Another Walk Around The Old Part Of Town
As readers were tuning in to last week's column, Caveman and I were off for our second exploratory walk in the old part of Bangkok in a week. Meeting at Hualumpong Railway Station, we tracked down past Wat Traimit, Yaowarat Road – the main Chinatown
strip – and zigzagged back and forwards around the side sois and markets before making our way to Pahurat and Khao San Road, again.
Two Thai lads were getting excited while playing video games within a small sanctuary of Buddha, part of a large temple in the Chinatown area. Just a metre away, an old Thai dude was trying to get some zzz as the youngsters were screaming and yelling, most likely playing a football game, and possibly with a few baht on the result!
This young Thai guy was looking after baby pigs in Soi Texas, a salubrious side soi off the main Yaowarat Road, while just around the corner a couple of decrepit, wizened-faced old ducks were looking after young girls, one I'd estimate at a mere 13 or 14 years old. With their hair done, wearing too much badly applied makeup and showing way too much leg, they were obviously available. Dark Soi Texas is hidden from view and home to a small number of Thai-style massage houses and low-end brothels and girls are often found loitering in the seedy, narrow lane and its tributaries. The old mamasans sneer at foreigners who are generally viewed as intruders and not exactly welcome.
Back out on the main road and in plain view of all and sundry things were more wholesome and it almost seemed that Sunday was family day. Many vendors had brought various members of their family to join them, the troop camped out near the mama's stall as she went about her duties, rustling up treats.
The market towards the bottom of Yaowarat Road is where Bangkokians looking for something a little spicy flock. Knives, nung-aeb-doo (secretly shot footage in short-time hotels) and other porn, vibrators, dildos and all sorts of sex accessories, fake Rolexes and way more contraband than in all of the markets on Suhkumvit, Silom and Khao San combined – and hardly a foreigner in sight! At one stall we chatted with a couple of Egyptians who were hunting for tasers. What did they intend to do with them? They didn't manage to find any but that's not to say that there weren't plenty of other items that would be similarly effective, if not somewhat more permanent in the damage they left.
Khon ba, Thai for crazy person, was walking up and down the road, his worldly possessions slung over his arm, his threadbare pants offering more than a mere glimpse of his derriere.
Caveman enquired what I would do if such a person was to have a go at me for taking their photo, a situation I have run through my mind numerous times when me and the camera are up to no good. Resolving disputes in Thailand isn't difficult – a smile or a nod usually does it. In the case of this guy, unless he had a weapon – very unlikely – he'd pose no problem. But for sure, the Stickman solution, if need be, would be to leg it. I reckon I could show most Thais a clean pair of heels.
Like the German vagrant who drifted from Bangkok to Pattaya, many of the homeless in Bangkok, particularly those who long ago lost their marbles, seem to wander from neighbourhood to neighbourhood. Silom last week, Chinatown tonight, next stop Sukhumvit.
No disrespect to the cabbie, but whenever I see obviously lost tourists asking a taxi / tuktuk driver or a tout for directions or help, I cringe. Often the person being asked for directions doesn't know the place they are being asked about or where it is – and even if they do, some seem more concerned about helping themselves than actually helping those who had sought their assistance in the first place.
And who said farang women were ugly?! Don't tell me you wouldn't. I don't believe you!
What a stroke of genius by the vendor selling insects to provide a list of her fine, oops, I mean her fried products with names and prices in English. The cart was surrounded by those who think it's hip or cool, or whatever words they use these days to describe behaving as the locals do. Do these backpackers really think they're doing as the locals do? I guess they don't know that your average Thai does NOT go for insects and that many Thais, particularly urban Thais, are as aghast at the idea of putting critters in their mouth as you or I am? It's like the hippies who wear hill tribe wear, the unfashionable garments that no-one wears except the old hill tribe women peddling hill tribe trinkets! I guess these are the same backpackers who think that by sitting at street side tables at congested intersections with plumes of fumes and pollution they are experiencing the real Thailand. And then they have the haughtiness to look down on others, as if they have one-upped them. Oh, puh-lease!
Not quite the loveliest Thai pussy we saw, but a little cutey nonetheless. The rains stopped a month ago in Bangkok and we might not see a single drop of rain for a good few months, so I guess this little fella has to survive on whatever he can get.
