Stickman's Weekly Column April 8th, 2012

From Bangkok to Phnom Penh, The Expat Drift



The journey from the airport to Phnom Penh's riverside feels like a continuation of the journey from downtown Bangkok to Suwannaphum Airport. The Traffic is snarled up and the driving standards are similarly poor. Notions of Cambodia being cheap fly out the window with the run into town costing twice what it would in Thailand. But unlike Bangkok, the cabbie is not only polite, friendly and actually seems happy that you've come to his country, he is trilingual and comfortable in both English and Thai.

I spent a few days in Phnom Penh, a city in which a number of Bangkok-based expats are relocating to.



Phnom Penh

Phnom Penh and Bangkok may each be a primate city but that's where the similarities end.

Phnom Penh is developing, but it's still a low-rise city for the most part whereas Bangkok's skyline, while not Hong Kong or New York, gets more impressive every year.

The Cambodian capital strikes me as a city of early risers whereas Bangkokians stagger blurry-eyed in dire need of their morning caffeine fix. Cambodians seem to have more purpose at sparrow fart. Come evening that all changes when Bangkok positively comes alive and Phnom Penh calls it an early night.

The Cambodian capital is sleepy. Even the riverfront can be decidedly quiet an hour or two before the date rolls over. Away from the major tourist area, there's little traffic and few people on the streets a few hours after nightfall. But don't mistake sleepy for dull. Phnom Penh has nightlife sparkle if you know where to go!


Cambodia

Downtown Phnom Penh is changing. The Lake is being filled in. Once the backpacker area, much has moved downtown with budget traveller hang-outs sprouting up along Street 172. Whereas Bangkok has a definite backpacker area and there are various expat neighbourhoods with their own, distinct flavour such as Thonglor, or Suhkumvit or Nichada Thani or Soi Rangnam…and the list goes on, I didn't find that in Phnom Penh.

There's not a lot to do during the day for the expat with time on his hands. Gyms and other fitness facilities exist but there simply isn't the range that you have in Bangkok. Cinemas? They may exist, but I didn't see any. You get the feeling that barang-centric areas are but a small part of the city.

With reliable, fast and unrestricted Internet connections, most Phnom Penh expats seem to get their fill of movies and TV by torrent.

Phnom Penh

With Phnom Penh on the radar, expect to see the expat population burgeon. The country is expecting double digit growth in tourist arrivals for many years to come and as the economy grows hopefully the masses will be pulled out of poverty and a larger middle class will emerge.

Old neighbourhoods and slums are being replaced by modern high-rises under construction, structures of a few dozen floors that threaten to cast the old city into their shadows.

Cambodia

Despite the beauty of its colonial architecture, the old French quarter around the central Post Office, its boulevards and its parks, parts of downtown Phnom Penh are filthy with mounds of rubbish and dreadful smells. Never anywhere on this earth have I felt that no-one would blink if you discarded rubbish on the sidewalk. One doesn't expect Singapore-like cleanliness but the scant disregard for the environment is extreme.

Phnom Penh

Just a couple of kilometers from the river front are slums with the sort of poverty unseen in urban Thailand for decades. Think livestock being reared and people sleeping under bridges, little more than a half-hour walk from the heart of the city. Such sights remind you that this is the real Asia, and the sabai sabai lifestyle enjoyed by many Thais are a dream for the average Cambodian.

Cambodia

Cambodia makes Thailand look positively rich. Poverty is widespread and many are doing it tough. Little is thrown away and scavengers abound.

The clothes worn by the average Cambodian would probably be discarded by the average Thai.

The obesity epidemic which has swept the Western world and hit Thailand hasn't so much as threatened Cambodia.

Bangkok's relative prosperity means that many of the facilities middle-class Westerners take for granted and which are widely available in Bangkok just don't exist in Phnom Penh. You simply cannot get the same amenities like a gym, pool, parking etc in a condo in Phnom Penh that you do in Bangkok – at least not at the prices you'd pay in Bangkok.

Bangkok-quality expat accommodation is markedly more expensive – and some expats talk of reaching their rented room by venturing down a dark unlit alley.

And the word on local medical care is that in the case of anything serious, take the next flight to Bangkok. Worth considering if you're getting on in years.



Cambodia

Metered taxis exist, but finding one is a challenge. In Bangkok there is no need to own a vehicle or a motorbike if you prefer not to. I get the feeling in Phnom Penh that without your own wheels transport costs could add up.

