In my last rant for 2012, let's take a look back over the year at some of the changes and trends that have emerged in Bangkok.
They Come From Everywhere
With economic doom and gloom persisting in the developed world and the economies of countries which traditionally supplied visitors to Thailand struggling, the profile of the typical visitor to Thailand is changing. As with previous years, Thailand has seen a diversification of the profile of visitors to the country. As the mix of visitors changes, the services offered change too.
Recent years have seen more Chinese, Russian and Indian arrivals, outnumbering visitors from any Western nation but in downtown Bangkok you wouldn't know it. While they tend to be visible at the popular beaches and islands, you don't see many Russians in downtown Bangkok and they tend to bypass the capital completely. The Chinese don't tend to stay downtown, at least not in big numbers and while you see some Indians, it's not that many.
In central Bangkok, from Sukhumvit to Siam to Silom and down to the river, there are still plenty of Caucasian visitors but the profile has changed. Today you're more likely to see a Western man with his family. And it appears that Thailand has been advertising in Geriatrics Monthly with a massive increase in older couples. The single Western male whose idea of a great holiday is lager and lithesome locals makes up a smaller and smaller percentage of total visitors every year.
Bangkok Opens Up
Not that long ago popular Soi Nana bar and restaurant Bus Stop knocked out the front and saw an increase in business. Ditto Hanrahan's a little further up the street. When the new Dubliner opened in soi 33/1 last month it featured a large deck out front with and the tables on the deck are usually the first to be taken. Likewise on soi 11 at Mulligan's and Oskar where the tables outside with a view of the street are the best in the house.
An open front looking out on to the street are as typical a feature of bars and restaurants in Bangkok today as is a menu and service staff. Most new venues feature an open front and many existing venues have been renovated to include an open front. In a city where there's always something going on, it's great to have a ringside view of the show.
Struggling soi 33 bars desperate to get punters back got in on the trend with the new Monet featuring outdoor seating, as does the new Tenderloins. The girls from Barfly all sit outside where there are two ledges for girls and customers to watch what little life there is on the soi. Soi Cowboy bars developed their outside areas a few years back, and the top of Soi Nana has kicked on this year with all the beer bars out the front of Nana open at the front. Khao San Road has more and more open air bars extending out in to the middle of the street. With many coming from countries where it's only comfortable to sit outside for a few months of the year, being able to enjoy a drink year round holds much appeal.
Staff Desperately Needed!
Pay peanuts and you get monkeys; pay more and you might still get monkeys…
Thailand's labour market has a problem – there are more vacancies than people to fill them! With an unemployment rate recently reported at just .6%, businesses up and down the country are desperate for staff.
Many hotels, bars and restaurants in downtown Bangkok have staff wanted signs outside. Hotels are opening with serious staff shortages. The person who cooks your breakfast may be the person who changes your sheets and scrubs the toilet bowl clean.
From the entertainment industry to the professional services industry to manufacturing, the labour shortage transcends industry.
Struggling to fill positions, businesses take on applicants who may not be ideal. Service in Bangkok restaurants was never great, but it is getting worse due to the acute labour shortage. It has got so bad that the standard today seems to be a waitress who comes to your table, looks at you, waits for you to order and then walks away. There's no checking and confirming the order, no willingness to make a recommendation, absolutely no value added – and absolutely no reason to tip! Venues would be better off installing Ipads at tables for customers to order. The order is sent via wi-fi to a printer at the bar or in the kitchen, a system which would be cheaper in the long run and a win : win situation for business owners and their customers.
Full employment in Thailand is having ramifications on the other side of the world. From that fine city of Auckland, New Zealand I hear of a small massage house owned by, and entirely staffed by Thais which has been forced to close as the owner cannot get any new staff from Thailand. Thais don't need to go to a country they know nothing about with a language they don't speak when they can make good money in their homeland doing exactly the same thing. With what the girls are asking these days, there's no need to travel to make the big bucks.