They say that dogs are man's best friend, so true in Thailand where dogs are almost seen as another member of the family. Some Thais will do almost everything with their dog including taking them in to some shopping malls, taking them into the odd restaurant and I would not be surprised – although have never seen it with my own eyes – if there were some who even took their pooch to the cinema. So taking one's dog to work would seem perfectly normal, as this fellow who was setting up his shop for an evening's trade on Khao San had. Don't let this mutt's sweet looks fool you – he just about snapped Caveman's finger off! Caveman tells me he's an animal lover, but I didn't let on at the time that to me dogs are like babies – I get the feeling they sense that I don't care for them and they're not shy to show they feel the same way about me!
Khao San Road hasn't always had the best reputation and many Thais view the city's backpacker ghetto in a negative light. That's a shame, because it's hard to argue against the Khao San of today being better than ever. Just like Pattaya's Walking Street, there's more to see, more to do, and more eating and drinking options in the 2011 version. It's nothing like the one-dimensional hang out for those travelling on a budget that it once was, where backpackers gloated about who paid the least for an overnight trip to Ko Phangnan, while eating a 10-baht tray of pad Thai washed down with a 5-baht bottle of water from 7 Eleven. Khao San has grown up. It's glitzier and attracts a more mainstream crowd which has not been lost on the Thais – and where once many backpackers were looked down on and scorned, service levels are better today than they were. Contrast Khao San Road with Soi Cowboy which has also grown up over the last decade. In Cowboy's case, it may have developed on the outside, but you can't deny that it has lost much of its charm and the attitudes of those working there are no different to what you find elsewhere. Khao San Road retains a distinct flavour and is better than ever. If you're out for a night of food, drinks and general fun, I dare say you'll find more at Khao San these days than you will on Sukhumvit or Silom. The latter win if you're looking for company. Don't think that Khao San's commercial success means a less enjoyable experience. The very opposite is true!
I guess there was no reason for her to turn around, because we were already in the bar and her responsibility is to get guys inside, not look after the customers already seated. So she was standing with her back to us, almost conscious that I had the lens locked on her. Caveman was rather taken with her while the Chang girl out of shot was more to my liking. It took some loud whistling by Caveman to get her to turn around and bang, I managed to capture that brief moment.
The personality of Bangkok's Chinatown changes throughout the day just like that of a smoking hot, moody girlfriend. When the neon lights are switched on and the city's best streetside restaurants open for business, you could sit and linger
all night long on Chinatown's main drag, soaking up the atmosphere. By day the very same strip is hustle, bustle and full of stress. Vendors, shop owners and suppliers yell at those in their way as they push crates through narrow
alleys, crates that could contain anything from plastic trinkets, to the latest gizmos from China to soi dog carcasses destined for the restaurants of finest dining establishments in Shanghai.
I cannot reiterate enough the fun there is to be had, and the treasures there to be found, for those willing to explore the old parts of Bangkok. By day there's the sights, the architecture and the history. By night there's the food at Chinatown, the nightlife of Khao San Road and a different vibe to the more popular and infamous nightlife areas. You don't need a passport to get from Sukhumvit or Silom to the old part of town and it is much closer than you think. Check it out!
*Where* was this photo taken?
Last week's photo was taken from the Chidlom skytrain station of Central's flagship department store, Central Chidlom. The photo was way too easy and about a hundred people got it right – so I have run a more challenging photo this week!
For the next 6 weeks, Monsoon Books has donated 6 copies of the rereleased edition of Jack Reynolds' classic "A Woman of Bangkok" along with 6 copies of Jon Cole's new "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!
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. Books prizes are only available to those in Thailand NOW and who can provide a postal address. 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!
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FROM STICK'S INBOX (These are emails from readers and what is written here was not written by Stick.) Preference may be given to emails which refer to the previous week's column.
EMAIL OF THE WEEK – Excitement in downtown Bangkok!
