Stickman's Weekly Column November 6th, 2011

Fred, And The 4 TLL Girls


I first met Fred 10 years ago and immediately warmed to him. He's laid-back, likes his beer and enjoys a laugh. But more than anything, Fred loves traveling around South-East Asia.

Fred enjoys all that South-East Asia has to offer. His travels in the region started in Angeles City, he's a veteran of Bangkok and Pattaya, and his pursuits to improve international relations include Jakarta, Udon Thani and Ho Chi Minh City. Fred knows where the best beer can be found around the region and is something of an expert on where to find the best company.

With his friendly, uncomplicated disposition, every guy who meets Fred warms to him. So why is it that someone who is so popular with the boys seems to have so much trouble with the girls?

Fred increasingly felt that his cultural tours weren't as exciting as they used to be. And with the beer expanding his waistline, he felt that maybe it was time to settle down. Considering the many options available to him, Fred felt that a good girl from Thailand would make an ideal life companion. Thailand is the country he enjoys visiting most, and the place he's most familiar with. He has mates in his hometown who are happy with their respective Thai wives so a Thai it would be.

Fred was quietly confident that he would be able to find someone nice to settle down with. Early 50s, he might be a little past his prime and he'll be the first to admit that he's carrying a few extra pounds, but he doesn't look any older than he is, has a full head of hair, and knows that if he were to drop a few pounds he'd probably look younger than he actually is. He isn't what you'd call rich, but being self-employed he pulls in a decent income. But like I said, more than anything, he's just a really good guy. Genuinely friendly, genuinely nice, he transcends generations with the chivalrous and generous nature of an older man and the adventurous spirit of a younger man. Fred will do anything for a woman, from opening the door to always picking up the tab to being happy to do whatever she's up for. He's just as keen to take her out to a concert or the movies as he is the pub or a romantic dinner.

Fred targeted the biggest pool of available Thai women out there, the women off TLL. As Fred knows, there are even more Thai women online looking to hook a Western guy than there are in the bar industry. Over the past 3½ years Fred has pursued 4 different TLL girls, and it's been a rocky road!

The first woman Fred met online was P, an accountant based in a provincial capital in the heart of Isaan. Fred met her in hometown of LA, as the Thais call it, and was introduced to her family. They hit it off and P accompanied him to Krabi and Pattaya. With love blossoming, they took a trip over to Vietnam and a great time was had. Fred returned to Farangland pleased with how things were going and started mentally making plans for the future.

Fred knew that it takes more than one trip to Thailand to get to know a woman and while he was back in Farangland, the signals coming back weren't good. Something had changed, but Fred wasn't sure what it was. Fred asked her if all was ok, to which she replied in the affirmative, but his intuition told him otherwise. He felt she was not being totally upfront with him, or perhaps even concealing something. Fred bounced things off me and I was immediately concerned when he told me that P had said that she would have to go to Phuket for work and would be out of contact with him, as work would take all of her time. It was a massive red flag, and I told Fred as such. An accountant from Roi Et doesn't get a job in Phuket, and never need be out of contact.

Fred was disbelieving at first, but as I explained over and over again, his concerns became greater and greater. He asked P again but she denied anything was up. Fred wanted to know the truth and somehow he managed the remarkable. Trying the most commonly used passwords he managed to get access to her email account where he found evidence that she was not being straight with him. Her heart was with another. She was accepting support from Fred while at the same time making plans to meet her beloved in Phuket. Bargirl behaviour from a non-bargirl. It was over between Fred and P.

Not one to give up easily, Fred returned to TLL and commenced the search for a replacement. It didn't take long before he was corresponding with the lovely G, a single Mum from Isaan whose home was not far from the border with Laos. After much communication via email followed by late night Skype sessions, plans were made to meet.

Fred was back on the big bird, his second trip to meet a possible internet bride. Fred and G met and love blossomed. Everything went well, so well in fact that he invited her to visit him in his hometown of windy Wellington.

