Stickman's Weekly Column July 7th, 2013

Where Stick Eats

A major attraction of the Bangkok expat lifestyle is the food, not just Thai food but cuisine from every corner of the globe. And if you know where to go, eating out every night is affordable – and I'm not talking about eating on the street!

Bangkok has always had a myriad of dining choices and new eateries open all the time. The market is competitive – it is said there are 400+ Italian restaurants in Bangkok alone – and with rental rates outrageously high eateries have to be good otherwise they will soon be gone.

A creature of habit, there are perhaps a couple of dozen places I dine at regularly. What follows are the 10 places I eat at the most. Not the best restaurants in Bangkok, and not necessarily my favourites – although some are – but the places I eat at the most often. The list has a bias towards my personal preferences (Indian, Middle Eastern, ethnic) as well as proximity to where I live. Eating out every night you have to watch your pennies and my rough guide on weeknights is to try and keep the main meal to around 300 baht, or about $10.

* The recommended dishes are my personal favourites and not necessarily the best-seller or dishes which the venue is best known for.

** In the interests of full disclosure, I am friendly with the owners of Bradman's Bistro and Bourbon Street, while the owner of Sunrise Tacos is someone I consider a good friend.

10. Oskar

Sukhumvit soi 11, 25 metres before Bed Supper Club

The chic French-owned and run bar & bistro on Sukhumvit soi 11 is a place you can easily spend the whole night. They mix perfect cocktails, the people watching is first class, you can find some of the hottest birds on soi 11 hanging out – both professionals and otherwise – and you can grab a great meal.

The menu is a mix of light bites like meats on a stick, bar favourites like burgers and pizzas as well as full meals. The French chef runs a great kitchen. The Caesar salad with salmon is the best I've had in Bangkok, the burger is great and the pizza is addictive.

The downside to Oskar, like so many restaurants in Bangkok today, is the service. Service failures are common.

Recommended dishes:

* Caesar salad

* Pizzas

* Cheeseburger

9. Bourbon Street

250 metres up Soi Ekamai from Sukhumvit Road

I always think of Bourbon Street as the original farang restaurant. It was perhaps the best known restaurant when I first arrived in Bangkok – at which point it had already been in business for about 10 years. American-themed with Cajun specialties, the menu is much what you'd find in an American bar and grill.

Everything is solid, nothing is spectacular, it's solid food, everything well done, ultra consistent and the service – as you would expect from an American-owned and run establishment with the owner often on the premises – stands out from the crowd.

Owner Doug Harrison has found his calling, meeting and greeting guests, many of whom I bet are just like me and feel a visit to Bourbon Street where you don't have a quick chat with Doug would be like not going to Bourbon Street at all.

Bourbon Street goes against the Bangkok restaurant trend where a place opens, is good for a few years before standards slip, customers venture elsewhere and eventually it closes. Bourbon Street has actually got better with an improved menu and a beautiful new location on Soi Ekamai after the original branch ran for 20+ years at Washington Square. Ranking at #9 on my list is an indication of how often I visit, and is no reflection on the quality. Bourbon Street is a place for any occasion, just as good for a first date as a place to catch up with mates.

Recommended dishes:

* Red fish Amandine

* Reuben sandwich

* Mexican buffet (Tuesday nights only)

8. Nefertiti

Sukhumvit soi 3/1

The Egyptian Nefertiti is the landmark stainless steel restaurant half way up soi 3/1 on the left-hand side.

Run by a bunch of Egyptians, pork lovers and those who enjoy a drink with their meal are out of luck. The multi-lingual menu (Arabic, French, Russian, Thai and English) is confusing but fortunately photos of all the dishes are included.

The curries are as good, if not better than what you find at many Indian restaurants and the portions generous. The hummus and the bread is the best I've found in the area.

The service staff grunt when taking your order and recording it in Arabic. Checking what you ordered does not seem to be an Egyptian thing and you might end up with something you didn't expect. You don't go to the Arab quarter for service and the food is sensational!

Most of the dining area is outdoor, offering views of the lively soi. There is a small air-conditioned area in the back which I find more comfortable, cooler and where the smoking of shisha pipes isn't allowed.

