Online dating in Thailand today is more popular than ever. In the early days savvy net users contacted those of interest via the popular instant messaging application of the day, ICQ. Bangkokchat was the first Thailand-centric chat site used primarily as a place to meet the opposite sex before a bunch of pure dating sites followed. Face-pic was popular for a while before ThailandFriends took things to the next level, bringing much functionality, and successfully bridging dating with social networking. There were also the likes of Tagged, DateInAsia, Match and others, all of which had a following. But for 5 years ThaiLoveLinks has ruled the roost and today has a staggering 2.3 million registered users. Its position as the premier Thailand dating site seems set to continue. Or does it? Someone has other ideas!
Where ThaiLoveLinks is the product of CupidMedia, an Australian company with more than 30 dating sites, ThaiFriendly is but a one-man operation. This week I had a chat with the owner and webmaster of ThaiFriendly which is aiming to knock ThaiLoveLinks off its spot and become the most popular Thailand dating site. And after meeting with the very bright guy behind ThaiFriendly, I think it just may happen!
How long have you been in Thailand?
6 years. Initially I did not want to be here. 6 or 7 friends invited me to come. They were going to get a villa in Phuket. I had heard a lot about the country, you know, bars and prostitution and that kind of turned me off the idea. Eventually my friends persuaded me. I came over here, had an amazing time and my ideas of Thailand were very different about what I had read or heard.
So how long has ThaiFriendly been operating?
I registered the domain in January 2010. I originally used a script online called Dolphin which I thought was terrible and after about 3 months I decided to make my own from scratch so it has been roughly two years.
The site seems to be growing at quite a rate. I remember you telling me you were getting 100 sign-ups a day two years ago.
Really? It feels good to hear that number again! Now female sign-ups alone are almost three times that.
More females sign up than males?
Yep, there are about 150 – 200 males per day and between 200 and 300 female signups per day.
You have around 200,000 members now, right?
Yep, about 200,000 in total. Daily logins number about 30,000.
Yikes, that's serious traffic!
That is verifiable via Google. About 40,000 unique visitors a day come to the site and about 30,000 are registered members. Who are these 10,000 who come and don't sign up?
You must have huge server costs. I pay $70 a year all up for my site which gets serious traffic. But I get the feeling you pay a little bit more…
It would be impossible to run my site on $70 a month! We pay a lot more than that! One of the reasons our hosting costs are quite expensive is that we recently relocated our servers from Texas to Singapore because 80% of all our traffic is based in Asia. Of course most of our users are in Thailand and I want to give our users the best possible experience. Before, page load times were around the 5-second mark. Now they are just under 4 seconds. It might not seem much but a second for every person for every interaction on the site really saves time.
What percentage of the male users would be Caucasian and what percentage are Thai, other Asian and other ethnicities?
I would say Western males are probably about 60 – 70%, perhaps not as much as you would imagine. The remaining would be Asians from Japan, Hong Kong, Korea and Singapore.
How does the site differentiate from other Thai dating sites?
I'm fighting with TLL for the number one spot in Thailand. I think based on Alexa stats for Thailand only, we are now the number one site here amongst users actually in Thailand. I don't think there are any pure dating sites with a higher place in Alexa. That is one of the reasons I think we are more competitive than other dating sites because we have such a high proportion of Thailand-based users visiting the site.
I know how much of a headache running a site can be. What are some of the challenges of running your site?
There are many challenges! The first and most important is ensuring that everyone has a safe dating experience. Over the 2 years that I have been running the site, there have been many things I have learned about effectively blocking scammers and the various scams in online dating. We have problem countries blocked at the server level.
A good friend of mine owns and runs FindLoveAsia, an Asian-centric as opposed to a Thai-centric dating site. He has problems with Nigerians and other scammers setting up bogus accounts with dozens created every day. Do you have that even with the server level blocking?
Yes, the Nigerians get around it by using proxies and may also get around it because some are based right here in Thailand. However, we have developed software to help identify them. Originally I was looking at some of the signals and trying to make a thumbprint of what the typical Nigerian scammers would look like. I found there were many common traits such as if you are using ThaiFriendly and one day you start asking Thai ladies if they would be interested in working for you as a nanny then you might find your account temporarily stops working while we manually review your profile.
