Stickman's Weekly Column December 25th, 2011

Another Difficult Year



2011, Another Difficult Year

It was a year in which we were captivated by a German vagrant surviving on the streets of the capital and later Sin City, a year which will be remembered for flooding that caused chaos in parts of Bangkok and central Thailand and it was a year when economic problems worldwide started taking their toll in Bangkok expat circles.

Thailand is changing and Bangkok is at the forefront of that change. And within our own little world, that in which the vast majority of Western expats live, work and play, Bangkok's expat landscape and the very feel of the city is changing.

What follows are some of the changes and trends I've noticed over the past year or so. Some are part of longer-term trends; others are more recent.


1. Expat society in Bangkok has a more handsome face. There are more professionals and the general state of expats has improved. Where once those who called Bangkok home were the laughing stock of expats in other centres in the region, that's no longer the case. Despite word from relocation services that there are fewer movements these days, to my eyes there are more Westerners resident in Bangkok than ever before – more professionals, more business owners and more career teachers i.e. those with actual specific teaching credentials, the very type of teacher the country needs more of. There are expats moving here with ambition and money to invest. There are still many rogues, scoundrels, con men and scammers, but the quality of Bangkok expats, in general, is on the up.

2. With more professionals, and more and more expats moving to Thailand for reasons that have absolutely nothing to do with the country's famed nightlife, the position of, and the perception of sex tourists and sexpats is changing. Despite the number of bars increasing, I am unconvinced the number of customers to the bars is rising and if anything there has been a movement of long-term expats away from the naughty bars while many new arrivals don't seem to have the same affinity with the bar industry. It used to be that most expats had some connection to the naughty bars, be it the place for an after-work drink or the very reason they moved to Thailand. These days many expats don't care for the industry and some are even against its very existence! Many see the industry with the same sort of ambivalence that they see similar types of venues in their homeland. The likes of Nana Plaza and Soi Cowboy are absolutely not the centre of expatdom in Bangkok as they once were.



3. With the naughty bars reduced appeal, the bar industry is no longer the major source of wives for Western residents. Cyberspace appears to have overtaken the naughty bars as the place Western men meet Thai women. About half of my Bangkok-based friends are either married to, living with or dating a lady they met online. Some businesses, such as those which provide assistance in procuring a visa for Thai women visiting or moving abroad have changed their marketing accordingly and where once many of the women they sought visas for had worked at night, their customers today reflect the movement to hunting for a partner online.

4. Age-sensitive dating is becoming an issue for more Thai women. Where once Thai women were quite content to meet a man much older than themselves, things are changing. It's still nothing like the West and it appears to be Bangkok-centric for the most part, but there are many Thai women with decent jobs who are not shy to say that a guy several years older is just too old for her! Even a clean cut, 40-year old professional with a great job who looks no older than he really is might find women in their late 20s less interested in him than they once were purely because of his age. Thai women are slowly becoming more like their sisters in the west in this regard. Give it a few years as more young, clean-cut, professional Westerners arrive and I'd expect this to become more widespread.



5. News reports suggest that there are more foreigners involved in serious crime in Thailand although the numbers are still probably relatively low. When a foreigner is the chief suspect in a serious crime the police seem to have extra motivation to apprehend them. A month or so back I thought I'd seen it all when an Aussie was caught snatching gold from a gold shop and legging it, only to then read the report of a Brit who was caught after he had held up a bank in Chiang Mai! There have been reports in the media of numerous foreign gangs operating in Thailand from ATM skimming to bank and gold shop robberies. Obviously this does the reputation of foreigners in Thailand no good at all.

6. There once was a docile charm about the way police dealt with foreigners. It was all rather amusing and often quite gentle. For traffic infringements it was a case of coughing up a red and you'd be on your way. For more serious offences a way out was often offered. Everything was done with a smile. Nowadays many agencies are much more by the book, enforcing rules that always existed but weren't always enforced. Some expats have found they have had to be tested for syphilis and HIV and provide a medical certificate from an approved hospital showing they are clean before their work permit will be renewed. Lax enforcement of traffic laws has tightened, particularly in Bangkok and its immediate surrounds. There has been a real crackdown on speeding, while other traffic offences seem to be overlooked. The once lax enforcement has been replaced by a vigilance that would make coppers in Farangland proud. In many cases the coppers don't turn a blind eye irrespective of what the offence is, and on the spot settlements are not always offered. In the case of serious infringements such as drink driving, it would seemingly take a suitcase full of banknotes to get out of it. The leeway authorities once gave foreigners seems to be largely a thing of the past, although politeness and deference still go a long way towards lessening charges or fine.