I witnessed a couple of violent incidents in the last week. Walking home on my soi, I saw a Thai guy slapping and choking a girl. As I was the only one around I made the foolish decision to jump in between them. They were outraged that I dared intervene on their private moment. There were no blows thrown but I got a severe tongue lashing as they both decided I was more interesting than their problems! The next morning I had a severe back ache and could hardly move. I could not help thinking that no good deed goes unpunished and that rhyme, "Those who in quarrels interpose, must often wipe a bloody nose". Two days ago I was in KFC at Major Ekamai when 5 kids rushed in, one of them carrying a samurai sword which he proceeded to unsheathe and attempt to murder some other kid of about 12 years old. The first thing that went through my head is my hero incident. I was fixated on the sword which appeared to be a replica that had been sharpened. I was close enough that I could have grabbed the sword and smacked the kid out of the way. I'm about 3 times his weight and I've had quite a bit of experience with Japanese and medieval sword fighting. In a matter of seconds the crowd had exited the restaurant and the sword kid ran into the middle of traffic on Suhkumvit followed by some older kids aged about 15 or 16. Cars were slamming on brakes and motorcycles weaved around the action while this little assassin got stomped. I'd only ever seen someone get a boot shampoo like that in the movies. After 10 minutes the police still hadn't shown. I can only imagine what would have happened if I had jumped in. I'm sure I would have suffered an embarrassing 10-minute lesson at the hands of a mob. My advice to heroes is to stay out of it unless it's a loved one or a friend in peril. Let the Thais sort out their own crap.
On my last evening in Bangkok I spent some time at Siam Paragon. Around 2130 I decided I would invest some money in the bar areas and since I was out of cash proceeded to the ATM machines near the food hall. I inserted my card in one of the machines to withdraw 10,000 baht. The machine delivered the receipt, but no money. I was still standing around the machine, cursing it, being the centre of a group of people contemplating the bad luck of the foreigner when a Thai customer approached the same machine, inserted his card and got his money. I approached him because I was afraid that together with his amount he may have also received my 10,000 baht. Unfortunately this was not the case. The people surrounding me suggested I go to the nearby information centre for help. I explained my problem to the young lady who connected me with the 24-hour help desk of the bank in question. The lady at the end of the line requested my email address and promised to help. An answer would be sent immediately by email. Her English was not very good and I also do not speak any Thai so I was sure nothing would happen and the 10,000 baht would be lost. Was it maybe the fault of my card? Should I try to withdraw additional money from another bank or go back to the hotel? I ran the risk and inserted the card in the slot of another bank's ATM and in order to minimise a possible second loss, requested 5,000 baht. The money was delivered. I told a few Thai friends of my mishap and they had little hope that I would ever see my money. To prove their point, no email was sent to me from the bank. A few weeks later I called my bank and to my big surprise the 10,000 baht had already been credited to my account. I love the Thais.
The last few Saturday mornings that I've gone to The Dubliner there has been a group of very earnest farangs, men and women, meeting up on the second floor, up by the toilets. I could never work out what it was so I asked a waitress who told me that it was an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. I pointed out that it was very unusual for AA meetings to be held in bars and she smiled and said that yes, she thought it was strange too but at least they could have a drink when the meeting was over. Thai humour, can't beat it!
Dare you walk down Sukhumvit soi 22?
Regarding the latest report of police stops on or around Soi 22 on Sukhumvit, it's not just farangs. A Thai lady friend, ~30 years old and a resident of a province far from Bangkok, told me of the following incident about a year ago. She was dressed ordinarily (e.g. not hi-so, a businesswoman, or in bargirl fashion) walking to a friend's place down Sukhumvit Soi 22 on a visit to Bangkok, when a policeman stopped her. He demanded to see her ID, which she showed him without handing it to him. He claimed that the ID was fake and that she wasn't Thai. She replied that, of course, the ID was genuine, and he should be able to tell from that and her speaking that she's native Thai. The policeman tried to get her to enter a police car. She refused, and walked away – and they didn't pursue her. She said that she was really shaken by the incident and worried about what might happen to her if they had forced her into the car. So it's not only farang. Might the common element be the area around Soi 22 which seems to get lots of mention? Some friends from Japan used to stay at a hotel in Soi 22. One of them was posted to Bangkok for several months about 5 years ago, with an office and condo in Soi 20. That brought me to that area quite often. But they have now relocated to other hotels when visiting Bangkok (and have also reduced their visits to Thailand). Their relocations don't bother me one bit, in context. Are such police shenanigans good for business in that area or for people's thinking about them?
On the Stickman wavelength.
I certainly endorse your recent comment regarding tattoos. I may be getting a bit old and more set in my ways, but I've always liked slim girls without artificial "enhancements". Non-smokers and no tattoos. Nowadays, my "ideals" are increasingly difficult to spot in the bars of Bangkok and Pattaya, and I'm just glad I'm not in the market any longer!
Coke Zero addict.
