I tend to ignore others when I'm exercising, but I couldn't help but notice a young foreigner acting suspiciously as I was pounding the pavement. And as I got closer, I saw that I was right. He really was up to no good. He was scrawling graffiti on a power pole!
"Hey man", said the scrawny, tattooed, 20-something year-old punk as I stood next to him watching what he was doing.
"What are you doing?", I said, asking the obvious, surprised to see someone vandalising property in broad daylight.
"What's your problem", he retorted, quickly aware that I was neither admiring nor appreciative of his handiwork.
I moved closer to see what he had written and his eyes took on the wild look of someone not quite all there. "Get out my face, man", he blurted out and quickly backed away, appearing to suffer some sort of quick onset paranoia. He looked at me standing there, watching him, puzzled, and then he turned around and ran!
He took off along Sukhumvit, and about 50 metres away he turned and slowed down, but maintained a brisk speed. He turned around every few seconds, seemingly concerned that I was following him. As he got to an overbridge he ran up and crossed over to the other side of the road. He waited to see if I followed. I didn't.
As I continued my walk, I found myself drawn to all the tagging and graffiti along Sukhumvit Road. It's everywhere!
You'd never describe Bangkok as beautiful, but parts the central city have been marred by the scourge of graffiti.
A few years back the BNE phenomenon hit Bangkok. BNE stickers can still be seen all over the city, and not just downtown but all over the city. BNE's penetration is citywide; the curious three letters can be found across the river, right at the end of dead end sois and deep in to neighbourhoods where the only foreign faces seen are on TV.
Bangkok has never been free of graffiti, but typically it has featured in low income neighbourhoods, away from areas popular with foreigners. Political messages are an exception, such as when the red shirts took over parts of downtown in 2010.
Spray painting stupid words and logos on plants there to beautify the city is seriously uncool. Who would do this?
And private property is not off limits. It's bad enough that public places are tagged but when private property is targeted the ante is upped.
In Auckland, New Zealand, a few years back a homeowner stabbed a toe rag he caught tagging his fence, killing him. He was charged with murder, fought the charges and was eventually found guilty of manslaughter and sentenced to 4 years and 3 months jail. 15 months after sentencing he was paroled.
A scrawny white boy caught tagging a Thai's property would be in deep pooh pooh. Central city property is often owned by people with money and influence. A foreigner caught defacing such a person's property could see an explosive reaction.
A soi dog marks its area and taggers are no different. They are dirty dogs. Thais would be aghast if they thought foreigners were trying to mark Thai turf as their own.
Graffiti lowers the tone of a neighbourhood. When you see graffiti you think of gangs, street crime, muggings and social problems. You might also think of gangs hassling innocent people which fortunately doesn't often happen in downtown Bangkok. Graffiti changes the atmosphere of a city and makes it feel less pleasant to live in the neighbourhood and less inviting to visit.
Despite seeing a young American punk tagging in bright sunlight, I guess most graffiti takes place under the cover of night.
No, it's not a dodgy New York neighbourhood, but downtown Bangkok! This phone booth is just steps from the Landmark Hotel, in the heart of Bangkok's busy tourist area and it looks appalling.
What was once Washington Square is now surrounded by temporary fences which within days of going up were covered in nonsense.
The text that begins "Sorry about…" first appeared a few months back and perhaps a month or two later the message to the right that begins "You're wasting…" followed. Both have since been painted over as city workers go about the monotonous task of painting over graffiti only to find that within days more nonsense has appeared.
Graffiti on Sukhumvit is almost entirely in English and given that I witnessed one young American scribbling shit, it makes me think that much of what we see on Sukhumvit is the work of foreigners. Some of the longer messages use idiomatic phrases and the generally correct use of English is evidence that this is the work of Westerners in Bangkok. If Thais spray this crap, then so be it. It's their city. But foreigners?
Going back through photo archives I came across this photo from early last year. 15 months ago and this crap could be found in downtown Bangkok, although things seem to be worse today.
