Stickman's Weekly Column December 18th, 2011

Sober Reflections On Pattaya


I shouldn't even be on my way there. I'm not much of a drinker. I have never ever had a drink in the morning, never drink in the afternoon, and only drink in the evenings occasionally. I don't barfine bargirls, in fact I don't really even enjoy being in naughty bars unless I am taking photos or hanging out with friends. I don't go for a rub down, typically don't swear and don't have any tattoos, all of which, I reckon, hardly makes me the typical Pattaya visitor at all, right? Wrong!

I poked my head around Pattaya this week, my first visit to Sin City in a couple of months and my first December visit in many years. And what I discovered was that most visitors were just like me!


Pattaya bus

First I had to actually get to Pattaya. There was no hurry so I headed for the Ekamai Bus Station, one of my least favourite places in all of Bangkok. The air-conditioned bus from Ekamai to Pattaya may be a bargain at 113 baht, but it's hardly the most pleasant trip. In the bay where the buses depart for Pattaya, it's hard to find a more depressing bunch of foreigners in the Thai capital. Perhaps only the food court at the Onut branch of Tesco Lotus is worse.

Sitting on the Sex Tourist Express at the Ekamai station, peering out the grubby windows I spied a uniformed Thai cop enjoying a protracted discussion with one of the few Blacks left on Sukhumvit Road. It wasn't a shakedown, nor even a search, these two were laughing away like old mates, adding to the weirdness of Ekamai.

On the Sex Tourist Express, they were excited. The usually staid, older continental Europeans were bouncing around like excited kids on Christmas morning. They would be rewarded at the end of the long journey. They were almost there! I felt like I was with a bunch of pilgrims on the road to Mecca! I turned on my IPod, closed my eyes and blocked out the surroundings.

Pattaya

Despite what Western bar owners may tell you about the state of business in Sin City and just how bad things are and how terrible the new type of visitors to Pattaya are – I am convinced that most bar owners are short-sighted and cannot see beyond the next drink – Pattaya is absolutely packed with foreign visitors and the city was teeming like I have not seen before!

During the day, shopping centres were busy, many restaurants were full and beach chair vendors were doing a roaring trade. The Beach Road was jammed throughout the day. The influx of vendors cashing in on the high season who have set up on every available piece of pavement have made getting around a mission, particularly at night.

The Cavern

Money is being thrown around all over Sin City with the notable exception of Walking Street where girls stand around outside bars looking bored, as the nightly parade takes place, thousands and thousands of visitors to Sin City walking up and down Pattaya's prized strip of prime real estate, more concerned about capturing memories than drinking beer or chasing skirt.

There's a reason it's called Walking Street and not Porking Street, a name that would have been appropriate in the past but doesn't seem to fit today.

Walking Street

As an occasional visitor to Pattaya these days I am admittedly not really the best person to comment on just how bad the bar business is suffering as I really don't know what the norms are. But one thing struck me – business seemed to be down across the board. Beer bars and gogo bars both seemed to be way down in customer numbers – and to me eyes, and let me repeat, I may have this wrong – girl numbers seem to be down too, at least on what I would expect. There even seemed to be fewer girls freelancing.

A couple of venue owners told me that the problem of girls being taken out of the industry by local guys is worse than ever. In fact one even went as far to say that one of the reasons Pattaya is not as much fun today as it used to be, or as it could be, is that there are so many condos in Sin City filled with Westerners. As this owner explained it, these guys grab any hot girl who comes along, removing her from the industry and from the bar owner's clutches. It's an interesting theory and one I haven't heard before.

Pattaya

Business really was way off in many bars – even in some of the best and most popular bars. Girls sat around playing silly bar games alone, an unsuccessful attempt to thwart the boredom and keep their mind away from the constant wondering of when the next customer will walk through the door. Talk with bar managers and owners and it's always the same story, "Oh mate, if you'd been here just 5 minutes earlier the bar was heaving!" You can file that one away with "I love you", "The cheque's in the post" and "I won't come in your….!"