An Age Of Austerity
Economic doom and gloom may not have had a significant effect on the numbers of foreign visitors but anecdotal evidence suggests it has on how much they spend.
Bar owners used to talk of big spenders running up bills well into baht 5 figures. Not today. Those who never looked at the price list now do so and some have switched from Sukhumvit to (much cheaper) Khao San. The same number of customers around are spending less.
But more than anything, there is a realisation amongst visitors that Bangkok isn't the bargain it once was. Again, this is nothing new but people are now talking about how expensive a night out in Bangkok can be, especially if the total cost is converted back in to their own money. With the pound Sterling unable to break through 50 baht, the dollar miraculously staying above 30, and prices in baht terms continuing to rise, a night out isn't just much more expensive than it once was, it's just plain expensive. Increasing costs is nothing new but people actually talking about how expensive things have become and changing their spending patterns is.
Bye Bye Cowboy, Hello Nana
Bangkok's nightlife story of the year was the sale of Nana Plaza, a good news story that has seen it reclaim the title as the most popular bar area in Bangkok. Coinciding with the facelift at Nana was a feeling of insouciance at Cowboy. Tilac went off the boil, Sheba's closed, Dollhouse struggled to get girls and while in Bacarra Cowboy has the best gogo bar in the country, one bar does not make a bar area.
Nana's resurgence has been a combination of good planning and luck. The new owners' investment in the plaza and determination to improve the property has made it more pleasant and given punters who had turned their back on it a reason to return. Over the past year several bars have been done up – Straps, Lone Star A Gogo, Nana Main Station, Temptations and Mercury following just as many which were improved last year. With more set for similar treatment in the first half of 2013 as the bars that were part of the Crown Group get a much needed makeover, Nana can only get better.
Will Cowboy fight back or was its success of the last few years an aberration that won't be repeated? I'd suggest the latter…
Realisation That It's A Transaction
The veneer has gone and any illusion of the so-called girlfriend experience is a thing of the past in Bangkok, as much a part of bar history as Washington Square, Pam's Bar and Hogg's Breath.
With business booming, the girls needn't make any effort to hide the disdain some have for customers. When the country was poor and the girls were desperate the power was with the customers. The situation has changed, the girls can get decent real paying jobs if they want them and now it is the girls who are in control.
All sweet and smiles inside the bar, once they get outside they're all business. Nowhere is it more obvious than at the Balcony Bar, beside the entrance to Hollywood Hotel. Watching couples go inside it's the same story, he is all smiles and thinking about what is about to unfold. When they walk out, seldom more than about 45 minutes later, she is smiling, a couple of thousand baht richer. She's made her money, there's no need to act and she goes straight back to the bar. In 5 minutes she'll be back on stage and the cycle will repeat itself! He on the other hand looks like he's just been robbed!
She will like you more if you treat her as a service provider and don't try to turn her in to something she isn't. Finally there seems to be a realisation amongst the whoremongers that these girls see it as a transaction and nothing more.
If you want a girlfriend experience, get a real girlfriend!
Foreigners In The Cross-Hairs
The much publicised police stops and checks on Sukhumvit are just one way authorities appear to be cracking down on foreigners in Thailand.
Out on the roads, there are more speed cameras and more drink driving checkpoints. Settling infractions on the spot is a greater challenge today, more so if you're white.
Foreigners used to be able to start a company in Thailand relatively easily, the requirement to employ 4 Thai staff was overlooked so long as the social fund contributions for 4 ghost employees were paid. These days it's more difficult and the requirements followed to the letter. Unable to go legit, sole operators are forced to fly under the radar. Where there was once an attitude of can do, now it's all very much by the book.
There's a growing feeling that with foreigners the laws of the land are enforced. When it comes to citizens, interpretation may be more liberal, disputes up for negotiation. The playing field feels more uneven.
Another Modern Asian Metropolis
With entertainment districts Soi 11 and Soi Thonglor thriving, today Bangkok has more international standard restaurants and bars. There are also more international hotels and more international fast food chains. The skytrain is being extended, shopping malls are replacing local markets and the city's skyline looks more impressive every year.
