Pattaya is moving away from its naughty boy roots. The attractions of the so-called Sin City and its visitors are becoming more diverse. Today single male travellers make up a relatively small minority of total overall visitors to Pattaya, smaller still if you count all the Thais visiting Pattaya. Pattaya's naughty nightlife is probably similar in size today to what it has been for the last several years but it feels smaller because there is so much more going on around it.
I used to look forward to going to Pattaya for the weekend but over time I became bored, perhaps even disenchanted with the place. Visits once every few weeks turned into once every few months and these days I only visit Sin City when I have a specific reason to do so. I had such a reason this week. With business concluded, I wandered around town and observed how Pattaya is moving away from what first put it on the tourism map. Be that as it may, Pattaya's nightlife extends well beyond Walking Street and the beach and fragments can be found in most neighbourhoods . Here are a few snaps and thoughts from Pattaya this week.
Referred to by some as the Sex Tourist Express, the nickname of the bus to Pattaya needs changing. The number of obvious naughty boys on the journey down was almost zero.
It was a remarkably comfortable journey and neither driver – on the way down or way back – hit 100 km/h. What was once an hour and a half journey took more than 2 hours. No complaints, getting there safely is all you ask for.
Did the bus take a wrong turn?! Just minutes after arriving in Sin City I spot an Isaan-style tuktuk of the variety seen in the most far flung parts of the region and wonder how it got there. And why was the for sale notice written in English? Like so much that goes on in Thailand, it was all a bit of a mystery…
It's easy to think that Pattaya is all neon, nightlife and built for tourism but the seaside town existed before the first tourists came, although it was the arrival of tourism that has seen it develop into what it is today.
You needn't venture far beyond the beach or Walking Street and you'll see everyday Thais performing everyday jobs, Thais with a ready smile who have zero interaction with foreigners fascinated by these odd looking, oddly-dressed visitors.
This fellow was rather taken by the scantily-clad Russians making their way along Bali Hai Pier with their fair skin, skimpy shorts and top that showed way more than a local woman would ever dare show.
The marine police whiz from Pattaya Bay towards the shore, clearly in a hurry. Had they received the call from their favourite vendor that a fresh plate of som tam was waiting or were they in pursuit of bad guys?!
It's not yet lunch time on Walking Street and most bars are locked up, many bar employees still hours away from waking up. But the doors are open at Bacarra bar, the Pattaya branch of the most successful of all Bangkok gogo bars. An employee places offerings on a table out front and would soon kneel down below the table in an extended prayer.
Outside a massage house on Soi Honey – which runs between Second Road and Soi Buakhao – girls call out to any man passing by. Age, nationality, ethnicity, physical appearance, it really does not matter. Like a smaller version of Pattaya's infamous soi 6, it doesn't attract the masses but business-wise it's much the same – similar services at similar prices.
Near the Soi Buakhao end of the soi runs a fence with graffiti in English. Some wise guy has written, "Go home hookers." How long it's been there and how long it will remain, who knows? Do the girls know what it means? Do they care?
Out for a spot of shopping, this hansum man finds himself embraced by two friendly ladies keen to get to know him better.
Walking Street at night is as colourful as ever. It's only a few months since I was last in town, yet many new bars have sprung up. Amongst the amusing additions since my last visit is a tower several metres in height at the Beach Road end of Walking Street used by police for crowd surveillance.
On the subject of the police, I notice the Tourist Police Volunteers were conspicuous and they too have diversified with at least one white woman in their posse. Given the number of misogynists who visit Sin City and given how many drink too much and get into strife, I can just imagine how some will react to a white woman in a copper's outfit.
It's so refreshing to see a lady in Pattaya actually dress like a lady. Pattaya's Walking Street is ground zero for women to dress like men. So many wear the uniform – 300 baht jeans and a 100 baht skimpy top which does little for their femininity and screams out that they are up for it. Still, that seems to be what many punters want to see. Give me a lady who dresses and acts like a lady any day.
It's the United Nations as the crowd on Walking Street is more diverse than ever with languages spoken you cannot place.
