Stickman's Weekly Column September 8th, 2013

Stickman Says Goodbye


Reading between the lines it should have been obvious to regular readers that I've been restless and I craved something different. I'll be the first to admit that I need a new challenge, but as much as anything, a change of scenery. And so this week I did it. This week I did what I should have done a while ago. This week I said goodbye. I packed up my stuff, I shook the hand of the owner of my old condo and I left!

The night before I left was the last hurrah, just me and Lecherous Lee. He was one of few who knew I was going, and the one person I wanted to hang out with on my last night. More than anyone, he knew the reasons why it was time for me to move on, why I needed a change of scenery. He was one of the trusted few.

We had a bit to eat and then roamed around the traps in my neighbourhood. It was time to say goodbye.



Bangkok massage girl

Sukhumvit soi 33 has been home for a while. It's a misunderstood soi and having lived there for some time, it's not hard to see why. There's no focus, no co-operation between business owners and most just do their own thing. Owners grumble that there are few customers in the soi while customers mutter about various venues, saying they don't know where they're allowed in and where they aren't. On my last night we visited bars in soi 33 we knew along with a few I'd never stepped foot in before.

It was still daylight when we met not far from the apartment I was about to say goodbye to. Soi 33 has a bunch of massage houses that I only know from the outside. With names like Teen Massage and Dream Massages, you don't have to be familiar with Bangkok to guess that these aren't the places to go to get your aches and pains worked on. Still, the pretty girls probably make up for their lack of massage training with other skills.



Sukhumvit soi 33

Sukhumvit soi 33 starts off innocuous enough with one of the best pubs English at its mouth. The Londoner has long been my favourite British pub, and it was chosen as the place of what Lee called the last supper. "It's your last night here", he said to me when I protested that I didn't want to drink, "You're about to say goodbye to this place, man, what better time can there be to have a drink?"




Velvet Bangkok nightclub

After dinner and a couple of drinks we wandered in to the soi. The first nightspot is Velvet. It's one spot that the conservative Thais up the other end of the soi aren't so uncomfortable with. It's far enough away from their palatial homes that they can't hear it and what goes on outside, unlike so many other bars, is not unseemly.

Velvet has struggled to attract the crowds and without scantily-clad ladies outside calling out to passersby – as is the case at many soi 33 venues today – or an aggressive marketing campaign, it has yet to make a mark. Velvet attracts few Thais, fewer foreigners and there can be more security staff outside than there are partygoers inside. Velvet doesn't seem to have found its niche and I still wonder if soi 33 was the right choice of location for a venue which would seem better suited to soi 11 or Thonglor.




Sukhumvit soi 33

Having relocated from the other end of the soi some 18 or so months ago, Monet is the first hostess bar in the soi. In its heyday the soi then referred to as millionaire's row had a dozen or so hostess bars and bridged the nightlife gap between locals and foreigners, drawing both expat and Thai customers. In those days the soi may have had fewer bars, but it was a destination, unlike today where a lack of co-operation between owners and unplanned development has seen it fall off the naughty boy's map. Today there may be more bars, but there are fewer customers.

The hostess bar format struggles as Monet, Degas, Survey, Napoleon and one or two others cling to the soi's roots. Others like Barfly and Wall Street realised that the hostess bar format is doomed and have morphed into hostess come sports bars, copying the format of The Office. They may not be thriving, but they offer punters more.



Sukhumvit soi 33

The attractive glass-fronted Italian restaurant, Basilico, sits opposite the block of shophouses home to Monet and Degas. I've always considered Basilico more a pizzeria than a restaurant with the food no match for the restaurant's looks. And I always thought the idea of a window seat was that you had a good view of what was going on outside, not everyone outside having a good view of you! We'd already eaten so we passed on Basilico.



Sukhumvit soi 33

Today the heart of soi 33 is the bars around the start of sub-soi which runs down to The Office and Mojos. Like the confluence of two great rivers, it's the busiest and noisiest part of the soi, and with Family Mart open all night and a bunch of vendors operating until well after the bars close, there's always something going on in the middle of the soi.

