Stickman's Weekly Column April 7th, 2013

The Patpong Of Old

When Old Asia hands talk of the good old days in Bangkok they usually end up regaling us with tales of nights out in Patpong. And when they talk of good times in Patpong there are 2 bars that always seem to come up, Grand Prix and Mississippi Queen. I was recently put in touch with Tony Douglas, the Aussie who set up and owned Mississippi Queen. Tony provided a bunch of photos from Patpong of the past and kindly granted permission for them to be posted on the site. He then generously offered to answer a few questions about Mississippi Queen and the Patpong of old. Here's how Tony remembers the good old days

Mississippi Queen

I keep hearing of this bar, the Mississippi Queen in Patpong, as if it was some sort of legendary venue. Can you tell me about it? When did it open and how long did it run for?

We opened the Mississippi Queen in October, 1972. At that time there were quite a few ordinary shops in Patpong, travel agencies, airline offices, tailors' shops and assorted restaurants including Mizus Kitchen and Tip Top. The Thai Room restaurant was very popular on Patpong 2.

I believe the Mississippi Queen was sold in 1983 or 1984. Perhaps Randy at Goldfinger would know better.

What was the format of the bar?

The design of the Mississippi Queen (previously the Patpong Cafe) was expensively done out as a riverboat with lots of beautiful woodwork. It looked like the inside of a riverboat, so the name was never in question and it fitted with the music.

Mississippi Queen was the first to introduce great music – in our case, American soul music. We also were the first to place gogo dance stands over the bar. In our case, we had no other room. I believe we also were first with the brass bars for the dancers to hang on to. We had fabulous dancers who seemed born to dance.

Mississippi Queen

Mississippi Queen

Who was the major competition in those days?

Patpong Cafe was a quiet bar very much known for high stake card games. It was also the meeting place for the Foreign Correspondent's Club.

Super Star across the road was much larger in size and may have been our major competition, but the Mississippi Queen had a very loyal following.

What were the challenges in running a bar back then?

In the beginning it was hard to get talented and attractive women to work at Mississippi Queen because we were an unknown quantity. It was not easy, even though we always packed 'em in. Some people just sat on a beer and enjoyed the music.

Looking back, what amazed me is how few nasty incidents we had, such as fights. My theory is everyone was having too much of a good time and were not sexually frustrated.

We also ran the honour system for paying for drinks. This means the bills were put in a cup in front of the customer and it was only paid when it was time to leave. Sadly, my fellow Aussies were probably the worst with this system. As the waitresses were responsible for payment of these bills, it was rare for a customer to get far down the street having not paid first.

Mississippi Queen

Who were the customers back then? Was it only Westerners or did some Thais visit the bars too, as small numbers of Thais still do in some Patpong bars today? What were the hours of business back then? Was there the same 2 AM closing we have today?

The bar attracted huge numbers of Americans on R & R and US Air Force guys who were stationed in Thailand. The fact is they were not well paid and could be entertained much cheaper in the establishments that were available only to them.

Peace Corp volunteers came in droves and they were a good fun crowd.

Thai men don't like the Farang bar concept. They prefer dark places where their wives or relatives won't spot them. We rarely catered to Thai men.

In October 1973 the Thai students rose in revolt against the rulers. They took over every police vehicle and all the buses. For weeks the police didn't dare show themselves. Numerous government buildings were burnt to the ground, including the police headquarters. Dark smoke was visible all over the city. The students were good natured and finally the military leaders fled the country. At one stage the Army used tanks, helicopters and machine guns. Many students died.

At one stage a curfew was put in place and the city went dead. Only the Mississippi Queen was open and we were packed. Customers couldn't leave even if they wanted to. All the Bangkok Post journos were there, for some reason. It was scary, but also fun. We didn't know what might happen next.

Mississippi Queen

Mississippi Queen featured in The Deer Hunter with Robert de Niro. How did that come about?

Patrick Gauvain, a British born photographer and son of a British diplomat, was a regular customer at the bar. He was widely known as Goong or Shrimp, and still is. He runs a photographic studio in Bangkok these days. The location manager for The Deer Hunter was a fabulous fellow Brit named Frank Ernst. Ernst had previously worked in Egypt and far flung places and even on a James Bond movie.

Frank and Patrick teamed up to scout for scenes to be used in the movie. They wanted a bar on Patpong with a back door to the lane. Mississippi Queen was such a place.

