From time to time I rustle up some farang food but it's not often you see me wearing an apron. And if it's Thai food I fancy the last thing I'd do is make it myself when reasonable Thai food can be had for a pittance. Truth be told, I've never tried cooking the local cuisine and with many Thai dishes I wouldn't know where to start.
When 2 Belgians put their heads together to come up with a project that would keep their respective Thai wives busy, keep them out of trouble and hopefully make them a little money, they came up with Bangkok Food Expedition, a Thai cooking class with a difference. And when they invited a bunch of website owners and reviewers to take their class, I jumped at the chance to learn more about Thai food.
Food Expedition Bangkok is a Thai cooking class with a difference. It combines learning how to make and then cooking 4 classic Thai dishes with a tour through parts of Bangkok which even long-term expats may not be familiar with.
Participants meet at the Prakanong BTS at 9 AM from where it's a short walk to the Prakanong Market. Your Thai guide leads you through a maze of alleys with stalls selling all manner of items from clothes to toys to magazines to prepared food and the largest section of the market, the raw ingredients needed to make Thai food.
The guide points out various items and explains what they are and which dishes they will be used in. She also comments on how to choose the various vegetables and things to look for. Everything may be fresh but there are a few tell-tale signs that can help you choose the best pieces.
The ingredients that will be used for the 4 dishes you will make are purchased – with the notable exception of the meat. Foreigners can be put off by the sight of meat left out in the open so it is purchased early morning from a supermarket.
Perhaps 20 minutes or so is spent wandering through the market, picking up items and taking in the exotic sights and smells. Despite the market being just a few minutes' walk from a skytrain station, you'll be as much an attraction to some vendors as they are to you.
Adjacent to the Prakanong Market is the Prakanong Canal and it is here that Bangkok Food Expedition sets itself apart from other Thai food cooking classes. Everyone gets in to a long-tail boat for a journey through neighbourhoods that couldn't be more different, from slum communities at one turn to multi-million dollar mansions at the next, and peaceful Buddhist temples at one corner to mosques at the next where the sound of prayer disturbs the peace and quiet of the neighbourhood 5 times per day.
The journey up the river is at a gentle pace, nothing like the harried and stressful dash many Thai commuters make every day to get to and from work on overcrowded boats bouncing along the Saen Saeb Canal. The Prakanong Canal couldn't be more different and there's little in the way of river traffic.
Unlike motorbikes and taxis and trucks and minivans, most of those driving boats are older. Why do you almost never see young guys in their late teens or 20s in control of a boat on Thailand's waterways?
Just a few minutes up the river the boat makes a stop at Wat Mae Nak Prakanong, a temple complex away from the farang ghetto and well off the tourist trail. Not a single foreigner who was not part of our group was seen, no real surprise given its location.
While you won't read about it in most guidebooks, Wat Mae Nak Prakanong is famous amongst Thais. It is the home of Thailand's most famous ghost!
So the story goes, a beautiful young lady called Nak was married to a Thai man called Maak. Maak had to go to war and Nak remained at home. Sadly, while Maak was away, Nak died while giving birth. Nak had a very deep love for her husband and her spirit stayed at their home waiting for his return. When Maak arrived home he did not know that his wife had died and the couple lived happily together, as if she had never died. When Maak eventually realises that Nak is in fact dead and it is her spirit he is with, he flees!
A shrine dedicated to Mae Nak is the most popular part of the temple and many Thais come to pray and ask for blessings.
And if Mae Nak does not grant their wishes, or if they are not sure what the future holds, there is no shortage of fortune tellers on the temple grounds.
While we were at the temple there was something of an unplanned sideshow as a turkey was patted and prodded by a playful black cat.
An old lady sells fish food by the canal. Bangkok Food Expedition is the only tour group to visit the temple and she hasn't capitalised on the farang visitors. She doesn't speak a word of English, nor are there any signs saying what it is she is selling. Wat Mae Nak Prakanong is without the influences of tourism, and free of the crowds.
After a pleasant wander around the temple grounds and refreshments, it's back on the boat and another 20-minute ride up the canal.
