It was a small, open structure that looked like a garden shed with a roof and eaves, but no walls. It stood alone, nestled between two hotels at the northern end of Phuket's Karon Beach. It was set back from the road and all I could see was a pinkish red glow, while music reached us from a tired sound system. "Hello, welcome please", was the cat call from inside. The small bar sat on one side of the long beach road with a view across to the beach on the other. Sitting at the bar, the breeze from the bay kept things pleasant despite the fact that we were essentially sitting outside at the hottest time of year. The women were as ugly as the bar was haggard but the tropical setting and view of a palm-fringed bay made up for it. It was my first visit to what the Thais refer to as bar beers, and we as beer bars.
135 mm, ISO 6400, F2.5, 1/200 second
Often located in complexes with 10 or 20 carbon copies of each other, beer bars are most popular on the islands and at the beaches where the environment is more conducive to being outdoors. Pattaya has hundreds, Phuket and Samui plenty too. Each "bar" is often little more than 15 or 20 square metres, a space surrounded by a countertop on which farm girls often sit trying to convince punters to buy them a drink or better still, their body.
An accurate description of most beer bars would be dreadfully unflattering but things are changing, particularly in the capital.
24 mm, ISO 200, F8, 1/200 second
I'd always wondered about the wisdom of beer bars in Bangkok. Wasn't the whole idea of a beer bar being outside in a tropical setting? Who wants to sit outside in the middle of noisy, polluted city? But in recent years I have been proved wrong as more and more beer bars have set up, and many of the city's gogo bars have set up an open area outside the bar very much in the beer bar mould.
Boss Hogg set about the revolution of beer bars in Bangkok when he shook the industry up by investing in Big Dogs, upgrading the venue and forcing them to follow if they wished to compete. Flat-screen TVs were installed, big name sports matches shown and the bar was run as a business, not as someone's private drinking parlour.
Since then the top of Soi Nana has been transformed and today there are a dozen or so beer bars to choose from.
The 10 shophouses out front of Nana Plaza comprise 4 beer bars, the entire frontage entirely beer bars. Foreign-owned Stumble Inn and Zen go head to head with Thai-owned Morning Night and Hillary 4, the 4 venues paying astronomical rents for the best location on the soi, much more than what the gogo bars inside the plaza pay.
Either side of the entranceway in to the plaza, Big Dogs and Lucky Luke's are perennially popular while the beer bars within the plaza plod on.
Across the road from the plaza is the Golden Beer Bar which is technically part of the Nana Hotel, and the Aussie-owned and well-run Bar4 is 50 metres or so down the soi. Away from the plaza itself, these venues pay much lower rents and can compete on price, offering much cheaper drinks.
Further down the soi, Strikers' location in the Raja Hotel car park is always going to be a handicap, its direct competition Hillary 1 and Hillary 2 nearby (Hillary 3 can be found on soi 11, of all places). That said, from its days at the top of the soi, Strikers has a decent following.
24 mm, ISO 6400, F4, 1/40 second
Flat-screen TVs, wall to wall air-conditioning units, quality top shelf spirits and a few genuinely sexy girls, a visit to the newest beer bar on Soi Nana, Zen Bar, shows the way beer bars are going. Things are moving upmarket.
It's not that long ago that customers sitting at beer bars out front of Nana Plaza frequently glanced at their watch, waiting for the girls to get on stage in their favourite gogo. Bangkok's beer bars were where you killed time while waiting for somewhere else to open.
30 mm, ISO 3200, F3.2, 1/60 second
We talk of the good old days, when the bars were supposedly better – and the girls working in the bars prettier – but both my memory and photos from the so-called good old days shows beer bars to be full of big girls, those who had no chance of working in a gogo bar. Purveyors of fuller-figured women can still find what they're looking for in beer bars.
39 mm, ISO 2000, F2.8, 1/40 second
Traditionally the biggest complaint about the beer bars was the lack of attractive ladies. Girls seem to know before they even get to Bangkok or Pattaya that the money is where the chrome poles are.