But we had to agree on a price for the bar to be closed for 3 days of shooting. Frankly, I was desperate for the bar to be used as I knew it would be great publicity. Frank and I liked each other immediately and I asked only what I would take on a good Saturday night times 3. Frank agreed, but in passing said, "I actually doubt the film will go ahead in Thailand, anyhow." He explained that every time they sort permission to do this or that, the authorities said, "No." An added complication was there had been a coup attempt and all helicopters were grounded by government order.

Totally by coincidence, I had taken along to this meeting a Thai friend with amazing skills and contacts. I said to Frank Ernst, "Who are you employing to act as your Thai facilitators?"

He said, "People in the Thai film industry."

I answered that he would have all his problems solved if he employed my Thai friend. Billy was educated in India and Thais treated him with the utmost respect. He also looked the part. He drove an E-type Jaguar and carried a huge .44 Magnum which was not hidden from view even though he always wore a Hawaiian shirt over his police issue khaki pants. Billy was a captain with the Thai Special Branch (the santibarn) who were much feared.

Frank took my number and said he would think about it.

Billy and I lived at the same apartment building and by the time we got home Frank called to say he could start the next day.

Mississippi Queen

Girl in Mississippi Queen Bar, 1978.

A week or so later I called by Frank's office suite at the President Hotel to see what Billy was up to. Nothing!

I said to Frank, "Give him a task."

He explained the problem with not being able to find a location for the refugee exodus scene and still no permission to fly helicopters. So the task was given to Billy. The next day the problem was solved. They had police (not army) helicopters (which they painted as US aircraft) and an army base west of Bangkok. From then on it was Billy's show. He had streets, including Patpong, blocked to vehicles for days at a time. Police were on duty. Every sign in Patpong was remade with Vietnamese language. It was all go from then on. Billy carried a huge bag of cash to pay for what was needed. The Thai film industry saw their cash cow fleeing and had Billy in their sights.

I was told they needed a girl to have a small speaking part with Christopher Walken and was asked if I could suggest a few. I believe 3 girls were in the running and the one I had in mind insisted she wouldn't do the interview without me being present. So I go along to meet the lady who was casting director, not knowing that it was to be in Robert de Niro's suite at The Oriental. We walked in and de Niro put his hand out and said. "I'm Bob, what's an Aussie doing running a bar in Thailand?"

The girl was asked to say the sentence, "I give you one crazy fuck."

Sounds pretty easy, but my choice blurted out amongst embarrassed giggling. Needless to say, she is not in the movie. However, Noi, a Mississippi Queen dancer, got the part and forever after tried to show the world that it was she who actually won the Oscar!

My regular customers, who were not paid, were provided with US army uniforms and told just to drink and act normally. I sold the drinks. It was a good night…actually 3.

The movie won the Academy Award for best picture in 1978.

They built a rail track in the bar to accommodate the huge Panavision camera. It was a tight fit. Along with the director, Michael Cimino, we chose Gladys Knight's "A Rainy Night in Georgia" as the background music. When he called, "Roll", I turned on the music. They shoot scenes over and over and it became very boring.

Mississippi Queen

Silom Road, downtown Bangkok, the good old days.

It was once said to me that Bangkok is like a corridor, a place most people pass through at some point, a description I thought was spot on. Did you have any notable or famous customers in the bar?

The only famous visitor I can recall was Rod Stewart and his entourage who showed up in the early 80s. My wife was there, I was not. I was told that although his friends were keen on the girls, he was uninterested. I suspect he prefers blondes with huge tits.

What was the relationship between the Mississippi Queen in Patpong and the Tahitian Queen on Pattaya's Beach Road which is still going strong today?

After some years of running the Mississippi Queen, a regular customer, Mike Kokoszka (who died in 2012), bought a half interest in the bar. He was a silent partner. He had a high paying job with Pratt and Whitney and travelled the world. So, with his also half interest, we then opened the Memphis Queen next to the Derby King. It had the same theme, soul music.

Although Udom Patpong owned all the bars, he chose to lease them out to his "favourites" and they sub let them to the bar operators. I happen to know he collected only a fraction of what we paid to the owner of the Derby King for both bars. It was expensive and we often worked 15 days in the month to cover the rent! I think Udom preferred no hassles.

I, along with Aussie Barry March, leased the motel, restaurant and bar at Pattaya Beach and renamed it the Tahitian Queen. We lost money, mainly because of bad management and the fact that Barry and I did not want to live in Pattaya ourselves. We finally sold it at a big loss. The motel had just 14 rooms. We spent a lot on refurbishment.

