Stickman's Weekly Column April 29th, 2012

Northern Thailand Road Trip



The list of clues that we're no longer in the big city is endless. Ordering food pet glarng (medium level of spiciness) produces fiery dishes that even my Thai companion struggles to cope with. The restaurant staff – if you could call it a restaurant, more a large, open food stall under a roof without walls – are staring at me as I eat with curious amusement. Watching intently every little move I make, they are baffled as to why I deliberately leave the egg yolk. They become animated, speculating why that is in voices that can be heard by every diner across the restaurant. Those who had until that point shown little or no interest now stare at me and I start to feel like some sort of circus act. Having a bunch of country bumpkins scrutinise you while you're eating is a real appetite killer. In the local lingo and a voice loud enough to be heard every person in the restaurant I pipe up and say, “I don't eat the egg yolk because I don't care for the flavour, and besides, it's full of cholesterol.” Amusement turns to disbelief as they realise I had understood everything I'd said. The white man speaks Thai!

We're sitting in a roadside restaurant in Chainat province, halfway to our destination of Kampheng Pet where we will escape the madness of Songkran in the capital and spend the first night of our trip. Welcome to northern Thailand!







Kampeng Phet


We make it to Kampheng Phet and have dinner at Barn Rim Nam . Set on the southern banks of the river with views across towards the busier, commercial part of town, we enjoy fabulous food in a wonderful setting. And thank God, not one of the locals in a large, busy restaurant is even remotely interested in the eating habits of the two white guys at the table.

We're dining with a good mate from Bangkok who visits Kampheng Phet frequently. He met his darling, a native of the city, online and she is just that, a darling, a fine woman and they make a great couple.

They'd been dating a while when somehow I came up. Sitting in front of the computer, he logged into the dating site where they met and called up a profile I used to have on the site. “I know that guy!”, she blurts out…

Some years earlier, apparently she and I had been online at the same time and she had started an online conversation with me. I had been a little, shall we say, dismissive. My profile stated – and she loves to recount this part – more than a dozen requirements that any woman who wanted to get in contact with me must meet. I don't remember what was in that list but she delights in rattling them off one by one with the sort of memory that only elephants and Thais have. Good job, no tattoos, non-smoker, no children, fair skin, financially independent and no family problems were just a few of the points. The killer had been that she was not in Bangkok and I had basically told her that that was an instant red card. Abrupt might be a polite way to say how I dismissed the woman who was now the wife of a good friend. We had a laugh over a story that will no doubt be retold again and again over the years…

Chiang Mai

The drive from Bangkok to Kampheng Phet was an easy 4 hours, and it's another 4 hours to Chiang Mai. That alone makes Kampheng Phet an ideal place to stop.

Chiang Mai was our next destination, a city I had not visited in more than 6 years and the city I expected to be the highlight of the trip. On previous visits I had travelled with someone who knew the town better than me, but this time I was taking someone who had never been, so it was me who was effectively the tour guide. Ironic as it may be, it's hardly uncommon to see farangs showing Thais around their own country.

After some research I realised I had in fact missed a number of the city's highlights on my two previous visits. I had never seen Wat Chedi Luang, the large, central temple. Located within the walls of the old city, the huge chedi is amongst the most impressive in all of Thailand, and the ultra wide angle lens used in the photo above makes it look much smaller than it actually is. I got templed out long ago in Thailand, but this was worth a couple of hours.



Chiang Mai

The number of impressive temples in downtown Chiang Mai is astounding and reminded me of driving around parts of England in the '90s, coming across castle after castle. Arundel Castle, Leeds Castle, Warwick Castle…just when you thought you'd seen an incredible castle you'd come across one even more impressive.

And so it is in Chiang Mai. If you were to start near the Night Bazaar and walk along the road towards Tapae Gate, cross the moat and enter the older part of the city the temples just get more and more impressive. And unlike the old part of Bangkok, Chiang Mai's temples aren't overcrowded and you don't have to dive into your wallet every time you walk through a new temple's gates.

Doi Suthep

The most impressive temple of all remains Doi Suthep. Set on a mountain overlooking the city, it's a fun drive up roads twisty, windy and steep enough to induce car sickness.

Passing the odd cyclist braving their way up the side of the mountain, it's hard to imagine a better workout. Always farang pedaling, I imagine most locals would see it as torture.

Doi Suthep is one of Thailand's most impressive temples and while it is over-run with visitors – Thai and foreigners alike – it is possibly the city's most visited attraction and it's hard to find superlatives that do it justice.

