Stickman's Weekly Column January 29th, 2012

Shallow Friendships






It is said that you should be careful of girls you meet in a bar in Thailand, for they may not be trustworthy and may not be worth more than a few hours of your time. It is increasingly said that you should be careful of girls you meet online, for many are not quite what they may seem. So if you should be so careful with girls you meet in bars and online, what about guys? Do the same warnings apply?

Things aren't always what they appear when it comes to friendships amongst Westerners in Thailand. I've often been left wondering who the person I thought I knew really is. There are people I have called friends who turned out to be the sort I don't want anything to do with. Sometimes I had an inkling all was not what it seemed but it takes time to really know. Where did I meet these people? For the most part, in bars or online!

Friendships in Thailand are rather different to friendships in the West. Our friends often come from different countries, we may have few shared interests and sometimes the only thing we have in common is an interest in, or being resident in, Thailand. Friends and family are thousands of kilometres away so we may choose to hang out or spend time with people somewhat different to those we would at home.

My first friend in Bangkok was a Brit I met teaching. He'd arrived a couple of years before me, was about the same age and knew the ropes. We hung out a lot and I learned much about expat life from him. We'd chat over lunch and in the teacher's room, visit the night spots, and occasionally hung out at each other's place. He met a nice lady, settled down and returned to England.

My best friend here for a long time was Canadian. We met in the lobby restaurant of a guesthouse we were each staying at, got chatting and hung out for a few days before he returned home. A year later he made the move to Thailand and from then on we were good friends. We travelled around the country and abroad, went on double dates with various girlfriends and would be quite comfortable if the other turned up unannounced at our condo. Some of my best times, not just of our friendship, but in all my time in Bangkok, were spent sitting out on the balcony of his Petchaburi Road apartment, looking out over the city, drinking 7 Eleven-bought cheap Thai beer, eating a 30-baht plate of fried rice and chatting away about our dreams and aspirations in our new home. The view over Bangkok's rooftops and out over the '90s skyline was nothing spectacular, the beer was warm (I don't think he even had a fridge in the early days), but none of that mattered. It was just like a friendship back home, less about what you do, more about who you do it with. Good times.

Bangkok sunset


These days there are few friends I visit at their condo, and fewer still who visit me. That's the measure, for me, of a true friendship in Bangkok. Invitations to visit someone at their home suggest a real friendship. But so many friendships in Bangkok are shallow, and so many friendships aren't really that at all, at least not my definition of friendship. Many are merely drinking buddies. Some you're happy enough to meet in the bars – but you wouldn't want them at your condo. In some cases you mightn't even want them to know where you live! There's nothing wrong with being drinking buddies, but it's nice to have real friends too.

I have friends I can eat a gourmet meal with. Friends I can roam the nightspots with. Friends I can watch the Premier League with. Friends I can go on a long walk with. But how many friends could I do all these things with? Back in NZ I could do any or all of these activities with any of my mates – if you swap the Premier League for the Super 15. In Bangkok it tends to be that you do different things with different people.

The main problem I see with friendships in Thailand is that so many schmucks live here, and many represent themselves as something they are not. Is Thailand a place where they can reinvent themselves after a shitty existence at home? Too many Westerners here purport to be something they are not, or never were. Bold claims are made which in time turn out to be false. If they had such wonderful lives, and beautiful wives, why did they end up here?!

With an inquisitive mind, a craving for knowledge and an excellent memory when it comes to anything with numbers or dates, I tend to be pretty good at tying multiple pieces of seemingly unrelated information together. With rather a lot of people here things just don't add up.

One friend claims to be a martial arts expert which along with the frequently heard claims in bars of the person being a former Navy Seal or SAS, are amongst the biggest porkies you hear out here. Yet said friend was delivered a deserved beating when he mouthed off in a bar. Maybe he saw a Bruce Lee movie once but couldn't remember the moves…

Some claim to hold the highest academic credentials, yet it's obvious they've never stepped foot in any institution of higher learning, let alone a university. You could be forgiven for thinking that Bangkok was the world centre of MBAs and PHDs, home to armies of academics.