The visa process was a breeze and G made it Down Under. She struggled with the cold as a Thai girl who'd hardly stepped out of the Isaan would, but she was a trooper, and adapted. After a few months G's visa was up and she had to return to Thailand. Fred was soon to follow her back.

Fred's business did well, but the industry had taken a hit and Fred was not making as much as he used to. While in Thailand, Fred suggested to G that for them to prosper, it would be helpful if she would consider taking on a job. He could get her a position earning good money. The money she made would be hers to use as she pleased and it would take the pressure off him as he was providing an allowance as well as a little support for ma, pa, a few buffaloes, a barn full of chickens, two brothers, three sisters, two grandmothers, three drunk uncles, two aunts, a number of cousins, several neighbours, the postman, the village chief, the som tam lady and G's little one back in Isaan. Fred knew that G suffered ongoing headaches and that she wasn't confident that she would be able to work in Kiwiland. From what she had seen, work there was hardly the cruisy life it can be in the East. She wasn't making excuses; she genuinely wasn't sure her health was up to it.

The plan was for G to join Fred again in New Zealand as the 3-month trial had gone well. They would look at getting a fiancee visa which would allow her to work and assuming things continued to go well, they would formalise their relationship.

G's suffered headaches and fatigue. Without getting personal, it was pretty obvious by just looking at her that something wasn't quite right. Fred was concerned about her health and knew that she wasn't joking. She would not be able to work until the issue was diagnosed and treated. I suggested to Fred that he take G for a check-up. Not the village quack and not a doctor in Wellington who couldn't speak Thai, but by the professionals. I suggest Fred take G to Bumrungrad Hospital in Bangkok, generally regarded as the country's best hospital.

It was obvious something was up when the first doctor referred G to a specialist. She underwent various tests and the cost started to mount up. G was diagnosed with a serious degenerative disease. It could be managed, but not cured. The cost of treatment would be a staggering 80,000 baht a month. This would merely keep her in her current condition and prevent, or at least slow down, deterioration from the condition. Fred was caught between a rock and a hard place. This was more than he could afford and he was forced to make the heart-breaking decision to end it. Ironically the medical that the embassy required her to undertake when applying for a long-term visa did not test for this condition and had she gone to Farangland with him and been granted residency, she would have received free treatment. However, that would not have cured the problem, merely provided ongoing treatment.

It was back to the drawing board for Fred. That meant back to TLL!

Big Mango

Fred wasted no time finding a new lady on TLL. Let's call her E. From a neighbouring province to his first TLL love, P, she was a divorced professional with a young son. It wasn't love at first site, but they seemed to click. Fred camped out at the finest hotel in all of Isaan and each day E would join him after work and they would explore the city and surrounding provinces. Things went well and Fred invited her to his homeland for a holiday, a chance to see how she found life in sleepy New Zealand. She agreed.

E went to NZ for a short time and enjoyed it. A good time was had, they got on well and she returned to Thailand.

Plans were made for E to visit NZ for a longer stay. She would be forced to give up her job. Despite being a university graduate with years' experience, she earned a miserable salary. Fred would support her while she was in Thailand, as well as meet her car payments, which I could never work out how she could afford in the first place…

The first step was to get E a visa, a piece of cake as E had already visited and left, just the sort of record embassy staff like to see. Then E's son fell ill and was supposedly admitted to hospital. Fred was in Bangkok at the time and I remember him telling me how the trip would be delayed. And then the old man was incapacitated. And the son was ill. And next I knew the sister apparently wasn't keen on Fred. There was always something. It seemed to me there was one problem after another with E. The visa expired and all the time, money and effort getting it had been wasted. Fred said they would just have to go through the process again. I admired Fred's perseverance but I was really starting to wonder. If it had been me, that's the point it would have been discarded into the too hard basket.