Further up the mountain beyond the temple is a commercial hill tribe village which makes for an interesting hour wandering around.



Phnom Penh guesthouse
Phnom Penh hotel



Chiang Mai

One of the major attractions of Luang Prabang, the northern heavily touristed city in Laos, are the many monks and temples offering fantastic, yet somewhat clichéd photo opportunities. It is hard to imagine that there could be as many temples or monks in Luang Prabang as there are in Chiang Mai. Saffron robes can be seen wherever you look.



Chiang Mai

A northern angel, so typical of the armies of truly lovely women you see in the north of Thailand.

Westerners resident in Thailand know that women from the north, are generally fairer in complexion than what you find elsewhere. What each person has to say about northern women tends to be shaped by personal bias. If the guy is involved with or married to a dark-skinned girl, as most foreigners in Thailand are, he may scoff off at northern women and say that he prefers dark skin which, when challenged, probably has something to do with western women having white skin and he is sick of them – so why would he want a white-skinned lady?

Ask any Thai guy whether he'd go for a typical northern girl or the type of women Thais associate your average Westerner going for – and 99%+ would be on a northern girl like white on rice.

It is not just a skin colour thing at all. Women from the north tend to have softer, more delicate features than women from other parts of the Thailand. I am surprised so few Westerners keen to find a Thai wife don't go wife hunting in the north, and prefer the likes of Pattaya. If I was wife hunting, I'd be on the next flight to Chiang Mai.



tuktuk convertible

Getting around Chiang Mai is easy on foot. Like Pattaya, there are taxis with meters but whether the driver will actually agree to use it, I have my doubts. Most visitors get around in songtaews, samlors (trishaws) and tuktuks.

Ever noticed how few convertibles you see in Thailand, and when you do, how often the driver is a foreigner. The idea of the sun spoiling their skin puts most Thais off convertibles!

In just a few days in Chiang Mai we saw 2 tuktuk convertibles which makes me think there are probably a fair few more.

Unlike this driver, we didn't see many people lounging around in the north as you do in other parts of the country. Whereas in Bangkok you often see people laying around and even sleeping at their place of work, I saw little of that in Chiang Mai or elsewhere in the north.



Chiang Mai songkran

Westerners resident in the north are quick to point out all of the positives and advantages of living in that part of the country. For sure, there are many advantages such as the better weather, less pollution, less crime and lower cost of living.

If you were to believe them, the region suffers few of the ills of the capital or Sin City. And they are always quick to point out that the people in the north are nicer and more gentle. But that's not what I saw at Songkran!

There's no doubt in my mind that Northerners are more polite than those you find in the big city, as tends to be the case the world over. But I do sense that the revelry of Songkran brings out the worst in them and from what we saw across a few northern provinces, Songkran was celebrated in a much more aggressive manner than you see in Bangkok.

The women in the photo are from naughty bars on Loi Kroh Road where a small number of venues house some average specimens. You seldom hear bar hounds talking about the bars in Chiang Mai for good reason.



Lampang

They say that the chicken is the symbol of Lampang, indeed the province is home to many ceramic factories which churn out millions of plates, bowls, mugs and just about everything you can think of with the requisite chicken on the side.

But perhaps the horse and trap would be what most visitors to Lampang associate with the city. The city centre features horses and you can take a leisurely ride through the city.

Lampang is a pleasant enough town, mildly pretty with decent if somewhat withdrawn folk. There are some interesting sites outside the provincial capital like the Pra That Lampang temple, pictured above, perhaps 25 or so km outside the city proper. Lampang is pleasant, but if it wasn't for the presence of a friend I probably wouldn't stop.



Sukhothai

Next stop on the way back to Bangkok was Sukhothai and the historical park which is not dis-similar to the temple ruins at Ayutthaya. Like Ayutthaya, Sukhothai was once the capital.

Sukhothai is a one trick pony so after we'd stretched our legs and given the cameras a work out, it was down the road to Kampheng Phet for another night with friends at Barn Rim Nam, and then the 4-hour straight shot back to Bangkok.



Chiang Mai

The nature of the people in the north is different to what you find in other parts of the country. Whereas in Isaan the sight of a foreigner results in hellos and whooping from all directions, the Northerners aren't nearly as gregarious. They are polite and happy to talk with you, but outside of tourist areas it's more likely to be you who breaks the ice.

