Ladyboys have long been a feature at Patpong, can be found in almost a quarter of the bars in Nana Plaza and Soi Cowboy's first all ladyboy bar opened this week. The "third sex" as they are often referred to in Thai society are a more common sight in Bangkok's bar areas today than ever before. Not only are there ladyboy bars, there are ladyboy escort services and talk of an all ladyboy massage house. Despite protestations from straight guys of their presence in nightlife areas, clearly they are in demand.
It's late afternoon in downtown Bangkok and Stick is at it again, having a meal and casual chat with 7 Thai ladyboys. They're nicely dressed, and two are in fact rather elegant. All "work", a couple in gogo bars, all are escorts and one manages an escort service. I'd never met any of them before sitting down for a meal and some chit chat.
It doesn't matter where I lead the conversation, they are open and willing to talk about anything. They have more to say than bargirls and take time to consider questions, often responding with much more thought and insight than you ever get with female bar staff.
For a frank insight into the life of "working" Thai ladyboys, read on.
* My questions are in green, and each new paragraph is the response of a different ladyboy.
Ladyboys are more visible throughout Thailand, be it in nightlife areas, shops and in regular society in general than in my country and anywhere I have been. Why is that?
In Thailand people are not afraid of ladyboys. Most people accept us, but some do not. It's all about acceptance. As Thai people we try to accept anyone and we can accept things that people in other countries cannot. Actually, in Buddhism we are not supposed to accept it, but Thai people still can. We are very open. It is also about politeness. If ladyboys are polite then I think we are accepted.
I think overseas things are more strict and people are quite close-minded. Here we have had ladyboys in mainstream society for a long time, from older generations to today. We celebrate ladyboys and we have beauty pageants only for ladyboys!
There are some ladyboys who have campaigned to raise the profile of ladyboys in Thailand today to make us even more accepted.
What about your families? What did they think about you becoming a ladyboy?
Every family is different. My family didn't want me to be a ladyboy. They knew it was what I wanted, but one day they told me to stop. I got great grades at school and never did anything wrong. I was a good son for them, but the only thing I wanted was to be a ladyboy. That's what I cared about and what I wanted in my life. I said to them, "Don't stop me, accept it!" And now they do! You know, when I was a man, I was married and had a wife! Then I changed and became a ladyboy and married again. The second time I was a ladyboy and I had a boyfriend. So I was married twice, once with a Thai woman and once with a farang man!
My mum taught me a female's duties because there was no lady in our family. She taught me cooking, how to be a housekeeper, and then 10 years later my parents had a daughter…but I am still a ladyboy!
My family didn't care. There were just 2 of us and from 4th grade I knew I was a ladyboy. It was no problem for anyone and everyone in the family accepts it!
I have no mother or father. I was raised by my grandmother. She had no problem with it.
At first my father could not accept how I was. He wanted me to be a man because there was just me and my sister so he wanted me to be like a boy. Later he accepted me and until the day he died, he accepted me.
At first, my mother accepted it but my Dad didn't. But mum spoke with Dad and he understood how I was. I wanted to be a son for my parents, but you know, it is up to us to choose our path in life and this is the path I have chosen. We still love our parents and everyone in our family. I know it is probably harder for them to love me the same as I love them, but I still love them regardless of what they think.
My father didn't want me to be a ladyboy when I was young but I studied very hard and did very well. I have one brother who had the operation and is now a full lady. She is a professor today. We came to Bangkok, and then we returned to our home. When we returned my sister had long hair and had had her operation already! They don't mind because we are capable of taking care of our selves, and we also take good care of them. Our family is happy because two sons became two daughters. There are no sons in the family now!
Do you support your families the same as, umm, do I say "real ladies" do?!
Yes, just the same.
Most of the ladies who work in bars where farangs venture come from the Isaan region. Is it the same with ladyboys?
Most come from Isaan, maybe 95% of ladyboys working in Nana Plaza come from Isaan. Actually, maybe it is 95% from Isaan and the northern region. The number one province is Roi Et. So many come from there!
Funny, that's the number one province for taxi drivers too!
<Everyone laughs> It's the same with girls and ladyboys. We come from the poorest parts of Thailand. We want to make money and have a farang husband!
Tell me how you think ladyboys are different to "real girls" working in the bars. I am very much in a minority when I say that I often find ladyboys have better English, are generally more polite and have more substance and more interesting things to say than bargirls do, at least when compared with ladyboys in the bars. Ladyboys on the street are completely different though. What do you think about that?
I think it is about the individual. Ladyboys are much more open. You know Thai girls like to hide things and have so many secrets. We express our feelings much more openly. Women like to pretend this and that and play sweet and innocent and be coy, whereas we are direct and straight to the point. Maybe it is not so polite in our culture but we speak more frankly than women.
