Only 6 kilometres separate Sukhumvit from Khao San but traffic congestion between two of the areas most popular with Westerners in Bangkok makes them seem every bit as far apart as their respective images are. Sukhumvit is the sophisticated sibling with pricey condos and upmarket nightlife where Khao San is still known as the place to hunt for 200 baht dorms and 20-baht gets you a cardboard tray of pad Thai. They seem like worlds apart, but are those who stay and play in the 2 respective areas all that different?
This week I spent a day strolling around Khao San, not just the main 400-metre stretch of Khao San Road itself, but exploring the back alleys, chatting with locals and drinking more coffee than one ought to. I observed a neighbourhood that is so hard to define, a part of the Thai capital that is no more Thai than it is Western. I would discover that there is much overlap between Khao San and those parts of Bangkok popular with foreigners I am more inclined to cover.
Khao San Road is the centre of backpacking in the world, the largest and best known enclave for budget travellers in South-East Asia, the heart of the region which most serious backpackers will pass through at some time in their life.
Khao San Road became popular with budget travellers as a hub of inexpensive accommodation some 25+ years ago. Restaurants, bars, travel agencies and shops soon followed.
The area has become gentrified as the big American fast food brands have moved in and guesthouses with dormitories make way for hotels. With every other backpacker packing a fancy smartphone, iPad and laptop, the market has evolved to satisfy the needs of those with a real job and real incomes, what are sometimes called flashpackers. But the flavour of Khao San Road remains with plenty of low-end guesthouses and some of the cheapest street food in the city is ubiquitous in and around Khao San.
Khao San Road is also popular with young Thais, particular university students (two of the best universities – Thammasat and Silpakorn – have campuses nearby).
The immediate vicinity around Khao San is not known for sites of interest to visitors. The Democracy Monument is a few hundred metres away and directly opposite the western end / Police Station / Gulliver's end, is Wat Chana Songkram, a large temple complex. In an area teeming with foreigners – many of whom claim to be seeking a cultural experience – why do so few explore the temple?
The Grand Palace, Wat Po, Wat Arun, the Chao Praya River and the historical part of the city are all but a walk away. But many seem to wile the days away on Khao San updating their diary, chatting with friends, chugging back Changs. You get the impression they were doing the same thing in the same spot yesterday, and will probably be right there again tomorrow.
I never had good luck with the food on Khao San, but as I became more familiar with the area and learned of some of the better, long-running eateries, I came to see the area as a real dining destination.
The yellow curry vegetarian fried rice at Mai Kaidee is my favourite dish in the area. Brown rice is fried with a mild yellow curry powder with broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, tofu, raisins and nuts. It sounds unusual – and it is – but it's great! Try it with their signature zinger smoothie – a bunch of fruits blended with a little chili thrown in to give it some bite and you have a delicious, nutritious and inexpensive meal.
Before moving to Thailand I thought I'd always be eating food like this, but I was to find a lack of creativity and imagination, where so many menu items were spiced up but at the same time remained remarkably bland. Not bland as in bland-tasting, but bland as in they were made with a lack of flair, like mass produced food where the chef had made no effort to stamp their own style on it.
Just after lunch I stumbled upon this fellow getting some kip in the back of a tuktuk. The tuktuk driver explained that he had been wandering around in a stupour at 7 AM and could not remember where he was staying. The kindly driver eased him in to the tuktuk so he could sleep off his hangover right there on Khao San Road where he would be safe. The tuktuk drivers would keep an eye on him. This guy had to be the most featured person in Bangkok on Facebook this week with everyone taking his snap.
His eyes were bloodshot, his arms flailing around, his words slurred and his brain pickled.
Drinking on Khao San doesn't break the budget. Cocktails can be had for 80 baht, beer is about half the price of Sukhumvit, sometimes less – and you aren't harassed to buy anyone a cola.
The tuktuk drivers on Khao San Road are a rather different breed to elsewhere. They're friendly and more relaxed and enjoy the banter. Some make a genuine effort to look sharp and love to flirt when they see a hot farang woman of which there are plenty on Khao San. Some speak English so well that they must have taken a few blonde-haired girls for a ride.