Bangkok's transport infrastructure struggles to cope at peak times, but at least there is an infrastructure in place. The skytrain is jammed nowadays and queues at the airport can be long at times, but at least there's infrastructure in place. In Cambodia it seems to be about individuals offering services, and not managed infrastructure. And where there is infrastructure, it can be a letdown. Phnom Penh Airport chokes up when two international flights arrive at the same time.


Cambodia

There seems to me – the casual observer – to be little interaction between foreigners and Cambodians outside of commercial transactions. In Thailand you do see foreigners and Thais socialising although I maintain most farangs have few, if any real Thai friends.

You get the impression that the Cambodians genuinely care about foreigners and want outsiders to have positive experiences in their country. They will do what they can to make that happen. Should you have a minor quibble or a more serious complaint, they appear eager to put things right and ensure the customer's expectations are met, so refreshing compared to Thailand where once you've parted with your hard-earned, interest in the customer often evaporates.

Perhaps most refreshing is that while the Cambodians have many similar beliefs to the Thais such as it being considered rude to touch someone's head, or point your feet at them, they aren't ultra sensitive about them as the Thais can be. Cambodians don't appear to be constricted by their culture as the Thais often are. The Thais might be more famous for it, but the Cambodians pursue all things fun with even more vigour. The hang-ups that exist in Thailand aren't as strong across the border.

Phnom Penh

To say that there are far more decent restaurants in Bangkok than Phnom Penh would be accurate, but there are plenty of great eateries in Phnom Penh too, enough to keep expats happy. Comparison with Bangkok is hardly fair as the city has a dining culture that few cities can compete with.

With new restaurants opening all the time, Phnom Penh is becoming something of a foodie's delight.

Phnom Penh

Drinking is cheap and spending time in the bars ridiculously inexpensive. It's so cheap it reminds me of taking taxis in Bangkok – you don't even think about the price. That's the good part.

Some bars are as filthy inside as the street outside. At least half the bars I visited were cockroach-infested. Shanghai, which I commented positively about on a previous visit, just about requires you to wear boots. Rotten food, screwed up receipts and unidentifiable shit is scattered throughout the bar. Cockroaches are everywhere. I guess cleaners salaries are excessive…

I didn't see one fatty in a bar, but then I didn't see many who would be hired in Rainbow 4 or Baccarra either.

If your life revolves around the nightlife, there are reasons why Pattaya is known as a naughty boy's paradise.

Cambodian lady

Tramp stamps on bar maidens aren't common as they have become in Thailand. But the love affair with their mobile is just as strong with many sporting an Iphone, and most bargirls able to tell you the relative merits of an Iphone versus a Galaxy, as well as the exact price and the best store to buy.

Cambodia girls

I now understand why some bars in Bangkok bar entry to certain types. Checking out some hostess bars in Street 136, which seems to be something of a tourist scene, you had Westerners, Africans, Koreans, Chinese and Cambodians all partying in the same bar. Each likes to party in a different way. The Chinese are loud, rude and can't handle it when you give back what you get from them. The Africans dance like maniacs in small shophouse-sized bars, knocking over drinks without acknowledgement, let alone apology. They seem secretive and concerned about those around them; merely looking in their direction upsets them.

The Penh's bar scene is small, much less expensive and more intimate than Bangkok's. Hang out for a few weeks and you'd soon know everyone.

Barang

Phnom Penh's expat crowd is every bit as eclectic as Bangkok's. Suits drink in grungy bars while shirtless foreigners lounge in front of the royal palace.

There's been a marked increase since my last visit of those who live their life by their own rules, with more biker gangs and more shirtless Beach Road types.

Expat society in Phnom Penh appears a little less fractured than in Thailand where those of different nationalities, jobs and socio economic groups often scoff of at each other. Until recently Phnom Penh didn't suffer the sort of flag bearing issues Thai expat society sees but it seems that Thailand transplants are bringing the Jungle Jim syndrome with them.

Exact numbers are unknown but it is believed that the Penh's expat population has surged past 10,000.

Cambodia

Expats in Cambodia seem to have a genuine affinity for the country and its people. Compared with Thailand where there can be real hatred and vitriol from some quarters towards the local populace, it makes a pleasant change.