I don't think there's a difference. I think we are the same as the girls. We want a rich farang. We came to work here because we want to meet a wealthy farang and find someone to build us a house and look after us and our family. We want a better life, not just fun. Ladyboys want to be a lady. We want to be like a lady. We want to be lady-like. We might look big and strong like a man but we want to be like a lady. Not just a female, but a lady.
It's not easy to answer because we are all different. For women who get married and have kids, and then things don't work out, they become broken-hearted. They may feel resentment against men, all men, because they had kids and a family and things didn't work out because the man cheated on them. You know, now they actually hate men and they make trouble for all men they meet. We are not like that. We cannot have kids and we did not have the disappointment of a failed family life. We have not been through that and that makes us different.
There are more and more ladyboy bars now – with 5 in Nana Plaza and the first all-ladyboy bar about to open in Soi Cowboy this week. Why do you think there are more ladyboy bars today?
I have worked here a long time about 13 years. 10 years ago many men took a ladyboy and they didn't know it was a ladyboy. Singaporeans never liked ladyboys but now Singaporean guys seem crazy about ladyboys, and Japanese too! They really, really like us. Some of these guys want us to have the operation. They want us to be even more like a lady. Now, it doesn't matter whether he knows or not. That's different to the past. You know a ladyboy can do many things a lady cannot.
A lady cannot fxxx you, but a ladyboy can! We can do everything. Sometimes a lady has a silly problem, and she shrieks like a stupid girl, but a ladyboy can fix problems much better. If the electricity goes out at home, we can fix it but a silly girl cannot!
I think the reasons why ladyboys are more popular might be more about what is happening overseas in other countries, things that we cannot see. I think many people have changed their way of thinking and people who did not like us in the past actually like us today. Also, I think farangs today like to try many new things.
Maybe people read articles about ladyboys and wanted to check them out for themselves?!
I have never been there but many people say European countries are boring and people from there want to try something they have never tried before. And after they try they like it!
What percentage of guys do you think who try a ladyboy for the first time like it?
99% like it!
OK, so more Western men are interested in ladyboys. How many guys try just once, and how many are "ladyboy crazy"?
If you try one time you will try again and again and again! If you have a first time there will be a second time, sure!
We can do anything right from the start, and I mean anything! Not the same as a silly lady, “Oh, I cannot, I not like, it not good, it too long, it too fast”. We don't complain and we can do anything!
I think some farangs have had an experience before. They tell me in America, or Europe they don't have ladyboys like us. They had a gay experience before but it was not what they wanted. When they were young they tried something with a guy and maybe they had sex with him. But they don't like guys. They like ladies but they still think about a cock…and a ladyboy has both.
Some guys have had experiences like mutual masturbation but they never did more than this and when they see us they go crazy!
Some farang guys don't want sex, but they like what ladyboys represent. Some are tops, some are bottoms, some don't want to have full sex, some just want to suck, some just want to be sucked. Some want the ladyboys to fuck him and some don't want to fxxx her. Everyone is different.
Is business good at the moment?
There are more and more farangs who want ladyboys but there are also more and more ladyboys working now.
I have been working for many years and when I started in my bar there were 16 or 17 ladyboys. Now there are over 100!
Do farang guys support you or take you out of the bar like guys so often do with ladies? I know it isn't possible in Thailand, but are there guys who want to marry you, as is so common with women in the bars?
There are many! There are ladyboys married and I have a friend marrying a guy on the 5th. He is paying 1 million baht sin sot (dowry) and her home in Kalasin province.
Are you serious?!
Yes, really, 1 million baht! <There is earnest nodding all around and it's clear that they all know about it>
I had an American guy from New York supporting me for a long time, and a second guy, a German from Frankfurt. The first was married, the second unmarried. I got sent $4,000 each time by the guy from New York, which was every few months.
Over what period of time did he send that sort of money?
A few years.
Some guys take care of ladyboys, some pay for the operation, you know, to change sex, boob job, nose job.
13 years ago I was working at Patpong and a guy came in and he was wearing very bad clothes, and was not interesting for us at all. He was interested in a hot ladyboy who was a superstar in our bar. She went out of the bar and came back a few days later with brand name handbags, gold and he agreed to pay for the operation. Later on he bought her a new car. We were amazed! Her name was Ann. She was so lucky! I think she may have gone overseas to live with him.
Are Thai guys interested in you?
I never had a Thai boyfriend. I did like them when I was young but they never liked me. I loved a Thai guy when I was young but when I started working I never had any experience or feeling for Thai guys. So for me, no.