I've yet to meet anyone in my homeland with an MBA (as distinct from other Master's degrees) who didn't impress me. So why is it that in Bangkok some of those who claim to have an MBA often come across as morons? Either New Zealand has the world's best MBA programs or the person is a bullshitter. Almost certainly the latter. And when it comes to PHDs, don't say you have one when you don't! Doctors have such clarity in their thinking, an ability to cut through the bullshit and to use logic and reasoning that sets them apart from most. Bumbling fools speculating about nonsense while claiming they hold a doctorate show themselves to be the idiot they are.

Others tell of the big name corporations where they held high-ranking positions – which would have come with astronomical pay cheques and stock options, yet why is it that just a few years later they barely have a pot to piss in?

Others boast of achievements, such as scaling Kilimanjaro. They then contradict themselves later by saying they've always wanted to visit Africa. The truth always comes out. Eventually. Lie too much and you cannot remember all the lies. Maybe the truth won't come out today, next week or even next month but it does, eventually.

And why oh why do so many gloat about how much money they have, only to wear shitty old clothes and / or live in a small, dirty room in some feral neighbourhood and eat at the likes of the Tesco Lotus Onut food court every day?!

Pattaya


It's not that lying automatically kills a friendship because every man, woman and child on this planet lies at some time. Some lies are understandable, even acceptable. Being put on the spot, asked a question that perhaps shouldn't be asked, or from a person who shouldn't be asking such impertinent or personal stuff might prompt you to lie. And these days it seems to be more and more difficult to be brutally honest at work, with company bottom lines – and job security – such a concern these days. It's not nice to lie, especially feeling forced to lie, but there are times when it may be justified.

But generally lying causes problems, and just like with romantic relationships, lying damages trust. And when the trust is damaged, the friendship is never quite the same.

But more than anything, the sad thing is that many just aren't true to themselves. Those who purport themselves to be one thing and then use that tag to speak with the wisdom of an expert are insulting.

Is there anything as disappointing as being pals with someone for a considerable time, only to find out that much of what they had told you was a load of bollocks, and the friendship was built on a pile of brown stuff?

Having to constantly second guess what people tell you is no fun, and if you cannot believe what people tell you, will they ever be more than drinking buddies? Do you even want to drink with them?

These days I'm reluctant to introduce one friend to another, even if they come from the same country, are of similar age, work in the same industry or involve themselves in similar activities. It takes time to build up genuine friendships and they, along with your reputation, can come undone so easily. Having been embarrassed before by introducing one friend to another, I take my time to really get to know someone before I let them loose on my good friends, those I have known for a long time.

Most of my friends at home are aged within a year or two of me, most have similar interests and most are open about their lives. There's no second guessing because there's no bullshit. Here in Thailand, most of my friends are 10 – 15 years older, most come from other countries and truth be told, apart from being expats in Thailand, we don't have that much in common. They don't care for rugby and I don't care for Obama. They eat spam and I eat lamb.

It's fun meeting so-called "characters" in Thailand, hearing their stories, and there's much to admire about those who march to the beat of their own drum. But at the same time it's nice to have normal friends to do normal things with.

So where are the best places to meet good people and make worthwhile friendships in Bangkok?

What about the bars? You can meet some interesting people in the bars, but it's wise to be a little more circumspect than you would at home. People aren't always what they seem.

Farang


What about online? Do you feel inspired to drop members of discussion forums a private message and invite them to meet for a coffee or a beer and a chat? So many forum users these days grow Arnold-sized muscles behind a keyboard and are so outspoken, abrupt and just plain rude, saying things online that you know they would never dare say to people in the same room. If they are anything like their online persona they probably have few friends.

Just as the internet may not be the best place to meet Miss Right, I'm not convinced it's the best place to find good mates either. But then neither are the bars. It doesn't seem to matter whether you're looking for a mate or a girlfriend; be careful in the bars and in the online world!

But perhaps the most pertinent question is just why would you want to be friends with people in Thailand who you would never be friends with at home?!

Of course it isn't quite that bad. This site has been good to me in terms of the people I've met. Most of my close friends I met through this site. That's nice. But I still wish I had friendships in Bangkok like I do in Auckland.

