Stickman's Weekly Column March 16th, 2014

Buying A Condo In Pattaya

As a flood of foreign retirees and seemingly half of Russia descends on the seaside city of sin (the other half is descending on Crimea), Pattaya's real estate market is going gangbusters. Developments are going up all over the place, prices are on the move and everyone wants a piece of the action. Some are rushing to buy units not yet built to rent out or to flip, while others are buying a mobile phone, placing ads in newspapers and online and calling themselves a real estate agent. To find out what's really going on, I approached one of the most respected real estate agents in Pattaya, Kevin Hurst. A charming Englishman, Kevin is the owner of Pattaya Jomtien Real Estate. This week I put a bunch of questions to Kevin about real estate in Pattaya and specifically, about buying a condo in Pattaya.

What's happening with the property market in Pattaya? In Bangkok we hear it's particularly buoyant. Is this true?

He Clinic Bangkok

Absolutely correct. Personally, we've had our best March since I set up Pattaya Jomtien Property and we're only half way through the month! The Eastern Seaboard, not just Pattaya, seems resilient to whatever is happening elsewhere.

What do you put this golden period down to?

During the floods in Bangkok and elsewhere a couple of years ago thousands of Thais came to Pattaya for one or two months after their homes were flooded. I think they came to realise that the city and surrounding areas had far more to offer than nightlife entertainment zones and this prompted them to buy a condo or villa here as a second home.

CBD bangkok

During the height of the recent political demonstrations in Bangkok we still had clients searching to buy upmarket properties. Those who are regular visitors to Thailand know that what happens in Bangkok stays in Bangkok.

OK, so the Thais are buying, but should foreigners buy? I have always been a little dubious about foreigners buying in Bangkok. Given that I imagine many foreigners moving to Pattaya are retirees who, let's be frank, might be getting on, do you have any thoughts as to whether it's better to rent or to buy? So, to rent or to buy, that is the question.

Buy, buy, buy! Seriously, it all depends on the buyer's personal circumstances. If the client has family or children then I recommend they buy as this leaves assets to the wife / children regardless of whether they are Thai nationals or not, assets which will normally have increased greatly in value. Purchased correctly and managed correctly, property can return an excellent profit. However, if the client has no partner or family then it is often best for them to rent. The often heard advice from the bar experts of 'I'll never buy a property in Thailand, only rent' usually means they don't have enough money to buy property!

You seldom get good advice in bars, unless it's about where to drink!

wonderland clinic

I know this is a bit of a how-long-is-a-piece-of-string question, but what sort of money are you looking at for a mid-range apartment in Pattaya with a sea view, say a liveable one-bedroom unit – and what about for a unit of a similar size over the hill in Jomtien?

Jesus, that's difficult. The best comparison I can offer is by comparing a one-bedroom in View Talay 6 on Pattaya Beach Road with a similar unit in View Talay 5 on Dongtan Beach, Jomtien. Both are high-rise buildings by the same
developer and in the same design. In View Talay 6 we have 96-square metre one-bedroom condos listed on high floors in a foreign name priced from 6.5 million up to 7.5 million baht, whilst similar in View Talay 5 in Jomtien are listed from
5.2 million baht up to 7.5 million baht. A bit of a difference in the listing prices but this is usually reflected in the quality and design of the interiors and because they are listed at 7.5 million baht doesn't mean that's what
they eventually sell for! From this I think it's fair to say that you can get more for your money in Jomtien, but I don't think this will be the case for much longer as more and more 5-star developments and hotels are being developed
along Jomtien Beach which will mean an increase in prices.

One hears that Russians dominate the real estate market in Pattaya today and are buying up large. You never know what to believe in Bangkok expat circles but I often hear stories about condominium complexes in Jomtien where 75% of the residents or more are Russian. That might not sound like such a big deal until you hear about their behaviour which is perhaps not what the average Westerner might consider “polite”. Is there any truth to these numbers?

Ouch, I think the 75% ownership by Ruskies is a little bit OTT. It may seem like it but this is probably because of the number renting condos, but not actually owning them. The Russians particularly like the Pratumnak Hill area both for owning and renting. This is confirmed by the signage as it's either in Thai or Russian thus the name, Little Moscow. In Jomtien, sure, there are Russian-speaking owners but I would certainly estimate no more than 10% in any particular building.