Recommended dishes:

* Chicken curry

* Minced lamb meatball curry

* Eggplant curry

* Yellow rice with eggplant and chicken

* Hummus and bread

7. The Londoner

Corner of Sukhumvit Road and soi 33

The Londoner was the first British pub I was a regular of and a decade later I am still a regular.

The menu is typical of most British pubs with the usual mix of old favourites and a few Thai options (which are tasty, but pricey for what you get). Where The Londoner stands out is its house favourites like chicken 33, a chicken breast stuffed with spinach and served with a mushroom sauce and pasta.

Part of the reason behind The Londoner's continued popularity is the stability of the kitchen staff. Many of the faces have been there for 10+ years. In terms of consistency, other British pubs don't compare.

Recommended dishes:

* Chicken 33

* Cornish pasty

* Shepherds pie

6. Took Lae Dee

Sukhumvit Soi 16, about 8 minutes walk from the Asoke intersection

Took Lae Dee is the only entry on this list that serves mainly Thai food. Took Lae Dee is a diner with branches at the front of Foodland supermarkets and is an ideal place to grab something on the run. The name Took Lae Dee translates in to English as cheap and good – and it is!

For me the best items on the menu are the noodle dishes, all of which are tasty.

It's not so much about the quality or taste of the food, but the freshness of the ingredients, and the speed of service. You're often in and out in 20 minutes and most dishes are well under 100 baht.

The recommendation for Took Lae Dee applies to the branch at Sukhumvit soi 16. Many foreigners like the Sukhumvit soi 5 branch but I find it something of a zoo. There's no issue at soi 16 which rather doesn't attract half of West Africa and a never-ending stream of street hookers.

Recommended dishes:

* Rad-nar-bla

* Put-see-iew-gai

* Put-tai

5. Lido

Soi Sribumphen, about 10 minutes walk from the Lumpini MRT station

Lido Italian Bangkok

This small, modestly decorated Italian restaurant is located in downtown Bangkok, yet at the same time is off the beaten path. Soi Sribumphen is Bangkok's original backpacker lane, predating Khao San Road.

Small in size and with less than a dozen tables, Lido shirks the practice so prevalent with Italian restaurants in Bangkok of silly prices. Pastas run 140 – 270 baht with most priced at 200 baht or less. Chicken and pork meals run around 250 baht and beef just a little more. Think simple Italian food that is well-cooked.

A friend and I dine at Lido almost every week. A salad, a pasta dish, water and bread runs around 350 baht making it the best reasonably priced Italian-owned restaurant I've found
in Bangkok.

Note: for a restaurant that has such wonderful pasta dishes, the pizzas are disappointing. If you crave pizza, try Oskar.

Recommended dishes:

* Lasagna Bolognese

* Fettuccini Bolognese

* Grilled vegetables

4. Bradman's Bistro

Sukhumvit soi 23, between Sukhumvit Road and Soi Cowboy

Sunrise Tacos

The Australian-owned restaurant and sports bar which is just a stone's throw from Soi Cowboy is basic on decor, but big on food.

The friendly owner Thomas, himself a foodie, is often on the premises. He engages with customers and is always willing to tell you about items on the menu and help you make your choice from the monstrous menu. Normally I'm put off by such large menus, but whether you go for the Thai, Western, Italian or Chinese, everything I've tried has been amazingly good.

Bradman's may not have the cozy decor, comfy seats and convivial atmosphere of many British pubs but when it comes to the quality of the food, it gets full marks. The food at Bradman's takes a leaf out of the Aussie psyche – everything is done without pretension and Bradman's doesn't try to be something it isn't. Think good, old-fashioned home cooking, quality ingredients (with an emphasis on imported meats from Australia and New Zealand) and portion sizes that won't leave you hungry.

Recommended dishes:

* Chicken parmesan

* Lasagna

* Grilled sea bass with fried vegetables

3. Prestige Suites

Sukhumvit Soi 3, diagonally opposite Bamboo Bar

Middle Eastern food, Bangkok

Located on the 8th floor of Prestige Suites, a hotel that markets itself to Middle Easterners, this restaurant that appears to have no name is located on the 8th floor with views of the soi and the stars. To get there you have to take the lift to the top floor.