Exotic Bangkok is disappearing as the city looks more like a modern Asian metropolis. What was not so long ago referred to as the third world is now firmly an upper middle income country.
The Thais delight in the rapid development of their country and so should we. Income levels are soaring, standards of living improving but with it comes a tinge of sadness that the Bangkok of old with its charm and mystery is disappearing.
What will 2013 bring? Come the end of next year will we be drinking water right out of the tap? Perhaps the financial requirements for a retirement visa will double. Maybe The Arab will own all of Soi Cowboy and rename the soi after himself. In Bangkok, anything is possible!
Where was this photo taken?
Last week's photo was taken in the walkway which connects the Hualumpong MRT station with the main Hualumpong railway station. Not many readers got it right. 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 bright young lad speaks out!Last week I was at Central Rama 3 having a coffee at Starbucks. It's a mostly Thai crowd but a farang guy walked in with the usual butt ugly Thai girl. Where do some foreign guys find incredibly ugly girls in a city full of gorgeous women? Soon after, another rather youngish and handsome farang guy walked in with an even uglier girl. Then a 3rd farang guy came in being led by the nose by what I can only describe as a tattoo experiment gone wrong on top of being an even uglier (and I didn't think it was possible to be uglier than these first 2 birds) Thai girl. The family of Thais next to me had a young boy of perhaps 3 years old. I could barely hold my laughter when the boy turned to the grandmother and said "Poo-chai farang mai chawp poo-ying suay chai mai?" which translates as "foreign men don't like pretty girls, right?"!
The Banana Plaza colour choice.
Nana being yellow isn't a bad choice. A colour lesson on physical mix and visual mix. Physical mix is taking the paint out of the tube and mixing it together on the palate. A visual mix happens between your eye and the canvas. The pointillist painters did this. In the case of Nana, yellow is the lightest and brightest colour on the colour wheel. It is warm as well. Warm colours advance and light advances, so as you said it stands out in the day time from the skytrain. When the sun goes down red lighting is very prominent in bars. That red spillover from the lights on to the yellow (visual mix by the time it gets to your eye) creates orange. The psychology of colour…orange is a warm, comfortable colour and makes people want to hang out. The guy who chose the colour knew what he was doing. It should be interesting to see if it translates to dollar signs.
The future of Bangkok nightlife.
My view is if nightlife has a future in prime areas like Sukhumvit, it has to be done with some dignity. Having a clean place with fresh paint, new electrical wiring etc are all good steps. Those who like the old plaza are in my view very selfish and want a Thailand for their holidays / charms rather than thinking about Thailand's development and perceptions. For example, Amsterdam maintains its nightlife along with modern day to day life, without people thinking it is a ghetto whore house.
The industry's expansion continues.
Are the ideas of the past about Thailand really in the past? You just covered how Nana got a facelift – the owners would not invest if they didn't think there was a future in it. In fact to change the ideas of the past, Nana and Cowboy would have had to die a death like Washington Square before the world's opinion changed about sex and Thailand. I agree things have changed, but the facades are still there – Gulliver's, Thermae, Hillary. One could conclude that the trade is going from strength to strength. Cowboy, Nana and Pattaya have all shown a gain over the last 10 years. I think the fundamentals of the sex trade here have changed and moved from necessity to profit. Walking Street is going more Vegas but at the same time the space between 2nd and 3rd roads is picking up to replace it. Try and find a few photographs of Walking Street in 1968. Draw a line from there to today and I think you'd have to conclude that Thailand's sex trade is only on the increase, hence its reputation.
The reputation of the east, or uncouth Brits?
In my opinion and in my experience in the UK, people do generally associate Thailand with prostitution. I married a Thai and brought her to the UK in 2006. She is an indigenous Thai, her family is from Nonthaburi, and there is no family link to Laos or Cambodia, though some distant ancestry may be Chinese. Her first job was working behind the bar at our local village pub. She was propositioned almost on a daily basis by the locals, even though she was never a bargirl. Many knew she and I were married, but it made no difference. My own boss even tried it on with her and I've known him for more than 20 years. One disgraceful occurrence was when an elderly retired police officer followed her around the pub trying to kiss her! Male behaviour never ceases to amaze and disgust me.