I know there are some dodgy profiles set up by Nigerians, but I also believe there are many Western sexual predators in Thailand using dating sites. Many have graduated from the naughty bars to online. Instead of paying with money, they try to pay with time and effort. But one thing with ThaiFriendly is that it seems to be a slightly younger crowd than some other sites and sexual predators tend to be a little older. What do you think of this and the problem in general?
I have found that the most vulnerable women on my site tend to be the older ladies using the site. When I say older, I mean 35 – 40 up. These users tend to be more naive about dating online, believing that everybody they talk with is more genuine. The younger users are a lot more switched on and tend to report people a lot more allowing us to block any problem profiles. While we don't want to block casual users of the site, I think there is a big difference between being a casual user and being a threat.
The biggest Thai girl / Western guy dating site is TLL but it has noticeably suffered over the past 12 months from an influx of money girls and bargirls trying their luck online. Is this a widespread problem for Thailand dating sites?
I believe there are two types of girls out there that meet that description. The bargirl who is clearly out for money prostitutes herself on the site and the girl that is looking for financial support but not directly advertising prostitution. We block many members every day for blatant solicitation on the site but there are many users who take the conversation to other applications like MSN Messenger or Skype to then solicit customers which is obviously impossible for us to moderate so we rely on user reports to help keep the site clean.
There's one girl who is quite popular on the site. She keeps coming back and posting naked photos and saying "No money, no honey – contact me" and gives her phone number and email! We have blocked her more times than I care to remember. She just changes her phone number and email. Every time she joins we get a flurry of reports and we race to hit the ban button and delete her profile.
So what is the main reason for deleting or blocking members' profiles?
For males, the most common reason is scamming. They are usually blocked within an hour of signing up, usually after their first message either because they were accessing the site from a bad location or certain aspects of their profile were suspicious.
For the ladies, girls that sign up and say they are 18 but then in the text of their profile say they are 14 and looking for an adoptive father get blocked after that first message.
Scams originating from female members have evolved from the typical sick buffalo stories of yesteryear. Nowadays the stories tend to me much more heart-wrenching with family members in hospital and so forth.
I believe there are plenty of Thai women on dating sites who I could reasonably describe as "farang crazy". By that I mean they want a guy simply because he is a foreigner, and not necessarily because he is a good guy or even a good match for them. I also believe that these women eventually get bored of the guy, but crucially, this often happens when their relationship has become serious i.e. they have tied the knot or had kids and splitting up becomes a problem. What do you make of this?
There is a wide variety of Thai ladies on the site. Many of them come to the site with the opinion that farang guys are somehow better than Thai guys and most likely they have had a very bad experience in the past and have made it their sole mission to get a foreigner as a boyfriend. They jump straight in to the first relationship so they can say they have achieved their goal without considering if the guy is the right match. On top of that the cultural differences are there and may make things more difficult.
I think there are two types of farang crazy girls. The first type being someone who wants to marry a farang because they are looking for the support of the farang and they had a bad experience before. The second type which tends to be a lot younger is say a university-aged girl who is in love with farang culture and just wants to meet and talk with farangs, practice English, see movies together etc but is not necessarily looking for financial support but rather just out to have a good time.
Is there a typical profile of a Thai woman on your site – as compared to other Thai dating sites?
I would say there is definitely not a typical profile of Thai women on my site and it is really varied with Thai women coming to the site for many different reasons. Looking for friends, language practice, just to meet or experience a farang and of course those who are more serious and looking for love or marriage. One of the biggest differences between my site and say TLL would be that the female user base tends to be a lot younger because my site is not promoted as a serious marriage-related site which would tend to scare away some of the younger female visitors. Because of this, I see sites like TLL have a higher number of, for example, marriage-hunting farm girls than my site.
I like your choice of words!
How has social networking and the likes of Facebook had an effect on traditional dating sites.
I think everything is getting much more social with social dating sites popping up left, right and centre. A friend of mine added me to Facebook recently and a few days later I went over to his Facebook page and found 7 or 8 of the Thai girls who were friends on my profile were now friends on his list! I think dating is becoming much more social. I think the big threat to sites like mine is sites like Facebook when they decide to expand their search facility for the site because pretty much every Thai girl has a Facebook account.