Fred had returned to Kiwiland and time rolled on. Fred and E spoke several times a day. He was still keen on her and very keen for her to visit, even if there still seemed to be problems. Eventually a new visa was procured and because of all of the stuffing around and the new travel time, Fred had to part with in excess of $US2,000 for her return air ticket. This wasn't to be a short visit. E would be coming for several months so perhaps he figured that the cost would be defrayed over a period of time, making it fair value.

I don't know how happy she was in NZ but it seemed to me that there was always one problem or another. And Stick's #1 rule is that a woman with problems is a woman you don't want! Fred has a good mate with a Thai wife who would help from time to time. At times Fred would call me, pass the phone to E and I would try to explain things in Thai. E spoke reasonable English but when there was a disagreement she seemed to prefer the familiarity of her mother tongue. I had a bad feeling about her – and I trust my instincts.

E had told Fred of an opportunity that had presented itself for her to buy a parcel of land in the village at what was said to be a bargain price. Just a few weeks into her stay in NZ, she explained to Fred that this would require her to go back to Thailand to settle the deal. Fred was naturally disappointed, having jumped through hoops for months and being forced to pay more than was necessary to get her to Kiwiland.

From several thousand kilometres away I smelled a rat.

I explained to Fred that there was no need for her to go to Thailand to purchase the property. All she had to do was sign a power of authority so a family member could carry out the deal for her. He passed this info on to her. She countered with a further complication. To buy the land she would have to sell her car to finance the purchase. A power of attorney form would take care of that too, I said. The phone was handed to E and she and I discussed how a power of attorney works. To say that she was livid that I had come up with this was an understatement. Her tone changed from being friendly, to cordial, to nasty once she realised I knew what I was talking about. You know you have a Thai cornered when they play their trump card. "You're a foreigner, how could you possibly know about Thai law!" Clutching at straws, she said that the law had just changed and I obviously did not know. I told her she was wrong, and she knew it. The phone was passed back to Fred. She told Fred that she never wanted to talk to me again and she added for good measure that I was a playboy, and was someone not to be trusted! WTF?!

A month into her planned stay of several months, E announced that she would be returning to Thailand to sell her car, the proceeds from which would be used to finance the purchase of the land. She explained to Fred that the parcel of land would be the place they could retire once they (meaning Fred) had built a house there. After all, Thailand is much less expensive than NZ. E is now back in Thailand.

I almost forgot. E was TLL girl #4, not #3. Between P and G was another TLL girl, W. Fred was keen on her even though the danger signs were there from the outset. Despite the fact that she had a job in Bangkok, he sent her money before they met and she seemed more concerned about the presents he was bringing her than anything else. Repeat: this was a woman he had yet to meet. When they did meet, W grabbed the gifts, they spent a few hours together – there was no hanky panky – and W was never seen again!

Fred is typical of so many Western guys keen to settle down with a Thai woman. He's a decent, hard-working, honest, middle-aged guy. All he wants is a lady who treats him with respect and who he will treat well in return. He has made every effort to find such a lady, putting in much time, effort, a considerable amount of money and no shortage of emotions. 3½ ladies later (he still thinks the situation with E is recoverable – I disagree), he hasn't found what he is looking for.

So many Western guys seek love in Thailand, and so many fail. Often it seems they fail through no fault of their own other than being too generous, too forgiving and perhaps being rather naive. In Fred's case, I know him well enough to say that he has plenty going for him. There is no obvious reason why a genuine relationship-minded woman would turn her back on him. I wonder if these women really want a relationship with a Western guy at all.

I used to often scratch my head, even speak ill of long-term expats who after so many years still fool around in the bars. But when I see a top bloke guy like Fred who I would have thought would make a lady very happy, struggling to find the relationship happiness he deserves, I understand. I guess some reach a point where they can't be bothered trying to meet Miss Right and let's face it, many of the happiest foreigners resident in Thailand seem to have one thing in common – they are single!



*When* was this photo taken?

