It is home to some of the most expensive real estate in Bangkok but there's no view and the area is hardly pleasing on the eye. Traffic is congested for most of the day and the pollution is nasty, yet the streets are packed with merchants. It has some of the best value shopping in the city, some of the best food in all of Bangkok and is more exotic than Sukhumvit, Silom or Khao San yet not that many Westerner tourists venture there. Welcome to Bangkok's Chinatown.
On my twice monthly visits to Chinatown I see few Western visitors. Day or night, week day or weekend, in a city with a rapidly growing expat population and a booming tourism industry, Westerners are conspicuous by their absence. Why isn't Chinatown on most visitors' lists of places to visit?
I take the underground to the end of the line to Hualumpong Station and walk the rest of the way. Less than 10 minutes later and I'm in Chinatown.
Chinatown isn't just the main road but the surrounding sois and alleys, and like much of Bangkok, in fact much of the region, the highlights are on the ground and best seen and enjoyed on foot.
The large Chinese-style arch marks the start of Chinatown proper. Cross the road, turn right and you're on Yaowarat Road – what many think of as Chinatown.
Even before you get to Yaowarat Road, the area takes on a distinctly Chinese flavour with Chinese script, red Chinese lanterns and every other shophouse a Chinese restaurant. Think duck, crab, Chinese vegetables and many foodstuffs you seldom see in the more Westernised parts of the city.
Chinatown – known to the Thais as Yaowarat – is more than just Yaowarat Road. It extends from the arch along Yaowarat Road past Sampeng Market to Pahurat, AKA Little India, and includes many intersecting roads all the way over to Charoen Krung Road. The area is home to markets, temples, restaurants, gold shops and thousands of Chinese-Thai run businesses.
Yaowarat Road has gentle bends and is said to be shaped the same as a dragon's back and as such is considered auspicious by the Chinese.
The main drag has a cinema which features Chinese flicks and looks like it hasn't changed in decades. A ticket is just 50 baht.
With space at a premium, irrespective of whether it's a restaurant, a temple, a cinema or a merchant, every square foot of space is used to generate income.
Much of the fascination with Chinatown is the mystery. Exploring the back alleys and small shops can be an eye opener. I love looking closely at the plant and animal material used to concoct lotions and potions by Chinese medicinists. These guys learned the trade from their father, who in turn learned it from their father…and so on. Their stores include plants that are said to only grow on one slope of one hill somewhere in deepest, darkest China to the body parts of wild animals that make a man cringe. Many items, particularly animals or parts of animals, are displayed in glass jars at the front of the store ready to be mixed into the next batch of medicine.
You tell the medicinist what your problem or condition is, and he will go about the shop collecting a bit of this and a bit of that. He will measure out quantities of each ingredient and crush it into a leafy / powdery like form. At home you add this to boiling water, not dis-similar to how you would make a cup of tea. Got any aches or pains that refuse to heal?
Chinatown is known as an area for great food – as distinct from fine dining. Needless to say you can find wonderful Chinese food, some of the best vegetarian in the city and also some of the most affordable seafood. Just as Soi Arab has almost exclusively Middle Eastern restaurants and food outlets, Yaowarat is almost entirely Chinese. Yaowarat is one of few wealthy Bangkok neighbourhoods free of McDonald's and Starbucks.
There area may be known for shopping but fresh fruit aside, I think it's more fun to browse. Much of what is available is low-end gadgets and trinkets, the sort of thing you expect to break and stop working within days of purchasing.
Yaowarat is the centre of gold trading in Thailand and many gold shops around the country claim some sort of connection with Yaowarat.
For bargirls, a trip to Yaowarat isn't seen as a chance to sample some wonderful Chinese food, but a ripe opportunity to nag the guy she is with to buy her some gold. Beware if your lady du jour suggests a visit to Yaowarat! On the other hand, if you do plan to buy gold, Chinatown is the best place in town.
Chinatown features back a number of back alleys with architecture and a lifestyle that save for the TV which no Thai home can do without are a throwback from a century earlier. Don't be fooled by the state of some of the homes – this is some of the most expensive real estate in the capital!
Some of the back alleys around Soi Texas have ugly women lingering in doorways with short skirts and garish lipstick. Many are just plain scary and while it's there, Chinatown isn't the place for a naughty.