That reminds me of ICQ in the old days. You'd go into the search facility, search for Thai women aged say 25 – 30 and invite anyone who met that criteria and who was online to chat. Wow, I had some fun back then!
I've got my ideas, but why do you think online dating between Western guys and Thai women is so popular in Thailand?
It's so convenient! From the comfort of your armchair you can connect to hundreds of thousands of Thai women who might be interested in you. Using tools like a webcam and online chat you can save a lot of time by meeting face to face without actually having to meet them in person, leveraging technology to save time and give you more choice. Convenience, I guess, in a word.
What do you think when you see your site with its free sign-up and introduction agencies with invariably less attractive girls offering to introduce guys to a lady for fees that can run thousands of dollars?!
<For the first time, he is speechless> For just $25 on my site you can log on and browse through profiles of thousands of ladies. Whatever location you want, the right age range for you etc. Thousands of dollars? That's just crazy! Why would anyone pay that much money for an introduction unless it was an extremely high profile executive dating agency that focused on introducing say high profile businessmen with high profile businesswomen. For your regular office girl or university girl you can use ThaiFriendly.
Have you have had any high-profile signups, you know famous people?
Flatly no. Sorry to be boring. I imagine such people would probably use a fake photo or no photo at all to retain their privacy. One of my close friends that I met through ThaiFriendly works in an office where there are lots of single, beautiful girls that are just too busy and don't know how to go about finding the right guy for them and they are starting to turn to sites like Thai Friendly.
How have the people using the site changed over the period you've been running the site i.e. on TLL there are many Turks and guys from Eastern Europe these days whereas in the past, there were fewer.
Turkey, unfortunately, is a problem country.
In what way?
We get a disproportionate number of Turkish guys signing up and wanting to flash women on webcam. Some sign up with a female profile to get unlimited messages. There are no restrictions for female users whereas male users are limited to one message every ten minutes unless they are a paid up account. Most female sign-ups that do not originate in Thailand are blocked anyway.
What about Russians? I ask this because more and more Russians are visiting the country.
I would say Russians have been using ThaiFriendly from the start with no real change. The demographics have remained much the same from a year ago until now. Bear in mind the site has only been running two years ago so sweeping changes should not really be expected.
The most desirable ethnicities for Thai girls are Korean, American, Japanese and British.
What about Kiwis?
Unfortunately you Kiwis get lumped in with the Aussies most of the time. Sorry about that! <There's laughter all around!> Most Thai girls cannot tell the difference between a Kiwi and an Aussie.
What tips do you have for guys online dating in terms of creating a profile that makes them stand out, and dong well with Thai women they meet online in general?
The biggest tip I would say is to be polite. Thai women really respect people who are polite and friendly and have a clean appearance. Speaking of good appearance, you should upload a good, clear photo of yourself as a photo is essential to getting replies from any dating site.
Photos with talking points are great because it makes it easy for a girl to send you a message to open things up. Photos with cats and animals in general are especially good. Thai girls love animals.
One of the biggest tips for dating online in Thailand is be honest. Do not lie! If you follow this rule, you will have a drama-free life. Be brutally honest about your intentions and should your intentions change, keep the girl up to date. Do this and you will drastically reduce the likelihood of any drama. Even at the expense of a girl not meeting you, it saves time and stress for everyone in the long run and you can move on to a girl who does want to meet you. Really, I think this is valuable information. That goes both ways, for the girls too.
I think that is just part of being a good person. It really winds me up when guys unnecessarily BS girls they meet online. The number of guys who make themselves out to be something they are not, which usually means saying they are younger than they are, or have a fancy job which in fact they do not, is crazy.
Do you think the online dating scene in Thailand has become saturated? ThaiLoveLinks has 2.3 million+ users (but probably only a fraction of are active). You have about 200,000. There are other Thailand dating websites, to say nothing of Facebook and other social networking sites where a lot of hookups occur. Do you think there is a lot more growth to come in the market?
Absolutely there is more growth. As more and more of Thailand becomes networked, more and more Thai ladies will come online. I think it is far from saturated. I think mobile dating will become more prevalent in the future.