The few seats on the elevated deck out front of Tenderloins offers prime people watching, a great spot to perch and watch the world go by. The Aussie-run sports bar and steakhouse has the best steaks in the soi and along with The Office and Wall Street, it draws in punters for live sport, and is particularly popular for Formula 1 and international rugby. Ironically it also has some of the most attractive staff in the soi but they are not available.

While I've never thought it healthy to look back and have regrets, Tenderloins is somewhere I should have spent more time. Whether you want a drink, a bit, or to watch sport, everything it does it does well.



Candidography



Sukhumvit soi 33

Vanilla is one of many non-descript venues all over city that you could walk past 100 times and not so much as notice. And when you finally do realise that something is there, odds are you won't know what it is.

The first clue about Vanilla is the sign above the doorway, an ice-cream being licked by a giant tongue. Those comfortable in colloquial Thai know the meaning of the Thai euphemism, eating ice-cream, and those who don't speak Thai can probably make a decent guess.

Vanilla is a blowjob bar exclusively for Japanese, and like many of the establishments that have opened on soi 33 in recent years the white man is not welcome. From early evening several attractive girls sit outside wearing the minimum they can get away without drawing attention. Like many of the surrounding sois, soi 33 is home to old money, with large homes on giant pieces of land worth millions of dollars just a couple hundred metres further up the soi, as well as many pricey condominiums.

The Vanilla girls sit on small plastic stools out on the pavement engrossed in their IPhones, but with an eye on those passing by. White guys and Thais are invisible. When their targets come in range, they seductively say shakuhachi, high school slang which literally means "flute". Or they may say fera, how the Japanese pronounce the first two syllables of "fellatio".



Sukhumvit soi 33

The transforming soi 33 is the scene of much construction. Thong Thom Thai restaurant closed a few days ago and is being redeveloped, but it is the two larger construction sites, one opposite and one just a few doors away, which are making all the noise.

Progress is slow at the Bush and Bull, the 5-storey British pub where Renoir once was and where progress is about as fast as a guy on his way to a proctologist's appointment.

Most of the noise is at the recently sold Livingstone's which is being converted in to a more upmarket venue, another interesting choice of location for a venue which will target middle and higher income folks, yet is flanked by Japanese karaoke and other naughty bars. * More about the new Livingstone's in the news section.



Sukhumvit soi 33

Moving further along and getting deeper in to the soi, we thought what the hell and made a visit to the little known ladyboy lounge, Darkside. I'm saying goodbye and don't know when I will be back. It's my last night so why not check it out?

Down a short, dark sub-soi off the main soi 33, Darkside gives discreet a whole new meaning. Darkside's location is convenient for those who don't want their mates to know they have a thing for ladyboys.

Darkside is inexpensive by soi 33 standards with 100 baht beers and top shelf drinks just 110 baht. Owned by the same guy who had Cheers Pub in Washington Square, you can even choose your own music. The owner is proud of the music played in the bar with none of this boom, boom, shake the room you hear elsewhere.



Darkside ladyboy bar



Demonia, Bangkok

The deeper in the soi you get, the spicier it gets. Demonia is one of 2 fetish houses in the city and nothing like anything else in the soi. Dimly lit and decorated like a dungeon, Demonia's dress code is strict : black. If you're wearing any other colour, you'll be given a black shirt at the door.

What goes on inside ratchets things up from anything else you find on the soi. Use your imagination, make it more extreme and then you might be in the ballpark.



Phallus

I don't quite know what to make of soi 33 these days. Its transformation from a soi with a dozen or so hostess bars in to a nightlife area with a diverse mix of dining and nightlife options, without any focus, and no integrated concept isn't really working. It's hard to get excited about a soi where there are so many venues you're probably not allowed inside. With that said, some of the bars stand just fine on their own and are worth going out of your way for.

It was time for Lee and I to part ways. "See you next Monday, mate", he said, heading for the skytrain.

"Same time, different place", I responded.

This week I said goodbye to the soi I used to live in, Sukhumvit soi 33, before I moved a few sois further down Sukhumvit.

You really didn't think I'd say goodbye to Bangkok, did you? Did you?!





Where was this photo taken?