Where are the photos and reports of the bars and hookers in Chiang Mai? Nowhere in this country of so many truly beautiful women is the difference between the women in the bars and those outside of the industry so great. Chiang Mai is home to some of Thailand's most attractive women and many of the lasses in the bars come from another region…and it shows. It's easy to get the idea that Bangkok gets the cream of the crop, Phuket gets those who like the idea of being near the beach and partying with a younger crowd, Pattaya gets the leftovers and Chiang Mai gets the dragons!

The north of Thailand is a great place to experience the region's culture and to enjoy a nice environment. I really should visit more often.



*Where* was this photo taken?

Bangkok

Last week's photo was taken from the top floor of the Bus Stop, a popular Australian-owned bar and restaurant on Sukhumvit soi 4 that has decent food and a pleasant atmosphere. This week's photo was taken a few years back, but the scene remains remarkably similar today. All you have to do is tell me where the photo was taken. There are 2 prizes – 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 hamburger, 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 WEEKI love Thailand, but…

I get increasingly pissed off with the "I love Thailand, but…" brigade. They complain about the driving but themselves rarely pay any due regard to speeding and drink driving rules. They complain about taxis, but, either I've been very lucky or they really have nothing good to say about anything. I've landed at Bangkok's airports at least 50 times and only on one occasion have I had a meter problem. When the guy told me it was broken, I asked him to take me back to the terminal, and, suddenly, it was fixed! Meanwhile, an English mate of mine who visits here regularly told me the taxi drivers at Heathrow give him grief every time he returns home because he lives 10 miles from the airport, and not in the centre of London! They complain about corruption, but my bet is they have not been adverse to slipping a couple of red ones when necessary. They complain about touts and beggars – justifiably – but Thailand is not alone with these problems. They complain about the promotion of the sex trade, but I suspect that for most, that was an early motivation for coming here.

The right time and place.

"Hot, humid and awfully quiet" are not only negative aspects for the weeks after Easter. I remember Apache Bar after Songkran years ago. I sat on one of the red sofas on the right side of the bar when a service girl smiled and said straight up, "I like you. Come with you to hotel!" That evening I was the only customer and I had made some jokes with the two girls on the stage and made them laugh. I was a nice guy and the service maiden decided that I was the right man for a nice evening. Entertain the girls, make them laugh and do not talk about money. But you can't do that on New Year's Eve when the bar is packed. And this almost never works in one of the big fancy gogos. Most girls there are like zombies. No smile, no reaction to a joke. I like the weeks after Songkran when it's hot and humid, because I am here for diving and snorkeling. And I like the empty bars and all the lonely girls there. Yes, when it's hot, humid and awfully quiet and Stickman is out-of-town then I am in-town. That's the right time and place for me!

A dedicated Stickman fan!

I'm in Iraq at the moment and I have been waiting for your latest post. Just as it came up the bloody internet went down! I'm standing on top of a 5-storey building so I can steal a wi-fi signal to read the column. I better go before I get heat stroke…or shot!



Danger on late night Sukhumvit, or only half the story?

A terrible situation happened recently outside Insomnia. My girlfriend came home at 5 AM crying and saying she was almost raped. My girlfriend is not a bargirl but likes to go out and have a good time. It was her best friend's birthday and they all went to Q Bar and while there some guys started talking to them. After some drinking, my girlfriend and her 3 girlfriends and one guy went on to Insomnia. They had a fine time at Insomnia and went outside and had some food. It's 4 AM in front of Insomnia and my girlfriend's friends live on Rachada so they hopped in a taxi. We on the other hand live in Sathorn so my girlfriend had to travel alone. I hate it but I have to work in the morning and can't be everywhere. Once my girlfriend was alone with this guy, he was behind her as she got in the taxi to go home and he jumped in and said we are going to my room! My girlfriend was like no, I am going home, get out! Now this is really where I get pissed off… After repeated attempts in Thai to stop, the taxi the taxi driver would not listen and continued driving! Then this guy told my girlfriend that if she kept talking to the taxi guy he would hit her. My girlfriend weighs maybe 43 kg wet so she was not going to win this fight. They make it to the guy's apartment, go upstairs and she is terrified. There is no security at the front desk and I guess one of the only smart moves she did all night was tell him to take a shower. Once he was in the shower she grabbed her shoes and ran out of the apartment as the guy was yelling at her in his towel. I find it hard to wrap my head around a few things. I asked my girlfriend why she didn't just kick and scream and she said it all happened so fast that she didn't even think he was serious until he told her to shut up or he would hit her. Second, what the hell is wrong with the taxi driver? Here is a girl saying she didn't want to be with this guy and he totally ignored her! I have seen a few taxi drivers go absolutely mad on foreigners for no reason but when there is actually a reason they turn the other way. I am very thankful nothing happened to her and you know what I think? She will finally listen to me about not travelling alone that late at night. I happen to know this guy's apartment building, the Trendy, very well and have friends that live there. My girlfriend remembered the floor and it happened to be a corner unit which is easy to find. I am debating if I should pay this Scandinavian a visit since I have easy access to the place. She was pretty much beating herself up over it all night about how could she could be so stupid and I confirmed with her that a lot of the things she did were stupid. I just wish people that are in place to help actually gave a shit.