Don't you just love the stickers the tuktuk drivers place on their chariot, from the flags of foreign nations to recommendations to the insignia of English football teams, anything to appeal to potential customers.
While the tuktuk riders are friendly and really quite pleasant, Khao San is not without its scams, annoyances and pests. Why do the Thais allow Indians to pull their lucky man scam.
They approach you, tell you're lucky and try to convince you to go to their place – chairs or seating in a side alley well away from the crowds where through some sort of tomfoolery, hypnotism or just plain BS they attempt to trick you in to parting with cash. There are a bunch of them on Khao San.
Fake degrees, teaching certificates, drivers licenses, all manner of fake ID to include fake FBI credentials are sold openly on Khao San Road today as they have been for as long as anyone can remember. Vendors offer a great variety of copied documents suggesting that there is demand for this nonsense.
The one type of fake ID you can't get on Khao San is a Thai ID card. Falsifying Thai documents is taken seriously. The forgers will tell you from the outset that the documents are fake, like they are knowingly selling a replica – and I imagine that is how they manage to get away with it.
Presenting these documents as legitimate in Thailand is not recommended. Over the years a number of teachers have ventured out to Khao San Road to buy a degree to use to apply for a work permit. Those caught can do time.
And it's not just copied certificates and ID cards but all manner of items.
Recognise William? William worked as a hello boy in Patpong soi 2 for 8 years, standing outside a bar and inviting those passing by inside. That ended in 2009 when the block of bars at the Suriwong Road end of the soi were demolished.
These days William can be found on Soi Rambuttri, the quieter soi which runs parallel to Khao San, where he mans a stand selling low quality copies of books popular in this part of the world, along with freshly squeezed orange juice. He's as friendly and chatty as ever. Just don't get him on to the Premier League or his beloved Newcastle or you will never get away.
Sitting behind William with the owner of the stall where William helps out was this character, a fellow of few words.
An old neighbourhood where many have lived all their life, the Banglamphu area (of which Khao San Road is just one street) has many characters who have seen the area undergo tremendous change over the past 3 decades.
With heat of the day behind us, characters come out, both Thai and farang.
This fellow was tossing some sort of stone up and down and catching it. He didn't seem to be selling anything and appeared to be in his own little world, all very content.
The facial tats were the least of this fellow's concerns with a large scar on the side of his head evidence of some sort of brain surgery with an indentation suggesting that plenty of something was removed. Dramatic looks aside, he was pleasant enough, before turning his attention back to Muay Thai fight reruns he was watching on a small TV in a back alley.
As the backpacker enclave sprawls, quiet alleys are being developed. I note the excellent Ranee's Velo Restaurant has relocated to the same narrow alley, which runs between Khao San Road and Rachadamnoen Road. If you're after homemade pasta or the best pizza in the area, Ranee's has delicious and inexpensive Italian food.
By mid-afternoon tables at the street-side bars and restaurants are already being taken as the drinking begins. Beer towers were being served a good couple of hours before the sun dropped below the horizon.
The mercury stayed below 30 this week and with a cool breeze blowing through the city it's a brave man who would sit in the shade with his shirt off.
Watching buskers isn't my thing but these guys were making some interesting sounds with their funky instruments, a didgeridoo and what looked like a bunch of woks with indentations turned upside down. They moved every 30 or 40 minutes in what seemed to be a game of cat and mouse, staying out of sight of the authorities.
Keen to take a break, a sign boasting coffee brewed by trained baristas caught my attention. I glanced inside a pleasant enough looking cafe, but the doormat stopped me in my tracks. Boots off, soldier! As one who has never owned a pair of flip flops or such style of footwear in his life, and who prefers the comfort and protection of footwear that you could wear on a rugby field or go to war in, it is, quite frankly, too much hassle to rip them off, no matter the promises made about the quality of the coffee. This cafe just lost a sale through what strikes me as just plain bad business practice.
I grabbed a coffee from Bung's Tears, the Muslim coffee vendor taken to court by Starbuck's over claims of a logo which could be easily mistaken for theirs. A 25 baht iced coffee gave me the spark I needed.
