Stickman's Weekly Column December 11th, 2011

Somewhere Between Nana And Cowboy


Nana Plaza and Soi Cowboy are not just considered Bangkok's premier nightlife districts by sexpats and sex tourists, they make up two of the busiest and most thriving sois on all of Sukhumvit and are world famous. Ask fans of these bar areas what lies in between and you'll hear mention of the Thermae, the Biergarten, perhaps soi 7/1. Most of the night spots on Sukhumvit between Nana and Cowboy were cleared out a few years back, right? WRONG!

My first recollection of the soi was making my way to AVA Pub, a trek that predates this column. I think it was Texas Tommy who described it as a transplant from soi 33 with similar quality but better value. With the main Sukhumvit Road getting further and further behind me, the soi was dark in patches with street lights spaced far apart. What light there was came from the German Brew House, the behemoth Grand President and a few Korean karaoke venues. AVA Pub was a letdown and with few interesting venues in the soi, be they bars or restaurants, there was no compelling reason to visit. I didn't return for quite some time.

What was then a dark, quiet soi has been transformed into one of the most happening nightlife and dining districts in downtown Bangkok. Welcome to Sukhumvit soi 11!




Sukhumvit soi 11


Once a relatively quiet soi on the busy part of Sukhumvit, today the half-kilometre strip of Sukhumvit soi 11 that runs from the main Sukhumvit Road to the T-junction where you turn left for Q Bar or right for the President Solitaire sports restaurants, bistros, cafes, nightclubs, wine bars, hostess bars, naughty boy bars, massage houses and cocktails vans – everything needed for a great night out.

The soi is a real mix of the old and the new. Some of the most popular spots on soi 11 opened in recent years, perhaps as recently as early this year, while some establishments have been around longer than all but those who really can call themselves old Asia hands.

Charley Brown's Mexicana is just one of a number of restaurants in a small side soi about a hundred metres up soi 11. Known by some as "Soi Aroi", a reflection that the sub soi is dominated by eateries which tends to be busier early evening. With a few venues forced to relocate due to a combination of hanky panky taking place on the premises and a cantankerous landlord known for making tenant's lives a misery, a number of new restaurants have opened in the soi in the past few months. Among them are the Kiwi-owned Snapper which specialises in fish dishes from New Zealand, with the best of kia moana (Maori for seafood) and the French-owned and managed bistro Chez Papé with prices which put it amongst the most affordable French eateries in all Bangkok. The Spanish-themed Tapas seems to do well and there are the obligatory Thai restaurants, a couple of which are decorated and themed like a ruen Thai – a quaint, old Thai-style house.

The small sub-soi is also home to a guesthouse with a small entranceway that defies its size – Sukhumvit 11 Guesthouse has almost 100 rooms and is worth sticking your head in the door to check out the eclectic way it has been decked out. With some rooms available for less than 600 baht, it may be the cheapest digs in the busiest part of Sukhumvit.


Sukhumvit soi 11


Charley Brown's Mexicana features an Englishman at the helm whose CV boasts the 1992 UK bartender of the year award. He ensures that the drinks served use the freshest ingredients with nothing pre-packaged or from a packet. The bucket loads of Sangria and Margaritas ordered each week has staff squeezing thousands and thousands of limes. Charley Brown's boasts 20 years in Bangkok, first in Ramkhamhaeng before moving to its current location, which may make it the oldest Mexican restaurant in the city.

But that doesn't compare to Cheap Charlies (not Cheap Charlie's) which will celebrate its 30th anniversary next year. A Bangkok oddity, and a legend in the same vein as Wong's in Soi Ngam Duplee, and Brown Sugar opposite Lumphini Park, it's one of those timeless venues that have changed little over the years, proof that a winning formula was nailed from the outset.

