In April 2005 I first thought about leaving Thailand. Mrs. Stick had headed back to Bangkok and I extended my stay at home by a week. I was sitting outside on one of those perfect Auckland days when there's nowhere else you'd rather be. The cloudless sky was a deep vivid blue you never see in Bangkok and breathing in the fresh morning air was like a hit of pure oxygen. Sipping my morning coffee, the opportunity cost of living in Bangkok was staring me in the face.
Upon returning to Bangkok thoughts of a move home lingered. I confided in a couple of colleagues that my departure wasn't just on the horizon, it was imminent. Another year, maximum, I said.
But it wasn't to be. I soon settled back in to the Bangkok lifestyle and it would be a couple of years before I ventured home for my next visit.
And that next trip back home wasn't so much fun. The weather closed in and it was cooler than usual. House prices had gone silly. A socialist government had fast-tracked political correctness. A couple of weeks was enough, and I was keen to get back to Bangkok.
Passing the 10-year mark in Thailand was a milestone and with it came a lingering restlessness. Numbers and milestones have never motivated me, but the 10-yearmark prompted a rethink.
I checked out Jakarta in 2009 not because of any fascination with Indonesia, but to see if it was a place I might be able to live one day. I'd never previously visited but had deduced it as – at that time at least – the best, in fact the only genuine alternative to Bangkok in the region. I would quickly discover that it was fun to visit, but no more.
When a friend got hitched a year later I ended up spending more time home than I anticipated, my return date changed a few times. It was the best time of year weather-wise and I was back for a special occasion. I almost started to feel settled and leaving wasn't easy. Had I stayed on just a little bit longer, I might not have come back to Bangkok at all.
I never used to look forward to leaving Thailand. Back in the old visa run days I would dread the (very short) time away. Oh how things have changed.
These days I am like a kid on Christmas Eve before flying out of Bangkok, especially when heading to a new destination. And while I don't dread returning to Bangkok, neither is it something I especially look forward to.
I was going to leave Thailand this year. 2014 was going to be the year to say goodbye. That decision was made in the second half of last year. I had the date of departure firmly in my mind, only a few aware of it. March 2014 was going to be the time to sign off – and today's column was going to be the last. I had lists of things to do before I left, from friends to farewell, and a goodbye column to pen. Unlike previous occasions when I had thoughts of leaving, this time I had a plan. But certain (positive) events conspired and like the opening date for a Bangkok bar, it didn't happen.
Just a few months ago I thought I'd be leaving this week. Why am I still here?
Enjoyment of life is ultimately more about being healthy, doing things that make you happy and feeling good about yourself as well as spending time with people you genuinely like and respect. Geography has very little to do with it.
Long-term Bangkok expats go through cycles, many spending years in a phase where they can't imagine going home, or relocating anywhere else. There is a certain relief when you get past that point, and it's positively liberating when you start to see all of the positives of your home country. When you reach the point where you know you'd be just as happy home as in Bangkok, mentally that's a good place to be.
Another year and I'm out of here. Just one more year.
Where was this photo taken?
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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 – Poor Bangkok-based whore junkies need to relocate.
There's an evident belief by some punters that the girls have no right to charge what they are charging nowadays. The prices are set by prevailing market conditions and not by any individual girl. You might as well bitch at Exxon for high oil prices, even though any individual oil company, or even oil companies overall, don't dictate market prices. The exact price of any single commodity, whether it be a gallon of gas or a piece of ass is the result of a complex combination of factors. When a guy can't afford a Ferrari, instead of bitching about it, he buys what he can afford. Never once have I heard anyone bitch about Ferrari prices. Never before have I heard people describe the "audacity" of Ferrari for charging $200K for a car. Instead, they go buy a Honda Accord. So why all the bitching about prices for Bangkok whores? If they can't afford to pay for sex anymore, maybe they should do things the orthodox way and get themselves an actual girlfriend. What a concept! If prices are too high, no sense bitching: just don't buy. Let your money vote for you. Econ 101 at work. You know what the best cure is for high prices? Answer: HIGH PRICES. High prices have a tendency to discourage demand, which drives down prices because there are comparatively fewer buyers and more sellers. This is the case for any commodity, whether it be a gallon of gas, a luxury car, or a paid-for piece of ass. If enough punters refuse to pay the high prices, then the prices MUST fall. But again, I don't see this happening, at least not any time in the foreseeable future. It seems that no matter what the girls charge nowadays, there will always be someone on holiday that will meet the price. The number of buyers entering the market is increasing at a rate that still exceeds those lost to the market because of increasing costs. Woe betide today's broke-dick, expat Bangkok whorist. Maybe he should consider a new hobby. Or if cheap whores are that important to a man, maybe he should just get the hell out of Thailand and move to Angeles City in the Philippines. Good riddance. Thailand will be better off without them.
