Stickman's Weekly Column September 16th, 2012

Bangkok Canal Boat Trip

I was shocked when my pal, Mega, an 18-year veteran of Bangkok, told me that not only had he never been on the Saen Saeb Canal, nor had he visited Wat Saket. So when the clouds broke and the sun shone through earlier this week, offering a reprieve from the rains and perpetual cloudy skies that are the norm at this time of year, we seized the chance to venture outside, get some Vitamin D, and take a few shots. It was time to put Mega's oversight right.

San Saeb Canal Bangkok

The Saen Saeb Canal runs east from the Chao Praya River through central Bangkok, just south of Petchaburi Road, before a kink near Ramkhamhaeng Road and it takes on a north-easterly towards Bangkapi and beyond, all the way to Chachoengsao province.

The canal – or klong as it is called in Thai – was in the news every day around this time last year when the flood waters over much of the central region of the country edged closer to the centre of Bangkok. The Saen Saeb Canal unofficially marks the northern boundary of what could be considered central, or downtown Bangkok and if the water had breached it, central Bangkok would have been hit.

With 20 odd piers, the canal is used by Bangkokians as an alternative to the roads to get around the city. The section of the canal serviced by passenger boars extends from the Panfa Bridge Pier in the west (about 1 km from Khao San Road), all the way to The Mall shopping centre in Bangkapi, in the north-eastern part of the city.

San Saeb Canal Bangkok

The canal boats tend to be used by younger, lower or lower-middle class Thais as a means of getting from the suburbs into the middle of the city. The well-to-do are as loathe to use them as they are to be seen eating som tam on a busy street corner.

Passengers pay on board with staff walking along the outside rail of the vessel collecting the fare as it barrels along the canal!

San Saeb Canal Bangkok

We jumped on at the Asoke Pier, a stone's throw from the Petchaburi MRT station, and headed west. At 14 baht to go all the way to the end, it's a bargain.

Taking photos out the side of the boat is no easy task. Commuters pull up the canvas which offers protection from filthy canal water splashing up while two white dudes were hanging out over the side to get the best possible shot. These boats were never designed for scenic tours, and life on the canal isn't nearly as diverse nor as interesting as what is seen on the main Chao Praya River. Take a cruise on the Chao Praya – one of the must-dos in Bangkok – before you consider a trip on the Saen Saeb.

Klong Saen Saeb

There's an interchange at the Pratunam Pier which is just a couple of hundred metres from the mammoth Central World Shopping Centre and a little confusing because everyone must get off. Even passengers going from one end of the canal to the other must get off – and get on another boat going in the same direction!

The passenger boats operating on the Saen Saeb are functional and not built for comfort, nor do I think it was ever envisaged that tourists would take them. Even with Bangkok's burgeoning expat populace, the sight of two white guys getting on raised plenty of eyebrows of the passengers on board.

At peak times the boats are every bit as packed as the skytrain, but don't offer the same smooth ride nor the comfort of air-con. It's a relatively quick and inexpensive way of getting around with fares running just 8 – 18 baht. Getting on and off is not what you'd call difficult, but if you have back problems, bad hips, are seriously overweight or are carrying bags, you mightn't find getting on and off a lot of fun. I don't doubt that over the years the odd person must have fallen in the drink.

During the rainy season it would be a dreadfully uncomfortable way to get around and when the weather is at its worst the service can be suspended.

San Saeb Canal Bangkok

At first glance it appears that the staff have a hair-raising job, clinging on to the outside of the boat for dear life, but even when another vessel passes and the canal becomes choppy they seem not the least bit perturbed and exhibit that classic Thai characteristic of being relaxed and seemingly never ever panicking. I wouldn't be surprised if the odd one even dozed in and out of consciousness as they leaned against the side of the boat, so relaxed do they seem.

San Saeb Canal Bangkok

Just beyond Phyathai Road and the Saphan Hua Chang (Elephant Head Bridge) heading west, we pass a boat going in the other direction, beside Srapathum Palace. Boats on the canal must slow to a crawl as they pass the royal property.

San Saeb Canal Bangkok

The captain skilfully guides the vessel along the narrow canal. There are few kinks or bends and it's largely a case of avoiding boats going in the other direction. The canal does not appear to be open to general river traffic.