Tahitian Queen, Pattaya

Tahitian Queen, Pattaya

There have been many characters and legends in the bar industry over the years. Mama Noi comes to mind, as does
Bernard Trink. Then there were bar owners Cowboy Edwards and Crazy Jack. Can you tell me about any of the characters / legends in the
industry in your day?

Udom Patpong operated an office with his two sisters above a bank opposite the Mississippi Queen and down a little towards Suriwong. Udom would dress in such an ordinary way – no tie, no socks, no jacket, no watch and he looked almost poor. His English was great having studied in Hong Kong. Udom was a good bloke, well-liked and respected by the bar owners and girls (he liked the girls a lot!). He liked a beer but never paid, nor was asked to. He invited me to stay at his beach house at Pattaya, which I did.

There is a big story behind the original Goldfinger bar which was on Patpong 2, under the car park (to my knowledge the first multi-level car park in Bangkok) built by Udom Patpong.

He was a larger than life flamboyant fellow who drove a 2-door Lincoln Continental (I believe gold in colour) which he parked on the footpath in front of the bar. Although he had a Thai wife, he played the girls a lot. His wife hired some friends to scare him. They burst into his room where he was in bed with two young ladies. The idea was to scare him. But the bullet hit his thigh, near his groin. He bled to death.

Another regular was a young, handsome American who we knew, for some reason, worked for the DEA out of the US embassy. One day he carelessly went to place his .45 in the metal cabinet, but it slipped, hit the floor and discharged killing him instantly. He was a very likeable fellow with a young family.

A number of regular big spenders were helicopter pilots with Air America, the CIA operation in Laos. They all sported HUGE solid gold wristbands which they informed us were to be traded for their lives when shot down! Don't know whether this insurance policy was ever tested!

Patpong, Bangkok 1975

Tony in Mississippi Queen.

Joy Mississippi queen

Joy, one of the twins for which Mississippi Queen was famous.

The girls working today are very much free operators with the sort of loyalty to a bar that today's Premier League footballers have to their club. I get the feeling it was different back then…would that be right? Did the girls stay in one bar a long time? Did the girls get married off to customers as they tend to today?

I always thought all the girls really wanted the same thing – to find a good man and get married. They did not see themselves as prostitutes. And in a way they weren't. They would find some excuse if they didn't like you. They preferred to go with a man they liked rather than the guy who could pay the most. Generally they did not state a price. "Up to you!"

Many also had boyfriends overseas who sent them money so they could go on the straight and narrow. Many of the letters I actually replied to using a bit of license from the girlfriend. "I love only you" and all that.

It has always been my belief that Thais prefer to live in Thailand rather than overseas. Family, friends, language, the food and music are all reasons why.

Mississippi Queen

Goong, in Mississippi Queen.

I understand that Patpong was very different back then. What do you think the major differences were between the Patpong of the '70s with the Patpong of today?

The last time I was in Patpong was 1990. It was but a shell of what it was. The street market changed the whole place. I used to park my car nightly right in front of the bar, no problem.

You could easily park anywhere on Suriwong or Silom and there were no meters or fines!

There were plenty of per hour motels, especially off Suriwong.

I also lived at the old Trocadero Hotel on Suriwong near New Road. Even then the hotel seemed old worldly.

Many of our customers were Qantas crews, including pilots! They all stayed at the nearby Sheridan Hotel where a room cost the enormous sum of 600 baht a night. I often swam in their pool.

Patpong has plenty of history and if you poked your head around some of the nooks and crannies there are venues and signs and girls that date back decades. You even told me that one of the girls who danced in your bars still works in Patpong now, 40 years later! There is more bar industry history and nostalgia in Patpong than the other Bangkok bar areas put together. Would you agree?

Patpong was unique with a bar for every taste. Like the Napoleon with live jazz on the weekends and feature films. What a treat. Cool and comfortable. A place to meet and talk.

Eat, Mississippi Queen, 1974.

As a Patpong bar owner and as someone who spent much time on Patpong, how easy was it to pull yourself away from the industry and then turn your back on Thailand completely? I know that was a different time and things were different then, but I see A LOT of guys around today who experienced that time and they still haven't managed to pull themselves away from Thailand. It's like they're forever chasing the dream. Today zillions of Westerners are moving here, many doing much the same thing. Maybe Patpong has been replaced by other bar areas for some, the internet for others. Western men in Bangkok are still doing the same thing – drinking and chasing local women. Was it hard to leave Thailand after being so deep in a hedonistic lifestyle?

If I had to make a list of all the things I dislike about Thailand it would be a long one…and yet I never saved any money while I lived there and was most annoyed (and still am) that I could never own property and even my Thai wife lost the right! Thais can come here and buy a home, no worries.