I hear stories of Russians buying condos in Pattaya with cash, often millions of baht. Please tell me if this is true for if it is, Lecherous Lee and I are coming to Pattaya. Lee will ride the motorbike, I'll be the pillion passenger and we're going to cruise around Pattaya looking for white-skinned folks with a bowl haircut and '80s style pastel-coloured, ultra-tight shorts carrying a hold-all (which we hope is full of cash, preferably USD). We're going to pull up next to them, I'm going to grab it and Lee's going to gun the throttle all the way back to Bangkok (and the Nana bars are going to break records that night!)

Just look for the ones dressed in all white! Over the years I've sold a few properties where Russian-speaking buyers have hauled a backpack into the developer's office full with US dollars and don't bat an eyelid, so yes, this is true!

Makes you wonder how they got that amount of money in, but let's not go there.

I hate to say this but in Bangkok expat society the reputation Russians in Pattaya have isn't great. Is there any way to assist buyers getting in to a building which is not totally dominated by Russians, at least at the time of buying?

In Patts the Russian speakers are unfortunately tarred with the same brush. I say unfortunately as I have several associates here in real estate who are from say Ukraine, Moldova etc, speak Russian but have the very same opinion of the Russians as many expats have, so much so that they try to avoid venues and restaurants where they frequent.

We always genuinely try to help our clients when purchasing a property. With a condo it's quite easy to find out who your next door neighbours are in a small boutique style building as the management knows all the residents and which units are available for rent. However, in the big high-rises such information can be harder to obtain so some informal questioning of the seller can usually determine next door's nationality. The standard of the building also goes hand-in-hand with the standard of your neighbours. If you buy a 10 million baht condo the chances are your next door neighbour will be more up-market than the one who buys a 1 million baht condo. With villas it's not so much an issue as they tend to offer greater privacy but again we normally do some informal questioning of the seller whilst our clients are viewing but there are some villa developers who will not sell to Russians and quite openly admit this. Only in Thailand!

In Bangkok new condominium units are getting smaller and smaller. Where once one-bedroom units were a quite liveable (for a single bloke) 60 or 70 square metres, now they are more like 40 square metres or so. And today studio units in new developments in Bangkok can be like small hotel rooms, at 28 or even 24 square metres. They're tiny! Is the same thing happening here in Pattaya?

A 24-square metre rabbit hutch for 1 million baht! Yep, the very same is happening here and by doing so the developers have great ads with the magical figure of 1 million baht hoping and succeeding in a majority of clients buying two units side-by-side. A word of warning though for anyone contemplating buying these size condos off-plan hoping to flip for a profit when the building is completed or buying to rent out – there are some 25,000 units coming on to the market within the next 3 – 4 years and the majority are these small box rooms. This means there will be an oversupply of these, so they may become hard to flip and difficult to rent unless well below market place prices.

Do you see any especially good buys in the market now i.e. any good value areas that are not too far out, or any new projects which will become available in the near future?

We receive listings on a regular basis of some really good buys, especially if you're prepared to live 400 to 800 metres from the beach. At the moment we have two condos in a foreign name side-by-side in a good location 600 metres from the beach
in the almost completed Atlantis Resort on Jomtien 2nd Road listed at 2.649 million baht and 2.249 million baht which are far below the developer's own prices. And in the View Talay 8 high rise building on Jomtien Beach Road a real fire
sale on a high floor, a 142-square metre front corner unit in foreign name with simply stunning sea views right down to Bang Saray. It's a "shell unit" so it needs to be fitted out to the buyer's own design but at 2 million
baht below the developer's own sale price it is a real bargain at 8.9 million baht.

When purchasing a property, what are the financing options available to foreigners? I understand that banks may – at least they certainly used to – give home loans to foreign buyers and I wonder about the possibilities of financing for those who don't wish to pay a large cash sum outright.