Some ladyboys have boyfriends, but not as many as the ladies in Nana.
Normally, ladyboys don't necessarily like farangs but we like them for money. We like what we can get from them. When I was young, I liked Thai men but now I just like farangs. But it is about the money 100%, money only. We speak the same language, look the same, and have the same coloured skin. We are the same species! Why would we like farangs more than Thai guys? It is crazy to think that! I prefer any Asian men over farang, be they Chinese, Japanese, Korean, even Cambodian or Lao! It is normal and farangs should not get upset about it. But you know, we all need just one person. If I can find one guy to support me and my family I will be happy, whoever he is, whatever race or nationality he is. Our customs are so different between us and Americans. I met an American once and he said he would never marry me because he could not marry my family. Why did he say that?! I was shocked and so upset! I could understand his customs but he wouldn't understand mine, even when he wanted to stay in my country! I tried and tried and tried. I wanted one husband and I tried so hard. But one day I could go on no longer so we split up. It ended and I cried alone. I couldn't go on like that without my family. I wanted my heart back.
You know many Thai ladyboy now like Japanese. They are nice looking and have white skin.
I don't like Japanese, they are stupid and make stupid gestures like children!
I am intrigued about what happens when a guy barfines a ladyboy. What percentage of guys who go with ladyboys do so secretly and don't let anyone else see what they are doing? I mean, how many pay the barfine and arrange to meet outside Nana Plaza or in their hotel so they don't walk out of the plaza together where everyone can see them with you?
I think maybe 20% ask us to follow them and meet them outside.
Most customers are quite open now. Most do not ask to meet outside. Almost all guys I go with I walk together with them. Some are happy to hold our hands!
You know in Nana there are some guys who work here and a lot of people know them so they are careful.
I think it depends on the ladyboy. Some of the big strong ones the guy follows!
Can a ladyboy sexually please a man as well as a lady?
More! <Many cries of more and they start shrieking and for the first time I notice diners at other tables looking our way!>
Some guys will come into the bar, get a ladyboy, take her short-time and then come back into Nana, get a lady and take her!
Some guys take a ladyboy only when they are drunk. I think some guys need to be drunk to be confident.
Some guys talk so much about how they want to do it but they are scared. They want to try but they are not sure.
If the guy genuinely likes us then we can make him happy. But some guys really do get so excited when they are with us!
Women usually want to get married, settle down and live happily ever after with one man. Is that what you're looking for?
I want to stop working and open a beauty salon. I want to go back to my home a long way from Bangkok.
I think no-one works like this when they are old so now is the best time to do it. If you meet a good man then you have to seize the opportunity. It might be a long time until you meet another good man who will stay with you forever so you have to grab the opportunity when it comes.
But do Western guys actually want a ladyboy partner, or are they looking for fun only? I mean, in my country, I have never heard of a guy living with a ladyboy! This is something that I only learned about here in Thailand.
I think for the young guys, no, that is not what they want. It is easy to have a good time with a ladyboy, take us to the beach and have a good time, but I think to take us home and introduce us to your friends and family is difficult for you.
It would be nice to meet someone to build a future together with. But I think some ladyboys only want money. Money can make us happy to some extent but there's more to it. If your heart is not happy then you cannot be totally happy.
What is it like working for an escort service rather than in a bar? How do you feel when you knock on the door of a hotel room, and there is a really big guy, or a bodybuilder, or a huge fat man, or someone who is truly ugly? How do you cope with that?
I had a bad experience like that. But it is work and we have to accept them however they are. We try to get it over with as fast as possible and get out of there! But you know, there are often nice guys and we have a good experience too.
For me, I ask them what they want to do and make them come as fast as I can and then I leave quickly!
Have you had many scary experiences?
I was beaten by a guy. He was sucking me off and we were both really hot and in the mood. As he was sucking my cock my phone rang and it was the number of an agency. That means it could be a booking for a customer so I answered it. The guy went crazy! He grabbed his belt and whacked me with it. He then tightened it around my neck and tried to strangle me! He was a sadistic prick! I screamed as loud as I could, you know, just like a woman, and I opened the door and ran away from him while still screaming. I knew he was not going to chase me through the hotel!
I also had a guy try to strangle me. He had tied me up and I had no idea what he was going to do. I was so scared when he started, but then he just stopped. I thought he was going to kill me. He did it for fun. Some guys are like that, you know? I had seen that in a movie but had never experienced it before then. He should have told me he was going to do it beforehand because he surprised me and I was really scared! Another guy tried to strangle me while he was fxxxing me from behind and he laughed and thought it was funny.
I have bad experiences with Indians and Arabs. They all want to fxxx without condoms. We cannot do that and we have to take care of ourselves.