Pattayaland

Last week's photo was taken outside what was then called World Trade Centre, in December 2002, back in the days when I used to take night shots using a camera mounted on a tripod. These days the high ISO capabilities of cameras are so good I do everything hand-held. So when was the photo above in Pattayaland soi 2 taken?! 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.

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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 WEEKMidnite mischief.

I know better than to go into an Arab-owned bar in Soi Cowboy. I've been (grossly) overcharged two times and I have vowed never to set foot in one of his bars again. Against my better judgment, I went into Midnite last week with an out-of-town friend who got dragged into Midnite by one of its seductive hostesses. I warned my friend about going into this bar but he insisted on going in because of the cutie that was wrapped around his arm. Plus, he was buying so he was going to be on the hook, not me. I've been living in Thailand for 3 years so I know the drill. What I did was instruct my friend to pay cash for every round of drinks as they came in. That is exactly what we did. Every round was 720 baht (an outrageous 180 baht per San Miguel Light and 180 baht for each lady drink) and we paid cash for every round. We had EXACTLY four rounds and paid 720 baht X 4 = 2,880 baht. By the way, we had to fight off another 6 – 8 dancers and servers that came up and pestered us for drinks. About half of them spit out a venomous keeneow insult at me when I said "No." We got up to leave and our server came up and presented us with a bin stuffed with chits that totaled 5,280 baht. Not only had we paid for all our drinks already, they essentially doubled the total with phony chits. I was floored by the aggressive, blatant attempt to overcharge us. I calmly told the grouchy server that we had already paid cash for every round and owed nothing. She huffed off and returned with the sour-faced mamasan who insisted we pay 5,280 more baht. My friend tried to explain to the mamasan that we had already paid but she wasn't going to hear any of it. During the conversation, 5 Thai bouncers appeared and surrounded us. These bouncers looked very eager to beat up some farangs. My friend and I are pretty big guys and while we may have been able to fight our way out of Midnite, getting into a fight with a Thai is a no win situation, especially if you live here. The result is that I was able to negotiate the bill down to 3,000 baht. A small, small victory. Moral of the story? Don't EVER set foot in an Arab-owned bar again.

Businesswomen and bargirls, same same?

Have you ever considered writing a column comparing bar women to non-bar women? I believe the differences between bargirls and women running their own business are not that great while the difference between bargirls and women working in a career is huge. Women in many types of business learn that making fast big bucks is quite possible with a little bit of luck and very little work and thus develop a modus operandi not far from that of a bargirl. My wife is a businesswoman who looks down on me for having no business know how because I refuse to lie about anything and everything in the business. She says "It's business!" which means that she does whatever it takes to make sales. Honesty plays no part in it.

The grocery situation.

There's lots of food in the grocery stores. True, bottled water can be touch and go but it's still available at Emporium etc. The only reason for shortages is the panicky hoarders who seem to think that this is Armageddon but I have a feeling that for those folks any excuse will do. My theory on the sandbags is that folks want their insurers or perhaps some post disaster government relief initiative to see that appropriate mitigating efforts were taken in the event of damage. 1 in 100 of those sandbag efforts looks like it would do any good at all with even a modicum of flooding and the vast majority of businesses have no visible preparation.

Pattaya awash!

Pattaya was absolutely awash, if you'll pardon the turn of phrase, with people from Bangkok at the weekend, with roads pretty close to gridlock. I had a night out in Pattaya and booked myself into a hotel so I could drink without worrying about driving back to the darkside. The hotel I have stayed many times over the years had 3 – 5 times as many cars as I've ever seen. If I was a bar owner I'd be pulling my hair out though. Most bars near my hotel, Twin Palms next to the Hard Rock on Second Road, had between none and two customers all night – with large groups of tourists, Russian and Korean and some from Bangkok strolling around, not spending a penny.

Exploring the dark side!