The whole area from Khon Kaen to Mahasarakham is out of Coke Zero, Diet Coke and Pepsi Max. Some 3 or 4 weeks ago I figured most 7 Eleven stores were empty, and already Big C, Tops, Tesco and Makro didn't have any. Being an addict, I asked my wife what to do. She suggested going to 7 Eleven branches and places with few farangs. So I did all the 7 Elevens in Kosum Pisai, which yielded a few cans. The biggest success was Srinakarin Khon Kaen University Hospital where in 3 shops I bought all they had and they were amazed at a farang buying 36 cans at once. That yielded altogether about 80 cans or so. So the nearly 100 cans I have left must save my life until they can deliver Coke Zero again!
Dodgy bottled drinking water.
Have you had any emails regarding dodgy drinking water in supermarkets, given the shelves are almost empty <No – Stick>. I bought a bottle of drinking water from a certain BIG supermarket chain, opened it, washed my teeth with it and left it in the bathroom. Next day, I did the same and put my nose to the opening and was confronted with what can only be described as a smell similar to sewerage. It really was off. I asked my girl to sample it and she agreed it was putrid smelling. Inspecting the label, this stuff comes from Malaysia. Say no more.
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, empty seats and a full complement of dancers at closing time are the norm in many of the city's gogo bars. Owners and managers are telling all who care to listen how they haven't made a profit in months. Trade did pick up a little this week, but remains well down on what you would expect at this time of year.
And you know things are serious when one big name bar boss hasn't processed payments to investors in the bars he heads up for the past few months. No names here, but this bar baron's absence from the traps has not gone unnoticed by said investors and the jungle drums are beating – the investors are seriously pissed!
Tomorrow is the birthday of HM The King, a special occasion for Thais when the whole country comes together and Thai people feel a great sense of unity and pride. Indications are that bars will not be prevented from opening, nor serving alcohol and it will be business as usual. Some bars, however, have elected to close as a mark of respect and to give staff a deserved break and a chance to celebrate this special day. So don't be surprised if your favourite venue is closed on Monday.
The Clubhouse in Sukhumvit Soi 23 – a couple of hundred metres down beyond Soi Cowboy, will celebrate its first anniversary next Thursday with free bar snacks and free drinks from 6 – 8 PM and from 8 PM it's happy hour prices through until closing.
Popular nightspot Q Bar is under renovation and the hot rumour is that when it reopens there's a real chance you might have to venture elsewhere if you rely on your wallet and not your charm to convince a lady to return to your place. In what appears to be an effort to reposition Q Bar's place in the market, they're considering barring entry to those women who are obviously up for it! Who said Bangkok isn't changing?!
Old hands know that in Thailand when business is down, prices can go up and evidence of this odd principle of Thai Economics 101 reared its ugly head this week when a friend who it would be fair to describe as fit and pleasant was quoted 5,000 baht towards the end of the night in a soi 7/1 bar popular with freelancers. Such lofty numbers aren't anything new and I remember Trink reporting Patpong girls throwing this number around way back in early 1998 when the baht hit 55 to the US dollar – something which was not lost on girls at the time. But even today, some 13 odd years later, 5,000 baht is still a lot of money in Thailand and while some hot shots (in their own eyes) pay this, most aren't quite so foolish.
Last week's email section featured words from a long-time reader whose Thermae visit revealed few Asian gents and many farang-friendly birds. I popped by the Thermae this week with a couple of English mates and found things rather different. There were few Asian gents, but there were just as few women who were interested in the white man. It wasn't lost on the girls who were packaged up in that cute, baby doll way that especially appeals to Asian men. Chatting with a couple of girls and being looked right through by others confirmed that, on the night I visited at least, the majority of women in the Thermae are NOT farang friendly at all. It never got busy, and started to thin out around 12:15 AM. By 12:30 it was so quiet there was zero atmosphere and it was time to head home. The Thermae has the prettiest women of Sukhumvit's low-end freelancer venues – but unless you're from North Asia, you're not their first choice.
Tilac's #21 is a real little sweetie with a great attitude. If I was a naughty boy, she'd be near the top of my list.
The latest bar exterior to get the Arab's magic touch is Raw Hide which looks as good as all of his other bars, and helps make Soi Cowboy just that little bit more beautiful. What a shame that attitudes are so poor down there these days.
With the scaffolding removed and the large fences concealing it dismantled, we can see the progress made on repairing the Zen department store which was sacked during the red shirt occupation of the Rachaprasong intersection in the first half of last year. It looks like it won't be too long before it reopens. Maybe another couple of months?