Dozens of juice vendors set up along the main drag each evening and fruit sold in the markets on and just off Yaowarat Road is considerably cheaper than what you find in local supermarkets making Chinatown a good place to buy imported produce like American cherries and grapes.
It's also the best place to buy nuts, raisins and other healthy treats like pumpkin seeds, goji berries, Chinese mushrooms, and ginseng.
When the sun drops below the horizon, many of the stores close and the area undergoes a transformation from busy commercial district to an outdoor dining district.
Once this column is published on Sunday I often take a trip down to Chinatown to enjoy a nice Chinese meal.
Up and down the main road as well as in some of the side sois, streetside restaurants set up. These are not your average Thai neighbourhood 30 baht a plate meals but vendors offering authentic Chinese food.
The setting may be noisy, smelly and there mightn't be any air-con but what a great experience, sitting on a bustling street with the energy and vibrance of one of Asia's great metropolises, enjoying fine Chinese cuisine from a kitchen that has probably been producing the same few dishes with pride for generations.
Much of the appeal of Chinatown is the mystery and the unknown. As an outsider with no connections in the area I am but a casual observer. I don't know who the powerful and influential people are, who the business groups are, how they interact with one another, what other business they are involved in or anything else. The modestly dressed owners of some of the small, pokey shophouses selling what to the naked eye appears to be junk may be dollar millionaires many times over. Not knowing adds to the mystery and it's fun to perch with Chinatown as your backdrop, watch the comings and goings and wonder.
The clichéd view of Chinatown. It's not quite Nathan Road, but it's not bad either.
The area has a certain charm and is very much Chinese with a Thai flavour. If for no other reason than to sample some wonderful Chinese food, Chinatown is worth a visit.
The easiest way to get to Chinatown would be to take a taxi although many taxi drivers are reluctant to go there. Take the underground to Hualumpong from where it's just a short walk away. Chinatown is very much worth a visit.
Where was this photo taken?
Last week's photo was taken on the pedestrian walkway above the Asoke intersection and was very easy because the first photo in the column was taken just 2 minutes earlier from about 50 metres away. 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 WEEK – A good idea gone bad.
The gross overcrowding on Bangkok's skytrain is surely moving towards a point where people will choose not to use it. One day this week I was unable to squeeze onto a train even at 10:30 PM. BTS claims a ridership of 500,000 a day. Compare that with the similarly-sized city of London, where 3 million use the system. Six times more, but the trains have far more carriages and overcrowding is largely restricted to the rush hours. Typically for Thailand, it appears there was very little forward planning and it is impossible to extend the stations to provide trains of a similar length to London. The best they can do – eventually – is add an extra carriage. But as the system is extended and more people travel, that will still be grossly inadequate. The skytrain is a good idea gone bad.
More than once recently I've found it a real hassle trying to get a taxi late at night. On Saturday I had to try no less than 10 before finding one to take me where I wanted. I even ended up wai-ing them, hoping a little politeness would get me the green light. Three of the drivers, when I tried to argue the toss and mentioned the law, told me to fxxx off. Three!
The expat experience.
When I go to a foreign land I want to immerse myself. I'm not on a diplomatic mission where it's my job to socialise. I just want to get away from home and sometimes that includes my own countrymen. Years of experience have taught me some of the same lessons you have learned so I try to keep people at arm's length until I know them a little. But just because we are expats doesn't mean we share anything in common and sometimes those differences can turn violent. I think when it comes to South-East Asia, I don't trust foreigners as I know what most are up to. It's not that I'm unfriendly…we all move away for a reason! Sometimes we just want to be left alone and I respect that.
I completely agree with your reader's remarks about the Vietnamese in Singapore and having briefly chatted with some in the bars they are a right turn off! Hardened, disinterested and really keen to cut to the chase. It's on a par with talking to a toothless HIV positive hooker on a street corner in your own country, something we would never bother with. So why give these whores the time of day? I don't. On a side note, Singapore doesn't do it for me. I think I'm spoilt, I prefer regular girls. But anyhow, I was in the famous Harry's bar yesterday for about 3 hours solid reading the paper – the one at the back of Orchard Towers. Like always it gets a bit of foot traffic now and then but it was completely empty with just me and a few other guys there. The whole whoring thing here is very like the west – not just in terms of prices. There's no fun in it, it's transactional and I just don't feel comfortable with it. These girls are treated like shit by their "employers" and receive around 300 – 400 SGD a month. It's a really depressing state of affairs – I prefer to not even get into their financial and social hardship. It's just wrong the way they are dealt with, and they are partly to blame as well. Bottom line is there's no fun in it here. It's either very transactional with the Viets or opportunism with the Filipinas.