So come on, tell me the truth, when a really hot girl signs up for ThaiFriendly, do you make a point of dating her first before other guys get a chance?!
I give everybody a fair chance but I do of course have the advantage of seeing who signs up. At the start I was much more involved in moderation and of course it is very important to test your own product in the early stages of development! It was a great feeling to know that, oh my God, it actually works! Now I have moderators and most of them are female and I don't get as much of a live feed as I used to. At the end of the day if a very desirable girl signs up for the site it is ultimately good for the site overall.
* You can site up for ThaiFriendly free to see if it works for you, and if you like the site you can become a premium member. Use the code "Stickman" and get a 20% discount for the next 30 days.
*Where* was this photo taken?
Last week's photo was taken of the railway tracks that run through downtown Bangkok. Petchaburi Road was just behind me and the bridge in the foreground runs over the Saen Saeb Canal. All you have to do is tell me where the photo was taken. I am happy to announce a new prize provider this week! There is a voucher for Sunrise Tacos and I am pleased to announce Firehouse in Sukhumvit soi 11, known for its excellent hamburgers, is the new prize provider. I have a voucher from Firehouse to give away each week.
Terms and conditions: The 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! You MUST specify which prize you would like and failure to do so will result in the prize going to the next person to get the photo correct.
Are you a candidographer? If so, then you will want to be a part of the community at Candidography. Candidography is the art of taking photos and videos of people without them knowing. The site is more than just a voyeur site, a place for 240,000+ members of voyeur content to chat, comment, upload content and browse through loads of pics and videos. Sign up is free so you can post your best original pictures that you shot with your own camera and win a free membership to the premium upgrades.
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 – Local logic!
I went to a drug store in Bangkok yesterday to buy Cialis (not for me, of course, I carry it in case friends need it) and the girl displayed three boxes – one made in India, one made in Spain and I think one made in Cambodia or somewhere. That from India was about 1,000 baht for four, the made in Cambodia was about 1400 and the box made in Spain was 2,800. I said why the heck is the four Cialis made in Spain so damn expensive? She said, "Khao chana!" They won! OK, I have warned before about trying to understand Thai logic but just because some Spanish guys won some stupid game where half-men / half-children try to kick balls into nets, Cialis made in Spain is now a lot more expensive? Aargh! I swear some day I will go back to Connecticut where I grew up and just shovel snow and be happy; or at least less confused!
Shark fan #1.
Your interview with Shark was perhaps the best and most honest evaluation of the way of life in Pattaya, in my opinion. Everything is a lie, you can pay your way out of most things, the head games with the girls, and the weirdoes in Pattaya. All so very, very true. I can understand if you are a decent guy you really do not want to have friends in Pattaya as sooner or later one will do you in. That is the way it is there. You can almost always tell how long a person has been living in Thailand by their attitude toward the country. When I first went there I thought it was heaven. Time changed that.
Shark fan #2.
Great article this week on the Shark of Pattaya. The interview was a real insight into a man who many judge by his looks rather than who he is. I used to live in Surfers Paradise, on the Gold Coast, and Tim was a regular feature around town. At first glance, you see a muscled-up guy but after talking to him for a little bit you realise that his personality has many facets and that underneath the rough exterior is a gentle, loyal man. I've only ever had the chance to talk to him a few times. We used to get coffee at the same place, Gloria Jeans in Surfers, but he was thoroughly interesting and always extremely warm and friendly.
Shark fan #3.
Last week's interview with “Shark-man” was probably the best article I have read on these pages – thank you for a really great insight into the person. Here is a man who knows what life is all about – is independently financially comfortable, knows how life really works in Asia, yet is strong enough (physically and mentally) to stand up for the things that be believes and is not afraid to say so. It is no surprise that there are so many who wish to meet him. I think you should give yourself and "Sharky" green stars for that interview. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.
No fan of the Shark!