The stigma remains.
The perception of Thailand is a huge problem for me and I have to lie about my trips by saying I am in Dubai. I elect to fly Emirates because Dubai is a believable place to spend time versus Doha or Abu Dhabi etc. Unfortunately perceptions are driven by media, especially television. Movies such as Hangover 2 have only made things worse. People remember the ladyboy scenes as opposed to the views from Lebua Hotel. In the new James Bond movie, China was presented with style with scenes from high-rise buildings, beautiful casinos etc. Despite the Bond girl being a former working girl, the overall perception was good. The current adverts about Thailand on CNN are a step in the right direction and may change people's views. I am a British-born Indian and some of my family are very narrow-minded and Indians are very judgmental. Many immediately associate Thailand with sex tourism regardless of any effort to change perceptions.
The perception is worse today!
I've been a frequent visitor to Thailand since my first trip way back in 1984. Over the years many things have changed in Thailand, but little has changed in the UK regarding the attitudes of the general population towards the type of person who visits, if they happen to be single and male. In fact I think the Internet and the increase in frequency of shock horror exposés of women and children by deviant old sex tourists appearing in the foreign press has made this perception worse. I no longer tell anyone but my close friends if my travel destinations include Thailand, Taiwan, Vietnam or horror of horrors, Cambodia. Over the years I've introduced many friends and acquaintances to the fascinations of Asian travel, but warn them to be careful what they say to their friends and colleagues as they may find themselves labeled a pervert, deviant, or worse, behind their back.
Trash-talking others to feel better about oneself.
I am pushing 9 years with my association with Thailand. At first, I was very open with what went on (not 100% disclosure but a nod in any case). As time went on, I was getting snide remarks, off-hand comments that irked me, usually those that put me in the low of the low category. Sex tourist is the first thing that comes to their minds, one step away from pervert and who knows, paedophile perhaps. The thing is, I have one of the more 'legit' stories. I went on holiday in 2004, met a girl, we went on holiday to all the usual places, I went home, got her the visa and after 2 years we had son 1, after 5, son 2 and a home in Ubon. Despite this 'legitimacy', I maintain the story of a single male in the home country with my colleagues. A handful know the full story, those I consider to be close friends, those that have either visited Thailand or have a broader view of life. People love to gossip, especially if that gossip places one on a higher moral plane than the subjects of the discussion. I often tell myself that I don't care about their opinion but I suppose in reality I do. I just try not to give them more ammunition than they already have.
There's long been a concern that nutjob insurgents from the south of Thailand might target Bangkok's tourism industry with some feeling Nana Plaza represents a soft target. Drive a truck full of explosives in to the ground floor one night and boom. The new owners have proven that they are not just improving the look of the plaza, but its safety features too. Ground-mounted barriers have been installed at the entrance to Nana Plaza to prevent any vehicle larger than a motorcycle from entering. They are lowered during the day so deliveries can be made and raised when the sun goes down. And the colour of the new safety feature? In fitting with the colour of the plaza, yellow (and black), of course!
The large sign outside Nana Plaza has been joined by a smaller sign erected beside and perpendicular to it that can be seen up and down the soi.
Christmas Eve was a real letdown in the bar areas and this week has seen business awfully slow for high season. The girls are wondering where all the punters are although to be fair, a lot of bars are very low on girls. Sukhumvit is packed by day with visitors everywhere but doing the rounds at night I'm amazed at how quiet some bars are.
And with some bars charging outrageously high barfines this week which will peak on New Year's Eve, naughty boys might want to hunt elsewhere. The highest holiday season barfine I've heard of is 4,000 baht at What's Up in Pattaya.