The Arab quarter is full of restaurants, but the food at the restaurant at Prestige Suites just seems to be that little bit better. The cooking and seasoning is that little bit better, the portions a little larger and the rooftop setting sets it apart.

Unlike many restaurants in the Middle Eastern quarter, alcohol is available.

I only discovered this place a couple of months ago and have since eaten there many times. I have yet to see another customer despite the excellent quality of the food.

Recommended dishes:

* Mixed BBQ

* Hummus

2. Royal India

Chakraphet Road, Pahurat (tell a taxi to take you to India Emporium and it is opposite)

Royal India restaurant Bangkok

The original branch of the Royal India in Pahurat is one of a number of modest Indian restaurants in a maze of narrow and filthy sois beyond Chinatown referred to as Little India. It has been serving Indian food since the '60s!

The menu features all the usual Indian favourites from Chicken Tikka Masala to Rogan Josh to Butter Chicken. There are plenty of vegetarian dishes which are particularly good.

Unlike Indian restaurants in the Sukhumvit area, prices are reasonable. Vegetable curries run less than 100 baht. Chicken curries around 140 baht while seafood and lamb dishes cost a little more.

Don't stick your head in the restaurant's kitchen which seems to be an authentic Indian kitchen and avoid the restaurant's toilet. Seriously, the nearby klong might be a better place if need to take a slash.

It's a shame that it is such a hike to get to as The Royal India punches above its weight. If it was in downtown Bangkok, it'd be a serious challenger for the restaurant I frequent most often.

Recommended dishes:

* Chicken Tikka

* Chicken Tikka Masala

* Spinach and mushroom curry

* Chickpea dhal

1. Sunrise Tacos

In the New York Gardens, beside the mouth of Sukhumvit soi 12.

Sunrise Tacos

When Big Greg of Sunbelt Asia fame tried his luck as a restaurateur I don't think even he with all of his gushing enthusiasm and confidence could have envisaged just how popular Sunrise would become. What started out as a pokey little outlet is now a chain of Mexican restaurants with its first international branch to open soon.

Sunrise ticks all the boxes. The ingredients are fresh. The quality of the cooking is good. The portions are generous and the pricing is fair. And in the company of this list, only Bourbon Street has better service.

Sunrise has a number of branches but the original branch at soi 12 is the best with a choice of indoor and outdoor eating areas.

I eat at Sunrise every week and have never had a bad meal. If I can't decide where to eat or am too lazy to venture further afield, I go to Sunrise.

Recommended dishes:

* Sana Fe salad

* Chili bowl

* Shredded beef burrito

* Chicken fajitas

Where was this photo taken?


Last week's photo was taken on Tanao Road, just around the corner from the eastern end of the backpacker enclave, Khao San
Road. This week's is too easy I reckon, perhaps the easiest ever!

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.

He Clinic Bangkok

EMAIL OF THE WEEKWhat's the hurry?!

The one thing I love most about Thailand and the Philippines is that finding a woman to spend time with is very easy. You can venture to a mall, nightclub, internet or naughty area. There are so many options and so many beautiful women that it has always made me wonder why foreigners rush into a relationship!

Different strokes.

CBD bangkok

I find it odd that Westerners dislike Asians that visit Thailand for sex. They set the stage for them, but they (Westerners) don't seem to get it. Asian men do not negotiate the same way as a Westerner. They accept the price quoted and then state what they want, which is usually 2 boom booms, which the girl almost always agrees to for the higher price offered. Asian men accept the price offered, but they always get something in return. That's the negotiating that no-one sees. I've heard the 222, then the 333, and now the 444 trip many times over, but if you subscribe to that logic, then the Japanese will have 12-inch dicks in 8 years.

The bargirls' preference.

You posted some valid points about girls' preference for Asian men. I also think that bargirls look less like prostitutes if they are with a man of similar appearance. Superficial to a well-trained eye, but not so obvious if they were with a white guy. It's really about finding a comfort zone for all parties involved.