On my latest foray to Thailand I had a distinct and not quite comfortable sense of déjà vu surveying the best sellers perched high up in my local Bookazine. As was the case last year – and the year before that – the hot paperbacks included the usual suspects, true life stories bemoaning the less than hospitable side of the Land of Smiles. Yet again peering down forlornly from behind his rusty cell bars was Colin Martin whose extended bang up is covered in his tome "Welcome To Hell". There too was poor Andy Botts' "Nightmare in Bangkok" while also flying out the Bookazine door – so to speak – was Sebastian Williams' "Send Them To Hell". Hell is the four letter word de rigueur in this nightmare world. Now it must be farangs who are buying this scary stuff. But why would you book a holiday just to snap up totally miserable reading matter on arrival? I have two theories. Firstly I myself have occasionally lapped up tales of misfortune (Stalingrad, Titanic, Papillion) when lying beside the pool. Sometimes your Pina Colada tastes sweeter when you are reading about a man whose daily diet is maggots and water from a power hose. I think more probably that farangs instinctively want to explore the dark underside that clearly lies beneath the luminous hospitality and friendliness of Thai culture. As the saying goes, forewarned is forearmed!

Lonely in Bangkok.

I have been living and working in Bangkok for nearly 6 months now. At first the abundant, easy nightlife on Sukhumvit Road is great, but wears thin rather quickly. So I started looking around for some nice office-type working ladies, not the ones that charge by the hour. I have been to Jakarta, Hong Kong and Singapore and always found an abundance of normal ladies mixed in with the hourly ladies in any nightclub or bar. So what's the deal with Bangkok? Where do the straight ladies hang out after work in the evenings? I tried to follow your advice. [Many of the nightclubs and discos are hunting grounds for freelancers and high class prostitutes. If you want to avoid the girls of the night, go to an establishment with a reasonable entrance fee because that helps to keep them out.] I have been to most of the high end hotels such as Sheraton, Grand Westin, Landmark and yes, believe it or not, all I ever stumbled into was "Go with you", even in those places! I chatted to other farangs about this and we all seem to agree that it is nearly impossible to meet any lady that you could take home to Mum. Even the guys in the office who are married to Thais all say they either met their wives through friends or imported them from the sticks. So help me here, where do the good girls go? How can a normal guy meet a normal girl in Bangkok? I am not really into dating websites so I am hoping that there are some hidden treasures out there where a non-Thai-speaking farang can meet a decent lady.


The double lady drink trick that some girls in you-know-who's bars try on has spread. In fairness it's only some girls who try it on – and I'm not even sure it is sanctioned by the mamasans – but it has since spread to other bars, possibly as girls who used to work in his venues move around. For the time being it seems to be exclusive to Soi Cowboy. So how does it work? When you offer a girl a lady drink, she comes back with two drinks – usually a shot of Tequila and a small tumbler of Coke. In the Arab bars, that will set you back a cool 380 baht, 180 baht for the soft drink, and 200 for the Tequila! You can call the girl on it and say that two drinks is neither normal nor what you had offered. That will most likely follow with her pouting and sulking and any chance you had of building rapport will disappear as fast as the Tequila. In other words, forget about taking her out of the bar! She might also say that she will have to pay for the second drink herself – which in most bars is quite true. When a lady takes the liberty of ordering a drink for herself that a customer hadn't authorised, the bar doesn't take it back but instead deducts the cost from the girl's salary. So you either let the girl ream you and encourage her to be even more daring to take advantage of you, or you complain which causes her to sulk and is a mood killer. It's a no win situation!

Things are heating up in Tilac Bar in Soi Cowboy – and not in a good way. Either the air-conditioning system is really old and it's not doing a great job keeping the bar cool, or the owners have the temperature set high to save money. Customers mightn't notice it so much because they're sitting down but heat rises and the girls dancing on the raised podiums are finding it tough going. Why won't the owner upgrade the air-con? "Kee-nwow" say the girls!After Dark Asia

There's no doubt that there are fewer stunners in Tilac than there were a few years ago and according to one of the dancers, most of the star dancers have married farangs and given up bar work. For the time being, at least.