It's kind of sad that deep down I know that when I eventually move on from Thailand there won't be that many people I'll keep in touch with. With many friendships between Westerners in Thailand, it's Thailand that we have in common and not a lot else.

Big Mango

*Where* was this photo taken?

Bangkok

Last week's photo was taken of the Saen Saeb Canal between Central World and the Grand Diamond building on Petchaburi Road. So where was this week's mystery photo taken?! All you have to do is tell me where the photo was taken. There are 2 prizes this week – a 500 baht credit at the Oh My Cod fish and chips restaurant, and a 500 baht voucher from one of the best farang food venues and home of Bangkok's best burger, Duke's Express.

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!

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 WEEKTilac's toilet.

What happened to Tilac bar's toilet? It used to be so dark in there, a place to relieve the bladder whilst surveying the goings on in the bar in complete anonymity as you could see out but no-one could see in. Nowadays the lights in the toilet are so bright that people in the bar can see my ugly mug and anyone standing with me! Then there's the towel boy. Just what I need. A grinning idiot standing there waiting to hand me a paper towel that I could just as easily dispense myself. To make matters worse, on Friday and Saturday nights there are two of these oxygen thieves standing around and generally getting in everyone's way. Please, Tilac Bar, restore your toilet to its former glory! Get rid of the towel boys and turn down the lights!

Tenure for bar staff?

When I saw the reader's email describing one of the Tilac service staff as a 'harridan' I was prompted to look up the meaning of the word. Shrew, witch, nag, gaunt woman is a perfect description of the ill-mannered waitress. Unlike most of the service staff she wears her hair long which looks totally unsuitable given her lack of beauty and advancing age. Readers might be interested to know that a few weeks ago I witnessed the German owner tearing into her at one of the outside tables. While it is immature to enjoy someone else's misfortune, I couldn't help but smile to myself as he spent several minutes yelling at her and threatening to "kick her out on her arse" over whatever it was she'd been caught doing wrong. Of course it had little effect as just the other night I witnessed her trying to scam a drink from the guy next to me by walking up, saying something he clearly didn't understand and then taking off with his checkbin. When I warned him that she was helping herself to a lady drink he told the girl sitting with him to bring her back. The waitress returned, spat out an insult after returning the checkbin and walked off. Now I'm wondering if there is such a thing as tenure for bar staff. The definition of tenure is the right to permanent employment until retirement and can be the only reason for both her and one particular mamasan to still be working at Tilac bar after all these years. Anyone who has been a regular at Tilac over the years knows never to let either of these two near your checkbin and surely the management also knows their reputations. The only explanation as to why they would continue to employ someone who is damaging their business for their own greed is that they must be legally obliged to.

That's what the smell is!

Anyone walking between Sukhumvit soi 20 and 22 would be well advised to make sure they pass the bus shelter from the front rather than the back unless they want their senses overwhelmed by the stench of human excrement. It appears that someone is using the small garden along the front of the house at number 394 as their own personal toilet. There is also an old homeless man (not farang) living next to the bus shelter. Could there be a connection?

Bar Bar Patpong

More concerned about Western men than Western women.

With the exception of some of the particularly hideous Russian women tourists in Pattaya, I don't give a hoot about foreign women in the bars. I suspect that it's the gogos that cause the most consternation, but I don't go to them very often and when I do, I keep my hands to myself. Boring, but there you have it – the last time I went to a gogo, everything was paid for by my then-girlfriend, and it was all about her earning face with her friends in the gogo. I pretty much sat there wishing we could go to a restaurant and get a feed. I did have a minor run-in with an Australian girl in a tuktuk one night who was clearly unimpressed with the big farang / small Thai girl dynamic. After a few lukewarm jabs at one another we ended up laughing about the whole thing. I'm far more concerned about aggro foreign males in bars than I am about anything Western women can do or say.

Are mixed gogo bars the future?