Gambling and flesh industry similarities.

wonderland clinic

If customers complain, cause problems, treat the girls badly, constantly try to haggle etc. then of course the girls and the bar owners will prefer those that don't behave in that way. I worked in the casino industry for several years and except for one incident of groping from an inebriated Chinese national I don't ever recall any issues from Asian clients who made up 60% of our business. While I still firmly believe that not all Westerners fall into that category, folks only have themselves to blame for their behaviour, not anyone else.

Not the bargain some expect.

I was recently in Thailand for 2 months and noticed that prices in stores like Big C were much higher than in the United States. I bought a gallon of Concentrated Best Choice apple juice for 4 dollars. In Thailand I was paying 60 baht (around 2 dollars) for a litre. That is double. Most everything was overpriced considering it's supposed to be a third world country. Another thing that was surprising is that if you don't have a Masters degree it's very difficult to get a decent job. Even with a Masters many Thais make less than 1,000 dollars per month. It pretty well confirms what my hunch was. I knew that things didn't seem to add up from what I experienced and saw with my own eyes, but now it all makes more sense.

The pleasures of rural Thailand.

I live in a rural location near Sattahip and have seen 3 snakes in my garden in the past 3 months. I have seen many snakes crossing roads in built up areas and in the country. When I lived in Samut Prakan, I had a snake on my balcony on the 5th floor. I had a mysterious hole appear in my garden a few weeks ago and thinking something nasty was lurking down there I poured some paint thinner into the hole. About an hour later the wife shrieked to attract my attention to the biggest, hairiest spider – nearly as big as my hand – I have ever seen. It was about 3 feet from the hole. It was on its last legs (no pun intended) due to the turpentine so I put it out of its misery. I went online to get more info and it turned out to be a black Tarantula. I didn't know that these things lived in Asia or in holes in the ground. They must be rare here as my wife and others I have spoken to were unaware of their existence.

The perils of Beach Road!

Walking along Beach Road one day and just watching where I was walking due to the uneven paving a small branch fell from one of the trees and landed a metre in front of me. I thought to myself one step more and it would have landed on my head. As I looked down at the branch it moved and went quickly back up the tree. It was a snake about 60 cm long. I hate to think what would have happened if it had landed on my head. Another peril to worry about on Beach Road.

More snakes than southern Africa.

We live in Chachoengsao province, 95 km from Bangkok. During the floods of 2011 we were inundated with snakes, from small black cobras to kraits. The count was +-30 cobras, 3 kraits and 10 other assorted. It appears that although the snakes are not evident most of the time, they are around in large numbers. 5 years ago I was bitten on the toe. I spent a night in the local hospital as a precaution. I originate from Southern Africa, the land of the black mamba, yet there are more snakes here in Thailand.

Taking a Filipina to Thailand.

I have been reading submissions on your site regarding Filipinas being taken to Thailand. I commend the Philippine government for offloading these girls at Immigration. If these guys really had the best interests of the girls in their hearts, they would be getting them a visa to go to their home countries to give them a good future. By taking them away from their families and away from their support mechanisms just to go Thailand would be putting them in a very vulnerable position while at the same time offering them very little. Once they're away from their homeland I can just imagine the control these guys could have over them. What protection do they have in Thailand from abusive partners? Some guys are good but how about the ones who are scum, the ones you always mention on your site that seem to be attracted to Thailand? These girls need to be protected from them! If these guys love Thailand so much I find it hard to understand why they can't make it with a Thai woman? And if the Philippines is so bad, why would they like a Filipina? In my mind these guys are human traffickers! They only want the girl for their pleasure and offer them little or no long term security whatsoever.

Girl of the week

Baby / Barbie, Black Pagoda, Patpong.

The 21-year old Baby also goes by Barbie. Either nickname will do!

She's a native of Bangkok, likes dancing and going to clubs late at night!