Shark is one of the ugliest human specimens I have seen in quite some time. His physique and his tattoos are simply revolting, and any girl who would go with him is out of her mind. In 10 years his tattoos will have faded and they will look worse than they do, and as soon as he stops the heavy exercising and drugs all that muscle will turn to fat. He'll look worse than the fattest specimen you can find in Pattaya. I'd be very surprised if he doesn't suffer a stroke or heart attack within the next several years, what with the drugs he's taking. His attitude toward bargirls is equally revolting, and it is precisely guys like him who have made for the decline of the Girl Friend Experience. A girl with any sensibility will be rightly scared just looking at him, and just as well it's all short-time; who could imagine spending a night sleeping with someone like that. As for his nutty idea that girls hate you the more you give them: pure bullshit. In short, you could not have picked a better example to epitomise all that is sick and revolting about Pattaya. Too bad there isn't a way to find all the Sharks in the world and stuff them into Pattaya. There's more to be said about the sickness Shark represents, but why bother – it ought to be obvious to one and all. And why anyone would want to meet this guy – gotta be nuts. Hard to see a single redeeming quality in him.
Reality price check.
Walk into any real estate office here in Phuket, and the first two words that come blurting out of the sales staff's mouths are security and investment. And just who's security and investment are they referring to? Not yours of course but theirs! A Swedish guy locally was diagnosed with terminal cancer, and told he had only 3 months to live. He immediately put his property on the market, sold it and returned to Sweden. So how much do you think he got for his villa that he had previously paid 17 million baht for? 15? 12? Sorry, did I hear 10 at the back of the room? No, no, no, he let it go, more like wrote it off, for can you believe a miserable 7 million baht! The reality between what you paid for a villa here, the dream price that those put their properties on the market for, and the reality for what is actually achieved is truly staggering.
A new part of the naughty boy's travel kit?
I expect that you will have 100 people sending you a link about the new Home HIV Test Kit from the New York Times. The article notes that the test has some weaknesses but it seems to be an improvement over the complicated and time consuming process of going to a clinic. It just takes a simple swab of the mouth and then wait 20 – 40 minutes. That would be enough time to start the test and then go out for a drink. So should a visitor to Thailand pack a pile of these kits along with the condoms? How would a Thai female companion react to a positive result? Would the woman also request that the foreigner test himself at the same time? Someone may want to test a random group of women at different locations. Pay them only for a quick mouth swab and send them on their way. Of course, one wouldn't want to associate the results with any individual but group statistics might be valuable. I see some uncharted territory if many women at a particular bar proved to be HIV positive. If outsiders posted the HIV status of people that they met or worse, posted false information about people there could be lawsuits or arrests of the poster in Thailand. For those searching for a long-term relationship or a wife, a test to determine negative HIV status may be seen as important in her ability to give birth to healthy children.
The top of soi 4 is changing with two beer bars closing last night. Stumble Inn has closed – and the girls can now be found just inside the plaza in Lucky Luke's. Strikers Sports Bar is also no longer in business, and should be relocating down to the Rajah Hotel car park.
The master lease for Nana Plaza expired yesterday and is no longer controlled by Nana Castle, which until yesterday had been the landlords for all these years. The question now being asked is just who is the new leaseholder. Stories are flying around about what's going on and what was supposedly a done deal is now shrouded in mystery. Things started to become unclear a few weeks back when a ground floor gogo bar owner did a deal with the new owner of the property, not the new leaseholder. With the rumour mill saying that this venue secured a deal with terms much more attractive than what had been on offer, word spread that other owners were keen to secure a similar deal. The latest is that the group which was said to be the master lease only has subleases for some of the plaza and not all of it. What sort of bearing this has on the mooted plans for the much-needed sprucing up the plaza remains to be seen.
Some of the properties that make up what was known as the Crown Group of bars, a group which was bought lock, stock and barrel by the Nana Group, have been doing miserable business. Fantasia and Carnival are as dead as the dodo. It would be great to see the bars in this group return to their former glory. Start with G Spot and resurrect the shower show. That used to pack the bar and there's no reason to think that formula couldn't be successful today.
Rumour has it that the spot where Stumble Inn was – now closed – and the tailor's store next store are going to be gutted and that Morning Night, the first beer bar you pass when entering soi 4, is going to be expanded from a 2-shophouse beer bar into a massive 4-shophouse operation. This would make it one of the biggest (perhaps *the* biggest?) beer bars in the country.