You've got more chance of getting a free barfine in What's Up A Gogo than getting a loan through the banks! Some years ago we tried working with UOB who processed mortgages through their Singapore branch but after some 7 or 8 attempts I gave up as they put up so many obstacles to every application, and it just drove me crazy. By law Thai banks cannot give mortgages to foreigners. However, we have teamed up with MBK Finance who offer foreigners mortgages for condos, villas and land, and will even offer cash back in some instances. Every application is appraised on its own merits with terms up to 10 years and the interest rate is MLR + 2% which compared to, say, UK standards today is not cheap.

Buying off-plan offers another alternative of staged payments throughout the construction period of 2 – 3 years and then a final payment on completion of anything from 10% to 60% depending on the developer. This is where a good real estate agent will negotiate to get you the best payment terms and guide you away from developments where basically you're paying for construction costs as the project progresses.

Buying off-plan strikes me as a bit of a worry in Thailand. Am I being overly cautious thinking that?

I think the world over you have to be cautious and do plenty of homework on the developer and the location before buying off-plan. I personally know a few investors in Pattaya who have regularly made more than 30% profit by buying at the initial launch and flipping before the project was completed. However, at the present time with the multitude of newly launched projects in the city, anyone who is thinking of buying off-plan really does need professional advice if planning to buy for rental income or buying to flip. Many of the new launches are what I term B-grade buildings in B-grade locations marketing the small box room type studios. Some of these are with developers with little track record of previous projects and my personal view is there is likely to be an oversupply of these in the next couple of years so buyers should be cautious if looking to buy for other than living in. There will always be a market for units in the prime beach-front locations and the mid to high-end range buildings convenient to shopping and nightlife so dollar for dollar these are the best buys for investment if your budget allows.

Let's face it, Pattaya is dominated by one industry – and that one industry is something people eventually get bored of. What's the resale market like in Pattaya generally – by this I mean how well do second-hand units sell and is there much demand for them? I know that Thais generally don't like to buy second-hand. I ask this question because I wonder if many buy here in Pattaya and then decide that the Pattaya lifestyle is not for them and then want to sell and relocate elsewhere.

For us the re-sale market has been brilliant, and most of our business comes through this side of the market. You're correct in that Thais very rarely buy a re-sale. The ones with money almost always prefer to buy new and usually off-plan to get the best price. The majority of our clients are looking to buy a re-sale in a completed or almost completed building or villa and those owners who have spacious studios, one or two bedroom condos now have a distinct advantage over the owners of units in the new building simply because it's difficult or even impossible to find a 100-square metre, one-bedroom condo for 45,000 baht per square metre in new buildings.

Are there any traps potential buyers should be aware of in the market? Are there any common tricks, scams or merely misunderstandings that perhaps the average foreigner looking at buying in Pattaya may not be aware of?

I honestly can't relate to anything which can be classed as tricks and scams although there is one developer, who I obviously can't name here, who has a couple of projects stalled by some 3 – 4 years late and yet launched another new project more than a year ago that hasn't, unsurprisingly, started and I doubt very much if it will. There are some developers who in their sales contract state the buyer is responsible for paying the property ownership transfer fee when in fact by Thai law this fee must be paid 50:50 by the developer and the buyer.

I can't stress enough if you're looking to buy a condo (apartment) in Thailand to make sure it's available to transfer in to your own name on the chanote (title deed), always referred to as 'foreign name' in adverts. Sellers, particularly developers, will offer large discounts if you buy the condo in a Thai company name where you are named as director, but later down the line if you want to sell, those in a company name are very difficult to sell quickly.

Very often on the huge billboards and in the glossy brochures promoting a new development is wording in one corner, 'Sole Agents', which can be very misleading, giving the impression you can only view and buy through this 'Sole Agent' in that project, who is obviously biased towards that particular project, when the truth is that almost every reputable real estate office in the city can usually take their clients to view, advise and buy in those very same projects.

I genuinely believe a lot of misunderstandings are caused by people listening too much to the bar experts rather than the real estate professionals whose job it is to keep a finger on the pulse.

Last year I wrote a column about my nightmare dealing with Bangkok real estate agents. Ever since I've wondered if there are any requirements on agent training, certification and guidelines or rules about professionalism and work ethics.