Pattaya

Beach Road featured a lot more regular tourists as opposed to obvious naughty boys. During the day the number of beach road workers seemed to be down and the cat calls from girls were far more subdued.

The reptiles still patrol Beach Road in their droves and still sit around, shirt off, proudly displaying their man boobs. You'd think that being locals they could at least have the decency to don a singlet and maintain a trifle of decency and decorum. Sigh, social graces and Pattaya don't always go together.

Pattaya

Despite the transformation of their workplace, many girls lingering on Beach Road still had a ready smile and a surprising number were willing to pose.

Pattaya

But some seemed to realise that there were few genuine punters around, and way too many tyre kickers, so chose to enjoy their workplace for what it is and relax with a cold one in one hand and a ciggy in the other!

Bar Bar Patpong

Pattaya

The breakfast lounge in the hotel and the light of day has always forced guys to come to terms with just what they had barfined the night before. It dawned on some that the beauty they thought they had barfined was in fact Miss Average, Miss Plain, or in some instances, Miss Downright-Scary!

In many hotel breakfast lounges in Pattaya today, breakfast is a more civilized affair with more couples and more families. Out and about, there are less guys being led through Royal Garden or Central Plaza on shopping trips and the hottest girls at the beach are all white. I saw perhaps half a dozen Russian girls this week more attractive than any Thai woman I came across. Compare these Russian beauties, some of whom look like they stepped off the set of a James bond movie, and you laugh when you see some of the hard Thai women uttering I go with you along the Beach Road. The hottest women in Pattaya this week were white!

Even in its heyday, the percentage of visitors to Pattaya primarily for the nightlife was what? 30%? 35%? 40%? No higher than that I would think, even when Pattaya was at its sex tourism peak.

Today, the numbers are rather different and I'd guess no more than 5% of visitors to Pattaya are there for the naughty stuff. The diversification of Pattaya has reached the point where the unthinkable is happening. Couples and families look at sex tourists and think, "What the hell are you doing here?!", an hilarious transition from just a few years ago when sex tourists looked at the couples and families and thought exactly the same!

Pattaya Beach today has a similar looking crowd to the beaches of Phuket where older farangs – men and women – relax in the sun.

The slogan being used to promote Pattaya at present is remarkably accurate – Pattaya, City Of Variety. All-encompassing, and not at all grotty.

Pattaya

So was Pattaya better in the past? I think not. The photo was taken on Walking Street in December 2001 shows how things were very close to exactly a decade ago. Walking Street back then really could legitimately have been called Porking Street. Most visited for one reason. Pattaya used to be one-dimensional and its ugly reputation was largely deserved.

Russians had threatened to become THE dominant group of visitors in the late '90s and a number of venues invested in language training for their staff, and in Russian menus until Russia imploded economically and the country started to splinter – and Russian visitors weren't seen in noticeable numbers for several years. But some sex tourists' fears have become true. Russians are the dominant group of visitors to Pattaya today and with the Ruskies new love affair with Pattaya, they will be the group that drives changes in Sin City.

Pattaya

Towards the end of the last Millennium it was single, middle-aged Americans who appeared to comprise the most visible group of visitors. With a favourable exchange rate and much lower prices – in baht and especially in dollar terms – Americans in Pattaya felt rich and spread the cheer around. Oh how things have changed! The photo here was taken in exactly the same spot as the photo above, 10 years on.

While physically Pattaya may resemble what I encountered on that first trip in mid-1998, the character of the city has edged away from that of a seedy, one-dimensional town. Today the city is much more diverse and much more attractive to mainstream tourists.

These days the profile of the predominant visitors is completely different. Russian visitors may not have spent much in the past, but they seem to have cash in their pockets now and while they're not exactly throwing it around, they are spending, they are drinking, and they are buying. As Pattaya attracts a new type of visitor and with some entertainment venues struggling, expect to see Pattaya change even more. The bar industry will probably always be there, but mainstream tourism is becoming much bigger business in Pattaya.