The frustration of dealing with corrupt bureaucrats who would always tell you "prungnee"!

The Thai habit of answering a question with the answer THEY THINK you want, instead of the truth!

The dirt. Rubbish dumped willfully in the streets. The chaos. The heat.

And yet, there is something that draws the farang back like a moth to the flame.

The one thing that stands me out from pretty much all the other bar owners is that I am not and never was a drunk. I survived! Now the ladies, well, that's another thing. Everyone has to have a weakness, right?

It may have something to do with what my wife said to me recently. "You foreigners think that democracy means freedom. It doesn't. It means rules and regulations, law and order. However, in Cambodia there is real freedom. Do anything you want. Red lights mean go. Double lines mean overtake."

She is right. I opened a bar with almost no money and no fuss while it would have been impossible in Australia without a huge sum of money and minimal paperwork.

Of course it comes back to the women. Here I only had moderate success with women. I was young and affable and yet women made you beg. Once I reached Malaysia, I was dating stunning women and it wasn't money. I had bugger all. No, the Thai women have a quality. Personally, buxom blondes do nothing for me. I like dark haired, petite ladies.

Even the real estate business I ran, no problem – and no paperwork!

I have always been impatient and the Thais go at a snails' pace.

I also love nature and here I have a national park with a lake and kangaroos at my back gate. Magic.

Cambodia today is like the Thailand of before. Lots of problems and corruption, but marvelous people and smiles. Freedom to do as you wish.

Tony at Memphis Queen, January 1990.

Where was this photo taken?


Last week's photo was taken on Sukhumvit Road looking towards the Asoke intersection with the Asoke skytrain station in the
background. 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 WEEKThe world is going crazy!

I was talking to a Thai at the gym today. His sister, who is a chemist, tried online dating on TLL and got totally abused by sex hounds. After years of seeing foreign guys with their hookers at Siam Paragon, his frustration was expressed as follows, "What is it with foreign guys in Bangkok? They wine and dine hookers as if they are fine ladies, and they treat fine ladies such as my sister as if they are whores?"

What did you expect?

Have you seen that new Thai tourist ad? Young farang guys running around some southern island, yelling “This is the best place on earth.” Well, what did you expect? You've lived in Bangkok for years, now you can't walk down a side-soi because young guys are lined up three-deep at Volkswagen-alcohol bars, drinking in the street and yelling. What did you expect? Another huge mall – confused, pricey, and full of cosmetic boutiques. What did you expect? Construction near every BTS station – another 17 billion tons of concrete pressing the swamp further down. What did you expect? Big-hair tattooed tartlets barely moving at the chrome-pole parlour, killing time between Japanese clients and ignoring you. What did you expect? This is what I expect now. In a country that now hosts over 22 million tourists annually, the primate city of Bangkok is now a game preserve funneling farang hither and yon as it siphons as much cash as possible out of their pockets. That's why my formerly frequent trips for shopping, eating out with friends, and sanuk, are becoming infrequent. I find my time and money is better spent elsewhere. I'm sympathetic toward those, both Thai and farang, who've made Bangkok their home. They live in the new concrete swamp, in the New Normal, where congestion, expense and pollution now drive everyone's stress levels higher. Many of these symptoms are global, but nowadays I think twice before committing to a Bangkok visit.

The bargirl dictionary.

He Clinic Bangkok

It seems like there's a real need for a dictionary that translates what a bar girl says to what she really means. It should be more humorous than mean-spirited but could have definitions like the following (your readers surely have lots more), "You strong like young man" really means "I long for the days before Viagra". "You hansum man" really means "You're an old guy, but old guys have money and are easy to please". "When you come back Thailand?" really means either "How long will I get sponsor money without having to work" or "How long will it be before I have deal with you again".

The Thermae for the popcorn, of course!

I usually stop in at the Thermae for a quick drink before I head up to my hotel room. Even though there are wall to wall girls in that place, not one of them would give me the time of day, as I am only a tall farang. In contrast, they all have their panties in a fizzy when a young Japanese guy enters the lair. But for farang, it's "Sayonara Gaijin-san". Anyway, for some reason I still enjoy going into the place, just for the buzz. And they have excellent popcorn which I love in addition to my ice cold 7 Up.

CBD bangkok

There's a reason they say, "Don't leave home without it!"