Speaking with Thais about the graffiti that is all over downtown, they believe it is the work of Thais. What about the fact that it's all in English, I ask? What about the fact that sentences written in English often feature colloquial terms? They cannot answer that and respond with mai dee – meaning it's bad – inferring that if foreigners are behind it then it's even worse.
Tagging and graffiti is kind of like tattoos. You have every right to mar(k) your own body, but no right to do it in public places.
There's nothing clever about it. If these punks were to scale the skytrain and tag the underside of the tracks it would, admittedly, be an impressive feat. But even then the final result would be ugly.
The Thais will rightfully be seriously pissed if it is proven that foreigners are defacing their city. Will they do anything about it? Tens of thousands of surveillance cameras have been installed in Bangkok over the past few years and tens of thousands more have been promised? These taggers must have been caught on video, surely.
Graffiti and tagging is vandalism and does nothing for the look of the city, but fortunately Bangkok remains safe and the evils that often go hand in hand with graffiti fortunately aren't present in downtown Bangkok.
Where was this photo taken?
Last week's photo was taken of the Bangkok Corrections Museum on Mahachai Road, near Chinatown. I thought it was difficult but more than 20 clever 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 – The farang gets the attention.
Whilst waiting for the bus home, 4 shirtless young Thai guys covered in blood and holding some very large batons arrived at the bus stop. They obviously had no issue with the lone farang in a Spurs shirt and even smiled at me. I don't think they would have been smiling at the guy / guys they were obviously pursuing though. These guys were in a seriously bad mood. I don't know who [email protected]#$ed with their rice bowl but I'm glad it wasn't me! Anyway, 2 cops then pulled up in a pick-up and motioned to ME to go to their window. I did so whilst smiling stupidly and acting like a lost tourist. They then pointed out that it is illegal to smoke in a bus shelter. I had no idea of this rule. They said it's a 2,000 baht fine for doing so! Here we go, I thought. But they just grinned, told me to smoke behind the shelter and then drove off in to the night! As for the 4 wannabe Sly Stallones, they were completely ignored despite being covered in claret and wielding the biggest sticks / clubs I've ever seen! I focused on the pavement, waited for the number 2 bus and went home. God knows what happened to their intended victim(s)!
American copper on Bangkok cops.
I am a retired NYC policeman and have worked in foreign countries as an observer of police in the Balkans. My immediate gut reaction to the police searches of pedestrians is that they are searching a particular targeted group of people, farang. The manner in which they did it was indicative of a search for drugs. Yes, drugs can be transported in a wallet. Probably you know that women and men insert all types of illicit substances into their bodies. The cops, from what I read in your article, were not shaking down anyone. They were a bit impolite, perhaps, but Bangkok is a tough beat. I'm happy to hear the police are concerned about such crimes in Thailand.
I'm really getting sad. I think this world is lacking something real and for a while we found it in Thailand. But now it has become like the west. Last time I was there I would rather eat at fancy western places and you know I liked it, and didn't feel the need to squat on a plastic stool anymore.
The word is out.
The wife gossips to me about her friends back in Thailand who have or are looking for farang boyfriends / husbands. The word is out, "Farang not stupid anymore". Friends that she grew up with in Isaan who are looking to catch a wealthy farang have realised that it's a different generation today. I guess I would attribute this to technology and the Internet, as mentioned countless times by Stick and his subscribers. What a Godsend. Anyone I come across in the States who is thinking about visiting I refer to Stick's site first. Some take the advice, some are know-it-alls and the end results are always a broken heart, an empty bank account or both.
I avoid the tourist traps. Since 2006 I have noticed a huge increase of tourists & expats, most of whom scare the crap out of me and my Thai girlfriend. Year after year I cross another city or town off my list. Once these places are discovered, English menus and guesthouses for foreigners start appearing and then you just give it a few years and the attitudes of the locals change – and never for the better. With each generation tourists & expats seem to be dumbed down idiots with no respect for the culture. I have learned enough Thai to get as far away as possible from them. Foreigners seem to still be getting their so-called girlfriends out of bars. They cannot speak a word of Thai and can barely last an hour without another beer. They deserve what they get…that's my opinion.
Cambodian Immigration getting greedy.