Have things changed? There are always a few lookers who don't like the idea of dancing in a bikini so hunt hard and you may find a diamond in the rough.
24 mm, ISO 3200, F2.8, 1/80 second
Let me introduce you to the mamasan of Zen Bar, or is it the papasan? (S)he is a bit of a character, and not at all aggressive as some of her type can be.
Like Stumble Inn and some of the girls at Eden Club, Zen can be entered from the front or the rear. The smallest of the beer bars out front of the plaza, Zen is a shophouse and a half wide. You can sit out front and watch life on the street, but it also features lounge seating at the back of the bar where you can watch the comings and goings inside the plaza.
61 mm, ISO 12800, F2.8, 1/80 second
Laid back, beer bars lack the structure and rules of gogo bars. Few venues put their girls in uniform. Still, sexy wear is not that common and this girl looks more like she belongs in a gogo bar than a beer bar.
38 mm, ISO 3200, F3.2, 1/60 second
Some girls work the room while others are happy to relax and hope a guy approaches them. Relaxing in a bar these days may mean whipping out your mobile, your tablet or even your laptop. Entrepreneurial girls have one eye on their Facebook account and another on the dudes in the venue.
57 mm, ISO 10000, F2.8, 1/80 second
A girl reads another's palm and tells her of her fortune, or otherwise.
One of the concerns I have about the bar industry – as distinct from mere prostitution – is the way local culture dictates younger girls defer to those older. New entrants to the industry can be young and naive listen to the often errant advice of older girls and mamasans who it seems are more about helping themselves than helping the girls who really do need guidance. But the older the girls and mamasans are so often damaged and sport the emotional scars so common after spending time in the industry. Many beer bar mamasans exploit young and impressionable girls who may be outside their province for the first time and give them the worst advice. Worse still, they often expect to be compensated for it, and handsomely.
In the early days of this column I wrote that the average girl has a window of about 6 weeks during which time there might be a chance to rescue her from the industry i.e. take her away and into a relationship before any long-term damage is done. The way the industry has changed I reckon today it's more like 7 days, maybe less. It's not so much what the girls experience with customers, but the poison from and bad habits they pick up from mamasans and older girls.
63 mm, ISO 12800, F2.8, 1/80 second
The hottest girl in the bar needn't get online to find a customer and passes the time honing her Connect 4 skills with colleagues. With that beaming smile she stood out and the first naughty boy to walk in the bar who was looking for some company would surely barfine her.
44 mm, ISO 10000, F3.5, 1/30 second
On the sidewalk out front of Zen is a food vendor who has been in the same spot for years and years. She is such a fixture that when she closes up at the end of the night she doesn't even bother to move her cart, tables, seats and umbrellas away, but leaves it right there. Is she worried that if she moves she will lose her position? She has been pressured by the master lease holder, but steadfastly refuses to move.
When the new round of sub-leases were signed, lessees were told that the pavement along the frontage of Nana would be beautified with racks of flowers set up which would not only make it look more attractive, it would prevent streetside vendors from setting up and blocking the front of the bars. That hasn't happened. Still, with this vendor in place it provides a ringside view for those sitting at the front of Zen of the lovelies getting some chow before their shift starts somewhere inside the plaza.
35 mm, ISO 4000, F2.8, 1/80 second
It's not just the general appearance of the beer bars in Soi Nana that has improved but systems have been put in place too. The days of hand-written drink bills are long gone in most Bangkok bars although the odd big bar, like Tilac, is holding out. Electronic billing has been the norm for some years and it's a win : win situation for bar owner and customers alike. Customers can easily check their bill, and most bars see an immediate 10 – 15% increase overnight when an electronic system is installed.
Apart from the more laid back atmosphere and people watching opportunities, the advantage of beer bars are the prices. The Golden Beer Bar is the cheapest spot at the top of Soi Nana with a standard beer 75 baht all night long, a lady drink just 60 and barfine 350. They have been asked, some would say pressured, to increase their prices.