Once I worked all night and no customer wanted me. I had not had one lady drink all night. It was 1:45 AM, the bar was about to close and a customer came in. I asked him if he wanted a drink and brought it to him. He offered me a drink. The bar was almost closed and he kissed me and I thought he would barfine me. Service staff asked him to pay the bill. I went out back, changed my clothes and when I came out he was refusing to pay for the drink he had offered me. He wanted me to pay for it! I told him if he didn't pay for it I would have to pay for it myself. He thought that was ok! I decided I would do something to make sure he remembered me so I punched him really hard in the face. I knew that for the next few days when he looked in the mirror he would remember me from the bruising around his eye! I work for money, not to pay out money!
Tell me about some funny experiences you have had!
I had some really hot guys in bed! Wow! <Excitement all around with rapid-fire Isaan in every direction!> Some guys I have become friends with and I still know them now.
One German guy came in to see me on February 14th with a beautiful bottle of perfume and gave me 2,000 Euros. That was the best Valentine's Day ever!
I had a man that said he would do anything for me, pay for any operation…which was nice! But I don't want the operation!
Do you have any comments or recommendations for my readers? Remember, most of my readers are into girls, not ladyboys!
Why don't you write about ladyboys?
Because it's not my thing!
I will go with you for free, take you to heaven, and then you can write about ladyboys!
That's very kind but I think I will decline!
Ladyboys are not the same as ladies, not the same as men. There are good men and bad men, good women and bad women, and it is the same with us. Some men think we are all bad, but that's not fair!
We might not be able to have a baby, but we still want to have a happy family life. That is why sometimes I want to be a man and have a girlfriend. Then I can have a baby. But my life has changed, that's not who I am and I cannot do that now.
I want people to understand ladyboys better. It's not about whether we have been operated on or not. A lot of customers say that if we have had an operation then they will take a lady as we are not different enough to ladies! Ladyboys want to be a lady, but we don't really want that operation. Please don't think that having the operation to remove our dick is best for us. It's not!
We cannot register a marriage in Thailand and that means that we cannot be secure in family life. I hope that in the future we can do that. It would make our future so much more secure. There is no security. Without that marriage is meaningless. In some countries it is possible but here, even though ladyboys are accepted, we cannot marry. In Thailand if we live with a guy and then split up then we get nothing. Also, even if ladyboy has the full operation we still cannot be Miss. If we could, I think more would get the operation. You know in Cambodia, if they have had the operation they can change to officially be a Miss. Some Khmer ladyboys who have not had the operation even have an official ID card obtained without the need for under the table payments that says they are "Miss". The officials didn't actually check their you-know-what! That's better than Thailand!
A doctor told me that I am sick, sick in the head, and I could never be ok again. I hate that. Many doctors don't like ladyboys. Or maybe the doctor secretly fancied me?!
We cannot get jobs as public servants. We can't be a teacher, or a policeman but some of us want to be. She <pointing at another> was a teacher but after a month she had to stop. Many want to be teachers but cannot. Who knows the future?
You have only one life. You have to try everything in this life and then you can say that you have experienced everything. If you have not tried a ladyboy, you haven't lived!
*Where* was this photo taken?
Last week's photo was taken of the Sukhumvit branch of Coyote, a Mexican restaurant near the start of soi 33. 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 WEEK – You're on your own, farang!
I'm a foreigner with a condo in Meuang Thong Thani. Late one night there was a noisy party one floor down. I called and asked them to be quiet in English. Soon after two Thai men are beating on my door and screaming in Thai, which I do not speak. They sounded drunk and very angry. I did not answer them but phoned the Tourist Police. A nice English-speaking man heard my problem and that I feared for my life. He said his office does not answer calls outside Bangkok and told me to phone 191. I explained my fear. He said to phone 191. I phoned 191 and that number rang for so long and was not answered that finally the telephone stopped ringing. I called numerous Thai friends and my wife, who was over an hour away. Meanwhile, the men continued to throw their bodies against my door! I heard them break the outer metal security door open, which was locked from the inside. Then they pounded on the inner wooden door very hard, and screamed in Thai. I called a friend who phoned someone he knew in the complex who phoned the local guards. The angry men went away. Minutes later, the guards, two Thai policemen and my wife arrived. They examined my broken security door. The police said nothing to me and nothing to the angry men. I moved that night out of Meuang Thong Thani, never to return. The Tourist Police refused to help me; the 191 operator never answered. If my wooden door had been weaker, I would have been beaten to death. I am too old to fight and my weapons were a broom handle and a kitchen knife. The moral of the story: foreigners are on their own late at night inside their own property. Be prepared to take care of yourself.
The 13-year holiday.