7. Thailand is much more aware of the Internet and we are now seeing many older Thais with a better grasp of the Internet, and a respect of it based on concern. Almost everyone now seems to understand the relevance of the internet to them as well as its power and reach. The Thai authorities are taking the Internet more seriously. This seems to have stemmed from damaging comments that have been made about Thais and Thailand online and now thy realise they can no longer shirk the medium and need to monitor it much more closely. The idea that the Thailand-centric sector of cyberspace was like the Wild West is now a thing of the past.

8. The effects of the economic doldrums around the world and a lack of confidence to spend has hit Bangkok businesses whose customer base is primarily foreign. Bars, restaurants, hotels and a variety of well-known expat firms – some big name companies among them – have been struggling in recent months, with many reporting monthly losses.

The tourist and foreign-resident oriented sector of the entertainment industry defied the odds as venues have battled through 3 tough years. It does now seem that the fallout from the Bangkok / central Thailand floods along with the reality of the economic situation around the world has hit Thailand. Casual observations suggest high-yield visitors from European and North America are being replaced by low-yield visitors from elsewhere. So while the total number of visitors may have held, the new visitors are frequenting different types of businesses and appear to be spending less overall.

Bar Bar Patpong

9. There has been a silent acknowledgement from bar owners in the naughty nightlife industry that more and more customers are unwilling to part with high prices for standard drinks. Bars are introducing cheaper drinks, often cheap spirits and small glasses of draft at lower prices. Soi Cowboy bars have had happy hours for years and the popular street-front bars on Soi Nana like Stumble Inn, Morning Night, Bar4 and Strikers offer cheap beer all day long. Some bars in Nana Plaza have started offering cheaper drinks. With higher prices in baht exacerbated by the weak Euro, Pound and US dollar making tourists feel they are facing stiff price increases, bar owners have responded with inexpensive drink options as some customers shirk 150+ baht pricing for standard drinks.



10. Political correctness is permeating Bangkok and slowly gaining a foothold amongst the expat community. It appears to be driven by younger expats as well as the increasing number of female expats who now call Bangkok home. School staffrooms used to be a place where stories of the night before were exchanged. No more. After work meetings were often held at the doorstep of Nana Plaza where the party would follow when negotiations were complete. No more. Expat businessmen used to tune in to this column at the desk on Monday morning. Now they read it in the privacy of their condo.

Bangkok is becoming more and more developed, more cosmopolitan and we're seeing an increasing sense of jingoism as the Thais see the veneer of the city look take on a more international look, which brings mixed feelings, pride and concern. For some the appeal of Bangkok was its Wild West feel which, yet today, in some parts of downtown Bangkok, you could be in any of the world's major metropolises. Bangkok is changing, it's getting more expensive and Westerners aren't anything like the novelty we once were, but despite the change in the very character of the city, it's hard to argue that the city isn't more livable now than ever before!

Big Mango

Where was this photo taken?

Bangkok

Last week's photo was taken while standing in Patpong soi 2, looking out at Silom Road. As a lot of people got it right, I have chosen a more challenging photo this week! The only clue I will give you is that it is somewhere in central downtown Bangkok.

Monsoon Books has donated copies of the rereleased edition of Jack Reynolds' classic "A Woman of Bangkok" along with copies of Jon Cole's "Bangkok Hard Time". I'll be giving a copy each away each week along with the 2 usual prizes. That means there are 4 prizes each week for the rest of the year!

A Woman Of Bangkok Bangkok Hard Time

So where was this week's mystery photo taken?! All you have to do is tell me where the photo was taken. There are 4 prizes this week – a 500 baht credit at the Oh My Cod fish and chips restaurant, a 500 baht voucher from one of the best farang food venues and home of Bangkok's best burger, Duke's Express, plus a copy of A Woman Of Bangkok and a copy of Bangkok Hard Time.

Terms and conditions: 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. 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!

Content on this page requires a newer version of Adobe Flash Player.

Get 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 WEEKPattaya bad boys!