What can only be described as an outside bar, Cheap Charlies isn't really even a venue, but an area. Inexpensive drinks – local beers and mixed drinks set you back just 70 baht – are sold from behind a counter. There's no protection from the elements and in what is an authentic Bangkok streetside experience. Customers sit, stand or perch next to the elaborately decked out serving area, a mish mash of decorations from wooden carvings to bones to street signs to the unidentifiable. The venue doesn't even have a fridge and cold drinks are placed in ice buckets to chill. There's no air-conditioning, no toilet and just a small number of seats. A hole in the wall venue without any walls, it always seems busy, probably because there isn't a Bangkok guidebook written which failed to mention it – and most rave about it. Yet I am in the minority and have never had a drink there. The rainy season sees the peculiar sight of customers standing around chatting while holding umbrellas. From a business perspective, the venue's numbers are truly astounding – Cheap Charlies has been a licence to print money for a very, very long time!



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Cheap Charlies Bangkok


The Pickled Liver was turfed out of the sub-soi leaving the Australian Pub and BBQ to take up the slack and service the British pub crowd. Despite its name, it there are plenty of Brits who call it their local and it has some of the prettiest bar staff of any venue on the street.

There's an official Manchester United bar further up the main drag on the right-hand side all large, garish and pretentious. As a fan of the Merseyside red, I refuse to enter, let alone spend a single baht there.

The further up the soi is where you find more high-end venues. I am told by those into clubbing – which I am not – that Bed Supper Club is still one of the city's hot spots even after all of these years – and so it should be with a 700 baht entry charge. The cylinder-shaped venue's exterior reminds me of an aircraft maintenance hangar and the interior is akin to Cambodia's popular Blue Pumpkin chain which, to be frank, is rather more to my liking. Wednesdays at Bed deserve a mention, model night, when some of the most spectacular women in a city renowned for beautiful women can be seen. Just don't turn up in a Singha or Red Bull singlet and expect to find bargain-priced Chang draft or lovelies calling you a hansum man!

Q Bar is due to reopen any day and along with Bed has been one of Bangkok's hot spots for several years. If dress standards and a cover charge that exceeds what some spend on a night out puts you off then stick to the lower end of the soi.

Bed Bangkok


It was a visit to Oskar the previous week that gave me the idea to profile soi 11. But is it a restaurant or is it a bar? Oskar opened earlier this year, the hard work of a few Frenchmen who brought different skills and a touch of Europe to soi 11. There's Serge playing the tunes, another Frenchie in the kitchen and another overseeing front of house. Transcending format and attracting a diverse customer base – the odd gorgeous Caucasian bird may be next to a sleazy overweight white guy way past his prime while a Thai hi-so pulls a face at the som tam breath coming from the farm girl next to her. Think food with a French flavour – the pizzas are said to be superb, with soothing, slightly clubby music in classy surroundings with a mix of Isaan girls, office girls and even a few hi-sos creating the sort of sexual tension hard to find in Bangkok these days – that's Oskar! The venue ticks all the boxes and does so with the style and panache of Paris. It seems to peak between 9 PM and midnight, at which point it thins out a bit, presumably at the benefit of Bed. With local beers just 95++ baht and most pizzas under 300, prices are remarkably reasonable. Oskar gets serious thumbs up.

Another of the more upmarket venues at the top of soi 11 is The Nest, an appropriately named rooftop bar which sits atop Le Fenix Hotel, directly opposite Q Bar. Take the lift to the 8th floor for an open air experience and views out of lower Sukhumvit. Like most Bangkok rooftop bars, prices are as lofty as the bar so if you're watching your satang, get liquored up at a happy hour elsewhere in the soi beforehand. A great place to take a date but on Sukhumvit I personally prefer the rooftop bar at soi 15's 4 Points by Sheraton.