And then there's the sanctimonious nonsense from many Thai expats about how beneficial their presence is, often little more than a warped justification for the inordinate time and of money they spend in the bars. This may exist in Cambodia, but I didn't see it.

Expats in Cambodia seem to be more respectful to the locals, and the locals seem to be nicer to the expats. That's a big plus over Thailand.

Phnom Penh

The main reason cited by those keen to relocate to Phnom Penh from Thailand is the visa situation and the perception that it is not easy to stay in Thailand. Granted, the situation is easier in Cambodia but it's not that hard in Thailand either.

There are also complaints that Bangkok has got expensive. Prices have risen and leading a Western lifestyle is much dearer than it once was. That said, quality accommodation and Western food in Phnom Penh isn't any cheaper, and may even be more expensive.

I suspect that many who have had enough of Thailand have gone through a similar cycle to what they went through in Farangland. Life didn't work out for them in the West so they moved to Thailand. It hasn't worked out in Thailand either so they're going to try Phnom Penh. Perhaps it's not the place that is the problem? When the inevitable happens in Cambodia, where will they go next?

Bangkok and Phnom Penh are different. Phnom Penh is the capital of what is still clearly a third world country. Bangkok is an increasingly cosmopolitan and sophisticated international city where many foreign residents lead what is essentially a Western lifestyle. You can almost forget you're living in Asia.

Each city has its relative advantages and disadvantages and most expats in Phnom Penh seem to be at least as happy as their Bangkok counterparts, if not more so.

Phnom Penh makes a great break from Bangkok but for me personally, I couldn't live there.



*Where* was this photo taken?

Bangkok

Last week's photo was taken at the at the Asoke end of Soi Cowboy. It was way too easy! 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!


Stickman's First Ever April Fool's Day Edition!

Thailand went crazy last Sunday with Westerners rushed to hospitals nationwide complaining of high blood pressure, heart palpitations and other stress-related conditions. It just so happened to coincide with the publication of last week's column, featuring an opening piece about supposed new regulations regarding sex tourism. It was, of course, an April Fool's Day joke! I received a massive amount of email feedback and only a small number caught on. I had been waiting for the April Fool's Day to be a Sunday for a long time. It was worth the wait!


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 WEEKApril Fool #1.

Whenever I hear about new regulations in Thailand I just view it as another new way for officials to harass and extort money from businesses and foreigners if possible. Anyone who thinks this type of regulation will have an appreciable impact on the sex industry is naive. It will just create another layer of corruption and graft in an environment that is already laden with both. Bargirls and bar owners are nothing if not resourceful and will have figured out ways around, over and through the new regulations even before they take effect. The regulation requiring hotels to get the new card and maintain records on the foreigners taking girls to their rooms is wrought with flaws from the start since it only covers the relatively small portion of girls working in gogo bars and ignores freelancers, whose numbers are steadily growing. Keep in mind that Thailand already has a lot of laws and regulations and enforcement for the most part is a discretionary process involving whether or not the offender is on the good side of the officials and how much money he has. These new regulations are just new opportunities for more of the same. Even the best intended laws don't accomplish anything in a system where enforcement is so discretionary and a little cleverness and / or the right amount of money will almost always whisk away problems.

April Fool #2.

You must have ruined thousands of breakfast and brunches across Europe and the Americas this morning. I read today's editorial and was on an emotional roller coaster of good and bad feelings of the impending changes. Then I remembered the date and the penny dropped. All I can say is brilliant, and I bet the fear of God was put into many a reader. The fact that there were many truths, especially about other countries' laws added to its validity and authenticity. But hold on many a true word spoken in jest, this could be the blueprint adopted by some ambitious Thai politician. If everybody in the pay for play business were not so dodgy it would work. Lots of money could be made selling counterfeit FSW cards. "Here mister, this one only got 200 nights on the clock, goes great on unleaded Bacardi Breezer, next health service check due in 3 months, a bargain at 5,000 baht". Food for thought.

April Fool #3.

I see the new anti-sex regulations as little more than yet another way to target foreigners. What the authorities should first do is get rid of the Thai-run, bottom-end brothels that allegedly keep girls – including underage girls – in virtual slavery. Then deal with the local sex scene, which is infinitely larger than the farang scene. Prostitution is either illegal or it isn't. It is, so clamp down on it where it happens most, instead of targeting only one tiny section of the market just because foreigners are up-front instead of hypocritical about it. Then deal with the foreigners if there is a problem and they, for example, mistreat a woman. Sometimes even that might not be necessary, as the woman might know where he lives or stays and she can no doubt draw on a pack of local lads to sort out any problems.