Unfortunately there are no regulations governing real estate agents in Thailand and this has meant that in recent years there has been a surge in foreigners working freelance with only a mobile phone, no office, no contact details, no work permit and usually no ethics. You find them usually working around bars popular with farangs. They treat any sale as their last chance of staying in Thailand and often the property they try selling is not even listed with them. There is a body on the Eastern Seaboard called REBA, a self-regulating group in Pattaya that runs a training school for real estate staff to train voluntarily. Whether they are more service-minded after training than your Bangkok encounters I don't know!

I understand that Pattaya is a popular place for expats to purchase investment properties. What's your opinion on Pattaya as a place for a foreigner to buy and rent out the property to derive an income stream?

One simple answer to this: purchase the right property in the right location and you can't go wrong. We have clients who have purchased up to ten or more condos in the right locations, furnished them modern with neutral colours. There's no need to have very expensive furnishings but they must have the WOW effect. After the second year they have been virtually full occupancy with repeat customers with a ROI of 8% or more.

Greater Pattaya is bigger than many visitors realise and much more than just Pattaya and Jomtien beaches. There are plenty of people living on the other side of Sukhumvit Road, for example. What areas are hot (and cold) now for sales, both in terms of geographic areas in Pattaya and what about the types of units that are hot and seem to be turning over.

Major developments are slowly moving south but without the gogo bars. 5-Star developments and hotels are springing up in Na Jomtien, Ban Amphur and especially the picturesque fishing village of Bang Saray where you will find one of the most beautiful beaches around and just 25 minutes from downtown. Recently launched there is the Del Mare Beachfront condominium, the very first high-rise beachfront building in Bang Saray which just by its location is well worth consideration for anyone looking for something a little special. Another new launch there also worth taking a look at is the new low-rise condominium Sea Saran which is about 300 metres from the beach so obviously a cheaper option than Del Mare. The land prices in Bang Saray have more than doubled in the last three years, the massive Cartoon Water Park is under construction and will be the biggest in South-East Asia when completed. So you heard it here first, if you want a good investment for the future let me take you for a look at Bang Saray.

Some of the most stylish villas in the area are to be found in Phoenix Palms, a small top quality and stylish development run by two Brit expat builders in Ban Amphur. Further afield near Mabrachan Lake is the multi award winning developments of The Vineyard and Amaya Hills. Both projects are managed by another two Brit expat builders and offer stunning modern, stylish pool villas built to European standards. These are but 5 examples of many really exciting developments in and around the city.

Is there any specific advice you'd have for anyone buying real estate in Pattaya?

Would you walk into the local bakery to ask his advice on buying real estate? Take the advice of a reputable agent – it's free! I suppose I'm expected to say this but for God's sake, use the services of a reputable agent, even if it's not our office. It doesn't cost you anything and is likely to save you your hard-earned money and heartache in the long term. The city is full of bar experts and freelancers who just happens to know a friend who has a great deal going on his condo 'and no agent involved' to give you the impression you'll get a better deal when in fact your newfound friend will be lining his own pockets and disappear, so you have no comeback whatsoever. A reputable agent will assess what are the best buys for you taking in to account your budget, for living or for investment and location for re-sale later. The agents are sales agents for all the main developers and therefore not biased towards any one project. They are also aware of which developers have a proven track record of completed good quality buildings, of those who are struggling to sell units within the development despite the glossy brochures and adverts, meaning that particular project may never start or finish.

OK, the money question! Why should readers choose your agency? Do you make the best cup of coffee, or for the Brits, the best pot of tea here in Pattaya?!

Because I'm nearing semi-retirement, don't drive a Merc and need the money! We're not the largest real estate office in the city by a long way but we endeavour to offer intelligent solutions to our clients' requirements, whether for living or for investment, in a friendly and professional manner without the heavy sales pitch. Our vast portfolio covers property for sale and for rent in Pattaya, Phuket, Koh Samui and Chiang Mai, residential condos, houses and pool villas, hotels and resorts, industrial and residential land plots. Our staff are friendly, professional and vastly experienced in all aspects of Pattaya real estate, and a major plus is that they are the fittest and prettiest of any office!