The boat looks empty, for this is not a mass market tour involving a large group, but a small operation overseen by 2 Western Europeans and the tour itself run by their respective Thai wives.
The boat's propeller gets caught in a plastic bag which shouldn't be a great surprise given the way so many Thais discard waste with no regard for the environment. Out of sight, out of mind and no longer my problem seems to be the attitude.
I wonder what is going to happen next as the boatman is hollering out to those in shacks built on the banks of the canal. Next thing I know an old coot is standing canal-side with a huge knife as the boatman maneuvers the boat towards him. The engine is killed, the old coot leans over and the plastic bag is hacked away with a meat cleaver. There are smiles all around and the journey continues!
The boat journey terminates in Prawet district, several kilometres north of the Prakanong Market and skytrain station.
The cooking school is operated on the ground floor of the home of one of the guides.
Presently four dishes are taught and each participant makes every dish.
The instructor explains which ingredients are used in each dish, their quantity, the steps involved in making the dish and demonstrates. Each person has their own burner and follows along, while another guide moves around checking that everyone is following instructions correctly. This is a basic, beginner's level Thai cooking course, an ideal introduction to preparing some of the classic Thai dishes.
The first dish is som tam, or papaya salad in English. That is followed by larb moo (Isaan-style spicy pork salad), tom yum goong (spicy prawn soup) and Penang gai (red curry).
Stick's homemade som tam, with just one chilli and lots of lemon juice; tangy without being too spicy.
The first dish, som tam, does not require any cooking. We each get a mortar and pestle and follow instructions on how to make the dish that so many Thais are addicted to, the dish that more Thais overseas seem to miss than any other and the dish that I sometimes joke is the gauge by which you know if a farang has been in Thailand too long if he says he loves it or merely eats it regularly!
While all participants work with exactly the same set and quantity of ingredients, you're encouraged to adjust the flavour of the dishes to your personal taste. Adjusting how much sugar, fish sauce and how many chillies you add – each of which seems to be used in most Thai dishes – determines just how flavourful it is.
I lament the lack of a chopping board as one of the hosts chastises me for the way I chop a lemon. I am cautious of the ultra sharp knife that is so sharp it could easily go straight through a finger. She goes about demolishing a lemon in a matter of seconds with a skill and dexterity that I just don't have in the kitchen before mutilating spring onions. Chopping boards? What are they?! My mother would have kittens if I cut lemons the way the guide suggests and if Gordon Ramsay was present his choice words would wake the dead. Rather than do it my way in front of her, I wait until she assists someone else and revert to chopping a lemon as a farang who likes all of his fingers just where they are, thank you!
4 dishes mightn't sound like a lot, but there's much to learn with each dish, and you end up with a lot of food. Unless you're a really big eater, you won't get through it. What isn't eaten can be packed up and taken away.
I've never really thought too much about how Thai dishes are made. Now having made them myself, I can say why I like – or don't like – a particular dish. Too much galangal, not enough garlic, needs more fish sauce etc. If you appreciate good food, it helps knowing how particular dishes are made and exactly what goes in to them.
But with that said, there are some things you might not want to know. Rather more sugar is used than I'd consider healthy – and this is before we mention the white rice, coconut milk and other less than healthy ingredients. Some tell me that Thai food is healthy – I would strongly disagree.
If this website ever goes tits up, maybe I could open Stickman's Kitchen?!
A market visit and cooking lesson punctuated by a canal ride through parts of Bangkok seen by few foreigners and a visit to a temple where the remains of the most famous Thai ghost might sound like an odd mix, but it works, so much so that I found the tour like a great book – I didn't want it to end.
You aren't taken anywhere near any tourist traps, there's nothing to buy and no visits to vendors selling tourist junk from whom tour organisers collect a rich commission. It's 5 hours of pure tour and cooking class, a chance to meet new people and make friends, see and shop at a local market, learn about and cook some classic Thai dishes, take a long-tail boat ride and, of course, enjoy Thai dishes that you cooked yourself.
If you are looking for something a little different the next time you're in town, or are an expat with friends or family visiting and want to send them on a tour with a difference, Food Expedition Bangkok is highly recommended. It may be a commercial operation, but it's not commercialised.