I booked a flight to Khon Kaen at Thai Airways' Pattaya office in the grounds of the Dusit where I was staying. When I went to pay their online system wasn't working to process the payment and the girl took the card details and said she'd process it later. So far, so good. When I went to the airport I didn't bother taking the visa card I'd used to pay for the ticket and they refused to book me on to the flight as the computer showed I'd made a phone booking. If you do that then you have to produce the card that was used to pay for it (why, I have no idea). It took me 30 minutes of arguing to get through their red tape, with the Pattaya office they phoned denying that their system had been down and that I had not been in their office! They'd cocked up but of course but would not admit to it. I ended up rushing for the plane and was last on board. If I wasn't a gold member I'd probably have had no chance.

Dealing with the heat.

wonderland clinic

There's a scientific basis for why big people tend to handle heat badly. Your body's ability to dissipate heat is based on volume vs. surface area. How much skin you have versus how much mass / volume is enclosed by the skin. That's why big people have problems – a lot of mass / volume but not a lot more surface area. Depth of fatty tissue is also a concern, but not as much as you'd think. Someone who has a giant beer belly but isn't fat all over handles heat better than the same person with even distribution of fat because there's very little muscle under that belly fat. And it's the muscles that generate heat. An extremely fit bodybuilder with bulging muscles would have a lot more problems with heat than the guy sporting a beer belly but isn't fat all over.

Foreign vagrants in South-East Asia.

Your comments on Trobbe the Swedish vagrant and the link to the Sydney newspaper in last week's column reminded me of a conversation I had recently with a well-known Aussie health professional based in Phnom Penh. Apparently, an increasing number of westerners are arriving in South-East Asia with quite serious mental health problems such as schizophrenia and autism. In many cases, it's because their own families are no longer able or willing to care for them in their own countries and will provide them with enough financial support to somehow exist away from home. Scandinavians are able to collect their generous welfare payments while living abroad which should apply to our friend Trobbe. Unfortunately, their monthly payments are soon spent on alcohol and drugs. Eventually, the poor chap will get deported and end up in another country.

No fan of ladyboyism.

I think that most regular readers twigged the April Fool's prank after last year. I don't mean to sound like a wise guy or even a complainer but you ask for feedback and that is all that is meant from what follows. I am repulsed by ladyboyism. The whole idea makes me sick and I believe that it is wrong and against both God's law and nature. Now please don't go all PC on me here. I am not judging anybody – live and let live – love the sinner but hate the sin, etc. I am just relaying one regular & loyal reader's feelings and I suspect that a sizable proportion of others would agree. I am not attacking nor do I mean to offend anybody. I suppose you will never please all of the people all of the time, not even in Bangkok

I always knew that trying to convince you that Nana Plaza would become an all ladyboy bar complex would be a challenge and I was right – few readers believed it. For those who did believe it and somehow missed the comments at the end of the column saying it was an April Fool's Day joke,
rest assured, Nana Plaza is NOT going all ladyboy. It will remain a mix of bars with girls, bars with ladyboys, and bars with both. Why would Bangkok's best farang gogo bar area change a winning

Stumble Inn will be showing the FA Cup semi-final next Sunday between Chelsea and Manchester City with kick off at 10 PM. It should be a good match between two strong, evenly matched teams. While the match will be shown elsewhere, Stumble Inn is where you want to be because the bar is putting on a free buffet during the game and prizes for the correct score prediction. Also, Stumble will be doing their usual offer of a free beer for every person in a City shirt, for each goal scored by City!

The rumour mill has it that the very small venue between Rainbow 1 and the two large spirit houses on the ground floor of Nana Plaza, which itself is known as Spirit House, is going to be turned into a burger bar / fast food outlet. Great idea and I hope it happens.

Hemingway's, the long awaited expat pub in Sukhumvit soi 14, in the historic old house that was previously home to a Mexican restaurant, has finally opened. I'm told there's a man cave upstairs. I've yet to check it out but hope to do so this coming week.

Dollhouse in Soi Cowboy is spicing things up and punters now get a full view of all the lovely girls, both upstairs and down. Add Dollhouse to your list of bars to check out.

Pretty Lady in Nana Plaza has taken on a new mamasan who has brought with her 20 odd girls new to the bar.

Songkran is almost upon us, that crazy time of year when streets nationwide turn in to one big water fight, where anyone who finds themselves out and about becomes a target. The official dates of the Songkran are holiday are April 13th – 15th. In some parts of the country the water throwing madness starts earlier, and in some parts – notably Pattaya – it can last for a week. If you don't want to get wet the best option is to lock yourself inside!