Speaking of renovations, staff at the soi 16 branch of Foodland insist that the soi 5 branch will reopen in just a couple of weeks. December 20th is being touted as the day although I maintain that appears rather optimistic.
It sometimes seems like I am the only one who is willing to talk out publicly against those indulging in unprotected sex with bargirls, as well as those who jump from one regular girl to another and refuse to wrap it up. The way many Westerners indulge in high risk, reckless behaviour with Thai prostitutes and other women who are obviously easy is something I have never understood. I have yet to hear anyone rationalise this behaviour or come up with a convincing argument in favour of it. Anyway, this past Wednesday night on Soi Cowboy a small precession which smacked of a local NGO made a slow stroll along the soi with loud speaker and placards campaigning against the spread of AIDS. I don't know that the message was delivered as effectively as it could have been with the main proponents of the message being a sour-faced white bird who looked like a religious zealot appalled at what was going on around her, and she was accompanied by an incredibly camp katoey! Did I kick myself for not taking my camera out that night – and the money shot would have been to capture them as they strolled past Bob of Bangkok Bob fame who was perching outside a bar. I didn't know it was possible to roll your eyes back quite that far, Bob!
Down in Pattaya, if you're looking for your favourite former Secrets girl, you might want to wander over to Second Road and stick your head in the door of the recently renovated Tim Gogo. A number of former Secrets girls have defected from Walking Street.
And still in Pattaya, the outside of Angelwitch looks fantastic with a new wall of smashing photographs that does a great job of promoting the venue. I really am impressed, both with the quality of the photos and the way it has been presented!
Spanky's new bar in Pattaya's Soi Diamond was due to open this past Friday. Please note however that the official grand opening party has been delayed until next Saturday, December 10th.
For quiz night fans, pop down to The Royal Oak – formerly the Bull's Head, every Wednesday at Sukhumvit Soi 33/1. The quiz gets going at 7:30 PM and is hosted by popular local act, Lee Shamrock. And after the quiz is over, there's live entertainment from…Lee Shamrock!
An interesting feature of my old friend Jake Needham's completely revamped website is the Letters from Asia section. Jake said to me about the new section, "Two or three times each month, I'm going to be sending out one of my letters from Asia to friends and readers, then posting them on the website a week or so later. Mostly my letters will tell stories and include photos of the real people, places and things behind the fictional versions of Bangkok, Singapore and Hong Kong that appear in my novels. Occasionally I'll also offer a few observations about the daily life of an expatriate American writer in Asia and a thought or two on the current state of play in Asian politics and business. I promise to keep my letters short, and I think anyone who has an interest in contemporary Asia would probably enjoy reading them." If you want to join the list to receive Jake's letters from Asia before they appear on his website, you can do so here.
The band Wildside is new to Bangkok and performed at the Ploenchit Fair last weekend. They will play at Sundowners Bar in the Imperial Queens Park starting December 9 and every Thursday, Friday and Saturday from then on. Wildside covers a lot of musical ground from classic rock through to funk and dance. Its members come from New Zealand, Australia, Italy, UK, Canada and the US. They have played with acts such as Wendy Matthews, Dave Dobbyn and Wa Wa Nee in the 80's and been first-call session musicians in their countries of origin as well as old hands playing around South-East Asia. You may have seen them perform in Muddy Murphy's in Singapore or at the Sheraton Grande in Bangkok. The Sundowner Bar is pretty quiet right now but new management has put the place on the map with rooftop parties. The management's next mission is to build the bar into a place where people can listen to great music played well, hassle free.
Whenever there's a crisis in Thailand which has a detrimental effect on the tourism industry – and that seems to be an annual occurrence here – one reads comments in the press about the various steps taken to stimulate tourism. One of these is that the national carrier Thai Airways will offer discounted airfares for foreigners to visit the country. So why is it that while you read the announcement, wherever you search for these fares you cannot find them?!
I have been told that I am the last man standing with the other Bangkok expat columnists with a nightlife slant dropping off the radar. This is in fact quite incorrect. The legend Trink stopped many years ago and it is true that Dean Barrett traded in his keyboard for the whips and chains of Demonia and Bar Bar. Baron Bonk officially retired, only to do a Mike Tyson and make a comeback with an excellent edition last week. Whether that was a one-off or there's more to follow we'll have to wait and see. Mekong Kurt still publishes his excellent Washington Square-centric report. Kurt is a popular figure and few know the comings and goings of that part of town as well as Kurt. His reports of the Squaronians along with other aspects of life in Bangkok are always engaging and there's always some chestnuts in his column that you won't catch anywhere else.