Where was this photo taken?
(now with 2 prizes per week)
Last week's photo was taken of the intersection where Rama IV Road and Rachadamri intersect with Silom Road. There are two prizes each week, a 500 baht voucher for Bully's, on Sukhumvit Road between sois 2 and 4 and a 300 baht voucher for Sunrise Tacos, Bangkok's original Mexican grill with several branches in Bangkok.
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 and only the first answer emailed counts! You MUST specify which prize you would prefer and failing to do so makes you ineligible for a prize.
FROM STICK'S INBOX (These are emails from readers and what is written here was not written by Stick.) Preference may be given to emails which refer to the previous week's column.
EMAIL OF THE WEEK – Pursuit of the middle-class lifestyle leads to fewer smiles.
Thais seem to have become so engrossed in money and material crap that they have totally lost what they were all about before the turn of the century. I realised when I first got here many people were short of money but they were not out on the hunt salivating when they eyed $$ like they are today. Where back then I chose to help some, today they come out of the woodwork like swarming termites almost demanding cash. 3 years ago we moved to a new home and 2 weeks after our arrival some worthless bitch snuggles up to my wife with fruit and cake and offerings of friendship. Less than a week later she was at the door with her hand out for 50,000 baht! She told my wife that she knew I had that much and she needed it without one word about why or how it was to be paid back! The next day my wife wanted to use my truck for something. I got home that night and there was a new sign on the truck in Thai and English that said "No money to loan."
Changing diet, changing shape.
While I have been to Eden Club in the past, and Hell Club is the same concept, I can't believe the difference in the women. I bemoan the change in diet which has put so much weight on so many Thai women. When I visited Eden there were no girls that carried significant extra pounds. Now maybe variety is the spice of life, but those girls back then were sleek. They varied in their level of attractiveness, length of hair, height etc., but they all fit the mould of the prototypical Thai girl back then – lean and mean – which most Western punters, I think, usually seek. And while you were very kind about describing them, most were a bit difficult to look at. Based solely on the photos you took (and not the description of their attitudes or service), I wouldn't bother to cross the street to engage them. And I'd be scared to death that if I were to choose one slender girl, that without specific instruction to the contrary, my chances of her choosing an overweight lady friend would be much higher than I'd like. I can't believe that, at my age, my standards are actually getting higher, but that's what it seems like from my perch halfway around the world as I look at the photos you took.
Why fly half way around the world for what is plentiful at home?
I've been off the Thai websites for so long that the newer ladies look to be tipping the scales at a heavier point. Thai food is delicious, cheap and healthy. I can't for the life of me understand why they'd take a step down in quality of food for crap fast food. And it can't be good for their business either. I have to believe that most western guys prefer slim to chunky. You can find chunky girls anywhere. Men go to Thailand (or I thought they did) to find lovelier girls than they would normally be able to date in their own countries. I guess that, for me, the good news is that it makes me miss Thailand a bit less, knowing that the halcyon days are far behind us. I don't need to go halfway around the world to find fat girls. We have plenty of them here.
Trying to appease expats and visitors alike.
The problem with Trip Advisor is that bars and nightclubs have to stay focused on providing locals a predictable venue where they can always get a seat and not be overwhelmed by tourists. Locals keep you alive during low season whereas tourists put you on a roller coaster and are often intolerant of things locals take for granted. If you remember Vientiane Kitchen – the charming little Lao restaurant on Sukhumvit soi 36 – with authentic North-east cuisine, wonderful live music and cultural dance shows which had a marvellous ambience built on a vacant block with people dining under a magnificent tree canopy. The place was popularized through travel guides and tourist companies and soon became overrun with tourists. Prices went up and the total facility got stressed out – including the tree which eventually died. There's a message there.
Not so bad!
There were a lot of letters in your Sunday column about the death of the bar scene in Bangkok. I am not a regular but I don't see it. There are still quite a few good looking girls and not all the mamasans are avaricious. I say if you find a bar where they pressure you, move on to the next one. There are still plenty of good ones around.
A preference for Patpong.