Déjà Vu is still being renovated and they are opening themselves up to disputes with customers with no itemised bills! Is this latest mad policy from the Arab?! The refurbishment in Déjà Vu is ongoing but looks soulless. Just as Las Vegas casino bar names and sign designs were copied for the exterior of his bars, now the Tilac idea of a window from the toilets overlooking the stage has been copied. There seems to be little point because few of their current crop is worth looking at. I understand the short time rooms on the upper floor are still available.

The latest issue of the bargirl catalogue, AKA AfterDark magazine, is out now and is available at all of the usual retailers.

Bar owners and managers have their head in their hands, worried about the publicity Bangkok is getting from the widespread floods. Many countries have advised against all but essential travel to Bangkok and the mainstream media has reported mass cancellations and also that Bangkok's airport is much quieter than usual with arrivals down almost 50%. For Bangkok bar owners this is most upsetting given that the central city hasn't seen a drop of water and it's business as usual in all of the popular farang bar areas. Just a couple of weeks ago I commented that I thought the high season would be fine but now even I am wondering if high season is going to go the same way as the flood water – straight down the drain!

On the one hand Bangkok is wet, but on the other hand it is increasingly dry! From restaurants to food outlets, venues are reporting that stocks of fire water have run low. It's no different in supermarkets and convenience stores. Not only have local breweries been hit by the floods, so have supply chains. No-one seems to be delivering Singha, San Miguel or Heineken in Bangkok. Chang was available at some outlets in central Bangkok this week but interestingly bottles were marked Chang export. In Pattaya some bars have run out of some products and even down in Phuket venues are reporting a shortage, and increased prices to secure product.

Pattaya continues to experience something of an early high season with the influx of displaced Bangkokians and Bangkok-based expats. The big hairs are making the most of the restaurants and beauty salons in Central Festival while expats who sought refuge in Pattaya are availing themselves of that which makes it famous!

Patpong

For fans of fetish houses, Bar Bar in Patpong will host Fetish Nights of The Masks on Thursday, Friday and Saturday later this week. Sounds like it could be worth checking out, especially if fetish houses intrigue you.

With limited supply of bottled water in Bangkok and surrounding areas an ongoing concern, it's worthwhile considering other options. Purchasing a home filter system is one option. There are many different systems and they start at around 5,000 baht. Alternatively, if you live near a low income apartment building you could check whether they have a reverse osmosis water dispensing machine. They're often found on the ground floor, near the entrance or in the lobby of cheaper apartment buildings and water from these machines costs just a baht a litre. You supply your own bottles, insert your money, and out comes filtered H2O.

Starting Friday November 11 and running until the end of the year, Sunrise Tacos has a special promotion on Carlsberg beer with Denmark's finest setting you back just 59 Baht ++. Buy 5 bottles of Carlsberg and you get one free. This promotion is only available at the outside seating area, in front of the Sunrise Tacos branch on Sukhumvit Road between sois 12 and 14. That new seating area is currently known as the garden, but may soon be known as the river.

Warren Olson was perhaps Bangkok's best known foreign private investigator before he returned to his native New Zealand a few years back. Warren's exploits in a trench coat, dark glasses and a Fedora hat have been well documented with two books published featuring the most interesting cases Warren worked on. Warren helped out with the two books and obviously got a taste for writing and has now put together a novel himself, titled Chasing the Dragon which is available via Amazon as an EBook.

Following on from the paragraph a few weeks back about a crackdown on the issuing of tourist visas at consulates and embassies in the region, there has been no change. Visa run companies have been trying to negotiate a solution at various embassies and consulates in neighbouring countries but to no avail. The most popular work around for those who wish to stay in Thailand but who are not employed, not married to a Thai national and are aged under 50, is to sign up for a Thai language course at a school which provides assistance getting a non-Ed visa. This visa allows you to stay long-term in Thailand without the need to make silly visa runs. It should be noted however that the Immigration department is aware that people may be using this method to stay in country while not studying and officers are known to chat in Thai with those folks renewing such visas – so if your Thai is non-existent or poor it will signal that you are not actually a genuine student of the language and the visa may not be renewed!