At Spasso's, the upmarket bar on the ground floor of the Grand Hyatt Hotel, both the hotel and the girls are cashing in. The entrance fee was 1,000 baht on Christmas Eve and will be 1,500 baht on New Year's Eve, for which you get just 2 free drinks. One freelancer was quoting a whopping 12,000 baht for her company, and was nothing special to look at. Another lass said she would do the deed for 8,000 baht, a discount from her standard rate. Are people actually paying this? Good on the girls if they can get it. If word gets out that guys are paying that much there is going to be an influx of girls at Spasso's! It makes me wonder if these girls did a stint in Singapore where these numbers are in the ball park. Perhaps they have seen the same guys on the circuit in Singapore and Bangkok and have priced accordingly? These aren't models or superstars or belles of the ball. Bacarra and Rainbow 4 have more beauties. Some of the prices quoted in Spasso's are from Lala land!
Pretty Lady Bar AKA Nana Main Station on the ground floor of Nana Plaza will celebrate New Year's Eve with shows, free food and a lucky draw.
After an inexplicably long delay, the new sign at the recently renovated Cocktail Club went up this week. Cocktail Club has always been nothing more than an average venue so I thought a change in name as had been proposed to Baby Tilac might be nice, but as a friend pointed out in this politically correct world we live in some may take that to mean the bar employed infants and as such, that name was out!
The latest rumour from Soi Cowboy is that while Shark bar has secured the empty space that was Sheba's, The Arab has got Shark bar. This doesn't make sense to me but it's the latest rumour doing the rounds. If it turns out to be true, it would mean that Bacarra has not managed to secure Shark which would be a shame as I'd love to see that bar expanded.
The price of a standard drink at Suzy Wong's has crept up to 170 baht. OK, it's not a lot compared to what you pay in the West but it's getting up there by Bangkok standards.
Some of the beer bars in the middle of Nana Plaza are now open from midday onwards but it's hard to see them doing much trade at that time. The beer bars out the front of the plaza offer a view of what's going on and decent people watching. Those venues inside the plaza are nothing special when nothing's happening in the plaza and there's nothing to watch.
I am hearing good things about Mercury Bar in Nana Plaza. Since renovating, adding a Jacuzzi and a bunch of new girls, it has developed quite a following. And with plenty of Japanese men going inside, it has to be good.
Did you know that Sexy Night, the narrow bar in between Angelwitch and DC 10 has been run by the same owner since the plaza first had gogo bars? The owner, a charming Thai woman in her early '60s has been running Sexy Night since 1981! In the shiny new plaza, it's a throwback to a different time.
Up until about 10 days ago Citibank at the Asoke intersection was one of few banks where you could make an ATM withdrawal from a foreign bank account and not incur the local 150 baht fee. That's no longer the case and Citibank has joined the ranks of banks levying this fee. For those who used to use Citibank to avoid the 150 baht fee, the nearest fee-free ATM is the AEON ATM machine on the lower ground floor of Terminal 21 shopping centre. The AEON ATMs are inside the AEON branch which is next door to TMB Bank.
After disappearing from Bangkok a decade or so back, Domino's Pizza is making a comeback with a new branch to open on the ground floor of the Holiday Inn on the corner of Suhkumvit Road and soi 22.
Popular Soi 11 bar and restaurant Oskar has had a great year. First, they expanded the venue putting in a second floor, and now they have opened a new venue on Thonglor which is getting positive reviews. The French DJ and some of the staff have moved over to the new venue. I've yet to check it out, but apparently it's more upmarket which would be a good fit as Thonglor tends to be Thais with money.
Yes, some of the naughty bars allow you to pay your bill by credit card but beware, they may slug you with a charge. Not 1% or 2%, but as much as 5%, irrespective of the size of the checkbin. If you're sensitive about price or simply don't like paying more than necessary, grab some cash at the ATM machine first.