*Where* was this photo taken?

Bangkok

Last week's photo was taken of a tuktuk on Soi Nana parked outside Nana Plaza. The blurred area in the background of the photo was the Golden Bar, the open air beer bar on the outside of the Nana Hotel.

Monsoon Books has donated copies of the rereleased edition of Jack Reynolds' classic "A Woman of Bangkok" along with Jon Cole's new "Bangkok Hard Time". I'm 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!

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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 Keeping the streets of Bangkok safe part 1.

I will share my experiences with attempts of being searched by the police in Bangkok. Both of these accounts took place in the Thong Lor district. The first took place on Rama IV road. My girlfriend and I were coming home from a night out drinking. She was rather drunk and sleeping in my lap in the back of the taxi. I saw the lights ahead and attempted to wake her up. It wasn't going well as the taxi approached. The police motioned to stop. The driver rolled down the window, and they instructed my girlfriend and I to get out of the vehicle. We did as requested. I tried to help my girlfriend in her drunken state, but we were immediately separated. She was at the front of the taxi. I was at the back. In her state she willingly threw her belongings on the hood of the taxi. The police proceeded to do a detailed search. I had nothing on me, but I don't like being searched for no reason. They said they were going to search me. I told them in no uncertain terms and possibly a hostile tone that they were not going to do any such thing. I told them that we could go to the Thong Lor Police Station and conduct a search. They said that this was not an option. I told them that searching me wasn't an option either. They reached for my pocket, and I blocked the attempt. I immediately grabbed my phone and demanded to speak to their supervisor. I asked where he was. They said he wasn't present. They were really out of it. They didn't want to deal with me anymore and told me to leave! The second time was just before the Emporium coming from On Nut. I intended to have a few beers, so I took a motorbike taxi. Stopped at a red light, two of them made an illegal u-turn and waited for the light to turn green. They flagged down the motorbike. We stopped. They asked where I was going. I simply told them "bai gin aharn farang Suhkumvit soi 22!" They weren't satisfied. They said they were just doing their jobs and had to search me. Running a bit late and without a drop of alcohol in me I wasn't so brave! I told them they could search the contents of my pockets, but they could not put their hands in them. I pulled everything out. They RIGOROUSLY searched everything including opening my mobile phone. Then, they patted me down. They sent me on my way. I don't know what the deal is, but it pisses me off.

Keeping the streets of Bangkok safe part 2.

The stop and search by the Bangkok police happened to me as well one night, but with a "nice" twist. It was late at night when I was travelling on the back of a motorbike taxi in the back sois behind Robinson's department store on Sukhumvit heading towards Rachada. Just before entering Asoke Road I was pulled over by two of Bangkok's finest. They did the usual search of my pockets which came up empty and subsequently wanted to see my passport. I always carry a copy of my passport, visa and entry date but never the original. After inspecting the documents for a while the officer came to the conclusion that it was a fake. "Excuse me" I said?" "Yes, your passport and visa is a fake" he said. I then told him and his partner in a polite manner that I obtained the visa at the Thai embassy in Singapore and I could assure them that it was genuine. The officer then went to motorbike driver and told him to drive off because I was not going to leave this place! I am by no means dodgy looking. After arguing with them back and forth for a while, the officer pointed to the dotted holes on the bottom of page 8 in the passport which makes up the passport number and then the number in the visa which did not match. I then told him in a calm voice that of course it doesn't match because page 8 is the back page of page 7 so the numbers are in a reversed order! I guess he was trying to extract my hard earned cash from me, since they look at passport docs all the time so they should know better, but I was not gonna let that happen. I pulled out my phone and called one of the chiefs from Thonglor Station I'm quite close to. I then told him my situation and handed the phone to the copper who was looking quite annoyed at the resilient farang at this point. One moment later I was all grins and smiles when I heard the copper uttering lots of krap phom pee and kortord pee. I knew I was in the clear at this point. The copper then gave me back my phone and told me to get out of his face. I said "Where can I go when you sent away my ride?" The copper then went into mid traffic on Asoke Road and literally grabbed a motorbike driver by the neck and instructed him to drive me home. As I left while laughing to myself, I could hear the copper uttering lots of Thai curse words. He was not amused with this know too much farang.