At peak hour in the morning and late afternoon / early evening there's a small armada on the river with boats just a minute or two apart. In the middle of the day they seem to run 10 – 15 minutes apart. There is just one route and you choose east or west.

San Saeb Canal Bangkok

It may not be glamorous but it's an honest way to make a living, a job which may be but a small link in a long chain, but which plays an important part in a process nonetheless.

San Saeb Canal Bangkok

It's late morning and we've arrived at the Panfa Bridge Pier, the last stop and as far west as the passenger boats go. She'd probably been up at sparrow-fart and was catching some zzz before her boat hit the canal for the hour or so journey up to the other end.

The boat service starts early, around 6 AM or so as boat passengers join the daily commute from the suburbs into central Bangkok.

Golden Mount Buddha Bangkok

From the Panfa Bridge Pier, you can see Wat Saket nearby. Known in English as The Golden Mount, it's a couple of kilometres north of Chinatown and not far east of the Grand Palace, placing firmly in the old part of the city where many of the most sacred temples are located. The area is home to numerous shops with Buddha images and other paraphernalia which is sold near temples.

San Saeb Canal Bangkok

When I first saw the seated fellow with his face mask and a cable coming down from above I thought Lord Buddha had taken a trip to the dentist. On closer inspection I realised a vendor was actually polishing a Buddha statue.

San Saeb Canal Bangkok

At the foot of the Golden Mount these two fine young men were on patrol, keeping an eye on those about to ascend the 318 steps to the top. One sporting a big grin and the other looking stern, they've got the good cop / bad cop routine down pat!

San Saeb Canal Bangkok

Beautiful Bangkok, where old temples stand side by side tall modern buildings. From the top of the Golden Mount looking to the north-west, the twin tower condo buildings right next to the Pinklao Bridge, just on the other side of the Chao Praya River, pierce the horizon.

San Saeb Canal Bangkok

At the top of the Golden Mount, which is in fact a manmade hill, sits a large stupa. Unlike the Grand Palace and Wat Po which are just a mile or so further down the road towards the river, the Golden Mount gets a relatively small number of foreign visitors. It's amazing more of the backpackers from Khao San Road don't make it there, especially given that entry is free.

Rhetoric played over and over on the loudspeaker system at the temple grates, but the sun is shining, the Thais are smiling and we agreed that we'd much rather visit a temple than a church any day, not that either of us are religious. Heathens, the both of us!

San Saeb Canal Bangkok

A tourist attraction it may be, but first and foremost it's a Buddhist temple, a place of religious worship. The Thais are remarkably tolerant of foreign visitors fumbling around as they go about their worship.

San Saeb Canal Bangkok

There's a cool breeze at the top that takes the edge off the heat of the Thailand sun. An hour later the two Kiwi white boys were walking around with red faces.

The Saen Saeb canal boat and Wat Saket might not be the high profile attractions that say the Grand Palace and Patpong are, but a ride on the canal is something a little different and Wat Saket is a nice place to spend an hour or two, a pleasant spot with a view over the old part of the city.

As we were making our way down the steps at The Golden Mount I said to my mate, "The best of Bangkok isn't found at night."

*Where* was this photo taken?


Last week's photo was taken of the Saphan Thaksin skytrain station. For this week's photo, I want to know pretty much
exactly where it is and for example, 500 metres from the Indonesian embassy would not be ok! There are two prizes this week, a 300-baht voucher for Sunrise Tacos
and a 500-baht voucher for Firehouse in Sukhumvit soi 11, known for its excellent hamburgers.

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.

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 WEEKWhy Aussie blokes come to Thailand.