Firehouse Sukhumvit soi 11


Open just a month, the single shophouse-sized Firehouse sits strategically opposite Q Bar. Decked out with fireman's hats from New Zealand, Croatia, the United States and Japan amongst others, Firehouse features firefighting paraphernalia including a Japanese firefighter's suit said to be worth $15,000. The 20 or so firemen's helmets mounted along the walls on poles reminded me of decapitated heads impaled on stakes. It looks creepy and after a few drinks it might even feel freaky. The black and red colour scheme, the loudish music (in what strikes me as more restaurant than bar) and the service girl's coloured contacts all made me feel like I was on the set of a horror movie. These minor concerns aside, Firehouse is a remarkably inexpensive bar featuring extremely friendly and help staff with amazingly good English – and they also speak Spanish and Japanese! It is Firehouse's burgers which have quickly developed a following and which most customers seemed to indulging in. A Facebook poll currently rates theirs as the best burger in Bangkok, a curiosity in a venue only open a month that most people don't even know about… At 195 baht, the premium burger is reasonably priced. A black angus burger will set you back twice that. I had to try it. The verdict? A great burger patty that was let down by the rest of the ingredients. The bread tasted like it was straight off the local supermarket's shelves and onions, cheese, bacon and mushroom all cost extra. It's a very good burger – perhaps similar in quality to what you get at Bully's – and my dining companion, Lecherous Lee, rated it highly. But to the critical Kiwi's taste, as good as it was, the Duke's Express burger isn't under any threat and remains Bangkok's burger to beat to my taste. Drinks are very reasonably priced with cocktails just 140 baht and standard drinks, draft and cocktails half price every day from 4:30 – 8:30 – a later happy hour than most British pubs and a reflection that soi 11 gets going later. Firehouse is definitely worth checking out and I will be back. Apparently their fish and chips is proving popular too.

Soi 11 features so many eateries and such a variety of ethnic food that you could try a new venue every day and a month later would not have come close to sampling them all. There's Thai, French, American, Kiwi, Aussie, German, Italian, Spanish, Mexican, English and the list goes on. And remember that even the likes of Bed Supper Club has an acclaimed kitchen.

homeless in Bangkok


Unlike some of Sukhumvit's more infamous side streets, soi 11 is not a sex tourist destination and has nothing like the seediness that can be found elsewhere. The small Hillary 3 is the only soi 11 bar I'm aware that has barfines. With that said, those looking for company can find it. Many venues, including the top tier clubs, feature friendly ladies who would be aghast to be labeled hookers, but equally aghast if they were not presented with a gift in the morning! For the naughty boys, soi 11's hooker central is in the basement of the Ambassador Hotel where Climax is one of Bangkok's most popular freelancer bars. I am informed that the small massage booths set up around Villa specialise in a rub and tug and the masseuses will try and talk you out of any other type of massage.

Perhaps what makes soi 11 unique – different even to the likes of Khao San or Thonglor – is that Thais and foreigners seem to party and dine in similar numbers. Bangkok's entertainment districts may have menus in both languages and staff may be expected to have at least functional English, but the target customer base is usually one or the other, Thais or foreigners. The feeling in soi 11 is that many soi 11 venues really don't target one group over the other.

Soi 11 is not without its problems. The massage girls on the street outside and around Villa make Indian tailor's store touts seem polite and passive, while scavengers roam the soi hunting for plastic bottles to sell to recyclers. With so much money in the soi, beggars abound and the homeless sleep under the stars. But then it wouldn't be Thailand without them, would it?

20 years ago Bangkok had 3 bar naughty bar areas – Patpong, Nana and Cowboy. Regular nightlife venues were scattered around town. Today Bangkok still has the same 3 naughty bar venues – Patpong, Nana and Cowboy. In contrast there are now entire sois, even districts, of regular nightspots. As Bangkok's middle class grows, the demand for a more international and more sophisticated dining and nightlife experience is being satiated.

With plenty of construction taking place in soi 11 and promises of a number of new venues to open in early 2012, if this is the blueprint for the future of nightlife in Bangkok, there's much to be excited about!

Big Mango

*Where* was this photo taken?

Bangkok

Last week's photo was taken of a tuktuk on Petchaburi Road parked outside the Amari Watergate Hotel. In the background of the photo you could see the saphan loy (overhead pedestrian walk bridge) that goes from one side of Petchaburi Road over to Platinum Fashion Mall. It was NOT the footbridge to Panthip Plaza as MANY readers thought it was. If you said Panthip Plaza, I was tough and said you were wrong! As the concept of a photo featuring a tuktuk with a blurred background seemed to go down well last week, here's another photo in the same vein.

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! IF YOU ARE COMPETING IN THE HOPE OF WINNING A PRIZE, PLEASE READ THE TERMS AND CONDITIONS BELOW CAREFULLY!

A Woman Of Bangkok 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 WEEKA matter of taste.