Bangkok

Last week's photo was taken of the giant Canon 1DX camera above a photo store in Siam Square. Where was this week's photo taken? It *is* in downtown Bangkok!



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 WEEKA bonzer bloke.

I have known Larry Cunningham, the Honorary Australian Consul for Phuket, Phang Nga and Krabi for 5 years and apart from being a bonzer bloke, he is a very efficient and competent Honorary Consul, working onerous hours for little return. He will be sorely missed when he retires at the end of the month. It would be shameful if some spat with an official who in my opinion sent a totally inappropriate message should result in this important post not being re-filled. It brings shame if an Honorary Consul can be castigated for speaking out.

Crazy readers!

As usual, the readers' letters section of your column is driving me crazy. Do you deliberately choose the most racist, Thai-phobic, pessimistic and ridiculous rants?! Is it a prerequisite that the writer has to be a mean-spirited skinflint who, like many of the Thais he seems to loathe, is prejudiced against people from poorer backgrounds on account of their skin colour (blatant racism and ridiculous coming from supposedly enlightened westerners)? If you were looking for reactions, you selected them well! Great job! A more boorish bunch of moaning misfits you could not hope to find!

Reacting to readers.

While I enjoy your column and read it every week, your readers are hard to take. Everyone writing in is disgruntled. The Arabs, Japanese and Russians are taking over Bangkok. The women are ugly and the prices too high. The burgers are better and cheaper in Dublin. Thai drivers are selfish. Ladyboys and their clients are perverted and should be shot on sight etc. Then we have lost souls from the reader's submissions. My bargirl did me wrong. I bought her a farm and she kicked me out. I thought she loved me. I was warned but I believed 'this one was different'. I say, buddy, you are not a handsome man. You are an old, fat loser with a beer gut. Women in England, Australia, Finland, France etc. didn't want you so why do you believe you morphed in to Brad Pitt on the flight over? Get real, friends! If you don't love it here, as I do, stay home. And for the guy who thinks ladyboys and their customers are perverted, may I suggest you vacation in the Vatican next year.

Racism abounds.

I wonder what your readers (2 emails) have against Arabs? Racism is alive and well. Those I have met, admittedly the better-off, are the politest and most hospitable I have met anywhere, and by a large margin. More than once I have had one offer to give up his seat for me as he treats me as a guest in his country.



Soi Rangnam.

It was good to see Soi Rangnam featured. I used to live there, and there are quite a lot of foreigners living in the area. The farangs there tend to be a bit different than those living in more central areas (a misnomer perhaps, since Victory Monument is actually, technically speaking, the center of Bangkok, the Km 0 point from where distances in Thailand are measured), in that they aren't the typical Soi Cowboy / Nana crowd. The street offers a lot of options for fun though and you will see Thais and farangs mingling in the local drinking dens until very late. I haven't been back in 8 – 10 months so perhaps time is due for a revisit (and to see if the elderly German gentleman who used to be on his second large Singha at the Isaan restaurant at 7:30 in the morning is still there!)

Samui surprise.

Vacationing in Koh Samui, I rented a motorbike. Me being me, I went for an underpowered model with over 45,000 kilometres which rents for 100 baht daily. As long as it goes vroom, I don't care. Anyway, day two on the other side of the island and it died. Gone. I found a taxi driver and offered him a few hundred baht to basically tow me, while riding the bike back. The owner of the shop was extremely apologetic and gave me a brand new bike at the lower price I was paying. A few days later I asked him how the old bike was and he told me that the engine froze because their ding-dong mechanic did not put in enough oil. That said, he could have tried to blame me for destroying his bike. He did not, and was an absolute professional.

Beware the overly friendly!

I've always been told that if a Thai person initiates a conversation with you in public in a tourist area, it's probably a scam. At the Rachaprasong walking bridge from Chitlom towards Siam, a Thai lady approximately 40 – 50 years old approaches tourists who seem lost or are looking at the map in the centre of the walkway. She is willing to talk to them for a lengthy period and speaks very good English. I never stay long enough to see the end of these conversations but she goes from tourist to tourist because every time I come back to the bridge, she's talking to another. She's there 8 AM – 10 AM and I've seen her 2 days straight in the same place. It might amount to nothing but since this is Thailand, you never know!