I was amazed and shocked whilst sitting in the general passenger lounge at Phuket Airport last week. An Aussie Sheila waltzed into the bar, ordered a Tequila, salted her hand and picked up the Tequila shot with her lips and slung it back like a Mexican pro. She did this three times. It was on the third occasion that my wife whispered to me to look at her thighs which were amply displayed beneath her short dress. On her left leg and descending down to the back of the knee appeared to be something akin to flames with purple and scarlet hues predominant. However, it was the other leg that had transfixed by wife's gaze. On that pin she had stamped in blue, red and orange S-E-X with an arrow pointing upwards to the chamber of horrors. Following the aforementioned class acts, she went to the smoking room which was a glassed in booth. I watched as she took out an 8=inch cheroot and proceeded to smoke up a storm. After about 20 minutes, she emerged from the smoke-engulfed booth and headed back to the bar for another exhibition of Tequila shooting, with another three shots. Thence it was back to the smoking room for another cheroot. On the plane to Bangkok, horror of horrors, she was seated directly opposite me on the aisle seat. In the transit from domestic to international at Bangkok Airport she followed us for about kilometre through endless halls and corridors and I had the uneasy feeling that she was travelling to Melbourne. Relief came when she peeled off and headed for the corridor for the Thai flight to Brisbane. I've often wondered what the Thais think about the bizarre behaviour of some of the visitors to Thailand. I don't think I will forget this young woman for a long time – and all for the wrong reasons.

Turning a jackass into a zebra.

A decade ago, I was walking along the back of Soi Cowboy, near the long-razed Asoke Plaza. There were some small open-air shops on the street and in one a Thai man was tattooing a Thai woman's shoulder. Both were dwarfed by a farang man sitting on a folding-stool with his back to the street who was utterly absorbed, watching the ink driven into the woman's skin. I knew what the tattoo was – his name, which he'd paid to have marked on her. A "brand" of sorts. This was his trophy, his prize. I'm heavily tattooed myself (ink from San Francisco to Tokyo) but have always chosen my own iconography. I marvel at Thai bargirls who get inked "just because they can" and farangs who get Thai lettering tattooed on their shaven heads. Can they read it? Do they know what it REALLY says? The idea that marking your skin is somehow like buying an expensive trendy mobile phone, or a memento of an obsession with a country or a bargirl who swears she's your only teeruk is off-putting. Tattoo art can be beautiful, but it requires skill, patience, forethought and financial outlay. It's not something to be taken lightly. For those who understand this, go for it, but don't forget what famous tattoo artist Cliff Raven once said, "The perfect tattoo is the one that turns the jackass into a zebra."

Getting branded…to keep up with the Jones.

I am tattooed but for the most part dislike tattoos on women. I detest eyebrow tattoos and my ex wife and current girlfriend both had them done. It says "I am lazy" and is the look that only Mexican hookers had back in the day. Unfortunately, it is extremely common now. The new style here in Southern California is the gang style tattoo on women, specifically the current boyfriend's name in cursive script on the upper chest or neck. Some girls have letters as tall as 4 inches visibly gracing their bodies. I can think of no bigger turnoff that seeing another man's name or men's names gracing a girl's body but this is now in fashion. America is turning into a third world country thanks to the stupidity of its population and the idiots that we elect to lead us. How much longer will it be before we see workers with KFC and McDonald's tattoos?

A tattoo shows what's important to you.

Your tattoo article confirms how these girls really feel about the bar and subsequently not about their "boyfriend" farangs. The article shows where the girls put their priorities. In general most tattoos are about people's own lives and family and ambitions. Tattooing the name of the bar that takes care of you means to me she loves the bar more than anything else.

Nana Plaza, giving dumps a bad name.

Loved your pictorial tour of Nana Plaza. You make it look far better than it deserves. Thank you VERY much for having the testicular fortitude to call a spade a spade. Nana Plaza is a shithole. There is no other word for it. I first laid eyes on it in 1999, and it was certainly down at the heels. But the last 13 years have definitely not been kind. It gives dumps a bad name. Hanging out there is strangely akin to bathing in the sewer. When combined with all the riff-raff who hang out at the mouth of the soi, I have to say that the best part of visiting Nana Plaza is leaving!

Mai pen rai, just smile.