Build a rapport to get a better price.
The ongoing debate about bargirl economics has been interesting, and I do have some sympathy with your quite aggressive stance that the girls are entitled to charge 5,000 baht or more for a night of pleasure. They are even more so also entitled to a nice tip if they have provided good service. But these high prices are NOT necessarily the norm. What a girl charges is often linked to how much she likes you. I have had numerous long-times for 2,000 and rarely pay more than 1,500 for short-time. I have even been with a girl from Crazy House who refused any fee at all, saying she was paid well by the bar. The girls have always wanted to charge naive visitors a high rate (hence the probing "How long you been Thailand"-type questions), but expats who they have built a relationship with can still easily get a lower rate. Treat them nicely, as a lady, show interest in them, make them relaxed and enjoying your company, and they are often quite happy to accept a lower rate.
Europe cheaper than Bangkok?
You've mentioned a few times recently that expats in Bangkok are a little frustrated with tourists paying silly prices these days. I would argue that they've been complaining about this for a very long time. I remember reading the words "silly prices" and "baht billionaire" from the early days. What is probably different now is that the prices you describe top end girls are asking, is actually higher than prices here at home, at least in Germany. So called "cover charge brothels" are really common these days and the cover charge is around 50 Euros. That usually includes your first 2 drinks too, but bring your own condoms. Even the swingers clubs are getting in on it, bringing in whores for gang bang sessions during the week, for a set fee and it's not much. A place just over the border in the Netherlands, maybe a 20 minute drive, puts on a gang bang every Wednesday afternoon, 99 Euros. Maybe that's why fewer Germans are traveling to Thailand these days?
For the first time I believe I disagree with you and others on the subject of bargirl economics. My view, and I have been coming to Thailand since '98, is that before the mobile phones, the girls were nice, both mentally and physically. The girlfriend experience was virtually the norm. Now, after McDonald's etc, most of them are not that good-looking anymore, and their attitudes stink! I do not understand why there is such a comparison with the west and that we expats should be happy with the way they are now. The comparison is between then and now, not here and there. I still think the back-breaking jobs at 300 baht a day is also a valid argument compared to the, shall we say, elevated demands currently asked, plus barfines which are common at 1,000 baht. And finally, and this is not directed at you at all, I am incensed at the, well, the people to use a good word, who say that if we don't like it, go home (or piss off back to your country). Everybody has a right to an opinion, and if valid, also the desire to change things (good luck with that one), for example, nothing to do with pay for play, the massacre on the roads, the riding at night with no lights, running red lights etc. I am still here because the lifestyle is still good and I cannot stomach France and England anymore. But it is getting more and more trying to stay here.
Bangkok bars becoming like the West.
If take-out prices in Bangkok gogo bars are too expensive for many guys, they need to view gogo bars like in western countries, where girls do not go out with customers. You have a few drinks, look at some beautiful women dancing and if you like you can buy them drinks, and they make their money by doing "lap" or "table" dances for 20 bucks a song, so you may buy a few dances. However, they don't go out with customers, though if you are a regular and very generous, you might work out some private deal off hours. But between a cover charge, a few drinks for you and a dancer, and a few lap dances, you can easily drop the equivalent of 5,000 – 6,000 baht. And, of course, the bars have VIP sections which have a couch, some privacy for a whole lot more money, but as Chris Rock said in one of his comedy routines, "Fellas, no matter what the girl says, you ain't getting no sex in the champagne lounge".The street protests.
What we're seeing is selfishness run riot, hordes with Narcissist Personality Disorder: preening in costumes and shouting themselves hoarse, hurting other Thai-owned businesses. Thailand as a whole is losing its luster for foreign investors. FDI (foreign direct investment) reached almost 13 billion US dollars in 2013, but is estimated to drop to less than 8 billion in 2014. The serious money people are eyeing Thailand and doing deeper research into Indonesia and Vietnam. Thailand is shredding its advantages (geography, infrastructure, a burgeoning middle class of consumers) by slowly tilting into uncertainty at best.