I worked legally in Thailand for 11 years, 8 of those years teaching in a government high school. I did not leave Thailand once in those 11 years. I left the school for pastures new and the company I went to work for could not get me a work permit under the new rules. Had I stayed at the school I would have been fine. I worked illegally for 18 months hoping the rules might be eased or the boss, who had a very good relationship with Immigration, might be able to swing it. But in November 2009 I got the dreaded red stamp at Vientiane and was told I was suspected of working illegally. I had always intended to return to the UK at some point. First it was at 40, then 45, then 50, but you know, Thailand gets under your skin. I could never save for retirement on a teacher's salary. So there I was, 51 years old, at another crossroads in life and decided it was time to call it a day. I left England in 1993 and travelled around before landing up in Thailand. I had 20,000 quid when I set out and came home with 1,000. Not a bad holiday.
Pick and stick!
I have heard some here in Australia say, and I totally subscribe to, 'Pick and you stick'. That is, pick your friends (because they have earned your endorsement by being a true friend) and stick with them, always. For me Bangkok is a changing concept. From a place of infatuation, to a place of escape, to a place where I want my son to know his mother's origins. Now the first two no longer play a part. I'd love to have a true friend in Bangkok like I do here in Australia, but it has yet to happen.
Dogs and children as examples for adults.
It is said if you can count your true friends on one hand you are doing well. You have chosen to be careful in selecting your friends and considering the vast number of people you come in contact through the net and daily activities I understand that separating the wheat from the chaff is paramount. When it comes to my understanding of friendships and those that say they are your friends the litmus test would be long. It is said that a dog is man's best friend. A dog really cannot speak but merely listen. How often when you talk with your friends do they use the personal pronoun "I" in conversation instead of "you?" Are your friends really interested in you or is their personal agenda more important. It works both ways and anything in life worth having requires work, sacrifice and time. Your friends are not perfect and neither is oneself. I find that my dog quickly forgets my mistakes and faithfully greets me and forgets about my errors. I have observed children and they forgive and carry on their activities quickly as they interact. Dogs and children as examples for adults, a simple thought.
Some friends are worse than bargirls.
After living in Thailand over a period of 10 years (actual living in Thailand about 4½ years total time), I made only one good friend. As I came to know people that I met, usually at the hotel pool, I discovered the same traits that you mentioned. As I got to know more and more about these "friends", I soon had to separate myself from them. I also met or knew more pedophiles than ever. (I have never knowingly met a pedophile in the US although there are plenty here.) I learned that some of your "friends" can be worse than the bargirls. With the bargirls you have a basic mistrust right from the beginning. But your friends you tend to trust more…until you live a long time in Thailand and you learn about the kinds of people Thailand attracts.
Making friendships as an adult.
I guess one of the reasons that real friendships are harder to make in South-East Asia is that we are adults when we come here and a lot of close friendships are made at school, uni and early on life. I think the friendships we make as adults (wherever they may be) are somewhat different to those early ones, which tend to be somewhat stronger – longer history with those people combined with the passions of youth. Also, I think as we get older we get a bit more wary of others and don't open up as much – at least not so quickly. Another take is that those very friendships and things that bind us to home are one of the very reasons we often go to South-East Asia – to have at least a temporary escape – for others permanent, from the expectations and pressures of home.
Thailand's image in China.
Here in China, whenever Thailand is mentioned the first response is – ladyboys! Temples, beaches, food never get a mention, just ladyboys. Typical tour groups go to the Grand Temple, a floating market, shopping, and Pattaya where they experience Tiffany's and sometimes go to another show featuring something much raunchier involving darts, ping pong balls and more. Many of my students tell me tales of watching a babe cram a Chang bottle up her chuff in the company of their parents and grandparents. Also, tour guides tell their flock not to leave hair or nail clippings in their hotel rooms because the cleaners will collect it and use it for black magic purposes.
If you had read my recent comments about Cowboy being on the way down and then visited the soi on Friday night you would think that I had either lost my marbles, or I am receiving a monthly cheque from the powers that be at Nana. Cowboy was absolutely heaving on Friday night, probably the busiest I have ever seen it. Really, I mean EVER! Walking down the soi was such a challenge that there was no hope for motorbikes to use it to cut between sois 21 and 23. There were hoards of mainstream tourists walking up and down, outside bars were full and many bars were packed inside. The atmosphere was not indifferent to Pattaya's Walking Street. I note walking from the Asoke end of Soi Cowboy to the soi 23 end that I only counted 3 Western females in the first half. Once I got to Sheba's, however, their concentration increased, and I lost count at 20 odd – and that is just those who I could see walking, or sitting in outdoor areas. Western females seem partial to the Old Dutch's outdoor seating areas. Or maybe it is PJ's charm?!