Bringing HIV to the beach.
Pattaya is attracting an influx of Indians and India is supposed to be a hotbed for HIV transmission. This is also true about parts of China as well. No need to mention Africa where males in some parts are said to have an infection rate of 25%. Thailand has vigorously advertised to attract these visitors. Unfortunately they have now opened a Pandora's Box full of deadly diseases. As HIV continues to mutate into various strains, treatable forms will vanish while virulent strains will flourish.
It's probably not the one you saw, but “Nancy” massage parlour on Petchaburi Road has had the afternoon special price of 1,100 baht for some time. The place you saw was on the northern side? Nancy is on the southern side, next to a bridge over a klong, about 250 metres from the Foodland supermarket. Whenever I've been there I've seen plenty of girls working, but also plenty of customers, so there was a pretty quick turnover! It's farang friendly with no surcharge! And for something a little bit different, they sometimes have a pianist and singer to entertain you before and after your special service! Good value for a bit of afternoon relaxation.
The unending arrivals of undesirables.
A couple of weeks ago a correspondent was asking why so many undesirables were allowed instant visas into Thailand. The reason for this is best explained via a few important facts:
1. The AOT (Airports of Thailand) collect a tax of 700 THB for each passenger arriving. This fee is built into the cost of an airline ticket, and invisible to passengers.
2. The airport tax revenue is staggering: a minimum 45 million visitors each year (growing to 60 million) x 700 THB per visitor!
3. Thai airports (unlike Western airports, Singapore, etc) have no APP system. APP stands for Advance Passenger Processing which checks passenger details against 'flagged' passports (outstanding arrest warrants, police and security warnings, etc). AAP is conducted while the passenger is in transit, alerting police to arrest them upon disembarkation, or at least alert immigration officers NOT to issue a visa.
4. Taking time to check the validity of a tourist being a genuine tourist takes time. Slow that process down and the cash-register goes "ka-ching" at a reduced frequency!
5. The cost of APP per visitor would be less than 100 THB on top of the existing taxes, but would mean that undesirables (like the would-be Iranian terrorist) would be flagged for attention by authorities on their arrival.
Why isn't APP being used, preserving the safety of Thai citizens and foreign guests to Thailand? Cui bono!
A new currency exchange booth sprung up this week at the mouth of Nana Plaza with Bangkok Bank losing the space to the rapidly-growing CIMB Bank. The entranceway of the plaza remains clear of vendors and the days of Nana burger, the popular hamburger vendor at the mouth of the plaza, would seem to be a thing of the past.
Inside the plaza, paid slags are getting laid at the same time that paving slabs are being laid, so I guess we can say that all the cracks in Nana Plaza are being filled in.
Remodeling continues at small Nana Plaza bar Straps which remains closed for the time being.
Carnival on the top floor of the plaza has closed for renovations in what seems to be a common theme in the plaza as bars race to complete improvements before the next high season comes around. In the meantime the dancers from Carnival can be found doing their thing in Las Vegas.
The next party at Nana Liquid is called Nuts and Bolts and will take place this coming Wednesday, October 3rd. Upon entering, male customers will be given a nut and female customers given a bolt. You're encouraged to find the person whose nut fits your bolt to win prizes. This is the sort of thing Thais really get in to so it should be a fun night.
The Sportsman in Washington Square closed its doors last weekend and I thought that was it for the popular sports bar. But within days of closing I got word that the venue is not yet ready to take its place in Bangkok bar history. The Sportsman is going to be reincarnated further up Sukhumvit and in what I find to be a curious choice, the new location will be in dodgy Sukhumvit soi 13, below the condo building with the corny name, the Trendy. Soi 13 might be the next soi over from popular soi 11 which today has a number of bars and restaurants that wouldn't be out of place in Singapore, but soi 13 doesn't resemble soi 11 in any way. Soi 13 is down-market and full of riff raff at the mouth of the soi. Further up the soi are what I can only describe as low-end bars frequented by some seriously dodgy looking geezers. If you wish to avoid the riff raff at the mouth of soi 13, you can cut through from soi 11 via a passageway that passes Villa supermarket, that is if you don't mind being groped by hags masquerading as masseuses who can probably give as good a massage as a crippled soi dog and who really just want to convince punters to enter their tiny booth so they can get him off and back out in record time while pocketing 1,500 baht. Soi 13 is in need of a cleanup, and for that to happen it probably needs some decent venues to set up so on a positive note, here's hoping the relocation of The Sportsman helps seem some sort of improvement in the neighbourhood.