Your Pattaya observations jibe with what I've seen over the last 2 years. Before, you would get these self-parody Borstal boys with shaven heads and Thai letters tattooed on 'em. I rode baht buses with a few, listened to their loud conversations and didn't understand a fookin word. I'm sorry, some of these guys were just plain scum. I saw one guy who had clearly been "fish-hooked". The side of his mouth was badly scarred from that or perhaps bottling / glassing (sorry but in US-English those are nouns not verbs…of course in the USA bar fights often include firefights with cheap handguns). I'm not easy to scare but Pattaya before the Pound crashed could be scary. I'm happy to see the other tourists, it is a different mix but of course, you can still find good services if you're looking for that sort of thing.

Changing Pattaya still appeals.

I couldn't agree more with what you said in your column today. The trend is irreversible. Where once Thailand (and places like Pattaya in particular) was the Wild West of the Far East, those times are behind us. Pattaya became a regular mainstream tourist destination (with still plenty of nightlife) and we just have to live with it. Not that I bother. I like to visit bars and nightlife venues when on holiday, but just like you I've never been a whoremonger / barfiner and while occasionally visiting a gogo bar when I'm going out with friends, they have never been my cup of tea. Even in my regular hangout, Tim's Bar, I spent most of the time in the outside beer bar or the pool hall. Times are changing. During my first visit to Thailand 23 years ago I was very happy to get hold of a Dutch newspaper that was at least a few days old, for the lefty sum of 100 baht. If Holland played an important football match I quickly called home right after the match for the result. Nowadays I get pissed off when the Dutch channel on Sophon Cable isn't clear and the internet connection in my room isn't working properly, as I can't send email and work anymore, and neither can I watch the football scores and my stocks real-time. We're spoilt, aren't we? Anyway, Pattaya in the old days or Pattaya now, it's still a very pleasant, relaxing and still entertaining place to holiday for me. I'll be back!

The state of the Ekamai Bus terminal.

I agree from your comments last Sunday about the 'delights' of Ekamai bus terminal, but what gets to me more than the people that use the place is the unbelievably disgusting state of the road leading out of the bus station. To say it is pot-holed is a major understatement and the buses are forced to creep along. It's been getting progressively worse for years and I can't understand why they don't fix it during the downtime one night. But what I find even more mystifying is the seat numbering, at least on the Pattaya bus. Every single time I've used it I've seen several people get confused by having the number of their seat on the back of it. Everyone then has to back up when they've found their seat, bumping the people behind. Some still sit on the seat behind, believing it is their own as they can see their seat number, only to get moved. Why can't the bus company put the seat numbers above the seat on the luggage rack, as they do on planes? Is that so difficult?



The reason for Pattaya's demise.

I have lived in Pattaya for the last 10 years. What is killing the bar industry is high prices for liquor and girls, and the bad attitudes of the girls. The girlfriend experience in Pattaya is dead. The girls just want the money. You buy a lady drink at some outrageous price, the girl gulps it down and farewell!

A Pattaya bargain.

In my humble opinion one of the best places to chill out when not wanting to go downtown in Pattaya is the Pullman Hotel Beach Bar. Happy hour bottles of beer are 50 baht (100 buy 1 get 2). It's a really nice place to sit and watch the sun go down. In the restaurant they have some decent offers. We go for the Saturday night buffet which is 990 baht all you can eat with loads of seafood and Aussie meat. That price includes a bottle of red wine each!

Free to maraud again!

Ref your column and comments about Thai women not being too happy about being given the heave-ho, a good friend of mine had a full on relationship with an older, hi-so Thai woman who had her own business, new BMW etc. My pal wanted to get rid of her, not because she was costing him dear or anything like that – quite the reverse in fact, but she had ways that were beginning to irritate him. I warned him to be careful and to expect trouble bordering on hysteria should he try and dump her outright and that he should engineer a circumstance whereby she did the dumping, so that she wouldn't lose face. It worked and he was free to maraud again!

When what's good for the goose is not good for the gander!

You know you're in Thailand when she can claim with a straight face that her calling your hotel to figure out your stay details is not only because she is, self-admittedly, overly jealous but just so she can help with the planning of your trip. When you enquire back if she's busy on a given day you are promptly told he will tell you when she feels like it. And people wonder why I keep telling this place cannot be taken seriously.

Can't find your wife?!

I was chatting with a girl the other day who used to work at Nana, then moved to Cowboy, then back again. I asked her the reasons behind such itinerant behaviour, and she revealed that she had a regular at Nana who proposed marriage to her and she wanted rid of him so decided to switch bars, only for another customer at Cowboy to also get down on bended knee, forcing her to do another runner. She wouldn't say as much, but reading between the lines I reckon she may well have strung both along, pocketed some decent cash from both without going through with the marriage. This is Thailand.