Last month I took a trip to Siem Riep and on the way back I got on the wrong minivan at Poi Pet, heading back to Bangkok. We and 8 other farang were sitting in the van relaxed because we just had lunch and a short wait and we were on the way from the border to Bangkok when the driver decided for us to have a lunch break at Aranyaprathet. It meant the driver needed to have lunch so we were relaxed about it and waited 30 minutes. When we were about to head for Bangkok the driver got a call that 2 passengers he took (me and my girlfriend) were from a different travel agency and should be taken back to Poi Pet to get on the right van. Ok, no problem, keep smiling. It was my fault because I got on the van and the driver didn't complain. Anyway, I explained the situation to my fellow farangs and they were disappointed but they were cool about it, so we went back to Poi Pet. I was kicked out of the van and the van went to Bangkok with 2 new passengers. We had to wait for the next van from the right company to take us to Bangkok so we had lunch again, street food cars selling moo ping and sticky rice and some fried chicken. After an hour we got on the right van from the right company. Again with happy farangs feeling good because we were finally on the way back to Bangkok. The driver stopped at Aranyaprathet, 15 minutes into the drive. He announced we should have lunch – not the same restaurant we stopped at before in the wrong van. I am in Thailand so I keep smiling and I am already thinking about smoking a cigarette at this restaurant where I could become a regular how I am going to explain this story to someone. This time some more vans stopped at the restaurant at Aranyaprathet when I was smoking there the doors opened and a lot of farangs come stepping out of the van completely mad and angry and yelling at the driver and anyone. The only thing I told them was, "Why are you angry? You are in Thailand on a holiday." The Thai owner of the restaurant looked at me and said, "Farangs will never understand, we have to keep smiling".

Nana Hotel

The improvements continue at Nana Plaza. The smaller of the two signs out front of the plaza, the orange / brown-coloured sign, (as seen in the photo above) was removed on Friday. Will the larger iconic Nana Plaza sign that stands over the main entranceway and was in total darkness this weekend be next? The hand rails inside the plaza have been painted a shade of cream and the old corrugated iron roofing of the ground floor bars is being replaced. The vendors who operated in the narrow entranceway in and out of the plaza including the fruit vendor on the left and the burger and BBQ vendor on the right have been told they cannot operate in those spots and are history. The entranceway to Nana looks better and it's definitely easier getting in and out. The tiles that comprise the walkway on the top floor of the plaza have been redone but they could have been done better. As my pal and Angelwitch bar manager and said, "You can't have an even surface or you'll forget you're in Bangkok!"

He Clinic Bangkok

Renovations continue at Pretty Lady Bar on the ground floor of Nana which is being expanded from 2 shophouses to 3, but still seems to be some way from completion. Progress is about as fast as a Thai bargirl walking along a soi.

And Straps in Nana Plaza is also undergoing renovations but is only expected to be closed for a few days.

Pattaya's sois 7 and 8 were once amongst the most popular sois in Sin City with beer bar after beer bar packed with friendly girls which attracted plenty of punters. These 2 sois have been in decline for years and business has dropped to such levels that bars which once felt like they were printing money are now fighting to survive. Some have closed up shop completely while others have chosen to make a go of it elsewhere and relocated to one of theCheckinn99 more happening areas across town. One such venue is Cherry Bar which has been a feature of Pattaya's Soi 8 for more than 7 years. The owner has long felt that he was paying too much in rent and decided to move to Soi Diana where he secured a prime spot right next to the popular Papagayo. Cherry Bar's opening party in the new location was held last night. Rumours persist that it won't be that long before the beer bars of sois 7 and 8 are a thing of the past, to be replaced by hotels. What seems to be happening is just as I predicted a year or so back – Walking Street aside – bars directly across from or in sois just set back from the beach are disappearing and new bars and bar developments are springing up on the other side of Second Road. Real estate so close to the beach is just too valuable to sustain beer bars.

CBD bangkok

Starting today, Checkinn99 will be running jazz Sundays. From 1 PM – 5 PM every Sunday afternoon jazz will be accompanied by food and drink specials. There will be extra special discounts on food and drinks for local teachers and musicians. Following the jazz will be live music until 12:45 AM.

Pretty Lady Bar in Nana Plaza celebrates the birthday of manageress Tukata this coming Friday, 21st September. Free food will be served and you can win drinks & barfines. Standard drinks will be just 95 baht from now until the grand reopening of the venue which the owner says is just weeks away…

A party was held at The Penny Black in Soi Cowboy last night to celebrate the bar's new frontage. New signage states that the hotel is open 24 hours and that there's a pub, disco, karaoke and pool on the second floor. Whether the interior has been redone or not, I do not know as I did not venture inside. The Penny Black is an odd place insomuch that you seldom hear it talked about even though it is right there on the main strip at Soi Cowboy. Most of the girls on the soi will drag a short time customer to Asoke Place just around the corner which seems to be their preferred spot. What's up with The Penny Black? Do the girls think it's haunted or something?!