The worst thing about dating a Thai woman.

What you wrote about what you personally consider to be the worst thing about having a Thai partner struck a chord with me. I've made the exact same observation but have always believed that this may be an unwelcome personality trait that isn't necessarily very widespread. If it is this common, I wonder about the underlying reasons. Of course, the problem with trying to avoid having to deal with what really is a non-issue for you, but possibly an inexplicably huge issue for your partner, is that there's a good chance you'll eventually get caught out lying. In my experience, once that happens, there's a good chance of getting trapped in a vicious circle as your partner may very well feel like her anger and suspicions have become validated by you having made an attempt to hide the non-issue from her in the first place, further increasing her sensitivity in similar situations in the future. Sadly, a relationship I had with an otherwise wonderful, educated, cultured Thai woman I could well imagine having some kind of a future with eventually went to tatters for exactly that reason. No matter how often we talked those things through, she simply couldn't help herself reacting that way.


Big Mango


Business picked up in the bars this week with many girls returning from the countryside along with expats who escaped the madness abroad coming back into the country. You wouldn't say it's busy, but then neither is it tragic like it was last week.

With ongoing meetings as part of the negotiation of new lease agreements at Nana Plaza between existing bar owners and the new leaseholder, it should be pointed out that the massive revamp of the plaza has to be paid for by someone and The Nana Group are committed to returning the plaza to its previous status as Bangkok's unrivaled premier foreigner bar area. Most bar hounds seem to agree that amongst Bangkok's foreigner-centric areas that the prettiest girls are to be found in bars in Nana, Bacarra aside. Engineers are currently examining the plaza and the expected improvements which I hope to outline in a couple of weeks are expected to run in excess of 60 million baht. We're not talking about merely fixing up the old neon sign out front and rejuvenating a bit of neon here and there. If everything goes to plan, Nana will look as good as Cowboy, maybe better!

The new landlords may not be in control just yet but they are concerned about the state of Sukhumvit soi 4. The current slumlords have shown scant interest in what goes on inside the plaza, let alone what is happening right outside the main entrance. The scrum of scum at the mouth of the plaza hasn't added to its appeal and the authorities have been made aware of these concerns. A crackdown on undesirables loitering outside the entrance to Nana Plaza started this past Thursday and will run for a couple of weeks. Expect to see the pesky ladyboy streetwalkers banished further down the soi.

It should also be noted that the new leaseholder at Nana is willing to help broker deals between those bar owners who choose not to remain and any parties interested in moving in. Despite what some existing bar owners may believe, the new leaseholder has no interest in taking over existing venues.

Crackdowns in Thailand are often little more than lip service, but there has been a genuine crackdown on the many Africans who previously hung around sois 3, 3/1 and 5. Today there are few African streetwalkers in and around the Nana area. A friend was down in Pattaya this week and mentioned that they appear to have moved down to Sin City after becoming persona non grata in the capital. I wonder if the move to Sin City where pay for play is cheaper than Bangkok has forced them to drop their rates?

Nana Plaza's Rainbow 4 has long had one of the best lineups of the city's chrome pole palaces, but passing through for a quick drink this week I was shocked at the state of one of the dancing shifts. Some were much closer to pension age than me, with many in the B team sporting a belly that hung out way over their knickers. God help us if there is a C team!


Nana Plaza


Tomorrow, Monday, April 30th, Dave The Rave will celebrate the last birthday of his naughty 40s. Dave, AKA the gogo guru, has been a familiar face in Thailand since the 1980s. Dave can be found on his birthday in Angelwitch in Nana Plaza so stop by and wish him all the best.

If I was a naughty boy, #67 in Shark Bar would definitely be worth getting to know better.