The on again off again move of The Dubliner which will soon be forced from its primo location on Sukhumvit Road out front of Washington Square to Sukhumvit soi 14 appears to be on again after all. Expect to see one of the city's best expat pubs relocate before too long to soi 14.

Bangkok's newest Irish pub, Mulligan's, opened earlier this week on the ground floor of the Citadines Hotel on Sukhumvit 11, which puts it most of the way along soi 11 on the right hand side, past the Manchester United bar. Mulligan's is a long narrow bar with anNana Beer Garden outdoor seating area which provides a great a nice view of the comings and goings along soi 11. Perhaps you might work out what an English friend and I couldn't – where are all the Russian girls walking up and down soi 11 going? Mulligan's has potential, but with a few a teething problems to work through – nothing unusual for a new venue – it might pay to hold off visiting for a week or two.

Sukhumvit Soi 7's infamous freelancer hangout, the Biergarten, may have some much-needed competition in the form of the recently named Nana Beer Garden in soi 4. After stumbling along for some months without a name and with precious few customers, the Rajah Hotel's outdoor venue seems to be finding its feet after erecting a large green sign to announce its identity. Nana Beer Garden offers decent food and beverages at sensible prices. For example, Thai-style fried chicken or shrimp cakes come in decent portions at 120 baht each, the expats' favourite brew of San Miguel Light is just 80 baht, while draught beers and ciders start at 125 baht a pint. The large decked area is spread out over several levels and there are plenty of TVs for football fans. It's a pleasant spot to spend a few hours with the cool weather at this time of year. The famous Soi 7 venue, meanwhile, appears to be getting complacent. A gradual rise in prices means that a San Miguel Light now sets you back 110 baht, while even a soda water is a pricey 80 baht. Those prices may partly explain why the Biergarten was so quiet last Sunday afternoon, traditionally its busiest time. With so many freelancers already operating on Soi 4, it isn't far-fetched that Nana Beer Garden could become a serious rival to the long-established Soi 7 institution.

I'm seldom out late so don't know how long it has been like this, but after midnight one night this week the entire stretch of sidewalk between sois 3/1 and 5 was taken up by booze booths which force pedestrians out on to the main road. The booze booths weren't doing much trade and a good few had not a single customer. What struck me was the one nearest the Nana intersection which had more than half a dozen African maidens – and only African birds. The girls in Club Kenya as I refer to it, the birds all claiming to be from eastern Africa, were very friendly, exchanging greetings and making sweet eyes with any unaccompanied bloke who sauntered by.

One of Nana Plaza's perennial favourites, Angelwitch is best known for its shows which now kick off at 9:30 PM each evening. Angelwitch currently has more girls than it has had in some time and between shows all of the dancers get up on stage and shuffle. There were so many this week on the smallish stage that some almost fell off!

But as good as Angelwitch is at the moment – and it is very good with a bunch of new shows and a heap of girls – it cannot compete with Rainbow 4 in terms of sheer quantity of pretty girls. Rainbow has an incredible troop of beauties at the moment and isEasy Pub just the ticket for anyone whose interest in the bar industry has waned. The lineup is so good that there are probably more genuinely attractive women in Rainbow 4 than there are in all of Soi Cowboy put together. Incidentally, on Thursday night it seemed to be '80s night with only music from the '80s played – which will appeal to some and not to others. I am not sure if this was a one-off or the '80s play list is every Thursday.

Sitting in Rainbow 4 with all of the truly attractive, available ladies made me reflect a little about Cowboy. The most attractive girls in Cowboy tend to be the coyotes who are either unavailable or available at lofty rates. And that is the big problem with Soi Cowboy these days, a bar area whose peak has passed. With coyote dancers in a number of venues, Soi Cowboy can feel like one big cock tease!

Straps in Nana Plaza seems to be doing reasonable trade, and seems to be the first bar since Cathouse to actually make a go of it in that spot.

Washington Square is still alive despite the widespread fretting of the Squaronians, none of whom seem to know what is going on. Even Mekong Kurt, as connected as anyone in the Square, doesn't know when the axe will finally fall. A walk through the square revealed such happening joints as Easy Pub, the Hare And Hound and 52 Bar, along with a few others are still open for business, but there were very few people around. At least one bar recently got a 2-month extension, and at Bourbon Street, the anchor of Washington Square, it is still business as usual. The Sportsman in Washington Square will close at the end of March 2012. It is expected to be demolished shortly after to make room for whatever development follows and there is no news about relocating at the moment. So I guess Washington Square has about 3 months left…

Speaking of which, the new branch of Bourbon Street at Ekamai still hasn't opened. It was supposed to open in what, April of this year and walking past it looks close to completion. Doug appears to have got the timing right – as Washington Square closes he and his fan club will have a new base to relocate to.