The last day of business at The Sportsman in Washington Square is next Sunday, 23rd September. The night before will be the goodbye party with various drinks specials offered and a chance to say goodbye to the staff. The Sportsman has a new location in Jomtien and rumour has it that they may also have a new spot in Bangkok, although I have been unable to prise any details, or even confirmation of that from the owners.

The coyote concept has reached a new low in the King's Group of bars of Patpong soi 1 where the girls dancing as coyotes aren't really real coyote dancers at all. These Patpong coyotes have successfully managed to take on the worst aspects of gogo girls – they just shuffle on stage along with the worst of coyote girls – they cannot be barfined. What a croc!

wonderland clinic

And while we're talking about the King's Group bars in Patpong soi 1, the question has to be asked about the male wait staff in King's Castle 1 and some of the other bars in the group. What's up with their bright-coloured vests / waistcoats? It makes them look just like motorcycle taxi riders! So the question has to be asked: Are they aspiring to be motorbike taxi riders….or are motorbike taxi riders aspiring to be Patpong bar waiters?!

It's not a lot different with the coyote girls in Patpong soi 2 at Bada Bing which has both dancers and coyotes. Never has it been so unclear who the coyotes are and who the regular gogo girls are. The difference in dancing style between the coyotes and the dancers is minimal, andBangkok Beat neither is it obvious from what they wear. It's easy to see why more and more punters feel deceived or even cheated when it comes to the whole concept of coyote dancers. In some bars – and Tilac in Cowboy and Las Vegas in Nana come to mind – it's obvious who the dancers are (and therefore barfineable) and who are coyotes (and not barfineable) because the coyotes dress differently and really know how to dance. And in these two venues you NEVER see a fat coyote…but in Bada Bing, some of the girls who were apparently coyotes could do with a membership at the local gym and a diet of nothing but som tam.

The next party at Bangkok Beat, the popular live music venue in Sukhumvit soi 7/1 that attracts more than a few friendly ladies is next Saturday, 22nd September. Themed Back To School, I wonder how many of the city's foreign teachers will make it along? Bangkok Beat is more intimate than the likes of Insomnia, Nana Liquid and Climax and does not impose a cover charge as many venues open late and feature a live band do.

Keen to keep customers in the slow season, Brian of Crossbar is running an all day happy hour. Can we call it a happy day? Some would say every day in Bangkok is happy! Anyway, at Crossbar all local bottled beers will be a reasonable 80 baht, draught Tiger 100 baht a pint and Heineken and Carlsberg goes for 120 baht a pint. These prices run every day from 11 AM through until closing.

Is it a scam if you buy a drink for a bargirl who comes back with a shot glass of water which she purports is Tequila? From the customer's perspective, by buying her a drink you're paying for her time and essentially a chance to get to know her better. If she sits down and spends time with you, is it an issue what she drinks – so long as she actually spends time with you? From the girl's perspective, most are small and it often only takes a couple of drinks to get a girl drunk – and that's not taking into account the long-term effects on one's health from consuming lots of alcohol. Popular girls may be offered a dozen or more drinks a night. If a lady was to down a dozen shots of Tequila a night, she'd be in big trouble. I personally believe the whole lady drink system in bars for foreigners is flawed and it would be much better and clearer if bars adopted the system found in bars for Thai men. In those venues, when a guy buys a lady a drink she can choose to drink whatever she wants and the cost to the customer is usually the same. But – and this is the important part – by buying a drink for a lady there is a set amount of time that she is required to sit with the customer. So when you buy a lady a drink you know what you're getting. That seems like a much fairer system all round to me.

With a number of discos / late night venues between the Nana and Asoke intersections, venue owners have to do something a little different or offer something special to convince punters that theirs is the place to party. What wasPenthouse magazine Bangkok once Nana Disco and is today known as Nana Liquid has a mid-week event lined up for this coming Wednesday, September 19th, that should be worth checking out. The Penthouse Models Night will feature some of the hottest girls in the country and unlike some bars which use sneaky marketing to get you in the door, the girls you see on the poster will actually be there.
The Penthouse representative will also be present giving away issues of Penthouse magazine and Penthouse DVDs. And if cover charges put you off, get to Nana Liquid before midnight and entry is free.