Take a tour of our website It's one of the most popular in the city. You can check on things to do, where to go in Pattaya, some
recommendations for some superb restaurants and most importantly see a vast array of property for sale and rent. Compared to the UK, Europe, Australia and USA there are some real bargains available, whatever your budget. And there is the
Pattaya Jomtien Property Facebook page.

Where was this photo taken?


Last week's photo was taken of a sub soi off Sukhumvit soi 22, looking east with Emporium Suites in the background. 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.

(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 – Learn Thai, save money!

When I lived in Thailand, the price of a tank of gasoline was more important to me than the price of sex. But it occurs to me that it might be worth mentioning that if a man wants to lower his cost of living, learning Thai is an easy and interesting way to do it. Once a man knows even a smattering of Thai phrases he is no longer trapped in the farang ghettos. Granted, being polite to a gogo dancer in Thai will often make her willing to lower her asking price, but more importantly once a man speaks some Thai the whole rest of the Kingdom is open to him. Every little sing-a-song joint on the highway with Christmas lights strung on the fence. Every little bath house in every little rice town. Back in the day mamasans would offer me a discount on their newest girls because it was easier for the girls to break into the business with somebody who spoke Thai. The women who work in those places share the same gene pool with the women who work in Nana. They look just the same. But they're more polite, more willing to provide the GFE, less likely to steal your wallet. And they have fewer customers, so by the law of averages they are less likely to be infected with something. And they are far, far more grateful for far, far less money. Normally an individual consumer has almost no control over the price of a commodity, but learning Thai is a quick, easy way to gain leverage in the marketplace. Seems like a no-brainer to me.

Bargepole required!

Oh my God, what's going on? I remember my first visit as a 24-year old backpacker in 1994, walking around Patpong agog at the women. I remember struggling to swallow, literally gagging at the sight of it all. After scrolling through this week's column I just can't believe a person's perception could be so badly skewed. People are travelling thousands of miles to have sex with this lot? Hard to believe. Maybe it's the camera you are using? Or makeup better suited to dim lighting? Who am I kidding, they are just skanks! Not their fault, bless 'em, they could be beautiful people inside, but let's be honest, these places are meat markets and they will be judged as such. The only attractive women I see on your site these days are from your overseas reports, or the odd fit secretary wandering past in some of your street photography. Whenever I go to Thailand these days beautiful girls can still be found, just not in the bars anymore. If Bangkok's nightlife is dependent on girls of this quality it really could be in trouble. It will be interesting to see if and how it can re-invent itself.

Stirring Stickman.

It looks like you are stirring up the pot again with the story about coyote dancers which will generate hysteria from old guys that these girls are ruining things. I haven't been in a gogo bar in Thailand for well over a year, so am not too familiar with the coyote concept. I can understand why an attractive girl would prefer the coyote status – if she doesn't want to sleep with strangers, she doesn't have to and can still make decent money. If she's willing, she can be selective and only go with a regular customer or a customer she may be attracted to, rather than any old, drunk slob in a Singha muscle shirt that wants to pay her barfine.

Different country, different ideas.

You may have read in the news the story about this 18-year old college freshman at Duke University in the US outed as being a porn star and going by the alias Belle Knox. It has been all over the US news and the young lady has been making the talk show rounds. Duke is a very expensive, high quality, private university that costs in excess of $50,000 per year, and the young lady is saying that she is doing it to pay her tuition, since her only other options are to take a demeaning part-time job like waitress, cashier, or take out student loans. She says she is not being exploited, but rather she is empowering women to feel good about their bodies. It's ironic that here in Thailand the gogo bars are having trouble recruiting young women to work in bars because they can now get other good jobs in restaurants, hotels, while in the US young middle-class women are doing porn since they claim the only other option is to take low-paying, demeaning jobs like waitress, hotel clerk. Very ironic!

Face and a happy ending.