What I observed in Cowboy on Friday night was verified by one gogo manager I trust totally who confirmed that January of this year was the best month ever in terms of his bar's takings.
The same bar manager has a theory about why so many Western women and Khao San types are seen every night on Cowboy these days. He reckons it goes back to Soi Cowboy featuring in Hangover 2. He might just have a point…
Cowboy's offerings diversified this week with the arrival of a troop of ladyboys! Cockatoo Bar opened on Friday night, the first ever exclusive ladyboy bar in the soi. While Cowboy regulars are moaning and predicting doom and failure, I have no doubts it will be a great commercial success. Just look where it is on the soi – right opposite Baccarra and Shark Bar – the two venues most popular with the Japanese, and who so happen to have a predilection for ladyboys!
The Chair has arrived at the Dollhouse and should be in operation soon. Details to follow!
Spanky's celebrates 3 years in Nana with a party next Saturday.
It's still early closing at the so-called late night venues in Sukhumvit with lights out at 2 AM and the cops showing no signs of letting up. Obviously gogos and venues where you could safely take your girlfriend or wife are unaffected as they routinely close at 2 AM.
On the subject of freelancer venues, I dropped by a couple this week with a mate, and have to say that the ratio of men to women was not good. There were far more guys than girls, especially in Gulliver's where the ratio may have been 3 or even 4 guys to every girl. What was also obvious was that most girls were not interested in the guys there, and more concerned in playing with their mobile.
The beautification of Tilac in Soi Cowboy has taken an odd turn with plants erected out the front of the bar. Is it about making the bar's frontage look a little more attractive? Is it to provide a barrier that keeps the pesky Indian watch sellers away from customers? Or is it perhaps to prevent photos being taken of those sitting outside the bar? I wonder if there is more to it than merely making the front of the bar look more inviting.
And on the subject of Tilac, they are putting in place a 1,000 baht barfine on Valentine's Day. I expect some other bars will too – but it won't be universal and many bars will not increase barfines. Bear that in mind if you're feeling particularly amorous on the 14th.
Hollywood on the ground floor of Nana Plaza has hired a bunch of new staff members…new dancers, ladyboys! Hollywood now has both real girls and fake girls dancing on stage, making it the 6th venue in Nana Plaza to feature ladyboys. The other 5 are exclusively ladyboys and Hollywood is, for the time being at least, a mix.
With Bourbon Street closed, and just a handful of small bars still operating, it's down to the die-hards at Washington Square. The Sportsman's latest lease extensions runs out on March 31st and they might just about be the last ones out. There still hasn't been any announcement on the future of the area and if a long-term lease has been negotiated, I haven't heard about it.
The Englishman sleeping under the stairs leading up to the Nana BTS station is still in residence. He seems to have at least 2 income streams with bags of collected bags and bottles nearby which presumably he is cashing in at the recycling plant as well as his trusty Fedora hat, which he puts on the ground in front of him for donations, while sitting at the bottom of the steps looking as forlorn as can be.
The fellow in the photo above is NOT the begging Englishman, but a foreign busker in full swing on Silom Road. I shake my head when I see Westerners begging on the streets of Bangkok. This guy seems to be more about having a laugh and making people smile than actually making money. Good on him! Of course technically it is illegal for him to even play music there, let alone elicit donations, but generally the Thais are ok with this sort of thing and look the other way if it is just a one-off.
I note the latest edition of the Lonely Planet guide to Thailand is on the shelves at Asia Books branches now, at 895 baht. Browsing in store, it has had a major overhaul, features a new layout and is almost more, well, PC than before! While I have only read through parts in the local Asia Books branch, I think I preferred it back when Joe Cummings was in charge.
Sunrise Tacos, located on Sukhumvit Road between Soi 12 and Soi 14, will be having its annual Superbowl party tomorrow morning, that is Monday, February 6. A sumptuous full breakfast buffet prepared by Mexican chef Luis will complete the whole experience for only 295 baht. That means there's an omelet station, bacon, ham, pancakes, eggs, potatoes, corn, French toast, various fruits and what I am told are the Mexican breakfast classics – enchiladas, breakfast burritos, huevos rancheros and chilaquiles. Bloody Marys are 99 baht. All you can drink coffee or tea is just 59 baht. The pre-game show starts at 6 AM and the whole game will be shown live. Can't make it Monday morning? Watch the replay at 8 PM Monday night or 9 AM or 6 PM on Tuesday. Margaritas will be only 99 baht during the replays and are made with El Jimador Gold Tequila with 100% agave.