With all the talk of the quality in the gogos going down the plughole along with increased drinks prices in tandem with bad attitudes, what exactly does Sukhumvit have to offer a punter these days? Very little. Even before you make it to Nana, the push and shove down Sukhumvit has become intolerable, where the stalls are so dense there is barely a meter left for 2-way foot traffic to proceed. Then you have the Arab and African contingents crowding the place, and you start to ask yourself where is the enjoyment in this? Ok, so you cross to the other side where it is somewhat better for a while. Then you make it to the soi 4 intersection where the hawkers slowly roast you with their grills on the final run into the plaza. Soi Cowboy might sound like a better option if you want to run the risk of being gone over by 2 cops on the way there. No thanks. Suddenly, Patpong is beginning to look like it's worth the skytrain ride to some of the bars you have mentioned recently.
Bar boss drugged.
I have been coming to Thailand for 9+ years and been living here with my Thai wife and kids for 6 of the best years of my life. I own a small bar in Jomtien and thought I knew the bar scene quite well. I was wrong. When I go to Bangkok I usually drink at either Big Dogs or the Golden Beer Bar. I was sitting in the Golden Bar one afternoon with 3 beers under the belt when a young British guy approached me and asked if I had been in Thailand long. "Yep, mate, living here for over 6 years." The young fella was clean cut, dressed well asked me for some hints on the dangers of Thailand as it was his first trip. "No problems, mate, rule #1 never leave your drink alone in a bar unless you are with someone you know and trust". I continued for an hour with other things I have found out about Thailand. Also I told him to research your site for the best info. I then needed to go to the toilet and asked the young British lad to keep an eye on my drink. I came back and finished my beer and ordered another for myself and the boy. That is the last thing I remember until I woke up in my hotel room. I had a huge headache and all the money I had in my wallet was gone, about 4,000 baht. On going back to the Golden Bar that morning the girls told me I was suddenly very drunk and my new friend helped me back to the hotel – the girls told him where I was staying. Hotel security told me they found me on the stairs asleep and then took me to my room. So my beer was spiked by a young British lad, not a Thai! I have never had any trouble with Thais. It goes to show that it is getting harder to trust anyone these days unless you have known them for a long time. A big lesson for me as I thought this would never happen to someone who lives here and owns a bar here!
Comment about the girl of the week section. In recent weeks some readers have not been shy to let me know that they have found themselves scratching their head at my choice of girl of the week. I'd therefore like to provide an explanation about how the girl is chosen.
Many factors determine the choice of girl. First and foremost, I don't have the freedom to shoot in every bar and there are plenty of venues where I'm not known or not welcome with a camera. Generally, Thai-owned bars don't welcome a foreigner with a camera, notwithstanding that having a girl featured would be a great promo for their bar. I unashamedly favour those bars where I know the owner, or bars which support this site.
I explain to girls what the girl of the week feature is. The selling point is that they can expect guys coming to see them as happened to First at The Strip, who had a stream of Stickman readers visit her. I also explain that should they later wish to have the photo removed, all they need to do is let me know and it will be done. Girls settle down and already one girl featured has a boyfriend and has left the industry. Her photo was removed.
The most attractive girls generally aren't interested in appearing. They have not shortage of interest shown in them every night. Some girls – often the most attractive girls, but not always – receive money from abroad from unsuspecting guys who believe she is no longer working. Girls receiving money to stay out of the bar worry that the guy(s) sending them money may see her photo and that will be the end of the money so they don't want to appear! That can rule out many of the prettiest ladies.
As far as the general attractiveness of the ladies featured goes, I maintain that all the ladies featured are attractive – but being attractive and being photogenic are two very different things. Girls who are photogenic tend to have delicate features, good skin and be somewhere between slim and skinny. That rules out about 98% of the girls in the bars. There are some girls I have photographed who aren't very photogenic, while in person they look great.
This week the owner of The Strip asked me to photograph a particular girl who I think most guys would agree is attractive. She is in the photo below with three girls, on the right. In the bar she looked good, however she isn't photogenic. I wanted to photograph the girl on the left, but she was barfined and was out of the bar before I had a chance, hence I chose the lady in the middle.