Your contributor wrote of Thai ladies losing face when they failed to generate a spurt at the finish line. This has happened to me a few times, at a Pattaya soapie and more recently at Darling in Bangkok. In Pattaya it was a little, light-skinned cutie who was near tears at her failure, no matter how much I tried to reassure her. At Darling, the girl was a beauty and we had had a great time. She was trying everything, including some gymnastics I'd never imagined, when the bell was rung. Did she stop? Nope, she increased her activities through bell #2. I had to stop her for fear of the door being broken down or her damaging the equipment, though I wasn't protesting! These girls seemed to truly care about rendering fair service, or was it hurt pride? I'd hate to think it was fear of losing a good tip as I gave no indication that might happen!

Customer confusion over barfines.

What I really would like to see you write an article on is the different barfine structures present in some bars. This really, really, really annoys me! It annoys me so much that when I find out a bar has different barfine levels I finish my drink, pay my bill and leave, never to return. I hate these joints with a passion and their stupid little menus that the daft waitresses show you which list the different barfine prices. Some bars don't even make an effort and it's not until you have dropped some coin on the lovely girl sitting next to you and you start to discuss barfines that she hits you with a different price from the usual 600 baht.

Lodging your passport as security.

When will the requirement to hand over your passport for a transaction as simple as renting a vehicle or staying in a hotel room stop? These businesses are built on trust and people ultimately paying and not destroying items that they are purchasing or using. I can't help but think back to the Seinfeld episode surrounding this nonsense. Is this not why we give them our credit card information such that payment can be settled? Why the need to give your most personal of documents – your passport – away to them? What benefit are they deriving by having a passport if they have your credit card information? I have no problem in providing my passport to be photocopied or scanned and held on file, however, why the need to give the original? I know most hotels in Thailand will simply accept a photocopy and as any farang living here you might as well photocopy your passport 100 times upon arriving and deciding to stay in this fine country. The need for other businesses to keep passports speaks of some shady actions happening (sale of passports) by the business owners or employees. Though it is not confirmed, I can't help but think that the Malaysian Airlines plane was targeted by people that were able to obtain passports through such means. This requirement occurs in some Thailand businesses but other Asian countries are just as bad. This is my biggest issue in visiting Vietnam where almost all hotels demand your passport be held by their employees and taken to the local police station. Welcome to Vietnam – where Communism still rules – such that you can't stay in a hotel without the government knowing. Also, how trustworthy are many hotel or business employees to hold your most valuable possession when their daily pay is less than $15 USD. I am thinking sales of stolen passports is a lucrative business here in Asia, and to think this can occur in a place where they are much more civilized and advanced than the western world (yet somehow need anti-graft and anti-corruption commissions) – end sarcasm here. If the tragedy last weekend is linked to stolen passports, I hope the Thailand government and other Asian countries that allow this requirement feel just the slightest bit of guilt by allowing this practice and make the necessary changes.

There has been no miraculous recovery in the bar industry since the protesters dispersed from downtown and many owners report that business has not improved…at all. One bar owner who has been around for years told me that now that the streets are clear business is actually worse, speculating that it is because people are not captive and not staying within a geographic area. Arrivals have not shot up as had been hoped and with the pleasant high season weather replaced by steamy hot days, many won't consider making their next visit until the end of the year. The good news is that no-one thinks trade can get any worse and there is hope, forlorn hope perhaps, but still hope nonetheless, that there will be a gentle increase in trade and bars and restaurants reliant on tourist trade might actually start to make money.

Zen Bar at the mouth of Nana Plaza is back in business after the previous owner did a runner to Laos leaving substantial debts and a lot of very angry working girls. The new owner is well known on Soi Nana, is part owner of another bar on the soi and also owns a small bar in Soi 6…which should narrow his identity down for those who know soi 4 well. A Brunswick has been installed and they have got rid of the band. The idea is to cater more to the expat crowd rather than compete for tourists – which is probably a wise strategy in the bar industry this year.

The Nana Beer Garden (the ground floor bars in the centre of Nana Plaza) will host a St. Patrick's Day Party with sexy coyote girls going around the bars with green syringe shots. The party runs tonight and tomorrow night.

Expect many British pubs to celebrate St Patrick's Day. The Robin Hood at Sukhumvit soi 33/1 has a long St Patrick's weekend celebration, starting this past Friday and going through until tomorrow night with some great drinks deals (check out the poster towards the end of the column for details). They've added a pint bottle of Kepplers Irish Cider for 199 baht – reduced from 275 – to the deal.