If you've never been in Thailand over the Songkran period, there's a few things worth noting. First of all, traffic out of Bangkok heading in to the provinces, particularly the routes heading to the north and the northeast, can be absolutely shocking. Think traffic jams that run hundreds of kilometres. The train station and bus stations can be bedlam and all buses, trains and flights are usually booked weeks in advance over the Songkran period. Avoid transport hubs if you can. Many businesses close over the Songkran holiday – some for up to 10 days. Consider this if you have anything important that needs attending to such as repairs around the condo or home, or visa extensions. In the case of the latter, both the best known visa run company and the Immigration Department are closed over Songkran.

As far as Bangkok's bar areas go, this is one of the quietest periods of the year as many girls go home to spend the holiday with their family – and some don't return for some time. If you wish to avoid being soaked, consider avoiding the bar areas from the night of the 12th through to and including the night of the 15th. The top of Soi Nana and the mouth of Nana Plaza can be like running a gauntlet. While water fights are supposed to stop when the sun goes down, there always seem to be a few clowns out to ruin others' night. Getting in and out of Nana Plaza and remaining dry is like trying to cross a busy road when it's pouring in the rainy season and hoping to remain dry. If joining in the Songkran revelry appeals, Soi Cowboy celebrates Songkran with an all-day water fight in the soi. Everyone who joins in seems to have a great time. Things calm down on Cowboy at night but a danger of getting soaked remains. Silom Road – one end of Patpong – is a popular place for Thais to go to celebrate Songkran. A huge street party is held and it's one big water fight. You take your chances in all the bar areas!

If you're out and about over Songkran, often no amount of reasoning or pleading for those throwing or shooting water will save you. Everyone's a target and some people think nothing of drenching those who are clearly dressed for work. Even those riding motorbikes are a target. If you go out, consider placing your mobile phone and wallet in a waterproof plastic bag.

The entrance of Nana Plaza is not the only place to go hunting for a transsexual if that's your thing but you're averse to paying a barfine. A number can be seen loitering outside the Thermae too. Are they as selective about customers as the girls inside the Thermae are? Maybe they only go with Japanese!

A foul smell wafted around Tilac bar earlier this week. The girls dancing on stage were gagging as the intensity of the foul smell became so bad that the music was stopped, the house lights turned on and an electrician bounced around the stage with a flashlight pointed at the ceiling searching for the source of the foul odour. At one point the DJ asked who had farted which caused the girls to burst in to hysterical laughter. Foul smells have the same effect on Thais as loud noise does on foreigners.

Speaking of Tilac, if they ever do 2 for the price of 1, consider #27 and #47.

If you're wondering why the back corner of Mercury in Nana Plaza is warm, it's because the air-conditioning unit at the back of the bar is usually turned off. Why would a bar turn an air-conditioning unit off in the hot season? Simple, because the girls who do the shower show shiver when the air-conditioning right next to the shower cubicle is turned on.

If anyone knows where New Zealander Sam Slade (possibly not his real name) is, Tony Douglas, the former owner of Mississippi Queen in Patpong, would like to get in touch with him. Sam would be in his 70s, is a former oil rig worker with a heart of gold and managed Super Star for years. He also managed Mississippi Queen for a spell in the 1970s. Tony would really like to get in touch him so if you know where he is, drop me an email and I will forward it to Tony.

A 40-something Caucasian has been living on Sukhumvit soi 25 and sleeping under the stars for at least 2 weeks. He is slim, barefoot and his accent puts him as an Aussie or a Kiwi.

Bradman's Bistro, the Aussie-run sports bar and restaurant on Sukhumvit soi 23, has a special on New Zealand rib eye. Enjoy any 6 of Bradman's New Zealand rib eye dishes between now and April 26th and receive a free bottle of Australian wine valued at 1,020 baht or equivalent in other beverages at standard prices. The choices include the Bradman's rib eye, mixed grill, Philadelphia cheese steak, strammer max deluxe and more.

The so-called beautification of Pattaya's Beach Road has begun with parts of the Beach Road footpath near the Dusit Hotel at the northern end of the bay torn up. It will be replaced with various features said to beautify the area. With Pattaya attracting ever more visitors, the beach road is also being widened from 2 to 3 lanes so presumably the footpath will become narrower. Many trees are being uprooted as part of a project that will change the look of the beachfront.

As if it was needed, here's more proof that the economy is booming. The driver of a well-to-do Thai who had an easy number driving his boss just a few short journeys a day, wasn't required to work weekends, was treated with great respect by his boss and paid a decent monthly salary of 17,000 baht left because he was offered more to work elsewhere (as a driver).