Rural superstitions.

Last Songkran I went with my wife to her parents' village in Isaan, near Nong Bualamphu. The Songkran celebrations were subdued because a young lad in his early 20s who lived 3 houses away from my in-laws had gone out, gotten drunk, smashed up his pick-up and died. Because he had died in an accident, they held his funeral ceremony within 2 days, on the day after Songkran. A sad and all too typical tale which bought home to me the reality of those terrible road fatality statistics one hears about every holiday time in Thailand. You will be aware of the fascination that many Thais have for the spirit world. Apparently the boy's spirit has come back to a girl in the village, (not his girlfriend, just someone who is sensitive to spirits), and is now giving her lottery numbers each month. As a consequence of this, many people in the village are doing rather well out of the lottery at the moment! My mother-in-law won in the last draw, but only a relatively small amount since she only put in 20 baht. As I understand it, the boy's spirit has undertaken to do this for 10 months. I assume that there would be some karmic reason for this. I do not know which month we are up to so far. He also gave strict instructions that nobody is to make tam boon for him until the 10 months are up, because if they do this for him, his spirit will have to move on before his task is complete.



There is no Girl Of The Week section this week as I have been busy moving and didn't get out and about and make the rounds as I usually do. My apologies.



The Strip Gogo Bar Bangkok


Soi Cowboy is a hit with mainstream North Asian tourists with couples, families and tour groups making the slow stroll along the soi each evening, gawking at the revelry and capturing images to upload to Facebook. There are now so many of North Asian tourists rolling through the soi that it must be rivaling some of the city's more famous attractions for sheer visitor numbers. I can't imagine how congested Soi Cowboy will be come high season when there are even more visitors in town.

The new Livingstone's in Sukhumvit soi 33 is one big construction site as the new French owners rally the troops to try and open on October 1st. [email protected]'s is the name of the new concept which is shaping to be one of the more interesting new venues in Bangkok this coming high season. All the African themed area around the pool has been stripped, opening it up in to what will be a poolside bar and tapas restaurant. The food promises to be something special with word that the head chef at Livingstone's was formerly on the staff of El Bulli, the 3-star Michelin rated restaurant in Spain regarded as the best restaurant in the world. They're also touting a high profile mixologist who will be behind the bar. It all sounds ominous as far as pricing goes, but the new owner told me that it would be affordable and to use his words, "prices a little more than Wine Connection", which is actually fairly cheap. The new Livingstone's will also feature a disco in the basement and while work has started on it, that won't open until much later. The Livingstone's hotel will reopen at the same time and remains unchanged although, like I say, I'd be surprised if it opens on schedule.

Sukhumvit soi 11 is booming, quite remarkable given that we're in the middle of the low season and suggesting that the soi attracts expats and Thais. One soi 11 restaurateur tells me they're breaking records and doing numbers they have never seen before. It's not all good news, however. The street hookers who tended to accost passersby around Villa are moving further up the soi and the African drug dealers have moved over from soi 13. Make eye contact and they will spurt out the names of various substances that could secure you a long stay in Thailand without any need for a visa. And don't get me started on the booze buses which make walking along soi 11 a nightmare. The closing of Bed Supper Club, which along with Q Bar has long been one of the draws to the soi, probably won't make a great difference to a soi that is absolutely thriving, but showing growing pains at the same time.

Rumour has it that Napoleon on soi 33 has been sold although to whom and whether it will stay in the same format and with the same name remains unknown.

Green Parrot in the sub-soi of soi 33, and the neighbouring venue to the hidden ladyboy lounge, Darkside, spurned the landlord's demands for the rent to be doubled and will move to Sukhumvit soi 16.



Club Blu on the corner of Soi LK Metro and Soi Buakhao closed months ago and this week a new bar finally opened in its place, Funhouse A Gogo. Some of the girls from Champagne A Gogo – currently undergoing a major refurbishment – can be found dancing in Funhouse.