Maybe 8 or 9 years ago I was eating a burger at Woodstock, when 2 waitresses I knew came in and sat down next to me before their shift and started eating crickets. I'm sure it was for my benefit but I got the last word. Smiling, one of them offered me some. Smiling back I said sure, if you take a bite of my cheeseburger. I might as well have kicked it around the floor first by the looks of disgust I got! We decided we'd both stick to our own eating habits!

Welcome to Bangers!

This is an old story (from the 80s), but someone I was travelling with told me that his pal came to Bangkok, first-time, gets a taxi at Don Meuang and heads into town. On the journey, the taxi ploughs straight into a pedestrian: instant death! Worse, the guy went up on the cab. Of course the driver fled the scene so here's this tourist staring at this dead guy, brains literally on the windshield, with all his luggage, with the driver nowhere around. Welcome to Bangkok!

From flooded streets to streets of filth.

I live out near Don Meuang in a suburban area which slowly became a swamp. I was forced to move into town about a month ago. What an eye opener to see life on the ground in Sukhumvit but of concern is the impression this is having on my teenage daughter. I know I can't closet her away from the realities of life but Thailand or Bangkok has certainly slipped in my estimations as a decent place to live. Sure, I have been around a little but now the depravity or decadence of the place has surfaced unashamedly on public streets. It has probably been there a long time and I just haven't noticed it as I don't usually walk around Sukhumvit. I first lived in Bangkok back in 1964 when I was posted here with an airline. Believe it or not, in those days there was a midnight to 6 AM curfew mostly enforced by US military. My office was located in Patpong Road which then was a regular soi with several airline offices, shops, banks, a wonderful Vietnamese bakery – and no bars. I visited and worked in Bangkok and the region over the years since and have now lived here for the past 13 or so years, so I have witnessed considerable change to the city and its people. As my house became inaccessible due to the recent floods, my family and I moved into a hotel in Sukhumvit. I visit the Sukhumvit area probably monthly for lunch and a few drinks with friends but never lived right in the heart of it or walked the strip between sois 3 and 19. What has happened to the place? Every few metres pornographic videos, Viagra, dildos etc are on offer next to copied watches and shirts. I recently walked down the street with my 15-year old daughter and setting aside the "knowing glances" I received from people as I walked with a young attractive girl, the women at the bus stop near soi 5 still smiled and said hello, tuktuk drivers still flashed pictures of girls in massage parlours and we couldn't even go to Villa in soi 11 without being accosted by women offering a special massage. While I have been around a little I didn't expect to have to subject my daughter to such decadence just by walking along a main street in Bangkok. I saw the irony of it all on Friday as the enforcers from the BMA were removing signs from a pole advertising a new condo, whereas not one metre from the pole child pornography was openly sold. Guess the condo owner hadn't paid the necessary fees. Hopefully the water will recede soon and we can return to the tranquility of the suburbs.

Polite police pat down.

After reading the Police Stop & Search story, I was relieved to read your closing comments regarding you never hearing of the police planting anything on anyone. This is something that has always played on my mind as it did around 5 or 6 weeks ago when I was stopped in a cab at the Sukhumvit / Asoke intersection heading home. It must have been around 3:30 AM. I was politely asked to step out of the taxi and questioned as to where I was going and where I stayed. I smiled, replied in Thai and was polite – all pointers from you. The cop asked if he could check my pockets to which I replied yes, and as he did the other cop searched the back seat of the cab. My pockets had just the usual stuff – keys, money etc. The only thing he did that seemed unusual was taking several cigarettes out the packet and sniffing them. He returned them to the box and wished me a good night. Throughout the 2-minute incident the only thing running through my mind was something being planted. Like you, I've never done drugs and make sure I'm never around anyone who does. Thanks for putting my mind at rest a little on that front.

The Aussie love affair with Bali.