Renovations at Pattaya's newest house of chrome poles, Private Dancer, are almost finished. The wall between the two bars which make up what is now Private Dancer, Toyz and Easy Room, has been knocked through but the new side is not in open just yet. Ricky was tearing what's left of his hair out at the weekend dealing with the builders as the new seating was not delivered on time. However the Jacuzzi has been installed and the mirrors were in place on Saturday with Ricky saying it will be Tuesday before everything is finished. Providing the builders do manage to finish this week, look for an official Private Dancer opening party next weekend, most likely Friday. See their site for details and updates at PrivateDancerAGogo.com.
Just like here in Bangkok, there's not much in the way of bar news from Pattaya this week. It's still quiet around the bars and the heavy rain doesn't help, especially as it often starts just as the bars open.
Bars ought to be careful with their signage and promotional material as the English used can be confusing, and sometimes the message posted is just plain incorrect. Not for the first time in recent times, a customer – and a good friend of mine – had a bad experience at Sukhumvit soi 4's Morning Night Bar. A sign inside the bar (photo below on the left) states that happy hour runs from 10 AM until 8 PM at which time whisky and local beers are priced at 80 baht. There are no ifs, buts, maybes or conditions. My pal ordered a draft Singha, probably the most famous of all Thai i.e. local beers. When the drink was finished, he handed over 100 baht as he was about to leave – meaning he was willingly giving a 20 baht tip. The bar staff stopped him and presented him with a bill for 140 baht. A long argument ensued with the staff insisting that draft beer is not a local beer and that it isn't included in the happy hour and to add insult, a draft Singha is a whopping 140 baht! My friend walked off with the staff following him. They eventually gave up. A badly handled situation and he won't step foot in that bar ever again. Is Morning Night being sneaky and deliberately tricking customers? No, I don't believe they are. I think this is simply a case of bad signage. The sign should include the word "bottled". Unfortunately incidents like this are often handled very badly by Thai bar staff who fear that they will have to make up the difference out of their own pocket between what the customer pays and what the bill says. Morning Night really ought to get that sign sorted out pronto. Of course there are many beer bars in Sukhumvit soi 4 to choose from including Stumble Inn, Bar4 and Zen, all of which are Western-owned and all of which have happy hour prices which include draft beer.
I note an ad on Craigslist this week which is rather amusing when you consider that it included a photo (above, photo on the right). Look in the background and you can see exactly the same happy hour sign. The advertisement reads "I am Thai student named TAA and looking for drinking friends…..SORRY, ONLY MEN IN BANGKOK. My pic is attached, hope you like me Please we meet and have fun….." Who knows what is actually going on and whether she really is a student. If Morning Night bar really is hiring students I am sure there will be a big spike in trade.
The fat controller who does actually have a real name, Howard Miller, AKA the handsome front man of the Big Trouble in Thailand series, is joining the broadcast team at Pattaya 105 FM from tomorrow where he will present a 2-hour request show from 12 noon until 2 PM, Monday to Friday.
Popular Texan Mekong Kurt was known for his column, "The Rounds", that he produced on and off over the years highlighting the characters and goings on at Washington Square. Kurt lived in the Square, drank in the Square, knew everyone in the Square and became respected as the scribe for the area. As reported in recent columns, Kurt had been in terrible health and it is with sadness that I report that Kurt – real name Kurt Francis – passed away this week. Kurt was once an English teacher in Thailand but after inheriting a large sum of money he put that behind him and set about living life to the full. It's no wonder the late George Pipas, proprietor of the Texas Lone Staar, said the money he inherited would kill him and eventually it did, even if it took about a decade. As news spread of Kurt's failing health, his sister flew to Bangkok from Texas a couple of weeks back to collect him and take him back to the States. Sadly Kurt passed away just days after returning to his homeland due to complications from cancer of the liver. Kurt was a colourful character who pushed the boundaries of punishing the human body – his own body – smoking and drinking more than is supposedly possible while at the same time always retaining the grace and friendliness that those from American's southern states are known for. Mekong Kurt was a real Bangkok character. May he rest in peace.