The Pattaya baht bus pickpockets are at it again and a Stickman reader was a victim. The MO seems to be the same as before – a group of females and often a couple with a baby sits right next to a Westerner, often the only passenger on the baht bus. These scoundrels have various items on their laps – bags, shopping etc. They distract their mark and try to pick that person's pocket, no mean feat when the target is sitting down. It may be something as innocuous as asking you the time or being overly friendly and trying to engage you in conversation. With the bouncy ride, the stop-start nature of the baht buses and the unlimited sights around Pattaya, and being asked question, the proclivity of the average Westerner to be polite when approached by a friendly stranger is used against them as their guard drops. Beware if 2 or 3 girls and perhaps a couple with a baby get on the baht taxi together, sit unusually close to you and engage you in conversation. Put your hand on your wallet, mobile phone or other valuables straight away and keep it there. Better still, if you are sure they're trying to work you, take out your mobile phone and ask to take their photo – that should scare them off!

While the price of a beer is still fairly reasonable in most places and seldom will you get bill shock drinking beer, if you fancy a tipple from the top shelf but are watching your pennies, it pays to ask the price first. Jack Daniel's, Johnny Walker Black and other popular top shelf drinks are often priced a lot higher than beer. In several Soi Cowboy bars (Midnite, Déjà Vu, Spice Girls and a few others) it'll set you back 190 baht. It can cost almost as much at the odd bar in Pattaya; the same drinks run 185 baht in Sensations on Walking Street. Some bars, especially some naughty bars, don't have a price list so if you want to control your spending, ask first.

And it's very likely that the price of drinks will increase in most bars soon. The tax on alcohol went up this week so expect prices in your favourite bar to follow suit. It's going to be interesting to see how much they go up by as some customers already feel prices are high and with customer numbers down, are bar owners willing to see just how far they can go? One foreign naughty bar manager expects the prices of most drinks in his bar will increase by 10 baht. Another said that prices have to go up and feels few bars will be willing to absorb the increase.

Bourbon Street in Soi Ekamai is celebrating its 27th anniversary next weekend with their annual celebratory buffet special featuring many favourite dishes. Next Saturday, September 14, from 5 PM until late, and Sunday, September 15 from midday until 10 PM, all you need is 327 baht in your pocket for the Bourbon Street buffet. If you've got any old friends you haven't seen in a while, the bourbon Street anniversary buffet is kind of like the old Ploenchit Fair – the place to catch up with old friends you haven't seen in ages!

The Super Bowl final is shown live in various bars around town, but what about the general season NFL matches? A reader has asked if there are any bars open late with live NFL games…and I don't know. If you do, please let me know so I can put something in next week's column.

Bangkok is famous for horrendous traffic so saying the traffic has been particularly bad the last couple of months and particularly on Fridays hardly seems worth mentioning. Really, over the past couple of months at certain times of the day, particularly on Fridays which are always bad, the traffic has been much worse than usual – much, much worse.



Single Western guys aged under 50 may find the visa situation to stay in Thailand long-term becoming a challenge. As has been reported in recent columns, Thai embassies and consulates around the world are not issuing multiple entry non-immigrant visas with the same casualness they once did. At a number of embassies and consulates, multiple entry non-immigrant visas are no longer issued at all. If you don't work legally (meaning a work permit and requisite visa), you're not married, and you're not prepared to invest 10 million baht to qualify for an investment visa, your visa options become much more limited. The current favoured option is signing up for a Thai language course, the cost of which is generally around 25,000 baht – for which you qualify for an education / ED visa. Some Thai language schools realise this and include the visa information in ads for their courses. There are all sorts of rumours going around about why visas are more difficult to obtain at some embassies and consulates, ranging from there being too many foreigners living here (which I think is a most unlikely reason given the economic benefits these people bring) to there being more and more cases of foreign criminals here on such visas (there is truth in this) to the Thais being keen to get those working below the radar into the system and employing Thais and paying taxes, which is also quite plausible. Will there be a crackdown on ED visas next? My feeling is that there probably won't be. The Thais like the idea that foreigners are willing to study the language. I would not be surprised to see, however, something put in place to make sure that either those with ED visas are genuinely studying the language which could mean checking with the school to see if the person is attending, or perhaps even a few informal questions in Thai at visa renewal time.