Patpong lady

Patpong lady

Patpong lady

A neon sign went up on the side of the building in Sukhumvit soi 23 which previously housed The Ship, for the soon to open Crazy House. That name appears to fit with what we believed would be a short time hotel. However, sticking my head in the door revealed it will in fact be Bangkok's newest gogo bar, and for a number of reasons that is quite a surprise. The main reason is that no new gogo bar licenses are supposed to be issued in that particular area. New gogo bar licenses in Bangkok can ONLY be issued in the 3 designated entertainment zones – Patpong, RCA and Rachadapisek Road. Perhaps there is an existing licence from decades ago? Whatever the case, new gogo bars in new spots in Bangkok are like a fun visit to the dentist – a rarity – so we'll take it without complaint. Crazy House should open sometime this month.

Playskool, on Nana's ground floor, was one of the most popular bars in the plaza in the late '90s and early '00s but has fallen off the radar. Plans exist to turn it around and this week I was shown the architect's drawings for what will be a major refit. The stage will be moved, the position of the bar moved, the style of seating changed and Playskool will become the 3rd bar in the plaza to have a Jacuzzi. With Angelwitch 2 to open next door, the right-hand side of the ground floor of Nana should get busier.

At a recent meeting in Tilac bar in Soi Cowboy, the dancers' boots was an item on the agenda for discussion. The girls were told that they have to change their footwear because many dancers' boots stink! The proposal is that the dancers will change to footwear similar to the coyote dancers. Of course such things are often talked about and don't always eventuate so who knows what will happen. Still, the reason for change seems a good one.

The change in ownership at Mercury doesn't appear to have had any effect on the bar. Mercury, on the second floor of Nana, just to the right of the escalator, is chock full of pretty girls and is usually packed within an hour of opening. The owners now have a unique challenge – how can they squeeze more seating in so they can get more customers in the door and make more money?!

Mercury Bar Nana Plaza

The illusion that today's bargirls are anything more than sex workers isn't helped by some girls in Nana Plaza who grab their latest customer by the wrist and scurry to the nearby short-time hotel in nothing more than what they were just wearing in the bar. I observed a girl in a bar located next to a short-time outlet who was barfined by a bemused young guy. She walked out of the bar without changing, not evening bothering to put on an over-sized t-shirt or wrap a towel or other garment around herself to protect her modesty. From the door of her bar to the entrance to the short-time hotel is just a few short steps and she covered that distance in record time. Presumably when she was done she would go straight back to the bar and resume the search for the next customer. Tenderness? Affection? That appears not to be part of many bargirls' remit.

Drunken clumsiness caused embarrassment for a dancer in a ground floor Nana Plaza gogo bar this week. A pretty lady was dancing bottomless – she should not have been – with her skirt sitting beside the stage when one of the girls accidentally knocked a bottle of beer over it. The skirt was drenched and the dancing girl none too happy! One of the service staff went out back and appeared with a replacement skirt.

While taking photos in a Nana Plaza bar, a girl asked me how old I thought she was after I had first asked her age. I looked at her and thought she looked about 30, so to make her feel good about herself I said that I thought she looked 27 or 28. Her expression changed and she said she was in fact only 20! The mamasan later explained to me that she had been working in the bar since she was….15. Foreign guys often say that Thai women look younger than they really are, but I am not so sure about that. Years in the bar catch up with these girls. It may not be obvious under bar lighting especially after a few beers, but see these girls in daylight through sober eyes and it's rather different.

A retired Bangkok bar boss has treated himself and is driving around town in a spanking Rolls Royce – one hell of an expensive set of wheels in this part of the world. Which bar boss would that be and what does a Roller say about you?

It's only a few months since I sat down with the owner of Livingstone's Lodge, the boutique hotel and bar in Sukhumvit soi 33, and chatted frankly about the future of the hotel, the bar, and the soi in general. He painted a bleak picture for the future of soi 33 and those words have proven to be prophetic. He has decided to cut his losses and a Frenchman has taken over the property. The girly bar at the back of Livingstone's next to the swimming pool has been closed for good and the venue is currently undergoing construction and what will be a change of theme. Plans are to convert it into a party place and target a younger crowd. The hotel will remain.


Also in soi 33, work is painfully slow on the proposed 5-storey British pub in the space that was once Renoir. At the current rate of progress, they'll be lucky if it opens this year.