70 mm, ISO 6400, F2.8, 1/80 second
The tip money is counted up and divvied up amongst staff at the end of the shift. On a good shift it can reach 500 baht per person, and even an average day it's a couple of hundred baht or more. In Soi Nana beer bars, a girl's share of the tips often exceed her salary.
When Nana Plaza was sold recently, the rental rates paid by bars inside the plaza basically doubled. That was quite a hike, but they were able to absorb it and still turn a tidy profit. The shophouses out front of the plaza saw rents increase by a factor of 5!
The rents paid by the beer bars that span the 10 shophouses at the front of Nana Plaza are astronomical and have kept drinks prices up. If you wondered why these 4 venues don't seem to compete on price, the lease contracts contain a clause that specifies a minimum price for drinks. With one venue's monthly rent running 7 figures (yes, SEVEN figures – not a misprint), they probably couldn't do 50 baht beer and be profitable.
Excessive rents have not always been the case. The leaseholders of the shophouses out front of Nana made silly money for years. 18-year sub-leases were signed in 1981. Key money was a million baht per shophouse – that was $US 40,000 in 1981, a considerable sum at the time. It granted the leaseholder a 6+6+6 lease. Once key money was paid, monthly rent was 2,000 baht per month for the first 6 years. For the next 6 years it was 4,000 baht per month and for the final 6 years it was 6,000 baht per month. With rents so low, millionaires were made!
24 mm, ISO 3200, F4.5, 1/50 second
"Not sweet and sour", the mamasan says to me, "But sweet and sexy!" Sexy is on the left and sweet on the right, if you were wondering…
70 mm, ISO 5000, F2.8, 1/60 second
The beer bars at the top of Soi Nana are one of the best spots in the city for people watching and with venues going more upmarket coinciding with some gogo bars beginning to feel stale, beer bars are gaining plenty of new customers.
Laid back they might be, beer bars for the most part used to be dirty, decrepit, low-end venues with girls who couldn't compete on the freelancer circuit. Things are changing at the top of Soi Nana and the drinking options outside the plaza today provide genuine competition for what's inside.
Where was this photo taken?
Last week's photo was taken from AmBar, the pleasant roof-top bar at Four Points by Sheraton, about 75 metres into Sukhumvit soi 15. The big clue in the photo was the inclusion of part of the sign for the Manhattan Hotel at the far right-hand side of the shot. 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. Past prize winners must wait ine month before they can claim another prize. 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 – More dangerous today?
I recall my first trip to Thailand some 18 years ago. I was warned about the gemstone scam, and the tuktuk driver tours of the shops. The other warnings were the usual big city warnings of pickpockets and the occasional bag snatching. I also recall that other crime happened, but the consensus was that it was between Thais and didn't involve tourists. Thailand and Bangkok were very safe for tourists who wouldn't be troubled with crime. I happily wandered the streets at night, and apart from feeling a bit isolated at times, I felt quite safe. Maybe I know more now, but I feel this has changed dramatically over the last few years. I'm not on the Bangkok pulse, but crime against farangs in Pattaya has certainly changed. Muggings, fights, druggings, necklace grabs, jet ski scam, etc. all seem to be daily occurrences in Sin City now. Is it that there are more farangs here now? Or is it that news of these things is now more easily accessible? Personally, I feel that things have changed, particularly over the last few years.
Which homeless person is 500 baht richer?
I love the photo journals about your soirees into the real Thailand but there are a lot of places in Bangkok that you're taking a big chance going to at night so I hope you don't get too carried away with the general theme. I used to just take off into the night in areas I didn't know looking for that "raw" Bangkok scene and ended up getting fxxxed up pretty bad by a group of homeless people living in the shadows. I did nothing at all to provoke the beating they gave me. Luckily I only had about 500 baht on me at the time.
Just like on TV!