I recently did a border run to Chong Chom, the border post with Cambodia, near Surin. I took the precaution of buying a US Dollar 20 note which I presented with my passport, photo, application form, etc. The Cambodian official implied that US$20 was not really acceptable and that Bt.1,000 (Bt.400 more) would be. I rounded on this guy telling him that the official fee for a visa on arrival is 20 US Dollars as he knew full well, whereupon he then began to stick his horrible visa sticker in my passport. They must think we came down with the last shower! Going out of Cambodia immediately afterwards I was asked for the customary Bt.300 bribe but managed to get away with only 200. Within 2 km of leaving Chong Chom, their visa sticker had been peeled out of my passport. It's a bleeding hassle but better than going to a Laotian border crossing point.
A crisis has been averted for the Pattaya hardcore. Word was out that the authorities would not allow establishments on notorious soi 6 to open until 6 PM. As per the licenses the venues hold, they can only open earlier if food is sold. The friendly authorities have tended to look the other way and allow them to open at 1 PM. Soi 6 is best known for afternoon delight so premises not opening until sundown would kill bar trade and upset girls and punters alike. I don't know who's brainwave it was, but Mr. Ingenuity has seen the crisis averted with talk that 5-baht bags of popcorn would be offered for sale throughout the day, thus allowing venues to open at 1 PM. In the end it all seems to have sorted itself out and after a couple of days of uncertainty, the bars of soi 6 are back to 1 PM – or thereabouts – opening and there's not a bag of popcorn to be seen.
The strip of pavement outside the new Sofitel on Sukhumvit near soi 13 now resembles that between Sukhumvit sois 3/1 and 5 with working girls aplenty! Vendors operating outside shops, bars, hotels and restaurants must seek permission from the venue to do so but somehow I don't think these girls have got a permission slip from the hotel. How long will they last?
Nana Plaza and Soi Cowboy bars have been told that they must close at 2 AM sharp. Some venues had pushed things and been open until 2:30 AM or even 3:00 AM. Amazingly, even the streetside booze booths have been told they must close by 2 AM and the last couple of days the walk from Soi Nana to Foodland for a late night snack has been much more pleasant with the booze booths closed at the same time as the bars. How long this early closing will last is anyone's guess.
With good music that will appeal to guys 40+ and a friendly crew, the resurgent G Spot in Nana Plaza is worth checking out. But someone needs to whisper in the boss's ear that the air-conditioning is buggered. It's warming up in Bangers and when you see girls sitting around fanning themselves trying to stay cool, how are we foreigners supposed to cope? A good bar for sure, but until the air-con is fixed it might be a case of one drink and continue the hunt elsewhere.
Rainbow 4 in Nana Plaza has raised the price of soft drinks by 10 baht, from 145 to 155 baht. I assume prices have gone up in the other Rainbow bars and that the prices of other drinks have gone up too but have not had a chance to check it out.
A sign outside the building that used to house Christies, 50 odd metres up Sukhumvit soi 33 on the left-hand side, states that a new venue, Velvet High Club & Restaurant, will open soon. It's not immediately obvious what type of venue it will be. Restaurant? Bar? Who knows!
Stumble Inn, the British-run, friendly beer bar at the top of Soi Nana will celebrate St. Paddy's Day today with live music. And from 8 PM tonight all punters who buy a pint of Guinness or a bottle of Magners get to enjoy Irish stew absolutely free!
The Nana Group beer bars on the ground floor of Nana Plaza have a St Paddy's Day Party today with face painting, roasted pig, party music, rub my shamrock and their usual drink specials.
The Dollhouse in Soi Cowboy has had their sound system fine-tuned courtesy of OTBThailand.com, a local firm run by a Brit and a Canadian that helps bars and restaurants get the best out of their sound system. Now all they need to do is fine-tune the playlist.
Speaking of the Dollhouse, I note that the manager appears to be putting on a bit of weight. Alive and well, he is worth 500 baht a year to me, such is his blinding loyalty to the Welsh rugby team. But him a drink by all means, but please refrain from buying him too many!