April Fool #4.

Did your Gmail account crash today? I assume you were peppered with emails pleading that your opening piece not be true! I am sure a lot of guys are all bent out of shape by the news. It really sounds like a better situation for everyone involved in the P4P scene, really. But will this be enforced? Sounds like a lot of work.

April Fool #5.

Regulating bar workers makes some sense, and might have benefits, although it's not logical given that prostitution is illegal. Since there are (officially) no prostitutes in Thailand, how would they enforce registering bargirls, and not include all service staff in every venue a foreigner may possibly visit? Logic was never an obstacle so it'll probably stand. Regarding hotels reporting visitors to Immigration, I doubt it will be put into practice, and if it is, reporting will be very spotty. What incentive do the hotels have to report their guests' visitors? It's more paperwork for the hotel, and all they get in return is the official record for aiding prostitution. Reporting paying guests is a different matter as it's impossible to run a hotel without guests (but quite possible without registered bargirl visitors). In addition, there's no way to enforce this sort of reporting (I don't see them barging into rooms at random, and even then, the girl could be a girlfriend). Barring that, there are always short-time hotels, and shadier long-time ones which don't require IDs (latter may become an added value amenity if regulation is enforced).



April Fool #6.

You ask in the last paragraph of your weekly column if it would be a bad thing if the new regulations prevented hardcore sex tourists from visiting Thailand. I am afraid the opposite will happen. The occasional sex tourist who has a respectable situation at home will be put off because he doesn't want his name to be on record as a john, while the hardcore sex tourists won't care. While the prostitute card may be a good idea, I see a big problem – and I am sure I am not the only one – with logging the johns into a database! You pointed out private accommodation, I'll add fake ID, bribe to the hotel receptionist, etc. What about the girl's own place? Also, I think they will divert to more dodgy places where the girls will be less safe than in a hotel. Honestly, I think this log of the johns is a brain fart!

April Fool #7.

The new regulations of the sex trade are interesting. Hopefully it will have a positive outcome for those involved in the industry. If these new regulations end up protecting everyone in the sex trade, whether it's the supplier of sex or the client, I am 100% for it! I agree that there are some major issues in the sex industry. The girls are being abused, mistreated, extorted, as well as the problem of disease. All these negative aspects end up hurting the client as well. I hope this does bring a better quality of tourists to Thailand, whether they are punters or not.

April Fool #8.

It seems Thailand is becoming into Orwell's 1984. More controls for tourist. For sure Thai authorities will use tracked data to make a profile of everyone. Just wondering what shall happen when I enter Thailand next time and go to check in with my Thai girlfriend. She's a decent woman not prostitute nor freelancer either. Are they really going to demand some bar ID card from her? This will have an effect on arrivals if they really don't let unmarried couples in hotels etc. Where are they going to draw the line?

April Fool #9.

Further to your recent posting about bargirls and the proposed new regulations to register their social visits with farangs at their hotels, I can see a massive drop in the traditional detective work that was carried out on behalf of boyfriends and sponsors of these wonderful ladies. Instead of undercover private eyes visiting the bars these girls frequent to catch them out still working or following them around town hoping to catch a picture of them with sponsor number 4, all a savvy detective has to do now is bribe a local government official to get a complete read out of all her hotel visits before, during and after the client first met the bargirl! It won't be long before this information is freely available online for a small fee. When the client sees the real life numbers involved of these girl's sexual activities (even before they met them), it will be an eye-watering and sobering wakeup call!

April Fool #10.

I am very positive about the new regulations but they leave one big question. They seem to protect the girls and the customers alike. One group that may be caught in the middle is those actually dating. I have a girl I've kept contact with for nearly 2 years and we have met several times and enjoy each other's company. How will this work if we are to meet in Thailand and go on a holiday? She's never worked in a bar and abhors the thought of being connected to the bar scene or industry in any way. Do you know how it would be seen if both names are used in a hotel reservation? Would she still be prompted to show her "farang license", which she clearly doesn't have?