At Christies in Suhkumvit soi 33, every Monday they're doing a buy 1, get 1 drink free promotion on all drinks, all night long. They're also doing catwalk nights on Thursday, Friday and Saturdays. Soi 33 went off the boil years ago so it's nice to see a venue in the dead soi trying something to lure punters back.

New York New York has opened in Pattaya in the spot that once housed Coyotes A Gogo and has borrowed something from the previous venue's name and features a mix of gogo girls and coyote dancers.

English Derek who once upon a time owned and managed The Wanking Frog in Sukhumvit soi 7 is the new manager at The Clubhouse in Sukhumvit soi 23.

Tomorrow night sees Manchester City and Manchester United battle it out in a match which will have a massive bearing on who is crowned champion of the English Premier League. It's a night fixture in the UK and the match will be played at a time when most Bangkok bars would ordinarily be closed. However, if you'd like to watch the match with a bunch of dedicated football fans, swing by Crossbar which is further up soi 23 beyond The Clubhouse, where Wolves fan (about the only thing worse than being a Liverpool supporter this year) and publican, Brian, will have the doors open, the beer cold and the match shown live.

A multi-million baht retractable roof will be installed over the outdoor seating area at New York Gardens where the original Sunrise branch and popular late night venue, Insomnia, are found. It should be in place within a couple of months and will protect against both the sun and the rain.

Speaking of Sunrise, the next branch will open on May 9 in the new Promenade shopping centre set to open out near Ram Intra. For those of you in the north-east of the city who fancy Mexican but don't want to trek all the way into town, you're in luck!

Due to popular demand, Sunrise's 2 for 1 special on various drinks will continue until May 15th to celebrate Cinco de Mayo. That means buy one Margarita, Tequila shot or Carlsberg and get the second free. I love Sunrise's mango margaritas!



The Mexican restaurant, Tacos and Salsa, which can be found at the end of Sukhumvit soi 18 has been sold. The staff and recipes will move into the basement of the Town Lodge Hotel which is at the end of the same soi. The new venue will be called The Mexican and will feature all the Tacos and Salsa best sellers and Mexican burgers, as well as top notch steaks and salads. It should also be noted that the 960 baht special rate at Town Lodge is still available to all Stickman readers.

Thai society might be conservative and shows of affection in public aren't common, especially between Thai / Thai couples. But that doesn't seem to apply to lesbians who seem to cavort much more in public than a straight couple ever would. Why is that?

A couple of years back I included a photo of a professional beggar who threw a flip flop at me on the pedestrian bridge next to Suhkumvit soi 7. She can be seen on Sukhumvit late most nights with a youngster and often a puppy orThailand beggar two. Last Sunday night I was strolling along Sukhumvit when I saw a kid get out of a cab carrying a small puppy followed by a short, fat woman. The taxi dropped them off near The Black Swan around 9:00 PM at night and from there they walked west towards their usual begging spot. This woman is a fixture on Sukhumvit and always begs with young kids and puppies, pulling on the heart strings of foreigners. But surely life must be ok for her if she can take a taxi to work.

Expats and tourists alike were shocked 3 years ago when a 24-year old Irishman decided to check out at the airport rather than check in, leaping a few floors to his death in the airport concourse. Leaping from a condo or hotel balcony has long been the favoured way of down and out foreigners keen to check out early in Thailand. But the way the young Irish guy did it in such a public place was without precedent. It would seem, however, that that incident – a young male Caucasian leaping to his death in such a public place – was hardly an isolated incident. A week and a half ago, on the evening of Wednesday April 18th, a Caucasian estimated to be in his mid-30s leapt to his death at Central World shopping centre around 10 PM. He landed near booths set up for an exhibition on the ground floor. One of the security guards who was present confirms that over the past few years at least 4 others have leapt to their death in Central World – and 3 of them were foreign males! For whatever reason these cases don't make the news. And in each case a spin is put on things. In the most recent case, the official comment was that the guy was seriously injured, broke every bone in his body but did not die. One can only guess they don't want to put the fear of ghosts into customers. If there have been 3 reported cases of foreigners leaping to their death in that one shopping centre, what about all the other shopping centres in Bangkok? And what about all the hotels with grand lobbies? How many unreported cases have there been?


monitor lizard


Taking a leisurely stroll around Lumphini Park this week, the monitor lizards were conspicuous by their absence. When I profiled Lumpini Park a few weeks back in this column, I included photos of soldiers capturing the reptiles and bagging them up into sacks for removal from the park. Was this a long term project to rid the park of, what is for me at least, its #1 attraction? I did 2 laps of the park this week and saw precisely 2 monitors. Normally I would see about 50.