Does she call you "Darling?"

Your observations on the bargirl leading the farang around like a buffalo are spot on. I have always wondered why the buffalo never spots these manipulations for what they are. Maybe they believe this is their tilac's idea of taking care of papa or maybe they just don't care? Unfortunately it doesn't end in the bar scene. Up here in Udon Thani, the average age of farang males has to be north of 60, the majority of whom, thankfully, have partners or have married women much closer to their own age. My apartment building has a restaurant attached which hosts a very popular 149 baht buffet every Saturday and the vast majority of these guys are still getting the buffalo treatment. To compound this treatment, most of them have the same name – darling or sometimes dahg ling. Now after forking out x amount of baht a month you would at least expect the woman to remember his bloody name! After I pointed this trait out to my wife and explained that it was a bargirl trick as they can't or couldn't be bothered remembering all their customers' names and let's face it, she will lose a customer pretty quick if she calls Kevin Sean! She started giggling every time she heard it said but she has stopped now as the joke wore off pretty quickly. The usual divide and conquer manoeuvre which pairs of bargirls have developed to a fine art where two farangs are never allowed to sit next to each other and to ensure the farangs can't compare notes or even talk about the rugby while the women talk loudly non-stop across the poor farang in the middle whilst the outsider gets to eat or drink alone is sadly also prevalent. I know these guys have married and live in Udon or Nakhon whatever in their retirement or dotage to live cheaply and have the peace of mind that their wife will look after them when, and not if, something unfortunate happens but surely they should at least be allowed to choose which table and chair they want to sit at? It seems a stiff price pay when you give up your pride, pay and get this level of service. The farang tolerates it! Come on, guys, wake up and grow a pair! I know the following are clichés but there is a nugget of truth in them. You can take the girl out of bar but you cannot take the bar out of the girl – even 50-year olds. Rent don't buy. Never keep a bar girl longer than three days or the hooks will go in and even more demands will be made on you.

Thank you, Soi Dog Foundation.

My wife and I had a night in Bangkok on our way back to Chiang Mai a few days ago. Up early in the morning, we grabbed a coffee at the Coffee World on the corner of Sukhumvit Soi 9. Whilst having a coffee we saw an adorable grey kitten crawl out from a portable ATM across the road. Soon after another 3 equally adorable kittens followed – 4 in all. Guessing they were not more than 3 weeks old we were very concerned for their safety amongst all the traffic. A quick internet search on the Iphone and we came across the Soi Dog Foundation. I gave them a call and spoke with John in Phuket who told me not to worry and that he would try and have someone there within the hour to rescue them. Within an hour they were collected and taken to an animal rescue centre on Soi 93 where they will be vaccinated, sterilized and put on the cat adoption program. What a fantastic organisation. I can't thank them (and John) enough. I have since made a donation to the Soi Dog Foundation for the wonderful work they do. If you ever see an animal in distress or one that needs rescue please remember the Soi Dog Foundation – Soidog.org.

Big Mango

Each year the major local breweries each have a large space out the front of Central World where a beer garden is set up and their product sold, in conjunction with tasty treats from food vendors. It looked like this year's floods killed the beer garden idea but Chang have set up out front Central World as have a few other beer gardens around town, although nothing like the number we have seen in previous years. Bangkok's cool season beer gardens have a nice vibe, the food is decent and the whole experience is very easy on your wallet.