Down at Patpong, Black Pagoda is experiencing a renaissance with more girls than ever, and I notice that The Strip is going blazers too with all the seats full the night I swung by this week. Patpong soi 2 is definitely worth a few hours and if just a couple more gogo bars were to open at the Silom Road end, it'd really take off.
Some people refer to it as Soi Eden, but I can think of a much better name for Sukhumvit soi 7/1. With Subway at the mouth of the soi and Eden Club in the middle, surely Soi Sandwich is more appropriate?
The week before last I wrote that I had found a bar that I thought was better than anywhere else, a bar which recaptured the fun of the good old days. That bar, Pretty Lady, was featured last week. This week something similar happened. I was out with a couple of friends when I saw a lady who just didn't belong in a farang gogo bar. What a total knockout! She was more attractive than any lady I have seen dancing next to a chrome pole in a very long time. She was so attractive that I took a few photos of her and when the next day I showed a photo of her to popular reader's submission contributor but confirmed bargirl cynic, Mega, he immediately said to me, "What's she doing in a gogo bar?! Wow! I'm off to work tomorrow for a few months so I'm going to go and see her and take her tonight!" She is stunning! Where can she be found? More next week…maybe!
The foreign vagrant featured in this column recently continues to reside in his downtown residence conveniently located near many of the city's major attractions, which features city views but comes without air-conditioning, power or even running water. By night he can be found under the steps at the Nana BTS station chugging back cheap beer. By day he can be found on the steps leading up to the Nana BTS station, exit #2, where he begs for money required to buy said beer. I'm no doctor but it looks to me like one leg is bigger than the other and that foot infection is becoming a problem. If anyone recognises or knows this guy, he needs your help.
I receive email from readers concerned about cops standing on Sukhumvit Road between Nana and Asoke who seem to be paying special attention to foreigners. My feeling is that these are not cops, but municipality officers on patrol looking out for people littering. These are the guys sometimes referred to as the "litter police". How can you tell who are real police and who are the municipality officers when their uniforms are the same colour, and look very similar? It's actually quite easy – cops carry guns, municipality officers do not.
Speaking of cops, 3 friends driving down to Pattaya this week were shaken down at the first expressway toll booth on the Bang Na / Trat road for allegedly breaking the speed limit. They insist they were not speeding, yet when they refused to settle the driver was issued with an official traffic infringement notice and a fine. I haven't heard many reports of this nonsense recently but it would seem it's happening again.
Down in Pattaya, Private Dancer A Gogo has a deal that should appeal to English retirees (many of whom are moaning about how expensive Pattaya is getting with the pound Sterling as strong as a pensioner's erection). Next Wednesday bottled Chang & Leo are just 55 baht, all night long.
From over the border, the first booze booth has opened in Phnom Penh. It's a trailer and is pulled up away from the street. Still something of a novelty, it was dead the first night but things have picked up since. It appears to be chasing the evening trade and hasn't followed the afterhours trend of the Bangkok mobile booze booths…yet.
The sun will rise in Phnom Penh as work progresses on the first branch of Sunrise Tacos outside of Thailand. Expect the doors to open in June.
I made a mistake in last week's column when I said that there are 7 bars in Nana Plaza with ladyboys. Obviously I never learned to count. There are in fact 9 (nine)! In addition to the 7 I listed, I can confirm that Playskool has a handful of ladyboys, all of whom are post-op, and Spanky's has 1. That makes 9 bars with ladyboys in Nana Plaza, to say nothing of the many ladyboy streetwalkers found right outside the plaza. Still, when they look as good as Katy below, is it really so bad?!
As the naughty nightlife industry diversifies, more flavours are offered and I notice more escort services are opening. One offers something a little different from the others. Amongst other kinky stuff, Ladygirls-escort.com can tell you which girls are willing to go with a guy and a ladyboy.
A reader asks why I haven't given The Arab any grief recently, nor made any mention of him. Simple – he's not doing anything that warrants a mention. If anything newsworthy takes place at any of his venues I'll write about it.