I was scratching my head and wondering if my mate had lost the plot when he told me that he prefers to go to Spasso's on the nights when there is a cover charge in place, a steep 800 baht. Spasso's is the popular disco in the basement of the ground floor of the Hyatt Erawan Hotel which has long been a magnet for girls who fancy themselves as being a higher class of hooker and who price themselves accordingly. I looked at my pal like he had lost his marbles, and asked him why he would want to pay a cover charge when it could easily be avoided by ether arriving early or going along one of the nights when no cover charge was in place. He went on to explain that Spasso's has an 800 baht cover charge some nights which entitles you to 2 free drinks. He pretty much only drinks red wine which with all of the +++ nonsense (yes, three "+"s if it's late at night), a glass of red wine works out at a whopping 530 baht, or in real money, $17! But given that the entry fee is "only" 800 baht, it means that each of the glasses of wine only cost him only 400 baht, which is cheaper than the price he'd pay for them otherwise. Clever boy!

If you're in Farangland, are missing Thailand and this site doesn't satiate your desire for all things Thai, you could tune into Pattaya 105 FM, a farang-centric radio
station broadcast from Sin City. Pattaya 105 has a great music play list with music from the 60s right through to today and all of the announcers and DJs are Westerners. One of the highlights is the news reports from Pattaya which from time to
time are read by the one they refer to as the fat controller, a most likeable fellow who reads the latest news in a very serious tone while the content of some reports – remember, this is Pattaya – are absolutely hilarious!

From time to time you hear the story of a girl who has done so well in the industry that you understand why a girl may choose to turn to the dark side, and try her luck at being a bargirl. An early 30s lass from Isaan with three kids who has worked all over town has a nice condo, all paid for and in her name, in the purple building near the Thonglor BTS station. It was half paid for by a Kiwi and the other half paid for by an ultra-wealthy Swiss. But that condo which is decked out with the finest fittingsCharley Brown's and flash furniture has reverted to a place where she can meet her giks and young dudes when she feels the need to be serviced. The older Swiss guy has put her up in Millennium Towers, the ultra-expensive 4-tower condominium complex that towers over parts of Sukhumvit and Benjakit Park. Her monthly allowance runs 6 figures with larger payouts and gifts also coming in. Tell this story around the rice fields and the only people collecting rice in the future will be men!

Sunday night is hardly the busiest night of the week, but it isn't a bad night to party on bustling Sukhumvit soi 11 when it's ladies night at Q Bar and the venue can be packed with birds, both of the working and non-working variety – and there can be a spin off for other venues with many doing well early evening before the crowds make their way up the soi. If you happen to find yourself on soi 11 tonight, why not drop by Charley Brown's where they will be celebrating Mexican Independence Day.

Some things never cease to amaze me in Bangkok and this week I was made aware of another of those only in Bangkok things. Inside the Klong Toey MRT station is a small sign that marks the border between the areas of jurisdiction of two adjacent different police districts. It would seem that the interior of the MRT station falls under two separate police districts, Lumpini and Tungmahamaek – and the sign with its arrows shows which are falls under the responsibility of which station. Who would have thought that police district boundaries extend below ground? I wonder what would happen if there was a crime committed with the perpetrator on one side of the line and the victim on the other. Maybe that's a question for Sunbelt Legal!

Quote of the week comes from Mega and was said to a local bird, "I don't pay a salary or sin sot, are you still interested?"

Reader's story of the week, "A Mekong Memory", is
the moving tale of an American looking for love in Vietnam.

Two Thai hi-so tourists take on what they probably thought were lo-so Kiwis in Queenstown and come off second

CNNGo ran a nice article on some of the highlights of the capital of Vietnam, Hanoi.

A Brit is drugged and robbed of 130,000 Thai baht in his hotel room in Soi Buakhao
in Pattaya.

CNN looks at the mysterious deaths of tourists poisoned across Asia.

An English doctor facing child porn charges and who fled to Thailand is finally jailed in the UK.

Expats in Cambodia seem to be every bit as colourful as expats in Bangkok, according
to the New York Times.

Flooding in the northern province of Sukhothai has brought back memories of last year's chronic floods.