As has been mentioned frequently over the past 18 months, the naughty bars have the same difficulty as employers in other industries finding new staff. Tilac cannot find a maid – what we Westerners would call a cleaner. A couple of maids left more than a month ago and after much searching, on March 24th a new maid was finally found. But after just one day on the job she saw how much work was involved and walked out so the search resumes! I expect we're going to see more folks from Myanmar working in Bangkok because there are more and more jobs the Thais just won't do.

I think it's fair to say that most of the new expats can reasonably be described as being politically correct. I guess that is the world they have grown up in and the only world they have known. The question that I have to ask is why so many of this group are so disrespectful of the local culture. I am not saying they should do everything the way locals do, but a little respect goes a long way. I bring this up because this week the number of shirtless guys roaming around downtown was incredible – and they are all young guys. They refuse to accept criticism for their questionable and disrespectful behaviour, yet they behave in such a way that just asks for the finger to be pointed at them!

I think Thailand has something the rest of the world doesn't – time machines! That can be the only explanation as to why True Sports frequently shows the schedule of Premier League matches for the previous weekend i.e. on Monday you're likely to see the times shown for matches played the previous weekend. Where can I find one of these time machines? I quite fancy going back to the '70s to check out Patpong and the Mississippi Queen!

I returned to The Londoner after an absence of a few months for the Sunday carvery buffet. It features a good selection and is fantastic value. In addition to 5 roast meats (beef, lamb, chicken, pork & ham) and vegetables, there's salmon (baked and smoked), tasty salads, many dessert choices and a variety of cheeses. If you fancy a Sunday roast, you can't go wrong at The Londoner. There are two sittings, lunch time and evening. And they even have som tam to keep your other half happy!

A new Thai dating site has been making waves since coming online. currently has in excess of 50,000 members, and heaps of Thai females are signing
up every day. The best time on these dating sites is in the early days so if you're in to online dating, check it out.

It used to be that you'd bump in to expats you hadn't seen for a while in the naughty bars. Hang around long enough at one of the bars at the entrance to Nana Plaza, or perhaps in the Thermae, and old friends would eventually pass through. Things have changed and nowadays everyone is online. Now you see your friends online if you hang around certain websites. An ad popped up for a popular Thailand dating site with the profiles of several members shown and one of the faces caught my eye. I logged in and located the profile. Sure enough, it was just who I thought it was – a well-known bar owner! I chuckled to myself as I read through his profile. He'd been economical with the truth and his age was off by about 15 years. Of course there was no mention made of his wife! I wonder why he set the profile up. I don't know if he fools around or not, so is he perhaps trying to recruit gogo dancers from local dating sites? Given how desperate bars are for staff, recruitment might be the reason.

A Pattaya hotel website has an amusing typo on the hotel's website. "Modern Convenience With Conditional Thai Service". Sometimes service can feel conditional – so maybe it wasn't a typo at all?!

Poking my nose around the local Asia Books store the other day, I noticed that they had few self-study Thai courses. Such courses used to be popular but these days there appear to be few self-study Thai language resources available. At the same time there are far more foreigners living here, more moving here all the time and there has been a massive increase in demand from foreigners to learn Thai which is being met by Thai language schools. But the question I have to ask is if some of these new schools are actually serious about teaching the language. The reason I ask is that some offer a maximum of 4 hours lessons per week. What good is that? When I studied Thai, I studied 4 hours a day, every week day, for 7 months! What sort of progress will people make studying just 4 hours a week?! With that said, it seems to me that many foreigners sign up for Thai language schools not because they want to learn the language, but because it's the easiest visa solution!

Little is left of what was Washington Square. The area has been razed and not much remains. Everything in the middle is rubble and most of the shophouses at the front have been pulled down, with just a half dozen or so next to the Holiday Inn remaining. Some of the bars in what was Washington Square in the soi 22 corner battle on.

Washington Square Bangkok

Quote of the week comes from Lecherous Lee, "Living in Bangkok is like having the lead role in a soap opera!"

Reader's story of the week comes from Mr. Anonymous, "Dear Farang".

The UK's Telegraph newspaper looks at the rise of Tesco Lotus in Thailand.

An Australian is charged after allowing his 13-year old son to visit a prostitute
in Thailand while on a family holiday.

An Aussie woman gets a tummy tuck in Thailand which goes horribly wrong.

The Strip in Patpong has put together an amusing promotional video for the bar.

Down in Phuket, beach thefts have been blamed on an expat with a yellow towel.

Phuket tuktuk drivers reject a proposed low cost bus from Phuket Airport to Karon Beach,
fearing loss of income.