We have had a couple of very high-profile incidents around Australian nationals in Bali of late – the 14-year old boy who spent a couple of months in detention for marijuana possession and the young guy who electrocuted himself by jumping up to grab a faulty sign. What struck me in the reporting on both stories was the sheer number of young Aussies who still seem willing to holiday in Bali despite the negative publicity of the last 10 years. I wouldn't characterise most of these tourists as being your 'target demographic', but they are clearly among a relatively small pool of Westerners prepared to throw caution to the wind in these uncertain times. If you had a school-aged kid, would you let them go to Kuta for 'Schoolies'? Some parents seem to be as clueless as their offspring – apparently the lure of cheap Bintang outweighs the risk. Bali simply isn't the paradise it was in the 80s. Kuta is as aggressive as anywhere I've been in Asia, and that's especially sad when you reflect on how laid-back the Balinese themselves are. The other thing which struck me with the 'Bali Boy' case was the incredible crush of media trying to get a shot of his face – right up to the point where he got on the plane to come back to Oz. It was farcical. He reportedly has a deal with a current affairs show for an interview – not sure whether he will be wearing a balaclava for that, but it pains me that someone so stupid will be paid for his efforts.

Thumbs up for the Welsh!

Can I offer a thought for some praise in your column? I just started travelling on a Non-Immigrant 'O' visa after the most helpful and considerate support from the Thai consulate in Cardiff, Wales. For some reason Hull seems to always come up in the news but the consulate in Cardiff could not have been more helpful or prompt over a period of several emails and calls.

Sumo look-alike.

I've just read the comment in your weekly about the Secrets girls who are now working in Tim's Bar. As you probably know they followed a few mamasans that left Secrets and went to Tim's. One of them looks OK and has a nice body. Another one however can only be described as a lady who would do very well in the Japanese Premier Sumo League! Even her face looks like it. There's no need for a bouncer with her working there. In case you cause trouble she can just sit on you and there's no way you could move anything anymore. Your life will be in severe danger!

Snooker legend Jimmy White put his name to a bar in Pattaya but it has mysteriously disappeared and no-one wants to explain why, which is really getting the natives talking.

The coyote girls used to be a Friday and Saturday night only thing at Tilac in Soi Cowboy but they're now dancing every night of the week. Expect this to be temporary – as much as anything, the coyotes are helping to fill in for the regular dancers who have yet to return to the bar after going home when the floods came.

Tragedy struck at Tilac on Friday night when the waiter, who is, shall we say, not entirely male, died on Friday night after suffering a heart attack in the bar. He was rushed to hospital where sadly he didn't make it.

It seems that the deal between The Dubliner and Los Cabos fell through at the last minute and The Dubliner will not beRobin Hood relocating to Sukhumvit soi 14 after all. If you see some Irishmen frantically looking at prime real estate spots on Sukhumvit, figure they're from The Dubliner.

Over the road in the Robin Hood there are cheap pints on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday – some of the best prices for pints you'll find on the main Suhkumvit Road.

Bangkok's favourite chain of Mexican restaurants, Sunrise Tacos, has finally expanded outside of the capital and opened in Sin City with the first branch in Jomtien open now. And the original Bangkok branch is absolutely booming! Even with a huge number of seats set up outside which increased capacity markedly, most are taken most nights. I do hope the owner has put on some more staff because they must be working their butts off!

I would like to reiterate that popular Frenchman Marc has not been involved with the iconic soi 7/1 venue, the Eden Club, since early last year. Marc left the venue some 18 months ago and today enjoys a quieter pace of life in Phuket. I remember sitting in the steakhouse at the Landmark with Marc – which if you have not tried you should for it really is exquisite with fabulous food and a wonderful setting – looking out over Bangkok and talking about our respective lives here. I will never forget Marc telling me how Bangkok really wakes up at night, and how he felt most alive when he was in this wonderful city after dark. Is Phuket really the place for this ultra successful ex-bar boss? Could we perhaps see Marc back in charge of a bar in Bangkok? Who knows…?!

Those blasted Indian touts that are such a nuisance on the busiest stretch of Sukhumvit can now be found beyond the Asoke intersection too. There's a couple of Indian restaurants near sois 27 and 29 which have put pests outside as well as a couple of tailor's stores on the other side of the road. With less foot traffic in that area they are even more aggressive than those in the Nana area.

Try as I might, I was unable to convince the obviously proudly Thai service staff in a certain soi 11 bar / restaurant that Heineken and San Miguel Light are NOT Thai beers. With a happy hour for local beers, staff truly believe each is a product of Thailand…and steadfastly refused to even entertain the idea that the infamous piss in a green bottle and the Philippines' finest export could possibly be anything other than Thai!