Big Dogs really has become an eye sore. I don't know any other way to put it and I cannot help but feel that the cosmetic changes made to the railings of the bar – see photo on the right – are nothing more than an attempt to do something different, an attempt to theme the bar in a way that I just cannot see having any real positive effect on the number of customers. And painting the railing bright yellow? Unless that is some sort of undercoat, it wouldn't have been my first choice! Time to go back to the basics of what makes a good bar methinks – well-mixed drinks at fair prices, good service and pretty, friendly maidens. Rocket science it isn't.
The exchange booth and the ATM machine that have long been fixtures at the mouth of Nana Plaza have been removed leaving something of a gap at the entranceway (see large photo above).
Building work is taking place on the top floor of the Hollywood Inn, the hotel within the confines of Nana Plaza. There is speculation that another beauty salon is being put together.
I did a run through some of the older freelancer venues along Sukhumvit this week and can report that pickings were slim. The Dragongarden – I mean the Biergarten – was rough, scary almost. Gulliver's had a ratio of about 4 guys to every girl. Thermae had heaps of pretty woman but few showed any interest in those not from North Asia. There were a good few white guys and many were repelled when approaching girls. Insomnia and Climax remain the top freelancer bars but neither really gets going until after midnight.
There's a new hotel in Sukhumvit soi 1 with a room no Thai will want to stay in and no chambermaid will want to service for fear of ghosts. A few days ago a foreigner and his Thai accomplice attempted to fly and realised too late that they didn't have wings, and hit the deck at high speed. Needless to say it was game over. Did they jump? Were they pushed? Who knows? You tend to hear more reports of jumping from Pattaya, but it happens in Bangkok too.
The English / Thai couple who operate MyThai-Visa.com which specialises in helping with visa applications for Thai nationals going to the UK are currently in Thailand. They would be happy to provide advice or assist anyone seeking UK visa advice and can be reached on 084-3551796.
You know business is bad when the number of Japanese customers in the Rainbow bars takes a big dip. There has been a noticeable drop off in customers going through Rainbows 1, 2 and 3. Rainbow 4 has a much wider appeal and attracts both Westerners and Asian men and still seems to be doing ok.
If any cider-drinking readers find themselves in Jomtien, you might like to visit Jules Sportarama. Mention "Stickman" and they will serve you a pint of Westons Traditional Scrumpy at a discounted 120 baht or a 300ml bottle of TNC cider at 60 baht. This special runs until the end of July. Jules Sportarama restaurant & bar features 10 TV screens, free pool, free bar billiards, free book loan and free wi-fi. There's also an extensive food menu. You can find it in View Talay 1A on Thappraya Road, Jomtien.
One of the most viewed images on Thailand websites is that of the model on the ThaiLoveLinks banner – and what a babe she is. Did you know that if you were to do a reverse image search you can find more revealing photos of her?
It can be interesting to hear what some of the locals think of us. A foreign friend was in a taxi recently on his way to Saphan Kwai – specifically to the bars of Saphan Kwai, gogo bars for Thai men where foreigners are welcome but where farangs make up but a small percentage of the customers. Anyway, the taxi driver was quite frank in his comments about Saphan Kwai. "You do not have to use a condom with the ladies there", he said. When asked why this was, he responded, "Very few foreigners go there so the girls are clean and therefore a condom isn't necessary." I thought this sort of thinking was a thing of the past, but it seems not.
If you're flying into Bangkok and have a connecting flight which might be tight time-wise, you might want to reconsider rescheduling to give yourself a bit more time. One runway at the airport has been worked on and there can be congestion at peak times which sees some flights put in a holding pattern which can delay landing time. Not a great deal for most people, but those who have tight connections might find it the difference between making their connecting flight or not.
Cashiers making mistakes with customers' change seems to occur more often in Thailand than elsewhere, and the cynics might wonder why 90% of the time when the change is wrong it's in the house's favour. This can become irritating and on the very odd occasion when the opposite happens – when the change is wrong but in your favour – one might be tempted to pocket the difference. Please think twice about it. In probably 98% of businesses in Thailand any shortfall at the till must be made up by the cashier personally. With this in mind, if you do notice an error, it really would be the right thing to point this out and return the money. If you take it, you're essentially taking money out of the cashier's pocket.