I can't understand all the fuss some readers are making about Western women enjoying themselves in gogo bars. It's not as if these ladies are causing trouble or getting in anyone's way. They are just having a giggle and why shouldn't they? Speaking as a chappy who bats for the other side, the intrusion of these same ladies into the gay bars is a real problem for chaps like me because these women are directly competing with me for available talent! It used to only be Korean and Japanese middle-aged ladies but now it is European women even younger than me (I am 28) with seemingly endless amounts of baht to burn. It is only a matter of time before someone comes up with the idea of starting a mixed gogo bar with dancing girls and boys then everyone will be happy, won't they?

Are the Western women buying?

Has anyone considered that the Western women seen in the naughty nightlife areas might be there for the same reason as the guys? The Thai sexual mentality is quite different from ours. If it seems that there are a lot of gay Thai men, and I can tell you that there are probably even more gay Thai women. And a lot of them are working in the bars. If you happen to be a gay farang woman, where is the best place to shop for a casual hook up while on vacation? Consider the bargirls' perspective. Given a choice between a smelly, unshaven, hairy male, who refuses to use a condom and an attractive (ok, she is white), clean, farang female, which way would the business go if sexual preference were not an issue? Next time you are making your rounds, check with a mamasan to see how many girls are "flexible". I am sure that you will find at least 10% of the girls can work either side of the road. And don't think all gay Thai women are masculine looking dykes. Open your eyes and you will see some truly fine looking partners on the arm of a rough looking Thai tomboy. There are legions of Thai women who cannot find a decent guy to have a relationship with. So the gal is not really gay, just lonely. A western gay friend (who owned a gay bar) once told me that most of his workers (servicing gay farang men) were not truly gay and many had girlfriends or wives. So it could be with the bar girls.

Trust the man in the orange vest?

In January I wandered up Sukhumvit Soi 18 to the Rembrandt Hotel to get a motorcycle taxi to Thonglor. The waiting Casey Stoners were all necking Sang Thips and soda, and looked to be halfway through their second bottle between maybe half a dozen of them. I asked which driver was / had not been drinking, and they all pointed to a glum looking one who did not appear to be sozzled and who drove perfectly well. But for heaven's sake, they are supposed to be licensed public transport, they're all dressed and ready for customers from the Rembrandt, and they are all sat out in public openly getting pissed! Only in Thailand!



It's open season on Farangdom with one department paying a whopping 30,000 baht commission to those who tip them off about the white man's errant ways and in which case they are able to reach a settlement with said offender. Whitey is given the option of paying his way out of trouble which seems to cost a remarkably standard 100,000 baht – although they try to push for more in some cases. He is reminded that a failure to settle means he can try his luck with the judicial system. The 30,000 baht commission goes to those who provide the tip off. Who am I talking about here? Laugh Away, Buddy, Only Readers Survive.

Popular American-themed and owned bar and restaurant Bully's, located on the main Sukhumvit Road between sois 2 and 4, is hosting a Superbowl party onSuperbowl Bangkok February 6th, starting at 6 AM. 500 baht entry gets you a breakfast buffet and 2 drinks. Tickets are available now.

Spending a few hours in Patpong this week, it was obvious that high season means more people in the night market but not in the bars. The long-running bars on soi 1 were quiet and it didn't help that there were very few attractions inside. In fact I wouldn't be surprised if those attractions in the bars were the very same attractions that were there many years ago.

It's quite some time since I have been in Safari Bar which has long been known for its music, much of which is played on vinyl. Arriving early, about 8:10 PM, the first thing I noticed were the cute pussies purring on stage. Pussies of the stuffed variety, stuffed toy tigers to be precise. I am out of touch with many venues in Patpong and assumed I was early, so went off and did the rounds. We returned to Safari around 10:30 PM and it was exactly the same thing – bikini-clad dancing girls were nowhere to be seen and have been permanently replaced by stuffed toy tigers! The venue has been transformed into some sort of lounge or hostess bar. I don't think it works and we didn't stay.

The best gogo at Patpong has to be Bada Bing, the closest thing to a transplant from Nana or Cowboy. A good sound system and excellent music as well as many pretty girls. The big problem is – assuming you want to play – that the most attractive girls are of the coyote variety, and therefore untouchable.