It's that time of year again when there is much cheer…for the bar owners who hike barfine prices to silly levels. Yep, it's time for bar owners to roll out their Christmas and new year barfines! Once upon a time peak season barfines increased to 1,000 baht, but owners found that wasn't effective in keeping the hotties in the bar so they increased them further, to 2,000 baht. In some cases that still wasn't high enough so don't be surprised to see the odd bar ask as much as 4,000 baht for a barfine on New Year's Eve, and maybe even on Christmas Eve too. Some bars push things and inflate barfine rates for the entire week before Christmas and New Year.

A bunch of entrepreneurial, but rather rough-looking Thai males were break dancing outside Soi Cowboy's Tilac Bar last night. They were buskers, and passed around a cap soliciting tips – and quite a few obliged. They had no stereo or musical accompaniment, but as they took turns dancing, those not dancing clapped a beat for their comrades. While street entertainment in Cowboy is welcome, it was a pain for those strolling the soi who had trouble walking around them.

Secrets in Pattaya has a couple of big events coming this month. There's the monster Christmas Eve party as well as a bigBlack Pagoda event planned for New Year's Eve. Both should be a lot of fun so swing by if you find yourself in Sin City. A reminder, Secrets is on soi 14 off Walking Street, or the easy way to remember, it's the first soi on the left.

The management at Patpong's Black Pagoda in soi 2 love a party with Christmas Eve the next themed event. There will be prizes to give away and 80 baht shots. If you haven't visited Black Pagoda, the venue's setting is unique – it's in an overhead bridge connecting buildings on either side of Patpong soi 2. Stand outside Foodland and look up – that's Black Pagoda!

The supply of drinking water in Bangkok may be back to normal but that's not the case at all in Pattaya where I notice that while water is available – and there is no problem getting it – a lot of venues are carrying a brand of bottled water that I had never seen before, and closer inspection of the bottle revealed an import from Vietnam. Initially I thought it was some fancy imported brand, which I guess it is, but the price suggests it is merely imported, not fancy.

Also related to the fall out from the floods, many Pattaya bars are struggling to get stocks of certain drinks which is causing rather a lot of concern with the peak of the high season just two weeks away – not that anyone thinks any records will be broken this year. It seems that one day suppliers are unable to supply one variety of beer and the next day they are unable to supply another. And when it comes to tonic water and Diet Coke, both are unavailable from suppliers at this time with no new stock due until some time in January.

As mentioned in last week's column, snooker legend Jimmy White was supposed to be involved in the new Pig and Whistle in Jomtien. The Jimmy White pool lounge was created upstairs but the owner slipped in his bathtub and died, leaving everything to his wife. There is now a dispute between a foreigner who was going to be involved with the management and some money that is alleged to have been handed over. Whatever the case, the Jimmy White venue is no longer. All very sad.

No doubt bar and other business owners in Soi Nana will be furious that their soi was named in the Thai press this week, including The Nation newspaper, as one of 10 spots which could be a target of bombs at New Year. What were these comments based on?



Darling Massage is – or should I say *was* – perhaps the only full-sized fish-bowl venue on lower Sukhumvit and has been a favourite with Westerners for many years. But it seems that Darling is no longer with many of the fixtures and fittings carted away from the premises last weekend. There has been no indication about what the future of that spot will be. The rumour doing the rounds about the venue's demise has it that ever since the old man handed the reins of over to his son, the brainwaves of reducing pay and changing the girls' incentive program drove away many of the long-termers. Whether that is related to the closure, however, is unknown.Baby Dolls

Owned by the same crowd and located in the same soi, Sukhumvit soi 12, the vault of tall but hard-looking Russian birds known as White Lioness is due to re-open. The venue never set Sukhumvit alight and a combination of its questionable location and extremely high prices seem to be the reasons for its failure to set the market alight. Russian girls living in the soi say that the new venue will feature a new concept when it reopens. I remain cynical. Whenever you get Russians involved in bars in Thailand they always seem to be a rip-off – and that is widely known.