There is only one thing worse than guys who ask advice of me with a Thai girl they have known a week or two – that is guys who ask for advice about a woman they have yet to meet and then get aggravated when I suggest they should actually meet her before asking any questions! I believe that you need at least a year to get to know a woman if you are considering something permanent so if you have known her less than a year, here's the advice: Don't rush in to anything. Take your time!
Some visitors seem to think Bangkok is the beach. 4 shirtless young guys were in a soi 23 bar with a very British name yahooing and swearing so much that their antics almost emptied the pub. The staff were too scared to have a word with them, let alone tell them to behave. If you wish to sit in a restaurant with no shirt and scream obscenities, stick to Pattaya.
So where can you go if you fancy a few drinks and a meal in a pub with a nice atmosphere, the sort of spot you can take your good lady without the experience being ruined by the likes of the aforementioned shirtless buffoons? Easy, head to No Idea Gastro Pub on Sukhumvit soi 22. Owner Dave has done a great job on the spot that was previously home to Larry's Dive. With a farang-led team in the kitchen the food is excellent, and the ambience and surroundings are very pleasant. Do make a point of going upstairs which is particularly nice. But please note that if you're a fan of English football, this may not be the place to go. When rugby and football matches clash, rugby gets preference but take note that it's not a sports pub but, as the name states, a gastro pub – a place where you can get good drinks and great food in very pleasant surroundings.
Thais know that when you have finished eating fruit, you throw the seeds over your head and wherever they land on your property a new tree will appear a few months or a few years later and you will have your own supply of fruit to eat, absolutely free. Does that explain why there are often piles of beer and whiskey bottles on some properties? Somchai throws the empty bottle over his head and expects…!
A number of documentaries have been produced by the mainstream media about Thailand's naughty nightlife and relationships between Western men and Thai women. Australian producer David Tucker is behind the latest documentary of this genre, My Thai Bride. More can be found here and if you're in North America (or have an American proxy) you can view it online here.
A long time-reader in Pattaya has a camera for sale. It's a Fuji X100 and comes with a neutral density filter, skylight filter, UV filter, a leather case, 2 extra batteries and a lens hood, all for 15,000 baht. If interested, contact : [email protected].
I am a little surprised at how blasé some new expats are when it comes to brazenly breaking some fairly serious laws. I am even more surprised at the way some think that they can do anything they like and should in the unlikely event they strike trouble they mistakenly believe that they can buy their way out of almost any infraction. The scofflaw attitude of some of the younger expats who are new to Bangkok is perhaps not surprising when some seem to have zero respect for, well, just about anything, to include themselves, the locals and the laws of the land. Some are in to some questionable stuff and drug use is, I am reliably informed, rampant, and cocaine is especially popular with this crowd. Don't think that when an investigating authority walks through the door you can pass a few red notes at them and that will be the end of it. Such confidence is misplaced and it doesn't work like that. There are some things almost no amount of money will get you out of and drugs is amongst them, as is, perhaps a little surprisingly, drink driving.
Quote of the week comes from the manager of the Dollhouse, "We're all somebody's whore."
Reader's story of the week comes from Mega and almost got a green star, "Wherever You Go, There You Are".
An Australian woman suffers a terrible, life-changing injury in southern Thailand after falling when a dodgy balcony gave way.
A high-speed train connecting Bangkok and Pattaya will be a boon for the Russians but too late for the naughty boys.
52 elephants pig out on a buffet to celebrate Thai Elephant Day 2013.
The UK's Telegraph reports on fears for the safety of foreign tourists in Phuket.
Thomas Fuller gave Bangkok a very nice write-up in the travel section of the New York Times.
PhuketWan reports on the ongoing problem of double-pricing in Phuket, this time at a seafood restaurant.
A scathing report about Thailand's prawn trade appeared in the UK's Daily Mail newspaper.
The Bangkok Hilton – the prison, not the hotel – is getting tougher on the enforcement of rules.
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: One of my pet hates in Thailand is the ++ VAT and service charge so many bars and restaurants add to your bill. I hate it even more when it's not mentioned on the menu! My question to you is whether this is a legal requirement?