And speaking of a certain Mr. Barrett, he dropped me an email this week along with the photo of the lovely Mrs. Cheer who is the brains and the beauty behind a new venue on Sukhumvit soi 22 near the entrance to Washington Square called, funnily enough, Cheer's Bar And Grill. I hope to check it out this coming week.
Contrary to what their ads in the Bangkok Post may say, Jack Golf and the other visa run firms that advertise visa runs to procure a tourist visa from a neighbouring country almost certainly cannot, at least not at this time. If you wish to stay in Thailand long-term but are not employed, not married, and aged under 50, signing up for a Thai language course and getting your 1-year visa that way is probably the way to go.
Quote of the week is a reader's definition of jai dee, "One's ability to take it up the arse from your Thai girlfriend, her Thai boyfriend, his other Thai girlfriend, and each of their extended family while smiling."
Reader's story of the week comes from Mr. Anonymous, Police Stop & Search and really is a must read…
…and makes stories like this theft in Pattaya by police impersonators all the more of a concern!
Newsweek ran an interesting piece last week, not Thailand-related admittedly, on sex addiction.
A BMW, a condo and 70,000 baht a month was not enough to keep a Thai wife faithful so the Singaporean husband killed the guy!
The Wall Street Journal looks at the growing mosquito problem in Bangkok following the floods.
A Thai court extradited two of its own to Australia to face murder charges.
The Herald Sun reports on a Thai woman missing in Australia for some months.
CNNGo looks at some of Bangkok's most bizarre eating experiences.
Andrew Drummond, the top Bangkok-based British journalist, was interviewed by Tommy Dee on Pattaya's 105 FM this week.
Ask Sunbelt Legal
Sunbelt Asia's legal department is here to answer your questions relating to legal issues and the law in Thailand. Send any legal questions you may have to me and I will pass them on to Sunbelt Legal and their response will run in a future column. You can contact Sunbelt's legal department directly for all of your legal needs.
Question 1: What is the legal position with regards to taking photos in a public space and the "requirement" to pay for taking a photograph? I had a nasty situation taking photos of the insect vendor who has been in the same position between Nana Plaza and the police traffic control booth on Sukhumvit soi 4 (Soi Nana). I took photos of the vendor and her cart from across the road and when I crossed the road towards Morning – Night Bar she asked me for money. Naturally I refused. She started waving her arms around and pointed to a hand-written note on her cart that I could not possibly have seen that said if you take photos you must "tip". I refused and she started saying she would get the police if I did not pay. This seems to me to be extortion! I walked up the road quickly, got to the corner and ran! I have read enough reports online that I don't want any dealings with the Thai police whatsoever. I have travelled all over the world and while the odd temple / holy / historic place may charge a dollar or two or local equivalent to take photos, it is always signed clearly and I am happy to pay. I have never in my life heard of anyone trying to extort money like this. What is the LEGAL position?
Sunbelt Legal responds: If a person objects to their photo being taken or requests money for their photo, they have the right to do so. Thailand's constitution offers this protection to their citizens.
Question 2: I live in Kanchanaburi and have a non-immigrant O visa as I've been married to a Thai woman for over 15 years. Can I renew my visa locally, or do I need to go to Bangkok every year to get the annual renewal? If I can renew it locally, where and do I have to do anything beforehand i.e. have my case transferred from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi etc.?
Sunbelt Legal responds: You can renew your visa extension at the Kanchanaburi Immigration office. You will need all the same documents but will require two copies of everything since although the application is made in Kanchanaburi, it is processed in Bangkok. The address of the Kanchanaburi Immigration Office is : 100/22 Mae Klong Road, Pak Phraek District, Kanchanaburi 71000.
The holiday season is upon us and the Thais are getting ready to let their hair down and try to forget what has been yet another difficult year for many in the Kingdom. It's the birthday of HM The King on Monday, Constitution Day on the 10th and as the year draws to a close, there's the big New Year holiday and observation of Christmas by some Thais, especially those in the bigger urban areas. Lights decorate Rachadamnoen Road to celebrate His Majesty's birthday as is the tradition, and various buildings around Central World have erected lights to celebrate Christmas and New Year. The worst of the flooding is behind us and the tension that was in the air just a couple of weeks ago is fast being replaced by a feeling that things will work themselves out, as they usually do.
Your Bangkok commentator,