New to Chiang Mai, the Bear Bar will have a soft opening party on Thursday 15th. More info can be found here.

Christmas trees have started popping up on Soi Cowboy with Tilac and Dundee the first two bars to bring the festive season to the lively soi.

Soi Cowboy

Demonia in Sukhumvit soi 33 gets going early evening but will open early by special arrangement – just drop the owner an email via their site. They have organised a few parties recently including both anniversary parties and bachelor parties so if you are looking for something just a little different, why not hold your party at the fetish venue!

I found it perturbing a few years back when a couple of white dudes employed as English teachers in Bangkok were sentenced to time in the monkey house for presenting Khao San Road degrees to support their work permit application, when at the same time there are more than a few massage houses around town where fake massage certificates are displayed, often purporting to be from the famous Wat Pofake degree massage school – it being the best known and perhaps most respected Thai massage training school. The fake massage training course certificates aren't sophisticated at all and are usually very easy to spot – they look like they have come off an inkjet printer, probably because that's exactly where they came from!

Many Thais are proud of their national phrase, mai pen rai, and its meaning of "no worries" or "never mind" or "it doesn't matter", or "you're welcome" or a myriad of other similarly warm, fuzzy meanings. To many Thais this phrase is more just three words, it's a cornerstone of the culture and what it is to be Thai. The idea of being relaxed and laid-back is a positive, right? But the thing I find myself wondering is just how often this phrase is actually used by Thai in their everyday lives. It struck me the other day when I was walking along Suhkumvit Road and I overheard a Thai say to another mai pen rai. I almost fell over, and no, I wasn't drunk. While Thais might be proud of what the phrase stands for, I find it amusing these days it seems that you are more likely to hear a foreigner say mai pen rai than you are a Thai! And to qualify the point, I speak Thai almost as often as I speak English. Irrespective of where you find yourself, be it markets, shopping malls, bars or just out and about, I just don't hear Thais using this phrase very often at all these days. Thailand is changing!

Service in Thailand really can be hit and miss. It can be incredibly good, or terribly bad. It's widely known that in restaurants in Thailand, despite specifically requesting that all meals be brought to the table at the same time, there is every chance that this won't happen – unless you're in a high-end Western-style dining house where the concept of meals being served at the same time is (generally) understood. But that isn't my biggest peeve. What irritates me more than anything is when you request something just a little different and often something that really is very simple and the simpletons nod and acknowledge your request – but either don't follow it through or completely screw it up. A couple of examples: I ordered vegetable fried rice at Took Lae Dee the other day, insisting I wanted heaps of vegetables and no meat. So what did I get? Egg fried rice and not a single trace of vegetable on the plate! The other experience was at Subway where I always ask for the smallest amount of sauce which for some strange reason the staff seem to delight in emptying half the bottle, doing the exact opposite of what I requested. Service in this country really is all over the place.

Bar trade remains in the doldrums. In Big Dogs, the beer bar at the front of Nana Plaza, there wasn't a single customer for quite some time yesterday afternoon.

Big Dogs Bangkok

If you call things off with a Thai lass, don't expect her to go easily – and I say this irrespective of the lady's background. Hardcore prostitute or hi-so plaything, Thai women hate it when a guy calls curtains on a relationship and are prone to throwing their toys out of the pram. When you call things off with a Thai woman, extreme volatility can follow! If they are not in your presence, perhaps because you instructed security at your condo not to let her inside, calling you a hundred or more times a day – and this really is no exaggeration – is just one of the crazy things she might do. Fortunately, ifPattaya couple you have are a DTAC customer and use a DTAC SIM card in your mobile, relief is available. You can get the crazy girl's calls blocked. SMS messages cannot be blocked, but phone calls can. Simply go in to any DTAC office and they will sort it out for you.

There's no way to know if your bargirl really loves you, but one indicator of what she really thinks about you is to knock her off her routine, or should I say, the way she controls you. Bargirls aren't like typical service providers who cater to the customer's needs. Watch very closely and everything is very calculated and they love to call the shots themselves – to maximise the benefits to them. If you're out with a bargirl, she will probably try and choose where you will eat and when you enter a restaurant, it will be she who tells you where to sit. In all likelihood it is she who will order, say when it is time to return to the hotel and even when sex is ok or isn't. I find it most amusing watching the way MANY customers of bargirls get led around in much the same way the little farm girl – which is what most bargirls are – would lead a kwai (buffalo in Thai) around a farm. No wonder so many Thais call Westerners with a bargirl a kwai – because many really do resemble the family buffalo! The word "kwai", by the way, is quite an insult in Thai.