Do you remember Jeff Savage, the charming Brit who once worked for HM The Queen at Buckingham Palace, but who has been described by more than a few Brits in Thailand as one of their worst exports. Jeff was the guy caught on camera threatening to burn down Central World in a video that went viral on YouTube. The authorities caught up with Jeff and he ended up serving a few months in the monkey house. So what happened to Jeff? It wouldJeff Savage seem that he has been stalking the webmaster of a popular Pattaya website, making threats which have become so serious that the webmaster has taken his site offline and has fled to the relative safety of the UK! Sigh, it seems that cyberstalking is getting worse here in Thailand.

The cost of repairs from damage to property caused by flooding will have to be met by most property owners. Household insurance policies are not that common in Thailand, especially with the poor, and amongst those who have taken out such policies not many have fire insurance and when it comes to insurance for damage by flood, it's a case of alai wa! Or in English, what's that?! A massive financial hit is going to be taken by many.

The basics of economics don't always apply in Thailand but it's fair to assume that those in damaged properties will be looking for new places to live, perhaps for short-term / temporary stays, or perhaps something more permanent. One would imagine that properties available for rent will be snapped up and as such there might be difficulty in finding places to stay and / or an increase in rent rates. Time will tell.

Many hotels in flood-free areas, such as Sukhumvit, are offering special rates to flood victims which are NOT available to regular tourists! One such property in Sukhumvit soi 22 is offering rooms for flood victims at 9,000 per week which is not bad for a 4-star property, especially as it includes breakfast. The hotel is requesting proof of local residency to those keen to get the discounted rate.

The food supply has been affected all over the country. A friend in Lampang told me that yesterday he went to the local Big C for his weekly shop and there was no chicken, no milk, no yoghurt, no noodles as well as a host of other stuff out of stock – that's 500 km north of Bangkok!

Pharmacists are telling customers to stock up on medication as plants that manufacture drugs may have stopped production because they are flooded. A 60-day supply is what pharmacists are suggesting, to be safe.

Inexpensive hotel rooms and apartments on Sukhumvit are currently more difficult to come by than they usually are – at least in the "affordable" sector of the market – as many Bangkokians from flooded areas move in to the part of Bangkok they perceive to be safest and which they think is most likely to be protected and remain dry. If you're looking for cheap digs in central Bangkok at the moment….good luck!

The dreadful cynic in me wonders if the approach girls use to con money from guys abroad will change from "My mother is in hospital" or "My brother had a motorbike accident" to "House mama and papa have river come in front door and out back door!" The funny thing is that this time they might actually be telling the truth!

Bangkok


Reader's story of the week comes from Old Bill in Cyprus, the story of a relationship with a Filipina which went horribly wrong, "Told You So 8".

Quote of the week comes from the governor of Bangkok who like every good politician knows that you cannot go wrong with tautology. Asked whether flood water was about to swamp the heart of the capital he responded, "It depends on whether more water will be entering Bangkok."

It is hoped that Thailand's flooded industrial parks can reopen within 3 months.

The Thai embassy in Stockholm opens a hotline for abused wives, but what about the scammed guys?

An Aussie couple is arrested over a fake robbery claim down in Phuket.

A bunch of bargirls in Phuket are arrested for spiking tourists' drinks and robbing them.

A Brit who suffocates his Thai wife with a pillow after she destroyed his Star Wars toys gets life imprisonment.

The Chiang Mai News takes a look at prostitution in Thailand.

From Reuters, Burmese in Thailand are suffering all sorts of problems due to the flooding.

From today's Phuket Gazette, there are shortages of water and alcohol in Phuket now!