And you know the authorities really are getting strict when a Western man who has fathered a daughter with his long-term Thai partner is denied a non-immigrant O visa at the embassy in his homeland (specific embassy location withheld at his request but let's just say it was in Western Europe). To cut a long story short, a good friend of mine is in a long-term relationship with a Thai woman, but they are not married. They have a daughter who they are raising who attends an international school. My friend has purchased a house in Bangkok in which they live as a family. His partner doesn't work and he has the financial resources to support both her and their daughter. It's a genuine relationship. For each of the last several years he has flown out of the country and applied for a multiple-entry non-immigrant O visa, the type of visa issued to those in a relationship with a Thai, either through marriage or if not married, in those relationships where the applicant can show that he is supporting a child. He supports both his daughter and his partner and his name is on his daughter's birth certificate. When he applied for the non-immigrant O visa at the embassy in his homeland (which has always been considered to be advantageous over, say, applying at a Thai embassy / consulate in a neighbouring country), the visa application was declined. He had to return to Thailand without a visa and instead received permission to stay for 30 days on arrival. He now needs to sort out where he will get a new visa from, a visa that it would seem he genuinely satisfies all the requirements for but which is not being issued.

I believe that the primary reason Westerners receive only 30 days on arrival by air in Thailand – while passport holders from these same Western countries get 90 days on arrival in Malaysia – is that the Thais don't feel they should allow citizens of Western nations to receive 90 days when their own citizens have to go through the rigmarole and expense of applying for a visa to a Western country. Up until the end of 2000, New Zealand gave Thai passport holders 90 days on arrival which the Thais reciprocated and Kiwis coming to Thailand got 90 days on arrival. When New Zealand changed the policy at the end of 2000 and required Thai passport holders to apply for a visa in advance, New Zealanders lost the 90 day deal and got the same as everyone else, getting only 30 days. South Korea allows Thais 90 days on arrival, which is reciprocated. Russians don't impose a visa requirement on Thais and Thais allow the Russians to visit without a visa too. If any Western nation allowed Thais 90 days on arrival in their country it's almost a given that the Thais would reciprocate.


Town Lodge


UK's Channel 4 is making a documentary about British men on their search for love abroad. Do you use international dating sites? Are you planning a romance tour (their words, not mine!) or using a marriage introduction service? They would like to film someone going to Thailand and looking for love in 2 weeks' time. Have you met your bride abroad and are now trying to bring her home? Whatever your tale of cross cultural dating, they'd love to hear from you. Contact : [email protected] or call 0207 3494777 for more info.

There are some funny signs to be seen around Thailand. Near the Dolphin round about in North Pattaya is a sign which says, "For dog's pee place, not for people". In Soi Nana a sign says, "Vomiting into a floor fine 100 baht". And in one of the Hillary Bars is "Broken glass 250 baht".

Thai does have a word for sentimentality but I'm not sure the local notion of sentimentality is similar to that of Westerners, or even if there is any real appreciation of it. The idea that someone may feel an attachment towards, or have positive, nostalgic memories of things from the past seems to be a foreign concept in Thailand. Few Thais seem to genuinely enjoy old music hits in the same way that as a Westerner aged less than 40 might enjoy The Beatles or other music that topped the charts well before they were born. Classic movies turn off many Thais who mock the special effects from seemingly anything made before the new millennium. And the notion that some garments remain fashionable and are almost timeless is lost on most. Mention restored classic old cars and they think you're mad! When I'm outside Thailand – and it needn't be my homeland – one of the major differences I notice is that there is an appreciation of all things old. It could be the music of the Beatles or Humphrey Bogart movies or classic Levis jeans. The Thais love new, new, new!

Being overly negative is often a projection of our own state of mind and an indication that all is not ok at HQ. With that in mind, I relay this merely as an observation and nothing more. A good few long-term expat friends have mentioned in recent weeks that they've had enough and are seriously considering relocating. They want warm weather, affordable food and being able to eat every meal out. And, of course, they still want to be able to meat local females. That means that returning home is probably not an option and they are considering elsewhere in the region. One is looking at Vietnam; others are thinking about the Philippines. Cambodia is mentioned, but the more populous countries seem to be the more likely destinations. The number of people telling me they're keen to move on is too small to be called a trend, but enough are saying almost exactly the same thing and citing similar reasons that it warrants comment.