A Bangkok taxi driver kills a British woman in a hit and run accident in central Bangkok and flees the

Are Indian tourists to Thailand really the deviants that many Thais perceive them to be?

Ask Sunbelt Asia 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

Having worked at a bank in stock markets all my life, I decided 3 years ago to call it a day, stop working and move to Thailand. Ever since I have stayed in the country on 1-year "marriage visas", based on marriage to a Thai and having 400,000 baht stuck in a Thai bank. Thus I do not pay taxes in Thailand. Now, being somewhat bored, I met the CEO of a multinational company which wants to hire me. He offered me an incredible salary plus he would take care of my work permit. I feel tempted to do it for say another 2 or 3 years (as I am only 45).

1. If I do it and get a work visa, I would officially stay here on my work visa here, thus the "marriage visa" would not be necessary anymore, right? Does this mean that I would have to pay taxes in Thailand from the day I start my job?

2. If in say 2 or 3 years I decide to stop again, could I easily stop the whole working visa thing, and just change again to a "marriage visa", and again not pay taxes as I do now? Or, if I am a tax payer once, will this remain? (which would be unfavourable and stressful, I consider, as now my life with the "marriage visa" is free of hassle)

Sunbelt Asia Legal responds: There is no need to change visas at all. You can get a work permit on your non-O extension. Since you already do this it is most likely easier to just continue that extension. Regardless of what visa you have, you would need to pay taxes on your income. If you have no income, you do not pay taxes. The status is not determined by what type of visa you have.

Question 2
: I am currently residing in a small village in the Khao Kho Highlands in Petchabun. There seems to be mainly 2 types of land ownership deeds up here.

1) A piece of land approximately 15 rai that must be used for agricultural purposes. I think it is a Sor Por Gor 4-01. Now I am aware this land cannot be bought or sold and can only be transferred by inheritance.

A) Can this land be leased?

B) Can this land be inherited by someone not a direct family member i.e. the title deed owner wants to leave it to a close friend via a will after their death?

C) Can this land be left to multiple heirs with each receiving a portion of the land?

2) A piece of land approximately .5 rai that must be used to reside and live on. I think it is a Sor Tor Gor. I am also aware that this land cannot be bought and sold and can only be transferred by inheritance as well.

A) Can this land be leased?

B) Can this land be inherited by someone not a direct family member i.e. the title deed owner wants to leave it to a close friend via a will after their death?

C) Must this land have a house on it all times within reason?

D) Can someone other than the title deed owner own the actual house on this land i.e. if I were to build a house on this land could I actually be the legal owner of this house?

Sunbelt Asia Legal responds: I'm assuming that this land should be Por Bor Thor 5, which is also a governmental land (under the jurisdiction of the Or Bor Jor [Provincial Management Committee]) granting the right to Thai citizens to have possession for residential purposes. It also cannot be leased or transferred to any party. Violating this obligation will result in the confiscation of rights. It is at the official's discretion whether to remove such rights in the case if there was / were no structural building located on the land. It could only be inherited to the rights owner's heir(s). There could be more than 1 heir to the rights to use this land.

Question 3
: I have read that the sale of sex toys is illegal in Thailand. Is it permitted to bring your personal vibrator, handcuffs and other personal toys into Thailand with you?

Sunbelt Asia Legal responds: There's no accurate answer. It's totally determined by the officers at the luggage check point at his / her discretion and also depends on the quantity that you have brought along with you and whether they would interpret that this would be for commercial (retailing) purpose or personal use.

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The format of this column has largely stayed the same since I found my feet a few months after starting it, way back in 2001, an eternity in online publishing. With feedback reinforcing interest in the idea of a weekly column, I knew that if it was to be successful, there had to be some sort of structure. As the column continues to evolve it will have become obvious that I enjoy putting together photo essays over opinion pieces, analysis or expanding on current events or issues of interest to expats. It is my interest in photography that drives me to venture around the city and capture life. It is also this interest in photography that keeps me visiting the bar areas where my main priority is taking photos and gathering news and gossip comes a distant second. There's little I enjoy more than doing a photo shoot with a friend, be it in a bar or exploring a new neighbourhood in Bangkok. I hope the photo essay format works for you. That's not to say there will be a photo essay every week, but I have many more planned, both in and out of the bar industry.

Your Bangkok commentator,



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