There's been some interesting comments in the readers' submissions section of this site the past week or two concerning HIV and how easily, or otherwise, it can be transmitted from female to male. One thing that has come out of this that I find perturbing – and I just know I will be pilloried by some for saying this – is the HIGH number of Western guys in Thailand who party without a party hat with hookers. It seems not to concern some guys where they meet girls, be it the flashest chrome pole palace or the darkest corner of Pattaya's Beach Road, many are doing the business without wrapping up. I always knew this was going on but I never quite knew the extent. Reckless is the first word that comes to mind, but it's more than that. It's a complete lack of respect. I note that in New Zealand where prostitution was decriminalised some years ago, the use of condoms is required in commercial sex. No condom and you could find yourself in trouble. Call me a prude, call me a spoil sport, call me what you will, but that just seems sensible to me.
Reader's story of the week comes from The Dancer, "Dead Farang Removal Service".
A 77-year old Brit is beaten to death by his Thai wife after he changed his will to leave her a paltry £340,000.
A Thai biology teacher is sentenced to 78 months prison in the US for being in possession of the worst kind of porn.
A cat fight breaks out in Pattaya, not between two Thai birds, but between an American and a Brit.
A New Zealand man is stuck in a Thai hospital with a $16,000 hospital bill he cannot pay.
There is a media blackout in place in Phuket with police officers not allowed to release information to the media.
A drug dealer in Isaan goads the coppers to catch him…and they do!
The Thai police busted another boiler room this week, right in the farang heartland on Sukhumvit.
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: A friend wants to go to Thailand for 90 days but has a criminal record. He did actual jail time – and for some reason thinks I'm the expert on Thailand and has made it my job to find out. My opinion is that under 30 days is no problem however a 90-day visa would require him to have no criminal record. Am I correct here?
Sunbelt responds: Unless your friend was arrested and did jail time in Thailand then they normally do not do a criminal check for a 90-day visa. If your friend is applying for a retirement visa at a Thai embassy overseas then they will require a criminal records check, or if he plans on working as a teacher. However, if he was arrested and did jail time in Thailand then it may be that he is on the blacklist. He should check this before attempting to enter Thailand.
Question 2: If my Thai wife asks for a divorce, is she expected to return the sin sot I paid when I married her?
Sunbelt responds: Sin Sod is not marital property. It is property the man gives to the woman's parents so that he may marry her. Once marriage occurs the property is transferred to the parents and is not included in marital property.
Question 3: My missus and I were hitched in 1990. She got residency and she naturalized in about 1995 (Australian citizenship). She still has her original Thai passport, ID card and Tabien-Ban (all outdated). She has not used the Thai passport since 1992 and it expired in 1995. I will send her to the Thai consulate with copies of the paperwork but before I do this: Has she lost her Thai citizenship? If so, can she get it back? All the Thai government info suggests Thais who don't actually renounce their origin are still Thais. Is this so? Finally if she has lost her citizenship of Thailand, would she be able to reclaim it?
Sunbelt responds: She has not lost her citizenship. She needs to go to the Thai embassy to renew her passport. When she returns to Thailand she will need to leave Australia on her Australian passport and enter Thailand on her Thai passport. Once she is in Thailand she should go to a district office to renew her ID card and to see if she is still on the house registration book. If she is not, she will need to show her new ID card to register on a new house registration book.
June is traditionally one of the quietest months of the year for international tourist arrivals and is now behind us, much to the relief of bar, restaurant and hotel owners who for the past few weeks have been gloomy. A quiet June is the norm just as July being better than June is as certain as the sun rising tomorrow. August will also be ok. September will see a dip – it's one of the wettest months – and from October through until the new year tourist numbers will steadily increase month on month as they do almost every year. The tourism industry in Thailand is predictable and arrival numbers this year mirror previous years. The difference today is not the number of visitors, but their profile with the country marketed more as a family-friendly destination. Naughty boys make up a smaller percentage of visitors than they once did. With this in mind, those with business interests in Thailand might choose not to focus on the bar industry, but perhaps look at other services which might appeal to the new visitors. The tourists will be back. The big question is, however, do they want to buy what you're selling?!
Your Bangkok commentator,