Lolitas


Some bars and entertainment venues may be closed tonight, as well as tomorrow night and Tuesday night as a mark of respect for the royal funeral taking place. Initially it was thought that most venues would close for 3 days, but things are becoming increasingly unclear. Some bars have been told they can open, others told they cannot while most still don't know! Down in Pattaya, many bars have been told by the constabulary that they are allowed to open and alcohol can be sold, but music cannot be played, or music can only be played at a low volume. As is the often the case, the interpretation and enforcement of the request to refrain from partying will likely be different not just in each bar district, but in different parts of the country. As is usual, in Bangkok, Patpong has been given permission to open. Patpong always seems to open even when other venues are closed. Really, the best thing to do is to ask the staff in yourBangkok fetish favourite bar what's going on in their bar.

Party animals and those looking for a good time are going to do it tough with Songkran this week. Officially the Thai New Year holiday lasts 3 days, from 13 – 15 April, but the water throwing revelry often kicks off early – and in Pattaya runs for a whole week. Songkran is a love it or hate it affair. I happen to be amongst the latter and do my best to avoid it at all costs.

Bar Bar, the fetish bar in Patpong soi 2, celebrates its 6th anniversary on April 22 with a party that will go through until the sun comes up.

In fact some expats loathe Songkran so much that they become refugees, dispersing across the region. Angeles City is a hot spot, especially for the Pattaya crowd, and gets some of these self-imposed exiles. It's a short-term bonanza for Angeles and many venues gear up for it. If you're planning on escaping to Angeles, sign up for free membership at the Philippines Addicts website and you will be entitled to 10% discounts off entire bills from many bars and some hotels in Angeles City. Rhapsody Bar and La Bamba Cantina bar offer 20% discounts to members. Discount cards can be picked up free of charge at Tequila Reef Restaurant in the heart of the bar district in Angeles City, and sister company to Tequila Reef in Pattaya.

3 Aussies have bought Gentlemen's Club in Soi Diamond, Pattaya, right next door to Spanky's and opposite Heaven Above. Renovations are being frantically completed and the new owners hope to have the ground floor open around Wednesday. The 2nd floor should open 2 – 3 weeks from now.

In addition to fine food, Oskar, in Sukhumvit soi 11, about 30 metres from Bed Supper Club, has plenty of lookers from around 8:30 PM onwards. Oskar is one of those rare venues where you're not sure whether the lovelies are up for it or not. A mate who is a regular reckons most are on the game, are generally looking for 5,000 baht and to use his words, most are mutton dressed up as lamb. He may well be right, but a few looked pretty good to me.

The Thermae seems to be busier these days where there's an absolute correlation between the beauty of the girls and who they are interested in. The prettiest girls are only interested in Asian guys while the least attractive smile and make sweet eyes when a Western guy walks past.

Right on Khao San Road, Bangkok's backpacker ghetto, you can now find rooms for as much as 4,500 baht a night. Compare that with the sub soi off Sukhumvit soi 4 where the popular Big Mango is found where you can get a bed at the Check Inn Hostel – all night, not a short-time price – for 300 baht. Who said Bangkok isn't changing?

Many of Bangkok's British pubs do a carvery at the weekend with buffets common. The Huntsman and The Londoner spring to mind. Durty Nelly's doesn't do a buffet but their weekend carvery is worth going out of your way for. Available on Saturday and Sunday only, from 11 AM until 5 PM and for a reasonable 300 baht, you get you a choice of two courses, or 350 baht gets you 3. If you find yourself unsure of what to go for, the fish cakes are recommended as a starter and the apple crumble is a superb way to finish the meal off.

Jibbigo is a language translation program / application for the Iphone, smart phones and the IPad. You talk English and it translates what you say into another language. They now have a module for Thai. More info can be found here.



In the early days in Thailand, what I missed most from home was food products and newspapers. Frequent visits from friends meant my favourite food products were brought over and as the Internet developed all the newspapers could be accessed online. Today, what I miss after all these years is good rugby coverage. A sport with little local interest, rugby coverage has always been spotty in Thailand and for the last few years has been limited. If you wanted a Smorgasbord of rugby you had to get a specially installed satellite dish – and if you did not own your own home, generally this wasn't possible. Things have changed and with Setanta Sports now available via the main cable TV provider, it's a rugby lover's dream. These days there's little I miss from home.

Why is it that whenever I see a Caucasian in a Safari suit, or a pastel-coloured Thai silk shirt, I feel awkward? When I see foreign guys who have been in Thailand forever, speak nary a word of the language, but don the aforementioned attire, they give me the creeps. More than a few dressed this way seem like they are trying to be more Thai than the Thais themselves.