Will Private Dancer become the first novel of the Bangkok bargirl genre to make it to the big screen? Word has it that the producer of the Private Dancer movie is ready to go, and that he is negotiating with Justin Timberlake to play the role of Pete and John Goodman to be Big Ron. They hope to start pre-production within 2 – 3 weeks.Private Dancer

I see the dancing dude of Bangkok's gogo bars featured in an article this week in The Nation newspaper. For as long as I can remember – and we're going back to the '90s here – he has been dancing up a storm in Bangkok gogo bars, usually in a business suit – which makes it quite a look. Occasionally he can be seen boogeying in the bars at the weekend in an Arsenal shirt. Figures.

Heaven Above will celebrate New Year's on Saturday, 31st December. The boss promises it will be one of the hottest New Year's parties in Pattaya with beautiful girls, drink specials, food and door prizes will all night long. Bring your party hat (which every man partying in Pattaya should have!). Heaven Above is located on Soi Diamond, off Walking Street.

The searches of foreign nationals by police in and around the Sukhumvit soi 20, soi 22 and Asoke area continues. Until now reports suggest that these searches have been confined to this area, but a trusted friend and bar manager reports that he was stopped and searched very late on Monday night on the corner of Rama IV and Asoke. The search area has been expanded. He was searched by two coppers who he says spoke reasonable English and who he described as professional and thorough. They checked not just his wallet, but his pockets, socks and he was subjected to a full body pat-down. A light was shone in his face before he was sent on his way. Even if you have done nothing wrong, one can't help feeling nervous.

I notice the problems of the Thai mobile networks reared its ugly head again. Both the other half and I had all sorts of trouble calling people in Bangkok who were on another carrier's network earlier this week. Calls to your own network seemed to go through just fine but to DTAC there seemed to be a problem. The worst was on Tuesday and it seems to have been ok for the past few days.

A reminder about a couple of parties at fetish bars this coming week with details below:

The Castle Pattaya


If you are sending anything across town or around the country it pays to use the reasonably priced and fast / traceable EMS service. A winner of the photo competition let me know that it took 9 days for his prize to arrive on the other side of town. When it comes to standard delivery, it seems the local post office still has room for improvement.

I see Air Asia has extended its domestic network and now flies to Trang and Nakhon Phanom –Ambassador's Wife with specials at the moment for just 690 baht. I'm not sure what there is to see at Trang, but for sure, Nakhon Phanom is a nice spot and one of the prettiest parts of the Isaan region.

For those who got a shiny new e-reader or iPad for Christmas and are madly downloading books, Jake Needham has a great deal for you. If you have an interest in Thailand and haven't read any of Jake's excellent crime novels set in the places we know very well, you really should take him up on his offer and try this one. Jake has put the best selling e-book edition of The Ambassador's Wife on sale at 99 cents for the next two weeks to introduce owners of e-readers to his novels. The Ambassador's Wife takes place in Singapore, Bangkok, and Pattaya. It even ventures into popular Pattaya gogo bar, Baby Dolls, You can learn more about The Ambassador's Wife at Jake's site and you can find the Kindle edition for 99 cents at Amazon here.

Ayutthaya Traditional Thai Massage, located on Soi 13/1, half-way between Beach Road and 2nd road in Pattaya has a promotion from now until 31 January, 2012. Mention "Rock Star" and you will get an extra half hour free when you pay for an hour massage! So, this gives you an hour and half massage for the price of 1 hour deal. They'll take care of you like a rock star. All rock stars will get a free extra half hour when you pay for an hour, free coffee, tea, or water and free wi-fi.

The peak of the high season is here, yet business remains soft. There's no other way to put it. The odd bar owner has told me that business is better than ever, but unless they are a new business or had a particularly bad time of it recently, I'm not sure I actually believe them! In fact it really is insulting when a bar boss tells you how good business is while a girl whispers in the other ear how bad it is. The odd venue has the odd good day or night, but for the most part business is bad. It seems to be a combination of cancelled bookings from the floods and the economic problems around the world. As one bar owner said to me yesterday, things weren't this bad even when the airport was closed. Then, it was dead for a week but things picked back up quickly. That hasn't happened this time.