At Pra Arthit Park a couple try out some new positions. New positions, now there's a phrase that means different things in different parts of the city.
Khao San Road isn't especially known as a place to meet local women, but it has long attracted local women who are farang-friendly or farang-curious. The mixed race couples are less likely to be the classic mismatches you see on Sukhumvit.
My observation has been that the Khao San Road crowd doesn't venture to the protest area around Democracy Monument, even though it's just a few hundred metres away. Those who do can be seen taking advantage of the protesters' generosity, enjoying free meals and bottles of water. I wonder if they know what the protest is about.
The Khao San Road area spreads its tentacles out a little further each year as the visitor numbers rise and property values soar. Hole in the wall operations and ma and pa stores are bought out by big-name brands keen to put Khao San Road on their list of branches. Wooden buildings and historic markets are demolished to make way for air-conditioned premises with neon lights and free wi-fi signs. Older venues are revamped, and even the iconic tuktuk above the entrance to Gulliver's has been removed as the once thriving venue undergoes a new look as it strives to get its mojo back.
The Khao San Road area is becoming more developed as backpackers become flashpackers and travellers scorn the idea of really roughing it. Can you blame them for avoiding fan-cooled, mosquito-ridden dorms with mattresses infested with bedbugs in a room shared with some of the characters Thailand attracts? While the area may be moving upmarket, below the surface the same old flavour remains. Prices are still nitpicked over, one pat Thai stand is chosen over another because it's 5 baht cheaper, vendors selling Singha singlets become millionaires. The area has more places to sleep, eat, drink and shop than ever before and has become more diverse. Khao San Road today is much more than liberals, lesbians and lager louts.
Where was this photo taken?
Last week's photo was taken of the skytrain leaving the National Stadium BTS station, heading for Siam station. There are two prizes each week, a 500 baht voucher to use at Bully's, on Sukhumvit Road between sois 2 and 4 and a 300 baht voucher to use at 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 failure to specify a prize will disqualify you from being eligible to claim one.
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 – Understanding what she really wants.
The irony I find is when western men object to paying for sex which has been an Asian custom for a thousand years or more. It is as if women have sex with men based on the man's sex appeal. I went to college at two universities and the first one was Western Illinois in Macomb. Psyche 101 professor I had in the fall of 1970 was a guy with a club foot. His opening line was, "The primary attraction women have for men is the ability to provide." At times in life I have thought my body and face were the deal. But since I was mostly a druggy hippy, all those beauties would eventually leave me for guys with their economic shit together. As we age, some of us more athletic in our development, we expect women to still be attracted to us for, perhaps, genetic selection. In truth they want to know how we can benefit their goals and tolerate us based on a possibly acceptable appearance. Why don't western men realise the front end loaded experience is cheaper in Asia than the boundless greed women back home have?
Bargirl done me wrong.
Some time ago you limited articles on bargirls and their nasty habits. While I found the new articles interesting, I miss the old stories about how she done him wrong. I am not quite sure why I miss them. Whatever the reason, I have felt that you do a great service to the readers by writing these kinds of stories. Although many of us do not listen, eventually by osmosis, some of what you say regarding the ways of bargirls will sink in to our thick skins. Although I married a Thai bargirl, I escaped intact, both physically and financially. I now live in the US and will probably never go back to Thailand as I do not feel safe if she knows I am there. The last time I went to Thailand (after we separated) she knew within a day that I was back. That is how fast word spreads. I owe a lot to my friends who warned me (I did not listen), and to your articles (I read but did not think those things applied to me as my girl was different.) None of us knows how many men you have saved (again either physically or financially) by your warnings but I am sure there have been many.
This week's column reminded me of a doozy from years ago. When my friend let his wife go back home and her phone was turned off for a few days she later said, "I had bird flu so was in hospital for a few days." Guess what? He believed her too, probably because he wanted to!
Age is no guarantee of wisdom.