Can an escort get her mouth around that?!
I know I am being pedantic but strictly speaking an acronym is, as the OED defines it as "an abbreviation formed from the initial letters of other words and pronounced as a word (e.g. ASCII, NASA). Compare with initialism." Thus, for example, BBBJ is an abbreviation or initialism not an acronym, it being too hard even for an escort girl to get her mouth around that combination of letters to render it a pronounceable word!
Girls of the week
Double Trouble, coyote dancers, Wild Thing, Nana Plaza.
Names unknown, this duo can be described as "double trouble"!
A new BJ bar will open next Sunday, March 9th, between Sukhumvit sois 6 and 8. To be called Kasalong – the sign has yet to go up – it is the brainchild of an ex-Lolita's employee. Kasalong is just around the corner from Lolita's and less than 10 metres from the entrance to S6 Hotel – which until recently was known as Crown Hotel. There will be a pool table on the ground floor, but the real action will take place upstairs. The decor is said to be nice but if it doesn't blow you away, the girls certainly will. Standard service will run 700 baht with full service also available. I'm not sure if it would be my choice of place to hang out, but for those who do there will be free wi-fi. On opening day a free buffet will be held from 10 AM until noon and then again later in the day from around 6 PM until 8 or 9 PM. I would have thought a beer would be more to customers' liking but a free glass of wine will be offered with every standard service partaken of on opening day from 10 until 1 PM.
The Strip in Patpong soi 2 has a new happy hour from 7:30 PM until 8:30 PM when it's buy one beer, get a second free.
At Babydolls in Pattaya's soi 15 off Walking Street, the Double Vision party will be held next Tuesday, March 4th. Buy one drink, get one free on various house spirits.
Pattaya Beer Garden, the bar and restaurant at the end of the first pier at the start of Walking Street, is a lovely spot to watch the sun go down over Sin City. It's also the first place I know of in Pattaya (in all of Thailand for that matter) which now accepts payment by Bitcoin. Now just how you actually go about making payment by Bitcoin I have no idea, but for those of you who do, Pattaya Beer Garden will accept your Bitcoins.
A new American-style bar and grill opened in the Nana area this past week called just that, American Bar & Grill. Located opposite Lolita's in the second sub-soi on the right off Sukhumvit soi 8, the menu is dominated by burgers and steaks. The decor is basic but comfortable and the owner prides himself on the music playlist so you won't hear the same songs played in most gogo bars. One wall is a trip down memory lane, covered with LP covers from the 60s and 70s. The target market is Westerners aged 40 up who like American food and older music. Monday nights it's 50% off all steaks, Wednesday is Men's Night when from 7 – 8 PM drinks are free for all male customers (NOT a misprint!) and Friday night is Ladies Night with drinks 2 for the price of 1 for all female customers.
Inside American Bar & Grill, in the small sub-soi off Sukhumvit soi 8, known to some as Soi Lolita's.
A few bars offered and in some cases sold discount and promotion cards a couple of years ago entitling the cardholder to a discount on drinks in the venue, usually 20 or 25%. For regular bargoers it was a good deal, but in some cases the cards are no longer honoured. While the venue may have the same owner, that the cards are no longer accepted or recognised shouldn't come as any surprise when you consider the staff turnover in the industry. Staff simply don't know about the card. This sort of thing has become something of problem in the naughty bar industry in Bangkok. So often management does a great job of promoting special deals but when customers inquire within the bar the staff don't know about it, causing the customer to feel cheated. The Nana Group's discount card is the one card I know of that is still honoured.
A handful of readers have asked why I shirk mentioning the Bangkok gogo bar most popular with expats in recent months. It's not Bacarra and nor is it Rainbow 4, still the two busiest chrome pole houses. This particular venue is easily the most popular with expats in the know with all sorts of stuff happening right in the bar. Some say it is the closest to how the bars were in the '90s. I won't mention the name of the venue in this column because of a problem with numbers. I will say no more.
With the Bangkok shutdown itself been shut down, I imagine airfares will shoot back up. A number of airlines dropped airfares 2 or 3 weeks ago and two that I monitor, Thai Airways and QANTAS both had specials to my part of the world. I imagine that many of the cheaper fares were offered because of the fear of visiting Bangkok because of the protest situation. Now that the situation largely does not exist, airfares may shoot back up. If you are on the verge of booking a ticket for some time in the next few months, it might be worth locking in a deal if you find a special price. I imagine that the discount airfares will drop and many who postponed or cancelled may now rebook. It's certainly possible that airfares might shoot back up. Be quick and you might score a deal.