One group who you don't see a lot of on Walking Street, at least not compared to the naughty boy areas of Bangkok, are single Japanese men. It is said that they are not fond of women who service them going with men of other nationalities. This is evidenced at the Thermae and the better bars in Bangkok like Bacarra and Rainbow 4 where girls who go with Japanese look petrified when a Western guy approaches them. It's not that they don't speak English, it's knowing they could quickly fall out of favour with their preferred customers.
The beer bars seemed to be doing a very good trade, especially those where suds are almost given away. Up on Soi Chaiyaphum, popular with the budget conscious a bottle of beer could be had for 45 baht and bars were packed. Along Second Road between South Pattaya and Central Pattaya Roads, most beer bars were doing a decent trade.
Early evening on Beach Road and there's a shift change, the day shift making way for the night shift. I've never reconciled how the day shift tends to attract the less attractive women and the nightshift the more attractive. You'd think the ladies who were less pleasing might be better advised to come out at night and linger in the shadows at the Coconut Bar where their looks might not be so obvious. The Beach Road, also known as the Coconut Bar, is as popular as ever.
Sitting on the beach early evening, the girls try their luck before later moving on to Walking Street. A couple of short-times later, they will end up at a freelancer venue, Insomnia or perhaps the Bamboo Bar. Maybe they will stay all night with the last customer of the night, or maybe they will return to their Thai boyfriend – impatiently waiting for her to hand over the spoils of her toil.
A young foreigner opens the throttle and screams along Beach Road towards Walking Street, the whining sound of the engine causing people to turn as two lovelies cling on to the back of the bike.
Just what is that thing mounted on his helmet? Some sort of camera and digital recording device, perhaps?
At the Walking Street end of Beach Road is where you often find the most successful of the Coconut Bar troop, the princesses lounging around on their boyfriend's motorbikes, posing and catching up on all of the gossip.
Oh to be a fly on the wall and know just what was said. He quickly disappeared and she didn't look too happy!
I enjoyed my time in Pattaya but was happy to get out alive, and get back to Bangkok. A couple of days in Sin City is enough. Any more and it gets a bit much. And it's not just me. My pal Dave The Rave returned from a week in Pattaya and told me that after 4 or 5 days he too was ready to return to Bangkok. Bangkok and Pattaya really are very, very different. That said, for one who loves street photography, it's hard to imagine anywhere with as much going on and as much to snap – even if the reception you get from locals when you point the lens in their direction is not as warm as it once was.
Where was this photo taken?
Last week's photo was taken at the main Patpong soi with the sign for Chawala Travel clearly visible. 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 – Short, sweet, and straight to the point.
Just thinking here, maybe too much beer but I think not. If all of these foreign guys want to have a Thai girlfriend experience, why don't they just get a Thai girlfriend? The internet is totally global and if the guy is really worth something and is in fact what he poses to be then there is no reason he should not be able to find what he is looking for. There are hundreds or even thousands of ripe and ready Thai women available and looking!
Flunking Econ 101, or using your charm and not your wallet?Would you rather be an expat pulling in 300,000 baht per month tossing around too many hundred baht tips and being told you are a "very good man" by the bargirls on the receiving end or be an English teacher or pensioner making a fixed 40,000 baht per month and telling your mates what an idiot the guy tossing the red notes around is? For me it's an easy call to make. But it is amazing how many guys in the latter group take on an air of superiority to the blokes in the former. That's flunking Econ 1A.
Hot air at the airport.
There has recently been a report that – yet again – the authorities are clamping down on touts that operate within Bangkok's international airport. And – yet again – it is all just hot air. I arrived back in the country one morning this week and was accosted by no less than three touts asking if I was going to Pattaya. One of them was having a friendly chat with two security men in grey shirts and black berets before asking me, right in front of them, if I wanted a ride to Sin City. No doubt the security guys have worked out that they get paid anyway so why actually work. Or, better still, maybe they take money from both sides, from the airport authority and a bribe from the touts to turn a blind eye.
Hounds bound for Vietnam.