Toyz A Gogo closed its doors in the middle of the year in its Covent Garden location. Once one of the most fun gogo bars in Pattaya, Toyz reopened on Friday in a much better location in one of the most happening sois in Pattaya, Soi 15 off Walking Street, right next to Baby Dolls and directly opposite What's Up. Toyz features the same manager who boasts 20 years experience in Sin City, a charming Brit and one of the best hosts in town. He brings with him his old mamasan – which probably means a good few of the old Toyz girls will be back too. Drinks pricing is the same as it was in Covent Garden. Toyz will be well worth sticking your head in the door.

You don't have to look hard to find drinking bargains in Pattaya. 29 baht draft is available at Halo on Walking Street from 8 PM, all the way through until 1 AM.

Heaven Above will be celebrating Christmas with 2 parties – Xmas Eve and Orphan's Xmas Day. Both parties will feature free food, drink specials and lucky door prizes and their very own merry angels. You don't need to be alone at Xmas! Heaven Above can be found on Soi Diamond off Walking Street.

If you're wondering what happened to the popular Kiwi manager, Jimmy, who was in charge of the Robin Hood, try Mulligan's in Sukhumvit soi 11. It seems that since he left some of his staff followed, and it also seems he has been banned from entering the Robin Hood again!

Bully's Christmas buffet will run from 3 PM – 9 PM and set you back a reasonable 890 baht. The menu features herb-roasted imported butter ball turkeys with country gravy and mandarin cranberry sauce. There's also roasted pork loin stuffed with apples and prunes with a wild berry glaze and baked Norwegian salmon in a Dijon herb sauce. Bully's buffets are a touch above other similar venues and the quality of the food is *superb*! If you cannot make your mind up about a sub-1,000 baht buffet for Christmas, Bully's gets my vote.


Despite facing a number of challenges with their website, I can confirm that it's business as usual at Devil's Den in Pattaya's Soi LK Metro. The venue currently has a lineup of some 30 odd girls, which is more than it has had for some time.

Bar Bar has a New Year's party planned and things will get underway early evening on the 31st. On the special drinks menu for the evening is a warmBangkok golden shower, which with Bar Bar being a fetish venue certainly gets the imagination going.

I was strolling through the plaza next to Kiss restaurant on Pattaya's Second Road mid-afternoon when a New York accent calls out my name. There's Marc of Spanky's fame tucking into a huge English breakfast, something he said he had never even heard of until he came to Thailand. I sat down and we had a chat about all the important things in life, like where to get the best English breakfast in town, running a bar in Pattaya, and Dave The Rave's smooth haircut. Marc couldn't finish the monster-sized meal and requested that the staff not throw away the leftovers but give them to a local soi dog instead. The staff refused! So Marc insisted that they bag up the left over sausage and bacon so that he could feed the next lucky soi dog he saw. They duly complied and some lucky soi dog had the remains of an English breakfast for its afternoon tea!

Which will be the next Sukhumvit soi to see the sort of development we have seen in soi 11? The future of Sukhumvit soi 22 looks interesting. Investment is coming in to the soi and middle Sukhumvit is on the way up commercially with a couple of new properties recently opening. The new No Idea gastro pub, run by the Kiwi who transformed Soi 8 Pub into such a commercial success – invested 20 million baht in the venue. Soi 22 is still a very working class Thai soi with a strong sense of community. Like the adjacent Washington Square, there are a fair few who prefer it there to the busier bar areas to the west.

I visited The Castle for the first time this week, Pattaya's only fetish venue. The Castle is an amazing purpose-built venue on Pattaya's Third Road, located right next to the famous Buffalo Bar. Fetishism and kinky stuff is not really me, but for those who are into it, and those seeking pure fetish, this is the place to go. And on December 28th, The Castle will hold a party to celebrate the New Year with a free buffet, with ladies from Demonia in Bangkok down for the night.

