkok saying Australian courts are racist!
The New York Times reports on the fight against cervical cancer with vinegar and ingenuity in Thailand.
Not for the first time, a school in Thailand causes outrage with students dressed up and parading in Nazi uniforms!
From Bloomberg, the Thai Prime Minister's economic policy is hardly getting glowing words.
From the BBC, Amnesty International condemns rebels in southern Thailand for targeting innocent civilians.
From CNNGO, does the US Ambassador to the Philippines really believe 40% of visitors to the country are naughty boys ?!
An Aussie is caught trying a grab and run in a Pattaya gold shop.
A South African family's Phuket holiday is ruined over police accusations they exchanged fake US banknotes on the island.
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.
Question1: I am an Australian citizen and want to work out of Thailand buying equipment from Thailand and other countries in the region. I work for an Australian-based company and will have no need for a Thai office or any Thai staff. What type of visa would be appropriate and how long before and where would I have to renew the visa?
Sunbelt Legal responds: If your intention is to hold meetings with many Thai manufacturers in Bangkok or other areas outside Pattaya, it's best at the minimum to get an invitation from a Thai company and get a Non-immigrant B Business visa. This visa can be obtained from any Thai embassy or consulate outside of the Kingdom. One of the Thai companies that you intend to meet with will be able to facilitate your business visa by providing you with a set of company documentation to support your application. The company will also be able to issue a sponsor letter (stating that you require a business visa for the purpose of exploring investment opportunities), which will need to be submitted along with the company paperwork. Depending upon which consulate or embassy you visit to make the application, you will receive either a one-year or a 90-day Non-Immigrant B (business) visa.
In Pattaya, because of the current crackdown on "buyers" working without a work permit, if a vendor agrees to be your employer as you will be meeting with them to negotiate, you can ask them to help you obtain a 15-day work permit exemption from the Labour Department. Most vendors will not be aware of this 15-day work permit and will be hesitant to help you obtain the criteria you need. Best is to have a Thai speaking lawyer explain the procedure to them.
Alternatively, if you wish to do regular business in Thailand sourcing equipment, you can open a representative office in Thailand which would enable you to work legally. With this you would obtain a Non-Immigrant B visa and a work permit. However it does require 3 million baht funding from the head office and one Thai employee. There is a fair amount of documentation required and an office space would be necessary. Full details can be found on our website here.
Another option would be to start a Thai Limited Company that you can own 100% and requires no Thai shareholders since the company's only purpose is export.
Question 2: I am looking for advice on how to deal with noise in Thailand. I work for an expat company and have lived and worked in Thailand for 3 years but I'm constantly having issues with noisy neighbours. I recently rented a house in Samakorn Village and had to walk away and lose my 50,000 baht bond after 6 months because of neighbors' dogs were constantly barking day and night. After moving away from this house we moved to another house where there were no dogs and now I have a problem with some locals who live behind me in a field playing music in the day and a night. A home should be a home and I'm on the verge of walking away from Thailand because of the basic living conditions I require. Is there any escape from noise in Thailand or any sort of regulations about noise, or noise control officers?
Sunbelt Legal responds: Living in a Thai neighborhood can be fraught with difficulties and learning to live alongside one's neighbours perhaps the most difficult. You can file a complaint with the police, who may issue a warning at first and then could fine them for noise if they don't obey. Under the Thailand Civil and Commercial Code section 420, you are allowed to ask for damages from the person causing the disturbance.
One suggestion is to try negotiations first, if at all possible. Generally, third party negotiations work best so ask a respected local Thai person such as the Village Headman, to intervene on your behalf.
Am I unreasonably harsh on Westerners in Thailand? Do I dwell too much on the negatives while overlooking the positives? Some readers claim that my anecdotes and observations on expatdom in Thailand veer too much towards the negative. I would respond that I feel that my observations are fair and accurate and that some simply don't want to hear the truth because it's not exactly endearing. I maintain that Thailand doesn't attract the best of the West and the Internet brings out the worst in them. I'd love to hear what you think.
Your Bangkok commentator,