I can confirm there is a huge trade in dogs from Isaan to Vietnam via Laos. On at least 3 occasions I have been stuck on what is almost an Alpine road winding between the Karst limestone mountains, behind trucks loaded with wire cages, maybe 10 long, by 6 wide, by 6 high (= 360 items), each with a howling dog inside. This was on the road that passes close to the Laos town of Lak Sao, which goes on into Vietnam in the direction of Vinh. Not sure exactly where the animals come from but the closest Thai town to the border with Laos is Nakhon Phanom. Friends of mine who worked on that road at the Theun Hinboun hydropower plant confirm that these trucks went by 2 at a time every day – meaning close to 1,000 dogs a day. Laotian villagers turned away in disgust, trying to block their ears from the whining. That said, there doesn't seem to be a shortage of canines anywhere in Isaan or Laos.
A fan of the angels of Angeles City.
I am not sure what Angeles City your reader was in but when I was there earlier this year it was great. The hotel I stayed in was as nice as anything in Thailand. The food in this hotel was always excellent. Other restaurants I ate at were of similar quality. My favorite Mexican restaurant there is also in Pattaya and I dined there many times. He is right about not having the diverse tours and things to do like in Thailand but the tour I took of the volcano is worth the whole trip. There is also a casino there for some diversion. If you are offended by beggars, hawkers and grinding poverty then you need to stay at home. I found the bargirls there warmer and not as hard as the girls in Thailand have become. The expats there are also much friendlier.
Visit Thailand, face discrimination?
I am sure you have heard about Jimmy Saville and the reverberations of what he was up to. It seems as if the 60s right through to the 90s are now being put on trial. Even before these exposés, Thailand and the Philippines had a reputation that went before them. Now that the UK is entering a moral examination of itself, I was wondering how all of this will affect all those who might still be considering a journey to the Garden of Eden. Sending in a CV with the words Thailand mentioned on it could well preclude one from being considered for a job application.
The iconic sign at the front of Nana Plaza is history. The neon letters have been removed and presumably the frame of the sign is about to be dismantled and taken down. The pace of renovations at the plaza has picked up as workers race to get everything ready with the high season just around the corner. By day the plaza is full of workmen painting the plaza yellow, carrying out various repairs and installing a new electrical system. With the plaza being painted yellow throughout and the iconic sign removed, the question on people's minds is whether the plaza will undergo a name change. The new name? With that colour scheme it could only be…Banana Plaza.
A meeting was called and held by police and attended by security staff from all the bars in Soi Cowboy. The Thonglor police explained that they have plans to make the increasingly popular soi safer. Surveillance cameras are mounted at each end of Soi Cowboy providing the authorities with a view down the neon-lit soi and in addition, 6 new cameras will be installed making a total of 8 cameras watching the comings and goings. All Cowboy bar security staff are attending a training course which covers various aspects of their job including how to deal with difficult customers, how to deal with customers who refuse to pay a bill as well as tips to spot various issues including behaviour which could be related to terrorism. Security staff have been told what they can and cannot do when it comes to troublesome customers i.e. when it's ok to detain someone and when it isn't. Staff who have successfully completed the course have been issued a certificate which will be displayed in their bar. One of the new measures is to make security staff in Soi Cowboy more visible and they will soon don new uniforms which clearly mark them as security. And with Soi Cowboy firmly on the mainstream tourism map, there will be police patrols. There's talk of a golf cart running police up and down the soi like you find on Pattaya's Walking Street. There will be plenty of regular customers who won't like the idea of an increased police presence but I personally believe that with police taking the idea of looking after the soi more seriously it will contribute towards legitimizing the soi to some extent which in turn could extend its longevity.
The Bangkok branch of Insomnia has been sold and all sorts of rumours are circulating about just who the buyer was, the reason for the sale and the price it went for.
Pretty Lady Bar in Nana Plaza has finally reopened after lengthy renovations with a new theme. Outside is a huge sign which says Nana Main Station and the outside area of the bar has been done out like a skytrain station. The boss tells me that despite the sign, they will keep going as Pretty Lady Bar, but refer to main station in reference to the location and design. I'm not sure quite what that means… Anyway, inside the bar the mirrors are still there and the popular cartoons will be back soon.
I note standard drinks prices in Suzy Wong's and Sheba's crept up recently to 160 baht which reinforces the perception that drinking at Soi Cowboy will set you back a few more baht than it will at Banana Plaza.