The girls in Bada Bing were having a good night with a customer handing out 100-baht notes. As each girl showed him a smidgeon of attention, he would peel one off the wad. The girls were all over him, grabbing his arms, rubbing his cheeks, smiling, feigning kisses etc. 15 seconds acting smitten earned each 100 baht. If they could keep that up for an hour that would be a whopping 24,000 baht hourly rate!

The Black Pagoda Living Room is open for business on Patpong soi 2 and can be found next to Black Pagoda bar which is 3 floors up, on a bridge connecting buildings with either side the soi above Foodland. The Living Room is a comfy lounge with pool tables and 4 short-time rooms. A room with someone to keep you company is 3,000 baht all in.

Signs on Walking Street show that the next gogo bar to open will be Guugle Club, which has borrowed the look of the search engine giant's logo on their sign. It will be a coyote bar and continues the recent trend of bars offering lofty salaries to coyote dancers that exceed what many foreign English teachers in Bangkok earn per month.

The sign for Cockatoo, Soi Cowboy's first ladyboy bar, is coming along and the venue cannot be too far away from opening. I note that it is perhaps the first bar I can think of where the sign actually states that it's a ladyboy bar. The ladyboy bars in Nana all do a decent trade and there's no reason this venue will be any different.


Cockatoo



I helped a mate this week who was looking for a lady. We ventured around some Sukhumvit back alleys checking out small massage houses where I suspect there is more banging than rubbing. I was surprised at the format in which customers areAngels And Demons asked to select a girl in some venues. In the odd place, girls would come from out back and stand in a lineup in the main lobby area where customers view them and make a selection. But what struck me as odd was that in quite a few venues the customer was given a photo album with professionally taken photos of the girls in sexy lingerie and poses showing them at their best. Maybe better than their best! So it was amusing looking over the shoulder of an Oriental gent who had chosen a girl. The girl in the photo was stunning, a real knock out, and then I realised that the very same lady was standing beside him…but didn't look nearly as alluring. She was holding his hand, almost scared that he was going to do a runner after he laid eyes on her pock-marked face. I can see why venues use this method of selection! The photos in the albums are HEAVILY Photoshopped, almost like the venue is aware that at least some of the girls aren't that fetching in person. They look much more attractive in photos than they really are.

The Angels And Demons Party II will take place at The Strip which can be found at the Silom Road end of Patpong soi 2. It will run over 3 nights, from February 3rd to 5th.

Don't go giving any sympathy to the very young street kids who wander around restaurants and bars late at night selling flowers. A popular restaurateur mentioned to me this week how these pests had been going through his restaurant offering flowers to customers and staff caught them stealing steak knives as well as a customer's mobile phone. They're little shits run by nasty people. Keep a close eye on them.

Las Vegas Bar may only have 15 odd girls, but they're a bunch of hotties in there. If you like genuinely attractive girls, check it out. And wow, what a change, not a fatty to be seen! Also check out #27 light up the dance floor! If you're sensitive to prices in the bars as I am, it's 100 baht drinks before 9:30 and the shows, which last 25 minutes or so, can be seen on the hour, every hour, until 1 AM.


Las Vegas Bangkok



Black Pagoda



Emails from readers arriving at Suwannaphum this week report that, at certain times at least, there are very long queues and it is quite a wait to pass through Immigration. Keep this in mind if you have a connecting domestic flight.

The jury is out on which is the best local bank for foreigners to open an account at. The three most popular banks seem to be Bangkok Bank, Kassikornbank and Siam Commercial Bank. For Americans making regular funds transfers from home to Thailand, you might want to consider Bangkok Bank. If you have an account with Bangkok Bank in Thailand, you can transfer funds from your American bank account to your Bangkok Bank account in Thailand via the branch of Bangkok Bank in New York. The funds are sent straight to your Thai account so it is faster than a telegraphic transfer, the exchange rate is said to be favourable and there are no TT fees. You win on all counts!

I am starting to think that one of the best areas to live in Bangkok – assuming you want to be in the heart of things – is within walking distance of the Asoke intersection. From there you can walk to some of the city's best eateries, Soi Arab, a number of shopping centres including Terminal 21 and Emporium, Benjakit Park is close by if you want some greenery or to run, and pretty much all of the major farang nightlife areas are nearby – Nana, Cowboy, soi 7/1, soi 11, soi 22 and soi 33. And you have both the underground and the skytrain nearby. If I wanted to be in the thick of it, that's where I'd be.