I had a real Isaan experience this afternoon. The brother-in-law showed up with a friend, and then someone else wandering by joined in, and they spent the afternoon getting through a bottle of whisky. One fell into a drunken sleep, another has sat for hours shouting at no-one in particular and the brother-in-law (a policeman) has now also fallen asleep. Just like they are portrayed every night on Bangkok soaps. I've actually never seen that kind of behaviour before in my entire life.
Asoke searches continue.
I read a lot of stories about police checks and it seems these have increased. Last night around 11 PM I walked the skywalk from the BTS Asoke to Exchange Tower. When I looked down at the police box I saw 8 police officers. They stopped every taxi coming from Rachadapisek Road turning left into Sukhumvit Road with foreigners inside. It didn't matter whether the occupants were male or female, single, groups or couples. Everyone had to get out of the taxi, show some papers and empty their pockets. It took about 2 minutes and the person could jump in the taxi again and go on. What makes me worry is that in some cases they also checked the interior of the taxi like you mentioned in your column. Two males were brought into the police box after one taxi was searched. I don't know what happened inside, but they stayed there a long time. As you said, you never know who sat in the taxi before you!
Police the same the world over?
I think some of the reactions from readers to the police searches are a bit hysterical. Yes, dealing with them can be risky. Who doesn't know this already? But from what I've heard, most people's negative encounters are more annoying than scary. Choosing to leave the country because a cop looked in your wallet is just silly. Police in Western nations are no angels either. When I was young I was harassed by cops many times when I'd done nothing wrong. I've been searched for no apparent reason in Australia, France and England. I'm clean-cut, middle class and white. I was once arrested and put in a cell for the night in Australia for being a bit drunk and insisting a little too assertively that I hadn't done anything wrong.
It's not only the staff who should be awarded for long service.
One of your readers commented that some of the staff have been working at the Nana Hotel for as long as 40 years. Some of the prostitutes in the coffee shop have been there even longer than that!
Marrying a hooker is like domesticating a cobra.When a foreigner comes to a place like Thailand with the hope of meeting and marrying a pretty lady and wants to take her back to his own country, it's a bit like a visitor to a national park arriving and finding a cobra, catching it, taking it home and keeping it under his bed. This strikes me as pertinent when I go to the local Thai wat here in Brisbane. OMG, some of the flotsam you see draped off the arms of their husbands! I understand the lingo so it's a hard not to eavesdrop as they shriek at each other like a bunch of sulphur-crested parrots. Gotta wonder how they even got a leg in the door of whichever beer bar they were 'rescued' from.
It could be the eighth wonder of the world how these seemingly intelligent foreigners continue to buy into heaping stacks of bullshit from these ladies. I have done it too, but never at a major loss. Again, we can measure our coping abilities by how much money is left in our bank account at the end of the month to even entertain the thought that they actually care about anything other than money or their family is a fool's folly.
And you thought the sense of entitlement was bad in the West!
I thought the western mentality was bad, and then I spent a few years in Thailand. It never ceased to amaze me how when my wife and I would go shopping, her sister and mom would come along and expect me to purchase stuff for them! When my wife and I wanted to go out to dinner, we would not tell anyone, otherwise family members would show up and expect me to pay for top shelf booze and a big dinner! My wife's family seemed a bit perturbed that I would not buy them booze. I don't drink and never will, same with my wife.
Business has been good in Bangkok's bars this week with Soi Nana especially doing very well, Loy Kratong aside which was a bit of a fizzer for the bars this year. It's still early days but everyone I speak with is saying this high season will be Banana Plaza's. Soi Cowgirl's dominance is a thing of the past.
Could some long-overdue policies be coming to Bangkok's oldest bar area? Two issues of interest were raised at a recent meeting of the company which owns Patpong and rents space to bars and other businesses. The first proposal mooted was the placement of signs at the start of the sois leading into Patpong stating that you are entering private property and basically warning you of the dangers. The second idea discussed was a policy that would force touts to venture no further than the doorway of the venue they work for. This would mean they could not roam around hassling people and dragging them in to the dodgy upstairs bars where their 100 baht drink ends up costing them hundreds or even thousands of baht and they leave ripped off and go on to tell everyone how bad Patpong is. Time will tell if either policy is implemented.