I was also saddened to hear that English photojournalist Dan White who had been resident in Thailand for most of the last decade passed away in Bangkok last week from a stroke. I first met Dan several years back at the Old Dutch in Soi Cowboy, not long after he had suffered a severe beating in Hua Hin. That required a partial face reconstruction and there were ongoing complications and headaches that never completely went away. The last time I bumped into Dan was a month or so back and perhaps fittingly, it was right outside the Old Dutch in Soi Cowboy. He was entering the soi, most likely on his way to perch at Shadow Bar where he would enjoy his favourite tipple, Vodka and tonic. We exchanged greetings followed by our usual good-natured Canon vs. Nikon barbs. Dan was just a plain good guy and at 47 was way too young to say goodbye. May he rest in peace.
I note that local Bangkok restaurant review site WhatWeWentThrough checked out Bangkok's newest steakhouse, El Gauchio, this week. What I really like about their food / restaurant reviews is their frank honesty – and I just love the description of restaurant service in Thailand in their latest review.
Popular reader's submission writer Mega has another novel available from Bangkok Books, The LOS Diaries Part 2. When it comes to nightlife in Bangkok, Mega has been there, done that and most certainly has the t-shirt. His writings are authentic and he tells a great yarn.
When your Thai reaches the level when you can understand everything that those around you are saying, it gives you a greater insight into the people and the culture. But when you hear what they are talking about, the range of topics can be limited and often it seems there are just 4 general topics many natter about. Thais frequently gossip about foreigners – specifically farangs or white foreigners. What farangs do in Thailand, what farangs think and their observations of farangs doing weird things in Thailand. Many Thais really do think we're uncouth and unusual! They also talk a lot about money which can be loosely broken down to what something costs as well as how much someone owes them. Money gets the Thais' knickers in a twist quickly, especially if they are owed money. Food is never far from their minds and it's amazing how many times per day some eat, considering most are slim. But what you seem to hear more often than anything else is gossip about what other Thais have said. You so often hear Thais referring to what others have said about something with the most common phrase I hear "Khao bok wa" which means "He / she said…" Philosophy? Politics? Topics of substance? Nah, hardly ever!
My closing comments last week concerned the weekly photo competition and how that section of the column is the cause of more complaints than everything else across the entire site combined. I put the question to readers, asking what you thought many of those complaining, whining or cheating in the mystery photo competition had in common. Some of the responses were hilarious. Almost half of all respondents suggested that the complainers were English and many said they thought the respondents must be Pattaya-based. Nice attempts and most amusing, but not right. What do most of the people who complain or cheat or get very bitter when they don't win have in common? Their profession! To be more specific, they are….drum roll…..teachers in Bangkok.
Quote of the week comes from a reader, "I was watching YouTube when one of those ads popped up at the bottom that said "Find a Thai wife" and I thought fxxx that, how do you get rid of one!"
Reader's story of the week comes from Mega, "Tales of Waterfalls and Leeches: Kao Yai in the Wet – Part 1".
Thailand's skin-whitening craze reaches a new level with products available to whiten a woman's intimate areas!
The shoddy practices of Thai gyms are outlined in a Bangkok Post exposé.
Smuggled IPhones are going for a pretty penny in Mahboonkrong.
Generic Viagra will officially go on sale soon for just 25 baht a pill.
A Thai woman describes how she went from caregiver to sex slave while working for a couple in Dubai.
The heir to the Red Bull fortune in Thailand who killed a cop in his Ferrari offers $100,000 compensation to the victim's family.
Police on Ko Samui are investigating what appears to be the murder of a German who was stabbed to death.
An Aussie woman wakes up to find one breast much bigger than the other – guess where she had them operated on?
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: If an expat receives pension and investment income from their home country is it taxable in Thailand should they live in the country for more than 183 days? I have been informed that this type of income would bear tax if it is earned the same year as it is sent to Thailand and used for living costs. Therefore if someone was wealthy enough to have savings such that they could send previous years' income as a transfer of capital then it would not be taxable as the current year's earnings were retained where they were paid (to be used for future years). Basically if you don't earn income from a Thai employer and pay your withholding tax on interest do you have other tax obligations?
Sunbelt Asia Legal responds: Overseas savings / investment income is not taxed when it is transferred into Thailand. However, any interest you earn in a Thai bank on that money once it is transferred is taxed.