For coffee fans, it's 2 for 1 at Starbucks on weekday afternoons, from 1 – 4 PM. Even after all of these years Starbucks is still considered a chic brand amongst middle-class Thais so don't be surprised if there's a bit of a queue. Personally, I prefer a bunch of other places when it comes to hot coffee, but for cold coffees and frappes, Starbucks is hard to beat.

Lovers of bean bags and American football should get over to the original branch of Sunrise Tacos at Sukhumvit soi 12. It's one of few places in Bangkok where American Football can be seen live (the main cable TV provider, True Visions, does not have it). Bean bags arrived this week and should be popular for the next month or so, before it starts to get really hot.



Sunrise Tacos


Retirement age in Thailand, at least for most public servants, is 60. With a generous pension plan, most Thai public servants are happy to retire and enjoy a quieter life. With foreigners flocking to Thailand in search of work, often teaching positions, please do not bleat about Thailand being a signatory to the United Nations Human Rights Convention by discriminating against job applicants based on age. This is not a Thai / Farang thing, but simply the way things are in Thailand. Age is important here – looks too – and you should just respect the local culture, accept that that is how things are here and deal with it. If you complain to an employer that they don't wish to hire you because of age and threaten to take it further, as one foolish Stickman reader told me this week, you really won't get very far. Job ads in Thailand, especially for females, often specify height and weight. That is legal here! The way I see it is that it is even more reason to look after yourself; those who do so tend to look younger, are more energetic and are more likely to be hired, especially by schools.

Another point about employment is the huge number of foreigners in Thailand looking for, or currently in, what I term "recession jobs". They want to ride out the recession in the West by getting a job here for a year or two, and plan to return to their corner of Farangland when the recession is over. This phenomenon has made the local expat employment market more competitive. There are more and more people with impressive CVs and credentials – which Thais are impressed by.

Chris Moore's latest book is out with a fabulous title, "The Wisdom Of Beer"! More information can be found here.

There are many offshore workers travelling between their adopted homeland of Thailand and wherever it is they work. Many western governments don't like the idea of individuals working as one-man companies, so umbrella companies provide a workaround solution. I met an Englishman this week who told me all about this and his company, Bangkok-based Tarasaservices, provides an umbrella company for expat freelance workers who wish to work under a company structure rather than being self-employed or being a 'one-man company'. It provides the means for freelancers to invoice their clients through the company and when payment is received it can be transferred to any bank account anywhere in the world. Transfers can be split into up to 3 separate bank accounts so that a worker in the Middle East, for example, might want to transfer funds to his home country (e.g. USA), funds to his current work location (e.g. Dubai), and funds to his girlfriend (e.g. Thailand). Their main focus is the IT, engineering, petroleum and healthcare industries.



Quote of the week comes from a bar owner who was trying to push one of his girls towards a mate of mine who found her quite fetching, but she was playing coy. "Even after a thousand cocks they are still shy!"

Reader's story of the week comes from a foolish New Zealander and the titles gives it away, " Idiot Barebacker".

From the BBC, the family of a young Brit who served time in a Thai prison for drug offences, are calling for him to be released.

Three Aussies are involved in a wild brawl at Patong Beach, Phuket.

Popular expat fiction writer Jake Needham was interviewed by Pattaya 105 FM.

The BBC looks at the aftermath of the floods that caused havoc in Thailand in late 2011.

Thais are getting a taste for elephant meat, according to a UK newspaper.

A disgruntled 40-year old farmer with a lovely body stripped in protest in front of Parliament House this week!

MSNBC looks at the Golden Triangle mystery or who killed 13 Chinese sailors.

An innovative program with financial incentives and religious instruction is being used to reduce prostitution in Indonesia.

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 requirement for personal identification that a foreign visitor must carry with him in Thailand? When I go out on the town I never take my passport since with all the visas and work permits that I have, it is far too precious a document to casually carry everywhere. Does this place me in violation of the law? And if a passport is needed, then is a photocopy an acceptable substitute?