Popular bar boss Big Andy refuses to rest on his laurels and has had an agency source some new girls for his bar, Club Electric Blue in Patpong. There are
anywhere from several to a dozen young, energetic girls dancing up a storm and making the venue even more worth a visit.
Popular Banana Plaza ladyboy bar Temptations has reopened after renovations.
The Halloween party at Nana Liquid, this coming Wednesday, October 31st, features all you can drink for 1,000 baht.
Angelwitch in Banana Plaza is well-known for its Halloween parties when many of the staff get done up with some incredible face paint of a quality seen in horror movies. The 2 Angelwitch bars – in Banana Plaza and Walking Street – will have special Halloween shows with both bars decorated and the girls dressed up. This is one of the biggest party nights of the year for Angelwitch so go along for some scary fun.
Billboard on the top floor of Banana Plaza is also making an effort for Halloween with decorations and a number of the girls will be in fancy dress. Note to manager of Billboard: no need to put the birds in the Jacuzzi in fancy dress – they're just fine the way they are!
And from the cringe worthy files comes the story of a lass doing great jobs at DR BJ's Salon. She is said to be making 120,000 baht a month. You really don't want to do the maths of how just how many jobs she has to perform per month to earn that amount.
To my eyes Pattaya was quiet this week with not that many tourists about and bars seemed quiet for the most part. And that was exactly what every bar owner I spoke with said, some even lamenting this year's low season as the worst in some time.
Manager Paul might be away on holiday but Misty's A Gogo in the thriving soi 15 off Walking Street seems to be doing just fine. The venue doesn't have that many ladies but those it does have, wow! It's the best lineup I have seen in some time. The music and the sound system at Misty's each deserve special attention – both are excellent. Of the bars I checked out in Pattaya this week – which admittedly wasn't that many – I thought Misty's was easily the best which is probably because it's closer to a Bangkok gogo than a Pattaya gogo i.e. it's more about quality and a nice bar experience and less about outright sleaze. I'm surprised that you don't read much on the forums about Misty's. A bar like that deserves to do so much better.
There are heaps of new bars in Pattaya, new gogo bars popping where old gogo bars once were, and new bars popping up in spaces that were once some or other business. Bars are popping up all over, from Walking Street to Soi LK Metro and no doubt other bar areas too.
Soi LK Metro has developed over the past year or two into a destination in its own right, a bar area popular with those who want to be able to cruise around the bars without gawking visitors and the commercialisation of Walking Street. Soi LK Metro isn't on the mainstream tourists' map, at least not yet. Whereas in Walking Street seemingly everyone is taking photos and videos, it's rather different at Soi LK Metro where some bar staff got VERY upset and very angry when I pointed a camera at their bar. In fact pointing my camera at Showgirls was akin to pulling a gun; the security staff became extremely animated. Given how nice the venue looks from the outside, you'd think they wouldn't mind passersby taking shots and posting them online, all of which helps to promote the venue. With that in mind, here's what Showgirls looks like. It was much the same around the soi and I have to say it was the first time in a while I have been insulted in both Thai and English at the same time.
The owners of a popular Irish pub in central Pattaya which was renovated at a cost of 28,000,000 baht have since relocated to Bangkok and are keen to move on. They will let the venue go for a bargain 3,000,000 baht. If this interests you, drop me an email and I'll put you on to the sellers. There's a similar pub over in Jomtien with a fit out of a similar value with an asking price of 10,000,000 baht.
If you flew into Bangkok pre-2006 you would have arrived via Don Meuang Airport. Don Meuang suffered water damage in the 2011 floods. It recently reopened and is being used by budget airlines. A friend flew in to town this week and walking through the familiar old concourse of Don Meuang brought back fond memories. However, those memories were soon marred when he reached the lengthy queues at Immigration which he doesn't remember from the good old days. He then had to wait, get this, a whopping 1 hour in the taxi queue! If you should find yourself waiting and waiting for a taxi at Don Meuang, it's only a short walk out to the main road where you should have no problem haling a cab to take you downtown.