The first bar you reach on Sukhumvit soi 33 is Christie's, a purpose built bar that has been around seemingly forever. Christie's was open on Friday night but is closed today with confusing signs posted saying that Christie's has moved to Setanta. No mention of anything temporary or merely the staff moving, so does this mean that the owner has finally relented and this prime piece of real estate will be converted into something more profitable?
Will the recently renovated bar on Cowboy once known as Cocktail Club be renamed "Baby Tilac"? It is only a single shophouse but the interior has been done out exactly the same as Tilac. The new sign still hasn't gone up which has fuelled speculation that a name change is coming.More and more reports have been coming in about police stops and searches on Sukhumvit, with the most recent batch centred at the Ekamai / Sukhumvit intersection – right outside the Ekamai bus station. Reports paint a very different picture to those of Caucasians exclusively being stopped and searched around Asoke. Witnesses reports from Ekamai have it that everyone is being stopped and searched *except* Western males. Thais – male and female, Middle Easterners, Indians, Africans – everyone apart from Caucasians. I guess that means we're not flavour of the week at Ekamai – but we are at Cowboy and Nana!
A soon to be rethemed and renamed bar on the middle floor of Nana Plaza had an unwanted side show this week as a wasted foreigner got up on stage…and stayed there! Initially it was of minor amusement but after a while the sight of a foreigner on stage – male or female – starts to grate. When customers asked staff what security was going to do about it, they were told that security staff were away eating! As customers started to leave the bar one mamasan realised she had to do something about it and tried to throw him off the stage herself. It was a total debacle!
Heaven Above in Pattaya's Soi Diamond have a bunch of parties and promotions lined up for December. The first is the Boss's Xmas Party which will be held next Saturday, December 8th. It will future a free BBQ, Thai food, drink specials and door prizes. Santa Claus will make an entrance later in the evening and some of his beautiful helpers will help make it a fun evening.
Spanky's Pattaya celebrates its one-year anniversary next Saturday, December 8th, with a party. All are welcome.
Shamrock Bar, a fixture of Soi Pattayaland 2 for many years, has been closed for the past couple of weeks. The owner is a good guy but the former cashier doesn't think so. The owner felt something just wasn't right and the venue didn't seem as profitable as it should. He looked into things and eventually got proof that the cashier was doing a bit of a fiddle. When he confronted her with it and informed her that she was finished, she went crazy and bottled him! But the Irish are a tough bunch and luckily no long-term damage was inflicted. However, the damage went beyond his noggin and all the staff took the cashier's side and left, effectively forcing the bar closed due to a lack of staff. Yep, just as I have been saying for the best part of a year, finding new staff really is a challenge for business owners in Thailand at the moment. It is hoped that Shamrock bar will reopen in a few days with a brand new crew. Stories like this are hardly unique. When the owner is a foreigner and staff see so much money coming in and feel they are paid but a pittance, some seem to think it would be foolish to not try it on. The owner says that if there's a next time he will get someone else to do the firing!
A sign of the times, Kbank ATMs in Pattaya now have Russian as a language option.
Are Thai working girls less crazy these days? That's a very simple comment based on a single observation – that there are far fewer girls in the industry these days with those hideous self-inflicted scars across their wrists and forearms that some girls do to get attention and which is one of the biggest red flags. These scars were more common in the past with perhaps 1 in 100 girls sporting them, but these days I reckon it's more like 1 in 500. So are the girls in the bars really less crazy these days? Nah, the explanation is probably much more simple. Thai working girls spend less time in the industry because lovelorn Western guys are marrying them off fast – and less time in the industry means less time for them to spiral out of control to the point that they inflict that sort of crap on themselves.