Quote of the week comes from an occasionally exasperated, often grumpy, foreign Soi Cowboy bar manager fed up at being grabbed by hello girls as he walks past Sahara and who this week fired this at those girls, "You might think you're good-looking but you're fxxxing ugly!"

Reader's story of the week comes from one the city's more contented expats, "A Year in Bangkok".

The BBC takes a look at Thaksinomics.

A year after the young Red Bull heir killed a cop in his speeding Ferrari, an arrest warrant may finally be issued.

The Thais are making their views known about what they think is the high cost of having Tony Blair speak in Thailand.

A heart-broken farang attempts to jump off the top of the popular Honey Hotel in Sukhumvit soi 19.

Thai women are being warned about the dangers of getting involved with foreign men they meet online or on Facebook.

A court has been set up to address the concerns of tourists who run into problems in Thailand.

There's frustration for those in power with the over commercialisation of Phuket beaches.

It's heartening to read the thoughts of a bright Thai student questioning the system and campaigning for change.





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 wife and I each want to divorce but the sticking point is the settlement. She wants the condo in which we live but I don't want to give in and I don't believe she has a claim on it. Can Sunbelt give me their opinion? We met in April, 2010, and moved in together in September, 2012. I bought a condo the following month, paying 5,500,000 baht. That was October last year. The condo is in my name. At the time we moved in we were not married and at that time I had not met any of my then girlfriend's family apart from her sister, whom we had dinner with on just one occasion. In February of this year we married. At that stage the condo had already been paid for and was in my name. Up until we were married we never thought of ourselves as anything more than boyfriend + girlfriend. We have no kids. It became obvious to me very soon after marriage that my wife just wanted me for my money. Things went bad fast and the marriage is unrecoverable. We live together in my condo in a situation that is bad for both of us, especially for my mental health. I want to divorce my wife and keep the condo. I am retired and my wife works. I believe my wife does not have a claim on it but my wife's lawyer has made some threats that would see him arrested in my country. He says the condo must be sold and my wife must get half. Please advise if I can divorce and keep my condo.

Sunbelt Asia Legal Advisers responds: Thai law recognises two types of assets in a marriage; Sin Somros or those assets acquired during the course of a marriage and Sin Suan Tua or personal assets belonging to each of the partners that are acquired before marriage.

It is important to note that assets purchased after marriage, even if with funds raised before being married, are still considered marital assets.

However, as you purchased this condo in your name, prior to marriage, then the courts would consider this Sin Suan Tua or personal assets and your wife could not expect to have half of the value. Please feel free to contact Sunbelt Asia Legal Advisors to assist you in negotiating with your wife's lawyer on your behalf. This would ensure that no further threats are made and that your personal assets are protected.





Bangkok


The hunt is over and after writing about the frustrations of dealing with Thai real estate agents, I finally found a new place. A foreign agent willing to help at my price point showed me 3 places, all of which were ideal and within 20 minutes we had found the place I would move in to. After all the hassles of finding the right condo, there are two pieces of advice I'd give to anyone looking for an apartment in Bangkok. The first would be that if you use an agent, find a foreigner! They understand foreigners' needs and they listen. They won't show you properties that don't meet your requirements. The second would be to look at a LOT of places. The market really doesn't make sense. It seems to me that a lot of owners put their properties on the market at vastly inflated prices in the hope some sucker who doesn't know the market will pay over the odds. You'd think agents would point this out to customers but the local agents I dealt with were more concerned about making a commission. When I mentioned to one that the condo was priced at way more than it was worth, she giggled and said I was right! Take your time and when you do find something, negotiate hard on the price and the terms of the agreement. Don't commit to anything unless it's exactly what you're looking for. It's amazing the difference moving to a new place makes. I'm already feeling much more positive about things…so don't expect me to be saying goodbye any time soon!



Your Bangkok commentator,

Stick


Firehouse