Bangkok may be the country's capital but at times the city's infrastructure is unbecoming of a capital city of what is now officially a middle-income country. A newly opened BJ bar took it upon itself to upgrade the infrastructure in the passage that runs between Sukhumvit sois 6 and 8. It used to be that there was a very steep step that made it effectively impassable for motorbikes, those in wheelchairs and difficult for anyone with bad legs or hips. The Lolita's girls have had to help many a fallen farang as more than a few people have suffered a fall – even when sober. Since the new house of oral relief, Kasalong, opened in that spot, some cement was thrown down removing the steep step that should have been fixed years ago.

The large Christmas tree out the front of Central World was finally taken down this week. I thought they were going to just leave it up and say it was early for next Christmas.

The closest official border checkpoint from Bangkok to exit the country is Ban Phu Nam Ron in Kanchanaburi province which is increasingly being used by more and more visa runners. What could once be walked across and back without a fee being paid has seen the cost of doing so shoot up. Non-receipted fees today can see you forced to part with close to 1,000 baht to get all the requisite stamps in your passport and return to Thailand legally. If you don't like the sound of this, the old favourite is the border point at Aranya Prathet / Poi Pet where you will have to get a visa for Cambodia ($20 or 1,000 baht if you don't pay in greenbacks) and where you might be charged a fee if you enter Cambodia and exit it immediately as visa runners tend to.

Restroom attendants massaging the shoulders of men at the urinal is not common in bars popular with foreign males as it is in Thai-style bars. And while foreigners who experience this unwelcome service often have words to say about it, don't think the Thai guys necessarily like it either. The Thai boyfriend of a friend of a friend told a urinal assistant if he did not get his hands off his shoulders immediately he would turn around and piss all over him. Needless to say, the hands were removed from his shoulders quick smart!

The Thai connection in the case of the missing Malaysia Airlines flight (passports stolen in Thailand being travelled on by folks who bought their air tickets at a travel agency in Pattaya) will hopefully bring the attention to Thailand's lax attitudes and lack of enforcement towards document fraud. Obviously the issue of dodgy passports in Thailand is taken seriously, but documents at the next level down such as drivers licenses and other official credentials are not, with hundreds of varieties of ID cards, drivers licenses and professional credentials displayed openly and made to order on Khao San Road, and some other locations around the country. Maybe, just maybe, that might be the end of this. Or am I dreaming?

Pattaya Larry

St Paddy's Day Bangkok

Robin Hood Bangkok

Reader's story of the week comes from Steve Rosse, "The Actress".

The Aussie missing in Thailand turned up alive and well…in Cambodia!

6 people are killed after a 3-car road accident started when one vehicle collided with a young, wild elephant.

An imprisoned American convicted of abusing a young Cambodian
woman is to marry her!

The stolen passport trade in Thailand comes under the spotlight.

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
: In the area where I live there are several car wrecks that have water marks from the floods in 2011 i.e. they were under water in 2011 and have not been moved since. They occupy valuable parking space and are an ugly sight.
Their owners have obviously abandoned them. Can a Thai person, or I as a foreigner, have them towed and sell them as scrap metal?

Sunbelt Asia Legal Advisers responds: It is not possible for you or anyone to tow these cars and sell them as scrap metal. Whether they are parked in a public area or not, they are still privately owned.

The best way to have them removed from your neighbourhood is to contact the local police and report that there is an unknown vehicle parked and / or blocking the road. The police will tow the vehicle to their storage yard and wait for the owner to reclaim their property.

Nana Hotel

It sure is quiet out there with very little happening and not a great deal to write about. Seldom have I struggled to gather news and gossip although not venturing out around the traps this week didn't help. Regular visitors don't appear concerned but those considering visiting Bangkok for the first time still seem to have concerns about their personal safety and the perceived danger of protests that still get plenty of press. Let me reiterate that there really is no reason to delay your visit. If you fancy visiting Bangkok, now is as good a time as any.

Your Bangkok commentator,



nana plaza