The Australian government is about to jack up partner visa fees for the second time in 5 years. If you'd arranged a visa in 2006 you would have paid around 47,000 baht. When Labour was elected the rates went up to around 62,000 baht and the next increase sees the price set to go up to 81,000 baht. That's for what they term an offshore partner visa. The price for an onshore partner visa will increase to 120,000 baht. When you add in the 20,000 – 30,000 baht you have to pay for a medical, taking your darling to Australia is going to knock a hole in your Fosters fund. One way to save a little is to check the fee payable in Thailand with what the exchange rate is. With the fees adjusted twice a year depending on the exchange rate, you can save a couple of hundred bucks by paying the visa application fee in Australia. Just because you are paying for an offshore partner visa application that has to be submitted in Thailand doesn't mean that you can't pay the visa fee in Australia with Australian dollars. Just visit a DIAC office in any state capital and pay the fee at the counter. A copy of the receipt should then be included with the application. For Aussies keen to learn more, there's a very Thai-centric forum on Australian visa issues relating to tourist, partner and prospective marriage visa applications, AustralianVisaForum.com.
Also for the Aussies, a new budget mobile carrier, Amaysim, has halved their mobile phone rates to Thailand to 6 cents a minute – and that rate applies whether you're calling a landline or a mobile.
Sunrise Tacos' flagship branch at soi 12 with the wonderful outdoor seating area at its best at this time of year is throwing a Halloween bash this coming Wednesday, October 31st. There's a costume contest and 10,000 baht in cash and prizes as well as some interesting sounding drinks mixed especially for Halloween. Sunrise is open 24 hours a day and with Insomnia just a stone's throw away, it's a great meeting place!
I'm convinced that there's something about the farang sector of the bar industry and the pressure placed on the girls which results in them being at their absolute worst, often treating customers in ways they would hate to be treated themselves and to generally behave in such a way that warrants the bad rep that many working in the industry have to live with. Away from the industry, the behaviour of bar staff can be rather different. Case in point was this week on the Sex Tourist Express. My allocated seat placed me next to a lady who was obviously heading to Pattaya to work – and looking at her appearance she had probably clocked up a good few years already. I had a large bag of camera gear, a small backpack and a large lens dangling around my neck. I must have looked rather awkward. Said girl who I was sat next to could not have been more helpful, offering for me to place some of my stuff at her feet which would have limited her personal space. She offered to help me stow the gear and was very nice about it. Cynics may say that she was trying to snare a punter but I'd say that that was just her natural character, offering to help a foreign visitor. Away from the industry and away from bar customers, these girls can be very different.
Sunday nights can be quiet in the naughty bars with fewer customers as expats often spend the night in with the work week starting the next day. There are usually fewer girls around. On a particularly bad night, some bars may have as few as half the number of staff that they had the 2 previous nights. Some girls cram in so many customers over Friday and Saturday, they're no longer impecunious and there's no pressing need to work Sunday. If you like a party atmosphere, Sunday may not be the night for you, but if you're like me and prefer it when bars are quieter, Sunday can be a good night to head out.
Following on from the piece about notifiable diseases in last week's column, it can be confirmed from a reader employed as a medical professional in Thailand that irrespective of where you go for a test, STDs are *not* notifiable in Thailand.
Reader's story of the week outlines the nonsense that reader JC went through when looking for love online in Thailand.
Quote of the week, "I don't mind where you get your appetite, provided you eat at home", said by the Mrs. of someone about to go to Bangkok for work.
Reuters takes a look at the serious issue of rising gun crime in Thailand.
At $350 a pop, will the supposedly ancient art of Thai face-slapping take off in San Francisco?
After numerous mentions in this column, the well-known Pattaya baht bus pickpocket gang has been arrested.
Plastic surgery in Thailand was profiled this week and how beauty at bargain prices can become a painful mistake.
A hotel chain in Thailand is brewing coffee from elephant dung for which it charges $50 for 2 cups.
A Brit suffered multiple stab wounds as he defended his girlfriend from a sex attack by a gang at Ao Nang, South Thailand.
From The Age, an Aussie and a Canadian are found dead in a Bangkok hotel room after a suspected drug overdose.
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 your legal needs.