The photo here taken on board the skytrain in late 2000, around the middle of the day, was sent in by a reader. That's a year or so after the skytrain first opened. Newspaper articles at that time commented on how empty the skytrain was, how expensive it was for the average Thai and what a colossal failure it would be. Oh how I wish it was that quiet today!
I am reluctant to point the finger at a particular ethnic group as being persistently involved in scams, but the number of problems I have heard of – and seen with my own eyes – concerning Indians in Bangkok warrants mention and a warning to readers. The first issue to be aware of is the "lucky man" con. A turbaned Indian approaches you and tells you that you're a lucky man. He then tries to elicit certain information from you, and somehow, I am not quite sure how, manages to get many victims to hand him money, often 1,000 baht. These pests have become quite brazen and are even approaching people in small eateries, such as Subway branches. While they tend to work alone, there are now a number of turbaned Indians pulling this con. The other group of Indians to be aware of is an organised group who approach the cashier in restaurants and ask her if she can break a large banknote for smaller notes. Three non-turbaned Indians surround the cashier and they're all speaking at the same time, seemingly trying to confuse her. The Thais' willingness to assist a foreign visitor requesting assistance works against them and they earnestly try and listen to what is being said when in fact the ruse is to confuse her and distract her. As she is trying to catch what they are saying, a hand is in and out of the till with lightning speed and banknotes are lifted. I have only heard one report of this so far – but it is a confirmed report from a popular farang-owned eatery on Sukhumvit and the way it was described to me by the owner convinces me that this was not a one off, but an organised job. If you own or manage a venue and a group of Indians come in asking for change, send them on their way! That said, the odds are they will approach a Thai female cashier on her own. I imagine they would steer clear of a Westerner.
Yes, foreigners can win disputes against large companies in Thailand! A high profile case in Phuket's English language press for some time, the Brit who had 300,000 baht taken from his account by ATM card skimmers has successfully got the money which was taken from his account refunded to him by Siam Commercial Bank. Word direct from the fellow who helped him write emails and letters to various organisations is that if you are a victim of ATM fraud in Thailand, the best thing to do is to visit the Office of Consumer Protection Board. Once they're on your side the problem is taken seriously and action will follow!
Wine Connection has opened its doors in the recently opened low-rise shipping centre on the corner of Sukhumvit Road and soi 47. Wine Connection's Tapas And Bistro has decent quality Western food at very reasonable prices, in very pleasant surroundings. The venue features a reasonable lower to mid-range wine list with tipples much more reasonably priced than elsewhere although I reckon the pours are VERY light. The venue features 5 different styles of seating, with each of the micro environments having a different atmosphere. There's good music, a foreign manager, and at least one foreigner in the kitchen. It's a solid entry into the mid-range dining market. Oh, and the New Zealand mussels appetiser at 160 baht really is excellent!
If you're looking for somewhere different to check out – and different is putting it mildly – consider visiting the almost indescribable Mansion 7 on Rachada Road. Located a couple of hundred metres north of the Huay Kwang MRT station, imagine a large barn, partially decorated inside like a haunted house, and featuring various games and activities to play, along with various restaurants and a couple of bars. Amongst the restaurants is a '50s style American diner with reasonably priced hamburgers and restaurants featuring traditional Thai fare. Beer Mansion in the back left-hand corner features an extensive list of quality imported beers and perhaps the best selection of Belgian beers I have seen in Bangkok. The staff are knowledgeable and service is excellent. In the back right-hand corner is a cocktail bar which wouldn't be out of place in the West. Menus are in the form of Ipads and there's a huge selection of cocktails. Happy hour runs 6 – 9 PM when it's 2 cocktails for the price of 1. Staff are professional and revel in showing off their bartending skills, tossing top shelf bottles around as they mix drinks. Going into a bar at the back of a creepy shopping mall like complex mightn't sound enticing, but each of the two bars is nice enough nice to make it worth checking out. Apparently this complex has been open for over a year, but I only heard about it this week. Like I say, if you're looking for something quirky, it's worth stopping by.
Quote of the week comes from a reader, "Isn't it odd that girls will shriek and scramble on the floor to fetch 10 baht from a ping pong ball, yet won't get off their toosh to walk 5 feet to go and sit with a customer who'd pay their barfine in a heartbeat!"
Reader's story of the week comes from Codefreeze, "Blue Skies".
Popular local personality Andrew Biggs looked at overzealous whistling security guards in Thailand.
A waitress in a Walking Street's Alcatraz A Gogo stabs and kills a guy inside the bar.
Four young Swedes die in a horror road accident near Phuket.
Police rescue 3 Thai women from a brothel in Sydney, Australia, this week.
A Canadian is unsuccessful suing his government after contracting HIV from a Thai immigrant.