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: My Thai girlfriend got a 1-year multiple entry visa to the US. If, after 6 months or so living in the US, we decide we want to marry, what is the best, easiest
legal way to do so without having to be separated physically, if possible?

Sunbelt Asia Legal Advisers responds: It is possible to marry on a B1 / B2 visa in the United States and so long as the visa remains valid your wife will be in the US legally. You may wish to apply for a change of status and permanent residency while there. Consult with US officials to determine what is best for you. Once married, you can register your marriage with the Thai embassy / consulate. Alternatively, if you chose to marry in Thailand you could register your marriage at any District Office in Thailand, where you will initially need to contact the US embassy (in Thailand) to obtain a Declaration of Freedom to Marry. This document will also need to be translated into Thai and certified by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs before you can marry in Thailand. If you need assistance with this, Sunbelt Legal Advisors can help you through the process here in Thailand.

Question 2
: Can you please clarify the law on smoking in restaurants? My understanding is that it is illegal, yet many restaurants which I assume are legitimate businesses actively encourage smoking with ashtrays provided. Do I misunderstand the
law or is there something I am missing? What can I do to ensure that the law is enforced so that I can enjoy my meal without being forced to inhale smoke from those around me?

Sunbelt Asia Legal Advisers responds: According to Announcement Number 17 made by the Ministry of Public Heath, open-air restaurants are exempted from the prohibition of smoking. However, leading to some confusion by restaurant owners, Announcement Number 18 dated February 11, 2008 canceled the exemption and now all smoking in restaurants whether they are air-conditioned or open-air is prohibited. Allocating a smoking corner (away from the dining area) could be arranged and provided by the restaurant. You could inform the restaurant manager of such restrictions and discomfort of having smokers smoking nearby your dining table.

Question 3
: My oldest luk kreung son is thinking of moving back to Thailand. He was born in the USA but moved to Bangkok when he was very young and attended Thai schools until he was 16 when he moved back to the USA. He holds
citizenship in both Thailand and the USA and has his Thai ID card as well as a valid Thai passport. He is now 27, graduated from university with a degree in Business Administration and has worked for a few years in the USA. In addition, he has
native fluency in both Thai & English. My concern is that he has not registered for the Thai military service as he was out of the country at the time. How will this affect him if he does decide to relocate to Thailand?

Sunbelt Asia Legal Advisers responds: If an applicant is an overseas student on private funding, either his parents, guardians or himself will be responsible for applying for deferment at the military registrar of the district of his residence.

Required documents presented for deferment must fully explain the following:

* Applicant’s intended field of study

* Name and place of institution.

* Number of years expected to complete the degree.

* School transcript (translated into Thai when necessary with name and title of translator).

* Number of years requested for deferment.

* A copy of your military reserve letter (Sor Dor 9) and a copy of the selective service letter (draft letter requiring you to enter military service – Sor Dor 35).

* A copy of your house registration.

* Certification letter from the embassy, consulate general, or office of student affairs confirming that the applicant is indeed studying for a certain degree at a particular institution.

If a Thai national who is living outside of Thailand completes his education and then returns to Thailand at under 30 years of age, he could very well be called up to complete his national service. If however he returns to Thailand and he is over 30 years of age his chances of serving is very much reduced.

It essentially comes down to a case by case analysis of the situation taking into account the individual's height, weight, medical history as well as age by the official. If he no longer has any further education to use as future deferment then he will have to go to the local district and confirm if he is eligible or not.

Question 4: I was told that it is possible to legally work part time on a student visa (non-immigrant ED). Can you confirm or refute this information?

Sunbelt Asia Legal Advisers responds: According to the general practice in obtaining a work permit, the applicant will only be eligible to apply for a work permit only if he / she holds either a Non-Immigrant “B” or a Non-Immigrant “O”-Thai spouse type of visa. A non-ED is not eligible for a work permit.

Black Pagoda

It's hot outside, the biggest holiday on the Thai calendar is just a few days away and things are winding down. Bars and restaurants will be quiet, there won't be much going on which means less to write about. That makes this time of year as good as any for me to take a short break. I'm going to join the masses and take a holiday. What this means is that there will be a couple of light columns this month, and one week when it is unlikely that I will publish a weekly column at all. I expect the schedule to be as follow:

April 14th

Regular column as per usual.
April 21st Very unlikely to publish a column at all.
April 28th Light column.
May 5th Normal service resumes.

Good luck staying dry next weekend!

Your Bangkok commentator,



nana plaza