Question 1: The question and answer relating to a Thai girlfriend having rights to a condo, even though not married, filled me with dread and fear. Is it possible to expand on the answer? Principally, how do the courts define a "life partner"? My belief has always been that a life partner is more than just living together and such a couple would be sharing bank accounts, for example. I own a condo in Bangkok and have lived with girls so the thought that I could lose my home is worrying to say the least! I understand that under Thai law that if a marriage breaks up, assets before the marriage return to that person and assets acquired during the marriage are split. So if one owns a condo before a "live-in" relationship, does that mean the other party has no rights to that asset? Also, if someone has say, 5 million baht in a bank account, marries, then uses that money to buy a property, is that considered a marital asset (technically acquired during the marriage although funds existed separately before that).
Sunbelt Asia Legal responds: If you have an unofficial wedding ceremony (without the registration), take wedding photos together, or introduce her socially as your wife then she would be considered a life partner. If you do not have a ceremony or even photos and only introduce her as your girlfriend and she is not socially known as your wife, then she is not considered a life partner. If she is a life partner then she would be eligible to half the condo if you purchase it when you are living together, even if the money was obtained before you met her. But she is not entitled to half of your bank account. In order to defend the ownership of the property, the owner must prove that the property was owned prior to the live-in and vice versa. The relationship will need to be proven in court and evidence as to the nature of the relationship will be necessary i.e. witnesses, photos of a wedding ceremony etc. It is essentially a "de facto" relationship which is recognised by the Thai courts but cannot be registered. It should be noted, however, that the de facto relationship is not recognised by Immigration for visa purposes.
If you find yourself in a marriage or life partner relationship and would like to make a clean break, Sunbelt Asia Legal Advisors have specialists that can assist you.
Question 2: I have currently got a 1-year extension of my non-immigrant multiple-entry B visa which would have expired in June without the extension. It was extended based on education. My visa guy doesn't know much about work permits but thinks I can cancel the education portion and switch to a work permit without having to get a new non-immigrant-B visa. Is this the case? If not, what steps must I take? And is it possible to get a non-immigrant-B single entry from a neighbouring country such as Cambodia or Laos, or must I go to a more westernised country like Singapore, Australia or back home to England?
Sunbelt Asia Legal responds: It would seem that your non-immigrant business visa (multiple-entry assuming obtained from a consulate abroad) was due to expire and was extended based on education. Subsequently, you wished to obtain a work permit. As per Labour Department rules (according to Ex), it is not possible to obtain a work permit under these circumstances. You will need to cancel the ED visa and obtain a non-immigrant business visa at any Thai embassy or consulate, preferably Kuala Lumpur, Singapore or Hong Kong. The Thai embassy in Laos requires the WP3 while in Cambodia, it takes 4 business days to issue the visa.
Over the last 10 years, we have helped thousands of expats obtain work permits and extension of stay permits and are here to provide this service for you.
Many regular visitors to and expat residents of Thailand poke fun at the locals and denigrate them and their ways of doing things, often as a way to make them feel better about themselves, and feel a sense of superiority. It took me a good few years of living here to realise that much of what Westerners criticise the Thais for, Westerners in Thailand are often just as guilty of themselves. Many years ago it was de rigueur to denigrate Thai men for their perceived failure to use condoms when visiting prostitutes. But the very same can be said of Western men who I truly believe are less disciplined than Thai men when it comes to safe sex with sex workers. Drink driving is a huge problem with expats who drive in Thailand, just as it is with locals. Many years ago I wrote about how Thai women often try to accelerate a relationship from just met to about to be married in record time. Today more and more foreigners in Thailand do exactly the same thing, announcing that they are about to move in a girl they met 24 hours ago. Westerners still giggle when they see a Thai family with 3, 4 or even 5 members on a motorbike but in their defence, they often don't have the money for any other form of transport. But imagine a Caucasian doing the very same thing – and not even bothering to put a helmet on their daughter's head! I'd suggest that much of the fun that is poked by foreigners at Thais is not a Thai thing, but a Thailand thing – and by that I mean that irrespective of nationality, visitors adopt local ways remarkably quickly!
Your Bangkok commentator,