I forgot to mention that the family member visiting your country scam is absolutely rife on the streets of Phnom Penh. For readers unfamiliar with this scam, it's worth of a mention as it's prevalent across the region in various tourist hot spots. Strangely though, I have not seen nor heard of anyone trying it on here in Thailand recently. What happens is that you are approached by a friendly stranger who asks where you're from and irrespective of your response, they will tell you that they have a family member going to your hometown to study the following week. They explain that they are a little concerned about what awaits them and you're invited back to their home for a home-cooked meal and some local hospitality with the idea being you will give them some advice about life in your hometown. Those who accept the invitation are taken to a private residence where a game of cards is being played. You're invited to join in and before you know it you find yourself losing a lot of money – and threatened with bodily harm if you don't pay up. In other instances victims report being drugged and robbed. Needless to say, if you are approached in a public place by someone overly friendly and you hear anything like this, do NOT go with them. When I was approached in Phnom Penh – and it happened a number of times – I responded that I was a guest of the government and involved in special police training which had them disappearing super fast! Phnom Penh and Ho Chi Minh seem to be the two current hot spots for this scam.

Any Aussies willing to bare their bum on "A Current Affair", the following is for you:

A national television show in Australia is looking for men who have been victims of fake marriages from Asia. We are looking to highlight some of the potential hazards Australian men face in their relationships with foreign women. If you have been scammed of money or lied to by a former partner for their gain we would love to hear from you. Please email Stickman with your story and he will forward all mail to us. Australian men only.



Quote of the week comes from Moi, "It's much harder to find success in love or in business in Thailand than it is in the West."

An entrepreneurial, but stupid English teacher from the UK was supplementing his income as a drug dealer in Pattaya.

According to Asia One News, Thais are more worried about the way they look than their brain.

Beware the killer ATM as a Cambodian boy is electrocuted by an ATM machine at the Thailand / Cambodia border.

Travel in Thailand's neighbour, Laos, received a glowing review in this week's Sydney Morning Herald.

An Italian charged with producing pornography in Pattaya denies the charges.

A fascinating documentary about prostitution in 3 different countries is profiled in the New York Times.

The Phuket Gazette reports that an Aussie has died of heatstroke on the island.

The British Ambassador heaps harsh criticism on the Thais for the way they handled last year's mega floods.


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 the next column. You can also contact Sunbelt's legal department directly for all your legal needs.


Question 1: I retired early (age 45) and am legally married to a woman here in Khon Kaen. My wife has gone to my native Australia for 2 years where she is studying at a cooking school. When she returns we hope to open a restaurant. I qualify for a visa based on marriage to a Thai woman but as we will not be living together for 2 years – she will return to Thailand a couple of times each year – but only for limited periods, will this affect my ability to qualify for the marriage visa?

Sunbelt responds: It would depend on the type of visa you have. If you have a one year extension based on marriage to a Thai national then your wife must go with you to Immigration to renew each year. Under this visa you are generally required to live together, however they usually only check on this at application and renewal times.


Question 2: A friend has asked me if a man and a woman, neither of whom are Thai citizens, can marry in Thailand. I'm sure the answer is yes, but I'd like to know more. Do you recall if this question has been asked of your on-site lawyer before?

Sunbelt responds: It is possible for two foreigners to marry in Thailand and many people choose Thailand as a location to marry for its many beautiful locations. Both people will need to get affirmations of freedom to marry from their respective embassies which state that they are not married. If they are divorced then they will need to bring the divorce certificate. These affirmations are then translated into Thai and certified at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Once this is done, then the couple can marry at any District Office. Sunbelt Asia offers this service for couples who don't want to navigate the minefield of Thai bureaucracy. Our professional fees are 10,000 baht for the service.



Pretty Thai


Despite false and silly rumours, I don't have any plans to phase out or eliminate the nightlife component of this column. I strive to cover and include all the latest bar industry news and gossip as well as any interesting stories and amusing anecdotes that reach me from dark sois with bright neon lights. The nightlife news and gossip makes up a large chunk of the middle of the column – the news section – and will not disappear. The opening piece, however, is less likely to be nightlife focused. At the end of the day, a Bangkok column focused on expat affairs would be incomplete without nightlife coverage, wouldn't it?!

Your Bangkok commentator,

Stick

Firehouse