I note that the idea of compulsory insurance for all tourists which was to cost 500 baht which later was referred to as an arrivals tax and became a hot topic on forums late last year seems to have gone by the wayside. Clearly there are more serious issues for Thailand to deal with at this time.
A mate who flew in to Phuket this week couldn't believe how bad traffic from the airport to the beaches was. It took almost an hour and a half to reach Patong Beach, a journey which typically takes 50 minutes. It was bumper to bumper for much of the way. I guess Phuket has got a lot of the people who have decided to miss Bangkok at this time.
And from the heart of the action on Phuket, Bangla Road in Patong's, at Diablo and Suzy Wong's – 2 of the popular gogo bars – barfines run 800 baht. Apparently it's the same price across town. Drinks – be they customers or lady drinks – are a whopping 190 baht! In Diablo and Suzy Wong's, customers looking for someone to indulge in a little pillow talk with are shown a laminated card stating 2,000 baht short time and 4,000 baht long-time. At Diablo, the mamasan insists you pay the fee at the bar BEFORE you leave. And in both Diablo and Suzy Wong's, if you want to barfine a girl before midnight it can ONLY be short-time. It seems that down in Phuket, in Diablo and Suzy Wong's at least, the customer is not always right, the bar is! How widespread these prices and practices are, I just do not know.
I've long maintained that CS Loxinfo is the best Internet service provider (ISP) in Thailand. No, it absolutely isn't the cheapest – not even close – but if you value minimal outages and a customer service department who are technically proficient, Loxinfo is, in my humble opinion, the best choice. I mention this because some users of the largest ISP, True Online, have been complaining since last weekend that some websites are slow to access and others – often big name news sites amongst the biggest sites on the web – cannot be accessed at all. Of course sometimes you don't even have a choice of ISP with many buildings wired for a single provider only.
Barry Kenyon, the former representative of the British embassy in Pattaya, a most interesting fellow who I interviewed back in 2006, has published an eBook. In true Kenyon style it's part humour, part tragedy. Barry describes many of the odd requests made to him by British tourists and expats, including the guy who wanted the Thai tattoo on his arm translated into Queen's English and the woman whose vacation was ruined as she could not find Pampers or Piccalilli on supermarket shelves! More seriously, he describes the bureaucracies in Thailand associated with illness and death and comments on some of the major criminal cases in which he was involved. Here for the first time in print is the full story behind the decline and fall of the honorary British consulate in Jomtien, following his retirement, as well as the attacks made by the News of the World in an attempt to discredit him following his award of the MBE. He also gives a very personal account of the history of Pattaya, including the many changes in both the landscape and the international visitor profile, and explains the unusual circumstances which led to his appointment in the first place following a death at Pattaya Bridge Club. The author knows Pattaya well and particularly what can happen when things go wrong. Honorary Consul Pattaya is essential reading for tourists and expats and is available at Amazon.com. It will be published as a paperback later in the year.
The beauty of the Thai language is its simplicity. The frustration of the Thai language is…its simplicity! The Thai language does not have anything like the number of words English has and neither does it have the many verb tenses which can make English so challenging to learners. Where in English there may be many ways to say much the same thing – with subtle differences in nuance – Thai does not have the same breadth. Beyond correct pronunciation, I've always felt the challenge for learners of Thai is in being precise and articulating a point. This challenge, however, is not limited to foreigners learning the language. Often native Thai speakers struggle to explain a point – and not necessarily complex concepts – because of the simplistic nature of the language. Watch Thais on the phone involved in a conversation, especially if they're discussing something work- or business-related. With the other party not clear on the point they're trying to make, the speaker can get frustrated, their face can start to contort and they may even start moving their hands and arms in an effort to explain their point, notwithstanding that the person they're talking to can't see them! In person, with all of the queues that go beyond mere verbal conversation, such motions are seldom necessary, but when on the phone and in a formal conversation, it's hardly uncommon. So if even as a proficient Thai speaker you sometimes find it a struggle to get what should be a relatively straightforward point across, don't worry, it's not only you – the same happens to many Thais!