I'm generally of the view that it's better to rent than own, especially with girls working in the sex industry – bargirl, escort, stripper, no difference! That goes for anywhere, not just Thailand. I enjoyed reading this week's story about going undercover at Soi Nana, and the results were predictable. I really do feel sorry for that guy – to be so naive at his age – just proves being old doesn't bring wisdom for everyone. But rather than take the late comic Sam Kinison's approach, "You dirty whore, you slut!", you made very insightful points. Giving a lady a monthly stipend may cover her basic living expenses, but if you aren't around much, and they remain in Bangkok close to the action, the siren song of the bar will draw them back. Women like romance and commitment more than guys, or at least the majority do. Whenever guys I meet tell me they have fallen for a bargirl, what do I think? I tell them it is possible to work out long-term, but I would say unlikely. To quote Damon Runyan, "The race may not go to the swift, or the battle to the strong, but that's the way to bet". The odds are not with you and your bargirls, but you never know.
Be careful what you wish for.
It just figures others want problems to escalate in Thailand so they can continue to take advantage of the local women. They may just get theirs in the end though. The financial crisis that started in 2008 has not been solved, only temporarily averted by massive amounts of money printing. Governments may one day renege on their pension promises like what's happening in Detroit in the US now, or their pension amounts won't go as far as they once did which is also happening now, but to an even greater extent.
Hotels going cheap on safe deposit boxes.
The 'safe deposit' lockers as shown in your linked article are not proper safe deposit lockers at all. They are cheap, light steel, sports room type lockers, often seen in bargirl dressing rooms and used by low-priced hoteliers for guest valuables deposit purposes. Such lockers are fine unless somebody attacks them! Proper safe deposit lockers as found in banks and top hotels are equipped with dual nozzle locks requiring both the hotel (guard) key PLUS the guest's key before they can be opened. Additionally, real safe deposit lockers are constructed far more robustly to prevent jimmy attacks. You can see proper safe deposit lockers behind the reception counter in the Nana Hotel, for example.
Feeling the pinch.
A two-week millionaire might do well in Thailand and not think too much about the prices, but many travelers from countries other than the US (which only gets two weeks holiday time per year) spend a month or two and aren't keen on higher hotel, beer and girl prices. Airline fares aren't as cheap either. If one is to spend that much on ticket these days, he wants some value at his destination. A guy from Denver can fly to San Diego for probably 200 return in a fraction of the time and the money he saves on the ticket to Asia he can have a lot of fun in Tijuana.
Watching the protests from afar.
Having read your latest update on the protests, I thought I'd give you quick update on how it's affecting Thais living here in my neck of the woods in America. My wife and her large Facebook network are glued to the coverage. This really is a big deal for her and her friends. They have been raising funds to help feed the protestors and help support them from afar. They would all be with their brethren in a heartbeat if they could. Based on what she has said, I don't think this is going away any time soon. I have expressed my concerns that this could turn ugly when the Red Shirts decide it's their turn to be heard. The goal of eliminating corruption is good but I can't help but feel they will just get a whole new cast of characters with their hands in the till. Maybe that's just my jaded opinion from being beaten down by American politics! I hope it doesn't turn violent. Thailand does not realize how this tarnishes their reputation abroad.
Girl of the week
Ann, Bangkok-born, 19 years old, coyote dancer
@ Club Electric Blue, Patpong soi 2.
The backdrop of protests lingers as bars and restaurants in Sukhumvit continue to hurt. Some venues reported improved numbers this week, but that's not to say the smiles have returned to managers' faces, some of who are on bonuses based on how well the venue does. Where the previous week restaurant owners on Sukhumvit told me they were down 30% or so on where they would expect to be for December, this past week they say they are down 20%. So things are picking up for restaurateurs, but it's no different in the bars. Cowboy seems the worst hit to me and it's no surprise – the mainstream media says that Bangkok hotel occupancy rates are down 25%. With all of that said, Friday was busy on Sukhumvit and in Nana Plaza it actually felt like high season with the soi rocking.
Much effort is being put in to Fantasia in Nana Plaza in the hope of it returning to the glory days of 11 or 12 years ago. The venue will soon change name to Hot Lips.
Mandarin in Nana Plaza is worth sticking your head in if you're not a fan of fatties or uglies. The recruitment manager is doing a fine job.