Just around the corner from soi 33 on the main Sukhumvit Road, the branch of Mexican restaurant Coyote that closed and was going to be a Duke's now has a banner hanging outside announcing that Dallas Steakhouse will soon open.

How many bargirls are there in Soi Cowboy? A reader put this question to me this week and I had to think hard about it. If all the girls in all the bars were included in the count, I guess it would probably be several hundred. Take Bacarra and Tilac out of the mix and the number would drop to perhaps 500. That's my best guess. What do you think?

This coming Wednesday, July 10th, Secrets Bar in Pattaya will host its monthly party. It will kick off around 8 PM and feature all the usual party stuff – games, free food etc.

Crystal Club Gogo will be the next gogo bar to open in Pattaya's Soi LK Metro with this coming Friday, July 12th, the big day.

Private Dancer A Gogo in Pattaya is offering a late night happy hour. From today until July 13th, bottled Chang, Leo, Singha and Tiger will be 70 baht from 1 AM – 3 AM as will brandy, gin, rum and whisky house spirits. The late night happy hour will be extended if it proves popular.

I heard of yet another incident involving a stop and search in the Asoke area from a reader who has lived here for 3 years. He was crossing the road heading towards Citibank at around 5:30 PM having returned from fishing at Samut Prakan. He may have been targeted because of his shabby appearance, dressed in dirty shorts and a shirt. The coppers – the usual 2 on a motorbike – stopped, smiled and said something but he carried on walking. They grabbed his arm and asked where he was going. Home, he said, in Thai. They asked how long he had been in Thailand and replied that he had worked in Bangkok for 3 years. He told them he had been fishing and they asked if he had any fish in his bag. They declined the offer of searching it, perhaps because of the smell. They wished him a good evening and that was it. Shortly afterwards while walking along soi 23 he saw they had another victim who was being searched, pockets emptied, ID shown and he looked understandably nervous.

When it comes to recurring stories in Bangkok expat circles, those that stick out are often reports of some guy being cleaned out by a Thai woman. It can be their life's savings, property or both. Sometimes there are warning signs, sometimes there aren't. In every case the guy allowed this to happen, in one way or another. If you're in Thailand and have been through this sort of thing and feel you need to see a counsellor about it, Bangkok Counseling
deals with this type of situation regularly. Resident in Thailand for 10 years, Bangkok Counseling regularly deals with the fallout of such dramas and tapping in to their experience might be helpful.

It's easy to think that foreigners are targeted in scams in Thailand, especially as there are scams in which we are targeted where Thais aren't. With that said, there are many more scams perpetrated against locals where foreigners are never targeted. One scam Thais are currently talking about takes place in the busy Victory Monument area. A person walking along the street walks in to another person, colliding with them and causing their mobile phone to fall to the ground. Its screen smashes. The person whose phone has supposedly been damaged – the scammer – then starts saying in a loud voice so everyone around them hears that their mobile phone's screen has been broken and it was the other person's fault – even though they deliberately walked in to that person. They were, of course, carrying a phone that was already damaged. Others nearby who appear to be regular pedestrians are members of the gang and come over and make out they are witnesses, saying that the victim – the person who was walked in to – is the person at fault! A commotion is caused and the victim, usually a relatively young office girl – the type of person who wants to avoid confrontation but probably has a reasonable (by local standards) salary is drawn in to compensating the person whose phone they believe has been damaged. This has all the elements of a great scam as Thais avoid confrontation at all costs and dread loss of face. It all happens quickly and the victim pays before they have a chance to realise that it all didn't feel right and they have in fact been scammed. I have not heard any reports of foreigners being targeted in this scam.

No policeman in Thailand knows as many farangs as the second highest ranking policeman in Bangkok. I don't know who this industrious fellow is, but he is obviously very hard-working because seemingly every second foreigner resident in Bangkok not only knows him, but is on very good terms with him and has his private phone number on speed dial! Amongst those who know him are former SAS members, retired FBI agents and those on a first name basis with Premier League stars. I guess I look like I was born yesterday…

Why is it that many locals refer to the Samsung S4 mobile phone as the Samsung S "four" and not the Samsung S "see", as is the Thai word for the number 4, yet they say IPhone "ha", it being the Thai number for "5"? It makes no sense. I know, I know, logic and Thailand don't always go together!