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 rent a house in Chiang Mai and would like to know my legal responsibilities as far as insurance goes. If you rent a house in Australia it is up to the owner to insure the property against floods, bush fires or whatever. Is that the case in Thailand?

Sunbelt Legal responds: The landlord is not legally responsible to provide home insurance. However, in some cases the tenant is required to purchase insurance for the landlord with the landlord getting the funds if something happens. It all depends on the lease but it is not uncommon for landlords with commercial leases to require this. A landlord may acquire insurance if the home is located in a high risk area, for instance a flood zone by a river or the ocean. However, in normal cases there is no law that requires the owner to have insurance. The lessee will need to provide his own insurance unless he comes to a specific agreement with the landlord.

Question 2: My question is theoretical rather than concerning an actual court case but I hope Sunbelt is still willing to answer it. I have read conflicting articles about translators if a foreigner has to go to court in Thailand. Some references state that the foreigner must arrange and pay for a translator themselves. Other references state that it must be provided by the court. I am curious as to which of these is correct!

Sunbelt Asia responds: Those who have been accused of a crime are entitled to have a court-appointed certified translator present in court if they cannot afford one. However, you must notify the court before the hearing you will need a court appointed translator, and give at least 72 hours advance notice. In a criminal case, the translator is provided free of charge. However in a civil case, if the court appoints a translator, there may be a charge for the service, in which case the person requesting the translator will need to pay.

Bangkok

I remain outside Bangkok but am keenly following what is going on in the capital and am in regular contact with friends on the ground. From all accounts many parts of the capital resemble a river. Everyday new parts of the city are going under water, as more and more districts are ordered to be evacuated. The flooding might not have reached the downtown area (yet), but flooding is only a handful of MRT stations away from the Asoke intersection, or to put it in a way you might better understand, just a few clicks up the road from Soi Cowboy. Everyday news reports show the mass of water getting closer and closer to the centre of the city. As parts of Bangkok experience serious flooding I'm in no hurry to return. I feel it's best to stay out of Bangkok for the time being even if it means I may not be on top of what's going on. Sure, I'd like to cover what's happening like I did with the red shirt protests last year, but in my mind this is a much more volatile and dangerous situation. The red shirt protests could be avoided. The flooding can't.

I know nothing about water management nor flood control but following what's happening closely, with the flood waters creeping closer and closer to the city centre, and with a huge mass of water still sitting on the central plains and provinces north of Bangkok which has to somehow get out to sea, I cannot possibly see how downtown Bangkok can avoid being flooded.

Should those with plans to visit Bangkok proceed with their plans or cancel? It's a question I'm reluctant to answer. Many countries travel advisories are against all but essential travel to Bangkok. Let's not forget that they tend to be conservative. If you plan to stay in central Bangkok and not venture too far, for the time being it is still ok. If you plan to travel beyond downtown then it might be best to postpone until the danger has passed. Whatever your plans, I would monitor news reports coming out of Bangkok *very* closely.

I hate to say it, but I have a bad feeling about this. I have watched as the water first crept into and then through the northern suburbs of Bangkok, slowly making its way south. Don Meuang, the old airport located in the northern part of the city, is now completely underwater. Despite efforts to divert flood waters to the east and west and away from inner Bangkok, much water has continued south. Many kilometres south of the old airport, the area around Central Lad Prao flooded a couple of days ago causing the shopping centre to be closed indefinitely. Since then the flood water has drifted even further south and the area underneath the skytrain at Mochit, next to the Weekend Market is now flooded. If it continues its relentless flow, a few kilometres south it would hit Victory Monument, and then it's a short hop down to MBK and Siam Square. If I am right – and again, I know little about this stuff – about that time it would hit Sukhumvit Road, the main farang ghetto. There is such a huge mass of water that there's no reason to think it won't sit for weeks and weeks. High season is the last thing to worry about. It's the health issues that concern me, and they don't bear thinking about. I truly hope I'm wrong…

Your Bangkok commentator,

Stick