A Thai-style meal typically comprises a number of shared dishes where each person helps themselves by spooning a small portion on to their plate and eating it with rice. A girlfriend / wife may spoon portions on to her partner's plate, and a guest / foreigner dining amongst Thais might find their host / the locals spooning food on to their plate. This is a nice gesture although one I personally don't like, even when I know the intention is good. The dishes I haven't tried are the dishes they spoon on to my plate. This is usually followed by comments along the lines of "Try it, it's delicious!" Now the reason I haven't tried it is usually because it's a pork dish – and I don't do pork. It then becomes embarrassing because many Thais have no concept that that someone wouldn't eat pork, especially if they're not Muslim. Even a polite comment such as, "I am sure it's delicious but I hope you understand that I don't eat pork" has just one effect – the person that spooned that food on to my plate loses face. At best they go quiet, at worst they feel that they have lost face and sulk! I really wish people wouldn't spoon food on to my plate!
Quote of the week comes from Bartman, "What is all this coyote dancer crap? If I wanted to look at girls that are unavailable I would have stayed home!"
Reader's story of the week comes from Jack, "You Are All Deluded, Me Too Probably".
Thai prison inmates earn parole by beating foreign kickboxers
in fights and bringing honour to the country!
4 Syrians and 2 Palestinians are stuck at Phuket Airport as they hope to find a country which will accept them as refugees.
Was the knifing of a Dutch expat in Udon Thani to death really a robbery gone wrong?
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: I am going back to Australia for a holiday next month and when I return to Thailand I want to bring back some of my favourite food items. There are many food items prohibited to take in to Australia with lists of them online. I've searched for similar info online about bringing food in to Thailand and cannot find anything. So my question is this: What are the prohibitions on bringing food in to Thailand. I hope to bring a few of my favourite fruits in but not sure if that is ok or not. If it's relevant, I'm only talking a small amount for personal consumption, not commercial quantities.
Sunbelt Asia Legal Advisers responds: Many people have found Customs is not as strict in Thailand as Australia in regards to passengers carrying food. However it's an individual decision if you want to inform the officer.
Question 2: 20 years ago, I married my Thai wife under British law in Hong Kong as we were both working there at that time. 14 years ago, we returned to live in Thailand on a marriage visa, that was renewed every year. This last year the Immigration Department insisted we get a certificate from the local district office. Every piece of information I see tells me I need an affirmation of freedom to marry certificate from the embassy, which must be translated and affirmed by the ministry of foreign affairs. However, this affirmation form needs you to state either that you are single, or divorced and thus free to marry. I'm married to the same woman, and just can't see how to get this document approved, so that I can continue to live in Thailand on the marriage visa, as without this district office stamp, which requires this affirmation letter, my visa won't be approved any more. Suggestions would be most welcome.
Sunbelt Asia Legal Advisers responds: The affirmation of freedom to marry is only necessary when getting married. You do not need it to apply for a one-year extension based on marriage to a Thai national. What you do need is a signed printout from the District Office of the marriage registry which shows that you are still married. This is called a Kor Ror 3. The original marriage certificate is the Kor Ror 2 and you still need to produce a copy of this as well.
If you are located in Bangkok, Sunbelt Asia can assist you with the entire extension process to ensure that things go smoothly. If you live outside Bangkok we would be more than happy to review all your documentation to make certain that you have all the correct documentation to apply for the application in your home province.
Question 3: In the USA I can make extra money buying and selling motorcycles and cars. I find a good deal, fix them up and sell, relatively easy. Can this be done here and what kind of fees are involved? Or do I need to open a business to do this?
Many business owners breathed a huge sigh of relief on Friday night when it was announced that the protest stages would be shut down and all protesters would relocate to the final protest site at Lumpini Park. The downtown intersections that the protesters have controlled for 7 weeks would be controlled no longer. In the next day or 2 life in downtown Bangkok should quickly return to a sense of normality. What this means is that most of downtown Bangkok – with the notable exception of Lumpini Park – should basically be safe at this time. Let's see how it all pans out, but it would seem there will soon be little reason to put off travel to Bangkok. Lumpini Park is located in central Bangkok, but it's well away from Sukhumvit Road, where many foreigners stay, shop and play. It's probably wise to avoid Lumpini Park for the time being and its immediate surrounds, but the rest of downtown Bangkok including those intersections which were protest sites should now be ok. It should be noted that the ongoing political situation is far from resolved and the red shirts have not dismissed the idea of coming to Bangkok. This is not over…
Your Bangkok commentator,