Firehouse on Sukhumvit soi 11, which can be found way up the far end of the soi / opposite Q Bar, is offering an imported 100% US-certified prime cut Angus burger (ground fresh by Firehouse) for the month of December. It is offered at the special price of just 240 baht.
Once the biggest English teacher training course provider in Thailand, I was shocked to hear that TEFL International is closing its original branch in Bahn Pe. The current course at the company's original branch on Thailand's eastern seaboard will be the last. There was a time when business was so good that two classes trained at the same time but those halcyon days are long gone. With the advent of the internet, the English teacher training industry has undergone massive change with many would-be teachers choosing to go the more affordable route, taking an online course that features a couple of days classroom component at the end. With internet-based courses offered at prices that the full 1-month intensive course providers cannot compete with, TEFL International and other similar course providers have struggled. Chatting with the owner, he commented that the mix of teacher trainees had changed drastically over the years. In the early days around 80% of the trainees were males and while he did not say it, I don't doubt that teaching was far from many trainees' first choice of work and the attraction to Thailand were other things. Young women made up about 70% of trainees on recent courses. (It should be noted that the branches in Phuket and Chiang Mai will continue.)
I've said it before and I'll say it again – I think Wat Po with the large reclining Buddha is more impressive than the Grand Palace, which is right next door. Wat Po attracts far fewer visitors and costs a fraction of the price to enter (40 baht versus 400 baht). And when Barack Obama was in town a couple of weeks back it was Wat Po he visited. So if you want to visit an impressive Thai temple and are pressed for time, consider Wat Po over the Grand Palace.
If you haven't got a hotel sorted for your next visit to Bangkok, consider Town Lodge at the end of Sukhumvit soi 18 which is offering guests late check
out for FREE. So many of the hotel's guests seem to have late flights and wouldn't it be nice to have a room until 9 or so at night rather than having to walk the streets or hang out at Starbucks or the airport for several hours? Obviously
at the busiest times it is subject to room availability.
The mad scientist continues to write his riddles up and down Sukhumvit Road and around Asoke. The strange fellow I mentioned in the column several months back writes curious equations with a blue marker pen at bus stop shelters, on lampposts and across advertising hoardings. City officials clean it once a week or so but he is back within a few days and writes more!
And speaking of characters, from a reader here's a shot of the former character of Pattaya, Glitterman on his Christmas tree on wheels in Wimbledon!
Private Dancer author Steve Leather has something for you to add to your Christmas shopping list. The Asian Heat boxed set has three erotic stories set in Thailand – The Threesome (where a guy takes his wife to Thailand for a threesome that doesn't turn out as expected), The Alphabet Game (where a guy tries to sleep with Thai girls from A to Z) and The Pregnant Wife (about a guy who finds a sure fire way to get free sex in Thailand). All three are available as a set for less than 100 baht as an eBook. You can find it at Amazon here or at the Amazon UK site here. If you haven't got a Kindle, you can download it as a PDF from Smashwords.
And if you're looking for more good reading over the upcoming holiday season, the latest in the popular series of Calvino novels from Christopher G Moore is out. The 13th Calvino is titled "Missing in Rangoon".
Is everyone rich in Thailand today? I ask this question because it's getting more and more difficult to find people to do a job for something as simple as fixing an air-conditioning unit. Getting a taxi driver to take you where you want to go is a challenge at times and many in work are looking for a new job, not necessarily because they don't like their current position but because companies are desperate for new staff and prepared to pay good money. There's so much work out there that some who have come into decent money recently have no interest in actually doing anything unless all the stars line right up and it is a cushy and well-paid number.
Speaking of which, is your Thai girlfriend, wife, gig or mistress looking for work? If she is, a bunch of vacancies exist at a famous, successful local restaurant opening a new branch on Silom Road. For those with little or no English, the starting salary is 10,000 baht per month plus their share of the service charge and tips they can reasonably expect to make 15,000 baht per month. For those with some English, add a couple of thousand to that and for those with good English and experience in the industry add another couple of thousand baht more. Interested parties should call Khun Day on 085-4881611.