Raving Dave can be found back in the bar for which he has been the front man for years. Dave was on katoey care, given the temporary task of fine-tuning a couple of the shemale bars in the plaza. He is now back where he belongs as both the face and the voice of the original Angelwitch.
Some weeks ago I made mention of a meeting at Bar Fly where owners of various Sukhumvit soi 33 bars met to discuss how they could attract customers back to the soi. I never thought anything would come of it – as is so often the case with these sorts of things in Thailand – but they did actually come up with an idea. Calling themselves the Sukhumvit Soi 33 Bar Owners Group, all participating bars offer 2 drinks for the price of 1 on Tuesdays, all night long. The 2 for 1 drinks special on Tuesdays can be found at The Office Bar, Mojo's Live Music Pub, Bar Fly, I Bar, Ocean, Survey, Tenderloins and Wall Street.
Some of the best nights in the bar industry have been the dance contests when girls from different gogo bars dance off for cash prizes. Dance contests see bars packed, the money motivating the girls who really dance up a storm. It's been some time since we had a dance contest but that's about to change with plans for 3 dance contests to take place in January, February and March, most likely on the last Sunday of each month. What's more, some of the venues and even some of those involved in the organising of the classic Nanapong dance contests may be involved. More details in the new year.
If you want to see what Santa does to his elves, check out Club Electric Blue this Tuesday, Christmas Eve, when along with the usual 50 baht draft beer there will be 95 baht Heineken all night long.
Heaven Above in Soi Diamond off Pattaya's Walking Street will have not 1, but 3 end of year parties! On Christmas Eve and Christmas Day they will host their Christmas parties and on New Year's Eve their final party of the year. There will be a free BBQ and Thai food, drink specials all night and lucky door prizes. 50 baht happy hours will run from 7:30 – 9.30 featuring draft beer and local spirits. Their hot girls are waiting to give you a present!
This high season is destined to be the worst in living memory as Valentine's Day next year happens to coincide with Macha Bucha Day, a Buddhist holiday when the bars are traditionally dry. The actual date varies each year and depends on the lunar cycle. Worst of all it happens to fall on a Friday and what is another big day in the bars – Valentine's Day. Not good.
If you need to do a visa run over the New Year period, note that some of the visa run firms take a couple of days off and may not operate on New Year's Eve and New Year's Day.
The Sportsman in Sukhumvit soi 13 has a quiz night every Tuesday starting at 7:45. Entry is free and the winning team gets a 1,000 baht bar voucher with a 500 baht voucher for the runners up. Pints of Heineken are 105 baht for all quiz players – and there's none of this ++ nonsense on any food or drink at The Sportsman. Kilkenny is available at 190 a pint and David Dickenson is the quizmaster. The Sportsman will have a new quiz night league in the new year that will be updated each week. The top team at the end of the season will win various prizes including an Xmas dinner and bottles of wine. Quiz nights seem to be more popular these days with a bunch of pubs doing them.
I've not tried it myself, but have heard good things about the wine and finger food buffet at the Rain Hill branch of Wine Connection at Sukhumvit soi 47. Every Wednesday night from 6:00 – 8:30 PM, it's all you can drink wine and all you can eat cold cuts and cheeses for a bargain 330 baht. It's said to be a hit with Western birds. There's limited tickets so you should book.
Down in Phuket, the bars below Rock Hard A Gogo have opened and afford a great view of everyone entering Bangla Road.
The old Tiger Disco bar complex which was destroyed by fire is slowly coming back to life with half a dozen bars ready for business on the ground floor and staircases leading up indicating that there will be a disco on the second floor.
Soi Eric is now 2/3 open. Some say it will be called Soi Freedom but at this stage there is no sign. Lots of girls make new soi Eric a pleasant change.
Despite the media frenzy just a few months back over Rihanna tweeting about ping pong shows in Phuket, nothing seems to have changed and touts continue to be promote them aggressively.
The trend on Phuket and Bangla Road at night is much the same as Pattaya where families, couples and Chinese wander around taking photos, video and soaking up the vibe. It's not until after midnight that the hub of Phuket's nightlife industry is dominated by punters.