Sunbelt Asia Legal Advisers responds: It is a professional courtesy to notify customers of such charges either by displaying them on the menu (usually in small print), at the front of the shop or over the counter. Upon reviewing the bill you have the right to enquire about any unknown items on the bill and can request them to be removed if they are not in accordance with what is publicly displayed.
Question 2: Is it possible to discreetly check on the assets and ownership of land including land leases? I am a little worried someone I know could be getting turned over as he is stupidly not verifying land purchased / leased for rice fields through his wife. I want to find out the size of the land owned and get an estimated value of the land. Also if possible, any sort of estimated volume of rice per harvest with the sale price using the government rice scheme. I suspect a lot of the money is not going where it should be and after harvests have been completed the money earned is not being returned at all. Finally, is there any way to check the assets of a person including bank balances? In the UK you can do a credit check and this gives you some good information. Does anything like this exist in Thailand? If Sunbelt provides this type of service, how much would it cost?
Sunbelt Asia Legal Advisers responds: It is possible to check the ownership of the land, but land information (such as Title Deed Certification) must be provided. You may also be able to check whether there are any liens or mortgage on the property, but this would only be available if the loans were officially registered at the land office. A long-term lease (over 3 years) must be recorded / registered at the local Land Office for such lease to be valid while a lease for 3 years or less does not have to be registered and so they are usually not.
The measurement of the land by the Land Department but the owner must submit a request for it. Please note that both the checking of the lien and measurement of the land could be completed if such property is a private property (e.g. Title Deed [Chanote], Nor Sor 3 Gor). You may not be able to find information if the land is government land that grants the rights to the tenant for either agricultural or residential purposes.
Regarding the volume of rice and the amount of money deriving from the selling the rice (using the governmental rice scheme), you may have to discuss such matter with the local community management (like Or Bor Jor, Or Bor Tor).
Thailand does have a Credit Bureau that could check a Thai Citizen's line of credit but this only available to financial institutions and with the person's written consent.
Sunbelt Asia has extensive experience doing checks on title deeds and can find out if there are any liens on the property for you.
Question 3: I am a British single Dad living in Bangkok. My 7-year old daughter who lives with me permanently is Thai (Thai birth certificate and passport). Would it be possible for me to purchase a house including the land in her name at her current age?
Sunbelt Asia Legal Advisers responds: Your Thai daughter is considered a Thai citizen and she will have the same rights as any other Thai so it is possible for her to own property. However, you will need to consider the authority of the person representing her (as a minor). It is generally going to be the mother who would have this kind of authorisation by nature. While the father would need to have an official court appointment (ruling) in order to represent his minor child on the purchasing type of transaction. But when it comes to selling the property, whether it is the mother or the father that represent the minor, it is recommended to obtain permission from the court prior to completion of the transaction.
One very important point to note is that the Land Department will question where the funds came from for a child to purchase land. If the funds come from a foreign parent it would be at their discretion to not allow the transaction as it could be interpreted that the minor will be owing land on behalf of a foreigner.
Even if you were able to acquire the property in your daughter's name, and you would like to have a sense of security in securing your rights to stay on this property (such as registering a long term lease or a usufruct), then it could not be done on the land owned by your daughter as the Land Office would determine that the lease or usufruct would be viewed as restricting the rights of a minor. Additionally, if you were able to have the land in her name it would not be possible to sell without permission from the Family Court.
It's one of the great mysteries of Bangkok's nightlife areas – just who is doing all these ladyboys?! In recent weeks I've made frequent mention of the number of ladyboy bars in Nana Plaza, a number that has sort of crept up on us, and wandering around the plaza this week it is obvious that while female service providers may outnumber those of the third sex, there are more ladyboys in Nana Plaza than ever. Outside bars they perform the hello girl routine with enthusiasm and outside the entrance to the plaza their numbers are swelling too. I am fielding more inquiries from ladyboy bars and escort agencies who wish to advertise – and they must be doing well because they always renew. And then this week rumours were going around the plaza about even more ladyboy bars coming. If what is being talked about comes true, it could be ladyboy heaven or it could be ladyboy hell – depending on which side of the fence you sit. More as I hear about it.
Your Bangkok commentator,