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: Can you tell me if marriages in Thailand are on public record and accessible? Also, would a woman's ID card reflect this status even if she has not changed her last name? I ask because a friend of a woman who I usually visit in Phuket during trips to Thailand has confided to me that the woman is married to a Frenchman. Putting aside the friend's motive or sincerity, I would prefer to avoid confrontation with the woman but do not wish to fool around with a married lady or risk being caught in a compromising position. Thanks for your help or thoughts.
Sunbelt responds: Marriage is public record and a search can be done. The ID card will not necessarily reflect the marital status of the woman as it can show Miss even if married. A lawyer can do the search of public records for you to determine if a woman is married.
Question 2: If a foreigner purchased gold ingots, not jewellery, would they be able to leave Thailand carrying this? Would it set off metal scanners at the airport or be picked up by security staff? Is this OK and legal to remove gold ingots from Thailand with a person's personal belongings?
Sunbelt responds: You may carry gold out of the country but most countries you will travel to will have restrictions on what is brought into the country, as does Thailand which, if you want to bring the gold back into the country when you leave, you must declare it to a customs officer.
Question 3: I am married to a Thai lady and we are legally married. We have a house, 6 rai of land and a new vehicle. All, of course, are in her name. She has changed her last name to mine. We have a will. I wonder what specifics we should ensure are in the will in case she is deceased before me? I also want to know what I would have to do to settle the estate if she predeceases me, especially regarding land, house and vehicle.
Sunbelt responds: If you signed a document stating that the land and house were not purchased with your money and are not part of the marital assets then you would have no right of inheritance without a will. However, if she did not sign this document then, without a will, it would first be 50% yours as a marital asset then the remaining 50% would be distributed equally among the 3 heirs; you, and her father and mother (if still living). Section 93 of the Land Code Act states that "A foreigner who acquires land by inheritance as statutory heir can have an ownership in such land upon a permission of the Minister of Interior. However, the total plots of land shall not be exceeding of those specified in Section 87".
You as a foreigner who is married to a Thai national are considered a statutory heir under the inheritance laws of Thailand and therefore, you can apply for ownership according to section 93 of the Thailand Land Code Act. However, as a foreign national, ownership of such land will not be allowed. Thailand has no outstanding treaty with any country to allow a foreigner to acquire land and no minister will allow a foreigner to inherit land in Thailand. Under present laws, any foreigner who acquires land by inheritance must dispose of the land within a reasonable period (up to 1 year) to a Thai national. If the foreigner fails to dispose of the land, the Director-General of the Land Department is authorised to dispose of the land and retain a fee of 5% of the sale price before any deductions or taxes. The proceeds from the sale of such land is then inherited by you as part of the Last Will & Testament.
Exceptions can be made and the foreigner can be gifted with land ownership of up to 1 rai, but in practice, we never see that happen as it has to go through the Ministry of Interior and Land Office (the provincial branch and the head quarter). The most possible and likely outcome would be for the foreign inheritance to sell the land. But prior to that stage, an executor of the estate must be established. If that executor is not the party who would be inheriting the land (such as the relatives), then the executor can act on the foreign inheritance’s behalf in liquidating the land and passing on the funds to the foreigner.
A Usufruct agreement would permit you to enter the property and to occupy the property for the duration of your natural life. Under Thai law, a foreigner can become a holder of a Usufruct. If your intention is to reside at the property rather than disposing of the land in the event of your wife passing away, then registering a Usufruct is advisable. Although you will not be the lawful owner of the land, you will have the right to lease or rent out the land and receive a payment for the occupation of the land pursuant to the rental agreement. You are essentially the property manager of the house and land.
With the usufruct, you are registered on the title deed. The land can never be sold or transferred by the owner of the land until the servitude is terminated. You can also get a yellow book which is a House Registration Certificate (Thor. Ror 13).
Sunbelt Asia has extensive experience registering usufructs and drafting wills so you may wish to come in and talk to us about the best way to move forward to safeguard your assets and your future in Thailand.
I look forward to this time of year, the supposed cool season, when Bangkok's weather is at its best, when the sky is blue, and it doesn't rain. We don't usually see rain from the end of the rainy season until about March. But someone obviously forgot to deliver the message to the weatherman because we have had very average weather for the last month. It was beautiful before Christmas but since New Year it has been warmer than you expect at this time of year and to make things worse, we've had heavy rain. And when it rains, Bangkok's transport infrastructure, particularly the roads, are so fragile, that heavy rain often results in a spate of accidents which lock up traffic citywide. It has rained heavily most afternoons this week, just like it does in the rainy season. It feels like September, not February!
Your Bangkok commentator,