Question 2: How do you tell if donations to a Thai charitable foundation qualify for the tax refund? Specifically the ISARA foundation based in Nongkhai. As a totally separate question, 3 years ago, I made sizable donations (along with some other donors) to another foundation (a children's home) for them to buy some land and construct some buildings. The land was eventually purchased and the foundation relocated onto the land. 14 months later the foundation directors had a falling out, the children's home became an unsafe place for the children and family services has removed all the children into other care facilities. It is my understanding that some (approx 50%) of the land has been "sold" without due foundation / legal process. To complicate matters, there was a "suspicious" fire at the foundation at the start of "problems" where the vast majority of the legal documents and donation receipts books were destroyed. I have emails and donation certificates to prove my donations, and could probably get bank transfer records. What courses of action are open to me regarding: A) getting my donation/s refunded (so I can donate it elsewhere) B) seek redress with / from the foundation directors for any illegal land sale / activity. If possible, please give an indication of costs involved on any action.
Sunbelt Asia Legal responds: You can check with the Revenue Department whether or not an organisation is registered as a charitable foundation.
A foundation may have a refund policy in cases of banking errors or double deductions on a credit card. However donations cannot be refunded unless by a court order.
Foundations can liquidate their assets if done according to the rules and regulations governing the foundation. Only board members can demand a clarification from the director on actions taken by the foundation. If you feel there is fraud then you would need very clear evidence of such in order to file a lawsuit otherwise the courts would not only release the case but could possibly charge you with defamation. If you lack evidence but still have strong suspicions, it is possible to file a petition with Parliament to ask that a government official look into the matter.
Sunbelt Asia can investigate the matter for a nominal fee if you are interested in pursuing it, and we could determine if it was a legitimate foundation and if there was clear evidence of fraud.
Question 3: I am considering and therefore now planning for a future investment in Thai real estate. However I am finding it hard to discover what the ongoing annual costs of property ownership in Thailand are. Could you advise what the ongoing costs of Thai home ownership would be, relative to what we understand from Western countries. I guess these may include local authority charges (council rates), annual maintenance fees, property taxes and anything else I am unaware about.
1) For ownership of condominiums / shared apartment blocks?
2) Outright ownership (through a Thai wife's name)?
Sunbelt Asia Legal responds: The ongoing costs for both a condo and a house when you purchase new (apart from obvious maintenance issues that you may undertake and separate maintenance fees that would be determined by the juristic management) would depend on the size of the property. The fees and how they are calculated (usually by square metre) would be set in the purchase contract and would consist of a one-off fee for the sinking fund and monthly fees for the common property area. In new projects the purchaser would usually pay these fees 1 – 2 years in advance and then after that period the juristic management would collect on either a monthly or annual basis, depending on policy.
There are property taxes and the rates would be determined by the local tessaban or municipality.
The Kate Middleton topless photo exposé got me thinking about photos published online. Many visitors to Thailand do things they wouldn't dream of doing at home and often these are actions that they are not proud of and which they may conceal from colleagues, friends and family in Farangland. Many of these actions take place in bar areas where I, along with many others, take photos. Have you ever wondered how many people's holiday snaps you feature in? If you've spent any time on Pattaya's Walking Street you've probably been photographed by hundreds of people and been on a virtual tour of the world when these holidaymakers return home. And many of these shots end up on Facebook, blogs and goodness only knows where. Which got me thinking further. How long will it be before a utility or service is available which allows you to upload a photo of someone on which face recognition is run and then the entire Internet is searched for photographs of that person producing links to sites where they feature? It would essentially provide a background check with the sort of detail that the best private investigator, maybe even the best intelligence agency, would be hard pressed to match. Will this be reality 10 years from now? Or sooner? Will a photo of you taken in 2012 on Walking Street with a hardcore hooker under one arm and a ladyboy under the other cause you to miss out on a dream job in the future? It's plausible! With the massive amount of content online growing exponentially, such a service likely wouldn't be free, but there would be real value to recruitment agents, enemies, the father of the bride and many others. With all of this in mind, if by any chance your mug shot appears on this site and you'd prefer that it wasn't here, just drop me an email and let me know. I'll either blur the area where your face appears or pull the photo completely. Of course if this is all a big concern, perhaps it's best not to behave in ways now that you're not proud of, or which may later come back to haunt you…
Your Bangkok commentator,