I have yet to try it myself, but I have heard from a number of people – friends as well as some readers – that Monsoon on Sukhumvit soi 8 is a great spot for a meal, be it Thai or Western.

Just as vendors on the street each produce food with its own distinct flavour and style, so too it is with the many juice vendors on Bangkok's streets. Choose your vendor carefully. Some add a little salt and a few add sweet syrup. That said, most are straight up if you ask them whether salt or sweetener has been added. A 20-baht bottle of orange juice is as important part of my routine as is my morning coffee and funnily enough, is one of the things I miss most whenever I am outside Bangkok.

Bangkok orange juice


Quote of the week comes from a reader "If you want me for more than a night, I come with a family that needs 15000 baht a month to keep."

Reader's story of the week comes from Fange26, "Thailand, Black Vs White, City Mouse vs. Country Mouse".

Only in amazing Thailand would an Aussie pay a 40 million baht bride price to marry his boyfriend!

An Austrian is stabbed, sustains a punctured lung and robbed of a grand total of 200 baht in Phuket.

From an Australian news site, Bangkok is losing its sex appeal.

CNNGo does a roundup of the best eateries on Pencil Road in the old part of the city.

In a twist on an old theme, in Phuket a Swede is accused of stealing 150,000 baht in cash and jewelry from a katoey.

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 procedure for legally adopting my partner's children? What would be a probable time frame to do this in? I worry about what would happen should my partner have an accident. Can you also confirm that to change the children's name (from the father's surname to mine or my partner's), the father has to go with us to the amphur.

Sunbelt Legal responds: It is possible to adopt your stepchildren. You can do so through the Thailand Adoption Authority at 225 Ratchawithi Road, Bangkok 10400. Phone: 02-354-7515. Email: [email protected] . You must be over the age of 25 and at least 15 years older than the child you plan to adopt. Your wife must give consent, both as mother and spouse. You may need the consent of the father to adopt. There are numerous documents needed. Once you contact the Agency, they can get you started. The child may be able to change his name once he is officially adopted but it can depend. Generally, one of the parents must be foreign for the child to have a foreign last name.


Question 2: I am considering a teaching job with a foreign-owned and run organisation. I asked about the issue of working legally in Thailand and the representative from the organisation informed me that "We fall under BOI where working in education they are not needed to work legally here. We get them anyway for visa requirements." My question is whether or not the information that I have been provided is correct. The statement is somewhat confusing. I believe that it means that the organisation will get work permits for the employees, me being one of them if I accept a position with them. If the organisation does not get work permits, then would employees be legal in Thailand?

Sunbelt Legal responds: Every foreigner working in Thailand needs to have a work permit in order to work legally.


Question 3: In order to have a marriage or retirement visa, I have to deposit 400,000 baht or 800,000 baht in my name at a Thai bank. According to the Immigration Department, my Thai wife cannot be on the account. Should I die (which sooner or later we all do), will she be able to access these funds with her Thai ID, marriage certificate, and my death certificate? Let's assume that there is no will.

Sunbelt Legal responds: If you died without a will, your wife would first need to be deemed executor of your estate by the Courts before she would be able to access your bank account. The best option is to make a will leaving it to your wife and then she would be able to access the account with a copy of the Will, Marriage Certificate, her ID card, and your Death Certificate.

Farangs

I am always interested in readers' feedback and where possible I introduce material in the column that a number of readers have expressed interest in. Recently there have been requests for more bar news and to revert to the previous format with the photo competition. I make every effort to include bar and entertainment industry news. How much there is each week obviously depends on what is happening on the ground. The last couple of weeks there was plenty to write about while this week has been relatively quiet so there's little in the way of bar news. I am always keen to hear what you would like to see in this column so don't be shy to let me know.

Your Bangkok commentator,

Stick

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