Quote of the week is from a mate, "I don't mind being called an alien by the Thais because that's exactly what I feel like here!"

Reader's story of the week comes from Artie, "Reality Check", one of the best reader's stories in a long time.

An American fighter claims to be hiding from the Thai Mafia!

The Telegraph looks at the Thailand property market and moot that now is not a bad time to buy.

Not Thailand-related, but interesting nonetheless, an Australian contracts HIV after getting a tattoo in Bali.

Bangkok's late night venues were profiled in a fascinating Bangkok Post article.


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 a divorced UK national, legally living and working in Thailand. I am in a relationship with a Filipina who has not been married. We are considering marriage. Before we could get married in the Philippines, it appears I would require being resident there, continuously, for at least 6 weeks. That is not practical for me at present so we are looking at ways to marry in Thailand. Perhaps, this could be at the Amphur office, or the Philippines Embassy. Can you advise if this is possible, and if so, how to make it happen.

Sunbelt Legal responds: For a Filipino to marry overseas they need to get a Certificate of No Marriage or CENOMAR from the National Statistics office in Manila was well as an original Birth Certificate from the same office. These documents will need to be sent to the Department of Foreign Affairs for legalization. In Bangkok, she will need to obtain an LCCM or Legal Capacity to Contract Marriage at the Philippines Embassy. This document will then need to be translated into Thai and then certified by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs which will then allow you to wed at any amphur office. Sunbelt Asia offers the translation and certification services for those wishing to get married.

Question 2: I am in a very unhappy marriage and I intend to leave my wife shortly (which she will not be very happy about). I am doing very well financially so I plan to continue to support her (for my daughter's sake) by paying for all living expenses for the foreseeable future (she lives in Bangkok). As I don't plan to remarry EVER I can't see the advantage of getting a divorce as this would only pose difficulty for her if she wanted to travel (my support / sponsor should help) in the future. Is there any great advantage in me going through a divorce? Am I being foolish to continue the marriage purely to help her status?

Sunbelt Legal responds: The answer can vary depending on the laws of your home country. However, in Thailand, assets are split 50/50 upon divorce, so if your assets were to increase then this would just mean how much more your wife would get later. Additionally, you might want to consider that if you enter into other relationships while still married to your wife and she could prove you had done so, she could get up to 70% of your assets in your country. At your death, your wife will get around 75% of your estate (50% to her and then the other 50% split between her and your daughter). This would mean your daughter would only get 25% of your assets. These are all factors you need to consider when thinking about remaining in the marriage.

Question 3: There have been a number of reports of people being stopped by police in the area of Sukhumvit sois 20, 22 and Asoke for random searches. If this happens, how should a foreigner respond to the stop? For example, should a passport be turned over or held for inspection? Should we agree to a search or being taken away in a car? If I have Tic-Tacs (breath mints) could these be misidentified as drugs?

Sunbelt Legal responds: The police have a right to ask to see your passport but it is unlikely they will keep it unless they find you doing something illegal. They also have the right to search a person they deem suspicious. Please ensure that they are real police however, and identified by a badge. As for the Tic-Tacs, even if they were to arrest you on carrying breath mints, any test would easily identify them as not being drugs.

Pattaya sunset


2011 was a year in which I threatened to end it, but here I am, still battling on, with a new year just around the corner. I have no plans to stop so there's no need to prepare yourself for the departure of Stick from cyberspace any time soon.

The photo essay format for the opener seems to have gone down well so expect to see more opening pieces in that style. Apart from that, it's hard to see much change with the column really. I'd like to do more stuff away from the bar industry although covering the bar industry is easy and I'm well aware that some readers tune in just for that.

I'd like to thank everyone who popped by the column this year, and everyone who provided me with thoughts, feedback, support and constructive criticism. I am proud that there are some very smart, very interesting people who read this column and while we may have never met, and probably never will meet the vast majority of the readership, I still consider many of you as friends. I have exchanged emails over the years with thousands and thousands of people from all walks of life, and it's great that so many of you still tune in every Sunday after all of these years. That you choose to take some of your precious free time to read my weekly ramblings means a lot!

I'd like to wish each and every one of you a very Merry Christmas, and hope that 2012 brings you health, happiness and everything you wish for!

Your Bangkok commentator,

Stick