Sunbelt responds: According to the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO): “By law, tourists are expected to carry their passports with them at all times in Thailand. There have been incidents where tourists have been arrested because they were unable to produce their passport.” (See here.)

Also, the Irish, French, and Australian Foreign Office/Embassy websites (as well as others) all tell their citizens to carry copies of their passports with them when traveling abroad as a minimum requirement (and often when discussing travel in Thailand specifically). During the institution of Martial Law during and after the 2010 “Red Shirt riots” there were numerous announcements from the Thai Government stating that foreign nationals needed to carry their passports with them for identification.

The Thai Police will tell you that the law actually states that everybody in Thailand needs to carry an official document proving their identity. The law doesn't specify a passport for foreign nationals or, as a matter of fact, the Thai National ID Card for Thai citizens so in theory a Thai Driving license, a work permit or a National Identity card should all be considered valid (although you could always be asked to produce your passport later to a Thai Immigration officer). Copies of passports, despite what you may be told, are not official documents and while they are not technically acceptable, in practice they are generally accepted in most instances involving routine checks by the Thai Police.


Question 2: Since the frequently mentioned police searches are presumably for drugs, do I by law need to carry a doctor's prescriptions for any prescription medicines that I may have on my person?

Sunbelt responds: It is usually unnecessary to carry your prescription with you. In general the police are looking for illicit drugs. If they question you, you can ask the police to go with you to the hospital or doctor to verify the doctor's orders for these medications.


Question 3: I am going to look at a guesthouse that is available for lease. A 5-year lease is offered for a lump sum plus monthly rent. It's a walk in and takeover, with everything there. Can I as a foreigner take out the leases in my name or do I need to take on a Thai partner and if so, what percentage would they hold? What, if any, legal pitfalls are there in such a transaction? Can Sunbelt Legal act for me in any transaction and provide a "ball park" cost?

Sunbelt responds: Any lease longer than three years has to be registered at the Land Department otherwise it is null and void. We also can write a 3-year lease plus 2-year lease option clause which offers the tenant the option to renew. Most renewal options will give the option to renew to both landlord and tenant but a good lease will provide the protection that the lease renewal option is given only to the lessee to decide to renew or not. A lease option under Thai law gives the option to both the landlord and the tenant to renew. A foreigner can own a lease with no restriction. Sunbelt can draft or review the lease and register the lease at the Land Department. Our professional fees for this service are less than 20,000 baht.

Question 4: If a person applies for a retirement visa a health check is required, what illnesses will keep you from being approved for the visa? I don't have any diseases at this time, but by the time I am able to retire I could be full of them!

Sunbelt responds: There are two options for retirement or "long stay visas" as they are now called. You can obtain a non-o single entry visa from a consulate or embassy overseas and then once in Thailand apply for an extension of stay based on retirement. No health or police check is required for this extension and we can help you obtain it. Our professional fees for a retirement extension are 9,500 baht. Another option is to apply for a non-OA visa at an embassy overseas. This will require a health checkup for TB, 3rd stage syphilis, elephantiasis and drug addiction. Additionally, a police report showing you have no outstanding warrants or arrests will also be necessary.



Bangkok

Bangkok is undergoing massive change, and most really is for the better. Wherever you go there are new buildings going up, new businesses opening, various improvements and so much really seems to be moving ahead. There are more people, more traffic, a greater variety of shops, new ethnic restaurants, basically more of everything. There's a feeling on the ground that Bangkok really is growing up. And it's not just in the farang ghetto where Sukhumvit is steaming ahead, but all over the city. Down at the river there are new buildings going up, and plenty of development on the other side of the river. Observing this rapid change gives me an overwhelming feeling that I should be writing about how the city is changing, because it is changing so much and so fast that it seems almost like you're shirking it if you don't mention it. But then writing about constant change as I have done a lot recently, can get a bit much. Whether you've been away from the city for a few years, or just a few months, I'm sure you will notice big changes when you next visit!

Your Bangkok commentator,

Stick