In what is a new policy that I have not heard of before, and one which will have some Bangkok and Pattaya bar owners licking their lips, some bars in Phuket have put in place a dual-rate barfine system with different rates for the barfine depending on whether you're taking the girl short-time or long-time. 600 baht is the short time rate – which suggests the girl has to return to the bar after she is done, and 1,000 is the long time rate – which I guess means she is free for the night – but not necessarily compelled to spend the entire night with the customer. One could argue that similar exists in a handful of gogo bars in Pattaya where there may be a lower barfine rate after midnight or 1 AM / 2 AM. I have always felt this was a discount system where the late night rate was lower than the standard rate, and often just 300 baht. In Phuket it's something altogether different. Call me a cynic, but keep a look out for this system being adopted in Bangkok and Pattaya before too long.
Overall, Phuket is booming and there is no evidence that the protests that are dominating the news in the capital are having any negative impact on the paradise island.
I receive more emails these days from readers who feel prices charged in Bangkok (as opposed to Pattaya) naughty bars are just too high and don't represent fair value. I understand where you're coming from but you have to look at why it's happening. From a Nana Plaza bar this past Friday, the barfine rate for coyotes was 2,000 baht and the girls expect 3,000 baht for short time. Throw in a few drinks and a room and you're over 6,000 baht, or about $US200. An email this week from a long-term reader told of how he met a lady in Patpong who he wanted to get to know better. The barfine would have been 700 baht and she quoted him 4,000 baht so the total would have been around 6,000 baht, once drinks had been factored in. In the case of prices charged for drinks and barfines, the bars are facing increasing costs, especially rent, and have been forced to put prices up. There are naughty bars out there which barely turn a profit even with their lofty prices and there's nothing to suggest they will attract more customers if they lower prices. Remember, they are in business to make money. With the girls charging more, it's simply a case of basic economics, supply and demand, at work. And with fewer girls entering the industry and more visitors coming to Thailand it can only mean one thing – prices for drinks, barfines and the girls' services are going to continue to rise.
Could the end be coming for easy visa solutions? I've commented a lot in recent years on how the number of foreigners living in Bangkok has exploded. Foreigners can be found in every neighbourhood of the city and are not confined to the main downtown areas as we tended to be in the past. The economic benefits we bring are significant, but we don't come with without problems. More of us are seen to be behaving badly and more are being caught doing things we shouldn't. This has not gone unnoticed. There is talk of major changes to visa rules in the new year. At this point this is all rumour, but the rules for ED visas – currently the most exploited and misused of all visas by foreigners keen to stay in Thailand – look increasingly likely to change. The ED visa has been heavily promoted by Thai language schools, in some cases their advertising seems to be more about the visa than the language courses and the impression can be that these language schools are in fact a visa service which offers free language lessons offered and not the other way around. There must be thousands using this option to stay in Thailand – yet they speak no more than a few words of Thai. Mooted changes include a requirement that the ED visa only be available to foreigners enrolled in full-time courses. If these mooted changes become reality it would mean language schools would be required to change the way they operate completely. Already there have been changes with language schools been given the quiet word that those from certain parts of the world will not be issued an ED visa due to abuse of the system – think those who hang around the mouth of sois near the Thermae very late at night. It has also been mooted i.e. it remains rumour that there might be changes to the retirement visa with the qualification age put back up to 55, the age it used to be up until 12 or 13 years ago. I stress that this is speculation at this stage.
I really don't understand what's happening with the price of wine in Thailand. A few months back it was widely reported that the tax rate on alcohol went up. One bar owner told me that his suppliers' rates had gone through the roof and he was looking at increasing the cost of a glass of wine by 50 – 70 baht. But what hasn't happened is price increases at the supermarket. My two favourite, decent, affordable drops are Wyndham Estate Shiraz Bin 555 and Brancott Estate Pinot Noir. The Aussie Shiraz used to sell at 910 baht a bottle in Villa but is now just 728 baht a bottle. The Kiwi Pinot Noir used to retail for 799 baht a bottle and is now 739 baht. Rather than go up in price they have gone down. It doesn't make sense!