Finally, there is my style of photography which does not lend itself to portraiture, or glamour photography. I am what is known as a street photographer. I like to capture real life, to capture a moment. I don't like to set up shots and I prefer not to do posed shots. Flashes, diffusers, tripods, reflectors and other gadgets aren't found in my gear bag. With glamour photography you typically get someone made up, use auxiliary lighting, shoot in a controlled environment and use a lens with the appropriate focal length to show her facial features in the best perspective etc., none of which is my style. So if you're wondering why some of the ladies featured aren't what you'd consider classically beautiful, that's a convoluted explanation!
Girl of the week
Lita of Nakhon Sawan dances at The Strip, Patpong 2, Bangkok.
September is usually the quietest month of the year for the naughty bars and many of the businesses reliant on the trade of Western tourists, and this year was no different. As I made my rounds, bar owners would ask me where I'd been and how other bars were doing, the inference being are they doing it as tough as we are? While pretty much all the bars in Bangkok's major bar areas are profitable – even in the low season – the days of bar owners making enormous profits and splurging on a new Merc for their wife or a light aircraft for themselves are the distant past.
In Sukhumvit soi 33 this week the English boss of one bar invited other bar owners to attend a meeting at his bar to discuss how they could work together to get soi 33 back to how it used to be. The horse bolted long ago although, in fairness, the owner who called the meeting is relatively new to the soi. I have no idea what was discussed at Thursday night's meeting but with the increased competition from the likes of soi 11 and Thonglor, soi 33 is up against it.
The very first Thailand gogo bar I stepped foot in was Rock Hard A Gogo in Phuket, arguably the best bar of its type on the island for 2 long decades. Owner Larry has finally decided to let his baby go. The new operators are said to be from Bangkok and they will keep the Rock Hard brand name. The plan is to revitalise the gogo bar upstairs and demolish downstairs. All existing staff will stay on. Rock Hard has been an iconic bar in Phuket and while he may spend more time home in LA than in Phuket these days, it won't quite be the same without Larry in charge.
And it's not just Phuket where long-running bars are changing. The first gogo bar in Bangkok I ever stepped foot in was Pretty Lady. It was April 9th, 1998 and myself and a friend were blown away. Back then Pretty Lady was 2 shophouses and had a funky ceiling with artificial flowers lit by garish lighting that gave it something of a haunted house feel, totally at odds with the 50 odd pretty girls dancing naked on stage! It was the late '90s, Thailand was in economic turmoil and the bars were jammed with pretty ladies – and the name of the bar couldn't have been more appropriate. Pretty Lady Bar went through a major redesign last year and the finished version was kind of minimalistic. Some liked it, some didn't. What it did have was a great crew and an excellent mamasan, in fact it was so good that earlier this year when I announced it as my favourite Bangkok gogo bar a good few readers actually agreed. After months of conjecture it can be confirmed that the founder of Angelwitch is now officially a partner in the bar. Pretty Lady has closed and been completely stripped. It will be rebuilt from the ground up with a completely new design. What would usually be a 6-week job they are trying to get done in 4. It is hoped that the new venue – name as yet unknown – will reopen in time for Halloween.
Management at Suzy Wong in Soi Cowboy have said that despite the recent increase in taxes on alcohol, they will not increase prices. In fact industry-wide not many have put prices up so far.
The Englishman who has managed Secrets in Pattaya for the past few months has decided to return to Blighty and the rumour mill is going in to overdrive about just who his replacement will be.
How do you get a Bangkok gogo girl to stay still? Take her to bed!
The fire service had Soi Nana beer bar customers scattering on Wednesday when they performed what some described as a practice session and others as a demonstration that went wrong. Fires were started near propane canisters and safety-conscious foreigners observing ran, one running from Big Dogs without paying his bill! One bar manager called and asked me if I was anywhere near the plaza – there was an opportunity to photograph the firemen equivalent of the keystone cops!
You wouldn't think a Mexican grill would have bragging rights for the coldest beer in town, but they do. Sunrise Tacos' flagship branch at Sukhumvit soi 12 and the new branch on Silom are trialing a special beer fridge for a month which chills beer to minus 9 degrees Celsius – without turning it to ice. The high-tech fridge comes with a fellow who twice a day visits the restaurant to monitor it. A test-run in Phuket doubled beer sales in the selected restaurant and Sunrise has high hopes. For beer drinkers, Sunrise stocks Singha, San Miguel / light, Chang, Tiger / light, Heineken and Carlsberg, at just 90 baht and Corona for a little more.