Spare a thought for bar stuff and some of the crap – literally – they have to deal with. A Scotsman was in the Big Mango drinking recently and not shy to tell those who cared to listen how much he could drink and as if anyone was interested, he set about trying to prove it. After downing enough to get a few men drunk, staff noticed that he had gone into the men's room, but hadn't come out. A concerned staff member went to check on him and discovered that he was out for the count and looking worse for wear, sprawled out on the floor and he had soiled himself! The staff knew he was staying in an adjacent hotel and went and explained the situation to management. They in turn went to his room and grabbed a change of clothes. The Big Mango staff returned to the bar with the change of clothes, undressed him, cleaned him up, and after much effort they managed to get him back to his hotel room and into bed. He was never seen again. There was to be no thank you. The Big Mango staff really went the extra mile. He can count himself lucky that he didn't find himself elsewhere. In many a bar the staff would have snapped photos of him and subjected him to ridicule!


Big Mango


Quote of the week is mine and said to a friend this week, "Thailand brings out the worst in many people."

Reader's story of the week comes from Pattaya Gary, "Lemon Pie".

The Sydney Morning Herald claims terrorists targeted tourists in the bomb attacks in Thailand's south last week.

A nice photo gallery of the 33rd international Bangkok car show appeared online this week.

From the Wall Street Journal, Thailand bans a local film adaptation of "Macbeth" because it could inflame political passions in the country.

A crazed Thai guy holds his wife hostage at knifepoint during 6-hour stand-off with police – great photos in this report.

From Phuketwan, a Patong tuktuk driver punches a tourist over a 500-baht fare.

More nonsense in Phuket with a couple of Danes involved in yet another jet ski dispute.

From The Guardian a couple of weeks back, Thailand struggles to teach the basics of sex education to students.



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: "I hereby nominate __________ etc my sister as executor if this executor is unable or unwilling to serve then I appoint Bua __________ etc as alternate…."

Do you think the above clause written by a Thai attorney fulfills my stated desire? It is my last will and testament that all of my assets domiciled in Thailand to become the property of __________, providing my death is natural and she is still caring for my needs as she has in the past at the time of my death. If she does not my sisters become the beneficiaries instead. All other assets I wish to give to my sisters.

Sunbelt responds: You may be able to write up such a clause to a will but it is important to be very clear and detailed as to beneficiaries, assets etc. as such a statement can be easily contested since you are not clear as to what is required when you pass away. You need to be very specific as to beneficiaries and conditions when writing a will so as to leave no room for misunderstanding or uncertainty. It is important to note that the beneficiary cannot be a witness. You may wish to consider hiring Sunbelt Asia to draft your will for you. We have over 10 years of experience in expat matters and can draft and register a will that is clear and spells out your requirements exactly. Our professional fees are only 6,500 baht to draft the will and 1,000 baht to register at the Amphur so that it is not easily contested.

Question 2: I married a Thai woman in December, 1999, in Suphanburi, and the marriage was registered in Bangkok a few days later. I do not know where it was registered (in Bangkok – it was central). I do remember it was in an official looking building and I paid an agent to take us there and we did not have to queue – we just went in and signed papers. Fast forward 7 years and my wife has Irish citizenship and our marriage broke up. She has taken my Thai marriage certificate with the English translation and will not give it to me. I need to get a copy of original marriage certificate (with translation) for my divorce in Ireland. I just want to move on with my life but I do not know what to do regarding getting an original copy of the marriage certificate. What can I do?

Sunbelt responds: You should file a police report that you do not have your marriage certificate. With this police report you can go to any district office and get a new one so long as you know where your marriage took place. All records are now online so are easily retrieved, but you will need the police report first.


Soi Cowboy


There's not a lot of news or gossip as I only made it out one night this week. Bars may or may not open tonight, and then later this week it's Songkran when I will lock myself inside, away from the water throwing nonsense. With many girls heading home and the post-Songkran lull when business typically drops off, don't expect much going on in the bars for a few weeks. With all of this in mind, I'm not sure if I will publish a column next Sunday. I might take a week off. I guess at this stage it's a coin toss as to whether I will publish next week, or not. If I do take next week off, I'll definitely be back on the 22nd.

Your Bangkok commentator,

Stick

Firehouse