The Castle

Eric Fisher, a sponsor of this site, is offering the Kindle version of "All The Colors", a novel about Thailand and escaping Corporate America, free today only at Amazon.

I really wish that hotel owners would acknowledge that while a big-screen TV is nice, a fast, or perhaps more importantly, a decent speed, stable internet connection is even more important. That along with a good-sized safe where you can safely stow your laptop, camera, passport, money and any other valuables is what I believe guests want most.

If you're a Bangkok bar owner, or fancy setting up a Bangkok-centric website about bars and bar life, you might consider the domain name BkkBars.com which recently came up for sale. The asking price is $500.

I have been accused of cronyism for saying so, but now you no longer need to take my word for it. What I have been saying for the past couple of years has been confirmed by the masses, with the Duke's Express burger confirmed the best burger in Bangkok after a poll with votes running into 4 figures agreed.

After this week's visit to Sin City, I am totally, utterly more convinced than ever that service levels in Bangkok far exceed those in Pattaya. I am not talking about bar maidens here but service in general in restaurants, shops, hotels, bars etc. In my few days in Pattaya this week I received at times shoddy service, and even worse, frequently overheard various nasty, throw away comments from Thais towards foreign tourists, spoken in Thai right in front of the people they were bad-mouthing. It seems to me that there are some generally unpleasant characters employed in the service industry in Pattaya. You don't get that to anywhere the same extent in Bangkok. It was epitomized by a great argument I witnessed between a young Scouser couple with the thickest of accents and a camp, incredibly rude Thai waiter over the ++ that had been added to the couple's bill for VAT and service charge. The couple rightly pointed out that the supplementary charges were not shown on the menu at all and being what I would term a lower mid-range establishment, I thought the venue had a cheek to charge it. The Scouser couple would not stop arguing and ripped the camp waiter a new you-know-what!



Quote of the week "For a single guy, living in Bangkok is like being James Bond except you don't get shot at!"

Reader's story of the week is the latest delightful tale from Mega, "Ladies of Negotiable Affection".

From the Wall Street Journal, they may be dummy policemen, but some of the dummies are fitted with cameras!

The Bangkok Post reports on the icky trade of underage maidens in parts of the country.

A legal firm manager steals $374,000 in Auckland, New Zealand, to support a Thai prostitute working there.

CNNGo shows you where to get a drink after hours in Bangkok.

Ladyboy flight attendants in Thailand have made the news in the UK.

Phuket Tourist Police admit there are 2 or 3 cases a week of drugging drinks in Phuket – that they are aware of.



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: My Thai wife has a small Isaan / Thai restaurant that's reasonably successful. It's really just a som tum stand with a few tables on the first floor of our home. We haven't served beer (officially) so far, but she wants to start staying open later and serve beer and whiskey. She's under the impression that getting a liquor license will be both fast and cheap, and won't involve any tea money – but I'm not convinced. I used to live in a country where getting a liquor license was more difficult than giving birth. Can you tell me what's involved in getting a license to sell beer and whiskey in Bangkok? The restaurant is not located especially near any school or any major street which she tells me is important. If it matters, this restaurant is not registered anywhere and she doesn't pay any taxes on it. "If it not have name, not pay taxes." Secondly, am I violating my work permit when I help her out in the restaurant? I have a day job with a valid work permit, but evenings and weekends I help with pretty much everything from food prep to order taking to cooking.

Sunbelt Legal responds: To obtain a liquor license in Thailand, your wife must first get a business license from her local amphur. She needs to go to the local Excise Department of the Amphur (not all amphurs may have them) to apply for a liquor license. It costs around 1,140 baht per year. It is possible to get a license to sell only beer which is much cheaper. She should also get a Tobacco License if she plans to sell cigarettes. This license is quite cheap as well. It is not allowed to sell alcohol near schools or temples. If you wish to obtain a liquor license in Bangkok without the hassle of going to the office and doing the application, Sunbelt Asia charges 3,000 baht to have it done in Bangkok in one day. You would be considered working in your wife's business and this would be in violation of the law were someone to catch you or turn you into the Work Permit office.