10+ years ago Nana Disco was the most popular venue of its type, stacked with pretty ladies and absolutely packed most nights. It was a goldmine for the owner and on the busiest nights could turn over several hundred thousand baht. To put that in perspective, it takes a week for the bigger / better gogo bars to do those numbers! Back in the day Nana Disco's only real competition was the Thermae while today there are many late night / freelancer bars as well as all of the streetside booze booths. Nana Disco is trying to give customers a reason to visit with guest DJs and special promotions designed to get ladies in the door. Plenty of ladies should get male customers in the door. Details of Nana Disco's promotions for October are listed below.
On Friday night the Thermae was full of pretties dolled up in a style that does it for Asian men. The few Western men barely got a look and most of the Thermae brigade just won't entertain thoughts of getting to know a Westerner. What is interesting is the ratio of women to men in the Thermae is at least 2:1, maybe 3:1, and when you consider that many men just go there for a chat, a drink and a look, the numbers mean most women will end up going home alone i.e. they have been to work but are not making any money. They will go home without making any money. Like so many things here it really doesn't make sense!
What do you make of mamasans? There is the odd mamasan I respect, but most I don't even get along with. Mamasans know that I am not buying and see little or no value in being nice to me. I'm quite comfortable with that as I have no need for them to help me either. I've often thought that the role of a mamasan is misunderstood by customers. Many believe their role is to help customers – and it is – but that is very much secondary to their primary role which is looking after the girls and helping them make as much money as they can – for themselves, for the bar and a commission for mama too! I think of mamasans as I do realtors – their role is to get the best possible price for the vendor. And I've never liked realtors.
When I first came to Thailand it was the Germans and the Brits who comprised the largest groups of Western visitors to Thailand, with Americans 3rd. Last year's visitor stats show Brits still make up the second highest number of Western visitors and Americans have overtaken the Germans in to third. So which farang country now accounts for more visitors to Thailand than any other? Gidday, mate – it's the Aussies! From 2009 to 2012 as Australia prospered, the number of Aussies visiting Thailand leapt from 646,000 to 930,000 in just 3 years. No wonder you read so much about Aussies in Thailand in the local press – there are so many of them here!
Could there possibly be 70,000 Russians resident in the greater Pattaya area? Is that number possible? It seems awfully high to me, but then what would I know? That's the number a Russian resident in Thailand for 3 years told me this week – and she insists it's right. It sounds much too high to me, but then I've no real way of knowing.
And it is not just Pattaya where Russians are visible – there are more and more in downtown Bangkok. And unlike the hordes of Chinese who congregate in certain areas (an odd mix of cheap eateries like the Terminal 21 food court and high-end, brand name stores like Siam Paragon), the Russians are more likely to go to places Westerners go. I tell you, it won't be long before restaurants and other businesses on Sukhumvit go the way of Pattaya and have English, Thai and Russian language menus.
Following on from the bad press ping pong ball shows got last week after Rihanna tweeted about them, I am firm in my belief that they are dreadfully degrading. When I stick my neck out about a particular aspect of the industry and decry it, I am often called on the whole prostitution thing. As one reader asked, how can I condemn ping pong ball shows yet be ok with prostitution. Well, they are two different things and I have no issues with prostitution whatsoever – so long as those partaking are of legal age, no-one is forced to do anything they don't wish to and safe sex is always practiced. At the same time I find it absolutely nauseating when regular users of prostitutes in Thailand describe what the girls are doing as "good" or "right", their argument often that the girls earn much more selling their body than they would in almost any other type of work (available to them given their current education and skill set) so it must be good. It is by and large true the girls make more money on their back than they would at a cash register or on an assembly line, but at the same time it is just as true that most girls fritter away the money they make. It seems to be a case of easy come, easy go. Westerners talking up or attempting to justify prostitution in Thailand as being "good" or "right" are not being altruistic at all, but invariably because the thought that the supply of girls available to them may dry up is unthinkable. That I find every bit as horrible as the ping pong ball shows.