Quote of the week comes from lecherous Lee, "Khao San Road is no more the "real Thailand" than Nana Plaza or Soi Cowboy is, and may be even less so."
Reader's story of the week comes from Korski, "Addictions".
The Age in Australia reports that police reports in Thailand don't come for free.
Not Thailand-related admittedly, but "The War on Men" will appeal to many male readers.
Cabbages and Condoms opens its first branch in England.
19 years on, a Belgian discovers that his Thai wife used to be a man.
In this 11-minute video report, an Australian tells of the shocking and truly horrifying situation he faced after his girlfriend died in Thailand in an accident and he was wrongly blamed for it!
From Scotland, a man who accused his Thai wife of stifling his libido with spices admits stalking her after their break-up.
HIV transmission continues to be a problem in Thailand.
PhuketWan looks at the scams at Phuket Airport tourists face as soon as they arrive on the island.
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: What is Sunbelt Asia's opinion on citizen / tourist / expat rights when stopped and questioned by police? Are police required to produce identification if asked?
Sunbelt Asia Legal responds: Police are allowed to require a person to produce identification. A foreigner can produce a copy of their passport, however, the police may require you to produce the original at the Police Station at a later time, or their Thai driver's license is acceptable as a form of ID. Thai citizens are required to carry their ID with them at all times and may be fined 100 baht if they are stopped without it on their person.
If you feel you have been detained unfairly, please contact Sunbelt Asia's experienced legal advisors and we can assist you in dealing with the police.
Question 2: Does Thailand have anything similar to America's "fair use" copyright laws? I'd like to create a section on my website with 3-minute conversations from Thai movies for the purpose of Thai language learning. I would not charge any money for this and would not include any video from the movies, only audio. Would this violate Thai copyright law? Or does Thailand have exceptions similar to America, where small sections of copyright material can be distributed royalty free for special purposes, such as education, as long as nobody is profiting from the distribution.
Sunbelt Asia Legal responds: Thailand does have a section where copyright could be exempted (i.e. Section 32 of Copyright Act B.E. 2537 under Part 6 “Exception From Infringement of Copyright”). Even if you are adapting (either in part or whole) the movie onto your website for the purpose of education, research or non-profit making it is always a professional courtesy to notify the copyright holder to avoid any misunderstanding and / or future conflict.
Sunbelt Asia's legal advisors can help you draft such a letter if the copyright holder is in Thailand and is Thai.
Question 3: My wife and I have been married for a little over a year. She has been waiting for a visa to my country and is tired of waiting. She wants a divorce. Do I have to fly back to Thailand to the office (Amphur) that we recorded our marriage to file a divorce? Or can she do it alone and send me papers to sign and send me copies? How long does it take? There are no $$ or kids or house to argue over.
Sunbelt Asia Legal responds: Regardless of where you are located, you must be present to sign the document. If the divorce is uncontested then you can do this at the Thai Embassy in front of Thai officials and with a witness present as well. It may be easier to fly to Thailand and the both of you divorce at the District Office.
If the divorce is contested then Court proceedings would be required and the divorce would be based on one of the accepted causes.
Sunbelt Asia's legal advisors have extensive experience in handling divorce proceedings between Thai and foreigner and can assist you with the process both here and with the Thai Embassy.
24 mm, ISO 1250, F4, 1/40 second
Thanks for the responses to the question at the end of last week's column on whether the settings used in some of the low light photographs posted in this column should be included. The first dozen or so responses were all in favour of including them. What followed were a number of readers against the idea. Some felt the settings would be a distraction while some said it would be misleading as they wouldn't tell the whole story – and thinking about it, they are right. Take the photo here of Soi Cowboy as an example. It needed much editing in Photoshop and the settings to capture the photo itself are perhaps no more relevant to the final photo than what was done in Photoshop. I did include the settings this week, but am not sure if I will do so in future or not. I am happy to answer any questions about photos in this column or talk photography in general by email.
Your Bangkok commentator,