Nana might have taken over from Soi Cowboy as the busiest naughty foreign bar area but what Cowboy still has is a nice vibe. Soi Cowboy is a single naughty boys' soi, whereas Soi Nana can feel like a whole sex tourism district with girly bars going way down the soi. That can attract a certain element and at times there are some really rough types on Soi Nana. On a bad night, Soi Nana can feel like a jailbreak.
I'm often asked which I think is the best gogo bar in Bangkok. I can honestly say that it's a one-horse race. One bar is in a league of its own. Nana might be the best area but the best bar by a country mile is Bacarra in Soi Cowboy. It probably makes twice as much as any other bar and it arguably has the prettiest girls. Bacarra has two floors of dancers and features a glass bottom dance floor so if you're downstairs you can see the girls dancing upstairs. It's popular with everyone from Japanese to Westerners, tourists to expats.
Newly renamed Insanity needs work on their customer service, especially at the main entrance. Entering the venue it's a cluster you-know-what with staff so slow and disorganised that some punters leave before they even get inside and head to Climax instead. This has been a problem for some time and something needs to be done about it. And it has to be said that the crowd at Insomnia seems to be changing. I don't know how representative the crowds were this week but let's just say that if they open a kitchen, the top sellers will be Rogan Josh and Chicken Tikka Masala.
Many local ladies are keen to meet a foreigner, but at the same time they complain that foreign guys only ever want to take them back to his place for a shag. What the girls don't realise is that there's a reason for this – and she is to blame! Any foreign guy who has dated a number of local women knows that some have a propensity to turn up late, often very late. Not 10 minutes or 20 minutes or 30 minutes, but sometimes an hour or more after the appointed time. When your date is so unreliable time-wise, what can you plan to do? You can't see a movie because movies start at a specific time so you have to be on time. You can't take a bus or a flight to a beach or an island for a weekend getaway because again, that requires you to be on time. And booking a table at your favourite restaurant where you know the staff and have built up a good reputation with them is not something you want to do when you have no confidence that your date will be on time. So the safe bet is to invite her over to your place for a pizza and a DVD, and a shag! So to those Thai girls who complain that foreign guys only want to get you over to his pad, think about being on time and you might just go on some more interesting dates!
Apologies to the small number of readers who had trouble accessing the site this past week. The problem affected a small number of readers and has been fixed.
Bully's has rolled out a brand new menu with many new items including Australian 120-day aged steaks – rib eyes, fillets and 500 gram T-bones which are imported chilled and never frozen – unlike the competition. They have a new manager in American Tony who is also a professional mixologist, having won a number of cocktail competitions in the US. His resume includes serving in and managing high-end restaurants in Las Vegas, Philadelphia and New York City. Friendly and accommodating, he is a great addition. Bully's will offer a New Year's Day set menu in addition to the regular menu. They also have *real* French champagne (not sparkling wine) during the holidays at 1,750 baht a bottle / 490 baht a glass. Or if you prefer, they also have Italian Prosecco at 890 baht bottle / 225 baht glass.
The other half just about fell off her chair when she saw a scene in a movie on TV earlier this week. The main characters were at a vineyard in Europe and were jumping around inside an enclosure of grapes, squashing them in preparation for wine to be made. The Thais see the soles of the feet as the absolute lowest part of the body and are considered to be dirty. She couldn't believe it that people would actually drink wine made from grapes that people's feet had come in to contact with! I think European wines are off the menu permanently!
If you get involved with the wrong type of woman, or perhaps just don't play your cards right with the right type of woman, things can go bad fast. The photo below was taken of some public telephones on Sukhumvit Road, not far from Soi Cowboy. It looks to me like some sort of cry for help after things went bad with a local lady. If only they had read Stickman it might not have reached that point…
Quote of the week comes from a Pattaya forum user, "Pattaya is most enjoyable when drunk!"
Reader's story of the week is a most interesting tale, "My Bangkok Anabolic Steroids Story".
The Aussie and British ambassadors are warning their nationals about all of the scams in Phuket.
Bangkok has become the most photographed location on Instagram.
Not Thailand-related but interesting nonetheless, have you ever wondered what life after sex work would be like?