Firehouse on Sukhumvit soi 11 rates highly with almost everyone who loves great burgers. They've just introduced an all new product, the baconist,
a burger with a patty made half of beef and half of bacon.

Firehouse Bangkok

Quote of the week comes from an old friend sitting at the stage in a popular gogo bar, "There's one up there my age!"

Reader's story of the week is not from a typical Stickman reader, "Viewpoint of A Southeast Asian American Woman".

An American is forced to spend 10 days at Bangkok Airport after being refused a boarding pass,
and still doesn't know why!

The arrest of a Canadian in Phuket shows Immigration is getting more serious about long-term overstayers in Thailand.

A Brit who entered Thailand illegally via Malaysia is caught in Phuket, again,
by the Immigration Department.

Gavinmac gives 7 Reasons Why You Really Shouldn't Move to Cambodia.

An editorial in The Nation newspaper this week is absolutely scathing of corruption in Thailand.

An Irishman is fighting for his life after falling from a 4th floor balcony after climbing up the
outside to retrieve keys.

Bangkok is #1 and Chiang Mai #10 in this year's Travel and Leisure magazine's best city awards.

Not for the first time, the Western media gets its knickers in a twist by the Thais use of Hitler images.

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 beautiful Thai lady and I want to get married (all the advice you provide is invaluable, but, the heart wants what the heart wants). The problem is that she is still legally married to the father of her child. He hasn't contacted her in over 7 years and when he last contacted her back in 2006 he refused to sign the divorce papers. She has no idea where he is. He's never supported her or her son financially. Is there any way she and I can have the marriage terminated without his consent? Money is not a problem! Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

Sunbelt Asia Legal Advisers responds: Your fiancee should retain a lawyer and file for a one sided divorce on the grounds of abandonment with the family court. Sunbelt Asia Legal Advisors has experience in handling divorce cases of this kind and can assist you in obtaining the divorce.

Question 2: I understand that there is a limit of 180 days per year in total that you can obtain a visa exemption stamp on arrival in Thailand. How is this recorded? By looking at the stamps
in your passport? By recording your details on a centralised system? If so, by your name or just your passport number? The reason I ask is that if you have two passports, would it be possible to use this system for 360 days a year? I appreciate that
this might not be how the system is supposed to work.

Sunbelt Asia Legal Advisers responds: The 180 days in a year limit is no longer in place. However, all arrivals and departures are centrally recorded and a photo is taken by Immigration at each Immigration checkpoint. Whilst you may be able to come and go with no issues, red flags may be raised and an officer could choose to investigate if he / she wanted to. It is not much more difficult to obtain a valid visa of some kind and enter without cause for concern. Please feel free to come in to Sunbelt Asia's office to discuss your visa options with one of our legal experts.

Patpong dancer

It's 10 weeks since I started the girl of the week section and since I fielded complaints about the very concept of showcasing a pretty lady in this column. It lowers the tone, some cried! When I started the new section I didn't take it too seriously, and just used photos I had snapped of girls who were ok with the idea of being featured. Some readers have rightfully pointed out that some of the photos could be better. I shoot street photography, the goal being to capture the grit, the grime and the excitement that is the underbelly of Bangkok. I try to capture a moment. I don't use a tripod – I don't even own one – and I seldom use a flash. Shooting at night means bad light which necessitates high ISO settings to get the shot. The downside of shooting at high ISO is that shots may appear grainy, or have what in these digital days is termed "noise". For street photography, that's fine and the noise can actually add to a shot, giving a sense of atmosphere. However, when shooting a pretty lady, it's best for her to be well lit and to pose – which goes against my shooting style altogether. I've been guilty of including photos of woman who really are pretty but who have been captured in a style which does nothing for their looks. I'm trying a bit harder to make the girls look good, while at the same time trying to capture a moment. The girl of the week isn't going to get any prettier, but with a bit of luck she will look better.

Your Bangkok commentator,


nana plaza