If you take a Thai woman back with you to the West, irrespective of whether she was the hottest thing in Bangkok or Miss Invisible, odds are she is going to get attention in Farangland. She may even be subject to advances from meatheads who think any Asian bird is up for it. With this in mind, if you're going to take a bit of Thailand home with you, you might as well take the best looking bird you can because if she is going to get hit on regardless of her looks, well, you may as well get the best, right?
I was told an hilarious story recently by an old friend regarding paying sin sot (Thai dowry). His mother-in-law to be requested a dowry of 1 million baht, money which he quite simply didn't have and even if he did, money he simply was not prepared to pay. The family is not poor, but rather wanted to gain much face in the village, especially as their daughter was marrying an American. He thought about it for a while, and asked if he could pay with US currency. He said he would show $30,000, which at the time was in excess of 1 million baht. They were fine with that. What the sneaky fellow then did was exchange some baht for 6 x crisp $100 bills and 294 x $1 bills. He made three bundle of equal size, each of which had the $100 notes on the outside and all the $1 notes on the inside, making it look like 3 bundles of $10,000, when in fact each bundle only had $298. The villagers thought they were seeing more money than ever, face was gained and everyone was happy! It should be noted that you would not be able to do this with Thai currency, not just because the notes are different colours and sizes, but the banknotes tend to be fanned out on display.
There's a bunch of parties and promotions happening over Christmas and New Year – see the posters below:
Quote of the week comes from a farang Soi Cowboy manager who shall remain nameless, "We're only 10% down", he said, as we looked out over a deathly quiet lane with hardly any punters about and I seriously wonder about his ability to count.
Reader's story of the week is "Almost Scored An Own Goal", a tale of the difficulties of being with a local woman.
An Aussie goes nuts on Ko Chang and sets fire to some motorbikes for hire!
That parts of Thailand have been declared disaster zones because of the cold snap has made news around the world.
The Nation newspaper reports that Bangkok has had 25% hotel cancellations as a result of the protests.
From the New York Times, Bangkok's middle class is terrified by the rising political clout of migrant workers.
The BBC reports that the Thai army chief warns of the possibility of civil war unless the current political crisis ends.
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 dodgy father in law has a legally gun bought with my money which at the moment is locked away in my house. My father in law is in Bangkok completing a deal where he gets millions of baht in commission. He had promised my wife some of the money but is now reneging on this and is going to go and live with his mia noi and buy a farm. He has been living off me for the past year so I have effectively been paying for his mia noi. My volatile wife has reacted by going to pick his corn, which was all paid for by me, except the rent of the land. His next move might well be to ask for his gun back and my wife has told me not to give it back. He has threatened to punch me and I have seen him discharge the gun when drunk. He has friends in the local police force. I am slightly worried he might use the gun on me and my family if I return his gun. Do you have any words of legal advice for me?
Sunbelt Asia Legal Advisers responds: It is not a good idea to keep your father-in-law's gun in your house especially since the gun is not in your name. If the gun is in your house as some kind of collateral for a loan then you should have a written agreement explaining your possession of it. You could consider giving it to him in front of a trusted third party.
As for the commission owed to your father-in-law, since it is the result of his own labour it would be at his discretion as to who gets what funds unless it were a documented agreement. As for him living at your house, it could be seen as the child repaying the father for bringing her up.
Finally, for the rented land it would depend on who paid the rent, whose name it was in, who paid for the outlay and finally who keeps the profits. It could be seen as a business partner if the profits were shared or if he repaid you or your wife for the outlay on seeds, fertilizer, labour etc.
The end of the year is just around the corner, Christmas is just a few days away and we're experiencing fabulous weather. It's the holiday season and despite the political turmoil and increasing concern about what's going to happen in Thailand, it's that time of the year when we ought to be happy. To everyone who has tuned in this year, from regular readers to occasional visitors, thank you for all your feedback, emails and support. I'd like to wish all readers a fabulous Christmas and a happy, healthy and prosperous 2014.
Your Bangkok commentator,