From the Bangkok Post, it is females who are shaping the shifting adult fun market.
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: I have just purchased a new house in Isaan for myself, wife and to be adopted son. I have no issues that the chanote is in her name etc, but I do have one query. My wife has a heart defect and God forbid nothing happens to her, however in the event that it did, what rights have I got to remain in the property until I die or also to sell if I wished to?
Sunbelt Asia Legal responds: There are two things your wife should do;
The first that she executes a will and specifies that you or any other individual she wishes to include in the will be her beneficiary and will inherit the listed assets. That is she could specifically state that you would be inheriting the property. According to the Land Act, under section 86 where it specifies that a foreigner is eligible to own land for residential purpose by inheritance as statutory heir. However, it is important to note that permission from the Minister of Interior must be obtained, which is highly unlikely to occur. If they didn't approve it then you would be forced to sell it within a year. If you were unable to sell then an auction would be held.
The second item Sunbelt Asia advocates is registering a usufruct on the land. The usufruct must be done at the Land Office in the District where the land is located and you must both go to the office together. A usufruct gives you the rights to manage the property for either commercial or residential purposes and is for your lifetime. This way, your wife could leave the land in her will, to say, your adopted son but you retain the rights to the land even when she passes away. She could name you as the executor, the Courts would appoint you as executor and then you can manage and delegate the estate to her beneficiaries.
Sunbelt Asia has extensive experience with usufructs and drafting wills and can assist you and your wife with registering the usufruct, will, appointment of executor issues etc.
Question 2: My wife and I have been living in Thailand for about 7 years now and have 2 children who were both born here. None of us have the Thai nationality. I am Dutch and my wife is Singaporean. My kids both have a Dutch passport, and our daughter also has a Singaporean passport. Because we do not have any direct relatives here in Thailand, we want to ensure that in the unfortunate event that something happens to the both of us, our kids are taken care of by people of our choosing in The Netherlands. What does the Thai law have to say about such a scenario? What is the usual practice if both parents pass away at the same time and the children are still minors, and how does this apply to foreigners? How would this have to be documented to be respected by the Thai legal system?
Sunbelt Asia Legal responds: As none of you are Thai nationals the law governing the guardianships would depend on their nationality. You may want to contact the Dutch Embassy in Thailand to record your statement. Whereas the executorships of the estate (assets in Thailand) could be appointed by Thailand with the use of the Dutch court order (appointing an executor) as reference. Sunbelt Asia can assist you with drafting the wills and the naming of an executor that the Courts would then appoint to manage assets and affairs of the estate.
Before I say goodbye for the last time this year, note that I will be out of Bangkok for the next week or so. That means that while I will publish next week, the news section will be light.
It's nice that this column continues to be popular and is still very widely read. The format of a weekly news roundup works and I'm surprised no-one does anything similar. Some do come and go, but most give up after a few months. I also note that the Bangkok forums which cover similar stuff are dead these days. I guess most have moved over to Facebook.
When I look back at this column over the past year, I think I can give myself a solid pass mark. I think the photography improved marked this year and I know I was on top of all the big news stories from the industry.
I've been surprised at how some of the gentle columns generated a lot of positive feedback. The columns on Lumphini Park and the Saen Saeb Canal trip went down very well.
The most popular columns this year were the Mama Noi interview and the late night stroll around old Bangkok. The photo essays Stuck At The Strip and watching Spanky's get ready to party were also well-received.
So what's the plan for 2013? More photos, more photo essays and I will continue to make every effort to gather all the latest expat community news as well as entertainment industry news and gossip. There will be more travelogues so basically it will be more of the same. Call me arrogant but I tend not to listen to what readers say they want to read and just write a column about stuff that interests me. I figure that as long as I do that I'll continue to produce the column, which is ultimately the goal. I figure that if I put enough effort into it, hopefully you'll enjoy it.
OK, I've rambled on long enough this week. That's all for this year. All the best for a great 2013!
Still your Bangkok commentator,