Question 2: Often through necessity, tourists arriving at the holiday tourist destination of Phuket are forced to at least consider renting a motorbike, if for no other reason there is not an effective public transport system available. Regrettably this situation is further compounded by the alternative private transport system which seems to go out of its way to try and extort all the new hapless arrivals. What I would be most grateful for you to confirm is how a worst case accident scenario would play out with the local Police, and the Courts if such a case were to reach them. That in the event a tourist rental bike, being ridden by a foreigner was involved in an accident and where it was deemed by the Police to press charges for the destruction of property, injury and maiming of others, and the death of a Thai national. What would be the consequences? In the event the defendant was found guilty on all charges, what would be the maximum fine or prison sentence handed down, and finally the maximum compensation to the next of kin, and how is this so-called blood money figure arrived at? How long would this process take, what bail funds might be requested, and would the defendant be allowed to leave the country until the case was heard?

Sunbelt Legal responds: Bail would be determined by the court and the defendant's passport would be confiscated until the trial. The defendant would not be allowed to leave the country. Compensation would depend on the severity of the accident and would generally cover costs of repair etc. However, in the case of death, the case would go to court to be adjudicated.

Question 3: I have bought a condominium in Bangkok valued at over 10,000,000 baht with funds brought in from overseas, and duly registered it with the appropriate authorities to allow me to own freehold. My question is about the 1-year investment visa that this entitles me to, since the wording in the regulations is somewhat unclear. Do I need to have owned the condominium for 3 years before I can apply for this visa? My reading of the regulations suggests that this is the case with the purchase of a condominium, but that the 3-year rule is waived for other investments such as the purchase of government bonds. Is my interpretation correct?

Sunbelt Legal responds: The rule is that the investment must be held in Thailand for 3 years. Some officers may waive the rule for other investments but it would vary from person to person and office to office. However, in general, the rule states that the investment must be held for 3 years prior to applying for an investment visa extension. The Thai word is often mistranslated as condo purchase or bond investment but the correct Thai translation is and, so both require 3 years. If you transfer 10 million baht in cash to a time deposit savings account in a local Thai bank and it just sits there, you can get the investment visa extension immediately, but if you purchase a condo with that money, then the countdown on the 3 years starts from the date of purchase. Proof of the transfer of money into the Kingdom is required. The foreign fund transfer form shows when the funds were transferred into Thailand as well as the reasons for the transfer.

Question 4: I am beginning to manufacture a wooden exercise product in Thailand and will be exporting it to the US. No sales in Thailand. The factory in Thailand is telling me that I have to pay 7% VAT and that will be refunded 'in the future'. This doesn't seem right to me due to my company not selling any product in Thailand. Is this accurate and is it necessary for me to pay VAT? If it is necessary, what is the procedure for getting 'the refund' and how long does that usually take? It seems ridiculous to pay it, if it is an exempt transaction and I would be entitled to a full refund anyway.

Sunbelt Legal responds: You must pay VAT and then apply to receive a credit to get your money back. In order to get the refund, you must have a company that is in the VAT system. The reason they require the VAT charged is to ensure that you do export the goods and that they are in the VAT system.


Thai farang couple

Regular readers know that I have long been and to this day remain highly cynical about marriages between Western men and women they met working in a naughty bar in Thailand. My observation are that the success rate of such relationships is remarkably low and that the divorce rate far exceeds that of marriage in the West. With that said, there are Western guys who have managed to find genuine happiness in a relationship with a lady who used to work in a bar, a phenomenon I'd like to put together an article on. To make a decent stab at this, I need to speak with some guys who believe they are happily married to a former bargirl. If you have any particular insight on how you have made a success of life with a former bargirl, I'd love to hear from you!

Your Bangkok commentator,

Stick