Eccedentesiast is the term used for someone who hides his / her pain and misery behind a fake smile. Can you think of anyone you could describe as an eccedentesiast?
This week I spotted a foreigner on the walkway above the Asoke intersection with a tattoo in Thai on his neck. It said Ruk Tannicha, which translates as "I love Tannicha". What will he do when things go tits up with Tannicha? Move away from Thailand, perhaps – for any decent Thai woman would be horrified at the thought of dating a guy with such a tattoo visible (unless, of course, her name was also Tannicha). Outside of Thailand pretty much no-one can read Thai so no-one would know what it means. If asked about it he could say anything he likes – and they'd never know. So I guess if you are going to get a message tattooed on a visible body part, have it written in an obscure language and then irrespective of what happens, it really doesn't matter!
Quote of the week comes from Pattaya Gary "Alcohol is one of the greatest liars, the undoing of many Thais and expats alike."
Even after all of these years, the black money scam persists in Pattaya where 2 Liberians are caught trying it on.
The transport minister says tourists should be banned from free buses.
Lady-only taxis might soon be seen on the streets of Bangkok.
A retired Aussie cop gives his version of events after an altercation with a pack of taxi drivers in Phuket.
An expat tries to pick up his mate staying at a local hotel and sparks a taxi standoff in increasingly hostile Phuket!
A condom-averse Aussie does the dirty with a ladyboy who demands to be paid extra after discovering he'd been sheathless.
A cabbie who abducted and sexually assaulted a tourist in Phuket while high on yaba won't do any time.
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 girlfriend of many years had a nasty motorcycle accident. She had some type of personal insurance with the motorcycle. When she recovered she lodged a claim with the hospital bills along with the police, doctor and insurance agent reports. She was informed they would ring her when the claim was paid in to her bank account. After nearly 3 months nothing has happened. When she inquires at the office, she is told not to bother them. They will ring her when the claim is ready. She got a supervisor's phone number, but it's a recording and no-one rings back. I suspect a member of the staff may have paid the claim to him or herself. Is there a government agency you can make a complaint to as legal action would not be worthwhile for the amount involved.
Sunbelt Asia Legal Advisors responds: If the claim is made within the first 90 days then it is possible to file a complaint with the OIC (the Office of the Insurance Commission.) She can submit her complaint through this link.
However, if the claim is more than 90 days old then she will need to go through the Courts. Sunbelt Asia has experienced legal experts who can assist in getting this claim paid out. Please feel free to contact us for more information.
Last night's international rugby match between New Zealand and South Africa has been billed for the past few weeks as the fixture of the year and it exceeded all expectations. It was an incredible game of rugby played as the game should be played – action-packed from start to finish with both sides desperate to win and refusing to give an inch. The spirit in which it was played and the skill levels of both sides were a great advertisement for the oval ball game. I was inspired and I was proud at how New Zealand prevailed at South Africa's spiritual home of rugby, Ellis Park, a formidable ground where 60,000+ rugby-mad Springbok fans were roaring for their heroes. I was inspired by my fellow countrymen who prevailed in a hostile environment and felt pride at the way we Kiwis punch above our weight on the world stage. Going to bed last night and unable to get the match out of my mind, it caused me to reflect about how I am seldom inspired by anything in Thailand, nor am I (nor are many foreigners, I wouldn't hasten to add) vested enough in Thailand to genuinely feel proud about much of anything that happens here. I know some think I'm crazy when I mention how much I miss New Zealand. How I felt last night after that amazing game of rugby probably goes some way towards explaining it. Disgruntled expats often complain about aspects of life in Thailand that leave them feeling frustrated, empty or even embarrassed, but sometimes it is the intangibles, those things that you don't consciously consider that cause you to miss home the most. And for me, two of those intangibles are inspiration and pride. Living in a country with warm weather year round and pretty women everywhere may be all very well and nice, but sometimes you want more, sometimes you crave something deeper. And that is not always easy to find. Maybe the solution is simply that I need to watch more rugby?!
Your Bangkok commentator,